Monthly Archives: December 2014

6 Reasons to Try Slow Travel

Last week, my family and I headed off to Canada for a long-awaited and much needed holiday.

Truth is, the last few months of 2014 have been intense and I’m feeling more than a little burnt out. I had great intentions of pre-scheduling posts over the Christmas period, but at some point I had to decide between sleep and work, and sleep won. Besides, running myself in to the ground is pretty much the opposite of slow living isn’t it? So I thought I’d better walk the walk and not just talk the talk.

After over a week offline and without so much as a word written, I’m feeling good. In fact I’m feeling more positive than I have in months – the passion, the excitement and the drive are back and I’m excited to see what the New Year brings. I guess sometimes all we need is to take a few steps back in order to see the bigger picture.

So while my family and I are still on holidays and will be until late January (and I will be mostly offline for that time – checking in very sporadically) I have some new posts scheduled between now and January 1. After that I have a 26-part series due to go out once a day until I return on January 28.

I hope you and your loved ones had a wonderful Christmas, and enjoy a safe and happy New Year.

For us, this trip is all about slow.

Slow travel – to us, at least – is simply saying no. No to rushing. No to cramming. No to endless touring. No to nameless museums and galleries that are simply an item on a to-do list, a photo on a memory card, a thing we can say, “Yep, did that. What’s next?”

We’ve been looking forward to this trip for over a year, and will be away from home for just over a month. And what’s been interesting is the number of people who have asked if we’ll be touring around a lot, considering the length of our holiday. Aside from a detour to Disneyland on the way home (I know, I know, it’s the antithesis of simple living, but our kids are 4 and 5 – what are you gonna do?) we’re staying in one place the entire time.

And while it’s occasionally tempting to try and cram as many destinations, tours, sights, museums and galleries into our time, it’s really not appealing to us. Instead, we prefer to view our holidays through the lens of slow: quality over quantity and depth over breadth.

I know many people see that as a lost opportunity but we don’t see travel as a reason to be on the move constantly. Rather it’s an opportunity to reconnect, relax and spend time together as a family – time that doesn’t involve endless early mornings, transfers and airports. Neither Sparky nor I find that in the slightest bit relaxing, so it was a no-brainer to stay in the one place.

Besides, spending a month in the gorgeous Canadian Rockies is hardly a chore, you know?

I also think the desire to cram as much as possible in to a holiday has something to do with fear – fear that we will miss out on Something Amazing. Fear that we won’t get to see all the sights we want to see. Fear that we won’t get the chance to tick off every bucket list item. Fear that someone else’s experiences might be more impressive.

And I get that. I really do. But the reality is none of us will see every sight, every wonder, every monument, every ocean, every pyramid, every festival, every tribe, every mountain, every village, every church. Even if you started travelling now and didn’t stop until the day you died, you wouldn’t see it all.

So isn’t it better to see – and I mean really see – one or two places? To get amongst locals? To play where they play? To eat where they eat? To gain a better understanding of different people, places and cultures?

Slow travel helps us have:

  • deeper experiences
  • a better understanding of the places we visit
  • a less touristy experience
  • a more restful holiday
  • more time for experiences
  • less time travelling

Take today for example. I’ve spent the morning writing in the library and am about to walk in to town and have a coffee and some lunch. I might take the long way back, through the woods (although I might not, considering it’s -10C) and when I get back to our apartment we will probably watch a movie together.

To some this probably sounds like a wasted opportunity (think of the sights we could have been seeing! the tours we could have been doing!) but to us it’s what makes a trip worthwhile. I feel part of a community when we travel like this. I’m more prone to talking to strangers. More likely to discover a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant. More inclined to have an afternoon nap and a glass of wine before dinner.

It’s more of the good stuff and less of the stress. Life, but simpler.

6 more simple living blogs that deserve our attention

(via Kelly Exeter)
(via Kelly Exeter)

Back in 2012, Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist included Slow Your Home in a ‘blogs to watch’ post. Without drifting too far into hyperbole, that one link changed the direction of this blog and my writing. Suddenly I had people – quite a few of them – reading my words, and things have grown from there.

