I intended to embrace January for what it would be: a challenge in simplicity.
In December we packed up our little flat, storing most of our possessions with kind friends, and taking the essentials with us to an Airbnb, where we now wait for our new flat to be ready for us.
We were relieved to find that the Airbnb was as pictured (if anything, better), that there were no weird smells, that it was all-in-all quite pleasant for a couple of weeks’ stay. After the owners left I said “Oh no we forgot to ask for the wifi.” As the words left my mouth I realised that if it hadn’t been mentioned on our very thorough tour, it probably wasn’t there. Sure enough, we checked the listing and this was totally on us for not checking. No wifi.
And so the challenge became even more challenging. But as a reward for embracing it, I was gifted with clarity, a refresher course in the lessons I’d learned years ago.
How to Maintain a Minimalist Mindset:
Lesson: I don’t need a lot of clothes.
I have about 30 pieces of clothing, and only half of that with me right now. Overnight, the weather and the laundry discuss the question of what I will wear, and they let me know in the morning. And this system works pretty well. It’s like saving time in the morning by setting out my clothes the night before, except I don’t even have to do that.
Lesson: I do need more than one pen.
We had to place an emergency Muji order because I brought only one erasable pen. This was silly. Pens are miniscule. I am a writer; pens are kind of essential. I should have brought more pens.
Lesson: Cooking is less overwhelming with less in the fridge.
Without our store of spices, sauces, and too many bags of cocoa powder (ahhh so much cocoa powder! We had completely lost stock of what was actually in our cupboards at the old flat!), without our food processor and blender, we have be challenged to perfect our simplest recipes: pasta and tomato sauce, risotto, stir fry, and sausages and mash.
What’s left in the fridge dictates what meal we cook next. The aim is to prepare us for those days when we don’t have time to cook from a complex-but-utterly-delicious recipe, to keep us from constantly buying frozen pizza, or ordering less frozen pizza.
Lesson: Everything I own needs a home.
I already knew this, but it’s reiterated when I’m in a space that is not my actual home. Actually, it’s especially important while traveling. When I got to my Halmoni’s house at Christmas, with allll our stuff (normal travel stuff, Christmas present stuff, extra storage stuff), I spent my first morning in America repacking it to make it accessible and lovely. I’m actually really proud of this.
Lesson: My laptop needs a home too.
Even though a laptop is portable, and that’s the whole point, it needs a bed. A place to rest and recharge (ha.) before it spends another day out on the town, assisting me in coffeeshops as I type articles like this one, traveling to the kitchen to play music while we cook. In the Airbnb I found a spot to nestle my laptop, where it plugs into the wall, and is tucked away at the end of the day. Mmm I love it!
Lesson: Wifi is distracting and stressful.
Not having wifi encourages slower living, spreading out, and writing. I am more thoughtful without it. I am less jittery without it. I watch movies more mindfully without Netflix, and I allow myself to go to the cinema more. When we pause the movie I downloaded on my 11” laptop during the day and I have 2 minutes to spare, waiting for Steve to refill the snacks, I no longer compulsively check my iPod because there is nothing to check. Instead I do this revolutionary thing called sitting still. Breathing. Waiting. Doing absolutely nothing.
For a moment I thought, what if we don’t reconnect our wifi, and spend the budget on more cinema trips? And then I thought about all the projects I’ve put on hold because I need internet at home, at the frustration of relying on the chance of coffeeshop wifi.
Lesson: Without wifi at home, I cling to public wifi like I’m gasping for air.
So yeah, there is another side of that coin. When I was little we didn’t have tv at home, so when my sister and I would go to Halmoni’s house we would be glued to the televeision, watching entire That’s So Raven marathons. It was not good. I find myself constantly checking my iPod for wifi networks, stopping in front of cafés to log on, scrolling through nothing at dinner just because Pizza Express has free wifi! I would never do this. I don’t need to do this. But now I do, and I’m trying to stop.
Lesson: We should get a fluffy rug.
There is a fluffy rug in the Airbnb. It makes the room feel very cosy.
Lesson: A room can dictate your lifestyle.
With no screens and not too much stuff in the room, there is little else to do besides read. And so we read, more than we usually do, and as much as we would like to do. In our old flat, the sofa faced the computer screen that we used to watch movies and Gilmore girls and play Braid, so we would spend a lot of time on that computer. There were books piled halfway up the wall, so we spent time reading their spines rather than their pages.
Lesson: I work best with more of a routine.
I used to go to coffeeshops a lot, because I work better outside the home, and I didn’t have a permanent desk space in our flat. But now that I rely on coffeeshops not just sometimes but daily, I am more mindful of how I spend that time. Taking up a table, and only having so much laptop battery has forced some routine into my daily coffeeshop visits. I do 4 pomodoros in the morning, break for lunch, and do 4 more in the afternoon. Clockwork.
Off to learn another lesson,
P.S. You can read more about my adventures in minimalism in my book, Own Your Story.