The loss of self – finding it – then letting it go

The loss of self – finding it – then letting it go

How mindfulness has helped me cope with anxiety

Do you have a constant inner voice narrating your every move and second guessing you at every turn? 

 I certainly do. 

In fact: this voice may actually be a whole panel in a sort of discussion about every choice you make no matter how banal. Is this inner narration “you”? 

This inner voice is what often gets in the way of happiness. It constantly worries about the future or regrets the past. We spend very little time in the present moment. Our minds are mostly fantasising, planning, stressing or worrying. This could mean a route to distraction, dissatisfaction, unhappiness and, in its worst form, suffering.

Mindfulness is a method to train the mind to be present. It is a practice which helps to calm the inner chatter. It can help you feel connected to yourself, other people and your environment.

This post is about how I discovered Mindfulness meditation and how it helped me deal with depression and anxiety. 

I needed to write this because I know that life can be dark and I know that there are ways to find light. I have found some wonderful support in reading people’s blog posts. It is important to have a community – no matter how remote- and to know that you are not alone.


Losing the self

When my daughter was born I had immense difficulty in separating the concept of having been pregnant and the reality of now having a baby outside of me. It simultaneously felt lonely and strangling. This being needed everything from me. There was overwhelming love for her and so much fear of this new responsibility. 

The difficulty came in understanding where she started and I ended. Every sound she made drove me to react anxiously. I didn’t sleep, not because she was a bad sleeper, but because of a fear that I would not be present if she needed me. I lay awake whole nights. Was she breathing? Yes. Next breath. Yes. Next breath. Yes. Every one until I was released by daybreak. Then I would switch to zombie mode for the day fearing the moment the sun would set and my mind would take over again and relentlessly refuse me any peace. 

I forgot my own needs. Sleeping and eating became something my husband had to remind me to do. And with this came a loss of sense of self and purpose. 

I suppose this is what is called postpartum depression. I was breastfeeding and thus refused to take medications that might harm my baby. I had taken antidepressants some years before which did help me. This is not criticism of the idea of medication, or the use of it. I just really needed to be able to breastfeed and not fail at this too.

I remember feeling that I was missing everything. I was missing my daughter’s development. I was missing out on life. I was missing. Where was I? 

And everybody else seemed oblivious. Other people with children seemed like they could cope just fine. Why was I so weak?

There was no ’me’ anymore- just a void. Was this what life would be from now on? 

The problem with this way of thinking is that the focus and obsession is very much on protecting the self whilst constantly trying to locate this self.  The sense of self is easily lost in circumstances, like becoming a new parent, where roles and identities have shifted. Especially when all one’s focus is on trying to keep someone else alive and happy. 

Empathy seemed to overwhelm me so easily. I have always found it difficult to bear other people’s problems. I always want to help, yet other people’s difficulties weigh on me so heavily that I become obsessed by them and feel like I am being dragged down and swallowed whole. I take on the stress and pain. So I attempted to stay away from everyone besides my child and husband. Other people seemed to make me feel smaller and more useless. They seemed to completely drain me. Even less of me left. I became very isolated.

Every time my child cried I would become confused and sad: taking on her emotions until I had relieved the issue. If she had been hungry and then fed I would feel satisfied and fed – even if I hadn’t had any food all day. Then she would cry about something else and the panic would spread through my whole body until I had changed her nappy – relief. Where was I?

Anybody else who expected something of or from me or needed me in any way became a huge burden. I was not coping. 


My husband, who is a very rational en calm person, took me to see a psychologist. This helped immensely. Her advice and care was priceless. She gave me some guidelines to follow. These were difficult for me at the time but I followed them:

My daughter was moved to her own bed in her own room.

No baby monitor.

I wore earplugs.

My husband took responsibility for my daughter during the night.

This had an enormous impact on my mental wellbeing. Suddenly I was forced to give over responsibility and I could feel the relief. It was important to sleep. And the psychologist kept reminding me that my daughter needed me to be sane more than she needed me to be hyper vigilant. She was fine. I wasn’t.

