Trust me, pack light!

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Well, I’m finally back to blogging!  5 weeks in Europe plus a job change once I got back means that I have not had my attention where it should be, however that is now changing!   We had the loveliest time backpacking our way from Paris to Rome via Eastern Europe.  Favourite countries?  Italy and Romania.  Favourite cities?  Rome and Amsterdam.  Along the way we stayed in apartments that we rented ahead of time through airbnb.com, a fabulous site for accommodations just about anywhere in the world!

While I thought I was being clever and packing light, only bringing one backpack between the two of us, turns out I learned a few lessons along the way and would pack a little differently if I could go back.  What we did was take one large backpack that my husband already owned that we could put all of our stuff in.  While it was great we only had one bag, it was large enough that we had to check it and heavy enough that part way through our trip I ended up buying a small leather tote to take some of the burden off of my husband.

What we did right:

  1. Brought a backpack and not a suitcase with wheels.  We saw many people travelling with large rolly suitcases and watched them struggle especially on trains (unless quite small they usually don’t fit well in overhead compartments and so fill the isles which is really awkward) and on cobbled streets where as I’m sure you can imagine, little wheels are not great.
  2. Brought more than one pair of shoes.  I brought two pairs of leather boots, one tall, one short and I never regretted this.  I almost never had sore feet as I alternated shoes each day which somehow didn’t wear my feet out the same as wearing the same pair each day.
  3. Waited until almost the end of our trip to buy a lot of the gifts.  Unless you are willing to ship gifts back home, carrying them around for the rest of your trip is a reality and so take this into consideration when thinking of buying “stuff” as this can add considerable weight to your luggage depending on the item.
  4. Typically stayed in apartments (booked through airbnb) which allowed us to shop at local grocery stores for food and not be forced to eat out every single meal of the day.  Our apartments also often had a washer which was incredible as we never once had to use a Laundromat, though we did end up washing our clothes in the bathtub once.  Staying in apartments also meant that we got to stay in great areas of the cities but yet didn’t have to pay Hotel prices.  As well, in many cases we got a good feel for how people actually live in the cities as we were staying in buildings surrounded by local people and not just other tourists as is often the case in Hostels or Hotels.
  5. Didn’t sweat the small stuff.  Lost was not a word I used on our trip as if you don’t have a tight timeline, wandering is simply fantastic and a journey to your next destination.  I didn’t worry too much about seeing every single tourist thing, but instead just soaked in the culture, the food, the people, the scenery, the smells…stressing yourself out because you have to rush from one thing to another without ever stopping to just enjoy the life that exists around you is no way to travel

Things we will improve on next time:

  1. Bring one small carry on backpack each.  A heavy load on your back doesn’t make for an enjoyable journey for anyone, especially if it is hot or you have to stand in lineups.  Though gels/liquids are an issue on airplanes, even if you check your bags just getting to your destination, travelling around from there with smaller bags on your back will increase the joy of your journey and decrease the complaining, sore back or annoyance of heavy luggage.
  2. Still brought too many clothes!  I though I was packing light…but honestly I could have done better!  Stick to the basics and maybe bring a few small accessories to mix things up or buy something along the way.  The problem with buying along the way is that shopping can eat up your time.  That being said, loving fashion, I adored walking in and out of little shops as shopping in a foreign country has a joy all its own…as long as you aren’t just going to the same stores you have back home!
  3. Know basic words in each country we were going to.  Especially in countries like Bulgaria and Greece where the lettering is fairly unrecognizable, having some basic language skills would have been an asset and also would have helped create relationships where there were language barriers.  We did know a little French and a little German, but expanding on those skills would be a great idea for next time!  Yes it’s true…there is always someone somewhere that speaks some English but not having to depend on someone knowing a little English is definitely the way to go!

There are two more topics I want to address as a result of my trip, namely European fashion and the size of apartments we stayed in.  This blog post is getting long however, so I’ll leave those for another post!

Julene

When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money.  Then take half the clothes and twice the money.  – Susan Heller

A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.  – Lao Tzu

Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.  – Seneca

The traveler was active; he went strenuously in search of people, of adventure, of experience.  The tourist is passive; he expects interesting things to happen to him.  He goes “sight-seeing.”  – Daniel J. Boorstin

Results Are In!

