Sunday, April 29, 2012

Superfluous stuff

(SYLC 17)

Superfluous stuff. I hate it. I'm the antithesis of a hoarder.

Having needless items lying around my house actually stresses me out. When my sister and I lived together she used to joke that one day she'd come home and find I'd sold everything on eBay except a chair for each of us to sit on. Indeed, it's in my personality: for some months I travelled Mexico with just a towel, two t-shirts, some swimmers, a pair of shorts and thongs and I'd never felt more free in my life. Even now every time I return from I long trip where I've survived quite comfortably out of a small bag, I get the urge to cull.

So you would imagine this self-confessed stuff phobe lives in a house that is organised yet comfortable. This is true, or so it looks on the surface. Yet there are quite a few pockets in my home where things lie that I havent used in years. Why?

Because I might need them.

Those four words have had me hold onto some unnecessary things. My thinking is if I throw them out and later need them again, I'll have to buy them again. That's a waste of money and I hate wasting money. I hate wasting anything really.

Basically, the thought of not having something I need and have thrown out causes anxiety, and the thought of hanging onto it when it's not necessary causes anxiety. How's that for a juxtaposition!

Challenged by this week's task and my new year's resolve to only have things in my life that work for me, it's decision time for some of this stuff I have laying around. I also know some of these items weight me down and bind me in the past, preventing me the space from expressing the 'me' I have become in the past few years.

I have decided 'use it or lose it' has to become my motto.

Realising this is not a task that I can complete in a week, and with resolve to focus, I started small with the computer drawer. It's stuffed full of cables, CD covers and packaging from various electronic purchases. How many USB leads does one girl need? Three quarters of the contents on this drawer are now in a bag ready for the charity store, as is a lamp shade I've stored for four years, and anything from my chest of drawers I will never wear again for various reasons. I've yet to tackle the drawer full of jewellery which I know is going to be sentimentally hard.

History tells me that I've never had to repurchase anything I've given away/thrown out unless, that is, it really needed updating. My recent holiday inspired me to do some much needed updating around my home. For example, my bath towels are looking very bedraggled so this morning I went to Target and brought a new set in the sale. Instead of keeping the old ones 'in case I needed them' to mop up etc (I already have old towels for this purpose), I fought my instinct and put them in a bag to drop off at the vet. I know in a few days I'll have forgotten about them, and that they will have gone to good use elsewhere.

I'm going to continue this process in coming weeks and fight the 'I might need it' urge to keep things that aren't working for me anymore. I know this clean out process will be as much a mental one as it will be physical. It will create the space I really need to ensure I am expressing not who I was in the past, but the woman I have become.

It's time to simplify my life in order to be able to expand it.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


(SYLC 15 & 16)


Precious precious time.

It's a joy to have you back in my life. I know I keep saying it. People are probably sick of hearing it, but it really is so wonderful to be reacquainted with you again.

I'm a seasoned efficience. Every moment in my life in the past eight years has been squeezed. I'd multi-task while multi-tasking, necessary I thought if I was going to 'do it all'. I'd do something while on the way to doing something else. Efficiency I reasoned. I didn't have time to assess whether I was attending to the highest priority things first. I didn't stop and smell any roses. I didn't finish one thing properly before starting another. I just ran and ran and ran.

Around me, in the final years, I got sent some very pointed warning signs that perhaps my priorities were a little bit skewed, that time was precious and that the now, not the later is the time of utmost importance. One of my good friends, just a year older than me, died in his sleep of a heart attack. Another who'd already had two years of struggle with some huge challenges was diagnosed with breast cancer. All the while I was reading that my dear friend was struggling and I just didn't have time to reach out. I wanted to, but I couldn't.

And then I got sick, some health scares that really rocked me. I was exhausted, I was unhealthy and I wasn't much fun to be around.

I'm not going to beat myself up about this period of my life. I was making my way after a divorce, I completed two post-grad degrees while holding down a full-time job, a freelance design business and a part-time job as a children's film reviewer. On top of this I did some professional development that at the time was too good an opportunity to turn down. But it was not sustainable in any way. It fed my life and my head but didn't feed my soul. It had to come to an end.

