Category Archives: minimalism

lazy summer days

Summer days are meant for doing a certain amount of nothing.  It rarely seems the case these days, as I watch my friends and their children rushing to summer hockey camps, day camps, intensive swimming lessons, and a plethora of other activities to fill their summer days.

What happened to just having nothing to do?  To the days of going to the park and playing, or reading?  What happened to just being a kid?

This isn’t a popular perspective where I live, and I would wager it isn’t where you live either.  These days, everyone needs to be scheduled to the hilt, because if you aren’t busy, you are wasting your time, right?

Wrong.

There is so much benefit in just allowing yourself time to be.  Time to sit and just watch the day go by is so mentally therapeutic!  Being busy does not equal being productive.  This is something I have learned after years of having too much going on in my life.  There is still too much going on, but I am still a work in progress too.  I am officially on holidays for two weeks, and while my time clock may be stalled, work wise, my actions have not.  I still have lists of things I wish to accomplish during my time off, but I know full well that there are too many lists and too little time.  Where do I fit in time for me?

It’s ok to let the dust settle in the corners once in a while, or for the dishes to wait until morning.  We all need to recharge our batteries once in a while so that we can function optimally.  Don’t forget to take time out to relax and do nothing.  There is so much value in just being.

what do we really need?

I was fortunate enough over the past couple weeks to gain some perspective on the philosophy of minimalism.  I spent the better part of a week away, cultivating relationships with family friends.  During this time, I needed to choose what I would do with my down time in the evening.  I brought a couple minor things…a tablet to continue with my writing, some kitchen cotton to crochet some dishcloths-a minimal mental task that keeps my hands busy when I’m feeling tired, and my aromatherapy studies.

During the course of the week I discovered a couple things:  The space I was spending time with was peaceful with minimal items in the room.  It simply allowed the mind to rest.  I spent more time with people, interacting instead of spending time in front of distractions.  The tablet never came out until everyone was settled into their beds.  It was a good exercise in being present.

A valuable lesson came out of this experience for me.  I discovered that even though I hold on to the ideals and philosophies of minimalism, I am still finding that there is a lot of stuff that lives with me in my house.  After returning home, I looked at my house with a refreshed minimalism lens and began going through things to donate or discard as needed.  It was quite satisfying to shred fifteen year old documents, and provide a new home for clothing items that were gently used, or not used at all.  In the kon marie way, these items had served their purpose at the time, and now they needed to be thanked and sent on their way.

I still have a way to go, but it is a journey.  I am still ever grateful for the experience to refresh my determination to live a simple life.

simpler times

Heritage locations that showcase how life used to be lived can be a great reminder of just how far we have come.  It’s also a reminder of how much simpler life used to be.  People didn’t have computers, smart phones, or even robotics to help do their jobs.  They used good old muscle power.

I spent the day at one of these such sites this week.  I like to visit places like this alone and truly immerse myself in the sense of what it was truly like at that time.  Why?  Because I hope that the reminder will help me to appreciate what we have now.  Also, to remind me that we don’t need everything we have in this modern life we live.  It helps reinforce my minimalistic lifestyle and appreciate what I have and use daily even more.

We live a good life.  We don’t plow the fields with a horse drawn plow anymore.  Most of us don’t even have a need to grow our own food, so if we do, it is more of a hobby than a necessity.  Imagine the wonder that our ancestors would have had if they were told that growing food would become a hobby!

We are beyond fortunate.  We are spoiled with having immediate gratification.  Taking time to remember this perspective is grounding.  I am grateful for the reminder.

quality time

I value quality time with those I love.  Spending time together is worth more than any store bought gift, in my opinion.

This weekend was one of those weekends where we didn’t have anything pressing to do.  Being a long weekend on top of it, we decided rather last minute to take a trip to the zoo.  Since it is a three hour drive each way, we made sure to get up nice and early.  We packed up the cameras, water bottles and music for the drive and away we went.  We always stop for coffee and breakfast before leaving town.  It’s just what we do.  The kids eat while I drive, and I have my caffeine fix.  Sometimes they fall asleep on the drive, sometimes we all sing along to whatever song is playing.  Sometimes they read.  It’s always enjoyable no matter what.

I’ve come to crave these little day trips.  The adventure of getting away, of taking a trip unplanned.  Just drop everything and go.  Sometimes these are solo trips if the kids are not home that week, but I love the ones where they come along the most.  It’s good quality time well spent.  On top of that, my eldest had a chance to continue developing his photography skills in a different setting.  He’s getting very good at it, and I am very proud of him.  But there’s something to be said for getting away from home for just a little while.  A change of scenery.  A little excitement.  Spending time outdoors, and believe me, we were out there walking around and enjoying the sun and the setting for a good five hours at least.  These are the little things that they will remember as they grow into adults.  These are the things I will remember as they grow up and move on to live their own lives.  I will know that they will have those happy memories to draw upon.  They will have that influence for how they might like to live their lives, and should they have children, to do what they enjoyed as kids for their own.

