Minimalism, where to start?

I keep my simplicity in my soul
Spread over me like a clear sky
Reflecting all that I am
And all that’s ever passed me by

- Sanober Khan

 

Recently I felt the need to just throw all the excess stuff out, get rid of all of it, clean my home, re-arrange my closet, go through all the excess stuff laying around.

Everything out.

Now, in all honesty, not everything went out (which is a good thing). But it describes the general vibe. I had felt the desire for change for a while (or was it an antidote to the political reality we live in?) and started on that journey in other ways already. But it was only after a weekend spent with family in Brussels that the real inner urge and feeling to attack my living space, and the stuff I owned, came up. They had just started the 30 day Minimalism game where you get rid of one item on day one, two items on day two and so on, for thirty days straight. Whoever finishes last wins the challenge. Not only did I love this idea (which in the end turned out to even be too slow for me, I had to be more rigorous) it also got me hooked on The Minimalists spirit and their work. They have a lovely podcast, website, and many more gems to discover. 

And so this all had not resonated with me with this force majeure if it hadn’t been in alignment with a deeper desire I had kept inside me as well. It sort of clicked and got me very energized. Below I’ll outline how I started  and structured my path. It’s merely a way to get you going, and if you’ve already developed your own system that is fine as well - I’d love to hear from you. 

I call it Practicing Intentional Living; this is how you get started:

1.  Make a list of 2 to 5 things that you value most [a value ascribes the degree to which you find something to have importance].

2.  Then write down 3 specific goals you have [what you want to achieve] in terms of living an intentional life.

3.  The last step is to combine the two, to make sure that your goals are in line with your values. If you value quietude, freedom and organization (see my story below), and your goal is to have a successful career you will need to write down the necessary steps and actions that are needed to get there [be successful], that are in line with your values [quietude and organization]. That is your real challenge.

So let’s break it down

1. What do you value most? I for example value quietude - a sense of peacefulness, in order to let those day and night dreams flow free, and recuperate from a long day of meetings – I value freedom – a work place that supports and values independence, friends that love me for me - and I value organization. I love when things are well coordinated and arranged, with no unnecessary distractions. You can list anything, as long as it represents what’s valuable to you; being healthy, spending time with family and friends, good communication - talking to your partner, and so on. 

The purpose is to manifest intentional living, to make space for these things in your life in a purposeful and meaningful way. 

2. After you’ve written down your values you can start writing down what your goals are. Goals of mine include feeling engaged, committed and passionate about what I do, to be successful at the things I commit to, to diminish excess stress and live an overall more simple and meaningful life.  So I wake up in the morning for work and be ready in a hot second. So I know where my priorities lie. So I have more space in my brain for creativity - for those magical epiphany moments to arise.

This pretty much sums up the feeling:

"Sweaters and dresses I never wore,

Sprinkled long forgotten on my bedroom floor.

Books I never read, ruffled papers piled up on my bed.

Paraphernalia scattered around, reminiscent of a well-curated lost and found.

More clothes with the price tag on, like a hoarder-LeBron.

And shoes, oh my shoes, especially those I thought I’d ‘one day use.

Long were the years, days, and minutes with all of my stuff in tow, but quite frankly I’m pretty much done with you now."

For me, I was just sick of not knowing where all my stuff came from, where it went, what it served (anything?) and I felt a constant state of lack. Even more so while buying things – which defeats the whole purpose. This also had a financial aspect, which I will write about in another post. 

3. After you’ve done all this you can combine the two steps:

I value quietude, freedom and organization.

My goal is to be successful at what I do, to feel engaged and passionate, diminish as many stressors as possible, and to overall live a simpler and more meaningful life.

Now ask yourself the question, how can you create a life of [quietude-freedom-organization / insert what is valuable to you] so that it leads to [engagement and passion-less stress / insert your goal]?

This will enable you to decipher the steps you have to take to achieve your specific goals that are aligned with your values – and in the end live an intentional life.

Make a list of the necessary steps, get started, adjust along the way and stay committed.

