Monthly Archives: November 2012

Rhythm Over Routine

Rhythm Over Routine
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After the arrival of our first baby, we were determined to establish a routine, get her sleeping pattern regulated and create comfort and predictability for everyone involved.

As it turns out, newborn babies don’t really work like that.

In fact, life doesn’t really work like that.

“Aim For Rhythm, Not Routine.”

One of my sisters shared this with me when I was lamenting the fact that – despite my best efforts – there was no routine to my days. It was proving too difficult to juggle the needs of everyone while still sticking to a prescribed sequence.

It’s an idea that has stuck with me and undoubtedly made my life a better one.

Rhythm Over Routine

It took us well over 12 months to learn that routine – a strict, sequential approach to our days – was less than helpful. It made us feel we were failing if we missed a step or fell behind.

Rhythm, however, was a much friendlier notion. It spoke of order, but also flexibility and movement and fluidity. It even sounded friendlier.

Rhythm.

Rhythm moves you. You dance to it, find your groove, let go a little, enjoy the moment and see where it takes you.

Routine? Not so much.

You march to routine. It’s a steady metronome keeping time. And if you sway, if you linger, if you move out of order or fail to complete a step, then you fail. You’re out of time. You’re lagging behind.

Rhythm allows change and flexibility for different seasons in life. Which is why I love the approach of rhythm so much more than routine.

Tell me, which of these sounds like a friendlier approach to life?

 

Your Morning Rhythm

Of course there are deadlines, alarm clocks, buses to catch and train timetables. School bells, appointments and meetings.

These things will not change and I don’t suggest you stop paying attention to them. Your boss might have an issue with it.

But I do suggest that you take time to work out the ideal rhythm of your morning – literally sit down, grab a piece of paper and establish your priorities. Write down a list of everything you currently do in the morning, as well as anything you’d like to do.

Include the essentials, the important to haves and the nice to haves:

  • prayer/meditation
  • exercise
  • showering
  • dressing
  • eating breakfast
  • packing lunches
  • leaving on time
  • laundry
  • cleaning up kitchen
  • making beds
  • reading
  • cup of coffee
  • housework

Take some time to work out your best rhythm, establish a sequence and then bring it in to your day.

Once it’s there, you simply let your day unfold around it. Let the rhythm undulate with the motion of the day, speed up the tempo when needed, slow it down when you can. And be sure to show yourself kindness and accept that every day brings different challenges.

 

Destination: Simple – Rhythms and Rituals for a Simpler Life

Another reason rhythm has become so central to my life is what it allows me to do.

I’m close to finishing my first ebook, “Destination: Simple” and will be releasing it mid-December.

I am so excited to share it with you and would love to ask a favour. I need 10-20 beta readers. That is 10-20 people who would be willing to read a first-draft copy of my book and provide me with some feedback. Your opinion means so much to me – after all, it’s you I want to write this book for – and I would love to have your help in finishing it.

You guys are the best readers I could ask for! I go out for a few hours and return to well over 50 beta volunteers! Thank you all so much. I don’t think I’ll be able to take you all up on your offers of assistance, but I’ll certainly be in touch soon. Rest assured, you are fabulous. x

If you’re interested, simply click here to send me an email.

If you’re among the first 10-20 volunteers, you will receive a first-draft copy of the book over the weekend, as well as a free copy of the book once it’s completed and for sale.

All I ask in return is that you read the book and have any feedback back to me by Wednesday 5th December. It’s not a long book – it should take less than an hour to read – but it is packed full of information, ideas and exercises on how to use ritual and rhythm to simplify your daily life.

It would be all kinds of awesome to have your input before the release.

And for those who (understandably) don’t have time to commit to being a beta reader, make sure you’ve signed up to the Slow Home Tribe to receive first-offer and exclusive discounts when the book does go on sale. Sign up by clicking right here.

 

 

Bird by Bird

Bird by Bird

Life has seasons, don’t you think?

