Minimalish: Six Month Brick Phone Review with a Small Detour into a Quite a Large Consumerism Rant

Sooo if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know I swapped my smart phone for a brick phone late last year. I did a one month review and thought, since it’s now been about six months, I’d do a proper, Which?-esque write up, especially as a few people have said they’d love to ditch their smart phone. Here’s what the phone looks like:

Nokia Brick phone next to a gold foil bow

Good things about the brick

To be honest, the best things about the brick are not the phone itself. As a device, it’s mediocre. But as a metaphor conduit thing to help me concentrate, it’s bloody brilliant.

  • Since buying it, I think I’ve developed a reasonably better attention span.
  • I think I’m less twitchy and less likely to pull out the phone for something to hold and stare at and poke when I’m in an awkward situation which, considering we are living in the End Times and my natural state is extreme twitchiness, feels like a big achievement.
  • I’m definitely more likely to look at things now, rather than snapping a picture of that thing and never look at it ever again.
  • Having a very boring screen has helped me realise that lots of apps and notifications stress me out. My mum’s phone has three screens of apps and just looking at the screen makes me anxious. She has all her notifications on too. It’s like having an insect buzzing around your ear, except more annoying because at least insects contribute to the eco system. I did cut down my notifications and apps on the smart phone, over the course of a few years, but it’s been lovely to look at a screen with absolutely nothing enticing apart from the odd game of Snake.
  • I charge it about once a fortnight and I’m smug about it.
  • Because the internet is a non-event, I pay a pound a week for my data, minutes and texts. A POUND A WEEK. I’m smug about that too.

Less good things

  • It’s so easy to lose a small device in your pockets! Like I said before, do you know how difficult it is to lose something in women’s cut pockets?
  • I have occasionally replaced mindless smart phone scrolling with other bad behaviours, like mindless scrolling of Reddit, so maybe don’t do that (but I am working on the social media thing. More on that another time).
  • The brick phone doesn’t have certain apps I use a lot, like WhatsApp, banking and Headspace, so I’ve kept my old, rickety smartphone. Because we’ve been in lockdown, it’s no hassle to swap between the two.

So the brick phone is here for life, right?

Not quite.

Some nuance and adult considerations

Having lived without one, I feel like I have a new appreciation for the fact that smart phones are great. That giant computer Alan Turing came up with plus the cassette tape Lou Ottens invented, plus the camera (I do not know who we consider to be the inventor of the camera), plus interactive maps, plus texting, plus a little torch, oh and plus a telephone, tucked in my pocket. There’s a reason they’re ubiquitous and that reason is that technology is great. Mobile phones, and smart phones specifically, represent innovation and, in many ways, social equality: about five billion people own mobile phones worldwide. I couldn’t find stats on how much of that is made up of smart phones but it’s probably a fair bit.

My issue with them – everyone’s issue with them, right? – is that they are lotus-eaters, designed to wriggle into your brain and whisper that you need never leave this brightly coloured screen. I can’t not think about the hours I’ve lost to Twitter threads, the Instagram browsing page, news sites and Facebook posts by people I don’t even like. I hate how reliant I used to be on one device. When was the last time I had to use my brain to figure out a route instead of consulting Google? I can tell you: Chiang Mai in Thailand four years ago, when my battery died and I found my way through badly lit streets using my memory and the map in a guide book. Can that really be the last time I used my braincells? No wonder my memory’s shit and my confidence is shot to pieces; I needed that bright, cheery screen to find my way out of bed.

But those things aren’t the smartphone’s fault. They’re mine, because I let the phone make the easy choices for me. Use my memory or consult Google Maps. Have difficult conversation face to face or have it over text. Converse with sort-of-friends-who-I-don’t-really-like or escape to social media, where I can look at content by people I’d actually like to be friends with. Think through response to email in a sensible, measured way or fire off an angry response because the message is right there. That was all me, letting the phone make my life easier in the short term even if it made me an anxious, irritable insomniac with bad communication skills and worse coping methods in the long term.

I don’t like how we always assume people own a smart phone, either. Getting Covid tested was a bit of a faff because I couldn’t scan my app thing, but I’m still pretty tech-savvy and could fill in all details with the staff. There was a story this week about older people being discriminated against because they don’t own smart phones and can’t use apps to order from tables in pubs, etc. My great uncle got a mobile a couple of years ago not by design but because one of his neighbours had a spare. He’s barely a telly bloke. He deserves to pop down the pub should he fancy, and not be turned away because he can’t scan himself in. If I remember correctly, he did something with radios in the Royal Navy. Could I do that? No. The digital divide is real and it’s not fair. Us Bright Young Millennials are going to be confused as fuck when our children start uploading their brains into the cloud. If tech isn’t working for one lot of society, is it working for all of us?

