Hitting the books the unbusy way

Image: Pinterest

Image: Pinterest

 

Whenever I tell people I’m a University student and I have three children, and work part time, they think I’m a mega superstar woman who has managed to “have it all”.

I think they envision a woman whose household is tidy and organised, with pre cooked meals in storage containers in the freezer and children with perfect hair wearing crisp white shirts and uncrushed linen pants, running around in the backyard catching butterflies. Meanwhile I’m sitting at my clean study desk listening to a thought-provoking lecture that I’m managing to memorise without having to write notes. Perfect score assignments and test results.

As much as I’d love to play along with this fantasy, the reality is quite different.

Typically, all of my assignments are due during the school holiday period. There’s nothing more fun than sitting at your desk trying to type a report while a child is holding onto your right arm, telling you every five minutes that they’re hungry. Have you tried typing with one hand?

So then I try the approach of studying when I get home from work at 10pm. But by then, I just want to crawl into my warm cosy bed and watch trashy TV.

But when I’m finally on a roll and ploughing through a report, the words are flowing nicely and lightbulbs full of ideas are switching on in my head, the following happens:

-The house work gets put aside. The dishes are sitting in the sink waiting to be washed. The dirty clothes are piling up in the laundry. The beds are unmade. There are crumbs all over the floor. There is very little food in the fridge and pantry.

-The kids get away with more. They can sit infront of the TV watching movies or playing computer games and mum doesn’t say anything.

-The phone doesn’t get answered, the text messages are not read and there is no Facebook status update or Instagram photo.

Prior to my unbusy life, these three things would have stressed me to no end and I would have been tearing my hair out. I would have had my to-do list with 35 items that all had to be ticked off by the end of the day or else I would feel unaccomplished. I would have checked my Facebook newsfeed as soon as I got out of bed. And there’s no way my kids would have been watching much TV.

What’s changed?

When you decide to live a more meaningful and less busy life, one of the things you throw out the window is the desire to live a perfect life. You learn to embrace imperfection and you realise that “this too shall pass”. This is really hard if you are a prefectionist, or you always need to be in control. I was one of these people. I never liked it if things didn’t go to plan.

But this contributed to a busy, hectic, and unfulfilling life. Running around worrying about making everything perfect and “the way it should be”, living up to unrealistic expectations and stressing about things outside of one’s control often leads to pretty bad consequences. Maybe not straight away, but maybe later down the track. General unhappiness, negativity, financial stress, illness.

Back to the crazy Uni mum sitting at her desk. It’s approaching exam time for us University parents and the thought of catching up on missed lectures and note writing along with all the other responsibilities as a parent seems too overwhelming. So here’s my list of tips to unbusy yourself and prepare for exams:

-Learn to accept that as long as you meet the basic needs of food, clothing and shelter, everything else can wait. If the kids have good food to eat, clean clothes to wear and can still get a hug from mum, then everything else will fall into place.

-Embrace “Chunk Study”- study in small chunks of time. It might be too hard to set aside two hours to listen to a lecture, or to read a whole chapter of a textbook. Instead, listen to 15 minutes of a lecture then pause it and walk away. Or read two pages of a book and then put it down.

-Give up the fantasy of a high distinction and accept that old saying “P’s get degrees”. Try your best, but sometimes we have to accept that there are other more important things in our lives than exam results.

-Go for a walk or run. Keeping up some form of exercise is vital to staying healthy and refreshed before exams. Eat well and get an early night’s sleep the night before an exam.

-Find what method of learning suits you best. It has taken me three years to figure out that I am the kind of person who learns more when cramming the information in the last couple of weeks rather than trying to remember everything along the way. I find it too difficult to retain things I have learnt in week’s 1 and 2 for the next 8 weeks. Are you a visual learner? Then draw some diagrams. Maybe you like to verbalise everything- record yourself reading revision notes and then replay it while you are doing the housework or sitting on the train.

-Learn to say no to things that are not important during your study period.

-Put the social catch ups on hold.

-Don’t take on a new project at work.

-Delegate tasks to other people.

