The road goes ever on…

Minimalism is a journey. Like a road or a river, it can sweep you off your feet and carry you away with the changes it makes in your life.

I became a minimalist four years ago. Since then, I’ve been blogging here at Simple Living…With Kids. I’ve learned so much. My life has completely transformed.

In those four years, I’ve sold a farm, ended a marriage, found a new partner, and sold approximately 90% of my belongings.

I dared to ask: What makes me truly happy?

The answers I found surprised me. Nothing that makes me happy comes from stuff, from owning, or from status.

All the answers that consumerism typically gives us didn’t – don’t – work for me.

For me, happiness comes from doing my own life well.
Using my own skills well.
Being a great mother, partner and friend.
Being a truthful, diligent writer.
Being responsible, honest and caring.
Having integrity.
Being accountable for my own actions and words.
Being the best person I can be.

These are old-fashioned concepts, and I believe there’s a resurgence happening all around us just beginning.

This gives me hope.

Minimalism is a doorway

We begin with minimalism, with simple living. What then?

Once we lose the clutter, clarity begins.

I’m beginning to understand that I am just a small part of this amazing world. Life is about so much more than buying stuff and blending in to the crowd with the right fashions and a big mortgage.

Minimalism is leading me to a powerful love for the world around me, particularly the oceans. It leads me to a strong desire to protect them.

I’m developing an interest in Zero Waste living, and I’m pushing myself to reduce my footprint live sustainably.

My family are right there with me, guiding me, sharing these concerns.

I pick up plastic rubbish with my partner’s twelve year old daughter.
I watch videos on sustainability with my thirteen year old son.
I assist my partner as he sells plastic-free products at local markets, and I watch my daughter as she learns about sea animals.
Together, as a family, we’re learning to shop at the bulk store and reduce our rubbish that we put out on the kerb each week.

We’re taking small steps, but together our journey continues.

Minimalism – simple living – are first steps.

Together we’re ready to take the next ones.

The road goes ever on...

Is it even possible to be minimalist…with kids?

Here’s my answer: Yes!

Minimalism is a tool that helps to clarify what is most important. When you clear away the stuff that doesn’t matter, the stuff that does matter becomes obvious.

As a busy mum, embracing minimalism was about deciding that I was going to put my family’s well being and happiness…and my own…ahead of what anyone else might be telling me to do.

That meant figuring out what was important to me, and to us as a family.

Everyone is different, and every family has different priorities. Our family decided that we wanted to spend time together, we wanted to travel, and we wanted to be less stressed.

I was up in Wellington last week, renewing our passports. We're off overseas again soon. I can't wait!

I was up in Wellington last week, renewing our passports. We’re off overseas again soon. I can’t wait!

Our kids health and education is also really important to us, and right at the top of the list.

Your family’s priorities might be different to ours. You may value missionary work and faith, or you may want to build a property empire to pass on. Or you may want to be more financially secure to better care for elderly relatives or spend time caring for disabled child.

Whatever you priorities may be, figuring them out is the first step. And clearing the stuff that isn’t important comes next.

We didn’t really care about impressing other people with a fancy house, or a fancy car, or brand name clothes. There’s nothing wrong with any of those things, and they’re important to a lot of people, but we figured out that they weren’t the kinds of things that were going to make us happy.

Instead, we focus on outings on the weekends, educational weekends – and lots (!!) of movies, TV series (Horrible Histories is GREAT – check it out!) and books (from the library!) about history, geography, science and maths.

I also volunteer as a teacher of computing to kids aged 9-12 once a week with a local Code Club. I share my knowledge and love of learning with the wider community this way, and feel like I’m giving something back.

Owning less stuff gives us more time – and more money – for the things that matter to us. We love to travel, so we’re off to Europe for a big holiday in a few months time, touring historic sites and cruising the Med.

It’s going to be so much fun!

We wouldn’t be able to afford a great trip like that – from New Zealand, where we live, on the other side of the world from Europe! – if we weren’t careful with our spending in other areas.

