Ten Simple Ways To Live With Less and Save Significantly More

When we set New Years’ Resolutions, we tend to focus on how to enrich our lives further. Setting new goals, living a healthier lifestyle or travelling and adventuring more. Sometimes, there’s just as much benefit and opportunity to be found in setting goals which actually mean living and doing with less.

A core and often overlooked benefit of living more minimally is the financial freedom it brings to your day to day life. Even better, you don’t need to adopt a ridged minimalist lifestyle to benefit from the ways you can cut down and save more.

Below are the top ten ways you can reduce your consumption, based on key but simple changes I have made that had significant impact over the last five years.

Online Food Shopping

By moving to an online delivery, which we scheduled once a week, it made us prepare and plan our meals ahead of the shop meaning that we only bought what we needed for the following seven days. It also hugely reduced the ‘impulse’ shopping for treats that we tended to do when actually in the supermarket, especially if we were there when hungry!

If you online shop, you can set a clear budget, see how much your order is totalling to as you go along and also benefit from a lot of coupons and discounts supermarkets for e-orders.

Detox Your Subscriptions

If you have Spotify, Amazon Prime, Audible and Netflix then you are already paying out a significant amount for streaming services every month. Add in a phone contract, TV package and beauty box deliveries and you are nearing the average number of subscription services for a UK person in 2019.

This is great if they are regularly used and add a big impact to your life, but if they don’t, the costs quickly add up.

Once a year, we sit down and unsubscribe from everything. We allow ourselves to re-subscribe when we want to use the service. It is a good exercise to ensure everything you have signed up for is properly appreciated. You never know, you might not even realise you miss one once it’s gone.

Delete Delivery Apps

Getting fast food delivered to your home is easy, and often a quick way to feed yourself after a stressful day at work. However, one or two deliveries a week quickly can add up over a year. Easy solution? Remove the apps, unsubscribe from the mailing list offers and follow step one in the list (a weekly online shop and meal-prep) to reduce the temptation.

Demote Your Car

If you are able to quite easily, consider changing your car to a model that is similar in miles, performance and years, but with a different cost ratio. It is a really quick and easy way to build up savings if you are able to be in this position and are happy to ‘downgrade’ your car.

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Borrow And Share

As a couple, one of the biggest spends in our non-essential outgoings is on books. We both love to read, and between us we get through at least 3-5 books and an audible subscription on a monthly basis.

One easy way to both live with less, and save more here is to lend, borrow and share books with fellow avid readers. We swap with friends often, keeping our shelves clean and our to-read list healthily stocked with new books. We also regularly visit the library, and buy second hand where we can.

Obviously there’s many times where we need to buy new, especially living abroad and away from our friends at home, but it’s something we are trying to avoid more and more.

Think about things you buy often for hobbies, and try and work out if there’s a way to both save and reduce clutter by sharing or swapping instead. Board games, books, recipes, baby clothes, there’s a lot of opportunities.  

Find Peace With Older ‘stuff’

If it isn’t broken, then follow the old saying and really think twice before replacing it. It’s no surprise we regularly feel the need to upgrade the everyday items in our lives. Companies invest millions of pounds a year working out how to best to market us their latest models, seasons and versions of their products, so it’s almost natural that we are taken in by this clever messaging.

However, having the latest version of a product on average improves someone’s happiness for a period of just two weeks. After this, any effects from owning this new item rapidly diminishes. Why? Because there’s likely something even newer being released in the near future, or we come across someone else who has something better.

Key items we tend to upgrade regularly without much need include our phones, laptops, headphones, cars, designer accessories and home furnishings.

Try and find peace with your existing ‘stuff’ for a defined period of time. You may come to realise that you live quite happily without the latest products, and everything you do currently own is perfect for it’s job.

This is something I have really had to practice myself recently, after seeing how great the camera is on my husbands’ new phone. However there’s nothing wrong at all with mine, so I keep telling myself to wait and see how I feel in two months before making a rash purchase.

Unsubscribe From Emails

This is a big one, and requires you to set aside some time to make it happen, but it’s really valuable. Unsubscribe from all emails and companies whose primary role is to sell you more stuff.

If you want to get a great offer, you can always sign up again in the future, but for now it stops those free next day delivery, or 50% off coupons arriving on a Monday morning, which removes the temptation of buying more things you really didn’t need.

50% off £30 is still spending £15 you didn’t need to spend rather than an incredible half-off saving. Do yourself a favour and delete all the subscriptions and start afresh.

Plan In Advance

So much can be saved and organised with a little preparation. It can apply from everything to travel plans for a year, to decorating a room and meal-planning and preparation.

