Counting seconds – or making them count.

Today I came across a piece of writing from a 24 year old man who was dying of cancer.  I don’t know his name – and for the sake of this exercise his name is unimportant.  His message, however, is very important.  He had never really considered that his life would – or had – made a huge impact on the world.  It wasn’t until he realised that the end of his life was imminent that he was able to reflect on what really was important – not only in his case, but for everyone else.

His thoughts made such an impact on me that I wanted to share them with you.

“1.  Don’t waste your time on work that you don’t enjoy.  It is obvious that you cannot succeed in something that you don’t like.  Patience, passion and dedication come easily only when you love what you do.

2.  It’s stupid to be afraid of others’ opinions.  Fear weakens and paralyses you.  If you let it, it can grow worse and worse every day until there is nothing left of you, but a shell of yourself.  Listen to your inner voice and go with it.  Some people may call you crazy, but some may even think you’re a legend.

3.  Take control of your life.  Take full responsibility for the things that happen to you.  Limit bad habits and try to lead a healthier life.  Find a sport that makes you happy.  Most of all don’t procrastinate.  Let your life be shaped by decisions you made, not by the ones you didn’t. 

4.  Appreciate the people around you.  Your friends and relatives will always be an infinite source of strength and love.  This is why you shouldn’t take them for granted.

     It is difficult for me to fully express my feelings about the importance of these simple realisations, but I hope you will listen to someone who has experienced how valuable time is.

     We care so much about the health and integrity of our body that until death we don’t notice that the body is nothing more than a box – a parcel for delivering our personality, thoughts, beliefs and intentions to this world.  If there is nothing in this box that can change the world, then it doesn’t matter if it disappears.  I believe that we all have potential, but it also takes a lot of courage to realise it.

     Leave a mark in this world.  Have a meaningful life, whatever definition it has for you.  Go towards it.  The place we are leaving is a beautiful playground, where everything is possible.  Yet, we are not here forever.  Our life is a short spark in this beautiful little planet that flies with incredible speed to the endless darkness of the unknown universe.  So, enjoy your time here with passion, make it interesting, make it count!

     Thank you!”


No, thank YOU!

What a wise young man – who knows what he could have achieved?  It’s just so sad that his impending end, after enduring such a terrible disease, was the catalyst for searching inside himself.  But I am glad he was able to – he has now truly made an impact on those around him, and beyond.

Such reflections are not “learned” at school or university, or necessarily taught by parents to their children.  Some people will go through life without anyone making an impact on them, unfortunately.  But when such an opportunity becomes available to us, to meet someone, read a quote, or a piece such as the one this man wrote, take it up.  Use that person as a mentor, good influence, or follow up on the quote you read – find out more about the person who said it.  Give it time to sink in, and as the young man said “Go towards it.”

In the grand scheme of things life is very short.  Some of us (including me) have wasted an awful lot of it.  That waste takes on many forms –

  • lack of passion for our work
  • hanging around with the “wrong” people
  • arguing with those close to us
  • not taking up opportunities presented to us along the way
  • too much TV or computer games & endless, pointless internet ‘surfing’
  • letting fear or anger influence our decisions

In the last few months I have started a journey down a new road, as many of you already know.   I have read so much this year about people changing their life circumstances and finding themselves in totally new situations – all positive so far!  They have, over time, come to a decision to “stop right there”!  I am inspired by their “bravery” to take stock and change the way they look at their lives, and ultimately live them.

Our dear young man, quoted above, has confirmed some of my own reflections, and introduced me to more.  I am certain that many people of all ages, who are in a position such as his, have come to the same conclusions, in similarly sad circumstances.  I thank him for helping me reflect on my own life – it’s a precious thing.  We still have it – he is not so lucky.  We can honour this man, and many like him, by meeting his reflections, and our own, head on.

If you wonder why you still stay at your job – do something about it, make improvements or leave.  If the contents of your house are getting on top of you – sometimes literally – declutter (see my post on decluttering here).  If you have always wanted to travel to Paris or South America – GO!  Wondered if you will ever know how to use watercolours? – buy some and take a class on YouTube.  Throw away your reluctance to create.

Don’t wait around waiting for something to come to you – “Go towards it”!

Make every second count!










