Going to uni? Shop from your own home

After a little break from the blog over the summer, I’m back for a new season with some new life adventures to share with you. I hope you have been keeping well and happy, in spite of lockdown restrictions.

Our daughter is about to take the next step on her life journey and embark upon the quasi-independent life of being a university student. She is one of the hundreds of thousands of UK teenagers who belong to the ‘Class of Covid-19’ whose achievements were ultimately based on ‘centre assessed grades,’ rather than on a combination of teacher insights and a controversial algorithm. So, I’m somewhat relieved and delighted that she has been able to secure a place and is now in the run-up to moving into her hall of residence next weekend.

Getting the essentials

It’s been interesting observing my daughter’s group of friends, as they plan what they’re going to take with them to their respective institutions. Inevitably, they want their university room to have homely touches, as well as the necessary essentials. So, last weekend saw the two of us in one of the UK’s top ten shopping destinations, Milton Keynes (famous for its roundabouts!), as we tackled a rather long wishlist.

We visited just 3 shops and that was enough for me: Home Bargains (bargains indeed!); Primark (for its home section); and good old Marks & Spencer. Forget IKEA if you’re thinking of venturing out: the queues to get in were snaking through the car park – a clear ‘no go’ for me.

Kitchen in a box?

Of course, retailers know that they can offer handy bundles, such as Wilko’s “Kitchen in a Box”, but here’s what I think about these sorts of offers: you probably don’t need them. Rather, it’s better to remember that you don’t need as much as you think (we never do) and what you genuinely need is probably already available at home.

‘Shop’ from home

So, after some indulgent purchases, it’s now time for our girl to ‘shop from home’. That is, whatever we didn’t buy on our trip is probably available right here in cupboards, drawers and shelves here at home. In spite of my minimalist tendencies, we still have more than enough cutlery, crockery, towels and other items that a student might need. Plus, why buy new when you’re using a shared kitchen and – apart from your own room – are getting your first taste of communal living? Better, I suggest, to take old stuff that you’re not too precious about, so if it goes walkabout or gets broken, it really doesn’t matter. So, with just a few days to go, I’ve invited Miss Gordon to take whatever she likes. This may sound like an extravagant gesture, but it really isn’t.

Remember The Minimalists’ mantra: If you can pick up something for $20 or less – and get hold of it within 20 miles of where you live – don’t stress about it. Of course, this is in the context of decluttering seldom-used items: if you accidentally declutter something you find you later need, it’s not really an issue to let go in the first place when you know that replacing it would ultimately be an inexpensive and easy thing to do.

The same applies to household items for the soon-to-be undergraduate – what if she takes the corkscrew or our favourite kitchen knife? It really doesn’t matter when we’re within walking distance of shops that can readily supply replacements for less than £20 and within 20 minutes on foot.

Lockdown lessons

Lockdown has certainly taught me that we truly need far less than we ever believed. Plus, our local community swung into action by sharing, instead of shopping, for things that neighbours needed. Our little street has a little WhatsApp group now, which we didn’t have before lockdown. If someone needs anything (or has something to offer), this group comes into its own. We’ve also benefited from the kindness of residents on our town’s community Facebook group helping and sharing with each other in a way that we didn’t do before. Long may this continue.

So, if you’ve got a student about to leave home for the first time (or if you are that person), I’d heartily recommend the ‘shop from home’ approach, even before you head for the shopping mall. It’s a more sustainable way to approach your first term at university and it’s kinder to your wallet, too.

 


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What lockdown has taught me about simplicity

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When I first embalked upon my simplicity journey around 4 years ago, I described how this wasn’t only about being able to let of excess ‘stuff.’ Back then, becoming minimalist was also about letting go of a sense of obligation, of constant busy-ness, and stress.

Our time in lockdown has taken me back to that time of living more simply and letting go. We’re now on Day 75 here in the UK. As lockdown restrictions begin to ease (for good or ill – no pun intended), I feel it’s worth reflecting on what this time has taught me so far.

Lockdown lessons

First of all, let me say if you’re a key worker or frontline care giver/medic/clinician, then I cannot begin to imagine what this time has meant for you. No doubt, you’re still in the thick of it. One of my neighbours (a consultant obstetrician gynecologist) told us a bit about the PPE he had to wear to perform his role; that in itself was remarkable).

Likewise, if you have lost someone to Covid-19, then I’m truly sorry for your loss. This post isn’t going to be for you. So, feel free to click on by.

