Less stuff = more space. Who knew!?

It turns out James has been right all along; we have got a tonne of stuff and getting packed and/or rid of it is a pretty time consuming task. For all our efforts we now have a room full of boxes but we have also taken an insane amount of stuff to the local charity shop, to the extent that it is starting to resemble our house, and we’ve taken quite a bit of stuf to the tip too. We could have made more effort to sell things and there’s been so much leaving the house that if we’d sold everything for a £1 or bothered to do a car boot sale we’d probably have a few 100 pounds more in our account, but eBay is soooo boring and we should have started doing that about five years ago, if that was the plan, because ebaying while also trying to pack and parent is hard work and there aren’t quite enough hours in the day. And a car boot with two small kids? Er, no thank you.

At first deciding whether to keep or throw stuff was a struggle: I read Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever, a while ago and made a half-hearted attempt to clear out my wardrobe. I threw a few things out, yes, but found the process of determining whether a particular object “sparks joy”, which is the basis for Kon Mari-ing your life, incredibly complicated, especially when squeezed into a 45-minute window that could be interrupted at any time by an unhappy child. I did okay on the clothes, I suppose, but knew that books would cause me problems. Then we planned the move, making a huge purge necessary, with James leading the way, proudly throwing out just about everything he owned. Way to set the bar high, eh? Because  we both knew I couldn’t be trusted to part with any of them we agreed that I would take any books I wanted to keep off the shelves and James would get Ziffit/charity shop the rest. It was a struggle and, to James’s frustration, my first pass of the shelves resulted in a rather large collection – three (okay, four) boxes to his one. I wittled it down again and ended up with two boxes. Not bad.

Then there was everything else — the layers of crap stuffed into drawers, in bags, on and behind shelves. So.Much.Stuff. And it was hard to let go because I just hate throwing things away. Unless I had a clear love/hate response, I agonised over each item. I held it, waiting for the lightening bolt of joy or otherwise. In the event of a lacklustre emotional response, I debated whether a joyless but practical item deserved a place in one of our packing boxes. I recalled the day I purchased/found each item, ran through my justification for keeping it, and resisted throwing anything much out. I put things aside, finding it easier to part with them if I sold them on rather than giving them away. And this went on for weeks. I had piles: for sale, for charity, for person x, y, z, and so on.

But then something strange happened, something that I attribute entirely to starting to actually enjoy living in a decluttered space; I actually became ruthless. By starting this whole process months before our move, rather than going mad with packing in the last week, we’re able to live in the house and feel the difference. It’s an emotional difference: I feel different, the house feels different. I’m enjoying not having to body swerve around the filing cabinet on the upstairs landing, not having to dodge the keyboard that’s lived at the bottom of the stairs for the last 5 (or is it 10?) years. The play corner in the living room is actually usuable, not spilling over with cuddly toys, puzzle pieces and a mountain of miscellaneous, partially complete plastic crud. I’m so over having a house full of stuff! Damn it, if Marie Kondo and others aren’t right: we have way more space – for free – and I like it!

I’m also so over packing up this house that pretty much everything left out is either in use or can go. It feels like we’ve done nothing else for months — which is probably because we haven’t done much else outside of look after the kiddies, eat, sleep and pack up the frickin’ house! Yesterday I afforded myself the luxury of plotting a few cycle routes around our new home, so – with the end in sight – I’m now very excited about actually having moved and starting the next phase, which will involve looking for a house and all the practicalities of living in a new country. Bring it.

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Back on the Bullet Journal trail

This week’s been a slow one and we haven’t made much progress with the decluttering or packing. My excuse? Baby #2 is having a Wonder Week! Yes, my usually chilled, easy-going boy has been Mr. Unhappy for a good number of days now but according the app there are only three days left to go (assuming he’s a text book WonderWeeker, of course.)

But it hasn’t been totally wasted. A discussion on the Natural Mamas forum I frequent prompted me to look at bit more closely at my Bullet Journal so I’ve made the most of my sitting about cuddling and jiggling time by doing some BuJo homework and getting inspired. There are some great resources out there, starting with bulletjournal.com, the source of all things Bullet Journal. If you’ve no idea what bullet journaling is, this is a great place to start. Watch the video, as I did, and see whether it grabs you. If you think you like the look of it, check these sites out for inspiration: Boho Berry, Hello Brio, and Tiny Ray of Sunshine. They’re all WordPress blog sites so you can Follow them, if you like what you see.

