Maximally-Minimal

Found my cheek bones today.
Have long forgot I had e’er lost ’em.
Am reminded of others,
the lumps and bumps snuggled beneath stones.
I do love my rounded hips.
But no more meaty-bits shall pass these lips.

My moobs are fading fast.

A little unfinished ode to my knobbly bits, who for too long have hidden under a cushion of fat.

Well, where does the time go? I was so pleased with myself for writing regularly and the next thing I know two weeks have passed!

So, what have I been up to?

I am drinking (black) coffee again after reading it can be beneficial for gout, but I went caffeine free for 10 days. I felt awful for a few days, but felt good in the end. I feel that I am in control of my coffee addiction now.

You’ll be glad to know I saw sense and didn’t drink endless processed shakes for days nor did I do a juice detox (yet). I have however been totally vegan for 14 days. :-D

I have tried to eat most of my vegetables raw, along with the ideas behind the juice detox, and I have drank green juices mixed with healthier snacks and absolutely no processed foods. I am eating little & often but my appetite has already adjusted and so too have my taste buds.

I am enjoying what I eat more and more, I sleep better [tonight being the exception], have more energy, my sex drive is almost back to normal and I look and feel good. I mean, my skin seems healthier and perhaps my vibes/aura are positive.

And, the best benefit is that I am losing weight. My weight is now 102.4kg from 106.

Maybe that’s a little too fast, but I guess I am carrying so much extra weight that it’s not dangerously fast!? Well, I do hope it slows down once I get under 100.

There’s still a long way to go, but I feel very committed to a new eating lifestyle, a full convert, and am quietly confident that my weight should eventually reach healthier levels with relative ease. I am walking more too, but even when at home I am being much more active.

With so much energy to use I have started the process of minimising our things.

I know, another contradiction. I won’t, however, be doing everything and every room right now. I do need to do it now though, I feel like my body is finally free of excessive-crap and I need to do the same to my surroundings.

I will recycle and donate what I can now, and start preparing other things to sell much sooner than I had planned. Well, I did say before I am 40. That didn’t necessarily mean when I’m 39.

I know that the kitchen and garden will likely wait for many more months/years, but if the other rooms and spaces are maximally-minimal than that’s a good compromise.

I’ve already done some of the easier rooms and one hellish space – the wardrobe.

It makes me feel a little guilty when I think about how much we’ve already gifted, binned, recycled and sold. When we moved we shed two normal sized bin bags and one extra large one of all sorts plus we donated a huge suitcase of clothing.

Since living here, we’ve sold a few small odds and electronics, recycled one more large bin bag and a handful more of clothes have gone to new homes.

It’s so funny how we lived with so little in the past, travelling from country to country every 12-18 months and only when we thought we were settled (2008 and y’know what put and end to that) did we accumulate more. Still, even that time the things we had were only things we needed to stay put and was nowhere near what we have now.

We’ve moved from a furnished and fully equipped place to somewhere with nothing, well not nothing. An oven and hob with fitted kitchen and half fitted bathroom.

We’ve had to acquire cutlery, plates, bowls, pans, knives, mirror, furniture, washing machine, mirror, shower screen and on and on and on.

What with us both gathering together everything we’d squirrelled away in family homes, and buying those things we didn’t really need and no longer want, we have filled the empty spaces quickly.

My partner, and to a small extent myself, find it hard not to hoard. Having had so little in the past and having been forced to give up our new married-settled life so early on.

I am happy though, that he is seeing the sense in what I am doing and enjoying the positive results. Less mess to tidy, how quick it is to clean and less emotional and physical baggage.

So, here’s a few quick snaps of the before and after for our entrance hall, bedroom and my side of the wardrobe:

 

Right now I am working on a monstrous pile of paper work, something I had started to sort and bought new folders for before we even moved and have never gotten round to do. Next up will be another “easy” room, the bathroom.

Then over the summer I’ll work on my office, which is more of a junk room and has never become the spare room we had hoped for, and on the living-dinning room.

If I haven’t exhausted myself, I’ll have a go at reorganising the kitchen but not with any plans to minimise it for now. Let’s see how the other rooms go. ;)

Sufficient?

What is sufficient? Enough? Neither too much nor too little?

