Stuff: The Thief of Time

It’s been a few months since my last post, and in that time I’ve become a mum again to a gorgeous little girl.

I’ve also got back to minimising and simplifying, which is now more important than ever with a family of four, even more so because my six-year-old son has just received an autism diagnosis. I know that simplifying his life and routines can help make a difference in his stress levels and sensory overload, but the same can be said for any child, and of us adults. 

Since having a new baby to take care of and settling into the new rhythm of sleepless nights, exhausting daytime hours when she refuses to sleep, and making my son still feel loved and valued, it’s forced me yet again to look at how I spend my time. 

Because all my time in the week is now spent on changing nappies, doing endless feeds, keeping up with the laundry, and other household chores,  the time I get has to be used intentionally whether that’s an intentional hour of rest, half hour of gaming, reading a book, or decluttering.

The past week I’ve spent a good chunk of my time decluttering the attic, not just because I love the sense of freedom and satisfaction I get, but because I’ve been thinking a lot about the future of my kids. And that involves me facing a prospect many of us don’t like to acknowledge – death. 

One of the many reasons I live a minimalist lifestyle is because when I’m gone, whether that be when I’m a hundred years old, or even next month, the last thing I want is to burden my loved ones with sorting through my stuff, deciding what to keep, what goes in the skip, what gets donated, feeling guilty if they don’t keep something, trying to figure out what best represented me, and frankly, wasting hours of their remaining time on this Earth. 

When I pass, the last thing I want is for people to look for me in my stuff. I want to be remembered for the life I lived, for my personality, for the things I said and how I made people feel; not the figurines I owned, the shoes I wore, the limited editions I collected, or the phone I had.

You may be thinking this all sounds a bit too much on the morbid side, but hear me out.

When I gave birth to my son six years ago, I lost 4 litres of blood when my placenta got stuck to the walls of my uterus. I almost died and one of the nurses told me how lucky I had been to have pulled through. Before that, I’d never really considered the life I was living or the impact my stuff was having. Soon after, it struck me that I wasn’t following my dreams, either. Rather, I was just floating along in life with no clear direction, buying more and more stuff to fill the sense of emptiness.

Back then I was still living as an organised hoarder, and to think back on it now, it’s sad how much stuff my family would have had to go through. Trinkets, old toys, old letters, old party invitations, tonnes of gaming paraphernalia, old stationary, overflowing boxes, relics of my past, painful memories, stuff I clung to because I thought ‘I wasn’t me without my stuff’. 

As it turned out,  the ‘me’ I was clinging to was the biggest piece of clutter of all, and the real me was waiting to be discovered in empty spaces, free of the hoard that weighed me down, free of the physical weight of my past, and with more free time that wasn’t wasted on organising and acquiring more. 

We all have limited time on this planet, and that also goes for our children (if we have any). 

Why keep a bunch of stuff for them, for our partners, for our parents or siblings, to have to spend hours, days or weeks going through our stuff when we pass on? As uncomfortable as it is to realise, it’s not like we can take our stuff with us when it’s our time. Instead, the weight of our life cascades onto family and friends. Sadly, that stuff sometimes even harbours the power to cause heated arguments and family rifts. Families get divided for decades over an antique vase, a china collection, or money, which, ironically, would probably be spent on acquiring more stuff. Stuff that won’t even matter when we’re gone. 

Remember, we can’t take our stuff and whoever deals with it all can’t get back their time. Time which is so important and passes in the blink of an eye. 

But enough about death, let’s go right back to the very beginning. 

We’re born owning nothing. Blank slates of endless potential. All we want is the love and attention of our caregivers, and whatever we need to survive. Then suddenly, at some point along the line, we accumulate stuff. Stuff to speed up our development, stuff to teach us about the world, stuff to entertain us, stuff to distract us, stuff to show us how much we’re loved.

We grow up and we want more. More toys, more gadgets, more games, more clothes, more, more, more. Where once we were happy with love and experiences of the world, we’re taught by the people close to us,  and through endless advertising, that we can’t be happy without the latest toy, the fullest wardrobe, the biggest game collection, or the trendiest coat. 

We’re taught that we’re not enough, that if we don’t receive more, we aren’t loved or not worthy. Our ‘self’ gets hidden by the sheer amount of stuff, and that pattern continues through life until we break it or we die. 

Let me give you an example of how too much stuff affects us as children. 

Recently, I was forced to declutter my son’s room. He struggles to let go of things regardless of how many years it has been since he last played with that teddy bear or can no longer fit in that favourite t-shirt. Finally, the drawer under his bed broke under the weight of years of artwork and plastic toys that he never played with. Yet despite it all, he complained he was ‘bored’ or would roll around on the floor in a state of overwhelm. Whenever he wanted a particular toy, he always came crying to me or his dad that he couldn’t find it. I’d go to his room and it would look like a hurricane had passed through it on his hunt. 

At bedtime, he couldn’t even decide what book he wanted me to read to him; he either made me choose or constantly chose ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’. Even though it’s one of his favourite books, I realized he wasn’t even listening to it anymore, and had become bored with it. He was simply choosing it every night because there were far too many books on his shelf for him to process. 

