Monthly Archives: July 2019

My Digital Minimalism Journey

July 28, 2019

Culture and Society

Most people who know me understand that I have quite a lot of interests. I love to read books and play music (with three completely different instruments no less). I also enjoy writing (poetry, songs, short stories, screenplays, and blog posts), photography, and design. Currently, I am in college getting an undergraduate degree in Video and Film Production.

I also love cuddling with my cat, going on long walks, and riding my bicycle. As much as I can, I keep up with friends and other creative folks with whom I make lots of art. My life is full and filled with joyful geekery.

However, over the last couple of years, I’ve felt a drain on my system.

I noticed that I’ve been spending a lot of time on my phone and on my computer looking at Instagram, Youtube, and Netflix. I’ve spent so much time on these platforms that other parts of my life have been affected. I do not exercise as much or actually engage in conversations and hang-outs with the people I love as often as I used to.

Before all of this gets out of control, I have decided to do something about it.

Here, with bullet points (because I LOVE bullet points), are the steps I am taking:

  • Remove all social media and any useless apps from my cell phone (except Instagram which is only fully accessible on a smart phone, but I have moved its icon to a distant folder where it is harder to access and not visible).
  • Reducing my social media engagement by only publishing posts related to this blog and my weekly updates/reviews/reflections at my personal site www.roqueinbloom.com.
  • Reserve only 20 minutes each morning to catch up with a select number of friends on Instagram and Facebook.
  • Set up all of my IG and FB posts in advance as much as possible.
  • Cancel my Netflix subscription. Yup, this is a tough one, but since school starts back up in a month, this is an addiction I can truly do without. (I’m gonna watch a couple of movies soon before I do this as a small farewell.)
  • Remove all of my original art and content from Instagram. As long as I am decluttering, why should I let a massive, Facebook-owned, algorithm benefit from displaying my work. The app has not delivered any of the exposure that I would have liked, so no thanks. (You might notice that my photos are mysteriously disappearing lately. Enjoy them while they last.) I am focusing all of my art, films, and music on my own websites. (Facebook is a different matter altogether. I’m still figuring that out.)

What do I hope to get out of this for myself? Bullet points please . . .

  • More time to doing activities that bring me joy such as playing music, long walks by myself, and conversations with loved ones.
  • Less time watching other people living their best lives. When I scroll through Instagram, I see lots of filtered images full of people doing amazing things. They travel and eat delicious food. Smile blissfully and wear fantastic clothes. I am happy for them, but if I spend hours consuming so much of that fun, then my life evolves into being a zombie spectator. Seriously, no thanks. I have to actively live my own best life.
  • I will be more engaged with people in actual, face-to-face interactions. Pressing a “Like” button can only say so much. I often have far more to say.
  • As an artist, I want to create. Aimlessly thumbing through a feed for hours does not a creator make.

Do not get me wrong. Digital devices and social media platforms are not necessarily evil in and of themselves (sort of). I do believe that they are incredibly sophisticated in the ways that they absorb a user’s attention and become easily addictive. As such, it is my responsibility to be hyper-vigilant and massively discerning about how I traverse through our inescapable digital landscape.

I understand that cell phones and computers are part of a modern way of living now, but I ABSOLUTELY CANNOT let them control my life and call the shots.

No. Just no.

I have been gifted with this one life I have, and I will not be a slave to the nefarious corporations of the world. (I’m looking at you Facebook.)

I’m going to play my ukulele now on my front deck and hope my cat is nearby.

I will take in each moment as the gift that it is. Fully mine for the taking, free of digital distractions and free to live my own life.

-Roqué

BLOG BONUS: If you are interested in Digital Minimalism, I HIGHLY recommend reading the book Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by one of my favorite writers Cal Newport. Click HERE to check it out.

How To Clean Out Your Garage in One Day.

July 21, 2019

Culture and Society

Recently, I spent most of one Sunday helping friends of mine clear out their garage. For over three years since moving into their house, they used it as a dumping ground for old supplies from previous jobs, packaging for new appliances, boxes of books, childhood keepsakes, household supplies, bags of old clothes, and countless forgotten/random items.

At the beginning of the day, I stood in front of their mountain of stuff. It was daunting, to say the least. They had their own Mt. Everest hidden inside their garage, but at the end of the day, that mountain had all but vanished.


Before I get ahead of myself, here are some tips to consider before you even attempt to conquer the pile in your garage:

  • Choose a time of year and day that offers the ideal and most comfortable weather conditions for outside work. Cleaning out a garage is labor intensive. The last thing you need is to contend with blistering summer heat, rain, or bitter cold temperatures. Mid-to-late spring, early fall, and overcast days are ideal times. When the outdoor temperatures feel like cozy air conditioning, you don’t have a sweltering sun blazing a hole through your back.

