simplifying and the art of ritual…

 

I realised today that I have taken on too many commitments for the end of the week and I am going to have to try to rearrange some for another day.  We are out tomorrow night with friends, then having some friends around for supper on Saturday and at the moment I am scheduled to go out on Friday afternoon for my birthday treat –  afternoon tea with my friend and neighbour.

 

I am sure I will struggle to get the house prepared and will be running short of time.  I desperately need to have my hair cut and I had wanted to treat myself to a massage.  Added to which every time I look out of the window – any window I see many jobs to do in the garden.

 

I mention the above as I am now reading Chapter 2 entitled ‘In praise of minimalism’ from the book I mentioned ‘L’art de la Simplicite’

subtitle – Time: waste less, make the most of more.

In this chapter it talks about simplifying your life and embracing every moment including time to do nothing.  If I had time to do nothing I would have heaps of time to get everything done…wouldn’t I?

 

Simplify your domestic tasks and find time to develop your creativity, pamper your body and sharpen your mental faculties.

This is most definitely one of my goals – how to achieve this is perhaps the one big question in my life.

 

I do love domesticity even the tasks some people may think of as mundane – washing dishes, ironing clothes and putting everything back in place neat and orderly.  To do this with everything though I find difficult and tasks start to pile up over the week.

 

Reading on the book talks about repetitive, everyday tasks and developing simple actions as rituals.  I must confess I have never thought about eating or cleaning as a ritual but it has caught my attention.  Rituals, it says, can bring comfort – they should be a source of extreme satisfaction.  She then suggests some rituals such as the ‘writing ritual’, the ‘bath ritual’, the ‘shopping ritual’, and the ‘flower ritual’.

 

She suggests you think about your own personal rituals and what they bring to your life.

 

I was surprised to find I have quite a few rituals already-

The morning ritual

A morning ritual of showering and getting ready for work but not on my days off.  (Just to clarify on this – I do shower but I may have pottered around the house for an hour in my dressing gown beforehand!).  On my working days it means I am ready to start the day at a reasonable hour and could answer the door to anyone from 8am onwards not looking too scary!  Not so on my days off.

The going to bed ritual

I have a ritual for going to bed – I will always remove the dirt and grime of the day from my face with a cleanser then use washing cream to freshen my skin and put on plenty of night cream – I need it –  but I never make it to bed at the same time each night.

The breakfast ritual

I have a ritual for breakfast – I usually eat the same food – Yoghurt, sometimes with fruit followed by muesli and soya milk – I am not sure this is a great ritual and would like to vary my diet more. It is however a breakfast that keeps me going all morning if I do not get a break.

The pedicure ritual

I pamper my feet at least once a week with a soak, a bit of a massage with oils, plenty of creams and potions and a pedicure although I never get as far as painting my nails.  I have ugly feet so try to make them look better by treating them well.  So I think I can include this as a ritual and one that actually helps me to feel better about my feet – they are probably the softest most cared for part of my body!!

The shopping ritual

I have a shopping ritual but it hardly ever occurs on the same day.  I like going round to Sainsbury’s one night after work and sitting for 10 minutes in their café having my hot chocolate treat before having a wander round the clothes, the housewares, the magazines and even the plants.  Then I will go hunting for grocery bargains and lastly choosing from all the fresh veg.  The downside of this ritual is the temptation!

 

The writing ritual

The book mentions writing as a ritual – I did write a lot more in my journal but since I have been blogging I find this is infrequent now and this is a shame as rereading my journals reminds me of my life’s journey and all those little things I might have forgotten if I had not written them down.

The coffee and a chat ritual

I also have a ritual of popping round to my neighbour’s house on a Friday afternoon to share our weekly news and have a cuppa – lovely.

The fallen spiritual ritual

I used to have a ritual of going to church – latterly the Quakers but I rarely go now.  Of all the things I would like to do going back to the Quakers would be way up the list.

 

It is apparent now I have catalogued my rituals – well the ones I can think of tonight – that I need to look at doing them more regularly in some cases and fine tuning them a little more in others so that they are what a ritual should really be – a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order – and where I can take simple pleasure from these tasks.

