How to be Vegan

I’ve been vegan for about four years now, and vegetarian for three years before that, and up to date I still think going plant-based was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life.
When I first started to think about going vegan, however, this lifestyle was not very common at all, at least where I’m from. I did know a couple of people who were vegan, but it was much harder back then to do research and generally speaking veganism was still a niche that few adepts ventured in.
Because now veganism is so widespread (whoo!), I would like to add my own contribution in the hope that it’s going to be of help to whoever is considering turning to this mega cool lifestyle.
I also noticed that, because this is no longer a new thing for me, I feel like I’m not as passionate about veganism as I used to be. Don’t get me wrong: I still believe in it 100%. However, when I first started I would research like crazy and post lots of results and findings on my previous blog, spreading the wisdom as much as I could. So I’d like to  get back on track and dust off my own groundwork for other people to get inspiration from.
So here’s a starter kit I wish I’d had back in the days.

  • Do your homework
    If you’re interested in veganism, chances are you’ve already done some research (otherwise you wouldn’t have come across veganism in the first place). Take your time to surf the net and learn what veganism is. There are tons of websites out there that can help you grow your vegan roots.
    You’ll find that educating yourself on veganism will come in handy not only to make sure you know what you’re doing, but also to show people that it’s not that hard to get informed if you’re really interested in it.

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  • Get a physical
    Go see your doctor and have a chat with them about your decision to go vegan. Discuss what you’re planning to eat and make sure you’re introducing all the nutrients your body needs. At the beginning you might want to consider incorporating  supplements (especially iron and B12) before you adjust to a balance diet and you probably won’t need them anymore.
    Also remember that vegan is not synonym with healthy (French fries are vegan after all), so it’s a good idea to go back for regular checkups throughout your vegan journey and make sure you’re managing to keep on track and still not missing out on nutrients even once you’ve established a standard diet.

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  • Go at your own pace
    Turning vegan is not only about food: it’s a lifestyle change. So don’t worry if you need some time to adjust. Some people just wake up one day and decide to be vegan, but some other people prefer to transition more gradually – and both approaches are totally fine. It’s really all about what works best for you. Taking your time also means you’ll be fully conscious of the changes you’re making, it will be easier for your body and mind to adjust to a new diet, and overall it will feel less of a change at all.
    I personally took it a step at a time: I started off with one vegan meal a day, then two, than I would have a couple of days a week when I would eat completely vegan, until I transitioned to a 100% vegan diet, every meal, every day. But again, don’t worry about how long it takes you: you’ll get there eventually.

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  • Think positive
    Veganism shouldn’t be a sacrifice. It should be something that brings you joy. To me, veganism is the most selfless act I can think of. It’s about living your life without hurting other lives. It’s about avoiding cruelty whenever possible. What’s better than that? Don’t focus on what you’re missing out, think about what you’re gaining.

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  • Find your motivation
    Trust me, you won’t last as a vegan unless you know why you’re doing it. It can be for environmental reasons, for the animals, for health issues, or for whatever other reason you can think of – as long as it’s the reason why you’re doing it, it will keep you going.
    To me, veganism is nothing but the logical consequence of the principles I’m basing my life on. I choose to live a life of compassion and kindness, as well as as healthy as possible. Veganism simply means aligning my actions with my values.

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  • Know your comebacks
    Especially at the beginning of your transition people will ask questions. Lots of questions. But mainly the same questions.
    You eat fish, right? Isn’t is expensive to be vegan? Don’t you know that human beings evolved to eat meat? Where do you get your proteins from? I read somewhere that plants have feelings too.
    Nothing is worse than being caught unprepared. Go back to point one and do your homework, so you’ll always have the perfect comeback.
    (A separate post specifically on this will be up soon.)

