Wrapping things up

26 May 2014

Hi all,

As you have probably guessed by now, other priorities have occupied my life. I’m now studying a doctorate, working part-time as a consultant, and heavily involved in Toastmasters.

In the spirit of minimalism, I’m cutting things that are holding me back from my goals — in this case, the three areas listed above — and so, I’m ceasing this blog.

Thank you all for reading. I will probably be blogging in the future, but on an unrelated topic, and I don’t have a start date.

Thanks again!

Live With Less, Live With More




Top 5 little luxuries

3 December 2013

Regular readers of this blog (both of you!) may be aware that I’ve been oscillating between living in Melbourne and Sydney. This oscillation (I do like that word!) will be continuing: I’m moving back to Sydney in about a fortnight (that’s two weeks for the North Americans among us), then returning to Melbourne at the beginning of March, in time to commence my doctorate. So my nomadic lifestyle shows no sign of abating, at least for the next few months.

As a result, most of my stuff is in storage at various places, which leads to the burning question: how much stuff do I really need? As it turns out, my peripatetic existence (oooh, there’s another nice word, peripatetic. I’m on a roll today!) — ahem, my peripatetic existence has been marvellous for my minimalism. How much crap do I really need? Even less than I thought.

Not everything that’s in storage will be purged. I have several coats, scarves and gloves that are staying — it’s just that there’s absolutely no point in taking them with me to Sydney. Especially in the heat of summer. (Winter was on a Tuesday there this year.) And I have a funky retro vase from the 70s, all white and terracotta swirls that is staying, but I’m not moving it until absolutely necessary.

The surprising turns are that things that I Absolutely. Cannot. Do. Without. They seem like luxuries, but here are a few items that help me maintain some vague semblance of sanity:

  • Singing bowl. Meditation has been linked to health benefits: try here, here and here for links. And there are more flavours of meditation than there are of ice cream: if you don’t like raspberry ripple, go for chocolate chip. My personal favourite is using a singing bowl, and I have a small one that’s portable enough to travel with me in a cabin bag.
  • Essential bath oil. Especially while I’m travelling or living a (wait for it…) peripatetic lifestyle, it’s just a little luxury. I’m fond of blends with a bit of vetiver or patchouli, and never, ever anything artificial. I don’t want my bath smelling like cheap air freshener, oh no no no. I’m on a budget; I can only afford the best. 🙂
  • Tea. Good tea. Seriously good tea. Brewed from leaves, so yes, a small teapot is an essential item. I currently have a high quality one with laser-cut strainer, which works because I brew rooibos which is really fine, but I’m looking for something a bit more lightweight.
  • Chocolate. Again, the good stuff. Thankfully good chocolate is becoming more readily available in Australia, although the hot and humid climate in most of the country still makes transporting it a challenge.
  • Cuff links. Small, portable, adds a dash of colour and fun. I’m planning to get about five pairs, without any qualms of guilt, because I’ll use them all. Cuff links always add something.

Those are my top 5 little luxuries — what are yours?

No logo

20 November 2013

I have another confession to make.

I wouldn’t think of wearing a shirt with a giant swoosh across the top, let alone the word “Lacroix” emblazoned across the top (sweetie darling sweetie!). Years ago I gave up on wearing football jerseys — apart from the fact that I am completely crap at anything involving a ball (let alone being tackled), I didn’t want to be a human billboard for whichever corporate sponsor was sponsoring the Parramatta Football Club corporation which is part of the National Rugby League corporation. Want to advertise? Do it on someone else’s chest.

But corporations can be sneaky. In this case, they didn’t dump mercury-containing waste on my back doorstep (or in my dental cavities), feed me genetically-modified corn (frankencorn), charge me $5 for water from my tap or any of the other nefarious things some corporations would love to do to me. Oh no no no no no no. They found my one weak spot, a chink in my armour, and shot an arrow right there:


For those of you who know me, I adore a good cup of tea. And, yes, controversially that includes rooibos, my beverage of choice. There is a certain zen to tea drinking; the process of brewing the kettle to the right temperature, the stillness, sipping the tea and letting it envelop the senses. Tea truly is the “heavenly leaf”, and I drink tea partially as a meditation technique as much as anything else. It’s safe to say that I am fervent in my love of tea, and equally distasteful of its evil twin, coffee.