Seasons of calm rhythm, seasons of insane activity, seasons of sleeplessness and urgency, seasons of comfort. Seasons of productivity and seasons of rest and relaxation.

Right now, for me, is the season of the ebook. (That’s a legit season, right there.)

It means I’m up early most days (cough, ahem… 4am, cough) and working furiously to pull together my first book. It means hours at the library and asking family to help look after the kids while I work.

As far as seasons go, I’m really digging it and can’t wait for the book to be finished so I can share it with you.

But it’s also a lesson in patience and an exercise in acceptance – acceptance that I can’t possibly do everything.

Working on my ebook this intensely means I can’t focus on my novel, I’m writing fewer posts here, I’m not getting seven hours sleep.

But rather than feel overwhelmed, I’m OK with that.

 

“Bird by bird, buddy.”

Recently, I wrote a post over at Becoming Minimalist that happily taught me a lesson about this very idea.

That the best way to avoid becoming overwhelmed by anything – writing a book, decluttering your wardrobe, learning a new skill – is to take it one step at a time. Take it bird by bird.

An excerpt from the post…

 

“I came to both minimalism and writing in my darkest times, and I don’t think that is a coincidence. I was lost and despairing. Taking control of my life and rediscovering my creative passions have helped me carve out a life of intention, happiness and purpose. And it’s freaking awesome.

There is a book on writing I love. It’s called ‘Bird by Bird’ by Anne Lamott. It’s filled with writing advice, huge belly laughs and incredible insights into the particular breed of weird that is a creative author.

My copy is well-thumbed and lives on my desk, next to where I currently sit.

The title comes from a story Anne Lamott tells of her older brother. He is ten years old and struggling to start, let alone finish, a paper on birds. He has had three months to complete it, and the paper is due the next day.

“He was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilised by the hugeness of the task ahead.”

Despairing, he pleads with his father for advice on how to start – and finish.

“Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

In other words: Don’t think about the whole paper. Start with one bird. Finish that bird. Then move on.

And son? Do it now.

You can click here to read the remainder of the post, which has been shared over 300 times to date.

This idea of taking things bird by bird really resonated. Because we all feel overwhelmed, we all feel incapable, we all feel paralysed by what lay ahead of us at times. Learning to look at the birds, not the flock, means we don’t have to feel that way.

Just take things bird by bird.

 

And, with that my friends, I hope you have a fabulous week.

x

The Amazingly Awesome Pre-Holidays Declutter Guide

The Amazingly Awesome Pre-Holidays Declutter Guide

We’re less than 5 weeks out from Christmas and now – before the fun/insanity of the silly season hits – is the perfect time to do your Annual Pre-Holiday Declutter.

Never done a Pre-Holiday Declutter before?

Great – me either!

The idea is to do a light declutter of some key areas of your home now, in preparation for the influx of the Holiday G’s. That is, Gifts and Guests. (One being more important than the other.)

When you’ve finished your Amazingly Awesome Pre-Holiday Declutter:

  • you will be free to enjoy the festive season
  • there will be less stress and scrambling to prepare for guests
  • you avoid the sinking realisation on January 1 that you’re now wading through not only last year’s clutter, but the newly acquired stuff too
  • you know what, if anything, you or your family needs – so when shopping or when asked, you can suggest suitable and useful gifts
  • you can declutter all the crappy/old/no longer used toys, ripped books and games/puzzles that are missing pieces, making space for new ones or simply making space
  • you can decorate your home for the holidays in a much simpler, more mindful way*
  • you can begin next year feeling in control of your home and use it as motivation to make 2013 the year of creating your simpler life

All it takes is a little time, some energy and some Clark W. Griswold-style enthusiasm.

(*Unless you have young kids – then you can kiss your simplified good taste goodbye. At least until they’re teenagers. Tinsel and glitter may abound – learn to be OK with that.)

Ready? Let’s get to it.

