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.

 

 

 

Advertisements

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

 

 

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!

 

 

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.

Priority One

My decision to prioritise Decluttering  as Task No. 1 was easily made as I feel that once I have relieved myself of unwanted items, which have taken years to accumulate, I will be able to move around my garage, my wardrobe, and my desk(s) – yes I have two – but it’s not a collection!  Consequently I will be free to access and work in  these uncluttered physical spaces.  This in turn will allow me to concentrate on the things I need and want to do – rather than thinking where will I do it and where will I put it once finished.

If you have read my previous post about freedom you will see I am convinced that by relieving my brain of making so many unnecessary decisions about things, I will also have uncluttered my mental space.  I’m sure the body will thank me too!  Success with the remainder of the “tasks” will follow, with perseverance of course!  (Remember those tasks were to turn around my attitude to exercise, actually complete the projects I begin, and banish procrastination) Once I have decluttered, I will have finished a task, and I will feel liberated – FREE – to get on with the next tasks – I might even feel like going for long walks, regularly.  There you are – procrastination gone just like that!!

But is it that easy?  Yes – and No!

Firstly we have to get to the bottom of why we have accumulated so many useless possessions.  Much has been written about hoarding and decluttering.  Hoarding is now recognised as an illness, has various causes, and is treatable with therapy, support and guidance.  A hoarder is someone who collects, keeps and stores items for “later use”.  These items can include tinned food, dolls, records, cardboard boxes, newspapers, Christmas wrapping paper and ribbons, old light fittings, teapots, or even kitchen sinks!

Serious hoarders have been known to keep everything that comes into their home, sheds and gardens.  They have often been traumatised by something, either as children or adults – death of a parent at an early age, a divorce, an old friend dying later in their life.  They tend to replace people with things -because “things won’t let them down or leave them”.  Some are no longer able to move around their homes safely – hence unable to attend to the necessary chores around the home that we take for granted – cooking, sleeping and maintaining personal hygiene.  Over the years they withdraw from family and friends, are unable to ask for help and unwilling to accept help when offered.

Fortunately I do NOT fall into the serious hoarder category – but I empathise with those who do.  There are various things that make us hang onto a particular item.  Some people collect certain things (like brightly coloured teapots), some just love being surrounded by books or family photos, others have the “scatter cushion syndrome” and only feel comfortable propped up by at least a dozen cushions while reading in bed.  Each to their own.  I am probably guilty of most of those – except the teapots!

Twenty four years ago today I was married.  We were lucky to be given many wonderful wedding gifts, allowing us to comfortably set up our first home.  Moving house (and towns) became a regular occurrence due to my husband’s work commitments.  As married life progressed and No.1 Son grew up we accumulated more books, toys, tables, bed-linen, garden tools, sewing equipment and fabrics, dogs and chickens.  Each time we moved packing up and unpacking took longer – and more decisions needed to be made.

Sadly, in 2002, our home burnt to the ground.  Nobody was home at the time, so no human or canine loss.  Fortunately not everything was burned – we managed to retrieve most photos, some books and pictures, toys and clothes.  (But a word of warning – this is NOT a method of decluttering I would recommend!)  While we concentrated on rebuilding the house over the next 12 months, I was also rebuilding the other “collections” – books, music, having pictures re-framed, photos, recipes, scarves (one of my downfalls!) – so that when we finally moved back into our wonderful new home it actually felt like a home, not an empty shell.

The re-accumulation was on track!

Some years later my husband became my ex-husband.  No.1 Son and I were on the move again.  There was not the time – or the will – to have a good throw-out before moving this time – so all the “stuff” came with us.  We spent 4 years adjusting, finding it hard to let go of the excess, for whatever reasons – and trying not to welcome more clutter into the house.  Then an opportunity came to move to a better house and location – closer to university and work.  ‘Ruthless’ was a word I used while packing up this time – but once it was all in boxes and my friends and family were doing endless loads to the new home, I realised something was wrong.  I discovered that I didn’t really know the meaning of the word ‘ruthless’ after all!

Accumulation is a slow process – getting rid of it all can seem to take even longer.

This is where a plan comes in!

Now, these plans can take on many guises – each person will develop a plan that suits them, using the time available and, of course, their end goal.  But I intend to follow a pretty simple formula.

And the key to success is to

  • Start
  • Commit
  • Be honest with yourself
  • Enjoy your small achievements – daily
  • See it through to the end
  • Celebrate!

What’s next?

The plan will reveal itself in my next post.  I will let you in on my mess – with photographs! I will explain my starting point and invite you to leave comments, share helpful hints and creative ideas for my quest – and yours!

Until next time…..stay safe.

PS – Don’t forget to click the FOLLOW button at the top of the page – then you will be notified by email whenever my new posts are up and running!

 

In Search of Freedom

Are you a lucky person?  I certainly am.  I don’t mean that in the “lottery” sense either – although that would be nice!

I am talking about being free.

No.1 son and I are lucky to live in a place where we are free to voice our opinions on politics, religion, race, sexual persuasions, creativity, family values – anything really, without actually offending someone personally.  We are, within our financial limitations, able to live anywhere we choose, buy what we need and want, and travel anywhere we want – for holidays, family or employment reasons, or just to discover somewhere new.  We have access to education, employment, medical care, business opportunities, creative pursuits and recreation.

