Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Back away from the athleisure wear, Jayne

I've been doing quite a good job of wearing more of the neglected and never-worn clothes in my wardrobe on the four days a week that I work, but I'm struggling on the three other days. 

Unless it's one of those infrequent occasions that requires dressing up a bit, all I want to do is wear exercise gearlycra leggings, sneakers and a hoodie. Wearing sneakers a lot (albeit casual sneakers, not trainers) is nothing new for me because I don't own a car, which means I walk a lot and need to be comfortablebut I've rarely worn them in public with exercise gear, unless there is (or will be) actual exercise is involved.

But that changed when I bought lycra tights for the gym last year and everyone else was wearing their gym gear as casual attire (thus the term 'athleisure wear' was coined), so it was fashionablenot like wearing your saggy baggy trackies in public, which I will NEVER do.

Not that I really care about what's in fashion, but they're just so comfy, and the (Target cheapie) compression ones make me feel sleek, even though I think the flesh mostly gets pushed up into a muffin top.

Every Friday and Saturday when its comes time to get dressed I have a debate with myself about whether I'll just pull on my tights or wear proper clothes. I have so many proper casual clothes that I could beshould bewearing, it feels wrong to neglect them, but the lycra wins the debate about half the time.

Last Saturday I was pleased with myself for wearing a denim dress I haven't worn in months and a pair of boots I haven't worn in so long that I checked whether any spiders had taken up residence before putting them on. 

On Sundays I usually just go to the supermarket so I go straight for the lycra without any internal debate. I think I'll make it a rule that I can only kit up in athleisure wear on Sundays, if I'm going to yoga or on days where I'm not leaving the house. 

Thursday, 8 September 2016

I'll never be a hardcore minimalist

This is NOT the pool of minimalism

I've been dipping my toes in the pool of minimalism* since I started my shopping ban on 1 June. There's a lot I like about it, but other stuff that does not resonate with me AT ALL. I doubt I will ever be a fully committed minimalist - more of a moderate minimalist.

I like decluttering, but I don't feel the need to jettison everything that I don't absolutely need. And then go through my stuff and reduce it by half again. Some things I just like, you know? Some of my stuff I want to keep because I think it's beautiful and I like looking at it, or wearing it.  

The hardcore minimalists even encourage you to get rid of belongings you keep for sentimental reasons. The memory is in you, not in the object, they say. That may be so, but where is the harm in keeping something that brings up fond memories of someone you love or a happy time in your life when you look at it? 

My friend Victoria posted a photo of her bedroom in her new abode on Facebook during the week and on her bed was a teddy that her grandmother had given her when she was born. He has a key in the back and when you wind it, it plays The Wheels on the Bus.  That is just so, so precious. The thought of him being given away wrenches my heart a little (and he's not even mine!). You just don't get rid of that stuff.

Or you shouldn't. I have kept very little from my childhood (not that I had teddy as special as Victoria's) and I really wish I had kept more. I didn't appreciate that knitted teddy bear given to me by my great aunt when I was a kid (especially when my brother - the first born child - had a proper furry teddy bear), but I would love to have it now. 

There's other stuff from my childhood I wish I still had - like my mother's button tin, which ended up who-knows-where when my parents separated when I was 26. You know what I mean? The old tin that contains a random assortment of buttons leftover from years of sewing projects, or rescued from old clothes? Mum's was an antique oval chocolate tin with a lady on the lid and it was full of buttons, lots of little plain ones, but also some big ones, colourful ones and fancy glass and metal ones. I used to love playing with them, and sorting all the matching buttons into little piles. I wish I had thought to get my hands on it back then, but I guess the button tin wasn't exactly at the forefront of my mind at the time. 

I've done better at keeping sentimental things as I've got older. During a wardrobe clear out in the last year or two, I was going to donate the blue faux leather jacket I wore the day I met Luke - I still like it, but it doesn't fit anymore and it's not like it was expensive. But Luke told me I couldn't get rid of it because of its sentimental value (he's way more sentimental than I am, bless him). So I kept it and I don't regret letting it take up a few centimeters of hanging space in my wardrobe one little bit. 

When my Nanna died and we were cleaning out her place, nobody wanted her collection of china cup, saucer and plate sets and although they were very flowery and gilt-edged and not my style at all, I couldn't bear the thought of them going to an op shop, so I took them and I still have them and I love them, even though I don't have a suitable way of displaying them...partly due to lack of space. I also have some of her mixing bowls - she was a cook by trade and continued to bake tasty treats long into retirement - and I think of her every time I use them. 