-Ask for support and have a cry on someone’s shoulder if need be. Then pick yourself up and continue on with the task.

On the day of your exam, have a nice healthy breakfast, put a smile on your face and remember that what you don’t know by now, you will never know. Walk into that exam room and be proud that you have showed up!

Good luck to all Australian University students sitting upcoming exams!

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Packing for a slow travel experience

 

Image: Pinterest

Image: Pinterest

Have you ever been on a holiday jam packed with entertainment and activities, that when you came home you felt like you needed a holiday to recover from your holiday?

Slow travel is essentially the opposite: a holiday/vacation experience that involves moving at a slower pace which allows you to enjoy a more restful but still enjoyable time.

Being unbusy plays a large role in my definition of slow travel. Think less luggage, a less busy schedule, taking your time to savour the moment, no souvenirs or other tourist traps.

Our family has just returned from our first interstate holiday where we spent a week on Queensland’s Gold Coast, a popular tourist destination famous for its beaches, theme parks and shopping.

I wanted to use this opportunity to see if we could turn our holiday into a “slow travel” experience.

It all started with our luggage.

Our budget airline meant that if we wanted to check in large, heavy suitcases, we would have to pay extra for the privilege- per person. We decided to take only carry-on luggage but did purchase checked baggage allowance for one person in case our experiment was unsuccessful.

What did we each pack to last us for the week?

The kids each packed:

3 t-shirts

2 pairs of leggings

summer nightwear

one pair of cool weather pyjamas

swimwear

a week’s worth of socks and underwear.

 

Hubby and I each packed:

3 tshirts

shorts

a dress and leggings for me

running leggings for me (I planned on going for a beach run)

summer pyjamas

swimwear

a week’s worth of underwear

our mobile phones, chargers and my SLR camera (which I incidentally decided not to use)

Footwear consisted of a pair of thongs (flip flops for non-Aussie folks), canvas shoes and runners for each person (note: we ended up wearing the thongs and runners only).

In case of cooler weather, and to stay comfortable on our way to the airport and during our flights, we decided to each wear a cool weather outfit- jeans and a long sleeved top. We wore our chunkiest footwear to save packing space.

My 6 year old daughter decided she had to pack at least 10 books to read, a pack of Uno cards and her 3 favourite soft toys. I tried to negotiate reducing this load but she persisted so I decided to let her take these extra belongings. We packed them into a cloth shopping bag, along with a book for my eldest daughter and the novel I was in the middle of reading (Marathon Woman by Kathrine Switzer).

I also packed:

3 kids beach towels and goggles and a floatie for my youngest who can’t swim yet

a very small toiletries bag and only packed the basics we needed. We purchased toothpaste, shampoo, sunscreen and razors in Queensland.

 

My eldest daughter was celebrating her birthday while on our holiday so I packed her birthday gifts as well (I left the bigger gift at home which she opened when we returned)- these were placed into a garbage bag and taken as carry-on luggage.

Summary: we took 3 kids sized back packs, one adult back pack and one overnight bag, 1 small plastic bag and one cloth shopping bag (note: on our way home, we didn’t have the plastic bag).

We decided not to check-in any baggage but to take it all on the plane as carry-on baggage. This meant we were able to use the “express check-in” process which involved me scanning our booking confirmation letter and then the computer printed up our boarding passes. Or I could have used the “web check-in” procedure from my home computer and printed the boarding passes at home.

There were no queues or dragging large, heavy suitcases.

On the plane, hubby and I put our bags and my daughter’s birthday gifts into the overhead compartment above our seats. The kids’ back packs were small enough to fit under the seat in front of them. The extra cloth shopping bag also fit underneath the seat in front of me.

After our flight, we took our belongings and were able to leave the airport immediately rather than hang around waiting for any checked in baggage.

We had a hire car and all of our belongings fit nicely into the boot.  We used one of the kids’ backpacks whenever we went out for the day, and the cloth shopping bag was used when we went to the beach.

