What does Minimalism have to do with addiction?

When you start on a journey towards a more organized life, it is okay to start from your home, where an average person spends the most of their lives (if you’re like me, though, it is well above average). And once you stop being crazy about cleaning and organizing, you can have lots of free time. Some people even worry about what to do with their new-found freedom. This is what we need to look out for: we need to make sure that habits overcome addictions.

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I have found that addiction and minimalism are closely related. Once you get rid of worthless stuff (be it actual stuff or not), you start to feel this emptiness. Well you can fill it with anything you want, from writing that story that’s been bugging your head to meet friends and have mindless conversations, to actually wrap yourself up in a good addiction. But good news, because minimalism makes you also mindful of your actions, it may be easier than ever before to kick an addiction.

What happened to me was I realized I had the addiction once the emptiness struck: I was playing ridiculous amounts of video games per day.

Long story short, I’ve been playing on and off for like twenty years. I remember in the 90s, in summer holidays I could play up to 7 hours a day. Outside was boiling hot, I was playing with my sister and cousins most of the time, it was like a favorite pastime activity. Come winter my father used to take the adapter cable to work, and filled with study, I wouldn’t remember games at all.

At university also I was doing pretty great, except summers. In summers, where there was no studies to fill up my mind, I would get carried away by computer games like Sims or Diablo. I would only come out for meals. But that didn’t bother me at all, I was fine with it and didn’t consider it an addiction.

When I started to work in 2010 things took a turn. I now was playing not for fun, but to take the anxiety of the work away. I was doing what people were doing with alcohol, cigarettes or drugs. I would forget about every distressing detail and that is why getting rid of it was not easy. The iPad I bought for reading e-books had become my playmate.

But one day I discovered Leo Gura’s channel on youtube. His videos are, to say the least, life changing.

Basically what Leo says about addictions is that you have to be fine with emptiness, no matter what. And the simplest (although not the easiest) way to do is meditation. Sit down there and do nothing. This is pretty effective and more difficult than it sounds, but every time you have an urge to do no matter what, sit down, think about why you think you need to do it. What if you just sit down and don’t do it?

And on another perspective, I like to think about an older Pelin, say, 90 years old. What would a 90-year-old Pelin give advice to a 27-year-old one? Would she want me to spend 7 hours a day doing an activity that would hinder my progress towards my goals, hurt my back, neck, hands and eyes? She would rather have her find her life purpose as soon as possible and pursue it, right? And enjoy the moment in the mean time. So I try to listen to future Pelin’s advice. It is funny but effective. And I think it can apply to every mild addiction, like shopaholism or food addiction. I agree alcoholism and other severe addictions might be handled professionally.

As you go through junk in your life, it might be a good idea to go through the junk actions, too, and everything from talking to drinking coffee to watching something can be a form of addiction. Looking at our lives from a distance and noticing the actions which benefit us and the ones which seems “fun” on the outside but killing us slowly help a huge deal in living a more purposeful life.

 

 

 

Where do you call “home”?

Since I was born, I have lived in 8 different places. Come to think of it, the place where I most felt at home was the dormitory, where I spent four years at university. It was the smallest place ever, four beds( two bunk beds actually), four closets and a long table with four chairs across the beds. As you can imagine I had a very limited supply, just clothes and books. Very few sentimental items and that’s all. I was living the minimalist lifestyle before I knew about it and I recall these times as the happiest of my life. I was very productive, wrote a lot, studied very effectively and was quite social.

Why do I need to remember those times today?

Because I am at a crossroads. I may live abroad  if I want to, but for that I need to shift my career a little bit and maybe never go back to my native country. And it made me think if I ever feel at home here.

This decision also made me reconsider my belongings, so much can fit in a suitcase, right? Which of these will certainly make it with me I will have to see. And when I actually get there I can be very conscious of everything I buy to create the minimalist living I am up to.

So many possibilities. Along with so many worries. Let’s see what the future brings.

Experience over things: the case of museums and malls

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Yesterday I went to the natural history museum in Ankara. I live in Ankara for eight years-on and off- but never really thought natural history museum was worth a visit. It’s funny because I love biology, paleoanthropolgy and most definitely I love geology and stones (I have a small collection of semi-precious stones and have some glass animals, just looking at them gives me joy).

