Goodbye, 2018

Wow, 2018, just wow. You’ve been and gone and raged like a tornado through my life. As with every year there’s been heady highs and scary lows, but I really feel like 2018 as a year, has changed me so much more than any other year I can remember.

I found Kinning Park Complex

Well “found” is probably the wrong word, since I had actually been walking past it almost daily for 3 years, no I suppose it’s more accurate to say I “ventured in” to Kinning Park Complex. It’s actually impossible to overstate how much impact KPC and the people there have had on Kenny and I – it’s changed everything from our career paths to how we spend our free time, not to mention we’ve met some truly amazing people and eaten (a lot) of really good food.

I began my transition to veganism

If I’m being honest, my omnivore lifestyle hadn’t sat well with me for quite some time, but I buried my head in the sand, because, hey – cheese is tasty. Like, really tasty. 2018 saw me finally face up to things and begin the move towards veganism. Some parts have been easy, some bits I have failed at, miserably, but I’m excited to finally be on the path that feels right for me – and I’m sure I’ll be writing a lot more about it as we head into 2019.

I made the leap to being self employed

After years of my mental health issues making me miserable when trying to hold down a typical job, 2018 was the year that, with encouragement from Kenny and my family, I finally said, “enough”, and decided I’d figure out another way to do this. Unlike a lot of people I didn’t have savings to fall back on or, you know, a plan, just sheer determination to stand on my own two feet and to prove that my anxiety and depression wouldn’t hold me back from being successful in life, even if they did in a “normal” job.

I could go on, and on, and on – rapidly realising that starting this post may have been a mistake. I could talk about how my family rallied around each other – as we always do. I could talk about how proud I am of Kenny for surviving University and landing an amazing job. I could share stories of barbecues and cutting a fringe in my hair (bad move btw),  of finally finding our local pub, learning Sorani and completely failing at a capsule wardrobe system – yeah, 2018 was a lot. Big mood.

Ultimately though, I’m all about looking forward, not back. So thank you 2018, for the lessons and the snow, for the scares and the seitan, the hugs and the hellos and here’s to 2019! Wishing you all a Happy New Year for when the time comes – I hope 2019 is good to you.

What was 2018 about for you? Let me know your highlights down below in the comments!

 

Waking Up is Hard to Do

 

dark silhouette of a cup of coffee - waking up morning mental health issues anxiety depression

I think most people can relate to that feeling of the alarm going off long before you’d like it to or to the discovery that somehow the air in your bedroom is below 0c and the reach for your dressing gown is just so, so far. Waking up can be difficult for a huge number of reasons, but today I want to talk specifically about why waking up can be hard if, like me, you suffer from anxiety and depression – and share some thoughts on how I make things easier for myself.

I’d like to preface this by saying, like I always do, that anxiety and depression are complex and unique, and just because these are my experiences does not mean I’m qualified – or have any intention of – weighing in on anyone else’s. I write these posts to share my thoughts and feelings on a subject I’ve been silent on for too long, and I really, sincerely hope they help someone else – but please remember, your emotions and experiences are valid, and are your own.

Waking Up Scenario One: Got a Big Day Ahead Tomorrow

You know the sort of day I mean: maybe you’re getting up earlier than usual, have a long train journey to go on, or are jammed in meetings all day – or heck, maybe it’s even your birthday and you have super awesome fun birthday plans.

But from the night before, anxiety kicks in and your mind starts wondering if that’s a headache coming on? Is your tummy feeling a little off? You get into bed and falling asleep seems about as easy as running an ultra-marathon; come to think of it, given the amount of adrenaline in your system right now, the marathon might be easier.

I think a lot of folks experience the whole “if I fall asleep now I’ll get 5 hours sleep” countdown phenomenon – and I think we all know how delightfully zombie-esque that leaves you feeling the morning after but, when anxiety and adrenaline are heaped on top of that, it’s pretty much a recipe for utter exhaustion and burnout the next day – which sucks if you’re destined to spend the day stifling yawns at work, and sucks even more if it’s your birthday but instead of having a good time you just want to hide under the duvet.

When I’m in this situation, I go into all out self care mode – and for the record, I’ll generally be the first to point out that mental health issues can’t be fixed with a cup of tea, but in this particular scenario, the little things really can make the difference. So, I’m laying out my outfit the night before, I’m charging my phone, packing snacks and asking Kenny to give me some support in the morning. I’ll have a bath, do some breathing exercises and crack out the Pukka Night-Time tea. In this situation I am all about trying to reduce the feeling of overwhelment – I chip away at the mountain of little tasks and thoughts flying around in my head to give myself the best chance possible of getting to sleep… and staying asleep.

Waking Up Scenario Two: Tomorrow is Going to be a Great Day

Bonus fun fact: I’m currently experiencing this one as I write this post. Oh, yay.

I’m very much a planner in life; I use Google Calendar for everything, I love the feeling of being productive and getting shit done in a day – in other words, I am not someone who is great at having un-scheduled down time. So, possibly the most frustrating of all the mental health waking up scenarios for me is this one: when I go to bed excited for what the next morning will bring, totally buzzing to get started on my work and on being creative… and then in the morning I wake up feeling like I’ve been hit by an emotional truck.

