Low-maintenance versus high-maintenance beauty regimes: Round one results

Are beauty products worth the time, money and space they consume?

That’s the puzzle I’ve been trying to work out over the past month, while also doing a spot of decluttering.

As I explained in an earlier introductory post, I’m a bit of a sceptic when it comes to products, preferring my trusty bar soap and fresh water over face peels, body butters and hairsprays. In our household, any white goop in bottles gets the derisory nickname ‘elbow salad’* and often remains untouched.

But have I been missing out all along?

I’ve taken four random products from a stash of abandoned bottles and tubs in my bedside cabinet and put them to the test.

For the past four weeks, I’ve been applying them to only one side of my body to see whether there are any noticeable effects.

I’ve also asked my other half, Ruth, to guess which side has been getting treatment, and the results are in!

Rituals body creamProduct: Rituals Magic Touch Body Cream (Organic Rice Milk and Cherry Blossom)
First impressions: This smelled nice – kind of floral and creamy, which I guess makes sense given its title. It wasn’t watery or greasy when used.
Results: Applying this each day took a fair bit of time, but I could see absolutely no discernible results, to be frank.
Did Ruth guess right?: She had no clue which side of my body had been moisturised and which hadn’t.
The winner: Low-maintenance. The bottle is used up and in the recycling (hooray!) and I won’t be rushing out for a replacement.

no 7 protect and perfect advance serumProduct: No. 7 Protect and Perfect Advanced Serum
First impressions: This was the serum getting middle-aged women in a hot mess a couple of years back when the stuff was actually proven to work on wrinkles, unlike pretty much all other anti-ageing products. There were queues at the shops and all sorts of silliness like that, so I had high expectations.
Results: This was fairly easy to apply, although I quickly learnt not to use it too near my eyes (the stinging!!) I read an online review which compared the consistency to semen, which is gross but fairly accurate. After less than a week, the fine lines on one half of my face were actually less pronounced. F*** me!
Did Ruth guess right?: Yup, she did, after what I’m sure was a stunningly attractive display from me as I wrinkled up my forehead repeatedly so she could judge.
The winner: High-maintenance. About half of the bottle remains, and I’m honestly thinking about replacing it once that runs out. I’m using the one for under-35s, but they also have another version for over 35’s, as I keep telling Ruth with glee (she’s just turned 35 and is pretty sore about it, hee hee).

Seacret cuticle oilProduct: Seacret Cuticle Oil
First impressions: Ugh, I mean, how important are cuticles really? I struggle to get excited about a product like this. It’s made of lots of seed oils (almond, grape, jojoba, sesame) which sounds kinda nice, and is fairly quick and easy to use.
Results: To my slight disappointment, this did make my fingernail area look a bit better. Less dry and cracked skin. It also had an effect on my bedside table, leaving delightful little oil rings behind where I had set down the bottle.
Did Ruth guess right: Uh-huh. Damn.
The winner: A draw. I think I’ll keep this bottle but wouldn’t buy it again (I’m still struggling to get excited)

Philip Kingsley elasticizerProduct: Philip Kingsley Elasticizer
First impressions: Hair elasticizer? This sounds very silly indeed. I imagine my hair starting to behave like Stretch Armstrong’s arms. So, let’s give it a go. Massage into wet hair before shampooing…wait for 20 minutes…OK, that’s four minutes….da da da da da…oh, that bit of the bathroom needs cleaning….six minutes….bored now…seven minutes….oh my good god, 20 minutes is a lifetime.
Results: Absolutely f*** all. Fabulous.
Did Ruth guess right?: So, full disclosure, I didn’t just treat one side of my hair, fearing I would look like a madwoman if it did anything dramatic. There was no ‘Ruth test’.
The winner: Low-maintenance. Bottle empty and binned.

Overall winner: No. 7 Protect and Perfect Advanced Serum

Round two:

Undergoing the test next will be four more products from the deep, dark bedside cabinet.

