Posts tagged ‘simplicity’

February 18, 2014

The Leeds Minimalist Group.

On October 21st, Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus aka The Minimalists, will be arriving in Leeds as part of their international ‘Everything That Remains’  book tour, and in anticipation of that, a local group has been established to welcome them to our fair city but also for us to chat about minimalism and provide some support to each other. Our esteemed leader, Wendy, describes the meetings as ‘probably the most fun, enlightening and interesting experience of your life…’ And so I went along to the first gathering with high expectations!

Thankfully, Wendy is completely brilliant, and so that first meeting was held in a pub and not only was there beer, but there was also free food. There is basically nothing better at bringing people together than food and beer so the chat flowed freely as we all introduced ourselves and talked about our backgrounds and why we were interested in minimalism. Everyone had their story to tell and it was a fascinating and truly fun evening.

Now, long term readers of this blog will know these things about me:

1 — Habitually, I’m a collector. From Blythe dolls to vintage Penguin paperbacks, I have always loved a good collection. I blame my antique dealing parents for that!

2 – Despite this, I’m on an unexpected journey—because of big changes in my life— towards a minimalist lifestyle.

For me, having a collection that you love and have meaning for you isn’t the same as Keeping Up with the Jones’ — a competitive fast-track to debt and anxiety. Mindless spending on stuff is where my problem lies and, as I’ve been more mindful about where I spend my money, that has, in turn, reduced my level of possessions. From shopping locally, to operating my ‘one in, one out’ paperback book collection, I am making lots of changes which are having a beneficial effect on my stress levels and my bank balance. I may even be sending those Penguin books off to the charity shop…

I may never reach the levels of minimalism as my boyfriend, who has 100 items that will all fit into one bag (if you exclude his bike), but I do have very few possessions now and a genuine interest in continuing the journey towards reducing them even more. Fewer things means more head-space, I’ve found.  Plus, by getting rid of all the clutter, the possessions I want to keep have the space to shine. For me, simplicity and minimalism is fast becoming a route to happiness.

If you have any interest in minimalism at all, or even a curiosity to see what a group of people who get together to talk about this looks like, please do come along to the next gathering. I promise you that it’ll be fun, you’ll be made really welcome and you may come away with a desire to join in with us!

The next gathering will take place in The Tetley Bar and Kitchen. The gallery is open until 8pm if you wish to visit before the meetup starts. Entrance is free.

Date: Thursday 6th March

Time: From 8pm

Location: The Tetley Bar and Kitchen, The Tetley, Hunslet Road, Leeds LS10 1JQ

Hope to see you there…

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January 15, 2014

Three Good Things: get well soon edition.

I’ve been ill all week with a chest infection and feeling pretty sorry for myself. Thankfully, I have been taken care of very well by my lovely boyfriend and now I’m back on my feet and, a week late,  ready to crack on with 2014!

So, this week’s Three Good Things is the Get Well Soon edition…

One: Flapjack from Millies

When I’m feeling poorly, I tend to indulge myself in whatever food I fancy. My opinion is that it’s a good way of making myself feel better, or at least forget that I’m ill for a while anyway.  I discovered these flapjacks a couple of weeks ago, and OH MY GOODNESS, they are amazing. And, they have lots of healthy seeds and goji berries in them, which totally offsets all the sugar, right? (In my head, yes.) If you ever find yourself in Leeds, then I completely recommend you get along to Millies Local and Organic Store and buy yourself one. Or a bundle. You’ll find them near the cash tills, assuming I’ve left any…

Flapjack from Millie's Organic

Two: Planning travel

Lying in bed feeling sorry for myself has been rubbish. I get to the point where I’m just cross and bored with my own illness. Taking myself out of the situation by planning future travel is an excellent way to cheer myself up. As a result of this, and thanks to my back issues of Lonely Planet magazine, current plans for the year include Paris, Amsterdam, a bit of Scandinavia and Oxford. I plan to travel alone, with friends, with my beloved children and with my equally beloved boyfriend. I’m very excited about these plans. Now I just need to pay for them!

Lonely Planet magazine

Three: Long baths.

Long, warm baths are just the thing for helping to soothe away the soreness that comes from being ill. A favourite bath oil, a fragrant candle, and a good book complete the picture. Heaven.

Bathroom

What have your Three Good Things been this week? I’d love to hear from you.

Let me know if you write a Three Good Things post, and I’ll link back to it in next week’s edition.

December 10, 2013

A Month without Supermarkets: end of month review.

Well, our first month without supermarkets is over and generally speaking it was a great success.

We have loved getting our weekly food delivery from Abel and Cole. We’ve really enjoyed searching out alternative suppliers, local specialists and great independent shops close to home, including the local butcher, bakers, and cheese shop. We’ve had lots of successes. And we’ve had a fair few failures – needing milk when the only shop open is Tesco (grr) is a notable one. However, let us not use our plans as a stick to beat ourselves with.