So, I got to work removing most of the plastic McDonald’s toys, Kinder Egg junk, and things he never touched. I also removed a pile of books he’d either outgrown, or seemed to hold no interest for him. Then, I went through all his artwork, discarding the damaged pieces, paper with hardly anything on it, or pieces I knew he didn’t care for as it was something he had done when he was two. I’m ashamed to say that most of the artwork clogging his drawer wasn’t even his doing; it was pieces I hadn’t been able to let go of because I was still clinging to his toddler stage. Most of those went in the bin once I had taken a few photos. 

Before and after decluttering my sons art drawer. As you can see, the drawer above had snapped off its runners

Bear in mind, instead of instantly donating the toys and risking upsetting him, I put the bags of his stuff into the attic to be sorted at a later date. That way, if he wanted his jingly bells back, or the teddy he had picked up that time he went to hospital when he was 2, he could have them. 

Now, here’s the surprising thing. 

He’s never once asked for any of it back, nor seems to have noticed that 70% of it is missing. And he’s started choosing books other than ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ all by himself. There’s also been fewer instances of him crying because he can’t find his Nerf gun bullets or other favourite things. 

Quite often, we think we need more, and we assume the same for our children. Whenever we’re bored or unfulfilled, we might order something new on Amazon or go shelf-browsing until we spot something we like. 

And when they’re bored, we rush to buy them another toy or download yet another app. 

Instead, we need to rediscover simplicity,  then do the same for our children.

We need to reconnect with loved ones, and claim back the time that is so precious, and we need to remind ourselves that we’re worth it, despite what marketing would us believe. 

Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

I’m back!

Hi all! After a lengthy hiatus, I’m glad to say I’m back. I’ve been exhausted through pregnancy, and now as a mother to an almost 5 week old baby girl. It’s certainly been challenging to settle into the new rhythm of life as a family of four. I’d forgotten just how chaotic life can be with a tiny baby who relies on you for survival and comfort around the clock, but it’s so worth it!

Anyway, earlier I found the time to write my latest thoughts on simplicity, and how clutter affects ours and our children’s lives not just now, but far into the future.

I will publish this in the next few hours when I find a moment, but I look forward to writing more often again and sharing my minimalism journey with you all.

When Life Happens – Where Have I Been?

I realise it’s been too long since I’ve posted here, so here I am, sitting writing this at 12:50am UK time – a time I’m usually wandering around dreamland.

It’s my second night of being wide awake because it’s becoming almost impossible to get comfy now that I feel like a beached whale at almost 34 weeks pregnant. People tell me it’s a small bump for a second child, but try telling me that as I gasp from the exertion of using the stairs, and of trying to roll over in bed like a flipped over turtle.

Anyway, if you’re reading this, there’s a chance you’re wondering where my usual minimalism posts all are, or if this blog itself had become some long forgotten internet clutter, dusty and abandoned.

It hasn’t, and I’ve made more huge strides in minimising and simplifying my life – even more so now that I am mere weeks away from having my second child.

The truth is, I had forgotten just how exhausting pregnancy is, and along the way my mind has filled with emotional and mental clutter which has made it almost impossible to write.

First of all, I got worn down by the Coronavirus lockdown and adjusting to all of the uncertainty and the new strange ways of life. I’m quite the extrovert so it took more of a toll on me than I thought.

Secondly, I finished my level 2 Counselling course, but while I was ecstatic about being one step closer to becoming a counsellor, I was also incredibly sad that it was all over. Due to the nature of the course, me and my course buddies got to know each other on a far deeper and personal level, and it made the ending particularly poignant.

Suddenly, I found myself feeling lost on the days I’d usually be doing my course, and despite having a plan for the future, I lost more motivation to write and do the things I love.

Enter the final stretch of my pregnancy, and I find myself obsessing (more than usual) about everything being perfect. Logically, I know that there is no such thing as perfect, but that hasn’t stopped me from driving my husband crazy with my ‘everything has to be done and be perfect right NOW’ attitude.

Unfortunately, this attitude has also spilled over into other areas of my life and I have to admit I slipped into spending a lot of money and used a lot of energy on having to have the perfect writing device, the perfect footrest, and the perfect sized workstation for me in the living room (since the gaming room is very slowly transforming into a future nursery).

I thought, how can I possibly teach and share about minimalism at the moment when my mind is like a hurricane has ripped through it? I felt like a fraud.

I even feared for a while that I had fallen out of love with writing, but I realised how ridiculous that was because not writing was making me grouchy, and I’ve not stopped journalling. In fact, the sudden random urge to blog is another thing which was preventing me from sleeping tonight.

One more thing – to be completely honest, I’m also terrified because everything went wrong after my first pregnancy and I almost died from blood loss due to Plancenta Accreta where the placenta basically sticks to the lining of the womb and won’t come out. It’s not so easy to declutter those kind of worries.

For now, my plan is to take life as easy as possible and perhaps share more of my everyday life and musings on here.

Huge changes will be happening so I’ll be kinder to myself as I mentally take myself back to basics and rediscover my joys -something that we all need to do every now and then.

