The Minimalists Documentary

I watched ‘Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things’ on Netflix on 16 February 2018. Nearly two years ago! That same night I set up @rachelwithless on Instagram and I decluttered my first two items the next day. This started my year long decluttering challenge where I challenged myself to declutter at least one item a day and to post it on my Instagram account. Shortly afterwards I set up this blog to write about it. I didn’t get around to blogging as much as I would have liked. But I did stick to my challenge and decluttered something each day for a year and posted it each day on my Instagram account with the exception of (I think πŸ€”) maybe one day.

It was such an interesting documentary. I had never really heard about Minimalism and it gave such great insight into different types of people in different situations all applying their own minimalist principals to fit their life. Because there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to Minimalism.

The documentary is centred around two young guys, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, aka ‘The Minimalists’, as they crossed America doing talks and meeting people promoting their first book on Minimalism. But the documentary also looked at other Minimalists such as Leo Babauta, Joshua Becker and Courtney Carver amongst others. Everyone they interviewed were adopting minimalism but in extremely different ways. But the resounding theme was that minimalism is not about how many things you own or the size of house you live in. It is about not placing importance on all the things/stuff/items in our lives but rather placing importance on the people in our lives instead. It’s about focusing our attention away from things and on what really matters. As the Minimalists say:

‘Love People. Use Things. Because opposite never works.’

The two year anniversary of @rachelwithless is coming up. I can hardly believe it really. I am experiencing all the benefits to a clutter free home. I still have some decluttering to do but my mountain of clutter is now a molehill of clutter! Updates to follow in the next few weeks on how much stuff I have actually gotten rid of in the past two years. The mind boggles!

I’ve really enjoyed being a part of the Instagram decluttering/minimalism community. Thank you to everyone for supporting me over the past two years. All the encouragement, both on and off Instagram, has really helped keep me going.

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Netflix Indecision

I have the TV all to myself this evening so in anticipation of this I bought myself Working Girl on DVD in a charity shop the other day. One of my favourite movies from the 1980’s. Why would I bother buying a DVD of a movie I’ve already seen countless times when there are a multitude of things to watch on Netflix? I mean my list of things I want to watch is pretty long. I could watch The Crown, House of Cards, Luther, Peaky Blinders, Fargo, Grace & Frankie, Homeland, How to Get Away With Murder, Call The Midwife, Derry Girls and Messiah to name but a few! But I’ve had enough decision making for this week thank you.

‘Decision Fatigue’ was coined by social psychologist Dr. Roy. F. Baumeister and refers to how people struggle with their choices after making too many decisions over the course of the day. We make so many decisions that by the end of the day, we find it hard to make a decision and we lack will power. Is that why I get to the end of the week and I can’t decide what to have for dinner or what to watch on Netflix?

Barack Obama, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg famously used to wear ‘a uniform’, the same thing each day, in order to reduce the number of decisions in their day. Barack Obama had multiples of the same suit. Steve Jobs used to wear black turtlenecks with jeans and sneakers. While Mark Zuckerberg is well known for grey t-shirts.

Barack Obama told Vanity Fair in 2012:

β€œYou’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”

Mark Zuckerberg explained in a public Q&A in 2014:

“I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community.”

They realised that by wearing the same thing each day, they could save their mental energy for more important decisions. Important when you are running a country or a large social media company maybe, not so important if you are little old me? But I think there is something to it and that everyone can learn from it no matter what their job.

I first heard about decision fatigue when I started decluttering my clothes. I did another little cull there this week. I’ve now downsized my wardrobe to the extent that I don’t quite wear the exact same thing each day – but I’m not too far off it. I usually wear my brown boots, dark jeans, a top, an extra jumper or fleese if it is cold and a navy jacket. So not quite a uniform but a capsule uniform? Everything easily mixes and matches and I have multiples of the same jeans and some tops. I find it so easy to get dressed now that I don’t have to think and it takes me no time at all. A bit boring I hear you say? If being a bit boring with your clothes is good enough for Barack Obama, former president of the United States of America, it’s good enough for me. 😊

But each of us make so many decisions each day – so many that we hardly realise we are making them. What to wear is just one out of many! If I think about my usual morning – Will I wash my hair or is it ok?Tea or coffee? What mug? What to eat for breakfast? What bowl? What jacket to wear? Will I bring an umbrella? What will I pack the kids for their lunch? Will I put a load of washing on now or later? Will I bring the recycling with me or will I drop it off later? And this is before I have even left the house. So while I’m not making big life or death decisions each day, I am still making plenty of little decisions and they build up. Having a boring capsule uniform helps me at least. It’s one less thing to think about.