The museum had everything I love and more. I really enjoyed the experience. Surely, I enjoyed myself because I had a limited time to look at them, and they weren’t mine. If they were mine, if I had all the stone collection there, would it make me happy? Certainly not. And I don’t know why, it made me think of a shopping mall. If I had all the shopping mall, it would definitely not make me happy. So maybe approaching the mall as a museum of sorts is a good idea. Watching and studying stuff but treating them as a collectible that I can’t and won’t have. And cherish the experience, even if it means making fun of /maybe feeling sorry for fashion and human nature.

My German teacher once told me that he and his wife always did window shopping. They would do window shopping for the whole year. Then, they would do actual shopping once a year, knowing what they want and need. No room for impulsive shopping or regrets. You have to have massive will power for this, but why not? It sounds very logical and also freeing. Some people, including me in the past, feel the urge that they need to buy something once they go out of the house. It must be freeing not having to buy anything.

 

Decluttering & Simplifying Digital Space

Well, you all know the feeling when you search for a digital document, you look everywhere in your computer, and everything is such a mess you end up with frustration.

“I just had it somewhere” clogs your productivity in such a way that you cannot even start a task sometimes. And welcome procrastination.

It hit me that I hadn’t organized my digital space for a long time when I encountered this:

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It was filled with junk. I hadn’t pressed the delete button for a long long time. It was a stressful semester at work, I had changed jobs and keeping up wasn’t easy. So I had a lot of documents from my old job that I can toss and a lot from the new job to organize. Plus I’d watched a lot of series lately and all of them downloaded straight to the desktop. I had the idea of downloading everything to desktop because that way I could see it and say goodbye when needed. But not so much of that had happened in the last few months.

Before I started organizing and decluttering (well they go hand in hand) I also took a screen shot of my hard drive space.

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It turned out I freed up 17 GBs of unwanted- will-never-be-needed documents!

One big advice who wants to declutter their digital space, be it computer, tablet or phone, is that you should start doing it ASAP.

Starting is the biggest helper. If you have a lot of stuff to go through, you can chunk it.

The second big advice is that you shouldn’t leave any documents without a folder. Folder anything. Believe me, it helps a lot, because you know you folder everything, next time you download something recyclebin-worthy, you’re gonna know it and erase it soon.

Here was the order I followed:

First, Desktop. So many things on that desktop that I don’t need now. Films/videos watched and not going to be watched again, e-mail attachments I won’t need, downloaded pictures, edited/cropped pictures, unfoldered photos and so on.

I sent the ones I want to keep to their folders (and created folders when need be).

Then, Documents Folder. So many things here, I didn’t know what to do first. I had three separate folders for e-books, such as e-books, books, and pdfs. I decided to tackle this first and I created 1 e-books folder with the sub-folders “fiction” “non-fiction” (for self-help, cookbooks and science-related books, probably will revisit and reorganize this sub) and “English” (for reference and linguistic books and such). This was the most difficult thing to do. As Brian Tracy suggested, I “ate that frog”. The others unfolded very easily. I erased lots of stuff from my workplace, and foldered everything else, even if they have silly names like “needed” “unneeeded” “from husband’s PC” etc.

The third stop was the Pictures folder. Luckily, I had done some organization before, filing the photos by year every year, starting from 2012, when I bought this laptop. For the miscellanous pictures and artwork, I had a separate folder and I made other folders for the old photos and food photography.

On to the Music and Videos folders. I realised I don’t save MP3s anymore, rather I go on listen to things online. But my all-time favorites like Coldplay, Alanis Morissette, Pink Floyd and Chopin 🙂 deserve to stay there. I can always return to them without the help of the Internet. This was the time for me to see some songs/artists on my PC do not resonate with me anymore. So I fared well 🙂 Same thing true for the Videos folder, which I use to store movies. I said goodbye to those that I know I won’t watch again, ever. But some classics I like to watch over and over again, stayed with me.

Lastly I went to Program Files and uninstalled some programs I never use. This also frees up a lot of space.

Things I couldn’t let go: My game files of Sims 1, Sims 3, Diablo II and Diablo III. Yes, I love ancient video games (which are far more difficult than recent games) and although I haven’t played for over two months, I still feel an attachment to those. I know I am kind of addicted and recovering. Maybe one day I will give the idea up.

