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Category Archives: minimalist strategies

ethical dental hygiene

Every purchase made is a vote for a certain type of product, so I do my best to make those votes count. Everyone needs to brush their teeth, so naturally a toothbrush and toothpaste are required. Sort of.

Introducing, my toothpaste substitute!

When I first saw Lush’s Toothy Tabs I was just as skeptical as perhaps you are right now. The idea is, you chew on one tablet, then brush your teeth normally. It feels weird and tastes weird at first (especially, if like me, you start out with the Atomic flavor, which is a spicy “clove bud oil” flavor), but my teeth have never felt cleaner. The best part is, you don’t have to stress about squeezing out the very last bits to make sure none is wasted since they’re packed into solid single-use tablets! Then when you’re done, the box is 100% recyclable.

My toothbrush is more conventional, but also ethical 🙂

Made by Monte-Bianco, this toothbrush has a replaceable head, reducing the amount of plastic discarded when you need a new brush. Even better, Oxfam carries them, so the money goes towards a good cause (For every £1, Oxfam donates 83p to emergency, development, and campaigning work, 10p to running costs and support, and 7p to generating future income).

what to do with knickknacks

We all have this stuff. Little objects that are emotionally valuable, but don’t serve any practical purpose. My collection looks like this:

And I have stored them in the same way since I was about ten years old. I love Converse shoes, so I kept a shoe box and put all of the things inside:

Every so often I will empty the box and sort through the objects, reflecting on the memories they represent and removing the ones whose significance I can no longer remember, or the ones to which I’m ready to say goodbye.

During the most recent declutter, I decided to part with my I Love NY pens. Every time my family visited New York City I would buy a new pen that I would use for nothing but journal-writing.

It was the age at which I was proud to have used up an entire pen’s worth of ink – that was a lot of writing then. Now I have this picture (and this blog post) about the pens instead of the pens themselves. Now when I run out of ink, to ease my frustration, I recall the sense of accomplishment that the same inconvenience made me feel years ago.

I keep all of my knickknacks tucked away in my special box. Over time I forget what exactly is inside, so when I open it up in a few months it’s a pleasant surprise. When the time comes to part with an object (or seven) I remember that it’s the experience attached to the object, not the object itself, that is significant.

redefine luxury

Luxury pour moi, daily life for Miss Blair

“The only way to really feel luxury is to go without it and then take a good long gulp.”

The Art of More for Less: Savvy Chic by Anna Johnson

She is right. Luxury is only luxurious if we are not accustomed to it. Gossip Girl lifestyles seem luxurious to me, but they can’t possibly be as luxurious to the characters to whom a casual trip to the Chanel house before a $500 date is the only way to live (live. exist. whatever you want to call fiction. That show is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of “luxury” so I’m sticking to the comparison).

The quotation allowed me to realize that luxury is relative. It is different for everyone. It is different for me depending on my situation as well – for instance, after my tri-annual six-hour no-sleep flight to England, my flimsy dorm bed is all the luxury I need.

The first time I practiced yoga, the instructor defined the practice as “finding your limit and challenging it.” I’ve been hooked on the idea ever since, whether it’s increasing my flexibility through yoga, or decreasing the clutter through minimalism. As I become more comfortable with less, I also require less to feel luxurious. Since I usually air-dry my clothes, retrieving a load of laundry fresh and hot from the tumble dryer is a thrill. Reading most of my books on my kindle makes hardcovers, even paperbacks feel luxurious in my hands. Accepting a shiny pink Betsey Johnson bag with thick black ribbon handles is an indulgence, since I always carry reusable shopping bags.

However, depriving myself of pleasures just to experience it “in one gulp” is not the only reason I am a minimalist. In fact, many of the habits I have shed are not ones that I miss. Since I’ve been vegetarian, I have not craved meat. Since switching to Lush’s toothy tabs I can’t imagine going back to toothpaste. My home sock drawer seems overwhelmingly full compared to the easy-to-find pairs to which I have pared down (couldn’t resist that one) at uni.

So I tell myself: Live with what you need. Enjoy what you want. Keep challenging your limits.

on keeping ticket stubs, posters, and flyers

this year i resolved to see two plays each week. a happy challenge, and some weeks i see up to four. i cherish my time spent at the theatre, and with each trip comes inevitable clutter that i can’t bring myself to abandon right away.

last term i started a tradition. blessed with an enormous notice board waiting to be filled, i tacked up all of my paper souvenirs i had acquired. at the end of term i had a complete collage, which i photographed. then i recycled the whole thing.

i parted with pieces of my collage with less difficulty than i had anticipated. each paper became a symbol of experience, and the finished product represented my journey over the nine weeks of term. i see each term at university as a clean slate, and the notice board serves as physical representation of the possibility to consume culture.

the board is emptier now, but yearns to be filled with tokens of my experiences. by the end of june i will have a new picture, a new complete collage, representing another chapter of my theatre-going story.

digital minimalism: following blogs

i like to keep all sorts of to do lists as completed as possible.

without meaning it to be, my google reader feed had become a to do list.

the great thing about google reader is that it keeps all of my followed blogs in one place; i don’t have to go to each site to find new updates.

after a while though, i had subscribed to an overwhelming number of blogs. i sorted them into folders and set priorities. but even this did not work for me, because i was always bothered by the bold blog titles with the number of posts available in parentheses – i felt behind.

now i follow only six blogs on google reader. these six blogs are the only ones in which i am constantly interested, regardless of my mood.

the other blogs i follow are sorted into categories on my bookmarks toolbar. i check them occasionally when i’m in the mood to read articles on minimalism or fashion or food, to name a few.

organizing socks

my sock drawer used to look like this.

i followed gretchen rubin‘s advice to dump out the whole drawer and only put back in what i need and love. it’s much harder to sort through a full drawer finding items to remove. this way, owning each pair of socks is a deliberate choice.

this simple sock strategy can be applied to many other categories of “things.”

for socks in particular though, it helps to cut down on the types of sock you own. for me the list is limited to:

  • Top Shop print socks (like this)
  • thick black ankle socks
  • thin black dress socks
  • athletic socks
  • thermal/wool winter socks
  • one pair of over-the-knee socks

within each category all of my socks are identical (with the exception of the Top Shop socks), making laundry easy and eliminating unnecessary choices.

 

keeping lists of books, films, and plays

one of the benefits of minimalism that i enjoy is the free time i gain. with it i choose to read more books, watch more films, and see at least two plays a week. to keep my “culture consumption” organized, i write lists.

i track my reading progress on goodreads. i rate books out of five stars and sort into bookshelves by year.

i record the films i see on imdb. i rate films out of ten stars and sort them into categories by year.

i keep a private pages document of all the plays i see. i record the name of the week, the title of the play, the venue, the company, and rate each play out of five stars.

i keep each list as concise as possible to make updating quick and satisfying. at first i was unsure whether to rate each item, but i’ve found that doing so allows me to remember my opinion at the time.

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