Archive for June 2011
Last Sunday, my uncle was shot in an armed robbery at a Newcastle bowling club. Initially the whole situation felt quite surreal. My aunt and cousins were at the hospital and there was nothing left to do but wait for a phone call to let us know how severe his injuries were.
I tweeted about the robbery and updated my Facebook status to ask for prayers for my uncle and aunt. Immediately I received replies as people showed their concern for my uncle and my family, offering to pray for him and sending positive thoughts and encouragement. Throughout this week, several people have followed up, asking for progress reports and checking in on me to make sure that everything is okay when they have spotted me online.
A friend recently mentioned that she found social media ‘pointless’. She acknowledged that there were some benefits but didn’t feel that these outweighed the many, many disadvantages. For me, my social media connections are far from ‘pointless’, This week, I have been very grateful for the support and care of my friends on Twitter and Facebook. Their concern for my uncle and their words of encouragement, positive thoughts and prayers have been a real blessing in what has been a very traumatic week for my family.
Real life friends have been wonderfully supportive as well. I’ve been stopped by parents from school and by friends when I have been out and about. Their hugs, prayers and words of concern and encouragement have meant alot.
I am so very grateful for the friends, both IRL and on Twitter and Facebook, who have cared for me and my family this week. This whole situation has put life into perspective and I am very grateful that no matter what other issues I’m dealing with at the moment, I know that I am blessed to have wonderful, supportive, caring people around me.
To everyone who has prayed for my uncle and aunt and my family, thank you so much. Your care and concern has made a difference.
This post is part of Maxabella Loves… weekly ‘I’m Grateful For…’ meme.
This is my fourth draft of this post. I’m telling you that so that you can be grateful that I deleted several pages of serious, soul-searching, existential ponderings before I took pity on you all and reworked it into something far less depressing.
What it all comes down to is the fact that I am frustrated that I am living my life in soft focus. While a slightly fuzzy version of me does wonders for hiding the wrinkles, it is leaving me feeling vague and directionless.
I used to be a much more defined person. I was confident and loved to learn new things and meet new people. I was organised and reliable and funny. Well, I thought I was funny. People laughed and I choose to believe it is because they found me witty and amusing.
Despite the clutter (that hasn’t changed), I used to know just where to find anything that I needed. Now I can generally make an educated guess about which room an object might be found in, but that’s about it. I never used to miss appointments or pay bills late and now I seem to be constantly running late and forgetting deadlines. Instead of being organised and decisive, I have turned faffing about into an art form and my procrastination skills are formidable.
I used to be positive and encouraging. I used to invite people over for morning tea, send home welcome notes to new families at school and ring friends to catch up. Now I seem to be too busy or too tired (or both) and I seem to be getting annoyed far too often. I think that bothers me the most.
I started Living Upside Down to keep myself accountable for the changes I want to make in my life. Primarily it is a place for me to report in on my progress decluttering and organising my home, but it is also going to be a place where I share my progress decluttering the mess that is inside my head. I’m hoping that a little mental spring cleaning will help the ‘real’ me resurface once again.
The first task I want to work on is being more positive about things in general. I want to laugh more with my children, chat with friends, write blog posts that are light-hearted and amusing. I want to smile.
All of this probably seems a bit mopey and depressed. I’m not denying that there is some element of depression in what I have been going through in recent years, but throughout it all I’ve always felt confident that I would come out of the other side of this stronger. I feel like I’m starting to understand what brought me to this point and I’ve taken some steps in the past couple of weeks to make some changes that will reduce the stress I am under (rather than simply pretending it doesn’t exist).
I promise that I will be more upbeat and light-hearted tomorrow, but today I’ve felt reflective. Laura at Rainbow Tatt recently posted about using her blog as a means to a more reflective life and that idea really appeals to me.
By now you’re all probably wondering just how long and boring my original versions of this post were since this one has gone for so long, so I’ll wrap things up with a song that I have found very encouraging over the past couple of years. Apologies for the French lyrics on screen, but I liked the images with this version rather than the Hillsong stage in others that I could find.
Sometimes I need to remind myself to just take a deep breath and CALM DOWN.
Trying to get my three children to four different birthday parties over the weekend as well as organising a BBQ for extended family on Sunday for my husband’s birthday had me running about like a mad woman for most of the weekend.
