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

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

Step 2

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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…

Facing up to the reality I can’t cook-won’t cook and the lure of Tupperware

I feel like I’m on a roll at the moment. Today I have decluttered the cutlery drawer to within an inch of it’s life, getting rid of a garlic press…great gadget, hardly ever use it, some BBQ tongs; same, and a load of batteries that we have had in that drawer since we moved in three years ago.

I am great at getting rid of stuff now, but not so good at not buying completely random unneeded things. Today I was lured by some Tupperware in Adsa. First problem, it’s half price. If you’re anything like me, the lure of the sale sticker can be too much. Half price? What a bargain I think. No matter I will never use said item, and it will be then decluttered in a later fling out of items I ‘no longer’ use.

So I see this Tupperware box. It’s got a flip top lid at the front. So not only can you store things in, but it’s easily accessible! I have visions of cat food and cereal being easily poured from this amazing item, saving time and effort every morning. Just as I am imagining this enlightening life changing scene, my wife poured cold water on the idea by saying ‘What’s wrong with the box that it came in?’ Suddenly all my heightened ideas of space saving and time saving crashed and burned as I realised she was right, it’s a complete opposite to my plan of #minimalistliving and I left it on the shelf.

Another object of my attentions today has been my recipe box. I mentioned in my first blog I want to simplify my eating habits (as does my wife) and so I am planning to learn by heart 10 healthy and tasty recipes that I can rotate with her hearty cooking, the odd take away and meal out. My plan is I will be effortlessly prepared, cook more, eat more healthily and  have a rotation of 10 meals giving me a more simplified life. This process involves being realistic, which is somewhat painful I find. As I opened my recipe box I had to face up to the fact that I am never going to cook a warm pea and mint salad? It’s not going to come up trumps on a cold Tuesday in Yorkshire. Endless stews – out. Easy but apparently not that appetising according to the wife. Am I ever going to make my own doughnuts? No. Ditto Falafel.

After sifting through every recipe I have meticulously collected over a probable 10 year period I am down to about 10. Sadly half of those are fruit crumbles and the rest are soups. Back to the drawing board!

Recipe

Creating a Capsule Wardrobe

Last season I decided to embrace the concept of a capsule wardrobe, and brave the serious reduction of clothes in my wardrobe which always seem to be packed, full of stuff I didn’t want to wear, and a source of frustration.

A quick flick on Pinterest (my favourite inspiration for minimalism, capsule wardrobes and simple living) and I found a load of people who were living the capsule lifestyle. Most of them are in America, and often that means capsules need amending, particularly with our beautiful British weather. However one blog stood head and shoulders among the rest, and has pretty much revolutionlised my life. Unfancy. A pretty cool, laid back wardrobe of a home working freelancer who blogs all her outfits to show you how it can be done and provides a fabulous ‘How-to’ guide to building a capsule. Check it out at www.un-fancy.com

THe Capsule Wardrobe

So I decided to have a go with a summer wardrobe. First of all I brought out all of my clothes on the bed – almost burying Sophie the pomchi in the process. There was a lot…I also decided to dispense with plastic hangers and invest in wooden ones. Somehow that seemed like a way of feeling  my £20 quid dress was a bit more luxury.

Using Caroline from Unfancy’s guidelines I built my wardrobe into 37 pieces; 9 pairs of shoes, 2 coats, 15 tops, 6 bottoms, and 5 dresses. Accessories are unlimited, a bit like a Premier Inn Breakfast, all you can wear but don’t pile on too much.

Her idea of the rule of 3 is great. Have one statement piece, one plain neutral and one in between. In my summer capsule I followed the 37 pieces to the letter, and found that pretty much it does work for me. However as I have a more corporate job I have created a mini work capsule. I work from home about 50% of the time, so this is only a small proportion of my clothing. However moving jobs in September means I am going to have to rethink the autumn version.

Having a capsule wardrobe means I haven’t bought clothes in the 3 months since I set up my summer capsule. I ignore the emails that spill into my inbox offering me the latest style, 20% off and a guaranteed fun summer and know that come September I can rejig, buy a few new things, rest my summer stuff, and feel like I have a whole load of new outfits. The downside to my capsule is as a plus size woman I can’t seem to find good quality basics. Caroline from Unfancy’s blog follows the rule of investing in key basics that are good quality and last and last. Unfortunately the fast fashion on the plus size world doesn’t offer me that as yet. A gap in the market?