Where does it come from? Why does it happen? I have no idea, but wow, I wish I did. I wish I knew how to prevent my mood doing a 180 as I sleep, I wish I could understand what’s going on inside my mind so that I could help myself… and yes, get more work done. Waking up with the ghost of self-belief and motivation dissolving faster than cheap bath bomb is a truly devastating feeling. I want to be my best self, I want to be a bad ass boss bitch, I want to live my life to the fullest – but I also can’t keep my eyes open or remember why I thought silly old me would be capable of carrying out the plans I put together the night before.

This is the scenario I still struggle to deal with most because I think the best solution is to accept the feeling, and slow down – and that does not go well with my Type-A personality.  Sure, you can tell yourself off and force yourself to stick to all the plans – but in my experience, the result is usually frustration, increased anxiety and a mood rapidly spiralling downwards. When I feel like this, everything I draw is shit, every task takes me three times as long as it should, getting a text message triggers my anxiety, and yes, of course, we can’t just all take the day off work every time we feel like this, but compromise is usually an option.

For me, it means I get the most basic “needs done” admin tasks under my belt (which usually takes me about an hour in the morning) so that I don’t freak out completely about “what am I even doing with my life?!”, and then, I curl up with a book and I read for a while. Or, if really I have to do what I have to do in a day – at the very least, I speak to myself with kindness. I am gentle with myself. No, maybe I’m not feeling the spark I had the night before, and maybe I’m not working at the pace I should be, but I showed up, I’m fighting the anxiety, and I am doing my best. As cliche as it is, that really is all you can do. Here’s another post for if you need some more support on feeling like your best isn’t enough when it comes to anxiety and depression.

person holding coffee cup - anxiety depression mornings are hard

 

Waking Up Scenario Three: What’s the Point?

Ah, hello depression, my old friend.
This is probably the scenario we see most often depicted in TV shows, or how I imagine a lot of people picture depression – and while it is sort of cliched, it certainly does happen.You know how some mornings your alarm goes off and you know you should get up… but you don’t? Well, that is not this type of morning. On a morning like this, your alarm goes off and there is not a single part of you that thinks there’s any point in getting up.

Energy levels are so low they seem to have fallen into a deficit, self-worth is not something you can relate to and frankly, the world would probably be better off if you just stayed in bed today. This is a dark day.  This is the kind of day where eating, bathing and dressing are very real achievements (although, I’ll admit, I’ve still to earn my “I got dressed” badge on a day like this).

Giving advice on this scenario feels a little pointless, as I know when I have days like this I couldn’t care less what some woman on the Internet says, so I’ll just tell you what I do, or at least, what I try and do. First things first, I mentally re-adjust the bar and set it much lower for myself. If you are genuinely in such a bad place that you are struggling to feed yourself, then thinking about making a difficult phone call to a family member or trying to get your inbox to zero is probably not helping. I make a list for myself with actual, achieveable tasks that I can realistically accomplish – I mean, sometimes a task might be “charge phone”, but they’re still little tasks that will allow me to build momentum and possibly get back to a more rational state of mind, and if not? Well, hey, at least my phone is charged so I can lie and play Dots in bed for 7 hours.

These days are definitely the most difficult for me to “salvage”, but they’re also the days where I can come to appreciate the little things. Okay, yes, being to depressed to leave the house isn’t great – but at least I have a warm, safe home to stay in. Reading for 4 hours might not have been the most “productive” use of time, but I did learn a lot, or laugh a lot, or cry a lot – all of which can be valuable. If you’re having a dark day, please just hang in there; that’s the most sincere advice I can give.

So there we have it, just three of the many wonderful wake up scenarios that can occur when you’re battling with anxiety or depression. Maybe you’ve experienced these, maybe you’ve experienced others, but either way, I hope that reading this post gave you some reassurance that it’s not you, or a lack of willpower – when anxiety and depression are involved, waking up is hard to do.

Please feel free to reach out to me in the comments or on Instagram (@timorousminimalist), if you have any thoughts or questions about this post. Any obvious scenarios I missed? How do you cope when you wake up on a bad mental health day?

My 5 Simple-Living Steps for May

I’ve never really taken part in a specific minimalism challenge before, though I know there are a few fun ones out there, but as April turned into May I was sitting here with the feeling that I I’ve dropped the ball a little with my pursuit of a simple life. In some ways it’s not hard to see why; life has been a little emotionally charged lately with illness, Kenny finishing his degree and a near-loss of my beloved cat, all playing a part. When things are ticking along and I’m in a little routine, I find it much easier to centre myself and to remember why I wanted to pursue a simple life in the first place, but, when sleeping is a rarity, or it’s hard to eat anything it can be harder to keep the momentum going with working towards simplicity. My personal stand point, is that I feel we’re all human, and everyone will have an off day, or have their arm twisted by circumstances on occasion and just kind of need to do whatever to get through a situation, so I’m not prone to give myself too hard a time for the occasional slip up, but I feel like over the past couple of months, it’s been one slip-up after another to the point where I’m struggling to see where the path was in the first place.

So for May, I’m going to be doing 5 small, easy things to try and help myself centre back in on what’s truly important to me. Please feel free to join me in this mini-challenge, or any part of it that appeals to you, and be sure to let me know how you get on in the comments below, or over on Instagram!