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The 31 Day Fashion Diet Challenge is over so it’s time we take a look at the results.  First of all, forgive me for not posting pictures of all the various outfits, but somehow I just couldn’t bring myself to constantly take pictures of myself after getting dressed each day…so I didn’t.  I did however count and I had upwards of 25 different combinations that I could make with the selection I had.  I certainly tried new things that I otherwise might not have because I was forced to work within a certain wardrobe.  For me, creativity is often best expressed within the context of problem solving and working within a limited wardrobe was a great opportunity for this.

I was relatively surprised how little it all ended up mattering to me.  It honestly was not hard to keep to a smaller wardrobe and there were some surprising benefits.  I found laundry was much less daunting as was cleaning up my bedroom as there was simply so much less to clean.  My room has never had so few clothes lying on the floor and it really was refreshing!

Below are the answers to the questions I aimed to explore through this experiment.

  1. Was this a comfortable exercise or could I not wait for September 1st?  Quite comfortable actually.  There were only a few days where I wished to dig into the rest of my wardrobe and those were usually for reasons of cooler weather that I hadn’t really prepared for.
  2. Was it easier to get dressed every day or more difficult?  It certainly required less mental energy as long as I remembered to do laundry.
  3. While there is no magic number, Is 11 items sufficient for a hot summer wardrobe or did I feel like it was a stretch? Totally doable.
  4. Do I now feel more ready to get rid of more items or more inclined to keep things?  Half way through the experiment, I looked at the bags of clothes sitting on the floor that I had packed up in preparation for the experiment, dumped them out and gave half of them away.  It just seemed all so unnecessary.  I hung up the remainder which fit much nicer on my closet rod and still felt like I had too much however getting rid of half was very satisfying.
  5. Do I appreciate my wardrobe any differently?  Interestingly I almost feel like I appreciate it both less and more.  I came to see having so many options as more of a nuisance than a requirement and it was very easy for me to get rid of things so in that way I appreciate it less.  On the other hand I appreciate the clothes that I have left as I need to wear them more often so they serve more of a purpose in my daily life and I appreciate those ones more.
  6. Did it increase or decrease my desire to shop?  Decrease!   Knowing that I couldn’t wear it for a couple of weeks gave me absolutely no desire to go shopping.  After getting rid of so much I still don’t feel the need to “replace” anything as it seemed that I was just shredding the excess (though some of the excess was quite expensive and lovely, but still excess).  In that regard I have been lucky that I have someone who is a similar size who very much appreciates my affinity for getting rid of excess clothes.  When I see someone excited about the items I am giving away it makes me feel like I am helping someone and that is very satisfying.
  7. Did I feel less or more satisfied with my available options than when I had a much larger selection available to me?  I felt just as satisfied with less however now that it has turned to cooler weather I have been very happy to have a few warmer things added to my options.

It was an excellent exercise that I would highly recommend for anyone willing to think critically about what is in their closet but that might not be ready to just get rid of it all quite yet.  Such an experiment adds perspective and allows for better decision making for when the purging time comes.

In my particular case it came at an excellent time as we are heading to Europe for a month quite soon.  I am now even more determined than ever to pack minimally for travelling and since doing the Fashion Diet, am convinced it can be happily done!

With that in mind, stay tuned for an update on travelling light all the while feeling comfortable, fashionable and avoiding typical traveler fashion faux pas!  (Is this too much to ask?) I will outline how I plan to pack and then report back as to what worked well, what didn’t and what in the end, you really need to tote around a continent.

-Julene

31 Day Summer Fashion Diet Challenge

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August has 31 days. I am going on a summer fashion diet for those 31 days.  I want to prove to myself and to you that someone who loves fashion, mixing things up and goes to work (not a formal environment), and goes out with friends , can have only 11 articles of clothing in her closet for 31 days and still love what she wears and how she feels every day.

Though the thought of taking a picture of myself and putting it on my blog is daunting I will try to take and post a picture of each new combination to show how many different combinations are achievable with the options I have.

The items I chose to keep in the challenge were chosen strictly on instinct in a space of about 5 minutes or less. It was amazing how quickly I was able to cut it down to 11 items. Why 11 items? No reason really, I just chose my summer favorites and that came to 11.   If you were to do this challenge your list of items might look quite different from mine but below is what I felt would be reasonable but challenging for me.  Every other item of clothing I packed up into a garbage bag (it took 2 in fact) so that I wouldn’t be tempted.

