Monthly Archives: January 2015

P is for Persevering: A-Z of Simple Living

{ via Pinterest - no original source found }
{ via Pinterest – no original source found }

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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“Do, or do not. There is no try.”

— Yoda

Starting something new is easy.

  • 2nd January at the gym
  • Salad and juices on a Monday
  • Alarm set for 5am tomorrow

These things are easy to do once, twice, maybe five times, because motivation and inspiration carry you along in the beginning.

But what happens when that motivation wears off? When life gets busy and suddenly that new habit you valued so highly slips by the wayside?

  • The gym membership is a monthly reminder that you haven’t exercised in weeks.
  • The latte and muffin for breakfast, because you didn’t have time to make something.
  • The snooze button gets hit in the morning because you need just another ten minutes.

This is where perseverance comes in.

A certain single-mindedness. Conviction from the very beginning that what you’re doing is important enough to keep on with, even when life gets busy.

If you have this then you have everything you need to change your life.

When Life Gets Cluttered

Somewhere along the way you made a decision to live a simpler, slower, happier life. That will prove to be one of the best decisions of your life.

But despite your best efforts, complications and clutter try to weasel their way back into your life – frequently. Part of that is just life. Sorry.

  • Kids bring home artwork from school
  • Birthday parties happen
  • Grandparents happen
  • Junk mail
  • Social engagements that aren’t negotiable
  • Weekend sports
  • An unexpected bill

But there are ways to combat the inevitable slip in motivation. Ways to keep simplifying, to keep saying no, to keep being mindful.

There are ways to persevere, even when life is telling you to just give up.

1. Know Your Why.

When things get complicated, it’s important to know why you are doing this in the first place. Use your why as motivation to keep going.

Why are you creating a simpler life? Is it to:

  • find happiness
  • feel more in control of your life
  • make time for the things that are truly important
  • be active in watching your kids grow up
  • make time for things you’re passionate about
  • nurture your relationships
  • get healthy
  • live in a home that calms you
  • have less cleaning
  • make more time to relax, to read, to spend alone, to spend with someone else?

Once you have your why, you can refer back to it time and time again. Write it down, stick it on the fridge, tape it to your wall, make it your computer background. This is your weapon against Old Ways. Wield it whenever you need to persevere.

2. Roll With the Punches – Sometimes

If you battle against the world to keep your life simple and slow – at all cost – you will wind up exhausted and far more likely to fail.

Some days are crazy – there is no way around this. If you have your Why firmly in mind and are doing most things right most of the time, you will get back on track the next day.

Nothing and no-one is perfect – so roll with it.

3. Do Something

When you’re lacking motivation, when you’re tired, when your Why isn’t enough to keep you going – all you need is one minute. Literally 60 seconds will help you to persevere.

Pick a tiny little task that needs doing and do that.

  • pack away the toaster
  • remove one item from your wardrobe to donate
  • pay that bill
  • file that piece of paper
  • make the phone call
  • schedule the meeting
  • make a list
  • pick up the toys

Doing something will spur you into action. And even if it doesn’t, you’re one step ahead from where you were a minute ago.

Action inspires motivation.

Watch Your New Life Emerge

Eventually, if you keep your Why at the forefront of your mind and just keep doing something – a simpler, happier life will emerge. Which is what we’re looking for, isn’t it?

O is for Organised Enough: A-Z of Simple Living

simple living
{via Charlotte’s Fancy}

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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So often simplifying is mentioned in the same breath as organising.

 

The logic goes: in order to be living a truly simple life, you must have a host of systems in place that will organise every aspect of your day.

You can schedule your hours, systematise your housework, organise your wardrobe, catalogue your paperwork, arrange your kitchen utensils, reconfigure your garage to hold more stuff and roster your down-time.

But true simplicity means many of those systems are unnecessary.

  • I do have a calendar but much of my weekly schedule is in my head, because it’s really not that complicated.
  • I don’t need a special shoe rack to organise my shoes – I don’t own that many.
  • Filing cabinet? It has one drawer.
  • Toys? They all have a place in the play room.

