Coping with maximalism as a minimalist

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If you read some of my articles, you already now that I have integrated minimalism in my life. Though I am far from being a minimalist, I make efforts every day in terms of frugality, sustainable lifestyle, reducing objects and, most importantly, in terms of paying attention when buying something new. If you read my articles, you know that I also used to be a maximalist, mostly because I thought I needed a lot of stuff to operate properly my everyday chores and routines. Today, the same person talks about how to cope with maximalism as a minimalist.

I will give you a perfect example for this opposition: my family and I. My father is in love with shopping since forever and he is a fan of buying in bulk. That’s not always a bad thing, especially in times like these, however my father loves to buy things, often saying that: ”We might need it some day.” My mother, she is not a fan of shopping so you might think she a frugal person. Not exactly. She also likes to buy things like dishes, bed sheets, pillowcases… you got the idea.

When I moved in another city to continue my studies, I was somehow forced by the circumstances to learn how to pack less and how to live with less. But even if I left home with almost nothing, until the end of the year I would double my possessions and it would be always difficult to move back home with all the luggage and then repeat the process the next year. Every year I would promise to myself that I won’t repeat the same mistake, but guess what? I’ve repeated the process for about 5 years. It was difficult to understand how exactly to keep this promise, I thought it was because I didn’t own my house, but now I know it was only an excuse.

When I decided to move back with my parents, I had already adopted minimalism and I decided to make more efforts to achieve an easier and simpler lifestyle. But I had forgotten that my parents had another lifestyle and it was me the one who changed. At the beginning I was constantly frustrated and I still am sometimes even these days. But then I remember that I have my lifestyle and my parents have theirs. I made my choice for mine and they made their choice for their own lifestyle. Since moving back with my parents I have learnt a lot of tricks that helped me cope with their maximalist lifestyle and I hope it can help you too.

So here you have it:

  1. Expect things to be difficult and take a deep breath.
  2. Don’t try to empty their things without asking if they still need them.
  3. Understand their perception on order and cleaning.
  4. Try to accept their lifestyle as it is.
  5. Make small changes gradually.
  6. Make suggestions and don’t try to force them to reduce their things. Make their brain become accustomed to the idea of reducing possessions.
  7. Make compromises.

I learnt from my own experience that you can’t impose your lifestyle to other people, even if they are your family. Maybe I tried to do it at first, because the pile of things was just too much for the new me to handle, but step by step I learnt to look the other way. There are still days when my brain says ”Look at that pile of things” and I actually see it. But then I start laughing, thinking that I’ve been trough that a thousand times before. While our lives and lifestyles can’t be perfect, transitioning to a new lifestyle or coping with different lifestyles can’t be perfect too. It is only a matter of patience, understanding and acceptance. And time is important too. Give time to them and to yourself as well.

Productivity vs. slow living

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Living a slow paced life is often seen as the opposite of productivity. I think it is because slow is often seen as doing nothing. But this is far from the truth and it took me a while to realize this.

Actually I used to believe the same thing. Rather than a prejudice I think I was afraid of not doing my best, afraid of being unproductive. Also, what brought me closer to my idea of slow paced life is the continuous fatigue that almost ruined my health, not a high level of productivity that you might think I had, while reading this. I realized only later that even if I was exhausted, I wasn’t exactly the most productive person. This is very close related to the principles of prioritization and time-management. Stress management and mental health care are also very important pieces in this puzzle. I used to do things the wrong way, but at least I know it now and I am trying to fix things.

I talked before here about the importance of journaling in my life and how this practice helped me understand and know myself better. I am a to-do-list person since I was young. I loved having long lists about anything and I thought that keeping myself busy would only bring me benefits. Little I knew about the truth. Long lists and the pressure I put on myself only harmed my physical and mental health.