The only exceptions to the below lists are some exercise clothes which amount to 3 tops and 3 bottoms, a rain jacket as well as a pair of runners.  I have also allowed a pair of flip flops for taking out my dog, the garbage etc., and have not put a limit on the number of underwear or socks I can go through.  Nothing else I own however can be worn during the month of August 2012.  Friends, family and co-workers reading this blog and following my challenge can keep me accountable as they see fit.

The following items are allowed in my clothing “diet” (also pictured below):

  1. 1 pair of shorts
  2. 1 pair blue jeans
  3. 1 pair of jeggings
  4. 1 romper (like a summer onesie for adults)
  5. 1 cardigan
  6. 1 tank top (close fitting)
  7. 1 button up tank (loose)
  8. 1 white button up shirt
  9. 1 blue jean button up shirt
  10. 1 ¾ length pullover shirt
  11. 1 dress

The following items are allowed for accessories (again, see picture):

  1. 1 pair of wedge heels
  2. 1 pair of Sperry’s
  3. 1 purse
  4. 3 pairs of earrings
  5. 1 watch
  6. 1 pair of sunglasses
  7. 2 skinny belts

A few of the questions I aim to answer through this experiment are:

  1. Was this a comfortable exercise or could I not wait for September 1st?
  2. Was it easier to get dressed every day or more difficult?
  3. While there is no magic number, Is 11 items sufficient for a hot summer wardrobe or did I feel like it was a stretch?
  4. Do I now feel more ready to get rid of more items or more inclined to keep things?
  5. Do I appreciate my wardrobe any differently?
  6. Did it increase or decrease my desire to shop?
  7. Did I feel less or more satisfied with my available options than when I had a much larger selection available to me?

Intrigued to see how this goes?  I am.

The Journey of Simplifying

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Simplifying is a process, a journey, a rediscovery of life and self.

One of the first books I read when I started thinking about getting rid of stuff was the 100 Thing Challenge by Dave Bruno.  He, a father and husband, got rid of all but 100 possessions (with even things like a pencil being one possession) and purposed to live that way for a year.  The book chronicles his experience and I found it fascinating.  After reading the book I knew that to get down to 100 things was not a possibility for me at that point but I thought that if I could get down to just 100 items of clothing I would be making a good start!  Over the past year however as I have continually parted ways with more and more of my things, I have discovered that there is not some magic number of items that one should strive to hit, but instead the goal should be to only have the things that you use often and absolutely love or cherish.  For example, some farmers or tradespersons may have whole shops or garages full of items that at first glance may look a little excessive however the large majority of these items are essential to their livelihoods and so should of course be kept.

Rabbit Trail…Tools are a great thing to have around for DIY projects and maintenance of our homes and things like chairs so as to preserve their longevity.  However, having every specific tool for jobs that perhaps you will only do once every 5 or 10 years might be a little bit of a waste.  Why not share with your neighbors?  I have witnessed how this works wonderfully.  My parents live in a quiet small town where they make an effort to be good neighbors.  One of the benefits of this is that they have often times been able to simply borrow a tool from a neighbor (for example a wheelbarrow, or extra-long ladder) instead of having to buy one and they have oftentimes lent tools to neighbors as well.  This system of temporary exchange lends to healthy neighborhood relations (assuming the items are treated with care) as well as saving money and storage space.

Getting back to the process of simplifying though, I don’t believe I would have been very eager to move into our current residence of just under 500sqft if I had not first downsized to a townhouse with no yard from our previous large house/yard.  This allowed an adjustment period where I came to the realization that though I thought I had downsized, I was still living in much excess!  Now, as I have adjusted to a small condo and have truly come a long way, I still feel like I have too much stuff (specifically clothes and kitchen items…yes I know I should do more cooking and solve the kitchen issue) as I don’t see them being used on a regular basis.

I have become very intrigued by the tiny house movement which has captured my curiosity.  I would love to be able to try to live that way full time, if only for the time before and after children and possibly rent it out in the in between years or use it for road trips and camping.  To read a little bit about the tiny house movement and to see what these tiny houses look like, check out the following links:  (The Leaf House is my absolute favorite and it is made/designed in Canada so it suits our climate!!!)

