Getting Rid of the Microwave

Getting Rid of the Microwave: Background

I was never a big user of microwave. The only reason I even had one in the kitchen was because Flaneur came with one, which he inherited from his mother. Even then, getting rid of the microwave still took some oomph.

getting rid of the microwave
Image by Scott Umstattd, via Unsplash.

I probably used our microwave a couple of times a month to thaw and reheat frozen rice. That was really the only use we had for the ugly space hog. We kept it around because we had no reason to get rid of it: There was space; it came in handy every once in a while; and it was already there.

All that changed when we moved to NYC and had to get rid of close to half of our belongings. The size of our apartment went from 1,400 sqft to about 600, of which at least 10% is the staircase. Our kitchen went from a stand-alone 120+ square footer to a 200 square-foot space that’s shared between the kitchen unit along one wall and the dining area.

That meant, among other things, that there was not enough counter space for the microwave, unless we wanted to a) put it in front of the only window in the room and b) stare at its glorious beauty all the time, because we’d be hanging out in that dining space on a regular basis. (I tend to hang out at the dining table rather than on the couch; I guess that’s how I grew up.) Something had to give, and it was the microwave.

Getting Rid of the Microwave: the Why(s)

The decision wasn’t a difficult one to make:

  1. The microwave was ugly and big. Keeping it would have meant that it’d be looming in my sight all the time, which didn’t excite me.
  2. I wasn’t using it much anyway. I did consider what inconvenience getting rid of the microwave would cause when reheating frozen rice. Not having a microwave meant that I’d have to boil some water, put on our bamboo steamer, line it with a piece of cloth and steam-thaw/heat the frozen rice that way. That gave me pause; it seemed like a lot more steps to go through than using the microwave, and a lot more instruments I’d have to wash afterward. But then I remembered that I never enjoyed removing the microwave-softened plastic wrap from the scalding hot rice. In the end, washing bamboo steamer seemed more palatable.
  3. In general, I dislike unitaskers, and the microwave (at least for my life at the moment) was a unitasker–a giant, ugly one.
  4. There was no place to put it. If we kept the microwave, something else had to go, and I couldn’t think of anything else from my kitchen to take its place in the trash.
  5. And, I guess this played a factor, too: I didn’t pay for it.

So, out it went.

How I Got Rid of the Microwave

Did we actually put it out for trash? No. I technically still have it–it sits in the communal kitchen at my work, and gets used every day to reheat lunch and make hot water. I doubt that I’d bring it back home when I leave my current position, though. I haven’t used it at home for such a long time that I now know for sure that I can live without it unless my lifestyle goes through a big change, and that the lack of microwave isn’t that inconvenient, at least for the way I eat, cook and live. When I move on, the microwave will likely be my parting gift.

(Apparently, I’m missing out on a lot, though, according to this Life Hack article.)

I think there are a few reasons I could get rid of the microwave, going beyond the few points above about it being ugly and not used all that often:

  1. I didn’t have to feel guilty about discarding something that still works and has value, because the microwave only moved to my office (and it gets used more there than in my kitchen, come to think of it).
  2. I didn’t fret about “getting rid of” the microwave, because if it turned out that I did miss having it around, I could always bring it back home (and figure out where the heck I’d put it–most likely in the bathtub!).

What does this mean? I think the lesson here is that trial separation might work for stuff that you want to get rid of but you can’t be 100% sure you’ll be happier without it. Obviously not everyone can dump their unwanted microwaves or other household appliances at work, but one can always stash something away in a box, in a corner of a closet or any other out-of-the-way places in the house to see how life goes on (or not) without ready access to that thing. If you realize that you do want to have it around, all you need to do is to dig it back out; if you don’t miss it at all, great, it can go to the thrift store.

Life without the Microwave

Uh… I don’t even think about microwaves. If I need to reheat leftovers, I reheat it in my beloved toaster oven. Put the leftover in a oven-proof container (quite often, just the tray that came with the oven, lined with a piece of aluminum foil), cover it loosely with aluminum foil, and use the oven’s “reheat” function, which seems to work really well, using gentler heat than bake or toast functions. For frozen rice, I just use the bamboo steamers.

