Friday, November 21, 2014

Fiona’s Minimalism Manifesto

My idea of a minimalist has always been a free spirit who travels the world with only six items of clothing and a fancy Apple laptop in their backpack.  I don’t know why, it’s just the image that pops into my head.

This makes me feel like a fraud when I consider myself a minimalist, but then just who decided the definition of minimalism and does it involve a certain number of possessions?  Even though I know no-one decided, I do like this description from The Minimalists (and funny that they mention the same thing I did about the stereotypical minimalist).  They say:

Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom.

And who doesn’t want more freedom I ask you?

So I’ve decided to create my own definition of minimalism to help guide me to my own personal happiness.

Dave Ramsey has a great quote that goes ‘live like no-one else today so that you can live like no-one else tomorrow’.  I love this saying and it really makes me excited at the possibilities I have for my life.  It also keeps my encouragement up for living the way I do and having my own minimalist mindset.

I love that we are paying off our home loan much earlier than the standard 20+ years because it means we have more choices in the kind of work we do and how many hours we work.

I love that I don’t need much to make me happy.  I’m a real home-lover and relish time spent in my abode surrounded by the things I love such as books, music and creative projects.  But compared with our friends, we don’t have nearly as many expensive possessions.

My minimalism manifesto could equally be called a Simplicity Manifesto because I have such a beautiful craving for simplicity and it is actually one of my core values.

In putting together my Minimalism Simplicity Manifesto I will involve statements big and small such as:

I am intentional with what I allow into my life, whether it is an item, an obligation or a person.

I enjoy doing the laundry because I love everything I’ve worn and washed, and there is ample room to put it away when it is clean, dry and folded.

I will find magic in everything I do, because I want to live a magical life.

This is an ongoing project which I am enjoying working on!

And now for the…

100 Things Update

It’s been a bit of a slow week for decluttering.  I’ve only been doing the usual collecting and not any focused deep decluttering, but that’s ok, as long as there is something in the donation pile at the end of the week.  Here is my round-up:

7.  A cute cat collar which was a giveaway on a bag of cat biscuits.  On closer inspection it is not a breakaway collar and does not have any elastic, so I am throwing it away as I don’t think it’s safe for any cat to wear.  My girls don’t wear collars at all.

8.  A pair of quite new grey cotton ruched-leg leggings which do nothing for my skin-tone.  The grey is so light in tone that my skin looks pasty next to it, and pale legs need all the help they can get.

9.  A red sweatshirt I made which is so-so on me but will be nice on someone else.

10.  A pair of cotton palazzo style lounge-pants which are quite comfortable but the colour is on the wrong side of beige/blush.  Leg-coloured trousers anyone?

11.  Another magazine.

12. and 13.  Two tubes of good quality hair and body shampoo crème from gift sets that I don’t remember to use (plus I prefer soap) which I emptied into a ¼ full shampoo bottle and shook up to create the most luxurious shampoo which also smells divine.  A wonderful new product and getting rid of two items.  Score!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Elegance is refusal

Image from Pinterest

When I first heard this Coco Chanel quote, the first thought that came to me was food.  That I had to refuse food to become elegant and trim like the bird-like Mademoiselle Chanel.  And being a food-lover there was no way I could picture myself eating tiny portions so I’ve always had a bit of a block towards this quote.

Lately and from two different sources I have heard of a more enticing way to look at it, which ties in perfectly with my love of curating a beautiful life by decluttering items that do not fit the vision of the lifestyle I have for  myself.

And that is just it – refusal of anything that does not elevate your life to exquisite elegance.

- Refusing junky foods in favour of high quality fresh foods.

- Refusing possessions that detract from rather than add to my enjoyment of life.  And this includes refusal of excess possessions.  We all like different ways of living, but I feel at my most content when I have less around me.

- Refusing clothing that does not make me look and feel chic and sophisticated.  That includes clothing I wear to work or out, loungewear at home, nightwear and lingerie.  Everything!

- Refusing to be around people that bring me down or make me feel bad about myself.

- Refusing to accept others beliefs as gospel.  I’m cultivating my own wonderful and empowering beliefs thank you very much.

- Refusing negative thoughts because they don’t feel good and they weaken your immune system.  Apparently it’s been proven in tests which gave me a jolt when I heard that.

