Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Questions That Hold Us Back

You have to go through what you can't get around.
{via JFM at The Minimalists}

 

In my darkest days, before I got the help I needed for my post-natal depression, I was living in complete and utter fear. I knew there was something very wrong. I knew I needed help, but I was terrified of saying it out loud.

There were questions holding me back:

  • What if people judge me?
  • What if I need to go on medication?
  • What if they make me stay in a psychiatric hospital?
  • What if they tell me I’m unfit to care for our kids?
  • What if Sparky doesn’t love me anymore?

It was too much. Living in fear was preferable to facing the unknown.

 

But by the grace of God, somewhere, I found the strength to whisper…

“Help me.”

And that was the first step.

 

Looking back, I can see that all I needed to worry about was that first step. To look at my feet and shuffle one foot forward. Once I had done that, I was on my way.

Then, and only then, could I concern myself with taking the second step.

After that, I could think about the third.

 

The decision to live a simple life started out in a similar way. I was filled with fear, anxiety and doubt.

There were questions holding me back:

  • What if I offend people by giving away what they’ve given us?
  • What if I fail?
  • What if I’m not strong enough to finish what I start?
  • How do I find the time to simplify, when I’m so busy already?
  • What if my friends think I’m weird?
  • What will my family say?
  • What if my husband doesn’t want to do this?
  • What if people think we’re depriving our kids by not giving them every thing they want?

 

Your journey to live a simpler life is the same. Hopefully without the medication and therapy.

I know so many of you are terrified, you don’t know where to begin, you are worried you will offend those you love, or face ridicule or opposition. I know these things because you tell me.

Every day I receive emails from beautiful readers like you, telling me their stories. Sharing their fears. Asking for help.

These people are taking the first step.

Today I’m asking you to do the same. In the comments below, tell me what your fear is. Share your story. Ask for help

Take that first step.

 

Let us know the questions that are holding you back.

 

 

Parents: Are You Gettin’ Any?

Parents - Get Some Alone Time

Alone time, that is.

(Jeez, what else would I have been talking about?)

 

I am an introvert. I restore my energies with time alone. When I don’t get enough (or any) time to myself I become highly stressed. Things that never bother me really get under my skin. I shout at the kids more. I become critical of myself, talk myself down. I become my own worst enemy.

I don’t know a parent alive who doesn’t understand those feelings. Because as hectic as life is before you have kids, as busy as you are, as hard as you are working – before kids you can shut off. You can choose to not go out, you can choose to rest when given the opportunity, you can quite easily make it a priority to look after yourself.

But with your beautiful family comes enormous responsibilities. Unending responsibilities. And at certain seasons in life, those can really weigh you down.

 

Can You Make Time for Alone Time?

Sparky (bless the man) and I decided we would make my alone time a family priority. Because, in the end, I am a better family member when I am restored.

Each-ish weekend, we choose a half day that is my designated alone time. And I get the hell out of the house. Even though I may want to garden, or am overwhelmed by a mountain of laundry that needs doing, I just get. the. hell. out. Otherwise I get sucked back in to all the things I should be doing.

Nine times out of ten, I go to the library. Because I am a dork awesome.

It’s quiet, I can write or read, or people watch. I can rattle around in my own head, and think full, uniterrupted thoughts.

It’s a very simple act, very plain and boring and mundane. But it’s also really wonderful.

How Do You Learn to Put Your Needs First?

Firstly you need to tell that little voice in your head – you know the one, the nagging one with the high-pitched voice telling you that you’re a jerk for wanting this – to shut the hell up, and then get out of the house as quickly as possible. Otherwise, you will think of many reasons to put it off. To stay at home. To undervalue your own mental well being.

Guilt was my constant companion for the first few alone-time excursions.

“I should be home. I’ve got so much to do. This is selfish. I shouldn’t need to be away from the kids and Sparky. I’m a horrible mum.” etc etc.

But then a funny thing happened. I started to see the value in my alone time. I am calmer during the week. More fulfilled. More satisfied. And do you know what? I started dreaming for myself again. I started to feel like a person in my own right again. I started to think I was capable of great things.

