Minimalist May: Week 1

Week 1: The Inventory

Melanie Chanona, Common Energy member

So far so good! Although I can easily admit that it was pretty tricky at first to get to 33… I managed to pick 38 items without too much trouble, but it was a real challenge to scratch the final five! But, I bit the bullet and managed to stash away 1 more scarf, 1 pair of jeans, 1 belt, 1 tank top, and 1 pair of shoes. The good news is I haven’t missed anything so far! It’s also kind of nice to just look at one shelf of clothing for all your options. What I found most intimidating is actually going through all my closets/drawers and doing a complete inventory of all my clothing. Even though we have a specific goal for May, I figured it was as good a time as ever to throw everything I own onto my bed (see pic). To say the least – I was a little overwhelmed! (although I think my pup enjoyed nesting in the middle :)). After totalling it all up, I came to 192 items (see pic). And that’s coming from a person who really didn’t think they had a lot of clothes, and someone who goes shopping barely once a year.

All the clothes I own piled on my bed, plus a very happy dog.

From this process, some stand out items were: 11 baggy t-shirts (although I rock climb about 2 or 3x a week, and do not usually come out smelling like roses, this still felt a little embarrassingly excessive!), 8 bracelets (I can’t remember the last time I wore a bracelet), 4 pairs of heels (do I even know how to walk in heels??), and 11 scarves (okay, I do in fact really like wearing scarves…all the time…).

Things I will not miss.

On the bright side, I really enjoyed looking through everything and realizing how much I could pare down with minimal effort. I was quickly able to make a sizeable pile of stuff I was sure I would not miss (see pic). Then, I made another list (I’m a little addicted to making lists…), and was able to come up with my first attempt at an ideal “pare down number” based on what I think I really need. Encouragingly this reduced my current total by over half! While yes, 90 is still very far from 33 if I wanted to make a permanent capsule wardrobe switch, I believe there’s nothing wrong with baby steps 🙂

My 33 items!!

So – here is my final lists for the month of May!
1 – rain jacket
1 – leather jacket
1 – light jacket (to go with dresses, etc)
1 – sweatshirt
4 – t-shirts
4 – longsleeves
5 – tank tops
1 – shrug
3 – dresses (2 casual, 1 professional)
2 – jeans
3 – shorts (2 short, 1 long)
1 – skirt
3 – “accessories” (1 scarf, 2 necklaces)
3 – shoes (birkenstocks, fancy sandals, boots)

I did say I love making lists….

I Forgot About the Rain….

Ana Gargollo, Common Energy Director 2016/2017

Week 1 has flown by! The hardest part of the challenge was definitely deciding what to keep and what to store away; the rest has been easier than I thought. I found that I’m having an easier time getting ready in the mornings and choosing an outfit, since my choices are so limited and I like every one of them. While I can be a mess sometimes and just pile my clothes on a chair, this week I found myself actually putting everything away right after I used it. It simply seems less daunting to put things away, as there are only three places for my clothes to go: my 1 shelf, 5 hangers or the laundry basket.

Speaking of laundry, that is one thing I struggled with. I usually put it off as much as possible and have clothes to last me one month. With only 33 items, however, I am running out of clothes sooner. This has made me think about the overall impact of this project and, in turn, a minimalist lifestyle. If I were to live like this all the time, I would need less and buy less, but I would wear and wash the clothes that I did have more often. This would not only mean more water, energy and detergent, but also my clothes getting older and getting to their useful end sooner. I’ll definitely be doing more research into this!

When I was choosing my 33 items, I spent hours going through my closet and thought I considered everything from weather to choice. Turns out, I forgot about the rain and the fact that I now work at the UBC Farm and will be outdoors a lot. The day of my orientation, I woke up to relentless rain and knew it would not stop. I decided to wear my hiking boots (which were technically in my list) and the raincoat and jacket I had put aside. To my surprise, my raincoat isn’t as waterproof as I thought and my jacket not as warm; I was soaked to the bone the whole day. I was too optimistic about the weather and forgot how easily I get cold; I’ve been wearing like three sweaters everyday. When I got home, I decided to exchange the flats that I had yet to use for my black boots and my thin jacket for a heavier one. Although I only used the thin jacket one week, I’ll find something else to exchange it with.


