Minimalism in Australia - Big Interview of January

2.2.16

with Jessica Alcorso, author of Living with Intention's blog


Resource: www.jessicaalcorso.com

I am proud to present a successful minimalist woman that in this interview reveals some of her habits, tips and tricks.

For some time I have been looking for more stories and models of simple life and minimalism. The "big" ones who have written books, thousands of views, super known blogs and that we all read are not the only ones. Some of them, after all, have a very different life comparing to ours, as they may devote themselves entirely to writing. But people like Jessica are closer to our reality and they are still, for me, great models in their busy lives!

After all who is Jessica? She is Canadian but lives in Australia. She teaches at the university and is doing PhD in Health Psychology. She is minimalist and shares her thoughts and suggestions on her blog Living with Intention.

How is minimalism to this university professor?
To everybody who wants a simple and minimalist life, I highly recommend reading this interview so you can meet someone like this: so "big" and with so many inspiring ideas and experiences!

Resource: www.facebook.com/jessicaalcorso


1. Who is Jessica and how you define yourself?

JESSICA ALCORSO: Hello! Thank you so very much for your interest in my lifestyle and for taking the time to interview me. It is difficult to define myself by any one role or interest, as I tend to be pursuing many different occupations and passions at once. This is the one area where I am not a minimalist!

Currently, I am conducting research, finishing my PhD and teaching psychology at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. I am also a Yoga Teacher and Nutritional Therapist, and I have started training to be a Restorative Exercise Specialist / Personal Trainer (www.nutritiousmovement.com).  I’m also the mother to two fur-babies: A cat and a dog. :) Finally, I am an army wife – my husband is in the military and this definitely impacts my life in many ways.


2. When did you start minimalism and healthy eating?

J. A.: I have always been passionate about health and wellbeing, and all of my interests and studies have stemmed from this passion. Since I was a teen I have been studying nutrition to learn about healthy eating, and I have experimented with many different approaches to nutrition over the years in order to find what works best for my body.

Funnily enough, I was a bit of a hoarder as a child. Growing up, my room was always cluttered and I hated tidying and cleaning (I still do!). About the time I entered university, however, something clicked. I felt overwhelmed and stressed out, and I found that by simplifying my living space I felt much more calm. At first, I only applied the concept of minimalism to my physical possessions – decluttering, owning less, and buying less. After I got married, I started to simplify and minimize my possessions even more. Due to military service requirements, my husband and I have moved every year or two for the past seven years. We learned quickly that the less we had, the less we had to move, and the more enjoyable the experience would be!

It is only in the last 12 months that I realized that the concept of minimalism (focusing on the essentials, and letting go of the rest) could be applied to all aspects of my life: nutrition, fitness, lifestyle, work, relationships… This is when everything came together for me and I started to truly live minimal, and live better.


3. And what made you study health psychology?

J. A.: I completed my undergraduate degree in psychology because I was fascinated by human behaviour. After completing my undergraduate degree, I started working in health promotion and cancer prevention with a non-profit cancer organization. During my time working in this area I noticed that there was a disconnect between the health advice people received and their actual behaviour. A room full of people could be provided with the same information about how to reduce their risk of developing cancer, but each individual would likely differ in terms of how they interpreted that information and whether or not they applied it to changing their lifestyle. I felt helpless when speaking to the public about health – I knew that I could speak until I was blue in the face, but that the information I gave would not necessarily influence people to make changes in their lives.

From this experience I decided to start studying why people do or do not follow the health advice given to them, and this led to me starting my PhD in Health Psychology. My PhD research has focused on identifying psychological and social factors that influence health behaviour.


4. What motivated you to create “Living with Intention”?

J. A.: I started a blog because I wanted a space to collect my thoughts and explorations through the various topics I was pursuing. My writing covers many topics, including minimalism, nutrition, fitness and psychology. The title reflects the overall theme of my life right now, which is to live each day mindfully and with purpose, and to examine all that I do and consume.


