Quality Time With Your Children

Image: Herbal Academy of New England

Image: Herbal Academy of New England

 

When it comes to parenting our children, one of the most valuable things we can give is our time.

Through quality time spent with our children, not only are we able to create lasting memories and watch them grow, but we can also discover qualities about our children that we may have otherwise overlooked: their talents, dreams and fears, their quirks, likes and dislikes.

Recently, through spending some time with one of my children, I realised she no longer enjoyed taking dance classes. We had spent the year driving her each week to her lessons, buying uniforms and thinking about costumes that I had overlooked the possibility that she was no longer interested in dancing. She had told me a couple of times that she felt tired after school and I sometimes struggled to get her changed into her dance uniform, but I just dismissed this as being a one-off instance or just typical school kid tiredness.

However, there’s something to be said for being in tune with our kids’ needs, and this can only be done through spending quality time with them. Quality time doesn’t have to be time spent at a holiday resort- it can be as simple as asking them how their day went or having a conversation at the dinner table. The more time we spend with our kids, the better we get to know them.

When we take time out of our busy schedules to be with our kids and get to know them, we know when something doesn’t sound right with them or something is out of the ordinary or uncharacteristic of them. Time spent with our kids helps strengthen our intuitive voices which ring alarm bells when something doesn’t feel right.

Strengthening our intuitive powers helps us become better advocates for our children.

It’s like taking your child to the doctors and being told that they are fine and their complaint is probably nothing. But you have that niggling feeling that there is actually something more that has been overlooked. That feeling of intuitiveness comes from being a parent that has spent quality time with her/his child.

Quality time can be created regardless of how busy we think we are:

-During breakfast, I sit with the kids and we talk about whatever they feel like. There have been some interesting conversations about problems at school, how to bake bread and how to become the Prime Minister of Australia.

-Driving home from school, I always ask my kids how their day was and what did they learn. Sometimes they answer “nothing”, but most of the time they tell me something interesting about their day.

-Cuddles on the couch, even just for a couple of minutes. A little snippet of time together can lead to a moment of connection and conversation.

-Watching them during their after school activities. When my daughter has her swimming lesson, I make sure I am watching her and not distracting myself with Facebook. I can tell she is happy when she looks over and sees her mum watching her!

In what ways do you create quality time with your children?

 

Fermenting Vegetables

Say, what? I hear you ask.

Fermenting vegetables (also known as culturing) is the preparation and storage of vegetables in such a way that their sugars and carbohydrates end up being converted into probiotic superpowers that help boost the good bacteria in our digestive systems.

Good gut health is something that is often overlooked but its important to note that what we put into our gut has a huge bearing on our overall health and wellness. Sugars and carbohydrates can be damaging to our gut, and a damaged gut can lead to all sorts of health issues including irritable bowel syndrome, “leaky gut”, autoimmune issues and allergies. It is recommended that people who suffer from these health problems eat fermented (or cultured) foods in order to restore gut health.

The fermentation process cuts down the sugar content in vegetables and produces a by-product called lactic acid, which is helpful in producing health flora in the gut. Fermented foods also contain vitamin k2 which is apparently a cancer fighter, and helps improve levels of vitamins C and A. For more information on why you should ferment, read here.

But now back to my first experiment in fermentation!

Some recipes suggest using whey however I didn’t have any available (it can easily be made by straining good quality yoghurt through a cheesecloth-the liquid that remains is whey) so I stuck with a recipe of water and Himalayan pink salt (although any salt will do).

METHOD

Cut up some vegetables into bite-sized pieces. I used cauliflower, red capsicum, celery and carrots but you could also use beetroot and cabbage among other vegetables. In fact, this method is the same when making sauerkraut from cabbage! Better than the pre-packaged or tinned stuff.

Place the cut vegetables in a tall glass jar and fill the jar with salty water until the vegetables are just covered. How much salt do you add to your water? Enough so that the water tastes salty but is still drinkable. Make sure that you don’t fill the jar with water all the way to the top- leave some space to allow fermentation to occur properly.

Place a piece of cling wrap over the top of the jar, and then secure the lid on the jar.

Place the jar in a dark cupboard and leave for a week.

You will notice after several days, that the water will appear cloudy and murky. This is perfectly normal as the fermentation process is working its magic on your vegetables.

 

Cloudy water is a good sign!

Cloudy water is a good sign!

After a week, open the jar and notice the smell- like pickled vegetables. I have read that if fermentation has failed to occur, you will know by the smell!

And now your vegetables are ready to eat. You can also drink the liquid but as you do, make sure that you add more salty water to the jar to ensure the vegetables are still covered. Keep the jar of vegetables in the fridge.

