The ticking of time- Watches; To wear or not to wear?

Having started a new job recently, the subject of wearing a watch has come up for me again. Most people wear a watch, so what is there to discuss about? Strap it on and know what the time is. What’s the issue?

Time is one of the things that most of us would give our right leg for more of. Research discussed in the article below  talks about how happiness is a result of the choices people make.

https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/if-money-doesn%E2%80%99t-make-you-happy-consider-time

The answer to being happy ends in the simple suggestion: spend your time wisely. Saving time is something I actively try to manage in my minimalist lifestyle and often lost the battle with, so it’s something I’m really aware of.

If you Google how to save time you bring up 1,460,000,000 results . Time saving is big business…in fact time saving is probably an enemy of minimalism as we as consumers buy more and more time saving gadgets and apps to save us more time.  Ironically we work harder and longer than ever to pay for these time saving devices.

So back to the watch. I don’t wear one. The reason I don’t wear one is because I think watching time tick away is a bit depressing. It’s like having a counter on your death date ticking backwards. Watching an hour count down that you’re never going to get back doesn’t seem a very productive use of life to me. I also don’t want to rush from one appointment to the next, keeping an eye on the clock rather than being fully present in what I am doing, something I struggle with anyway.

In my new job, we have meetings, Lots of them. So I’ve had to consider the subject of wearing a watch again. Watches have so much symbolism in materialism; the Rolex that signifies wealth and success, the Fitbit which highlights your aim at a healthy lifestyle, the Apple watch with it’s Apple Pay technology for the cutting edge technologists.

apple-watch-round-concept

No longer just a measure of time, and how to know what time of day it is, they’re also a way of us showing the world what we’re about if we don’t want to splash labels all over our clothes. I don’t want to have that ability. I’d rather you’d get to know me through other aspects of my self.

So how I do get round this? Do I succumb to watch wearing for work purposes? Well that involves purchasing something I  don’t want. The absolute opposite of minimalism. So you can see the dilemma I’m in. Hopefully! So after a week of umming and aahing I have come to a conclusion. Space out meetings where possible to avoid needing to check the time, and use the clock on my computer, and my work phone as needed. Phew…purchase avoided. I can let the hours tick down on their own without my witnessing them and worrying I need to find more.

The #minimalistliving September Challenge Update

It’s been two weeks now of my September Challenge*; finding 11 hours a week of time to do more meaningful activity i.e. not just sitting on the internet or my phone, or watching repeats or someone’s lives being rehashed for the TV. This was to make  up for the fact I was going to be going from working 26 hours to a week to 37 hours a week.

So how have I got on so far? I am halfway through my month’s challenge. I have to confess I haven’t managed 11 hours a week, which I suppose was quite a big challenge in the first place, working on finding a way of recouping over 2 hours a day.

However I am pleased with what I have achieved and have found that I am making time for quality experiences that I wouldn’t have had before in my old job. I spent a lot of time driving, and so would be exhausted after work, and catching up on life at weekends.

So what have I found the time to do?

Well I now walk to work, and in the morning I spend that 20 minutes walking to work, walking mindfully. If you have no idea what this means check this out here; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/20/meditation-in-action-walking-meditation_n_3279958.html

In effect, for me it’s about taking notice of my surroundings, clearing my mind of all the virtual ‘stuff’ that collects in it’s corners and observing the world around me. It’s great for feeling ready and prepared to face the world ahead, as well as being really good for anxiety and depression, and calming stress. I will talk more about mindfulness in a later blog as it’s something I practice, and it’s a great partner for minimalist living. Total Time recouped = 1 hour 40 minutes each week

I have made time for lunch outside in the last couple of weeks which is something I have not had time to do for ages. In my first week I sat on a bench, facing the River Ouse, spending time communing with York’s very special geese (who apparently like banana!), the weather has been great for sitting outside, and I just spent time listening to the sounds of the city, and eating a very lovely packed lunch prepared for me by my very kind wife.  Time recouped = 1 hour 40 minutes each week

By not travelling in the week, it’s also meaning I can start looking at activities in the week to do again. I got to go to my Mindfulness group where we meditate, and catch up on our mindfulness practice. I have had to miss some of these when travelling. It’s great to feel I can just leave work and head off to do something before going home.  Time recouped = 60 mins

By also getting into a routine and getting up and home at the same time I am feeling more motivated. So I’ve been starting to find and cook up my 10 recipes for my minimalist cooking approach. I’m posting my recipes as I find them here too… Time recouped = about 1 hour and a half per week

I am also finding little slots of time here and there; a coffee sipped on the city walls, an hours book reading before the alarm goes off, a meal after work with my wife overlooking the river and a stroll home…which we probably would have put off if we had had to go home first and then go out again.