Ryan Nicodemus of the Minimalists said:

"Your priorities are not what you say they are, it’s what you do.”

In light of this, I’ll close off with some practical suggestions you can start with today:

1. The Bedroom

Position yourself in your room so that you can look at it from a different angle than you would usually. Take a good look at the space and what’s in it. Think of what your bedroom means to you, is it a place for mere sleeping, does it also function as a study, a place to relax, unwind, make love to your partner? Then look at it and assess in what way it serves this purpose.

To take it a step further, and be more rigorous about it, you can collect all the stuff and some pieces of furniture and pull them out into a different room and go through them one by one. You can also just start with one or two things you feel don’t add value in the way you want your bedroom to serve you - as a space for [insert purpose]. Of all the things you collect you can make a differentiation, think of things you’d like to sell, donate to a local charity, give away, or just throw out and be done with.

The purpose is to look at your space, which is familiar, with new eyes. By training your ability to shift your perspective, you grow your ability to value your space, and be less thoughtless about all the stuff that’s in it. 

2. The Closet

Most people value their wardrobe and put some thought into what they wear and their style. Be it limited to dressing for the occasion or because you really love fashion and putting thought into your style. Yet, when we look at our closet, most closets and wardrobes don’t express this mindset. Closets might be a big explosion of the 'throw it all in there and let’s see where it ends up’ or the ‘I’ll be lucky to find anything in the morning’ mindset. There is usually no thought behind it. Yet we keep adding stuff.

It was one of the first things I attacked in my Minimalist journey. I started rigorously; I knew the style I wanted to live my life in. A few main colors [mostly blue, white, brown, black, gray] and here and there a splash of color [mostly in the accessories, shoes, lingerie and shawls].

I also made a list of personal styles I admire. For example I love how Olivia Palermo mixes simple items with unique eclectic accessories, or Caroline de Maigret’s chic nonchalance and the minimalist designs of designer label The Row. You can make a mood board, start a Pinterest page - just visualize your particular style.

I got everything out of my closet, made a big pile and sat down on the floor (with an ice coffee at hand). What fit my new style-goal? Where having all these clothes in line with my values? What were items I just held onto but never wore? Items with the price tag on that I could give to someone else, or sell? Which clothes needed a minor repair and which ones were beyond repair and ready for the dustbin?

Once clear on the items I would keep I got some nice hangers of the same kind and added the pieces back into my closet. My wardrobe is not ready, but I have room, and plenty of time, to think of other pieces to add, and I won’t add anything mindlessly anymore (which is better for me, but more importantly if we are all more mindful – the planet).

I already feel a significant difference when I wake up in the morning and I haven’t been on this journey for that long. I said goodbye to disorganization to finally make space, intentionally, for the things I value most.

Wishing you all the minimalist magic-dust available,

Jackie.

 

Further reading: 

http://www.theminimalists.com/

https://www.designer-vintage.com/ [Netherlands]

http://www.vestiairecollective.com/

https://bemorewithless.com/tiny-wardrobe-tour/

http://goop.com/the-lean-closet/ (where they discuss the KonMari folding method by Marie Kondo - she is wonderful as well if you really want to get into it)

The Power of Dress - on beauty, feminism and power.

Vanessa Friedman, one of the best fashion critics around, recently wrote a report on the latest Prada show (Modern Potboilers at Prada and Moschino, The New York Times, February 24th 2017) and the basis of the new collection, underlining the progressive course of the fashion house, to provide 'an antidote to the unsustainable cycles of consumption'.

In her report Friedman writes about Miuccia Prada's* statement on the philosophy behind her collection, her philosophy on the kind of woman it represents: "It is the usual argument about how women can't be intelligent and interesting and seductive, too. Which is never finished. But I thought, we need to have it again." It isn't the first time Miuccia's discernment has been spot on. We do need to have that discussion again - it holds women back, and it holds feminist activism back if we don't. 

"Can beauty and brains go together?" someone recently asked at a feminist seminar I attended. She wanted to discuss the relation between beauty and levels of intellect, and whether they could go together. Chuckles in the background, a certain unease throughout the room and some that agreed to the topic.