Round two productsFor the face: Clinique Rinse-off Foaming Cleanser

For the body: Veet In-shower Hair Removal Cream

For the hair: Frizz-Ease Straight Fixation Smoothing Crème

For the eyes: Clarins Eye Contour Gel

*I think this is a term stolen from Eddie Izzard in a nod to the fact that you can pair a part of the body with a foodstuff to come up with a beauty product (face cream, body butter, cuticle oil…) Feel free to come up with your own and post them in the comments section, the more surreal the better.


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Embrace the elements of simplicity that work for you

A jetty on a lake

Once you start to see the benefits of minimalism, you may start to wonder how many aspects of your life you can simplify.

It doesn’t have to just be about your physical possessions, after all. A lot of people find value in being intentional about countless other aspects of their lives.

You might decide to clean up your diet, simplify your finances, cut your screen time or even ditch draining relationships.

This self-improvement stuff can be goddamn addictive, I’m telling you. Who knows where it might all lead you?!

But in all seriousness, as a word of caution, don’t worry too much if one route or another doesn’t feel like a good fit for you.

So you’ve downsized your home but still love your big social circle? Great, keep your schedule packed with parties!

You’ve cut down on exhausting trips abroad but get a real kick out of Instagram? Fine, don’t ditch your smart phone!

You’ll know in your heart what fires you up and what weighs you down.

Minimalism isn’t a ‘collect them all’ set of achievements. Make it work for you, or it’ll just seem like more work for you.

There are many routes to simplicity and there will be one out there which is just right for you. If you don’t know which route to take, just try to picture what you want to make room in your life for, and that should help to guide you.


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Is minimalism a bourgeois pursuit?

View over the lakes

I don’t spend much time on my blog talking about my day job.

This is for a number of reasons. Some are out of concern for you, the reader: it would be a bit off-topic and I don’t want to bore you.

But mainly it’s for my own personal reasons. I like to ‘leave work at work’ for my own sanity, I don’t hugely want people I know professionally reading my most intimate thoughts about struggling with debt or stress, and I also worry that I might land myself in trouble with my employers by saying something horrendously inappropriate. Which I most definitely would.

So I won’t go into reams of detail about how I pay my bills but suffice to say, I spend much of my working life in an area of the UK with some pretty deep-seated problems with poverty, and sometimes come across issues like homelessness, unemployment and the housing of refugees.

I also spent my wasted youth on the periphery of the local queer activist scene, and while I never felt I fully fitted in with its ‘smash the system’ aims, I guess some of it rubbed off on me.

All this means there is sometimes an aspect of minimalism which makes me a little uncomfortable.

I’ll put it this way: maybe I’m spending a little too much of my time thinking about how to get just the right number of things to achieve maximum happiness.

Yes, I know, so much of the thought behind minimalism is commendable.

You’re taking a step back from a world obsessed with buying crap, made out of diminishing resources, by exploited workers, to turn profits for huge corporations.

You’re instead focusing on aligning your spending with your values.

You’re carving out space in your life for pursuits which might help others, or feed your soul, rather than taking part in a fruitless contest to see who can amass the most toys.

But it is an inescapable fact that being in a position of having ‘too much’, and realising that paring down might make you happier, is a very privileged place to be.

The act of minimising, decluttering, simplifying, call it what you will, is both commendable and undeniably solipsistic at the same time.

In my experience, people facing very serious struggles with poverty or disadvantage have more pressing concerns: Where can my family live, now the landlord is turfing us out? How can I afford to get my children birthday presents when I’m out of a job?  How can I learn how computers work when I’ve never been able to buy one? Where can I get clothes for a job interview when I’ve got no money? How do I settle in a new country when I’ve had to leave all my worldly possessions in a war zone?

In this context, concerns about how best to carefully construct a chic capsule wardrobe, how to reduce the time you’re spending online or how to tactfully decline gifts can appear to border on the obscene.

But what do we do about this? Throw up our hands and decry it all as bourgeois bullshit, then reach for the credit card again?

If this isn’t the answer (hint: it isn’t), then what is?

It’s an issue I’m still grappling with.

While I try to make my lower-middle-class existence less stressful, less cash-strapped and less wasteful, how can I continue to build in to my daily life consideration for – and action to help – those who don’t have this luxury?


