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

Spring Clean To A Less Busy Life Part 3- The Laundry

An organised linen closet. Image: Unbusy Me

An organised linen closet. Image: Unbusy Me

I love a clean laundry.

I think there’s something motivational about having a clean laundry that inspires you to stay on top of your washing, however it can be a bit difficult keeping the linen closet in check. Think overflowing piles of sheets, cleaning products and other bits and pieces that somehow make it in there by accident.

Today I challenge you to not only get through your pile of dirty laundry, but to sort through your linen closet and PURGE those items that you really do not need. The purpose of this spring clean challenge is to not only tidy and reorganise items but to get rid of them, so that you can minimise the time you spend tidying and reorganising.

Rather than approach the laundry in a similar manner to the master bedroom and kitchen in previous weeks, I will be sharing tips on how you can ensure your laundry remains uncluttered and unbusy.

Here are 5 tips to unbusy your laundry:

1. Write an inventory list of the number of sheet sets you would require for each bed in the house, keeping in mind things like the change in seasons, possible spares in case of an accident, or sheets for when guests stay over.

2. Go through the linen in your closet, and as you pull everything out, place it into organised piles: one for flat sheets, one for fitted sheets, one for doona/duvet covers, one for pillowcases. Also have a separate pile for bath towels and any other linen.

3. Go through each pile and write down how many of each item you have eg: 15 fitted sheets, 22 pillow cases etc… Then compare this list with your inventory list. The difference between the two lists is the number of items to remove.

4. Go through each pile and remove the number of items no longer required. Place these items in a donation bag for charity.

5. It’s time to put everything back into the closet. Fold all the sheets and towels in a neat manner, and make sure that when putting items back in the closet you keep like items together, and keep commonly used items such as bath towels in an easy to reach part of the closet (I prefer to use the shelf that is at eye level).

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Why Retail Therapy Is Making You More Busy

Image:teenvogue.com

Image:teenvogue.com

 

It seems to be the thing to do if you are feeling down or going through some tough times: a bout of shopping to cure the blues, also known as “retail therapy”, a term which was first used back in 1986 in this Chicago Tribune newspaper article.

But are we actually curing anything by spending our time purchasing items, whether we think we need them or not? And is retail therapy actually contributing to our busyness?

Think about the last time you went shopping just for the sake of it, perhaps to cheer yourself up or to cure boredom, and think about how you felt after the shopping experience. Maybe you regretted your purchase after coming home and really thinking about why you bought the item that you did, or you came home only to feel the same emotions you felt before you went on your shopping trip. Reality returned with a vengeance- and perhaps with additional shopping baggage!

Since becoming unbusy, I rarely venture to our local shopping mall unless I really need to purchase something eg: a birthday gift or something the kids need at school. But when I do go, I notice how retailers try to lure us into spending more as a way of making us feel better about ourselves and our lives. Sure, this isn’t something new, but what I now also think about is how retailers contribute to our busyness.

From the moment we set foot in a shopping mall, we are closed off from the outside world and our minds begin to wander through the maze of retailers and consumers looking for the next purchase “hit” to make us feel good. We may have only gone in to buy one item, but once we are in there we realise that hey, we need to buy a gift for someone’s birthday which is in 2 months time, or wouldn’t this item be great as a kids’ Christmas gift and don’t forget its Aunty Jan’s birthday in 6 months time and she would really want that sweater. And before we know it, that quick shopping trip has turned into an all-day affair complete with lunch in the food court and afternoon tea at a cafe.

But our consumerism has contributed to a more busy life. When we consume, we are bringing more stuff into our lives, stuff that we need to take care of. More stuff means more housework, more storage, more insurance, more maintenance. That dress you bought because it looked good on you and you deserved it, now has to be washed, ironed and put away along with the myriad of other clothing items in your wardrobe, many of which you no longer wear.

Often we come home from a retail therapy excursion feeling even worse than we did before we went on our shopping spree after we realise we have purchased an item without really thinking about it- maybe we have now realised we really don’t need it, or it doesn’t look as nice as it did in the store when the assistant talked it up. Or we receive our credit card statement in the mail weeks later and are faced with a financial burden that didn’t need to be there which means working some overtime to pay the bills and keep on top of everything.

But the good news is that we can jump off the retail treadmill and not fall flat on our faces, and reclaim some of the time lost from consuming en masse.

