Use what you have and use it NOW

Dear reader,

recently I noticed I have quite a strange habit: I like to do back-ups and usually play it safe.

For example:

  • When I buy a new dress or a new pair of shoes, I keep it in the closet sometimes even a year until I wear it (if ever!), because I want to “save it” for special occassions.
  • When I go grocery shopping, I buy delicions fruit or food that I then save for later. It so often happens that it rottens before I finally eat it, or I eat it when it’s already expired.
  • I eat more than I really need. You know, in case I might get hungry and won’t be able to have a meal then. This never happens, of course.
  • I spend so much time for preparation, that I forget to enjoy the ride as the preparation stage should long be over.
  • In the library, I take so many books, but only read a few of them.
  • When doing research, I save so many articles, print it and save it for later, and often it’s too late and they’re already outdated to cite, when I finally decide to use it.
  • In the morning as I dress, I pick the second best clothes, because I don’t want to wear out the best ones.
  • When eating watermelon, I set the best pieces aside for later. It so often happens that I’m already full before I can have it. So somebody else has it. It makes me question my sanity.

Quantity over quality. Saving for later.

Saving for what exactly? For when? For whom? What’s this nonsense about? It is nonsense, I admit it. And on the other hand it is this sense of playing it safe and to back up everything and save it for later. What this later means exactly, is secondary. You might want to think it’s a matter of prudence and accountability. It might well be. But the thing is, it doesn’t bring much joy. The best preserved dresses I kept safely are today not interesting anymore, because I’ve changed my style or size. The carefully kept crystal glasses no one is supposed to touch, lie bored and forgotten behind the cupboard window and they can’t fulfil their true purpose. My new sneakers are lonely, because I’m stil wearing the old ones, hence risking joint pain.

While thinking about it today, it made me realize that what I’m doing is nothing but cowardice. Fear to step out, fear to live, fear to dare. Why do I have to buy extras? Why do I pick the second best? Why am I constantly postponing the pleasure? I don’t really have an answer, but I’m certain it doesn’t bring me much satisfaction. Only a mere sense of false security.

So I’m gradually changing the habit:

  • I’m not buying on stock anymore. Whether it comes to office material, food, gas or clothes. Even if there are sales or discounts. The stores are not going to run out of goods like they used to in socialism. Everything is right there, available at all times.
  • I’ve emptied my closet and only kept the pieces which I absolutely adore and which fit me perfectly. I donated or sold the rest. Used to have three wardrobes before. Now I only have one and in this one I only keep the clothes relevant for the season. Luckily I live in a large house that allows keeping things in the attic. Maybe that was another contribution that allowed me to save so much 🙂
  • I try not to live in the past or in the future. True, I might not have all the resources available yet and true, timing will never be right. And this is so, no matter how long I wait, prepare or save.
  • The times of scarce material goods and resources are long gone. Today we struggle with having too much, not too little. My grandmother lived in times where there was nothing, so she had to save her entire life. But when I go into her fridge for a snack, there isn’t any. She simply doesn’t keep the things she doesn’t need or use. I wish I could become like her.

I’ve been practising this new habit for a couple of weeks now. Since I’m very busy with our EU project and finishing my research, this requires a lot of discipline and clarity in what I do. This habit of using what I have and not saving it for later, tremendously helped me gain both. Further, I’m witnessing increased level of satisfaction when I go grocery shopping or when I open my wardrobe. Cluttering, keeping things for later or cutting back using it, apparently isn’t the right strategy for me. It is in my nature to be a minimalist. But now I realized minimalism isn’t correlated with second best or not affording to use the best you have. It is exactly the opposite: doing more with less, but doing that with carefully selected means. Whether it be behaviour, sleeping habits, food, books or clothes.

My lesson hence goes like that: “Use what you have. Not just own it. Use it and don’t save it. If you don’t use it, get rid of it. The consequence? The results …”

It’s hard. But I’m loving it!


use what you have

Simple isn’t Easy – a Word About How to Reduce Your Carbon Print

Dear reader,

in Solution Focused Approach, one of the essential principles is to keep things as simple as possible and to do more with less. This may sound nice, but it’s not at all easy to do, as simple doesn’t equal easy.

