Tiny steps: Go outside

If you feel stressed, tired, confused or emotional - just go outside. 

Go for a walk, let yourself be enveloped by trees, by fields, by sunlight or twilight. Clear your mind and try to get a fresh look at what is making you feel this way. 

Nature always helps, I feel. 

Walking, breathing, taking in the scenery. 
Balancing on rocks to cross a brook. Eating lunch, seated on a fallen, mossy tree. 

Feeling your body work and how your muscles are aching for movement, to be used for more than hurrying. 

Tapping into the connection between you and nature, between the path you are treading and history. 

People have walked here for centuries. 

Carried heavy burdens, milked cows, herded sheep. 

Watched the mountains in the horizon and dreamed their dreams. 

This weekend, I went to my parents' cabin in Golsfjellet mountains and the pictures are from that trip.


Tiny steps: Go to sleep

Sleep. Curl up in bed after a long day. Get warm and cosy under the covers. Close your eyes and drift off. Let go of control, stress and consciousness and let sleep find you. Just - go - to - sleep.

Sleep is a necessity, in the same league as eating and breathing. Still, why are so many of us staying up late, stretching bedtime far later than we intend to? This post is not directed at you night owls out there, but rather those of us who are tired, sleepy and probably should just go to bed, but who stay up late anyway.

We all have our own reasons for stubbornly staying up even though we're tired. Perhaps you suffer from insomnia, and avoid the failure of not being able to go to sleep. Perhaps you have a lot of thoughts swimming around in your head, and don't want them to haunt you when you turn off the TV and silence finally sets in. Perhaps you have so much work to do that you feel that you have to stay up until midnight to get things under control.

Figuring out why you are pushing yourself beyond your (sleep) limits is key to solving the problem. If you find out why you are ignoring your body's wish to go to sleep, then you may be able to come up with a solution as well. While not pretending to have the answers to your sleep procrastination, I think I have found some suggestions, especially for those of you with small kids and lots to do.

After thinking for a few days about why I actively avoid sleep, I found that my reasons are:
  • Chores
  • Paperwork (I'm a teacher, need I say more?)
  • Need for me-time
As a single mother to a 5 year-old, my days are quite hectic. Getting ready in the morning, dropping Little A off in kindergarten, going to work, teaching, attending meetings, picking up in kindergarten, grocery shopping, dinner, Little A's bedtime... There are few breaks in-between these. When Little A is asleep a bit after seven, I clean up in the kitchen, tidy the house and hang laundry. Then there may be some paperwork for my job and then it's usually nine or later before I can relax, watch TV, read a book (but let's face it, that never happens due to being too tired) or just be me, with no pressing commitments.

I guess this scenario is quite familiar to anyone with kids, and the problem is that you can't really cut out any of these things without impacting the next day. Let's say that I don't clean up in the kitchen because I'm too tired - that will make the next morning frustrating and stressful, since I'll be fixing breakfast and lunch boxes in a messy kitchen. I also really don't want to give up on me-time, as it is important for anyone to un-wind and have some rest at the end of the day.

So, my solution so far is moving the me-time so that it starts closer to seven, instead of nine o'clock. The method I have used so far (I'm only a few days in) is to move as many of the chores as I can, to an earlier point in the evening. This means being more organized than I have been before, and multitasking a bit more. While I cook dinner, I simultaneously empty the dishwasher, and fill it up again as I cook. By the time dinner is ready, I have filled the dishwasher and wiped the counters. After dinner, all I have to do is put the dishes in the dishwasher and run it. I have also developed a habit of cleaning up as I go along. When I'm going to the bathroom to get Little A's pajamas, I pick up items that belong in the bathroom on my way there, and so on. That way, there is very little to clean up after he is in bed.

In addition to moving the me-time, I have also started doing some gentle stretches and relaxation exercises before bedtime, preparing my body and mind to go to sleep.

This new evening routine has had some nice side-effects:
  • I get me-time, and can still go to bed earlier than before.
  • I have less muscular pain/head aches. 
  • I actually have more time to spend with Little A in the evenings than I used to. This is a delightful surprise, and must be because I am more efficient and focused in my tasks, instead of running around doing a little bit of everything. 
Getting more much-needed sleep will make your days better. It will start you off on the right foot in the morning, allowing you to meet the day with more energy. It will impact your day, perhaps not in a big way, but in many small ways, so that you can pay more attention, give more of yourself and enjoy more.

