Minimalism update re: books

Earlier this month I wrote about “ridding myself of life’s excess” and embarking on the process of decluttering and living with less stuff. I managed to get many containers of donations to the local thrift store and finally threw out stuff that wasn’t good for anyone.

This month I tackled my bookshelf. It was the part of my room I dreaded decluttering more than my make up drawer or closet. The books I own(ed) were the ones I had read a few times and loved. I never bought a book I hadn’t already read – that sounds weird, but taking a $20 chance on a book that could be a dud wasn’t fun. I liked to collect the books I cherished. It wasn’t until someone tagged me in a Twitter discussion about getting rid of books that I gave it any thought.

Books on a shelf make you feel/seem smart and well-read. Books on a shelf served a secondary purpose as decor. Books on a shelf reminded me of what stories mattered to me over the years. Could I let them go?

Reading Be More With Less blog post on letting go of books helped. She gives great tips on how to let go and acknowledges why it’s hard to do it, even when we want to declutter. With that inspiration, I pulled all the books from my shelf (not including my Paralegal textbooks!) and started letting go. Most novels were read once and never opened again, some others were duplicates (either my mum or my brother had a copy too), and some I never ended up reading.

After considering how much value (real or sentimental) each book contributed to my life, I had a large bag full of books to get rid of and 10 books left on my shelf. I took the bag to the local used bookstore for a trade in and ended up getting $48 cash. Sure, I probably spent a lot more than that, but a little extra cash is better than none at all! While I was there, I browsed around and found a book my brother is interested in reading and picked it up for a fraction of the hardcover sale price (his birthday is in a few weeks).

So, what did getting rid of books do for me? It unburdened me from the annoyance of trying to fit things on the shelf in a certain way and it freed up an entire shelf where I can display some of my “sentimental tokens”. It also looks better!

Wondering what books I kept?

  1. David Beckham by David Beckham, 2013
    • I’ve been a fan since I was 10 years old and I loved how this book captured the many highlights of his career. I also submitted a photo (along with 9,999 others) to be part of the “fan photo mosaic”, so I’m in there! Even if it’s only a few pixels 🙂
  2. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
    • Much different from the movie, but I still felt drawn to this version of Holly Golightly  – and it did inspire my favourite movie!
  3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
    • “And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.” Enough said.
  4. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
    • As someone who has suffered from depression, I felt an understanding with this story and I remember the emotion it evoked in my when I read it for a grade 12 novel study. Hoping to read it again soon (but no worries, I’m in a good place now!)
  5. La Edad de Oro by Jose Marti
    • The first time I traveled to Cuba I was 8 years old and my parents brought lots of toiletries to give to people we met. We gave a man at the book booth in Havana bars of soap and toothpaste. He showed his utmost gratitude by giving me this book.
  6. How to be Lovely: The Audrey Hepburn Way of Life
    • Her elegance has always been inspiring to me and I love how this small book draws quotes on many aspects of life (career, love, health, dogs). She was beautiful inside and out.
  7. Baha’u’llah’s Teachings on Spiritual Reality
    • An old friend lent this to me to introduce me to the Baha’i faith but I never got a chance to give it back (I think she lives in Europe now). It’s a great, concise, collection of spiritual teachings and a really readable way to begin learning about the faith. I still read it (and I have more teachings on my iPad).
  8. The Ultimate Student Cookbook by Tiffany Goodall
    • I’ve actually cooked several recipes from this book. I should probably move it to the kitchen though.
  9. Hyperspace by Michio Kaku
    • Ok, technically my boyfriend’s book that somehow ended up in my boxes but I did read about half of it a few years ago. It’s my “aspiration” book because it’s so far from my realm of knowledge (I’m not he science type), but I still want to revisit it and be able to say, “Yeah, I read that.” I also feel like a Stephen Hawking book would be good for this too.
  10. Dragonball Z comic book in French
    • From my boyfriend. He passed this childhood favourite of his to me earlier in our relationship and even though I never actually read it (oops!!), it’s awesome to see something that was special for him growing up.

They may not be intellectual or literary masterpieces according to most, but they have mean a lot to me and I believe they add value to my life. I’m not that worried about buying new books because it wasn’t something I shopped for often; I also have a Kobo Aura to get books on; and I’m in school so reading time is all about class readings (yay, law!).

And a plus from this project? I got the rest of my family in on it too! The living room bookcases are looking mighty tidy.

Healing, au naturale.

from Health Fitness Revolution

Health. It’s a cliche resolution, but this year I want to take note of the weaknesses in my health and make changes to my lifestyle to improve it. Everyone wants to eat less, move more, and lose a few pounds – but my physique is not my focus this year. I’ve tried that – the dieting, the brutal workouts, the self-critique and anxiety – and it worked..until it didn’t.

This year I’m focusing on where I don’t feel healthy. My first major issue was headaches. I used to get these frequent, excruciating, torturous headaches that would make it nearly impossible to get out of bed, let alone work or study. Ibuprofen to the rescue; sometimes 2, but more like 4, 6, 8, 10 in a day. If felt like my head would literally explode if I didn’t hold it down and I would often get sick to my stomach. I even went to the emergency room last winter. I didn’t really know what to do about it, long term, so I depended on my high doses of ibuprofen and hoped for the best.

The second major issue is sleep. I toss and turn for hours before falling asleep. My mind is just on super speed all night and it makes it impossible to feel well-rested in the morning.

I realized there could be a different, more holistic, approach to my issues – naturopathy. My mum had mentioned she was going to start seeing one and I thought, “Hey, I want to try that.” At my first appointment I told her all about the headaches and the sleep issues. She probed for more details on my symptoms and my lifestyle habits. I was honest and mentioned that I had a caffeine & diet coke habit that was hard to beat. Coffee fueled me. I would wake up, drink a cup, get ready then drink a cup with breakfast, get a cup to take to morning class, get a cup before the second class, get another cup during the break if the class was long, go home unwind with a cup, have another cup after dinner. Insane, I know!