A mug of peppermint tea, and some banana on toast

 

1. No phone checking until after breakfast

For quite a while there I was in a great routine of spending the first hour of the morning reading a book, drinking some tea and hugging my cat… then all of a sudden I was the person who rolls over to turn off their alarm and simultaneously opens Instagram. Why?!? I understand for some people the struggle is real because they maybe have work emails they know they need to get to, or their job involves having a solid social media presence… but not me. Literally my emails exist to notify me that something from my Steam Wishlist is on sale and that Pinterest has realised I only spend 14 hours a day on their site and so, they’ve suggested some more content for me, because it’s time I started showing some real commitment.
So, knowing all this, why do I still feel the need to check RIGHT NOW, and once I have checked and discovered it’s just the usual spam in my Inbox… why don’t I just put the phone back down? It’s like once I’ve started, I just can’t stop checking, slowly working my way through each app until I’m sitting there trying to catch my 600th Pidgey on Pokemon Go.
The thing is, I’ve always really enjoyed that quiet time with Meeko in the morning (it’s usually before Kenny’s up), sitting with the window open and a warm cup of tea and a good book- somehow, I just forgot this a bit along the way, but almost losing Meeko this past month really drove home just how important time with loved ones, furry or otherwise, really is. Instagram can wait.

a paperback book, some banana on toast and a mug of tea,

2. Oh yeah, and actually eat breakfast

My previous point was about the importance of time before breakfast, which I guess heavily implies there is a breakfast, which admittedly, not so much recently. I’m sort of hoping that by slowing down my mornings again, pre-breakfast,  I’ll actually realise I’m hungry and so this problem sort of correct itself, but, in order for that to be possible, I do need to make sure I actually have suitable breakfast food in the house. I have eaten so many biscuits for breakfast recently that I’ve had to switch myself over to rich tea biscuits because they’re the least horrendously bad of all the biscuits.

While, of course, breakfast is nutritionally important, and than in itself should be all the motivation I need to get into, and stick to, a good routine, for me, it’s also an important part of the simple life I want to live. It’s taking the time to start the day with some self care in the form of feeding myself, it’s really a win-win… if only I can get back into the habit.

3. Plan outfits the night before

When I started using a capsule wardrobe system at the beginning of March, I also made a Spreadsheet to help me plan outfits and track how often I’m wearing certain pieces, amongst other things. While I can appreciate that this probably sounds really over the top to a lot of people, I find having everything logged on a Spreadsheet makes it a lot easier to keep track of things, and to quickly put together outfits, however, I really want to get back to doing this the night before. Why? Well, for some practical reasons, like if something is going to need ironed, I’d rather do it in the evening when I have plenty of time, rather than turning on the iron in the morning and spending the rest of the day wondering if I switched it off. But, even aside for the distinctly practical aspects I do better planning outfits the night before. If I leave it until the day of, I am much more likely to be in a rush and grab the same, basic, comfy outfits over and over again – meaning large chunks of my wardrobe go unworn, and I sometimes end up out of the house feeling not very put together at all. Given that it takes about 10 minutes of an evening to check the weather forecast and fill in my Spreadsheet, it’s something so easy to do that really helps lower my stress levels, and keep things running more smoothly for the next day.

assortment of different fabrics and jewelry

 

4. Resume Bullet Journalling

I took up Bullet Journalling at the beginning of 2018 and I loved it. I was initially drawn to it more as a creative outlet than as a life-organisation tool – mostly because after years of trying every method under the sun to try and get my shiz together, I was pretty much resigned to the idea that nothing would work for me. However, I was wrong. Bullet Journalling turned out to provide not only a great source of fun, but also the easiest, most effective method of organisation that I’ve ever come across. I think, though, I made a bit of a rookie error about the whole thing – through January and February I put together very extensive and elaborate spreads that yes, took quite a while to do, but hey, I enjoyed it. March rolled around and I had a lot less time all of a sudden, so pages got left unfinished throughout the month, which made me pretty unhappy. Then, April hit, and I hadn’t left myself enough time to put together the most basic of layouts, so I dropped the ball completely… and April was a pretty disorganised mess for me me! I think I just need to find a balance with how much time I invest in creating the spreads versus how much time and stress they allow me to save. I want to strip back the amount of time I was “having” to put into it, and to use it more as a tool, because honestly, it really, really helps me keep calm and focus on the things that are important to me.

Bullet Journal food tracker

5. Make time for meal planning

Kenny and I both love our food, and even though we’re currently in a bit of disagreement over what we want our diet to look like – one thing remains the same, and that is that we both appreciate a good, home-cooked meal. Meal planning and prepping is another task like outfit planning for me, in that taking the time to really give it my full attention and get organised, really has benefits that last all week long. I love being able to make a meal that  will include leftovers which will feed us the next night too, or being able to make sure that we’re buying ingredients in the right quantities, and with enough flexibility in the types of food, that we won’t end up generating a bunch of food waste, even if our plans change slightly throughout the week. I feel very grateful that I have the time to cook meals for us, and if I’m organised and know what I’m doing I find it very theraputic, and one of the true simple pleasures in life.

So those are the little goals I’ve set for myself in May! I’m excited about taking this time to improve my quality of life and I can’t wait to see the difference it will all make. Let me know in the comments down below if you’re joining me in taking part in any part of this challenge, or, what would you suggest I try to get back to a more simple life?

Docs For Walks

Even though recently I’ve been having a lot of fun styling cute, Spring outfits – like this one – the reality is that I live in Scotland; the land of wind and horizontal rain. My Instagram feed is full of folks rocking dreamy floral dresses and while I don’t want to sound like a complete downer because yes, of course, sometimes I CAN dress like that in Scotland, but the truth is that for every day I get to leave the house with my pale, bare legs on display to the world, there are many more like today where it was very windy, intermittently heavily raining and oh, yeah, I had to walk more than six miles around the city. Some days I like to “style” outfits, but other days I pretty much just have to dress for the weather and the walking, which is why I wanted to include photos I took today in this post – because this is “real life” for me a lot of the time.