Rather, this post is for those of us who’ve simply being told to sit on the sofa and stay put. It’s for those of us who are – and continue to be – keyboard warriors. It’s for those of us who have been at home, some of us with family members or even with a cobbled-together ‘Covid family,’ as friends (or even colleagues) have gone into lockdown together to wait for the storm to pass. It’s for those of us who’ve had the privilege of being able to work from home while spring has unfurled its fresh, green leaves and birdsong was all we could hear when traffic levels dropped to levels not seen since 1955.

Letting go

Now we’ve go that over with, here’s what I think.

Let’s not ‘go back to normal’. Let’s move forward towards a new way of being that sits more comfortably with who we want to become. But how do we do this?

Here’s where I return to letting go any sense of obligation. Let go of the things that don’t serve you or bring you joy. It’s your life, so when the world around you starts to pick up speed again, remember that you get to choose what stays and what goes.

I’m not trying to suggest that you’re not bound by work objectives or by responsibilites that sit rightfully with you as a colleague, partner, parent or good pal. Whatever we do, we should still desire to do the right thing. But if spending time at home has caused you to reflect a little and to take stock, consider these questions:

  • Who do I want to spend my time with?
  • What’s really important to me?
  • What really matters?
  • What am I passionate about?
  • What do I love doing and which makes me feel alive?
  • What would I do, if I knew I couldn’t fail?

What (or who) will you allow to ebb away?

I spent a couple of hours last week with a friend (2m apart, as per government guidelines, sitting in the sunshine alongside the riverbank close to her home). She described the relief she had felt at not having to see people she didn’t want to see, or go to places that she preferred to avoid.

In an interview with Reece Witherspoon, writer and activist Glennon Doyle says that the lives we lead ‘must be the truest, most beautiful lives we can imagine. Don’t settle!’ So, what would your truest, most beautiful life look like, if you could re-craft it from the start? The questions, above, might just help you consider this.

The ‘To Do’ List

One of the things I seem to have let go of naturally is my personal ‘to do’ list. My work action plan is typically well-structured, but I’d previously brought some of that hyper-organisation into life at home. What I’ve been able to do in lockdown is go with the flow. Weather’s good? Go and potter in the garden! Feel like sorting out a few papers? Do that.

Somehow, letting go of the never-ending task list is a release. Jobs still get done. And it doesn’t actually matter if they don’t….

On occasion, this has also meant letting go of things that I have always righteously claimed as my own, such as meal preparation. Knowing that there is plenty of food in the house to produce simple, nutritious dishes has enabled me to let go of being Head Chef.  Making a meal need not always be my job. On Sunday, after 5 hours in the garden, I came back into the house to find our 18-year-old had found a recipe via BBC Good Food, assembled all the ingredients (adding a few that she fancied) and hey presto! we had lunch.

The ‘do‘ List

Being in lockdown has given me some new-found (or rediscovered) joys; little moments that you can enjoy in your day. Check them out:

  • Nichola Joss’ facial massage on Instagram (weekday evening at 20:00 BST) and mornings, too
  • Online book clubs (authors going live include the fabulous Marian Keyes on Facebook (Mondays, 17:00 BST  next one 15 June)
  • Online yoga – I attend my own teacher’s online class (Living Your Yoga) but check out others including DoYogaWithMe.com

So, do what you want to do. Live life on your own terms. And let go of anything that doesn’t allow you to be your best self. And don’t forget the lessons that lockdown taught us.


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Project 333: ‘How a little wardrobe challenge changed a whole life’

Imagine my surprise and delight when I had the chance to read a newly-arrived copy of Courtney Carver’s new book, Project 333. In case you’ve not yet seen it (the book’s official publication date was 3/3 (of course!), I thought you might appreciate a review. So, here it is!

If you’re familiar with Courtney Carver, then this is the book that followers of bemorewithless.com might have expected her to have written first. In fact, Soulful Simplicity came before which included a section on the project. Still, Project 333 (along with Carver’s popular Tiny Wardrobe Tour) is arguably the most well-known aspect of her work to date. With its humble beginnings back in 2010, Carver set herself a challenge that was to be the catalyst to other – more far-reaching – changes in her life.

Project 333 – the basics

The idea of this minimalist fashion challenge is that you set aside the rest of your wardrobe for a 3-month period during which you dress with the remaining 33 items or less (hence the name). When the 3 months are up, you’ll swap out some of those items and bring back others.

Most items you’ll wear will count towards the 33, including jewellery, shoes, accessories and bags. But workout gear, underwear and pyjamas (for example) don’t count.

