Compulsory minimalism, or living out of a suitcase

Monday mornings are simpler, and smoother, when we don’t spend time standing in front of the wardrobe, trying to decide what to wear. Oh no, instead, I reach under the bed and pull out my red suitcase to retrieve one of my two favourite pairs of jeans and a t-shirt.

We first started decluttering our home three years ago, slowly giving away items that we did not need or use on a regular basis, sometimes replacing several items with one more compact version suitable for multiple purposes. With clothing items, we started practising the ‘one in, one out’ rule, only replacing an item with a new one when required. This process has been highly successful for us and has taught us to discern between our needs, nice-to-haves, and what we can most certainly do without. All this has proved to be useful in preparation for our move overseas. Today, we are living out of a few suitcases while patiently waiting for the arrival of a container with the remainder of our belongings.

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Once, many years ago, I would have dreaded the mere idea of living for several months with only a small selection of clothes. In reality, I alternate daily between two favourite pairs of jeans and several high-quality t-shirts and sweaters. For footwear, I rely on a pair of espadrilles, jandals (flipflops, for the non-kiwi crowd), training shoes, and comfy ankle boots. I also have my favourite Hunter wellies and wear them with great pleasure on rainy days, though I have observed that wellies are only popular here with children. Then again, this northern girl also only wears jandals to the beach; Birkenstocks are a different story and I’m waiting for those to arrive in a couple of months.

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I suppose it also helps that my makeup and skincare routine are fairly simple — all my skincare and makeup products fit into a small bag. When it comes to yoga and other forms of fitness, I’m using my thin travel yoga mat, which I have previously folded and placed in a carry-on suitcase when packing for short business trips. Fortunately, stretchy yoga clothes are compact and can be rolled haphazardly into a tiny ball, then stuffed into the aforementioned Hunter boots.

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Altogether, our compulsory lifestyle of suitcase dressing does not feel at all straining and by now, I love the simplicity of a capsule wardrobe and the creative options it allows while reducing the risk of decision fatigue. That said, we are looking forward to a reunion with the chosen items that we have shipped in a container due to arrive in a couple of months, but that’s a story for another post.

Thank you, as always, for taking a moment to share this blog with a friend.

The week in review: May 19th

It appears winter has arrived in NZ, announcing itself by way of rain, wind gusts, and crisp mornings. Inevitably, it’s all very different from winter in Ontario and we are curious about the months to come. I think of plans for July and immediately conjure images of hot and humid days, then remind myself that such weather doesn’t apply to this part of the world at that time of year.

There are also other fascinating discoveries. Two weeks ago, I noticed that the moon phases progress in the opposite direction in the southern hemisphere than in the northern. As someone who follows the moon particularly closely, I was puzzled to see that the moon was waxing from the left to the right side. My delight at this so-called discovery might sound downright ridiculous to others for whom this information is likely common knowledge, but it fills me with inexplicable joy and curiosity. Please do leave a note in the comments below and tell me, did you know about this ‘mirror effect’ of the moon in the northern vs. the southern hemisphere?

A few favourite moments from the past week:

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I was almost knocked off my feet by a wind gust while taking photos near the dunes. I’m at once terrified and fascinated by the ocean on stormy days.
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Beachside treasures that leave me in awe of the wonders of the universe.
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It’s easy to eat the rainbow when delicious vegetables are in abundance at the farmers’ market.
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I adore the whimsical nature gifts that the youngest Wanderlust Junior brings home almost daily. Some of them — ahem, pet bugs — are somewhat questionable, but others are sweet.

Favourites from around the web:

Modern Mrs. Darcy has released her list of 17 books everyone will be talking about this summer. I can’t wait to get my hands on a few of these. Which ones are you looking forward to reading?

A fascinating podcast: Accelerated Learning: Get Good at Anything in 20 hours

Beautiful, honest, and though-provoking. Our Mothers as We Never Saw Them. I have often looked at photos of my mother from her late teens and early 20s and wondered about the woman she was before I changed her world.

