Minimalist February | Pitfalls and misconceptions about minimalism.

If you haven’t guessed from the title of this post, I’m going to be posting with a focus on minimalism this month. And where better to start than by defining the term! (can you tell I’ve been a student for too long? Killer essay starter right there..) You probably have an idea about what minimalism is by now. I don’t blame you, it gets bandied about a fair bit these days. Here are 3 misconceptions about minimalism and 3 pitfalls that people can fall into when trying to achieve it.

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Misconceptions:

  1. You’re not allowed to have a lot of stuff– minimalism means different things to different people. Yes, it generally means having less items overall than the average person, but if you really like shoes and all of your pairs make you happy- keep them! Ditto books or Star Wars memorabilia (I don’t know what you’re into!)
  2. You have to like white EVERYTHING– it seems that when you search online for minimalist interiors, the vast majority look very similar: white walls, neutral/white furniture etc. I think the reason is that it attracts light, and highlights the lack of objects which is enjoyable for a lot of people. However, this is just a general preference, and by no means is the right or the only way to do things.
  3. Minimalism relates only to possessions- I have to admit I’m finding the slightly less tangible side of minimalism quite tricky, so you lucky people get to watch me struggle with that this month! But you can apply minimalism to technology, your diary, cooking… Practically anything. It’s about paring it down to only what you need, only what makes you happy. More on this later ๐Ÿ˜‰

Pitfalls:

  1. Racing to the finish line– by this I mean trying to clear out your belongings in one fell swoop. Yes, some people find that this is the way to go, and prefer to just have it over with, but I am of the opinion that it can’t hurt to take a little time. This is because sometimes when you’re too hasty to chuck things away, you might find you’re making way harsher decisions than you need to in order to achieve your desired amount of belongings. This could lead to disposing of an item you actually cherish, or the dramatic increase in space in your home- both of which can cause you to want to buy more to fill the emotional or physical void. As far as I’m concerned, it can’t hurt to take your time. If you declutter a space, then a week later you’re still not satisfied with it then by all means work on it again.
  2. Focusing on numbers– you’ll find a lot of blog posts and videos out there entitled ‘my 30 item closet’ or ‘this man lives with only 102 belongings!’ and it’s easy to get fixated on the numbers, thinking they are obviously doing it better than you. But you know what? Fore some people it works, and that is their ideal amount. Others need more and there’s nothing wrong with that. I would recommend focusing on how much is ideal for you, regardless of what anyone else is doing.
  3. Not addressing your emotions- Items are inevitably going to make us sentimental, and thinking we can plough through regardless is unrealistic. For me at least, shopping is emotional. I do it when I’m bored or feeling low. Keeping things makes me feel safe, and sometimes it represents a time or person in my life I care about. It’s not as simple as getting rid of things. Sometimes you need to deal with some baggage first (yay.) But it all leads to a place of being more in touch and in control of your emotions (genuine yay!)

Stay tuned for more minimalism this month. Thanks for reading!

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No Spend January | Things to do.

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I’m getting so into this photography lark. So proud of this picture ๐Ÿ™‚

So, I think we can all agree I’ve now become an expert in not spending money and I’m perfect… I wish!

But I have been thinking- as much for my own sanity as for this blog post- about things you can do with no money. Even when this challenge is over, I don’t think it would hurt me financially or emotionally to spend more time doing things that don’t cost money!

So here’s a list I compiled of things I could think of. It is a bit London specific in places, because that’s where I live, but it might prompt ideas of places near you too (if you’re not London based).