Then there’s the cost of smart phones. People are putting down a grand for a phone like it’s normal behaviour? My dudes. These phone companies are fucking us all over with their shiny marketing campaigns and their addictive screens and their insidious whisperings that you need to take out a payment plan or use your credit card to purchase a device that will be obsolete in two or three years’ time.

Don’t even start me on the social and environmental impact of the tech industry. Actually, I’ve started. Smart phones pollute. They are made from metals mined in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, where militias often control the mines. Both those articles are a few years old; I’m not sure what the stats are at the moment. But my soapbox has been stood on: our consumerism is killing the planet and harming people we’ll never meet.

Cinderella uggghhh GIF
from giphy

This took a slightly angry turn. Back to my phone shite.

Things I quite liked about my smartphone (when its battery wasn’t dying, my brain wasn’t melting and the microchip wasn’t recording my every movement for the lizard people)

  • Usability. Tapping the ‘3’ key three times to get the letter F on the brick can be annoying. Making 6 clicks to activate silent mode is a moderate inconvenience when you’re trying to check your phone won’t go off in a meeting. The speaker, which isn’t brilliant, is a bit irritating when there’s background noise. Smart phones are just so easy to tap, man, and they’re so… solid. Well, other than that Samsung that used to catch fire if you glanced at it the wrong way.
  • Apps for boarding passes. I know it’s a non-issue at present but I love waving my phone at passport control. I don’t love carrying around bits of paper. It’s more stressful knowing that losing one item means loosing access to all your paperwork, but it’s less stressful keeping hold of one object than a file of papers.
  • Banking apps/Headspace/WhatsApp (basically the unholy trinity of my life ahaha).
  • The camera. I am so, so grateful I have about a thousand photos of my dogs from before they died. Do I look at all one thousand images every day? No. One day I may even find the strength to clear out duplicates. But for now, my folders of dog photos are important to me.

So. I will likely get a smart phone at some point now the world is opening up. I love not having to faff about with papers at the airport; I love that I can check my bank balance in five seconds. I want to take photos of my friends, and of cool things I do, and of other people’s dogs! I don’t love that the brick disappears into the folds of my trousers.

But what type of smart phone? My ideal device would be one that’s basically a Nokia 3310 I have now but with some app functions, and a bigger screen and better camera. I like the Light Phone for its simplicity (its screen uses the same tech as e-readers, so no irritating bright colours that keep you awake), but it doesn’t have apps like Whatsapp. So I guess my best option is to get an actual smartphone and just keep it in night mode forever, and be strict with myself about apps and notifcations? I try to follow a one-in-one-out rule with accounts I follow on social media, clothing and general stuff, and it’s done my mental health wonders; maybe I should do the same with apps (I think this whole Minimalish series is just me saying ‘my brain is cluttered and less physical items helps it be less cluttered’).

I’m not sure how much I’ve learnt, or how much sage advice I’ve passed on in this post. In the last couple of days I’ve finished an assignment, filmed, failed to edit and scheduled a video for the No. 1 Readers’ Club, phoned PayPal because my Patreon money is stuck in my Patreon account (it is still stuck) and done a cool thing with The Princess and the Dragon that I’ll share with you next week. So I’m ready to close the lid on the week and regain some human-ness. Wait, I wrote that sentence before I learnt that Helen McCrory died. I think I want to have a gin and watch Peaky Blinders. I was just thinking about Aunt Polly today. Stop taking nice things, 2021.

Let me know if this has inspired you to swap out your tech use, or put you off the whole idea of brick phones. Let me know your Helen McCrory memories. Let me know how much gin is the right amount for a Friday night in sort of-lockdown with a livestream and some laundry.

Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like (if you’d prefer, you can use PayPal or Ko-fi). If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)


Minimalish: Misadventures in Zero Waste Dentistry

In the last couple of weeks I’ve covered fandom and the ethics of getting vaccinated, so let’s chill for a bit and talk about teeth. Okay, not teeth, teeth are strange. Let’s talk about dental products. I’ve been experimenting with zero waste products and I thought, since I like talking about minimalism and the planet, but I’m not living in a field with a compostable toilet and no electricity, I might offer a good ‘basic consumer’ perspective?

I should start with a couple of things. Firstly, I have a huge guilt complex about plastic and non-biodegradable waste. I mean, we all should, but I feel bad every time I chuck something in the regular bin that isn’t recyclable or might be recyclable in some areas if you say four prayers and leave an offering for the bin collectors. Anything that comes in non-plastic or reusable packaging piques my interest. So I really wanted solid toothpaste and aluminium-bottle mouthwash to work, but I’m aware that a lot of you would be less invested in their success than I was.

