30-day challenge: close your eyes and really listen to one piece of music each day

Aerial photograph of the sea and rocks

Thank you to those who helped choose my second 30-day challenge of 2018.

After spending January battling with a shopping ban, I was ready for something fun.

So I put a few options together and let the people of Twitter decide.

Option one was spending a month trying to get to grips with Japanese: I’m off there in a few months but my efforts to learn the language have so far been halting to say the least.

Option two was to rediscover the art of writing real, proper letters – with no dog-turd emojis or anything – by writing and posting one a day.

And option three was a suggestion from my wife, a musician, who said I could put on some headphones each day and really listen to one piece of music.

Just like any good race, this one was decided in the final furlong. Option two had long been in the lead (to the extent that I had already accepted the inevitable and written the first letter) but then at the final straight, option three pulled off a daring overtaking manoeuvre and clinched the title by one vote.

So two days ago I settled down to properly listen to one piece of music, with eyes closed.

I really recommend the exercise. Focusing on one sense, just for a few minutes, felt like an act of meditation.

Like many people, I struggle to focus on just one thing these days, so it was interesting to notice how many times my mind started to wander in the middle of a track or I began to itch to do something else while I listened.

But on the whole I’ve been enjoying the experience – it’s pulled me right back to my teenage years, listening to cassettes on my Walkman in the dark when I should have been asleep.

I think setting aside some time each day to choose a new song to devote a few minutes to will be a really nice habit to get into.

If anyone is interested in the tracks I’ve listened to so far, day one was Shake Em Off, a track from Syd’s album Fin (my most recent download), day two was Lights On by FKA twigs (which I found surprisingly troubling for some reason) and today I’ve just sat down in my favourite armchair to listen to Billie Holiday’s charming I Get Along Without You Very Well.

They have all been female artists so far and I think I’ll stick with the theme.

Looking through my music collection, I was struck by how many of the albums are by male musicians. It feels apt, somehow, and very ‘2018’, to take the time to really listen to some lesser-heard voices for a while.

A wuss in the snow: The unexpected highs and lows of a 30-day shopping ban

Well, I’m glad that’s over.

My first ‘shopping ban’ was only a mere 30 days long, but I’m embarrassed by how hard I found it.

I’ve written in the past about how years of paring down my belongings and adopting a more minimalist lifestyle has helped me develop a healthy scepticism towards shopping.

It’s not as if wandering through shopping centres angered or upset me, I just felt like I had some kind of superpower which made me immune to all the tricks marketers play to part people from their money. (Even in homewares shops. Lovely, lovely homewares shops…)

So at the beginning of this month I had thought a shopping ban, especially one for as short a spell as 30 days, would be a walk in the park.

As a result, I’d made the rules of the game pretty tough.

Back in December, I had originally considered granting myself permission to buy one specific item of clothing during January.

I have a teeny-tiny capsule wardrobe at the moment so when my work boots gave out in the snow around Christmas time, I was pretty sure I’d need to replace them pretty damn quick. Snowy toes suck!

But then I decided to get a grip and wait the month out without new boots. It was only a 30-day challenge, for God’s sake. What’s the point of a month-long shopping ban if you’re still buying stuff??

Instead, I began wearing ballet pumps or court shoes into work each day and thought no more about boots. What a trooper. WINTER BOOTS ARE FOR WUSSES!

So…

The shopping ban went well for the first two weeks or so.

Knowing that I was immune to the usual shopping frenzy, I even joined my wife Ruth on a trip around the January sales.

We visited three of my favourite stores (all homewares, of course). I knew I was testing my resolve to the max – being cocky, if you like – but resisting felt easy. I just had to remind myself that I could admire a beautiful object without having to possess it and I would be able to walk out empty-handed.

Then in mid-January, my brain just flipped. I think it was starting to rebel against the notion that I was banned from doing something. Suddenly, I was fantasising about buying a new phone one day, a fancy new camera the next.

I found myself researching camera phones online and knew I might be in trouble.

Then I found myself in a claustrophobic, thronging clothes shop within one of the UK’s biggest shopping centres as the January sales drew to a close and the heavy discounts began.