So imagine my delight when I found a boutique tea shop here in Melbourne. T2 was selling me just what I wanted: sencha quince, gunpowder green, loose-leaf rooibos. And there is the tea paraphernalia: special teapots to brew the rooibos in (it has really fine leaves like pine needles, and if you try to brew it in a normal teapot you’ll have leaves everywhere), cups and saucers and travel mugs and tea caddies and magnetic labels. They added cold drip tea, iced tea, and delectable macarons in a quirky but interesting shade of slate blue. Going to T2 became a Sunday afternoon ritual for me, where I bought two bottles of cold drip tea to face Mondays with.

Yep, a corporation had got me. Skewered me beautifully with a whole bunch of tea-related stuff. And I was loving it.

Turns out that T2 was bought by Unilever, a multinational corporation if ever there was one. And my humble, artisanal hand-plucked tea shop was turning into the Australian version of Starbucks, but with tea. And my tea caddies magnetic labels and travel mug? All marked, of course, with a CORPORATE F*CKING LOGO, because that’s just how they roll.

So now I’m looking coolly at my tea paraphernalia. Do I really want a Unilever logo in the sanctuary of my tea cupboard?


Do I want to support this company as it goes down the Starbucks route of dumbing down its tea for the mainstream consumer?



So I’m now on the lookout for new caddies, new labels, a new travel mug. There’s no sense of urgency about this; it’s just that when I think some multinational corporation has weaseled its way into my tea chest, it’s time to say enough is enough.

What if things go right?

25 October 2013

I have a confession to make: several, in fact.

Firstly, I’ve been a terrible blogger. THAT much is obvious. Even after a gap of several months, I haven’t yet resumed my good habit of blogging every Tuesday, which I did last year (including Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, no less). So I’m a few days late, trying to get my blog (and my life!) back on track.

Secondly, I’ve been a terrible minimalist. Well, not that terrible: my room is a bit messy. And while normally I would tidy it up quickly, I haven’t for the last few weeks; I made a start yesterday, and I may well do some more tonight.

And lastly, my life hasn’t exactly gone to plan: I didn’t plan to get gall bladder disease, lose my job, and seriously look at moving back to Melbourne. The last few months have been like a bad trip (literally: this one went for over 900 kilometres!), and it’s the most natural thing in the world for me to exclaim that all is not well, have a little pity party, and just take to my bed. For about a fortnight. (That’s two weeks for North American readers.) Which is exactly what I did.

Time for a reframe.

My friend Daniel G. Taylor posted the question on Facebook “what if things go right?”. That is, when everything seems to be going badly, it may just be the universe’s way of unfolding something absolutely delicious. What if things go right? What if things were going right, right now? What if things were unfolding perfectly, according to a plan that I can’t quite make out right now, but that everything was not only going to be alright, but better than ever?

Mike Dooley has a similar idea, which he calls pronoia: the belief that the universe is actively conspiring on your behalf. (It’s the exact opposite of paranoia, by the way.) And what if a belief in pronoia, that the universe is actively conspiring on your behalf, was actually enabling the universe to actively conspire on your behalf? And what if I could ride that wave?

So I decided to go down the pronoia route this afternoon. Looking on the job sites, I found a job that I’m abundantly qualified for in Melbourne (O Melbourne, how much I have missed you. A kind of a weird thing for a Sydneysider to say, but truthfully, I get Melbourne.) And jobs with my strange set of qualifications are not exactly common. I could go back, complete my doctorate, and research what I am passionate about.

And the money will come. I’m still not totally sure how yet, but in a pronoic universe, it does, as long as you accept the universe’s gracious bounty. So far I’ve just had over $17,000 worth of debt cleared, so I’m on the right track.

