Who’s Coming To Dinner?

Somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind I recall someone prompting me to make an invitation list of the 10 people I would most like to have to dinner.  Interesting concept.

Actually, the subject of making that list is a good dinner party conversation in itself!

Over the years I have brought it up with all sorts of people – young and old – and it has prompted amazing discussions till all hours of the night.  More often than not I have written down my list of 10 favourites – then put it somewhere “safe”.  You all know that safe place where we can never find anything again!

These yearly or two-yearly updates have had some common themes – in my case the Queen is a permanent fixture (at the head of the table, of course).  However, some I would like to be common to all lists have sadly passed away.  Nelson Mandela, Princess Diana and my father, to name a few.

Some have come and gone in my thoughts, for reasons best known to themselves – Lance Armstrong is a prime example!  No way would he now grace my dinner table, having single-handedly made past cycling drug-cheats look like they only took a few headache tablets.  How quickly someone you once held in the highest regard for not only his amazing talent, but his mentoring of young cyclists, can plummet us, his loyal fans, to the depths of despair (how could he have done this to us?)

Recently No.1 Son and I rewrote our lists – I think mine are mostly quite different to the list written last year, which reflects the change in direction and attitude my life has taken over that time.  The list below is as it stood last week (but I could possibly change one of them already – this dinner party really is a movable feast!)

Richard Branson – needs no introduction
Mary Robinson – 7th President of Ireland & UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
HM Queen Elizabeth II – Ma’am
Bruce Macaveny – Australian sports commentator
Malala Yousafzai – shot by Taliban in Pakistan & Nobel Peace Prize recipient
Ricky Ponting – former Australian Cricket Captain
Jens Voigt – recently retired (and squeaky clean) German cyclist
Mary King – top British Equestrienne (3-Day Event)
Seth MacFarlane – American actor, singer & funny-man
Novak Djokovic – World No.1 Serbian tennis player

Revision of my list – already?
OUTRicky Ponting (no offence Ricky – I’m Tasmanian too)
INJanice Macleod – Artist & Author of “Paris Letters”

Now for No.1 Son’s list:
Tim Ferriss – Entrepreneur & Author of “The 4-hour Work Week”
Tim Cook – Current CEO of Apple Inc.
Cadel Evans – 1st Australian cyclist to win Tour de France (2013) (also squeaky clean)
Arianna Huffington – Entrepreneur & founder of The Huffington Post
Nathan Chan – CEO and founder of Foundr Magazine (yes, correct spelling)
Eric Thomas – Motivational speaker, originally from wrong side of the tracks in Detroit
Richard Branson – obviously appeals to all ages!
Hamish Blake – Australian radio host and comedian
Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson – American actor (former wrestler)
Michelle Obama – US First Lady

Our lists have come from our gut feelings, and our hearts.  They are people we hold in the highest regard, people who have inspired us, made a difference, made us laugh, broken through barriers, turned their lives around and overcome the toughest obstacles.

Try this out round your family dinner table tonight – remember no choice is wrong!

I’d LOVE to hear your list- please write your list in the comments below – or on Facebook here.

 

 

 

Waking to “Tumble Down Snow”

I can’t remember when I was last able to touch snow.  Forecasters often promise snow down to ‘so many metres’ overnight.  Your hopes rise that you may just wake up to it one morning soon – only to be dashed.

Sometimes I feel we’d be better off if we relied on the principle of Banjo Patterson’s poem, “Frying Pan’s Theology”.  I have always had a soft spot for this delightful little poem about a conversation between an aboriginal man (called Frying Pan) and a young boy on a pony, which goes like this:

Snowflakes are falling gentle and slow,
Youngster says, “Frying Pan what makes it snow?”

Frying Pan, confident, makes the reply –
“Shake ‘im big flour bag up in the sky!”

“What!  When there’s miles of it?  Surely that’s brag.
Who is there strong enough shake such a bag?”

“What parson tellin’ you, Ole Mister Dodd,
Tell you in Sunday-school?  Big pfeller God!

“Him drive ‘im bullock dray, then thunder go;
Him shake ‘im flour bag – tumble down snow!”

Last week my luck changed – the flour bag was emptied on Tasmania.  I was staying at my mother’s house in Hobart – you know, the one with the amazing view.  Waking on Monday (3rd August) to the ABC news at 7.00 am, I sensed something was different!  Outside it was really quiet.  The radio reported that roads and schools across much of Tasmania were closed, with many people unable to get to work.  I jumped out of bed – finally those forecasters had delivered what they had been promising for days!

