The case for independent thinking

The Andromeda galaxy


This is a guest post by Ali Cornish of the fantastic blog, Everthrive. You should check it out.


Many centuries ago, Rene Descartes coined the phrase: ‘I think, therefore I am.’ He believed that the first defining aspect of humanity was that we are creatures of thought; the only reason we know we are truly alive is due to the fact that we can think about our existence. Our ability to think independently defines our humanity.

Our ability to think independently is being challenged.

Far from the 1600s when Descartes made his philosophical proclamation, in the 2000s we often don’t take advantage of our humanity as he previously defined it. Oftentimes, when we are called to think about something, or come across a question to be answered, we quickly pull out our devices and ask Google. Pretty much everyone I know does this, myself included.

This practice, while very convenient and expedient, actually may cause more harm than good. Quickly turning to Google for the answer is evidence that we are losing the patience, the ability, and the will to engage in independent, deep thinking.

“I think, therefore I am,” has turned into “I Google, therefore I am”.

Why is deep thinking important?

Deep thinking is an indicator that we are engaging, retaining, and building upon learning opportunities. If we don’t pause and attempt to puzzle out answers for ourselves, we lose a valuable opportunity to enhance the power of our minds. Immediate access to data is changing our ability to think independently and engage in deep attention.

I will explain this further using an example I bring up quite a bit in teaching. If we want to become physically stronger, we have to eat right and exercise. We can’t just take supplements and expect lasting results.

The same idea goes for our minds. If we want to exercise our minds and become mentally stronger, retain more information, and be able to think independently, we have to take the time to listen actively and read closely. We can’t simply do an internet search for the information we seek and expect our minds to flourish and get stronger, with lasting results.

It’s easier to think shallowly. So, we do it.

Immediate access to data has its drawbacks, but it can of course be very useful in certain situations.

When Josh and I arrive at our restaurant of choice, salivating to the thought of fresh chips and salsa, and to our horror, the lights are off, windows shuttered – It’s closed!!??? – we need a backup plan, stat! So, he gets on Yelp and I get on Google Maps; we quickly select somewhere new.

Situation solved, case closed. And we are able to eat instead of starve to death! It’s a technology win.

Now think of another scenario. Josh and I are hanging out with some old friends. We haven’t seen each other in a while. It’s a really fun conversation, animated, with ebbs and flows, everyone is engaging on multiple levels. And, to my delight, I find out that one of the group actually lived down the street from me in San Diego some 15 years ago!

So, I sneak into my phone to pull up a Google image of my old apartment to continue the discussion. By the time I’m ready to share, the conversation has shifted, morphed, and I’m instantly out of place with my blurry Google image. Looking around for a new thread
of discussion, I see there are others just as disengaged as I am. On their phones.

When we turn our attention to our phones, we rob ourselves of a fulfilling, naturally evolving conversation.

Shifting our attention to our devices, even for a little while, alters the natural flow of things. We lose what our friends said, felt, and meant. We lose the eye contact, so important for creating empathy. We cease to actively listen, resulting in our company thinking we aren’t interested in what they have to say, showing our friends that we don’t care at all about them.
We stop thinking independently and rob ourselves of the very attribute that defines our humanity.

I didn’t need to look up a photo of my old apartment at that very moment. Instead, I could have continued the conversation about San Diego and what it meant to both of us. We could have shared our memories created a meaningful exchange.

When I wanted information, I didn’t dig into the back of my mind to conjure up a verbal image of my apartment. I found it easier to search for a picture online.

Lame. My friends deserved better than this.

According to MIT Professor, Sherry Turkle: “89 percent of Americans say that during their last social interaction, they took out a phone, and 82 percent said that it deteriorated the conversation they were in.”

Studies indicate that even a silent, phone placed screen-down between two people at a table causes them to share less with each other. The result of a phone’s mere presence in a conversation is feeling less connected, less interested, less empathetic, and less human.

How can we reclaim our humanity and our ability to think independently?

