I am taking advantage of a rare bit of time without the children to do some of the many things that I have had to put on the back burner since having Austin. I am writing so infrequently here, I wanted to take a look at the blog and decide how I wanted to proceed: delete it? Archive it? Revamp? None of these seemed appealing to me (although I can’t promise I won’t update the banner, a new theme is not necessary).
For someone who is usually only too happy to share her thoughts and feelings, it always catches me off-guard when I realise I have been bottling things up. I can always tell when I am feeling stressed because it shows in my face. Not in my expression. In my actual face. For a few days now, I’ve been plagued with itchy eyes (rampant hay fever I think) which has made the skin around my eye red and inflamed. I have eczema around my mouth and a nasty cold sore has just cleared up (I managed to ward off two other cold sore attempts with Zovirax).
While I was on maternity leave and then working part time, I was drawn towards simple living and embraced the idea of paring everything down. I made my simple goals and as a family, we made decisions about our spending, our ambitions and our way of life which centred around intentional living and which moved away from stuff. Stuff has a way of getting in the way. Stuff weighs you down. Stuff is why we are not where we would like to be, financially and aesthetically.
Since then, I left my job to retrain as a teacher and spent a year unpaid but working full time. I am now working as a teacher and though I am now being paid, we are still paying for last year. I no longer have the luxury of time to dwell on a simple life and yet it is as important that we keep things simple now more than ever.
I am not sure how this is going to manifest this year but I do know that we want to avoid those impulses that lead us to making unnecessary purchases, to be thankful for what we have and not to yearn for more than we need.
Back when I was waist-deep in PGCE stress, one of the things I was looking forward to in June was being able to blog more regularly. I miss writing and am looking forward to writing as much as possible over the summer. Yesterday, we returned from a week in Bognor Regis with ricardo’s family. It was a lovely break after the hardest (academic) year of my life. I feel quite strange to be at home with nothing I absolutely HAVE to do RIGHT THIS SECOND. It’s a nice strange, but it’s still strange.
We went away the day after my last day at university and it all feels like a bit of a dream at the moment. I have qualified with so little fanfare, it almost feels like it hasn’t happened. I had a lovely evening out with my PGCE buddies after a frustrating day of (mainly) sitting around and waiting. At no point did anyone say ‘you have passed’ – don’t worry, I have – so I am left feeling a bit deflated.
Our week away was a good break in which I was able to spend all my time with my husband and daughter, something which I had done precious little of since September. We had surprisingly decent weather; when we arrived, a gale was blowing which made us fear for the rest of the week but it soon calmed and the sun shone for most of the time. We were able to treat Baby Girl to a day at Peppa Pig World which was fab. We visited Chichester, Brighton and I even managed to finish two books. We stayed in a lovely house right on the seafront. The beach was pebbly which means we were not able to keep our promise for Baby Girl to build sandcastles
Now we are back, we are trying to find our groove. Ricardo has washed and hoovered the new car, picked up just two days before we left for holiday which was just as well since we managed to fill up the estate boot! I have spent a couple of hours cataloguing our DVDs as we have too many now to look through when we want to watch something and we also can never remember if we already own something when we see films we want on sale. It is a job I started what seems like a lifetime ago and it feels good to have it almost done (just the TV boxsets to go :-S). We are using iTrackmine which seems as good as any sites/apps we have found and it’s free.
So this is me, back for the summer. It’s good to be home.
It’s no secret that I am a massive fan of SImple Mom and her book Organized Simplicity. It helped me get my house in some semblance of order and it was particularly useful when I was only working a couple of days, since I had the time at home to put a system into place for managing the home.
Since I started on my teacher training course full-time, though, I have found that a lot of the techniques don’t really work or at least, I don’t have the time to carry them out or even think about them. Let’s just say I have a LOT of reading to do!
A little while, I bought Tsh’s eBook One BIte at a Time since it was on offer. I haven’t had chance to read it yet but it looks like a much more manageable prospect since it is 52 little task – one for each week of the year – that you can tackle to get on track and feel a bit more in control. So I will attempt one of these bites each week and share them with you here. I won’t do them in order, as this isn’t expected in the book and I would like to have the choice of bite!
If you know anything about me, you will know that I love a list. And I love a to-do list even more. What I hate is an uncompleted to-do list.
I started reading Organized Simplicity back in March last year and it has been bothering me for a while that I hadn’t finished. I hadn’t finished because I reached the section called ‘Ten Days to a Simpler, More Organized Home’.
Since I could not find 10 days together where I would be able to tackle every room of the house, I had put the book to one side for later. I knew that part of this process would be preparing for the boot sale which we know we need to have but can’t bring ourselves to get to early on a Sunday morning. In the end, later didn’t happen soon enough and today I gave myself permission to skip that section on the ten days of sorting (which I WILL get to eventually) and I read the last chapter of the book.
