Avoiding the consumer trap: How minimalism can help in the holiday season

As soon as Hallowe’en and Bonfire Night are over, then – boom!– we seem to be launched into the holiday season. I always feel a little dismayed to see Christmas decorations in the shops even as early as late October/early November, with advertisers trying to persuade us that ‘Winter is here!’

[Dear marketers: Winter is not here. Here, you will find we are in the throes of a wet but nonetheless beautiful Autumn.]

Inevitably, though, our thoughts will turn to gifting and the inevitable questions:

  • What are we doing for Christmas? (swap out whichever holiday festival applies to you)
  • What would like for Christmas?

I’ve written about this before, but it’s no bad thing to reflect on what we can do to enjoy the festivities; to offer our loved-ones or colleagues a token of our love and gratitude; and to get through the holiday season with our bank balance intact.

Experiences over stuff

Experiences (as opposed to stuff) are what stay with us long after the occasion itself. This is where a minimalist’s approach can help avoid overwhelm, clutter, the purchase of unnecessary ‘stuff’ and overspending.

I recently celebrated A Signficant Birthday (yes, I am 20-lots!) and very much appreciated the lovely gifts I received. They were real treats, many of them consumable and (for the vast majority), they were about experiences over stuff. An afternoon tea with friends, dining ‘haute cuisine’ and spa experiences are the types of things we can share and enjoy together to create memories. These are the gifts that I will recall when I look back on my 50th birthday.

Enablers

One category, which may be worth considering as part of your 2019 gifting strategy is that of ‘enablers’. Perhaps piece of equipment or clothing to enable someone to enjoy a particular experience would be a great gift. When Mr G turned 50, we created a Fun Fund, which has supported a number of short trips, as well as the purchase of some necessary equipment (e.g. hiking boots).

For this Christmas, My dad has asked for something useful that, for him, falls into the category of ‘enabler’. Recently, he bought himself a new CAD/CAM package, with the associated e-book manual. However, he’d really like to be able to thumb through a physical book, which will help him get to grips with the new software that he uses for his model engineering drawings. That’s what we’ll buy for him.

Another example is membership of an association or organisation that could support and enable future adventures. We’ve just joined the South West Coast Path Association, which helps support the 630 miles of coastal path along which we hope to hike over the next few months and years. The photo for this post shows the first section of the Path, between Minehead in Somerset and Porlock, just a little way down the coast (and taken last weekend).

Consumables

Don’t forget, things you make yourself can be inexpensive, but very much appreciated.

Last year, my lovely sister-in-law got me into making fudge… in the slow cooker. This sounds very odd indeed, but it’s incredibly easy to do and the results are very delicious indeed. Imagine lemon meringue fudge, with a melt-in-the-mouth texture….you get the idea. There are groups online where you can get discover the basic method, get inspiration for different recipes and seek the advice of more experience fudge-makers if you’re not sure how it’s going (the group I joined is on Facebook). My mantra over fudge making? Follow the instructions to the letter and you can’t go wrong.

Do good, feel good

Finally, before you rush out and buy Christmas cards, consider instead a donation to a charity that will make a difference to people’s lives this holiday season. I’ve recently become aware of The Hygiene Bank. Their #ITSINTHEBAG is truly inspiring and that’s something I’m going to be looking into over the next few days.

Whatever we do – and however we celebrate – being intentional about how we spend our money and to whom (and to what) we give our attention means more than anything money can buy.

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Simplifying weekday meals

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I’ve written before about simplifying meal planning but – in the past week – we’ve had to ramp things up when it comes to making things simpler.

Mr G is recovering from major surgery on his back. As a result, he has been told not even to lift a full kettle, so I have been Chief Nurse, as well as being Head Cook and Bottle Washer.

