PrimalMinimalist

Eliminating Life's Artificial Ingredients

New life in a smaller, better place

I now live in a 350 square foot 1 bedroom apartment in San Francisco.

Nothing helps to reinforce my minimalist principles more than forcing myself into a place 1/4 the size of my previous home. The trade off in less space is paid with living in a vibrant and dynamic city.

I’ve rid myself of so much stuff over the past few years I actually need to buy more stuff to furnish this place.

  1. No Sofa
  2. No Dining table

I love it. It’s the perfect fresh start, and I don’t mind other than the hassle of buying and hauling it home.

Many folks out there hold on to their old stuff, imagining how they’re going to use it again. In my case, it was much better to get rid of it, and start anew. If you don’t need it now, make sure if you really need it again. Might as well as clear it out. Will the old stuff work in the new place? Likely not. Toss it!

A tiny new apartment also equals no dishwasher, hardly any cabinets, and next to no counter space. I love those things very much.

This is making my cooking technique even more minimalist, and keeping recipes as simple as possible. Today my braised pork is made with only seven ingredients.

No Dishwasher also makes me limit my dirty dishes. I could easily get a lot of take out, or convenience foods to keep dirty dishes to a minimum. But I’d rather keep my cooking approach to simple, whole, and of course paleo/primal meals, while not making a huge mess. Another challenge! I can’t wait to share more!

Limited kitchen space has forced, or rather, inspired me to revisit all my cooking appliances….  extra whisks, ladles, spatulas, cutlery, measuring spoons ,and mixing bowls… tossed!

Next steps are setting up a hanging pot rack and more hooks to keep what I need, where I need it.

Stay tuned!

 

02/18/2014 Minimalism, Primal Living

Minimalism is a Luxury

Minimalism is simple in concept, yet more difficult in execution.  It took me a while, but I realize now that minimalism is a luxury.

How so?

From  Thefreedictionary.com

lux·u·ry

n. pl. lux·u·ries

1. Something inessential but conducive to pleasure and comfort.

2. Something expensive or hard to obtain.

3. Sumptuous living or surroundings: lives in luxury.

Well, I’d say the first two definitely apply to minimalism. As I mentioned before, it took me a while to realize that Minimalism is indeed a luxury.

The past year I’ve spent a lot of time and energy parting with unneeded possessions. I also rented out my house (The rental market in Silicon Valley is ridiculous) and have been living as a bit of a vagabond. I’m still employed of course, but have been working in New York, staying with friends there, and now house/dog sitting back home in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Now that I’m a minimalist, doesn’t mean anyone one else is, nor everywhere I go.

The last time I spent any time in a minimalist environment was before moving out of my house in May 2013.  I bring very little with me, but I find  I’m surrounded by material excess and hardly any breathing room no matter where I go. In New York and back here in CA, every place I’ve stayed has too much stuff in my opinion.

Minimalism, so far, has been “hard to obtain”.

Being a minimalist by choice, rather than lack of financial means, is more proof that it’s a luxury.  I have the luxury of getting rid of things by choice.  I don’t have to choose between buying a new pair of shoes or a jacket. Well , I bought them both, and then got rid of them both, eventually! So yes, maybe the pursuit of minimalism is an upper –middle class indulgence. So what? Eventually we all learn that things do make us happy.

How about you, have you achieved an optimal minimalist lifestyle, only to see it disappear the second you leave the house?  Have you stayed with friends or family and wonder why they have so much stuff you can’t even unpack your bags? Please share in the comments!

 

 

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08/10/2013 Minimalism

Minimizing meal planning and cooking time.

I had not planned on this as a blog post, but I just signed up to a meal planning service to let someone else do a lot of the thinking and strategizing behind cooking effectively and healthfully for a week at a  time.

Ever since I got into cooking about twenty years ago, it was in fits and starts. I used 2-3 recipes multiple times a month, and while I enjoyed the food I cooked, I hated the planning and making lists. I loved looking up recipes, and getting all excited to make something new. But that excitement waned when I tried planning meals for the week ahead.

