Category Archives: Simple

Stories and lies.

The stories and lies we tell ourselves about our stuff.

Every time we buy something, we tell ourselves a story.

Sometimes that story is, “Last week my boots broke and they can’t be fixed. I need boots because winter is coming and without them, my feel will be cold.”

Pretty straightforward (with a small Game of Thrones reference thrown in for my own entertainment.)

But other times we tell ourselves more intricate stories about the stuff we want to buy. Often these stories are created by advertisers, marketers, magazines, social media and celebrities. And many of them aren’t so much stories as lies we tell ourselves when buying stuff we simply want.

These all condense down to one underpinning story-lie:

If I buy this thing it will make me better.

That might mean it will make you funnier, or sexier, or happier. It might mean you become more interesting, more hip or more respected. It might make you a better mother, friend or husband. It might make you run faster or train harder or look cuter at the gym.

Whatever your rationale, you are trying to convince yourself that this thing – these jeans, that throw rug, those trainers – will make you a better person in some way.

But honestly? It won’t.

A thing can’t make you a better person.

Providing your basic needs of food, water, shelter and clothing are met, this thing will – at best – make you more comfortable, more fashionable or more confident. But you aren’t a kinder, happier, more compassionate person because you bought a throw rug, or trainers, or jeans.

(Please know that I am as guilty of this lie as the next person, so I don’t say any of this in judgement.)

But a life of intentional simplicity is teaching me to recognise this lie, and ignore its needling little voice.

And if I can do that, if I can ignore the little voice telling me I’ll be better if I just buy the thing, then that thing – the jeans, the rug, the trainers – are relegated to their rightfully unimportant place. It’s just stuff. That’s it. Nothing more. And it’s much easier to not want things when you understand how unimportant they are.

When the time comes where you do need to buy a new pair of jeans, or trainers, or a throw rug (if one ever needs a throw rug), it doesn’t become an exercise in personal identity. The stuff remains relegated to its rightful place – it’s just stuff.

Stuff is OK. And it’s OK to want things. It’s OK to buy things.

But stuff is not important. So don’t take your value from it. Don’t measure yourself by it.

You are important. Your friends are important. Your children, your partner, your family – they are important.

Your words, your deeds, your worldview – these are important.

Your jeans? Your trainers? Your throw rug? No.

 

 

Death to the ironing pile!

Death to the ironing pile

Growing up, my mum was Master of the Laundry.

No sooner had you discarded your dirty clothes than they were in the washing machine, hung, dried, ironed and back on the bed. I grew up using this as one of many measures of competency at home.

My hat is forever tipped to such Laundry Masters, but I now accept the fact that I am not one of them. And that’s OK.

In fact, I am very, very, very bad at keeping up with my ironing. Like, bad enough that there are clothes at the bottom of the basket that may or may not have been there since…May. That kind of bad.

I generally manage to take care of the top 75% every week, but rarely seem to find time or motivation to finish it completely.

And while I’m slowly finding my groove and establishing the rhythms that work in our home, my lack of ironing prowess has always bothered me.

Over time though, I’ve worked out a few hacks to help cut down on the amount of ironing I need to do. Which leaves me time to do more pleasurable things, like scrape paint off windows or clean the toilet.

3 Home Hacks for Ironing Pile Death

1. Shake, shake, shake! 
As I’m hanging up the wet laundry, I give everything (except handwashing or delicates) three really good, firm shakes before I peg them up. This plus line-drying generally takes care of most wrinkles.

2. Sort and fold straight away.
Not always practical, I know, but when I can I like to fold and sort the clothes as soon as they come inside or out of the dryer. It means they don’t get all creased up sitting in the basket for who knows how long.

3. Drop your standards a little. 
I can’t be sure, but I don’t think people talk about us behind our backs due to this non-ironing thing. “Oh, would you look at that rumply family? How embarrassing. Can you believe they walk around like that?”

Now I no longer iron tshirts, kids clothes, pyjamas, gardening gear, exercise clothes, jeans or shorts. I do iron Sparky’s work shirts, anything really creasy like cotton and linen, and a handful of my delicates. I will admit that I love ironing pillowcases and teatowels though. Weird, I know.

How about you? Do you iron? Do you avoid the ironing? Do you outsource it? Are you the Mayor of Wrinkle Town?

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.

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