Looking out of the bedroom window everything was blanketed – the camelias were hanging low, the glossy green leaves just visible through the white ‘icing’.  Donning several layers of clothes, I ventured out to the kitchen windows where I hoped to see the hills on the other side of the river dusted with snow.  WOW!

Across the Derwent

Not only were the hills opposite white, but mum’s deck, table and chairs, pot plants, lawn, roof…..everything was white!  Hobart hasn’t had snow lying at water level since 1986.  The sunrise was so beautiful – pinky-orange swirly clouds emerging from the snowy, VERY wintry sky to the south-east (where even deeper snow lay on the hills).

Brrrrr!

Snowy sunrise

Bravely – or stupidly – I made my way up mum’s very steep driveway with probably not the best footwear for this ‘expedition’.    First attempt (from the garage) was aborted when, after 2 steps, I started sliding backwards.  Oh dear – wouldn’t be able to get the car out for a while – even if I needed to.  A second attempt was successful – via the scenic route, from the front door, up 4 steps, across the little garden bed, to the upper level of the driveway.   (That ‘little garden bed’ is the one mum is always telling us to “mind where we put our feet as my precious plants are in that bed”.  But today it was all white – and mum wasn’t home – so I could put my feet wherever I wanted).  The slow progress to the top of the hill onto Sandy Bay Road was pretty scary – sometimes two steps forward, one slip backwards.  But the ice seemed to be disappearing – especially where the neighbour had driven out to work (after building the snow man on his deck with his little daughter).  Eventually I made it to the main road.

Another world awaited me here and I was like a 6 year old again – it was really exciting to see the cars parked over the road absolutely covered, barely able to see what colour they were, and the heavy snow bending the branches of the trees.

Walking path early morning

Deciding in which direction the footpath would be least treacherous was my biggest dilemma for the day!  Tried going north – no way, broken wrists came to mind!  So I picked my way south.  The only traffic coming from the south was covered in inches of snow and seemed to be mostly 4WDs.  I kept walking – gingerly – until a new stretch of footpath proved too much for my inept shoes.  But I had seen enough of the timbered hills leading to Mount Nelson to understand why so many roads and schools were closed.

Towards Taroona

Early morning walkers, usually in leggings, t-shirts and runners, were today in thick jumpers, jackets, scarves and hiking boots – their dogs not so lucky.  People waiting on bus stops were disappointed as the buses didn’t come – until much later.   Neighbours were out chatting to each other, hopeful drivers scraped the snow off their windscreens, and the odd cyclist made terrifying progress towards the city.

Opossum Bay

Sensible to turn back while still in one piece.  Shaking the snow off the morning newspapers, (what a brave paper delivery person!) I headed to the first corner – woops, ice – went to the outside of the corner, then VERY carefully made it half way down the driveway….then it started to snow!  Not heavily – just pretty swirling confetti, peaceful and so pretty.   Ironically, the sun was out at the same time so the snow flakes didn’t settle.  It was surprisingly warm – no wind, no chill factor – my gloveless hands were warmer than they are at present typing this on my keyboard!

Unfortunately I did not get to see “round the corner” to Mount Wellington, the city and surrounding hills.  But, thanks to Facebook, I soon had a photo of our farm at Ouse, in the upper Derwent valley, taken by the farm overseer.  It looked stunning – a real winter wonderland.

Look carefully for the house!

Look carefully for the house!

I was certainly lucky to be in the right place at the right time.  It has been a talking point for at least a week for most Tasmanians.  We are used to snow on the mountains and higher hills, but not on the sandy beaches very often (some hardy surfers who went out that morning, left footprints in the snow not the sand, on the way into the water!)

It was a beautiful morning – one of those infrequent moments of wonder.

Collage

 

 

Is It Possible To Tidy Just Once?

Lately I have totally surprised myself at how many books I have read on the subject of decluttering – basically four books in just under four weeks!  For me that is almost unthinkable – I’ve never been known as a fast reader.  I enjoyed them all so much I found it hard to go to sleep or work!  Each of these books has brought decluttering to life in very different (but complimentary) ways.

