Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Brooke McAlary of Slow Your Home.
“Be not afraid of going slowly; be only afraid of standing still.” – Chinese Proverb
I am a writer. I am a wife. I am a mother. I am an inappropriate laugher.
I am also a passionate advocate of simple living, rational minimalism, living with less – whatever you want to call this movement we are part of.
I came to both minimalism and writing in my darkest times, and I don’t think that is a coincidence. I was lost and despairing. Taking control of my life and rediscovering my creative passions have helped me carve out a life of intention, happiness and purpose. And it’s freaking awesome.
There is a book on writing I love. It’s called ‘Bird by Bird’ by Anne Lamott. It’s filled with writing advice, huge belly laughs and incredible insights into the particular breed of weird that is a creative author.
My copy is well-thumbed and lives on my desk, next to where I currently sit.
The title comes from a story Anne Lamott tells of her older brother. He is ten years old and struggling to start, let alone finish, a paper on birds. He has had three months to complete it, and the paper is due the next day.
“He was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilised by the hugeness of the task ahead.”
Despairing, he pleads with his father for advice on how to start – and finish.
“Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”
In other words: Don’t think about the whole paper. Just start with one bird. Finish that bird. Then move on.
“And son? Do it now.”
As a writer, I loved the simplicity of the advice – just get it down bit by bit, word by word. One thought at a time.
As a minimalist, I was inspired – start with one thing, work it through, then move on. Bit by bit, piece by piece.
Bird By Bird: The Slow Guide to Minimalism
Honestly, creating a life of simplicity is easy. You simply begin.
The hard part is not looking too far ahead. Focusing on the bird in front of you, not the flock above. That’s when we falter, when it seems too much, too hard, too long, too sad, too emotional.
First, Take One Step.
Every journey begins with just one step. Simplifying your life, becoming a minimalist, living with less – this journey is no different. It begins with one step, one decision, one action.
It may be that you:
- Toss out the pair of favorite sneakers that are falling apart.
- Clear out the junk drawer in your kitchen.
- Say no to a commitment that has been draining you for too long.
- Clear out under the couch.
- Tidy your desk.
Then, Bird by Bird
As you finish with that first step, the next one will become apparent. Just trust the process and resist temptation to look too far ahead.
- Once the sneakers are gone, you will see the clothes you no longer wear.
- When the junk drawer is empty, you will move on to the utensils.
- Once you’ve cancelled your draining commitment, you will notice the time you waste on Facebook.
- When the floor under the couch is clear, you will notice the overflowing bookshelf.
- After your desk is orderly, you will see the piles of paperwork that need filing.
Bird by bird.
It all starts with one decision. A decision to forge a better life. A decision to say no. A decision to value people over things. A decision to let go.
That particular decision is yours. The important part is that you make one, follow it through, then move forward.
Bird by bird.