Here are 3 ways to cure the need for retail therapy:

1. As with most things we want to change, it all begins with an awareness of what we are presently doing and why we are doing it. Think about some of the reasons you resort to shopping to make you feel better- is it easier than dealing with your emotions? Is it something you have always done with your girlfriends? And think about the way you feel after you’ve been on a shopping trip: Guilty? Depressed? Confused? Stressed? More Busy?

2. The next time you feel the need to go shopping to try to cheer you up, think of 5 other ways that you can change your emotional state. It might be as simple as going for a 20 minute walk around your area, or even calling a friend for a quick chat or catching up over coffee or tea. I like to watch an inspirational video on youtube (such as a Ted talk) or spend some time writing, or if my kids are home I take them to a park or beach.

3. Thank yourself. Once you get over your urge to go shopping, be thankful that you had the strength to overcome the need to resort to maxing your credit card with unnecessary purchases. Write a short list of the ways that you have made yourself less busy by not going shopping: you didn’t waste time shopping, you were able to spend valuable time with a friend instead, you didn’t bring more stuff home to manage, you didn’t have to deal with feelings of guilt, regret or stress like you normally would after shopping.

Here’s a “thank you Nat” list I used to think in my head when I was first trying to become less busy and not waste time shopping:

-Thanks to not shopping, I was able to spend quality time with my daughter doing something fun like playing at the park or reading books at the library.

-Thanks to not shopping, I had less stuff accumulated in my home which reduced the time I spent on housework.

-Thanks to not shopping, I had more money in my bank account to put towards other worthwhile activities such as family holidays and outings.

-Thanks to not shopping, I was able to become less materialistic and instead focus more on my emotional and mental wellbeing.

Have you resorted to retail therapy and what are some of the ways you are trying to overcome the urge to splurge at the shops? Let me know below, and don’t forget to subscribe so you never miss a post and also have my monthly newsletter delivered to your inbox.

Spring Clean To A Less Busy Life Part 2- The Kitchen

Image: marthastewart.com

Image: marthastewart.com

 

In part 2 of my series “Spring Clean To A Less Busy Life”, we look at one of the busiest areas of clutter: the kitchen.

The kitchen is the busiest area of our home and is where my family gathers to enjoy meals together, and is the room I spend the most amount of time in. Why make myself busier in the kitchen than I need to be?

In today’s declutter session, I’d like to focus on the kitchen EXCLUDING the pantry and fridge (don’t worry, we will come back to these areas in few weeks).

Let’s go over the basics again in preparing for our declutter session, similar to the tools in Part 1:

THE TOOLS:

-A packet of heavy-duty garbage bags or an empty box (for heavy items)

-A cleaning cloth/rag to wipe down dust

-A stop watch/clock/mobile phone to time your session

Now that you have assembled these tools, it’s time to begin!

THE RULES:

-Try to time each declutter session for 45 minutes only- spend 30 minutes cleaning, and the final 15 minutes packing up and putting things away. Don’t worry if you have not finished,  you can continue your session another day.

-Focus on sorting everything into 4 piles: what to keep, what to donate, what to throw out and what to recycle.

Set your alarm for 30 minutes, and GO!

KITCHEN TIPS:

Don’t begin your declutter session until you have washed and put away any dirty dishes. Why? Firstly, you will need the bench space when pulling things out of cupboards and drawers. Secondly, some of your dirty dishes will be items that you will end up donating or throwing out. Thirdly, it is the quickest and easiest way to make your kitchen look a lot tidier.

So either wash your dirty dishes by hand like I do, or place in the dishwasher and switch on- by the time the cycle is completed, your decluttering session will be well and truly finished.

The focus of decluttering a kitchen is to ensure that the items that you keep are those that you use on a regular basis, and that you don’t have two, three or four everything! The aim is to ensure you have enough items for the number of people living in the house plus a few extra for guests, without going overboard.

Do NOT worry about kitchen appliances during this session.

Begin with the easier items- I like to focus on my cutlery and glasses/mugs. The aim is to ensure you only have enough items in your kitchen for your family.

