Featured in

Featured in: Tiny Buddha, Halifax Media Coop, Fine Fit Day, Simplify the Season, La Presse, Filles, Le Canada-Français

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Less is More Project: Week 26 - Wardrobe dilemmas

Halfway point!

Last week, we went over the basic items one must own in order to fulfill all material (and some non-material) needs. 

This week, we will focus more specifically on the contents of your wardrobe.

If you spend long minutes deciding what to wear each morning, or worse, feel like none of your clothes really fits you all that well, you might benefit from a complete wardrobe overhaul.

And for that, why not use the traveler's wisdom? Traveling wardrobe tips might apply to regular wardrobe more than we think.

Rules your clothes should follow

The clothes you own, just like the clothes you would take on a trip, should be...

Clothes that fit. That sounds simple enough, but is there any wardrobe out there that does NOT contain "clothes that used to fit" or "clothes that will - hopefully - fit again one day"? You wouldn't put clothes that don't fit  in your suitcase; don't keep them at home either.

Clothes that make you feel wonderful, both in terms of comfort and look. Anything else can be discarded. Really. You know those pieces that immediately transform you in a a) younger b) slimmer c) more radiant self as soon as you put them on? Those are the types of clothes you want to buy, and keep. If it does not awaken the fantastic in you, let it go. 

Clothes that are versatile and multipurpose, i.e. that you can "mix and match" in many different ways. At home or on the road, time and space are precious. Don't waste them by keeping pieces of clothing that only fit with one thing or can only be worn in one occasion.

Clothes that are efficient. Another great tip to save on space is to choose fabrics that provide the most warmth per weight and thickness. Merino wool is one of my favorites.

Clothes that are low-maintenance. Even people who actually enjoy ironing (I am one of those freaks) have other, more interesting things to do. When you travel especially, you want fabrics that will look good after being squished (or rolled) in a suitcase, and that will also dry quickly after a wash.

Clothes that offer the most bang for your buck. Sometimes, it's worth buying quality clothing: it might cost more, but it will last longer, and the fit, feel and look will make you want to wear it more often than any "cheap" item. This is not to say that good clothing has to be expensive (plus, you could always buy second-hand), but quality often is worth it. If you buy quality, you don't need a bigger budget: you'll buy better... and you'll buy LESS.

In addition to those guidelines, may I recommend that when you travel, you avoid whites and dark reds? (I am not talking about wine here.) The first gets stained too easily, the second will ruin everything else when you do a load of laundry. Stick to "medium" colors such as beige, light brown, grey, khaki. They match with everything. Adorn them with a splash of color, and you are good to go.

What about accessories?

Your accessories should follow the same rules as your clothes: few, versatile, good quality pieces will go a long way. This applies to bags, shoes, jewelry, etc. Let's admit it, we all have a handful of favorites when it comes to accessories. Everything else can find a better life in someone else's home. Donate it.

It's all in the numbers

Discarding many items will follow logically from a mindful approach to your wardrobe. This should not be scary. It should be exciting! I
f there was ever a time to adopt the trendy concept of "capsule wardrobe", it's now! Whether you do it gradually or cold turkey, I can promise you will fully enjoy the benefits. At home, you will love having a small number of great options. On the road, additional benefits will include taking only one small suitcase. As a seasoned traveller, I have perfected the art of fitting all my belongings in a carry-on, which allows me to walk right past the luggage carousel in airports. I love it! On my latest trip, a 2½ weeks vacation that included both city and wilderness activities, I took a total of 20 items of clothing (which includes outerwear and sleepwear but excludes underwear).

What clothing dilemmas do you face? What clothing resolutions are you ready to make?

Your turn to share about your struggles and victories of the week! What did you resist? Did you donate or get rid of anything? Did you face any challenge? Please comment below! And...

Become a follower of the blog/subscribe by email (top left corner of this page)!

Follow me on Facebook (click here)!

Follow me on Twitter (click here)!