We spend plenty of time inside our heads. You Can’t Be Creative without Being in Your Body

Things have been busy on my end. It’s time to return to basics. Today I’ll Press Pause

Excellent advice for the writer. So you want to be a writer? Essential tips for aspiring novelists

Wishing you a beautiful weekend, regardless of the reigning season!

May 5th / 6th: Simplicity, and local exploration

Here is a small selection of favourite moments from the past week:

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A breezy Sunday afternoon on Leisure Island, with a view of Mount Maunganui.
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Cilantro (coriander in NZ) catching a few cosy rays on the windowsill.
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Posting mail to a few special recipients overseas.
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Joy is a new-to-me beach cruiser that feels like it’s always been mine.
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Simple and delicious.

Favourites from around the web:

We have been doing plenty of sightseeing, but we are also working to balance it with quiet time and simplicity. Why simplifying may protect our children’s mental health.

Quirky. How reading makes our lives better.

This resonates. How to make and keep friends as an adult.

Self-care. A YogaLand interview with Tiffany Cruikshank regarding self-care idea for spring’s transitions.

Here’s to a pleasant weekend!

Three relationships

treatfortI opened my email inbox this afternoon to find the Daily JOMO newsletter from Christina Crook. In today’s quest toward a slower, more mindful life, Christina invites us to focus on three important people and to dedicate some time to them. When I first heard of the idea of choosing merely three people toward whom to direct my attention, I felt limited, immediately retorting that I am fortunate to have more than three people in my life about whom I care deeply and whom I wish to honour. Yet, I don’t believe that we are meant to think of the invitation in absolute terms. The choice can be turned into a daily ritual of intention-setting. The people we choose might be different every day or might remain the same for a week at a time. It does not undermine our relationship with anyone else who is dear to us.

I considered my day today, at home with the Wanderlust Juniors, feeling tired due to the new adjustment to daylight saving time and having been awakened too early to tend to a boy with a — thankfully — mild case of food poisoning. My attention was required here, ready to assist with the construction of play forts; entertaining two little artists by sharing the pages of a colouring book; making raw chocolate treats; and slicing apples at snack time. Here were two relationships that demanded my undivided attention. The third person was my mum, who brought along treats for teatime and with whom I enjoyed a couple of lovely — albeit short — hours.

The three people often choose us. All that is required of us is to accept the invitation to remain present.

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Favourites from around the web: March 3rd edition

So, it is March, the first month of spring in the northern hemisphere. In spite of that fact, in southern Ontario, the cold weather prevails right now, and with it the will to hibernate. I have been craving time to read and craft. January and February were exceptionally busy months for us, and I feel called to slow down.

How are you doing?

If, like me, your interest lies with solitude and a slower pace, you might enjoy the following:

A few moments for meditation, or podcasts to enjoy.

Taming anxiety-driven thoughts.

Food for thought, for educators and parents.

Holding onto old-fashioned presence.

I learned to cook, do laundry, and manage other aspects of my home on my own, but I have always been a solitary learner. This concept is alternative and intriguing.

One week at a time.

Here’s to a tranquil weekend!

Slow mornings

Sunday morning.

A few overripe bananas alone in the centre of a large ornate bowl.

Hungry bellies await breakfast.

A yawn escapes while the countertop is set with a metal bowl, a whisk, and measuring cups.

The bananas are peeled, then mashed.

Milk is poured, with juice of half a lemon squeezed to replace buttermilk.

Coconut oil melts in the skillet.

The dry and wet ingredients intermingle in a large bowl.

A handful of chocolate chips tossed into the mix. Why not?

Coconut oil sizzles as batter is poured onto the hot surface.

The routine is tranquil, meditative.

The kettle emits a gentle whistle as the water inside boils.

Tea. Pancakes. Coffee. Maple syrup.

Simple, like Sunday morning.

