Showing posts from 2015

We need to talk

'Twas a week before Christmas and I was snuggled up to my new sweetie when it struck me that we should have "the talk".

Our relationship is very new, but now seemed like the best time to bring it up. A topic that makes so many couples (especially new ones) nervous and downright stressed: gift giving. 
"Mr. Romantic, as you know, I'm a minimalist. I'd like our relationship to reflect that. So let's agree now that if we ever decide to exchange gifts, they can only be experiences. I guess flowers, love notes, poems and songs would also acceptable."
There's this pressure in our society for couples to buy each other gifts for anniversaries, Valentine's Day, birthdays, Christmas, and even in the spur of the moment just because. Well I don't want to be a part of it. I don't want either of us to feel that pressure in our relationship. As I've mentioned in a previous post, if there's anything I want or need, chances are I'll be goi…

Merry Christmas!

The idea
Last night, Mr. Romantic and I had a lovely Christmas Eve date night. We both like to read, and we both like intellectual discussion. So I suggested that we start our own private little book club.

Although we prefer reading non-fiction over fiction, I thought that starting with A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens would be fun considering the timing of our book club debut. I’ve seen different movie versions of the story, but I’d never read it, and neither had Mr. Romantic. So my plan was for us to read the book, discuss it, and then watch one of the movie versions. December 24th seemed like the perfect time for this kind of evening. And so the “Awesome Cheesy Romantic A Christmas Carol Evening” was planned.

The book
At the beginning of the book, there’s this passage where Scrooge’s nephew invites him over for Christmas, and, of course, Scrooge declines and asks his nephew what good has Christmas ever done to him. His nephew replies:
"There are many things from which I…

The usefulness of my utensils

So I've started a new experiment. On the evening of December 15, 2015, I decided to put all of my kitchen utensils in a box in our laundry room (it's right next to the kitchen). When we need a utensil, we take it out of the box. Once we're done, it gets cleaned and can go back into a kitchen drawer.

I forgot to mention this experiment to my daughter. The next morning she yelled at me from the kitchen "Where are all the utensils? Why are the drawers empty?" She wasn't pleased. So I suggest if you're going to do this in your home, notify the other occupants beforehand. It might prevent grumpiness, especially on a rushed weekday morning before school.

My goal is to streamline how many kitchen utensils we own. I have a favourite spatula and a favourite mixing spoon. I rarely use any others. But I'm not sure which ones are my daughter's go to utensils. I wouldn't want to get rid of something she enjoys using while cooking. That would make her grumpy…

What I want for Christmas

Mom:"What would you like for Christmas?"


Mom, with a look of horror on her face:"It can't be nothing! I'm buying things for the others! You need to get something too!"

Me:"Thank you, mom, but I really don't want or need anything. I most likely won't use whatever you'd get me."

Mom:"Fine. I'll give you money then."

Me:"You don't need to do that either. I'm good."

Why do we feel that we "have" to get our loved ones Christmas gifts? When did it become an obligation? Even though I'm letting her off the hook, my mom still feels guilty and feels she needs to give me something. In her opinion, it wouldn't be fair to me if she gets gifts for everyone else but me.

My family members aren't minimalists. I don't expect them to have the same philosophy as me. My wants are less than theirs. If I don't get a single gift under the Christmas tree, I won't assume that …

Continuing reflections on dad

You may have read the post I wrote about my dad and his orange brush. I said that while I was reading minimalists' testimonials it occurred to me that my dad was a minimalist. I doubt it was a conscious effort on his part, it was just his personality.

You may have also read the post I wrote about being still. After reading that particular post, the man I recently started dating shared with me that one of the things he does just about every day is to "engage in contemplation or reflection". A "deliberate effort to take time for contemplation and introspection". His daughter asked him how he could just sit and not "do anything".

That reminded me of my dad. After he retired, he'd spend hours every day just sitting outside when the weather permitted. We were free to join him at which point he'd talk with us about anything and everything. Or we could just sit in silence with him. But most of his time was spent alone. Now in my father's case, it…

Online dating – minimalist style

A while back I had lunch with an old high school friend who happens to be single. He was saying how he'd been having a hard time meeting women lately. I suggested that maybe he could try online dating. I've been doing it for years.

