To universe, with love

Personal Style Manifesto

Posted on July 23, 2014

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“… to look elegant by wearing something simple, how to look sexy without being naked, and how to look feminine wearing masculine-inspired outfits.” - Giorgia Tordini.

After many many mistakes and spending money on things i hated after a month of purchase, i have reached an equilibrium. This is very well illustrated by books on personal style or all the books which claim to help you find your inner French soul or blogs like A Simple Luxurious Life. Here is my take on it all.

1. Personal Style Above All

“You have a uniform for whatever period
 you are going through in life. And you need a uniform to get your work done.
” – Charlotte Gainsbourg, writer, poet, singer, actor, style muse.

All the women who come to my mind, when i think of being well dressed, have a great personal style. I can attribute them to a certain role and i definitely don’t imagine them having a schizophrenic wardrobe that follows every whim and trend out in the market. Audrey Hepburn, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Emmanuelle Alt, Alexa Chung, Kate Moss, Olsen Twins, Jennifer Aniston, Patti Smith.. all have strong personal style. They didnt dress like a hippie one day, and like a tomboy the next. All of them have a uniform of sorts and can be associated with strong elements of personal style. Patti Smith shopped in thrift stores when she was a young starving artist. And she dressed similar throughout her life. Not that change is bad but she learnt to embrace their style and refine it over the years versus changing at every whim/temptation/purchasing power.

2. Take lifestyle into consideration

Andrew_Ng_Coursera Shown in the image: Andrew Ng, Machine Learning Expert, professor, master mind behind Google Brain, Scientist. He is known for his uniform of blue shirt and trousers. 

I teach at a state university. Going dressed like a hippie gives out a different vibe compared to a more classic wardrobe. And for a person who spends a lot of time in a lab, wearing silk and peals may not be the most appropriate attire. And buying items that dont suit your lifestyle results in an unused closet and clutter. I have bought bohemian clothes that i quickly grew out of and think makes me look frumpy hanging in the closet. It took me some time to realize i need to donate them in spite of the money spent.

3. Invest in Classics

photo (8) Classics is a very very ambiguous word. Many fashion blogs would put out things like a trench coat, nautical stripe shirt, white blouse, etc as classics. But this may differ from person to person based on their personal style. Things that i have worn out and repurchased are what i define as my classics. My classics are oxfords, ballet flats, black trousers and button ups in blues, grays, greens and black. I gotten myself to get enough of these so that i dont worry about “what to wear today”, every morning.

4. Understanding quality

Growing up, going shopping with my mother was war. Things i liked were vetoed based on ‘bad quality’ way too as remembered by my younger self. She would quickly assess the stitch count per inch, fabric, thread count, the way the buttons were sowed in, hems, etc in the stores. I forgot all these lessons when i moved away from her supervision. I have clothes i had to get rid of after a few washes because of how bad they looked (Shame on you Free People ! ). I am making an effort to understand quality and training myself to let go amazing pieces if the quality doesn’t match the price. One of my prized possessions are my Campomaggi Brown bags. They have travelled everywhere with me, housed my heavy DSLRs, recovered from spilled liquids with grace, reluctantly held contents of those girls who keep asking me if i can carry their stuff, … has been a total workhorse and survived it all. Thats quality. Will save purchases worth the money for a future post. IMG_0288

5. No bling-bling. But accessorize.

Thanks to my mothers influence, I have come to not like the obsession with glitter/sparkle for a long time. It has been changing lately since i see how tastefully women do accessories to accent their outfits. Thanks Pinterest. Do one standout accessory well. Its an art. And these are size and age proof purchases.This is one way to make it all my own by adding unique accessories.

