Posted in Minimalism, Moving, Travel, Writing, Yoga

Love people, use things*

My daughter brought my attention to a concept called minimalism last year, through a film called ‘Minimalism-A Documentary about the important things’.

At the time we were just about to move internationally again, the movers were booked, I had already done what I thought was quite a lot of decluttering (and minimalising, I suppose, although I didn’t use that word), yet after watching the documentary, I looked around my house and went, ‘Ah, man! It’s too late this time around, I don’t have time to get rid of any more stuff!’. The concept resonated with me, however, as I looked around and wondered how on earth we had managed to accumulate so much stuff.

We moved in, unpacked some things, donated quite a bit straight away (I was quite proud of that) and got on with accumulating more stuff.

Fast forward less than a year later, and my husband and I are about to move again (our kids are both at university, but we still have all their excess stuff as well) and this time we are downsizing; our new house is significantly smaller than any space we’ve lived in for the last 20 years.

We have arranged to store some of our extra furniture, 4 or 5 larger items that definitely won’t fit in this new house (#theminimalists would say we are ‘hoarding’ our excess furniture; hoarding is a synonym for storing)… and as for the rest of our belongings, I am doing my usual clear out. Now, if you know me, you know that we’ve moved house quite a number of times. Many of these have been international moves. I clear stuff out every single time.

We once stored most of our belongings for three full years, having taken with us only what we were allowed, which amounted to clothes and some personal items to make it ‘feel like home’.  We actually came back with more than we’d left with, and when we got the rest of our stuff out of storage, we spent the first two weeks unpacking it all and saying, ‘Why did we keep this?’ before carefully storing it in our new home. (I know, I know…)

Wow. I didn’t realise I was quite as bad as that until I wrote it down. I now realise am a hoarder of cooking utensils and equipment, cookbooks, shoes, socks and underwear (WHY???) just for starters. I have more jute shopping bags than an entire small village would need, because I hate having to buy or accept plastic bags when I’m shopping, and I regularly forget to bring my own bag. We currently have 7 different ways to make coffee, never mind teapots we have never used. (One of them is just so beautiful and I am worried it will leak.) Is it useful? Probably not, the last one wasn’t fit for purpose, so we exchanged it with the potter. We thought it was a fault in the glaze, but I bought my parents one as well, and theirs leaked too…SO, if it probably doesn’t brew tea without leaking all over the table, why are we keeping it? You see, even with the regular clear outs, we have so much that we neither use nor need.

I have been listening to The Minimalists podcast this week. The concept of minimalism resonates well with yoga, mediation and mindfulness to me – to move all the excess, all the extra stuff out of the way (physical or mental) so you can focus on the important things, that’s what yoga, mediation and mindfulness are all about. Leading a deliberate and meaningful life, clearing out the stuff that’s not useful, or doesn’t add value. In yoga, I ask myself, ‘What is blocking your progress in that posture?’ In other words, what is stopping you from achieving what you are setting out to do. It can be a physical blockage like an injury or a mental blockage like fear or stress. I think it’s the same with our lives. What is important to you, what are you passionate about? Are you doing it, practicing it, spending time enjoying it? If not, why not? Move all the excess out of the way, the things that aren’t useful or adding value to your life; they are blocking your view of what’s important.

I have just put 10 cookbooks, one coffee machine, a popcorn popper and a pair of purple suede fur-lined FitFlop ankle boots into the donation box in my living room. I am not sure how I feel about that yet.  I will sleep on it.

Let’s be clear. I’m not solving the world’s problems by donating an ugly pair of footwear.  Also, cookbooks are useful. As long as you, you know, use them. I enjoy browsing through them, although I must admit that I have never cooked a single recipe from many of the ones I own. The ones I am (tentatively considering) donating (or recycling, let’s call it minimalising) are ones I haven’t even opened since they went into storage almost 5 years ago.

I could probably find most of the recipes from those cookbooks online these days. I could also scan recipes, borrow cookbooks from the library, or buy them from charity shops and re-donate when I’ve used them.I won’t be short of recipes just because I no longer own 10 Jamie Oliver cookbooks. Can you tell that I’m trying to convince myself more than you? We’ll see what happens in the morning.

I digress. You see, that is one area of my personality that highlights an issue. I’m clearly a hoarder at heart.  The words, ‘Oh, I’d better keep it just in case…’ feel very familiar. One look in my wardrobe would probably flag that up.

So we are trying baby steps here. I have already donated novels we’ve both read, (though not reference books that we will use again, not maps and my dear husband has an obsession with anything that says ‘Wainwright’ or ‘Edward Abbey’ on the sleeve…you do what you can). We’ve done a clear out of old DVDs that we won’t watch again, and most of our CDs went years ago.

I’d like to free up space to make more space and time for people and experiences and writing and just being and breathing and yoga.

Kitchen cupboards are next. How many coffee cups does one family of four need? At a rough estimate, I would say (forgetting the ones the kids have taken to Uni with them) we’ve currently got over 50 mugs (and some ‘proper’ teacups with saucers as well). Don’t get me started on plastic travel mugs that neither keep the beverage hot nor allow you to drink it in the car without dribbling coffee down your blouse.