However today I want to draw your attention to one book in particular (not necessarily a favourite – it just has a powerful theme). The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying is by Japanese author, Marie Kondo – who’s home I would love to visit, but not necessarily live in.  Her methods are definitely successful, however, for me, the outcomes are a tad drastic.  I’m not sure I would want to end up with just 30 books in my house.  Nevertheless there is something about this book that has helped me to treat my possessions as ‘an emotional extension of self’.  Some might say this could make it harder to let go of an item, but actually I think it’s easier to let something go that has served you well, but you have come to realise that the joy of owning it has diminished over time – therefore it can go.  If an item “sparks joy in your whole body” then she recommends you keep it.

Still on the subject of books, I’m now able to look at a bookshelf quite differently  – I could never just run my fingers along a bookshelf and select the books I no longer need.  Marie Kondo pulls ALL books off the shelf, allowing them to “breath a sigh of relief”.  She then picks each book up separately, strokes it and talks to it.  If the book gives her immediate joy just by holding it, then the chances are she will keep it.  Anything else, she personally thanks it for giving her pleasure at the time of reading, and lets the book know that she will be letting it go to someone else who will also gain pleasure from reading the words on it’s beautiful pages.  However I haven’t yet talked to my books – but they certainly do talk to me when I am deciding whether to keep or let go.  Getting them all off the shelves at once also allows you to clean the shelves as you go and check the books for damage – or worse still, “wildlife infestation”!

When it comes to Marie’s wardrobe, I imagine it is ‘arranged’ as beautifully as the displays in a stunning designer shop in Hong Kong.  Her ideal method of clothes storage is VERTICAL wherever possible – she feels sorry for clothes trapped at the bottom of a pile!  She espouses the art of ‘folding’ clothing – T-shirt origami if you like!  Once again she brings EVERYTHING out of the cupboard, in fact all of your clothing in the house, car, garage, laundry or the cupboard under the stairs.  You will probably find yourself standing knee deep in clothes in your bedroom – and then, same as the books, pick up each item individually so as to “commune” with it. Then the folding comes into it’s own – she has proved that you can actually fold T-shirts, jumpers, jeans, in such a way as to be able to place them in a drawer vertically!  Rolling is the another way to put small items away – underpants, stockings, socks – and placed side by side in the drawer, maybe with drawer dividers to keep them in place.  Wow – what a departure from most people’s idea of tidy.  But there’s a catch – ANY clothing found in the house after the sorting, folding and tidying, must be THROWN OUT – if you overlooked it initially, it doesn’t mean enough to you to retain it!

Marie’s “motto” is that you should only ever have to tidy your home, office (life) ONCE.  That is really powerful – and something to ponder when you begin your journey to a clutter-free life. NOW is the time to start.  After your decision to keep or let go, find the right place to keep each item, and always return it to that place after you have used it.  Deciding how you want to lead the rest of your life will help you choose what to keep and how you organise your possessions. ONCE IS ENOUGH – imagine that! I have also just watched a You Tube talk with Marie Kondo which was really helpful – I thoroughly recommend it. Please feel free to comment on this post – its quite a severe departure from most declutter methods, but the benefits are endless.  I would really love to hear what you think.  Happy folding!

Old Favourites

Isn’t it a nice feeling to revisit old favourites?  Places, people, food, gardens, views, movies, books.  I wonder what your “old favourites” are?

Recently I had occasion to do just that.  Visit a favourite place with my favourite view, do a favourite activity and catch up with a great old friend .  Notice I didn’t say “favourite” friend.  I don’t have favourites amongst my friends – they are all special people.

Three weeks before, I’d had an SOS from Sarah – “Father/son weekend at boarding school, put your saddle in the car and come for the weekend”.  In other words “Tom’s away, the mice can play!”  So, on a beautiful sunny Saturday morning, the car packed with saddle, boots, plenty of warm clothes, cake and knitting, off I went!  Once out into the country, and singing along to John Denver (good driving music – really!), I was anticipating coming over the hill heading west from Ararat and that first glimpse of my favourite mountains – the Grampians.

Years ago – before husbands & children – I lived another life.  Five years was spent cooking for the jackaroos, and doing stock work on a 10,500 hectare cattle and sheep station on the eastern edge of the Grampians National Park.  The view from my kitchen window at Yarram Park was second to none – the light and it’s mood changing daily.  I cooked and washed-up looking across paddocks dotted with Red Gums and Hereford cattle, to the blue – sometimes grey – mountains that form a chain of rugged beauty, and the southernmost end of the Great Dividing Range.  Revisiting this area is always special – for many reasons – but seeing those mountains for the first time in a while is like coming home.

