My autism diagnosis: two videos and some thoughts

Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook (or perhaps already subscribed to my YouTube channel by some miracle) will already know that earlier in the year I received an official diagnosis of Autism, about a year after first suspecting it.

Even though I am historically much better with written words than spoken (even more so now I have permanent mum-brain), I’ve been wanting to make YouTube videos for a while, so I thought it was a good opportunity to start that and see where it goes, while working on my speaking and presentation skills.

Typically people broadcast their content via social media of some sort, but I am on major social media burnout at the moment, and more to the point, just don’t WANT to be on it more. So if you want to stay up to date on future content, you can either subscribe to my blog here (click on the black “Follow” button on the right hand side), or go to my YouTube channel and subscribe there. Thanks in advance for your support and patronage.

I will always love writing, so supplementing a YouTube channel with a blog seemed like a sensible way forward, and then – duh – it occurred to me that I already had one. Did I mention something about mum-brain?

Don’t worry, brevity is something I’ll be working on in future videos. ūüėČ But really, doing it this way allows me to make shorter videos and then waffle on my blog to my heart’s content.

Hope you enjoy the videos! Let me know what you think in the comments!

Putting together a capsule wardrobe for Spring

There has certainly been a shift in the cultural zeitgeist these past few years – Marie Kondo is taking over the internet with her decluttering advice, tiny houses are rising in popularity, and capsule wardrobes are in.

I have been increasingly more interested in minimalism, fewer possessions, buying less stuff, and living more simply for a while now. But ideas are not always easy to put into practice, especially when you have bad habits embedded into your behaviour.

As a teenager, I shopped for the bulk of my clothes from a catalogue (hey, no judging, it was cool – sort of) but as I wore¬†a uniform for school, clothes didn’t matter so much to me. They were just comfier things I could change into after a day of polyester shirts and Schr√∂dinger’s tights that rode up and fell down simultaneously.

When I finally had to dress myself 24 hours a day (and pay for my own clothes) my buying habits became vastly more erratic. The questions I would ask myself when shopping were “is this cheap enough to justify to myself?” and “do I like it?” not “does this fit with the rest of my things?” or “will I wear this often?”. I’ve never been a shopaholic per se, but I have used shopping as a means to perk myself up, so my clothes throughout my 20s have been a mishmash of whatever random things I liked that day, what was in the sale/cheap, and what I could find that would fit my shape (fat legs, small waist = no trousers will ever fit you). Putting on weight didn’t help, and I found it harder to find things that I thought made me look good… so I pretty much gave up.

Losing some weight has been a big motivator for me to start re evaluating my wardrobe, because I was sick of investing so much energy in deciding what to wear, sick of wasting money on bad purchases, and sick of looking like a fabric shop vomited on me.

I came across Project 333 and the idea fascinated me, so I decided that along with culling my wardrobe in general, I would start planning out a capsule wardrobe for 3 months (roughly March РMay, but starting from whenever Spring finally springs). The idea is that for 3 months you wear only 33 items. This includes tops, bottoms, dresses, outerwear, and shoes. Of course you can set any rules you want and the number 33 is totally arbitrary.

Having decided to give it a go for Spring/Summer, I got rid of anything that didn’t fit (quite a large amount now) and anything that I didn’t really like any more.

I ended up with around 40 items, which was great! Until I actually looked more closely and tried to make outfits with the items.

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As you can see there are patterns and colours all over the place, none of which really go with each other. This is what happens when I just pick out stuff I like without thinking about what it will go with. Lesson learned.

Showing this to a couple of friends who I consider quite stylish helped me identify the gaps, which were primarily plain and neutral tops. And the shoe situation was also a bit sad…

So I ordered a few different plain tees and a cardigan from Uniqlo. Stuff from there tends to last pretty well considering the price.

I also went shoe shopping, which is one of my least favourite things in the world. I have flat, narrow and shallow feet. Dainty little footsies and chicken ankles. Literally nothing is comfortable, and having to get the assistant to go back to the storeroom again and again raises my stress levels like nothing else.

