is pinterest ruining your life?

I have been researching Bullet Journals.  Go on, google it, 99% of what you find will not be practical planners which keep you on track but whopping great works of art  How anybody gets things done when they have to cover every page with washi tape and colour everything in I don’t know.  But then I came across this post  The Lazy Genius (I even love the title), wherein she says these magic words..

I encourage you to not look for other examples of Bullet Journaling, not just yet. Why? Because there are people who doll their pages up beautifully with washi tape, calligraphy, stamps, intricate doodles, and everything else that makes your heart beat fast at the craft store. They’re color-coordinated with tabs and labels, and there are so many pages to choose from, it’s like a scary organizational buffet. 

Those journals are beautiful without question. But remember when I said trial and error taught me to keep my Bullet Journal simple? That’s because I went through three – yeah, THREE – different journals because I kept getting frustrated and starting over. I couldn’t keep up with all the beauty I wanted to see on every page. My handwriting is boring, the only thing I can doodle is a wobbly spiral, and while I do have an impressive collection of washi tape, it just took too long to make every page pretty. I was dressing my journal for the Oscars when I live a Modern Family reruns life.”

That pretty much sums up life in general.  We spend way too much time comparing ourselves, our children, our homes, our entire lives with other people.  Meanwhile they are comparing their lives with yet more people.  We make Compare the Market dot com look like a car boot sale.

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Slow down and let the rest of them overtake you. 

What is on your pinterest board (if you have one)?  I cleared mine out recently and now it has things I want to do (practical ideas for converting a transit van into a camper van, no dreamy lifestyle photos but stuff I need to know); my herbal medicine references; low tox living references.  Yes, there are ideas for the garden and our home, but not pictures of stuff or places we are never going to achieve with quotes like “oh in  my dreams”, or “one day I am going to live here”.  Aspiration is good, but only if it makes you feel good, not if it means that you spend your life, your actual life, aspiring to another life, and whoops… you have missed your own life.

When I led happiness workshops I would give everyone a small pretty notebook and some pens and ask them to fill the first page with stuff that made them happy, words, pictures whatever.  NOBODY could co it.  They didn’t want to spoil the book. Then I took a big black permanent marker and said they had 10  minutes or I would scribble all over the first page.  Most people grabbed their notebook and clasped it to their chest.  My analogy was that notebook is your life, if you are scared to make a mistake because you want it to be perfect then you will never life your life but spend it waiting for perfection.

Perfection doesn’t exist.  Beauty is in the imperfection.  Look at this  perfectly symmetrical faces are not more beautiful than our natural imbalanced ones.  The Japanese (always spot on with observations) even have a name for it.  Wabi-Sabi ..

The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete” (Leonard Koren)

Fill up those beautiful notebooks you have on your shelves, if you have to cross out a mistake, cross it out.  Live you life with all its imperfections and revel in the beauty that is not perfect.

Love Gillie

 

settling in

Last year our flock of hens, ducks and geese finally reduced itself to one feral Light Sussex.  As we were planning on moving we decide not to rebuild the flock.  Now we have decided to stay we have some new girls.  Meet Dolly and Polly (Light Sussex), Dotty and Spotty (Speckleds) and Doris and Floris (Copper Black).  IMG_2549

 

They have been in the hen house and run since Saturday to acclimatise them to their new home, but this afternoon I let them out into the orchard.  They were cautious at first, but soon started flapping and playing.  I left them to explore and settle in.

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I am doing much the same thing, exploring and settling in to my home.  We have lived here for over 16 years but all the changes, decluttering, redecorating, new soft furnishings and curtains, new shelves and bookcases have given our home a new direction.  It feels lighter and airier.  I find myself picking up something and moving it to another room, I don’t know why but somehow I feel it will be better there and usually it is.  I have moved pictures around, dyed loose covers.  There are more plants and even the cut flowers seem to be lasting longer!

You don’t have to move house to take time to settle in.  In fact, the longer you have lived somewhere perhaps the more important it is to look at your surroundings as if they are new and take time to settle in and see what you change and why.  We live with stuff for so long that we just assume it has to be there.  Maybe it doesn’t.

Love Gillie

The wanderer returns

So I return.  I wonder have you missed me?  I have been on a long journey since I was last here.  I have started new ventures, tweaked them, published a planner and then taken several months out to consider where I want to go and how I want to get there.

