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.

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/

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.