The Mr. Worry List

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A couple of weeks ago during our pre-bedtime wind down, the Little Chap and I were curled up together reading my old Mr. Men books, many of which I’d not read since I was a kid.  We came upon ‘Mr. Worry’ which, for the uninitiated, is a woeful tale of a round, blue man riddled with anxiety about everything you could think of (assuming a rise in global terrorism and a decline in our ice caps aren’t in your purview).  A truly troubled soul was poor Mr. Worry, and as we read I kept everything crossed for an upturn in his mental wellbeing.

Not to be disappointed, [SPOILER ALERT], he meets a kindly wizard who tells him to write down every single worry he has.  Mr. Worry is to then bring him the list so he can weave some Mr. Men magic and ensure none of those things ever happen.  The next day Mr. Worry turns up at the wizard’s house with a long snaking list of all his penned worries.

With bedtime successfully implemented, followed by a lightning fast costume change into my jim-jams, I got to thinking about the story and it occurred to me that, just like Mr. Worry, there were a few things on my mind; things that had been kinda keeping me awake at night or generating a low hum of anxiety during the day.  So I decided to put pen to paper and make my own ‘Mr. Worry List’.

I wrote down eleven things.  And do you know what?  I instantly felt better, even in my wizardless state.  My initial observation was to note they were all pretty benign things and I took a moment to gratefully acknowledge that I was lucky to have such an innocuous list.

Nine of the eleven things simply required some effort and graft on my part to reach a resolution.  These were practical tasks, with tangible solutions, such as the creation of a new spreadsheet before I could tackle my business accounts, booking an oven cleaner as clearly I couldn’t face doing it myself, making a technical call to sort out a tenant dispute.  Slightly tiresome and certainly dull jobs but totally fixable and really nothing to lose sleep about.

Only two of the eleven things were trickier and more daunting (in terms of finding solutions that is, certainly none were of life and death importance).  And even looking at the two tricky things, I realised one of them could actually be broken down into a series of smaller practical steps (albeit lots of them, probably over a good number of months) but it could, in essence, join the ranks of the other nine practical tasks.  Until I’d actually written this particular worry down, I’d just seen it as a huge, complicated mess that would fry my brain every time I tried to think about it.  Writing it down was key to breaking that negative cycle. It just shifted something. Helped me get my pragmatic on.

It’s so strange how many of us can worry about unattended tasks and allow them to become shapeless, gelatinous globs of anxiety.  It’s only when we face them head on, one at a time, that their form becomes clear again and the unease lessens as we see a way forward.

So my friends, I urge you to take a quiet moment to write down your own Mr. Worry list, get it out of your head and onto paper and I’ll bet you’ll feel a hundred times better just having a clearer perspective and getting back in the driving seat.  If your list feels overwhelming (hell, Mr.Worry used a whole roll of till receipt paper), tackle one of the easier items on the list first to help gather some motivation; there’s nothing quite like ticking things off for gathering momentum.  Or see if any of them can be broken down into smaller, more manageable actions, this has made ALL the difference for me.

I’d love to hear how you get on; what insights you glean from the process.  There may not be a kindly wizard offering to take care of all our worries, but facing our fears and taking positive action has got to be a close second?  I think there’s a special kind of magic in that.

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Header Image: Copyright Roger Hargreaves 1978

 

Gliding

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Vince and I like to GLIDE.  We plan ahead and we don’t like to live life by the skin of our teeth; for some that’s exciting, for us it’s stressful.

One of the things we’ve identified that helps with the glide is to automate as much of our lives as possible.  This creates a structure around certain areas which in turn facilitates flexibility in others.

For us gliding is about figuring out which actions bring us closer to a sense of peace and ease, and which take us further away.

Some of the positive actions we’ve integrated into our days are:

Positive Actions: ‘Fully Integrated’ (these are actions we’ve been doing for a year+):

Positive Actions: ‘Work in Progress’ (these are things that don’t yet feel fully integrated but are well on the way):

Positive Actions: Next on the list:

  • Diarise a block of time each week for taking care of admin, ‘to-do’ list items, chores (approx 3hrs).

To back track a little, I noticed a big dip in my energy and motivation levels towards the end of March this year following a relay race of family colds.  For a good 2-3 months after that I continued to feel sluggish and let some of my established positive actions slide.  It didn’t feel good.  I needed to take responsibility for my energy levels and not just self-medicate with sugar and mindless trawls through Facebook.  As a result I’ve been taking the Ayurvedic supplement ‘Ashwagandha‘ which certainly helped reignite my spark.  The effects are super subtle but I noticed a welcome brightness and clarity of thought much later into the evening than I had without it.  After a few weeks of taking the tablets, alongside daily yoga I admitted to my reluctant self that I needed to introduce some cardio <insert fountainous crying emoji here>.