Planning ahead

While Mr G was in hospital, I awoke very early one morning. Mulling things over, I decided to do some research on meal kits. Given that I’m still working full time during his recuperation, some of the things that he would normally do will now fall to me. And since I can’t be walking the dog and cooking the dinner at the same time, my logic was that getting a bit of help in the way of easy-to-prepare meals might be something to consider.

I don’t want to eat ready meals so….

Organic veggie boxes have been around for many years, but recipe boxes are a more recent phenomenon. I’d been aware of some of the ones that advertise extensively (e.g. Hello Fresh) but if you Google ‘recipe boxes’ up comes a whole raft of options. How on earth do you choose?

The Independent View

While undertaking my nocturnal scrolling, I came across this article from The Independent. Albeit around 18 months old, the article reviewed 12 of the best recipe boxes that were available at the time. I clicked on the links to find out more about the top 3 rated services: Gousto, Riverford and Yorkshire based Snap (northern slang for ‘food’).

Happily, the first two were still going strong but I wasn’t sure about Snap; perhaps it is no longer trading?

The product ranges

Here’s where you’d think it would be straightforward, but there are quite a few choices.

First up, the key question. Are you feeding four or two? Hmm. Well, neither. We are a family of three. Given that I like to take leftovers for lunch the following day, I decided to opt for the ‘family of four’ option.

Then, do you want dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, low carb, 10 minute meals, everyday favourites, global kitchen, plant based.. the list goes on! It certainly seems there’s something for everyone, albeit I would concede, this is not the cheapest way to shop.

My choice

I decided to try Gousto, which was offering 50% off the first order. That means we paid £23.88 for 4 x meals for four this week.

If you’re interested in doing the same, click on any of the Gousto links I’ve posted here and you’ll get the same deal (50% off your first order in any one month, then 30% off orders in the same month). Full disclaimer: If you do this, I’d also get £15 credit towards my next box (and you’d then be able to pass on the same offer to friends in your own network).

The Independent described this company as offering ‘tasty and innovative’ meals and I have to say the pictures looked appealing. My key question was this: would the meal kit emulate something I had cooked from scratch, or would there be a ‘ready meal’ quality to it?

In reflecting on my motivation, I wanted something that would:

  • Be quick to prepare (the recipes provide exactly the quantities required, so no time spent weighing ingredients)
  • Provide some variety, with different flavours, tastes and textures
  • Take the planning and thinking time down considerably: I just selected what looked appealing, added the recipe to my box and that was it

Delivery

The delivery options were straightforward; I could pay extra for a timed delivery (albeit within quite a long window or accept the box would arrive any time during the day but with no delivery charge. I decided to go for the ‘free’ delivery, since Mr G would be at home to receive it.

Whoops! On the day of delivery, I received the following via email….

“Unfortunately, due to a small operational issue we’ve had to move your delivery to the evening delivery slot.

Your box will still arrive tomorrow, just a little later than planned – between 6pm and 10pm.”

Then, surprise! The box arrived late afternoon (thank goodness, we might have been hungry)…

Packaging

I was curious to see to what extent the packaging would be recyclable. Even when cooking from scratch (my usual mode of operation), we still – as a household – create a lot of recycling waste.

The Gousto box did contain some cellophane and plastic-wrapped items (you can’t transport a mozzarella in a paper bag), but I didn’t feel the packaging was excessive. Indeed, the company’s information booklet states a solid commitment to reducing waste this year.

What was curious was the sheep’s wool insulation that encircled the food and worked, along with two ice blocks, to keep the food cool. If we bought enough boxes, we could insulate our loft!

Sheeps wool

The Proof of the Pudding

So, onto the main event.

Breakfast bar

Were the recipes easy to follow? Yes! Although they’re designed for two people, so you have to make sure you’ve doubled each ingredient to create the meal for four. That said, the liquid quantities caught me out – I automatically doubled the amount of water needed for my ‘Avo Taco’ smokey beans, then realised that I only needed 50% more liquid.