Not another ‘how to’ book

Although Carver does talk about the idea of a ‘capsule wardrobe’, Project 333 isn’t merely another ‘how to’ book. Indeed, the approach is not at all prescriptive. Whilst there are lots of useful tips and some interesting case studies, the idea is that, by following the challenge, we remember to connect with ourselves; listen to our hearts; and ask the person who knows us best (ourselves).

Carver also demonstrates how the ‘three thirty-three’ concept can used as a way in to dealing with more signifcant and profound life questions. Nicely crafted into a series of themed chapters, the book describes, ‘…..how a little wardrobe challenge changed a whole life.’ That’s quite an audacious claim but if you know Carver’s work, you’ll know what an impact #project333 has made on her, those around her and the 1000s of people who’ve followed in her footsteps.

Life lessons, big or small

Project 333 works on a number of levels, so take from it from whatever you need. Want to sort out a messy wardrobe? Here are some tips you can use. Or maybe you need to tackle just a small part of your life first, which can then act as the catalyst for more far-reaching changes. You can get this here, too.

What Carver is clear about is this: taking part in the project won’t protect you from whatever the world throws at you, but its benefits have a lovely way of spilling over into ‘real life’.

Clothes are boring

This morning, I listened to Dame Kristen Scott Thomas on Susannah Constantine’s new podcast, My Wardrobe Malfunction. If you listen to this – or any of these conversations – they are far less about the clothes and much more about lives lived well. The outfits, garments and fashion moments, if they feature at all, are far from centre stage.  They are merely the conduit to a more interesting conversation.

I do like clothes (and I’m not averse to a real bargain), but I have stopped yearning for them. This has given me such freedom, saving hours of time and hard-earned money, as I have given up the quest to find the simplest of things: something to wear. This is Carver’s point. A shopping ‘fast’ (a bit like intermittent fasting) does you a world of good. It clears the head and leaves you feeling lighter, calmer and more in control.

Things to consider

Paring down your wardrobe does mean you get to ask yourself some great questions.

For example, if you could start from scratch with your closet, what would you buy? Or, if you’re stuck in a cycle of ‘consume, donate, consume, donate…’ how much better for your wallet and the environment would it be if you simply stopped? Or, what if I challenged the voice in my head that said, “I could never…..”.

Often, we hear of people trying to fill an emotional vacuum with the temporary high of shopping. But, as Carver writes, “When things are broken but bearable, it feels easier, at first, to stay at ‘bearable’ rather than to address the problems.”

Try lightening your load

Courtney Carver’s quest for more had resulted in stress, depression, debt and strained relationships. It certainly didn’t answer the simplest of questions, “What shall I wear today?” As she writes, “I’d been shopping for years and I still had nothing to wear.”

So, instead of adding more and trying something new, try shopping from your own wardrobe; living a little more intentionally; and lightening your load. Who knows, a little step in this direction could inspire you towards a full-on spring clean or encourage you to get uncluttered once and for all!

Project 333 is published by tarcherperigee, an imprint of Penguin Random House


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Going barefoot in 2020

Happy New Year 2020! I hope that this new decade will bring you love, peace and joy. In fact, my word of the year is going to be ‘joy’. What’s yours?

Going barefoot

One of the things that will no doubt bring me joy in 2020 is doing more walking. This requires strength, stamina and flexibility both mentally and physically (and from head to toe). I’ve written before about my ambition to walk the South West Coast Path, which we started back in November. Now, I’ll be stepping up the pace, as we will tackle more of The Path in 2020.

For the longest time, I have mostly been wearing what my Grandma would probably have branded ‘sensible shoes’. As I possess long toes that are crushed inside pointy shoes, I decided some time ago that continuing to wear ill-fitting shoes (and/or shoes with heels) would not be good for my long-term wellbeing.

Plus, I use a standing desk at work, so towering over the keyboard when wearing heels negates the benefits of having the desk at all, as this has a negative effect on posture.

Ecco has been my go-to brand of choice in recent years, but last year I came across minimalist barefoot shoes.

A ‘barefoot shoe’ is an oxymoron

The concept of a barefoot shoe is an oxymoron. You’re not literally going without shoes, but the idea of a barefoot shoe is that you have room for the toes to splay naturally and the foot is able to work in the way God designed! My daughter, seeing the picture of my foot alongside the barefoot shoe was horrified: “Mum!!! You cannot put your FEET! On Instagram!!! Your feet!!!!” But I’ve done it again by posting a picture here. If you don’t like feet, feel free to look away….

