minimalism, sustainability, mindfulness

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Our garden as it started.

When we moved into our new house, our ‘garden’ was a bare patch of earth that had been loosely tilled into fist-sized clods of soil. The garden, as with most new-build properties, is tiny. It’s about 10 metres by 8 metres in size. I was not an avid gardener until I moved here, but I’ve found a talent for helping things to grow that I never knew I had. When people asked me about plants before I would tell them I had a black thumb and would kill every indoor plant I touched.

Since then I’ve been giving out plants as presents to people, partly because I don’t have the room in my home, and partly because I’m helping people to clean the air in their homes and create the same sense of calm and wellness they give to me daily.

So if there was any one meaningful thing I could tell someone to do today, it would be to go and plant a tree. Why you ask? Well here are a couple of amazing facts about trees:

The same garden 14 weeks later.

I’ve planted several trees in my garden since moving in several months ago. Alas when taking into account their final size in 10+ years time I can’t fit any more of them without stunting their growth. Just remember that a tree needn’t cost you anything to grow. Some of my trees are from the pips of an apple I planted in a pot instead of throwing into the food waste bin. The little seedings are now doing their bit to help sequester carbon. If you have limited space you can grow them in pots too. IF they become too large, simply replace them with another tree and mulch the existing one back into the ground to keep that carbon locked away. Don’t burn them!

Such immense satisfaction can come from watching something grow that you planted and nurtured yourself. A sense of meaning and purpose to your life as you do something small every day to reverse the negative impact the media keeps telling us we are having on our environment. Their negativity and pessimism is contagious, and it often left me feeling that I was powerless to make a change. The real change comes from within each of us, when we choose to ignore the media and try anyway. After all, isn’t it the struggle that counts?

Just remember that planting a garden does create an obligation to keep those plants alive, so it tethers you and removes some of your freedom. If it’s something you enjoy, it might feel freeing, but if it doesn’t, then it will seem like a chore. Try it and see for yourself. On that note, if you’d like to find out more about the concept of freedom in the context of minimalism, I suggest reading Everything That Remains: A Memoir by The Minimalists.

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I'm not the best when it comes to avoiding distractions. Before I decided to become a minimalist, I would always try to find more ways, gadgets or apps to help me to focus. That is where I found a trap in human thinking seems to exist. It's tempting to feel that something more needs to be done to solve a problem, rather than merely letting it be. Purchasing an organiser or time management app on a smartphone comes with the promise of helping by offering a way to remember things for us, but with a price tag that ultimately means you need to work harder to earn more to pay for that purchase. Locked into this maximal stupor as I call it, I'd never considered the word reduce in 'reducing distractions'. You can't do less by adding to the complexity of your life by owning more and more things (even software), with greater and greater financial responsibilities.

Since then I've learned that the trick is to put things away, or better yet rid yourself of them! Change that impulse to buy into an impulse to do. That is one aspect of, but not all there is, to living life as a minimalist. Lowering financial commitments by way of a smaller list of tasks to do during the day helps with feeling overwhelmed by life, particularly if they are tedious or meaningless to you. Living an intentional, meaningful life is the key to happiness, not the accumulation of things. That long list of tasks is only going to make those interesting diversions in the form of acquiring stuff more appealing! It becomes an endless negative cycle if we're not careful. Why not turn it on it's head? Make it a positive cycle of regularly weeding out the unnecessary extras in life instead.

It sounds simple doesn't it? Unfortunately it goes against the institution of capitalism, which dictates we should all compete for money and resources until its ultimate end. And it can only end one way, where someone wins and owns everything, the ultimate winner of life who has everything they could ever want and more. But will that make them happy? Money can't buy a sense of friendship and belonging, which I find all my stuff and ultimately my life is completely meaningless without.

That is one of my main reasons for creating mnml. A way to focus the thoughts I already have into something more productive than keeping them to myself, especially when they may benefit others. From this point onward I'll be offering them on subjects related to minimalism in my capacity as a writer. You're quite welcome to read them! This is partly therapy for me, and perhaps it will also help you too.

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