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…)

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What to do when failure rears its ugly head

28 May 2013

Meh.

So much for the month of May is the month of swimming.

How often have I been swimming this month? Never. Nada. Zip. Denmarque, null points.

Well, there’s a couple of ways I could go about it. The first and most obvious one is to beat myself up about it: feel terribly guilty / ashamed / upset I didn’t get close to going swimming this month. It’s not a frame of mind that I find productive; there’s really nothing I can do about my not swimming this month.

Or I can try and redouble my efforts: I can make crazy promises to myself that in the month of June, I will do double the amount of swimming that I was going to do in May. There, that’ll fix it — or will it?

No. I’ll be setting myself up for even more failure. And as I’m already in a somewhat discouraged state of mind, adding harsh if not impossible demands is not going to help either.

Sometimes, life just gets in the way. In this case, it’s been a tricky month for my depression. I don’t want to get out of the house, I don’t want to talk to anyone, I sure as fvck don’t want to try a whole new uncomfortable experience like a swimming lesson.

So I’m starting with the basics. I’ve booked myself in for one (count them: one) free trial swimming lesson, at a pool close to home that is convenient to get to (it’s on the same train line — no waiting for buses for this little black duck). And I’m making no further commitments than that. If I feel like swimming again, I will; I can always pay for another lesson. The lesson is in June (May got crazy busy), but I’m letting that one go.

The key I’ve decided is to be gentle with myself. It’s not like I’m training to swim the English Channel in a few weeks; a little bit of delay will be okay. And I’ll get to swimming next month.

I refuse to beat myself up anymore.

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!

5 Quick Wins

7 May 2013

Hi everyone,

Today is a little how-to, as we get a little into the nitty gritty of how to be a minimalist. I’ve talked about the benefits of being free from clutter and I’ve shared some of my experiences on this joyous journey: now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get cracking! Here they are: 5 quick wins!

  1. Surfaces. Get them clean! Get them clear! No, you don’t have to pack everything exactly right away in the right spot all at once: take it gradually. Be easy on yourself. Allow (at first!) a messy cupboard or two (or however many your current mess takes up!). Then whittle it down to one cupboard, one box, etc. In the meantime, have your dining table, benchtops, any surface you can think of, clean and clear. It’s a simple fix (shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes) and you’ll feel so much better for it.
  2. Budget. Here’s some simple maths: $ incomings > $ outgoings. If your outgoings are bigger than your incomings, you need to pare back and/or get a way of making more money. I now have a rule: all money must be budgeted before it can be handled. I use an easy way here: I budget in multiples of $10. For starters, my arithmetic is very ordinary, so it makes sense for me to round up or down (mostly up) for my expenses. Secondly, ATM machines in Australia only issue cash in multiples of $10, so I can easily allocate what money is going where at the ATM. (Money dedicated for a particular purpose is folded in half in my wallet, and must never be touched for anything else.)
  3. Wardrobe audit. Time to love yourself a little here. Anything frayed, tatty, stained, ripped, or generally at the end of a long and happy life has to go. Clothes in unflattering colours should go too (battleship grey? What the hell was I thinking? I’m not a battleship!). Get a few basic pieces (a “capsule wardrobe”) in basic neutrals and build from there. Don’t have a wardrobe full of clashing, unflattering, daggy clothes.
  4. Month of focus. This is a brand new idea and I’m starting to warm to it. You declare every calendar month a new focus. Thus, the month of May is going to be the month I (finally!) focus on swimming. I’ll keep you posted. June is looking like vegetable month.
  5. Meditate. Make the effort to “turn off” for about 15 minutes or so (is there something magic about 15 minutes?) and relax. There are all sorts of techniques that I like to use; one of my favourites is a little singing bowl. I have a massive quartz one (14″ no less), but I use my much smaller portable metal one much more. Focusing on my breathing, imagining a point of light — all these are good too!

So there you have it: five quick wins on the minimalist path. Enjoy!

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. 🙂

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!

Abraham Hicks and Clutter (or, Energy Experiment part 2)

26 March 2013

Abraham Hicks gives a number of processes to move up their Emotional Guidance Scale (22 processes to be exact — no, I don’t know the exact significance of there being 22 processes, nor or there being 22 places on the Emotional Guidance Scale. Maybe they just like 22). One of these processes is about eliminating clutter.

I quote: “a cluttered environment can cause a cluttered point of attraction.  If you are surrounded by unfinished work, unanswered letters, incomplete projects, unpaid bills, unnattended to tasks, unsorted piles of paperwork, and stray magazines, catalogs, and all manner of miscellaneous items – they can negatively affect your life experience.” Most importantly, “you all have the capacity for attraction, and when your process is clogged with stuff that you no longer want – the new attraction is slower and then you end up with a feeling of frustration or overwhelment“.

Clogged. Slower. Frustration. Overwhelment. I’m not sure the last one is a word, but it should be. Overwhelment.

It’s been interesting where I currently live, as the house has been horribly cluttered. Put bluntly, shit everywhere. Not even good quality stuff, but total shit. And it’s not my stuff, either; it’s the old lady’s who owns the house, who is now in care due to advancing age and health issues.

As I wrote in an Energy Experiment (part 1, as it turned out) I felt I was locked in an energy battle with the house. And I almost moved out several times, but I stood my ground. Now, finally, I’m starting to win against it.

The kitchen, for the first time, is clear. Still some stuff to clear away (way too many plastic containers, not to mention pots and pans) but it’s much, much better than it was. My bedroom, while still painted hideous clashing shades of blue, now has adequate mosquito netting (and therefore no more mosquitoes).

I’m also aligning my stuff in an orderly manner: I’m shopping my clothing off a list (just as if they were groceries, because that’s what they really are) and allocating a budget. (Last payday I allocated $80 to spend on clothing; I spent $78.10. Success!) I have one box of stuff that I know needs sorting out, but I don’t need to sort it all out right this split second.

Quoting Abraham Hicks again, “everything carries its own vibration, and because you develop a vibrational relationship with everything in your life, your personal belongings do have an impact on the way you feel and on your point of attraction“. Everything. Including all the shit that I’m still surrounded with at home.

However, something positive is coming out of all of this. Here are my two resolves as a result:

  1. All of my stuff will be tidy, sorted, completely listed and done by the end of the year. I’m rewriting my will as part of this in a few weeks (not expecting to die soon, but I do want everything in order). As I explained to my family, if I do die it’ll only take half an hour or so to sort my stuff, it’ll be all in place. My ultimate goal is to enter everything into a spreadsheet.
  2. Do what I can to assist with my current place being tidy and sorted. Finish going through the jewellery and the spice rack, get rid of the mismatched and ugly terracotta pots (was there a sale on ugly terracotta pots?) and even paint my room a soothing white. Get some zen happening there. I like a little minimalism now and zen.

I finish with the final pearl of wisdom from Abraham Hicks: “discard everything from your experience that is not essential to your NOW“.

Goodbye ugly terracotta pots!!!