Slow Down Challenge: Plant Something

Plant something

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by Sharon Harding from Rediscovered Families. Thanks Sharon!

“There is a cost to a hurried life sans rest stops. And there is a richness to a more deliberate pace.” Jeff Goins

Life can be hectic and busy at the best of times, but life as a parent can get frantically busy.

We have so many different things competing for our time and attention. There are errands to run, places to be, and extra curricular activities to fit into our overcrowded schedules. On top of that there are the endless demands of our homes and gardens. Then there is the approaching holiday season.

ARGH!

The trouble is when we live frantic lives we can end up moving through life in fast-forward mode. Which really isn’t much of a life at all.

Our lives are not a race to the end. They are journeys of wonder that should be savoured and enjoyed.

If we can slow down just a little perhaps we can start to enjoy that journey with our families. Families that slow down tend to

  • Experience less stress
  • Enjoy a greater sense of creativity
  • Learn to appreciate the small things in life
  • Have the space to develop deeper relationships

An effective way for families to slow down is to make some space for a slow activity, something that can’t be rushed. One such activity is planting. You simply cannot hurry a seed. It will germinate and grow at it’s own pace. You can’t really hurry a garden either. It will develop and evolve over time.

Planting is also a really fun thing to do with children. There is something almost magical about germination that delights and amazes them. And you get to play in the dirt! It doesn’t get better than that!

This is the perfect time of year to plant something.

  • If you are living in the southern hemisphere you are right in the middle of the growing season and I am just a tad jealous!
  • If you are living in the northern hemisphere there is still time to plant bulbs.
  • If you don’t have a garden try planting something in a pot. It works just as well.

When you go to plant encourage your children to pause for a moment and hold the seed or bulb in their hand. Express amazement that everything the plant needs to grow is contained in that one tiny seed or bulb. Wonder how big the plant will grow. Imagine what it will look like. While you are planting invite your children to talk about previous experiences of planting and growing seeds. You might ask

  • How long did it take the plants to grow?
  • What was the first sign that the plant was growing?
  • How can we help the plant to grow?

When planting with your children remember to keep it simple. If you are planting a garden it doesn’t have to be picture perfect. It doesn’t have to be a huge project. In fact a few plants are better than none. While you are planting release the pressures of everyday life for a brief moment. Just treasure the precious moments with your children and enjoy a slower pace of life for a little while.

Some resources to help you

Dirt and Boogers posted The Beginner’s Guide to Planting with Kids.

It has all kinds of helpful advice and links.

Houzz posted Gardening with Kids: How to Plant Bulbs. It gives you some interesting information and has some amazing pictures.

So tell me what will you plant this week? In what ways do you find that gardening helps you to slow down and simplify your life?

If you would like to read more of my work you can catch up with me at Rediscovered Families. I write about building relationship and creating deep connections with your family. You can also catch with me on Facebook and Twitter. We have lots of fun over there and I would love to have you visit.

Play in the dirt

What Makes Me Weird

Image: Pinterest

Image: Pinterest

 

I prefer being alone than with a large group of people.

I hate clothes shopping.

The smell of tuna makes me feel ill.

These are just three things about me that make me weird- there are many more, but I won’t bore you.

For many years, I have conformed and tried to “fit in” with certain groups of people while at the same time have been preaching to my children the importance of celebrating diversity and individuality.

We want our children to leave their unique footprints in the world rather than following the crowd and conforming to certain expectations, but we also want our children to be seen as normal and not “weird”- we want them to have healthy friendships and not endure bullying from others for being a little bit different.

How many of us practice what we preach? How often have you changed your behaviour or allowed others to dictate how you live in order to “fit in” and feel accepted?

When I was younger, I remember going out with a group of friends who were quite “girly” and loved to dress up and wear make up so I did the same- dressed myself up in clothes I would normally never wear just to be able to fit in. We spent the afternoon shopping and trying on different outfits. I remember looking at myself in the mirror and feeling physically ill because I was acting like a complete fraud- I did not feel comfortable or happy, and was bored! I wanted to go home and put on some comfy clothes and listen to music in my bedroom, alone.

The sad fact is, this sort of behaviour is not just limited to teenage girls, but also adults of all ages.

Conformity happens in the workplace, in local communities, and in the public eye.

The cost of conformity is not only losing your sense of identity, but losing time. Some people spend years living a life that is expected of them, and then suddenly wake up to realise that they have wasted their lives.

