I have finished off everything for The Road of Blessing now, and left it in the hands of my trusty editor who will do a good job at bringing it to birth; he always does.
I wrote my column for Woman Alive today, well ahead of time.
I worked on the cover copy and bio for the revised and expanded Spiritual Care of Bereaved and Dying People and sent that off. The two chapters outstanding on that book are all that now stand between me and a summer break - huzzah!!
The garden is lovely - the grass turns out to be full of clover, which is humming with bees in search of honey, and we have snow peas, chard and spinach enough for as many meals as we want and still some to give away. The tomatoes are coming on apace and I must pick the blackcurrants any day now.
And we have somebody new in our home. Shadow has come to live with us. I would not expect to change someone's name; our names bring continuity and familiarity. But for some inexplicable reason I can only think of her as Vesper. Perhaps that is her real name! Anyway, she is with us, and Vesper she has become. After an afternoon hiding behind the sofa she spent the evening purring happily and watching telly with the rest of us. Pics to follow - she is not quite confident enough yet.
If that were not enough to make this a happy day, the film I had on pre-order at Amazon has arrived to my great excitement! I cannot tell you how much I have been looking forward to seeing this!
This is a happy day!
Katie's childhood footprint, damp from the river's edge.
Life is a lot like that footprint, here for just a moment before it dries up or washes away.
I received news that a friend passed in the night. Hale, hearty--but suddenly a massive heart attack and now he is no more. He has been reduced to a pile of ashes stored in a wooden box.
I had not talked to Tom in ages but I thought of him fondly. He was one of those guys you just knew you could count on for anything, and I took care to never abuse that privilege. He was one of those stalwart friends that you just think will be around forever, and now he's gone.
Just. Like. That.
As I was dressing for the quiet memorial tonight I looked at all of my favorite dress clothes, their turned-around hangers indicating that they haven't been worn since I reduced my closet and reversed all the hangers early this spring.
I don't wear them much despite their beauty, because I'm afraid I will damage them, and because I don't go very many places to "dress up."
I wonder how many clothes he had in his closet, waiting for the right day and time to wear them?
Behold my father's only suit. This photograph was taken in September of 1968, when he dressed up just so they could photograph their latest luxury, the telephone.
Dad looked great in that suit, but wore it only for funerals and visits to the courthouse. It had been hanging in the closet for years when Mom removed it on the day that he died. He was buried in that suit in 1988, twenty years after that photo was taken.
Will my favorite clothes end up like that suit--saved for the day that I die because I was afraid to wear them now?
Children don't have this "save it" mentality.
Katie will wear her favorite dresses until they fall into rags at her feet.
I picked my very favorite skirt and paired it with one of my favorite tops today. Tomorrow I think I shall wear another--just because.
I don't want to end up like my father with clothes in his closet he never wore because the time never came or he was afraid to get them dirty. I want to be like a child and seize the day as it comes. So what if they fall into rags or get stained? I will have at least gotten some enjoyment out of them!
So here I am, walking on the river's edge as the sun set this evening in Paducah. Shoes in hand just watching the river run. I caught a few people staring at me walking along the riverfront in high heels tonight with my daughter, and I just smiled at them.
True, tonight I was dressed up for Tom's memorial but instead of going straight home to change into something more "appropriate" I went just as I was.
Life is too much like Katie's footprint--it fades so quickly! I've missed so much time, so many years waiting to use this or do this. One day it will be my turn to become a pile of ashes and when it does I want it to be with the full knowledge that I enjoyed my life and everything in it.
I want to use what I have and have what I use, NOT save it for a rainy day. As Tom's sudden passing has shown me--we never really know what the future will bring.
It’s been a good day.
My good pal Julie Faraway emailed in to say she was praying, which was a blessing indeed as I was scrambling to get my funeral preparation done while a steady stream of phone calls created an under-hum of mayhem and the plumber wrestled with the repair of one leak and subsequent testing of the system setting off further leaks and minor floods in our ratchety old house.
Imagine my surprise when, as I sat on the bed in our attic bedroom (my usual work perch) typing away, a somewhat stressed looking plumber came tearing up the stairs, bounded in and looked round frantically, demanding immediate access to the roof space!
Turned out that having drained the system to fix the leak to the hot water cylinder, once he refilled it the inflow of water created unaccustomed activity in the ancient header tank, which resulted in the ball valve giving way and the overflow pipe falling off. Lordy! With no ball valve to control the inflow of water nor overflow pipe to discharge it, the tank then began to overflow lavishly into Hebe’s bedroom, down the light fittings onto the bed and down the mystery cracks we now realize had been caused by similar incidents, into the wardrobe. I must say Those Who Went Before Us did have a talent for neglect. The number of repairs we’ve achieved since we moved in last November!
That plumber was a star. While Julie prayed, he plumbed. Working at the speed of light he unscrewed the fiddly fastenings on the access hatch to the roof space (why did Joe construct the access door like that? What was he thinking of?), and crawled away at top speed into the strange little obstacle course leading to the cobwebby space where the header tank lives. Two hours later and a lot dustier, not only had he fixed it and drilled holes in Hebe’s ceiling to let the flood drain away, he polyfilla-ed up the holes when he’d done, carefully dried off the electricals, re-wired the dodgy light fitting that came loose while he was drying it, mopped up and repaired everything, and left everything ship-shape. How’s that for a plumber and an answer to prayer!
All went well with the funeral, and I got some writing done too.
This evening is peaceful and mellow, gulls crying on the roof, the late sunlight gentle on the garden.
Thank you for the day. Thank you for the sunshine. Thank you for praying friends and conscientious hard-working men who go beyond the call of duty to take care of us. Thank you for the love.
Oh. My friend who died leaves an old cat called Shadow with no home. Well? What d’you think?
I subscribed to the local Freecycle network to use them as a place to eliminate things from my life as well as to locate things for free if I needed them.
I was a bit concerned when I signed up--afraid that I would try for everything that remotely interested me and would clutter my home up even more but I have surprised myself.
I have used the group a few times to eliminate things from my life that were no longer needed, and I have used them a couple of times to get some things I actually used (groceries).
The hard part is when something really tempting comes across.
Yesterday someone listed some 3.5 floppy disks that were new in box. I still use a floppy camera and since floppies are getting hard to find I was seriously tempted to request these but then I was reminded of the rather large supply I already have.
These things don't last forever and I have enough overstocked items.
I passed them up.
I have passed up several things on there that I would have used and it seems to get easier each time. I imagine cleaning it, rearranging it, finding places to put it and tripping over it... By the time I'm done I've usually turned against the item with a vehemence!
It is still a temptation to stock up on good deals at the store when I run across them but I am forcing myself to remember all of the stockpiled "good deals" that are NOT getting used at all anymore!
I have paper and ink pens out the wazoo thanks to sales, not including cleaning supplies, groceries and the like. Even clothing has been affected though not as much since I have began simplifying that area.
The paper and ink pens will eventually be used by the kids and grandkids and I will eventually use up the other supplies but would like to have less to keep.
I get so tired of taking care of these things! Whatever you do, wherever you go you've got this stuff to clean and stack and store--and move when you're looking for something else, and lose when you actually need it!
What is the point in having all of this crap if it does not give you pleasure?
What is the point in stocking up on stuff when you don't know what you will do tomorrow? I've given so much away--if you added up the money it would be obscene!