The ‘Avo Tacos’ were really tasty and passed the ‘home cooked’ taste test. Indeed, because you’re working with fresh ingredients and perfectly-measured herbs and spices, you’re still cooking from scratch.

But, the main question has to be, “What did it taste like?”

We really enjoyed this first meal. I halved the total amount of spices, as we don’t like things to be too hot. This meant that we enjoyed all the flavour without the heat.

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Tonight’s meal is a Cheesy Tomato Gnocchi Tray Bake, which I’ve started preparing. When I get home, all I’ll do is a bit of mixing and final assembly, bung the dish in the oven and prepare some greens as a side dish.

10 out of 10?

So, how would I rate Gousto?

Actually, I quite liked it. It was fun receiving the box and digging out the carefully curated ingredients. The recipes offered taste options that meant I could choose a variety of meal types over the four days and they included both cooked meals and options for salad-based recipes. I’d certainly give it 9/10 so far. What I have changed for next time is the quantities, having decided that recipes for 2 will feed 3 nicely.

As you can see from the link to the Tray Bake recipe, everything’s really clear; you even get a nutritional breakdown, which would be especially useful if you’re counting calories.

So, bring on tonight’s dinner… and let’s see what’s in store for next week!


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Clutter is costly

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My other half has just received a copy of Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism. This is interesting and timely for a number of reasons, not least because my next post (a guest blog) will cover this very topic.

Plus, wait…., my husband has bought a book with minimalism in the title!

The first page we opened when Newport’s book arrived contained this phrase: Clutter is costly. This set my brain whirring. For me, this phrase suggests that clutter – when seen as excess – is not only costly on the wallet, it’s literally costing the earth.

Clutter is costly on the wallet

Whenever we buy stuff we don’t truly need, we’re spending money to satisfy a fleeting desire when these funds could be saved for a short-term financial goal or even invested for the future.

I recently pre-ordered my (digital) copy of Gretchen Rubin’s forthcoming book, Outer Order, Inner Calm. As part of a package of pre-order bonuses, I’ve been receiving some daily ‘outer order’ challenges via email. Today’s suggestion speaks directly to this theme.

Rubin asserts that impulse shopping is a “serious happiness stumbling block.” In her eyes, buying on impulse (so easy to do in the era of one-click shopping), creates unnecessary clutter. I’d go a step further and say it has a serious impact on your budget, too.

Costing the earth….

This week, there were more news stories on fast fashion and its negative impact on the environment. The UK Government was said to be considering a number of measures to tackle this, including the possibility of adding a 1p tax on every item of clothing sold, the revenues from which would pay for improved recycling solutions. This seems like a no-brainer, especially if it’s true that around £140m worth of clothing is going into landfill every single year.

Style not fashion

One of the problems with fast fashion is that it appeals especially to teens and youngsters who don’t have the means to invest in good quality clothes that would last. And why would they want to? When brands like Zara are bringing out new ranges every other week, my daughter’s generation are not going to be interested in saving up for something that would count as ‘investment dressing’.

Still, it’s good to remember that the late Karl Largerfeld, who died this week at the age of 85, said, “Trendy is the last stage before tacky.” That’s fine with me; I’m not a great follower of trends and have always been a late adopter when it comes to the novel or new (particularly when it comes to technology).

Declutter your life and save money

So, consider these tips to avoid costly clutter. We can all do more.

  • Get rid of the excess and you’ll be able to see – and enjoy – what you already have, before you buy more
  • Make money from selling unwanted stuff (especially higher-value items)
  • Remember the 3 Rs: Reduce, Re-use, Recycle
  • Consider ‘style’ over ‘fashion’ for long-term investment dressing (quality over quantity!)
  • Spend out! That is, use up all those consumables you already have and see how much you’ll save

So, what about you? Have you let go of clutter and reaped the benefits? Have you changed your clothes-shopping habits to create a more sustainable wardrobe? I’d love to know; do comment by replying below.