Minimalism helps to spend less on everyday unnecessary purchases, so we can save for holidays and family time. That makes the whole family happy! 🙂

Me - on the Wellington Cable Car ;)

Me – on the Wellington Cable Car 😉

What we did this summer…

The farm is sold, and we are gone.

It felt weird. I spent a few minutes at the last, walking through the now-empty house, thanking each room in turn for everything it has given my family over the years.

We’ve been happy there. Even though our decision to move was due to a divorce, the break is amicable and my ex and I remain friends.

Now the bank is working out how much money we have once the remaining mortgage is paid out, and my new partner and I start house hunting in earnest. In the meanwhile, I’ve moved in with him in his very tiny rental in town, and my kids return from Australia this afternoon, to join us.

It’ll feel like a very full house!

This summer has not given me much room to breathe. Clearing out one home, putting most of our belongings into storage, and moving into another, has been hard work. My partner’s daughter (11) has been a great help in the shift, and we’re all settled in now. The kids all go back to school on Wednesday, and that’s when I’ll heave a huge sigh and collapse from exhaustion for a few days!

The bridge at MIller's Flat, on the way to Queenstown, New Zealand.

The bridge at MIller’s Flat, on the way to Queenstown, New Zealand.

I don’t know where we’ll move to. That’s something we need to do next – find a home to buy. I also need to find a job. Even though I have a reasonable income, I still need work, for personal satisfaction if nothing else. So another hunt begins.

I’m beginning to think I’ll call 2017 The Year Of The Hunt… 😉

Inside the Great Maze at Puzzling World, Wanaka, New Zealand.

Inside the Great Maze at Puzzling World, Wanaka, New Zealand.

Regardless of the moving stuff, we’ve managed some fun over the summer. We’ve been to Oamaru, to the Moeraki Boulders, to various lovely beaches, Up to Queenstown and Wanaka for a weekend away… We’ve gone to “Leap” which is a trampoline playground, and worked our way through the Great Maze of Puzzling World. We’ve been to the movies a few times, and we’ve been to an Underwater Observatory and a Gala Day.

It’s been a pretty good holiday 🙂

At Brighton Gala Day, Brighton, Dunedin, New Zealand

At Brighton Gala Day, Brighton, Dunedin, New Zealand

Experience, not things

Christmas has been and gone. The tree is down and the decorations are back in their boxes. It’s a new year already.

My partner had a few days off after New Years Eve, so we took the time to go down to one of my favourite beaches, Aramoana, for a walk.

The day reaffirmed for me that our lives should be spent enjoying experiences, not stuff. We’re here on this earth to love each other and spend time enjoying the natural world.

aramoana beach

Aramoana is a beautiful beach, a short drive away from Dunedin.

We’re not here to fight each other over the next after-Christmas door buster sale!

At Aramoana, we walked along the spit to the very end.

the spit, aramoana, dunedin

View along the spit, Aramoana, Dunedin, New Zealand

There was a family of wild sealions basking in afternoon warmth, barely ten feet from where we stood.

Sealions, Aramoana, Dunedin

Sealions on the spit, Aramoana, Dunedin

About a dozen of them, some resting, barely opening an eye to us.

sealions, aramoana

Relaxed sealions, enjoying the afternoon.

They were obviously really used to seeing humans. But it made me think about how relaxed they all were, compared with how stressed most people are at this time of year!

sealions, aramoana

Up close and personal with beautiful wild animals.

I also thought about how lucky we are to have such beautiful animals here in New Zealand. They’re national treasures. World treasures.

sealion

They’re also called “dogs of the sea”. I can see why!

I was there, on a practically empty beach, enjoying this amazing experience, while most people were probably at home watching the telly, unaware of what was right outside their door.

black swans

We also saw black swans and other wild birds.

Maybe it’s time we start treasuring our experiences more, and our stuff a little less, don’t you think?

Happy new year.

Bring home memories, not clutter

Overseas souvenir shops sell mostly junk. When you buy stuff on holidays, most of it is rubbish that you’d never buy at home.

So don’t.

