Office Space Hygge-lism

A Lesson in Productivity

You have heard the excuses, “my desk is messy because I am busy” or “It looks messy, but I know where everything is” and of course “That’s how I work, don’t mess with my process”.

Despite popular belief – a messy work space is never more productive than an organized, minimal, hygge work space.  I challenge anyone to prove me otherwise. A desk should have room to work, not be covered in it.

Sitting down at  a messy desk is proven to instantly raise your stress level, and that is before you even start any actual work.  Vice versa, a clean, minimal, organised desk instills a sense of accomplishment and calm.

Waking up your desktop on your computer and phone can have the same effect.  We have all seen the desktops that are border to border app icons, notifications and file folders.  No rhyme or reason, just a random assault on your eyes and mind. You cringe as you watch and wait for someone to locate the file or app that they are searching for.  Precious seconds tick by…

Know what you have and where you have it.  This will make you more productive.

The time that you take now to organize your desktop as well as your desk will be repaid tenfold in small time saving increments over the course of your day.

At first it may seem a little unusual.  When someone asks you for something and you instantly produce it or are able to say you have it or don’t have it without even needing to look for it.  Your coworkers will without a doubt give you an odd look the first time or two they see your clean, organised work space. The inevitable wisecrack will be made about how it looks like you don’t have anything to do when they look at you behind a desk with little to no papers, strewn across every available space.

The same reactions will happen when you wake up your desktop and only one or two files appear on it, or when you unlock your smartphone and there are no app icons or notifications cluttering up the screen.

I warn you, the freedom of less mess and clutter is as addicting as it is beneficial.  Want to see instant results? De-clutter and minimize your most used spaces; office spaces, computer, smartphone.  These are the places that most of most people’s time is spent, unfortunately. You should do anything that you can in order to spend less time in these places and on these devices so that you can spend more time living life.  Improve your productivity so that you can stop working so hard.

Now add some hygge to improve the time that you do have to spend in these places.  Bring the outside in; a plant on your desk, a comfortable chair, a warm inviting memory as your desktop and phone wallpaper and a hot cup of coffee as you answer work emails.

Financial Freedom

Hygge-lism inevitably leads to an increase in freedoms and savings, most notably of these is money savings, but what you do with that savings is what really matters.  

Our journey into hygge-lism has allowed us to eliminate debt, and now that we have little to no debt at any given time (we use a travel credit card for airline miles), we will be trying to find the best way to invest any extra money that we can.  This page will track our progress towards financial freedom, without sacrificing our true love of travel and experiencing all that life has to offer. Similar to the FIRE movement, anything that we can do to add a few years to our retirement is the ultimate end goal.

2020 will mark the beginning of our debt free, delve into financial independence.  Stay tuned by subscribing to keep up to date on all the tips, tricks and lessons learned along the way with us from day 1.

The Travel Tree

Christmas Reminiscing

Souvenirs and trinkets are not my thing.  As you know, I don’t like accumulating and I don’t like clutter.  Traveling really opens you up to the possibility of collecting items in the name of memories and marking the moment.  A small item or two from each place that you visit can really start to add up though, and if you get into the habit of picking up a souvenir or two early in your travels it tends to stick and carry though to all of your future travels.

Nomatic Life on the Move

I have resisted.  Resisted the snow globes, spoons, shot glasses, coffee cups and little statues.  I have resisted the picture frames, refrigerator magnets, key chains, hats and t-shirts.

Children love souvenir shops though, so whether or not we plan on buying something we always end up walking through the shops.  On one of these many tours through one of these identical cheap trinket stores, my wife and I stumbled upon something that made too much sense to resist.  It satisfied the inner yearning to mark our travels with something small and next to useless, but it did not clutter up our shelves or inflict us with instant buyers remorse after purchasing it.

Figure it out yet?

Christmas tree ornaments.  We began to pick up ornaments from places that we have traveled, and it has turned into a wonderful idea.  Throughout the year we pick these up and pack them away without a second thought, no clutter, no dusting around them, no visual eye sores.