Thin jacket and flats on top, exchanged for warmer jacket and boots.

George Radner is also doing this challenge and took a different approach. He did not lay out his 33 items, but rather adds to them every day. He is very mindful about his outfit choices in the morning, and will stop choosing new things when he reaches 33. I will adjust my strategy to match his a bit more. I realized I can’t plan ahead for a month, so if I need to add anything, I’ll just exchange it for something I haven’t worn yet, like the boots for the flats.

I’m excited to see what week 2 has in store for us!


Less is More

Summer is here and, with it, all the crazy moving around that comes with the end of the term. It’s that time of the year again when everyone is packing and unpacking, rummaging through their closets to see what is worth keeping and what isn’t (and finding some hidden treasures along the way). I look at my closet and feel overwhelmed by the amount of things I own, and the amount of things I’m going to have to pack up! Well, what if it wasn’t like that? What if your closet consisted of only 33 items?

Recently, I watched Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things and was impressed by the myriad of ways a minimalist lifestyle can look like. I pride myself in living as sustainable as possible and being conscious about what I purchase, anything from food to clothing. Minimalism, however, was something I never considered; I saw it as something too unrealistic and far-fetched, something that would require too much of a sacrifice for me to make. I am by no means a fashion-forward person, but I like having a choice in my wardrobe; just in case that special occasion happens and I need to right dress, or just in case I go to the beach and need those flowery shorts or just in case I go to a job interview and need a business-casual outfit. And it’s not just about my wardrobe, it’s about all the knick knacks that I love collecting: that rock from Sombrio Beach that looks like a heart, that random ball of yarn, that leaf that I picked up on my way to school, that pen that ran out of ink but looks nice, that half-used notebook, that half-used scented candle, that almost-broken-but-not-quite mason jar and on and on and on. All these objects have sentimental value for me and I justified having them because of that.

I remember crying when my mom wanted to throw out my favorite shoes when I was 8 years old; they didn’t fit anymore, but I still kept them in the closet because I loved them so much. Until, eventually, like it happens to almost everything else, they got thrown away them because it made no sense to keep them. I tell myself I’m not materialistic; I just keep things that mean something to me. In the documentary, however, they argue that that is the problem: we give to much value to objects and get attached to them. As a society, we have grown to place more value to things we own than on people in our lives; we use people and love objects. We should be leading a life that is rich in experiences and people, not in objects.

The zero waste movement is usually focused on recycling and composting correctly, but we often forget that that is the last of the 3 R’s. We need to reduce and reuse before we event get to recycle; instead of focusing on how to dispose of objects that no longer work, we need to focus on reducing our need for them in the first place.

So with my imminent move looming over my head and some research into the evils of the fashion industry, I decided to try minimalism out. In the documentary, they introduce Courtney, a woman that decided to only dress with 33 items for 3 months; she called this Project 333. 3 months seemed a bit overwhelming to me (especially with graduation and ensuing celebrations around the corner), so I opted for doing this project for a month and calling it Minimalist May. I got a group of friends to do it together and here we are!


My 33 items

The Rules

  • The 33 items include clothes, shoes, accessories, and outerwear. They do NOT include PJs, underwear, workout clothing and jewelry with sentimental value or that you never take off.
  • We are allowed to borrow clothes from each other, but not from other people that are not part of the project.
  • If something gets torn/damaged/too old, it can be replaced by another item.
  • No shopping this month.
  • Choose the 33 items and box/hide away the rest! Make an inventory to make sure you are sticking to them.