And do you know why? Because I was investing in me. It was only a few hours a week, but I was saying to myself, “There are 529 other things I could be doing with this time. And yet here I am, spending it on you. So make the most of it.”

I am a mum and a wife, yes, and it is the most important and exhausting job I will ever have. But I am also me.

And one day, in the not too distant future, our kids won’t need me like they do right now. They won’t rely on me so much for all their earthly requirements. And I will have time. And space. And what good will that time and space be, if I have completely deserted myself? What could I then build, if the very foundations of me have been eroded by neglect?

So, yes, to say that a few hours at the library every week is soul-saving and life-affirming feels as ridiculous as it sounds. But it’s true.

Investing in yourself, just a little, will leave you happier, healthier and better equipped to deal with the chaos life brings.

Do you spend time alone on a regular basis? Have you seen benefits from your time alone? Or do you need to be with people constantly?

* (This post has been edited from an original post first published in early 2012.) *

We know things are out of control – we are living cluttered lives, in cluttered homes, with cluttered minds. But how to change? How to start living a slower, simpler life?
Join the Slow Home BootCamp – a free 20-part email course that will kickstart your Slow Home journey. Learn more and sign up right here.

The Zen of Single Tasking

The Zen of Single-Tasking - Take Time to Focus on Just One Thing
Focus on just one thing. At least once a day.

Do you multi-task? Often find yourself doing five things at the same time?

Of course you do. Everyone does. It’s what we’re supposed to do. Right?

  • You plan dinner while making breakfast.
  • You hang the washing while you talk to your kids.
  • You listen to an audiobook while you exercise.
  • You talk on the phone while watching your kids play.

You multi-task because you’re clever. Because you’re efficient. You’re making the most of your time. You’re getting business sorted.

And don’t get me wrong – multi-tasking is a fact of life. It’s often the only way I get anything done. If I didn’t multi-task, I would spend a solid eight hours a day pushing my kids on the swing set!

When you multi-task and tick items off your to-do list, you feel clever. You feel efficient. You feel like you’re making the most of your time.

 

But What About the Other Side of That Coin?

Do you feel exhausted? Like you’re not doing anything well? Like you’re being torn in too many directions?

Despite what your overwhelmed, over-worked, over-committed brain may be telling you – you don’t need to do more.

You need to do less.

You need to focus on just one thing at a time.

You need to single-task.

 

Won’t Doing Less Make Me Feel More Stressed?

We are told constantly that high-quality humans are efficient. They’re on top of things. He lives on 4 hours sleep a night. She manages a home, family and business. We’re told that if we want to emulate them, we need to do the same. In other words: We need to multi-task.

And we do. But not all the time.

 

It’s Not About Doing Less

It’s about choosing one task during the day.

It’s about being focused on that task and that task alone.

It’s about immersing yourself wholly and completely in experiencing it. Finding the Zen, the beauty, the JOY of mindfully finishing that task.

 

How to Find the Zen in Single-Tasking

10 minutes is all you need. One minute even.

One minute of beautiful, meditative quiet in a day otherwise filled with the urgent need to be productive, to get things done, to prove our value.

 

Choose a task:

Pick one task you need to complete today. Then, when the time comes to do it, simply devote yourself to it. Soak up every detail of it. Immerse yourself in your senses.

Are you hanging out the laundry?

Instead of planning dinner or thinking about what chore needs doing next or what you will do when the kids wake from their nap, try this:

  • Focus on the fresh scent of the wet, clean clothes.
  • The coolness of the damp fabric in your hands
  • The snap of the pegs on the line
  • The way the sunlight hits the linen
  • Appreciate that you make time to do this simple task so your family will have clean clothes

Make time for that to be the one thing you are thinking about. The one thing you are experiencing. The sole purpose of that moment.

And when you’re done, take a deep breath.

Then it’s back to the day. Back to keeping balls in the air, kids on swings, food in bellies.

 

Make it a Ritual

If you can make this small ritual of single-tasking a part of your everyday, you are putting your well-being ahead of the busyness of our world.

You are acknowledging that there is more to life than churning through a to-do list, more than just getting things done.