It seemed to take forever but eventually I was sleeping some hours at night. This made an incredible difference. 

Unfortunately seeing a psychologist was not a financially sustainable route. And I still found myself dwelling on my weakness more and more. My anxiety has always been out of control but now it was taking over. How would my daughter become a strong independent woman if her mother was this ‘pathetic’?

Needless to say, I had to break free from this mental trap. If not for mine, then for my daughter’s sake. 

Finding the self

Out of sheer desperation I wondered whether a self-help strategy could work? After all: we have so much information at our fingertips.  I would not, however, try things that had no scientific basis. So I started investigating Positive Psychology. This opened up some new insights into my state of mind. Somehow I would have to change my cognitive default setting. Slowly I started working on viewing things differently and on being who I wanted to be. 

My daughter had to see that it is possible to follow one’s dreams and that this meant working at it no matter the obstacles.

My obstacle was (and still is) my critical inner monologue. I realised that I never judge other people as negatively as I would myself -in fact – I hardly ever judge others at all. It would completely stifle my work. When painting, to shut my inner voice up, I then started listening to lectures on interesting topics. This would keep my mind occupied. Suddenly I could work again.

My parents started babysitting my daughter two days a week. So I was relying on ’my community’ for the first time and not trying to do it all alone. Suddenly I had some space and time. Audiobooks and lectures occupied my mind and I worked. Things were looking up. But I was still petrified of my inner critic.

Being a failure in my daughter’s eyes was unacceptable. 

This drove me to keep trying and seeking and reading. I read and listened obsessively. 


The first thing I tried was a gratitude journal. This is an amazing way of forcing yourself to focus (however briefly) on the good things in your life (however small). I became more and more grateful and noticed things outside myself. I was so grateful to my husband, my child, my parents. And this mindset has grown ever since. 

Letting go of self

One of the topics that kept coming up in my research on happiness was Mindfulness. I started listening to this course: 

Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation

The research on meditation gripped me. Here was something that could be practiced in a secular way and seemed to be able to satisfy a spiritual need I had always had. It also had very strong scientific support in helping people cope with all manner of mental states. Could I do this? 

I started by doing 3-5 minutes of guided mindfulness meditation practice every evening after my daughter had gone to bed.

Meditation was not what I had thought it was. It started off being something that was very difficult and frustrating. After a month or so it became very calming. Later I managed to glimpse moments where my mind would settle somewhat. My thoughts became thoughts; nothing more. I even started feeling empathy for the parts of me that were being so critical. This was the key.  More and more reading about mindfulness ensued.

Slowly I built up to doing more minutes per sitting. Giving my mind some quiet focus.

Here are the thoughts, the emotions, the breath. And this is ok. No fighting or fear of their presence. Just acceptance. Then judgement would arise. Then accepting this too. It was so simple: these were just thoughts. This was not the self. The obsession I had had with trying to find this coherent ‘self’ was starting to fade. And that even this was ok. This mind was just doing what this mind would do in this situation and I could observe this.

This is not a claim of any kind of enlightenment. In fact keeping focus for more than a few seconds still does not happen and that is fine too. This is only a realisation that feeling pain did not mean I had to suffer. It is okay and it is temporary like everything in life.

Now I have tools. If the voice criticising voice appears – she often does- I try to notice it and let it go by focussing on what is happening now. Sometimes it takes a while to realise that you are caught up in mindless thinking. This is also ok. Every time I do notice it I realise that it is a step in the right direction. Nothing has to be perfect and stumbling is learning. 

My mind is still an anxious and highly sensitive one. But now, a year and a half later, I know that this is just the way it functions and that in turn calms me sooner. It helps to stop the downward spiral. I do 25-30 mins of mindfulness meditation a day. 

Work is easier now. I still listen to audiobooks very often but I don’t need this constant distraction anymore. I just try to stay mindful if the self-criticism creeps up. 


