Archive for January, 2013

3 steps forward, 2 steps back

29 January 2013

It’s been a rough week in my experiment with minimalism. Firstly, the coathangers: yes, I proudly culled my wardrobe to 23 coathangers (see last week’s blog post for that). But I have 11 hangers left over, and these just aren’t any coathangers: I hand-stained them with six layers of varnish (3 brownish stain, 3 Japan Black) and they are works of art. Masterpieces. To think I’m going to let go of all that work…

Then there’s my failed experiment with soba noodles. Soba noodles are made from buckwheat and are gluten-free, which is a huge plus for me as I’m gluten-intolerant. I’ve had these eating out a few times and I thought, I’ll make these, how hard can it be? Who knew that if you didn’t wash the soba noodles thoroughly after cooking them they turn into a grey inedible mass? (Answer: obviously not me.)

Lastly, there’s the infamous box #13. I had 13 boxes, 11 small ones and two large ones, the large ones being #12 and 13. All up to 13 are pretty much sorted out: for example, box #1 no longer exists. (So by rights this should be “the infamous box #12 and falling”). In this overflowing box of chaos are many, many things, but the kicker for me was an exercise book. In this exercise book my late mother had painstakingly listed all of my doctor’s visits and the reason for the visit. My favourite entry was in 1982, when I got my braces removed and my mother added, “HALLELUJAH BROTHER!”. Yes, I inherited my warped sense of humour from her.

Now, what kind of heartless bastard would throw out the notes from his deceased mother, in her own handwriting, that she wrote to detail all my medical history? <sigh>

The inspiration from this has been a similar story by Joshua Fields Millburn, who was cleaning out his mother’s place after her death. He was all set to put everything in storage, when he came to the realisation that her stuff was not her. It was just stuff. You can read about it here. This story is inspiring me to move forward bravely, because right now, I just don’t feel like moving forward.

So, it’s been a struggle. But not one without victories. Firstly, I don’t have to have it all done right now; I can adapt the pace to what feels comfortable. If the last few weeks felt a bit fast, I can slow it down a bit, get some traction, and speed up again. I just have to keep moving forward.

The coathangers have gone in a bag to go to the Red Cross (with a few other things — what the hell was I doing with so many glass jars?). I have learned how to cook soba, although I’ve yet to try the new recipe. And box #13 can sit tight for a few days while I deal with the overwhelm of sorting through my stuff.

Minimalism is a journey, not a destination.


23 Hangers

22 January 2013

I have to credit Miss Minimalist for the inspiration for today’s blog. In the blog she has a list for a minimalist men’s wardrobe, which consists of the following:

  • 6 business casual shirts
  • 3 work pants
  • 3 t-shirts
  • 2 polo shirts
  • 3 sweaters
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 1 winter jacket
  • 1 sport coat
  • 1 black/dark grey suit
  • 2 ties
  • 1 reversible belt (black/brown)
  • Summer sandals
  • European sneakers
  • Dress shoes
  • Winter Boots [Possibly Optional]
  • 9 pairs of socks (each pair counted as an “item”)
  • 1 pair of Pajamas [Optional]
  • 2 pairs of Shorts [Optional]
  • Winter accessories: gloves, scarf, earmuffs/hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Watch
  • Work Bag

This is, for the most part, total genius. I’m tweaking this to make my own list. Here goes:

6 business shirts: the reasoning is that you have one for every day of the working week, plus an extra one for when you forget to do laundry. Genius! I’m adopting this, using mostly white and a couple of icy blue ones.

3 work pants: when I work, I tend to wear suits, so I can get away with 2 pairs.

3 t-shirts: Right now I have 6. I can get by with three. I’ve given one away, and when some wear out (which they will), I won’t replace them.

2 polo shirts: God do I hate polo shirts! They’re the mullet haircut of the clothing world; trying to be formal (with a collar) and casual (short sleeved) at the same time. I do NOT own ANY polo shirts. It reminds me of a company that I contracted for some years ago, where you could wear “business casual”; polo shirts were acceptable, t-shirts were not. Polo shirts are bullshit. I don’t own any, and I won’t be buying any.

3 sweaters: I only own one and it needs replacing. I can get by with 2, a v-neck and a round neck, not black, as I tend to use coats a lot.

1 pair of jeans: I only own one pair of jeans, having given away two pairs of black jeans. I’m not in a thrash metal punk band, so I don’t need to own black jeans any more than I need to own a polo shirt. Did I mention that I hate polo shirts, by the way?

1 winter jacket: living in Melbourne, I have become a conoisseur of jackets and coats, so this is one place I will exceed the guidelines. Firstly, I have a great coat that I bought circa 1993; it’s still in perfect condition, it goes down below my knees, and it is unbelievably warm. It is for those few days in the middle of winter when it’s “oh my God I can’t believe how cold it is today” days, when there is frost cruching underfoot. Needless to say I took it with me to Denmark when I went there last winter and it served me oh so well.