Sadly, many people in this world are not free.  So many are imprisoned (rightly or wrongly), or live in war zones or countries where the freedoms mentioned above do not exist.  Historically (and currently) people have been persecuted (or worse) for being the wrong colour, worshiping the wrong god, writing the wrong words, composing or listening to the wrong music, being out after dark, being a young girl going to school, being a woman who dares to show her face in public, or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Those people are not free to live the way they want – or the way we are lucky enough to live.  They are victims of hatred and intolerance – and sadly live in a society where life is cheap.

Despair will lead most people to believe they cannot make a difference. However there are many (some well-known, and others not so) who find something deep within themselves to help and inspire others and change lives forever.  The form these changes take is many and varied.  It can be medical aid (look what Weary Dunlop did for the POWs in Singapore in WWII), or political and personal inspiration (no greater example than the mental perseverance of Nelson Mandela) – or it can be simply holding someone’s hand and smiling, making a difference to that person for just a short moment.

Daily, I am thankful for what I have and for the community I am part of, and hopefully contribute to.  I often worry that we take our lives for granted – not just our way of life, but our own personal contribution to our community, our family – and to ourselves. 

Choices are the essence of freedom.

On a personal level we can choose the path we take in life.  Sometimes situations beyond our control can cause us to deviate from that path (natural disasters, accidents, illness) but with help and support from others, and our own inner strength, we can usually return to that path pretty quickly.

Bad choices and unrecognised habits, however, can cause landslides that block our path and leave the “other path” wide open.

Extreme examples of ‘bad choices’ could include not completing your schooling, running away from home and family, smoking, alcohol and drug abuse, violence, theft, joining a gang – you get the picture.  The unrecognised habits could be taking welfare payments for granted (‘cos you can‘ or ‘it’s your right’), not exercising, not getting up till midday, hanging out with the wrong people, or simply not taking an interest in the world around you.

In my case I have made some bad choices – I think we all have.  But they are not earth-shattering, and have not impinged on others directly.  I don’t drink much, have never smoked or taken drugs, I’ve had one speeding ticket in my life (so far) and I have never stolen anything (maybe a grape in the supermarket – taste before you buy!).

However I chose (albeit subconsciously) to not study hard enough at school, barely gaining the minimum marks needed to continue on to University (I can admit this now that No.1 son has developed his own dedicated study routine through school and beyond!).  Because my study habits were left wanting, I failed to gain entry to my first preference for studying Librarianship.  After six months attempting Business Studies in Melbourne I chose NOT to complete a University education – finding ‘exciting’  jobs in retail instead.  Maybe short-sighted or maybe misguided – certainly not a good long-term choice.

Consequently my bad choices aided the development of unrecognised habits (unclear to me until I started writing this today).  Not finishing tasks, procrastination, finding it easier not to exercise, hanging onto possessions that I may need one day, and trying to justify (to myself) the reasons for doing all of the above.  Each of those habits bugs me, frustrates me and stresses me out – they are inhibiting my mental freedom.

So take a stand!

OK – I WILL.  With you as my witnesses (and hopefully supporters) I am going to banish those habits.  It’s not going to happen overnight – I will attempt to unravel each one in turn.  After all, it took me a long time to fully develop those habits into seriously effective inhibitors!

First task is to de-clutter.  By rationalizing my possessions I hope to free my brain of clutter as well!  The daily decisions I make to deal with my “objects” is daunting – cleaning, tidying, sorting, storing, adding to, do I really need it?  Do you go through the same process?  Come on now be honest….

I suggest you watch this space as I get on with the unravelling – I will keep you informed of my progress, and the consequences that ensue.   I know they are going to be good ones!

What can you do to help?  Let me know if you have a similar story, about gaining personal relief, by taking a stand against a bad choice or an unrecognised habit.  (Please note I am not after stories about bad choices in partners, employers, or illicit substances – let’s start with day to day tasks and how you made your life easier and clearer.)  I’m on for new ideas and there are some really exciting ideas out there to be shared…don’t keep them to yourself please.

Here’s to freedom!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Christmas Book – an Inspiration

Have you ever bought yourself a book to put under the tree – just in case nobody else gave you a book for Christmas?  I have – most years since I can’t remember when!

I am a book giver – fortunately all my family LOVE books.  In fact I think they all secretly think like me – have one under the tree, or in the “present drawer” just in case.  Well I mean, what are the Christmas holidays without a good book?

These ‘backups’ have varied depending on my mood at the time of purchase.  They have ranged from a fascinating Biography to a good curl-up-in-bed-holiday-read from Maeve Binchy or Cathy Kelly.  This time though (Xmas 2014) I definitely hit the jackpot!