While my blog isn’t as widely read as Joshua’s I still like to pay it forward every year and pull together a list of simple living blogs that deserve our attention.

This year’s crop is actually very exciting to me, as I’m starting to see the ideas of simple living integrate into more mainstream concepts. One blog is all about simple, healthy food while another digs into capsule wardrobes (and soup). I feel like it’s a wonderful sign that this idea of living with less is really beginning to take hold, and to me, that’s incredibly exciting.

The simple living community is one of the most supportive and encouraging groups I’ve ever been a part of, and I hope you get as much enjoyment from these 6 blogs as I do:

Light by Coco

A self-proclaimed packing expert and capsule wardrobe genius, Coco writes and vlogs about modern simple living, time management, healthy (often vegan-friendly) meals and building a small, fashionable wardrobe. To be honest, many of the clothing choices are gorgeous but not practical for me and my lifestyle, but they don’t need to be – that’s kind of the point. I find her approach refreshing and interesting and flexible enough to adapt to my needs, which is perfect.

I like this blog because: it comes at simplicity from a different angle.

Think Big Live Simply

Becs is living the dream. (Well, my dream, at least.) She is a permaculture designer and market garden veggie grower, living most days up to her elbows in some form of green. A self-confessed garden nerd and simple living enthusiast, Becs writes beautifully and mindfully about what it is to be completely present in our days. She is passionate about the life she is building, and that passion comes through in her writing and her gorgeous photography. And living a mindful life with passion is what simple living is all about, right?

I like this blog because: it speaks to my inner garden nerd and fills me with energy, gratitude and positivity.

Minimal Student

I’m relatively new to this blog, but really love Jessica’s approach to simplicity. She writes about travel, goals, fitness, mindfulness, gratitude and simplifying – all through the lens of someone who is constantly learning and improving. I find that really refreshing and honest – after all, we’re all just learning aren’t we?

I like this blog because: it’s upbeat, honest and reflective. And it encourages me to keep learning and improving.

One Empty Shelf

Sal is a minimalist on a mission. 2015 is her second go-around with Buy Nothing New for a Year, and I am really fascinated to watch her progress. She is interested in permaculture, self-sufficiency and the sharing economy, as well as simplifying. She has already written very honestly about her first year of buying nothing (you can read about it here and here) and the struggles, both emotional and practical, that she faced. It’s wonderful to have your thoughts on the status quo challenged, and reading this blog does just that.

I like this blog because: it challenges me in a very positive way.

The Simple Kitchen

Real food. Simply made. Sounds perfect! Since going vegetarian I have occasionally struggled to find interesting, healthy options that don’t require me to spend hours in the kitchen. And then I found Chelsea’s blog, which balances healthful and nutritious recipes with interesting and simple ingredients. So while it’s not strictly about simple living, it certainly is about simplicity in the food we eat. And for me, that is a huge part of taking simple living from being just about decluttering, to being about how we live our entire lives – including the food we eat.

I like this blog because: Chelsea doesn’t subscribe to fad diet or labels. She just makes real food, simple.

A Life Less Frantic

You won’t find a more authentic and honest blog than this. Kelly writes about mindfulness and positivity, as well as how to make our days less, well…frantic. She writes amazing manifestos about simplicity, including this one (my favourite) and advocates kindness and compassion. This is a BS-free zone and it’s a breath of fresh air every time I read her words. If you need some food for thought when it comes to how your days unfold, both internally and externally, then you should check this blog.

I like this blog because: Kelly always stokes my brain fire. She’s always asking questions and is never afraid to put herself out there on the page, all in an effort to slow down and connect with what really matters.

Are there any simple living blogs you’re loving right now? I’d love to hear about them and discover some more simplicity advocates doing their thing on the web. Feel free to share below. 

Also: Beyond the To Do List

Last week I was interviewed by Erik Fisher of Beyond the To Do List – a podcast about the people behind the productivity.