It's not that I don't like being generous--but the fact is this: if I had taken that dollar, two dollars, five or ten that I spent stocking up on that "good deal" and instead put it in the bank it would be giving me back instead of taking from me in terms of transportation, storage space, time invested, etc.
That money could provide for a more secure future, a more peaceful future instead of what I have today.
Simplifying, minimizing--it isn't for the sake of seeing how low you can go. It is to make life easier and pare it down to the most effective point.
Resisting temptation makes reaching that point easier--but sometimes it is just so hard, especially when you are around those who don't share your beliefs.
How do you resist temptation?
The bathroom/laundry area in this little mobile home is approximately the size of my bathroom in the old apartment and must do double-duty as my laundry area as well. In the apartment I had a separate room for laundry and storage but alas that is not the case here.
I get depressed sometimes looking at the bathroom here as a result and at times fear ever making any sort of progress whatsoever. This ends up being expressed by me allowing this area to clutter up some.
Yesterday while doing laundry I started looking through the contents of the overfilled bathroom countertop and it occurred to me that perhaps I wasn't doing as bad as I have been thinking. A few minutes of cleaning verified this.
This past year of seriously working to reduce, minimize and simplify has actually made a dent in the chaos that is my bathroom. Slowly but surely I am using up the incredible stockpile of supplies I kept in this room and instead of replacing them I am locating simpler alternatives that cost less and use less resources, taking up less space even.
Bathroom tissue and sanitary pads have been replaced with family cloths capable of handling both needs as well as having other uses like cleaning up random spills or messes and being used to actually clean the bathroom as well. Instead of purchasing disposable paper products I wash the same cloths over and over. This one change did not really result in saved space however; I have to keep a decent supply of cloths available at all times that is sufficient to allow me to wash cloths only once a week and allow them to dry for a day or so if it takes that long indoors. Also I was concerned over germs and contamination so I now keep a covered bucket behind my commode filled with sanitizer water to place these cloths in for soaking and germ control. The bucket doesn't really take up space that I would normally use but it takes up space nevertheless. I use an old laundry detergent bucket for camouflage.
When you consider that I used to purchase bathroom tissue by the commercial case the laundry cloths and the bucket actually take up less space than a full case of tissue but to be fair I consider saved space in this issue to be a wash.
Laundry detergent is now homemade--or will be totally homemade when I use up the last of the commercial detergent that I still possess. I was going to use homemade liquid laundry detergent because it offers the most cost savings but have decided that after this last 10-gallon batch is used up that I will go with the powdered version instead for a significant space savings. I don't do enough laundry to justify the cost savings between the liquid and the dry, especially when you consider that the liquid requires significant more handling, preparation and storage space.
I no longer use the dryer--or I haven't used it for a couple months or more. When I have not used the device in a year or so I will totally eliminate it from my life for a significant savings in space, electric, maintenance and replacement funding. Right now I use it as a workspace when folding laundry.
Shampoo has been replaced with baking soda and hair conditioner has been replaced with an occasional vinegar wash. Two more bottles eliminated from my life and the bathroom. There is a little left over from when I previously used these things but I am slowly sending them home with the kids when they visit (I tend to stockpile so originally I had an incredible supply of the stuff).
The numerous cleaners I previously used in the bathroom are all gone now, replaced with bleach, ammonia, vinegar and baking soda--all of which I can also use throughout my home in contrast to the specific cleaners I used to purchase exclusively for the bathroom. That has saved an incredible amount of storage space alone!
I still have the significant remnants of a gallon bottle of fabric softener as well as some dryer sheets. I use a small amount of fabric softener occasionally in my colored clothing and will eventually place the dryer sheets in drawers and cabinets to freshen them. I cannot see wasting the stuff!
My personal perfume and cosmetic stockpile has decreased by half in this past year alone. I have actually not purchased anything other than a single bottle of nail polish in over a year! I don't wear cosmetics very often so this has been a slow attrition from discarding things that have expired or dried up and refusing to replace them. I am trying to keep the attitude of "why waste money on something I so very rarely use" in this department. Since I have reduced down from several plastic containers to one container smaller than a shoebox I consider it progress :).
I still have a stockpile of aspirin, miscellaneous pain relievers and other over the counter medications. Most of this can be blamed on poor organization for much of it is duplicates. My simplification journey has enabled me to have all of these items pooled in one simple space now which has enabled me to avoid any unnecessary purchases for the past year in this department as well as reduce what I have by actually being able to locate it when I need it. Significant, wonderful progress!
I have taken some pictures here to document how much better the bathroom looks with the progress I have made on simplifying and minimizing. When you consider that the sink counter and the dryer were filled to overflowing before I started simplifying (not counting all of the stuff that is stuffed under the sink I am delighted with the progress that has been made.
I can also see that a dent is being made within the bathroom cabinet as well. It is still cluttered and filled with stuff but the items have changed and matured. No longer does it contain cleaners, laundry detergent and a huge stockpile of shampoo, lotions and the like--it now contains towels, rubbing alcohol, peroxide and other things typical under a bathroom sink. Attrition is slowly making progress in there as well, thankfully!
I came home this afternoon from our church parish weekend away. A very successful weekend from the point of view of the church, a bit traumatic from mine. A series of small happenings, remarks, emphases, things said and not said that added up to a lot. Sigh.
In the morning I must be up early. Tomorrow afternoon I am responsible for the funeral of somebody I loved dearly, and I have to prepare. The whole world will be a little less rich and less bright without her. Fanciful self-indulgence spins fairy-stories that when we die we turn into stars. In her case it is probably true.
I also must call the plumber urgently because our water tank has sprung a leak and is gradually soaking the carpet and floorboards in Hebe's bedroom and seeping through to the studio underneath. Double sigh.
Last week I sent out an SOS to dear friends to read through double-quick the manuscript for my new book (to be published in January, The Road of Blessing. It's to follow the same format as In Celebration of Simplicity, so requires a question-and-answer section at the end. I wanted the questions to be real questions that real people really asked when they read it, not posers set by the publisher's editorial staff. What a brilliant team my readers made! They have come up with some cracking good questions. Just waiting for a few more to come in then I will get into the answers, and that will be that one put to bed.
Also oozing into the Urgent Pile is the revison and expansion of my
Spiritual Care of Dying and Bereaved People, again for the beginning of next year. The revision of the old text is now complete, and I have written one of the three new chapters which will be about the death of my previous husband Bernard, bereavement from causes other than death, and how to take a good funeral. Finished manuscript due in by the first week of August. Meanwhile I am determined that when my beloved takes his holiday this year (19th - 30th July) I shall not have my nose in a book manuscript working against the clock.
You will have cunningly detected that I have some brisk and sustained action to take.
If I come up for air I shall post here in the meantime - or I may just see y'all again in mid-July.
After that, things just about calm down again. I got my three-book contract with Crossway (hooray!!) for three new books following on from The Hawk & the Dove trilogy. The first is written and on their desk, the second three-quarters written, the third half-written. All to be done and dusted by the end of October. So that's my project from the end of July into the autumn.
Interspersed with that I hope I'll have enough space to work on my online Wabi-Sabi Jesus.
Waving to you my friends, then - see you intermittently as the summer goes on. To those of you who pray, let me say your prayers make an amazing difference to my output, in terms of quality, focus and protection from the constant and relentless interference of every conceivable variety (kind of crazy spiritual radio crackle) that sets up the minute I begin to write - you name it, it happens! I appreciate you have lives and needs of your own to attend to, but your prayer support is always, always most gratefully and deeply appreciated. (The Lord Jesus says 'Yeah, believe me - she needs it!')