Today I am the same to-do-list person. The difference is that I have changed my mindset and my approach. Today I write better lists, with only the most important things I want to do every day.
• My lists are now shorter, and even when I put more on the list, I prioritize the most important things.
• I became more flexible and I forgive myself when I can’t finish the things on my list.
I allow myself to begin with what I am most comfortable doing first. I don’t try to get the elephant out of the room.
• I adapt my lists based on the needs I have in a certain day.
• I don’t look specifically for productivity but for self-satisfaction.

Today I believe that you can be productive while living at a slower pace. For example, if today I wanted to clean my room and I actually did it, I would be happy that I succeeded, even if on my list there was also a plan to clean the kitchen. This is also productivity in my eyes. But more than productivity, it’s my mind that is at peace because today I did something too. I receive satisfaction from doing my best every day. Also, the idea of productivity is relative and every person sees productivity in his/her own way. Thus, more important than trying to be as productive as other people are is to find what means productivity for you and to find your own way of doing it.

Hard times, our mentors in life

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If you look too deep into life, you will realize that sometimes life can be difficult. I am an overthinker and I analyze even small details. I am not proud of it because most of the times I overthink even everyday situations that makes me more stressed than I should actually be. But you see, looking deeper into life doesn’t always equate to overthinking. Sometimes you get to realize the essence of life and you get to know yourself better.

Everyone’s life got even more difficult because of the current situation and I was also affected. I had to make decisions that should have made my life easier but I don’t know if I succeeded. My social life suffered transformations too and I miss meeting people and traveling a lot. As I looked deeper and deeper I could only hear my sighs, I couldn’t even hear my thoughts as I would usually do. When this happens I panic and the unknown scares me even more. There are a lot of activities and projects I had to reschedule in an unknown and unpredictable future. But then I started having these thoughts: why think so much about the future when you can’t even predict what’s going to happen tomorrow? Why think about the things you have to give up on, the things you can’t do right now when there are a lot of other things you can do Now, even during these hard times.

Hard times are our teachers, our mentors in life. Humans have a powerful and beautiful skill: They can adapt to different and continuously changing situations. In these hard times the most important thing is to not give up. Every day is a new lesson for the future. Hard times make us more resilient and more creative. When things get more difficult for me, I try looking for other ways to do what I want to do, I become more creative, more frugal and I try to get more of the c’est la vie philosophy. When you cannot change the things around you, learn how to appreciate what you already have and don’t lose hope. Better days will come. Actually there is a theory I absolutely love and I apply it in almost every situation of my life. It’s Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Everything is temporary. There is no absolute hard times, no absolute good times. I believe that during hard times, us humans, we prepare the path for the good times. There are our efforts that flourish into the good times. It’s because we didn’t give up and we did our best that good times come again to us. This is also related to perspective, to how you take this kind of situations. It is important to adapt your perspective so you won’t be too affected by every change or problem that comes your way.

Knowing that nothing lasts forever, we can appreciate good times even more. We wait and hope for better to come when we have a difficult period to deal with. This is called balance. Becoming aware of all these unspoken rules can be of great help during difficult times. It will get better because it is hard now.

Lessons I learnt from minimalism

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I talk a lot about minimalism because it really changed my life perspective. Even if I used to be a maximalist before, I was a very simple person. As I liked simple things, it’s almost like I was waiting to find minimalism and it’s nice to see that there is something that suits me so well. Other than that, minimalism taught me to appreciate more what I have now and even in the difficult moments of my life I believe that a better day will come. So minimalism is also related to optimism and faith, at least to me, and it works best in difficult moments. And now that I think about it better, it’s not wrong. Actually, in his book, Goodbye things, Fumio Sasaki says that one of the reasons many Japanese chose a simpler lifestyle is because of a catastrophe, the Great East Japan Earthquake, that affected so many people and made them change their perspective on life and their possessions.

Thus minimalism taught me as well about simplicity, about appreciating the present, about not caring about things, but caring about ourselves and the people we love. Minimalism is about reducing possessions in order to simplify our lives and have more time for the important things, more time for taking care of ourselves. There are too many things to do around the house anyway, so why make our job more difficult.