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The test: High- versus low-maintenance beauty regimes

How many beauty products and tools do you use on a daily basis?

For me, the list is pretty small, and pretty basic.

Here are the items I use between once a day and once a week – put another way, the stuff I would pack in a wash bag if I was going away:

Standard toothpaste, with plastic toothbrush.
Bar soap.
Razor, tweezers, nail clippers.
Antiperspirant deodorant.
Cotton buds.
Hairdryer and hair straighteners.
Mid-price shampoo and conditioner,
usually whatever’s being sold at a discount in the supermarket.
Perfume.

See, I don’t even use a hairbrush or comb on a regular basis. What a scruffbag.

I’m also not a big wearer of make-up. I’ll put on a lick of mascara each day, and if I’m going out on an evening I might add another five or so items: eyeliner, eyeshadow, concealer, powder, lip gloss.

I might then use a makeup remover later, or, more likely, I might forget and leave a make-up faceprint on my pillow after stumbling home drunk.

As you can see, I’m not a big purchaser of products. My facial skincare routine pretty much consists of one product: water. Splash it on the face and yep, that’s it.

This isn’t to say I’m thrilled with my ‘au naturel’ appearance all the time. I’m pretty sure my love of coffee means my teeth could be whiter, I’m definitely getting the odd fine line and grey hair and sometimes I get random patches of dry skin.

But, well, are all these products really worth the bother? Isn’t this just vanity? Most men don’t have all this crap to deal with and their faces aren’t sliding off or anything, are they?

It’s commonly accepted that many of the grand claims associated with cosmetics are overblown (‘Younger looking skin in just two weeks’, ‘Noticeably whiter teeth’, ‘Leaves you hairfree for longer’).

But being a cynical type, I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that some of these products effectively do nothing at all, or that they might even make your skin/hair/earlobes/whatever worse than they were before: irritated, spotty or greasy.

What if the biggest effect of buying all these products is simply on your bank balance?

I’ve ended up fostering a pretty money-saving and minimalist attitude towards beauty regimes. If I can do without, I will. It’s almost become a marker of pride. I don’t wanna be reliant on no consumerist goop to feel good.

‘That’s wonderful, but where is all this going?’ I hear you ask.

In essence, I have somehow acquired quite a number of products I’m not really using. Products I’ve been given as presents (minimalists tend to get a lot of consumable goods) or cosmetics I’ve bought for one reason or another and used for a day or two, then forgotten about.

The minimalist part of me isn’t happy about this growing collection of bottles, tubes and jars in my bedside cabinet. But the waste-hating and the money-saving parts of me have ganged up on the minimalist part, arguing that just binning them would be wrong.

So, I’ve devised a cunning plan.

It’s an experiment of sorts. Each month, I will pick four products I already own, all designed for use on a different area of the body.

I will use these products exactly as instructed, for a period of four weeks, but ONLY ON ONE HALF OF MY BODY.

I’ll then review whether I’ve noticed any difference, and crucially, I will get Ruth to guess which side has been getting the treatment.

This should have two pretty useful benefits:

  • Testing whether said product is actually worth bothering with
  • Using up the bottles and jars and decluttering the irritating collection

My first four products are as follows:

Cosmetics bottles

For the body: Rituals Magic Touch Body Cream

For the hands: Cuticle Oil by Seacret

For the face: No 7’s Protect & Perfect Advanced Serum

For the hair: Philip Kingsley Elasticizer

Is my theory of a sinister consumerist conspiracy going to be proved right, or would I have become a beauty bombshell by now if I’d actually bothered with a rigorous hair and skincare routine? I’ll report back in four weeks with my findings.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear about your attitude towards beauty or grooming products. Are you minimal or maximal? What are your essentials, and what do you think would happen if you ditched them? Feel free to spill all in the comments thread…


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Receiving gifts as a minimalist

A wrapped gift

I’ve become that really difficult person to buy for.

Pretty much all my friends and family know I’m trying not to own as much these days, so at birthdays or Christmases, any presents now seem to come with an implied, or even explicit, apology.