There are other rituals I would like to develop – perhaps buying flowers every week for the house – maybe even growing cutting flowers, reading a book, sketching or painting daily, taking a daily photograph, crafting …I could go on but I have to be realistic.  This exercise has shown me I can perhaps fit in a few more rituals to my daily life if like the book suggests I manage to simplify my domestic tasks to allow time for creative ones.

Do you have rituals in your life?

be prepared…

 

Whilst we had a really good time on safari at the weekend it all took quite a bit of planning and it is in this area that I find I need to take some control over and look at simplifying the procedure of preparation and packing for an event.

 

I did quite a bit of ‘getting ready’ the day before but on Sunday morning I still found that I was less than ready to get up and go.  Analysing the situation I can see how all the extra few minutes easily begin to mount up and cause unnecessary delays and stress.

This is the run up to us leaving the house –

The presents

Although I had wrapped the presents for little L the day before I had run out of paper and decided to put the jumper and jeggings I had bought for her as an extra into a gift bag – but for some reason I had only thought it and not done it so had to scrabble around to find a suitable birthday gift bag and then write a tag before we left.  I had also got distracted at the time and left the presents I had wrapped without gift tags or any finishing touches – you know the kind a bit of glittery Wasi tape or some curling ribbon.

Time waster No 1 – not buying enough wrapping paper or following a task through to completion so that was a 15-minute delay.

The Picnic

We had decided on a simple picnic – my idea of making some little Quiches did not quite materialise and so we opted for the Higgidy vegetarian Cheese and Chutney rolls some home-made coleslaw and salad with a wholemeal roll with cheese and pickle.  For pudding we decided that we would be buying ice creams anyway so did not take anything additional other than some fruit. OH sorted the food but the new picnic plates I had bought recently in Sainsbury’s sale were still unwashed and had sticky labels on them.  I had been asked to take them with me in case there were not enough of the paper animal plates.

Time waster no 2 – I had not pre washed the new plates and removed the sticky labels – another 10 minutes’ delay to scrub off the labels.

The weather

Of course in England you can never be sure of the weather not only from one hour to another but also from one county to another.  The forecast had said mainly overcast possible rain at 3pm, however, just before we were leaving the sun had appeared and it was feeling quite warm. Unfortunately, in my haste to get dressed I had not thought I would need to put sun tan cream on other than my face which I do automatically all summer.

I should have known better and put some cream on after my shower before getting dressed as this is far easier at this stage than trying to lavish greasy sun cream onto exposed areas whilst fully clothed.

Time waster No 3 – never believe the forecasts just expect extremes of weather and prepare accordingly – another 10 minutes’ delay.

The extras

In addition, I had to search out my umbrella, sunhat, long distance driving glasses, jumper in case of cold weather, coat in case of rain and do a dozen other checks of items to take just in case.  I would normally have many of these items duplicated in our pre-prepared black travel bag but I am down to one umbrella, one sun hat and one pair of glasses and I have to keep borrowing them for work until I remember to go out and buy new replacements.  As well, sods law, the big golf umbrella broke the day before.

Time waster No 4 – not collecting the bits and pieces together the night before as it is amazing how long it can take just to do this – in this case another 10 minutes.

The car

Once we had gathered all the bags together by the door I realised I had not checked to see if the rear seats were back in place in the car.  We have an estate car and tend to have the rear seats down for maximum space when going to the cottage but often they do not get put back into position after we have unpacked the car.  Today was such an instance.

Time waster No 5 – putting the seats up – this may only take 5 minutes but each time waster adds up.

The technology

We thought we had been really organised with all our technology the night before and put mobiles and camera batteries on charge but not thought about my video camera (battery absolutely dead) or the Polaroid camera which takes ordinary AA batteries.  As we wanted to use up some of the Polaroid film bought for the wedding last year and Elder daughter had bought me a selfie frame and props for my birthday the Polaroid camera was crucial to our plans.  Of course when we looked at the Polaroid we discovered that the old batteries had leaked so we had to set to and clean up the battery compartment and then try to find five new batteries.

Time waster No 6 – 35 minutes’ delay to clean up, find batteries and test the camera.