For TV dinners and frozen lunches? I tried a TV dinner once, just to see what that’s like, and never touched them since. So, no need for a microwave there. (And I don’t have a hungry teenager who devours pizza pockets and other things that require a microwave. Yay?)


Things I Don’t Own

In the Japanese minimalist circle, listing stuff you own or don’t own is quite a fad. The impetus appears to be to gain self-awareness about one’s values and priorities, but there’s certainly an undeniable element of voyeuristic fun for the reader, which is probably a part of why the lists are popular among minimalist bloggers: They bring page views, and page views bring ad revenue.

things I don't own

Though I don’t get revenue from this blog, I’m curious what I’d discover about myself through listing what I don’t own. So. Here’s a quick list of things I don’t own:

  • Hair dryer: Call me a slob. I can’t take the heat and don’t care about my appearance that much. (To be fair, I’m probably born lucky with hair that doesn’t go crazy without hair dryers.)
  • Microwave: I don’t need one, and I don’t have the space in my 600 sq place.
  • Rice cooker: You don’t need one. Pot on a stove does a better job faster anyway.
  • Most makeup-related things: See above on hair dryer. I have a lipstick I never use, a MUJI all-in-one moisturizer and a tub of Nivea. That’s it.
  • Laundry machine: One thing on this list I wish I owned.
  • iPhone case: Nude is the best.
  • Car: Also I don’t have car insurance, alternate parking nuisance, oil changes, inspections, breakdowns, gas expenses and car taxes. I also don’t have the freedom to drive out on a whim on a weekend, which sucks, but Car2Go and rental cars are good enough.
  • House: I can’t afford the expense in much of NYC within manageable commute from work. Plus, I strongly suspect neither I nor Flaneur are made for home ownership (read: Did I mention I’m a slob? I’m also decidedly not handy, with too many other fun things to do than mow the lawn and fix the window leak, or whatever).
  • Cable
  • Landline phone: I don’t need one except for catastrophic emergencies.
  • Cats: Another thing on this list I wish I owned. Maybe more than a laundry machine.

I suppose I don’t own a private jet or a chalet in the Swiss Alps, either, but I think that’s kind of implied.

Coming up with a list of things I don’t own was actually pretty hard. The first three came to me quickly, but after that, it took a bunch of thinking, and placing myself in different rooms to imagine what a typical person would have in each room. To me, not owning a hair dryer is so completely normal that I don’t ever think about it (until I need one to remove the stick-on mount for my Moment telephoto lens for the iPhone… Grr). This listing exercise perhaps makes it visible that my normal is not everyone’s normal, and attempting to look at my normal from the viewpoint of other “normals” creates a distance and awareness about what I value and don’t value in stuff. Theoretically.

This was definitely an interesting experiment, though I’m not sure if I learned anything other than what I already know about myself–that I’m usually motivated by sloth, find it fun to improvise without resorting to unitaskers, generally dislike spending time and money on appearance beyond making myself look good in my own eyes (and I guess I have lowish standards, haha). I’m thinking of doing another list, for things I/we own but I would like to try living without. Now that might be interesting.

Constructing Minimalist Work Uniforms: Pants Inventory Edition

To construct a couple of minimalist work “uniforms” for summer, I figured I should start with an inventory of what I own, what I love, what I tend to wear to work, what I don’t love, and what I tend to avoid. This is the inventory edition of my journey to figure out the best pants for minimalist work uniforms.

Regular Work Pants (for the Not-Yet-Minimalist Work Wardrobe)


1) Black straight jeans

They are lightweight, but oddly hot and sticky in summer (particularly in the rear, I don’t know why). I do wear them in summer, too, but not when it’s going to be humid or in the 90s. They don’t look fantastic, but they are fine, and I like the sharp, solid black.

2) Blue straight jeans

These are a great, lightweight summer pair. It goes with pretty much anything, and thanks to the dark wash, I can dress it up pretty easily. Add a white shirt and a black suit jacket, and I feel sharp without feeling, you know, corporate.