-Julene

Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. -William Morris

The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less. –Socrates

The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak. -Hans Hofmann

We go on multiplying our conveniences only to multiply our cares. We increase our possessions only to the enlargement of our anxieties. -Anna C. Brackett

You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied,’ you make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled. -Charles Spurgeon

The intention of voluntary simplicity is not to dogmatically live with less. It’s a more demanding intention of living with balance. This is a middle way that moves between the extremes of poverty and indulgence. -Duane Elgin

If one’s life is simple, contentment has to come. Simplicity is extremely important for happiness. Having few desires, feeling satisfied with what you have, is very vital: satisfaction with just enough food, clothing, and shelter to protect yourself from the elements. -The Dalai Lama

You know you have reached perfection of design not when you have nothing more to add, but when you have nothing more to take away. -Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Making Room in My Mind

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One of the most monumental and positive ways in which simplifying has opened up room in my life has been by way of my mental health.  Simplifying meant getting rid of the extra physical stuff that used to use up so much of my time, energy and money so that I can think clearly.  With no (or very little) visual clutter to stress the eyes and reorganize, no TV to distract me and a much less intense shopping or cleaning schedule to maintain, I have been freed financially to spend less hours per week in wage labour enabling me to now focus on my mental health.  Several times a month, I see a counselor who is helping me to understand and think through my personality, fears, desires, spirituality and life in general.  This has been one of the most rewarding experiences.

It is through this focus on my inner self that I am coming to understand my own self and come to terms with and embrace who I really am even if that means finding my way in the world in a way that doesn’t match up with the dominant and culturally accepted way of going through life here in North America.  Embracing my creative, non-linear and highly sensory personality has given me a new lens through which to view life, one that doesn’t necessarily follow the paths we are prepared for through the primary, secondary and post-secondary school systems…and that is ok.  What a liberating way to live, that allows me in faith to be like the wind, to embrace my free-flowing spirit which when put in a box and squashed only leads to depression , anxiety and general unhappiness. I have so much more to offer my husband, family, friends, and the world when I understand my self.

While I am only beginning this journey and so don’t have it all sorted, I am looking forward to seeing what creative outpourings come out of living with a healthier mind that accepts who I am and where I am going.  And so it is with an as of yet hesitant but hopeful heart that I write from a mind that is slowly being cleared of the clutter; from a mind that I now have room in my life to make healthy and happy.

-Julene

“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” – Pablo Picasso

(…)mental health… is not a destination but a process.  It’s about how you drive, not where you’re going.  The therapist is like a driving instructor, not a chauffeur.”  ―  Noam Shpancer,The Good Psychologist: A Novel

The Road Not Taken

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Today’s typical North American lifestyle is designed around driving a vehicle to get from point A to point B (and yes someone put thought and energy into making it so.)  Places of work, shopping and entertainment are often separated with long roads built for automobile traffic only.  Cities went from being designed around amenities being close to where people lived with small shops and grocery stores on street corners, to cities being designed with separate areas for living, shopping and working.  (For a city planners take on the topic read Walking Home by Ken Greenberg)  And so the large majority of people own a car and drive it every day, to and from work, grocery stores, malls, the gym (which I always thought was ironic), friends and family as it has simply become a way of life just as walking to those same things used to be a way of life.  But is driving everywhere really always the best way to get around?  This is a question that my husband and I stumbled upon when we downsized (or rightsized) our lifestyle to a more central location.

Shortly after we got married we bought a car.  It was small and used but didn’t have many miles on it so we thought it would be a great little car for our first vehicle together as it got really good gas mileage and we were on the road a lot living in a small town.  It proved to be a great car; that is until it got totaled in a car accident several years later. We were then out of a vehicle at a time when we didn’t have money to buy a new car and we didn’t really want to buy a new car as we liked the one we had as it was paid off, ran well and always started in cold weather even without being plugged in!

After relaying our sad story to my parents they, taking pity on us, offered to give us one of their vehicles that they never used.  Now this may sound like a sweet deal at first but let me explain that the vehicle they were offering to give us was a 1987 Cutlass Supreme and with a word like Supreme in its name you can just imagine how awesome of a car we were being offered.   (See above picture with the original car owner (my grandfather) and I)  We took it however without a second thought because an old boat that guzzled gas, was finicky to start and had poufy armchairs for front seats was better than making payments on a new vehicle.

