This Minimalism Thing

This all started a few months ago. I was mentally drained and had been for months. I could have blamed the traditional work/family balance, but it wasn’t just that. I’d spend the majority of my down time pacifying myself with social media, mostly YouTube and Instagram. When I tried to focus on doing something creatively productive, like writing something or working on art, I couldn’t. There was just too much noise, too many distractions, too many easy digital rabbit holes to fall into. So I stepped back. I stepped back from writing, and (mostly) from art. I stepped back from social media, and not just the toxic kind. My mind had been drowning in distraction to a point where my creative process died. I was fatigued, plagued with so much -everything- that I couldn’t focus on -anything-. I started by stepping back digitally so I could just breathe for a bit, then I realised that the digital distractions were only half the picture. When I looked around me, the physical distractions were also plentiful.

Then I found this minimalism thing.

The concept wasn’t completely new to me. I mean, I always somewhat considered myself a minimalist. I purge my belongings twice a year and have no issue removing things from my life. Yet, I stepped back and looked around and just saw a bunch of stuff. Stuff that I couldn’t really find a good reason for owning, or things I bought because they were “on sale” even if I didn’t like it much. I read a few books on minimalism, spent some time in online minimalist communities, and figured it would be worth a shot to try this for real. Then, on April 1st, I started playing The Minimalism Game to start things off, and I convinced my son and partner to play with me.

The goal of the minimalism game is to get rid of items each day equal to the day it is. Day 1 is 1 item, day 2 is 2 items, day 15 is 15 items and so on until you reach 30 days. At the end of the 30 days you will have removed 465 items from your life. 

As of writing this, I’m on day 23 and have so far removed 276 of my belongings and donated them. My son and partner have both done the same. To say that our space has been transformed would be an understatement. We’re not even done yet, and already I find my mind calming. the visual noise that once surrounded me ha decreased. The useless clutter that hung around on shelves has been swept away and passed on. I hope someone else can get some use out of the things I no longer need.

Some of the rules I made for myself:

  1. If it hasn’t been used in a year, it’s gone with the exception of certain sentimental items.
  2. If it has no practical purpose and doesn’t add value to my life, it’s gone.
  3. If it doesn’t fit, or I haven’t worn it in 4 seasons, it’s gone.
  4. If I have multiples of the same item, I keep the best quality one and dump the rest.
  5. If I’m keeping it “just in case”, it’s gone.
  6. If I’m keeping it because I “might need it someday”, it’s gone.

Here are some more things I’ve gotten rid of:

  • Over 75% of my clothes and footwear. I’m working on a post more in depth of my minimalist wardrobe. I have less than 30 items now, including accessories and shoes.
  • Makeup including foundations, eyeliners, eyeshadow palettes, and over 50 lipsticks. All of my makeup now consists of quality items that fit in a tiny box on my dresser.
  • An entire shelf full of dishes that never got used.
  • Numerous kitchen gadgets collecting dust in a cupboard.
  • Countless trinkets that served no practical purpose.
  • Old winter jackets that had been replaced but still remained in my closet.
  • Dried out art supply markers.
  • Nail polish.
  • Books I never liked, or books for hobbies I no longer do.
  • I condensed my knitting hobby into a single plastic bin that fits under my bed.
  • And entire drawer of paperwork digitised and shredded.
  • All my baby/childhood photos.
  • Many other things I can’t even remember, probably because they were things I didn’t need or like anyway.

As I’ve been going through this process, it’s been so incredibly freeing. I thought by this point in the process I’d be losing steam and struggling to throw anything away, but it’s been the opposite. I look forward to finding my items each day and reclaiming some space in my life and in my mind. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about some of the possessions in my life, and why I’ve kept certain things. The more I progress and the more items I shed like skin, the closer I come to one specific item I’ve carried my whole life. At this point, I think I’m going to throw it away. I think I will make it the very last item I discard, like the full stop at the end of the sentence that has been this month of freedom.

Finished Painting: Pennywise

Finished Painting: Pennywise

I started Pennywise right after seeing the new IT movie back in September 2017. I started out strong with it, finishing the outline and most of his head within about a week. Then I stopped. I set him up on top of a bookshelf in my bedroom where he could watch over me while I sleep, or side-eye me for not finishing him. Life happened, NaNoWriMo happened, and he went along untouched. Finally, I pulled him back from abandonment and finished him in three sessions over a few days. I am proud to present to you my finished Pennywise. He’s 11×14 inches watercolour and ink on Strathmore paper. I’m starting a new project in the coming days that I think is going to be fantastic. More details soon.

What I Read in 2017 and Goals for 2018

What I Read in 2017 and Goals for 2018

At the beginning of the year I made a Goodreads pledge to read 25 books in 2017. I crushed my goal this year with the completion of Night by Elie Wiesel on November 10th. In total, the average book I read was 423.07 pages long, with a total page count of 12,269 pages in 2017!

Linked to their appropriate Goodreads pages, here are the 29 books I completed in 2017 in chronological order.