Major Mitchell Plateau

Major Mitchell Plateau

So it was on that sunny day in May I glimpsed that view again – and was nearly “home”.  Sarah lives at Thermopylae – along a (rough) red gravel road and the property borders the national park, nestling under the Major Mitchell Plateau, and Mount William.  Only a 15 minute drive from Yarram Park, the farm straddles the road and has beautiful views of the mountains, with Red Gums, sheep, emus, and far too many kangaroos competing for valuable pasture.

The welcoming committee was out in full, Spike the Jack Russell and the sheep dogs – named after Geelong footballers, Scarlet and Selwood.  Sarah emerged from “under” a pile of firewood to greet me and offer a warming cup of tea – and cake!  Then we caught the horses, saddled up and headed for the hills, accompanied by Selwood.  I hadn’t been on a horse for three years so I was a little apprehensive – glad she hadn’t told me before we went out that my trusty steed hadn’t been ridden for months!!

View from my horse

View from my horse

I can’t tell you how nice it was to be back in the saddle again – with Sarah and in that familiar country.  Like old times – over the years we have ridden a LOT of miles together, hunting, cattle work, Melbourne Show and others – and even dressed as”Bo” and “Peep” respectively in a sheep and wool parade in Hamilton!  (There are photos – somewhere, well hidden.)

Thermopylae reflections

Thermopylae reflections

Surprisingly, and thankfully, I could still walk the next day.  We had a lovely evening – dinner and a nice glass of wine from their own vines (Grampians Estate), then a cuppa in front of the fire.  This is where the knitting comes in!  We had a lovely long walk next morning – with all three dogs of course.  Need I tell you we chatted the whole weekend?  Well there was so much to catch up on, world problems to solve, plans to make, dreams to hatch, stories to tell!

That beautiful glimpse of blue

That beautiful glimpse of blue

Farm view

Farm view

Stunning old Red Gums

Stunning old Red Gums

Selwood overseeing his patch!

Selwood overseeing his patch!

Unfortunately the end was nigh – I had to leave.  Weekend over.  The working week loomed like a dark cloud.  But I will go back again sooner rather than later.  More chatting to do, horses to ride, photos to take, wine to drink and the view of the mountains to drink in – in long large gulps.

Grampians from Lake Bolac Ararat road

Grampians from Lake Bolac Ararat road

 

 

 

Time to get out of town!

A month ago now, my friend, Jenny, and I decided it was time to “get out of town”.

“I’ll pick you up at 11.30 on Saturday”, she said.

So at 11.30, true to her word, she knocked on my front door.  This was the start of our day out – a perfect day, warm,  sunny, blue sky and only an occasional breeze to stir the autumn leaves.  Grabbing hat, sunglasses (and a jacket just in case) we piled into her car and pulled out of my street.

Chatting away I wondered if we should have turned right, but she kept going.  I was pleased we were going the ‘other’ way!  It wasn’t until we were about 5 minutes down the road that she laughed and admitted she didn’t know why she was driving this way.  We were heading to Castlemaine in Central Victoria for lunch and to an old homestead where a small private Lalique exhibition was showing.  No time limits so it didn’t really matter which way we drove.

I suggested we keep driving this way as I knew the back roads, and that it was better than driving on the highway – especially on a lovely day such as this.  Jenny wondered how I knew all these back roads.  Easy.  No.1 Son frequents these roads when out training on his bike.  I tend to know the odd names given to these roads by the local cycling fraternity – Snake Eye, Goose Neck and The Juvenile, to name a few.  Over the years I have had to learn where to collect him when there’s a puncture, extreme weather or even a fall.

As we left the immediate environs of Bendigo the land became shockingly parched.  I had not been down this way since springtime; summer had not been kind to the farmers here.  Dams were nigh on empty, livestock wandered the paddocks searching for a green pick, the eucalyptus leaves hung limp and pale brown on the trees. Wildlife had come off second best whilst crossing roads to find water or feed – especially kangaroos.

However as we approached Harcourt, the colours changed to gold and green – with flashes of pinky-red.  We were in apple country.  Acres and acres of beautifully tended fruit trees line the roadsides in this renowned fruit growing area.  In summer I come here to pick cherries and buy boxes of apricots and punnets of raspberries for jam.  Before the Calder freeway to Melbourne bypassed Harcourt there were little shops on the roadside where you could by local honey and bags of fruit – gone now, all in the name of “progress”.

