Minimal Man

One man, one typewriter, one goal.

Hipster 2.0

Am I a closet hipster?

Am I rushing into hipsterhood as my own quarterlife crisis is finally abating?

Whatever, I am proud to say that I have always followed my own path, my own taste, my own fashion.
Is that the definition of a true hipster? Was I already one?!

I did shave my beard off this past weekend, but then I had a beard before beards were cool. So, perhaps I am the truest of true hipsters, ahead of the trends and a leader in rebellious style.

Truth is, I just fancied a 80s styled moustache.

I am really fascinated by 20th century fashions and especially that long period in time when we lost the simplicity and beauty of analogue life and our privacy began to be eroded. To be honest, I always thought analogue was synonymous with electrical. A bit simplistic of me. Still, it seems odd that I can reminisce for a time that came before I was even born.

As I move away from the digital, modern, electrical & embrace the analogue, retro, mechanical I have found my old creative, happy and adventurous self. Seems he was there all along.

If someone were to look at the things I use in my daily life they'd be perplexed, a real hodgepodge of the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s with a sprinkling of earlier decades. Of course my work and computer are very much 21st century, yet these things now live and sleep in one space, the rest of my life is very much old-fashioned.

I cannot tell you how good it feels to be writing this, I swore that my previous post would be the first and last I made and the last thing I chose to write that wasn't done on the typewriter.

But here we are a week later and the local postal service have done an amazing job of maintaining my positive belief in their excellent ability to deliver everything late. Sigh

So to hell with it, I will break my own rules this once. I'll write on my computer and I will take and post some photos of the old-new things in my life. A lazy trick for a writer, but I'd really rather show you and then get on with writing something else or baking some sourdough bread.

Surprising how much stuff is needed to replace one smartphone. Still, no regrets. In fact there are a few more things still to be added, mechanical weighing scales (humans not food), an old rotary dial telephone, a proper kinetic wristwatch that looks mid-century and an old radio, um, nah, local stations don't hold much appeal... so then perhaps a vinyl setup? I know that records are awful for the environment, yet they already exist and rather than them getting wasted the most environmental thing to do would be continue using them, or at the least keeping them. I think.

I guess the same can be argued by the ink tape and paper I'll use to write with, but I more than compensate by not having a car or air conditioning etc.

The great thing about picking and choosing is deciding where to draw the line. Completely giving up the microwave, the fridge, the washing machine, central heating, vacuum (all of which we use very little in fact) and modern hob & oven are not things I fancy doing. I will aim for a lower-balanced impact on the environment and maybe someday aspire to a very minimal one.

Bollocks! One little ping and I have gotten distracted by work emails, Googling retro fashions and looking for new coffee beans. So, I'll end it here and share those photos with you.

OK? So? What is all this random stuff?

A retro/original Kit Cat clock to go with the new 20th century theme, nay personnel flashcards from the 1940s that my granddad gave me and I made into some artwork, his old harmonica plus other instruments which perhaps I'll start playing again, but not as a writing distraction!

Other non-electrical or analogue replacements include an old wind-up alarm clock that I've had since I was 15 or so, books, grooming gear, games, cameras & film, yours-truly, current writing set-up (for home, for outside), coffee maker, mobile phone & address book, kitchen gear and my computer.

Feeling the hipster vibe?


We've tried it all, I think. We've given up virtually all creature comforts (excluding a roof over our heads) and we've had a life of relatively luxury. I say relative, as by most western middle-class standards it was only just about average. And yet, compared to how some live, it was wildly lavish and glamorous.

We have paid the price, and ended up having barely enough money for food and debts that grew exponentially.

Before we had any real money or decent salaries we had little, we lived a lot and we were happy. That was true our entire life. Cheap, basic, few. We consumed little and nature was our playground.

In our late 20s we started earning more, settled down, got busy, lazy, distracted. We bought more, we acquired things and accumulated stuff*. We forgot to go out and chose to play video games and watch TV instead.

We ate more, got fat, bought even more and inevitably moved to a bigger apartment. We started buying more expensive options of whatever we wanted. Brand clothing, latest mobile phones, bigger TVs, high-spec computers, kitchen gadgets, all manner of gizmos and stuff for the house.

Our rationalisation simple vanished. Do we need that Buddha's head for the garden? Yes. Would that thingy look nice in the dinning room? Of course. Should we buy the whatchamacallit for the bedroom? Why not!

We became accustomed to having short holidays abroad, eating out, processed foods and an easy life. We threw-out the old and broken and generated more than our share of rubbish and waste.