Reflection of Glasgow
urban scene with railway

Footwear has always been a bit of a (first-world) struggle for me; because you see, I don’t have adult sized feet. In the UK women’s shoes typically start in a UK size 3. My feet are a UK size 2 – and I don’t mean “oh they’re a bit smaller than a 3, like a 2 and a half”, I mean, they are barely a 2. This makes buying shoes difficult, but it makes trying to obtain ethical or sustainable shoes MUCH harder. Basically, I get by with old shoes I have left from my fast fashion days, thrifted kids’ Converse, and with size 3 boots sometimes I can thrift them and just use insoles, and wear extra socks and make it work, but obviously, that’s not great for when I’m going to be walking miles in a day.

I’ve wanted a pair of Dr. Martens for literally, years. They’re very much my aesthetic, plus their reputation for quality and durability is outstanding. I wanted them to be my walking-around-the-city shoes; shoes that I could put on rain or shine, with a whole bunch of outfits for days when I just need to basically not worry about my feet. After I learned that Dr Martens don’t have the best ethics, I figured I would buy a pair second hand instead (plus, bonus – CHEAPER), but after trying on several pairs of size 3’s (the smallest adult size) second hand, it became clear that they were just too big and that they would rub and slide and not be the comfortable, reliable shoe option I needed them to be. So, I combed the charity shop childrens’ shoe sections for months, and I stalked eBay as often as I remembered to, but ultimately, every listing I saw was just too imperfect. If I managed to find a pair on eBay that was my size (and a style I liked) then inevitably they were very, very scuffed – I think with being kids’ shoes they probably had a harder life than a lot of adult shoes! Had I found them in a charity shop for not-very-much-money and been able to look them over myself it might have been different, but the ones on eBay weren’t going super cheap and frankly a lot of the photos were vague/blurred, so I wasn’t happy to gamble the money on something I really wanted to last me a long, long time and risk them being in a bad way when they arrived.

 

bare trees with a rainy sky behind them

 

Dr Martens in a puddle
chainlink fence with some weeds growing in front of it

On a whim one day I checked the Dr Martens website and saw they had a sale on (which, because I hadn’t planned to buy new from them, I hadn’t been checking for), and on closer inspection I found a pair, in my size (in the kids’ range) for £35. They’re canvas, but the canvas is really thick and “waterproofy” feeling, not like the canvas of Converse hi-tops. The floral print on them wasn’t something I originally thought I’d go for, until I started to consider the fact that most days if I’m out walking loads I’m wearing my rain jacket (because it’s Scotland, it is going to rain at some point) which is black, and usually I wear it with black.. so maybe some cheery shoes wouldn’t be such a bad idea? Money wise, it wasn’t a great time to be buying shoes (even if they were a bargain) but Kenny and I reasoned that having sturdy, comfy shoes would encourage me to walk more and use the subway less, so in time, they would help save money as well as keep me healthier.

reflection of Dr Martens as seen in the Riverside Museum building window
chainlink fence and some lorry containers, urban scene
photo of me, in my raincoat and scarf

I think this purchase has also helped teach me a valuable lesson about shopping ethically: you can only do the best you can do in a certain situation, and that’s ok. Ultimately, I wish I could have found a pair second hand, but after months of looking (and quite a lot of blisters on my feet in the meantime), I couldn’t hold out any longer. I wish I had been able to buy shoes from a truly ethical and sustainable brand – but so few make shoes down to my size, and of the ones that do many of the designs are childish (I mean, they ARE kids’ shoes to be fair), or priced way above my means at the moment, and so I did the best I could. I bought a pair of shoes in a style and pattern that I love and feel safe that I will love for years to come, I bought them in a non-leather material, and I bought them from a company that is known for making long-wearing shoes, so while this might not have been the most ethical purchase of walking shoes, it should at least be my only purchase of walking shoes for a LONG time, and that’s something too.

selfie captured using the reflection in the Riverside Museum building
urban scene featuring city street-lights and lamp-posts

Do you have a go-to pair of shoes that you always know you can walk miles in? Do you have any suggestions for ethical, small-sized shoes for me to look at in the future? Have you owned a pair of Dr Martens? How well did they last?

 

The Difference Between Dead Time and Down Time

Growing up, I feel like I always had a lot of ideas; always had a bunch of projects I was working on, and a list of things I wanted to learn about. I wanted to illustrate books and I wanted to be bilingual, I wanted to travel and to write and to help people plan Walt Disney World vacations (I mean, I know that last one reads sort of specific, but it’s the truth so…). In short, I never saw myself as a lounging around watching VHS/DVD/Netflix (delete as appropriate for specific life era) sort of a person. But unfortunately, that’s what I’ve become.


Living with anxiety and depression has meant that there have been a lot of times when I’m not at my strongest; when my energy reserves have been low, my mood has been all over the place and my creativity has been entirely absent. The real problem with this is that I am REALLY bad at identifying and correctly managing these issues. Historically, I’ve pretended they’re not happening and forced myself onwards regardless; bullying myself for being weak or for failing at things, I believed that willpower alone should be enough to override the depression. I believed that getting blog posts or videos up was my priority and if I was missing my upload deadlines the solution was to skip other things; things like eating, bathing and relaxation time, in order to not lose face or to feel like my dreams were slipping through my fingers. Needless to say, this did not work out so well for me, and over the years I experienced some very big crashes which pretty much resulted in Kenny making me fish fingers and waffles twice a day for a week, while I sat in the same pair of pyjamas and watch Deadly Women on repeat on Netflix and cried into my teddy bear, wondering what Candice DeLong would have to say about me. I know it sounds like I’m joking, but honestly, I’ve experienced some really bad times.

