2020 Has Not Been Completely Shit and Here is Definitive Proof

You heard me. I’d normally consider doing the Indifferent Ignorance awards, but I don’t feel like dedicating time to ignorant people… they are the reason I spent Christmas Day in tier 4. I’m also mindful that it’s important to count our blessings, not our curses, so in this post I’m going to share some of my favourite entertainment and arts discoveries of the year, plus a few personal/family highlights.

Things that blessed my ears in 2020

  • Lauv’s record, which I bought a copy of back in February or so, and kind of became the sound track to early lockdown.
  • Tim Minchin’s record. It’s… not his usual stuff. Some of the songs are sharp and sarcastic, but if you’re looking for more black comedy-philosophy, this album will disappoint. It’s mostly about how much he loves his wife and children. I cried.
  • The news my friend Tatchiana applied for a Master’s degree. MY FRIENDS ARE SO CLEVER YOU GUYS. I don’t even fully understand the topic she’s researching.
  • The Umbrella Academy put a soundtrack out and:
Klaus Hargreeves dancing in a liquor store
from Giphy
  • As well as re-entering the world of academia, Tatchiana introduced me to the Magnus Archives podcast and I guess I’m a fan of horror stories now? I’m kind of late to the party because it’s been running for years and finishes in 2021, but if you like a) creepy stories with the odd god that’s gross and really clever moment, b) short stories that slowly merge into one overarching Story and c) office politics, you’re in for a good time. (Aside: I realised partway through that Martin really reminds me of Arthur from Cabin Pressure. The programmes have nothing in common except that they’re audio, but I can’t unhear it. I don’t know if there’s a Venn diagram of Magnus Archives/Cabin Pressure listeners but if there is: do you hear it too?)

Things that blessed my eyeballs in 2020

  • I finally got around to reading the Noughts and Crosses series (or most of the series? There seems to be more books than I realised), and it is Very Worth the Hype. So’s the TV show.
  • I also got round to Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky. It’s very long and a horror novel – this is a theme – both of which usually put me off, but I really got into it. Brilliant last page too.
  • Bill Bailey in Strictly Come Dancing.
  • The news that my cousin and her boyfriend bought a house! A whole entire property in this economy. Epic.
  • Real Life Money by Clare Seal. It’s a memoir-advice book by the lady who runs the My Frugal Year Instagram, and it’s really interesting. If you’re at all into finance, money management and/or consumerism, I can’t recommend it highly enough. I don’t usually love memoirs, or advice-y novels, but this one is non-preachy, well researched and quite important in these uncertain times.
Real Life Money, book by Clare Seal
  • If you want to buy any of these books, by the way, I have a Bookshop account. Every purchase made through my little page earns me one fifth of a penny or suchlike. Am I being shameless? Um yeah, I don’t have a regular job as of Christmas Eve. I’m also on Goodreads if you want to see what else I’m reading and chat about books. One upside of lockdown was spending so much time reading and I am already planning my reading list for next year. So many books, so little time! Speaking of books, the prettiest thing I saw this year was:
  • My book coverrrrrrr. Also, you know, seeing the book available to purchase. I wasn’t sure it was going to be released this year – or ever – and I’m a tiny bit proud of the work that went into it. Not bad going for someone who spent their A Levels wearing a wrist brace and their early-mid twenties dealing with chronic pain, crippling anxiety and on-again-off-again depression, huh.
blue and white illustrated cover of 'The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories of Unlikley Heroes' by Francesca Burke, including stars, a large dragon, a skull, moon, swords, a rabbit and a tower
Cover by Nell from Instagram. Click here for book-related joy/info

Things that blessed my ears and my eyeballs in 2020

  • The second series of The Umbrella Academy. I love it. I love it so much. It has everything I want out of TV, plus a Baby Pogo. TRULY WE ARE BLESSED.
  • Videos by A Small Wardrobe on YouTube (I talk more about Patricia’s channel and learning about minimalism here).
  • Videos by Annie, who posts as the Green Witch on YouTube. Sometimes the algorithm suggests videos that you didn’t know you needed. Annie has a witchy YouTube and a nature-y YouTube. They are both very peaceful. Taking 10 minutes to watch calm, nature-y has turned out to be quite good for my brain.
  • In the same vein, I’m thoroughly enjoying videos by The Cottage Fairy.
  • Olive and Mabel.
  • Schitt’s Creek. I know I know, I was late to that too. I cannot recommend a more soul-warming programme. Other TV I’m brilliantly late to: Derry Girls, Nighty Night, Brooklyn Nine Nine, Ghosts.

What have you enjoyed in 2020? You’re allowed to say banana bread and Netflix. You’re allowed to say ‘realising that the friend I checked in with during lockdown never checked in with me, and now I am disengaging.’ You’re allowed to say ‘not having a big, overwhelming Christmas.’ What are you planning for new year’s eve?

GIF of David from 'Schitt's Creek' saying 'I plan on popping a pill, crying a bit and falling asleep early.'

Jut kidding, mostly. I’ll probably have a bath, pour a wee drink, watch the clock to ensure this hellscape actually ends, and get my beauty sleep. I’ve got things to do in 2021! Nothing ostentatious, of course. My plans are mostly to read a lot and maybe bake some more banana bread. But I may as well do them on a full night’s sleep, especially as there is literally nowhere to go. I’ll talk more about that (my plans, not tier bloody 4) in my next post. Probably.

Look after yourselves and happy new year!

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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, and part four, about zero waste dentistry.


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