So although I haven’t reached the goal I had intended for this part of the challenge, I’ve adapted to my new hours, and found that actually for me, slotting in an hour here and there is more productive than having a whole day off.  I am feeling motivated, having more quality experiences (which is part of my overall goal and motivation for living a minimalist life), and getting more mindful.

*Have been recording all my spending which I think will be interesting to analyse at the end of my month, ahead of my October shopping month ban…

Number 2 in the magic 10 is here, on the heels of a sloppy curry

I’ve been beavering away in my quest for minimalism and working on finding my second of the 10 meals that will become my repertoire…

First up was a vegetable curry…I’ve made it many times so was fairly confident it would make it into repertoire but a reminder of I’m looking for;

  • Quick
  • Healthy
  • Simple
  • Flavoursome

Against this criteria the curry simply doesn’t stack up, there’s sauteeing, broths, simmering, rice or bread, and getting the spice mix just right. We ended up with a flavourless broth after an hours cooking, more a soup than a curry. I realised the cooking process needs to be under half an hour for me to commit to it. I am not the person who slaves away for 3 hours to make a sumptious meal.

It also needs to have texture and flavour. I want crunch or munch. Not slop

So I’ve had another go with something completely different; halloumi with couscous and pan fried vegetables. It’s quick, really quick….so simple and it is definitely the meal that has gone down the best so far. The saltiness of the halloumi sits so well against the Ainsley Harriett Moroccan couscous that we used which had mint and lemon flavours. We used red pepper and cherry tomatoes, but you could roast some vegetables, which would be lovely, or the original recipe suggested steamed broccoli.

The final result; no leftovers, one happy wife, one great meal, and 2 recipes in my repertoire…so now I am on the hunt for my next recipe…I thinking some sort of dry noodle meal…any suggestions? It needs to be vegetarian.

I am heading to a Vegan Cookery course in Sheffield in September and hoping to get some ideas for some more of my recipes…

Anyone else have a specific group of meals you prepare on rotation or is it just me?

Image from Alfez.com (I forgot to take a photo!)

The #minimalistliving September Challenge Update

It’s been two weeks now of my September Challenge*; finding 11 hours a week of time to do more meaningful activity i.e. not just sitting on the internet or my phone, or watching repeats or someone’s lives being rehashed for the TV. This was to make  up for the fact I was going to be going from working 26 hours to a week to 37 hours a week.

So how have I got on so far? I am halfway through my month’s challenge. I have to confess I haven’t managed 11 hours a week, which I suppose was quite a big challenge in the first place, working on finding a way of recouping over 2 hours a day.

However I am pleased with what I have achieved and have found that I am making time for quality experiences that I wouldn’t have had before in my old job. I spent a lot of time driving, and so would be exhausted after work, and catching up on life at weekends.

So what have I found the time to do?

Well I now walk to work, and in the morning I spend that 20 minutes walking to work, walking mindfully. If you have no idea what this means check this out here; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/20/meditation-in-action-walking-meditation_n_3279958.html

In effect, for me it’s about taking notice of my surroundings, clearing my mind of all the virtual ‘stuff’ that collects in it’s corners and observing the world around me. It’s great for feeling ready and prepared to face the world ahead, as well as being really good for anxiety and depression, and calming stress. I will talk more about mindfulness in a later blog as it’s something I practice, and it’s a great partner for minimalist living. Total Time recouped = 1 hour 40 minutes each week

I have made time for lunch outside in the last couple of weeks which is something I have not had time to do for ages. In my first week I sat on a bench, facing the River Ouse, spending time communing with York’s very special geese (who apparently like banana!), the weather has been great for sitting outside, and I just spent time listening to the sounds of the city, and eating a very lovely packed lunch prepared for me by my very kind wife.  Time recouped = 1 hour 40 minutes each week