A glimpse at the calendar showed that life wasn’t likely to slow down any time soon with a school drama presentation (dress rehearsal as well as 2 matinee and 2 evening performances), 2-day band camp, netball gala day and music class scheduled. I also need to help with a school writing group, tutor a friend’s son, get my son to a birthday party on Saturday and organise our house for a birthday party with 20 friends on Sunday.
In the midst of my borderline panic attack at the thought of all that I need to do (and all the writing that I am horribly, horribly behind deadline with), my mother called last night to tell me that my uncle was shot in an armed robbery.
Suddenly, my week seemed far less daunting and stressful. There are no double bookings and everyone is ready for their busy week. The birthday party on Sunday involves a get together with great friends where I know there will be plenty of offers to help out if things get hectic. I’m not in intensive care recovering from surgery for life-threatening injuries from gunshot wounds. See, nothing to stress about in my week at all.
My uncle is in a stable condition in intensive care after his ordeal and should make a good recovery over time.
It is so easy to lose perspective when life gets busy. This weekend I was given a very painful reminder that we never know what is just around the corner.
Today’s lesson? Life is precious. Far too precious to waste on stress. I’ll be busy this week, but not so busy that I can’t take a few deep breaths and enjoy the moment.
What about you?
As part of our cleaning-because-visitors-are-coming frenzy over the long weekend, we (finally) unpacked the table tennis table that we gave the kids for Christmas. That’s right, it has taken us almost 6 months. In our house, we like to unwrap our gifts s-l-o-w-l-y (either that or we are simply chronically disorganised).
The kids loved helping to put the table together and then spent all Sunday afternoon playing. When our guests arrived for a BBQ lunch on Monday, the table quickly became a focus of attention with children and adults having fun challenging each other with lots of laughs all ‘round.
My three children were playing table tennis again this afternoon after school. Their technique leaves a lot to be desired, but they are had a great time and they have already improved quite a bit since the table was put together only two days ago. They aren’t quite as good as they think they are (I think I may have heard one of them mention plans to play ping pong at the Olympics), but they are having fun, they’re active and they weren’t arguing. Sounds like a triple win to me.
I can remember playing table tennis at a friend’s house as a child and in recent years we’ve had lots of fun when we have visited friends with table tennis tables at their homes. I guess in these times of electronic gadgets and complex computer games, it’s kind of nice to have some simple fun. Don’t get me wrong, I love the gadgets too (I’m still waiting for the iPad2 Fairy to visit me) but I think this gift is going to help us create some great memories with family and friends.
Do you play table tennis/ping pong? Do you have Forrest Gump-esque skills or are you usually giggling so hard at your own ineptness that you have very little chance of hitting the ball (like me)?
Living Upside Down is all about my experiences in trying to get myself organised and to improve life in general. One of the areas I want to work on is taking better care of myself. First step – eating a proper breakfast each day.
The problem isn’t so much that I don’t eat breakfast or that my breakfast isn’t particularly healthy. The issue is that it is usually either eaten while I am standing in the kitchen getting everyone else organised for the morning or eaten at 10am once I finally get to the end of the morning rush (kids to school, showered, washing on, washing up done, Twitter checked – you know, all the really important stuff).
I’ve decided that I have as much right as anyone in this household to start my day with five minutes to sit quietly and eat my breakfast. Today I made myself Weetbix with warm milk and sultanas and sat quietly at the dining room table to eat it. I even managed to read a few pages of a book while I did so. Miraculous.
Do you take time for breakfast in the morning or do you eat yours on the run (or not at all)?
My usual MO when I get into an I-need-to-clear-the-clutter frenzy is to rush into it, write a dozen different ‘must do’lists, start 20 different projects at once, turn the house upside down, get very annoyed with everyone because they are not helping me out and then collapse in an exhausted heap a week later having achieved nothing.
This time, I am trying to be more methodical and less frantic. I’m taking things one step at a time and giving myself a pat on the back for each success, no matter how seemingly small and insignificant. There is no deadline. This is not a race and there is no gold medal or award for ‘finishing’ first.
The old me would be feeling frustrating that sick children and a sick husband interrupted my New Project Taking Over the Blogosphere plans. The new me is sighing with relief that today everyone is back at school and work, looking with satisfaction at the piles of clean clothes that I folded this morning and trying to be philosophical about the whole thing.
As part of my preparation to work with Adele Blair to declutter and organise my home, I decided to photograph each room. Adele is based in Brisbane and I’m in Newcastle, so photos are the easiest way to give her a quick overview of the situation here at Casa del Whelan.