Then there is the trenchcoat, which is for windy and wet. It’s not designed so much for the cold days but for the really mucky damp days you get in spring.

Lastly, there is the peacoat which is on my wishlist. Like the greatcoat but shorter, it’s designed for cold days (not as cold as greatcoat ones) where you’re jumping on and off trams. If you’re on an old W-class tram, you need something warm and you also need to be mobile, hence the peacoat.

1 sport coat: I have a beautiful one in velour with a houndstooth design. Love it.

1 black/dark grey suit: When I work I wear suits, I need 3. Currently I have 2. When I get a job, I will get one more.

2 ties: I wear ties every day when I work, so I’ll get four. I have four right now, I’ve just given away the excess.

1 reversible belt (black/brown): No, just black for me. I find that jeans need a thicker belt than pants or suits, so I have two black belts, a thick and a thin.

Summer sandals: I don’t own these yet. I promise you, I will never team these with socks!

European sneakers: I have a pair of sneakers, at some point I will trade up. Not a priority for me right now though.

Dress shoes: I want 2 pairs: a black pair of lace-ups, and a black pair of slip-ons. If you’ve ever flown in the USA it’s handy to have shoes that come off.

Winter Boots [Possibly Optional]: I have (and need) a pair of winter boots.

9 pairs of socks (each pair counted as an “item”): Whatever. I think I have about 12 pair, I’m not sure. I buy them all the same colour (black) so I don’t have to worry about pairing them up. Life’s too short to pair socks!

1 pair of Pajamas [Optional]: Nope.

2 pairs of Shorts [Optional]: I have a going-out pair of shorts and a workout pair.

Winter accessories: gloves, scarf, earmuffs/hat: gloves — yes, scarf — yes, 2 (a thick one and a thin one), earmuffs/hat — no.

Sunglasses: I *do* so want a nice pair of sunnies. Not a high priority, but one nonetheless.

Watch: I have one that needs a new battery. Must replace battery.

Work Bag: I tend not to tote a lot of stuff around with me, so I’m not sure I need one.

Addition: 3 long-sleeved shirts: missing from the original list. Replacing the polo shirts. Did I mention just how much I hate polo shirts? Especially the yellow ones. If you own a yellow polo shirt, seriously, do us all a favour, and burn it.

Right, here is the updated list:

  • 6 business casual shirts
  • 3 2 work pants
  • 3 t-shirts
  • 2 polo shirts 3 long sleeved shirts. No polo shirts. Ever. I hate them, did I mention that?
  • 3 2 sweaters
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 1 winter jacket Greatcoat, Trenchcoat, Peacoat
  • 1 sport coat
  • 1 3 black/dark grey suits
  • 2 4 ties
  • 1 reversible belt (black/brown) 2 belts, one thick, one thin, both black
  • Summer sandals
  • European sneakers
  • Dress shoes (2 pairs, a pair of laceups and a pair of slipons)
  • Winter Boots [Possibly Optional]
  • 9 ? pairs of socks (each pair counted as an “item”)
  • 1 pair of Pajamas [Optional]
  • 2 pairs of Shorts [Optional]
  • Winter accessories: gloves, scarf, earmuffs/hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Watch
  • Work Bag

That’s pretty much it. And now that I’ve got a list, I can see what’s missing that’s a priority (business shirts) and what’s a lower priority (a suit, a pair of slipons shoes, sandals, European sneakers, peacoat, sweaters, new ties and getting my watch repaired). It’s so much easier shopping off a list.

Thanks Miss Minimalist!

Junk sex

15 January 2013

Some of you will know that I’ve been modifying my food intake the last few months — no gluten, sugar, red meat, shellfish, chicken, dairy or eggs. Which leaves me with perfectly fine vegetables, fish, rice and the occasional buckwheat noodles.

Which means that I plan my meals accordingly. One thing I no longer do is grab a quick takeaway to go — I’m sure we’re all familiar with the concept of junk food. Good, then.

One thing that’s easy, especially if you’re a gay man in a large city, is do the same with sex. I call this junk sex. As the old joke goes, it’s like instant coffee: it’s easy, it’s available, and afterwards you’d wish you had a cappuccino instead. There are lots of websites and even apps (Grindr, Recon) to help you should you arrive in a strange city and feel liking hooking up with a stranger within half an hour. Heaven forbid you should go without immediate sex!

Now, the question is: what on earth is a discussion about promiscuity doing on a minimalist blog? Plenty.

You’ll notice that the title is “live with more, live with less”, so it’s not just about minimalism, but using minimalism to free you up to get more of what you want. What you really want, rather than stuff. And one of those things, I’ve decided, is connection.

And let’s be brutally honest here: how much connection do you get in your average one-night stand?

Now, I’m not the sex police. Everyone can and should decide how much sex they want and with which consenting adult(s) they want it with. People hook up for all sorts of reasons for all sorts of situations, and I’m certainly not going to tell them right from wrong. I think there’s more than enough people moralising, scrutinising and politicising sex without my adding to the noise.

