Five Minute Friday on a Monday night but it still works the same way. Prompt word, five minutes, just write. No overthinking, no over editing.
This weeks prompt word is MORE
We always think we need more, if not for now then for later, for just in case. Survival instinct I guess – the more we have the safer we feel.
But what if we used – really used – what we already have. Used it to its fullest potential without waiting for more. What if we wrung the day dry of its possibilities and opportunities – use up every bit without waiting for more or better before we begin. Wouldn’t there be more just by doing that- more contentment, more joy, more peace – bound to be.
I think sometime I’d like more house.
I live in a small house and there is always the temptation to think all my household woes would be solved by more space. Sheer square footage would be nice but I’d settle for more just in the way of storage space – cupboards and closets and just generally more places to shove things.
But more isn’t always more. More space can get filled up with stuff you don’t really need exactly the same way your existing space can and your no further ahead. A big space can be unfunctional and uncomfortable and unmanageable just the same as a small space can. Big or small, more or less – its all in what you do with it.
If I think about it what I’m really wanting at home is not so much more space – what I’m wanting is less chaos and less clutter and less crazy and for that maybe I don’t need more – maybe I need less.
I know from experience the one thing that makes the biggest difference in a small house is less stuff. That right there my friend is easier said than done and an ongoing process in this wee house. The pay off though of opening a cupboard door and not have things fall on me, the pleasure of an empty shelf and a clear line of sight and drawers you can open makes it worth the tough decisions and the ruthless and relentless decluttering.
I’ve such a long way to go with this , theres still stuff piled up around here and too many cupboards shoved full. But I’m heart set on making the most of what this little house has to offer, set on uncovering her beauties and on making more of what looks like less to the untrained eye. This idea of rescue and redemption and bringing back from the edge is one that runs fast through my veins and a challenge I can’t help but rise to.
What about you, what are you wanting more or less of?
You can read what other people have done with their five minutes here
Or you can join in with some story telling and heart sharing at #porchstories right here.
“For every beauty there is an eye somewhere to see it” Ivan Panin
I know, I know its just an ordinary old tap attached to a nondescript brick wall.
Nothing interesting here except that I’ve not had a tap on this wall or in any vicinity of my back yard now for over ten years.
So to me it looks like progress and feels an awful lot like luxury.
No more joining two hoses together and dragging them the full length of the front yard and up the side of the house and right around the back, no more running the gauntlet up and down the yard to turn the tap on and off, no more looking for hose connectors gone astray, no more sloshing water in and out of the house to fill the dog bowl and water the chooks.
In short sheer luxury.
I now have water at my finger tips two feet from the chooks and not much further to the dogs. I can now hose the garden and the pot plants and the verandah and the kids jumping on the trampoline without working up a sweat.
But its been a little while coming.
Ten years ago now we began – and I use the word very loosely – “landscaping” our back yard. The tap that happened to stand between bull dozer and access to the back yard was a casualty. The pipe was capped and the tap itself put aside for the “time being”. That time being lasted until a few weeks ago when Ken and I started installing some drainage in the side yard – another project a long time coming. Unknowing and unskilled we’ve done OK but we drew the line at putting in the tap. By some alignment of the planets and with a plumber actually willing to turn up when we wanted him to, which isn’t always a given around these parts – the long anticipated backyard tap was reinstalled in a jiffy without fuss or fanfare. Joy. After all that time so happy I could have wept – for the tap now and for the progress made.
Something banal and common place yes – but its looking kind of beautiful to me.
Because when things aren’t perfect, which is always, you have to choose what you are going to focus on. Myquillyn Smith
By happy accident, I now have a new favourite reading place. My husband started a project totally uninstigated by me, at the far end of our back room – this happens to be one long room that spans the entire back of the house. Being a bit of a muso and wanting to teach our boy guitar and do some recording Ken decided he would create a music “studio” down that a way. Its come together really well although he did make the most ungodly mess in the process which we are still sorting out but as I often say “you gotta make a mess to clean up” so all good.
Ken moved the piano that sat under this window for ever so long to said studio and the comfy old lounge chair largely unused from down that way got put under the window and so far they seem a perfect match. A lovely surprise when I came home form work and a welcome change for a number of reasons.