He said he wasn't interested in online dating for a few reasons. One of the reasons he offered up was that there are too many options online which makes focussing on one person more challenging. He says you may end up passing over someone that could actually be a very good match for you because you're always looking for a “better” match to come along. Or someone may pass you over for the same reason. I must say that I agree with him (to a certain degree). The same could be said for the more “natural” (if we can still even say that) way of meeting people – the “organic in person let me strike up a conversation with you” kind of way.

Like with many things, you can choose quantity over quality with online dating. You could date many different …

Searching for quality

Remember when I wrote about settling? I mentioned how I couldn't always afford what I really wanted so I sometimes settle for something less expensive.

Well there's another issue that makes finding what you want frustrating. Quality!
Sometimes I do have the necessary resources for the right thing, but no matter how much I search, I can't find it.

Companies seem to be so concerned about cutting costs and being the ones we buy from. Their products have to be available before we get it from someone else. Who has time for quality!? Production, distribution, and profit at any cost! Right?

What if we waited? What if we all stopped buying it now because we want it now and wait to get it when it's right? Maybe that would mean that we're no longer stuck with "disposable" stoves, or refrigerators, or televisions, or electronic gadgets, or clothes, or houses, or whatever. If we all held out for quality instead of impulse buying quantity, how would that change the av…

Be still

One of my favourite parts about writing is when my writing moves people enough that they come talk to me about it or it makes them take action in their own lives. Some even reach out to me and offer advice or suggestions.

Paula (remember her?) came to me the other day to discuss my blog post To settle or not to settle. Her advice to me was "don't settle". She suggested that I take time to be still and let the dust fall. That I might be surprised how things turn out. 

My friend Susan also suggested that I "challenge" myself to not take on a challenge when I was asking friends, online, to suggest potential challenges. 

My cousin Marie-Josée suggested meditation or yoga. And I got a couple of comments from helpful and friendly readers leading me to others who've discussed the unexpected emptiness of minimalism.

The other night I was watching a TED talk by Pico Iyer called Where is home? In this TED talk, near the end, Pico quotes Seneca. It was one of the quotes …

The unexpected emptiness of minimalism

Minimalism has been emotional for me. I didn't expect that at all when I started on my journey to simplicity. As I was letting go of the extra stuff, I was confronted by the reasons why I held on to it all for so long. The hopes, dreams, guilt, expectations, demands, ambitions... It's exciting and difficult. It’s liberating and a little scary.

But after that extra stuff is gone, now what? How do I spend that free time and energy that used to go to my stuff – maintaining it, acquiring it, storing it?... I can't use my stuff as an excuse not to live my life. "Oh, I can't possibly go, I have cleaning to do." "I can't possibly invite people over, I have cleaning to do." "I can't take on this new project, I have so many other unfinished projects already... *long pause*... and I have cleaning to do." etc... And it's not like I would actually do anything about it. It was almost crippling.

You see, before all of this freedom I never r…

Highlighting flaws

Have you ever watched reality TV shows on hoarders? I'm fascinated by these people. They ruin their homes and their lives hoarding stuff. According to the shows, it always seems to stem from some tragic event that made something "go off" (for lack of a better term) in these people's mind and they just gave up on cleaning and started keeping everything because they felt they needed it or that these things were precious. They can't even let go of items that are damaged beyond use.

Years of hoarding has a serious impact on these people's lives in more ways than one. All the stuff eats away at their home damaging the structure - literally and figuratively. I've seen shows where the situation was so bad that they actually had to condemn the house.