3) White skinny jeans

I like the lightness these white jeans add to an outfit, but they look a bit sausagey from behind, to be honest. I gained 4 pounds or so in the few years since I bought this pair, and despite some effort on my part, I think the pounds are here to stay. I was pretty conservative in my dress for much of my 20s, and these were the first white denim pants I ever bought. I still remember the “wow, this adds so much fun possibility to the wardrobe!” feeling back then, after sticking to dark-colored bottoms my entire life. If I decide that I want to keep a white option, I probably need to buy a new pair. These white jeans are starting to look a little dirty around the edges, too, so a replacement is probably not a bad idea.

4) Blue boot-cut jeans

I bought these this year, after looking off and on for a boot-cut pair for at least a couple of years. I’m loving the leg-elongating effect of a boot-cut again after years of sticking to skinnies and straights. The material is a bit on the thick side for summer, but still wearable. The wash is lighter, which makes this pair a fair amount less business-y than the straight blue jeans above.

5) Blue linen pants

I bought these lightweight and breezy pants on massive sale a few years ago. They were something like $5. Back then, they were a bit baggy on me, and I didn’t wear them much. After gaining the 4-ish pounds, though, I look better in them. It’s better, but not great. There’s something not quite right about the cut. I might have had them hemmed half an inch too short, too. Right now, these are pretty useful summer pants, though I wouldn’t say I love them.

6) Khaki/green satin pants

These are maybe 3-4 years old. I love the heavier-weight material. It has a beautiful shine and retains shape very well. This (and the other two below that belong to the same series) is one of my favorite pairs of pants that I wish the manufacturer would have made a perennial classic. (They did have the style for a couple of years.) It’s not deadly hot, but I wear this pair mostly in cooler months, partially because the color looks a little hot on a muggy day.

7) Black satin pants

They belong to the same family as the one above. I need to be on a good day, i.e., a pound a two lighter than my recent average, to fit in them comfortably. I do love these for the same reasons as I love the khaki/green pair.

8) Brown satin pants

These also belong to the same family as the khaki ones. I can fit into this pair but won’t stay comfortable for a whole day, though I still love the somewhat unusual color (“melted chocolate ice cream brown” might be the most apt description I can come up with) and shape. This would be high on the “discard” list for a rational minimalist, but I have a hard time parting with it because I know it’d be hard to find a comparable pair. Thus I’ve been clinging to the irrational “keep, in case I manage to lose the flab.”

9) Black boot-cut dress pants

These are ancient, probably more than 10 years old. These are made of polyester, and while they aren’t unbearable, they are kinda hot in summer. The cut is pretty good, but I can’t love this pair. I think it’s the cheap feel of the material, even though I don’t think it actually looks that cheap. (And I generally dislike synthetic material in clothing, other than performance wear for gym and hiking.)

10) Black summer ankle pants with white dots

They are made of lightweight cotton and have a fantastic cut. It’s more of a “fun” piece than serious work outfit, but I love them for summer. I don’t wear them as often as I’d like mainly because it’s difficult to create a good overall balance without going barefoot in my work shoes. My sweaty feet absolutely cannot go bare in leather shoes, and even footsies often cause blisters. I’ve thought about wearing novelty socks and let them show between the top of my shoes and the bottom of these pants, but the pattern of the pants itself can clash badly with novelty socks. So I’m stuck with black socks, which works all right, I suppose… I love how the pants feel and fit, but I guess I”m ambivalent about the whole outfit it can create.

11) Khaki chino boot-cut pants

This replaced a similar pair last year that was made of a much thicker fabric (which I actually liked). The predecessor had a strange cut that dug into my crotch, and this one solved that problem. However, I can barely fit into these high-waisted pants these days. Another sale purchase I never really loved (stupid, right?) despite the light, summer-friendly cotton fabric, this is definitely a candidate for a farewell party.

12) Blue denim wide pants

I bought these trendy pants earlier this year. Though the weight of the denim is pretty substantial, the loose cut makes them pretty breezy and wearable even on a hot day. I like the dark wash, too, which goes well with most of my shirts and keep the pants understated despite the more nontraditional cut. This is another “fun” piece. I’m not sure how long I can wear this pair without the current wide pants fad is over. I bought it knowing that it might be a one- or two-season item, and that’s okay. (But yeah, that means I should wear these more often while I can!)
 [No photo: These are hibernating somewhere in the back of the drawers.]