So — what if everything was working out spectacularly, deliciously right???

I’m now a stripper!

17 October 2013

Yes, folks, now that I’m not working full-time, I’ve become a stripper. That’s right, you read correctly: I am officially a stripper.

In case you’re wondering who on earth in their right mind would pay money to watch me take my clothes off, the answer is: I’m not that kind of stripper

<sigh of relief>

No, the kind of stripping I’m now doing is stripping life down to the things that matter. Which means finding out what actually does matter, and then

What triggered this is that I’ve just left a deeply unsatisfying job (even with a six figure salary!) that slowly etched away my soul like acid. I realised a few weeks into it that I was, once again, a small cog in a large machine, producing “outputs” that, really, didn’t particularly improve patient outcomes, just potentially added to the bottom line of a multinational corporation. And while it’s nice to have the money, it’s not nice to feel like you’re not really doing anything productive for 40 or even 50 hours a week. I believe we’re here to make a positive difference, and that no amount of money can make up for meaningless work — “billshut” jobs as they’ve been called.

So I’m following my passions. I’m preparing for my doctorate (the last submission went awry because I had moved interstate for the job — so now I’m moving back to Melbourne in the next few months), which is about commercialising biotechnology, which absolutely enthralls me as a subject. I’m passionate about getting new, lifesaving technologies to people who need them — and how the process can be streamlined.

I’m also passionate about writing — I’m on the second draft of my novel, (some 50,000 words) about discrimination. It’s been more fun and way more challenging than I had ever imagined. I’ve had to go back to scratch on more than one occasion, but in the moments when you get into the flow of writing — it’s so worthwhile. Having grown up in a part of Sydney that was an ethnic melting pot I heard so many derogatory terms: first at the Italians, then the Vietnamese, then the Muslims, then the Africans… and it was wasn’t just redneck trash serving up these epithets. I remember when a Sudanese was attacked , our then immigration minister Kevin Andrews accused Sudanese refugees of fighting in bars and congregating in parks to drink alcoholic beverages, and stated that they weren’t integrating well — methinks the problem is with the people beating Africans up. </rant>

I have other passions too — growing vegetables, cutting gemstones, and most importantly, connecting with other people. Working 50+ hours a week, in order to buy lots of STUFF, doesn’t work. I’ve deliberately pared down my possessions, because I’ve realised what matters is time to do the things you love, with the people you love.

And that’s what really matters.

I’m baaaaaaack!

8 October 2013

Yes, after a three month absence the blog is returning — and once I work out how to upload photos, hopefully brighter and better than ever.

I have some interesting reflections on the last few months — one of them being that a shiny job with lots of money distracted me from what I *really* want to do. As of two weeks ago, I no longer work there — and more to the point, I’m not tempted to go back to a similar job. It’s settled: the corporate 9 to 5 six digit salary being a small cog in a large machine does not work for me (and truth be told, never really did).

So, where to now?

At this point I’m inventing a new job. Yes, you read right, inventing. I am in the process of creating a job that makes my heart sing. (Actually, several, but that’s beside the point.)

And I think the main moral of the lesson of the last few months is: if you get off the track, the universe will be sure to let you know. (In my case, with gallstones.) And realising that, although the job I had was well-paid enough (in spades!), it really wasn’t going to take me where I wanted to go, and certainly didn’t make my heart sing.

Enough of that. Life’s too short to do stuff you don’t really want to do.

What I REALLY want to do when I grow up is 1) finish my novel (and I have written a 50,000 word first draft, so it’s no longer in the someday / one day category), and 2) do my doctorate in commercialising biotechnology. Oh, and if I get to travel the world (hello, Iceland!), cut and polish some gemstones (sapphires and rubies in particular), and ingest dumplings, tea and macarons, that would be pretty epic too.