Lastly I ran CCleaner to clean up any leftovers.

My desktop afterwards:

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I chose a simpler wallpaper so it feels much lighter now. And another tip, if you’re a visual person, you can download icons for your folders and have fun with them. You can see my elephant and zebra there, which are soo cute, just my taste.

So that’s it. I hope this post encouraged you to organize some parts of your digital space for clarity and productivity. I am really relieved to free up my space by 17 GBs, it feels just as though you organized and cleaned your bedroom and will sleep in a clutter-free bedroom now.

If you want to read more about digital decluttering and why, there is a great article  on becomingminimalist.com, go and check it out.

Mini declutter Thursday.

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How one accumulates too much stuff is a curious thing.

Today I said goodbye to two tops as their sizes are too big for me to flatter my body.

I also tossed three empty boxes with weird shapes (why do I keep these anyway, just in case I need it, I say, and the whole house is filled with stuff). In the box on top, you also see pompoms that dropped off my slippers last winter, and wandering in the house ever since. Plus the extra fabric from my jeans’ cuffs.

The hardest ones to let go off were the brochures from my recent trip. Minimalists love to say “experience over things” but it is difficult sometimes. So while letting go of these brochures let me tell you their story:

On the beautiful small island, Cunda (in Turkey), an antique church and a 600-year old windmill were intricately restored, being faithful to their original state. The church was filled with an antique collection related to sailing (a very interesting diving suit), and the windmill was turned into a public library. The view from the windmill was amazing, you could see the Aegean sea at every angle. It was fantastic and unforgettable.

And while writing this, my mum was willing to get both of the tops, how nice!

Also, while writing this, a beautiful sunset is greeting me:

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Stay well, and don’t forget to take a look at your surroundings with a skeptic eye!

 

Slow down. Cut down.

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What do you do in a day?

I, for example, on a day I don’t go to work, cook, eat, drink coffee, if not enough tea. While trying to work on a fictional story, my mind says let’s go play this video game. Once in a while I get crafty and the whole house turns into a mess of yarn, fabric and needles. These are only the things I do on my own.

There is also spending time with my loved one, talking to family on the phone, and meeting and calling friends. Other than that, I also have these connections who I never need in my life but just can’t cut contact with.

The days I go to work are catastrophic. Before getting to school, the panic of planning the day, printing out stuff for students and arranging activities bite me up. And when I actually get to school, things to do in the breaktimes are neverending, and ten minutes a breaktime is never ever enough. Ugh, so much to do.

How can a normal person do all this stuff? What happens to their soul if they do all this? How does the body respond to all the chaos?

I have consciously committed to slowing down and do less just like I started to own less. And the first step was curing my addiction to video games (I’ll explain how in a later post). For nearly two months I haven’t played any video games. This is a big success for me as I have been playing video games for as long as 20 years. I think this addiction was my inability to handle the void. I’ve been learning how to handle the void, or emptiness, or doing nothing for these two months. I try to accept everything as they are. This is so powerful. If you can do nothing, you can do anything. Everything becomes so much easier. You can easily eliminate the physical and emotional excess in your life once you master doing nothing. It’s a kind of meditation actually.

Everything happens slowly, but all of a sudden. Everything is as they should be. Slowly, by little steps, but confidently. Being slow, living slowly, but never being lazy. That’s my purpose.

 

Be the Change you wish to see in the world.

I used to ponder upon these words from Mahatmi Gandhi, but didn’t find it very applicable. I was a vegetarian for four years, but even then I couldn’t truly see the meaning behind these inspiring words of Gandhi, who was also a vegetarian. Maybe because I didn’t believe in “change”, I couldn’t make the other people change.

But now I think with the help of my students I’m starting to grasp what he means.

Last year we were doing a text on shopaholism and a student of mine (aged 18) said how the notion of shopaholism fits him, how mindlessly he goes shopping  for clothes and how much he buys. He asked me if I was the same. And I told him I used to be like that but not anymore. For example I’d only bought one t-shirt that year. The class, usually on their mobiles, suddenly started to pay attention. The school that I worked for then was a prestigious private university, so the families of these students were quite wealthy, except the students on scholarship.