A spring Sunday evening in Toulouse
Which of course it did. Here I am, four months from that end now rested after a month's amazing holiday that inspired me to a point where I'm bursting with more energy and ideas than I have been in so many years.

And what will I do with this new new found sense?

I'll stop. I'll focus. I'll take slow steps.

I'll admit I'm not good at doing any of these things. After years of conditioning myself to do seven things at once poorly and be on the run, it will take conscious effort every day.

This week I read in Sarah Wilson's blog about Sukshma - "meaning 'subtle', to touch life 'innocently, faintly and effortlessly'. It softens. It allows compassion. Like when a child touches your arm when they come out at night to tell you they can’t sleep."

I love this concept. As I read it, it really resonated with me. For me it's about doing things gently and with care. Taking the time to do things properly, like when you're with a person to be with them wholly (not sit there thinking about other things that need doing).

So I put myself on the mission this weekend to live sukshma and do one thing at a time. Gently. With focus. Without rush, franticness, stress, or pressure.

Guess what? To my amazement, I was astoundingly productive. It wasn't easy - it was like a meditation session where I was reminding myself to not run away with my thoughts (or other tasks), but focus, yes focus, for a whole weekend. Exhausting! But each time was tempted by distractions I stopped and refocused on what I was doing. It was a battle to fight off those distractions, but I gently reminded myself that everything else would wait.

So it's Sunday evening and I have completed nearly everything I set out to do (except go to Ikea, but hey, who wants to go there on a weekend anyway). I even managed to watch a film on Saturday night and go to pilates and meditation this morning. Some time out for me.

And it felt great. It really did.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Unplanned planning

(SYLC 14)

Ah, time management and planning. Those two things and I have a love/hate relationship.

As an avid list maker I love getting stuff out of my head and down in writing, yet I am a seasoned procrastinator when it comes to doing something on that list I don't want to do.

I like being organised, yet I hate routines and get bored very easily.

I am can plan, but I don't like being locked in.

So how is that working for me? The truth - it is and it isn't. I've over time played with various systems, discarding them for new ones. I have a penchant for technology and have pretty much moved digital when it comes to planning, yet I still have an addiction to a pretty pens and post it notes.

I'm going to use this week's challenge to review what I'm doing and how it is, or isn't working.


I use Omnifocus, a task management app on my iPad and desktop at work to record to-dos.

For work I have a dumping inbox which I just throw stuff that has to get done in when I think of it, and one called 'Today' which is supposed to be the day's to dos but currently holds 35 'important' tasks. Clearly, I'm not prioritising very well nor using these lists as I intended. I have managed to transfer all the post-it notes from my desk into this which is a step forward.

For home/personal I have a number of boxes:
  • This weekend - things I want to get done each weekend
  • Daily to-dos - weekly errands
  • Personal - things I want/need to do for me
  • Home - things I want/need to do for my home
I confess I hardly ever look at these lists. I don't prioritise the items on them. The weekend one usually gets a workout, but I never finish everything I have in it.

I use Evernote on my iPad to write meeting notes which is great. But I'm not always good at transferring tasks I need to followup from meeting notes across to Things.

Verdict: My task management needs an overhaul. I like the app I'm using but I could set it up a better way. I have ideas and need to put aside some time to tweak this. I quite like the idea of daily, weekly, monthly and a brain dump list.

Dates and calendars

Important dates and appointments stored on a few electronic calendars, which all display on my iPad and iPhone, including my work calendar, personal, birthdays and public holidays. This works pretty well, but I dont always check this everyday as I rely on my work one which is in my face. This means I miss birthdays sometimes.

Verdict: I need to get into the habit of checking my iPad/Phone every morning for birthdays/reminders. I also need to put things in like when bills are due etc. Even better, I could set up more direct debits.

Shopping list

It's a pad of paper on my bench. Things are written down as I run out of something.

Verdict: Works well.


