Monthly Archives: January 2012

Three Enormous Rewards for Being Grateful

Want to be more active? Happier? Healthier?

Then you, my friend, need to be grateful.

Recent studies have shown that those of us who are regularly grateful for the good in our lives are likely to be more physically active, feel more content in our day-to-day lives and suffer less health problems.

The key is to regularly spend some time being aware of, and grateful for, the good in our lives. To actively stop taking these everyday blessings for granted. To pause, look around and say, “Hey, it’s all good. I may not be running marathons/curing cancer/raising kids/travelling/out of debt but I am me. And that’s pretty bloody good, for these reasons…”

The easiest, and most widely recognised way of increasing your attitude for gratitude is by keeping a gratitude journal.

What You Need

Despite what stationers everywhere will try to tell sell you, it doesn’t need to be a fancy-pants, leather-bound, very-very-special book. It just needs to be paper. Or screen. (I prefer paper, but diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks.)

How to Start

Once a week, spend ten minutes writing down 5-10 people/acts/events/things you are grateful for. Just one sentence per entry is enough.

That’s it. Just ten minutes a week will have truly positive impact on your happiness and well being.

Is That All? Ten Minutes a Week? What if I Do More? Will I Be Happier?

The Gratitude studies have shown that over-doing the gratitude journalling may have the opposite effect. Over time we become immune to the feeling of well-being gained through gratitude and lose the positive benefit.

Although I personally tend to think it would take a lot to over-do this. I can see no harm in thinking on the positives of each day as you go to bed at night. But, I am not the expert here, only a happy, happy camper.

Tell me, what are you currently grateful for?

Me? I’m grateful for our chickens and the liveliness they bring to our yard. For the sound of our two kids giggling and playing together. For our warm, comfortable home. For sharing the lounge with Sparky – him watching the cricket, me writing.

 

Further Reading:

Why Writing Daily Can Improve Your Health

New York Times A Serving of Gratitude May Save the Day

The Change Blog’s How Gratitude Can Change Your Life

Original study by Dr R. Emmons (University of California, Davis)

Declutter: Tackle the Toyboxes

Have you thought any more about joining the 2012 in 2012 challenge? It’s a top way to kick-start your simpler life. There’s nothing quite like a concrete, quantifiable goal to keep you honest.
And me. It’s going to keep me honest too.

 

If your house is anything like ours, the Christmas season has left it resembling a toy warehouse. In that spirit, I decided to tackle the kids overflowing toyboxes as one of my first big decluttering projects. Call me crazy, call me inspired, call me Al.

Sparky and I purposely didn’t buy the kids many toys for Christmas, knowing they always receive more than they need from our families. Despite this, we spent the first week of January wading through their new things, which had been piled on top of their old things.

I sent Sparky and the kids out for the morning, cranked Wilco and rolled up my sleeves. This is serious stuff, folks.

Here’s the method I used:

  1. Get all the toys from all corners of the house. Dump them all in the centre of your biggest, most open room.
  2. Have three empty boxes and one garbage bag on hand. One box is for toys to donate, one is for toys to keep out and one is for toys to store. The garbage bag is for anything broken or not fit for donation.
  3. Start sorting. Aim to only touch things once. Pick it up and decide what you are doing with it, then put it in its box.
  4. Be honest during this step. Do your kids actually play with it, or do they simply move it from place to place? Is it in good condition? Are there duplicates? You are the only one who can answer these questions because everyone has different ideas about acceptable toy numbers.
  5. Anything that is part of a set should be put aside until you find the rest of the pieces. Similarly, anything that doesn’t belong with the toys should be put in a pile and dealt with once you’ve finished.
  6. Once you’ve finished sorting, go through your keep/store piles once more. Look out for anything you kept in a weak moment – chances are now you’ve finished, you’re much less likely to hold on to things for the wrong reason.
  7. Box up the donations and put them in your car – never to return again.
  8. Find a place for each of the toys you’re keeping out. I recommend grouping like toys together in containers. (All our cars are in a tin box, for example.) Tidying up is much simpler when you know where each toy lives. Plus the kids can help. In theory.
  9. The box for storing may need some extra attention. I usually keep roughly half the books and puzzles packed away, as well as a few larger toys. These I then rotate out at the beginning of each season. It keeps the toys feeling fresh for the kids and keeps clutter to a minimum. Additionally, I store toys that are too advanced, to bring out later. It stops them using the toy and getting bored with it before they get the full benefit.