I’m looking forward to eating my fermented vegetables as a side dish with tomorrow night’s slow cooked pulled pork for dinner!

Let me know how you go with your attempt at fermenting vegetables. I’d love to know what you used!

 

Fermented vegies ready to eat and liquid ready to drink (in my She-Ra mug)!

Fermented vegies ready to eat and liquid ready to drink (in my She-Ra mug)!

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Five Myths About Decluttering

Five Decluttering Myths

Have you ever watched those TV house makeover shows where a family has their home decluttered and re-decorated? I love seeing the amazing results at the end, but I sometimes wonder what the same house looks like six months down the track- have they managed to keep the place looking tidy and organised, or have they gone back to their old ways?

I’m betting the latter is more likely to happen.

Physically removing and organising our things is only one aspect to decluttering and having a more simplified, less busy life. I’ve been living a less busy life for the past 12 months, but I won’t lie and say that my house is completely tidy and decluttered. I have managed to turf a lot of stuff and have a tidier and less messy home, but I know I still have a long way to go.

I’ve been decluttering our home for the past 12 months and have found out (the hard way!) that there are quite a few decluttering myths. Here are 5 decluttering myths I want to share with you:

Myth 1: “Storage containers will help your home become more organised and tidier”.

Yeah, for about a week. There are so many pretty (and expensive) containers, boxes and storage systems that are designed to hold our junk (and hide the stuff from visitors!) but the reality is that the junk is still there. It ain’t going to disappear, unless we physically remove it from our houses.

Myth 2: “Once you’ve decluttered your whole house, you’re finished”.

Nope, unless you have mastered the art of not letting more stuff come into your home. And I’m not just referring to the typical clothes, toys, books and other everyday belongings. It could be as simple as a note your child has brought home from school, or the restaurant menus that have been left in your letterbox, or the hand-me-downs kindly given to you by a friend. Slowly this “stuff” creeps back into your household and the only way to prevent or reduce the likelihood of this occurring is to change your behaviours and reduce your consumption. Otherwise, it will be back to decluttering in 6 months time.

Myth 3: “Decluttering can be completed in a couple of days”.

Ok I’m sure most people know that this is untrue, however many don’t realise that the decluttering process can sometimes take a couple of years. I’ve been decluttering for 12 months and I know I still have a long way to go. As you journey through making your life less busy, you start to change how you view your stuff. I am now at the point where I am getting rid of stuff that I once viewed as being sentimental. Can be scary and hard to do, and I certainly was not ready for this 12 months ago. But decluttering must be thought of as a journey, and don’t for once think that it’s an exercise that can be completed in a weekend. You can certainly get rid of a lot in that time, but remember that it can take a very long time for some.

Myth 4: “Decluttering and throwing things out is bad for our environment”.

While it is true that we throw away too much stuff that ends up in landfill, and this is adding to our environmental problems, our consumer behaviours do far more damage to our environment. The more we buy, the more manufacturers produce goods- goods that require raw materials and precious resources to create, for us to enjoy. This creates pollutants and depletes our environment of natural resources. I strongly believe that if we want to reduce our carbon footprint and want to start caring for our planet, we can do so by changing our consumption behaviours. This starts with learning to live with less, which in turn leads to having less to throw away, and less goods manufacturers need to produce to keep up with our demand.

Myth 5: “Decluttering is too hard”

It can seem like a daunting task, especially if you have held onto your stuff for many years, but decluttering is the easy part of the exercise to become unbusy. Even though it may take days, weeks, months or years, it is fairly easy to sort through things and decide whether to keep, repurpose, throw out or donate. The hard stuff is changing your behaviours and mindset to prevent further stuff from entering your home (see myth number 2). As you declutter, you won’t be getting rid of stuff that you don’t want to get rid of. For example, if someone told me 12 months ago to throw out all my photo albums, I would have screamed! But a few months ago I started doing this, because I was ready to do this. I wasn’t scared, and it wasn’t hard at all.

 

So there you have it, some myths I have come across while decluttering. If you are starting on the decluttering and unbusy journey, keep these myths in mind to help you along. And don’t forget to read here for more tips on starting your journey to an unbusy life.

Thanks for reading!

Too Busy To Cook

Image: The Nutrition Guru and The Chef

Image: The Nutrition Guru and The Chef

 

Those who know me well, know that I have spent the last 18 months going through a huge transformation in terms of my health and wellbeing, with a particular focus on the food and nutrients I consume. What started out as a quest to lose some weight, soon became much more as I realised the importance of eating not only to lose weight but to nourish my body.