Mindfulness meditation and especially Loving Kindness meditation (Metta Meditation) increases empathy. This was a scary thought: empathy seemed to be my downfall before. Yet with mindfulness  you can be mindful when dealing with other people’s emotions. They are just what they are. They are not you and feeling them is fine. This is an incredible skill to learn. Empathy and compassion grow, yet your ability to see things in perspective does too. I can be mindful of other people’s feelings without becoming overwhelmed (most of the time) and now there is more of me to give because I am letting go.

Family and friends are so important. It really does take a village to raise a child. It is difficult to hand over the steering sometimes but we need to let others in and let the illusive ’I’ go. It is a work in progress.

We cannot function alone. We need other people no matter how introverted we may be. Especially when we are going through a difficult time.

There are some amazing people in my life. 

My husband. I honestly do not know how to express my gratitude, admiration and love for him.

My parents who support me in every way. They are incredible grandparents. So too are my husband’s parents.

My sister. ❤

I have friends who have supported, inspired and helped me to start pursuing new avenues in my life – Like this blog (another community) and my doll making business. 

I have reconnected with the important friends in my life. 

Now I spend one day a week crafting, chatting and laughing with my dearest friend and her adorable new baby boy. 

…and my daughter is thriving. She is my light and inspiration.

| Minimalism | how our journey is progressing and what now?

Things seem to have started slowing down a little after our initial feverish and frenzied start a few weeks ago. But we are still going strong. One step at a time.
Mastering our money matters:
We hope to have our car sold this week. This will be the biggest relief financially as well as mentally. We will be spending much less per month on payments and fuel.  As a bonus our carbon footprint will be much lighter too.
We have also sold things like a guitar and keyboard and some other smaller items. These have brought in a bit of cash and we have paid it into our debt.
The biggest change we have made so far is that we are not purchasing new things – except for food and amenities. We have also been using cash to do our shopping. This means having an exact grasp of how much money you have and what things cost. Surprisingly this has not necessarily meant that we shop for the cheapest items . It is entirely possible to do shopping with very limited cash and still balance quantity and quality. It means getting only the essentials. So often that would still be quality items. So we still buy fresh produce for instance but we are limiting the waste. (Nothing that will go off in the time it would take us to consume it.)
This has meant steering clear of buy in bulk bargains and three for two deals (unless it is storage-friendly). Often these deals only mean you are paying more money because you end up throwing so much away. Sometimes buying the smaller amount of carrots for more money per item is the better deal.
You also find yourself being more creative with what is already in your food cupboards. You end up finally using those dried beans, quinoa or risotto rice hiding in the dark corners behind the cereal.
Decluttering strategies for difficult items: 
Decluttering has brought on a few bumps in the road. This week I found myself needing and looking for things… then realising I had thrown them out a couple of weeks ago (in the frenzy phase).
I have had a very strict ongoing ’keep it or toss it’ policy. Very black and white. But I realise that this has been a bit hasty and harsh.
Yesterday one of my friends suggested to me  that I make three piles instead of two.
* a definite keep pile
* a ’not sure’ pile
* a definitely throw out (or gift, donate or sell) pile
She explained that she does this regularly (every few weeks) and if she has not decided by the next decluttering what to do with items in the ‘not sure’ pile she throws them out.
This seems obvious and much saner than my attempt.
Originally I didn’t want to even give myself a ‘not sure’ or ‘maybe’ option for fear that this would allow me to re-establish my misguided relationship with the objects. But this was not the kindest way of dealing with myself. So I am now going to apply this new strategy from now on and will report back on its efficacy.
I also love jasminkrat’s post IS IT WORTH KEEPING? She has a very effective list of questions to ask oneself when deciding about difficult items and it may makethe choice between keeping something or not a much easier one. I will be incorporating these questions to help me along too.
to keep or not to keep...
to keep or not to keep…
Minimalism is an incredible journey so far. It is amazing how little we know about the items we surround ourselves with. We seem to misinterpret our relationships to and with them. What a hold they seem to have on us and yet it is all projected onto them by us. This journey is teaching me so much and promises to continue doing so.

Navigating Your Personality

Navigating Your Personality
Are personality tests limiting or freeing?