My naturopath broke the bad news as gently as she could – I needed to eliminate aspertame from my diet – and I needed to limit my coffee intake to AM only. These may seem like “obvious” changes I should have made a long time ago, but when you’re putting that stuff in your body day in, day out, you don’t think it could possibly be hurting you. She also prepared a herbal mixture to take daily, along with some vitamins.

The first couple weeks I put reminders on my phone to check off as I got through one day at a time without coffee after noon, diet coke, and gum (aspertame galore!). I took it one day at a time, and I did have 2 or 3 days when I indulged in a diet coke (I sure did pay for it the next day), but it got easier. Now, it’s pretty much automatic. If someone offers me a piece of gum, I say, “No, thank you”. And when I’m at a restaurant, I got for Perrier or water.

The question is, did it work?

Yes. My headaches are not nearly as frequent or intense as they used to be. I get my usual PMS headaches, but other than that I only experienced 2 other days with headaches. Life without ever-looming headaches is a vast improvement to my daily functioning. I’m more alert and focused. I’m less stressed and depressed. I sleep better (not for as long as I should, but that’s my own doing).

So far, all the changes have been positive and I don’t feel like I’m sacrificing much. I still enjoy my morning cup of coffee, and now I chew “pur gum”, an aspertame-free brand found at most health food stores – and I was lucky enough to find it during a 2 for 1 sale at Rachelle-Bery in Montreal over the winter break.

Flirting with Minimalism

According to The Minimalists,

Minimalism is a tool used to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.

I started thinking about “ridding myself of life’s excess” (a.k.a de-cluttering) a month ago when final exams were winding down and I needed to fill the void with another form of productivity. I wouldn’t consider myself a “hoarder”, per se, but I definitely hang onto things – this would become blatantly obvious whenever I moved (5-6 times in less than 4 years).

Rewind to December 2013, when I moved back home. I had numerous storage bins full of stuff. I filled two dressers and a closet with stuff. I had more storage bins in the basement with stuff. I had a shelf full of stuff. I bought two of those plastic drawer sets to fill with stuff. And for the most part, that’s all it was: stuff. They cluttered my room for an entire year before I decided I was going to rid myself of life’s excess (I can’t get over how beautiful that sounds).

My first small project was my “Make Up” drawer set. For someone who wears the same look every day, I had accumulated a shit ton of make up “stuff”. For example, I found at least 9 eye shadow quads that all looked almost the same (nude, nude, nude)!  I gave it some thought and kept two that I frequent the most, and one for “fun”. I repeated the process with every drawer and category of make up (eyeliners, mascaras, foundations, blushes, nail polish) and by the end, my drawers were a lot emptier and a lot more organized. What I have in there is what I use and I don’t need to search for any of it anymore.

I repeated this process with the various storage bins in my room and in the basement – sorting what to keep, throw out, and donate. I came across a lot of nostalgia and enjoyed the trip down memory lane, but ultimately, I only kept what was truly important to me (ex. souvenirs from the 2005 International Children’s Games – a once-in-a-lifetime experience!).

After that week of ridding myself of life’s excessI had only one box of momentos tucked away in the basement and many boxes of donations. The experience was an all-around win-win: I took back space in my room, reminisced on my childhood, donated lots of books/clothes, and felt a new-found sense of freedom and mental clarity.

I’m no full-blown minimalist – my worldly possessions don’t fit in carry-on – but I am enjoying flirting with its philosophy and applying it to my life in baby steps. Will I ever whittle my wardrobe down to a handful of items? Maybe, maybe not. But, I am more aware of what I own and more conscious of wanting something, versus needing it.

I encourage everyone to re-evaluate what they own, why they own it, and whether there’s a true need to add to it. It’s beautifully liberating.

Side note: Here’s a minimalist you’re probably familiar with

Who doesn’t love a comeback?

Snow Covered Fence - Rachel Kramer Flickr

Snow Covered Fence – Rachel Kramer Flickr

Oh, January. The fresh start we all wait for (guilty as charged). Any day or month would have been a good day to start blogging/writing again, but here we are at the beginning of 2015, and for some reason I feel “inspired” by the abundance of resolution-type posts I keep seeing.

I think the motivation to write now is because of how much changed in 2014 and I want/need to reflect on it.

I’m not going to lie or sugar coat: 2014 had a rough start. It was an uphill battle with depression for the first few months. It was dark and it was lonely as I transitioned from the bliss of “college living” to moving back home with no job prospects and debt. I thought it was the worst possible way my life could have gone and I felt ashamed and embarrassed. I know there are literally thousands of people who met the same outcome of post-grad life, but it felt like I was the only one.

It was a college program calendar and a drop-in therapy session that “saved my life” just when I needed it. I can’t remember exactly how I found the Paralegal program, but when I did, I knew it was for me. I was quickly accepted and that gave me a light at the end of the tunnel.

Looking back, I’m conscious of how far I have come and I’m proud of it. I overcame inner struggles to get up in the morning and find something to do with my life. I could have easily sunk further down into depression, but I didn’t. (For anyone that’s fought that battle, you know how significant that is.)

This week I started semester 2 of 3 in my program. In semester 1 I surpassed my personal GPA goal and I hope to do it again. (I don’t just hope, though, I plan on working hard for it). I made good connections with other motivated people. I feel confident this was the right choice for me.

That being said, 2015 is probably going to be a year full of growth and change and I figure it’s a good year to start blogging and reflecting at more frequent intervals.