What would possess someone to throw out more than 20,000 precious items in one year?
NSW Author Brooke McAlary, 36, says she’s never felt happier since she made the radical decision to de-clutter and live a simpler, less material life.
Her new book, SLOW, explains what happened.
According to Brooke, the pressure to achieve is pressed upon us from such a young age, that by the time we are young adults, we are striving for the same “dream life.” Big job, big house, big car, big social life. That is what success looks like – or so we are led to believe.
Brooke says she used to feel that way – but chasing the idea of success would always leave her wanting. The stress of juggling a growing family, a business and relationships, all while trying to ‘keep up the Jones’ was exhausting.
“I was diagnosed with postnatal depression after our second baby was born. I was forced to really stop and consider what I was doing with my time and my energy,” Brooke tells The Starfish.
“I felt like I had to be rushing through life, trying to be the best, and do everything, and be everything to everyone.”
Realizing there had to be a better way, Brooke gradually began a journey into a simpler, slower, way of living.
She started by throwing out lots of belongings.
“The simple act of letting go of excess stuff that we didn’t need any more actually made me a happier person and it blew my mind,” says Brooke.
“I started out just de-cluttering excess stuff and did not expect that to have any kind of impact on my emotional wellbeing. But within a few months, I realised that I felt lighter; physically lighter.
“I didn’t know an excess of stuff and clutter weighed so much until I didn’t have to carry it around anymore.”
Brooke, an avid writer, began to chronicle her journey on her website slowyourhome.com through blogs and podcasts. She discovered that her story resonated with people in all stages of life.
“I’ve had so many emails and conversations with people saying, ‘you’re basically describing my life’,” says Brooke.
“I think there’s so much pressure on all of us to do everything, and be everything, that we are all kind of looking around at each other and thinking ‘how are they all coping and I feel like I’m losing control?’”
“It’s not until we start talking about it, that people then realise that they aren’t alone.”
The success of her blogs and podcasts created a conversation around living a simpler life, and this was the catalyst for SLOW, Brooke’s new book.
Part biography, part how-to, SLOW provides an insight into how to take the first steps to leading a slower, more meaningful life.
“I wanted to share my personal experience, which is certainly not perfect or Instagram worthy. It’s just very real.
“I think that’s been lacking a bit in the conversation around simplifying and I just wanted to give people permission to try things and see, and to make mistakes but to move forward anyway.”
The book took six months to write, but Brooke brings together the lessons and knowledge from her five-year transition, allowing would be simplifiers to peek into the slow life, before jumping in.
Not one to preach, Brooke hopes the book will be a guide for people to start their own journeys, that may look quite different to hers.
“I haven’t met anyone who has been dragged into a lifestyle change and hasn’t ended up being a bit resentful or bitter or doing it in a half-hearted way,” says Brooke.
“So, I was quite cautious. I didn’t want to preach or evangelise, but people do see the difference in me.
“My husband has shifted significantly. There are things that I have adopted, like meditating every day, that he has tried and just said ‘no that’s not for me’.
“But he has started adopting different ways to slow down and be mindful.”
Brook is hoping the release of SLOW can spread the ripple affect her own experience is making in other people’s lives.
“I’d love for people to spend some time considering what’s important to them and what their personal values are,” says Brooke.
“For me, once I knew what my highest priorities in life where, my kids, my partner, having some kind of positive impact on the world, living adventurously – everything else seemed simpler.
“All the difficult decisions, or the awkward conversations, saying no or yes to things, were simpler because I knew why I was doing it.
“So, I think once we know what our personal purpose or priorities are, it becomes much easier to live a life that feels satisfying and meaningful.
“That’s the biggest thing I would like people to take away from the book.”
SLOW (Allen And Unwin) is available in bookshops now.