Mindfulness, Minimalism

The biggest minimalist challenge I’ve undertaken

For more regular readers of my blog you’ll know I’ve decluttered and rid myself of immense amounts of stuff from the bits of paper and detritus that fill our drawers to more extreme items like our TV. We’ve got a way to go in our guest bedroom where it’s the antidote to minimalism right now but once we’ve completed that, there will be very little left in our home that doesn’t serve us or bring us joy.

There is one area though that I have struggled with over the last two years and one I’ve never resolved and I’ve decided now is the time to address it. My wardrobe.

I’ve tried everything from following the fabulous Unfancy’s 37 piece capsule to trying a personal uniform to bulk buying and now I’ve got to the point now where I buy one or two things at least every month if not more. Yet I still went into my rack of clothes this weekend and declared ‘I have nothing to wear’. This is ridiculous. Whilst I don’t have that many clothes anymore I probably have enough to wear for at least a month or two without washing anything. I cannot get past this and it’s debilitating me. It’s causing me stress because I can’t resolve it, financially it holds me back as I try more and more different styles and items. So I have decided it’s time for a different tack and one which is very scary for me – a clothes buying ban for 6 months using mindfulness. By using mindfulness I feel I can identify the feelings I connect with clothes buying, and the anxiety that I am just not getting my outfits right and work towards loosening my grip on the belief that buying clothes is going to make me happy.

There are a couple of things I know I need – a new winter coat for dark early mornings ( I haven’t bought one for a few years and the one I have is coming apart at the seams -literally)

A navy T-Shirt dress which I have been looking for, for months, and cannot find

Possibly a pair of gloves- I haven’t seen any in my winter stuff as yet.

These are my ‘allowed’ purchases over the next six months. Other than that I am going to go cold turkey. During this time I am going to journal and see how it feels. I can tell you now I feel fear. How will I cope with no new clothes? What is my wardrobe going to look like? I can answer this one…very much the same as it does now. I have enough cardigans and jumpers to get me through the winter. I know all about layering so I can stick a vest under my clothes. I am going to have to delete all email newsletters from retail stores tempting me like a magpie with the funky prints and jewel bright colours. Why would I do this? Because as I am I am using a scattergun approach to buying and wearing, and it still doesn’t bring me happiness and I can sense there’s something much deeper to this persistent buying of clothes. That I am linking it to a sense of identity in some way and tying my internal happiness up with an external gratification that I am just not getting anyway. I’m looking forward to spending the next six months identifying and connecting more with this. Mostly anyway. Part of me is actually terrified at the thought of not buying anything.

So that’s it. Aside from the parka, and possibly a navy dress if it crosses my horizon I am going to live with what I have and explore what that feels like. I am planning to adapt a couple of the items I have to make them into something slightly different. I’ll report back each month, and if anyone identifies with these feelings and is brave enough to join me, let’s link up and report back together.

 

Mindfulness, Minimalism

A square peg in a round hole; When you don’t fit in anywhere

 For readers of my last blog, you will know we recently moved to the country, and are finding our feet. This has brought up the realisation for me (and my wife but as she isn’t writing this blog we shall just talk about me) that I am a square peg in a round hole.

In our village there are lots of expensive houses with lots of bedrooms and big gardens. This is not including our house which is pretty small and one of the cheapest in the village. I could launch into a whole explanation of why we chose a smaller house than we could afford a mortgage for, but those of you reading this who are either minimalists or frugalists, you will get it, so I won’t waste precious writing space. However we find ourselves living cheek by jowl with lots of wealthy people who speak as if they have plums in their mouth and drive very big cars and wear the sort of country outerwear that would cost my whole month’s salary.

It would be a lie to say everyone in the village is like this, but it got me thinking. We don’t fit in (yet – as we won’t be beaten, we will make it our home) but actually I’ve never felt like I’ve fitted in, and is that actually a bad thing?

I’ve always been pretty overweight, I’ve always wanted my hair short, and lately it’s been really short. I came out as a lesbian at 34. I don’t have a TV. I tend to mix far too many patterns together on any outfit I wear. I don’t read newspapers, and I don’t follow popular culture although I do sometimes have a guilty pleasure of seeing what all the trashy celebs are up to on Facebook. It’s fair to say I am not the norm, and I have often found I don’t fit in. And actually that’s OK. I like not watching TV. I prefer not knowing what is happening in the news, because it’s all really miserable anyway and so it doesn’t make my life any better. I don’t need to know who’s broken up with who in the world of celebrity, or which Z-lister has had surgery when they clearly need therapy. Yeah I could probably take one less pattern off when I get dressed but would that be fun? I have tried wearing my hair long. I hate it. And I have tried every diet known to mankind and I’m still here, fat and no further on. This isn’t a negative for me though. As someone who ascribes to positive thinking on a daily basis, I think it’s OK to be different. In fact it’s to be celebrated. The media (OK I do see what goes on through the eyes of social media and the internet) tell us what size we should be, what we should wear, what we should eat, how we should look when we’re eating it, the places to go, the people to hang out with, and if we’re not doing all of these things we’ve failed. Really? There’s so much pressure to have the perfect life that we’re making a rod for our own back by even trying. So I gave up years ago after crumpling in an a heap having given it a good go and finding I am pretty much imperfect so I might just go with it. And actually life is much easier when you go with your own flow. You feel like there’s nothing to compete with, and the only person you owe an explanation to is yourself.

So I won’t be buying a barbour jacket (not sure they come plus size anyway) and hunter wellies. I will still tend my little plot of garden in my bright green shift dress and I will still smile and say hello to every person I meet as if we’re equals. Underneath we’re all the same; a soul with a purpose and sometimes when you feel a bit out of your depth it’s easy to forget that.

