3 July 2015

Happy Friday Links

So, how's your week been? The summer weather's finally arrived (yes even in the Midlands) and we've been spending lots of time in our tiny garden and enjoying some slow evening walks. I've been teaching extra days and although I enjoy the work I've found it hard to stick to my grocery budget and health goals this week. 

Luckily I've found some great inspiration for slowing down including a new blog, which I'm really excited to share with you. Escape, enjoy and don't forget to let me know your favourites. 

Thank you for reading, commenting and following this week. Have a lovely weekend xo

1 July 2015

5 Ways to Belong That Don't Cost Money

Just as young adults feel the pressure to belong by behaving in a certain way that isn't true to their natural personalities so adults can feel unnecessary pressure to buy stuff to belong. I know in the past that I've bought clothes to belong just because they were the latest fashion and not because I actually liked the garment. I've chased status and a bigger mortgage debt to belong in the belief that these were part and parcel of being a successful adult.

If you're new to a minimalism there can be times when you feel socially awkward when those around you are talking about their recent purchases, holidays and lifestyles. You may feel like you don't belong and be tempted to withdraw from social gatherings altogether. 

Whoa! Living with less needn't cramp your style. 

It can be easy to think that you need to buy things to belong. But surely as human beings we all belong. 

The Dalai Lama at Glastonbury Festival this weekend said that we're social beings. He demonstrated genuine social connection by appreciating the warm welcome and vitality of the festival goers and performers around him. 

This spirit of gratitude, generosity and acceptance is why he felt and looked so at home at Glastonbury. He was at peace with himself and with the complexity of the diverse situations of those around him. 

The Dalai Lama was welcomed for his open-heartedness, compassion and smile. Not for his material possessions.  

5 Ways to belong that don't cost money:

1. Be confident in yourself and be honest to others about your lifestyle choices. Be yourself and smile. Don't feel under pressure to conform, consume or compare yourself to others. Be a proud ambassador for being happy with less. 
2. Be happy for other people if they're happy. Express genuine pleasure in their happiness (even if it comes from material possessions).   
3. Say no sometimes. If your friends are always planning expensive get togethers don't feel like you have to join in every time. Be the one to suggest cheaper alternatives for meeting up.  
4. Steer the conversation away from consumerism if you can.  
5. Don't judge people on first appearances. Find common ground. OK, you may live totally different lifestyles but we're all human and you may find you have more in common with someone if you keep an open mind and let the conversation flow. Maybe you have people, places and interests in common.  

Belonging isn't about us all being the same, having the same possessions or social status. We can connect on so many different levels.

Money, possessions and status can irritatingly get in the way of this. 


26 June 2015

Happy Friday Links

Some happy links to top up your weekend glass of simplicity. Enjoy. 

Please let me know your favourites and have a wonderful weekend.

As always thank you for your comments and reading this week xo

22 June 2015

Minimalist Monday: Choosing Minimalism

I don't know whether I chose minimalism or minimalism chose me but I do know that when I first read about minimalism it rescued me from a general dissatisfaction and exhaustion with life. The kind of exhaustion that tricks you into thinking that you can't afford to take a break because you'll be even more behind and besieged the next day. The kind of exhaustion that steals your soul and hijacks your hope.

Minimalism led me to decluttering, going part-time, downsizing and enjoying the simple pleasures of life. It led me to a life of more fulfilment where I invest in happiness instead of money and status.

Retail therapy used to be my cure for exhaustion. These days retail therapy sits optimistically on the shelves of snazzy shops whilst I saunter through the countryside and admire what's on nature's shelf. Keeping up with the Joneses is a thing of the past as today I'm much happier playing keepy uppy with my ever decreasing number of possessions.

Stuff doesn't own me now. Or define me. I'm merely a caretaker of my possessions. My most precious possession is my life. So precious that I want to fill it with love, laughter and learning.