Finding out your ’type’

One of the most valuable and life altering things I ever did was my first personality test. It was done by a psychologist about 10 years ago. The Myers Briggs Type Indicator. I tested as an INFP. It was such a relief to see that I was not crazy. I was behaving exactly like my ‘type’ would. It explained why I couldn’t handle certain things the same way others did.
Is this really me?
I took another Meyers Briggs test (via a psychologist friend) about 5 years later and, at that point it was to ‘my horror’, I received the same result: INFP. This meant, to my naïve mind, that I had been working SO hard at ’bettering’ my(weak)self for 5 years with no result! How could this be? Then I did another and another and another online – always a different one – and got. Yes. The same result. I felt so boxed in. Is this me?
The relief I had initially felt, after the first test result, had now evaporated. Originally this result was something I thought I could change. I knew who I was and what the problems were and I would fix them.
Luckily my husband has an amazing way of clearing things up for me (INTP) and he explained and reminded me that it was not ‘me’, these results reflected my ‘preferences’.
Although the MBTI is probably not the most scientific of tests in many ways: it does give you a view into your or someone else’s preferences. It provided incredible insight for me at a time when I really needed it. It shows (granted it is broad) how and why you might react in certain situations in certain ways. So it can be an amazing relief to understand this.
Still. Would I always end up in the same spiral?
It was also around that time that I became familiar with Positive Psychology and Martin Seligman‘s work. I read his book Authentic Happiness. This changed my life. I joined the website and did the tests. Specifically the VIA Survey of Character Strengths
test. I learned that it is much more productive to focus on your strengths and that everybody has them. This way you don’t end up dwelling and getting too caught up in your perceived weaknesses and trying to ‘fix’ them. Personality is not fixable. But you can evolve it and develop it and in this way it can change.
More recently I read Carol Dweck’s book Mindset. The book focusses on her discovery of and research into two mindsets that people have and how this can influences their lives. According to her, there are people with ‘fixed mindsets’ and people with ’growth mindsets’.
Research shows that those with growth mindsets don’t give up as easily, they work until the problem is solved and they believe in change and growth. The science backs them up. The brain can change and grow at any age. You can change. Maybe not fundamentally alter your personality but you can learn new skills and develop your strengths.
This topic will come up again in future posts.
Here is the short and sweet test on the Mindset site.
Why Mindfulness?
Mindfulness would be beneficial for any person or personality type. Although some may find it more challenging than others to practice. The people who find it most challenging would possibly benefit the most.
Practicing mindfulness meditation every day, for a bit more than a year now, has been the single biggest help for me.
  • mindfulness teaches you to be in the moment – it helps ease anxiety about the future and the past.
  • it teaches you to let things be the way they are – acceptance. You are fine the way you are. You deserve love and acceptance and everything is as it is.
  • it teaches focus. One thing at a time. Cluttered minds become more settled. You do not force it yet your mind becomes clearer.
Why Minimalism?
This week I slipped into a bit of a fixed mindset. Am I a minimalist? Could an INFP possibly live without clutter (inside or out)? Is this whole experiment crazy?
Some wonderfully supportive comments on my previous post and the mindfulness practice helped me realise that this was just the way I react. This is how it is and that is ok. Then the reasons why minimalism is so important to me became clear again. I could see why someone like me would thrive as a minimalist and why I took this on in the first place.
Why minimalism is so important:
  •   Minimalism is a wonderful extension of mindfulness. I need my environment to support my inner world. Decluttering is a big part of minimalism. Shedding the excess. Yet it is not what it is truly or entirely about. It is as symbolic an exercise as it is a physical one. It brings you face to face with your own excess, your past, the things you don’t pay attention to. It has definitely meant some self confrontation (INFPs hate confrontation :p )… And I am expecting more as this journey unfolds. I just have to be careful of the over-thinking trap and getting lost in my head (INFP trap) So this is a great exercise in acceptance.
  • I feel happier in cleaner, uncluttered spaces. There is more space for my wild mind. And it also helps to calm my mind and helps me focus. Aesthetics are important to me. It is important to be in a space that is harmonious and does not disturb or disrupt your sense of well-being. Especially when it is your home.
  • Support creativity. It is also important that your workspace support maximum focus and creativity. My mind is already so busy that my environment needs to be a space I feel comfortable in, one in which I can be creative and doesn’t limit me by breaking my concentration.
  • I need to live an honest life. Live life in a ‘real’ way. No more debt. No more living above our means.
  • Freedom is so important. Freedom from the pressure of having to be like everybody else. Free from debt. Physically free. Free from guilt and the past. You can be more authentic if you strip the excess from your life.
The Big Five personality test:
For a more scientifically based test, try a Big Five Personality Dimensions test. There are many free ones online. It is a great personality test and gives amazing insight. Because you land on a grayscale it also reflects more flexibility in different people’s personalities even though there are only 5 factors.
Why I still like MBTI: 
Although it does limit people into sixteen types or ‘boxes’ it is also for this very reason that the test allows some generalizations which actually help you understand broad preferences. Within every type there is also a gray-scale. Not every factor counts for every person or every situation and some will be borderline.
And although I seem to score as an INFP every time, other people seem more flexible and score differently every time they do the test.
I like that this is possible, even though this very factor could be seen as the weakness of these tests – or any personality tests for that matter.
So it is good to keep in mind that nothing is set in stone and that we all grow, change and are unique. Yet they can be tools that give some limited insight and understanding into how we all can, and do, differ from one another.
So: keep a growth mindset about it and use these tests as a looking-glass that could help you reflect but should never hinder or limit you. 😉
| This has been a very difficult post since it is very personal in some ways.  The reason I wrote it is because I have benefited so much from other bloggers on this same minimalist journey as well as bloggers with my INFP personality type. It is important not to feel alone as much as it is to recognize our uniqueness. So here I am: Pleased to meet you 🙂 |
figuring it out
figuring it out

