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 and part two 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.

From sunshinethekatt.tumblr.com

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:

Clothes

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.

Books

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.


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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 and part three of this series.


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