During this time, I had been reading up on various styles of eating- fructose free, paleo, whole30, raw food, veganism etc… and regardless of the differences between these eating styles, I found there is one thing in common with all of them:

The avoidance of consuming processed, refined, manufactured items being sold to us as “food”.

Why do we resort to convenience and pre packaged foods? To some of us, it may seem like the normal thing to do- many of us may have grown up in households where it was typical of a parent to buy a packet sauce to add to the family’s casserole, or a tin of Gravox to make gravy for the Sunday roast.

Food manufacturers have taken advantage of the fact that we are so time poor and busy and have created and marketed convenience products that many of us mistake for being healthy: packet soups, liquid cereals and yoghurts that we can drink on the go and muesli bars, just to name a few.

Our grandparents and great-grandparents’ generations grew up mostly cooking their own meals from scratch using fresh produce purchased at a local market. There was no globalisation, no trading of foods between nations, and no supermarkets. Most women stayed home to look after the family and maintain the household, which included cooking the meals.

Our way of life certainly has changed since then. More women are in the workforce than ever before, and the globalisation of our economy means that nations are able to trade food so that we can have available all fruits and vegetables regardless of the season or time of the year. We shop at supermarkets and eat out at restaurants, and drive through fast food outlets to buy something on the go. Some of us skip breakfast, or buy our lunches at cafes near our workplaces. Some of us order lunches for our kids from the school canteen, or celebrate their birthdays and other special occasions at venues that offer fast food catering options.

We have unintentionally made cooking and eating whole, fresh foods an inconvenience of our time.

Have you ever said any of the following:

 

I’m too busy to make kids’ snacks from scratch so it’s easier and quicker to just buy them a packet snacks.

I come home from work late and don’t have time to peel and cut potatoes- it’s more convenient to buy frozen fries.

I’m too busy to find the time to cook chicken stock from scratch- it’s easier for me to buy packet sauces for flavourings, or chicken stock cubes.

Our family is busy with after school activities so we make this our takeaway night because it’s more convenient.

 

Yep, I’ve said all these things in the past.

But is it time to change our way of thinking, and not rely on time as an excuse for the way that we nourish our bodies?

Can we make ourselves unbusy enough to create a healthier lifestyle for ourselves and more importantly, our children?

It may mean needing to adjust the way we spend our time so that we can create the time to cook fresh and healthy meals and teach our children how to cook. It’s an investment in our health and wellbeing, and an investment in our children’s wellbeing that will reward us in the long term.

Some of the rewards that I have experienced from cooking healthy foods from scratch include a reduced grocery bill- yes, when many think that eating fresh fruit and vegetables (sometimes organic) can be costly, I have found the opposite. By eating nutritious foods, I find that I need to eat less to feel full and so smaller meals have reduced our grocery costs.

I don’t have to add sauces and flavourings to my meals because my palate has changed and I now find natural foods more tasty than I had when I was eating processed foods high in salt, sugar and other flavourings. I can throw a few herbs and spices into a casserole to make it tasty, much cheaper than resorting to a pre made casserole sauce in a packet.

I also find that since improving my nutrition through healthy eating, that I don’t get sick as often and when I do get the common cold, I recover from it more quickly. I don’t purchase any medications and don’t visit the doctor as much as I used to. This has saved me money and time.

And my kids enjoy having a go at creating something in the kitchen, even if it’s as simple as chopping some vegetables or stirring a bowl when I’m baking. The time I spend with them in the kitchen is giving them valuable life skills that will enable them to continue to eat in a positive way when they move out of home.

Here’s a quick run down of how I have made myself unbusy enough to lead a healthier lifestyle:

-I  have found a great local butcher that sells grass-fed beef and buy all my meat from there in bulk to last us a fortnight.

-I visit a local store for all my fruit and vegetables and buy in bulk to last up to a fortnight, and top up as I go if I run out of anything.

-I then visit one of the supermarkets to purchase anything else that I need, toiletries, frozen fruits, dairy etc…I shop at night when it is quiet and I am without my kids so that I can take my time and read the food labels when I do have to purchase something in a packet.

-When shopping at a supermarket, I try to avoid the lanes in the middle of the store as much as possible because this is where the convenience packaged foods can be found. If you need to buy your meat, fruit and vegetables from a supermarket, then focus on spending most of your shopping time around the outer sections of the store: all the fresh and frozen produce is located around the edges of a supermarket: the deli, bakery section, meat section, dairy, frozen foods etc…

-I spend a weekend afternoon in a cooking and baking frenzy, making things from scratch and then freezing them so that they are available to eat during the week. This helps if there is a day when I don’t find as much time to create something from scratch due to other commitments.

