30 January 2015

Skimming Stones

Hello. Some very sad news: my lovely dad passed away very peacefully on Tuesday evening, with us by his side. For some occasions in life there are no words but I have written a few - every one of them for dad. Thank you for every kind wish, prayer and message recently. Claire xo


Why did I fear the end when,
In the end, you 
Were deftly lifted to somewhere 
Just a hum away. 

As the weight of illness washed 
From your bones, words of comfort splashed
The room like skimming stones 
Bouncing on water.
I squeezed your hand and your 
Love squeezed back.
Like father, like daughter. 

Why did I fear the end when,
In the end, you
Landed softly on eternity's sand 
Where waves lap lazily and
Time stands
Still. 

Forward. 
Always look forward, you said.
I will look forward, do not fear, 
And watch for ripples 
As you skim stones from Heaven's shore.







19 January 2015

Minimalist Monday: Simple Swaps


1. Peeling carrots swapped for a quick wash.
2. Excess handbags swapped for 3 (everyday big bag, cross body bag, clutch).
3. Fake tan swapped for SPF 15 face and hand cream. 
4. Buying flowers for myself swapped for buying flowers for others. 
5. Ornaments swapped for house plants and favourite books.
6. Hair dye swapped for natural silver highlights.
7. Normal shampoo swapped for organic or natural alternatives (I still highly recommend a good egg wash).
8. Milk chocolate swapped for dark chocolate.
9. Excessive internet surfing swapped for sustained reading of real books.
10. Clutter swapped for 1 in 1 out.
11. Washing clothes after every wear swapped for less laundry days.
12. Low fat everything swapped for olive oil, cheese, full fat milk and avocados.
13. First cup of tea in the morning swapped for hot water and lemon.
14. Feeling blue swapped for a brisk 20 minute walk. 
15. Judging people swapped for being more open to others about my weaknesses.
16. Impulse shopping swapped for waiting a few weeks before reconsidering my purchase. 
17. Diet drinks swapped for peppermint/chamomile tea. 
18. Procrastination swapped for celebrating small achievements every day.
19. Self-consciousness swapped for a smile.
20. Pleasing others swapped for saying no more often.

Here are 20 simple swaps I've made recently. They all add enjoyment to my days whether it's because they give me health benefits, more time, happier relationships or stop me consuming so much. 

It's a list I might add to and share again. What's on your list? 





Thank you so much for all your kind messages. I'm so pleased to have this time with my Dad right now - simplifying my life has allowed me this precious time. I'm reading Walden by Henry David Thoreau in between visiting hours - it's great company. Have a good week xo


image



16 January 2015

Some days

... are a struggle. My Dad is struggling every day at the moment, getting weaker and struggling even more to communicate. He has a serious infection and is in hospital. He can still make us laugh (about the man in the bed next to him having to come back for his teeth after he'd been discharged) and expresses his gratitude and frustrations. Like I say, some days are better than others. Just to let you know he needs all our care and support right now and I might be here less. Minimalist Monday will keep on rolling out as will other posts on topics that might interest you. As always, thanks for reading, commenting, following and most of all listening.
Love people and use things, because the opposite never works. 
- The Minimalists


14 January 2015

Minimalist Copenhagen Home


So, if January is leaving you feeling heavy-hearted, here is a minimalistic home to inspire you to clear that thick layer of clutter ballast. This home in Copenhagen, Denmark has so many features to inspire: clean walls, mismatched furniture, cool lighting (again mismatched), energising greenery, wall art (quirky but not overpowering), books both useful and decorative and simple outdoor space. Nothing ostentatiously iconic, just a small home in which to breathe, eat, sit, read and be. A house that is not immaculate but provides perfect inspiration. Go and have a look at Sorte Hus from architects Sigurd Larsen here.



12 January 2015

Minimalist Monday: The Very Hungry Consumer


So, you've been working on decluttering, stopped impulse buying and begun to discover the delights of being a little lighter and freer of both your possessions and commitments. 

Is this minimalist nirvana? Has it been worth all those hours of toil? Is minimalism worth pursuing? Or are you still stuck in a clutter cul-de-sac? 

I've been simplifying my life for the last 4 years and I've seen gradual improvements in my lifestyle. It's been a slow process, I can tell you. There's been a lot of doubt and angst along the way. You don't leap out of bed one morning and think, “Whoa, I'm a minimalist, isn't my life serene!” No, it's often more tempting to stay cocooned under the duvet than work at your long term goals. The very hungry consumer who has belly ache from overbuying needs a long rest before emerging renewed.