It’s a lot more fun trying an ambitious new recipe that is bound to be delicious, (I’m having flashbacks to the first time I braised beef cheeks), than putting together a meal plan for the week that minimizes cooking time, shopping, and reduces waste.

Basically, I did and still do what I think a lot of people do, buy a lot of basics, then “kinda wing it” during the week. That means the beef I bought, will likely be paired with the broccoli, or other vegetables, and then I’ll roast some parsnips too. Overall, that would be a nice meal. However, this easily locks me into a comfort zone where I keep making that dish 4-5  times a month.

I want to shake things up!

Last Sunday I was perusing Marksdailyapple.com recipe archives, and came across “5 Primal Meals in Just 35 Minutes.” I had not seen this before.

This called to me. I was so excited that I didn’t really care what the recipes were. I just wanted something simple, good (I knew it would be), and have ALL the thinking done for me. 

I wrote it all down the shopping list I was making, and raced down to Whole Foods.

Went to work the second I got home. Granted, it took me longer than 35 minutes as my wild caught King Salmon (previously frozen) was still thawing.

I was done in about an hour. I successfully made all five recipes, and what I’ve had so far has been tasty. 

Here’s a pic of tonight’s Salmon Salad.

Salmon Salad

 

I just signed up for Mark’s Daily Apple “Primal Meal Plan” (Not an affiliate link, at least yet) and want to try it for a couple of months.

How about you? Would you like to leave the planning to someone else? I love this idea. Do you?

03/26/2013 recipes

Sleep experiment week 1 results

Day One, March 11:

Arrived home at 7:06 pm.  Light five candles and placed them throughout the home. Several sources of artificial light I did not turn off were a few alarm clocks, the microwave, oven clock, and anytime I opened the refrigerator. I did spend about 30 minutes on my smart phone dealing with work emails, then shut it off.

One thing that I hadn’t planned on was it being Daylight savings  time. So the clocks were moved forward an hour the day before this experiment started. That might affect the results, but I’m going ahead.

Bedtime: 9:00 PM. Was yawning a lot before. Read for 30 minutes, then out by 9:45. Up at 5:30 am, and woke up once at 4:30. Approximately 7 or 7.5 hours of sleep.

Day Two March 12th:

Ok, maybe I didn’t think this one through… not only is it daylight savings time, but it’s my birthday this week. That means celebrating and having fun. Being the day before my birthday on March 13th, I went out to dinner with a friend and stayed up late. When I did get home around 10:45, it was mostly candles, and I stayed up til midnight.  Approximately 4-5 hours of sleep.

Day Three, March 13th.

This is my actual birthday, and I go out to dinner again with family this time. Got home around 11:00 pm, and completely forgot about going by candle light only when home.

Wash…..

Day Four, March 14th

I get home from Crossfit around 6:30, and have dinner completed by 7:30. Luckily, with Daylight Savings Time, It’s light out until 7:30 and makes cooking dinner easier than by candlelight.

That has been the main challenge, completing chores and other household duties by candlelight. It also gets in the way of blog writing and research.

Thursday is typically the boys night out, and although I rarely drink nowadays, being my birthday week I made an exception and had a few beers after having a large cider.

Alcohol always disrupts my sleep, and Thursday was no exception.  I got home around 10:30, remembered the candles, and went to bed around 1am after chugging a log of coconut water.

3-4 hours of sleep.

Day Five, March 15th:

Home around 6:30. In bed by 9:00.  Read by candlelight until 9:45 .

9 hours of sleep.

Conclusion:

This was more of a challenge than I realized. Granted, this was an unusual week to start(DST, and my birthday), but I’m an impulsive person and did it on a whim,

It’s harder to cook dinner in the dark, clean up after dinner, fold laundry, look for your keys. Damn the refrigerator light is BRIGHT when you open it. Makes you feel like all your effort was wasted when you reach for the butter and get a blast of light that sears your eyes.