You see, I’ve always told the story that ‘I have a poor relationship with exercise because I never really saw my (naturally slim) parents exercise and I was terrible at sport’, but when I thought about it I was actually able to identify several pockets of time in my post-school life where I have had a good relationship with exercise. I needed to ‘flip the script’ and start telling a different story.  I’ve since joined our local gym and have committed to an hour three times a week. My energy levels have continued to increase along with my productivity, and motivation to ‘get shit done’.

One of the prompts in my Daily Greatness Journal is ‘What is going well and why?’ Consistently the ‘why’ is: ‘X is going well because I’ve made it a priority and I’ve psychologically committed to doing it’.  It really does come down to that.

I’ve mentioned here before that a great trick for me is to schedule these positive actions into my diary ahead of time, so for example I have decided I will go to the gym Monday, Thursday and Saturday mornings first thing.  By making this decision in advance I’ve helped remove that internal negotiation each morning of, ‘shall I go to the gym today?  I’m feeling a bit tired, I could go tomorrow and then I’ll work REALLY, EXTRA, WONDER WOMAN-LY hard because of course I’ll feel less tired tomorrow…’  Without that pre-commitment I’d be extremely susceptible to talking myself out of it, kicking that can down the road.  Instead I’ve identified those slots in my week, and consider them set in stone.  The night before I also write it in my schedule for the next day to further commit.  When I wake up it feels like a done deal, I just get up and go with no shilly-shallying. It really seems to be working for me.

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One thing I’m trying to square is just how long it takes to fit in all the good practices into my day.  Much of it means time away from the Little Chap.  1hr of exercise + 20 minutes meditation + 5 minutes diary writing + 10 minutes YNAB update + 20 minutes on laundry – that’s around 2hrs a day.  For a while I was feeling like I must ‘get through’ those tasks so I can get on with my day but slowly I’m realising those things are my day, that they deserve the time required and that actually the positive effect will benefit the Little Chap.  I have more physical energy for play, meditation is making us calmer and more patient, I’m demonstrating the life skill of setting positive goals and tracking them in a journal, he’ll grow up knowing how to manage his finances, and in the meantime we won’t be overly stressed about money, he’ll see the benefit of keeping on top of things like laundry to avoid that clothes mountain overwhelm.  Of course some of these things can also be done when he’s in bed!  A major revelation to me was looking at how long I could spend on Facebook, scrolling, scrolling, scrolling.  I’m sure across the whole day it could easily have been an hour.  That’s THIRTY HOURS A MONTH!  What could you achieve if you had THIRTY HOURS A MONTH to play with? Our introduction of a daily meditation practice was a no-brainer swap.  Sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to prioritise new things and invest in the glide.

When we consider implementing a positive action we usually have to accept an initial sense of loss.  If we want to lose weight we will mourn those times of over-indulging , if we want to fit in exercise we may have to forfeit that delicious extra time in bed, sorting out our finances may mean we have to forego holidays, new clothes, meals out.

Of course ALLL the positive actions don’t magically weave a protective bubble around us and things do go wrong from time to time.  Just recently our car, fridge freezer, a wall of shelves and our loo all broke in the same week.  In the past we’d have felt like the Universe was against us but because we have our YNAB budget we had already, month by month, set aside money in several emergency funds to cover these things.  Of course we’d rather not have had to spend all that money but as it had already been given that specific job it really didn’t sting that much to get repairs and replacements sorted.

Before we make a mental commitment to introduce positive changes, all we can picture is that no-man’s land of restriction but without the benefits those positive actions will ultimately give us.  That looks like a sucky place to be, zero fun.  Emotionally we can be extremely resistant to taking up residence there even if we know it’s only for a while; this is where I’ve found it helpful to ‘fake it ’til I make it’, over-ride emotion by getting practical and make a concrete plan, put things in diaries, walk confidently past our whining doubtful selves clinging on to the takeaway menu like it was a jackpot lottery ticket.

Make deals with yourself on the really tough days:  don’t even think about getting on the treadmill, just focus on getting into your gym kit. Once you’re in your gym kit you might as well drive to the gym.  Once you’re at the gym you might as well do a few belligerent minutes on the treadmill. Before you know it you’ve done your hour and the virtue just drips off you (yesiree that’s glowy virtue I’m wiping off the machines after I’ve used them).  Keep showing up to the task, find your inner grit, accept you’re not gonna love it at first but trust that eventually you will (well you’ll love the after-effects at the very least).

Before you know it you’ll no longer be faking it,  you’ll feel that glide and then YOU’RE OFF…

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Header pic: Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_anagram1′>anagram1 / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Clock pic: Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_james63′>james63 / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

No Man’s Land pic: courtesy of: http://tomtunguz.com/

The On-going Magic of Tidying Up

A fellow KonMari-er requested I turn a recent Facebook post into a proper blog post so here it is Maria..!

