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Tips to Declutter and Organize: My Minimalist Progress

My mission for a simpler life continues, and I’ve been looking to the experts for more tips to declutter and organize my home and day to day life. I’ve worked incredibly hard over the past couple of months, but I’ve found decluttering  is more of a challenge than expected. The more stuff I get rid of, the more I find.

tips to declutter and organize pin

*This post contains affiliate links. This means I get a small commission from Amazon if you decide to purchase one of the books I mention. This does not affect the price of the item.*


Following my initial post about the need for minimalism, I’m celebrating my wins, sharing what I’ve learnt, and highlighting tips to declutter and organize from published gurus. I’m working hard, but am certainly not at expert level yet! 

What I have learnt since starting ‘the purge’ 6 weeks ago:

I have spent a lot of time removing ‘stuff’ from the house. Some of it trash, some recyclable, some donatable, and some sellable. Making a decision about which one of these routes each item goes is a task in itself. I’ve learnt a lot during this process, and I’m already feeling unshackled from hoarding unnecessary items. Here are my key mental breakthroughs since the start of my decluttering journey:

Sell valuable items quickly or they will haunt you

If you’re considering whether to sell/donate/recycle/trash, I would highly recommend going for whichever option is ranked below your initial thought. Is it really sellable? I have hung on to so many things because I believe I will get round to selling them on EBay or Craigslist. Unless something is highly desired or highly valuable, consider whether it’s worth the effort. And more importantly… are you actually going to do it, and do it now?

The things I have sold, I have sold cheaply and quickly. I purposefully sold my stroller for half what other people were advertising. I took a box of clothes to sell at a store, even though with some work I may be able to get twice as much on Ebay. I did this because if I didn’t, the items would still be in my house right now. They had been there for a long time already, and the burden of selling them was becoming depressing. “I must do that this weekend!” I would say to myself, every.single.time I looked at the pile in my room. I appreciate you may need the money, but if you really did, you would have sold them a long time ago…

Items I have sold:
  • A box of high quality clothes to a second hand store (made $50);
  • Our original twin stroller ($250);
Items I have donated or given away for free:
  • 14 trash bags of clothes to the charity clothes bin;
  • A mountain of old shelving wood and closet doors picked up for repurposing;
Items I have Recycled:
  • A mountain of cardboard boxes that were taking over the garage;
  • 4 trash bags of paper;
Items I have Thrown Away:
  • 14 trash bags of random ‘stuff’;
  • 5 trash bags of old sheets and fabric;
  • 2 trash bags of broken, incomplete or worn toys (toys are now organized in the toy library!);
  • 1 trash bag of tired old shoes;
  • 2 inflatable mattresses with holes;
  • 1 car expired car seat.

tips to declutter and organize furniture

let go of the Waste Guilt

The most difficult part of this process is the throwing away. I am an avid recycler, and the idea of adding to landfill with stuff I could recycle or find a home for horrifies me. I’ve actually found it quite difficult to admit to you guys what I’ve thrown away, because I feel you judging me… or myself judging me. I have been carrying around bags of old sheets for years, with this obsession of finding a use for them. Maybe I could dye them and make a costume from the fabric at Halloween? I’ll do some fabric printing and make a table cloth… I have had bags of fabric of all varieties that I couldn’t bring myself to throw away. It’s the crafter in me… or the hoarder, I’m not sure which.

Discarding things can be wasteful. But the guilt that keeps you from minimizing is the true waste. (Extreme minimalist Fumio Sasaki talkign to the Martha Stewart Blog)

If you’re really struggling with this, pretty much anything you put on Craiglist for free is gone the same day… it’s really quite liberating. Someone will come to your house in a matter of hours and take it off your hands, and you know it’s going to a home where it will be repurposed.

Most importantly though… be realistic. I don’t have time to do everything I want to do. I don’t have time to take photos and package and mail individual items on Ebay. I’m never going to get round to submerging the inflatable matresses in the bath to find holes and patch them with some kind of puncture kit. Know your limits and free yourself from the ‘stuff’ as quickly and easily as possible.