So, no thank you, minimalist gurus, I won't be getting rid of the stuff I keep for sentimental or aesthetic reasons. If you change your mind about keeping something, that's easily fixed, but there's no way to get back stuff you ditched if you have a change of heart later. What are you going to do - go to the op shop to try to hunt down the woman who bought your old teddy with the intention of wrenching it from her kid's hands?

I think this hardcore approach to decluttering bothers me because it's so unemotional and shows no appreciation for beauty and the pleasure it can bring. For me, an emotional connection to things and the appreciation of beauty outweigh the pleasure of ruthlessly downsizing my possessions to the bare minimum...or at least I suspect so since I haven't done any ruthless downsizing for comparison. 

Another aspect of minimalism that annoys me is the way some minimalists can seem a bit sanctimonious and sneering, as if they think owning less makes you superior to someone with a house full of stuff. As if spending your money on experiences is inherently more worthy than spending it on goods. I can't say I've read anything explicitly stating views along these lines, it's more of a tone I detect...or maybe imagine because I feel as if I'm being judged for owning so many pairs of shoes. 

The question of wardrobe downsizing is one area where I find some minimalists are quite sneery, I guess because caring about fashion or style is so pointless and ditzy and superficial and ridiculous. The man who dies with the tiniest wardrobe wins, apparently. It's like they are engaged in a competition to see who can pare their wardrobe down to only a loincloth and a pair of thongs (the footwear kind). 

I will never be a wardrobe minimalist (as you've no doubt gathered already). Clothes aren't just for keeping warm/cool and covering my rude bits.  I love my clothes and shoes. I enjoy thinking about what to wear and putting together my outfits. I  love that feeling you get when you look in the mirror and know you are rocking that outfit like nobody's business. Many don't feel the same, and that's fine for them, but don't sneer at me or think me superficial because I have a lot of clothes and get pleasure from looking good.

But I'm a total hypocrite because I can be sanctimonious and sneery too, like when I see stuff like this on Pinterest: 
I just think, "What sort of a life is that?" I feel sorry for people who are on this work-consume-work treadmill.  There's so much more to life than working and consuming (this part of minimalism I'm totally on board with). Leaving aside the moral and ethical issues inherent in excess consumption, if they are happy, then I should just STFU. It's their life, their money, and their business.

Ultimately, the minimalist movement is broad and I've only explored a small part of it so far (the hardcore sanctimonious part, it seems).  Perhaps I need to seek my minimalism inspiration and advice elsewhere. I've not read any Marie Kondo, the new doyenne of decluttering, but I suspect her approach might be more my style given she lets you keep things that "spark joy". 

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Child-free and happy

It's probably obvious from my posts so far that I don't have children. All that marathon napping and shoe shopping. All that pootling about, revelling in the slow pace of life with minimal plans and few demands on my time. I doubt many parentscertainly parents with young childrenget to live this kind of life. 

At a work lunch a month or two ago I told a colleague who has a toddler that I was trying to cut back on napping. Needless to say, she thought this unnecessary (if not ludicrous) and encouraged me to continue napping. My commitment to cutting back on day time sleeps did wane somewhat after this conversation. I felt as if I wasn't making the most of one of the greatest benefits of being childfreethe ability to spend my copious free time sleeping

I've never been happier about NOT having kids than I am nownot that I've ever been unhappy about it. There was a time when I wantedor thought I wanted?children, but even then I didn't have much of a maternal urge.  (Before I go further, let me say that I'm not judging anyone who has kids and I don't want to debate who's happier or more selfishparents or non-parents. Each to their own. I'm just talking about my life, and what makes me happy.)

My joy in having no offspring stems mostly from the freedom it gives me to live the kind of life that makes me happy: calm, uncomplicated, quiet. But I've also been reading quite a few articles lately about life with kids that make me appreciate the life I have (particularly because I'm female). 

