By Bridget Graham
This past fall was one of the busiest times of my life.
I began pursuing my graduate degree in history and soon realized this program required a different sort of learning, so I had to adapt, quickly. I proved to be successful in balancing most aspects of my life in the fall term, but come winter, I felt the pressure mounting.
I was still a full-time student but had also taken on a full-time job, as well as three part-time jobs. I began working as an archival assistant intern with the Nova Scotia Archives, was a teaching assistant for two separate courses for first and second-year students, and was an event coordinator for the office of sustainability at my university.
I had always been taught to see things through until the end, so that is exactly what I attempted to do. Because of my busy schedule, I had no choice but to focus on the tasks that needed to be accomplished — everything else simply became noise. I realized my life had become cluttered with thoughts, people and things; I began getting rid of what was unnecessary.
It was a comprehensive purge I had actually started after moving late last summer when I was dumbfounded by the amount of things I had accumulated over the last 22 years. I had a room full of stuff that had not seen the light of day in months. Much of it I donated to people who can actually make use of it, an accomplishment that brought me joy. I began to feel lighter.
“Honestly I did not care how the majority of people had spent their Friday evenings.”
Recently I stumbled on a podcast produced by the Minimalists. I was intrigued by much of what they discussed and realized I had been trying to adopt some of these practices in my life without even being fully cognizant of it. The podcast consists of two men discussing their switch to a minimalist lifestyle, and they provide tips and tricks, on topics like travel and finances, for others who are considering doing the same. They champion “living a meaningful life with less stuff” and really encourage listeners to consider what is important to them.
Before listening to the podcast, I often spent my first waking moments with my cell phone screen in my face, just like I did the last moments before I fell asleep at night. But one Saturday morning I realized this is not what I wanted and that honestly I did not care how the majority of people had spent their Friday evenings. Social media was cluttering my mind and hindering my communication. As a result, my presence on some social media outlets became, and has remained, rather sparse.
At times I was met with hesitation when informing a friend that I deleted my Snapchat account for the simple reason that I had no time or interest in seeing what others chose to document about themselves. But my communication and conversations have actually improved with many of my friends since we are, in a way, forced to share and describe events and news instead of simply posting a three-second video.
I feel lucky to be pursuing a job that also lets me be a curator. As an archival assistant at the Nova Scotia Archives, I am constantly helping others to learn and discover. Materials arrive in all sorts of conditions, and one of my tasks is to organize them for researchers. I am given a fair bit of liberty to organize and display the material in the way I see fit. This position has allowed me to explore the ways in which I curate the different parts that make up the entirety of my life. I am able to use my degrees to enrich the work I am doing, both professionally and personally.
Curating my life and striving for minimalism, I feel at peace in my skin for the first time. I spend my time the way I want to, and I pursue activities that bring me joy. Throughout my life, I have struggled with trying to make others happy, but I now realize that this often hindered my own happiness and wellbeing. I have learned to say “no,” and I find this to be incredibly liberating. And much of this is as a result of embracing a more minimalist lifestyle.
I take pride in the life that I am curating, and I feel as though I have become a more positive — and realistic — individual. By worrying and consuming less, I feel rejoiced and renewed.
Bridget Graham works as an archival assistant at the Nova Scotia Archives.