Looking back at June, a clear theme emerges – letting go. At the start of the year, with my son settled into school, I decided to pivot towards more paid work. I told everyone I know that I was looking for contract or freelance work. I crossed my fingers and hoped some work would trickle in. Well, there’s been a steady stream. It caught me offguard. I still consider myself a stay at home mum who works a bit on the side. Well, that was until this month, when some crunching of the numbers revealed I was working virtually full-time and pulling in pay cheques equal to my husband. It isn’t a blip – I’m a working mum now and there had to be changes for that to be sustainable. I couldn’t add in more paid work without letting other things go.
What’s simpler – picking up your phone and ordering a pizza, or making dough, then kneading, proving, shaping, topping and cooking it?
In comparision to our convenience society, the make-it-yourself ethos of the simple living movement is the antithesis of simplification. However, the judicious addition of a little bit of DIY to your life is worth the effort as:
- it’s a counter-weight to the norm of consume, consume, consume
- you can’t beat the satisfaction of making something yourself, and
- it gives you a real appreciation of what goes into making things.
There are so many ways you can get a dose of DIY – cooking, crafts, gardening. One I recommend to everyone is making your own household cleaners. It’s something we all use regularly and they’re surprising quick and easy to make, plus they’re better for the environment and a money saver.
I’ve been making most of my own cleaners for over a year now. You can find good recipes on the internet and buy most of the ingedients you need from any decent wholefoods store, but I buy mine from Figgy & Co. Not because they’re cheaper (they’re not), but because they have great recipes. Ones that really work for my household. I’ve written a post over on their blog where I share how I got started making my own cleaners . If you’re curious about making your own cleaners, but a bit unsure, head over and check it out. If you’ve got any questions, ask away. While I’m not enthusiastic about cleaning itself, I’m very enthusiastic about cleaning recipes.
The other day I was reading It feels good to be busy – that’s the problem on Tiny Ambitions when something struck me. In the post, Britt describes how she was drawn into some busyness-one-upmanship with a colleague. I could totally relate to the post. I started typing a comment to Britt, when the realised I can’t actually remember the last time this happened to me. While busy-bragging used to be a feature of my everyday conversations, it’s not anymore.
I stood at the checkout, nervously watching as the total climbed, hoping it would match the tally in my head. I handed over the precious bills from a dog-eared envelope marked “Groceries”, the steadily reducing amount scrawled on the front read $140, $120, $100, $80. We were down to our last dollars. We’d been paid everything we were owed and there was no new work in the pipeline. We had a nine-month-old at home and a mortgage to pay. Times were stressful, very stressful.
The one relief was that, as I left the supermarket to take the groceries home, I knew I had enough to feed my family for the week. Come what may, I had that comfort. I had that comfort because I had a plan. I’d meticulously planned our meals for the week to match our diminished budget. From there, I’d made a list of exactly what we needed, no more, no less.
While I started meal planning out of financial necessity, five years later, with our cashflow woes long behind us, it continues to be a weekly ritual. Why do I still bother? These days, it’s less about peace of mind and more about taking a load off my mind.
Meal planning saves me time and money, but most of all it saves me from that dreaded task of trying to think up something to cook for dinner every night. If you are looking for an easy win to simplify your life, it’s meal planning. It’s not rocket science, but there are definitely some traps you want to avoid and some tricks to make it easier.
Busyness – occasionally it’s is unavoidable, but mostly it’s a state of our own making. You don’t sit down and think to yourself, “I want my day to be so frantic I’m bent over in pain at 3 pm cos I haven’t had a chance to pee” or write on your list of goals, “Life so full, catch-ups with friends must be scheduled two months in advance”. You don’t have to. Busyness creeps up on you and is the result of a myriad a small, everyday decisions. In fact, it’s so insidious that unless you take intentional steps to avoid it, busyness weasels its way in as life’s default setting.
That’s my experience. I took a big intentional step to get out of the rat race. I quit my job. Rather than being a mother and a worker, I became just a mother. Problem solved. Except it wasn’t.
April has been about two things: school holidays and decluttering. Term 1 was long and we all needed a break. I get the feeling that as a parent, I’m meant to dread the school hoidays, but I like them. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had our moments, but I enjoyed not having to be anywhere by a certain time and having my wee buddy around more.
I just completed a round of the Minimalism Game. I did this for the first time nearly three years ago – wow what a difference.
I thought it was going to be more difficult than the first time around as I don’t have the same quantity of excess stuff. Gone are the days of finding a bag full of plastic takeout cutlery (that we’d taken when we moved house, twice!), 50 or more plastic bags and hundreds of old magazines. It was even difficult to find pens that didn’t work.
My first decluttering project was the linen cupboard. It was full to overflowing. I mainly used what was on the top. Putting stuff away was a delicate game of linen Jenga. One day, I took the plunge and pulled everything out. Over a couple of nap times I went through the lot. There was stuff in there I didn’t realise I had, stuff I’d never use, stuff it was time to pass along.
The result was fantastic. I knew what I had and could actually get to it all. Linen Jenga was no longer required. It was life-changing. Well, maybe not quite, but I loved the result. I wanted to do this to my whole house – now!
And then something happened. A tragedy that eventually befalls all parents of young children – my son, then two and a half, ceased napping. My child, who’d reliably slept a solid 90 minutes in the middle of the day (even during the neighbours building work), gave up napping cold turkey. Stuck in the house, during naps was the ideal opportunity to declutter. Without it, what was I going to do?