Archive for April, 2013

The joy of hard rubbish collection

30 April 2013

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve been living in an interesting environment. I’m living with a friend in his grandmother’s house. She’s had to go into a retirement village as she’s no longer able to care for herself as she needs to, but while she was living here she was a hoarder. I’ve written about that here and here. Basically when I moved in the house really looked like the Before part of Hoarders; only, there was no super duper organiser type to show up, get in the hoarder’s face, and transform the place. Unless you count me, of course.

Then — oh bliss! oh joy! — a notice came from the council advising that as of the week starting the 29th April there will be a hard rubbish collection. Immediately I went to work — what really big things could go?

The totally broken plywood bookshelves that were half rotten were top of the list. There was a very large dog kennel (WE DON’T HAVE A FREAKIN’DOG!) which, when you separated the roof from the base, made the best container for rubbish. Some butt ugly terracotta pots that only a mother (with a full head of crack) could love — I put these out in the faint hope that they would be stolen. Call me an optimist, but I’m sure there’s a home for ugly pottery somewhere. And some large wooden slat doors — they wouldn’t fit in the bin, so out they went.

The restriction was one cubic metre — and I’ll admit, I stretched it. But then, looking at what some of my neighbours put out, my cubic metre isn’t as big as theirs. So now I’m emboldened.

And as I put things out, something truly wonderful happened: stuff got stolen. Deliberately. Some of the large slat doors went, as well as the terracotta pots painted in truly ghastly clashing colours. I don’t know who stole it or why, and I don’t care. TAKE IT ALL!

Because the more that is stolen, the more I get to put out, and the more junk I get to get rid of. As Abraham Hicks explains, everything has a vibration; I certainly didn’t want to live anywhere near the vibration of ugly pots decorated by Bad Taste International®. And getting rid of so much stuff is really freeing; I can feel the energy shifting, which is nice.

The next task is the garden: it’s overgrown with morning glory and bamboo (who the hell plants bamboo, deliberately? It makes as much sense to plant dandelions. Or stinging nettles, or some such weed…). And I expect the same thing to happen: I’ll get rid of stuff (in this case, turn weeds into compost) and free up the energy around my house.

And that can only be a good thing. 🙂

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On Nurturing and Minimalism

23 April 2013

This is something that I’m examining in my own life, and today I’m looking at the connection between minimalism and nurturing yourself (yes, there is one!).

Put simply, nurturing is how a responsible parent — yes, the qualifying word here is responsible — would parent their child. Nurturing is not the same as indulging. It is not being a responsible parent to feed your child nothing but chocolate ice cream, allow them to stay up late every night and skip school whenever they felt like it. That doesn’t do the child any good.

So nurturing includes some element of discipline. However, nurturing isn’t about being a strict disciplinarian either: children that grow up in a strict household with lots of rules end up rebelling; there has to be some freedom of self-expression, some relaxing the rules sometimes.

Clearly then, nurturing is about finding a middle path: beloved of Buddhists, the middle path (or middle way if you prefer) goes to neither extreme. And thus it is with my minimalism.

I’m not going to the following minimalist extremes:

  • making a list of everything I own
  • owning less than a hundred (or whatever number) here
  • going without furniture
  • wearing one article of clothing every day

Crazy stuff, all of it; and this is what I’ve seen some minimalists do. Count me out of counting out. 🙂

On the other hand, there are ways that my minimalism nurtures me:

  • knowing where everything is — I don’t have to rummage through drawers and cupboards
  • not wasting money buying unnecessary duplicates — at any given moment I know exactly what needs replacing in my wardrobe, and I buy only that
  • coming home to a nicely made up room — candles, a fruitbowl and a small statue on the bench, as opposed to piles of stuff
  • security in knowing that if anything happened to me, my friends and family could find valuable papers easily and quickly.

I don’t obsess over having very little stuff. I do have a few of life’s little pleasures and treasures: a singing bowl to help me meditate, some essential oil to splash in the bath, fresh navel oranges in the fruitbowl (yum!), a delicious velour jacket in the wardrobe, some squares of dark organic chocolate (it was on special — needless to say, I stocked up!).