I’ve tried the Primus Knit and the Ra Slip On

My first pair (pictured) were the Vivobarefoot Primus Knit in Olive. I have found them to be well-made and exactly as described. They are thin-soled, wide and shallow (note that, if you have a high instep, this shape might not suit you). I feel as though they give my feet a little massage when I wear them and, whilst you can feel the ground beneath your feet, this is not uncomfortable. However, these are not waterproof shoes. Given all the rain we’ve had, I’ve not been able to wear them outside on a wet day. This style is better off kept indoors and for the dry weather.

The Ra Slip On has solved my problem of what to wear in the office. The majority of the Barefoot shoes sold by Vivobarefoot are more ‘sporty spice’ than ‘posh spice.’ The Ra Slip On goes with anything and works just as well with a dress and tights as it does with jeans and a jumper. So far so good!

When the brand re-stocks its boots next autumn, I’m going to be first in line.

Joining the barefoot revolution

Tim Brennan, founder of Vivobarefoot, has now set up a community of barefoot enthusiasts. The idea is to bring barefoot shoes to the masses and revolutionalise health across the world. And why not!? Check out Tim on Instagram where you can see pictures of his inital proof-of-concept shoe and find out how to get involved.

So, what will bring you joy in 2020? Maybe going barefoot can be a part of it?


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How would you define minimalism?

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A college student doing an ethnography project dropped me a line this week with some great questions. I enjoyed answering them, so thought you might be interested to see our Q&A. Here it is!

How would you define minimalism?

I define minimalism as the intentional removal of anything that no longer adds value to your life. It’s the modern day version of William Morris’ assertion, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

How long have you considered yourself a minimalist?

I’ve considered myself to be a minimalist since 2016, when I really started to unclutter my life in earnest (not only removing stuff, but also reducing obligations and commitments).

Why do you think minimalism has been picking up so much steam in the last decade?

Well, they say it takes 10 years to become an overnight success. Prominent people in the minimalism movement, such as Joshua Becker, have been champions of simple living for many years. What may have given it more prominence is the advent of social media and podcasts, which have enabled the message to reach a wider audience. Joshua’s Uncluttered course, for example, has seen over 30,000 people take part.

Others including Gretchen Rubin, who writes about happiness, habit and human behaviour, have also legitimised decluttering, making it more mainstream by showing how it can impact positively on people’s lives. There’s also some crossover into other areas of wellbeing such as personal finance, where we have seen the boys from The Minimalists join Dave Ramsey for a segment on his popular podcast. David Sawyer, in his book Reset, also talks about the significant benefits of decluttering.

What are some advantages of living a minimalist lifestyle?

Oh, so many! One’s home is easier to maintain and keep clean; you’ll save money by not buying stuff you don’t need; you can improve your wellbeing by getting out into nature rather than spending your leisure time shopping  and you no longer feel weighted down by stuff you don’t need.

Would you say TV shows like tiny house living/hunters and popular minimalists like Marie Kondo have attracted more people to this lifestyle?

I haven’t seen the TV shows you mention, but I think that Marie Kondo’s quirky ‘spark joy’ mantra is memorable, fun and appealing. Her approach, along with that of The Minimalists, Courtney Carver, Joshua Becker and others, has definitely brought minimalism to the masses.

What are some of the most popular misconceptions about minimalism?
Minimalism isn’t necessarily about living in bare, white spaces. Equally, it’s not about living with ‘X’ number of items or being able to pack all of your stuff into a single holdall. At least, that’s true for most of us.

Living with less – or ‘right-sizing’ your belongings is more the way people I know enjoy minimalism; I call it ‘moderate minimalism’ (especially when you have a family and it’s neither fair nor proper to declutter other people’s stuff).

Why do you think the US has the highest standard of living yet people living here are still unhappy?

Governments – and public policy in general – have been slow to recognise the importance of wellbeing in people’s lives of which I believe minimalism plays a part.

You’ll be familiar with Robert Kennedy’s 1968 speech in which he addressed an election rally, commenting Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a measure of success: “Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things.”

I’m certainly not an expert on US culture, but a high standard of living has to be paid for and I’m aware through listening to American podcasts that there’s also a high prevalence of debt in society. That’s a negative when it comes to people’s subjective sense of life satisfaction and happiness.

Do you think Tiny Homes/minimalism in general is a solution to a problem America hasn’t figured out yet?

The Tiny House movement is so interesting, partly because it’s the polar opposite to the growth in the average size of homes seen over the last 4 decades. Tiny Houses may form part of the solution when it comes to providing more affordable housing. They may also help providing social housing, such as the Social Bite Village project in Scotland whose aim is to provide homes to residents who are currently living in temporary accommodation for long periods of time.

