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Thursday, December 21, 2017

We use apps every day but it's only those select few of these apps that truly become part of our lives. If you were to ask yourself "which apps can't I live without?", the results might surprise you, and the list may be shorter than you think.

There are so many productivity and social media apps that it's difficult to know which are enhancing your life and which of these apps are cluttering up your screen and wasting your time.

If I were to apply the concept of Minimalism when it comes to apps, I'd have none, right? Wrong. 

The apps I choose are based on my interests and my needs and I use each of them to make my life easier and calmer. Notice I didn't say more productive. I'm already hyper-productive, and for me, a complicated productivity app often has the opposite effect.

Some people thrive on waking up to 17 individual nag screens. I am not one of those people. A nagging, multi-faceted productivity app can cause stress and procrastination due to overwhelm. Too many to-do items creates a split focus and can result in not knowing where to start. Not knowing where to start can result in not starting at all. Getting nothing done while being bugged by multiple reminders? Not fun.

And ask yourself this question: when has a hyper-cluttered to-do list and frenzied multitasking made you more productive? I'm not talking about ticking off half-baked tasks and creating a fresh batch of new ones, I'm talking about true, focused productivity that results in quality, not quantity.

I always feel better when my to-do list is empty. The trick is not to fill it up with too much stuff at once.


Simple Shopping List

This is my go-to everyday productivity app. I use it for shopping lists and various recipe items but I will also use it for checklist items for other tasks. The biggest test of a productivity app is whether it gets stuff done. If I put something on this list, it gets done.

I often think of this simple list as my backup short-term memory. If I think of something, I put it on the list before I forget about it. I make sure I get it done, and it's gone, never to be seen again. Sometimes, basic is best.


You can create your own categories in this simple, colourful list app. I see this one as my medium-term memory. This is for projects and longer term ideas. I like this app because it brings a sense of fun to grouping ideas and tasks together. The playful nature of this app makes the list items seem like things I want to do, rather than things I have to do.


If you want a more full-featured productivity app, Wunderlist is simple, effective and easy to use. I use it mainly for keeping track of birthdays and various other items that require dates and reminders. If my web hosting is due in January, this app will let me know, so I don't have to wonder about it. I basically use this as a calender reminder app. There may be a better one, but I haven't found it yet. 


Kindle, Moon Reader, AlReader, Aldiko Book Reader, Kobo, Google Play Books

Pictured: Google Play Books
If you read a lot, you might want to add one of these apps to your collection. You can buy most paperback books in ebook format and read on the train, bus, in the park, wherever you like. I don't have a Kindle, however the Kindle app works on any PC or tablet. Just buy the book through Amazon and it will pop up on your Kindle reader. If you use Kobo, IBooks, Barnes & Noble or any of the other ebook sellers, you can use their compatible readers on your tablet, laptop or phone. If you prefer to use an independent reader, the best I have tried are Moon Reader, AlReader and Aldiko Book Reader.

Social Media


I don't really see Twitter as a productivity app. It's a place to say whatever's on your mind, play hashtag games and keep up with all that's happening in the world. I use it a lot. Perhaps too much.


I use Pinterest boards to collect decoration ideas, recipes and pictures of cute animals. It's almost like meditation, but with pictures.


Pedometer Pro

This app is great for tallying up steps and calories burned. It syncs with MyFitnessPal and removes the calories from your daily total so you know where you stand with total calories eaten/burned.

My FitnessPal

I don't use this app anymore. Then why is it in this list? Because I used it for a couple of years and it worked so well that I no longer need to use it. It's a brilliant app that gives nutritional information on food as well as calorie totals for the day. I probably will use it again for keeping track of fitness goals rather than food goals. This app syncs beautifully with Runtastic pedometer and you can also set it up to sync with bathroom scales and wearable tech items.


Hydro reminds you to drink water. That's it. It also has some useful graphs of water intake over a period of time and it helps to motivate me to drink water regularly. I don't mind this because I always feel better when I get my required water for the day. It helps to clear my head and increase productivity.


No, I don't mean the vampire books. Twilight is a screen app that protects your eyes from bright blue light, making it easier on your eyes when you're staring at a screen for long stretches of time. It also helps by modifying the light spectrum that disrupts sleep patterns so you don't stay up all night. I tend to stay up late anyway, but at least I know I haven't got harsh blue light keeping me awake.

How to Stay Calm

Just remember that if an app brings stress to your life, let it go. If it makes your life easier and feels expansive, treasure it.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The day was hectic, but no more hectic than other days like this. It was the end of reporting / meetings / accounts season and I was stretched out, performing a variety of roles.

