CONFESSIONS: of a soul searcher

I’ve done a lot of soul searching in the past couple of months and I’ve realised that there are a few aspects of my life that just ‘aren’t working’.  I was unhappy with habits I’d picked up, the stress I was carrying and the stagnant nature of my routine.  So I wanted to try something, experiment on myself – I wanted to try to live life a little slower.

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I used to think that I was a person who loved being busy.  I hated time wasted.  Then I realised something – I don’t love being busy.  In fact I hate being busy.  I’d rather spend my time on things that I enjoy but the fact I was ‘so busy’ stopped that.

I came across the idea of slow living, hygge, intentional living, minimalism – whatever you want to call it – accidentally.  I desperately wanted to start being a bit better with my finances.  I wanted to cut back on the spending, build up savings, put my money toward things that were more worthwhile.  So I started to cut back on my errands.  See, almost all of my errands involve spending money.  Money on clothes, unnecessary extra groceries that ended up in the bin, eating out as a result of laziness and/or convenience – the list is endless.  Not to mention the costs associated with bringing a 2 year old along with you – ‘mum, I’m very hungry’.  I started to shift my mindset when it came to errands – I have run out of XYZ but do I really need to replace them right now?  Can I use ABC instead?  All of a sudden my list of errands diminished and I started to have spare time.  Can you imagine that?  I’m sitting down and reading in nap time, I’m finding more time to blog, I have time to work out, my ironing is done and not begrudgingly.  I’m spending time with friends without watching the clock or feeling overwhelmed at what I’ve postponed and need to catch up on later.  Suddenly I’m taking Bella for a walk down to the shops with just one item on the shopping list rather than drive because we have the time, we’re sitting in a restaurant to eat rather than me feeding her dinner while she’s in the bath and I’m taking mouthfuls in between.  We’re taking life slow.

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I’m not where I want to be yet.  There are still parts of me that relentlessly want to list everything I have to do.  There were moments on that walk to the shops where I kept asking myself if there was anything urgent that I should be focused on rather than taking time out to, as Bella puts it, go on an adventure.  But I have learnt a lot so far:

  1. I have energy to do what I enjoy.  Running around trying to make sure everything was taken care of was exhausting.  There were moments where the thought of just picking up a book exhausted me.  Now I have the energy to read, I blog, I have the energy to be creative and the best part is, I don’t feel guilty about it.
  2. I ‘slave’ in the kitchen less.  Sundays used to be my busiest day of the week.  I’d prep different meals for the week, I’d desperately try to clean the house, I’d have nap times to contend with, I worked so hard to get ahead but would go to bed at night with the mess having won, feeling exhausted from the day and feeling deflated by my efforts.
    So I started preparing our meals to fit our routine.  I now cook one big batch of food for my lunches for the week.  The container comes with me to work on Monday morning and the empty containers come home with me on Friday afternoon.
    I now cook enough of our Sunday night dinner to carry us through Monday and for me, Tuesday (Bella has daddy-daughter time Tuesday evenings).  Wednesday nights are often spent at my parents and Thursdays are my day off so I have time to cook something new for that night and, if we don’t have plans, Friday night as well.  We’re always out on Saturdays.  All of a sudden instead of cooking 5 dinners, I’m cooking 2.
    Always having something there ready to go also means we’re outing out less, I have less to wash up and one less thing to think about each day at work.  I’m not having to go to the grocery store during the week and the meals taste better too because I have the energy to put in effort.  (I don’t think Bella has ever been as good an eater as she is lately.)
  3. I’m saving money.  Besides the aforementioned benefits of going to the grocery store less and running less errands, slow living is helping me save money.  Having less stress and more energy means I spend less time slothing it out on the couch on my phone and surfing (i.e. online shopping) on the net.  I’m using my time to be productive and do things that I love and bring more value to my life whether it’s working out, catching up with friends or just doing arts and crafts with Bella, the less time online shopping, the better.
  4. My house is tidier.  This was another chore I tried to do on top of everything else on a Sunday.  I would get ahead by cleaning it all but then I’d start cooking and the kitchen would end up a mess, Bella would be in the living room and dining room while I’m in the kitchen spreading her toys wherever she could.  By the time we were both done for the day, I didn’t have energy to clean up after myself and the amount of toys lying around would make me feel overwhelmed.  We’d start the week with a messy house and as a result, on the wrong foot.  It was hard to get on top of it after work and it would have to wait until my day off on Thursday which meant I felt overwhelmed by it all week.  I now split the house into two parts – top and bottom and do them over two days (Thursday and Saturday) which leaves Sunday the day when the kitchen would be the only main focus and putting toys into their baskets seems less daunting.

  5. I’m happier and less stressed.  Between raising a toddler, working full-time hours over four days, maintaining a social life, working on remortgaging the house, trying to come to an agreement with parenting arrangements and all the other bits and pieces life throws at you (for example toddlers splitting their heads open minutes before leaving for school/work), things can become pretty overwhelming.  I’ve never been one to lean on others and so I have to find my own ways to deal with stress.  I honestly don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t slow life down and have the time to do things that I truly enjoy.  Having time and space to read and write, cook and experiment again in the kitchen, work out and play with Bella has really saved me.  I’d be a mess if it weren’t for it all.

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For me, slow living isn’t about doing nothing with your time.  It’s not about saying no so that you watch the days pass.  It’s about saying no so that you can achieve things that make you happy.

I’m tired.  I’m frustrated.  I’m resentful.  I yearn for the simple things.  Lying on the grass and watching the clouds.  Taking a spontaneous drive to the beach.  Evenings spent beside a backyard campfire. The undeniable joy of coaxing a seed to life in the dirt.  Family movie nights.  Long walks to nowhere in particular.  Writing by hand, for fun.  Weekends not completely overrun by sports and parties and activities and events and places to be and to be seen.  

Brooke McAlary

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