Simply Does It – Five Simple Refreshes For Your Home (and For Your Heart)

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The answer doesn’t always have to be long and complicated. Sometimes (not always but more often than we think) the answer is simple and sometimes its easy. In fact they’re my favourite kind. See I’m a great one for overcomplicating and overthinking things  – things like my faith, my writing, raising these two beautiful children  or even cleaning the bathroom sometimes – – – and it gets me stuck. Deer in the headlights stuck.  So what I’ve discovered is that simple does the job really well somedays and for me, seeing progress in even a small way can be all the boost I need to get me back on track and moving forward.

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So enough with the overcomplicating and lets go with a quick and easy post today.  Quick because you will be able to read it in 15 minutes or less and easy for me because  I’m writing about one of my very favourite things. So before this birthday month of mine expires entirely  I’m sharing five simple refreshes (or we could call them tiny changes) that I use all the time when my house is feeling a bit flat and lifeless – or I am.

1. Clean something. A surface, a floor, a corner, a shelf, just one small area. Pick the thing that’s bugging you the most or is the most visible. For me its quite often my kitchen bench – it seems to attract the most amazing amount of items in the span of a day so cleaning that down fresh always gives everything a lift including me but it might be the bathroom vanity, the coffee table, the sink, a work area, the front entrance, or just giving the floor a sweep – give something  20 minutes of your love and care and you’ll be amazed how much better it looks and feels.

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2. Bring in some green. In my opinion green makes everything feel better and somehow puts instant life and freshness into a space. A few indoor plants (or even just one will do) or a bunch of leafy branches from the garden arranged works wonders especially if its on your freshly cleaned down counter, coffee table or vanity. It won’t cost you anything and the stroll around the garden will do you good too.

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3. Have a rearrange. Maybe not the whole room in one go but a shelf, a mantle, the top of a dresser, a bookcase, a side table, a few chairs, anything really. A change – well it really can be as good as a holiday and who says everything has to stay in the same spot anyway. There’s a lot we don’t control, there’s a lot that is out of our power to directly change but a shelf or where I put a lamp shouldn’t be one of them.

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“Nothing is sacred around here.  Just because I bought something with the bedroom in mind doesn’t mean it has to live there FOREVER.  This is not a prison for my things.  I want my things to bring me joy and sometimes if they sit in the same place for too long, I don’t even see them anymore”. Edie Wadsworth.

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My favourite quick rearranges are my kitchen shelves, the cushions on  the lounge, the laundry shelves, my work area and the verandah out front. So go ahead and give yourself permission to change things around as much as you like  – you’ll be surprised what a difference a change of scenery, even a small one can make. Remember there’s no punishment if you put something somewhere and you don’t like it. Just try it somewhere else. Isn’t all creativity just a process of trial and error anyway.

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4. Set a surface free – this is a good one if your feeling a little or a lot overwhelmed by the amount of things you have sitting around and are just not sure where to start. It cuts out all the decision making and umming and ahhing about what to do with each thing. Just clear off one space – again a mantle, the top of a bookshelf, a buffet or a TV unit, a side table, a corner or a coffee table – anywhere thats annoying you because it simply has too much stuff on or in it – be it books or photo frames or vases or any number of cute things. Pack the items away and leave the space empty for a day or two. Just let it breath all on its own for a while and enjoy the uncluttered feel of it. The photos  below show the top of my TV unit that’s in our back sitting area all naked and my bedside table all cleared off because I can’t be trusted not to cram seventeen items on there at once.

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 It takes no time at all and when your ready –  only put back items that you really love and enjoy looking at. I can almost guarantee you wont want to overfill that space again and you won’t be tempted to drop just any old thing on there. We enjoy and appreciate the things we have so much more when they are  not vying for attention  in amongst a whole lot of other things. The other thing with leaving a surface empty for a bit is that it gives you a chance to rethink how you have been using it. So with the TV unit above I worked out when I cleared it off that I really don’t need another surface to put pretty things on. Given that its  a bit more of a utilitarian area what I could use up there are some baskets up there for storage.

As for the  items that don’t make it back on the shelf, here’s a couple of thoughts: keep a donation box handy  If it’s no longer inspiring or seen better days or your keeping it simply because it was a gift – it might be time to let it go. Less stuff to contend with on a daily basis – now thats a refresh in itself. Or for the keeps, just leave some things put away – all our nice things don’t all have to be out at the same time. They can be rotated just like the sheets and towels. In fact I try and have more put away than I have out these days so that when I do get something out that I haven’t seen in a while, I enjoy it more,  it makes a nice change and is way less expensive than a trip to the shops.

