Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Minimalism Musings: The More Of Less

"Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from them."

Minimalism will therefore vary for each individual, for some it might be white spaces and Zen-like living, others might decide to pare down their items to 100 things or have a desire to fit all they own into a suitcase.  Like everything in life, it is not a one size fits all policy and is a lifelong attitude as opposed to a once in a lifetime event.

Clever marketing, magazines, blogs and other social media sites are keen to perpetuate the myth, that happiness is found in stuff.  The problem with this mentality is that like any addiction the thrill of the purchase is superseded by the crash and as in any addiction the cycle of want-buy-crash is continued ad infinitum.  I have never been a shopaholic since, as a child growing up, disposable income was in short supply and my mum did a great job managing on a single wage.  Sometimes there was envy on my part, when I saw what other friends had but on the whole I was very grateful as I knew that buying a treat for me, meant that my mum went without a new item of clothing.

We don't have to be shopaholics to be hoarders as our possessions can take over when we are unable to say "no" to the gifted bags of hand me down clothing, books, toys and games.  When Uncle Bernard died over two years ago, it took over six months for family members to clear out his house.  He was a serious hoarder and by the time he realised that he had a problem, he was too poorly to do anything about it.

Minimalism and Simple Living has been a cause dear to my heart over the past few years.  As I have grown older and been a home owner since my early twenties I have recognised the need for space and organisation.  You Tube offers a plethora of interesting videos and books abound on the subject, even the Holy Father challenges us to take social justice and the environment seriously.  My latest read has been The More of Less and I was fortunate enough to receive an e-copy for review. 

Joshua's opening story recounts the all too familiar tale of an extended weekend, a garage clean out and no time to play ball with his son.  It is a chance remark by his neighbour that sparks his journey into minimalism which is, to identify what matters and ditch the rest.  Within six months Joshua and his wife Kim had jettisoned over 50% of their belongings and the blog "Becoming Minimalist" had been born.  Two years later Joshua would relinquish his role as a student pastor and instead spend his time speaking at conferences and writing books and articles about his journey into less.

He debunks two myths surrounding minimalism and that is "you have to give up everything and it is another means of organisation."  Minimalism is defining your objectives and then discarding items or activities that do not meet with that focus.  Removing extraneous physical clutter from our lives not only frees up space but allows us to re-evaluate true needs from wants.  This in turn forces us to question every item coming into the home.  Gone are the impulse buys and instead, we pause and, nine times out of ten, that "need" disappears into the ether.

When the rich young man asks Jesus, "Good Teacher what must I do to gain eternal life."  He is met with an honest and challenging reply, " Sell all you have and give it away to the poor.  You will have riches in heaven, Come follow me."  Joshua skillfully sums this up in one thought provoking comment:

"We search for the greatest good we can accomplish with the one life we have been given.  We decipher what possessions we need to accomplish this role and then refuse to allow anything to keep us from fulfilling this purpose."

He shares the nitty gritty on marketing ploys and our "own wants from within" that can derail us if we are not on guard.  We are encouraged to be mindful when shopping and to recognise that happiness and contentment are found in appreciating what we have, family, friends and home.  He also offers practical advice on the minimising process and uses experiments to help you figure out just how much you really need.

The latter part of the book encourages the reader to find the ways of being the best we can be in this one life we have through:-

  • Volunteering and Mentoring.
  • Self reflection. Are we living an authentic life? Do our actions match with our values?

  • Clearing out the mental clutter - this is an area that is a current work in progress in my life.  
In fact the mental clutter in my head is at maximum overload and has been for sometime, I am however taking steps to deal with this: regular quiet times in the day, handwork projects that are restful, trying not to feel guilty if I do go out on my own and weekly counselling to offload.

In closing, this book intertwines practical challenges and directions with real life stories and biblical teaching.  Most simple living and green books are often found in the secular press and so a book like this, that encourages the reader on a spiritual journey, is a rare treasure.

Full disclosure: I received a free download in return for my review at Blogging For Books.


Thursday, 26 May 2016

A Daybook For May

Looking out of my window:  it is pitch black save for the street lamp on the roadside.  Earlier today the sky was grey and there was a decidedly cool nip in the air.  Summer is almost around the corner but I think Mother Nature is in denial!

I am thinking: that I spend my days being really cross with myself!  Most days I run on coffee and adrenaline, rushing from one problem to the next.  I have this daily worry that I have not managed to kick my writing into gear and that as the potential income earner in the family that I have let everyone down.  I am still also grieving over the loss of Aunty Maureen and when all seems to be under control, something will tip me over, the flood gates open and the tears roll.  I have also developed this rather annoying habit of over thinking and boy is that paralysing :-)

I am thankful for: the gift of friendship both near and far.  We had our "Little Flowers" meeting on Monday and it was so good to spend time with other like minded souls.  I have a planned coffee date with another dear friend on Friday and the " jump for joy" chance of meeting a longstanding friend on the weekend, here's looking at you Ros!

One of my favourite things: rediscovering my joy of knitting.  I lost my mojo well over a year ago but a spark has been re-ignited and I am one happy knitter.

