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a calm corner

A simple space
A simple clean space

Our suburb is littered with post World War II houses, each of them either a carbon copy or a flipped version of the same design. Many have been modernised and extended. Ours is small, and very original. It stands strong, but as with most old houses, it is quite hard to maintain, and it’s often difficult to make it feel really clean. When you live in a house with two wild boys, a permanent Lego trail, and a big hairy cattle dog who prefers life indoors, you can feel as though you are always living in a bit of a mess. That feeling can make you feel quite unsettled.

It’s a beautiful airy summer house, and conversely it’s a breezy, freezing winter one. Every year as soon as the cold weather sets in, I seem to become possessed by minimalist fever. Running around seeing what I can offload to others, to charity, or just ‘out’. In a way it helps me to regain control over a home which has been a bit neglected over the summer. It’s also a step towards feeling less unsettled during the cooler, more home bound months of the year.

One of the main principles of spring cleaning (or Autumn cleaning if you’re me), minimalism, and probably many other domestic activities, is to start small. To work on small areas and make micro differences that add up over time. I like to have (at least) one small uncluttered space in our home, which regardless of the chaos in the rest of the place, brings some calm. Mine is our dining table area, which is in our main living space. It’s set simply with greenery, but otherwise it’s kept perfectly clear. It means dealing quickly with school bags, mail, shopping, washing and anything else which threatens to impinge upon my calm space. It’s in my direct line of vision from the kitchen, and the unclutteredness of it helps me find peace amongst whatever else is going on.

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heigh-ho, heigh-ho…

image After a two year hiatus in my paid working life, I started back at the hospital last Friday. It’s my second return to work after a long break, and a lot of thought went into the decision to return. The past 18 months for me has been a time of slowing down, of healing, of purposefully looking after myself and creating a space within our home which prioritised not becoming overwhelmed with crazy schedules and life. A space which focused on drawing together our little family in a positive, happy and peaceful way. It’s definitely not always peaceful, but that has always been my goal. There were lots of reasons which led me back to work. The first being the uncertainty within the mining sector at the moment. As a single income family relying entirely on the mining industry, things have felt unsettled for some time. We needed a plan B. The second reason was that as a nurse, if you don’t practice for a while, you lose your registration. ‘A while’ is actually 5 years, but as time has slipped by, I realised that 5 years could pass in a blink, and there we are. The third, and most surprising reason for me, was that I was beginning to miss it. This was the interesting thing on Friday, because although I felt like a fish out of water for most of the day, it was beyond lovely to be completely appreciated for what I did. Nothing against partners and children, but when you can solve a problem like getting on top of the worst pain someone has ever had, and they grab your hand, stare into your eyes and thank you for being there, it kind of feels pretty special. I don’t really believe in conventional medicine in my personal life. It has a place, but it’s rarely my first port of call when someone in my circle is sick. It doesn’t really align with my view of how to look after your health…at all. It’s a system of disease management, of symptom relief, not really health care. It’s always been that way for me, but it’s only something I’ve consciously acknowledged quite recently. I thought I would have a real problem internally rationalising my work and my beliefs now. But nursing is about people, and about caring, and I don’t actively associate my personal beliefs with my work when I’m nursing…and it’s OK. As I walked back to the train station after my first shift, I was buzzing with excitement. Partly because I’d done it, I’d finished a shift, but also because deep inside of me I acknowledged this lifelong connection to myself as a nurse. My legs were aching, my house was a mess, and I only just made it back to school in time to pick up the boys, but I felt good. I am a nurse. It’s been a part of who I am for a really long time, and surprisingly to me, it still is. Linked with Essentially Jess for IBOT

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balancing your energy

Saturday morning at Leighton Beach in Perth. Photo courtesy of the lovely Louise Bowles
Saturday morning at Leighton Beach, Perth. Photo courtesy of the lovely Louise Bowles

The high energy of the festive season generates such a buzz within my body and my mind. A lot of the energy translates as warmth and happiness, making me feel amazingly positive. But some of it (particularly the organisational pressure of the season), feels like a huge burden. There are often high expectations, crazy schedules, and deadlines wafting around what are essentially meant to be wonderful, relaxed, family celebrations.

