More Minimal

…onwards goes the march towards a more minimal life.

I’ve fought my way through that paper work and have also tackled the living room.

Perhaps I’ve ran out of steam, or possibly I let my fella win, or maybe I just decided that I wanted to keep a few things that make us happy (for a little longer).

I could hang the telly on the wall and be rid of one more piece of furniture, I could get strict on my hubby and remove yet another, and we could part with our beloved books to lose yet a third. That’s one each of a cupboard, bookcase and TV stand.

We have decided, somewhat symbolically, to sell a shelving unit. The other three can stay for now, while we slowly adjust to this new way of living.

I guess the same is true of our shoe drawer, one day we may try to limit the number of clothes and shoes we have. When that day comes it’ll also go.

What I have also realised/decided is that I do not necessarily like empty surfaces. I have been strict and followed the rule of ‘1 or 3′, when filling in the gaps. Wait, let me go back a step.

This is probably not the most practical, time or energy efficient method of de-cluttering, but it worked for me. I first emptied every room of anything that was not essential or functional. Once this was done, I would rearrange furniture and try to find the most functional or aesthetic layout. Then I would bring back some larger ornaments and non-essentials to inject some of our taste and personality.

And, well, I’ll happily let these purely decorative items go when the furnitures’ days are numbered.

We’re both very happy with the results, and my partner is keen for me to get the office and kitchen done. Bloomin’ cheek! haha

I’ve promised to tackle these in August. Meanwhile, he has to sort through some of his clothes, odds & ends and documents.

The finished rooms feel lighter, brighter, airier and more tranquil than ever before.

Other minimalists may find our furniture too dark and heavy and the fact that we have decided to bring out our tabletop games putting them on show, to encourage us to play them more, along with our many books a hellish site. We, however, find it a nice contrast of colour, clutter and snuggliness in an otherwise neutral and empty space.

What makes me feel most at ease is the idea of how little there is/will be to downsize and be rid of when the time comes, or even to pack up to move. It’ll be a breeze compared to the last time.

I’ll have to update you all again on the office and kitchen later in the summer and will write more about my experiences as a new vegan soon. Cheers!

Maximally-Minimal

Found my cheek bones today.
Have long forgot I had e’er lost ’em.
Am reminded of others,
the lumps and bumps snuggled beneath stones.
I do love my rounded hips.
But no more meaty-bits shall pass these lips.

My moobs are fading fast.

A little unfinished ode to my knobbly bits, who for too long have hidden under a cushion of fat.

Well, where does the time go? I was so pleased with myself for writing regularly and the next thing I know two weeks have passed!

So, what have I been up to?

I am drinking (black) coffee again after reading it can be beneficial for gout, but I went caffeine free for 10 days. I felt awful for a few days, but felt good in the end. I feel that I am in control of my coffee addiction now.

You’ll be glad to know I saw sense and didn’t drink endless processed shakes for days nor did I do a juice detox (yet). I have however been totally vegan for 14 days. :-D

I have tried to eat most of my vegetables raw, along with the ideas behind the juice detox, and I have drank green juices mixed with healthier snacks and absolutely no processed foods. I am eating little & often but my appetite has already adjusted and so too have my taste buds.

I am enjoying what I eat more and more, I sleep better [tonight being the exception], have more energy, my sex drive is almost back to normal and I look and feel good. I mean, my skin seems healthier and perhaps my vibes/aura are positive.

And, the best benefit is that I am losing weight. My weight is now 102.4kg from 106.

Maybe that’s a little too fast, but I guess I am carrying so much extra weight that it’s not dangerously fast!? Well, I do hope it slows down once I get under 100.

There’s still a long way to go, but I feel very committed to a new eating lifestyle, a full convert, and am quietly confident that my weight should eventually reach healthier levels with relative ease. I am walking more too, but even when at home I am being much more active.

With so much energy to use I have started the process of minimising our things.

I know, another contradiction. I won’t, however, be doing everything and every room right now. I do need to do it now though, I feel like my body is finally free of excessive-crap and I need to do the same to my surroundings.

I will recycle and donate what I can now, and start preparing other things to sell much sooner than I had planned. Well, I did say before I am 40. That didn’t necessarily mean when I’m 39.

I know that the kitchen and garden will likely wait for many more months/years, but if the other rooms and spaces are maximally-minimal than that’s a good compromise.

I’ve already done some of the easier rooms and one hellish space – the wardrobe.

