When it comes to living a more minimal life, it is not about always about the physical ‘stuff’. Often the ‘weight’ of buying and owning is emotional, and that can live entirely unseen. Here is what I mean.
You probably have an inner voice that is all about practicality, need and value. Those are good qualities but they are capable of robbing joy from your life. For example when you see something for sale that you like your inner voice says: “you can make that yourself.” Or, “you’ll never wear that/use that.” And how about this one: “don’t buy the first thing you see. Shop around and find the best deal”. Even, even if the “best deal” is not what your heart really desires.
Shopping used to be really painful for me because of my inner voice. It used to take hours for me to make a decision to buy, which was, in itself, emotionally draining. I remember a particular time I wanted to buy something as a reminder of a special weekend.
By the time I found a little shop that sold the type of things I like, it was near closing time and, as usual, my inner voice was in full force so any personal purchase was going to be met with resistance. I often buy a pair of earrings to mark an occasion or trip and on this day my inner voice reminded me that I tend to wear the same two or three pairs of earrings all the time despite having many pairs.
(To silence that voice I can remind myself that even if I do not wear the earrings, I enjoy looking at them because they instantly connect me to the occasion. It reminds me of the people, the place and the feeling, and that is a sweet and tender feeling.) But back to my story.
I left the store without buying. I told the clerk I was having trouble making up my mind and would return the next day. But as it turned out, that was THE shopping opportunity of the trip. The next day was filled and we left early the following morning. I felt a small sense of loss which wasn’t about having the ‘thing’. It was about dampening my child-like delight, joy and enthusiasm.
It happens to me less these days but when it does, It makes me feel sad, and the memory of those times lingers. This is emotional clutter. It is blaming thoughts, continual internal commentary, being judgmental about yourself. It can also be having regrets, not releasing events and holding on to the past. It is the feeling of being emotionally beaten up.
I am sure you will be able to relate to my story: it is very common and I believe we all have similar patterns around our different issues. Personally I learned something I hadn’t quite seen before. Although I have played out this same scenario many times in my life, something clicked this time and I was able to see it clearly as clutter.
Physical clutter might seem to be easier to handle but I find it is the emotional clutter that drags me down.
My solution to this is to decide before setting out on a trip that I will get something for myself and to make time for it. It would not have to be something bought in a store. It could be a photograph I take, a few quiet moments writing in my journal, time spent searching for a special stone or shell. But if shopping is part of the occasion I could plan a budget in advance and have a ‘no questions allowed’ policy.
What will you do to release a pattern of emotional clutter?
“When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not.” ~ Georgia O’Keefe.
The memories of my recent trip to Maui will last far longer than the tan marks on my feet, gained from walking the beach for hours while breathing in the fragrant and moist air. There is no deep meaning in this post, except that sharing beauty is deep in and of itself. When I travel, I mostly take photographs of the plants, trees, water and sky, and the creatures I happen upon – pretty much the same thing I take when I am at home.
I have two secrets for packing light but the backpack isn’t one of them. Some people may prefer a weekend bag or a small rolling suitcase. I have tried both and only went with a backpack on my last two trips. This is my backpack by Mountain Equipment Coop (It’s the ‘Cascade’.) I like it because it looks sophisticated and actually holds a lot more than it looks like it will hold.
My two secrets: I use packing cubes and a capsule wardrobe.
Use Packing Cubes
I’m not sure who invented packing cubes but I first heard about them a dozen years ago from a fellow traveler. This is what they look like. I bought my first set in a sale bin at Canadian Tire, and later found some more (again in a sale bin) at an airport. They are so useful and not only for packing!
For years I was a two-cube packer which means that I could fit two packed cubes on one side of my suitcase with room on the other side for shoes and accessories. The great thing about the cubes is that they keep your clothing contained in your suitcase and when you get to your destination you can just take the whole cube out and put it in your drawer.
I decided to pare down to a ‘one-cube trip’ partly to see if I could do it and partly because I was getting a ride with someone and was being considerate of the trunk space.
