Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Special Things


I did something funny today.

I collect tea cups. Over the last couple of years I've slowly curated a nice little collection of them and have dedicated a whole shelf in my kitchen to them. I catch myself gazing at my teacups, stacked in pairs, no two alike, and it makes me happy. Each one was purchased because I loved it.

So why, then, when I make myself a cup of tea in the morning, do I gravitate not toward the pretty array of cups that give me great joy, but the cupboard of mugs and common-use cups we keep above the coffee machine? I use the same two, tired-looking mugs every day for a week (washed in-between of course!), even staring at my pretty collection while I wait for the kettle to boil.

Why? Because my every-day morning cup of tea isn't special. And my pretty teacups are special and therefore should only be used for special occasions. So once in a while we have friends over, and on occasion one of them might want a cup of tea. Then and only then do I pull open my cupboard of special tea cups, select one carefully, and actually use it. Meanwhile the rest of the cups just sit there, having missed their one opportunity to be used in months,

That's crazy!

Today I made myself a cup of tea in *gasp* one of my beloved tea cups. Just for the sake of it. And the sky did not fall down! In fact, it was lovely taking each sip from a cup that I completely adore.

It's not just tea cups, you know. We all have those special-occasion items. The immaculate white dinner set. The expensive purse. The gold plated cutlery. The $30 vegan soy candle that smells like lemon meringue pie. The crystal vase. These are some of our favourite things, and a lot of them are gathering dust, waiting for their bi-annual shining moment.

But maybe we're looking at it the wrong way. Maybe instead of waiting for an occasion to be deemed 'special' enough to employ our favourite things, we should be bringing them out and using them in a bid to make our everyday moments special. I'm a firm believer that our greatest joy comes from the little things, and if drinking from my favourite tea cup enriches my morning, why wouldn't I pursue that easy little buzz every single day?

So... eat your steamed peas with the glimmering golden fork you keep buried in the buffet drawer. Burn that $30 candle while you scrapbook, heck, while you binge-watch Netflix. Cut some flowers from the garden and set them in that crystal vase. And for goodness sake, make yourself that cup of tea in the prettiest damn tea cup you own.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Chaos and Small Changes

Because I’m not a great house keeper (read: basically the worst) my house is chaotic (read: like a tornado hit it. Scrach that – several tornadoes). I know everyone says they're the worst house keeper, but I actually am. I keep up with the dishes and the laundry, and that’s about it. There are pockets of trouble everywhere – corners filled with stacks of unhung photo frames and utility bills, exercise equipment gathering dust behind the gas heater, unread magazines and books piled up on top of each other, broken blinds that I need Chris to open for me if I want to experience sunshine in my cavernous living room, burnt-out light fittings that have needed replacing for months, and DO NOT GET ME STARTED ON THE MISCELLANEOUS CABLES THAT ARE EVERYWHERE. We could open a cable shop. Well, we actually couldn’t because we wouldn’t be able to tell you what all the cables belong to and what they do. I swear those things freaking breed.
A lot of the time, these trouble pockets fade into the background. They are invisible to me, quietly keeping to themselves, right up until the moment when we have guests coming over and they’re 20 minutes from arriving and I suddenly get the pressing need to attack ALL THE THINGS and try to find a place to put them. Amazingly, that never goes very well. Plus when you move the things, they unleash terrific clouds of dust and dog hair and then nobody should be entering the premises without a hazmat suit and a breathing mask.