Conformity can also lead to busyness and living a hectic lifestyle. Here are 3 ways that hiding your “weirdness” and conforming could be making you busy:

1. You have expectations to fulfil: Maybe extra meetings you need to attend at work, activities you need to undertake (a weekly appointment at the beauty salon?) or an obligation you need to fulfil (baking for the school cake stall) in order to meet the expectations of others.

2. You have standards you need to live by: The most coveted home in the neighbourhood, the coolest car, the glitziest parties or the full social calendar. Living by such standards takes time and money.

3. You are busy hiding who you really are: For some people, it takes a lot of time and effort to hide who they really are from the rest of the world. Time that could be spent living a more honest and fulfilling life if only there wasn’t a need or desire to conform.

By identifying what you are currently doing in your life due to conformity, you can make the decision to change your behaviour and not only be more true to yourself, but also gain more time. You don’t have to start breaking the law or dyeing your hair pink, but making small, subtle changes can create a positive ripple effect. It could be learning to say no, or deciding that something does not “feel” right to you, therefore it isn’t worth pursuing. Or perhaps all you need is to change your perception of something about yourself- see a weakness as an actual strength!

Judy Garland once said “Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.”

Let’s all leave an individual footprint behind!

If you are feeling game enough, I’d love for you to share 3 things that make you “weird” or something you have always wanted to do but have been too afraid because it isn’t the “norm” for someone like you!

 

If you have the time…

I have written three guest posts in the past fortnight that I would love for you to read:

Sharon from Rediscovered Families(presence and awareness for strong family connection) was kind enough to invite me to share a story as part of the “Choosing To Connect” series, No Substitute For Time. Thanks Sharon!

I also did a guest post Finding The Time for The Mindset Effect (the power in the way we think)- thanks Ali!

Many of you have found me via Miss Minimalist, but for those who didn’t, here’s a link to a profile I wrote for her. Enjoy!

Why I decided to live with less

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Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result.

I think this sums up nicely why I decided in 2013 that I wanted to live with less stuff.

I tried consumerism, I tried fitting in with what everyone else around me in a similar situation was doing, I tried being many different things to many different people and guess what? I got the same result: anxiety, a lack of satisfaction and a tonne of frustration.

One night I remember thinking aloud “There’s gotta be a better way, there’s gotta be more to life than this”.

It took another 6 months of soul searching to discover what this “better way” was, and even when I found it I wasn’t sure it was going to be the answer to all my problems. But that’s the beauty of life: trying different paths, not having a map or a plan or any idea but just going with the flow and seeing what happens.

When I discovered minimalism as a way of living through blogs such as Miss Minimalist, The Minimalists, Be More With Less and Becoming Minimalist, I felt a sense of relief to find a community of people who realised that there is indeed more to life than what we have been conditioned to believe, and it was through the sharing of their stories that I was inspired to create a major change in my life.

I began like most people trying to simplify their lives: tackling the physical stuff. The clutter. The crap.

I felt nearly every emotion possible while decluttering the stuff in our house, from anger and confusion, to happiness and melancholy, and some of my thoughts were:

“Where did all these mugs come from?”

“Do I really need five of these when only one will do?”

“Someone else can get more use out of this.”

“What the hell was I thinking?”

“I’m just going to get rid of it and not think about it.”

“I don’t know if I’m ready to part with this.”

“What if I need this one day?”

“But it was a gift from {insert name}, what would they think if they knew I was throwing this out?”

“Far out, I forgot I even had this!”

The whole experience of decluttering was a real eye-opener for me because I caught myself thinking the silliest and most irrational thoughts that were mostly related to fear- fear of what would happen if I let go of something, fear of making the wrong decision or fear of what would be left of our home once the decluttering was completed.

Looking back now, I was only scratching the surface of a simpler life when I decided to declutter our home because what has followed since then is a journey along a very new and exciting path for not only myself but for my family too. I initially decided to live with less stuff because I knew that all of the stuff I was consuming and holding onto in my life was not making me happy, but I had no idea that living a simpler life would give me so much more joy than any material item ever could.

A simpler life has given me more TIME.

A simpler life has given me an appreciation for the simple things in life.

A simpler life has strengthened my relationship with my husband and children.

A simpler life has made me less stressed, less anxious and less willing to live a life according to society’s expectations.