Drinking glasses, mugs and coffee cups: How many people in your household regularly use glasses, mugs or coffee cups? Count one item per person, and keep a small number as spares (I keep 4 as spares). Spares should be placed somewhere not as easy to reach for, such as a buffet or cabinet). Anything that is chipped is to be placed in the “throw out” pile

Cutlery: 1 spoon, 1 knife and 1 fork per person, with a few spares (I keep 3 per item as spares). Extra cutlery beyond this amount is placed in our buffet to use for dinner parties. If you no longer have dinner parties, or think your collection is too extensive, place the extras in your “donate” pile

Plates: Follow the same procedure as per mugs/coffee cups and cutlery. Keep enough plates for the family, with 3 spares, and the remaining plates in a buffet or cabinet. Be realistic: when was the last time you had a dinner party with 50 people? Can you donate your extras? Go on, do it!

Utensils: The drawer with all the crazy utensils and gadgets is probably overflowing with items that you never use, or don’t even know how to use! Be ruthless: how many wooden spoons would you use at the same time when cooking a meal? Anything extra should be thrown out. If its old, get rid of it! Imagine the bacteria and germs that have stayed on your old wooden spoon, especially if it has cracks or gaps. You only need 1 tin opener. Those weird Tupperware gadgets that were freebies that you can’t even remember how to use: donate pile.

Saucepans and pots: Realistically, how many pots and saucepans do you use at the same time for a meal? You do not need 10 saucepans. In our house, we have a stock pot, 2 medium sized saucepans and 2 small saucepans. We have invested in excellent quality stainless steel pots that we have had for 8 years. I am not a fan of non-stick due to health concerns arising from the toxins found in the non-stick materials, and I found that these types of pots and pans did not last long. Any extra pots and pans can be placed in your donate pile. Any non-stick items that are scratched or damaged should be disposed of.

Fry pans: We never use more than 2 fry pans at a time, but we mostly use just one stainless steel pan. Anything damaged, particularly if it is non-stick, should be disposed of.

Baking and roasting dishes: Again, be realistic about the number of baking dishes you use. We only use 2 at the same time at the most, but mainly 1. We have 2 excellent quality stainless steel baking dishes, and also have 4 small ceramic baking dishes that we tend to use as serving dishes during dinner parties rather than something we place in the oven. I prefer using stainless steel to ceramic as it is easier to clean and more hardy. Any extras that are in good condition- put in your donation pile. Anything damaged: in the “throw out” pile.

Cake tins and pans: Okay I have to admit, this is one area that I struggle with. I used to love making and decorating elaborate birthday cakes for my kids, so I have all sorts of cake tins in varying sizes. I have managed to cut down to a smaller number. Think about the types of cakes you commonly bake: keep these sized tins. Anything that you have used as a one-off should be placed in your donation pile. How many muffin tins do you really need? When was the last time you baked the cake using the 30 cm baking pan- 2 years ago? Okay I think it’s safe to say that was too long ago and you probably will not bake it again! If you find yourself using the excuse “just in case”, remember that if you DO really end up needing that tin, it will be relatively inexpensive and easy to purchase again (but chances are, you won’t ever need it again!).

Okay, so the decluttering session has been going along nicely. Remember, you may not get through all the items above in 30 minutes. That’s ok. Allocate another 30 minutes another day.

At the 30 minute mark, I stop what I am doing and reset my alarm for another 15 minutes.

By the 30 minute mark, I should only have my “keep” items left to put away. The donate pile is put in a garbage bag or box, and the “throw out” pile has been thrown out in the garbage bin.

I spend the final 15 minutes wiping down dust in cupboards and drawers and placing my “keep” items back in their rightful places. Extras are placed in my buffet.

45 minutes is over.

Don’t forget to check your dishwasher load and empty if it is done, or put your feet up and enjoy a nice cup of herbal tea!

How did your kitchen declutter session go? What were some challenges your overcame, and what did you discover about your kitchen habits? What are some obscure items you found in your crazy utensil/gadget drawer? Let me know!

 

Spring Clean to a Less Busy Life Part 1- The Master Bedroom

Spring Clean

Image: missinformationblog.com

 

Welcome to my first in a series of posts on spring cleaning your house to help you live a less busy life. Even if it isn’t spring in your part of the world, anytime is a good time to declutter and get rid of stuff.