On our way back to Melbourne, there was no “express check-in” facility so we had to line up like everyone else but only waited a couple of minutes in the queue. As it was going to be a full flight and we had paid for checked baggage allowance for one person, we decided to check in my overnight bag and Mark’s backpack.

We made the right choice as other passengers had placed their bags in our overhead compartment.

The kids’ backpacks and my cloth shopping bag were all stored underneath the seats in front of us.

It took a while to get off the plane as other passengers were busy stressing out trying to get to the overhead compartment that stored their bags.

We were also lucky not to have to wait long for our checked in baggage to arrive.

Deciding to take less luggage with us meant that we saved time, space and stress. And I had less washing to do when we returned! It contributed to an unbusy and fun holiday.

No Junk Mail Thanks!

…and 3 simple things you can do today to make your life less busy!

Image: Sustainable Kentucky

Image: Sustainable Kentucky

 

We’ve seen the “no junk mail” stickers on mailboxes, but the concept can be applied to our own lives.

How much of our time is consumed by “junk”- things we don’t really need, that don’t add value to our lives?

It could be something you feel you are obliged to do out of habit, or a friendship you hold onto that is no longer healthy, or things in your house that you no longer use but feel you need to keep “just in case”.

Some “junk” I have gotten rid of:

  • Items that I own two or three (or more) of “just in case” one breaks or wears out. We used to own 25 bath towels. Why would a family of five need 25 bath towels?
  • Catalogues and junk mail by placing the “no junk mail” sticker on my letterbox
  • DVDs and CDs (except for a handful such as my kids dance concerts, our wedding etc…). Most things can now be downloaded or listened to/watched online.

When we get rid of junk in our lives, we are freeing up time that would have been spent on cleaning, sorting and looking after our things. For me, Im spending less time washing, folding, tidying up and now have more time to spend with my family.

It can be scary getting rid of junk that we have held onto out of habit. How will we feel once we get rid of it? What if we regret it?

By getting rid of junk, we are freeing up time and space for good stuff to come into our lives. Things and people who add value, and make our lives greater than they would have been if we had held onto the junk.

(And if I really need an extra bath towel, I can just buy one).

Three simple things you can do to “no junk mail” your life, and be less busy:

-Go through your email inbox and delete emails that you have already read and/or actioned. Having old emails sitting in your inbox reminds of things you no longer need to spend time worrying about.

-Unsubscribe from any websites or blogs that you no longer follow or find value in. Remember that every email you open and read is a minute or so wasted that could be spent on something more important.

-Go through any documents (bills, receipts, certificates) you have and see if any of these are no longer required. Scan any that you think you would still like to keep but may not be vitally important, before getting rid of the original. (Old bills and invoices are usually kept on record by companies should you need to access them someday).

I hope you’ve been inspired to “no junk mail” your life and become less busy. I’d love to know what you got rid of! Leave a comment below.

 

 

When we’re too busy to sit still

Image via We Heart It

Image via We Heart It

It’s very ironic that I am the mother of three daughters.

Growing up, I was never a girly girl, and spent my high school years at an all girl school where there were girls obsessed with make up, fashion and looking their best. I, on the other hand, was more obsessed with rock bands, Doc Marten boots and doing well at school. Not a bad thing either.

At one stage, I remember thinking how I would much prefer to someday be the mother of all boys as I imagined it would be less stressful as I wouldn’t be surrounded by all the things that typical girls love.

Yet here I am, with three gorgeous girls, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

One of the things I’m grateful for is the opportunity to raise three girls in a way that reflects my beliefs about the roles women play in society. Through my words and actions, I have the ability to teach my girls that its ok to like dressing up and looking good, but it should not be what defines us as women. I want them to learn that its just as important to spend time caring for what’s inside- looking after the mind, heart and soul.

My biggest hope is that as mothers, we create a future generation of women who spend as much time on their overall health and wellbeing, as they do putting on make up and styling their hair.

According to an article in the The Daily Mail, the average woman spends the equivalent of 55 minutes each day (that’s two weeks per year!) on their appearance. When you put it that way, it’s a little concerning that we often say we don’t have time to relax, meditate or just be still in the present moment.

