Finding joy in simple things

I’ve just been to Europe for 3 weeks, for some fun travel adventures with my Dad and daughter. I know, lucky me. It was fabulous.

Any time I travel, I’m reminded of how little we actually need. And I’m compelled to simplify my possessions even further.

And I’m also reminded that it’s often the simplest things that bring the most joy. A friend asked me what a highlight of the trip was. And rather than any of the expensive paid activities, one of my favourite things? Going for a morning run in Paris.

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Obviously, I can’t go running past the Louvre every morning (tres jealous of the Parisians who can!) but I can recognise that it’s often the simpler things that bring joy, and attempt to integrate those things into my life, in big ways and small.

How about you, what are the parts of your day that bring joy?

How perfectionism can be the enemy of decluttering

decluttering versus perfectionism

There’s a risk with decluttering, especially when you’re a perfectionist. And that’s aiming too high, or thinking you can ever get to the end. To achieve a state of decluttered perfection.

But you can’t. Life, by nature, is messy, organic, chaotic.

Trying to strive for absolute perfection will leave you in a state of dissatisfied anxiety.

I’m a reforming perfectionist, and sometimes it gets the better of me, and I go into a frenzy of organisation. Of seeking perfection. Of striving for the impossible.

So I’m working to see the beauty in the chaos. To see paint smeared across the dining table as a sign of my kids’ creativity; bikes left lying outside a reminder of green spaces we can bike to and enjoy; dishes on the bench highlighting that we have enough food to eat; piles of craft projects to be attended to a reminder of the joy of creativity; unmade beds, a reminder that we have woken up, we are alive, and have another day before us.

decluttering versus perfectionism

Lessons from life: Vincent Van Gogh and discovering beauty in the ordinary

There are lessons to be learnt in the ordinariness of our daily lives, if we are attentive enough to notice them.

Vincent Van Gogh discovered this in a pair of shoes. While living in Paris, he went through a phase of painting old shoes. He saw the beauty, the profound, in one of life’s most ordinary things.

Van Gogh, Pair of Shoes, 1886
Van Gogh, Pair of Shoes, 1886
In a letter to his brother Theo, Vincent wrote,

“It is good to love as many things as one can… Poetry surrounds us everywhere.”

Van Gogh let his life tell a story that he could observe, learn from, and capture on canvas.

Can we turn down the noise and distraction of our own lives long enough to let the simplicity, the ordinariness of our own lives speak?

There’s so much to be learnt, discovered, and uncovered in the ordinariness of life.

If we would only stop long enough to listen.

Unplug long enough to listen.
Stop texting, scrolling, emailing, instagramming, long enough to listen.
Even just for a moment.

LOOK UP!!! Don’t be a Slave to your Smartphone. BE HERE NOW.

I’m sitting in a cafe, to write. But I’m surrounded by people glued to their phones. This frustrates me so much I want to scream. So can you humour me while I get up from my seat and shout for a minute?

PUT YOUR PHONES AWAY!!!

Can you LOOK AT YOUR DAUGHTER? She wants you to see her.

Can you look at your friend?

Can you taste your food?

Can you see your lover across the table from you?

Can you feel the sunshine on your face?

Can you smell your coffee?

ARE YOU THERE???

People. We are in a scary place.

Look up. Listen. Put away your phones.

Get unplugged. Be awake to your life. Be awake to your reality. Live. Truly live. 

Feel the feelings. The good ones. The bad ones. The sad ones. The hard ones. We are meant to feel all of them. Then, and only then, will our lives grow richer. For can we truly know courage if we haven’t felt fear? Can we truly know inspiration if we haven’t felt boredom? Can we truly know joy if we haven’t felt pain?

Live and feel fully. Be present. Let life be your teacher.

You can’t change the world with a house full of junk: The greater purpose in decluttering

Decluttering. Love it or hate it, it’s an essential habit in the 21st century consumer society we live in. But is it worth all the effort if your entire aim is just to have a house that looks magazine worthy?