In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy, stay simple.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

The Weight of Stuff

Photo by Nathan McBride on Unsplash

I realise it’s been a really long time since I posted on this blog. I can’t deny I feel guilty about that because I was going to post an article on being extraordinary. While I do have the article, I couldn’t bring myself to post it because in the current climate, it just doesn’t feel right, and I’ve been sorting out elements of my own life, and thinking about my future, as well as battling pregnancy fatigue. 

I’m now 28 weeks pregnant, and what I have been focused on is minimising and simplifying my life more than ever before. 

This post is a little catch up for this blog about my minimalist journey since the lockdown started, and to share my thoughts about where I am now. 

One way I’ve been thinking about my stuff is the sheer weight of it in my life, both physically and metaphorically. 

I often read about people on decluttering journeys who load their cars with bags upon bags of clutter they’re casting off from their lives, and how many trips it takes to the charity shop. 

Since I can’t drive, whenever I donate anything and as I decide to let go of even more stuff, I walk to town with the weight of those bags. As I walk and the bags weigh me down and cut into my hands, I can’t help but think about the sheer weight of my life. 

All that heaviness. The stagnant energy that clings to it. The burden of guilt and old memories. 

I welcome the relief once the weight is gone, and it often feels as if my arms are floating. Better than that, is the feeling of lightness in my home. There’s more space for energy to flow, space for potential in the future. Not potential new stuff, but opportunities and beliefs that serve me. 

The more I cast off, the less weighed down by the past I feel, and the more hope for the future. It’s true that less really is more. 

Speaking of the future, since I get so much joy from decluttering and love to help others with it, I had a sudden profound idea to look into becoming a professional declutterer – something which wouldn’t have occurred to me had I still been weighed down by stuff.

Clutter really is something that always lurks at the back of your mind, taking up space and valuable energy. Like a computer with an error message warning you its storage is getting too full, the brain is pretty much the same, and lightening your physical load will massively lighten your mental load. 

Being 28 weeks pregnant has made the effects of minimising even more apparent. At a time when I find myself needing more rest than ever, I’ve been able to do just that because there’s no mess, surfaces are clear, and it’s quick and easy to vacuum and dust (our new dishwasher has simplified things even more – especially because my parents live with us).

I’m not having to worry about having enough space for the upcoming new addition to our family, because there’s now more than enough space to accommodate. 

In fact, having a new baby on the way is making me think of the stuff in my life even more. For example, my husband and I have been massively attached to our gaming room. It’s the place we go to chill out and play videogames, display our games, and even use as a workspace. 

But ultimately, we decided we could give up that luxury so that our second child has a room of their own (more essential because it is a girl and she’s going to be 6 years younger than my son who’s growing up way too fast). 

With that in mind I started minimising the gaming room quite early on, and while it started off hard, it’s now got to the point where I no longer feel attached and could happily pass it on , safe in the knowledge that most of it hasn’t been played in years, is realistically never going to get played again, and that most games are now available digitally. 

I also realise that I don’t need to have a Youtube worthy gaming display to prove that I love gaming. The way I do that is by actually playing them and letting them bring me hours of joy and excitement. 

Sitting on a shelf, they do nothing but take up space, look pretty, and add decision fatigue. The digital streaming services available now on all platforms have helped teach me that. And if I don’t play them while they’re available, I was never going to get around to doing so in the first place. 

Another hard thing I’ve done in the past few days is put my wedding dress and accessories up for sale. Initially, I felt sad, but when I brought the huge storage case down from the humid attic, I saw the space that had been created, and reminded myself that it would be far better bringing that same joy to somebody else than it sitting in less-than-ideal storage conditions, taking up valuable space. 

Some people are curious why the whole journey has been a process which has taken a couple of years. 

Before I was a minimalist, I was what you’d call an organised hoarder. At first glance, I lived in a tidy environment, but it was bursting at the seams and I was forever organising and wishing for a bigger house so I could store more. Window ledges, cubby holes, shelves, cupboards, drawers and storage spaces were rammed with relics of my past, and things I thought I needed, and it was causing heated arguments between me and my husband (who was my fiance at the time). 

I also reacted to every whim for something new, be it a new phone, a new bag, a new journal, or another games console. These whims came all the time because deep down, I wasn’t happy and the satisfaction never lasted longer than a few days at most.

That hoarding and the constant buying was a result of years of deeply ingrained beliefs and trauma, and it’s taken a few years to get to where I am now with the mindset and beliefs I now have. Another factor is the seasons of life we all go through. 

What’s useful in one season of life may no longer serve in the future, so the minimalist journey never really ends. There will always be times where life needs a mindful reevaluation of where you’re going and what may no longer be serving you, although once you’ve done the main bulk of decluttering, it should never be as stressful or as time-consuming again, provided you stay mindful and vigilant of what comes into your life and why. 

Next time I post, I’d like to share with you all, our experience of having a brand new minimalist kitchen, and how it has changed our lives for the better. I feel it is a perfect example of the negative effects clutter can have on an entire family, and the unbelievable change in energy when clutter is dealt with.

Want to Become Extraordinary?

At the start of the coronavirus lockdown, people who weren’t key workers suddenly found themselves with a hell of a lot more spare time on their hands.

