Minimalist Fail

rd-minimalist-fail

Reflections

For those of you wondering about my absence, I’ve taken inspiration from Frank at London Minimalists and have actually started a Masters degree. I’ve been meaning to start one for 8 years but something was always in the way (my stuff!). Although my free time is next to nothing and I wouldn’t be able to do it without the support of my amazing dryad wife, I’m thoroughly enjoying the learning.

It has been challenging to not be able to embrace minimalism with quite as much fervour as I used to: The Minimalist Movie is still on my to watch list on Netflix, I still need to sort out the attic etc. However I have continued to try and be a “good enough” minimalist and feel like most of the time I’m getting a good balance.

Today has felt like an epic fail! I was off to a good start with digital decluttering. On the way to the library, I removed Facebook and Ebay from my phone in the hope they will stop sucking my time, or perhaps I will be more responsible and go to sleep instead. I also culled my Facebook friends.

On the walk home from the library, I stopped at the local charity shop to see if they had any Duplo. Before Christmas a friend made the statement “all the plastic ever made is still in existence.” She’d heard it on a podcast and it has completely changed how I think about plastic, particularly toys. Hence my search for Duplo in a charity shop. I’m looking specifically for 4×2 bricks or bigger and large base boards. So why did I leave with:

  • a huge bag of Playdoh and related paraphenalia (all plastic),
  • a large box of Mechano (plastic again),
  • a dinosaur (you guessed it – plastic!)
  • 7 books (thankfully paper).

If anyone can enlighten me, I’d be awfully grateful! Perhaps I need to take a leaf out of Michelle MacGagh’s (the other half of the London Minimalists) book instead!


Discoveries

There is a new UK minimalist blog! Although I’ve not had chance to fully explore it Catherine is writing over at Midlands Minimalist. She’s got some great tips for getting started with #Unclutter2017.

Advertisements

The Snowball Effect

R&D The snowball effect

Reflections

Last Thursday I had a day off from my paid work. I planned to do things that I considered restorative (aka have a lie in), productive (aka de-cluttering pictures in the attic), and pleasurable (aka sew a skirt). The day did not go according to plan!

I slept well so come 6am I didn’t feel I needed a lie in but I enjoyed a final coffee from Clive (the coffee machine), while finishing my book. Pleasure – check; restorationve – check. I then moved on to the attic.

I had in mind to screw a set of shelves together that the Community Furniture Store was coming to collect and move them together with a chest of drawers downstairs, before tackling the pictures/frames. That was it. However, as is usual typical minimalism spreads and soon I was in the middle of a figurative snowball!

The 3 boxes of picture frames quickly decreased to half a box. The guilt of giving away pictures other people had given as gifts was tricky, but I reasoned that they would not like the idea of them sitting in a box for four years either. At least if they go on to make someone else happy then they are bringing joy in the world. I also realised that it is really not necessary to keep a photo in the frame it’s always been in when you have no intention of displaying it. Seriously it’s not. Apparently that was a revelation to me. Not quite on the ‘why am I keeping three rocks in a box in a box?’ but close.

Decreasing the frames and moving the furniture created space which led to dismantling the cotbed in our bedroom and storing it, together with the dismantled changing table that has been squatting in there for 6 months, in the attic. My bedroom is HUGE! It also made the top of the dresser look REALLY messy and I toyed with the idea of posting a photo to encourage accountability but chickened out. I am committed to sorting it this week though.

In the attic I also ended up decluttering some spare stationery, taking about 60 black pens to work (we can never find a pen when we need one), passing folders on left, right and centre, and releasing a shoe rack. The shoe rack (and a set of drawers from the bedroom dresser) moved to lounge and resulted in munchkin’s art supplies being organised and therefore easier to get out and put away. Marie Kondo encourages  organising around ease of putting away and I have to say I’m with her on that one.

After that I realised I’d generated a pile of stuff in the attic and in keeping with my back to basics approach I decided I had better start as I mean to finish and de-own it pronto. Having recently joined a car share scheme I was able to book a car, pick it up 15 minutes later and drop a box of frames round to a friend, and a load of stuff to the local household waste centre to be recycled.

The sum total of items de-cluttered this week – 10 year old printer/scanner, 60 pens, book case, chest of drawers, 40ish picture frames, 1 whiteboard, 1 pin board, box of picture frames (approximately 40), box of lever arch files, bag of clothes to a nursery, 3 magazine files, 1 bag of assorted stuff to charity, 2  storage boxes, 1 cardigan, 1 skirt, 8 eBay parcels, 1 network card, 1 bag of padded envelopes, 1 vase, shower gel, 2 small sets of drawers, an electric blanket & the entire content of my gift drawer.