I think I am finally getting my office simplified. I have determined in order to write my daily articles I need at the minimum:
- Internet connection
- Electric connection
I have some books that occasionally I need to access but most of the information is either in my head, contained in digital books on the laptop or available online.
With these few things I can pack up my office and take it almost anywhere. Anywhere being my sister’s, my auntie’s house, friend’s homes, McDonalds, the library or wherever there is an internet connection. I’ve sat at the Riverfront and in various restaurants plucking away at this keyboard over the past year and a half, and I’m starting to get this down to a science.
I don’t even need a cell phone—I have a MagicJack which I can use for all of my phone calls incoming and outgoing so long as I have a live internet connection.
I don’t require a printer for my daily needs. If I need to print something I can print up to ten pages for free at the library on a given day. They are open seven days a week unless there is a holiday or some change—and I should never have to print something with a real desperate urgency!
I could possibly do without the mouse but I have found that it helps productivity immensely so I carry it and at home I use a wireless keyboard/mouse combo to not only make typing faster and easier but to preserve the keyboard on my much used and abused laptop.
The headphones are used to listen to music while in public places and at home while the kid is asleep. We actually both use headphones while watching movies and the like to avoid disturbing the other one. They are also used while making phone calls on the MagicJack as they have a microphone built in as well, so I guess you could say they double as a phone handset.
The last two are a given as I use Google docs for word processing, Yahoo IM for communication, MagicJack for phone communication and a laptop for work, period. Sometimes I can slide without an electric connection for a time by putting the laptop into eco mode and working that way. This makes it great at some restaurants where electric sources are not readily available.
Instead of paper and pencils for notes I occasionally type some notes out on my PDA or on the laptop, and I listen to Internet Radio through my headphones for mood music. When at the library I can walk to a shelf and grab a reference volume if I need it without the expense of having to buy them.
I could work at home and reduce the amount of travel to and from the library but I seem to get a lot more accomplished there than when I’m sitting at home so I try to go at least a couple times a week to boost my productivity. It also serves the purpose of getting me out of the house some.
What have you done to simplify your office? Could you get by on less supplies, or perhaps convert your office into a mobile workstation to get away from the office some?
Yesterday we met our daughter and her family at an ice cream stand cum small playground. While the girls were enjoying their ice cream, Charlotte, 4, had to tell us about a recent minor accident where she had scraped her knee. Of course, being a kid, just telling us about it was not enough; she had to pull up her jeans to show us. There it was - her injury, nicely healing.
I wondered later why children love to show their boo-boos. No embarrassment, no hesitation. Maybe they’re just proud to be “survivors,” or maybe they just want sympathy. Whatever it is, most of us lose that desire to display weakness by the time we are adults. By then, we're told: Be Strong. Be Capable. Be Tough.
The few times we are required to show our weaknesses, we are encouraged to diminish their importance. I’ve read more than once that in a job interview, when the applicant is asked about her weaknesses, she should state them in such a way that they seem to be actually strengths, such as instead of “I work so much that I neglect family and other priorities in my life,” one should say, “I work too hard,” for after all, who doesn’t want to hire a hard worker? Instead of saying, “I’m such a perfectionist that I can’t even work in a team because, in my arrogance, nobody ever comes up my standards,” you just say, “I’m a perfectionist,” for after all, we need people with high standards, don’t we?
It’s OK to be weak, it’s OK to be injured or scarred. Lord knows, that’s what it means to be human. Of course, there are some people who are emotionally imbalanced and take it to an extreme, something termed emotional exhibitionism, where you bare your entire life and soul for anyone and everyone. But most people are very afraid of appearing vulnerable or defective - inadequate. Sometimes this reveals itself when you try to appear to know more than you do, or seeming to possess skills that you don’t actually have. I think the phrase, “I don’t know” has gotten a bad rap, for in many cases, it is the perfect response. From politicians to teachers, people are afraid that admitting lack of knowledge makes them seem weak. In my opinion, even experts had to have a learning curve at one time. Everyone is a beginner at one point. And if your fear of looking inadequate or vulnerable makes you avoid asking for help or requesting information that will help you learn, grow and expand, then you just dig yourself a deeper hole.
I'll admit it - I’m vulnerable. I’m a klutz and I am accident-prone. In a lot of things, I’m physically, emotionally, or mentally incapable of greatness. I’m moderately deficient in a lot of skills and knowledge, and wildly deficient in others. I’m willing to admit my weaknesses and imperfections, and will nod vigorously if it is suggested that I need improvement in many areas. Writing those sentences doesn’t make me feel weak or depressed. It actually gives me hope and some good reasons to get up in the morning and some desire to set goals. Life is growth, and if you’re really a seeding trying to make everyone think you’re a full-grown plant, it can get ridiculous. We’ve all got a lot of growing to do, and we’ll get many knee scrapes on the way. That doesn’t make us weak. It just means we’re moving.
I have spent today around books. Lots of books. Not only at my normal haunt at the library but at the local bookstore as well. The kid decided to come here and shop so Mom is bumming the wifi after looking around some…
I looked around at the books within and it amazes me how many titles claim to be the solution, the cure for this or that.
Solutions to wealth, success, solutions to relationships, marriage, raising kids—cooking the right foods—you name it there’s a book claiming to have your answer right there sitting on the bookshelf!
I’m not complaining, mind you. I’ve read a good many “solution” books in my day but only a single title caught my eye tonight. While it didn’t raise enough interest to justify the price (and having another physical book in my life) I scanned through the pages and one thing stood out: there is no magic cure.
There really isn’t you know. What we think of as magic is simply hard work with perhaps a bit of luck thrown in—but mostly work.
Simplicity actually takes work. You can’t wake up one morning and decide that your life will be simple from then on. You have to focus on one thing, master that and then figure out the next step and go from there.
How nice it would be if we could wave a magic wand and *poof!* our latest goal would be accomplished! This isn’t going to happen, however. If we want to make things work, whether it is simplicity, minimalism, frugality or even our job it takes several things:
- A goal or dream.
- A conscious decision to work toward accomplishing our goal or dream.
- A single step we can take toward that goal.
- The work necessary to complete that first step. Repeat with the next step.
- The determination not to quit.
That is what it takes. Nothing magical about it at all.
It’s funny—I hadn’t realized until this evening that I have been a freelance writer now for a year and a half. I wasn’t really thinking about it much but I kept plugging at it one article, one blog post at a time.
Which brings me once again to my point. Instead of sitting on my laurels tonight I’m sitting with a laptop writing one more thing while I have the time.
Instead of continuing to wander around looking bored I’m blogging.
Yes, I could be making more money by working on another how-to or something but that isn’t the point—the point is that I’m still working towards my goal of freelance writing.
Perhaps it doesn’t make sense to you but it makes perfect sense to me: the articles I write pay for my present but these blogs—they are my future. Every single post is a deposit in the bank account of the future while simultaneously being a record of my journey there.
One day I will not only be a freelance writer, a single mother living the simple life paying the bills on her schedule but I will also be--
I dunno. I went to finish that thought and realized that I haven’t fully established my next goal. I know I want my blogs to become more successful and perhaps to help people somehow.
I know I want to finish my book and determine the best way to publish it—be it online, in print or a combination.
I know that I am not fully where I want to be yet, because there is a little part of me actually nagging me to get a traditional part-time job to go along with my writing so perhaps some self-confidence is lacking.