  1. Wizard and Glass by Stephen King
  2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  3. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
  4. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
  5. Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo
  6. Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
  7. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
  8. Our Numbered Days by Neil Hilborn
  9. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
  10. Sekret Machines: Chasing Shadows by Tom Delonge
  11. The Clocks by Agatha Christie
  12. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
  13. Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King
  14. Company Town by Madeline Ashby 
  15. Song of Susannah by Stephen King
  16. The Dark Tower by Stephen King
  17. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  18. It by Stephen King
  19. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  20. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
  21. Hell House by Richard Matheson
  22. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
  23. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
  24. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  25. Night by Elie Wiesel
  26. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  27. Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King
  28. NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
  29. Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Looking back on all the books I finished this year I’m going to call this The Year of Stephen King. On January 3rd I posted a few specific books I wanted to finish, and many of them were his. Six of them, in fact. I read the remainder of the Dark Tower series, and then I read It and Sleeping Beauties as well. So I guess you could say this wasn’t just the year of Stephen King, but the year of long Stephen King.

This year introduced me to new-to-me authors I’d wanted to read for a while, like Agatha Christie and Neil Gaiman, and authors I’d come across serendipitously like Josh Malerman, whose book Bird Box is actually the one I’m naming my favorite of the year.

Bird Box took me by surprise. Fast paced and incredibly unique, it has a sort of survival horror post-apocalyptic vibe that had the perfect balance for me. While most books rely on visual description to set the story, this one has characters who go through life blindfolded so the description comes from auditory and physical description. This lends itself to being perfect for staging the fear of the unknown, which is crucial for horror. I had so much fun with this book and look forward to more from Josh Malerman.

Goals For 2018

Since I beat my goal this year, I’m setting it a little higher for 2018. Not by much, mind you, but 30 books. As for what books I’ll be reading, I want to focus more on classics. I have a lot of beautiful leather bound books featuring Ernest Hemingway, Jules Verne, H.P. Lovecraft, H.G. Wells, William Shakespeare, Arthur Conan Doyle, and others. I want to put a dent in them this year. I also want to focus some of my attention on longer books this year, like 700+ pages. House of Leaves is on my current TBR list, and Underworld by Don DeLillo has been on that list for a while. I love to read, and I look forward to all that 2018 has coming.

On Not Completing NaNoWriMo and Why I’m Okay With That

On Not Completing NaNoWriMo and Why I’m Okay With That

November started off strong for me. I was getting my words in most days or catching up easily on days I didn’t. As with most creative endeavors, life can get in the way. Unfortunately, that was the case for me this year. I did not win NaNoWriMo, but I gave it my all and I feel good about the progress I did make, which was just under 44,000 words out of the 50,000 goal. I was close.

During the latter half of the month, I got a new job. It’s a job I wanted for a while. The excitement of that sort of took over for a while and I lost focus of my word count goals in order to focus on getting things ready, giving notice to my current workplace, and overall trying not to freak out too badly over a large life change such as this. After the initial swell, I got back on track for my word count. I had a couple of really hardcore writing nights where I spent hours doing word sprints through the NaNoWriMo Sprints Twitter and I got mostly caught up. I thought nothing would stop me from hitting my goal.

But then I got sick the last week of November. Right during the time I should have been writing the most and passing the finish line, I was emptying boxes of tissue and staring out at the world dumbfounded through watery eyes. My head was in such a fog that I couldn’t focus on writing, at least not good writing, so by that point I had resigned myself to the loss.

And I’m okay with that! Sure, I was a little bit disappointed. Winning was certainly my goal. It’s hard to feel too badly about my story at this point though. I made a lot of progress with my characters and the story is one that I think is really unique and interesting. I should be able to have it finished and ready to edit it early next year.

I worked really hard in November, and now that it’s over I want December to be a month of focusing on my new job, and relaxing throughout the holiday season. I have some exciting posts planned for this month including an unboxing and review of The Nocturnal Reader’s Box which should ship out to me any day now.

A huge congratulations to everyone who finished NaNoWriMo this year. I know it was not an easy task, and you should be so proud.

See you next time!

 

NaNoWriMo: Day 15 – Half Way There

NaNoWriMo: Day 15 – Half Way There

As the first 15 days come to a close, I still feel optimistic. I’m half way there. On November 1st, NaNoWriMo stood before me like a monster demanding words, and I’ve been feeding it more or less on time each and every day. What’s more is I like what I’m writing. I like it a lot.

The novel I’m writing, Suicide House, was one that I sort of, kind of, half-assed outlined in the weeks leading up to NaNoWriMo. At the half way point, I’ve written many unexpected scenes. The story has taken some turns that were in no way part of the outline I cooked up, but at the same time, the overall story arc is very much intact. I’m getting to know my characters quite well. Hailey, Connor, Julien, and Molly have already been through a lot and when I’m done with the novel, I want to go back and add more character development for each of them. Especially Hailey, my main character.

Finding time to write has been challenging. Writing at home comes with the distractions of loved ones, and loneliness has always been my best muse, so Starbucks has been getting a lot of my business. In the evening hours, once I put my son to sleep, I go and enjoy the crowded anonymity while I write. I can be ignored. On my days off from work I go to the library; I find I’m able to be quite productive there.

My plan for the second half of the month is to keep doing what I’m doing. Right now, the characters are in the house and they’ve found some interesting and terrifying things. I can’t wait to see how they react to the further horrors that await them in Suicide House.