Secondly, I thought buying solid toothpaste, aluminium-bottle mouthwash and refillable, non-nylon dental floss would be cheaper than the regular stuff in the long run. It is not. Lots of zero waste toiletries do work out cheaper in the long term (my reusable cotton face pads, safety razor and solid soap have definitely saved me money) but alternative dental products are firstly more expensive than their mainstream counterparts and secondly seem smaller, so they don’t last as long. I am sort of regretting the cash I put down on some pieces, especially after I saw my dentist recently and he confirmed my suspicions that they are, um, not worth it. But we’ll get to that. Let’s start with something I do think is worth swapping!

Dental Floss

I’ve tried a couple of ‘alternative’ dental flosses. I’m currently using the Georganics charcoal dentil floss, made with corn and vegetable wax. I didn’t choose or pay for it initially, as it was a Christmas present, but I like it. It’s nicer to use than a different eco-friendly floss I tried last summer, which was made of corn and candelilla wax. It was uncoated, so it felt less like flossing and more like hauling twine through my teeth. I like the Georganics one though. It comes in a little refillable jar which is quite sweet (and very durable. I’ve dropped it a lot and it hasn’t smashed). I’ve bought refill and although it’s pricey, especially with postage, I think it might last longer than the usual stuff. I haven’t run the numbers though; in a pinch I’d switch back to the mainstream single use plastic versions, knowing that I’ve not bought them when I could.

Oil pulling mouthwash bottle, glass dental floss jar and solid toothpaste jar by Georganics, on a blue blanket.
Really should have photographed these before they got bathroom-y.


My first foray into zero waste toothpaste was with tooth tabs, last summer. For the uninitiated, they’re little tablets that come in a refillable aluminium tin. They look like mints; their main ingredient is calcium carbonate. There is a slight issue with tooth tabs in that they work when activated by water: you pop one in your mouth, wet your toothbrush and scrub. It doesn’t froth or give you that zingy clean feeling, which on reflection I quite like, but I thought they were okay-ish… until my tin got damp and they all turned to sludge. A non-airtight tin sheltering water-activated products is a bit of a design flaw when that tin lives in a bathroom…

Solid toothpaste, which also uses calcium carbonate, seemed a better bet, so I tried some in January. It resembles toothpaste, right? Except… the first thing I thought of when I opened it was that it reminded me of concrete. It might not remind you of concrete, so don’t let that put you off. But we were not off to an auspicious start. Solid toothpaste works similarly to regular toothpaste: put a pea sized bit on your brush, wet the brush, scrubby scrubby. I thought it would slide out of the jar, like face cream or tube toothpaste, and onto your toothbrush. Maybe I’m doing it wrong (are you supposed to use a spoon?) but it has the consistency of solidified porridge. I sort of scraped it out of the jar and onto the toothbrush. It’s a bit messy, like plaster; I felt a bit like I was scrubbing my gums off.

I saw my dentist a couple of weeks ago and asked if it’s worth persevering with, given the plasteryness and lack of fluoride. Short answer: it isn’t. Apparently the relative amount of plastic in the standard toothpaste tube (which can be recycled in some places) isn’t really worth the swap given that eco-friendly toothpaste’s long term health benefits aren’t clear. Also, I had this crack in my tooth enamel or something, so I have to use fancy toothpaste for a while to stop my mouth exploding in pain every time I drink something cold. Even if I loved the solid toothpaste, toothache treatment has to come before the planet because I can’t do shit for the environment if my teeth have fallen out.


I couldn’t get on with alternative mouthwash, but that was on me from the get go. I thought I was buying ‘normal’ mouthwash except in an aluminium bottle. It turned out to be ‘oil pulling mouthwash.’ Oil pulling, I have since learnt, is an alternative medicine. My opinions on alternative medicine can be summarised thus:

I made this! By myself! It’s from Tim Minchin’s Storm the Animated Movie, which is a nine minute beat poem about an atheist meeting a hippie at a dinner party.

You’re also supposed to swish for 20 minutes. I know there’s a pandemic on, but I don’t have 20 minutes to to swish. As I said, my dentist explained that there isn’t a lot of info around about long term impacts of these new organic/zero waste/alternative dental products, and he reckons in years to come, people might present with issues. Oil pulling is an ‘ancient practice,’ sure, but so is bloodletting. I’m too vain to risk the quality of my gnashers; the hassle around my braces alone has ensured a lifelong desire to keep these teeth as nice as possible. Also it turns out you can get regular (or more regular?) mouthwash in aluminium bottles, so I might give that a go when I have some extra cash.

In conclusion: continuing with one out of five potential products doesn’t sound great, but I’m glad I tried them all. I imagine their prices will come down as more sustainable brands enter supermarkets, and as the Colgates of the world improve their packaging. I do most of my eco-friendly shopping on Wearth, by the way, they’re a UK-based platform that offers carbon neutral delivery and, if you are so inclined, this referral link (this isn’t a sponsored post; I’m sharing the code from my personal account thing. It has something to do with points). Some of the brands Wearth stocks are selling products that you don’t need if you’re smart about your consumption, or use everyday products for multiple purposes (I don’t need a £23 refillable conditioner when I use olive oil on my hair like the financially-stretched Mediterranean grandma I’m evolving into), but they’re worth checking out. If you have the money to spend experimenting with zero waste toiletries, go for it. If you don’t, don’t feel bad: there are other things you can do to decrease your consumption.