-I try to simplify my approach to cooking. I don’t follow complicated recipes and prefer to think of my meals as things I have thrown together: I might throw some vegies together to make a stir fry, or a simple salad using what I have in the fridge. I will pre cook a few different soups using my homemade chicken stock as a base. I  might sauté some vegetables and add an omelette. The only time I follow recipes is when I bake, and even then I try to find ones that are simple and can be changed slightly by adding different fruits to create variety.

Feel free to explore until you find what works for you and your family. I’m not a fan of Thermomix as I like to do everything myself and it allows me to show my kids how to cook rather than just throw everything into a machine. However, if using a Thermomix or similar appliance means that you will eat healthier and less processed and packaged foods, then go for it.

Let’s change the attitude that healthy cooking and eating are inconveniences that robs us of our time and remind ourselves of the benefits that good nutrition can bring us both today and in years to come.

 

My Winter Gratitude List

Image: Pinterest

Image: Pinterest

 

It’s only the beginning of winter in Australia, but I’m already missing the summer we just had. We were pretty lucky here in Melbourne to have had an extra long warm season and apart from the extreme 40+ degrees  days we had back in January, it was a fun, hot summer that my family mostly spent at various beaches down on the Great Ocean Road. And we were lucky to recently spend a week in Queensland again enjoying some warmth and days at the beach.

So rather than dwell on the past and yearn for next summer, I thought I’d come up with a list of things that I love about winter.

I plan on reading this list whenever I’m feeling the winter blues and I hope that you get something out of it too.

What would you add to this gratitude list?

Natalie’s Winter Gratitude List:

1. Laying in bed and hearing the rain outside

2. Hot cup of herbal tea: I love chamomile, green, peppermint or chai

3. Finding a cosy café that makes the best coffee

4. Discovering a new soup recipe (today I cooked a delicious creamy cauliflower soup!)

5. Pyjama day: spending the day at home in my warm pyjamas, fluffy slippers and thick dressing gown

6. Rugging up and going for a long walk on a cold day and coming home feeling warm and energised

7. Staying in on a Saturday night and watching a classic movie with a bottle of red wine

8. Baking a cake with the kids during the July school holidays

9. A warm bath with essential oils, a glass of red wine in hand and some chilled out music

10. A sunny winter’s day: feeling the warmth of the sun shining into my living room

11. Friends over for a roast dinner

12. Watching the footy and World Cup soccer on TV

13. Watching the Tour de France in July and daydreaming about a French holiday

14. Going for a walk along the beach and watching the waves crashing

15. Discovering a book that you can’t put down (even if it’s 2am!)

16. Playing board games with my kids

17. A hearty casserole slow cooked for hours

18. Taking the kids for a day trip to the snow (yet to do this but hoping to in 2014!)

19. A stylish pair of boots

20. Sleeping in

and finally number 21: waiting to see the first blossom appear on our fruit tree! Then I know spring is only around the corner!

 

Sabotaging Our Happiness

Image: Pinterest

Image: Pinterest

 

It is often said that we can be our own worst enemy. That we can be the one thing that stops us from achieving greatness.

Looking within ourselves to identify ways that we are sabotaging our happiness can be a real eye opener and take great courage. No one likes to admit their faults and face their demons head on. But in order to change our mindset from soul-destroying to nurturing, I believe we have to take the time to find and admit our faults and barriers before we can take steps to create a better relationship with ourselves.

What are some of the ways we typically sabotage our happiness?

1. We believe that we are not worthy of whatever greatness we are dreaming to achieve. We have not yet worked hard enough, long enough, or suffered enough to be rewarded with greatness.

2. We are too comfortable living within our current zone and are afraid to step out of it for fear of rejection, humiliation, pain and suffering.

3. We believe it takes great effort and sacrifice to find the happiness we so deserve.

4. We look for happiness in the wrong places.

5. We are too busy!

 

Being busy means we shove everything under the rug for another day, and put things on hold that we probably should have begun years ago.

For those of us who are parents, it’s all too easy to be caught up in our kids’ worlds that we forget to think about ourselves and what our needs are. The long-term effect of this can be soul-destroying as we slowly forget who we are as individuals and hide behind a veil of busyness- dropping kids off at footy practice, dance rehearsals, work meetings, business trips etc… Before we know it, the kids are growing older and becoming less dependant on us and that’s when we stop and wonder, “what now?”

Anyone guilty of this? Yep, I am.

Since becoming unbusy, I have thought more about the ways that I sabotage my happiness and how I can take small steps to change this.

What I discovered:

-Time is an investment. Are we investing our time in things that are giving us the best return for our investment? Or are we throwing away our hours and days for things that do more harm than good? Every minute of every hour, we choose how we spend our lives. The more we think of time as an investment rather than something we have a lot of and can afford to throw away, the better the choices we will make.

