11 lessons waste food taught me…

rd-food-waste

Reflections

So after reviewing Zero waste home by Bea Johnson I said I was going to participate in Zero Waste Week which this year is focusing on food waste. Turns out that even knowing that this week was coming and therefore being more mindful about what was coming in, a lot has still gone out!

I usually have a rough menu plan for the week, however this week I was mindful of trying to use things up so as to not waste them. We often batch cook so have several meals that are quick to heat up on the three nursery nights a week. Saturday is usually wild card night to use anything up but this week it ended up being Wednesday as there were so many things about to go off.

Planned Actual
Monday Butternut squash lasagne (left over from Sunday) Butternut squash lasagne
Tuesday Quorn Pasta bake Quorn Pasta bake
Wednesday Fish Pie (Frozen) Quorn Pasta bake, tofu wiener & coleslaw
Thursday Egg Spaghetti Beetroot & Goats Cheese Salad
Friday Spaghetti Bolognese (Frozen) Spaghetti Bolognese
Saturday Sausages & Frozen Yorkshires (that had been around a while!) Sausages & Yorkshires
Sunday Tagine (made on Saturday) Tagine & Rice

In total I managed to “save” several items

  • Mini mozzarella balls – ended up in the pasta bake.
  • Pasta shells – ended up in the pasta bake.
  • Tofu wieners
  • The end of  some goats cheese.

 

As for the waste, I’ve decided to try and use each item that has gone as an opportunity to learn. I should be clear, I’m not counting food waste (e.g. vegetable peelings) but rather food I have wasted.  The grand total at the end of the week has been:

  • Half a (mouldy) melon.
  • Half a jar of mayonnaise that had gone funky even by my standards
  • Crackers/bread sticks/oatcakes that were stale.
  • 3 (mouldy) half lemons
  • Half a pot of hummus
  • Half a bag of funky spinach
  • 1 portion of fish pie

 

Lesson 1. Visibility – Don’t forget you have a melon, or for that matter fish pie in the freezer.

Lesson 2. Correct storage. After eating half a melon, don’t leave the other half covered on the side for 24 hours when it is sweltering. Put it in the fridge.  Equally breadsticks and crackers stored correctly last much longer than in open packets.

Lesson 3. More is not always cost effective. – Although the cost per gram is cheaper in a larger jar, the speed at which I consume mayonnaise would have made a small jar more economical. It’s better to use all of a small jar than half a large jar.

Lesson 4. Using waste food often takes creativity and time. Factor this in to life.  In hindsight the stale crackers & breadsticks could have been used to form the base of a savoury cheese cake, however I have no plans to make this anytime soon due to time constraints.

Lesson 5. Stock rotation 101 – Agree as a household on a where things are kept so food is used sequentially. Clear storage containers would also have helped with this, so I might employ some of Bea Johnson’s go to solution: Jam jars!

Lesson 6. Take responsibility for your own waste – While there are somethings I’m willing to eat, others are my wife’s responsibility. She went away mid week and it didn’t last until she got back. Equally the fish pie was completely my responsibility as she is a vegetarian.

Lesson 7. Pay attention to food you don’t eat as much. This again was the wife’s and while I don’t eat as much of it (she is Popeye) I would have eaten it if I had noticed it before it dissolved.

Lesson 8. If it’s been in the freezer for a year, I’m not eating it – We need a stock rotation system for the freezer for the infrequent items.

Other lessons I have learnt:

Lesson 9. Bizarre combinations of food are edible, even if they won’t make the regular meal plan. Wednesday night’s dinner was left over pasta & quorn bake, tofu wieners and coleslaw.

Lesson 10. Portion appropriately. The pasta bake was more successful this week as I halved the amount of pasta so it fed us all one night with only one portion left over for my lunch (which I had forgotten I didn’t need).

Lesson 11. Don’t stockpile items as whims can change like the wind blows. We currently have 13 tins of chickpeas and 3 packs of cod pieces (plus various other fish in the freezer from when my daughter was eating fish). My action plan at the end of Zero Waste week is to identify oven baked cod recipes I can do easily.

