One hundred words of now

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silence. time. place. tea. G&T. wine. care. stubborn. chorizo. water. fruits. nutty. light. warmth. keys. story. rock. back. bottle. shoes. trees. leaves. rain. sun. rainbow. vista. tenacity. feminine. restoration. wife. pleasure. productive. volition. serendipitous. minimal. simplicity. reading. writing. spaghetti. calm. sensory. brunch. survival. space. harmony. mindful attention. mother. priorities. boundaries. seeking. beauty. direction. challenge. heart. difference. stream. waterfall. passion. friends. celebrate. morning rituals. limit. peace. acceptance. daughter. commitment. knowing. stillness. brie. films. less. choice. soul. detail. refresh. sleep. achievement. darling. classical music. lasagne. Italy. breathe. inspiration. group. research. joy. sister. silliness. volcano. sunset. river. bridge. Hawai’i. flow. self. gift. experience.

Thanks to Susannah Conway for the inspiration

Photo Now/David Hilowitz/CC BY

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Are you a phone zombie? I am.

Phone zombie

Last Thursday evening I went to the pub. Historically this would not have been significant, however last week it was the first pub adventure since munchkin arrived skinside AND, more importantly, I had given my phone a bath two hours earlier.

It was the start of what prove to be an eye opening 48 hours during which I realised I have turned into a phone zombie. It is not so much my phone that is the issue, rather my use of the internet on my phone is the issue. Granted earlier in the week we had failed to effect a smooth transition between internet providers and are therefore without any home internet for at least a fortnight but I had not appreciated how mindless and habitual my phone internet use had become. I apparently use it while walking my beautiful commute to work, while waiting (for just about anything) and before I go to sleep.

My wife and I actively avoid the use of technology around our daughter. We don’t watch TV or use the computer. We have very few electronic toys that provide instant gratification at the push of a button. I respect that other parents choose to use and encourage their children to use technology. Our choice is not a criticism or judgement of theirs, it is merely a mindful choice we have made. So my mindless, Zombie-like use of my phone sits uncomfortably with this.

I’ve therefore decided to set myself some boundaries to explore what’s going on. I’m hoping that in identifying boundaries it will help me to pause and bring the eye of mindfulness to the situation. What can the harm be?

So this week:

  1. I can use my mobile internet in the morning to check the weather forecast.
  2. I can use my mobile internet for 30 minutes in the evening based on my priorities. (Any time I have the urge to use it, I’ll jot a note of the what/why of the situation. At the end of each day I’ll look through my list and identify which are my priorities.)
  3. I cannot use my mobile internet in bed or while feeding my daughter.

In order to help me to remember what I would prefer to be doing instead of mindlessly browsing the internet I’ve identified the following:

  • Talking to my wife/playing with my daughter
  • 10 minutes of Mindful breathing
  • 10 minutes of yoga
  • Reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (for my book group)
  • Ticking things off my to do list.

I’ll let you know how I get on next week.

Items de-cluttered this week – Silicone bakeware, birthday cake candles, bun cases (from the Royal wedding), crumpet rings, handmade paper, 2 t-shirts, 3 plastic storage boxes, a bag of out of date food, assorted stickers, and stationery.

A blog I’ve enjoyed – This week I’ve really enjoyed Chris Wray’s post The long short summary to leading a minimalist life over at Two Less Things. Chris is one of the few people in the UK writing on minimalism and his post this month summaries different aspects of minimalism (it’s not all about the physical possessions). It considers our priorities, building a not-do list, decluttering, digital declutter, consume less online, consume less TV, be in the moment (aka mindfulness) and then invest the gains you have made. I’m sure that given the post above it is understandable why his post speaks to my condition (as the Quakers would say).

Photo Zombie Response Team/Jamie McCaffrey/CC BY

Tommorrow is now – crafting the life you want.

craft room

Last week I wrote about the associations to the past that made it difficult for me to let go of the little black dress. This week I discovered when it comes to crafting, it’s the future that trips me up. Eleanor Roosevelt said “The world of the future is in our making. Tomorrow is now.” Mindfulness is all about being in the moment by moment experience of right now, yet our behaviour when it comes to possessions (and clutter) is driven by feelings about the future or the past rather than our present day experience. If you’ve ever kept something you didn’t like because it was a gift and you’d feel guilty disposing of it you know what I’m on about. Feelings about the future can be equally problematic when removing possessions. I no longer get tripped up by the anxiety of ‘just in case’, but the sneaky twins Someday and One day are liable to get me every time.