It makes me feel a little guilty when I think about how much we’ve already gifted, binned, recycled and sold. When we moved we shed two normal sized bin bags and one extra large one of all sorts plus we donated a huge suitcase of clothing.

Since living here, we’ve sold a few small odds and electronics, recycled one more large bin bag and a handful more of clothes have gone to new homes.

It’s so funny how we lived with so little in the past, travelling from country to country every 12-18 months and only when we thought we were settled (2008 and y’know what put and end to that) did we accumulate more. Still, even that time the things we had were only things we needed to stay put and was nowhere near what we have now.

We’ve moved from a furnished and fully equipped place to somewhere with nothing, well not nothing. An oven and hob with fitted kitchen and half fitted bathroom.

We’ve had to acquire cutlery, plates, bowls, pans, knives, mirror, furniture, washing machine, mirror, shower screen and on and on and on.

What with us both gathering together everything we’d squirrelled away in family homes, and buying those things we didn’t really need and no longer want, we have filled the empty spaces quickly.

My partner, and to a small extent myself, find it hard not to hoard. Having had so little in the past and having been forced to give up our new married-settled life so early on.

I am happy though, that he is seeing the sense in what I am doing and enjoying the positive results. Less mess to tidy, how quick it is to clean and less emotional and physical baggage.

So, here’s a few quick snaps of the before and after for our entrance hall, bedroom and my side of the wardrobe:

 

Right now I am working on a monstrous pile of paper work, something I had started to sort and bought new folders for before we even moved and have never gotten round to do. Next up will be another “easy” room, the bathroom.

Then over the summer I’ll work on my office, which is more of a junk room and has never become the spare room we had hoped for, and on the living-dinning room.

If I haven’t exhausted myself, I’ll have a go at reorganising the kitchen but not with any plans to minimise it for now. Let’s see how the other rooms go. ;)

A Little, Big Confession

So, it’s time to come clean and admit that I am fat. Real fat.

I tried running a second blog to focus on that, but found that my heart was here and on all the things Not Two Pennies is about.

Sure, the home-made foods that were increasingly vegetarian and the fact that I am generally more active have helped to stop my weight from climbing higher and higher.

That though is clearly not enough, I am a walker but not someone who generally seeks out exercise. I love food, and even though we have dramatically cut back on processed foods, fast food and snacks… well, we haven’t cut them out!

With my change to working from home about 14 months ago, I had become increasingly aware of my lack of any activity. Somewhat foolishly we earmarked and stored the very things that were supposed to help.

In our new green, clean and cheaper lifestyle the pedometers, running apps, smart weighing scales, exercise bike and so forth had to go.

I was regretting that decision and was planning to retrieve them from storage. Telling myself that when the day comes that I have instilled the habit of exercising, eating right and have reduced my weight to healthier levels then they can be sold, donated or upcycled.

Thing is, can I trust myself enough to have a smartphone for the purposes of tracking my daily activity (something that worked well for me in the past), to prompt me to move and teach me to run? Ha, never thought I’d be a runner.

Our electricity consumption would certainly increase a little once more, but what a small price for my [hopefully] guaranteed health? Heart disease, diabetes and gout run in the family and it’s time now that I take better care of myself.

However, I am glad to have reached a much more sustainable decision. Doctors all speak about time spent doing exercise, not miles or steps or anything else. When I was healthier in the past, all I simply did was walk.

And that is what I’ll do. I will walk and walk, and aim for a minimum number of daily minutes of walking. I’ll walk slowly, briskly and quickly. Yet that is all. Walk.

From the time before we stopped spending we have a cupboard full of this weird nutrient shake (Joylent) that I will now use-up to ensure I am getting all my body needs for the next 20 days. I will struggle with the headaches and shakes as my body adjusts to a world without sugars, salts, all manner of chemicals and most of all caffeine.

I won’t be buying more of this stuff, and will switch back to the diet I have previously explained here before. Local, organic, wholesome. A meat-free diet with some dairy and eggs.

In the past 24 hours since drafting this post I have had a change of heart, spurred on by some documentaries and some reading. I will in fact go fully vegan.

If the only way to reverse damage done by a western diet, of processed foods, meats, dairies and who knows what else, is to go 100% plant-based. Well then that is what I’ll do.

After the slightly sinister sounding nutrient shakes are gone (cannot waste food, even processed foods) I will try to do another 30 days. A reboot, a month of green juices similar to that seen in the documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. Seems that the guy has done well and has expanded and improved on his detox, which will be my guide.

So long as we can beg, borrow or steal a juicer that is.

