These strange days

I’ve always liked doomsday or apocalypse type books and movies. My husband and I loved The Walking Dead and the video game Last of Us. But of course, what we face right now is not zombies, but a new virus that threatens our way of life.

The impact on our family has been minimal. It’s astounding to me how lucky we are. Because we were already very home-based, the social impact is really the only issue. We do however have good friendships with our neighbours so we can chat over the fence or across the road and share produce or a drink at sunset. This is a pretty crucial aspect to our coping right now.

Being an introvert, I’m not as bothered by being home as my husband who is an extrovert. Not being able to get out into the world is a major issue for him. Thank goodness for his bike, and at the moment he can still take off onto country roads that surround us.

Financially we are OK too as we’ve spent the past five years living on a minimal income and our choice of home and lifestyle means we are not saddled with much debt – a blessing right now.

Our children are thriving being home all the time. They are better with a simpler life.

I’ve been in touch with friends and family more via phone, social media and video calls. That’s been nice. The boys don’t do very well with video calls, particularly our eldest who is very sensory sensitive to voices and too much talking – he struggles to take it in, to manage his emotions when responding and keeping up with the conversation. Our youngest is more interested in chatting with people than our eldest ever has been.

Getting supplies has been OK so far. Given our food allergies and intolerances, having a regular supply of specific foods is important so we’ve always had more than we need. Often it is cheaper to get in bulk anyway. But still, our local supermarket is out of gluten-free pasta, so I am glad I had a couple of spare packets in the pantry.

I’ve been doing a lot of gardening and baking to manage my stress levels. My anxiety is definitely increased during this time. I think most people would feel overwhelmed and worried. There are so many aspects to what is happening, from worrying about loved ones, worrying about jobs, feeling isolated and suffocated; whatever we each individually feel is valid.

Practising self-compassion is crucial right now. Take some time to declutter and sort through your belongings. Take time to think about what is really important to you. My greatest wish from this experience is that society sees a different way to live. That more people choose a simpler life with less debt, less stress and more intentional time for peace, family and their passion. It doesn’t have to be gardening or growing food, and of course, a career is important to many. But could it look a little different? Will our economic situation at the end of this drive change, or will things stay the same?

Coronavirus – COVID-19

These days are frightening or maddening for most. Some of our society have panicked and bought large amount of food and supplies, while others continue their lives with no change, assured it is all overhyped. It’s difficult to know the truth in our saturated media environment. Every media outlet has some sort of agenda, whether it is political or not. The most unbiased sources are often not believed to be unbiased.

We have to rely on our own critical thinking and judgement. We have to take the right steps for ourselves and our families. Having empathy for those around us is critical; while we may not be unwell, can we confidently say we have no chance of passing the virus onto someone else?

Doomsday preppers are probably rejoicing for their time in the sun. All of that hard work in preparing for catastrophe means they can sit back and relax. Those with no savings, no plan, and no supplies are probably very concerned. Permaculturists have no doubt found themselves in a comfortable position with food in their properties and a sense of self and community reliance that’s hard to beat.

So what can we do?

  1. Make sure you have two weeks worth of nonperishable food. Rice, beans, pasta, frozen veg, canned veg. Be sensible and really think about how much you actually need.
  2. Make sure you have medications and basic medical supplies.
  3. Work from home, stay home and spend time in nature with your family – avoiding shopping centres, public places with lots of people.
  4. If you are finding yourself in financial stress, look at all of your options. Can you pick up some freelance work on Upwork? What costs can you cut? Make a plan for the future and start saving for an emergency fund.
  5. Check on your family, friends and neighbours. Call and ask if they need help. Especially anyone who needs additional help – those with disabilities or older age.
  6. Share resources and ideas for home learning with families who are keeping children home.
  7. Be as calm as possible – especially for those with children. Don’t let them become anxious because you are not coping.
  8. It’s OK to be afraid, but make a plan so you can work on feeling more safe and comfortable.
  9. Practice mindfulness and meditation. Keep exercising and eating well.
  10. Choose one source of news and don’t Google everything.

Best health to all.

Kids do well, if they can

Ross Greene has a powerful idea about how to reframe our thinking about kid’s behaviour. The objective of this book, and many like it, along with countless blogs, Facebook groups and experts in the fields of psychology, teaching, and social work, is to empower parents to step back and recognise their child is normal and healthy for acting out, for extreme behaviours that are challenging to deal with.

The reasons for extreme and challenging behaviour is usually because expectations are too high for that child at that time. Every child is different and normal development is a huge bell curve – what may be normal for one two year old, might not be possible for another child until they are three. As a society, as a result of standardised EVERYTHING, we have become obsessed with asking children to fit into tiny boxes of ‘norms’.