  • Plan to do all of the work in one day. Honestly, cleaning out a garage full of dusty stuff is not fun. It is a moldy debacle that can be overwhelming. By giving it one day, you force yourself to make quicker and more instinctual decisions about what to get rid of. You also do not extend and belabor the misery of this work for more than you have to.

  • Gather people to help. Whether you find one person or five, the more people you have, the more quickly and easily the work will get done.

  • Make space for the day in your driveway and front/back yard just outside of the garage door. This means parking all cars and moving any large objects far away so that there is space to maneuver all objects into and out of the garage.

  • Have delicious food and water readily available for you and your helpers. This work is not easy, but yummy food and drinks tend to significantly lessen the blow.

  • Have clear containers, milk crates, and plastic boxes of varying sizes available to store items. Being able to see the contents of each box saves you the work of digging through them to see what’s inside (as well as having to write-up or stick on a label). Cardboard boxes, despite their ease of use and availability, are not ideal for storing anything. You cannot see inside them. They tend to buckle or wilt over time (especially if they somehow get wet) and depending on their contents, are not easily stackable. Don’t use them.

  • Make a plan with specific dates and times for when you will drop off donated and recyclable items and dispose of trash. It’s possible that with help this can be done on the same day as the garage clearing, but regardless of whenever it happens, the most important thing is that it actually does. This is the part that finishes the job.

  • Determine two or three specific purposes for your garage. Whether you want to have organized general storage, a place to keep household or lawn appliances, a workspace for special projects, or merely a place to park your car. It is important to know what you want to use your garage for. This will help you determine what items you need to keep and how to organize your space.

  • Plan to start the work day as early in the morning as possible. Make sure your helpers can be there at the appointed time and can stay as long as possible.


Now on to the actual clearing. Here is a sequence of actions, in this particular order, that I would recommend.

  1. Take everything out of the garage and spread it all out across the driveway and/or yard. (Be mindful not to branch out into your neighbor’s lot unless you know for sure that they are okay with it.) As you do this, start putting all similar items together such as boxes of books or kitchenware.

  2. Once everything is out of the garage, start building large categories of similar items by grouping them together. Childhood keepsakes and memorabilia could be gathered in one pile, for example, and you can keep adding to the stack of books that you may have already started. Make these groupings as clearly defined as possible and use as much space as you want. The beauty of this step is seeing the mountain of stuff broken down into smaller parts. Here are examples of different categories/groupings:



    Clothing
    Books
    Childhood keepsakes
    Photographs
    Artwork
    Household tools
    Automotive parts and/or tools
    Kitchenware
    Cardboard, plastic bags, and other recyclable items
    Empty plastic containers
    Lawncare equipment and chemicals
    Furniture

    Bags such as extra purses or old luggage


  3. Determine which categories have the most items that will not return to the garage. This can be several pieces of older furniture, back issues of magazines, or empty liquid product containers like Drano or motor oil. From each category, start creating the following piles:



    Back in the garage.
    Somewhere in the house
    Recycling
    Donate




    The goal during this step is to make the “Recycling” and “Donate” piles much larger than the other two categories. The more you can remove from your garage and home, the less stuff you’ll have to deal with overall.

  4. Among the items you have decided to keep, start putting them in stackable and clear plastic containers. (Coverless shoe boxes are a versatile option that you can use for small items that can go on shelving.)

  5. Before you put items back in your garage, sweep or vacuum the floor and remove as much dust from the walls as possible. Move and group any large, oddly-shaped, or bulky items that take up too much room toward any available corners (a push lawnmower with a long handle that sticks out or an old fridge comes to mind). They will generally take up less space and be more out of the way when arranged at or near a corner of the room.

  6. Make sure that you create a wide and open space in the middle of the garage. As you start to methodically move items back in, a good goal is to start stacking and storing along the walls. Leave the floor as wide open and clear as you can.

  7. Stack and store upwards. Also, screw in hooks or nails onto walls from which you can hang different items.

  8. At the end of the day, there should be a clear and open space in the middle of the garage. All items need to be accounted for whether they are staying in the building, being recycled, or donated to a Goodwill or a friend.



There you have it. This post is meant to be a quick guide to anyone who is fed up with having piles of stuff in their garage. I would recommend stretching this out over two days or an entire weekend if the mountain of stuff in your garage is MASSIVE in an ungodly way. Also, recruit a lot of help.

Thanks for reading and good luck.

May the force be with your garage and your sanity.

-Roqué

Surround Yourself with Nature

July 14, 2019

Culture and Society

Over the years, I have come across several people who enjoyed being outside and surrounded by nature. Whether this involved hiking through hills and mountains, lying on a towel on a beach, taking a walk in a park, having a picnic or barbeque in a backyard, or just sitting on a park bench, there was something about the experience that gave them some degree of joy and comfort.

