Putting What I’ve Learnt into Practice and Finding Balance

I recently studied for a course called ‘Children and Young People’s Mental Health’, and whilst doing it, I got the chance to put what I’d learnt into practise. Amongst other topics, I had been reading and answering questions on stress, anxiety and depression, learning about various definitions and the impact that each one had on children and young people.

More importantly, I learnt how to identify triggers that could lead to mental health issues in children and young people. Having two girls in their mid-teens this is very important to me and something I felt should be on my radar.

Putting what I’d learnt into practise

To set the scene, I was studying in the shade in the garden. I was two weeks behind with finishing the course and had to apply for an extension due to working such long hours in my day job.

I was overwhelmed with my growing list of things to do and was quite stressed myself and finding it hard to concentrate. It was at that point that my youngest daughter came outside and told me that she was worried about her mock exams and needed some help looking through some practice exam papers.

I literally stopped worrying about my own situation, and recognised the stress signs that I’d been learning about. It propelled me into action and we went through a past exam paper together.

Our actions impact our children

I have so many examples of where, when I look back, I would have done things differently. This is why I continue to learn and improve my ways so that I can try and get it right. I feel very passionate about doing the right thing and my newly learnt skills are shining through. I passed the course by the way!

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Making Family Time Essential

After a busy working week, I just wanted to ‘do my own thing’ so I went for a walk and was then going to plan my day around what was on my to do list. I wanted to potter about the house tidying things up as well as sit in the garden reading a book that I’d bought. Just the thought of asking anyone else what they wanted to do made me feel stressed because everyone usually wants to do something different and then I end up trying to please everyone.

My youngest (almost 15) had a different idea and announced that she wanted us all to play board games together. I really didn’t feel in the mood to play games so I said ‘maybe later’. She looked sad about that and walked out the room. I felt bad.

How a book I was listening to changed my mind there and then

I was listening to Essentialism by Greg McKeown and bizarrely the very next thing he was talking about was how important play is for creativity, creating memories and how ‘the essentialist knows that play is essential… and sparks exploration’. You can probably guess that the whole point of me listening to the book was to learn the benefits of being an essentialist.

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Stressful Day? Dance Your Way Into the Evening

Even though I’d had a long working day today, I managed to fit in a few short breaks which I believe are very important. It wasn’t enough though and I got to the point of the day where I just couldn’t concentrate anymore so I logged off and went to the kitchen to cook dinner.

I was faced with the usual dishwasher duties and an evening of more chores. I knew I’d be thinking about work as well and possibly log back on. Why did it have to be that way? It was then that the idea came to me. If I stopped my train of thought and reframed the situation, surely I could turn things around?

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Less Decluttering Allows More Time for Other Projects

I’ve been wrapped up in clutter for so many years that (apart from work) I’ve had little time left to focus on any other projects. As most of you know, I spent 366 days last year clearing stuff and writing about my decluttering journey in an attempt to document my thoughts and identify new methods of clearing (and hopefully inspire a few of you along the way). I achieved a lot.

Earlier this year, I wrote that I was going to slow down on the clearing side and work through Stephanie Bennett Vogt’s book A Year to Clear. It’s going well and I’m up to day 114. I’ve been working on the remaining problem areas around the house and getting better at making decisions about what to do with items we don’t need. When I find it hard, I don’t stress about it, instead I just postpone the decision by moving the stuff out of sight (usually a labelled Really Useful Box in the garage). This might not work for everyone but it works for me.

Changing focus

Slowing down this year didn’t stop my insane excitement about clearing. One of my readers quite rightly thought that ‘getting excited about clearing’ might be stopping me moving forward (I thought that too) and another reader suggested that I look at clearing as ‘reclaiming space’ which I loved the sound of. It did make me think though that I needed to change my focus and not make clearing the first thing I think about when I get up. I decided that it just wasn’t the way to go anymore.

Small bouts of clearing

It was around this time (day 96 of this year to be exact) that one of the exercises in A Year to Clear talked about the ‘sixty second round up’. This caught my attention particularly when Stephanie Bennett Vogt said that doing it daily would help to ‘calm the fight-or-flight response and build new neural pathways in the brain that makes clearing doable and effortless’. It also apparently frees up energy in you and the space.