It’s genuinely one of my favourite podcasts to listen to, so when I was invited to be part of it, I jumped at the chance.

Erik and I have a great chat about rhythm and routine, tilting and why it’s OK to not do it all.  You can listen to the episode here, or download it via iTunes, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Don’t know what stuff to keep? Have a packing party!

Don't know what stuff to keep? Have a packing party!

After almost 4 years of simplifying, decluttering and paring back, I honestly thought I’d tried it all. When it came to getting rid of excess stuff, there wasn’t a hack, tip, trick or idea I hadn’t experimented with.

Or so I thought.

I was proven wrong when I had the opportunity to see the boys from The Minimalists take the stage in Sydney, and I am so happy about it.

You see, they introduced me to the idea of a packing party, which sounds both fun and productive. (Turns out only one of those is true, but that’s OK.)

Essentially, the idea is to pack every single item in your home (or, in my case, chosen room/shelf/drawer) and box it up as though you’re moving house. Then, over the next few weeks, pull items out only as needed or requested. After a certain period has passed you sell, donate, recycle or toss the unused items.

While Ryan from The Minimalists held a packing party to box up the entire contents of his home when he first adopted minimalism (you can read more about it here), that idea wasn’t really practical for my family. Plus, we’ve been simplifying for a long time, and most of what we own is stuff we now use regularly.

One of the remaining areas of relative excess though, is toys.

I was sorely tempted to stick to the packing party guidelines and pack every single toy away, but the reality is that if I did that my kids would become acutely aware of what they didn’t have and therefore want everything back.

So instead, I quickly worked through all toy storage areas and bookshelves, removing any toys, books or games that hadn’t played with over the past month. (To be fair, we’ve worked to cull the number they have to a manageable level already so the things I removed were mostly toys they had outgrown, rather than toys that were neglected due to excess.)

I pulled out 40+ books, some bulky toys, dolls that were hardly ever used and games with missing pieces. All of these were then packed into two boxes and put away in the linen cupboard.

That was four weeks ago and as of right now, my daughter has asked about two dolls which I’d packed away. I happily retuned them to her, glad that I chose the packing party route rather than the straight-out clutter assault. But aside from that one request? Nothing.

This exercise wasn’t about tricking my kids or even about decluttering. It was more an experiment in what is needed, what is wanted, and what is missed.

And the answer to all three of those questions is a lot less than you’d imagine.

If you’re struggling with the idea of letting go, or the ever-present issue of keeping things “just in case”, you could try holding a packing party. Try packing away your:

  • kitchen drawers
  • bookshelves
  • toys and games
  • hobby equipment
  • makeup and toiletries
  • decor
  • seasonal clothes (try this just before the beginning of a season and see how many of your clothes stay in the box until season’s end)
  • living room (leaving just enough furniture for sitting)
  • DVD or CD collection

How to hold a packing party

Despite the name, you don’t actually need a party of people to complete this exercise. All that’s required is a little time, a little bravery (but not nearly as much as if you were getting rid of this stuff immediately), some boxes and a healthy sense of experimentation.

1. Choose the area you want to pack up.

A few brave souls in our Facebook community have packed up entire rooms (typically bedrooms or living rooms) and only unpacked the essentials as needed. If this is too overwhelming, then start by packing up a small area. Try one shelf, one drawer or one corner of a bench.

2. Deal with items individually.

Pick up each item individually and place those you wish to keep (for now) in a box. As you pack items away, feel free to create additional piles – one for donations of items you definitely do not want to keep, one for items you want to recycle and one for items that can go in the garbage. Use this as an opportunity to declutter, as there will almost certainly be things you already know you don’t want to keep.

Also, if there are items you know you will need immediately (one set of cutlery per person, for example) then keep those out.

3. Pack items up and set a reminder

Pack the items away and label each box with the date and contents. It’s a good idea to keep these boxes in a place where you can easily access them, as the whole idea behind the packing party is pulling out the items as needed, rather than putting them away in order to forget them.