There was a blizzard outside and I wasn’t looking forward to wearing ballet pumps through the snow come Monday morning.

In front of me, there appeared some boots! £70, reduced to £20! None in my size….until I checked the very last pair at the back of the pile.

Reader, I cracked.

I’m not proud. It was only the first of 12 30-day challenges I’m planning to set myself in 2018 and I’ve already tripped up.

But I guess the exercise has taught me a few things:

  • I’m not the sort of person who deals well with bans
  • I am not immune to the lure of a bargain
  • I shouldn’t be cocky
  • I am a wuss in the snow

Anyway, at least my first 30-day challenge is over. Details about the second will be coming shortly.

I know some of you guys were joining me by setting yourselves a 30-day challenge this month, either a shopping ban or something else entirely. How did you get on? Better than me?

2018: My year of 30-day challenges

Heavy fog on a moor

There’s something dreary about this time of year.

The party season, with all its excesses and its pressures, is coming to an end. In its place comes the prospect of months of long days at work, dark evening commutes and cold, wet weekends.

If an image comes to my mind, it’s the photo I took, above, on Dartmoor at the beginning of this year. What should have been a stunning walk in one of the UK’s most beautiful places ended up being one part pointless and one part creepy-as-hell.

That’s why I’ve never really understood New Year’s resolutions. January is miserable enough without trying to get through it sugar-free, or by committing to taking early-morning runs in the drizzle each day.

You only feel like a failure when you inevitably find yourself hiding under your duvet one morning doing shameful things with a family-size bag of Revels.

Instead, for 2018, I’m hoping to set myself challenges in a different way.

Taking my inspiration from a talk by Matt Cutts (who was himself inspired by Morgan Spurlock), I’d like to try a series of 30-day challenges for each month of the year.

I’ll put no pressure on myself to stick with the habit after the month has elapsed. If it works for me, I’ll carry on. If it doesn’t, I can ditch it with my head held high.

For my first month, I’m going to try something which has been intriguing me for a while now: a shopping ban.

I’ve followed with interest as Michelle McGagh dived into her no-spend year, Cait Flanders completed her epic two-year shopping ban and other bloggers tried similar challenges, like trying not to buy new clothes for a year.

But as a reformed consumer who rarely goes shopping any more, I’ve always assumed that I don’t need to follow suit.

I’m now putting my smug assumptions to the test. Can I save a pile of cash by trying a shopping ban? Will it all be a piece of cake? Only one way to find out!

The rules for no-spend challenges can vary, so here are the groundrules I’m setting myself for January:

All purchases will be banned except for the following:

  • Groceries and essential household products (think loo roll)
  • Utilities and bills
  • Basic travel costs
  • A £20 monthly entertainment budget, not to be used on any physical goods

I’d be interested to know if people think some more rules (or more exceptions) should be on the list – thoughts, anyone?

Decluttering for stress-relief

Hi everyone!

Sorry I went off the radar for a bit there, my wife wasn’t well and had to undergo surgery, so I was a bit tied up playing nurse.

All’s well now, you’ll be pleased to hear, and I’m ready to get stuck back into some blog posts.

But there were points over the last month or two when my life was looking pretty hectic and unpredictable. Not just because of my wife’s illness, but for various other reasons too.

One thing I noticed during the most stressful points was how often I reacted by going and doing a spot of decluttering. It was as if paring down my possessions had become a method of self-soothing, like having a glass of wine or vegetating in front of some trash-TV.

I can’t really explain why this was. Perhaps it’s a habit I’m into now, and old habits felt like a stabilising force when things were in flux. Perhaps keeping busy felt comforting. Perhaps it felt like I couldn’t control much in my life, but here was something I could control: the objects I owned.

And certainly, the end product – simplicity at home – seemed so much more important to me when other aspects of my life were complicated. I craved clear workspaces, pared-down wardrobes and simple meals because it was one less thing to worry about.

Of course, none of this works if the decluttering process itself is stressful. So I was careful to resist my natural tendency to add in levels of complexity.

Usually, I love a challenge, so the ‘gamification’ of decluttering really works for me. Whether it’s playing the month-long MinsGame or the three-month capsule wardrobe challenge Project 333, I usually respond well to deadlines, timescales, public accountability and, of course, a little healthy competition.