Right, I need a cup of tea. I’m not sure what I’ll be discussing next week: I thought about writing something about Sarah Everard or the royals, but there’s nothing I can say that hasn’t been said more eloquently already. Both those topics are heavy, as well, and I’d like to keep it light for my own mental health. Maybe I’ll do a book post. We’ll see.

Look after yourselves!


Here is the rest of the Minimalish series.

Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like. If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers.

DISCUSS. · Internet · Minimalish

Minimalish, Part Three: a 1-month anniversary review of the Brick Phone

Before we start: this post got LONG. Just a heads up, especially if you’re reading on a mobile (ha). Here’s part one, part two and part four of this tenuous series.

I was going to share this sooner, but I wanted to take a bit longer to get to know the newest electronic acquisition in my life:

Black Nokia 3310 2015 'brick phone'
Bow added for scale

Yep, it’s a brick phone. It’s a 2015 model, so it has 3G and an okay-ish camera, but that’s about it. I got it because my smart phone is dying (at the stage where you take one photo and 80% battery becomes 2% battery) and because I was fed up with spending all my brain power looking at one small, overly-delicate screen. I’m also trying to look after my mental health more, and although a lot of studies are observational and although the internet is generally a Good Thing, we know that increased screen time often contributes to worse sleep, which contributes to worse mental health. We know that the behaviour associated with bad mental health can also be associated with obsessive phone use. (This is a good article looking at various evidence for what I’ve just mentioned.) I know that my smart phone contributed to my appalling mental health, through the very scientific study of having used one for 10 years.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about consumption and the environment, so I didn’t want to get a new-new phone. When I scoured Southend’s second hand tech shops, I realised I couldn’t actually afford an old-new smart phone, even if I wanted one, because smart phone prices are like house prices. It doesn’t matter how many are available or what the quality’s like; someone’s realised that they can get away with adding a couple of zeroes to the market price every year or so. £400 for a second hand mobile that will stop accepting updates in a year or two? Haahahaa no.


So I got this little Nokia. Emphasis on the little. I’ve had it about a month now, so I thought this is a good time to take stock of its pros and cons:

New Brick Phone Pros

  • There’s no touchscreen; it’s harder to accidentally press something and message the wrong person.
  • It’s so basic there’s no need to pick it up unless it makes a sound.
  • Fits in most bags and pockets.
  • It has Snake!
  • It cost £23, aka a realistic budget for a full time student.
  • I’ve owned it for four weeks and, after an inaugural full charge, have only plugged it in twice. Maybe three times, but I think twice. I do a fair amount of calling on it too. My smart phone needed juice every other day at best.
  • It’s too early to say for sure (thanks lockdown), but I think I’m more present at social events. There obviously hasn’t been enough socialising to do a full study, but since there’s nothing to do on the phone unless I want to call or text, or maybe use the calculator or timer, there’s no point in it being in my hand.
  • I have to be more deliberate about doing the things I used to do in 2 clicks on the smart phone. For example, I use Headspace, and I try to do a few minutes’ meditation (or sitting to try to meditate) everyday. Now my smart phone is usually turned off or failing to charge, I often use the desktop version of the app, which means I’m planning my meditation more. It’s the same for my banking app: I used to check it as though I had a nervous tic. Now I spend a minute logging in on desktop, so I do it less but now I know what I’m looking for when I am on there.
  • I think I’m not tapping my card to pay for ‘little’ purchases quite as much either, because I can’t do a quick balance check to see if I can justify the payment. If I’m right, it’s probably going to save me cash in the long run because let’s face it, ‘checking to see if I could justify the purchase’ did not necessarily mean I could really afford it, but it meant that I told myself that I’d done my due diligence.
  • I’ve done at least one Proper Drop and the thing damn near bounced. There’s barely a scratch on it, and it was second hand to start with. I can’t believe how much I’m going to save on screen protectors, cases, repairs, etc.
  • No creepy adverts on the phone that reflect something I Googled on a separate device.
  • No noisy, headache-inducing apps enticing me to stay a minute longer.
  • I don’t feel like every tap is being tracked by the government or satellites or whoever owns or hacks the satellites. It doesn’t even matter if I am being tracked, man, I just don’t like the feeling that I might be.