We decided to detour to the Oak Forest – an amazing 20 acre forest on the northern foothills of Mount Alexander.  Originally planted in 1900 to provide raw material for the leather tanning industry, which of course no longer exists, it has been left to grow on its own.  It is a stunning area of soft, green and gold “luxury” in the middle of the harsher grey-green Australian bush.  On this day the sun shone through the golden leaves creating a mottled carpet to walk upon.  Perfect spot for a picnic – and a long walk afterwards.

Autumn in the Oak Forest near Harcourt

Autumn in the Oak Forest near Harcourt

 

Rumbling tummies told us it was lunch time, so we stopped at the Skydancers Garden, halfway between Harcourt and Castlemaine.  Skydancers is set in an extensive display garden, with garden centre, gift shop, and excellent cafe promoting local seasonal produce.  But the highlight was the butterfly house.  And it was the perfect day for butterfly “hunting” – shot only with cameras though.  Camouflaged against “matching vegetation” it took some time for us to become accustomed to the conditions, and then actually SEE them!  But worth waiting for.  They were stunning – all manner of sizes, colours – and hiding places!  What a peaceful place, and how at peace the butterflies seemed with us invading their space.

Butterflies at Skydancer Gardens, near Castlemaine

Butterflies at Skydancer Gardens, near Castlemaine

It’s quite amazing how long it took us to do a 40 minute trip to Castlemaine – at least 3 hours – but there was no hurry.  Our day was about having a change of scenery, after all.  We rolled into town, after our yummy lunch, actually feeling like having a siesta, not traipsing through some old house.  But in we went.  I had been to Buda before with my family some years ago.  But this time I actually saw it in a different light and took in a little more if its history – and a fascinating one at that.

Buda, originally know as Delhi Villa was built in 1861 for a Baptist Missionary, Rev. James Smith,who had worked in India.  In 1863 he decided to return to his missionary work in India, selling the home to a retiring businessman,  Mr Ernest Leviny, a Hungarian silversmith and jeweller.  After working in Paris and London, he was attracted to the Victorian Goldfields in the 1850s.  He became a successful watchmaker and jeweller in Castlemaine and in 1863 decided to retire, buying Delhi Villa and renaming it Buda after his home town of Budapest.  Only two generations of the Leviny family lived in the home – over a period of 118 years.  Ernest and his wife Bertha brought up 10 children in the house.  They were a very creative family, and examples of their beautiful and varied work are found throughout the house and garden.  In 1981 the last surviving daughter, Hilda, died at the age of 98.

Examples of Ernest Leviny’s exquisite silver creations are on display in the house, along with equally impressive works by other members of the family, including embroidery, glass work, paintings, metal and wood work.  Buda is set in 1.2 hectares of mostly original established gardens.  Naturally, when we visited, the summer had taken it’s toll.  However the gardens and outbuildings are still evocative of the period, and I take my hat off to the people who run the property so we can have a small glimpse into the lives of its occupants.

Buda Collage

And by the way, there was a small private Lalique exhibition in the house – which was absolutely beautiful – but was overshadowed somewhat by the history of the home and beautiful attractions of the area.  A lovely day out always comes to an end, but we were ready to go home – along the “progressive” freeway – to Bendigo, reflecting on our day and already planning another.  Soon!

 

 

The Office (without Ricky Gervais)

Several great things have happened in the last couple of months – two of which are noteworthy for the Declutter Diary section of my blog.

  • I read a really good book called “The Clutter Cure” by Judi Culbertson – excellent.  It has helped me to get rid of things I never thought I would have the courage to do – including around 100 books!!
  • I have started helping a friend to clear her office – which was in serious need of some TLC!  It’s still a work in progress but I will write about it on another occasion.  Helping someone else declutter has really inspired me to progress faster than expected on my own tasks, made me feel fantastic to be able to help my friend – and I know she felt wonderful, even after just 2 afternoon sessions!

So, in the middle of March I was inspired to make a start on my office.  Well, specifically my desks – yes I have two (but it’s not a collection!).  Let’s call them Blue desk and Roll-top!!  The photos below show the mess I had been working amongst – and around – for years.

Main desk - before

Blue desk – before

Infrequently used desk - before!

Seldom-used Roll-top desk – before!

