20 March 2015

Total Eclipse of the Heart

Source: shutterstock // via IFL science

Since I first questioned my consumption habits - moving back from Japan - eight years passed. Since I suddenly decided to give up my feminine style armor and started actively simplifying my life, four years passed. These days, I'm noticing changes, slight and gradual, which are starting to really show. Today (and you'll see why I chose the solar eclipse day to write about this), I'd like to talk about hobbies and projects, and how simplification helped me reconnect with what matters.

Many aspiring minimalist bloggers ask, as I have, this simple question: what to replace shopping with? In our consumerist society, acquiring and maintaining collections of material items takes a lot of time. Wishlists, plannings, shopping trips, organizing everything we own, researching the next perfect purchase...

Once you start simplifying your life, little by little, you start spending less time on these things. And I find very interesting to witness the way it changed how I spend my time.

Rediscovering Childhood Hobbies

It's incredible how easily we tend to forget who we are, what we like, deep inside. I don't know why. I don't even know if this is a regular tendency or if it's just me. But I forgot a lot of things about what made me dream when I was a child, what I was excited about, what I was interested in.

As time passes, teenage years happen, then studies, the fear of unemployment, energy focused on career, on finding love, too, being busy becoming adults in a way. Along the way, I forgot a lot of what mattered to me when I was a child. When I was unpolluted by daily worries, social influences and conformity...

I'm writing about this today, because the solar eclipse, that is happening over the clouds here in Paris as I type these words, brought a flow of memories. This computer software, in amazing 3D, modelling the planets of the solar system, and there was an egg, which dropped quicker or slower depending on the planet's gravity. Going into Nature & Découvertes shops, the astronomy corner, dreaming over telescopes and solar system maps. Lying down in the grass, during a warm summer night, up in the mountains of my home region, and watching the bright countryside stars. The subscription my parents offered me to the magazine "Sciences et Vie". Dreaming about the infinite.

I forgot how much I liked space and stars and planets, how excited I felt about all this. Now I remember. This is the latest, though not the first, of these phenomenons I have lived since I simplified my life. I've started writing again, I bought a violin on a whim and take weekly lessons now. I've rediscovered my minerals collection and now display them in my living room.

So I'm wondering, what if a long term side effect of simplifying your life was to rediscover what you are really passionate about, interested in, excited about? What speaks to your soul so deeply that you felt attracted to it since childhood, but then forgot?

When you remove physical and mental clutter, when you question social norms and everything you "should" like and do, and free some time to really think about it, what comes up?

A Long Road

First, I don't know if this applies to everyone, or if it's just me. After all, I had parents who were very understanding and let me discover and pursue what I liked as a child. Maybe some of you never "forgot" your passions.

And, in any case it's a long road. After all, eight years happened since I first started thinking about all this. Over two years happened between the first time I considered playing the violin again and the day I attended my first lesson. And today, as I turned 29 years old and enter my fifth year of active simplification, I just remembered another old, forgotten passion of mine.

But I'm posing the question here. Could it be, that one of the biggest positive effects of simple living is to reconnect with your inner self and pursue what really matters to you?


  1. Dear Kali
    this comes as a timely post for me. I have just gone through all my possessions with the KonMari method and - inspired by you - put myself on a shopping fast. The question "now what?" quickly arose. I think forgoing consumption frees up time as well as energy and might even lead to this nowaways almost extinct feeling of boredom from which now inspiration arises.
    At the same time as I cleared out our apartment, I read "Overwhelmed"; author Brigid Schulte dedicates a whole chapter to play which includes the importance of this in our lives and how many of us (esp. women) suffer from the lack of it. Obviously going back to what you lied as a child is one recommendation if you seek to bring more joy / play into your life. I am just starting on this journey but have gone back to drawing (more like scribbling really) and will - circumstances permitting - start gardening again this year.
    Thanks for the inspiring post.