But I did it, and ended up coming home with two (!) new pairs of boots. So I spent about ‚ā¨200 in total for the season (for two pairs of boots, 2 tank tops, 3 t-shirts and 1 cardigan) but in theory I shouldn’t have to buy anything else until summer arrives.

I also realised that I was making things too difficult for myself by trying to do a combined Spring and Summer capsule. So I put aside the things I won’t need until actual summer, and focussed on the slightly less exciting prospect of clothes for temperatures between 14-20C (for people who work in Fahrenheit¬†that’s roughly in the 60s).

Once I’d bought the basics, got the right boots, and got rid of the warm weather stuff, things started to come together.

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(Not shown: my black leather jacket and 2 pairs of Toms. I may also carry a pair of black skinny jeans over from winter, but I’ll see how it goes first)

It’s not perfect by any means (and at 39¬†items, it’s a little larger than Project 333 called for) but I think once Spring comes and I start wearing the items I will be able to see what is working and what isn’t working.

However, consider my reasons for doing this in the first place:

  • Spend my money more efficiently
  • Have clothes that go with other things I own
  • Be able to get dressed with more ease and less agonising
  • Look more put together
  • Own less stuff, and be a more responsible consumer

I feel like I’ve achieved what I set out to do, even if there are still improvements to be made.

My next step will be to look at my accessories (scarves, jewellery, belts, bags) and purge the excess, although I have never been a massive accessory shopper, the things I have don’t necessarily match with my clothes.

So hopefully I’ll report back in the summer and tell you how it went!

 

Why move to the Netherlands?

It’s been a long time since I last updated this blog, mostly because I’ve been working my ass off at The Happy Coeliac and my own personal ramblings seemed a little pointless. More than 6 months after we decided to make a move to the Netherlands, we are now here in Haarlem, and I think that my life might have got sufficiently interesting to start writing about it again.

A surprising amount of people have asked me this, as if it is a random and unexpected decision. It was actually rather carefully considered. Our conversations went something like this:

Me: We need to get out of London/the UK.

Alex: Yes.

Me: What about USA?

Alex: Cars, pollution, ignorance, religion, healthcare costs, violence.

Me: Canada?

Alex: Maybe. Quite far away though. Might be tricky to move there permanently, not sure if there is work out there.

Me: Germany? France? Denmark? Italy? Australia? New Zealand?

Alex: Too many rules, too socialist, too cold, too difficult to get anything done, too far away, too slow internets.

[Some time later]

Me: What about the Netherlands?

Alex: …

Me: …

Alex: I really enjoyed my time there before.

Me: I like the cycling and the laid-back culture.

Alex: They have a good work-life balance.

Me: It’s pretty, with good air quality.

Alex: It’s not too far away from our families.

Me: The quality of housing is better.

Alex: They have superfast broadband.

Me: I can start a line of gluten-free hash brownies and become a squillionnaire!

Alex: Are there any downsides?

Me: …

Alex: …

Me: We don’t speak Dutch?

That was actually the only downside we could think of, aside from moving away from our families. Everything else just seemed like a positive. Now that I’ve had a good 3 days experience of the life here, I am pleased to report that my expectations seem largely grounded in reality. Our landlord is friendly and helpful. People smile at you. Bikes and pedestrians rule the roads. The air is wonderfully clean, and my chronic sinus inflammation has gone down (after flaring up in 2009, when I moved to London).

That’s not to say things won’t be difficult as we learn the language, make friends and start a new life here. I’ve been feeling an unexpected culture shock, as I am tongue tied whenever a shop assistant asks me a question. I feel I have to apologise for not speaking the language. I am not used to the fact that cars will slow down for pedestrians, so I have developed a kind of twitchy walk.

But overall I feel that this has been a positive step for Alex and I. London never really suited either of us, so I hope we’ve found a place that we will one day, without hesitation, call home.