I knew I wasn't getting a lunch break today. This often happened once every few months or so. As a kind of consolation prize, the boss gets lunch.

The thing is, my boss and I are the only ones in the office. My boss knows from countless previous experiences that I hate, not dislike, but hate the food from across the street. The thought of it makes me gag and the last few times my boss ordered from there, I could barely eat any of it and felt sick afterwards. My boss knew this well and had promised not to order from that gunge hole again.

Let's get one thing clear. I'm not a fussy eater. In fact, people complain about how skinny I am and how I can eat pretty much anything. And I pretty much do eat anything, within reason. But the food from this particular place is truly, truly hideous. Disgusting. Barely edible.

So my boss says, "Hey, I know you hate the food from that place but I'm going to order from there anyway."

I was stunned unto silence, mulling the words over in my head. "I know you hate the food...but I'm going to order from there anyway."

My boss also knows that not twenty-five paces from this hell hole is the best, freshest, most awesome food in the suburb. Same price, but edible. My boss also knows that I love that place more than any other restaurant in the street.

The strange thing was, my boss just kept staring at me, almost challenging me, as if I was obliged to change my mind about how gross the food was and how I felt about it. I wasn't sure how to respond. There was nothing I could have said that I hadn't already said countless times before.

So I'm starving. I couldn't leave and I had no other option. I open the container and there it is: a huge mound of bloated, overcooked brown rice, some gross pieces of Fried Chicken and a slimy, wilted splat of salad in the corner.

I look at the Fried Chicken and the chicken looks at me.

It all became clear in that moment, as if the truth had been there the whole time.

I am that piece of chicken, and that piece of chicken is me.

That's what my boss thinks of me.

That's what my boss thinks I'm worth.

"I know you hate the food...but I'm going to order from there anyway."

It's a metaphor. It reaches out, permeating my salary reviews, highlighting the fact that my boss still gets my name wrong enough to be insulting, even though I'm the only other person there, even though I've stopped trying to correct every instance because there's no point.

It's the reason I'm forced to squeeze in a full week's work into a few days on a salary that my boss knows is not sustainable for my well-being. It's the reason why my awesome achievements (and they truly are awesome) are downplayed or downright ignored.

It's the reason I do much of my boss's work, at a fraction of the pay.

I am that fried chicken, and that fried chicken is me.

I wondered where my self-respect had gone. Perhaps it was nestled in that rice, waiting to be liberated.

And that was it. My watershed moment.

I don't want to be that goddamned chicken.

So I ate it, grimacing at every bite because I wanted to remember that moment. I wanted to sear into my memory the last time I let anyone make me feel devalued like this.

That was the moment I decided to leave. The moment I vowed to create something better where my value depends on my ideas and my performance, not some overseer's opinion. The moment I decided that I'm worth more than this, and to accept anything less would be to give in to that notion that what I want means nothing.

It was the moment I decided that no matter what happens, from this day forward, I will never be that piece of fried chicken again.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Aintree’s Ladies Day is a huge event on the UK racing calendar and a showcase for some rather outlandish fashions. Perhaps the fact that there is no dress code opens the field (as they say) to more diverse outfits.

Being from Melbourne, I am no stranger to horse racing or having a bet. Most of the time I go by the name of the horse. Sometimes I even win! Some people have their own system when it comes to picking a winner. It can be the colour of the silks or the look of the horse in general. Perhaps you are one of those people who know the name of the jockey or trainer, the history of the horse including the bloodline and what it had for breakfast. Like I said, I go by the name.

To avoid dignity blowout (see my post: 5 mistakes of racing fashion), here are some of my pointers for making a bold but dignified fashion statement at the races:

  1. Dresses and skirts – I recommend a hemline just above the knee. Stylish, not too long or too short. Bold is good, but go basic black or neutral on the top to balance it out.
  2. Footwear – A good stiletto can add to an outfit, but there is a lot of walking involved on race days: lining up for your lucky bookie, hobbling off to the viewing area and walking over grassy hills to find a nice vantage point. Of course, if the bookie queue gets too long, you can always use your phone to access online betting sites and avoid the rush! Either way, by the end of all this, you’ll be glad you wore flats or at least used some gel inserts!
  3. Fascinators are indeed fascinating. A skillful milliner can help you make a show stopping statement, so choose wisely. If you have the kind of gregarious personality that can pull off the Eiffel Tower look, wear it! And wear it well.
  4. Fake tan – On white skin, more often than not, fake tan tends to come out orange. If you have pale white skin, you may think it is better to be orange than to be white. Not so. It’s much easier (and more natural) to cultivate the ‘pale and interesting’ look rather than looking like an extra from a Willy Wonka movie!
Whatever you do, remember to be comfortable, stylish, and have a fabulous time!

