Friday, 31 July 2015

Mom, I broke a plate...

The other day, my daughter timidly informed me that she had broken a plate while preparing lunch. "I'm so sorry mom! I broke a plate, but I cleaned up everything." "Are you hurt!?" I exclaimed. "No, I just got a little cut." "Good! Then don't worry about it." I replied calmly.

In the past, I may have been a little annoyed at broken dishes. I wouldn't have made a big deal of it, it's just a plate. But I would've probably been annoyed.

My first thought after confirming that my daughter wasn't hurt was "Woohoo! One less thing I'll need to pack up for when we move!" It was an excuse to easily get rid of another item in my home. It was broken. Not that I need an excuse. Desiring a clutter-free home is a good enough reason. This was just unexpected help. No guilt at all in getting rid of a broken plate.

The same kind of feeling came over me when I had to throw away my black jean capris a few weeks ago. They were really comfortable. I liked wearing them, even though they were starting to look a little worn. However, when I put them on the last time, I noticed major discolouration. I think it may have happened in the last wash when I was trying to remove a stain. I was disappointed. Regardless, I immediately took them off and threw them away. They can be replaced. I don't need to hold on to them even though they were one of my favourite items of clothing.

See... freedom! Once you start seeing things as only things, it's no big deal. You can easily let go when you need to. Sure, it might be a little annoying or disappointing. But it's still no big deal.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Preparing for the move - part 1

This move is going to be a little more involved than any of my previous ones because we have to coordinate my move and my mother's move. We're not sure yet if her new place will be ready by mid-September or October 1st. It's still under construction. And as I've mentioned, I've found a place that I've agreed to rent as of September 1st. I didn't want to miss out on it.

What I've done so far
On Wednesday, I notified my current landlord. I will be paying rent for both places for the month of September. Although this is a little hard on the bank account, it definitely makes for a less stressful move. I'll have 30 days to complete the transition.

I've also booked the moving company for September 17th. I got an estimate that it should take 2 guys 4.5 hours maximum to move my things. I'm planning on making sure that it'll be less than that.

I'm so glad I started decluttering even when moving was just a far away fantasy plan. Once I'd made my decision to become a minimalist, I was then inspired to take action after reading Miss Minimalist and The Minimalists. Their books got the ball rolling. Then when I took on The Minimalists' 30-day minimalism challenge, I was able to get rid of so many more things!

After that I applied the KonMari method and I was able to be even more ruthless with what I decided to let go of! How? By considering what I truly wanted to keep instead of what I wanted to let go of. It's a little shift in thought, but it makes a big difference.

I recommend the 30-day minimalism challenge and the KonMari method to anyone, whether you're planning on moving or not. It's good to reassess what you own and get rid of the excess stuff that manages to creep in.

So with those two exercises under my belt, I'm sure that I can rid myself of more things before the move. Those things that managed to slip under the radar during my first decluttering rounds.

Saturday - 55 days before the move
I ordered a sofa-bed. It should be ready by the time I move. I'm obviously going to have it delivered directly to the new place.

I also started working on repairing the mid-century modern dressers I have in the basement. They need a little refurbishing. I need to change out all of the drawer bottoms on one of them and fix a pull and a latch on the other. I plan on using them in my bedroom. I want to make sure they're in good condition before the move. Otherwise, I'd get rid of them.

And I boxed up the video games and their consoles, and my daughter's father picked up a couple of big Cerwin Vega speaker pairs I had gathering dust in the basement.

Sunday - 54 days before the move
My mom and I cleaned out the garage. It was mostly her stuff that we brought over last minute on the last day she still had her old apartment. Before starting I asked her "do you really want to pay to have those things moved to your new apartment?" I'm happy to report that she got rid of most of it!

I brought shovels and a tile-saw over to my brother-in-law. I'm sure he'll be able to use them. I surely don't need them anymore!

I went through my kitchen cabinets and got rid of many of my plastic containers. Everything that was stained or damaged - gone.