  1. Visit a museum – all the museums and a great deal of galleries in London are free to enter, it’s pretty cool actually. I just finished a Christmas temp job at the Natural History Museum which was the first time I’d been to a museum in years (boo!). It reminded me how great they are, and I realised I’ve been missing out! I paid a visit to the Science Museum this week too, that’s always a fun one.
  2. Go for a walk – I know, anyone could’ve thought of this one! But you know, it’s an easily forgotten activity (at least for me). Some days I do plenty of walking from a to b, but it’s a completely different feeling walking just for the sake of it. Some of my happiest and most mindful times have been walking in the rain, kitted out in my raincoat and wellies, sometimes with an audiobook in my ears, or just listening to the sounds around me. And you don’t even have to be in nice surroundings for it to have a significant effect on your wellbeing. Trust me, I’ve been through some grotty, concrete covered places on walks! Or you could go to a park if concrete’s not your thing ๐Ÿ˜‰
  3. Take pictures – Whether it be a flower in the park, your wellies next to the door, or your friends laughing on a day out. Whipping out your phone or camera is a really nice pastime. I had no idea I would get so into it, but I now spend hours every week taking + editing my pictures for this blog, as well as for personal enjoyment. I can thank my sister for teaching me to appreciate the process- thanks Naomi!
  4. Make something – Be it sewing, drawing, colouring in, crafting is really good for getting you really immersed in what you’re doing. It’s a personal goal of mine to have at least one craft always on the go, it’s so good for my mental health. If you get creative with things you have around the house, you won’t have to spend a dime!
  5. See the sights – It’s easy to live and work in London and become desensitised to the view. It’s not all pretty, like I said, but when you pause for a second you can find beauty. I often like to walk along the Southbank next to the river Thames. There’s such a variety of magnificent buildings. You can go the 10th floor of the Tate Modern and look out over the whole city, or cross over the river to St. Paul’s Cathedral or Westminster Abbey. My favourite is standing on Waterloo or London Bridge at night, looking over the river with all the lights shining ๐Ÿ™‚
  6. Write a letter – I suppose this doesn’t count as strictly free, if you consider stamps. But paper and pens can definitely be scavenged from around the house. I wanna make more time to write letters and make my own birthday cards, I think people appreciate the effort.
  7. Declutter – If you haven’t tried it, I swear once you get into it it’s the most therapeutic, addictive thing! Taking an afternoon/day to get a room in order can make a huge difference to how you feel, plus you’ll be one step closer to a simpler, more eco-friendly life.
  8. Exercise – Go for a run! Do some press-ups! Follow a Youtube workout! Yoga! I have a very love/hate relationship with the gym, I’m about to cancel my membership for the second time in 6 months. There’s something about being in a stuffy building with other people working out that makes me hate it in the end! Then I get all guilty that I’m paying money and not using it.. I much prefer being out in the open, or at home. But whatever your thing is, do it.
  9. Journal – When you challenge yourself not to spend money, you find you’re freeing up a whole load of time. If you’ve ever wanted to start or keep up a diary, spending less money is a good way to do it! Sometimes these days, I find myself with so many thoughts and feelings in my head that I can’t not write in my diary- it’s the dream! I really want to start a bullet journal too. Just need to find the right notebook (Google it, they’re super cool!)
  10. Cook – Cooking seems to be one of the first things to suffer when we get busier. But if you’re not spending money on much else other than food, why not learn to enjoy it? Look up some new, exciting recipes on the internet, and try them out! There is nothing more satisfying than making an awesome meal from scratch (especially when you present it really nicely too).

 

I’m sure you guys have some much better ideas- if so, share them in the comments, I’d love to hear them ๐Ÿ™‚

5 Things this Monday…

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  1. There’s a new documentary on Netflix advocating veganism and exploring the treatment of animals in farms- yes! Netflix is such a good source of documentaries and I can’t get enough of them ๐Ÿ™‚ Check out the trailer here.
  2. The winners of the 2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year Contest have been announced, and their pictures blew me away today. What better reason to want to save this beautiful planet…
  3. 10 ways to use a handkerchief! Tea towels and hankies are so useful for so many things! They really come into their own when you go zero waste, I love them.
  4. It’s probably too late for this year, but this article gives advice on what trees can be kept in pots outside then brought in for Christmas year after year, as well as tips on how to care for them. I’m definitely keeping this bookmarked.
  5. Buy Me Once has put together a review of reputable knife brands to find out which is the best. Could be a last minute gift idea or something to invest in with your Christmas money that’ll last a lifetime.

Small efforts.

Sometimes taking steps for the environment seem like massive sacrifices. Sometimes we think it’s only worth it we make a big impact. Today I thought I’d share a few things I’m trying that still count towards my effort, however small they may be.

 

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Spring onions and a leek ๐Ÿ™‚

The window sill shenanigans are starting again! I know it doesn’t really make a major difference to the amount of food I have in, but re-growing veg in water is the first step inย what I hope will be the beginning of growing food. It’s pretty amazing watching things grow! In a week my spring onions went from an inch long to a foot long and I chopped them up to use in a curry (below); now the roots are back in water again! Next week I’ll find a use for my regrown leek, and I also want to get a lettuce growing. See here for all the veg you can regrow in water.