My items:

  • Rain jacket
  • Jean jacket
  • Blue jacket
  • 3 fancy dresses
  • 3 everyday dresses
  • 2 blouses
  • 3 cardigans
  • 3 sweaters
  • 3 jeans
  • 2 shorts
  • White t-shirt
  • Black t-shirt
  • 5 shirts
  • Shoes:
    • Converse
    • Flats
    • Black shoes
    • Brown shoes

Not included:

  • Athletic gear:
    • Hiking boots
    • Running shoes
    • Leggings
    • Workout t-shirt (limit: 2)
  • Swimming:
    • Swim suit
    • Cap
    • Goggles
    • Flip flops
  • Accessories:
    • Heart necklace (wear it everyday)
    • 5 bracelets (can’t take them off)
    • Earrings (never change them)
    • Bags (limit: 2)
  • PJs
  • Underwear + tank tops (to wear under clothes)
  • Socks + tights




Want to learn more?

Project 333:

Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things:

Want to join us?

Contact !


-Ana Gargollo, Common Energy Director 2016-17 



Herban Gardening (get it?)


It’s not often you spend the better part of a Friday afternoon planting herbs. After Common Energy’s DIY Herban Garden event, however, I would be more than willing to end my week painting n’ planting again. Most of you are probably wondering what this event was, why you missed it, if there will be more events like it in September (there will be) and where the brilliant name came from (credit to George, CE’s co-director and resident blogger). I am here to answer all those dying questions.

Let’s be real, it’s hard to get down and dirty (in soil…. ) when the perils of exams loom in the near future and many year-end events fill up your calendar. At the end of another 8 months of education, everyone is tired out, stressed out, and schooled out. This is why Herban Garden came at just the right time. I don’t know about you, but the amount of time I spend in nature compared to the amount of time I spend doing work on my laptop or taking notes from textbooks is crazily out of proportion. The Rooftop Garden at the Nest was the perfect place for the event for this same reason. It introduced many to the secluded green sanctuary that’s right in the centre of campus, and reminded the rest of us that it is still there! It was the perfect space to reconnect with nature again.

When everyone arrived, they were directed first to the painting station. An array of crafty supplies, including twine, paint, chalkboard signs and buttons greeted each avid gardener upon their entry. Those avid gardeners soon realised that they were avid painters as well… everyone got right into it. Paint got on the table, the floor, people’s faces.. It was quite the adventure. Even those who claimed to be “non-artistic” were lost in painting, and by the end had produced an interesting, yet colourful creation.

herban 2.JPG

Next: the potting. After waiting patiently for the paint to dry (or not so patiently in some cases… the culprits with paint-covered hands were easy to spot), it was time to fill the containers with soil. Chris from Roots on the Roof was there to guide the aspiring horticulturists in choosing the right herb, a wide selection of several different basil varieties and peppermint causing confusion amongst some. He explained how to care for each herb, and demonstrated the placing of a few seeds and the thin layer of soil cover. Chris’ “2 easy but hard rules to follow” were: keep the soil damp, but not moist, and let the plant sit in bright light. It was hard to not be excited at this point. There’s something about growing your own plant that stirs a protective, nurturing force inside you. Maybe that was just my empty stomach, but you never know.

Talking of empty stomachs, the UBC Tea club was there to quench your thirst and tide you over to dinnertime. I had the “Tea of the Moment”: the delicious No. 10 blend, with a generous amount of honey stirred in. The smiling Tea Club members added to the friendly atmosphere, and their service was much appreciated (@UBCTeaClub sorry for coming back for more… twice….). And who could forget the musical serenade. Throughout the afternoon, artists such as Sashka Warner, Traffik, Karina Gonchar and Terry Chen, and many more provided the musical entertainment, making the event an all-round success.

herban 3.JPG

In fact, the success of this event surpassed all expectations, and suggests that perhaps uni students need events like this more often. It’s easy to forget, even with BC’s beautiful scenery surrounding us, that we don’t reconnect with the earth often enough. Tending for my own herb in the weeks to come will be a great way to bring the outdoors in, and in turn remind me to get outdoors myself. Good luck with finals everyone, and don’t forget to take a break in the sunshine (fingers crossed Vancouver keeps up the rays)!

-Natasha Harland, Common Energy Tangible Solutions Team


herban 1 .JPG