Sentiment is a Hoarder’s Best Friend

Lastly, I have been learning to detach myself from sentimental items. I have finally got rid of two boxes of files, photos and documents relating to my degree, architectural work and teacher training. I don’t know why its taken me so long to let go of this stuff… some of it is 15 years old! And what am I going to do with it? Am I really going to sit down one day with a cuppa and read my Masters dissertation on the social impact of public green spaces? Probably not. Recycled. Done.

I still have a box sat in my closet that I’m finding difficult to get rid of. My Grandfather’s old paintbrushes, an old laptop that crashes before I can copy the photos of my daughter as a baby are transferred, a set of drafting tools. A stack of huge, chunky photo albums from the days I printed a photo of everything I saw. I have some other things that I know will be difficult to get rid of… but I’ll get there. It’s a matter of priority. Those items are not my priority right now while I still have three bags of paper work to tackle and three drawers of cosmetics and bathroom paraphernalia to sort through. Their time will come.

THREE Expert Tips to Declutter and Organize

It’s onwards and upwards in the quest for less stuff. Certain areas of the house are feeling more ordered, others still need a lot of work. But I’m struggling with maintaining the decluttered vibe. ‘Stuff’ keeps creeping in and I find myself resorting to areas I’ve already dealt with. So my next wave of research is to consider behavior. What do the experts suggest for breaking the cycle of clutter and reprogramming to mind to make the right choices? 

Marie Kondo on Designating a Place for Everything:

The reason every item must have a designated place is because the existence of an item without a home multiplies the chances that your space will become cluttered again.

Let’s say, for example, that you have a shelf with nothing on it. What happens if someone leaves an object that has no designated spot on that shelf? That one item will become your downfall. Within no time that space which had maintained a sense of order, will be covered with objects, as if someone had yelled, “Gather round everybody!”

Marie Kondo, Author of: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

I totally get it… who else has a ‘crap drawer’? You know, the default place for any crap that is floating around the house. Batteries, coupons, a padlock without a key, hair bands, a pencil sharpener, a pack of cards that have bust out of the box… I know you have a crap drawer… or bowl, or shelf. The reason these cubbies of breeding clutter exist is because they are full of the stuff that doesn’t belong anywhere. Find a place for everything and the crap drawer no longer exists.

tips to declutter and organize clothes

Ruth Soukup on establishing limits

When it comes to clothing, set limits on what you have space for. (I recommend a 40-hanger closet.) Every time an item goes in, make a commitment that another item goes out. This mentality will keep you from purchasing items you don’t need (to store in space you don’t really have)!

Ruth Soukup, Author of: Unstuffed: Decluttering Your Home, Mind, and Soul

Since I have ruthlessly purged my closet last month, I have purchased a pair of trousers, two tops and a pair of shorts. I could easily purge this many items from the already reduced selection, I still have plenty of pieces I just don’t wear… back to the clothes donation bin it is.

I like limits… it’s very black and white, which I find easier to stick to. I could come up with a limit for a number of categories: toys, kids drawings, ornaments… and don’t forget the fabric! If I have a thing for fabric and crafting supplies, I need a limit. I should probably add DIY stuff to that list… I can’t throw away an old tool or a piece of wood… it might come in handy. But really… will it?

‘The Minimalists’ on just-in-case items and their 20/20 rule:

Anything we get rid of that we truly need, we can replace for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes from our current location. Getting rid of these items clears our minds, frees up our space, and takes the weight off our shoulders.

Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, Authors of: Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life

The ‘just-in-case’ and the sentimental items are where Husband starts to get grumpy. He’s terrified I’m going to throw out all his beloved CDs that have not been released from the boxes they were packed in over three years ago. What if he has a sudden urge to indulge in heavy metal and teenage angst? He needs to keep them just-in-case. And I get it, sentimental items are the most difficult.

But what about the two pairs of $15 rain boats that were in the closet that haven’t been worn since 2012? Until recently I thought I’d better keep them just-in-case we go somewhere muddy. We live in Arizona… its full-on desert, I think we’ll be OK. And if we do suddenly need rain boots, we can replace them. This may seem wasteful, and again the waste guilt starts to nibble… But really, what proportion of all your stuff is there just-in-case?

Summing Up

My journey continues, but so far by best tips to declutter and organize are:

  • Make it easy for yourself: Find the easiest way to sell/recycle/throw items;
  • Don’t allow guilt to stop your progress;
  • Sentimental items can become a burden: find another way to hold on to those memories;
  • Find a place for EVERYTHING;
  • Set limits to reduce the invasion of new clutter;
  • Get rid of low value just-in-case items.

