For us Brits living in the UK, it’s been a phenomenal few weeks; good and bad. We’ve seen voting turn out rise, a new Prime Minister, a new cabinet, a leadership challenge from the main opposition party, a drop in the pound against the dollar, and a lot of bigoted people using the referendum to breed their own particular type of hate.
There’s no doubt it’s an unsettling time. We’ve been promised everything from a drop in house prices to increased inflation to another recession
But what impact will this have on the ordinary person, and can we minimise it’s affect on us?
I don’t have a television, and I avoid reading newspapers, so have been listening to developments on the radio. In this way if I wish to I can avoid negative events, propaganda and media influence. In my day to day life not much has changed. I get up, I look at the sky and decide what sandals to put on, the grey or the brown? I walk the dogs, drive to work, try to do a good job, and then come home and live life. In short, although big decisions and changes in law will always affect us, from a day to day perspective we can protect ourselves from the peaks and troughs that consumerism and the media throw at us.
So how do we do this? By minimalising! I don’t particularly aim to live a frugal lifestyle, but I long ago shunned a corporate lifestyle, preferring instead to work a less stressful job for less money but for a chance instead to wake up and smell the flowers every morning. I don’t need 20 pairs of shoes any more, I choose well once in the summer and winter, and then don’t need to buy any more. We buy second hand furniture or save for one big item such as a sofa that will last a long time. We bought a small house, and downsized our ‘stuff’. We don’t consume any more on a fast paced basis. Why? Because it’s exhausting. Because no matter how much you have, or how much you get, if you’re on the material treadmill you will always need more. If you keep trying to follow the Jones’s, you’ll be looking for the bigger house, the bigger car, the more expensive designer handbag, and not only will you be exhausted at playing constant catch up, but when big economic challenges such as Brexit happen, you are far more likely to fall foul of a balancing game that strips you of your mental wellbeing as well as your money.
But how to change? If you’re someone who consumes lots and often, but you can feel that something isn’t quite right, or you are lying awake at night thinking about your increasing credit card bill, with nothing much to show, how do you take that first step of the treadmill?
Well there’s lots of help out there, from minimalist leaders in the field such as The Minimalists to Cait Flanders with her two year shopping ban. For me I just woke up and realised I didn’t want to live the way I had been doing anymore. I’m not where I want to be right yet, I still have some debts to pay. I still want to work less, and get to smell more flowers, but I have a plan. Write your goals down, start small. It’s not just about decluttering, it’s about changing your habits.
Swap good habits for bad – If you are a big credit card user, cut it up, put it in a block of ice in the freezer. Give yourself a list of free things you love, and try those instead. Some ideas might be joining the library, taking a bath, taking a walk, volunteering, sketching, spending time with loved ones, cycling, running, going for a coffee, doing some tourist stuff for fun where you live that’s free. Spend time experiencing rather than buying.
Get your affairs in order even in small ways- So if you are in debt, which many of us in the UK are, look at how you can make small changes every day – for example, something we’re doing at the moment is starting on day 1, we’ve put 1 pence in our savings, day 2 put 2 pence in, day 3 putting 3 pence in. All the way up to Day 365 when we’ll be putting £3.65 in. We will save over £600 a year this way. If you buy a coffee every day, try buying some nice coffee at home instead, make a drink and take it to work (you can even buy the syrups online much cheaper) and then transfer the money you would have spent out of your bank account directly to your credit card. Some personal loads or HP companies will also let you pay off smaller, extra amounts on top. So if you’re going to go and buy something, try paying off a little bit extra towards your loan or hire purchase. That way you can cut interest and pay it off earlier
Buy second hand – Not only is it more ecologically friendly, but it also saves money. Sites like Ebay, Gumtree, Preloved have loads of second hand items for a fraction of the price, and if you’re creative you can upcycle items and give them a new lease of life.
Get mindful – Mindfulness is by far the greatest tool I can give you to change your thinking. Mindfulness is about being in the here and now and being aware of the world around you and your thought processes without judging them. Once you’re aware of them, you can work on making negative positive and bringing a sense of calm and peace to your life. When you become mindful, the need to buy, to own and to possess becomes much reduced. Since practicing mindfulness I appreciate the world around me in a completely different way. I don’t need to acquire more to feel better. I just meditate, or take in my surroundings, take a deep breath, appreciate the beauty we see every day.
So when everyone else is worrying about Brexit, I am sitting tight, and holding on but with a lot less grip than I would have had, even five years ago. Are you worried about the impact of Britain’s exit from the EU? Are you making any plans to deal with this?