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Less is More Project: Week 25 - What you really need

Manoj Kengudelu, Flickr

“[A traveller] should carry with him two bags: one very full of patience, the other containing two hundred Venetian ducats, or at least one hundred and fifty … Above all he should take plenty of fruit syrup, because that is what keeps a man alive in extreme heat; and also ginger syrup to settle his stomach if it is upset by too much vomiting.” 
Santo Brasca, Viaggio in Terrasanta

Soon, many of us will go on vacation. Whether it's for a weekend of camping or for a month-long trip abroad, we will have to chose what we pack and what we leave behind. 

Many seasoned travelers find that they keep bringing less stuff on each trip... because when you have to carry your belongings around, or pack them in a car, less really becomes more. My friends have teased me about how little I put in my bag or suitcase (which, in turn, can be relatively small), but I love having only one compact piece of luggage to carry, quickly finding what I'm looking for, and being ready in minutes.

Traveling is a great way to reassess what we really need. Here is a travel-list based exercise on true needs. The only things you really need are:

  1. A shelter that will keep you warm and dry and safe (or fresh and away from the sun) in all seasons.
  2. Something to provide light (unless you plan to go to bed at 5 pm in the winter).
  3. Something to sleep on that's reasonably comfortable (including some bedding).
  4. Something to sit on.
  5. A horizontal surface to work on (cooking, writing, etc.)
  6. A way of communicating (phone).
  7. Access to clean water.
  8. Reasonable amounts of reasonably healthy food.
  9. A way to store that food and water for a few days.
  10. Something to cook on.
  11. A small number of pots, containers, dishes and utensils.
  12. Something to wash dishes in, something to wash dishes with.
  13. Clothes and shoes that keep you warm and dry (or fresh), that are comfortable, and that you feel good in - for all seasons and different types of activities.
  14. Something to wash clothes in, something to wash clothes with.
  15. Some way of drying clothes (air dry is best).
  16. Access to some form of toilet and some form of shower.
  17. Basic toiletries to keep clean and groomed (think body, hair and teeth).
  18. Eyesight items and products.
  19. Medication (if you need any).
  20. A towel and hand towel or two, and a few facecloths.
  21. Some way of carrying or storing your things (bags, baskets, shelves, drawers, etc.)
  22. Some tools for repairs, plus rope, tape, etc.
  23. Some cleaning materials (you can go a long way with a broom and dustpan, baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice and a few rags).
  24. A first aid kit.
  25. Some form of entertainment (a book, a creative project).
  26. Some way to make and/or listen to music.
  27. A handful of mementos or beautiful objects (as few as possible).
  28. If you need it for freelance work, a laptop.
  29. A means of locomotion (could be your feet, public transport, a bike, and if necessary, a car).

Anything else than this is, for all intents and purposes, superfluous. Any of the above items also becomes superfluous when you own more than one or two of it. Any belonging should be ditched if it's not used on a regular basis. Whatever we chose to own should be the result of a conscious, informed choice.

As you gradually give less importance to stuff (including the acquisition, maintenance, cleaning, and transportation thereof), you might find yourself giving more importance to meaningful relationships, meaningful activities, and all sorts of wonderful things. What will they be?


Donations (good riddance)

Summer clothes are under scrutiny. Anything that doesn't fit or doesn't please is put away. There's already a small pile ready to go. 

Observations and cogitations

Tidying up the house used to take hours. It now takes minutes, thanks to the much lower amount of stuff lying around. I am loving the look and feel of my surroundings, and I am loving the time I save!

Your turn to share about your struggles and victories of the week! What did you resist? Did you donate or get rid of anything? Did you face any challenge? Please comment below! And...

Become a follower of the blog/subscribe by email (top left corner of this page)!

Follow me on Facebook (click here)!

Follow me on Twitter (click here)!

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Less is More Project: Week 24 - The elephant in the room

digitalART2, Flickr

I have been wanting to tackle this topic for a few weeks now, but I kept postponing. Why? Let's be honest, procrastination usually stems from some form of dread.

I have been dreading this topic because once I write about it, there is no going back: I will be accountable to the readers of the blog, some of which are close friends and family who can easily monitor whether I am doing the right thing or not.