Do you really need that miniature plastic Eiffel Tower to show you’ve been to Paris, or that pair of mouse ears to prove you’ve done Disney? Who are you trying to impress?

Does clutter – no matter where it’s from – ever really impress anyone?

These days, when I travel overseas, I pack light. Last time I travelled to Europe I brought just one single carry-on suitcase plus a handbag for an entire month. That was all I needed. While away, I bought a couple of fridge magnets as mementos, and a ring when I was in Spain. I didn’t need any more.

Don’t waste your time buying clutter when you travel. Spend your holiday forming lovely memories instead.

You won’t regret it.

In the rose gardens of Madrid, Spain, at high summer.

In the rose gardens of Madrid, Spain, at high summer.

The aurora australis…

For the last few evenings, the aurora australis, the southern lights, have been visible in our skies.

It’s a stunning sight.

The aurora australis, as seen in central otago, New Zealand.

The aurora australis, as seen in central otago, New Zealand.

I’ll be out looking for the lights tonight. The sky is clear, it has been frosty and bright, and the stars have had that blue-white twinkle they old get when it is very, very cold. Perfect viewing weather for the lights.

aurora2

We’re nearly 46 degrees south of the Equator. Next stop for us, apart from the town of Invercargill, is Antarctica. So it’s not surprising we can see the lights at various times during the year.

Sometimes we forget how beautiful this world is. But when we remember, we cherish it all the more.


Images of the Aurora Australis from BackpackerGuide.Nz.

12 ways to stay healthy in flu season

One of the bloggers I follow mentioned how one of her fellow workers came to work sick, and wondered what she could do about it.

She doesn’t get sick leave. If they don’t show up, they don’t get paid.

So, here’s some tips on how to stay healthy in flu season, and all year around.

  1. Don’t eat out in flu season. If you do, make sure your food is cooked. Sandwich and salad bars in particular are easy disease transfer points (how well did your sandwich maker wash their hands? If at all!). Ideally, make your lunch at home.
  2. Keep hand sanitizer, tissues and antibacterial wipes at your desk or workplace.
  3. Ask your employer to install hand sanitizer pumps at the entrance to your place of work and at various points around the workplace, and to keep them filled.
  4. Ensure bathrooms and kitchens in your workplace and home have plenty of soap, and that soap dispensers are filled. If not, ask your employer or boss to get them sorted.
  5. Keep some antibacterial wipes on your desk or work station, and wipe down all contact surfaces at the start of the day BEFORE you start work and at the end of the day.
  6. Be absolutely diligent about toilet hygiene. Considering that a huge percentage of people (this article suggests that 95% of people don’t wash their hands correctly after going to the toilet!) don’t even WASH their hands at all, I’d really recommend disposable gloves whenever you go to the toilet, or using a tissue or baby wipe in your hand to open the doors after you’ve been to the toilet.
  7. Wash your hands BEFORE as well as AFTER visiting the toilet. If you don’t know already, learn how to wash your hands properly:
  8. If you have the habit of touching your face, BREAK it!
  9. Disease carrying surfaces include: mobile phones; neckties; handbag (purse) bottoms, clasps and handles; wallets; door handles; the back of chairs; computer keyboards; electronic tablet surfaces; computer mice; coffee mug handles (wash yours daily); tap handles; desk phones. Wipe them down with antibacterial wipes regularly.
  10. If you’re at the gym, clean your machine and / or weights BEFORE you use it, as well as AFTER!
  11. If you wear contact lenses, be absolutely diligent about lens hygiene, as your eyes are a mucous membrane and an easy access point into your body for harmful bacteria. During peak flu season, you may wish to wear glasses instead, as they provide a physical barrier for your eyes.
  12. Tie your hair back off your face when working, if you have long hair. Hair traps airborne droplets very effectively, and loose strands can transfer disease very effectively into your eyes and mouth.

I hope these tips help! My family and I were recently in Hong Kong and Singapore right in the middle of several flu epidemics, and NONE of us caught any disease.

I think it’s because we were diligent with our hygiene.

Stay healthy everyone!


This article was cross-posted at Lethally Fit