What you Need for a Week Long Trip
Well, I can’t tell you exactly what you need because it depends on where you are going and what you’ll be doing.
A really good general rule is to pack for only half of the number of days of your trip. (If you are an adult, do you really need a clean outfit every day?) Plan to wear each item more than once. For your ‘delicates’ also pack for only half your trip and rinse out your socks and underwear in the bathroom sink. You can take a little vial of liquid laundry detergent, but to be honest I use the free shampoo that is almost always available.
For my trip to Maui in December (a yoga retreat) I took 3 pairs of workout pants, 3 workout tops, 3 casual tops, 1 skirt, 1 pair of shorts (the bottom of my swimsuit), my swimsuit top, a dress (also doubled as a swimsuit cover), 2 scarves big enough to cover a swimsuit, a light-weight cardigan, my Sunveil shirt and hat, a dressier straw hat that folds flat, and my Unshoes (flip flop alternatives). And with this, I still over packed.
I wore my yoga pants only once and the 2 pairs of capri leggings almost every day; I didn’t wear one of the tops or the dress at all – not even as a swimsuit coverup. If you are going to a place you’ve never been before it is hard to know exactly what the circumstances will be.
Most women like to shop when they travel and I am no exception. Last summer at my Restorative Exercise Intensive I had to buy an additional long sleeve top because even though it was August it wasn’t warm and the studio had a garage door that was open most of the time. The year before that (also an RE event) it was hot outside but the studio was over-air conditioned. Now when I travel I always include warmer layers even if it is ‘supposed’ to be warm. I shopped in Maui but not because I needed to: I shopped because it was Maui(!) and even though I almost never succumb to souvenir t-shirts and the like, I bought a souvenir Hawaii t-shirt. At least it is subtle enough to wear again and I wore it at least 3 times while I was there!
I did need some specialized clothes for this trip because it was a winter vacation to a hot spot: I wore my heavier clothes on the plane: jeans, a lightweight long sleeve top, a hooded merino wool jacket and a pair of walking sandals (with socks!) and except for the jacket, I wore everything again. It was still cool in the evenings in Hawaii.
Start with a Capsule Wardrobe
Starting out with a capsule wardrobe really helps with packing. A capsule wardrobe is a minimalist approach to getting dressed – so that basically – figuring out what to wear will be a thing of the past. I recently signed up for this micro-course Capsule Wardrobes which is not what you would think it would be (this course is much deeper than finding the season’s pivotal pieces in the right colours.)
It is more about a minimalist approach to dressing. It is a really good course to take if you are feeling overwhelmed by your wardrobe decisions.
I have always thought packing for a trip is very revealing. The old me, before I started paring down, could pull out my 4 or 5 favourite outfits – the ones I always feel good in and have been time tested – and put them in my suitcase. But you could barely notice that I had taken anything out of my closet. I’ve learned that those outfits are my wardrobe staples and that with those 4-5 top, 4-5 sweaters/jackets, and a few different pants/skirts, I have a couple of weeks worth of combinations.
Note: If you find you are over-packing it may mean you have quite a large capsule wardrobe! I have under 50 items (including shoes and accessories) but I have separate capsule wardrobes for summer and winter – with overlap. Depending on where you live you may also need separate spring and fall wardrobes. (I keep my off-season clothes in my spare packing cubes.)
Now when I pack for a trip, my closet is pretty empty. I don’t take everything I own but I choose things that suit the trip and that will give me the maximum mileage. Usually that will mean solid (black, grey or navy) with one or two splashes of colour.
Here are a few additional tips that makes sorting out travel clothing easier:
- I wear merino wool which doesn’t suffer from being in a suitcase, doesn’t absorb odours and dries quickly. If you sweat a lot this will be an life-saver when you are traveling.
- Most of my solo trips are for yoga or restorative exercise workshops and my workout tops have built in bras. Although they are bulkier than a tank top, I find they don’t take up much extra room and I feel more comfortable throughout the day.
