Saturday, 29 April 2017

Less and More

One has to be careful when writing about decluttering and downsizing on one's blog.  One's soon to be cohabitation partner reads the blog and could get the idea that one is a minimalist and thus he should not bring any clutter into the home or relationship.

One is not a minimalist.  One is making room for what is important and HE is important.  Co-decorating is potentially fraught and I have to admit I have very definite opinions about what is tacky and what I want in my rooms and on my walls.  I am fortunate to have a partner who is not particularly concerned with decor, happy to leave that sort of thing up to me.  For someone like me that is the definition of compatibility.  Compatible taste would also be ideal but I suspect it could be rare.  Compromise is required in a relationship.  Some give and take and respect for what the partner values is a must as is re-visiting and reconsidering what we value ourselves.

That's why making room for someone else requires letting go of things that I do not love or use.  It isn't about declaring less is better or more is better, but that the goal is a just right amount.  Is it called The Goldilocks Principle?

And speaking of too much or not enough.....

I am trying to find my own personal balance of less and more in my art.  I often over-paint, finding my way by adding more, covering it up if I don't like it, changing it a little or a lot.  Sometimes I completely cover over a canvas and paint something else on top.  Sometimes I regret this but most of the time I don't.  Sometimes I paint something quickly.  It's simple, and takes maybe an hour.  I like it so I stop and yet I wonder how can it be any good if it was so quick and easy? 

The painting on the bottom is now buried under the painting on the top.   I wasn't achieving what I wanted.  There were three incarnations of the painting above and I didn't like them so I slapped a ton of paint on top and obliterated it, creating the painting above it.  Now that I look at it in a photo I like it.  I wonder why I was upset with it.  But there's a life lesson in there somewhere.  Maybe more than one.   And I can paint again.  Perhaps the painting on the bottom was meant to teach me something.  Probably it was meant to teach me not to be so impatient and so hard on myself, but do I ever learn that lesson?  

In the photo I really like the bottom painting but in reality it irked me.  It looked over-painted.  It looked like too much.  As a photo it is inspiration. I painted my way into it, not knowing where I was going.  Now that I know I want to go there, perhaps I can again, more directly, with more purpose next time.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Let Go and Just Paint

                                                      When We Parted

I haven't painted in a few months and now that I am in a time period of restless anticipation this is a very good time to pick up my brushes again.  When I think of the three activities I am most passionate about, reading, writing and painting, I realise that painting is very special.  Reading and writing are things I have to do.  I must feed my brain and I must pour out my thoughts and ideas or I get tangled in a mental mess.  Painting is different.  When I paint I lose myself in the way one is supposed to with meditation.  I am detached from my thoughts and most of my senses and the only thing I know is what is happening on the canvas, what I want to do next in terms of colour and brush strokes, and the tension between what I am intending to create and what is being created despite me.

My art isn't particularly correct and that's also something that really takes me outside myself because I tend to put great stock in knowledge.  In general I crave knowledge, I want to know things that I do not yet know, I want to understand the universe I live in.  I seek to learn what, why and how and in general am a very big fan of science.  There are truths and facts in this world that can be known, there are things not yet known but within sight and they inspire awe.   I am someone who favours knowing but painting is about not knowing.  I am someone who takes few risks but painting is very risky.  Every time I finish a painting I like I am terrified that I cannot do it again.

Painting teaches me things I have difficulty articulating.

 Many things in this world are not subjective.  But art is.  Sure there are people who will say there are certain techniques or methods that must be followed, there are rules that some adhere to, and yes, I've got the bar set too high to ever touch let alone jump over because unless I can produce something to rival Leonardo Da Vinci I will only ever consider myself a dilettante, a dabbler, an amateur.  I am unschooled and I do not practice enough to ever become good.  Sometimes that bothers me because I tend to only want to do things I can be good at.

Quite regularly I have to speak to myself sternly.  Just who do I think I am, and what arrogance this is to imagine that I could or should be good at anything let alone the things I wish to be good at.    There are many people much more skilled or talented than I am and many others with no talent at all dabbing away either believing themselves to possess skills they do not or else not caring.  My inner perfectionist scorns them as I would scorn myself.  No, I am not kind.  I am a harsh critic though in general the criticism is aimed at myself.  While I might easily be critical of others who are also not Leonardo Da Vinci, my energy is not invested in their improvement.  It is invested in desiring my own.  So I paint.  And while I paint I forget to criticise.  I forget everything and I know only colour and texture and a liquid world.  While I paint I hope, I imagine, I believe that my intentions are being deposited on the canvas and that the results might not only please my own eyes but the eyes of others.  I could say that I paint for myself, and I do, but can any artist or would-be-artist truly claim not to hope her work appeals to others too?

I am sure that art is a form of communication and communication is not about releasing ideas into the void.  Communication is meant to happen between conscious beings, beings with sensory perceptions.  I paint to get outside of my own head and yet I also paint to communicate something to others.  I paint to say here I am.  Perhaps I am like you.  Perhaps we are connected in some way.  Perhaps I will understand myself better by painting and perhaps you will understand me and yourself better too.

When I wash up my brushes my thoughts grow a bit more practical and I worry about how much paint I used and can I afford to buy some more.  Can I afford not to?

Saturday, 22 April 2017

When Life Changes Dramatically

Life is about change and...

I'm no stranger to dramatic life changes.  I've had my share of the standard ones, moving to a new town, buying a first home, having a baby, getting a divorce and giving up a career.  Add to that living with a chronic illness which isn't suddenly dramatic until it takes you down a road you didn't expect and brings a lifestyle you hadn't anticipated, then the dramatic life changes are beginning to add up. 

More change is coming my way and it seems to me that it's fairly radical.  I've written very little about some aspects of my personal life because when it involves other people I don't feel I have the right to make public stories that are not purely mine.  At least not without permission.  Although it's supposed to be a blog that attempts to chronicle life with a chronic illness, I really can only give glimpses, snapshots, very controlled peeks into what my life actually is.  Focusing on personal style allows me to keep it relatively impersonal so I stick to that often.

And sometimes I veer away from it....

