Conscious Consuming: How to bring mindfulness into our shopping

I recently went down to the Wairarapa, and visited the gallery of iconic New Zealand potter Paul Melser, who’s been in the trade for over 50 years. His handcrafted pieces reflected the beauty of his natural surroundings, and seeing his pieces in context resonated with my soul. I hadn’t anticipated a shopping experience to be so profound, but it was.

Paul Melser Pottery Studio

It made me realise that most often when we buy things, we are utterly disconnected from the the source of our purchases, from the craftsman, from their creative process, from their intentions in their work, from the humanity present in each piece. Mindlessly choosing pieces from shops that are drowning in mass produced products that really hold little meaning and value to us. The polar opposite of the experience I had.

I chose pieces that were made with love and care by a true craftsman. I was present, in the moment, aware of my surroundings and of how each piece made sense in that context. The experience steeped each piece with such significance, and now, when I use them, they retain that memory and value. They are both useful and beautiful, and pieces that I’ll keep for a very long time.

We obviously can’t meet the craftsman behind every piece we buy, but I wish there were more opportunities to buy directly from the source; the impact this experience had on me makes me want to hunt them out.

I’d encourage you to seek opportunities to buy direct from the crafter, the maker, the source. Even just going through this experience once will increase your attention and awareness as you make purchases. Buying local and ethical can be more expensive than cheap mass produced imports. But it won’t be more costly in the long run. You’ll tend to think harder about what you buy, and buy less but better. You’ll buy because you really need something, not because you’re having a bad day. You’ll be helping the planet, helping your fellow human beings, helping your own soul to feel less burdened.

And while there’s a lot more to the soul than buying stuff, choosing pieces carefully, thoughtfully and mindfully can tap into a place in the soul, to what makes you come alive.

And that’s the goal. To become more present and mindful with all our actions.

The 6 keys to decluttering your mind

I’ve just been going through my blog archives and found this post I wrote 3 years ago. Reposting it here as it’s still so relevant, so important, and so essential in our overloaded, plugged in 21st century world.

~

I’ve written about decluttering your physical space, but there’s somewhere else that you live, that tends to get cluttered. It’s your mind.

Because we can’t actually see the mind-junk, we all too easily allow a cacophony of unchecked noise and distraction to run riot in our heads.

So what are the best techniques to tackle the mental clutter?

1. Switch on your brain

We have thousands of thoughts racing through our minds each day, and we need to learn to reign these in. Mindfulness meditation is scientifically proven to tame our distracted, unfocused minds.

  • If you’re just getting started, mindfulness of the senses is a great place to start. This technique brings your focus into the present, into your body, away from the racing thoughts in your brain. Even just 2 minutes a day can reduce the noise going on in your brain for the rest of the day.
  • If you’re looking for a great app, try Headspace.
  • And if you live in Auckland, the mindfulness courses at Renew Your Mind provide a brilliant introduction to mindfulness. I highly recommend it.

2. Don’t switch

We associate multi-tasking with efficiency. But research has shown that you are far more efficient when you do one thing at a time. Despite what you may think, your brain cannot focus on more than one thing at a time. The more you try to do at once, the less productive you become. By being fully present to the task at hand, you allow your brain to function optimally, rather than being divided and distracted.

3. Switch off

Multiple browsers, notifications, text alerts, news updates … endless noise and distraction are constantly pulling you away from the present. If you want to learn to have a calmer, more uncluttered mind, switch off all the noise. Turn off notifications. Learn to work without hundreds of browsers open. Move away from your phone. Focus on the present. If you haven’t already, check out this clip. It’s pretty powerful.

4. Switch foods

The more I’ve pursued a diet of whole, unprocessed food, free of refined sugar, additives and preservatives, the clearer my head has felt. Want some convincing about the effects sugar is having on your brain? You have to watch this.