- I limit my colour scheme: Usually that will mean a solid colour (black, grey or navy) with one or two splashes of colour.
- I take things that can be worn more than one way:
- My swimming suit consists of board shorts and a bikini top. I can wear the bottoms as shorts.
- I will always take a top and skirt of the same colour that worn together is dressy enough for dinner but can be worn separately for more casual occasions.
- My scarf will be big enough to keep me warm, give me coverage, protect me from the sun and act as a pillow on the plane.
- Be very minimalist when it comes to your wash/cosmetic bag. I assume that except for my personal things and what I need for the plane, everything will be at my destination and if they aren’t they are just a front-desk or a drug store away. I take moisturizer and a hair product (sample or travel sizes) but no shampoo, soap, etc. I always keep my lip balm (etc.) in my purse anyway, so there is no need to add extra to my wash bag.
If your trip requires special clothes like formal wear, you will probably find you will need to pack differently. I am going on a two week trip in May where I will have to dress for dinner every night. I will use the same rules for my casual trips, but I will need to bring a few more things that are not in my daily wardrobe like dresses, shoes, evening bags and jewellery. Actually I think I could probably pull it off with my ‘one-cube’ trip, but there really isn’t a need. This isn’t about depriving yourself but about making life simpler.
You can improve your breast health. It requires three key things: Blood, electricity and lymph. (Optimal health in any area of your body requires the same three things to flow.)
Blood delivers oxygen to the cells, electricity innervates them, and the lymph system drains waste material from them. The lymphatic system is our second circulatory system but unlike the cardiovascular system, where the heart pumps the blood throughout the body, the lymph system relies on us moving our bodies for it to function.
We usually do a pretty good job of moving our big muscles but there are tons of small muscles that often get neglected. This post is about moving some of those neglected muscles surrounding the breasts so that you can work towards optimal breast health. Here are 4 things you can do that will immediately deliver more blood and electricity to your cells while getting great lymph circulation.
One: Walk with reciprocal arm swing.
Reciprocal arm swing ‘pumps’ accumulated lymph away from the breast tissue. Reciprocal arm swing is a natural way of walking (your arms move opposite to your legs, i.e. right leg forward, left arm back). What is different here is the emphasis on the back swing (cross country ski). Let your arms return naturally to your side as opposed to bringing them up in front of you ‘power walking’ style. You can also do an arm swing while standing still if you can’t get out for a walk.
The back swing reciprocal arm movement also stabilizes your spine as you walk. If you have lower back pain or hip pain, this will be your best friend.
And, ideally you need your arms to be free when you walk – shoulder bags hanging off your shoulder impede your arm movement. I use a backpack or messenger bag.
Two: Ditch Your Bra.
You will have healthier breast tissue if you allow your breasts to support themselves. Okay, maybe you can’t ditch your bra completely. If you have larger breasts you need support especially for things like running, but even larger chested women can go natural sometimes by taking the bra off earlier and putting it on later.
Stop wearing a bra for sleeping (if you do). And especially, don’t wear an underwire bra. Those underwire bras press on the lymph nodes (in your arm pits, sternum and ribs) and restrict the lymph flow. They also restrict movement in your ribs.
Three: Improve your Shoulder Mobility.
The lymph nodes in your breasts need regular and well-aligned use of the muscles in your neck, armpits, shoulder, arms and hands for waste removal. So if your neck, shoulders, arms and hands are tight, chances are your lymphatic drainage is slow.
There are a lot of ways to increase shoulder mobility. One that I like is the posterior block hold. Hold a yoga block behind you by pressing your palms into the surface. Try to hold the block without gripping or using your fingers. You will want your elbows to roll behind you (as opposed to pointing out to the sides) and your shoulder blades to squeeze together. Work your way up to holding the stretch for sixty seconds, and repeat each 2-3 times per day. Try it: it is simple but not easy.
