For the last year or two, I have tried as regularly as possible to join in the Slow Living Month by Month series, started by Christine over at Slow Living Essentials. It's definitely a good tool to reflect on what I've done each month and remind myself of many areas where I don't do as much as I'd like.
However, I do feel that there are two or three key challenges which are becoming major themes in my journey, in this blog, and it would be good to take a moment to reflect on those separately and more informally.
So, January. First month of the year, traditionally a time for much-touted new beginnings and overambitious resolutions which last all of three days. I can't even remember what my resolutions were, but I am definitely feeling more purposeful in general, more on-track in terms of where I want to be, and also more content with where I am now, accepting that life is a journey.
Clutter - Living well with less
One of the biggest changes this month is that I have started Project 333. For the uninitiated, this essentially means putting 80% of my clothes and shoes in the basement, and living with 33 items of shoes and clothing for three months. I was a little nervous, and thought I might end up recycling the same few outfits on endless loop, constantly running out of clothes and stressing about the laundry.
In fact, I'm loving it. I'm wearing loads of variations that I've never worn before, and have started to receive compliments on my clothes/outfit at least once a week from friends and colleagues, which is definitely new. Caring for my clothes becomes less daunting, with fewer of them to worry about, so I no longer scrunch worn clothes into a ball at the back of the cupboard. Clothes clean enough to be re-worn are hung up or folded. Clean clothes are ironed. Shoes are polished and waterproofed. Damages are repaired. It's all just much more manageable, and much less work. I'm even doing fewer loads of laundry.
It's also making me rethink how I approach my clothes, and I'm very slowly starting to improve my wardrobe - so the clothes are better fitting, more colourful and just more of an expression of me and my life. I'm already mentally preparing to let quite of lot of the clothes in storage go when I change them around in April.
Routines - Making housework easy
This month I've been holding back on urges to be ambitious and plan lots of routines. I'm focusing on allowing new habits to evolve however and wherever is easiest. Basically, the stuff I do that has an immediate positive feedback gets repeated, until it sticks. Taking more care with my clothes, it seemed the next thing to do to set out an outfit for the next day every evening. Doing the washing up in the morning before going to work makes the evening's pile less daunting, makes a more pleasant kitchen for my boyfriend to bake in, and offers me a moment of domesticity before work.
The latest evolution is an extension of that. I got sick of the dirty floor one evening last week and cleaned it. And it was so lovely I wanted to keep it that way, so I've started sweeping the kitchen floor each morning as well. It takes me about three minutes but it makes such a noticeable difference. But I'm trying to be careful not to add to this - I want to give myself time for each new habit to become normal.
Self-discipline - Resisting temptation
I do struggle to motivate myself to not eat the chocolate bar, to go for a run, to get off the sofa and do the hoovering, to pay the bill that came in the post. I'm trying to improve my self-discpline in general, and finding that at the moment it really comes down to food and sport.
Basically, when I eat fruit salad and yoghurt for breakfast, I have MILES more energy and mental clarity during the day than just about anything else. Ditto for having a soup or salad for lunch, rather than a sandwich, and ditto again for snacking on fruit, vegetables and nuts through the day rather than less healthy options. It sounds sickeningly healthy and I'm not yet sticking to it everyday but it makes a very obvious difference to how I feel and thus on every other part of my life. My big achievement this month is that I HAVE NOT EATEN A SINGLE CHOCOLATE CHIP BISCUIT ALL MONTH. (NB this does not also apply to other kinds of biscuit, but I'm still going to celebrate it as an achievement.
The same goes for sport. If I get out for a run, I feel so much better afterwards, and yet it's still a struggle to motivate myself. A job with long hours is too easy an excuse not to do sport, and the same goes for the swimming pool's opening hours, the terrible weather outside, a sore back etc. I've done a little better this month than some, but I'm still not close to where I want to be (half an hour, five days a week).