Category Archives: Family

How to start the decluttering conversation with a pack-rat…

How to start the decluttering conversation with your pack-rat partner...

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

I mean, I wouldn’t have a PlayStation4 in the living room.  I could garden for hours, uninterrupted. There wouldn’t be a Barbie doll and her dinosaur minions 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.

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

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

I am fortunate that Sparky isn’t a pack-rat. And, at 3 and 5, our kids are still at an age where I can help guide their keep-or-toss decisions. Plus, if I’m being honest, toys sometimes quietly disappear, along with 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 their crap?”

They are desperate to create a simpler life for themselves, only to face constant opposition from their husband, wife, kids or housemates. But 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 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 more clarity about what makes life better.

But please, don’t:

  • brag about it
  • constantly talk about it
  • 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 impacting your life. Let them see how you are benefitting.

Then, after a month, or three, or six, 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 efforts, they may be keen to get on board. Then again, they may not.

But 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

PS. If anyone is attending The Minimalist’s Everything That Remains tour stop tonight in Sydney, let me know. I’d love to meet you!

Not an Island.

No man is an island...

Four years ago I took pride in being an island. I wanted to be self-governed. A rogue nation, population: ME.

“Me? Need help? No.”

“Do you think I’m incapable? Not strong enough? I don’t need help. I AM COPING.”

But rather than strengthen me, this self-imposed isolation had me on the fast-track to a crushing burn-out, only I didn’t know it yet.

Strung out, worn down, angry, resentful, a shell of my true self. I was in tears daily, shouting at my family and barely getting by.

Then, things got really bad. I got very dark. Started talking to myself. HATING myself.

One day I found myself staring in the mirror saying, “I hate you. I hate you,” over and over again. And a tiny voice spoke up and said, “Hey, you know this isn’t normal, don’t you?”

That night, I did the hardest thing I could have done at the time. I asked Ben for help. Thank God.

The next day was the beginning of the uphill battle to save my sanity. (Seriously.) Diagnosed with post natal depression, the process was: Doctor, therapist, psychiatrist, medication. Rinse. Repeat.


Why Am I Telling You This?

Truth be known, I am terrified to tell you this. It is raw and close and brutal. And you may judge me for it.

But the lessons I learned over the past five years are what have led me to where I am today – a place of contentment, joy, purpose, love, acceptance and happiness – and that is absolutely worth sharing. Even if it prompts one other person to ask for help.


The Most Important Lesson?

No matter what your story, your stage in life, your struggles, your support network:

Ask for help when you need it.

Don’t be too proud. Don’t be ashamed. Don’t put up with battling along by yourself. People care about you. People are there to help. Let them.

I care about you. If I can help, let me. Tell me what you’re battling with, because sometimes simply sharing what’s on your mind lightens the weight you carry. (Via email if you would prefer!) xx


32 from 32

32 Lessons from 32 Years

This week I celebrated my 32nd birthday. And when I was 18, man, that would have been old. But now that I’m here? Not so much.

In lots of ways, the past year has felt like a game-changer and I wanted to share 32 of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt over the past 12 months.

(In no particular order.)