What a great snowball!

kermit-601710_960_720


Discoveries

This week I’ve been catching up on some of my favourite minimalist blogs. Joshua Becker at Becoming Minimalist has set up The Hope Effect, a non-profit aiming to change orphan care world wide from institutional care to provision that mimics family life. It is truly amazing what can happen if you remove the pursuit of material possessions.

 

Back to basics

R&D Back to basics

Reflections

So, it’s been a while…

I started this blog originally to develop the habit or writing on a regular basis. I’d been invited to contribute a chapter to a book and having not written regularly I wanted to explore how to communicate ideas on paper (or technically a screen) rather than verbally. Well it turns out the chapter I was writing was somewhat of an Everest that cast everything else into it’s shadow. It took four months to write and every spare second that was not spent at paid work or parenting. I made several sacrifices including this blog.

I submitted it in February and yet it has taken until May to come anywhere near the blog. Why you ask? I simply couldn’t face it. Partly I didn’t want to write but also I didn’t feel I’d been anywhere near minimalism. Sure I’d endeavoured to maintain a status quo, but I certainly wasn’t removing things. Since February, I’ve jumped back in the deep end and discovered I still love simplifying. Mindful Minimalism calls to my soul.

I wrote 7 tips to begin a minimalist journey as I’d been asked numerous times where to start. The last three months I’ve gone back to the same basics, and the basics have helped me to develop a steady stream of possessions out the door. It turns out ‘just start’ was wise advice. I did 40 bags in 40 days, trying to ensure I was picking a Goldilocks challenge and more often than not the decluttering snow balled.

Over the past few weeks I’ve had ideas for blog posts but still not sat down to write. So this post is simply me starting and picking that ‘just right’ challenge. Maybe it’ll feel easier to come back next time.

 

Discoveries

I’ve been completely out of the minimalist scene since October. However, I have recently discovered the joys of Bullet Journalling which aids my mindful minimalist journey. If you’ve never heard of it check out this link. I’ll certainly be talking about it in the future.

No apology needed

R&D no apology needed

Reflections

Apologising is a very British past-time. Someone bumps into you on the street and you apologies. It’s like a reflex. The Sorry reflex.

I remember the best apology I ever received. It was from a client at work. I had stepped in to facilitate the group in the absence of the regular facilitators and she, being angry (about what I can’t remember) had proceeded to lie down on a sofa with her back to the group. No way was she going to participate!

After the group she approached the staff office to apologise. She wasn’t being made to apologise but my goodness did she mean it. She started with ‘I’m sorry’ but then followed up with ‘for my behaviour in the group’. Being specific about what you are apologising for is a great way to reduce overly apologetic behaviour. If you don’t know what you’re apologising for do you actually need to be apologising?

The client then explained her reflection on what impact her behaviour might have had on me and the potential consequences for the future e.g. I might be less inclined to step in and facilitate such a group again. It was an amazing apology as she had clearly articulated what she was sorry for and considered the impact of this both in the long and short term. I felt like she had really empathised with my position.

What might you ask has this got to do with Mindful Minimalism?

I’ve been thinking about my recent foray into discarding yet more DVDs and realised that much of my movement came from my combined use of mindfulness skills of non-judgemental stance and acceptance.

Historically, albeit unintentionally, I had been holding on to films for other people. To support my fantasy self who had eclectic taste in films AND needed to communicate this to others. By being able to accept my go-to films are specific fantasy/superhero, romantic comedy and teen musical dramas I’ve been able to let many more go. I really enjoy watching an eclectic range of films but I no longer need to let other people “see” that. No apology is needed for my go-to movies or for being current reality me!

Minimalism is about accepting who you are. Too often our possessions provide us with a wanted distraction. We might be too uncomfortable to sit with ourselves so the distraction is welcome. As we begin to remove the clutter and distraction we are left with the space to explore and perhaps accept those aspects of ourselves that we have spent years running from; too caught up in impressing others to realise how impressive we are.


Discoveries

I came across 5 Productivity rules you should know in your 20s by Michael Gregory. While usually I’m quite cynical about these types of posts, actually I enjoyed this one. Perhaps it was because both mindfulness and decluttering make an appearance, but lets face it we all have biases.

  1. Know your sleep
  2. Know how to declutter.
  3. Know how to read at least once a day.
  4. Know how to uni-task instead of multitasking.
  5. Know how to eat that frog!

