[wellness] LET IT GO! Minimalism explained (with pictures)

Why not have a Spring clean of your life and habitat, and make space so you can practise those Blogilates moves you’ve been learning? Do you have no freakin’ clue what this minimalist thing is? Let me show you!  Read on to find out what it is, how to declutter your house, find some resources, then read my journey of discovery and see how bad my house was last week!!

When you Google “minimalism,” you get pictures like this:

Source: www.urbanhello.com
Source: http://www.urbanhello.com

This isn’t minimalism. It’s consumerism. That’s the opposite of minimalism. The purpose of images such as this one is to get you to buy more stuff. Basically, the consumerists want you to buy their furniture, items, paint etc and get rid of all your old comfortable stuff, and they’re calling it minimalism but they’ve missed the point. Why? Because otherwise, how could they sell you more comfy squishy stuff in 2 years’ time?

Minimalism is not about straight lines or monochrome colours. It’s not about “feature walls” or getting rid of floral prints, or any other type of consumerist style crap. It’s a philosophy.

Minimalism is often presented as something you can buy from a Scandinavian furniture store. The truth is, all you’re buying is what has been termed “minimalist style” by fashion magazines. Comparing minimalism (the lifestyle) with minimalism (the photos of monochrome lounges) is like getting your bedroom designed to look like a pirate ship, then calling it a pirate ship. It’s still a bedroom, and if you put your pirate themed bedroom in the ocean, it would probably sink (unless you live on an actual boat). It’s a theme, and it’s different to the thing itself. That’s the same with minimalism.

This is minimalism:

Source: http://performdestiny.com/how-i-got-rid-of-all-my-possessions-a-step-by-step-guide/
Source: http://performdestiny.com/how-i-got-rid-of-all-my-possessions-a-step-by-step-guide/

Note how there is still squishy comfy stuff and old well-loved stuff in the picture?  Notice the lack of clean lines and monochrome media centre matching sofas?

Minimalism is the act of getting rid of everything you don’t need in your life. When you think about it, this is diametrically opposed to going on a monochrome furniture shopping spree. You can’t buy minimalism because minimalism is the complete opposite to consumerism. Are you following?

Here are ten ways you can make your life more minimal:

1. Digitize: Scan your photos, digitize your music and video (there are plenty of online services such as Netflix that make the DVD redundant) and get a Kindle (or better still, get the FREE Kindle For PC app and download books from amazon.com). Then get rid of the physical copies.

2. Get rid of anything you haven’t used for over a year, unless its purpose is very specific (e.g. scuba gear, ice skates), in which case give it three years (if you haven’t used it after 3 years, it’s probably not your hobby any more). Recently I got rid of my flute because I hadn’t used it for about 4 years.

3. Getting rid of batteries and envelopes is silly. You’re buying into consumerism because you will have to buy them again at some point. Getting rid of broken torches and that “solar battery charger” from 1998 that never worked in the first place, on the other hand, is sensible.

4. Detach the concept of “value” from how much you paid for it or how much it is worth now or how much it will be worth in the future. Value is a construct that is human-made and self-perpetuated.

5. When you buy something new, ask yourself if you really need it. If you answered yes, remove one item from your house. This is the one in – one out rule.

6. Start small – get rid of one item a day until you have less things.

7. Queue items to use – many people actually have loads of items in their home that they bought ages ago – and have never used! Make a note – a mental note or a paper note – of which items you’ve never used. If it’s a set of books, they are your next things to read (you might have to make an effort to read more); if it’s a saucepan, make your lunch or dinner in it today; if it’s a cosmetic, either try it out (and either keep or bin it) or intentionally leave it sealed and put it in the give-it-away pile.

8. Duplicates – where you’ve got two items that either are the same or do the same job, get rid of the second one.

9. Find things to do outside your house – don’t be constrained by things like opening hours. One of my favourite things to do is to go for a walk when all the shops, attractions and pubs are shut and there’s nobody about, just to appreciate the silence and emptiness and tranquility. Everything looks different at that time of day.