I've had big goals for so long that I finally completed at the end of last year, I'm frankly a bit over the idea of goals. As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I'm in a well deserved floating phase of my life right now. Not that I can afford to mooch around completely. I'm focusing on gaining a new balance with less focus on work/study and more on other areas. I've made inroads definitely, but the process has been much more organic than it has planned.

Verdict: I'm quite happy with my process and progress in this area. I just need to keep it up.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Kreate's progress

(SYLC 13)


Hmmm, this is not my strong point at the moment. This week I posted about the fact that for the first time in my adult life I'm floating, unsure of where to take my professional life next. The goal I had set for myself back in February was to get clearer about my own agenda and not worry so much about other peoples. Professionally I can't say I've gotten anywhere. I'm no wiser as to what to do with my psychology degree or where to go next. But I'm determined to be fine about swimming in limbo for a while. I have definitely made progress at work not concerning myself with other people's antics which gives me more time to get done what I need to get done. But as to the next big step, it's still a mystery.

Conversely, I seem to be making some tracks in the areas I identified in need of attention in my personal life, which most people around me would say is much more important right now, that I've been focusing way too much on the work and study.

Self care: I've definitely made progress here. My diet has improved, I've been exercising more regularly, leaving work earlier and going to bed at a reasonable hour. Where I can now improve is to put some more effort into my daily grooming. The odd home facial or Sunday evening manicure won't more me to actual death I'm sure.

Personal growth: There is no better thinking time than a month's holiday in Europe. I did so much reflecting while sitting in lovely cosy cafes drinking tea, while being awed by the view on the chairlift, and soaking in the thermal baths. While away, events came to pass that had me reassess an old friendship. Growth indeed.

Relationships: With alot more free time after work than ever before, I'm actually making time for my friends which is a totally lovely experience. Dinners out, dinners in, picnics and hopefully some weekend bike rides. It's fantastic to be more connected, and I think I'm a better friend now I'm more relaxed. In regards to a more intimate relationship, a recent experience has me reassessing what I do and don't in that part of my life. TBA as they say.

Creativity: Again, my recent holiday popped the cork on my creative block. I'm back. Not completely liberated creatively, but much more inspired than I've been in years. While away I drew when the moment caught me and wrote every day. I'm now one week into a creative writing course, have plans to knit something this winter, and have downloaded some new lessons for the baroque flute.

Home: One week living in someone's apartment in Sweden was enough to pull the plug on the decorating block also. I love the way the Swedes put their homes together. Can I just move there? I brought a funky interiors book at DesignTorget in Stockholm. Then started the homewares purchases, a new quilt cover, some retro french stuff from Au Petit Bonheur du Chance, and a forage in the BHV. I'm getting quotes on the overhaul of my spare room, ready for it's transformation into a little studio.

Fun, recreation: All of the above. Also, I've just come into a secondhand Dahon Vitesse folding bike. I love riding, but my old Peugeot needs some love and I don't feel inclined to give my time to it. Someone else is going to show it the love it deserves.

My verdict? Not bad for eight weeks. I'm not very good at giving myself a pat on the back - but this time I think I'm going to.

Bonascre, Pyrénées

Change is good on a holiday

(SYLC 12)

If there's one constant, it's the inevitability of change.

I used to fear change. I would hold on to things and people tightly, anxious that they'd run away. I'd stubbornly stick to ways of doing things for fear that doing it differently wouldn't be as good.

One day, one of the changes I feared actually happened and turned my life upside down. The day my husband and I broke up I felt my neat little world had spun out of control. So many questions - what would my life be like now? had I lost my best friend? where would I live? could I support myself?

As it turned out, this experience was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It released the fear. I embraced the change, and in the process I found my true self. Not straight away mind you, there was some healing and deep digging to do. But it was so incredibly liberating, and it was only by taking risks and facing my fears that I was able to know who I really was. Now, years on, I'm so much better at dealing with change than I have been at any other point in my life. Indeed, I even actively seek it.

