Staying at home

Most of the personal emails I’ve been getting during the current Covid-19 lockdown have fallen into 3 categories:

  1. Helping our customers….(insert company X’s statement of reassurance, safety and ‘necessary measures’)
  2. Coronavirus: (insert latest news here)
  3. The marketing campaigns capitalising on the ‘at home’ situation: “Wondering how to make the most of your space?” (from a very well-known UK high street department store)

I wanted to make my message a little simpler:

Hello…
How are you?
How are you getting on in your corner of the world?
And perhaps you will permit me to share a little of my experience so far?

Kenilworth and Covid-19

Our little Warwickshire town has strengthened further its community spirit by setting up a Facebook group to offer support and information (which store has loo rolls??!) and bring volunteers together. So far, at the time of writing, there are 600+ volunteers who have offered to be ‘street champions’ (guardian angels for their own neighbourhoods), shoppers, or helpers who can fetch, carry, deliver and support others.

One amazing lady asked local pubs and restaurants to let her have leftover ingredients at the point when they had to close their doors to the public. She created multiple dishes, then had them delivered to the elderly. I think we will see similar quiet but stoical acts of kindness, as the weeks progress.

Of course, the town came out onto doorsteps and balconies earlier this week, as the nation joined in a ‘Clap for Carers’.

Remote working

I’ve now been a ‘remote worker’ for a week and a day. Of course, this makes for an interesting experience when, suddenly, your only contact with colleagues is via MS Teams. Using Teams has opened up a whole new communciation channel to manage alongside emails (of which I counted one every 2 minutes yesterday). This arrangement also means that you’re sitting on your bottom 08:30 onwards. That said, remaining on the couch is what we have to do to save lives. If we can’t do that very simple thing, then we genuinely need our heads looking at.

I think we now realise how serious a situation we face , when many of us now know someone who is suspected of having the virus or has heard of someone else with symptoms. And neither royal blood nor high status in society makes you immune.

The downs and ups

My lovely sister is a physiotherapist by profession. Her normal job is to support the rehabilitation of those with neurological issues. It was sobering to learn yesterday that she was heading to the hospital to get patients home (as quickly as possible) and that she was also embarking upon respiratory training.

I had to say, I had a little cry when she told me what she was doing.

On the upside, there have been some very funny moments. I contributed to these by wearing a sombrero in many of my virtual meetings this week. Our choir also attempted a ‘rehearsal’ via Zoom, but we had to mute everyone, as it sounded really terrible. We kept our Director ‘un-muted’ and sang along to ourselves, before ‘un-muting’ everyone for a bit of a laugh at the end. It was fun and entertaining (for all the wrong reasons).

We are also recording a video of the choir singing Jason Mraz’s Unlonely. Today, I had a go at listenining to the backing track whilst recording me singing the soprano part. I can only hope that the final combined performance is better than my own feeble efforts!

Worry only about what you can control

Listening to a podcast today, I was reminded that there’s a danger in these unsettled times to ruminate over what could or what might happen, or fear the very worst. Being afraid might lead to us becoming unusually sharp with others, or feeling particularly stressed.

As Brené Brown has said this week, “This pandemic is a massive experiment in collective vulnerability. We can be our worst selves when we’re afraid, or our very best, bravest selves”.

I hope and pray that we use our time at home as positively as we can to help us stay brave and be resilient. It’s springtime here in the UK, so our gardens are starting to wake up following the wettest February on record. We have plenty to eat, somewhere safe and comfortable to be and every way to entertain ourselves indoors or in the garden.

So, do let me know how you are. I hope you’re doing OK. Be brave. Be your best self. Keep washing those hands. Stay at home to remain safe and keep others safe. And if ever there was a time be intentional, that time is now.


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Project 333: ‘How a little wardrobe challenge changed a whole life’

Imagine my surprise and delight when I had the chance to read a newly-arrived copy of Courtney Carver’s new book, Project 333. In case you’ve not yet seen it (the book’s official publication date was 3/3 (of course!), I thought you might appreciate a review. So, here it is!