Overall, I saw good results from when I was apply to apply the experiment.  I will probably try for a solid five days again, starting this Tuesday. If anything, I’ve learned to enjoy reading by candlelight, which I did on 3 of the 5 nights of this experiment.

How about you? Would you try this? What if you failed? Give it another go?

 

03/18/2013 Habits, Primal Living

How to fall asleep earlier and easier with candles.

Candles

You’re getting very sleepy…..

 

 

I’ve always had a problem falling asleep early enough to get a sufficient night’s rest. It’s been like this my whole life, and I wasn’t sure what it was that caused it.

Well, this is a problem that certainly can use some experimentation, and reporting on the results.

My first attempt to deal with this is to remove an artificial ingredient – In this case, light powered by electricity.

I’ve come across a lot of information that artificial light, such as from lamps, computers, TVs, and smart phones disrupt our natural sleep cycles, and delay the onset of our sleep hormone, melatonin. Now there are tons of resources that cover that subject thoroughly, so I’m not going to rehash it all in detail.

In case you want to find out more, in Mark Sisson’s latest book,  The Primal Connection: Follow Your Genetic Blueprint to Health and Happiness’>Primal Connection, he discusses many of the problems contributed to the lack of quality sleep. Problems such as weight gain,  ADHD, stress, hypertension, depression, irritability, sexual dysfunction, thyroid dysfunction, premature aging, the list goes on.

Well, how am I going to tackle the lack of sleep in my life?

First, I am going to remove as much artificial light at night as possible during next week.

I will operate by candle light at home, unless a lamp is absolutely necessary.

How will I monitor my success rate? I’ll report back to you on my average sleep time, bed time, and estimated “when I fell asleep” time for next week, and compare it to the following week when I don’t use the candle light.

How about you? Are you getting enough sleep? What have you tried? Would you do the “candle light only” experiment?

03/09/2013 Artificial Ingredients, Habits, Primal Living

Book Review – “Simplify”.

Simplify, by Joshua Becker

Simplify“, from Joshua Becker is a great read for any aspiring minimalists.

His blog, Becoming Minimalist was an important source for ideas and inspiration when I first realized that my excess stuff was affecting my well-being.

I spent a lot of time reading Becoming Minimalist for inspiration, getting ideas, and applying them to my own life. In fact, reading Becoming Minimalist inspired me to begin my own blog, and put my own primal twist on it.

Becker’s book, does a great job of describing the philosophy of minimalism, and how to apply it to your own life.

It is far from simply being a “how-to” book.  The tactics behind decluttering and getting rid of stuff have been written extensively in many books, web articles, and blogs (ahem…). He discusses how excess clutter affected his family’s life, and how removing it improved his family life and how it can for yours.

“Simplify” begins with a typical 3 day weekend for many Americans, that is a weekend spent “cleaning the garage”.  A random discussion with a neighbor sparked Joshua’s interest in becoming minimalist.

The book is a quick read, and contains 7 Guiding Principles he applied toward his journey of becoming minimalist.

Principle #1 “Be Convinced”. In case you weren’t convinced to apply minimalism, he adds 10 benefits, including #1 Spend Less, and #2, Less Stress.  Those two would convince me right away! Add #3 “Easier to Clean”, and what else do you need to convince you? The remaining 7 benefits are just icing on the gluten free cake.

Some other principles are #3 “Jump Right In”. That is, don’t let the daunting goal of decluttering your home overwhelm you. Start by small steps, and like a marathon, you gradually work your way to cross the finish line.  Here is where Becker provides solid tactics and strategies, which really helps if you don’t know where to begin.

Principle #7 “Simplify Everywhere” resonates with me, and could also be the name of my blog. One of my favorite quotes is “Complexity is the enemy of growth“. I believe it originally referred to business, but that can be applied to life.

