10 ways to avoid re-cluttering our lives

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I’m nearing the end of what has been over 2 years’ decluttering. It started in a low-key way at first. I’d empty a cupboard and maybe sell some stuff on eBay. Next, I’d have a jolly good sort out, followed by a trip to the charity shop. I’d then pass on some unworn or unwanted clothes to my best friend or do a trip to the tip. I had always relished a good sort-out.

That was just the start.

Lightening the load

Since the early days of lightening my material load, I’ve also been reducing my metaphorical load, re-evaluating commitments and obligations to re-emphasise what’s important in my life. You can read about some of this here.

Now, this previously ‘tidy’ person has become much less cluttered in both a physical and mental way.

So, as I am now refining and reducing the final few items that no longer add value to my life, I have experienced the dawning realisation that the root cause of the excess was down to me. That clutter, in fact, was probably 80% mine. I’d like to blame the dog, but he only likes shopping for treats. My husband is a bibliophile, but the books he acquires are usually related to his business. My daughter has (mercifully) gone beyond the trinkets and toiletries stage and any excess resides only in her room.

So, that clutter… well, it was virtually all mine.

Avoid re-cluttering

What this shows me is just how much we bring into our homes or workplaces that we really don’t need. So, let’s consider ways to put a stop to the clutter once and for all.

Here are 10 ways to avoid ‘re-cluttering’ our lives:

1. When you get the urge to splurge, write down what you were thinking of buying. Review your list in a month’s time. Do you still crave that item? Chances are you don’t.
2. Spend your leisure time in places where you don’t need your wallet. The mall (be it actual or virtual) isn’t one of those places.
3. Let loved ones know your gifting preferences. Would you rather have an experience than a material gift? Let them know. Remember, flowers, food or fun can be your mantra.
4. Say no to opportunities if they’re not going to add value to your life. Thanks, but no thanks.
5. Switch off, delete, unplug, swipe away, breathe….
6. Treat yourself kindly, but not with something that comes in a pretty gift bag with toning ribbon.
7. Get outside. Move your body. Smile.
8. Re-gift, donate, pass it on, let it go.
9. Unclutter it if you haven’t used it within 12 months.
10. Relish the space and sense of freedom your uncluttered life brings. Now, you wouldn’t want to go back on that, would you?


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When the next level up might be a double-edged sword

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Last week, I overheard two colleagues talking, as I passed them on my way to another building. One had shared some information, perhaps about a new job or house. The response from the person receiving the news was, “Oh, that’s good. Is it a level up?”

This struck me. If a new job or a new house is ‘up a level’, what are the benefits? What are the implications?

Stepping up

In respect of the former, a ‘step up’ in career-terms might bring more money, status and recognition. It might be the culmination of years of hard work and study to achieve a long-held goal. Great! Yet, what else might be in store at the next level up? More responsibility? Longer hours? More stress?

If the latter, a new house can mean more space, a new environment, a place to welcome friends and the sense of being ‘a level up’ on the housing ladder in investment terms. The converse is that a new house might bring more debt, more house maintenance and the need to do more paid work, as we service the needs (and costs) of a bigger, more expensive place to live.

Pros and cons

So, if you are thinking about going up a level, take a long, hard look at why. Do the pros really outweigh the cons?

If you consider that your job is fundamentally an exchange of your ‘life energy’ for pay, you might see the prospect of the next grade differently when you reflect that you have the chance to gain a sense of personal satisfaction from the other things you do outside of work. You are not your job. Your job is just one of the things you do. Yes, by all means maximise your earning potential but not at the expense of the things that matter to you (e.g. time with loved ones or a home-cooked meal).

The alternative

You might want more space, but do you really want more debt, higher bills and a commitment that can’t easily be aside. Instead, consider if the process of decluttering might just help you see your existing home through fresh eyes. Do you really need more room or just less stuff?

So, the next level up may be a double-edged sword. Be clear about what you’re getting into. Maybe being where you are right now isn’t such a bad thing after all.


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It’s not what you spend, but what you buy that matters

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I’m reading a book* about our relationship with money. As I read, I realise that a lot of what we learn about money management suggests that tracking our spending will help us ‘tell our money where to go.’

We all know that if we look after the pennies, the pounds will look after themselves. Right?

Was what you bought really worth it?

Whilst establishing (and sticking to) a budget works for a great many people, the authors offer a fresh perspective. They argue that, if you first work out your proper hourly rate of pay, you’ll then be able to consider how many hours of work (translated into life energy’) you expended in order to buy something. Then you can ask if what you bought was really worth it.

When you look at your spending in this way, it takes on a whole new perspective. It might even impact on the choices you make about how you spend your hard-earned cash.

For example, if you earn £10 per hour, that £5 glossy magazine has effectively cost you half an hour of ‘life energy’. When you know this, you can then ask:

“Did I receive fulfilment, satisfaction and value in proportion to life energy spent?”

If not, then you might think twice about purchasing a similar item again next time you’re presented with the opportunity.

Why we spend

In the book, we read that US organisation Debtors Anonymous asserts that we go into debt to avoid feelings, especially feelings of deprivation. Like other addictions, debt allows us to deny pain, sorrow, loss, anger, loneliness and despair. I would say that you are more likely to be struggling with debt – or on a very tight budget – if your spending doesn’t align with your values or bring you real satisfaction.

So, I’m curious.

I’m going to conduct an experiment: a ‘Life Energy (Expenditure) Experiment.’ I’ll do this for the whole of next month.

