Can a Change-Up be Good Enough?

Can a change-up be good enough?

 

This is a post from guest contributor Saida Rashid of A Breath of Simplicity. Enjoy, and learn more about Saida at the end of this post.

 

When we moved, I was adamant about getting rid of our four poster bed.

It’s a nice bed. There’s nothing wrong with it. Still. I didn’t want it in my new home. We were down-sizing and it didn’t sit well with my journey in “less is more.”

The bed is BIG. You can never just flop down on it. It’s too high. You have to climb onto it. By far, the biggest nuisance was having to clean the dust that gathered on top of the wood canopy.

The final case in point: The master bedroom in our new home is a third of the size of our old room – I was convinced the bed would take up the entire room!

I tried, really, really hard to sell the bed online, but there were no serious buyers. So I watched as it got dismantled, loaded onto the moving truck and transported to our new home.

I relented, but in my mind it was a temporary arrangement.

When my husband reassembled the bed, I requested that he omit the wood canopy. And now? It’s been almost a year since we moved. We still have the bed and, what’s more, I like it.

Funnily enough, it doesn’t occupy the whole room like I feared, and removing the canopy made a HUGE difference. The bed used to make me feel overwhelmed. It doesn’t anymore. It’s good enough, after all.

A few years ago, I would have insisted on a new bed and donated the old one. And we’d be out of pocket a few hundred dollars. But life is full of opportunities for a change-up. I’ve come to recognise that I experience these moments quite frequently.

It’s not easy to ‘fess up and it’s unfortunate, but the truth is I have a tendency to fixate on things I feel I must have – sometimes the feeling is SO profound it interferes with my sense of inner peace.

In the past couple of years I’ve been learning to wait rather than jump in at the deep end (i.e. spend money). The process of waiting has helped me recognise that new is NOT always better.

When I make myself wait I’m more likely to try a change-up. This often leads to a moment of good enough. Sometimes I forget to wait, but I’m learning and getting better at it every day.

I was recently convinced that I needed something for our kitchen sill. It looked SO bare. But I waited. Then I tried a change-up. The kitchen sill is now good enough and I didn’t have to spend any money.

The next time you feel the urge to spend money; try a change-up first.

• Think your kids need better toys? Try re-organising and displaying the toys you already have differently.
• Think your kitchen is too small? Try de-cluttering and re-arranging your kitchen stuff.
• Think you need a new bedside table? How about a coat of paint on that small coffee table sitting in the basement?

You get the picture.

I bet more often than not, you’ll find that the stuff you already own is good enough.

You can check out Saida’s tips on simple living and learn about her journey towards eliminating processed foods on her blog abreathofsimplicity.com.

(Image courtesy of Allison)

Delight

True delight is in the finding out rather than the knowing.

Bushwalks are one of our favourite activities on the weekend.

We pack bags full of the essentials - water, snacks and suncream, dinosaurs, hand-drawn maps and chocolate – and head out to the national park.

What I love most about these excursions – even more than the exercise and the appreciation of nature we’re getting – is the tiny moments of delight they afford us.

We notice the bugs skimming across the lagoon surface, the pink algae and the birdsong. We spot flowers and rock formations and animal tracks. Things that are always there but rarely seen simply because we’re moving too fast.

Finding delight

When we go on a bushwalk we try to make it leisurely. We stop (a lot). And while sometimes I miss the feeling of getting my blood up and hiking fast up the inclines, it seems that we’ve become pioneers of the Slow (Walking) Movement.

And really? It’s a delightful way to view the world. You don’t need to be bushwalking or exploring or doing anything out of the ordinary at all, because delightful moments surround us everywhere, if we’re willing to slow down for a moment and look for them.

  • a water droplet on the bus window
  • street art
  • a flower growing through a crack in the footpath
  • the swoop of a bird high in the sky
  • clouds
  • a young couple holding hands
  • a reflection of sunset in an office building’s windows
  • a brief sniff of the ocean air
  • a snowflake
  • a cat curled up in your lap
  • the first leaves of a seedling pushing through the soil
  • the smell of rain on the dirt
  • a sleeping child’s breath
  • fingerprints
  • a mushroom growing out of leaf litter

Some people think of delight in the same way they think of love. If you go actively looking for it, it will elude you. I disagree wholeheartedly.

If you are open to beauty, if you are open to the possibility of delight, if you go searching for it, you will discover that it actually surrounds us at every moment. It may not look like you’d expected. It may not feel the way you imagined. It may not be the cookie cutter version of delight or joy or beauty. But it will be there. Just allow yourself to be included and you will find it.

Organised (Enough) – Slow Home Essentials

Organised (Enough) - Slow Home Essentials

Often we mistake organisation for simplicity.