In defence of the new sofa-bed
My friend Paul thinks that getting rid of the couch I currently have and buying a new one is not very minimalist of me. I don't think it's relevant at all. I don't believe that minimalism equals suffering or deprivation. Not that my current couch is making me suffer. I bought it second-hand from my parents. I never really liked it, but I needed a new one at the time and my parents wanted to get rid of it because it didn't fit their new apartment - I was in a house. It's a big couch that's not my style at all. I made due with it for about 5 years.

A sofa-bed will be practical. Since we'll be living in a 2-bedroom apartment, having a sofa-bed will give me that extra sleeping space I need for when I have over-night guests, like my adorable 8-year-old nephew who loves sleeping over at tante Dodo's.

I don't feel the need to justify my decision. It's my decision. I'm explaining it because I want people who are not familiar with minimalism to get a better understanding.

I think that the point of minimalism is owning just what you need and love and not letting your things own you. It's about regularly evaluating your possessions and figuring out if they still serve you. Minimalism looks different for different people. I also think that if you can get to a point where things are just things, I believe that it'll make life that much easier. If anything were to happen where you end up losing all of your belongings, it wouldn't be AS devastating. You'd just learn to live without or replace what you can and want.

So there you have it. I think it was a productive weekend and I feel that I'm on track for a smooth move.

Friday, 24 July 2015

I'm going to be an urbanite

My current landlord emailed me at the end of May asking what my plans were since he had only one rent check left. I was planning on moving to a smaller place in the same area where we currently live. When I got his message, it made me a little anxious. I thought I'd be excited about moving soon. Instead I was nervous. I really hate moving. Always have. But maybe that's because I've always had so many things to move, which made it all that much more stressful.

A fantastic opportunity came up. The man I rent my parking spot from for work has a condo for rent in that building. So, I'm going for it! I signed the lease! I'm going to be an urbanite! We will be moving there mid September. I will have a 5-minute walk commute to work (which is already part of my commute). I'll be within walking distance of that café I wrote about in a previous essay.

This is so exciting! For years I've wasted so much time stuck in traffic. No more daily traffic for me! Everything I need will be within walking distance. Food, entertainment, culture, work. Walking everywhere will also give me the exercise I've been lacking.

I'll be moving from a home that's approximately 1700 square feet to a condo that's about 875 square feet. I have mixed feelings of nervousness and excitement. My mother came to visit the place with me. According to her, it's very small. In my opinion, it's more than enough room for my daughter and I. But I must admit that my mom's concerns had me questioning my own feelings about the place. Is it a good move? Will we be comfortable? Will we be happy in a smaller space?

I have about a month and a half to prepare for the move. I'm so happy I started my journey to simplicity at the beginning of the year! I hope the work I've done will make this moving experience the best I've ever had!

As I was thinking about preparing for the move, I realized that it's basically the contents of my room, of my daughter's room, and of the kitchen and bathroom. I sold my dining room and living room furniture. As for the rest of my belongings, I'll be packing up only what I really want to keep and bring. The rest will either be donated or tossed.

I grew up in a small neighbourhood. I liked it as a child. I had many friends on our street. But as a teen and then as an adult, I never really liked the suburbs. It doesn't seem to fit me or the lifestyle I want. I've always chosen the suburbs because that's just what my family chose. It didn't really occur to me that I could choose something else. I mean it did... but it didn't. I just never questioned it. However, I've been questioning many things lately and it just so happens that this suburban lifestyle is one of them.

This is all so strange to me! It's like I finally realize that I have a choice. Actually, I have many choices. For years I've been somewhat living on auto-pilot making decisions without considering all of the options. I'm still not considering them all, but I'm definitely open to other options that I would've never truly considered before.

So moving downtown might be the right fit. I think the advantages for both my daughter and I outweigh any moving anxiety we might experience. Once we're settled into our new place, I'm sure we'll be happy with our decision. And if it turns out that I'm wrong, we can just move again.

