Mid-2018 Minimalism goals review

At the start of the year I made a post here about my goals for decluttering and minimalism in 2018. I had planned to declutter slowly but I’ve been feeling a lot better mentally and this has led to a lot of fast and furious decluttering – over 1700 items! As a result, I have virtually completed all of my goals for the year that I originally set so it’s time to set some new ones.

Review of my original goals

• The jigsaw puzzles I felt were becoming a chore so I donated them all including the puzzle board.
• The bath and body products have nearly all been used up and I am switching over to eco-friendlier alternatives with fewer chemicals.
• I am now down to only 7 notebooks and those that are left are almost finished, plus I have started writing again so it looks like I will actually need to buy a new notebook sometime soon!
• I tried to complete my cross stitch projects but honestly felt so burdened by the thought of having to spend so many hours to complete large pieces for a hobby I haven’t been enjoying for around 18 months now that I actually threw away my projects and then gifted all my threads to a family member who was very happy to receive them.
• I sold my D-SLR for £200 – the rising cost of electronics in the UK worked in my favour as a year previous I had only been offered £100.
• The colouring books were all either recycled or donated as I found it wasn’t a hobby I enjoyed after all.
• My final goal was to continue decluttering my books; well I have donated many books this year but I still have a few to read before I am down to owning only my absolute favourite and most important books but they are definitely thinning out. In total I now own only 39 books, down from over 600 before I began my minimalist journey 6 years ago.

Results

• It now takes us only 5 minutes maximum to pick up the entire room
• Free from other hobbies which were distracting me from my one true love, writing, I have now slowly started scribbling away here and there
• My partner feels happier and calmer in our new space, although he now claims that my share of the chores is far too small!
• I have begun eating healthier, including finally kicking my addiction to sugar since I have so few distractions now. I’ve also reformulated my work out plan to something I think will suit my lifestyle better and we started going to the sauna/steam room quite frequently which has been bliss!

New goals

• Notebooks – Finish using them all up until there is only 1 left.
• Books – I think my books can definitely be cut in half again.
• Headphones – For some reason we seem to have at 6 pairs floating around when 3-4 would be enough.
• Wardrobe – I think there are items in there I’m hanging on to that I could probably thin out. Especially socks, for some bizarre reason I own more than 60 pairs of socks…
• Jewellery – I rarely wear jewellery so why I still own a jewellery box at all is beyond me.
• Bags – I still own far too many bags when I typically only ever use one.
• Mementos – I’m debating getting rid of these altogether since I never look at them unless I’m decluttering – if they are so important why are they still shoved in a box under my bed?
• Toy animals – I’ve narrowed these down a lot, getting rid of 3 huge bin bags of them, but I still own far too many.
I guess mostly my goals now are about refinement and working towards the kind of lifestyle I have been wanting to achieve for a very long time. With fewer distractions, it’s getting easier and easier to focus on the things that really matter and incorporating lifestyle changes. I hope by the end of the year to be much closer to where I want to be.
How is your journey with minimalism going in 2018? Share with me in the comments below.

 

Advertisements

5 easy steps towards better health

For those of us who are, shall say, a bit prone to falling off the waggon with regards to taking care of our health from time to time I wanted to write about five easy steps you can take to improve your health on a small scale that will inspire you to make more changes and feel accomplished. If you haven’t guessed I’m all about progress, not perfection.

Remember, the longest journey always begins with the first steps.

Here’s give simple easy steps you can take towards your journey to health.

1. Drink one glass of water

Drinking eight glasses a day every might seen impossible and daunting, not to mention like you are giving up all other drinks. So why not begin by committing yourself to drinking just one glass a day? Or if you prefer, a 500ml bottle you can sip whilst doing other activities.

2. Eat one piece of fruit

Having a wholly clean or ‘perfect’ diet can seem intimidating and difficult, so why not start by eating just one piece of fresh fruit a day? Or if you prefer you could go for vegetable sticks with dip. Every nutrient counts. Maybe the rest of your diet will suck, but so far you’ve done two things to improve your health – good on you!

3. Take a vitamin

This takes seconds to do but you will reap the benefits and you’ve done yet another small step towards your health.

4. Switch to one decaf drink

All that caffeine does nothing for your body, so if you aren’t ready to quit caffeine, why not try switching one drink a day to decaf? The easiest one to do will be the last drink of the day since most people state their reason for drinking coffee in the morning is to get going. It will also help you get off to sleep better in the evening.