- Refusing to listen to myself when I say something is too big or scary to entertain.  What could I achieve if I believed I could do that huge achievement.  Why would I block it from my mind immediately?  Even if I never do it, I’ve at least not closed my mind to it.

Pondering this quote made me think of a decluttering challenge I did years ago imaginatively titled 100 Things.  You can probably guess that the object of this challenge is to find 100 Things in your home to say au revoir to.  I had such fun (isn't it great that we all have different definitions of fun...) so I’m going to do it again.

I don’t have a timeframe for this as that sounds far too stressful and I like to be relaxed.  Perhaps I’ll report at the bottom of each week’s post how many items I’ve decluttered for the week and count up to 100.  I’m sure I could come up with 100 items before Christmas though.

Some challenges count like items as one, such as a stack of magazines.  I’ll be doing it my way which is one item is one item.  Purely because I’ve been through so many layers of decluttering already.  Still, I know I’ll have 100 items lurking around just waiting to be moved on so that someone else can gain use from them.  And I can enjoy that much more room in my home.

My method will be to gather the items in my guest bedroom and donate when I am passing a charity shop.  I’ve just done a big box-load last week so will be starting this challenge afresh.

Here is my starting list for this week:

1. One belt that I never wear anymore even though it’s quite nice and I think I should.

2. One magazine that I have read.

3. A top that I no longer like on myself.

4. A pair of trousers that I was given by a well-meaning elderly relative that don’t do anything for me.

5. A bra (it is still quite new but I have decided beige knit bras have no place in my stylish life, I don’t care if models wear them).

6. One home décor item that I never want to display.

If you’d like to relieve yourself of 100 extraneous items before Christmas, please feel free to join me in the comments section each week!

Friday, November 7, 2014

The secret to glowy skin?‏

My inexpensive skincare products.  All these added up would probably purchase one high-end item!

Do you want to know my secret?  The one that has people ask me what I use on my skin?  Sorry to sound un-humble when I say this, and it happens less as I get older, but I have had people actually stop me in the street and ask me what products I use.  Plus my lovely blog readers have asked, so thank you.

My skincare secret is not expensive products or fancy facials or even botox.  When I exclaimed to my husband that a sweet blog reader said I looked 19 in the photo on my last post (and even if she was exaggerating, thank you), he said... 

'well they don't see what you do.  It's little and often.  Every night you're in the bathroom washing and moisturising your face.  And in the time I've known you - 11 years - I can remember one or two times you did not wash your face and take your makeup off'. 

So there's the answer, from the person who lives with me and knows me best.  The secret then?  Little and often.

And it's true.  My mother ingrained in me from about the age of 13 that cleanse, tone and moisturise twice a day is what you do, alongside taking a shower and brushing and flossing.  So I did, and it's been a habit for over thirty years now.  The most expensive cream in the world won’t help you if it’s not used. 

If you don’t pamper your skin twice daily, today is the best time to start.  It’s never too late.  It might seem a faff and too time-consuming, but just stick with it.  Your skin will look better and it will become part of your daily routine.  Washing your face is just as important as moisturising it, and I still wash my face the same way as I detailed here.

As far as skincare products go, once upon a time I worked for Parfums Christian Dior and was able to purchase their beautiful skincare and makeup at wholesale staff rates.  But these days I enjoy using simple and inexpensive skincare and cosmetics.  My day cream is Olay Complete SPF15 in a 150ml white bottle for a très inexpensive price.  I always check for mineral oil though as in my opinion it doesn't let your skin breathe.  Some Olay products have mineral oil and some don't (so I buy the ones that don't).

The picture above is my current range.  I actually have three different creams I use at night and switch them around.  I often put on the rosehip oil and then one of the three creams. I don't know how I ended up having three night-time products open at the same time but I did.

I've also worn foundation since I was about 14.  Just light water-based ones then (my first was a Clinique foundation that you shook the bottle to mix each time you used it).  I stocked up on Dior foundation before I left my old job, but now I'm trying a new Maybelline one - Superstay Better Skin that seems quite nice (it's even made in France.  I found that quite fascinating).  I apply as little as possible to even out my skin tone and then dab on a tiny bit more over areas that need it.  Then I press my palms all over my face to blend and set, and dust loose powder over top.