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  • Go nuts in the kitchen
    With hundreds of veganfoodporn Instagram accounts out there, we shouldn’t be wasting time debunking the myth that vegan food is boring. By now even my Grandpa knows that I eat more than just salads.
    Now, it’s important to understand that vegan food will taste different from what you’re used to, especially if you come from the standard American/UK diet. I suggest you don’t try and replicate the same exact dishes you were eating pre-vegan. A bacon cheese sandwich doesn’t taste like a facon sheese sandwich. You need to accept the fact that your food is going to taste different, however this doesn’t mean it’s going to taste bad. It’s just a matter of adjusting your taste buds to a new range of flavours – just be creative and start experimenting with spices and condiments, and you’ll get used to it soon enough.
    Personally, I’m not a fan of “alternatives” such as vegan cheese, vegan ham and all that jazz – I found that they all taste the same and they are pretty much just the same ingredients shaped in different forms. I’d rather go for simpler, whole foods like rice, potatoes, legumes, and fresh fruit and veggies. It’s a much easier and cheaper choice, and the flavours are way more authentic as well.

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  • Don’t get mad
    Transitioning to veganism can be difficult, but try to stay calm and focused. You’re going to make mistakes, people will ask questions, you might be made fun of. The worst for me was being surrounded by people who didn’t seem to understand me. But try not to lose your marbles.

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    Also don’t get mad at yourself! It’s ok to make mistakes, that’s how we learn. Remember you’re doing something wonderful, you will find people who support you and you will turn into the best plant-based version of yourself.

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Aaand congratulations, you’ve done it! Welcome to the world of happy herbivores.
Remember you’re doing the right thing and I’m so proud of you.

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Curry-ish coconutty rice with aubergine and mushroom and some spices

Good morning or evening depending on where you live, lovely people!
Today I bring you the epitome of my cooking randomness, which shows that 1. I have no idea what I’m doing when I step into the kitchen (but most of the time I somehow end up with some ugly-looking but edible creations), and 2. I’m not very good at coming up with creative recipe names.

What you need

  • One aubergine
  • Some mushrooms
  • Cebolla maaaaan
  • A bunch of rice (I used brown rice)
  • Coconut cream
  • Olive oil
  • Curry powder
  • Turmeric

What to do

  1. If you’re lazy like me, park your rice in a rice cooker and let it be. You can also cook it in a pot, but you’ll have to keep an eye on it and keep it stirred or whatever.
  2. While the rice is cooking, fry up some onion in a pan.
  3. Chop up the aubergine and mushrooms. I used a whole aubergine and a bunch of white button mushrooms, but this depends on what rice-to-veggie ratio you are looking for.
  4. When the onion is turning a lovely golden brown, chuck the aubergine and mushrooms in the pan.
  5. In a separate bowl, pour some coconut cream (I used half a can for what turned up to be three abundant portions). Add some curry powder and turmeric and stir until you have a lovely brownish-yellow cream.
  6. When the veggies look almost ready, pour the coconut cream in the pan, give it a stir and keep on cooking until nice and mushy.
  7. When the rice is ready, you can either add it to the pan and mix it wih the coconutty veggies, or serve it as a side. (I mixed the whole thing because I like my meals to look like dog food. In fact, yeah maybe serve it as a side.)
  8. Dig in!

 

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I was also too lazy to take step-by-step pictures so all you get is an Instagram screenshot. I’m horrible.

Decisions Decisions

If I want Giac to lose interest in what I’m about to say, I simply have to start a sentence with “I decided that”. Apparently, I decide a lot of things. Also – apparently – I never follow up on my decisions.
I will admit that sometimes I do make impulsive resolutions mainly based on seeing somebody doing something that I think I could do, and pledging to do that for the rest of my life without having any skills or idea how to do it, OR not realising how hard it would be (see: learning Japanese).

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Sometimes I candidly forget I even decided to do something. Most of the time I simply change my mind. Yeah, I do change my mind. So what? Maybe it’s because most of the decisions I make are about irrelevant stuff. Or about things that don’t work for me. I obviously didn’t change my mind on things that actually matter (i.e. marrying that little doubting Thomas).
The way I see it is that I’m trying out things, and well yes, my “I decided that” is merely the way I choose to announce the next thing I want to try.

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Clearly the whole point of this blog post is to promulgate my latest life choice, which I conceived last night at 3.09am (contrarily to popular belief, the best decision-making time for me).
Now the thing is, I go through phases where I try to do things that make me feel good, and then I can’t be bothered anymore and I go back to being a lazy couch potato and I feel crap about myself, so I force myself to get back on track in an endless circle of self-destruction and recovery. I perfectly know what makes me feel good, but it seems that knowing it is not enough to make me do it as much as I would like to.
So what’d better than writing it all down I say.

