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Minimalism: keeping it simple, with holidays at home
Tell us a bit about your blog…Rita Domingues: It’s my fourth blog in three years. I’ve had one on dressmaking, and another on advice for organising. I also had one on environmental issues. But none of them defined who I really am, as I have very eclectic tastes. I created “The busy woman and the stripy cat” at a time that I felt I should be writing in English – although I don’t do that anymore. The title is in memory of a cat I had for 10 years. I began by writing about all kinds of things, and then I discovered the minimalist lifestyle. When I began directing my blog towards this topic - talking about how to manage time, productivity, housekeeping, and stuff like that with a minimalist outlook - I saw that people really enjoyed reading.
Any idea how many?
Yes, I get about 2000 hits a day. That rounds out at 60.000 a month. I also get a lot of reader feedback.
Female readers, because housekeeping and organisation is still very much a woman’s thing?
It seems so. I put a questionnaire together to get to know my readers better, and I’ve already had almost 1000 replies. I haven’t properly analysed them yet, but the percentage of male readers is 2-3 per cent.
How would you define minimalism?
The minimalist lifestyle consists of identifying that which is essential in all areas in life, and eliminating the rest. The problem of minimalism is that what is essential varies obviously from person to person. It’s very subjective. Each one of us has to determine what is “essential”, and what isn’t. We can’t judge this in others – only in ourselves.
Give me another example…
What distinguishes a minimalist from other people is that we can say “no”. This was one of the greatest changes that I made within myself. The minimalist establishes priorities: what things are most important for us. Everything that doesn’t fit within those priorities we refuse, because they won’t bring any value to our lives. It’s an intentional refusal. Conscious of everything we don’t need.
So that means getting rid of lots of society’s current values…
Yes. Minimalism as we know it today was born in the United States of America. It is based on Buddhism, and the Japanese philosophy of wabi sabi – which is centred on decorative natural elements, functional furniture, not having ornaments, etc., just the fundamental basics. The concept spread via the Internet, on blogs, as an answer to the frenetic consumerism that is characteristic of so many Americans. One of the first blogs to be created was called “Zen habits”. Strangely, most of the American blogs on minimalism are written by men!
One idea minimalists defend is getting rid of all the junk that has accumulated at home, to save time with domestic chores. But a lot of people just can’t do it for sentimental reasons. Is that right?
Yes. The best thing mimimalism brings us is time. I waste less time on housework now because I have fewer things to clean, tidy up and organise. It actually confuses me: it seems that people need objects to remind themselves of good times, or family moments. But I think those memories are in our heads. Not in things! From the feedback I get from my readers, the biggest problem is for people to get rid of things with sentimental value. What I do is photograph things, and keep the files on the computer – so that one day, if I want to, I can remember them. You don’t needs tons of paper at home – and all the rest. I get mails from readers who are trying to “de-clutter” and throw things out, but then they have their husbands to contend with… it’s complicated, because they can block the whole idea…
Now we’re in the middle of the summer, and you’re talking about the “staycasion”. What’s that?
It’s a phenomenon that came over from the States again, in answer to the crisis. It’s a way of saving money – taking one’s holiday’s at home, but making the time special. Not staying put and doing nothing! The idea is that people discover, or rediscover, what their area has to offer. The whole holiday habit is often about going away somewhere because it looks good, and shows that we’re better than the people next door. I’ll give you an example: I realised that I know Paris (where I have visited everything there is to visit!) better than Lisbon - which is my home town! The “staycasion” also gives bloggers the opportunity to create a tour of their town, and it’s an example that incentivates. I find it interesting because here a lot of people only know the way to the beach…
What’s your view of the crisis?
People are changing a lot because of it. They’ve begun adopting much more frugal, “green” habits. But the question is when things get better will everyone go back to buying cars and spending money on things that really don’t matter?
How many hours a day do you spend on your blog?
I try to get up early and like to spend from 6 to 7.30am working on the blog. It’s when I am at my most inspired and my head is fresh. Apart from this, I try to answer all the emails and comments. I would say, in all, a maximum of 2 hours a day.
What else can we expect?
I think I have found my place in the blogosphere. This blog brings me huge satisfaction because I see that I can help people. That’s something I always wanted to do. I know my work as a scientist will have long-term impacts on society, but while that doesn’t happen, I will continue to tackle subjects like this…