Minimalism can support this (and other societal objectives). By seeking to live with less, we naturally consume less (good for the environment), potentially enabling us to live happier, healthier and wealthier lives.

People are starting to rethink what it means to be happy and successful in life, it used to be having a big house and cars and a high paying job even if it wasn’t one you loved…So, how do you think the minimalist movement has changed or altered the idea of what it means to be successful?

Many modern-day movements, such as the FIRE movement, are redefining what success looks like. In some ways, minimalism has brought us back to what our grandparents knew: living simpler, valuing people over stuff, not worrying about what others thinking of us and being grateful for what we have. That said, I’m not sure the same message has reached the youth of today. It worries me that some of the idealised images promulgated on social media are influencing our teenagers and young adults in a negative way. The fast fashion, make-up and styling trends to which they aspire are costing more than just the pounds and pence they spend to keep up.

Do you think minimalism is a radical lifestyle?

Minimalism could be radical; it’s certainly a countercultural lifestyle. But I suggest it’s for everyone. Being more intentional about what we own and what we buy can bring positive benefits for anyone. It’s also a more sustainable way to live.

How can minimalism positively impact families?

Minimalism helps families in so many ways. Family life is simpler when everything has its place; it’s easier to locate the things you need; you have more space in your home and you may even experience what Gretchen Rubin calls ‘outer order, inner calm’. This is particularly true for kids with special needs for whom an uncluttered environment can be especially beneficial.

Discover more

If you’re curious about how living with less can make a difference to your life, the autumn session of the popular Uncluttered course ends this weekend, so don’t miss out! The course begins on Tuesday, so click here to find out more.


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Another mini-adventure, plus my only decluttering regret

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Last week, with my dearest friend of almost 30 years, I was privileged to enjoy a few days in South West France.

We flew down from London Stansted airport on Saturday, arriving in plenty of time to open up the house, do a mini supermarket shop, and enjoy a customary ‘apéro’ (the local aperitif of choice is ‘Pinot de Charente’). Situated in the country’s largest region – Nouvelle Aquitaine – this is rural France at its best; it’s great for walking, the locals are friendly (il faut parler Francais!) and the food is simple and good.

I’ve written about ‘la vie en rose‘ before, so take a look if you’re looking for inspiration.

On this particular trip, we shared and enjoyed some delicious recipes, also taking the time to mix drinks and create combinations that are easily replicated now that we’re back here in the UK.

Take this one, named after another pal:

The Linda

1 measure white rum
1 measure spiced rum
1/2 measure grenadine
3 measures pineapple juice
3 measures orange juice
A dusting of nutmeg and ice, to taste

Recipes we have loved and lost

Over these few days together, my friend and I reminisced over lots of things, including recipes we’ve shared and loved over the years.

Having decluttered many of my recipe books, I will admit that I have since acquired a few more (although some of them are better than others).

One that I’m particularly enjoying is Catherine Hill’s The Weekend Cookbook, which was given to me as a gift. Designed for the foodie looking to cook ‘proper’ (but not complicated) meals at home or away, the recipes really work and I’m very much enjoying them. The bircher muesli with hazelnuts is absolutely delicious.

Now, confession time. Although I have always asserted that I’ve never missed a thing I’ve decluttered, I do occasionally wish I’d taken a little more time before letting go of some of my recipes.

When you cull a recipe you liked

Some of my cookbooks were certainly past their best, with broken spines and splattered pages. If I were to replace them, I might certainly keep an eye out when next browsing in my local secondhand book shop.

In reality, I now need to do another cull of cookery books, but this time I’ll pay more attention to the contents before I let them go.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve often found I’ve loved just one or two recipes in a book, but didn’t use much of the rest of it. As a result, when I do my next decluter, I’m going to make sure I’ve done a colour photocopy of a recipe I might otherwise regret getting rid of.

Happily, providing you can remember what you’re looking for, many cookery writers now have their recipes online. Down memory lane we went this weekend, when I looked up Nigella’s yoghurt pot cake recipe and whizzed up this simple but comforting cake.

Getting started on decluttering

If your books or other personal belongings are beginning to feel like they own you, then now’s a good time to embrace a renewed sense of focus. Joshua Becker’s ever-popular Uncluttered course that’s benefited over 30,000 people is about to welcome new participants for its autumn series. Click on the link here to find out more. I’ve done the course myself and can really recommend it.