13) Heat-tech blue skinny jeans

This is a winter-only pair made with some sort of special fabric that converts the body’s natural moisture into heat. (It’s not a huge difference, but the heat generation thing does work. Somehow.) I don’t love the slightly frumpy cut or the lighter wash, but these pretty comfy jeans do go well with most everything I wear to work, and I end up wearing them on a regular basis come winter. There’s something convenient and reliable about this pair.

14) Brown corduroy straight pants

Also winter only. These are probably 4-5 years old, from the time my work outfits were a bit more casual than they are now. I do like the fit, and I wore them quite a bit in its heyday. I’d already gotten rid of a worn-out sister pair that was a boot cut. This pair might be on its way out, too, unless I start wearing them on weekends; I don’t quite see myself wearing corduroy pants to (current) work.

Dressier Work Pants (for the Not-Yet-Minimalist Work Wardrobe)

By “dressier work pants,” I just mean wool pants. I have three of these. I used to own another absolutely beautiful pair made of the most lightweight wool I’ve ever seen, but the poor pants got eaten by moth before I had too many occasions to wear them, and I had to throw them out. That checkered pair was from some high-end designer, a surprise find at a discount store for something like 5% of its original price, and one that taught me that once you go above a certain dollar amount, the quality reeeeeally gets upgraded. It’s a pity that pants didn’t fit my life when I had them! Anyway, though.


Black suit pants

I only wear them with the matching suit jacket on special occasions–read: interviews and such. Though I don’t wear them often, these are a necessity.

Blue suit pants

Ditto. Can’t get rid of them.

Brown wool pants

This decade-old veteran has been worn maybe 5 times? I bought it for work interviews, wore them for exactly those occasions, got the job that led to my current job, and never wore them since. Until I started listing my pants, I’d mostly forgotten about this one.

There’s nothing wrong with the pants–they fit well, I like the material and color, they aren’t particularly hot or cold. It’s just that I don’t wear wool pants regularly, mostly for cleaning and ironing concerns. And maybe suit-style wool pants don’t quite go well with my shirts and shoes that skew more casual. This pair can easily stand in for the brown satin pants above, though. (Aaaand I still fit in these, lol.)

Just listing this, and not even getting into the other one or two pants I don’t wear to work, three shorts, six hiking pants and two gym shorts, I’m kind of staggered by just how many freakin’ pants I own. (I must have been a centipede in my previous life.) And honestly, just how many of them I can’t be 100% in love with for various reasons.

The good thing is that most of the work pants are versatile enough that I usually rotate through just two or three of them during our two-week laundry intervals unless it’s the height of muggy NYC summer. That means I already know I only need three or four pants for my “work uniform.” The harder part is deciding which ones. I do feel like with the visual inventory, I’m getting some clarity on what I like, why I don’t like some things, and what I should look for in pants for minimalist work uniform, but I’ll have to try some things out before deciding which pairs to include in my first trial set.

Unhealthy Breakfast Galore!

Yesterday was tough. I got yelled at in the morning rather extensively, then in the evening had to have business dinner with the yeller and a business partner who was also at the earlier scene. Without getting into too much details, I’m still fairly convinced that the yeller should have listened to my (perfectly airtight, obviously) reasoning for a change in direction before unleashing their anger, but it was dumb on my part to have forgotten (seriously, me!?) to loop in the yeller on the direction change earlier on.

There’s always been plenty of unhealthy and unproductive dynamics going on, and this was just another manifestation. It would have unsettled me a lot more even just a year ago, but for better or worse I’d managed to disentangle my sense of self from this particular job at this particular organization in the last 10 months or so. Though annoyed by my own tactical mistake, I was more or less all right. It’s a difficult balance between keeping a healthy distance from dysfunctions at work and staying fully engaged with the work itself, but I like to think I’m better off now than a year ago, when I was leaning far more toward the latter. Not having to attend dinner on the same day would have been nice, though.

Anyways. That’s a long excuse for the unhealthy breakfast galore I had this morning!

unhealthy breakfast galore

My lunch plan included eggs, so I decided to avoid eggs in the morning, and settled on breakfast chicken patties I picked up on the way home last night. I’ve generally found Al Fresco’s chicken sausages to be a bit on the bland side, with too much reliance on the flavoring additions like cheese and herbs (which, well, usually don’t seem to solve the blandness issue), but the “country style” chicken sausage patties were pretty good. These patties actually had that junky-good mix of fat, spices and sweetness that I find addicting at diners but can never get my hands on from grocery store breakfast sausage patties.