Living a simple life means that being organised for the sake of being organised is largely unnecessary. If you strip away what you do not need, you will find that life doesn’t need nearly much organising at all.

But Being Organised Helps Me!

To a point, yes.

Life is busy. And some organisation helps corral the busy-ness of life into a semblance of order. So I’m not telling you to do away with your diary, bill paying system or ironing baskets. If they help you in creating a less stressful day, wonderful.

But at some point we start to organise instead of simplify.

Life Is Not Organised.

You need to leave space for life to happen.

And life is messy. Life is uncertain. Life is spontaneous. Life is not organised.

You are reading this because you want a simpler, slower life. And while being organised – to a point – means you have time and space for life to unfold peacefully, over doing it means you run the very real risk of sucking the joy from your days.

And that’s our end goal isn’t it? To rediscover the joy. The zing of doing something spontaneous. The flash of excitement when you realise, “Why the hell not? I’d love to go to the beach/play in the sun/have a nap.”

If you over-do the organising, if you schedule the guts out of your days, weeks, months, school terms, you risk losing one of the biggest joys in life – spontaneity.

So my tip:

Be as organised as you need to be. No more.

Organise what you really need. But don’t turn to organisation simply to store more stuff in your space or cram more committments in your days. The key is to take away what isn’t necessary and good. There you will find your simpler life.

N is for Nothing: A-Z of Simple Living

'N' is for Nothing: 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?

——

I am absolutely a dog person. Their playfulness, loyalty and capacity for love are characteristics that keep me firmly in the canine field.

That being said, there are certain personality traits of cats I can’t help but admire. Like their capacity for idleness – cats do nothing like it’s their job. And that’s something I dig a whole lot.

The Lost Art of Doing Nothing

Practicing nothingness is an important part of living a simpler life, and one that is overlooked constantly. Because no-one wants to be thought of as lazy and somewhere along the way – between the practice of productivity, efficiency and multi-tasking – doing nothing and laziness became one and the same.

Trust me – they’re not.

Doing nothing – for even five minutes a day – will help melt away stress, bring you back into the present and give you time to let noise and stimulus and information out rather than constantly cramming it in.

If you can manage to find 5-10 minutes of idle time most days, you will begin to feel the impact within a week.

How to Do Nothing

It seems ridiculous that we need instructions on how to be idle, but it truly is a lost art. We’re so afraid of being labelled lazy or unmotivated or unproductive, that we have become averse to nothingness.

1. Find time

First you need to find a block of time. Five to ten minutes is enough.

Ideally this time will be out of work hours and when you are less likely to be disrupted by the people you live with.

If you have little kids, maybe pop a show on the laptop or wait until they’re asleep (because we all know the capacity for interruption that little kids have.) If your kids are older, or if you live with housemates, just let them know you’d like to not be disturbed.

2. Find space

Pick a space that makes you comfortable. This could be your bedroom, the lounge, outside on the grass, the park outside your office or your front steps.

Choose an uncluttered space that won’t add to your stress. For example, if you choose to lay on your bed, make sure it’s made and free of clothes/toys/handbags.

3. Disconnect

Turn off your mobile, resolve not to answer the home phone, ensure the computer is not on (or ideally not even in the same room), switch off the TV and the radio.

You can’t truly be doing nothing if your mind is occupied by thoughts of work or friends or Facebook. So switch off. The world will not stop turning – I promise.

4. Breathe

Once you’re settled, take some deep, cleansing breaths.

Slow them down and focus on the air passing into your lungs and being pushed out again. Be mindful of the feel of your breath going in cold and coming out warmer. Make your breathing the one thing you are thinking about.

5. Stay focused

Your mind will wander. Unless you practice meditation already it will most likely wander immediately. Just keep bringing it back to your breath.

In and out. Cool and warm. Pull and push.

