A Day in the Life of a Minimalist

Alone in the City

So what is a minimalist life like? Is it any different from the life of one who is not? I guess the answer is yes and no. Being a minimalist does not exempt one from the ups and downs of daily life. What minimalism does is provide us with a set of beliefs, values and habits to facilitate more intentional living and make more conscious decisions- with the aim of making our lives happier, more fulfilling and even extraordinary, in one way or more.

Ever since I left my corporate job and started working on my own businesses, I have no longer had a routine that I abide to. What I have instead are rituals and habits to anchor my day and I leave the rest to be shaped by inspiration, priorities and serendipity.

I will use last Wednesday as an example.

Though I tend to be a night owl, I have experienced the benefits of waking up bright and early. It makes my day stretch out much longer and I feel as if my day has been more productive. I have learnt that sleep is important to the quality of my day and I make sure I get at least seven if not eight hours every night (gone are the days when I could easily survive on six or less hours!). So, if I want to get up early, I make it a point to go to bed earlier. I have long since given up going to bed at 11pm and expecting to wake up at 7am when my usual sleep hours are closer to 2am and 9am, as I am just setting myself up for failure. What I do now is create a habit of getting to bed 15 min earlier and waking up 15 minutes earlier. Do that for a few days and then get to bed 30 minutes earlier and wake up 30 minutes earlier and so on. It makes the transition more gradual and doable.

My morning rituals are key to the quality and success of my day. I do 5 minutes of intentions for my life and the day, followed by 10 minutes of exercises. After my shower, I have a small breakfast. I am quite serious about good quality coffee. Making a mindful exercise out of my morning coffee ritual helps me to make better coffee and appreciate my drink even more. I try to be aware of every step of the process, from filling the kettle, scooping the coffee into the filter, to taking the first sip, to truly appreciating the aroma and depth of taste.

I do my quiet time over coffee – about 15 minutes of meditation and affirmations in silence. This is followed by about half an hour of writing notes, checking my emails, investments, sorting out a couple of admin items and checking out a few key websites. I no longer have a routine, but these are my morning rituals that help me to anchor my days. The rest of the day is shaped by the projects I am working on and what I am inspired to do and where I want to be.

As I was working on my latest book ‘A Minimalist Life’, I spent the next two hours writing. I am tempted every now and again to check my emails, surf the web and check out Facebook. Sometimes I manage to focus on the writing, but quite a few times I yield to my temptations. It takes me some time after that to get back into the groove of writing. I am trying out the Pomodoro technique – an app that times you so that you work for 25 minutes and then have a break for 5 minutes. So far, the trial has worked out quite well. It helps me to focus on writing and then I can look forward to my 5-minute break and make a drink or surf the net without guilt. Then it is back to another 25 minutes of work. I am still working on my habit of focusing.

I then head into town to check out the venue for the next London Minimalists Meet up. We need a bigger venue for the next event, when we’ll be expecting an acclaimed author and speaker on the ‘Slow Movement.’ Since I began my minimalism journey a few years ago, I have benefited so much from this new way of living. Heading up the Minimalists Group was my way of giving back; it also serves as an excellent platform to meet fellow aspiring and practising minimalists with similar desires to live well with less.

When I am in central London, I make an effort to visit two of my favourite places: Foyles Bookshop and The National Gallery. By now it is no secret that I love books, and I am like a bee to honey when it comes to beautiful bookshops. I still buy books as they give me much joy and inspiration; but with more deliberation and moderation. Unlike in the past, when I usually walked out of a bookshop with a few books; I tend to buy one book, if I can find the right one, and then finish it before buying the next one. This helps me to focus and appreciate the book I am reading much better. I guess one can have too much of a good thing, even with books!

Today, my purchase was not a book but ‘Kinfolk’ – a beautifully crafted lifestyle magazine that focuses on simplifying lives, cultivating community and spending time with loved ones. Aptly, the new issue’s theme was on Essentialism and the celebration of who and what we value most. I am doing what gives me bliss: poring over the magazine over a cup of coffee and some light lunch at the bookshop cafe.

I always make it a point to visit the National Gallery for at least half an hour whenever I am in the area. Gone are the days when I would walk past painting after painting, in gallery after gallery; so wanting to take in all the beauty, but let down by my exhaustion with the overload of imagery and the walking. Instead, I tend to focus on my favourite painters and paintings during my visits. Today, I head straight for the Canaletto room where his paintings of Venice are unmatchable in their detail and clarity. I take my time looking and appreciating each piece of work in the Canaletto room. I guess one can never tire of exquisite craftsmanship.

Back home, I have decided to cook a simple meal of spaghetti with tuna and anchovies, helped along by Dave Brubeck’s jazzy notes in the background. For me, it is jazz in summer and classical music in winter. The whole process of preparing a meal – chopping, stirring and cooking – is both meditative and therapeutic and I take my time. I always believe that food tastes much better when there is love and inspiration involved in its preparation. There is nowhere I need to be and as I have no TV, there is no TV schedule to keep. Dinner time is when my partner and I catch up on our day and spend some quality time together. The day draws to a close and I read until sleep beckons.

It was a nice day. I have done some productive work and the visit to the bookshop and gallery provided much joy and inspiration. It was not too eventful, but there was enough to make it interesting. Most importantly, it was mostly intentional and I felt it was well-lived.

Curious or inspired about living a minimalist life but not sure how?

Download a free copy of the beautifully crafted ‘A Minimalist Life: Roadmap’ here.

Get your copy of ‘A Minimalist Life- Make Space for the Good and the Extraordinary’ here.


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