Unhealthy Breakfast Galore:

  • Costco cherry danish
  • Breakfast chicken sausage patties
  • Strawberries (the redeeming feature, I suppose)

And no milk! What a complete disaster. 😛

“Uniformizing” the Work Clothes: Toying with the Idea

In the Japanese minimalist circle, making one’s outfits into “uniforms” appears to be a common thread these days. (Dare I say, a fad?) I don’t know where this minimalist approach to work clothes all started, but the basic idea is to come up with a couple of set outfits for the coming season, and just wear those, every day. Some apply the principle to work clothes while others use the “seasonal uniform” strategy for their personal, non-work clothing.

Image by Hanna Morgan via Unsplash.

I’ve been thinking about pros and cons of minimalist work clothes, and I must say, this “uniformization” strategy for work clothing has certain appeal.

Merits of Minimalist Approach to Work Clothes

  1. Theoretically, your “uniforms” consist of pieces you really like wearing, while having more clothing usually means you have some that aren’t on your “A list.” With the “uniform” approach, you get to wear your favorite pieces every day, rather than rotate through a mixed bag of favorites and so-so’s. And you get to wear your favorite pieces more often, because you don’t wear (or even own) the so-so ones at all.
  2. Your outfits are already constructed, ready to go; in the morning, you just need to grab one and throw it on. No need to stand in front of the closet and spend 5 minutes trying to figure out what to pair with what.
  3. That means you save time, and far more importantly, you aren’t expending your precious brain capacity on clothing choice for the day. (Decision fatigue is a real thing; see Jobsian black turtle necks.)
  4. It also follows that you don’t have “ugh, this outfit doesn’t quite work but I gotta go now; I feel kinda crappy” days.
  5. Thinking about a few people in my daily life who seem to have just a couple of outfits that look pretty similar to each other, I think of them as “the cool people who knows what their personal style is,” not as “the sad people who have to rely on just a few pieces of clothing.”
  6. No closet space issues. A minor but nice bonus for space-constrained New Yorkers.
  7. You aren’t constantly on the lookout for the next cool piece to add to your work wardrobe. This saves time, money and again, your brain capacity. One person described this benefit as “never feeling hungry for more” because you know by default that you already have all the pieces you need. This seems like a great place to be. (She actually used a slightly stronger word than “hungry,” more like “famished.”)
  8. There’s too much produced on sweatshop labor, shipped with fossil fuel and discarded in landfill. If I purchase fewer pieces, I might contribute marginally less to that global problem.

There are definitely a whole bunch of articles offering tips on how to do this:

A Practical Guide to Owning Fewer Clothes

Principles of a Practical and Functional Minimalist Wardrobe

I’m definitely feeling the temptation, but not completely sold yet.

Disadvantages of Minimalist Approach to Work Clothes

  1. During the week, the only things I wear are my work clothes and pajamas. If I stuck to just a handful of preset work outfits, would I be losing the (admittedly dubious) fun of self-expression through clothing?
  2. Wearing uniformized work outfits would eliminate the “Ugh, I feel crappy in this outfit that didn’t quite work out…” days. It can also eliminate the “Wow, this combination totally kicks ass. I feel like a super-capable person!” days. Do I want to lose those moments of triumph?
  3. Given our laundry schedule of about once every two weeks, I’d need far more than 2-3 work outfits, most likely 3-4 pants and at least 5-6 shirts, if not more in summer. That’s not a huge reduction in the amount of work clothes currently in my closet. Is this minimalist approach to work clothes still worth the effort?
  4. How do I deal with weather variations and different indoor/outdoor temperatures I might encounter on different days? Do I need to pre-figure out all the possible weather and A/C combinations in order to construct uniforms for the two-week rotations? Hmmm… this seems like a lot of upfront effort with maybe a dubious payoff…

It seems the points 1 and 2 can become non-essential if I manage to construct work outfits that make me feel great. And, really, I should be feeling great about myself because of the stuff I accomplish at work, not because of how I dress (though I wouldn’t totally dismiss the latter–dress is an integral component of playing a part, which is what work is.)