Monday, 20 July 2015

The gift of solitude

This past weekend, I gave myself the gift of solitude. It's a rare occurrence for me lately. There was a time when I would get a weekend to myself here and there. It would happen often enough that it even made me feel lonely sometimes. Especially in the first few years after my relationship with my daughter's father ended. But ever since my mom moved in and now that my daughter rarely goes to visit her dad, I don't often get the chance to be alone. I usually have one or both of them with me.

This weekend was different. My mom stayed at my sister's house and my daughter stayed at a friend's house. So I had the weekend all to myself. Normally, I would've tried to make plans. I would've had a friend or a date come over. Or I would've gone out on a date or with a friend. But not this past weekend. This past weekend was all about solitude.

I've been letting stress get the better of me. I've been neglecting my health. Many things have happened. Joys. Pains. Happy surprises. Disappointments. And a whole lotta stress! All this keeping up with life has worn me out a little and I needed a break from all of it. So I gave it to myself.

I was happy to let myself off the hook. I didn't want to put any pressure on myself to get a lot of life into my weekend. I didn't want to make myself busy just for the sake of being busy. I just let myself be. I don't always have to be achieving.

What did I do with all of this solitude? I watched movies. I wrote. I went couch shopping. I thought. I rested. I napped on the couch. I tended to my back yard. My colleague and friend Paul lent me his weed trimmer on condition that I mention him in my blog. He said that by lending me the trimmer he's helping me be a minimalist. Yes you are Paul! :)

I was still connected though. I talked on the phone with my awesome friend Christy, I texted and I emailed. I may even have made a freelance translation business deal...

So there you have it. A weekend alone on purpose. Alone but not lonely. I highly recommend giving yourself the gift of solitude once in a while! Who knows, by slowing life down a little, something wonderful might happen...

Friday, 17 July 2015

The mysterious writer

I decided to try something different. After work on Monday, I went to a nearby café for a lemon iced black tea, a chocolate quinoa cake and a little writing. Old school writing with a mechanical pencil and a note book. It's where I composed this post.

I work downtown Ottawa within walking distance to many pubs, restaurants and cafés. I normally rush home after my work day is done. I rarely take advantage of my work's geographical location. I want to, however for some reason it usually remains a fantasy rather than a reality. So I decided to make it a reality. It's a small thing, but it makes a difference. It changes up the routine a little.

There's a bus stop right beside the café where many government workers gather with a stern look on their face to wait for the bus back home to the east end. This part of downtown almost looks like a ghost town when all of the government workers have gone home for the day.

Sitting by the window. Looking outside. Pretty dresses. Hipsters. Handsome well-dressed men. Inside. Chill music. Bearded hotty behind the counter. Friendly service.

Fatigue from a weekend of bad sleeping caught up to me. I stared blankly out the window at the scenery for many minutes. "OK, time to pack up and head on home."

I liked this little spontaneous trip to the café after work. It might even become routine. One of The Minimalists says he doesn't have internet at home even though he runs a popular website and an online writing course. He does it all from free public Wi-Fi. I like that idea. If it wasn't for my teen daughter, I too might get rid of my internet. I think that there's something somewhat romantic about sitting in a café or pub, nursing a drink, observing people and writing.

Ah! The inspired mysterious writer!

Monday, 13 July 2015

I haven't bought soap since 2014

I haven't bought soap since 2014. Don't worry, I've still been washing. When I was decluttering my bathroom at the beginning of 2015, I found soap. A lot of soap! These are just the body washes.

I also have soap bars. And I found another bottle of body wash in another part of the house after I took this photo.

I've rarely finished my products. I usually tire of what I have and buy new products before using it up. The old stuff sits around until I get annoyed with moving it out of the way and I end up throwing it out. It's wasteful financially and it's bad for the environment.

This year (and from now on), because I've decided to become a minimalist, that's just not an option. I'm not buying new products until I get to the end of the ones I have. I've gotten to the end of a shampoo bottle the other day. I also got to the end of a cleaning product. Used up to the last drop. I know it sounds silly and maybe a little sad, but it made me happy.

I don't think there's a big lesson in this post. I'm just sharing a little of the progress I've made with minimalism. Bringing it back to basics. I'm still working towards minimalism every day, one body wash bottle at a time. It's a choice. Some days choosing minimalism is easy and I don't even really think about it. Other days, I have to make an effort.

