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If you’re keen to begin living a minimalist lifestyle we’ve got some tips to get you started.
From running and relationships to health and diet, a minimalist approach to life is the key to staying sane in an increasingly busy world.
In July 2008 our lives were complicated. We worked at jobs we didn’t enjoy, we were nipple deep in debt and we had no savings.
We also had a house full of stuff we didn’t really need or appreciate. It was just stuff. Stuff we had to pay for, clean, maintain and insure.
Sporty and I weren’t hoarders per se, but we still had enough stuff that we actually used the shed in the backyard.
An Epiphany (the First of Many)
When we first hit on the idea of selling everything and moving into a furnished apartment we thought that would be the end of it (i.e. a once-off box to be ticked). As it turned out, it was quite literally the first step on a truly extraordinary journey. A journey that doesn’t look like it’s going to end anytime soon.
Decluttering is the Tip of a Super Cool Iceberg
Decluttering, living with less, spending money on experiences instead of things: these are all tenets of a minimalist lifestyle, but they’re by no means all there is too it.
Once we’d removed the physical excess from our lives we began noticing other areas that could benefit from a more minimalist approach to life as a whole. With more and more demands being placed on our time, it made sense to simplify our lives as much as possible.
A Minimalist Approach to Just about Everything
In this post we’re going to look at all the areas where a more minimalist approach could make a difference. If we think of new ones, we’ll add them and likewise, if you think of any we haven’t mentioned, please let us know in the comments.
Note: these aren’t in any particular order. As we thought about them, we wrote them down. Also, this is a longer than usual post (at least, it will be when it’s finished), so either read it in stages or get yourself a mountain of snacks and a gallon of coffee before diving in.
A Minimalist Approach to Running / Walking
Somewhere around 2012 we read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and shortly after that we went to a workshop on the benefits of barefoot running. We left wearing a pair of Vibram FiveFingers and never looked back. Sort of.
Sporty used to struggle with hip and back pain and she also got migraines on a regular basis. Six months into the transition all of that went away. She hasn’t had an inkling of pain since.
In the early days Sporty still kept ‘normal’ shoes to wear to work and other social situations. She’s since eschewed all other forms of footwear* in favour of her Vibrams.
My story is slightly more complicated because I have a club foot. In addition to a shorter right leg, my right foot is a size smaller as well. After trying the Vibrams for a while, I decided they weren’t working for me.
Long, boring story short, I recently decided to give them another a shot. My feet were hurting in pretty much every pair of shoes I owned, except for my running shoes. Sporty very kindly gifted me a pair of hers and now my feet are happier than they’ve been in a long time.
If you’re at all concerned about image, then these are definitely not the shoes for you. If, however, you’re all about health, well-being and comfort, we highly recommend you give Vibrams a try. I still run in my Sauconys, but for everything else (walking to work, going to movies or out on a date with my gorgeous wife) I’ll wear my new to me Vibrams.
*She has a pair of cute floofy slippers (no bunny ears, though) for around the house.
A Minimalist Approach to Relationships
Sporty and I met late in 1986 (about 100 years ago, give or take) and then proceeded to flirt from a safe distance for the next decade. In July (what is it with us and July?) of 1997 our friends, who were by then sick to death of our silly dance, shoved us together at a club one Friday night. We kissed, fell in love and lived happily ever after. Sort of.
It’s almost 20 years later and we’re still completely smitten. But we’d be lying if we said it’s been an easy 19 years (holy guacamole, has it been that long?!). The thing about relationships though, is that you have to work at them (who knew?) and for the first five years of ours all we did was coast on the love fumes. (Those were heady times.)
One day we woke up and realised we’d have to put some serious effort in if we were to have any chance of saving what we had. We saw two different therapists (one of them made us cry, not cool), visited a Tantric sex practitioner (super weird, we only saw her once), took a relationship sabbatical (much needed), had an affair (me, not Sporty) and started talking more.
However, it was only after becoming minimalist that we really settled into ourselves and our relationship. Ditching the stuff, paying off our debt and becoming financially secure made us less stressed, which in turn meant we brought happier versions of ourselves into our marriage. Sweet!
In addition to all the other benefits, minimalism has also helped us see how much emotional baggage we have. When you no longer have stuff to distract you, it’s as if all those tics, expectations and feelings of angst are suddenly highlighted in neon colours.