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How do I look?

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Quiz question of the day:

What’s something we all have, which can inspire both joy and loathing in all of us, but which we can’t live without?

Of course, no prizes for guessing: clothes.

A hotch-potch wardrobe

I’ve been mithering a bit about clothes lately.

In the past year, I’ve bought relatively few things to wear. But, if I’m honest, I feel like I’ve ended up with a ‘hotch potch’ of items. Most I have bought second-hand (and very good purchases they were too). Others were bought in a sale or via a clothing discount store such as HighStreetOutlet. As a result, I’ve maintained my frugal ways, but I never feel particularly stylish. Plus, I’d love to be a little more consistent about what I choose to wear and how I look.

How do I look?

It is said that when the student is ready, the teacher appears. So, I was grateful to have been given a copy of Inger D Kenobi’s How Do I Look: The Year I Stopped Shopping.

This entertaining book is a curious mix of memoir and commentary on fast-fashion,  consumerism and the ridiculous stories we tell ourselves about the clothes we wear (or which call to us from the shop window).

Challenged by a friend to join her in a “shop-stop” year, Kenobi resolved to avoid buying any new clothes for a whole 12 months. The book charts her journey from unintentional clothes buyer to chastened, mindful consumer. Along the way, she provides a number of “Emergency Shopping Guidelines.” These provide a ‘set of rules that will prevent us from making the same stupid shopping mistakes again, and again, and again.’

Emergency Shopping Guidelines

I thought it would be interesting to bring Kenobi’s rules together and to consider them in the light of my not-particularly-well-curated but minimal ‘capsule wardrobe’.

Don’t buy anything you can’t wear tomorrow

Well, I’ve failed at the first hurdle here. We all buy stuff to wear for a special occasion, although I try and avoid this.

In my experience, clothes bought for a particular event don’t always translate into ‘real life’. For my friend, Zoe’s, 50th birthday party in September, I bought a lovely pair of black trousers and floaty shirt to wear over a black camisole. To go with said outfit (which cost all of £11 from the charity shop), I purchased some suedette kitten heels from John Lewis. I wore them for 2.5 hours.

I haven’t worn the clothes since and have already sold the shoes….

Don’t buy anything you don’t need

How often have you gone out to buy a particular item, only to come back with something entirely different?

Here’s where ‘heart’ purchases often trump ‘head’ purchases. I do have the loveliest, seldom-worn but beautifully soft faux-fur jacket. It is absolutely gorgeous. I acquired it a long time ago when looking for something else in my local (now defunct) dress agency. I rarely wear it, but I keep it as something really special, knowing that I won’t wear it tomorrow (see above!) but will enjoy it during the holiday season.

These days, I’m much more inclined to think really hard about anything I buy. I keep a ‘wish list’ in Evernote, which helps me consider – slowly – if a want is also a need.

I also do a lot of research online. It’s easy to forget that there are so many (too many) places where you can buy what you need. A clever search can help you find what you need at the best price, so shop around.

You have to be you. Figure out who you are and dress accordingly

Oh, gosh. Who am I when it comes to what I wear?

Style consultants categorise women into a number of ‘boxes’. Are you an Audrey Hepburn ‘ingénue’ or more ‘sporty’ or ‘natural’ when it comes to your signature style?

Well, I’d love to fall into the ‘glamorous’ category – and really admire others who pull of this look – but that’s really not me.

Over the years, I have – with some considerable enthusiasm – declared myself to be an advocate of a particular brand, in an attempt to simplify and narrow down the available choices.

There was my short-lived (but fun while it lasted) Gudren Sjoden phase. My family pointed out that if you’re going to make this work (it’s quite ‘out there’ when it comes to style and colour), you have to go the whole hog.