In essence I have been decluttering me and my life rather than my house and it has been a very revealing process.  I read recently in a book by Karen Maezen Miller, Hand Wash Cold, that sometimes it helps just to coast in life for a while; to take your foot off the accelerator or indeed the brake and just see where you go.  That’s what I have been doing and it is quite an interesting mode of transport.

Along the way I have read books and magazines I would never have noticed or even considered before (on the magazine front I can recommend Stack Magazines who send you a different independent magazine each month, this month I am reading New Philosopher, last month was a beautiful avante garde fashion photography publication).

I have rediscovered  my love of fabrics and yarn, learned to crochet

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and have reupholstered a footstool and a chair.

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We have put our house on the market, changed our minds.  We have redecorated the entire house and put in plans to convert part of the house into separate living accomnodation to let.  Our elderly greenhouse didn’t survive the storms so we built a  new one with much more space for potting on and for sitting in.  Consequently the garden is fuller than ever and we are even more glad we stayed.

And the decluttering continues.  I have managed to keep my wardrobe reasonably small but the book collection has been building up again.  Some are keepers but there were quite a lot ones more than ready to move on.  If the building work goes ahead we are going to have to think very seriously about what we can keep for we will be downsizing our living accommodation by almost half in terms of floor space.

Meanwhile I have started writing two new books, one a novel and the other a culmination of my experience of decluttering together with suggestions, plans and ideas for others.  I think it should be an e-book – so as not to clutter up a bookshelf!

Love Gillie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

let it go

You would have to be fully certified hermit not to know at least a couple of lines of “that” song from Frozen.  Personally, I think “Would you like to build a snowman” is considerably more poignant and reminds me of “Slipping through  my fingers” by Abba.  Moments promised and lost forever.

However, this is not a maudlin blog.  I am not one for living in the past!

But as hoarders, isn’t that just what we do?  I was introduced to Thich Nhat Hanh some ten years ago.  Today, at last, the concept of mindfulness is becoming more commonplace.  From The Miracle of Mindfulness I moved on to many other books (list of links at the bottom of this post) and I have benefited hugely.  I have long ago lost any need to bear a grudge, to cry over spilt milk or to worry about what if. I have let go of past hurts and forgiven those  who hurt me.  The last was the hardest.

I have kept a diary on and off since I was about 6.  At today’s date that is 44 years of diary keeping.  The early stuff is sweet.  The teen years are embarrassing.  The early twenties are painful.  We have a lovely big wood burning stove.  I took my diaries, took out the childhood ones, those of my year living in the Transkei and offered the rest to the fire.

Why?  Because they were, for the most part, a cathartic exercise of a young woman who was hurt and upset.  The act of writing them was helpful at the time but by keeping them I was holding on to that pain.  Every time I went into the study I knew they were there.  Remember Eyeore and the black rain cloud

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That was how it felt.

So I burned them.  And that rain cloud disappeared.

How many personal rain clouds are you hoarding?

Some books I have found helpful

 

how far are you prepared to go?

I have never been one to plan.  I like to dive in head first and worry about the mess later.  Sometimes it works, sometimes the mess is a little messier than I had anticipated and sometimes I just put my head under the covers and pretend it isn’t there.  On the other hand there are opportunities and experiences that I would  not have missed for the world that had been of a more cautious bent I would have missed.

Even my decluttering style is an all or nothing one.  I empty whole cupboards at once and have never subscribed to the “one bit at a time”.  Frankly I would have died of boredom and we would still be flailing under a mountain of clutter.  But each to his own and in devising my workshops that is something I have had to take into account.

However it is the “how far do I want to go?” question that is currently taxing me.  Don’t get me wrong, I like my luxury and full self-sufficiency would terrify me, it’s illegal to distill my own gin, my sewing and knitting skills do not meet my sartorial needs and whilst I am happy to (and have) killed and gutted my own meat and fish I do like variety in our diet and I really can’t see us keeping cows, I am never going to keep pigs again and unless the Boss gets off his backside fish would be off the menu too.

I have been following Deep Green Resistance on Facebook.  Some, if not all, of their views are one step beyond for many people.  Indeed some are for me.  But many countries gained their independence through guerilla action.  For some it has led to growth and relative prosperity – the United States, Mozambique, Kenya, Tanzania, for some it has been a more circuitous and painful route, Indonesia, Burma, South East Asia, Ireland (north and south).  I am not an historian nor a politician, my point is that if guerilla action was necessary to enable a country to prosper then perhaps it is for the entire planet to be saved and prosper.

