Today on the blog we’re handing you over to one of our brilliant Productivity Ninja’s in the Wild! Emma shares her experience of how the Ninja Characteristics helped her create a minimalist lifestyle.
Hi, my name is Emma and I’m a shopaholic. Or rather, I used to be. I have always loved clothes, make up and “pretty things”. For years, I felt pulled into fashions and fads, constantly looking for something that would look the best, but never did. A servant of fast fashion.
At work, I felt pressure to dress a certain way and wear heels, but they hurt. A lot.
Not only that, but since my husband and I moved into a bigger house 5 years ago, and my Mum downsized locally shortly after, members of my family had started bringing us things to store in our house, because we have more space. As a result, some areas of our house felt really cluttered. Camping equipment? Yup, I have everything, even though we haven’t been camping in about 13 years.
In the last couple of years, I started reading up on minimalism and the Kon Marie method (I have a deep appreciation of Marie Kondo). I’m no minimalist – or at least, I’m not the sort of person who doesn’t have things around me – my desk at home, which I spend a lot of time at now, has interesting pens, crystals, photos, candles and water bottles on it. I normally travel a lot for work, and everyone knows I am the person that will have what they need in their bag – a painkiller or a brush.
Lots of these things I enjoy and love, so I think that’s OK, but still I was intrigued – could I get along with less….. stuff?
“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” – William Morris
I started by researching and found a 30 day challenge on YouTube. This was a plan to focus on an area of my home each day for 30 days and clear my space.
I am busy and I worried about making time on long work days, so I flexed my Agility skills, took 2 weeks off work, and focused on two or three elements a day. I didn’t tell anyone I was off work, employing a little stealth and camouflage, so my days didn’t get filled with other things.
The plan covered everything from kitchen cupboards (bye bye duplicate spatulas, and adios to those weird glass containers you get with chocolate desserts that you think will be useful for something but never are), to my handbag (removing cards from my overfilled wallet and four lipsticks from my bag), to my phone apps.
Ninja Zen-Like Calm
It felt good, and the tasks were small and manageable. I found mindful calm in the time when I was sorting. I like to be organised, but most days I struggle with time to do it. I’d put some music on and get into the flow of the task at hand, not rushing through, with no specific goal in mind, other than to focus on the clearing of that area. And little by little, I developed my ruthlessness muscle as I asked myself the question “do I really need this item?”.
I sorted boxes of stuff from the loft, used some carpet that my Mum had given me in an uncarpeted area of the loft (and got rid of the rest). I started selling and donating a lot of the other things I had found I didn’t need.
Going back to work, and things felt good, I felt lighter. The linen cupboard was a revelation. Every time I walked past it, I opened it just because it made me feel good! Why had I been keeping seven duvet sets when only two of us live in the house? Threadbare towels got repurposed into cleaning cloths. Although I had previously bought a lot of stuff, I was keen not to waste things I no longer needed. I found new purposes or homes for many things and donated others.
But still, some areas I hadn’t touched. And the big one… was my wardrobe. I always feel like I have more than one life in my wardrobe. I have a serious corporate job, but I also work out pretty much every day. My wardrobe had become a weird mix of suits, colourful leggings and then a lot of casual stuff. Most of which I hadn’t been wearing much.
So, I went back to the advice of Marie Kondo, who advises getting all your clothes, EVERYTHING you own, out and making a massive pile, from which to sort.
I decided this needed some dedicated time to achieve, so I set about one Saturday. Putting everything out on the bed in the spare room, and all the shoes and boots around the side of the bed. My friend called up as she was in the area and she came over, bringing her gorgeous 3-year-old with her. I asked her son to help by getting his views on things. I put a hat on. “Take it off Emma,” said G, “it looks silly”. From the mouth of babes!
To be honest, pulling everything out felt a bit overwhelming. The pile on the bed was, in the end, taller than me and the room was FULL. How could I have got to this point?
Something else hit me as I looked at what I had accumulated. I worked out every day – so it was fine to own around a dozen pair of leggings – I used all of them. But in reality, I didn’t have enough time to wear all the casual clothes I owned. Especially the “going out” ones. These days, I’m far more likely to be working out or dog walking than going to clubs, but my wardrobe didn’t reflect that.
I found a sparkly beret I must have owned for ten years that belonged to an emerging figure that I started to realise was an alter ego, who I appeared to be dressing in very expensive clothes. This person was wearing beautiful high heels, sequin covered berets and was probably at least one size smaller than me! There was a stunning, butter soft leather blazer which I had bought for a great price, but I handed it to my friend, because it didn’t fit. I needed to let it, and my imaginary self, go.
The reduction in my clothing that weekend was dramatic. But I knew I also needed to do something more to make sure this didn’t happen again. I put pieces aside to mend or alter, dying jackets and fixing shoes that I genuinely loved. I started storing out of season clothes in the drawers under the bed, to make space and I separated my wardrobe more thoroughly so that my work wear was all in one place.
This was a revelation. Bringing all my workwear together made me realise several things but these included:
- I love colour – which is great, but it also meant that a lot of things didn’t work with other elements of the wardrobe
- Plenty of the things there didn’t fit or were uncomfortable
- There is no “best” that I had been saving clothes for. I needed to love what I wore every day, instead of keeping things for special days that would never come.
- I was missing some actual basic things that would make the wardrobe work much harder for me.
I moved all my work clothing into one wardrobe and I separated my other clothes completely. I ruthlessly moved on anything that didn’t fit or I didn’t absolutely LOVE.
Then I picked some good quality key pieces to support my evolving work wardrobe – a pair of lovely black loafers (not heels!) shirts and a classic camel wool coat. Ironically, I was spending less than I had before. Only buying pieces intentionally and when I was sure they would work for me.
The results have been pretty staggering. Now, on a Sunday night, I will pull out all the work outfits for the week ahead. This puts me into a state of preparedness my previous self would have marvelled at. I look forward to wearing my work wear. I’m comfortable in it, but smart.
I also don’t have to get up as early each morning because everything is laid out and ready to go.
My minimalist lifestyle journey continues and I’m enjoying the more sustainable approach that I have now. There’s still some colour in the work (and personal) wardrobe, but items feel like things I’ll want to wear for five to ten years, not five to ten months.
The ninja skills that I’ve used to get me into this space will no doubt be useful as I move along my journey, including how I now process engineer my washing. That’s a story for another day….
Resources – Youtube channels:
Use Less – Signe is a Danish woman who has a clean minimalist style. She is interested in buying less clothing and also favours sustainable approaches both to her wardrobe, her home and her beauty regime.
Alyssa Beltempo – the queen of sustainable wardrobes. Seeks to make you love what you already own and introduced me to the concept of shopping my own wardrobe.
Justine Leconte – a French fashion designer living in Berlin. They have loads of information on constructing a capsule wardrobe and how clothing is produced.
Break the Twitch – Anthony Ongaro’s channel looks at minimalist habits with the focus on breaking that shopping twitch.
Clean my Space – Melissa Maker owns her own cleaning business which she started in 2006. She hates cleaning, so she makes videos to help you clean faster and more effectively. Often with natural products, and also looks at a more minimalist lifestyle