Simplifying: Why I need less stuff

Right in my ear, as I hung out the freshly washed sheets in the summer sunshine, she said, “The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.”
Marie Kondō that is, in the audio book of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
I’ve recently read Joshua Becker’s The Minimalist Home: A Room-By-Room Guide to a Decluttered, Refocused Life and also Erin Loechner’s Chasing Slow.

They’ve all made me increasingly aware of the excess stuff that has made it’s way into my home over the years.
I have always been good at decluttering, and letting go of some of the stuff—you know, passing on toys and clothes the kids grow out of, and clearing the pantry of out of date packages… but it’s seemed that no matter how much decluttering I’ve done, the contents of our home hasn’t stopped swelling, and a significant amount of my time and energy has gone into tidying, reorganising, sorting, and moving a myriad of things into different spaces.
All of it to make me feel organised, clear-headed, and productive.
But what I’ve found is that even when those things are in a different space, and maybe not so visible, the stuff is still there, and still takes up space in my home and my life, and eventually the contents accumulate and spill out onto various surfaces, and then I spend more time, energy and money (plastic storage tubs anyone?) reorganising again.
The thing is, to our cultural standards, I’m sure that what I own isn’t excessive. In fact, as I’ve been more and more intentional about not accumulating more, I have been more conscious of what those around me fill their homes with—and more and more I want to excuse myself from the race. You know, the one you’re subconsciously running in—the race to have more, and new, and bigger and better.

I want out of the culture that says we must consume in excess.

Because my lifetime accumulation of stuff is suddenly overwhelming.

Today I cleared out three small bedside drawers, and filled a shopping bag full of rubbish.
It was full of notebooks I’d used only a few pages of, cords for devices I no longer own, dried up gel pens and birthday cards from years gone by. All the things I was keeping ‘just in case’ had begun to encroach on my ability to live freely, lightly. And all of it felt like wasteful excess. Unnecessary multiples whose only purpose seemed to have been only to provide momentary thrill and sparkle of owning something new.

I have yet to see a house that lacked sufficient storage. The real problem is that we have far more than we need or want. – Marie Kondō

Every year we try to take the kids on a staycation in our city. We stay in a hotel overnight, wander streets for coffee and ice-cream and order room service. It took me a while to work out why our time together at these times was such quality. How did we connect with the kids so well? Why was it so easy to give each other attention? How did conversation flow so freely?
I have come to the conclusion that this occurs because there was is no distraction. It’s intentional. Because the hotel rooms are empty of stuff, so our focus changes—there’s no tidying to do, so we invent things to do together.

I’m not saying I want a home as bare as a hotel room, but I do want to intentionally curate a home where the focus is on the people in it, rather than the stuff we’re surrounded by. Because even stuff that is hidden well in drawers and cupboards and excellent storage spaces and curated organisational containers, it still encroaches on my ability to breathe deeply the freedom that is found in undistracted time with people.

So this year I’ve made a quiet promise to myself. To explore minimalism. To not add to my wardrobe, kitchen, bathroom cupboards, or kids rooms without deep thought and intention.
To shop for needs, not wants.
To stop keeping things ‘just in case’ and to hold on to the material things in my life lightly. To create a home that allows me the space to love my people, and to have the time to pursue the life I want (and really, to spend less time organising and tidying my writing space, and more time writing in it!).

xx

rambling: on living a quiet life

I love the word rambling.
To ramble to me is to walk without a particular destination in mind, just to walk for the pure enjoyment of walking. And when you’re walking for the pure enjoyment of it, you notice things you wouldn’t have before.
Then there are the rambling words. Snippets of sentences, poetry, stories, ideas—they ramble through my brain at a pretty constant pace. If I pay attention, I can pull them out, write them down.
Like this phrase that’s been repeating itself in there lately, live a quiet life, mind your own business, work with your hands… it’s from a scripture in the Bible* and it’s been speaking to me.

We escaped suburbia on the weekend for a sneaky getaway for a few days.
We stayed at our favourite caravan park, pitched our tent so that it nestled under the peppermint trees, and spent days being the only people on glorious beaches with white, squeaky sand and turquoise waves.
We climbed over rocks, swam in our underwear, and caught salmon from schools of them right behind the breakers. We had no phone reception and played board games at night, drank tea from enamel cups and slept on blow up mattresses. All of my favourite things.