I’ve always loved using my hands as much as my brain but I’ve only this week accepted that there is a limit to how much I can do and want to do in the future. Letting go of some of my crafting materials has been hard. VERY hard. I’ve had to face the harsh reality that I’ve been fantasising about a future which seems to consist of 30 day weeks, and 60 hour days. This idealised future does not exist. I live in the reality of now (together with 7 day weeks and 24 hour days).

Minimalism is not about being static, it’s about having the freedom to choose where and when to invest our energy. If something no longer matches my passions and values then it can be disposed of leaving room for other things (not necessarily material possessions) to enter my life. Deciding to leave medical school after 4 years allowed me to discover occupational therapy. OT matches both my passions and values, and it brings me immense joy to see clients crafting a ‘Life worth Living’ that they never imagined possible. Saying no to prestige allowed me to discover passion.

I’m not going to feel guilty about making choices, letting go or changing my mind. I want to be able to be in the flow of whatever crafty occupation I choose. Lets face it, it’s not as though there is going to be a crafting supply shortage even if I do limit what is available in my immediate environment.

So I’ve chosen to keep 20% of my wool and half my knitting needles, my paints (acrylics and watercolours), three embroidery kits, 2 papercraft books & all of my fabric. What I chose not to keep was 4 bags of wool, the other half of my knitting needles, 200 skeins of embroidery silks, tester pots of paints, 10 paint brushes, scrapbook paper, 4 packs of beads and jewellery wire (the rest of the jewellery making stuff went a while ago), vintage knitting magazines, 3 cross stitch books, a knitted dinosaur book & a box of charcoal. I’ve not yet tackled paper-based crafts yet so there will be more but that feels like a good start.

I realised while I was sorting my ‘I could use this in the future’ thoughts were simply another brand of ‘just in case’ thinking. Since coming across The Minimalists post on ‘just in case’ items I have been liberated. Their hypothesis is anything we truly need and have disposed of, we can replace for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes. It is such a simple idea. It is ok to replace things we truly need. Not rocket science but it feels like permission to make mistakes. I have no doubt at some point I will dispose of something I truly need but it hasn’t happened yet and when it does it’s not the end of the world.

Rather than living in the idealised future I choose to craft the life I want now. After all tomorrow is now!

Items de-cluttered this week – Craft items (see above), 2 duvets, 60l rucksack, 4 holdalls, 3 candle sticks, 3 boxes of candles, red sand, metal bowl, 2 shoe boxes of glass beads, 3 bags of rose petals, bag of pine cones, box of autumn leaves, 2 records, 18 spare lightbulbs (83% of the ones I had!), 1 bin liner of scarves, hats & gloves, hen party decorations, baby shower quizzes.

A blog I’ve enjoyed – Canadian Cait Flanders over at Blonde on a Budget has just completed a year long shopping ban after repaying $30,000 of debt in 2 years. The year I embraced Minimalism and completed a yearlong shopping ban offers her reflections and insights on the year and has made me feel that a shopping ban might actually be possible (I’ve always thought it would be useful). While I doubt I will go straight for a year (perhaps a month), I have begun to think about what my “rules” would be. If you were to have a month long shopping ban what would your rules be? What would be your potential downfalls?

Photo Craft Room/chrissy.farnan/CC BY

Farewell to the Little Black Dress

black dress

I have a Little Black Dress. Black doesn’t suit me and yet I have the standard  Little Black Dress. I’ve known black doesn’t suit me for four years and have said goodbye to everything else in my wardrobe that is black including 2 beautiful black wool coats. However I’ve really struggled to say goodbye to the dress, and I mean REALLY struggled.

I covet a minimalist wardrobe (the irony of coveting while moving towards minimalism is not lost on me). I’ve taken a number of steps along the way and while the first had absolutely nothing to do with minimalism it has had the most profound impact. I had my colours analysed. This simple act has saved me more time and money than I can count.

There are a number of different companies that sell colour consultations and while I take the “science” of it with a handful of salt I do like that I have a clear idea of what colours suit me. I can spot them a mile off so I can walk in a shop, scan it and if there is nothing “in my colours” I can walk out again. In the past I could have spent an hour or more trying on numerous outfits with the running commentary “if only I was…” (Insert thinner/fatter/shorter/taller/more hippy/less hippy etc). This commentary is a thing of the past. Now if it doesn’t look great on me it is either because it is not my colour (or not my style). It makes it about the clothes being wrong rather than anything about me being wrong – the liberation!