5. Get some sleep

You deserve it. And you’d be surprised how a good night’s sleep will make you feel so much better. So why not go to bed half an hour early or if you’re feeling ambitious, an hour? And with a bit less caffeine in your system you’ll likely feel sleepier and find this step easy than usual and drop off faster.

So there you have it, give easy ways to get started or re-start your health journey. Have you fallen off the waggon? Or are you just starting to do something about your unhealthy diet? Share with me in the comments below.

How your lottery win dreams can help you understand what you want from life

I’ve always shied away from spending too much time daydreaming, as I felt that it could quite easily become an unhealthy behaviour, and I also tend to agree with Dumbledore that:

‘It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live. Remember that.’

However the last few months have really gotten me down and I’ve found myself wondering constantly about winning a large sum of money. I read story after story about lottery winners, what to do if you win a large sum of money and even began watching YouTube real estate tours of multi-million dollar mansions.

I knew that this was not a healthy behaviour to be indulging in, but I could not see a way forward in my life, so I continued. As each day passed my plans become more and more specific and detailed – it was a way to escape my real life problems.

However, something surprising happened. By giving myself free reign to image my life without constraints and boundaries or the usual run of the mill problems, it gave me a lot of insight into what I desire, where my life is lacking and what kind of person I am.

Overall I realised that I don’t need or want nearly as much money as I initially thought – I began at 9 figures and by the end I realised that around £250,000 would get me the vast majority of what I desire. It also forced me to think about what aspects of my life wouldn’t change if I won the lottery (or essentially any other kind of scenario where life’s usual problems and hurdles are absent). All in all, I’ve found my month down the rabbit hole to be quite enlightening as what kind of direction I need to be heading in. So, what did I learn about myself and my life while I was in Wonderland?

What did I learn

1. I don’t want a mansion

  • Maintenance – I grew up spending my Saturday mornings like many other teenagers – watching Cribs. Back then I saw nothing bad about the huge houses that the featured celebrities lived in. Now I’m older (and a little wiser) I was surprised to realise I didn’t lust after the mansions I was looking at. Not only did most of them look cold, empty and like it would take forever to get anywhere but I also found out that some of the mansions I was looking at cost around £20,000-£108,000 per month just to maintain. Imagine having to find that kind of money every month indefinitely just to live in your house, before you’ve bought food, gone anywhere or done anything…! One thing I found particularly interesting is that shows like Cribs sold you the dream of wanting a mansion without mentioning just how much these places cost to upkeep – it’s little wonder then that through my research I found swathes of people who had either earnt or won big money and gone on to buy multi-million dollar mansions, only to lose them or go bankrupt due to the crazy cost of upkeep!
  • Security – One thing that struck me was that living in such a large house would make it difficult to be aware of your surroundings and that many large homes have been broken into without their owners even noticing, which I would think is in part due to the sheer size of the house.
  • Cool…or not? – As I continued to watch real estate videos I couldn’t help but wonder what the point was of many features. What use was owing 21 bathrooms when even with an average sized family of four you’d struggle to need more than 2 at any one time even if everyone was home all day every day. Or let’s assume that you like to throw a party a few times a year – why not just hire a venue for one night rather than spend 365 days a year paying to maintain, heat and clean rooms that are not in use the majority of the time?
    I also found out that some uber rich people have things like a whole room dedicated just to wrapping gifts, or just to store suitcases in. It also seemed like every mansion came with its own bowling alley, tennis court, pool, theatre and so on. Another mansion had about 10 televisions in it at least which made me wonder what the point of having all that wealth was if you were just going to spend it in front of a TV – you could live that lifestyle for far less than the £5 million advertised without all the maintenance!
    Many of these homes seemed like an island unto themselves – but where’s the fun in staying in your home constantly? Whatever happened to going out and seeing the world with friends? Most of these mansions seemed geared towards a reclusive lifestyle – there’s nothing wrong with that by the way, I’m quite the recluse myself – but when it’s every single house and you have the money and potential to go anywhere in the world and do anything, I had to wonder – why?

Overall my experience of looking at mansions and mega mansions was to realise how much I crave a family home full of life, fun, love, joy and vitality rather than owning masses of empty, unused rooms for the pure sake of it.

