First published Friday, May 2, 2014
It’s been a varied couple of weeks by all accounts. I’ve been lucky enough to have had some time off over the Easter break which was very much appreciated and welcome. I enjoyed a couple of days on my own, and then a full week with the boys, doing a range of things from Easter Egg hunts in the local castle, to days out at other local attractions or just enjoying time at home with their friends. For probably the first time ever, at least certainly in the last two and a half years, I also managed to not check my work emails for the entire time I was away from the office.
As a result, when I returned to work on Monday, I spent roughly two hours going through a fairly large inbox, but then having dealt with the various messages and so on, I decided to undertake a comprehensive spring clean of said inbox and archived pretty much anything that wasn’t immediately relevant. By tweaking another couple of settings on the mail filters I was also able to clear down the long list of folders and labels I had on the screen, and as a result my inbox is currently empty, my ‘starred’ mail folder (the important stuff I need to follow up or am awaiting a response to) has only 8 messages in it and everything feels instantly more organised and less cluttered.
This ‘decluttering’ is, ever so gradually, being applied in other areas. When I go home from work I no longer respond to work emails out of hours should I inadvertently pick them up when checking my personal mail on my iPhone (daft as it may sound I used to get quite ‘twitchy’ if the mail icon on my phone had a number against it). I have reduced the frequency of my quick skims through my Facebook timeline, and perhaps more noticeably when I do take a look, it’s cursory, I read very little of it, and whereas I would post maybe 3 or 4 status updates a day some days, I’ve posted maybe 3 or 4 in total in the last fortnight (there have been links shared or posts via other apps, but actual typed out status updates number far less).
I will, slowly but surely, continue this ‘decluttering’ or Spring Cleaning over the next few weeks. Yes there are endless opportunities to do it at home – the house contains probably enough surplus ‘stuff’ to keep several charity shops going for a good couple of months, and whilst some of what I remove may well go to such places, where appropriate most will go to PATCH Charity to support and assist others in need of basic household supplies and clothing. I will be encouraging the boys to get involved too – as they grow up, there are various items they no longer need or have use for.
There is also a flip side to this Spring Clean. I’m making an effort. Well, ok, several. I am trying to be more ‘disciplined’ in how I manage me and my time, and how I look after myself. It’s all too easy to pile stuff up and say ‘I’ll deal with it later’ (later frequently meaning several weeks or even months later), meanwhile the pile gets bigger, and the ‘fear’ of dealing with whatever is in the pile borders on irrational. Equally, procrastination disguised as loitering on Facebook or checking emails, draws my attention away from the properly important things and people who are far more deserving of my time. During the course of my week off with the boys, I spent far more time with them, doing stuff with them, or simply just sitting and watching them play, as they flitted back and forth with questions or comments, bringing over things they had made or discussing ideas they had.
I’m making an effort to be slightly more organised. Lunch boxes for the boys are prepared the night before, aside from the sandwiches, and the breakfast table also laid. No, neither of these things are rocket science I know. The difference in the atmosphere in the morning however is noticeable – we are all sitting down to breakfast together and there’s no frantic chasing round to get out of the house. The ‘mysterious’ disappearance of gadgets and the tv remote in the mornings has also helped this, and my eldest has started to get up later than 6.15 am as there is no longer anything for him to do (i.e. doesn’t sit there watching random and quite frankly at times bizarre cartoons). He and his slightly younger brother are reading more, of their own free will.
I’m taking time to chill out more, and in the run up to a fundraising challenge I will be doing later this month, I’m drinking more water and less caffeine and alcohol (I’ll be drinking only water for 2 whole weeks shortly – no morning cuppa is going to be tough one!). As a result I already feel slightly better, and no doubt this will continue. Whilst I may not have yet mastered the art of meditation, it is still something of a work in progress, I am getting better at turning down the ‘mental noise’ on occasion.
I’ve tried to spring clean, declutter and so on before. The effects, rather like New Years Resolutions (I don’t make them anymore) have tended to be short lived. However, I’m now getting to be a bit more grown up maybe, or perhaps it’s just a case of being more in touch with what matters. There are still many challenges to overcome and things to solve, change and deal with, but by putting me first a little more, and taking a positive approach to things wherever possible and reducing the negativity inducing dross that life generates, it is having a positive impact on me and my family, my work and my leisure time. The trick it seems, as all the good guides will tell you, is small manageable changes, little steps, one thing at a time. Give it a try – pick something simple, and see what a difference you can make for you in doing so.