While in my local bookshop in November, buying for the family, an inviting cover beckoned me.  This book begged me to take it home – it spoke to me, You need me, I will give you something in return, it’s a no-brainer.  Pretty cover, nice painting of Paris on a soft blue background.  Title?  “Paris Letters”, by Janice Macleod.  Never heard of her before.  Flipped through – looked fun, nice illustrations – read the blurb on the back, seemed on track for a good holiday read.  Added it to the pile.  Once home I didn’t give it another thought until Christmas Eve when I asked No.1 Son to wrap it and put it under the family Christmas tree – the “insurance policy”!

Christmas day dawned and after the one hour drive to neighbourhood drinks, more family drinks and lovely food at my brother’s house (the farm where I grew up), the great nieces and nephews were insistent that we start opening presents – fair enough, it was after all two o’clock in the afternoon.  At some stage a beautifully wrapped parcel was handed to me amid the chaos of flying paper, much laughter, oohs and aahs, kisses and thank you’s.

Surprise!  A book -how lovely – thank you darling, to  No.1 Son!  Once peace was restored – next day – I settled in for what turned out to be the trip of a lifetime.  Over the next few days I immersed myself in Janice’s journey whenever I had a spare moment.  Her situation was my situation – to a tee – except our age.  I also spent quite a few hours reading Janice’s blog – which I’m now totally hooked on and feel like I know her personally!

For those of you who have yet to discover Janice’s “Paris Letters”  it is about her voyage to a new life – how she came to a decision to save enough money and leave her busy well paid job to travel, and to realise the creative dreams she craved.  The preparations and discipline required to make this move were life-changing.  While not underestimating the difficulties of actually moving to a new city where you know nobody, let alone speak the language, I see this as the easy bit.  It was the decisions she made and the disciplined methods she used to reach that point that were really challenging.

I have taken a couple of crucial elements of her ‘preparations’ to heart – and have begun a challenge of my own.  Early days yet but, after a few weeks of following her “three pages” regime (more about this in a later post) I am starting to feel ‘different’.  Cannot really put that difference into words yet, but I will keep you posted!  Her book has been the catalyst for me believing that change can happen – if you want it to.  Small steps – and all that…!  Actually earlier tonight I started reading it again, I found it so inspiring the first time.  I have raved about it to all my friends – one read it in a weekend, and another is about to borrow my copy.

I thoroughly recommend it to anyone who needs to get out of the rut you are in – if you are in one.  For those of you who are happy with life (awesome), or have already made a change (well done), read it anyway, it’s a wonderful adventure to share.

Happy reading!  (And don’t forget to buy yourself a book for next Christmas.)

 

To view Janice Macleod’s blog click here

To purchase “Paris Letters” click here

Paris-Letters-by-Janice-Macleod

Clouds

“I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,…”

 

William Wordsworth was actually writing about daffodils in his famous poem, but for this story I need go no further than the first two lines.

What a view a lonely cloud must have – of all the human ants going about their daily business, unaware of the wonderful beauty that “floats on high”. How many of us find time in our day, or even week, to look skyward – and just wonder?

P1000356

Ten minutes is all it takes, but half an hour would take you further into the wonderland. You need no special equipment, no transport, and you can do it alone or in company. It really is one of the most relaxing and rewarding pastimes – a simple form of meditation, if you like.

A dear friend of mine, Jane, recently visited from interstate. We drove around the Bendigo district, and ended up perched on rocks at the top of Mt Alexander. While drinking in the surrounding scenery we chattered away, solving the problems of the world, and watched the progress of a hang-glider in the distance, working the thermals. It was a perfect winter afternoon, sunny and ‘warm’, with clouds passing by – possibly wondering what we were up to?

As the shadows grew longer – and yes, we were still chatting – Jane suddenly lay down on a huge flat rock, inviting me to do the same. Observed by a koala in a gum tree, and occasionally laughed at by a kookaburra, I did as I was told. And there above me was another world. A world of clouds – and peace.

In her busy life as a farmer in Tasmania, Jane regularly takes time out to lie on her back and lose herself in the clouds. She says it’s her “me” time and restores her energy. She has been known to get off her horse, while mustering cattle, to lie down and float away, or take a glass of wine into the garden on a summer evening and discover different shapes in the clouds. Motivated by her inner peace I have tried it a few times, not on a regular basis yet, but I’m working on it.

Bendigo 8.30 pm 1/1/10

Now I’m no scientist, but even I know that a cloud is not a cloud, is not a cloud…and I certainly cannot tell my Altostratus from my Cumulonimbus clouds. But that does not stop me appreciating the delicacy of floating white fluffy pom-poms, the stunning beauty of a setting sun turning the sky to fire, or the power of thunder storms forming in a swirling, billowing maelstrom of cloud.

I am constantly fascinated when ascending on a plane through clouds, a little bumpy sometimes but once above them at a cruising altitude a whole new world emerges, one of light and a feeling of infinity. One is transported from a grey, sometimes wet place, to a blue playground with a white trampoline of cloud below.

P1000765

Have you ever spent time with young children finding shapes in the passing clouds – rabbits, witches or anything your imagination can stretch to? When did you last smile at a gently pink sunrise or gaze in wonder at a fiery red sunset? Or just lie on a flat rock watching the wispy clouds float by, breathing deeply, forgetting all your worries for a while?

Why don’t you try it? It is an amazingly simple thing to do – and the benefit is simply amazing.