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5. Take a break. Now this ones about you. Sometimes when everything’s feeling a bit blah, it’s us not the house that need’s a freshen up.  When getting anything done feels like wading through mud its a sure sign we are just plan old tired and running low. Same goes if you find yourself going all day without sitting down or taking a break. I know it’s easier said than done but doing something to refresh yourself either body, soul or spirit  for at least 20 to 30 minutes a day will pay off on so very many levels.

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What refreshes each of us is entirely personal but heres a few thoughts: get outside in the fresh air, take a walk, read a good book with your feet up, watch a movie, spend some time in quiet and prayer, take a nap, get out with a friend, take time by the water, in the garden or enjoying a view, do something creative – not work creative but refuelling, just for pleasure creative. While your at it – drink some water and take a few  deep breaths. It doesn’t have to be luxurious or idyllic to work. It doesn’t have to be Friday afternoon and it doesnt have to involve a glass of wine. This recent instagram post I read sums the idea up exactly:

So much of life — pulls and minuses and divides us. But these evening moments of solitary walking around our little city lake – walking with seniors and students, Syrian refugees and soldiering on mamas – add to me. I don’t walk fast, I pray sometimes but mostly I just pay attention and I keep going. I feel like I’m getting somewhere. Sarah Bessey.

Author and blogger Emily P Freeman describes it as pressing your ear against the heartbeat of your own life (I love how she says things). Some describe it as  margin or white space, I just call it room to breath. I’ve not always been so good at that and no doubt I’m not alone but taking regular pauses where I’m not doing or making or planning or thinking so darn hard puts me in the direction of it. I know  I feel better when I rest and do something I like to do and better when I take time to breath deep and stare for a bit into the distance. Yes that so called unproductive “wasted” time, has a way of building and blessing and keeping us sane.

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“White space is anything but nothing” Bonnie Gray

So take a moment – take 20 or 30 or an hour regular like and do something that adds and refuels and refreshes you on the inside.

 So there it is –  a few simple ideas for refreshing your home and yourself. I have tried to keep this one short, sweet and of course simple  but if you would like a little more, here’s a few places where I am constantly inspired in pursuit of home and heart refreshment or if you’ve any simple refreshes that work for you please share away in the comments below.

Nesting Place

Chatting at the Sky, Emily P Freeman

Finding Spiritual White Space, Bonnie Gay

Now I know the posts of late have been few and far between but I have still been writing my weekly Women Connect posts. If you have a moment you can read them by clicking on the titles below or just browse the Women Connect page here.

On Making a Difference

Stay Awake To Love

Whatever!

Like Children

On Being Kind (To Ourselves)

Much love from my home to yours

Tracey xx

Linking up today with Works For Me Wednesday

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A Theory On Getting Things Done (Twenty Minutes At A Time)

So something I haven’t readily confessed to you up to this point is that I get easily distracted.

Very easily.

I start a task with enthusiasm, often a houseworky type one but before long the whiff of something more interesting or creative and/or pressing has me wandering off and starting on something else before I’m finished the first thing. Anyone else?

It happens as well when I have so many things to do I’m not sure what to do first – so I start in on five things frantically and end up with a whole lot of things started but nothing finished – I’ll have the clothes washed but not hung out, a post half written, dishwasher half packed or unpacked, clothes maybe folded but not put away, everything pulled out of a cupboard but not put back in and the clean sheets on the bed but not the pillowslips or doona.  In real time and real life it looks like one heck of a shamozzle and so not the end result I’m looking for in my day.

The other scenario is, I’ll get totally involved in something  I love doing – (usually not a houseworky type one) – something crafty or creative, writing, gardening, taking photos, rearranging a room or a combination of all the above  – and end up doing none of whatever else I need to do that day.  Now that’s Ok if your husband and kids don’t care about eating dinner or wearing clean clothes and –  if I was a totally bohemian free spirit who just enjoyed going where the mood led and who didn’t mind a mess – we’d be all good.

Here’s the problem though. I like things done. I like thing squared away and neat and clean far more than I do messy and thrown about. I like the counters cleaned down and the clothes where they should be – in the machine if their dirty, on the line if their wet and put away in drawers when their dry. I like the wide open spaces and peace of clean uncluttered rooms.

