Lessons learned in a clothing distribution centre

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For the past five months I worked full-time in a clothing distribution centre of a fairly big Dutch clothing brand. I packaged orders at the webshop, threw products onto a conveyor belt, unpacked and put products in storage, etc. It wasn’t my first choice of jobs, but, you know, writers also have bills to pay.

I learned a lot from my experience there though. Here are some of the things I took away from it:

  • ANY job is better than no job. Even if all you do is sticker price tags all day, it’s still better than sitting at home useless and parasitically living off other people.
  • Any work can be fulfilling if you’re continually learning new things and getting better at it.
  • If you have nice, fun colleagues it vastly improves your general experience. They are invaluable in this kind of repetitive work.
  • Repetitive actions, like folding and storing clothes, can be meditative and calming; they also give you an excellent opportunity to come up with solutions to problems in your creative projects.
  • Any attempt to wear cute clothes and chunky jewellery when you do physical work is futile.
  • Learn from others who have been at the job longer. Try methods that you see others use, even if it seems illogical to you. It will help you in the long run.
  • Make tasks as easy on yourself as possible. Doing something the hard way won’t impress anyone.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask men for help for something that requires physical strength. You may think you’re strong and tough and can totally do all the things the boys can, but sometimes you’ll just unnecessarily injure yourself if you lift something that’s too heavy for you.
  • A lot more clothes can fit in a box than you expect. Sometimes, you’ll think no, it’s way too much, there’s too big a pile sticking out at the top, it’ll never fit. Just close the box; it’ll fit.
  • Always wash new clothes.
  • The best way to wake up on a work morning is by putting on some cheerful music and singing along loudly. At work, cheerful music is also great to keep motivated.
  • Speaking of music, what the Dutch call fout (‘wrong’, meaning something like guilty pleasure) music is significantly more enjoyable than the modern pop shit on the radio.
  • A positive mindset improves every experience (one of those lessons that you have to learn over and over again).

Picture by Jim Killock

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The best thing about travelling

LucMercelis_rome

There are a lot of nice things about travelling. You get to temporarily escape your daily, hopefully not so dreary, life, explore new, exciting places, meet new, inspiring people; just to name a couple. I enjoy all of these. But what I consider to be the best?

The necessity of living out of a suitcase, or backpack.

It sounds trivial compared to what I mentioned first. It probably sounds like one of the more irksome parts of travelling too. Hell, I used to hate being confined to a suitcase when I went on vacation as a kid. I always thought I needed ALL MY THINGS all the time, so I overpacked my battered suitcase within an inch of its life. I would have to jump on it with my full weight and beat it closed, while desperately battling the THINGS spilling out of all three open sides. Then of course I could barely lift the thing and it would be too heavy for the airplane and I had to take crap out and there would be arguments with my parents. Oh, these vacations never started well.

I’ve learned a lot since then. I’ve become more critical about my values. I’ve gotten less materialistic, I hope. Now, whenever I pack for a trip I don’t start by piling all the convenient things in a suitcase. I start by considering how little I want to carry around. Over the years I’ve come to loathe carrying around too much crap. Have you ever gotten horribly lost on your way to a ho(s)tel with painfully heavy luggage in your hands? Nightmare.

When I pack for a trip, I think more critically about what I truly need. About what I truly value in my life. Do I really need a different outfit every other day? Both my laptop and my tablet? A whole grocery bag full of snacks in case I have trouble finding vegan food?

MantoPrestipino_luggage

My space is limited, my personal carrying capacity is limited. What I take with me has to be worth the space and the hassle. I’ve found that there are rather few things that are worth that.

The suitcase I have now is almost half the size of the suitcases I used to take with me on vacation. I once bought it for a short trip to London of about a week, because my regular suitcase was too big. I was hilarious, really. For a week-long trip I could now live out of my school backpack. The suitcase I once considered small is now my go-to suitcase for all longer airplane trips, and WGT. I usually have room left in it*.

It is unbelievably freeing to travel with as little as possible. When you’re not as weighed down with THINGS, an infinite amount of roads seem to be open to you. Your personal limitations seem to dissolve. You seem to have more space to breathe.

I wouldn’t trade that freedom for anything in the world. Not for my beloved gothic lolita wardrobe, not for dozens of my favourite books, not for any convenient gadgets. When I have to live out of a suitcase, or backpack, I realise again and again how little all those excess material things mean to me.

Sure, it’s nice that those things are waiting for me when I get back home, but it’s nicer to know that I could do without.

* The exception, of course, is for WGT. Goth vanity kills me.

Pictures by Luc Mercelis and Manto Prestipino

My #1 tool to instantly get myself into a good mood

Avril Lavigne - Smile (7)

Lately I’ve been having a lot of bad days. Days when I feel completely unmotivated to do any of the things I have to do. From the moment my alarm goes off at the absurd hour of 4:30, I’ll be cranky. I won’t want to shower, dress in my boring jeans and shirt uniform, cycle the half hour to my shit job with the wind against me, and especially not spend the great majority of the day doing intense physical labour that does nothing to help me achieve my personal work goals.

I’ll get so frustrated before I even get out of bed. I’ll hate having obligations and so little time or energy to spend on the things I actually enjoy. I’ll hate being a slave to money and hate the whole capitalist system and hate my life in general.

When this happens, I know that I have a choice. I can choose to stay miserable and hate everything, or I can actively cheer myself up and transform my day into a nice one.

I tend to choose the latter. How I do this when it seems like there is no good in sight?

Pop punk.

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Yes, pop punk.

Specifically, the good old pop punk spawned in the 90s and early 2000s: Good Charlotte, Blink-182, Green Day, Avril Lavigne and so forth.

It sounds ridiculously easy, but for me it makes a world of difference. It’s impossible to stay in a sour mood when I hear something as fun and familiar like ‘The Anthem’ or ‘All the Small Things’. And I don’t ever wanna, I don’t ever wanna be you…

So in the morning I’ll put on my pop punk playlist at too loud a volume and inevitably sing along louder. (Both at home and while I cycle the long way. Singing while cycling makes the road infinitely more fun) Before long I’ll be happy to be alive again. Able to laugh at my misery. Completely capable of handling whatever the day will throw at me. With pop punk at my side, I’ll show up at my shit job grinning like an idiot.

Of course, I won’t want to listen to such cheerful music at first. When I’m in a sour mood I only want angry music to justify my anger. It’s always an effort to put on something that will make me happy instead. And always worth that effort a thousand times over.

Some of my favourites:

Long live pop punk!