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‘curry’ made completely from scratch!

I was eating a peanut butter and jam sandwich for lunch today when I noticed the peanut butter has palm oil in it. It’s so annoying! Ever since I watched Before the Flood (see my review here) I’ve been super motivated not to endorse that industry, but I haven’t been too successful. It’s in so many things! However, the next time I buy peanut butter I’m hunting down one without palm oil.

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The debris from a paper cull I did recently…

In general I’m alright at avoiding printing. My train/plane/coach tickets are always on my phone, and other than that I have very few reasons to actually print anything… eeeexcept for uni. We get a lot of handouts, which there isn’t a lot I can do about, but I also have to do a lot of reading from online books. I used to print out the readings every week so that no matter where I was, I could get to them. A week ago, I decided to just try and read off the screen and take notes instead, then print if I really felt the need. I have yet to feel that need. I think I used to tell myself ‘it’s all very well trying to be better to the environment, but I NEED to print this stuff for my degree!‘ when actually it turned out not to be such a massive thing. Hoping to keep this not-printing thing up as much as possible going forward!

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Sneaky cinema shot!

Every Wednesday I go to the cinema on my own to watch a foreign film. It’s my me-time. Part of this mid-week treat is buying myself some popcorn. I could make it myself, but I don’t have that much time on a Wednesday, plus it’s nice to give back to the uni cinema whose prices are insanely cheap and staff are lovely. Since the beginning of the year I’ve been bringing back the same box that I bought popcorn in for the first film. They refill it and at the end of the film I pop it back in my bag for next week. The cardboard has softened a little but it works just fine, and I must’ve saved a good dozen other boxes from going in the recycling. It’s super simple and easy, but it all helps!

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GO WORMS GO!

I got a worm bin back in the Autumn, and whilst that has helped to absorb a bit of my food waste, they don’t eat quite fast enough at the moment to deal with everything I create (and then there’s the odd thing they can’t eat like onions and citrus). I resigned myself to the fact that I’d have to chuck that stuff in the general bin in the kitchen until it hit me recently that I could take it into uni where they have food waste bins. About once a week, when I have a decent amount of scraps, I’ll take them onto campus and put them in one of their bins. Landfill diverted again, woo!

 

 

Dinner.

Since I moved to France and especially after I went vegan in January, I’ve been turning into a foodie. The kitchen has become my favourite place, and whereas a year or two ago cooking was a chore and a source of stress in my life, it is now what I look forward to most days!

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m pretty abysmal at following recipes. But that’s okay, because it doesn’t really matter as long as you’re happy with the result. Here are a few meals that I’ve made recently:

 

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Broccoli and lentil soup – My hand blender was on the blink which I only realised as I got it out to blitz the broccoli up for this soup, so it ended up having some quite large bits of broccoli in it! But it was actually really nice to be able to taste all the elements and them not to be blended together. The key was putting onion and garlic in and seasoning it well.

Ingredients:

Broccoli

Green lentils

Onion

Garlic

Sea salt, black pepper, coriander

 

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Rice, plantain and lettuce – This one was easy. I am obsessed with plantain. Maybe it’s because it’s sweet and I’m a sucker for anything sweet. Maybe it’s because I fry them in oil, who knows (coconut oil is perrrffecct for this as it brings out the sweetness!). Also, brown rice is great. I made the switch a few months ago and I do not regret my choice one bit.

Ingredients:

Brown rice

Onion

Lettuce

Plantain

Coconut oil

 

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Roasted yellow peppers with quinoa – This one was a fun one. I started off by boiling the quinoa, then mixed it in with some black beans, chickpeas, tomato purรฉe and some spices then filled a hollowed-out pepper and whacked them in the oven! It turned out really yummy.

Ingredients:

Yellow pepper

Quinoa

Tomato purรฉe

Black beans

Chickpeas

Red onion

Sea salt, oregano, black pepper

 

As you can see, most of my dinners aren’t that fancy. They don’t involve too many ingredients and usually include at least one vegetable and some kind of grain. They are filling and pretty healthy, and it’s exciting to keep experimenting every day with new ideas. I haven’t included directions on how to make these, because I am basically just making it up as I go along, or I look it up on Pinterest and follow someone else’s recipe ๐Ÿ™‚