I will figure it out. Until then I’ll not worry about a magic cure to life, the universe and everything. I will keep writing, I will keep cleaning, I will keep minimizing, I will continue simplifying and above all I will keep growing.
Who needs a magic cure? We have everything we need to accomplish whatever it is we desire inside us right now!
What do you desire? Is it a simpler life, less bills, more money, less stress?
What step can you take to head toward that desire? Pick a step, any step. If it is more money can you find one little thing to make a little more of it? Heck, you can pick up an aluminum can off the street and be progressing toward that goal!
You think I’m joking, don’t you?
Years ago I was pregnant with my first child. I was so broke they were trying to repossess my car and I had nothing with which to provide her the bare basics. One day I was driving home from work and I happened to see some aluminum cans tossed alongside the road.
I stopped and picked them up. I ceased feeling so helpless that day and walked mile after mile in my spare time just picking up aluminum cans. I didn’t get rich—in fact after crushing them I ended up giving most of the earnings to my mother but I did something other than sit on my butt and whine about my life.
I took one simple step.
Every article, every post, every word is a simple step in my journey. Every single time I tap a key on this keyboard it means that I am not taking what life throws at me lying down but I’m actually contributing to my freedom and well-being.
I’m not giving up. I’m not waiting for a fairy godmother to wave some magic wand and say *poof!* you’re a successful writer, or *poof!* you have an organized home or even *poof!* look how clean your kitchen table is today!
Instead of waiting for life to hand me the answers I am working toward them and it feels really good.
What step can you take toward a goal that you have?
When I was a little girl, my mother gave me a book I really loved. It was very small, illustrated by Joan Walsh Anglund, and entitled A Pocket Full Of Proverbs (It was the same book as the one in the link, but that is not my copy or my photo).
I loved both the pictures and the proverbs, and two of the sayings in the book stayed with me particularly. One, which I took very much to heart, said:
Of all the sayings in the world
The one to see you through
Is ‘Never trouble trouble
Until trouble troubles you!'
The other one I liked specially said:
One thing at a time
And that done well
Is a very good rule
As many can tell.
In some times and places, that has been accepted wisdom. Multi-tasking, of course, has been with us as long as there have been tasks that needed doing; but ‘One thing at a time' has offered a counterpoint.
For me, an important aspect of the journey into simplicity is my hearty desire to stay sane: and this is made easier if I am not overwhelmed.
My to-do list for tomorrow is quite long. It has several elements: ongoing writing and associated tasks (eg reviewing cover copy and biographical details for a book going through the publishing process); tasks to do with funerals I am conducting this week and next; family obligations and household admin tasks; contacting or visiting friends in trouble/distress; the usual daily tasks and commitments of housework, prayer, cooking etc.
And I am forced to admit that, having finally solved the last of our roof leaks, we now face a beetle problem – woodworm I suspect, having done a little online research.
The Beetle Crisis has brought home to me yet again the value of living simply. Because none of us ever knows from one day to the next what will hit us next: but 53 years on the planet has confirmed to me the reality that something will. We do ourselves a favour if whatever hits us next finds us calm and ready, not distracted and tied up with prior commitments
If our lives are uncluttered and simple, we can usually find the resources to respond to each life event as it occurs, doing whatever must be done to restore peace and order and wellbeing. If we are busy and harassed, things get left and get worse, problems protract and compound, new problems crashing into the back of old problems still lining up to be dealt with.
Simplicity doesn’t make our problems go away; it probably doesn’t even reduce the number of problems that will come our way: but it will allow damage limitation.
My life is not yet simple enough. At present, I am over-involved in the lives of others. My to-do list is made longer because I have inadvisedly allowed my life to become too entwined with lives where problems are not managed well and simplicity has not been an aspiration. So the beetles find me already dispirited and tired – and who will deal with the problem but me? Nobody.
It is a helpful lesson. I intend to simplify further, reducing my possessions and household stuff, reducing commitments and involvements, so that the ‘very good rule’ of ‘one thing at a time and that done well’ becomes no longer a mere aspiration but an actual feature of my daily life.
I think in 2011 I will write a Rule of Life for myself, and ‘one thing at a time’ will be an element within it.
William Penn said: Have but little to do, and do it thy self: And do to others as thou wouldest have them do to thee: So thou canst not fail of Temporal Felicity.
The Buddha said that those who are ‘skilled in goodness and who know the path of peace’ should be ‘…unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways; peaceful and calm…’
At a time in my life when I had many duties to fulfil – when I was pastor to six chapel congregations scattered over a wide rural area – I used to say to myself ‘Attempt less and achieve more.’ I think I need to focus on that as a present resolve.
To disentangle, withdraw from involvement, is very difficult – especially when you care about people, and you see them getting in a muddle because they have for one reason or another not chosen wisely. It is more difficult even than withdrawing from the addiction to possession and consumption: but it is part of the discipline of simplicity, essential to the Quiet Way.
Sometimes when I have been de-cluttering the house, I have taken one of two approaches: either to establish a principle that for each new thing coming into the house, two must leave; or just to get rid of two things, however small, each day. It is time to take the same approach and apply it to my commitments and relationships.
We have more de-cluttering to do, without a doubt: but I am becoming aware too that I shall never arrive at space and peace (which ministers to others as well as creating serenity in myself) unless I resign over-involvement and entanglement with the lives of those who live without discipline.
Another good saying, ‘Love them and let them be,’ applies here. This is not the detachment of indifference, but the wise non-attachment of the Quiet Way. Please don't misunderstand it as a callousness or apathy, an indifference to others. On the contrary, it is about staying loose and free and peaceful not only for myself but for every person that crosses my path needing peace and loving-kindness.
I do most of my shopping online. I prefer second-hand everything, and ethnic clothes, and the high street stores do not often sell the kind of things I like to wear.
When you buy clothes in a normal shop, you may be approached by a sales assistant, but otherwise you are left to make your own judgements and appraisals.
When you buy online, or from a catalogue, of course there has to be a blurb.
I am puzzled by how many advertisers describe their wares as ‘really comfortable’. This is often said about shoes. How can they possibly know? Surely it depends entirely on the shape of your foot. What is really comfortable for me, given that I have feet like a marsupial, will be agonizing for you if you take an extra wide fitting and have a high instep – even if your feet are also a UK9.
I also fail to understand why they describe their skirts as ‘calf-length’ and their jackets as ‘mid-hip length’. On whom? A woman of 5’2” with a short back ? A woman of 5’9” with short legs and a very long back? Not on both.
Measurements. That’s what we need, chums. Numbers!
Then there are the benighted individuals who tell you that the garment is really lovely and they bought it for their sister’s wedding only last year and have never worn it since. But you don’t care. All you need to know is the bust, nape to hem, the hips, the waist, the arms and across the back. The wedding is a matter of indifference.
But, darlings, if you really don’t want to sell me something, say this: Only reason for sale massive weight loss.
I have friends and family who have been communicating with me regularly over the past few weeks and as a result my work has slacked off. Between that and my natural desire to procrastinate I have got to take action.
So today I sent messages to my loved ones that I am working and we have moved to the Library for some quiet time. The kid is playing games and watching videos on her laptop while I listen to piano music on Internet Radio and get some work accomplished. Yahoo Messenger has been turned off and I will work hard to keep out of my email and Facebook accounts while I work today.
I have been working hard to stay off the phone already for it seems to be my worst distraction. It never fails that any phone call lasts at least an hour and my concentration is totally shot. By the time I regain it and return to work the phone rings again. As a result the MagicJack will stay unplugged while I work and the cell phone turned to vibrate, if not turned off entirely.