When they started to listen, I told them that I decided I only needed a pair of jeans and a pair of shoes for summer, then I did lots of research and bought Levi’s jeans for like 20 dollars (like 70% discount) and a pair of Toms for 50$ (20% discount). I bought less and I paid less. Although my choice of Levi’s and Toms might seem materialistic, in my old days, I would never be able to buy these brands as I shopped so mindlessly. Their prices were always too much for me. Now that I choose what I buy, not the shopping centers that I frequently visited, I had the time to research the prices and buy them for a reasonable price.

I must say that I do not find buying just two items per season limiting. It’s not like “I won’t buy anything for a year” kind of statement. It is knowing yourself and what you truly need. Levi’s and Toms were my items for last summer.

{This summer, on the other hand, I made more purchases. I had three pairs of jeans, two pairs of flare jeans and that pair of Levi’s (which is bootcut). Upon losing some weight I thought those flare jeans do not really flatter my body, and will get rid of at least one (still not sure about the second, but I will give myself the time to adjust from flare to fitting jeans) I bought two pairs of straight fitting jeans and two t-shirts (how many t-shirts I’ve said goodbye I don’t know, but at least 3). So I’m trying to maximise the empty space in my wardrobe while changing my style, which is perfectly okay.}

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Of course I couldn’t express my feelings as freely as I wrote them, but I managed to capture the attention of at least 1 or 2. For two minutes they were able to leave the smart phones and listened to me. Even that meant a lot to me. And it suddenly reminded me of dear Gandhi. I am (at least trying to be) the change I wish to see in the world.

When I first started teaching I got so frustrated at the system and the rules that I started to think I would never be the teacher I was trained for and I set out for. I was afraid that I was going to be “another brick on the wall”. I am slowly learning how to be myself. It is exhilarating.

Don’t fear the void. Love the void.

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(Monet, Water Lilies)

Doing nothing has an inexplicable impact. If you are doing it consciously, if you just resist the speed of life… If your mind is empty and clear… Wow. There is a big secret to doing nothing and we, as people who live in big cities and in the 21st century, have long forgotten about this secret. Animals remember it. Some enlightened people remember it. Some of us are trying consciously to remember, but sometimes the outer world is so noisy it gets hard to hear the inner scream.

In Zorba the Greek, Kazantzakis wrote that if you only focus on one thing, you could create miracles with that energy. Think about it, on an average day, thousands of thoughts come and go, in Turkish we have the saying “a thousand foxes wander in your mind, and not even one’s tail touches another’s.” If we only had one fox, imagine how big and powerful it would be.

Maybe all rituals, prayers, “aum”s have had this purpose. To focus on one, and to focus on none. To create miracles from that focus. To abandon the outer world, and to turn inward. In a way this is mental minimalism. To declutter your mind. To make room for nothing, to make room for void.

By not being afraid of the void, and loving it.

My Cosmetics Graveyard

For the last couple of years since starting my minimalism journey, I’ve come across many people who are interested in minimalism for different reasons, people trying to pay off their debt, shopaholics, people with children and overwhelmed with clutter, people with depression/anxiety disorder, or people like me who are messy and try to declutter their lives as well as their minds. The reason is different, but the result is all the same: A huge relief. The realization of what we purchase and why. That’s exactly the same with me as well.

Now that my husband and I got rid of over a hundred pieces of clothing, now that I’ve found my style, I can start to think of other areas in my life.

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Cosmetics graveyard.

This is what I’ve built in years. On a Saturday, I lay all my make-up, skin and nail products on my bed and stared them for a while. What a ridiculous pile! I hardly wear make-up to work except bb cream and eye-liner. But still, I managed to collect so much stuff. Some of them, I had a bunch, 3 eye-liner pencils, 3 tubes of face masks, 2 different bb creams, along with some cc creams! Lots of different acne treatment products, more than 20 nail polishes.

I realized I just liked the idea of owning these products. I had many acne treatment products, yet I don’t see any results simply because I don’t use them at all. Just owning made me satisfied. Just like the dresses I loved having but never wore. So this pile looked like a graveyard to me.

The first step was throwing away expired products and the ones I’ll never ever use, like the green eyeshadow. Then I made a list and saw that I had 66 pieces in total. When I calculated the total amount it was over 1000 turkish liras( something like 350 dollars). While complaining about debts, whining over absence of money when I longed for a vacation, I spent a good amount on things I never use! From these 66, I only used bb cream, eye-liner, mascara and perfume regularly. Just 5 items.

