Neutral cardigan and the absence of joy

I love Marie Kondo’s phrase of ‘does this spark joy?’ when reviewing an item, but sometimes think it’s overstating how I feel.  My raincoat doesn’t exactly spark joy but I wouldn’t be without it.  So, I’ve tended to use The Minimalists’ phrase of ‘does this add value to my life?’.  This suits me better and allows me to make sensible choices when deciding what to keep or what to de-clutter.

But I have found that there are cases when ‘joy’ describes what ‘value’ can’t.  That’s when I understand why Konmari uses the word ‘joy’.

Some time ago, I came across a cardigan in a neutral, stone colour.  I immediately thought, ‘this will be so useful – the neutral colour will go with everything – it will be (that holy grail item) a wardrobe staple’.  I also thought that it was a bit ‘meh’ but I sensibly tamped down this feeling!

I bought it, took it home and hung it in the middle of my capsule wardrobe.  I felt pleased with myself for my sensible decision and was confident that it would add value to my wardrobe.

But here’s the thing – it didn’t spark joy.  It felt worthy and sensible and practical – but I never looked forward to wearing it.  The colour didn’t suit me, I felt I had to shrug my shoulders constantly to make it sit right and it always felt a bit dull – and this coming from someone who wears black A LOT!

I valued the practicality over the joy and, on this occasion, it didn’t work out.

Now, I have a pair of plain, black trousers – I love them, not only the trousers themselves, but because they go with so many items.  They look professional for work, I feel pulled together when I wear them and they’re comfortable.  Others may look at them and think ‘dull’!  But they spark joy for me. 

I think joy and value are unique, individual feelings.  The cardigan has helped me to distinguish between erring too much on the logical side and being comfortable with a gut feeling.

So, I’ve let the cardigan go, with no regrets.  Are you ever torn between practicality and joy?  Which wins?!!  Have a great week 🙂

Fear and clothing in Hartley Wintney

You know when you’re so enthusiastic about something that you actually put someone off?!

I was talking to a friend last week – she complimented me on my dress and I thanked her.

‘Of course, you do that capsule wardrobe thing, don’t you?’ she said.

‘Yes’, I replied.  ‘I love it – I’d never go back to how I was before.  It’s so easy to get dressed now and I’ve got more time and I’m wearing all of my favourite clothes and ….’

‘I could never do it’ she blurted, with a look of mild panic in her eyes.  ‘I mean, it’s okay for you but it just wouldn’t work for me’.

Foolishly, I ignored the warning signals.  ‘But that’s what’s so great about it – I think it could work for everyone – although in different ways.  You could adjust it to suit your own lifestyle’.

‘No’ she replied firmly.  And then she started to list reasons why she thought it wouldn’t work for her.  She ended by saying she would dread the process and I could see she was genuinely fearful of the perceived disruption and loss that may accompany it.  At one point, I think she was afraid I would turn up on her doorstep with a roll of bin-bags under my arm and the light of battle in my eyes as I anticipated a massive clear-out!

But I was cross with myself that I’d put her in a position where she felt the need to explain and justify.

The poor girl just wanted to give me a compliment on my dress – she probably won’t do that again in a hurry!!

She thought I was trying to convert her but I felt I was just sharing my enthusiasm.

This is why my blog and my readers are so important to me – I feel I am connecting with like-minded people who share an approach to living with less and greater simplicity – all to varying degrees.  I don’t feel I have many other people like that around me, so my enthusiasm can sometimes get the better of me.

Tips for not alienating those around you!

  • Don’t evangelize! I didn’t embrace this process overnight so why would I think someone else would?
  • If others see me being more content with less, it may spark questions or an interest – but it may not and that’s perfectly fine.
  • Some people have a genuine fear of missing out, doing with less, regretting de-cluttering, missing a favourite dress, shopping less or what they feel is wasting money – these are all valid emotions and ones I have had myself over the last few years.
  • Show – don’t tell! Try not to impose a view on someone who has not shown a genuine desire to change.

Has your enthusiasm ever taken over?!  Have a great week 🙂

Image courtesy of http://www.freeimages.co.uk

De-cluttering my books

Emboldened by my success in de-cluttering my clothes, some months ago I started to de-clutter my books.

The wise Ms. Kondo, in her Life-Changing Magic of Tidying advises de-cluttering books, after clothes, and this is good advice.  If I had started with books, I would never have moved past them.  But de-cluttering my wardrobe has enabled me to view my books more dispassionately.

I think we have to build up our de-cluttering muscles over time.

I found going through my books a lot harder and far more personally challenging.  I love my books in a way I could never love my clothes. But when I started to question why I had so many, I found quite a parallel with the reasons I had been hanging onto clothes:

  • Many of my books bring me a lot of joy and certainly add value – but not all of them.
  • I like to re-read many of my books – but not all of them.
  • Some of them were purchased new on impulse but I didn’t reach for them – instead I re-read an old favourite.
  • I was reading 20% of my library 80% of the time.
  • Some books I had for years and years – and I was no longer the same person who once found value in them.
  • If I liked a book that was in a series, then I had to collect the whole series, regardless of whether I liked each individual book or not.
  • My tastes have started to lean more and more to non-fiction, yet most of my books are fiction – they don’t align with who I am as much as they used to.