    1. Thanks for sharing this story, Dina! It is true that play is something that gets removed more and more from our adult life as obligations pile up, and I can imagine how that might especially be the case for women, still. I wonder about the link to boredom as well - browsing through Youtube videos, blogs and e-shops is a thing today's people tend to do, isn't it? I'm glad to hear you could find some inspiration, and something to go back to, thanks to your shopping fast. Three months after the end of my own shopping fast, I've found so many other things to do with my time that I have to force myself to go shopping now.
      I'm happy to hear you're gettting positive benefits from your own simplification and fast :) I haven't read Marie Kondo's book everyone is talking about these days, is her method really good? As I'm moving in a few weeks I might pick her book up to help with some Spring cleaning before packing my stuff :)

  2. I do think you're onto something there. I have simplified my life greatly over the past year, from 'I don't know how to get everything done after work' to 'There's really nothing that NEEDS to be done for the next couple of hours, what shall I do?'. It's not just because I stopped shopping, because I haven't, and if anything I'm spending lots of time right now researching ethical clothing options and stuff. For me it's been letting go of the need to do all sorts of stuff, even browsing the internet for hours on end. And continually trying to find balance.
    Anyhow what I wanted to say is that this freeing up of my time has actually lead me to consider taking up the piano again. I haven't yet, mainly because of practical hindrances (when you share a small home it's not evident to start playing a loud acoustic instrument whenever you feel like it). But I feel that it could definitely be a meaningful addition to my life again. (Also agree with the comment above about 'play' - have read about it as well in self-developement books!)

    1. I'm happy to hear other people have noticed a similar change! It's true that there is some time management revision when you simplify your life, not only about shopping, but simply being more mindful allows to realize how much time we sometimes waste in activities that don't matter that much (like internet browsing, yes). I have a post planned on the impact of technology in our lives that tends to go that way. Balance is key indeed :)
      If you feel like playing the piano again, I say go for it! They sell some inexpensive electric versions, some still offering a very enjoyable sound and feel, and which can be plugged with a headset so you can play without annoying the neighbors or messing with the children's sleep. I find there is an incredible positive impact on well-being in reconnecting with such activities, even at a low skill level...

  3. The post title <3 oh Bonnie Tyler! the music video for that song is amazing--the hair, the melodrama. I digress.

    I think many of us here will agree that simplification requires conscious choice. I'd also like to add that for me, simplification also means choosing which social ties to develop/maintain and which to let go. Just as you pick activities that support your interests and passions, I think creating and maintaining healthy relationships supports simple, happy living as well. At least that is what I'm learning in my journey--it makes me appreciate the people that remain in my life, and it's helping me make peace with letting go or losing others.

    1. Ah, if you liked that song's music video, you might want to see this version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsgWUq0fdKk. I found it hilarious.

      It is probably linked to making more conscious choices indeed, yes! And I completely agree with the social aspect of it. I'm hoping to find time to broach the subject in a separate post, as I found, indeed, that I had to let go - consciously, or it just happened over time and I didn't try to fix it - of some people who didn't really understand or support some things in my life or simply had a negative/poisonous mindset. On the other hand I made new friends, supportive of this mindset, and it seems we push each other toward growth and curiosity and well-being. It is a delicate matter though, as it may sound selfish and insensitive to cut ties with people who tend to bring you down. It is complex, but I feel like, as we change, the people we socialize with change as well, in time...

    2. Agreed. There's something about saying "I don't talk to you anymore because I feel bad when I'm with you" that makes one sound like a complete jerk.

      Instead, maybe we as a society can all agree on letting things "lie fallow." (agricultural reference here, haha.) I think there's a benefit in letting certain connections/relationships lie fallow for a bit--not necessarily that you may not return to it, but to perhaps pull back on investing energies in each other somehow? Maybe this is too long-winded, but at least that's how I see myself handling my social obligations. There are connections I've left alone for too long and I don't want to lose them, so I am directing my efforts at keeping those friendships active. Then there are other connections for whom I can let coast because we've established enough understanding and trust. And then the others who like you said, drain time and positive feelings by their mindset or feelings. Whether or not you alert them of this, or just do the "slow fade" out of the relationship, all paths do damage. It's not easy and even I'm not sure if it's for the best, but there's no time to waste when there's rocks to climb and things to do in life.

      Looking forward to that post as I feel it will be quite relevant. Thank you again, as always, for the food for thought.

  4. This is an interesting post and I enjoyed reading it! I initially thought that I couldn't relate to what you're describing, but then I realized that I got back into blogging (and writing for fun generally) partially because of starting my own simplification journey. It was a hobby I stuck with for most of my teenage to young adult years, though I dropped it right before I started graduate school.

