Monthly Archives: August 2013

Wanted: Advice

Just Listen.

Wisdom comes in all shapes, all sizes, and from all kinds of people.

Just last week, I burst into frustrated tears in front of the kids. (Admittedly not my finest parenting moment.) With my head in my hands I didn’t see our 4-year-old walk up to me. She quietly put her hand on my arm and said,

“Hey, Mum, it’s OK. But if you’re feeling fuss-trated, you should take three deep breaths before getting upset.”

Yes, my girl, that’s right. It’s the advice I give you very, very frequently, and here you are, bouncing it back to me when I needed to hear it.

I felt such a strange mix of pride (YAY! she does listen to me) and shame (I’m sorry, but aren’t I the grown-up?) on hearing her advice. But overwhelmingly I was amazed – because that really is a good, common sense suggestion.

Coming from my four-year-old. And offered to me.

 

The problem with good advice is that we so often ignore it.

Today, I want to tap into the amazing well of collective wisdom that is this beautiful community (yes, that means you!)

Can you share with us the best piece of advice you have ever been given? It can be about simplifying, happiness, or life in general.

Did you take it? Or did it go ignored?

 

Why am I asking this?

I am becoming increasingly aware that I know very little about many things. The advice I offer here is limited by my experience and, by default, there is only so much one person can experience in life.

However, if we combine our experiences, advice and perspective, all of a sudden we can see a lot further. As a group we have experienced so much more, and I’d love it if we could share a little of that today.

Who knows? Your advice may trigger a massive change in someone else’s life. Or it may remind you of a path long abandoned in your own life. The point is, you know things that others don’t. Please feel free to share a little of that today.

 

So, tell us. What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given? 

Did you take it? Or did it go ignored?

 

 

Can You Change the World With a Simple Smile?

We Are All Connected

One chilly morning the kids and I were waving goodbye to Ben as he walked to the train station.

As he disappeared up the street, one of our neighbours was coming home from her morning walk and stopped to say hello. She made comment about how cute we looked, huddled together on the front steps. (I’m quite certain she was talking about the kids specifically – I had magnificent bedhead and BettyBoop pyjamas on). Then she said something that amazed me.

“You know, I get so much joy from watching your family.”

A few weeks earlier she had watched us playing in the autumn leaves on the front lawn.

“I called my mum to tell her what I was watching. It made my day and hers.”

We Are All Connected

I found it incredible that we live so close to this lady, but had no idea we impacted her life at all. Aside from the occasional chat across the fence, a friendly wave, a “Merry Christmas”, we are essentially strangers.

And yet there it was, undeniable proof that we are all connected. Not only to our neighbours, friends and relatives, but to the ever-widening circles that ripple out from them. We can and do make a difference in other people’s lives. We may never know it, but our interactions leave an unmistakable imprint on others. Just as their interactions impact us.

Yes, this is a small story about a small interaction. But sometimes these small moments can mean the most – even if we aren’t aware of it.

This week, think about the impact these small gestures could make on a stranger:

  • A genuine smile given freely may brighten a lonely man’s morning.
  • Directly looking in the eyes of your friend as you ask, “How are you?” may be all she needs to feel needed, heard and loved.
  • Comforting a flustered mother with a gentle, “Don’t worry, we’ve all been there,” may be enough for her to get through a difficult day without losing it.
  • Offering kindness where someone may have expected anger may help improve their self-esteem.

Or, these gestures may have no impact at all. But you do them, you offer them, you carry them out because you understand that we are all connected. And we simply never know when something we do or say could make an enormous difference in someone’s life.

“We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.”

Mother Teresa

 

When was the last time a stranger impacted positively on your life? Have you paid it forward yet?

 

3 Unique Ways to Create Your Own Happiness

3 Unique Ways to Create Your Own Happiness

Look, my life is pretty wonderful.