By not travelling in the week, it’s also meaning I can start looking at activities in the week to do again. I got to go to my Mindfulness group where we meditate, and catch up on our mindfulness practice. I have had to miss some of these when travelling. It’s great to feel I can just leave work and head off to do something before going home.  Time recouped = 60 mins

By also getting into a routine and getting up and home at the same time I am feeling more motivated. So I’ve been starting to find and cook up my 10 recipes for my minimalist cooking approach. I’m posting my recipes as I find them here too… Time recouped = about 1 hour and a half per week

I am also finding little slots of time here and there; a coffee sipped on the city walls, an hours book reading before the alarm goes off, a meal after work with my wife overlooking the river and a stroll home…which we probably would have put off if we had had to go home first and then go out again.

So although I haven’t reached the goal I had intended for this part of the challenge, I’ve adapted to my new hours, and found that actually for me, slotting in an hour here and there is more productive than having a whole day off.  I am feeling motivated, having more quality experiences (which is part of my overall goal and motivation for living a minimalist life), and getting more mindful.

*Have been recording all my spending which I think will be interesting to analyse at the end of my month, ahead of my October shopping month ban…

The Trials and Tribulations of my Autumn Wardrobe Capsule

The start of September heralds many things; the nights drawing in, the weather getting colder, better stuff on TV. It is also the second of my capsule wardrobe installments. Initially I was going to share with you how I’d done it, what I was wearing this autumn and how you could have a go at yourself. However it’s not gone well. As I mentioned in a previous blog I am starting a new job tomorrow and so my use of the Unfancy principles have gone a bit to pot.

I think my problem is I’ve been going too much by the rules…by how many tops, how many bottoms etc. Have a look at this… http://www.un-fancy.com/capsule-wardrobe-101/how-to-build-a-capsule-wardrobe/

I used this as a plan for the first capsule I ever started in June, and it worked really well. It all went well to start with and I’ve found the first steps  I use always works

Step 1

2015-08-25 12.29.44

Take everything you have out of your wardrobe and plonk it on the bed for a full review

Step 2

2015-08-25 13.21.05

Put clothes in 4 piles – charity shop, keep in wardrobe, put away for another season, not sure.

Once you’ve got down to the basics you want to keep, it’s a case of identifying what you need to complement what you’re keeping in your capsule , or what you’re re-introducing from storage. If you’ve got an unsure pile, imagine yourself wearing it, and thinking ‘Do I love it? Does it make me happy?’ If not, out it goes.

I like the Unfancy idea of storing some clothes each season so you don’t get bored of them, and re-introducing them as a nice surprise. I found a green dress I’d stored last season which I loved and had totally forgotten about.

A surprise from my capsule storage
A surprise from my capsule storage

I am going to layer this up with a long sleeved t-shirt underneath and cardigan on top to make it autumn proof.

It sounds like it was going well so far right? I had identified some keepers…classics like the denim shirt, and denim dress which I wear all the time

One of my keepers - Classic denim
One of my keepers – Classic denim

What I found though is that most of the clothes I had were very summery and light, and that I had little that would stand the cold, damp British autumn. So I started to panic about what I needed and how I could afford it. Sadly the start of a September capsule also coincides with the end of the summer sales which meant I thought I would get a bit of a bargain to top up my wardrobe. Big mistake…the key to a capsule wardrobe is good quality basics, not end of summer bargains.

Next I followed the Unfancy rule to the letter about the type of clothes to have in a capsule…Tops, bottoms, dresses, etc…I don’t wear T-shirts or often shirts but I created a wardrobe for myself that fitted to ‘the rules’  not necessarily to what works for me…Caroline is a freelancer who works from home, so has a wardrobe that is full of classic basics, and more on the casual side. I am starting a new job working full time in an office with a smart casual dress code. Cue another Ebay splurge to try and top up the wardrobe with appropriate work wear.