Carve out some time to schedule your annual leave and vacations for a year, and set up alerts for the best price deals. Plan your meals for one to two weeks, and then only buy what you need from the store. If you need to decorate a room, plan everything ahead of it from colours to furniture and even storage. This way, you won’t end up buying excess decorative elements or two sets of cushions as your mind changes as the plan progresses.

The more prepared you are in life, the more time you have day to day to spend on the things that properly enrich your life instead of these regular required must-dos.

Photo by Henry & Co. on Pexels.com

No Buy Month

If you are really struggling with living with less, and feeling a little overwhelmed by the amount of clutter, storage and stuff you have lying around, consider taking part in a no-buy month.

It will have a great impact in both reducing excess possessions, in addition to boosting your savings at the same time.

Set yourself some ground rules before starting. Examples include food, hygiene materials, medicines and transport as excluded, but anything else ‘non-essential’ is banned for 30 days.

It’s a great way to reset and really break the habit of consuming for the sake of consuming. Something we are all guilty of time to time.

One in, two out rule

Perhaps if you are finding the above idea a little extreme, you can instead replace it with the one in and two out rule. It’s as simple as, any time you buy anything you don’t ‘need’, you have to remove two other non-essentials in the same category to make room for it.

For example, if you pick up a pair of new shoes in the sale, two other older pairs that you rarely use need to go. If you get home and can’t really part with anything, ask yourself, did you really need the new item as well? Do the same for your kids toys, clothes and much more.

It might help you break any habits you currently have and stop the slow over-expansion of stuff in your home.

Five Simple Changes You Should Embrace As We Enter A New Decade

There are only ten weeks left in 2019, meaning that in the blink of an eye we will be reigning in a New Year and saying goodbye to the last decade at the same time.

For many, this time of year results in a time of personal reflection. What have I achieved? What do I still want to do before the clock strikes twelve on December 31st? Did I meet the goals I set for myself at the start of the year?

Personally, I am not fond of New Year Resolutions; however, I do believe that the close of the year provides a natural opportunity for reflection and an opening for new lifestyle changes or commitments.

As we enter the new roaring twenties, I think there are a few simple and yet impactful changes we can all make to ensure the next chapter is our best yet.

One: Embrace the joy of learning something new

Too often, we let the day-to-day noise of everyday life get in the way of developing our personal self and our deeper understanding of things that interest or intrigue us. Honestly, it does not matter if you are studying in a classroom or learning something new via a podcast, it is the on-going discipline of pursuing new knowledge, which really matters.

When did you last master a new skill or discover something that really surprised you? Adopt this mindset from a quote I love:

‘Anyone who stops learning is old, whether it’s at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.’

On this note, I think it is incredibly important to read something. Anything. Every single day. Whether it’s a short newspaper article or a chapter of a good book, reading is our gateway to knowing more, and knowledge allows us to enact change, challenge what we know and escape into new worlds even for just an hour.

Two: Simplify and stop over committing

It is easy in the New Year, or any moment, to write a list of everything you truly want to achieve. Quite often, the problem we instead face is the complexity or sheer volume of the goals we then go and set.

Stay realistic, don’t set a goal to run a triathlon if you have neglected exercise for some time. Make your goals simple, clearly defined and achievable. Start with committing to running three times a week no matter what the distance, and work up from there.

Any time you’re about to make a big change, getting to the end result can be overwhelming. Setting small, easily achievable goals is one way to jump-start yourself and in a short period of time you can look back and see how much you have already accomplished.

Then look at how you are spending your time. We are all busy, but we are also in control of what we allow into our lives. Commit to what matters. Define your priorities. Try to enter 2020 with a view that being busy isn’t necessarily a good thing, and instead a life that makes time for what matters is instead a true sign of success.

Photo by Matt Hardy on Pexels.com

Three: Become a morning person

I love the golden hour before the world truly wakes up and you have some time for solitude, self-prioritization and spending time on things you cherish.

Personally, I use this hour for a variety of different activities rather than a set ‘routine’. One morning I may spend the hour writing posts such as this. Others I will dedicate to exercise, studying for my masters, planning personal travel or just snuggled up reading in bed with my cats before I have to tackle the day ahead.

By carving out this hour, I ensure that every single day I start my day right. I have done something that really matters to me, something that aligns with my priorities and contributes towards my own personal goals.

The impact an hour dedicated entirely to the structure of your choosing can have is huge.

Four: Consume less and consume better

It sounds simple but it’s surprising how we are often inclined to do the opposite. Try to enter the New Year with the comfort of knowing you are content with everything you have.

In Western society, we often attribute happiness and success with material goods and status. Ironically, almost all studies on this topic show that neither contribute to our long-term happiness.