I've made reference to an abusive marriage, and to being divorced. I sometimes talk about living alone, but I believe I may have referenced a partner or significant other once or twice.  Then I wrote one or two posts about internet dating.  The short explanation for all of that is that a long term and long distance friendship turned into more then fell apart over a misunderstanding that involved a breakup that each thought the other was initiating only neither really was.

Holy Cow, communication is everything.

A close friend thought the way to get me through that was to immerse myself in internet dating.  Hah!  Fortunately for me, the misunderstanding was sorted out and the relationship resumed better than ever and internet dating become merely a five day slightly amusing interlude.

So a long distance relationship is about to become a case of cohabitation which leaves me without any cold feet even remotely, although in bed at night  I am prone to wearing not very sexy fleece socks.  A relationship deal breaker?  Nah. 

I am not a person who seeks relationships or needs to have a partner in my life.  The right one is heavenly, but I I would rather be alone than in the wrong relationship.  I like living alone so you have to be very special and I have to be very sure of you before I am going to share my living space with anyone who is not a cat.

How does life change when you are sharing space, sharing time, and pursuing together-activities?  I'm about to find out, or re-explore that.  Anticipating this change has become a full time preoccupation and the days cannot pass quickly enough.  I have five weeks left to wait, five weeks of not needing to consider the needs or comfort of another person.  Five weeks of erratic sleep patterns, eating whenever I feel like it and considering only myself when I spend money.  If I am worried about anything these are the things I'm worried about.  Can I adjust properly?  Time will tell but I do know I've been smart enough to be in love with someone who tells me to stop worrying.   It will be fine.  I will not be a bother, he will not tell me I am not good enough or my ways are wrong.  That was my old life, a different partner.  Now I am with someone who is my best friend, who loves me for who I am, not what I can (or cannot) do and who, like me has to contend with chronic illness so understands.  "It's fine", he says.  "We will just hold hands and cross the bridges."

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

My Minimal Standard

I spend a great deal of time just at home and I am always aware of the chronic illness I live with, aware of the fatigue, the aches, the limitations it imposes on my activities and abilities.  A life spent in lounge wear with unwashed hair and no effort at all put towards self-presentation would be too constant a reminder of what has been taken from me.  So with this in mind I have a minimal standard which I break only on those days when I am really feeling awful and might get out of bed only to find food or make tea.  Some days it's more of a struggle to meet that minimum standard but  by simplifying it and my personal style I have achieved something that approximates effortless chic, if I do say so myself,  and it really is minimal effort.

There are days when I pick and choose carefully what I will expend energy on and in all honesty that means I do not shower and/wash my hair daily.   I think that we've gotten to a point in western culture where that might almost be shocking to some people.  A daily shower and daily washed hair has become a norm and I was once someone who participated in it.  Given that I don't do much intense physical exertion and the climate where I live is rarely so hot as to make me sweaty, a daily shower isn't really  needed and a quick sponge bath in between showers will do.  At the moment, while my growing out hair is in an awkward stage, I usually will soak it in the sink and comb it into some sort of reasonable shape but sometimes, a good brushing and some hair pins will get me through the day.

Looking intentional is the secret to looking pulled together, but intentional stopping short of too much effort is my goal. 

My Minimal Standard

My wardrobe is pared down to easy to wear, mix and match pieces that flatter me and I love ( as much as I can love clothing which isn't much compared to most other things )  so that anything I put on looks intentional.

I always wear earrings.  I generally sleep in a simple pair so that I don't have to think about putting them on in the morning.  If I want something a bit more impactful then I can change them when I get dressed.  I never leave empty holes in my ears but if I want to wear a necklace for going out I make the earrings small.  I find I don't feel as comfortable in necklaces so I am more likely to put on a bracelet just before going out but I don't wear one around home.  Going out I will probably add a scarf but I don't wear one around the house. 

I think that earrings, a hairstyle that feels right and a little bit of makeup are the key factors that can make me feel ready to face the day as a properly functioning person.  And since my life does not involve wilderness hikes, gardening or mucking out the barn, this little bit of polish also feels appropriate.

I have a uniform style of dressing, suited to my lifestyle and it consists mainly of jeans and various tops-sweaters, blouses, tee shirts, with some accessories to round out the look and some variety in cardigans and jackets. 

My minimal standard makes it easy to go out without having to do much.  I am most likely to brush my teeth, reapply lipstick and grab an accessory or two.  Very little thought needs to go into footwear or jackets because it is dependent on the weather and my clothing.  Every jacket or shoe goes with more than one clothing outfit but every outfit looks best with a particular jacket or shoe.  This makes it easy to get out the door knowing I look pulled together and like I put some thought into what I am wearing but it's all premeditated.

Internal Nagging

If I don't go out at all, which is likely, I've got my basic uniform on, a simple hairstyle and my minimal makeup which makes me feel like I am participating in life.  There is a little voice in my head that wants this to be a world where women don't 'need' makeup.  This voice sometimes needles me for participating in this game and demands to know what is wrong with my face as it is.  Nothing is wrong with my face.  We live in a culture where it is entirely acceptable and often expected that a woman's face will have a bit of makeup on it and I could choose to fight that standard if I want to.  There would be no consequences but it would also be a moot point.  Nobody cares if I put on makeup or not.  It is only my own concern.  I do not have a job where it is required of me or where the lack of makeup might prevent a promotion and thus my not wearing makeup contributes nothing to changing that situation.  I do live in a culture where at least a little bit of makeup is the norm and I think that the very purpose of my minimal standard is to give me the feeling of participating in that culture because being ill and rarely leaving home can cause feelings of isolation.  Isolation is perhaps great if it is by choice.  I can imagine myself sometimes choosing it.  The goal is to find my personal balance between being one of the herd and standing alone.  For now, what I have chosen as my minimal standard gives me that power, a power that could easily be taken away from me.

For some women, daily life is about putting on a makeup mask, a uniform that is not of their choosing, and participating in a public life which they are happy to shed when they return home.  For them, claiming some power over their own appearance might mean the opposite of what it does for me.  It might mean taking off their makeup and putting on pyjamas or lounging clothing.  Claiming some power for ourselves means having a choice and getting away from something that is either imposed on us, or is so frequent that we need a change.

I have no problems with being seen in public bare faced.  I'm not even sure that my minimal makeup makes much difference to my appearance except perhaps an obvious lip colour.  That isn't really the point.  The point is that it makes me feel that I have gotten ready to take on the day.


