10 Ways to Ease into Minimalism with a Journal and Camera
I recently came across “10 Ways to Ease Depression with Only Your Pen” at The Gift of Writing. The title intrigued me because it combined two important subjects in my life – writing and depression – in a way that I never quite considered before. Could a journal really ease depression? Even for non-writers?
I believe in the power of pen and paper, and keyboards and screens. In my experience, writing in a journal transcribes the truth of my heart into words that make sense. I can’t always understand what my emotions are telling me and like a seed sprouting in the moist Spring soil, writing breaks through the dirt and weeds and shares with me a gift.
“I’m not going to tell you depression can be cured with writing. I don’t believe there is just one cure—it’s a complex illness with different answers for everyone. But I can tell you that writing is a tool. It’s something that will help you stop running, if only for a little while.” Claire de Boer
A journal isn’t the cure but a tool.
As a farmer plants his seeds in the fertile soil he first must dig the hole which provides shelter from exposure and hungry birds and pesky animals. Writing is the tool which we can dig into our troubles, struggles, desires, and unrest.
So, I started thinking about how this article could be applied to my current journey in life – a wife and mom seeking intentional living and simplicity and hoping to share the message through writing. I realized that perhaps a journal could be the tool I need to battle against cultural messages of what a women should look like – how to parent, what kind of house/car/clothes I should own, what I watch and/or read, and what kind of coffee to drink. Real life is hard out there; could writing draw my focus back on what I truly desire – complete joy and freedom from excess, comparison, and busyness?
I think so. In fact, I think it already has. Inspired by the list in the article, I am sharing my own list of ten ways to ease into minimalism with a journal, a pen, and an optional camera. So, put on your gardening gloves because it’s time to start digging to plant honest and radical transformation.
1. Take a few moments to write down why you desire a simple life. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of things in your home? Have you over-committed yourself or family? Do you feel anxious, envious, or jealous of your neighbors or friends? Remember, this excavation of the true feelings you carry is completely confidential (unless you wish to share with a spouse or close friend who understands you). This is an exercise of being completely honest with yourself about your struggle with overwhelm and what you feel needs to change. Finding your why is the fertilizer which keep your seeds growing.
2. Write down what items or activities matter most. What brings the most value to your life? After considering your ‘why’ in the previous exercise, to consider the most important people, activities, and things in your life can motivate you to keep pursuing simplicity when it gets hard. Write down what brings you the most joy, the deepest love, and greatest sense of contentment with who you are. These are what you get to savor throughout this process.
3.Write about the items that can be easily discarded. I’ve had people tell me that they would love to simplify or live a minimalist lifestyle yet they just don’t know where to start. I tell them to start with the stuff they already don’t like or are sick of looking at. I can think of several items that I’ve had stored away (or even sitting in plain view) that I don’t like and haven’t de-owned yet. Write down the items that come to mind first and describe what has been keeping you from letting go. This can be done for appointments and commitments too. It may be as simple as laziness or as complicated as fear. Dig it up, get dirty.
4. Take more time now and consider the items that hold deeper roots and are more difficult to remove. Not everything that is excess in our lives is junk and disposable. We all have excess of sentimental items that hold our space and attention captive but still hold significant meaning. Or large purchases that the investment alone ties us down with regret. Maybe there is a relationship that is destructive and unhealthy that needs to be severed (or repaired). The purpose is to write it out, not take any action at this point. Just practice complete transparency with yourself through your tools. We are digging deep now.
5. Grab your camera for this one. Take pictures of the items with the most sentimental significance. The items you wrote about in number 4, document them with a digital tool. I read this interesting article from The Minimalists on how to part with our sentimental belongings but still hold on to the memories. Memories are wonderful because they live within our souls, not the boxes or item itself. Capturing a digital photo, stored on our computer or flash drive, our sentiments become an image we can revisit without the clutter.
“I realized my retention efforts were futile: I could hold on to her memories without her stuff, just as she had always remembered me, my childhood, and all our memories without ever accessing those sealed boxes under her bed. “ Joshua Fields Millburn
6. Getting back to your journal, write down the possible benefits of letting go. What freedom can you gain? Time? Space? Emotional stability? Finances? What is waiting for you on the other side?
7. Close your eyes and imagine your ideal simplified life. There are no hard and fast rules about living simply, only that you simply live what works for you. Minimalism looks different for everyone. So visualize what your life looks like after all the emotional burdens are gone, time constraints, and weekend garage organizations are a thing of the past. What do the rooms look like, your heart? Write about it in detail.
8. Write down three actionable steps to make that vision possible. Don’t strain yourself here; this is a warm up to the marathon ahead. Maybe it’s the kitchen counters that need decluttering, or the kids toy closet. Maybe your favorite place to relax or create needs some work. I recently did this with my writing desk. It’s my favorite space in the house and it’s where I spend a lot of time creating. Sitting at that ideal minimalist desk makes me desire that for my whole house and life. Life feels manageable there. Think of this as watering the seeds you’ve been working so hard to plant.
9. Make a plan. Now that you know the WHY (#1 and 2), WHAT (#3 and 4), and the HOW (#8) it’s time to write down the WHEN. Give yourself enough time, but not too much time. You want to capitalize on the momentum you’ve built up in your journaling and if you hold off too long your seeds will get dry and die. But I encourage you to be true to yourself. You know how you handle change best. If one fell-swoop of removing everything without too much thinking is the only way it will happen, great. If you need to spread it out and meticulously box each item for Good Will, awesome. Either way or anything in between, there is no wrong way. The only rule is to be mindful and purposeful about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. Map out your plan in your journal.
10. Be kind to yourself. Write a letter to yourself as if you were writing to a friend who is struggling and in need of encouragement. Tell yourself all the good things about who you are, all the qualities that make you unique. I had a friend send me a card for my birthday a few months ago which said I was a rare bird. Oh how I treasure that card. It’s framed and hangs on the wall above my writing desk. Tell yourself you’re a rare bird – perfect and complete just as you are in all your genuine and God-given gifts. Tell yourself you are not the sum of your possessions or mistakes. Offer grace and receive it.
Writing can ease many difficulties and celebrate many victories. I’m interested in hearing what your thoughts are about writing to ease into minimalism! How can a journal and camera help you simplify your life? Let me know if the comments.