When we were rightsizing from the townhouse to our current condo we thought that we would now have the money to put into a vehicle that would be newer, better on gas and have harder seats (sorry, but we realized they just don’t make seats like they used to!)  We seriously started looking around at vehicles but decided to hold off until we were settled into the new place.  Once we moved into our new neighborhood we simply forgot about buying a vehicle.  All of a sudden we didn’t drive very often as grocery stores and entertainment options were steps away and being centrally located bus routes were a whiz to both work and school.

So now, we simply enjoy our old car the once a week or so that we feel we need to drive it.  (The mechanic says the old girl has many miles left in her and she should as she is only the same age as me!)  It doesn’t really matter that it is a gas guzzler anymore as we spend far less on gas now then when we drove it every day to work, the mall, the grocery store, family and friends.   And while buying a new vehicle would mean using less gas it is debatable whether the environmental impact would actually be less as a significant amount of energy went into creating the new car in the first place.  We reduced our usage from 7 days/week to approximately 1 day per week and I’m sure we could reduce it more if we put our minds to it.  (This would be a lot easier if our beautiful city would get with the program and implement a proper transit system and bicycle paths!)

Taking the bus, cycling and walking most everywhere has proved to have some benefits.  It saves money, gas, speeding tickets, frustration at being stuck in traffic constantly taking your foot on and off the gas pedal and I have a higher level of fitness as I spend a lot more time just walking in daily life then sitting in a car.  We haven’t yet come upon any insurmountable downsides to the new arrangement as we find our lifestyle much easier, quite natural and when we really need to get somewhere in a vehicle we have one, we just are not making payments on it, constantly putting gas in it or worrying about how we look in it, as our vehicle has become so much less important to our daily routine.

Now we have thought a little bit about what we would do if our car died.  (Where do cars go when they die anyway?  Can they be recycled?)  We have thought about going without a car altogether and that may work for a while though we are not sure that would be a long term solution for us no matter how honorable it sounds unless we lived in a city with a better transit system.  Buying an electric car may be an option once they come down in price and the technology improves a little more.  Having children with an old two door vehicle or without a vehicle, always taking the bus or bike would be another interesting challenge that I cannot yet speak to, but am curious about.

Owning and driving a car nearly every day was something I never used to think about.  I took at as simply something that enabled life to happen.   Those notions however are being challenged and it is an interesting road to be on, who knows where it might lead especially if the concept of not driving everywhere caught on…

-Julene

“…These initiatives and bottom-up pressures are all part of the fundamental rebalancing as we reverse-engineer the intrusive “cars first” post-war interventions.  In learning low-tech solutions from our own past, other cultures and new discoveries, we are revisiting Robert Frost’s “Road Not Taken,” which he famously “marked…for another day.” That day has now arrived.” – Ken GreenBerg in Walking Home

Functional Objects as Art

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A poppy red trench coat on a white coat stand set against a white wall.  This is the description of one of my favorite pieces of functional art in my home.   

Functionally speaking, I wear the red trench coat and the coat stand often houses other essential items such as a scarf, purse or a guest’s jacket.

What makes it art (though this is simply opinion as I have no formal training), is the composition of three main elements.  The wall as the backdrop, the coat stand as the frame and the coat itself as the medium which together draw the eye as if to a painting framed on a wall.   The wall creates a backdrop of simplicity where the red coat, a highly functional piece, creates a visual stimulus in the room.  While someone else designed both the coat and the coat stand, it was up to me to bring them together with the appropriate backdrop to create a work of art.

In small spaces especially, it is essential that everything brought into it has a purpose.  Owning things that have multiple purposes is ideal and often essential.  Art can be considered this way as well.  The objects in your home, even storage items such as the vintage suitcase I referenced in my previous post Small Space Storage Solutions, could be considered art when you appreciate and choose to accentuate its form.

In order to showcase these functional objects you consider to be an artistic expressions, the backdrop (essentially everything else in your home) must be simple enough that those items can be clearly seen and appreciated.  If you think of an art gallery, often the walls and spaces themselves are simple and uncluttered so as not to draw attention away from the particular piece(s) being showcased.  If this principle is applied to your home as well, it provides the opportunity to display those items you perceive to be beautiful even though they are often used objects.  The beauty of it is that you get to use your creativity to “make art” in your own space, large or small, when you simplify and appreciate form and function in the same object.

