Sunday, April 19, 2015

Check-in Sunday

I have to admit, I didn't want to write this post today. I'm tired of confessing no headway, but that's the situation. I've been 'working at' this since February 20 (58 days!) and I only have a 2.4 pound loss to show for it. Granted, at one time it was a 5 pound loss, but that only lasted a day. It's discouraging when you consider the length of time I've been at this and that my total weight loss goal was only 6.5 pounds.

Anyway, my deadline was April 30, so I'll press on and report back next Sunday. The birthday celebrations for my daughter won't quite be over, but that's just the way it goes. I'll try to check in again April 30, though it's an extremely busy week for me. If you don't hear anything, assume no further progress was made. At that point, I'll be re-evaluating before making a decision about how to continue. I may need to go on a specific plan instead of relying on my attempts to cut back on sugars and carbs, etc.

The good news is that nice weather is finally appearing, so I can get out more often for walks with the dog, and I'll be doing some hiking in the near future. Hopefully the exercise will help. It will at least spur on those endorphins!


Saturday, April 18, 2015

P is for Practice and Perseverance

They say that 'practice makes perfect,' but in our home we like to say, 'practice makes better.' Perfection is not really a realistic goal. If you set your target at perfection, you're bound to miss every time. Not only will you fail, but you'll feel discouraged by your inability to attain it and at some point, you'll throw your hands up in despair and quit the game altogether. 

If you've been working alongside me the last x number of days, I hope you've been seeing some progress in your efforts. Maybe it's one step forward and two steps back. That's okay. If you keep practicing, if you keep utilizing the tips and strategies we've been talking about, you're going to get better at implementing the techniques, and your environment will look better. I promise. 

If it is to be, it is up to you. If you persevere and don't give up, you will reap the harvest of a home that brings rest and joy. For those of you who know your Bible, this is loosely based on Galatians 6:9.

Do you want that kind of space (the kind that offers peace and joy)? Then, as Winston Churchill is credited as saying, "never, never, never give up." Keep practicing and you will hit the target more frequently.

Other motivating quotes on this theme are below. Copy and post where you can see them and be reminded of their truths:
He conquers who endures. ~Persius
Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another. ~Walter Elliott, The Spiritual Life
If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking. ~Buddhist Saying
I may not be there yet, but I'm closer than I was yesterday. ~Author Unknown
With ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable. ~Thomas Foxwell Buxton
 Don't let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use. ~Earl Nightingale

Friday, April 17, 2015

O is for Organize

We've been talking a lot about living with less, striving for simplicity and the simple life. But apart from one post on 'filing systems,' we haven't really touched on the act of organizing. says that to organize is to systematize, to arrange in, or according to, a system. In other words, items that are similar to one another go together. For example, all sports-themed equipment should be in one place, not scattered everywhere. Cooking and baking supplies should be in the kitchen and pantry. Toiletries should be in the bathroom cabinet.

Your task today is to go through your smallest room item by item. Does everything you find there belong? Are like items together? Create a box for things that belong in other parts of the house and another for things you no longer want or need. Only retain in that room the items you would expect to need and use there. Trash anything that is in disrepair or has been used up. When you are done, put the box of things you're giving away in the car or entryway so that when you go out next time you can drop them at the thrift store. Take the box of misplaced items and deal with it promptly, putting things in their proper homes.

Feels good to see the room take shape, doesn't it? To create order out of disorder. If you think this is satisfying, wait until you take on each room until the whole place looks fantastic. Now don't get overwhelmed; no one expects you to build Rome in a day. But as you take on each room or each corner of a room and get it under control, eventually you'll have a home you can take pride in. 

For this moment, your work accomplished, reward yourself with a break. Do something you enjoy. Relax with your favourite beverage; read a chapter of that recent book by a well-loved author; call up a friend and make a date for lunch.

You deserve it.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

N is for Needs

When considering how to live with less, it's important to distinguish between needs and wants. While Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is thought to be dated today, it still makes a lot of sense for our purposes. 

What do we really need? Food, clothing and shelter are among the basics. A source of income is another need that provides for those elemental requirements. A higher need is for relationship, another is for fulfillment.

Needs drive us, but so do wants, things we desire. By semantics, wants are optional, not must-haves. When trying to simplify, it can be useful to focus on needs and diminish wants. 

Give this a shot: for one month, only buy the things you absolutely need. Like food or a new refrigerator (but only if yours has actually gone kaput). Avoid shopping where there are unnecessary temptations. If you have a shoe fetish, for example, avoid shoe stores like the plague. How many pairs do you really need? How many feet do you have? Don't buy any new articles of clothing unless your wardrobe goes up in flames. I'm sure you can survive a month without replacing an item or adding to your already-full closet.

