Posted in Declutter, Lifestyle, minimalism, Ponderings, Regarding polly

Polly’s Ponderings – Keeping things for ‘BEST’

#pptko2019 blog header base - ponderings

Why do we keep things ‘for best’?

I received an amazing pair of shoes for Christmas – in fact, let’s just take a second to gaze on how adorable they are…


Don’t tell my Mum, but these new shoes are on a table!

They are a little big, but nothing a pair of chunky socks won’t sort. And I love chunky knee high socks! I wore them the other day when I went out with my Mum.

“I thought you were keeping them”

“For what?”

“For best”

Can we just take a few minutes to ponder the concept of ‘keeping something for best’ and how this actually means sometimes NEVER using it!

Continue reading “Polly’s Ponderings – Keeping things for ‘BEST’”

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Posted in Declutter, Lifestyle, minimalism, Seasonal

Blogtober Collaboration – Halloween with Lavrax

I always thought that being a mid-life crisis survivor, wannabe minimalist who dreamed of living in Japan would really limit my readership, but I have been pleasantly surprised by all the love I have been getting in the bloggosphere (totally a word!) lately. I was also surprised when this lovely person agreed to collaborate with me for a Halloween themed post swap. And here is her post for you!…This calls for a new Canva!


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With the rising popularity of minimalism and “millennial going minimal” this barely leaves any space for our urges to splash out on those terribly built plastic skeletons with absolutely no use. But why do they exist? And why do people keep buying them? Because we gotta!

There are varying degrees of minimalism, from extreme, to mild, to just “trying to declutter my life”.
But what is “minimalism”, really?

A style or technique (as in music, literature, or design) that is characterized by extreme sparseness and simplicity.

It is a style that is now being applied to people’s lives. But even so… The vagueness leaves it open for interpretation. The simplicity of some may be an absolute cluttering mess to others.
Just for reference, my own definition of a minimalist lifestyle, and the one that this post will follow is:

A lifestyle that allows you to only preserve items or things that are of value to you.

So forget all those “I use one soap to wash my face, body, hair, house, car, and dog. Shame on you” people, and focus on having things that are useful to you and make you feel good!
Well, let me tell you, shopping for minimalist Halloween decorations was not any easier than finding a solid definition for it. But I realised after a while, you can make Halloween decorations out of almost anything.

Nature

If you’re lucky enough to have some nature around you (definitely not here in London) make use of it! This will cost you (almost) nothing, depending on how wild you want to go!
Take all the pumpkins, leaves, twigs, and get crafty! Put them up all over your house and bring the feel of Autumn into your home.

Decorations

I can definitely tell that Halloween decorations were not made with a minimalist lifestyle in mind… But if you’re like me and you quite like having the spooky all year round, these are definitely some spooky things that you can invest in!


I found some home ware stuff that I thought would be perfect in keeping with the minimalist aesthetic as well as having multipurpose, or just genuine use! I found all of these accessories at TKmaxx!

The idea also struck that a lot of people use mason jars to decorate at christmas, so why not make a spooky themed one?

Foods

Let’s not forget about everyone’s favourite thing. Food!
I looked at the amount of Halloween sweets that there were on display in nearly all the shops. These are a such a great decoration especially if you’re having people over. Why not invest in the multipurpose-ness of food; something to make your place look pretty and homely, that you and your guests can eat, as well as making them spooky?



You can arrange orange and black sweets together to make them themed, or even make these in the shape of spooky things! Just take a look at those Halloween cookies…
Also let’s not forget the Halloween essentials! Pumpkins, pumpkins and more pumpkins. These are the ultimate Halloween decoration to use and have the best use for after Halloween. Pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie, pumpkin everything! You are spoilt for choice if you’re looking for a pumpkin recipe.


Thank you so much to Polly for collaborating with me on this post and I hope that you enjoyed all of the ideas that we have put together for you!