A couple of days ago I walked into the craft room and found this:

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Instead of feeling a little shocked to find the bookalanche, I was more disturbed by the volume of stuff that had been spewed forth.

This time last year we completed a year-long KonMari (KM) de-clutter of the whole house so I didn’t think clutter was too much of an issue here at Chez Murphy but it appears I was wrong.  It’s amazing how seeing ones possessions from a different angle (in this case in an unceremonious heap on the floor) can jump-start a fresh engagement with your things. Stuff on shelves has a tendency to become invisible after a while but when it shifts physical position you can see it again (this is why Marie Kondo invites us to gather all items belonging to the same category into a pile; changing location shakes them up a bit). And thus I saw the contents of my shelves with fresh eyes. ALLLLL of it.

This unexpected event prompted a revisit of my books ‘category’ and I let go of quite a stack that I hadn’t been able to bring myself to discard before.

All my old diaries written from age nine and into my mid-twenties had been on the top shelf (the one that seemingly tipped the balance!) and even though I have very mixed feelings about them – so much angsty content and FAR too much detail –  I’m not ready to get rid of them, not yet anyway.  Not least because they could contain more lucrative ideas like this beaut from 1996 which could lead to untold riches:

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One thing I realised is I don’t want them on view, and whilst looking online for some sort of vintage trunk to stash them in, I suddenly remembered my dad’s old boarding school tuck box which I’d had restored earlier in the year. This is part of the KM magic; when you need a solution, the perfect one often presents itself from what you already have, and just to add to the magic, the box is the perfect size to house them all snugly together AND it’s lockable!  The shame will be contained.

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In amongst the strewn items I also found three VHS tapes that’d escaped the KM cull, titled: ‘Village Show 1983’, ‘Village Show 1984’ and ‘Family’.  They’d obviously made it through Round #1 of KM but what struck me upon seeing them again was how dormant and pointless they were in their current state.  I don’t have a VHS player, hell we don’t even have a TV, so today I’ve packaged them up ready to be converted to DVD.  It’s not that expensive and then at least they can be viewed.  I remember at the time feeling I ‘should’ keep them as there are lots of people still living in and around our village who were either in the shows or who helped organise them and I’m pretty sure my dad was the only person who recorded them.  I felt a responsibility not to just toss the tapes as they have irreplaceable content and other people might be interested in them, but without converting them and sharing the footage with ‘local folk’, the tapes had a bit of a negative psychological weight to them just sitting on the shelf, unwatched.

I also came across several strips of black and white negatives from photo’s I’d taken at art college over 10 years ago.  It was just from an experimental roll and I never got round to processing any of the images as soon after taking them my lovely mum died and, well processing negatives was taken to a whole new level. I know why I kept them…partly it felt like an incomplete project but mostly it’s because there is one negative, unintentionally double-exposed,  where one half of the frame is of a tree and the other is the last photo taken of my mum before she died, plaster-of-paris’d arm held aloft.  The same realisation hit me…there was little point in holding on to them without ever processing them.  So to that end I’ve also parcelled them up ready to be scanned.

I already feel lighter for having tackled these dormant items, hopefully breathing some new life into them.

This is why I am an exuberant advocate for the KonMari method, the process continues to provide endless opportunity for insights, it’ll be a life long relationship for us.  It’s been a revelation to me to be conscious and mindful of what we own and what we bring into our home;  to carefully choose those items and to revisit and review from time to time.  And I can’t think of a much better yard stick than to ask ‘does it spark joy’?

 

 

Simplify: Part I – KonMari

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Oh how I love this word.  It has been my ‘mantra’ for the last two years and whenever I say it to myself I can feel my heart rate drop to that of a contented sloth dangling from a shady tree.

Last year, one of the ways we brought simplification to our lives was by following the KonMari decluttering method.  It took us exactly a year to complete, a toddler is not the ideal co-pilot for such a mission, so we had to grab windows of time when we could.  We held every single item in our house and asked ourselves whether it sparked joy.  If it did, it stayed, and if it didn’t, it exited the building*.

I’m embarrassed to think about just HOW MUCH STUFF got carted away; many, many, many car loads.  Many car loads. So many car loads. And here’s the crazy thing…we’ve. not. missed. a. single. thing.  Oh tell a lie, I ditched a pack of wooden clothes pegs I’d stored for circa 15 years and never used.  The following week I decided I wanted to set up a gallery space for the Little Chap’s paintings and could’ve done with those pegs to hang his art up with.  THAT is the only thing I have missed. Truly. How weird is that? And what does it say about our attachment to ‘stuff’? In particular stuff we didn’t use, didn’t love and, it turns out, weren’t going to miss?