There has also been my ‘Duchess of Cambridge’ phase. I am, after all, another Catherine Elizabeth. This clothing personality has been, arguably, my most enduring. I once spent the most I have ever spent on clothes (even more than my wedding dress) when I purchased an LK Bennett suit for an interview. I didn’t get the job, but (at least) I got the suit. Many years later, it’s still my ‘high days and holidays’ outfit when I need something super smart. And I wore it for my current job whose interview took place around a year ago.

My latest obsession is Cos. I love the Scandinavian simplicity and clean lines. I have yet to purchase anything.

If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it.

Oh, this is so true. You already know that I previously performed ‘plastic surgery’ on my credit card, so there is no risk that I will ever splurge on something I can’t afford. Indeed, I have spent so little on clothes in the last year that this has not been an issue. But I know it is for some of you.

Recently, a work colleague was describing to my husband that she had lots of clothes on which she had spent so much money, she was embarrassed to admit that she cut off the labels of the unworn items before giving them away. Let’s not be like this.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

I’m all for this and it works really well. Project 333 makes sense on so many levels, especially if you mostly shop at thrift stores (another of Kenobi’s Emergency Shopping Guidelines).

Here’s something I have noticed, however (and Kenobi observed this, too). Clothes worn often do actually wear out. This is where it helps to buy quality over quantity. Less but better is the way forward.

Invest in experiences, not possessions

Yes, yes and yes!

This is where we have to put clothes in their rightful place. Clothes can play a part in our experiences. Love to ski? You’ll need some kit. But they shouldn’t be an end in their own right. Clothes as ‘stuff’ have a negative impact, both on the environment and on our finances. So, let’s see them as a part of our overall day-to-day lives but not to the detriment of other things, which are way more important.

Change your hair, not your clothes

For someone who has limited options when it comes to hair (short, blow-dryed, that’s it), I can’t espouse this guideline. However, lots of women (especially) enjoy experimenting with different hair colours or styles (in her book, Kenobi reveals her expertise in plaiting, braiding and in ‘up-dos’). A colleague of mine rocks a wonderful short wig and looks amazing in it. But that’s not for me.

One of my own

Beware the Diderot effect

Remember those black trousers I bought for Zoe’s party? To wear them again, I would need more tops. This is an example of a phenomenon known as the Diderot Effect. This is where the purchase of one beautiful item leads to dissatisfaction with the other things you already own. In my case, I don’t own anything suitable to go with the trousers, so do I invest or let them go? This is something that Juliet Schor mentions in her book, The Overspent American, about which I wrote a post here.

Stop mithering

Since reading Kenobi’s little book, I’m glad to say that I’ve stopped mithering about clothes. But I think I need to be a bit more intentional – as in other areas of my life – when it comes to what I buy to wear.

And whilst Shakespeare wrote that ‘clothes maketh the man (woman)’, there is another truth that’s worth remembering. There are only some occasions in life when this really matters. How do I look? No-one really cares.


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Why I’m calling it a day with eBay

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When you’re in the early stages of decluttering, it’s very likely you’ll discover lots of near-perfect items (or ‘gently used’ ones), which easily be sold online.

From clothing and accessories to electronics or children’s toys, sites such as eBay can be a brilliant way of moving stuff along to a home where it will be used and enjoyed. Plus, you’ll make a bit of cash in the process.

For my part, I’ve been a member of eBay for almost exactly 15 years. In that time, I’ve sold far more than I’ve bought, although I have purchased a few things. And it’s true that some have been better than others….

My eBay dashboard

My eBay profile tells me that I have 284 ratings and a mint green star. When it comes to gamification, I really don’t care very much what colour it is, but that star suggests I’m doing OK.

Nonetheless, I have made some mistakes over the years. I share them here, so that you can avoid them if you’re considering selling via this channel. If you’re a well-established e-Bayer, read on and enjoy a wry smile or two at my expense!