One thing I noticed was the sheer amount of people who were vowing to do amazing things with their time. Cook healthier meals. Declutter their homes. Start a daily exercise regime. Learn something new. Please note, I’m not talking about the people who are dealing with the terrible aftermath of losing their jobs and businesses, or are dealing with other horrible events in their lives here.

And for a while, people were doing just that, posting about the positive changes in their lives they previously hadn’t had the time for.

Yet, after the first few weeks, fatigue set in and people were soon posting and joking about their newly discovered alcohol dependence, poor diets, homes that were somehow messier than before, and sure they’d almost exhausted the extensive catalog of TV shows and movies.

That’s because no matter how much time you have in your hands, it takes grit and determination to make real, lasting life changes.

You could have all the time in the world and never have to work again, but in the end, it’s your mindset and how you consistently spend your time that makes the difference. It’s your why that must be powerful enough to drive you.

If you were unhappy and unfulfilled before, particularly if you’ve been in that state for a long time, it’s going to take a long time and consistent hard to work to change things. And if you weren’t committed enough to make those changes before, no world-changing event or amount of hours in your day will change that.

Only you can.

That means not giving up as soon as things get tough. And it means recognising that regardless of what’s going on in the outside world.

If you’re truly interested in levelling up your life, if you’re tired of feeling defeated, stay tuned for my upcoming article on why you stay stuck, even with hours at your disposal, and how you could start crafting an extraordinary life from today.

Photo by Ivana Cajina on Unsplash

Re-simplifying My Life in a Time of Chaos

Image by dungthuyvunguyen from Pixabay

Being locked down during the Coronavirus has allowed me the time and extra energy to do some deep cleaning. Last week, I decided to go crazy on my living room.

I mopped the floor, took everything off the shelves and dusted them, vacuumed the blinds, vacuumed the whole room, dusted the insides of the cupboards, and cleaned the mirror. Oh, and there were too many cobwebs where spiders had set up home and weren’t paying rent.

The whole process took much longer than expected, and the next day I had a pain flare up from hell that lasted days. One of the many reasons I simplified my life in the first place was to manage my fibromyalgia and ME, just like Courtney Carver, author of Soulful Simplicity, who simplified her life to manage her MS. But this pain was a wake-up call that I could do more.

Once again, I find myself thinking about the role of minimalism in my life. 

I’ve also got another child on the way, and it’s made me think about how to best simplify my life for the sleepless nights and mad days ahead. Do I really want to be wasting so much time cleaning under and around things when I will need that time with my baby, and for my sanity?

Many people would advise leaving the mess be, and that it’s perfectly understandable as a new parent, but I simply can’t stand chaos or disorder. Especially if I know there’s something I can do about it.

When you’ve been minimalist for long enough, it becomes as natural as breathing. You don’t really think about it because you’ve trained your mind so well and the habits you adopted don’t require a second thought. 

The problem with that is that you can fall back into a rut without realising. It seems like I’ve been ready to move onto the next stage of minimalism for a while, but not realised as the days have rocketed by or merged into each other.

Since my minimalism journey started, I’ve got rid of so much stuff, that my room cleaning time was dramatically cut.  I unearthed parts of myself I never knew existed and started on the path to a new career.

At the time, I was satisfied with the progress I made, but the pain of that flare up taught me differently. 

I thought my living room was minimal enough yet was surprised to find that a vast majority of the deep clean was spent moving my collection of books and the decorative objects and photos from the room divider, all of which are mine. Then, of course, having to dust every object and put it back, even though it would all be dusty again within days. 

I no longer have the huge collection of books that I had. What once took up four shelves, now takes up one. There’s a few books on my ‘to read’ list that I intend to donate once I’ve finished with them, but the rest are mainly non-fiction hardbacks that I turn to again and again.

When I thought about what I was getting out of the rest of that unit and its decorations, the answer hit me: nothing. It’s just there to stop our long, narrow living room resembling a bowling alley, and to look pretty doing it.

Is it attractive? Yes. Is it worth the extra cleaning and maintenance time? No.

And who doesn’t want more time and relaxation in their day?

After cleaning the living room, I went upstairs to do a quick dust of the gaming room. I say a quick dust because the gaming room is the hardest to downsize for me, and would take forever to clean efficiently.

There’s stuff in there which is close to my heart as a gamer, plus a collection of manga and geeky books which I don’t keep with my main collection.

Not so long ago, I was convinced that having shelves crammed with games, consoles, and figures like my favourite youtubers would satisfy me . I’d always dreamed of having a gaming room packed to the gills, and of having my own arcade full of my favourite cabinets.

But for me, the reality of such a dream has surprised me. Games and hardware require proper storage and cleaning, and it’s all such hard work to maintain. Not to mention the space it takes up.

There’s also the possibility that we will need to give the room up for an extra bedroom a few years down the line if our baby is a girl.

The thought of leaving it be, then having to deal with all that stuff at once fills me with horror.

Despite downsizing my collection last year, I rarely clean the room because it’s so exhausting and time-consuming. Two hulking shelving units with games, figurines, and books, and another medium shelving unit holding more games and my videogame soundtrack collection. 

Then there’s the fact that my husband, my son, and I, each have a PC. Phew!