I've had a good time playing with makeup over the past year, finding the best colours and exploring products, but one thing that has always been true of me is that I am not interested in makeup trends, in trying different looks or colours, taking more than five minutes maximum to apply it, in wearing makeup that I can feel or that I must touch up or generally worry about.

I'm aiming for a healthy, awake, me-but-better look and given the face I start with, that may look more tired or more vibrant depending on the day.

This is a minimal face with a bit of oomph added by a swipe of lipstick.  My lipstick home is in the browns, so I've got brown-oranges and terra-cotta colours in my makeup bag, the one in the photo is Revlon Toast of New York, blotted.  I'm quite tired and it shows, so there is a bit of concealer under my eyes and a bit of medium brown shadow on lids with one swipe of brown-black mascara.  It looks like no makeup on my eyes but just wakes them up a little to balance the lip.

In my photo-taking efforts the lipstick took a dive, while open, right onto the floor.  Thankfully it was not carpet.

I have allergies too and at this time of year wake up with swollen, red, watery, itchy eyes.  Cold compresses, eye drops, antihistamines and a prescription nasal spray are all required but a bit of makeup can help to eliminate the look of spent all night crying. Too much makeup can make the effort look obvious though.

I've used a little bit of neutral powder on the T-zone of my face because it gets very shiny in photos but if I'm not taking a photo for this blog I tend to ignore the powder.

 Other options for my basic day look.....

I have liquid blush in a browned-peach colour for days when it seems I need it.  For the sake of fun I've got some gold eye shadow though I mostly use a matte medium brown and a bronze-brown pencil.  I don't do jumbo lashes, so mascara is just to darken my lashes a bit and I never put it on the bottom lashes as I don't like the look of spider eyes.

I sometimes do a bit more with my eyes but because my eyes are small and deep-set  I don't get too dark with this and always use a medium brown-taupe colour.  With more makeup on my eyes I do a lighter lip but a nude-beige look doesn't suit me so it's a creamy terra-cotta colour, Revlon Rose Velvet, which is a very natural look for me.

                      I should have cleaned up that eye pencil but it would be too much trouble to take more photos.

This is a close up of my eyes looking down so you see the eye makeup better.  It's very subtle and this is as much as I ever use.  I'm convinced it makes a difference even though it's so minimal.

My Makeup Basics

Not only do I want a minimalist makeup look on my face, I want makeup minimalism in my makeup bag.  A few options are nice for a bit of variety, but I've discovered I am the type to have a preferred look and to stick with it.  I tried some more obvious colour for eyes but didn't like the look.  stick to a bronze-brown range, though finding a light, medium and dark in exactly the colours I want is a bit tricky, especially with drugstore options.  I really dislike having a quad or trio of shadow where I only use one or two of the colours but sometimes that's the only place I can find the colour I want. I currently own four lipstick shades and I use them all equally.  They are similar colours but have different qualities in texture or finish.

For Every Day:

liquid concealer
brown eye pencil/shadow

For Extra Special:

liquid cheek colour
gold eye shadow

As always this is a long post so it's time to stop.  I will stop right HERE.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Kitchen Purge

A kitchen purge is another of my favourite activities lately.  When my nesting habits were at their peak crockery was something I was highly attracted to and not only did I want to be well equipped to put on a beautiful dinner for ten people with all the required dishes, cutlery, glassware and serving pieces, I tended to be drawn to random finds in thrift shops so would end up with an large and eclectic assortment  as well as pieces that ended up being essentially decorative.  I do prefer the look of  open shelves and colourful crockery on display to a pristine, monochrome and everything hidden away sort of kitchen, but I am becoming less tolerant of clutter too so my definition of what is attractive and what is just too much is shifting.  Also, the reality of my life is that I do not make meals for or entertain ten people.  I do not entertain any people.  At most there may be one or two other family members and we are quite casual.  It only makes sense to be equipped for the life you actually live.  I began purging items from my kitchen a year ago. I am still purging and I thought I'd gotten rid of a lot already.  I had gotten rid of a lot. I am a bit embarrassed now by how much I had, how many boxes I moved into this place with and what I continued to add.

It's along way from prepared to host ten elegantly to casual meals for two but that's the reality of my journey.  The gluten-free and grain free way that I eat now has also eliminated much baking and certain types of cooking so various implements are also now not needed.  Getting rid of extra cake pans and duplicates in the kitchen tools drawer was fairly easy.  Getting rid of the pretty things is a bit harder so I don't force that on myself in the name of simplifying.  I wait until it hits me that I no longer love something, no longer believe it to be useful or beautiful.  In some cases I may still think it's an attractive item I just no longer feel an attachment to it. When I look at something and think objectively that yes, I like that but I no longer feel some sort of connection to it then it's time to let it go.

 At one time in my life I had a thing for jugs.  I still rather like them but I had accumulated quite a few, the way some people collect mugs or that salt and pepper shaker collecting craze of the seventies.  I Had visions of using these jugs regularly, serving the morning orange juice in a pretty jug for example but that's not reality.  I don't drink orange juice and there is no family breakfast table.  I like fresh flowers displayed in a jug, and in summer if I make sangria or lemonade it's nice to put that in a big jug but okay there, that's two jugs I can argue a need for.  There are seven remaining in my possession and while I like all of them they are sitting on a shelf gathering dust and this has come to outweigh any joy their appearance brings. 

I've selected three jugs to give away, as you can see in this photo of items I pulled off the shelves today.  These are destined for the donation box. 

The watering can and the brick of butter are not being donated, but everything else on this counter is.  It's a lovely soup tureen and I do make soup often but I do not need a tureen.  I've never used this one and have had it for seven years. It took me about five minutes to pull all of these items off the shelves and feel certain that I could give them up.  Large serving platters, extra wine glasses and mugs, some canisters and some cruets, a small tea pot in a green colour I love but which is quite useless as a tea pot.  When the moment comes that these things seem surplus to want and need it seems so obvious.  How could I not see it before.  But then I've felt that way about breaking up relationships too.  Yes, I did just compare tossing out unwanted crockery to tossing out unwanted boyfriends.