6. Float

As you get better at emptying your mind – and keeping it empty – you will be able to let thoughts float into your mind without really engaging them. Like noticing a butterfly in the garden, but doing no more. “There’s a butterfly. How nice.” And then it’s gone again.

7. Rest

Stay as long as you can, just soaking in the idleness, focusing on your breath, giving your mind a break from the constant flow of information and activity.

Ideas for Idleness

Once you’ve mastered the art of emptying your mind, you can start to get a little more creative with your idle time.

You could try:

  • Watching clouds
  • Wandering
  • Laying on the grass watching ants crawl around
  • Picking up a handful of sand or dirt and repeatedly letting it trickle out between your fingers
  • Laying on your bed watching the shadows
  • Studying your ceiling
  • Taking inventory of your body parts
  • Watching dust motes dance across the room.

Or, if you’re really stuck, there is actually an app that promotes this exact idea of embracing nothingness. Check it out – the wave sounds are truly beautiful.

Do you embrace idleness? Or does it make you feel guilty?

M is for Meal Planning: A-Z of Simple Living

Meal Planning Image via Kyla Roma
{via Kyla Roma 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?

——

Meal planning.

You understand the benefits. You know it’s a good idea. You can see it helps save both money and energy.

But, honestly…

  • Thinking of endless new recipes?
  • Keeping everyone’s preferences in mind?
  • Finding good, seasonal produce?
  • Remembering what you have on hand already?
  • Shopping for specific ingredients?

Who has the energy?

But the reality is that without meal-planning, you have to do this each and every day.

Simple living is all about reducing unnecessary stress, and focusing on the good stuff. And a good meal plan will set you up for a week or more, meaning you only have to think about the dreaded question, “What’s for dinner?” once.

The trick? Think of meal planning like a good, hard work out – when you’re in the midst of it you curse the decision to ever start, but once you’ve finished and are benefiting from the results, you can see that the short-term pain was worth the long-term gain.

If You Don’t Know Where to Start:

1. Decide how often you will write out your meal plan.

Weekly? Fortnightly? I have a friend who plans her family meals 10 weeks at a time. It’s just important to establish what works best for you.

2. How will you write the plan itself?

I use the age-old method of pen and paper, but there are multiple apps, beautiful printables and online programs you can use if you prefer a more high-tech solution. Just make sure it doesn’t distract more than help you.

3. Write out the plan.

Take a piece of paper, write out the menu for the coming fortnight on the bottom half. Make sure to include lunches too, as well as any baking you plan to do.

4. Write out the grocery list.

On the top half of the paper write your shopping list for the week/fortnight. It’s easiest to do this at the same time as the meal plan – to ensure no ingredients are missed – and reduce the need for last-minute trips to the shop.

Meal-Planning Hacks to Make Your Job Even Easier:

Hack #1: It’s Perfectly Fine to Cook the Same Meal – Frequently.

If you have a family favourite there is no problem in repeating it consistently. My kids love these salmon patties (bonus Mum Points for their incredible vegetable-hiding ninja-skills) and we have them once a week at least.

I haven’t had a complaint yet.

Hack #2: Have the same ‘type’ of food on particular days of the week.

For example:

  • Monday: Pasta
  • Tuesday: Slow cooker meal
  • Wednesday: Left overs
  • Thursday: Seafood
  • Friday: Homemade pizza
  • Saturday: BBQ
  • Sunday: Soup

This simply reduces the stress of what to choose for each day when writing your plan. Obviously you can find a huge variety when it comes to each type of food, meaning you’re not locked in to the same seven meals every week.

Hack #3: Know your schedule.

You know your family’s work, play and school schedule better than anyone. Do yourself a kindness and use this knowledge to plan quick and simple meals for your busy days.

Hack #4: Try new things.

Set yourself a goal of trying one new recipe per plan.You’re certain to discover some new favourites, some not-so-favourites and to keep growing your repertoire over time.

All You Have to Lose is Time Spent at the Shop.

Meal planning really doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated. After all, the reason we do things like this is to make life simpler, not harder. We want to free up time for what is important: like drinking cocktails and chasing unicorns.

