Time for more time.

As many of you may know, I recently decided to simplify my life. It started with weight loss, which led to a bout of decluttering and a clearing of space which has allowed me to rethink my life and try  to work out what my purpose is. It’s a sort of avoiding of the avoiding.

I’ve been eating in this high fat, low carb way now for approximately eighteen months. I have been at the same fat percentage for approximately nine months now. I have not changed size for about the same time. I eat well and I eat a lot. I eat when I’m hungry. I’m not hungry as much as I used to be before eating in this way. I eat very little sugar. I make an exception for alcohol. I eat this funny fried keto bread quite a lot. It feels wrong. I have dark chocolate (90%) every day. Sometimes I eat half a large bar. I still eat at the speed of light. Some things will never change.

I stopped buying new clothes in November. It was a challenge to myself, to stop buying clothes for a year, even if I needed them (whatever need really means in the context of my ridiculously privileged life) because I wanted to have a break from shopping as a leisure activity/quick fix/moneywasting thing and also to see if I could. I have bought no new clothes and we are six months in. The no shopping thing has spread like a virus through my shopping habits generally.  I have bought very few new toiletries, because I have enough moisturiser to last me till about 2020 and I had bought every thing else in bulk, not that I saw it quite that way at the time. I have had the novel experience of finishing a jar of moisturiser before starting the next one. I have bought far fewer things generally. Amazon’s shares might well be down. It is so very much easier than I thought it would be and I’m now thinking that I may do it for longer than a year. I feel like I have broken the connection between clothes and avoidance. I still love them. I just don’t want to use them for a quick fix.

I came off Twitter, pretty much, a year ago; just the odd foray into it, enough to make me remember why I didn’t want to do it. Then Instagram, which was harder. There’s a lot that is lovely about Instagram and I’m not against all social media and for some people and small businesses it’s a lifeline. But I was curating my life to please others; photographing all my meals, always conscious about whether the thing that I was doing needed to be posted on Instagram. I was obviously portraying  the very best version of myself; the one that goes to the theatre; does gardening; eats out; cooks; can take an arty photo; has been to a cultural event or some such. Because I can’t just use it casually. It’s not in my nature. In my all-or-nothing way, it had taken over my too much of my life. I hadn’t been aware of it at first, but it crept up on me. So I stopped both of them, Twitter and Instagram, in February. This is what I found:

  • I started to be more present with people. I wasn’t posting my pictures then sneaking looks at my phone to see how many likes I got.
  • I felt a bit out of touch. I’d got so used to keeping in touch with people via Instagram.
  • I felt a bit out of the loop and there was a part of me that looked wistfully at the Instagram App and I pressed it every now and again in a slightly guilty way. I didn’t stay on it for long though.
  • After about a month, I stopped caring about it at all and it was as if I’d never done it. I hadn’t expected that.
  • I realised that I had more time and was able to focus better on the thing or even the person in front of me.
  • My brain started to work properly again and I could focus better. I read the news in the morning instead of scrolling on Instagram. I may need to get rid of the news App on my phone though as I look at it too often, pulling down the page, hoping for a  new story.
  • I have radically cut down the amount of time I spend looking at my phone and I am starting to be really conscious of the amount of time that so many people are spending on it. That was me. I’m not judging.

I had blamed all sorts of things for my lack of focus for the last few years, the most persuasive, to myself at least, being – sorry, I’m just going to say it – menopause. Because that coincided with an increase in my use of social media and my whole restaurant review thing, I think that it was easy to ascribe blame to it and it felt plausible. I do  still think that menopause played a part, but not  the starring role I cast it in for all those years.

The thing about decluttering, or minimalism or whatever you want to call it is that it starts to take over your life. I heard someone say that they thought that the reason that decluttering is so addictive, once you get into the swing of it, is that the high that you used to get from buying things is replaced by a similar high from getting rid of them. I think there is truth in that. I look at everything now and ask myself whether I can get rid of it.

What this has done for me is to make me mindful, to use that bloody awful word, or more considered  and less impulsive in my behaviour. I think about why I am doing or buying anything. I pause. I work out what’s really driving my desire to eat out that night when I have a fridge full of food, or to go to the garden centre when I have a day’s work to do in the garden. I still often end up going out or buying more crap for the garden, but less so.

The very best thing? I have more time. I do more of the things I really love and I don’t tell anyone about it, which feels like a relief. I feel more in control.  My FOMO has all but disappeared. If I don’t know you’re at that fabulous party, it’s easier for me, because I would be wondering why I’m not the sort of person that gets invited. I see the people I want to see, many of whom are friends from social media. I would like to see a few more people regularly,  but I have learnt that I can’t spread myself too thinly, so am trying to be less people-pleasy. Now there’s a whole other blog post.

Over and out, in the garden.