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.


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.

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.


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 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…


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.


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’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.

Will keeping a gratitude journal make you happier?

journal-small

Did you keep a really embarrassing teenage diary? God knows, I did.

My old diaries are some of the items I cleared out as I downsized my stuff from childhood, and boy, they were a painful read.

You know that Marie Kondo decluttering technique, where she advises you to take hold of a possession and see if it ‘sparks joy’? Well, I now have another reaction to look out for: whether it sparks a ‘lower abdominal clench of utter, utter cringe’.

Luckily, my diary-keeping days are long behind me now.

But I’ve recently been experimenting with a different type of daily log as I look into the science of boosting happiness.

One happiness tip I just kept reading about was an activity called gratitude journaling. It gets mentioned so often, in fact, that you’ve probably already heard of it before, if not tried it.

The idea is simple: at its heart, it’s a way of systematically getting yourself into the habit of counting your blessings. This is usually done through jotting down a few things you’re grateful for before you go to bed.

But does it work? Is it worth the effort? And can you re-read the journal without wanting to throw up?

Let’s find out. First: the science bit.

There seems to be a lot of compelling evidence that practising gratitude really does boost your happiness levels.

Robert A Emmons is the world’s leading researcher on gratitude.

A study he co-authored in 2003 found that participants who kept gratitude journals once a week exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical problems, felt better about their lives, were more likely to have made progress towards goals and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded either hassles or neutral life events.

Other studies have found a variety of other benefits, from focus in young adults to better sleep quality.

On the other hand, there is also scientific (and anecdotal) evidence that the technique just does nothing for a whole heap of people. For them, the whole thing is a massive waste of time.

One theory goes that if you set yourself a target for experiencing gratitude, then fail to reach that goal, it could end up doing more harm than good and make you feel worse.

This would seem to be backed up by a study which found that people who kept a gratitude journal three times a week were less happy than those who wrote in it just once a week. In general, researchers seem to disagree about whether it is more effective to write in a gratitude journal once a day or once a week.

And the Berkeley Science Review lists five ways keeping a gratitude journal can backfire. This includes causing you to gloss over negative aspects of your life that you should be facing up to, such as a destructive relationship.

I’ve been giving the technique a try for the past month. Every evening, before bed, I’ve taken out a notebook and written down three things I’m grateful for from the day.

These have been wide and varied:

  • The life-changing: “My new niece was born today”;
  • The everyday: “My wife ran me a nice bath”, “I got lunch free on points”;
  • The wholesome: “Seeing a rainbow”, “Planting bulbs in the garden”;
  • The less wholesome: “Chips!”
  • The ditzy: “Left my car unlocked accidentally but nothing bad happened”;
  • And the left-field: “Sixty years of popular music!” “Ticker tape!”

I have to say I feel better for it. I’m finding it a nice way to round off the day and it’s also changing the way I think about things.

I tend to be a negative thinker, but I’m now more likely to look back on the day and think it was a good one.

So will keeping a gratitude journal work for you?

My (untested!) theory is that this all depends on what kind of outlook you have.

Practising gratitude could well make you more content if you are the kind of person who needs a reminder about the good things in your life. If you tend to take life for granted, and you focus too often on criticism, negativity or hardship, this may be for you.

But if you’re already the kind of person who looks on the bright side, someone who sees beauty in the small things and joy in the everyday, this may not be worth your while.

If you think keeping a gratitude journal could work for you, try one of the following two techniques:

  1. Each day, before bed, write down three things you’re grateful for, from that day;
  2. Or, each week, on a set day, write down ten things you have been grateful for in the past seven days.

Keep it up for a month and decide then whether it’s having any positive effects on your wellbeing.


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.

Reflecting over a hot cuppa

DSCF3884 - CopyI’m not well today, so picture me typing this all wrapped up, with a hot lemony drink close at hand and a serious case of the ‘fuzzy head’.

I’ve just finished work for a week, and it’s one of those times when one’s body decides this would be a great opportunity to get sick.

As a result, this prose may not be my most dazzling, but being ill does force you to pause for a moment, pushing all but the most urgent tasks back for a few days.

So this evening I’m reflecting on the couple of weeks since my last post, when I told you all about the new website I set up, Simplicity Voices.

It started off with some really helpful and encouraging comments from you all, including advice on what to tweak and which articles I might want to feature at some point.

Then things went a little crazy. The site was mentioned as one of Joshua Becker’s recommendations in his regular Inspiring Simplicity: Weekend Reads segments over at Becoming Minimalist.

As far as I know, Joshua hadn’t heard of me a fortnight ago but obviously someone’s kind words reached him, and here we are.