Once you achieve simplicity and minimalism of your home, you can apply that to anywhere in life. Time Management, Finances, Food and cooking, media consumption (I decluttered cable a few years ago), and just LIFE ITSELF.

If you’re dipping your toes into minimalism, started and lost your way, or have been one for a long time, pick up a kindle copy of Simplify.  You will definitely learn something new.

 

 

 

02/16/2013 Uncategorized

Decluttering booze….

My latest foray into Removing Life’s Artificial Ingredients has been quitting drinking alcohol. So far, it’s been fairly easy to eliminate grains, processed foods, excess sugar, and anything non-Paleo.

Alcohol?
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The hardest, and biggest change so far has been quitting alcohol. Alcohol consumption , while fun in moderate doses,  and social gatherings, has been a bit of a problem for me. Simply put, when I do drink, too often it’s too much. Not every time, but enough times.

Ever since I came of drinking age in my late teens and early 20s. Alcohol was a constant factor in my life.
Special occasions were marked by its consumption:

  • Socializing, after work,
  • After finals in college, and all of college
  • Every Friday and Saturday,
  • Attending sporting events, restaurants
  • Weekday meetups with friends
  • Dates…

and at all these events, I would expend considerable effort making sure I had a drink, or was procuring my next one.

booze

I’ll Pass

The list could go on forever of how alcohol fit into my life.

I was not a daily drinker, nor did I need it to survive the day.  This made it easier to say there wasn’t an issue. But there was!

What was the problem?

My aim was to get the perfect buzz.

What happens when I attain the perfect buzz? I keep doing what I’m doing, thinking the buzz would be perfectly maintained.

The Perfect Buzz rarely lasts.

What did happen is I would go from Perfect Buzz to visibly drunk, and worse. I could list many stories, ranging from harmless,  hilarious, shameful, hurtful, embarrassing, and lucky to have survived. Some of my relationships have ended while drinking.
Most of the time my actions were benign to my friends and myself. But not always, and there were times people weren’t spared my acting like a jerk or embarrassing them or myself.

Ultimately, alcohol will affect your heath and well-being.  It’s very hard to exercise and focus on what you need to do when you’re buzzed, drunk, or hung-over.

Most importantly, alcohol affects and impairs your self-control, judgment, and awareness.  These days, it’s not always necessary to be alert and on the lookout for our evolutionary  predators and other natural dangers that we had to avoid during our evolution.

A saber toothed tiger is not going to pounce as you stumble out of the local dive.  However, it is very likely that we did not evolve consuming alcohol to the point of impairment on a  regular basis. Say 1-3 times per week.
What impact does that have on our well-being when we do that?  For me, the impact was negative.
Alcohol is a neurotoxin. It can accelerate aging of the brain, and elevates the stress hormones in your body.

What is the point of developing a primal/paleo based lifestyle, if I am going to continue to excessively drink alcohol? It will negate many of the positive effects that going primal/paleo offers.

I quit drinking alcohol on September 1st, 2012, and it has been the best decision I’ve made in years. I didn’t join any organizations or programs. I did this on my own. I do occasionally have a glass of wine, about once a month.

So what happened?
The results are impressive;

  • Lost 15 lbs.
  • Wake up feeling great every day.
  • Active and motivated on Saturdays and Sundays (they’re not recovery days anymore)
  • Less stressed.
  • No urge to drink any more.
  • Spending less money. Obviously alcohol costs money. It also leads to more spending, such as greasy hangover breakfasts, buying drinks for your friends and random people in bars, and the impaired judgment causes you to spend a lot more than you planned to.

What about you? Can you keep to a glass or wine or two? Do you get the urge to keep drinking?  Do you want to stop?

02/09/2013 Artificial Ingredients, Uncategorized

Stop obsessing with tactics…or why I stopped reading Lifehacker.

I haven’t gone into this much,and maybe because I’m lazy, but I’ve always sought the most effective way to get from point A to B, without wasting a lot of time.