There's this one, which soundly debunks the (ridiculous) notion that the domestic sphere offers empowerment to women. 
...for many women, domestic work is doing a full day in paid work or caring for children, and then spending an additional 25 hours a week washing dirty clothes, cooking two meals each night (one for the kids and another for their husband because he's training for a marathon and won't eat carbs — or cook for himself), cleaning the vomit and crayon off the walls, ironing for the entire family, shopping for the family, planning the school lunches, booking medical appointments, completing school forms, helping with homework or reading to toddlers, getting up in the night when one of the kids wets the bed, changing the sheets, and then washing the sheets so there is a spare set for the next day.
Ah yes, but that's their choice, I hear you say. But it's not. There is a difference between having alternatives and having choices. There's no element of choice in domestic work. It simply has to be done. And since many men refuse to take equal responsibility for it, the burden falls to women...
A woman might be bone tired from working all day, she might have been up all night with sick children, she might have the flu, she might have gastro, or she might just prefer to spend one night in 15 years doing something different. But that's too bad because mouths need to be fed, dishes need to be washed, clothes need to laundered.
And this one, in which a husband and wife write to each other frankly about how having kids (and some other massive life-changing events) has changed and strained their relationship. 

She writes: I thought having a family would bring us closer together. Five years and two kids later, I sometimes feel like nothing could have driven us further apart.
When I’m wrangling with a trolley laden down with our wilful offspring or scraping diarrhoea off a sheepskin rug, it is easy to resent you for the freedom I imagine you enjoy out there in the world of reasonable adults and measurable goals. The burden of domestic drudgery and the intense pressure of meeting our children’s unending needs and incessant demands often blinds me to the fact that you carry the equal burden of keeping a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs and fishfingers in our oven...

We crouch in the trenches of early parenthood, low-flying tantrums and vomiting bugs whizzing past our ears. Rubbing my sleep-deprived eyes, I mistake you for the enemy and open fire. You retaliate. And so we become locked in combat, tussling endlessly over who is more exhausted, whose turn it is to do bedtime, who is more entitled to slip away for a run, a pint or a quiet cry in a corner. The kids come first and the dog knows he is at the bottom of the pile, but our battle for oneupmanship rages.
He writes: I have a vision of our life as a battle of long trudges interspersed with mortar fire and the occasional ambush, glimpsing my comrade through smoke and dirt and fantasising about the day when we can sit back with a beer together and reflect on it all. The journey will have changed us to the point where we will not be sure if the person we loved is still there. (Interesting how they both use battle metaphors to describe parenting.)

And there's this story about "motherhood regret", and this recent program on Insight about mothers who left their children for various reasons, including the feeling that their life with husband and children was not what they wanted for themselves. The Insight program in particular made me wonder about how many women have children because it's "what you do" rather than what they really want

I'm grateful I didn't have kids back when I thought I wanted them because I think I would have been plodding uncritically along the well-worn marriage/mortgage/kids path without the primal urge to drive me. It's possible I might regret not having children when I'm older (though I doubt it), but I would much rather wish I had had children than regret having had them. 

Oh, there's also this "hilarious note" that a mother of six left for her husband when she went away for a weekend, and pretty much anything written by mother-of-four Constance Hall on Facebook. Both make me dance around the room singing, "Fuck, I I LOVE MY LIFE!" (No, I don't follow her, but I have friends who do).

Now, excuse me, I have to go and nap now. 

Monday, 22 August 2016

Nearly 12 weeks in...

My shopping ban is nearly 12 weeks old now. Three months! It doesn't feel as if it has been that long, which is a good thing. 

Only once - as recently a couple of weeks ago - have I really had the urge to shop. I got my hair done at a salon in the city and I had nothing planned for after that. Once I would have wandered around the shops, and I really felt like doing that on this occasion, but I didn't seriously contemplate setting foot in a shop - or even gazing in the windows. (I was also being prickled by hair from my haircut, so I was keener to get home to change my clothes than I was to buy new ones.)

I have only been in a clothes shop once or twice with a friend since I stopped buying shoes and clothes (back in July). I picked things up off the rack, I looked and admired, but had no real desire to buy. 

One day recently I was bored and sitting in front of my computer, which is a time when I once would have scrolled idly through the new stock and sales pages of fashion websites. I do kind of miss that sometimes. I went to the ASOS site and started looking at stuff, but after browsing only one page I closed it. I felt I couldn't take the risk of awakening the yearning to buy things.

Strangely, I don't seem to be saving money or making much headway on paying off my credit card. I haven't redirected my spending into other 'allowed' stuff, so I'm not sure why this is. Perhaps I'll have to do one of those tedious logs of every cent I spend to see if I can work out why I'm not much better off. 

I'm no worse off, so I suppose that's something. 

Saturday, 20 August 2016

I am not the full-throttle kind

I was walking along Chapel Street after yoga recently when I saw an advertisement for a watch with the line Live full throttle. I am obviously not the target audience - the ad was in front of a menswear store and hello, I was on my way home from yoga - but I could not be less receptive to this kind of message.