An Artful Afternoon

By now I’m sure you are beginning to see a pattern emerging – procrastination and leaving everything till the last minute.  I’m working on this as you know!

So on Saturday I woke and wrote my three pages, as usual.  Something jumped out from the pages though.  Go and do something you have been putting off for some time.  So I did!  Wow – it was actually quite easy!

I picked up my friend Jo on the way to the Bendigo Art Gallery where neither of us had been for quite some time.   Major renovations and extensions to the building have recently taken place, allowing more of the permanent collection to be on show.  And what a collection it is – we are so lucky to be able to wander around gazing at the paintings – large and small, old and new – ceramics and furniture.  You love some and walk quickly past others.  That’s the nature of the beast – something for everyone to revisit, discover a new artist, or a different piece from an old favourite.

Eventually we made our way through to the wonderful new white space where the Ben Quilty paintings hung.  I know I gasped audibly, and during our time in there I wasn’t the only one.  There were only four paintings in the room and they all made their own impact on us.

Now I am not by any stretch of the imagination a painter, or have any knowledge of painting techniques, genres etc.  But I found myself drawn to each painting and marveling at his talent.   As you do in such a place, I spent quite some time reading about each painting  – and actually getting it!! 

However, the painting titled “Self Portrait” worried me.  In fact it appeared to worry a lot of people.  But Jo and I both came to the conclusion that his image of self was actually his brain.  He had painted his brain!  Nothing else worked.  OK – whatever!

Move on to the next painting, read, stand back, discuss.  Great colour, definitely a beach in Bali – like it a lot – get it!  Next one – you know the drill.  But as we walked to the final offering I looked back (from a different angle) to the self portrait.  And there it was, plain as the nose (eyes and mouth) on his face!!!  The painting came to life – as did our sense of wonder.

Self Portrait

Self Portrait

But something more wondrous happened five minutes later.  A young girl entered with her mother, and took the same direction round the room as we had.  I could see they were both struggling to find the “artist in the painting”.  We suggested they came over to view it from our angle and distance.  Mother found it immediately but daughter still couldn’t.  We continued to chat and suddenly daughter’s face lit up, she almost visibly grew taller, and uttered quietly, “WOW! I got it!” It was something I will remember for a long time – someone else’s wonder became mine.

I’m so thankful I didn’t put off the trip to the gallery for another day.

Below is a piece I read in Arianna Huffington’s book “Thrive” which I hope you enjoy.

“Wonder is not just a product of what we see – of how beautiful or mysterious or singular or incomprehensible something may be.  It’s just as much a product of our state of mind, our being, the perspective from which we are looking at the world.”


Let me know in the comments section if you have ever had a “wondrous moment” in an art gallery.  And don’t forget to follow my blog by clicking on the “Follow” button at the top of the page.  You will then receive instant notification by email of any new posts.  Also follow me on Twitter and Facebook for the latest updates

5 Easy Steps to Freedom

So the plan is hatched and nothing is stopping me now.  We have just come to the end of a holiday weekend and the majority of my time has been devoted to my “other job” – writing, blogging and enacting my own decluttering plan.  On Friday night after work I made a start on my own slash and burn (Steps 1 & 2) – and today I  start my 20 minute steps.


The task ahead

The task ahead

My "work" space - can't wait to tackle this one!

My “work” space – can’t wait to tackle this one!

There actually is a workbench under all that.

There actually is a workbench under all that.


Before you read my plan let me share this with you – a paragraph from Julia Cameron‘s “The Artist’s Way”.

“By tossing out the old and unworkable, we make way for the new and suitable.  A closet stuffed with ratty old clothes does not invite new ones.  A house overflowing with odds and ends and tidbits you’ve held on to for someday has no space for the things that might truly enhance today.

“When the search-and-discard impulse seizes you, two crosscurrents are at work: the old you is leaving and grieving, while the new you celebrates and grows strong.”

Looks quite tidy - but I could lessen the load.

Looks tidy – but I could lessen the load.

Now read the plan below – right to the end. Spend time digesting each step, especially Step 1. (This is the crux of the whole plan).  Do some planning on paper first if you need to – don’t be afraid to write down your reasons for decluttering, or what you want to achieve – be specific.  Describe how you may feel about throwing out or giving certain items away,  and how you would like to feel after you have achieved this.