Although we would all love to spend a day at a spa resort or having a massage, making time for our inner selves can be as simple as switching off from all distractions and being still for a few minutes.

My daughters attend a school that has a morning prayer/meditation ritual just before class begins. Sometimes they pray, other times they simply sit still and reflect or listen to soft music, with the whole class sitting in a circle around a lit candle. Its very calming and sets the tone for the rest of the morning.

Here are some easy suggestions that I have tried and work well, especially if you have never meditated or taken the time to practice being still and mindful:

-Spend five minutes before going to sleep lying in a quiet room, without any technology, and focus on creating a still mind. Do this by trying to erase any thoughts in your head and instead focus on your breathing and your body.

-Are you one of those people who as soon as they wake up, check their Facebook and emails? There’s a saying something along the lines of not checking your emails unless you are prepared to deal with whatever you might read. What you don’t know yet won’t hurt you. So instead, focus on creating a more calming morning routine.

-Stand outside in the fresh air for several minutes, taking in slow, deep breaths and counting to 10. Tune out anything else going on around you (including your kids arguing inside!).

I hope you find even a few minutes this weekend to implement one of my suggestions. We need to make the time to be still and practice mindfulness, rather than waiting for the moment to arrive. Let me know how you go!

Also, don’t forget to subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss out on other great posts such as this one!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Less clutter, more time

…plus, my first Unbusy Challenge Task!

declutter stuff

 

So you’ve decided you want less clutter, more time. Where do you start?

My journey began by decluttering my home, one room at a time. During my first decluttering session, I managed to fill six garbage bags that I donated to charity. Many more things were thrown in the bin.

It can feel overwhelming but once you begin decluttering it’s amazing how fantastic it feels to be ridding yourself of things you no longer need. It almost becomes addictive!

What Does It Mean To Have Less Clutter, More Time?

Here are some of the ways decluttering my home has resulted in more time to live a more meaningful life:

-Less time spent in the laundry sorting, washing, hanging to dry, folding and putting away clothing and towels. Lower power and water bills. More money and time to spend on activities my family enjoys.

-Less time spent on keeping the kitchen clean and organised. There is less clutter in the kitchen to look after! I can now wash dishes by hand because there aren’t many to wash. Our dishwasher hasn’t been used in over 6 months! Again, this has contributed to lower power and water bills. More money and more time to spend on activities my family enjoys.

-Less time spent on tidying up the kids’ clutter! Fewer toys to sort and pack away. The kids have less tidying up to do. There is more time for the kids to play with the toys they still have, and more money in our wallets to spend on things that bring more value to the family- such as holidays and outings.

-A less stressful morning routine. Less clutter in the home means it’s easier for us to find what we need to pack for school and work. Everything is now a lot calmer (most days!) and we get to school earlier.

This all might sound a little overly simplistic and too idealistic for you. We all lead different lives, have different priorities and values. That’s great! Pick and choose what works best for you.

When you have less clutter and more time, you will start to feel lighter, less stressed and you will change the way you think about the things you have brought into your life. It is a long process, so don’t expect decluttering to be completed within a day or even a week. I’ve been on this journey for almost 12 months and I’m STILL finding things to get rid of on a weekly basis!

You will also discover that you need less to live comfortably. As time goes on, you might become detached from things you previously considered too sentimental or important to get rid of.

If you would like to read some tips on how to create a less busy life, I have a great post over HERE that shares 52 tips for busy people who want to become unbusy.

UNBUSY CHALLENGE:

I’m setting an unbusy challenge for you!

Pick a drawer, cupboard or shelf that you can declutter. Make it something that might only take you an hour to tackle- the “junk drawer”, the bathroom vanity, the linen closet. Focus on decluttering the one space only, unless you are feeling super motivated and want to keep going.

Once you are done, please leave a comment below, or even upload a before/after photo of your decluttered space. I’d love to see your progress!

 

Memories and motherhood

…and how did Mother’s Day originate?