We almost all eschew plastic carrier bags and recycle.  Some of us reuse before we recycle and don’t shop in supermarkets.  Some of us  will only buy local.  Some of us will only buy fairtrade.  Some of us have tiny wardrobes and repair and upcycle every item of clothing.  Some of us grow our own food.  Some of us make our own cleaning and toiletries (but still have to buy the ingredients 🙂 )

All of that is good and is better than nothing.  But is it enough?  Do we have to radically rethink HOW we live our lives in order for all of us to be able to live on this planet.  If that is the case then how far are we prepared to go to make those changes happen?

I don’t have the answer, and as I type I am sitting in a comfortable house, with a glass of wine.  I am going away on holiday next week.  I am a hypocrite, I am not walking the walk.  I want to.  But I don’t know how far I am prepared to go and how far my family are prepared to come with me.  Buying free range chicken and taking part in plastic free July is good, but it isn’t enough.

I tried really hard to find a picture to go with today’s post.  But nothing really fitted.

 

decluttering changed my life

One year on.  Remember this?

 

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and this?

 

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Well now it looks like this.

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In fact that is a mere fraction of what has gone.  As I write I have six more bags to go to charity and the Singers have been dispatching some of the Boss’s clothes on Ebay.  So what next?  What have I learned?

What next?  Well there is still a huge amount to go.  The Boss is slowly working through his wardrobe and I will have to work at his pace.  The study still has far too much in it and there are a few black holes around the house to which we have been turning a blind eye.  The videos and CDs are a case in point.  But as the house has emptied we have begun to turn our attention towards the garden.  I have plans to turn our garden into a mainly physic garden where all the plants are either medicinal, edible or have other practical uses.  Meanwhile the Boss has finally got on top of the meadow and is planning the wild flower border around it.  Currently it’s mainly vetch, poppies and cornflowers, but give him time.

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What have I learned?  How long do you want me to go on?

Don’t give  up  Like learning to play a musical instrument it is hard at first.  You can see other people knocking off a snazzy sounding concerto whilst you are still struggling to coordinate your left and right hand sufficiently to get three notes out in the correct order.  But everybody has to start at the beginning.  Everybody has to practice, practice, practice before they are a master of the art.  Decluttering is no different.

It does become easier.  Trust me, you will come to a point when you are instinctively picking up things that you don’t want or need and putting them in the charity bag or recycling.

Let go of guilt.  Just because it was a gift or a family heirloom does not mean that you have to keep it.  Offer the latter to somebody else in the family to caretake if it will cause a ruction.  So you bought a dress and have never worn it but keep it because you feel you must.  Don’t.  Let it go.  Sell it on eBay BNWT!

Space is beautiful.  The things you love can shine when they are bordered by space, space in itself is something to love and cherish.

Don’t clutter it up the space.  My entire summer wardrobe fits in less space than my shirts used to take up.  My bookshelves contain books I want to read.  I know every shoe I possess, I no longer open a shoe box and look at the contents with surprise.

As I decluttered my belongings I decluttered my mind.  Now I can’t promise that this is true for everyone or that the two were actually connected.  I suffer from acute  and severe depression, the kind where all is well and suddenly for no apparent reason the lights are all turned off.  I made an active decision after a particularly nasty attack that I was going to think differently.  Thus it is quite possible that  my mind declutter is down to that.  Either way.  This year  I have gone from unsure what to do with my life stay at home mum to published author with a second book in the works; professional tarot reader; workshop facilitator and have plans for a small handmade toiletry collection.  As I decluttered I became more focused.  The things I focussed on were not those that I had expected but I am loving life and have big plans for the future.

Not everyone likes it.  A bit like losing weight and discovering that not all your friends are as keen on the new you.  I have been told all sorts of reasons why “they” can’t do it; why “they” could never let go of books (heaven forbid!) and so forth.  Maybe they really can’t or maybe they are jealous.  Whatever the reason it has nothing to do with me so I shall continue my path.

I have discovered my own style.  As I have let go of things that I didn’t like, need or want I have discovered a style that is mine and I like it.