Aesthetics and Minimalism

Aesthetics and Minimalism


At first glance the word Minimalism might conjure up an image of vacant, sterile environments – those living spaces where you feel so uncomfortable because everything around you is so perfect and sitting on the clean white couch might wrinkle the impeccably placed scatter cushion. This was the association I used to have with the term. Minimalism meant straight lines, cold, clean, untouched, futuristic and white. Although this may be what some people love and what speaks to them, it put me off. And then I started looking a little closer.

This is not what it needs to mean. For every person their minimalist life will probably be completely unique form anybody else’s. It breaks down life to the essentials. This means that you need to really resonate with the objects around you to incorporate them into your life. The space around you can thus say more about you because the objects in it have been chosen for specific reasons.

Wabi-sabi | another view of Minimalism

Wabi-sabi is the Japanese aesthetic philosophy of finding beauty in imperfection, impermanence, and incompleteness. Nothing is finished, nothing is perfect and nothing is permanent. This is a very different view from the Western perspective of idealistic beauty.

Wabi-sabi is a perspective that is completely compatible with a minimalist view of the world. It is about being mindful about the beauty around you and finding the value in that which is temporary and unique. Even finding the beauty in yourself and your ’flaws’. This is how I wish to view everything around me in future.

This includes no more junk and no more dissonance. Life and the objects in it are temporary and if an item does not serve you, it may serve someone else. Surround yourself with that which brings you closer to yourself, your community and your environment.

Things don’t have to be stark and sterile. Your space can be warm, organic and natural. The key is simplicity and not stripping your life of meaning. Simplify and you open yourself up to noticing and valuing that which is truly meaningful to you and allowing that in as long as it serves you. If it does not do that anymore, let it go. It could add value to someone else’s life.

It is the difference between tending a garden and controlling it. Minimalism can bring you closer to the earth, it can make you tread lighter.

I love this thought. This is what we are striving for.

Could we become Minimalists? | a short update |

This has been a tougher week than expected. It is a slower process and a more emotional one than I thought it would be.


This may have to do with living in an age where one expects some kind of immediate gratification. My house seems more jumbled and chaotic than before because we have all our things out in the open waiting to find new homes. The clean slate will come (I am anticipating the freedom!) but it will be a slow process. We have come face to face with everything we weren’t paying attention to. And it is quite overwhelming.