-Julene

“Space is the breath of art.” – Frank Lloyd Wright

“The sculptor produces the beautiful statue by chipping away such parts of the marble block as are not needed – it is a process of elimination.”  – Elbert Hubbard

“I don’t want life to imitate art. I want life to be art.” – Carrie Fisher

Invasive Species: The Television

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I was reading a news story recently about a snakehead fish, an invasive species that originates in China, which was found in British Columbia.  Biologists drained the body of water in which it was discovered in order to catch and eradicate the species before it put the local ecosystem in danger.  This story reminded me of TV and the way it has changed our North American culture.  While there have been some positive aspects to its invention, over time it has become a disease, infecting the minds of our culture and destroying the “native” way in which we once lived, so much so that some skills and ways of thinking have become “endangered species.”  Now, I don’t want this blog post to sound like a simple rant against television.  However, there are some serious and far-reaching effects that have resulted from the abundance of time spent watching TV that has replaced more meaningful activities.

Ever had the feeling that TV was not quite what it seemed?  Well if you did, you would be right!  I first came upon this very real realization in my third year of University when I took a course called the History of Consumer Culture in America.  While it was to become my favorite course of all time, one of the things that sticks out so clearly in my mind is learning about the origin of TV and the real reason why it exists today.  Programmed television was simply created to make us buy stuff. To increase the awareness of what we do not have, and to convince us that what we do have is not good enough and that we would be a better people  if we bought a certain product.  Early TV “shows” were simply advertisements with a very weak plot constructed around selling a certain item, such as a stove.  The stove, or product they were trying to sell, would be in every shot and in almost every sentence.  While it may have been the invention itself that at first captivated audiences, it has grown to become a means of extreme escapism where we don’t have to really live out our own hopes, dreams, challenges and relationships because we can live vicariously through those in shows we religiously follow all the while being convinced to buy things.  I have experienced this myself and have seen how it sucks the hours of your day into a black abyss where there is not much else besides 9-5 work and TV.  Relationships are scheduled around TV or escaped from through TV.  Physical activity, reading, writing, meaningful conversation, spiritual and intellectual development are all things that get replaced by hours of sitting in front of a moving picture ultimately designed not just for entertainment, but to sell you things, make you feel inadequate and lull you into a sub par existence.  This may sound harsh, but if you stop and think about it, it is clear to see that generations that have grown up feeding on television are no better off for it.  If the amount of hours used watching TV were put into any other meaningful activity, lives would change, bodies would get fitter, relationships would improve, volunteer participation would increase and so would grades for those in school.  I have seen this change in my own self and so know it to be truth.

One of the things I thank my parents most for is that I wasn’t brought up on TV.  My parents bought a TV when I was in grade 4 (and I am only 25 now, so even in the 90’s it was very rare to not have a TV, or 2 or 3!)  We didn’t however have satellite or cable so we didn’t ever watch a whole lot of programmed television, instead we used the TV to watch old movies like The Apple Dumpling Gang, Calamity Jane and classics like The Sound of Music.  Once I was married, we did get a TV but it never sat well with me as I could feel myself get sucked in when I would come home from work tired, not feel like doing anything and so just like a zombie, turn on the TV and not move for several hours.  When we downsized however, we sold our TV.  We have committed to living without it for at least 6 months (at least until hockey season starts up again) and I am completely convinced that I don’t ever need one again!  Laptops do just fine for watching the odd movie or show you find interesting which usually allows you to skip the large majority of the advertising.  And as for watching Hockey? (A very big deal here in Winnipeg)  I think the local pub close to our place will become more frequented as well as listening to the Jets on the radio or watching the games streamed online.  Now that I am living without a TV, the thought of bringing a big black piece of metal, glass, plastic and other such parts into my living room or bedroom just makes me cringe!  Your living space will be much more peaceful, minimal and beautiful without a TV and all the cords, storage and other little black boxes that go along with a TV.    Living without a TV means more free time, more money in the bank (as you are not out buying things you didn’t know you needed or brands you didn’t know were cool) and less guilt about the exercise you are not doing as you now have time to get off the couch.