I’ve been on another documentary binge both on Netflix and YouTube. You can see my Netflix list in a previous post.

I’ve most recently watched Four Horsemen and Minimalism (about The Minimalists) and both of these have opened my eyes to new opinions and reminded me of ideas I’ve forgotten already on this short journey.

I guess I’ve gotten too obsessed with the whole money less/moneyless, self-sufficient and greener lifestyle that I have forgotten that simple approaches often provide the simplest answers.

I cannot remember if I ever posted something I’d said to my partner when we moved house, at about the time I started this blog. I declared that I wanted all but the most useful of our stuff to be gone by the time I am 40.

Sure, I am contradicting one of my previous posts when I said that I like building a nest, a well stocked and decorated one. However, like many smart people have said and thought before me ‘your things end up owning you’!

I am happy to enjoy them a little longer, and accept that living in one place means you need more paraphernalia than say someone with a nomadic lifestyle (and one which I now miss more and more). However, we still have more than we honestly need.

Our consumer habits have certainly been buried, not just put to bed, and this is partly from our desire for spending less and being more environmentally friendly. Perhaps though it is time to look at this from a third angle. A minimalist one.

Cooking, baking and growing your own food means you need more ‘valuables’ than someone who simply buys, barters or exchanges for their food. And I accept that wholeheartedly.

The ideal is to see those chattel as the tools they are, things with functions and not bits & pieces that are mine which I must protect and guard from others, causing stress and depression for no-one but me.

Sure, these ‘goods’ may have cost us money to acquire, but once their usefulness has passed we should gift (or exchange) them to others that need and want them. We shouldn’t let them and their original cost be a burden.

I’ve increasingly had daydreams, little fantasies, about our entire apartment being swallowed whole by the earth. Perhaps my imagination was simply running a little wild, in absence of my usual weekend action and horror film marathons.

And yet, this made me think. What would I really miss? If we had to crash at a friends house and only had the clothes on our backs. Would that really be a disaster? What would I risk my life for, in a mad dash to save from a muddy doom?

Well, I came to see our possessions as belonging to one of four different types:

  • Essential
  • Inescapable
  • Escapable
  • Emotional

The Essentials would be those tools I mentioned before, that we neither love nor desire but which our lifestyle dictates we need. Sure, having less or smaller and simpler versions may be a possibility and changes in lifestyle and/or needs should mean we exchange or pass these things onto someone who still has necessity for them, rather than clinging onto them.

The Inescapables are those things we do not particularly want but that we are required to have by law or to be able to operate within society, passports and documentation. I could probably include these as tools, but they are not likely something we should give up or pass on at any future time.

The Escapables are the clobber we have simply because we like/liked them and that may not really provide any use or benefit. This wouldn’t include a collection or something that brings us genuine and long-lasting joy, or which we can build social relationships from. Rather the opposite, stuff we thought would bring us happiness or things that once did but now sit on shelves, in drawers or boxes and merely clutter our homes and lives.

Then there are the Emotionals, these sentimental assets that may very well be irreplaceable. Be them antiques, heirlooms, a necklace gifted at birth, wedding rings and so on. Arguably we shouldn’t need these, and if they are a burden of responsibility, then why not pass them onto other family members to care for?
Still, if they bring us a sense of connection and aid our memories or any positive feelings then getting rid of them can be more tricky and questionable.

My own collection of ’emotional’ belongings was substantial, until I started taking photos of such [re]movables and then let them go both physically and heartfully. Now these number less than a handful.

Funny how some of the gear I once clung to were things I thought my mother wanted me to keep, so I offered them to her. She was surprised and said that she had a small box of trinkets, of little tokens from my early years, she has her memories and her photos and that was all she wanted and needed. So, a click of the shutter and these were off to the charity shop. Liberating!

I can appreciate that the boundaries between these types of gear can be flexible and even utterly different from person to person. The problem for many, formerly including myself, is to be honest and a little ruthless.

Take clothes and shoes for example. I personally see these as merely tools, (unfortunately) with a minimum of them being requirements of society. I don’t care to have a wardrobe full of shirts and trousers. I only need a few of each, or less.

Photos, pre-digital, are even more complex. Is it OK to make digital copies and give up the originals? I am not so sure.