I definitely don't have a minimalist kitchen because I still have items surplus to what I use regularly.  I have a few duplicates, a few not yet used items I think I am still going to want and I have some things that I really like and am not ready to part with for now.  The irony is that other than a home I rented for about four months, this is the largest kitchen I've ever had.  I quite like the counter space and the room to walk around but I have more cupboards than I can fill.  About a year ago I took the doors off the upper cabinets to see if I would like living with open shelving.  While the doors are in excellent shape the cabinet cases are terrible.  They are cheap looking and ugly, not the older solid wood type that one might paint and use as open shelving.  I intend to take them down and replace them with more attractive open shelves but the reality is that I don't actually need half of them.  I'm pondering what to do about that, whether I want to leave empty wall space or put up shelves I don't need.  I could more thinly disperse the crockery I do have and put some plants on the shelves too.

My plans horrified my mother, who said this sounds too radical to be suitable for resale value.  Since I don't have any plans to sell my home in the near future I am prepared to take that risk.  If I need to sell I can buy some new cheap upper cabinets that can be someone else's problem after I am gone.  For now, while the ugly cases are still there, I also have on display some of the items I am not yet ready to part with.

The task this weekend is to get some boxes and pack up the items for donation carefully with some newspaper to protect them.  Everything is in pristine condition and it would be a shame to let it get chipped or cracked on the way to the charity shop.

There will be future purges in the kitchen, I am certain.  For one thing, I have a supply of alcohol that I don't drink.  I have no idea what to do with that and may end up pouring it down the drain.  I'll see if I've got any local friends who want it before I get that drastic.

Nobody is going to walk into my home and mistake me for a minimalist.  It's simply not my aesthetic style.  I still like a home that feels cosy and has personality and to me a minimalist home has none of that.  I will have just insulted any minimalists by saying that but I assume it goes the other way and that my home would seem cluttered to a minimalist and not restful because of that. 

Easy Kitchen Purging Tips:

Duplicates or Multiples?  Pick your favourite and get rid of the rest.

Haven't used it in a year?  You probably don't need it.  Give it to someone who does.

Don't know what it is or what it does?  Into the donation box it goes.

You won't be ready to get rid of everything that is surplus.  Be patient with yourself and review and purge again in a few months or keep a box in a cupboard that you can put items into one at a time as you reconsider them.  I still have too many jugs and a small collection of glass vases even though most of the time I put flowers into the same green jug because it's my favourite.  I'm not ready to let go of any of those things yet but the time may come.

The next kitchen job to tackle is my spice cupboard. 

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

My Wardrobe

 At times I wonder if I am on a journey to minimalism but then I have several thoughts.  If I am, it's more of a return trip, at least in terms of my wardrobe.  I'm not comfortable with the term minimalism but mainly because I think it needs a whole lot of qualifying and I like precision.  If you've got any interest in minimalism the different versions of it are all over the internet, with blogs, vlogs and various articles to help you find what works for you

There is also de-cluttering advice, Marie Kondo being the latest guru for that.  De-cluttering is related but not quite the same as minimalism. 

Both are aiming for a live-with-less stress, strain and complexity result.  All are adaptable to your own needs.

Winter has transitioned to Spring though where I live it is still not warm and it is usually raining.  By mid-April I am usually ready to switch to a lighter coat, change boots for shoes at least part of the time and there is no need for gloves anymore.  I don't put away my clothes seasonally as I don't need to do that to make room or to reduce visual clutter. Most of what I have works for three out of four seasons and given all that overlap I prefer to just have it all handy.

The highlighted items are unlikely to be worn in the next 3 months though one of the reasons I don't do seasonal capsules is that April can be cold but May or June can bring a heatwave.  The pull over sweaters may be worn and so might the shorts.  Never say never. 

My Basic Wardrobe

6 pairs jeans-could  have fewer but will keep all of these until they wear out. 4 are slim boot cut style and 2 are straight leg.   Boot cut is more flattering on me but sometimes not practical. One pair of my bootcut are the pair I consider my formal, dressier jeans.

4 pull over sweaters

1 knit top

1 sleeveless summer cotton tunic 

1 long sleeved tee shirt (3 others have been relegated to the lounge wear pile as they each got a small hole in a prominent place)

6 short sleeved tee shirts ( probably don't need this many but am having fun with colour variety)

4 cardigan sweaters-I live in cardigans and variety is nice

8 blouses- 4 long sleeve, suited to cooler weather, 4 short sleeve, summer/ warm weather

1 fancy blouse that works for all year but not really hot weather

2 dresses suited to mild-warm weather-one is my summer semi-formal dress

1 warm weather knee-length skirt

1 mild-cool weather midi skirt

3 cotton tank tops for layering

2 pairs shorts, casual not athletic


Suede western style-may not keep.  Love them but only wear them a few times a year.

A possible reason for these boots being problematic is that they are thickly lined and rubber-soled for cold weather but suede is not good for wet weather which is what we have here most of Winter and early Spring. I end up wearing these for about two weeks mid spring and a couple weeks mid Autumn and only if I wear my brown  midi skirt. The up side is that it's very comfortable to have bare feet in these boots.

Leather casual hiking-style ankle boot, worn frequently in Autumn and Winter

Leather chunky heel granny-style boot, a big favourite and worn October-April unless there is snow.

Leather lace-up oxfords, flat heel, people think they are boots when I wear them with my boot cut jeans.

Leather mary-jane flats, when the strap is covered by my jeans they resemble ballerina flats.

Leather sandals-Clarks slip on

Leather sandals-toe thong style Birkenstocks which I love but have to accustom my tender toes to each season.  Probably wouldn't buy this style again although I like the look.

Leather low heeled mary-jane style shoe great for skirts/dresses

                       I recently altered the colour of the shoes on the right a little bit. By using brown shoe polish I changed them for this taupe colour to something more like the shoes on the left.  It works better with my clothing.  


1 casual parka-style winter coat
1 casual rain jacket
1 cotton coat for Autumn or Spring ( dry weather )
1 light weight leather jacket
1 thin quilted vest
1 off white denim jacket (not sure about this-I like it but have only worn it once or twice )


These have been whittled down to favourites in coordinating colours. My most typical accessory is earrings, which I wear daily, and if I go out I wear a scarf thought that also disappears by late May.