A simpler life has given me the confidence to try new experiences and challenges.

A simpler life has brought me more happiness.

If you are reading this but have not yet begun to live a less busy and more meaningful life through a minimalist lifestyle, I cannot make you change the way you live, I cannot tell you what to do with your life, but I ask that you reflect on how you feel about your life, your self, your relationships, your dreams. I ask that you consider that there may be a better way to do this, that there IS more to life than what you have been led to believe.

And if there is a little voice telling you to try live a more simpler and less busy life, to get rid of stuff, to say no every once in a while, to make time for those you care about- listen to that voice.

Go with the flow, and see where it takes you.

‘Tis The Season To Be Unbusy

Image: Pinterest

Image: Pinterest

 

With the festive season fast approaching, we’ll soon start thinking about family gatherings, food, decorations, gifts and while it is a fantastic opportunity to connect with the ones who are most special to us, for many it is a time of busyness, anxiety and stress.

The busyness can come from the actual planning, organisation and execution of the event, or from trying to live up to the general expectation that it is a season of giving, of happiness, and of love, even though things don’t always pan out that way.

When we see television commercials advertising Christmas, we see attractive looking people all gathering around a gorgeously decorated Christmas tree, or sitting at a table with an amazing spread of food cooked to perfection (no undercooked turkey!) with everybody smiling and laughing, and they are all dressed in white (I think that part must be an Australian summer thing!).

Although this seemingly picture-perfect scenario may make some people strive for a similar outcome, the reality is that setting such high expectations results in busyness that quickly diminishes any possibility of a joyous occasion.

Prior to my unbusy journey, I enjoyed organising gatherings such as my kids’ birthday parties. I would begin planning months in advance, firstly by selecting a “theme” and then spending hours on the internet and visiting retail stores trying to find the perfect decorations to match the theme. I spent hundreds of dollars setting up the event.

The night before the party, I would stay up all hours baking and decorating elaborate birthday cakes, each year trying to outdo myself: a carousel, teddy bear, giant cupcake, rainbow layer cake…My husband hated the night before a party, because he knew it would end with me stressing out over melting icing, or not being able to work with the fondant. It all had to be perfect.

And then of course the day of the event was always so stressful and busy, running around setting everything up and making sure all the guests were being fed and entertained. There was never any time to mingle with anyone, and I would almost always forget to stop and eat!

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the gatherings we had and my children loved their birthday celebrations, but the busyness associated with entertaining finally took its toll on all of us.

After beginning my unbusy journey, I realised that I could still entertain but in a way that did not create a day of busyness, stress and anxiety.

Here are some ways that entertaining can be simpler, more enjoyable and less busy:

 

  1. Change your expectations: By reducing your expectations and not trying to recreate a television commercial, you can focus your energy on actually enjoying being in the company of others.

 

  1. Ask for help: You are not being weak if you admit you need help, and most people like to be able to assist. When my in-laws have their Christmas party, each family brings a plate of food to share and helps out with the cleaning up afterwards. My kids also love setting the table.

 

  1. Downsize your gathering: Instead of holding an elaborate dinner party or buffet lunch, opt for a simpler option such as an informal “coffee and cake” gathering, or just going to visit family members without sharing a meal.

 

  1. Smaller guest list: Yes this can be difficult, as we don’t like to offend anyone but reducing the numbers can make a huge difference in reducing busyness. My kids no longer have parties with over 20 children attending- they now invite a few close friends to go to the movies or ten pin bowling with. Less stressful for everybody.

 

  1. Focus on what you can control: Family gatherings can be stressful when certain people don’t get along or if there is tension in the room. Although you cannot control how others behave, you can control the way you react to and perceive the people attending your gathering. By responding to negativity in a positive way, or at least not reflecting the same type of response, there is a chance that the situation will diffuse itself.

 

  1. Enjoy the moment: Learn to relax and enjoy the moment, rather than worrying about all the cleaning up you need to do afterwards. Things happen: someone drops a glass, there are muddy footprints on the floor, the cake was under baked, the Jones family arrived three hours late. Accept the hiccups, and move on.

 

By removing the busyness out of organising a family gathering, party or event, we can learn to focus on enjoying the day for what it is: the chance to spend time and connect with those around us, in celebration of life regardless of whether it is Christmas, Thanksgiving, a birthday or other occasion. We remember these occasions for the way they made us feel at the time, not what decorations were hanging or what colour scheme was followed.

