August 25-27: Nervous …

I have a few things on my plate at the moment and am feeling nervous. I talked about working methodically but slowly, but if all goes to plan, I’ll have to start doing things much faster! Hopefully I’ll have more information about this by the end of next week. Sorry more can’t be divulged now!

The past few days have been spent at work, catching up with my friend Sonja who’s about to go back to Ethiopia to continue being a doctor, meeting my friend Leonie who’s about to move to Norway, contacting chefs and working on the four stories for my friend’s magazine, and cleaning Liliane and Rene’s house.

Relying on other people to contact me for those stories, when I’m working to a deadline, is making me feel like I’m not in control of what’s going on! I need to take 10 deep breaths, keep plodding along and find some patience. The latter is the tough one.

Here are some photos from yesterday. It was a beautiful day! I met Sonja at the Marzili, the public swimming area right in the centre of Bern, and then came home about 5pm to a lovely mountain panorama.

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Quite a few people were swimming. It was 18.5 degrees in the water

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This lady found a lovely sunny spot. Must remember that!

We thought about going in ... Sonja thought it was ok! But the belly button is always the test!

We thought about going in … Sonja thought it was ok! But the belly button is always the test! No go!

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I managed up to my knees

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So we opted to laze in the sun. Good luck in Ethiopia again, Sonja!

Clear as a bell!

The view from home. Clear as a bell!

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Zoomed in a little bit. The mountain with the mostly black face is the Eiger, then the Mönch to the right, then the Jungfrau

We face south so we get plenty of sunshine. All the mountains that we see face north; the north side of the mountain is considered the coldest (in the northern hemisphere). Brrr …

I weighed myself at Liliane and Rene’s this morning. 65.6kg. I think that might be the lightest I’ve been for a while. Can’t say it’s because of all the exercise I’ve been doing (although walking around London must have helped. The beers not so much …) so I attribute it to the ‘summer diet’. Lots of salads and not much stodge.

One thing I’ve noticed when I come home after cleaning the neighbour’s house is I want to declutter even more at our place! They have many ornaments on display and small objects I have to clean around, and I feel thankful that our place isn’t overloaded with adornments. Just a few well-loved items. Happiness.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

March 12: 4km run and a bathroom cupboard cleanup

The tried and tested 4km path through the forest was stomped on again by me today. This was only my fourth run/shuffle this year, which I’m finding hard to believe! The previous ones were January 10, February 13 and February 20. The weather and a sore foot have played some part in this, of course, but I really thought I would have done more by now.

Unfortunately, I can’t say I’m improving! Using the MapMyRun app on my phone, I can see I’ve done 31:15 (fell over), 26:15 (must have had a tailwind), 29:32 and today’s effort was 27:19. A bit all over the place really. And I do like to stop for the odd photo or two.

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There was an incredibly cold wind today, which made this blue-sky run not as much fun as it looks like it should be

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The sun lead me along the path

But, it’s done and it was good to be outside, even if the headwind was freezing and it felt like I was on the verge of getting an ice cream headache the entire way.

This morning, I was motivated to get out of bed early and tackle the bathroom cabinets. For some reason, I really felt the need to declutter. I’m sure there’s a scientific reason for this (or a mental one!). The thought of “the mess” in one of the cupboards was making me cringe. There isn’t really all that much stuff in there, but then again, there is … know what I mean?!

Old things went that hadn’t been used in ages. I held them and asked the Marie Kondo question, “Does it spark joy?” In some cases, it was more like, “Could that make me sick?” A red lipstick (how long should you keep them for before they go off?), green eye shadow (what was I thinking? Haven’t worn it once in three years), a makeup bag, an old mascara (which was a great size for travelling but it’s a few years old now and it says to keep for six months on the packaging), two makeup brushes and some penicillin tablets past their use-by date (for tonsillitis which flares up now and then). I thanked them all for their efforts and in the bin they went.

Then, to top off my OCDness, I made a list of every item of mine in the bathroom, everything, using the Evernote app, and sorted them into groups such as Creams – Face; Creams – Body; Nails, hands and feet; Cleansers; Perfumes; Oils; Face; Eyes; Lips; Sunscreens … you get the idea. There are now 16 different lists within the “Bathroom Supplies” notebook. I know, I know … I need a job.

At least I now know the names of everything I use for when they need replacing. If they get replaced. In an ideal world, I’d just use soap, moisturiser and a toothbrush, but I’m not quite that minimalistic (yet!). And I don’t think my sensitive skin would love me for it either. Most of the lists aren’t extensive. I have two perfumes, four oils, and five sunscreens all in various states of emptiness. But I do have seven lipsticks (mattes and glosses) and six lip balms … hmmm …

Some things were simplified. I love tiny ziplock plastic bags for travelling (about 7cm x 8cm) and had several made-up with cotton buds (must clean my ears to get the water out after washing my hair), headache tablets, penicillin tablets, toothpick things, the occasional band-aid or Compeed plaster (a must on all long walks), hayfever tablets … oh the list goes on.