6. It is okay to be inspired and change a little.

Every time i travel or meet an incredibly interesting women, i do get inspired to add new pieces. Visits to India make me want to go hyper colorful. Coming back to the US after a trip and wearing my overly monochromatic wardrobe feels very dull for a few days. But it always subsides after a few days. I have bought a bright pink dress inspired by Freda Kahlo. And out grew it in no time. I have gone through an all purple clothing phase. An all black phase. All blue phase. And out grew it too. These days, not so much anymore. It has made shopping easier and less time taking. When i get ‘inspired’, i pick up an accessory instead of outfits. 1496413_10152670642731549_978447772_o

7. Have a Plan

Building a wardrobe that you love shouldn’t be a by product of a credit card with no limit. Maybe one item a month that lasts the test of time and is well loved…. Or saving up for that classic bag that is well made and wears well with time…… I have done a year where all i got were workout clothes. A year where all i got were shoes. My this years plan is to acquire accessories.

8. Prepare the canvas and know your body

What ever be the style of clothing, everything looks better on a toned body and with glowing skin. And happy people are beautiful people. Eating healthy, exercise and good personal relationships are absolutely essential. If i ignore these areas, there is no real pleasure in playing dress up. While there are no set rules, we know that certain shapes dont work for certain body types. Most of us want our clothes to flatter us. And color theory has great wisdom on colors that work for different skin tones. I pick my colors better since i learnt about it and make less mistakes. After years of Free People inspired clothing, i have been consistant with clean and minimal lines for a while now. I think this works best on my current body shape and life style.

9. Care for your investments

Denim lasts longer when it doesn’t see the inside of a dryer. Silk blouses need to be air dried after wear and dry cleaned. Steaming your clothes, keeps them from looking frumpy longer. Leather needs to be cleaned and sprayed with a protectant from time to time. These are lessons i had learnt the hard way. We are busy people but its our money end of the day.

10. Organize, Organize !

photo (9) I have a pretty good size closet with a good range of classics that work for me. I have no urge to go shopping when i can see what i have. When i cant see them, i feel the urge to go and get more. True story. And clutter is very stressful. Have an organized closet makes my bedroom much more loved and appreciated. And i love having my girl friends over to talk fashion. And a messy closet is a no no. I currently have it all color coded and it looks rather beautiful. I need to keep it this way.

I intend to write some wardrobe related stories and wisdom acquired through the years. And keep track of purchases here as a part of my being accountable to my resolve to Simplify.

Point Reyes: Shipwreck at Inverness

Posted on July 19, 2014

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A few years ago, I discovered this awesome blog that had a picture of this beautiful abandoned boat. I could never figure out the location of it but the words inscribed on it: Point Reyes stayed with me. We had a long weekend and all of our time to ourselves. And Harsha asked me to plan the weekend, it topped my list. After lots of instagram research, I found the exact location of this beauty:“Behind the Inverness grocery store”. As it turns out, it is true. Its such a cute tiny old town that it was not hard to find. Check out our Travel Gone posing next to the ship:

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The accent, friendliness of the people, beauty of the place were a testimony of the remoteness of the area. Was one of those places that got me thinking “will I move here for a little while if I could work from anywhere?”. It not too far off from other beautiful remote areas of California that are on our list. Close to San Francisco. Did i mention its wilderness?

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IMG_0494 Seeing it abandoned and alone was rather sad. Wish i knew the story behind its life. Maybe i can make up one and write here. Its my little blog afterall. Maybe this was one of the boats Thyrion escapes in, to avoid his head being chopped off !… …. oh wait, you don’t think Game of Thrones is real? Its absolutely brilliant. I invoke the same reasoning theists invoke for the brilliance of their religious books and how “no human could have written it, so its the truth”.

2014-07-18_0003 Photo Credits: Harsha. Finally, i get to be in a few photos. With this beautiful ship. Most of the contents of the ship are gone. A small captains wheel survives. There is not so tasteful graffiti everywhere on the inside. Cobwebs. Rusted parts. Useless parts of parts that can’t be salvaged. Rickety wooden boards. And still its so beautiful and interesting.

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Point Reyes: Abbotts Lagoon

Posted on July 18, 2014

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We have been wanting to explore the North of San Fran for a while. Point Reyes was a good start. Lots of variety in landscapes/beaches/hikes and choices. We picked a day based on weather forecast (sunny ofcourse!) and headed out.