The outcome

Needless to say by now we were running late – luckily we had left plenty of time but it was hardly the best start to the day and we left the house with a bit of a bomb site to come back to and me chuntering as we set off down the road!

 

We always have a lot of comings and goings to prepare for at our house – I seem to spend my time packing and unpacking so I am determined that I will simplify this task by being better prepared.  My downfall is obviously not preparing enough the day before and thinking I can leave some bits to do on the day – many more than I have time for.

 

I have friends coming round for the evening next Saturday night so let’s see if I can prepare for this any better.  We (yes that is a we not just I) have to clean up the house and I am hoping the painting will be finished so we can get the wardrobes out of our living room and in place in the bedroom by then.  I know already I always buy far too much food and think I am feeding an army so I need to make a simple menu plan and set a strict budget.  It is just a supper buffet rather than an evening meal but the couple are both meat eaters and one does not eat nuts and the other no fruit.

Help!

 

 

simply reading and planning and doing…

What a shock to the system being back at work this week and how tired I have been each night  – far too tired to blog.  The good news though is that my working Thursday is now a thing of the past – I will be doing Monday to Wednesday at work and Thursday to Sunday at home – a much better balance in my opinion. I couldn’t wait to get started.

It was quite a long holiday break that we had this year well over 2 weeks and it is surprising how difficult it has been to pick up my routine now we are home – I say that like I have one – I do for the most part!

Now I need to develop a new routine to take me forwards so I have been thinking that Thursday will be my official cleaning day.  That does sound like I don’t ever clean on the other days of the week and sometimes this might be correct on a busy week but I usually manage bits and pieces of tidying rather than cleaning as well as the basic chores of washing up and making beds.  After a few days sitting in the office at the computer I find it is quite nice to do something active and domestic so cleaning will fit in well.

Over our holidays I have been doing a lot of reading – you know the kind of book that is titled –  ‘help I need to get my life and home sorted out and in balance’.  I have a stack of books on the subject by my bed – some from the library and others from my book shelf for a reread or on my Audio books to listen to while I dust.  I am especially into a little book I discovered in the library called ‘L’art de la Simplicite – How to live more with less by Dominique Loreau,  it can seem a bit repetitive in places but I am liking the approach to ‘simplism’.

I apologise in advance for the poor photo quality I was dog tired when taking these pics last night.  I think Thursday may be the designated cleaning day but Friday is going to be the designated recovery day.

The areas I am looking to improve are housekeeping or house management (if you want to encompass the whole of running a house and its upkeep), health, finances and fitness.  I am looking for ways to make each category simple and less time-consuming to deal with.

From my reading there is a common thread running through the advise and that is to have less stuff to deal with – back to the decluttering then.  The other common thread is routine and habit – even in the area of fitness choosing just 2 exercises to do daily is better than nothing and gets a routine and discipline going.  I decided this is just the approach I need together with my leaning towards the Lean and 5S  that I have spoken about here before.

 

To get stuck in on my first designated cleaning day I decided that I would perhaps fall in line with the fly lady zone but when I went on her website it was the living room this week and I felt our main bedroom needed a good going over more urgently and decided on this instead.

I emptied each of the drawers and the wardrobe – cleaned everything down and had a bit of a declutter and I found a few items that I hadn’t used since the last clear out so decided they were for the charity pile.

Everything looks neater and fresher and a bit of a sparkle now.

I have been using Neal’s Yard frankincense Intense face cream and serum since Christmas (a bit pricey but worth it and goes a long way) – this was part of my Secret Santa gift and I am well impressed – I can feel the serum working straight away and it glides over my skin easily.  I think the texture has improved all though the blemishes and freckles I accept will never go away.  The sun damage to my fair skin was probably done much earlier in my childhood when the effects of the sun were not as well understood.  Anyway back to the story – I picked out everything I am using each day in creams and lotions and potions and any leftovers of stuff I will not be repurchasing are to go in the use up box.  If unused and unopened they will go to charity.

So in my drawers now I only have what I like and use.  It is very liberating to do this and I aim to do the same throughout the house – no more hanging on to things just in case – not even the free sachets.

