Monthly Archives: January 2015

U is for Unplugging: A-Z of Simple Living

#unplug #simpleliving #simplify
{via MattStevensCLT on Flickr}

This January, we’re taking an in-depth look at the why and how of simplicity with the A-Z of Simple Living. If you want to make 2015 the year you create a simpler, slower life, why not join us?

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In 2015, we are receiving an average amount of information – per day – far greater than anything our ancestors received in a lifetime.

Isn’t that just… nuts?

Is it little wonder we feel stressed? Strained? Overwhelmed?

What we need is more time to ourselves.More time to just be. More time to engage – really engage – with life.

We need to unplug.

Our constantly connected world has so many advantages. We can communicate across vast distances, virtually experience incredible places, learn from masters and discover anything imaginable with a few clicks of a mouse button or swipe of a finger.

But we are also constantly connected. We carry our smartphones in our pockets, using them as cameras, calendars, notebooks and alarm clocks. We feel naked without at least one source of connection – be it an iPad, a smartphone, a laptop – or all three.

We forget how to simply be. How to immerse ourselves in whatever is in front of us. How to truly engage in face-to-face conversation, personal connections and true down-time. And we are burning out. We are addicted to this digital connection. We are afraid that if we unplug we will miss out on something.

There is a price to pay for this constant level of connection and it is steep unless we learn to offset it with periods of disconnection.

The Power of the Off Switch

Disconnection from the online world allows us to reconnect or fully connect with the physical world in front of us. Fully connect with our kids, our partner, our family, our friends, our work, our environment, our imagination.

Unplugging sounds like such a simple idea. And it really is.

Only once you start to think about how you spend your down time it becomes apparent that while it is simple, it may not be easy.

Think about it:

How do you like to unwind?

A glass of wine at the end of the day? Reading a book? Flicking through a magazine? Spending time in the garden? Wonderful.

What about reading blogs? Or ebooks? Watching TV while you enjoy that glass of wine? Flicking through a digital version of your magazine? Not to mention Facebook? Twitter? Pinterest?

The second list may be ways you like to relax, but you are still connected. The virtual world is still there, pulling you in 32 opposing directions, tempting you to learn more, see more, know more.

Powering Down – Daily

This involves taking time every day and unplugging from the constantly connected world.

It means unplugging from your:

  • laptop
  • email
  • smartphone
  • TV

Switch them all off and do something in the physical world.

You could try:

  • sitting quietly
  • reading
  • walking
  • playing with your kids
  • writing
  • talking with your partner or spouse
  • prayer
  • meditation
  • yoga
  • simple stretching exercises
  • sipping a coffee outside, watching the sky, hearing the birds.

The important thing is that you connect with the real world, or allow your mind to access a different virtual one – the world of your imagination.

If You’re Having Trouble Unplugging…

If it’s proving difficult to find time for this ritual, you could try:

  • unplugging on the bus or train on your way to and from work
  • getting up earlier and enjoy the early morning quiet without plugging in to your computer or phone – the emails can wait fifteen minutes
  • leaving for the gym 15 minutes earlier and find a quiet spot to sit
  • watching one less television show at night or DVR it and come back to it later
  • making a real effort to cut back on social media – I’m looking at you, Facebook and Twitter. Cut it in half and use that time to be fully in the offline world. How many Twitter updates do you really need to scroll through anyway?

However you choose to do it, make it a priority to get downtime each and every day.

Do you have daily disconnected time? Do you feel more calm or more anxious? More engaged or more disconnected? More content or more dissatisfied? I know which I feel, but I want to hear from you…

 

T is for Tilting: A-Z of Simple Living

Tilting #simple #simplicity
{via Kate McGovern}

This January, we’re taking an in-depth look at the why and how of simplicity with the A-Z of Simple Living. If you want to make 2015 the year you create a simpler, slower life, why not join us?

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Tilting isn’t normally seen as a good thing. It’s something strange and off-putting. It’s even something to be feared, because anything that’s tilting is surely unstable. Think the Tower of Pisa or a rickety bridge.

The reason we think tilting is bad is that we’ve been fed the myth of balance for too long. We think that to be in control means to be balanced across all areas. No leaning. No wavering. No tilting.

To me, and those of you who have read my book, ‘Destination: Simple’ have heard this already, tilting is a positive. And it’s definitely preferable to being balanced.