I often try and talk myself out of the stress that I can, but as a yoga teacher said in a class yesterday, you can’t always change it, so you have to know how to balance it.

Finding the peace inside of yourself. Generating an opposing force to that consuming frenetic energy, by doing whatever it is that brings you calm, so that you can handle the heightened energy, but also enjoy the warmth and happiness of the season.

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our gratitude calendar

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Giving of yourself to others, and feeling gratitude for what you have is the quickest path to peace and happiness that I know. Christmas is the perfect time to experience both of these things simultaneously.

Last year we started a new advent tradition. Instead of the chocolate treats we’d had each day of December in previous years, our advent calendar has become a place for special messages. It’s now somewhere we can express feelings of love and gratitude for siblings, parents and partners. There is the odd chocolate too, but mostly just messages of love.

When we dusted off and opened the box of ‘days’ today, last years messages were there, and they were beautiful. Not only because they were inspiring, but also because they created an interesting paradox considering the weekend of fairly intense emotion and conflict my sons seem to have had. But the sweetest part of all, was how they had been written. My eldest son, who turned six last Christmas, was just beginning to develop his writing skills. His language was quite complex, but his spelling was completely phonetic (wcos = because, which is exactly as he would say it). Reading each note is like decoding a foreign language which doesn’t make any sense at all until it’s read aloud. The time and effort that he put into each message was enormous. Reading them together, I felt as though my sons were being reminded of how good it feels to be loving towards each other. How good it feels to appreciate what’s around you every day, and how good it feels to make others feel really special by doing it. Or perhaps I’m just feeling hopeful.

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i’m dreaming of a simple Christmas

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During some of the rainy days of the October school holidays, we did a slightly unusual Christmas craft project. Our family loves a good craft project, and we collect all sorts of recyclables every week; paper, card, boxes, bottles, you name it, but most prevalent in our collection is toilet rolls. And this is where the slightly unusual nature of our project comes into play. Our craft project was the wreath you see here, and unbeknownst to me until October, this just happens to be one of the million and one things that can be done with used toilet rolls. Thank you Pinterest.

At this time of year, with festive pressure just starting to kick in, it feels important for me to set my intention to maintain simplicity and calm over the whole festive season. It is really difficult to avoid the rising stress that Christmas seems to bring out in us. The consumer craziness can impact even the most rational consumer, even one with deep minimalist intent, and an iron will.

So here are some of my thoughts, and a few thoughts of others. The first piece of advice is from a very wise friend, and I really love it a lot. It is simply to avoid the shops completely. Don’t buy into the craziness. Use the internet, and have essential purchases delivered to you, or better still, direct to your loved one. To buy someone a book for example, you can either buy an actual book and have it delivered directly to the person, or alternatively buy a book voucher or ebook online and send it via email. There are so many ways to buy gifts which don’t involve being in the shops.

If you are creative, and I like to think of myself this way, you can make things with meaning and purpose for those you love. My top idea for this year is propagated plants, such as herbs and cactuses. Unusual planting containers like tins and cups etc, make beautiful gifts. Again, thank you Pinterest for some lovely ideas.

Consumable gifts are perfect. I love them because they can be enjoyed, they are useful and then they’re gone. No clutter, no stress, just enjoyment. Bath salts, a gorgeous aromatic soap, a homemade candle, a body scrub (so easy to make!), pickled foods, jams, the list is endless. Our olive trees have given us an abundance of potential gifts to marinate and share this year.

There’s also the concept of not giving any tangible gifts at all. Giving instead to those in need, rather than drowning ourselves in a sea of overindulgence. Or of simply sharing experiences instead of gifts, Leo and the Babauta family style. We are starting to do this with the kids when it comes to gifts from family and friends, but I think we’ll need to wait until the mystery of Santa has dissipated before we will be able to move towards this concept completely.

In the meantime, my intention is firmly set, to have a simple and peaceful Christmas…and I wish the same to anyone else who seeks it!

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