Living life at full throttle sounds stressful, exhausting, and well, pretty one dimensional to me. Perhaps even a bit mindless. I'd rather live life at a slower pace.

The watch in the ad would probably appeal to people whose motto is go hard or go home. Given one of my goals is to nap less, it won't come as a surprise to hear that if anyone told me to go hard or go home, I'd happily go home. I love my couch and my bed.

It's a watch that might be worn by people who write things like "I like to work hard and play even harder" in their online dating profiles. If I had a Tinder profile, it would read, "I like to nap hard and sleep even harder". 

I'd rather pootle, than hurtle. I want to appreciate the scenery as I go through life, stopping to absorb the sights, sounds and smells, and the way things feel. I want to take photos of the wildlife, not run over it. I want to connect with people, not leave them choking on my dust.

I don't want to be one of those people whose stock answer when asked how they are is, "Busy!" Or one of those people who wears their stress like a badge of importance. I don't want to have weekends chock full of appointments and social engagements (as I've said, I'm an introvert - I don't need much social contact). I don't want to have a head full of plans and obligations and goals and grand ambitions. 

And the good news is...I'm not one of those people and I don't have that kind of life. My life is calm, low-stress and only sometimes busy on the four days a week I'm at work. When my time is my own - three days out of seven - my days are usually quiet, with plenty of time to relax, read, rest and do things I enjoy. I have few responsibilities and demands on my time (work, pay bills, pay the rent). I have no plan for where I want to be in my career in five years. I have a job, not a career, and I'm fine with that. I like my job and I strive to do it well, but it's not the core of my identity. 

My ambition is only to lead a small, happy life in a way that it meaningful to me. Living in the moment, being connected to my surroundings, and relishing the small things (refer: Gleeful). Spending time with people who bring me joy and doing things that enrich my life - going on adventures (big and small), being immersed in nature, reading, listening to music, and exercising my creativity with writing and photography.    

I know a small life isn't for everyone. It would be a snorefest for many. I suppose the key is to work out what pace suits you, and try to make it happen. Having a full throttle life when you are best suited to a slower pace must be hell.    

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

The friend question


I took my holiday to Brisbane last week and don't regret spending the money. I had a wonderful time. I loved Brisbane, the weather was summery and I had fun meeting and hanging out with a couple of my long-time online friends. I was not tempted into any of the clothes or shoe shops (they're much the same as we have in Melbourne anyway).

I took a couple of day trips while I was thereone up to Maleny (among other places) to meet Victoria and another to the town of Dayboro with Gillian. Both trips only fuelled my yearning* for a tree change because they are pretty much the kind of places I envisage Luke and I moving tosmall towns, not too far from the coast, set among lots of trees and abundant nature, an easy drive from a big town/city and with cafes catering to gluten-free types like me. (Victoria and I had the best gluten-free melting moment from a cafe in Maleny that offered an almost entirely gluten-free or gluten-free optional menu.)

Near Dayboro

Despite all the downsides, after those two visits, I still really, really wanted to go bush. 

But then I got back to my real life. I went for dinner with friends on Friday night and somehow only then did it really hit me that I won't be able to do that (with my existing friends anyway) if I'm a hundred kilometres away. Duh, Jayne. 

Not that I catch up with friends on a weekly basis (and nor does Luke). I'm an introvert and a homebody and I don't need a lot of  face time with friends to satisfy my need for social interaction. I'm happy just hanging out with Luke (or alone) at home most of the time (although I realise that might not be healthy).  Neither of us has a vast circle of friends, and not all of them live in Melbourne anyway. 

I might not see them often, but I do enjoy the time I spend with friends. I still really, really want to move to the country, but I need to consider whether possibly even less frequent catch ups with my city friends will satisfy my need for social interaction, particularly in the period when I don't have any country friends.   

* Looks like I've replaced my old yearnings for a new yearning, but wanting a new and better life seems more worthy than wanting a new pair of shoes.  

Sunday, 31 July 2016

The fantasy becomes a goal (sort of)

Remember a couple of posts ago when I indulged in a country living fantasy? Well, it could be closer to reality than I expected. Luke and I have talked about it before in fairly hypothetical terms on visits to the country - would you want to live near the mountains or the coast, that sort of thing - but now we've started looking at houses and talking about how to go about actually moving to the country (or back to the country in my case).

In a quiet moment at work I looked up country houses to buy on a real estate website. I was surprised what you can get for the same amount of money you'd spend on a small inner city apartment. I mentioned this to Luke and we now spend time most nights scrolling properties to buy. Looking at houses for sale has become my new looking at shoes and dresses to buy!