I’ve been considering going digital with as many games as possible and possibly using a powerful laptop over a desktop. But it’s a costly endeavour to digitise all the games I own, so I have to really think, which games do I love and really can’t live without? Why do these deserve to take up shelf space and cleaning time? How often do I play them?

When you look at your stuff in terms of the time it takes up, and not just the space it requires, the answer will become clear, even if it’s uncomfortable. 

It makes me squirm to think about not having my physical games on show. Why? It doesn’t make me less of a gamer. But it does show the money I’ve spent just on showing this hobby off instead of purely experiencing the joy it brings me.

To be honest, I don’t even get around to playing or finishing half the games I buy, even when they’re digital. The same goes for any hobby that requires a lot of equipment or collecting. There’s only so much you can enjoy.

It shows that, for me, playing games isn’t enough. I have this need to show everyone in the house, and anyone who visits, my love of games and the characters in them, as if my identity is at stake if I don’t.

But, of course, that’s ridiculous.

I frequently find myself dreaming about the kind of life the more extreme minimalists live. Fumio Sasaki, author of, ‘goodbye things’ is a well-known extreme minimalist living in Japan, and is one whose book I’ve returned to several times, because of the feeling of peace it gives me, and the wisdom in its pages.

What I find particularly inspiring is that he’s just a regular guy who decided that enough was enough and to do something about the miserable life of excess he was living. He doesn’t claim to have all the answers to achieve happiness and success, but he discovered that minimalism was a good start.

It’s not just me who dreams of simpler living; my husband has spoken to me a few times about how he’d love to be so free of stuff and obligations that he could live and work wherever he desired and not remain tied to one place. At first, that thought terrified me, but the more I thought about it, the more appealing it sounded. 

Realistically, I know I can’t live like the more extreme minimalists I admire so much, because not only do I have a growing family, we share a home with my parents. Therefore, there’s only so much I can do, especially regarding shared rooms such as the kitchen and bathroom, and storage spaces such as the shed. 

We’re also not the home-schooling type, so a life of travelling and completely letting go is something that would be far off in the future.

But I can take control of my own stuff, and I’d rather do that than have it control me and sap hours from days, and days from months.

Unfortunately, due to the current situation with coronavirus, charity shops are closed, and selling things on Gumtree or Facebook is a no-no.

Instead, I’ll use the time to list what’s currently bringing me joy and what isn’t.

Life changes all the time, and with it, the stuff that we need to enrich our lives or bring us joy.

Photo by Fernando Brasil on Unsplash

Re-evaluating Minimalism

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about minimalism and the role it plays in my life, even more so since being locked down at home.

But there are some other situations in my life which have cropped up and forced me to rethink the role of stuff in my life, and possibly moving onto a new stage of minimalism.

In my upcoming post, I want to share these thoughts and realisations with you, because it shows how we can fall into a rut and why it’s so important to re-evaluate your life every once in a while.

Photo by Jess @ Harper Sunday on Unsplash

Stuck Inside – Ways To Beat Boredom and Maintain Your Mental Health

Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash

It’s like something from an apocalyptic movie;  a pandemic has been announced, countries are in lockdown, people are isolating themselves for months, and businesses are struggling. 

In times like these, it’s easy to panic, and it’s easy to lose sight of the good things around you. And if you’re self-isolating for a long period, loneliness and boredom can set in quickly. 

Humans are social creatures and it’s vital that we find ways to connect with others and maintain our mental health, not just during times of challenge, but as a part of everyday life.  

Here are some things you can do to beat boredom and look after your mental health when you’re stuck inside. 

Feel-Good Productivity 

Deep clean your kitchen cupboards 

You’ve probably been meaning to do this for months, but work and other responsibilities meant you could never get round to it. Now is the perfect time to empty those cupboards and give them a thorough cleaning. For more cathartic impact, imagine that all the grime you’re removing are also layers of negative thoughts being scrubbed from your mind. 

Deep clean/declutter cutlery drawers 

Remove all your cutlery, declutter what you don’t need, and give the drawers a good clean. It’s so satisfying to get your utensils out of a clean and organised drawer, and makes meal times much easier. 

Deep clean/declutter the bathroom

Bathrooms accumulate mould and bacteria quickly. It’s also amazing how many supplies end up multiplying in bathroom storage. Get rid of out-of-date toiletries, makeup, and medications, then remove everything else and make the surfaces shine. You’ll be glad you did. 

Declutter Rooms In Your House 

Start a mission to declutter your home, starting off with one room and gradually making your way round to the others. When you remove what you don’t need and keep only the things you love, you create space and clarity in your home and your life. It also becomes much easier and faster to clean, which frees up time for other activities or rest. 

Decluttering is so incredibly freeing on the heart and mind it can become addictive. 

Photo by Norbert Levajsics on Unsplash

Wash/clean your curtains or blinds

I don’t know about you, but I rarely think about the blinds in my house when I’m doing a clean and recently I couldn’t work out why my rooms still had a dusty smell to them. The other day, I thought to check the blinds, and they were covered in a thick layer of dust. Giving your curtains a wash or your blinds a good wipe-down will help to freshen the air in a room. 