How the Guide Works

I’ve split the home into areas, and given you a handful of different decluttering projects for each part of the home. Which of these areas you focus on depends on your Christmas plans, whether you’re hosting guests, what part of the world you live in and what you want your home to feel like this holiday season. Some of the tasks will only take you 5-10 minutes while others are a little more involved.

Rather than try to do all of them before the holiday season descends – which would leave you a quivering mess – you should pick 5-7 projects to focus on, and work through one a day between now and the beginning of December. Or, if you’re able, spend a few hours over the weekend getting them all done.

(I realise today is Thanksgiving for my US-based friends, which is probably not the best day to begin a decluttering project. But if you have time over the long weekend, perhaps you could get one or two of these done and work through the rest next week).

 

Target Area #1: Kids Spaces

Much of the gift-giving at this time of year revolves around children. Which I think is wonderful – to a point.

Kids receive so much – be it toys, games, gadgets or clothes – that the pleasure of receiving and then using their gifts is sometimes lost amidst the chaos of wrapping paper and mountains of parcels.

Even if you are pleading for restraint from family and friends, chances are your kids will receive more than they need.

It’s best to clear out the clutter, the unused or old toys and the clothes that don’t fit anymore before you are inundated with even more.

Task: Declutter the Toys

Approximate Time: 1-2 hours

If you have kids or grandkids, you will likely have amassed a good number of toys over the past year. Gifts, party favours, and hand-me-downs are the likeliest clutter culprits. Of these toys, some will be keepers, others will be junk and more still will be toys your little ones have outgrown.

Before the inundation of toys that comes every Christmas, you should sort and purge what you already own.

This post on tackling the toyboxes tells you everything you need to know, and provides a step-by-step guide on decluttering your kids’ toys.

Unfortunately, following these suggestions won’t stop the toys from being spread across all rooms of the home. The only way to ensure that is to get rid of all the toys. Or all the kids.

Task: Declutter the Kids’ Wardrobes

Approximate time: 15-30min per wardrobe

If your family is listening to your pleas of “No more toys, please,” chances are your kids will receive clothes. Quite possibly a lot of them.

Now is the perfect time to clear their wardrobes of anything they have outgrown, anything soiled or stretched or beyond repair and anything they simply don’t wear. And this post on how to wrangle control of your kids’ wardrobes has tips on getting through the clutter quickly and keeping it (relatively) organised.

 

Target Area #2: Adult Spaces

It’s a hectic time of year, undoubtedly. So many of us approach the holidays feeling tired and strung out already, only to be hit full-force with a busy calendar, a long to-do list and a LOT of shopping to do.

That’s why it’s really important to gain control of your spaces at home – the adult spaces – and create as much peace and tranquility as possible.

Task: Declutter and Simplify Your Bedroom

Approximate time: 1-2 hours

You really do need a space to escape, particularly this time of year. This post provides you with five ways to create a simple, slow bedroom. You’ll thank me later!

Task: Declutter and Simplify Guest Bedrooms

Approximate time: 30 minutes

Even if you don’t technically have a guest bedroom, you still need to make some plans for the house guests over the holiday season.

  • Where will they sleep?
  • What will they sleep on?
  • How many nights are you having guests?

If you do have a specific guest bedroom, now is the time to give it a light declutter. Clear out any storage boxes or clutter that has found its way there over the year. Take a minute to clean out underneath the bed and make sure there is space for luggage.

You may want to look at this post on creating a slow bedroom, to make your guests’ stay a good one. (Or, depending on the guests, maybe you don’t!) This way the space will be ready for your guests, and all you will need to do is make up the bed when they arrive.

 

Target Area #3: Kitchen

The kitchen is the beating heart of the home, and the festive season will see you spend a good chunk of time in there – particularly if you’re entertaining guests. Spending some time to declutter it now will mean it’s easier to keep tidy and you are far more likely to enjoy preparing food for your friends and family. With the added bonus of a calm, clear space in the heart of your home.

