17 April 2015

Happy Friday Links

Learning about ourselves and others is a lifelong process. And we can continue to learn and be inspired by others even after their time on Earth is over. The way we live our lives can be as much a legacy as any financial assets we leave behind.

This week we received some heartwarming news from the funeral directors. Details of the donations given to Parkinsons UK were included (such generous friends and family) as was something just as generous but with no monetary value whatsoever. 

Tucked inside a card were 2 poems Dad had written for his former work colleagues which still hang on the office wall. One described the beauty of the passing seasons near the river Derwent where he worked and the other was his leaving poem. We were deeply touched both by Dad's words and the respect and friendship that he cultivated at work. And we knew nothing of his poetic skills!

I can't quite express my emotions in words but discovering something wonderful about a loved one even after their passing feels extraordinary. I feel gratitude for Dad's life and for the generosity of those he knew.

I've been dwelling on my simplifying journey this week and feeling frustrated at times that my progress is slower than my 'ideal' especially when I compare myself to others. I know this isn't positive and the answer is to find my own pace, methods and motivation. 

These posts have inspired me to hold my vision tight and make the changes I dream of real.

* indicates some of my new blog discoveries that are definitely worth checking out!

With these, have a great weekend xo

12 April 2015

A Simple Easter

This Easter we tried to keep things simple with the focus on nurturing our family - young and not so young. We kept the decorations minimal with just a pretty table cloth, fresh daffodils and a few knitted chicks. All our food came from good old Aldi and was cooked with great love by Tim. We hurriedly baked some cakes - they look better than they tasted but they got eaten. Who needs mass produced perfect cakes? We had our usual fill of chocolate and moaned about the amount of packaging. Something to work on...

Time off work means time to play and I had a lovely day catching up with a school friend from sixth form. For a few hours we were tourists in the city we both spent our teenage years in and swapped notes as only friends of the same age can. 

Our next meet up is scheduled and the cake is already being discussed.

We didn't venture far over the holiday weekend but a trip to our local marina to stroll past the narrowboats was a treat. We walked from the marina into the nearby picturesque village. Old properties and quirky touches caught my eye.
On Easter Saturday our eldest turned 20 which made us feel old. A week later we visited our great nephew. With his smiles and giggles he was a great host. I tagged this photo 'hands'. Can you see why?

Today we took our eldest back to uni but stopped on the way back at one of my favourite peaceful places - The Tara Centre in Etwall, Derby. My husband jokes that I only take him there when it's raining but it was still beautiful.

I've so much to be grateful for this Easter not least my friends old and new who read Just a little less. You're all very welcome here xo

10 April 2015

Happy Friday Links: Authenticity

Welcome to my third week of Happy Friday Links. I hope you enjoy reading them - please let me know any thoughts. 

My aim is to offer some interesting reads and inspiration that might just save you endless trekking around the internet (but I know that's easier said than done and there's nothing quite like discovering a great new site/post for yourself). 

Something I've been pondering this week is authenticity. Am I living as I am because I'm trying to please others or conform to society's norms? To what extent are my lifestyle choices being influenced by trends? 

Here are my favourite clicks of the week - some of which fit in with this theme.

With these, enjoy your weekend!

6 April 2015

Minimalist Monday: Hair by Claire

I've always loved experimenting with my hair. Nothing outrageous you understand but I love the excitement of a new look. As a teenager a visit to the hairdressers was, for me, full of happy anticipation, like being in an episode of Mr. Benn and not knowing which adventure the magic changing room door would lead me to. Home perms, the Purdey and my attempt at the Bananarama look were all great fun at the time though hilarious to look back on now. I never really got the hang of hair accessories though, especially scrunchies.  

I've spent quite a lot of my hard earned money on my hair over the years. Ridiculous amounts of money really especially when I had a pixie cut that needed expensive trims every 4 or 5 weeks. Still, such short hair saved me valuable time when I was working full-time with 2 young children. 

I have until recently valued spending money on my hair and have seen it as a treat and a necessity to stay looking and feeling presentable. Since last August, though, I've felt the need to simplify my hair. To spend less time and money on my hair and less chemicals. To work towards a style that's classic and doesn't need frequent salon visits to maintain. To question the cost of beauty on my purse and the environment.