Now I've said it before and I'll say it again, I was nowhere near to qualifying as a hoarder. I just had a lot of stuff. Since embarking on my minimalism journey, something's been going on. I have less st…

Downward trend of moving costs

I like concrete facts and figures that show me my progress in any aspect of my life, whether it's tracking the distance I cover when I go for a walk, to the money I've spent in a day. I was reading an article by James Clear in which he wrote: "Data improves awareness and awareness is the first step to behavior change"[1]. So I think that this particular aspect of my personality can serve me well, as long as it doesn't become an obsession of course... which I doubt it would.

I was sorting through my personal paperwork the other day and came across my 2013 and 2015 moving bills. I hired the same company for both moves. In 2013, I paid the company a little over $1,200 for their moving services. In 2015, I paid them a little less than $500. A bit of a difference, no?

It shocked me to see how significant a change I made since February. I knew it was less for this year's move than it had been for the previous one, but this was a bigger variance than I remembered. …

Timeless wisdom

Have you ever heard of Seneca? I discovered him because I had seen a few quotes while reading minimalism writings that were followed by his name. At first, I didn’t realize it was a name. One day I decided to finally look it up. Turns out he really was a person. According to Amazon: Lucius Annaeus Seneca, statesman, philosopher, advocate and man of letters, was born at Cordoba in Spain around 4 BC. He rose to prominence in Rome, pursuing a career in the courts and political life, for which he had been trained, while also acquiring celebrity as an author of tragedies and essays. Falling foul of successive emperors (Caligula in AD 39 and Claudius in AD 41), he spent eight years in exile, allegedly for an affair with Caligula’s sister. Recalled in AD 49, he was made praetor and was appointed tutor to the boy who was to become, in AD 54, the emperor Nero. On Nero’s succession, Seneca acted for some eight years as an unofficial chief minister. The early part of this reign was remembered a…

The missing photograph

Well, it seems I have to come to terms with the fact that I no longer have that photograph I was looking for. I went through everything I have left, which isn't much, and I can't find it. I must have given it away in one of the boxes I dropped off at the Salvation Army. Pity. I would have wanted it to complete my set.

It's a little disappointing and a little annoying, but it's definitely not the end of the world. I can reconfigure the remaining photographs, or I can get something else for the wall I was going to hang them on.

It's funny but I expect that I'll remember that missing photograph for as long as I have the others. But if I got rid of them all, the memory would eventually fade away.

I guess it's similar to when we hold on to other things or feelings or relationships that just remind us of disappointments or missed opportunities or guilt or whatever other bad feeling. Letting go, even just the thought of it, can be scary. But once we finally do, …

When I was your age...

This past Wednesday, my daughter and I were invited out to a restaurant in honour of one of her friend's 16th birthday. This friend's mom (who also now happens to be my friend) asked the adults to write words of wisdom for her daughter along the lines of "When I was your age, I wish I knew..." What a great idea for a birthday gift!

I didn't have room in the card for everything I wanted to write, so I'm sharing it all here.
When I was your age...

I wish I knew that life rarely goes as planned, but it can be better than you had ever imagined;

I wish I knew that the meanest people are often the ones who are hurting the most;

I wish I knew that people are way more interesting than they may appear to be at first (the cleaning lady may have led a more interesting life than the Prime Minister);

I wish I knew and really understood that every day, every minute, every second is a new beginning - you can make it what you want;

I wish I knew how quickly time goes by and not t…

That homey feeling

This past weekend was a quiet one binging on Netflix and walking around downtown. I felt somewhat at peace.If you've been reading, you know I've been struggling with feeling at home in the condo. Well I did something else this past weekend that helped a little with that. I hung artwork.
A print of the Rideau Canal by Theo's father that Theo gave to me when I turned 17. A city scene my daughter made in school a few years ago combining painting and sculpture. An old painting from my dad's grand-father. (I've never met him, but it makes me feel connected to him to know that he also loved art. There was a time I wanted to be a painter also.) And a wooden frame type sculpture my daughter did in tech class last year.