Task: Declutter Kitchenware

Approximate time: 30 minutes

For adults, it seems kitchenware is the go-to gift option when you have no other ideas. While technically a “useful” gift – everyone needs to eat off something, serve food off something, drink from something – often these items sit at the back of the kitchen cupboards, rarely used.

To declutter your kitchenware you have to understand your needs. These are different for everyone, dependent on who lives in your house, how often you entertain, if you have kids, the ages of the kids and your storage space.

Some guidelines to keep in mind as you declutter your kitchenware:

  • You don’t need an everyday crockery set as well as good china. Opt to keep the most practical/beautiful/useful and donate the remainder.
  • You need one style of cutlery, not two or three different sets.
  • A few salad bowls, serving platters and dishes is enough – if you are entertaining a large crowd, borrow serving platters from friends or family.
  • Wine glasses and champagne flutes are lovely to have and necessary if you entertain – but ensure you keep enough, not too many. 6-8 of each should be ample for most homes. Again, you can borrow additional glasses if needed.
  • Shot glasses? If you’re an adult, get rid of ’em. Really.
  • Keeping a neutral palette for all the major kitchenware (crockery, serving platters, etc) means you will never have the worry of items that don’t match. White is best… If you care about such things.

Task: Declutter Kitchen Drawers

Approximate time: 10 minutes

There are few places in the home that attract random clutter like the kitchen drawers. If you have a young family, this is partly unavoidable, given toddlers penchant for playing with kitchen utensils and tupperware. But decluttering the drawers will certainly help make it easier to find what you need and much easier to look at.

This post takes you through a 10-minute kitchen declutter and should definitely help get you sorted.

Plus, you won’t cringe with shame any time a guest opens a drawer in the kitchen, only to be greeted with a jumbled mess of utensils and a fine layer of sugar, rice and flour. (How does it get in there anyway?)

Task: Clear the Kitchen Benchtop

Approximate time: 10 minutes

Isn’t it lovely to walk into a clutter-free kitchen? Where everything has a place, it feels orderly and open, and it’s easy to find what you need.

In the lead-up to the silly season, keep your kitchen as open and clutter-free as possible by clearing the benchtops of any unnecessary appliances.

Find a place in your cupboards for the kettle, toaster, blender and any other appliances that currently reside on the benchtop. It takes approximately 6 seconds to put these back after use and your kitchen will be so much easier on the eye and far less likely to become cluttered.

Target Area #4: Living Spaces

What we really want to do in the holidays is relax. To spend time with our loved ones, to recuperate after a busy year, to focus on all the good things in our lives. While other parts of the home are important for this, none more so than the living spaces. On account of all the… you know, living.

If you can do no more than one or two of the Amazing Awesome tasks before the holiday season, I recommend you do the following. They will only take an hour or two and you will be so glad you did once December arrives.

Task: Create a Clutter-Free Dining Room

Approximate time: 15-30 minutes

When guests arrive at your place you want to be able to sit down, grab a drink, maybe some nibblies, and just enjoy their company, right? You probably don’t want to be shuffling stacks of paperwork, craft supplies and toys around, simply to make room at the dining table.

This post on creating a clutter-free dining room will help, and this post shares a heap of visual inspiration for those of you wondering how best to decorate your newly decluttered dining table.

 

Task: Rearrange Your Living Room

Approximate time: 1 hour

I’m not entirely sure when “living room” came to mean “room where we watch television”, but that seems to be the sole purpose of most living rooms.

But really, you want the living room to function in a number of ways, not only as a space to watch television.

In fact, you really should take the emphasis of the room away from mindless television viewing and instead encourage lingering conversations, nights spent reading books and listening to music.

How to Reclaim Your Living Room for Living:

  1. Look at the furniture you own and decide if it all needs to stay. Are you able to wall mount your TV? Get rid of the entertainment unit?
  2. Try moving the television to a side wall, rather than the main, focal wall.
  3. Arrange your lounges or armchairs to face each other, rather than the television. This helps to encourage conversation.
  4. Bring a selection of your book and music collections out to encourage you to read or listen rather than automatically reaching for the remote at the end of the day.

