Mindfulness and simple living, one small step at a time

Oh the jealousy, the greed is the unravelling, it’s the unravelling
And it undoes all the joy that could be.

Joni Mitchell is one of my all time favourite singers, and my favourite Joni album is Blue. That quote is from the first song, ‘All I want’. The song is about a love affair, but I was singing it as I cleaned my kitchen yesterday and thought how truly it applies to living a sustainable lifestyle.

It’s hard to reduce consumption when you are always seeing what other people have and wishing for it. It’s hard to be happy with your average size, west facing, three bedroom home when you are busy envying your mother’s lovely sunny north facing living areas, or your friend’s big north facing, fruit tree filled back yard with all its great nooks for kids, or another friend’s four bedroom home with large separate living areas and perhaps a study.

And importantly, if you are busy envying your friends, or even just lusting after the lovely homes you see (but can’t afford) in the real estate pages, it’s hard to busy yourself making the most of what you have.

I’m currently reading Buddhism for mothers of young children by Sarah Napthali, dipping into it here and there when I have a few moments. The idea of existing in the moment ties in well for me with the idea of learning to be happy with what you have and where you are. How can you live in the moment if you are constantly longing for more and better? Or to be more and better?

square baby bean worn by Eliane

Eliane modelling my first attempt at knitting a beany.

But by the same token, it’s tricky to appreciate the moment if you are constantly comparing your eco/sustainability/simple lifestyle creds with your friends or blogging mentors too (who me? would I do that?). Napthali is big on being kind to yourself. Living mindfully doesn’t mean beating yourself up everytime you notice your thoughts straying to how much happier you would be if only you had that extra bedroom, or how much better your life would be if only you could declutter your house a little quicker. It means noticing those thoughts and then moving on.

Rhonda Jean from Down to Earth says there are no simple living police checking to see how well you are doing, to take things one step at a time, just do something. Make a start. Napthali has a similar attitude to living mindfully.

I am taking simple living, living mindfully and decluttering each one tiny step at a time. When I covert my friend’s house, I notice my desire and move on. When I feel overwhelmed by the extent of the clutter, I pick up one piece of paper and file or recycle it, or put one toy back on the shelf or into the Vinnie’s box, which sits by the front door. At least, that’s my aim. Tonight I really wanted to start on a new square beanie for Eliane, since the one I knitted last year is really a bit small, but I ran out of time. So I have wound off a ball of wool to be ready to start tomorrow. One small step at a time.


Finding a balance

I’ve just been reading a bunch of interlinked year old posts about the sustainability of sustainable living, the difference between ‘sustainable’ and ‘simple’, and finding a point of balance. 

They’ve filled me with a sense of hope and determination, while drawing a resounding ‘yes!’ from my soul. And they appeared to resonate with many others too, based on the numerous comments. 

The thing is, I often feel quite inadequate and hopeless when I read the blogs of the really accomplished sustainable/simple/Eco lifestylers. I know that is never their intention, and I also know it is often the case when reading about people who’ve progressed a long way down a path you are just beginning to tread. And, I do find them inspirational too. 

I think perhaps part of my trouble is that I’m not just beginning, surely I’ve been on this path for years. There was a time, for instance, when we grew far more of our own food & bought largely organic. But then we had children, both switched to part time work, and suddenly felt we couldn’t afford so much organic produce any more. And, didn’t have the same amount of time to put into the garden, especially in those years when we’ve had babies or toddlers – this past season has been a disaster in the vegetable garden! Recently I’ve made a commitment to buy almost exclusively organic meat, and at the very minimum free range (where that is an issue) and to go back to eating more vegetarian meals. But, we are about to take a serious look at our budget, because over the past year of me not working we’ve used up all our savings. So what will give?

I think part of the struggle for me too is the feeling of wanting to do everything now, but realising we need to take things step by step, and perhaps plan out some of those steps. That way it can feel okay that we’re not doing everything yet, without fearing that we will never get there. Though in truth we probably will never get there, if ‘there’ is some sort of perfect fulfillment of everything that could be meant be sustainable living. 

There’s nothing wrong with striving towards perfection of course, unless it makes everything seem so hard that you give up. Perfection is not sustainable. 

So what are all the aspects of a sustainable lifestyle that I am striving towards, if ever so slightly? Or that I would at least like to be striving towards?