It’s much easier for me to take stock of all that I own since this past April, when for the first time in my life they are all in once place. I even paid to send some ‘junk’ back from my parent’s home in the UK.

Well, I will enjoy them and will slowly whittle away at them. First thing today I am going to seek out all those legal documents and sentimental items, plus the few things I believe I would need to survive – should I ever find myself facing a muddy hole where my home used to be.

I will also take stock of the accoutrements I ‘want’, and question them again.

I don’t see this as a one time action, but something that needs doing every so often. Much like spring cleaning. Removing what is no longer needed, swapping in the new, or possibly adding to the pile, and so on.

I can see how digital photos and e-readers can help achieve a seemingly minimal lifestyle, but a cluttered computer desktop has the same mental effect on me as a cluttered desk-drawer or bookshelf. Stress.

Perhaps having a larger storage space to keep that which only need be accessed on occasion, such as photos etc, would be OK. However, for day to day use I like to keep my digital space clean and small in virtual size. Perhaps something I should in future apply to my physical space.

I know what you’re all thinking. The lifestyle we are following now is hugely in contrast to this. Upcycling and gardening both call for a lot, a lot of things. Keeping the old ready to be repurposed and pots, plants, seeds, gardening tools all add to the list.

I do not regret our decision to move, to invest in pots and soil, water and the plants that bring a splash of green and colour to a once dead and dusty space. Even if we should never successfully grow more fruit or veg, I take huge joy and peace of mind from the fact that we have created a beautiful spot that has already become a home to all manner of insects and a source of food for local birds.

However, when the time comes I will happily leave this behind. I would hope that someone continues to love and nurture the plants and garden we have created. Be that here or in another space. I am confident that I would not feel chained or weighed to the spot.

If the garden I love becomes a burden, I will simply and inevitably have to let it go to a new owner. Much like our attempts to consume less, spend little, be greener and become a little more self-sufficient, minimising our possessions is very much a journey and a process that will take time.

Not My Country

I’ve been here two weeks now, trying to remember the post I “wrote out” in my head while flying over and in the first few days here.

I love my family and friends very much and do not wish to judge anyone’s lifestyle choices, but I was literally stunned into silence that first week.

So much waste, consumerism, excessive choices of products, a society driven on spending, masses of people hooked on mobile devices, a lack of care for the environment and more processed foods than you’d ever want to eat.

I had full blown culture shock at the supermarket (well, hypermarket). The sheer number of different brands and varieties of the same thing was ridiculous. The number of aisles and mountainous shelving felt like a canyon of consumer goods.

And tucked away in a far left corner? The small fresh fruit and veg section. With all manner of goods from all over the world. Who needs seasons, right? And of course to make a public used to processed goods feel at ease, everything was individually wrapped or grouped into a ton of different plastics.

I mean, does anyone really want their fresh fruit sat there exposed and naked*?

The fresh bread section was larger, and had lost any sense of being a bakery… instead it felt like yet another factory churning out more than was needed. In itself driven by consuming ingredients and not worrying about what became of the output.

That evil word Brexit had also been let wild, with our idiot PM invoking the (hopefully more than) two year process on the day I arrived. Arrggghhhh!!!!!

If one more person says ‘democratic process’ to me, I’ll explode. Argh again!

I’d argue for them to give me one example in the world today of a true democracy, but they’d look at me with glazed eyes unable to fathom that someone might actually have a different opinion to the brainwashed masses.

That was another thing that had shocked me, the blatant and endless propaganda. Adverts about how great Britain was, is and will be. How Brexit will leave the UK as champions to a competition only it wants to play. How the world envy our greatness and will want to do business with us. How everything (economy, society & environment)  is OK, and needs just a little more care and attention. I’m sad to say that even the BBC seems more biased than ever.

They say travelling opens your mind and changes you, and I’ve no doubt that has happened. But the past 12 years has also changed the country I left behind. Now, no, this is not the country I left. I guess home is where I and my partner choose to be – it’s just a shame that it can’t be the same place as either/both of our families.

 

*Speaking of nudity, being at my parent’s home and stuck in clothing 24/7 has made me realise and affirm two things. Nudity is more environmentally friendly and wallet friendly  (at least in warmer months?!) to help save on laundry. Second, I miss being a naturist/nudist and will try return to it.

More about that next time. ;-)