Sorting the current selection of clothes in the wardrobe was harder as I confess I found 3 items I have bought recently and not yet worn and shock horror still have tags on – I think too late to return though.  It isn’t that I don’t like them but I am thinking if I haven’t managed a day to wear them yet after 6 weeks perhaps they are not exactly my favourites.

One of the tops in particular was a bit of a mad buy as it reminded me of my Art college days – a summer weekend at Reading Festival sleeping out under the stars listening to Genesis dressed in flowing embroidered cheesecloth with my long tousled ginger hair and probably no suncream in sight but not a care in the world other than how to get through the mud to the washroom!  The top I bought in Sainsbury’s 25% off week is a fine cheesecloth like cotton, gypsy style with embroidered panel and probably represented this memory – I have put it on 3 times now to go out in it and then changed at the last moment – I am no longer this free-flowing gypsy person!  I think it is going to be a charity gift.

Of course I have only been able to do my own clothes and so I just arranged OH’s ties neatly on the rack fixed to the inside of the wardrobe door knowing that a lot of them will not be worn again but at least they look ‘organised’ until I can get OH to look through them.

I will have to revisit the wardrobe again but I have given those ‘I’m a bit unsure’ items a final chance to be worn – if not they will go out at the end of the summer.  I sometimes find that there is a reason for not wearing something apart from it feeling tighter and if something does not feel quite right then I am not happy wearing it.

By the time I had done all the sorting I only managed to vacuum the walls, the carpet and the surfaces and didn’t get to move the furniture out – that will have to be another time.

Of course because I will not be working Thursday the figure on my monthly pay slip will be much reduced from now on and I shall have to economise further to take into account this drop in income.  Our fridge at the moment is virtually empty – this is good as it means we have manage to eat up everything we bought for the week.  I am sure I could scrape a couple of meals together from the store cupboard and freezer but there would be little fresh veg – home-grown courgettes, carrots and frozen peas are left over and I have a tin of sweetcorn and maybe an egg or two – perhaps Fritters!

Just off to plan my other days off now – have a good weekend.

so much sadness here…

The beautiful area I live in by the Pennines that divide Yorkshire and Lancashire has been in the news recently but sadly not for good reasons.

We live just below Wessenden Moor which leads onto Saddleworth Moor where the moors murders took place and Keith Bennett’s body remains unfound.  It is an isolated place but going over the hill from here that eventually drops down into the valley and Greenfield at Dovestones reservoir is one of those views that takes your breath away.  You will have seen on the news that Ian Brady died taking with him the knowledge of where Keith is buried.  Going over the moors for me is always a poignant reminder of these poor children and their families.

And now more recently the suicide bomber in Manchester – we are only 22 miles to the city centre of Manchester with the Pennine Moors between us so it was always likely that we would know someone who attended the Arena on Monday night.

My colleague, who joined my team when Helen died, was there with her 12-year-old daughter – it was a Xmas present that she had been waiting for excitedly.  Luckily they stayed for the last song and were safe inside at the time of the explosion and not making their way through the Foyer as it was detonated.   They immediately just ran out as fast as they could for safety -not knowing what was happening, but the sights and sounds they saw on the way out has traumatised them so they are unable to sleep at the moment.   Another colleague at work knows one of the girls that died and another that is seriously injured.

The sad loss and the heartbreaking stories that people have – our thoughts and prayers reaching out to them.   There are no words that can express our feelings it is all beyond comprehension but on the good side the Manchester people will come together and offer whatever they can to help.

 

 

 

 

a busy week so far…

It has been a mad week with so little time for myself that today I have hardly done anything but a little light cleaning and a bit of clearing up and putting away.  Still it felt good not to have to go work and to get my house back in some semblance of order.

Yesterday evening was our fund-raising event in memory of my dearest friend and colleague.  I haven’t been told a figure for how much money we raised for the hospice (where Helen spent her last few days) but I am sure it must have been quite e bit given the amount of people there.  Her mum, step dad and younger daughter all attended which was lovely and they won a raffle prize too – how lucky was that.