 

So how have you been doing with reducing your food waste? What are your top tips? Do you have regular offenders that get wasted?

 


Discoveries

 

If you are in the mood for a different minimalist challenge, Anne over at Minimalist Sometimes is doing a 21 day declutter challenge getting rid of 231 items in 21 days (Day 1 = 1 item, Day 2 = 2 etc). Current circumstances mean I’m not going to join, however if you need the motivation…

Taking a purchase pause

R&D Purchase Pause

There are numerous advantages to pursuing a mindfully minimalist lifestyle. Since beginning to whittle down my possessions, I have already reaped the benefits of more time to spend how I want to: writing, learning to crochet, time with friends and family, & sleeping to name but a few. In my experience,The financial impact of minimalism however is a bit more complex. Through selling some of my possessions I have saved nearly sufficient to pay for a Master’s degree. While I have yearned to study at post graduate level for years, I’ve never had the financial means to do so without sinking deeper into debt.

Selling unwanted possessions has a downside. Attaching financial value to possessions you are removing is risky. It reattaches meaning and value to them, despite already deciding they have no place in your life. It can be harder to let them go as they are then deemed to be “worth” something. This was a significant barrier that held me back until recently.

I’m not sure entirely what clicked – perhaps it was the ever growing mountains of unsorted children’s clothes in the attic which made trying to retrieve anything a monumental expedition. I realised while eBay is a useful servant, it is an unhelpful master. After concerted effort and a very nice lady at the post office who allowed me to come back (after she had processed the 36 parcels) I have now changed my mind set. Not only do I have time limit on the items I am selling, I have become more generous. Items I would historically tried to make a little money from now move on immediately to charity. I’ve recently received my gift aid updates from two local charities and the items I’ve donated have netted them £400 + 25%. A helpful positive reinforcer for continuing this way.

Minimalism automatically drives towards mindful consumption. If you’ve put the effort into reducing your physical possessions mindfully, you are (hopefully) less likely to mindlessly accumulate more. However being mindful of your purchasing habits takes just that: mindfulness.

I disposed of all of my debt (except the mortgage), prior to the birth of my daughter, and a long time before I discovered minimalism. Since then I’ve been able to live within my means and avoid any further accumulation of debt. This includes while on reduced income during maternity leave, and while paying childcare despite both my wife and I reducing our paid work to 0.8 WTE. However I’ve had this nagging feeling for a while that I’m not spending my money how I want to.

Michelle McGagh at London Minimalists is currently a little over halfway through her year long no spend challenge, while Cait Flanders has just completed her 2 year shopping ban.

Personally I’m not one for extremes, however over the last three weeks I have been inspired to undertake a Purchase Pause. I got the idea from an article by Courtney Carver about the power of a purchase pause. She suggested 5 strategies:

  1. Fake it
  2. Buy it on paper
  3. Identify needs vs. wants
  4. Know what matters
  5. Make rules

I decided to opt for a variation of buying it on paper. I have been writing in my bullet journal what I have purchased, and what I have wanted to purchase, including the cost. Personally paper helps me to be more thoughtful about what I have been buying. I have also jotted down any thought processes I have been aware of. It turns out that the following have contributed to my spending:

  • Desire – wool
  • It’s easier just to get it – a near miss with Zero Waste Home
  • Necessity – a lightbulb & groceries
  • ‘It’s available’ – a near miss with a coffee grinder
  • Lack of planning – food usually
  • It’s for a good cause – donations at a Refugee week event
  • ‘It’s not real money’ – a credit note used to buy shoes
  • Entitlement – ‘It’s our holiday’ – Snacks after trampolining

It was certainly helpful to be aware of of my mental attitudes. Some of the items were purchased through need, but some were definitely wants. The most significant change however was by noting what I would have spent mindlessly (averaging £25 per week) I have been able to redirect this to where I would like it to go.