Listed below are several strategies that are sure to limit distractions caused by the presence of cell phones:

1. If you’re going out, leave your phone at home or in the car. Or, be content that it is resting
quietly in your pocket or purse. This will take some will-power!

2. If you’re staying home and don’t want to be distracted by your phone, leave it upstairs or in a room seldom visited. This takes a little less will power than #1.

3. Utilize the Airplane Mode setting which disables Bluetooth, WIFI, and telephone settings. The problem with this is that you can just turn Airplane Mode off anytime. It’s best to combine this step with #1 or #2 for optimal effectiveness.

4. Turn on “Do Not Disturb” while you are in the presence of others. This setting can limit calls and texts sent to your device. I use this all of the time!

5. Set “Quiet Hours” on your phone. For example, I set my quiet hours from 9pm to 8am, so I am unable to receive calls or texts between those times. Setting my quiet hours has done wonders for my sleep and my overall wellbeing.

6. If you must have your phone with you, turn off the notifications so you won’t be at the mercy of your phone. Remember, our phones exist for us, not the other way around.

7. There is power in numbers. If you’re out with friends, have a verbal agreement about phone use, such as ‘no visible phones at the table’ OR ‘if you must use your phone, step outside.’

8. If you have the right equipment, set up an Aversion Therapy situation in which you receive a shock every time you pick up your phone (just kidding!)

If you’re interested, check out a few of my previous posts where I emphasize the importance of constructing definitive boundaries between ourselves and our personal technology devices.

All in all, setting boundaries helps us reconnect with experiences and people in the real world.

Be Free

Find Yourself Lost

The Importance of Disconnecting to Connect

Wherever You Are, Be All There

Put Down Your Phone and Live Your Life


If you like what you read, subscribe to Want Less via the arrow at the top of the page, follow Claire on social media using the buttons under the title or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to check out Claire’s other site, Simplicity Voices.

Back by popular demand: brutally honest cosmetics reviews

Well, you spoke and I listened: I’m reviving my snarky cosmetics reviews.

So many readers said they’d like me to reprise the series, so after a brief break (for my own sanity – I can’t stand being this high-maintenance!) they’re back.

This month, I will be trying out four neglected beauty products from my cupboard to see whether they’re worth keeping.

As in previous months, I’ll be sampling the products on one side of my face/body/wherever and getting my wife, Ruth, to guess which side has been getting the treatment.

Only the very best survive. It’s like the Hunger Games – for my face.

For the third round of the experiment, I’ll be testing out:

Four beauty products

For the hands: Neal’s Yard Geranium and Orange Hand Cream

For the body: Ragdale Hall body scrub

For the face: Radial Super Acids X-treme Acid Rush Peel

For the lips: Korres Guava Lip Butter

If anyone needs to catch up on previous installments of my silly reviews, here they are:

Round One results

Round Two results

And, given that this is a fairly short post, let me point you towards an interview I’ve recently done with the lovely Gilbert Index blog here. We discuss low-tech finance hacks, panic attacks and getting drunk at a Japanese festival. What’s not to like?


If you like what you read, subscribe to Want Less via the arrow at the top of the page, follow Claire on social media using the buttons under the title or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to check out Claire’s other site, Simplicity Voices.

 

10 lessons from Project 333: the ups and downs of my capsule wardrobe experience

Could you get by wearing the same handful of outfits for the next few months?

Courtney Carver’s wildly popular capsule wardrobe challenge Project 333 asks people to do just that: wearing only 33 items, including clothes, coats, shoes and accessories, for a three-month period.

I’ve reached the end of my Project 333 challenge and if you’re thinking about giving it a try yourself, here’s a warts-and-all account of how I’ve found the past three months:

1. Project 333 is harder than it sounds

I thought I had a pretty small wardrobe as it was, but limiting myself to 33 items was tough. I went on holiday and couldn’t wear flip-flops because they weren’t among my 33 pieces of clothing. I have to admit to questioning my commitment to the cause when I found myself barefoot on a beach, standing repeatedly on broken glass. (Note: broken-glass barefoot torture is not a compulsory part of minimalism)

2. Your clothing choices have to be pretty strategic

Project 333 doesn’t stop you from wearing bright or patterned clothing. But it’s easier if you can mix-and-match your items to create a variety of outfits, and I found myself coming back time and time again to my staples of plain greys, blacks and blues.