Not in a ‘yes, let’s brag about my incredible life of joy and adventure and constant beauty’ kind of way, but rather in a ‘let’s look at my life in comparison to much of the world’s population – the struggles, famine, war, catastrophic disasters, serious illness and death’ kind of way.

But the reality is that some days are still bad.

It could be lack of sleep, crappy diet, politics at work, an argument with your partner, no exercise, kids pushing your buttons, no parking spots, a whole heap of laundry, or just a bad, bad mood. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

And no, none of that is so terrible in light of the list written above. No-one is seriously ill, no-one is foreclosing on their house and no-one’s relationship is breaking down.

But when you’re living a shitty day, it can be really hard to find that perspective. It can be very difficult to see that, truly, it ain’t so bad.

Since I started simplifying life, I’ve had less bad days. There is less pressure, less stress and less clutter to contend with. There is more time for fun, more space for rest and more opportunity for spontaneity. But bad days? Yep, I still have ’em.

But I am getting better at managing them. And here are three ways I’ve learned to harness my negative mindset and turn it around.

And while these will not alleviate serious illness, fix marital problems or pay off debt, they do help me to put my problems in perspective. Which sometimes IS all it takes.

1. Music Soothes the Savage Beast

What song makes you really, overwhelmingly happy every time you listen to it?

It might be silly like Psy, or make you wanna dance like Travolta. It might make you cry with beauty or belt out a tune. Whatever it is, listen to it. Let it shift that crankiness. Even just a little bit.

I have an entire Spotify playlist called ‘Happy Tunes for THOSE Days‘. On it you’ll find Little Red, The Isley Brothers, Paul Simon, OK Go, The Middle East, Beastie Boys and Weezer. I haven’t met a bad mood yet that can withstand ‘Call Me Al’. 

You Can: Create your own playlist of happy music on iTunes, Spotify or your phone. Or, if you don’t use digital music, why not make an old-fashioned mix-tape or CD?

 

2. Do SOMETHING

We all have busy-ness. We have endless lists of things to do. And at any one moment you could spend your time on 10 different tasks.

Sometimes that feeling overwhelms us and makes us feel there is no point in starting. Why bother, when the work keeps piling up?

But instead of giving in to the malaise, force yourself to do something. Just one thing. Do that load of washing. Make that phone call. Start chopping vegetables for dinner. Do five push-ups. Write that email. Drink a glass of water. (No. Seriously. Drink a glass of water. You’re probably dehydrated.)

And once that thing is done, allow yourself to celebrate. You just had a win!

Bad Day = 0 You = 1

You Can: Think about the immediate tasks that need to happen. Focus on small tasks and choose one that will be easy to complete. Then go do it. Once you’re finished, let the momentum move you forward.

3. Tell Yourself that Today is Going to be a Good Day

Say it out loud. Say it while standing in front of the mirror. Say it in a ridiculous accent. I don’t know why, but it helps.

Perhaps the act of saying it out loud makes you realise the majority of the negativity is in your head. Perhaps it’s a little bit absurd. Perhaps it’s both.

You Can: Literally tell yourself that today will be a good day. Look into your own eyes, smile and say, “Today will be a good day,” even if you don’t believe it.

These three things have helped me turn numerous bad days around.  And, while life is not all sparkles and unicorns, creating a little positivity where there wasn’t any before is a hell of a lot better than crying into my coffee at 9am. If, however, these three tips fail you, it’s always helpful to go back and read the fifth paragraph of this post.

 

Tell me, what’s the song most likely to turn a bad mood around for you?

21 Ways to Tame the Toys

21 Ways to Tame the Toy Clutter
{ original image via Lee on Flickr }

 

Are tiny dinosaurs invading your living room? Have you turned down your bed linen to find a naked Barbie? Do you know first-hand the expletive-riddled pain of stepping on Lego in the middle of the night?

For the love of all things plastic, let’s tame the toys!

Every week I get dozens of emails from people who need help with decluttering. Sometimes it’s their wardrobes, sometimes their office. But the biggest issue many people ask for help with is toys. 