I'll also hang up photos taken by a friend about ten years ago in the neighbourhood I grew up in. There are six of them in total, but I can't seem to find one of them. I remember seeing it during the move, but for some reason I can't find it ri…

Urbanite chronicles - Two

Weekdays, I listen to the Radio Canada morning news show on my cellphone before getting out of bed. One morning, the traffic report said there were two accidents on a street I'd drive down every day when I lived in Orleans. I felt so happy and relieved that I didn't have to drive through that to get to work that morning, even though I felt bad for the people who had their day start out with an accident...

After, I thought of a comment a fellow urbanite co-worker said to me: "You'll see, you'll also fall in love with winter again!" No more shovelling snow before leaving for work in the morning, or before parking my car after a long drive coming home from work in the evening. No more sitting in traffic because of bad weather conditions. Winter in Canada really is beautiful when you don't have to fight against it.

Speaking of driving, I spent a whopping $35.33 in gas in October. And I still had some left over taking me through the first week of November. Mu…

To settle or not to settle?

That is the question. Whether tis better to settle for "good enough for now" or hold out for what we really want can sometimes be a very difficult choice.

For instance, there are certain elements I like having in my home to make it a comfortable environment for me. In my living room that would be a couch, chairs, an area rug, a coffee table, end-tables, a TV (but that’s mostly for my daughter), something to put the TV on, a couple of lamps and curtains. Those are my basic elements.

However, I’m somewhat particular in the style I want. This makes finding the items that will please me a little difficult. And often, when I do find something that really pleases me, it’s way out of my price range. So, I often settle. I get the nicest thing I can find that my money can buy.

Unfortunately, that’s led to some disappointments. I don’t particularly like the couch I chose, even though I went into many different stores until I found one that seemed like a good choice. It’s not as com…

Thirty-one things - Results

I did it. I got rid of my 31 items for the month of October, and another 9 items because I added face cloths, a cordless phone, a couch, a dining room table, four dining room chairs, and an area rug to the condo.
I definitely want to keep going with the purging. Like pretty much anyone living the minimalism lifestyle will tell you, you really never stop purging. Things have a way of sneaking into your life/environment. It's always good to go through everything regularly to reassess their usefulness to you. I'm not necessarily going to reassess everything daily, but anytime I come across something I forgot I had I'll definitely immediately reconsider keeping it.
Here are photos of the items I got rid of during the month. Each photo counts as one thing even though in some of them, there are multiple items (like the 4 measuring cups I counted as 1 item). Some of these items look a little weird. So for you curious folk, here is a list of the items in order of appearance. mug …

Questioning the reality of the world with which I'm presented

My daughter was watching The Truman Show on Saturday morning. As I was waiting to meet up with a friend for lunch, I watched a bit of the movie with her. For those of you unfamiliar with the film, it chronicles the life of a man (Truman) who is initially unaware that he is living in a constructed reality television show, broadcast around the clock to billions of people around the globe. He becomes suspicious of his perceived reality and embarks on a quest to discover the truth about his life.

At one point in the movie when things aren't going as smoothly because Truman is trying to discover the truth, the creator of the show, Cristof, is asked in an interview: "Why do you think Truman has never come close to discovering the true nature of his world, until now?" Cristof replies "We accept the reality of the world with which we're presented. It's as simple as that."

Huh!... That's it! That's why I've always been somewhat reluctant to make chan…

Do I really need to pay for that?

We live in a time where it seems we have so many things available for us to spend our money on. Things for the home. Things for our mind. Things for our physical wellbeing. Things to please others. Gadgets and trinkets and doodads you had no idea you "needed" until you saw it in the store or online for the first time. However, I think that in many cases, there's no "need" to spend money. 

I was contemplating this the other day when I got to the end of an e-book sample I downloaded to my e-reader. I had to decide if I wanted to buy the book to keep reading it. 

Things for the home
We all know that we live in a society of over consumption. At least that's true for us in North America. If your home isn't (or wasn't) filled to the brim with stuff, I'm sure you know many people that have overflowing homes. It's easy to get into the trap of buying another piece of furniture, especially if you feel you're running out of storage for all of your st…

Outside Sunday

Early Sunday morning October 18th, Dr. T and I went out hiking King Mountain Trail in Gatineau Park. It was a beautiful and fairly cold morning. Fall is my favourite season, so I wanted to make sure I got out there to really appreciate the spectacular natural show.