Monday, March 13, 2017

I just finished listening to a podcast by The Minimalists and found it hugely inspiring (and relaxing as well!) I have been interested in minimalism for many years now and to me, it's more of a mindset rather than an aesthetic choice.

For example, in the past year, I have bought very little in the way of "stuff". Sure, a lot of that has to do with conserving funds, but another part of it is the need to focus on who I am and what I'm doing.

Clothing-wise, my purchases have included two pairs of shoes. That's it. Much of my wardrobe has been rediscovered since I decided to throw out my unnecessary stuff. I consider the unnecessary stuff to be clothing I have never worn, clothing I have worn once and clothing that I will never wear (which usually includes items I haven't even looked at for two months or more). When I got rid of all the junk, I found six of my best t-shirts just languishing at the back of my wardrobe. Now they are back in circulation, along with my one main pair of jeans. For more info on my wardrobe adventures, check out 9 Items to Build Your Capsule Wardrobe.

So far, my minimalist goals are coming along nicely. This is the main thing that has worked for me but feel free to modify as you see fit.

Throw Out Five Things Every Single Day 

This is the most useful thing I have done in moving towards minimalism. Most days I manage to throw out between three and five items. They can be anything, I don't set any rules. Things I have thrown out include: socks, items of clothing with holes in them, old packets of tea (from 2006!), old makeup (you should replace mascara and other makeup items every two months to keep things hygienic), old bills (shredded), junk mail and various other stuff.

The fun thing about this is finding a few things to throw out every day. It's manageable and doesn't cause undue stress. Some people throw out one thing a day, others try for more - it's up to you which way you want to go with this. The thing to remember is that you are getting rid of a few things every day - that's the focus.

Things That Went Well

I immediately felt lighter after dropping off a load of good quality, name brand stuff to a charity store. I knew the stuff that didn't suit me was no longer cluttering up my wardrobe and that someone else would benefit from finding a new item of clothing to make them feel good.

I have less things to wash up in the kitchen. All the stuff I use infrequently is stored away and the only things that are left out are the things that I use all the time. A couple of glasses, mugs, minimal cutlery and a few storage containers. There is a lot more space on my bench to do useful things like... cooking stuff.

I got rid of a lot of dust, along with the junk. Dust counts as a thing, right?

Things That Didn't Go So Well

I tried to think of a more positive, empowering way to put this. I've got nothing so I'm going with it. Starting to become more of a minimalist is not without stress. I made the mistake of tackling too much at once so you can learn from this.

My thought process went something like this:

Okay, got to get rid of the rubbish and empty the coffee plunger.
*internal monologue as I'm doing this task*
What about the bathroom floor? It needs a mop. By the way, the mop is busted. You need a new mop. But that's buying new stuff. Maybe use one of those microfibre cloths.

Right, just got to hand wash these t-shirts and hang them up
What's the point? You can't put them back in your wardrobe. It's dusty in there. You'll be sneezing all day. You have to clean out the whole wardrobe and vacuum it and...

I'll just wash out the water filter
Stuff! Books. Get rid of books. Can you sell them on eBay? What about other sites? Oh, but hang on, what about postage. You need to make a profit otherwise there's no point. But what books should be culled? Oh, and they're dusty as well...

You can see how this kind of thinking can quickly lead to overwhelm and the feeling of just wanting to give up. I had to take a break, lie on the couch and decide to do nothing but listen to a few podcasts and stop cleaning for a bit. It helped. Now I understand that you can't do everything at once, and thinking that you can is counterproductive.

What I have taken away from this is to do ONE thing at a time. If that thing is getting rid of five things, I count that as one thing. If that thing is clearing off the kitchen table, then do ONLY that. One thing at a time is the key here. Keep it manageable.

Minimalism is not a Religion

A lot of people seem to get caught up in the "rules" of minimalism. For example:

If you own more than 300 things, you're not a minimalist

If you have an internet connection and a TV, you're not a minimalist

If you don't have an all-white room with two pieces of furniture and a succulent plant, you're not a minimalist

You get the picture. The thing is, Minimalism is not a religion. You don't go to maximalist hell if you only pick the things that work for you. For example, you might be a visual artist, a musician or a fashion designer. Is it a good idea to get rid of all your paints, paintbrushes, instruments, sheet music and fabrics?