5. Switch on your body

Exercise. We all know this one. Since I’ve prioritised exercise as a daily part of my routine, my anxiety levels have been lower and my head’s been clearer. I know, because the days I skip it, I notice a shift in my mental state. I exercise first thing to make sure it gets done before the demands of the day squeeze it out.

6. Switch off the excess

If you’re doing too much, your brain will be on constant overdrive. You need to do less. Declutter your schedule, and get rid of all but the essential things in your life. Look critically at every commitment you have, and assess whether it is truly important to your life. I’ve written more about this here.

 

None of this is rocket science, but we all (myself included) need constant reminders of these key activities, that we all too easily neglect in the hustle of life.

First published 12 Oct 2015 here on lifeedit.co.nz

The importance of decluttering; life beyond sock-folding

Well hello, I’m back. I’ve had a long hiatus from the blog side of things. A season of quiet.

I struggle with the noise of the internet. With more people saying more things just to try and shout the loudest and get heard and build their business and sell more of whatever they’re selling. It’s not my style. I want to say something because I’ve got something to say.

So while the blog has stayed quiet, my mind has been active, with thoughts, dreams, ideas.

There’s so much to learn when we dial down the noise (some noise and chaos is just part of life, I get that, but much is there by choice, or because we let it creep it unintentionally). When we get quiet enough, we begin to hear our own inner voice and connect with our true selves. And there’s so much the true self has to tell us. That we don’t have to be productive to have worth. That we don’t have to have a job title to have worth. That doing “nothing” in the eyes of the world doesn’t make it a waste of time. That building relationships – with our kids, our families, our friends, our communities – is the richest, but often most undervalued work, we can do. In many ways this has been a richer season of growth and development for me than any season, however difficult I’ve gone through before.

I initially thought my desire to remain quiet for a season was a problem, that it felt like giving up. But I have not given up. Far from it. There’s so much I’ve learnt from this season that I want to teach. I just want to say it for the right reasons. In the right way. At the right time.

I’m still passionate about simplifying. About getting rid of all the clutter that crowds us out and weighs us down. There’s been a recent spike in interest in decluttering thanks to Marie Kondo, and several people have asked what I think of her methods. She’s got some helpful tips to get people started on their decluttering journey, and these may be just the motivation you need. However, there’s a greater purpose to decluttering than pretty homes and nicely folded socks, and sometimes this purpose seems to get forgotten amidst the obsession with just how to fold your undies. I am about that greater purpose. About the life that you can discover when you remove the clutter that is crowding out that gold.

I’m going to keep on telling this story, keep encouraging you to remove what shouldn’t be there, so that what remains brings you life, joy, energy, hope, connection, love.

It’s good to be back xx

Why simplicity is the answer to our destructive culture of consumerism

Simplicity vs Consumerism

The entrenched culture of consumerism we Westerners live amidst, reaches its tentacles far further than just the physical stuff that we buy.

We consume entertainment. We consume experiences. We consume social media. We consume news feeds. We consume relationships (to the point that we throw them away and get new ones when they no longer work for us). We consume holidays. If we can find a way to consume it, we will.

And this paradigm of consumption is destroying us.

It’s rendering us stressed, unhappy, unfulfilled, discontented, and always in pursuit of the latest thing to consume that will fill the gap.

We know none of these things will. But we continue to live as if they do.

The more I continue on the journey towards simplicity, the more convinced I am that this is the way we were designed to live. To embrace being as more important than doing.

How do we navigate through our culture of consumerism, towards the pursuit of a life of simplicity and meaning?

Simplicity vs Consumerism

Start with your stuff

When you deal in the tangible and the concrete world of your material possessions, you can see the results of living with less. You feel lighter, more peaceful, less stressed by clutter screaming at you on all sides.

But don’t stop there. Once you’ve dealt with your stuff, it often compels you to look around at what other intangible clutter you’ve accumulated in life.

Resist Busyness

Why are you so busy? Until you’ve addressed the why, there is no point tackling the how. Ask yourself what is driving your pursuit of more. Generally it’s a combination of the sense of importance you get from being busy, and being so addicted to busyness that doing less feels uncomfortable, even painful.

