The Weekly Index: 27th March 2015

27th March 2015Image: Angelina Scantlebury

What has caught my eye this week?

♦ Really interesting work by Dr Valentina Borgia to detect poisons on archaeological artefacts.

♦ Starbucks release a limited edition Birthday Cake Frappuccino! Catch it while you can (until 30th March).

How do you transform a museum? A behind the scenes look at the slightly controversial IWM relaunch.

♦ The price of shame. A really excellent and brave TED talk by Monica Lewinsky about public shaming.

♦ A lovely interview with Sabrina Ghaynor.

♦ Should we clone Neanderthals?

♦ Behind the curtain. 12 interesting secrets about London’s museums.

♦ The Kind is dead, long live the King. But are we burying the wrong body?

The price of responsibility – the grief of an A&E doctor.

♦ What do we value? A fascinating look at the linguistic patterns between male and female letters of recommendation.

♦ A look at UNIQLO’s new Kabuki inspired range.

Another Richard opinion piece – why burying him when other famous remains are on display?

♦ Does Louis Theroux ever get embarrassed when asking awkward questions? No. No he doesn’t.

15 old Hollywood beauty secrets. Likely to be mostly nonsense but entertaining nonetheless.

♦ In defence of the King. One last piece about Richard.

♦ A naughty police horse named Jack makes an unscheduled beat patrol.

 

Have a fab weekend peoples.

xxx

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10 Tips For Owning Less Stuff!

Spring is officially here as of  a few days ago and so it is time to make like Moley in Wind in the Willows and get spring-cleaning. For most of us this involves having a clear out. I love getting rid of stuff. The fewer things I own the happier I am. It may seem strange for someone who enjoys vintage style, particularly stereotypical fusty old libraries and studies, but in my home, my place to work and relax, I prefer an open, clean and dare I say it, modernist space. My dream home would be some monochrome Nordic expanse of white carpet and sleek mid-century furnishings – a bit like a slightly gothic Jetsons house. This isn’t always easy to achieve in a flat in London but I do my best.

It wasn’t always this way. When I was seventeen my family emigrated to New Zealand. I remained in the UK and moved in with my boyfriend at the time. I didn’t have many possessions but I did have a lot of clothes, sourced from the abundant charity shops near college back when you could still buy a jumper for 50p.

After about a year, I moved to London for uni. Again, without much in the way of practical goods, like a toaster or mugs, but with plenty of tops. The following year I moved again, this time into the flat of fun that I shared with my lovely friend Frank. I’ve talked about this period extensively here, but the condensed version is that neither of us had beds, a sofa or any kitchen equipment at all for the first six months. It was fun to live like this and I remember saying often how nice it was to get by with so little. However, living a minimal life through choice and living one because you can’t afford a kettle and have to heat water for tea in the single saucepan you own which makes it taste a bit like baked beans are two different things entirely. After a while we began acquiring stuff, normally for free from anyone who was chucking stuff out. A tiny TV from a friend of my grandmas, a mattress, the odd plate or random shelf. After blowing almost the entirety of my first student loan cheque one afternoon in the big Topshop in the first year, I had ceased to buy clothes at all in favour of giant bags of porridge oats and you know, rent. Instead, I simply wore what other people where chucking out. My friend Ruth was a godsend here because she seemed to have a never-ending supply of both new clothes and bin liners full of stuff to eBay that I would riffle through whenever I visited. Honestly, I was like a sodding Borrower.

A Beautiful MessImage: A Beautiful Mess

After years of this and a few more house moves, I was standing in my flat in Shepherds Bush literally shoving bin bags of clothes into nooks and crannies in my wardrobe, the doors of which had long since given up the ghost and now hung limply askew making a sorrowful gaping mouth, sickened and swollen at having to swallow one more H and M vest. I looked like one of those conductors on the Tokyo underground whose job it is to shove people on to the train like silly putty in a bread bin. I had spent so long not having stuff and taking whatever was offered to me that somehow without me realising the scales had tipped and I suddenly had too much stuff. From then on, I started regular bi-annual culls of my possessions.