If you believe that a better model of car or bigger house is the key to your happiness, then what happens when you obtain it and you realise there is an even more luxurious or bigger version within reach in a few years? You end up in a cycle of consumerism. Of seeing goods as an achievement of your goals, and every time you obtain that success the feeling is short lived as you quickly begin to covet the next best thing.

If you see goods as a way to fulfil the things that make you happy. A car to help you travel, see loved ones and visit new places. A house to make memories with friends and family around the dinner table, and shoes as a way to take you on new adventures, you realise you already have all you need.

Our planet, your happiness and your perception will thank you when you break out of the cycle of wanting and start living with what you need.

This doesn’t end with material goods. It means taking control of what you eat, drink and what you’re putting into your body each day.

Be conscious of your consumption. Start 2020 investing in what you truly need. Time, health, family and personal growth.

Five: Be kinder

We are statistically more stressed than ever thanks to online capabilities providing less of a ‘shut down’ window than we used to see in previous decades. We can email at any hour, online shop at 3am and check in with friends with the tap of a button.

Thanks to this, and a disengagement with real, in-person interactions thanks to the rise of social media, it’s hardly surprising that we have begun to put more pressure on ourselves and at times, not provide others with the time and kindness they deserve.

Being kind is something we do out of love and care, but research shows it also makes us genuinely happy in many ways. For those feeling disengaged, stressed and burnt out, a little bit of kindness can go a long way.

Smile at others for no reason; be open to making new connections and meeting new people. Treat those you care for to a thoughtful gift or experience ‘just-because’. Adopt an animal in need of a loving home; open your doors to someone needing an ear. Pay it forward by supporting someone’s goals with your skills or advice, or even just buying a strangers coffee that day.

Just as important as being kind to others, is being kind to yourself. We are our worst critics, and sometimes we need to take a moment to appreciate all that we do and all we are striving for.

Being kind may boost your mood, but research has also shown that being in a good mood can make you more kind. This makes it a wonderful two-way relationship that just keeps giving.

What do you think of the above? Is there anything you’re going to adopt moving forward or is there something you thing is missing from this list that people can do tomorrow to make a meaningful change for the years’ to come?

Why You Need To Live In The Now

Life is exciting when you have things to look forward to. For many of us, it’s what gets us through a hard week, a long journey or the tenth conference call on a Tuesday. As a chronic planner, it’s also really easy to live your life according to your well-organized schedules, trips and daily routines.

But it’s really easy to glaze over the valuable here and now, if we are forever counting down to the next adventure, social event or milestone. One quote which really resonates with me when thinking about this is,

‘Remember when you wanted what you currently have’

I think this is just as relevant for experiences and memories, as it is for things, status and milestones in life.

Too often we are looking ahead for the next big memory we want to create that we gloss over the daily little moments which we have built for ourselves, that make up the majority of our day to day lives.

Looking forward is something we all do, even though we know it’s probably more beneficial to be living in the moment, living for now. Yet we also pair this with the dangerous habit of forgoing what is currently happening to focus on, reminisce, and think back to times which have passed. We live for a time that once was, rather than a time we can shape in this very moment.

It’s not all adventures, escapes, successes and social opportunities. Life is as much about the day to day as it is the once in a lifetime, and when we accept that, I personally think everything becomes a lot more fulfilling.

If you are always counting down, thinking of what is next, you live in a state of flux. It may lead to anxiety that you are not doing enough with your days. It could leave you with a nervous fear of missing out as you convince yourself it will all be worth what you’re counting down towards in the long-run. At the end of the day, you could miss many memories and opportunities if you don’t enjoy the small stuff, the bits in between, the happy fillers.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

There’s no harm in reliving great memories with friends, or looking forward to what may come next. That motivates us, inspires us and teaches us. However it shouldn’t come at the expense of not enjoying your moment right now.

I have endometriosis, and the reality of that is sometimes things I have been so excited for, escapes and travels I have planned, or big work trips I have looked forward to, get cancelled with little to no notice, and it sucks. You never know what can happen, so don’t place all your excitement on one future event or one past memory.

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If like me you are wanting to have a count-down detox, or stop day-dreaming about what has passed, here are a few tips to get you on track:

Reflect every day

Write a few sentences a day to capture how you are feeling, what you’ve done that day, the small things we often gloss over. A song you heard and loved, food you ate and enjoyed, a random act of kindess. By being more conscious about the little things, we build better habits for living in the moment.

I use a line a day five year diary and I love it.

Catch yourself

If you find yourself thinking more about what has passed, or talking regularly about what is to come, try and naturally get yourself back into the here and now. Change the way you converse about the day to day.

Ask yourself, what am I doing right now? What can I hear? What can I see? Why am I doing what I am doing today?

It’s a quick way to bring you right back into the moment, and to relish in those thoughts.