I have always wondered why this is.

Personally, I love being outdoors. I live in a hollow deep in the woods of middle Tennessee. The distance between my house and an actual road is half of a mile. I am surrounded by possibly millions of green leaves everywhere. For me, nature has a calming and grounding effect. It does not matter if I stand in a green wilderness or a rugged bluff overlooking the ocean. I feel differently than I do in my bedroom or out in a bustling, concrete city.

The interesting thought I have is that standing among trees in the middle of the woods is no less frenetic and bustling than standing in Times Square in New York City. It all just happens on a much smaller, and even microscopic, scale.

Leaves, blades of grass, and flowers all strain themselves reaching out for the sun. Birds, bees, and butterflies flutter about handling their business. Snails, lizards, and snakes slither and slink around hunting for food and places to linger. Lichen on trees and mushrooms absorb particles and nutrients all around to grow and sustain themselves. Sap oozes out of tree barks while squirrels leap and scurry about. Underground, hundreds of tunnels burrowed by worms and ants crisscross among every size of growing root imaginable.

I could go on endlessly. The point is that energy abounds in its own way in a natural habitat. I wonder then if this kind of energy resonates differently within our bodies, senses, and brains. Perhaps this kind of movement within a slower and miniscule capacity is a subtle reverberation that calms us down and connects to us somewhere deep in our core.

If this reads like I am venturing into high-falootin, new-agey, gobley-goop pontificating, then so be it. It is the only answer that I can come up with as to why nature creates a sense of serenity among so many people.

One other reason could be the sheer beauty and grandeur that nature presents.

Jagged mountain peaks that touch the sky.

The sparkling blue ocean on a warm sunny day

Wild flowers of every color in endless fields of wispy grass,

Lush green foliage glistening after a spring rain.

The magical dance of a thousand fireflies as the dark of night descends upon us.

With all the richness that nature has to offer freely, it may be impossible not to be swept up into its comforting arms and beguiling, alluring gaze.

If you have never enjoyed the outdoors, perhaps it is only because you have not found your own natural habitat yet–a place that gives you a sense of wonder and peace. It’s worth the time to put on some good shoes. Head out into the world, and explore.

Surround yourself with nature. The way you feel on the inside and out may get a gentle and much needed boost.

Life is already full of complications. Find a quiet place out in the natural world and just be.

-Roqué

BONUS: If you are an outdoor enthusiast of any kind, there is a Japanese practice called shinrin-yoku, also called forest bathing, that might suit you well. Click HERE to learn more.

Who Are We When We Hide

July 7, 2019

Culture and Society

All of last month (June 2019) was Pride month here in the US. It was a time for LGBTQ communities to outwardly celebrate their uniqueness and the richness they bring to the world. It was a time to be seen.

This got me thinking about the ways that we hide who we are. This does not only apply to LGBTQ people. It is possible that we all hide some part of ourselves most, if not all, of the time. Of course, I get that it is not always appropriate to share various parts of who we are, and we often have to pick and choose our battles for our own protection and well being. Nonetheless, all of us hide something by varying degrees.

There are, first of all, aspects of our lives we hide because of shame.

I personally know people who are sex addicts and thrive on this obsession sight unseen. Robin Williams, one of the funniest and charismatic comedians of all time, struggled with bouts of depression until they led to his self-inflicted demise. Many people, whether with alcohol, drugs, prescription medication, or any other substance, hide their addictions.

Alternately, we also hide some things because we hold a sacred and private space that the rest of the world has no business being involved in.

I know someone who secretly does good deeds for random strangers. A friend of mine has one of the most beautiful singing voices I have ever heard, but she only sings when no one is around, if at all. (I was given a rare moment to hear her once.) She does not care for the world to know. There are people out in the world who anonymously donate vast amounts of their personal wealth to charities, and no one knows who they are. These are all instances in which people hide a special part of themselves that gives them personal joy and satisfaction.

Regardless of the reason, whether it is shame, fear of persecution, or personal joy, it is important to acknowledge for ourselves what we are hiding and why. If shame or fear are the underlying motivations, it may be helpful to find someone you trust to talk about it and help you find the safety you need and deserve.

If joy is the dastardly culprit, then good on you.

Ultimately, what we hide is part of how we cultivate our most authentic selves and the respect we hold for our own lives.

Wherever you go when you hide, I hope it is a meaningful place, or at the very least, it is a path leading you to the most wholesome, safe, and happy version of who you are.

-Roqué

BONUS: Here is a song I wrote about someone I fell in love with a long time ago. The person for whom this song was written has no idea that it exists and the extent of my feelings. I am okay with that. This is called Pale Sunshine . . .