3. Limiting your choices can make life simpler

Most of the time, heading straight to a select few hangers each morning to pick out an outfit for the day was a pretty simple undertaking. Similarly, it didn’t take me long at all to choose what to wear on a night out with friends. And as for fancy occasions, my choice of dress, shoes, bag and necklace were pretty much made for me already.

4. You have to be on top of your laundry game

Do I wear the slightly-damp-from-the-washing-machine top, or the dirty top with yesterday’s cooking stain on it, into the office today? These were the glamorous choices I ended up making when I neglected to do the laundry for more than a few days at a time. (I went with damp, by the way)

5. The project will make you realise the value you get (or don’t get) from what you buy

This applies to people, like me, who rarely buy clothes as well as those who hit the shops all the time. In the three-month period, I bought one item of clothing – a good-quality new raincoat – which had left me with feelings of guilt and buyer’s remorse. I had still been battling debt at the time, and felt I’d succumbed to an unnecessary impulse purchase. The day after, I very nearly returned it. But it turned out to be one of my most frequently worn items. In hindsight, it was a good buy and I should have chilled the heck out about it.

Just as it will help shopaholics question excessive spending habits, it will help frugal types loosen up about buying higher-quality items, if they know they’re going to get a lot of value from them.

6. Build in some ‘wildcard’ choices to give yourself extra flexibility

When I first began Project 333, I chose 30 items and kept open three empty slots, which I called my ‘wildcards’. Boy, this came in handy. The slots were filled within a few weeks, because I’d been fairly bad at predicting everything I’d need for three months, hence the later barefoot-on-glass scenario. The three items I ended up selecting were:white scarf

A white scarf (which doubled up as a kind of shawl over sleeveless dresses)

pink and silver necklace

A necklace (I’d forgotten to add any jewellery to my list)

turquoise raincoat

My new raincoat

7. Take it all with a dash of humour if you don’t want it to add to your stress levels

Picture the scene a few weeks ago: A heavy shower had abated, leaving the late evening sunshine glistening over the newly cleansed streets. I’ve taken the opportunity to go on a quiet stroll around the neighbourhood with my wife and dog. I feel…content. Even my wellies feel comfortable, and I can splash through the puddles without a care in the… Hang on, wellies aren’t on my list!! Goddamn!!!!!!!!!

I spent the rest of the walk in a sulk, so mad at myself for having broken the rules. But if you read Courtney Carver’s great website, you’ll fairly soon realise that this is not the point of the experiment at all. She’s pretty clear that while there are rules, you’re then free to make them work for you. For me, the challenge was about trying to remove an element of stress from my life. So beating myself up over one mistake was hardly in the spirit of the endeavour.

8. People probably won’t notice

I had no comments from workmates about why I was wearing the same outfits to work day in, day out. I can only assume they hadn’t realised. People are usually taking less notice of you than you think they are.

9. When you reach the end, your original wardrobe will feel ridiculously extravangant

I have to admit, I really loved creaking open the drawer where I’d stashed all my other clothes. So much choice! I thoroughly enjoyed putting on long-lost favourites that I had taken for granted beforehand. I also – straight off the bat – got rid of nine or ten items I knew I didn’t need any more, either because I hadn’t missed them or they had been a staple during Project 333 and so I’d worn them to death.

10. One round of Project 333 is enough to give you a serious insight into simplifying your wardrobe for good

Many people go straight from one round of Project 333 into the next, choosing another 33 items which will see them through the next season, and repeating season after season. I guess living within those boundaries permanently helps them to simplify their lives, and that’s great.

But others – like me – work best by thinking of a strict challenge as an experiment of sorts, to see which elements to keep and which to leave behind.

Project 333 has helped me in many ways: I have a new appreciation for the things I own, I’ve found it easier to say goodbye to clothes I didn’t miss, it’s helped me pack light on a holiday and it’s also helped me get a greater sense of my personal style.