But start to sit in this discomfort. Force yourself not to run from it. If you find yourself with a moment of having nothing to do, resist the urge to pick up your phone and fill the void. Sit. Wait. Breathe. Notice what’s going on in your body. In your head. In the world around you. Because it’s in these moments that we can retrain ourselves that it’s ok to stop consuming. That waiting is ok.

It’s in these moments that our souls have a chance to breathe. And we can start to listen to our very selves. And begin to hear the story of our lives speak.

Happy Monday everyone xx

Nothing more is needed for this moment to feel complete

Looking at Mindfulness

There’s so much to learn in the pursuit of living a more simple, mindful and intentional life. It takes a strong act of the will to resist the strong current of busyness, distraction, haste and urgency that most of us live our lives in. I’ve been reading, and loving, “Looking at Mindfulness” by Christopher Andre. I love this description of learning to pay mindful attention to the present:

“It’s now, right now. In a little while it will be something else … it won’t be better, or not as good, it will just be different. So now is the time to stop walking, feel the cold air sting our nostrils, listen to all the muffled sounds and admire the extraordinary light of sun on snow. We must stay here as long as we can, not waiting for anything in particular – quite the opposite! Just stay here, doing our best to perceive the countless riches of this moment … everything is perfect. Nothing more is needed for this moment to feel complete. With mindfulness we can simply be present to this ordinary moment of light and grace.”

I love this: “Nothing more is needed for this moment to feel complete.” If we could all grasp a little more of this truth, it would go a long way to stilling the urgent, hassled, stressed pace that we all think is an inevitable part of life. Most things are far less urgent than we make them out to be.

Here’s to this moment, and to celebrating it for what it is. Everything is perfect. Nothing more is needed for this moment to feel complete.

xx

Looking at Mindfulness

Friday Favourite Things

kilner spice jars
  1. My new baby fiddle leaf fig. Simple and beautiful.

Fiddle leaf fig

 

2. This coffee grinder. I love the process of making my morning coffee. I used to buy ground coffee, but now buy beans and grind them by hand. It takes longer, yes, but I can use the time to be mindful, to start the day slowly, and to pay attention and be grateful for the small things.

Coffee hand grinder

 

3. My matchy matchy spice jars. Many of you will have heard me quoting and quoting my favourite William Morris saying: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Finding things that are both useful and beautiful makes me happy. Like I say, small things.

kilner spice jars
Kilner spice jars

 

4. Ballet. I’ve just started adult ballet classes again after 20 years. I LOVE it. If you’re keen to pick up a hobby but can’t think what, remembering back to what you loved doing as a child will often give you a few clues.

Adult ballet

 

5. The book Simple Matters by Erin Boyle. I like this quote from it:

Our lives aren’t always simple but our homes can be.

So true. A simplified home certainly helps offset the challenges life inevitably throws at us.

Happy Friday everyone. xx

Decluttering and Mindfulness: How Getting Rid of Stuff Can Help You Live More Mindfully

Decluttering as Mindfulness Practice

We are living such distracted, plugged-in-but-tuned-out lives, many of us have lost touch with our ability to be still, to sit in silence, to do nothing. Mindless distraction is at the tips of our fingers, at all times. But in the midst of this distractedness, we find ourselves craving stillness, singularity of focus, and mindful appreciation of the present moment.

So what does getting rid of stuff have to do with mindfulness?

Anuschka of Into Mind says:

“The state of our living space also tends to be a pretty accurate representation of the state of our mind. Psychological research has shown time and time again how physical clutter overloads our senses and stresses us out. We need a clutter-free environment in order to feel rested, calm and content.”

 

Our stuff pulls us in all directions, and prevents us from living more mindfully in the present. I’ve identified three main selves that our stuff pulls us towards:

Our past self

If you’re sentimental, you’re probably being drawn into this self by your stuff a lot. Those things that were once important or special to you, or that you once loved, and once served a purpose. But do you love them now? Are they serving a purpose now? We can of course make space for a few keepsakes and special memories, just not a houseful of them. A very small handful of the most special things, things that you still love now. Like an old tea set from your Granny, that you still use. Things shut away in boxes tend to burden us, and pull us into the past.

