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Home Hacks

So many of us spend so much time fighting our homes, trying to force them into submission, that we’re exhausted.

Lately I’ve been trying to get my home to work for me. I’m working to create a rhythm and systems that work for me and my family, not the other way around.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some of these home hacks, in the hope that they’ll be helpful to those of you still fighting the same old battle at home.

My first tip? Make your home work for you before leaving the house of a morning.

Specifically, get your machines ready (think dishwasher, washing machine) and have them running before you head out.

To make this easier, I try to have my laundry sorted the night before, stains sprayed, clothes sitting in the machine ready for the morning.

I also try to have our dishwasher stacked and ready to take the breakfast dishes, then put it on once lunches are made and the kitchen is tidied away.

Then I set my machines to work before I leave the house. When I get home from preschool drop-off, running errands or visiting a friend, I know that two big jobs (washing clothes and washing dishes) will have been done for me.

And seriously, how awesome is that?!

Rather than continue to take these everyday, modern conveniences for granted, and rather than seeing the loading/unloading of these machines as a chore, I now choose to see them as allies. I know that might seem silly (and it really kind of is) but I find being mindful of it makes me more grateful for the modern conveniences we do have access to.

So try to put your machines to work first thing in the morning, and also try to practice gratitude by saying, “Hey, dishwasher, thanks for doing the dishes.”

 

Enough with the balancing act!

Drop the balancing act, let's tilt instead.

For Mother’s Day this year, Sparky and the kids bought me a slackline.

Basically it’s a 2-inch wide tightrope strung between two trees, and you can use it to balance on, walk along, perform tricks or even practice yoga on. And seriously, it’s some of the best fun I’ve had (standing up!) for a long time.

My current goal is to stand completely still while balancing on the line. Sometimes I try to strike a tree pose or lean forward while standing on one leg, and while it sounds easy, it’s actually really difficult. Fun, meditative, great for posture, but difficult!

Last weekend, as I was perched on the line with one foot in the air, my arms wobbling around trying to keep me still, I realised something:

Balance is exhausting.

Every muscle is taut, trying desperately not to over- or under-compensate, lest you fall. Your mind needs to be focused and singular in its attention, lest you fall. Your sights need to be set on a specific spot and not shift around, lest you fall.

10 minutes spent trying to remain perfectly balanced, and I’m head-tired.

If balancing on a line for just 10 minutes is so exhausting, when there’s nothing more important than ego up for grabs, why do we think we can manage to keep a busy, full life perfectly balanced and not struggle under the pressure?

Undoubtedly, balance is necessary when trying to stand still on a length of nylon 30 centimetres off the ground, but I’m convinced that in life, balance isn’t a goal we should be pursuing.

Actually, I’ll go further and say this - trying to achieve balance is harming our ability to enjoy life.

I’ve written about balance and tilting before, but am constantly reminded that striving for some perfect, balanced life is leading many of us to feel dissatisfied, resentful, exhausted or depleted.

Trying to maintain your attention evenly across all aspects of a busy life – work, family, friends, community, faith, relaxation, play, home – is to be in a state of constant tension. And I don’t know anyone who can enjoy life to its fullest when they’re a bundle of stress. I know I can’t.

So what do we do?

Personally, I try to tilt.

I’ve thrown away the notion of balance completely and now willingly throw myself out of whack. I work out where my attention is most needed and I tilt in that direction.

At this season in life, with a 3yo and a 5yo at home, I spend a lot of time tilting towards their needs.

I tilt towards an orderly-ish home with less stuff.

I tilt towards growing veges, cleaning with natural products and being environmentally mindful.

BUT:

Some days I need to tilt towards work, and the kids watch a movie during the day.

Some days my bathroom doesn’t get cleaned and the mail stays on the kitchen bench because I’m tilting towards the garden.

Some days I buy things that I could have made myself because I’m tilting towards getting through a busy month.

Sometimes there is tension, of course. But it’s a matter of having your priorities worked out and being able to say, “I can’t do it all.” And backing that up by not trying to. 