As a result I have already achieved the day’s income goal and am now working on extra money to enjoy as well as add to my savings account.
I hope I can firm up the resolve to stay off the phone and Internet while I work. This will not only enable me to get my required daily batch of work done but enable me to get a little extra accomplished to build up my savings account as well.
My fear is that I will upset my loved ones but I have to work to support my home and my family and the distractions are greatly influencing how long I have to sit at the computer to work every day.
I would love advice from other freelance workers as to how best juggle the needs of family, friends and work while making an income from home. Does anyone have any tips?
I didn’t want to but I had to turn on the air conditioner today. It was over 110 degrees outside on my porch and over 100 in the house. I have small animals in here and we were all suffering.
I am saddened by having to turn it on.
I cannot in good conscience let the kid and the animals suffer because I don’t want to use a device or pay the utility bill, however. Hopefully the weather will break soon…
Well I got it together to cook some supper.
You should know, I don't just absolutely loll about all day - we have had some serious looking after of people to do in recent times, but you know - it isn't always appropriate to take one's megaphone and inform the world at large of the inner workings of the household...
Anyway, eventually today I zonked out fast asleep rallying somewhat groggy around the time people get hungry.
So I cooked some supper, cautiously, determined not to burn anything.
We had chard and snow peas that we grew in our own garden (hooray!). We had mashed potato woth onion gravy - and a big bunch of herbs chopped in the gravy, also from our own garden; golden oregano, rosemary, pot marjoram, thyme, parsley. We had some kind of frozen vegan sausage roll from the health food store, just to keep one toe in the 21st century.
But my moment of elegant supremo simplcity was that when I made the mashed potato, I didn't throw the peelings away, not even in the compost bin. No. I fried them in olive oil until they were crispy and then ground pink salt from the Himalayas, which will probably make us live forever or something, on them; and we had them as a little savoury starter.
Now what kind of a pinnacle of achievement is that!
I am a large proponent of notes. Normally I keep a pad of paper nearby to jot down lists, memos, things to do or even just to scribble upon. I have done this since I was a child and so whenever my frugal heart locates a good deal on paper I tend to stock up.
Unfortunately this has resulted in a large overstock of notebooks in my life, and while the price was definitely right I really wish I could simplify all of this paper clutter.
One of the gadgets that I consider an essential if my faithful Palm Lifedrive. This is used to keep track of appointments and contacts as well as being used as an ebook reader and a portable music and video player.
Within this little device are two applications I very rarely use: a to-do list and a notepad. The notepad is occasionally used as a doodle pad when I’m out and bored, but that is about it.
Perhaps, instead of using paper for all of my notes and scribbles—perhaps I can train myself to use the PDA instead?
I must be totally honest here—I have tried this in the past and failed miserably. The habit of grabbing a pen and paper are so ingrained that this one is really hard to beat. If I CAN beat this habit I will not only reduce my paper expense but I will reduce clutter, have my notes readily available and be able to reduce the amount of paper I keep in my presence.
Part of me worries that if I actually succeed in this I will end up a total geek, which I find amusing in a strange sort of way. Part of me worries that it will be another failure, and part of me worries that I am just being silly at trying to simplify and change a habit that I have carried for as long as I can remember.
I know that it would be so nice to walk past the paper section of the store without being assaulted with that siren call for notepads. It would be nice to have all my notes already digitized and ready to go. It would be soo nice to NOT have reams of paper scattered about.
Perhaps this is one thing I am not entirely ready for, but if I can make a tiny step in that direction by just making a point of putting my to-do lists and some of my notes into the LIfedrive isn’t that a good start?
Baby steps. Baby steps.
Baby steps become big steps.
Okay, I’m psyched now. Time to get to work!
These past few days have been filled with some simple pleasures with the kid. We have spent some time at the Library, the Spray Park and went swimming at Kuttawa Beach.
We have watched movies online and generally had fun doing little things. None of this has cost a lot of money and all of it has been enjoyable.
Other than that I have actually managed to thin down my wardrobe a little more by eliminating some tops that are too worn to be used.
It feels good to see things still simplifying, still reducing and know that at this point I am not really trying because it is starting to become a habit.
When I do purchase things it seems I discover that I didn’t really need whatever it was as much as I thought and this is beginning to shape my purchasing. I find that I want to shop less and less as time goes on.
I have even stopped using my clothes dryer, amazingly.
I was going to use it for those times when it rained or I just needed something dried quickly but these days I still hang things up on the indoor clothesline I have rigged in my hallway or outside on sunny days. At this rate I may never need to replace that machine or I may just sell it and get it out of my way, but on big things like this I prefer taking it really slow before making the final step. We didn’t turn the television on for a year or so before I finally said “farewell” to that machine, and we kept the stereo for almost as long also…
Instead of air conditioning we are using fans even and I can tell a huge difference in my electric bill over last year’s usage. My last electric bill was only $22 to my delight, and my water bill is running about the same.
Using less—living simpler is helping my finances as a result, and I am very thankful for this. It is also enabling me to do less around the house as far as cleaning is concerned because there is less to clean.
Over all, things are starting to look up as simplicity takes on a life of its’ own in this house.
I look forward to continuing the journey.
It’s time for a different kind of pruning.
I’ve been through cupboards and drawers and shelves again, sorting and chucking; and wondered why I’m still left feeling encumbered and snagged on the brambles.
More and more lately I get this feeling, which is becoming irresistible.
Imagine if you were holding onto something, maybe heavy or awkward or slippery, and you knew you couldn’t hold it much longer. Imagine if you called out to the people for whom you were holding it: ‘Look, I can’t hang onto this, I’m going to drop it! I’m going to let it fall!’ But they were on the phone or in the toilet or on their hands and knees looking for a spanner in the cupboard under the stairs and all you got back was a muffled: ‘Just a minute…’
Or imagine if your boat was drifting away from the mooring place, and the people on the quay wanted to tell you something before you went, but they were finishing off the washing up, or just putting the last touches to their email before shutting their computer down, or hadn’t quite ended the interesting story they were telling their friend: and you sympathise, you really do. Their washing up, their email their story – these are important and worthwhile and should have every moment they deserve: but your boat is drifting and soon it will be gone.
And that’s how I feel.
I have been a mother for thirty years now. My children have grown into responsible, intelligent, creative, talented people. They are wise and good and I admire them immensely. By a curious sequence of blessed events that still slightly takes my breath away I have come to be in this marriage that is the right person at the right time so that we groove along together in the most satisfying contented happiness: lovers, partners, friends. I love these relationships. I love these people. I love sharing my thoughts and their thoughts. I love their company. I love their undeniable dottiness.
But. This is it: the lurking but.
There is in my hands, and slipping out of them fast, an accompanying bundle of administrative detritus. My boat is drifting away from that shore however ready or not.
What I am here to do is primarily to write. Secondarily is to listen and heal and pray. Thirdarily (good word, eh?) is to provide an hospitable space.
I believe that living humbly and simply means things like doing your own chores and growing your own food where you have the chance to - but I feel able to support only the most minimalist and low-tech approach to that. All I have to do in the garden is water it in the evenings, but I can't keep my mind to it. Tonight I didn't do it :0( I felt all used up by the time the evening came. And I haven't done any weeding here at all.
