What holidays teach us about minimalism

I cannot get the idea of “minimalism” out of my mind and it’s certainly become one of my top goals for 2019. I don’t know how far the journey will take me and I also know, just by looking around me, that I’m still just at the very start, but I’m excited to continue to evaluate why I’m keeping hold of my possessions and create a home environment that makes me feel calm, happy and joyful. Back in November, I de-cluttered more than 400 things from our home (blog to follow…at some point) and I’ve since stumbled across blogs and Instagram accounts that as well as looking pretty, clearly demonstrate how owning less can benefit so many aspects of our lives.

Since the beginning of January, we have been in Israel and are living here for a month, a half holiday, half short term re-location of sorts. We deliberately tried to pack lightly (tricky with a toddler and a baby) because I was determined to see how we would a) manage with minimal belongings for a month and b) what impact it would have on us as a family.

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The thing is I think most of us already know, deep down, that it’s not things that make us happy but the things we do. If I think back to the times in my life where I’ve felt the most free, the most alive and the least stressed, it would almost certainly be the times where I’ve had minimal belongings. I’ve been privileged enough to have done a fair bit of backpacking (oh those days before children) and living out of a rucksack and simply not being able to have too much always made for the very best experiences.

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So what have I learnt about minimalism during a months stay in Israel? Let me tell you.

  • Holidays make us happy: if we are happiest on holiday, doing more and having less, surely this is a lesson for our everyday life too? When we go on holiday, whether for a week, two or four, we take our necessary belongings in our suitcase. We pack for certain eventualities, especially with children, but for the most part, we pack our favourite things, the ones we know we love and want to wear and even then, there’s always items that come home unworn because they were “just in case” after all.
  • We don’t miss our things:  We don’t miss the things in our homes whilst we’re away but we may miss our home itself. Maybe I miss my house plant babies but otherwise I don’t miss my things and even if I try to think about what I miss, nothing particularly springs to mind. I haven’t needed anything whilst away that I’ve kept back home. So if we can live on our holidays with a minimal number of belongings and focus on memories, experiences and so on, why not do that at home, all the time?
  • There is always a to-do list: whether at home or away, there is always going to be laundry to do, toys to tidy away, dishes to wash and floors to sweep and children to look after and that doesn’t change. We’ve muttered the words, “we have a lot of clearing up to do,” or, “there’s still washing in the machine,” so many times this trip because let’s face it, kids make mess (whether they mean to or not) and time for tidying is always in short supply, especially when you’d rather be hanging out at the beach! However, what is easier is the feeling that our limited belongings take less time to wash, clean and tidy. There isn’t an excess of stuff to worry about and that is certainly quite freeing.
  • Changing habits takes work: Having less stuff has highlighted something important to me about myself and that is that I am the one who also needs to make a change to my own habits. Even here, whilst living with less and knowing all the benefits, it’s still me whose clothes don’t get put away at the end of the day or who struggles to actively tidy up, notice what needs done and prioritise those tasks over other things. I’m certainly not aiming for perfection but aiming for self-improvement is always a good thing. Changing my habits may need to co-exist with the minimalism goal for me to really notice a difference!
  • Jasmine is calmer (in some ways): I’m not pretending for a second that holidays with minimal things are a miracle cure for toddler tantrums but it has been interesting to see Jasmine in an environment of less. For one thing, she chooses to wear the same dresses everyday, whether she has 3 or 10 to choose from, she’ll wear the same ones, without a care in the world. She chooses the same books most nights too (we packed about 8) and never asks for ones we don’t have with us. Out of sight, out of mind. She is playing more mindfully with the toys we have here, although in all fairness, most of our time in Israel is spent outside which does make it much much easier. I’ve been more able to tune into her needs, her joys and her preferences. We’ve spent hours just dancing to music or watching the world go by from the balcony – no stuff  – but more on this another time!
  • Marie Kondo is an actual genius: Really. If you haven’t read her books or watched the Netflix show, I highly recommend them (the books more than the series). If we keep things in our lives that “spark joy” and make us happy, we can feel satisfied with owning less. I have had a few moments of wishing I had some different clothes with me, having recycled the same outfits day in and day out. Most of these clothes make me happy but are also breastfeeding friendly and therefore, currently, necessary. I have created a small wish-list of joy sparking items I’d like to look for when we get home, but otherwise, it’s all I’ve needed.
  • Home is where the heart is: this trip has been about making memories, seeing family and experiencing a culture we know we love so much about. We’ve lived in a flat where nothing belongs to us, yet it has felt like home. We’ve not bought items we haven’t needed but have instead borrowed toys from family or just made do with less and in all honesty, it’s been magical.

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So, here’s to 2019 (again), to continuing to de-clutter, transforming our home, living with less and doing more and living each day as if we were on holiday.

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