I stopped believing anyone would ever read the blog, so why write it?

Over the last year or so though, things swung too far the other way. I think I gave up. I stopped believing anyone would ever read the blog, so why write it? I couldn’t consistently upload to YouTube so why keep disappointing people? The language I was learning wouldn’t stick in my head, the diet plans were abandoned when I had a ‘dark day’, I pushed and pushed at the few friends I had to try and get them to leave before I ruined things… what was the point in anything. I would only fail and exhaust and embarrass myself in the process.

The more I felt I was struggling the more I tried to slow down, so the more time I blocked out for myself. I needed an hour in the morning and three at night just to veg out and watch things online, to feel placated enough to somehow function throughout the rest of the day. Then when this didn’t work, I blocked out more time. Cancelled date night, stopped cooking, stopped reading, stopped painting my toenails – there wasn’t enough time for any of that. I didn’t have enough time. No matter how many hours I sat and did nothing, I could never relax.

Meanwhile, my Bookmarks folder and my YouTube watch later playlist were overflowing. I had a notebook bulging with thumbnail sketches and planned blog posts. I would jot down jokes, or prompts or things I thought might help people – if only I would one day be strong enough to do something about it. Then, one day, as I rolled over onto the third season of Suits, and realised I’d hated at least the previous 1.5 seasons of this show I began to wonder what I was doing with my life.

I had so many ideas and so many things that I wanted to do and to give back, I really believed that I could help other people with mental health issues, but I just felt so powerless to do, well, anything about it. Nevertheless daring to hope a solution was out there, I started looking into time management and productivity methods. I downloaded approximately 73,000 apps to help me, I tried bullet journalling, we bought a white board, but nothing really helped because I was so stuck in this feeling of needing safe time, quiet time.

I tried bullet journalling, we bought a white board, but nothing really helped because I was so stuck in this feeling of needing safe time, quiet time.

Then in my reading I came across the Tony Robbins concept of N.E.T – which stands for No Extra Time – and I’m not going to lie, on the surface this sounded like a scary thing for me. I felt like I could barely function, limping through mandatory tasks like food shopping, and now, I was supposed to do multiple things at once? Seriously? But yes, indeed this is what N.E.T is about. Basically, it’s the idea that we have all this time we have to sink into things such as cleaning the bathroom, jogging or commuting, but, while these tasks engage our bodies and in some ways leave us “stuck”, they don’t actually control our thoughts. Now I, like a lot of the population, used to use situations like this to zone out, or watch something trashy, to “relax”, I thought, my anxiety meant I needed to relax – but what else could I do with this time?

What if the half hour I spend washing dishes can also be the time I learn Spanish? What if I use my bath time in the morning to check-in with myself and visualise the day ahead? What if instead of watching Suits while I eat my breakfast I read or I learn something new through a site like Skillshare – I mean, sure, I’ll miss being #LittUp in the mornings, but you know, sacrifices need to be made I guess.

I’m here today not just to say that N.E.T really works well – because I think, probably, that’s been established already – but to talk about exactly what it’s taught me, and the amazing gift it’s given me. I started by making a list of what I wanted to do with my life, in specifics (as in not just “get fit”, but “run a half marathon in 2018”), and then made a list of things that I know to be true about myself and my needs, (as in, that I am a morning person who starts the day fired up and slowly drains throughout the day) and I set about working out ways that I could match up taking care of my needs with getting what I wanted.

I don’t want to too much into the specifics of the routine I made here as this post is already crazy long, but I do want to talk about the results. I worried that I would feel overwhelmed by giving myself more to do in a day; that I would feel rushed or pressured but actually it’s been the opposite. For example, if I am out a jog and I’m really low energy and I’m walking more than I’m jogging, I don’t find myself focusing on the negativity there because I’m also learning about life in Glasgow in the 1800’s, so even if I don’t run much, I’ve still come back into the house a ‘richer’ person. I could give a dozen examples like this, all of which would be true and, for me, a huge deal, but as I said, I think the benefits of using the N.E.T. method are well established, so let me just finish by talking about the biggest lesson I’ve learned of all.

I had previously thought that all the time I had spent lounging about in front of Netflix was relaxation time, time that I needed to recharge my batteries, but I can see now that I was wrong, it was dead time. I wasn’t learning, or growing or achieving anything, but I also couldn’t relax properly because I was so wracked with guilt about wasting my life away. It’s hard to relax when you have a list of goals you’re getting no closer to, and a pile of dishes in the sink you’ve not washed in days. I kidded myself that the time was good for me, I was listening to my body and showing that I was in control of looking after myself instead of pushing on to silly levels, but I can see now that it was the anxiety talking. After all, anxiety doesn’t want us to become successful, or to take risks or try new things, anxiety wants to keep us where we’re safe and in control – i.e on the couch with a cup of tea in hand. And I let my anxiety convince me that this was for the best.