  1. There really is beauty in the tiniest of things, if you take the time to look for it.
  2. Don’t use an apology as a search for validation. It’s the same as fishing for a compliment, and while we all do it, it makes us feel unworthy.
  3. You’re not, and never will be, everything to everyone – so stop trying and focus on those close to you instead.
  4. Take time to create priorities your life – write them down, talk about them, commit to them – and then act accordingly. It makes a lot of choices much, much simpler.
  5. Physical exercise is vital to my mental health. Even a 15-minute walk is enough to help scare away the black dog that still lurks around here sometimes.
  6. Travelling with kids is challenging but so worthwhile – they bring a whole new depth to your experiences.
  7. It is possible to stop eating Nutella!
  8. Learn from someone else’s strengths. I look at Ben’s ability to celebrate the little wins with a fist pump and I try to adopt it myself.
  9. What I eat has a direct impact on how I feel, both mentally and physically.
  10. I have never regretted a single thing I have given away or decluttered.
  11. Peppermint tea is the best cure for a hangover.
  12. Accept that a new project might not work – and that is perfectly OK. Do it anyway.
  13. They were right when they said, “One day you will pray for time to slow down.” Our kids are growing so fast, some days I just want to stop the clock and soak them up, just as they are.
  14. There is no substitute for a quiet day of movies and popcorn at home when everyone is feeling strung out.
  15. Having something to look forward to is important.
  16. Talk to your kids from a young age about people’s differences.
  17. Exercise your forgiveness muscle whenever possible, with others and yourself.
  18. Indulgence is different to a habit so try not to get the two confused.
  19. Trying new things is, and should be, exhilarating.
  20. I always dreamed of running but never thought I’d have the fitness to do much of it. Turns out I can. And I love it.
  21. Stretching for five minutes every single day has seen my flexibility return and my back and neck pain almost disappear.
  22. It’s OK to feel hungry sometimes. We’re not meant to feel full constantly.
  23. That thing your kids do that’s driving you mad? It really is a phase. Maybe a long phase, but still a phase.
  24. Reading on my iPhone or iPad in bed makes it harder for me to get to sleep. A real book is where it’s at.
  25. It feels really good to just laugh with Ben and our kids.
  26. The Walking Dead is still my all-time favourite TV show.
  27. Time spent in comparison with others it wasted time.
  28. Honestly, people don’t think about you (or me) nearly as much as we fear. They’re too engrossed in their own thing.
  29. As taxing as I find it, getting out and meeting new people really has been food for my soul.
  30. Saying yes to things that terrify me (like speaking on stage) has opened up a whole new world of possibilities.
  31. Becoming part of our community is something I resisted for a long time, mostly from fear and anxiety. Getting involved has been so rewarding.
  32. Above all, there is love.

32 Lessons from 32 Years

The Beauty and Frustration of Choice

There is choice in every moment.Early this morning, as I lay with our daughter in her bed, trying to convince her that 4:27am is not, in fact, a great time to get up, I came to realise something.

When I try to write this something down it seems elementary and obvious. But it needed to come to me as a realisation, so I guess it’s a truth that I hadn’t fully grasped, elementary as it may be.

I laid down on her bed, frustrated that, yet again, I wasn’t writing. I wasn’t working on my thing. I wasn’t doing what I really wanted to be doing in that moment. And that frustration was exacerbated by the thought that there is so much I want to do, but rarely do I feel like I have the time.

Do you know that feeling? When you have so many plans, so many ideas, so much you want to do, only to be thwarted by the needs of others at every turn?

I don’t think this is an exclusive feeling. I think everyone bears it at some point in their day, whether the ‘others’ are your kids, boss, friends, family, co-workers or one of the hundreds of strangers you may cross paths with.

So what did I realise in the quiet dark this morning?

I realised that I was choosing to be there.

I had chosen to put her needs before mine. I had chosen to lay down with her and coax her back to sleep.

And that meant I was also choosing not to write in that moment.

See? I told you it was elementary and obvious.

But as I recognised that I was making a choice to be there (no matter how automatic it felt) I relaxed. Immediately the tension of being caught between where I am and where I wanted to be was gone.

Suddenly I could enjoy the moment for what it was. Not an inconvenience, but rather a fleeting moment of quiet, watching my girl drift off, feeling the passage of time move on even as I lay there.

And I relaxed into it. I decided that I couldn’t feel frustrated if I was making a choice to be there.

Suddenly I understood that at every moment of every day we choose one thing over another.

We choose sleep over running. Coffee over laundry. Work over play. Laughter over offence. Writing over planning.

But the next time? It’s laundry over coffee. Play instead of work. Planning instead of writing.

The choices aren’t always easy and they are often not obvious, but they are there. And I may be over-analysing here, but I found a beautiful freedom and lightness in this realisation.