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In the interest of saving time amid a busy weekday routine, we celebrated Fat Tuesday a couple of days early. In truth, Sunday morning pancakes are a tradition chez nous. Here is our favourite banana and chocolate chip pancake recipe:

Ingredients:

2 medium-size very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
1 cup buttermilk (or a cup of milk with lemon juice squeezed into it)
1 egg
1 tbsp coconut sugar or white sugar
1/3 cup coconut oil or butter, melted
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
handful of chocolate chips
additional coconut oil for frying

Preparation:

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg, bananas, buttermilk, sugar, and oil.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold the batter showly. Add the chocolate chips and stir gently.

Fry 2-3 minutes per side on a skillet lightly greased with coconut oil or butter. Serve with maple syrup and/or other favourites.

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Place share a favourite pancake recipe in the comments below.
 

A few wardrobe rules

I have narrowed down my wardrobe and counted the pieces: 111 total. That number seems high to me. I console myself with reminders that this number includes outerwear, yoga clothes, dressy and casual pieces. Then I remember that I have not counted the footwear — 14 pieces, including winter boots and house slippers. That number also does not include accessories — once upon a time, I loved to collect scarves — as well as sleepwear, swimwear, and undergarments.

The number 111 might sound high, yet I can honestly say that I wear all the pieces at least once per year. Is that a good enough reason to hold onto them? I suppose it depends on whom we ask, and minimalism has many definitions. As I continue to fine-tune my personal style, I have developed certain rules to which I adhere when deciding what items to keep in my closet and before making a decision to introduce something new into my wardrobe:

1. Toss (and say ‘no’ to) anything that does not feel comfortable.

Gone are the days when I was prepared to suffer to look good. I have since learned that if I don’t feel comfortable, I most likely do not look good. That means letting go of any woolen itchy sweaters, curve-hugging camisoles that ride up and need to be readjusted every few minutes, dresses that are too short, t-shirts that show my midriff, and any tops that require a funky version of a strapless bra or adhesives to hold the piece in place on my body. Comfort is No. 1 for me.

2. Toss (and say ‘no’ to) anything that does not look 100% flattering on me.

Some pieces look fabulous on a hanger, a mannequin, or another person, but that will not always be the case when I try them on, and that’s okay. I love the look of one-piece swimsuits; after years of wearing bikinis, last summer I purchased a gorgeous fuchsia one piece. After wearing it once to the beach, I understood that I much prefer the comfort of bikinis, and because I have a long torso, if I ever again decide to try a one-piece, it will have to be one specially made for my build.

3. Keep items that complement and can be layered with other items that I have in my wardrobe.

Recently, I have developed a colour scheme that differs significantly from the colours I used to wear 10 years ago. Although I still like pinks and purples from time to time, those pinks have been replaced with darker fuchsia, and the purple with richer burgundy. I am particular about basic pieces (long-sleeved t-shirts in black, dark grey, and neutral are my favourites) and layering them with cardigans and sweaters.

4. Choose items that are practical and suit my lifestyle.

When choosing which items to keep and which new ones to bring in, I consider where I will wear them and how frequently. Although I have kept a few dressy items that I wear once per year, I do not bring anything new into my wardrobe that I do not plan to wear less frequently than once every few weeks.

5. Choose items that are of the highest quality I can afford.

This is a big criteria point for me. Gone are the days when I used to seek the most affordable pieces the seams of which would fall apart or the colours of which would fade after one or two washes (bear in mind that I hand-wash the majority of my clothes with gentle liquid detergent). Today, I look for versatile pieces that are made of sustainable materials, preferably in Canada or the U.S. I also enjoy items such as my Encircled Chrysalis cardigan, which can be worn in several different ways. I used to think that a well-made $100 sweater was much too expensive, until I purchased such a sweater several years ago and continue to wear it frequently, enjoying it every time. Because I no longer rejoice at acquiring 10 $10 items, I do not feel bad when I do, once per year, invest $100 in one timeless piece that I know I will wear for many years to come.