Still, we managed to get quite a lot done toward our new Minimalist lifestyle. We have donated some clothes and other household items. We also managed to sell a few things. I also had the privilege of giving some wonderful baby things to my sister who is expecting her first child. And, yes! I am the proudest aunt already 😉

Selling items seems to be a real challenge. In a sense we have very few things that are valuable. So the debt is still a big obstacle.

Becoming a Minimalist seems to mean dealing with many ghosts and false senses of stability and permanence. It means dealing with yourself and where you are in your life. A tough but valuable lesson.

This week we will continue our simplifying mission with updates as we progress. There will also be a post about my new doll crafting project this week. So: keep an eye out!

Four Questions That Might Derail Your Minimising Efforts

If you are an artist or crafter or a creator of physical things in any form, you may find yourself in some predicaments when trying to incorporate a Minimalist lifestyle. If you have any sentimental urges then this post is for you.

These four nagging ‘what if’ questions arose for me during this week of serious minimising:

* What if I need it at some point?

How many things do you keep for just incase? How many times have you needed these things?
Somehow we manage to fill our spaces with so many extra things that are hardly, if ever, used. Or even worse, we fill it up with duplicates that seem to start collections of their own… Just incase. The creative potential of every item is so obvious that we feel we just might need it if the opportunity ever arrises. Unfortunately the rate of problem solving opportunities seem to lag way behind the accumulation of more things.
This conundrum brought on other questions for me:

* What if the other one breaks?

We seem to feel obliged to have back-ups. Back-up buckets, jars, toothpastes, blue eyeliner (incase I need it for a dress-up party!) t-shirts and towels (so many towels!). Unless you live somewhere in the wilderness, far from amenities and people, you probably do not need a back-up for every item in your home.
Honestly, though, I have been thankful for my stack of towels when the washing machine overflowed all over my kitchen floor. But I realise that the towels we actually use would have sufficed for the job. And the mop could handle the rest… And it meant fixing the machine and washing the whole stack of just-in-case-towels anyway. So. Maybe the extra towels were still not entirely vital or necessary.
All those extra socks just mean waiting longer for washday and having a bigger job to do when it arrives.

* What if I miss this item when it’s gone?

Many minimalist bloggers mention how they have never missed or regretted donating or selling an item. This is a problem for me because I have regretted giving items away or selling things in the past. Not entirely sure why, though? But I suspect it could have something to do with a person’s mindset at the time. I haven’t regretted anything thus far in my minimising experiment and this may be because my mindset has changed in relation to my possessions.

We tend to assume that our possessions are a part of our identity. They may reflect some things about us. They might make us feel connected and they may even tell stories about our lives. This is not a problem. The problem is when we cling onto things because we think that they are part of us or our history. We confuse sentiment with true expression and value. We are not our stuff and the balance is easily tipped. We let our things start to take the reigns and lead us instead of the other way around. They dictate to us who we are and who we should be. You might decorated your whole house around some sentimental furniture, that you don’t even like anymore, just because they belonged to someone, remind you of something or tell a story of who you once were. The truth is that they are probably holding you back and limiting the “you” that you have become.
This is a wonderful way of looking at it: You do not need to get rid of things that still serve you only those that do not. Those that smother you by controlling or limiting you or your choices. Things should be an extension that aid not hinder. You should be surrounded by what is authentic. This is a topic that I will get back to very soon in a future post.

* What if I forget?

I have kept so many momentos over the years. Things to remind me of events or people or places. Some of these things do trigger memories. Yet, those memories are obviously still inside me and not in the items. Some of the things were mysteries. No memories were recalled. Many of the momentos turned out to be quite negative. Things that brought on stress, sadness, shame and regret. This is not constructive.
When we hold onto items because they remind us of things from our past, we need to be selective. I realised that even the seemingly ’positive’ things only made me judge present me for letting down past me. So all these things had to go.
The only things I am keeping are some photographs of good memories and these will be put into digital format. We will also keep things that are actually used and add value to our lives. Blogging or journaling are also methods of documenting without cluttering.