This is scary, but it is also necessary. Being accountable is one of the best ways to implement change in one's life.

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that mindfulness is central to my approach to life in general, and to this Less is More project in particular. More than a way to declutter and save money, this project has been a way to refocus, recenter, redefine my priorities, simplify my life, and generally feel better.

All in all, decluttering my house and curbing my spending has been relatively easy. I adopted a more mindful approach toward stuff in the same way that I had adopted a mindful approach toward my physical health (through exercising and healthy eating), and in the same way that I had adopted a mindful approach toward my mental health (through relationships, work-life balance and meditation). (For more on those topics, browse the blog by using the Search tool on the right-hand side.)

Many wonderful things happen when you become mindful: your life looks like the life you want to have. You feel content. Satisfied. Fulfilled. Enthusiastic. Energetic. Peaceful. Truly, mindfulness is a panacea. Some things, however, are easier to be mindful about than others. We all have an elephant in the room. 

Mine is my Internet use.

It all started very nicely: the Internet is a wonderful way to keep up with current events (especially when you very rarely watch TV, like me), to read everything on the topics you are passionate about, and to stay in touch with friends. In addition, the Internet offers very convenient tools such as interactive maps, dictionaries, and various apps. Obviously, I also use the Internet for work: email is my primary way of networking and communicating with my - numerous - clients on a daily basis. Most of my work resources are online as well. I have also used the Internet to find inspiration and to publish my writing (for example, see herehere... and of course, this blog).

Because the Internet is so central to many positive things in my life, it has been hard to draw the line between reasonable use and excessive use. Just like overeating, and unlike, say, smoking, overusing the Internet poses the extra challenge that you cannot completely eliminate it from your life. Using the Internet might not be a "basic need" like eating, some people (including me) still rely on it for the major part of their income. Even when I am not online per se, I am typing away on the computer for work-related purposes. Stepping away from it, in my case, would signify the end of a big chunk of my translating/editing/writing career. It's not an option.

So. Internet has to stay. The problem is, I often find myself overdoing the online presence. I will go check my email or write a blog post... and end up wasting an extra hour reading all kinds of articles (which I then "have to" repost on social media, of course). Most things I read are "intelligent" and help me learn and grow. Sometimes, they are humoristic and entertaining; hey, we all need to unwind and have fun. Still, that time spent in front of the screen is time I don't have for other things.

I know I am not the only one struggling with my use of technology. This is partly why I decided to share my thoughts today. Many of us are addicted to one form of technology or another. In a lot of cases, what should have been used as a tool has become a crutch or even a drug. If you or anybody you know spends hours on end watching TV, have a hard time putting down their phone or cannot imagine life without video games... we are on the same boat: technology addicted. We have been swallowed by the black hole. As of today I want to extirpate myself from it - or at least regain my control over it.

Being mindful does not mean everything will suddenly improve drastically. Knowing you eat or drink too much, for example, is only the first step toward improvement. But it is a necessary step. Over the next few weeks I will be making conscious efforts to limit my use of the Internet. I know I will experience both success and setbacks. But what matters is that I am setting this in motion.

What is YOUR elephant in the room?


Donations (good riddance)

Have you ever really addressed the small things in your house? Pens, paper clips, nails and screws, small utensils and tools, lip balm tubs, earrings and the like might not take a lot of space, they do create clutter. How do you organize yours? And how many do you really need?

I am slowly getting rid of anything belonging to the "small things" category that I don't really use or like. You should give it a try!

Observations and cogitations

The weather has been (and will be, judging by the forecast) glorious. It reminds me, once more, that simple things such as sunlight, wind in the trees, bird songs, colorful flowers and the scent of fresh cut grass or pine trees are enough to fill me with joy. Why do we even bother looking past those wonders? Why do we fail to notice those wonders in the first place?

Your turn to share about your struggles and victories of the week! What did you resist? Did you donate or get rid of anything? Did you face any challenge? Please comment below! And...

Become a follower of the blog/subscribe by email (top left corner of this page)!

