Simple Living

Goodbye Dear Sofa

I’ve been thinking about moving to a new apartment recently, just for a change of scenery and this has prompted me to think about all the stuff that I own. I began to ask myself “do I really want to bring all of this stuff with me to a new home?” and the answer was a resounding “hell no”.

I am still trying to break the habit of accumulating things I don’t need and I’m getting better at this, however, there is still the issue of all the things I’d accumulated before I discovered minimalism. One of the most glaringly unnecessary possessions I owned was my sofa. Now most people would consider a sofa a necessary item of furniture, common in pretty much all households, however my sofa was not an item of furniture I used often, if at all.

Most of my time at home is spent in my bedroom. Everything I watch, I pretty much watch on my laptop in bed. I rarely ever use my living room and I almost never sat on the sofa and since I live alone and rarely have friends over it meant no one else ever used the sofa either. So I decided to get rid of it.

I tried selling it but it became more effort than it was worth, having to reply to potential buyers, setting up a time for them to see the sofa, etc. In the end I decided to give it away for free to a couple who are about to have a baby.

The guy came with a friend and picked up the sofa two days ago and the moment it left my apartment, I felt such a huge sense of relief, like a burden had been lifted off my shoulders. I don’t know why but it felt so good to get rid of the sofa. There was nothing wrong with it, it was in good condition, however it just felt like a massive piece of clutter in my home and I was just itching to get rid of it and regain some space.

Now I’ve rearrange my living room so that the dining set is in front of the TV, next to the windows and now I have more room to setup a workout/yoga area on the other side of the living room. I feel like this arrangement complements my lifestyle a lot more and is a lot more conducive to the things I want to do more off (i.e. writing, learning and exercising).  I wanted to create a space that was more functional for my lifestyle rather than conforming to the typical expectations of what a living room should look like.

 

Before Sunrise

It’s rare that I’m awake before sunrise and it’s not a period of time that I’m very familiar with. I had my alarm set for 6am, but for some reason I woke up naturally at around 4:30am. I tried to go back to sleep to no avail, so at 5:30am I decided to get up. Two things:

  1. It’s freezing at this time in the morning
  2. I didn’t know what to do with myself

I did feel a little hungry so I made myself a green smoothie while listening to a meditation playlist on Spotify (how very Youtube-esque of me). Then I sat down at my laptop (which I’d purposefully left on the dining table the night before) to see if I could write something. I was too cold to write anything, so I took my laptop and now I’m back in bed writing this.

In my “Perfect Work Weekday” post I outlined my desired morning routine which involved stretching/yoga in the morning. Ideally I will progress to that, but right now I’m taking my wins where I can get them and for today simply being awake before the sun rises and eating something healthy in the morning is enough.

If nothing else, being able to get myself out of bed this early feels like an achievement and I think that in itself is worth getting up for.

Here is my green smoothie recipe:

  • 4-5 chunks of frozen pineapple
  • 4-5 chunks of frozen mango
  • 1 medium banana
  • 2 handfuls of baby spinach leaves
  • 1/5 of an avocado
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1/2 green tea (cold or warm – warm if its cold weather to help balance out all the frozen fruit, otherwise the smoothie is too cold for the morning. Warm tea also makes the blending easier.)
  • A tablespoon of chia seeds
  • A drizzle of agave nectar

Sorry I don’t have a photo of my green smoothie in a mason jar like most hipsters – I’m too lazy and unorganised for that this early in the morning.

My Perfect Work Weekday

In my last post, I wrote about how my typical weekday plays out each and everyday. It’s not what I want and it is far, far, far from being perfect. However, I was in Kikki K a few days ago and I saw in one of their inspiration journals a question which asked you to describe your perfect day and what that would look like. So here is my perfect weekday and what it would look like. This is going to be my goal for the new few months until it becomes a habit.