The trail starts out with a somewhat steep ascent. At least, it was steep for me. I was very quickly out of breath. During that first climb, I was in a panic thinking "what did I get myself into?!" But, being a little proud, there was no way I was going to back out, even though the thought did cross my mind.

Dr. T is used to this kind of stuff because he actually has to do it sometimes for work. AND he has to carry heavy equipment while doing so. I kind of felt bad for him that he had to slow his pace so that I could keep up. Of course, Dr. T, being the gentleman he is, didn't once let on that it bothered him at all. He was encouraging and patient. When the descent was steep, he'd help me out. When I nee…

Health challenge update - One

I've been sticking to my routine of walking on average 3 km almost every day. And on some days, Dr. T invited me for a walk and we more than made up for any days I missed. We've usually ended up walking 6.5 to 7.5 km an outing. Time flies and great distances can be covered when you're in good company!

As for the food, it took me a while to get a handle on it. I wasn't exactly compliant at the beginning. But for the past week, the old Whole 30 habits kicked in and, although I wasn't taking on a Whole 30 challenge, my meals have been mostly compliant.

On Tuesday night, when I was feeling a little lost, I re-read My first Whole 30 blog posts. It was good to be reminded of the struggles and accomplishments I had during that challenge. I was also reminded of how tasty many of my meals were.

Now I'm at a point when I need to add strength training. I haven't quite figured out what to do yet. It will be body-weight exercises for sure, but I don't know what an…

Urbanite chronicles - one

I've been living downtown for 25 days now. This is day number 26. Being in this condo has been taking some getting use to. I keep wavering between being happy with my choice, to regretting it. Maybe I was too hasty in my choice of location. But then being so close to work is pretty awesome! And being close to Chinatown is kind of nice. But I think there might be neighbourhoods we'd enjoy more. Like I've mentioned before, I just have to stay here for a year. After that, I'm free to move. And I just might...

The weekend of October 3rd and 4th was the first weekend in a long while where I didn't have anything planned. It felt a little odd. My daughter Cat and I went kitchen table shopping on Saturday. We walked along hipster-lined Wellington street in Hintonburg. One of the stores was filled with the kind of used furniture I absolutely love! But everything was very expensive. One of the kitchen tables I wanted was over $1300 and the chairs were $300 each. I really can…

Thirty-one things

Remember how I said I wanted to get rid of more things? Well I'm gonna! I've decided to do a controlled decluttering during the month of October. I will get rid of one thing a day. At the end of the month, my condo will be 31 things lighter.

I've gotten rid of many, many, things over the past few months. So I think that it might be a little tougher for me to come up with 31 things. But I will!

However, I want to buy a few new (old) things for the condo. Like a dining room table (bought), dining room chairs, a coffee table, a used end table (maybe), a used cabinet for the dining room (maybe), a rug for the living room and one for the dining room (maybe), a comfortable chair for extra seating in the living room.

So to balance things out, I will get rid of something for everything I buy. Obviously, it most likely won't be equivalent. For instance, my new couch was just delivered on Saturday. I got rid of a plastic pitcher to compensate. It's obviously not of the sa…

Embarking on a new health challenge

I felt that I did well with my first Whole 30. Unfortunately, I've gained the weight back (and a little more) and I've let go of many of the good habits I had developed. Stress definitely got to me. But before the year is over, I want to take back control. Now that I've moved, my stress level should go down a little. It's time to get back to taking better care of myself. So I want to take on a new fitness challenge.

I've always wanted to take a hike! I mean... go on a hike. :) I was discussing this with Dr. T. He was also looking for a new fitness challenge. So I asked him if he'd be willing to go on a hiking trip with me next year at the end of summer/beginning of fall. I think he'd be a good hiking partner. He seems outdoorsy, he's handy, he knows nature and stuff (since he's a professional fishies rescuer), and he's good company.