Every December when the time comes to decorate the Christmas tree, we break out the box of ornaments.  We put on some hot chocolate and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. One by one we pull ornaments out, each one with memories and locations that were nearly forgotten about.  We say the names as we look at each one and a memory inevitably follows the location. “Aruba!” I say, “Remember that place right on the beach, we could hear the waves from the room and we sat on the beach and listened to the Red Sox game!”

“Clark’s Trading Post!” my wife says, and my kids follow up with, “Scram you old Goat!”.  This one might need some explaining. Clark’s is in New Hampshire, and it has a train ride that gets chased by the “Wolf man” and whenever he gets too close to the train all the passengers have to yell “Scram you old goat” at him to get him to leave.  It was a lot of fun and one of those memories that gets renewed every December while we decorate the tree.

Each and every ornament comes equipped with at least one or two of these memories.  We get to end our year reliving our travels, and then we start the next the same way as we take the ornaments back down and pack them up again, no mess, no clutter.  Next Christmas they will be pulled out again and most likely there will be a couple more to add to the tree with a couple more memories attached to them.

Push Pin Travel Maps

Ryanair Money Saving Tips

We now have a few Ryanair flights under our belts and have learned quite a few money saving tips that we would like to share with you.  Seeing the prices of flights on Ryanair, you automatically know that there must be some hidden fees somewhere. Luckily for you, they can all be avoided with these simple money saving tips.

Tip #1 – Be flexible with flight times and days to get the best price.  Mid-week late at night or early morning are the most inexpensive times to book a flight.  If you are able to get to the airport at 4:30 a.m. on a Tuesday then a 22 euro round trip ticket to Ireland or Greece or 20 other locations is absolutely for real.  In order to keep it at 22 euro though, just follow these additional tips.  

Push Pin Travel Maps

Tip #2 – Check in online and print your boarding passes a day or two before your flight.  We had failed to do this for our flight to Ireland, our first Ryanair experience, under the assumption that checking in for your flight was something that would be done at the airline counter at the airport before the flight, silly us.  An additional 55 euros was required to check in and print the boarding pass, PER PASSENGER if you fail to do this prior to arriving at the airport. Being that there were four of us, this mistake over doubled the cost of our round trip tickets. 

Tip #3 – Checked baggage; if you can pack all that you need in carry-on bags, one per passenger, this expense of up to 40 euro per bag can be easily avoided. We had one bag to check and we knew ahead of time that this would cost extra, so we were prepared for this expense.  

This is all that we travel with, no matter the trip length

Tip #4 – Seating assignments; don’t be picky.  If you decide that you would like a certain seating assignment for any reason at all, a fee will be required.  Extra legroom – that’s 7 euro a seat. A front row seat, rows 2-5 – that’s 7 euro a seat. A different standard seat, rows 6-15 or 18-33 – that will be 3 euro a seat.

Tip #5 – In flight refreshments; avoid purchasing snacks and water in flight.  There are a few ways to avoid having to purchase food and drink items in flight, and these are especially useful when traveling with children.  Prepackaged sealed food is allowed to be brought on board. Items such as unopened granola bars, crackers and really any still sealed boxes or bags of food are allowed.

As for water; bring an empty reusable water bottle through security.  After the security check you can refill the water container at a water fountain free of charge and no questions asked.  Totally worth it to avoid a 5 euro bottle of water purchase in my opinion.

Tip #6 – Resist, resist, resist.  A Ryanair flight doesn’t have in-flight entertainment, but you do get a flight long infomercial free of charge.  Once they have you in your seat, you have nowhere to go so they will try and sell you items for the duration of the flight.  The staples at the moment are; #1 food and drinks, #2 perfume and duty free items and #3 scratch off lottery tickets. Resist the temptation to win a million euro on a scratch off and you will save 10-20 euro.