I have become more generous and seriously begun to think about what I am ‘voting’ for when I spend my money. Initially the money I ‘saved’, or more accurately didn’t spend, has been redirected to help others including pants for refugees, sponsoring a friend who completed Pretty Muddy for cancer charity, a fete in aid of Alder Hey Children’s Charity, supporting the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and a food bank donation. I’ve since discovered it is possible to make regular monetary donations to the food bank so that is on my list of things to do this week.

Perhaps mindful minimalism is a key to generosity.


Discoveries

This week I’ve been dipping into the ocean of Leo Babauta‘s Zen habits and particularly enjoyed A Simple Declutter Habit: Leave No Trace. The premise is fairly simple and focuses on tidying up after yourself, however he highlights the role of mindfulness within this. You have to notice as you move through life and from one task to another.When you finish a task pause and take stock before moving on to the next. His gentle guidance does not expect perfectionism, rather encouraging you to remember as often as you can.

 

Indecision leads to clutter

R&D indecision leads to clutter

Reflections

In our house, Saturday night is designated “Screen-free night”. No phone, no TV, no computers. It’s a guaranteed night where my wife and I get to interact without distraction. Sometimes we simply converse over dinner and before we know it it’s time for bed. Other times we play board games and occasionally we invest our precious time together in our quest for a minimalist life. Last Saturday it was our wedding that got decluttered.

Now you may wonder what is there to declutter from a wedding. Once the day is over, the gifts unwrapped, the thank yous sent, that is it right? Time to get on with the marriage (or in our case civil partnership). Well the answer in our house was a shoe box full of glass beads, 9 vases of leaves (autumnal wedding) and this!

pre wedding box

 

Being mindful and attending to the psychological process of decluttering has introduced me to my fantasy future self, my nostalgic self and now, my completely indecisive past self. Apparently anything to do with the wedding got put in this box. Goodness knows why the spare 97 invitations (complete with typo) could not go straight in the recycling. 2 wedding magazines? Why on earth have they been occupying real estate? It’s not like I’m planning another wedding.. In the end we reduced the huge hat box down to this:

post wedding box

 

We were lucky enough to write our entire wedding service as there are no obligatory words in a civil partnership ceremony. So we decided to keep that, the guest book, the table names, our place cards for the wedding breakfast, an order of service, an invitation, the gift list and the notebook we took on honeymoon.

I have no doubt other people will perhaps judge even this to be a lot to keep from a day that, lets face it, is over. However The Minimalists idea that most things can be replaced in 20 minutes for less than $20 has helped me let go of loads. What we kept can’t. I am sentimental and do like to keep some physical possessions to trigger memories. Having tackled the loft store where I had rocks in a box in a box, I am now more discerning about what I keep. These items seem sufficient without being excessive.

Most of the content and the box itself went in the recycling. Time and distance certainly helped the speed of decision, but ultimately I became aware indecision breeds clutter. The decisions I put off today simply lead to more clutter tomorrow, both physical and mental. The shoe box is more indecision: the wedding cards we received. I have no idea whether to keep them, photograph them, or simply recycle them. What would you do?

 


Discoveries

Increasingly I’ve been thinking about having a purchase pause and then Courtney Carver from Be More with Less popped up on my social media feed with a  The Power of a Purchase Pause. She outlines the benefits of having a purchase pause, saving money, limiting impulse purchases and the like, before suggesting 5 ways to adopt a purchase pause:

  1. Fake it.
  2. Buy it on paper.
  3. Identify needs and wants.
  4. Know what matters.
  5. Make rules.

I think it deserves an experiment as there is no way I’m up for a no spend year (yet!).

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.

Reflections and Discoveries: Feeling more or less

R&D Feeling more or less

While I have published regular posts recently I haven’t actually written anything related to minimalism and mindfulness in over three weeks. I efficiently planned ahead to allow myself space for writing a chapter for a up coming book. I endeavoured to use my efficient planning ahead to manage my life load (and work load) but as invariably happens Life often has other plans for us. As yet, the chapter is only partly written and a variety of challenges have arisen, both at work and at home. What I’ve realised is I have ended up in a spiral of feeling more of the things I don’t want to feel and less of the things I do want to feel.