-Greatness begins with the tiniest of steps, the smallest of breaths but most of all, the courage and belief in oneself. Tiny steps don’t require hours of time or days to put aside.

-Removing the busyness will allow us to hear what is going on within, and to make room for exciting opportunities that are out there for us.

Create some time to write a list of the ways that you sabotage your happiness. What are you doing that is stopping yourself from achieving what you want to achieve?

Are you too busy to cook a healthy meal for you or your family? Are you too busy to go for a long walk, or to read that book you’ve been meaning to read, or to take that class you’ve been wanting to take? Do you frequently put your children before yourself?

Are you using your busyness to sabotage your happiness?

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Unbusy Children: The Toy Ban

toy ban

 

My husband and I always allowed our children the time and freedom to play with their toys and made sure that most of their toys were educational to some degree.

But we noticed recently that this freedom had been abused, and noticed changes in behaviour patterns in our children:

-There had been much arguing over toys: strangely enough all three children wanted to play with the same Barbie doll at the same time, despite owning quite a few Barbie dolls.

-There had been much arguing over packing up the toys once they had been played with.

-The children had been showing less respect for their toys- breaking things, not putting them away etc…

 

These changes in behaviour patterns had impacted on other areas of their lives:

 

-They had been showing a little less respect for their mum, dad and other adults in their lives.

-They had shirked some of their school responsibilities: one refusing to read her nightly reader, and another refusing to do any homework or leaving it until the last minute.

-They had the belief that if they wanted something and cried long enough, they would get it.

-The youngest was taking advantage of the fact that she had two older sisters to do things for her that she didn’t like doing!

 

Things came to a head last Sunday night when I had enough of the negative behaviour, in particular the lack of tidying up the toys and lack of respect. So I made an impulsive decision to ban all toys and books for a week to see whether this would change the children’s attitudes towards cleaning. Little did I know that the experiment would take us on an interesting path of discovery…

After dropping the children off at school on the Monday, I spent the next six hours removing all the toys and books from their bedrooms and placing them in storage in my walk in robe, high up on a shelf. The only items I left were the board games in my eldest daughter’s room and some soft toys in my youngest daughter’s room. I also decided to leave a tub of toys for my youngest to play with during the day- as she is not at school, I didn’t think it was fair for her to be left with nothing to do during the day. But she was reminded that she would have to pack up her toys before her sisters came home.

While shifting all the toys, I pulled out anything that the children don’t play with anymore and books that they no longer showed interest in. I filled up a garbage bag that I took to a local charity a few days later.

I had also printed some reward chart sheets, “Marbles In A Jar” and stuck these on the inside of the pantry door. Good behaviour would result in one marble in the jar coloured in. When all 25 marbles were coloured in, the child would be allowed 25 minutes of free technology time playing games on either a laptop or mobile phone.

When the children came home from school, they were surprised to find their bedrooms very bare. They were very confused about what was going on, but surprisingly they were not angry or too upset.

To occupy her time, my unbusy eldest daughter ended up baking a banana cake- I told her the ingredients and method, she wrote up a recipe in her own words and then proceeded to make the cake. Of course she was awarded some marbles for her efforts!

My unbusy middle daughter ended up reading her school reader without any fanfare, and of course was awarded marbles for her effort.

My unbusy youngest daughter did some drawing.

A similar pattern continued for the remainder of the week. The children came home from school and instead of playing with their toys, they found other ways to entertain themselves.

Day 2 saw the girls practicing the dances they had been learning during their ballet and jazz classes. All year I had been asking my middle daughter to show me her jazz dance and she had refused, up until that day. She showed me the entire dance, and I was so proud of her for finally having the confidence to do so.

To keep the confidence levels growing, I allowed my middle daughter to prep dinner for day 3 which was fried rice. I gave her a kids knife to use, and she chopped the bacon, spring onion and helped make and chop the omelette.

Day 5 and my eldest daughter crumbed the chicken for dinner.

Each day, my unbusy children read their readers for school and they asked me to print some maths worksheets from an online website for them to work on for extra practice. We decided that each week, when a child completed all printed worksheets, homework and readers she would be entitled to 5 coloured marbles.

Other things my unbusy children did  was help put away their clean clothing, vacuumed their rooms, made up a dance routine together and went for a long walk with their dad and pet dog.

The toy ban ends in two days, and we have been talking about what will happen once the ban is over. The girls have agreed to donate most of their Barbie dolls to charity as they agree they only need a few. They now understand the value in tidying up as you go along rather than leaving things in a mess. There are also a few other toys that the girls will decide to donate to charity.