Much love,

Lavrax

Blog: Lavraxlondon.com

Instagram: @lavraxblogs

Twitter: @lavraxb

And if you would like to have a read of my Halloween post on Laura’s Website, go have a look here

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Posted in Declutter, Lifestyle, minimalism, Project 333, Regarding polly, Uncategorized

Capsule Wardrobe – Take 2

A few years ago, after reading up on the wonders of Kon Mari and discovering Courtney Carver, I started dabbling with reducing my clothes – in fact there is a very old vlog kicking about on YouTube if you fancy a laugh. As someone attempting to declutter both my house and life, I have read a few books on the whole ‘less is more’ concept and have realised a few things: If you are trying to declutter a family home it is difficult as it is full of things that aren’t necessarily yours – this is why clothes are one of the easiest things to start your declutter with as they one thing that is all yours. I have never been a particularly ‘clothesy’ person, so being overburdened with shoes and tops has never been a problem. Having said that, let me tell you about my latest wardrobe.

(I am currently on a weekend away in sunny Somerset, and as such cannot access my full wardrobe, or indeed add pictures to this post – but I will update it as soon as I get back to my PC!)

So what is the plan?

While there have been a number of changes to my original wardrobe I am confident I have found my style and colour palette. For anyone new to the capsule wardrobe concept, I explain it all here, and I then review my first attempt at it here, if you are still not sure if it is for you I discuss the pros & cons in this post (Yes, I have written three whole articles on capsule wardrobes despite claiming to not be a ‘clothesy’ person!)

If you haven’t got time to look at those posts – the basic premise is that for the next 3 months I will be using just 33 pieces for my wardrobe, and the idea is they should all work together to create sartorial harmony…fingers crossed. Let me introduce you to the wardrobe (this will easier after my Monday vlog goes live and I can just add a video of me telling what all the pieces are here!)

Tops

This is the only part of the wardrobe where I have been able to add a few patterned pieces. I have gone for relatively plain short sleeve tops (my stripey peach bow top notwithstanding!) in shades of grey, navy and peach. I have also chosen two long sleeve bretons, and three blouses: a peach Laura Ashley one, a spotty Bowden one and a blue and white striped one from M&S.

I do actually wear a lot of vests, but generally they are under clothes, so made an executive decision that these technically counted as underwear and that I was totally not cheating by deciding to do that.

 

Knitwear and Sweaters

While my blazer doesn’t really count as either knitwear or a sweater it has been added to this section anyway. It is literally one of my best ever charity shop finds and goes so well with smart dresses and jeans.DSC_0413

I feel I may have ‘over egged the warm warm wear cake’ – it is still unseasonably warm, though I imagine my saying that out loud will jinx it and there will now be rain until next March (and as if by magic, it is now pouring down!)

This section has 3 cardigans: my maroon oversized fluffy one AKA craft cardi, and two similar versions of a round neck card in light grey and blue.

There are two jumpers, a deep blue v-neck and a peach batwing style one. Not really sure how I feel about the blue one, so may potentially swap it out if I spot one I prefer.

For sweaters I have my Pusheen top and a floral offering from Monki.

Bottoms

My original capsule didn’t contain any trousers, as I didn’t own any. I always put off getting a pair of jeans because I knew what was going to happen… I would just chuck them on and not even think about it. To an extent that is true now that I own jeans; I try not to over rely them but they are now a mainstay of my wardrobe. They are also – if you want to be a pedant about it- the only actual pair of trousers in the capsule, as I have put two pairs of culottes that I bought in Japan. More and more people seem to be sporting similar pairs lately, so I like to think I was ahead of the game there!

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I have also whittled down my skirts to just two: a heavy cotton navy number from M&S, and a shiny pleated silver one. Both can be dressed up for nights out, or worn casually with the sweaters.

 

Dresses

Reducing my my dress collection down to five was a bit painful, but I decided to go for a combination of pinafores that I could layer with the tops, smart ones that I could ‘dress up’, as it were, and one totally impractical netty peach one!

They are all navy – I just can’t wear black- and they all have pockets, as that is just something any good dress should possess.

Footwear

I don’t own loads of shoes, and as it is the season for it, my brown boots were an obvious first choice.

My trainers were also going to have to go on the list, and now we have a permanent ‘casual wear’ policy at work, I don’t need to include any smart shoes.

Last of all I will add my jade-green totally-don’t-go-with-anything-but-so-comfy baseball boots. They are somewhat wrecked, so once the inevitably fall apart, I will swap them for my peach baseball boots. At least they will coordinate with my wardrobe colourwise!