 

TIPS:

  • This is definitely best left until the kids are asleep or not at home. It’s amazing how many of their old, forgotten or outgrown toys they will want to play with (however fleetingly) once they see them.
  • Take the opportunity to put sets of toys back together. Think puzzles, block sets, board games and dollhouse furniture – these are far more likely to be played with if all the pieces are together. Plus it makes it so much easier to clean up when everything has its place.
  • Try to separate the emotion from the decision-making. Sure, your grandma may have given that teddy to your little one, but the head is falling off and it’s been stuck under the bed for six months. Donating it or tossing it doesn’t mean she loves your kids any less. It just means you won’t have to shift it around again in six months time when you repeat the process.
  • If you’re really struggling with some particular items, then don’t feel you need to throw them away completely. Yet. Simply box them up, write the date on the box and pack it away.  Put a note in your calendar for three or six months time and if you haven’t needed or wanted to open the box in that time, simply donate all the contents.
  • Some toys will be with you for years, and that’s fine. You may hate some of them. That’s fine too. The little’s won’t keep them forever.

I look around me now and there are still toys scattered on the floor in at least four rooms of the house. Organising and culling the toys won’t stop that from happening. Sorry. But the crap is kept to a minimum and pack-up is much easier. And I’m down with that.

 

7 Things Camping Will Teach You About the Simple Life

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Last week we took the kids camping for a few nights. And while the camping gods didn’t smile on poor Sparky – who ended up with a killer throat infection – we did learn an awful lot about living more simply.

1. You need much less stuff than you think

A bowl, plate and cup per person, minimal cutlery, a bucket for washing up, a table for eating and food prep, something to sleep on, something to sleep in, food and fresh water. Whatever else you don’t have, you improvise or find a way to do without.

2. Your home will feel cluttered and enormous when you get home

Just being part of wide, open, natural spaces automatically makes you notice all the walls, furniture and stuff in your own home. Use this feeling as a kickstart towards decluttering in 2012.

3. You will appreciate the modcons you do have

There’s nothing wrong with a laptop, wifi and a good cup of coffee. And after living a very simple, very pared down life for a few days you will really appreciate the convenience. And gratitude is a great thing – it brings us contentment.

4. Kids will entertain themselves if given the time and space

(Although strategically released iPad screentime is a great thing). One bag of toys and books was all we took along and next time, we won’t even bother with that. The kids barely looked at their toys, prefering to play in the sand, explore the campsite and search for goannas and kangaroos.

5. Simple pleasures bring the most joy and relaxation.

Like sitting around a campfire, in great company. Bliss.

6. There are worse things than no hot water

In fact, a cold shower is super refreshing, and since we’ve got home I’ve had more than one – by choice. It’s all about perspective. “No, I’m not freezing, I’m refreshed.” See how that works?

7. When you don’t have it on tap, you don’t waste a drop.

Nothing like scarcity to promote awareness. “Oh, look. we’ve got 6 litres of water for the day.” Lo and behold, we survived. We cooked, we drank, we made coffee, we washed up and brushed our teeth from that six litres.

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Not only did we learn a few simple living lessons while we were away, but the peace, the quiet and the disconnectedness was a real treat. I know camping isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time – but please tell me I’m not alone in this. Does anyone else love the simplicity of camping?

2012 in 2012

The past few weeks of holidays have inspired me. They’ve made me reconsider what’s truly important. Forced me to look at the hard truths and helped me realise that we are in control of our lives.

If we are unhappy, we have the power to change that.

We may not like what that means. We may not want to take the necessary steps to get there. We may be afraid. But we are still in control. And if we’re unwilling to stretch ourselves, to go out on a limb, to take risks – then do we really want that change so much?

In light of this, I’ve set myself a challenge. And I hope you’ll join me.


This year, I will rid myself, our kids and our home of 2012 things. 2012 items that are unnecessary, that are weighing us down, that make us feel bad.

2012 items that we don’t use, don’t want or don’t need.

On the face of it, it seems a fairly simple challenge. But for me, there’s no point in handing out success if it’s easily attainable. So…

THE RULES

  • Items I regularly throw away (general household rubbish/recyclables) don’t count towards the total.
  • A single piece of paper doesn’t count. A folder of papers does – but only as one item.
  • New things (clothes, toys, books etc) mean one similar item needs to go. These items don’t count.
  • Photos will be taken of most things – to keep me honest.

 

2012 items over the year works out at 5.6 unwanted, unneeded, unused items per day. Which sounds like more of a challenge.

So who’s with me? Anyone care to start 2012 with a pledge to cull the unnecessary stuff?