Mistakes I’ve made

Selling

  • Wrong description  – I once listed a well-used but perfectly decent laptop, believing that the box my husband had given me was the actual box for the device. It wasn’t. Instead, I had used the box of the device that had superseded the one to be sold.Lo and behold, my poor buyer (who was tech-savvy when I am not) realised my mistake and we quickly reached an amicable solution: He kept the machine but we agreed a sensible price for what it actually was versus what I thought I’d sold….
  • Inadequate packaging – If you’re going to send something breakable, make sure you use a lot of packaging. I tried to send an Orla Kiely ceramic bread bin to a buyer.  It should have been triple-wrapped in a wodge of bubble wrap, lovingly encased in several boxes, before being parcelled up in brown paper (taped a gazillion times with sturdy parcel tape). Instead, I sent it with only scant wrapping and a prayer in would arrive in one piece. Of course, it didn’t. 

    I should have been more accomplished at this stage in my eBay career. Needless to say, my buyer was justifiably disappointed and I swiftly provided a full refund. Here’s where you get hit by a ‘double whammy;’ eBay still charged its commission.

  • Accepting a buyer’s plea to have me despatch a bulky and large item by courier was another example of ‘not a terribly good idea’. We owned an electric piano, which was already secondhand when it came to us, but we sold it for a reasonable price on the basis that this would be Collection Only.
    The problem came when I discovered our winning-bidder was in Brighton. Did she realise that Kenilworth to Brighton would be a round-trip of over 300 miles? Our buyer, however, had other ideas. If she paid, would I send the instrument? Reluctantly, I agreed to do it, but there followed a rather chaotic sequence of events.

    First of all, the piano had to be despatched in two large packages. Cue Julie Andrews singing ‘My Favourite Things’. These packages were, indeed, brown paper and tied up with string. They were also extremely heavy, exceeding both the courier’s weight and size guidelines. Still, we (buyer and me) agreed to take the risk.

    Off went the parcels and we waited to see what would happen. By some miracle, some days later – in two separate consignments – the piano arrived at its destination. It turned out my buyer had been a past contestant in the Eurovision Song Contest, so I was bemused to have been able to contribute to her potential future musical adventures.

  • Calculating postage costs can be problematic. You have to be very focussed when it comes to understanding not only weight, but also volume. eBay provides estimates and guidance on this, but you can have some ‘fun’ trying to weigh a bulky item. My usual trick is to balance a large mixing bowl on my kitchen scales, then place the item to be posted on top of that. This way, you can usually view the weight easily. Remember to weigh the item once it has been wrapped; packaging can add to weight and volume.
  • Finally, seeing other stuff to buy when I should have been focussing on the selling has also been a feature of my experience with eBay. This leads me onto Buying.

Buying

  • Getting too attached to an item is a foolhardy thing to do. Some years ago, a “pine” wardrobe – located just up the road – turned out to be a terrible bit of tat (I should have “viewed it, before bidding…). Don’t get into a bidding war. Assess your item, put in your maximum bid and walk away. If you win it, you’ll find out soon enough.

More recently, I bought something whose quality was inadequately described, resulted in a ‘to and fro’ dialogue with the seller to persuade them to accept the item as a return. To me, this felt like a case of obfuscation; the item was in very poor condition and I was dismayed to see this on unpacking it. Happily, I have been able to return it with the (reluctant) agreement of the seller. Let’s hope I get my money back!

  • Clothes can be a mixed blessing when you buy them via eBay. I do advocate second hand but I should point out that there are some caveats associated with this. There are a great many reputable commercials sellers on there (who also sell directly via their own websites) e.g. Carobethany whom you can trust, as well as many super sellers of their own stuff. Look carefully at their feedback if you’re going to buy and only purchase brands whose quality and fit you can rely on.

Taking a rain check

So, to coincide with the change of British weather, I’m taking a raincheck with eBay. For now. Since we all acquire stuff we don’t need, it’s likely I’ll return to it some time in the future. But, for moment, we’ll let the sun set over this useful but rather complex way of letting go of stuff.