Good luck on your decluttering quest… we’ll get there!

 

Kids that Won’t Clean Up: The Magic Toy Library

Last year I told you all about my daughter (then six) and her fantastic talent for what we call ‘Poopcrastination‘. Since then, not only her allergy to tidying become worse, her baby brothers have become mobile and impressively destructive. Yep, my name is Mom… and I have three kids that won’t clean up. After a couple of months of swinging between embracing the chaos, and chasing them around like a headless chicken with a sponge and trash bag in tow, I’m done. I’m worn out and have come up with a plan of action.

kids that won't clean up FB

 

I touched on this a few weeks ago… I am in purge mode, in a quest for mild minimalism. But the household is working against me… Between Husband, addicted to buying random junk from Walmart, and my three kids who have gone wild with Arizona-summer-cabin-fever, it feels like two steps forward, one step back.

I continue to work on the ‘tidy up game’ with the twins, they’re totally into it but unfortunately it’s so much fun they insist on throwing everything they’ve just tidied away in order to clean up again… the video explains what I’m talking about:

 

They’re only 20months old so for now we’ll cut them some slack on the tidying. But do they really need to throw everything? I swear I’m bringing up two olympian shot put throwers. However, my real problem is my darling Elsie. She has many talents, but tidying up is not one of them. No exaggeration here – many times we have spent an entire day trying to get her to tidy a few toys off the floor. A five minute job becomes a five hour job. 

Tried, tested and failed remedies for kids that won’t clean up:

  • Share the tidying up – results in Mom tidying and Elsie playing while pretending (badly) to tidy up;
  • “If you tidy up we can go out to crazy golf!” (She loves crazy golf… who doesn’t). Results in tears and no crazy golf;
  • “Tidy up before lunch please,” Ten minutes later… “You’re not having lunch until your play area is tidy.” Results in rolling around on the floor, screaming and crying due to extreme hunger… even though it’s not even lunch time yet. (Don’t mess with Elsie’s food… she’s like her father).
  • The trash bag method… “You have 10minutes to tidy up, then I’m coming up with a trash bag. Anything still on the floor goes in the bag.” This method worked a few times, until she called our bluff. Everything went into trash bags and she had to earn the toys back through the following week. Trouble is, the toys were in such a jumble, Mom had to spend ages sifting through the bags to find out what went with what in order to return ‘the box of Shopkins’. Plus the drama caused by American Girl doll Julie entering the trash was quite traumatic for all, including Julie… ugh, back to the drawing board.

It doesn’t happen very often, but occasionally the words of my mother-in-law pop into my head. Some time ago, when I was talking about tidying up, she said

“When we were children, we were only allowed to play with one toy at a time.”

In that moment I didn’t think much of it, after all, some of the best games are those involving a Shopkins/Barbie/Toy Kitchen mash-up. I often see Elsie creating a picnic for all her toys, or allowing My Little Ponies to sinfully shack up with Calico Critters. I consider myself a creative, and I hate the idea of dampening my daughter’s imagination… but I’ve reached the end of my tether. 

Kids that Won’t Clean Up… Enter the Toy Library

Elsie loves the library, always has done. So rather than telling her all the toys were going to be separated and shut into a cupboard, I told her we were going to create a toy library.

“What do we do when we go to the library? We take back the books we’ve finished with and check out new ones.”

kids that won't clean up magic toy library

Elsie was instantly sold. No more sea of toys on the floor, no more open boxes for the twins to take handfuls from and throw across the room. 

Two Weeks Later

I’ve tried so many things, I’m going to be honest… I didn’t hold out much hope for the magic toy library. But, it has worked wonders and delivered unexpectedly positive results. The toy library came just in time too, because I managed to trip over the dividing baby gate in our playroom and demolish it in the process; so the twins are now on the loose full-time. They love it; because there’s more stuff to throw, whoop! But, slowly we are removing more and more stuff, to allow one big space for simple games… all three bouncing on Elsie’s bed together has become a favorite.

