Archive for the ‘General blog’ Category

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)

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 über-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. 😉

How to completely suck at life

4 June 2013

If you want your life to be completely sucky, I strongly recommend you do all of the following:

1. Blame: If your life isn’t where you want it to be, it’s not your fault. Instead, you should blame your parents, your teachers, your spouse(s), your children, the government, the economy, your astrological birth chart (damn you, Saturn!), or whatever you can think of. Get creative here! You are an amazing talent, the likes of which the world rarely sees: how nasty of those Australian Idol/X Factory/Voice/[insert reality TV show] judges to say you have a voice that sounds like a cat is being trodden on! You are an artiste, and if you don’t get your big break, it’s all their fault. Your health, finances and career are all a victim of circumstances beyond your control, and the very best thing you can do is blame everybody else for them.

2. Hoard: You kind of expect me to say that on a minimalist blog, don’t you? The golden rule here is never throw anything out. Ever! You might need that thingummyjig or whatsit some day! And even if you don’t, you still paid good money for it. Or even if it was a gift, it’s worth something, and someday you’ll be able to sell it on eBay for quite a lot of money. So you should absolutely hold on to your collection of tacky t-shirts (most of which are faded, stained, don’t fit properly, or are in ghastly shades of mustard), pile them in a corner somewhere, and get very upset if anyone touches your stuff. Oh, and you don’t actually need to know where anything actually is: you just need to have it stashed somewhere. Oh, and you won’t have many visitors dropping by given the state of your house, so it gives you a nice sense of isolation.

3. YOLO: You only live once is the motto you should absolutely live by under all and any circumstances. Don’t bother eating nutritious food and exercising — YOLO! Instead, have as much greasy fried food and sugary soda as you like — it’s fun! Don’t worry about being 50kg overweight, your soulmate should recognise you through all your layers, and if he/she doesn’t, they were never your soulmate anyway. Also, you should take up lots of dangerous sports — base jumping comes to mind here — because YOLO! Don’t worry about other people saying that jumping off cliffs without a parachute open till the last minute is dangerous — they’re just the fun police! Oh, and drugs? Party time! You should take as many drugs as often as you like — remember, you only live once (and if you’re taking lots of drugs, it probably won’t be for that long, either).

4. Whine and complain: apart from the good, happy feelings that invariably follow a good bitch and moan session, it makes you irresistably attractive. Who can resist the allure of someone complaining about the weather, or saying their boss is a jerk. And when they start talking about all their aches and pains, hold me back! Whining and complaining is also a wonderful remedy to actually doing something — instead, you get to blame someone else, and that’s infinitely more fun!

5. Misery loves company: and you should set out to be miserable as often as you can. Those people who tell you if life hands you lemons, make lemonade — don’t you just want to slap them? Hard? Remember, every silver lining has a dark cloud right behind it: you need to point out all the things that can possibly go wrong, and even a few unlikely things that may, just possibly, go wrong, so that you and everyone else around you lives under a dark cloud of fear and suspicion. That way, when things do go wrong (as they invariably do!), you’re mentally prepared the way with pessimism. Remember: not only is the glass half-empty, but there’s a chip in the side of the glass, there could be a glass fragment in the water, and it’s probably carrying cholera.

6. Don’t set goals: Most important of all. You are not captain of your fate, and master of your destiny, despite what those annoying Doris Day types will tell you (point #5). Instead, you should drift along in a cloud of misery (point #4), whine and complain about circumstances (#3), avoid any long-term planning (#2), and blame everyone else for the mess you’re in (#1).

There you go: 6 foolproof steps to completely sucking at life. Enjoy! (or, not…)

For those about to swim, we salute you!

21 May 2013

My month of focus for May is swimming. The reason that swimming is my focus this month is that I noticed I have the really bad habit of saying “I’m going swimming”, listing it in my diary, and not following through. So I’ve booked myself into a swimming lesson (I can swim, but I tend to flail around a bit more than I should), which gives me free access to the pool between lessons. Bonus.

In the meantime I’m on the hundred pushups program. I’m repeating week 5 — I missed out on graduating to week 6 by one measly push up. On the up side, the regimen has now got a whole lot harder — I moved from column 1 of week 5 to column 3, which is a whole lot of scary. I did nearly 200 pushups yesterday, and as a result my pectorals are pumped. Engorged. Sadly, my white t-shirt is in the wash, otherwise this would be the perfect day to wear it. 🙂

And every Thursday I do yoga. Yes, I’d like to do more yoga more often: I plan to make it my focus for the month of July (June has been dedicated to vegetables: the month of June, that is, not Mama June from Honey Boo Boo Child. I don’t think that woman would know a vegetable if one came up and bit her in the @rse…).