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A tiny lagoon. Lots of shrubs. Lots of birds, chilling. Easy trail. Sandy walkways with the reward of the beach at the end of it all. That sums up Abbotts Lagoon for me. Its not a popular hike from what i can assess. Not a lot of people. We pretty much had the whole beach to ourselves once we got there. The trail looked pretty flat, easy and boring on the onset. But all the flora and fauna kept it interesting. The lagoon told us, “do more, walk more, i will show you the beauty as you go. Patience my child”. So we did keep going.

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Not featured in the pictures: All the birds nesting and the bird watchers with their binoculars. Sadly, my 35mm prime lense couldnt do justice capturing the beauty of these bird nests from far off. My favourite part about the trail was this couple. They had this old school charm that i couldnt resist stopping to have a little chat. She was really flattered when i told her how cute i thought they were and gave me a huge smile. When i pull out the camera, she obliged. This is who i want us to be, when we are all grown up. Slowly walking the trails like two snails in love.

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Lots more Point Reyes to explore and coming up ! Blog posts on Tomales Bay State Park and Inverness coming up.

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San Francisco: All Roads Lead to ChinaTown !

Posted on July 15, 2014

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Him: “I want to be familiar with every street in San Fran”

Me: “ I want to walk every street in San Fran”

Him: “oh no, I am afraid that’s is how I will know the streets.”

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We keep ending up in San Fran on the weekends. And on a few weekday nights and take the last train home. And more often than not, we end up in the Chinese restaurants in the infamous China town ordering delicacies made of random animal parts that would have made us cringe a few years ago. And mock the folks who order spring rolls and fried rice like it was a Panda Express. They didn’t have to come all the way. Or don’t know what they are missing. One of our favorites is Z&Y. Its located in a perfect spot. You can play backgammon on the terrace top. Visit calligraphy stores. Or hit Grant Avenue.

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From the outside, it looks like random cheap useless stuff being sold in beautiful ancient looking building structures. And excess occupying every inch of the place. And boy! do these street vendors know how to hustle. Inspite of the language barrier, they do their best to get your attention and hold your interest. Having all the ‘tourists’ looking into their maps, looking at a list of places to visit and ready to take pictures of everything would have stood out. But not at ChinaTown. All the hustle and bustle of life is a norm and a necessity here.

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But China Town exists for needs beyond that of a tourist. If you love ethnic food, there is so much to sample and gobble out here.  Something as small as a red bean pancake or a 6$ all you can eat Dim Sum house visit. Serious tea drinkers can pick a variety after they have sampled 100 kinds of teas (not kidding). The apothecary and herb stores are everywhere. I didn’t have enough knowledge or language skills to understand more of these places, but going with a Chinese friend might help. Since goji berries and ginseng are well known to Americans, you see them in the organic variety, packaged differently and priced much higher than anything else in the vicinity.

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If you are a serious cook, you might love the food markets. They have an entire section based on dried sea food, making it very economical, easier to store and transport. I dont think they like people with cameras hovering around and not buying anything. I took home some anchovies and dried mushrooms.

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The art lovers can stop by paint stores and the hidden art galleries. This place is a Gem. You walk into a small underground studio under the shop. And can watch people do their work. And see through the rolls of previous work, most of which is for sale. Some beautiful pieces lay there non chalantly, unassuming of their beauty and lost to the world of admirers.

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My favorite was the wok store. Lots of Cast Iron at great prices. And book stores with Chinese cookbooks in English. The wok store had a variety of sizes and pre-seasoned cookware. And wooden cutlery. This is where i should scout my essentials once i move to California for good. This lady was a pro as warding off anyone who tried to bargain. I wouldnt try.

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I saw some political activism. These ladies stood there all day quietly. Respect. In contrast, my tired self was in need of a pick me up. I had done 13 miles by foot. Having foot reflexology foot massage places everywhere tempted me to try one. These massages are amazing and cheap. Not many Yelp reviews for these places sadly, oh well.

