19.11.14

Minimalist Wardrobe Reading List

Any excuse to talk wardrobes, eh? I've decided to put together a list of inspiring reads on the topic of creating a minimalist wardrobe. Let's call it my minimalist wardrobe reading list. Whilst I don't archive my clothes anymore, I make sure I archive great posts on the subject of dressing well with less. 

1. The Minimalist Wardrobe (aka The 10-item Wardrobe)  In my opinion the definitive minimalist wardrobe from Miss Minimalist.10 items, all photographed and not all black. Wow!
2. the wardrobe cleanse from this brown wren. I love how Steph reveals her thought processes as she describes her wardrobe purge. 
3. the happy closet from Pink Ronnie. The first in a series of 9 enticing wardrobe posts. Sadly Ronnie closed this blog in September but has started something equally beautiful here.  
4. conquer excess shopping Lucent Imagery writes about unhealthy clothes shopping habits and how to recognise our inner beauty.
5. My Minimalist Wardrobe Laura's pared down collection was a great inspiration to me when I started to seriously limit the amount in my wardrobe. Thank you Laura at No More Spending.
6. Add Classic Style to the Small Wardrobe Rachel, at Small Notebook, talks about her 'comfortably dressy' style. 
7. fall - another chance to simplify my wardrobe Janet, from The Gardener's Cottage, oozes style, confidence and fun with vintage pieces.
8. The Autumn Capsule Wardrobe I have my friend Julie to thank for introducing me to Anna's blog, Vivianna Does MakeUp, and her joyful capsule wardrobe vlogs. I love her latest 10 piece autumn collection. Not sure I could carry off those animal print flats though! 
9. 33 Things to Do and Undo When Simplifying Your Wardrobe A really useful list of tips on simplifying your clothes from Project 333's Courtney Carver. Project 333 got me started on experimenting with dressing well with less. How could I leave Courtney out?
10. Alice Gregory On Finding a Uniform My latest read. A clever way to limit your clothes, sharpen your signature look and steal time.  

 I hope you find these 10 links useful. Sharing is never out of style. 




16.11.14

A Wet Walk



Despite my lament about not getting sucked into Christmas, this weekend's blanket of dreary has got me yearning for fairy lights, pj days and nostalgic movies. It's like November ARRIVED this weekend. Whilst our 15 year old sensibly whiled away his day in his pjs we made the effort to get out 'there' whilst there was still some light in the sky. As we opened the door, drizzle greeted us. Maybe drizzle is too kind a word. We hesitated, but stuck to our guns and ventured to a nearby country park (and the largest canal feeder reservoir in use today). The watery theme continued but we had a great walk. There's nothing like damp for putting a spring in your step. We walked, talked, laughed and we got to the cafĂ© before it closed. Yay! A cup of tea, yes that will do very nicely, thank you. Simple pleasures, eh...

Thanks for reading, commenting and following this week. It's great to have you here. 

Have a happy week xo


14.11.14

In the Slow Lane this Christmas

Every year Christmas seems to besiege us more unexpectedly than before. It seems only 5 minutes since I was reluctantly packing away my sandals and now I'm contemplating going into the loft to check how many Christmas cards and rolls of wrapping paper I have left over from last year. Some of my friends and colleagues have already announced that they've finished their gift buying and a certain item has already caused panic buying in the shops (a cuddly penguin called Monty, if you're not in the UK). If we're not careful advertisers, retailers, magazine articles and even our own friends and family can make us feel under pressure to get buying, get busy and get burnt-out. 

Not me. I'll be in the slow lane once more this Christmas, taking time out en route for peace and calm. My present buying will be mainly consumables, vouchers, experiences or items that people have requested. It will be carefully planned to match my budget and I'm going to try and keep extra food shopping to a minimum. I might even save the sherry for Christmas Eve. Shopping trips will be short or done online and I will buy it gradually over the next few weeks. I bought a few bottles of wine as presents on our recent trip to France, but other than that I haven't started my Christmas shopping yet. 

In pursuit of a calm lead up to Christmas and (hopefully) a chance to rest once the holiday arrives I have also decided it's time to finish those decluttering goals I set myself at the beginning of the year. I will report back on my progress but before I do... 