If you are new to loading your arm and shoulder tissues in this way, start out gently and let your muscles do the work – not your ligaments – and keep your feet on the ground.
A great way to begin is to use your door frame. This is a horizontal hang (raising your arm out to the side). Stand to the side of the door frame, hook your fingers over the frame and lean away from the door frame. Vary the load by moving your feet closer or further away from the door way, or moving your arm up higher.
Once you start hanging with your feet on the ground you will start noticing opportunities and places to do it. For example, you can (if you are tall enough) reach up and grab the top of your door frame while keeping your feet on the ground, and get some hanging in every time you pass through a doorway.
When you are ready to hang with your feet off the ground you can use the equipment at the playground or get a pull up bar. I have a pull up bar that attaches in a doorway. If you are hanging from monkey bars (or pull up bars) start with both feet on the ground and bend your knees so that your arms and shoulders begin to take your weight. Check in with your shoulder blades…are your shoulders hiked? If they are, back off and see if you can let them come down a little. You can change you grip, widen the distance between your arms or lessen it. Play with it and have a little fun.There is actually quite a lot to be said about hanging so I am going to pass you over to Katy Says for some additional pointers.
Note: You can’t walk until you can stand and you can’t swing until you can hang. Yes, I learned that the hard way, ouch!
When I was a teenager I had a pair of sandy-suede Desert boots, a.k.a. Chukkas. I regretted for a long time not having those boots any longer, but now I have a new pair: *The Hawthorne Chukka by Soft Star Shoes.
I consulted Wikipedia on the difference between a Desert boot and a Chukka. Both the Desert and the Chukka are an unlined, ankle high boot, with open lacing and 2-3 eyelets. The upper is made in two parts. The main difference is that Desert boots are always suede uppers with a crepe sole. A Chukka can be a suede or leather upper, with either a leather or rubber sole. There is a vague connection with the game of polo. (If you, like me, are interested in the history of names, you may enjoy this site.
So, now we are all clear on what a Chukka boot is, yes? Let me tell you about this particular Chukka.
There is so much to love about this boot. First they are, of course, by Soft Star Shoes, which if you didn’t know, means handcrafted – by actual elves who dwell in Oregon – or so they claim. Soft Star Shoes makes minimalist footwear and you can read more about what makes a minimalist shoe, in my words, here.
The Hawthorne Chukka (like all Soft Star Shoes) are zero rise (no heel at all) and are totally flexible, like so:
The sole is made up of two layers: the first is a 4mm leather midsole, which is the tan layer you see. The outer sole is by Vibrams: an 8mm Geo sole, for a total of 12mm, which makes them the most ‘padded’ minimal shoes I own.
For fall-into-winter footwear this is a good thing: It is extra insulation from the cold and damp.
(I must confess that I have worn Soft Star Merry Janes for 3 winters with wool socks, but even then, my feet got cold – and sometimes wet. I looked for a minimal boot that would cover the top of my foot completely last winter but my local search was unsuccessful: I was really happy to hear Soft Star Shoes was making one!).
They are very comfortable and I didn’t need any break in time, I suspect because the leather is so deliciously soft.
They attach to the foot snugly with no pressure spots. The laces seemed overly long but they have become more supple as I have worn them a few times and I have decided they are fine.
I was told (by one of the elves) that they run small and weren’t available in my usual Women’s 6 so I decided to try the 7. They are a great fit width-wise, and only a tiny bit too long; my foot slips ever so slightly into the toe box with each step (I suspect this is not going to be an issue as the weather gets colder and I transition into thick socks).
I was slightly disappointed to see that they do not have a suede foot bed like my other Soft Star Shoes, but smooth leather. The leather is admittedly lovely, but I suspect it contributes to the foot slip. This is an easy fix by wearing a thicker sock or an innersole. Soft Star Shoes make a nice sheepskin pair and since I already had them on hand I tried them out; for putting the boots on my bare feet sans socks, I prefer it – but it may be a matter of taste.