  1. Wake up at 7am, drink a liter of water, and do some stretching while watching a TED Talk
  2. Incorporate some fruit in my breakfast
  3. Get some fresh air
  4. Work up a sweat every day (gym, run, longboard)
  5. Look presentable
  6. Keep the house clean
  7. Be creative (write, draw)
  8. Drink a litre of water before bed
  9. Go to sleep at 11pm

I don’t know what it is, but I love setting rules for myself. Even if most of the time I don’t even remotely start to do what I planned to do. But writing down what I think I should be doing makes me feel empowered, no matter how general or specific the guidelines are.
This might be just another list. But mental clarity is very important to me, so hopefully this is going to be a decision about something that actually matters (see above). These are all things that make me feel better on the inside, and I’m 100% confident that if I manage to stick to that list for say at least a month or so, I will reach a balanced mental state, and hopefully by then they would have turned into a constant routine.

Now let me tell you something else: You can do this too. Science tells us that sleeping, eating and exercising are basic needs that change your hormone balance, which consequently affects your mood. It really doesn’t take much to make you feel good. For me personally, it’s more a question of being consistent – but I’m making a point of persevering.

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How to get shit done

For pretty much the whole time I was living in London, the inside of my wardrobe door was plastered with sticky notes reminding me of things I was dreaming of doing but I was never finding the time to do. Drawing, studying a foreign language, play the ukulele, take a singing class… I kept on telling myself that I would do all of those at some point, but I simply couldn’t at the minute because my job was taking up too much of my mental space.
Now I’m jobless, and when you’re jobless you find yourself with a lot of time on your hands. In fact, as soon as we were settled down in Wellington I thought, Great! This is my chance to finally tick all those wishes off my list.
Easier said than done, though. I went from having no time to having too much time and trust me, one thing is having a day off after a busy week, and another is having the whole day to yourself every single day. It can get intimidating. During my first week in Wellington I was far from productive. Because I felt I had all the time in the world, I ended up wasting most of it. Getting out of bed was getting harder and harder. I would drag myself to the library, stare at people for a couple of hours, browse through job offers without applying for any, go back home, and squander the afternoon on YouTube.
This made me feel awful. I wasn’t accomplishing anything. My art supplies lay abandoned  in a box, I couldn’t remember where I’d put my Japanese books, and Puke the Uke was gathering dust in a corner. Most importantly, I was completely ignoring my blog, which I’d put as top priority in the hope of turning it into something more professional.
I wasn’t happy with myself one bit. So I sat down and worked out an action plan.

  1. Make a daily To-Do list
    Write down all the things you want to do today. Not in your lifetime – just today. Keep it simple so you’re not overwhelmed.

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  1. Have lunch
    Make sure you include things that you’re obviously going to do, then cross them off. This will make you feel accomplished and will give you motivation to keep on going. I like to include things like peeing, reading, having lunch and taking a selfie.

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  1. Plan a schedule
    Give priorities  to your tasks and decide what to do when. Perhaps you’ll find out you’ve overestimated your time and there are too many tasks on your list – in this case, cross out anything that can wait until tomorrow. Don’t try to overdo!

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  1. Have a cuppa
    Even if what you’re doing is probably something fun, don’t forget to give yourself a break. Factor in some time for a refreshing walk outside or a tea break.

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  1. Pretend it’s your job
    Now that you know what you are going to do, do it. Take it seriously. No matter what, do what’s on that list. Even if you don’t feel like it. Even if you think there’s something more important you should do instead.

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Two weeks into it, I feel like a new person. I now alternate days dedicated to job-hunting and days dedicated to being creative. On job-hunting days I wake up early, go to the library, spend the morning applying for jobs online, go to the gym before lunch, hand out CVs in shops and cafes in the afternoon, and relax in the evening. On creative days I also try to wake up early, and I dedicate the morning to my blog. This can be either actually writing and posting something, or just doing some research on something I’m planning to post in the future. I also plan what I’m going to post and when, so I can keep track of what’s coming and it helps with time management too. If I feel inspired I also write in the afternoon, although not for my blog: I found a couple of websites that I would like to collaborate with so I’d try and write for them. I also do my best to draw as much as I can. Inktober is definitely helping although I have missed a few days, but I’m concentrating on trying on new drawing techniques and I’m definitely being more productive than I used to. I’m also playing around with Puke more and my goal is to learn one new song every week.