Morning Routine

  • 5:00am – Wakeup and feed cat, make tea, drink tea
  • 5:15am – Stretch/yoga
  • 5:45am – Write at least one paragraph in my journal
  • 6:00am – Shower and get ready for work
  • 6:30am – Get dressed – choose a pre-planned outfit that is clean and already ironed
  • 6:50am – Catch bus to work
  • 7:20am – Get to work

Work Day

  • Check emails and respond to emails
  • Focus on Deep Work for 2 hours
  • Break
  • Focus on Deep Work for 2 hours
  • Lunch
  • Check emails and respond to emails
  • Focus on Deep Work for 1.5 hours
  • Break
  • Focus on Deep Work for 1 hour

After-Work Routine

  • 4:00pm – Walk from work to the gym
  • 4:30pm – Gym for 30-45mins
  • 5:15pm – Walk home from Gym
  • 6:00pm – Hug & feed cat
  • 6:10pm – Shower
  • 6:30pm – Make dinner
  • 7:00pm – Dinner
  • 7:30pm – Do 2 chores
  • 8:00pm – Write blog or journal or learn something
  • 8:30pm – Read for 45mins
  • 9:15pm – Get ready for bed
  • 9:30pm – Go to bed

If I could do the above, I think I would be very satisfied with my day and would feel that I’d achieved what I wanted to achieve. I’m going to ask my manager if I can start and finish an hour earlier (I think he would be ok with it). I find that if I get into the office earlier before everyone else gets there, its a lot easier for me to focus and that focus translates to the rest of the day too, so that overall I have a much more productive day.

Also, at the moment I am reading a book about ‘Deep Work’ by Cal Newport. I often find it hard to concentrate at work and will get sidetracked mid-way through a task, which means I just end up taking a lot longer than necessary to finish projects. I really want to change this so that I am more productive at work.

 

 

 

Too busy to live simply

I know it’s a bit of a contradiction to say that I’m too busy to live simply, but that’s how it is at the moment. Since I started my job 2 months ago, a lot of the good intentions I had about trying to live simply has fallen by the wayside. It’s hard to focus on living intentionally when you’re just focused on getting through each day.

My day starts with my alarm going off at 6:30am, followed by me hitting snooze until 7:15am. I then rush to feed my cat, hop in the shower (moisturise if it’s a good day and I remember), pull on some clean clothes, put on sunscreen, grab my stuff and run out the door. I’m usually at work by 8:30am and I usually finish at 5:15-5:30pm. If I’m feeling motivated I’ll walk home instead of catching the bus and because I live 5.5kms from work, the walk usually takes me an hour. When I get home I immediately hug my cat and then feed him, before crashing on my bed to watch YouTube until I get hungry (usually around 6.30 or 7pm). After dinner I’ll usually do some online shopping and more youtube along with a couple of chores. Then at 10:45-11:00pm I’ll start getting ready for bed. Before going to sleep I’ll listen to some music and usually fall asleep around midnight.

Outside of work, 80% of what happens in my day that I’ve written above is not how I want my day to go.

I don’t want to be hitting snooze for 45mins, or getting out of bed at 7:15am. I don’t want to be rushing with my morning routine and making a half-arsed attempt at looking decent. I want to exercise more rather than just walking home once or twice a week. I don’t want to come home and immediate start watching YouTube. And I most definitely DO NOT WANT to be online shopping almost every night.

So why do I do it? The answer is I seriously don’t know.

I feel like watching YouTube and online shopping does two things for me:

  1. Allows me to switch my brain off
  2. Offers me a way to obtain (very momentary) happiness/satisfaction

I know that my new job has been quite intense, I’ve had to learn a lot of new, complicated, difficult things like coding, data integrations, new systems, etc…all things which have always been in the peripheral of marketing, but not things that I’ve actually had to do before or engage in.

This means at the end of the day I just want to switch my brain off, because I feel like if I don’t, it may just explode. As I’ve settled into my job, I feel like this is easing off a bit and now I feel more prepared to go back to trying to simplify my life.

My new job also meant I bought a lot of new clothes, shoes and bags. I really wanted to look more professional and also to look the part for my new role (which involves client meetings – something that I didn’t need to do in my previous role). Because of this I’ve fallen back to old habits and have bought a lot of things over the past 2 months. I’ve decided that this needs to stop.

Two good things that I am proud to say I have been able to keep up somewhat is having a more plant-based diet and also not smoking as much. When I started my new job I started smoking again (about a pack a week). Now I’ve got an e-cigarette (vape) which I love. I actually prefer this a lot more to smoking and now the taste of a cigarette seems disgusting compared to Cola or Apple Crumble flavoured vape.