If you are like me, and read blogs in the evening, this would be a good time to put down your computer and just go to sleep. If you're reading this in the daytime, I suggest that you have a look at your own sleep procrastination habits and how you can change them.

Sleep tight! :) 


Decluttering for the maximalist

I admit it: I love things. I think things can be beautiful, meaningful and useful. Having a home that is bare and minimalist is not for me, it just seems too cold. I think many of us feels this way: Cushions, blankets, candles and pictures add warmth and cosiness to our homes.

However - I really dislike dusting, I'm trying to own fewer things, and I have a kid who does not necessarily respect the things that I like so much. So, some middle ground has to be found here.

I have so far come up with these guidelines to keep the maximalist in me in check:

1. Only keep things that are beautiful, meaningful and/or useful. Be honest with yourself. Is this vase/picture/bowl/candle really enhancing your home? If not, it's probably better off at the charity shop or fleamarket, instead of being yet another item for you to dust and organise.

2. Group items together, to leave some spaces bare. Having assigned spaces for these little tableaux, makes it easier to avoid clutter creeping into every surface.

3. Identify the colours/materials you like the most, and try to stick to them. This will make it easier to decorate, and will make your place look slightly less "busy", even though you have more things than the average minimalist.

For me, this means having a lot of Little A's artwork on display, along with some photos (there will be more when I get my photos organised) and some decorative items (vases and bowls, mostly) that I think are especially beautiful. Natural elements (stones and wood), yellow, orange, light pink and light green are also found throughout my home. Trying to find the sweet spot where minimalism meets maximalism is a work in progress for me, but the pictures show where I'm at right now decluttering/rethinking the decor of my living room.

What about you - are you also drawn between minimalism and maximalism? Or perhaps you have other ideas for balancing the two? I'd love to hear about it!


Tiny steps - the good "no"

Some things are easy to say no to, in order to have a simpler, slower life. Magazine subscriptions, free samples you don't need, buy one get one half off - all these may be hard to say no to initially, but after some practice simplifying, I find these fairly easy to decline. 

There are, however, other things that are far harder to say no to. Social outings at work, coffees with friends, parties and other social engagements... Things that normally would be fun and energizing, but that do not always balance well with what I feel is right for Little A and myself. Sometimes I feel like I would rather say no, than go to these type of events, because the need for quiet and calm days is greater than the need to socialize. This is something I am working on: Learning when I should use the good "no".

Recently, Little A and I were invited to my cousin's birthday party. The whole extended family would be there, it was a long time since I had seen them, and it was going to be one of those few times per year when the whole of my father's side of the family gets together. There were many reasons to go, and it was the plan all along. But then, Little A slept badly every night for seven nights. He was either awake for hours, or he got up at five in the morning. And when Little A is awake, I am awake too. By the time the weekend came, we were both exhausted, and I just knew that the party would be more of an ordeal than a pleasure. Little A would be lying on the floor, holding his ears, and I would be spending all my time trying to make him more comfortable, and not really get to talk to anyone. So, I used the good no. 

Using the good no can feel uncomfortable, because you are saying no to something that is supposed to be fun. Moreover, there is the guilt at disappointing others, especially if they don't understand your perspective. Still, in my experience, using the good no opens up the possiblility for a better day, even a good day - because you have acknowledged the needs of your family and yourself. 

Little A and I do much better when we have days that are open. Waking up on a Saturday morning to a day that is unplanned and with no demands on you - that is a lovely feeling. I can look out the window and assess the weather, take time to feel what I'm up for today and observe Little A to see what might be a good activity for him. Then we can do things in our own time. The day of the party, we ended up going for a little walk, having pizza at a downtown restaurant with my boyfriend and his kid, and stopping by a street fair on the way home. All spontaneous, all with the opportunity for going home if it got to much for Little A (or myself...).

Regardless of having a child with special needs or not, I think we all could use the good no from time to time - in order to breathe, slow down and do what feels right. What do you think?


My little decluttering assistant

Have you ever come across this sight? If you have small kids (or a dog?) I guess you have. 

Little A sometimes gets into a frenzy of "tidying", which essentially means that he throws everything out of a cupboard/drawer/shelf with wild enjoyment. This has really frustrated me (a lot) in the past, but recently, when I saw how he had thrown all of my winter scarves on the floor, I imagined what he might be thinking. "Mamma has this many scarves! I can throw them on the floor! I can make a mountain of them! I can swim in them!" 