I have made some amazing friends and some incredible business contacts.  I have discovered crossovers and potential joint projects with people I probably would never have met had I not started, and gone public with this journey.

I have more time.  I can’t explain this one, I still live in the same house, I still have the same family.  Perhaps it is more that I am more mindful of my time, I don’t fritter it away.  As I am only keeping things I cherish I am learning to cherish my time as well.

And finally, I did it because I wanted to.  You have to want to.

 

 

 

 

 

the herbal medicine cabinet

Living with less is not just about decluttering, about getting rid of stuff.  It is about changing how we live, about adapting our lifestyles to leave less of a footprint.  I have long wanted to learn more about herbal medicine, to be able to treat ailments from the content of my garden and the surrounding fields rather than by prescription.  Before I am hounded out, I am married to a medic, I fully appreciate that conventional medicine is both essential and lifesaving. But as even the Boss acknowledges  aspirin, digoxin, vinca alkaloids, atropine, l-dopa and many hundreds more drugs upon which we depend are all derived from plants.

I have made some ointments (comfrey, calendula and lavender), I have dried some plants, made oils and decoctions but only using a handful of plants I knew and was confident to use.  So I was so excited to spend a day with Sarah Hughes at the woods owned by Chris and Rose Bax of Taste the Wild.  Sarah is a nutritionist and medical herbalist and not only clearly knows her stuff, she is fun, interesting and makes you want to know more.

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We walked through the woods, identified plants, learned about their therapeutic uses and laughed.

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Laughter is a great medicine.  Take if from me, somebody who has been in some dark and lonely places and has the dubious honour of being the subject of a police helicopter search, if you can laugh you are 99% of the way towards recovery, regardless of your ailment.

So we laughed, foraged and then we met Mr Plantain.  Some of you will know that I had a slight disagreement with the tram line in Edinburgh on Tuesday.  Net result a huge hole in my knee.  By the time I arrived this morning  the wound was frankly gooey and unpleasant.  Not yet infected but it wasn’t looking good.  Ah ha.  We were going to make a plantain poultice, a poultice which is good to draw our dirt and toxins and is best used before the comfrey I was used to using.  Using comfrey on a potentially dirty wound risks healing of the skin over an unclean wound = abscess.

So I was the class practical session.  Poultice applied mid morning.  It is now early evening and the redness has reduced and whilst it is still sore it no longer throbs.  I have replaced the poultice with a fresh one.  Here is the poultice covered knee.  I did think seriously about showing you the lovely clean wound, but I suspect that some of you might never come back again if I did.

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But you don’t have to have a hole in your knee.  Many plants can be taken orally as a tea, a decoction, a syrup.  You can make oils or distillations.  inhalations and powders. Foot soaks and hand soaks (have you tried ginger hand soak for osteo arthritis?)

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You do need to know what you are doing, just as you need to know what you are doing if you are foraging.  Make a mistake and you could kill yourself.  It isn’t a game.  But it is an alternative and one we ought to learn about and understand.  We now finally believe that it is time to teach our children how to code rather than how to use a software programme written by somebody else.  When will be believe that it is time to teach our children how to use the plants around them to cure and to feed, and even more importantly which never to touch?

clothes statistics

It’s end of the month time,  those of you with a mathematical bent will be longing for this post.  This is the sequel to the statistic in the wardrobe,  today you are getting another rip-roaring romp through my wardrobe.

This is the basis of my wardrobe for the next three months.  I can, and no doubt will add and subtract here and there.  But after two months of clothes analysis I think this is the core.

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This is how they look hanging up.

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Including what I am wearing today that makes 27 items.  I have not included shoes because for the most part I wear the same fit flops or Toms all summer.

This is how I got there.

This month I have worn more of my wardrobe, a total of 48 items compared to 40 last  month, but blue has been toppled by gray.

I wore:

  • 11 tops 18 times
  • 8 bottoms 20 times
  • 8 dresses 12 times
  • 6 cardigans 13 times
  • 5 scarves 9 times
  • 10 pairs of shoes 23 times

I must have forgotten to record some shoes because though I do spend most of my day barefoot, I do usually put something on my feet when I walk out of the house!