2. I don’t want an expensive car

It seems almost a given that everyone who wins a large sum of money must want several expensive cars. I have never been particularly good at driving but luckily I do enjoy going for long walks – except when I have a lot to carry or the weather is really bad and I have to do it out of necessity – still, a car would be a great asset even if we only used it part time for bringing heavy shopping home. Yet even with my imaginary 9-figure-unlimited-spending-power I quickly realised I had zero real desire to buy an expensive fleet of cars. In fact all I dreamt of was a nice four-door car in grey, white or black. Even with driving lessons all this could probably all be achieved for less than 10% of the £250,000 many lottery winners have spent on a single car.

3. I don’t want designer clothes

Along with the huge house, fleet of cars comes the expected expensive wardrobe, but when I started looking at what kind of clothes are sold for thousands of pounds a piece I was unimpressed to say the least. The vast majority of these ‘designer’ outfits I would pay thousands not to wear! I honestly felt as though if the tag was for a low-cost brand no one would even dream of buying these hideous outfits, but because it had a designer label on it suddenly it was desirable and worth paying thousands for! I also felt that once you got past a certain price point it became less about quality and more about paying for a specific label.
Over the years I’ve typically bought from supermarket clothing ranges and Primark, having looked at designer wardrobes and labels I now think that I’d like to splash out a couple of hundred for a nice pair of boots but otherwise I’d quite content to shop at NEXT.

4. I don’t want to go to 5 star hotels

I thought back to when we once went to a 5 star hotel how out of place we both felt. Although I wanted to relax I felt like I had to dress up and wear makeup and even then I still felt awkward. When you feel out of place you aren’t comfortable and feel like you cannot be yourself – that’s not exactly how I’d want financial freedom to feel.

So, what do I want?

When you take out all of these big ticket items what is there left to do with a significant win? Well I didn’t just learn about what I didn’t want – and therefore stop thinking about wanting it – I also learnt a lot about what I really do want. My overall conclusion is that I actually want a rather ordinary life, and that although right now things feel totally hopeless and out of reach, nothing I want is anywhere close to being 9-figures out of reach. Perhaps surprisingly the vast majority of the things I wanted came down to a few basic things repeated over until a pattern emerged (and therefore later, a plan):

  • A home – I crave a secure and stable base – having been homeless once as a child, again as an adult and then almost again a third time as a student before ending up in low-end unsafe rentals and always being left to wonder if we would become homeless, a home was top of my list. A modest house I could decorate, furnish and make into a warm, loving space for gathering family and friends, work from home and relax in is number one on my list. I also aspire a lot to remove the technology from the bedroom – having lived in a spare bedroom or in tiny flats for a long time, I’m really sick of not having a designated space just for sleep and relaxing that isn’t full of papers, books, laptops, computers and so on.
  • Health – The second thing that came up over and over was spending on health related matters – whether that was muscle massage, sauna, private therapy, dental treatment or an updated eye test – over and over again I saw that many things came back to wanting to better my physical and emotional well-being.
  • Writing room – Another thing that kept coming up again and again was a strong desire for a designated space for writing – a room I could decorate to inspire my writing and shut the rest of the world out while I got to work.
  • Freedom from the pressure to work – Having been in poor health for a while I would love to know that I could provide for myself and my family long-term without the pressures of working while ill or fear I will become too ill to even push through the day. Another alternative that came up was the desire to work from home, preferably at writing.
  • Outdoors – I’ve always dreamt of having my own garden with a vegetable patch, greenhouse and orchard and this dream really came to the forefront when I was imagining what I would do with £119 million!
  • Charity – Helping others was also high on my list with dreams of doing a huge food bank shop at a supermarket, or going to Toys R Us to shop for charities like Toys for Tots. Other ideas were to help friends get on the property ladder or donating to Shelter Scotland – the thought of being able to help others even more got me genuinely excited! We already help as much as we can but with our own precarious situation there comes limits as to how much we can help – a large win would remove that restraint. I truly believe that there is greater joy in gifting presents to others than to receive!

So there you have it – I learnt a lot by ‘wasting’ my time dreaming and it’s definitely given me food for thought about how I might go about actually achieving this kind of life. I really believe that by imagining my dream life without constraints, boundaries or problems has given me great insight into the steps that I need to take next to begin that journey in 2018. In fact I’ve already scoped out many solutions to taking those first steps. I also felt reassured that everything I want is not nearly as far out of reach as I had previously been feeling.