While growing up without a TV dependance cost me the ability to fill out most of the pop culture references in crosswords, it certainly has allowed me to have better perspective on TV itself and its dulling effect on our culture.  It is not that TV has single-handedly created our consumer culture, but it is one of the tools used to perpetuate highly consumerist patterns of behavior across an entire culture.  Cutting out or reducing the amount of TV we watch forces us to deal with our time, relationships and spending patterns and at the same time opens up so many other opportunities.  Making the effort to get rid of the invasive species called TV is well worth the time, effort and withdrawal symptoms you may experience as you transition from reality TV to your own reality.  Make room for life people, turn off the tube!

-Julene

Whenever it’s on it’s like having somebody in my house that I want to get rid of and they won’t leave. I hate the sound of it. All that noise and light coming from a piece of furniture. – John Waters

Another possible source of guidance for teenagers is television, but television’s message has always been that the need for truth, wisdom and world peace pales by comparison with the need for a toothpaste that offers whiter teeth and fresher breath.  – Dave Barry

What compels you to stare, night after night, at all the glittering hokum that has been deliberately put together for you?  – J.B. Priestley, about Americans

If you came and you found a strange man… teaching your kids to punch each other, or trying to sell them all kinds of products, you’d kick him right out of the house, but here you are; you come in and the TV is on, and you don’t think twice about it.  – Jerome Singer

Television is an anesthetic for the pain of the modern world.  – Astrid Alauda

Television has proved that people will look at anything rather than each other.  – Ann Landers

Television has changed a child from an irresistible force to an immovable object.  – Author Unknown

TV will never be a serious competitor for radio because people must sit and keep their eyes glued on a screen; the average American family hasn’t time for it.  – Author Unknown, from New York Times, 1939

Think Outside the Closet

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I believe that one can live simply, minimally and still entertain friends, have hobbies and live in a beautiful space.  To do this however, creative storage solutions are a necessity in order to create functional and visually appealing spaces.  In my last post I promised a few small space storage solutions, so here are a couple of examples from my own home to get your creative juices flowing.

Closets are sometimes a rarity in small spaces, especially if your space was built at a time when people had less stuff, therefore less need for space to store stuff.  I live in such a place and so decided to reserve my one and only (long and narrow) closet for things that I wanted out of sight.  I decided there were other things beside clothes that should use up that prime real estate.  Our closet became a broom and bike closet which took care of the functional items I wanted to keep but didn’t have a place to store (after all, small spaces especially have to be clean and getting rid of my bicycle was not an option!)  This left the problem of where to actually put our clothes.  Our bed has built-in drawers on either side so those took care of folded items.  For hanging items, I used galvanized plumbing pipe from our local hardware store to create an “open concept” closet in the bedroom. (See picture)  It is highly functional, only cost about $40, doesn’t take up floor space and looks great!

 Galvanize plumbing pipe turned closet rod

Tip: Using wood hangers (vintage or otherwise) to hang all your clothes is a great way to preserve the shape of your clothes and I think it makes your clothes look nicer on the hanger!  Makes you feel like you are shopping at a boutique every time you get dressed!

While I am no Van Gogh, I love to express myself creatively so I needed a good way to store art supplies.  I downsized to the ones I thought that in reality I would actually use and then put them all in a vintage suitcase that I wanted to have out as a “decorative” item.  In the end then, I successfully stored my hobby supplies, found a reason to keep a decorative item and placed it so it could be used as a side table in a pinch.  (See picture)  Now that is small space storage that works for me!

Vintage suitcase as art supplies storage

There are a myriad of ways to be creative with storage so I simply share these two examples to show that you don’t have to rely on closets, basements and “storage rooms” in order to house the things you wish to keep in your life.  Of course the less you have the easier it is to store, however at the end of the day a pencil is still needed to draw, so making room for those activities that give you life is important!

Have some clever ideas that might help out others searching for small space storage solutions, or have a small space storage issue you could use some help with?  Feel free to leave a comment!  I’d love to hear how you make your small (or not so small) space work for you or give you some ideas if your space doesn’t seem to be working so well for you!

-Julene

The big one…CLOTHES!

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A friend just texted me asking for some tips on purging clothes, I thought I would share with you my thoughts on the subject.

As a woman who loves fashion and has worked in retail, this is a subject that I certainly have some opinions on!  Downsizing a wardrobe is something that some thought and care should be put into. It may be an old fashioned idea, but putting some real thought and care into your wardrobe before you hit the mall is preventative maintenance for needing to purge later!  However, before we get to shopping habits, let’s think through your closet.