Why? Well what that situation taught me is that in every change there is opportunity. It is impossible to grow as people if we constantly resist change. I've not only experienced this first hand, but witness it now in some people very close to me. Letting fear of change rule your life, controlling every move is a miserable way to live. It really is. It limits your life which, with so much out in the world to experience, is a heartbreaking waste.

Since the beginning of this year, which coincided with the freeing up of some time for me in the first time in many many years, I have felt I'm on another big wave of change. I've adapted my diet, I'm doing some necessary letting go at work, I'm reconnecting with my creativity and some very dear friends, I'm expressing myself proudly through my writing, my dress and my home, and most importantly I'm allowing myself to float for a while to think about what my next step(s) will be. I recently took a month out and ambled around Europe, a place that inspires me greatly. This gave me the space and the time to reconsider again what I want, how I do things, where I give my time and start making adjustments accordingly.

And all this is happening because I'm open to change. I'm not afraid of what life will throw at me, good and bad. I feel ready and well equipped to embrace it and take the opportunities that come, or that I create from a situation. I am being both active and passive in the journey.

A final note: I've been reading Sarah Wilson's blog since the beginning of the year. Many wise words. One of her posts this week was a lovely gentle reminder about the importance of embracing change in our lives and just taking a leap.

I'm ready for the next one!

Lifestyle restyling

Back in mid January I posted about change I was making to my health habits. It's been three months since I embarked on the overhaul, and I'm happy to report that it seems to be working.

Healthwise, I cut out all grains and sugar. Admittedly I thought it was going to be harder than it actually was. My nutritionist was a great help, as was reading Sarah Wilson's blog and reading her 'I Quit Sugar' book. I replaced both those things with meat, eggs and fat. Yes fat, good fats, and lots of them. The meat took alot of getting used to; at first it sat heavily in my stomach. The fat felt pretty awful coating my mouth.

But I got used to it, and dropped 5 kilos, had glowing skin and hair, and a remarkable absence of the 2pm slump as a reward. I no longer felt hungry or craved food. An annoying morning sneeze disappeared. Basically, whatever I was doing agreed with me.

I also started back at pilates and walked to work almost every day. I do admit I had a pretty good motivation - I was going skiing in March and I needed to be fit to make the most of it.

As for March, I'll say upfront I don't really count it. I was away in Europe for the month and while I ate pretty healthily in Sweden and Germany, in France I let myself indulge in all-I-wanted-to-eat bread, pâtisseries, champagne and chocolate. The interesting thing was I didn't eat as much of it as I normally would have when faced with a delicious plethora. A box of chocolates from Puyricard lasted me almost two weeks, whereas before I might have polished them of in three days. I enjoyed Monsier Lopez's chantilly filled Duchesse entremet immensely, but one was more than enough. What I did get heavily stuck into though was the cheese - and boy do I love cheese! I happened to be in Toulouse one Sunday when the annual regional Auvergne food market is held. I bought a quarter of a wheel of Roquefort which I did devour in three days! But everything went completely out the window at Easter when the caramel filled eggs and mum's baking lured me in. The upside was after two days of eating crap, I felt disgusting enough to not want to do it anymore.

Maybe my system has readjusted after all.

So this week is back to the new way of life. As I write this I have a cauliflower soup simmering away, the stock I made from a chicken that will serve for my lunch this week. My breakfast is in the fridge and I'll be up at 7am to walk. I'll force myself to cross the road to go to pilates after work. It's two minutes from my office - there's just no excuse not to go.

Thank you for kindness

To selflessly give and be kind to another human being is one of the most beautiful acts a person can perform.

Seeing kindness in action makes a person glow. It's is one of the qualities in a person that attracts me most to them; selfishness one of the biggest turn offs. It stirs my heart to see people giving, helping, supporting, and reaching out.

Everyday people doing amazing little acts:

~ Helping someone reach something on a high self.
~ Taking the time to talk to someone who is isolated and lonely.
~ Making a cup of tea for someone who's busy.
~ Reading to a child.
~ Simply giving someone a smile.

Hafez, a Persian poet from the 14th century wrote a beautiful poem about selfless kindness.