10. Use your free time (that was previously used to acquire more items) to strengthen your relationships with friends, family and other loved ones.

Resources for minimalism:

Our 21-Day Journey into Minimalism

http://performdestiny.com/how-i-got-rid-of-all-my-possessions-a-step-by-step-guide/

FLYing Lesson: How to Declutter

How to Declutter an Entire Room in One Go

15 Great Decluttering Tips

I love the ideal behind the concept of minimalism, I thought it meant buying plastic angular tables etc. Now I know I can keep my stuffies, because at the end of the day, this is another one of those journeys you can embark on, and it starts with a single step (but has to be followed by a bunch of other steps, otherwise you’ve just stepped around in your own comfort zone).

Minimalism for one person might be a toothbrush and a pair of jeans, whereas for another person it could be a wardrobe full of designer dresses. As long as the items are getting used, fulfilling you and not getting in your way when you want to do things or experience life, your minimalism can be as… minimal as you like. Personally, I’m trying to clear the house out. I want to know how few items I can live with. I will keep you posted as I go. It’s definitely helping that I’m now 40% fruitarian, because that simplifies cooking and eating by a long amount. I’m not getting rid of any cosmetics because I clear out the unwanted ones regularly and they are very important to me because cosmetics. Since they’re only taking up two drawers, and throwing out a couple of eyeliners won’t bring cosmic harmony to my life, I’m keeping the lot. It’s the bigger, more insidious clutter – the stuff I don’t see every day but have to wade around whenever I want something from a certain room. There are two rooms in our house where you have to rearrange stacks of clutter to get to the windows. That’s the sort of clutter I’m talking about.

The main challenge I’m facing is that I’m married, and while my partner agrees that we need to declutter, I don’t think he is as willing as I am to let go of large items of furniture or larger quantities of books (we have over 1000 books), a lot of which he brought into the house. For the longest time I thought this was acceptable (because changing other people is bad, right?) but recently I reached critical mass. There was a bunny emergency, and I had to wait ten minutes to get to the source of the problem because of clutter. I lost my temper. The next day, I realised that actually, I was to blame for all this clutter.

Sure, my partner brought it into the house, but I was the one letting this cycle perpetuate by saying nothing and acting like this situation was okay when it really wasn’t. Then I had a huge wake up call – I’m the hoarder! I’m the one who can’t get rid of things! And at the same time (like many children of hoarders) I am a clutterphobe. I simultaneously hate clutter and have difficulty getting rid of things. I force myself to make decisions and get rid of large quantities of things, out of a fear of people finding out that I hoard things, but then I bring more crap into the house because I’ve never fessed up to my problem and haven’t admitted to myself that I need to address the root cause.

My childhood was hard. Whose is easy? In a world where everything kept changing, where we frequently would lose everything we had (we were homeless a lot), I associated security with “somewhere where I can keep everything.” I guess Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s sums it up: “I’m waiting for a place where me and things go together. That’s when I’ll name the cat.”

Only, I’ve found the place where me and things go together. Oh, so many things. Too many things. Unnecessary things. And now I need to ask myself what will happen if I get rid of all these things.

Nothing.

Do I need coloured candles, a relic of the 15 years I was a Pagan? No! I’ve moved on.

Do I need the archaeology books I bought during undergrad? I was keeping them in case I did a Master’s. Will I ever refer to them again, even if I do a Master’s? Probably not, I graduated six years ago. I’ve moved on.

Every item I was scared of letting go of related to a time in the past that I’ve now moved on from. It was as if I thought having the possessions would bring back the time. As an archaeologist, it’s what underpins our entire discipline – artefacts from the past = our concept of the past. And books, for those written histories.

That was when I realised it was time to let go of it all. I’d already moved on – I was trying to, anyway – and needed my physical plane of existence to catch up with where my head was at, so I didn’t get lost in the past. It felt like such a big revelation.