Aiming for a Pinterest perfect home will just leave us constantly dissatisfied with the mess, or constantly tidying to maintain it. Houses are for living in, not magazine displays.

Decluttering as an end in itself has limited purpose. But as a means to an end, it’s invaluable.

When your physical possessions are out of control, it’s hard to have a clear head or be genuinely productive in what you do. When your schedule is bursting at the seams, you can’t hear yourself think.

The more ruthless I’ve been in decluttering my home and my life, the more at peace I’ve felt in my home and my head. The more relaxed I feel, the more energy and headspace I have to explore other pursuits. Starting a blog a couple of years ago, for example, was borne out of my then newly decluttered home. Creating physical and mental space in our lives tends to have a far wider reaching impact than we anticipate.

Living with less stuff and less commitments allows more time, space and energy to focus on what’s truly important in life; pursuing your purpose (whether that be finding the cure for cancer or creating a great family culture), investing in friendships and relationships with others, and time to just be.

So if you’re keen to change the world, or even just have space to hear yourself think, I recommend starting with your kitchen cupboards. Who knows where you’ll end up…

 

This post is modified from a post originally published on ihearthome.

The Riches of Owning Less

The benefits of owning less

We’re about to renovate our house, and the other day I started having a mild freak out about how I was going to manage wrangling 3 small kids in the middle of a construction zone.

It catapulted me into tidying and decluttering mode. I figured that if I could minimize the household clutter, it would be one less area of chaos to deal with.

I’m already a fan of less, so I didn’t think there’d be that much to get rid of. But it’s amazing what the cupboards can hide.

So I went on the offensive with my stuff. Some stuff was easy to toss – worn out clothing, redundant toys, expired cosmetics. But some of the more sentimental things, or things that I thought might come in handy one day, were just plain hard to part with. Getting rid of them felt like a loss.

But I ploughed on, and cleared a car-bootload of stuff from the place without too much trouble.

It wasn’t until the next day that it struck me, that what had felt like a loss, was actually a gain.

The benefits of owning less

I gained space; with a couple less pieces of furniture, and a whole lot less general clutter, there was suddenly room to swing a cat in the place.

And I gained a sense of peace. I felt less anxious about having too much clutter and chaos to deal with.

And I gain time for more important pursuits; now that the stuff is gone, I don’t have to waste any more time cleaning it, sorting it, or reorganizing it.

It feels great, and I’m convinced that there truly is more in less.

How To Tap Into Your Creative Genius

I went to Hong Kong recently, and while I was waiting to check in, it was clear that we have all but drowned out moments of waiting, silence and boredom in our lives.

At airport check-in and security queues, everyone’s on phones. On the plane, there are movies on demand the second you sit down. And then there’s more time for smartphones and net surfing while clearing customs, waiting for bags, and on taxis, buses and trains to the accommodation.

There’s just no downtime.

And the same goes for the less exotic home life filled with supermarket queues, traffic lights, school pick ups, soccer practice, and the rest. It’s all too easy to stay connected every “boring” moment life sends our way.

But it’s not how it’s always been.

Back in 1992, a London train broke down on its way to Clapham Junction, and its passengers were stranded in the train for 4 hours. There were no smartphones, iPads, or social media to pass the time.

One passenger on the train sat there and composed the plot for a work of fiction in her head. That person happened to be J. K. Rowling, and the work – her Harry Potter series. Not a bad use of four hours.

I wonder how many opportunities for creativity we are missing by mindlessly filling every second on technology?

I want to be more intentional with my unexpected moments of waiting, and allow myself to get lost in my thoughts occasionally.

Who knows, I might come up with an idea that changes the world.

Smartphones: The answer to life. Or Are We Missing Everything?

Since when did it become more important to remember your smart phone on a dinner date than your manners?

My husband and I were out for dinner the other night, and I noticed a couple seated nearby. They were both on their cellphones for the entire evening. I don’t think there was a single minute that the phones went away. Every now and then one of them would stop and look up, wait awkwardly with no one to talk to, and then get back to the phone. They were glued to their devices for over 2 hours.