So I've been experimenting with shampooing less often, using natural hair products and ditching home hair dye. As a result of my no-poo (no shampoo) experiment last autumn I now only use organic shampoo but I still use shampoo several times a week (and the occasional egg). The truth is I missed the swish of a freshly shampooed head of hair too much to forgo shampoo completely. Maybe I'll give the experiment another go in the summer.

My natural hair colour is coming through as you can see from these photos. I have the odd panic when I catch sight of my hair under a really bright light but generally I'm OK with my 'new' older colour and so is my husband.

And to get to the point of this post here are some photos of my first attempt at cutting my own hair. It's not perfect but I'm pleased with the results. I only trimmed the ends as I'm trying to grow out the shorter layers. If you want to know how I cut it please check the links I gave in last Friday's links post.

As this is a random post I'll leave you with a few of my random thoughts. 

When I doodle I doodle hair styles.

I've always coveted a hairdresser's black wardrobe even before my interest in minimalism. 

And these days I follow Mr. Benn on Twitter. 

Have a great week xo

3 April 2015

Happy Friday Links - Unbusy Your Weekend

I do hope you find a little time for yourself this weekend. It's been a long haul to Easter hasn't it? However you spend it, enjoy the moment, take some breaks (if you've got chores to do) and make choices that'll nurture your well-being. There's a desire in many of us to switch off more yet how often do we listen to that voice? That deep desire within to be quiet can, if we make time for it, lead us to the answers we often spend hours searching for online.

If you do spend time online this weekend here's a few links that I've enjoyed and found useful this week.

With these, I wish you a refreshing Easter break xo

1 April 2015

Health Goals Update

Health seems to have been on my mind a lot recently. Maybe it's a kind of internal spring cleaning or maybe I'm panicking as I approach 50. Early in January I wrote about my health goals for the year so here's an update. 

1. Healthy work. I'm lucky that my job is mostly enjoyable and very engaging! With everything else going on over the last few months my part-time hours have allowed me plenty of respite at home to readjust to a 'new normal' without my dad. For this I'm very grateful.

2. Healthy relationships. Losing my dad at the end of January has taught me a lot about relationships. It's taught me 
  • not to take other people for granted 
  • the amazing kindness of friends and family
  • the importance of self-care in order to be able to love others
  • that life is short and is for living
  • to make more time for my husband as it's all too easy to let the romance slip (we have booked a weekend away in May)

3. Healthy finances. Our main priority is to keep our grocery shopping under control this year. Whilst progress was made in this area last year there's always room for improvement. My motivation is to waste less money; have more room in my cupboards, fridge and freezer; prove to myself that I can stick to a budget; and to use the saved money for savings and fun things for the family. Last month I set a budget and carefully recorded my grocery spending. I stayed on or under budget every week. I think the success was due to sheer determination to stick to my goal and realise the dream of having some spare cash to save and enjoy. My determination meant that I was more disciplined at stock taking, menu planning and sticking to a routine of shopping on the same days. I also avoided my favourite but expensive store. All of this took a lot of time and it became a priority over other domestic tasks like cleaning (which can always wait). Our meals have been just as yummy (especially those not made by me), our diet just as healthy and our kitchen cupboards less full. I've learnt that saving money and sticking to a budget requires determination, planning and time.

4. Healthy food. My efforts to try to improve the quality of my diet by eating more protein, good fats and less sugar have been hit and miss. It wasn't easy with all the hospital visiting in January. My diet really suffered and I consumed far too much caffeine and gourmet crisps. However, I'm getting back on track and gradually reinstating healthier choices. A great new source of inspiration is the lovely Sarah Britton who writes a blog My New Roots. I'm itching to try her Ginger-Pear Mint Smoothie (which also includes avocado). She has a new book out too packed full of inspirational and healthy recipes. During Lent I've also been moderating my alcohol intake to just 1 glass and having more alcohol free days. This has been successful and something I'm going to continue to work on. Looking back at previous health goals I realise that it's been over a year since I drank diet drinks and I've also recently given up sweeteners. It's good to look back at old goals and measure some progress although some habits do seem to take longer to form (flossing?)

5. Healthy mind. Trying to find sanctuary in this digital age (did I really write that) has also been erratic. I need to set limits to my online time, establish a more relaxing bedtime routine and also to practise meditation more regularly. There's 30 days in April so I'll let you know on how many of those days I manage to meditate. My husband is also meditating and we're finding it helpful to be able to share our progress.