I’m now ready to take what I’ve learnt and apply it to my full wardrobe, building a smaller, permanent collection of the things I love but without feeling hemmed in by any self-imposed rules.

Do temporary challenges help you simplify? Have you tried Project 333? Share your experiences below.


If you like what you read, subscribe to Want Less via the arrow at the top of the page, follow Claire on social media using the buttons under the title or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to check out Claire’s other site, Simplicity Voices.

Goodbye debt, it’s been…memorable

sky

I’m a little tipsy as I write this, so please bear with me.

I have had a few celebration drinks this evening because, as of today, July 1, 2017, for the first time in my adult life…I am debt-free!

I’m still not sure how I did it, quite frankly, and don’t ask me how I will get by until my next payday, because I seem to have paid off nearly a grand in a week and that doesn’t sound very sensible. Surely I need money to buy, like, food and stuff?

But right now I don’t care. I’ll worry about how to feed myself another day. I have done at least six air-punches today, and yup, just did another one. It’s like my arm is possessed.

The first thing I did after paying off that last horrible bit of credit card debt was give my other half a massive hug. She’s been an absolute star, knowing exactly when to leave me alone to save money and when to treat me to a little pick-me-up when the months of dull, dull deprivation took their toll. I was also incredibly lucky to have you all here cheering me on, as well as some fantastically supportive friends happy to listen to me whinge about being perpetually broke.

And maybe it’s the drinks talking, so forgive the following indulgent point – I can’t work out whether it’s too trite as my critical thinking faculties are not currently at their best.

At points over the years it felt as if being in debt was an integral part of my being, like there was no escaping the fact I was bad with money and always would be. It felt hopeless; inevitable; a fundamental flaw.

Now I get to re-write the rules.

So what harmful assumptions about your own limitations are holding you back?


If you like what you read, subscribe to Want Less via the arrow at the top of the page, follow Claire on social media using the buttons under the title or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to check out Claire’s other site, Simplicity Voices.

I made a big money mistake. And I’m blaming Japan

Cherry blossom in Japan

Urgh. I’ve been avoiding writing this post.

So much so, I haven’t written anything on this blog for weeks. Sorry for disappearing for a while.

Here’s what’s happened:

More than a year ago, I publicly committed to paying off all my debts by June, 2017.

Yup, the June 2017 we’re currently screaming towards the end of.

So I’ve been scrimping and saving for months – slaving over internet surveys to earn pennies and taking packed lunches to work to save a few pounds. Man, it’s been dull.

At the beginning of this month I had just £500 to go. I was already planning the triumphant blog post and the glass of something fizzy to celebrate the end of a 16-year battle with the credit cards, unsecured loans and overdrafts.

Then I disappointed myself by somehow slipping back into the old habits which got me into this mess in the first place.

In an attempt to incentivise myself to become debt-free, I’d been focusing on everything I would treat myself to, once I was shot of those hefty repayments.

Travel is my weakness, so top of the list was a dream holiday to Japan during its famous cherry blossom season next spring.

I bought a guide book. I watched TV travel shows. I even started learning hiragana– the first of three (yes, three) seemingly never-ending alphabets used in the Japanese language.

But I ended up getting completely carried away with my bouts of far-eastern dreaming, before discovering that the very specific type of accommodation I was hoping to stay in was already getting booked up for next spring, left, right and centre.

I’d creak open my laptop each morning to discover another place from my shortlist, gone.

Then, I watched a travel documentary which described hotel rooms and holiday rentals during the cherry blossom season as being ‘like gold dust’.

In a panic, I booked a place to stay and shoved the cost on a credit card.

And of course, in the process, I dealt a massive blow to my grand debt repayment plan.

So whether I can still get to debt-free by the end of the month, I really don’t know, but I’m running out of days and it doesn’t look good.

More importantly, it’s made me reflect on why I took leave of my senses and made such a seemingly stupid money decision, after years of reading finance blogs and inspirational stories about beating debt.