The company my wife and I used categorise you into “Seasons”. We went to our consultants home (a slightly eccentric 70 year old who was wilfully blind about our relationship) and were analysed. This involved taking it in turns to sit on a stool in front of a mirror draped in a white cloth to cover our clothes and with a white bandanna covering our hair. The consultant layered coloured scarves on alternating shoulders. Initially I could not tell the difference between them but one side definitely looked better. The colours of each layer were similar however one set were yellow based and one set were blue based. (If you are not sure what I’m on about look at something red. Does it look more orangey-red or more purpley-red?) I’m apparently a “Blue Spring” which means that I look good in brighter yellow-based colours and amazing in yellow-based blues. My wife also looks good in yellow-based colours but at the more muted end as she is an “Autumn leaf”. I’m glad we did it together as I’m not sure I would have believed it if I hadn’t seen it done on someone else. Neither of us look good in black!

So back to the Little Black Dress. I know that black doesn’t suit me. In fact black makes me look jaundice and as though I’ve not slept in a week. So why have I had so much difficulty in letting go of the Little Black Dress?

I recently came across Jennifer Skinner’s blog The Very Small Closet. Unfortunately this ceased to be in 2009 but has some great posts about wardrobe management. She did a few on why it is difficult to let go of clothes and I could certainly relate. Three key factors are:

1. Clothes represent an investment of our money

2. The association factor (holding on to the memories associated with the item)

3. Imagining the future: The Someday… factor

I consider myself to be quite reflective and psychologically aware (I have to be in my work life) so I decided to spend sometime while on my recent staycation investigating the hindrance. After much deliberation I finally worked out it was the feeling. Not the feeling of owning it but the memory of the feeling of wearing it. It felt amazing. The dress in question is a beautifully tailored number by Reiss. I would team it with blue suede stiletto heels that I love (and which are in my colours) and I looked amazing! I remember very clearly buying it. I remember the day (it was sunny). I remember the location. I remember who was there. I also remember that I bought the shoes at the same time as they looked so amazing together…7 years ago! Powerful associations! I am not the type of person who remembers where and when I have bought my clothes.

When I was speaking to my wife about my difficulty her passing comment was “I don’t think I’ve every seen you in it”. Ok so I’ve not worn you in 5 years, farewell beautiful dress. Go make someone else happy.

 

Items de-cluttered this week

Zilch, zip, zero, nowt, nothing. We all need time off every once in a while and the Little Black Dress was de-cluttered last week.

Mirror, mirror on the wall

apron day

Yesterday my daughter put her apron away. She is 13 months old. This was a fringe benefit of decluttering I did not see coming.

Many advocate don’t organise what you can discard or discard first, then tidy and sort. This was certainly my downfall in the past. I’ve spent years organising clothes I never wore, books I hadn’t read, cds I never listened to and ‘stuff’ I didn’t need. The illusion this creates is both powerful and painful to break. I recognise now that I wasn’t ready, psychologically or emotionally, to part with the mountain of possessions I owned. Equally I have found forgiveness to be a necessary and important part of the art of decluttering (but that is another blog post entirely!).

As we reduce them, our possessions increasingly have a place of belonging and thus are tidied away without a second thought. The munchkin has learnt to walk fairly recently and with it has come tidying things away. Yesterday she was assisting me with the dishes and after I helped her remove her apron she carried it to the pantry, opened the door and said ‘uh uh’ while raising her arms. When my wife lifted her up, she hung her apron over the rolling pin (it was easier than the small hook). Needless to say, my flabber was gasted!

I realise my walking mirror absorbs and understands far more than we realise. I have not appreciated the importance of minimalism in her life beyond the impact having fewer toys has on her ability to play. Teaching her that there is more to life than what you own, that having less does not make you less and that there is freedom in having a simpler life has begun sooner than I had imagined. While it is never to late to start minimising and decluttering, I’m glad I started when I did.

Items de-cluttered this week 

Under bed storage box, yet more clothes (perhaps that is another post!), 1 cd, 1 book & 2 over the door coat hooks

Header photo Apron Day/Playing with brushes/CC BY