Friday, 28 October 2016

How to be a minimalist - Part one

Sometimes, people ask me how to be a minimalist. They wonder if minimalism is about being frugal, or protecting the environment, or design. My answer is: it can be.

When I started streamlining in one aspect of my life, the relief and wellbeing I felt from those actions propelled me into tackling other aspects.

At the end of the day, every minimalist’s environment will look different. What’s beautiful or useful to you may be unnecessary clutter to me. There’s no absolute right way to be a minimalist. As long as you remove what doesn’t fit in your life and you’re content with your environment and way of life, you’re winning at minimalism.

I don’t particularly like writing specific “how to” articles. And if you search online, I’m sure you’ll find a plethora of articles discussing this topic. So who am I to give you advice?

However, I’ve been living it. So I can tell you about what’s been working for me.

At first, I was going to put everything in one article. But as I was writing, I realized that it might be better to separate it into parts. I’m not quite sure how many yet, but I’m eager to get going. So here’s part one.

I’ll tell you about the things that I’ve done that you can do too, if your goal is to get onto your own journey to simplicity. It’s going to get messy and it might look like chaos at first. But keep going. I promise the results are worth it.

Before you even lift a finger; dream!

What does your perfect life look like? Are you travelling once or twice a year? Do you have weekly dinner parties? Are you creating art? Are you reading a book a month? Do you have monthly movie marathons? Are you living in an apartment, house, trailer, or something else? Or are you a nomad constantly on the road? Do you have tons of kids? Do you live on a farm? Are you involved in your community? Do you have any pets? What’s your ideal schedule like? Do you exercise?

Once you’ve figured it out, write it down. Write as much detail as you can and want, and then keep it close by. Hang it somewhere you pass by often, like the bathroom mirror or the refrigerator. Read it when you pass by.

I’ve written about this before. I found that going through this exercise helped me see what I wanted. But the best part is that it also helped me realize what I already had.

I think it’s actually a good idea to go through this exercise often. Maybe once a year would be a good. You can see if you’re on track and if you still want the same things. We grow and evolve over time. What seemed like the perfect life last year may not be that great of an idea this year. Maybe you lived through a major life event that changed everything, of a few things.

So if you’ve never done this, I highly recommend it. If you have done it, do it again, for funzies!

Tune in next week for part two!

Friday, 21 October 2016


"Packing and moving is overwhelming." I texted Mr. Romantic one late August Sunday morning as I was alone at the condo looking over my stuff. Even though I've gotten rid of many, many, things over the past year and a half, I still have stuff. And that stuff needed to be moved out of the condo.
Now that all of that stuff has been moved, Mr. Romantic and I are working on finding a place for whatever I moved into our home. Two fully functioning households need to be combined. So far, he’s been excellent in making room for me in our home, even if that means getting rid of some of his stuff.
We’ve been deciding together whose stuff to keep. For example, some of my small appliances (like my food processor and blender) were better quality than the ones he had, so we kept mine. But most of his pots and pans were much better quality than mine, so we kept his. However, I did supplement with a few of mine when he didn't already have something equivalent that I enjoy using.
Whatever we’ve been getting rid of, we’ve brought to charity. Boxes and boxes of stuff have already been donated. I'm sure we’ll have more to give since we’re still working on it. And hopefully things will be settled sooner rather than later.
What?! It’s been over a month since you’ve moved and you’re still working on it?! What’s taking you so long?
Gee you’re a little nosy and excited aren’t you? J
Well, you see, we decided to live these past few months. Outings and camping and trips were priorities for us. Yes, I still had to take care of having my stuff moved and put away, but that wasn’t our main focus.
Now as we’re trying to figure out where everything will go, I realize that there’s still a lot more purging I (we) could do.
I have plans. Of course you do! I have plans to go through all of my stuff again as I’ve done in the past. Things have a tendency to creep back into my environment. Moments of weakness or stress or inattention and BAM! Stuff!
Where are you going to start? The bedroom, I think. This weekend I’ll go through my vanity again to make sure I use whatever I’ve kept. If not, out it goes. Then my closet. I’ve recently bought new clothes that are more suited to my new job, but I haven’t accounted for that. So I have to make room and get rid of the unnecessary, worn out and unloved.
This minimalist lifestyle is and will always be a work in progress. Just like with any good habit, you need to maintain it to get the results you’re striving for.