The real stickler is probably 3 and 4. Just yesterday, I had to throw a shirt in the laundry bag after wearing it just once (I usually wear shirts twice before washing them), because it was so humid out that it was completely soaked through (a few times over, actually–yuck). How do I deal with a curve ball like that?

But You Know What? I’m Going to Try This.

With all that said, though, I’m curious to try. Today happens to be our laundry day, so I can start fresh next week. I could hang the pieces that comprise my “uniforms” in the front of the closet and all the other pieces in the back and see what happens.

Let’s see if this takes me to a happier place!

How to Have Breakfast Every Day (1): Know Yourself Edition

How to have breakfast every day? “You just get up early enough to make it and eat it,” you might say. And you’d be right. But judging from the number of articles offering breakfast tips and how-tos, I suspect there’s more to it than that.

I happen to have breakfast every day, and don’t find it much of a burden (most of the time). So I figured I can share some of what I do to make sure breakfast happens, and in a way that makes me reasonably happy and energized for the day.

how to have breakfast every day
Image by Gregory Bourolias via Unsplash.

First, decide if you actually want breakfast

I’ve skipped breakfast maybe two or three times in my whole life. (And, uh, I’ve been around a while.) And by “skipped,” I just mean I ran out the door without having had breakfast, not that I didn’t eat anything at all until lunch. I’m not sure if that–nothing at all before lunch–ever happened.

That’s because I know I need breakfast to function. My brain is awake pretty soon after I get up, but it seems to want to crawl back into the foggy land of semi-sleep if I don’t feed it. I’d sit in front of the computer at work, just staring at the screen, lost. I don’t like that sense of being enervated, so I always have breakfast.

Importantly, though, not everyone is this way. Some people don’t need to eat until much later in the day, and others say they can’t eat anything in the morning even if they tried. Plus, the common adage that breakfast is the most important meal of the day doesn’t really hold up to scientific scrutiny, so it’s really up to what your body needs, and what makes you happy.

Know what your body needs

Now, if you decided that you do want to make breakfast a part of your morning routine, you need to figure out what to have for breakfast. My breakfast almost always involve protein–eggs, bacon, yogurt and the like–because without protein in the morning, I’m hungry way before lunch time, and either end up snacking on unhealthy stuff or space out. I also always have milk. Not because I feel any physical need for it necessarily, but as a (dubious but still reassuring) defense against osteoporosis.

Some experiments may be in order if you have no idea what breakfast makes you happy and tides you over till lunch. Pay attention to how you feel and how you function after breakfast until lunch for a couple of days. Is a particular type of breakfast better at helping you get into gear? Do you get sugar crash if you just have cereals? Observe. Thinking back to how you felt when you had different kinds of breakfast can help, too.

Also, know what makes you happy

Food is not all about nutrition and physiology. For a lot of people (including yours truly), food is a source of happiness and joy. If you are like that, figure out the kinds of breakfast that fill your heart, too. For me, variety is important. I can’t eat the same thing every day and be happy, so I vary my breakfast as much as I can. My mom’s a complete opposite: She knows what she likes to eat (buttered toast, a giant bowl of homemade yogurt topped with bananas, coffee), and she eats them every single day. She’s happy that way; I’d go crazy. The same formula doesn’t work for everyone.

I also love good bread and tasty pastries, even though technically my body should function just the same (or better, maybe) with the same whole wheat toasts every day. So I throw in crusty artisan breads, sweet pastries and delicious scones every once in a while. It’s always a nice feeling to get up in the morning, knowing that there’s going to be something delicious and special on the breakfast table.

What this breakfast tip list is not about

After writing this “how to have breakfast every day” tip sheet up to here, I’m feeling a bit uncomfortable, because frankly, you can argue that these tips are pretty damn classist. When you are struggling to put food on the table to begin with, all this stuff is rather irrelevant. For a lot of parents, logistics of getting the kids out the door on time alone can easily overwhelm any questions around what breakfast item would make them “happy.” So, I admit that what I’m writing here is probably only useful for people who are in similar situation as I–people with enough discretionary income and time (which tend to go together) to have fun with breakfast and derive some extra happiness from it, but haven’t figured out exactly how. With that caveat, I’ll continue this post with practical steps!