Monthly Archives: September 2014

But… what if I need 12 towels today?

But... What if I need 12 towels today?
(via Kevin Steinhardt on Flickr)

Spring has sprung here (yay!) and I spent an hour yesterday changing our linens over from winter to summer. As I was packing away the heavy sheets my eyes fell on our towels. Or, more specifically, our collection of towels.

We are a family of four. We do not need 12 full-sized bath towels. Plus beach towels. Plus 4 kids towels. Plus hand towels. Plus bath mats. While hardly excessive in Western terms, it is ridiculous to own so many.

Even with guests, illness or bad weather I have never gone close to needing all these towels. The ones on the bottom of the pile? I couldn’t tell you the last time I used them. So they’re gone. 6 full-sized towels, 2 kids towels, 4 hand towels and 2 bath mats. Donated.

And the annoying thing? I could have let go of more if it weren’t for that whiny voice in the back of my head saying, “Yeah, but what if…?”

What if what, exactly? That’s the $64,000 question.

What if I need all 12 towels at the same time?

Yes, messes occur and washing machines back up and guests visit, but the what-ifs and the maybes are not a good enough reason (for me) to hold on to the excess. If there is a flood, or a defrosted freezer or a family-wide illness, we will work it out.

I now look back at the things we held on to for so long, to placate that whiny voice saying, “Yeah, but what if…?” and I wish we got rid of them sooner. I can honestly say there has not been one single thing I regret having de-owned.

Not one single thing do I think of and say, “Oh, I wish I still had that.”

Part of the reason is because stuff simply isn’t as important to me now. Stuff doesn’t hold the weight or the status that it used to, so it’s OK not to have it. And it’s even more OK not to want it.

But the other part is that I’m no longer afraid of the what-ifs. Sometimes I still listen to them, but I know that, really, the world will continue to turn even if I don’t have enough of the same-sized dinner plates.

Which brings me back to our towels and the obvious truth that sometimes – despite all the lessons of simplifying over the past 4 years – it’s still hard to live with just enough.

So maybe the question shouldn’t be, “How many towels do I need?” but rather, “If I am wet, can I get dry?”

If the answer is yes, then I have enough.

And this afternoon, I’ll be taking those excess towels out of the linen cupboard and in to my ever-running donation bag. After all, we have enough.


Instagram or it didn’t happen.

Instagram or it didn't happen

We’ve just come home from a quick, lovely weekend away.

Sparky and I are in the midst of a really busy period, the kids have just finished pre-school for the term, and life has been feeling very un-slow lately. Without sounding too much like the personification of a First World Problem, it was a break we were very grateful to have.

On Sunday morning we headed to the beach despite the fact that it was grey and cold and windy. Personally, I was keen to sit inside and drink coffee, but the kids have been itching to get their feet in the sand since winter began, so we walked down to the water anyway.

It was so beautiful. The ocean was all steel greys and navy blues, with crests of white and turquoise as the waves broke on the sandbars. The sky was gunmetal. The sand was a cold yellow. I sat up on the dunes and watched little flashes of red and pink as Sparky played with the kids on the waters edge. Yes, I’m waxing poetic, but damn it was gorgeous.

As I sat and watched them play and squeal and chase each other through the water, I was hit full-force by ALL THE EMOTIONS.

Love. Terror. Peace. Gratitude. Incompetence. Pride. Completion. Vulnerability. Sadness. Joy.

Bam! Right in the kisser.


Did I mention it was beautiful?

It was an unrelentingly photographable moment. A moment you want to wrap up and preserve and revisit on those days when there’s chalk ground in to the carpet and the kids have taken more than you have to give and there’s nothing in the fridge apart from leftover Chinese from last Friday. And it’s Thursday.

But I didn’t have a camera. And I didn’t have a phone.

I had my eyes. I had my heart. I had my brain.

So instead of worrying about the angle, or trying to get the best capture of the moment, I simply sat and watched my heart run around outside my body and I soaked the moment up and tucked it all away in my temporal cortex.

I didn’t Instagram it, yet it still happened.

I guess the question is, had I taken a photo of this moment, would it have made such an impact? Would I have felt it so deeply?

I don’t think I could have. I felt all the feelings because I was completely present.