I myself, having worked in the fashion industry, have dealt with the power of beauty, and the access to the benefits that come with it, a great deal. There goes a lot into gaining access to the world of beauty and holding onto positions of power within it. This however, in my opinion, has little do with feminism. 

Whether a woman can (read: is allowed to) have both beauty and brains should be wholly irrelevant to the cause of feminism. Beauty and brains can go together, just as much as they can do without one another. Whether you are woman, man, transgender, heterosexual, homosexual - it has nothing to do with the question whether you are intelligent, beautiful or from Mars. The issue of power and beauty however is interesting in terms of how it holds women back in terms of gaining power on equal footing to men. As Roxane Gay says "Being unattractive has never kept a man out of power, that's for sure. I offer that as observation not judgment." (Source: twitter March 3rd, 2017). Telling women they can't be beautiful is putting the onus in the wrong place, as feminists have done often. 

Discussing beauty in terms of a feminist cause actually holds women back. I once attended a seminar on art and female beauty and it was discussed how the 'contemporary (Western) standard of beauty' ought to be replaced by another ideal of female beauty. Images of models were shown as examples of this contemporary ideal, and images were shown that ought to replace these image-ideals - as if to offer a solution to a problem. What misses here is a discussion on power relations, it is in essence still a quest for power. Benefitting from the beauty-is-power-narrative that has served, and still serves, particular women over other women. My objection lies in the fact that by offering the 'different-ideal-of-beauty-solution' as a viable fix to the beauty-brain dilemma, women are still subjected and robbed from their agency. In essence what you are saying is that if you do conform to (Western) ideals of beauty you have to be replaced by another ideal, and on top of it you can't possibly be smart (have access to that wold as well). It is about power, and not equality. Feminists should reflect on their own issues with beautiful women. 

For long beauty was what gave women a head start, it was, and often still is, a form of power, this creates tension and unease with those that deem this as unjustifiable. What is not fair, nor feminist. however is blaming or shunning other women. Feelings of resentment, judgment and theories around 'false consciousness' rob women - not only those deemed beautiful by societal standards - of agency. If you want to wear your make-up, feel beautiful and wear a gorgeous dress you certainly - by any justifiable feminist standard - have the right to do so. It just shouldn't be allowed to matter in terms of gaining that powerful position-or-not any more or less than it would matter if it concerned a man.

Much love,

Jackie. 

* Miuccia Prada took over the Prada Fashion House in 1978, before then led by her grandfather Mario Prada, and successfully energized and resurrected the company - eventually solidifying it's power position worldwide. 

Original pictures Guillaume Rojas/Nowfashion

Original pictures Guillaume Rojas/Nowfashion

Welcome!

Hi everyone,

A warm welcome to my website! 

Let me introduce myself: I'm a true Dutch city girl, that - with the years - has learned to relax a little more [Yin yoga, Headspace app anyone?]. I'm a philosopher at heart and professionally a coach, former model, jurist and at the moment - to the best of my ability - help people in dire financial straits.

I put up this platform to publish and report on issues that matter to me personally, and hopefully will resonate with people - my readers - and help you with whatever's taken hold of your heart.

The subjects of this platform range from, and oscillate between, fashion related issues (light-hearted, escapism, filling the heart with magic), to its friend art (revolutionary, conformist, freeing, subversive) and feminism (power structures, subjugation, equality), and last but not least philosophy.

In particular the power of philosophy to offer tools that can help you navigate the often capricious landscape of love - family - relationships, of work and life in general has brought me to this place. I hope my philosophical reflections offer you an epiphany, a form of insight into your own life experience and perhaps a form of solace. 

In reading these posts I hope you'll find what you're looking for and if you want to let me know your thoughts or work on an issue close to your heart together feel free to contact me.

With liefs,

Jacqueline.

Image by Sebastiaan Bremer [Darwin Tulip, 2015]

Image by Sebastiaan Bremer [Darwin Tulip, 2015]