I fell straight into the traps I’d fallen into so many times before over the years. Traps laid by the tricks our minds play on us.

‘I deserve this.’

‘I should live a little.’

‘Ooh, shiny fun thing!’

‘If I don’t buy this now, it might not be there later.’

‘This is a good deal, because reasons.’

I’m trying to make the best of the situation I’m in now. As you can imagine, my money-saving has gone into overdrive and I’ll see where I am in a week’s time. You never know, I might yet pull this out of the bag.

But, boy, I’ve still got a lot to learn.

Advice for the next generation

Phew! I’ve just got back from a whistle-stop visit to the other end of the country for my gorgeous little niece’s Christening. The travelling was exhausting, but it was fantastic to have a big family get-together.

While we all tucked into lunch, my sister put up a wooden ‘wishing tree’ and invited the guests to write a wish or piece of advice for the new baby to read when she was older.

Ever the money nerd (and literature nerd), I put down a quote from Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield:

“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”

If only I’d stuck by Mr Micawber’s recipe for happiness myself…

I’m slightly terrified by the realisation that back in 2015 I pledged I would be debt-free by June 2017 … and it’s June in a few days.

I currently have £850 outstanding. That’s going to be a big ask.

But in a way, I’m glad this is proving tough, if for no other reason than it SERVES ME RIGHT. I failed to do a really simple thing for years – live within my means – and yup, I’m reaping the misery Dickens was warning people about back in Eighteen…whenever. (Okay, so I’m not that much of a Dickens geek).

What advice would you give the next generation, given the mistakes you’ve made in the past? Let me know in the comments.

 


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Ice, ice baby

 

borage

If I’m going to get all wholesome in the garden, I like there to be a drink at the end of it.

I’ve already written about how I created a fruit liqueur using cherries from our tree. Now I’ve found a way to brighten up cheap cocktails.

We received some borage seeds as a gift and I’d sort of forgotten we’d planted them until I saw these fantastic bright blue flowers emerging last month.

Young borage leaves are said to taste like cucumber. I can confirm that this is true, but you know what else tastes like cucumber? Cucumber. Plus, cucumber isn’t tough and a wee bit hairy.

But after a bit of online research, I also found out that you can sprinkle the edible flowers on top of cakes or salads or even freeze them to make fancy ice cubes.

So here’s how my latest wholesome kitchen experiment went:

borage plant

borage ice tray

borage ice cubes

borage ice cubes in drink


If you like what you read, subscribe to Want Less via the arrow at the top of the page, follow Claire on social media using the buttons under the title or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to check out Claire’s other site, Simplicity Voices.

 

A non-grubby way to use affiliate links on Want Less

blossom

I think I’ve come up with a win-win-win.

Bear with me, but I reckon it’s a way that:

  • I can give personal recommendations for any tools I’m using to simplify my life and improve my finances;
  • You can get the unbiased lowdown and decide whether they might work for you;
  • And, as an added bonus, we might even raise some money for a good cause.

I’ve always been strongly of the opinion that this site should not contain advertising. So that’s why you see no banner ads promising ‘one weird trick’ to remove belly fat and no paid guest posts by companies or brands bigging up their wares. I understand why some people do that, but speaking as someone who writes about cutting back, saving money and living with less, well, it didn’t seem right.

This means, effectively, that I’ve been leaving some money on the table.

But what if we can harness some of that money for good?

Now, don’t panic, I’m not going to start plastering the site with click-bait ads. But what I am talking about is starting to use the occasional affiliate link.

Affiliate links work like any other link – they take you through to another website when you click on it. But they’re set up so the referring site can sometimes get a reward of a few pennies, perhaps per click or perhaps when the reader signs up with an account.

Honestly, I’ve been really torn about whether to start using these or not. On the one hand, I love discovering things that make my life simpler or cheaper and sharing my discoveries here. But I would never want my readers to think I was taking advantage of them or didn’t have their best interests at heart. YOU ARE MY PEOPLE!

I would absolutely hate it if people thought I was pushing some product down their throat in order to make a few pence for myself. I mean, ugh.