A slightly unexpected side effect… all three are playing together; a total mom win,  even if some of their activities are questionably dangerous. It may be a coincidence; the twins are just reaching a more playful age. But I would suggest that removing Elsie’s toys from the play room has encouraged inventive, creative play that works for all ages. Perfect for kids that won’t clean up because there is minimal mess to tidy! The dress up box is still out, because all three love dressing up and it’s much easier to tidy up than Shopkins and Barbie’s wardrobe.

So, we may have lost the opportunity for a toy mash up, but we’ve gained the opportunity for siblings to play together, awesome result I’d say. Now when Elsie checks out a box, she tends to bring it to her brothers… they love seeing what she’s going to pull out!

And the checked out toys do make it back to the cupboard… most of the time.

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The Need for Minimalism: Confession of a Hoarding Mom

I’m keeping it short and sweet today because I’m on a mission… in a couple weeks I have a bunch of friends and family coming to stay, and I’ve just realized the house needs turning upside down. I am unable to stop myself walking into every room of the house with the eyes of a visitor, “They’ve been here two years and they still have unpacked boxes?”.

 

What was even in these boxes? Why do I have so much stuff I don’t need?! As someone that has moved house twice in three years, I know very well that we have way too much stuff. And since our last move two years ago we’ve only added to it further. So I’m here for a personal intervention… less stuff is on the immediate agenda; and to help I’m having a brief look at minimalism and what it means. It’s not procrastination, its research (cough, cough).

 

minimalism FB

 

I’m not entirely sure when it happened, but at some point after having children I became a hoarder. The twins closet makeover required sorting of stuff before I could get stuck in, and this sparked a mission to declutter the house. I have made a new friend in the process; the charity clothes bin outside Safeway. Once I sorted a single box of high quality kids clothes to sell, I still had 12 trash bags busting with adult and kids clothes to get rid of. My new friend is a three minute drive away and it took me moments to dump the entire lot into its belly. Why on Earth didn’t I do this last month, last year? Heck… I even had two boxes of kids clothes that were shipped over from the UK over three years ago. 

 

It’s very common for parents to hoard baby clothes, and it not only affects women:

“I was unbelievably frustrated. I didn’t understand his fixation with this giant bag of torn and stained clothes that no one was ever going to wear again.” (B Sanders, Romper.com)

 

Is Minimalism the answer?

 

Beyond the hoarding of adorable socks, I’m getting really fed up with tidying up… anyone else? The twins are a walking/running path of destruction these days. I feel like one of those vehicles that drives along the road on autopilot, picking up trash and cleaning surfaces behind them.

 

minimalism road sweeper

 

In reading the welcome page to The Minimalist Mom blog, I soon realized less stuff would really make my life less complicated. No DVD shelving for the twins to throw to the floor with one arm swoop, no cubbies stuffed with  dozens of shoes that end up deposited in every corner of the house. No cupboards full of plastic plates bought for a picnic 2 years ago that get pulled out onto the floor every.single.day.

 

In dipping my toes into the world of minimalism, I came across the wise words of Joshua Becker, author of ‘The More of Less’ (affiliate link):

 

“Minimalism slows down life and frees us from this modern hysteria to live faster. It finds freedom to disengage. It seeks to keep only the essentials. It seeks to remove the frivolous and keep the significant. And in doing so, it values the intentional endeavors that add value to life.” (becomingminimalist.com)

 

minimalism desk

 

That pretty much sums up what I want from life right now… less hysteria; more freedom; intentional endeavors. I’m hoping these words of wisdom may resonate for others, as they did for me; and I’m sure I will come back to this later and consider how all this decluttering affects the design and function of my home. So, without further ado… I’m keeping this post short, because I have some more purging to do. 