Another aspect related to minimalism that I really like is caring for the nature. I learnt about ecology in school and I really enjoyed participating in projects for environment protection. Thus, while practicing minimalism, step by step I started giving up on many chemical products (for example cleaning products, shower gels etc.) and I became more concerned about plastic use. I realized that many changes were not only good for the environment, but also for me, for my health and my finances.

Speaking of finances, minimalism can be used as a way of educating ourselves on how to do shopping. Like many other people, I used to buy a lot of unnecessary things that I thought were pretty or necessary to me. I remember that once I bought online a piece of clothing that promised to make me sweat and lose weight easier. I was foolish to believe all that marketing crap, but I gave it a chance and realized that it wasn’t working the way it was meant to. It was a foolish decision but I learnt that losing weight must be done by making more efforts, by adjusting my lifestyle and by doing the sport that I actually hated. Since then I must’ve bought other unnecessary things but at some point I started to question myself more often: you like it but do you really need it? Can’t you use what you have instead? Where are you going to place it? Are you going to use it for a long time? Is it a good quality product? I would also add the things that I want to buy on my shopping list and let them there for a few days or a week. If I still felt I need them after a few days then I would buy them, but I found myself removing a lot of objects from my list as I didn’t feel the urge of buying them. I would say to myself, I don’t need this, why did I put it on my list? It works well for me because we tend to buy based on the urge we feel at that moment, or because the marketing is so good and subtle in making us believe we need those things.

Actually we don’t need many of them and we can live just fine without all the stuff they sell on the internet or in those nicely organized stores. Buying things comes with a lot of responsibility: we spend money that we can use on something that we really need, we need more space for the things we buy, they might be thrown after a few uses, the waste they produce, we have more things to organize and clean. There are many aspects to take in consideration. I believe that minimalism is some sort of self-education. It’s easy to begin with, but it takes time to adjust your lifestyle to it and a lot of effort to maintain it for a long period of time. But once you get used to it you can’t live without it. This is what minimalism means to me.

Why I chose to slow down

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Since I was a child I was in a continuous rush and I’ve always tried to do more than I could handle. I remember that when I was in school I used to do a lot of extra homework for most of the disciplines. It was already a lot for a children and now that I think about it, I don’t really think it helped me that much later on, other than building consistency, but society taught us that we had to do more and more in order to succeed. Thus I have always participated in a lot of school contests and extracurricular activities and extra homework was some kind of hobby for me. And no, I am not trying to show off (if I could go back to those years… yeah, I would probably do the same, silly me), but honestly I was surprised by how many notebooks written by hand I had in school when I reorganized all my books and notebooks.

I continued this practice even during faculty (told you, silly me). I studied and worked a lot, I didn’t respect myself and my sleep hours, I ate in a hurry and often unhealthy food. The truth is nobody asked me to do so. Nobody asked me to work until 2 or 3 in the morning. I was the one pushing myself. And then I started to feel weaker and tired day by day. I also had some health issues. All because I didn’t take care of myself, because I pushed myself when it wasn’t the case. My body was yelling but I couldn’t free myself from the prison I had build. Until very recently, more exactly this year. I decided to change my habits and to try healthier ones. This is what I usually do at the beginning of the year. I always had New Year resolutions. But they usually sounded like this : This year I have to take a lot of 10 in school! (the equivalent of A).

For the 2020 resolutions, I wanted for the first time to do something that would mean a real improvement to me. So I set 2 big objectives: to lose weight and to start keeping a journal. And I did both, which gives me so much satisfaction and motivation to continue making more healthy and practical decisions.

Journaling and later my encounter with minimalism helped me a lot to calm my mind and to realize that I was missing a lot of things because I was always in a hurry. Through journaling I became more organized and it also became a motivation for starting this blog. Minimalism taught me to slow down and helped me become more responsible and more mindful about my everyday life. Slowing down is a continuous practice, not a destination. I will never be able to master it, but I will certainly enjoy the process.