Secondly, I did the two-week vegetarian challenge and made it. After completing that I realised that:

  1. It wasn’t as hard as I thought to not eat meat
  2. I didn’t miss meat as much as I thought I would
  3. Meat didn’t taste as good as I remembered it when I did start eating it again

So now I am trying to be at least part-time vegetarian and I’m doing ok so far. Usually I’ll have 2-3 days a week where I don’t eat any meat at all and then the remaining days I’ll have a little bit of meat. I plan to increase my vegetarian days to 4, even 5 days a week over the next few months. I find that being a vegetarian is easier when you’re eating at home and taking home prepared food to work. It becomes a lot harder when you eat out and by food outside….the vegetarian options exist, but a lot more limited when compared to the meat options available.

Anyway, I am going to try my best to get myself back on track over the next month and hopefully re-start my year of simple.

Because I don’t want to die

While watching minimalist videos over the last year, it was inevitable that I fell down the rabbit hole of Youtube to land on videos that veered off onto other tangents and topics. One of these topics was veganism which was spoken about by Youtubers who also happened to be minimalists as well, e.g. Sustainably Vegan, Madeleine Olivia, Blue Ollis, etc.

While I’ve always admired people who could stop eating meat and meat products, I never really saw myself becoming a vegetarian or a vegan. It’s not because I don’t care about the animals, because I do – I just didn’t care about them enough to quit meat, mostly because I love meat.

I have been trying to eat less meat over the last few months and to eat more vegetables and fruit, but I’d be lying if I said meat wasn’t a major part of my daily diet.

However, today I watched a documentary called ‘What the Health’ and it was EYE-OPENING. Like a large percentage of people (I assume), I have never viewed meat as unhealthy or dangerous. Sure, if its deep fried, covered in oil, etc then yes, I would consider it unhealthy – but just normal meat or even processed meat like ham? no, I would definitely not have classified that as unhealthy.

This documentary completely obliterates that perspective. The fact that process meats have the same level of classification for cancer as cigarettes is mind blowing. Especially as a very recent ex-smoker, when I compare the number of times that I was told smoking was bad and that it caused cancer and to the number of times I’ve heard that meat is bad and can cause cancer, the difference is staggering – probably 100000:1.

I mean even 10 years ago when I started smoking, everyone told me it was bad, I shouldn’t smoke, I’d get cancer, it would kill me. There were advertisements everywhere (magazines, tv, posters, even on cigarette packets) that said smoking caused cancer. The price of a packet of cigarettes went up from $9 a pack when I started smoking to $34 a pack when I quit a few weeks ago due to government taxes implemented to discourage smoking.

And in those 10 years, how many times did I hear that meat was bad and can cause cancer? Maybe 2 times and one of them was today when I watched the documentary. How many advertisements have I seen that said meat was bad? None. How much tax has the government put on meat to discourage people from eating it? I don’t think any.

I’ve read some of the reviews which criticised the film, saying that some of the information provided in the documentary was not accurate e.g. even though processed meat is in the same category of risk for cancer as cigarettes, they are not as dangerous. But to me that is just semantics – it’s like saying fully automatic assault rifles and semiautomatic rifles may both be in the category of guns, but semiautomatics are not as dangerous as fully automatic weapons. I bet if you’re the person who has either of those guns pointed to your face, that small distinction between the different levels of danger is probably something you’d overlook in that moment because if either of those guns were to fire a bullet, the result would be the same.

Anyway, the point is my view on veganism has completely changed. It’s not just about saving the animals anymore, it’s about saving myself (although saving animals is an added bonus). I know that’s probably a very selfish way of being motivated to become a vegan, but I’m just being honest. Moving forward I’m going to try to gradually eliminate meat and then meat products from my diet and transition to a full plant based diet. If I succeed, then I would’ve done one of the most difficult things ever (at least for me because I’ve never thought I’d ever even consider being a vegan).

I would highly recommend everyone to watch this documentary. You may not agree with the film or agree with me, but I think either way you’ll get something out of it.

Minimalism is just another thing to buy

I read an article yesterday called “Minimalism is Just Another Product Wealthy People Can Buy” by Chelsea Fagan and she gave quite a scathing review of minimalism, which funnily enough I whole heartedly agreed with. I touched on the subject briefly in my previous post ‘The Luxury of Minimalism’, but I wasn’t quite sure how to articulate some of what I was feeling. This article, as critical as it is, puts into words my growing skepticism towards some the direction minimalism is heading.

I think the core, untainted idea of minimalism is of living simply, with basic material possessions and a strong focus on life, family, friends, experiences, love, etc. This idea I completely and whole heartedly agree with and this is the direction I would like to take my minimalist journey.