Live a quiet life.
There’s so much pressure to shout. To advertise everything we’re doing, to hustle, to ‘make something’ of ourselves. We’re shouting about our accomplishments, about our travels. Shouting our opinions—loudly voicing exasperation at the state of the worlds politics/religions/inequality. And I’m not saying I’m not just as exasperated as the next person, and I am not saying that those of us who are being a voice for the voiceless and standing up against injustice are wrong, not in the slightest.
Those of us though, who sprout opinion in the form of venomous personal attacks from behind a screen are shouting, and need to stand down.
Those of us trying to hustle to be seen and heard amongst the noise of the crowd, take a deep breath and ask yourself why.
Live a quiet life.

Rise early, sit with hot cups of tea, read books, have long conversations on the phone as you mindlessly fold the laundry, pray for the friends whose names cross your mind as you’re driving or doing the dishes.
Sit patiently with your little people to help with homework, or listen to long-winded stories about the latest YouTube video or Fortnite game, give embarrassing hugs at school drop off, eat slices of apple with them in patches of sunshine on the front verandah.
Pop the top off a Corona and sit with your soulmate, clink the neck of your beers together and grin, remembering why you chose each other.
Live a quiet life.
There’s so much beauty to be had in this quiet life—deep breaths of it that fill your lungs with gratitude—none of it can be conveyed in an Instagram post or 140 characters of clever words.

There is more room for the sacred, here in the quiet life.
The rhythms of the every day become soul-filling when we’re not hustling and scrambling and trying so hard to snatch more more more, something else, something brighter, shinier.
In the quiet, we can hear so much better.
Notifications off. Minding our own business, working with our hands (to stop them from scrolling, perhaps).
Rambling, content in the here and now.
Living a quiet life, enjoying the view.

xx

*1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

embracing slow: a journey of unhurried grace

What does it mean to embrace slow, in a world that glorifies busy?
How do you stop and fill your hurried soul, in the midst of the demands and pressures of all the responsibility that you carry?
I wholeheartedly believe that Jesus held the key, when he spoke to Martha.
She was a woman just like you and I—concerned with outward appearance, laying awake at 2am wondering how she could tick everything off her to-do list, and resenting anyone who wasn’t hustling as hard as she was.

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their journey, they came to a village where a woman welcomed Jesus into her home. Her name was Martha and she had a sister named Mary. Mary sat down attentively before the Master, absorbing every revelation he shared. But Martha became exasperated by finishing the numerous household chores in preparation for her guests, so she interrupted Jesus and said, “Lord, don’t you think it’s unfair that my sister left me to do all the work by myself? You should tell her to get up and help me.”

The Lord answered her, “Martha, my beloved Martha. Why are you upset and troubled, pulled away by all these many distractions? Are they really that important? Mary has discovered the one thing most important by choosing to sit at my feet. She is undistracted, and I won’t take this privilege from her.” Luke 10:38-42 TPT


Making a practice of stopping and sitting at His feet is the key.
How often do you sit down attentively to the Master?
To stop and still, and hear his voice, refusing to be pulled in every direction?
To listen to your breaths. To brew your tea leaves and wait until the flavours steep into the hot water.
To pull up a yoga mat and practice.
All of it is practice; the hearing, the stilling, the daily discipline.

This is the heart of a devotional book that Amanda Viviers and I have written and compiled together.
We’re releasing it in time for Lent, so that in the lead up to Easter we can intentionally slow together—but it can be read and used at any time of year.
We’ve left space for you to reflect and scribble. We’ve added Bible verses for you to go and explore.
It’s a beautiful compilation of stories and thoughts on slowing down in our every day, and we are praying that it helps lift the eyes and still the hearts of every reader that goes on the Embracing Slow journey.

So, keep your eyes on our socials for the release date and links to our online shops.