But over these past few weeks, I let all that go. I let the decluttering happen at its own natural pace. No pressure, no expectations, no rules.

And you know what? I still found myself getting rid of plenty of things, all the same.

Sometimes the necessity to keep things simple actually helped me to let go. For example, I didn’t have the time or energy to sell old books, CDs or DVDs online, so I bundled them all off to charity shops, and they were out of my life far quicker than they otherwise might have been.

Here are just a few of the items I’ve let go of. (Except the dog. Still got him!)

A collage of items I have recently decluttered

 

Do you have any tips for decluttering at times of high stress?

Brutally honest cosmetics reviews: round three results

If you’re familiar with The Minimalists, you’ll know they’re all about keeping hold of what ‘adds value’ to your life and letting go of the rest.

But if you have a pile of unopened cosmetics, how do you know what will add value and what won’t?

I’ve been turning that question into a bit of a game for the past few months, by testing out what really works for me and what is a waste of space, literally. In the name of scientific rigour, I’ve been applying products to one side of my face or body, and seeing whether my wife, Ruth, can guess which is which.

The results of round three are in:

Neal's Yard hand creamProduct: Neal’s Yard Geranium and Orange Hand Cream
First impressions: Putting hand cream on one hand but not the other is harder than it sounds. In case you’re wondering, I have had to get my feet involved. The cream itself was really thick and smelled great.
Results: You know what, I’m actually pretty convinced this has done something. The hand getting treatment looks smoother than the other, with fewer fine lines on the back.
Did Ruth guess right?: She did indeed, as did my unsuspecting sister when I quizzed her.
The winner: High-maintenance. I might even go so far as to say this may be the best product I’ve reviewed to date.

Ragdale Hall scrubProduct: Ragdale Hall body scrub
First impressions: Fancy, fancy, fancy. This is from a fancy spa that some of my family have visited before, and it’s now getting its products onto the high street. The packaging was fancy-pants and the scrub even contained mother-of-pearl. See, told you it was fancy.
Results: It smelled good. The moisturising effect was quite noticeable, but the exfoliating effect was less so. I’ve found exfoliating mitts and loofahs to be more effective. I’m not sure if it’s a coincidence, but the plughole in the shower seemed to drain slower when I’d been using this.
Did Ruth guess right?: Sadly, no. She had no idea.
The winner: Low-maintenance. It’s all used up now, which is kind of a shame because it lent our bathroom a distinct air of fanciness.

Radial peelProduct: Radial Super Acids X-treme Acid Rush Peel
First impressions: Hmm, I really wasn’t sure about this. The bottle is lime green and has words like ‘acid’, and ‘X-treme’ on it. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to slather my face with anything that spelled ‘extreme’ like that.
Results: To my relief, this did not make my flesh melt off like that fella in Indiana Jones who drinks from the wrong Holy Grail. It smelled fruity and looked like a pretty innocuous, even watery, see-through liquid. However, I’m not sure it’s done much, to be honest.
Did Ruth guess right: She had no clue.
The winner: Low-maintenance.

Korres lip butterProduct: Korres Guava Lip Butter
First impressions: Nice, pared-down packaging suggests it does what it says on the tin.
Results: I dismissed the idea of testing it on either the top or bottom lip (I literally wouldn’t be able to shut my cake-hole if I’d gone down this route) and instead went for applying it to the right side of both my top and bottom lip. Once the product was applied, my lips remained well lubricated (stop giggling in the back) until about lunchtime.
Did Ruth guess right?: Nope, but then she said I should be testing out lip balm in winter, really, which was a fair point.
The winner: A draw. Maybe a test to come back to.

Overall winner: Neal’s Yard Geranium and Orange Hand Cream

Round four coming soon!


If you like what you read, subscribe to Want Less via the arrow at the top of the page, follow Claire on social media using the buttons under the title or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to check out Claire’s other site, Simplicity Voices.

The case for independent thinking

The Andromeda galaxy


This is a guest post by Ali Cornish of the fantastic blog, Everthrive. You should check it out.