Why I'm Decluttering Before Christmas:

1. To reduce stress. When my home or areas of my homes are cluttered it creates daily stress as I search for items. Decluttering in advance will lessen this stress and make it easier to tidy and clean the house as Christmas approaches.
2. Empty space can be calming. Even one tidier drawer makes me feel happier and less stressed - much needed at this time of year. A cleared shelf in a cupboard to store Christmas presents will make me feel organised and prepared. 
3. To support charities. Instead of making a little extra money for myself I will donate unwanted items that I have been holding onto for too long to charity shops. 
4. I want to review my relationship with stuff. I need to ask myself: Why did I want this? How often did I use it? When did I last use it? Why have I been unable to let it go? 
5. To make room. It's inevitable that at Christmas new items will enter the house. Decluttering now will even that out and if I do a good job might free up some space permanently. 

What better time of year to assess and reflect on our relationship to material things? It might just slow us all down.



11.11.14

How to Maintain Healthy Habits

It's been a while since I've written a health related post here but that's not to say I haven't been focusing on nurturing my health. In fact, quite the opposite. I've learnt this year that looking after my health needs to remain a priority, just as it was 4 years ago when my life was a lot more stressful. Healthy eating, moderate drinking, exercise and relaxation are as vital today as they were back then when I was at my most stressed. 

The problem is that although we can simplify the structure of our lives we can't completely remove everyday stress or our reactions to it. When my schedule becomes busy, or my sons have new things going on or someone in the family has a health crisis that's when my new healthy habits drop off one by one and I seek comfort in old, not so healthy habits. My exercise routine, my fruit and vegetable intake and my number of alcohol free days drop off. I also tend to spend more money at the supermarket when I'm busier. And don't finish my book for book club. I could go on...

I've been researching how habits are formed in the hope that I can understand and improve how I react when life gets busy and stressful. 

So, how can we maintain healthy habits when the going gets tough?

1. The first step is to be aware of your habits and how often you repeat them. Developing an awareness of how you react to different situations can be enlightening. You may want to keep a diary of what triggers a habit and what the outcome is.
2. The next step is to decide which habit you'd like to improve. Leo Babauta suggests working on one new habit a month and starting with small goals to ensure success. Even tiny improvements like one more glass of water a day are a step in the right direction.
3. Visual cues are important in forming new habits. Write a reminder of your new habit and display it where you'll see it every day. Display healthy items prominently in your home and remove or limit the unhealthy options. Put your running shoes by the front door as a visual clue for your morning run the next day. Verbal cues are important too. Try dancing or exercising to a favourite song when it comes on the radio. Isn't that BeyoncĂ©'s secret?  
4. Focus on the reward. How does more exercise, a healthier diet or more time for relaxation affect your mood and sense of well-being? Remind yourself of how great you feel when you take better care of yourself. Build on this.
5. Talk positively to yourself. Stop those negative thoughts in their tracks. Big up your ability to improve your behaviour and you will be more likely to succeed. Your conscious mind instructs your subconscious mind. Positive talk builds positive action.
6. Plan how you will react to difficult situations and moments of weak resolve. Decide what you will eat before you go out for a meal, how much you'll drink at a party before you get there or how you'll fit in some exercise if you are about to travel away from home
7. Share your healthy habits with friends and family. When your resolve weakens they may support you and help rekindle your motivation to make healthy choices. 
8. Know that temptation will pass. Deal with temptation by substituting healthy alternatives. Swap the biscuits for a small piece of dark chocolate, a glass of wine for a soak in bubble bath, internet browsing for an early night. 
9. Willpower varies so embrace balance. Allow for setbacks. Allow yourself treats but learn to limit them. A day off from exercise, the occasional sweet treat, or a glass of wine can lift your mood when done in moderation. Yes you will need willpower at the start to overcome a negative habit but eventually the new (positive) response will become automatic. Master that willpower that lurks within you.
10. Be a mindful shopper. If over buying is a habit limit the amount of times you shop. Making a purchase that you have researched, saved up for and planned will make you happier than when you buy items on impulse, out of boredom, unhappiness or feelings of inadequacy. Know that what goes in our shopping baskets is often an unconscious decision, even down to the brands we buy. Beware, most of the healthiest items come without fancy packaging. 