I think it might have been a mistake to lay fitted carpets. They are comfy and look peaceful, but you have to persevere at vacuum cleaning and I can't keep my mind to it. I stick it on but it falls off. Any other bits of floor that need carpet replacement ministry should have wood floor boards laid (1970s chipboard at present I’m sorry to report) so they can be swept: because I don’t mind sweeping. Sweeping is natural and its fur lies the same way as my soul. Vacuum cleaners are inherently demonic: you can tell by the sound, and that’s just the start of it. I am happy to pass through the house tidying once each morning or evening – whichever – so it is calmed: but that has to be easy. No gradual bristling of ornaments growing through. No scattering of magazines and documents and music and half-finished nameless where-the-hell-am-I-meant-to-put-that junk on the kitchen counters – er.. babywipes ladles phonedirectory useful boxes reuseable plastic icelollymiddles rubber bands trays biscuits-we-all-hate pointless baskets and all that crap. My vocation is not always clear to me but it is clear to me I didn’t come here to be a minder for the flotsam and jetsam of 21st century over-production.
I have spent a lot of time on the builders and stove-installers and piano-movers and hearth-layers and wall-menders and electricians and TV aerial engineers this last winter: and that’s it now. They can stay at home. It has slipped out of my hands. My boat has drifted right out of the harbor. Bye-bye.
Here is what I have in mind.
A house with almost no possessions and no ornaments. Kitchen gadgetry to be pruned savagely. Food little and simple, enough for today or so, with space around it on the shelves. Enough plates/cups/bowls/glasses/cutlery for the people who live here and, say, four guests. Floors you can sweep. A garden with grass and fruit-trees and hedges. A hedge man to trim the hedges once a year and the trees once every two years.
Meanwhile, for the plastic flowerpots, atrophied rubber hose, mouldering shed junk, mounds of dead shrubbage, hacked up crazy paving, abandoned sacks of builder plaster, carpet remnants, never-used-in-fifteen-years cunning vacuum-cleaner fittings, the small vacuum cleaner that’s fine unless you have bits on the floor, the split bucket, the old fire surround leaning on the fence – A SKIP!!!
Four saucepans are enough. One set of glasses is enough. Two large glass jugs is two too many. And why have we got an entire drawer of kitchen foil and compost bags and whatever else is in there?
I have to, with profuse apologies, reclaim my days now. I have to write. It’s what I came here to do. Tonight we had a vegan take-away meal from the indian restaurant. I did cook last night but it was awful. I made myself do it but my attention wasn't in it, and I burnt the rice and the curry was seriously rubbish. And if the chores aren't always done; if friends who love me haven't had the attention they deserve; if the fireplace in the back room doesn’t get altered and the French windows aren’t built because no-one was here to see to the builders or make it happen: if the phone rings and nobody answers it, then I am very, very sorry (really) and I will feel very very guilty.
But I have stories going over-ripe inside me. I have to do what I came here to do: and the rest is slipping through my fingers. The season is here for a cull of the time-bandits. The discipline of simplicity needs to ratchet up another notch. Otherwise I shall join the ranks of the people who like to tell me: ‘Oh yes, I’ve always thought I should write a book. Everyone says I should. They say everyone’s got a book inside them don’t they? It’s only a matter of sitting down and writing it… when there always seems to be so much to do… it always gets pushed to one side… I’m just a bit busy right now… but one day I’m sure I’ll write that book…’
(Subtext. Nah. You won’t. Not unless, at some point, you put it first).
Lately I have been uploading some of my precious photographs to Microsoft’s Skydrive as an off-site storage and backup solution. I have a large amount of photographs so this has been a large undertaking.
Normally I keep every photo regardless of quality as well as images and screenshots that meant something to me however long ago. This upload process is actually enabling me to reduce and simplify the amount of images I am keeping.
As I have wandered through my digital archives I have been deleting images that are blurred, pointless or simply carry no meaning for my life anymore, like my collection of humorous images of cute animals and Linux wallpapers.
Part of me is surprised that I am able to pare down so easily but it feels quite good to be able to do so. This will not only enable me to reduce the storage space required but will simplify my photographic memories.
In the process of doing this I have also been able to delete some obsolete programs and old files that I no longer need. I have even managed to delete a few old books I downloaded from Project Gutenberg but never got around to reading! I even deleted a few that I have already read and probably will not want to read again!
True, these files only take up a few megabytes here and there but they are still clutter of a sort—digital clutter. If I don’t need then and won’t use then then why should I keep them?
I still have a ways to go when it comes to minimizing and simplifying my digital life but
the progress I see is heartening. Perhaps instead of investing in a larger external hard drive I can reduce my collections and use the hard drive space I already possess instead.
My sister asked what I would do if something happened to the electrical grid and there was no more electric to be had. I responded that if the event ever occurs the last thing on my mind will be reading a book or looking at photographs.
I know that she does not understand my determination to lead a mostly digital life and that is okay. Each of us have our own path to follow.
Social media websites like MySpace and Facebook give people a place online to not only socialize but to express who and what makes them unique.
Privacy concerns aside these websites are designed for adults and young adults complete with age limits and privacy controls making it for all intents and purposes a large digital playpen for the grown-up set.
There are some in the world who believe that these social media places should be open to all and lie about the ages of their children to set them up their very own social media account so that they can play games and hang out with friends.
These are adult websites. While the chances of seeing nudity are not very high due to the terms of service on these websites the potential for encountering profanity and individuals who may want to inflict harm on children is a definite risk.
I do not wish to lecture or judge those who knowingly allow their children to create accounts on these social media websites but I do wish to point out a disturbing trend I am noticing online from the family of young children allowed to play in this adult world.
I have noticed these family members publicly scolding and lecturing other legitimate social media users in their choice of language, images and associations because “there are children on this site.”
First, these are adult websites, designed with age controls to keep children out. For these children to be on there someone had to lie about the ages of these young ones, which totally defeats any form of protection the social media websites could offer. You should expect this place to be the equivalent of other adult venues such as bars and adult shops. If you would not take your child to a bar then why allow them to go online to an adult social media website?
Second, there is such a thing as free speech in the United States. Adults in places that are designated age-specific should have the reasonable right to say and do as they please without being mobbed by the language police.
Third, if someone does not like what another person says or does on a social media website they have the right to defriend that person and are encouraged to take that action.
We are adults. If we don’t like something on television we turn the station. It is the same with social media. If we don’t like what someone says or does we have the right to defriend them and remove them from our circle.
Why are we instead lying to allow children into inappropriate places and then pouncing on adults for being adults? Where is the logic and simplicity in that?
There are websites that have games and other social activities exclusively for children. These sites have age-specific controls for language, images and interactions providing a safe environment for children to play in. There are a large number of these sites so one cannot use the excuse that there is no where for these children to go and play.
I am a parent. My daughter is not allowed on these social media websites though on occasion I have opened a game on my account on one of these sites and allowed her to play the game while preventing her from seeing anything other than that particular game.
I have no right to expect others to watch their language because my kid is using that game for ten minutes once every six months-or even if she played it every day. It is an adult venue and I understand that I take a risk whenever I do that and I would not consider lecturing an adult for being an adult on an adult website.
I speak how I wish to speak on my pages and I expect no less from others online. If I were to ever have an issue with them or vice-versa it is a simple matter to defriend someone to avoid seeing something that makes me or them uncomfortable.
The simplest solution would be to remove children from adult social media websites and set them up accounts on websites that are specific to their age with appropriate controls.