    I've also had the experience where I'm starting to think a little bit less about shopping and about consuming stuff, which I think you describe in some of your past posts. That process is still ongoing for me. Every so often, I still have this strong urge to shop as a way to deal with boredom and out of old force of habit, but I can feel the simplification process changing my habits a bit.

    1. Thanks for sharing, it's really interesting to discover some else's take on simplicity! I wonder if maybe this happens over time, and quite unconsciously. as I wrote this post, I kind of realized it right then, even though this was happening for a while already. I agree it's a long process, to start thinking less about shopping, and more about other projects. I still think about shopping sometimes, I guess it's inevitable in today's society, surrounded by people who think about shopping, and all the prompts around us. I guess being mindful of this is a first step? Good luck on your journey, I'm sure it's already turning out great :)

  5. Oh man, I wish I had started questioning my consumption habits at 20, so I hadn't accumulated so much stuff... (I was never into really expensive things, and more shopping second-hand, but the fact that I had bought used things did not make them any lighter to carry out of the apartment eventually).

    1. Haha I see exactly what you mean! Even if I started questioning some consumption habits at 21 (regarding books and DVD), I had already accumulated a lot, and I still purchased quite a few other things afterwards. Sometimes I wonder what my interior, and bank account, would look like if I had known at 16 what I know now. But that's useless to wonder about such things, isn't it? After all mistakes are part of the way, and part of what makes us who we are today :)

  6. Happy birthday, Kali! (Even if a bit late :) )

    It's such a delight to read about you discovering new old parts of yourself!

    That's an interesting thought.
    I didn't lose my passions over shopping. I lost them over an internet addiction (or something quite near it, because I felt rather happy than nervous when I was without).
    In my pathway, there were and are several processes interconnected. Simplifying and minimalism, feminism, anti-consumerism, ecological/social/economical sustainability and such.
    When I was a child, I was a very bookish one full of imagination and stories. I learned to read at age 4 and quickly got bored by children's books. I lost this passion over the internet and reading-heavy courses at university. I rediscovered reading last year, when I decided (or rather my eyes and back did) that screen time all day long isn't what is good for me. My first experience was quite sobering: I seemed to have lost the ability to get lost in a book (you know, like reading two days straight with sleeping and eating being really annoying interruptions). The way I switched between book A, fridge, book B, mobile phone, computer, book A now horribly reminds me of clicking aimlessly around between links and tabs. I also noticed another thing: no matter how much time I spent with a book, I felt refreshed and motivated afterwards. No matter how much time I spent online (or even just with a screen), I felt drained, unfocused and very unmotivated. A day that started with the internet, even if it was just a bit blog reading for half an houer, was a lost day: no motivation either for things I enjoy, or things that have to be done, the whole rest of the day. It negatively affected more or less every other part of my life (like my eating habits).
    It wasn't so much that I lost passions. Now that I think about it, the passions I had as a child, be it reading or other hobbies, interests and dreams, stayed mostly the same or just grew more complex over time. The passions always were there - it was the motivation and focus that got lost. So this was how the internet, while an awesome thing in some ways, distracted me from activities I truly enjoy and love. Yes, I would say, Minimalism helped me with fixing that. Not only was it just simple mathematics (reducing time on the internet = more time for all my hobbies), it was getting back motivation for all my hobbies. (And the boring things that have to be done)

    I often wonder, what to do outside, whithout consuming (shopping, eating out etc.)? I'm too indoorsy, and living in a big city, be it as green as mine actually is, doesn't really help. What to do with your time, when reading is out and nearly everything that costs money, aka consuming? Sitting outside with friends and pasta salad isn't funny in winter and on rainy days. I'm at a loss.

    1. That's a quite interesting take on it - saying that it's losing focus and motivation rather than losing the passion itself. It's probably true - forgetting about it because the focus is elsewhere, or lost entirely between the various things to do around us. You know, the question of attention is very interesting - what you say about not being able to sit down and keep reading. It seems our generation tends to lose their ability to focus, because with internet, interruption marketing, smartphones, and all this technology begging for our attention here and there, we become scattered and incapable of doing one thing at a time. I also read that advertisment is really a battle about our attention, that gets polluted all day long, and soon a peaceful place will have to be paid for - we'll need to accept to have our attention sold to advertisers if we can't afford it. Sorry I veer off subject, but I think the topic of attention is so important! It connects to mindfulness and all this. There is something to dig here.

