Some love for mini-capsules

How many things you think you can learn from wearing the same shirt over and over again? Legit question! While I have definitely learned more from other experiences, such as forcing myself to talk to strangers and taking a MOOC on Buddhist philosophy (which is awesome by the way), doing a mini-capsule challenge of 10 items x 10 days inspired by The Style Bee, has not been totally useless. Here is what I’ve learned, so that you don’t have to do it yourself! Just kidding, you should totally do it. If you want to – not here to boss anyone around.

Ten items, a million tentatives to get the cats to leave me shoot my folded clothing in peace

1 I don’t mind repeating outfits

I used to dislike repeating outfits, always looking to find new combinations among my clothes. When I started the 10×10, I was also thinking about doing 10 different combinations. I even had a spreadsheet with the variations that I could do! Surprise surprise, what I learned was that reducing your wardrobe can make you realise that it is not that important what you wear. Instead of inspiring my creativity to combine pieces in new ways, it just helped me to get a bit more over the whole outfits-as-self-expression thing. I wore some outfits twice and some clothes almost every day and it was perfectly fine and not boring at all. It did help that I spent half of the challenge one a wedding weekend in Northern Italy – it is almost never our clothes that we are bored with, but almost always our lives. Takeaway: less clothes, more holidays.

Day 6 in the same jeans, happy as a clam in Slovenia

With the challenge over, my enitre 33 piece wardrobe suddenly seems huge! I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t happy to wear some of the other clothes in it though.

2 Getting real about aspirational items

I had included a pair of red ballerinas that I rarely wear, thinking that this could be a good occasion to inspire me to use them more. Instead, I wore my Adidas sneakers 8.5 days out of the 10, and worked barefoot in the office 1 day, because of the blisters I got from walking to the office in my ballerinas. I finally had to accept that the damn things HURT LIKE A BITCH! To the donation pile they go.

Before I started purging my wardrobe, I was a big hoarder of pieces that were just not right, but which I had been holding on to for some reason. Reasons included: it was an awesme thrift find (like the red shoes), it was expensive, it was a gift, I used to love it when I was 2 sizes smaller, it would look great on someone with a better style than mine. All super solid grounds for storing ill-fitting/uncomfortable clothes I never wore anyway.

Love sneakers. Love Love Love.

Even after the purge, some of these have seemed to cling on. So far, capsules and minicapsules have proved to  be a good way to force my hand to say bye to these veterans, and I have never regretted getting rid of any of them.

3 I can pack a suitcase in 2 minutes and get dressed in 30 seconds

Even with the 33-piece capsule, there are mornings when I spend a long time deciding on what to wear. I loved the ease that the 10×10 brought to getting dressed- especially as I wore the same jeans-sneakers- leather jacket combo almost every day. Also, packing for a weekend away was done in 2 minutes, I kid you not.

So, have you tried any mini-capsules? Or are you inspired now to take the plunge? I’d love to hear how it goes.


More thoughtful adventuring

Travel and adventure seem to be essential to the minimalist philosophy. They reflect the shift in focus on experiences rather than possessions that is at the heart of the movement. I am no stranger to this. Seeing new places and doing stuff for the first time are among my favourite things. However, focusing on what matters also calls into question the way we do travel and adventure. If you seek to focus on the essential, you will end up thinking about they way your choices -travel and otherwise- fit into the wider picture: environmentally, socially and ethically. It makes choices and planning harder, and it might look like a way to spoil the fun and take out spontaneity of trips, not to mention making travel more expensive. At the same time, isn’t it bloody great to have more and better adventures, that reflect who you are and maybe even contribute to making the world a tiny bit of a better place?  Below are some ways you can start to make a shift.

  1. Think it through

Being at the beginning of a journey towards #simpleliving, I definitely have more challenges than answers in this area. The first phase of the change is becoming more aware of the context and consequences of your choices, and it does feel uncomfortable.

For instance, the environmental impact of all those city breaks and work trips that we take planes for? Makes me feel very bad. However, I have struggled so far to do something about it.  However, we have started to plan more train and car-powered holidays with J, which could make a difference in the future.

Overthinking does offer other benefits beyond feeling guilty though. It allows you to realise what is it that you really like, and plan a trip that corresponds to those criteria, be it people, activities or ways of travel. I am starting to realise how much I enjoy outdoors and sports activities, which is a surprising twist to my usual holiday spent mostly in museums. Shopping bans and thoughtful spending initiatives have also put a damper on my tendency to buy souvenirs and something for myself “because that will remind me of the holiday”.  Now I know and integrate these in the plans, and trips are much more fun!

You can also think about giving back to the places you visit through supporting local charities, shopping and eating local (the local Starbucks doesn’t count as local!) and visiting community initiatives.

2. Go small/slow

Sometimes the smallest trips are the sweetest! We often neglect exploring our immediate surroundings, and just paying more attention to what’s out there in our own country/city, one can have so many weird and wonderful adventures! I am really inspired by the concept of “microadventures”, which I discovered through the blog of Alastair Humphreys. It is about doing short and exciting things, be it a day hike following a river or spending a night outdoors. These small actions don’t take a lot of planning or time and can help to shift your perspective on the world. Atlas Obscura is another cool resource for weird sights to visit in your vicinity.

We visited the Eupen dam yesterday for an awesome hike, even though water reserves were very low on my dream destination list before.

Similarly, taking your sweet time while traveling often makes for much more satisfying experiences. You can squeeze all the sights in Rome or Paris into 3 days on a weekend trip, but you will leave exhausted and feeling that you haven’t really experienced the city. Take your time to drink that Aperol Spritz/read a book for an hour in a cafe or just sleep in, and you will have way, way more fun. FOMO is ruining those weekend trips for us.

3. Don’t be afraid to say no

Coming from a person with 6 trips to weddings coming up in the next few months, this is not the most credible piece of advice, but hear me out. If you start thinking about why and how you do things, you will inevitably end up with decisions to make. Some examples from my recent trips include:

  • Should I bring checked luggage? (Nope, you’ll be fine with carry-on, no one minds if you wear the same two sweaters all week. Or for two weeks.)
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Carry-on for two weeks (cat was left at home in the end)
  • Everyone is going cage diving with sharks! AWESOME, let’s do it! (Nope, upon reading up on the practice, this is actually highly controversial and quite possibly harmful to the sharks. Ahimsa, dude.)
  • We just got an invite to the sixth wedding abroad this year. Should we really take another trip? We are broke already as it is. (Yeah, we never said no to a wedding invite. Friends are the best!)

4. Get out of your comfort zone

This sounds like the exact opposite of finding what you know you like. But you know, paradoxes are what make us tick! Speaking to strangers is one of the most terrifying challenges to me. Yet, whenever I muster the courage, it usually results in a nice exchange and learning something about the place I am visiting. Other ways of pushing yourself a little can include trying new activities (sports or dunno, participating in a flashmob) , visiting places you would have never considered a worthy destination, or just saying yes when friends and people you have just met propose to do something fun (with some obvious limits on saying yes to offers from strangers! Stay safe everyone!).

J and our friend Ingrid leading our group in getting awfully lost in the woods of Eupen.

What are some of your tips for thoughtful travel?