So now I’m focused on what I REALLY want. And I’ve made a great start today — I’ve had $17,000 worth of debt cancelled. 🙂  I think going after what I really want is the way to go, I’m sure Abraham Hicks would agree. 8)

Minimalist moving

10 July 2013

It’s been an unusual couple of weeks for me; regular followers of this blog may have noticed that I missed the last two Tuesday blog posts. I’m a creature of habit, and normally I’ve made it an ironclad rule to post on a Tuesday, every Tuesday, so something is up. Today’s post is to make up for yesterday’s omitted one and to explain my recent absence.

I’m moving interstate. Last Tuesday I flew up to Sydney for a job interview. Now, I’ve been job-hunting and gotten nowhere quite a lot, so I wasn’t expecting much, but I was determined to do my best. I was offered the position on the spot. And here’s the kicker: they offered an extra 12k provided I move up quickly.

And here’s where being a minimalist came in: I will have my bags and boxes sorted, packed and ready for the move as quickly as they want me. Which means my minimalism has already earned me 12k per annum. Not to mention the lack of storage fees (I will pay a small amount for the small amount of stuff I have — $10 / week – until I move it, which won’t take long.

So basically I’m taking my clothes, medicines, documentation, and a few personal effects.

Minimalism: FTW!

Too much minimalism?

25 June 2013

I never thought I would write this, but I do think you can have too much of a good thing, including minimalism. On Sunday night I caught the end of Grand Designs, a British reality TV show in which people display their architecture, invariably running way over budget and time, but inevitably loving the result of their labour. Now, I love clean bare surfaces and lots of white — more than most, I suspect — but even I draw the line with this. This is an Ăźber-minimalist house in the UK has lots and lots of bare surfaces, lots and lots of white, with the odd neutral wood trim. You can check out the YouTube clip here:


Start at about the 36 minute mark to see a tour of the house and see what I mean. White, white, white: it looks more like a place where scientists freeze embryos, or aeronautical engineers assemble jet engine parts than a warm and comfy home. I would really want a pop of colour (probably red), and a few crazy things that would add a bit of character: a big funky Chesterfield, a serious crystal chandelier, reindeer antlers, a piece of stibnite even — something to add colour and personality.

And it’s all a matter of taste, really. I suppose they would find my life awfully cluttered and busy. Meanwhile (I almost typed “meanwhite”; Freudian slip??? ;-)) my own decluttering continues in dribs and drabs. The boxes are mostly done and dusted and the room is almost tidy. 🙂 I plan to have my filing up to date and listed in the next few weeks, which will be a relief.

And the garden is starting to take shape. I’ve decided to focus solely on the front yard — I’m picking my battles, and the front yard is easier — but still it’s overgrown. Each individual plant, if taken alone and looked after, would be quite lovely there. However, this is not the case: roses are near succulents, holly, a yucca, ivy vines, and geranium. It’s a dog’s breakfast!

So yesterday I started with the geraniums. Out they came (and took some of the succulents with them). The plan is clear pretty much everything that is there, plant three silver birch trees (I think they look beautiful, particularly in the winter when they’re bare) and put some bark or pebbles down to prevent weeds. The lawn will remain, with a new birdbath (the old one has been broken — too much ivy climbed on it and it collapsed!).

The front yard should be easy enough. The backyard will take longer — much longer. But ideally I’d like to set up a vegetable garden in the backyard and have garden-fresh vegetables on hand — I’m a big fan of healthy eating and having fresh vegies will help. I got rid of a cold in just two days by eating fresh fruit and vegies, something that would have knocked me down for a fortnight before.

So, fresh vegetables and a clutter-free home with personality — that’s what I like! 🙂


18 June 2013

One of the most important concepts for me, as a minimalist, is the concept of “enough“. It sounds deceptively simple, but it actually isn’t.