Essentially it’s denying the idea that everything needs to be perfectly balanced. That we need to perfectly manage the needs of everyone  and everything in our life, every day. And that anything less is a failure.

But What About Finding Balance?

If you look at balance as something you need to achieve every day – keeping the scales evenly weighted between your partner, your kids, your family, friends, yourself, your spirituality, health, keeping the home, your work – you simply won’t be able to do it. Because each day brings different challenges, different tasks and different needs from your life.

I am here to tell you that this balancing act is a complete myth. And you should forget about achieving it, because you won’t.

Instead, you need to learn to tilt. To willingly throw things out of balance. And, importantly, to be OK with that.

Actually, you need to embrace it.

A Definition of Tilting

‘Tilting’ is an idea I discovered on Sarah Wilson’s blog and it struck me as wholly sensible, simple, beautiful, flexible and forgiving.

A 2009 study by Marcus Birmingham asked the question “What are happy women doing differently?” And the response was not – as you may imagine – somehow striking the perfect balance between work/life/health/family/passions/spirituality.

“These happy women… realised that balance was impossible (and therefore stressful) to achieve, but also rather boring. Instead, they “tilted” towards activities and commitments they liked and found meaningful.

I love this idea. Tilting.

And here’s why: tilting doesn’t require putting the brakes on.

Braking constantly is exhausting. Saying “no” is exhausting and doing things for balance, rather than because it matters to you is, frankly, martyrish.

Tilting on the other hand is a positive flow forward, a moving “with” life.”

 

Sarah Wilson — sarahwilson.com.au

Essentially it’s about being aware of the changing pressures of life and being flexible.

Some days:

  • Your kids are happy to play independently – tilt towards catching up on tasks around the house.
  • Your kids are sick, or needy, or plain grumpy, meaning you can’t get anything done except the very basics. Tilt towards supporting the kids and being extra mindful of what’s going on for them.
  • Your partner is under added pressure at work. Tilt towards lessening the load on them at home.
  • You need to recharge. Tilt towards being kind to yourself and letting go of the things that don’t help with that.
  • You need to regain order at home. Tilt away from social engagements and towards time at home.
  • You have a busy time at work. Tilt towards simple meals, light home duties and simple rhythms.

See what I mean?

Tilting allows you to focus on what is important in the moment.

If this idea still makes you feel uncomfortably off-kilter, it can help to take a longer view of things. That is, instead of battling to find balance every day, it’s more important to create it over a month. Or a year.

How Do You Tilt?

It’s not a matter of learning a step-by-step approach. It’s more about adopting the mindset of tilting and keeping the idea in the back of your mind.

It’s about understanding – and accepting – the fact that you can not and will not ever achieve perfect balance. And what’s more, you probably wouldn’t want to.

Achieving and then maintaining a state of balanced perfection would be incredibly stressful and unfulfilling. Instead you need to understand that your time is limited and valuable.  And you can choose where to place your energies, depending upon where they need to be.

Ask yourself, what are your priorities in life?

  • caring for your kids, physically and emotionally?
  • supporting your partner?
  • being there for your family when they need you?
  • maintaining social relationships with friends?
  • working or creating to nourish yourself?
  • looking after your own health and well being?
  • finding contentment in life?
  • creating a home that is calm, warm and open to all those you love?

Then, one-by-one, think about how you have given each of those priorities time, effort and attention over the past six months.

Do they stack up? Do you feel confident that, over this period of time, you are giving them the attention they deserve? Are there any areas that don’t get enough from you? Can you see times where you consistently tilt the wrong way?

Keep in mind, you are the only one who can decide what this balance looks and feels like for you.

But if you keep your priorities in mind, you will find that tilting and adjusting your time and efforts will help you find a much better overall balance, than if you constantly battle to keep things even.

 

S is for Space: A-Z of Simple Living

#minimalism
{via Pinterest – original source unknown}

This January, we’re taking an in-depth look at the why and how of simplicity with the A-Z of Simple Living. If you want to make 2015 the year you create a simpler, slower life, why not join us?

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One essential part of creating a simple life is Space.

You need white space, empty space, your own space.

You need spaces that act as nothing more than a buffer, an empty spot for your eyes to rest, a safety net, an escape from the constancy of daily life.