 

Minimalism

Why I won’t be hiding my alopecia

I’ve had my hair cut short. Really short. Why? Because I like changing my hairstyle and doing radical stuff with it.

But if you look closely on the photo you can see it looks a bit strange. There’s a bald patch! Perhaps that’s part of the style? It’s not quite that radical! I actually have alopecia areata. This is the third time in my life I’ve had it and the largest patch, and the most prominent.

For those of you who have never heard of it, alopecia areata is hair loss in large round patches. It’s to do with the immune system and can affect people due to stress, illness and all sorts of things. Anything that affects the immune system basically. It also affects one or two people in every 1,000 in the UK making it REALLY common. We don’t like hair loss as women though do we? Hair is a fashion statement, it’s sensual, it’s a way of expressing ourselves, we spend billions a year on getting it just so. So we don’t talk about it. . The only role model we have for alopecia is Gail Porter, a now forgotten TV presenter who had a very cute blonde haircut, and now is completely bald. She’s been so brave to go bald, but still admits she is completely devastated.

At least she doesn’t hide behind a wig, but would her career have continued to skyrocket if she hadn’t have lost her hair? Consumerism needs us to care about our hair, go to the hairdressers, buy hair dryers and straighteners, and products to get it styled. I can’t say I don’t use products, I do, although only the key few. I am trying to be minimalist after all.

So back to my alopecia, I have spent the last couple of months hiding it with some slightly longer short hair, and inspecting it daily for growth. Then I thought on, ‘Hang on. What am I doing?’ I have spent years accepting my body is my body and very unique, and I’m not your average mainstream woman. I’m like an overripe plum hanging low on a branch, but overripe plums are juicy and just as needed as the small green ones waiting to ripen, so after about 20 years I have come to accept myself as I am. So why not hair loss? It’s nothing to be ashamed of. There’s nothing I can do differently, and trying to hide it under a side comb over is a definite no. I am alive, I am free to accept how to deal with my alopecia and I choose to be proud. It’s growing back and in the grand scheme of things it’s  nothing compared to what some people have to address on a daily basis.

I want to inspire others to feel that we can talk about things that are usually hidden, and not accepted. Plus size women have been taught to feel they should be apologetic for breathing and wear a tent to cover up all that unsightly flesh and I don’t subscribe to that myth either. So I am sorry if my bald patch offends you, but it’s here to stay for at least a few more months. Feel free to stare, I’ll even let you have a stroke if you’re not weird and you ask nicely!

 

 

 

 

 

Mindfulness, Minimalism

The gentle of art of balance

You might have noticed it’s been a while since I’ve posted. Whilst I would love to say it’s because I’ve been making my own cheese, decluttering, sipping coffee on a veranda whilst living a simple and minimal life, I sadly cannot claim any of these things.

I have spent the last few weeks hospital visiting, working two jobs, trying to be a good wife, good daughter, sister, auntie, friend, volunteer, part of the community etc. etc. The list goes on. You know how it goes. Goodness knows how Mums cope. I only have to deal with two over excited dogs, and two rather superior cats.  Each day blends into the next…wake…shower…eat..work…home…TV…sleep. This is not mindful living, simple living or minimalism. In fact I feel overwhelmed and exhausted.

So I need to re-set my seesaw and get some balance back. What does that even mean? I guess balance means different things to different people. To me it’s feeling calm, having enough time to achieve what I want to , feeling a sense of peace and a sense of achievement

I am thinking about this a lot…I think sometimes when we get to busy parts of our life e.g. working two jobs to pay extra bills, working hard, having a difficult time with health etc…the balance is tipped as you desperately tread the water trying to restore balance, and actually perhaps we’re working too hard to restore the balance to equal measures. As someone who practices mindfulness it is remarkably easy to forget all the tools I can use to help. So I am going to bring some of them in, and maybe they will help you too.

Mindful walking – I have to walk the dogs everyday, so I am going to aim for a bit of mindful walking. Mindful walking means different things to different people, but to me, its about taking in all the surroundings, bird song, the crisp smell of autumn, feeling the ground beneath my feet, taking some deep breaths, and it helps bring me some perspective on life. Even that half an hour a day makes life feel less rushed and gives me that peace that I find in balance.

Being compassionate to yourself – One of the things I’m really bad at, and pretty much many of us struggle with is being kind to ourselves and doing nice things for ourselves; a bath, a sneaky hours read, curled up with our pets, or our kids, a trip to the cinema, a face mask, a massage, a quiet coffee…anything that makes you feel good and feel that you’re being kind to yourself.

The final one I can recommend that I also need to use is acceptance. Acceptance is a wonderful thing, and should be easy but find it hard to accept things as they are sometimes. So what is there to accept in the case of balance? I need to accept life is tough this year. I have family and good friends who are seriously unwell and I want to be there for them.  I have to work two jobs to pay for two sets of house bills until we have sold one of them and moved into our new place. So I accept life it tough, but that it’s hopefully short term. Actually saying to you I accept it’s tough makes me feel better already. Like I am giving myself a bit of a permit to sit in my PJs and eat ice cream some days, or not to have to accept every invitation that’s offered me, or that it’s OK we can’t go on holidays or have big nights out right now. (Can you feel the deep sigh I’ve just exhaled – feeling calmer already)

So that’s it…three simple solutions, mindful walking, being kind to myself and accepting things as it is…Who’s going to try it with me? I’ll let you know how I get on