Nomatic

Other items of note;  while the carry on baggage dimensions look stringent, experience has not supported that this is strictly enforced.  Any typical carry on that you have used on any airline is perfectly fine in our experience. Also, the Ryanair site lists fees for items such as booster seats.  We travel with two booster seats in addition to our carry on baggage and no extra fees have ever been required.

With these simple tips, and 22 euro flight will stay a 22 euro flight.  Ryanair is an excellent source of cheap, safe air travel. Safe travels.

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Pompeii, Italy

Excavation Site

Pompeii was buried when Mt. Vesuvius erupted, burying the city and all of the remaining people in the town in 74 A.D.  To this day, the excavation of the once great city is still underway. New areas are being uncovered and opened up for historians and tourists to come explore everyday.

When a highway abruptly ends, we are thrown into a maze of back roads and alleyways that our GPS is no help with.  After a little creative driving we find our way far enough past the blocked of highway to be able to follow the given GPS directions once again.  After a sharp ninety degree turn up a hill we are suddenly next to the excavated city and surrounded by touristy shops, food and pay per hour parking lots.  We pull into the first one on the left that has open spots and park our small rental car in what appears to be a grove of orange trees, about a week before they are ripe.  Of course we pluck a few from the branches and give them a try anyway. After our sour snack we peruse through the shops and grab a gelato while waiting for our friends to navigate their way to the parking lot.

For 30 Euro, our family of 4 is granted entrance to the site and are immediately surrounded by the remnants of a city that was buried back in the first century.  The tragedy completely buried the city in molten lava but in the process also preserved the area amazingly well. Uncovering the city now, we are witness to an amazing look back in time, and walking through what has been uncovered you can almost feel what it was like to be a Roman walking the streets almost two thousand years ago.  The city was preserved so well that you still see some of the painting that covered the walls both inside and out of the buildings. Lots of reds and golds and blues adorned the walls, paintings and sculptures decorated every available space. Stone and brick were the building blocks of the entire city and the cobblestone streets were dug a foot into the ground to direct the water around the buildings.  Large stones served as walking bridges from one side of the road to the other.

It becomes immediately apparent that the modern day modesty was not a concern during that time, nudity is rampant in the sculptures and paintings.  The naked form is celebrated and not something to be ashamed of. The souvenir shops are stocked with penis shaped key chains, bottle openers, magnets and you name it.  The penis was considered a good luck symbol and can be found all throughout the city, carved into the sides of the buildings and into the stone walkways.

This city as you wind through the streets and read about the various houses and buildings had everything that a modern day city has now.  They did not shy away from the grandeur, the coliseum is large enough to house the populace of the entire town, and even today was notably used to film a popular Pink Floyd and Beastie Boys performance among many other musical acts.

Once of the more interesting “attractions” if you could call it that, is the shapes of bodies that were encased in the lava during volcanic eruption.  Forever preserved in the position that they were laying in when covered with the molten rock, they now reside behind glass as a reminder of the tragedy that occurred.

The effort to preserve the area is almost taken to extremes in certain areas with attendees being constantly watched over to ensure nothing is climbed on or trampled over.  Don’t even try to pick up a stick or move some rocks around, you will be reprimanded.

Six hours of walking through this ancient city and  we are all exhausted and ready for a break and a good meal.

Just outside the gates to the city is a variety of restaurants and vendors.  We sit down at an outdoor cafe and are given a menu with all of the specialties that you would expect to find in Italy.  I don’t know if it was because we were so hungry, or if the food was just that good but we all agree that we were served the best meal that we have had in Italy to date.  My meal in particular was the spaghetti carbonara and I cleaned my plate to the point that it didn’t look like any food was ever on the dish. I followed the meal with a cappuccino and the table was offered a free round of limoncello shots.

A must see if you ever have the chance, the city of Pompeii is both amazing and a reminder of how powerful mother nature can be.

For more, BETTER pictures of Pompeii – visit my wife’s Instagram @vaca_with_katie

Laundry Room Hygge-lism

Simple and functional.  The two adjectives could easily describe just about any aspect of minimalism.  The addition of comfort and outdoor accents transform it from minimalism to hygge-lism.