Our kids are only young – 2 and 4 – and while I have a pretty good handle on how to keep their toy chaos to a minimum, I know each age and stage has its challenges. Many of which we haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing yet.

So I have once again engaged the group wisdom of my readers (yes, you!) and turned to Facebook.  Last week I asked you for your best toy-taming tips and, as ever, you didn’t disappoint me with your answers.

Just a Note: Not all of these tips will apply to you – it depends on the ages of your kids, the amount of toys you already own and the number of new toys your kids receive each year. 

21 Ways to Tame the Toy Clutter

1. I could say pass them on to my sisters…BUT that would not be the right answer would it, Brooke? (Michelle M. is actually my sister. So, no, Mich. Definitely not.)

2. Keep it simple and in big chunks (no micro-organising).  Get them involved. You can read more about it in this blog post. (Cassie @ Working Order)

3. Keep fewer toys out for your children to play with. Too many just overwhelms them. Keep some stored away. Then every few weeks switch out the toys. Your children will have renewed interest in the toys that were stored away. You also won’t have countless toys cluttering your house. (AnnMarie GM)

4. We purge often and use bins. I do not organize the bins but just toss them in there. My kids don’t play in “sets” so to speak so it would just waste my time and frustrate me. (Karen WE)

5. Don’t buy so many! But it is hard when your kids are given so many lovely pressies all the time. (Kristin @ Mamacino)

6. Buy wood and metal toys only and request that to friends / family. They last longer, can be updated via paint and can be heirlooms. Also storage cubes with baskets are awesome! (Louisa Jane W)

7. Don’t let the grandparents take the kids shopping – that is where most of our toys come from! (Michelle Leanne B)

8. I recently did a huge cull and now only have a few toys in each of the kids’ rooms – it has made an amazing difference in the reduction of clutter, the kids don’t have a million things to choose from and they’re playing outside a lot more. You can read more about how I ditched the playroom right here(Deb @ Aspiring Mum)

9. My son is only 9mo old, but i have started to bag up and store toys he has grown out of and bored with (the good quality ones, I tossed a few silly ones that never were played with) until the next baby comes along. That way I’m not wasting those toys, but I’m not letting them clutter up our house. Also, for his first birthday, I am going to request that if people bring gifts, they should bring him a favorite book. (Emily FS)

10. I removed a shelf from the bottom of an old cupboard to convert it into a study/storage area for our 5 year old son. I painted the the bottom shelf in gloss to make it a wipeable desk and painted the inside. I used a combination of see-through tubs and baskets, and left the rest of the toys viewable so he can request the things he would like to play with. I keep certain things grouped too for easy selection. (Michelle LW)

11. Wait til your child is at school or away, then pull out things from the back of the cupboard that are no longer played with or have been grown out of. Pack them out of sight and rearrange those staying so a fresh look is noticed. Missing items not requested after 3 months progress to the loft or garage, en route to another home or toy recycle session. (Helen N)

12. Be SELECTIVE about what comes into your home. Involve kids when purging – we do this twice a year – once before their birthday, and the second time before Christmas.  I never sneak toys out when they aren’t around. I don’t think they learn how to part with things that way. (Amy BU)

13. A couple of years ago, we started to give our kids (now 8 & 10) experiences for special occasions vs. a ton of toys. Tickets to traveling Broadway shows, etc. They do get a couple of things to open, but it’s minimal. My daughter (8), really looks forward to what her next experience will be. We have a large book collection. I placed a basket under the shelves and when they are done with a book they place it in the basket to GO. (Amy BU)

14. Limit the amount of useless toy presents. I give out a wish-list for my son’s birthday and Christmas, with tips for what toys/books would be appropriate for his developmental stage and what clothes he needs for the next six months or so. I make it very clear to relatives that I prefer clothes or other useful presents. This is economically helpful for me, and my son loves clothes, so both are happy! (Ane FS)