Do you have any additional thoughts or advice on letting go and dealing with the nagging doubt? Please leave a comment 🙂

Tea time!

Could We Become Minimalists? – An Update.

Could We Become Minimalists? – An Update.

Happy Spring Day to all in the Southern Hemisphere! And a wonderful Autumn to those in the North!
We had the perfect spring weather for our decluttering mission this weekend.

The start of a journey (and a detour down memory lane):

What a weekend of emotional turmoil. Starting one’s route to minimalism by beginning with the biggest collection of memories and junk combined might be a little extreme.  We spent our whole weekend sorting through the garage. This was VERY difficult. And a LOT of work.

So beware, if you plan to try this, this may not be the best place to start. A person should probably start with a junk drawer and work your way up.
Nevertheless: it means that we know exactly what is going on down in the dark, dusty bowels of our hoard. And we have sorted through every detail of it. The worst part has been dealt with. There were boxes that had never been opened in the 12 years that we have been living and moving together.
It was a big job but what a great relief to know that it is done.

This is a bit after the 'before'. Still pretty bad.
This is a bit after the ‘before’. Still pretty bad.
..and... tada! not quite after
..and… tada! the ‘not quite after’ shot
With some fairy help, of course...
With some fairy help, of course…

How it affected us:

After selling a few items, we still have a big heap that will be donated and some things for specific people. This is frustrating because there are many things still in the space and I was hoping for a clear clean result. But at least they are in transit. So no clean slate yet.
The toughest part was sorting through my daughter’s baby clothes and giving most of it away and selling the rest. Many, many tears were shed.

Yet, after the initial fear of losing my memories of her as a baby, I realised that those memories are always with me and that I have digital pictures (no clutter!) of her in everything anyway. A wonderful calm and joy came over me thinking that other precious children will be dressed in these beautiful clothes. New memories will be made in them.  How wonderful that these items will have a new life and not just be stuck in boxes for who knows how long.

Sorting through boxes of baby things. sigh.
Sorting through boxes of baby things. sigh.

I also went through my whole schooling and studying history and got rid of, well, basically everything. This was tough. But I feel incredibly light after saying goodbye to ’the proof’ of how great or cool or talented I used to be.
We tend to hold on to ideas of who we once were as though we aren’t in the midst of constant change. We are not who we were at  six or at fifteen years of age. In fact that person will always be in us and is definitely not in the tons of paper records accumulated through the years. So: into the recycling bin it all goes and something useful might even be made from it!
I know my husband had a similar experience.

Really?! Goodbye 'Cool Mix 1997'? ok.
Really?! Goodbye ‘Cool Mix 1997’? ok.
Goodbye 'Cool Mix 1997'
Goodbye ‘Cool Mix 1997’

One of the things that affected me most was the collection of letters from my childhood pen friend. She is from Kenya and I have no idea what happened to her. Where is she now? What is her life like? Reading these letters was incredible.  Maybe there are some clues in them to help me find her. I haven’t heard from her in 19 years. So I have kept these letters. For now.

Reading old letters
Working like a dog.
Working like a dog.

We also found some wonderfully useful items which we never use and these will be donated. This is an amazing thing to be able to do and comes with a wonderful feeling.

Chipping away:

Our debt is slowly being chipped away. We sold our PS3 and all our games. And we are selling some antiques and furniture. Unfortunately these things aren’t worth as much as one would expect. So, our road will be a long one. Every little bit helps, though. So hold thumbs!

The week ahead:

This week we will be focussing on our house. Mostly our wardrobes and linen closet. It is a tough, tough job and more minimising will be needed after we have gone through everything once. I am struggling to let go of some things. This is ok. We have decided to work on the junk and non-sentimental things this week. Just a break from the turmoil. 😉

Next update: Friday. Whew.

What would be the toughest thing/s for you to give up? Are there objects you are living with just to keep others happy? 

Could we become Minimalists?