At night I use an eye cream and a night cream, and as a form of serum I use something like rosehip oil or vegetable glycerin.  I like to layer my skincare at night, but during the day I just use the Olay lotion over toner moistened skin.

I use a lot of body lotion and body cream too.  Every day after my shower I go from neck to toes.  Even my tummy but not the parts of my back that I can't reach.  I started this a number of years ago and now it's part of my morning routine.  I love using yummy scented ones.

Other factors I believe help are my love for water and herbal teas (on the opposite side of hydration I have one Earl Grey tea and two coffees per day), light activity (walking and yoga as per my last post) and lots of fruit and vegetables.  I have fruit every morning for breakfast with nuts and sometimes yoghurt, a salad with or for lunch, and steamed vegetables to accompany dinner.  I have written more about this here.

So there’s my secrets.  They aren’t really secrets though are they?   Just good common old-fashioned sense I think.

I'm not sure what else to tell you about skincare and makeup, so if you have any questions I'd be glad to answer them.

Friday, October 31, 2014

How to make walking fun

I made the best purchase last week which I am beyond thrilled with.  Before I go into that though I want to tell you about me and exercise.  I’m not a fan.  If it’s gentle, I’m happy.  But sometimes even then I can’t be bothered which is not a very chic way to think I know.  I love my yoga class when I’m there but if there’s a reason I can’t go, I’m not unhappy about it.

Same with walking, in my mind I am a walker and true, I will happily walk into town (40 minutes) rather than take the bus or car, but walking daily for exercise like I ‘think’ I do, well it gets blown off rather often.

I never took our iPod out walking because it’s quite big, I need a pocket because I was afraid of dropping it and also because I never remembered to.  Plus, I like to work things out in my head whilst walking and music seemed to intrude on that.

Then I had an idea to get a tiny cheap iPod and put only my podcasts/audiobooks/saved audio clips etc on, as I love listening to them for inspiration.  I listen to them when I’m getting ready in the morning, driving in the car, and in the evening when I wash my face.

If I bought a tiny cheap iPod I could listen to my inspiring podcasts more and actually look forward to walking!  So I bought an iPod Shuffle 2GB and it’s SO tiny.  The size of an inch-square piece of Lindt chocolate tiny.  Ridiculously tiny.  But it fits all the podcasts I’d ever want to listen to, and has a little springy clip on the back, so it attaches to my neckline or bra strap and I’m off!

The first day I used it I planned to walk for around 30 minutes, but chose to go down extra streets (and even a nice-looking cul de sac for a look) simply because I wanted to keep listening.  I ended up walking for 50 minutes and it seemed effortless.  And the next day an hour.  Yay!

Even today, a week later I realise I have walked most if not all days since I bought it.

Now I totally understand all those people I keep seeing with earphones in (which used to be everyone except me).  I’m not a technology person, I don’t have a smart phone yet for example, but I totally love it when technology offers me a simple, fun and inexpensive solution.  And I can still hear traffic over the talking so I am safe (plus I always look when crossing the roads).

Working on my mind and body at the same time – love it!

And the unexpected bonus is that I have been using it when I do my housework too, and mind pottering away cleaning our home much less than I used to.  I paid NZ$69 for ours, and I see they are US$49 in America.  What a bargain for such a handy device.

Here are some of my favourite inspirational listenings (and please let me know your favourites to give me some ideas!):

*        - Tonya Leigh’s blog post audio clips (plus her YouTube soirees – I save them as audio using an online converter then save them to my iPod Shuffle)

*        - The Simple Sophisticate podcasts on iTunes

*        - Interviews with inspiring people as found on iTunes (such as Peter Walsh, Louise Hay and Brian Tracy)

PS.  Promise this is not a paid advertisement…but it should be.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Dreaming of the Perfectly Curated Wardrobe

Michael Kors show backstage instructions from Aerin Lauder's Instagram
In my experience, a major roadblock on the path to living your chicest life is being surrounded by too many possessions, and the wrong kind of possessions for you.  Even for those of us who are constantly editing our surroundings by being intentional with the kind of home and personal style we want, there are still areas we want to have feel better.