Meeting up

If you feel you’d benefit from being a part of a more local network, our next Midlands meet-up takes place on Saturday, 12 October. Get in touch with more details!

In the meantime, whip up a simple dish, take a long stroll or enjoy your own version of The Linda ‘comme les français’. And have a super week ahead.


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Mini-adventures on minimal holidays

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During the last two weeks of the summer holidays, I enjoyed some time at home, as well as a couple of teen-tiny mini-breaks. Having a fortnight’s leave has been a blessing for which I’ve been grateful and I’ve really appreciated going at a slower pace for a while.

Mini-adventures by the sea

Although we didn’t have a family holiday this year, what has been a revelation is that a single night away (with a day either side) can be as refreshing as a longer vacation.

During my first week, with my daughter, the two of us enjoyed a luxurious single night’s stay in South Devon at the Harbour Spa Hotel in stylish Salcombe. Just over 200 miles away from home, the South Hams district is probably the farthest I’d want to travel for just one night, but it’s still possible.

Arriving in Salcombe at 12:15, we abandoned our bags and headed straight out for a walk up to South Beach, where we visited the Ginnel Gallery, indulging in an ice-cream at Bo’s Beach Cafe, before catching the South Beach Ferry back to Salcombe Harbour. Just as Warwickshire was beginning to feel the first touches of the changing seasons, Salcombe was still holding onto summer and we loved feeling the sun on our faces once again.

What’s lovely about a break like this is that the thought processes around it are minimal (we booked just a couple of weeks beforehand) and the packing required little more than an overnight bag and change of clothes (the minimalist’s ideal break!).

After a 3-course meal at the hotel, we slept like babies, but were up and at ’em the following morning to make the most of being by the sea. After a quick stroll to watch the boats and do some window-shopping, we had a brief time in the hotel spa before setting off for home early afternoon. With just over 24 hours in our little Devon bubble, it felt like we’d had a proper little holiday.

Mini-holiday number 2

For our second mini-adventure, Mr G and I stayed closer to home with a night in the Cotswolds. This time, we were keen to get some serious walking done, as my ambition for 2020 is to begin walking stretches of the South West Coast Path (SWCP) (along which Salcombe proudly sits).

The SWCP is a challenging 630 mile trek from Minehead in Somerset to Poole in Dorset, taking in the coastline of Exmoor, Cornwall, Devon and Dorset. It’s not for the faint-hearted; the route sees hikers go up and down the equivalent of Mount Everest four times. So, train we must.

Our chosen hiking ‘boot camp’ was within easy reach of Warwickshire. To test our stamina, our first trail had us climb some steep hills in a circular walk from Stanton via Snowshill Manor, through Stanway and back to Stanton. Using AllTrails, this particular walk didn’t have any ‘waypoints’ so we did get a bit lost a couple of times, but were able to get back on track by following the GPS tracker on the app. Stanway was particularly pretty and there’s always a hidden gem you discover en route, such as Stanway House and Fountain.

This time, our night away was at a lovely B&B in Stanton, handily situated for us to be able to jog back up the hill for an evening meal at the local pub.

Day 2, fuelled by a very good breakfast, we embarked upon one half of the Winchcombe Way, with more climbing but some rather splendiferous views from Cleeve Common. At the of the two days, we’d manage to clock up around 37 km in total, including a few good workouts for our hearts and lungs!

Bonus points for mini-adventures

Here’s the deal about mini-adventures like these: they are relatively low-cost, compared to a whole week (or longer) on what you might call a ‘proper holiday’. This means that the stakes are low; if it doesn’t work out for whatever reason, it’s no big deal.

A hotel break can certainly be expensive if you stay for a few days, but you can still enjoy a luxury experience, often including a great late deal, if you’re only going for a night or two. By contrast, our Cotswolds trip was a bargain; our B&B accommodation was only £75 for the night and a meal for two at Stanton’s Mount Inn £55 (plus tip), making this trip very good value indeed.

It’s also fun to get a glimpse, however brief, on another part of the world. So, somehow, you feel like you’ve been away for much longer than you actually have.

The other benefit of enjoying mini-breaks like this is that you still get stuff done at home, catching up with a few jobs around the house or doing routine appointments that are more difficult to fit into your schedule during the working week.

So, all in all, I’d recommend these mini-adventures wholeheartedly. My next one (to France) is in just 3 weeks’ time! Where will you head to next?


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What would you take if you only had 15 minutes?