Once packed up, put a reminder on your calendar, phone or computer for 1-3 months time. When that time comes, look at how many items have been taken out of the box, and feel free to donate what remains.


Now, in the lead-up to the busy Christmas holiday season (and the influx of gifts many of us experience) might be a good time to hold your own packing party. Try it in your guest room, toy boxes or kitchen counter, or combine it with the Annual Pre-Holiday Declutter for maximum impact.


This is not Clark W. Griswold’s Pre-Holiday Declutter Guide

The Amazingly Awesome Pre-Holiday Declutter Guide

This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here. We’re gonna press on, and we’re gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny f*****g Kaye. And when Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he’s gonna find the jolliest bunch of a**holes this side of the nuthouse.”

Clark W. Griswold

Clark W. Griswold is an intense kind of guy. He’s pretty much all-in, all the time. And if you’re looking for an all-in, intense guide to pre-holiday decluttering, this is not it.

This is, however, a guide to getting your home prepared for the influx of the Holiday G’s. That is, Gifts and Guests.

One is infinitely more important than the other, but both are a reality at this time of year.

This Pre-Holiday Declutter Guide is designed to help you prepare for the arrival of both G’s, meaning:

  • you will be free to enjoy the festive season
  • there will be less stress and last-minute scrambling to prepare for guests
  • you avoid the sinking realisation on January 1 that you’re now wading through not only last year’s clutter, but the newly acquired stuff too
  • you know what, if anything, you or your family needs – so when shopping or when asked, you can suggest suitable and useful gifts
  • you can declutter all the old/no longer used toys, books and games, making space for new ones or simply making space
  • you can decorate your home for the holidays in a much simpler, more mindful way
  • you can begin next year feeling in control of your home and use it as motivation to continue to create a simpler, slower life.

All it takes is a little time, some energy and a moderate amount Clark W. Griswold-style enthusiasm (minus Cousin Eddie).

How the Guide Works

I’ve split the home into areas, and given you a handful of different decluttering projects for each part of the home. Which of these areas you focus on depends on your holiday plans, whether you’re hosting guests, what part of the world you live in and what you want your home to feel like this season. Some of the tasks will only take you 5-10 minutes while others are more involved.

Rather than try to do all of them before the holiday season descends – which would leave you a quivering mess – pick 5-10 individual tasks to focus on, and work through them one at a time. Spend 10-15 minutes on these every day between now and mid-December, or dedicate a few hours this weekend to getting them done.

Also note that this guide isn’t about doing a deep declutter. It’s more a surface declutter that will help eliminate the most obvious stuff. If you have the time and energy to do so, feel free to tackle each of the areas in-depth and start the festive season off with a smile, but otherwise stick to the relatively easy stuff and know that you will have time to dig in after the holidays.

Target Area #1: Kids Spaces

Much of the gift-giving at this time of year revolves around children. Which I think is wonderful – to a point.

Kids receive so much – be it toys, games, gadgets or clothes – that the pleasure of receiving and then using their gifts is sometimes lost amidst the chaos of wrapping paper and mountains of parcels.

Even if you are pleading for restraint from family and friends, chances are your kids will receive more than they need. It’s best to clear out the clutter, the unused or old toys and the clothes that don’t fit anymore before you are inundated with even more.

Task: Declutter the Toys

(Approximate Time: 1-2 hours)

If you have kids or grandkids, you will likely have amassed a good number of toys over the past year. Gifts, party favours, and hand-me-downs are the likeliest clutter culprits. Of these toys, some will be keepers, others will be junk and more still will be toys your little ones have outgrown.

Before the inundation of toys that comes every Christmas, you should sort and purge what you already own.

This post on tackling the toyboxes tells you everything you need to know, and provides a step-by-step guide on decluttering your kids’ toys.

Unfortunately, following these suggestions won’t stop the toys from being spread across all rooms of the home. The only way to ensure that is to get rid of all the toys. Or all the kids.