Why do I think the toy ban worked?

Yes it was a form of punishment for behaviour that was not acceptable in our household, however by combining it with positive reinforcement in the form of a reward chart, I believe that the ban went beyond reprimanding bad behaviour and allowed the kids to be exposed to experiences that they may not have been open to beforehand.

The ban made the children unbusy enough to be educated and entertained in other ways. And the ban made me unbusy enough to allow them to have these experiences, instead of distracting them with toys so that I could continue doing what I needed to do alone!

What are your experiences with banning toys in your household or creating reward chart systems? Leave me a comment, I’d love to read your thoughts!

 

Unbusy Yourself: 52 Tips For Busy People

…who want to become unbusy!

unbusy

Image: weheartit

 

This post was first published in June 2014, and has now been updated. Please share your thoughts with me- have you found any of these tips useful? What would you add?

 

This post is dedicated to those wanting an unbusy lifestyle but don’t know where to begin the journey. I’ve created a list of 52 tips to inspire and have you on your way to being unbusy- many of these I have used, but some are tips I’ve yet to try but have been recommended by others living an unbusy, simplified lifestyle.

Some have links to other blogs and sites, if you are inspired to read more.

Choose to do the tips all at once, or maybe one for each week of the year.

Some are pretty straight forward, others require a bit more courage. Will you take the challenge?

52 TIPS FOR BUSY PEOPLE WHO WANT TO BECOME UNBUSY

1. Join in the decluttering challenge I set in THIS POST. Grab a garbage bag, walk around the house and spend 10 minutes filling up the bag with as many things you don’t need as possible. Donate these to a local charity.

2. If you love books, download the kindle app for your phone or PC and start buying e-books rather than paper books. It took me a while to get used to the idea as I love holding an actual book, but I’ve gotten on board and love the convenience. No more bookshelves for this girl.

3. Learn to cook a “hash” of different foods: a few vegies, some protein (meat or otherwise), a few herbs and spices. Sautee or stir fry and there you have a quick mid-week meal. You don’t need a fancy recipe that wastes a lot of time and requires ingredients you have to go out and buy just for one meal. Think sustainable and quick.  More “hashed” inspiration here.

4. Co-ordinate your wardrobe so that you have a smaller number of items that can be mixed and matched with others to create new outfit combinations. Unbusy people don’t waste time trying to decide what to wear. Cull the things you no longer wear or fit into (be honest with yourself!). For more inspiration, visit Courtney Carver’s Project 333.

5. Only have available enough plates, cups, bowls and cutlery for the number of people living in your household. The remaining items- either donate to charity or if you are not ready to give them away, put them away in a buffet or hard-to-reach cupboard/storage space. Reduced kitchen items means reduced dishes. Need some more kitchen decluttering inspiration and tips? READ HERE.

6. Stop using your dishwasher. Wait, isn’t a dishwasher supposed to save you time? Yours might, but my dishwasher cycle takes over an hour. I never use it unless it is full, and have always washed my pots by hand. Now that I have reduced the number of kitchen items I have, it is quicker for me to wash and dry by hand than to load, run and unpack a dishwasher. Try it!

7. Place a “no junk mail” sticker on your letterbox. And apply “no junk mail” principles to your life to become unbusy.

8. Switch off your mobile phone for one day. I dare you.

9. Use up all the food you already have in your pantry/fridge/freezer before doing your next grocery shop. See if you can be creative with what you already have. Unbusy people don’t waste time in supermarkets if they don’t have to.

10. Organise for paperless bills. One less piece of paper to handle means more time for you! For more paper decluttering tips, visit HERE.

11. Unsubscribe from blogs and websites that no longer serve you.

12. Before you go out somewhere special, decide to leave your camera at home and don’t use your phone camera. No photos! Enjoy a different experience without worrying about capturing the moment.

13. Are your kids doing too many extra curricular activities? Say no to one of them. This might be tricky for some, but think about the benefits: maybe a weekend sleep in, more family time, more money, more sanity. I shared my views on kids being busy OVER HERE.

14. Put all of your kids toys into storage for a week as an experiment. What other creative things can your kids do? Helping out in the kitchen? Spending time outdoors? They will thank you for not having to clean up! Read here for more inspiration on why fewer toys will benefit your child.

15. Make a rule not to use the internet in the mornings- see how different and unbusy your morning routine is without the distraction of technology!

16. Never check your emails before bedtime. Never. There’s a saying, don’t check your emails unless you are prepared to deal with what you are about to read. Ignorance is bliss!