The only time I saw either of them smile was when they were posing for a photo when their meal came out, so they could Instagram it and show their friends what a fabulous evening they were having.

When I looked around at the other tables, there was at least one person using their phone at every table in the restaurant. And I guess this is pretty much the norm these days.

The great irony in this world of ieverything, is that in our attempt to miss nothing, we are missing so much.

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I want to spend more time experiencing the moment, than instagramming it.

I want to spend more time talking to the person next to me, than texting someone who’s not with me.

I want to hear the stories that the person across the table has to tell me, rather than the latest news story.

I want to be present, and to engage all my senses to truly appreciate the moments that life offers.

5 Key Ways to Make New Year’s Resolutions Stick

How has 2016 been for you so far? Did you make a pile of resolutions for yourself this year? Kept any of them?

I used to be the queen of New Year’s resolution lists. I’d think of one resolution, which would lead to another, and another, until, on paper, I’d completely transformed my life. The new me! Yes!

I could usually maintain the momentum of the new lifestyle I had documented for myself for about 2 days. Maybe a week.

And then each of my newfound habits dropped off one by one.

But last year, I actually stuck to a resolution. All. Year. Long.

So what are the tricks for making New Year’s resolutions stick?

1. Set ONE goal only. This is the most important thing. The temptation is to think we can change everything at once. But we never can. We have to work out what is the ONE thing that we most want to change, and focus on that only. Some people aim for one goal a month. But I decided to focus on one goal for the year. For me last year, that was running. And I managed to throw every ounce of motivation I had at that one goal. And it worked.

2. Start small. I didn’t set myself the goal of running a marathon, or running far, or fast. I just had to put on my running shoes each day, and head out the door. I slowly built up my fitness and capacity, but didn’t set the bar too high; if we do, we risk putting ourselves off even getting started.

3. Do it everyday. Doing something everyday means your brain more quickly builds a new neural pathway. Our brains love habits, and when you know you’re doing something everyday, you don’t have to engage in a mental negotiation process about whether today you can justify having a day off. You just go. Obviously there are exceptions, but the exceptions are circumstance based (like getting sick, attending to an urgent matter, a pre-determined day of rest), rather than decided on a whim. I didn’t run on Sundays, but other than that, as much as I could, I stuck to my goal.

4. Choose a time of day for that new habit. Again, our brains require less energy when we  do things based on habits and routines. If a time of day doesn’t work, try linking the habit to another activity. e.g Meditate for 5 minutes after dropping the kids off at school, or do 5 minutes of yoga stretching after doing your teeth. The more you can tie a habit into your existing routine, the more chance you have of making it stick. Compare it to brushing your teeth; you probably do that at a pretty set time each day, and your brain requires no mental energy to make it happen, you just do it.

Habits are first cobwebs, then cables.” – Spanish proverb

5. Try and find the enjoyment in the habit itself. If your’e only running to try to lose weight, it can be hard to stay motivated if you don’t see results. But if you slowly learn to enjoy and see benefits in the run itself –  the fresh air, the chance to be in nature, the silence, the headspace, the extra energy it gives you over time – you’re more likely to stay for the long haul.

What’s the number one thing you’d love to integrate into your life this year?

Suffering is Part of Every Great Story

This year has been a tough one for me. Tougher than I thought I could endure. There have been things I’d like to edit out of my life, but can’t. But I’m slowly learning that the hard stuff is what makes us. It’s what refines us and chips away at the superfluous in our lives, to reveal the gold within.

I’m learning that editing life is not just about removing the hard parts. They are a part of our story, a necessary part to make the whole.

Think of the best novel you’ve read. It wouldn’t be half the story if the sadness were edited out. It’s the suffering mixed with joy that brings richness and depth to any great story.

So here’s to the year to come. To embracing what comes and to growing richer for it.

Happy 2016 everyone!