6. I don’t need more than one of everything.

I used to think I needed two pairs of black pants in two different cuts, but I only enjoyed wearing one of the pairs. So, out went the secondary option. I used to have three different styles of black pumps — one with a stiletto heel, another with a kitten heel, and a third with a chunky heel. I have since selected the one pair that I like most and donated the others. Do I miss them? No! I will go so far as to say that I have also significantly reduced my selection of undergarments, leaving only the ones that I feel most comfortable wearing. No one needs 20 pairs of underwear in 20 different shades of pink when 10 cotton pairs in basic colours will suffice. My selection might seem boring to some, but it’s practical and it makes me feel good.

7. I don’t need 20 different special-occasion outfits.

Once upon a time, I held onto every evening gown that I had worn once to a special occasion, and I thought that I needed a new dress for each special occasion I attended. Those gowns have all been donated because I rarely have an occasion that warrants such an outfit. I have kept one timeless black cocktail dress that I do not mind wearing to multiple events. Let it be my signature look!

8.  Never shop because I’m bored or require retail therapy, and never buy something just because it’s on sale.

This is an easy one for me, because I frankly do not enjoy shopping, and the concept of retail therapy has never appealed to me. I shop alone, never with a girlfriend, at two favourite online stores, and just because a t-shirt is on sale for $5 does not mean I need it or it is a smart choice for me. In my opinion, based on past experience, in most situations, a $5 item purchased on impulse is never a good choices and that money is better spent on a latte.

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T-shirts. Minimalism need not be boring. I continue to enjoy bright colours and patterns (I’m very partial to horizontal stripes).

Do you have several personal wardrobe rules? Please share them with me in the comments below. 

P.S. Please remember to share this blog with a friend!

Pantry declutter project: mung bean soup

I spent the weekend tidying the laundry room in our home and sorting through piles of paperwork that I had collected over the past several years. I’m also cooking my way through our kitchen pantry stash of beans, flours, and other items that we had purchased once upon a time within the past few years but have not used in substantial quantities.

On Sunday, I used a large quantity of flour to make play-doh for the youngest Wanderlust Junior’s classroom; banana pancakes for breakfast; banana and chocolate chip muffins for Wanderlust Juniors’ snack break at school; and a banana and chocolate chip loaf for our post-dinner dessert. I confess that my baking quest was not a result of attempting to bake my way through an entire bag of flour. Rather, there were too many very ripe bananas sitting on our kitchen counter, begging to be featured in several delicious ways.

Last week, I shared with you my recipe for banana, blueberry, and lavender muffins. This time, I will share with the result of my pantry declutter project: mung bean soup. I made a large pot of this flavourful, warming, grounding soup on Sunday afternoon for me and Mr. Wanderlust to enjoy at lunch all throughout the workweek.

Ground, warming mung bean soup recipe

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Ingredients:

2 cups dry mung bean

1 tbsp olive oil

1 small white or yellow onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely minced

3 carrots, finely chopped

1 celery stalk, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped finely

1 green pepper, chopped finely

1 heaping tbsp tomato paste

Enough filtered water or vegetable stock (or a mixture of both) to cover the mung bean and vegetables, plus three additional inches of water and/or stock on top

1/4 tsp ground turmeric

1 tbsp curry powder

sea salt and pepper, to taste

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Preparation:

  1. Soak the mung bean overnight in a large pot in cold water. Before cooking the soup, rinse and drain the beans.
  2. In a large cooking pot over medium-high heat, heat the oil and cook the onions and garlic until they turn a golden brown colour.
  3. Add the carrots and celery and continue to cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the bell peppers and continue to cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. Add the tomato paste, turmeric, and curry powder, and stir everything together.
  6. Add the salt and pepper and water and/or stock, cover and bring to a boil.
  7. Reduce the heat to simmer and continue to cook the soup, covered, for 45 minutes to an hour on low heat.
  8. Turn off the heat, add the lemon juice, and stir once again.

I like to allow the soup to rest overnight, absorbing the flavour, and serve it the following day.

Do you have a favourite soup recipe that incorporates various legumes that just might be lurking in my pantry? Please share them with me in the comments below.