The laundry room is an often forgotten about space, more utilitarian than decorative.  Just a few simple items can make a world of difference to keep you from cringing every time that you walk into the room.  

A homemade stained wood shelf adds the outdoor element, helps clean up the visual clutter, keeps you from storing items on top of the washer and dryer which inevitably end up being shaken and vibrated off and serves as a folding area post drying.  A matching shelf higher up is pleasing to the eye and storage baskets are a warm addition to the decor. The always useful clock is a quick reference for laundry time management.

A wooden crate between the washer and dryer allows for quick access to the laundry essentials.  The glass on the shelf is perfect for the inevitable change and small toys that WILL be found in the laundry, especially when small children live in the house.  Over time quite a bit of money can accumulate as well, living in Europe where coins can value up to 2 Euro’s really speeds that process up. You can always find something fun to do with that money at the end of the month, or better yet, invest it and see how much you can turn that forgotten about change into.  Every penny counts.

Some would argue that baskets and wall decor are not minimalism, but this is an unfortunate misnomer.  Minimalism and Hygge are about calm, simple yet functional, stress free spaces, not stark walls and cold rooms.  The baskets are great for storing extra consumable items so that you do not find that you are out of detergent at the most inopportune time.  Simple pieces of art or photos on the wall are pleasing and calming to the eye and have a way of relaxing you.  

Having extra anything is not something that I am a fan of, but consumables have more leeway.  While buying 5 bottles of laundry detergent when they are on sale might be a little extreme, 1 or 2 is plenty.  If there is an item that you know will be used over time, does not spoil and can be found at a good price, go ahead and get an extra.  Store it in a basket to eliminate the clutter and keep the space clean and functional.

Hygge Time

Every afternoon, just as the sun is starting to set and the ambient light in the house starts to wane, someone in our house will announce “Hygge Time”.  Once proclaimed, myself or my wife will circle around the living room, hallway and dining room lighting a few candles and plugging in our small low light decorations.

This atmosphere change as we forgo traditional lighting amplifies the feeling of hygge in the house, or at least we pretend that it does.  While candles and lighting are essential to the feeling of hygge, the proclaiming of “Hygge Time” in my opinion is what really accentuates the feeling.  Everyone’s mind instantly goes to the times and thoughts that felt the most hygge.

Our house is always in a state of hygge but saying the word out loud is more effective than any decoration, blanket or candle.  It is not necessary to point out the hygge, but it is needed.

As full dark sets in, the boys shower and tuck into bed.  I set the kettle on the stove and prepare a couple mugs for a hot cup of tea and honey.  My wife and I share a seat on the couch with a couple warm mugs in our hands and cozy up to our favorite shows or movies.  This moment is my favorite moment and I look forward to it all day long.

Everyone deserves a “Hygge Time”.

Giovinazzo, Italy

The Thanksgiving Holiday

An extended holiday weekend, calls for an extended holiday vacation.  We decided to take advantage of the boys having a couple extra days off from school and spend the Thanksgiving holiday and weekend in a warmer climate.  A couple good friends of ours with a daughter just older than our boys join us for the trip. Giovinazzo, Italy is on the east coast of southern Italy, just above the “boot heel”.

One backpack a piece and a camera bag is all we need

In order to accomplish this, sacrifices must be made. In this case, sacrificing some sleep is well worth it.  2:45 a.m. is the time that I set on my cell phone alarm, that gives us about a half an hour to 45 minutes to get everyone up, dressed, fed and into the car.  We have our bags packed the night before, we travel light just one backpack a piece. The drive to the airport takes about an hour and 15 minutes, which should get us there at around 5 a.m. for our 7 a.m. flight.  Two hours on a plane and we touch down in Bari, Italy, from rainy and 3 degrees Celsius (38 F), to Sunny and 12 degrees (56 F). We take a quick drive northeast for 25 minutes or so and arrive in Giovinazzo just after sunrise accentuating the panoramic ocean view.  It takes us another 45 minutes of follow the leader driving to find the parking for the hotel as we navigate through a maze of amazing one way streets that resemble more of old stone tiled alley ways than they do roads. Some spots so narrow that we have a hard time maneuvering our ultra compact hatchbacks through the narrow openings.