This area opposite my desk and just off the kitchen has long been a pain to get looking nice. For one it houses an enormous four drawer filing cabinet Why? because there is simply no where else for it to go . I did, for about 30 seconds consider getting rid of it after reading some Marie Kondo inspired posts but with almost zero storage in this house the idea didn’t take. The filing cabinet stays for now. How often are there things we just have to live with in our homes, they are not by choice or by design they just are and we have to work with them or around them.
This clever lady who has long inspired me in all things house and homey talks about “arrows” that point us away from a rooms short comings (or ugly storage units) and towards its strengths and beauties.
“Decorating is like placing arrows around. “Look here. And now here.” And anything you don’t want to see you either don’t put an arrow pointing to it, or you simply put an arrow in front of it. And anything you want to accentuate, you make sure it has a big arrow”. “
The piano as lovely as it is to have one, did nothing to draw the eye away from ugly filing cabinet – it was a bad arrow – in fact it became an eyesore it itself as well, just too many hard lines and pointy angles in one area for me. But ahh now with lovely comfy chair in situ I’ve figured it out – this area needed something soft and relaxing and inviting to detract from the all business and no fun great clodding filing cabinet. The chair is a good arrow. This spot is now a destination in itself , it has a purpose, it says sit down and put your feet up and we call it the reading nook. The filing cabinet, well it hardly gets a second glance.
Now my other favourite things next to faux fur rugs thrown over comfy chairs is greenery – lots and lots of greenery – they are my new favourite arrows. They fill in odd vacant corners that look lonely and they look lovely popping up from behind a chair and they are the only thing that doesn’t look odd sitting atop my now barely noticeable filing cabinet.
My final arrow is my favourite blue and green painting because in my opinion blue and green should always be seen especially against a white wall.
I knew all of this but somehow I got stuck in this area. All it took for me to see the light was Ken doing himself a little rearranging and God Bless him that he did. The mess is forgiven.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I suspect my house might be like a lot of houses – its smaller, its older, its needy.
It has issues.
And such a range and variety of them.
Long term issues, short term issues and everything in between issues.
There’s the undone, the half done and the nearly done. Things that are broken, things that are worn out and things that need more time, dollars and skill than we have at hand right now. And theres only so much you can do in one day.
There are maybe 100 items on my to do list. 200 if I get picky.
We have exterior trim with two different colour schemes going on – the old one and the new one because I’ve only painted the bit that I can reach and Ken s ladders are all out on loan. A garden thats gone mad – (but I kind of like it that way, all wild and free). Only half the kitchen is renovated. Our “big” room at the back is only three quarters painted (long story), a strip of the cornicing needs replacing because the Cockatiel ate it and there is a water mark on the ceiling left over from a now fixed leak. Every other room needs something done. I think we need new guttering and like we don’t have enough going on we have a dark and suspicious looking stain in the bottom of the toilet that no amount of double gloved scrubbing with bleach, lime scale remover, Jiff or bicarb soda has budged. Our covered deck out back leaks buckets when it rains and reaches maybe 50,000 degrees when the afternoon sun hits it in the summer. Every window in the house could use a new fly screen, there are tiles on the front deck that need new grout and the balustrade always seems to need oiling.
And because things wear out and come loose and fall off as soon as I get one thing ticked off that list theres a couple more that get added.
– – – we’re a work in progress
So what do you do when your house has issues and theres no makeover team arriving from the Lifestyle Channel to fix it all up in three days .
What do you do when your to do list is very long but everything else seems short.
Heres one thing you can do.
Throw a party, put on a BBQ, invite a few friends for dinner, host a small group or invite all the ladies from church over for an end of year celebration.
Because if I waited till every thing is done and finished and sorted before I invited someone over I’d never have another visitor in my house – – – – ever and then I miss out and you miss out – we all miss out – on the fun and the shared food and the laughs and the Scrabble games and the story telling and the heart connections.
Because I don’t want a “to do” list to dictate how I live in this house today.
Because my home and I suspect yours too is always gonna have issues of some sort or another – but that doesn’t stop it from serving me well today. It doesn’t stop it being a warm and welcoming place for friends and family to gather in now.