Long ago I read, from where I don’t remember, but the guy said, if he had a hard problem to solve, he asked the laziest employee for an idea because they will find the easiest way to solve the issue. I thought that was brilliant, and possibly an endorsement for laziness!

In my quest for solving problems the easy way, or “hacking” a solution, I’ve come across a few effective methods. I could make a case for going Primal/Paleo as a lifehack to address widespread modern health and fitness issues. In a sea of sophisticated techniques, solutions, and regimented programs, going Primal or Paleo is such a simple approach to improving your health, losing unnecessary body fat, and feeling better.

Here’s some hacks I’ve done over the years:

1) cutting body fat by sprinting once or twice a week, or by 20 minute ice water baths twice a week.

2) HIIT training to improve fitness/endurance levels without causing inflammation

3) Ice baths for improving sleep (4 Hour Body)

4) Nutritional supplementation (Magnesium, Zinc) for ADD symptoms.

5) Hawthorn (another supplement) and celery for elevated Blood Pressure.

6) Quick-thaw frozen meats overnight. What? Yes, frozen meat rarely thaws completely overnight in the refrigerator. Especially if it’s a big piece.

Here’s how you do it. Take your meat out of the freezer. Assuming it’s vacuum sealed in plastic, put it in a stockpot and fill with cold water, letting it run slowly for 10-15 minutes.  Then take it out, and put in the fridge overnight. That will jumpstart the overnight thawing process. Otherwise you’ll still have a frozen center when trying to cook it the next day .

7) IKEA Hacker – Modifying IKEA furniture to suit a non-intended purpose, or improving it.

and it goes on and on. Most hacks do work, assuming they’re not detrimental to your long term health. However, there comes a point where trying to hack everything gets to be too much.

At one point I was obsessed with reading Lifehacker and seeking every possible way to make my life efficient, and remove any obstacles in my way. The thought of doing one more step, or taking any more time than necessary for any endeavor stressed me out. 

Eventually, the need to optimize everything became too much. I didn’t want to pursue anything without finding the perfect hack. I mean, I wouldn’t finish setting up a home work station because I wanted to modify some furniture to serve as a cord organizer, and IKEA was sold out of the piece I needed! I couldn’t go to the gym and workout, without reading up on the most effective 20 minute workout that left me “Jacked and Cut” (as promised on the magazine cover!) .

After a while it became a bit old. I might have known a million little hacks or tips, but where was it taking me? There was no overall strategy of what I was trying to accomplish in life, or aligned with any of my goals. It was time to stop with the million hacks, and focus on a fundamental approach towards my life.

Why did I want to organize my power cords in the home office? Why was it so important  I figured out it was because the whole room was cluttered with too much stuff, and  organizing the power cords was a way to tackle the clutter. At least in my head. It didn’t really address the problem! 

I stopped reading lifehacker and Ikeahacker, and only looked into modifying my approach towards something if it was acting as a constraint. Turns out a million little life hacks didn’t add up to much.

Have you stopped tweaking the little things, and moved on to big picture stuff?  Are you aligning a few actions to have a big impact on your goals, or are you hacking away with a million machete swings and not getting anywhere? I’ve been there! Please do share.

12/06/2012 Uncategorized

Minimalist End Goal! I finally got it!

So I finally figured it out, and I wasn’t even trying. All this time in the past year or so since I embraced a minimalist approach for my life, I never really had an end goal. It was more about the journey.

The journey is plenty rewarding, and challenging, leading to a lot of self reflection, review of priorities,and appreciation for the joy of less, a simpler life.

All this time, I never had an end goal.  I had never thought of making an end goal as part of my path to minimalism. But life has an interesting way of giving clarity to the purpose behind a way of life. Sometimes it just comes to you.

After thinking ahead, where I want to be, to, and taking into consideration pending life changes, I developed my end goal to be able to pack up everything I need and want in two hours, put it in my car and move.  Think about it.