In the past I’d “clean up” – tidy and dust, infrequently – but had never actually thought about HOW I use my desks.  I hear you saying “How did she ever work on those desks?”  Well, the answer was “With difficulty” or “Never” (respectively)!

Blue desk (actually my old kitchen table) was first – most important one, as I (try to) use it every day.  So I decided to clear EVERYTHING off it.  Wow, it was a surprisingly large area!  Cleaned it to within an inch of it’s life, banged in a few rivets that were popping out, and it looked like new.  Then I replaced ONLY WHAT I NEEDED.   In my case that is my computer screen, speakers, desk light, a small 5-drawer file (more about that later), pens and stapler etc – just the things I use every day.

Then over Easter (while No.1 Son was away) I tackled the big one – Roll-top!  Following the same rule, I took everything off, cleaned, and only returned what I needed.  I was amazed at the amount of C-R-A-P  found hidden away under piles of other things.  For years I had been using that desk (my first ever furniture purchase!) as a dumping ground – you know the scenario, people coming for dinner, empty the dining table,  put the piles on the desk, roll down the lid – easy!  I used to “tidy” it, but never PROPERLY.

Now I have two functioning desks that are effectively drawing me back to the office – every day.  Sometimes if I don’t need to, or don’t have time to work at my desk, I will just stroll by and take a look.  See below!!

Blue desk - after

Blue desk – after

What a difference!

What a difference!

I mentioned above the 5-drawer file I replaced on Blue desk.  Previously that was full of papers that became “lost” under all the other papers – no real order.  So I have now developed a good system, with room for tweeking, but working well so far.  I read a book last year called Getting Things Done – The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen.  While it tends to focus on the productivity of a “business office”, there are many valuable points that one can use for a home office set-up, and how to tackle everyday and longer-term jobs or projects.  Allen has used reasonably complex flow-charts and filing systems in his book, but there was one particular point that grabbed my attention – one that can be used in all facets of our lives – at home or work.  I call it the 2 minute-5 minute rule.

I applied this rule to all the other “stuff” I removed from both my desks – every item, every sheet of paper.  Each item was then categorised one of four ways:

  1. Obvious rubbish? – straight in the bin. (rubbish bin, recycling bin or shredder.)
  2. Would it take 2 minutes or less to deal with?  If the answer was “yes” I dealt with it immediately.  (eg. those little bits of paper with someone’s address or phone number on it – transfer it to where you hold all your contacts, bin the piece of paper.  Or an odd button – sew it back on the shirt or put in the button box.)
  3. Would it take 5 minutes or more to deal with?  If the answer is “yes” then file it (in the 5 minute drawer!) and allocate a time to deal with it. (eg. it may be a travel brochure you kept to remind you to book a flight – when the flight is booked bin the brochure.)
  4. Or is it a longer term project?  In which case you need to schedule a time in the future to start that project.  Meanwhile keep all related items in the same place – a file, storage container or a specially designated area of the garage. (eg. my photos need organising.  As I declutter my home I am discovering photos in many unrelated places, but am slowly gathering them together in one spot – it doesn’t matter at this stage, that they are in no particular order – putting them in order IS THE PROJECT.)

I can’t tell you what a delight it is to come into my office every day now.  I share my office (which is the 3rd bedroom of our house) with No.1 Son.  He keeps his desk SOOOO tidy he’s almost OCD about it!  (If I walk past and move a pen he’ll move it back again!  Get the picture?  Pity this habit doesn’t flow on to his bedroom, and his “dirty-laundry floor”, on which sits his usually empty “dirty-laundry basket”!)  He spends more time at his desk than I do during the week – he’s doing his final year of a Civil Engineering degree.  How many 21 year old university students do you know who have a desk that looks like this (below)?!  Today he has just tidied out his bookcase next to the desk and it now looks amazing – he is very proud of his efforts.  Maybe this will inspire him to treat his bedroom in a similar manner?

Looks like no-one's home!

Looks like no-one’s home!

So, in just a matter of a few weeks this has become a really lovely space – three neat, clean, tidy, very functional desks, and two people who really like working here.  I have to say that it was pretty easy to achieve this outcome – and the personal benefits far outweigh the effort required.

Looking forward to bringing you news and photos of my friend’s office in the near future.

Please leave comments below – how is your office looking?  Could it do with a spruce up? (and I don’t mean new paint or furniture – my clear-out didn’t cost me a cent, but to me it’s priceless).  If you need help please contact me and I’ll be right onto it!

