This winter, many minimalists have been discovering the true essence of minimalism and intentional living–that it’s about more than just possessions and decluttering. We need to be intentional in all areas of life: with our money, our thoughts, and our time.
Brooke McAlary, from Slow Your Home, addresses this in her e-book Destination: Simple – Rituals and Routines to Simplify Your Daily Life. Brooke admits that decluttering is a logical place to start, when adopting a minimalistic lifestyle. She states that, “A cluttered home is the most obvious place to start for most people. I know that’s where I began because it was the issue staring me in the face! We were never hyper-consumers but there was still so much stuff in our home and it was physically overwhelming.” And starting this way, according to Brooke, is not a bad thing! She remarks that, “I also think people like tackling their physical possessions first because they get a victory. Seeing that clear shelf or drawer is immediate feedback for the work done. When you look at that accomplishment, no matter how small, you are able to say, ‘Yes, I am in control of my circumstances. I’m not powerless’ And while it’s often not such a conscious thought, it usually means people are happy to move on and keep simplifying other areas of their home.” Thinking back to the “great purge” we did back in 2011, after our sailing season was tragically cut short, I can understand this. Reclaiming our house, gave us a victory and some control over something, after we failed to achieve our dream for the summer.
But decluttering is not an end in itself. Brooke states that, “Unless there is a shift in your mindset – how you think about stuff, your relationship to it and what it says about you to the outside world – then you will find new clutter replacing the old in no time.” Also, possessions are not the only clutter that we can have in our lives. According to Brooke, “There are many people I know who don’t own much – they are very minimalistic in their physical environment – but are completely chaotic in their lives. So often this invisible clutter is the greater problem. I know it was for me, and it wasn’t until I could deal with it that I truly found simplicity.” This is definitely a point I have reached, in the past–feeling overwhelmed by time commitments, and disorganized throughout my day. Decluttering the other aspects of life has proven to be much more challenging than purging the extra possessions in a room.
In order to live intentionally, like many of us, I worked on establishing routines. You may remember my first attempt at a morning routine, and my many attempts at establishing cleaning routines. For various reasons, I was never able to stick to them. Brooke says that this is typical of the mindset surrounding the concept of “routine.” She states that, “The idea of routine works really well for some people and some situations. But I’ve always found routine – that is, regimented, strict programs – to be restrictive and demotivating. If I miss a step in my routine because life happens, then I feel like a failure.” Instead of routine, Brooke advocates for “rhythm.” (For more on this, see this post on Brooke’s blog.) Unlike routine, rhythm, according to Brooke, “…flows and flexes with your day. By all means, have a set rhythm in place – knowing what happens next is incredibly helpful – but give yourself room to move and breathe and shift within that rhythm. I find it’s a much kinder way to frame my days, and far less punitive!”
I was game. So I picked up Brooke’s book and gave it a try. The first section of her book is about rituals–ways to make simple, everyday tasks more meaningful. According to Brooke, “Doing this elevates these tasks beyond mundane – even if they are an everyday task – and helps you to truly appreciate and pay attention to what it is you’re doing.” (Destination Simple, pg. 7). I found that the rituals really lessened the mental clutter I felt during the day, helped me to clarify my intentions, and added more joy to my day.
The first two rituals, Single Tasking and Unplugging, were things I did already. I learned last year, after our summer on Moonraker, that my brain simply isn’t wired for multi-tasking (actually, nobody’s is!), so I try to single task whenever possible. Don’t worry, though–Brooke isn’t asking you to do that! She is recommending that you start with one task, and put your mind completely into it. During the school year, we unplug most of the time on weekends, and on the boat we’re often not just unplugged, but completely off the grid! Spending a little time disconnected from the world, is very valuable and gives you more mental space.
Her next three rituals, Brain Dumping, Three Things, and Practicing Gratitude, are meant to be done together. I have adopted these into my morning rhythm, and have found that they help me to declutter my mind, clarify my intentions for the day, and start the day on a positive note. Interetingly enough, the Three Things ritual–in which you make a to-do list for the day that contains only three things–has been a challenge for me. I have yet to complete my three things in a day! Luckily, it’s a rhythm, not a routine. And it has helped me to clarify my intentions, and it has shown me an area in which I need to develop more discipline.
The next section of Destination: Simple is about rhythms. According to Brooke, “Rhythm moves you. You want to dance to rhythm, find your groove, let go a little, enjoy the moment and see where it takes you.” (Destination: Simple, pg. 31). She gives tips for establishing a morning and an evening rhythm. I’ve found that, for me, having time alone in the morning is extremely valuable. I wake up VERY early, on most days, and at various stages of evolution, my rhythm has included prayer, yoga, aerobic exercise, writing, and the last three rituals from Brooke’s book. Evenings, on the other hand, are generally about family time, although there may be a little writing mixed in. Lately, I have also found it beneficial to create an after-work rhythm, that starts with a long chunk of writing time.
I can not say enough great things about Destination: Simple–whether you’re new to minimalism or just getting started, you will find something that you can use. I would highly recommend it to anyone who would like to simplify their time and live more intentionally.
Go here to order a copy.
Note: In the interest of full disclosure, I was a beta reader for Destination: Simple. However, Brooke did not ask me to write this review, and, true to my purpose, I am not receiving any monetary compensation for writing this review or for any sales of the book that result from this review. It’s just a good book, and I want to recommend it!