So I will share with you my autumn capsule which is coming up soon. Have you tried a capsule with success? Or found it’s just not for you? If it’s something you hanker after go and download the Unfancy guide and have a go. I feel like I really know my style now after using her guides. I like strong colours, even strong neutrals, print, texture and denim. Using my new found knowledge I  can test this against everything I buy and wear. And the result? A minimalist wardrobe. Result

Until next time

Jo

xx

Clearing the Clutter

When I started thinking about living a minimalist or a more simple lifestyle, one thing I knew was I wanted to live in a simpler physical environment.

Clutter surrounds us all. We often don’t notice it, but it creeps into our psyche, making us feel itchy, anxious, a bit ‘to-do’. In fact studies tell us that it’s harder to sleep in a cluttered bedroom, and much less productivity happens in a cluttered office.

I have found it difficult to be surrounded by clutter for a while now. I didn’t realise at first what it was. However I started to get anxious if there were lots of things lying around, clothes piled up, draws stuffed with things I don’t use, even hidden in cupboards started to make me feel uncomfortable. However to get rid of it felt really hard.

Everywhere we go we’re encouraged to acquire ‘stuff’, new clothes, changing your home decor every season, that gadget you can’t live without, the storage boxes to put all the ‘stuff’ in , and then ultimately you’re sold the bigger house with more storage to accumulate all your ‘stuff’; a consumerism wet dream. In fact storage warehouse companies are growing at a mammoth rate as people acquire more and more things and have to store their old ones in these giant metal storage boxes.

I seem to spend my life re-organising my ‘stuff’, finding new homes for things, shifting one draw of detritus to another. I’m fed up. I want to be a consumerism nightmare. I want to be able to have my belongings fit in four cardboard boxes. I have made a good start, but wanted to get this blog up and running to record my continued belonging purge, as well as the other areas of my life I want to ‘minimalise’.

So what is the aim of all this minimalism? Do I want to lead a smaller life? Am I hoping to live in a white box and accumulate money I don’t spend? No. I want to lead a life full of the things I love; to be able to write uninterruptedly, to spend more time with my wife, family and friends,  to give more to my animals and volunteer to look after others who don’t have homes, take long walks, eat lovely food, read, take siestas and generally live a full life of experiences rather than material goods.

I’ve got lots of ideas, but it will be good to hear from others of you on the same journey or perhaps a slightly different one. I’ve got loads of inspiration from others so far;

Below are some of my favourites

blondeonabudget.ca – I love her year long shopping ban

Mindfulminimalism.co.uk – A fellow Yorkie who is on a mission to clear her life of clutter

zenhabits – A really thought provoking blog which I often use to help my minimalist living

Everyday life on a shoestring – Great tips for living simply and being a minimalist

This week I am really proud of myself. We have a big chest of drawers which has four big drawers and two smaller ones. I have the full chest of drawers to myself, and my wife had a smaller one which was falling apart. I am very territorial over my space and always have been. However I felt it was time to really embrace what I am trying to achieve. I have got down to one drawer, and have given my wife the other four. It doesn’t seem much right? But I feel so free, like I own the possessions and they don’t own me any more.  Below is some of the stuff I am getting rid of…why did I even keep it? How many of you have stuff like this collecting dust in your homes?

I have a long long way to go. I would really like to have only a few possessions I treasure, but I also have some other goals for my #minimalistliving. I think goals are important as they give you a focus to achieve, and something to measure my achievements against.

What does #minimalistliving mean to me?

#minimalistfinance – No debts, low monthly expenditure allowing me to do the things I want

#minimalistbelongings -Owning only the things  I love and really need

#minimalisteating – Having a suite of good and healthy recipes I know off by heart so I eat healthily and well, without complication

#minimalisthome – Having a small home that meets our needs, but that doesn’t take up all our time, energy and money

#minimalistlifestyle – Only doing the things I love, rather than taking on lots of commitments, and surplus activities

#minimalistwardrobe – Following the Unfancy capsule wardrobe concept

What does #minimalistliving mean to you?