Friday, 17 November 2017

Minimalist: the bathroom counter

I consume articles about minimalism like I do chocolate and Granny Smith apples. The trouble is that I haven't yet been able to transfer these much sought after yet elusive concepts in my life. I always recount the story of the day I sat in my friend's living room and realized there were seven things in the entire room. Literally, if seven people came in an each took one thing, the room would have been empty. It wasn't that I was striving to imitate someone else's look; it was that I truly felt at peace in that room. It turns out that visual clutter also clutters up my mind and spirit.

In our transition period right now, we are are amalgamating households to support my mother-in-law. While we search for an appropriate dual living space, we are all crammed into her house (which was bigger than our house - I'm not sure she would have wanted to sleep on the couch). This means two things: 1) most of our stuff we got rid of, or is in a small 10x10 locker space, and 2) most of my mother-in-law's stuff is what is filling our current space.

So I feel my hands are a little tied for the time being, and it's starting to mentally take its toll. I realized this lately as things started to slowly disappear from my bathroom counter. A few weeks back, I decided I didn't need two tubes of toothpastes, so I popped one back into the cupboard. A few days later, I took off the facecloth that sat there, unused. Then I decided the decorative jars didn't really need to be in the corner, and I moved them to the shelf.

Yesterday, as I went to brush my teeth, I looked at the long 36" counter and realized that only the things left on top were what we truly needed every day: toothbrushes, toothpaste, a cup and hand soap. I stood there for a minute and smiled. I had subconsciously been working toward minimalism.

Now it has moved into my conscious stream. Surfaces are my weakness. I'm eyeing that dresser and armoire top and my side table...

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Mature student

The death of the second-career teacher may arrive in the near future.  With the final changeover to the two year Bachelor of Education, us "mature students," those with mortgages and families and well-established lives, will not be able to pause everything for two years to become a teacher.  As a result, the schools will lose those teachers with life experience behind them, with the wisdom of being a parent already, and the expertise of specific industries.

What I love most about going back to school at this point in life is that I have very definite ideas of my teaching philosophy. Yes, I am learning a million new things in school, and of course I am deferring to mentors and professors with years of experience. But I care very little to conform to what other teacher's are doing. I research methods, seek out those using them, and then go forward boldly.  I will not fall into the trap of imitating the "typical teacher" method that is prevalent today.  Not that there is anything wrong with it; in and of itself it is a valid teaching method. But what I see is 90% of the teachers teaching in that same way. All I can imagine is that these plethora of youth teachers graduate and then imitate what they see, and then by the time they are old enough to have their own experience and their own ideas, they have been in the box so long it's now old habit.  I feel like if there are 50,000 teachers out there we should really see at least 100 different ways of teaching, every classroom reaching different types of kids.

Instead what I hear is that school is the optimal setting for girls who like to sit in a desk, complete assigned work, and please the teacher.  Everyone else (so many others!) are left to struggle.  But there must be teachers out there who don't like to sit and need to move.  There must be teachers who prefer individual work to group work, teachers who want to create instead of just imitate.  There must be scientists and outdoorsy people and artists and athletes.  And I wish I could see that individuality reflected in their classrooms! I wish that the students could actually look back on each year and not see the same routines over and over again. I wish that maybe they would remember grade 1 as the year they raised chickens, grade 2 as the year they had garden in their classroom, grade 3 when they spent every morning learning in outside, grade 4 when they played soccer to start every day, grade 5 when they pursued their own project-based learning, grade 6 when they made a movie, grade 7 when they formally debated everything they learned, and grade 8 when they got real about the real world.  By the way, these are all things I actually have seen, but in all the schools I've been in, in all the classes, I've only seen one of each of these classrooms.  Only one.  Mostly I see lots of desks and desk work and then some crafting.

Maybe one day I can inspire some of the teachers I meet to inspire their students by bringing their own personal passions into the classroom.  You'll never be the most interesting and relevant teacher to everyone, but at least you can make their learning unique.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Minimalism

A new documentary, a renewed idea.  I've written and thought and done a lot on the subject of minimalism over the years.  The past five months have ramped it up a little, when we combined households with my mother-in-law.  There is just not that much space and so, by necessity, we are scaling back.

I'm at the point where all the clothes in my closet I actually wear on a regular basis. I continuously cull the toy room (although I believe there is always more there - how sentimental I can be with the kids toys!)

Where I find myself now, however, is not that I don't use everything around me, but could I use less?  I wear all 8 pairs of pants, but could I do with only 3? Everything is useful organized, but is it necessary?  I still feel the clutter, I still long for those spaces where surfaces are clear and boxes don't pile up.

I don't buy things for the thrill, but why do new things become old and lose the lovely feeling they once evoked? That new sweater with which I was so careful eventually becomes something I throw on to clean.  Why don't those beloved things remain beloved?  With less, would they retain some of their wonder?

The only clutter I yearn for are bookshelves.  Every time I see a picture of an airy room with shelves from floor to ceiling stuffed with all shapes and colour and sizes of books, my heart leaps a little.  There is something about being surrounded by all those lovely thoughts poured out on paper that inspires me just by the presence of it all.