It's pretty clear the answer is an emphatic NO.

Minimalism is a tool, not a bizarre ideal or some kind of judgemental monkhood. Minimalism is what you make of it, and you can take the basic concepts and fit it to suit your particular lifestyle.

And anyway, I'm allergic to all-white, polished chrome, veterinarian table chic.

Just call me the Scruffy Minimalist, I guess.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

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Friday, February 24, 2017

Capsule wardrobes are everywhere. People are curating their wardrobes. Well, what does this mean, you ask? It means stripping everything down to the basics. So, you ask, how do I do this? Where do I start? Don't worry, it's simple. But first, a little background.

Why build a capsule wardrobe?

Minimalism is a movement that advocates getting rid of the things you don't need to make room for the life you want. Sounds simple, right? Well, it kind of is, that's the beauty of it. If you find yourself opening your closet and squeezing your hand between tightly packed hangers wondering if you'll pick out something interesting, you may be in need of a wardrobe clear-out.

What I did (and how you can do it too)

Firstly, I'd like to point out that I'm probably a minimalist at heart. I don't really hold on to "stuff" and I tend to enjoy any opportunity to get rid of unnecessary clutter.

My first step was to yank everything off the hangers one by one. I picked out each item of clothing, took a good look and decided one of three things:
  • Option #1: I love it and I wear it all the time
  • Option #2: I haven't worn this for over 2 months. Hmm, maybe this isn't my style
  • Option #3: What in tarnation heck was I thinking when I bought this? (I'm looking at you, leopard skin leggings!)
So after picking out each item, if the answer was #1, it went into the laundry pile, ready to be washed and hung up in my (now spacious) wardrobe.

If the answer was #2, I put it into the clothing donation bag. It's easier if you put these items straight into a bag rather than letting them gather in a pile on the floor.

As of today, I have released two bags stuffed full of good quality clothing. One of the items was a white peplum top. Never worn, great condition. Somebody will find it at their local op-shop and it will be perfect for them. I am happy for them because it sure as heck didn't suit me!

And finally, if the answer was #3, these items also went straight to the donation bags. The only exceptions were things with holes in them. No op-shop wants a pile of moth-eaten clothing on their doorstep. It's more work for them to get rid of these items and it's probably better karma to throw them in the bin before you make the trip. For example, I had a beautiful black merino jumper from Katmandu. I have worn this jumper all through two (or was it three) winters and it suits me perfectly. Unfortunately, due to my enthusiastic use, it now has three holes on one elbow and four on the other. *Sigh* into the bin it goes.

The basic steps to a clutter-free capsule wardrobe

  • Open your wardrobe (Phew! That was the hard part)
  • Go through your hangers and pull out everything you haven't worn in the last couple of months
  • See what's left (Hint - it's probably the stuff you wear all the time)
  • Store the stuff you don't need or want OR donate it!
You may find after your clear out that you don't have as many clothes as you thought. Resist the urge to run out and buy new stuff to fill it up. Give yourself time to live with the new, smaller wardrobe. One of the advantages of having less clothing is knowing that you love absolutely everything in your wardrobe and it takes far less time to decide what to wear!

Things I have discovered since building my capsule wardrobe:

  • I no longer have to decide what to wear - no more throwing things back on the hangers and mixing and matching weird looks
  • The things in my wardrobe are the things I feel most comfortable wearing - I can comfortably grab anything and know that it will work
  • I have released all the clothing that I was never going to wear anyway - it's a lighter feeling every time I open the wardrobe
  • Even though I have less stuff, I have more things to wear - I have discovered hidden treasures squished in the far reaches of my hanging space
My wardrobe was stacked so full of hangers that I had to prise apart the layers to see what was in there. After my decluttering adventure, I can now see what I have to wear. I have discovered (or should I say rediscovered) a number of t-shirts that I absolutely love. I am now going through the process of hand washing all of them, one by one and returning them to their rightful place. 

Unexpected benefits of a capsule wardrobe:

  • No more illusions - I have less clothing than I thought but that's okay. Before the clear out, my wardrobe had the illusion of being "full", yet I still had nothing to wear. Now I know where I stand.
  • Less stress - deciding what to wear in the morning is not all that much fun. Now I know what I'm going to wear. If I happen to wear the same thing a few times, at least I know it's perfect and suits me well.
  • More space - now I have more space in my wardrobe and more space to think about the things that really matter in life. I may buy a couple of new basic items but overall, I'm comfortable with my leaner, minimalist wardrobe.