Outerwear

I have added my warm scarf, that served me so well in Berlin and two coats to the list.

My pink coat is more waterproof, while my navy wool coat is a lot warmer. So I will need to decide between getting wet and staying warm in any given weather situation!

Allowable Extras

I am allowed – as per the rules – my undies, pyjamas, laze about clothes and stuff for working out.

I am not including bags, as I only have a few, and depending on whether I have to walk miles or I can get a lift, I take a backpack or a handbag. They aren’t so much part of my wardrobe, but a practical means to carry my important stuff about.

The PJs, my house culottes, and my onesie AKA my ‘not tonightsie’ are all staying. Also, my Guide uniform is included as an extra.

Naughty Cheats

I bought a beautiful dress a few months ago, and some shoes. Never had the chance to wear them…

So I have them for my weekend away to Butlin’s and will wear them again for Christmas… Bit of a cheat, but it wasn’t worth making them part of the wardrobe for one wear – also there are no photos so, technically, it never happened!

So here we are… I will upload photos to this post once I get home, and I am sure it will make a difference. As it is, check out the 10.30am vlog on the YouTube channel on Monday to see all the clothes.

I plan on doing a weekly round up on Instagram of my outfits of the week, so you could pop and see me there too.

How does your wardrobe grow? Too much? Too little? Just right?

Any favourite pieces you couldn’t live without? Let me know in the comments.

Posted in Declutter, Lifestyle, minimalism, Uncategorized

Why you should declutter alone

As soon as I mentioned I was having a mass declutter to my Mum, her first comment was “you better not be getting rid of any of my stuff” – note that I am clearing MY house, so what she technically means by ‘her stuff’ is anything she has bought or given me – EVER. This highlights one of the problems I have with decluttering with others; having someone else there means potentially dealing with one extra bundle of emotions, making it impossible to shed your possessions.

declutter
Having a clear out

Whenever I have tried to clear up with accompaniment I have had to contend with cries of “oh I forgot about this, I can’t get rid of this” whenever they came across a toy, picture or item that had been unceremoniously dumped in a box and stored away in the back room for years. I am equally guilty of this. When I asked my daughter to gather up a few things for a charity sale I was holding I couldn’t help have a look through the bag she brought down from her room…and I couldn’t help but rescue my bracelet, an owl I had bought in India and a Littlest Pet Shop lizard belonging to my now 19 year old (because I KNOW she will want it to live among her cactus collection). The point is, we cannot judge what other people consider to be junk, so how can we help them clear it? People just as often fall into the ‘bin it all’ camp as they do the ‘you can’t throw that out’ camp, neither of which are particularly helpful when you are trying to declutter large amounts of stuff.

I was recently reading an article about the pitfalls of decluttering alone. While I acknowledge each point made, the exact opposite of everything said could be equally as true; the piece just seemed to confirm what I have long believed about getting your home sorted – it is quicker and less hassle, at least at the initial stage, to do it yourself.

The ‘Pitfalls’ and why I don’t necessarily agree:

“There are too many distractions if you tidy alone” – the article suggests people move around and try to clear too many areas at once because they are distracted, or give up when one area becomes a little overwhelming. This can happen whether you are alone or not, and is more about focus and having a plan. Chose the area you want to clear and work on it, not moving on until it is done. If you do not complete it, do something else – that ISN’T clearing! – and then come back to it. Do not try to do too much at once or you will become totally disheartened with the whole exercise.

“It is slower on your own” – Not if you have to justify every item you are discarding it isn’t! There is an old African proverb: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. I am not advocating clearing your entire house on your own – some of that stuff might be heavy! But for the initial stage of deciding what you want to keep, and where you might put it, go it alone. Get in help when you need it and when it will benefit what you are trying to achieve.