I’ve been using these miniature slots (just a minute or two) to straighten up rooms at the end of the day or just to take a few things out of the dishwasher when I’m passing. I liked the concept so much that I decided to do smaller bouts of clearing as well; setting the timer and focusing on that area only. It’s more effective and it means that things get addressed without it taking up my whole afternoon or evening. Now that I’ve reduced the bulk of clutter over the last 15-16 months, I can afford to do a lesser amount because rooms are mostly tidy now.

Freeing up time for other projects

With less focus on decluttering, I decided to go through all the other projects that I wanted to do. A few weeks ago, I listed down everything that was in my head and split them into two categories:

  • Current projects (8)
  • Waiting list of projects (loads)

It took me a while to pick the 8 current projects, as originally I had 14 on my list but realised that having so many wouldn’t allow me to give them enough of my attention.

I created my vision board in the study (just a simple magnetic whiteboard that I recycled from my daughter’s room) and wrote down each project in its own bubble along with what the next 3 or 4 steps were (my project management skills helped in this area). It’s made a huge difference to my focus.

At the start of each day, I plan which ones I am going to work on and for how long, being realistic about the fact that I have a full-time job, a house to keep clean and a family. Obviously I have some decluttering projects on there as well but they are not the only focus now. Breaking down each project into steps means that it’s very easy to pick up the next thing to do, particularly when I’ve only allocated a short amount of time.

Moving projects forward and closing them off

I have closed off one project this week which is a surprise for my mum and dad (shhh… can’t mention it here as they read my blogs 🙂). I’ve also moved another two exciting projects forward quite a bit this week:

  • Mentoring course: Not sure if I’ve mentioned it before but I’m very keen to move more into coaching and mentoring and I’ve recently had an opportunity to do a mentoring course (finished) and be matched with a mentee (have one lined up).
  • Mental health course: I applied to do a government funded course called Understanding Children and Young People’s Mental Health. It’s a topic that I’m really interested in and it’s going well do far. It’s through a college but I don’t have to attend. I have an assigned tutor and have six weeks to complete the assignments online.

Work has been extremely busy as well as I have a large project going live mid-May, so that’s taking up a lot of my time. This hasn’t stopped me chipping away with my personal projects which adds a lot of variety to my day. I even spent a couple of hours in the garage today (one of my decluttering projects). I always set a timer on my phone so that I don’t spend too much time on one project over the other, and always check that I’m working on the correct next step (see earlier point about listed down the order steps).

Rest breaks

I’ve tried to be good with relaxation over the last few weeks as well. I have five things that I make sure that I do to relax. They are in my planner and I tick them off each day.

So, what exciting things have you been up to? Hope you are all enjoying your weekend.

Until next time…


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Making the Most of a Second Lockdown Birthday… That Year Went Quickly!

Lockdown birthday no. 2

I turned 52 today and have enjoyed a second lockdown birthday. Not many of us can say that we’ve had two consecutive lockdown birthdays, but although they are not exactly growing on me, it’s lovely to spend it with the people I am closest to no matter where I am.

Yes, it would be nice to be away somewhere; however, being at home with a family that spoil me and even getting a little bit of time to myself to write (one of my favourite pastimes), is something to be grateful for.

What could be better than this…

  • We all had yummy pancakes for breakfast courtesy of my husband.
  • I received phone calls from family and friends wishing me well and singing happy birthday to me.
  • I watched Aladdin on Netflix with the girls.
  • We had a light lunch followed by delicious cheesecake (made by my daughter).
  • I sat in the garden enjoying the warm sun. It was a bit breezy at times but when the sun is out, I just can’t resist it. Even the birds sang to me – I’m sure they were singing happy birthday 😊.
  • I had a late afternoon walk in the sun with my daughter.
  • We had a takeaway curry for dinner.
  • I got some great presents… candles, a mini handheld printer, slippers, a journal, chocolates, vouchers, bubble bath, a book about growing roses, and two different types of blossom trees which are going to arrive next week.