At the end of the month, assess. How do you feel? Is there more money in your bank account? Are you less stressed because your credit card bill is smaller and you actually have the funds to make ends meet? Does it feel good to have purchased only the things you needed? Continue filtering your acquisitions through this lens (needs vs. wants) as you move forward. You are on your way to simple living.

I'm reminded of an episode of Mouse and Mole that my kids used to watch when they were young (unfortunately, I couldn't find it online). Called 'Stuff,' it contains this memorable line: "You can have stuff or you can have space." Were truer words ever spoken? And what would you rather have - stuff or space? For me, it's the latter.

I'm also reminded of this chipper little ditty. It doesn't totally fit today's post, but it's still a fun way to end:

  The Bare Necessities

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

M is for Mental Imagery

Here's an exercise for you. Read it through first, then try it:

Choose a quiet spot. Sit there and close your eyes. Picture your home the way you want it to be. Imagine walking through every room. What do you see there? Picture it as a place that is tidy and clean. Imagine the furniture you want to have, the paintings, photos or wall-hangings you delight in, only those things that you love and truly bring you pleasure. Are there people around you? Who are they? What are you all doing? Are you having a dinner party, playing board games, praying together? See the smiles on each face, the attentiveness of each listener, the engagement of each speaker. Is there music playing? What kind of music? Listen. If you're eating, what food has been presented, who has made it? Appreciate the appearance, smell and taste of the food, as well as the love that went into its preparation. If you are alone, what are you doing? Reading, writing, painting, or some other activity? Does it bring you joy? Choose something that makes you feel fulfilled. Create your dream life and your dream environment. Keep your eyes closed and imagine this world.

Now open your eyes. Take out a journal or notebook or open a new document on your computer. Write down everything you saw and experienced. What you have just done is called 'mental imagery.' It helps you to visualize the life and space you want. Writing it down clarifies it and helps you to assess what needs doing to make it happen. Identify your next steps. Tackle each item on your list until you have made the dream real.

Enjoy your new surroundings. Take pride in what you have created. Dream new dreams.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

L is for Loving What You Have

I know this sounds very much like keeping what you love, but it's actually different. Loving what you have means arriving at a state of contentment. Don't always be striving to accumulate more. 

When you are content, you have peace. You look around and are satisfied. Don't you want that? I know I do. 

Who are the peaceful people in this world? Aren't they the ones who are content, who are satisfied? Aren't they the ones who live simply and generously; who aren't in debt because they haven't made a practice of living beyond their means?

How do you achieve a state of contentment? You dwell on the things in your life that are good. You get off the treadmill and start taking walks in nature. When you go shopping, you make a list ahead of time and don't buy anything that isn't on it. You pray or meditate. You count your blessings. Maybe you start working with the less fortunate.

Consider these words:
Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. Philippians 4:11-12, NLT
What did we bring into the world? Nothing! What can we take out of the world? Nothing! So then, if we have food and clothes, that should be enough for us.  But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and are caught in the trap of many foolish and harmful desires, which pull them down to ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a source of all kinds of evil. Some have been so eager to have it that they have wandered away from the faith and have broken their hearts with many sorrows... Strive for righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. Run your best in the race of faith, and win eternal life for yourself; for it was to this life that God called you when you firmly professed your faith before many witnesses. I Timothy 6:7-12, GNT
A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; jealousy is like cancer in the bones. Proverbs 14:30, NLT
Love what you have. Be satisfied.

Monday, April 13, 2015

K is for Keeping What You Love

The flip side to jettisoning the junk is keeping what you love. We don't need to go completely crazy and get rid of everything, you know. It's important to keep the things that bring us joy and add value to our lives.

What do you love and why do you love it? Do you love it because it's pretty and you enjoy using, wearing, reading or looking at it? Are memories attached to it? If the reason you love something is because of the memories it conjures up, would taking a picture suffice? 

Other questions to ask yourself include: do I have space for this? Will it be on display or hidden under wraps? Am I prepared to get rid of something else in order to make room for it? Do I have more than one? Do I have the time required to maintain and care for it?

Only you can decide whether you love something enough to keep it. My sole piece of advice in addition asking yourself the above questions is - if in doubt, set the item aside for three months and then revisit it. What do you think then? If you're still undecided, it's probably time to pass it along.

What do you own that you can't bear to part with? If your house caught on fire, what would you save? For me it would be my photo albums, life documents (e.g. birth and marriage certificates) and USB sticks. And the watercolour painting my aunt gave us as a wedding present!