Every now and then, I’ll be minding my own business, with no impending guests on the horizon, and something will catch my eye, and I will feel crazy. Crawling out of my skin crazy. Maybe it’s because I’m a stay-at-home Mum now and trapped inside it all more often than not, but it hurts my soul. It doesn’t matter that for a solid two weeks I have been perfectly satisfied with my not-so-beautiful mess. Suddenly the chaos of it all has hit me and I can literally feel my brain creasing under the pressure of it all.
Last week it was dirty formula bottles, and the meltdown was epic. We have a bottle sterilizer and I am pretty stellar at keeping on top of this particular chore (because #hungrybaby) – we use four bottles, I wash them, then I sterilize them. Voila, clean bottles. But something happened last week and I think there were six bottles on my bench in various stages of unclean. Logically, I could just wash them, sterilize four of them, then load the other two up in the sterilizer. But I couldn’t wrap my brain around it. I shut down. I just stared at them, my heart hammering, and thought “HOW CAN I LIVE LIKE THIS.” Of course I wasn’t just freaking out over the bottles. My eyes were fixed on them, but as I stared, every cable, every magazine, every dust bunny was popping up in my peripheral vision. I wandered around my house, avoiding the bottles, my brain exploding. I don’t think I’ve felt quite so highly strung since about a week before I found out I was pregnant with Jackson and the smell of a toasted sandwich in the office kitchen hit me so hard in the face that I cried and had to go hide in the bathroom (I wish there was more to that story to make it seem more normal but that is literally how it happened. Thanks hormones).
So it’s fair to say, the chaos got me that day. But I’m not known to be a negative person. I don’t like to dwell on difficulties. I seek out peacefulness and simple joy like they’re precious diamonds. So I didn’t just ignore the chaos and wait for it to hit me again. I also didn’t resolve to immediately fix everything because past experience has taught me that won’t work. For me, small and gradual changes are the only way that I can tackle big things. I started by setting myself two goals for this new month – I planned to make our bed every day (unheard of in my house!) and making sure the kitchen is clean and wiped down before bedtime each night. These are probably things that pretty much every adult human is already doing, but I wasn’t and I needed a very basic starting point if I was going to start feeling in control of my chaos. Now it doesn’t matter so much to me that there are piles of clothes on the bedroom floor and teetering towers of junk on the bedside tables – because our bed is cozy and inviting and peaceful. The scrapbooking supplies strewn across the dining room table, and the boxes of yet-to-be-used laminate floorboards against the meals area wall hurt a little less, because my white kitchen bench is clear and hygienic, and although we have ants they are just wandering around aimlessly now because there isn’t so much as a speck or a crumb for them to go to town on.

Like I said, they’re small changes, but they’re working for me and it’s a starting point. Next month, on top of these tasks, perhaps I will wipe down the bathroom every Sunday, or get into the habit of daily tidying. And maybe next time the chaos catches up with me, it won’t seem quite so insurmountable as it did last week.

Small changes. Easy and life changing. We all have some form of chaos, whether it’s in our homes, our workplaces, our relationships, our habits, our finances… What small changes can you make to ease your chaos?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

#Ditch500 - My First Update!



Posting these photos makes me cringe (hello un-edited, un-beautiful catastrophe!) but this is what raw progress looks like baby! I dedicated the first week of the month to clearing out every cupboard and drawer in my kitchen, and putting back only what I wanted. My shelves are now spacious and oh-so-use-able.

I DITCHED 186 UNNECESSARY ITEMS.

186! (Not all of it is pictured above) I didn't anticipate unearthing quite so many things to get rid of, but that only proves how completely necessary this challenge was for me, doesn't it?

So what have I learnt so far?

Ruthlessness breeds ruthlessness
I started with my baking drawer, which I had been wanting to go through for some time and I knew would be easy for me (novelty baking pan after novelty pan!) I ditched almost half the items in that drawer! Once I cleaned the drawer and put the keepers back in, I was hooked. The drawer became so useable. It gave me the motivation I needed to make some tough decisions all the way through.

If you're ditching it, ditch it now!
Though I plowed through the culling phase in a matter of days, my 186 items ended up sitting on my dining room table for a couple of weeks after that while I tried to source boxes. And I faltered. Some of the items went back and forth a couple of times between table and cupboard ("it fits back in the cupboard after all!" is a terrible reason to keep something, FYI). I would stare at items that had been gifts, and feel sad. I would hesitate over items that were lovely and that I quite like, but have just never been used. The longer they sat, the harder it got. The moment I acquired boxes and packed them up, I haven't looked back. Out of sight, out of mind!

We seriously acquire a lot of crap
You know what I'm talking about. The gadgets. The novelty measuring spoons. Those cute retro things we find at op shops that really should have stayed in the past. The free plastic measuring jug whose measurements you can't even read. The $2 mug your Secret Santa gave you 3 years ago that's been pushed to the back of the cupboard. As of 2016, that stuff has no place in my home.