But maybe there is a lesson... Maybe the reason I wasn't getting to the end of a body wash bottle had something to do with being unhappy with certain aspects of my life. Maybe I was fooling myself into thinking that if I get that new body wash (or insert whatever other thing here) that I'd finally be a little happier with my circumstances instead of taking real action to improve what I'm really unhappy with. Lately, I've been taking all sorts of action and reflecting on it all. Maybe that's why I don't look to body wash to make me happy anymore. Huh! Look at that... a lesson.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

What came first: minimalism or authenticity?

I'm awkward. I make mistakes. I say too much. Sometimes I don't say enough. I get moody, but I don't take it out on others. I get sad, but I don't take it out on others. I worry. I hope. I get excited. I'm passionate. I'm loving. I'm strong. I'm fragile. I give in. I give up. I get up and try again. I'm curious. I'm intelligent. I have so much yet to learn. I trust - sometimes too quickly. Sometimes I don't trust enough. I've lied. I'm usually honest, even when it's not to my advantage. I'm quirky. I'm sincere. I'm eager. I'm timid. I over-think. I'm insightful. I'm authentically me.

What does this have to do with minimalism and my journey to simplicity? Everything!

Letting go of stuff, material or immaterial, forces you to face things. Face your fears, insecurities, hopes, disappointments, dreams, nightmares or whatever else that made you hold on to all of it for so long.

I used to be embarrassed about certain aspects of my personality. I've tried before to suppress some of it to fit in, to be accepted, to please, to be wanted. Sometimes, I suppose I still do to some extent. But the funny thing is, when I let go and I'm really myself, the response I get from others is actually so much better. I find that I am becoming more and more accepting of who I am - warts and all. I wish I could have come to this realisation much sooner in life. But what's happened in the past can't be changed. It can be accepted and forgiven. And because I'm usually harder on myself than on others, it's mostly about being accepting and forgiving of myself.

So what if sometimes I'm a goof and I mess up. So what if I fall. So what if someone makes fun of me for putting myself out there so much. I'm quirky and I know it. The people who love me, love me. They know me. I've shown them me. The people who don't love me probably never will no matter what I do. I've still shown them me. What else can I do, I'm authentically me.

Accepting and letting go of things material and immaterial has truly been helping me live a simpler life. Not necessarily easier, but simpler. It's interesting how letting go of the stuff has helped me become more authentic. Or was becoming more authentic the reason I was able to let go of all the stuff?...

Sunday, 5 July 2015

I didn't even Instagram it!

I recently went on a date. We met downtown Ottawa right after work at 5 pm on a beautiful Friday evening. We had time to kill before our dinner reservation and I needed to re-center myself after rushing over from work in traffic, so we went for a walk.

I had never been up to the Astrolabe, so that's where we went. The sun was gloriously shining and the sky was a perfect blue with a few fluffy white clouds here and there. Up at the Astrolabe, the noise of the city dulled a little. The view was picturesque. In fact, I wanted to take out my cell phone to take pictures to post on my Instagram account. But I didn't. I decided to just be in the moment with this man and this beautiful scenery. As we talked, I breathed deeply and took in the view. Peace finally came over me. I was ready to really be in the moment with him.

We made our way back down to the market. There was still time before our dinner reservation, so we went to sit in a courtyard not far away from the restaurant. The holes in the old stone wall from one of the buildings surrounding the courtyard was home to many birds chirping away and flying around. This too was a photo-worthy scene. But the cell phone remained in my purse.

After supper, we weren't ready to part ways yet. We were enjoying each other's company. So we decided to keep walking around the city. We walk around parliament hill. We stopped for a little while to look over the river. This too was another photo opportunity. The cell phone remained tucked away in my purse. After a little while we continued on our walk around the city.