I’ve always wanted a blossom tree and my wish has come true. I usually watch them flower in other people’s gardens, and I’m so looking forward to having my own.

All in all, it’s been a lovely relaxing day!

Until next time…


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Hours of Clearing Clutter and Practising Tai Chi

As most of my readers know, I have a messy garage which I call my cluttered hideaway and as there’s so much stuff to sort out, I go in there to reclaim some space and get ‘clearing’ out of my system. I also have another good reason to be in there this week… to make room for Rentokil to comfortably walk around the edge nearest the house.

Yesterday I had a day off from the garage and spent some time resting and sorting through some paperwork and old notebooks in the study. I love the room now particularly when the afternoon sun pours through the window. I sit at the desk every morning and evening to write, plan, read etc. It’s an amazing space. I had a long video call with my friend yesterday and she commented how tidy it was looking. It was lovely to catch up with her and we had a laugh.

Roast lamb for Easter

Today my husband offered to cook the roast lamb and I didn’t hesitate take him up on it. He enjoys cooking and I enjoy not having to cook so it actually worked out perfectly. He always slow cooks the lamb and coats it with herbs and garlic and it tastes amazing. All of the hours that the lamb was cooking, I spent in the garage.

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An Update on the Mice and the Clutter

I can’t believe it’s been over a week since I’ve written anything. I’ve started many posts but not finished them as I’m in the middle of a lot of things including starting a couple of new and exciting self-improvement projects (more on that in future posts). Work has been very busy too and I’m so glad that it’s the Easter weekend and I have four days off in a row.

More mice

The man from Rentokil came round last Thursday and the first thing he found was another mouse in the loft in one of the traps that I’d set. He disposed of it and then went about putting bait boxes up there, more traps, and some tracking gel. We asked him to check if there was a way they could get into the house or be coming from the garage.

I’d spent a bit of time the day before he arrived making some space for him to check the garage; however, I felt a bit disappointed when he said that he couldn’t get to the wall that is connected to the house. All the work I’d done making space had been a bit pointless. It hadn’t even occurred to me that he’d need to check the wall that connects to the house (makes sense when you think about it). I said that I’d clear space near the wall before his next visit.

He did find small gaps in a couple of air blocks outside where they could be coming in and possibly be climbing up through the walls into the loft. He’s going to fix these openings for us on his next visit. Another task he gave us (me) was to check the loft every couple of days and call him to dispose of any that we find. He had to swing by yesterday to take one away for us.

Clearing space in the garage today

I felt quite motivated this morning knowing that it was the start of a four day weekend. After having a lie in (sooo good) and a leisurely breakfast, I planned my day. I wanted to spend a big chunk of it in the garage moving things away from the wall nearest the house. It sounded easier than it actually was and I did get a bit disheartened after 30 minutes so I called my mum for a chat and to get some inspiration. It really helped talking through with her what I was trying to achieve. The sun came out at that point so I opened the main garage door and started taking the larger items out so that I had space to move boxes around.

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Create Categories When Making Decisions On Clutter

I’ve introduced categories when sorting through clutter before so it doesn’t feel like anything new; however, what I’m doing this time around seems to have the stuff flying out of the room at record speed. I think something is shifting in my brain. I have so much to write about, so I’ll try and be brief in this post and come back and expand on certain points in later posts.

A Quick Way to Sort Out an Overwhelming Mess

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Really Useful Boxes Make Me Feel Organised, and Tidy Rooms Make me Feel Calm

I found a few items in the study today that belonged with the Christmas decorations in the loft and because I had organised them so well when I put them away in January, I was able to locate the right box really quickly and put those items away. It was much quicker than last year.

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Discovering That There is Energy in Things and Spaces

In this week’s exercises in Stephanie Bennett Vogt’s book A Year to Clear, she writes about Sensing Energy in Things and Spaces. Day 71 is entitled “Not all spaces feel the same”. Days 72 through to 77 (today) are all about how we as energy beings are connected to everything and everyone. No wonder I get frustrated when there is so much stuff around me. All the more reason to have at least one clear space to go to.

After some reflection on my week, I thought I’d share my answers to the questions that are written on day 77.

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