      As for what to do in a city without spending money, that's a good question! It depends on the city I guess. It can be walking in parks, visiting monuments (some are free or have minimal fee), go to the public library, walk along the river/lake/canal. Sometimes there are festivals and other free activities, mainly in summer - I know there is some free outdoors film projection in Paris in summer for example. Perhaps there are sites that publish the weekly activities in your city?

  7. Un petit mot par ici (d'habitude je lis les blogs sur mon ipad et je trouve un peu pénible d'y commenter alors là je me fais une session "comm' ordi" ;) ) pour dire que j'ai trouvé cela chouette et intéressant que tu parles aussi de retrouver ses activités d'enfance.
    En fait, c'est une démarche que j'ai faite, moi aussi, il y a quelques années de cela (pour info, j’ai 34 ans).

    Je crois qu'essayer d'avancer dans la vie et notamment essayer de me construire une activité professionnelle (en freelance) m'avait un peu fait perdre le fil de ce que j’aimais faire, de ma créativité. Un jour, j’ai soudain réalisé : “Je ne sais plus me détendre…”.
    Je ne savais plus ce que j’avais envie de faire en dehors du boulot et, au moment de trouver ce que je pouvais faire pour décompresser, je n’avais plus l’énergie pour chercher quelle activité faire et me lancer dans quelque chose.
    Cela m’a aidé de me dire : “Mais, quand tu étais enfant, tu faisais tellement de choses ! Du dessins, des bricolages en tous genre, de la guitare, et même des châteaux de cartes !…” (et beaucoup d’autres activités bien sûr. D’ailleurs, je collectionnais aussi pas mal de choses, notamment les coquillages. ;) )
    J’ai ainsi peu à peu essayé de réintroduire certaines activités enfantines (mais pas si enfantines que cela) à mon quotidien, sans complexe, et cela m’a fait le plus grand bien !
    Pour compléter le partage, puisque j’évoque le dessin et les coquillages, voici ma petite oeuvre d’hier, dans le carnet aquarelle que je tiens un peu comme un journal (une sorte de carnet de voyage immobile) depuis un an et demi : https://instagram.com/p/0tYOtplmcC/ Comme tu aimes aussi les trésors naturels... :)

    Comme le dit très bien Materialfehler, on ne perd pas la passion mais le fil de l’activité : l’idée de pratiquer cette activité qui nous plait, le “focus” sur ce qui nous fait du bien, quand on commence à s’oublier un peu...

    1. Oh, superbe aquarelle! J'aime beaucoup ce genre de choses en effet, très réussi. C'est marrant d'entendre les témoignages des gens autour de moi à ce sujet, je ne sais pas si c'est parce que je m'entoure de gens qui ont des affinités avec ma façon de penser ou si c'est un phénomène plus général, mais j'ai l'impression que pas mal de monde se recentre sur eux-même, leur passé, leurs passions, leur enfance, en approchant la trentaine. Peut-être que c'est aussi pour ça que les mouvances "rétro" ont autant de succès (je pense au pixel art par exemple, faisant penser aux jeux vidéo des années 80, etc.)

      Ce que je trouve aussi intéressant, c'est qu'on fait plein de chose étant gosse - on apprend plein de trucs, on se lance dans diverses activités, on crée des choses (que ce soit musique, sport, dans, théâtre, poterie ou je ne sais quoi d'autre) et en devenant adulte, on laisse bien souvent tomber ces trucs-là, comme si on "arrêtait" d'apprendre une fois diplômé et dans le monde du travail. Mais pourquoi arrêter d'apprendre? Ce n'est pas parce qu'on est adulte qu'il faut arrêter de grandir... Mais c'est vrai qu'on perd le fil, peut-être parce qu'on a l'esprit plein de tant de choses auxquelles on ne pense pas quand on est enfant :)

  8. Après presque 20 ans d'arrêt, j'ai repris la danse classique. Dès le premier cours, je me suis sentie chez moi, à ma place. Un vrai retour au source. Il est trop tard pour faire carrière mais c'est une vraie bouffée d'oxygène dans mon emploi du temps et ma vie en général.

    1. C'est une très belle anecdote, merci de la partager :) J'ai l'impression que parfois, en tant qu'adulte, on s'empêche de reprendre des activités parce que c'est trop tard pour en faire une carrière, ou pour devenir un virtuose, mais comme tu dis, pas besoin de devenir un professionnel pour profiter pleinement de l'activité!