                     I switch from a larger, bulkier bag to a smaller one as my outfits also get less bulky

Quick count- 6 pairs earrings, 6 necklaces, 10 bracelets, 2 rings, 1 watch, 7 scarves, 2 hats, 3 handbags


2 pairs pyjamas
loungewear- sweatpants, sweatshirt, 4 older tee shirts (which is too many but I can't let go yet because I like the colours) 1 zip hoodie
socks, bras, underpants, tights which I don't wear because I've not got a winter dress or skirt, gloves, wooly hat, fleece socks for really cold days.




Camel coloured cardigan
Shorts-just above the knee, not too baggy, not too tight, camel, khaki or olive green; Summer casual dress, cotton
Dressier looking sandal
Sweater-dress or heavy jersey dress for Autumn/Winter

 The want category is where things get trickier.  These that are difficult for me to find or difficult to fit.  My wardrobe is lacking in the dressy-casual area and if I did get that sweater dress I desire I also don't have the right footwear for it.  I love the idea of tall boots but the only thing I'd wear them with would be that one dress.  It doesn't seem worth it to create that outfit when it might only be worn once a year.  I rarely attend events that require dressing up, even in casual dressy, though when they do come around I tend to be caught with nothing to wear.  More often than not though, that happens in warm weather.  Two recent examples were my inability to be stylish for a weekend in Vancouver at the Blogger Meet Up I attended a couple years ago, and my 30th High School Reunion which also happened that same summer. 

My basic uniform works for me 99% of the time and I have a very casual lifestyle.  Jeans can be dressed up or down and that is usually all I need to do.  If the weather is too hot for jeans I'm in a bit of a pickle, though I could just choose to be too warm.

Is it worth seeking out the LBD equivalent for cool weather and warm weather, along with the appropriate shoes and keeping those on hand in the event that I may need them or is it better to rush about in a panic trying to buy something if such an even arises?  I honestly do not remember the last time I needed to wear anything other than jeans and a nice blouse in the cool weather season. 

Keeping only what I love and truly use, settling on my personal style and keeping that fairly simple, finding my best colours and discovering gold looks better than silver, have all made this process easier.  Also, I find that I want less, I don't go shopping because I am trying to fix something or create something.  I still enjoy shopping and enjoy something new, but I am much pickier and choice is not abundant. 

Totals for those interested:

Minimalists count their clothing when they are aiming for something radically reduced and want to be able to say that they only have 10 pieces of clothing, or 20 or 30.  Capsule wardrobe makers count in various ways, often not including lounge wear, exercise clothing or pyjamas unless they focus on that group itself as a capsule.  This sometimes leads to a nice pared down seasonal capsule but a hugely cluttered bin of pyjamas or exercise wear.  Capsules are usually seasonal so we get totals like 33 items or 37 items per season, and that may or many not include shoes, outwear and accessories.  If rules help you then you can invent your own or borrow another person's.

Main clothing- 41
Shoes/Boots- 8 stylish, 2 weather/functional
Accessories/Jewelery/Handbags-37 pieces
Extras (pyjamas/lounge)- 9
Socks and underwear not counted but pared down to a what I actually use.

It would not all fit into one suitcase but it takes up less than half of the available closet space, is not a visual clutter, I can find everything easily, I can see it all and in fact I can probably recall from memory most if not all of what I have. 

Some minimalists and clutter-busters impose a one in-one out rule.  I haven't imposed that on myself but it often does work that way.  If I purchase something it is either replacing something that is worn out or I have found a better version of something that is part of my typical uniform. 

This is where I stop otherwise I will just keep going.  That's what I do.  You know that.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

The Emotional Aspect of Possessions

William Morris wrote:  Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.

I love this quote and always have.  As with most beloved quotes, it appeals because it simply articulates what I believe.  Although I have strayed from this sensible principle I am now back to living in accordance with it and find that it really does bring me peace.

I think this is essentially the message of Marie Kondo with her Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Although I've not actually read the book,I am aware of the gist of it from reading about it. I am also aware that there is a minimalist movement that can be read about in many places around the internet, and found on plenty of Vlogs as well. This is not to be confused with minimalism in art and design, although plenty of lifestyle minimalists also favour a minimalist aesthetic. 

 The attitudes to and about minimalism vary, including exactly how to define it, who is and isn't a minimalist and whether it matters.  Some use the term rational minimalism or practical minimalism to describe something more suited to those who live in suburbia with families. Some speak of it as a journey more than a destination.  Some say it's an attitude while others prefer a more prescriptive explanation of it.  The principles of it have something to offer everyone though, and the reason for Marie Kondo's success is that nobody, not even the most dedicated maximalist, enjoys having too much stuff.

The definition of too much is a quantity that makes you tried, stressed, overwhelmed, constantly needs attention, organising, tidying and fixing.  Over-consumption may be getting you into debt or just eating up more of your money than it has to.  If none of these things are issues, you probably do not have too much by your own standards. 

Why I am Not a Minimalist By Some Definitions

I have no desire to live like a student or a stereotypical young bachelor, to live out of a backpack while couch surfing (which I think is minimalism riding on the backs of others), travel is not my lifestyle, career not my focus and Japanese Zen or Scandinavian minimalism are not my aesthetic.  I do not wish to only wear black, white and grey clothing. I do not move frequently nor do I wish to.

On the other hand, I do wish to live only with what I find useful or aesthetically pleasing.  I do not wish to be emotionally attached to my belongings in a such a way that they hold me back or take over my life.  I like a full but tidy and clean environment.   I do feel burdened and weighed down if I have an accumulation of possessions I don't need and never use.

Empty walls and bare surfaces are rarely beautiful to my eye any more than is a cluttered accumulation of things I don't want, need or enjoy.  Somewhere in between those states is my comfort zone.  I am mostly a home body.  I can understand how if a person is away from home all day and then likes to travel in her spare time, that a permanent home filled with possessions to worry about might be unwanted.  That isn't my life.  Home is my sanctuary and I love a home with colour, texture, layers and familiar comforting items.  According to some I can still be a 'minimalist' because the point is to find my own personal sweet spot, which gets back to William Morris.  For many, minimalism is a journey.  It's not a race to get rid of everything and only own 50 items including clothing, it's a process of getting rid of what, for you, is excess.  What/who defines excess?  You do.  Your needs and tastes are the guide.