But I digress. I have scheduled greater physical activity into my life: and importantly, I’m doing it with a minimum of expense, equipment, and bother. Yes, running is an option, but not for me — I get severe asthma after a few steps, and I’m just not built for running. I am built for swimming — my late father was a state champion swimmer,  so there’s no point in fighting genetics. May as well go along with what I’ve got.

The main point to make is this: you can be fit without a lot of expense, equipment, and stuff. How many people have the latest ab-blaster pro or whatever they bought on an infomercial at 2am sitting in a basement or garage? You don’t need an ab-blaster pro: you need to do crunches. It’s not hard.

I used to think that I needed a gym membership and regular attendance (and lots of equipment) to be fit. How wrong I was. Now I don’t go near a gym: I do pushups, yoga, started swimming; and when I go home by public transport, I take the train. Guess what? The railway station is at the bottom of a very, very steep hill; my home is at the top of aforementioned steep hill. I walk up the hill nearly every day — brilliant workout!

To sum up: find a few exercises that work for you and incorporate them into a program. It could involve a Swiss ball, running, walking, jogging, swimming, pushups, yoga… find out what works for you. And let me know your thoughts!

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. 🙂

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 Power of Lists

19 March 2013

I have a habit, and it’s been a habit of mine that has stood me in good stead: making lists. I’m an incorrigible list maker. If I have to pick up more than three things from the market or store, I make a list. (Oh, and I never go shopping hungry; otherwise you end up buying all sorts of stupid thinks, like pickled artichokes).

And it’s a habit that I’ve been extending. I now shop for clothes the way other people shop for groceries: I make a list. I made a list of all the clothes in my wardrobe a few months ago, and the clothing I need, here. Right now I don’t need t-shirts but I do need business shirts: I’ll be going shopping for some business shirts on Friday, and I will simply walk past the t-shirt section. It’s that simple.

There are other lists I have, with lists of things to buy for the bathroom, the kitchen; my weekly shopping lists for the markets and the supermarket; and my diary, which is really a collection of 365 to-do lists. I have two lists of projects that I’m working on (ones that require money, and ones that don’t). The 2007 movie The Bucket List starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman really put into people’s awareness the wonderful idea of making a list of the things you want to do before you die. A brilliant idea. Needless to say, I have a bucket list.

What I really need, perhaps, is then a list of lists. But here goes so far:

  • Clothing that I have
  • Clothing that I require
  • Colours that actually suit me (as opposed to the ones that make me look deathly ill; canary yellow and mustard, I’m looking straight at you!)
  • Things to get for the bathroom
  • Things to get for the kitchen
  • Vegetables I would like to grow
  • My to-do lists (daily, in the diary)
  • Essential things to pack when I travel (an upcoming post)
  • Things I would like to do in my career
  • Gemstones that I would like to cut and give to friends (it’s a long list and I’m very slow, so please don’t expect to see a sapphire coming from me any time soon!)
  • Things I want to achieve this year
  • Things that I would like to acquire in my life (bucket list part 1)
  • Things that I would like to do in my life (bucket list part 2)
  • Places that I would like to go to in my life (bucket list part 3, and by far the longest one. What can I say, I’m a born traveller!)

I did mention that I’m a list maker, right? Good.

So, how on earth does my almost obsessive list-making relate to minimalism? Simple. If it’s not on the list, I don’t need it.

For example, if I go shopping and I haven’t written “chocolate” on the shopping list, I don’t buy chocolate. Ever. (Needless to say, I am now very good at remembering to put chocolate on my shopping list — usually near the top! 🙂 ). But it also works for my other lists: I no longer get distracted by things that aren’t on my list. I had a friend once whose goal was to visit every single one of the 50 states of America. All 50 states are not on my list: if I don’t get to Wisconsin, I won’t be bitterly disappointed at the end of my days. But I really do want to cruise Alaska, go for a helicopter ride in the Grand Canyon, tour Hawaii, Seattle and New Orleans, and revisit San Francisco, Boston and New York.

The power of lists is the power of focus: you know exactly what you want, you only go after exactly what you want, and in all probably you get exactly what you want. And you don’t end up with stuff you don’t want. True, there can be some nice surprises: things and places you didn’t expect to enjoy but end up loving to bits (hello America!), but for the most part, you get what you want.

And I think lists are essential for minimalists.