I am wearing:  a flowered linen shirt and jeans but should really be in my pyjamas as it is way past my bedtime!

I am creating:  pages of notes and jottings in the hope that inspiration will strike and that those words will be put to good use.

I am reading:  "Work Simply" by Carson Tate ~ embracing the power of personal productivity style.  I now understand why I could not get into the whole planner, washi tape and sticker thing, it is just not my style!  Give me a piece of paper and a pen and I will prioritise and visualise my day :-)  Think goal orientated and comprehending the big picture and that is me! 

 I am also incapable of having just one book on the go so on the kindle app on my phone I am reading, "No Impact Man; saving the planet one family at a time," Colin Beavan.  I have also finished reading another e-book download about simplicity and minimalism which I received in return for writing a review, which I am hoping to share on here before too long.

I am hoping: to find some peace in my days :-)

In the kitchen: the menu planning and organisation has been out of the window for a good few weeks.  We have transitioned once again to an organic veg box scheme and I am trying as far as possible to reduce the amount of plastic entering the home.  The pesticides are an unwanted toxic burden on an existing overwhelmed body and the plastics are not only a pain to recycle, they are also known to disrupt hormone levels so not great in particular for the women in the house!

In the school room:  we are hitting the non negotiables of maths and english on a daily basis.  I am still however trying to find a joint activity for both kids but that requires some peace and quiet and thinking time, all of which are in short supply at the moment!

In the garden: we have an array of flowers and a small amount of vegetables thanks to Sara and Tom

A peak into our day:

 Pip and her friend from Little Flowers who we visited earlier today; they had a great time and so did the adults chatting, drinking tea and enjoying a delicious salad and cheese smorgasbord

Joining in with:

 found over here

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Classroom Free

Whilst other poor kids were chained to their desks and SATS, we were blessed to make good use of the weather and a  hands on learning programme.  Sometimes it is good to enrich our lives and enhance our well being by engaging with nature and working with our hands.  Rudolph Steiner set great store in handwork skills as part of his educational philosophy and even I a product of a seventies state education remembers Wednesday afternoons as a craft afternoon.  These sessions served a dual purpose, the kids learned a new skill and the teacher in between helping with dropped stitches had time to mark work or plan for the next lesson.  I have nothing but admiration and sympathy for those teaching in the current education system, their lives are dominated by a tick box culture and petty bureaucracy. No matter how difficult our home school days might be and there are definitely days where we annoy one another, I am glad that both kids have been spared unnecessary testing in their primary years.  #letkidsbekids

 We finally made it to the footprints meeting place on Thursday.  The last time we attended was late on in the autumn before the MS relapse and all other associated problems.  It was good to be back, not only to sit and chat to the other parents but for the kids to roam free :-)  The kids played, Dave read a railway magazine and I knitted, yay!

 Such beauty in God's creation.

 Sunlight on wood.

 Instead of heading home once the meeting had finished, we made an impromptu decision to meet up with Sara and Tom. We decided on this place The food was exceptional and their gluten free menu was extensive.  We arrived at 5:45pm and left at 8:00pm and by 7:00pm the inn was very busy with no spare tables!

 There are moments where these two just gel and life is pretty sublime and that was the case on Friday morning.  They had a great time whittling and painting in the workshop and yes they are still in their pyjamas! They were eventually dressed by lunchtime :-)

He just keeps on growing and looking older.

 Happily painting her brother's hand made diamond sword courtesy of minecraft!

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Wednesday Wanderings and Wonderings

I think I have succumbed to the same virus that floored Pip during the latter part of our holiday, whether you are homeschooling or not there are no sick days for mothers!  Pip also was in a peculiar mood so we bailed on desk work once she had completed her maths for the day and instead we attended a newly formed Home Ed Art Group that will be meeting on a monthly basis.  It was good to reconnect with some familiar faces and to also meet knew folk.  Pip really enjoyed the afternoon, she painted some stones for decoration which will need varnishing and was creative with some paper cups, making a fairy house and a light house.

Benedict had a great day with Shein, they took Bella the dog for a walk followed by lunch and then an afternoon swimming.  He was in good spirits when he arrived home which was greatly appreciated since at that point, I was once more feeling unwell.  Benedict stepped into the breach and made dinner with the occasional input from Pip, they worked together as a team and there was no fighting!  Nothing short of a miracle :-)

 A family stand by, cajun spiced potato wedges, tuna mayonnaise and salad.

After we had eaten the kids made a pot of tea and camped out in my room, it was then that I read the very sad news about Dorina's dad passing away and so I picked up the phone and rang her :-)  It was just after noon their time in New York and it was good to chat and share across the miles.  Sometimes I have wondered about the internet and social media and I know that both can be a black hole of time wasting!  Yet if I hadn't been writing this blog I would not have "met" some very dear friends, who have supported me through some difficult moments.  I have even been fortunate enough to chat with Dorina, Eva and Sue via Skype too!

Our small city hit the news yesterday as children and parents up and down the country fought back against the ridiculousness of the current testing regimes within schools.  Those on strike attended an alternative ed-venture for the day and it was enjoyed by all , #letchildrenbechildren  the video can be watched here