When the money stop flowing in so fast, we didn't adjust our lifestyle. Credit, loans, cards. The banks wouldn't stop offering us options to maintain our new way of life. Of course, that wouldn't last.

Soon there was even less money coming in, no more job security, spending more paying off our debts than we earned. Clearly things had become unsustainable.

We started reminiscing about the golden days, when we had less, spent less, needed less. We had little stress, fewer cares and we had been content with what we had.

So we began a series of adjustments. We sold, donated, recycled or re-purposed a significant amount of the stuff we owned. We immediately cut our spending and paid off as much debt as we could. We consumed less, by choice and the need to spend less.

We sought alternatives to the lifestyle we had so easily slipped into.

Van living, off-griding, organic food, moneyless living, plastic-free, renewable energy, grow your own, minimalism, tiny homes, second-hand goods, composting, no social media, no TV or anything [outside of work] that required electricity.

These are all amazing ways of living, but they require support. Family, friends, like-minded people. We didn't really have these things, living abroad meant family was far off. When our own personal recession hit, friends fled... well, all but one.

A desire to save the planet, save our bank balances and live a fuller life was so overwhelming that it sent me into a downward spiral of depression. Had I been single, without cat and in my home town, I would have dived into this. As it was, I found myself feeling even more pressures and less satisfaction in life. We needed to fix ourselves before we could fix anything else.

I guess that brings us to the here and now, and why we are ready, willing and happy to try again.

We've gotten our debts under control, it'll be a year or two before they're cleared but it's manageable. My partner earns little, but it is a guaranteed amount each month. I am working online, the opposite of what I'd thought I'd wanted.

Surprisingly, it suits me. I work from home, I work what hours I choose and although I never know how much I'll earn from month to month, it is usually just about enough.

We can even start saving a little for the future too.

Admittedly those bad habits have crept back in a little too much and too often, watching excessive amounts of TV, processed foods and being too lazy to do things like growing our own food or walking as often as we should.

So, this time we are going to try again. This time we are going to take the middle-path, just as Buddha would have wanted.

We never stopped some of the good things we started, baking and cooking, avoiding packaging, composting, using less and having more quality time together.

However, we need to do these things more and once again cut down or completely stop other things.

My health has suffered due to the stresses and poor lifestyle, my dreams of becoming a writer have utterly vanished. That too needs to change.

So, what's the plan? - Simplify.

My partner loves his clothes and his video game (just the one!), he has his budget and an agreed amount of maximum time he should spend playing. I will encourage him to choose ethically sourced clothes and to donate his old ones every now and then, but I won't push him into doing what he doesn't like and not doing what he loves.

We will both cook even more healthier meals with less meat and dairy and bake more, as well as avoid all processed foods. We will do our best to buy package free, organic, local produce whenever possible. Similar rules will apply to our toiletries, thank goodness for Lush shampoo bars and tooth tabs.

We will throw all these rules out the window for one meal every fortnight and order a dirty takeaway.

We won't buy anything that isn't absolutely necessary and will maintain a comfortable home while taking any measures possible to reduce {not eliminate) our dependence on electricity, gas and water. We will also try find a supplier that uses more renewable energy sources.

We will continue to enjoy gardening, but will encourage more plants and flowers that support local wildlife rather than struggling to grow our own foods. We will continue to compost our organic waste and keep all other waste to a minimum.

The same goes for the cat, who is fully toilet trained hence saving on litter & odors, who will be happy to know she is getting the more expensive and much more nutritious food she once used to have. A year and a half of junk food is more than enough.

We will continue to be maximally-minimal, only having fewer higher-quality things that we need and nothing more. Save a small box of sentimental items. We will make time to enjoy our hobbies and enjoy life.

We will continue to have quality time together and will both try to walk a little more often.

And myself? Not wanting to overburden myself too much again is important, yet I do feel that all of the above is only a tweaking and re-balancing of what we currently do. It will not be the tectonic shift in our lifestyle - as it was almost two years ago.

I will restrict my computer usage to work and calling family. I will once again give-up my smartphone, social media, TV and wasting my time doing nothing or eating.

I want to focus on my writing and doing so as often as I can. Be that blogging, poems, short-stories, or possibly even that novel I've never yet finished. Well, multiple unfinished novels.

Reading, along with walking and writing, was my other great passion and I will return to it. Allowing myself the use of my Kindle.

I've yet to decide if the carbon neutrality of second-hand books and the clutter they bring is worse than the use of a Kindle, with it's limited ownership and need for power. Once I've finished all the books on my device, I should have reached the 40 books needed to balance it's carbon footprint, I will need to make a decision.

