Monthly Archives: March 2013

Comparison – It’s a Losing Game

Comparison is the thief of joy - T. Rooseveldt

We all compare lives, whether we admit it or not.

We read blogs, share a coffee, see each other at parties, school or work – and we compare.

“She has it all together and she works/has 4 kids/runs her own business/exercises every day/always looks immaculate/has well-behaved kids/is happy.”

Choose your own ending.

But Comparison is a Losing Game

I’m here to tell you that comparison is a losing game, regardless of which side you’re on.

As Joshua Becker puts it:

“We always compare the worst of what we know about ourselves to the best assumptions we make about others.”

 

Comparison is an Easy Way Out

It’s easy to compare. It gives you permission to say:

“Well, I would be able to exercise every day like her, if my husband didn’t work such long hours/if my kids slept-in/if I didn’t have to clean the house/if I could give up my job.”

“Of course I could apply for the promotion like him, if my commute wasn’t so long/if I’d been to a good school/if my parents were wealthy/if I knew the right people.”

I’m not saying these aren’t reasons. But I am saying that comparisons are a dangerous way to view yourself in the world, because inevitably, you will lose. You are giving control of your decisions over to assumptions and speculation. You have no idea what this other person’s life is really like – and it doesn’t matter.

The only good reasons for doing or not doing something come from you. Anything else is a cop-out.

Comparisons Are Irrelevant

We can’t compare our lives to the lives of others simply because:

  • we are not them
  • they are not us
  • our kids aren’t their kids
  • our partners aren’t their partners
  • our upbringing wasn’t their upbringing (even if you’re siblings – we each tread a different path)
  • our current circumstances aren’t their current circumstances
  • our strengths are not their strengths
  • our weaknesses are not their weaknesses

If you do compare lives, you’re comparing apples to underpants; oranges to hand saws; bananas to hammocks. And you’re never going to win.

Comparison Has Only Two Outcomes

By actively and repeatedly comparing yourself to others, you will always do one of two things. You will:

  1. feel less-than because you compare your worst to their best
  2. feel self-righteous because you’ve compared your best with someone else’s worst – feeding further into this negative cycle, eventually bringing you back to #1.

 

So, by all means, learn from other people, be inspired by other people, be instructed by them, ask them questions, seek their advice – but please, please, please, let’s stop the comparison game. You will feel more at peace, more focused on what matters in your life and a better friend, parent and partner.

Do you play the comparison game? I do. But I’m finding the more aware of it I am, and of how it makes me feel, the less I indulge my inner-torturer. 

 

 

Room Service: Creating a Simple Bedroom

Create a Slow, Simple Bedroom #simpleliving

I’ve stayed in some pretty terrible accommodation over the years.

There was the blood-spotted linen of a bedbug-infested hostel in Rome. The Thai bungalow where our toilet emptied directly onto the ground below the bed. Not to mention the leaky Dodge van named Esme that we slept in for a month in the Floridian summer. Rancid pillows. Mouldy floors. Amorous hostel room-mates. You name it, we’ve seen it. And I haven’t regretted a moment.

Despite the potential pitfalls, people (myself definitely included) still love a getaway. So what makes a night or two in a hotel – a decent, non-bedbug-infested one – such an appealing prospect?

Is it the fact that it’s a break? A little luxury? An escape?

Or is it the fact that a hotel room has:

  • clutter-free surfaces – an alarm clock, a phone, a magazine or two
  • minimal decor – a print or two on the wall and some cushions on the bed
  • everything in its place – even the dinky little mini-kettle
  • storage space – luggage, clothes, toiletries, they all have a spot
  • somewhere to sit and read – other than the bed

The drawcard is probably a combination of the two factors. Yes, it’s a getaway, but it also means we’re entering a space of relative calm, order and peace.

It’s this feeling of calm, order and peace that we need to create in our own homes. Particularly our bedrooms – the supposed haven of the home.

Because, let’s face it, a hotel room is an escape, but it’s also likely to be undistinguishable from hundreds of others, uniformly dull and devoid of life. You wouldn’t want to sleep in one for ever.

 

Your Home is Better Than a Hotel

Your home is better than a hotel, because you can have all these things – the clear surfaces, minimal decor, a place for everything, adequate storage – with added benefits.