I just can’t always seem to manage it.

I  get constantly caught  somewhere in between the creative “lets rearrange the furniture and paint something” side of me and the “lets get everything neat and organised” side of me.

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So  thats where my 20 minute a day theory on getting things done comes in. You may have heard me mention it here on the blog a few times now – it’s a favourite.

A girl who’s easy distracted has gotta have some sort of secret weapon up her sleeve to keep her life a bit organised and this is the one that works for me.

I set the timer on my iphone and do ONE thing only for just twenty minutes. Clean the kitchen, fold clothes, read/return emails, write, garden, dust, clean the shower, tidy a room, clear out a drawer, change things around,  make phone calls,  etc etc

It keeps me calm,  it keeps me focused, it stops me doing 65000 unnecessary laps of this house in one day,  it’s how I get things done.

I don’t do it  all day, all the time – usually 4 to 5 x 20 minutes stints a day, mostly in the morning, is enough to keep this home civilised and functioning the way I like it and keeps me making progress with the creative things I love to do.

The First Twenty Minutes

The photos below were taken maybe two years ago. It was the first time I really discovered the power of doing one thing full on for twenty minutes. This is the side of the house where no one ever goes and where I shove things I don’t want to look at. Mostly it gets forgotten about but there was no ignoring this sad state of affairs – even the dogs didn’t want to go around there. It was such a shocker I took a photo and had a joke with Ken that if I wasn’t out in twenty minutes, to come in after me. (Word of warning – wear gloves, covered footwear and protective glasses for jobs like these. I came across Red Back Spiders, Blue Tongue Lizards and a few other scary things). I set the timer, I think because I really didn’t want to do it and decided that 20 minutes was all I was up for and then it was Ken’s turn.

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It only needed 20 minutes. I was totally amazed at what got done.

So the idea kind of took off.

One Thing Only

So if I’m giving 20 minutes to the kitchen – (usually my first 20 minute stint after I take the kids to school) – I am just getting it back to civilised. Cleaning off the counters (because my kitchen counter collects everything) clearing the sink, packing the dishwasher and sweeping the floor. In this time I won’t be cleaning out the fridge or cleaning the stove or reorganising the pantry or making a shopping list. When those kind of extras  need to be done they need their own twenty minutes.

I’ve found it works really well when you need to have a quick tidy up around the house and it works really well when you’ve got an almighty mess like I had this morning – I’m blaming school holidays and Netflix on this one.

Not my finest moment.
Not my finest moment. I try to avoid it getting like this but somedays this is just how it is.
After 20 minutes. The bare shelves because almost every cup,plate and bowl I owned was now in the dish washer. Vastly relieved.
After 20 minutes. The bare shelves are because almost every cup, plate and bowl I own is now  in the dish washer but what a relief to have a clean clear counter.

I can breath now

Now I’m well aware that  most people wouldn’t get themselves into this sort of mess in the first place and I’d much prefer to show you nicely styled after shots rather than everything all over the place but this is the reality of life some/most  days and I’m hoping for any one a little like me – – – who struggles with staying focused and on task or who  gets side lined by creative pursuits but then hates the mess your left in afterwards – that this might be a help.

So this is what I’ve found.

In 20 minutes.

  • You get soooo much more done than you think you will
  • It lasts longer than you think it will – I often  check  the timer because I’m sure the 20 minutes must be up  and usually find I still have  2 or 3 minutes to go.
  •  20 minutes can be squeezed in just about anywhere at any time.
  • You work faster and more focused than you would without the timer, so you get more done.
  • It gives you a reachable end point to your task –  when you get to stop, look back at  what you’ve accomplished and enjoy the result.
  • Getting one thing done in 20 minutes is so much more satisfying  than getting 10 things half done in two hours.
  • Big jobs (that often get put off indefinitely because they seem undoable and overwhelming) get broken down into small manageable bite size pieces. More on that below.

Often we think we’ll need an hour at least to get a task done – the fridge, the stove top, a desk top!! – so we put off doing it because we don’t have that spare hour. But I have found that nine times out of ten you can get it over the line in 20. I’d rather get something done the best I can in 20 minutes than never getting it done waiting for that elusive hour to show up. And after 20 minutes  if you have the time and really want to do a bit more – then  set the timer again and do another twenty. I always  stop at that because who wants to be cleaning and/or organising for more than forty minutes straight anyway. The  whole idea is balance – you get something done and move on.