The opposite of space and the enemy of simplicity is cramming. You cram when you try to fit:

  • another commitment into your diary
  • a new book onto the shelf
  • one more t-shirt into the drawer
  • a new after-school activity into the kids’ schedules
  • an extra responsibility into your work day
  • a new ambition into your long-term goals
  • another knick-knack onto the shelf
  • another box of stuff into the garage

5 Areas of Your Life That Need Space

White Space

Highlight the things you want to celebrate by surrounding them with white space. A painting on an otherwise bare wall. A photo of a cherished day. A lamp on a side table. What better way to communicate the importance of the item, the person who gave it to you or the memory it evokes than give it space to be appreciated?

Use white space on your:

  • walls
  • shelves
  • dining table
  • kitchen bench
  • fridge
  • bookshelves
  • bed
  • bedside table
  • garden

Mental Space

Most people I know are mentally overwhelmed. There is too much going on – too many responsibilities, too many people, too many requests, too many social commitments, too much to remember.

And yet, when given some precious downtime, so many of us can be found with our noses in a smartphone, flicking through Pinterest, mindlessly browsing Facebook, updating feeds to see what other people are up to.

But to truly simplify, you need to give yourself mental space.

You need quiet time – where you can meditate, pray, rest, read (a real book!), ponder or do absolutely nothing with that beautiful brain of yours.

And to find true quiet time, you need to unplug. Get off the phone, close the laptop, turn off the television, cut the ties of constant connection with the online world and give your brain some space.

Space in Your Days

We schedule the hell out of our days. Between work, train timetables, coffee dates, meetings, school pick ups, kids activities, social events, friends, family, visitors, birthdays, sporting events and exercise, there are huge spans of time that stretch ahead of us, booked out weeks in advance. How exhausting.

You need space in your days.

Space for flexibility and – even more fun – space for spontaneity. Space for an unplanned trip to the beach, or a movie afternoon complete with blanket fort and popcorn. Space for drop-in visitors. Space for hobbies. Space for exploring your neighbourhood.

The key to space in your days is to not overcommit. Which is easier said than done, but absolutely worth trying.

Space in Your Budget

It’s a fact that we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Unexpected bills, medical emergencies, car and home repairs all have the uncanny knack of arriving when you are least prepared.

So while I am a big proponent of creating and sticking with a household budget, you do need space in your weekly expenses. For those things you weren’t expecting.

Ideally, you want an emergency fund to help with any surprise costs, as well as an additional amount every pay period that can go towards regular savings.

Space in Your Long-Term Plans

Having plans and goals is wonderful. Sparky and I have plans for this year, next year and five years time. Having an idea of where you’re headed gives you something to look forward to and something to work towards. It’s exciting and motivational.

On the flip side though, it’s important you don’t lock the details in too early.

You need to leave space in your long-term plans for:

  • changes in circumstance
  • opportunities that arise
  • shift in direction
  • changing priorities

Leaving this space doesn’t make you indecisive. It means you’re open to life and all of its possibility.

At some stage, yes, you have to lock it in, bite the bullet and commit. But when you’re still looking at long-term goals and plans, remain open. You avoid unnecessary stress and anxiety, and your imagination will flourish in the space you’ve gifted it with.

 

R is for Remembering: A-Z of Simple Living

Making time and space to remember || A-Z of Simple Living

This January, we’re taking an in-depth look at the why and how of simplicity with the A-Z of Simple Living. If you want to make 2015 the year you create a simpler, slower life, why not join us?

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Despite what many people think of minimalism or simple living – namely that it’s about living in a sparse white house with few personal touches – I’m here to tell you it’s not a matter of tossing out mementoes, forsaking the past and disregarding sentimentality.

Actually, for some it might be. And that’s cool. Whatever floats your boat.

But what can’t be denied is this: simplicity is about stripping back the inessential. Promoting what you love and paying attention to what is important. So to disregard your past and cast off all photos, mementoes and markers of time is unnecessary.

Instead, we need to make time and space to mindfully remember.

Stuff Doesn’t Equal Memories

It’s important to understand that your memories – while tied to a certain item – are not in that item. And if you give the item away, you are not forsaking the memories attached to it.

People are afraid of forgetting, I get that. You’re afraid of forgetting people, moments, feelings. So you hold on to everything that reminds you and everything that could potentially remind you. You hold on out of fear and guilt.

But instead of blindly holding on, make time to mindfully remember. Mindfully remember the past and then go live in the present.

Life is constant river. You cannot, no matter how hard you try, hold on to the water that flows swiftly through your fingers. It passes straight through, regardless of whether you want it to or not.

Memories fade. It’s a truth.