Friday, 14 October 2016

City to the burbs

I had the chance to live in downtown Ottawa for almost a year. I had fantasized about doing so when I was a teenager in the 90s wandering around downtown to temporarily escape, even if just for the day, my suburban home where I lived with my parents and my little sister.

It seemed to me that living downtown would be THE life. I mean, come on… all the downtown cafés and bars and boutiques and museums and people. I had this romantic idea in my head of living in an old apartment building with high ceilings, charming creaky wood floors and thick baseboards. I would write and paint and draw and have cool artistic and eccentric friends drop by on a whim.

Fast forward to 2015-2016. I finally got my chance to live downtown, but in an old 80s condo that has seen better days. The commute to my government job was fantastic – a mere 5-minute walk. But the ceilings were regular height. The floors were a combination of ugly white tiles and ordinary laminate. I wrote on my laptop in my bed. I didn’t paint or draw. There were no cool artistic and eccentric friends dropping by on a whim (I probably wouldn’t have really enjoyed that). The cafés and boutiques I loved in the 90s no longer exist. I’m now a 42-year-old introvert who prefers to spend time alone, with my daughter or with Mr. Romantic.

There are things I liked about living downtown. I liked to be within walking distance from coffee shops, restaurants, museums, and interesting city architecture. Whenever I would feel lonely or bored, all I had to do is step outside and start wandering a little. Within minutes the loneliness or boredom dissipated.

However, there were things I didn’t like about living downtown, such as the constant rumblings of the city. I never felt at peace. There was always this feeling of mild inner disruption. Perhaps I was more sensitive to it because I grew up in a quiet suburb near rapids where the only rumblings were the occasional lawnmower during the day, kids playing, birds chirping or the sound of the rapids carried into the open window by the summer night air.

I’ve now moved in with Mr. Romantic in his suburban Kanata town home. The quiet neighbourhood reminds me a little of where I grew up. The only immediate backyard neighbours are chirping birds and the occasional wandering deer. We’re a 5-minute walk away from a beautiful Greenbelt path. As soon as we get onto that path, I feel calm. I've also changed jobs. I now work further east and live further west. Perhaps a long commute is just what I'm destined for. Woe is me!

A few things contributed to making the move from the city back to the burbs so easy, despite the long commute to work. First, obviously, falling in love. I get to live with Mr. Romantic. Second, I think is the trip I took to New York City with Mr. Romantic back in March. When I got back home after that trip, Ottawa seemed so small to me. Leaving it behind wasn't a big deal anymore.

I’m glad I got to experience living in downtown Ottawa. I might do it again someday, but most likely in another part of town. For the time being, I’m glad to be back in a place closer to nature, where I feel more at peace, living with the man I love.

Living downtown was a short lovely little adventure. Now on to my next adventure – the Kanata burbs.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Doing a second round of Whole30... again - final report

As promised, here is my final report to you on this experience.

"But wait, Dominique. This can't be a report on the end of your Whole30... it hasn't even been 30 days yet!"

You're right. I chose to end the Whole30 before the day 22 supper.

Yep. With only 8 days to go, I decided to stop. It was just too much. I started a new job on Monday (day 22). Although it was a nice first day, I underestimated the effect that the disruption in my routine would have on me. I felt exhausted, stressed, overwhelmed. Close to breaking. So I gave myself a break before I would break.

Mr. Romantic and I had supper at a restaurant with the kids after I was able to convince him that I really was OK with my decision. And I am. Really.

I still feel like I benefited from this Whole21.66. The pain in my butt is gone and I lost 10.2 lbs. But more importantly, for breakfast and lunch on what would have been day 23, I made less than ideal food choices. All that did was make me crave a healthier supper. So I ate a much healthier supper. And the next day I followed up with a Whole30 compliant breakfast and what would have been a compliant lunch if it wasn't for my hamburger bun.

So I think what this attempt at Whole30 did for me is remind me how tasty healthy foods are. And the healthier you eat, the better healthy foods taste because your taste buds are not numbed by the super processed foods full of sugar, salt and terrible fats.

Also, stopping before it was over and then eating compliant meals after that break showed me that it is possible for me to eat mostly compliant and enjoy it, but I don't have to be perfect.

My plan going forward is to have a mostly paleo diet. I feel I can do that now in a way I didn't believe I could before.