Do you know someone who might enjoy this recipe? Please share this blog post with a friend!

Wrap-up: Top 11 posts of 2016

Depending on where in the world you reside, you might already be well into your festivities. I wish you a warm and cosy week of celebrations with your dear ones. I also want to thank you for your support over the past 12 months. Mindful Daydreamer is forever evolving as I continue to learn and mature in my writing and exploration of ideas. I’m grateful to have this platform to share my thoughts and for the support of my loyal readers. I bow to you in deep gratitude.

Happy holidays! I am taking a mini retreat from blogging and social media, but will write again in the early days of 2017. Until then, may we all bask in the quiet peace of these final days of the year before welcoming the new one. Enjoy every moment! 


If during the holiday week you have a few minutes to relax with a cup of tea and would like to catch up on some reading you might have missed, or re-read a few favourite posts, allow me to share with you the 11 most popular Mindful Daydreamer posts of 2016:

1.  Mindfulness for the introvert business traveller, published on February 22nd

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2.  Transformation through discomfort, published on February 24th

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3.  Our mindful Disney vacation, published on March 4th

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4. The best version of myself, published on April 21st

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5. Deciding to simplify, published on June 10th

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6. A story of commitment, dedication, and love, published on June 17th

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7. Anniversary, published on July 22nd

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8. Milestones and memories, published on August 4th

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9. On Friendship, published on November 10th

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10. Festive season yoga time-out, published on December 15th

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11. The top 11 books I read in 2016, published on December 22nd

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Kindest wishes,

Katia (Mindful Daydreamer)

What I learned in the past 10 days

I’m a bit late with the publication of this edition of the blog, and I apologize. You see, yesterday, I excitedly awaited the return of Mr. Wanderlust from a long business trip.

Today, although rain is in the forecast, I want to dance around the kitchen à la Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelly, and Donald O’Connor, singing, “Good morning, good morning…” I am happy, and not only because it’s Friday but because Mr. Wanderlust has returned home. Over the past 10 days, I have regained an appreciation for single parents who do it all, every day.

It was also a valuable learning experience, with the following to add to the list of odd skills I have acquired:

– I learned how to add an HD channel to our digital TV tuner (no, we do not have even the most basic cable) in order to spend Sunday evening cosily watching the Toronto Santa Claus parade with Wanderlust Juniors. The mad wind did not help, but after spending several minutes standing still in front of the TV, holding the antenna in my right hand at shoulder height for a clear picture, I found a solution that worked surprising well: placing the antenna careful atop two rolled yoga mats snacked one on top of the other. Oh, how I wish I had taken a photo for your amusement!

– I learned to pump air into the tyres of our car when, after a cold weekend, while on my way to work on Monday morning, the tyre pressure light showed up on the dashboard. This might sound typical, but I tend to leave car repairs and maintenance tasks to Mr. Wanderlust. This was a new challenge for me and I must say I am proud of myself for facing it without too much trepidation.

– I became better at air hockey, which Wanderlust Juniors and I played at the local children’s hairstylist’s in-between their appointments last Saturday. In case you’re wondering, Wanderlust Juniors won every time (of course), but I enjoyed plenty of practice.

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I must confess, I am excited about the start of the Christmas season. The Toronto Christmas Market is one of our favourite annual festive traditions.

I also broke a few rules by decorating for Christmas much too early. I believe that the season officially starts on December 1st, but I broke my own rule and in seeking ways to keep Wanderlust Juniors entertained on a rainy Saturday, pulled out the Christmas decorations. We enjoyed a delightful afternoon rediscovering our favourite ornaments, and truly, the extra sparkle and bright lights are a welcome sight on these grey days. We normally get a real tree, but this year, simply because it’s already up and in the interest of keeping the season simple, we might just leave the little artificial tree that Mr. Wanderlust and I first purchased for our apartment 11 years ago.

Your turn: What did you learn recently? What have you done to break your own rules for your and your family’s benefit? Please leave a comment below. 

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!