17. Don’t be a sheep. Don’t do something just because everyone else is doing it. Don’t be afraid to do the opposite.

18. Learn to go outside in the fresh air each day, even if it is just for five minutes. Use this opportunity to clear your head.

19. Don’t carry a wallet or purse. I recently purchased a leather cardholder that can hold about 30 cards.

20. Cancel or cut up loyalty cards for retailers you no longer visit.

21. Don’t pack a suitcase for your next trip- use a backpack or small overnight bag. Take it on the plane with you and don’t check in any luggage. Pack the simple way! It’s the first step in an unbusy travel itinerary.

22. Cull your cosmetics and beauty products. Simplify your regime to only a couple of products, or better still, get rid of any chemical-based products and use natural skin cleansers such as jojoba oil. Read why cleansing skin using oils is the way to go. Or head into the bathroom for a DECLUTTERING SESSION.

23. Don’t wear make up, or limit it to very special occasions. Unbusy people get ready in less time!

24. If you have long hair, cut it to a shorter length for easier and quicker management.

25. Cancel your gym membership and exercise in the outdoors. Some suggestions: a bike ride, long brisk walks or even follow the Couch to 5km program. During wet weather, follow a DVD workout in the comfort of your home.

26. Don’t promote your business to people who don’t need your product or service. Don’t waste your time trying to convince them to buy. Instead, focus your time on finding the people who you can serve best.

27. Join your local library and borrow books instead of buying (if you aren’t ready to implement tip no.2).

28. Focus on today. What do you need to do today? What can you leave for another day/week/month? I’m not a fan of cramming everything into one day and I don’t like to-do lists. Here’s why.

29. Get rid of one piece of furniture that you use to fill up space in your house. Learn to be comfortable with empty spaces. You will feel more free and have a clearer mind.

30. Pick a month and avoid going to the shopping centre/mall unless its to buy groceries or something necessary (eg: your shoes have worn out).

31. Go to bed an hour earlier. Staying up late to finish things isn’t going to score you brownie points. In fact, waking up tired the next day is like taking two steps backwards. I struggle with this a lot!

32. Walk away from an argument, or agree to disagree. A lot of the time, arguments continue and escalate because the focus is on the ego and not the issue itself. It’s better to let go and not invest precious time in something that is poisonous to your life and wellbeing.

33. When replying to an email that has been sent to a group of people, don’t “reply all” unless necessary- this shows respect for other people’s time.

34. Don’t compare your life with what you see on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or elsewhere or you will waste time trying to mould your life into something that is not based on reality.

35. Walk around the house and remove any decorative pieces or ornaments that you no longer treasure or find value in, and donate these to a charity. A lot of the time we fill up empty spaces with unimportant things because we think it makes our homes more “homely”, when really these things are dust collectors. Unbusy people prefer not to waste time dusting and cleaning.

36. Only print photos if you are going to frame and hang/display them. All other photos should be stored on hard drives or other forms of media and backed up to prevent loss.

37. Realise that storage solutions are fashionable and expensive ways to hide your junk. Reality is, the junk is still there! Remove the junk and you won’t need the storage solutions. It’s one of the 7 big mistakes people make when decluttering.

38. If your airline has the option, download and print your boarding passes at home. Saves queuing up at the check-in counter at the airport.

39. Before driving somewhere, check that you actually know which route to take! Sounds obvious but in this age of technological advancement (GPS and Google Maps), getting “lost” is really not a valid excuse! (Oh, and check the traffic report).

40. Learn to trust your intuition. Listen to the voice in your head. If something doesn’t feel or sound right, it probably isn’t, so why waste your time finding out the hard way?

41. Realise that there is a connection between spending money and time. The fewer things you spend your money on, the less money you will need to live off. Read more about consumerism and time here.

42. Don’t multitask. We are constantly told that to be productive we must multitask. But this leads to more busyness, and can sometimes lead to careless mistakes because we are so focused on juggling more than one task at a time. Read more about why it’s better to focus on one task at a time.

43. Do something you have been putting off for a long time because you have been too busy.

44. Don’t hold onto things “just in case” some future event occurs. It rarely does. This is one of the biggest mistakes people make when decluttering.

45. Are you holding onto traditions for the sake of it? Traditions that actually make you more busy and stressed than you need to be? Get rid of busy traditions, and introduce new ones that reflect the unbusy lifestyle you desire. It’s one of the tips I share on how to be more intentional this Christmas.

46. Give the gift of experience rather than a physical gift. Some examples include movie tickets, dinner vouchers or an overnight stay in a hotel.

47. Learn to say no to your children. They don’t need the latest and greatest gadgets, toys, clothing- these things won’t bring them long term happiness. You are trying to live a more simplified and unbusy life. Set an example for your children to follow and you will be giving them one of the greatest gifts they will ever receive.