The first picture below is utterly shocking to me (and Vince, I’ve just shown him and his response was ‘what the fucking hell…?’) Knowing there was a room like that in our house, I now realise took a heavy psychological toll on us (for those that don’t know us, I promise the rest of the house looked nothing like that!).  I felt utterly overwhelmed by it prior to discovering KonMari; we were happytired with a fairly wakeful toddler and would chuck in the next load of outgrown baby stuff and lock the door.  Out of sight out of mind, right?  Wrong. It felt like an oppressive pulsating mass in the bowels of our house (I may be slightly over-egging things), but it was full of our crap, my late parent’s things including a mountain of their paperwork, a trazillion photographs and slides from three generations, plus the evidence that our tiny newborn son was growing up at the speed of light.  But the KM methodology gave us a framework that felt manageable to gradually tackle it a bit at time, and slowly the mists cleared the awful navy carpet emerged.

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Basement ‘Room of Doom’ November 2015
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Basement ‘Room of Bloom’ March 2017

The central aim of KonMari is to surround yourself only with ‘joy-sparking’ items, and looking at all our possessions in this way has fundamentally changed how we live.  No longer do we buy things saying ‘ah, this’ll do’.  What we buy / bring into our home has to spark joy for at least one of us, otherwise we don’t get it.  We’re also much more inclined to buy less and choose better quality.

“But what about loo brushes?”, I hear you cry, “how can a loo-brush spark joy?” Of course on first glance there is little obvious joy to be found in the humble loo-brush BUT there is joy to be had in a clean loo, courtesy of a well functioning loo brush, one where the brush doesn’t regularly unscrew and drop into the pan requiring deep-sea operations of retrieval. (I never imagined I’d have cause to write a paragraph with FIVE mentions of the word(s?) ‘loo-brush’ in it (Roget’s Thesaurus was of no help to me here, so loo-brush it was…SIX…gah).

KM (that’s KonMari Graduate lingo right there) has finely tuned our ‘joydars’ and it’s value has rippled out to other aspects of our lives beyond decluttering; deciding what we want to eat, how we want to spend our time, which relationships to prioritise when limited for time, what type of holiday we want, which direction to follow with creative projects. It’s given us a new lens through which we can identify the joy (or not) in how we’re living.

And most of all it has brought an intuitive simplicity to day-to-day life.  We have order; places for everything so things get put away without the tiresome mental effort of deciding where to ‘shove’ it. No more hunting for the top I need, I can see everything I own at a glance. And, no exaggeration, I get a little hit of joy every time I open a drawer and unfold a perfectly folded knicker…

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Perfectly folded knickers ^^^^

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If you have any questions or want to share your own ‘life hacks’ that bring simplicity to your life, please do leave a note in the comments – I’d love to hear about your go-to simplifications as I’m always on the look-out for the next good ‘un…

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*Caveat, as we didn’t / don’t have vast amounts of money stashed in offshore accounts (actually none) there were non-joy-sparking things we kept temporarily as they served a purpose.  Those things were earmarked (in a Wunderlist list), and as and when we found joy-sparking alternatives and budget allowed they’ve been replaced – a list like that makes for wonderfully mindful shopping.

J.F.D.I

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Stages of Change diagram courtesy of socialworktech.com

This morning a friend of mine who’d just read my ‘Creating Daily Rituals’ post messaged me to say I’d inspired her to take action. She’d already been thinking about changing her evening routine, had even written a plan but was yet to get going on it, whereas I was ‘doing the doing’.

As I replied to her message to reassure her that her self-awareness to even have written the plan was a big part of the battle, it got me thinking about why it can be tricky to make that transition from thought to action. Continue reading

Yoga Baby

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I’ve always been curious about yoga, had an inkling it might suit me but was also a little intimidated.  I imagined you had to take it extremely seriously and there was no fun to be had. But then last year I discovered Adriene Mishler’s You Tube channel and I fell head over heels in love.   She is just the right blend of ‘knows her shit’ and ‘down to earth goofy’.  At last I’d found my way in to the mystical (it isn’t) world of yoga and for the past 10 weeks I’ve done yoga every day.  I started by religiously following her inspirational ’31 Day Yoga Revolution’ in January and I’ve not looked back.

What has become apparent is that the areas of my life that are going well are as a result of me prioritising them. Continue reading

Creating Daily Rituals

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I’ve become increasingly interested in the benefits of automating and streamlining as much as possible of my day to day life. Aside from the obvious example of the ease of online grocery shopping, I’ve found that creating specific rituals in advance takes care of a good 90% of the motivation needed to start / complete a task in the moment. Continue reading