Monthly Archives: January 2013


Legacy - What Are You Leaving Behind?

“The mass of men worry themselves into nameless graves while here and there a great unselfish soul forgets himself into immortality.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Your actions today will have far-reaching effects on those who outlive you and those you will never meet. Your kids, your grandkids, their grandkids.

What you do today, in this moment, matters.

A Broken World

In so many ways we’ve been left a broken world by those before us:

  • insurmountable national debt
  • choking pollution
  • gross inequalities
  • blatant injustice

Do you think this has been on purpose? That our forefathers sat around a dimly-lit room suggesting they make life difficult for their great-great-grandchildren?

Probably not.

But what they failed to see or failed to care about was that their actions had far-reaching impact.

Let’s not repeat this.

My Mother’s Legacy.

Recently I received an email from a reader, Jane*.

Her mother recently passed away and Jane, an only child, had the task of clearing out the family home before it was sold.

She wrote to me so completely overwhelmed with the job, unable to start. Unable to make a single decision about this house full of stuff. Unable to remove her mother’s memory from the decisions she needed to make.

“How do I even begin? None of the stuff here means anything to me, but it obviously did to my mum. How can I tell what needs keeping and what can be thrown away?”

Unfortunately for Jane, her legacy had already being passed on. Her mother’s death had sealed it. She had no say in it. She simply had to spend weeks of her life – weeks away from her husband and kids, from her friends and her work – dealing with the legacy.

Do you think her mother would have wanted that?

No. By all accounts, her mother was a wonderful woman. A great provider, a gentle spirit with a streak of wicked humour.

But Jane’s mum simply didn’t consider that her actions – keeping a house full of old stuff – would one day hold consequences for her much-loved daughter.

She just didn’t consider it.

*Jane is not her real name. 

What Legacy Will You Leave Behind?

No-one enjoys considering their own death. But just for a moment, just one uncomfortable moment, ask yourself:

If you died tomorrow, what legacy would your loved ones have in your place?

  • Cupboards and boxes and sheds full of useless stuff for them to sort through?
  • Debt for them to repay?
  • Years of paperwork for them to make sense of?
  • Decades of keepsakes and knick-knacks that lost their significance under a thick layer of dust?
  • Memories of hectic weekends, multiple social engagements and television dinners?

I know my family would receive a legacy of disorganised papers, memories of me being “too busy” to push them on the swing and a fondness for staying home – even when the weather is beautiful outside.

Do you know what we can leave behind instead?

  • Years of fond memories – playing with your kids, snuggling with your partner, laughing with your friends.
  • The gift of self-assurance and inner-strength that comes from knowing they were loved.
  • Hearts full of experiences – from travel, to people, places and culture.
  • Savings to help them establish a secure home as adults.
  • A compassionate heart.
  • Depth of character.

And if you let your mind expand beyond your loved ones, you could leave behind:

A world that values experiences over stuff.

A world that values justice over injustice.

A world that values love over hate.

A world that values compassion over greed.

Can you imagine the world our great-great-great grandkids might live in if we left that legacy?

I know it sounds fanciful. Naive even. But it begins somewhere. Why not with me?

Why not with you?

Let Go of the Ego of Ownership

"consume less; share better"

“Did you know that the average domestic power drill is used for less than one hour over its entire lifespan?

You need the hole, not the drill!”

Rachel Botsman, TED Talk 2012

Imagine the resources used in producing that drill – the man-hours, energy, shipping and packaging, not to mention the potentially unfair work conditions in the developing country that manufactures the drill. All for less than one hour of use over two, three – maybe ten years.

What if, instead of owning one of everything we occasionally need, we adopted a culture of sharing? A co-operative attitude of non-ownership? Of shared ownership?

Imagine the savings:

  • save money simply by not needing to buy every occasional-use item
  • save storage space by not needing the room to keep all of these items
  • decrease your environmental impact by not buying items you don’t need to own

Sure. But That’s Pretty Inconvenient.

Maybe driving to a friend’s house to borrow a drill – when you only need one hole – is inconvenient. But how did we get into this financial/environmental/hyper-consumerism mess in the first place? By buying reflexively instead of looking for alternatives, instead of experiencing a little inconvenience, instead of calling a friend and asking to borrow a drill.

Your actions have consequences. Weigh up inconvenience vs negative impact and ask yourself if there is a better alternative.

Shared Ownership – It is Possible.

Without realising it, my family have been long-time sharers. For years, my mum’s side of the family have had a “party box” of cutlery. There was enough for 100 people and anytime someone had a party, the box was there. I don’t even know who owned it, but I do know that one box of cutlery stopped countless uneccessary purchases and even more uneccessary waste.

No-one had to buy extra cutlery when entertaining – you just borrowed the party box. No-one had to use disposable cutlery – you just borrowed the party box. Everyone benefited.