We’ve decided that this is how we want to live forever; to reduce our reliance on the supermarket as much as possible, but to not get over-anguished about those times when we have little choice. Which is usually, as I mentioned in a previous post, down to a lack of planning.  We’ve also changed the way we buy our food slightly from Abel and Cole, so we plan our weekly menu beforehand so we know what will be coming in the delivery, what we will cook with it and when. This might sound pretty regimented,  but actually, creates a lot more simplicity on a day-to-day basis and means for much less food waste.

Now we’ve got into something of a routine when it comes to food, and made our main decisions about where we buy our food from, the next thing we really want to tackle is the amount of waste and rubbish we create. As I said, planning a weekly menu ahead makes for less food waste, but also we’re looking at packaging too. Recycling is obviously one way to deal with packaging waste, but it shouldn’t be the first ‘r’ in waste reduction. Reducing the amount of packaging we bring into the house in the first place should come before that.

So, that’s our next step. We’ve bought a bokashi system to help us deal with the food waste and we’re looking at ways to reduce packaging and rubbish.

I’ll share our progress with you in a further post – but if you have any tips to share, please add them in the comments!

November 5, 2012

The Paradox Of Choice.

I’m banned from the supermarkets these days. Not by the stores themselves, you understand, they’d be only too happy to have my time and money. It’s a self-imposed ban. Not for any  ethical reasons, although I do have plenty of those. For my sanity.

I have come to realise that I don’t cope well with too much choice. In a restaurant, I behave as though it’s my last supper every time I order, and I often struggle to choose my lunch (when I’m not using up leftovers, that is) but the time it really comes to the fore is in the supermarket.

It begins in the fruit and vegetable section. If I’m buying apples, for example, I’ll look at the variety, the condition they’re in and where they have come from. I prefer to buy UK grown fruit and vegetables, but if I’m buying from abroad, then I’ll look for a Fairtrade label.  There are pros and cons to air-freighted vegetables, so I’ll make decisions about that too. So far, so complicated. But in fact, this is now the easiest section of the supermarket for me to be in. When it comes to packaged food, I find myself looking at labels relentlessly, searching for ingredients, working out who owns the company, which type is cheaper and what looks the most appealing. It goes on and on. My husband says I go into something like shock; the proverbial deer in headlights. The last straw came when he had to drag me away from a whole wall full of tooth-pastes. I mean, why do we need so many options? Whitening, fresh breath, gum health, complete care. Do I want spearmint, fresh-mint, sensitive? Is one of those stand-up pumps better than a normal tube? Which works out cheaper? And what are blue micro-beads for anyway? There is no wonder I go into some kind of choice paralysis. Coupled with the bright lights and Christmas music in October, it’s a wonder anyone gets out alive.

These days, we order our supermarket shopping online. Using the information from the last shop, I can quickly whip through the list and, even when I change things ( I always check for special offers and cheaper deals) it’s so much less stressful in front of a laptop and away from the store. An added bonus is never having to take my small children with me. Not for them the opportunities to throw extra sweets into the trolley, destroy the magazine aisle or have a ginormous tantrum because I won’t buy them everything they want. Those days are over.

Of course, it’s not just supermarkets. The paradox of choice is everywhere – from choosing a mobile phone (uppermost in my mind, after losing mine) to a pair of jeans, and much much more. The size of the market, which is allegedly one of the greatest successes of a Western society, does not do me many favours after all.

At the moment, I’m in the throes of yet another de-cluttering of my house. This time I’m being more ruthless. I’m getting rid of lots of things that I have been keeping for sentimental reasons, despite them being hidden away and forgotten about. I’m looking for voluntary simplicity. I’d like to have far fewer things, and only buy things that I need or truly love, and keep them forever. I want things that are not trend-led but designed to last, and for my surroundings to be peaceful instead of feeling as though the house will explode if we bring one more thing into it.

It is a difficult enough thing to do with a small family for whom more is better. My son in particular is a collector and is desperate for every single engine in the Thomas Take’n’Play collection, so I will have to accommodate that to a certain extent.

Yet, the real challenge comes from within me. It is becoming easier and easier for me to get rid of things. I’m far more comfortable with that now – and I can tell that clearing out the house is doing wonders for my mind too – it’s as though as weight is lifted from them when I give away yet another bag of unwanted belongings to the charity shop. But what about when the time comes to buy something new? To replace something that is worn out and cannot be repaired? I’m not talking about the occasional luxury here (those things tend to be used up anyway, given that my favourite treats are things like a bottle of fizz or a luxurious bath oil) I’m talking about the things that I hope will last forever.

If I want to have far fewer things, then any new things that I buy need to be the very best choice there is for me. That doesn’t mean the most expensive, it means the best suited to what I want and need. I already prefer to have fewer clothes that are well-made than lots of cheaper clothes, so it’s just spreading that to other areas of my life and making the best choices about the things I want in my life. But given that I cannot even choose a tube of toothpaste without assistance, that might be something of a challenge…