The good news I have reflected on all this, and am going to make adjustments for the winter season. I also think perhaps four seasons is unnecessary for British weather, and that three might be better, but I will run four for this year and evaluate. Lessons I have learned in this capsule;

  1. One size does not fit all
  2. I need a seperate mini work wardrobe, or additional clothes to compensate for working in an office
  3. The British climate is different! Seasons don’t start and end at the same time as they’re supposed to each year

My Capsule – Autumn 2015

9 pairs of shoes – Vans, Converse, red loafers, black chelsea boots, black ballet flats, leopard print boots, navy shiny vans style slip-ons, shoe boots, black studded flats

8 dresses – Denim dress, green digital print dress, black dress for dinners/nights out, black classic dress, cat print dress, black floral print shirt dress, black and blue colour block dress

6 bottoms – black jeggings, oxblood jeggings, black leggings, print trousers, black cigarette trousers, navy chinos

15 tops ; 3 shirts – denim, red and black check and floral chiffon

5 tunics – paisley tunic, navy multicoloured tunic, black tunic, a cream and navy tunic from Monsoon

5 Tops – khaki top with leather pockets, navy tunic, long sleeved t-shirt, navy print tunic

2 cardigans – cream and navy long cardigan, black cardigan

2  jumpers – black jumper, grey sweater

2 jackets/coats – Velvet black jacket, leopard and black print rain mac

I will blog a few of the items over the season so you can see how I am putting them together.

I’ve ended up with 42 items, and a lot of things in blue and black, and to be honest, one of the reasons I loved my first wardrobe was it was full of items I loved…this wardrobe feels a bit cobbled together with sticking plaster options. There’s always next season…

Recipe No 1- in the Magic 10

In a recent post I mentioned that part of my aim for #minimalistliving is to be a better cook, but have 10 delicious recipes that I learn off by heart which means we eat healthy, vegetarian food as part of our simple, minimalist lifestyle.

I am testing different recipes out on my wife over the next few weeks and giving her a little score card so that she can decide which meals she likes, and which are not for the top ten.

The first one met with success, a full 100 per cent success rate! It’s from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg Recipe Book, and it’s the Caponata. You can find the recipe here;

http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2013/05/caponata-from-river-cottage-veg.html

It has such a lovely depth of flavour, and although it’s in the Tapas section, we used it as a main meal with basmati rice. There are quite a few ingredients, but it feels like you need all of them to produce the flavour. We’re going to try the leftovers tomorrow with flatbread.

My wife as the meat eater of the family has suggested that it would be really lovely with some pan seared beef on top, so we’re going to have a go at trying that on top of hers next time.

If you get a chance to try it, let me know what you think

Reduce, Reuse, Upcycle!

For a lot of people minimalist living is about having a few things they treasure, and getting rid of things that don’t meet their needs. Although I wholeheartedly support this approach, mine is slightly different in that I actively look for things people don’t love anymore to upcycle into things I will love and that will become part of our home.

My latest piece is a bureau desk I got for £40 on Ebay. I have been known to pick up items down the alley (telephone table, and a lovely bistro set I have repainted in Hammerite metal paint that now lives in the garden) and Ebay is like a virtual Aladdin’s Cave of unloved pieces waiting for my hand to give them a new lease of life.

The bureau is quite sturdy, there’s nothing wrong with it but it is a bit aesthetically challenging but I bought it always with the intention of upcycling it. I’ve heard all about this Annie Sloan paint, and being the sort who finds prep really very boring a paint with no need to sand or prime seems like a gift from God.

Thought you might like to see the before and after and hear how I found the whole process, so you can have a go too. The more we upcycle, the less we need to consume and that’s good for the environment, good for our wallets, and good for minimalism!

BEFORE

The bureau is wooden, and has four drawers with a great section at a top for storing things. I think the drawer sections in the bureau have been added by the look of things.

bureau before 2 bureay 3 bureau 4

I used Annie Sloan Provence which is like a blue-ey green colour. It was pretty thick and oily at the top, and very chalky at the bottom so needed a massive stir at the start. I think it would be worth turning it upside down for 10 minutes. It was really easy to apply but I think in hindsight the best coverage is where I have applied really thin coats, and given the bureau two thin coats. The sections where I have applied paint more thickly have become a bit more rustic looking!

The paint, when brushed on in thin coats dries really quickly. I painted outside, and it was a warm windy day so that probably helped, but in an hour it was dry to the touch. It’s also eco friendly which I loved, and comes off things really easily, which as I manage to get paint everywhere is a really good thing!

Once the paint is thoroughly dry, about 2 hours after painting, the paint needs to be waxed. The wax helps seal the chalk paint, and also prevent things like grease stains. I looked up a few YouTube videos on the waxing, as I had never done it before, and the key seems to be putting on a very thin coat and then working it in bit by bit. It took a good bit of elbow grease, but I was really pleased with the results.