When I moved from Ireland to the UK some years ago, I paid a lot of money for each and every book I owned to be transported over – a costly and time-consuming exercise.  Then they were stored in boxes for months and, to be honest, I would have had a hard time remembering what I had.  But when I eventually opened the boxes and saw my books again, I was flooded with joy and relief.  Looking back, I can see I tied up a lot of my identity with my beloved books.  Moving to a country where I knew no-one reinforced my books as friends and anchor points.

I have quite a few books on my Kindle also but am always mindful of digital clutter – it can be far more insidious than physical clutter as it’s almost invisible and so harder to spot.

I had three book-cases and now have one.  There are some books I think I could never give away but that’s fine – I know now what brings joy and I’m happy with what I have.  Some favourites include:

  • Edith Holden’s The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady – beautiful drawings, that could never be replaced by a Kindle version.
  • Pamela Brown’s The Swish of the Curtain – a children’s book that started my life-long passion for the theatre
  • Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird – a timeless classic and all-time favourite
  • Somerville & Ross’s The Irish RM and his Experiences – written in 1899 and still hilarious
  • An old, grimy textbook published in 1814, An Easy Introduction to the Arts and Sciences – it’s described on its first page as ‘useful and polite learning’ – how can you not love that description?!
  • And of course Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying – a constant source of inspiration!

Have you had any similar experiences?  Have a great week 🙂

Letting go of clothes with sentimental value

I think de-cluttering is like a muscle.  When you’re not used to de-cluttering, it seems too difficult and even overwhelming to start.  I found I needed to build up gradually, although I know of those who cheerfully threw themselves in the deep end.  But the more I de-cluttered, the easier I found it.   My de-cluttering muscle grew stronger and more toned!  I could make decisions on what to keep and what to let go, quickly and without too much analysis or angst.  Until it came to a sentimental item ….

I’ve written before about letting go of clothes that no longer fit me and this was relatively easy to do.  In fact, when the reason I was giving them away was because they were too big for me, I did it with a sense of relish!   However, there was one dress I never wore but never let go.  When I was reviewing my seasonal wardrobe, I would move hurriedly past it, convincing myself that it still ‘sparked joy’.  I loved it but to ‘spark joy’ it needs to tick a lot of boxes and a lot of those boxes were empty.  It’s a pretty dress but it no longer fit me and was no longer my style.  I had few occasions to wear it and when one did come around, I would always reach for something else instead.

So, this time, instead of racing past it, I took a deep breath and took it off the hanger.  It sparked …. something … I just wasn’t sure it was joy.  I tried it on – it looked awful and I knew I would never wear it out of the house again.  So, why was I keeping it?

I bought this dress for my twin nephews’ christening ceremony ten years ago and the celebrations afterwards.  Every time I saw the dress, I would feel a warm glow when remembering the day.  But that’s what I was remembering – the occasion – and I didn’t need the dress for that.  I was confusing a piece of material with warm memories and the joy of being with family and the arrival of our two wonderful boys.  I am lucky enough to have three nephews and a niece but I don’t see them very often so all time with them is precious.   However, I need to disentangle the memories of time with them from inanimate objects. 

I have photos of the day and me wearing the dress and that’s plenty, it’s enough, it’s more than enough.  Letting the dress go does not mean letting the memories go.   I dropped it off at my favourite charity shop, hoping that someone else will create happy memories for themselves in it.

Summer 2017 Capsule Wardrobe – Plan

I want to be cautious about how I phrase this because I feel I’m tempting fate but summer MAY have just started here in the UK.  We’ve had some very mixed weather and a couple of very warm days and, as I’ve had my spring capsule for three months, I’ve decided it’s time for my summer one 🙂

My routine is a well-oiled machine at this stage!  I’ve reviewed my spring capsule to see how well it’s worked (quite well, actually) and pulled my summer clothes out of storage.  I’ve decided how many pieces from my spring capsule are going back into storage and how many I’m letting go (only two).  My summer clothes are a different story.  For some bizarre reason, I seem to have a disproportionate amount of these – it’s a combination of them being more fun to buy and there’s less wear and tear on them as summer is so short!  I was tempted to be a bit lazy and decide by eye what was going to form part of the capsule but previous lessons learned compelled me to actually try things on.  Twelve months has made a difference in preference, style and especially size and many pieces will not make the cut.

I will decide over the next week what I am actually taking forward into the capsule.  Another lesson learned is not to only choose light, summery pieces as layers can be essential to counteract cooler days and open windows (for those of us without air-conditioned offices!).   I need to review the capsule in its entirety and then see if there are any gaps.  I’ve only spotted one so far (a layering piece!) but think I will be letting go of over ten pieces from last year’s wardrobe, the majority of which do not fit properly any more and one or two which are no longer my style.