Many centuries ago, Rene Descartes coined the phrase: ‘I think, therefore I am.’ He believed that the first defining aspect of humanity was that we are creatures of thought; the only reason we know we are truly alive is due to the fact that we can think about our existence. Our ability to think independently defines our humanity.

Our ability to think independently is being challenged.

Far from the 1600s when Descartes made his philosophical proclamation, in the 2000s we often don’t take advantage of our humanity as he previously defined it. Oftentimes, when we are called to think about something, or come across a question to be answered, we quickly pull out our devices and ask Google. Pretty much everyone I know does this, myself included.

This practice, while very convenient and expedient, actually may cause more harm than good. Quickly turning to Google for the answer is evidence that we are losing the patience, the ability, and the will to engage in independent, deep thinking.

“I think, therefore I am,” has turned into “I Google, therefore I am”.

Why is deep thinking important?

Deep thinking is an indicator that we are engaging, retaining, and building upon learning opportunities. If we don’t pause and attempt to puzzle out answers for ourselves, we lose a valuable opportunity to enhance the power of our minds. Immediate access to data is changing our ability to think independently and engage in deep attention.

I will explain this further using an example I bring up quite a bit in teaching. If we want to become physically stronger, we have to eat right and exercise. We can’t just take supplements and expect lasting results.

The same idea goes for our minds. If we want to exercise our minds and become mentally stronger, retain more information, and be able to think independently, we have to take the time to listen actively and read closely. We can’t simply do an internet search for the information we seek and expect our minds to flourish and get stronger, with lasting results.

It’s easier to think shallowly. So, we do it.

Immediate access to data has its drawbacks, but it can of course be very useful in certain situations.

When Josh and I arrive at our restaurant of choice, salivating to the thought of fresh chips and salsa, and to our horror, the lights are off, windows shuttered – It’s closed!!??? – we need a backup plan, stat! So, he gets on Yelp and I get on Google Maps; we quickly select somewhere new.

Situation solved, case closed. And we are able to eat instead of starve to death! It’s a technology win.

Now think of another scenario. Josh and I are hanging out with some old friends. We haven’t seen each other in a while. It’s a really fun conversation, animated, with ebbs and flows, everyone is engaging on multiple levels. And, to my delight, I find out that one of the group actually lived down the street from me in San Diego some 15 years ago!

So, I sneak into my phone to pull up a Google image of my old apartment to continue the discussion. By the time I’m ready to share, the conversation has shifted, morphed, and I’m instantly out of place with my blurry Google image. Looking around for a new thread
of discussion, I see there are others just as disengaged as I am. On their phones.

When we turn our attention to our phones, we rob ourselves of a fulfilling, naturally evolving conversation.

Shifting our attention to our devices, even for a little while, alters the natural flow of things. We lose what our friends said, felt, and meant. We lose the eye contact, so important for creating empathy. We cease to actively listen, resulting in our company thinking we aren’t interested in what they have to say, showing our friends that we don’t care at all about them.
We stop thinking independently and rob ourselves of the very attribute that defines our humanity.

I didn’t need to look up a photo of my old apartment at that very moment. Instead, I could have continued the conversation about San Diego and what it meant to both of us. We could have shared our memories created a meaningful exchange.

When I wanted information, I didn’t dig into the back of my mind to conjure up a verbal image of my apartment. I found it easier to search for a picture online.

Lame. My friends deserved better than this.

According to MIT Professor, Sherry Turkle: “89 percent of Americans say that during their last social interaction, they took out a phone, and 82 percent said that it deteriorated the conversation they were in.”

Studies indicate that even a silent, phone placed screen-down between two people at a table causes them to share less with each other. The result of a phone’s mere presence in a conversation is feeling less connected, less interested, less empathetic, and less human.

How can we reclaim our humanity and our ability to think independently?

Listed below are several strategies that are sure to limit distractions caused by the presence of cell phones:

1. If you’re going out, leave your phone at home or in the car. Or, be content that it is resting
quietly in your pocket or purse. This will take some will-power!

2. If you’re staying home and don’t want to be distracted by your phone, leave it upstairs or in a room seldom visited. This takes a little less will power than #1.