I still have empty days where I loose my way but my answer is to embrace that feeling. I don't need to fill this emptiness with stuff any more. Instead I listen, take care of myself and patiently acknowledge that minimalists can have their off days too. Hey, maybe we can afford a few more off days.

I still don't know if minimalism chose me but I know it ignited an interest in living with less. An interest that could possibly be a lifelong journey. A journey I'm happy to be on and share. 

19 June 2015

Happy Friday Links

Sending you my links and my love for all your wonderful comments recently. Thank you to those who read along quietly in the background too. You're all very welcome here. Have a good weekend.

Your favourite? I like the Swedish cottage. It breathes simplicity in an unpretentious way. 

17 June 2015

Review of The Welcome to Now Project

I've learnt so much during the 4 weeks of The Welcome to Now Project. I've had my highs and lows. I've achieved some of the things I set out to but also made slow progress in other areas. Here's my review: 

The-once-and-for-all-declutter. My biggest success was streamlining the kitchen cupboards, giving everything a thorough clean and reorganising our storage in this room. Making joint decisions with my husband meant more radical action was taken. We now have only 4 white mugs that match although we do have some white cups and saucers for entertaining. Our worktops are clearer and the room is easier to clean. I've also ventured into the loft and donated any clothes that were stored there. This is quite a big thing for me. The final stage of clothes decluterring was dealing with the 'donate in 6 months' box. It means all the clothes that I own are in my wardrobe and not squirrelled away in reserve. I also got rid of 3 old suitcases that were in the loft and emptied some boxes of random items from our last move. I still have photos to edit and electrical wires to sort. Decluttering big areas like the kitchen and loft inspired me to tackle smaller areas like consolidating 3 address books into 1. 

Be Fabulous. I have definitely walked more often during the project and realised it's probably my favourite way to exercise and meditate at the same time. The gentle rhythm of walking and the delight in opening my eyes and mind to new horizons as I walk soothes my mind but stretches my body at the same time. It's great to walk alone or with someone else and walking for the sake of walking (instead of getting to a destination) is a simple indulgence. I've maintained my running during the project but it's sometimes felt like a chore. It's taken a lot of motivation to keep running 2 or 3 times a week. My meditation practice has improved but again at times I've resisted it and missed more days than I care to admit. Reading Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn was a great insight into how to use everyday life moments as time to be, accept and learn. 

Finding Focus. I enjoyed blogging about the project but found it difficult to produce extra motivational pieces for readers. This is partly bevcause I found the extra decluttering quite draining and also I've been teaching more hours than usual during 3 out of the 4 weeks of the project. It's led me to think about planning my time better and making time for writing more of a priority. I have some new ideas for Just a little less which I'm looking forward to developing over the summer. I've found it hard to reduce my online time and this will be a priority over the next few weeks. Being selective with my blog reading, setting time limits on screen time and remembering that online lifestyles whilst inspiring can also be damaging and lead to lifestyle envy are all important. The Eisenhower Decision Principle will, I hope, help me to improve my time management.

Try Something New. This is an area where I think my readers had more success than me! Whist I've had some fun and enjoyed simple pleasures it's made me realise the importance of planning more time for fun. Time to draw up a list of fun things to do. 

Overall, I think the project has made me realise what's important to me and more aware of what gets in the way of my progress. I've enjoyed decluttering and making my home simpler. I've learnt the simple pleasure of daily walks. I've discovered that's it healthy to see my failures as an opportunity to learn more about myself and that they'll lead me to make changes in the future. The Welcome to Now Project has made me more determined to find ways to simplify my life. It's helped me to practise daily habits and given me the motivation to declutter some difficult areas of my life. It's made me understand that now is good. 

So, how did you get on with the project? What have you learnt about yourself? Please share. 

14 June 2015

Having Fun at Lunar Festival

Lunar is a small but fabulous festival that's steadily growing in popularity and caters for all age groups. Last Saturday, our second visit to Lunar Festival at Umberslade Farm Park, Tanworth in Arden, Warwickshire didn't disappoint (read my 2014 review here).Think seriously good music and tons of fun too. 