Task: Declutter Bookshelves

Approximate time: 15-45 minutes

The benefits of decluttering your bookshelves now are two-fold. Firstly there’s the benefit of a clutter-free space in your living room, which is a beautiful things. Secondly, given how popular books are as Christmas gifts, you can make room for any that make their way into your home come December.

Get to it:

1. Grab 2 boxes – one for books to donate/sell and one for books to recycle (please keep this to a minimum)

2. Clear a workspace near your shelves and, working from the top shelf down, pick up each book and decide what will be done with it, based on these questions:

  • Have I ever read this?
  • Is it a favourite?
  • Will I really read it again?
  • Is it a literary classic?
  • Am I still passionate about the subject?
  • Will anyone else in the home want to read it?

3. Place the books you are keeping in a pile and sort the others into groups that will be sold, donated and recycled.

4. Once each shelf is completely cleared, wipe it down.

5. When you’ve cleared the entire bookcase, it’s time to put back those books you are keeping. Organise them by colour, size, topic, adult/children’s – whatever it is that works in your home and is going to remain (relatively) organised.

6. As you put each book back on the shelf, double-check your decision to keep it. Ask yourself, “Do I really want to keep it?”

7. Pack the books you are donating/selling into a box and put them in the car. Recycle the (hopefully) small amount that you need to.

8. Make yourself a cup of tea, or pour a glass of wine. Grab a book off that gorgeous bookcase and just lose yourself. Even for five minutes.

The Beauty of this Amazingly Awesome Guide?

The beauty of taking the time to do these tasks now, is that once December arrives – in all her busy, wonderful glory – you will be organised and prepared. You will enjoy the holidays and your family will enjoy you.
So take a moment to read through the list above again and put together your action plan for the rest of November. You’ll be glad you did!
Which of the tasks above are on your to-do list before the holiday season? For me, it’s most definitely the kitchen. Always the kitchen…

 

 

The Best Of Slow Your Home

Best of Slow Your Home: And there are far, far better things ahead.
{via Observando}

 

Sit back, grab a coffee, Tweet it out and bookmark this page if need be. This post is going to give you a lot to think about.

I’ve been writing about creating a simpler life for just on two years. Over those two years, my writing has improved dramatically, my worldview has shifted and my life and the life of my family is infinitely better. Simpler, freer, happier.

Those two years have produced over 280 articles – that’s more than 160,000 words – on creating your simpler life.

I write them to share what I have learned, what I struggle with, what I want you to know. I write them to myself, I write them to people I love, I write them to strangers.

It’s a great deal of time that I spend on this site, and I do it because I believe 200% in the positive power of living a simpler life. I know it helps people, it improves lives, it brings about happiness and passion and purpose and joy.

That being said, I don’t expect you to wade through 160,000 words to find the nuggets of gold.

So I’ve put together a definitive list:

The Best Of Slow Your Home (so far)

Grab a cup and dive in, my friends!

21 Quick Actions You Can Do Today to Simplify Your Life

You can start today, and this list gives you 21 actions to get you on your way to a simpler, happier life. Read More…

The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Beautiful, Clutter-Free Home

Now, if shiny, white boxes float your boat, then that’s fabulous. But me? I love a home that has warmth, personality and history. I simply don’t like clutter. This post shows you that creating a beautiful, simple, clutter-free home does not mean creating a boring, sterile, style-less home. Read more…

Simple Living, It’s Ridiculously Complex

What is Simple Living? The same as success or happiness, it’s vastly different things to different people. But to me, and on this blog, simple living is… Read more.