The kids at the moment don’t go asleep before 9pm usually. So really I only have about a two hour window if I want to watch something on TV before I need to go to bed myself. So I don’t want to waste precious time and energy scrolling Netflix trying to decide what I want to watch only to finally select something an hour later and then fall asleep half way through it!

So Working Girl it is. Decision made! We all have decisions that we have to make each day, there is no getting away from them but maybe there is a lot to be said for saving our decision making energy and being a bit boring. So wear the same thing, eat the same thing, use the same cup and be a bit boring. And instead of scrolling Netflix and having Netflix indecision, re-watch one of your favourite movies for a change. Fingers crossed that DVD works now!

Links below are to good articles on Decision Fatigue and how to help prevent it:

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Finishing what you start

On 16th February 2018, I watched The Minimalist’s documentary on Netflix ‘Minimalism – A Documentary About The Important Things‘. That evening, I resolved to declutter once and for all. I set up an account on Instagram @rachelwithless where I would post a picture of what I decluttered every day for a year. A bit each day for a year, that should do it I figured.

So each day for a year I posted a photo on Instagram of what I was decluttering. I thought that if I got rid of at least one thing each day then that would be enough. I soon got momentum and it was usually multiple things per day. I was accountable to my followers. That feeling of obligation kept me going along with all the fantastic support and encouragement from others on Instagram decluttering like me. At one point I thought that I wouldn’t have enough stuff to declutter each day for an entire year, but I did. I had more than enough. I had too much. And nearly two years later, I still haven’t gotten through everything. So why haven’t I finished what I started?

Part of this reason is that I took my foot off the pedal once the year was up. I didn’t need to declutter each day. I wasn’t accountable to my followers any more as I had completed my year long daily decluttering challenge. I didn’t have to post anymore. A few more mins games kept me going alright but there was no urgency to finish. Things were fine. The house was in much better shape, we had less stuff, things were organised, the house was easier to keep clean and I wasn’t feeling as overwhelmed.

But I haven’t got through the sentimental category of stuff. I haven’t finished. Old toys, clothes, books, photos, papers and diaries from when I was younger. The hardest category to face and the most time consuming in my mind. It is stuffed in boxes in a few cupboards, out of sight but not out of mind.

So yes Will Scarlett, I am going to finish what I started. As Magnus Magnusson would have said:

‘I’ve started, so I’ll finish.’

To help me do this, I’m going to start another decluttering challenge of decluttering 2020 items in 2020. I’ve seen a few others I saw on Instagram who have already started it including @NourishingMinimalism @Vickie_Declutters @Minimalistmouse_pipamini and @Debtissopasse

So I’m going to join in with them. I think it’s a realistic and achievable target and we can encourage each other along the way. It will help to keep me focused, keep me accountable and help me finish what I started.

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Taking The First Step

I’ve started reading ‘The Sustainable (ish) Guide – Everything you need to know to make small changes that make a big difference’ by Jen Gale to get more tips on living more sustainably. So far it’s very good by the way. But I liked what she said on her Instagram during the week, that she didn’t want people to buy the book for

‘Buying a book, in itself, changes nothing. Even reading the book doesn’t ensure that change happens.’

She has a point. There is plenty of information out there already about living more sustainably if you look for it. You don’t need to buy her book, or anything else for that matter, to start living more sustainably. On the contrary, one of the first things you can do to live more sustainably is to buy less stuff.

How many times have I bought things before making a start? How many times have I told myself ‘I’ll start exercising when I buy gym membership. And sure I can’t go to the gym until I buy new gym gear. And sure I may aswell get new runners too while I’m at it. Or I can’t go walking without getting a good pedometer, so I’ll start walking once I get one.’ Or thoughts to that effect.

I said this last excuse to a friend of mine before Christmas and she kindly gave me a spare Fitbit type tracker that she had. I still haven’t even gone out for one walk let alone go to the gym. πŸ™ˆ What is my excuse now? The weather? It is pretty cold these days!

These are common enough thoughts of mine over the years and that’s only relating to exercise. I have had plenty of other similar thoughts when it comes to other things I’m aspiring to do. I’ll start crafting when I buy a sewing machine. Or I’ll buy this months slimming magazine and then I’ll start my diet. What is it about spending money on stuff to feel better about my lack of action? Is it just so I can get an immediate sense that I’m taking a step in the right direction without actually taking any step?

So whatever it is you have resolved to change or do, you don’t need to buy anything at all. You more than likely have everything you need to take the first step.

My Mother would often paraphrase Benjamin Franklin when she would say

Never leave to tomorrow, what you can do today.

I’d like to change that to:

‘Never put off until after you buy new stuff, what you can do right now with all the stuff you already have.’