It’s something that I am constantly working on, as I believe we are taught that to be successful, well-rounded and worthy, we need to be able to do it all. But I also believe that this notion is wrong.

So enough with the balancing act, and here’s to throwing ourselves out of whack this weekend!

Simple Living – Does it Have to be All or Nothing?

Simple Living - It Doesn't Have to be All or Nothing

So, I have a friend. And this friend is working to simplify her life, has been for years.

She has purged her family’s belongings, simplified their calendar, got out of debt, adopted green cleaning, got rid of all but her most wearable clothes and, more recently, started trying natural body products.

She’s doing OK.

But she feels bad because, well, there’s more to change.

There’s always more to change.

She still drinks coffee from her (gasp!) Nespresso machine.

She still gets her hair coloured.

She enjoys travelling to far-flung places.

She buys organic denim.

She eats non-organic food.

She is a fan of a gutsy shiraz.

And she feels bad about some of these things.

Not so much because there is anything wrong with buying quality jeans or drinking red wine (there’s a First World sentence right there) but because she feels that, in her quest to live simply, she should be all or nothing. That something worth doing is worth doing right.

And to me her, I say – nope.

What is “doing simplicity right” anyway? What does that look like?

To some people it’s living in an RV or a tiny house, while to others it’s living in the country and creating a self-sustaining home.

To some people it’s going digital and using technology to remove as much physical stuff as possible, while to others it’s completely eschewing modern gadgetry in place of old-fashioned pen, paper and ink.

To some people it’s DIY everything, while to others it’s fair-trade, locally-grown, support the farmers/growers/brewers/makers/roasters.

To many more, however, simplicity lies somewhere in the middle.

It’s cutting back our belongings, growing some tomatoes and line-drying our clothes.

It’s getting our bills and statements delivered via email, digitising our photos, signing up to Spotify and keeping a journal.

It’s mending our clothes, making our own laundry detergent, shopping locally, buying secondhand.

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It’s enough just to do what you can.

I really believe that this idea of all or nothing – we need to be super-crunchy/ultra-minimalist/hardcore homeschoolers/insert your stereotype here in order to do simple living right – is harming our ability to step up and try something new.

For me, it’s all about baby steps. Often those baby steps will lead to bigger things. But sometimes they won’t. And that’s OK.

What’s not OK is sitting by and doing nothing when what you crave is a simpler, slower, more contented life. If that’s what you want, then ignore the voice that tells you it needs to be all or nothing, and take a step.

Just one, tiny, baby step.

  • Clean out your car
  • Buy your fruit and vegetables at the farmers market
  • Check the op shop before buying that thing you need from a big box store
  • Opt to receive your bank statements via email
  • Use white vinegar to clean your kitchen benchtops
  • Declutter the utensil drawer
  • Say no to a plastic bag
  • Eat a meat-free meal
  • Smile at a stranger
  • Go do some colouring with your kids
  • Say no to a social engagement

Every one of these baby steps has an impact on the life you live. And while it’s not the same as upping sticks and moving to the country, or selling your home and travelling in an RV, these steps matter.

Each change, each step, each little shift in the way we do things makes a difference. And – not to sound too Pollyanna here – but I do believe that if each of us made small changes where possible, we could actually start to shift the world.

You can do something. We can do something.

It doesn’t need to be all or nothing.

One Little Spark

Robin Williams

This probably isn’t the first post you’ve read about the passing of Robin Williams, and my guess is it won’t be the last. But it will be the first and last you read here.

I’m not one for celebrity and apart from Princess Diana, I don’t think I’ve ever cried at the passing of a famous person, no matter how much I enjoyed their films/music/art.

Until today.

When I heard about Robin Williams’ death, I spent 20 minutes scrolling through news and social media sites, fixed my kids some morning tea, closed the door to my office and I cried my eyes out.

I’ve been trying to put my finger on why for the better part of the day, and I’m still not sure.

I think part of it is my own experience with depression and the fact that I’m in a bit of a down phase. But there’s also just an acute sadness that a brilliant spark has gone out.