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I slowly somehow ended up in Japan town. The path was a steady uphill which i thought justified my getting a foot massage in the middle of the day. Notes to self: We need to take this tram next time. There is some serious foot-boarding going on, on those things i want a part in it all.

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In comparison, Japan Town is almost Zen like. No street vendors haggling on the streets. Very clean. Sparsely populated. Had different energy or the lack of it in comparison. Ramen shops. Super markets. Pottery stores. Origami stores. Aisles and aisles of paper. And beautiful stationery. Makes Michaels look silly in comparison when it comes to the make and quality of the paper. My vested interest was to hold and examine the famous Japanese Chefs Knives that I keep hear raves about. Being a knife lover myself, holding them and testing them out was a spiritual experience in itself for me. Someday, dear beautiful knife, some day, I am coming back for you.

IMG_0938End of the Day: Thank you San Fran. You give me so so much !

 

 

 

New York State Of Mind

Posted on July 15, 2014

New York State Of Mind: I looked up the original context of it. He wrote it while coming home, back to his city, New York. He has seen life away from it and was coming home.

But mine: Restlessness. Desire to wander more. Stare at every thing. The entire city. Talk to strangers. Maybe grab a few of them and go to a concert. Or get a drink. Enjoy Street Music. Street Art. Do more. Dont want to go home. Very restless.

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As it gets closer to going home, i can look back and remember: Random strangers. Music. Yellow taxis. The full moon against the sky scrapers. The architecture. The dude waving the German flag after the world cup final. The random stranger from Canada who sat next to me on the pavement listening to the street music while his family shopped in SoHo. Flat rectangles of Belgium granite, brought to the city as a part of a 1830′s ship ballast, that now make the cobbled stones used on the streets. Wondering if the New Yorkers are impervious to the beauty of the skyscrapers and the bridges. The temptation of goods everywhere. Busy people. These teeny tiny spaces called parks, where babies and grown ups seem to steal a moment from the city running on steroids. More Temptation. To eat, drink, shop.

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This trip was unlike any other visits to the city. A farewell to Maanasa. And a shopping trip before she leaves for good. New York was not the subject but remains a very strong presence in the background. And sometimes the foreground. With the last few hours left, should i run back into the city? Its raining and i am sleeping on the floor at the airport. That is my New York State of Mind.

There is no place like it, no place with an atom of its glory, pride, and exultancy. It lays its hand upon a man’s bowels; he grows drunk with ecstasy; he grows young and full of glory, he feels that he can never die. — Walt Whitman

The Temptation.

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Walking out of Nili Lotan, Equipment, Chanel, A.P.C, … empty handed was incredibly hard. I wanted to run back in and purchase all those beautiful things they made. Had to remind myself of my resolve to lay of things that I don’t need and simplify my existence. Wanted to wander off into the city so that I can take pictures. Hunt down those spots I see all the photographers find to take their perfect composures. Had to remind myself that I am not here to be selfish and do a photo tour but to hang out with Maanasa. The food scene was pretty impressive.  Temptation everywhere. I am beginning to think it’s a exercise in self restraint to walk around and not keep feeding your desires. Oh New York City !

The Futbol World Cup Final

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I was going to skip it in favour of shopping or seeing more of the city. When I mentioned this to harsha, he broke into a “booooo”. And the Final got closer, I couldn’t stay away. We ended up in a crowded bar. I wanted Germany to win. Not because I knew the payers on the team or because I had storng feeling against Argentina. But coz I am visiting Germay soon and I wanted them to be happy. Yes, I am a self proclaimed #plasticSoccorFan.  Watching it in NYC added to the fun. There were Europeans and South Americans and Americans in the bar. Listening to everyone definitely added to the experience. Left there drunk on happiness.