The site was beautifully festooned. Come, take a look...

First stop: ska aerobics. Had to practise my classic ska moves. That's essential on a Saturday morning, right? Can you find me next to Wally? (in the pale green tunic sans bobble hat).  

Next, some music. Daisy Vaughan at The Bimble Inn was a delight. !8 years of wisdom stirred into songs of love written from her Suffolk caravan whilst cooking soup. 

This girl has wisdom beyond her years and she sang in Spanish as well as English.  

Jane Weaver wrapped a sci-fi spell around the main stage with her space rock sound. I loved her sonic tunic (fantastic detail on the back not seen here).

Syd Arthur (influences: Syd Barrett and Arthur Lee) breathed fresh air into progressive folk rock. Jaunty hat too.

There were bubbles to chase, workshops to sample and a touch of fairground charm.

Beautiful people enjoying happy times.

Back at the Bimble Inn we watched Mark Radcliffe and his band Galleon Blast. The crowd lapped up the rum-soaked songs. 

Wilko Johnson (Dr. Feelgood founder) was our next stop at the main stage. All ages were wowed by the incredible vitality and musical virtuosity from a man who was given 10 months to live when diagnosed with pancreatic cancer back in 2013. He chose touring over chemotherapy and outlived his prognosis. A remarkable spirit and talent he's since had radical surgery that's cured his cancer. His performance was victorious. 

Getting a photo that wasn't blurred was difficult given his energetic moves. 

Musical appetites appeased, hungrily we headed off for the Bhangra Bus for our vegetarian thali. Night time brought new vibrancy and Lunar became a dazzling citadel as people gathered to stoke their souls. 

Headliners Public Sector Broadcasting kept us entertained to the end with their original visual material of old public information films accompanied by up-tempo music. Given Lunar's name the material from their latest album, The Race For Space, was the perfect soundtrack for this festival. 

It all went too quickly. We love the atmosphere at this festival - a micro Glastonbury on our doorstep. We'll be back to sample more next year. 

12 June 2015

Happy Friday Links

These poppies have been adding a glorious zing to my commute this week. Viewed from the car window they're spectacular.

From my memory of last year they sojourn for just a few weeks on an otherwise nondescript roundabout. 

Blink and they're gone.

Whilst driving round and round the roundabout admiring them would be fun it's not so good for traffic control or the environment. I'm so glad I made the effort today to park my car and get a closer look. I found moments of pure pleasure, wonder and stillness as I admired the beauty of these proud poppies. Mindfulness, peace and gratitude found at a roundabout. Who'd have thought... 

There was a lorry driver parked up beside me. Was he lost, having a quick kip or admiring nature? Who knows. At least he was taking a break. 

I hope my links give you a break and a little direction on your simplifying journey too. 

Enjoy the weekend xo

9 June 2015

The Welcome to Now Project: Week 4

It's the last week of The Welcome to Now Project (my 4 week project to declutter, find focus, be healthy and have fun) and whilst my enthusiasm remains high my energy and free time is low. Teaching extra hours and having fun at Lunar Festival at the weekend left little time for clearing clutter or the other activities I'd planned for week 3. 

Time for a fresh approach! 

The Eisenhower Decision Principle (based on the philosophy of President Eisenhower) has been on my mind since reading about it last week. I believe understanding the difference between urgent and important tasks could be a great tool for improving time management skills and finding focus for self improvement. 

What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important

Urgent tasks are the activities that we put on our to-do lists. Things like medical appointments and car services but also cleaning and other household tasks. Other people can also make urgent demands on us (often via technology). We can lose hours, days, weeks and years to urgent tasks without any sense of achievement. Western society encourages this state of non-stop urgency with its invasive advertising, culture of deadlines and have-it-all mentality.  