5. Do you have influences or people that inspire you?

J. A.: There are so many people that influence and inspire me… It is hard to list them all! I will share some of the people who I look up to that have an online presence:

Leo Babauta (www.zenhabits.com), Joshua Becker (www.becomingminimalist.com) and The Minimalists (www.theminimalists.com), who inspired me to embrace minimalism.

My yoga teacher, Dr. Melissa West (www.melissawest.com), who continually inspires me to grow as a person and treat myself and others with kindness and compassion.

Katy Bowman (www.nutritiousmovement.com), a biomechanist who influenced me to recognize how my habits of daily living (sitting for long periods, for example) were negatively impacting my health.

Bea Johnson (www.zerowastehome.com) has definitely inspired me to reduce the amount of waste I produce and to explore a zero-waste lifestyle.




6. Tell us your experience reducing your furniture at home.

J. A.: After moving so many times, my husband and I had minimized our possessions quite a bit, including furniture. However, we still owned the basics: a couch, a table and chairs, a bed, a desk, etc. After reading, “Move Your DNA”, a book by Katy Bowman, I realized how our furniture was negatively impacting our health. By sitting all day in the car, on couches and in chairs, we were forcing our bodies to adapt to that single body position. Our bodies adapt by increasing tension in some muscles (tight hips and hamstrings), and letting other muscles atrophy (glutes). In Western culture especially, we no longer have to use our bodies very much in our day-to-day lives, and our bodies respond by decreasing bone density and weakening.

Since my husband and I were already minimalists, the concept of living without furniture was appealing to us – more that we did not need and could let go of! So we donated all of our furniture except for one coffee table. To work, I stand at my kitchen counter or sit on the floor at the coffee table. We sit on the floor with cushions for meals. Not having a couch, chairs or a bed means that we frequently squat down and stand up during the day. This has strengthened our lower body. Sitting on the floor has opened up our hips and increased our mobility. We also have a lot of room in our home now to stretch out and exercise and so we have become more flexible and mobile. As minimalists, we greatly appreciate the space and calmness that being furniture-free has created in our home. It is also much, much easier to clean the house! :)


7. After you started to use the weekly cook-up, did you feel the need to make any modification to your beginning method?

J. A.: My weekly cook-up method has definitely evolved over time. At first, I prepared the components of my meals separately on Sunday. This meant making a salad, cooking the protein (meat, eggs, fish) and making some sides (e.g., rice). This made lunches and dinners easier throughout the week, but I still longed for a simpler way to prepare my meals. I came across the idea of cooking once and making recipes in bulk so there was leftovers to eat throughout the week (or month) and this really appealed to me. I’ve stuck with my current method of cooking a few different meals in bulk on Sunday and freezing the leftovers for a couple years now.

I think everyone should experiment with different methods of simplifying healthy eating. For some, a weekly cook-up will work great. For others, it may be easier to have ingredients ready in the fridge to assemble before each meal. Experimenting is fun, and with time I think we can all find a way to make eating healthy simple and enjoyable! Everyone’s preferences and lifestyles are different, so no one method is going to work for all.


8. What is your favourite healthy meal?

J. A.: My favourite healthy meal is a big salad topped with pulled pork, sauerkraut and avocado. My pulled pork recipe is very simple – I rub a bone-in pork shoulder with garlic, paprika, cumin, and salt. I place it in my slow cooker on top of onions and top with a chopped chili pepper. Ten to twelve hours later it’s done and shreds easily with a fork. Slow cooker meals are my favourite because they are so simple and easy.


9. Within your physical activities at home, did you found one that you are completely in love with?

J. A.: I am completely in love with Yoga! I find it a wonderful system for bringing balance, strength and flexibility to both my mind and body. I am also having fun with learning to do chin-ups and handstands and exploring gymnastics-style movement. I am not naturally athletic, but I find it fun to explore movement at home in a safe space.