3. Utilize the Airplane Mode setting which disables Bluetooth, WIFI, and telephone settings. The problem with this is that you can just turn Airplane Mode off anytime. It’s best to combine this step with #1 or #2 for optimal effectiveness.

4. Turn on “Do Not Disturb” while you are in the presence of others. This setting can limit calls and texts sent to your device. I use this all of the time!

5. Set “Quiet Hours” on your phone. For example, I set my quiet hours from 9pm to 8am, so I am unable to receive calls or texts between those times. Setting my quiet hours has done wonders for my sleep and my overall wellbeing.

6. If you must have your phone with you, turn off the notifications so you won’t be at the mercy of your phone. Remember, our phones exist for us, not the other way around.

7. There is power in numbers. If you’re out with friends, have a verbal agreement about phone use, such as ‘no visible phones at the table’ OR ‘if you must use your phone, step outside.’

8. If you have the right equipment, set up an Aversion Therapy situation in which you receive a shock every time you pick up your phone (just kidding!)

If you’re interested, check out a few of my previous posts where I emphasize the importance of constructing definitive boundaries between ourselves and our personal technology devices.

All in all, setting boundaries helps us reconnect with experiences and people in the real world.

Be Free

Find Yourself Lost

The Importance of Disconnecting to Connect

Wherever You Are, Be All There

Put Down Your Phone and Live Your Life


If you like what you read, subscribe to Want Less via the arrow at the top of the page, follow Claire on social media using the buttons under the title or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to check out Claire’s other site, Simplicity Voices.

Back by popular demand: brutally honest cosmetics reviews

Well, you spoke and I listened: I’m reviving my snarky cosmetics reviews.

So many readers said they’d like me to reprise the series, so after a brief break (for my own sanity – I can’t stand being this high-maintenance!) they’re back.

This month, I will be trying out four neglected beauty products from my cupboard to see whether they’re worth keeping.

As in previous months, I’ll be sampling the products on one side of my face/body/wherever and getting my wife, Ruth, to guess which side has been getting the treatment.

Only the very best survive. It’s like the Hunger Games – for my face.

For the third round of the experiment, I’ll be testing out:

Four beauty products

For the hands: Neal’s Yard Geranium and Orange Hand Cream

For the body: Ragdale Hall body scrub

For the face: Radial Super Acids X-treme Acid Rush Peel

For the lips: Korres Guava Lip Butter

If anyone needs to catch up on previous installments of my silly reviews, here they are:

Round One results

Round Two results

And, given that this is a fairly short post, let me point you towards an interview I’ve recently done with the lovely Gilbert Index blog here. We discuss low-tech finance hacks, panic attacks and getting drunk at a Japanese festival. What’s not to like?


If you like what you read, subscribe to Want Less via the arrow at the top of the page, follow Claire on social media using the buttons under the title or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to check out Claire’s other site, Simplicity Voices.

 

10 lessons from Project 333: the ups and downs of my capsule wardrobe experience

Could you get by wearing the same handful of outfits for the next few months?

Courtney Carver’s wildly popular capsule wardrobe challenge Project 333 asks people to do just that: wearing only 33 items, including clothes, coats, shoes and accessories, for a three-month period.

I’ve reached the end of my Project 333 challenge and if you’re thinking about giving it a try yourself, here’s a warts-and-all account of how I’ve found the past three months:

1. Project 333 is harder than it sounds

I thought I had a pretty small wardrobe as it was, but limiting myself to 33 items was tough. I went on holiday and couldn’t wear flip-flops because they weren’t among my 33 pieces of clothing. I have to admit to questioning my commitment to the cause when I found myself barefoot on a beach, standing repeatedly on broken glass. (Note: broken-glass barefoot torture is not a compulsory part of minimalism)

2. Your clothing choices have to be pretty strategic

Project 333 doesn’t stop you from wearing bright or patterned clothing. But it’s easier if you can mix-and-match your items to create a variety of outfits, and I found myself coming back time and time again to my staples of plain greys, blacks and blues.