Rather than the four or five I seemed to have in various states of use, I now have one, and only one, ready to go in my travel toiletry bag. Which is just a small waterproof makeup bag really. Lots of people swear by the ones you can hang, but for me they’re too bulky. The bag is now ready for any spur of the moment weekend trips, and will oggle me longingly with a desire for adventure every time I open the lower cupboard.

Does your skin go crazy in winter? I get a shocking case of winter itch which sometimes prevents me from getting to sleep. It seems to happen most, when my skin is warm but dry, while lying on the couch or in bed. Thankfully, a good chemist recommended a body cream at the start of the year and it’s hardly been an issue this year. I didn’t take it to Strasbourg and whadiyaknow, after three days I was covered in tiny, red, itchy bumps. It’s starting to go away now thanks to this …

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This stuff is the best winter-itch cream. Life saver!

What other wafflings can I bore you with from today? Umm … I watched another Miss Marple, I searched the internet for jobs (nothing!), I read, I ran, I ate … oh yes, and how I ate!! For some reason, I have a hunger today that can not be satiated. After the run, I immediately had a glass of water, four small round slices of a baguette with soft cheese, salmon and cucumber, then an apple, then a cup of tea, then a few spoons of yoghurt with protein powder and fresh raspberries, two small easter bunny chocolates (5cm high), then (yes … and then!) four rice cakes with honey drizzled over the top … and I still can’t wait for dinner!

Just writing about it is making me hungry. I’m off to warm up two of these little beauties, which we had fresh last night with a salad. They were delicious.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo

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Marie Kondo gets to the heart of decluttering

“Effective tidying involves only two essential actions: discarding and deciding where to store things.”

There are hundreds of decluttering and organising books on the market, guiding you on your chosen journey to ‘get rid of stuff’. I’ve read many of them over the past four years, after a “my stuff owns me” revelation in early 2011. Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying (or The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, depending on the version) is possibly one of the most extremely simple, because she gets down to the nitty gritty by asking one brilliant question.

“Does it spark joy?”

When you hold something in your hand, and really feel it, does it make your heart sing, or do you feel indifferent, or, at the other end of the scale, repulsed? We think we might have indifferent reactions to, say, kitchen utensils, but if you hold your whisk and think, “That makes lovely scrambled eggs for breakfast on Sunday mornings” then the association is a good one, and therefore the item stays. If you hold a book in your hand and think “I disliked the main character immensely”, then, obviously, it’s a goner.

I read this book quite quickly, because Kondo has a very relaxed style, with the occasional anecdote and story from a client. She is a Japanese tidying expert, and has been decuttering, cleaning and organising things since she was a small child. It was her calling, so to speak. Once she’d finished with her room, she did her siblings’, and then her parents’, with mixed results! So she strongly suggests sticking with your own personal things at the beginning of your what-will-soon-be mania. Organising is divided into clothes, books, papers (sorting through papers! Argh!), miscellaneous items and lastly, sentimental items and keepsakes and should be done in this order.

As mentioned before, we live in a small house, which I love, because it limits what we can bring in. We have a wardrobe, set of three large drawers and two smaller chests of drawers each. Before reading this book, I was an advocate of Project333, where you have about 33 pieces of clothing in your cupboard for each season. I hadn’t quite got around to whittling my wardrobe down, because I pretty much had 33 items of clothing for EACH season, and stored the out-of-season clothes in the three large drawers and hung the in-season things, including t-shirts etc, in the cupboard. Then I only needed to look into the cupboard to decide what to wear. Surprisingly, I miss this a little bit – knowing everything you’d decided was right for the season is right there in front of you. I hung t-shirts and singlets and shirts and skirts and shorts and jeans in the cupboard. No guess work really.

Now, everything that needs to be hung is hung, so summer and winter skirts snuggle side by side. Seeing these summer skirts when it’s -4 outside does seem like a bit of a waste of space at the moment, but I’m making a commitment to the KonMari Method and know there will be an adjustment period! But one thing I am truly excited about is Kondo’s great way to fold clothes. When you read about it you slap your head in disbelief that you’d never thought of it before. For example, instead of putting all your t-shirts piled up on top of each other in a drawer, so the bottom ones rarely see the light of day, fold them all on their side, from the front of the drawer to the back, so you can “flick” through them easily and see them all in one go. This little change means I’m now wearing things I’d forgotten about.

Kondo could be classified as a little bit odd, but by goodness, she is passionate. And you cannot hold that kind of harmless passion against anyone. She loves it. She’s made a business of it. She’s written a million-copy bestseller about it. She’s into it! And I like that about her. She has many sweet ways to help you let things go and most of the time her logic is sound (note that I use “most of the time” … if you read it, I think you’ll know what I mean).