Find a balance between living and planning

Quite often, when I have been organizing something big and exciting such as our wedding, big travel plans or house moves, I tend to put all my energy into this one event, even months ahead of it.

I decline plans to dedicate time to the ‘future event’, I sit and plan all evening (I love a notebook!) and I am probably horrendous to talk to as I seem to have a one-track conversation.

A couple of years ago I found that by doing this, I would miss out on little moments running up to the event, and actually, once it had passed I either got stuck reminiscing, or felt a gap where I needed to fill it with another big event.

Now, no matter what we are looking forward to and have planned, I also try to make sure we live in the here and now at the same time. I often ask myself, if I don’t do this because of what’s planned, will that opportunity still be there for me in the future? Is it something I might miss out on? If the answers yes, then grab your chance and live in the now. Don’t risk a future of looking back and wishing ‘what if’.

One thing isn’t going to be the defining event that makes your life memorable. It’s everything together that makes it a journey you want to be part of.

Love the little things

Go for dinner in the week with friends, enjoy walks with no destination in mind, and spend an afternoon reading just because you want to.

When we let ourselves really indulge in what we enjoy, rather than what we think we should be doing, we live more in the moment, and we feel better about it.

Put down the social media

Lastly, if you really are feeling like you are stuck in yesterday, or wishing away the weeks, social media might not be helping.

Stop scrolling back through your memories, or looking for inspiration on where to go, what to consume or what to do next.

Instead, put the phone away, and focus on what you could be doing right now, or post more of the tiny day to day joys instead of the big moment pictures.

Listen to your body

Often when we are really not living in the moment we don’t listen to what our body is telling us we need. Tired? Sleep more. Craving something sweet? Indulge.

 

 

You’re Not Doing Less, We’re Just Expecting More Of Ourselves

The other day I woke up and realised I really needed a day to just unwind, recover and relax.

A spot of light reading, perhaps a cup of coffee or two on the sofa and maybe a walk in the afternoon if the weather held out.

When I was living in the reality of that day, I felt that I had truly achieved this and managed to amble through a day doing next to nothing.

If I look back now, and am totally honest with myself, I have to admit that I may have sneaked just a few jobs, errands and tasks in there.

The difficulty is that it is really hard to justify, and just accept, that in this busy, hectic world, it’s okay to do less. It’s okay to have a day or two of doing absolutely nothing.

We feel that unless we have a grand sense of accomplishment achieved by successfully ticking off at least ten things on our ever growing to-do lists, we have had somewhat a failure of a day.

Rather than measuring our success on our happiness, our prioritization of the things that matter to us and our wellbeing, we instead measure it on how important we feel because we have managed to do more ‘stuff’.

On my ‘relax and recover’ day I managed to, on top of my reading, coffee drinking and walking, do an online shop, deep clean and sort the kitchen cupboards, pack a little more for the move, order a friends birthday present, call my family for a check in, order a new lightbulb and starter for the bathroom and order a cake for our leaving party.

If that was a lot to read in one sentence, just imagine how much extra it added to a day that was meant to be filled with nothing. Additionally, just imagine how much more gets done on a day not planned for rest.

I am not writing this to show how much extra I managed to do on a day off. Instead it’s a bit of a personal reflection on how much I felt I needed to just get done, when really my head, body and mind was telling me to just take a day.

Quite often I find that it’s the unreal expectations we set ourselves which stops us from really doing what we want to do. We are not doing less, we are just demanding more from ourselves.

A 2018 survey by Forth with Life found that 42% of women and 36% of men feel way too stressed. Guess what one of the top causes was? You got it, it’s being too busy.

A quick search on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram gives instant insight into why we have adopted a culture of seeing busy as a sign of success.

#busybusybusy = nearly 100,000 posts on Instagram

#busylife = over 350,000

and let’s not forget, you can’t be a good mum if you’re not exhausted from cramming things into every hour of your day, so it makes sense that #busymom has nearly one million shares.

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Photo by Stokpic on Pexels.com

Personally, I don’t want to be busy.

I want to stop filling my downtime with more stuff and noise just so I don’t feel bad about reading a whole book and maybe even having a bath and nap in between chapters.

Relaxing, unwinding, reflecting. It’s still you doing something. It’s arguably more important than anything else as without your health, it’s hard to do the rest.

Just because with technology it’s easier to do more, easier to feel lazy when you see others filling their days with more, and easier to find more ways to be busy, doesn’t mean it’s right.

Looking back, I don’t feel success or any striking memories from the days where I ticked 10 menial things off my to-do list (most of them instigated by my need to do more and be more busy). My memories come from good books, successful projects in work and at home, travelling and laughing with friends and family.

I am happy to be seen as someone who does less. As long as I am happy.

That’s success for me.

What Items Are Worth Investing In When Moving Often?