‘I know you’re into your minimalism thing, so I’ve only bought you edible stuff.’

‘If you don’t like it, I won’t be offended if you get rid of it.’

 ‘Would you prefer cash instead?’

‘Oh no, I didn’t realise about all this minimalism stuff until after I had bought you a present. I hope you don’t hate it.’

‘The receipt’s in the box.’

People’s generosity, and their obvious wish to do the right thing amid all the confusion of social niceties, leaves me feeling both a little awkward and incredibly touched.

What I have rarely experienced is anyone taking the opportunity to forego giving me a gift at all.

I contacted many of my relatives a few months before Christmas, explaining that they really shouldn’t feel the need to buy me anything this year. While a few took up the offer, others didn’t and one incredibly sweet relative instead bought treats for my dog.

It’s clear many friends and family members obviously enjoy the process of gift-giving. I’ve found myself wondering how I can best acknowledge and celebrate this, while still being truthful and open about my ongoing desire to tread a little lighter on this planet.

I’ve come to realise a few things:

  1. Telling people you don’t want gifts has mixed success. Telling them you want a specific item can work far better.
  2. Most people will bear in mind the fact you don’t want more stuff, if you explain it to them in a diplomatic way (and early on!).
  3. It’s not the end of the world if you graciously accept a gift, then donate it to a charity shop a while later.
  4. Minimalists get given lots of consumable presents. I’m a big fan of booze and lard (as you’d probably realise if I used photos of myself on this site) but for those on health kicks, it could pose a challenge.
  5. There are worse problems to have in the world than agonising over how to receive free gifts. Keep things in perspective, relax and enjoy the celebration.

My wife and I both have December birthdays, so we’re lucky enough to receive a whole heap of birthday and Christmas presents in one month – and this year was no different.

Thankfully, we’re not having to take out a storage unit to house them all. That’s because we’ve been open with people about the kinds of changes we’re trying to make, and as a result they have been really thoughtful about what they bought us. This included:

  • Tasty home-made fudge
  • Lots and lots of alcohol (hurrah!)
  • A couple of books from my online wish-list
  • Money towards the expensive new boiler we need for our house
  • A home-baked pastry Christmas tree
  • A voucher to buy music online with
  • Socks (I’ll gladly fight anyone who says they’re a rubbish present. I always need socks!)
  • Make-up and cosmetics
  • Coffee beans from our favourite coffee shop
  • A voucher for a spa treatment

Maybe I’m not so hard to buy for after all?

Lastly, this may sound like sacrilege on a blog like mine, but I’ve realised that sometimes, despite yourself, you can receive a physical, non-consumable gift that breaks all the minimalism rules but takes your breath away.

We were lucky enough to get a handmade wooden clock from a relative and an indescribably wonderful box of hand-crafted items from a close friend, and both left me feeling incredibly grateful for the thought and hours which went into them.

Gifts crafted with skill and love, or those chosen with a weird sixth-sense about what you will truly value, can very occasionally become that rare thing for a minimalist: a treasured possession.


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.

In which we don’t buy a Christmas tree

Today Ruth and I went to visit a museum for the first, and last, time (more on that later). But on the way home, we passed Ikea in the car and we were so close to stopping off to buy a Christmas tree. In the end, we didn’t get one.

Here’s why:

  • We’re away for a few days over Christmas, so we won’t be at home to enjoy the tree on the day itself anyway;
  • We’re trying to save money like mad. Our ailing boiler (Americans: read ‘water heater’) has finally given up the ghost, choosing the most expensive time of the year to pack in. A new one is going to set us back nearly £2,000, we’re told (and will set back my debt payoff plan too, sadly);
  • We have a suspicion our deranged dog would either tear bits off a Christmas tree or find a way to get a pine needle stuck in his paw and land us with a vet’s bill on top of the boiler bill. He’s sneaky like that.