And it takes some discipline to maintain this. There’s discipline in keeping a room clean; discipline of making a list of clothing that you own; discipline of sticking to a budget; discipline of saying “no” to all the other things that would clutter up my life; discipline of eating healthy food, including five servings of vegetables and two of fruit every day. But nothing is ever really achieved without discipline, minimalism included.

So there’s a balance, a middle way: this is new territory for me, and it’s easy to stray off the path. But my minimalism, like everything else I employ, is just a tool to help me get to where I want to go. It’s not a destination, it really is a journey.

Minimalist spirituality

16 April 2013

At the risk of alienating a whole lot of people, I’m going to look at the potential interface between minimialism and spirituality. We could be in for a bumpy ride.

The essence of minimalism is to pare down to essentials; to quote Francis Jourdain, “One can furnish a room very luxuriously by taking out furniture rather than putting it in”. That applies not only to my home (which I do furnish rather sparsely), but to my spirituality as well.

So for me, Hinduism with its panoply of gods, goddesses and demi-gods is right out; I can’t be bothered trying to remember to pray to Ganesh or Kali. And Catholicism and Orthodoxy aren’t much better: which saint do I pray to find my favourite scarf I lost this morning? (As it turned out, a simple retracing of my steps located it, my ochre-and-black striped beauty, no thanks to St Christopher or whoever is responsible for that sort of thing).

The obvious answer, of course, is Zen Buddhism. In Australia, the term “zen” is horribly overused: basically if you paint the walls white, add a few Buddha statues and some scatter cushions with Chinese calligraphy, you have a “zen” look. Nonsense. The only appeal in this so-called “zen” look is that it doesn’t have flowers and scrolls at every damn turn, unlike an awful lot of dross that passes for décor here does.

The Abraham Hicks message, for what it’s worth, has a wonderful simplicity to it: just feel good. Allow your emotions to guide you into pleasing thoughts, and manifestations will follow. Which is indeed pleasing, and I do indeed believe it, but it isn’t what you could call a fully-fledged spiritual path, but more a guide for manifesting what you want. I’m all for manifesting what I want (even a “zen-style bedroom”), but I can’t put down at the next census Religion: Abraham Hicks. Although there’s an awful lot of Australian write “Jedi Knight” as their religion, I won’t be going down that path.

Of course, atheism would appear to be the ultimate minimalist religion: no god, no cause of creation, no higher being, no nothing. Yes, that would have to be the ultimate minimalist religion; except it can’t count as a religion. And while I’m all for simplifying things as much as possible, you can overdo it. It’s like simplifying your house by demolishing the walls; misses the whole point of the exercise, really.

I’ve started doing some meditation with the Brahma Kumaris, and what I’ve encountered so far is good. I probably won’t take up the whole BK thing of wearing all white and going strictly vegetarian. But I am thinking of at least incorporating part of their meditation into my daily practice.

And that’s at least a start.

The 12th Vitamin has been Discovered

9 April 2013

For those who know something about nutrition, there are currently eleven known vitamins: vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B9 (folic acid), B12, C, D, E and K. Just an aside here: whatever happened to the letters F, G, H, I and J, and how did more than half of the vitamins end up with B? The letter B is just being greedy here. If all eleven vitamins got their own letter we would still have the letters A through to K covered, and no letters would miss out. Just putting it out there…

But I digress. After much long research, I have come to the conclusion that there is indeed a twelfth vitamin lurking in the shadows, that many — indeed, most — people are desperately deficient in. Given the somewhat random way that vitamins have been allocated letters, I have allocated this most essential vitamin to be called vitamin T. The reason for this name is the rich source of this vitamin is found in tea. (For a really good explanation of zen and tea, here.)

Now informed by this new discovery, I am pleased to announce the scientific facts* about this vitamin:

Vitamin name: Vitamin T

Recommended daily intake: Ideally, vitamin T is taken in on awakening, having a calm moment before the start of the day. During the day at selected intervals would also be good, and a final one at night before sleep.