15. My children are 6 and 10 and we have a rule, one new toy equals one pass on to younger friends/charity. (Jody M)

16. We have a rule that we only buy them stuff for Christmas and birthdays, and ask family to buy them experiences whenever they buy gifts. (Rebecca M @ Clear Space Organising)

17. What worked the best for us (after decluttering) was to always make toys easier to put away than they are to get out. Works for shoes too. (Ellane W)

18. Start with less, add less. Enjoy time with each other. Interaction is a fab way to learn and develop. Eat together, talk together, read together.  Teach your children by example – don’t have loads of stuff yourself and treasure what you have. If it’s not beautiful or useful, don’t bring it home (Alic B)

19. Add to savings account on birthdays or Christmas so kids can choose for themselves when older. My daughter is 14 and loves photography so she has just been able to afford her first great camera. I’m still the signatory on her account. (Alic B)

20. Let them play with potatoes, cups, stones and pegs. I know two beautiful boys who prefer stuffing the washing machine for their mum instead of red plastic cars – at the age of three and one. (Laura NA)

21. A tradition when my (now 25yrs old) son was little, we would sort through his toys a few months before Christmas and decide what he wanted to donate to kids who couldn’t afford toys. He enjoyed helping others and it also made room for new toys later from Santa. (Tammy F)

I was going to add a few of my own tips and suggestions, but considering the incredible group wisdom on offer here, I think I’ll make a Part Two to this series next week. I wouldn’t want to overload you with awesome.

In the meantime, do you have any favourite toy-taming clutter tips? Please feel free to share them in the comments below.

Living in the Land of What-Ifs

Living in the Land of What-Ifs

What if you won the lottery?

What if you got a lucky break?

What if someone unexpectedly discovers your talent and sings your praise to the world?

What if you could live abroad forever?

What if there were no responsibilities?

I can’t wait until…

What if…

Imagine…

 

A day doesn’t go by that these phrases wouldn’t pass my lips. What if… Imagine… I can’t wait until…

Be it an upcoming holiday, a day off, paying down a debt or until the weather warms up again – every day I look forward to something.

Looking forward isn’t a problem. I think having something to look forward to is important. Along with having meaningful work, strong relationships and faith, I think having something to look forward to is essential to our contentment.

The problem, rather, is living in the land of Imagine, What If, and I Can’t Wait Until…

Spending an inordinate amount of time dwelling on these thoughts is telling us that the present – whatever is happening right in this moment – is not good enough.

You say:

“Wouldn’t it be great to have a nicer house.” And your subconscious hears, “This house is not good enough.”

“Imagine how much freedom we would have if we could work from home.” You think, “The job I have now is unsatisfactory.”

These issues may well be valid, and I have no problem with working towards a particular goal or reward. But talking in theoretical terms – imagine, wouldn’t it be great, what if – is not working towards those goals. It’s simply making you feel discontent, dissatisfied and disappointed in your efforts.

Simply Listen

Over the next day or two, listen for those phrases in your own thoughts and words, and observe.

How do you arrive at that thought and how do you feel after it? Is it a positive for you to live in the future? Or do you find yourself dissatisfied with your present as a result?

And instead of allowing those thoughts to multiply and blossom, start to bring yourself back to the present, a place of gratitude or mindfulness.

“A nicer house would be great, but this place is warm, dry, secure and happy. If we do want a nicer place, what are we going to do about it?”

“I’d love to find a job that allowed me to work from home. This job, however is great for these reasons – regular paycheck, health insurance, flexible hours, pleasant office, good colleagues.”

It’s easy to live in the Land of What-Ifs. It doesn’t require us to make changes or take responsibility. It allows us to live in a future that may not ever come to life. Yes, it’s also the home of daydreams, but if you find those daydreams taking over, or making your real life seem disappointing, then it’s time to move on.

Instead, try to live most of your days in the land of enough.