 

I Love Decluttering!

Well you’re probably thinking I have left the country again – but NO!  I am still here – well and truly getting stuck into decluttering my home/life, as planned.  I’m absolutely LOVING IT!!  I still have a long way to go but I’m reaping the benefits already.

Have you made a start on your decluttering project yet?  If not, what is stopping you?  The two biggest “prohibitors” in our lives are time and money.  However the beauty of decluttering is that it can be done in small time blocks – with little or no financial outlay.  These points are outlined in my decluttering plan.

Here are the benefits I have noticed since committing to my plan.

  • Just starting has given me further motivation to do more, and I often spend more than my 20 minute time allocation
  • I come home from work eager to start on the next phase
  • I am now seeing spaces in my garage that I didn’t expect to see so soon
  • I love working in my “new” office and look forward to refining my filing system
  • I am learning to look at my possessions through a “different filter”
  • I feel “lighter”

I am sure that with good planning and some hard yakka you too can achieve similar outcomes in a short space of time.  I have been totally suprised at my progress, and how easily I have conquered the “letting go” inhibitor.  Just today I was emptying a box of clothes (my 20 minute allocation) and sorted them into “keep, give away & toss” piles.  I felt so good afterwards that I continued on to another cupboard, and now have a huge pile to give away, a larger pile of old clothes for my mechanic to use as oil rags, and the rubbish bin is full to the brim!

If you have made a start on your ‘clutterless’ journey I really want to hear about your progress and what benefits you have gained so far.  Please leave a comment below letting me know how your commitment to a clutter free life is coming along.  I’m keen to learn any tips you have as well – we can all learn from each others’ methods.

However, if the task seems just so daunting that you don’t know where to start then think about this.

What would your life look like without clutter?”

To deal with this question you can break it up into smaller parts….

  • What would your bathroom look like without all the excess makeup, nearly empty bottles of shampoo or moisturiser?
  • How would it feel to work at your desk with only the items you need to complete the task at hand?
  • What would your garden shed look like if you threw out all the broken pots, nearly empty bags of potting mix, and hundreds of seedling punnets you keep, just in case…..?

All you have to do is START – focus on one small area (how about your handbag – there MUST be something in there you can throw out?)  It’s really that easy!  Read my plan as mentioned above (click on the link) and just start.

I guarantee it will be liberating just to COMMIT to starting.

Time Out

Hi “strangers”!  I’m back with you again.  It’s been a “different” month since I last offered up my thoughts to you.  Apologies for going AWOL for so long.  No excuses, but I have been sorting out a few issues – with life in general.  Sometimes you just have to look after No.1 – do things for yourself, assess where you are at, where you are heading – or more importantly where you would like to head – and what you need to do to get there.

The last few weeks have certainly thrown a few things into the ring.  Lots of questions have been asked – not all have been answered, but some have.  I have cried (a lot), laughed, slept (a lot!) and found I am quite good at something I had never before contemplated.  But most of all I have given myself time – time to rest, to think, to explore new opportunities, to get back on track.  I feel much better – and more positive!

However you will be pleased to hear that during my time out I have maintained my commitment to my daily three pages – much cheaper and much better than any “therapist”.  And serious progress has been made with decluttering my home!  Oh yes, I am convinced that throwing things out has actually helped me become clearer about where I am heading.

I will add to the Declutter Diary in the next couple of days – I have LOTS to tell you!

Two great things have come out of the last few weeks.  The first is that I realise I now have the confidence to stand up for myself – not be pushed around, or allow myself to be someone that others think I should be.   Yes, other people’s opinions are important, but when it comes to others’ opinions of you – does it really matter?  I may come up with a good answer for that another day!

Secondly – and I shouldn’t be surprised about this – my 21 year old No.1 Son has been amazing.  He’s been my rock, my ally, chief adviser on negotiating, job applications and interview techniques, great crusader for positive outcomes in life – and he’s a mean cook too!  There have been many times over the last few months when he could have said “Enough”, but he’s been my punching bag (not physically!) and a very broad shoulder to cry on.  Where does a 21 year old gain such understanding and wisdom – and be willing to support unconditionally?  He’s the love of my life.

It’s great to be back amongst you and I am looking forward to writing more posts for you.  I’ve had some really lovely comments and encouragement from so many of you.  Thanks to you all.  xx

 

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