A photo would have been gorgeous, I have no doubt. I might have had other emotions and recollections when I went back and looked at the camera roll, but it wouldn’t have been the same.

The irony of writing about this moment on my blog is not lost on me. But now I’m going to level with you.

I love Instagram and I’m quite fond of most social media. (Except FourSquare. It’s creepy.) I regularly capture snippets of my day-to-day life, things like kids, pets, gardens, sunsets and coffees. I love documenting sweet moments in my day, and sometimes I love sharing them with others.

But not always.

I believe some photos just need to be for you. No sharing. No likes. No comments. Just documenting a little moment and revisiting it on those days that seem like too much hard work.

And even more importantly, I believe some moments just need to be revelled in. No camera. No agenda. Just eyes and heart and brain.

Trying to capture the essence of these moments in a photograph does a disservice to the people we share them with, and it does a disservice to our memories.

So this week I’m challenging myself, and you if you’re up for it, to go and make memories. Real, skin and dirt and laughter memories. Don’t be afraid that you won’t remember those moments without a photo. Maybe you will, maybe you won’t. But in the doing, you will be living, not just observing.

For me, that’s real life. Right there.


(*And for anyone curious, the photo above was taken months ago. Same weather, different day.)


Stories and lies.

The stories and lies we tell ourselves about our stuff.

Every time we buy something, we tell ourselves a story.

Sometimes that story is, “Last week my boots broke and they can’t be fixed. I need boots because winter is coming and without them, my feel will be cold.”

Pretty straightforward (with a small Game of Thrones reference thrown in for my own entertainment.)

But other times we tell ourselves more intricate stories about the stuff we want to buy. Often these stories are created by advertisers, marketers, magazines, social media and celebrities. And many of them aren’t so much stories as lies we tell ourselves when buying stuff we simply want.

These all condense down to one underpinning story-lie:

If I buy this thing it will make me better.

That might mean it will make you funnier, or sexier, or happier. It might mean you become more interesting, more hip or more respected. It might make you a better mother, friend or husband. It might make you run faster or train harder or look cuter at the gym.

Whatever your rationale, you are trying to convince yourself that this thing – these jeans, that throw rug, those trainers – will make you a better person in some way.

But honestly? It won’t.

A thing can’t make you a better person.

Providing your basic needs of food, water, shelter and clothing are met, this thing will – at best – make you more comfortable, more fashionable or more confident. But you aren’t a kinder, happier, more compassionate person because you bought a throw rug, or trainers, or jeans.

(Please know that I am as guilty of this lie as the next person, so I don’t say any of this in judgement.)

But a life of intentional simplicity is teaching me to recognise this lie, and ignore its needling little voice.

And if I can do that, if I can ignore the little voice telling me I’ll be better if I just buy the thing, then that thing – the jeans, the rug, the trainers – are relegated to their rightfully unimportant place. It’s just stuff. That’s it. Nothing more. And it’s much easier to not want things when you understand how unimportant they are.

When the time comes where you do need to buy a new pair of jeans, or trainers, or a throw rug (if one ever needs a throw rug), it doesn’t become an exercise in personal identity. The stuff remains relegated to its rightful place – it’s just stuff.

Stuff is OK. And it’s OK to want things. It’s OK to buy things.

But stuff is not important. So don’t take your value from it. Don’t measure yourself by it.

You are important. Your friends are important. Your children, your partner, your family – they are important.

Your words, your deeds, your worldview – these are important.

Your jeans? Your trainers? Your throw rug? No.



Death to the ironing pile!

Death to the ironing pile

Growing up, my mum was Master of the Laundry.

No sooner had you discarded your dirty clothes than they were in the washing machine, hung, dried, ironed and back on the bed. I grew up using this as one of many measures of competency at home.

My hat is forever tipped to such Laundry Masters, but I now accept the fact that I am not one of them. And that’s OK.

In fact, I am very, very, very bad at keeping up with my ironing. Like, bad enough that there are clothes at the bottom of the basket that may or may not have been there since…May. That kind of bad.

I generally manage to take care of the top 75% every week, but rarely seem to find time or motivation to finish it completely.

And while I’m slowly finding my groove and establishing the rhythms that work in our home, my lack of ironing prowess has always bothered me.