Have you ever dreamed of winning the lottery? What would you do? Do you think that imagining a life without constraints might help you envisage the path you need to take to be happier and more fulfilled in life? Share with me in the comments below! And Happy New Year!

Reflecting on two years smoke-free

I first began smoking out of curiosity.

When I was growing up my grandma was in poor health but when I reached my mid-teens she became housebound. She developed emphysema, then COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), and then one day I walked into her bedroom and her medical notes were pasted to the wall where they read ‘lung failure’.

About ten years ago she was admitted to hospital on Christmas Eve and we were told to say our goodbyes. We had a priest come and bless her. I was awake for more than 24 hours and finally went home on Christmas Day, completely exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally. After that I thought she would never smoke again. She lived for another five years after this and continued to smoke through many, many more similar hospital admissions.

I don’t know why she continued to smoke – they say it wouldn’t have cured the damage she had already done but to me that’s like saying you’ve got one broken leg so why not have two? They are probably right that her condition wouldn’t have improved – but it could have stabilised and been managed at emphysema instead of lung failure. Instead she continued to decline and struggle to breathe for the remaining five years of her life, and yes, it was horrific to watch.

So I was curious – what could possibly make someone want to continue smoking when it was making you so ill? I can only imagine that not being able to breathe is terrifying, but not being able to breathe for years? Unimaginable.

When I tried my first cigarettes I was totally unimpressed. I thought it was pretty disgusting and nothing to be addicted to. I didn’t get it at all. Later I tried again with menthols and found something I could smoke. So I smoked menthols for a few years, putting up with the headaches, sickness, nausea, feeling out of breath, shaky, and general feeling of unwell-ness that came with being a smoker. Then I met my partner and he didn’t like me smoking, so I quit. After that I only smoked on and off – when I stressed, upset or abroad where cigarettes were very cheap compared to the now skyrocketing prices of the UK due to laws designed to deter smokers (they work). But I didn’t really quit altogether per say, I always liked to know it was there – if I wanted it, but mostly I didn’t bother. I guess it just kind of tapered off until recently I was wondering how long it had been since I had smoked and realised that it was coming up to two years.

I only really gained an understanding when after many, many years of being eating disordered I desperately wanted to quit and to change but found myself unable no matter how I came at the problem. Finally, I understood how you could continue to smoke whilst being unable to breathe – and then I gained a greater sense of compassion, empathy and understanding – a sort of closeness to her, if you like.

Do I miss it? Yes and no. Some days I really crave it, whilst others I can’t imagine ever craving a cigarette ever again. Mostly when I walk behind smokers and breathe in that second-hand smoke – and it’s not cheating – I feel nostalgia for memories of people and a time now long gone.

How Vitamin D changed my life

Disclaimer: Unlike iron deficiency anaemia, I was never diagnosed with Vitamin D deficiency but instead was prescribed vitamin D by my GP for a different reason, which so happened to heal my fatigue. I wanted to share my experience in the hopes that it might help others struggling with fatigue. If you think you might be deficient in vitamin D you should consult with your doctor.

In autumn 2015 I was prescribed calcium by my doctor to help protect my bones from osteoporosis. Unfortunately for me I made the mistake of not mentioning to my GP during consultation that I struggle to swallow almost any kind of tablet and that large tablets would be an impossibility for me – so when I opened my prescription and saw the bullet-size pills, I filed the tablets in a draw and ignored them for a few months.

As winter came round I got ill with a severe chest infection which required three separate rounds of antibiotics – the last ones strong antibiotics – and steroids to clear. By the time I recovered I had lost 10lbs and was feeling pretty run down. So I wasn’t too surprised that I felt exhausted. Over several weeks though my exhaustion did not improve with any amount of rest. Sleeping 12-14 hours a day had become the norm, along with struggling to wake up myself up – I started semi-waking, falling asleep, semi-waking, and then falling asleep again over and over before finally properly waking. I would lay for hours needing to go to the bathroom falling in and out of sleep because I couldn’t summon the energy to move.