Pack everything I want and need in two hours, and be able to go anywhere in my car.

Please note, my car is a Honda Accord.

I love this goal. It gives me so much freedom, puts a clear definition of what to keep and get rid of, and is a challenge I’m eager to accept.

Now, this doesn’t mean I’m getting rid of all my furniture, backyard grill, books, dishes, washer/dryer, cookware, and other big items just because they won’t fit in my car.  Are you crazy? I’m just not going to use them for a while.

Nah, the underlying reason it I’m going to be vagabonding it for a while, possibly housesitting, maybe renting a small place in a different town, and just being a bit of a nomad. My house will be rented out, partially furnished, while I play adventurer for the next year or so. Who knows where I’ll end up, but I’ll be with the barest of possessions.

I can’t wait…

Would you do something like this? What are your thoughts?

 

 

 

11/29/2012 Habits, Minimalism

Another Victory Over Attachment to Objects.

Over the years I’ve found I had attached a lot of emotion to small, meaningless objects.  A lot of these were items I picked up during my travels, or during a great experience in my life.  To me, the object represented my experience, and was a way to transport it home.

When becoming more minimalist, I regularly go through my items, and see what can be culled from my possessions. Each time, I find something that I held onto because it was from a bar in Sydney, or that day I stopped at a beautiful lakeside town in Sweden.

These items range from useful, to memento. I still have a collection of matchbooks from all over the world. Now that no one smokes anymore, it’s harder to get a decent matchbook from a bar or restaurant in some far off place.   I don’t care anymore about those.

The process of detaching myself from the attachment of these things can come about several ways. Here’s what I’ve found to be most effective:

  • They Break

I once picked up a few beer glasses at a lakeside restaurant in Granna, Sweden. It was one of those magical days, the scenery was fantastic, the light hit just right, and the air was fresh (it always is in Sweden).  At lunch, I asked the waitress if I could buy the beer glass that I was drinking from ( I wanted it as it had a Swedish beer logo on it).  She went ahead a wrapped up TWO for me, and was incredibly grateful we had come in for lunch. It was the offseason so maybe she was glad to get any business that day.

Over the next two years, these two glasses broke. Sure, they survived a flight home to California in my carry-on. But they couldn’t survive domestic life. I remember when the first one broke, I was quite sad. “Oh crap, the glass from that day in Sweden!” Well, I didn’t feel too upset when the next one broke. For some reason I laughed, and said “F it. The damn glass was fragile anyway.”

I wasn’t declaring a life of minimalism yet, but that might have been a spark.  I realized that I still had a wonderful time that day, and the broken glasses didn’t take that away.

Another treasured item are shot glasses I bought from my favorite bar, Patty’s Inn. Hmm, you see a recurring theme here? I logged many hours in that bar, and it’s a long story, but Patty’s will be shut down eventually, making way for urban “progress”.

Knowing about their eventual shut down, gave me a strong and urgent desire to acquire a permanent reminder of its existence. The long nights, drunken revelry, the occasional hookup, bringing dates there, friendly patrons and bartenders, and of course the escape from the stress of life.

I bought 6 of their souvenir shotglasses,  and the logos were pretty much destroyed after one run through the dishwasher.  At first  I was upset. Anyone that knows me understands my love for Patty’s Inn (I recently quit drinking, but that’s a different post).  Patty’s was my go to place. I felt I had let them down, as if they knew I destroyed their shotglasses! I thought about the silliness of being upset about them. They’re just freaking shot glasses.. and I don’t even drink anymore!  I will always have my memories of Patty’s Inn… albeit some are a bit fuzzy.

The “treasured” shot glasses.

What about you? Any of your treasured mementos end up on a shattered heap, or were mistreated and ruined? Did you care? Were you able to let go?

If not, here’s some homework, take something useless that you treasure, and destroy it! How did it make you feel?

Please share in the comments.

 

11/18/2012 Collectibles, Minimalism