I’m feeling more stressed, more tired and more overwhelmed. I’ve walked less, done less yoga and eaten more chocolate. I’m more angry and irritable and less patient.  The house feels more chaotic (and a lot less minimal) as I’ve felt too tired to even engage in the day to day maintenance that keeps our environment calm. I’ve also noticed a few of the old habits have snuck back in related to mobile phone use. I also appear to have stopped noticing the positive things I am doing as the mountain of what is not done feels so big.

Enough is enough. On Sunday my wife and I had a very pleasant walk back from the local shop with our 18 month old daughter. The 15 minute walk took about 90 minutes. We walked over a bridge which required much investigation and several attempts to climb various bits of it, conversations about the birds she could see, walking down a huge flight of steps (very carefully!). We took a detour into the park to kick through the autumn leaves, visited the ducks, geese and coots and ensured we said goodbye to the squirrels when we were leaving. Rather than feeling the urge “to do” we went with the urge “to be”.

Often I use the phrase “this too shall pass” to help me tolerate difficulties and challenges, however that day I realised it can also be used to focus appreciation on the positives in my life. The munchkin will only be young for such a short space of time, if my focus is else where on less important things then I will miss it.

I’ve recently been reading around Appreciative Inquiry. This model of inquiry advocates inquiry into the “best of what is”, in order to “imagine what could be”, followed by design and implementation of the desired future. So I decided this week to use these ideas to focus on what ‘sparks joy’ in my life and specifically around what enables me to feel calmer. I’ll let you know how I get on.

What helps you to remain calm in a sea of chaos?


Discoveries

It will be no surprise, given the above, that Leo Babuta’s recent post The Underrated, Essential Art of Coping has resonated this week. The idea of using curiosity and openness to explore uncomfortable feelings and self compassion as a way of coping are not novel, but were useful reminders.

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.

Declutter 101: 7 tips to begin a minimalist journey

where to begin

This weeks post is motivated by a comment on last weeks Reflections and Discoveries: Is it fit for purpose? and gives 7 top tips to begin a minimalist journey.

If anyone ever asks me how I came to be a minimalist I blame the baby! My nesting instinct during pregnancy was to get rid of stuff. Lots of stuff! During my third trimester I embarked on 40 bags in 40 days. I was inspired by a fellow aspiring minimalist who I’m fortunate enough to now call my friend.

I lasted all of 9 days! In those 9 days I managed to create 15 “bags” albeit some of them virtual. If you asked me now what I removed….erm out of date medicine and my emails. My emails took 15 hours (2 bags) and the medicine cabinet 30 minutes (1 bag). Other than that I’d have to check out my list of places that I had identified before I started. I know some areas I’d identified still haven’t been done (the shed!) and others have been gone through numerous times, although not in that initial flurry of activity.

It took a further 9 months before I began my consistent, step by step journey towards a more mindfully minimal lifestyle. In November 2014 I started to remove stuff/things/items/possessions. Call it what you will, it was clutter and it was getting in the way.

I actually restarted because I wanted to acquire something. A wooden 12 piece rainbow for my daughter’s first birthday. If 12 pieces were coming in I wanted to have sold sufficient ‘stuff’ to fund it. I didn’t actually need the money but it was useful having a target. I did it in 2.5 weeks. Since then I’ve used money from selling to fund two dress making classes and to buy another laptop. I can’t say replace as the previous four are still in the house but it is a replacement. I’m now saving to do a Masters degree.

I’ve tried numerous techniques along the way. Some have stayed, some have been discarded along with more clutter. These however are my top tips to get started.