Follow me on Facebook (click here)!

Follow me on Twitter (click here)!

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Less is More Project: Week 23 - Inspiration everywhere!

JSM, 2015

Inspiration. It comes in all shapes and sizes. Oftentimes, when I write, the words that appear on the - virtual - page seem to have been whispered in my ear by a mysterious "voice" rather than created by my own brain. The word inspiration itself refers to "divine guidance". On the etymology of "inspire": 

Middle English enspire, from Old French inspirer, from Latin inspirare ‘breathe or blow into,’ from in- ‘into’ + spirare ‘breathe.’ The word was originally used of a divine or supernatural being, in the sense ‘impart a truth or idea to someone.’ (Source: Google)

Divine/supernatural or not, I feel like many writers (or artists, or composers) have experienced this peculiar phenomenon of receiving inspiration "from above".

It might not be quite as glamorous, but this week, I received inspiration for the blog in many, unrelated ways. I did not have to look very far for ideas - they just kept popping in front of me! See for yourself:

I watched a travel documentary. The first part was about Turkey. It was an organized trip for a group of North Americans. Despite all the interesting visits (nature and culture oriented), I quickly noticed how half of the planned activities had to do with shopping. What is it about traveling that entices people to try and find as much stuff as possible to bring back home? I have traveled a lot (read: over 20 different countries), yet I have brought back pretty much... nothing. Wait. Actually, I have brought back a lot. A lot of wonderful memories, that is.

The second part of the documentary was about Israel. The approach was completely different. The reporter went off the beaten track and visited a remote kibbutz. A very small and simple one, too. There were no luxuries to be found there, for sure. Basic lodging, some gardening, some goats, a slow-paced life. I loved how each interviewee seemed so calm and peaceful. But what I loved even more was how one of them said "We don't have much, but we have enough, and we have each other".

This weekend I participated in a Spartan Race. Not only was it demanding in itself (8 km of steep uphills and downhills + 20 obstacles), the weather made everything even harder: it was cold, it was raining, and the ground was just mud puddles of various depths. After a final, giant leap over fire (literally), I humbly received my medal (for finishing - let's not get too excited here) and went home for THE best hot shower in my entire life, followed by THE best snack in my entire life. Truly, the wonders of being warm, dry and fed are understated.

A friend gave me a magazine she had finished reading. I opened it at a random page. If showed the picture of a pair of high heels, with the following legend: "Instant lift. I reward myself with retail therapy - I'm a shoe fanatic. Price: $850." (I'll abstain from commenting on this one.)

Finally, some remarks I heard from the mouths of my friends this week. The first, talking about an acquaintance, exclaimed: "She ONLY owns ONE TV!" The other, upon opening my linen closet, exclaimed: "OMG, how many hand towels do you own?!?" (In my defense, I have never bought one - they all came from well-meaning grand-mothers. I have given some away, but maybe I can still work on said linen closet. Pretty sure it contains more than 100 items. As for the TV, I have "only" one, and barely ever watch it.)



This week, the "Temptations" rubric is officially eliminated from the blog.

Donations (good riddance)

Still more clothes. I'm surprised at the amount of clothes I can get rid of without experiencing any undesirable effects... (Wait. That sentence could be interpreted in all kinds of ways!!! LOL)

Observations and cogitations

Almost halfway through the challenge and I can't say there's even one thing I regret donating or not acquiring. Hmm...

Your turn to share about your struggles and victories of the week! What did you resist? Did you donate or get rid of anything? Did you face any challenge? Please comment below! And...

Become a follower of the blog/subscribe by email (top left corner of this page)!

Follow me on Facebook (click here)!

Follow me on Twitter (click here)!

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Less is More Project: Week 22 - The 100 challenge

takomabibelot, Flickr

Five months and going strong! In fact, the Less is More Project is going so well that I have decided to take on a new challenge.