I’m not in my 20s but I’m sure you’ll agree his advice is ageless.

Reflections & Discoveries: Asking quality questions

R&D quality questions

Reflections

Have you ever visited someone’s home for the first time and taken a gander at their collection of music, films or books. It’s usually accompanied by judging and comparison. Do they like the same things we do? What does there collection say about them? It’s a type of values foreplay that I’m sure most people, myself included, have engaged in.

5 years ago when my wife and I met she was astounded by the number of DVDs I had. I did not have a TV but I had DVDs. LOTS of DVDs. She ‘modernised’ me, introducing a TV, kettle and microwave into my home but the DVDs remained. Over the last year I have whittled my collection down to a mere 280. Some of them are hers and I wouldn’t choose to keep them, but to be honest most of them are mine.

I’ve been through them twice already – a quick first pass and then using the Marie Kondo method of taking them all off and asking “Does this spark joy?” before replacing any that do. I was surprised therefore that joining Netflix triggered the immediate thought – well I can get rid of Heroes and 24. Netflix apparently is providing me with some form of psychological safety net. However not one to pass up the opportunity for self reflection and removing things I tackled the DVDs again.

I recently came across a quote: “The quality of your life is determined by the quality of questions you ask yourself and others. What are you asking?” My research suggests this is based on a quote by Tony Robbins, however the idea has been a sticky one. What if the quality of my decluttering is based on the questions I’m asking myself?

When deciding to remove possessions we all ask ourselves questions. Does this spark joy? Do I believe this to be beautiful or know it to be useful? Would I buy it now? Am I holding on to it because of an association? Am I holding on to it because it represents an investment? Is my fantasy future-self desperately trying to hold on to it? Why am I holding on to it? Would I prefer the money/space? If I let it go and regret it, is it easily replaceable?

What I became aware of was actually asking one question was too simplistic an approach. Would I buy this now? Well no because I’m not generally buying anything. Do I believe it to be beautiful or know it to be useful? It’s a DVD it doesn’t fall into the beautiful category and the usefulness is based on a scarcity and instant gratification mentality. Does it spark joy? Some of them were easy and brought an automatic smile to my face. Others however did not immediately spark that smile but I was uncertain about letting go. There were a fair few that ended up in an ‘I’ll watch once more and then get rid of’ pile. The following day this pile simply moved to the get rid of pile.

I don’t have a favourite movie and have always thought of myself as having eclectic taste. However through this process I have discovered the films I want in my collection are my go to movies. Those I reach for time and again and do not loose their appeal in the 100th viewing. That, it appears, is a much higher benchmark. I have discovered while I have enjoyed many different films, my tastes are quite simple. I like

  • romantic comedies,
  • a few straight up comedies,
  • feel-good teenage movies usually with some form of physical activity (gymnastics/dance etc),
  • musicals,
  • action-porn (think Mr & Mrs Smith, Day after tomorrow and you get the idea)
  • Specific Trilogy/series (X men,Lord or the Rings, Harry Potter, Sharpe etc).

But having enjoyed a film does not mean I’ll necessarily watch it again. I don’t have to keep it to remember the film. That’s just not going to happen: I enjoyed Ghandi a few years ago but have no idea what happened. So why was I holding on to the others?

  • Nostalgic value…Goldfinger was the first Bond film I watched on terrestrial TV when I was a child however I’m far more lilkely to reach for Casino Royale given the choice.
  • Life stage specific e.g. Human Traffic, Monty Python and Battle Royale.
  • Films said something about me. What I wasn’t always sure perhaps they were merely supporting my ‘eclectic’ tastes e.g. The Princess Bride & Life of David Gale.
  • Films I “should” have in my collection: Pulp fiction, Flashdance, & American Beauty all fit this description.
  • Excess of the films I like. Some films were simply not high enough calibre. They fit in the categories listed above, however there were others in my collection that were my “go to” movies.
  • Films and shows my fantasy future-self was going to get round to watching e.g. Spirited Away & City of God.

This time 200 DVDs survived the cull. That brings the total number of DVDs I’ve removed to 130.  It’s not even half way and there are a few that I’m erring about but for now it’s good enough.



Discoveries

Once upon a time, Leo from Zen Habits had another blog mnmlist. One of is last posts was entitled The Dangers of Reading. It was a thoughtful reflection on how reading can activate our fantasy future self (although that is not what he called it). Inspiration can lead to distraction and this lack of focus can keep us from doing anything well. His answer is not to stop reading, but to be more mindful of our impulses when we do.