Every moment is a choice.



Hide and Seek

What I learned about play.

I’m a little afraid to admit this, but I’m going to anyway. I think giving some light to this failing of mine, and how I plan to improve it, might help myself and others.

Here goes: I’m not particularly good at playing with my kids.

No-one tells you how hard the simple act of play can be. Or maybe they do, and it just doesn’t register, in the way that, “Get as much sleep as you can now, because there will be precious little given to you when you have a new baby,” didn’t register with me.

And just because I’m not very good at play does not mean I don’t do it. Because I do. A lot.

But I’ve recently realised two things about play:

  1. I put the “need to do” tasks first. Tasks like laundry, vacuuming, tidying the kitchen and folding clothes.
  2. When I play with the kids, I’m not always there. Sure, I’m there with them, squeezing the playdough or cutting and gluing and crafting. But often I’m not engaged with what’s happening.

Instead I’m thinking about the laundry that needs doing, or the emails I have to answer. I think about the process my afternoon will follow as I tidy up, get dinner ready, run through showers and books and bedtime rhythms. I’m not there.

And not only does this steal my attention from the kids, but it robs me of energy and joy.

For so long I would put off the kids’ requests for hide and seek, until I would eventually acquiesce and play half-heartedly for 10 minutes. But I began noticing the sheer joy they got from playing – with me, no less – and suddenly it no longer felt like an imposition. It felt like a privilege.

So I have renewed my effort to really be in the game, whether it’s hide and seek, snap, puzzle-playing or playdough-making. And the day that I asked our four year old if she wanted to play hide and seek? Well, that was priceless. It was also humbling.

So I think we need to learn to adjust our thinking on what needs to happen. Does the ironing need to happen? Or does your child need to feel like you want to spend time together?

And yes, the laundry does need to happen. And the dinner and the sweeping and the seemingly endless tasks involved in running a household. But what if – sometimes, at least – these happened after play? What if they weren’t the number one priority all the time? What if we said yes to play first?

Grow your account balance.

I can’t remember where I read it, but there is an idea in parenting that I have found incredibly helpful when making these sorts of decisions and working out my priorities for the way we want to live.

The idea that we have a ‘bank account’ with each of our children, and playing with them, reading and nurturing and reacting with kindness and compassion all deposit into this bank account. These actions help to grow your balance.

When things like errands or cleaning or phonecalls or work need to happen, even when the kids want to play? These are withdrawals, and they shrink the balance.

The idea is, of course, to keep the balance as healthy as possible, while also recognising that withdrawals are normal and something that our kids have to get used to.

How this affects my decisions.

Instead of going to the default way of thinking (ie. get the work done first so that the play can come later) I can instead picture what the balance of each bank account looks like and make a better, more well-rounded choice based on that.

So I’ve been saying yes to hide and seek so much more. And do you know what I’m seeing? The kids are happier not only when I play with them, but they are also more content to then play together for much longer. Part of that is simply the ages they’re at, but I also think it’s a reflection of our choice to engage more and to mindfully choose to spend quality time with them.

Side note:

I know the pleasure and the frustration that is full-time stay-at-home parenting. When your kids are at a certain age all they want is you and your company. They don’t care if you need to do the laundry. They don’t see that dinner needs to be cooked and that you’re the one to do it. But your role includes those mundane, house-keeping duties just as much as playing hide and seek with your little ones. This results in (I can only speak for myself of course) a deep frustration.

I understand this, and am saying so because there are days when you will not be able to play endless games of hide and seek. Nor can you bear the thought of pulling out the playdough and the ensuing cleanup, because you’ve just mopped the floor.

So I get it, and the last thing I want is for what I have said above to be misconstrued as criticism or a veiled attempt to shame anyone for not doing enough. You know what needs to happen in your own life, so please read this as a support, not a criticism.

To conclude, the core idea of this post is one that could really apply to most areas of our life:

On those days that we can, I think we should.


Can I ask, do you feel a tension between play and work? How do you manage it?