We’ve learnt to discern which of our tics* are just tics (i.e. have no real bearing on our overall happiness or well being and won’t cause the world to spin off its axis if not acted on) and so we don’t force them on each other.
*According to Wikipedia a tic is a sudden, repetitive, nonrhythmic motor movement, in our house a tic refers to those things that are important to us for no rational reason and make no difference if they don’t happen. For example, I’m always straightening the duvet after Sporty sits on the bed. It’s not important, life-threatening or debt-inducing, ergo it doesn’t matter and so I don’t force the issue with Sporty.
And I have to have my toothbrush standing up and not lying down. I have stopped making Ang’s toothbrush stand up 😉 ~ Sporty
Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life by Byron Katie helped us realise how much time we spent sticking our nose into each other’s business. More importantly, it showed us why we needed to stop doing that. We still do it sometimes, but now we remind each other that it’s not okay by asking, “Who’s in your business?”
The question reminds us that even though we’re married, the other person is still an individual and entitled to make choices or decisions we might not agree with. It keeps things simple and has stopped a lot of potential arguments in their tracks.
A Minimalist Approach to Health
Sporty has always been very wary of Western medicine, preferring to take natural measures to heal herself. For her, going to the doctor is always the absolute last resort. At age 51 she’s never been ‘under the knife’.
I, on the other hand, have always been a drama queen. I would happily undergo surgery to right something that didn’t really need righting. At the time I told myself it was because I ‘needed’ the procedure. The truth is, it was more about the attention I’d get than anything else.
Fortunately, I’ve since come to realise that positive attention is way more fun (and a lot less painful). It amazes me now how quick we are to hand over responsibility for our health to someone simply because they have a few credentials to their name.
Our health is probably our most prized possession and yet we’re so cavalier with it. And when it fails us we invariably look to our doctor for answers. Taking care of ourselves starts with taking responsibility for our health.
Most doctors will always prescribe medication first and then suggest a healthier diet as an afterthought. I say most, because obviously their are medical practitioners out there who take a more holistic view on things. However, they’re in the minority, which is why it’s so important that we look after ourselves.
It boils down to common sense for the most part. If your diet is high in processed food, your arteries will clog up and your heart will take strain. You don’t need a handful of pills to sort out your high blood pressure and through the roof cholesterol levels. What you need is more greens and less fried chicken.
You only have to watch movies like Super Juice Me and Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead to see that what I’m saying is more than just hippie mumbo jumbo. Change your diet and you’ll change your life. True story.
A Minimalist Approach to Diet
Have you guys heard about the man who ate nothing but potatoes for an entire year? Sounds utterly ridiculous, right? Not really, he actually ended up a happier, healthier, fitter and much leaner person.
We’re so obsessed with getting enough protein and avoiding carbs that we’ve missed the point. Nourishing ourselves is actually really simple. Sporty and I were in that boat a few years ago (not the avoiding carbs part, obviously).
We were all about the protein. I remember when we were first introduced to the concept of a raw food diet, the first question (I’m cringing as I write this) we asked Rawlicious duo, Beryn and Peter, was, “Where do you get your protein?” #PTF!
And this was after we’d already been on our health journey for quite a number of years. It’s a process and we’re still learning and growing everyday. Ultimately, we’ve realised that the simpler your diet (i.e. plant-based, whole food), the better it is for your body.
Our first inkling into this world was via Dr Andrew Weil’s book 8 Weeks to Optimum Health: A Proven Program for Taking Full Advantage of Your Body’s Natural Healing Power. For us, that book was like discovering a magical portal to a healthy world we had no idea existed. After we read it there was no turning back.
Just like you can’t un-see something, neither can you un-know something. Suddenly we were learning about labels and ingredients and all sorts of things we’d rather not have known about. Still, we were very grateful we finally did. Getting healthy wasn’t an overnight thing though.
Transforming ourselves from smoking, tequila swilling, meat eaters into health conscious plant-based urban hippies has taken well over 15 years. Slow and steady catches the carrot though. If you’re just starting out on your own health journey, take it a day at a time.
Start by eating more fresh produce. Next, cut down and ultimately eliminate all processed foods. Finally, eat food that’s locally grown and in season.
Also, learn to listen to your body! If that concept is foreign to you (it was to us until a while ago, so don’t feel bad!), then you definitely need to read Hear Your Body Whisper: How to Unlock Your Self-Healing Mechanism by Otakara Klettke.