How do you celebrate special occasions- are you a perfectionist with high standards and expectations or do you prefer to keep things unbusy and relaxed? Share your stories and tips!

 

Natalie

My Anti To-Do List

Image: cleanmama.net

Image: cleanmama.net

 

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with to-do lists: on the one hand, they can be extremely handy to keep track of things that need to be done and there’s nothing more satisfying than crossing off each item.

On the other hand, they can become one’s worst nightmare: once you start a list, it’s hard to stop, and if you don’t have them all ticked off by the end of the day, you feel like an unproductive sloth. They can also take a good chunk of time to create or can be confusing: 30 items on my list, but wait, is fluffing the pillows considerate a separate task to the making of the bed? Should I create a subheading for “clean bathroom” that includes scrubbing the tile grout with a toothbrush? And do I need a separate list for “cleaning products required”? Maybe add a music soundtrack for each task?

The to-do list gives us a false perception of productiveness, success and achievement and although it can keep us focused on the task, it can also derail us from living a more spontaneous life where we focus our time on living and being rather than compartmentalising our hours into trivial task sessions.

Prior to becoming unbusy, this is what my to-do list looked like:

Image: Natalie Alleblas

Image: Natalie Alleblas

 

Looking back now, there are a few issues I have with such a list.

Firstly, there are way too many tasks on the list. Sure, some may only take a minute (such as opening the windows) but it is the fact that there are 27 items that I am expecting myself to complete between the hours of 7am when I wake up to when I go to bed around 11pm. The expectation is too high, and the realism is too low.

Secondly, the list is unrealistic because it does not factor in life’s spontaneous moments: I may get a phone call which might distract me for 30  minutes or so. My youngest daughter who is home with me may have a particularly difficult day where I am spending more time with her than on anything else. Or one of my other two children may be home sick. What if I realise I’ve run out of pasta sauce and have to pop down to the shops? Or what if I just don’t damn well feel like vacuuming today?

The problem with spontaneity when you have a to-do list is that it puts your mind into a negative state: you start putting yourself down because you did not stick to your to-do list. You start stressing because it means you are behind in your schedule and will have to work twice as hard the next day to make up for it. You forget to live in the present moment: maybe you were just meant to sit with your youngest child and play tea parties all afternoon on this particular day, to have that moment of connection with her.

But you were stressing about your to-do list, so your mind was elsewhere and you missed the present moment.

So what am I suggesting, that we throw our lists away and just live for the moment and tackle each task when we feel like it?

Since I’ve become unbusy, I have created a list for myself (mostly mentally rather than on paper) that consists of 4 things that I want to achieve for the day. These 4 things represent the non-negotiable tasks for my day:

1. Cook dinner

2. Load of washing (if there is a dirty load ready to go)

3. 30 minutes of study

4. Kids homework/bath

My list is all about putting things into perspective. My family must be fed each day, and have clean clothing and be clean and healthy. If I meet these requirements, then I’m doing ok. Anything else I complete is an added bonus, but if I don’t get to it, it’s no big deal. Life can still successfully continue!

As an example, yesterday my husband didn’t go to work (cue: spontaneous moment!). So I thought I would use the opportunity to get my hair done, and got my passport photos done and collected a passport application form. I also dropped off a donation of rice to a local charity. Then I got home and cooked dinner, before it was time to collect the kids from school and then I went to work. After work, I spent an hour studying for my University exam before reading a book and then going to sleep.

I enjoyed my day, because I did something for myself and I also did something for others. The satisfaction I received from these two tasks outweighed any satisfaction I have ever felt spending 6 hours straight doing housework.

I didn’t vacuum the rug. I didn’t do a load of washing. Even the beds were unmade. But that didn’t matter, because all five of my family were happy and healthy, and that’s all that matters.

Part of being unbusy is lowering your expectations of yourself and others around you. You don’t need to have a house that is 100% spotless when you have children in the house. You don’t need to pack 27 tasks into your day just to feel like you have been productive or achieved something.

You are allowed to be spontaneous and do something fun or different each day. That’s what living is all about!

So I encourage you to throw away your to-do lists and focus on completing 3-4 tasks that are absolutely essential each day and anything else you manage to complete is an added bonus. Let me know how you go and whether you notice anything different about how you feel each day!

Nat xx