The logic goes: in order to be living a truly simple life, you need to have a whole host of systems in place that will organise every aspect of your day.

And it’s true that you can schedule your hours, organise your wardrobe, catalogue your paperwork, arrange your kitchen utensils, reconfigure your garage to hold more stuff and roster your down-time. But creating a slow home means many of those systems are simply unnecessary. If you strip away what you don’t need, you’ll find that life doesn’t require nearly as much organising as the storage solution stores and home decor magazines will have you believe.

Many of us cling to organisation because we believe it helps us get through the day without losing our sanity. And this is true to a point.

But it’s also a way to procrastinate while still feeling productive. Organising means you avoid recognising:

  • those uncomfortable heels were a waste of money
  • your kids have more toys than they can possibly play with
  • years worth of paperwork are largely unnecessary
  • your gym clothes have remained unworn for months
  • you’re no longer interested in knitting/fencing/snowboarding/oil painting

Organising means you avoid facing your fears and regrets.

Of course life is busy, and some organisation helps corral that busy-ness into a semblance of order. So I’m not telling you to do away with your diary, bill paying system or ironing baskets. If they really help you in creating a less stressful day, then that is wonderful.

But at some point “organising” and “simplifying” become different sides of the same coin.

You need to leave space for life to happen. And life is messy. Life is uncertain. Life is spontaneous. Life is not organised. 

You are reading this because you want to create a slow home and a simpler way of life. And while being organised – to a point – means you have time and space for life to unfold peacefully, over-doing it means you run the very real risk of sucking the joy from your days.

And that’s our end goal isn’t it? To rediscover the joy. The zing of doing something spontaneous. The flash of excitement when you realise, “Why the hell not? I’d love to go to the beach/play in the sun/have a nap.”

If you over-do the organising, if you schedule the guts out of your days, weeks, months and school terms, you risk losing one of the biggest joys in life – spontaneity.

So my tip:

Be as organised as you need to be. No more.

Organise what you really need. But don’t turn to organisation simply to store more junk in your space or cram more into your days. The key is to take away what isn’t necessary and good. There you will find your simpler life.

 

The Zen of Single-Tasking

The Zen of Single Tasking

Do you multi-task? Find yourself doing two (or three, or seven) things at the same time?

Honestly, I’d be surprised if you said no. Everyone does. It’s what we’re supposed to do. Right?

You:

  • plan dinner while making breakfast
  • hang the washing while you talk to your partner
  • listen to a podcast while you exercise
  • talk on the phone while watching your kids play.

You multi-task because you’re clever. Because you’re efficient. You’re making the most of your time. You’re getting business sorted.

When you multi-task and tick items off your to-do list, you feel clever. You feel efficient. You feel like you’re making the most of your time.

But what about the other side of that coin?

Do you feel exhausted? Like you’re not doing anything well? Like you’re being torn in too many directions?

Despite what your overwhelmed, over-worked, over-committed brain may be telling you – you don’t need to do more.

You need to do less.

You need to focus on just one thing at a time.

You need to single-task.

We are told constantly that high-quality humans are efficient. They’re on top of things. He lives on 4 hours sleep a night. She manages a home, family and business. We’re told that if we want to emulate them, we need to do the same. In other words: we need to multi-task.

And, to be honest, there are times when we do. But not all the time.

It’s not about doing less.

It’s about choosing one task during the day.

It’s about being focused on that task and that task alone.

It’s about immersing yourself wholly and completely in experiencing it. Finding the Zen, the beauty, the JOY of mindfully finishing that task.

How to find the Zen in single-tasking

10 minutes is all you need. Even one minute will do if you’re that busy.

One minute of beautiful, meditative quiet in a day otherwise filled with the urgent need to be productive, to get things done, to prove our value.

Choose a task:

Pick one task you need to complete. Then, when the time comes to do that thing, simply devote yourself to it. Soak up every detail of it. Immerse yourself in your senses.

Are you hanging out the laundry?

Instead of planning dinner, or thinking about the meeting you have this afternoon, or what you will do when the kids wake from their nap, try this:

  • Focus on the fresh scent of the wet, clean clothes
  • The coolness of the damp fabric in your hands
  • The snap of the pegs on the line
  • The way the sunlight hits the linen
  • Appreciate that you make time to do this simple task so your family will have clean clothes

Make time for that to be the one thing you are thinking about. The one thing you are experiencing. The sole purpose of that moment.

And when you’re done, take a deep breath.

Then it’s back to the day. Back to keeping balls in the air, kids on swings, food in bellies.

Make it a ritual

If you can make this small ritual of single-tasking a part of your everyday, you are putting your well-being ahead of the busyness of our world. You’re acknowledging that there is more to life than churning through a to-do list and getting things done.