This is such a huge topic. There are so many aspects to it that it would be too overwhelming to cover everything in one blog post. The concept of Minimalism is so simple and yet it seems like an enormous task to take on. So here we go… Let’s make a dent.
Could we drastically change the way we live?

Mindfulness and laying the groundwork

A little more than a year ago I started practicing daily mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness had been something that I had been aware of for quite some time and knew a bit about the research and all the benefits it promised. But it took a long time before I started my own meditation practice.
After desperately seeking some kind of calm, purpose and a way to deal with anxiety and the distracted chaos within my mind: I finally started by just doing 3 to 5 minutes of guided meditation a day. These are the free mindfulness meditations from UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center that I started with – and still rely on sometimes.

Mindfulness brought me an incredible calmness. Things seem clearer now. My mind has been uncluttered (mostly). When it starts to get frantic or anxious I can mindfully take note and know that it is temporary like everything else. Of course it is once again a simple concept but definitely not easy. It takes time and practice. It has shifted my view on everything. But mindfulness is not what this post is about. Definitely a future one, though!

My mind is calmer but my immediate surroundings seem to be entirely chaotic. Our house is cluttered, we have huge debt, we live paycheck to paycheck. The usual old story that everyone shares and complains about when visiting with friends. I deal with it thanks to my mindset. But maybe I don’t have to deal with it at all? Is there a way out of the trap?

A week ago:

In anticipation of Sam Harris’ new book Waking Up, I read an interview with him on He discusses the benefits of mindfulness and I would highly recommend a read.

In my naivety the thought in my mind was: The Minimalists, mm… what is a ’minimalist’ anyway? Why would people identify themselves as a style choice?
This led me down a new and very intriguing road of research into the topic. Frantic reading and a few Pinterest searches revealed something that was right in front of me all this time. It is not a style choice, it is a lifestyle choice. Aha! And it clicked. It is a philosophy. And it just fits so well into the mindfulness mindset.

Check out the tedx talk by The Minimalists.

As a crafter and artist, I am a collector by nature. Okay, okay, maybe ’hoarder’ is more apt a description. My husband is too. We always seem to see the creative potential in every rusty and broken object. Yet, these ‘projects’ are never finished or even taken on. So they end up somewhere in a box or a cupboard or a drawer or stacked somewhere – mostly in the garage. So, the car we can’t afford doesn’t even fit in it!
To top this all off: I tend to be a sentimentalist and do not easily part with items and struggle with saying “no” when offered something from somebody else who is obviously purging their clutter!
We also love new gadgets and we love beautiful things.

When you combine all of these factors, becoming minimalists will be one of the toughest things we have taken on as a family.
Yet we are stuck in debt, weighed down by pointless possessions and we need to drastically change the way we live. We need to free ourselves.

Minimalism promises to give us:
freedom from pointless consumerism,
better clarity in terms of our financial situation and some or all freedom from it,
more clarity and time in terms of the important things like spending time with our family and friends,
more clarity about and time to do what we truly find important

Mindfulness has set a good foundation. Now we need to free ourselves from the physical things that are holding us down.

This is an invitation to join us on our big lifestyle change. You don’t have to become a minimalist too. You are welcome to watch the process we go through and read about all the ups and downs. Hopefully you might learn something or feel inspired or at the very least find some entertainment in it all!

The (rough) plan:

*Declutter. Declutter the house, garage and my studio of obvious junk.

*Assess. Assess what remains and decide what we truly need. A wonderful quote by William Morris sums it up: “have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”

*Sell. Sell things to pay off debt. Try to sell as many things as possible and use the money towards paying off our debt.

*Donate. Donate things to charities.

*Reassess. Reassess what is left. Which of these things do we really need? Which things are essential? How can we minimise some more?

*Make Time. Spend more time together doing stuff not acquiring stuff. Do fun and free things and make time to do these things. Like my doll making and new pursuits.

We will be starting in our garage (shudder!) this weekend. And then we will tackle the house.
Updates on our progress will happen every Monday and Friday. Can my husband, my daughter and I become minimalists? Let’s see how it unfolds.