Some of my favourite memories as a kid were the special times I spent with my mother. She worked most nights, so my dad was the one in charge of dinner, bath and bed. But once a month mum would have a night off from work and this night was extra special. Mum would make apple strudel for dessert, be the one to tuck us into bed and tell us a special story about her childhood.

Every Sunday we had a roast lunch, and we would spend the afternoon watching Shirley Temple movies on T.V. When I was 9, mum taught me how to knit. And one of my funniest memories was how she sang an Elvis Presley song on an Australian national radio network so that I could win a rare Pearl Jam Live in Melbourne C.D.

These moments will forever live in my heart.

When I think about the legacy I want to leave my children, I think about the memories my mum created for me. I want my kids to have special moments with me that they treasure. I want them to remember the cuddles in bed on a Saturday morning in the middle of winter. I want them to remember the times I’ve been able to hear them read at their school assembly. I want them to remember the funny conversations we’ve had over breakfast, and the cute nicknames I have given them.

Its easy for us to get caught up in our busy lives and forget the importance of special moments.

Being unbusy helps us return to simpler times, and allows us the freedom to live in the present moment and cherish life’s gifts.

This Mother’s Day, let’s forget about everyday stresses, housework and deadlines:

-Let’s hold onto our children a little bit longer

-Let’s smile at our children’s thoughtfulness, as we look through their handmade cards and sentimental gifts

-Let’s tell our own mothers and grandmothers how much we love them and appreciate all they have done for us

-Let’s think about the mothers and grandmothers that are no longer with us.

Unbusy moments are what memories are made of.

Feel free to share some special moments between you and your mother, or you and your children, in the comments section below.

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers and may you have a day that you cherish forever!

And while we are on the subject of Mother’s Day:

How did Mother’s Day originate?

The modern version of Mother’s Day originated in the early 20th century, when West Virginian Anna Jarvis wanted to honour her late mother Ann Reeves Jarvis who was a peace activist and helped soldiers from both sides of the American Civil War. Anna campaigned to make Mother’s Day a nationally recognised holiday, which happened in 1914. However, as years went by, the holiday became overly commercialised, much to the dismay of Jarvis. She protested and made her opinions about the matter known to greeting card companies, confectioners and florists (to no avail). She even resorted to failed law suits and boycotts. She wanted Mother’s Day to be about sentiment and not profit, and wanted people to write letters to their mothers expressing love and gratitude.

 

Is Being Busy Overrated?

Not long ago, my husband asked me what we had planned for the weekend. When I replied “nothing”, he looked at me in shock.

You see, every weekend we would have a birthday party, a kids activity or some other commitment to attend or fulfil. There was always an obligation of some sort, and very little time left over to do anything else.

Since when did being busy become the new definition of success or living? If our calendars are full, we must be important and successful people. If we aren’t doing anything, then we must be boring, or have few friends. We aren’t living if we aren’t doing something!

Yet when I think back to my life prior to becoming “unbusy”, it all seemed like a blur. A bit like being on a long train trip- the train’s travelling at fast speeds, you’re looking out the window and watching the world go by but you can’t just jump off when you feel like it.

My busy life did not leave me feeling successful, important or like I was living the life I wanted to live. Initially I thought I was all these things, but when I started feeling unhappy and dissatisfied, it was time to take a long, hard look at this busy life of mine.

Last year I decided to do an experiment, to see what would happen if I made myself less busy.

Here’s what I discovered:

Life doesn’t stop when we do.

Clearing our lives of things that are not important, makes more room for those things that ARE important.

You start to notice things around you that you never noticed before when you were busy. And they are good things!

You begin to feel more happy. Life is great.

I discovered that being busy is overrated.

We all have the same number of hours in a day, it’s how we choose to use these hours that defines the quality of life we live.

This week, think about some of the commitments you have, the obligations, events, to do lists, chores, errands etc…be aware of how you are spending your time and how its making you feel.

Over the coming weeks, I will be sharing some ideas that I hope will inspire you to become less busy.

How has being busy made you feel? Or if you are already “unbusy”, what are some of the positive changes you’ve noticed? Feel free to comment!