Nevertheless, it was hard. Stuff costs money and it is a privileged person who can turn around and say that they own too much and want to throw it out. Striving for a minimalist life is the ultimate first world problem and almost perverse in its aesthetic desire to reduce when others have so little. I realise the tips I set out below may seem wasteful, but I firmly believe they are not. I own less stuff and because I want to keep it that way and I buy a lot less than most people I know. Knick-knacks and fripperies are an absolute rarity in my house and I don’t buy anything unless there is a true need and place for it. I don’t buy clothes often and when I do, they are researched and thought through rather than a whim. I think that one big cull of your possessions, with the majority going to charity, will in the long term ensure that you buy less stuff and invest carefully in key pieces that will last a long time, both in your home and wardrobe. So here are my top 10 tips for owning less stuff:

1. Organise for Your Reality, Not Your Fantasy

Whilst this may sound a bit ‘give up on your dreams’, it isn’t, and I want to highlight what I mean by recalling this conversation I had with my mum a few weeks ago. We were talking about getting rid of stuff and I said that you only need one of everything not five.

Mum: ‘Yes, but you throw out the other four bottle openers and then you have a party and you only have the one for everyone’.

Me: ‘When was the last time you had a party mum?’

Silence.

This is what I mean. Look at how you actually live your life. Look at the things you use daily and the things you haven’t touched in a year and prioritise accordingly. I have so many examples of things that I have hung on to because of something I might do in the future. I stockpiled glass jars for years because I was thinking of making jam. I won’t. I don’t have a garden, I don’t have time to forage and if I am going to the supermarket to buy the fruit I might as well just buy the bloody jam there anyway. I recently threw out a carrier bag of make-up. I know, the horror! But I am old enough now to know what works for my face and green eyeshadow ain’t it so why did I have eleven variations of it? Yes, I might go to a Halloween party as a B-movie alien one year but that’s not a good enough reason to hang on to this stuff. So, give yourself a break – take that pile of fabric out from under the stairs and give it to the charity shop because you have had two years to make those curtains and you never have. If it was an experience that you found enjoyable you wold have made the time to do it. You haven’t, so on some level it is a chore and frankly there are enough chores in life without adding more. Be honest with yourself, give the fabric to someone who will use it, then smile and go and do something you actually enjoy doing. This is not about being defeatist, giving up on your plans or not taking up a new hobby. It is about being completely honest with yourself and understanding what matters to you today. Not five years in the future when work calms down a bit and you have a bit more free time, but today.

2. Start With The Places You Visit Most

When starting a clear out it’s all very well to get cracking on the cupboard under the stairs or the junk drawer but you will see the biggest impact if you head towards those spaces you visit daily. My first stop is always my bathroom cupboard. Bathroom cupboards can get unfathomably full of all sorts of junk. Not long ago I found a tub of Fructis hair wax in mine, circa 2000. What they hell was I thinking? Why have I dutifully packed and unpacked this ugly tub of gloop that has a horrible texture and smells like a fourteen-year-old boy through nine house moves!? In the bin! Now I only keep the things that I use daily in my bathroom cupboard and it makes me feel calmer and more organised at 6 am when I am stumbling around getting ready. Next, hit the wardrobe and then the kitchen cupboards. These are the hotspots you use daily, and you will feel the benefit immediately once they have been de-crugged.

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3. Do You Like It?

This sounds so obvious but it is something that took me years to ask myself. I was so used to taking anything that was offered to me that I never stopped to ask myself – do I like this? The answer will always be yes or no. There are no greys. If you find yourself saying ‘well I like the pattern on this skirt but the cut is a bit weird’, get rid. My aim is to be happy with every object in my home and not go ‘urrgh, not that bloody thing getting in the way again’. Obviously you are not going to love your dishwasher filter, but you know what I mean – get rid of the stuff that gives you even the slightest feeling of ick, because you don’t need that negativity in your life.

4. If It Isn’t Perfect, Turf It

The shoes that you love but rub after an hours wear. The pan that has a big old chip in the lid, doesn’t sit right or sticks. Get rid of this stuff. It may sound wasteful but you won’t wear those shoes as often as you should because they hurt which is equally wasteful. You might as well give them a new home and buy something that works perfectly for you.

