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 😉

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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An Ethical Mobile Phone?

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I’ve been meaning to review my new smartphone for a few months now, but having read this article by the Guardian this morning on the conditions in Apple’s factories, I thought what better time than now..

I actually mentioned the Fairphone brand in my post on more environmentally-friendly technology, titled Green Your Tech. Today I’m going to cover the main advantages and disadvantages in more detail, as it’s been about 2 months since it arrived!

Ethical sourcing of materials + manufacturing

In my previous post, I talked about how Fairphone are the only phone manufacturer I am aware of that sources its materials fairly. Considering that the minerals used in phone manufacture are likely to be contributing to conflict in countries all over the planet (hence the term ‘conflict minerals’), this represents the only way to avoid profiting from and perpetuating that situation. Fairphone traces their materials every step of the way to ensure that they come from sources that are good for the planet and the people that collect them. For more information, see their policy here.

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Durability

Fairphones are modular and easy to take apart. The idea is that when one part of the phone reaches the end of it’s life or breaks, you can simply purchase the one faulty bit and replace it yourself, diverting a whole phone from landfill where it would usually end up. Normally when a phone breaks, it costs almost as much as the original purchase price to repair, or there is no option for repair and you have to buy new. Not only is there the option to repair a Fairphone, but because you can do it yourself, it ends up being quite cheap. What more incentive do you need! Considering the fact that I haven’t had a smartphone last longer than 2 years (due to the failure of one part or another), I’m optimistic about the Fairphone’s chances.

Usability

This is what probably most people have asked me: Does it perform to the standard of most smartphones these days? Before I discovered that an ethical phone was possible, I deemed it a necessary evil of modern living that I would have to buy a mobile made in questionable circumstances. My only real concern after that was how much quality I could get for my money. Being used to pretty good phones (my last 2 were a Galaxy Note 3 and a SONY Xperia Z2) I’m going to be honest and say that the Fairphone does feel like a downgrade. In most respects it performs like every other android I’ve had in the last few years (when I unlock my phone it is easy to forget that it isn’t any one of the previous 3 I’ve owned) except for in a few respects. You can tell by how light and toy-like (?) it feels to hold compared with ‘normal’ smartphones, that Fairphone aren’t equipped with the same resources available to their larger counterparts who would’ve been able to slim it down to about half it’s size and make it feel a little less like a toy or a prototype. This, and a few other minor luxuries, I can of course live without. My only real gripe is the terrible 12MP camera which doesn’t take any decent pictures of anything. I’m really hoping they come up with a better quality camera I can replace this one with in the future.

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Eco-credentials

Even before and during the buying process, I noticed some crucial differences in the way that Fairphone operates. Firstly, I was very pleased to learn that on their partner site The Phone Coop, there is an option to buy a refurbished Fairphone 2. Not only was I about to purchase the most ethical phone on earth, but I could get one that had already had some kind of life thus contributing to a circular economy, not to mention saving £80 off the RRP! Then, before adding the phone to your basket, they have an option to buy one with or without a charger. At this point, I was on another planet of happiness. The amount of times I’ve wished every new mobile didn’t have to arrive with those crummy earphones that break after a month or so and another charger for you to add to your collection I thought to myself as I clicked ‘Add to Basket’.

By the time my Fairphone arrived in ALL RECYCLABLE and NON PLASTIC packaging, it was like all my birthdays had come at once! Barring the screen protector film, all I was left with was a couple of bits of cardboard which I’m going to reuse and IT’S SO GOOD!

They even allow you to send your old phone back in for recycling, like, can it get any better than that?!

CONCLUSION

Fairphone have thought of everything. Here was me, patiently waiting for a phone that would either be modular, or come in recyclable packaging etc. and they’ve sorted pretty much everything! Literally the only drawback is that the camera is about five years in the past.

In terms of whether it’ll catch on, I think the standard and features of today’s smartphones are so high that it’d be difficult to convince someone to go backwards in that respect. However if you, like me, try to buy exclusively ethical and eco-friendly items and thought that a phone was one of those necessary evils then GUESS WHAT! This phone is for you! See the website and consider getting one when your current phone dies 🙂

Green your tech.