Brick Phone Cons

  • Manual button pressing for texts = painful on my achy fingers (on the plus side, I find I am saving things for when I can have a proper conversation. This might improve my memory in the long term?).
  • No notes app (ditto; I carry a pen most places anyway).
  • No track and trace (although the track and trace app fried my smartphone to the extent I couldn’t turn on the location or the Bluetooth until I was zapping a QR code, which called into question the point of having said app. Also haven’t they decided track and trace in England doesn’t work?).
  • No emojis. You can insert basic smileys, but I miss the eye roll emoji.
  • It’s so small I keep losing it in my pockets. Do you know how small a phone has to be to get lost in women’s cut pockets? I can actually keep the phone in my purse haha. I keep leaving it around the house, too, and forgetting where it’s gone because I haven’t needed to look at it for six hours.
  • No WhatsApp or work banking apps.
  • I would love a better camera.

All in all, I’m feeling pretty positive about the swap. For anyone wondering about phone contracts: I have a SIM only pay-as-you-go whatsit. At one point I topped up my smart phone with £10 or £20 a month, depending on how much data I thought I might need. Gradually I reduced it, because I wasn’t really using all the calls or texts, and I realised that a lot of my smart phone use was just me checking emails or messages that could wait until I got to a computer. Have I ever mentioned that I’m not very good at work-life balance. So I have a bundle thing that works out as £1 a week for calls, texts and data. I thought I might have to pay more when I bought the brick, because it doesn’t have wifi capability – you have to use 3G. But the internet system is a) quite shit and not worth bothering with unless it’s an emergency, and b) so low tech that your data gets you more browsing time.

There are a couple of things I’d like to improve.

Number one is WhatsApp and the banking apps. I’m in a couple of groups with family and college people that are really useful. You can get WhatsApp on desktop (so much easier than typing on a phone) but it needs to connect to the smart phone. Which is entering that can’t-hold-charge phase of its demise. Can I really do without WhatsApp? Not sure. I also liked the Facebook messenger app, because I do a fair bit of selling on Facebook and it’s convenient to be able to message people in situ. There are also friends who I only get hold of through Facebook, so sometimes I’d like to be able to message them a bit more easily. Furthermore*, I did like apps like Depop and Headspace (infinitely easier on the app than on desktop) and my work banking apps. I can’t not use those banking apps, because they don’t have desktop versions. I could use a different bank to make up for it, but that’s a lot of admin (and I like those services).

Number two is the camera. I’ve still got the smart phone, because I don’t own a proper camera, and I do need a one for general photos/videos for members of the No. 1 Readers’ Club/product pictures. The brick does not cut the mustard, so I’m sort of juggling between the two if I need to film something.

Finally: you sort of need to tap more on a phone with buttons. Although I used to scroll various apps and send messages when I could’ve phoned people on the smartphone, I loved the qwerty keyboard because it’s kinder on my hands and fingers than the traditional brick phone keyboard (to an extent, of course. I fell down with the smart phone because I used it until my thumbs were numb and I could hear my wrist bones clicking). Now I have to press-press-press to get the letter C, or press-press-press to turn the phone on and off silent mode. On the plus side, I’m now more inclined to ring someone if they require a long text, which means the conversation is actually over faster.

Soooo the verdict?

The brick is staying for now. I really like that I’m less tethered to one device. There’s less risk if I drop it, it’s cheaper (both in terms of running costs and in terms of paying up front for the device) and my mental health is almost definitely better for it. I’m not feeling as though I’m beholden to something that ostensibly is there to make my life better and easier, but was actually making me anxious, frustrated and easily-distracted. It sounds ridiculous, but the plain-black screen is nicer on my eyes (no bright apps shouting in my face), the interface is so empty it’s quite calming and I’m not tempted to waste my life mindlessly scrolling. Those are things worth hanging on to.

That said: I am still juggling between the brick and the nearly-dead smart phone. The camera could become an issue, and if they ever improve test and trace, I’d like to use it.

My plan for now is to keep using the brick and eke as much life from the smart phone as I can. Depending on how much money I find myself with in spring (at which point I’ll have had six months of using the brick, so I’ll know what I’m willing to compromise on), I might do a spot of shopping. There has to be a smart phone on the market that has zero bells and whistles. Or a brick phone with a couple of bells. I know some Nokias do have WhatsApp options. I feel like there must be a kid on Kickstarter crowdfunding a phone that offers all the convenience and genuine positives of the smart phone, with none of the shouty, advert-y, brain-frying creepy tracking of the current market.

Of course, I could get a proper smart phone and just not load up the apps that had a bad impact on my brain (so basically, everything except Headspace and my banks. Sorry Depop, I love your convenience but I have made multiple purchases on you just to make myself feel better. WHICH THEY DIDN’T. Now I feel guilty when I look at those clothes). But do I trust myself not to crack and download Instagram when I’m feeling low, even though I know it’ll make me feel lower? No. I might download Instagram so I can do a fun Insta Live with my lovely followers, but keep it on there ‘just in case’ I do another soon. Which I won’t. I’ll just sit on it in bed, scrolling past the posts that I know are lies, let those lies make me feel bad about myself, lose sleep… and wonder why I feel crappy the next day.