It feels like a weight has been lifted. It also made me realise that my quest for a simpler, less-cluttered and more intentional life is not something I will be able to tick off a to-do list. It is an ongoing process, a way of life. It is not one of the many things I need to achieve by September. It is something I can aspire to and something which I can use to motivate me and guide me as we head into a year of frugal living (full-time student means no income for me), using our family purpose statement as our sounding board.
I already feel so much better.
Does it sometimes feel that all you are really working towards in life is an empty plate? That is, having the opposite of having a lot on your plate? This is what it feels like to me. And it is pretty futile since life will keep piling the food on, no matter how much you eat or how quickly.
I think that the reason I feel vaguely unsettled most of the time is because I like the neatness of a completed task or to-do list. And that completion never seems to happen because there is always something else that I need to do. Another house chore, another book to read, another TV show to watch, another quilt to sew, another email to send, another bit of club admin to do.
It would make it a lot easier if I didn’t focus on finishing, but just focused on enjoying the process (as much as that is possible when one of the components of that process is ironing).
For the past 20 months or so, Mondays don’t instill dread the same way they do more most 9-to-5ers. Instead of that Sunday Night Feeling, I get a frisson of hope for the week ahead. It’s a new leaf. A new start. A chance to do things right this week. Never one to start in the middle, I am no good at making changes mid-week, so Mondays are when I try new things. Mondays are when I think of all the things I want to accomplish and since it’s the beginning of the week, it all seems so achievable and I have not failed at getting things done (yet!).
In a few weeks, I am sure this will all change. I will be working / studying full-time and I won’t have the luxury of naptime-quiet hours to blog, read, tidy, watch TV etc. etc. I will have a lot less time and a lot more to do. It’s a daunting thought. Don’t get me wrong, I am really excited about starting my course; but I am also aware of how my life is about to be turned upside down.
It has never been more important for me to live intentionally, using my precious time in the best way possible. I want our house to be uncluttered and easy to keep. I want to cut out all the mental clutter of pointless worries. I want to live a simple, happy life in spite of the excessive workload and stressful new career. I was thinking last night about this blog and about my post categories, wondering if the simple category was something I could write about once I start my course. I almost thought of it as an indulgence that I have been lucky enough to tackle with having so much time at home.
This morning, as I wrote out my day’s tasks, I realised it is more important that ever that I keep my eye on the simple goals I have set. I need to refocus on what is really important so that I have the best chance of being successful (and sane) come September onwards.
As I caught up with my blog reading last night, I read Caroline‘s post about her participation in Frugal February and I thought that I would jump on board. As part of our new simple living outlook, our finances are under scrutiny and a month (at least!) of very careful spending will be useful in getting us on track to cut debts and increase savings.
The rules of Frugal February are simple:
I vow, for one month from 1st Feb, to avoid shopping for anything other than essentials.
This means that I will not buy any books, DVDs, luxuries, fabric (although I bought some yesterday before I had started the challenge!), music or anything else I don’t really need. I will avoid making any new commitments for big nights out (although my upcoming night out with my NCT girlfriends was already arranged and so I am letting that slide!). I will avoid coffees and lunches out, I will make sure we avoid takeaways and fast food. I have already done a menu plan and grocery shop which should last us for at least a fortnight.
The next chapter of Organized Simplicity is about savouring the little things. It is about using all the fantastic organisational tools set out (i.e. the home management notebook and all that entails) and reaping the rewards through enjoying simple pleasures with your family. Tsh suggests some things to do with your time that will help you live the life you want and set out in your family purpose statement. These things include crafting (well, that’s fine with me!), cooking from scratch, and entertaining and socialising.
I was surprised by the third item on the list – the first two seem pretty obvious if you are trying to live a simpler life. The type of crafting she is talking about is making things from things you already have or can acquire cheaply and using creativity to transform them into something pretty or useful, involving the kids if they are old enough. Cooking from scratch is about eating better quality food for less and this is something I am working on all the time – although my latest bout of illness has brought out all the worst kinds of eating: convenience, take-aways, etc. I can’t wait to get back into home cooking and meal planning so that we can start eating more healthily and more heartily. However, I hadn’t really thought about how entertaining could form part of simple living. For some reason, I put entertaining and socialising into the ‘luxury’ category.
However, one of the advantages of having a de-cluttered and simple home is that it is easy to get ready for guests – no need for a full day scrub down when friends are coming. More impromptu evenings can occur when you aren’t worried about your house looking perfect and being well-organised means that the store cupboard is well-stocked meaning a quick supper can be knocked up easily enough. I have been so focused on getting organised, I hadn’t really thought about why I wanted to live this way. Of course, I put some thought into the type of family I wanted us to be but I hadn’t thought of the day-to-day benefits of living simply and living in an organised way. In our family purpose statement, I had stated that one of the things I wanted was to make ‘our home a place of warmth and simplicity’. I had been thinking of this from the perspective of our immediate family but of course, I would want our friends and extended families to benefit from our warm and simple home too.