I wore the boots all day – only an hour of steady walking – but I felt like I could walk in them all day. They also provided great traction: see the Vibram’s sole?
The charm of Chukkas is that they look good with jeans and casual pants, and if you follow fashion at all, you’ll be aware that women are wearing short boots with skirts. So naturally, I tried them out with a few choices.
I am pretty conservative about shoes: most of the ones I own are neutrals but I loved them in this red that Soft Star is calling Currant. It is such a happy colour.
They also come in Oxyx and Chicory which I also like, though in my opinion the Chicory is not that far from the red. I also love the over stitching around the upper. In a minimalist boot (on my foot at least) I find it gives the sole more structure.
- Zero rise and minimalist (full flex of feet).
- Good traction with a Vibrams sole.
- Plenty of room in the toe box.
- 12 mm between your foot and the ground – for warmth, dryness and cushioning on hard ground.
- Wear-out-of-the-box comfortable.
- Very light weight (9 oz.) and great for packing because you can fold them.
- Smart enough to take you from the trail to … anywhere … just about.
- An investment piece. Who knew Chukkas were ‘old school cool’?
- Small make – you may have to size up.
- Slippery foot bed.
- Price point: $190USD.
Since I own 5 pairs of Soft Star shoes, I am obviously a fan, but seriously I tried to come up with more negatives for a balanced review. But – unless you don’t like flats – I can’t think of more to add except a discussion of the price point: Only the Soft Star boots are priced higher.
But taking into consideration the value, I think this is a fair price. For one thing, they can be re-soled. I am anticipating several years of service from these boots at least, and to back this up, my first Soft Star purchase – Merry Janes, will be seeing their 4th winter this year and are still in mint condition. I wear them through all seasons – except in heavy rain and snow – and I am anticipating the Hawthorne Chukkas will be the same. Even if you get three years from them, it works out to $65 a year. I have bought quite a few shoes at that price that barely saw me through a season.
I am also looking forward to seeing new colours in this boot. I would really enjoy having the look of my old sand Desert boots but a high quality, which to me means a minimalist design.
*This addition to my footwear collection was a generous and most welcome gift from Soft Star Shoes.
Also called Barefoot Shoes, minimalist shoes are a special category of minimalism because they have a different meaning than what we usually mean by minimalism.
With minimalism the goal is to have fewer material things. Minimalist footwear could mean owning fewer pairs of shoes, or owning shoes that were as small as possible.
But in this case, minimalist shoes means minimal interference with the natural function of the feet. It refers to footwear that allows as much free movement of your natural, unshod foot as possible, while offering protection from injury (stepping on sharp things and having something heavy dropped on your foot) as well as protection from extreme heat and cold.
Minimal footwear allows your feet to behave as feet while still offering a buffer between the unnatural detritus found in the modern world that can cause injury.
Katy Bowman, Whole Body Barefoot: Transitioning Well to Minimal Footwear.
There are 4 main components of minimalist shoes: the sole, the heel, the toe box and the upper.
1. The Sole
Regular shoes are generally rigid and, sometimes, thick. Minimalist shoes have flexible soles and are usually thin enough to feel the contours of the ground through them and allows the foot to respond to the terrain. Ideally the soles are flexible so you can fold it.
2. The Heel
The next important thing about minimalist shoes is that the heel is non-existent. Just calling them ‘flats’ is misleading because many ‘flats’ have a very small rise. Minimalist shoes have a zero drop or a neutral heel. This is important because it allows your body to initiate movements from neutral, or an aligned position. A heel, even a small one, pitches the body weight forward and small adjustments are made in the joints to counteract it. These compensations have a physiological cost.
3. The Toe Box
Minimalist Shoes also have a larger toe box than traditional shoes, because toes are meant to move in all directions while moving, but most traditional shoes shape the toes into some fashionable shape that is considered attractive.