“Sell? I found a bunch of stuff I wanted to sell, but then I had to deal with putting up the ad, taking pictures, dealing with … weirdos on craigslist. That in itself is not a huge ordeal, but it adds another layer of clutter in your mind.”
Not sure how having someone there would make this any easier. I made a decision early on that I wouldn’t sell my stuff; if it was good enough I donated it. I learnt this one the hard way – I had 3 Ikea blue bags full of “stuff to sell”, but never got round to taking the pictures or advertising it, and had I got round to E-baying it, as was the plan, I would still then have to had to take into account trips to the Post office and packing it all. In the end it was still just clutter, organised in bags, hanging around my house, so taking it all to the charity shop was liberating! We need to start looking at our possessions as just that, things we pay money for (or are given) that are used and, once their purpose is served, we are free to give them away, guilt free. They are not investments; you don’t need to get your money back on a dress you bought if you have worn it, enjoyed it, but no longer want it. Space and freedom from clutter is always better than potential money sat in the corner in the form of things you no longer want.

Hauling it out. Now you have to haul it down stairs, to your car, and drop it off, sell it, or trash it?

Why would it make a difference whether someone was there or not? Unless you have literally bagged/boxed yourself into a clutter corner and need a friend to dig you out, you can easily do this bit alone. In fact, this is the best bit: it’s already bagged up, you are the closet you have been to clearing the space than you have been all day. We always clear a ‘landing area’ for the things we are trashing. A spot in the corner of our living room. If the junk is visible you are not then tempted to leave it shut away in a spare room; if it in your ‘face’ or main living space you HAVE to clear it. Once I have enough I pile up the car and take it to the tip. Before I had a car, I would organise a friend to collect it for me – this gave me an extra incentive to bag up and declutter quickly as I knew there was a time limit. If you are not in the position to get stuff out, try to plan some help in advance, so your declutter rhythm doesn’t get broken.
What is the alternative to NOT hauling it out? Keeping it? Why declutter in the first place if the most important bit – the ACTUAL getting it out of your house – is going to pose a problem?

Getting permission. “How could you get rid of your Star Wars toys?”

All the more reason NOT to have people there! Unless the friend wants it in their house, you are entitled to get rid. I had a declutter yesterday of a drawer I had been unable to access after the handles fell off (the struggle is real! ) there were photos, old DVD’s, a plate one of the kids had decorated in 2011… We had not missed any of it, but, had there been people with me we would have stopped to go through all of the pictures, I would have had to explain who the people were in them… it would have taken a lot longer than it the five minutes it did to dump most of it (I kept a few photos).

So, if you want to declutter – have an initial look through on your own. If you decide you need help, then you can bring someone in. Remember: These are your things – you do not need permission to get rid of stuff that no longer has a place in your life.

What is the hardest thing for you to declutter? What are you holding on to? Would you prefer to have help, or go it alone?

Still not decided about whether you want to declutter yet? Here are five reasons for decluttering ; some suggestions to get you thinking.

If you don’t want to commit to a full scale tidy, here are five things to declutter today, to start you off.

Posted in Declutter, Lifestyle, minimalism, Tips & How to's, Uncategorized

5 things you can declutter today to get started on the path to minimalism

Tucked away on my Bucket List / Kettle List at number 41 is the simple, but by no means small, desire to ‘Be Happy With My House’.  This is no mean feat; I have lived in my 1920’s mid terrace for 16 years and have pretty much done nothing to it, apart from fill it with children.

Happiness, in this context, will mean it is redecorated, has functioning heating, and will have 80% less stuff in it than it currently does.  This is precisely why I have been feverously reading anything and everything that will teach me the ways of those Zen Masters that are known as minimalists.  I have read so much that I have even started a book on the subject (Yes, write a book is on the Bucket list!). From all of this extensive research I have picked up a few tips so here are 5 things you can get rid of TODAY, that may just set you on the road to a Minimalist life   – or may just clear a bit of space, but hey, every little helps.