Now, I have huge admiration for Joshua and his blog. In my eyes, the guy is basically a minimalism rock star.

And it turns out lots of other people hang on his every word too because within the space of a few hours, thousands and thousands of people had gone over to Simplicity Voices to check it out.

When I cottoned on what was happening, I was just about to go out for a meal with my wife and my in-laws.

I panicked and immediately thought there wouldn’t be enough articles featured on my site yet, so threw a few more up in a rush and hurried out of the door.

Well, that was about as good an idea as it sounds. Luckily some kind soul emailed me to say my links weren’t working and I was able to fix it a few hours later. Viral fail.

But the huge response I got was a very humbling reminder that I am not alone: that there is a massive appetite out there for getting back to a slower way of life.

Here are thousands of people rejecting the assumption that you should work as hard as you can for 50 years to fund ever-increasing markers of success.

So thank you all, because without those initial words of encouragement, I wouldn’t be here, looking at a website that has got almost as many hits in a week as Want Less has had in over a year.

A website that chimes with people looking for another way.


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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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Giving a stiff upper lip a kick up the rear: the real meaning of stoicism

romansmallWhat goes through your mind when you hear the word ‘stoical’?

For me, it conjured up images of a stiff-upper-lip approach to life: putting up with things you shouldn’t, in a slightly joyless yet smug fashion. Definitely someone you wouldn’t want to go to the pub with.

But it turns out the meaning has been corrupted over the centuries and back when folk wore togas, it was the name of a pretty interesting philosophy.

The bare bones seem to be:

  • Learning to be content with (and even crave) the things you already have
  • Recognising when you’re worrying about things you can’t influence
  • Embracing discomfort as a way to broaden your comfort zone

In other words, being an utter life-ruling badass.

On this blog over the past year or so, I’ve been exploring ways to beat stress, spend less and enjoy life a little more. Turns out, people have been working on this for thousands of years. (This blog has a long way to go)

Now, I imagine there will be a lot more to Roman stoicism than my horrendously simplified, Google-inspired bullet points, so I’ve enrolled on a free, week-long crash course during Stoic Week (17th-23rd October, 2016). It promises to teach people ways to fit old stoical ideas into modern life. Sounds pretty good to me.

For now, I’ll leave you with three quotes from one of the big-boss stoics, Seneca, who sounds like one chilled-out motherchuffer:

“Until we have begun to go without them, we fail to realise how unnecessary many things are. We’ve been using them not because we needed them but because we had them.”

“It is not the man who has too little that is poor, but the one who hankers after more.”

“Nothing, to my way of thinking, is a better proof of a well ordered mind than a man’s ability to stop just where he is and pass some time in his own company.”


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In praise of wasting time

DSCF4010If you’re like me, and spend lots of time checking out blogs, podcasts and books about how to make positive changes to your life, you may find one word cropping up time and time again: productivity.

We’re told if we buckle down, we can fit our working week into less time. If we allot our leisure time properly, we can do all those hobbies we’ve never got around to. If we want more money, we can build up side-hustles while holding down a nine-to-five.

Beat distraction. Beat procrastination. Beat laziness. Do more, better, faster.

Now that’s all great. And if you master all the productivity tricks out there, then more power to you.

But does anyone else just get tired at even the thought of all this?

A few weeks ago, I had a really bad day at work. Really bad. So bad, I just wanted to forget all about it…but couldn’t. I ended up stuck in a cycle of pointless fretting.

Do you know what broke me out of it? Trashy TV. Hours of it. It’s not a habit I indulge very often, but that day, it worked for me. And I feel not a jot of guilt about that.

A couple of years back, I was drawn to ideas like minimalism and simplicity because I felt overwhelmed. I wanted to do and have less. To create space in my life for…well, sometimes, nothing at all.

Sure, lots of people use meditation or mindfulness to get a break from the stresses of modern life. I go to a guided meditation class every couple of weeks and always feel far better for it.

But in a weird way, it’s still work. It’s structured, it has rules. You can’t start throwing cushions at the person next to you. (Although you’d probably get told off really gently)

There is something to be said for completely unstructured time. No goals. No expectations. It’s refreshingly freeing.

So I don’t feel guilty if I lie in bed instead of taking a wholesome hike on a weekend morning. I don’t worry if hours of my day slip by and I’m not exactly sure how I filled them. I don’t agonise if I sit down with a beer when there’s still a pile of ironing to get through.

My advice is to be lazy every now and again. Allow yourself the luxury of accomplishing absolutely nothing. There should be no guilt in the pleasure of wasting time.


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