Advice that is frequently given to people using the Law of Attraction to attract wealth is to imagine opulence: go read the Robb Report (or something similar), imagine yourself driving a Ferrari (or better), wearing $10,000 boots and watches that cost the GDP of many small nations. And for many people, that floats their boats: they imagine themselves in a large property with stables and a private jet and a helicopter and…

Is this really the best we can do? Frankly, I think this sort of thing is firmly in the realm of ego: it doesn’t consider that there are many people who go to bed hungry, many children dying of easily preventable diseases, and many — most, actually — who simply don’t have the opportunities that we take for granted.

I don’t need gold-plated this, solid platinum something else, diamond-studded whatever. I believe that you can have enough — for me, a nice place to live, a car to get around in (I don’t see the point in owning a car that can do 170km/h in a city where you can barely do 30km/h). And the last thing I really feel motivated by right now is a Ferrari parked in the garage of my penthouse, a wardrobe full of Armani and lots and lots of bling. Yes, I do want a few nice things, but here’s my list of things in order of importance:

  1. People
  2. Experiences
  3. Things

Notice that it’s the people in your life (or at least, in my life) that are the most important to me. Making those connections, I have decided, is worth much more than any stuff I can accumulate. I especially love being around like-minded people and making connections there. I’m looking at doing work that not only rewards me financially and brings me fulfilment, but makes the world a better place.

The next most important item on my list is experiences. That’s probably where most of my expense will go: I want to climb the Andes, fly over Antarctica, see geysers and glaciers in Iceland. (Yes, I do seem to be fond of cold places.) I even want to go parasailing one day!

At the bottom of the list is “things”. I do want a few nice things (right now, I’m thinking a nice pair of ruby cufflinks would be just perfect) in the apartment I want to buy. Yes, I’d like my apartment to have a bit of a view. No, I don’t need it to be too large (too hard to clean!), it’s more of a nice place to crash and drink tea in between doing fulfilling and rewarding work and flying over the Andes. Importantly, I want my environmental impact to be as minimal as I can make it — sadly, the days when the only people with carbon footprints were coal miners are long over, and we all need to think about doing our bit.

And no, there won’t be a Ferrari parked in the garage. 😉

Five easy steps: my (little) victory over procrastination

11 June 2013

Hi all,

I’ve been in the process of organising the things that are in my boxes, and organising the boxes. I’ve given a lot of valuable treasures junk away to op shops or plain threw crap out.

And I needed to re-label some of the boxes. Admittedly, a large box with the word “Stuff!” on it, even in large red letters, was not helpful. All I needed to do was cut cardboard to fit into the label holder (not difficult: two short cuts did each piece), and write in ink what each box contained. Simple, n’est-ce-pas?

Except the procrastination bug bit. Hard. For some reason, I kept putting off this simple little task.

Why? I’m not entirely sure why. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that it forced me in a way to assess the things that were actually in the boxes, and sorting stuff is mentally exhausting.

Even writing this blog post about procrastination I, would you believe, procrastinated. Seriously. So even when I get this blog post completed (and I will), that in and of itself will be a victory over procrastination.

So, how to beat procrastination? Here goes:

  1. Schedule. If you have a task that needs doing, clear a space in your diary to do it in. And don’t fill it with other stuff (for most of us, surfing the net. Even this website.).
  2. Break it down. You don’t need to do all of it right away: set milestone targets instead. Make them easy enough to do in one step. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself — even mapping out the task could be a milestone, in and of itself.
  3. Build a momentum. If you have a long list of to-dos, start with a few quick wins: you then build momentum to do harder, more complicated ones.
  4. Start. This is the big one. If you never start you’ll never finish. In fact, starting is usually the hardest part of all. Often after starting a task (like with my labelling boxes I described) it was over in a few minutes. And that, after procrastinating about it for months.
  5. Tell others about it. You’re setting up an accountability structure here — so, how is your swimming / yoga / healthy eating plan going (I’ve been swimming last week, finally!).

It’s not rocket science. It’s not stuff you can’t find from somewhere else. It’s not particularly profound. But if you follow these five easy steps, it’ll go a long way to eliminating procrastination.

And I just eliminated my procrastination about writing a blog post. 🙂