Don’t follow just because someone wants to lead you

The world is growing increasingly partisan.

The political middle ground seems to have fallen away, leaving people clinging to the edges of extreme political thought.

But I’m saying, don’t follow simply because someone wants to lead you.

When longstanding friendships come to an end over political disagreements, and people are “unfriending” their friends and family on Facebook over who they may or may not have voted for, it has all gotten out of control.

Partisanship serves nobody, except those who would divide us all on petty issues.

The truth is, our differences are minimal. We most of us want the same things:

We want our children to grow up safe and whole…
We want our communities to thrive and be healthy…
We want good healthy food, clean air, clean water…
We want access to good doctors and good quality education…
We want affordable, quality homes…
We want to be safe from war and terror…
We want secure jobs that give us dignity and don’t compromise our integrity.

If you’re like me, all of these things are important. All of them.

Divide and conquer

It seems that many of those in power – across all parties – would seek to focus on the little things that don’t affect us day to day.

“Divide and conquer” is working well.

They seek to turn us against our neighbours. To encourage us to label and view them as Not Like Us, and to divide our communities.

That way, we don’t look too closely at what those in power are doing, do we!

Work together

I’m saying, Stop.

Stop the partisanship.
Stop labelling people as Them and Us.
Stop giving some leaders a pass on bad behaviour while others get held to the wire.
Treat all people equally and fairly.
Uphold ideas, not ideology or parties or celebrities or leaders.

It’s time to look on the old world with fresh eyes. Reconsider our long-held beliefs to check if they still hold merit for us.

Don’t follow simply because someone – or something – wants to lead you.

Lead yourself, with your own mind, and you will find the best way to travel.

think

Minimalism: the space between the lines

You’ve cleared the clutter, dumped the junk, ditched the rubbish in your home.

Now what?

Minimalism isn’t just about stuff. When we take our first steps on the minimalist path, it seems all about consumerism, saying no to all the stuff we thought we needed but really don’t, and finding the space between the lines.

Minimalism

Minimalism: The space between the lines.

It’s a good place to start, but once the junk is gone, and the habit of unnecessarily buying replacements is dead, it becomes glaringly clear that often our actual lives need simplifying too.

Sometimes we’re doing too many activities. We’re spreading our talents too thin, trying to be experts in a number of fields, struggling to be interested in everything.

Other times we find we’re stretched too thin by others.

Our partners need us, our kids need us, our ageing parents need us, and we’re meant to fit it all in on top of a full time job and a part time job on the weekend. Oh, and there’s that volunteering we do as well!

Minimalism asks us to breathe. To ask ourselves: what serves us best? What makes us happiest? What gives us the most value in return for our most precious asset, Time?

Once you start to see that space between the lines, what is important becomes obvious.

What is essential is invisible to the eye. Only with the heart can we see clearly. Clearing the clutter away opens our eyes, minds and hearts to the truth of who we truly are.

If we don’t have such a big house we won’t need that second job.
If we don’t take those extra classes in a hobby we really don’t enjoy all that much, we’ll have more time to spend with our partner and kids.
And our ageing parents? They won’t be around much longer. Perhaps we should consider spending quality time with them, over volunteering our time with strangers.

Everyone has choices.
So choose wisely. Choose well.
And be happy.

happy beach

When clutter knocks on your door, don’t let it in

Clutter is a disease. It’s a cancer of the heart and spirit that has a firm grip over too many of us, and we don’t seem to be able to loosen its hold.

Like cancer, you don’t even know how clutter took over or where it came from until – suddenly! – your schedule is full, your house is overwhelmed, and your life is an exhausted mess.

If we don’t take control of our lives, deciding what can enter our homes and take our time, and what cannot, everything will take advantage of us.

The result? A life where we are slaves to every item we have a whim for, every activity that comes our way, and every piece of waste that knocks on our door.