We also share power tools, trestle tables for parties and gatherings, extra chairs, toys, baby clothes, camping gear, crockery, serving platters, wine glasses and linens.

Most of these are not everyday items. Which is why it works so well. But just consider the possibilities of sharing, if you pooled resources with your nearby friends, family and neighbours.

You could share your:

  • power tools
  • lawnmower
  • car (there are many car-sharing options now – which don’t work for everyone, I admit. But it’s worth considering if you live in an urban area)
  • party needs – extra tables, chairs, cutlery, crockery and wine glasses
  • toys
  • fabric nappies
  • baby items – rockers, prams, bassinet
  • extra linen and bedding for guests
  • surfboards, snowboards and ski gear
  • DIY equipment – ladder, painting gear, dropsheets
  • luggage – suitcases, backpacks
  • hiking gear
  • skills
  • knowledge

Go Against the Grain.

Sharing these things runs counter to what we’ve always done. Surely someone who has to borrow a drill, a mattress, toys or a suitcase is doing something wrong? Successful people don’t need to borrow things – they own them. And if they don’t, they can certainly go out and buy them.

But it’s time to turn that thinking on its head. It’s time to own less and be open to sharing. It’s time to let go of the ego that comes with “having everything you need”.

It’s time to pool our resources, before we deplete the earth of its resources completely.

But sharing only works if:

  • everyone contributes – by borrowing from others, you need to be OK with lending your belongings to them in return
  • borrowed items are respected and returned – it’s not an excuse to keep things for months on end or treat them poorly
  • there is trust – if you’re constantly concerned that someone will steal your belongings, then you’re probably sharing with the wrong people
  • you plan ahead – it will prove too inconvenient if you wait until the last minute to borrow what you need
  • you talk it through with your friends, family and neighbours – there’s no point in having a one-way agreement that only you are aware of.

Create Your Own Movement

Talk to your friends and family about starting a co-op. Float the idea with like-minded people to begin with and talk about the benefits – financial, environmental and social. Give it a test-run for a month or two and then be open to changes. Expand your network of members if it’s going well. Talk over any problems if it’s not.

And if you don’t have nearby friends and family to share with, then consider starting your own community co-op.

It doesn’t have to be complicated – start by posting a notice in the newspaper or establishing a group on Facebook. Each member needs to be willing to share their occasional-use items and be happy to borrow from others. Keep a list of what people are happy to lend and let members contact each other when they need to borrow an item.


We need to shift priorities. It’s no longer about proving our personal success by showcasing all that we own.

It’s about removing the ego, stripping away the importance of personal ownership, and looking for a better alternative.


Do you think this movement of shared ownership could work in your circle of friends and family?


The Case for an Ordinary Life

The Case for an Ordinary Life

When my grandfather died six years ago, my dad gave the eulogy at his funeral. In a beautiful address, he shared details of Pop’s life – his upbringing, his faith and his family. Some of it I’d heard before but much of it was new to me.

My Dad then shared something with the friends and family gathered in the church. He said there was no fanfare about his Dad, no drama, no huge success story and no enormous wealth. Instead, he was a man who held his family close, loved a good story, and believed in the benefit of hard work. He was devoted to his wife and together they lived a life of goodness, simplicity, passion and faith. They were surrounded by friends who loved them, family who cherished them and a community who supported them.

“Dad lived an ordinary life. But he lived it in an extraordinary way.”

He had lived an ordinary life – family, work, friends – these were the cornerstones. But he was content. He was happy. He was kind. He was supportive. He was loving. He valued the simple things in life. And he was loved.


Ordinary is Not Boring or Weak.

We are so often told to go big, be bold, live larger, dream higher, be extraordinary… And that to be anything else is to be selling ourselves short.

But amidst the noise of advertising telling us we can break free of ordinariness if only we, “Buy that dress! Have that house! Take that holiday! there is an argument for an ordinary life. A life of deep relationships and love, of giving to others, to your community. A life where you have the time and the energy to be fully present in the lives of your partner, your kids, your friends, your work.

There is value in a life lived quietly, full of contentment, love, play, friends and family.


But What About Dreams? Goals? Aspirations?

Having dreams and goals – even extraordinary ones – isn’t counter to living an ordinary life.

Dreams are wonderful. Sparky and I dream of travelling with our kids, introducing them to the world, experiencing new people and places.

But before we can find happiness in living those dreams, we need to recognise that life is ordinary and to find happiness in that.

If you can’t find joy and contentment in your day-to-day, what makes you think you will be any happier living in the South of France? Or once you’ve run that marathon?

The day-to-day is just that – daily rhythms of work, family, friends, love, responsibility. And instead of constantly battling the ordinariness of those things, we can accept them and find happiness and contentment and joy in them. Because it is enough.