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The Physics of the Daily Grind: Self Help Books and Chaos Theory

Last week, I was sent a book called ‘Women, Motherhood & Independence‘. Anyone that’s read my post ‘Why I Don’t Do Parenting Books‘ can imagine that self-help books have never really been my bag.  I don’t get much time to read, and to be honest when I do, I’d rather read a gruesome murder mystery. Should I be worried that murder takes priority over self-help? Probably… but for me, TV, books and going out on the town are all about escapism. Escaping the day-to-day madness that is life… escaping my own personal chaos. Now, because I’m more of a scientist than a spiritualist, stick with me while we take a look at Chaos Theory. It’s a real thing, with scientific laws derived by people with highly effective brains… now that I can work with.

chaos theory
Original fractal design sourced from Magic4Walls.com

‘Chaos is the science of surprises, of the nonlinear and the unpredictable. It teaches us to expect the unexpected.’ (FractalFoundation.org)

What did I tell you… science is the answer to all your problems. Chaos Theory is going to teach us how to expect the unexpected. So when I turn around from the cooker and the Twins have instantly vanished, I’m going to know that they have made it down the corridor to the bathroom, and are happily playing in the toilet bowl – unexpected? Not anymore. 

Principals of Chaos Theory:

One of the main principles of Chaos Theory, is the idea of the butterfly effect. The chaos theorist in Jurassic Park (one of my favorite movies of all time by the way), played by Jeff Goldblum, talks of how the flutter of a butterfly’s wing in Brazil could, through a complex sequence of events, cause a tornado in Kanzas. It’s a idea that has come up again and again in movies – ‘Sliding Doors’ portrays the knock on effect of whether or not Gwyneth Paltrow’s character catches a particular train on a particular day. And then there’s the time traveling disaster of Ashton Kutcher’s character in ‘The Butterfly Effect’. This idea of feedback is important in Chaos Theory – even the smallest interference in a system can have dramatic effects.

What Chaos Theory is Not:

Chaos theory is not a lazy branch of science, just writing everything off as unpredictable, uncontrollable and without order. It looks for underlying patterns, and unifying ideas. It studies the inner workings of non linear systems, and makes predictions about outcomes. And it’s not just for mathematicians; Chaos theory is used to study physiology, biology, economics and pretty much anything that’s real life. Because chaos is the nature of… nature. 

Why Choas Theory is Important to Consider:

It is important to understand that life is a non linear system. Although we may feel like we’re rolling along the conveyor belt of day-to-day life, in reality, small interventions in the system are giving it feedback, resulting in an infinitely larger, more complex system. So when life feels chaotic and unpredictable, blame the butterfly in Brazil. But we can also use Chaos Theory to our advantage… remember, small interventions can, in the long term, have dramatic effects.

This is where I return to my self-help book, the trigger for this post on Chaos Theory. In ‘Women, Motherhood & Independence’, author Penelope Magoulianti talks about how she worked for the same employers for twenty years, and despite wanting to, never pushed for more from her career. ‘Every year the frustration and anger grew greater’ she explains, because she was afraid to do anything about it. In the eyes of Chaos Theory, I would suggest those feeling of frustrations and anger are giving her life system feedback; creating a more complexly unsatisfying work environment as time went on. It was only when the company closed down, she was forced to reflect, consider her passions, and kick start a new confidence and career. 

 

If Life is Chaos, Is Anything Linear?

Penelope totally burst my ego bubble when she explains to the reader that research has proved:

‘98% of people can’t multitask’

So, either you’re in the lucky 2%, or you’re not getting more done by trying to do it all at the same time. It seems our mental to-do list should be a linear system. We have enough chaos in nature, let’s keep simple task management in linear form, we’re much more effective that way.

 

What Science Can’t Help Us With

In amongst all this science, there is a place for self-help books. Science will struggle to tell you how to feel more confident, and inspire you to find your passion and achieve personal success. My favorite chapter from ‘Women, Motherhood & Independence’ was ‘Slow Down to Achieve More’, because this is exactly what I promised myself I’d do this year. Penelope talks of creating ‘silent time’, as well as adding relaxing activities and re-charge time to your life. This is exactly what I need to do, and it was great to read some tips on how to achieve it. It has also given me the push I needed to get a few things done that I have been meaning to do for ages.

‘Have you been putting off plans because they didn’t seem perfect enough?’

Yes Penelope, actually I have. I have been meaning to redesign the blog, and this week I actually did it… 

Create a Positive Butterfly

If Chaos Theory is inherently present, lets work with it. Create your own butterfly effect… just make the feedback you give the system positive. Make time everyday to take time out and re-charge. As Chaos Theory states, even a small intervention in the system can have dramatic effects; so if you feel you’re too busy for an hour of meditative yoga, or a long walk on the beach, try spending just 15minutes doing something creative. It can be anything you like, but take Penelope’s advice and turn off the phone/ipad.

