Isn’t this year just flying by and going snail slow all at the same time? I can’t believe it’s August and there is still so much uncertainty. Here in Melbourne we’ve just entered a stage 4 lockdown amid COVID-19 numbers spiralling. Well, I thought I’d break from the norm and, in keeping with my silver linings optimism, focus on something a little different this month: Intentionalism. Similar to minimalism, the journey a person takes typically starts with decluttering then going into minimalism, and then reaching intentionalism. That’s how I see it anyway. And each week this month, we will delve a little bit into the benefits of a life lived intentionally. This week, we’ll look at the journey and what it all looks like, so that the next posts featuring the benefits make a little more sense. Enjoy.
Let’s think about the process and journey it takes to become an intentionalist. Decluttering isn’t actually the beginning, is it? First a hoarder, or an unorganised or very busy person, or a person with some sort of emotional or mental struggle (short or long term), accumulates stuff. Because you don’t declutter a lot unless you have accumulated a lot. So, let’s say that’s most of us. Most of us at some point can’t keep on top of our things and/or our lives, and wind up accumulating. So there comes a next stage inevitably where it all catches up with us. You get busier, more distracted, the stuff piles higher, the bills add up, the drawers and cupboards stop closing and the floors are littered and you say enough! That’s when you start prioritising decluttering. Now, the Minimalists talk about their decluttering story a little too matter-of-factly for me. Whether they loaded a U-Haul or boxed it up, both men decluttered their stuff in a matter of weeks. I’ve been going 13 years now and although I have had a lot of interruptions living overseas, I do think most people vary between some sort of nipping away, month after month medium term, and the constant struggle, long-term type of effort.
Sooner or later, though, a decluttering person starts to see trees instead of forests. A light at the end of the tunnel. Drawers close, bills are paid as they come, and you start to spend less time cleaning and organising, and more time becomes expendable, free, to do what you like. In general, life feels less overwhelming. That’s when a person might think of themselves as a minimalist. You don’t automatically become one, rather it becomes a lifestyle choice, a mindset. You see so much benefit from reducing your stuff, from becoming organised, on top of things, that you choose not to go back to your old ways. You choose not to buy more things. You learn to throw out outdated paperwork, magazines, and stained or ill-fitting clothes, either into the trash or recycling bins, or into a donation box. You start to regularly go through kids toys and clothes to keep it strictly to what’s current and what they might grow into. You might even see your house is too big without the extra stuff and choose to downsize. Either way, you don’t need to clean as much anymore because there is less to clean. On top of all this winning-at-life type of freedom, you notice you have extra money, extra time free to do stuff you didn’t normally before. That’s minimalism.
What takes a person to the next step, in my opinion, is taking that lifestyle choice and then living life all the time in that freedom. Living a life of intentionalism. Minimalism is sort of a halfway point, much more to do with having less and being free of things, debts, unwelcome feelings of overwhelm and mental clutter. Intentionalism is less about the things and more about the mindset and the choice of what to do about the freedom. For example, minimalism will help you become free of debt, but living a life in the black is intentional. Choosing not to buy a brand-new car, or flashy clothes or luxury holidays that go on a credit card or loan. Intentionalism is choosing to spend that free time with family and friends, on self-care, and community service. Intentionalism is about doing things that have personal meaning. So that if you take stock of your choices and the life you’ve built around you, you feel happy with those choices, that you’re on the right track, and have some sort of good balance.
Now, life is an evolution isn’t it, a journey in itself, so there’s a bit of up and down and variation. Me, I’m generally happy with the choices I make and how I live life intentionally, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still grappling with my choices in the past and decluttering those, and struggling in the time of COVID with life going haywire across the world and in my city. But I certainly feel an awful lot of gratitude that the choices I have made in the past have put me in a relatively good position to see this through. Every day I feel grateful for my warm, cosy home, for a government providing me with welfare benefits to shelter and feed myself, for a good transport system to take me to work, for people who need and value my experience that fulfil me in my work. I feel grateful for my community of friends and family who regularly call and check on me, and have a listening ear when I need it. Noticing and feeling that gratitude is part of intentionalism. The mind is a powerful thing, and certainly in these uncertain times, it’s down to our choices and our mindsets to get us through. I hope this month I can show you the benefits of finding positivity and inviting yourself to live an intentional life.