6. Healthy body. My aim to run at least one half-marathon this year is going well (my last one was in 2007). I've been running twice a week since January and I can now run for 1 hour and 20 minutes. My goal of running a half-marathon is definitely motivating me. I enjoy every run once I'm out the door and I'm feeling better both physically and mentally than I was before I upped my training (I was previously running once a week). Walking with my husband is also becoming a more regular habit. He works from home and goes for a daily 25 minute walk during his lunch hour and I join him whenever I'm free. Walking side by side is a great way to share some time and switch off in the middle of the day.

7. Healthy consumerism. I've made some recent wardrobe purchases with my birthday money. I've also been given quite a few books as presents as reading is really helping me to unwind at the moment. These new additions have led to some mini-decluttering sessions which I'll update you with soon. We've also been spending a small amount of money on garden supplies for growing some veg this summer. Other than that I've made no unnecessary purchases. What I'm doing well at resisting are all the lovely but expensive home accessories I see online. Glass cloches, double sided hanging frames, designer wallpapers and gorgeous throws will have to remain on Pinterest for me. I could so easily buy these things but realise I don't actually need them. The simple/rustic/ look can be expensive and I could easily be seduced into spending money on it. I think I'll have a restyle of my current home accessories instead and maybe get creative with some homemade wall art as well. And if I do well at restraining myself from purchasing simple accoutrements I may well treat myself to some paint as I'm feeling the urge to repaint our walls. Freshly painted walls - the simplest look of all. The kitchen is first on my list. Gosh, it feels good to get my want list off my chest. 

Oh, and I cut my own hair this weekend. Several vlog tutorials and 40 minutes with some scissors and ta-dah not a bad result! I will definitely cut my own hair again when it needs it. Cutting hair is a fairly simple skill and one I'm trying to master. Do you know I felt just as good afterwards as when I visit a salon. Which just goes to show that it's not spending money, sitting in a plush hairdressers or being pampered that make me feel better - it's just getting a new look. It was also a relief not to have to discuss holidays, be encouraged to buy expensive hair products or asked if I needed any foil highlights (I don't as I'm growing out my hair colour and letting in the grey gracefully). 

Did you set any health goals this year? Do you still get spending urges? How are you getting on? It's always lovely to hear from you.


29 March 2015

At the Weekend

Today we had a celebratory birthday meal for my mum-in-law. As we sat down there was a heavy shower of hailstones but it was soon followed by bright sunshine. Hail British Summer Time! 

I haven't taken many photos recently but this weekend I carried my camera around with me and found myself captivated by the beauty of spring and family gathering. I really enjoyed getting lost behind the lens once more. 

This weekend's highlights...

♥  A wonderfully relaxing evening last night with singer songwriter Chris Helme (formerly front man of The Seahorses). An acoustic guitar, soaring vocals and great story telling made for spellbinding music.
I brought this chick home with me from church. It was made by the 'Knit & Stitch' group to raise funds for Haiti. I have 2 others already and they all contain a chocolate egg. How could I resist?
Gluten free lemon polenta cake made by my brother-in-law's partner. The recipe is adapted from Nigella. The best lemon drizzle cake I've tasted. 
♥ My mum-in-law's pretty spring garden. The daffodils stood stoically like soldiers fighting off the fierce wind. The hyacinths are magnificent and the japonica is just opening. I'm very fond of this cheerful shrub.
Stripes on stripes. This beautiful cat was never far from us this afternoon.
Our seedlings are growing well and more will be planted this week. Our little garden is going to be well stocked this summer.

Thank you for reading, commenting and following Just a little less this week. Be well xo

27 March 2015

Happy Friday Links

A few interesting reads I've discovered this week - I hope you like them. 

And UK readers don't forget the clocks 'spring forward' this weekend. Happy Friday all xo

25 March 2015

10 Tips for Embracing Minimalism as a Couple

When I speak to or receive emails from readers they often talk about the difficulty of trying to simplify their lives when their partner is not interested or willing to join them. I also get asked how my husband feels about my interest in minimalism. I thought it might be interesting to discuss this here.

Luckily my husband welcomed my interest in minimalism when I first started reading blogs and books on the subject in 2010. As you may know I discovered minimalism at a time when I was at my most stressed. I wasn't alone in feeling overwhelmed by the lifestyle and career choices we'd made and together we began to consider downsizing our lives, living more simply and examining our consumption.   

