Since moving to Switzerland two and a half years ago, my lifestyle and mindset has changed more than I ever could have imagined it would. I have wanted to talk about it in the past but up until now I wasn’t quite sure how to package it up into a neat little definition. And you know how much I like things to be neat and tidy!
But recently I stopped trying to force things so much and it has just fallen into place naturally – a lesson I never seem to learn! The term that really seems to fit nicely is ‘boho minimal’. I’m still not sure that it’s perfect but a big part of this lifestyle is progression over perfection so I thought imperfect was fitting.
Minimalism with a boho twist
Even though I really relate to and connect with a lot of the ideas and practices of minimalism, I have never felt like I could call myself a minimalist. Partly because I don’t fit into the cliche black and white definition of minimalism and partly because the community surrounding this lifestyle can be very unforgiving and harsh (I talk more about this mentality here). There seems to be an all or nothing attitude around minimalism, which makes it feel a little too exclusive and elitist for me. This is where my boho twist comes in. Just like I do not feel comfortable calling myself minimalist I also don’t see myself as 100% boho. I sit somewhere in the middle.
My boho minimal mantras
So what exactly is boho minimal? Well it’s a bit of a mish-mash I made up using ideas and aesthetics from both boho and minimalism to create a lifestyle that feels balanced to me.
I incorporate the simplicity, structure and thoughtful selectiveness of minimalism and balance it out with the freedom, flexibility and spirituality of boho. Like I mentioned earlier, I like things to be neat and tidy and I like to be able to label them. So I have come up with four of the main mantras I like to live by to keep my mind and body happy and in harmony. These mantras all interweave and work nicely together and here they are:
Find happiness in the now
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in the past is relying on the future to make me happy. I was always looking to the future for happiness, sure that when I reached my next goal I would then feel happy.
What I didn’t consider is that by the time I got to that goal it wouldn’t be the big deal it was now. Day by day I would get closer and day by day it wouldn’t feel as big or momentous to reach. Then when I did get there I would celebrate for all of five minutes before I was yearning for the next big thing. There’s no way to find everyday happiness living like this.
But how do we switch up our thinking and start learning to be happy with where we are and with what we have in the present? The answer is simple. Gratitude. The very best way to find joy in your everyday is to practice gratitude. Write about the people, places and things you are grateful for, think about them, talk about them. Incorporate gratitude into your day in the ways that work best for you.
The more we focus on the good we already have, the less space we have to focus on the bad. We then start to perceive our lives differently, and we get better and better at noticing the good things and so we find more and more happiness the more we practice.
Sometimes we have to get creative. Even if you don’t love your job, there will be parts (yes they may be small, but they will be there), that you do love. It could be particular people, tasks or daily moments you enjoy. The same goes for anything in our lives – relationships, surroundings and belongings. It’s all about perspective.
Another mistake I’ve made in the past (and still fall into the trap of sometimes) is choosing material things over joy. Society and marketing has conditioned us to always want bigger and better and to care deeply about what other people think about what we have and what we’ve achieved.
We think we need a car, a house, a high flying job and our neighbours nod of approval to be happy. And so without a second thought these are the things we strive for. Even if it means we have to work crazy hours at our high flying job (which we don’t really love) to pay for the car and the house (that we don’t get to spend time enjoying because we are always at work).
On average we spend 1/3 of our lives at work. So doesn’t it make sense that we should do whatever we can to make sure we are doing something we enjoy in that time? If we take away the expensive car and big house our bills are all of a sudden a lot smaller, which means we also don’t need that high flying job and the money that comes with it.
Having a job we enjoy will improve how we feel for at least 1/3 of the time. And so if it means taking a pay cut and downgrading our material things then in my opinion it’s well worth it. And if it’s not possible to change jobs right now, fitting more of the little everyday things we enjoy like reading, cooking, gardening, creating etc. is a great place to start.
I loved how Alex Holder put it recently – “The most financially healthy person is the person who has the ability to connect the money they have with the things that make them happy. There are multi-billion-dollar industries whose sole aim is to make us spend money we don’t have on things we don’t want. It takes perseverance, strategy and will power to beat the consuming machine and only bring into our lives the things we truly want and have the time and space to appreciate.”
A lot of my thinking around this topic has been inspired by Gary Vee – I am a regular listener of his Podcast, which you can find here.
Progress over perfection
As a perfectionist, this one has taken some practice. But what I’ve come to realise is that when I try to do something perfectly right away it becomes too overwhelming and so I end up doing nothing instead. However when I take baby steps and give myself time to feel ok about it not being perfect I make progress. Whether it’s a work goal or a lifestyle goal opting for progress over perfection is always a much more positive experience. I’m also far more likely to stick to something for the long term when I incorporate it into my life slowly. Becoming more minimal and living a more eco-friendly life are two really big things I am proud to be making progress on at the moment.
Another thing we mistakingly think we need to be perfect at 100% of the time is being happy. We put this pressure on ourselves to feel joyful all the time, and if we don’t we think there is something wrong with us. We beat ourselves up about it or we don’t give ourselves the grace to feel other feelings because they compromise being happy in that moment. But I recently came across an eye opening realisation – life is about having a balance of positive and negative. Life is about contrast. Without the negative the positive wouldn’t be special or feel as good as it does. Without experiencing what we don’t want we would have no way of knowing what we do want. When we stop feeling so negative about the negative, there is less negativity. When we start seeing that negativity is the contrast we need to really feel the positivity, we can have more peace in each moment.
A great book I loved reading, which really helped me let go of perfectionism is The 1% Rule: How to Fall in Love with the Process and Achieve Your Wildest Dreams by Tommy Baker. I also really love these podcasts for positive mindset: Earn your Happy, How to Fail with Elizabeth Day and On Purpose with Jay Shetty.
Practice thoughtful consumption
I know earlier I mentioned that it’s important to prioritise joy over material things, but that is not to say that material things cannot bring us joy. It’s just important to understand which material things do bring us joy and which material things are just a cover up for insecurities.
When we are deciding which material things we want to have in our lives it’s important to remember that each item we own takes up space (physically and mentally). Have you ever noticed how a cluttered, messy room makes your mind feel cluttered and messy too?
The questions I like to make sure I can say ‘yes’ to before bringing material things into my life are:
- If I could have this thing right now, but nobody else could know about it, would it still be something I really want?
- Does this thing improve my life in some way? Whether it is visually pleasing, functional or useful.
- Does this thing make me smile?
- Will this thing give more than it takes? Will the amount of joy it brings me outweigh the monetary cost and space it takes up in my life?
For me another thing I like to consider is the environmental impact my consumption choices have and I like to choose ethical and sustainable options wherever I can. If you haven’t seen it yet I’ve put together a list of my favourite sustainable and ethical clothing brands here.
Finally something that undeniably makes anyone happier is nature. I’m sure I could quickly google a bunch of statistics to support this right now, but I think it’s an undeniable fact. Whether it’s a blue sky, sunshine, bunch of flowers, ocean breeze or the sound of birds chirping – nature has joy to offer everyone.
Both bringing nature inside and getting outside into nature are two ways I bring a sense of calm and balance into my every day.
Some great ways to bring nature inside are:
- Open windows for sunlight and fresh air
- Timber furniture
- Natural fabrics
- Indoor plants
- Essential oils
And some great ways to get out in to nature are:
- Reading outside
Of course there are no concrete rules when it comes to a boho minimal lifestyle. I am always a big fan of taking what works best for you and leaving what doesn’t. Which is how I guess I came up with this lifestyle idea in the first place.