Summer always seems the simplest capsule for which to plan but also the easiest one to fall into a ‘fantasy lifestyle’.  In my head, I could picture myself wearing long, floaty dresses for picnics and days out, but of course, work and life will go on as normal and my wardrobe needs to be quite similar to previous seasons, just not as focused on keeping me warm all the time!   I’ll still need a combination of work appropriate clothes, along with more casual ones and the one floaty dress will probably be fine for my upcoming social calendar!

Capsule Wardrobe: Basics, key pieces and statement pieces

I was always a big fan of Anuschka Rees’ blog, Into Mind and was thrilled when she recently published her book called The Curated Closet.   It’s chock-full of useful strategies and ideas and one in particular, feels like a great way to view clothes in a slightly different way.

Anuschka maintains that the basis to a great wardrobe, which will allow a versatile mix of pieces and enable multiple different looks, is to have the right balance of:  Basic pieces, that form the backbone of your wardrobe; key pieces, that add versatility and encapsulate your own personal style; statement pieces, that will enable you to add variety and a little something special.

The great thing about this approach is that these pieces may be different for everyone.  What is a basic for me may be a key piece for you.  I feel this simple tactic is powerful because it allows me to see my capsule wardrobe in a different light.  At the moment, the basics and key pieces are well covered but I’m a bit light on the statement pieces so if I need one, I tend to go to my tiny ‘special occasion’ capsule and pull out something from there.  This is where I keep a couple of special dresses to wear to a wedding or a party, a smart pair of shoes, a dressy top or a sparkly jacket!  However, with Anuschka’s approach, by incorporating a small number of statement pieces into my ‘normal’ capsule, I can wear these special pieces more often and not keep them for the ‘just in case’ times.  It will also allow better mixing and matching and jazzing up a plain outfit to make it more my own.

I will be starting to think of my summer capsule wardrobe in a few weeks’ time so I’ve decided to use this approach for summer shoes, to dip a toe in the water first, so to speak.  I tend to live in flats in the summer and wear my heels far more in the colder months.  They also go better with my summer clothes.  So, I could view my black ballet flats, which feel like slippers after 4 years, as basics; my pointed flats which, because of their neutral colour, go with many combinations and are a key piece; and my pink flats could make a statement, with a more neutral outfit.  Before this, I think I may have been inclined to pair my neutral flats with neutral basic clothes – resulting in a ‘meh’ kind of look.

     

The other reason I love this approach is that minimalism is all about de-cluttering the excess and appreciating what we are so fortunate to have now.  Loving and using things on a daily basis and not putting them away for ‘special’ occasions seems a better way.  Every day is special, right?

Easter Meltdown!

Happy Easter to you all 🙂  Mr. Minimal-Lol kindly bought me an Easter egg to celebrate the day.  This is what it should look like – viewed in its pristine condition on the M&S website. 

However, in an effort to be super-organized, he purchased it early in the morning and then left it on the back seat of the car, on a sunny day, only to remember it some hours later.   Like my wardrobe, it has undergone some down-sizing and this is what I was presented with this morning!  Nothing like starting the day off with a laugh!

This will be shared between us and enjoyed in stages over the next few days.  There was a time when an Easter egg may not have safely made it to lunchtime, still intact.  I believe there is a real connection between minimalism, healthy eating and weight loss.   I began my minimalism journey about three years ago, when I badly needed to simplify my life, in order to deal with some extra pressures.  It’s a work in progress and I have a long way to go.  However, an unforeseen benefit has been the impact on my weight.

It started when I became interested in a capsule wardrobe.  I had some major de-cluttering sessions and I found a variety of sizes, for my weight spectrum.  First of all, there were the clothes that fit me at that time.  True, they were uninspiring and boring but they fit – that was the key factor that earned their place in the wardrobe.  Then there were my just-in-case clothes – in case I increased my weight, I had a mini capsule of clothes just waiting for that dreaded day.  Talk about creating the conditions for weight gain.  I had a real wake-up call when I realized that was why I was holding on to these clothes – as though it was outside my control if I gained such a significant amount of weight, that I needed clothes in a whole other size.

Then there were the tantalizing few pieces that ‘when I slimmed down’, I would fit into perfectly.  They never really acted as a motivation but it felt like a goal achieved when I started wearing them again.  But I found that many of them were tainted and heavy with the weight of hope and despondency, so they only sparked limited joy.  They were never going to live up to the expectations I had placed on them.  My transition to a more intentional way of shopping and indeed viewing my wardrobe is my long-term goal.

I didn’t so much minimalize my food as de-clutter the cupboard that contained the sugary foods and that made the most difference.  I realized that the simplicity I craved in my wardrobe could best be attained by achieving a stable weight, which would allow a wardrobe with fewer but better quality clothes that I loved and that fit me well.  So, I will enjoy nibbling on a small piece of the lovely (albeit transformed in a melted sort of way!) Easter egg that Mr. M-L bought me but, as in my wardrobe, less can be more satisfying than more, and way better for body and mind than too much.  Enjoy the break 🙂