Our future self

It’s far too easy to use the line “I might like (or need) this again one day”, but we can end up overwhelmed by stuff that we are hanging onto, “just incase”. It’s weighing you down. It’s costing you. Give yourself permission to let things go, and live freer and lighter for it. And make peace with the fact that if you need that thing again, go buy it. The benefits of living with less FAR outweigh the cost of replacing the odd thing that you discover you need again after all.

Our imagined self

How many of us hang on to things because we thought we were a certain type of person but aren’t? Did you imagine yourself as the snowboarding type but it turns out you aren’t? Or the type that would wear 6 inch heels everyday, but they’re killing your back and they’re just not “you”? Be honest with yourself about which things are really serving you, and cull the rest.

The more we clear our houses of stuff that no longer serves a purpose in our lives, and keep only that which does, the more space we create to be mindful, present, and to get in touch with our true selves.

[ This post originally published on 7 July 2015 ]

I’m presenting a workshop on “Mindful Decluttering” in Auckland next week, on Wednesday 10 May. I’d love you to join me. Head here to buy tickets. 

Decluttering hacks: how to overcome the excuses and get started!

The benefits of owning less

When the topic of decluttering comes up in conversation, most people are quick to tell me they’ve got a garage / kids bedroom / storage cupboard / [insert messy overwhelming space here] that is on the to-do list, but they just haven’t managed to tackle it yet. Sound familiar?!

There are common stumbling blocks to getting started on the decluttering journey, but by identifying them, and arming yourself with some key strategies, you can take the bull by the horns and begin the journey to a simplified life. It’s so worth the effort.

Here are top 4 things standing in the way of you and a zen home, and tips to overcome them:

 

1. No time

This is the number reason for most people. I get it. We lead busy, often overloaded lives. And the simple answer to this, is to make decluttering a priority and schedule it in to your calendar – it could be an evening a week, a weekend day a month or whatever time you can carve out. If you’re serious about tackling your clutter,  you’ve got to prioritise it.

Along with scheduling time, start using those little pockets of time when you might otherwise be checking social media, or email, or doing something else that’s really not a priority. If something’s enough of a priority for us, we’ll find the time.

 

2. Not knowing where to start

When our stuff reaches overwhelm point, it’s easier to do nothing than to do something. The key is not to start with the hardest, most overwhelming space. The size of the task will overwhelm the size of your motivation, and you won’t start. Pick a small area – even just the kitchen junk drawer if you have one. If you can do one small area from start to finish, the sense of accomplishment just might motivate you to tackle a bigger space.

If you’re game to start with a bigger space, start with your wardrobe. Being stressed and overwhelmed by your wardrobe, and struggling with decisions about what to wear before the day’s even started is not conducive to a productive day. Starting the day with a decluttered wardrobe that contains items that you love to wear and feel good in, makes such a difference to your state of mind and the way you tackle other decision-making throughout the day.

 

3. Thinking we can do it on our own

Often people don’t call on others for help with decluttering, based on the premise that they can do it themselves. But decluttering can be a harder, more emotional process than you anticipate; it requires making a whole heap of decisions. With every item you have to decide whether to keep it or part with it, and if you’re sorting through every item in a wardrobe, or a garage, or any other cluttered space, that’s a lot of decisions.

Getting someone in, whether it be a friend or a professional, who is not emotionally attached to your stuff, can help you to be more objective, work through the many decisions, and actually get the job done.

 

4. Fear of letting go

The most common line I hear: “I might need this one day.”

Emotional attachments to our stuff, and the fear of letting go, so often stand between us and a simplified home.