Over the last two weeks, I have started to pack for a big house move. It’s different this time for several reasons, one being that the house we are leaving is the place we have stayed the longest as a couple. Therefore, we’ve gathered a little bit more than usual over the last three years.

Note – I have nearly packed all my possessions and the rooms still look pretty full, which shows the dynamic of my relationship with stuff vs. my husbands!

One thing, which has made me think, is what has made me keep the possessions I have decided to hold on to. With all the minimising, and living with less, how have some goods retained their longevity when it comes to need and use?

We are really fortunate to have and cherish all the below. This is why I think it makes all of it even more valuable from a personal perspective.

Below is a collection of the items I have kept, repeatedly purchased or invested in over time. They will follow me around for years. I would love to hear about what ‘things’ you have that you will treasure forever or have invested in over the years. What would you class as your ‘keepers’?

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A quality, capsule wardrobe

Find your personal style, buy good quality over quantity, and consider the impact of trend, fashion or impulse buying on the planet, on people and on animals.

I have a set series of items in colours, cuts and styles that I know suit my body shape and frame. They can easily be mixed and matched, and it makes getting ready in the morning much easier.

If you don’t know what your style is, find you keep buying clothes you end up hating months later, or experience a regular wardrobe rotation, use this guide here to define it.

When I buy clothes I buy for good, not to fit in with the new seasons must-have trend.

A good coat, gloves and hat

Following on from the above, nothing can bring an outfit together more in the winter than a quality coat, pair of faux-leather gloves and a hat.

If you invest in a winter coat you should have something that can last you for a decade. Dry clean it each year, and store in a dry place ready for the colder season to come around again.

Want to mix it up, buy two or three and rotate them over a long period of time, rather than one ‘on-trend’ throwaway jacket a year.

Well-made candles

I light a candle almost daily. I use them as part of my bedtime routine, when I am soaking in the bath and when I am entertaining over Winter.

Locally made candles are my go-to when I buy for myself, however many of my bigger candles tend to be gorgeous gifts and last for months.

Cruelty-free, good quality, face creams, room sprays and bath oils

Spend a little more on your face when you are younger, and you’ll have to spend a whole lot less as you get older. Unless you are happy aging gracefully and naturally, which is brilliant.

Personally, I like to invest in good quality serums and creams to keep my skin clear, moisturised and feeling soft. My favourites are The Ordinary Range for face serums. Nuxe dry oil spray, and Dr Hauschka Soothing Cleanser.

For room sprays, a scent can quickly calm and sooth, especially Lavender pillow spray.

For bathing, I am a huge fan of the Neal’s Yard bath oil range.

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Plants

When my husband first started coming home with plant after plant I was a little apprehensive. Now however, we have over 15 houseplants and a little vegetable garden. Watering, spritzing and tending to them daily is so calming. Plants can be quite expensive if you struggle to keep them alive, so I would advise you buy one at a time and make sure you can tend to and care for them before buying another.

Art (ish)

We don’t have masterpieces to rival the Louvre in our little home, but what we do have is priceless to us.

A painting of our favourite bay by my talented mother-in-law. A print of York, the city we have called home for five years from our brother. A wedding present from our Best Man.

All the little photos, hand painted prints from our travels and commissioned pieces hang on our walls and not only tell a story themselves, but are filled with memories on where they have come from.

Bedding

You can never underestimate the power of high quality bedding. Years ago we moved from cheap and cheerful Ikea duvets to a set we got when we were gifted as a wedding present, and it marked the point of no return!

Sleep is so important, and I personally love my Sunday mornings reading in bed with a coffee. If you are able to, invest in a quality duvet of at least 400-thread count in a breathable fabric.

Books

Something I buy regularly, and will always treasure.

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Dinnerware and Tableware

We are fortunate to have a gorgeous collection of dinnerware that has been passed down from various strands of the family in different patterns of blue toile.

This inspired my love of collecting old but beautiful strands of other table and glassware.

They don’t all match, they certainly are not part of a wider collection, but they evoke a lot of memories, and together all their differences come together and make it just…work.

Tech

It’s a given, but we have quite a bit of technology around our house. Both working in digital, and one of us being incredibly creative (clue: not me) means that we have a small selection of cameras, laptops, drawing tablets.

Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do what we both love to do (write, design and work in data) as easily.

Simple, but sentimental, jewellery

I may not have a large jewellery collection, in fact it’s really quite small, but each and every item means something important to me.

Nearly every item I have kept for a long time was gifted to me by someone special, passed down or handmade for me.

Now I wear jewellery sparingly, but meaningfully. If I perhaps suited the layered rings and necklaces look it may be a different story!

 

Thirty Things You Can Easily Throw Away Today To Make You Feel Happier.