I like Christmas and I have nothing against Christmas trees. I think they’re lovely. But for one reason or another, our decorations have taken a decidedly minimalist turn this year. Here’s what’s passing for the tree at our place:

treebsf

We’re planning to go out into the woods in the next few days and find bits of holly, ivy and pine cones to decorate the house with. It’s something we did last year and it looked really bloody cosy.

And after all, there are other ways to get in the festive spirit.

The museum we visited today, Red House in Gomersal, West Yorkshire, was once home to a good friend of Charlotte Bronte and featured as Briarmains in her novel, Shirley. Even in Charlotte’s day, the house was already nearly 200 years old. Each year, the museum celebrates a 19th century Christmas, as the Brontes would have known them.

But this was its last, because it is being closed down by its local council in a few days to save money.

Staff and helpers had dressed up in period costume, the normal entry fees were suspended, there was a historical musical group playing all kinds of weird traditional English instruments, and people in the kitchen had cooked up cheeses, chutneys and mulled wine. The whole place was decked out – you guessed it – with cuttings of holly and ivy.

It’s a place I’ve lived half-an-hour away for more than a decade, but never thought to visit because, you know, I can always go another time. Today there was no more putting it off.

There were lots of other people who had the same thought. The place was packed. And maybe a full house is the best Christmas decoration going.


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I’ve finally talked her into it: a guest post from Mrs Want Less

ruth
Photo by the marvellous Dawn Kilner Photography

Hooray! After nearly 18 months of blogging, I’ve finally secured a guest post from my other half, Ruth.

If you don’t already know, Ruth’s decision to bring a little book called ‘Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life’ on honeymoon set me off down this rabbit hole in the first place.

While she has been hugely supportive of my decision to turn our house upside-down, for a long time she seemed not particularly fussed, one way or the other, about how many things we owned. 

Then, a few weeks ago, she totally astounded me by getting rid of pretty much all of her huge CD collection in one go. This was a BIG DEAL. Ruth is a musician and she’s always prided herself on her music library. I guess more of this was rubbing off than I had realised.

Anyway, I asked Ruth to put pen to paper and describe what it’s all been like from her point of view. (I’m sure you’ll all give her a big welcome!)


So, Claire has asked me to write a guest post for the blog. I’ve agreed (with some trepidation), but I’ve been promised her excellent editing skills.

I have a tendency to waste time on the internet. So one day, frittering around on the web, I Googled something like ‘giving up the internet’. One of the first posts I came to was Joshua Fields Millburn’s post on how giving up the internet at home was one of the most productive things he’s ever done.

Transfixed, I read on (and on). I couldn’t read enough of The Minimalists’ website; how it had improved their lives, made them more passionate, healthier, more compassionate…

I told Claire about my find and she took it from there and she’s just run with it really, I think it would be fair to say Claire is way more immersed in minimalism than I am, but I’m glad I introduced her to it.

While Claire is further into her minimalist journey, I can confidently say it has all had a positive impact on my life. For a start, choosing clothes to wear in the morning is a complete doddle, thanks to Claire helping me sort/donate my wardrobe.

In fact, the further I travel on my journey into minimalism the easier I’m finding a lot of things.

I’m a musician and music teacher by trade, which can sometimes lead (guitarists especially!) down the path of collecting a lot of equipment and chasing a lot of work. Minimalism has reminded me not to work all the hours that God sends and for the first time in eight years I have a timetable that includes a lunch break (which my acid reflux will thank me for).

Previously, I’d been eating lunch in a hurry and rushing from one place to the next, not really a recipe for digestive comfort.

I’m also interested in the ‘life experiment’ side of minimalism. A while back, I stopped using my smartphone for a month and got by with a £5 ‘dumbphone’.

I managed to reprogramme the ‘twitch’ to absent-mindedly check Facebook/emails/pictures of bass guitars.

BUT, I did miss having a camera and GPS system in my pocket, so in the end I went back to my iPhone with a new approach: I have no notifications and my email goes nowhere near it.

I recently went to a Federation of Entertainment Unions workshop on productivity. The leader asked how many unread emails we had in our inbox. I sheepishly put my hand up and admitted to having around 7,000.