Believe in yourself. Don't worry how long it takes to develop new habits, just make healthy choices today. 

And repeat. 




9.11.14

At the Weekend

Today bright skies restored calm after the recent gushes of rain. This week I've been battling with an ear infection and after being on the wrong antibiotics for 5 days I'm now beginning to feel well again. This weekend I've been grateful for...

♥ Sunlit autumn leaves.
♥ A woodland walk.
♥ Fresh flowers and sunlight. 
♥ Nourishing meals.
♥ A morning soak in the tub - part of my new Sunday routine.
♥ Remembrance Sunday - a poignant reminder of the fragility of peace and the price paid for freedom.

Thank you for reading, commenting and following Just a little less this week. Be well xo



3.11.14

Minimalist Monday: Dress Well With Less

It's 3 months since I committed to a 40 piece minimalist wardrobe and I can say, without a scintilla of doubt, that I have no regrets. Getting down to this low a number of clothing items wasn't easy and the last items were particularly hard to lose. However, it was worth it. Having a minimalist wardrobe makes my life simpler and therefore happier. This is what I've learnt from having a 40 piece minimalist wardrobe thus far.

1. With a smaller number of carefully selected items all my clothes are functional and loved. They fit, are comfortable, suit my lifestyle and are in good enough condition.  
2. Choosing what to wear takes less time.
3. Washing, ironing and putting away my clothes is quicker. 
4. I can wear my favourite clothes every day. 
5. My wardrobe space stays tidy without much effort. Bliss. 
6. 40 pieces is more than enough items of clothing for me – some items get more wear than others, isn’t that always the case?
7. I don't own occasion wear but have a more flexible wardrobe that can be dressed up or down.
8. I still get a lot of flexibility and different looks from 40 pieces.
9. I've learnt what suits me, feel more confident in outfits and wear them over and over again.
10. I feel confident that in the future I will make less mistakes over clothes and that my wardrobe will become more streamlined and coordinated.
11. Feeling content with my current clothes and enjoying the ease of getting dressed means I hanker less after new clothes and what others are wearing. 

Paring down my wardrobe to 40 pieces has been an ongoing, gradual process over the last 4 years. Achieving my goal of a wardrobe that is small, manageable and affordable is a satisfying feeling. Not only have I simplified this area of my daily life but I have also learnt a lot about myself in the process. Stripping back my wardrobe has forced me to take a long hard look at each garment I own and the emotional attachment I have to it. By allowing myself to clear out clothes that I had negative feelings towards I have also cleared out tonnes of emotional baggage in the process. The clothes that were too tight, unflattering or reminders of past overspending have gone and with them their associated feelings of self-loathing, guilt and disappointment. These days my mind is lighter as well as my clothes rail.

We all have different needs, values and emotions tied up in the clothes we buy and the garments we hold onto. Buying and hoarding clothes we hardly wear can lead to negative feelings which in turn can lead us into buying more and more in the vain hope that the next purchase will make us happier. And this is easily done when clothes are so readily available and advertising so seductive. It takes discipline, courage and mounds of mindfulness to change shopping habits but it can be achieved.  

Here are a few questions to ponder if you're gearing up to a wardrobe detox or about to make a new clothing purchase.

How many clothes is enough? 
Do we buy new clothes to impress others when we don't really need them?
Do we use clothes shopping as a distraction or as a reward?
How much does our self-worth come from the clothes we wear and the image we try to project?
Is looking our best just about the clothes we wear? 
How much space, time, money and energy are we prepared to commit to our clothes?
Could the simple pleasure of a tidy capsule wardrobe give longer lasting pleasure than the temporary thrill of a new outfit or “bargain”?
Isn't it time we accepted our body shapes and fluctuations of weight as normal and learn to judge ourselves less critically?
Could we do something more meaningful with our free time other than shopping?
Wouldn't it be a good feeling to look forward to our next clothing purchase knowing we are buying something we need rather than want?