4. The Upper
The upper part of the shoe is why flip flops and slip-ons do not make good minimalist shoes. The upper must secure the shoe to the foot without requiring the wearer to grip their toes or tense the shin to keep the shoe on while walking.
3 More Reasons to Wear Minimalists Shoes.
- To regain foot mobility. The greater the mobility in your feet, the less likely you are to have knee, hip, lower back, pelvic floor, and psoas pain/problems.
- To regain lost calf and hamstring length. Your muscles adapt to whatever position you put them in most often. Wearing a positive heeled shoe (and also prolonged sitting) shortens the sarcomeres in the hamstrings and calves. There are a number of reasons why a person might want to reverse this, such as performing better on the ‘sit and rise test’ (how easily can you get to the floor or even touch your toes?), you want to squat, you have urinary incontinence or pelvic floor pain.
- To get a better booty. When you don’t use the back of your legs much there usually a corresponding lack of development in the gluteal muscles, and you end up with a flat butt.
Transitioning to Minimalist
If you’ve worn rigid soled shoes with a narrow toe box and a heel (even a small one) all your life, make your transition slowly.
1. Begin by lowering the height of your heel a bit and get used to that.
2. Don’t trade in your shoes for flip flops (or any other shoe that requires toe grip to keep them on your feet, because you are just trading in one problem for another.
3. Be aware that your walking gait pattern will probably change so be mindful of doing hard hiking, pounding on city pavement or running while wearing minimal shoes until you build up more mobility (and strength) in your feet.
Some Brands of Minimalist Shoes
Also, stop by my Pinterest page on minimalist shoes I own and ones I admire.
Well into our second year of living in a much smaller space, we’ve decided that our ‘this will do for now’ approach needed to be reviewed.
Even though we have scaled back several times, the furniture we kept was re-purposed, too big for the space and encouraged our hoarding tendencies. I also realized that we do not have things which go together, stored together.
For example our TV is sitting on an oak chest (making it very difficult to get anything out of the chest, by the way) while our movies are in a bed-side table re-purposed as an end table. So we don’t watch our movies and probably we do not need anything that is being stored in the oak chest. Right now it is just a place for things to be put away and forgotten about. We also ended up with these two pieces which kept some office supplies and books, but contained, frankly, too much junk.
Although the goal of minimalism is to have less stuff, I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with replacing things with those that are more functional and beautiful. We gave away the larger dresser on the right, and the smaller dresser is (temporarily) in the bedroom.
We replaced it all with this sleek setup from Ikea (Hemnes) that holds our greatly reduced office supplies in the cabinet with the solid door, while more decorative things are in the glass upper portion. I really wanted a lighter feel and this is white stained pine.
All the movies, music and a considerable number of work-related CDs and DVDs are in the drawers below the television. The best part of this is that I don’t have any other hidden stashes. What we have is out on display, and we can better appreciate the fewer treasures we choose to keep without going through the stress of trying to find things when nothing is edited and organized.
When you live in a small space, what you see when you come home is important. We are doing a long overdue apartment overhaul (more on that next week) and I’ve been working on sorting and organizing for a couple of weeks.
I started at the front door with this set of shoe organizers I got at Ikea. They are called Trone and come in a set of three (a third one, tucked in a closet holds my husband’s shoes.) They are also available in black, red and blue. Although I didn’t stack them, I liked the idea that I could, and I also liked the little shelf on top. Tucked just inside our front door this ‘relax’ sign, and my hand carved loon are now the first thing I see when I come home.
In one bin I have my minimal shoe collection (get my list here) and the other holds umbrellas, hats, gloves and bags. It is tidy, organized and convenient (no more scrambling in the morning to get ready to go out.) Minimal shoes are fantastic because they take up so little space.
Best of all it creates a peaceful and welcoming entrance which will set the tone for our apartment re-do. I want to create a feeling of calm space that is highly functional with a place for everything and everything in its place. The next few weeks are going to be a bit chaotic but I keep looking at that Relax message and take a deep breath!