Why is purging as thrilling as accumulating?  This is a question I have to ask myself because for me it is and I know I am not alone.  I think it has something to do with change, a feeling of accomplishment or progress.  When I was newly separated and beginning a life on my own there was the feeling of starting over, of doing things my way and answering to no one and that was very exciting.  I could decorate my home entirely according to my own tastes, spend money on a throw pillow if I wished to, stock up on linens if I believed in the need to.  I was doing that thing they call nesting, tasting my freedom with gusto, figuring out who I was as an individual based on how I wanted to dress myself and decorate my home and indulging my liking for being over-prepared.   Some might see it as a process that was a great waste of time and money but I see it as therapy.  Yes, part of me would like to just have back the money I spent now that I am very clear on who I am, what I want and what I like, but in a convoluted way spending money on things actually was spending money on an experience.  It was the experience of growth, self-knowledge and freedom.

An Emotional Journey

After the intense spending and accumulating came the purging.  I had figured out what I wanted and needed in my life, what my taste is when I have complete freedom to choose and not accommodate anyone else, and I figured out how my life actually functions.  Slowly I realised that looking after a family, entertaining friends, hosting house-guests, cooking big family dinners were all things that had gone from my life and I did not need to be equipped for them.  Gradually I found my just-right level of clutter from purely decorative items and it was fun poking around second hand shops looking for things that appealed to me.  I didn't want to live in a home that contained mainly items taken from my previous life, although I had been careful to select things that had meaning, very little that came with me had been chosen along with my ex-husband.  I also had to leave items I valued, gifts, family heirlooms and furniture  behind and that left a bit of an empty space emotionally.  I needed to find out if it should be filled or forgotten.   Although in a divorce each ex-partner is legally entitled to fifty percent of the shared belongings, I was leaving my ex behind in a large house and would myself be living in less than half the size, in an apartment with no need of anything for the outdoors so out of necessity I left behind things I did have an emotional attachment to.  I also did this out of a misplaced sense of guilt.  I was the one leaving and tearing apart the life we had shared, so I was overly generous.  

The happy result of all my choices is that I created a home that looked lived in, collected over many years, and very personal.  The trick to that is to buy what you love, buy it second hand, have nothing that is currently trendy in home decor and combine that with things you really have had forever, were handed down in your family or are being repurposed in some way.  Over the course of several years items came in and went out again.  I purged as much as I purchased, changing my mind, finding something better to replace something mediocre.  Then I grew tired of that and just wanted to be done.  The desire to shop for some new decorative item disappeared.  The awareness that I didn't need any new bath towels or even as many as I already  had grew so intense that I began to want to lighten the load.  I had managed to get to the point where the void was filled well, too well.  I could skim a little fat off the top. 

I found myself really and truly only wanting to live with what I needed, regularly used, or really loved to look at.  It is embarrassing even to privately think too much about the quantities I have donated to charity and thrift shops.  Some mollification comes from it being things that came from there in the first place, as though I tried it out for a year and then returned it.  The consumerism represented by it, the likely environmental impact of the materials that will just pile up in a landfill if nobody wants them, the shame of wasting the money are all issues I have to live with but I began to increasingly want to distance myself from it.  I didn't want to live a life where I constantly felt the need to tidy and organise everything, needed to purchase organising containers, systems, pieces of furniture or shelving in order to store it all.  I just wanted to easily find things I used regularly, with the unattractive items easily put away and out of sight, with no need to tidy up the cupboards every spring.  I admit my home is still a bit of a dusting nightmare.  There are more items to dust than any true minimalist would want but for me that is the cost of my personal taste and I am willing to pay it.  I either have to live with the dust or hire someone to deal with it for me.  It's a choice.

The Nitty Gritty

There are plenty of where to start, what to do lists on the internet as well as ideas suited to different lifestyles, living situations and   This is mine along with my own experiences.  These are the biggest areas and yet I found most of them easy to tackle.  In some ways, the hardest part for me is the physical job of getting rid of stuff.  That's a good reminder not to accumulate too much. 

Linens- I still have an abundance

I had too many and was holding on to things that were ratty, ugly or never got used.  This is often one of the easiest areas to purge, but although it is generally my habit to strip the sheets off the bed, launder them and put them back on, I still own three sets of sheets for my bed.  This is too many even by my own definition but I have the space to store them and will just keep them as long as they are in good condition.  I will probably never need to buy sheets again.

I have one set of bedding for the guest bed.

I have six bath towels, hand towels and 12 face cloths.  I had more but I prefer keeping a selection of really old and stained towels for those times when one needs an old towel to mop up a flood or wrap up a sick pet so I keep three on hand.  I also use them to roll-dry clothing items I have dyed, not worrying about any dye transfer.  I donated several towels that were in good shape to the thrift shop.  In time perhaps I will donate more.  I certainly don't need to buy any towels.

blankets and bedspreads were accumulating because I was longing for something decorative on my bed but not really finding what I wanted.  Buying something that will do is a waste of money so the not-loved blankets and bedspreads go to charity and I will wait until I see something I love or go without.

Hobby Supplies - Crafters are often hoarders.  Some are very organised, have a whole room dedicated to it and really do use all that they have.  I am one of those people who gets excited about different ideas which I end up never doing but I know what I love, what art materials I repeatedly use and what I will never do even though it seems  appealing.  I have purged many accumulated art and craft supplies and could likely purge more in the future.

Kitchen - Some people are quite content with a minimal selection of the tools and items they use daily and extreme minimalists are happy to have one set of dishes per person.  I like cockery and I have a set of dishes that was a gift, it serves 12 because once upon a time I cooked family dinners of that size.  I'm not ready to get rid of that and I do have the space to store it.  I like some of my crockery on display too.  I don't have a minimalist kitchen but I do use or love everything I have and have given away tools, appliances and baking pans that were never used.  My cupboards are not overflowing in any way and everything is tidy so I am content with that.