If you would like a copy of ‘Women, Motherhood & Independence – A Guide to Financial Freedom, Beauty and Confidence After Childbirth’, you can find the ebook at womenmotherhoodandindependence.com

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Cabin Fever: 5 Ways to Combat a Case of the Crazies

Last week brought with it the onset of cabin fever, and Thursday evening went a bit like this:

“When was the last time I left the house?” I started to tremble as the thought rushed through my mind.

“I’ve dropped and picked up Elsie from school, does that count?”

“I’m pretty sure it doesn’t because you don’t get out of the car.”

“Have I been to the grocery store?”

“I can’t even remember.”

“Do you realize you’re talking to yourself right now?”

My brain started to jitter, my eyes felt like they were sinking back into my head. Panic set in, along with the sudden urge to run down the street naked into the wind with my hair loosely flowing behind me. Then I remembered I don’t live on a farm surrounded by open lavender fields, and in fact live in a family friendly city neighborhood. Nudity was probably not an option, plus it’s January. However, if you’ve forgotten what’s outside your door, it’s probably time you left and found out. Time for a personal intervention.
cabin fever

What is Cabin Fever?

Cabin fever is not a formally diagnosed condition, and instead is associated with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) because it happens during the winter when people become housebound by the weather. Whoever came up with this linear connection has unlikely spent time as a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM). It’s even in the job title, they might as well rename us cabin-fever-moms (CFM). I assure you this condition can occur at anytime of year, and it’s severity is directional proportional to the number of young children you have. 

WebMD claims cabin fever will make you:

  • irritable;
  • unmotivated;
  • lethargic;

It’s basically a mental hangover that even fried food can’t cure. To be honest I had been feeling it all week, my children’s whining has been extraordinarily grating, and I even blogged less than usual. I’ve been crazy tired, yet waking in the middle of the night with to-do lists on auto-repeat. So… what’s the plan this week?

5 Methods to Combat a Case of the Crazies

On Saturday we booked a day sitter from 2-8pm. We have never done this before as we usually do date nights, not days. How novel… I went window shopping without the double stroller. It was actually pretty weird to be out and about without the babies. I soon realized that the only reason everyone is so kind and friendly is because they have love eyes for the Twinkies. In reality the general public don’t hold doors open, and don’t smile at each other – I’ve had rose tinted glasses on for the past 14-months. Still, I highly recommend it, you can even do happy hour and get home early enough to sleep it off. 

The obvious remedy for cabin fever is to leave the house as we did, but sometimes it’s easier said than done. Here are some suggestions of how to pick up the mood while you’re stuck in mom jail:

Lay off the Carbs

‘Lean proteins high in omega-3 fatty acids have been repeatedly linked to improved moods, and many of these foods—like lean beef and wild salmon—are also high in B12 and vitamin D, nutrients important for emotional regulation.’ Brian Krans, Healthline.com

Carbs can make you feel bloated and sluggish, not very conducive to boosting your motivation. I’m not suggesting you go full Atkins diet, but try a meal a day without carbs, it’s surprisingly energizing and encourages you to eat more fruit and vegetables.

Look After your Gut

Many fail to realize that your gut is literally your second brain, and can significantly influence your mind, mood, and behavior. Your gut actually produces more mood-regulating serotonin than your brain does.’ Dr Mercola, mercola.com.

Dr Marcela explains the best way to look after your gut is to eat fermented foods. Unfortunately I don’t think he means drink more beer, he actually means foods such as yogurt, soy sauce, kimchi and sauerkraut. If you’re wondering ‘what am I supposed to do with that lot?’, take a look at 25 Ways to Use Sauerkraut… wow, how much sauerkraut can one person eat?

Refined sugars can not only negatively affect the brain, they also promote the growth of bad bacteria in the gut. So it’s less ice cream and more fermented veg I’m afraid. If that’s not enough to make you want to leave the house to binge at the mall food court I don’t know what will.

Gardening

I spent an hour in the backyard yesterday, despite the drizzly weather. Although I was still in the vicinity of the house, I got some fresh air, some exercise and a change of scenery. I wouldn’t recommend this if you’re 3-feet deep in snow right now, but even if there’s a chill in the air, wrap up and have a tinker outside. The kiddos can join, little ones love weeding!