But her undeniably intelligent strategy is this – once you have only the things that spark joy, and you’re found the right place where they should live, you will never have to tidy or declutter again; the day-to-day house stuff solves itself. When you love what you see around you, the promise is almost there that it will be a life filled with much more joy. And therein lies her perfect pitch. After a recent clean-out, I still have the last three sections to attack (Papers! Argh!) and in a strange way, despite my joking protestations, I’m actually quite looking forward to it.

The KonMari Method, with gusto!

The past few days may not have been excellent, exercise-wise, but, wow, have I achieved with the KonMari method! Ha! I can’t believe how exciting it is (yes, I am slightly mad!). Freda from livesimplysimplylive (this link should work now!) has been doing a Friday Fling to declutter her house using The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying UpThis best-selling book by Marie Kondo, and Freda’s achievements, have inspired me to begin ridding the house of excess stuff (hopefully) once and for all! I say it with gusto! ‘Cause I want it to be so! Aha!

Minimalism is something I’ve been interested in, and semi-practising, for years. Walking The Camino in Spain in June 2011, or “A long walk with a small backpack” as I call it, was one of my first steps to living with less. The idea for that trip formed in January of the same year, when I couldn’t find my grandmother’s tablecloth. Weeks of searching high and low in my two-bedroom rental house resulted in no beloved cloth, but I did come across a whole heap of stuff I didn’t even know I had, had forgotten I had, knew I had but had never used, had no need for anymore and so on and so on and … it was so bloody overwhelming!!

It didn’t take long for a creepy feeling to take over – my belongings owned me instead of me owning my belongings. It was like the house was choking me. The weight of all that stuff was stifling. By Google-searching ‘declutter’, I found Francine Jay’s book The Joy of Less, which I still refer to now and then. Her website is also a regular read. She inspired me to start getting rid of the unnecessary. After several (borrowed) car trips to the Salvation Army, my stuff was still making me feel claustrophobic. Rather than go nuts and give everything away, I decided to leave it all for a while so I could appreciate what I owned upon my return.

The 10-week overseas trip, from June to August 2011, resulted in me moving to Switzerland before the year’s end. On that 900km walk, I met my partner Leo! Meeting somebody wasn’t really part of the plan, so it was all rather a lovely shock. I lost a tablecloth and gained a partner! How’s that for weird?!

My minimalistic adventures continue here too. We live in a small house which restricts what we can bring in – it’s a little slice of heaven. But fast forward three years, and I seem to have acquired enough to no longer consider myself a minimalist. How could that happen? Easily!

The KonMari method says to pile every item of clothing you have on the floor (I chose the bed for ease of access) and when you pick it up, ask yourself, “Does it spark joy?” If you love the item, you keep it, if it gives you nothing back, it’s a goner.

When you see your entire collection of clothes in one place (Kondo says to get everything – coats, hats, undies, gloves, scarves, handbags, you name it), it feels insane. Minimalist? Pfft!

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All my clothing piled on the bed

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All my shoes lined up, ready to be culled!

Previously, I’d separated all my clothes into the four seasons, using the Project333 method, where you wear 33 items of clothing for three months. Until yesterday, winter stuff was in the cupboard, and summer, autumn and spring in three designated drawers, awaiting the seasonal changeover.

Now, with KonMari, I have nearly all my hanging things for all seasons in the cupboard (apart from some summer dresses in a drawer. I don’t own enough hangers and will not be buying more) with belts (in a box), scarves and handbags on the shelf above the rail. In the larger chest of drawers, where the seasonal clothes used to live, are tops and t-shirts etc in the top drawer, jeans and shorts etc in the middle, and my exercise and walking gear in the bottom drawer.

This system has also freed up one drawer in my smaller chest of drawers (where I have underwear, socks, sleepwear, jumpers etc) for all the things that were getting dusty on the chest top or the little shelf beside the bed. Now my hand cream, nail file, hair brush, jewellery boxes and so on are in the top right-hand drawer, and books to read now live on the shelf, instead of the floor (yay!).

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No more clutter on the chest of drawers and almost all the hanging clothes in their place. The garbage bag in the office doorway holds unused shoes

I can’t bring myself to throw away the bag of shoes just yet. I love shoes! If I remember a pair of shoes in that bag after better weather has kicked in, I’ll bring them out. If that bag remains unopened by the end of summer, all seven pairs are going.

Another exciting change is the way the clothes are folded. They’re not stacked on top of each other, like we see in the shops and most of us normally do – they’re laid on their side, so you can see every item easily from the front of the drawer to the back. No longer will there be that forgotten t-shirt at the bottom of the pile! I’m really looking forward to seeing everything I own whenever I open the drawers or cupboard doors. That may stop me from wanting to buy something new, when I’ve seen something like it at home already.

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All my long, short and sleeveless t-shirts, in three rows, lying on their side from front to back

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All my jeans, trousers, shorts and excess summer dresses lying on their side

Would you do the KonMari method? What do you think about the whole idea? A bit over-the-top? Or a great way to only own what you truly love?

Wishing you a wonderful day.