The Sun Never Says

Even after all this time 
The sun never says to the earth, 
"You owe Me." 

Look what happens with 
A love like that, 
It lights the Whole Sky.

Yet while one should have no expectation of such, kindness almost always produces reward, that of the joy and happiness we feel when we give. It's the cheapest happiness drug around.

What I do this week is express my thanks for is other people's kindness. Not only do you give joy to those to whom you are giving, but seeing your humanity bursting through brings me immense happiness.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I don't know

(SYLC 10)

It feels like I've been on various missions for so long. Getting my design degree, become an art director, travel the world, become a user experience designer, study art therapy and complete a psychology degree. As an adult I don't know what it's like to not to be on a path of some sort. 

But this year, for the first time in a long time, I'm floating, and it feels really uncomfortable. Before now, when people asked me what I'm doing or where I'm going, I've always had an answer. 

But now the answer is: 'I don't know'.

I thought I wanted to become a psychologist, and struggled through six years or part-time study and work to complete my Honours degree. But the journey to practice does not stop there. Now there is the complicated path to registration that can take years, and more study. Do I really want to go through this? 

The answer is: 'I don't know'.

I think what I most fear at this point in my life is that I won't be able to work out what I should be doing next, what to do with my mixed bag of skills and experience. How does it all hang together? A few ideas have floated through my head but none of them really excite me or get my juices flowing. My rational self tells me it's ok to feel like this, that it's actually time I took a break from the pace and spent some time just being. I know that it's only through taking this time, by playing, reading, creating, writing, trying out of new things and spending time with people that I will find my next step. But I'm impatient. I hate to float. And what if ideas just don't come?

The answer is again: 'I don't know'. Yet I know I want to be ok with that.

So, despite my concerns, instead of forcing things I will sit back and trust that I'll find my way. I'll enjoy the space in my life, the lack of rush, the time to ponder, to create and explore. I'll try and relish every moment. Because soon enough, if my history is anything to go by, some opportunity will present itself and I'll be away again.

I'll surrender to the 'I don't know' and see where it does, or doesn't take me.

Uncertain Future - Scott Hovind

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Perfectly imperfect

"You're such a perfectionist!"

High expectations of myself. Fear of letting others down. Thats me. It's only recently that I admitted to myself that others expectations of me are usually not as high as mine, and that in my perfectionist tendencies I was often only letting myself down.

In week three I posted about 'I am enough'. It is time to let go of the comparisons to others, the self judgement, the worry about others needs, and acknowledge that I'm an individual, different to everyone else on this planet with unique talents and lots to give. And that I must not forget about giving to myself.

Week nine's SYLC is about going easy on yourself. It's a good excuse to check in on how I'm tracking with being ok just being me.

The verdict?

I've certainly improved. I'm spending less time at work. I was walking to work despite the urge to get in early, and I was leaving on time some nights to go to pilates leaving so-called 'urgent' tasks staring me in the face. I'm making small tracks on some personal projects. I took a month's holiday to Europe and every day did pretty much as I pleased. It felt great waking up naturally, cooking or not, spending hours going through places that were of interest to me. It was a very rejuvenating escape.

Well almost…. that's not true.

It was, that is, until I met up with a friend.

I've holidayed with this person before, but it's only this trip that I realised how often, when we are together, I don't feel good about myself. When I'm around this person I constantly compare myself to those around him. I feel insignificant in my achievements, untalented, awkward. I feel I'm not good enough at the things I actually enjoy doing, and that I should in fact like things, be good a things, or find things important, that I actually don't.

It was quite an awakening. I now appreciate that just because I don’t have the same talents that others have, or the same interests, it doesn't make me less of a person. I do have different abilities for sure. I don't feel the need to push them on anyone else or make out they're superior. They are they important to me, and that's enough.

With this new found clarity I went some ways to staking my ground and on occasion leaving him to do my own thing. It felt good. Really good.

So what now? Well, my intention is rather than spend so much time worrying about what I'm not, I need to invest in what I am. This includes being confident in my choices. In the way I decorate my home, in how I dress, in what I do with my time. 

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