The next simplest solution would be to stand over your child’s shoulder and immediately defriend anyone on your child’s friend list that says or posts anything that you do not wish your child to see.
These methods would not only reduce strife at adult social media websites but would hopefully eliminate the language police I see routinely on social media websites.
I am an adult. I speak as an adult. Should I choose to use adult language on an adult website this is my right. Others should have this right as well and have the reasonable expectation of being free of judgment in an adult online domain.
Parents, if you have children on adult social media websites please be aware that you child may very well be exposed to profanity and rude images there. If you do not wish your child to be exposed to this then perhaps you should consider closing your child’s account but do not expect other adults to be willing to babysit their tongue and posts because you lied about your child’s age to create them an account. Adults would not watch their language in a bar or liquor store if a child were present—there is no difference between those places and adult social media websites.
Okay, I’m stepping down from the soapbox now!
Have I ever mentioned the fact that I’m a packrat? Especially when it comes to media items. I find it rather hard to simplify my digital life.
Today I was on the hunt for a particular disc that my sister needs. I’m going through my boxes and I keep pulling out disc upon disc upon disc. It was amazing! I took a picture of one of the piles of discs I discovered. You just wouldn’t think one person could have so much but I guess with a geek….
Some of the stuff I was able to just toss. Others were audio CDs that I ripped to my hard drive before putting in storage. The rest were backup discs for computers that I have accumulated over the years and actually need to keep. Combine that with movies from the years before I stopped buying hard copies and a bunch of other things I ended up with quite a large pile. Not sure how they ended up loose in boxes as opposed to placed in the CD binders I have, however.
I have taken these and placed them in a binder where they belong and plan to look through the other boxes for any other misplaced discs as time allows.
Microsoft has a skydrive that allows you to store up to 25 gigabytes of data for free on their website. I am uploading my pictures there instead of Picasa due to the generous size allotment. I just found out about it yesterday and have spent most of today uploading my pictures there for off-site storage.
At times I wish Google really had that ability they joked about to store anything online lol! I would happily upload off of this digital stuff there!
One day I am in hopes of reducing the amount of digital media I have, but right now I am just not ready, you know?
It takes a simple complication like this to show you just how far you have to go in pursuit of the simple life…
I’ve had an opportunity to get back into sewing this week, and it gave me time to reminisce about my sewing experiences. I’ve come to the conclusion that in sewing, there are two 2-syllable phrases that have popped up intermittently on every project I have sewn.
The first is “OH NO!” Oh, yeah - fellow seamstresses, quilters, woodworkers, and various other crafters can attest to this. It’s the dreaded phrase, the one that sometimes is an unspoken, panicky thought, at other times a verbalized wailing expression of despair, and at other times a long, drawn-out sigh as a knot forms in the pit of the stomach. You know when it happens. It happens when you are clipping a seam and you clip just a little too far and your whole blouse is ruined. It happens when you are cutting out a pattern and you make a mistake and then you realize you have no extra fabric to redo it. It’s when you realize a second too late that the needle in the sewing machine is in such a position that it will ram the metal presser foot, break, and explode its dangerous pieces like shrapnel. It happens when you realize you bought the wrong zipper length or button width. It happens when you are in the middle of a project (usually with a looming deadline) and then discover you are out of interfacing, or a certain color thread, or some other absolutely necessary tool.
All these things have happened to me, of course, at one time or another. But times of frustration are not the only times the “OH NO!” is exclaimed in sewing. You have to remember a seamstress is working with dangerous tools - sharp things like needles and scissors and seam rippers (does the word “ripper” give you a clue?). For accident-prone folks like me, this can present a problem. It can even be bad enough that the poor unfortunate seamstress goes beyond a 2-syllable phrase and into a 4-letter word. I remember when I was sewing right along and got my finger caught under the sewing machine needle. The needle went halfway through my finger, bent, then came out at another part of the finger. Ouch! Then there was the time (the aforementioned needle hitting the presser foot at 90 miles an hour) that the needle tip broke off, flew up, hit me in the eyeball, then bounced back out. I had to go to the optometrist for that one. Of course, I’ve had the usual pin and needle pricks that drew blood, the razor-sharp scissors that clipped my skin, and the rotary cutter mishaps. (A rotary cutter is a pizza cutter for cloth. Don’t ask.)
In spite of the countless numbers of “OH NO!” experiences I have had in my sewing career, I must say they are balanced out by the other 2-syllable phrase - “AH HA!” (Yes, sewing is not all torment and frustration. You may have to rip out your stitches, but should never have to rip out your hair.) I adore the “AH HA!” experiences. An “AH HA!” always comes with a smile, maybe with a little slap on the forehead for being so dense. An “AH HA!” comes when you have been working for hours on an intricate item and something is awry. You can’t understand what. You followed the directions, you measured correctly, you did everything in the proper order, but for some reason, something is not right. If you are lucky, you are about to feel the “AH HA!” elation when the solution strikes like lightning. “Oh, now I get it!” And suddenly the air is sweeter, the sounds lovelier, the fatigue not so prominent, for you have figured something out. You became aware of what was causing a problem. You have unraveled the puzzling predicament to reveal the answer! It may be that, as luck would have it, your revelation comes in a minute or two. Or it may be that you go to bed confused and wake up with understanding. However long it takes, those “AH HA!” moments are exhilarating. (For MTs, this happens when you suddenly understand what a mumbling dictator is trying to say. It's a light bulb moment.)
Of course, you don’t have to sew to have the 2-syllable experiences. Life throws things at us all the time just to see how we deal with them. We have the “OH NO!” moments when we see a check on the bank statement that we forgot to write down, when our new haircut is too short, when we realize we forgot to pay a bill, when our car needs $1300 worth of work, when the toilet is leaking, when the electricity goes out, when the computer crashes, or when someone we just can’t stand wins an election. These probably happen to all of us.
The irony and pure joy of the thing is that sometimes you’ll have the dreaded “OH NO!” reaction and then you dive headfirst into your situation and after research or others’ help and advice or even prayer, you see the proper response, the answer, the best way to handle it, and it will be at this point that you are blessed with the “AH HA!” experience. And hopefully you have learned a way (in situations where you have some control), to avoid that problem in the future. Lesson learned, point taken. (Hmmm...I don’t much like that word, point.)
Now, that’s all for today. I’m headed back over to the sewing machine. I never learned the lesson of double-checking the needle position, but I did buy some safety glasses to wear just in case. Well, at least I learned something.
I subscribe to Karol Gajda's fab blog called Ridiculously Extraordinary. Some of it is excellent but irrelevant to me, like his recent How To Work Anywhere project (irrelevant only because I've sorted that for myself already), but I had an update in my email inbox this morning with some tips for travelling light, that I thought was exceptionally good.
While checking this out and reading around, I discovered that Rowdy Kittens is doing a series of interviews with people who are blogging about living simply and minimalist living. This interview with Naomi Seldin is excellent, and the page has lots of links too. I like the interview about minimalist cooking with Jules Clancy too, here. Again, lots of further excellent links.
In my own simplicity frolic, this is where I have got to.
For my work and general use I have a Samsung NC10 Netbook, which is so light and portable I can work anywhere. One drawback with it is that it has no slot for DVDs/CDs, and I rather than watching telly to relax I like to watch favourite Films, mainly Into Great Silence, which is a peace-fix/life-fix for me.
