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When you have been living in a world of “much” for so long, the idea of scaling back to a NoXS Minimal existence can be daunting. So many questions begin to emerge.

Where do I start?
How little is too little?
How much is too much?

And as you start there is the nagging uncertainty that raises other questions like, “Well what if I need that some day?” or “I don’t need it or want it, but my mother gave it to me! What If she asks about it…?!?!”

The best piece if advice I can give you is this:

Your minimal journey is two things: YOURS and A JOURNEY. The rules can be set by you. Only you can say what level of minimalism is right or wrong for you. And being a journey, you can travel at your own speed. It is a process not a destination. Enjoy it.

Many people, myself included, began their journey in the wardrobe. I think most people would agree we love with far more clothing that we need. But in the spirit of YOUR and JOURNEY, here is a great resource I found which is very similar to the approach I took on my first day of going minimal.

PROJECT 333 is a great idea that allows you to ease into minimalism. The idea is that you live for 3 months using only 33 items of clothing. There are some things that are “free” and don’t count, like pyjamas, around the house wear and workout clothes (the restriction being you cannot wear these items for anything else). But the project forces you to look at what you have – clothes, jewellery, shoes etc (yes these count!) – and see if you can live without some of them.

Here is what is cool about Project 333 though – first, nothing bets thrown away (yet)! You are practicing what it might be like to live with this many clothes in the wardrobe. And here’s the other thing – if you find that 33 is realistically too few (which initially you might say it is but give it three I this and you might be taking differently!) because a Project 333 is completely adaptable, you can switch it up to a Project 344 (or 322 if you prefer!) next month and see if that is better for you.

At the end of the three months you can debrief yourself asking questions like:
What was it hard to live without? Why? Is it realistically something I should keep?
Does my lifestyle work with this many items, or should I switch up/down? Or adapt my lifestyle instead?
Was there anything in the 33 items I seldom sore? Do I actually need it/like it as I think I do?

And then, go another round.

All of the “rules” can be found at their website, along with ideas for adaptations and so on. If you give it a try, let me know how you get on… http://theproject333.com/getting-started/

Remember though, your minimal, your journey. Be yourself and enjoy the ride.

Live Simply, Simply Live,

Mark G

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This is our simple table.

Our simple table was built by hand. It’s wood was first used to build the grandstand at the Stanthorpe Showgrounds in Queensland, Australia in 1905. The craftsman rescued the wood when it was pulled down in the early 90’s and made furniture with it. Our table was built in 1994.

Our table was the first major furniture purchase we made as a married couple. We bought it not long after it was made. We loved it’s size, it’s history and it’s simplicity. We loved that it was strong and robust and built to last – like we hoped our love would. It had to last because we bought it never intending to part with it. And we knew that over the years our simple table would develop marks and chips and scratches because with all good, loving use comes accidents. Funny enough, when we bought our simple table, the salesman asked us if we wanted him to send the table back to the craftsman to create the “rustic look” by beating it with a heavy chain. We said no, we would take it as it was. While many in an “instant age” might have done so, we wanted our rustic look to come from authentic wear and tear. We wanted our simple table to develop a character in its own right over time. We wanted to be able to look at the dents and scratches and remember the wonderful times we have had around our simple table.

Our simple table seats four most nights, but is just as comfortable seating twelve. It’s simple bench style seats means you can squeeze room for one more when you need it. That said, our simple table can just as comfortably seat one. And when you sit alone, it doesn’t feel like the scenes you often see in movies of the one person sitting at the long, big, empty table. Our simple table somehow feels just right no matter how many are seated there.

Our simple table is extremely versatile. Of course, we eat at it. Every day. We never wanted to be an “eat in front of the TV” family. But it does much more than that. Out table has served as an office desk, a sewing table and an operating table for more than one scratched knee. Every year at various times, it becomes the resource creation station for creating teaching resources and then an assessment collation area both for my teacher wife. It has been the place at which businesses were launched, ideas were birthed, songs and books were written and assignments hammered out long into the night.

Our simple table has been host to a wonderful array of events. It has been the venue for our children’s parties, for the planning of weddings and for celebratory dinners and board games evenings with family and friends. But it has also been the place for tears, for sadness and for pain. Heated and hard conversations have taken place here, and across it’s breadth hands have been held. Tightly.