L is for Limiting Commitments: A-Z of Simple Living

'L' is for Limiting Commitments: A-Z of Simple Living
{via Roctetrictic 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?

——

When we talk about creating a simpler life, the conversation often revolves around reducing our stuff. Sorting, purging, decluttering, de-owning.

And undoubtedly that is a huge part of the simple living journey. We will struggle to live simply if we are weighed down by our belongings.

But let’s talk about you for a minute.

You are a person of depth and complexity. You have strengths and needs and heart and soul. You are lovely and mysterious and ever-growing. You are not just your stuff. In fact, your stuff doesn’t define you at all.

So it makes sense that the simple living journey extends well beyond your stuff too.

What about your time? What about simplifying your time?

Tell me if this sounds familiar:

You feel overwhelmed by commitment, no time to stop, no time to breathe in the scent of those roses. You wish you could slow down and appreciate what you have – you know it’s a lot – but you simply do not have time.

Today I want to tell you that there is time. You may not agree. You may not like to hear it. You may click away in disgust.

“What would she know? She doesn’t know how busy my life is. How many commitments I have. How much responsibility weighs on my shoulders.”

And you’re right – I don’t. But here’s the heart of the matter…

You Can Find More Time By Limiting Your Commitments

Commitment and responsibility are part of adult life. And while some people resent that they are tied to these commitments, the fact is they are good for us. To a point.

Family, partner, school, work, sport, health and friendships.

Commitment and responsibility help us think outside ourselves and our own immediate needs. They help us expand our worldview and keep us from becoming entirely selfish.

But they can also rob us of precious limited time and energy.

Daily extracurricular activities for your kids, an overly-full social calendar, volunteering for multiple committees, saying yes when you should be saying no.

Too many of these commitments leave us depleted, exhausted and unable to give time and energy to the commitments that mean the most.

By choosing to limit your commitments, you will find more time to:

  • have slow weekends – the kind where pyjamas are worn, movies are watched and coffees are lingered over
  • say yes to opportunuties and last-minute plans – like when friends call on Friday afternoon and invite you to dinner
  • take spontaneous trips and adventures – an unexpected day at the beach when the weather is just too good to miss
  • experience downtime every day – a ten-minute siesta or a swing in the hammock – these things shouldn’t only happens on holidays.

Your Time is Not Unlimited – So Choose Wisely

Establishing your priorities in life will make it easy to say yes and easier to say no. (Because none of us love saying no.) In addition to the inevitable commitments of going to work, feeding your family, paying your bills and managing a household, which of the following commitments is important to you?

Write them down. Make a list. Stick it to your fridge. You need to understand what is most important in your life.

  • time with your spouse or partner: offering your support, your time, your love
  • time with your kids: their daily care, taking them to school, play, reading, laughing, teaching, loving
  • church/spirituality: attending organised church, prayer, meditation, study
  • commitment to yourself: self-care, exercise, alone time
  • time with your extended family: time to catch up, phonecalls, get-togethers, birthdays, holidays
  • time with your friends: feeding your soul and theirs with meaningful connections and relationships
  • health: committing to exercise, healthy eating and daily activity for both you and your family
  • volunteering: helping others less fortunate or using our personal skills to improve an organisation

Add to that list any other commitment you value and use it as a roadmap when it comes to simplifying your time.

It’s OK to Say No.

When faced with a new social event, committee invitation or extracurricular activity for your kids, ask yourself if it aligns with these priorities. If it doesn’t, you will find it much easier saying no.

Ask yourself ifthis new commitment will:

  • overload your kids’ schedules?
  • take you away from your family regularly?
  • interfere with your relationships?
  • foster resentment in yourself and/or others?

When you’ve got your roadmap right there, telling you where your priorities lay, it will be easier to make your choices.

Remember: your time is finite. So choose wisely.

Now over to you. If you could remove one commitment from your life, what would it be? And what is holding you back?