Tag Archives: minimalist

Disturbing the Ant Nest: Let’s Talk About Expectations!

“Expectations were like fine pottery. The harder you held them, the more likely they were to crack.”
Brandon Sanderson – The Way of Kings

When I was a child, my parents and I would take walks in the forests that grew rich and lush around the little village we called home in Northern Germany. Ants were amongst the many forest dwellers that set up house along the paths we trod. Their elaborate architectural mounds were taller than I and a never-ending source of fascination. As a small child, I confess to ignoring ant etiquette and poking a stick into the anthill here and there. Thousands of alarmed and indignant ants would come swarming out to inspect the damage. The mound literally came alive.

Our life is one big story that has been shaped by history and culture. Like the ant nests in my childhood forest, we have built our own extravagant narrative by which we live our lives. Expectations play a major role in our constructed memoir. When those expectations are poked and prodded … well, the ants they come swarming!

Expectations assume things from the life we live. They inform us that something will happen or be the case and therefore they determine our reality. We are all Pavlov’s dog salivating at the sound of an invisible bell. It’s called the Rule of Expectation. The expectations we carry of ourselves and others affect our behaviour. The mere suggestion of an expectation influences people. This has been used and abused by everyone from politicians, religious leaders, parents, supervisors and all of us! There is a myriad of books and presentations on how to work (manipulate) people’s expectations through the power of suggestion. I am not saying they are all bad. What I am highlighting is that we need to be aware of how expectations influence our lives.

The expectations we have of life and each other affects our being in this world – our joy and sense of peace. If I hold expectations that life should be fair and just, that everyone should like me, that friends will always be true, that I will not fail and that I will not face pain and suffering, then I will be one giant ball of disappointment. There is a desperate need to critique our expectations and perhaps it is time for a giant spring clean?

I am on a continual mission to live with less. Over the last couple of years, I have given boxes of ‘stuff’ away. I cannot begin to describe the therapeutic effect this has on the soul. I have been challenged to also minimalise my expectations. Learning to do that is learning to let go. In order to accommodate an ‘expectation declutter’ I had to first recognise and deconstruct a whole lot of assumptions I had of myself and others. I invited disappointment to the table.

Disappointment is not an easy guest to listen to. It is the stick we use to prod the ant hill. However, if we refuse to allow it to speak, pretending it’s not present, we will never discover what a gift of liberation it holds. Disappointment pointed out the many boxes of expectations that had grown mould in my life. Expectations of doing things right, of people being ’nice’ and liking me, and of being in control of my life. There were many boxes. It made me realise I did not want to live like this. Disappointment can lead us to wisdom.

Wisdom tells us that hoarding boxes of expectations will only bring misery. Wisdom orders the rubbish skip and gently prises our fingers off the expectations we are clutching to. But it doesn’t leave us empty-handed. Instead of hundreds of boxes of exhausting expectations, it gives us a perfume bottle that says “Gratitude”.

Learning to spray Gratitude instead of placing yet another box of unrealised expectations on some shelf, takes time and reflection. We learn to live our way to a whole new manner of being in this world. Of course, there are expectations that we should not let go of – an expectation to be safe in our environment, an expectation not to linger in toxic places and spaces, an expectation of self to be kind and tread gently in the world we live in. These kinds of expectations are helpers and guardians in our lives. But you may discover that so many of the expectations you have in your story are unnecessary and only wear you down.

A wise man once said that we should go to the ants and consider their ways. I invite you to do that. I also invite you to consider the role Expectation plays in your life. Are you happy with the power it holds? Does it add to your life or take away? Consider the voices of disappointment, wisdom and gratitude. I wish you the blessing of living a ‘light’ life, dear friend. Decluttering is good for the soul.

Live your life, sing your song. Not full of expectations. Not for the ovations. But for the joy of it.”
Rasheed Ogunlaru

Honey, I Shrunk the House!

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Freedom, it seems, sometimes comes to us disguised as pain. Perhaps, that’s why it takes us so long to fully embrace it? It has now been several years since I became a fan of the minimalist movement – you know, the idea that you actually need a whole less shit to make you happy? Outrageous! I have also been continuously challenged by how I live, recognising that I need to learn to tread a lot more softly on Mother Earth.

With the pursuit of a simpler life came a change of work circumstances for my partner. He felt it was time to make a shift. In his words, “At age 54, I am at a time in life when I’d like a smaller world not a bigger one, a slower pace not a faster one, and a simpler life not a more complex one.” So we stand at an intersection in our lives that demands us to be honest about what has been brewing in our hearts for a long time: it is time to lose in order to gain.

One of our first steps has been to downsize our house and get rid of a mortgage. Sounds great? Not when this is the spot that has become my ‘thin place‘. Over the last few years, this home as been my place of refuge. I love the garden which has been a massive labour of love. I work from my office and watch the birds busily going about life just outside my window. It is the place where our family and friends have met. So many lives and stories have been shared in the kitchen or sitting on the porch. This home holds untold memories. To say goodbye is not easy. A simpler path comes at a price.

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Everything in life comes with a price tag. To embrace convictions and live authentically sounds wonderful, but, trust me, there are many times you will have to be very brave in order to do so. For us personally, to pursue this simpler life we are learning to fly against so much of what ‘mega’ Christianity has embedded, encouraged and enshrined: the desire to influence, to become bigger, to be famous, to accumulate, to safeguard … the list goes on. However, for my partner and I, this no longer holds any attraction. In fact, for us (and we realise this is not everyone’s story or path), the pursuit of more is full of emptiness. We have been challenged to live a different life … and, in order to do so, we need to let go.