Get Rid of Your Paper Clutter Once and For All

Get rid of your paper clutter and the stress that comes with it. This is Part One of a 3-part series taking you through the entire process of getting organised and getting rid of the paper clutter – once and for all. Read more…

Comparison is a Losing Game

It’s a merry-go-round of negativity and in the game of comparison, no-one wins. Read more…

9 Kick-Arse Reasons to Slow Your Home

If you’re needing some motivation, just look at what you have to gain by creating your own Slow Home. Read more…

‘D’ is for Decluttering

An inescapable part of creating a simpler, slower home is decluttering. This post takes you through the Never-Fail decluttering technique – it’s the only thing you need to know before you dive in. Read more…

The Ultimate Clutter-Free Gift Guide

Be it Christmas, birthday or anniversary, there are dozens of gift-giving times throughout the year. This post gives you 28 clutter-free gift options for your loved ones. Give a gift of love and enjoyment, not clutter and guilt. Read more…

“But… It’s Free!”

Next time, think very carefully before accepting a gift with purchase. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean you need it. In fact, the opposite is likely true. Read more…

12 Things Happy People Do Differently

Try and adopt some of these 12 into your daily life – I guarantee you will benefit. Read more…

Use It? Need It? Love It?

Asking yourself those three questions when decluttering will make your decisions so much easier. “Do I use it? Do I need it? Do I love it?” Read more…

How to Start

You don’t need to start big. In fact, you probably shouldn’t try. But to create the simpler life you want, you do need to start. This post shows you how. Read more…

3 Questions for Decluttering Sentimental Items

Sentimental items feel like more than stuff. There is emotion tied up in them and they are often the hardest things to let go of. These three questions will help dramatically with your sentimental stuff. Read more…

How to be an Introvert and Still Succeed at Conferences

Written from awkward personal experience… Read more.

What is a Slow Home? 

The ultimate starting point, this post describes what a slow home is all about and why you will benefit from living in one. Read more…

Parents – Are You Getting Any?

We need it. We love it. We desire it. What is it? Read more…

How to Simplify Your Online Life

It is such a huge part of our daily life, but how do you stop your online life taking over your entire life? Read more…

How is Your Other Half?

Are you working on creating a balanced person? Or are you neglecting your other half? Read more…

The Antidote to Perfection

Can I tell you what’s better than perfect? Living. Living is better than perfect. Read more…

The Myth of Work/Life Balance

I don’t think it is actually possible to create a life that balances work and life perfectly. In fact, it’s all about the tilt. Read more…

The New York Times Best-Selling Author…And Me

The opportunities that await us – if only we learn to be open to them – are amazing.  Read more…

Lessons on Happiness – From a Pain in the Arse Teenager

I was a HUGE pain in the arse teenager. Huge. But I did learn one long-lasting lesson on happiness, and I’m here to tell you about it. 15-year-old attitude and all. Read more…

The Days Are Long…

The days are long, but the years are short. Some thoughts on learning to live in the moment. Read more…

 

That’s it. The best. For now.

Let me assure you, though, there are far, far greater things ahead. And I am so excited to share them with you.

Brooke xx

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Uh… As you may have guessed, the post below was not meant to go out. In fact, the post below was written by my 3-year old. Sorry for barging in to your day with a page full of gibberish!

But, you know what, while we’re here, can I ask a question (and regain some of my dignity)?

Those of you who are part of my Facebook Community may have already seen this, but I would love to get the opinion of those who aren’t over there regularly too.

Read on if you have 1 minute and a slice of your brain* to spare…

Which, if any, of the following short books sounds most interesting/helpful to you?

And which, if any, would you be most likely to pay for?

  • Everyday: 7 Daily Rituals to Create the Simpler Life You Want
  • Simplicity via Technology: Using Your Everyday Tech Gadgets to Simplify Life
  • Presence: 7 Daily Actions to Create a Slow Home
  • Slow Home Kickstart: A 12-Week Program to Completely Overhaul Your Home and Start Living the Simpler Life You Want

If you have an extra minute to spare feel free to add some ideas of your own in the comments below.

Thank you in advance!! xx

(*Brain slice on temporary loan only)

Thanks guys. And now, it’s over to my 3-year old, Isla.

 

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