The colour analysis is dominated by gray, but I have managed to inject a little more colour this month

  • Gray 22
  • Blue 18
  • Red 11
  • Green 5
  • Purple 4
  • White 4
  • Cream 1
  • Pink 1
  • Brown 1

But by far the most interesting figures are the comparison between one month and the next.  As the weather has been pretty consistent they should be fairly comparable

I wore 5 tops, 5 bottoms, 5 dresses and 3 cardigans both months.  Those items were worn a whopping 84 times over the past two months with the highest wearage going to an ancient pale blue jersey wrap which was worn 12 times during April and May.

So isolating the clothes I wore most and adding in those I know go with the core items and I love (no good if I don’t love them, I won’t wear them and they should be on the way out anyway)  I have my reverse approach to Project 333.

 

kicking the guilt habit

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I was doing some research yesterday for a series of workshops I am planning on learning to live with less when I came across this piece of advice for identifying clutter.

“Does this item lift my energy?  Does this item give me joy?”

In a sense it is not very different from the quote by William Morris I mentioned yesterday.  However, I like it because it extends the concept of beauty.  My copy of The Poisonwood Bible is not physically beautiful and I doubt it is of any practical use unless I was transported back fifty years and sent to live with a mad missionary father in the then Belgian Congo.  However, it lifts my energy and gives  me great joy.  It is one of the last books with which I would ever part.

This criterion allows you to keep items of genuine sentimental value.  I am not advocating you keep that box full of every piece of artwork your child brought home from school.  Because, that would, certainly in my case fail this test completely.  I would hold it, and feel weighed down by the knowledge that most of it will never see the light of day again.  Hardly uplifting for my soul.  In my case I got around that by keeping a few pieces by each child, framing them and putting them up in my study.  I bought display folder (the kind sales reps use) for each child and put about 20 pieces of artwork in there.

Likewise those gifts, “heirlooms”, family knick knacks that you are keeping for sentimental reasons.  Hold them in your hands.  How do they make you feel?  In our experience we were keeping a lot of those things out of guilt, and guilt and a heavy heart was what we felt whenever we saw them (which was rarely).  By all means offer them back to your family if you are afraid that somebody will feel offended if you offload them.  But I suspect the chances are nobody else wants them either.  Something that might have been of sentimental value to one person years ago does not have to be of sentimental value to you.

Also, please don’t follow what I think is terrible advice, take a photograph of the object and then let it go. Why on earth would you substitute one piece of clutter (the item) for another piece (the photograph) which is inevitably going to remind you (should you ever look at it which I am sure you will not) that you let go of something that you found, at the time, quite hard to do?

I long gave up feeling guilty about putting gifts I did not want aside for charity or passing on to somebody I know (and you must KNOW) would want them.  Today most people know I don’t want stuff, I would rather have time, plants, a voucher, a day out so the situation doesn’t arise as often.

However, if you pick up a cracked porcelain figurine that reminds you of a loved one, that brings back wonderful memories then keep it.  By the time you have got rid of all the stuff that failed the test, that figurine will have plenty of space to shine on your mantelpiece and lift your soul on a daily basis.  Right now I would hazard a guess that you can hardly see it behind all the clutter in the way.

The egg cup at the top?  It was mine as a child and it is still in regular use.  But not only that, it makes me smile when I see it, when I use it. It passes the soul lifting test with flying colours.

decluttering with William Morris – the Pre-Raphaelite method

If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it.  Have nothing in your houses that you do  not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.

Useful and beautiful (in my eyes).

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I have always loved the Pre-Raphaelites.  If I had studied history of art it would have been a one horse race.  But it is not just their artwork which I adore.  It is the whole ethos of the Arts and Craft movement; the belief that a healthy society was one which respected craft production and did not rely entirely on division of labour and machinery for the creation of products.  The use of natural and local materials in production.  And of course William Morris’ famous quote above.

Beautiful

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I know that there is much in our house that does not meet that criterion.  From where I sit to work I can see a carving of a fish.  It is pretty, but I don’t love it and I don’t know in my heart it is beautiful.  There is an incense stick holder which has been superceded by a more beautiful (actually more simple in design) and more useful one.  In my pen holder there are two marker pens which I know don’t work.  Outside in the courtyard I can see an old bird table that has been superceded by are more practical one.  There is a glass contraption that was supposed to trap wasps but never did.  All that and I didn’t even leave my seat.

Useful

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Join me today as we walk around our homes.  Look carefully at the things around you and ask yourself if they would pass Morris’ test.  If they do not, then why are you keeping them?

Neither useful nor beautiful

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