Living minimally: where to begin

March 7, 2016

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Two weeks ago, I had the honour of being a human “book” and giving two fifteen-minute talks about living minimally. The attendees were civil servants, many of them managers, and they were here to “read” about my knowledge of living minimally in the hopes of applying my tips to their personal and professional lives.

In preparing for my talk, I came across some great minimalist tips that helped me show how minimalism can be applied to all facets of life, not just to our closets and pantry.

Minimalism is originally a popular form of art in the 1950s that favoured simple, large shapes

But this aesthetic of clean lines and simplicity was soon adopted as a social response to our society’s culture of mass production, mass consumption and waste.

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Minimalism lives not only in art, but also in fashion, design, architecture, food and lifestyles

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Minimalism is founded on the concept of making every action in your life a reflection of your values

If your day-to-day actions don’t – in some way – contribute to your values, you’ll find yourself tired, stressed, frazzled, overworked and wondering why you’re so busy but never get anything of significance done.

Minimalism asks us to redefine the meaning of production

Production isn’t doing a lot of things, it’s doing the most important things and doing them well.

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Think of the significance of this to your workplace. Instead of ticking off all of the menial tasks on your never-ending to-do list, take fifteen minutes every morning to highlight the “must-do” tasks that are important to your work. Our society is addicted to accomplishing things, so we write down every possible thing we could do in a day (I’m extremely guilty of this) and happily tick each item off, all the while never actually accomplishing anything of importance to our work such as: organize old folders – check; reply to unimportant email – check; avoid writing that article that’s due early next week – check.

No wonder we’re always running around with our heads cut off, doing this and that and never finding the time to do what we really want to do, or what we really must do.

Our glorification of being busy is a distraction from real productivity.

This applies not only to the workplace, but in your personal life too.

I’m only now realizing this all about myself. Like I said, I’m a chronic to-do list person. I have more than one list going at any given time. One in my personal phone and a gazillion in my work agenda, oh, and maybe on a scrap of paper or two around the office and at home. The time alone that it took to write those useless lists could’ve been used more efficiently.

Minimalism asks us to define what is truly important to us, to our work, etc.

Remember the glory days of Martha Stewart? You know, pre-prison? Wasn’t she amazing then? She was so particular, so efficient and so incredibly anal that watching her place a thousand neko candies on top of an exquisite, blue gingerbread house roof with Miss Piggy, or preparing her bulbs for winter was my guilty little pleasure. She was so stiff, her perfection so forced, how marvelous! But I digress, I bring her up because during her reign, a gag magazine came out called Is Martha Stewart Living? It was in response to her more perfect than perfect self-titled publication, Martha Stewart Living, and it poked fun at her calendar of tasks to do around the home. One of those joke tasks was to stencil the driveway. Yes, how ridiculous!

But I want to point out to you that if stenciling the driveway brings you joy, if it’s important to you, than make time for it. It’s important for you to understand that minimalism is malleable. You are supposed to mold it to your life, not the other way around. When minimalism asks you to define what’s truly important to you, that is your definition and your definition alone. I have a scrapbook that I haven’t finished in almost two years now. Memories are important to me, but I’d rather tackle buying a rug for my living room first. So, the scrapbook stays in the closet for now, no fuss, no worry. But you might LOVE scrapbooking and really want to make room for it in your schedule. Then great, do it!

Here’s my list of what’s truly important in my life:

  • Trying to live in the moment and appreciating the people in it
  • Making sure that my friends and family feel loved and appreciated, this means calling them or making a date once a week
  • Maintaining my fitness routine of going to the gym three times a week
  • Getting my online shop up and running by this fall
  • Writing regular blog posts
  • Buying a carpet and chair for my living room to make it more inviting
  • Buying curtains and a bench for my bedroom to make it cozier
  • Spending time outdoors
  • Growing herbs for cooking
  • Moving my vegetable garden to the sunnier side of the yard
  • Learning how to pickle those vegetables
  • Cleaning out my inboxes and establishing a system to keep them empty and organized
  • Watching a movie or a TV show a few times a week to decompress with my boyfriend

And here’s a list of some of the things that are distracting me from doing these things above, at times:

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  • Browsing Instagram
  • Cruising Facebook
  • Scanning Twitter
  • Obsessive house cleaning
  • Writing out to-do lists that include items such as: polish shoes, paint side bedroom tables, donate TVs, buy succulents
  • Buying magazines that I soon donate or recycle
  • Looking for a sewing machine to adjust old garments to wear new again
  • Browsing Kijiji for other bedroom furniture that I don’t really need right now…

Tackle one area of your life at a time

Most people approach minimalism from a fashion perspective. Our closets seem to be the gateway to inviting minimalism into other areas of our lives. So start with your closet. Take a big box or bag and put in it anything in your closet that is a duplicate. From here, remove anything that has holes in it or is stained, or that doesn’t fit well.

Uber organizer, Marie Kondo, says to go shopping in your closet and look at every piece as though you were buying it all over again. Ask yourself: does it bring me joy? If the answer is no, then donate it. Do this with every item in your closet and see what you have left. Now take your time and go through every item in your home. My friend Jess from Rose & Fig just read Marie Kondo’s cult book and wrote a super helpful summary on it, get inspired and try it out!

To get started with minimizing the things in your life

  1. Write out what’s truly important to you in life (you might have to just write down anything that comes to mind, anything at all that you do or value, and then highlight the most important)
  2. You can do the same for your work tasks too
  3. Identify what distracts you on a daily basis, i.e. surfing the internet, worrying about what others think about you, investing time in a friend who doesn’t care about you, binge-watching TV rather than exercising or calling your parents, etc.
  4. Choose one distraction to opt out of for a week, choose a second one to add to your opt out list, and go from there
  5. Clean out your closet, Marie Kondo style and work your way through your home
  6. Enjoy your new found time and start doing what really matters to you

MOST IMPORTANTLY: Don’t stress about this, be patient with yourself, there’s no perfect way to do this.

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4 comments

  • Jess | Rose & Fig

    I am dying laughing because my mom now thinks I am a wicked, wicked little child with my KonMari kicks. “DOES IT BRING YOU JOY?” I’ll ask her ruthlessly. It makes us both laugh every time. But more importantly, it makes us let go of a ton of stuff 🙂

    • Malorie Bertrand

      I just had the same experience with my mom last night. I was helping her unpack her clothing (new apartment for her in Ottawa!) and I told her about KonMari and kept asking her: “but does it bring you JOY!?” Her response: “Well,…it’s silk!” 😛

  • Nat @ Made in Home

    Great post – I read Marie Kondo’s book and it changed my life – well it is still changing my life, as I have not gone through envy thing in my house. And this is the perfect follow up to it. my word is #meaningful this year, and it seems that everyone is trying to find some meaning in what we are doing. And I am definitely a list master – so many lists, on so many pads (although I got rid of loads already – Konamri style).

    • Malorie Bertrand

      I keep hearing rave reviews about it and have added “read Marie Kondo’s book” to one of my many to-do lists, lol. Meaningful, very true. Mindful, meaningful, we’re all grasping at the tried and true among the flurry of advertisements, mass-produced products and overloaded tasks lists. I just visited your blog. It’s lovely! I actually have a beautiful bunch of deep purple yarn that I’ve been meaning to knit into a scarf or something for ages. I just have to take a refresher course on how to get started and find a simple pattern for beginners. I’ll be sure to refer to your blog for tips. x

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