Exercise 

According to Mayo Clinic, exercise improves mood and helps with depression by:

  • Releasing feel-good brain chemicals (neurotransmitters, endorphins and endocannabinoids)
  • Reducing immune system chemicals that can worsen depression
  • Increasing body temperature, which may have calming effects

If you’re not the jogging stroller type, I would highly recommend a workout video. Kids love to bounce around and join in, and watching them doing warm-up stretches alone is enough to bring a smile to your face. It’s a win-win because laughter produces endorphins and lowers the stress hormone cortisol.

Relax

It’s extremely difficult to reduce stress when you are engulfed by children all day. As a working Mom of one child, I used to imagine the day of a SAHM filled with finger painting, reading books and long cuddles. In reality, children are surprisingly cranky, and a lot of the day is spent dealing with tantrums, bumped heads and fumbling around the cupboard to find alternatives to the lunch they’ve just thrown on the floor. They’re really very anti-social… can you imagine if adults behaved like-one year-olds do? We’d be arrested before the day was out.

Having said that, we need to find moments to relax, even if they are short. If your littles are young enough to still have naptime, make the time to sit quietly, read a book, drink tea, and all those wondrous things. If not, try your best to plan and assign a time when the children are likely to be chirpy (the boys are in the best mood immediately after breakfast) and use the opportunity to take some mom time out, even if you have to use Kids Netflix to babysit. I’m talking to myself as well as you, I am terrible at this and know it would help.

If daytime relaxation doesn’t get a look in, try some bedtime relaxation exercises to help switch off at the end of the day. I’m going to try the ‘The Relaxing Staircase Technique’ found at Mind Body Green this week.

 

Cabin fever intervention now in motion, I’m hoping for a more productive happy week. Are you feeling a case of the crazies? Do let me know if you have any genius remedies!

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What’s Hot and Not for 2017? New Year Resolutions

It’s 2017 people, and that means its time for optimism and planning. This year will be better than last year… it’s important to believe it, even if you’re proved wrong by the end of the month. So, what’s about to change for 2017? When coming up with New Year resolutions, you can end up with a long list. So instead, I’m thinking about what’s hot and not for 2017. This helps me:

  • Prioritize. What’s THE most important thing I want to achieve this year?
  • Add and Delete. Don’t just add a whole bunch of new stuff to your life, and don’t omit everything either. Find a balance – what’s hot and not for 2017.
  • Sliding Scale. Maybe something new isn’t quite what you thought it would be? Maybe it slides down the scale. That’s OK… organic fluidity baby.

Without further ado, here’s my plan for a better year – what’s hot and not for 2017?

What's hot and not for 2017

120°F Time

Unfortunately Santa did not bring me a time machine as requested – I was obviously on the naughty list. After spending every moment of 2016 in the company of the Twins I can safely say I am going insane. I will be investing in time to myself, and get a regular babysitter/nanny for a couple of afternoons of freedom. I am more than excited about this, cue little mom jig…

101°F Photography

Blogging is a multi-skilled endeavor and it’s time to up my game. My husband was kind enough to kit me out with all sorts of computer and photography goodies for my December birthday, so I’m pretty much at ‘all the gear and no idea’ stage. 2017 is officially going to be prettier than 2016. (I know you noticed the new look of the site already 😉

98°F Walking

More walking for the me and the dog, we both need more fresh air and exercise. Our dog is getting so fat from all the highchair appetizers, her legs are starting to disappear, intervention required. Any walking at all by the Twins would also be good, come on twinkies… you’re 13months, you can do it. Of course once walking is mastered my walking is going to be upgraded to running, in two opposite directions at once.

83°F House Plants

In the past, we haven’t been big on house plants. Partly because I have a talent for killing them, partly because we used to travel a lot and this often finished off the ones I hadn’t already murdered. Now we have three kids we’re just not so jet set… so, project house plant commences. They look great and they are increase air quality, win win. There will no doubt be casualties along the way, but we’ll get there.

72°F Black

Black accents in the home – picture frame, coffee tables, door handles, window frames… yes, everything is looking cool in black right now. And it doesn’t stop there – when I left my profession as an Architect I made an effort to wear less black. I thought I needed more color in my life but I was wrong. I want my black back and because I don’t practice Architecture at the moment I’m not even a cliche.