  • being carbon neutral – lots of the points below really come into this, but it’s worth identifying on it’s own, while it is certainly not the be all and end all of sustainability.  
  • Shopping ethically; supporting only sustainable practices with my dollars – now this could mean anything from not buying coffee produced with the assistance of child labour, not buying clothes made in sweatshops, to buying only free range chicken or organic produce. None of these things do I do perfectly.
  • Reducing my waste buy buying less rubbish (including packaging), and by reusing or recycling whatever I can.
  • Using recycled paper products whenever possible, eg recycled toilet paper.
  • reducing my addiction to having “stuff”.  Part of the idea of decluttering is learning to live with less stuff, while allowing some of that stuff to find a useful life somewhere else. (Another part is that having less clutter seems like it would make life easier and more pleasant, especially in a household as un-keen on housework as this one!).
  • Eating locally gown food, weather it be in my garden or from a local farm.

There are probably more points than that, but this post as been languishing in draft form for at least a couple of weeks, so it’s high time I just hit publish and put it out there. 

These are the posts that started me off:


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I have just deleted 567 spam comments and pingbacks! So if I accidentally deleted your legitimate comment, I’m very sorry. I am now activating moderation for comments for a few days, to hopefully break the cycle, so please bare with me.

“Declutter” is the word

My word for 2011 is declutter. I thought about simplify, sustainability, and even Reduce – far more elegant than declutter, don’t you think? But I settled on declutter because that’s what we really need to do.

Decluttering has been on my agenda for a couple of years, but has only been a passing fancy from time to time. A bunch of clothes given to Vinnies now and again, but no real impact made on the house.

And to me this is a sustainable lifestyle issue, because it is also about living simply, about reducing – reducing the amount of stuff we bring into the house, and reducing the amount of stuff we hold onto that maybe someone else could be using.

It’s also about simplifying the process of keeping a tidy house (something we are absolutely hopeless at), and it’s also about providing a clean, ordered environment for my kids, where they can play and create and work without feeling overwhelmed by the clutter, the choices, the mess. In Steiner terms it’s important to provide a beautiful environment for young children, and that’s hard to do when there is clutter everywhere.

I’ve been a packrat my whole life, and also chronically lazy when it comes to house work. I don’t like doing it, and more, I don’t like wasting time on it. Time is precious and I simply don’t have enough of it to be wasting it on maintaining all this clutter. And I am starting to feel that the clutter is making it hard to think clearly and creatively. And if it’s hard for me, what’s it teaching my children?

On top of all that, I’d like to pass on better habits to my children than I have developed myself. Now, I’m not kidding myself – forcing a massive decluttering could just turn them into packrats. My mother always kept a tidy house (though not excessively so), and as a child I sort of thought that being tidy was something you simply grew into when you grew up. Evidentally not. But anyway, at the moment I am quite sure I am teaching them bad habits, so I might as well at least try to model good ones, and if they catch on, so much the better. If not, well, nothing lost.

2011 is the year of decluttering. Wish me luck.

Cloth Nappies for Queensland, Plus More Floods

Babybeehinds, one of my favourite cloth nappy providers, who are themselves located in (Northern) Queensland, have pledged $17,000 worth of cloth nappies and accessories to flood affected families in SE and Central Queensland, in some of the worst floods in Australian memory. I love their nappies, and they are a great family run Australian company. Here’s to them, and people like them.

Meanwhile Victoria also braces for more flooding, and Brazil has had a month’s rain in 24 hours and with over 250 people killed in flooding. Global warming?

My word for 2011

Tricia from Little eco footprints is talking about what word to focus on for 2011. For 2010 she picked wellbeing. For 2011 she’s undecided yet (or was when she posted this post a few days ago). But she asks what about you (me, you, us)? So I thought about commenting but then I realised it’s not an off the cuff thing. If I just say – oh, simplify is the one for me. Or, sustainability (of course) is going to be mine – well, that’ll be all very well but actually I’ll forget about it by tomorrow.

The idea of having one word to focus on, to ruminate and mediate and act on – that’s actually very powerful I’m thinking. But only if I really do ruminate and mediate and act. So I need to think about it some more. I am thinking it’s inevitably going to be Sustainability, but maybe that’s too big. Maybe it needs to be simplify, or declutter.

Either way, I definitely like the idea of a word, a theme, as opposed to a set of resolutions that just ask to be broken thereby creating more guilt (and who needs more guilt) and not else. I mean, hey, I’m not knocking resolutions if they work for you. But for me, I’m going to pick a word. And then I’m going to ruminate. And hopefully, action will follow naturally.

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