When we are content in our ordinary life, we free up so much energy to embrace opportunity, to be idle and to dream. And that’s when extraordinary things can happen – if you want them to.

What ordinary thing are you thankful for today? Let us know in the comments below – hell, shout it from the rooftops! Because it is enough.


January is the Month of Baby Steps —- 2013 Declutter Challenge

{via Luelurs on Tumblr}
{via Luelurs on Tumblr}

So you’re committed to making 2013 the Year of Living Simply? Awesome!

The first thing you should consider doing is joining the 2013 in 2013 Declutter Challenge. The aim is to declutter an average of 5.6 items every day for the entire year, meaning by the time New Years Eve rolls around, you will be living with at least 2013 items less than today. It’s the ultimate Year of Simplicity!

The second thing to do is read and download the first monthly checklist right here.

Each month I will publish a printable checklist for you, which will outline the areas of your home to focus on over the next few weeks, as well as specific tips and suggestions for getting the most out of each decluttering session.

Being January, everyone is super keen to get their simpler lives underway – I get this. In fact, I’m often gripped with a demented need to start afresh every New Year.

But because I’m all about approaching simplicity in a slow, sustainable, realistic way, January is going to be devoted to taking baby steps. I think people often dive in to decluttering in a gung-ho, adhoc way. For example:

You decide to declutter and spend the weekend ripping into every room, determined to clear out the crap. Then, about halfway through, while the contents of every drawer, cupboard and wardrobe are littered across the floor, you run out of steam. You stop making good decisions about what you no longer need, and eventually give up and shove whatever is left back in the cupboard, leaving it more of a mess than it was before.

(If you’re thinking this sounds familiar, don’t worry, I’m with you. I did this exact thing more times than I care to count…)

This is why January is about baby steps. Establishing a slower, simpler rhythm to your decluttering means you are far more likely to keep it up as the year progresses.

Your Never-Fail Decluttering Technique

As this is the first month, I wanted to give you some basic guidelines on how best to declutter. If you don’t have a process or a framework to refer to, sometimes it can get overwhelming and you find yourself giving up halfway through.

So here is the basic process I use whenever I’m decluttering part of my home:

1. Decide on which single surface to declutter. Once you begin, do not move on to another until this one is completely clutter-free and organised.

2. Establish an area as your work space. Clear a flat surface to use for sorting, organising, etc.

3. Grab three boxes or bags:

  • Donate box – for anything in good condition. These could be donated to charity, given as hand-me-downs to friends or family, or given away for free using or hard rubbish collections.
  • Throw away box – anything that is not in good, useable condition
  • Recycle box – for any items that can be recycled, instead of simply thrown away
  • Holding box – this is an optional fourth box to keep any items you are torn about. The holding box can keep them out of the way for six months, when you can decide (based on whether you have missed or needed the items) if you will keep or donate the entire box without opening it.

4. Remove everything from the space you are decluttering. Place it all on your work surface, leaving the decluttered space completely empty. Clean it with a damp cloth.

5. Pick up each item individually and ask yourself the questions below:

  • Do I want this?
  • Do I use this? (Or have I used it in the past year?)
  • Do I need this?
  • Do I love this?
  • Is it beautiful?
  • Is it meaningful?

6. Decide if you will keep the item, donate it or throw it away. Only then should you put the item you are keeping back in its place.

7. Work your way through each item until all the contents have been sorted.

8. Box up the items for donation and recycle/throw away the things you can’t give away. Put away the things you are keeping – be it on the newly decluttered space or elsewhere.

9. Sit back and marvel at the beautiful clutter-free surface you’ve just created.

The January Checklist

You can download the checklist for January by clicking the link below:

2013 Declutter Challenge: January Checklist

Each project shouldn’t take longer than 30-45 minutes (some significantly less than that).
You will be looking for things you no longer need, want or use. But on top of that, these areas will also offer up a lot of rubbish. It truly is amazing the stuff we accumulate and these areas are hotbeds of junk collection!

  • Kitchen Drawers
    • Cutlery
    • Utensils
    • Tupperware / Plastics

For more advice on tackling the kitchen drawers, check out this post.

  • Medicine Cabinet
  • Purse / Handbag
  • Car
  • Entryway
    • Coat rack
    • Hall stand
    • Hall closet
    • Shoe basket
    • Drop zone for keys, sunglasses etc
    • Mail

For more advice on decluttering and organising an effective entryway, head over to this post.

Let’s Do It…

Grab your bags, give yourself 30 minutes and let’s make 2013 the year you simplify your life!

As you work through this month’s tasks, don’t forget to keep count of the items you’re decluttering – we’re aiming at an average of 5.5 items a day.

Tell me, do any of the January tasks scare you?