1. Start

This may seem obvious, but just start. You don’t have to wait for the perfect time, or until you have the perfect strategy. Just start. Put the pile of read (or unread magazines in the recycling). Pick up 5 things that are in the wrong room and put them in the right room (preferably away but to be honest in the early days there may not be space).

2. Start with the end in mind.

Start with the end in mind and set yourself up for success. Most people know where their bin is and hopefully their recycling too. If you don’t I suggest you acquaint yourself with them as a first step as they are essential parts of a minimalist journey. It is much easier if you know where you are going to put the items you remove.

I use the four ‘box’ method – trash/recycle, donate, sell, relocate. They are not so much boxes as bags and a basket for the items for relocation. I prefer to have them all with me and then move them at the end of a period of decluttering (or when they’re full) to the end point (i.e. the bin outside/charity shop/put the relocated items away).

3.   Identify high hit rate areas

When paying off debt one school of thought is paying off the smallest debt first (while maintaining minimum payments on others) so you start to see small successes and can snowball them. I feel it is the same with minimalism. Rather than thinking I’m going to tackle the entire bathroom, focus on the medicine cabinet. Rather than the entire bedroom, do your sock drawer. Kitchen = pantry. It may sound crazy but I don’t think most people have a lot of emotional attachment to their out of date medicine or holey socks. Identifying these areas can give you quick wins as whether something needs to go is usually obvious. If you need any convincing on why it is important to get rid of out of date medicines then Anne Lene at Minimalist sometimes wrote a great piece on the very topic: Expired medication…It is important to remember to dispose of medicines safely at a pharmacy though.

4. Have a target

Having a targets has helped immensely. My original target was 40 bags in 40 days. At the rate I was going, if I had maintained momentum I would have done 40 bags in 24 days.

What I learnt was having realistic goals helped build momentum as I had a sense of achievement. The two most depressing days were the email clearing and eventually I counted it as 2 bags. It felt never ending yet on a different day, Medicine Cabinet – done. I may as well do the under the sink cupboard and pantry too. Three bags in one day!

Once I had embraced the idea of getting rid of stuff, early on I found it much easier to do  quick sweep round a room pulling out anything that I new immediately needed to go. This is great if you are wanting to do a lot quickly, however in depth decluttering will hone your skills.

Maire Kondo recommends a specific order with which to proceed as the difficulty increases. It leaves sentimental items until last and having recently been through the memory boxes in the attic, I was glad I had honed my skills as three rocks in a box and a bit of wood gnawed by a beaver could just go!

If you are at the start of a minimalist journey, the target of bin day or trash/recycling collections can be a real motivator as deowning is as important as the initial decluttering. Fill an extra bag with rubbish or recycling and get rid.

5. Take the Goldilocks challenge.

Never heard of the Goldilocks challenge? It’s making sure that you are taking the just right challenge. Rather than biting something off that is too big to chew like the entire kitchen, break it down to a challenge that is just right. You could break it down by location or type of item. Personally I’ve tended to break it down by location: the fridge; the freezer; counter tops; top cupboards; bottom cupboards. When you’re starting perhaps only doing one cupboard at a time, especially when you are time poor.

6. Aim for progress not perfection

As we are all so used to feeding our fantasy future self, it is equally important to not act into her when we are removing things too. She may want to live in an amazingly minimalist house, but you have to live in this reality. Even if you are on the journey it, much like a river, will ebb and flow.

For helping remind me of this I love Elsie Joy’s poster Big Things Happen One Day at a Time. It helps me to remember that even if I don’t manage to do something everyday it is the overall progress that is important. Commit to working on having a more mindfully minimal life and every day you take a stem towards it, cross a day off.

7. Get a community

I’ve already written on The importance of community on a minimalist journey. Whether virtual or real, set up your support systems (even if they don’t realise that is what they are).

It helps to have people in real life who you connect with over minimalism, whether a partner, friend or community who just get it. They understand why shopping is not, in your world, a leisure pursuit without feeling judged.