  • Duplicates:
    This will appear on every list you will come across regarding ‘easy decluttering’ purely because it is a bit of a no brainer.  How many of each thing in your house do you actually need?  I used to have to go out every December and buy in more sticky tape and a pair of scissors ready for Christmas, because I couldn’t find any in the house.  I called a ‘present wrapping tools’ amnesty to discover where all of my stuff had gone…turns out we have about 9 pairs of scissors… That’s 1.8 pairs per person!  And I know for a fact that at least 3 people in my house never wrap presents (3 is also the number of males in my house, but correlation does not imply causation).  If all of your stuff has a specific place to be, AND (the important bit!) it is put back after it is used, you will only need 1 or 2 of an item.
  • Books: Admit it, you have some books on your shelf you have no intention of reading but they look good. Or you may have ones you have read, and won’t read again, but for some reason people have a huge problem with discarding books. Go through them. Are they on a subject you are not interested in, or out of date? This is especially relevant for science type books, or ones telling you how to use computer programs that are older than you are.  Is your shelf so stuffed with books that you cannot even realistically get to them?
    Consider why you are keeping hold of them; if it’s your aesthetic and you are trying to create a ‘brainy’ vibe, then by all means keep them.  But how many books are you realistically going to read over the next year or two? If you bought it months ago, actually think about why you haven’t made the time to read it yet.
  • Old photos: Don’t worry! I am not about to suggest you bin your precious baby or graduation pics! But, if you are as old as me then you will remember the days when you took 36 pictures, took them to be developed and hoped 50% were passable. Much like with books, there seems to be an unwritten law about throwing away photos, no matter how blurry and bad they are.photo_envelopes_feature_0604 I have photos of people from holidays past, whose names I cannot recall, sat in a Kodak envelope in a drawer that I have not even looked at for 20 or more years…why keep them?  There are so many online options; you could potentially scan all of your pictures and store them in multiple places. This way they would be safer than just relying on the ‘hard’ copy that could be lost in a flood/Fire/Alien attack.  Actually consider how often you look at those old pictures you couldn’t possibly part with…
  • Clothes: Clothes often appear on the ‘easy to declutter’ lists, but I am not even going to suggest to you that you get rid of half your wardrobe and try to manage on the sartorial equivalent of rationing. How about you have a look, and find things you know you don’t wear because they are stained, or buttons are missing, or there is a tear in it, or it needs taking up/down/in…you brush over these clothes every day; never wearing them, yet still allowing them to take up space in your life and wardrobe.  They constantly remind you that: you haven’t cleaned the stain, or replaced the button, or repaired the tear, or taken it up/down/in…  Are you going let a piece of material have that power over you (you will never know the reserve it took to not type ‘make you it’s bitch’, but I am above that…) If you are not going to wear it, get rid.
  • Unwanted gifts and tat:  This seems to be a recurring theme, but guilt can make you keep things you don’t want such as photos, or clothes that you paid a lot of money for but never wear. Another example of this is gifts, or ‘heirlooms’. Have you ever been given a terrible present and have kept it – maybe displaying it or wearing when the person visits so as not to look ungrateful? Maybe you have the ugliest ornament in the world, but you can’t part with it because it belonged to Great Auntie Ethel, and she is dead now?  Bestowing emotions on to your possessions is one thing, becoming buried in other people’s crap because you don’t want to offend people is another.  If you meekly accept things you don’t want the ‘gifter’ will assume that you like them and continue to give you things you don’t want.  Have a word, politely, that you are trying to create a different, more minimalist vibe and that, while you are very grateful, you don’t need any more candles/sequined cushions/penguin ornaments.  Then purge your home of any of the things you were keeping for the wrong reasons and make it YOUR home, filled with stuff YOU have chosen.

Decluttering is a marathon, not a sprint, especially when the amount of stuff involved is an entire house full, as in my case.  So look on this exercise as a ‘warm up’ – you may not want to sign up for a full race, but you could have a go at getting rid of just a few things and then see how that makes you feel – I am willing to bet, slightly better and a bit freer (especially if it means you don’t have great aunt Ethel’s ugly painting staring you anymore)

Posted in Declutter, Lifestyle, minimalism, Uncategorized

Choosing Life

While having a posh afternoon tea in Cheltenham the other day, I was drawn towards this book: Brooke Mclary’s Destination Simple. It is a short and simple read, as befits its title, but it offers great advice to those who feel they are rushing about all day, everyday, but are actually achieving verDestination simpley little.

The book explains five simple ways to make your life more deliberate and offers suggestions for rituals you can develop within your own lives too.