After all, anxiety doesn’t want us to become successful, or to take risks or try new things, anxiety wants to keep us where we’re safe and in control…

Now, although yes, I am tackling much more in a day, I find that by structuring things well and pursuing things I’m genuinely very passionate about, I feel fulfilled rather than overwhelmed and by achieving so much earlier in the day, by the time evening comes around I’m ready for some ACTUAL downtime. Time where there is no guilt or pressure, where the dishes are done and I can take a little time to be proud of myself for the day before getting cosy under a blanket with a good book, or actually watching a whole film from start to finish.

Learning about the N.E.T method, as well as becoming aware of how I work and what I want as an individual, has meant that I am able to structure my days and make the most of my “good times”, so that when the times come that I’m sad, or I’m tired I have the ability to switch off and give myself some proper down time, rather than staring into space like some sort of zombie, shutting out the real world and my own thoughts. There is a huge difference between down time and dead time, and I am so glad that I’m finally able to tell the difference between the two and give myself the actual relaxation that I deserve.

Minimalism and Nostalgia – What I’ve Learned.

If we were to make a scale running between “cold hearted bitch” and “tears up at every Disney movie ever made”, then set me up with some Kleenex because I am most definitely a nostalgia loving, sappy, kid at heart. Even for those who would consider themselves more “practically minded” than me – the person who kept every sketchbook I ever filled as a kid (spoiler: they were all filled with pictures of horses and ‘fashion designs’ – all named after birthstones or zodiac signs. The fashion designs… and the horses) – I think the idea of tossing out irreplaceable childhood mementos and memories can be pretty daunting. I mean, I can’t just go out and get some Tazos if I decide I want to get into it again, can I?

And of course, as I would point out with all aspects of minimalism – if you want to keep all of those mementos, then you do you – there is of course no right or wrong here, BUT, what if you do decide you don’t want the entire space under your bed to be occupied by Beanie Babies and souveniers from a theme park that doesn’t exist anymore? Well, here’s what I did – what worked for me, and what I regret.

Method One: Put things away in a cupboard? (AKA the “Out of Sight Out of Mind” Method)
 
The first thing I did came right at the start of my decluttering journey, and to be honest, didn’t work that well for me (I mean, there’s probably a reason everyone advises to leave photographs and sentimental items until the very end, but hey, I’m a rebel). I chickened out of even dealing with all the ornaments and trinkets I had amassed from 18th birthday gifts and the like, and instead I put them all in a box and we shoved them at the back of a cupboard somewhere. Some people like this approach, the idea is that you put them away for some months and then if you don’t miss them, or feel anything when you take them out, then they go bye-bye. Of course, the cupboard we shoved the box in happened to also house the Christmas tree, so when my box of precious, irreplaceable items came back out it was during the annual Christmas Tree stress-athon (“Which cupboard did you put the tree in?” “How should I know you put it away!” – Christmas is not Kenny’s favourite thing in the world.) We plucked the box out by accident, thinking it housed the sparkly reindeer (as you do). So, as I looked back through my items it was less of a ‘well thought out reunion’ and more of a quick rifling through newspaper and trying to make a split second decision before the “high up cupboard” was closed again and out of my reach (I do not ‘do’ ladders, for everyone’s sake). In amongst this I sort of realised that this just hadn’t worked for me, because I hadn’t dealt with the emotions associated with the items before I put them away, I just had that decision to make from scratch when I finally took them back out, which made the whole excersise seem a bit pointless (and we never did find the sparkly reindeer last year). It took me just as long to decide how I felt about things then – and at a much more stressful, less convenient time – than if I had just gone through the process properly in the first place – because of course I didn’t actually want to keep the ceramic owl I painted when I was six, I wanted to ‘keep’ the memories associated with it, so physically hiding the owl didn’t help – it was never about the owl.

Method Two: Taking Photographs of Items and Then Getting Rid of the Actual Items (AKA Let’s Get Digital, Digital)

Another thing people suggest doing if you have a bunch of bulky items that you only keep because they remind you of something or someone, is to just take a photograph of those items and then toss the giant stuffed bear/vase you hate/hat that hasn’t fit you since you were eight, and hey presto, a giant box of memories can be condensed down to the size of a flash drive. It sounds great, and for some things I did like this – like, for example with my childhood sketchbooks, I took a bunch of photos of the meticulously labelled sketches I made of outfits for each of The Spice Girls (trust me, they have no idea what they’re missing out on here), and stored those digitally and then was able to get rid of those books and believe me, that felt great, they really did weigh a ton and take up hella space, but… that was about all I liked it for. During my degree (which is in art), I primarily kept visual journals, and again, these things were so bulky that they took up about half of my bookcase, and I mean, how often did I even look at them? So I did the same thing, I took photos and then tossed them, and boy, do I regret it. These pages were layered and textured – they were tactile and meant to be interacted with – the emotion that I felt both for and from them, came from physically touching them and seeing all those layers of writing, of scribbles, of images, and in reducing them to a 2D photograph I robbed myself of ever really getting to “experience” those pages as they were meant to be experienced again. The same is true of some stuffed animals I got rid of – it wasn’t what they looked like that held the magic, it was the feel of their ‘fur’ or their particular level of squishyness if you gave them a hug, and a photograph just doesn’t give you any of that.

Ultimately, I  regret getting rid of my journals – if I knew then what I know now, I would have kept them. With the teddy bears and everything else, I think ultimately I would have let them go onto new homes (and new hugs #sappy), but I think I would have less emotions about it now if I had made a clean break  – thanked them for their service and released them with love – rather than trying to kid myself that I could “keep ahold of them”  through the photographs. You cannot have your massive Eeyore and eat it, or something like that.

