I have been simplifying things in my life – and in my home – for a long time. When I first started out, I had this idea that I would progress from being a hoarder who was too busy to achieve anything, to someone in minimalist nirvana. I would own only what I needed or loved, I would spend barely any time looking after the house or doing life admin, and I would have the time and focus to pursue the things I really loved (like writing).
Fast forward to today. I own a modest amount of things, and I live in a modest sized house. But life is still as busy as it ever was. If not more so. And the minimalist nirvana I thought I would be living in by now? It’s nowhere to be seen.
I appreciate that this is partly because I am a mum of three. Three young children demand a huge amount of time out of each day (and sometimes night). But that aside, there is still a lot of “life” to deal with. The actual act of existing and being responsible for yourself amounts to a huge amount of admin. Bills, insurance, shopping, cooking, emails, work. And then add things like seeing family and friends, hobbies, exercise and activities. All these things are part of any life – even a minimalist one – but they take up a huge proportion of time.
Decluttering Doesn’t Solve What You Expect It To
In fact, so much so, that even though I thought by now I would be totally calm and in control of everything, I still have days where I forget about the kids fancy dress, almost miss a party, forget an important work email or even just let a subscription renew that I meant to cancel.
In fact, just the other day I spent some time upstairs with my daughter tidying up the toys and kids books. When I came downstairs it looked like a bomb had been detonated by the other two children – food wrappers, toys, books, stickers and clothes were strewn everywhere. Plus I had piles of washing to do. And my email was dinging away. There was dinner to cook. Not to mention the fact I hadn’t gotten around to getting the dishes in the dishwasher that day.
You can’t declutter the washing, the cooking, the tidying and the dishes. Even without a ton of stuff, life still gets too busy.
And I wonder – am I not being ruthless enough with what I allow into my life? Or is the act of living now so demanding that not one of us with a job, home and maybe even kids can ever hope to be on top of everything all at once?
Too Busy To Get To Done
Just once in my life, I’d like to get to done.
To stand up and say: there is nothing that needs my attention right now. Everything is complete.
It’s in my nature to find it difficult to relax when there are outstanding tasks. The times I have been happiest have been when I have been travelling, with nothing but a backpack. All my stuff and obligations thousands of miles away and not able to bother me.
But I don’t want to have to escape my daily existence to feel that peace.
Seth Godin said:
Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.
I think I have to put my hand up and admit that so far, I haven’t worked out exactly how to do that. I haven’t found the answer.
It occurred to me that perhaps the problem wasn’t all the things that I felt I need to do, but the fact that I felt like I needed to do them.
Perhaps I need to let go of my expectations, as well as my excess stuff.
But even then, letting go of the expectation of achieving all the things you want to achieve – does that really make life any easier? For sure, it means you’re not putting yourself under pressure to meet goals and deadlines. But it doesn’t actually take away the fact that in the average life there is still a huge amount to do.
So perhaps the answer is still that I just haven’t been ruthless enough about the things that I want to spend my time on. I have always been interested in lots of different hobbies and ideas. And I know that spreading your interest too thinly amounts to not very much progress in anything. But I STILL find it hard to implement this. I juggle a huge amount of plates, every day, because it makes me feel like somehow I am getting closer to the life I want for myself and my kids.
And letting that go is not easy at all. I cling to it all in the same way that I used to cling to my belongings. Is it a security thing? The fear of failure? Fear of commitment? Perhaps it is a fear of commitment.
Physically Too Busy, Mentally Too Busy
The other thing I tend to do a lot of is over-analyse. Is this the best breakfast for my kids? Should I be eating this for lunch? How can I make it easier to keep the toys in one place? How can I improve my writing/financial system/meal planning (okay, not meal planning, ’cause I don’t do that – but see? Instantly something that’s making me feel guilty for not getting on and doing it).
There is something about the way we live now that trains us to believe that there is always a better solution out there. And that we need to keep searching for it.
These thoughts consume a lot of mental energy, on top of doing all the things that need to be done.
I can already hear people saying You know what the answer is to this monkey brain you’ve got is, don’t you?
And I know – it’s meditation. Right? The calm in the middle of the storm. And I know that the ability to let go and let thoughts slide past without clinging onto them would benefit me so much. And that learning to let go and give my head some space each day would probably make me feel better. So why do I keep resisting it?
Like so many things in life (exercise and healthy eating in particular), we know what we should be doing. It’s doing those things that is the problem.
If meditation has worked for you, and you consistently practice it with good results, I’d love to hear how you got started.