These are only a means of escaping the negative cycles I am currently trapped in, and in 50 days I will revert to that local, organic, wholesome and vegan diet I had previously wrote about – minus the meat, eggs and dairy.

I do not mean diet in the sense of a painful and dangerous weight-loss course, but as a way of eating and as a lifestyle that helps me to lose and then maintain a health body.

I have set myself out a few aims, firstly to get under 100kg as fast as healthy and sensibly possible. Then to lose another 15kg, to reach 85 and then in the future an additional 15 to reach the upper limit of a healthy weight for my height – 70kg.

Today my weight stands at 106kg. I know other body measurements but surely weight is the thing that matters most. I cannot promise in the future that I won’t turn to running, training, cycling, weights and so on nor can I promise that in order to reach my ideal weight I won’t turn to smart devices for help and encouragement.

Yet, right now, right here, I can promise not to do these things and hope to show that being healthy can be done for less. Less money, less environmentally damaging methods and less consumer driven approaches.

Wish me luck. :)

Crooked

Went to the specialist today, and we were told that the doctor we had seen 4 weeks back didn’t quite get it right.

I should have worn a different sized splint and not taken it off 24/7. So, he’s now extended my sentence by another 6 weeks! And, well, after that my finger still won’t be normal and there’s nowt to be done about it. :-/

He applied a mock splint there and then, but even that couldn’t keep my crooked finger straight for long.

DSC00979

Minimal?

So, as I said yesterday, I started to go through my things (very thoroughly) and checking what I could and couldn’t live without.

I even started to pack a bag, a mix of an absolutely minimalist existence and a survival kit. I can’t help but giggle at preppers, but that’s what I found myself doing. One pair of jeans, shorts, shoes, sandals, some undies & socks, basic toiletries, simple medicine & first aid kit, torch, sunblock, whistle, compass. I had to stop myself.

So, I did. Put everything back and started again, asking myself what couldn’t I replace or what would be a nightmare replacing? Or what sentimental items do I really, really want to keep?

Turns out all I have are my passport, driving licence, local ID card, birth certificate, original marriage certificate, less than 10 original/old fashioned print photos*, my wedding ring and a gold necklace my grandparent’s had engraved and gifted to me the day of my birth.

*Admittedly this would be 10 times more if I took originals of my childhood from my parent’s home, but I would be happy enough with digital scans of them. And true also, if I wasn’t able to fit my digital photos onto a free cloud storage system than the physical copies would be 100 times more or I would need to add some form of external storage.

I was surprised, with the additions of the very few of the photos my husband has that survived childhood floods and his legal documents, well it really isn’t much.

I do not dare ask him about non-sentimental items, we’d need a truck! But when he has time I will ask him to find out those things most precious to him and add them.

I realise this isn’t a realistic or a practical approach to minimalism. Yet the feeling of liberation in knowing that I could pick up that little bag and walk away without a care is fantastic.

Well, it truthfully is a little more complicated than that. The cat wouldn’t happily fit in the bag nor willingly stay there for any duration of time. Kids and pets do add a few more necessaries to a potentially empty life.

And, well, we aren’t going to live a minimal life just yet. No more new (or old) things are allowed in. Sure. But the slow emptying will not begin just yet either. When it does we will need to think carefully on clothing, kitchen and garden gear, books, ornaments, toiletries, furniture and so forth. That can wait, for now I will take joy in my temporarily cluttered home.

Sufficient?

What is sufficient? Enough? Neither too much nor too little?

I’ve been on another documentary binge both on Netflix and YouTube. You can see my Netflix list in a previous post.

I’ve most recently watched Four Horsemen and Minimalism (about The Minimalists) and both of these have opened my eyes to new opinions and reminded me of ideas I’ve forgotten already on this short journey.

I guess I’ve gotten too obsessed with the whole money less/moneyless, self-sufficient and greener lifestyle that I have forgotten that simple approaches often provide the simplest answers.

I cannot remember if I ever posted something I’d said to my partner when we moved house, at about the time I started this blog. I declared that I wanted all but the most useful of our stuff to be gone by the time I am 40.

Sure, I am contradicting one of my previous posts when I said that I like building a nest, a well stocked and decorated one. However, like many smart people have said and thought before me ‘your things end up owning you’!

I am happy to enjoy them a little longer, and accept that living in one place means you need more paraphernalia than say someone with a nomadic lifestyle (and one which I now miss more and more). However, we still have more than we honestly need.