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credit to my sister 🙂

I’m not gonna lie, technology is a hard one to get around. Without it, we wouldn’t create nearly as much energy waste as we do. And yet, we can’t live without it now (or at least I couldn’t). I thought I’d share a few ways that I know about, that can help to cut down on electrical/technology waste, that aren’t “change to LED light bulbs”…

Cor(d) Blimey! (I’m so sorry)

One of the many things that really bug me about chargers and earphones (Apple are the worst from my experience, but most phone brands tend to be terrible) is that the cords come loose at the base or split at some point after a few months. I’m sure you’ve probably heard of ‘planned obsolescence’: manufacturing a product to deliberately last only a few months or years. Nowhere is it more rife than in the technology industry. One way to avoid replacing these cords with yet more tat, is to invest in ones that are designed to last.

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House of Marley – I bought a pair of /house of Marley earphones a few months ago and there’s no looking back now! The wire is covered in a fabric cord rather than the rubbery plastic tube they are usually enclosed in. Not only does this mean that it is likely to be more durable over time, but you don’t get those awful tangles every time you put them away! They use recycled materials and wood where they can as well, so that’s a plus.

Syncwire – my brother bought himself a pair of phone charging cords from this brand and I thought they looked cool with the mesh-like, thick casing around the wire. He told me they had lifetime warranty too and he needn’t say any more! I love products that guarantee themselves, because it says something about the quality. They do cords in a variety of lengths for Apple and micro usb port phones (most Androids).

Phones

As far as perfect solutions to the phone problem goes, there are next to none. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t try to resist the current trends and vote with our wallets.

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Fairphone – this brand speaks to me on multiple levels. Firstly, they are basically the only brand I know of that sources its materials fairly. That in itself is amazing and commendable. Considering that the minerals used in phone manufacture are likely to be contributing to conflict in countries across the planet, hence the term ‘conflict minerals’, this represents probably the best way to show that you are against profiting from that situation. Besides that, Fairphones are modular and easy to take apart. The idea is that when one part of the phone reaches the end of it’s life or breaks, you can simply purchase that one bit and replace it yourself, diverting a whole phone from landfill which is what usually happens. Normally when a phone breaks, it costs almost as much as the selling price to replace, or there is no option for repair and you have to buy new. Fairphone does things differently and restores the power back to the consumer and it’s awesome.

Another cheaper option is to buy a phone secondhand. Due to contracts, meaning that customers upgrade their phones annually or bi-annually (basically before it reaches the end of its shelf-life). technology moves fast, and the temptation to have the newest model is strong in much of the population. It’s just a waste of materials and energy and is a symptom of today’s consumerism which produces and sells new things at a rate that the planet can’t keep up with. You buying secondhand is obviously cheaper than buying new, and often you can find a phone with little to no problems (because it was likely just discarded due to an upgrade rather than fault). You would be using something already in circulation rather than encouraging the production of more new things. Here’s an example of a UK shop shelling refurbished phones.

A deceptively simple tip

buy only the gadgets you neeeeed – I used to have a phone, tablet and a laptop which was just silly. I’d also casually own a billion chargers and accept more willy nilly. There is no need to own more than one of something, and while we’re at it you probably don’t need all the gadgets you have. The less you have, the less you’ll need to use, charge and replace. Simple.

Cut down on that usage – I’ll be honest, I’m a bit of an internet addict. I check my phone way more than I should, and sometimes I just open my laptop and do absolutely nothing cos it’s comforting. But you know what else? Whenever I find myself checking Facebook more often or mindlessly surfing the web, I also realise that I am bored or sad or in some way dissatisfied. It’s emotional! Whenever I think ‘ooh Netflix will make this better’ I find myself 3 hours later feeling exactly the same (unless I watched something depressing in which case I feel worse!) I could’ve done something helpful like spoken to a human, gone for a walk, or read a book- all of which waste no energy or money, people- but that would’ve been too easy! Anyway, what I’m saying is I’m working on it, and you should too.

Unplug – when you go on holiday, unplug everything that doesn’t need to keep running while you’re away. Try plugging things in, or switching on the socket just for the time that you need whatever it is you’re using. The little things add up in money and energy terms. Same goes for just going to work, or out for the day; if you can unplug/switch it off without anything getting messed up, do it 🙂

Alternative energy

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Energy providers – Sorry, I live with my parents so I don’t know about all this stuff yet, but you can switch to renewable energy providers and it makes a big difference. You can make a substantial monetary saving whilst doing your bit and all it takes is switching providers and carrying on as normal! The easiest thing.