Affiliate links also don’t make a huge amount of money, so the idea of ‘selling out’ for a couple of quid seemed stupid.

But I’ve been thinking long and hard and … I reckon I’ve devised a non-grubby way of occasionally using affiliate links on the site. Here goes.

My pledges are:

  • All my writing will remain completely unbiased, objective and free from commerical interests;
  • I will continue to give my REAL recommendations for great services I use and get value from, which I think could save you either money, time or stress. Sometimes I may use an affiliate link, sometimes not, but it’ll never influence my writing;
  • Posts with affiliate links will be few and far between and I won’t shy away from raising any potential downsides of the products or services linked to;
  • Affiliate links will always be clearly marked as such;
  • ALL money I make through affiliate links, I will donate to the debt charity StepChange.

Yup, that’s right. Any and all money the site makes in this way will go straight to charity.

I’m finally emerging from a really long and painful battle with debt, but I know so many people have it so much worse than me. I haven’t faced long periods of joblessness, been chased by bailiffs or had my home repossessed. I haven’t had to support children or had to choose between paying off debts or buying essentials like food. Problem debt wrecks homes and families, and StepChange does great work helping those in crisis.

I think this could be a good way to tell you about services I get value from – which I would do anyway – while contributing to a great cause.

For example, I might recommend a book about minimalism, a survey site I’ve been using to make some spare cash or a meditation app.

But I’m keen to hear your thoughts. Seriously, if everyone thinks it’s a dreadful idea, it won’t happen. Simple as that.

Do you think it’s a good plan? Or would it make you trust the site less? Please feel free to leave an honest message below and let’s see where we go.


If you like what you read, subscribe to Want Less via the arrow at the top of the page, follow Claire on social media using the buttons under the title or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to check out Claire’s other site, Simplicity Voices.

Taking on the original capsule wardrobe challenge

What is it about completing a challenge that feels so damn good?

Is it the illusory sense that an uncaring universe is giving you a pat on the head?

Is it the feeling that you’ve somehow got one over on your usually lazy, fickle or easily distracted nature by dazzling it with arbitrary goals?

I’m not sure. All I know is, I seem to love gauntlets being thrown down on me so much, that I’ve taken to chucking them on myself.

The MinsGame challenge? Mastered.
Eat my five-a-day for a straight month? Gobbled.
Go to a meditation class once a month for a straight year? Tackled.

But this month, I realised there was one canonical simplicity challenge I’d overlooked. Goddamn.

Project 333 is so mainstream now, you find it getting a mention in all sorts of places, from documentaries to magazines.

If you don’t know, it’s a challenge invented by Courtney Carver of Be More with Less, which involves wearing just 33 items of clothing for three months.

This includes shoes, accessories and jewellery, but excludes a wedding ring, undercrackers, nightwear and exercise clothing. And no, you’re not allowed to cheat and just wear pyjamas or gym clothes around the house, sadly, which means I will seriously have to rethink my weekend wardrobe.

Perhaps I hadn’t ever bothered with Project 333 before, because I had a sneaking suspicion that it wouldn’t be much of a challenge. I don’t have a huge wardrobe and tend to wear the same outfits over and over again already.

At least that’s what I thought. I got out all my clothes and counted up the items I’d have to whittle down to 33. I got to nearly 80 items before I even started on my jewellery collection.

All my clothes
All my clothes…
All my shoes
…and all my shoes. Now for some difficult choices. Heels or wellies?

Then came the tougher-than-expected job of selecting my capsule wardrobe. I had to plan ahead for what I’d need to wear in the next three months.

This will include a foreign holiday somewhere very hot, requiring shorts and sandals I’d be unlikely to wear much at home.

It will also cover a family celebration involving not one but two fairly dressy parties on back-to-back nights. Two dresses, two pairs of fancy shoes, two sets of jewellery…my allocation was going to get eaten up pretty fast at this rate. And I definitely can’t wear pyjamas to work, you say?