If I only focus on what’s not done I might forget all the things that we have done. If I only focus on its limitations I might overlook all the things my little house has to offer. A nice big outdoor area perfect for a few people to gather, an open plan lay out and a lovely wide kitchen bench perfect for spreading out afternoon tea amongst other things.
Because none of it really matters. Not the to do list, not the undone, or half done or nearly done. What matters are people. If I miss out on people then I’m missing out on the best bits. People aren’t always easy, but there the best bits and they’re worth it.
After writing this post I worked out – that like me – my homes purpose isn’t to impress or compete – – my homes purpose is to embrace. That’s made inviting people in easier. So I’ve been putting my welcome mat where my mouth is and throwing the door open more often and with much less stress than I once did. We have our friday night women connect group at my place every second week – and I’ll just let you know Friday nights is not the night when we are all prettied up and ready to shine but it does mean I vacuum at least once a fortnight and – that time together with like minds, to connect and gather our thoughts and recharge a little after a busy week is like gold. I said yes as well (with a gulp) when it was suggested it might be nice to have our ladies year end celebration at someones home.
So if your home is like mine and is not an entertainers delight, if it has issues and is a bit askew and awry – well relax – your in good company. Here’s a few thoughts I’ve been mulling over after having my “ladies afternoon tea party” that might help you open your doors more often and not give yourself a heart attack in the process.
Hospitality – it’s not about you!
We get thingy about our homes and what they might say to people about us . But – – – what if its more important what our homes say to our guests about them. Things like – “your important to me”, “I’m glad your here”, “you can be yourself here”, “relax and take a load off” “your safe here” – my house can do that with all its lumps and bumps and imperfections and things not done – just as well as without. That starts with me.
Focus on your homes strengths not on its weaknesses.
I know its easier said than done but all of our homes, if we stop and take notice, have more going for them than we think. Why not focus on that. While my house is small, the open plan layout at the back with doors onto the deck make it feel more open and roomy than what it is – that’s one of the things it has going for it and thats what made me say yes to a whole bunch of ladies coming over for the afternoon.
Yes you have to walk through my incy lounge room to get to it but I try and make it worth the trip. The thing is when we are all there talking and drinking coffee and eating food no ones worried too much about the paint work or the cornice that’s missing or anything else. The best way to detract from what’s wrong is to focus on whats right.
One of the things I find myself saying a lot is – “it is what it is”. It may not always be that way, it may be on its way to something else, but for now “it is what it is”. So I’m less inclined these days to be trying to cover up all the dodgy bits (within reason) for the purposes of making a good impression.
Here’s an example – to get to the bathroom when we were all here for afternoon tea, my guests had to walk right on past the end part of my family room that is the catch all/ junk pile/waiting to be sorted out end. While I made sure no one was going to trip over anything there was no tying a bow on it, there was no trying to pretty it up or disguising it by throwing a sheet over.
I’ve big plans for this little area and its better than what it was – but right now “it is what it is” – I think we are all grown up enough to know that we all have messes and things in progress in our homes. Here another tip – Don’t be apologising and drawing attention to all your homes faults and failures forcing your guests to acknowledge and reassure you that “no no it looks fine”. Keep the focus on the lovely people I’ve invited in.
Your homes greatest strength – the thing it really has going for it – – – – is YOU !!
Focus on why you have invited guests to your home in the first place?
When you have people coming – ask yourself “what for”, and I don’t mean in a pull your hair out, wish I’d never done this kind of way. Having a clear idea of the purpose of your visitors coming will help you to know whats important to do and what isn’t. We want to make an effort but we want to make it in the right places. The whole idea of all the church ladies converging on my place was to have a relaxing fun afternoon tea where everyone could take a moment and enjoy a breather – a pre christmas reprieve. The key word was relax. The runner up was fun. For that I didn’t need to re tile the roof or repaint the lounge room or even obsess over whether all the cups matched.
What I did feel I needed to focus on was :
1. Having plenty of cosy comfortable seating pulled around into circles and arranged in a way so it was easy to sit and talk . A place to put a glass and your coffee cup and your plate. Room to relax and enjoy.