I think we're serious. Or we're seriously considering it anyway. We've talked about where we'd like to move and how to go about it - jobs would need to come before a house, and it would be wise to rent first just in case we decide 'tree changing' isn't for us after all. 

It's hard to believe because, as I said in the previous post, I never, ever imagined myself going back to the country - leaving my beloved Melbourne - after coming here as a 19 year old to go to university. I seriously love Melbourne, I love living close to the city and being in the thick of it. 

But I've been building on my fantasy, imaging us walking our greyhound along bush tracks, ruddy-cheeked and gumboot-shod (us, not the dog); enjoying breathtaking mountain views from the loungeroom of our quaint little cottage, as we sit in front of our wood heater; growing and preserving our own vegies... But before I get carried away, we need to really to consider the pros and cons, and think long and hard about whether we really are suited to country life.

I read an old article this morning that claimed most tree-changers regret the move because country living doesn't turn out to be as peaceful and idyllic as they expected . Although the article mentions only two per cent of them did any research on where they were relocating to (duh!), this has given me pause. I hope that living on a farm and then in a very small town until the age of 19 gives me greater insight into the differences between city and country living, but I'm aware I just might be romanticising it.

So what is our current thinking? We have no particular place in mind we'd like to move to, but somewhere on the eastern side of Melbourne is preferable so we aren't too far from Luke's family. I'd like to be within two hours from Melbourne and fairly close to a large regional centre. We don't want to live on a hobby farm, but we also don't want to live cheek-by-jowl with our neighbours because we can do that in suburbia.    

Somewhere that attracts wine-and-foodie day trippers from Melbourne would be good because there'd be greater likelihood of being able to get good coffee (for Luke) and gluten-free food (for me), and maybe some other tree-changers so we aren't the only former city slickers in the village. 

Ultimately, our destination would mostly be determined by where we can both get jobs that would allow us a reasonable standard of living.

Anyway, some pros and cons...

  • Cheaper real estate. Owning a house in the city is almost pure fantasy for us but in the country it could be a reality.   
  • A slower pace of life. We don't exactly lead a fast-paced life in the city (I can't remember the last time we went out on Saturday night) so it's not as if the change of tempo would come as a shock.
  • Living closer to nature. Trees! Fresh air! Wildlife! Greenery!  
  • Less traffic
  • A decent sized yard (anything is bigger than we have now, which is no yard). We could have a vegie garden, or a lot more space for one than we'd ever have in the city.
  • We could have pets (usually not allowed in city rentals)

  • I will probably need to buy a car as public transport will be non-existent or very limited. 
  • Petrol and food can be more expensive (we'd use a lot more petrol, but could grow some of our vegies).
  • We'd both be earning less (or I certainly would because legal secretaries in the CBD are much better paid than even their suburban counterparts).
  • Fewer job opportunities. I'm guessing there won't even be many jobs for legal secretaries. I'm not too precious about what I'd do for a living, but I don't have the same breadth of experience that Luke does.
  • We'll have to travel greater distances to work (possibly), to shop (even for groceries), to visit family and friends
  • I won't be close to my doctors.  I currently visit my neurologist every three months and my integrated medicine GP every month or two. It's unlikely I could find these specialists close to me in the country.
  • Medical services in general are relatively limited. Hospitals and ambulances are further away. This will be more important as we get older. 
  • Having a yard and a garden takes work. I'm pretty lazy and chronically low on energy. Am I really going to make the effort?
  • Internet and mobile phone reception might not be as reliable or fast. 
  • Country people can be...less than welcoming and...not very sophisticated (as an example - One Nation didn't get enough votes to win a Senate seat for Victoria, but the  electorates where it polled best were all in the country.)   
  • Luke and I are both a bit snobby and enjoy gently mocking country people (I feel like I'm allowed to since I was one once!). We can keep our snobbery to ourselves, but could we develop genuine, rewarding friendships with them (if they would let us!)?
  • I'll probably have to get rid of my purple quiff so I'm not the town freak.
  • Greatly reduced (or non-existent) opportunities for cultural enrichment, but then it's not like we take full advantage of the cultural smorgasbord available to us now, due to laziness, lack of energy and advancing homebodiness.
  • If we do decide to return, we wouldn't be able to afford a house in Melbourne with the proceeds of selling a house in the country.  

The cons certainly outweigh the pros in quantity...but qualitatively? I don't know...More research, critical thought and discussion required.