Category Archives: Simple

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.

No ‘Poo for You

How to wash your hair with bicarb soda

Way back in the day, Sparky and I backpacked around the world. We were fairly typical young travellers - straight out of Uni, broke, staying in questionable hostels with questionable company and putting beer above food in our own personal hierarchy of needs. (Side note: we absolutely loved Prague, not only because it was a beautiful, fascinating city but also because beer was cheaper than soft drink! Na zdraví!)

It was during this trip that I first started experimenting with unwashing my hair. I had heard somewhere that if you left your hair unwashed for 30 days, it would “dirty itself clean”. So, like the keen youngster I was, I thought I’d try it out. After all, I hated washing my hair every day or two. That 10 minutes in the shower was eating into beer exploration time.

I lasted 12 lank, greasy days and quickly lost my enthusiasm for going ‘poo free. That was, until Isla was born and I began to research just what was in the toiletries we used every day. Turns out, a lot of it is nasty stuff.

So I tried using castille soap instead of shampoo. No dice. (Stringytown. Population: me)

I tried buying expensive bars of handmade, natural shampoo that never really made my hair clean.

I even tried the old unwashing again. I didn’t even last a week.

I finally settled on an organic supermarket brand of shampoo, which did the job. It wasn’t ideal and my eyes were constantly itching, but I stuck with it for quite a while.

Eventually (and I have no idea why it took me so long to cotton on to this method) I tried using bicarb soda in place of shampoo, and I haven’t looked back.

That was over 2 months ago, and aside from a trip to the hairdresser for a cut and colour, my hair has been completely shampoo free.

I can’t be too sure, but I think my hair looks acceptable and I’m fairly certain I don’t stink.

No 'poo for 2 months.

I know this is hardly ground-breaking anymore, but I know a lot of people are interested in trying the no-shampoo method and simply don’t know where to start. So here are my tips:

Start dirty.

I left my hair unwashed for 4 days before I began using bicarb. It was well and truly in need of a wash by then, so the feeling of the bicarb lifting the oil off the roots of my hair was such a relief. Anything was going to feel good after 4 days of not washing, the fact that it was not my usual shampoo didn’t matter!

It takes time. 

You need time to work out the right ratio of bicarb/water for your hair, as well as how often your hair will need to be washed. My hair has taken over a month to settle in to the no shampoo phase, so be sure to give it at least 30 days before you decide whether it’s right for you or not.

Use a little, or use a lot. 

Some people only need a very small amount of bicarb to wash their hair, while others (like me) need a much higher concentration. I also find I have to wash it twice most times, as I have quite thick hair.

Condition your hair – sometimes.

I use a rinse of apple cider vinegar on the lengths of my hair once every week or two. I also use conditioner on the tips of my hair once a week. This is enough to keep it moisturised and manageable.

Get to love your brush.

The night before I am going to wash my hair, I will spend 10 minutes brushing it. This helps to distribute the oils down the length of my hair, and ensures I stay tangle-free.

How to wash hair using bicarb soda:

  1. Take a clean, empty squeeze bottle, a large cup or a clean old jar and fill it with 1/2 cup bicarb.
  2. Add water to it as needed, give it a little mix (depending on how much bicarb you need in your mixture, this might be a little swirl or a vigorous shake) and squirt onto your scalp.
  3. Focus on one area of your scalp at a time, squirting the water and bicarb onto your head and gently rubbing it in. Move on to the next area of the scalp until you have washed all areas.
  4. Rinse well and repeat if needed. Make sure to rinse the hair and scalp thoroughly.
  5. Pour a small amount (maybe 1/3 cup) of apple cider vinegar through the lengths of your hair and rinse out. This helps to remove residue and leave your hair shiny. And the vinegar smell? It goes away once the hair is dry.

People also ask if I use this with the kids, but to be honest, I can’t tell you the last time I even shampooed my kids’ hair. I condition it once a fortnight and it gets washed with plain water every few days, but they just don’t need the shampoo.

Have you tried to go ‘poo free? Are you curious to try? Let me know if you do and how it goes.

If you’d like to explore other recipes and methods for homemade, natural haircare, there is a great ebook available in this week’s Bundle of the Week. The bundle also includes books on the basics of foraging and herbal remedies.

{Top image via grandmaitre on Flickr}

Enough

What is enough?

I’ve been struggling with the idea of enough. (Am I enough? Do I do enough?) And rather than rehash my thoughts on this same idea, I wanted to resurrect an old post where I ask, “What is enough?”

Interestingly, it was first published almost exactly a year ago. Turns out that my natural seasonal rhythm lends itself to quieter, introspective winters!

——

As a parent, friend, sister, daughter and wife I struggle with the notion of enough.

Do I play with the kids enough?
Am I healthy enough?
Do I call my sisters enough?
Have I been a good enough friend?
Is it enough to be content?
Am I trying hard enough?
Am I attractive enough?
Do I give enough?
Do I care enough?

Enough – not too little, not too much. Just… enough.

After struggling with the idea for a very long time – never feeling good enough, never satisfied, never entirely content – I’ve started to frame the idea of ‘enough’ in a different way. And can I tell you, it’s helping me find some much-needed perspective.

Much like the idea of tilting – where we willingly throw things off-balance and tilt in the direction life requires – I wondered if we could view the idea of ‘enough’ as a long-term notion, rather than something we need to achieve every day?

I think we can. And I think we should.

But what does that look like in real life?

Do I play with the kids enough?” Maybe not today, but sometimes clothes need to be washed, emails returned, toilets cleaned and phonecalls made. On the other hand, do I feel good in my gut when I ask if I’ve played with them enough over the past six months? Yes.

Am I trying hard enough?” Some days, I phone it in. And on those days, I am lacking. But, again, over the past 6 months? 2 years? 10 years? Yes, I try hard enough.

There are peaks and troughs, mountains and valleys for everything in life. Sometimes we feel that we are enough, other times we are filled with doubt. I think that’s simply being human. But reframing the idea this way has shown me that enough really IS enough.

But what about when it isn’t enough?

When you ask yourself the question, “Am I doing enough over time?” and the answer is silence. Or worse, when the answer is a pang.

What do you do then?

When that pang reverberates in my gut I know I need to pull up and listen. I know I need to make a change, or ask a different question.

Do I call my best friend enough?” PANG. No. Pay attention and make a change.

Have we made enough time to unplug on the weekends?” PANG. No. What can we do differently?

Am I present enough when I do play with the kids?” PANG. No. How can I change my approach?

My aim, in turning the idea of enough upside down, is to be mindful and intentional about what I’m choosing to do. Instead of being carried away by panic and regret and frustration at not being enough every day.

Essentially that means if I haven’t played with the kids enough, there’d better be a good reason. If I haven’t called my best friend enough, again, show me a good reason.

It’s a matter of listening to your instincts, your gut, and that little voice inside your head that when given a longer view of things suddenly becomes quite wise.

“Relax. You’ve done enough over time. That counts,” it says.

I think it’s time to listen.

 

 

 

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