Rechargeable batteries – I know, who even uses batteries anymore?! (except people with children and/or TV remotes, so almost everyone) Rechargeable batteries used to be a faff, but you can get USB ones now! They’ll save you money, and they’re better for the environment than single-use ones.

Solar- my sister just got a solar-powered portable phone charger. She’s gonna try and see if she can power her phone off the sun alone. That’s awesome. Imagine using the sun to charge your phone forever! It’s free! I found this brand which seems good quality and is a B Corp, meaning it uses its power to do good in the world. The profits from Waka Waka solar chargers (above) are used to provide power to those who do not currently have the option of electricity worldwide. The price would make it a bit of an investment, but it would pay for itself after that…

5 things this Monday…

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Hello friends. I appreciate that it’s been a couple of months since my last post. When major changes happen in your life, sometimes it feels like you need to economise energy and concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other! I’ve moved home from uni, worked a fantastic though hectic temporary job and am now through the other side. Having had the space to collect my thoughts and relax, I have the brainpower and sense of self that I was missing and I’m back for more Magical Blue shenanigans! Without further ado, let’s kick off with my old favourite, 5 things that caught my eye recently…

  1. A company in Denmark rents out baby and child clothing to parents and I love the idea! Firstly it means that the clothes can be returned and reused by more children which is great for the environment, but it takes the hassle out of constantly shopping for it all! I really hope this is the future for many more countries.
  2. Next up, the big news this week that France has planned to ban all petrol and diesel cars by 2040! I love this bold commitment, as it shows that France is prepared to lead the way or stand out on its own for the sake of the planet. They’re really investing in alternatives which is what needs to be done.
  3. An orca found tangled in fishing gear in Scotland was discovered to have the highest ever recorded levels of toxic chemicals in its system in the UK region. Lulu was part of the last pod in the UK, estimated to have about 8 members. Such high levels of damaging PCBs was thought to have been the reason Lulu never bore offspring which doesn’t bode well for the future of this pod…
  4. Being a reducetarian is a great way to get started on the road to better health, a lower environmental impact and a more ethical diet. I’ve spoken with many people who are of the opinion that if you can’t make a large difference, it’s not worth doing. Be it veganism, zero waste or even politics, a lot of people opt out of trying at all because what’s one person going to change? And also, it’s so tempting to want to be perfect from the off, that the thought of failure also discourages us. Being reducetarian just means reducing meat consumption at a level that is realistic to you. It could mean meatless Mondays, vegan until 6 or just cutting out one type of meat from your diet. I didn’t know what reducetarianism was, but before going vegan I cut down to only eating meat on weekdays, (I know!) then weekends before stopping completely. I can recommend the gradual approach 🙂
  5. And lastly, how much easier would capsule/minimalist wardrobes be with these shoes?! The premise is that you buy one pair of shoes and can switch the heel height quickly and easily. For someone who very rarely wears heels, this would kind of solve the problem of having to have a pair just to use once or twice a year. It’s an interesting idea.

Small efforts.

Writing posts seems to be beyond me recently, my head space is not really ideal. But that doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped trying. Here are some little ways in which I’ve been trying to be healthier, happier and better to the planet in the last week or so…

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Not zero waste (weetabix came in cardboard and paper, raspberries in a plastic punnet) but I’ve been feeling pretty down this week and eating well has helped no end. I made this insanely yummy stew the other day that had 7 vegetables, 2 types of lentils and filled me up like you’d never believe! At least my body can be happy and I don’t have the added burden of feeling so sluggish.

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My student loan came and I invested in some good tech that should last longer than the rubbish cables you get with your phone which are designed to last approximately 5 minutes. These House of Marley earphones are made from FSC certified wood, have fabric covered cords for durability I love them.

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In my quest to lead a slower, more conscious life, books are making a comeback. Reading calms me down in a way a million Netflix shows couldn’t come close to doing. And the same goes for knitting (another hobby I’m pouring time into at the moment). There’s something about committing yourself to the process and being completely absorbed which I’m only really learning the true value of now.

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A selfie?! On my blog?! I know, I know- but how else do I talk about my crazy hair! Chopping it all off was the best decision I ever made for its health, but the growing out process has been long. A year and a half in, and I can put it up in a ponytail, but I mainly just leave it to do its thing (above). I like the way it does whatever it likes, and watching how my natural, untamed hair in its full glory.

 

Thanks for reading, friends 🙂