The whole evening was like this - photo-worthy moment after photo-worthy moment. It was a gorgeous evening with perfect weather and good company. The city seemed extremely beautiful to me! I would have liked to have had photos to share with you to show you all of the lovely sights I witnessed, but I don't. I like Instagram. I post often enough. However, I didn't want to ruin the evening with social media. I wanted to be present. To be in the moment with this interesting man walking around our beautiful city on a gorgeous evening.

I wanted to take photos not only because of the obvious beauty of the scenery, but because I wanted to hold on to the moment. I wanted to hold on to this moment of absolute contentment. But I think not being able to hold on to a moment is actually, ironically, part of what makes it so worthy of being held on to. All of these moments help shape us. Even though we might forget them eventually, they're still a part of us. It's ok to enjoy them and let them pass.

Deciding to be present was a good decision. It was a perfect evening!

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Fear - I ain't afraid of you!

Fear is a powerful feeling. You might even let it alter your behaviour.

Fear might make you hold on to your clutter because you think you might need it later. You might need that tile-saw in case you ever install a kitchen back splash. You might actually get back into rollerblading but if you give up your roller-blades you'll never be able to do it ever again because these are the last pair of roller-blades on earth! You might be afraid that you'll gain (or lose) weight and you'll have nothing to wear and will want to put on that shirt that's been sitting in the back of your closet for years even if you never liked wearing it when it fit you.

Fear might keep you in the wrong relationship. You might stay in a bad relationship that's beyond repair for fear of the unknown. Afraid of loneliness. Afraid of never finding anyone better for you. Afraid of hurting someone else. Afraid of hurting yourself. Afraid of making the wrong choice.

Fear can also keep you from getting into the right relationship. You might be afraid of losing yourself if you commit to this person. You might be afraid of missing out on someone better for you. You might be afraid of hurting the other person. You might be afraid the other person will hurt you. You might be afraid that the relationship won't live up to your expectations.

Fear might make you stay in the soul crushing job you hate so much. You might be afraid of not being able to make ends meet. Of not being skilled enough to go for the job you really want. You might even be afraid of succeeding because if you're successful how will you ever be able to justify to yourself putting off following your dream for so long?

Believe me, I know what I'm talking about when it comes to facing fears. I'm the kind of person that feels awkward in new situations. I'm afraid of the unknown. I've let fear get in my way.

For example, I've held on to clutter for fear of need. I've held on to bad relationships. I also feel intimidated going anywhere new be it a bar, a restaurant, a museum, it doesn't matter. And I feel awkward meeting new people. Like when dating, I'm afraid that the conversation won't flow, as if that would be the end of the world. And with dating, well there's the fear of heartbreak. And God knows I've had my share of those!

But I've been doing it. I've been facing my fears. I've let go of most of my clutter and I haven't missed anything yet. Actually, the more I give away, the more I want to give away. I've also been having all sorts of new experiences and I've been meeting some interesting people. What I've realized is that what I'm afraid of isn't actually that scary. Sure I've had awkward moments, but I've survived them all. I've also had some wonderful experiences. I've learned about myself with every new experience - good or bad.

So what if you face that fear and make the move you know deep down you should be making? The move that that little voice inside you has been yelling at you to make.

Maybe you let go of all the stuff you've been holding on to just in case you might need it some day and you experience peace in your clutter-free home.

Maybe leaving that bad relationship that's beyond repair helps you reconnect with yourself and you can finally live the life you've been wanting to live.

Maybe making that commitment to that great person helps you grow in ways you've never imagined and what you bring to the relationship helps the other person grow in ways he or she has never imagined.

Maybe you pursue your dream job and now that you're doing what you love, you don't ever feel the need to take a vacation.

Fear - don't be afraid of it. Stare it down. Take the chance. Make the move! Get rid of the clutter and enjoy a well-organized home that brings you peace! Get out of that bad relationship and learn to love yourself! Commit to that great person and open yourself up to all the wonderful things that come with a good relationship! Go for that dream job and be excited about going to work!

This doesn't mean that we should be careless and jump without thinking. And I'm not saying that facing our fears will be easy, but most great things don't come from easy. What I am saying is that my hope for you, for us, is that we won't let fear prevent us from living life!