If my home is getting a little cluttered and busy, I can guarantee that it will start to have an effect on my mind and wellbeing.

We all know the feeling. Stressed about rummaging through drawers to find something. Fed up of moving everything aside to put something back. Struggling to find room to sit down and work when your desk has become the new temporary storage shelf.

There’s a simple fix, and I assure you it won’t take long at all.

Grab yourself three big bags, boxes or containers, and look around the house (or take it one room, one day at a time if you’ve got a lot to sort) and choose if you should trash, recycle or donate the below items.

30 Things You Can Instantly Declutter

Old Magazines / Newspapers
Letters you don’t need to file
Old batteries
Old electrical wires and cables
Takeaway Menus (all online now)
Socks with holes in
Clothes that don’t fit
Clothes with stains
Tights with holes
Old towels or bedding
Expired makeup / old samples
Old toiletries
Old Groceries
Expired condiments / spices
Non-recyclable bags
Excess coffee mugs

Excess glassware
Excess utensils
Books you’ve read
DVD’s you don’t need anymore
Old cards, decorations
Excess Tupperware
Unused kids / pets toys
Excess decor
Old recipe books
Old calendars, diaries and notebooks
Clutter in work or handbags

When you have worked through it all, you should find your drawers are clearer, you living space is less ‘busy’ and you feel a lot more zen. A happy home leads to a happy mind.

When I first started to live minimally, I found I had to repeat this exercise almost bi-monthly. Now however, I am a lot more conscious around what I consume in the first place, which helps with living with less on a permanent basis.

Repeat as often as you need to, and think first before buying something you know you recently rehomed before you need to repeat it all over again in a few months time.

Save the below to your phone for a quick reference guide, or Pin it to complete later.

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Invest in quality, over quantity.

Buy well, not often.

Choose need, not want.

Stop Living Perfectly, And Start Living Authentically

It’s too easy to fall into the trappings of living a ‘perfect’ life, a ‘busy’ life. Ensuring you are ticking off all the widely accepted milestones of success we aspire towards as a society.

The perfect home that looks like it could feature in an interiors glossy magazine. The job title and promotion you’ve worked towards for years. Pristine clean housekeeping skills, a fantastic and full social life. No time for anything because you’re so ‘busy’. The list goes on.

I know when I have been falling into the trap of trying to live perfectly instead of authentically when I start to feel detached from doing the things I really love. The things that enrich my life and make me truly happy. Not the material things which bring status, a short-lived burst of happiness and can easily be one-upped by the next person living more perfectly than you.

When I actually start to feel too busy, too stressed or too overwhelmed.

If you take five minutes to reflect over the last week, do you feel that you have been filling each moment of your days with things you truly enjoy? Things that really make you happy?

I have been so detached from living authentically recently I have not written a blog, article or content in over three weeks. I know my day to day priorities are not right when I can’t find time to do the things I enjoy the most.

I can sense if a person is living authentically because from the moment I meet them, listen to them, follow their updates on social media, they all feel so happy, true and refreshingly real.

You know the kind of person I am talking about. The person who knows what they enjoy in life, and they live with these priorities in mind.

If you are feeling that you are a little overwhelmed, too busy to fill your days with the things that matter to you, or in a bit of a rut, the steps below might help you get back on track.

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Work out what your five main priorities are

You can’t make sure you dedicate your time and energy to the things that matter if you don’t know what they are. Take ten minutes to list everything that makes you seriously happy. I am talking huge grin, gets you out of bed in the morning, contagiously happy.

To help you out, I have listed my top five:

  • Spending quality time and making memories with my husband, cats, family and friends
  • Having time to write
  • Travelling and seeing as much of the world as possible
  • Reading
  • Putting my health first

Ensure you put in time to work towards these priorities each and every day

I know you’re busy. We all are. But we should never be too busy to fill our lives with the things that truly matter to us. Imagine looking back over the last month and not being able to pick out ten key moments you really enjoyed. You won’t get that time again. So make sure you’re putting aside time for the things which really matter to you. If you don’t have the time to do that, look at what you’re doing instead and see if it really needs your focus.

I feel happier, more content and more wholesome when my days are spent on my priorities. So I need to make sure I spend more time doing just that. If reading a book for twenty minutes a day comes over a perfectly clean house that actually, people don’t really care too much about, I am happy with that.

Realise it’s okay to do nothing

Too often when we are feeling overwhelmed or a little burnt out, it’s because we haven’t actually taken any time for ourselves. Time to just be. Time to do nothing.

If you are feeling that you haven’t had the time to do the things you love recently, take a reset day. I still struggle with this concept, it feels wrong to nap, read when there’s decorating to be done, or just go away for an evening when I have a mountain on my to-do list. But I am getting better at it.