2. Having plenty to eat and drink – for me I like plenty of everything food and drink wise and I also like to have it all ready and organised beforehand. I don’t want to be distracted or my visitors distracted by trying to find enough coffee cups and dessert plates and glasses and running back and forward to the fridge to get milk and waters etc etc – thats not relaxing for anyone. So that’s worth spending my time on before hand. I made sure I had everything we needed – glasses, cups, plates, serviettes, drinks , eats, laid out and within easy reach so everyone could easily dig in and enjoy and get down to the relaxing and having fun part. Make it easy for guests to do what they came to your home to do.
3.Having things clean and fresh – for something like this I want my house more on the clean and fresh side than on the messy side and so do most people – not pristine, not spotless because I can’t seem to do that – but we all know too messy can be a distraction and is anything but relaxing. So yes I pushed myself a bit to get everything nice because I like things that way. Everyone has a different idea of clean though so don’t kill yourself trying to clean to someones else’s standards – you’ll never get there. It’s your home, its OK to be you.
My priorities are always a welcoming entrance – the front steps swept and some nice greenery near the door. Clean fresh “amenities” and plenty of soap and hand towels. I like my kitchen bench which is basically the heart of the house cleaned right down and set up nice for eating and drinking. I like the floors swept and anything that might stop people from moving around freely tucked away. My best advice – focus on the areas you will be using. Just do what you can and – what you can’t do probably doesn’t need doing anyway.
I’d say none of us are in any danger of this but I’ll mention it anyway. While not having everything perfect is no crime – not making any effort at all definitely is. What I don’t want my home to say is “couldnt be bothered”or worse still “your not that important”. It takes so much less than what we think to make people welcome and comfortable in our homes. The very simplest of things say welcome – the table set, the kettle on, a candle lit, a good listening ear. Small things that speak volumes.
4. Having some fun – I don’t do “life of the party” – that’s someone else’s job. She turned up about half an hour in and had everyone in stitches God bless her – I left her to it. My plan for fun was game of trivia with a few good interesting questions – that worked as well.
Do Your Thing
You know the thing you love doing. My thing is making things look all cosy and comfy and inviting because my other thing is making sure people are looked after and are comfortable enough to relax and be themselves. That’s when the conversations get interesting. That’s where hearts are knit. I know I probably go a bit overboard with the cozy comfort pretty factor but for me this is the fun bit. What keeps it fun is not over thinking it so I didn’t consult Pinterest or create a theme. I didn’t plan out the decor because this was afternoon tea not the Royal wedding and I much prefer just working with what I have.
Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can. Arthur Ashe
I started with my imperfect house and a back deck with issues where we were all going to get wet if it rained and fry in the afternoon sun if it was hot. It wasnt either – we had a cool dry day – blessings!!.
I strung the bunting and used the flowers I had left from doing this wedding. I pulled out all the candle holders and tea lights I could find and used all the throws and rugs and cushions I had around the house. I cut some greenery from the garden and moved my dining table out onto the back deck which I sometimes do in the summer and I used the whole event as a good excuse to hang some fairy lights that I’d been holding off on hanging till my deck area was all finished and complete!?! I had fun. I did all of that because that’s my thing. Was it strictly necessary – not really but for me its part of making people feel welcome and important and honoured and that for me is a priority.
Decorating may not be your thing – it might be the food or the entertainment or good conversation or getting everyone involved in an activity of some sort – karioke, line dancing, whatever – – – – but whatever it is just do your thing the best way you can to bless the people you’ve invited. Don’t try and do it all – don’t try and do whats not you. Cooking up trays of afternoon tea delights is very definitely not my thing so I arranged for everyone to bring something along AND I got someone else to organise that as well. Enlist some help , phone a friend, let others do their thing and forget trying to do it all.
The end result of our afternoon tea party – we ate, we drank, we relaxed , we had fun – mission accomplished.
“our cup was sweet, our words were long, the day was warm and faith was strong”
And all those issues my home has – really weren’t an issue.
“Let’s trade in all our judging for appreciating. Let’s lay down our righteousness and just be together.” Ram Dass
Love to you today and blessing from my imperfect home to yours.
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Got a minute you can read my latest Women connect post here