What’s your best way to get rid of clutter? Do you simply let go via the charity shop or doorstep collection? Perhaps you prefer a local selling platform such as Facebook? Do please share below. It would be fantastic to know what works for you.


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Make your stuff work for you

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I’ve just finished reading Jojo Moyes’ novel, Still Me. I was a book I thoroughly enjoyed, putting aside the other two books I am also reading to immerse myself in this wonderfully-crafted story.

The third in the Me Before You trilogy, this novel takes Moyes’ heroine, Louisa Clark, on a New York adventure (I can see another movie emanating from this one!).

As both minimalist and avid reader, I’m always on the alert for references to clutter in fiction. How do people handle it? What does it symbolise to them? Can they let go of stuff to live a life of more but with less? Is the stuff they’re holding onto serving a particular purpose?

Margot De Witt

One of Moyes’ fabulous American characters, introduced to the reader in this book, is Margot De Witt. The former editor of a fashion magazine, De Witt’s Manhattan apartment is a veritable treasure trove of immaculately preserved and cared-for clothing.

With an incredible, vast collection of vintage fashion including haute couture items, this “style queen, fashion editor extraordinaire” has held onto everything she has ever owned. As a result, her home has become a rainbow-filled walk-in wardrobe, housing a collection including even the smallest of items such as elaborate brooches, pill-box hats and boxes of buttons and braids (in case anything needs repairing).

For vintage-loving Louisa Clark – the novel’s main character – the Fifth Avenue apartment is a little bit of retro-fashion heaven.

Holding on

But why do we hold onto things that no longer fit or which seemingly have no practical purpose?

In her case, De Witt’s quasi-hoarding of decades’ worth of clothes is a way of blocking out the pain of having been separated from her son – her only child – over many years. Moyes addresses this very directly as she reveals that the character “…had built a wall, a lovely, gaudy, multi-coloured wall, to tell herself that it had all been for something.”

Making sure your stuff works for you

Your stuff really needs to work for you. That is, it needs to work on a number of levels: aesthetically, practically or even monetarily.

Remember, everything you see around you right now used to be money. When you look at it that way, you’re going to want to get the most bang for your buck. So, if your belongings are literally stuffed into a drawer and not serving any useful purpose, why hold onto them?

Letting go

In spite of having decluttered so much of my own stuff, there are still some items in my house for me to let go. My ice-cream maker, seldom used, even in summer, now needs to find a new home.

Of course, a kitchen gadget is a small item, but if you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you’ll know that I decided to let go of my car back in the winter. Going without a car has been incredibly liberating, has saved me money each month and has set me free from the burden of vehicle ownership. This reminds me of the adage that is well-rehearsed in minimalist circles: “What you own owns you.”

Investment items

Of course, there are some items you’ll keep because you may genuinely only use them once in a while. They might be investment items, such as a lovely winter coat that you’d wear over many years. Still, much of what we retain in our homes may be stuff for which we no longer have any useful purpose.

Putting your stuff to work

In Louisa Clark’s case, she is able to make Margot De Witt’s collection work for her in a professional sense. At the suggestion of the old lady, Clark is encouraged to start an enterprise hiring out her amazing outfits.

What’s interesting is that, as soon as her son reappears, De Witt walks away from her collection without so much as a backward glance. When it no longer serves a meaningful purpose, it’s so much easier to walk away.

Ask the right questions

So, take a long hard look at your stuff and ask, “Does this work for me? Could I let go of it or even monetise what I currently own?”

These questions are especially useful if you’re working to get out of debt and building your emergency fund.

You may love what you own, in which case simply enjoy it. Even minimalists have to have some belongings. So, take the advice of Margot De Witt and see your stuff for what it is: “Do with [them] what you want – keep some, sell some, whatever. But….. take pleasure in them.”

Note

Still Me is Jojo Moyes’ latest novel, published in 2018 by Penguin Random House UK. Find out more here.