Task: Declutter Kids’ Wardrobes

(Approximate time: 15-30min per wardrobe)

If your family is listening to your pleas of “No more toys, please,” chances are your kids will receive clothes. Quite possibly a lot of them.

Now is the perfect time to clear their wardrobes of anything they have outgrown, anything soiled or stretched or beyond repair and anything they simply don’t wear. And this post on how to wrangle control of your kids’ wardrobes has tips on getting through the clutter quickly and keeping it (relatively) organised.

Target Area #2: Adult Spaces

It’s a hectic time of year, undoubtedly. So many of us approach the holidays feeling tired and strung out already, only to be hit full-force with a busy calendar, a long to-do list and a heap of shopping that needs to be done.

That’s why it’s really important to gain control of your spaces at home – the adult spaces – and create as much peace and tranquility as possible.

Task: Declutter and Simplify Your Bedroom

(Approximate time: 1-2 hours)

You really do need a space to escape, particularly this time of year. This post provides you with five ways to create a simple, slow bedroom. You’ll thank me later!

Task: Declutter and Simplify Guest Bedrooms

(Approximate time: 30 minutes)

Even if you don’t technically have a guest bedroom, you still need to make some plans for accommodating house guests over the holiday season.

  • Where will they sleep?
  • What will they sleep on?
  • How many nights are you having guests?

If you do have a specific guest bedroom, now is the time to give it a light declutter. Clear out any storage boxes or clutter that has found its way there over the year. Take a minute to clean out underneath the bed and make sure there is space for luggage.

You may want to look at this post on creating a slow bedroom, to make your guests’ stay a good one. (Or, depending on the guests, maybe you don’t!) This way the space will be ready for your guests, and all you will need to do is make up the bed when they arrive.

Target Area #3: Kitchen

The kitchen is the beating heart of the home, and the festive season will see you spend a good chunk of time in there – particularly if you’re entertaining. Spending some time to declutter it now will mean it’s easier to keep tidy and you are far more likely to enjoy preparing food for your friends and family. With the added bonus of a calm, clear space in the heart of your home.

Task: Declutter Kitchenware

(Approximate time: 30 minutes)

For adults, it seems kitchenware is the go-to gift option when you have no other ideas. While technically a “useful” gift – everyone needs to eat off something, serve food off something, drink from something – often these items sit at the back of the kitchen cupboards, rarely used.

To declutter your kitchenware you have to understand your needs. These are different for everyone, dependent on who lives in your house, how often you entertain, if you have kids, the ages of the kids and your storage space.

Some guidelines to keep in mind as you declutter your kitchenware:

  • You don’t need an everyday crockery set as well as good china. Opt to keep the most practical/beautiful/useful and donate the remainder.
  • You need one style of cutlery, not two or three different sets.
  • A few salad bowls, serving platters and dishes is enough – if you are entertaining a large crowd, borrow serving platters from friends or family.
  • Wine glasses and champagne flutes are lovely to have and necessary if you entertain – but ensure you keep enough, not too many. 6-8 of each should be ample for most homes. Again, you can borrow additional glasses if needed.
  • Shot glasses? If you’re an adult, get rid of ‘em. Really.
  • Keeping a neutral palette for all the major kitchenware (crockery, serving platters, etc) means you will never have the worry of items that don’t match. White is best… If you care about such things.

Task: Declutter Kitchen Drawers

(Approximate time: 10 minutes)

There are few places in the home that attract random clutter like the kitchen drawers. If you have a young family this is partly unavoidable, given toddlers penchant for playing with kitchen utensils and tupperware. But decluttering the drawers will certainly help make it easier to find what you need and much more pleasant to look at.

This post takes you through a 10-minute kitchen declutter and should help get you sorted.

Plus, you won’t cringe with shame any time a guest opens a drawer in the kitchen, only to be greeted with a jumbled mess of utensils and a fine layer of sugar, rice and flour. (How does it get in there anyway?)