Our consumer habits have certainly been buried, not just put to bed, and this is partly from our desire for spending less and being more environmentally friendly. Perhaps though it is time to look at this from a third angle. A minimalist one.

Cooking, baking and growing your own food means you need more ‘valuables’ than someone who simply buys, barters or exchanges for their food. And I accept that wholeheartedly.

The ideal is to see those chattel as the tools they are, things with functions and not bits & pieces that are mine which I must protect and guard from others, causing stress and depression for no-one but me.

Sure, these ‘goods’ may have cost us money to acquire, but once their usefulness has passed we should gift (or exchange) them to others that need and want them. We shouldn’t let them and their original cost be a burden.

I’ve increasingly had daydreams, little fantasies, about our entire apartment being swallowed whole by the earth. Perhaps my imagination was simply running a little wild, in absence of my usual weekend action and horror film marathons.

And yet, this made me think. What would I really miss? If we had to crash at a friends house and only had the clothes on our backs. Would that really be a disaster? What would I risk my life for, in a mad dash to save from a muddy doom?

Well, I came to see our possessions as belonging to one of four different types:

  • Essential
  • Inescapable
  • Escapable
  • Emotional

The Essentials would be those tools I mentioned before, that we neither love nor desire but which our lifestyle dictates we need. Sure, having less or smaller and simpler versions may be a possibility and changes in lifestyle and/or needs should mean we exchange or pass these things onto someone who still has necessity for them, rather than clinging onto them.

The Inescapables are those things we do not particularly want but that we are required to have by law or to be able to operate within society, passports and documentation. I could probably include these as tools, but they are not likely something we should give up or pass on at any future time.

The Escapables are the clobber we have simply because we like/liked them and that may not really provide any use or benefit. This wouldn’t include a collection or something that brings us genuine and long-lasting joy, or which we can build social relationships from. Rather the opposite, stuff we thought would bring us happiness or things that once did but now sit on shelves, in drawers or boxes and merely clutter our homes and lives.

Then there are the Emotionals, these sentimental assets that may very well be irreplaceable. Be them antiques, heirlooms, a necklace gifted at birth, wedding rings and so on. Arguably we shouldn’t need these, and if they are a burden of responsibility, then why not pass them onto other family members to care for?
Still, if they bring us a sense of connection and aid our memories or any positive feelings then getting rid of them can be more tricky and questionable.

My own collection of ’emotional’ belongings was substantial, until I started taking photos of such [re]movables and then let them go both physically and heartfully. Now these number less than a handful.

Funny how some of the gear I once clung to were things I thought my mother wanted me to keep, so I offered them to her. She was surprised and said that she had a small box of trinkets, of little tokens from my early years, she has her memories and her photos and that was all she wanted and needed. So, a click of the shutter and these were off to the charity shop. Liberating!

I can appreciate that the boundaries between these types of gear can be flexible and even utterly different from person to person. The problem for many, formerly including myself, is to be honest and a little ruthless.

Take clothes and shoes for example. I personally see these as merely tools, (unfortunately) with a minimum of them being requirements of society. I don’t care to have a wardrobe full of shirts and trousers. I only need a few of each, or less.

Photos, pre-digital, are even more complex. Is it OK to make digital copies and give up the originals? I am not so sure.

It’s much easier for me to take stock of all that I own since this past April, when for the first time in my life they are all in once place. I even paid to send some ‘junk’ back from my parent’s home in the UK.

Well, I will enjoy them and will slowly whittle away at them. First thing today I am going to seek out all those legal documents and sentimental items, plus the few things I believe I would need to survive – should I ever find myself facing a muddy hole where my home used to be.

I will also take stock of the accoutrements I ‘want’, and question them again.

I don’t see this as a one time action, but something that needs doing every so often. Much like spring cleaning. Removing what is no longer needed, swapping in the new, or possibly adding to the pile, and so on.

I can see how digital photos and e-readers can help achieve a seemingly minimal lifestyle, but a cluttered computer desktop has the same mental effect on me as a cluttered desk-drawer or bookshelf. Stress.

Perhaps having a larger storage space to keep that which only need be accessed on occasion, such as photos etc, would be OK. However, for day to day use I like to keep my digital space clean and small in virtual size. Perhaps something I should in future apply to my physical space.

I know what you’re all thinking. The lifestyle we are following now is hugely in contrast to this. Upcycling and gardening both call for a lot, a lot of things. Keeping the old ready to be repurposed and pots, plants, seeds, gardening tools all add to the list.