I never liked museums anyway – why would I want to live in one? It’s why I didn’t have a career in anything archaeological, because it all seemed to start with museums. I feel like I’ve been living in an alternate reality for a long time, that I need to wake up from now. I need to let go. There’s nothing to be afraid of in the empty space.

This is a few pics showing my starting point.  I can only go up from here:

Yup that goes to the ceiling.
Yup that goes to the ceiling.

Hoarder clutter house before minimalism declutter

That's all gone already in week one!
That’s all gone already in week one!
Yep, that's a rocking horse.
Yep, that’s a rocking horse.
You can't sit on this chair because of all those cushions - which came from a chair we no longer have!!
You can’t sit on this chair because of all those cushions – which came from a chair we no longer have!!
That is another upstairs window we couldn't get to if there was a fire.  How did you guess??
That is another upstairs window we couldn’t get to if there was a fire. How did you guess??

On the first day, I got rid of the stuff on the floor in this photo (the background is also hoardings that will be addressed in due course):

I still have those hangers to deal with (and more) because I have to finish all the laundry to make sure every item has a hanger before I donate the others.
I still have those hangers to deal with (and more) because I have to finish all the laundry to make sure every item has a hanger before I donate the others.

This is my power ballad that really sums up this exciting transition period in my life:

Let It Go

Have you made the transition to becoming a minimalist? Do you find it has helped you achieve your goals? Are you scared of making such a big change to your life? Let me know in the comments.

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How to make toys for your rabbits

Toymaking for Rabbits:

So I’ve been reading some other rabbit sites recently, mostly trying to find out whether there’s a law in the US governing hutch size, which is the topic of a separate article. What I have noticed is there is a definite hole in the bunny-site market for a good quality, well thought out article on toymaking.

Some people will be thinking to themselves “why does a rabbit need a toy?” You, my friend, need to read this article. Other people are looking for inspiration, which you will find here in buckets.

Rabbits need toys for several reasons. Primarily, rabbits have higher intelligence than many people think they have. If you compare the skull size of the average rabbit with that of a cat, you’ll notice they’re a similar size. Rabbits, in fact, have bigger brains than most kittens. Would you put a kitten in a box full of sawdust with no toys? I sincerely hope not. Rabbits need just as many stimuli and growth opportunities as larger pets. They need puzzles to solve, projects to work on, variety of environment and shared experience. What does this look like to the average rabbit owner? Toys, and someone to play with (that’s you).

rabbit hay box
Cleo is in a hay box – basically, cut the top out of a box and fill it half to two thirds with hay. Rabbit will climb inside to eat tasty hay and nibble box. Sometimes they will sleep in them.

Puzzles to solve:

Bunnies like thinking with their teeth. This means puzzles, such as:

1. A box with a hole that’s not quite big enough for them to run through quickly (get a box, seal off the top and bottom with duct tape, cut a hole in the front and another in the back that’s just the same width as bunny in hop mode – that’s about 30% narrower than his sitting down width. Bunny will chew the hole bigger). They can then solve this puzzle with their teeth.

2. A box that doesn’t quite sit in the natural environment is a puzzle they can drag around the room until it’s solved (get some shapes and sizes of boxes and just randomly scatter them in a corner. Bunny will either fall upon them and start rearranging, or occasionally nibble them, it’s a bit hit and miss).

3. A treat on a high platform is a puzzle they can solve by exploration and discovery (make it visible, accessible, but make it require some thought to get to, e.g. put it on a table with a dining chair in front of it).

4. A slinky with the base attached to something solid is a puzzle they might never solve (but you get hours of fun watching them try).

5. A tunnel with only one entrance and exit is a puzzle they can solve by chewing extra holes in the side to add multiple escape routes (get a long thin cardboard box, cut a hole at either end to make a tunnel, put it against a wall or piece of solid furniture; it sometimes takes time but eventually bunny will probably chew the entire wall-facing side out of the tunnel. We’ve seen this three times with three different rabbits and tunnels).

