the selfish minimalist

I have been missing in action for the last couple of weeks because I managed to fall off the minimalist band wagon….
I became a victim of the common misconception that minimalism is all about the stuff and the money. So having sorted out the stuff and finally being debt free, I was running high on life and felt like I could take on anything. In the process, I managed to completely over-commit myself and slowly descended into a ‘sleep deprived-low energy-high alcohol-no exercise’ SWAMP, where I didn’t spend enough time on myself and spent way too much time doing not a whole lot. As those things tend to happen.. your body goes into revolt mode and she made it very clear to me through blotchy skin and a pesky lingering cold.

So this made me, not so much realise, but remember that minimalism is actually quite a selfish affair and not necessarily in a bad way. A big part of being a minimalist is finding time to look after and listen to your body without thoughtlessly pushing it beyond its capabilities. It is about spending time with yourself and with other people intentionally and not just because it’s summer and it’s too hot to be inside and any excuse to wonder down to the pub will do.

At the end of the day it is all like a giant Lego of life (so corny I know…) – putting one block on top of each other and hoping it fits and hoping that you build something meaningful in the process…and if it doesn’t quite fit than there is no point in trying to force it. I am now trying to spend as much time as possible regaining some sort of balance between an overblown social life, work commitments and my well-being.

I guess the most important thing here is – we all wobble at times and if you have a wobble or even a tumble and like me fall of the wagon… you don’t throw in the towel because you stuffed up.. you try to make it better and get back to what feels good.


Bye-bye Annie!

Today was a special day for me… I bought shares for the first time in my life. Probably seems like something so insignificant to a lot of people (particularly those who are holding their financial situation by the balls already) but to me this is a major shift.

For the first time I am not using all my spare money to pay off a credit card (or some other debt), for the first time I’m not following the urge to simply buy something (“anything! Think about all the niiiiice things you could buy with that!” – that’s my inner voice).
For the first time in my life – largely after listening to hours and hours of The Minimalist podcasts, I feel like there is a different way of doing things.

Overwhelm steps in briefly… and I feel the anxiety around navigating the issue… “how do I trade? Surely there is a minimum? How do I know what to buy? is this all too much?!”
I push on and decide to start by simply.. you know…asking those around me. Lately, I have lost the guilt of my financial immaturity. If the conversation is going that way then I will openly tell you that I’m a financial trainwreck but in recovery… I’ll tell you that I’ve considered joining the S.A. Programme (shopaholics anonymous… and no this is not a joke and neither am I trying to be funny… SA actually exists as an organisation).

So since I now feel a bit more comfortable with not being an overachiever at life… I ask the girl at work if she has any shares. Turns out investing in shares and indices is literally as easy as downloading an app. It took me 15 minutes to set it up and within the next hour a nice lady called me to inform that I’m now proudly entitled to an account manager… I ask her a million questions and just like that I own a few shares.

It’s not a lot but it’s a start.. and I’m getting my lazy ass used to the idea of financial intelligence. I also invested in ” share trading for dummies” – and following the advice in the book went and researched a bunch of companies.

To start with I went with not a huge amount of money and invested in something that I would be prepared to hold for a few years or more. I also decided to invest an amount that I would be comfortable to lose… although that’s obviously not the intention and I’m not taking on unnecessary risk.

I must admit – this whole process was almost therapeutic… it made me feel like I was a grown up (something I had resisted for oh so long! and ironically am now striving for) and also that I was finally moving in the general direction of having my sh*t together…

It reminded me of when The Bridesmaids movie first came out… everyone was raving about how funny it was… But when I watched it – I wanted to cry… everything about Annie Walker (Kristen Wiig) resonated with me.. her desperation, her jealousy, her sense of isolation and the fake sense of “choice” felt oh so realistic to me. That’s basically what my life felt like… Scrambling around with money, feeling left behind, dating “dead-end” guys and not having a purpose. I honestly could not see anything humorous in that movie. (Except for the pooping scene… the pooping scene was funny..)

Looking back at it now, I wonder why the hell it then took me another five years to actually sort my life out… and more importantly… how did that not even give me a kick up the ass immediately (oh no! I would be lying if I said the travesty of that movie made me change my ways…)

Today I finally feel that overwhelming sense of freedom… financial freedom..
I still have a long way to go. But I’m working my butt off to stay on track.
I really do feel like something is finally shifting in that dumb little head of mine and I am managing to change not just my behaviour but general my perception of life….I mean it probably also helps that it’s summer and life generally feels better in summer but nonetheless for the first time in a while I’m feeling really hopeful and it’s an amazing feeling!


relationship consumerism

A couple of weeks ago I was catching up with a bunch of friends who I don’t see very often anymore (because I have moved further out of town and partly because my immediate friendship circle somewhat evolved over time).
It was surprising to find out that actually in the last two or so years that I have been out of the picture not a lot has changed..

As the afternoon morphed into the evening and a few glasses of wine became a few bottles a familiar state of affairs was reinstated. Girls were complaining about the lack of ‘good men’, sharing war stories from the world of dating apps.
The boys, on the other hand, were still chasing girls.. except it would appear that whilst the boys were getting older, the average age of the girls they were chasing remained the same.
Every now and again someone would bring up the lonely pizza Sundays or praise the inventor of ‘Netflix and chill’.