Task: Clear the Kitchen Benchtops

(Approximate time: 10 minutes)

Isn’t it lovely to walk into a clutter-free kitchen? A kitchen where everything has a place, it feels orderly and open, and it’s easy to find what you need?

In the lead-up to the silly season, keep your kitchen as open and clutter-free as possible by clearing the benchtops of clutter and any unnecessary appliances.

Find a place in your cupboards for the kettle, toaster, blender and any other appliances that currently reside on the benchtop. It takes approximately 6 seconds to put these back after use and your kitchen will be so much easier on the eye and far less likely to become cluttered.

Target Area #4: Living Spaces

What we really want to do in the holidays is relax. To spend time with our loved ones, to recuperate after a busy year, to focus on all the good things in our lives. While other parts of the home are important for this, none more so than the living spaces.

If you can do no more than one or two of the tasks in this guide before the holiday season, I recommend you do the following. They will only take an hour or two and you will be so glad you did once the silly season arrives.

Task: Create a Clutter-Free Dining Room

(Approximate time: 15-30 minutes)

When guests arrive at your place you want to be able to sit down, grab a drink, maybe some nibblies, and just enjoy their company, right? You probably don’t want to be shuffling stacks of paperwork, craft supplies and toys around, simply to make room at the dining table.

This post on creating a clutter-free dining room will help, and this post shares a heap of visual inspiration for those of you wondering how best to decorate your newly decluttered dining table.

Task: Rearrange Your Living Room

(Approximate time: 1 hour)

I’m not entirely sure when “living room” came to mean “room where we watch television”, but that now seems to be the sole purpose of most living rooms in most homes.

But really, you want the living room to function in a number of ways, not only as a space to watch television.

In fact, you really should take the emphasis of the room away from television viewing and instead encourage lingering conversations, nights spent reading books and listening to music.

How to reclaim your living room for living:

  • Look at the furniture you own and decide if it all needs to stay. Are you able to wall mount your TV? Get rid of the entertainment unit?
  • Try moving the television to a side wall, rather than the main, focal wall.
  • Arrange your lounges or armchairs to face each other, rather than the television. This helps to encourage conversation.
  • Bring a selection of your book and music collections out to encourage you to read or listen rather than automatically reaching for the remote at the end of the day.

Task: Declutter Bookshelves

(Approximate time: 15-45 minutes)

The benefits of decluttering your bookshelves now are two-fold. Firstly there’s the benefit of a clutter-free space in your living room, which is a beautiful thing. Secondly, given how popular books are as Christmas gifts, you can make room for any that make their way into your home come December.

To do a quick declutter of your bookshelves:

1. Grab 2 boxes – one for books to donate/sell and one for books to recycle (please keep this to a minimum).

2. Clear a workspace near your shelves and, working from the top shelf down, pick up each book and decide what will be done with it, based on these questions:

  • Have I ever read this?
  • Is it a favourite?
  • Will I really read it again?
  • Is it a literary classic?
  • Am I still passionate about the subject?
  • Will anyone else in the home want to read it?

3. Place the books you are keeping in a pile and sort the others into groups that will be sold, donated and recycled.

4. Once each shelf is completely cleared, wipe it down.

5. When you’ve cleared the entire bookcase, put back the books you are keeping. Organise them by colour, size, topic, adult/children’s – whatever it is that works in your home and is going to remain (relatively) organised.

6. As you put each book back on the shelf, double-check your decision to keep it. Ask yourself, “Do I really want to keep it?”

7. Pack the books you are donating/selling into a box and put them in the car. Recycle the (hopefully) small amount that you need to.

8. Make yourself a cup of tea, or pour a glass of wine. Grab a book off that gorgeous bookcase and just lose yourself. Even for five minutes.


The beauty of taking the time to do these tasks now, is that once the craziness of mid-December arrives – in all her busy, wonderful glory – you will be organised and prepared. You will enjoy the holidays and your family and friends get to enjoy you. Not to mention their subscription to the Jelly of the Month Club.