I hope this was helpful, have fun getting shit done!

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night – Film review

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Movie night: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night – Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour, 2014

Why I chose it: I’m not big on vampire films, but my colleague Rob recommended it and he’s always been right. Plus I read a review on Bitch, and come on the poster looks pretty neat doesn’t it?

What it is about: Presented as “The first Iranian vampire Western”, as Wikipedia says, this description couldn’t be more accurate.
Arash, a rockabilly James Dean lookalike who drives a shiny 1950s car, is struggling to balance his life between a variety of odd jobs and paying up drug-dealing pimp Saeed to cover for his father’s heroin addiction. When Arash goes to Saeed’s apartment to get his car back, which Saeed has taken as a pledge, he bumps into The Girl leaving the place. Without questioning why her t-shirt is splattered with blood, he just proceeds to find that Saeed has been murdered, then grabs a briefcase full of money and drugs and leaves. Next time we meet him he’s selling ecstasy in a nightclub dressed up as Dracula. Having taking a pill himself, he ends up wandering the night streets, lost. And he runs into The Girl again.
This lonely silent girl is not your regular vampire. Underneath her black chador, which serves as a cape more than as a religious reference, she wears a stripy top and sneakers, and roams the night roads on a skateboard. When she’s not out there creeping people out and sucking their blood, she spends her time sporting a classy dark bob and dancing alone in her apartment. To me The Girl bears a singular resemblance to Mia Wallace, and generally I found quite a few Pulp Fiction references throughout the film. Maybe it’s just me, however this is how director Ana Lily Amirpour showed up at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival:

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Set in a dystopian imaginary Iranian underworld referred to as Bad City, another strong allusion that immediately comes to mind is Frank Miller’s Sin City: black and white sceneries, loud cigarette puffs, pimps, drugs (“This pill is nothing without you”) – although definitely calmer, slower, and not with the same amount of splatter.
(Fun fact: a graphic novel also exists and I can’t wait to get my paws on it.)

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It was edifying to watch a film where the only vampire character is a woman, especially because she’s not portrayed as the typical sensual, provocative female inspiring lust and carnal pleasure. The Girl’s character is always covered up, often quiet and almost withdrawn. This doesn’t mean she’s not powerful, though: along with potentially being able to suck you dry, she also occasionally plays the role of the Good Samaritan (i.e. helping prostitute Atti realise she does no longer know what desire is). The Girl is somebody who speaks probably less than a hundred words in the whole movie but still orchestrates the scene and gives a burst of feminism in what is portrayed as a patriarchal society ruled by generic male assumptions (“Women want kids, don’t they?”).

One theme the film doesn’t cover is religion/politics: the chador the Girl wears simply works as a cape, it’s not politicised and doesn’t serve any purpose other than adding to the vampire’s spooky look.
I enjoyed the fact that A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is not a pretentions movie: it does touch upon many subjects but at the same time it is essentially a horror film, and a brilliant never-seen-before one, as it manages to mix a classic idea (the vampire) with elements of irony and fun (The Girl pushing a stoned Arash in a Dracula costume on a skateboard) and symbolism (can somebody explain to me the trans woman waltzing with a balloon scene?), all set in an indeterminate context (the film was shot in California but is supposedly set in an imprecise Middle East).

Would I recommend it: Yes, but be ready to check Wikipedia after you’ve watch it – I’d be surprised if you grasped the whole meaning straight away. And don’t forget to check out the soundtrack, that’s pretty cool too!

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Free the pits

I spend a lot of time on social media because I’m really 16 and I think you should all know that. Along with being aware of what “hunty”, “sus” or “being on fleek” mean, and gathering the majority of my knowledge on international politics and social issues from memes, this also mean I’m up to date with all the latest hot trends and what young people think is worth talking about on YouTube, Instagram and other digital platforms.
So today I bring to you: BODY HAIR!

