At the start of the year ( you know, all those, what, like days ago?!) I made a few promises to myself. Not so much resolutions, but more like conversations I had with myself which resulted in decisions to do things in a different way – decisions which, I hope, will have positive consequences.
Amongst other things, I promised myself that I would get a lot of forgotten jobs that have been long overdue done; that I would use my time wisely – prioritising what really matters; that I would develop some of the interests that I have that have, perhaps, not been given the attention they once were and, that I would write more.
Since I was little, one of the things I always said I wanted to do/ be, was a writer. I think that I probably envisioned a desk by a bright window, a clickcy – clacky old typewriter (I had one and I LOVED it… I so wish I still had it to see what the girls would make of it now!!) and, of course, a string of published books to my name. Zoom forward into the 21st century and the picture is ever so slightly different (though, please note that, while I am under no illusion regarding the honest, real truth, when I’m ‘in the zone’, I’m no longer sitting at the kitchen table in a badly put-together outfit while a toddler snores quietly behind me and my half-drunk coffee and banana skin await my attention; but I’m in a New York apartment, looking elegantly stylish in the style of Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw… a girl can but dream!!) writing, or my attempts at least, are something I enjoy immensely.
Now, I’m very much a realist and I know that working part-time plus the take-home work that requires; teaching piano; running my wee Little Green Tree business and trying to keep everyone clothed, fed, looked after and where they need to be when they need to be there, means that how I use my time is something that requires some thought if I want to pursue anything beyond that. But, what if there is a way? What if it is possible to do more than you thought you could and still have time for the things that will matter in the long run and the people that matter the most? Well, over the past few weeks I’ve been learning that maybe, just maybe, it is possible to do more than you thought you could – or at least, more than I thought I could!
I think I’ve probably mentioned before about the state of our attic and its cries for attention – you know what I mean, don’t you? Open the door, fire it in and deal with it another time. Until, on the umpteenth ‘other time’ you finally realise that you’ve reached an impasse and action must be taken! In the full knowledge that in a short amount of time the Christmas decorations would need to be accessed, one exhausting Monday in November saw me carry out my long-held threats to deal with the offending attic. And I did. It was physically tiring and emotionally draining as little clothes were finally parted with but, it was undoubtedly rewarding and the sense of accomplishment and the feeling of order that had been resumed gave me a real buzz. (Tragic, I know!)
With those positive vibes lurking in my subconscious, once Christmas was over, other ANA (Attention Needed Areas) starting to feature more and more in my thoughts and so, as I embarked on a really busy time in work, party planning for our 7 year old and keeping up with life in general, a few totally and utterly insane game-changer weeks happened which have totally re-ordered our household and, to some extent, I hope, our lives as well.
You can’t go very far at the minute to escape talk of ‘Hygge’ (be thankful I’m typing, because my attempts at pronunciation are, quite frankly, abysmal!) But, call it what you want, this idea that has made its way to us from some of the happiest people in the world, apparently, is all about organising, living well and using your time wisely. Now, while I’ve read a few pages here and there, I’d be lying if I told you I’d read any of the books from cover to cover but, the little I have read or heard discussed or picked up on from those who have fully-embraced the lifestyle, has told me that I should think carefully about what I keep and what I get rid of.
As a sentimental, wannabe-hoarder, this has been quite a journey and, while I still have my keepsake/treasured things, I really just can’t possibly never ever bid farewell to for each of us in a storage alcove in the eaves, I have thrown out/ donated/ given away/ just simply got rid of more than I ever thought I could, or would. And the results? I have drawers, cupboards and wardrobes that I’d even let my mother look into (and that’s saying something!).
Not only that, but I now know where everything is – I hope – a fact which saved our two eldest yesterday morning when what shall forever be known as ‘toothpaste gate’ occurred at 8.55 am (around the time we ought to have been leaving the house for school) and I was able to go to our attic/storage space (God bless the designer of the chalet bungalow and its accessible storage options!) and reach into the see-through plastic box of old school uniforms to retrieve two jumpers from previous years – better the washed out look than the ‘smeared in toothpaste’ look… like how does that even happen?! (FYI the sound of a fire alarm ringing at around the same time may well have been directly related to the smoke billowing from my ears!). A place for everything and everything in its place, isn’t that what they say? As someone who has struggled with the: ‘if it’s hidden behind a door or drawer then it doesn’t really matter that it’s in a muddle’ style of organisation for quite some time, I cannot begin to tell you how much less time it takes if you know where everything is and only have to go and reach for it.