So for now, the little brick is staying with me. Maybe in six months I’ll buy a smart phone but keep the brick as a back up, so if I notice myself falling back into bad habits, I can just pop back to the brick until I’ve rebooted my brain. We’ll see.

Have you ever considered swapping your smart phone for a brick? Do you know any good low-tech smart phones? Let me know in a comment! I’m curious to see how many people have thought about doing this, or have done it. If you can’t imagine swapping your smart phone, why not? (Okay, I kind of know the answer to that.)

Look after yourselves!

*Furthermore. Can you tell I’m writing essays again?!

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Minimalish, Part Two: RIP my Killjoy boots plus sage, sage words on mental health and clutter

So where were we? Oh yeah, I’m kind of a minimalist now. Except am I? As I write, there are two computer monitors on my desk, my floor is clogged with folders and… I’m bullshitting you guys, because the spare monitor is going to be sold as I have a new all-in-one-computer. The folders are my A Level notes, pulled down from the loft, hoovered and slooowly sorted through. By sorted I mean, I’ll photograph a couple of funny notes to share with you guys, keep anything that might come in useful for work and burn the rest.

But I still don’t know if I can claim to be a minimalist, though. As I said last time, I own a lot of wall art. As in, I don’t have any more space on my walls. I don’t really collect stuff, but I love picking up little pieces of arts and crafts when I travel. It’s nice to bring a little bit of there back here. There’s quite a lot of framed MCR posters and photos too. Again, I said last time, I genuinely like it all. The first thing I did when I moved back into this bedroom was put up as many pictures as I could; I think they make a space feel like it’s yours. But then, I also own four mugs worth of pens and highlighters, plus spares (possibly not minimalist). I still own CDs, because I own a CD player. I use the CD player, because it’s also a radio and I love the radio, especially at night. I could use my phone as a radio, but that a) fries the battery and b) makes me sit on my phone in bed.

So I think I’m a minimalist in the same way I’m a vegetarian. 95% of the time, I won’t eat meat because I don’t really like it and it flairs up my IBS and it’s terrible for the planet and cows are cute. The other five per cent is when I’m in Greece and there’s bikiri meze at one of my favourite restaurants. Good luck keeping me away from that food-based piece of heaven.

Jerry from Tom and Jerry', eating an entire block of cheese
from Twitter

I suppose I’m increasingly aware of the sorts of things I want in my life, and the sorts of things I don’t. Some things won’t get replaced when they fall apart, so as time goes by I’ll end up with the objects I really want and little else.

So, what have I decluttered? Bloody loads. I thought about photographing various points where I had piles of clothes on my bed or tonnes of books in a pile, but it felt weird. I didn’t start thinking minimalist thoughts to try out a trend, although minimalism is definitely a trend. I did it because the thought of moving all that stuff from one building to another gave me a stomach ache. I’m still doing it because of that. Here are a few bits and pieces:


It might be a throwback to when my IBS was really bad, but I kept too-big or worn out clothes for ages, because on days when I was bloated and uncomfortable, I couldn’t fit into my regular clothes. I also had no desire to wear anything that wasn’t absolutely comfortable. Over lockdown, that desire rekindled, so I’ve gotten rid of a lot of underwired bras (the devil’s instrument, but I’m keeping a couple in case we ever get to socialise again), platform heels that I bought for a specific occasion even though I had other platforms that were comfier. Yes, you can get comfy platform heels. Comfy-ish. I got rid of the murderous ones, and any shoes that were too big (funny story: until recently I thought I was a size five. I measure as a size three. Once I noticed, I couldn’t un-notice). I passed on clothes that didn’t suit me, clothes that weren’t easy to move in (bye, jeans), clothes that reminded me of a bad occasion. I probably have A Small Wardrobe to thank for this, but I’m being more considerate about what I actually wear versus what I think I’ll wear, and what I wear is beginning to match a lot more.

I’ve still got way more clothes than the average minimalist YouTuber has, partly because in the UK there is a limit to the practicality of a capsule wardrobe… none of my jumpers were suitable for use this last July; none of my strappy tops are suitable for use now, because there is only so much one can layer. But I’m building a wardrobe that looks cool, is really comfortable and requires minimal ironing, so result.


Dundunduuuuun. Look, there were some that were very boring. Some I would never, ever read. Some I tried and decided my time was better spent elsewhere. Books that aren’t going anywhere: my Maggie Stiefvaters, Harry Potter (my set is practically antique; there’s an epic stain on The Prisoner of Azkaban from a glass of Pepsi when I was about eight), my guide books (they’re proof we could once travel widely, and I have every intention of returning to Corfu/Malta/Vietnam). I’ve been rereading copies of Miss Marple that my grandmother gave me. They are staying for the time being, because I bloody love a murder mystery and because I don’t have many things to remind me of my grandmother. Which brings us to…

Sentimental Stuff

This is hard. I understand the basics of keeping hold of something long after it has any practical use, or when you think it’s ugly or takes up too much room. You keep it because it reminds you of a specific time or experience, and in getting rid of the item, you’re getting rid of the person who gave it to you, or letting go of that time. This is why my brother and I protested when our mum wanted to get rid of a VHS collection of James Bond films. That giant box took up more room in our childhood than most of our aunts and uncles. It’s funny, because I’ve had no trouble chucking the stuff that reminds me of bad memories. Get this item out of my space, please, it’s interfering with my mental health.

