Managing Interests in a Minimal Way

Sky before a storm, Photo Credit Terra Ash Bruxvoort

Sky before a storm, Photo Credit Terra Ash Bruxvoort

We’ve been getting a lot of rain in Iowa recently, and flash flooding is happening across the state. As I rode my bike home from work today the sky was incredible. I pass a huge cemetery on my ride, and the looming black clouds over the cemetery was a strangely beautiful, eerie way to end the day.

I studied Victorian Women’s Literature in college, so weather like this always reminds me of the Brontes. The first time I ever read Jane Eyre I was 17 years old and it was during the winter. A snow storm was settling in, and I read the entire book in one sitting by the fireplace. It was my first introduction to a Victorian novel and I was hooked. It’s one of my fondest memories. I think it’s because it’s so simple. It was a simple, but perfect, setting and I let go of everything else in my life to read that book. I honestly can’t remember the last time I truly let myself get lost like that.

As I adopt a minimalist lifestyle, I’m really trying to simplify everything in my life. Sometimes we think being busy means we’re being more productive, but usually the people who complain the most about how busy they are aren’t being that productive at all. 

I’ve always been someone with a lot of interests and a burning desire to learn and try new things. This has led me to a life of highs and lows, where I will be intensely interested in something for a period of time and then get burnt out. I could list all of the things I have tried for you… but it would be a little embarrassing. I’m a master of few things but I’ve dabbled in just about everything.

With this minimalism challenge I am really trying to change that habit. I think learning and being knowledgeable and passionate about a lot of different things is great. I also know that picking up hobbies and habits willy nilly has led me to bouts of depression where I feel like a failure, been hard on my pocketbook and left me feeling like I really don’t know a whole lot about anything.

I definitely fell prey to the idea that being busy meant I was being productive. Right now I’m trying to focus intently on a few things. I’ve become really interested in raw foods and Buddhism and I’m spending a lot of time researching, reading and practicing. While I want to keep growing those interests, I also know that the passions I want to keep for life are writing, trail running or hiking, yoga and reading. I make sure I get those things in on at least a weekly basis.

For someone with an endless list of interests and passions this has really become key to simplifying my life. Rather than getting obsessed with something and trying to cram more things into my schedule, I focus on what is most important, and add in the burgeoning interests where I can. This is helping me grow and learn at a steady pace.

I’m not buying anything as part of my minimalism challenge, which has really helped me test my passions. If I want to learn more about raw foods or Buddhism, I have to turn to free resources. In the past I would have bought a bunch of books about raw foods or Zen Buddhism. I would have read some of the books, probably gotten really interested for a little bit, made some Pinterest boards and then fallen off the wagon when I couldn’t fit it all in my life anymore.

I took a different approach this time. I went to a free Zen Buddhism class with my mom, downloaded a couple of podcasts that I listen to while I get ready in the morning and checked out some books from the library. I’m not sure what my interest level in these will be for the long-term, and I’m learning that it’s okay to not fully commit to something right away. I think in the past I connected buying stuff with becoming an expert on something or proving my passion. I’m now realizing that passion is passion, and being a lifelong learner means I’m going to have a lot of passions.

I’m learning that I don’t have to do everything… and in fact I can’t do everything. I try to take bite size chunks of my goals every day, and forgive myself on the days I don’t accomplish what I set out to do. I’ll keep learning and growing, without collecting stuff. In the end, I think this will lead me to a life full of passion.

Read more about the Modern Girl Walden Minimalism challenge here, and don’t forget to sign up for my bi-weekly e-newsletter! No spam, ever. I promise.

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