New York that is not New York City

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I have spent about ten days of my life living in New York City till date before this visit. And always associate New York to my experience with New York City. Staying in Port Jefferson was such an oxymoron to what I thought was coming for me or was going on in my head. A small laid back sleepy port town. Docks with picturesque boats. Humidity that reminds you that you are not too far off from the waters. Handsome older population. Cute ginger bread homes. A lake with ducks that are so laid back, that are not scared of humans. Parks with landscaping and loaded with Bollywood-esque flower beds. Lots and lots of skyscraper trees. And buildings that are hidden behind a mop of greens. Almost anti-NYC. A cute campus. Sparsely populated. Not lacking in open space and trees. We hung around in her office. Played checkers and backgammon under the trees. It was an idyllic retreat from the world. I was taken back with how beautiful the place was. How can this be a collage town near NYC? Its almost unfair.

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So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish. See you on the other side Maanasa.

 

 

 

Set a new intention: SIMPLIFY

Posted on July 5, 2014

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Last year has been incredible in terms of the number of projects i poked my head into. But i realized that i take on too many things and master none. It is very evident from my old blog. I want to set a new intention to myself: SIMPLIFY. I want to start with my home. A few friends dropped by last weekend and thought my apartment was one of the most interesting homes they have seen. And then, one of them went on to say, “everywhere i turn, i find something very interesting to look at”. It was meant as a compliment but its something that alarmed me. I have seen my fair share of museum homes and wonder if i am headed that way. Having less clutter around, less to look at, less to clean, more space, … feels like the right direction to head towards. To-do: 1. Get rid of all the little objects lying around in the living room.  2. Fixtures, kiddish ornamental items that are no longer our style, need to go. 3. Get rid of everything that is not useful or insanely beautiful. IMG_9868-2 Kitchen: I love to cook. Its no secret. I actually walk around bragging about the food i make. Picking out ingredients excite me as much as buying a new dress. But i have too many ingredients in my pantry.  I make a 15 ingredient breakfast smoothie everyday that is rich in super-foods. It can be a good thing, but it is starting to work against me. I no longer taste the ingredients and appreciate them and it has become a routine gulp down of the concoction i make. Elizabeth from Easy to be Raw recommends using a few ingredients and rotating them often to appreciate the taste of smoothies. And looking at my grocery expenses, i spend a disproportionate amount on micronutrients and special ingredients. This may work for Gwyneth Paltrow as seen from the recipes in her book, but its not necessary for me to eat this way. I want to move out of my experimenting heavily with new ingredients to making family meals that are interesting. I also have a weakness to collecting cookbooks (hereditary, i blame mom!).  I have enough and every recipe can now be found online!  To- do: Sell/donate the appliances that i havent used in months. 2. Maintain a strict budget for micronutrients and super foods. 3. Learn more simple recipes that let me re-use ingredients.  4. Do not try to over declutter and get rid of useful stuff. 5. Continue to learn about food from different countries. Do not give up on that.IMG_9883-3Exercise: The rush i get from climbing a mountain, going exploring a new locality on my bike, bliss after yoga, abs after sprints, … are all addictive. It is so easy to get carried away and center my day around these activities. There have been days when i cant work before a 6pm yoga class because i am too excited and wait for it to start. I want it to be a means towards an end, but not become the destination. To-do: 1. The excessive research about anatomy, recovery, protein rich diet has to be contained. 2. Keep doing a variety of physical activities and not let yoga become the only workout because it’s indoors and convenient. 3. Try to get good at a few activities –> I pick the mountains and yoga. IMG_9890-3   Skincare: My father is a dermatologist and our house had a samples draw in the vanity. Well, i am not one and i dont need to keep everything given to me. I do not need 10 lip balms laying around the house. And a box full of skincare samples. When i see multiple things laying there in my room, its adding to my stress. I know what works for me. To-do: 1. Donate as much as i can. 2. Stop trying new products often. Switch when only really needed. 3. Excessive research about natural and organic products needs to stop. 4. I do not need to DIY my own soap and concoctions . Outsourcing a few things is okay. Do not get carried away. 5. Use up the samples when travelling this summer.IMG_9877-4 Reading: Today, i have 1270 unread articles in my Feedly. And i do my best to scroll and read the ones that i like. This takes a hour of my day, everyday. The act of going through all sorts of articles and picking the ones relevant to read requires me to scroll through lots absolute crap. I need to take the time and unsubscribe. To-do: 1. Unsubscribe from blogs that i no longer read. 2. Resist the urge to click on the reading links posted on facebook. 2. Let go of the books i know we will never read or have read and will not re-read. 3. Take to the kindle. Physical books take up too much space in the house and are collecting dust from what i see.