As far as my bullet journal goes I’ve been using a very simple layout and basic key for about a year now and it has proven it’s worth to me many times. I’m a list-maker by nature and also have bit of a stationery fetish, so it sits very well with my personal style. I find that writing things down makes things real and makes them more likely to be remembered or, in the case of making a plan, makes things more likely to happen. I only reluctantly gave up my Filofax two smart phone ago, resisting the technological push for as long as I could, but then found that digital organisation is confusing! I like to be able to flick through my diary or to-do list and see what’s what. Pages on a screen weren’t working for me and I was starting to feel disorganised. I would say my love affair with the bullet journal was instant. I recently rediscovered it’s power when I needed to find an e-mail address from someone we met on holiday over two years ago. Thanks to the BoJo indexing system I was able to find it in a matter of minutes! With digital notes, calendars, etc. spread all over I suspect I’d never have found it (adding it to my address book at the time would have been too obvious :-))

On this journey into Bullet Journaling I’ve been reminded that, not only do I love to write things down, I also love to doodle! I was a prolific doodler while studying; idly drawing patterns and pictures alongside notes during lectures helped me to remember things and also helped me to stay awake and present through some of the drier subject areas – and I studied philosophy, so there were many of those! On the back of the last few days’ research I now have a quarterly goals page, a blog ideas page, a tracker page (for recording how often in the month I achieve tasks related to my goals) – all blatantly copied from the websites I recommended above. Next up I plan to do a well-being wheel, which is an idea I got from the discusison on the Natural Mamas forum. All this planning is really good for me as, with so much going on, there are times it feels like we’re hurtling towards and unknowable end, focusing on the big picture, making it easy to lose sight of the closer to home and the day-today. Throw children into the mix and it’s no surprise to me that I haven’t really thought about much other than moving and sleeping for the best part of the last six months. That needs to change as we need to do better at things like budgeting and meal planning, and it’s important to me that I reach my fitness goals, get some head space, spend quality time with DD, and have the time to develop a new business, so we can continue to live our new life once the money runs out! I’ll share my wheel once I’ve finished it. For now I’m using the basic categories and, unpopulated, it looks like this:


I clearly have a way to go if my BuJo efforts are every to be as beautiful as many others I’ve seen online, but it’s functional. Now to find my colouring pencils which, if DD hasn’t hidden, lost or broken them, have probably been packed. Hmm.

[I thought I’d add  a picture for a change. What do you think? More pictures?]



Looking on the bright side

Yes, we still have a tonne of things to do. Our days are spent juggling childcare duties with packing boxes, trips to the tip, packaging and posting eBay sales, trips to the charity shop (the local Barnados looks more like our house every day!) and watching movies – lots of U-rated, child-friendly movies late in the afternoon when we’re all burnt out and need some downtime before dinner. It’s quite a long way from the relaxing mat leave I had last time around when my days were filled with baby-oriented classes, leisurely lunches and trips to local towns punctuated with coffee and cake.

Then there’s the sleepless night fog. Not every day; baby #2 turns out to be a sleeper – yay! But that doesn’t mean we’re not knackered most days, which has led to some short-temperedness all round.

Then there’s the worry and stress of moving, made considerably by worse by the uncertainties posed post-Brexit (assuming it happens, at some point). On this front we’re winding each other up with our different attitudes. On my side, I can’t face any of the worry and haven’t got the energy to worry about ifs, buts, and maybes, so I’m focussing on the positives. James, on the other hand, is seeing darkness and danger wherever he looks, which makes for some tricky discussions. Typically, he shares his pessimistic vision with me and I respond by firing up my optimism shield. The result being that he goes away from our conversations in a grump because I don’t want to listen/talk/take on board his concerns and I go away feeling really miserable and pretty drained because he’s bringing me down. Then we had a talk so now James has agreed to let it go and relax a little. This is supposed to be a big adventure and focussing on everything that can go wrong is making me want to sack it all off and get a boring corporate job again. Except that’s the total opposite of what I want to do and what he wants for us all.

What’s bonkers about this is that he was the one who sowed the seed of this dream, this change, and I was always the one who thought it was a big risk and was uncertain about it. Then, as far as I’m concerned, the planets aligned. I was faced with losing my very steady corporate job at the same time as baby #2 was due to arrive. Now feels like the right time and it really seems to me that everything is falling into place. Sure, we may have to make compromises and be open to new ideas and opportunities but that’s part of the fun of making such a huge change, otherwise, why bother? Let’s just stay here and keep everything the same? Or we can just get out there, embrace all the uncertainty, and do it. Looking on the bright side, we’re incredibly lucky to have this opportunity at all and that’s what I keep reminding him. Every day we speak to people who say they would love to do what we’re doing and, for all the different reasons in the world, aren’t and/or can’t. But we are – so I think we owe it to everyone who’s ever thought of throwing it all in and starting up somewhere new and unknown to do it as joyfully as we can. Of course it’s risky, of course Brexit has made it all the more risky (thanks Mum), but we’re doing it anyway. Worst case we get a few years somewhere sunny, learn another language, make some new friends, then are forced back to the grind. Worth a punt, I say!