The Storage Closet - I am among those people who tend to accumulate just in case items.  I grew up in a family where it's practically a sin not to.  One should be prepared.  It is generally a point of pride for my mother to have had on hand that one obscure thing that was acquired twenty years ago and suddenly needed.  This is a definition of independence and adulthood combined with frugality that I think is fairly typical of my parents' generation.  It comes from having lived through or been raised by people who lived through hard times.  You keep everything that could be useful, every bit of string, every lid missing a container but which could someday fit onto a container you have that is missing a lid.  If you do not do this you have failed at being an adult.  You have been wasteful and disorganised.  Most of us have had the experience of holding onto something for years, finally getting rid of it and then wanting it or finding a need for it a week later.  This is used as the justification for holding onto everything.  I don't find it happens to me often enough to use that justification so I have begun to get rid of everything that I have not used in a year or more.  A year is reasonable because it at least counts for every season, holiday or event that can be expected.

 Papers- this one is tricky because I am terrible at organising papers, don't even have an organised computer and don't like the process of scanning, storing or organising on my computer, and tend to either hold onto papers for too long or toss them out too soon.  Sometimes I panic because I have lost track of an important receipt to prove I purchased an item from the shop I am not asking to repair or replace it.  I am trying to improve and streamline my system for dealing with important papers.  I don't think any one system works for everyone.  This is definitely my weak spot.  My e-mail files are a disaster.

Clothing- Experimentation has taught me that I like my clothing to be fairly simple.  My lifestyle is casual, I have specific requirements for comfort, limited access to clothing that suits my tastes and preferences and is of quality, and I don't find joy in playing with clothing.  I am happy to have some favourite colours, a basic daily uniform and nothing so precious I have to worry about ruining it.  While I don't set any guidelines about how much of anything I 'should' have, I end up within the realm of what many consider minimalist.  I didn't deliberately set out to do that, I just got rid of what I didn't wear, didn't love and wasn't decent quality.  I did the same with footwear.  Doing this is an ongoing process because needs and tastes change over time, something better comes in so something lesser can go.   Having slightly more than enough and it all works together almost entirely removes the desire to go shopping for something new.  It definitely reduces that desire.

Accessories, handbags and jewelry fall in line with my approach to clothing.  I have slightly more than I need, enough to have some variety but I love what I have and don't crave more.

Home Decor -This is very personal but most of what I have is loved though not precious.  Once in awhile I stop loving something and so I put it in a donation bag.  Sometimes I suddenly think a certain surface looks cluttered and I move things around, take something away and wait a month or so to see if I miss it.  Most likely I don't so it gets donated.  It's a matter of eyeballing the room and seeing if everything looks like it belongs, is intentional, to throw in another of those buzzwords.  It seems as though the process is an ongoing thing, aiming for the right balance for me of too much versus not enough.  A shelf can look unattractively empty to me as much as it can look unattractively cluttered.

Some Final Thoughts on Purging

I sometimes struggle with the guilt of putting things into the landfill.  It's as though holding onto them is some sort of penance for having caused this situation, having created items that need to be disposed of and which I know are not going to biodegrade well.  This lead to an accumulation of old sheets, which I called drop clothes.  I never used them but there they were, in case I needed to protect the floor or some furniture.  There isn't any good solution I know of for dealing with the guilt of items that have nowhere else to go but the landfill.  Having to face it is a good reminder to step out of the process that contributes to this issue, to buy less so that eventually there is less to dispose of.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017


I once hoped to convince my ex husband that the peeled and chopped broccoli stems I'd added to the spaghetti bolognese were actually green pepper but it was an unsuccessful mission because while they did not give a noticeably broccoli-ish flavour to the sauce, they lacked the appropriate pepperish flavour that one would expect from them.  My ex, a picky eater who had learned to be quite suspicious of what I was presenting him to eat, demanded to know if the green bits were indeed green pepper and having gotten this far in my attempted deception I was not fully prepared to abandon the scheme so I opened my mouth and out popped a lie.  "Yes," I said in a way that was absolutely not convincing at all.  I suspect the word even died a little as I spoke it.  I probably also looked quite guilty.  "No," I amended as he looked at me with dismay. 

Most of the time I am a ridiculously honest person.  I have difficulties using an online pseudonym, for instance, because I need to be my real self when interacting with people or I just can't do it.  My actions suggest to me that in general I value authenticity and fairness quite highly, and I also now I value facts, the closest we can get to truths about the nature of the universe and ourselves.   I will avoid hurting someone's feelings by telling the truth about my subjective opinion of their appearance or performance but I am less likely to avoid hurting someone's feelings by not providing information that contradicts or challenges a belief or opinion.  If I am typical at all of most human beings, it would seem that when and where we are willing or inclined to tell a lie is related to what we value.  I value the feelings of other people to some degree but I value finding truth and accuracy about the nature of the universe more.  I am not sure that this is the norm.  I suspect it's not. 

A Potential Scenario

Friend or acquaintance asks, 'What did you think of the slam poem I just performed?'

I, in the past, would reply, 'It was great.' And not mean it.

I now, having thought it sounded stupid but having better skills in obfuscation reply  'You did a great job; such powerful emotion.'

It may be obvious that I fudged that response a little, avoided directly answering the question, but if the person performed the poem in accordance with the general requirements of slam poetry and it was indeed emotional sounding, as slam poetry is by definition, then I haven't lied.

The question may be, Is this an improvement on the standard social lie?

I was in fact taught to tell social lies, with the belief that when saying nothing was unavoidable, it is better to tell a lie than to hurt someone's feelings.  This would result in lies about why I was not available to participate in a certain social event, lies about my true opinion of someone's new dress, lies about whether or not this bolognese sauce made from Grandma's special recipe really is delicious.   Most people tell these sorts of lies; most people I know believe them to be good or at least benign.  Generally I am invested in preventing hurt feelings unless there is some greater truth involved, I am interested in protecting my own privacy if asked too direct a question, and I am not guiltless when it comes to conveniently convincing myself that something which is not true in fact is true because it eases my conscience or moderates my opinion of myself.  Psychologists tell us these are all generally typical human behaviours and I have no reason to believe I am exempt from them.