You know, just 7,000 unread, fairly useless words clogging up my life. So, his answer was to archive them. Brilliant. Now, when I check my emails I can see exactly what’s important instead of wading through spam.

(I also recommend ‘Unroll Me’, which sits in your inbox as an extra folder and ‘grabs’ the spam as it arrives. It also helps you unsubscribe from sneaky mailing lists you’re not even sure how you signed up to. The best thing about it: it’s FREE)

Minimalism has helped us think about how we spend our money too. In the past year or so I’ve gone from regularly spending on credit cards to hardly using them at all, closing the accounts on all but one or two of them. I’ve started to save again (even if I’m a little slow at it).

Claire described the effect minimalism has had on our spending brilliantly the other day; a new high-end shopping centre just opened in town. We were in the city centre, so we had a walk around it, but we were just not interested in it. Claire said it was like having a superpower that made you immune to the usual shopping frenzy that so many fall into.

Overall, I feel minimalism has helped us eat healthier, appreciate a slower home, not buy the latest new ‘thing’, meet new people, make more sustainable/ethical/better quality choices and it’s made us appreciate who and what we have in our lives.


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.

Introducing Simplicity Voices

It’s time to confess a secret.

I’ve been working on a little project for the past few months. It’s a new website, which I hope you’re going to like.

Simplicity Voices will (hopefully!) be a well-designed place where people can drop by to be pointed towards the best articles on the web about minimalism, happiness and slowing down.

It will be a one-stop-shop for that little bit of inspiration or motivation you might need.

simplicityscreen

In effect, I’m creating this for myself. I’ve been devouring loads of different sites and blogs over the past couple of years, discovering great articles written by people doing some really exciting things.

But I was thinking it would be great if there was a little portal showcasing the very best. After all, if we’re busy rediscovering those simple pleasures in life, we don’t want to spend hours and hours in front of a screen, right?

To be honest, I had been in two minds about setting this new site up at all, for that very reason.

It may not look it (!) but my blog Want Less actually takes a fair bit of work – maintaining its social media accounts, writing blog posts, taking bad stock photos – so I had been a bit reluctant to spend even longer each week in front of my computer in my spare time.

I also don’t make any money from my blogging (nor do I expect to), so this is literally how I’m choosing to spend my leisure time. I am aware of the irony, when I’m often writing about logging off from the screens and getting out more.

With this in mind, I’m keeping this new website really simple. No comments, no social media accounts, no GIFs of Carlton from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air doing that awesome dance. Just pretty pictures (i.e. not taken by me!) linking you straight through to a well-curated set of articles.

This resource should grow over time so eventually you’ll be able to search for your particular niches: minimalism for cats, simplifying your toes, whatever.

And as for Want Less, that will be carrying on as normal.

I’d love to know what you think of Simplicity Voices. Check it out and let me know. And if you do like it, please do spread the word. At the time of writing, it’s had about five hits – four from me and one from my other half…I’m sure we can at least double that before Christmas.


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Debt-busting challenge: the halfway mark

At the beginning of this year, when the mornings were still crisp and most of our celebrities were still alive, I made a solemn vow to you, dear reader.

The vow was that I would step up my game and pay off my debts faster so I would be rid of them within 18 months.

We’re halfway through that challenge so I thought now would be a good time to give you an update.

The good news is I’m (pretty much, if I squint at the graph) on target!

It’s been a tough few months, with some points where I simply despaired. Take yesterday, for instance, when my car was in the garage for not one but two faults while simultaneously at home, the kitchen sink decided to stop draining. (We successfully unblocked it ourselves – woop! – but in the process created a new leak – sigh)

Meanwhile, the dog is on expensive medication for the foreseeable future and the seemingly everlasting pay freeze at my work is going on another year.

But what the universe takes with one hand, it gives with the other.

A few months ago I got a surprise cheque through the post for a few hundred quid, from a bank I borrowed some money from a few years back. Turns out, it had made some admin error and as an apology, it was refunding most of the interest I had paid on the loan. After a few days fantasising about a massive blow-out trip somewhere, I eventually did the right thing and put it towards my debt mountain. You, dear reader, would rightly have given me hell if I hadn’t.