As I said, my inspiration came from a very good friend who is also an aspiring minimalist, and since then many in my local parenting community have embraced to a greater or lesser extent the idea of decluttering. Even when decluttering is taking a back seat in my life I enjoy seeing how much others are doing online but I must admit it is the face to face conversations I find most powerful. The evolution of ideas that come from dialogue rather than monologue. While on maternity leave I spent many a Friday lunchtime discussing minimalism and I now no longer get the chance to do that which saddens me.

Having said that, in the early days, in the middle of the night I gained inspiration and enthusiasm from reading blog posts. Online communities can be as powerful, sharing ideas across the globe. Many blogs are US based and it was with these I started, particularly Becoming Minimalist. However there is a growing online community in the UK and a list of UK Minimalist blogs can be found here.

Ultimately, if you want to become a minimalist (or even just a little more minimalist), start today. Tomorrow is now!

Reflections & Discoveries: Digital downtime

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Reflections

This week has not seen much decluttering action. The readjustment to work after two weeks of blissful holiday has been a hard one, particularly the increased presence of technology in my life as a result.

I didn’t abstain from technology use completely while on holiday. We watched a couple of films, signed up for Netflix (now that we have amazing broadband) and regularly used our phone internet to find directions and opening hours of a variety of venues. However I used it a lot less on a day to day basis.

Coming back to reality has given me pause for reflection. That, and I went to the Leeds Minimalists meetup on Saturday. The topic under discussion…Digital decluttering. They were a great bunch of people with a variety of life and technological experiences. It was a wonderful feeling not having to engage in values foreplay before getting down to the nitty gritty.

Personally, I am firmly in the camp of technology should solve a problem rather than create more problems. I dislike technology for the sake of technology. While I imagine, in a similar way to Penicillin being an accidental discovery, technology for technology’s sake has unexpected benefits, but I take Penicillin when needed. I don’t have it as part of my regular diet. So while my post-holiday food diet is adjusting back to home-cooked meals, I’m not sure I want my digital consumption to be what it was pre-holiday.

I’m feeling in the need of some digital downtime. A digital diet if you will. I’ve written previously about my phone zombie ways and have managed to maintain two out of three of my commitments. I no longer use my phone while walking or feeding my daughter. Bedtime is still not consistent so some more work is needed.

Many websites and blogs suggest digitising to remove physical clutter (photos, DVDs and CDs etc.). I fear that ultimately it delays decisions and avoids harsh realities and truths. I think it is necessary to remove the physical clutter before digitising, not by digitising.

Given the state of my external hard drive I would say I’m a digital hoarder. Granted I’m gathering all my historical computer files as I slowly ‘declutter’ each decrepit machine – Marie Kondo digital style – however the fact remains that there is A LOT of digital clutter. So it is an unhappy relationship: needing to minimise my digital clutter while also needing some digital down time. My synthesis is carving out some protected space and time that is technology free.

Some spaces are sacred. In places of worship, swimming pools, and theatres, cultural expectations or physical environment deter the use of phones in particular. But what if those same expectations or restrictions are not present. We must create our own sacred space and fastidiously guard it’s borders. My walk to work is definitely a sacred space. So too is Screen-free evening every Saturday with my wife. Then I get stuck. How to carve out some more screen free time? The exception obviously being the baby monitor!

How about you? How do you get your digital down time? Where are your sacred spaces?



Discoveries

Christy King at The Simple White Rabbit is constructing a Minimalism A-Z. I love how accessible the posts have been and while they can be read as stand alone articles, they are also a beautiful series that explore different facets of the Minimalist prism. So far she has covered Authenticity, Borrowing (and lending), Capsule wardrobe, Debt reduction, Electronic Storage, Freedom and Gratitude. This week she wrote H is for Habits. She outlines the process required to break bad habits by replacing them with good habits. I’ve always found it easier to replace something rather than just give it up. Linking, or staking, a new habit on to an old habit e.g. taking the time a kettle boils as an opportunity to do some mindful breathing or a yoga pose. Her other suggestion is building microhabits. Starting, as the name suggests, really small. I’m going to try out naming the things I have done that move me towards minimalism on a daily basis (even when these are not identifying what to get rid of). What habits do you want to change or adopt?