I will leave you with this quote that I recently came across, and absolutely LOVE: "The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak" - Hans Hofmann. So much yes. That's a truth-bomb I can get behind.

Oh, and what did I do with those 186 items? About 20 items (mostly broken or unusable) went straight in the trash, which means I've effectively been storing rubbish in my cupboards for the last few years. My sister Steph, who has just moved into her own place with her boyfriend took a few things. And the rest I'm trying to get to the Waroona/Yarloop fire victims via the Australian Disaster Volunteers Register.

Have you been thinking about ditching 500? It's never too late to start!!!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Becoming Mum: Time

Have you seen the tale that occasionally makes the rounds on Facebook, called "I'm Going To Bed"? It compares the difference between a man and a woman "going to bed". The woman busies herself with an onslaught of little tasks - picking up toys, putting away dishes, locking the back door, packing lunches, folding clothes - and the man? He simply goes to bed. I'm not posting here tonight to draw a generalized comparison between the sexes, but I will say this: I am becoming that woman! 

Tonight I put Jackson down after his bottle, and thought to myself, "Right! Time to get ready for bed!"
Tonight's bed time routine included, but was not limited to: bringing in the nappies on the line, filling the water bottles, putting away Jackson's clean clothes, changing our bed sheets, cleaning out the sink, packing Chris's lunch, finding Jackson's Child Health folder (4-month shots tomorrow! Wah!), putting away the dog bowls, sticking vinyl decals on Jackson's wardrobe (I've been meaning to do it for weeks!), and now here I am sitting down to write a blog post about it all. Yep, bed is still the goal. Aaaaany minute now. But since becoming a Mum, these energetic bursts at night are how I get things done! Before Jackson, I was more like the man in the tale. After an evening of watching TV with Chris, I would yawn, call it a night, jump in the shower and snuggle up under the sheets. Usually by 9pm. It sounds nice, doesn't it? But the interesting thing is, before Jackson, before I had these designated little pockets of time in which to achieve things, I had a lot less motivation. Dishes would pile up. The sheets would stay, unchanged, on the bed for an obscenely long time. Laundry would happen in a mad panic on a Sunday afternoon when I realized that we had no clothes for the week ahead. The mess would slowly pile up around us. There was always the promise of more time in which to do those things, but instead of using that time, I just imagined that at some point I would.

I'm far from being the perfect house keeper (please do not inspect my floors. Ever.) But I am seeing improvements. I'm enjoying the productivity of it all. And although it's difficult having less time to work with, it seems to be a good thing for me. I know when I worked, if I had one easy job to do for the day, I was sluggish. Easily distracted. I could get to the end of the day and actually, that one easy job might not have been completed. But as soon as I had a lot on my plate, and a short amount of time in which to do it - I was in my element. I could get it all done with time to spare.

How about you? Do you thrive more under pressure? Do you have lots of time (and discipline!) on your side in which to get things done?

Now! I'm going to bed (for real).

Saturday, January 9, 2016

We Love Today


It's a rare overcast day here in Perth, where the sun is generally on crack this time of year. I got out of bed at 5:30 this morning to feed Jackson and as I prepared his bottle I stole a glance at the backyard, and my heart leapt. These grey, dreary days are my favourite, especially in the midst of the hot Summers we must endure year after year.


We headed to May Street Larder for family brunch. Chris and I love May Street Larder. We had an amazing dinner there towards the end of my pregnancy last year, and ordered way too much food (we always do). They specialize in American soul food, which appeals to anyone but especially appeals to my American born and raised husband!


Jackson was a perfect little gentleman...


...except at this moment, when he started chewing on Daddy. It's freaking adorable when he chomps down on your hand and rubs his naked little gums all over your knuckles, but we should probably start deterring this before his teeth come in. I hear people don't like people who bite other people.


We got the beef brisket hash and the chicken waffle sandwich, bacon on the side, and swapped halfway through. So good.


But by the looks of things, Jackson enjoyed his breakfast even more than we did!