Review your goals and what you really want

Regularly we don’t feel like we are achieving in life because we haven’t ticked off an impressive goal recently, or invested in something to show and share with others.

It’s too easy to fall into the trap of creating false expectations for yourself. The need for a new promotion at work, not because you want it, but because you think that’s a sign of success. The need for the latest model of car even though yours works perfectly. Don’t look back in twenty years’ time and wish you’d spent your money, or your time differently. Get rid of false expectations, live only in a way that makes you happy.

At the end of the day, we are all too worried about how other people perceive us, when in reality, we should just be focusing on how we perceive ourselves.

If you can say that you make conscious choices each day which allow you to get the most out of life, make you happy and allow you to work towards your main priorities, that’s all that matters.

Where your weeks are filled with more memories, moments and experiences than ‘must-do’s, checklists and chores’.

And that’s living more authentically, rather than a standard tick all the boxes perfect life.

And that leaves me with one of my favourite quotes:

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How Successful Are You?

Take a minute to think about three people in your immediate life who you view as successful.

People you interact with and hear from on a regular basis.

What would you say defines their success?

If you had asked me this question four years ago I would have said the below:

  • Doing well in their respective careers, climbing that job ladder to the very top.
  • Financially successful with a beautiful big home, new executive car, flash gadgets and designer clothes.
  • Those who looked ‘perfect’
  • Regular exotic holidays.
  • Popular, influential and inspiring.

Looking back now, I feel a little ashamed that I used this kind of criteria to judge a person’s success in life.

However it’s hardly surprising that I had this view when I lived in a society where media, publications and entertainment have subscribed and represented these values as the ideal standard.

Today I did a quick internet search for tips on how to be successful.

The number of female magazine websites which appeared telling me how to buy this, wear that, say this, do that, in order to be a success is shocking. Not one said spend the time doing what makes you happy. It was material, aesthetic, career and relationship based.

Now let me ask you another question.

 Do you feel successful?

If the answer is yes, go you.

If you answered no, is it a true reflection of the reality, or because of the expectations you’ve set for yourself that you’re not meeting?

How many of your negative feelings come from false expectations of yourself?

Expectations of what a good job, true happiness, and real success looks like. Expectations you’ve repeatedly told yourself. Always wishing you were doing something differently.

You’d be successful if you could just get up at 6am each day. You’d be successful if you could get that next promotion. You’d be successful if you could just stop eating so much sugar. You’d be successful if you had that new flash car.

These are all things you’ve convinced yourself are necessary. Requirements you have created for yourself to achieve before you can feel successful.

However the reality is, if we always strive for expectation. If we aim to meet the false cultural ideas of success. If we compare ourselves to others. We will never feel successful. We will never be truly happy. It’s a trap, and it’s never ending.

Now there’s nothing wrong with having material items you truly enjoy. But buying things mindlessly to show you (and let’s be honest, others) your success will not make you happy. You’ll always want the next best thing.

There’s nothing wrong with climbing the corporate career, as long as you are not doing it at the expense of long hours in the office instead of hobbies and experiences that truly make you feel fantastic.

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If you ask me now what I define as being successful I would simply say:

  • Happiness
  • Ticking off the long term goals and experiences that matter to you
  • Doing what you love

For me, the people I see as successful are those who are happy. Those who spend their time doing things that make them happy. Things they will look back on when old and be glad they spent their time doing it.

Spend your time doing what you value, doing what you enjoy, and developing yourself. Spend your time with loved ones, with friends and family.

Take a moment to appreciate everything you’ve already done. Write it all down. Embrace it.

Discard the false expectations of success.

Then I can guarantee you will feel successful.

Stop Being Defined By Your Things

If I asked you to think of two to three material items on your wish list right now, which you think would make your life a little bit better for one reason or another, could you?

A luxury watch, a designer handbag, a new television.

Now think how or why you think they’d enrich your life.

That new designer watch. Thinking honestly, what makes it different from a well-crafted non-luxury timepiece? It’s the branding. The lifestyle associations which come alongside it.

A bigger television. Is it to enjoy your films in better quality, or just because when it comes to TV’s, we’ve been repeatedly told bigger is better? It becomes a home status symbol, a ‘keeping up with the Jones’ mentality.

A luxury branded handbag. Probably as well-made as a hand stitched leather bag you could find for a third of the price. However they come without the logo. So how would people know that you’ve got THE coveted bag of the season if it’s non-recognizable? How do people know you’re doing well in life without the branding?

I have been guilty of this thinking. If we’re being honest, you may have been too.

However if we started to see material goods for what they really are. Tools to help us in our daily activities. Things. Stuff. We stop coveting them all so much.