68°F Sleep

I have three kids and I’m tired. I’ve spent the past few months trying to get more sleep, but whether I get it or not, I’m still tired anyway. So, I’ve come to the conclusion that when you’re in your mid thirties and you have three kids you are going to be more tired than you were ten years ago. That’s OK, take it easy when you need to and stop freaking out about getting more sleep, because frankly it’s not going to happen any time soon.

54°F The Gym

Following ‘To Gym or Not to Gym?’ I did quit my membership, and I have no plans to return just yet. It’s difficult to find the time to go, and your conscience tortures you all day long until you get there. Having said that, I do want to be healthy and fit – see ‘walking’ above, and I want to get back into yoga… it’s been a while and I miss it. Good for the body and the mind.

49°F Illness

We have spent the past three months battling cold after cold. Strep throat, ear infections, weazing, rashes… ugh. I’m done. Everyone is on the mend now and I’m ordering the whole family to stay that way. More fun, less snot please.

41°F Meat

We eat too much of it. All of us. I’m not going vegetarian just yet, but I will be eating less meat in 2017. If you’re not aware of the impact mass farming is having our environment and ecosystem, I highly recommend doing some reading. The basics are covered on whyeatlessmeat.com and if you haven’t seen the documentary Cowspiracy I highly recommend it, quite the eye opener. My Mom is going to read this in horror because I grew up on a beef farm, which she still runs. Sorry Mom.

32°F Super Mom 

I put my hands up… I tried it and it’s not healthy. You can’t do it all. So, along with ‘time‘ as featured above, I am going to stop doing it all. I’m not picking up the shoes that are constantly scattered all over the house – put them somewhere tidy yourself. I’m not picking up your knickers from the kitchen floor every morning (don’t ask), do it yourself. Tidy your own room; I’m not the only person that can make a bed; and it is possible for a man to work the washing machine. Goodbye Super Mom, welcome Delegator.

 

So come on, spill the beans, what’s hot and not for 2017 in your life?

twin-pickle-signature

 
 


To gym or not to gym?

gym or cake

You know once you go you’ll be guilt free, taking  joy in that all over ache while tucking into a well earned piece of chocolate cake. If you don’t go you’ll torture yourself about it all day, not only because you dream of a washboard stomach and buns of steel, but because your contract agreement has meant this month the gym has cost you $74 per visit. This is me, everyday. Procrastination, maybe? But how easy is it really to get to the gym when you have young children?

Lets consider my options:

Before the babies wake up… Gym at 4am anyone?

After dropping my daughter at school and giving the twins their breakfast oatmeal… Nap time. So I can go, but it is going to require the strategic sleep transfer from the car to the stroller which is rarely successful for both babies, so you end up with one asleep, one awake and they’ll be out of sync for the rest of the day. And if it works, nap time is going to last 40mins instead of 2hrs so you’re going to have cranky babies for the rest of the day… Cranky out of sync babies.

Before lunch… There is a very small window of opportunity here so it requires stealth and savvy. I’m yoga panted up, bag packed and ready to go, waiting by the monitor listening in for them to wake from nap time. Once awake it is a full speed evacuation to get to the gym and burn off as much chocolate cake a possible before those twinkies get hungry. You might get a 45min work-out, but chances are in 25mins childcare is going to come get you because you have an inconsolable starving baby.

After lunch… Naptime option applies as above.

After picking my daughter up from school… This has to coincide with a day you’re not going straight to swim lessons or dance class, the library, the grocery store, a play date or a dentist appointment. So this is your once a month opportunity to burn some serious pie while someone else looks after your kids. Please note, snack time is required for all beforehand or you’re going to end up in ‘before lunch’ territory.

As all mothers know 5-7pm is that time where you become a rather less graceful wonder woman, flying from bath-running to the kitchen, making sure homework gets finished in the mix. And so onward to evenings we go.

After the kids are in bed… This is probably the best time to go but let’s be honest, between feeding yourself, washing bottles and having your first adult conversation of the day, can you really be bothered? I’m sold… going to quit the gym, save the cash and buy better quality cake.


This post is linked up here:

Life Love and Dirty Dishes
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