On The Minimalists podcast, they said that someone had said in criticism of them,’Oh, these guys say they are minimalists, they haven’t gotten rid of anything important!’ And that is the point.  You get rid of the excess, so that what remains is useful (or essential), adds value or brings you joy. I’ve added the ‘joy’ part, but I guess that falls into it adding value to your life.

Before he left the house this evening, as I’m preaching all about minimalism and clearing out the clutter, my husband looks up and says, ‘Do I get to stay?’ To which I replied, ‘Of course, my darling, but maybe not all your sports equipment that’s been festering in various storage spaces for the last 25 years.’ Actually I didn’t say that, I’ll let him wonder what’s missing when we move in.

I had a rather parallel conversation with my parents last week. They moved 16 years ago, and still have packing boxes that they haven’t opened. My mother still knows exactly what is in them, mainly because they were all the things that my dad decided to keep, ‘just in case’.  They were the ‘if there’s room in the container, throw them in’ items.

We’ve not got that luxury this time- the new house does have a smallish loft for storage, but no garage, a ‘summer house’ and potting shed but no real storage shed to speak of, which in itself may pose a problem. Here’s a little brain teazer: We are a family of four; between us, we own 6 bikes; one member of the family doesn’t own a bike at all.  How many bikes does my husband own? Answers on a postcard! (I tease him about his bikes, he teases me about shoes. We all have our weaknesses.)

Right, I’m off to advertise all of our furniture on Gumtree, wish me luck.

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My Mother’s day card from my husband. Says ‘shoe hoarder’ all over it. Mine are more likely to be sturdy ugly boots, but they don’t make a card for that apparently.

P.S. Lifejackets are useful, please wear them. Probably not necessary unless you are in water.

P.P.S. The lifejacket picture is for my parents, and my sister. They will understand.

*Quote from The Minimalists Podcast 

 

 

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Posted in Insomnia, Travel, Visa

Insomnia…again

Yup. I could almost guarantee it. About 3 or 4 weeks before a move my brain just hits a road block and I either can’t get to sleep at all, or I wake up in the wee hours of the morning and only manage to finally drop off just before the alarm goes off. 

It’s brutal. Of course it comes at a time when I’m mega-busy with work, a son taking A levels, husband working away full time and another international move to organise. 

I can’t complain and I’m not: the packers pack, my husband is paving the way in the new place and getting on with it, dashing all over the UK and Europe and still managing to get home most weekends (without complaining either): my son has one job at the moment so I’m leaving him to revise. We’re all busy.  

Today I was up to my knees in cobwebs and dust clearing some outside storage areas, but I felt ok about it, I got quite a lot done. I’m organised for Monday, got some paperwork to post out and emails to send but it’s organised. I even got one of my final Yoga papers written in preparation for finishing the 200 hour teacher training. 

As always, it’s the logistics that are tricky when moving countries. What to do with the pets is currently my dilemma. We’ve worked out how to get them from Paris to York, but not what to do with them during the move and the overnight in a hotel (that I’ve decided is going to be necessary). It’s all coming together…sort of. 

Yet here I am, 1:30. My alarm would normally go off in 4 hours and I havent slept a wink. They say screens don’t help but I avoided them for hours before bedtime, made no difference at all. Postponing the alarm to the latest possible time that I can, whilst still getting to work on time. 

I suppose I am anxiously awaiting a decision on my visa, so that could have a bearing on it. I’ve tried chamomile tea, breathing exercises, Reiki, counting sheep. I lied, I didn’t try counting sheep. But I’ve featured a picture of one anyway. 

Let’s hope sleep comes soon, I’m turning off the screen again. 

Posted in Cumbria, Hiking, Italy, Travel, Yoga

Grateful

I know I haven’t posted for a while,and I apologise. Life has become very hectic since the start of  September – I am working full time (but very local, which is great) whilst at the same time studying a 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training with Dharma Yoga in St Germain en Laye. It’s wonderful but busy.

I have other goals which include writing, exercise outside the yoga studio and the most important one, looking after my beautiful family.

On that note, I feel compelled to share a snippet of the last two wonderful weeks I have just spent in the bosom of family. (Did I really just use the word ‘bosom’?)

In a very decadent move, we took the full two weeks of the school holiday off, being the last ‘school holiday’ in which we will have offspring in school – our youngest will be on study leave and racing toward his A levels by the time Half Term hits in May. End of an era, perhaps.

We were fortunate enough to return to a tradition we had to abandon for a few years whilst we lived to faraway, which is a week with an extended group of family and friends in a holiday cottage in the Lake District in the North of England for a week of hiking, talking, laughing, eating and drinking (and more laughing). The group shifted and changed over the years as some friends would join us for a week, maybe return for a few years or never again (we get lost A LOT so it’s understandable ) but there was always a core that extended to 14, including 3 generations of our family.

Our traditional group was missing one core family this year who had other commitments, making our group 10 this time  – but I do hope they’ll make it again as their absence was felt.

