I’ve never ventured into the arena of self-help books before, so why now? This is a departure from my usual content of flower arranging hints and tips but it feels pretty important in my life right now.
Since its January and lots of people are in New Year’s resolution mode, I thought it might interest you to see how with a bit of self-help I've been learning how to tidy up, let my mind rest and take time to notice – as a way of recharging my batteries.
How did it start?
My first foray into self-help was with Marie Kondo last summer. I’d seen lots of magazine coverage of Kon Marie’s book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying and watched her T-shirt folding video on YouTube. I suppose it was a conversation with friends, the realisation that you can order books from the library for free, and its prompt arrival that got me going. Every summer holiday we have a huge tidy out at home – we have to make space for Cousin’s weekend. So, I’m not adverse to chucking things out. Making donations to the charity shop and picking out the good stuff to pass on to friends at swishes and classic hand me-down scenarios.
It’s a lovely book, with a red ribbon bookmark and was a quick and easy read – although quite repetitive once you get into it. The basic premise of the book is to get your stuff together - like with like - and dump what you don’t need. A reversal to the tack taken in Get Your Sh!t Together by Ruth Field. Ruth sets the challenge of clearing your life one shelf at a time. I must have stumbled across this book in the library (fate?) because I could never have imagined searching it out. Sorting and tidying space by space is my preferred way of getting some order back in my life. I start at one end of the house and move cupboard by cupboard – ending up with a huge pile of stuff at the end. I’ve found that using the boot of your car is a great way of temporarily storing your clutter before it finally leaves you. I picked up this tip from my sister – its particularly useful if you’re selling your house and only get a 10-minute warning that viewers are about to arrive!
I’ve kept up with part of the Kon Marie routine – my scarves and cardigans are rolled end on in my drawer. Although my socks are still bundled, I do roll my knickers and T-shirts. It takes seconds and, what is probably the point of the book is that it gives you a mini breathing space. Marie would have you say a proper word of thanks for the service your pants and shoes have given you, but that’s a step too far for me.
Getting over the Impostor syndrome with some self-help
From there I went to Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. This was a recommendation from a networking pal who was packing in her bag to take away as a holiday read. This is a book that I’d read again – or rather than borrowing it from the library I’d buy it and bookmark pages for re-reading. It seems that we all suffer from the fear of being found out and you just need to move through it. Let the planets and fate align and go for it. Insert your favourite quote about progress is taking action and not staying still. I wish I’d saved all those Facebook memes that slide through my newsfeed now.
As part of a wellbeing challenge I read Ruby Wax’s Frazzled. I didn’t find it as funny as the reviews made out. It’s a real-life tale, with amusing bits. I’ve heard lots about Mindfulness but haven’t pursued anything more than a passing interest. It seems weird being told to sit still and Notice. There’s a six-week programme to follow in the middle of the book. The pages are a different colour so it’s really easy to find. I worked through week 1 and haven’t finished the rest of the programme. Lazy to the core. However, I’ve done a raisin meditation and a full body scan mediation. The body scan is something that I try to do when I feel myself getting angsty.
Over the years I have got into the habit of mentally making lists as a preparation for my day. I thought I was getting ahead of the game by playing out the plans, problems and pitfalls of my day ahead. I realise now this was a bad habit to get into. Instead of a calm transition from home to work I’d be left anxious by the thought of how much I’d got to do. Now, I try and kick the lists out of my head and when I have my morning bath I focus on the here and now and take a moment of peace.
Happier at home
Talking of transition Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin is another great (and easy read). From childhood, I’ve always been used to calling out “I’m home Mum!” and “I’m off now”. Actually, calling out (and then shouting) from another room is quite a thing in our house. We’re trying to do our warm welcomes and fond farewells within the same personal space. As I often say to my little one – if I can’t see you, I can’t hear you. Transitions have also been key. I’ve discovered that my Aries rush to ask my family what they’ve been doing today has benefited by being slowed down. To let the dust settle for what seems like an unusually long time to me, so that my loved ones can acclimatise to me being home. Conversations after that settling in period have been much more productive. And I shall be “under-reacting” for ever and ever. What a skill.
In a similar vein, I’ve gone all Hygge (in my mind) – after spending New Year in Lapland I want to live in an Ikea show room bubble with flickering candles and throws – which is so not my family life. Add all that to a bit of journaling with Sue Quigley I feel more grounded, and ready to focus on what’s important to me. Providing a happy home life for my family and running a successful business.
I’d love to hear your self-help recommendations – leave me a reading list in the comments below.
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