As your life gets filled up with more and more complex tasks, more and more obligations and responsibility, you need to develop strategies to cut down and keep things simple, if you want to avoid chaos or a burnout. And this should reflect not only on your working desk and habits, but also in your kitchen, bathroom, closet, phone storage and especially, your mind.

I’ve always been a minimalist. Guess I learned that from my grandmother (see a blog post about her here). She taught me that I don’t buy any stuff that has a comercial during tv news and I don’t buy any stuff that comes wraped in more than two packages. Other things she taught me is that I don’t eat any food that doesn’t have an expiration date, doesn’t rotten or comes from another continent (well to be honest I struggle with this latter one sometimes!).

I strongly believe her lessons were invaluable, because they made me sensitive and sympathetic towards the nature and living beings. Another important trait of hers is, that she never kept any extra supplies, whether it be clothes, food or things (except money, she saved a lot and always gave it to us for our birthdays, though her pension was adjacent to poverty). The irony in that is, that she always has and had enough of everything.

Human greed is infinite and has to be consciously controlled. The idea of constant growth, expansion, progress, isn’t sustainable and fortunately there are more and more studies and civil movements on the rise to support this. Why not taking just as much as you need? This might however be very different to taking as much as you want … 

This post has been inspired by recent Leo Babauta’s blog about a simplicity manifesto. It made me rethink my carbon footprint and I was quite happy to commit more to my current values and to keep in line with low waste behaviour. So here are collected a few of my ideas that might be useful for you, if you consider reducing the carbon and rubish footprint you are leaving on this planet and also if you want to simplify your life. I’ve practiced them ever since (many times with failures) and they work splendidly for me when I need to remind myself that less is more:

  • I own less than 250 things (including all the socks, knickers, cups, books). If I go above that, I donate it to charity or give it away.
  • Being a woman, my beauty accessories consist of one kajal, one face cream, soap, hair brush, dental floss, brush, paste and shampoo. I make my own DIY deodorant and use oil for body and hair nourishment. I don’t use powder, mascara or any lipstick, any hair, nail or skin products. I’ve got some jewerly that are all my husband’s presents. I don’t use hairdryer or facial masks. And I’m doing fine.
  • My closet has a summer and winter edition. I hardly go above 5 items of each clothing item and certainly not above 10 (except underwear and socks of course). And I’m doing fine.

    our bathroom.jpg

    Our bathroom 🙂 simple, yet cosy

  • I don’t drink anything but water, tea, occasionally coffee and squeezed lemon. Maybe five times a year I drink alcohol (but am not a particular fan). And I’m doing fine.
  • I own 10 pairs of shoes, including flip flops and winter boots. And I’m doing fine.
  • What is a bit of a mess, is my working desk, which is full of notes, printed articles I’ve read but still think might need them sometimes in the future, half read books, endless small cartons and papers with drawings or ideas. I need to work on that one day. But not today. Anyway I never work at that desk, but sit on the floor and only have a laptop (here’s what my “office” looks like, but now with only one laptop as we’re not working on any international project currently).
  • Minimalism is useful also with several non-material matters, for example relationships. If you want to call somebody, call them. If you disagree with somebody, tell them. If somebody hurts you, talk to them or close that chapter. If you are scared what others might say, none of your business. Etc. And I’m doing fine.
  • I try to grow my own food and am very careful not to throw any food away. I don’t mind eating old bread or leftovers.
  • I don’t use chemical cleaning products. WIndows can be easily washed with newspapers and stain removed by soda. And we’re doing fine.

However there are some things that I’m not proud of and haven’t found an alternative yet:

  • I do buy the best of shoes (if that includes original uggs, then uggs it is), because I want to have good quality for my feet. But I would buy one pair and wear it dead. Not buy 5 pairs because they’re last season.
  • I need to travel a lot, meaning car fuel and airplane carbon footprints.
  • I can’t give up on fruit in winter. Even if it came from far 😦
  • Still, there are moments when I catch myself thinking too much (or ruminating), even though I know I can revert this. But I do get better and better.
  • I write too long blog posts 🙂 🙂

Happy today, dear reader. Here’s a toast to minimalism, keeping things simple, yet authentic, compassionate and sustainable! If you get inspired by this post and want to try some things out, do come back to me with your experience!