Tomorrow we are venturing further north to go and collect my granddaughter who is coming to stay overnight.  She is 2½ now and loves baking, animals and trains so we are (weather permitting) going on a train ride a few miles away from here at Clayton West on the Kirklees light Railway.  I like trains too so we will both be excited.  Perhaps we might even bake a few buns to take home for mummy and daddy – I bought a tub of chocolate drops and sprinkles from Sainsbury’s the other night just in case.

Meal Planning

We couldn’t make pancakes on pancake day due to time pressures so we had Mushroom and Leek pancakes tonight.  I make them with buckwheat flour rather than ordinary but I have only found it available to buy in 3lb bags so I need to find some other recipes that use buckwheat so it is not wasted. The menu planning is still going well though when I am short of time the plan ends up as a quick scribbled list in my notebook.  Unfortunately I haven’t had the time to search out and try new recipes in the last few weeks so we have been relying on old favourites.

Housekeeping

Airing CupboardThe airing cupboard is now up and running and I love having a cupboard where I open the door and inside the contents are only items we need and use – there is nothing in here that you might call clutter or surplus to requirements and it has an equal amount of space : stuff which is quite pleasing to me.

Airing Cupboard

It is fresh, white and bright with the new strip of LED lights that comes on automatically when we open the door.  At the very bottom of the cupboard just out of the picture we installed a heater  – a 40W tube equivalent to a light bulb and will just keep the cupboard warm enough to air the ironed clothes and linens which can be stored on the lowest empty slatted shelf.

Airing Cupboard

 

 

I have cream towels and white towels  (the white ones are from the cottage – I thought we may as well be using them here at home) this makes washing them easy as they all go in the wash together.  The white ones I bought in 2004 from Primark Home and they have been really good and stay soft when washed and dried inside (I don’t have a drier so cannot ‘fluff’ them up).  To keep my linens and towels smelling nice I place bars of scented soap and satchets on top of the piles.

I am eager now to get started on our next project in the house.

Finances

I saw an article in a magazine recently that suggested it is a good idea to spend one to two hours a week on your finances, keeping yourself up to date with changing interest rates and checking for good deals.  I would include in this time checking those online bills for utilities.  It is so easy to get the email saying your bill is ready for viewing and then ignoring it.  We found quite a few mistakes on our BT bills and Npower.

So I am going to set aside two hours this weekend to deal with the following financial tasks

  • car insurance to accept
  • cancel the separate breakdown cover (it is covered in the car insurance)
  • pay the credit card bill
  • check the bank accounts
  • open a savings account for Mr I that has a 5% return

Thrifting

This week Saintsbury’s gave me a coupon for 8p off petrol if I spent £15 on clothes.  It seemed like a good deal to me as I had seen a jumper for work for £18.  I also had a few rewards points coupons and one triple points so these are mounting up nicely.  Other than that I have not spent any money other than the groceries this week and a couple of birthday presents.

Have a good weekend x

a special evening for a special lady…

Tomorrow evening at work we are holding a fund-raising event for our local Kirkwood Hospice in memory of my dear friend and colleague Helen who died over a year ago now before Christmas.  It would have been her birthday tomorrow and I miss not being able to give her a card and present and wish her many happy returns.

Each day I miss her cheery smile, I miss our general chit-chat catching up daily with news of the family or what we are planning for tea, I miss exchanging comments and likes and dislikes of the previous nights TV viewing.  I miss our laughter at the craziest things that reduced us to tears, the hot chocolate she made me when I was having a bad day, our moans and groans about the workload, and our planning for the future.

Tomorrow will be hard but we will be sharing together in remembering Helen and our office will be full of friends and family who loved and admired her.

God bless Helen – you were a special friend and missed so much.

waste not want not…

 

Continuing with the waste of Overproduction…

Since writing the previous post on using the ‘lean’ principles in everyday and domestic life to add value by avoiding waste I am very conscious of buying too much and creating future waste – I just have to look around my house to see the result of this. I wonder why I do buy things sometimes, as more often than not they are not on my shopping list – rather I see something and decide impulsively that I would quite like it, or even worse that I believe I cannot live without it!