So here’s how the last few months (in red) have gone:

debtchart2

This week, I passed a major milestone, getting my debts to below £3,000 for the first time in what must be over a decade. It means my debts are now four-fifths destroyed.

I now have just one debt:  a credit card on a 0% interest deal.

And it feels great. I do feel like a weight is being lifted off my shoulders, and if something dire happens like I lose my job, the minimum repayments are less than £75 a month so there would be no impending disaster.

I start to scare myself if I think back to the time when my debts were at their height and my minimum payments were hundreds of pounds a month. This meant I was often robbing Peter to pay Paul, and in the background the interest on the debts quietly started to spiral.

But while psychologically I feel far happier and more in control, in reality things are not getting easier. I’m still having to make major sacrifices each and every month, without fail, because of my poor decisions many years ago.

It’s often said that minimalism is a helpful tool for those crippled by debt because they can a) sell their stuff to generate some cash and b) nip those damaging shopping trips in the bud.

In my experience, I’ll have to be honest: that hasn’t really been the case. I was never one for shopping for Gucci handbags and of the stuff I have got rid of, very little had any resale value.

The fact is, I had little to show for my debts. My spending was driven by more nebulous things – post-graduate courses, too many nights out, no appreciation of the importance of shopping around.

But there has been an overlap in one sense. Getting rid of my clutter (most of it utter crap) and getting rid of my debts has left my life lighter, physically and metaphorically. When once I couldn’t sleep for the panic attacks, now I quite frequently catch myself enjoying a strange sense of…contentment.

But I’m not done yet. I’m not done with my debts and I’m not done with my stuff.

I’ve been taking both purges slow-and-steady and I’m fine with that. My first priority was to be kind to myself. I didn’t want to embark on an outburst of enthusiastic self-flagellation as punishment for my former sins. That would have been no good for me, at a time when my emotional state was so fragile.

So yes, I’ve taken my time. But the end is in sight and I can’t wait.

I’d love to hear about anyone else paying down debts – how do you stay motivated?


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Ethical shopping (and other meanderings)

 

bananassmlCasting your vote in the supermarket

There’s a saying that every time you make a purchase, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want to live in.

It’s a nice thought, but kind of a terrifying one. That is a whole lot of responsibility to face up to, right there.

I’ve gone through phases of buying ethical products, but for the last few years that had fallen by the wayside as I concentrated on reducing my mountain of debt.

Sometimes, when you’re facing a financial catastrophe, you have to make some tough choices. That meant my well-meaning weekly box of organic veg had to go, replaced by cheap-as-you-can-get produce from Asda (US folks, read Walmart).

Now I’m nearly done clambering out of my debt spiral, I’ve been trying to get back into being a more thoughtful consumer.

Today at the supermarket we made an effort and bought things like FairTrade bananas, free-range and organic chicken, eco-friendly laundry detergent and carbon-neutral peanut butter.

And yes, the bill was a little more expensive.

But as I was going round the shop,  I was disappointed to see that some of the ethical alternatives they used to stock are no longer on the shelves. I guess people had stopped buying them. People like me.

What if the world turned minimalist?

Check out this great new collective post over at Mostly Mindful about whether everything would go to hell in a handcart if we all turned minimalist.

Some big names pitched in on this question, like Colin Wright of Exile Lifestyle and Anthony Ongaro of Break the Twitch, so I was honoured to be asked for my two-pence-worth.

An ominous letter

I got a note pushed through my door the other day, telling me to pick up a letter at the Post Office which I had to sign for. When I went to collect it, the envelope had the ominous word ‘police’ on the front of it.

Crap, I thought, my first speeding ticket. (The slightly judgey expression from the man behind the counter told me he had come to the same conclusion)

But when I opened it up, it was a note saying a police station had the bag, wallet and phone I lost 200 miles away back in April.

I don’t know how or even if I will pick it up (it is still 200 miles away, and I’ve replaced all the stuff) but it’s nice to know there are decent folk out there who decided to hand it in – even if they did inexplicably sit on it for five months beforehand.


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