This past week, our simple table has been the venue for some very special moments. Within the last five days, twice we have gathered around it with friends – you know, the type who are more than friends – who we do not get to see very often and ate together. One of those families have lived overseas for many years now and to share food, fellowship and colouring in over our table with them and with their children that we had never met was a great joy.

And as I write this, I sit at our simple table surrounded by party things because tomorrow our simple table will host our daughter’s 14th birthday party. What I love about that is that our simple table was also the place at which she ate her first solid foods, the place where she did her first homework and, if Dad is honest, was the place for more than one quick nappy change…

I love our simple table not because it is a thing, but because it is not a thing. It is not minimal in terms of its size, but in terms of its simple design, its materials, how it was built, its longevity and for the amazing memories it holds, our simple table is very much a symbol of everything being NoXS Minimal stands for.

Simple, stable, built to last. Somehow I think our simple table will be a beautiful anomaly in a throw away world. And I hope that it’s message and encouragement to me in pursuing a simple, NoXS lifestyle will be loud and clear every time I look at it.

Live Simply, Simply Live.

Mark G

In various ways, I have now spent just over 3 years embracing a NoXS Minimal lifestyle. I will be open – I am still not anywhere I think I should be in terms of living minimal; and am expecting getting to that stage will take some time still. Being an impatient person, (even with myself), I have pondered why it is the transition has been so difficult. Today, I think I have figured it out.

The thing that sparked this epiphany came from an unlikely source. As I write this, one of our Australian States is in a tussle with indigenous people over the rights to use land; land which is under traditional ownership which means the legal rights have been transferred to the indigenous tribal group that “belongs to the land”. (I love that term!) Anyway, discussion on the comments for the news post pretty much did what they usually do when we talk in Australia about our indigenous peoples – one argument lamented the contempt indigenous peoples (supposedly) treat what the government gives them. This then cascaded to suggestions that if they could bring themselves out of their primitive state, perhaps they could make a positive way for themselves in modern Australia.

In answer to a question that asked where might Australian Indigenous peoples be today had Europeans not settled here, I replied as follows:
I’m not an “expert”, but could I suggest that our indigenous peoples, had Europeans not invaded their space, would be living a contented, simple and, yes, primitive life. But one of the dodgy words that fly around these types of forums is “civilised”. I for one think the kinds of societies and communities the few remaining primitive and untouched (by “modern life”) peoples of our world actually are is civilised; and that our “modern” and “progressive” ways are anything but. I think part of the problem is that when we assist our indigenous peoples we still do so with an air of authority and assume our way should be theirs. When that happens things always go sour…

Back in 2011, footage was taken of a non-contacted tribe in South America. There was some discussion at that time about what should be done with these people – whether contact should be made or not? It sparked a discussion then that I was reminded of today about what is deemed “normal” and what is not. Some are of the opinion that progress should be for all and that in coming along for the ride, all the benefits of progress will make us all better people.

And I think this is at the core of why it has been so hard to go NoXS Minimal.

In 2008, after 15 years of marriage, we bought our first home. Our kids turned 8 and 6 that year. The house has three bedrooms, an open living space, one bathroom, one toilet, a small laundry, a quite spacious kitchen, and a beautiful back deck and yard. And people thought we were nuts!!

I had comments like:
– “It’s beautiful, but isn’t it a bit small for a young family?”
– “You are going to regret this when the kids reach high school!”
– “No ensuite bathroom? You’ll never sell it!”
– “I give you 6 months before you end up killing each other because you are living in each other’s pockets all the time!”

What I (apparently) failed to understand – and what was communicated to me in no uncertain terms on a number of occasions – was that the average house these days was a 4 bed, a bathroom and an ensuite for the master bedroom at a minimum!, at least two living areas, a double garage connected to the house, a kitchen, separate dining and a laundry. Extra kudos for a study, porch/deck and for a rumpus/recreation room. Backyard was an optional extra – I was told more internal living space was more sought after than outdoor space.

Our humble and, apparently, crazy, risky house...

Our humble and, apparently, crazy, risky house…

We loved (and still love – although we live elsewhere now, we still own the house) the place and we loved it’s feel and we loved the way it forced us to interact as a family and we especially love that buying it was manageable and did not break us financially. But buying it was seen as an extremely counter-cultural move.