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Image from <a href=”http://Image by Boke9a from Pixabay“>Boke9a via Pixabay

 

Here in the UK, over the last couple of weeks, the nation has been watching and waiting after the dam wall at Toddbrook Reservoir in Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire, was damaged during heavy rain. Around 1500 local residents were evacuated from their homes, following fears that the dam would burst resulting in a loss of life.

During the period in which the emergency services worked tirelessly to repair the dam in order to lower water levels as quickly as possible, residents were given just 15 minutes to re-enter their homes and retrieve their most important possessions.

What would you take with you, if you only had a quarter of an hour in which to do it?

My most important possessions

I thought about what I’d take if I only had a few minutes in which to grab my most precious possessions.

Having ‘let go’ of so much stuff in the past few years (notably in the last 3), it was fairly easy to work out what I’d retrieve. There were only 3 categories:

  1. Official certificates and documentation
  2. Sentimental items
  3. Photograph albums

I can honestly say there is truly nothing else I couldn’t replace, if the worst came to the worst.

Official certificates

Consider how difficult it would be to replace your passport, driving license, birth certificate, degree certificate or other official documentation. I’d definitely grab my file in which I keep most of those items.

Whilst it’s possible to obtain certified copies, I’ll bet it’s a bit of a nuisance. I suppose it would, at least, be useful to make scanned copies. Note to self!

Sentimental items

I have hardly any sentimental items left, since my major decluttering efforts. But I do have a couple of small items of jewellery I’d grab (I love rings – always have).

Photographs

I’d also be pulling photograph albums off the shelves. Although we have a great many photos stored online, there are some collections from ‘the early days’ for which there are no digital equivalents. I’m glad we do have a digital collection, though. Our ‘Google home’ device plays a lazy ‘slide show’ of photos we’ve taken over the years, evoking memories of places we’ve been and family occasions we’ve enjoyed.

But none of this has meaning when you consider the plight of people who lose their homes; lose their health (or both).

Inspirational stories from those who live with less

I’ve been devouring Raynor Winn’s wonderful book,  The Salt Path. Made suddently homeless following a legal case gone wrong, Winn and her husband, Moth, find themselves with no house, no money and no income. Worse, to coincide with the terrifying experience of losing their home and livelihood, Moth is diagnosed with an incurable health condition.

So, with literally nothing to lose, the Winns embark on an extraordinary 630 mile journey, walking the South West Coast Path from Minehead in Somerset to Poole in Dorset. Surviving on horribly meagre rations and camping off the beaten track, Winn explores the nature of homelessness (encountering some interesting reactions along the way).

What’s inspiring, is that at no point does Winn bemoan the lack of home comforts. It’s interesting that – when you’re really up against it – the need for ‘stuff’ disappears and what’s important is more fundamental, more truthful and more about people and experiences than anything money could buy.

I’m glad to say the people of Whaley Bridge have now returned to their homes; how glad they must be to be back. I wonder if what is now most important for them might have changed throughout their ordeal? And what would you take if you only had 15 minutes?


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Digital Minimalism: Staying Mindful in the Digital Age

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This is a guest post from freelance writer, Johanna Cider, who is based in beautiful New Zealand. 

Digital Minimalism: Staying Mindful in the Digital Age

In a world where everybody is glued to digital screens, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to live in the moment. We spend so much time on our devices that we become disconnected from our real-life surroundings. As a result, our state of mind can become fragmented, and we lose focus on things that matter.

So, how do we stay mindful in the digital age? It’s certainly not impossible. All you have to do is make a few simple adjustments to how you live your life. Follow these tips to build a mindful state of mind.

Turn Off Your Digital Devices

Taking a digital detox is the first step in living a mindful life. If you’re constantly attached to your phone, how can you expect to live in the moment? When you’re not working, turn off your computer and put your phone away. Challenge yourself to be in the moment more. Be grateful for the people and the world around you. Listen more to what people have to say instead of letting your mind wander. Invest more time engaging with people face to face, instead of talking on the internet. With no digital distractions, you’ll end up noticing all the little things that really matter.

Connect with Nature

Spending time in nature is healthy for your mind, body and soul. Nature has no distractions. Being in such a calm and peaceful environment helps to encourage a state of mindfulness. In the natural world, there’s nothing to focus on but your senses and your thoughts.

If you want to live a mindful life, you need to prioritise how you spend your time. Instead of spending your free time browsing social media, venture into the outdoors. Go to a quiet beach, take a hike in the woods, or just hang out in your garden. Pay attention to what you can see, touch, smell and hear. Use this quiet time as an opportunity for self-reflection.