The way I see the situation is as follows.. A group of boys, overachievers in most parts of their life are trying hard to ‘overachieve’ with the girls by pulling the hottest, the tallest and best looking…
The girls who are all very intelligent, good looking and are probably also overachievers are stuck on a merry-go-around of bad dates because “all the good ones are taken”..

It made me wonder why these 30-something, smart, successful, accomplished people in every other part of their life, were struggling accomplish themselves in the love department.

Perhaps this is by choice, perhaps some of them enjoy being single and enjoy the chase?! Perhaps…but I honestly think it is a little more complex than that…

Through my non-scientific, non-research, purely matter-of-opinion method, I concluded that these 30-something folk were, in fact, victims of “relationship consumerism”.

As the material possessions are viewed to be defining factors of our social status and a measure of success and accomplishment, so too, increasingly, are our romantic relationships. As we use our material possessions to pacify and distract ourselves from dealing with our deeper insecurities, so too, do our relationships become a tool for ongoing pacification. A band-aid for our insecurities.

In our twenties we simply fell in our thirties, falling in love seems to come wrapped in many socio-economic layers, perceptions and impositions.

In our thirties we, both men and women alike, become more pre-occupied with the “checklist” for our prospective partners.

These checklists are varied in length and complexity and represent, what we believe to be, our perfect partner.

Millennials (and those who just scrape through the definition) are constantly looking for the next thing – the next education, the next acronym to their name, the next bonus, the next car, the next holiday…. and of course the next girlfriend/boyfriend. And all of these have to fall within the scope of our perceived life order, the perfect life that we are trying to create and that we work so hard for throughout our lives.

We are ever-consumed by self-improvement… (or perhaps creating the perfect life narrative?!) …getting a yoga teacher license (although I will never teach a day of yoga but you know… it’s totally my plan B in life), getting an MBA, looking for spiritual self (through the hottest guru in town…obvs), detoxifying (through the most over-priced, most instagrammable organic juice bar) etc etc etc. Your partner becomes an extension of self… because “I didn’t work hard to get myself to where I am just to date someone with no goals or a six pack”….

Whatever happened to good ol’ opposites attract?! Ultimately, I think the root cause is three-fold… and I haven’t quite figured out which one is more accurate. Either we are so filled with insecurity (often self-inflicted) that we are trying to compensate through our partner; or we mistakenly believe that the checklist will land us with someone whose values and beliefs are aligned with ours; or we have become so consumeristic in our attitude to life that we are never content and “what if something better is on offer”?!

As a guy, if you upgrade your job, your income, your car, your watch… does it mean you have to upgrade your girlfriend?? Or if you just so happen to be single whilst all this upgrading is happening, are you meant to be looking for a different ‘standard’ of girl who will better represent your social status?!

I feel like we spend so much time looking for the next best thing that in the process we forget what we were looking for… in fact, we forget that ‘what’ we are looking for is not ‘what’ at all but rather is a ‘who’….

I had a list… it was extensive, unrealistic and uncompromising.. Eventually, I realised that certain qualities simply cannot coexist in the same person… or at least cannot exist in equal parts.

I really hate the saying of “you can’t have it all”… I think you can have it all.. if you prioritise what is important.. if you figure out what IT is…above and beyond everything else… If it is money you want in a partner acknowledge that as a priority. If it is the looks you are after then look for someone good looking. If it is intellect, humour, kindness, generosity, respect then look for that one thing, the most important thing.

I’m not saying unicorns don’t exist… but you may agree that not everyone is lucky enough to meet one. And perhaps to meet a unicorn one has to be a unicorn…

I wish we would get real, stop chasing the partners who look good on Instagram and give the people who make us feel good a proper chance. I wish we would give ourselves a chance to fall in love or at least into friendship..rather than rushing towards the next fling, leaving perfectly lovely individuals to bite the dust, without any attempt to really get to know them.

I think technolisation of the dating world has done a lot of good for many people out there. But as with anything good – we will always find a way to overindulge, overdo, overplay and bring it down to the gutter…

Not for everyone…

I don’t think minimalism is for everyone… I honestly believe that there are some people who are perfectly happy and content with their lives, their stuff and their choices. I don’t think they need minimalism. Why minimalism clicked with me is because by the time I discovered it, I had already been desperately looking for SOMETHING. I already knew things had to change, I wanted to change them, I was discontent… and minimalism simply provided a suitable framework that made sense to me.

I think people (or maybe it’s just me) tend to be so self centered that they often think they are the only ones going through a particular emotion or emotional state. So when you discover other people who are in the same state, you have this great relief of “I’m not the only weirdo out there” and just like that you belong again. I think belonging is important… as soon as you can no longer identify with a particular tribe, you feel misplaced and discontent because you are different… only the very strong and the brave can revel in their “differentness”… Sadly I’m not one of those people…

So when I listen to the podcast, read the book, hear a question – it gives me comfort. Comfort in the knowledge that other people feel the same way, have the same insecurities and challenges. Stories of people, like Josh and Ryan, who have managed to figure out a coping mechanism give you comfort and hope that perhaps, one day, you too will get your sh*t together.