Method Three: Better Check Your Mum Doesn’t Want That Teapot

Marie Kondo cautions heavily about storing things in other locations – whether that’s hoarding 33 lipsticks in your desk at work or never fully moving out of your parents house; all of these items are still our posessions, even if they’re not physically in our homes. I totally agree with her there, and I did even go as far as clearing all my stuff out of the attic at my Mum’s – well, except the guitar, I mean, I feel like I totally might come back to that. One day. Not soon. But here’s the thing I learned with nostalgic items – it wasn’t just me who felt nostalgic about some of them. There were items I literally had boxed to go out to charity, but after mentioning them to family members they gratefully scooped them up – totally appalled that I would consider getting rid of them at all. The reason I didn’t feel like this was ‘cheating’ was because I had made my peace with these items and was ready to let them go, one way or another, but I’m not going to lie, it was easier to know they were going to my mum who would cherish them, rather than just releasing them into the big unknown. Of course, I have no idea if she still has the items (I mean, yes, of course she does, she is NOT into minimalism), but it did make it easier to let them go at the time. So while clearly this shouldn’t be your main method of letting go of items, it possibly is worth checking if that handmade felt Christmas tree bauble you made at pre-school means as much to someone in your family as it once did to you (Unless you’re a member of my family where my mum “forgets” to take my 23 years old felt bauble out of the Christmas Box, EVERY YEAR).

Method Four: Suck It Up Buttercup

I wish I could say that there was some easy way that worked for me; some trick or step by step process, but there wasn’t. I’ve taken several passes through my memories box at this point and honestly, I still don’t really have a shitting clue about what to do about a lot of it. I have days where I feel like my heart is being ripped in half at the thought of throwing some of these things out, and then I have days where I feel like my memories box is like a dangerous, emo, wormhole transporting me back to my teens – which it has to be said, were not great – and really, should I revisit those times? Is it healthy to keep the memories of these places and people alive? Is it healthy to not remember them?

Ultimately though, the best method that worked for me was just to sit down and really face the music, and go through it all, all at once. I had huge success in some areas – such as the afformentioned childhood sketchbooks – but I have not done so well in others – stuffed animals have faces, okay, so it’s harder, you have to like look them in the eye as you tell them you don’t love them anymore, oh jeez, here come the Toy Story 3 flashbacks…

Anyway, I have learned a few things along the way through doing this though, namely:

1. The memories that really matter to you, the people that really matter to you, you won’t forget, no matter what, so while I’m not suggesting that you throw out all the old photos of your closest family members and just keep the ones of you with random people at parties (that would be a hilarous photo album to show future children though), but just that if there are items you’re holding onto purely because you’re scared you’ll forget an amazing day, then it is ok to let go. You won’t forget.

2.  You don’t have to get rid of anything. I mean this in both the short term and the long term. Marie Kondo talks of the importance of decluttering once and doing it so thoroughly and properly that it is not an ongoing process, and while for the most part I do think that makes sense, I also know I had good days and bad days (or good months and bad months actually) when it came to decluttering and if I had tried to force anything I would just have ended up building a Beanie Baby fort and defending it with my life – so yeah, in the short term, if it really doesn’t feel right, then it isn’t right; stop the process for as long as you feel you need to. And of course, in the longer term, even if you feel commited to minimalism, remember that there are no rules attached to minimalism, so you can keep every certificate you ever got in school, or have every wall decked out with 100 photos, that’s all totally cool – if it’s what feels right for you.

3. Not all memories are good memories, and by that I don’t just mean the ones that are obviously not good – like the time I was chased by a gaggle of geese at a farm park when I was a young child. I still can’t hear that awful honking noise they make without practically hitting the ceiling. I’m also referring to memories that “should” be good, but aren’t – for me, for example, that was basically anything to do with school. My anxiety crippled my life during my school years and while I always did really well academically (well, I mean, PE doesn’t count right?), I found that any time I looked at a school certificate or souveneir from a school trip, or even photos from back in the day, all I really felt was the fear and the shame and the guilt associated with my anxiety back then. I could consciously remember the feeling of our choir winning the competition, or of getting an A in maths when nobody thought I would (I did do well academically in school, honestly, but there was a certain floppy haired boy in maths class, so you know) – but at the same time as I was trying to focus on those memories, I would also feel the bottom drop out of my stomach and all those bad feelings from the past come back, and ultimately the bad feelings were worse for me than the good thoughts were good. So I got rid of everything from my school days – at least this way nobody can hilariosuly print an old school photo of me in A1 size for my 30th birthday or something…

So that’s it, that’s what I tried and how it worked, and what I know now, which admittedly is arguably still not very much. For me, this was definitely one of the most challenging aspects of shifting to minimalism, but I overall feel I’ve done pretty well in letting things go, but as you can hopefully tell from the hopefully artsy pictures that I have hopefully taken and sprinkled gracefully thoughout this post, I definitely haven’t gotten rid of everything either.

Ironically enough, for me the next step is to actually bring out more nostalgic stuff in the form of getting some digital photos printed (did you know we can do that??!?) and getting some memories put up on our walls. I very much like blank walls, but I very much like some of the people I’ve been lucky enough to know and some of the places I’ve been lucky enough to go to, too. The difference is that while sometimes I used to feel like I was living in a time capsule surrounded by so many memory triggers, now I can be sure to choose the photos of the times I really want to remember and then bring them out where I can enjoy them.