In the end, I selected 30 items, and left three slots empty, which I’m calling my ‘wildcard’ slots. It means if my initial choices turn out to be terribly misjudged, I can choose another three items I might find I desperately need as the months go by.

The shoes I opted to include
The shoes I opted to include
The rest of the clothes I chose
The rest of the clothes I chose. As an aside, can you guess which side of the bed the minimalist sleeps on?

That was ten days ago and I seem to have been doing okay (although I’m regretting not including a scruffy pair of shoes to walk the dog in). I’ve also told a couple of non-minimalist friends and family members about the challenge I’d taken on, and they all replied with the same baffled question.

‘Why?’

I guess the honest answer is, I like arbitrary challenges and completing them gives me a sense of control over my life in what appears to be an increasingly chaotic and dangerous world. I can’t intervene in international diplomacy, so instead I can wear the same clothes for quarter of a year and pretend it’s an achievement.

But I thought that answer might be a bit too heavy for a brunch.

‘Just to see if I can,’ I replied.

The rest of my clothes packed away until July
The rest of my clothes packed away until July

If you like what you read, subscribe to Want Less via the arrow at the top of the page, follow Claire on social media using the buttons under the title or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to check out Claire’s other site, Simplicity Voices.

Numbers and the lies we tell ourselves


This is a guest post by LM Radja.


I’ve been drifting along this minimalism path for quite some time now.

I’ve seen, read and listened to some extremists, some middle-of-the-road folks and some folks who just struggle with the process.

As I watch the movement become more mainstream, I wonder where it will take the basic notion of minimalism. Heck, even the advertisers are jumping on the band wagon – whether it’s that bank that wants to help you enjoy your experiences and not just more ‘stuff’ or the retailer closing for the holidays because they know how important personal relationships are.

To me, the underlying message is simple: don’t have more than you need or find real value in.

I think Buddha sums it up best.

“In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”

We are at a fork in the road – minimalism can become an all-inclusive concept that celebrates those who have very little to those who have what, to them, is enough or it can become just another marketing tool and means of comparison to show how much better we are than others.

I have concerns about which path we will go down. Here’s why.

I, like some, can be a minimalist ‘junkie’ reading every post, listening to podcasts, reading books, watching videos and just generally absorbing as much as I can.

My personal journey started slowly back in 2009 when I began reading a book by Elaine St. James, called Simplify Your Life: 100 Ways to Slow Down.

It was serendipitous that I came across it; a friend had given me a bag of books to donate to a nursing home and I looked through them to check for anything I might want to read first.

From there I discovered some of the pioneers of the movement – from Jay Shafer to Courtney Carver to Rowdy Kittens to to Miss Minimalist to The Minimalists.

Soon I was scouring YouTube and the internet for other sources on minimalism. When I began, the concept was still not anywhere near mainstream and information was hard to find. I knew it had hit the general population when multiple hits came up for my searches.

With all the increase in attention came diversity but also came competition.

Who has the least number of things? And how do we count those things? Is the family living off-grid in a tiny house more minimalist than, say, a millennial who is living with less by using the gym’s shower and ‘storing’ clothes at a dry cleaners’? Who’s to say?

There are really no rules. That’s a good AND bad thing. The good is there is no one way to be a minimalist. The bad thing is that the landscape is constantly changing and our human desire to be ‘in’ can have us fruitlessly pursuing whatever is the current minimalist trend.

Here’s what I think: minimalism is a fluid concept and there are thousands of different combinations and angles through which we can reach our personal ‘minimalist’.

If you can live with only 35 actual pieces of clothing but want to equip your kitchen like an Iron Chef because you love to cook, then that is your definition.

I think the real catalyst behind minimalism is knowing when to let go. When whatever it is that is your passion currently no longer inspires you, be willing to move on figuratively AND literally.

Donate, sell, throw it out. Just be sure you are listening to your inner voice and not some YouTuber or advertiser who is telling you what your minimalism should look like.


LM Radja started looking at life differently when she hit 50. She describes the biggest benefit of minimalism as gaining ‘the capacity to stop and appreciate the small joys’. She can be found at Facebook.com/Minimleeblog.