I do not regret our decision to move, to invest in pots and soil, water and the plants that bring a splash of green and colour to a once dead and dusty space. Even if we should never successfully grow more fruit or veg, I take huge joy and peace of mind from the fact that we have created a beautiful spot that has already become a home to all manner of insects and a source of food for local birds.

However, when the time comes I will happily leave this behind. I would hope that someone continues to love and nurture the plants and garden we have created. Be that here or in another space. I am confident that I would not feel chained or weighed to the spot.

If the garden I love becomes a burden, I will simply and inevitably have to let it go to a new owner. Much like our attempts to consume less, spend little, be greener and become a little more self-sufficient, minimising our possessions is very much a journey and a process that will take time.

Protecting Pollinators in Your Own Backyard and Beyond

Awareness is growing, but do people really know what action is needed?
As Mark Miles suggests, it may be as simple as planting local flowers.

Mark All My Words

by Mark Miles

By now most people are aware of the fact that honeybees are facing the very real threat of extinction due to the devastating effects of Colony Collapse Disorder, a phenomenon in which entire hives of honeybees are progressively annihilated by a combination of chemical, biological and environmental contaminants that result from industrial agriculture. This is awful for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that honeybees are primarily responsible for pollinating food crops in the US and many other countries. Their role is so crucial in fact that many foods — including but not limited to almonds, tomatoes, onions, peaches, coffee, raspberries, and cocoa — could disappear altogether with the extinction of honeybees. Imagine going into your local grocery store and not finding your favorite coffee, fresh fruit, trail mix, or chocolate and then realizing that it’s not merely a momentary hiccup; it’s gone forever…

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Distorted Digit

I am at danger of wishing away the entire year, and it’s only May!

The problem is paying of a significant chunk of our loan, which ends with the New Year, at which time our monthly repayments drop by more than half. Meaning I don’t have to sit biting my nails that I’ll have enough hours each month to just get by.

Next year, I can accept less hours and even save some money!

But, to wish away all this time is a problem I’ve had for too long. I need to enjoy the here and now and be prepared for tomorrow, but not to think or worry about it excessively.

This was a post I’d started before injuring my finger, which is as crooked as you’d like but healing up well and not painful any longer. Funny how being forced to take a step back changes things.

I am no longer worrying away my time, I was itching to get baking and gardening again and after two weeks or so off I have now utterly exhausted myself trying to catch up on chores.

My morning wasn’t so great either, discovering that the cat has decided to dig up our planters once more. All my wild flower seedlings and most of the new veggies (just planted out last week) have been utterly devastated. I can’t be angry at her by I am damned fucking disappointed. I was really looking forward to those wild flowers and the potential wildlife they’d attract.

No idea where I even got the seeds from. :-(

I’ve now staked out the bare patch to form a strange piece of garden art. I secretly hope that something grows back, but the reality isn’t so promising.

We are making progress towards my Big Summer Plan we’ve unplugged more electronics, but won’t let them go just yet. We’ve sold off some more things, but I have also decided that I’d like my home to feel like a home once more.

All the ornaments are back out on show. I won’t acquire any new and may let a few more go, but I’ve always been a nest builder. Maybe I was a Bowerbird in a previous life. :)

Shortly after injuring my finger I did show weakness and get myself a month of Netflix, but I am proud to say the few things I’ve watched/will watch are all documentaries and are mostly related to food, environment and health. Here’s a quick list in no particular order:

  • Gas Land
  • Requiem for the American Dream
  • Inside Job
  • Resistance
  • Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead (Part 1 and 2)
  • The Human Experiment
  • Sustainable
  • Super Size Me
  • Forks Over Knives
  • Food Choices
  • Terra
  • Live and Let Live
  • Foodmatters
  • Minimalism

Some insightful, depressing, intriguing, worrying but mainly though provoking stuff.

I have much more to tell you all but will have to leave it here for today. Time to work, only one more month before the first step down in hours, & salary. Cannot wait!

I’ll leave you with photos of the oh-so-delicious cherry tomato chutney I made this past weekend. YUM!

A few piccies!

Didn’t want to keep you all wondering, have abandoned my finger’s little plastic coffin as much as possible. I may end-up with a permanently crooked finger, but hey-ho. Right now my entire finger tip is numb and I am trying to avoid using my finger or whole hand as much as possible. Will see the doctor this afternoon, fingers crossed(!?) I get good news.

Meanwhile here are some photos I’ve been meaning to share, be sure to check out the captions.