The biggest lie I ever struggled with was a surprise to me.  Having had my own childhood experience believing in both Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny I was not prepared to discover that I felt very uncomfortable telling my son these conventional lies.  I could not justify them to myself even in the name of childhood magic and fun.  Why, I asked myself, could it not be just as fun to be told that these figures are stories and make-believe and that we play-act a belief in them for the fun of it?  After all it would still result in gifts and chocolates and surprises and anticipation.  I also had a child whom I knew was the type to be quite horrified about being lied to.  He was not as inclined towards skepticism as I had been as a young child, he accepted without question what his parents told him and this made me all the more horrified at lying to him.  I made the decision to tell him the truth when he was eight.  In my childhood it was not common to believe in Santa Claus beyond the age of eight and I genuinely feared that my child risked being teased by peers if I allowed him to believe long past this age.  It seems that things had changed, perhaps my peers longed for a longer lasting and more innocent childhood and so encouraged belief much later in their own children.  It seems to be the norm for my son's generation and those after him to believe in Santa Claus until age eleven.  Many parents never outright tell their children but assume it has been figured out.  Some I know even half-jokingly threaten that there will be no gifts if disbelief is declared.

Call me a spoil sport and accuse me of having no sense of magic and mystery.  It's probably true.  I am very uncomfortable with magical thinking although I enjoy fiction and fantasy when it is obviously such.  Knowing my son, I anticipated that if I left him to discover the truth on his own at a later age he would be horrified and perhaps angry.  I chose to risk the anger of why did you spoil the fun over why did you lie to me all these years.  Recently I asked my now 22 year old what he thinks of my decision and explained to him the thinking behind it.  Much to my relief he mainly agrees with me and what I did, and also with the possibility that the best strategy is not to tell the lie in the first place but to create a Santa Claus and Easter Bunny that are known not to be real but still figures of fun and play.  I have to say I am relieved, though I may never know if he is lying to me for the sake of sparing my feelings.

A Potential Scenario

Me to Son:  Did I make the right choice or did I completely fail as a parent and psychologically mess you up forever?

Son to Me:  You did a great job.   Such good intention.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Green Means Spring

Perhaps it's the association I make with Spring, more green showing up in the landscape although where I live retains a good deal of green through winter.  The fresh green of new buds and leaves is always so uplifting.

Perhaps it is also the fact that my closet had become depleted of green, not only because I have passed along any greens I had that were cool toned, but also the few I had that were warm green have worn out from excessive love.

Yes, although I mostly avoided warm colours I have always been attracted to warm greens.  I think I told myself either that I was only marginally getting away with them or that green was essentially cool enough if one follows that cool/warm splitting the colour wheel in half idea.

With the very casual wardrobe I have these days, the best way to inject new colour is through tee shirts.  Since green is a favourite I would absolutely purchase something pricier in the right green but it's not abundant in the shops.  Olive and army greens are considered more neutral so are easier to find in the so called investment pieces such as winter coats.  I have two army-olive green coats.

Colour names are not always helpful, since what you imagine and what I imagine when I say 'olive green' or 'moss green' may not be the same, although typically those names do indicate some degree of warmth.  The moss and fern range of greens are among my most successful as they are more likely to be a very warm version of green.  I see the term lime green applied more loosely.  Chartreuse is good.

I recently purchased this tee shirt.  It's a gold-green, possibly deep chartreuse is an appropriate name.  I've discovered I love it paired with this muted rust cardigan.  This is a casual day and I am indoors so I've not got a scarf but at the moment I don't have one that would really work well with this shirt.  Chunky necklaces are just not me though I can see how one would really liven up this neckline.   The jeans that are not visible in this photo are a medium warm blue so the overall look is one of three colours.  Even though it's not a green that matches my eyes it still tends to bring out the green in them whereas a teal that matches them makes them look more blue.  I think this is perhaps an example of how wearing colours that suit the skin tone will automatically also enhance the eye colour and natural hair colour.

I've got on Revlon Toast of New York lipstick very lightly applied here-sort of dabbed on.  It has become one of my favourites.  It's one of the browns from the 90's brown trend but it doesn't really look brown on me.  It looks like it belongs on my face and is quite natural.  I always knew a browned lipstick worked but I mistakenly tried pink browns and red browns first.  They are sort of second best.  Orange lipstick looks natural on me.  What a strange surprise.  Toast of New York and Abstract Orange are my go-to lippies now.

                            Some deeper green is injected into the outfit with one of my bracelets.

A bit of a digression....

This is later on, hair is now pinned back and a bit messy because real life happens.  But I decided to swipe on the Toast of New York full strength ( and at least three swipes ) to show what it looks like.   It's not really my style to wear intense lipstick but this colour works for me so well that I can definitely pull this off.  Also, while it's an orange-brown lipstick for most people it's a red for me.  It goes well with the rust colour of my cardigan and as a complementary for the gold green.  Fun with colour!

I over-dyed this tee shirt with yellow as it was a cool sage-green left over from last summer when I tried out the Soft Summer palette.  How far I've come in a year!

The other experiment that happens with an shift in wardrobe colours this significant is that I am now pairing and wearing combinations that re not familiar to me.  Because I wear a cardigan almost daily for three quarters of the year, I am gradually increasing my cardigan collection, but for now a rust one and a peach one are my staples and generally either one of them works with everything I have.  A cardigan in a golden brown colour would be useful and I think a green one would too.  An olive type of green. 

For those curious, the lipstick in the above photo is Revlon Rose Velvet.  It's a brown-pink which reads terra-cotta on me and works well if there is no orange or red in my outfit.  It also has a bit more of a my lips but better look.

This top and the scarves with it have always appealed to me.  I don't think the model is an Autumn and if these colours aren't True Autumn they are probably Deep Autumn.  I would wear them.  The model looks like she is one of the Winters, though Bright Spring could be possible.


       The source is a Pinterest dead end, but I am fairly sure this is a Gudrun Sjoden image.

So the warm greens I love are limited in my wardrobe right now but having satisfied my burnt-orange and peach passion I'm on to my next favourite, green.   A scarf would be great although there are only a few more months left in which I'd be likely to wear one.  I've still got an image in my mind of a lovely warm green scarf I passed up in the a shop last summer when I believed I was supposed to AVOID warmth in my colours.  So sad.

But, spring is here and later this month the leaves on the trees will be unfolding and I will get my green fix that way if I need to. 

And my collection of green beads is beginning to grow too.