Wash your bedding 

Bedding needs changing once a fortnight, or even more frequently if you’re a heavy sweater. Dust mites also build up inside mattresses, so it’s a good idea to give the mattress a hoover while you’re at it with a dust mite vacuum. 

Declutter/tidy the shed or garage 

Sheds and garages are clutter hotspots. They accumulate multiples of tools or things get stowed away in them which we believe we might need ‘one day’. If you have a nice sunny day, why not set aside some time to clear these spaces out? 

Fix the thing you never got round to 

You know that broken toy you promised your kid you’d fix two months ago? The shelf that’s been wonky for the past year? Now’s a great time to finally get round to fixing it. Once it’s done, it’s off your to-do list and your family or partner can stop nagging you to do it. 

Self Improvement & Mental Health 

Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash

Take a course/learn a new skill

Always wanted to become an awesome cook, but never had the time to learn? Thought about learning how to write a book or start a blog? There’s no time better than the present.

There’s no shortage of both free and paid courses online to learn anything your heart desires. Some sites I recommend are Udemy, Skillshare, Open university, and Youtube. And there’s an ocean of excellent, insightful books out there for your chosen topic.

So, what’re you waiting for? 

Go for a walk or run around your neighbourhood

Walking or running is a fantastic way to boost your mental wellbeing and should be a part of your everyday routine if you can. It’s also a great way to get your dose of vitamin D on a sunny day. Currently, the lack of cars and human activity in many areas has made for cleaner, fresher air, so there’s no better time to get some fresh air.  

Beautify your garden (if you have one)

Gardening can also have a positive effect on your mental wellbeing.  Not only is it a mindful activity, it can keep you fit. And there’s nothing like the satisfaction of some beautiful green space to clear your mind after a stressful day.

Journal 

Journaling is a fantastic way of getting your thoughts down on paper (physical or digital). It can relieve your mind of worries that have been building up on you, lead you to solutions to your problems, or even help you build a writing habit.

You don’t have to be perfect; you don’t have to be able to write well; you don’t have to please anyone. You can be as messy, as creative, or as neat as you like. There are no rules. 

When you go out for or order a shop, buy some flowers or plants to cheer the place up 

It might sound small, but buying some flowers or some nice house plants can really help to freshen up a room and make it feel more cheerful. Believe it or not, houseplants are known for being beneficial to your health and productivity. 

Photo by Julie Marsh on Unsplash

Practise gratitude 

This might feel almost impossible when the world around you seems to be going to Hell, but I assure you, if you set aside the time and put some thought into it, you’ll come up with at least a handful of things in your life to be grateful for. Practising gratitude is great for boosting mental wellbeing and for adopting a positive mindset. 

If you really struggle, there are some lovely gratitude journals out there which give you some gentle prompts and beautiful pages to look back on. 

Colouring

Before you cast this aside as childish, hear me out. Research has shown that adult colouring can help to reduce stress and anxiety. It’s a peaceful, mindful activity and there are hundreds of beautiful or humorous adult colouring books to choose from. It doesn’t matter how good you are because there’s nobody judging you. It’s all about you and your relaxation.  

I personally love Secret Garden by Johanna Basford.

Play some uplifting/upbeat music 

Music can change or enhance our moods, so if you’re on a bit of a downer, try putting on some happy, upbeat music (or whatever chills you out). Music has also been proven to reduce pain in some chronically ill patients. I have been enjoying sitting in my sunny garden with the living room door open, listening to the radio, and have found it massively relaxing.

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

Play board/card games 

A few weeks ago I bought two classic board games from my childhood: Ludo and Snakes & Ladders. Despite all the screens and other distractions, they’ve been a surprising hit and are something the whole family can enjoy. When the board games are out, boredom flies out the window, people’s cheeky and competitive sides come out, and screens are forgotten. 

Recently, I’ve discovered Solitaire Klondike and have become somewhat addicted (no, I really hadn’t played this before).

Don’t underestimate board games or card games for some classic family fun.

Play videogames 

I’ve always been a gamer, but even if you don’t consider yourself one, or have never picked up a controller in your life, there are thousands of games out there now to appeal to all ages and preferences.

The Nintendo Switch is a https://www.nintendo.com/games/switch/good choice for access to a massive library of games, as is the Nintendo 3DS.  You can’t go wrong with either and there’s bound to be something you like whether that’s puzzles, point & click, party games, platformers, or action-shooters. 

Multiplayer videogames are also a great way to stay in touch with others, make new friends online, or have fun with the family. 

Help someone in need 

For the ultimate pick-me-up, if you’re not sick you can always help somebody in need. With panic buyers emptying store shelves, and the elderly and vulnerable unable to get supplies, there are multiple ways you can help. 

You can deliver shopping to their doorstep, leave a kind note, or drop off some flowers. Even making a few phone calls to some lonely people would be a huge help with the current situation. 

Here are some links to just a few of the acts of kindness that have come out of the Coronavirus pandemic.

https://edition.cnn.com/2020/03/26/europe/kindness-coronavirus-strangers-helping-gbr-scli/index.html

https://www.stylist.co.uk/life/coronavirus-how-to-be-kind-random-acts-of-kindness-ideas-helping-others/368441

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/coronavirus-positive-kindness-italy-singing-corner-shop-elderly-postcard-a9404781.html

Photo by Austin Kehmeier on Unsplash

What NOT to Do

As important as it is to stay updated, there are some things you shouldn’t be doing, that have the potential to increase your anxiety and feelings of hopelessness. 