I'm not suggesting we shouldn't enjoy our clothes, fashion and shopping trips or that a minimalist wardrobe will suit everyone. However, I do think a good wardrobe declutter can give us as much a boost as a spot of retail therapy can. Paring down my wardrobe and beginning to build a minimalist collection of clothes that I love has made me a more confident dresser. Here's to minimalist wardrobes, lighter minds and natty dressing! 

Have you edited your clothes recently or are you finding it hard to let go of past clothing mistakes? I'd love to hear from you.



2.11.14

At the Weekend


♥ I upcycled a vintage maxi dress into a tunic and sashayed the night away at a 70th birthday party. I need to throw out an item from my wardrobe now - one in one out!
♥ Discovered a new canalside cafe via twitter.
♥ Had a slow Sunday get-up - going away and the clocks changing have left me more tired than usual. 
♥ Got out walking every day.
♥ Used the potimarron I bought in a French supermarket in a tray bake. It's a little different to pumpkin as it has a richer colour and has a delicate hint of chestnut. It looked and tasted wonderful.

The air was cooler this afternoon as we walked and my hands actually felt cold. The landscape is beginning to look bare too. Well it is November.

Thanks for reading, following and commenting here. It's lovely to share my time with you.

Enjoy your week xo


30.10.14

Reflections, Le Havre

Our whistle-stop break in Le Havre, north-west France was, as you can see, blessed with fine weather. My father-in-law was determined that we should get the most from our short visit and, with his help, we were able to see plenty of his local neighbourhood, the city and seafront. I'm so glad we made this visit. Such calm weather is rare in Le Havre and locals and visitors alike delighted in the stillness and warmth of the late autumn sunshine. Families, couples, old and young, taking time to be in the moment and spend time with each other - it was wonderful to observe - a gift. I love France: its food, architecture and style. Autumn seemed to be less advanced here and as we held onto British Summer Time, we took pleasure in the light and sights. Here's my view, my postcard....


24.10.14

Le Weekend


This weekend...

we're heading off for a three day break. We'll be in France for two nights visiting my father-in-law and then on our return we have one night booked into a UK hotel (with a cocktail lounge). A child free break, the longest break we've had together as a couple in the past nineteen years. Nineteen years. And we're leaving the country. 

Of course, I shall be travelling light. 

My mini-break wardrobe: favourite skinny jeans, checked shirt, vest, white/black striped three quarter length sleeved top, blue modal round neck t-shirt, black blazer, parka, flat boots and heeled boots. 

Travelling light is easy now I have a minimalist wardrobe. I shall be wearing half my clothes and carrying the rest. Clothing dilemmas are easily sorted these days. 

I'm looking forward to three days of new experiences, having time to talk and just be. Enjoy your weekend xo

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22.10.14

Stoptober Spicy Aubergine and Butterbean Soup

In the spirit of Stoptober I'm endeavouring to keep my food waste to a minimum and use up items that have lain dormant in the cupboard for months. Soup cravings have started to stir of late and have and spurred me back into the kitchen at lunchtimes. It took one leftover aubergine, one neglected tin of butterbeans and exactly 35 minutes to spare, for this new soup to be added to my repertoire. You don't have to add mushrooms (I only had 1 aubergine) but they do work well together. Both aubergines and butterbeans are low in calories for their size, so this chunky soup offers maximum comfort for minimum calories. I really enjoyed its flavour and bite.

You will need (serves 4 large portions)

1 medium onion, chopped.
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1-2 tablespoons of harissa paste according to taste (it's hot)
1 large aubergine, diced
250g mushrooms, halved
400g can chopped tomatoes
500ml of vegetable stock (not exact depends how thick/thin you like your soup)
400g can butterbeans, drained
natural yoghurt and/or grated cheese to serve

Method

Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the onions until soft and golden. Stir in the harissa and cook for a minute or two. Add the aubergines and mushrooms and stir to coat them loosely with the harissa. Next add the tomatoes, butterbeans and the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for up to 30 minutes. Serve with a swirl of natural yoghurt and/or a scattering of grated cheese for extra decadence. 

We enjoyed this for a weekend lunch and there was enough leftover for 2 more generous bowlfuls on Monday. Low carb comfort.