So I was thinking about having a laptop again instead of my little netbook. However Tony had a desktop computer he no longer uses now he has a laptop from work, and it seemed wasteful to ditch that and ditch my netbook and fork out £300 for a new laptop. Instead we created a snug study corner in our bedroom, where I can curl up and watch a film at the end of the day. There is a telly in the house, but I like to be private in my nest to chill out.
The house now functions as follows.
On the ground floor we have two good-sized rooms, laid out for groups - the front room has three sofas, the back room has four chairs and a piano, and we have a moveable herd of 4 beanbags to enlarge the seating capacity of either room. This is because primarily the house is designed as communal space: for meetings, retreats, family gatherings etc - this hasn't all got going yet as we've lived here only 6 months and been creating links with a church, settling in and getting the first wave of building repairs done. But we do have a regular group for bible study, prayer, fellowship & discussion up and running, and we can accommodate any tribal gatherings of our family.
The front living room has a woodstove, so will the back one when we get the money and energy to sort that out. Both rooms have televisions, the front room has a DVD player too. So they are chillout meeting spaces for household and groups. The back living room also has a Bose CD player - excellent for minimalist living - you can carry it in one hand and it makes enough sound to comfortably fill a large church. Bass packs a punch: special technology. So it's great for retreats and funerals, leading worship etc too. Take it anywhere there's a socket to plug it in.
Besides those rooms we have a normal kitchen. We like to be simple in terms of equipment and gadgetry. There is a built-in cooker and hob that is very old: the cooker is a bit dodgy and we may replace that some day, but it does actually cook things if you turn it up high. The hob's fine. We have an electric kettle. We have an energy conserving fridge-freezer, with the special feature that the fridge is cooled by redirected cold air from the freezer rather than a cold back-panel, so veggies etc can be packed in without fear of getting frozen by the back panel. This in turn means we can manage with one normal size fridge for the whole household even though fresh food that needs to be refrigerated to make it last is the main thing we eat.
We have an automatic washing machine, with a large drum, a very economic and sturdy model. We have a handheld electric whisk, and we have this excellent thing for making smoothies and soup; and a juicer. That's it for electric gadgets.
We have quite a number of glasses (more than we need, but that subject needs gently broaching with the one whose glasses they are) and a good few mugs, because we often have quite a number visiting at one time. We have quite a lot of plates for the same reason (when I say a lot, I mean we have about 8-10 dinner plates, 8-10 dessert plates - not 20 or 30)
Having put 2 households into one, we had quite a few duplicates, and some of us are fond of the stuff we brought, so we got rid of what felt painless, and have just this week done another cull of stuff we were now ready to let go. The pruning and winnowing are ongoing.
We have several (5) chopping boards in various shapes & sizes, but that's because if several of us are preparing the meal together, using the boards as heatproof mats as well as for chopping, they come in handy.
I can still identify surplus baggage in our kitchen cupboards - some pretty china, a few too many grungy baking tins, duplicate rolls of tin foil etc it's taking ages to work through, way too many teaspoons, a couple of saucepans we don't really use - but we can get everything in the cupboards without creating avalanches, and we are pruning without acquiring. We kept the fridge-freezer when we combined households, selling on the big larder fridge and separate freezer, we sold one microwave and gave the other away - so I'm satisfied we're moving in the right direction there.
Something else we have that I keep forgetting to use, but is important, is our thermos gear. We have a big thermos jug, which means we can have hot water for drinks without repeatedly firing up the kettle. We have a big thermos stewpot which will cook up a pot of stew/curry/whatever with only 10 mins initial hob time. And we have a 2-tier thermos tiffin stack that will keep a meal hot without resorting to a microwave or keeping a pan of water hot under a plate. Memo to self: actually use these. Generally if I find I am not using something I just get rid of it, but in the case of thermal technology environmental and economic good sense imperatives apply.
A recent expensive acquisition was our pressure cooker. Excellent, and cuts down on packaging because I can cook the soaked dried pulses with a satisfactory result.
On the back of the kitchen is the studio, which needs some work to pull it into shape. We gave away our dining chairs and are using the dining table as a workbench, but it's not heavy enough for stained glass work, because stretching the lead is vigorous: it's not sturdy enough for woodwork and ceramics really either, so we've ordered a heavy-duty workbench and will freecycle the dining table when that comes. We also need a banker constructing for letter-cutting in stone, and that's been put in hand.
The ceramics kiln is a big item to work round, but when we re-design the room we'll get everything fitting in sweetly. And it's not a big room: maybe 8' x 9' working space.
There's a toilet off the studio, and one can wash hands in the studio sink, so that works OK.
From the front door to the kitchen a passage runs alongside the living rooms, also accommodating the stairs. There are two understairs cupboards. The tall one carries most of our tools, including the stepladder and the lawnmower, all the picnic gear, all garden and household chemicals, car wash and cleaning gear, spare multi-sockets,shoe-cleaning stuff & all that jazz. The smaller cupboard has the meters & fuse boxes, the tool box, wellies, the iron, the stairgate for baby invasions and stuff on its way out of the house to the tip. These are really important cupboards1
So that's downstairs.
On the first floor three of us have a bedroom each - so simple I am proud of them! Each room is plain and spacious, stuff kept to a minimum! In Fiona's room she has kindly accommodated my 2 robes and winter cloak for funerals and ceremonies, because I need those to not be creased by folding so I look presentable when I conduct a funeral; and I have no hanging space in my room. Also on the first floor Tony has his study, and outside it he has a Residual Junk unit, for his occasional use gear like his fishing bag and backpack. I will post pics of all this so you can see how we live.
Up another flight of stairs and you come to two attic rooms. On the way you pass by Secret Shame - an area where I have a fairly useless display unit displaying useless stuff that I just like. But hey - I will shed it in time.
The first attic room is our grandson's nursery: maybe 5' x 7'?
The second one is Tony's and my room.
Apart from the aforementioned Secret Shame, all my belongings are in here. We have a bed. Tony has a chest of drawers for his clothes and a child-size wardrobe (we tuck under the eaves so tall furniture is out) for his work suits. He has an antique chair he loves that doubles as a clothes horse. Under the bed we keep a folding clothes airer for when the weather is no good for drying outside.
I have a chest of drawers for my clothes: fancy clothes for parties and church, travelling bags, winter sweaters and shawls in the bottom drawer, everyday trousers (and cold-weather leggings to go under them) and tops in the middle drawer, underwear in the top righthand drawer, nightdresses and washbag in the top left drawer. My shoes live under the bed in a drawer.
I have two small bookcases for all my books and papers, and the computer is tucked into the corner as described. I rarely listen to music - I love music but prefer silence - but the computer is our music machine too.
I have a comfy chair and side table too. Mainly I sit on the bed to work and read and pray, but the chair is handy for when anyone comes upstairs for a chat, or for watching a film on the computer. One of the beanbags lives up with us in the attic, in either room.
We have a third chest of drawers. Bottom drawer for bedlinen. Middle drawer for temporary stuff - eg to tidy away wools and fabrics for sewing projects, or store items to be taken to another part of the tribe - top right drawer for items salted away for people's Christmas and birthday gifts, top left drawer for items waiting to go to charity shops.
Living like this enables 5 adults to live together in such a way that a medium-sized semi-detached house offers enough space for the household, for the occasional guest and an overnight baby, for gatherings; and feels very spacious indeed.
We all regard cleaning and tidying as essential but not absorbing or attractive as a pastime, and we have other things we want to be getting on with; hence we like to keep stuff to a minimum so that cleaning and tidying are quick and easy.
So that's us. I'll stop in case you're bored and post some pics in due course.