Enough! We have to stop this. We have to start changing OUR mindsets as adults and recognising kids do well, if they can.

This amazing graphic by @kweins62 illustrates this better than I could ever hope to explain in words.

Kids deserve to grow up knowing that we can see they are doing their best. Instead of punishing and criticising, how about we stop, listen, think and then act. How about we work collaboratively with children to help them meet reasonable expectations? How can we support parents to learn this information, to put it in practice in their busy lives? How can we give parents the tools to be calm and connected with their children?

What things can you do to connect with your children? To see them for who they are, not who you or society wants them to be?

3 ways to overcome perfectionism

I was chatting with a friend about how difficult I was finding this current season of parenting. We haven’t long moved house and its to be expected that chaos may still feel like the dominant aspect of home life.

I often feel overwhelmed and exhausted by clutter, disorganisation and mess. I know I’m not alone! The first instinct I have in those moments is to clean and tidy. But this reaction doesn’t help me long term, as I am not learning better skills.

Sit with discomfort – learning to slow down, stay with the feelings of discomfort and feeling unsettled is part of becoming more intentional and mindful. You can accept difficult things and let them pass over you more easily by noticing your reactions.

Don’t spring to better organising – while it’s true having systems helps, organising your stuff won’t fix the problem. Decluttering helps, but ultimately working on your emotions and contentment will lead to less impulse shopping and stop the flow of stuff.

Be open to sharing – tell friends how you are feeling or write in a journal or blog. Know you’re not alone in these thoughts and feelings. By sharing you encourage others to notice and accept their own feelings, and you have a chance to process things through talking or writing.

Know that taking small steps to accept yourself is such a crucial but hard thing to do. Remember to show yourself self compassion.

Why and how I became a minimalist

As a long-time sufferer of anxiety, I had always liked things being in their place. I knew instinctively that clutter was affecting my mood and my relationships. I hated the amount of time it took to tidy up, all the time.

I became overwhelmed by managing a home and working full time. Then when I fell pregnant, I realised it wasn’t sustainable nor practical to have a house full of stuff. I started selling and donating everything I didn’t use. I read The Minimalists website voraciously. I discovered I loved white space, clear counters and knowing what I had, were things I used.

Enter children. It’s not as easy to be a minimalist and to stick to your beliefs and practices with small children. It’s not impossible, but it’s more difficult.

Toys, baby gear, washing, nappies and food – it all has the capacity to take over. It’s key to implement routines to reduce the stress that builds from piles of washing or toys all over your home.

There is absolutely no doubt that less stuff equals less tidying up. But with kids, it is unlikely to be no stuff equals zero tidying up – there is going to be a reckoning. I have had to raise my clutter acceptance level and learn to cope with piles of washing and toys, otherwise, I would be even more exhausted (is that possible?) from caring for my children AND constantly tidying. As I write this now at my desk, there is no clear desk space around my laptop. I have piles of paperwork to file, crayons, glue and a few magazines. But I know it’s only temporary.

Cutting yourself some slack on your journey through life is a true skill that comes with time. Some people are instinctively more kind to themselves, and others need to learn self-compassion. I’m unfortunately in the latter group! But, it’s a constant practice just like minimalism.

Once I got past the ‘stuff’ phase, I was able to incorporate minimalist thinking into all areas of my life.

I gave myself permission to give up the corporate life which I never enjoyed.

I gave myself permission to dress in comfortable clothes I liked, and eschew ‘fashion’.

I gave myself permission to stop colouring my hair and trim it myself.

I gave myself permission to read instead of cleaning.

If you think these things are silly – you’re lucky. Perhaps you were raised in a household that valued rest, or you’ve just always felt certain your needs were valid. Not everyone has that experience – and minimalism can be a way to build these coping skills.

Now five years since I discovered minimalism, I’m proud to say it still excites me to think and write about. I enjoy the ongoing process of examining my life and finding ways to improve it. I’m enjoying the benefits of spending less, having greater financial security is so helpful with small kids. Having this security has led me to be able to not work and thus pursue hobbies while raising my children.

Minimalism looks different for everyone but I believe each of us can benefit from adopting the mindset and finding ways to improve and simplify your own life.

Returning home from travel

Personally there is nothing more refreshing yet frustrating than returning from a trip where you have lived happily with few items, to a house full of items. Of course, you can be happy to see some things you missed, but on the whole, the feeling I experience is overwhelm and suffocation.

I’ve written about this before, when travelling, it can be a good reminder of what is essential. Enough clothes for a few days, a device of some sort for internet, reading etc, toiletries and for kids, a few toys. But when we return to our homes full of books, kitchen gear, clothing and a mountain of toys, are we better for it?

I tend to think most of us would feel overwhelmed at the idea of unpacking from a trip. Yet, every day we live with ALL of our things, tidying and arranging them. Some of us have less, and some have more, but it is a universal practice – organising.