The hope of somehow achieving a happier yet simpler life through minimalism lured me into tackling years of clutter and reading anything and everything about the subject. Real life stories of people who'd embraced a minimalist lifestyle sustained me through those early decluttering sessions. As I worked through drawers and then rooms of clutter my husband began to follow me by tackling his personal clutter. Although he owned far less possessions than me and has never been an impulse buyer, he'd hoarded possessions since a teenager. Most of it was boxed up: old school reports and exercise books, surplus electrical/music gear, books, cassettes and photos.

Gradually we began to let go of the surplus in our lives. Lightness followed as we both decluttered decades of stuff and we emerged happier, ready to embrace a more minimalist lifestyle. We downsized to a smaller home and both adjusted to new work situations. My husband has had to adjust to a series of changes in his job over the last 5 years and I've eventually found work that I enjoy and has less responsibility. 

Now almost 5 years later we're starting to enjoy the benefits of our simpler life. We don't miss our large home and the time it took to maintain it and we don't regret the possessions we've given up. We both agree that material possessions and status are far less important to us than time for family, health and having fun. 

And we're motivated to further reduce the excess in our lives. We're focussing our attention on living a healthier lifestyle through simple exercise, meditation, simplifying our diet and moderating our drinking. We're learning to say no occasionally to social invites when our schedule gets too busy and to choose carefully the work that we take on (paid or voluntary). We're still tackling clutter. We're now working on some long overdue decluttering projects: our excess computers, paperwork and a few unused items in the loft which remain untouched since moving house almost 3 years ago (ahem).

I know that I'm extremely lucky that my husband supported me when I discovered minimalism and has wholeheartedly embraced each simplifying step we've made since then. We've made some difficult choices and have experienced some difficult situations, but then who hasn't recently?

Our minimalism isn't extreme. We still hold down regular jobs and live in a conventional house but we have a lot less stuff and a lot less on our to-do list than we once did. Our approach to minimalism as a couple is to live more lightly, freely and happily. 

10 Tips for Embracing Minimalism as a Couple

1. Simple Changes. If you're both interested in simplifying your lives agree some easy changes such as spending less on each other at birthdays, having a less expensive holiday or leaving work early once a week. If you envy a simpler lifestyle what baby steps can you take today to make it happen? What could you both go without?

2. Make time as important a priority as money. We all have limited time and limited money. Make discussing how you're going to spend your joint time as much of a priority as how to spend your joint money. 

3. Dream. Keep your dreams alive whether it be to retire early, move house or change your job. Be inspired by others who've made changes. Work on those dreams daily.

4. Plan. Lifestyle changes take careful planning. If you've got a huge decluttering task ahead plan in enough time to make dealing with it easier. If you want to save money for an experience work out a plan to achieve this. If you want to make more time for leisure at the weekend plan how you are going to fit this into your schedule.

5. Gentle persuasion. I've never been vociferous about minimalism at home (only here on my blog) but I've led by example. Sort out your personal clutter first and offer to help your partner declutter if they are clueless or lack interest. They might just get the bug. 

6. Listen to each other. I encourage my husband to stop worrying and he frequently tells me to slow down and stop taking on too much. Sometimes you need someone else to point out that you're losing focus. 

7. Compromise. You may have different ideas about clothing budgets, interior design style or how much to spend on food. Learn to compromise with each other. If your partner is into extravagant cooking encourage them to shop around for ingredients or limit the amount of lavish meals they cook. Likewise, if minimalism is not your partner's style agree that certain parts of the house could be kept tidier than others. 

8. Be accountable to each other. If impulse buying or overspending is a problem for either of you agree to be accountable to each other. I no longer hide impulse buys under the bed and we are both open about our spending. We have budgets for different areas of our lives and we stick to them (most of the time). 

9. Share. Share your dreams, failures and successes. Support each other as not everyone will understand your lifestyle choices. Make a list of simple pleasures to share that cost nothing but time. 

10. Begin. Encourage each other to live life to the full and to put your joint and individual ideas into action. 

Some of these tips could work just as well for single people or between friends. Good luck with your simplifying journey whether it be solo or joint. And please share your thoughts here in the comments section. 

And a happy belated birthday to Hubs whose birthday took priority over posting on Monday. 