I just want to pose the question: what do you want? As in, what do you really want? What do you really, really want?

And if it’s a quick hook up, fine. But if it’s something deeper, something more than responding to a message on an app, may I suggest you examine the “clutter” in your sex life?

And here’s the radical solution: get rid of quick hook-ups. That might leave a bit of “room”, so to speak, for something a bit more.

That’s my next experiment.

An Energy Experiment

8 January 2013

Hi all,

I’ve been conducting a bit of an interesting “energy experiment” in my house.

Recently I moved into a friend’s house (I have the granny flat out the back) that had previously been my friend’s grandmother’s. Nanna, to put it mildly, was a hoarder. Yep, she could have been on the reality TV show Hoarders, there is (still) an awful lot of stuff.

Meanwhile, I’m paring down to basics and living as minimally as I can. Having moved house an awful lot in the last 12 months I can’t bear the thought of repacking and moving the same old sh!t from home to home to home. I’ve got most of my stuff in 13 boxes and I’m clearing stuff out, giving things away, getting down to basics.

So, how does my energy of minimalism go with the house’s energy of hoarding?

It’s been interesting. I had a rough couple of weeks to begin with and I was totally convinced that my living there is a dreadful mistake (still not completely unconvinced of this, by the way). My moods were all over the place (including a couple of really down days), but I finally think I’m starting to get on top of it.

Last night I went into the kitchen (which has been a combat zone the last couple of weeks) and my friend had washed all the dishes there. All of them. Believe me, this is one huge breakthrough. The kitchen, if not quite ready for a feature in Vogue, is at least workable. I can live with that.

Now I’m currently working on box #13 and I’m finding an awful lot of resistance to getting rid of stuff. The rubber has just hit the road for me here and it’s not fun at all. But if I can empty this box completely (box #12, the same size, is only half-full), then I can put the pantry contents into the box and use the plastic basket that the pantry is now in for my laundry basket. (The laundry basket from Ikea died the death. The idea of a three-compartment laundry basket was great, but the stitching was very poor and let the whole thing down.)

Then to sell some of the things that are too good to give away (like a silk kimono, a 14″ diameter quartz singing bowl, etc.), and get new bedlinen and towels. And then, of course, I’ll want to redo the wardrobe, and pare down the boxes again.

My minimalism is a work in progress.

But it’s not about stuff; it’s not about having less stuff or good stuff or even functional stuff; what it’s about is only having things that I use or love or need, and being free from the distraction of all that stuff, allowing myself to receive what I really want: connections, experiences, growth, contribution. Not just freedom from clutter, but freedom to happiness.

This week, I shall sort through box #13 and blog about it next week. There, I’ve said it out loud, now I have to do it. 🙂

Like I just said, my minimalism is a work in progress.

15 minute timer trick (Blogging on New Year’s Day)

1 January 2013

Like I said last week, I would be blogging on a Tuesday — every Tuesday — come rain, hail, or shine. Or in this case, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. At least I know Good Friday can’t possibly come on a Tuesday. 😉

So, today is New Year’s Day. I promise there will be absolutely NO:

  • resolutions
  • goals
  • reflections
  • general new year’s rubbish.

If you want to transform your life, any day’s a good day to start, and TODAY is always the best day to start anything.

So, new year’s hype aside, I thought I’d share a little trick that has stood me in good stead in the last few years in terms of cleaning out clutter: it’s the 15 minute timer trick. I can’t claim this is my original idea, it belongs to the wildly successful Flylady website.  So here it is:

Step 1: allocate yourself three areas that you want to work on (say, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. You want to clean the kitchen and bathroom, and declutter a couple of boxes in the bedroom).

Step 2: Set the timer to 15 minutes and go like crazy in the first area — let’s say it’s the kitchen. Clean, clean, clean as fast as you can as much as you can — it doesn’t have to be perfect, you are NOT doing all of the cupboards, just a quick wipe over, put away food, etc. As soon as the timer goes off, STOP.

Step 3: Now to the second area — let’s say your bedroom. You will sort as much as you can as fast as you can — it doesn’t have to be perfect or even complete, just 15 minutes’ solid work. You may even surprise yourself and finish early (I’ve done this on more than one occasion). As soon as the timer goes off, STOP.

Step 4: Now to the final room, in this case, the bathroom. Clean, clean, clean like crazy, until — you guessed it! — the timer goes off, then STOP immediately.

Step 5: Make yourself a nice hot cup of tea (or coffee if you prefer). Take a look around your house, and you’ll be surprised just how much you’ve accomplished in 45 minutes or less. If you feel up to it, you can do a second round, although I wouldn’t recommend a third one.

It’s surprising just how much you can accomplish in 15 minutes. I used to have two timers — my house was so cluttered I knew I wouldn’t always be able to find one, so I bought a backup just in case — but now I’m ready to get rid of the second one in my next 15 minute round of clutter clearing.

Tea, anyone?