10. According to your experience and maturity in the subject, what is your definition of minimalism?

J. A.: For me, minimalism is a framework through which to live your life. It involves evaluating the contents of your life (possessions, commitments, activities, work) to identify what you truly need and value. Through this process, you can let go of all that is unnecessary and holds you back, and you are left with a life full of joy. You have less, but you get to live more.


11. Do you have family or friends that disagree with your minimalist options?

J. A.: Yes, I do. As humans, we use social comparison as a way to evaluate where we are in life: Are we doing a good job? Are we good or bad? Could we be doing better? Because of this, any time we encounter a different lifestyle, we can’t help but to compare it to our own. We also have a tendency to want things to stay the same, to be stable. We don’t like change. So when you meet someone with a different lifestyle to you, it is near impossible to not compare it to your own and judge it! It is also difficult to not feel threatened by it. For this reason, myself and my husband tend not to talk about minimalism much outside of the blog and social media. We don’t want others to feel like we are judging them, or that we think the way we live is best. It’s just the way we have chosen to live, and we don’t expect others to live this way.

That said, if you come to our house it’s impossible to not see that we are minimalists, and so our friends and family have certainly questioned our choices. Letting go of our furniture was perhaps the most extreme and many people disagree with our choice. :) We try to emphasize that it’s simply the way of living that suits us best, and that we would never judge others for the way they live. If someone is interested in simplifying and minimalism, they can definitely talk to us, but we try not to push it on others in any way.




12. What advice would you give to someone that wants to start a healthy and minimalist life?

J. A.: My advice to someone who is interested in living a healthy and minimalist life is to take it slow and easy, so as to not become overwhelmed. You do not need to overhaul your entire lifestyle overnight. Small changes, one at a time, will be manageable, and you will develop new habits that sustain a healthier lifestyle. An easy way to start is by evaluating what you consume and bring into your home – both physical items (new clothes, gadgets) and food (groceries). Before each purchase, ask yourself if it is something that you need or if it is something that will support your health. If you do not need it, or if it will harm your body, then perhaps you can experiment with living without it.

I like the approach of conducting small experiments in your life to see what you can live without, and what healthy habits you would like to adopt. Even if you only change one unhealthy habit, or create a new healthy habit, this year, you will still be a healthier person when 2017 rolls around. :) If you let go of only one thing a day, you will be 365 things lighter next year!


13. What are your goals for 2016?

J. A.: My goals for 2016 include finishing my PhD, moving back to Canada, and learning how to minimize my waste and move towards a zero waste lifestyle. I love exploring how we can apply minimalism to many different aspects of our lives – not just our possessions.



Música com Café's blog appreciates the attention given by Jessica in carrying out this interview with such success.

Links:
Living with Intention's Blog - www.jessicaalcorso.com
Facebook - www.facebook.com/jessicaalcorso

The two pictures in this post were gently given by Jessica Alcorso.

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4 comments

  1. Este comentário foi removido pelo autor.

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  2. Não pratico inglês a anos, então depois eu vou ler sua postagem porque sei que vai levar um bom tempo.
    Mas eu tinha que vir aqui agradecer. Seu comentário no meu blog hoje me ajudou muito. Eu abri a página e vi que tinha um comentário, abri e vi aquele comentário grande, de quem pensou em você pra falar. Aí eu já sabia que só podia ser você. Muito obrigada mesmo por ser tão gentil e ser tão sincera. Você não faz ideia da força das suas palavras, tanto as que eu leio aqui, quanto as que você me deixa lá. Muito obrigada!

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  3. Ah... tem em português, mas eu vou ler essa aqui em inglês mesmo pra praticar...rsrs

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    Respostas
    1. Dá para ler as duas versões para comparar e ir praticando o inglês sim! Ler muito artigos com temas que gosto em inglês foi no mínimo 60% da minha aprendizagem! Tou sempre atenta a você! Beijos!

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