The only way through this one, is to accept that, yes, you may get rid of some things that you may need one day, but buying (or borrowing) the very odd thing that you happen to need down the track, is far better than hanging onto everything “just in case”. You won’t need 99% of the stuff you get rid of ever again. It’s not worth the stress of a cluttered home for that 1% of stuff that you may or may not even need. I’d far rather get rid of it all, experience the peace and simplicity of owning less, and accept the small cost of needing to replace the odd thing occasionally. Since we’ve been living this way, we’ve never looked back.

Listen to your emotions, and try to identify what is standing in the way of you and letting go.

We have to learn to let go and trust the process, as we head towards the sense of peace and freedom that lies on the other side of our clutter.

Have a good week everyone 🙂

Rachel x

Friday Favourite Things

Happy Friday everyone.

I’ve got two favourite things to share with you today:

1. Wall planters

Gala Collier Ceramic Planters
Gala Collier Ceramic Planters

I couldn’t wait for the chance to finally get some new house plants once our renovation was finished. I’m really not a green fingers so am surprised that my 5 new plants are still alive 5 months in. Fingers crossed. These planters are by local ceramic artist Gala Collier. I love buying local and handmade when I can, and love the simplicity and beauty of these. I got the string of pearls plant from Plant & Pot, and Gala very kindly gave me a cutting of her chain of hearts. Bringing nature indoors really is happiness in a pot.

2. Essentialism by Greg McKeown

I’m all about what Greg has to say in this book, on how to discern what’s essential to our lives, and what’s not. I love this:

What if we stopped being oversold the value of having more and being undersold the value of having less? What if we stopped celebrating being busy as a measurement of importance? What if instead we celebrated how much time we had spent listening, pondering, meditating, and enjoying time with the most important people in our lives?

What if the whole world shifted from the undisciplined pursuit of more to the disciplined pursuit of less… only better?

Have a great weekend, and may it contain a little less busyness and a little more time to celebrate the moments with those who are important to you.

xx

Friday Favourite Things

Happy 2017 to you! I hope your year has started well so far.

Simplifying, owning less, minimising. I love these words, and the sentiment behind them. I’m all about buying less, owning less, consuming less, and being present more.

But a well curated life also includes choosing wisely and well the things that you do add in to your life. Something well chosen, that you truly love, will often mean less consuming overall. If you buy one thing that you love, that may stop you buying seven things that you don’t.

So this year as well as talking about simplicity (I’ll never stop talking about that!) I’ll also tell you about some of my favourite things. What I like, what I love, what’s worth spending money on, what’s not. Because I love researching and choosing carefully what comes in to my home and my life, and sharing with others what I love.

We’ve also just about finished renovating our home. I’ve loved the process of creating spaces that are simple, beautiful, and serve their purpose well. So over the year I’ll share some pictures of my favourite rooms and spaces in our home.

And people often ask me about my wardrobe, perhaps imagining that it’s a perfectly curated selection of white, zen, minimalist items. It’s not. But I do love it, now that it only contains things I truly love and use, so I’m happy to share some of my favourite pieces with you.

So here’s my first list of Friday Favourite Things for the year:

1. I’m currently reading, and loving Parker Palmer’s “Let Your Life Speak”. It’s a thoughtful, insightful, and inspiring reflection on how to tap into your vocation, and uncover your true self. Here’s an excerpt:

Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent.

2. Houston Design Co. coffee cups. We’ve been through a tough few years, and I’ve needed to add little things into my day to bring me joy. Drinking coffee out of hand made local pottery does that for me.

coffee
Houston Design Co. tumblers

3. Our new laundry tiles. We’d already renovated our bathroom when I discovered these tiles, so thought I was out of options for using them in our home. When it struck me that I spend more time in my laundry than my bathroom, I decided that adding a little bit of beautiful to my laundry was a great idea. I’m loving it.

Scandinavian laundry. Black and white tiles.
Our new laundry.
Here’s to the new year, and all it brings to each of us.

Rachel xx

P.S. I’ll also be using Instagram to share some of my favourite things, so head here to follow me.