3. Limiting your choices can make life simpler

Most of the time, heading straight to a select few hangers each morning to pick out an outfit for the day was a pretty simple undertaking. Similarly, it didn’t take me long at all to choose what to wear on a night out with friends. And as for fancy occasions, my choice of dress, shoes, bag and necklace were pretty much made for me already.

4. You have to be on top of your laundry game

Do I wear the slightly-damp-from-the-washing-machine top, or the dirty top with yesterday’s cooking stain on it, into the office today? These were the glamorous choices I ended up making when I neglected to do the laundry for more than a few days at a time. (I went with damp, by the way)

5. The project will make you realise the value you get (or don’t get) from what you buy

This applies to people, like me, who rarely buy clothes as well as those who hit the shops all the time. In the three-month period, I bought one item of clothing – a good-quality new raincoat – which had left me with feelings of guilt and buyer’s remorse. I had still been battling debt at the time, and felt I’d succumbed to an unnecessary impulse purchase. The day after, I very nearly returned it. But it turned out to be one of my most frequently worn items. In hindsight, it was a good buy and I should have chilled the heck out about it.

Just as it will help shopaholics question excessive spending habits, it will help frugal types loosen up about buying higher-quality items, if they know they’re going to get a lot of value from them.

6. Build in some ‘wildcard’ choices to give yourself extra flexibility

When I first began Project 333, I chose 30 items and kept open three empty slots, which I called my ‘wildcards’. Boy, this came in handy. The slots were filled within a few weeks, because I’d been fairly bad at predicting everything I’d need for three months, hence the later barefoot-on-glass scenario. The three items I ended up selecting were:white scarf

A white scarf (which doubled up as a kind of shawl over sleeveless dresses)

pink and silver necklace

A necklace (I’d forgotten to add any jewellery to my list)

turquoise raincoat

My new raincoat

7. Take it all with a dash of humour if you don’t want it to add to your stress levels

Picture the scene a few weeks ago: A heavy shower had abated, leaving the late evening sunshine glistening over the newly cleansed streets. I’ve taken the opportunity to go on a quiet stroll around the neighbourhood with my wife and dog. I feel…content. Even my wellies feel comfortable, and I can splash through the puddles without a care in the… Hang on, wellies aren’t on my list!! Goddamn!!!!!!!!!

I spent the rest of the walk in a sulk, so mad at myself for having broken the rules. But if you read Courtney Carver’s great website, you’ll fairly soon realise that this is not the point of the experiment at all. She’s pretty clear that while there are rules, you’re then free to make them work for you. For me, the challenge was about trying to remove an element of stress from my life. So beating myself up over one mistake was hardly in the spirit of the endeavour.

8. People probably won’t notice

I had no comments from workmates about why I was wearing the same outfits to work day in, day out. I can only assume they hadn’t realised. People are usually taking less notice of you than you think they are.

9. When you reach the end, your original wardrobe will feel ridiculously extravangant

I have to admit, I really loved creaking open the drawer where I’d stashed all my other clothes. So much choice! I thoroughly enjoyed putting on long-lost favourites that I had taken for granted beforehand. I also – straight off the bat – got rid of nine or ten items I knew I didn’t need any more, either because I hadn’t missed them or they had been a staple during Project 333 and so I’d worn them to death.

10. One round of Project 333 is enough to give you a serious insight into simplifying your wardrobe for good

Many people go straight from one round of Project 333 into the next, choosing another 33 items which will see them through the next season, and repeating season after season. I guess living within those boundaries permanently helps them to simplify their lives, and that’s great.

But others – like me – work best by thinking of a strict challenge as an experiment of sorts, to see which elements to keep and which to leave behind.

Project 333 has helped me in many ways: I have a new appreciation for the things I own, I’ve found it easier to say goodbye to clothes I didn’t miss, it’s helped me pack light on a holiday and it’s also helped me get a greater sense of my personal style.

I’m now ready to take what I’ve learnt and apply it to my full wardrobe, building a smaller, permanent collection of the things I love but without feeling hemmed in by any self-imposed rules.

Do temporary challenges help you simplify? Have you tried Project 333? Share your experiences below.