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How to Declutter and Detoxify Your Cleaning Routine

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This is a guest post by Emily Folk

Decluttering your space makes life feel like a new start, whether you’ve moved into a new home or have lived at your current residence for years. A blank slate frees up the rest of your time and attention to focus on what matters to you  that’s the heart of leading a minimalist lifestyle.

Cultivate healthy habits that enrich your life and make it feel less complicated. The perfect place to start is with decluttering and detoxifying your cleaning routine in a way that works with and for your life — not against it.

Get to Know Your Inner Cleaner

Guilty of procrastination over picking up, or do you obsess over every nook and cranny when scrubbing away? Found a happy balance yet? Most people tackle cleaning in bite-sized sections while others make it a marathon.

Sometimes the best bet is the middle road. Give yourself small maintenance tasks to tackle during the week, such as washing the dishes or taking out the trash. Save the weekend or a weekend day to tackle the whole house or a particular floor.

What does your inner cleaner say is best, and how can you negotiate to cultivate better habits? The job will get done when you do it in a way that works best for you.

Start High, End Low

It feels easier to pick a random surface and scrub it, but you end up creating more work for yourself. Don’t do that.

Start higher up and work your way down. For example, dust out the cabinets and scrub the grime off all the counters in the kitchen, knocking the pieces of food on the floor. You’ll sweep and mop it up. You’ve saved time and can redirect your energy into waging war on the nooks and crannies, instead of tracking a stray crumb like an assassin on assignment.

Natural Cleaning

Get rid of the bleach and blue dye glass cleaner. Your pantry holds natural cleaning products that won’t leave the toxic chemical smells and potential burns that can result from cleaning. Expose your family to safer cleaning methods:

  • Use a salt and baking soda paste to clean out the grime between tiles.
  • Leave the same paste in your oven overnight and give it a grub scrub the next day with hot water. Vinegar adds that middle school volcano science action into the mix for super greasy, grimy scrubbing efforts.
  • Use diluted vinegar and newspaper for streak-free window and mirror cleaning. Just use the newspaper like you would normal paper towels, minus the annoyance.
  • Some people add a drop of dish soap to clear waxy build up.
  • A little dish soap and vinegar go a long way to a sanitized floor, while baking soda will get the floor grime free.
  • Include a squeeze of lemon for antibacterial properties into most of these mixes and get a fresh scent without the chemicals.
  • Use natural cleaning products from your pantry to save you time, money and space. It’ll also improve your health since you’re not exposed to toxic chemicals for prolonged periods.

Waste vs. Needs and Keepsakes

Get real with your clutter and yourself. You don’t need most of this junk. Choose your weapons of dispense such as plastic containers, cardboard boxes, trash bags or a mix.

Go drawer to drawer, room by room. Hold the object in hand and decide if it’s waste or fulfills a need. In the last two years, honestly, how often have you used it? Is it an heirloom?

Can it be repurposed and will you make an effort? With enough effort, some families move toward zero-waste by following five rules — refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and rot, in that particular order. Can you start small? Answer wisely, or you’ll keep enabling yourself as a waste hoarder.

Recycle and donate what you can. Get a friend to help haul things off if you’re too attached. If you need more time, stow a few items away, and if you don’t miss them after three months — let them go. Don’t forget to return borrowed items to friends and family, and refuse to store items that belong to others, within reason.

Move Toward a Minimalist Lifestyle

Decluttering and detoxifying your cleaning routine frees up time and space to focus on what holds meaning in your life. When you move toward a minimalist lifestyle, you’re not as dependent on the whims of wants and understand more about your true needs.

Work with your cleaning style, and go minimalist to motivate growth and healthy habits in your life.

About Emily:

Emily is a sustainability blogger who has been in the process of decluttering in order to live a simpler and eco-friendly lifestyle. You can read more of her work on her blog Conservation Folks.


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