Over time though, I’ve worked out a few hacks to help cut down on the amount of ironing I need to do. Which leaves me time to do more pleasurable things, like scrape paint off windows or clean the toilet.

3 Home Hacks for Ironing Pile Death

1. Shake, shake, shake! 
As I’m hanging up the wet laundry, I give everything (except handwashing or delicates) three really good, firm shakes before I peg them up. This plus line-drying generally takes care of most wrinkles.

2. Sort and fold straight away.
Not always practical, I know, but when I can I like to fold and sort the clothes as soon as they come inside or out of the dryer. It means they don’t get all creased up sitting in the basket for who knows how long.

3. Drop your standards a little. 
I can’t be sure, but I don’t think people talk about us behind our backs due to this non-ironing thing. “Oh, would you look at that rumply family? How embarrassing. Can you believe they walk around like that?”

Now I no longer iron tshirts, kids clothes, pyjamas, gardening gear, exercise clothes, jeans or shorts. I do iron Sparky’s work shirts, anything really creasy like cotton and linen, and a handful of my delicates. I will admit that I love ironing pillowcases and teatowels though. Weird, I know.

How about you? Do you iron? Do you avoid the ironing? Do you outsource it? Are you the Mayor of Wrinkle Town?

Facing up to fear

Facing up to fear

This weekend I did something that absolutely terrified me.

At the Problogger event I stood in front of a roomful of (mostly) strangers and spoke to them for an hour. By myself.

As I watched them file in to the room and take their seats, I realised I had nothing and no-one to hide behind. It was me, my words, my ideas, some slides on a screen and about 300 eyes.

After 6 months of preparing and 284 potential excuses to not do this, I was doing it.

So I took the stage, got my notes prepared and just started.

(Can I preface this by saying that I am a blusher. I get red when I’m nervous. Then I know I’m getting red so I get more nervous. I then get flustered because I know I’m nervous and I’m red.)

I was nervous. I went red. My voice wavered as I began to speak. But I was doing it.

And as I continued doing it, the nerves disappeared just a little. People were interested, they were taking notes and no-one stood up and pointed at me, shrieking, “She has no right to be here!”

Which, of course, they wouldn’t. But that didn’t stop me from fearing it.

When I finished, people clapped. Someone made a joke about drinking vodka. I laughed and thought, “No. Seriously. Where is it?”

I won’t lie. I was utterly overcome with emotion at having done this thing I was so scared of. I was initially terrified, then it started and it finished and I found myself crying weird adrenaline-fuelled tears when it was over and I had retreated to the bathroom.

But after all that, I was proud.

At any one point, the fear could have stopped me. It could have caused me to give one of those 284 excuses and opt out. But I didn’t. Instead, I actually faced up and did the thing I was fearing the most. And I’ve grown as a result.

Recognise, feel and do.

You’ve no doubt heard the saying, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”

Yes, it’s cliche. Yes, it over-simplifies. (If you come face to face with a bear while hiking, I’d personally suggest you feel the fear and get the hell out of Dodge.) But it also applies to a lot of those fears that hold us back.

You know those fears? They’re insidious, internal fears that tell us we’re not good enough. They sneer at our dreams. They make us doubt ourselves and our abilities. Those particular fears deserved to be brought out into the light, examined and then cast aside.

Much like any emotion or reaction that tries to hold us back – be it anxiety, cravings or something else – I think we need to recognise our fears, examine them, feel them and continue on our intended path anyway.

You can still:

  • Feel the emotional pull of decluttering sentimental stuff, but don’t let it stop you from simplifying.
  • Feel the desire to stay in bed, but don’t let it stop you from getting up and going for a run.
  • Feel the need to buy clothes to keep up with fashion, but don’t let it stop you from living a more mindful, less materialistic life.
  • Feel the hankering to watch another hour of TV, but don’t let it stop you from getting 7 hours sleep.
  • Feel the cravings for junk food, but don’t let it stop you from eating well.
  • Feel the anxiety of trying something new, but don’t let it stop you from moving forward.

Have you allowed yourself to really feel or do something uncomfortable? How did you react? Did you try to run away? Did you ignore the feelings? Or did you meet them head-on?