Perhaps we can learn from our experiences of travel and pare back our belongings to only what we really need. I’m off to do just that.

Peace.

Feeling less than when you’re at home with kids

Getting ahead cannot be the only motive that motivates people. You have to imagine what a good life is.

Henry Giroux

Being a stay at home parent is hard work, it’s beginning to feel thankless and it’s relentless. It’s not valued much by society. Everyone asks me what I do for work, and everyone is surprised to learn I’m not employed.

I worked for 13 years in the corporate PR and marketing industry. I have a double degree and started an honours degree. But everything ended because my kids need me at home, fully focused on them. It’s beyond the usual, but it’s OK. I value what I’m doing, but I wonder about the future.

My path over the past five years through minimalism has led me to a more simple and fulfilling life. Away from the pursuit of wealth, and to just being comfortable, to valuing what we have and making do with less.

I know one day I will have more time, and these years will be a more distant memory. I know I will miss the chubby faces, dirty hands and feet and the constant cries for help. I will not miss the lack of sleep. But I will miss nighttime feeds and cuddles. I will miss lying with my almost five year old while he falls asleep. I will miss how much they need me, as they won’t forever.

And when that time comes, and I have the space to do something more, I will find a way to explore my passions, to use my skills and offer something of value to society.

I won’t apologise for making my choice. It’s a valid choice, and in our situation, it’s probably less a choice than a need. But still, if I have to choose between being strung out from racing around and being busy, versus having the time to complete the housework, cooking and life admin, with still a small amount of time to play and rest, then I know the choice I’m making.

I’m lucky really.

Peace.

The death of the personal blog and making everything professional

Recently I read a blog post from Jane at The Shady Baker about the death of the personal blog and it did strike me as true. Most blogs now are so professional and while it’s fair and reasonable, it’s also kind of sad. As a professional communicator and marketer, I see the reason for this but I also feel we are losing the personal connection, as bloggers become brands. It’s the same with Instagram, my favourite accounts don’t do sponsored ads or collaborations. I guess this really points to the fact that I’m craving simplicity, personal connection, openness and transparency.

The bushfires are so intensely difficult to process – it’s opening something up inside of me. The fake news, the proliferation of arguments why it’s not related to climate change, those claiming its arson, the ‘thoughts and prayers’ and the ‘it’s not the time’ comments – they are all so infuriating and maddening.

THIS IS THE TIME. It’s time to truly stand up and make a difference. You have to stop hiding behind your phone, worrying about what your family or neighbours think. We have to stop mindlessly consuming, driving everywhere, buying cheap shit – we have to start thinking and recognising our bad habits. We are all guilty of it, and if we could all do something small, it would make a huge difference.

I have no interest in returning to my grandmother’s patriarchal society – but I do see immense value in the way they treated the planet, the way they consumed food and resources – THAT is worth revisiting.

So in the spirit of all of that, I’ve closed some of my other blogs and plan to share everything I am interested in and write about on this one blog. No fancy marketing, no content plans, just thoughts and ideas streamed whenever I can.

Peace.

Questions to the universe

Why do society fail to respond?

Why does the government stay silent?

Why do society care more about shopping and decor than the environment and people?

How do we change the world so people take action and demand change from leaders?

Why are people so indifferent?

How do we connect the dots for people?

Do we have no hope?

How do we change the narrative from ‘me’ to ‘us’?

Bucket lists in reverse

I have a huge love of magazines and have recently discovered Breathe and Mindful Parenting created by Lovatts media group. Carol Anne Strange wrote a fantastic article about bucket lists in the most recent edition of Breathe (no 17).

Social media and the comparison trap can truly make us feel so unaccomplished, so mediocre and leave us wanting more, and thus not appreciating what we have. This is sad as we all have great accomplishments and dreams we have worked hard to realise. Carol’s advice in the article is to create a reverse bucket list of personal and career accomplishments and dreams that came true to essentially practice mindfulness and gratitude – a sure way to feel proud and assured about your path.

My reverse bucket list

  • Winning State Eventing Championships in 2000 on my horse “The Boss”.
  • Travelling around Europe on a solo 5 month trip in 2008
  • Reaching executive level in my Corporate Communications career
  • Having two beautiful children
  • Meeting my husband and having a beautiful wedding
  • Travelling to 25 countries (so far!) in my attempt to visit as many as possible throughout my lifetime
  • Completing Grade Eight piano exams and passing!
  • Completing Yr 12
  • Completing a double degree at University
  • Being accepted into an Honours Degree (will complete one day I hope!)

There is a time and place for bucket lists but sometimes it’s good to look back too and remind yourself of everything you have already done and the amazing places you have been. Well done!