Bottom line is, if you don’t love it, if it doesn’t fit well, or if you don’t have some express need for it, don’t own it. You should love everything in your wardrobe and if you don’t love it, there better be a really good reason why have it.

I used to have a lot of clothes. I was known among family and friends for having an extensive wardrobe. I worked in retail and loved fashion (still do), so what do you expect? The interesting thing is that as I have downsized significantly, I have gained a new appreciation for the items that I have and have completely forgotten about the ones I gave away. I appreciate and love my clothes so much more now than when I had an excessive amount.  Now I don’t want to give you a list of how many pairs of jeans or how many dresses you should have because I don’t think there is a magic number and it varies depending on your lifestyle.  However, utilizing the simple rules I have outlined above (and a few more tips below) will significantly cut down your wardrobe to a size that is manageable and right for your lifestyle. You will never hate what you are wearing because there is nothing that looks bad or doesn’t fit in your wardrobe to begin with!

Some “don’ts” to consider.  Don’t keep items simply because they were gifts. Don’t keep clothes that are too big or too small for you. (i.e. don’t live in the past or in the potential future; the past is gone and the future is not certain.)

What to do with all the clothes you are now getting rid of? Please donate! You can try selling if you like, but for the most part, clothing is something we didn’t buy thinking we would make money off of and honestly there are so many people out there that would kill for you cast offs, so why not just give them away? Let it go! Sometimes it can be so rewarding! I gave my high school graduation dress away to someone who loved it and was excited to wear it to an upcoming graduation of their own. I was happy to bless her with the dress as honestly it was only collecting dust which is a serious waste! There are organizations such as Gowns for Grads that formal wear can be given to that will certainly make a difference in some young woman’s life!

Curate your wardrobe. Now that your closet is purged and you love what you have left, it is time to think about how you shop going forward so that you don’t simply get in the same trouble you were in.

  • Think long term and think quality. Again if you don’t love it or it doesn’t fit quite right, don’t buy it! If you buy something that you think “will do” then you will simply end up wasting more time at the mall (which you probably drove to, spending extra gas) searching for something else. Always buy quality and don’t be afraid to spend a little extra on your clothes. Buy local or at least from your own continent if possible (I realize this is difficult, but it is ideal as you then know a little more about the working conditions and wages of the people that made the garment).  If you do this, they will wash better and fit properly longer. Though you may initially spend more dollars per item, in the end you will end up spending less money because you are buying fewer items and less often…because you love what you have!
  • Buy timeless. This may sound like a hard thing to do, but following fashion there is one thing I have learned. They are simply taking from each era between 1910 and 1990 and trying to put a new spin on it. So find items that you love that could fit into a couple of your favorite eras and you will hit the mark! Classics like a good quality white button up go a long way when you think about it that way! If you buy cheap trend clothes, you are only going to lose out as you will be turning them to rags in a matter of months either because they fell apart or because you are tired of them already (which means you probably didn’t really love the look to begin with).

Note: Feel free to apply these same principles to furniture and “decor” items that you may want to purchase. Buy good quality and items that you love and you won’t feel the need to switch up in only a matter of years.

If you want to actually go minimalist but still have room for creativity in your wardrobe, just make sure almost everything matches so you have a lot of different combinations. For example, a trick I learned in retail is that if you have only 12 items of clothing, 1 coat, 1 dress, 1 pair of jeans, 4 shirts, 1 blazer, 2 skirts, and 2 pairs of dress pants, you would easily have over a months’ worth of combinations without ever wearing the exact same outfit twice.  Most of you probably have more than 12 items of clothing in your closet but still wear the same outfit more than once in a month! I personally just buy things in one of about 3-4 basic colours (black, navy, brown or white) and only add in the odd shot of colour which usually goes with any of the basics.  No need to stress or worry about what to wear every day as the time spent searching through an unthoughtful wardrobe is time better spent on other things!

Stay tuned for creative ideas on storing your clothes in small spaces!

-Julene

“Don’t be into trends. Don’t make fashion own you, but you decide what you are, what you want to express by the way you dress and the way you live.” – Gianni Versace

“It’s a new era in fashion – there are no rules. It’s all about the individual and personal style, wearing high-end, low-end, classic labels, and up-and-coming designers all together.” – Alexander McQueen

“One is never over-dressed or underdressed with a little black dress.” – Karl Lagerfeld

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow.  They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.” – Jesus