After a few trial and error laps around the area, and multiple near misses with a construction workers ladder, we find a parking space close enough to the hotel for us to throw our hands up and say, “that’s good enough”. Our friends take a shortcut the wrong way up a one way to reach an area that seems impossible to reach any other way, but we are both finally safely parked. 

Our hotel, S. Martin sits right on the coast, and has actually been converted from an old monastery built around 1100 into a hotel, the architecture and design are a sight to be seen and transport you back in time.  Some of the artwork adorning the shelves and walls would not typically be found in a monastery but it doesn’t look out of place.

After checking into our rooms, we all meet in the hotel bar for a quick drink and a little snack before heading out to wander the city, which is much more enjoyable on foot than it is trying to navigate one way streets in a car that feels like it is six inches wider than the road it’s driving on.

The smell of saltwater and the gentle lapping of waves accompany us as we do a little coastline walking.  Large stone castle like buildings hug the coastline as we walk and talk, the kids run ahead of us, climbing and jumping from rock to rock near the ocean’s edge.  The buildings give way to a small inlet packed with fishing boats. Here we see wooden boats with a few decades of use, painted and repainted in every color that you can imagine.  The amount of modern fiberglass boats can be counted on one hand. A few fishermen are preparing their boats for a trip out to sea and a few more are already spotting the horizon.

Just past the inlet, we see a small area with a sandy beach that the children can’t wait to get down to, as we stroll along at an easy pace behind them we come across a rooftop with 10, yes, 10 cats sunbathing on it (I counted them).  They pay us no mind as we walk by, the person they are waiting for isn’t due to arrive for another 15 minutes it turns out. An older Italian woman carrying a large shopping bag rounds the corner, and all of the cats instantly stand up and begin to gather on the sidewalk next to the building.  As the woman feeds the litter of cats, a crowd of people just as large as the crowd of cats gather to take pictures and hear what the old lady has to say.

After watching the cat feeding spectacle, we decide to go in search of some lunch of our own.  Exploring more of the stone tiled back streets and alleyways, every side street is a picture opportunity, the quintessential Italian neighborhood that you have always imagined come to life.  Religious statues and murals appear randomly but regularly, odd decorations like a small wooden ship hanging in an archway over the road start to catch the eye, and the ever present semi-camouflaged cat around each twist and turn.

We settle on a small pizzeria restaurant not far from the hotel entrance for lunch.  After we all pick out a variety of pizza to try, we are informed that they don’t serve pizza until the dinner hours.  We end up ordering a couple meat and cheese plates and some salads. Some much needed nourishment complete, we decide to head back into the maze towards center city and pop out in a large fountain square, the kids run gleefully through the square playing freeze tag while we relax on a park bench and I go grab us all some coffee from an eclectic little shop across the street.

When you get up a 2:45 in the morning, lunch can feel like dinner, so after sitting in the fountain square we are surprised to see that it is only 5:30 in the afternoon.  We head to the hotel to relax for a little while before heading back out. For dinner, we are interested in a pizzeria that is actually serving pizza. 7 pizzas, a 2 liter of Fanta, 5 beers and 1 glass of wine later we are ready to call it a night.  It’s just past 8 p.m. and our first day in Italy is coming to a close. It has been everything that we ever could have imagined it would be.

Just 10 minutes up the street is the neighboring  city of Molfetta. It is a similar yet slightly larger city and offers a more extensive array of restaurants and shops.  A tightly packed coastal “old town” area is a sight to behold with its historical buildings and sidewalk sized streets. This time of year, the addition of holiday decorations adds to the wonder.

The empty streets of the Molfetta shopping district during lunch time.