After all, this is why we’re on the path to a simpler life, isn’t it? So we can experience more of these moments every day. More simple pleasures. More little joys. More mindful intention.

 

When was the last time you found the Zen, the beauty, the joy in an everyday moment? Was it raking the leaves? Cleaning the windows? Drinking a cup of tea?

 

We know things are out of control – we are living cluttered lives, in cluttered homes, with cluttered minds. But how to change? How to start living a slower, simpler life?
Join the Slow Home BootCamp – a free 20-part email course that will kickstart your Slow Home journey. Learn more and sign up right here.

Keeping Sane While Your Kids Trash Their Wardrobe – Again.

How to Stay Sane When Your Kids Trash Their Wardrobe - Again
Do you face similar wardrobe messes? Read on…

Last week, I received an email from a lovely reader, Tara, begging for help with her daughter’s wardrobe:

“I was hoping you could help me with a task that just won’t stay fixed…my daughters wardrobe.  We regularly sort and toss out clothes but…the wardrobe looks like the clothes have been thrown in and then stirred with a spoon.  Everytime the clothes get put away I have to refold…tooooo big a job and as a full-time working mother…I don’t HAVE TIME!!!! Help!!!!!!!”

Wardrobes can be hard to keep organised – even for adults – because we’re in there every day, multiple times. Throw kids in the mix, and “stirred with a spoon” is a very apt description!

 

Tara’s daughter is nearly 8, meaning she’s able to help with putting her things away. This should (with time) make Tara’s job a little easier and it’s something I’ve kept in mind with the tips below.

Regardless of the ages of your kids, these tips should help get the wardrobe in order, and keep in that way(ish).

 

1. Keep Clothes to a Minimum

Tara’s got this one on lockdown, but if you find the sheer volume of kids clothes distressing, you need to declutter – stat.

Tips on Tackling the Wardrobes:

  • start with three empty boxes and at least an hour – more if you’re kids are “helping”
  • clear the bed completely
  • empty the contents of the wardrobe – yep, all of it – on the bed
  • go through everything, piece by piece, and do not move on to the next piece until you decide if you are keeping it, storing it, donating it or throwing it away:
    • keep items that fit and are in good condition
    • store items that no longer fit, but are in very, very good condition (keep these for younger siblings, or friends/family with a younger child)
    • donate items that will not be passed down to younger kids – as long as they are in good order
    • throw away items that are badly stained, torn or out of shape
  • place everything you are keeping in a pile on the bed
  • sort everything else into the three boxes – one for storage, one for donation, one for garbage

Once the wardrobe is decluttered, you are in a better position to sort out the storage…

 

2. Keep Like With Like

This is my favourite tip for dealing with clothes.

By keeping similar items together, you and your kids know where things are kept, making packing away much easier.

Try storing the following items together:

  • dresses and skirts
  • school uniforms, sports uniforms, etc
  • jackets, hoodies, jumpers, coats
  • shorts, pants, leggings, jeans
  • underwear, singlets, socks
  • pyjamas, craft/painting clothes

 

3. Divide and Conquer

Keep seasonal clothes separate.

Heavy winter jackets, snow gear, winter boots – keep these in a box during the warmer months. Swimmers, sandals, summer dresses and shorts – these can be stored away in the cooler weather.

By dividing the seasonal clothes and storing them out of sight, you are left with just what you and your kids need access to right now. And that means less to clean up if/when they rip through their wardrobes like the mini-hurricanes they are!

 

4. Identify a Place for Everything

By showing kids where items belong, you are increasing the chances of them actually putting things back in the right place.

Use images for younger kids or written signs for older kids, and label each of the drawers/baskets with the type of clothing that goes there. Then, if you’re feeling ambitious, make it their responsibility to put the clothes away in the right place.

 

5. Ensure You Have Enough Storage

You may not have enough storage space for the clothes your kids own.

So declutter first, then look at whether you need another row of hanging space, or a set of drawers or wire baskets in the wardrobe, to accommodate folded items.

If each “type” of clothes have a designated drawer, it will be much simpler to pack away.