However, as minimalism grows as a trend in the western world, I believe the core idea and ideals of minimalism are being manipulated, tainted and exploited for commercial gain (similar to a lot of religions). Instead of living simply with less, its morphing into living with less things, but more expensive things which are “investments”.

Also, the stereotypical aesthetic of minimalism can sometimes be conveyed as more important and more sort after than the actual principle of minimalism. So many apartments, houses, etc are now all white – with white walls, white furniture, which bed spreads, and a crap load of pot plants.

For example I was Googling minimalism to see if I could find some new/interesting articles on the topic and I came across The Minimalist website (http://www.theminimalist.com.au – not to be confused with The Minimalists at http://www.theminimalists.com). In the About section of their website, this is how they describe themselves:

“We source unique, limited edition and designer made product from around the globe. We specialise in pieces of beauty, quality, style and utility with a modern handmade touch for your home. To us minimalism isn’t about buying less but buying better.

Supporting small brands using their unique skill and talent to make things by hand while also supporting bigger brands that share our passion for quality craftsmanship, good + thoughtful design and manufacturing with a conscience.

Our collection is curated with a minimalist aesthetic in mind. We prefer a product that speaks softly about what makes it so special.”  

Then in their store, this is one item they are selling – a mobile mirror for $860. Yes, you read it right – EIGHT HUNDRED AND SIXTY DOLLARS for a “mobile mirror” – wtf even is a mobile mirror?

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 12.38.52 pm

This is the perfect example of how people are exploiting the idea of minimalism. Firstly, this business has made their website name and address so similar to the well known Minimalists, Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus so people will easily mistaken it for http://www.theminimalists.com. The only difference is one less ‘s’ and the ‘.au’ at the end.

Then they say “minimalism isn’t about buying less, but buying better” – uh, excuse me, no it’s not.

And this bit “We prefer a product that speaks softly about what makes it so special.” – GAG! – seriously, for whoever wrote that on the website, I have one question for you –how far up your arse was your head when you wrote this?

Seeing businesses and people like this really upsets me. They are blatantly trying to monetise the idea of minimalism and what’s worse, they are putting out a message about minimalism that just isn’t true.

And when I see stuff like this, I can fully understand why Chelsea Fagan wrote the article she did and why she has such a cynical view on minimalism. When people/businesses like theminimalist.com.au do things like this in the name of minimalism, it’s inevitable that the idea of minimalism will be tarnished. If I didn’t know anything about minimalism and saw something like this, my first impression would be that minimalists are pretentious wankers with too much money on their hands.

21st Biennale of Sydney: Ai Weiwei – Law of the Journey

It’s been a long time since I’ve done something that was just for me. I mean sure I’ve gone shopping by myself and gone out with friends, but it’s been a while since I did something that fed my mind and soul.

So today I decided to go to the 21st Biennale of Sydney at Cockatoo Island to see the installation by Ai Weiwei. I went by myself and I had a great time. The ‘Law of the Journey’ installation has been something I’ve wanted to see for quite a while and I’m so glad I got to see it.

Ai Weiwei is a contemporary Chinese artist and activist and I find his work to be thought provoking and emotionally confronting at times. His artworks highlight both the strength and courage of humanity as well as our failure at times to do the right thing and the extent of the carelessness and apathy that is ever growing in today’s society.

This particular installation is focused on the refugee crisis many countries are facing around the world, but in particular in Europe. I feel like for ordinary people like me who are fortunate enough to live in a developed country and privileged enough to have a home in that country, his artwork helps to make the refugee crisis at lot more real, rather then just being something that’s happening on the other side of the world that we see on the news.

And while part of the installation features insightful documentary films about the refugee situation, I think the 60m refugee boat crowded with faceless figures made out of black rubber makes the refugee crisis a lot more relatable on a human/emotional level, rather than just an intellectual level.

I think moving forward I will schedule more days like this, where I can find something I’m interested in that will enrich my life and open my eyes a little bit more to the world around me. Days like this makes me feel deeply satisfied and my heart feels full.

Here’s some snaps from the day.

Also for anyone who lives in Sydney, or anywhere else in the world – if you get an opportunity to see this installation or any of Ai Weiwei’s work, I’d highly recommend making a little time to go see it – I think you’ll find it’ll be well worth the time spent.