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Seeing Things For What They Really Are

We need to realise that those designer shoes might bring with them a certain lifestyle association and may impress our friends, but they won’t bring true happiness. Unless you’re enriching your life and focusing on the things that truly matter to you, you will always be wanting more. As soon as you have those shoes, you’ll be coveting the next bigger and better thing.

Trust me, I subscribed to this lifestyle choice and getting the material things I thought I wanted never actually resulted in lasting happiness. I just kept on living a cycle of comparing myself to others.

I now buy only out of need rather than want, and before purchasing I always ask myself three questions.

Am I buying this because it is necessary and has a purpose in my life?

Have I chosen this particular item for it’s quality, or for the status it provides?

Am I buying this to impress others?

It’s surprising how often just by asking those three simple statements, things get returned onto the hangers, or removed from my online basket.

Just last week I almost bought a blender costing five times as much as one with better reviews, because it’s currently seen as ‘the’ blender to have.

Thankfully I saw some sense before completing checkout.

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Try it yourself

A small exercise for you to do this evening could be to walk through your home and ask those questions retrospectively about what you own.

Here they are again:

  1. Did I buy this because it is necessary and has a purpose in my life?
  2. Have I chosen this particular item for it’s quality, or for the status it provides?
  3. Did I buy this to impress others?

See if you can learn anything about the reasons behind why you buy, and be honest with yourself.

Since I have placed less value on my things, the only change I have noticed is that I have more money, time and focus for the things which actually do truly make me happy.

Writing, travel and being with loved ones.

I might not buy bags with designer branding anymore, but I have a long-lasting leather satchel which has travelled with me to four countries from what I have saved by adopting this mindset.

I don’t have the biggest TV, best car, biggest house or biggest shoe collection compared to my friends and family.

But I am not defined by my things. Instead I define my success on two little questions.

Am I actually truly happy, and am I spending my time on money on the things which really matter to me, and me only?

 

 

 

Minimalist Insider: 4 Personal Questions About Appreciating Life’s Moments

Too often we let the day rush by without taking a moment to stop, think, unwind and appreciate the wonderful little things that it has contained.

At the end of 2016, I took part in this fantastic yearly review exercise published by one of my favourite bloggers, Anuschka Rees.

It is a really valuable collection of 50 questions to inspire you to appreciate all the big and little things that occur in twelve short months.

Though, by early Spring, I have found that I have slowly started slipping into a routine of letting Monday become Friday without much thought for the in between.

It was time to readdress, re-evaluate and remind myself of the discoveries, excitements and adventures of the first quarter of 2017. However rather than sitting down and bullet pointing it all like I did as a year-end project, I have decided to do a weekly series of four questions and answers.

I will post some of them online, if you enjoy reading them, in the hope that it inspires you to slow down, take a deep breath, and remember all the wonderful things that have happened in what, without reflection, seemed like a merely average week.

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So, with the view of looking back across 2017 for the first post. Here we go:

  1. What one event are you going to tell your grandchildren about?

It would have to be our recent adventure across West Coast USA. We kept a diary each day to remind us of the stories behind the experiences we have in memory, and often captured on film and photos.

The warm desert sunrises, the fresh sea air of San Francisco and Lands’ End, the crisp wines of Napa Valley and the throbbing of our feet as we hiked, walked, ran and wandered through four different but incredible cities.

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  1. If I had to describe the start of 2017 in three words, what would they be?

 Warm, Rewarding & Mobile

Warm, because I have felt warm and content with our day to day life.

Rewarding, because so many wonderful things that I have been lucky to experience or worked hard for have occurred.

Mobile, because I have rarely spent one week in the same city since the start of the year due to work or travel, which is something new to embrace and understand.

  1. What new things did you discover about yourself?

I discovered that after years’ of being unable to sleep on transport, I could sleep like a baby on a long-haul flight thanks to the wonders of meditation, lavender spray and a hardy eye mask.

That I can suffer really terribly from writers block, which came out of nowhere at the start of the year, and disappeared again of it’s own accord.

Podcasts are something I can enjoy, I had just not found the right one. For anyone looking to get into them, I would wholeheartedly recommend Serial, The Black Tapes and Lore.

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4. What single achievement are you most proud of?

Personally, it would have to be finally finishing my book (watch this space) but honestly, I am so proud of all that everyone around me is achieving at the moment. My husband, friends and family are all doing amazing things.

So there you have it, the first in a series. I would love to hear your reflections on 2017 and would find it so interesting if my fellow bloggers, writers and readers followed the same weekly challenge and shared their stories!

If you don’t feel like committing to sharing your thoughts regularly, instead just take the time to appreciate the big and little wonderful things that have made you happy in the last year, and be aware of the things that have detracted from this sense of wellbeing.

It will help you be mindful of what to prioritise, and what, if anything, to let go.