The problem was I couldn’t just say goodbye to things I paid so much for. I decided to use the ones I could, like masks and cleansing products daily. My skin in return thanked me for getting clearer everyday. It was obviously  a win-win situation. And I promised myself not to buy anything new until I’m done with what I have.

This experience has taught me that everything that is bought without consciousness is just a waste of time, money, and Earth’s resources. Credit card debts rise up and prevent people from reaching their dreams.

I am on a 3-week vacation right now, and I find that making stuff fit in a single suitcase is a good opportunity to review what you really love and need. This is all I’ve brought on vacation considering the cosmetics:

IMG_20160713_202919_editA cleanser, a sunscreen, a lipgloss, and perfume. I needn’t even have taken the eye-liner pencil and mascara with me, I’ve hardly used them. If you need this little even not on vacation, why keep countless items of cosmetics in your cabinet?

Everyone has a weak spot, I just happened to find mine is skincare products. My humble advice for you is to think about your weak spot when it comes to buying. Do you buy books that you’ll never need, for example? Maybe you should resist the urge to buy a new book until you read all your to-read list, or if the book doesn’t meet your expectations give it to someone who might like it. If you have too many decorations you can sell some on e-bay and get some extra cash. You can even give your unused cosmetics like tubed creams, toners and perfumes to friends who might appreciate them. Once the excess is gone, you will love what is left.

Living with Few(er) Clothes

Minimalism and simple living really excite me because I might be the most domestic person on earth and just like Franz Kafka saw his room as an extension of his body and would not move out if he had unlimited supply of food, I see my home as an extension of my existence.

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But being a messy person since my childhood (Mr. Messy Man will get my feelings), I’ve always found myself in the middle of a mess, no matter what I do. But finally I’ve realized, I don’t need any of the mess. If there wasn’t so much stuff around, why would mess happen? But is it easy to get rid of items you’ve been clinging to for all these years? Of course not.

Starting with clothes seemed like the appropriate idea and what Kondo suggested, too. And after a little research I’ve found out many movements that motivates you to declutter your closet. 10 item closet, project 333, capsule wardrobe are all very comprehensible and motivating, and seem to have a common purpose: To have a wardrobe that fits your style, and you can mix&match. To start the day without even asking yourself what to wear today. To realize what suits you best and don’t let the other clothes gather dust in your closet.

Crazy as it seems, many famous people actually do have a capsule wardrobe. When there is much to do, why would you spend money, and more importantly, time for choosing clothes? Einstein, for example, wore only a grey suit, while Obama doesn’t have suits other than in grey or blue. Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg are other popular examples. Okay, these are geniuses so they are not subject to the rules of the society, let’s say.

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What strikes me are the examples of Micheal Kors and Vera Wang, who are leading fashion designers, but have a very limited wardrobe (99.9% in black). They lead the fashion but not interested in it.

So, how to live with fewer clothes?

Step 1: Think about your style.

Unfortunately, more difficult for women simply because there are more alternatives.

But not that difficult.

Simply think about your lifestyle and what you wear most. Looking at your laundry bag might also help.

Don’t think about the image of yourself quite chic, revolving heads and alike. Think about your now. I, for example, really liked going to shops and try out dresses and buy them. I ended up with many dresses that I never wore. It wasn’t buying the dress that I did, it was buying the dream. And the dream stayed in my wardrobe so long that it became dusty and forgotten.

My everyday style consists of sneakers, a pair of jeans and a t-shirt/blouse. Even in winter  just add a cardigan. This is what I find most comfort in. Even if I plan to wear a dress or a skirt to work, I never find the motivation to iron the piece or find the matching (and not torn) stockings to go with it. What a torture! That’s why I really like the style of thetinytwig because this is just my style. An example:

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After finding your style:

Step 2. Discard everything unnecessary and you don’t like.

As painful as it sounds, believe me it gets very enjoyable after a certain point. You will like to get smaller and smaller every passing day.

