By nature, I am an indecisive person.
So, for many years, to remedy this, I’d either indirectly get people to make decisions for me (and eventually end up resenting them), or, I wouldn’t make a decision at all (not making a choice, is still a choice).
It’s any wonder that I woke up one morning and realised that my life didn’t quite look the way I wanted it to.
So when I finally took the decision to start taking responsibility for my life, I had to find a way to do so in a consistent, and ideally effortless, manner. The trick, I was told, was to look to my values – and the one that came out most notably for me was minimalism.
When I first moved to Kenya, minimalism was completely at odds with how things appeared to be done here. You’d buy 5 bottles of ketchup, when just one would do, because you didn’t know when you’d next see the stuff again. This exercise in hoarding made me massively uncomfortable but, like many of the things in my life at the time, I went with it. It was just ketchup, right?
No. It was about compromising one of my most deeply held values, and if I was doing it with ketchup, what else was I compromising on?
How you do anything, is how you do everything.
The definition of compromise is “a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions”. But I feel like I need to add to that. I believe that a compromise can only be called as such if it doesn’t feel like betrayal of yourself, your core values, and of your soul.
So given that I’m a minimalist, what does that mean? Well, for one (and most obviously), not having a lot of stuff. It also means that everything I do own, either serves a purpose (think washing machine) or brings me tremendous joy (my recently-acquired wind chime, made of recycled glass).
For me, minimalism can be likened sometimes to the fullness of nothing. It reminds of a certain type of Japanese art where it’s the spaces in between the objects, that brings beauty to the form. It also reminds me of something Coco Chanel once said about accessorising: how you should always take off the last item that you adorned yourself with. Quite simply, less is always more.
And as my minimalism proudly strutted its stuff, I suddenly became aware of other key values of mine, and felt able to express them. To make a conscious choice to be more compassionate or forgiving, to decide not to tell white lies, to make an intention to always do the right thing.
All because I didn’t want to buy more ketchup.
Sometimes it’s amazing where we find our lessons.