Declutter 101: How to get rid of clothing

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“Know, first, who you are; and then adorn yourself accordingly.” – Epictetus

While I have really enjoyed sharing my thoughts on mindful minimalism, I have no desire to reinvent the wheel. This week I’ve compiled a post that gathers the best resources I’ve found, in the great minimalist blogosphere, on how to achieve a minimalist/capsule wardrobe or basically remove items of clothing that are no longer required (either through fit, style or excess). Obviously one size does not fit all so I’ve included a few different links that have helped me at different stages of my journey.

This is partly in preparation for my second attempt at removing things from my wardrobe when I get back from Bonny Scotland. I completed started this task on January 1st 2015 producing 4.5 bin liners and since then a steady stream has continued to leave. Clearly I’ve not done a thorough job and my hope is that in Marie Kondo’s words if I “do it once and do it properly” the stream will cease. Until then I shall leave you with these.

  • Denaye Barahona’s post, at Dallas Mom’s blog, Why I got rid of my wardrobe, helped me believe a minimalist wardrobe is both possible and achievable (for me). I already have a wardrobe of clothes that colourwise work but taking it that step further to think about what combinations work is my next task. I love that this post has before and after photos of her closet and pictures of 12 different outfits she can assemble by simply grabbing a selection of clothes and shoes.
  • I really enjoy the accessibility of Joshua Becker’s posts at Becoming Minimalist and it is lovely to see how he has evolved as a minimalist (and writer) over time. He also includes regular guest posts. One such post was The story of enough by Sarah Peck, which resonated with last weeks post on being a Good Enough Minimalist. Sarah gave up buying new clothes for a year and discovered what she liked and what mattered to her.
  • If you’re still not convinced you can do it, then how about a look at Joshua’s post A practical guide to owning fewer clothes. He outlines 10 clear steps that are practical and applicable. I certainly need to revisit a couple of these!
  • No post on minimalist wardrobes would be complete without mention of Courtney Carter’s Project 333. Wear only 33 items of clothing, shoes, jewellery, and outerwear for 3 months. There are some exclusions such as workout gear, underwear and your wedding ring don’t count. If that is feeling a little daunting, I love her list of 33 things to eliminate from your closet.
  • And last but certainly not least is Janie Baran’s post over at Simple not plain on how to develop a minimalist wardrobe. It contains a step by step formula that combines consideration of colour, style and suggestions on what to have as your base items, secondaries and accessories. She suggests a 50 item complete wardrobewith a 33 item working wardrobe. It is a great guide to getting started and is an alternative approach rather than staring with a remove the excess approach.

I’ve no idea how to approach my next cull. Perhaps I should start with Marie Kondo’s ‘what sparks joy’ and then use Janie’s advice as a follow up. Whatever I decide, I’ll let you know what else I discover when my task is complete. Who knows, I may even find Narnia!


Items de-cluttered this week – From the depths under the sink I’ve disposed of 6 partially used bottles of cleaning product I don’t use, 2 brushes, several items that I’ve no idea what they were for and part of the fridge we replaced two weeks ago. I’ve also (finally) defrosted the freezer and in the process have disposed of a bag of food I would prefer not to admit to or think about!

A blog I’ve enjoyed – I love coming across posts that take ideas that I’ve had and extend them. This weeks post is one such blog. I’ve recently discovered the writing of Francine Jay over at Miss Minimalist and I have loved every post I’ve read thus far. Her post, Declutter your fantasy self, chimed so clearly with my post a few weeks ago about tomorrow is now that I had to share it. Her idea of seriously asking yourself what your fantasy self is like, and then being honest about our real self has already begun to help me think about the task of going through the wardrobes again when I get back from holiday.


Photo: 2015-02-14c Ideal for things to wear — index card/Sacha Chua/