February 28: Yoga Cross Training arm workout

My stomach muscles are sore today from the previous two days, so I switched focus to my other ‘problem’ area by giving my arms a solid workout with this video from yoga instructor Sadie Nardini. I’ve mentioned her a few times before and really enjoy her style. This is the first time I’ve done this video. She also has workouts for core and legs if you fancy having a look at those (I may end up linking to them next week, so if you’re patient, I’ll do the searching for you soon enough!).

This wasn’t a normal yoga routine, rather what Nardini calls yoga ‘crosstrain’, with the main difference being the moves were done a little faster than normal yoga. And I have a major announcement to make … drumroll … I’ve replaced my two chickpea tin cans (Shock! No way! “They’ve been with you from the start!” I hear you say!) with two 1.5 litre bottles of water. I’m half expecting them to explode over the top of the computer because I squeeze them so hard. Maybe they’re not the best workout equipment because they’re quite hard to hold, but I need to ‘up the weight’ to do some serious damage on the chub!

Overall, once again, this was a workout that did what I expected and taught me some new moves and stretches as well (the forward lunge on the knee with the foot turned out and leaning in was a great inner thigh and hamstring stretch). It runs for over 26 minutes, but the actual workout part is about 24 minutes long. As much as I enjoy doing the videos, I’m really looking forward to going for a run soon. Come back sunny weather, please? Soon? Have I caught the running bug? Could I become a runner? I do like the outdoors aspect of it, definitely. Only time will tell!

We had a great day today, with my first trip to a famous Swiss biscuit factory called Kambly. It took an hour to drive there and I was a bit surprised we couldn’t actually tour the factory – I was fully expecting to put on white coats, hair nets and plastic covers over our shoes so we could walk around the factory floor. Instead, we could only watch a video of the production process, a live macaroon maker and taste all their biscuits and buy them cheaper in the factory shop.

After we sampled ourselves sick, we decided on a few packets for us and some as gifts. Yummy, buttery, chocolatey biscuity goodness. They are not part of the nutritionally fit plan for 2015, I know, but as mentioned before, I haven’t changed my diet too much yet. Baby steps, baby steps. For now, I’ll continue to enjoy those naughty treats that come around once in a while …

Oh alright, alright … I have to confess I’ve been naughty two days in a row. Leo brought home custard doughnuts/donuts yesterday as a treat for doing all that cleaning and it was impossible to say no! So next week I have to be better. Damn, did we really buy all those biscuits? Did I mention they were yummy, buttery, chocolatey, biscuity goodness?

At home, we watched a replay of the Brit Music Awards and, boy, I felt for Madonna. What a professional, to get up and keep singing – she must have been in so much pain! I’m not going to put a link to it. She’s been all over the news. Poor Madge. On second throughts, I will add a link, because this lovely, funny story from The Guardian puts it all into a bit of perspective. She didn’t fall, she was pulled!

Wishing you a wonderful rest of the weekend.

And here are the links to some articles I found interesting this past week:

Bea from zerowastehome shared what’s in her wardrobe with us … now she’s a minimalist. Could you be like Bea? I’m trying to wheedle my stack down and would love to carry it all in a carry-on!

Someone made an amazing underground greenhouse to grow food all year round. Brilliant.

An article about foods that make us smarter … what? No doughnuts/donuts?

Do you have an anger issue? Here are some tips from a radio interview discussing how to react differently to stop a potential heart attack.

The gymnastic flips this guy can do are just amazing. What a skill. How fitfor15in15 fit must he be?!

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.

February 13: Plenty of luck on a 4km run in the forest

I’m not overly superstitious, but occasionally I touch wood and avoid walking under ladders and so on. This morning, I joked with Leo that I wouldn’t leave the house for fear of something going wrong. Strange things can happen on Friday the 13th, or on any other day to be honest …

Throwing caution to the wind, I DID leave the house – to christen my new jogging/shuffling sneakers. A big risk, considering I took a tumble on my last run, and still have the scars to prove it!

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Out with the old …

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… and in with the new!

The white ones had served me well for the past six years, not that they were flogged to death or anything, but running – sorry, shuffling – in the forest over the past few years had taken its toll.

So when I saw these new ones also 50% cheaper (in a continuation of the sale where I bought my indoor sneakers), I couldn’t resist. It was time for replacements and at half price, resistance was useless.

The track through the forest was still very icy and covered in snow, despite so much of it melting in all the glorious sunshine over the past few days. Dripping water was such a comforting sound today – it means spring is coming! Normally dripping water makes me want to race to the toilet and if it’s a dripping tap, well that’s another story completely – that noise drives me mental! Ahh, misophonia … the gift that keeps on giving.

At first, I was unsure if these new shoes would provide enough support for that problem with my left foot, which has been diagnosed by a podiatrist as Metatarsalgia. New orthotic inserts/innersoles have helped a lot. The pain was crazy there for a while, and that’s another reason why I haven’t been jogging since January 10.

After testing them out on my usual 4km lollipop loop, which involved some springing from non-muddy patch to non-muddy patch, there was no pain. Happy camper. I didn’t struggle with the slow incline as much as I have in the past, and may have stretched my legs a little longer and held my head a little higher as I ran past the loggers cutting down some trees on the homeward stretch. Such an idiot! All up, the run took me 26 minutes, which included walking as a warm-up for two minutes. I’m getting fitter!

Buying the two new pairs of shoes goes against my minimalistic grain, but the foot problem made it a no-brainer. I know you’re supposed to replace sneakers quite regularly too, so six years was a good stint. And it was so nice to see that flash of colour, especially running through the snow!

Fancy going for a shuffle/jog/run? Even round the block is better than nothing. Start on a flat path and then maybe build up to an incline or two when you feel ready for another challenge. I’m not quite ready to run any further just yet (this being only my second jog – sorry, shuffle – of the year), but with these new shoes I’m looking forward to doing more.

Wishing you a great day.

P.S I cleaned my desk today too.

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Space, at last!

There’s no before photo – WAAAAY too embarrassing. It was littered with German books and German magazines and pieces of paper and dust and notebooks and, let’s face it, too much crap to go on like that. Now along with all things computer, I just have a candle and lighter (for my morning routine, done on the floor), the lamp, a little bottle of nice smellies topped with the tiny knitted hat I love, a print of an artwork by Hans Schärer called Madonna 2 (my highlight from an exhibition in Bern in 2012) and a box of tissues.

Surely, with all this space, prize-winning writing will ensue?!

Do you love your creative space? Does it inspire you?

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.