As always, if you yourself have gone through the decluttering process – KonMari style or otherwise – let me know what your experiences were, and hey, if you’re not into the thought of minimalism at all, let me know about that too!

Sneaky, Sneaky FOMO

I had heard of FOMO (or “fear of missing out”) a lot over the years as various bloggers on my feed lamented not going to Ibiza for the first Summer in 5 years, or not going to the music festival that EVERYONE was going to. I saw colleagues totally burn themselves out drinking many nights in a row because they couldn’t bare the thought of not being at the party, just in case – but honestly, FOMO was never a big part of my life.

As I think I’ve talked about a bunch on here, I was never part of the in-crowd as a kid – like it or not, that was something that just wasn’t an option for me – so growing up I missed all the parties, all the scandalous happenings, the drunken outings and the ‘squad’ holidays. As time passed, I never did go out to da club and I never did get something pierced.  I never got sunburned, never had a crazy fling, never kept up with the chart music, the TV shows or the celebrities.

Part of this, I think, was falling in with an older crowd at college – as in, they were in their 40s – and then also being in relationships with older men – all people who had done all the typical “young” stuff and had moved on – so I think I just sort of moved on too. That and the fact that as time passed, I felt I had sort of missed the boat on a lot of it: getting drunk at 18 for the first time and making a fool of yourself may be excusable and pretty normalised, but I felt it would just be a bit awkward at 25 or whatever.

So yeah, I kind of marched to the rhythmn of my own drum, I guess: I had my interests, my music taste, my Netflix list, and I didn’t really care if they were “cool”. In a lot of ways, I suppose I didn’t know what I was missing out on. Colleagues at work would initially spark conversations with me about current goings on, but after a few rounds of; “no, really, I don’t own a TV”, and “Yeah, I’ve never been on a night out”, or even, “what’s One Direction?”, and people soon gave up on me and moved on to chat about the weather – now that I can do, have you seen the rain lately? Occasionally my sister would look at me like I had three heads as we listened to music together, but other than that, basically everyone knew I was on my own path.

Now though, having started this new barista job, I am surrounded by lovely young folks who are so nice to me, and don’t seem to be giving up on me easily either. We’ve had lots of chats about what the nightlubs in Glasgow are called, what Grindr is, what the bands I listened to when I was 14 are doing now (hint: it’s not good), and why Love Island is such a thing (I still don’t get it). But, despite how nice everyone is, as time passed, I started to feel really out of it, I felt “uncool” and like I was really missing out on a lot. I started to want to keep up with the things they kept up with, I vowed to participate on the next night out and I would grimace at myself when I was just so out of the loop with EVERYTHING.

Eventually, thankfully, I had a couple of realisations – brought about by a guy at work talking about “dabbing” and the awkwardness of us just staring at each other for about 10 seconds after we realised I had no idea what that was. The first realisation was that I am older. I am 26, my fiance is 35, so of course my life does not look the same as my 20 year old colleagues’. They’re out partying and eating instant noodles (I mean, probably not at the same time, although as I’ve covered, I actually have no idea what goes on at parties), and Kenny and I spent yesterday at Dobbies choosing out compost (honestly. not. even. joking). Our idea of snuggling up to watch something does not involve the dramas of random singletons on an island (‘cos I think that’s what Love Island is… right?), we’re currently rewatching David Attenborough’s The Private Life of Plants, and you know what? We love it. While age certainly shouldn’t be something used as a rule – as in I don’t think every 26 year old is too old to hit the clubs, I just know I am – life does move through natural chapters, and I am not in the same chapter as my workmates are.

That sort of leads me onto my second realisation about why I was all of a sudden drowning in the FOMO. More than the fact I felt out of touch, and like I was missing out on things now I think it was the realisation that I am truly past the point of a lot of things happening in my life. I am an adult. I am a pet-parent. I’m getting married. I think working with all these young people who are so free made me freak out a little about the fact I’ll never be like that again. I will never be able to just “crash on someone’s couch”, I have a cat who would spend the night sharpening her claws for when I did come home. I will never use a dating app, heck, I will never have another first date. I’ll never have a holiday romance, an awkward morning after or a love affair with Aragorn (although that might be mostly because he’s ficticious). I’ll never know who’s on TV, I’ll never keep up with the Kardashians. I can’t go back and have a massive 21st birthday party, I can’t get a drunk tattoo and regret it when I’m older, I can’t… well, I can’t be 20 again.

It has to be said that I have a history with struggling to accept things like this: that my life has passed some sort of threshold I can’t go back from. I spent much of my 11th birthday in tears becuase my Hogwarts owl never arrived (I sat up half the night with my window open, waiting for it), and on the eve of my 16th birthday I had quite the freak out about my CHILDHOOD BEING OVER, prompting my mum to rush out and buy me several My Little Ponies. So, yeah, I think this is another example like this: something I just need to build a bridge and get over. Because let’s face it, I have a lot to be grateful for; I shouldn’t be sitting around feeling jelly (that’s something young people say) of my fellow baristas.

I have my wonderful fiance who is just honestly like the other half of me, I have my beautiful fur-baby who I love more than I would ever have thought possible. We own our awesome flat, I’m lucky enough to be studying again and at 26 I can finally use a can opener with at least some competence. With so much to be thankful for, it’s time to let go of some things too – and to accept I’m the outsider at work, and that’s actually okay.  So here’s to propogating aubergine seeds, shopping for a new matress, listening to Bach and still not having a fucking clue what dabbing is.