Reflections and Discoveries: Is it fit for purpose?

use it up

This frugality slogan from the Great Depression is too often forgotten in the age of mass production, quick fixes and one-click buying. Many find it useful as a minimalism mantra. I do not.

It’s the make it do aspect that I struggle with. Frugality may be a side benefit, but it is not the reason I became a minimalist and making something do does not work for me in the long run. This does not mean that the instant something is not working, wears out or is just not quite the right fit, that I run to the stores for the opportunity to spend a day shopping.

Historically I would not have thought twice about replacing an item (or more accurately buying another one and storing the original item ‘just in case’). So why have I struggled so much this week to add pegs to my shopping list?

As a more mindful consumer I have one rule. Whatever it is, it must be fit for purpose. If it doesn’t do what I need it to, or doesn’t solve a problem then it’s not fit for purpose. If I don’t like the aesthetics of it then it’s not fit for purpose (it’s got to live in my house after all). If I don’t like the feel of it, it’s not fit for purpose. This is obviously very personal – my wife and I have two potato peelers as we disagree on which is fit for purpose.

I’ve been uming and erring about a waterproof coat for months. I need one, but deciding which one to put on my Christmas list has proven hard. I loved the sewing machine I received last year. It has given me a lot of joy developing new skills and gaining the bonus of perfectly fitting new skirts!. This year, I figured contributions to a coat that would last years would be ideal.

My requirements are that it needs to be

  1. Waterproof – this may sound obvious but we don’t have a car and I commute to work on foot. In the depths of winter it rains…a lot!
  2. In my colours – I’m not particularly fussy about which, but it needs to be a yellow-based bright Spring colour.
  3. Preferably mid thigh to knee length – see point 1.
  4. Have a hood – see point 1.
  5. Be warm(ish) – I don’t mind layering but don’t want a flimsy coat.
  6. Good quality.
  7. A good fit – some form of gathering at the waist if it is a longer one.

I’ve hit a glitch though. Christmas is 13 weeks away and in addition to accidentally minimising my phone contacts I’ve also accidentally minimised my raincoat (aka lost it!) . There is definitely a downside to minimalism!

Urgency has yet again reared it’s ugly head in my minimalism journey. With the pegs, I struggled to even put them on the shopping list because of a lack of urgency. I did’t NEED pegs. I had pegs. Did they ‘Spark Joy?’ Certainly not. Well six of them did, but the rest didn’t. They were an eclectic old bunch, mismatched and liable to break. It wasn’t urgent that they were replaced, particularly as we’re coming into winter, but I realised there is a difference between pegs and my coat. I knew which pegs I wanted.

On the other hand I have a sense of urgency about getting a coat but haven’t found “the one” that ticks all the boxes. Should I just make do? Compromise? Buy more than one?

On Sunday, after buying my new pegs, I visited a shop and found a good quality, pink waist length jacket with a hood that was waterproof and a good fit. I also found a waterproof, knee-length coat that was warmer, had a hood but was not in my colours and made me look slightly ill. I haven’t bought either and I’m resisting but the urge to buy is strong! Neither is completely fit for purpose, but….

What would you do?


Discoveries

I’ve had this one in my email to share with you for a while. Melanie Fisher over at Realisation of Good has produced a One page guide to decluttering. It is great and includes a list of 11 questions to ask yourself when deciding to keep something, including “Is it easily replaceable if I end up regretting letting it go?” It’s a perfect introduction for anyone who is thinking about simplifying.

The Accidental Minimalist

iphone-518101_1280

Two days ago I lost my phone. Given my previous phone zombie ways I was surprised it took me four hours to realise it might be missing and a further 14 hours to establish it definitely was missing. I really wasn’t bothered by it’s absence. The most frustrating thing was I couldn’t phone my wife to tell her I got the three messages about it not being at Nursery or to let her know when I would be home.

I have a new one now, delivered to my door this morning. What I am missing, or should I say haven’t got, are my contacts. It is a strange feeling to have minimised my contacts and so much easier to have done it accidentally. I have to think about who I need and want to have in my contacts list rather than who to remove. The subtle shift of what I want to keep (rather than what I want to get rid of) is serving me well in other areas and I guess will also serve me well in filling the currently empty space of mobile phone contacts.

Obviously it is a bit of a bind that in order to let people know I haven’t got there number, I have had to use alternative strategies (I’m very glad I haven’t deleted my Facebook account), but I’m hoping it will be an autumn clean and a fresh start. The silver lining is however that when I’m out of contract in a month, I can switch to a sim only contract with a brand new phone. Always look for the positives and all that!