What you need to do first is walk around the house, gather every wearable item and put them on your bed and/or carpet. Even when I was taking some clothes from the closet, I knew they were going. They were so desperate. Anyway, I came up with a few simple criteria:

i. Every item that doesn’t fit me GOES. No item will wait for me to gain or lose weight.

ii. Every item that is beyond repair also GOES. Even if it has sentimental value. No exceptions.

iii.  Every item that doesn’t fit my current style GOES, too. When I started to work I had to wear formal pants and jackets but now I don’t have to. I could if I wanted, but I never really feel like wearing formal clothes. So why keep them? Those formal clothes are very bulky, too. They take up a lot of your wardrobe space.

Kondo suggests going over your clothes all at once, but I managed to cover my whole wardrobe in a matter of two months. The reason it took so long was I wasn’t sure about some items in my third criteria and I clung to them. At the end I saw that they were no use to me, I didn’t love them at all and I got rid of them. Yet some items were ridiculously easy, and I wondered why the hell I carried them for all these years that I moved from city to city.

At the end I guess I got rid of 100+ items of clothing. This was over a year ago and I never missed them. The ones that were beyond repair became rags. Some good ones (or so I thought) I took some twenty of them to my sister, who was also amazed how I kept moving these clothes that I never loved for all these years. My shopping guru sister took only 2 or 3 pieces I guess.  I donated the others that are in good condition to a local charity.

Now that we are left with only clothes we love,

Step 3. Have an organized wardrobe.

Marie Kondo just rocks here as well. She explains so vividly and functionally how a wardrobe should be organized. She basically suggests folding everything that can be folded and hang the others so they rise from left to right:

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Last but not least,

Step 4. Shop less and shop mindfully and intentionally

 

This has to be a life style. I used to be an impulsive shopper, going to the shops, trying out the first thing I like and buying it. No more.

I learnt a lot about this from my husband and mother-in-law. She just says, for example, I am going to buy a trench coat. She decides on the model, and goes to the shops with that in mind. I used to go shopping for a trench coat and come back with a pair of shoes, a pair of jeans and a jacket, saying “I couldn’t find a trench coat again”.

Now I’ve learnt to set up some objectives at the beginning of a season. If I need sandals, let’s say, I only go to places where I might find it. So I spend less time in shopping centers and less money as well.

To conclude, I feel a great relief after saying goodbye to more than half of my clothes (I haven’t missed a single piece for over a year). I don’t have to have a seasonal wardrobe, I can see all my clothes once I open my closet. My end objective is to live with 20-30 items that I LOVE, never experience “don’t know what to wear” feeling again and use the remaining time and energy to what really matters to me.

Minimalism and Simple Living

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As a person who keeps making a mess at home, I got pretty excited while reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo a year and a half ago. I wondered “Will I ever be this tidy?” Minimalism? I’d never thought of it before I read this book. Actually, the book doesn’t entirely suggest minimalism, it tells the reader to only keep what sparks joy. Get rid of the others, you don’t need them. Hold each item and say “Does this spark joy?”

 

As crazy as it sounds, it got me thinking. My husband and I, we love keeping small things. All around the house, we have music boxes, glass figures, toys, animal figures, snow globes, you name it. Do they really speak to our heart? Or are they just gathering dust? As I was asking these questions to myself, I started researching people who also read the book. It turned out most of them were minimalists! People with ten-item wardrobes, backpackers with 100 items total, people living in small cabins and so on.

 

Just the thought of a simple living such as this sounds beautiful to me. Less stuff, less responsibility, a peaceful life. Kondo says you have to do it all at once, it may take 6 months, it may take years, but do it all at once. The important things are intention and action. I can say I’ve started taking action 1.5 years ago and I’ve made great progress regarding clothes. About the others I’m slowly thriving and learning. The best thing is that I’ve learnt how to shop for quality and longevity in products.

 

This is soo important in kitchen as well because kitchen is where I breathe. If it is cluttered (like my mom’s or mother-in-law’s) it keeps bugging you. It takes away your joy of cooking. That’s why while we were decorating our home I didn’t want any extra dishes just for the guests. This is like a priority for Turkish homes and I am probably condemned by the elders 😀 My daily dishes are simple and all white. I don’t have countless pans, I only have one for each size. I only have one tablecloth, why more? Even that may be too much if you ask me, I may declutter further in the future.

I believe if one documents their journey, they will be more motivated to move forward and as more people tag along, they will be bolder to dive deeper. So this is my motive to start this journal.