I realize that a year is a long time in advance to make plans with someone. A lot can happen in a year. However, …

How strange

How strange it is to have what I wanted. I've been living downtown now for two weeks. It's been just my daughter Cat and I since September 26th. As I write this, I'm sitting in the living room on a single-sized mattress that's functioning as our couch until our new couch gets delivered. The TV is off, and the only noise is the very loud heating and cooling unit.

My life before downtown
Suburban living. Having to drive everywhere to get anything or to get to anywhere. A lot of TV watching because it was pretty much always on. I had books to read. I had things to write. I had music to listen to. I had ukuleles to play. I had things to draw, paint, sew, knit or crochet. I hardly ever did any of those things. How could I? TV was on!

My life now
The TV is off most of the time. There's nothing that I'd really want to watch. Also, I don't have cable anymore. So unless it's online and accessible legally, I can't watch it. That's fine because there wasn&#…

Short and sweet

This is going to be a very short post. The past week has been so busy with my move and my mom's move. I'm too tired to write an adequate post, but I didn't want to break my promise. I promised to post every Monday and Friday and I want to stick to that commitment. However, being so preoccupied with moving has left me a little uninspired.

A few highlights and thoughts from the past weekend.
I have way more things than I thought I did, even though I got rid of so much!My mom has so much more stuff than me. I wonder if living with me while I was starting off on my minimalist journey will have an impact on her and she'll get rid of some of her excess?The moving company I hired was so much better than the one my mom hired. She said she'll go with the one I chose the next time she moves. The quality of the service was very different.I'm not very good at moving. I think I'm more ready than I actually am. It's like I don't see it. I really hope I can get a h…

Mini freakout

So this past weekend I freaked out a little. All of the little "issues" that one would only notice after moving into a new place were getting to me. I was tired. I was stressed. I was emotional. I was anxious.

Saturday night I had a serious moment of panic when I thought that maybe I had made a mistake with my decision to move into this condo. Not about moving downtown. I'm still quite excited and happy about that decision. But about moving into this particular unit.

I didn't really want to bring my anxiety to the attention of my mother and daughter. I felt like I had to hide it so as not to cause them anxiety. But I still had to talk to someone about it. Luckily, I had friends to discuss my concerns with. They were patient with me. They listened to (or read) what I had to say (or text), and were able to reassure me and calm me down. I'm very grateful to know such nice people! They're there to listen and lend a helping hand. I wasn't expecting such supp…

Teaching simple to Cat

I never really taught my daughter, Cat, how to clean and organize. For some strange reason that I haven't figured out yet, I much prefer cleaning when I'm at home alone. So it's not like she's seen me in action all that much. And when it came to her room, at a young age she decided that she didn't want me in there helping her out. So all I could really do was tell her "go clean your room" without much more direction than that.

Cat has her challenges when it comes to staying organized, which I think have something to do with her ADHD. And let's not forget that she's a teenager. AND, like I said, I've never really taught her how.

I was really happy when she finally let me help her to prepare for the move. I thought this would be a good time to teach her everything I've learned on minimalism over the past months. I knew I had to stay calm no matter what I'd find in her room, otherwise she'd get upset and I'd be kicked out.

I went…

The first night in the condo

Well, we've spent our first night in the condo. The last days before the move were busy. I was exhausted, which is kind of a good thing since I fell asleep pretty much as soon as my head hit the pillow. I didn't have my usual first night in a new place anxieties. Well, I did feel them, but for about 2 minutes and then I was sleeping. 

Friday - 6 days before the move
I had taken the afternoon off to go work at the condo, instead I ended up taking my daughter, Cat, to the emergency clinic in the afternoon. She sprained her ankle at school.

Saturday - 5 days before the move
I tried painting the ceilings at the condo. Unfortunately it didn't work out. The popcorn ceilings were flaking off as I was painting. So I decided to leave them as is (I only did the ceiling in Cat's bedroom closet). I saw the potential mess as too much for me to deal with right now. Instead I shifted my focus to installing the curtain rods. That didn't go as planned either. I was getting frustrate…