I procrastinated for almost a week as I worked through a mental list of jobs I needed to do before I could take photos to send to Adele – clean the bathrooms, put away the groceries, wash up, iron, file paperwork, make the kids’ beds, tidy my desk, tidy the kids’ play area… In the style of those stressed women who clean the house before the cleaner comes¸ I was mentally preparing a to do list of tasks that I needed to complete before I called in the professional organiser to help me get organised. Of course, if I was capable of getting all these jobs done, I wouldn’t need Adele’s help in the first place.
Have you ever taken a photo of someone or something only to realise later that you really should have zoomed in more? We are so focused on the actual subject of our photo that we don’t notice all the empty space surrounding it. The camera has no such bias. If it is in the view finder, then it is in the photo. I think that because I’m not generally a very visual person, I move through my whole life like that, only noticing what I’m mentally focused on at any particular moment and completely missing all the ‘stuff’ next to it (underneath it, on top of it and/or around it).
When I finally gave up my plans for pre-photo cleaning and simply wandered through the house taking photos I
found the amount of clutter in the images very confronting. It seems no flat surface was without papers, pens, toys and/or books. While my mind had happily filtered these details for me each day, the camera did no such favours and revealed my untidiness in all of its glory.
The simple exercise of taking these photos has helped me to realise just how much I need to clear away the clutter and adopt the ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’ philosophy.
Are you bothered by untidiness or do you, like me, find it easy to filter out the clutter?
While Living Upside Down will be about cleaning and organising and decluttering and sorting, I am also aiming to use this blog to help me focus on making positive changes in my life.
Many times in the recent past I have felt down or unhappy simply because I was focusing on the negatives – the mess, the neverending list of jobs to be done, the fact that someone was sneaking in to my house in the middle of the night and loading up my laundry hamper with unwashed socks (surely the only possible explanation for the HUGE number of socks I wash each week).
I love the idea from Naomi at Seven Cherubs of having a Happiness List. I believe that there are times in life when we are unavoidably and understandably sad, but I also think that sometimes we are sad simply because we haven’t chosen to focus on something more positive and productive. Naomi has set herself a 30 Days of Happiness Challenge, which looks great but I think I will opt for a longer list that I can refer back to over time like Annabel Candy’s 101 Ways to Feel Happy list (copied below), which I found thanks to this post by Naomi.
If I post about any of these happiness challenges, I’ll come back and update this list with a link.
Do you find it a challenge to be happy some days? What do you do that brings a smile to your face and brightens your day?
101 Ways to Feel Happy
- Connect with nature.
- Surround yourself with positive people in person or online.
- Do something you’ve always enjoyed.
- Do something you’ve never done before but have always wanted to try.
- Learn something new.
- Smell something that makes you happy: a mandarin, your lover’s perfume, chocolate, you decide.
- Reward yourself for your good habits.
- Eat something that makes you happy, but not too much if it’s fattening.
- Spend time with a good friend.
- Touch something that makes you happy: a cat, velvet, the bark of a tree? Take time to notice.
- Don’t worry now, worry later.
- Say, or sing, something that makes you happy.
- Challenge yourself, I dare you.
- Look at something that makes you happy.
- Stop procrastinating, do something.
- Take a small step towards your goal.
- Congratulate yourself.
- Tell someone you love them.
- Do a good deed.
- Face your fears.
- Read a book you love.
- Get outside.
- Spend time with inspiring people or read about someone who inspires you.
- Clear out your junk, literally.
- Let go of negative memories.
- Dwell on positive things from your past.
- Be creative.
- Dare yourself to do something.
- Give someone an unexpected gift.
- Change your habits just this once, do something unexpected.
- Watch the sunset.
- Get up for sunrise.
- Open a savings account.
- Be active.
- Plan for success.
- Eat something healthy.
- Trust your instincts.
- Follow your passion.
- Throw a party, or plan to soon.
- Avoid drama queens and energy suckers, you know who they are.
- Write stuff down, keep a diary.
- Set a goal.
- Clean your house, bit by bit.
- Say no.
- Spend a day alone.
- Devote a day to family.
- Pick up the phone and call someone you haven’t spoken to for a while.
- Wear your favourite outfit.
- Be present.
- Go for a bike ride.
- Do something you loved as a kid that you haven’t done for years.
- Forgive someone, especially yourself.
- Go slow.
- Have a meal somewhere different: try a picnic.
- Avoid advertisements.
- Pick a bunch of flowers and put them in your house.
- Ban all media for the day.
- Let something slide.
- Display a colourful fruit bowl and eat one or two pieces a day.