Now we've settled into a quiet day at home. Jackson is cooing in his bouncer, the living room blinds are open to show off the grey sky outside, and the creeper cat who hangs out in our front yard and watches us through the window has even stopped by for a bit of a gander!



We love today.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

#Ditch500

Happy new year, you guys! Like pretty much every person on the planet, I've been spending some time lately contemplating what 2016 will look like. New years always excite me, because I'm a little bit #basic and get totally sucked into the whole fresh start thing. Every time. So yeah, I have a list of goals I would like to achieve this year. Cut down my Facebook time, read more books, write more... and without knowing exactly how achievable it is, one idea I've decided to commit to is to DITCH 500 THINGS FROM MY HOUSE. I don't feel like we're excessive people, yet our house is absolutely filled with stuff. Filled. With. Stuff. Most of this stuff is not even important to me, most of it (absolutely more than 50% of it) sits on a shelf/in a cupboard/on the floor without so much as an annual touch. A lot of it I don't even see any more; we've had it and ignored it for so long it literally fades into the background (I'm looking at you, white ornamental birdcage that I intended to store a collection of baby pine cones in but sits there holding the same two lonely baby pine cones that I found at uni that one time and no longer even fits my aesthetic but cost $20 at Thingz Home and what a waste of money to just get rid of it because maybe it will grow on me soon).
You guys. Stuff sucks. You have to clean around it, you have to move it from house to house, and I find that it actually gains sentimental value the longer you keep it around. We grow attached to things simply because they are our things. The human is an enigmatic creature.
No more. It's time to simplify. You know I'm serious because I've made it a hashtag. As of Monday I've decided to commit to the Bowl Full of Lemons 14 Week Home Organizing Challenge. My hope is that as I go through each room, I will ditch a bunch of stuff and then maybe Instagram it with my shiny new hashtag, #Ditch500. These Instagram posts will be ugly, I'm not going to lie. There's no way to pretty up a pile of junk. But with a good balance of adorable baby photos I'm sure you can forgive me.
By the end of the year, my goal is to have 500 things out of my life that I no longer need. Join me? I'll let you use my hashtag.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Becoming Mum: Everything and Nothing

Well, it's official. Thanks to the arrival of the cutest little man in the whole wide world, I am the stay-at-home-Mum that I've been dreaming of becoming all year. When I was working half a day short of full-time, I looked ahead to this life stage in wonder... what would it be like actually staying at home every day while the rest of the world works? The concept seemed wonderful, but bizarre. Now when I look back to my days of being a worker just a few short weeks ago, it feels like it was a whole other lifetime.

So, what do stay-at-home-Mums of newborns do all day? If they're anything like me - everything and nothing. Five weeks into this new life, here is what I have learned. It turns out that babies are every bit as hard work as people say they are! One day I can do dishes, bake pumpkin bread, smash out a big batch of chicken pies for the freezer, take out the trash and prep a week's worth of salads for lunches in the time between feeding, burping and playing with my little man. Other days just one tiny thing can shift, and that load of laundry I feebly threw into the washing machine as I heard the sounds of my baby starting to stir is still sitting there, unhung, hours later. There have been luxurious days where I've managed to squeeze in a morning AND an evening shower. There have been days where I've scheduled a trip to the toilet "after this feed is finished" and halfway through the next feed, I realise I never ended up going. There have been nights when I have only had to get up once, for an hour or so. There have been stretches in the middle of other nights when my baby hasn't let me put him down for hours. There have been mornings where I have had time to put together a proper cooked breakfast. There have been other mornings with cold cups of tea, and no possible chance of squeezing in breakfast before 10am.

On the days that fly by with little more to show for it than a half-emptied dishwasher, I feel like I'm failing. On the magical days when I spend the day on my feet and still have a happy, fed baby, I feel like a super hero. When I worked, I was in a routine of ticking boxes and achieving tasks to a schedule. In comparison, this life is chaos. Each day is different, but one thing never changes. This life is good. Every time I pick up my little boy from his bed and hold him to me, every time he looks up into my eyes during a feed, every time he gurgles and does his funny not-quite-there chuckle as he lays kicking on his play mat, my heart is full. I am so, so lucky. I'm already so aware of how fleeting this time is, and I'm embracing all of it.