(Disclaimer: Really? Why on earth is this even an issue? It baffles me that this is even a thing, to be honest. I mean, I can’t even. But hey.)

The first time somebody acknowledged the existence of hairs on my legs was  -ironically, if I think about it now- on the London Tube. I was around 12 and was spending three weeks in England on a study-holiday trip (that kind of experience your parents send you to hoping you’ll come back mastering a foreign language while you only come back mastering the art of rolling a spliff). It was summer so I was wearing shorts (although this is not such a logical cause-effect relationship in the UK). One day we were on the Tube, a gleeful group of pimply prepubescents, and this kid who must have been a couple of years younger than me pointed at my legs and announced, loud enough for the whole carriage to hear: Whoa, time you start shaving!
I looked down at my calves and simply shrugged. I didn’t know what to think about it. To be honest, I hardly knew what shaving meant.
This might sound silly but just think about it for a second. I was twelve. My main preoccupations at the time were finishing my homework in time for basketball training, and making sure no titles were missing from my Goosebumps collection. It’s ok if you have no idea what shaving even means when you’re 12. I have to admit I was pretty hair for a 12 year old, but at that age you’re still a kid.
On that occasion, that kid’s words slipped over me without permanently scarring consequences. The holiday came to an end, I flew back home and carried on with my life.
However, I then went back to my second year in Middle School, and it soon became clear to me that the hair topic couldn’t go on unmentioned for much longer. Girls were talking about it, boys were talking about it, and P.E. class was becoming more and more about taking notes of who was shaving and who wasn’t more than running laps and jumping ropes.
I started to become more and more aware of the silky layer of hair covering y skin. Because communication has never been great in my family, talking to my mum about it was out of the question. So at first I just did my best to cover up. For some reason, unshaved legs and pits had become something to be ashamed of.
I played basketball at the time, and our uniform consisted in short shorts and a sleeveless vest. The lack of sleeves was what bothered me the most. For some reason I had decided that hairy legs were ok but hairy armpits were not. As opposed to my friends at school, who were all in the same boat as me and were struggling with the same sort of issues, my basketball mates were older than me and very judgmental. If you didn’t conform with them, they would simply laugh at you. (This also taught me another important life lesson, which is to surround yourself with people that value and support you no matter what. I quit that team a few months after.)
So after the longest time trying to figure out a way to ask my mum the permission to shave (I even considered picking up swimming, which I’ve always hated, when a classmate of mine who was a swimmer told me that she had to shave everything because you’re required to be hairless when you swim at a professional level) and realising I would never have the guts to speak up, one day I just decided I’d had enough and I would just do it.
At that point I must have been 13. I remember sliding the mirror door of the bathroom cabinet open, reaching out for my mum’s razor on the top shelf, and letting the blade slide on my dry, baby-haired skin. It hurt and got red and bumpy straight away. I hadn’t even taken off my t-shirt.
My mum found out because I’d left the sink scattered with hairs. Yeah. She asked me whether I had shaved and I promptly denied the evidence; when she ordered me to show her my armpits I ran into my room. We never spoke about that again.
I was both annoyed and relieved when people at training noticed that my pits were hairless. There was this one girl I felt at ease confiding to, and I confessed to her that I’d done it on the sly. She replied: Sure, I do it all the time. My mum has no clue. So I told her I wanted to shave my legs too and she said they were no different from my armpits: You just sit in the bathtub, use your dad’s shaving cream, and there you go. The notion of using shaving cream had never occurred to me. I was so naive that my only vague attempt at removing hairs from my legs before that conversation had been with scissors (please do not. Say. Anything.)