Add to that, I’ve discovered that increasing the number of hours you have in your day is possible. Okay, well, maybe that’s not exactly right but, I have realised that I haven’t always used my time well. It’s incredible the number of hours we can lose with things like social media or searching for, that thing, that really significant and important site, that, eh, you know… ? No, me neither! With a better organisation of how my time is spent and the time saved in not having to go searching for things because you now know where they are, results in time that is freed up to sit down with your other half for a cup of coffee or investing that time back into those forgotten/way-sided interests. Time, used wisely, really does seem to breed even more time for those stiller, calmer moments.
Mind you, I’m also finding that this organisation malarkey, even with restful times, is fairly tiring! If I plan to keep things the way they are at present, then that means I need to be consistent with the day-to-day chores. But, here’s the other thing I’ve learned: if you’re keeping on top of things and doing a little every day, turns out? It doesn’t take as long! Now, throwing the aforementioned long working hours and the birthday celebrations into the mix of trying out this new style of organisation as well as the insane clearing process to get us there, has been utterly exhausting and last weekend it really knocked me off my feet. Honestly though, just days after a final push and our husband and wife team building (ha ha ha!!!) two-pronged attack on the garden and garage resulting in numerous dump runs, man alive, what space we’ve gained in the garage now too – my father-in-law is in for a mighty shock when he realises that we’ve achieved what he’s been keeping us going about for ages!
So, with all this talk of things that need to be kept on top of, how can I justify sitting here now, writing? Because, quite simply, all the other wee jobs that I needed to get done were sorted earlier this morning. I’m learning that, given even small amounts of time, there are many achievable tasks that can be done in little blasts, as time allows. I’ve been amazed at the wee things that you can do while ‘waiting’ for something, be it even the potatoes to boil, or just simply setting yourself a goal and setting the timer for 10 or 15 minutes – a lot can be achieved in just a little burst of time! My new motto is: DIATT (pronounced ‘diet’ and meaning ‘Do It At the Time’ – def one to copyright!!) I’ve discovered that rather than thinking, ‘I should sort that sometime’, if I am at all able to do it at the time I think about it, then I do and, amazingly, in the majority of cases, it takes nowhere near as long as I thought it would.
Now, I don’t profess to be some lifestyle guru and I am fully aware that until my littlest was 18 months I had a continual pile of un-ironed clothes that needed dealt with and I feel no guilt about that. I also know that my reduced working hours have an impact on the time I have and I believe that is important that we do what we can in accordance with our circumstances and the time we have – not setting ourselves unrealistic or unmaintainable expectations. I also know that the fact I still have the ‘freedom’ that a toddler daytime nap allows, means that I have pockets of time that a change in her routine would and at some point soon, no doubt, will mean that my current way of doing things will need to be altered; but, I am embracing the changes as they are now!
I’m trying my very best to stay on top of things each day, to try and maintain the sense of order we are now enjoying, though I reckon that until we’ve had a few weeks of the ‘new system’, it will be a matter of consistency and self-discipline as the new habits we’ve formed become natural to the rhythm of our lives. The changes should meant that I can now create actual time in my week for Little Green Tree orders, rather than just fitting them in randomly, at say, midnight! At the minute, it’s all about training myself to do things at the time, to put away, tidy up as I go along and never put back what would be better put out. Add to this, trying to convince the rest of the household that this is definitely the way to go… it could take a while.
But, remove the busyness, the ‘rethinking’ process and the learning to let go; what has this process taught me? Well firstly, it’s made me realise that less can indeed be more – better to have fewer items that you actually use/need and know where they all are when you do need them, than have to search through untold clutter. It’s incredible how even ‘hidden stuff’ when cleared away can make you feel better! Secondly, keeping on top of daily chores – be they washing/ ironing/ tidying/ putting away, means that they become small, manageable tasks, as opposed to mammoth time-devouring beasts that eat up large chunks of what could be precious family time. Thirdly, doing jobs that need done when you think of them means your brain is less clouded with unfinished lists that eat away at you and seem so much more than they really are, are no more. Fourthly, you’re ready for panic stations when your children decide to smear themselves in toothpaste or you need to find something unexpectedly. Fifth and finally, you suddenly find there is actually a lot of time there that you didn’t know you had – time spent sorting the clothes or paying the bills rather than surfing social media sites means that there is more time for the things – and more importantly, the people that matter. You have those precious moments to share together, without having to worry about what needs done instead.
Will I be able to keep it all up? Who knows! I could be back here in a month or two declaring what a disaster it has all been. Or, I could be enjoying our new routine in a much more relaxed manner as it becomes the norm for us and, delighting in the time that’s been ‘found’ for sharing what matters, with those who matter most. Watch this space… but not if you have something that needs done; do it first and then come back ;o)