By far the part that resonated most with me was the idea of single-tasking; I have long been an advocate of focussing on one thing.  In fact, for New Year I don’t make resolutions, I chose a keyword and make that my mantra for the next 12 months, and for the last two years my word has been ‘Focus‘.

This advice comes with a warning – as Brooke points out in her book, it is near impossible to get through a day living so deliberately, and she therefore suggests you choose certain everyday tasks; making your morning coffee, or brushing your teeth, and ritualise them.  Make them tasks you devote to fully, taking time for yourself in “mindful intention”.

It is with such purpose that I have decided to become more focussed and deliberate. I know what I want to be doing in five years time, namely to be teaching English in Japan, and that to get into a position where my dream is achievable I need to do 3 main things:

 

  1. Sort my house and finances out – this is a work in progress which you can follow on this site, or through the vlog. Improving my health along with this can only help!
  2. Improve my Japanese Language skills – I work on this daily and feel there is a slow improvement.
  3. Remember that life is not something that will happen in five years time – While I want to focus on the long term, I need to remember that I cannot put everything on hold; so I will use my #Kettlelist to keep me busy and having fun in the meantime.I leave you with this:

 

Focus

 

So consider what you need to do, to be where you want to be… and FOCUS.

Posted in Christmas, Declutter, minimalism, Uncategorized

Christmas as a Decluttering Minimalist

We have an unwritten rule in our house – we don’t mention the ‘C Word’ until after the last family birthday.  Well, that has happened, and now we are safely into December, so it is now safe to talk about Christmas… well, talk about Christmas and how despite, now considering myself a minimalist, it has not become less stressful as all of the articles and blogs I read suggested it would! What do you do when you don’t want extra stuff in your house, but others insist on buying you things? And what about all of the excess ‘tat’ that seems to be part and parcel of the season? Let’s have a look at tiptoeing the minefield that is a family Christmas….

christmas and min

I have spent the last 3 or 4 years trying out various ways to ‘do’ Christmas, in a way that will become part of the ‘Thompson Tradition’, some have fallen by the way, such as the time we all had 12 presents that were themed to each month (January = Winter clothes, February = love hearts,… and then it got tenuous and weird… June = Bugs (spider man gift! etc) but one that has stuck is the Advent Tree.  Basically, it is an old wooden tree I saved from the bin about 13 years ago, which has, conveniently, 24 prongs, on which to hang little bags that generally contain a child’s name and they then get a present… this year it is presents for all, with them already having shared biscuits, Twinkies and attempting to build a gingerbread house (it did not go well!).  Cool traditions are a great way of bonding with the family without having to spend too much, or indulge in buying a mountain of plastic tat.  Most of the prizes in this years advent-aganza™ are edible, wearable or fun activities so will not be cluttering up the house for the holidays or the foreseeable future.

This weeks vlog is about some tips for a minimalist Christmas – mainly because I have not done anything towards the Kettle List and I am busy getting ready to start my new job – so I will briefly list them here:

 

  1. DECLUTTER! – make it a part of Christmas: old stuff out, so new stuff can come in.  Everyone wants a tidy house for the holidays and new year, so get everyone involved.
  2. Sustainable wrapping: While in Japan I became a bit addicted to furoshiki, and have decided to wrap many of the presents in them.  I also used tea towels, bento boxes, material bags and fleece blankets, so the wrappings are also gifts and will save on the papery aftermath.
  3. While ‘presence is the best present’ and the greatest gift is love, if your family are the sort that will call BS and claim you are just being a tight-wad, consider experiences. Maybe gifts such as a trip to the local Cat Cafe, or a voucher they can cash in for free babysitting.  Look at giving food, or toiletries you KNOW they will use and like (not just buying a ‘gift set’ because it was the cheapest thing in Boots!)  Consider what you know about the person: what do they like? Don’t know? Ask them what they want.  And under NO circumstances do you give people empty jars with cutesy labels that have a poem about how you wanted nothing.  There is a special circle reserved in hell for those people!

brace-yourselves-men-socks-lynx-gift-sets-are-coming

 

Whatever you decide to buy, do it for the right reason, with the right attitude and with knowledge that the recipient will love it… Christmas is about making others happy so be sure your gifts will do that!