So the heavenly doors to the world of smooth skin were open. And so many things have changed since I first stepped past them. Seventeen years (!!!) after brandishing my first razor, I now have a completely different vision of what shaving means.
First of all –as you’ve probably figured out by now – I’m much more open about the subject; in fact, I absolutely love talking about it. As it’s true for many other topics, I believe that talking about your position on the shaving argument is fun, beneficial, and crucial in order to feel comfortable with it. I went from pretending the problem didn’t exist with my mum, to proudly showing my before and after legs to every single member of my family.
I’m only able to do this because over the years I’ve got to know myself better, and I’m now very much aware of my own body.
To be honest, I wish somebody had told me the moment I hit puberty that those hairs are nothing to be ashamed of. I wish somebody had told me that whether I wanted to keep them or shave them off was completely up to me. Growing up I never felt like shaving was my own decision. It was always something I thought I was expected to do by virtue of being a female. I shaved because all my girlfriends shaved, because that’s what boys want you to do, because “hair on women is gross”, because “armpit hair is unhygienic”, because you’re supposed to. I shaved in spite of getting rashes under my arms every single time. I thought it was a waste of time and energies, but I still kept on holding on to the razor. I’ve also tried bleaching, waxing and epilating, experimenting with different levels of pain but always the same result: hairless skin for maybe a week, and then back to the start all over again.
And now I say: fuck it. My legs are covered in scars I inflicted myself while shaving (and I was only drunk maybe twice). I have spent hours painfully plucking, trimming and grooming, without never achieving that perfect smoothness that razor ads promised.
I’m not one of those Nordic pale blond girls who don’t shave but they hardly have any hair. My hair is dark and visible -let’s just put it out there. But I don’t care. Everybody has hair and that’s fine. The fact that man can be hairy but women can’t doesn’t make any sense. It’s just hair.
I’ve been on and off the razor for maybe a couple of years now. I’ve learned to live with my body hair and I’m actually starting to find it kind of cute. I only shave if I feel like it. And I’m not ashamed to go out in shorts and fuzzy legs if I don’t feel like it.
Part of my newly acquired self-confidence comes from travelling (man, travelling teaches you so many things!). Having lived in a van for the past three months, without regular access to a real shower/sink/anywhere to shave, has forced me (and Giac) to face the fact that my legs and pits would be hairy and we had to live with it. (To be honest, when you live in a van shaving is the last of your problems.) And you know what? I have met people along the road that have seen me in all my hairy glory, and nobody cared. I’ve been to the gym in shorts and sleeveless t-shirts and do you think people gave me awkward looks, or felt offended by my hairiness? Of course not. Nobody gives a shit!
This feels amazing. To do what the heck you want with your body. The times of presenting yourself the way people want you to look are over. (This might be TMI, but I even had an encounter with a dude who refused to get into any hanky panky because I was not completely shaved down there. HA!)
Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t save. All I’m saying is: Do what the fuck you want. If you like shaving, shave. If it makes you feel beautiful and confident, by all means go ahead and do it. BUT DON’T DO IT BECAUSE YOU THINK YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO. And please, please do not feel ashamed of your body hair. It’s just hair. It doesn’t make you a less better person. If anything, it shows that you’re at ease in your own body (which makes it kind of sexy in my humble opinion).
I can’t believe this is even something people feel the need to talk about. All this fuss about something that we should merely accept the presence of and GET THE FUCK OVER IT.

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Real hair

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Not real hair

Ps. I was kidding about all that teenage slang. I hate teenage slang. I do say “like” a lot but I also know what “literally” means and I don’t use it in unsuitable contexts. I do my best to speak like a grownup (also because I’m mainly surrounded by adults who wouldn’t understand anyway).

Less is more (or is it?)

I used to be a disgraceful hoarder. When I was in high school I used to hang worn-out shoes on my bedroom wall and religiously treasure leaflets, tickets and receipts from holidays abroad (even empty tissue packets and cigarette butts sometimes). At the same time though, I always was meticulously organised. Within those useless mountains of junk, everything had its own place. Then over the years, for reasons I cannot explain, I developed a sick pleasure in getting rid of stuff. I would then systematically organise my remaining possessions, and create a space that reflected the clarity of my own mind. It made me feel incredibly satisfied to look at my room and see that everything in there had a meaning.
At the time I never gave too much attention to this behaviour – it was just something I did. Little did I know that in a few years the Letting Go of Stuff movement would become incredibly popular on social media and that I myself would have struggled to make up my mind about it.