Rabbits just love puzzles, once they get the idea that they can interact with them. Puzzles are often incorporated into other toys, as a secondary purpose, as you can see with many of the examples above.

rabbit cardboard castle
This “large” box is a cardboard castle, there’s a hole in the back as well so rabbits can get in and out through different holes. Cleo can get in through the top hole, Banacek can’t, giving the toy different ways of playing for different sized rabbits.

Projects to work on:

Bunnies like projects – these are things they can work on over a longer period, having a nibble, then doing something else, coming back to it later that day, week or month. Pragmatic rabbits love projects like these:

1. A hay box with an overhanging edge of cardboard (get a box, fill with hay, make an entrance for rabbit if the top is too high. Avon delivery boxes are really good; paper ream boxes are a little too small). Remember to empty the hay every once in a while because bunnies often poo in hay.

2. A box filled with smaller cardboard boxes. Rabbits seem to prefer three dimensional cardboard to chew, although occasionally they will chew flat card. Banacek loves chewing labels from new clothes, and has been known on several occasions to chew around them in such a way as to turn the words on the labels into cryptic messages, such as “happy” “magical u” (was magical unicorn) “cheer” (was cheerios) and “millionaire” (was Millionaire’s shortbread). I think it happens because he goes with patterns that he finds pleasing in terms of light/dark balance (words, to those who can’t read, are after all just shapes), and I think these are projects he likes to work on, for example, magical unicorn was “magical uni” for quite a while before he eventually finished it. He also once chewed us a perfect triangle out of a square. I measured 60 degrees at each corner with a protractor.  Rabbits are way clever.

3. A large chunk of wood; make sure it’s clean and not infested with slug eggs or something equally horrible, then place it near a rabbit. If it’s tasty wood, they’ll be all over it in seconds (this extends to pieces of furniture so watch out for that antique pine cabinet your grammy left you) and it will take weeks or months to devour. Check which woods are safe for bunnies, and be sure which species of tree the wood chunk came from, to ensure you don’t accidentally poison your bunny with something deadly such as yew sap.

Fifer loves chewing sticks
Fifer’s outdoor run includes a large stick which he likes to chew on to wear down his teeth, which are permanently growing.

4. A wicker basket. This is a project any bunny would love, especially if there’s bits of wicker ends sticking out visibly. Make sure it’s not treated with anything that makes it taste bad – we got one from a charity shop that’s the only wicker basket our rabbits have ever not pounced on – a year later it’s still virtually pristine, we can only conclude it’s not very tasty. Usually, though, rabbits plus wicker = om nom nom.

5. A dig box made of packing materials. You know the masses of brown paper that Amazon insists on sending you every time you order something small that arrives in a large box? Take out the something small, and the delivery note, then give the box and the brown paper to the rabbits. They also love tissue type paper that comes as gift wrap. Avoid metallic colours or anything glittery or plastic backed – a sick bunny is a sad bunny.

Variety of environment:

I would love every bunny to have all the environments described here, but I know most will get one or two. It’s still worth knowing what’s there, in case you get an opportunity to treat your bunny to a new place:

Sebastian and Neville ponder the mysteries of the garden.
Sebastian and Neville love the garden. That’s a block of chewable wood in front of Neville, and a plastic rain shelter for when they want to hide.

1. The garden: This is far and away the absolute best rabbit environment for indoor or outdoor bunnies. Once they’re satisfied that it won’t try to kill them, they all love the garden. There’s so much to do out there, and you can make the garden environment even more fun with a few quick hacks. Put rabbit runs in grassy areas, away from any plants that might be toxic. Add a paving slab or two for the discerning sunbathing rabbit, or in case it rains so they can avoid the mud if they want to. Don’t forget to buy a second water bottle to attach to the run (or bowl to put in there) in case they get thirsty. Add a couple of sticks for nibbles, and a small area that’s sheltered from hot sun or cold rain, and it’s a perfect, compact outdoor play space that’ll all fit inside a standard run. But why stop there? There’s so many other things you can do with a rabbit garden over time that I’ll discuss them in a separate article closer to spring.