I will allow myself the odd treat of watching a few YouTube videos, listening to the radio or podcasts and reading news online. I have recently been seduced by a three month subscription to The New Yorker for less than $10. I always wanted to read it.

Coffee will be my one sin, having seriously upgraded my coffee making to a very meditative, Zen-like experience. Which uses very little energy, fair-trade beans, compostable filters and the simple beauty of a Chemex drip-coffee 'vase'.

The one place I will be very strict on being environmentally friendly and minimalist is my wardrobe, I will have the fewest number of items possible and will only buy second-hand clothing, except underwear!

I have actually spent a few weeks testing things out, and seeking what I thought would be a good solution to my constant distraction from writing. The problem with WordPress and other blog-sites is they are full of temptations to use social media and to focus on making things look pretty. Far too often I failed to write consistently. Lured by likes and hearts and follows.

I enjoy photography too, and have consider using old film cameras for the benefit of not getting caught in the need for perfection, sharing and chasing more of the same old emptiness that social media brings me. However, the environmental impact of these is a nag...

No, no photos. Only writing.

So how to write in an environmentally friendly, no nonsense, no distraction way?

Using my computer always feels like I am working, especially since it is fixed at my desk and cannot move about with me. Not to mention the consumption of electricity and world wide web full of procrastination.

Hence the need to also lose the smartphone, having a mobile would only serve as an extra tool for time wasting. I had been very, very tempted by the Fair Phone. Ethically and environmentally the best phone out there. Still though, it is a smartphone and costs a small fortune. Then I found the Light Phone, and the Light Phone 2 and felt like I had come home. So minimalist, so simple, so free of anything other than what a phone should be and do. Great.

I couldn't do it though, I couldn't bring myself to spend money on something new, something that would require more resources and energy to bring into the world. Nope. Then I remembered the old refurbished Nokia 8210 I had bought from a French company, Lekki (sadly no longer in business), and decided that this would again be my phone. It would mostly live in a drawer or in my pocket when out and about. I didn't need something fab and flashy.

That pretty much influenced my decision on how to write too. I had dismissed idea of bluetooth keyboards that looked and acted like typewriters (such as the Qwerkytoys one) as these still required I use my computer. So, I was pretty much fixed on buying a Freewrite, a simple low-power e-ink yet WiFi enabled typewriter. A 21st century typewriter.

These cost almost as much as one month's salary for my partner, so I would save for one and not buy one straight away to avoid feeling too much like a greedy consumer.

I did go ahead and set up this blog and an Evernote account and everything needed to use this amazing typewriter that meant I could write away offline and then at the flick of a switch (an actual switch that you flick) I could sync my work and have it posted in seconds. Amazing!

Yeah, so, um, when I had the idea about the mobile phone I started feeling even more guilty about buying such an expensive toy/tool. I was curious to see if there were cheaper alternatives before making any further commitments and found myself on Etsy looking at real old-school typewriters. These things weren't as expensive as I'd imagined or remembered, I mean refurbished working ones.

They were a fifth of the price of the Freewrite, they wouldn't need any power at all and (much like the Freewrite) were guaranteed to be distractionless. Plus they do have the added bonus of being second-hand, the green benefits that brings gives such a warm fuzzy feeling. You know, to help the planet while getting something you've wanted since you were 16, or younger.

My loving partner was so keen for me to get one I liked before it sold we sat up picking and choosing ones we liked until midnight, that's late for me. Well, I ordered it and felt so much shame and guilt for spending the money that I didn't sleep all night.

Nightmares eventually gave way to dawn and a thumping headache. The woman I had ordered from is based in the Netherlands, her Etsy shop sells nothing but these refurbished machines. Well, she had slept even less than me. Having messaged me and having already posted it off. I now felt nothing but excited anticipation. Side note: the Netherlands is heck of a lot closer than the USA, home of the Freewrite.

During that long night, my partner and I planned and tested out different ways I could use an old mechanical typewriter (an Olivetti Lettera 32 from the 1960s) to write not just a novel, but a very much more modern form of literature. A blog.

And so we settled on the simple idea & hope to scan [the scanner is a necessity for work] pages in and post the images, here is a little tester, given I do not yet have the typewriter I used a few other analogue publishing techniques; nib, pen, wooden blocks.

Here's hoping this works out, and I do not have to eat my words. Which if necessary is something I can physically do.

Fingers crossed, and primed for typing.

*I think we began our spending craze as result of being plunged into true poverty for about a year in our early 20s, we literally had no money and had to borrow a cup of rice from different neighbours everyday. The number of rice and soy-sauce dinners we had was rather ridiculous. When we then had money to spare, we went a bit mad.