I recently learned of a concept from Fumio Sasaki that describes this nagging as a “silent to-do list.” Every item in our house is sending us a message, and it’s not always a good message! A plant could be telling us to relax and ground ourselves, or it could be yelling at us to water it. As I got rid of more things, especially the things in my line of sight from the couch, I was able to relax more, and not feel like I should be doing other things.
During the pandemic, this was no longer enough to help me relax. I (and many other people) got sick of looking at things in my house that previously brought joy. There was a constant desire to add or change my surroundings. Since my home is so tiny, and I didn’t have the budget to change it, I started enjoying walks around the neighborhood to relax instead of my usual couch time. Outside, there was no silent to-do list for me. I have no yard or garden calling to me, or any landscaping to care for, except for a few potted plants. Occasionally there were some yards I saw in my neighborhood that sent me stressful messages, but they weren’t my problem to deal with, and I could just walk on by.
Then I discovered Niksen, or the Dutch art of doing nothing. Doing something without a purpose, like just letting our mind wander. I realized that these pandemic walks were a form of Niksen, as was my favorite couch time.
Niksen was very similar to my minimalism tendencies in that Niksen time also removed my silent to-do list. If I could truly enjoy Niksen time, which involves letting my mind wander rather than focus on all my thoughts, I would feel more relaxed. My mind would simply notice what was around me, or enjoy some music or the sounds of birds. Sometimes it was challenging, which is when walking came in handy. If my brain is too distracted to sit, a walk would eventually quiet it.
These slower times of letting my mind wander not only left me more relaxed, but also reminded me of what’s important to me. I would see that the world didn’t end by sitting on the couch for 30 min, which gave me perspective to lend towards other things that I could perhaps do without. Sometimes it simply brought clarity to a situation or decision I was putting off or avoiding. Or sometimes it just acted as self-care, allowing me to rest.
I think 99 times and find nothing. I stop thinking, swim in silence, and the truth comes to me.” - Albert Einstein.
These are all things that minimalism has brought to my life as well: a sense of calm and clarity that reminds me of my values and helps me focus on what’s truly important. While minimalism helped me get rid of physical clutter, Niksen has helped me get rid of some of my mental clutter. Of course, the clutter always returns, but each time I’m better able to see it for what it is, and let it go more easily. This in turn paves the way for creating time and space for more things that matter to me.
Teacher, mother, lover of lounging in nature. This blog documents my experience with Niksening in nature and applying this type of minimalism to all aspects of my life, in order to simplify and amplify the best parts of life.
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