2. Carpeted flooring: Bunnies interact completely differently on carpeted flooring to any other environment. They love to lie out on it and sleep. I think they find it more comfortable than solid surfaces, although come summer, they tend to sleep on the metal bit in the doorways or on the tiles around the (utterly disused) hearth, or wooden platforms in their hutch, I think they’re regulating temperature by doing this. Carpet is the indoor rabbit’s racetrack of choice, because it offers the best friction without being uncomfortable on little paws, and they love running fast around the carpeted parts of the house. Do be careful with transitioning a rabbit from living predominantly outdoors to indoors – some of them don’t understand the difference between carpet and grass, and will dig and chew the floor. Training them out of this is part of acclimatizing them to indoor living, along with letting them gently adjust to the temperature.

3. Tiles: Bunnies love tiles when it’s hot. The cool ambient temperature of ceramic tiles are their preferred sleeping spot on hot days. If you’ve got no tiled areas in your house or in their hutch, consider laying a two foot square of tiles on some plywood or cardboard for bunnies to cool down. They’re also easy clean.

4. Platforms: Bunnies love to climb. Give them things to safely climb on and make it worthwhile for them to reach the summit. No-one wants to climb Mount Coffeetable if it’s got nothing on it except a dangerously slidy surface. Mount Cardboard Box is good as long as the top is sturdy enough to take rabbit’s weight – over time, they can start to get a bit crushed from over-use. McFries boxes from McDonald’s make excellent bunny platforms to enable them to reach higher places. If you plan platforms that bunnies ARE allowed to play on, they’re less likely to make the effort to get onto high places where there’s nothing interesting, and where you don’t want them to go.

5. Laminate flooring: It’s not most rabbits’ idea of a good time, they struggle to get a friction coefficient so their paws slide all over the place. But it can provide a good exercise and also teach them that there are many different surfaces in the world so they know how to carefully navigate slippery surfaces – possibly a good idea before they break a rib slipping on an icy puddle in winter. I wouldn’t make this their usual environment, or at least put them some rugs or lino down so they can move comfortably, but it’s an educational environment for the inquisitive rabbit.

Shared Experience

Bunnies are social creatures. In one study, female rabbits chose companionship over food or territory. They need interaction with others. Here’s some thoughts on firing their imagination with friends:

1. You’re their best friend. As a bunny owner, you are the best friend and companion they will ever have. You talk to them, take them places, feed them when they’re hungry, stroke them when they’re not moving, play with them by holding boxes so they can give them a good chew, fill up the hay when it gets low (don’t leave it until empty, they rarely polish it off due to a natural urge known as preservation of resources), play chase with them when they want to practise their moves, and provide mountain rescue for them when they’ve got themselves stuck on top of a bookcase or shelf. Take time to play with bunny, give them all the input and attention (and healthy boundaries) you would lavish on a child, and they will reward you by being your most loyal supporter.

Banacek waits for Jason to come home with carrots.
Before Banacek had a rabbit girlfriend, he spent hours each day sitting on the arm of Jason’s chair waiting for Jason to come home. Jason was his human BFF. His favourite cuddly toy bunny is in his hutch in the background

2. Get them a girlfriend or boyfriend. This needs proper thought, don’t just bung two rabbits in a hutch and leave. Rabbits are picky, like humans are, and won’t just bond with any old rabbit. They need to be introduced carefully in a way that doesn’t threaten either rabbit or their status or territory. For this reason, a neutered male and female often make the best pairings. Take it slow. Read up on it, the Houserabbit Society of America has the absolute best articles on introducing rabbits, and I don’t want to try and explain something that’s already been discussed very well by other people, because reinventing the wheel is not working smarter (although I intend to discuss how I bonded my own rabbits in a separate article, but mine seem to have all been the exceptions). Check the Houserabbit Society out.