The change of main seasons twice a year is a perfect time to dive into your wardrobe.  With Spring here in New Zealand, I am excited about washing my merino woolies, sorting out what I want to keep for next year and making a pile to donate that I haven't worn much and seem to always find a reason not to.  There are so many variables - the colour's not quite right, the shape isn't good for you or the feel of the fabric doesn't make your skin happy.

And sometimes, it’s just that an item doesn’t look as good as it used to.  When something is a favourite it’s hard to let it go of, but then when you think about how often you’ve worn it (a lot)…  I came across a great quote on Laura’s blog The Chic Planner which has helped me release a few items:

Last season, I gave away my favourite navy and white blouse. It was worn out looking, and I could no longer wear it with confidence as a best quality item in my wardrobe.

The last part of this quote which I have bolded, helped me immensely when I was dithering over decluttering something.

In my dream quest for a small-size clothing collection, I enjoy editing out the not-quite-right pieces and this allows all my favourites and newer items to shine brightly, making me happy when I slide open the wardrobe (or a dresser drawer) in the mornings.  I actually do this year round and keep a donation box in our guest bedroom which gathers up saleable items and gets donated when full.

To inspire and keep me focused on my wardrobe journey, I have imagined a scenario to keep in mind what I want my wardrobe to have the essence of.

You are in the shining city of Paris.  It’s your first day there and you’ve emerged from your darling little hotel room, showered and fresh, with shiny clean blow-dried hair and light, glowing makeup.  You are meeting a dear friend for lunch later on, but this morning is all yours.

Taking care to keep track of the streets and alleys as you look around the arrondisement you are in, you turn up a quaint cobbled side street and look in a boutique window.  As you walk in your senses are immediately assaulted with racks and racks of mismatched clothing in all different sizes and colours. 

You have a hard time imagining that an outfit can be pulled from all these racks despite a plethora of clothing styles and many, many pieces to choose from.  There are shoeboxes stacked up in uneven piles everywhere and other unrelated items for sale also.

Because the boutique is so packed with stuff, it can't be easily cleaned and this lends an overall sense of stagnation and mustiness.  The music being played adds to the 'get me outta here' feeling - you literally have trouble breathing easily with all this happening around you.

You exit the boutique quickly and look at the next one you pass.  Aaah, that looks more inviting.

A gleaming black and glass front door is flanked by potted standard buxus and it shuts behind you as you step across the polished white ash floor and onto a huge, Persian silk rug in shades of black, grey, taupe and cream. The rug is faded and almost threadbare but it looks amazing, and absolutely perfect in this setting.

‘Bonjour Madame’, the slender shop assistant calls out melodically from her counter.

Right in front of you is a large round oak table with an oversized vase of fragrant white and pale pink lilies in the centre, with glossy books, beautiful candles, artisanal soaps and tubes of handcream arranged around it.

You notice the soft level of sultry jazz lounge music playing at a slow tempo which lulls you into a relaxing frame of mind.

As you look around you see there aren’t a lot of items for sale in this store, but everything in there you would happily have in your own wardrobe.  It’s like someone curated the most perfect and deceptively simple capsule collection in expensive-looking muted tones and chic neutrals.

I’ve often daydreamed about having a wardrobe that is like a bijou and chic Parisian boutique and why shouldn’t it be a reality for me?  Why do I need to hold onto everything I’ve ever owned, pieces I’ll never wear again and items in different sizes, just because I’ve spent money on them?

Isn’t it better that all of these things go to someone else who will enjoy wearing them if I'm never going to?  Another great piece of inspiration I came across recently was on Deborah’s The Beautiful Matters blog when she wrote on her experience with Project 333.  The post is fantastic and I also loved what one of her commenters had to say:

I don't think I even have 33 things in my closet. I keep things to a minimal as I can't stand digging through clothes I've grown tired of, never really liked, or they don't fit correctly anymore. When it comes to clothes I'm not sentimental. At the end of a season, if I've loved and worn something a lot, I'm usually done with it so it goes in the giveaway box. If I still love, then I keep for next year. (from Brenda @ Its A Beautiful Life).

Isn't that fabulously said?  So simple, and yet more beautiful inspiration to help me pare down to the most perfectly distilled (yet ever evolving) wardrobe which, despite this lengthy blog post, means I can think less about what to put on in the morning, because I've already put time and energy into planning it before then.