making room

I love the period between Christmas and New Year.  I am fortunate enough to be able to spend that week gently chilling at home.  After the hustle and bustle of the preparations for the festive season I enjoy the sameness about each day and forgetting which day of the week it is.  Many years ago when the girls were still at home we had a huge blackboard (about 3 x 2 ft) in the kitchen upon which we wrote shopping lists, messages etc.  After I we had eaten Christmas lunch I would ceremoniously wipe the board clean and write in capital letters “MUMMY’S DAY OFF – FOOD IN THE FRIDGE!”

I don’t need to put the message out quite so clearly now, but the message is the same.  For the next day or so meals are assemblies of existing preparations, Mummy is going to knit/read/walk/watch old movies.  Because I am more still, there is less running around, I have time to have a closer look at my surroundings and notice how they have changed over the year.  What has gone, but more often, what has crept in.  Time for a whizz round.  Not a deep declutter of the kind that takes a couple of weeks at least, but a focus on one or two areas where accumulation has taken on epic proportions.

A few years ago whilst I was visiting my father in the States the girls and the Boss arranged for some beautiful waxed pitch pine shelves and bookcases to be built in the the sitting room as a Mothering Sunday present.  Because of the weird shape and history of our house (the original dates back to the 13th Century and bits have been added on all over the place over the years) we have a lot of doors and a lack of window sills and wall space for shelves.  For the first time ever I was able to display some of my precious carvings, silverware and photographs.  Books could come out of the dark and DVDs and CDs no longer made tall skyscraper skylines behind sofas and chairs.

However, as we all know, stuff expands to fill an empty space and as I was curled up with my knitting last night I knew that the DVDs and books in one corner of the sitting room just had to be cleared.

Two bin bags later it looks like this.  Not exactly minimalist (there was some discussion over some of the DVDs – they are now on a secret watch list and may yet have only a short time left in the house!), but there is now order and some space.


Why not give a small corner a quick makeover, you won’t believe how much better it makes you feel.


If you are struggling to decide what should stay and what should go, then turn to William Morris, he always has the answer;

“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.”

Love Gillie x

pen and paper

My Facebook and twitter feed are full of people talking about new year resolutions and plans to make joy jars, keep diaries, set fantastic goals.  It is a wonderful momentum created by people from all over the world as we try to make our world and our lives better places and perhaps us better people.

Over my fifty or so years I have kept a diary most of the time and added a daily gratitude list some six or seven years ago.  I have set SMART goals and fantastical goals.  I have used simple jottings to set goals and complex systems and programmes to set them.  One system required a whole book to explain the process!


Anyone who loves stationery will understand the joy of a fresh new notebook ready for you to fill with your observations, dreams, tears and private rants.  The smell of the unused paper and the creak as the spine bends for the first time.  However, the greater joy is to go back and read them.  Several years ago I got out all my diaries, going back to a 1974 Puffin Book Club diary in which I spilled my heart out with gems like “Today I palyed (sic) with Georgina”.  Some entries brought back vivid memories, some took me completely by surprise; I had no recollection of those events and they read almost like a novel.

Diaries can be cathartic.  Any diary keeper who has been through a trauma, particularly an emotional one will remember writing pages and pages of  “Why?”  “What if?”  “Could I have …?”  In my great reading session I came across the diaries I kept after my first husband left me for another woman after six months of marriage.  They made for interesting rather than painful reading.  At the time I thought I would never love or be loved again.  It was good to see how wrong I was and all those people who told be I would eventually come out on the other side were right after all.  Having said that I had no wish to keep those diaries.  They had served their purpose at the time of writing and again at the time of re-reading some 30 years later.  My husband set up a huge fire in our largest wood burning stove and I happily consigned them to the flames, they served their purpose one last time, that part of my life was well and truly over and I had no need of a written summary of it.  All the other diaries, even the excruciatingly embarrassing teenage ones I kept.

Today many people keep a blog like this one and many of those are extremely open and raw, the writer exposing themselves, sometimes anonymously, to a public they don’t know with more honesty than they may to the friends that they do.  But that is not, at least for me, quite the same as putting pen to paper that is only intended for my eyes.

So if you are making resolutions, setting goals and planning a better life then you could do no worse than resolve to keep a diary.

Love Gillie x



here’s to the best year yet ….

I am not one to go in for new year resolutions but I am all in favour of new year plans.  Which I suppose are a variation on the NYR with more backup.  If your NYR was one of the pretty standard ones “I want to lose 20lb” then even the most ill forward thinker would have enough nouse to know that the 20lb will not just fall off all of its own accord.  A plan is required to assist the process.  This is variously known as “going on a diet”,  “eating more sensibly”, “joining the gym” or “bloody  hell my bikini has been shrunk”.



The problem is with all those other more nebulous resolutions.  “I will declutter”  “I will spend less money”,  “I will write more letters and send less emails”  “We will grow more of our own veg”.  The resolution is made, the virtuosity index hits the roof and then……….. nothing happens.

How you plan is entirely up to you.  But there are three vital ingredients to achieving what you want to do, PLAN, PLAN and PLAN.  I have tried various systems over the years, both my own and those dreamt up by other people.  My personal favourite is The Best Year Yet  I first used it some six years ago and worked from the book .  Now I use the website because I like the interactive monthly and weekly goal setting, the interactive review process and the information about how well I am doing at each goal.

There are a plethora of systems out there, don’t take too long looking at them all.  At the end of the day it is your goals that count not how you get to them.

Once goals are in place you need to break them down into manageable chunks and that is where I love BYY.  I can print out a weekly set of tasks that are directly related to each goal and pin them in the appropriate page in my uncalendar.  So when I am planning my tasks each day I am reminded every time I look at my to do list of the things I have to do if I want to have my best year yet.

I am a bit of an organiser freak, and readers of my previous blog Skybluepinkish will have journeyed with me as  I sought to find the best way to keep my life on track.  For the past year and a half I have gone back to my filofax


and added an uncalendar .


The former holds my diary, notes and bits and bobs.  The latter is command control.  It holds my daily to do list, meeting notes, telephone messages and notes to self.  Weekly accountability for personal disciplines (eg yoga, walking, meditation, morning prayer and journalling routines etc.), weekly menu plans, anything at all that pertains to day to day living.

Whatever rocks your boat.  But even if you make a plan it won’t work unless you have a means of breaking down the plan into manageable chunks and keeping track of your progress.  Personal accountability is key.

And what does this have to do with decluttering or minimalism or living a clearer life?  Look around you.  How many half finished jobs, half finished craft projects are lying around your home.  How many half completed ideas are cluttering up your brain and oozing guilt every time you come across them.  How many grand plans have been cut short for lack of funds – how much  money have you paid out on clothes, food, petrol, insurance, books etc because you didn’t think ahead and had to purchase in an emergency?  What if you had saved that money, could that grand plan have come to fruition?

Whatever you want to do.  Wherever you want to be this time next year, it won’t happen all on its own.