In your bedroom in your home, you can:

How to Create a Simple, Slow Bedroom

1. Declutter.

Again with the decluttering? Yes! It’s the single best way to promote calm, clear out dust and give a breath of fresh air.

2. Go Small

The smaller the space, the better your chances of really simplifying. If you have a large bedroom with tonnes of furniture, shelving and wardrobe space, you’re simply likely to fill it with stuff.

If your bedroom is large, consider moving to a smaller room or designating half the space for chilling out. No furniture aside from a couch or chair to encourage reading, quiet time or early-morning meditation.

3. Get Rid of the Gadgets

No TV, no phones, no laptops and no smartphones. No kidding. (I am guilty of the phone-next-to-the-bed sin. But I certainly sleep better and drift off faster with some tech-free time before bed.)

4. Light and Airy

You want good natural light, fresh air, effective window coverings that keep the room private but allow the daylight in, as well a lamp next to the bed. Reading, dressing, loving – you want the room to be comfortable for all its intended purposes.

5. Somewhere to Sit (Other than the bed.)

Aside from the bed, nightstand and wardrobe, the only other furniture to consider is a small bench or chair.

A bench at the end of the bed is a great option as it gives you somewhere to sit while putting on your shoes and somewhere to lay out clothes for the next day. Avoid using it as a dumping ground for laundry, dirty clothes and handbags – this will just return the clutter you’re trying to clear out. And if you don’t think you can avoid that, then consider a small chair instead.

 

An occasional weekend away is a delightful thing, but you may find that your stress levels subside, your sleep quality improves and your need to ‘escape’ lessens if you’re able to create a simple, slow bedroom at home.

Do you think a bedroom haven would help alleviate stress in your life? Or would you still take the weekend away? 

xx

 

Images via: Downtown Hotel, Mexico | Planete-Deco | 79 Ideas

So You Married a Pack-Rat…

How to simplify your life if you live with a pack-rat

My life would be so simple if I didn’t have kids. Or a husband.

I wouldn’t have a PlayStation3 in the living room.  I could garden for hours, uninterrupted. There wouldn’t be a Barbie doll staring at me as I brush my teeth. I wouldn’t feel the stabbing pain of a rogue Lego block piercing my foot as I make my way to bed.  I could sleep an entire night without being woken.

But considering I love my kids and my husband dearly, living without them is not an option. This does mean, however, that living together can be problematic when we don’t share the same definitions of certain things, like:

  • clutter
  • mess
  • enough
  • tidy
  • prepared
  • relaxation

I am fortunate though, that Sparky isn’t a pack-rat. And our kids are still at an age where I can guide their keep-or-toss decisions (if I include them in the process at all). Toys sometimes disappear, as do the reams of artwork that come home from pre-school and no-one has noticed yet.

So often I receive emails from readers whose situations are different. Their partner is a pack-rat, or their children have a hard time letting go:

“My husband keeps everything, always saying we might need it one day.”

“My girlfriend has carted boxes of old school stuff and toys from one house to another. She won’t let go.”

“How can I simplify our home when it is literally bursting at the seams with his crap?”

These people – and if you live with a hoarder, pack-rat or materially sentimental person, I’m talking to you specifically – are desperate to create a simpler life for themselves, only to face opposition from their husband, wife, kids or housemates.

The truth is, there is only so much you can do in this situation, aside from tossing their belongings without permission – which I really don’t advocate!

Start the Conversation

You don’t need anyone else’s permission to simplify your own life, or even just your stuff. Undoubtedly though, it’s helpful to have support.

So start the conversation:

Bring up your desire to simplify.

Make it about you and your desires, and avoid accusations or judgement. The quickest way to get people off-side is to start a conversation with an accusation. Their defences will go up and they won’t be receptive to anything else you have to say.

Talk about what you need and want from life.

Tell them that you want to start simplifying your life and will begin with your belongings. Tell them that you feel frustrated, stuck, overwhelmed or depressed and that the clutter in your home is adding to the problem. Tell them how you plan on going about simplifying and then ask if it’s something they are interested in. You could be surprised at the answer!

If you live with others – kids, housemates, relatives – talk to them too.

You’re not asking for permission, you’re just telling them what will be happening and why. (Bonus: you may just inspire them to action too.)

 

Now…Walk the Walk.