So it’s time to shrink the house! Shrink our footprints. Embrace a different tomorrow. I have always prided myself with the idea that I do not ‘horde’ or ‘accumulate’ stuff. Well, this blog is a confessional. I have spent hours sorting through stuff that I haven’t used or looked at for several years. I am now doubly motivated, as we will be moving into a house half the size of the one we currently live in. Everything I own is being scrutinised before being packed. It is exhausting … and freeing. I can’t really explain it, but there’s something very liberating about deciding to take just one pot of a certain size, not three, or just one set of crockery, not the whole caboodle I kept for entertaining the many large groups we would have through the house every year. 

And before I make myself sound like a minimalist saint … I have failed the packing ideal with my books. O my glob! I am attached to those books. It was fairly320px-Carl_Spitzweg_021 easy to part ways with books that flogged a certain modern religious pop culture or ones that upheld an ideology of colonial, white, privilege under the guise of orthodoxy. In fact, they made great fire starters. But other books … well, they are all coming. Remember, I am a recovering ‘accumulatist’.

I am discovering that shrinking brings joy, that less is definitely more – not just a fancy cliche. Life is found in the word ‘few’ and contentment is a most wonderful travelling companion. Of course, I grieve over what was, I feel the deep loss of what I have here. There is pain in minimising . Don’t underestimate it! However, I also feel the excitement of freedom from debt and stuff … there is no price I can put on that. 

Friend, we all make decisions every day to either simplify our lives or make them more complicated. May you choose wisely. May you choose life.

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Travelling Light!

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.” – Anais Nin

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Minimalism is about attitude. Perhaps it’s also about being honest. We don’t need all the stuff we think we do. And when it comes to travel, there’s nothing else that dampens the spirit of adventure like dragging a cargo load of overpacked suitcases around.

Over my various traveling expeditions, I have attempted to down-scale my suitcase size and the stuff I pack. Never once have I experienced a frightening, under-packed ‘situation’. In fact, quite the opposite. I return home with clothes not worn and gadgets that I never once took out the suitcase.

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So as we plan to embark on another journey, I am already preparing myself to travel light. This trip is tricky. Firstly, a conference where I need to look somewhat put together. Then a holiday, in which I will predominantly live in hiking gear. My plan is black. Black is brilliant.

I will take 2 pairs of black pants that can be used for the conference with a couple of nice tops. These pants will then be converted to hiking pants with long flannel shirts (hey, don’t judgtumblr_nm22l1On2W1ro4hejo1_500e the flannel). A light, black cardigan and black boots can be useful in both settings. I will wear my hiking boots on the plane. Black down vest when it gets chilly. The necessary gear for wet, cold weather – jacket, beanie, gloves, scarf. Not forgetting underwear, socks, bathers, a tiny emergency kit and toiletries. Done!

Now a few things that I have found useful:

Don’t Leave Your Packing to Last Minute.
 
You will stress and overpack. Or you will stress, overpack and forget stuff. Why not open your suitcase a week early and begin to throw in all the useful things you want to take: cords for your phone, giant hair curlers, coffee machine, nose-hair clippers, whatever takes your fancy.

Have a ‘To Do’ list in Place for Travel

If you travel a lot, why not write a list that you can follow in order to make the preparation time stress-free? Mine includes things like making sure that the humans that remain at home are cared for and informed, that the fur children are sorted, and that visas and passports are in order.

Talking about passports: Remember that some foreign governments require visitors to carry passports with at least six months validity beyond their planned stay. You may be refused entry if you fail to comply. So don’t be stuck on the doorstep of some exotic place, with your nifty, tiny suitcase, only to find you need to turn around and go back home! As the Penguins from Madagascar would say: “Well, that sucks!”

Think Looooooong Plane Trip

My partner thinks flying is a most wondrous invention (check out his blog on travel hints here). I hate it. I hate airports. I hate the long lines at passport control. I hate cooped up planes. I hate all the human noises on the cooped up planes. And there are not enough hours in the day to hate the plane toilets. Other than that, I am actually quite a positive person. So amidst all this hating, I have to prepare myself mentally before a flight!

My hand luggage includes something to knock myself out on for long, overnight flight (I mean legal stuff, right?!), a water bottle, face cream, deodorant, eye cover, EAR PLUGS (!), iPad and camera. I don’t wear makeup on flights. I am 50 years old and have earned the right to look as pale as Morticia if I want to. Also, if by chance you ever sit next to me on a plane – don’t talk and don’t make eye contact and we’ll be great friends.

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Money, Honey

Have you got enough cash for all the coffee table books you will buy and never look at again? You will pay a lot on extra charges using your credit card. You can also use a travel card. Just keep it all safe. There are many others who would love to share your earnings!

Trying out Suitcase Organisers

A friend recommended these clever little suitcase organisers. It appeals to my sense of German and order. And I bought them on sale which appeals to my sense of ‘tight arseness’. Will keep you posted on their success rate.

Essential Packing: A Sense of Wonder!

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When all is said and done, let us consider what a great privilege it is to be able to travel and explore new places (take note, grumpy-travelling-self!). Our ancestors would not even have imagined such possibilities. So let’s journey with a sense of wonder. And, friends, let’s not allow ourselves to be robbed of our moments and experiences by trying to catch everything on camera or feeding the relentless social media machine. Wonder can’t really be captured that way. Rather, it is a gift that only the heart can hold.

May your journey be blessed!
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“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – Gustave Flaubert