IMG_9871-4Closet: Being a Francophile, i crave a french capsule wardrobe. But i am no where close to achieving it in reality. I have come a long way in this regard and have gotten so much better with my purchases. But my closet is a dump of awesomeness <proud grin> and disorder.  To-do: 1. Create a 30 piece capsule wardrobe for summer and have a very tidy looking closet. 2. Have a uniform of sorts so that i dont get tempted to buy random stuff. 3. Slowly build on the accessories collection, and the operating word being slowly. 4. Learn to mend and take care of what i have.IMG_9900-3   Obsession with art and artists: I cant really be upset about this. But its very time consuming. And the art of journaling. Is one of the most intensely enjoyable activities i ever do. Again, time consuming. Falling hard for calligraphy pens and moleskin notebooks has disadvantages of its own. Time, energy and space. I still want to continue doing what i am doing, but with fewer materials, variety and raw materials. To-do: 1. Do not copy other artists illustrations into my journal. Its not cool. 2. I have enough raw material. Resist urge to buy. 3. Organize this material and well, so that my desk looks tidy. 4. Illustrate more. IMG_9895-4 Photography: Oh where do i start? My love for pixels knows no bounds. I could spend days looking at work of photographers, reading about it all and taking photographs. Carrying around an 8lb bag. Gawking at cameras and lenses. Wanting photography books published by the masters. Wanting to stay on the streets waiting for a good shot. Collecting props…. would all be good if i was training to be a photographer. But i am a full time research person. The urge to run away from the lab with a camera is working against me. To-do: 1. Master the equipment i have. I have absolutely no reason to need any new equipment. 2. Learn post-processing. 3. Cut down on the time spent getting inspired and invest it in actual ‘doing’.  4. Start a tumbler and show my work instead of hiding it all on my laptop. 5.Do a project 365 on Instagram. IMG_9893-3

Learning related Projects: Currently, i am doing a course on Photoshop, iphone dev, google analytics, MAC OS, Machine Learning, Linear Algebra, World History and Video editing. I really really think i should do less of them and see them through instead of starting so many courses. To-do: 1. Finish photoshop and iphone dev in the summer. 2. Do Video editing and Mac OS in the fall. 3. Linear Algebra is non negotiable. Do it at work/during work hours.

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Wanderlust: My favourite thing to do in life. Is to wander. And see things. If i do simplify other aspects of my life, i can make this more possible. Can save more and use it towards travel. Save time and explore my city. Can pack less and head out into the woods. And carry around a backpack with essentials instead of lugging a lot of luggage. To-do: Wander. Wander. Wander. Like a nomad. Its the simplest pleasure that time and money can buy.

 


I believe de-cluttering home, wardrobe, kitchen etc is not really an issue with the physical space i live in, but the mental clutter that takes away time from my being more productive.

Everything listed above is aimed at making me more time in the day: less time thinking about things, making wish lists, craving items seen in beautiful photographs aka props, caring for items i already own. I want to reclaim the time and energy. In addition to that, get off facebook ! I am not one who over shares every thought that runs through my mind or has to comment on every silly thing posted. Selfies repel me and i dont think twice about unsubscribing to posts from annoying ‘friends’ who send digital clutter my way. But I do follow lots of artists and interesting people on Facebook (apparently twitter is made for this sort of thing, but dont want another network to monitor and use). Its a constant temptation to read the content that they post. Limit log-in to once or twice a day. DO I WANT TO BE A MINIMALIST? Not really. Not yet. But i do want to live in a clutter and distraction free clean space that provides me with a peace of mind. To-do: Make blog posts to show progress in each area.

P.S: This post was partly inspired by Zen Pencil’s Live. Buy. Die comic. Do take a look if you havent.

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