48. Learn to love and respect yourself. Unbusy people put themselves first. This doesn’t make them selfish, because they know that they can’t be of service to their family, friends and the community if they are not looking after their own health and wellbeing.

49. Six months after beginning your unbusy lifestyle journey, take a garbage bag and again walk around the house for 10 minutes filling up the bag with anything that you no longer find of value. Donate these items to charity. It’s amazing how after changing your mindset, an object no longer holds the same value you thought it did months earlier.

50. Be thoughtful and deliberate in what you do. Don’t rush through life. Unbusy people savour the moment.

51.  Ask for help when you need it. Busy people think they can do it all and do it all alone. Unbusy people realise they can’t do it all, nor do they want to, but they also ask for help when needed.

52. Talk to an older person about what life was like for them. Chances are it was less busy than your life is now. I spoke to my mother-in-law about this, and she commented how life is much too hectic nowadays and people moved at a much slower pace years ago. And people seemed happier. Get a different perspective and it might inspire you to become unbusy.

It all happened in the blink of an eye!

 

Image: Pinterest

Image: Pinterest

I’ve been a parent for 10 years now, and it seems an eternity ago that my eldest was a little babe in my arms. I remember taking her for walks in her pram, attending mothers group every Tuesday and trying to work out whether she was crying because she was hungry, tired or in pain. And then in (what feels like) the blink of an eye, she is 10 years old and I’m starting to look at high school options and she is sitting in the front passenger seat of my car while I drive her to school.

Back in those days, hubby and I didn’t have our own house yet, we didn’t have a mortgage to pay and we drove modest cars. I was able to take 10 months off from work and when I did return, it was in a part time capacity. My daughter and I would spend our days at the beach or would go for a drive or spend the morning at a café in St Kilda.  In terms of our materialistic status, we were pretty low on the consumer “food chain”.

But we were like many young families wanting to chase the great Australian dream of owning our own home.

Fast forward a few years and we had built our new home, taken on a mortgage and had to increase our working hours. Hubby worked day shift, and I worked evenings. So we would only see each other for about 20 minutes each day unless hubby was still awake when I got home from work.

Weekends were spent landscaping our garden, building a pergola, decorating the bedrooms, cleaning the house, throwing barbeques for friends wanting to see our new place.

Busy, busy, busy.

Bills started coming in, and so did our 2nd child. What little time I now had was spent on volunteering for local playgroup and kinder committees. I would drag my 12 month old daughter with me to kinder and sit in the office for a few hours doing the bookkeeping, trying to keep her quiet with various toys and snacks. Sometimes the teachers would let her join in the kinder activities with the older kids.

A few months later I fell pregnant with number 3.

Busy, busy, busy.

No more days spent at the beach. No more taking the kids to the farm. No mornings at cafes.

And I thought I was an accomplished, successful mother because I was able to take on so much in my life and juggle it all with apparent ease.

More than four years later, I look back at that hectic time and wonder what the hell was I thinking. Moving faster in my life certainly did not give me the level of satisfaction I was hoping for. My second daughter missed out on a lot: she had never been to a farm up until last year when she was 5 years old. She hated walking on sand up until a year ago, because I had hardly taken her to the beach when she was younger. She didn’t get to play in dirt and pick up insects as a toddler because I was too busy being a bookkeeper.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t have any regrets about my past, and I realise that in many ways I was and still am luckier than many. But when that wake up call happened 12 months ago and I started viewing life through different glasses, I started to realise a few things.

1. We are sold a bullshit dream about how our lives should be. Marriage. Kids. Living in a brand new McMansion in suburbia. The nice car. The top job. The resort holidays.

2. We are made to feel inferior if we are not living the bullshit dream. It’s all around us in advertising, on social media. You won’t be happy until you buy that Tiffany ring. You aren’t successful unless you drive that expensive car.

3. Marketers and advertisers want us to feel guilty about how we raise our children. Your child will be scarred for life if you don’t throw them a massive birthday party with 50 children, a petting zoo and a balloon entertainer who sings One Direction songs on helium.  Your child deserves to wear designer clothing. Your child will look cute in those $100 flashing sneakers (that fall apart after 4 months).

Falling victim to the way people think we should be living, ends up with us living very busy (and stressful) lives. Always trying to keep up with the Joneses or even staying one step ahead of everyone else robs us of our precious time and energy.

Time that we could spend running around on the sand at the beach or feeding chickens at a farm.

By changing our way of thinking and living, we are creating an unbusy life. A life that has more meaning and less crap.

And this is when we are open to new and exciting opportunities that we once never thought possible!