Minimum daily intake: At the very least, once a day is the bare minimum intake for vitamin T.

Sources: The most common source of vitamin T is tea, which involves sitting down, switching off, and living in the now as you inhale the vapours of the freshly brewed tea. Unfortunately, quickly grabbing a cup of tea and sitting at your desk in front of a computer is not a good source of vitamin T, as it will not be absorbed. Similarly, grabbing a cup of coffee in the morning and racing out the door with a “heart-starter” is not only not a source of vitamin T, but is likely to put the body on a caffeine-sugar-burnout-caffeine-sugar-burnout treadmill that so many run on “just to get through the day”. And people wonder why they’re exhausted at the end of the day.

Tea is not the only source of vitamin T; a well-made cup of hot chocolate or even coffee if your taste runs to these things will suffice. In fact, just about anything eaten or drunk with mindfulness will suffice.

Meditation is also a brilliant source of vitamin T, and most definitely recommended in cases of vitamin T deficiency.

Symptoms of deficiency: There is a subtle but noticeable shift from cause to blame, and happiness no longer comes from within but is dependent on circumstances in the outside world. As a result, things tend towards a feeling of overwhelm, or as Abraham Hicks would put it, “outside the vortex” experiences.

Symptoms of overdose: A sense of calm, a happiness/joy/peace in whatever circumstances surround you; being “inside the vortex“.

So there. That’s vitamin T in a nutshell. I’m off to have a cup of tea right now!

 

*Okay, so they’re not entirely scientific facts. But what I’ve written makes some sense. 🙂

Minimalism and Emergencies

2 April 2013

Things have gotten rather behind in terms of minimalism, clutter, and even basic housework of late.

No, it hasn’t been laziness, I just haven’t been well. I had surgery a few weeks ago on my nose (which has been a resounding success). It was something I wanted for positively ages, and the timing was impeccable — I didn’t have to miss any school (I teach chemistry part-time) so everything went well.

Until last week. At which point, I got a raging sinus infection. I went through the motions last Wednesday teaching (thank goodness we were in a tutorial session — I’m glad I wasn’t in a lab, much less pouring concentrated nitric acid over copper filings (as I have done in the past). With Easter coming up, I knew I needed to see a doctor and get some antibiotics now.

And I did. And as of Saturday, I started making sense. I’m now on the repeat prescription of the antibiotics, and I’m still getting over this.

So, what does this mean for my minimalist experiment?

I’ve fallen behind. I’ve got a whole lot of cleaning up to do, a lot of tidying up to do, and I have the Ironing Basket That Ate Paris sitting in my room. Or so it seems, as it glares malevolently at me in my bedroom. (And I really am going to have to do some of it soon, I’m running out of clothes to wear.) Right now, if you had a look at my room, you wouldn’t think I was a minimalist; slob is more the word that comes to mind.

And I don’t care. For several reasons.

Firstly, first things first: the first thing is my health and wellbeing. If my tidy room or my ironing has to wait, it can damned well wait. I need to take time out, recover: rest and recuperation is definitely a priority.

Secondly, my room was tidy enough to begin with that the amount of mess I’ve made in a week is quickly cleaned up. I can quickly sort through, iron, vacuum, and get everything done in an afternoon or two. Today’s a quiet, rainy afternoon, and the only things I really needed to do were return some library books (done) and blog (doing).

And I don’t have to have it all done in one session. Just getting the ironing sorted will be a huge step forward.

So, what’s the take home message here?

Be tidy, be minimalist, be organised by all means: but don’t be obsessive. Look after your health and wellbeing first and foremost and let everything fall into place after that. My diary has a lot of things that I’m postponing for a few days, even a week; this too is OK. As long as there’s food in the house and I get plenty of rest, things are going to be OK for me. I expect by next week I’ll have tidied up the mess that’s there right now (I’ll keep you posted).

So remember: first things first. And health and wellbeing are always first — they trump any ace!