Important tasks are those activities which contribute to our personal development, values and long term goals. Do we include enough of these on our to-do lists? Maybe we should have a separate to-be list. To be happy with less, be fit and be able to have time for ourselves and others. 

There's plenty of information available on the subject and the basic idea is easy to understand. As well as helping us decide what's important over what's urgent the Eisenhower matrix has 2 more categories which can further help us identify which activities take up our time but don't contribute to our personal values or long term goals.

In week 4 I'm going to aim to use the Eisenhower matrix to help me identify how to make progress in the 4 areas of the project whilst also hopefully keeping everything else going.

Urgent and important tasks: Household chores, work and tasks linked to my youngest son. Household chores need to be done but in week 4 I'm going to set limits on how much time I spend on them. The ironing basket can be halved instead of emptied, the grocery shop can be done after work instead of on my day off (I did this in week 3 and it saved me lots of time) and the family can share some of the cleaning, tidying, cooking and ironing. Coming home after work on Friday to hear my husband vacuuming was a wonderful gift and I'm grateful that I didn't have to ask him to do this. This week my youngest son needs my attention. I can't avoid taking him for a dental check-up for his brace, keeping watch on his GCSE revision timetable or helping him choose a suitable and budget friendly outfit for his prom. All of this takes time and energy. Working extra hours could lead me into overdrive so I need to take time to be more mindful during the day. Taking breaks and chatting with colleagues helps as does setting limits on how many hours I spend on preparation and marking.

Important but not urgent tasks: Walking, running, meditating, decluttering, healthy eating and time for fun. Yes, I've discovered The Welcome to Now Project is all about making time for important activities that contribute to self improvement and long term happiness. As these are non urgent tasks they often get overlooked which can lead us to feeling frustrated that we're making slow progress with personal goals or that we can't afford to spend time on ourselves or have enough time for friends and family. In week 4 I'll use some of my time on my days off (I'm working 31/2 days this week) for a longer run, a few hours decluttering in the loft and spending time with Mum. Meditation and walks might not happen daily but I'll fit them in when I can. I'll maintain my commitment to eating less sugar and more fruit and veg but without being obsessive. At the weekend I'll set limits on chores and make more time for fun. We've got plans to visit an open garden event and attend Leamington Peace Festival.

Urgent and not important tasks: These are the unexpected demands that crop up daily from family, friends, colleagues and other sources. Our teenagers are great at this. Can I say no this week? 

Not urgent and not important: I'm going to be mindful of when and why I seek distractions. I'm skilled at procrastinating with most things and capable of losing hours to online frippery. 

In brief here's an outline of my plans for the 4 areas of The Welcome to Now Project for week 4.

The-once-and-for-all-declutter. I hope to clear more clutter from the loft and organise the area better.

Be Fabulous. I'm going to fit in a longer run of 45 minutes and enjoy running through the countryside. 

Finding Focus. I'd like to find time to reflect on what I've learnt from the project and how it could be followed up. 

Try Something New. Find new places to visit or walk at the weekend. I'm also reading a new book which I'm loving. 

My aim in this project was to be accountable to you in order to maintain my focus, be honest and to learn from the experience. 

Through repeated resolve to make time for now by managing our physical and emotional health I believe we can follow our dreams. 

Thank you for keeping me up to date with your progress as you follow along with The Welcome to Now Project. Thank you to all of you. I'd love to hear your news. 

I can't wait to reflect on the project next week. 

Well done on any progress in week 3 and here's to your continued success xo

5 June 2015

Happy Friday Links

Ah... the weekend. Just saying those two words somehow slows you down. You know it's limited time and all the more precious for it. 

Time to rest, re-energise and refresh. 
Break free from routine, be spontaneous or just be. 
Stop the clock or use that free time for something that's really important to you. 
Catch-up, create or just chill. 
Do something different. 

Wherever the weekend takes you I hope you find these links useful. 

With these have a great weekend xo