As well, I buy because I can; my income, though fairly modest, is such that I do not even have to think about the cost of a small purchase. I often wonder what fortune I might have amassed over the years if I had not squandered my money on all these low-cost hasty purchases.

All this buying has generated a lot of waste and the constant necessity to declutter. I am not alone in this as there seems to be some kind of decluttering fever in blogland at the moment – maybe it isn’t just me that is feeling the need to gain back some space and feel free from the responsibility of storing and looking after stuff.

Are we desiring less but actually buying more?

At the beginning of last year I decided to document everything I bought that wasn’t food. (You can see this here on my rerouted blog). I thought this exercise was going to be a doddle after all I was trying to seriously cut down on what I bought anyway so I wouldn’t be spending a lot of time photographing my purchases – how wrong I was!

By the time March came round I realised this was getting to be quite a time-consuming project because I actually bought more items than I thought I would and as soon as Easter arrived with the better weather my attentions had to be prioritised towards the garden. It was a useful exercise though because I can visually see items in the photos that I bought and haven’t used or I found not to be useful after all.

Simplicity of living and avoidance of waste

Whilst thinking about waste and unnecessary buying I keep going back to one of my favourite discoveries – Innermost House – for those following along with my journey you might remember Innermost House if not click here to discover for yourself. The simplicity of living and freedom from buying that this video promotes is something that I aspire to achieve.

You would perhaps think that Simplistic living is quite an easy goal to accomplish but I think it is a constant struggle. The world wants me to spend. I watch the TV and I am subjected to advertising, I go to the shops and I am attracted by the displays and the most recent fashion must haves, I hand over my money at the checkout and they hand me back vouchers so I will return and spend more.

Worse still I don’t even need to have cash anymore I just hand over a piece of plastic and I don’t feel the loss of my hard-earned money. And just when I think I can’t spend anymore because all the shops are closed I log on to the internet and all my movements are being tracked so that I am bombarded with adverts of products I might like to buy from the sites I visit.

Not buying more must surely begin with being content with what I already have and not being tempted into buying things unnecessarily. I can look back at the world my grandparents knew and see that they were far more content with their lot. Their world was definitely simpler, their choice was limited and their income also limited their choice.

Going back to my task of Simplifying my house, one of my main goals  in the decluttering battle is to be much more careful when shopping to avoid being wasteful. I really do not want to be throwing out items that I only bought a few months before, whether that is clothes, household contents or food and I do not want to get rid of loads of stuff only to find that a month or two down the line the house has filled up once again.

Limiting my spending

To stop this happening I have thought of a number of things I have decided to do

  • I am looking to put some kind of limit onto the amount of items I have in any one category.  For instance I could limit myself to one magazine a month, 6 pairs of shoes, 6 sets of underwear, a capsule wardrobe, 1 bookcase of books etc this way items can only be replaced rather than be added to.
  • I will repair and maintain the items we already have where possible rather than replace them with new
  • I will avoid the need to keep any ‘just in case’ items
  • I will decline taking other people’s bags of decluttered items that are passed on
  • I will suggest tokens for my birthdays that I can use for a massage, facial or a meal, something that I do not have to keep or suggest a donation to my favourite charity.
  • l will borrow books from the library
  • I will limit my store cupboard supplies
  • I will try harder to plan weekly menus to cut down on food waste
  • I will make a concentrated effort to make my own cards from my craft cupboard materials.
  • I will only keep what I really use unless it is for sentimental reasons

I am sure there are more ways than this to minimise the ‘stuff’ from creeping back in.  I may be wrong, and do tell me if I am, but Kondo never says exactly how she deals with any accumulted stuff after the initial declutter, it is as though she expects it will never be a problem again.  Her message is always to apply the test of does it ‘give joy’ but quite often that urge to buy and spend and therefore accumulate is the very ‘Joy’ bit – albeit quite short lived in most cases.  In this world of plenty having that bit more does not register with us until the bit more has become a bit of a mountain!

I have no doubt I could keep on forever buying and decluttering but I prefer not to –  it seems such a waste of effort and time and resources not to mention space so I need to take a stand now.

Perhaps I will even get back to photographing and logging all my purchases again as a way of avoiding future waste.