When I was in high school, I remember a conversation we had in class with our Film & Television teacher, Miss Barker. We were having a discussion about our school uniform (probably in an attempt to get her off topic) and Katrina Stead shared all our sentiments she she said, “We should be able to dress as we like in order to express our own individual personality.” Miss Barker came out with a check mate: “If the rules were changed so that you could wear whatever you wanted, you would all come dressed the same anyway.”

And nothing seems very different 23 years later. We do because everyone else is doing. Or because the mass media told us so. And any attempt to do any different is seen as counter-cultural particularly when it threatens the status that has come from conforming to the perceived norm.

So when I refuse to kowtow and go out and buy this seasons fashion, or when I buy a small house, or when I refuse to spend for spendings sake, or when I decide to grow my own food, or forsake the next generation of iProduct, or seek sustainable methods for things I use or do, or choose not to eat packaged food, or go barefoot or wear minimal footwear most of the time, or make my own clothes, or make my own Christmas cards and gifts, or decide not to store 10 years worth of useless crap in my garage and sell or give it away instead (because it hasn’t been used in 10 years why keep it?), or bring my lunch instead of buy, or choose to only have one TV in the house I am not just making personal choices. I am actually rebelling against a whole culture that says doing these things is strange, and being out of debt is abnormal, and not spending is ruining our economy, and more and bigger is better.

Progress, you see, should be followed by everyone, because it is best. Apparently. So our indigenous people should live like us. And the untouched tribes should be given the things they (obviously?!?!) need (read “what I want them to need”). And I should stop being a hippy and get back in touch with the rest of the modern world.

Because it is better. More civilised. More hygienic. Maybe…

Actually there is no evidence of that, but what we do know is that it is more busy, more stressful, more addictive and more expensive than ever. Going NoXS Minimal is hard because you are bucking against a whole culture. I have been misconstrued. I have been misunderstood. I have been thought of as weird and abnormal. But if you are prepared to put on your wry grin, not take yourself too seriously and dream big (minimal big, that is!), I think you will agree as hard as it is, it is also fun, fulfilling and content.

What has been or do you think will be your biggest challenge in your minimal journey?

Live Simply & Simply Live,

Mark G

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Just last week, something quite sentimental came to an end. It had a life span of, we estimate, 45 years. It had been used by three generations and had come into contact with four. It was a handkerchief. Not just any hankie, mind. It was my Dad’s military issue hankie. And this simple yet practical piece of material has taught me more about materialism and being NoXS Minimal than just about anything else in recent days. Let me share the ways…

1. IT WAS MADE TO LAST
This handkerchief would have found its way into a pocket at least once a week in that 45 years. Who knows how many times it was taken in and out of that pocket? Who knows how many nose blows it took, bleeding wounds it covered, tears it wiped or table spills it mopped? Yet the material chosen and the sewing of the edges has held up. Someone made this to last, not to be thrown away after one or two uses.

2. IT IS SIMPLE IN DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION
One colour, four edges. Nothing fancy or elaborate needed – it’s main task was to wait in a pocket until it was taken out to wipe noses and that is what informed it’s make. Need fancy edges? No. Pretty pictures? Who will see them? Not needed! Easy to make means more can be spent on the material rather than the manufacture, which is probably why the material lasted so long!

3. IT WAS USED, NOT HIDDEN
Sounds weird, but I think you will understand – when I was given this hankie, I was considering not using it. It reminded me of my Dad and I was afraid that it would be ruined if I did. But then I realised that my Dad was a practical man who made good use of everything he had or came upon – a trait he inherited from his father. While their extreme of keeping everything until it’s needed was something I wanted to avoid (you should have seen what we had to do when Dad and later, Pa, passed away to clear up their collection of screws, bolts etc etc etc x 100!!) I thought it best to use what I had. This would be an important part of going NoXS Minimal – use it or lose it! So I continued to use! as Dad had, as a way to honour him and because the idea of buying another hankie when I already had this good one (and a few others as well) was a bit redundant.

And so, after 20 years in my possession, it comes to this – a nice, neat tear down the middle where the centre fold had been placed for 45 years or so altogether. Which brings me to the last key lesson – SOME THINGS WILL DIE. And when they do, you get a choice: replace or not replace. Well, with a couple more hankies still in my draw, I think it is safe to leave it for now. Who knows, maybe ask can get 45 years out of them too?

Live Simply & Simply Live,

Mark G