Don't ask me why I let it get to this stage or whats going on with the sticks.
Don’t ask me why I let my office get to this sad stage and don’t ask me whats going on with those sticks.

In my office area, in 20 minutes I was able to  clean off and sort out papers on the desk top. I didn’t try to  clean out the desk drawers or reinvent my filing system – even though I probably  needed to do both.

Not done but a whole lot better.
Not done but a whole lot better.

I could have left it there, its a big improvement on what it was but because I had time, I did a  second 20 minutes  – I was able  to finish cleaning and filing as well as do some rearranging and a bit of prettying up. I had time to swap out the chair for another one but not time to iron the new cloth I put under the key pad.

Now that's better.

Two  x 20 minutes and I think we can all agree the space is vastly improved.

Tackling Big Projects

As mentioned above its also a great way to make a big project more manageable and doable.

I’m with this guy.

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your overwhelming tasks into small, manageable tasks and then starting on the first. Mark Twain

Two things often happen when it comes to big jobs around the house – you either avoid getting started because you know it’s gonna take a great big chunk out of your day/week that your not sure you can spare OR you launch in, pull everything out or apart  and two hours later your totally overwhelmed, sobbing into your  tea or something stronger and it takes the best  part of  the next week to get it all back together again

For bigger cleaning jobs like the garage or a full room overhaul or even things like cleaning out the pantry or a linen cupboard  –  I would rather do 20 minutes each day for a week – say one shelf or one small area a day – rather than pull everything out, all over the place in one go and then having the unwieldy task of putting it all back together. I’ve been there and done that and it can be a nightmare.

For me small steps taken often get you so much further and with less collateral damage then huge dramatic leaps and bounds that are, in my book equivalent to lobbing in a hand grenade.

Creative/decorating projects can get the same treatment. Lets take  for example, the gallery wall you’ve been meaning to get to for a couple of years. 20 minutes a day, one or two pictures hung each time and within a week or two you have the wall of memories and inspiration you have been wanting.

The garden is another great example of how you can chip away at a big job in small doses. As much as I love gardening it has a way of totally getting away on me if I leave it alone for any amount of time, which I pretty much did over the summer. It’s not something I ever seem to have a whole day to devote to on a regular basis. What I do have though is 20 minutes here and there and I’m always surprised at what can get done in that time. Heres how it went.

This is some of my garden a couple of weeks ago.

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Potted ficus totally covered by the vine – looks pretty but about to pull the rebar down and not really a place you want to sit.

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Shocker I know – so  I decided to start in the far back corner of the garden which I “romantically” call my secret garden. (Not so much at the moment but it has potential).   It’s where I have a small fire pit, a hotch potch of seats, and a large potted ficus tree.  I’ve used a large square of rebar  (concrete reinforcing steel mesh) vertically in front of the back fence and planted a white blossoming potato vine to climb over it. It climbs wildly during the summer covering the fence  and anything else nearby. It can be a pretty and cosy area when its looked after but as I said  – it’s got away on me a bit.

So over the course of 5 days I spent 20 minutes each day on it  – just one x 20 minutes per day because pulling out weeds is exhausting. I’ll warn you none of the photos are any too glamourous. They don’t show a finished beautiful product – they just show small progresses being achieved with 20 minutes a day focused attention.

Day 1

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The light was starting to fade and I think my hands may have been shaking a bit hence the grainy photos –  but you get the idea.

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Day 2

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Day 3

Not pretty yet

Day 4 .

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Along with more digging out of weeds I moved this makeshift bench from our back deck  where it had been sitting since this event. It fits this space well and is handy seating for when we light a fire

IMG_4630Day 5

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These chairs were recent curb side finds which I thought would be great for this spot.
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Not perfect, still needs some prettying up and I’ll have to keep an eye on those weeds that like to pop up but all in all a whole lot better.

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So altogether it only took an hour and forty minutes to bring my “secret garden” back from the brink. I still have the rest of the garden to contend with but now as the cooler weather comes we have this area to relax in and enjoy.

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So thats my twenty minute a day theory on everything. Not deep, not complicated but it works. So why not give it a go, just set your timer and see what good things you get done. Would love to hear.

Thanks so much for reading. For a little weekly inspiration you can check out my latest Women Connect post here.