It sounds dramatic, doesn’t it, but an upside of having less clutter has been that I feel calmer. Not zen-calm, but not as messy. If you’ve been here for a while you’ll know I have a very messy brain. Less stuff does seem to equal less brain mess. As I said last time, I’d like to put my mental energy toward things that aren’t, well, things. But when that stuff is a reminder of better times? It’s hard, dude. Some objects I have aren’t being decluttered yet, or ever, because I’m not ready to consider getting rid of them. Other things, I looked at for a bit and then my desire to have an easy moving day won out. For example, these boots:

Studded black faux leather boots

I called them my Killjoy boots. I got them in Paris in 2009 and wore them to death. I realised in about 2011 that they were knackered and hurting my feet, but they were too much part of my identity to part with. One of the cool girls at school came up to me on a non-uniform day and asked where they came from. Paris. I think it was a chain store, they were probably about 40 euros, but still. So I moved houses with them, twice, even though I never wore them. A couple of months ago, when I was having a wobble about how much shit was in my bedroom, I pulled them out and realised the faux leather was shedding everywhere. So I took photos for posterity, said ‘thanks, boots, we had a great time’ and then put them in the textiles recycling (there was no rehoming them. Look carefully and you’ll see a random shoelace replacing a zipper. I had them reheeled too).

I guess I lied about not photographing anything. I thought I might talk about minimalism on here one day. I couldn’t make a big social-media-sharing thing out of it, though, because the entire process feels really personal.

This post has gotten really long, again, so I will keep talking in the next one, which is about technology. Do you have any decluttering stories? Horror stories? Have you ever kept a pair of shoes for nine whole years because they made you feel cool when you were 15? Let me know in the comments.

Look after yourselves!

Here is part three of this series, about swapping my smart phone for a brick phone, and part four, about zero waste dentistry.

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DISCUSS. · Minimalish

Minimalish, Part One: learning about minimalism and I might be a bit of a hippie

Hellloooo and happy almost-Halloween! (I’ve just remembered that tomorrow is MCR’s one year return anniversary and I’ll have been blogging here for eleven years. ELEVEN YEARS. What.)

I’ve been thinking about writing about this for a little while, but I thought it might be a) boring and b) preachy, which are two of my least favourite attributes in blogs or videos. But I reckon I can strike a good balance… I’m also not sure what else to talk about, because most other things I’m working on are either very personal and therefore secret, or not-quite-done and therefore currently secret. So let’s talk about minimalism!

First of all, what is minimalism? Wikipedia has some ugly tables and blocky architecture. Good Housekeeping thinks minimalism as a lifestyle might be Buddhist and essentially revolves around having less stuff, so you appreciate the stuff you do have more. All the other articles I could find were on sites about being minimalist, which I’ve avoided because you wouldn’t trust a unicorn to write a book about magical creatures. Okay, you might. I just thought it’d be good to share links to sites with relative neutrality. So, yeah, having less stuff. Taking care of the stuff you do own.

Sooo am I here to out myself as a minimalist and talk about how everyone should throw away anything that isn’t sparking joy then paint their entire house white? Nope and nope, god. At least, I don’t think so. I’m here to chat about my current head space, I suppose.

This might require back story. Okay. So, thinking back on it: I have moved three times and each one of those times was in less than fun circumstances. The first time I was 10, so it was your standard house move in which no one consults their children. I hated the entire process. The second time was when my parents split up and I moved out with my mum, back to the place we’d moved out of when I was 10. I think I was 19. I didn’t hate the entire process, but the ‘separating parents’ situation isn’t as fun as the normal ‘moving out as a young adult’ situation. The third time was last January (um. 23? Time has been hard recently), when I moved back to the house my parents moved us to when I was 10, where my dad and my brother live. Also not fun. Three house moves, two houses. A bajillion hours of where is this painting going to go and you need new bed linen because it’s a different sized bed and this box is really too heavy and a general sense of… why is this a fucking toothache.

The last two times, I packed up dresses I hadn’t worn for years. Books I never got round to reading, boxes of gifted notebooks I hadn’t used because I write quickly but not that quickly, random receipts from when I started my stationery business and didn’t have a filing system. I knew that I needed to take some time and figure out what I really wanted and needed, but both moves were pretty quick and/or very stressful, so I did what I could in the time frame and told myself I’d deal with all the extraneous stuff later. There wasn’t that much, actually, not when you minus all my work stuff (computer, novel notes, stationery stock, paperwork). You could fill a moving van – maybe one and a half moving vans, if they’re small – but I wasn’t hauling dozens of coats and eighty pairs of shoes around. Most of the personal stuff was books and a lifetime’s collection of junk jewellery.