And if you spend your days trying desperately to remember, to preserve feelings and thoughts and experiences that have already happened, you are not living. You aren’t engaged in the moment. You aren’t present. You aren’t paying attention to what is happening right in front of you. And what is that saying to the people you’re with?

Yes, the glory days were wonderful. You were young, beautiful, free, adventurous, untethered, needed, loved, nurtured, maternal or the life of the party.

And guess what? Today you can be beautiful, free, adventurous, needed and loved. You can be all those things. So celebrate by living it. Today.

What Does This Look Like – in Real Life?

All this might sound fine in theory.

But what about being faced with real-life decisions? What about artwork from your kids? Gifts from your loved ones? Family heirlooms? This stuff also makes up life, and to disregard it completely is to stick your head in the sand. At some point you will have to make decisions about what to do with it.

Instead of mindlessly holding on to all of it, you need to make time and space to mindfully remember.

Choose a photo of a happy time – a holiday, family reunion a particularly joyful afternoon in the garden – and display it. Give it space. Celebrate it. Remember it. Because one photo on an otherwise empty shelf tells you and those who see it that this moment, this person, this event is worth remembering.

Create one photobook each year, and include all your favourite images in it. Holidays, birthdays, sunrises, cheeky grins – all those moments worth celebrating. That one photobook of images from the past year is an act of mindfully remembering.

Pick a family heirloom and display it. Give it space and a place of importance. One crystal bowl from your grandmother displayed on your otherwise bare dining table means so much more than five of them covered in dust and packed away in the garage. Celebrating that one item speaks volumes on how you feel about her.

If it’s a memory rather than a thing, get it on paper. Write a note about how you felt when your husband proposed/your daughter was born/you got your job/bought your puppy/the plane took off on your first trip. Frame it, stick it to the frigdge, include in your photobook. Celebrate it and mindfully remember.

 

However you decide to celebrate your memories, it’s important to give them space. They need space and light and room to breathe. And for some, the space required to celebrate these things seems like emptiness. But I believe these moments deserve space.

We absolutely need to remember.

We need to remember in order to learn. To celebrate. To appreciate where we’ve come from and how much we’ve grown. To remember who we love and how we’ve loved them.

We need to mindfully and intentionally remember. Not out of fear or guilt, but out of love and joy and respect.

The way you remember matters.

 

Q is for Quality Over Quantity: A-Z of Simple Living

 

'Q' is for Quality Over Quantity

 

This January, we’re taking an in-depth look at the why and how of simplicity with the A-Z of Simple Living. If you want to make 2015 the year you create a simpler, slower life, why not join us?

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“Quality over quantity.”

It’s such a cliche. So much so that I nearly didn’t include it in the A-Z of Simple Living.

But it is just too important to ignore.

I think we need to look for quality over quantity in all things. But today I’m not really talking about the clothes you wear or the furniture you own. I’m not discussing the house you live on or the make-up you wear, the toys your kids play with or sporting gear you exercise in. I’m not really looking at stuff at all. Because simple living is about so much more than stuff.

Hell, life is about so much more than stuff.

No. What I’m talking about are the immeasurable things. The really important things. The things that actually matter. I’m talking about the quality of those things.

Friendships. Spirit. Character. Faith. Relationships. Love. Community. Connection. Humour. Joyfulness. Curiosity.

Think about the quality of these things:

  • 15 minutes of good, real, honest conversation with your best friend is so much more significant than shallow small-talk with a room full of acquaintances.
  • An hour reading with your kids is so much more important than a whole weekend passively watching TV.
  • A morning chat over a coffee with your lover is so much more fulfilling than half a day trudging through IKEA.
  • Watching a seriously great television show once a week (Walking Dead, anyone?) is so much more enjoyable than hours on the couch each night, flicking between channels.

Quality over Quantity

When you weigh up the options, it’s hard to disregard the importance of quality. But so often we float along, doing what we’ve always done and getting what we’ve always gotten.

If you adopt the idea of quality over quantity for everything in life, you will, ironically, discover more.

More time, more joy, more space, more fun, more meaning, more love, more presence, more mindfulness.

If you focus on more of these things:

  • Quality relationships
  • Quality time
  • Quality words
  • Quality play
  • Quality rest
  • Quality food
  • Quality entertainment
  • Quality friends
  • Quality reading

What do you stand to lose by focusing on quality over quantity?

And, more importantly, what do you have to gain?