And as Jen Gale goes on to say very simply in her post, ‘GO AND DO!’. As for me, I’d already taken small steps in becoming more sustainable before I’d bought Jen Gale’s book. I’m now off for that walk around the block with my Fitbit type tracker finally. Thanks Catherine. 😊

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Rest and Catch Your Breath

The past week I’ve been listening to the ‘Your Top Songs 2019’ that Spotify kindly made me. Thank you Spotify. One of these is the song ‘Have It All’ by Jason Mraz. A lovely song where one of the lines is:

‘May you get to rest, may you catch your breath’

So far January has been about that for me, catching my breath. New Year Resolutions? I haven’t made any. The Christmas period was a lovely time for us but it was busy. With three kids off for two weeks and a build up to Christmas which started in early December, there was a lot going on. By New Years Eve, I was asleep by 10pm. I was shattered. The kids were not back to school until 6th January. This week it was about taking my time getting the house back into some form of reasonable shape and focus on getting the kids back into a good routine.

The kids went back to school on Monday and I started to put the house back together. Trips to the recycling centre, loads of washing done, bags sorted and decluttered and Christmas decorations put away. What I didn’t get done? I didn’t get around to sorting through my Christmas Cards or writing up my 2020 diary or I the million other things that I would have liked to get done to make the house and my life perfect. But that’s ok. There’s always next week. Or the week after. I’ve learned not to put unrealistic demands on myself (or others) and remember to slow down. Rest and catch your breath.

In the past, I would have always made numerous resolutions on New Years Eve, only to give up come the third week of January and beat myself up about it for a while after. But I resolved to start @rachelwithless and do a major clear out of my stuff on 16th February 2018. There was nothing special about that date whatsoever except it was the day that I was really ready to make a start and follow through. So resolutions can be made whenever you are ready to make them. It doesn’t have to be the first day of the year, or month, or week. So my 2020 New Years Resolutions can wait for the moment while I rest and catch my breath. In the mean time, I’m going to continue with my post Christmas tidy up at my own pace and in my own time, whilst listening to Spotify. πŸ˜ƒ

Happy New Year everyone.

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For me September brings with a feeling of a fresh start as it is the beginning of a new school year and things get back into a routine. So it felt like the right time to do another minsgame. For those who haven’t heard of a Minsgame, it is a decluttering game that ‘The Minimalists’, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, came up with to help people declutter their belongings. On the first day you get rid of one thing, day 2 two things, day 3 three things and so on until you have done 30 days in a row and consequently decluttered 465 items from your home. If you challenge someone else to do it then this can keep the pressure on and make it a bit more fun. I have done two Minsgame a so far – my first was in May this year when I decluttered books, magazines and newspapers. My second was in July when it was a mixture of music and other miscellaneous stuff. This time I want to revisit a few categories that I’ve started on but not fully finished principally toys, books, clothes and music. Since the kids are back in school it’s a great opportunity to declutter toys πŸ˜†

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Half Way Through

So I’ve made it to the half way mark on my year long decluttering challenge and I’m glad to say I’ve decluttered 2018 things at this point. When I set myself this challenge back in February I really didn’t have any sort of target in mind. I simply needed to sort out a large room in our house filled with mainly my stuff. As I progressed the room got worse to begin with as I slowly decluttered stuff from around the house and it became the head office for sorting it all out. Now at the half way mark, I’m happy enough with every other room and my ‘decluttering head office’ has greatly improved. I’ve made countless trips to the local clothes bank, charity shop and recycling center. And I’ve read a few books and listened to numerous podcasts on decluttering, organizing and Minimalism. I’ve learned a lot. Now I simply need to keep going and get through the rest of the stuff. I also now have a clearer vision for what I’d like to achieve by the end of the challenge namely:

1) I need to finish certain categories that I’ve already done an initial cull of – clothes, books and miscellaneous items.

2) I want to sort, organize and scan (where appropriate) all my photographs so that they are saved up on my hard drive and to the cloud – this is a major undertaking considering I loved and still love to take photographs.

3) I want to sort, organize and scan (where appropriate) all my paper work into just a few key files – again a major undertaking since I like to keep everything!

4) I’ve set another interim target of decluttering 3000 items but I’ve no doubt that I will reach this if I include all the paperwork and photos I’ve yet to go through so fingers crossed.

It hasn’t been easy to find the time to do this with three small children. Doing a bit daily is the only way I can do it at the moment. Staying motivated is key because it is taking such a long time. I have to say that the support I’ve had on Instagram has been brilliant. I’ve also got great inspiration from following others on Instagram who are doing similar and facing the same struggles in their decluttering. But ultimately I’ve already seen improvements in the house – there is more space, it takes less time to clean and tidy up, the kids now play much better in a tidy, less cluttered play room and my feelings of being overwhelmed, although not completely gone, have certainly improved. So reminding myself of these benefits is keeping me going. Here’s to the next six months.


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