A while ago I made a video on minimalism because it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a few months now. It all started when we decided to move from London to New Zealand and we had to face the fact that all our stuff had to go into boxes and then shipped in a container to the other side of the world. Although I have moved several times in my life, this time round I’d managed to accumulate a ridiculous amount of stuff in my London apartment, and it was clear that some of it had to go. So being the teenager that I am, I turned to YouTube for advise. After binge-watching all the videos I could find on how to get rid of stuff, none of my possessions had been brought to a charity shop yet, and I was left with the following conundrum: Why the fuck is minimalism so popular? It looked like every twenty-something American out there was on a journey to become more frugal and live on less. I was having mixed feelings about this, so I decided to sit down and try to figure out why this was the case.
In principles, I find that the idea behind minimalism is quite appealing: not getting emotionally attached to your possessions, valuing experiences more than material goods, donating superfluous items to people that might want them or need them more than you, only keeping what brings you joy – these are all values I resonate with one hundred percent.
I like to think that minimalism is such a big trend because of an increasing environmental concern. Minimalism seems to go hand in hand with the zero waste movement, which among other things promotes the idea of owning fewer, more durable items. This is great: I personally am all about putting quality over quantity (although this is a recent improvement in my lifestyle I have to admit, but I am really making an effort in that direction). So if more people are embracing this view it can’t be but beneficial for our planet.
But the main reason that minimalists seem to present when asked why they decided to make such a drastic change in their lives is that getting rid of stuff makes them feel like they’ve lift a burden off their shoulders. Owning only a few possessions allows them to focus on more important things in life: being creative, connecting with people, and basically do what you really like. Material things seem to be distracting from what really matters in life. We surely live in a society that constantly bombards us with advertisements of “things we need”, making it hard to recognise what it is that we want and what it is that they want us to want. In a world where everything seems to revolve around work and making money, minimalism becomes a way to escape the stress of everyday life. Transitioning towards a simpler lifestyle often involves reconsidering your career choices in favour of more relaxed, less frantic options. As a result you have more time to enjoy activities other than work. At the same time you might find yourself wanting to spend less money on material items and saving up for things like travelling to different countries, experiencing new cultures and creating memories instead.
There’s no doubt that all this sounds great. HOWEVER. If you look on YouTube you’ll find that the majority of these minimalism advocates literally live off a backpack and can count their possessions on the fingers of one hand. I will admit, when I first started doing my research on minimalism, I thought this was amazing. I immediately saw myself sipping coconut water on a tropical beach, in need of nothing but a bikini and a pair of flip flops, worrying only about getting my bum tanned.
Then I started packing for New Zealand, and although I did manage to chuck a good five or six big bags of crap, I also realised that I was going to fill up much more that one single backpack.
I mostly got rid of clothes and stationery supplies. But I haven’t chucked a single book. Here’s the thing: I’m a book person. I read a lot. I like buying books, putting them on a shelf and looking at them. I like admiring how many books I’ve collected throughout my life. Maybe I don’t need them, but I want them. They make me happy. I could never, and I will NEVER, get rid of them.

In the past three months I’ve lived in a car, in a tent, in Air B&Bs and in a van, all of which I’ve done with very few items of clothing, limited kitchen equipment and hardly no books (for my standards). I am in New Zealand now, all my stuff has arrived and I somehow managed to fit it all in the small apartment we are living in. The Letting Go of Stuff movement has surely kept my mind busy, and this is the conclusion I came to: Minimalism doesn’t mean that you need to get rid of all your possessions. It doesn’t mean that you have to restrict yourself to only owning a few things and then live in misery because you miss your stuff. You can be a minimalist and still live surrounded by things –as long as they make you happy. If something doesn’t bring you joy, get rid of it. If it’s something you don’t need, get rid of it.
I like owning things. All my books, my journals, my Grandma’s sweater that I never wear in fear of ruining it – these things don’t weigh me down. But at the same time, I enjoy clearing out the space I live in and letting go of items that don’t serve me right now. This helps me organise my mental space as well, along the same lines that you are more productive if you work in a clean, fresh environment.
Clutter doesn’t help, but if you only have what you need and want you can make space for other things in life that also makes you happy.

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A very happy me at the storage place in Auckland when all our stuff arrived from the UK