Make Exercise a Priority

Exercise is one of the best ways to relax your mind. Intentional physical activity can reduce stress, boost your mood and improve your sleep patterns. Incorporating exercise into your daily routine will help inspire mindfulness in your life. Over time, you’ll feel greater awareness of your body and mind. Just make sure to stay consistent with your routine, and to track your process.

Try a New Hobby

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There are many fun activities that promote mindfulness. Creative outlets like painting or journaling can be healing for the soul. These relaxing hobbies can help put your mind at ease.  If you’d prefer to get active, try an outdoor pursuit like fishing.  Fishing offers opportunities for self-reflection and mindfulness. As you wait to catch a fish, there’s nothing to do but stand still in nature. This gives you time to think, reflect and take in all your senses.

Practice Mindful Breathing

Mindful breathing trains your body and brain to relax. It’s an important technique to have in your daily life, especially during periods of stress. The practice of mindful breathing isn’t difficult. It’s all about giving full attention to your breath and taking back control.

To start, spend some time each day focusing on your breathing patterns. Ideally, this should be done in a quiet place with no distractions. The moment your mind goes somewhere else, bring it back to the present. Focus on connecting to your breath instead of thinking about anything else.

If you practice mindful breathing on a daily basis, it will soon become a natural part of your life. You’ll learn how to calm yourself down, take control of your emotions and be in the present.

About Johanna:

With a career that requires long hours of research and editing in front of a screen, freelance writer Johanna understands that smelling the roses – literally and figuratively – takes time! Bill Watterson, the creator of one of Jo’s favourite comics, Calvin and Hobbes, wisely said: “We’re so busy watching out for what’s just ahead of us that we don’t take time to enjoy where we are.” Find more of her published work on Musings of Johanna.


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Maintaining minimalism

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Having recently bought some Christmas stocking fillers online for our teenager, I am now using the cardboard delivery box to do a sweep of our home prior to guests arriving over the festive season.

Simplest is best

It occurs to me that the ‘one in, one out’ rule is arguably one of the most powerful (but simple) tools in our minimalist toolkit. So, why am I finding things to place in that box, if this is something I believe in? It’s because I didn’t stick to the rule! That summer hat I found in Corsica two years ago was to replace the floppy one I wasn’t wearing, but I just found the original in my chest of drawers,….

Keeping on top of your stuff

As I mentioned in my last post in which I reviewed Joshua’s Becker’s The Minimalist Home, achieving a minimalist environment is one thing; maintaining it is another (especially during life’s key transitions, which seem to be associated with moving stuff around!).

As I wrote previously, it’s a bit like deciding to lose weight by going on a low carb diet (for example). All diets work if you stick to them; you’ll benefit from letting go of the excess pounds and will feel physically and mentally lighter. Decluttering is similar. Let go and you’ll enjoy the benefits but unless you have a strategy for maintaining your new-found lifestyle, the chances are you won’t embed it and be able to stick with it.

Going back to ‘one in, one out’

This is where the ‘one in, one out’ rule comes into its own. When we decluttered my late mother-in-law’s house during the summer and early autumn, I brought home a white vase that had belonged to her. When I subsequently chose an even prettier one that no-one else wanted, I actually let the white vase go (and got rid of another one at the same time). So, that was one in, two out!

The hardest part of being a minimalist

Next week, I’m being interviewed by a media student who is making a documentary on minimalism. In our pre-interview correspondence, he has asked me a number of questions, one of which is, “What is the hardest part of being a minimalist?”

My response will be that anyone can live a minimalist life; it’s not hard. However, there was a moment when I realised that because I use and enjoy all of my things, some of them will actually will wear out! The one in, one out rule very much applies then.

The easiest part of espousing minimalism

The easiest part of adopting a minimalist lifestyle is when you receive something you both wanted and needed. Here’s where the ‘one in, one out’ rule really comes into its own.

With Christmas just around the corner, chances are you’ll receive something during the holidays that will replace something you already own. We are so fortunate to live in an age where we can (and do) ask for a ‘new X’ (insert watch, coat, pair of gloves, scarf, laptop… the list goes on). So, consider the ‘one in, one out rule.’ If, like me, you don’t own many items in a particular category, a replacement item of great quality can enable you to let go of the existing item you already own that may be past its best.

A great way to maintain minimalism

So, intentionally review your existing items when you receive something new and stick to the ‘one in, one out’ rule. This way, when you reach for something you need, you’ll find your best and the loveliest things just waiting to be enjoyed. A very Happy Christmas to you.


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