How does spring cleaning lead to a less busy life? By reducing the amount of stuff we have in our homes, we are reducing the amount of time that we need to spend keeping our homes clean, maintaining, repairing, insuring or picking up things. As a mother of 3 girls, I’m constantly picking up bits of toys left lying around which can get very frustrating and time consuming. By focusing on reducing the amount of stuff, I promise you will notice changes to the amount of time you spend managing your household.

And who couldn’t do with a bit more time to spend in other, more fun ways?

Today, I will focus on the master bedroom. If your master bedroom is already clean and uncluttered, then choose another similar room or space such as a child’s bedroom or a guest room.

THE TOOLS:

Let’s begin with a few important tools- once you have these tools organised, it will make your spring clean session run a lot more smoothly.

-A packet of heavy-duty garbage bags

-An empty washing basket/box or other storage item (try to use something you already have in the home rather than buying)

-A cleaning cloth/rag to wipe down dust

-A stop watch/clock/mobile phone to time your session

Now that you have assembled these tools, it’s time to begin!

THE RULES:

-Try to time each declutter session for 45 minutes only- spend 30 minutes cleaning, and the final 15 minutes packing up and putting things away. Don’t worry if you have not finished,  you can continue your session another day.

-Focus on sorting everything into 4 piles: what to keep, what to donate, what to throw out and what to recycle.

Set your alarm for 30 minutes, and GO!

MASTER BEDROOM TIPS:

I usually start with opening the windows and then making the bed, as this instantly makes the room appear a lot cleaner. Fresh air and outdoor light will help clear out dust and smells in the room.

I then collect any clothing that requires washing and place in the washing machine- my washing machine cycle takes about 45 minutes which is perfect for while I am decluttering. By the time the declutter session is finished, the washing will be ready to hang.

Back to the bedroom. I walk around the room and pick up anything off the floor and place it in one huge pile ready for me to sort through. I now begin sorting into my 4 piles: keep, donate, throw and recycle.

Once the pile has been sorted, I throw the recycling items in the recycling bin outside. I then place the rubbish in a bag and throw out. Items to donate are put in a garbage bag.

Everything that remains that will be kept I then begin putting away where they belong. This part can take the longest because sometimes there are items to keep which belong in other rooms of the house.

At the 30 minute mark, I stop what I am doing and reset my alarm for another 15 minutes.

By the 30 minute mark, I should only have my “keep” items left to put away- I place these items in a large basket.

I spend the final 15 minutes vacuuming the carpet, wiping down the window ledges and picture frames and anywhere else that collects dust.

45 minutes is over. If I have more time, I will continue putting away the things in my “keep” basket otherwise I will set aside more time another day to go through my “keep” basket.

But for now, it’s time to hang up the washing and have a cup of herbal tea!

Let me know how your first session went, and share your photos over on my Facebook page!

5 Ways to Create More Time (without giving up anything)

Image: Design Sponge

Image: Design Sponge

 

One of the challenges in moving from living a hectic life to one that is moving at a much slower pace is the fear of “giving up” things that we believe make us happy. The thought of cutting something out of our lives can make us feel uncomfortable or question whether it’s the right thing to do.

Humans are creatures of habit: once we get into a routine, it’s pretty darn hard to break out of it. There is a place in our lives for some sort of routine and predictability, and some habits are very good to get into. But when routines and habits aren’t healthy for us and stop us from achieving greatness or experiencing a different level of happiness, it’s time to look at the way we are living and start questioning whether there are better ways to do what we are currently doing.

So for those of you who are just dipping your toes into the water of unbusyness or are beginning to question why you are so busy and how you can change the pace, here are 5 ways to create “more time” without sacrificing anything you are currently doing:

1. Accept that unbusyness is not going to appear gift wrapped on your doorstep one morning: this is a gradual change in lifestyle which begins with the decision to WANT to slow down.

2. Manifestation helps us achieve what we so desire. That doesn’t mean by chanting “I’m going to be unbusy, I’m going to unbusy” 500 times each day and constantly thinking of a less busy life our place will slow down. Positive words and thoughts are not enough: we have to live as though we are already unbusy. Begin by slowing down the tasks that you work on each day: don’t rush while washing the dishes, don’t run from one appointment to the next. Start speaking as though you are not busy: when talking to someone, don’t steer the conversation towards how busy your life is and how you are not achieving everything you want to. Feel grateful and happy for the things you have achieved each day.

