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A year of mindful minimalism: my mission to finally finish my PhD

For the last three years I have been repeating the mantra that I only have one year left. One year and I can finally finish my PhD.

Finally graduate.

Finally start living like a real person again.

And once again start earning a livable comfortable salary.

But each year comes and goes and I feel barely more than a few steps closer to my goal, still in that circle of fighting, sacrifice and mental anguish which becomes increasingly closer.

No matter how hard I try I cannot break free.

I should stop for a moment to say that I do love my PhD. I love the topic, the field of research, the great potential it can open up, and I have a great supervisor, both this one and the previous one. I am forever grateful to them for having supported me this far.

The research itself, and even the task of doing a PhD I do not in fact find difficult. And I do not say that in boasting, but simply put I love researching and writing and fitting everything together.

What I do find difficult though is everything else that surrounds it.


Anxiety. Stress. Uncertainty.

The challenge on a daily basis to clear my mind to the level where I can entirely and unreservedly focus on my work.

Hmm… something tells me I am not alone here…

To the point where it can increasingly feel like a mission impossible.

Which is where we start to come to the current case in hand: MINIMALISM

Where does that fit in all of this or am I just making things even more complicated than they already were?

The truth is I have never been the type of person who will sit around and feel sorry for herself. If something is not working I look for another solution. Another path forward.

And so over the years my path to doctorhood, let’s say it hasn’t been the straightest nor the widest nor the flattest. Some routes have literally taken me through the metaphorical Himalayas, with views and experiences that have shaped me for life.

I regret none of it.

But that brings me to the current point where enough is enough. I really need to push this giant well oversized baby out – no terminations happening here!

Which is when a few months ago while spending more time than I care to admit on YouTube, I came across Samurai Matcha, a wonderful channel by a Japanese man and his minimalist life in a remote area of Japan.

I was enchanted.

The following weeks I started reading books on minimalism and most of what I was watching also turned in that direction. The likes of Fumio Sasaki, Marie Kondo, Matt d’Avella, Gabe Bult, and so on.

My living space, I’ll go into detail about that at a later stage, after all, it has been my long term goal to move into a more livable space size-wise and amenity-wise, but I remember at that point deciding, instead of just waiting to find a better place to live, I should in fact focus on making my current place more livable and more functional.

This is why two months ago I started my journey into downsizing and minimalism. I wasn’t starting with huge amounts of stuff as already I live in a very tiny space, though without realising it, corners and nooks are quickly filled. And so I let go of more than half my clothes, craft materials, books and other miscellaneous items I decided no longer to keep. Even my ugly wardrobe got tossed out!

But still I wasn’t satisfied.

And I felt I needed to go further and deeper, I wanted a space with almost nothing!

(Yes, I even admit to watching a couple monk videos lol)

But something was holding me back.

And I couldn’t quite pin it.

At first I thought it was a voice from my past, that hoarding voice I had been raised with when as a child all I dreamt about was having an empty space.

This was followed by the idea it could be a cautionary voice, telling me I didn’t want to go into the world of blatant extremisms.

And so I continued exploring and reflecting, and yes, watching even more videos.

And still I felt very lost and unable to push forward.

Until two days ago to be exact.

When I was talking to a dear friend.

Now this friend is also back in school studying to make a career change as a life coach. And I tell you as soon as she qualifies and sets up her practice you need to sign up. Because in just two lines she changed my perspective and gave me complete clarity.

The visible result of which you are reading now.

Whereupon I decide to put into writing my next year of experimental life.

Where I document the final year of PhD life.

And experiment with minimalism, not just in the visible aspect of having less things, but in all aspects of life how and what affect can minimalism have on our thinking, our behaviour and our interactions with others.

Because at my core I am a Writer. Researcher. Artist.

I have always been fascinated with human behaviour and what it is that makes us tick and what it takes to keep us ticking.

If something is not working properly, be it physical, mental, emotional or environmental, I like to explore why and see how we can make it better.

I’m not specifically into extreme or radical change, though many would argue that my life pretty much is just that, but I do believe that big change doesn’t always come from doing something radically different. Sometimes it is just a tiny screw which needs tightening up or replacing and everything suddenly ticks back into place, so in life we don’t always need radical change but rather deep insights so we can quickly (hopefully) identify which screw is loose.

This is my mission to pick up the loose screws in my life haha, and through a process of elimination – aka minimalism – I hope to be able to identify them way more quickly.

There are a million more other things I might like to write right now, but I will show minimalist restraint and add them later. Yes, for at least the first few months this may seem to be going all over the place, but take it as an open draft, an open page where nothing will be perfect but everything will be quintessentially human and what makes us us.

Peace and love to you as we wave goodbye to this difficult and soul searching year and get ready to welcome in a new one :)

RZ 2021 12 31

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