5. If It Is Broke, Don’t Fix It

I am not talking about the car or the family heirlooms. I know people will be throwing their hands up and saying ‘how could you?!’ to this advice but again, it is honesty time. If you have had a teapot minus a handle sitting there for six months and not got round to buying the superglue to fix it, it is time to get rid. You had your chance, it wasn’t important enough, so as Idina Menzel told us, ‘let it go’.

6. It’s Not A Loss, It’s An Investment

Once you start seeing the monetary value of your possessions it becomes a lot easier to see them go! What is the point in having three old phones and an ancient digital camera sitting in your drawer when you could sell them and put the money towards a new IPad? You have reduced four items into one and got yourself something that will improve your life. Don’t just think about clothes and electrical goods either; perfumes, toys, jewellery, tools and ornaments all sell really well on eBay.

7. It Is OK To Have A Uniform

This is not about being in a rut but simply about knowing and being honest with yourself. If you answer no to any of these statements, get rid:

Honestly, do you like it?
Have you worn it in the last year?
Will you wear it in the near future? Honestly?

I spent years buying clothes, particularly vintage pieces, because I was in love with the idea of them or simply in love with the fact that they were vintage. However when it came to actually wearing them, I didn’t feel like me. It took me a long time to realise that just because you appreciate an item of clothing, it doesn’t mean that you have to rock it yourself. Now I know my personal dress code, the things that make me feel good, confident and let’s face it, hot. I love and always try to remember the Glamouria’s mantra, ‘find the pieces that make you feel most like you and wear variations of them every day’.

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8. Keep a Memory Box

I have kept a memory box for years, it is really useful for storing the things you want to keep but do not necessarily want on display constantly. In my memory box I keep ticket stubs, old diaries, birthday cards and soppy things, like the necklace I was wearing the night I met T. Every few years I will go through and discard the things that don’t seem significant to me anymore, it is a way of filtering out and distilling the parts that matter.

9. The Partner Problem

If you live with housemates or a partner who don’t share your clean lines = clean mind philosophy it may be hard to achieve your idea of clutter-free perfection. T is in no way a slob, but he does have a penchant for gadgetry, both buying and making and as such we have more cables and electrical whatnots in our house than Telecom Tower. I hate wires. I think they look messy, ugly and they gather dust. This could be something of a problem. However we have always made a point to give each other our own zones in each house we have shared. Currently in this house, I have a space for clothes and make up (the majority of our bedroom), and T has a rather nice giant cupboard/room where he keeps all of his Inspector Gadget stuff. I also went and got a load of these storage boxes, which I put by his desk so that when letters, old magazines and Maplin’s leaflets start creeping onto the dining table I can just sweep them up, throw them inside and close the lid. We also have a joint agreement that we shan’t bring anything major into the house unless we both love it. It makes furnishing our house a slower process, but it means that we both end up with the home we want.

10. The 30 Day Throw Out Challenge

For anyone who feels a little overwhelmed by the prospect of a mass chuck out, this last tip is a great challenge that my Dad told me about and he and I have both recently completed it. On the first day of a new month, throw out one thing. On the second day throw out 2, on the third 3 and so on until the end of the month. In total, you will throw out 465 items. It is manageable, fun and after a few days, you begin to assess your possession for their true worth to you.

So there you go my top 10 tips for owning less stuff.

Happy Spring cleaning.

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The Weekly Index: Friday 20th March 2015

20th March 2015

What have I been reading this week?

 

♦ Why are we so interested in the last meals of death row inmates?

♦ New DNA study reveals that the Celtic tradition is one of culture rather than genetics.

♦ I love these responses by famous women to the horrible question ‘when are you going to have children?’

♦ Stunning photographs of Huskies frolicking on a frozen lake.

♦ This magical animation let’s you fly through 17th Century London.

♦ What to do with an old Ocean Liner?

♦ Look at these lovely postcards of ‘Herring Lassies‘ knitting.

♦ A great piece about Carla Valentine of Barts Pathology Museum.

♦ How to be a better committee member.

An interesting piece about how women are expected to be cheerful in the face of unwanted attention.

♦ The 25 most beauiful libraries in the world, just spectacular.

♦ Do we have a British Film industry? Not according to Mathew Vaughn.

Silly people get wolf dogs after watching Game of Thrones and can’t cope.

 

Have a fab weekend

xxx

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