I don’t know of anyone my age who grew up without regular viewings of Robin Williams in Mrs Doubtfire or Hook. (“Ru-fi-ooooooooooo!”) At the heart of these movies, and many others, was a playfulness and the desire to stay in a childlike joy. The underlying message: “Don’t take things too seriously, whatever you do.”

There will be much talk about mental health today, as a result of this great actor’s apparent suicide, and I hope with all my heart that these discussions help tear down the walls of stigma and silence that surround depression and other mental illnesses. God knows they need to come down, too many people are going under.

But maybe we can keep space for that childlike joy too. The mischievous grin, the glee in a well-placed one-liner, the joy of a middle-aged man dressed up as an elderly lady, the unbridled delight in a Neverland food fight.

After all, as Peter Benning put it at the end of Hook:

To live… to live would be an awfully big adventure.

When we can, I think we should live that adventure with as much childlike joy as we can.

there you are, peter.

RIP, Robin Williams.

How to Be An Introvert and Still Succeed at Conferences

How to be an Introvert and Still Succeed at Conferences

I am firmly introverted. I’m not shy necessarily (I used to get the two confused, but they are very different things) but I find the idea of a room filled with strangers both exciting and exhausting. I love my alone time. I also love talking to new people about things we are passionate about. I am happy and content with these opposing elements of me.

There are times, however, where being an introvert can be challenging:

  • Going to a party solo. (How do I get involved? What if I look like a loser, sitting by myself? What if no-one wants to talk to me?)
  • Turning up to a networking event alone. (Small talk, strangers, awkward introductions. Exhausting.)
  • Attending a conference without knowing anyone. (These people all know each other. They don’t need to talk to me. Argh!)

Over the past few years I’ve been to a number of networking events, parties and conferences on my own, and the experiences – while terrifying at the time – have been phenomenal.

The first time I went to an event solo I hid in the toilets for half an hour, trying to work up the courage to mingle in a room full of strangers.

How to be an introvert and still succeed at conferences

But eventually I bit the bullet, applied my lipstick and faked the fact that I was confident, until I actually did feel confident. I met wonderful people, learned a lot and may have ended up sharing a few (too many) cocktails late in the evening.

How to be an Introvert and Still Succeed at Conferences:

1. Body Language Matters:

  • Be open – don’t stand in the corner with your arms crossed, eyes cast down.
  • Make eye contact.
  • Smile readily, at lots of people.
  • If you feel awkward, hold a drink in your hand and wander the room.

2. Speak Up:

  • Say hello. (What’s the worst that could happen? The person ignores you? So what – that’s their loss. You’re awesome and they miss out on your company.)
  • People attend these events to connect with new people. So take a breath and introduce yourself. Ask them questions about their website/company/blog.
  • Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to someone you recognise/hero worship.
  • If you run out of things to say, simply ask questions about the person you’re speaking to. Married? Single? Kids? Pets? Travelled to be here?

3. Ignore Your Inner Mean Girl

  • Despite what your inner-critic may be screaming at you, you are not the only person in the room who has arrived alone. There are likely many others in exactly the same situation. If you see someone standing alone, go up and say hello.
  • You are interesting.
  • You are there – which is fabulous. Do you know how many people were too afraid to even take this step?

4. Be Yourself:

  • Not everyone you meet will be your new best friend – and that is perfectly OK.
  • Be open, be confident in who you are and what you do and expect others to do the same.

5. Be Prepared:

  • If applicable, bring business cards along. They are a great ice-breaker/conversation booster.
  • Have a brief description of your blog/job/company/website/book prepared for the inevitable question of, “And what do you do?” Resist the urge to spew this out robotically though – people don’t want to be pitched at. (Check out this episode of the Fizzle Show for a great how-to on creating the perfect elevator pitch.)
  • Have some go-to topics in mind for when conversations slow down. If all else fails talk about the sessions you’re attending.
  • When a conversation moves to its conclusion, just excuse yourself. No-one expects that you’ll be talking exclusively to them the entire day.

And that is how I didn’t fail miserably at my first conference. I didn’t have a group of friends to rely on, and the whole experience was actually better for it.

{ Images: via Gemma Correll on Medium + INFP problems }

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