If you’re familiar with Courtney Carver, then this is the book that followers of bemorewithless.com might have expected her to have written first. In fact, Soulful Simplicity came before which included a section on the project. Still, Project 333 (along with Carver’s popular Tiny Wardrobe Tour) is arguably the most well-known aspect of her work to date. With its humble beginnings back in 2010, Carver set herself a challenge that was to be the catalyst to other – more far-reaching – changes in her life.

Project 333 – the basics

The idea of this minimalist fashion challenge is that you set aside the rest of your wardrobe for a 3-month period during which you dress with the remaining 33 items or less (hence the name). When the 3 months are up, you’ll swap out some of those items and bring back others.

Most items you’ll wear will count towards the 33, including jewellery, shoes, accessories and bags. But workout gear, underwear and pyjamas (for example) don’t count.

Not another ‘how to’ book

Although Carver does talk about the idea of a ‘capsule wardrobe’, Project 333 isn’t merely another ‘how to’ book. Indeed, the approach is not at all prescriptive. Whilst there are lots of useful tips and some interesting case studies, the idea is that, by following the challenge, we remember to connect with ourselves; listen to our hearts; and ask the person who knows us best (ourselves).

Carver also demonstrates how the ‘three thirty-three’ concept can used as a way in to dealing with more signifcant and profound life questions. Nicely crafted into a series of themed chapters, the book describes, ‘…..how a little wardrobe challenge changed a whole life.’ That’s quite an audacious claim but if you know Carver’s work, you’ll know what an impact #project333 has made on her, those around her and the 1000s of people who’ve followed in her footsteps.

Life lessons, big or small

Project 333 works on a number of levels, so take from it from whatever you need. Want to sort out a messy wardrobe? Here are some tips you can use. Or maybe you need to tackle just a small part of your life first, which can then act as the catalyst for more far-reaching changes. You can get this here, too.

What Carver is clear about is this: taking part in the project won’t protect you from whatever the world throws at you, but its benefits have a lovely way of spilling over into ‘real life’.

Clothes are boring

This morning, I listened to Dame Kristen Scott Thomas on Susannah Constantine’s new podcast, My Wardrobe Malfunction. If you listen to this – or any of these conversations – they are far less about the clothes and much more about lives lived well. The outfits, garments and fashion moments, if they feature at all, are far from centre stage.  They are merely the conduit to a more interesting conversation.

I do like clothes (and I’m not averse to a real bargain), but I have stopped yearning for them. This has given me such freedom, saving hours of time and hard-earned money, as I have given up the quest to find the simplest of things: something to wear. This is Carver’s point. A shopping ‘fast’ (a bit like intermittent fasting) does you a world of good. It clears the head and leaves you feeling lighter, calmer and more in control.

Things to consider

Paring down your wardrobe does mean you get to ask yourself some great questions.

For example, if you could start from scratch with your closet, what would you buy? Or, if you’re stuck in a cycle of ‘consume, donate, consume, donate…’ how much better for your wallet and the environment would it be if you simply stopped? Or, what if I challenged the voice in my head that said, “I could never…..”.

Often, we hear of people trying to fill an emotional vacuum with the temporary high of shopping. But, as Carver writes, “When things are broken but bearable, it feels easier, at first, to stay at ‘bearable’ rather than to address the problems.”

Try lightening your load

Courtney Carver’s quest for more had resulted in stress, depression, debt and strained relationships. It certainly didn’t answer the simplest of questions, “What shall I wear today?” As she writes, “I’d been shopping for years and I still had nothing to wear.”

So, instead of adding more and trying something new, try shopping from your own wardrobe; living a little more intentionally; and lightening your load. Who knows, a little step in this direction could inspire you towards a full-on spring clean or encourage you to get uncluttered once and for all!

Project 333 is published by tarcherperigee, an imprint of Penguin Random House


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