Clutter steals away our lives

If we don’t actively choose what we want our lives to be, someone else will choose for us.

I’m not suggesting for one moment that we should go hide under a rock, and pretend the world doesn’t exist.

However, I am stating that we need to actively decide what enters into our lives, starting with what comes in through the front door and the internet.

Learning to say no

Living in modern society means learning to say no to advertising, fashion, buy-me-now prompts, bargain deals, bulk buys, junk mail offers, time wasting specials, you-can-do-it-yourself crafting hobbies… the list goes on.

Navigating the madness means refusing to let other take control of your life, your space, your time – and your family.

It isn’t easy to learn, but minimalism – keeping the best, discarding the rest – is a skill that lies at the heart of controlling the inflow, and maintaining the outflow. It can help restore sanity, free time, energy, space and relaxation to your life.

Kids’ clothing: cheap items, or fewer?

Here in New Zealand, you can pick up a brand new t-shirt in kiddie sizes for $4, or a pair of leggings for $6.

You can buy shoes for as little as $10, or $1 a pair in the charity shops.

This is a good thing – from the point of view that no child in New Zealand should ever lack clothing, or leave their home shivering through a lack of clothes to wear.

But cheap clothing can also mean our homes are awash in too many items, and we can’t keep track of what our kids actually own.

More clothing also means – more washing, more storage, and more replacement when cheap items fail and fall apart.

Finding a balance

I believe there are some items worth paying more for, and buying better quality versions of, if you can. If money is an issue, secondhand options of better quality are a great alternative.

I buy good quality: Winter jackets and coats, sunglasses (check they’re safety standard compliant!), sunhats and sun protection clothing (this includes rash vests and swimsuits).

Oddly enough, buying good quality socks is also worthwhile. I’ve found cheap ones just fall apart. Good quality school shoes are a must – buying leather lasts so much long, and is a money saver in the long run.

If you have a child that does a dangerous sport, don’t skimp on safety equipment on body protection equipment either (shin guards, mouth guards, that sort of thing).

It’s also a great idea, while not clothing exactly, to spend a little more on good quality school bags, lunch boxes and drink bottles (non-plastic).

Anything else, buy using common-sense. But I have found that kids need less clothing than you might think, especially if they wear a school uniform throughout the week.

The “F” word…

Fashion! Arrrrggggghhhh!

My kids (12, 11 and 10) are at an age where they’re starting to appreciate the way they look, so I do tend to buy a few upmarket fashion items these days (not too many!) so they feel part of the “in” crowd.

Buying a T-shirt with a trendy image on it, or even a cool bracelet can make a huge difference to how your kid feels about fitting in.

Ditto on the sunglasses here.

Regarding eyeglasses: Don’t skimp on cheap frames, if at all possible. These are an item that your child needs to wear every single day, so choose a pair that they feel good about wearing, and that they feel makes them look good. Be gentle, and a little tolerant here 🙂

A few extra dollars on an item your child will wear 2-3 years is very little on the scheme of things.

Wise decisions

Overall, the key to your child looking great and feeling trendy, as well as being comfortable and warm isn’t owning masses of clothes.

It’s about owning enough good quality clothes that meet their needs.

Thirty cheap, ill-fitting t-shirts will never look as good as five great, well-made ones. And no child needs more than five t-shirts!

Audit your child’s wardrobe regularly with them, eliminating any items in poor condition or that don’t fit. Keep the wardrobe size manageable, with good choices, and your child will be happy – and well clothed – throughout the year.

friendshill_dawniesroom

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 😉

How to be genuinely happy – in four easy steps

1. Stop being what other people want you to be. This is your life, not theirs!

2. Give up everything that weighs you down, even if it frightens you to do so.

3. Don’t take life too seriously. We’re all ridiculous, if you stop and think about it!

4. Finally: Smile. Laugh. And tell your family you love them.

Larnach Castle Gardens

The gardens at Larnach Castle, Dunedin NZ

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