Quality time.  I read somewhere that you have 18 summers with your children before they are grown.  This is what I’m doing with my 18.

cultivating creativity

Creativity is a huge part of my world.  I see my world through the lens of a photographer, remember things with a writer’s pen, and dream with a painter’s brush.  My soul breathes creativity, and it warms my heart to know that my children have inherited that gene from me.  While it sometimes breeds frustration when we cannot achieve the product that we have dreamed of in our mind’s eye, the process is still very important.  As I watched my younger one crochet his own creations at the tender age of ten years old, he can see what he wants to create.  He has taken my guidance and moved beyond what I have given him and created more…turned it into his.

What comes with this territory is frustration, upset, sometimes a couple tears, but then it ends in pure joy.  The joy that you don’t get from buying an item, but one of soulful satisfaction for doing it yourself.  It may not be perfect.  It may not be the product envisioned, but it is a unique, one of a kind item that was created with love, determination, creativity, positive reinforcement, and joy.

do more of what you love

I have had a week where I was able to spend time doing the things I enjoy.  There were still things that needed to get done, like take the little ones to school and make dinner, but I did these things in a way that I preferred.

We walked to school, which is a convenient 5 minute walk.  We brought the dog both ways.  We didn’t need to use before and after school care this week, and that made a huge difference in how much time we had to do things together and the free time they had without having homework or meal time.  Our days suddenly gained a lot of time.

We made meals that were fun and delicious with organic whole foods that were deliciously vegetarian.  Dinner became a joy instead of a chore.

It’s amazing how the simple things take on more enjoyment when you have time.  Less stuff means less to clean.  Less to own means less to owe.  This gives way to freedom.  The less you need to work to pay the bills for the stuff you need to clean.  Seems pretty straightforward, no?  With less, you can do more of what you love.

the art of simplification

There is a lot of discussion about Minimialism, particularly since the documentary about Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus (http://www.theminimalists.com)  came out.  It really isn’t anything new, but perhaps new to the masses who are caught up in commercialization.

I have been on my in and out journey through minimalism for years and years.  I know that I do feel better when my life is uncluttered.  I feel stress and anxiety when there is too much stuff in my house and in my life.  And I could suspect that you feel the same too, whether you recognize it at this moment or not.

I look at minimalism as a component of simplification of one’s life.  I think simplification truly is an art to achieve these days, what with all the social media and marketing proclaiming how we need this and we must have that.  Why you’re just not important if you don’t have x, y, and z.  I call bullshit.  We don’t need any of that stuff.  The big corporations need us to want that stuff.  The CEOs who make six, maybe even seven figures a year because they have convinced the masses that all this stuff is necessary in our lives.

Guess what?

They’re wrong.  So very very wrong.  We don’t need all that crap.  We don’t need to have the latest and greatest phone or computer.  We don’t need to spend a million dollars on a house just because that is what is expected.

What we need is to live within our means.  What we need is to be comfortable saying no to consumerism.  What we need is to spend more time with family and loved ones.  To spend time enjoying life without worrying about debt or clutter or how popular we are or how many friends we have and how we compare financially.  We need to get back to basics.  To live simply in all aspects of our lives.  To find joy everyday in the little things and be thankful for the chance to be here…the chance to wake up in the morning.  Not everyone has that same luxury.

Life in its simplicity is finding joy in the small things.  Recall that motto I posted a while back?  Life is lived in the mundane.  Let’s live.

the holiday spirit

I have noticed that in removing the pressure of gifting, I have found space for enjoyment of the holiday season.  I have discovered there is time for social gatherings and enjoying the company of my loved ones.  I have removed the pressures of creating the perfect holiday setting with the decorations and lights and the tens of thousands of calories in baking that I certainly do not need to eat, but would if left to my own devices.

I have found joy in spontaneity and planned outings.  I have frozen my toes just to spend two hours with a small circle of friends as we enjoyed the subzero temperature outdoor concert on the CP Holiday Train.  We have those memories to share.  Of finding a new restaurant and a wonderful new ginger cider.  Of bonding and sharing.  Of quality time without expectations.

I have five holiday parties planned just by my colleagues and employers…departmental, multidepartmental, corporate, family, and our own small staff.  These things do not pressure me this year because all those other stressful components of the holidays are now gone.

Don’t misunderstand me, please.  I do have some decorations up and I adore them.  I have bought presents for my children.  I have asked for them to please stop worrying that they cannot find a way to buy me a gift.  I asked for them to create with what they have if they want to give, but that they themselves are the greatest gift I have or could ever get.  I will bake cookies, but just two kinds and it will be a labor of love to be enjoyed with my children, not one where I scoot them out of the kitchen because they are underfoot.

The holidays are about people and joining together.  Enjoying each other and giving back to the community and those in need.  It’s supposed to last year long, but we all know that people tend to give more at the holidays than they do year round.