Wishing you a belated happy week xo


20 March 2015

Spring Cleaning and Spring Decluttering

How many hours a week do you spend cleaning your home? Which room in the house gets the most attention? Do you ever have an annual spring clean where you go above and beyond your normal cleaning routine? Results of questions like these have recently been published by re-commerce specialists musicMagpie in time for National Spring Cleaning week (16th- 23rd March). The results of their research into the nation's cleaning habits reveal some interesting and positive results. I've seen the full survey results and they make fascinating reading. 

Here are the highlights:
  • People in the West Midlands spend the most hours cleaning per week (5 hours) and the South West spend the least amount of hours. On average the rest of us spend 2-3 hours per week cleaning.
  • The kitchen takes up on average 50 per cent of total cleaning time. Bathrooms then take second priority.
  • A third of people questioned cleaned their bedroom the least. 
  • People in East Anglia are most likely to do an annual spring clean.
  • Men spend almost as much time as women cleaning.
  • Almost 50 per cent of those questioned replied that they 'sometimes' enjoy cleaning.
  • Most people do their own cleaning and would prefer not to pay someone else to do it for them. 

For most of us, cleaning is a task we squeeze into our busy schedules. We prioritise the kitchen and bathroom, the trouble spots, above other rooms but we don't necessarily see the need for a traditional annual spring clean. 

These days we're more likely to have a good clear out of our clutter around the spring equinox than a traditional spring clean. A sign of our affluent times is that most of us have more stuff than we actually need and our clutter can be detrimental to creating a restful ambience in our homes. Constantly having to move piles of clutter from surfaces and the floor really slows us down as we clean our homes. My 16 year old has the smallest room in the house yet his room probably takes longer to clean than any other due to his belongings detonating over every available clear space. Needless to say his bedroom is the least cleaned room in our house and the one I close the blinds to when the window cleaners appear. 

So, clearing our clutter can help calm our homes and also speed up our cleaning but how can we better deal with long-term clutter? MusicMapgie have consulted Dr. Elizabeth Forrester a clinical psychologist who specialises in obsessive compulsive disorder and hoarding (recognised as a related problem of OCD). Her insights into the psychology of hoarding are useful for anyone wanting to understand why we collect clutter. Whilst most of us don't have severe hoarding problems requiring clinical help we probably hang onto items for far too long and avoid dealing with surplus belongings, especially the more they pile up (I know this happens with my ironing pile and paperwork).  

According to Dr. Forrester lack of time is one cause of clutter building up, others are:
  • Poor memory – the fear of forgetting about something should it be out of sight.
  • Adopting a 'this may come in handy' attitude.
  • Fear of deprivation – worries that you won't be able to obtain that item in the future.
  • Heightened sentimentality about possessions.
  • Fears of making a mistake and regretting throwing an item away.
  • Perfectionism – owning variations of the same product to have 'the right thing for the right job'.
“Spring cleaning is a great opportunity to get rid of unwanted clutter that has accumulated over the year. Having too much clutter around us is not good for our psychological well-being. It is often the case that low mood and depression may have led to a problem with clutter, and it can keep that low mood going. It’s depressing living in a cluttered and untidy environment which if not careful can lead to isolation due to being too embarrassed by clutter to have visitors in our home ”. Dr. Elizabeth Forrester

Dr. Elizabeth Forrester's tips for decluttering this spring

1. Have a daily sort out time, perhaps 30 minutes once you've come home from work.
2. Put things away as soon as you've finished with them.
3. Set achievable targets with clear goals. For example, sort out one drawer each evening.
4. Don't bring things into your home if you don't have space for them.
5. Take action. Don't ignore or clean around clutter, it won't go away by itself.
6. Don't get extra storage. This is just a quick fix idea that avoids the problem.
7. Don't keep old, worn out or tired items. You probably won't use them again.

So this weekend, maybe forgo the cleaning and deal with some long-term clutter instead. And if it's CDs, games or mobile phones cluttering up your home musicMagpie might be the solution. It's an easy and efficient way of removing unwanted items and raising some cash with a free courier delivery service. I might suggest it to my son.

Many thanks for all your comments on my last post. Connecting with others who share similar values is a huge benefit of blogging. 

Today I'm having a very quick clean of the house and attempting to reduce my ironing pile a little. This morning after watching the magical solar eclipse via pinhole I met up with a lovely new friend who I met on The Minimalists tour in November. What better way to spend a morning especially as it's International Day of Happiness. This year the theme is finding happiness through connecting with people. I think we're doing OK at that here at Just a little less.

Happy Friday and weekend xo