Don’t keep checking the news

The news updates to the minute and it’s tempting to keep refreshing it or checking back to see new updates of what’s happening. But as useful as the news can be, it can also be a huge trigger for anxiety and worry.

Every time there’s a new death, there’s a new headline. Do you need to know about every single death and crime? Keep in mind, many articles are written in a way to grab your attention and make you react with a panicked curiosity. These kinds of articles are often referred to as clickbait. 

Set times for when you will check the news. After all, why worry about the things you can’t control? 

Don’t check the news/social media first thing in the morning or last thing at night 

How you start your day affects how the rest of your day will feel or go. If you start the morning reading depressing, worrying news, those will play on your mind for the rest of the day and keep you checking on events.

Similarly, if you start by scrolling through social media, that can have the same anxiety-inducing effect as constantly checking the news, especially as people are currently voicing their constant anger and worry. 

Checking either late at night could keep you scrolling well into the time when you should be relaxing or catching a good night’s sleep.

Not only can the blue light from devices keep you awake, the anxiety from the news or from other people’s feeds can make you too anxious to sleep, and cause nightmares. And if you aren’t getting decent sleep, you’re going to feel consistently crappy. 

Don’t believe everything you see on your newsfeed

Along with the coronavirus came the viral wave of fake news sweeping the internet. Companies are trying to slow the tide of fake articles, but there’s only so much they can do. The best thing you can do is to do your research.

Don’t immediately believe what you read online unless it’s from a well-trusted news source or website (in the UK mine ours is BBC News, Sky News, and the NHS website). There’s also the World Health Organisation who keep their website updated with the latest Coronavirus information. 

But how can you know if what you’re reading is fake? First, check the source. Is it a familiar website? Has it got a weird-looking address? 

A lot of shared fake news starts off with someone who knows someone else, who’s related to someone important, who said or saw something that nobody else knows. A quick Google search should show you if it’s fake or not. 

It’s better to ignore ‘news’ like this, as it’s the equivalent of a game of Chinese Whispers – one which starts off with a lie to begin with.

Remember, if it’s not on any of your main trusted news websites, it’s likely not true. 

Don’t worry about what you can’t control e.g other people’s behaviour. 

In the end, no matter what’s going on outside, you can’t control it all. So focus, instead, on what you CAN control: your thoughts, your reactions, your words and actions. 

Try not to succumb to vices such as excess drinking which can make anxiety or feelings of depression worse. 

In many supermarkets, shelves are being stripped not just of food and other essentials, but of beer and wine. While there’s nothing wrong with having a drink now and then, drinking to excess will eventually cause a slew of both physical and mental health problems including anxiety, depression, weight gain and liver damage.

I hope these ideas have been useful to you, and remember: stay calm, stay healthy, be mindful of others, and follow the safety rules in your area.

Photo by Erriko Boccia on Unsplash

Something for the Chaos

I hope you’re all safe and well during these crazy times. Sometimes it’s hard to believe I’ve not been sucked into some sort of dystopian novel or movie.

That being said, with everything seemingly at a standstill, I want to help in some way, even if it’s from behind my screen. So within the next day or so I will be posting a list of things you can do to beat boredom, avoid cabin fever, and care for your mental well-being.

Stay safe, stay healthy, stay calm.


Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

Starve Your Inner Critic and Claim Back Your Power

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Almost everybody has an inner critic, that snide, sniggering, scoffing voice at the back of your head that says you aren’t good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, strong enough, or deserving enough. 

And let’s face it -with all the ways we have to compare ourselves to everyone around us nowadays, as well as intense marketing designed to reinforce beliefs that you’re lacking in some way unless you buy their product, is it any wonder that those internal insults become ever louder?

“I’ll never be able to live like him/her”

“My writing’s crap compared to this”

“I’m not smart enough to go for the job I want”

“I’ll never be disciplined enough to achieve that because I’m a loser”

“I can’t”

“I’m not”

“I’ll never be…”

“I’m (insert insult here)”

Even the most successful and confident people out there struggle with that quiet, doubtful voice most of the time. The difference is, they’ve learned how to control it, and even use it as motivation. 

You’ve probably read and heard that a thousand times, and thought, ‘Well good for them for being born with that ability’. 

But it’s not an inborn ability that people either have or they don’t. It’s all about training and rewiring your brain to think and react differently.  That takes time and inner work. A lot of it. 

Granted, some people might find it a little easier than others, depending on their past, their circumstances, the people they hang around with, and their mental health. 

My inner critic, which I refer to as my inner gremlin,  used to be like a raging tsumani. All- consuming, all-powerful, endlessly destructive. And hungry for more. 

It never used to be like that. When I was a small child, I had boundless confidence and curiosity. I’d sit and write on my typewriter on the living room floor, or write a story in my notebook and race to show anyone who would read it. 

Like most young children, I truly believed I could be anything I wanted; an archaeologist, a TV presenter, a weather reporter, a famous author. 

What happened?