There is a "number trend" in the minimalist world. Just Google "minimalist number of possessions" and you will get an idea. The hardcore ones out there are limiting what they own to what appears to be extremely low numbers, so low that the possessions can easily be inventoried. See for yourself:

If those numbers sound extremely low to you, you are not alone: I feel the same way, as I'm sure many others do, too. To be honest, it probably isn't possible to own 100 things or less if you have a house or apartment comprising more than one room and containing some furniture, especially if you don't live alone. Some of the above-mentioned bloggers are self-proclaimed "vagabonds" who live on the road or alone in a single, small room, which I completely respect and even admire (or envy?) - but I do realize this is not everyone's ideal lifestyle.

That being said, I think we can find inspiration in those radical lifestyles and apply "adapted minimalism" to our more conventional existences. When pondering the 100 things challenge, it occurred to me that if owning 100 things seems unattainable for my family right now, I could still achieve interesting goals if I broke my possessions down into categories. Why don't you try it too?

Exercise #1: Walk into a room and make sure there are no more than 100 things in sight (including furniture and decorations on the walls, but excluding the things that would stay if you moved, such as sinks). Admittedly, that will be harder to achieve in a home office full of books and supplies. For other rooms, such as a small bathroom, or even a living room, dining room or bedroom, it can be achieved easily. Even my kitchen, when the dishes are done, passes the test. Not seeing anymore than 100 things means you are on your way to a decluttered space! And it feels so refreshing.

Exercise #2: Open a drawer, dresser, cupboard or closet and make sure it does not contain more than 100 things. If that proves too easy, regroup to include more drawers or cupboards.

Exercise #3: Establish categories and make sure you don't own more than 100 things in each category. Depending on your lifestyle and the things you tend to hold on to, some categories might be easier than others. Examples:

  • 100 items of clothing
  • 100 items of kitchenware
  • 100 items of furniture and lighting
  • 100 items of decoration (including area rugs, frames, plants, etc.)
  • 100 items of linen
  • 100 items for hobbies and sports
  • 100 books
  • 100 tools and devices
  • 100 "electrics and electronics" (including all appliances)
  • etc.

If that still is too hard for some categories, break it down into smaller categories!

  • 100 items of "regular", daytime clothing
  • 100 items of "other" clothing such as outerwear, underwear, sleepwear, sports clothes
  • 100 accessories such as shoes, bags, belts, hats, scarves
  • Or 100 items for each of the 4 seasons

Try it and let us know how it goes! I will do the same.



It's not a temptation per se, but I am struggling with a dilemma: what to do with presents when I am on the receiving end? With an upcoming birthday, I have already received two early presents. One is the new camera I have been dreaming of for months, if not years. There is no question I am keeping it. Plus, I kind of needed it, since my previous one died on me a few weeks ago. Photography is something I really enjoy and so, even if a camera is not a fundamental need, it will certainly be used and enjoyed fully. 

However, I have also received money. Not to mention the gift cards I got for Christmas that are still waiting in my wallet. Is it acceptable to use money and gift cards this year, or should I wait until 2016? Since the main point of this challenge is not necessarily to save money, but mostly to get used to not consuming? For now, my logic has been the following: hold on to the gift cards and money, and use them when you need something. Which hasn't happened yet.

Donations (good riddance)

I subjected my wardrobe to last week's questions: 
  • do you use it on a regular basis?
  • does it spark joy? (or, that specific case, does it make you feel beautiful/handsome/hot?)

And I can confirm that such questions prove very useful when in doubt about an item. I am donating more clothes again this week. I cannot wait for the day when I don't have to stand for long minutes in my closet, unable to decide what to wear! As long as it still happens, I will interpret it as a sign I own too many clothes.

Observations and cogitations

I as write this post, I hear D "sermon" young A about the best way to use her money, explaining to her how it's best to buy things that you need and/or have been wanting for a while as opposed to rushing to use your money on the first thing that catches your eye...

Your turn to share about your struggles and victories of the week! What did you resist? Did you donate or get rid of anything? Did you face any challenge? Please comment below! And...

Become a follower of the blog/subscribe by email (top left corner of this page)!

Follow me on Facebook (click here)!

Follow me on Twitter (click here)!