3. Restructure your days. Companies restructure themselves on a regular basis to cut costs and increase productivity, but we can restructure our time to create more. Think about how you go about your day and write a list of all the ways that your days are not “working” or areas of your days that seem busier than others. For example, I find the time between when my kids get home from school and when I leave for work the most hectic. I have identified that the hectic energy at this time of the day is because I am cooking dinner while the kids are eating their after school snack, which does not allow me to sit with them and help with homework or readers. I have now promised my kids that I will cook dinner during the day so that when they get home from school, I have time to sit with them and help with homework before I have to leave for work. I have not cut anything out of my day but simply restructured my hours.

4. Be yourself. How can being authentic create more time in our lives? We often live our lives as though we are someone who we are not- trying to impress others requires effort and time that we could use living the life that we truly want for ourselves. Maybe you have taken something on just because you wanted to please someone else, or are behaving in a manner that does not align with who you truly are or what you value. Realign your time with who you truly are, and learn to accept yourself- flaws and all. I accept that I’m the woman who doesn’t have a home that looks like a display home- messiness, finger prints on windows, loom bands on the floor- but that’s who I am and what my life is. I could spend my time making sure everything at home looks perfect to project an image of perfectionism to everyone else, but that’s not the real Natalie.

5. Be generous with your time. Hold on, how can you be generous with your time when you barely have enough for yourself? It is through giving and helping others that we can put our own lives into perspective and gain a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction. Giving our time to help others who are struggling helps us realise that our daily struggles may not be as important as we think they are when compared with what others are experiencing. This can help us shift the way that we spend our time. Giving our time to make someone else happy makes us happy- seeing someone smile or having them thank us for our generosity gives us a feeling of satisfaction and contentment that can help us move through each day with a little less stress and busyness. And the more we give, the more we receive- someone else will be generous with their time and it may end up helping us in some way.

Moving from a busy to a less busy lifestyle may sound overwhelming and requiring too many sacrifices and changes, however by starting off with these 5 tips you will be creating shifts in your lives that will allow you to have a taste of what an unbusy lifestyle is.

The focus of an unbusy lifestyle is not what is being given up, but what is being gained- more time.

9 Tips For An Unbusy Bathroom

Image: Pinterest

Image: Pinterest

 

I have a confession to make: this is one area of my house that I have had trouble keeping under control.

My bathroom vanity contains an assortment of make up, hair care products, hair styling equipment and accessories. Amusing considering I rarely wear make up, but maybe understandable since I have three daughters- two of which have had dance concerts and competitions.

Nevertheless, that is not a good enough excuse to hoard all kinds of crap in the bathroom, mostly for “just in case I need it” purposes.

Today I went through all the make up and personal care products in our vanity and was able to cull down the items to a manageable amount that we use on a regular basis. And I filled three shopping bags with rubbish!

Here are some quick tips on decluttering your vanity and having an unbusy bathroom, making it easier and less busy for you to get ready in the mornings (or before a night out!):

1. Check the expiry dates on all creams, sunscreens and other make up items and throw out those that are passed their use by date.

2. Throw out any empty containers, bottles or tubes.

3. Discard any make up that you no longer use- e.g. eye shadows that are no longer in fashion (that’s right, that blue eye shadow from 1983!).

4. Make sure any electrical appliances such as hair dryers and straighteners are still working. Dispose of any that are no longer operating, and if there are any that you no longer need- see if you can give to a friend.

5. Use up anything you’ve found that you haven’t used in a while, before buying a replacement (nail polish, hand cream etc…)

6. When putting everything else back into the vanity, put like things together, and most frequently used items should be in easily accessible places.

And for parents of a child who has to wear stage make up:

7. Have the stage make up in a storage container or make up bag separate to your own items.

8. Check the make up items several months before the performance to see if there is anything that needs to be discarded or a replacement purchased. Nothing worse than realising on concert night that the mascara has dried up!

9. Keep hair accessories separate to the make up- hair clips, pins, brushes, nets, elastics etc…

The bathroom may not seem like an obvious place to declutter, but buying beauty and personal care products can sometimes get out of hand and result in a disorganised and messy vanity, making it more likely to have a stressful morning routine when you are looking for that new tube of toothpaste or the perfect lipstick to go with your outfit!

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!

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.

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.