Posts Tagged ‘minimalism’


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. 😉


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.

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!

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.

The freedom of less (rocks)

11 December 2012

I was going through my gem and jewellery collection (it’s a hobby of mine) and I was working out exactly what I wanted for myself. As it turned out, not much at all. I want for myself a nice pair of cufflinks, and I have just the perfect pair of stones for that: a beautiful pair of square-cut rubies, not heated, not coloured, not treated. They’re not top quality (they’re quite cloudy and included, and there’s even big chunks of rutile at the back) but I really don’t care: I just want that pop of colour that only rubies really provide. If I get married (and that’s a really big if) then I’ll get a plain wedding band, probably platinum because I like it and it’s damn near indestructible.

But I digress. As I said, I was going through my gem collection, and I have an awful lot of rocks that I’m not interested in working with. When I was a beginner, I grabbed pretty much everything I could for practice, and there were many generous souls willing to give me free material. Now that I’ve moved on a bit, I’m now rather selective in what I work with. I notice a lot of the material I used early on were in dark, heavy colours; although they tend to suit me, I’m now not making jewellery for me, with the exception of the ruby cuff links I was talking about.

So I’m giving away the stones that a) I don’t want for myself and b) I don’t think are good as gifts for friends and family. I have a ridiculous amount of tiger iron that I can’t imagine will make pretty jewellery, but juniors at the lapidary club I go to can practice with the material. Our juniors at Nunawading Lapidary Club do really well in terms of prizes and awards, I want to support that.

Now I’m free to make gifts for people. I have a friend whose birth stone is sapphire, and a family member who loves blue: they’re both getting a faceted (synthetic) sapphire next year. (Shhh… don’t tell anyone!) And it means that as all of the people I’m planning to give jewellery to are women, I can use prettier, lighter coloured stones. My peach-coloured sapphire is a case in point. I may even get some chrysoprase and make something with it.

Which means this afternoon I’m going through my rock collection and giving stuff away. And that means when I move (again!) in just over a week, I won’t be carrying a whole lot of rocks with me, and all of the rocks that I have I will list so I can keep track of them. That’s in line with my goal of having everything I own listed, named, and in their correct place.

And that feels like freedom to me.

Goals for 2013

4 December 2012

Yes folks, I’ve made the move. I’ve got new (temporary) accommodation close to town and transport, my stuff in boxes — I’ve sorted through a whole lot of stuff, and discarded, given away or am selling a lot of things.

The move showed me that I’ve got a long way to go in my goal of simple, minimalist living, but it also showed me how far I’ve come. I’ve been thinking about my goals for 2013 (my goals for 2012 went south: out of 21 listed goals, I achieved nine. Nine. I guess finishing a master’s degree was a bit more taxing than I imagined it would be.)

And I know that there’s a lot to be said for having no goals (try mnmlist or theminimalists  for their take on no goals), but I still want something to move towards at this point in my journey. Maybe down the track I won’t, but then again, maybe I will. I just don’t know yet, and I don’t feel that I have to.

I’ve decided that one of my goals is to have everything physical in my life sorted out. My filing, my wardrobe, my photographs, the paraphernalia… everything. I remember one time in my life (wayyyyy back in the 90s!) when I did have everything sorted out, and it felt good.

So I’ll make my goal-declaring as public as possible, and I’ll happily welcome other people to post their goals in the comments section, something to remind them, put a structure of accountability in place. With this in mind, here are my goals for 2013:


  1. Have everything sorted out. Know where everything is, and have it on lists. I will have several lists, for example, clothing, filing, stuff in boxes. And hopefully, most of the stuff in boxes will be gone. Mike For Short has written a list of his stuff, which I find inspiring.
  2. Have my tax up to date. Currently, it is not up to date; nothing like up to date, in fact.
  3. Start on my PhD. I’ve come to realise that I’m passionate about commercialising biotechnology, so the sooner I get started the better. I am currently drafting a study proposal for RMIT.
  4. Take up swimming and yoga. I want to be healthier than I am, and those are the two exercises that seem to benefit me most, healthwise.
  5. I’ve been making jewellery for a couple of years, I’d like to make myself some cuff links and cut a few stones for friends and family.

That’s about as much as I feel I want to try and handle in 2013, and if I get all that done I’ll be mighty pleased. What are you goals for 2013?


Moving as an opportunity to simplify my life

28 November 2012

As it turns out, I’m unexpectedly moving. Well, not *totally* unexpectedly; I just didn’t plan to move this soon.

And now is the perfect time to purge: I have way too much stuff that doesn’t ever leave boxes, but get hauled from one box to another to another as I move. Things that I’ve been given (and just last weekend, I was given some free samples of low-grade peridot / olivine to work with, just after I’ve decided to only work with rubies and sapphires. Even I can’t say “no” sometimes.)

There’s a jacket that doesn’t fit right (too short in the sleeves, too tight across the shoulders) that’s an odd cut and has the most hideous lining — lilac and pink polyester swirls. I know you can’t see it, but *I* know it’s there. What was I thinking? And my super comfortable shoes that are just soooo nice to wear but look totally ratty, and the leather has come off the sole and it’s beyond repair — they’re well and truly at the end of a long and happy life. I can’t even *give* these away to charity.

Right now the most tempting and easy option is to just pack everything up, move it across town, and promise myself that I’ll sort it all when I get there. Yeah, right. I’ve said that to myself far, far too often. So now I’m going to do CONSCIOUS packing — which requires mental effort and discipline. I’ll report back next week on how I went with my conscious packing.

Wish me luck. 🙂

Learning to live with less AND live with more

20 November 2012

I’ve been inspired by minimalism of late — actually, I have for quite a while. And I’m now coming out of the (empty) closet: I’m choosing now to live as a minimalist.

The inspiration for this is pretty mundane — I’m moving house (again!)  and frankly, I don’t feel like moving so much *stuff* around. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to my new-found minimalism.

There’s a lot in my life that I don’t want that I have right now, and stuff is only part of the problem. I also don’t want debt, I don’t want clutter, I don’t want the disorganisation that my cupboards are full of. And every time I move I promise that I’ll sort it out. And I don’t.

And there’s things that I DO want that I’ve decided I’d like MORE of, thank you. Connection is one of them. I find that I’m doing a lot of activities and spending too much time on my own, which isn’t really a good thing. Hugs are something I’d like more of. And meeting someone special would be a good thing too. And I’d like more experiences: travel is high on the list, but I’ve also decided I’d like to try parasailing at some point, and driving with the wind blowing through my hair.

So welcome to my journey. I expect it’ll take a little while to get to where I want to be; I hope it’ll be fun.