3. Get them a different animal companion: People have had success pairing rabbits with small cats, guinea pigs, tortoises and even dogs (give them separate living quarters in every case). There is a huge huge huge (I can’t convey how huge this is) welfare issue if you shove two different species who have never met into a hutch together and lock the door, never to think about either animal again. Aside from that, I can’t see how you would manage mealtimes if the animals were housed together. Keep your cat in a cat place, your dog in a dog place, your bunny in a bunny place and your guinea pig in a guinea pig place, and let them have contact during supervised, managed playtimes. This is apparently a good option if you’ve got a rabbit who doesn’t get along with other rabbits – cats and rabbits have had good pairings. The main point is to do your research, gradually introduce the animals, be ready to separate them at the slightest, and make sure they’ve got their own places to go. Never, ever leave a rabbit unsupervised with a non-rabbit – there have been plenty of stories of rabbits and guinea pigs being left in hutches together and it always ends with dead guinea pigs. I could forsee this happening with the rabbit ending up seriously hurt if you left it alone with a dog, and with the cat, it could go either way depending on the temperament of the cat and the rabbit. Rabbits don’t often have the ability to make very loud noises to alert you to distress, so need housing separately to other pets. Train the dog or cat, make sure they’re tolerant, and make sure if you’ve got a cat or dog in the house that the rabbit gets regular vaccinations/boosters because the cat/dog could bring home RHV or Myxomatosis by contact with wild rabbits whilst walking or roaming.

4. Cuddly toys: If you can only have one rabbit, and don’t have as much time as you’d like (24/7 please) to adore your bunny and spend time with him, put some soft toys in their living space and around their hangouts. Banacek was an only rabbit for 18 months before we could get him a friend, and during that time he’s been given about four different cuddly toys, which he still looks after now. Sometimes we’ll see him positioning Squeakytoy (a 50p soft bodied dog toy) at the water bowl to drink. Sometimes he’s washing White Rabbit’s ears so they stay clean. Other times, he’s gone to sleep snuggled up to Brown Bunny. A little tinkle alerts us to the times he’s grooming Cat Ball (a baby toy) or Baby Bunny (another baby toy – Mothercare wanted us to know they’d replace it if it became damaged, then retracted this when we informed them it was for a rabbit). Check soft toys for safety when you buy them (this is why baby toys are the gold standard as far as I’m concerned, plus they’re usually more stimulating in the ways which rabbits are able to interact with toys) – button eyes, bits of edible plastic, etc are dealbreakers – and check them regularly for damage and remove/repair accordingly so they don’t ingest stuffing.

There are plenty of other ways you can make a fun and stimulating environment for your rabbit, to help avoid Bunny Brain Death: You’ve seen those rabbits in hutches that just sit there, not moving, not doing anything? Sometimes they gently rock back and forth for hours. I call it Bunny Brain Death, and I firmly believe it’s one of the reasons “outdoor” rabbits have traditionally had shorter lifespans than houserabbits.

Sebastian and Neville, our 100% outdoor rabbits, are kept well stocked with toys and interesting environments both in their hutch, shed and run (all of which they have 24/7 access to), and they are curious, interested rabbits who never just sit there. To summarize, make life interesting for your rabbit, and your rabbit will be interesting. Make your rabbit bored, and they will be boring. Unlike certain other “small” pets (c’mon, some rabbits are dog sized), they’re not stupid enough to repeat futile activities endlessly to amuse you.

Sebastian wonders if he is really the king of the castle or if it's all a social construct.
Our outdoor rabbits’ hutch is kept well-stocked with toys so they are mentally stimulated. Outdoor toys are changed more regularly. These ones were a variation on the indoor “cardboard castle” because a huge box wouldn’t fit in this hutch. Some of these toys were made from a Cookie Crisp box, others were made from corrugated cardboard and brown paper to give a variety of chewing texture.