I’m so excited.

xx

on freedom and instagram

I didn’t realise I was bound but I was.
Maybe even there are parts of me that still am—mostly only the parts that are human.
It was Instagram. It’s tentacles wrapped slowly, silently around the deepest recesses of my heart and taunted me.
I was bound by the need to please and the need for perfection and the need to stand out, and all of these needs were like ropes wrapped around and around me so tight that I was often immobilised from any performance anyway.
I wanted likes and I wanted followers and I wanted engagement and what that really meant was that I was looking for value and looking to be noticed—in the wrong place of course.
And when we’re bound tight by those wants and needs, we often find ourselves in places of comparison and competition.
When I started looking at numbers I was caught up in an inner tornado that swirled around pushing, proving, hustling, comparing, competing.
I’d look at other writers and lament my lack of ability to string words together the way they did.
I’d watch ‘influencers’ and their beautiful portraits, taken by amazing photographers, wearing outfits that looked effortlessly chic.
I’d browse the galleries of wedding and family photographers with hundreds of thousands of followers, trying to pinpoint the thing that I could glean to grow my client base that big, earn that much.
I felt the pressure to reveal my vulnerabilities, overshare my struggles (because that gains likes like nobody’s business).

But pangs of envy didn’t sit well with my soul and I knew I needed something to shift.

”… we no longer find a sense of self through the art of living. Instead, we find a sense of self through performance. We no longer live; we act. We have all become actors in the movies of our lives.”*

I didn’t want to be an actor anymore.

So I began to place boundaries.
Because freedom often comes from setting parameters.
Freedom comes when we can limit, refrain, and control.
Freedom is not always a wide open ‘yes’, but a gentle, soul-caring ‘no’.

I’ve become invested in the idea that what is invisible is the most important work.
That what isn’t seen—the disciplines I impose, the goals I strive towards; the early morning runs along the coast without my phone, the hours spent reading a novel without a curated photo of it, the time spent laying in bed with my kids and tucking them in long and tight with prayers and chats—this is the important stuff.

Character over performance.
Obscurity over fame.
Books over social media.
Purpose over platform.

It’s not always easy, in a culture that elevates performance, ‘influence’ and notoriety.
We are all desperate to be seen and known, but lately I’ve been reading the gospel of Matthew and we can be comforted that as Jesus calls us disciples He sees, and He knows us.
As he was walking by the shore of Lake Galilee, Jesus noticed two fishermen who were brothers. One was named Simon (later called Peter), and the other was Andrew, his brother. Watching as they were casting their nets into the water, Jesus called out to them and said, “Come and follow me…

He notices you my friend, and regardless of your performance, he still calls to you, “come and follow, come and walk with me”

xx

* Mark Sayers book The Vertical Self is cultural commentary + self discovery GOLD.

Note to self: put phone down

Hey you. 
Just because you didn’t post it online doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. 
I know you are watching the sunset, but you can’t see it quite as well when it’s through the lens of your camera.
Just use your eyes, and your heart. 

Because there are moments when God speaks, and you won’t hear Him if you’re rushing, trying to capture everything, trying to post it all online, trying to shout through the white noise, trying to be heard. 
Because you’re heard already, fully known, fully loved. 
And it’s amazing what happens when you stop scrolling for a moment. 
You finish whole chapters of books, without distraction. 
You notice little things, like the wind blowing in the branches of the magnolia tree outside, and see the way the sunlight has illuminated it’s leaves so you can see it’s veins. Or you notice people. Their facial expressions, their body language – that the person opposite you on the train looks a bit sad. You begin to breathe.

When you’re rushing and scrolling, you’re so engrossed in the fake-lives of others, that you miss your own real, beautiful, messy, raw life. 

You miss the tiny details of his freckles and almost-12-year-old grin when he beats you at a card game, fully present, fully alive.
You miss the details of her stories, the inflection in her voice, the way she doesn’t quite say the words properly yet. 
You miss sitting in comfortable silence, without the intrusion of over-stimulation.
You miss the creative ideas that form when your mind is free from constant bombardment. 

Hey you
Putting your phone down for a little while and saying no to it’s endless opportunities to shop, to stalk, to scroll – means you’re living.
Not sharing that photo or that moment or that date night can make it all the more sacred. Hold those daily moments tightly to yourself, savour them, and refuse to share them with a fickle audience who only seem to appreciate the extravagant, the unreal, the unattainable. Sometimes an audience of one is all that is required. 

Note to self: if you’re starting to waste time scrolling, put it down. Just for an hour, or a day.
Then go and live. Pick up your camera, or put on your running shoes, bake something, invite a friend for a coffee, read a whole chapter of a book without distraction, or work hard at that thing you’ve been putting off. 

Hey you, there is so much living to be done, don’t waste it. 

xx

 

 

 

 

The thing that’s best

It’s January. Another year passing makes me firstly panic at the sneakiness of time and then get annoyed at myself that I’ve let another year steal away without actually doing those things that I’ve wanted to do.