 

6. Reward a Tidy Wardrobe

If your kids can keep their wardrobe tidy for a week, then reward them with pocket money or a treat. If you use star charts or chore charts in your home, then they are already familiar with the idea. If not, you could consider introducing them.

Not only will it help them learn a life skill, but it will make your life easier over time, as your kids get used to doing this chore themselves.

 

7. Readjust Your Expectations

Kids are messy. If you don’t want to spend hours each week keeping their wardrobes pristinely organised, then learn to relax your standards a little.

No, I don’t mean live in constant grubbiness and mess, but if things get a little out of order, learn to let it go. Providing their clothes aren’t getting dirty or too crumpled, then learn to be OK with it.

You could try tidying the space once a week instead of daily.

 

Keeping Your Kids Wardrobes Organised
{images via I Heart Organising}

 

Over To You

Considering my kids are only young, I have limited experience with the particular brand of mess that older kids create.

So do you have any tips for Tara? Tell us below – how do you help keep your kids’ wardrobes in order?

 

We know things are out of control – we are living cluttered lives, in cluttered homes, with cluttered minds. But how to change? How to start living a slower, simpler life?
Join the Slow Home BootCamp – a free 20-part email course that will kickstart your Slow Home journey. Learn more and sign up right here.

How is Your Other Half?

Pay attention to your other half

In our backyard stands a beautiful tree. A liquid ambar that is at least 15 metres tall.

It makes a shitload of mess for three months of the year, but bathes the back deck in gorgeous, dappled shade for 8 more. So we forgive it.

Not long before we moved here, the previous owner, for some unknown reason, cut half the tree off. Top to bottom, straight through the middle. Like splitting a piece of firewood.

Gone.

Like it was never there.

It always made me sad – this beautiful, damaged tree.

Last week I was sitting in the early Spring sun writing procrastinating, when my eyes fell on the missing half.

And I was filled with a ridiculous delight to see…

the missing half is growing back.

Little by little, tiny branch by tiny branch, the balance is returning.

Gradually, and with the right amount of care – light, water and time – it is regrowing, rebuilding, reconstructing the part of itself that was ripped away.

 

Today – I want to ask you: how is your other half?

We all have a heavy half. The half that needs to get things done, that’s responsible, accountable. It’s the half that makes sure the kids get to school on time, that you don’t forget to pack snacks for the doctors appointment, that pays the bills, that turns up to work every day, sweeps the floor and mows the lawn and cooks dinner.

But what about your other half?

The half that is passionate, creative, spontaneous? The half that jumps your husband unexpectedly, or wears red lipstick, writes poetry and reads for fun?

The half that fills you out and makes you balanced, well-rounded, whole. How’s that half going? Is it looking healthy and well-tended?

Mine? Notsomuch.

Let me preface this by saying:

I truly love my life. I love my husband and I love my kids – wholly, completely, unconditionally. I choose the welfare of them over everything and keeping our family unit strong is my biggest job. I take it incredibly seriously.

But since Isla was born, I have been that tree. Half of me was unceremoniously cut off. Top to bottom, chopped down, thrown away. As though she never was.

My kids didn’t do this to me. I did this to me. Because I forgot about my other half. As though she never was.

I threw myself wholly into parenting. And I didn’t accept help. I didn’t take time. I didn’t give myself the care I needed to be a strong, protective, well-rounded, balanced tree.

And the years that followed saw me lean dangerously. Had the wind picked up anymore, I would have fallen down – for good.

That scares me.

But thankfully, in a large part because of you – yes, you, reading this – I started to take notice of what I’d lost. What I needed on the other side. What I needed to become balanced and whole again.

Spending time on myself, spending time by myself, getting strong, exploring my passion. These things were missing. I’d cut them off, pretending they weren’t important.

But is is important. So, so, so important.

So here I am, working on my other half. And, lo and behold, I’ve started to grow back. Different, but better.

And I just wanted to say thank you.

Tell me, how is your other half?

 

We know things are out of control – we are living cluttered lives, in cluttered homes, with cluttered minds. But how to change? How to start living a slower, simpler life?
Join the Slow Home BootCamp – a free 20-part email course that will kickstart your Slow Home journey. Learn more and sign up right here.