My ‘life energy experiment’

Rather than tracking my spending or recording ££’s spent, I’m going to track what I buy and ask what value, fulfilment or satisfaction I derived from these purchases. I don’t have any particular plans to buy anything in November (no Christmas shopping for me – see my earlier post on gifting here).  So, I’ll be curious to see how the month unfolds. I’ll be posting my purchases on Twitter, along with their related ‘fulfilment factor’.

Will you join me? What will we notice? How might our future buying habits change by conducting this real-life experiment?

Follow the story using #LifeEnergyExperiment

And let me know how you get on!

*”Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence: Revised and Updated for the 21st Century” by Vicki Robin, Joe Dominguez, Monique Tilford.


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12 ways to enjoy moments, not transactions

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So much of our lives is transactional.

We queue (of course; we’re British!!), we pay, we leave. We whizz by, we wave hello, we move on. We’re so busy…

Enjoy little moments

So this week, here are 12 ways to enjoy moments, rather than merely transactions:

Make eye contact

Look the barista in the eye; enjoy that moment of connection. Wish her a good day and mean it.

Smile

A smile can make a big difference. Smile as you welcome a group, as you enter a meeting, as you pass someone in the corridor. If good manners cost nothing, then a smile costs even less.

Take a minute

See someone, as you pass on the pavement. Don’t just “walk on by” but pause for a moment. Have a brief chat. Enjoy a moment of connection with someone else. Who knows how much that little moment might have meant to them?

Don’t rush

What’s the big hurry? Why all the rush? Be mindful as you walk to the grocery store. Look around you. Enjoy the feeling of the sun on your face, or the sound of raindrops on your brolly!

Create space

Don’t jam-pack your schedule with task after task. Let there be space to connect with others, add an unexpected activity or simply have time to think. Equally, allow plenty of time to get from a) to b). Who wants to put themselves under unnecessary pressure?

Slow down

This applies in so many spheres of life: driving, typing, cooking, shopping… You name it, we’d all get there more safely, achieve a ‘right first time’ outcome and avoid missing (or forgetting) something if we’d just slow down.

Say thank you

Express thanks and mean it. The person on the receiving end of your thank you may be delighted – even surprised – so just do it!

Express gratitude not platitudes

Saying thank you matters, but expressing sincere, heartfelt, deeply-felt gratitude to someone who has touched your life can mean so much. When my father retired from a long career in teaching, a former pupil took the time to write and say how much he had appreciated what my dad had taught him. The young man had gone onto a career that had built on those early foundations. Imagine the joy at reading this. Express gratitude whenever you can.

Pay someone a genuine compliment

Don’t compliment the outfit. Tell them they look great. Comment on the way they delivered that session or how much you enjoyed something they had written. Tell them you find their baking delicious! Pay them a compliment today!

Extend an invitation

Invite new friends for a bring-and-share meal. Invite a friend to come and sit on your sofa and share a glass of wine. Ask someone to join you at an event you’re planning to attend. Even if they don’t come along, they’ll appreciate the invitation.

Ask questions

The best conversationalists are said to be those who actually ask the most questions. They make others feel at ease. They ask open questions and are genuinely interested in knowing you better. Practice asking questions, as well as sharing your own story.

Show compassion/empathy

You’ll have seen the post that urges us to be kind to others, because we are all facing unseen challenges. When that challenge becomes public, ask that person how they are. How are they feeling? “Tell me about that,” may be a way for the person to open up and share a problem. They might not want to talk, but a caring touch on the shoulder or a wordless hug can also mean a lot.

So, as this week unfolds, when can you turn  a transaction into a moment? I’d love to hear from you!


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What will your act of kindness be today?

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I’ve been thinking a lot about kindness lately. Being kind to yourself, I would propose, is as important as being kind to others. If kindness is about generosity, behaving considerately or being friendly, it’s vital that, for our own well-being, we can demonstrate kindness-to-self as well as kindness-to-others.

Acts of kindness

However, consider the so-called “acts of kindness” that arguably contradict minimalist thinking. Feeling a bit low/stressed/bored? We buy ourselves a treat. Some people self-soothe with food. Others buy trinkets, make-up, accessories, shoes and so on, putting a strain on their budgets but receiving only a temporary ‘happiness fix’ in return.

If, through our work, we already expend our life energy in exchange for money, we are essentially buying our way to ‘happiness’. The same applies to the little gifts we buy for others, essentially buying ‘stuff’ they wouldn’t choose for themselves and which they don’t need.

I would suggest that true acts of kindness can’t be purchased, albeit actions such as ‘paying it forward’ are compelling and I wouldn’t rule that out.

Ways to be kind

Today, I delivered a meal to a friend. Having made a huge pot of veggie biryani* yesterday evening, I had plenty to share and thought of this lady who’d be working in her bookshop and who wouldn’t necessarily be able to get away at lunchtime. She appreciated it; I had the pleasure of sharing with her.

How else can we demonstrate kindness?

Smile
Hold the door open for someone
Offer someone your seat
Share information, recipes, articles or news about something you know the recipient will appreciate
Walk someone’s dog
Pet-sit for a friend
Offer to babysit for free
Stop to chat to an elderly neighbour
Pick up litter
Surprise your partner by doing the chores before they come home
Help someone declutter

What about kindness to self?

Plan some down-time
Read
Take a walk
Put your phone/laptop/tablet away for a couple of hours
Have a nap
Bake
Stretch
Smile

So, what will your act of kindness be? I’d love to know your ideas.

*check out The Happy Pear – delicious recipes!!


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