It’s time to show the conviction behind your words.

Do the decluttering, cut out unnecessary commitments, create a simpler life for yourself and enjoy the benefits. You will have more space, more time, more room to pursue passions and hobbies and more clarity about what makes life better.

But please, don’t:

  • brag about it
  • constantly talk about it
  • don’t toss other people’s stuff – no matter how tempting

Just by living it you are demonstrating the benefits of a simpler life. Let your partner, kids or housemate see simplicity in action. Let them see how it’s impacted your life. Let them see how you are benefitting.

Then, after three, six, or twelve months, you can talk about it. Ask them how they feel about simplifying some of their stuff. Even just some of your shared belongings. If they’ve been inspired by your own efforts, they may be keen to get on board. Then again, they may not.

Like I said at the beginning of this post – there isn’t much you can do about that. Just keep living your life as simply as possible and presenting them with a viable alternative. One day, your influence will make an impact.

“[They] don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.” 

― Jim Henson

Do you live with a pack-rat? Someone who keeps everything “just in case”? Do you find it difficult to simplify when faced with their opposition?

The 5 Steps of Simplifying

 

{ via Boy en Girl }
{ via Boy en Girl }

You want to start living a slower, simpler life.

You feel stuck. You’re overwhelmed, under stress, and struggling.

You can feel the weight of your possessions weighing you down. You are tired of feeling exhausted, strung out, stressed and cranky.

You know you want to change. You know you need to simplify. But you just don’t know where to begin.

What you need is a blue-print of sorts.

And while having a blue-print won’t actually do the work – that part is up to you – it will give you some guidance when you’re unsure of how to move forward.

I’ve listed the five steps I take when simplifying, wished I had taken when I started simplifying. It would have made the entire process a hell of a lot easier! Unfortunately though, I wasn’t so tidy and linear when I first began.

5 Steps to Simplifying Life

1. Find Your Why

You need to understand your reasons for change. Take a minute and ask yourself the following questions:

Why do you want a simpler life? What benefits do you want to gain? Why is it important? Do you want:

  • more family time?
  • more control?
  • less stress?
  • less environmental impact?
  • less clutter?
  • less debt?
  • move to a smaller home?
  • quit your job?
  • start a family?
  • find happiness?
  • recover from illness?

There are really no bad reasons for wanting a simpler life. The key is understanding your own motivation.

You need to know why you’re making these changes – this is the encouragement you can always call on when things get too hard. If you don’t have a why, you may find yourself back at this point in 12 months time, wondering why your changes didn’t stick.

2. Shift Your Mindset

A simpler life is not simply decluttering or spring cleaning, it’s about embracing a whole new lifestyle. Simplifying life means you’re making space – permanently – for more joy, more rest, more contentment, more love, more connection.

Even though it begins with stuff, simplifying your life is not really about stuff at all.

3. Start Small – Really Small

Tackle some of your smallest tasks first.

This is helpful for a lot of reasons, namely, they don’t take long (10-60min), you get a victory, you gain momentum and you begin to see a difference almost immediately. That is often all you need to inspire you on, through some of the more difficult projects ahead.

Instead of heading directly to the overflowing garage or basement, first declutter your:

  • kitchen drawers
  • medicine cabinet
  • bathroom cupboards
  • under the lounge
  • hall stand
  • fridge
  • tupperware drawer
  • laundry shelf
  • cleaning cupboard
  • dry goods cupboard

Take time to appreciate those small, clutter-free areas before moving forward.

4. Decluttering

Like it or not, you won’t be living a simple life until you’ve decluttered your belongings.

You can take it at your own pace – room by room and surface by surface – or you can use checklists like those I’ve created for the 2013 in 2013 Declutter Challenge.

However you decide to approach it, understand that sometimes it can be difficult to let go. This post gives you a never-fail decluttering technique, as well as tips and tricks to make the process much simpler.

5. Time and Iterations

Rinse and repeat.

I couldn’t tell you how many times I have decluttered our wardrobe. It’s not that I’ve been buying tonnes of clothes (I definitely haven’t) but rather our circumstance and mindset have shifted. What seemed like a “must-keep” item three months ago is now a no-brainer for the donate box.

Simplifying life is a constant cycle of balance, boundaries and gently testing those boundaries until you arrive at a place you’re comfortable with.