I knew something wasn’t right. By this point I had already begun taking my iron deficiency more seriously and felt that there must be something else wrong to make me feel this tired. It also felt different from the kind of tiredness I get when I’m low on iron – when I’m low on iron I feel breathless, like my chest is being squeezed tight and all my muscles ache constantly – the general feeling is that you can’t get enough air, or enough blood pumping around your limbs, even though your heart is beating like crazy and you’re having palpitations.

This was more like a zombie, comatose feeling where I could barely rouse myself, I never felt truly awake, it was just like living in a permanent fog. I remember lying in my bed at this point feeling like it was an effort to hold my phone and even dropped it on a couple of occasions because it was ‘too heavy’.It’s hard to explain our put into words, but the two feel qualitatively different.

Since I was feeling pretty run down at this time I decided I would start taking better care of myself in general – including finding a more accessible form of the calcium I had been prescribed. As I was then living quite a distance from my GP I did some research online as to what other forms of calcium and vitamin D I could ask for that might be easier for me to take. Unfortunately my research came up with no suitable options available on prescription so instead I began looking at over the counter options I could potentially purchase myself. Luckily I found several options available at Boots.

I can’t remember how I dragged myself to the city centre and back, but somehow or another I did, and within a few days of taking my new calcium tablets, the foggy exhaustion which left me struggling to wake up – and stay awake – began to lift. Puzzled at why calcium would have that affect, having never heard of any link between calcium and fatigue, I did some research into what my doctor had prescribed which turned out to be calcium and vitamin D, and it was at this point that I found out about the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency. The constant fatigue, low immune system, muscle weakness, fogginess now made a lot more sense.

I spoke with my GP and asked if the dose and type of tablets I had gotten over the counter would be a suitable replacement for the prescription she had given me and she confirmed that they were and how many of them I should take to make up an equivalent dose. She also confirmed for me that there were no easier to take tablets available on the NHS and we therefore agreed that if I struggled to take the originals, the best thing to do would be for me to continue purchasing them on my own. We also discussed about the vitamin D and she agreed that if I found it helpful I should continue taking it.

I also did more research and found out that due to our location, around 98% of people living in my area of the country were vitamin D deficient in the winter since we are far too north on the earth’s latitude to produce any. I imagine the sheer cold even in summer leads to a majority of people covering up even in summer – I know I tried to put away my winter coat in late June, almost July and found myself regretting it. Also, contrary to my previous belief, milk in my country is not fortified with vitamin D. I had seen milk listed as being a source of vitamin D so often that I didn’t think I needed to worry about it at all.

From then on I made sure to take my calcium and vitamin D everyday, and my fatigue cleared and I began to feel more normal. I felt that I had found a piece of the puzzle in why my health was so poor. But after a while on the vitamin D I began to suffer from insomnia, at which point some further research revealed that I needed to take it in the morning rather than in the evening. Occasionally when I have been taking my vitamin D very frequently I will still get the insomnia but now I recognise it I taper down the vitamin D for a short while before continuing as normal. Such is life, we learn along the journey. Other than this minor hitch I haven’t had any other side-effects from taking the vitamin D, unless you count more energy and feeling more refreshed!

Looking back I also realise now I had some of the other symptoms of having low vitamin D levels that I had raised with my doctor, like bone pain in my legs which was unexplained. Although I’m fair skinned (Type I) I still had several risk factors – I was a student so I spent the majority of my time indoors; if I went abroad I wore factor 30 or 50 as I due to my skin type I am at high-risk for skin cancer; I had been living in the far north of the UK for several years now. We lived so far north that as a community we would joke we didn’t know what that weird shape was in the sky whenever the sun came out for it’s annual one-day visit.

The combination of iron and vitamin D has been a life-changer in terms of my fatigue, tiredness, breathlessness, aches, pains and bone pain. I only wish I had known about both sooner so that I hadn’t spent so much time exhausted and wondering how on earth I was going to make it through another day.

Since I found out about vitamin D the Scottish government has agreed with the Scientific Advisory Commission on Nutrition (SACN) to advise Scots to take a vitamin D supplement at least during the autumn and winter months, if not all year round. After feeling like a bit of a mad woman for talking about this with family and friends it’s good to know I’m not wrong! Hopefully this will also mean greater awareness for GPs when they have patients presenting with fatigue and aches and pains.

Do you take vitamin D? Or do you recognise that constant feeling of fatigue, aches and pains that doesn’t go away with rest? Share with me in the comments below.

References

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-36856176