This year, I am truly enjoying the holiday season more than I have since being a young child and having all my extended family nearby for that wonderful multitable, multifamily Christmas dinner.  That is what remains in my memories.  It isn’t the gifts I was given.  It was the people that I was with.

the gift of joy

The old adage “‘Tis better to give than to receive” has been spoken so many times.  I feel like sometimes it has no meaning left anymore.  In this world of materialism, of keeping up with the Jones’ despite what it does to our bank accounts or stress levels knowing the financial strain it places on us just to keep up.  The world we live in wants more and more.  Gluttony abounds.

For so many years, I would go and buy presents for myself (including when I was still married because my ex couldn’t make any effort to do anything for anyone).  I would wrap them and place them under the tree.  On Christmas morning, as I unwrapped these gifts that were labelled as being from everyone else, I would pretend to be surprised by the gifts.

I am no longer doing this.  This year, I have been forthcoming with my children and told them that I do not need gifts under the tree.  You see, my sons, knowing that there is not a significant other in my life and knowing all my family lives far away, they realize that there is nobody who can take them out to buy me Christmas presents.  Their father? I think he would sooner see me dead than help them buy gifts and they know it all too well.  They don’t dare ask.

So this year, I have invited my boys to join me in choosing a senior from the community who is in need of items.  We went down to our local London Drugs and chose a card together off the tree.  They wanted to choose a man, so we did.  Many asked for essential items such as deodorant or razor blades.  Our senior did also, but he also needs a blanket and would like some socks and such.  We have gathered up the items requested, and added in some chocolates, tea, and handmade men’s slippers.  I am currently making a new hat for the gift also.  We will together write our holiday wishes into a Christmas card, and when finished, we will take the package back to the store where they will give the gift to our senior.

The other gift I am giving myself is the gift to another single parent.  Being in the position I am, I know how sometimes the holidays can be difficult without extended family nearby, and to do all the Christmas stuff yourself as a single parent.  I am gifting a photoshoot to a single parent (maybe two, dependent on time), who has no family nearby.  The photoshoot is for the parent and their family.  No strings attached.  No contracts.  No expectations for ordering images.  The photoshoot is going to be done because it feels good to give something to someone else without any expectations.  The parent will receive all the photos edited on a memory stick and they can be printed or not, shared or not.  Totally up to them.

This, to me, is what the holiday spirit is about.  It isn’t about how much you get.  It isn’t about how much you spend.  It isn’t about outdoing the other parent in a bidding war over the children’s love.  It’s about integrity, compassion, and caring for those in our lives and our communities.  Christmas is about loving one another regardless of race, creed, personal preference.  Christmas is about harmony.  Christmas is about joy.

I believe this will be my best Christmas yet.

the concept of happiness

I think we all struggle with being happy from time to time.  The ebbs and flows of the emotional sea don’t stay constant in an euphoric state.  There are a myriad of quotes that attempt to explain why it’s ok.  

Without the rain, there would never be rainbows.

Insert your favourite quote here…

Sometimes I think happiness is a choice.  Sometimes I struggle with the hand I’ve been dealt in life and wonder why I’ve been given what I have, then wallow in self pity because of it.  I think it safe to assume we have all been there.  

So here I am, contemplating this concept of happiness.  As I read more and more about those who have less and less, it really does appear to be a conscious decision on whether or not we choose to be happy.  Interesting concept.  I’ve been reading how we can only have enough energy to make so many decisions in one day, so paring down to necessary items can reduce the number of unnecessary decisions being made in a day which leaves you with the energy to focus on the more important  decisions.  Maybe there’s something to that.  Less trivial decisions mean you can devote time to the meaningful stuff. By not putting off the meaningful stuff means less stress of knowing there is a weight on your shoulders waiting for you to address it…that looming dark cloud of problems needing to be tackled.

Happiness as a choice means you choose to let some things go. Like in meditation, we notice those thoughts entering in, acknowledge them, and mentally sweep them away.  Perhaps unhappiness can be something like that in our consciousness.

What if happiness truly is independent of our possessions?

There are a lot of people who would argue against this statement.  Any business who depends on consumerism. If the concept of happiness independent of material goods caught on, many of these businesspeople would no longer be making their millions of dollars a year. My materialistic ex would never agree with this statement, particularly when he bought four brand-spanking-new vehicles in a span of two years.  But there are many, many people in our first world countries who choose to subscribe to this concept of minimalism and the decision to be happy.  This happiness seems to resonate on a higher frequency. This is something I have experienced. It is incredibly satisfying. Then to find the consumerism re-enter my life, slowly at first, it has made a negative impact on my life.  Decisions to clean and declutter make me depressed. It’s like a punishment that keeps me from doing what I love.  I want to create. I want to write, paint, be creative in my post production for my photography, but it all gets put aside because how do I justify doing things that bring me joy when I have a mess everywhere, no space to work, and have problems finding the things I would need to accomplish my creative product?

So, here.  This is the concept of happiness.  I am choosing to be happy. I am tackling the evils of consumerism and materialistic ways.  I am removing these unnecessary things from my space and allowing happiness to move in.  Happiness is a much better housemate. 

I choose happiness.