The weather was magnificent, the house had the most wonderful view of the Langdales and we enjoyed reconnecting with friends and family who all live far from us. In addition to all that, our kids (now aged 18 and 21) still want to come with us; not only do they come, they embrace the experience with enthusiasm (except for the getting lost part).

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From Silver How looking across at Grasmere
Ullswater
I didn’t say it was warm.

 

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The father-in-law, AKA ‘Doobs’. Still climbing to the top of stuff. 

To top it all, the day after we arrived, we attended the glorious wedding of dear friends in Glenridding, at the Inn on the Lake. John was ‘joint Best Man’, he didn’t just place himself in the official photos.

It was a truly magnificent day of celebration; the weather, the bride and groom, the setting, the wedding guests. It was perfection.

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Spring wedding on Lake Ullswater

Congratulations Nobby (sorry…David!) and Katy.  Thank you for letting us share your special day.

When our Cumbrian week was over, we said our goodbyes and three families headed in separate geographical directions, all having been fortified by the scenery, the sometimes bracing walks and our friendship.

But it wasn’t over yet. I did tell you we took two weeks off. We had a ‘house swap’ in the bag, as fellow Homelink-ers had visited our cottage last April;  we had decided to cash in our week with them in Trabia, Sicily.

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View from the terrace

This was the view from our terrace. Not bad, eh? Shame I didn’t take any photos in the sunshine!

One week is simply not long enough in Sicily, but we tried to pack as much in as we could. It is a stunning island, the people are friendly and helpful, the driving is terrible.

We visited the town of Cefalù, which has a long sandy beach and distinctive twin-towered Cathedral, all nestled beneath the impressive Rocca di Cefalù. We climbed to the top, and got some lovely pictures from the summit, but I somehow didn’t manage to capture a picture of the rock towering over the town. Here is an an image I found online, taken from the water.

Photo courtesy of Siciliafan.it

Another day, we drove over to Scopello and walked in the Zingaro Nature Reserve, to the most stunning beach.

We watched a Coast Guard rescue, which was quite exciting (I’m not being callous, the injury seemed to be only a twisted ankle, so nothing critical, though painful I’m sure).

There was more, so much more. We visited mountain villages, Castelbouno and Pollina, which had an ancient amphitheatre. We were treated to a bit of Shakespeare (thanks, Jack).

 

We visited a fishing village, my favourite bit being the sunken ship in the harbour that they just left there. Oh, and the swordfish I had for lunch. Delicious.

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Portocello

I am now home, and feeling very fortunate to have experienced all of this with my family.  Shame we can’t rewind and do it all again, but that would be greedy.

I will, however, be self indulgent, and share a few more pictures.

Yoga with a view
Cupid’s fountain
Castelbuono
Castelbuono

 

Portocello Harbour

 

 

 

Posted in Hiking, Travel

Mount Si

We set off this morning to climb Mount Si – its highest point is 3900ft with 3150 ft of ascent and 8 miles round trip.

Making the decision to get an early(ish) start and being parked at the trailhead by 7:45 turned out to be very wise – it was still cool and the car park had plenty of spaces.  Also not too many people (not that I don’t like people, I just don’t want to be on the mountain with half of the population of Washington State).

We were up at the top by around 10am and had a little roam around, taking pictures of the outstanding views.

We then started to climb Haystacks, and decided quite swiftly to turn back. The rock face was steep, extremely smooth rock with lots of ineffective hand and foot holds for an amateur. Experienced rock climbers will mock me, but I did not feel at all secure and came shakily back down, acknowledging defeat. I am glad to say that my family did as well. We saw other hikers that had been up, and they all made it back down alive. To me it really wasn’t worth the risk. Haystack 1, Ryders 0.  Unfortunately Haystack is considered the official summit of Mount Si, but in my opinion we reached the top.

Some websites give appropriate warnings, such as Summitpost.org

The Haystack has a few rock routes on its southern and eastern flanks, and on the north side, there is a route to the top that can be scrambled. The summit scramble is not for everyone. This can’t be stressed enough. A fall off of the Haystack is going to be an uncontrolled fall. People have been seriously injured, and in some cases people have died scrambling to the top. Use extreme caution when making the scramble, and if it’s foggy or raining, seriously consider coming back another day.

It wasn’t wet, but it still was very slippery as the stone is so smooth. I do think the official trail organisation, Washington Trail Association, should update the description on their website which only mentions a rough scramble.

Anyway, it was a beautiful walk and a gorgeous day. We all made it up and down, and apart from the Haystack there was no danger, no risk of losing the trail as it is very well maintained and not too strenuous. A very enjoyable and picturesque hike.

Here are my favourite pics:

Posted in Travel, Uncategorized

Montage of Seattle/Olympia Photos

Just in case you were expecting a travel log – it’s a photo log. Too much to tell, but what a great place. We LOVE Seattle (though we do NOT love the traffic!) and Washington in general. Olympia is a very cool little town, the downtown area is very arty and inclusive, has  a great vibe. (Did I just use the word vibe? Am I officially a hippy now?)

Enjoy. We did.