If you've ever decluttered, downsized or reduced your commitments you'll know that dealing with the entrails of your life can be, well, quite messy at times. It's difficult letting go, forming new habits and working out what you really want from life. It can take a while for the decluttering dust to settle. 

However, if you stick with simplifying you might just wake up one morning and realise that your life is beautiful. The changes might have been gradual but if you look back at where you started and compare it to now, doesn't your life look different? It's as if a fairy godmother (pint-sized, of course) has waved her magic wand and suddenly you have: 

  • More choice
  • More freedom
  • More time (for healthy activites, hobbies, learning new things or relaxation)
  • Confidence in your own values
  • More contentedness
  • A calmer mind
  • A firmer grip on your finances
  • A clearer perspective
  • Closer relationships
  • And, of course, less stuff and more space!

Isn't this what you were searching for amongst all that clutter? Did any one of those things you discarded give you that same feeling of joy as this? 

This feeling of calm and choice is the sum of your decluttering, reconfiguring and reassessing of your lifestyle. All those baby steps of reducing your stuff and reducing your commitments have resulted in this. 

This happened to me only this week and I've been simplifying for 4 years! D'oh! It's like I've suddenly gained freedom from commitments and possessions and I've only just realised it. Freeing up more time through changing my job and continuing to declutter has made a huge difference to my life during the last year. My life feels calmer, more spacious, more meaningful. It's not perfect by any means. My life's busy at times and cluttered in certain areas but it's not as busy or as cluttered as it once was and I'm content with that. I can see how far I've come and believe I can simplify further. 

I think the key to achieving a minimalist lifestyle is belief. A miracle isn't going to simplify your life; there's no magic wand or fairy godmother (sorry). It requires hard work, tough decisions and a single-minded belief that a simpler life is what you want. If you read deep into the archives of any minimalist writer on the net you'll discover that it was hard work and a gradual process for him/her/them too. 

If you want time to just be, start that project or spend unscheduled hours doing what you love, stick with the minimalism. Keep discarding, say no if you feel overcommitted and say yes to quiet moments of calm and freedom. Over time it will reward. Life will feel better. Believe in a simpler life and don't forget to notice the progress you're making. 

It's all about belief. Think of this post as a little sprinkling of pixie dust to guide you on your way whilst simplifying. With a little bit of pixie dust and some happy thoughts you'll be flying! 

Ask yourself, “How much simpler do I want my life to be this time next year?”

Were you once a very hungry consumer? How much progress have you made along the 
simplifying road? Please share. We're all behind you.



8 January 2015

A Healthy 2015

I am confident that nobody... will accuse me of selfishness if I spend time, while I am still in good health, with my family, my friends and also with myself. Nelson Mandela 

Here's my list of healthy resolutions for the new year.

1. Healthy work. My aim is to enjoy my work, be passionate about it but not get too stressed if I have a bad day. I've lost too many hours sleep over performance angst. I love my job (teaching) and the value that it adds. Us teachers need to lighten our load. 
2. Healthy relationships. No relationship is perfect and every relationship needs work. I need to work on appreciating my loved ones, their imperfections and all. 2 robust teenagers and our less robust parents will take up most of our energy this year. Connecting with friends, old and new, is also key. 
3. Healthy finances. I'm no financial expert but over the last year I've begun to appreciate the need for a tighter grip on our finances. Continuing keeping our grocery shopping under control is a top priority this year.  
4. Healthy food. In recent months I've ditched calorie counting for counting the cost that poor food choices are having on my body. Eating more protein, good fats and less sugar is already making a difference to how l feel and look. It takes some experimenting with, but working out the balance that is right for you is worth it.   
5, Healthy mind. We need stimulation and to learn new things but a healthy mind needs downtime too. We need to look inward as well as outward. We need to find time to step back and to find sanctuary in this digital age. I aim to find that sanctuary through more walking, less time on my phone and laptop and making time for meditation and prayer. Searching can be inward as well as outward. 
6. Healthy body. It's all about making the most of what you've got and enjoying the body that you've been given. It's about moving more, not sitting still for long periods of time and finding enjoyable exercise. My aim this year is to run at least another half-marathon (my last one was in 2007). I don't relish the thought of stepping out the front door but I love how I feel once I get into the flow of a steady run. This needs to be my mantra. 
7. Healthy consumerism. OK, so we all need to buy stuff. However, I am committed to a life of less. Purchases that are non-essential will be limited this year. I'm planning on spending some money on improving our house, our garden and also my wardrobe but all on a tiny, tiny budget. Other than that I don't need any more stuff. 