After all, this is why we’re on the path to a simpler life, isn’t it? So we can experience more of these moments every day. More simple pleasures. More little joys. More mindful intention.

When was the last time you found the beauty and the joy in an everyday moment? Was it raking the leaves? Cleaning the windows? Drinking a cup of tea?

 

How to Have an Awesome Day

How to have an awesome day

There are good days and bad days. Some bad days are out of our control, and some good days happen in spite of themselves.

But I’m discovering there are many things I can do (even if sometimes I really don’t want to) that make an impact on the sort of day I’m going to have. Without sounding ridiculously self-righteous, this is how I have an awesome day:

Start it the night before

I need decent sleep in order to function well, so I make sure to get to bed early. I have been known to go to bed when the kids do, and am always in bed before 9:30pm during the week.

You can: work out how many hours sleep you need, what time you need to wake up in the morning, and work backwards until you find your ideal bed time.

Early rising

My alarm goes off at 4am every morning except Sunday. I am (obviously) an early bird, so this works for me. It lets me get 2 hours of writing or work done before the rest of the family wakes up, and it takes the pressure off during the day. I get the quiet time that I desperately need – which helps me stay calm and positive during the day, even when milk is spilled, arguments break out and appointments run late.

A good breakfast

When I eat a fast breakfast – something like toast or sugary cereal – my day often doesn’t go to plan. My energy is down, I crave sweet, fatty or carby foods and my mood is darker. So I make sure to eat a decent breakfast, something that includes vegetables and protein to keep my energy up and stop the 10am munchies.

Usually I’ll sautee vegetables (mushrooms, kale, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, corn – whatever is in the fridge) and serve it with either a poached egg or a dollop of natural yoghurt and jalapenos on top. If time is short, I’ll make a green smoothie of frozen banana, almond milk, spinach, chia seeds, coconut oil, honey and cacao and take it with me.

You can: get up 10 minutes earlier and try this yourself.

Move

Even 5 minutes of sun salutations while my coffee brews is enough to make my body feel energised. I also try to exercise a little more intensely a few days a week (either by running or doing a couple of rounds of the 7 Minute Workout) and find my general outlook much sunnier on the days I get physical. Combined with weekend bushwalks, taking the kids and dog for a neighbourhood stroll and the physical activity of gardening, cleaning and parenting – I’m moving more now than I have for a long time, and it reflects in my mood, energy and general worldview.

You can: try the 7 Minute Workout, take the dog for a walk around the block or try some simple stretches every morning or evening. Take advantage of incidental exercise by using the stairs, raking the backyard, getting off the bus one stop earlier or taking a walk during your lunchbreak.

Smile

During my 5-minute kitchen yoga sessions, each time I reach my hands above my head and stretch to the sky, I make myself smile. I push a big, stupid, cheesy grin across my face and I say thank you. Seriously. It used to feel silly, but now it really does lift my mood.

You can: smile at yourself in the mirror before heading off to work. Smile at a stranger. Smile for no reason other than to feel it lifting the corners of your mouth. See if it doesn’t make you feel even the tiniest bit happier.

Drink water

If I’m dehydrated, I get headaches, I feel cranky and my body is sluggish. So I try to drink 2-3 litres of water a day. I’ve found the best way to get close to this amount is to fill my 1.25L stainless steel drink bottle and leave it on the kitchen bench when I ‘m at home. Every time I walk past it, I take a drink. If I’m working I have the bottle on my desk, and if I’m out it goes in my handbag.

You can: take a reusable drink bottle with you to work, the gym, or keep it on the kitchen bench when you’re at home. Start with one full bottle a day and slowly increase your intake to two.

Be kind to myself

Work is hard. Parenting is hard. Marriage is hard. Home-keeping is hard. By showing myself a little compassion, not expecting myself to be all things to all people, and knowing that it’s impossible to do everything, I allow myself to feel good rather than bad. So the laundry didn’t get put away, but I did play hide and seek with my kids. I’m OK with that.

You can: show yourself some kindness. Accept that it’s not possible to do everything, and that’s OK.

 

Obviously, your awesome day will look different to mine. What works for me may not work for you, and that’s cool. Also keep in mind that these don’t all happen every day. I try to include most of these elements, most of the time, but sometimes life just gets in the way, you know?

But if you’re wanting to create better days for yourself, why not spend this week paying attention to which days are good and which days are not so good.  Then ask yourself why. What was different about the good days? What about the bad days didn’t work for you? Try to incorporate more of the good and less of the bad, and see how it impacts your days. After all:

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you’re heading.”

– Lao Tzu

I’m a huge believer that we ultimately choose our own happiness, but I also believe we need to do the work in order to foster that happiness. No-one’s going to do it for us.

Here’s to a good week, friends.

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