5 Easy Steps to Freedom – Making decluttering fun – not a chore!

Step 1. Question yourself.

  • Generically Why did I start keeping “stuff” in the first place?  Place importance on your reason, think about it, be kind to yourself if it’s a trauma, and try to unload any possible unhappiness.  Write it down – it really helps to put it behind you.  If you can let go of the unhappiness then it’s easier to let go of the “stuff”.
  • Specifically – Look at each item and ask, When did I last use that? (Now it depends on your end goal as to how brutal you are here) You could say that if you haven’t used it for one year then it goes out – I tend to think that one year is a little severe but whatever the limit you arrive at – stick to it.

Step 2. Decide which areas are to be tackled.

  • Have a good look around your home, sheds, garage, studio and garden spaces. Decide which areas you wish to clear out.  Drawing a plan of your home helps, using colours to shade the different areas that need attention.  Make a list of the tasks required to declutter each area, leaving it in a prominent place – and tick off each area as you go.  This helps with motivation and you can actually map your progress – the more ticks the closer to your goal. Wow!
  • Discuss it – with your family, or just yourself!
  • Commit your decision to paper  – as in “I, Cate Walker, commit to completing the tasks listed to successfully declutter my home.”   Sign and date it.  Place copies of the “pledge” around the house – in the areas that need work.  (Committing to paper actually makes you accountable to yourself)
  • Don’t spend TOO much time on the decision-making progress – it doesn’t have to be perfect, there’s room for flexibility, as long as it doesn’t distract you from the action required.  Remember, procrastination is the enemy.

Step 3. Allocate regular blocks of time, and commit to ridding yourself of a certain amount each time.

  • The 20 minute rule!  Here you need to be realistic.  There’s no point coming home from work intending to spend 3 hours each night clearing out the garage and expecting to succeed.  You won’t!  Think small blocks of time and a specific target each day.  I am thinking 20 minutes each evening – smaller blocks of time are achievable, you can always extend to 30 minutes or even an hour if you’re “on a roll”.  But always do the minimum 20 minutes.
  • The 5-10 item rule!  Allocate how much you wish to get rid of in that 20 minutes.  Aim to throw out at least five items each time – or ten if you like, but stick to that number.   When I say “throw out” I mean remove from your property – either in the rubbish bin, to the charity bin, sell on e-Bay (or similar) – do not relocate to another box or room.  If you think somebody else will benefit from your “trash” try the following ideas – hospitals love old books and magazines, your kids may be moving out of home and could use the old armchairs or excess mugs and glasses, or the local patchwork group could use some of your excess fabrics.
  • This is totally achievable!  Each night you can easily maintain your goal of 20 minutes/10 items – imagine what you can do in a week, or a month!

Step 4. Photograph your progress.

  • As you are progressing so quickly – and painlessly, because you have planned it so well – it is surprising how quickly you forget what it all looked like before you started.
  • Use the photographs as motivation to keep you going  – and as inspiration for others to follow your lead.

Step 5. Celebrate.

  • Invite your friends around to celebrate your achievements – you will be amazed how many more people you can fit in your house and garden!
  • But…remain true to the habits you have formed to achieve your goals.  Maintain your free space and mental freedom to try other more enjoyable pursuits.
  • Finally, give yourself a treat – paint that old chair you have been “getting round to” for years – your workbench is now clear to do the job, and you have room to put the chair in your study, in a nice sunny corner.  Now you can sit in your “new” chair, complete with the cushion you made, and read a book – with a clear conscience.  Ahh!


So what do you think?  Sounds easy – and it will be lots of fun.  Imagine all the things you will rediscover – and the memories that will go with those items.  Some memories will be good, and some not so good.  But don’t waste time on this – keep going.  Getting rid of the bad memories will free your mind for the new happy and fulfilling ones.

I can’t wait to begin!  And I’m looking forward to being accountable to all of you by updating my progress on this blog.  Keep following me.  If you know someone who could do with some help in this area of their lives share this blog with them.  But the best example is to do it yourself – then they will notice the difference in you.  Good luck!

Please share your thoughts on the plan, or any great ideas you have, in the comments section below and connect with me via Facebook and Twitter.  I would love to hear of your progress as well, and how it worked for you.