- Be romantic.
- Play a game: uno, monopoly, chess, poker.
- Make a smoothie.
- Have a siesta.
- Do something you’ve been putting off.
- Dream big.
- Start small.
- Seek out supportive and like-minded people.
- Understand that all things come to an end.
- Feed the ducks.
- Persevere: pick up something you gave up on.
- Start a new habit, a good one.
- Look at yourself in the mirror, pick what you like best and flaunt it.
- Seek sensuous activities and enjoy them.
- Look for funny things and have a laugh.
- Rest up.
- Change your routine.
- Take a photo, look back at old ones.
- Stretch your body.
- Write a mantra.
- Don’t buy something, see if you miss it. Put the cash in a savings account instead.
- Notice what makes you happy and use it in sad times.
- Ignore people who annoy you, stop being with them.
- Play hide and seek with some kids.
- Put a picture of something you want on your wall.
- Tell someone your dreams.
- Love yourself.
- Be grateful.
- Use your brain: try a crossword or sudoku.
- Make a good choice.
- Acknowledge your feelings.
- Go on a journey, long or short.
- Talk to someone you wouldn’t normally connect with.
- Be grateful for life.
- Write a poem.
- Teach someone something you know well.
- Choose to be happy every day.
A few weeks ago, I decided it was time to sort through a pile of mending that had been pushed to the back of the cupboard for quite some time. In amongst a few random items, I found a summer dress that belonged to my daughter. It was missing a button and had been put aside to be mended. Unfortunately, it was now 2 sizes too small and no button was going to make it possible for my daughter to wear it again.
Finding this dress was the final sign to me that the lack of organisation in my clean but cluttered home needed to be dealt with. Unlike some people, I don’t tend to find clutter visually distressing, but I am frustrated by the time I waste looking for misplaced items and the money I waste either buying items that I already own (but can’t find) or buying items that I then never use because they aren’t where they are supposed to be (like the button-less dress).
It isn’t the first time that I’ve decided to do something about the mess.
Every six months or so I have a week of soul searching where I decide I need to set myself some goals and get my life in order. Clearing the clutter always makes it onto the list, but that’s about as far as it gets. One week of frantic list making and then five and a half months of inactivity and the whole process begins again.
I’ve decided that I need to acknowledge that I’ll never get on top of things by myself. Despite the fact that I feel like I should be able to create an organised, uncluttered home and simplify my life, the evidence suggests that this isn’t the case. I have a shelf full of organisational books, most of which I’ve read, but I tend to get all fired up and write lists and set up routines then collapse under the weight of my own unrealistic expectations.
Working on the principle that if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always had, I have decided to do something different this time. This time, I’m asking for help. I’m acknowledging that despite the fact that I am a competent, intelligent woman, I just don’t seem to be able to conquer the clutter on my own.
This time I am enlisting the help of professional organiser Adele Blair of Blair Lifestyle Management and Green Apple Organising. Adele assures me that with some basic guidelines, a desire to make a change and a little elbow grease, I can reduce the clutter and create a tidy, organised home that I can enjoy with my family. Adele will be both coach and cheer squad for my decluttering adventure as well as keeping me accountable. I’m confident that with her help, I will finally be able to deal with the clutter that has plagued me for so long.
On a more personal level, Alison Triffett of Style Counsel Online will be helping me work through my wardrobe clutter. Time to shed the fashion equivalent of multiple personality disorder that my wardrobe represents and gather clothing and accessories that are co-ordinated, functional and stylish. Alison has already given me some awesome practical style tips and I’m looking forward to the wardrobe makeover process. No more Frumpy Mum!
Living Upside Down will be a record of my attempts to declutter my life – physically, mentally and emotionally. I’ll share stories about my efforts and review products and services that claim to simplify, organise or simply make life better somehow. Adele and Alison will be sharing tips, there will be giveaways and I’m looking forward to having some fun as well – after all, the point of all this hard work is to make room in my life for enjoying time with family and friends.
So, fasten your seat belt, return your trays to the upright position and prepare for a bumpy ride. This might not always be easy, but it will definitely be worth the effort. I can’t wait to share the journey with you.
PS I’ve created a new Facebook page for Living Upside Down (please visit and click ‘Like’ to keep up to date with all the latest posts and events here at Living Upside Down) or you can follow me on Twitter (@ReadUpsideDown).
PPS Did I mention that the images of me in the header were drawn by my (then) 9-year-old daughter. Aren’t they cute?