 

Tell me, do you have your why already worked out? 

Interestingly, mine has shifted from when I began. Initially it was just about reducing stress in my life so that I wouldn’t completely lose my mind. But as I’ve experienced more – more joy, more clarity, more pleasure, more love, more fun, more health, more adventure – my why has shifted. Now it takes in almost every area of life.

I simplify to:

  • enjoy spending time with my kids and husband
  • allow myself an afternoon nap
  • be grateful for all that we have
  • dream big dreams, then go live them
  • feel peaceful in our home
  • spend more time with friends
  • spend less time cleaning
  • feel closer to myself

And it is hands-down the best change I’ve made.

xx

 

March is the Month of Bedrooms

{ via bostad erikolsson }
{ via bostad erikolsson }

 

A little late, yes, but below you will find the March tasks for the 2013 in 2013 Declutter Challenge.

How did you fare in February?

If you haven’t started yet, it’s never too late to join. Head over here to find the first two checklists, as well as the Slow Your Home forums, where all kinds of fabulous folk are keeping track of the clutter leaving their homes.

As for me, I simplified my way through February and decluttered my committments and my guilt.

I also managed to rid our home of physical items, although I will admit, I didn’t have much to go in the bathrooms and laundry. The office, as always, proved to be a hotbed of crap.

Donated:

  • Wicker toy box
  • Vintage typewriter
  • Children’s books x 42
  • Toys x 11
  • Christmas decor x 2
  • Oven mitts, aprons x 6
  • Coffee mugs x 4
  • Plastic plates x 3
  • Kids clothes x 5
  • Stepping stool

Gave Away (to friends and family)

  • Craft supplies to preschool x 12
  • Shoes x 2
  • Storage shelves
  • Plastic storage tubs x 7

Threw Away:

  • Expired cosmetics x 13
  • Misc. x 7
  • Papers/bills/statements x 6 (more like 600, but I’m not counting individual pages as one)

 

TOTAL: 124 items

Progress to Date: 447 unwanted items are gone!

(And damn it feels good.)

#declutter

Now March is the Month of…

Bedrooms! 

Bedrooms are supposed to be a haven, for resting, loving, relaxing and sleeping, yet so many of us have rooms crammed with technology, clothes, furniture, knick-knacks, books and random stuff that it is far from the restful place it should be.

If you’re raring to go, you can jump right over to the March checklist right here. (Just click the link and the list will start downloading automatically.)

NOTE: This month, while we are tackling the bedrooms, we won’t be diving into the wardrobes. It’s often a huge challenge for people, and deserves its own month. 

The length of this month’s challenge is dependent on how many bedrooms your home has, how many people live with you, whether you have children, room-mates, parents or frequent guests. You should aim to spend anywhere from 2-5 hours on each bedroom, depending on the size and current state of it. And while it is a big undertaking, this is one of the most important rooms to work through. Get it right and you could improve your sleep, your sex-life and your overall well-being.

Which sounds pretty good, right?

Move through each of these rooms one by one, working through each of the areas listed below. Some won’t apply to you, others will be challenging.

Use the decluttering guidelines from Month #1 (find them here) to work through each area.

Master Bedroom

  •     Bedside tables – books, magazines
  •     Bed – excess pillows, linen
  •     Walls – excess/ugly pictures, prints
  •     Top of drawers – knick-knacks
  •     Under the bed
  •     Frames, lamps, excess furniture
  •     Tech – consider removing TV, laptop

 

 Kids Bedrooms #1, 2 and 3?

  •     Bedside table
  •     Desk – books, papers, clutter
  •     Bed – stuffed toys, linen, pillows
  •     Under the bed – rubbish, toys
  •     Shelves – knick-knacks, frames
  •     Decor – wall hangings
  •     Technology – computer, TV, gaming

Guest Bedroom

  •     Bedside table
  •     Under the bed
  •     Storage/wardrobe – remove junk/clutter
  •     Decor – linen, pillows, wall hangings, etc

 

Again, the March Checklist can be found here.

If you’re working through the checklists and want some added accountability or inspiration, you can keep count of the items you recycle, donate, sell or throw away and share your progress with us in the 2013 Declutter Challenge forums.

 

How are you finding the Challenge? Is it too difficult? Too easy? Let me know in the comments below…