That’s not to say I never cleared things out except for in a pre-move dash; I got rid of a lot when I came back from Asia, because living out of a backpack for three months gave me a lot of perspective… I also realised that pre-Asia, I’d kept all my holey socks. I had loads. I’m not sure why. I put them in the textiles recycling the day I got back.

It’s a long winded back story but my point is: I’ve developed a bit of a thing about moving. As in, I bloody hate it. But I also love that crisp new feeling when you realise you’ve got a fresh start. You can leave your baggage at the old place and make new memories! Except… even when I’ve had that crisp new feeling, I’ve always brought baggage. The physical type and the mental type. Suitcases everywhere. Boxes with that indestructible brown tape. Random nicknacks from a holiday several years ago. It’s probably because I’ve pinged from one house to the other predominantly because of my parents’ lives, not because I moved for myself. I’m also very aware that I’ll move again. Not specifically to anywhere or on a certain date, but I won’t live in my dad’s house indefinitely. When I go, I want it to be as hassle free as I can possibly make it. (In my Psychology AS level, we looked at stress and apparently moving house was up there with getting married and a loved one dying. It’s never going to be smooth, but I’d like it to be less of a nightmare next time.)

So, minimalism. I first started thinking about it when I was searching for some certificates in January and accidentally began decluttering paperwork as I looked (I actually mentioned it on here at the time). Around then, YouTube suggested I watch something by A Small Wardrobe, which is clearly proof the devices are listening. At first I watched a few videos and thought ‘this woman owns ONE hat? Nope nope nope.’ Then, when Covid reared its head, I decided to get a head start on quarantine activities and tidy up my bookshelf. Which became a tidying of the wardrobe, which became ‘why do I own this hat which I have not worn since 2011?’ It dawned on me that one of the reasons I felt mentally cluttered could be that I was surrounded by actual clutter, a lot of which felt like it belonged in someone else’s life. It’s a natural side effect of being in your mid-twenties, I suppose. Something from just a few years ago can belong to a completely different time. Keeping it around might not be doing you any favours, even on a subconscious level.

I should probably add that around the same time, my mum was clearing out her stuff in preparation to move abroad. She hasn’t moved, because 2020, but she had way more stuff than I did, and the process of watching/helping her organise bits and pieces was eye opening. Some of it was really nice (we had a hilarious afternoon going through my primary school projects. There were very early signs of genius). Some of it was depressing as hell, because it was like watching someone’s entire life go to a charity shop. I should add she still has belongings. She owns six squillion pairs of shoes. It was just quite disconcerting. It made me think of when my grandfather died, and my nan chucked out most of his stuff. He wasn’t a hoarder by any means, but he’d kept bits and pieces that meant something to him, like cards from his parents, and my nan got rid of virtually everything.

I guess a combination of all those things have done a number on my brain, because here I am discussing how I might be a bit of a minimalist. A minimalish. Have I painted my room white? Hahah, to do that I’d have to move some paintings. Are you allowed to own paintings when you’re a minimalist? I think so; all mine spark joy. Some aren’t paintings. Some are ceramics. A couple are necklaces suspended from a nail. THE JOY IS SPARKING. But I have been getting rid of what the kids would call a fuckload of stuff. I’ve passed on some books. Actual books. I didn’t think authors were allowed to give away books, but this one doesn’t want to try getting them all down the stairs come moving day, so byeeee. The upshot is, I’m becoming increasingly aware that objects take up mental energy, and I’d rather put my energy into other parts of my life. Especially in a world where we might lose all our stuff to floods or wildfires or coastal erosion, or where we might die from Covid before we’ve had a chance to enjoy all that stuff we’ve accumulated. But do we really want all the stuff, or do we just feel like we should own it because it reflects where we think we ought to be in our lives? God I’m becoming a hippie. If you see me wearing hemp, throw a glass of water over me.

This post has become really long, so I’m going to wrap it up here and continue in the next one. I guess this has been an introduction to my becoming a minimalish. For sharing/SEO purposes, here is a photograph of my old desk. There is very little on it because I took the photo just before I moved. Also the desk was in a cupboard, so you couldn’t really clutter it up. I’d love to tell you that it influenced this mindset I find myself in, but I just used my bed as storage space instead. When I needed the bed, the stuff went on the desk. When I needed the desk, the stuff went on the bed. I was very organised, though.

desk and shelves inside a cupboard

Look out for the next post soon-ish. Have a lovely Halloween and look after yourselves!

Here are part two, part three and part four of this series.

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