It’s hard for me, to do the things I want to do. The goody two shoes, performance-driven me wants to do all the things that should be done. I swept beach sand from the floors today, knowing that we were beaching again that afternoon. Why?! Drop the broom woman. Sit and stop. Which reminds me of a story in the Bible of two sisters. They’d opened their home to Jesus, and while one sister sat with him, the other hustled and bustled trying to make everything perfect. Jesus himself said that the woman who’d sat with him instead of hustling and bustling chose the best thing. Sometimes sweeping the floor can wait, when there’s an opportunity to still and fill our souls. Hustle is overrated.

From what I can see in my own life, the need for perfection either prevents me from starting anything, ever, or it keeps me in a place of constant and exhausted striving. Needing to be the perfect housewife keeps me barking orders at the kids, unable to let colouring pencils and paper go unattended on the bench for too long. I can’t write submit the blog post because it’s not polished enough. I can’t sit with a book, because that email needs to be responded to (or avoided cleverly by busying myself with something else ‘important’).

My girls got a bunk bed for Christmas. They’d had two old hospital beds side by side in their bedroom and although they were sweet, and not very wide, their bedroom was cluttered and they were growing out of them. Since Christmas, I’ve had one of their little old beds out in the back yard under the trees. It’s covered in pillows and it calls me from underneath the big old pine in dappled sunlight. I promise it I’ll come. I’ll be right there just as soon as I get this washing folded. The warmth beckons me, and the bed collects the dropping pine needles as the wind tousles them from the branches. I imagine what it would be like to lay on the cotton throw I’ve draped over it, feet crossed, looking up at blue sky through the complex network of branches. I imagine the warmth and the breeze and promise myself just as soon as I do this one last thing. Perfectionism is me gazing out of our back windows, as I repeatedly do just one more thing, but deny myself of the very best thing for a moment.
And by the end of the day, the sunlight is gone, the wind picks up, the dinner needs to be done and the calls of that pretty daybed are no less desperate.

The doing is killing me. It’s not the best thing.

This year I’m making myself aware of perfectionism in all it’s forms, and it’s sneaky, tricky lies and I’m going to say no to it all.

Instead I’ll say more yesses to warm spaces and stillness, good books and prayer, writing and intention.

Today, I ignored the breakfast dishes and headed out to the backyard, turned my face towards the morning sunshine and sipped my cup of tea slowly; grateful that in this moment I was able to choose what was best.

xx

journal | logging off

I spent five days without checking Facebook or Instagram last week.
It was a conscious effort, even though my thumb sometimes touched those notorious little squares on my iPhone screen without even thinking. 
One of my new years intentions, was to log off more regularly.
Scrolling through social media, even though I often exercised self-control, was sometimes still too much of a distraction from living in my here and now.
It was distancing me from my family. And no matter how confident in myself I was feeling, how secure – it was always leaving me with the vague feeling that there was some area I still wasn’t measuring up in. 
Maybe it’s just me?
But I needed a digital detox.

I need to set an example for my kids.
And I’ve written about this before and maybe everyone has now because it’s working it’s way into the fabric of our lives. Social media. Smart phones.  And Ann Voskamp says it can be a soul meal – or it can be soul suicide. 
And for too long I feel maybe little parts of my soul die when I don’t make a conscious effort to put down that thing, and not let it put me down. When it has its grasp on me because it’s an easy way to feel connected, or inspired.

But this week I’ve been Connecting with the ultimate Connector, and letting His breath Inspire. 
This week instead of rolling over and letting my eyes unblur as I scroll Facebook, I’ve taken deep breaths. Rolled over. Felt the cool sheets as my feet stretched out to the corners. Listened to the birds, and run my fingers over the fluffy ginger purring thing curled up under my arm. Breathed in a prayer and breathed out His name. 

This week I’ve taken photos of my kids, not to post or push or brag or boast. But because I’ve been in those moments and I’ve wanted to capture them. 
I finished two books. I was attentive to everyone who spoke in my direction.
I watched as a new monstera leaf unfurled over the course of a couple of days – soft and light green. I unfurled too. 

Social media can be soul food but it can make us feel starved of real love too.
And this week the break made me feel full.
I’ll be logging off more often, to make sure the grip it has on me never gets too tight again.

xx