AFTER

Et Voila! One upcycled bureau which I love, and will do for years to come, for very little cost…

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Changing Sides – Moving from part time to full time work

Two weeks today I will undertake what feels like a very big change for me. I will be moving from working part time to going back to full time work. There’s lots of reasons I have to make this shift. The main one being that my current job is a national role with lots of travel and I need and want to be home more for my family.

I have had 18 months of being able to work part time, and I’m well aware this is a distant fantasy or luxury for many, but i have been able to do it through cutting down my lifestyle and living costs, and because I moved in with my wife so my costs were less. I also had a wage which gave me that luxury. But times are changing. I have made the decision that being at home, walking to work and not being away overnight  every week are more important. That sounds like I’m choosing work/life balance right? However I am going to be working 11 more hours a week which feels limiting. I also feel like the goal I wanted to achieve by the time I was 40, of working part time, has been given to me and then snatched away again, which makes me feel a bit of a failure.

So how am I going to turn this into a positive? And how can I keep or even increase work/life balance and look at someday returning to working part time?

At these points I always turn to those who have done it before me; Blonde on a Budget, Zen Habits, and other great bloggers who can advise from experience, both painful and joyful.

So from Blonde on a Budget- if I can get my debts and my outgoings down and increase my income I am going to be on the right route. Plus I could do a year long shopping ban which is going to really help me with that. I’ll be honest, the thought of a year long shopping ban really scares me. Truly. Does it scare you? The thought of being hampered by spending, although so freeing makes me break out in a cold sweat. So of course I need to try this out. Push myself. So from September 1st I am going to try a month long shopping ban. I will blog on September 1st about how I am going to go about it, how I am feeling and what exceptions there will be if any, and then throughout the month on how I am doing, and how it’s going and I promise to be brutally honest! Any money I would have spent will go towards paying off my fairly big credit card bill.

From Zen Habits – cutting out the unnecessary gives me the time I lose in my 11 hours to truly have work life balance. Cut back on the hours I spend on social media and limit myself to a period of time, unnecessary surfing, procrastination, bad habits such as sitting and watching TV I don’t even like. So I am going to see if in September I can also give myself 11 hours a week of meaningful stuff; whether that’s my writing, walking, a coffee and a day dream or some other such lovely thing. I think that’s going to be quite hard, but if I can do it, suddenly working full time won’t seem as hard.

The bonus of working full time is I’m really feeling excited about the challenges of my new role, I get to walk to work every day which will give me some great meaningful time if I can make it work for me, and I won’t be travelling. So when I finish work, I finish work.

Please follow my blog, and you can find out how I get on with these two tasks in September!

And out it goes…

So as you know part of my minimalist living journey is about living with less ‘stuff’. I’ve been really inspired by a blog by fellow Yorkie Catherine, who’s blog Mindful Minimalism talks about reducing her belongings quite radically. I think it was her who inspired me to get serious about decluttering.

I have tried different methods. One of the first was getting rid of one thing a day for 90 days. However this really didn’t work for me. Once I got stuck in I wanted to get rid of lots, and then if i was busy I didn’t do any for days.

Now I tend to hit one drawer, cupboard or corner at a time and try and be ruthless. The two questions I ask are ‘Do I love it? Do I need it?’ and if not it goes. This is the second lot of car boot sale stuff we’ve had this summer. I start a box and just put things in I think we won’t need (and if the wife agrees, otherwise I might find myself in the doghouse!), and then if we do it comes out again. I have to say it mostly stays in the box! I can’t believe how much clutter I keep, or have kept through the years. I think some of it is impulse, and some of it is just a case of if there’s a drawer it can go in I can think about it later.

There’s something really satisfying about removing all these things from our home, and really weird how we don’t miss any of it. Now I have hit the hard stuff though; things I keep for sentimental reasons, gifts and things that aren’t old, broken or unused? So where do I go from here? One of my main reasons for decluttering is so we can live simply, with better energy, more light, more space and so we don’t have to buy more storage, and a bigger house to put it all in. I need to find a way to work out how to move on. I want to only have objects in my life that mean something. That I love, or that I use all the time. Anything else  can go in those car boot sale boxes.

Car Boot stuff

So onto a new box…