I know that I have a lot of scarves. I love them. It makes me feel good and cosy to wrap myself in a soft scarf, and I like to match them to my clothes. When you add the fact that Norway has scarf weather from August to May, you can imagine that I have had plenty of opportunities to buy and wear scarves. However, when I saw the pile on the floor, and knew that these were only my winter scarves (not the spring/autumn ones), I decided to take the hint from Little A. 

Nine scarves went to charity straight away, and I'll have another look when winter comes and I see what I'm actually wearing

A few days later, Little A threw half our DVDs on the floor. Making me realise how we don't even have a DVD player anymore... so why do I have two cupboards filled with DVDs? Most of them will go as well. 

So, I have realised that I should see Little A as my decluttering assistant, instead of a clutter monster. Decluttering and more peace of mind, wrapped into one.    


Guilt-free Monday

It's Monday, the first day of the school year, and a rainy day. Little A and I had pizza for dinner, and it felt pretty great eating pizza in front of the TV (watching Dora the Explorer) after a long day at work and in kindergarten.

Some would say I should feel guilty because I fed my child pizza, and let him eat it in front of the TV. But - I don't.

There are many reasons why you shouldn't feel guilty about taking some short cuts here and there in your daily life.

First of all: Nobody knows what it's really like to be you, and what is going on in your life. For me, this was being awake for hours in the night, trying to get Little A to go to sleep, the past two nights.

Secondly, you can make a really good pizza, that is homemade (and really not that unhealthy) in only 15 minutes. Convenicency and home cooking in one!

And last, but not least: You can have a great time together, watching TV, singing along to the songs and hugging as you're watching. Nothing wrong with that.

What short cuts do you take to get days that are slower and more enjoyable?

Wishing you all a happy, guilt-free Monday!

Ane :)

PS: In case you're wondering about the pizza... The key is to make the dough in advance. We had pizza for Sunday dinner, and we made a double portion of dough, that was kept in the fridge overnight. The sauce was also a doble portion, so when I came home from work, all I had to do was: Turn on the oven, flatten the dough onto the baking tray, add the sauce, some cheese, ham and paprika, and bake for 10 minutes. Done!


Tiny steps - enjoying the metro ride

How often are you checking your mobile phone with one eye, while using the other on what you're supposed to be doing? I do it all the time. And - I have noticed that it's getting worse. During the summer holiday, I have been checking Facebook and my email far more often than is really necessary (or healthy...) for anyone.

This especially happens when I'm waiting for the metro, or riding it. Riding the metro from my home to the city centre takes only fifteen minutes, and the ride to my son's kindergarten is only four. Perfect for checking email and catching up on what's going on, right?

The only problem is - I'm missing the ride. The views of the valley outside the windows. The flickering lights in the tunnels. The other people sharing the ride with me.

My son, Little A, knows how to appreciate a good metro ride. He shrieks with pleasure at the opening and closing doors, lets out a bubbling laugh at the sight of people with wheelie bags, and thoroughly enjoys the darkness of the tunnels. Shouldn't I be enjoying all of this with him?

When he was younger, I did. But then it all got repetitive and, frankly, I got a bit tired. Had he been able to have a conversation about the metro, it might have been different, but his vocabulary of words and signs is limited.

Today, though, I put away the phone. And for five minutes on the metro, I crouched down next to his stroller, and saw the metro from his point of view: The doors open with a beep, and people come rushing in from all sides! The doors close with a thud! The metro train swooshes through the tunnels! I looked into his face and he was smiling, laughing, enjoying the ride. He pointed out to me that the tunnels are dark. That the doors say bang. That the people with wheelie bags are going to fly on a plane.

If I put away the phone while I'm on the metro (or any type of public transportation, really), I get to:

  • Join in Little A's world
  • Take a few minutes to do nothing
  • Let my thoughts wander
  • See the people around me (at least the faces that are not lost in their phones)
  • Read a book (if I'm taking the metro alone, that is)
There are many other things that could be said about smart phones and what they do to us, but I will get back to that later. These are tiny steps, so let's keep them small and easy:

  • I will not be doing random stuff on the internet while riding public transportation. 
I'll let you know how it goes!

What about you? Are you constantly checking your phone to see what's going on? Or do you know someone who loves the metro as much as my kid does? Let us know in the comments below!