If you like what you read, subscribe to Want Less via the arrow at the top of the page, follow Claire on social media using the buttons under the title or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to check out Claire’s other site, Simplicity Voices.

Goodbye debt, it’s been…memorable

sky

I’m a little tipsy as I write this, so please bear with me.

I have had a few celebration drinks this evening because, as of today, July 1, 2017, for the first time in my adult life…I am debt-free!

I’m still not sure how I did it, quite frankly, and don’t ask me how I will get by until my next payday, because I seem to have paid off nearly a grand in a week and that doesn’t sound very sensible. Surely I need money to buy, like, food and stuff?

But right now I don’t care. I’ll worry about how to feed myself another day. I have done at least six air-punches today, and yup, just did another one. It’s like my arm is possessed.

The first thing I did after paying off that last horrible bit of credit card debt was give my other half a massive hug. She’s been an absolute star, knowing exactly when to leave me alone to save money and when to treat me to a little pick-me-up when the months of dull, dull deprivation took their toll. I was also incredibly lucky to have you all here cheering me on, as well as some fantastically supportive friends happy to listen to me whinge about being perpetually broke.

And maybe it’s the drinks talking, so forgive the following indulgent point – I can’t work out whether it’s too trite as my critical thinking faculties are not currently at their best.

At points over the years it felt as if being in debt was an integral part of my being, like there was no escaping the fact I was bad with money and always would be. It felt hopeless; inevitable; a fundamental flaw.

Now I get to re-write the rules.

So what harmful assumptions about your own limitations are holding you back?


If you like what you read, subscribe to Want Less via the arrow at the top of the page, follow Claire on social media using the buttons under the title or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to check out Claire’s other site, Simplicity Voices.

I made a big money mistake. And I’m blaming Japan

Cherry blossom in Japan

Urgh. I’ve been avoiding writing this post.

So much so, I haven’t written anything on this blog for weeks. Sorry for disappearing for a while.

Here’s what’s happened:

More than a year ago, I publicly committed to paying off all my debts by June, 2017.

Yup, the June 2017 we’re currently screaming towards the end of.

So I’ve been scrimping and saving for months – slaving over internet surveys to earn pennies and taking packed lunches to work to save a few pounds. Man, it’s been dull.

At the beginning of this month I had just £500 to go. I was already planning the triumphant blog post and the glass of something fizzy to celebrate the end of a 16-year battle with the credit cards, unsecured loans and overdrafts.

Then I disappointed myself by somehow slipping back into the old habits which got me into this mess in the first place.

In an attempt to incentivise myself to become debt-free, I’d been focusing on everything I would treat myself to, once I was shot of those hefty repayments.

Travel is my weakness, so top of the list was a dream holiday to Japan during its famous cherry blossom season next spring.

I bought a guide book. I watched TV travel shows. I even started learning hiragana– the first of three (yes, three) seemingly never-ending alphabets used in the Japanese language.

But I ended up getting completely carried away with my bouts of far-eastern dreaming, before discovering that the very specific type of accommodation I was hoping to stay in was already getting booked up for next spring, left, right and centre.

I’d creak open my laptop each morning to discover another place from my shortlist, gone.

Then, I watched a travel documentary which described hotel rooms and holiday rentals during the cherry blossom season as being ‘like gold dust’.

In a panic, I booked a place to stay and shoved the cost on a credit card.

And of course, in the process, I dealt a massive blow to my grand debt repayment plan.

So whether I can still get to debt-free by the end of the month, I really don’t know, but I’m running out of days and it doesn’t look good.

More importantly, it’s made me reflect on why I took leave of my senses and made such a seemingly stupid money decision, after years of reading finance blogs and inspirational stories about beating debt.

I fell straight into the traps I’d fallen into so many times before over the years. Traps laid by the tricks our minds play on us.

‘I deserve this.’

‘I should live a little.’

‘Ooh, shiny fun thing!’

‘If I don’t buy this now, it might not be there later.’

‘This is a good deal, because reasons.’

I’m trying to make the best of the situation I’m in now. As you can imagine, my money-saving has gone into overdrive and I’ll see where I am in a week’s time. You never know, I might yet pull this out of the bag.

But, boy, I’ve still got a lot to learn.