We took our time walking along the coast and sat for a little while in the park while the kids jumped and ran around the playground.  When we decided to wander down the main shopping street we realized that we missed our window of opportunity. Apparently it is common for all of the shops to open for the morning, close at around one in the afternoon and then reopen again around five.  Being that it was about three o’clock when we arrive, all we manage to do is window shop for about an hour before heading back to the park.

We also took a day trip to the west coast of Italy to explore Pompeii, I will cover that trip in a future post so stay tuned.

A quick drive back to the airport the next morning concluded our trip.  Italy was amazing and there is still so much more to see there. We will definitely be making a return trip, my wife has her sights set on Sicily…

For more and BETTER pictures of our trip to Italy, check out my wife’s Instagram @vaca_with_katie

Bike Build Step #1

The Breakdown

I started with the easy stuff.  Front and back wheels off. I search the chain for a master link but don’t see one, no worries.  I am turning this sucker into a single speed anyway, I will just remove the front and back derailleurs with the chain still looped through them…wait.

I will be getting a new half-link chain in an effort to match the magic length of a single speed chain without the use of a tensioner.  Since I am not worried about reusing this one, I just take a screwdriver and a pair of pliers and snap a link in half to remove it.

Next, I fish all of the brake and derailleur cables out of the cable guides and remove them.  The front forks and the cockpit are in dire need of a replacement, I am looking forward to saying goodbye to the twist grip gear selector but in all honesty, I don’t really know how to remove them.  So I don’t, I take the entire handlebar assembly off as a whole, and just leave the forks and headset.

I unscrew each piece of the headset allowing the forks to fall right out.  I reassemble the headset as it was for reference when it comes to buying the new forks and new headset.  I leave the internal cups for now, I hope to maybe be able to reuse them.

I remove the rear rim brake assembly and the pedals with the help of a cowboy and bedhead riddled little man.  Tip – both pedals unscrew towards the rear of the bike so the right side unscrews counter clockwise, and the left side unscrews clockwise.

For the bottom bracket I employ a plumbers wrench, another tip – on the non-gear side the nut unscrews clockwise.  I remove the bracket and reassemble this as well for future reference. I leave the internal cups in here as well for possible reuse.

Oddly enough, the old kickstand is the hardest piece for me to remove because I don’t have a big enough allen wrench, I remove the stand itself with its spring but have to leave the bracket on for now.

Last thing left to do is clean it up a bit…

Tools used for this step:

Phillips screwdriver

Pliers

Adjustable wrench

Open ended ⅝” wrench

Plumbers wrench

Flat head screwdriver

Allen wrench set

Total Cost so far: $0.00

I will be giving the frame a light sanding and will repaint it next, then reassembly will begin – stay tuned.

The Minimalism Trilogy

By: Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus

When you think Minimalism, you think The Minimalist, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus.  They are the poster-boys of minimalism if you will, their story is the template that a lot of people new to minimalism follow.  They were not the first, they didn’t invent the lifestyle, but they are relatable, well spoken and have dedicated a lot of time and effort into spreading the message of how to live a more meaningful life with less.

I was introduced to them through their documentary “Minimalism – A Documentary” that I stumbled upon on Netflix one day.  I had already been watching things like tiny house living and traveling the country in a bus conversion and things like that.  The documentary popped up as a suggested watch for me, so I watched it and then I watched it again. Then I found their website and their podcast and their book (just their first book at the time).  

If you haven’t explored any of their media, I strongly suggest that you take a look. 

Minimalism – Live a Meaningful Life.  This is almost a how-to guide, a quick basic overview that touches on a lot of the key points of minimalism. 

Essential – Essays.  This is a collection of essays that they have written throughout the years.  Sort of a lessons learned, and expansion on the basics. 

Everything That Remains – A Memoir.  This is my favorite of the three books, it details their story, their journey from where they were before they discovered minimalism and how it affected their lives up to the point of when this book was written.  It is mostly from the viewpoint of Joshua with notes from Ryan and is a great read.

You can find all three books on Amazon by clicking the book title.  If you do decide to purchase them, I highly recommend that you pass them along once you are done.  No need to accumulate…you understand.