Circumstances growing up, plus being bullied throughout my whole school life, fed the inner gremlin that had started to emerge once all the other children started forming cliques and showing off their own unique personalities. 

I wasn’t like everyone else. I was inappropriate, loud, wore baggy, unfashionable clothes because everything else irritated me, and didn’t understand social jokes or cues. I wasn’t interested in the things others were interested in, or in talking about relationships. 

It wasn’t until early adulthood I got diagnosed as being somewhere on the autistic spectrum. 

Anyway, the older I got and the more insults were thrown at me, the more I believed them. The more I saw the other people around me, the more inadequate I felt.  I didn’t need to be told I was ugly and worthless by other kids because my own inner bully had grown vicious and gigantic by that point. 

I’d tell myself I was vile and worthless. All the while, my inner gremlin fed and grew. 

Eventually, I stopped showing off my writing outside of school. I went through periods of self-harming, and my self-esteem was as low as it could get. 

As a young adult, I still had my dreams from childhood – my main one to be an author – but I had serious issues with my identity and with extremely defensive and angry behaviour in my relationships. 

Where did all this come from? My inner gremlin which had been gorging itself quite happily over the years on all of my negative thoughts and beliefs. 

Strangely enough, my first step into altering those terrible beliefs started when my mum came to my house one day with bags and bags of my old junk and clutter from childhood, which she had cleared from the attic. 

I was a hoarder, you see. But at the time I didn’t realise because I kept everything crammed out of sight or neatly lined up. 

Confronted with years of my own mess, I realised I had a serious issue with letting go of the past. In many ways, I was still living in it. 

I may have been an adult with a child and renting a home, but inside I was still that angry child pining for acceptance. 

That day, I let go of so much stuff, and when I did, I physically felt like this huge spiritual weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Years of attachments, sad memories, and old work finally where it belonged – in the trash. 

Image by Лечение наркомании from Pixabay

Something got sparked in me that day that triggered years of self growth, and opened the gate to minimalism. 

Because I was forced to question why I had been holding onto all that stuff, I started to ask myself deeper things, like where my beliefs came from, and why I felt the way I did. 

I started reading every self-help book I could get my hands on that appealed to the specific issues I had identified. Books about overcoming trauma, writing, confidence, self-improvement, and later on, minimalism. 

I didn’t just read these books once. I read them over and over, completing all the exercises inside them until I knew them off by heart and looking inside myself until it started to feel natural. 

It’s safe to say that those books, alongside the action I took, went a significant way in helping me to change who I had become, and started me on a path of acceptance and becoming my true self. 

For those of you who are interested, I will list some of those books at the end of this post, but keep in mind, your needs and what works for you might well be different, and that’s OK. 

Fast forward to the present and I’ve made this blog, started training to become a counsellor, taken some Udemy courses, written part of a book, and made a new friend (who is also a writer). I’ve also become brave enough to enter a couple of writing competitions. 

How did I silence my inner gremlin? I didn’t. Instead, I got strong enough to fight back and to co-exist with it in a healthy way. It’s nowhere near as big or as consuming as it was, and it certainly doesn’t stop me from writing or going for my dreams. 

It’s highly unlikely you will completely silence your inner critic because for the most part, its job is to try to protect us from pain and humiliation. That’s why so many of us remain stuck in jobs we hate, lives that are going nowhere, and relationships that don’t serve us. 

At its least destructive, it tells you to stay where you are, in comfortable waters, with everyone else. It halts and destroys dreams. 

At its most destructive, it becomes like mine did. A seething mass of hate, doubt, and negativity. 

The trick is to not feed it, and to gain power over it by fighting the inner demons that allow those beliefs to cement in your heart and mind. 

Let me give an example of the occasional things my gremlin will rasp, and the things I now say back. Perhaps some of it will resonate with you. 

Gremlin:

You’re dreaming if you think you’ve got a chance.

Just look at this article – no readers. You’re rubbish, may as well give up now.

You lead a rubbish uneventful life, people don’t care what you have to say.

What qualifies you, of all people, to think you can help others?

Me

Oh shut up, everyone started from zero. 

But I’m doing something I love. Which is more than what you can do. 

You’re just my inner critic, what do you know about writing and having fun? Nothing! 

Inner Gremlin, you’d never get anywhere with an attitude like that. You suck. You’re mediocrity itself. 

I can do what I want with my life, unlike you who can only criticise. 

I am qualified to help people because I desire to, have been through things which could be valuable to others, and am training. You don’t know a thing about helping – just critisising. 

I dare get my words out there regardless, and that’s awesome and more than most people will continue to do.

And you know what? Time after time of practising inner dialogue like that has turned the balance of power. 

I’ve taken its energy source, cut off its supply, and shrank it down by doing the thing it hates the most – taking action. 

Try it today. Argue back with your inner gremlin. Do it time and time again until it becomes nothing more than a minor annoyance. 

Wage a war and confront your inner demons. Cut off its food supply. 

Don’t let your inner gremlin decide your future. 

Oh, and here are the books I said I would link, but before I do that I would also like to give a mention to Anthony Moore on Medium whose stories and articles help keep me going even through the tough times.



Image by John Hain from Pixabay