God Bless

Tracey xx

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Linking with Inspire Me Monday Link Up, Celebrate Your Story

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A Good Twenty Minutes

A Good Twenty Minutes  www.waterintowineblog.comThese day’s the winter sun keeps calling me outside  – so with some phone calls to make I headed out into the garden. Difficult phone calls made easier by the sun on my back.  What I noticed though were the weeds taking over the garden beds, the Guinea Pigs forlorn because their cage was a mess and various bibs and bobs sitting around my verandah left over from painting it the week before – things that should have been put away – yep a week ago.

I was so tempted to just ditch everything else I had to do and spend the afternoon out there in the garden setting right three months of neglect. Everything else I needed to do that day ? – – – – well it just wouldn’t have got done and yes you can  get away with that occasionally but it’s what I do a little too often. Speaking from past experience it creates a ripple affect that has me playing catch up for days. No fun.  So instead –  I set my iPhone timer and  gave myself  20 minutes to see what I could get done.  When the timer went off the Guinea Pig cage was clean – not perfect clean but a whole lot better clean, the brushes, buckets, drop cloths etc from our painting project were put back in the  garage and I had dug all the onion weed out of one small patch of garden  – the one near the front steps that had been annoying me for so long. The rest of the garden still has it’s weeds but there was a whole lot of satisfaction in seeing the guinea pigs smiling, my veranda cleaned off, and one garden bed weed free.  A good 20 minutes. My day still intact. No pressure to have to do more. I can leave more for another day and another 20 minutes.

No photos though  and well you know I like a good photo – especially a before and after.  So  last Saturday I headed out to the back yard – sun again – with my phone  – (timer and camera in one) to see what I could get done  in 20 minutes  – – –  the results were surprising.

To fill you in a bit first though  – I’ve been doing these 20 minute spurts for a while now and this is what I’ve found.

  • You get soooo much more done than you think you will
  • It lasts longer than you think it will – I often  check  the timer because I’m sure the 20 minutes must be up  and usually find I still have  2 or 3 minutes to go.
  • You work faster with more focus because you know there’s an end point when you’ll get to stop, have a break and enjoy what you’ve got done.
  • Big jobs (like the garden) get broken down into small manageable bite size pieces.
  • Getting one thing done in 20 minutes is so much more satisfying  than getting 10 things half done in two hours.

IMG_2515So last Saturday I chose this border of Mondo grass that’s almost over run with onion weed (again) and a little area at the end of our paved area that I like to call my “secret  garden” – we have our fire pit and some seating in there and as the photos will show it was all in need of a bit of attention.

Before

This is the Mondo Grass border  – the light green stuff growing long and lush is unfortunately the dreaded onion weed   IMG_2516My secret garden all sad and neglected IMG_2518 IMG_2519

After

IMG_2520IMG_2521IMG_2522IMG_2525IMG_2524Not perfect but a whole lot better – and because it’s Saturday afternoon and it’s beautiful out – I set the timer for another twenty minutes and got the last of the onion weed and most of the other weeds out from amongst the pebbles.

IMG_2526IMG_2530IMG_2528IMG_2529While still far from being ready to feature in Better Homes and Gardens  – 40 minutes of TLC means this little corner now looks a lot better and somewhere I might actually want to sit and relax – – – – A wintery Saturday afternoon, sun slowly starting to fade, a nip in the air – time to light a fire. IMG_2532 IMG_2537 And fire being the primal thing that it is, it wasn’t long before the menfolk got a whiff of it and came out of the house to do manly things like break up branches and chop wood. IMG_2555 IMG_2542 Some of the womenfolk too. IMG_2572 Livvy followed. IMG_2592 IMG_2597And marshmallows. IMG_2600 And me – taking photos and gazing at my mostly weed free pebbles and into the fire and enjoying the moment with us all together.IMG_2539

IMG_2604 IMG_2563IMG_2557And when the others drifted inside my boy sat down, put his feet on my lap and talked for a bit.IMG_2605 Surprising how something fairly mundane and ordinary can grow into something entirely different – something unexpected and lovely –   reaping a reward you weren’t even looking for.

A very good 20 minutes. Works for me.

Tracey xxcropped-collage4-1.jpgLinking up today with Works For Me Wednesday WFMW-Logo    Fridays Blog Booster Party Friday-Banner

Celebrate it Sunday

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Sundays Down Under

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If you have a minute stay around and read my Wednesday Link Up Post “The Best Laid Plans” here.