How about you? Have you got plans for a healthy 2015? Id love to hear. e



5 January 2015

Minimalist Monday: Hygge

Yes, Minimalist Monday is back and what better subject to start back with than 'hygge'. Hygge (pronounced heu-gah or hoo-guh) is a Danish word that has no direct equivalent in English. The nearest translation is probably cosiness but a one word translation does not do this blithe word justice. 

Hygge is evocative of spending time with others, of enjoying the moment, feeling connected and finding balance and warmth. There's an art to hygge – it's about caring (for yourself and others), not striving for perfection and finding sanctuary amongst the everyday hustle and bustle of modern life.

For those of us who yearn for simplicity hygge can help. It doesn't require a new look (monotone, handcrafted wooden spoons, sheepskin rugs – you know the thing), a certain type of home or glamorous friends. There's an easy, unselfconscious art to hygge. Grab a blanket, some satisfying food and drink, close friends, a good read, a summer picnic or a barbecue and embrace hygge. 

We do these things already you might think but do we really make enough of them? Isn't it time we disconnected more from screens and connected more to the moment, ourselves and our loved ones? The Danes who are world leaders in happiness find balance, shared moments and quiet contemplation in their everyday lives. 

I think we can learn from them. Good hygge, my friends. 









2 January 2015

Not Gift Free

Confession time, I'm not gift free yet. This Christmas these lovely gifts came into my life:

Vouchers to spend on clothes and eating out
Books including: The Goldfinch - Donna Tart, The Body Book - Cameron Diaz and Walden -Thoreau
Running shoes
Diary  
Calendar 
Mug
Fairy Lights 
Food and drink treats
Bath and shower treats
Scarf 

I feel very lucky to have received such delightful things and touched by the thoughtfulness and generosity that lay behind this gift giving. And despite my general anti-consumerism it's exciting to have something new. I like to think of these gifts as tools which will add value and pleasure to my life whether that's to teach me new things, to improve my fitness or to indulge my senses. But they are more than that, they represent that someone in the gift giving cares about me. Someone cares enough to buy me a surprise (Thoreau), something I need (replacing my worn-out running shoes) or something I've talked about (fairy lights). OK, so saying I couldn't justify buying myself a strand of mood enhancing luminous orbs was a bit of a gambit. 

So, with all this abounding generosity I want to fully appreciate each gift, savour it and get good use out of it. The chocolates and biscuits will be eked out to give pleasure over the next few months, the books will be read and possibly re-read and new clothes will be purchased after careful consideration (I'm thinking of saving my vouchers for summer items). I'll enjoy the simple pleasure of reading and of learning. I should get fitter, I might will get more organised. I'll certainly relax with my bath bomb and my body scrub. I'll have new clothes to wear and calming lights to create ambience in the evenings. I'll feel pampered, educated and well dressed. A couple of gifts will be donated to charity as I know they won't be used. More giving – win, win!

We have scaled down our gift giving over recent years and present buying in our family has become more grounded but Christmas still leaves me feeling over consumerised. I've realised we have more work to do in buying less and in feeling comfortable with that and with other people's generosity (which we have less control over). There is value in gift giving though, I think, especially when the gifts are a perfect match. It helps us to connect to those we care about, make the effort to think of their needs and then spend unhurried time with them (the best bit) when we exchange gifts. It feels good to give, to receive and to say thank you. 

How about you? Were you happy with your gift giving this year? Could it be improved? I'd love to hear from you.



28 December 2014

Christmas Catch-Up

Hello. Are you easing back into reality? I don't think I am yet. This Christmas it's been lovely to spend more time with close family and friends and to catch-up with others we don't see very often. To see my teenage boys and younger members of the family having fun together. I've enjoyed early still mornings, glorious winter sunshine, good food (especially the goats cheese starter), too much chocolate and I've started dipping into a pile of interesting new books I've received. We even had a sprinkling of snow on Boxing day! Most of all I'm grateful for my Dad being home. More of these slow days please. How's your Christmas been?