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.

 

Decluttering – the work continues

It’s time I provided an update on my decluttering progress. I’ve realised I should be taking some before and after photos, but then, I’m not sure I could bring myself to publish the really good before photos – it would be too embarrassing. 

Anyway, the decluttering is continuing only very slowly at the moment. I have a charity box at the front door which I was trying to fill every week, but that’s lost some momentum since I’ve been carrying around several small boxes to drop off for weeks and not getting around to it, mostly because for boxes I have to actually go into the store, which means parking and getting the baby out of the car, and there’s never a park out front… I know I know, lame excuse. Okay then, I will do it next Tuesday. 

In the meantime, I’ve realized (and I may have said this before)  that I need a Plan. As in, let’s declutter this particular space first, not just vaguely toss things into the Vinnie’s box as I happen across them. So I have a plan, which is to begin- or continue I guess – with the study, aka our bedroom (since Ms Elli, our one year old has taken over our room).  

If we can clean up the study, and get rid of the big desk that mostly just provides space for clutter to collect, then we can put a door through from the study to the walk-in-robe and have access to our clothes and ensuite again. Because the fact is that until/unless we extend, our room is likely to become the girls’ room, while what is currently the big kids’ room become’s just Liam’s room. 

So we might as well face that reality now and stop living in clutter with our clothes piled up on the desk chair and the bed pushed against the wall because the desk takes so much space. 

So, that’s where the decluttering is at. Some progress, but not a lot. But a definite plan of what to do next. 

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:

http://arduousblog.blogspot.com/2010/01/is-living-sustainably-unsustainable.html
http://1greengeneration.elementsintime.com/?p=1721
http://littleecofootprints.typepad.com/little_eco_footprints/2010/02/finding-my-sustainable-sustainable-life.html

Simply decluttering January

Simplify: 7 Guiding Principles to Help Anyone Declutter Their Home and Life

Following a link from Sustainable Eats’ Simple Lives Thursday meme (from last week) to Dr. Laura’s Adventures I just discovered an ebook I am going to buy and read Simplify: 7 Guiding Principles to Help Anyone Declutter Their Home and Life. The first 12 pages are available free and just reading those has re-inspired me to work on our clutter. I’d add it to  my 2011 reading list there on the right but it’s not on Amazon and I don’t have time to create that list by hand right now.

I’m not sure if I’m ready for a truly minimalist life, but the line “I enjoy clean, tidy, uncluttered rooms… but don’t like to clean” is so true for me. I really am sick of living in a cluttered, messy environment where we can’t find the things we want, but on the other hand, I really don’t see us getting better at staying tidy with the amount of stuff we’ve got.

I think part of the secret is having a place for everything (which we don’t have), but the other part is just having less of everthing, to need a place for.

Two years ago I undertook to focus on decluttering in January…  And, I did do some decluttering, but no where near enough. So it’s time to try again. I declare January 2011 decluttering month. And I plan to start with my wardrobe. I’m not back to my pre-pregnancy weight yet (10 months on!), but I’m getting there, and I’m never planning to be pregnant again, so I can begin with all the clothes that are too big for me now.

But I also plan to get rid of a whole lot of clothes I’ve been hanging on to that I *might* want to wear again one day, but somehow didn’t between the last two pregnancies. With very few exceptions (my wedding outfit is the only one that comes to mind) I figure if I didn’t wear it between the last two pregnancies then it is probably years out of date and has to go!

Second up will be our overloaded filing cabinet. Perhaps we’d file things more quickly if we could fit them in there without a struggle.

First things first though, which is to empty the walk-in-robe of the boxes of kids clothes (too big for the Ms Ten Months too small for Ms Four), which are sitting in there because the studio/spareroom/storeroom got flooded in the horrid rainstorms early this month. It’s time to get organised!

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