Category Archives: Enough

Remembering to say NO…

30 Aug 16
Megan
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4 comments

Hello, yes I’m still here and still alive. Today I want to talk to you about remembering to Say No.

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a few weeks now but have struggled to find time when Foggy Frog isn’t being a pain!

With so much going on, writing this post has been a good reminder to me that I need to remember to pace myself and listen to my body. Although physically I’ve been able to do so much more, I’ve found mentally I’ve been struggling the last few weeks.

This means it’s time to reevaluate again and find what I can step back from to achieve balance again.

Pacing is such an important part of my management strategy for the pain and other debilitating symptoms, such as the fog and fatigue. With the changes in my medications over the last few months my pain levels have been lower and, as I said above, I’ve been able to do more than I have in over 3 years.

I’ve joined a gym and have found that doing something most days (generally a stretching based class or a swim) has been beneficial for my pain levels as well. My step count is back to an average of 7,000; a level I haven’t managed since December 2014.

I’m still working on the Australian Association of Environmental Education Biennial Conference occurring in October, and my upcoming book launch on 24 September… less than a month to go! This has meant meetings almost every day about one thing or another.

As you can probably tell there’s a lot going on at the moment. In fact, it’s a little too much so I’ve been slowly stepping back from the conference planning and trying to work out what the essential things are for me to get done for the book launch to be a success.

I want to keep up my physical activity, as I’m trying to make sure I’m as healthy and strong as possible for when we start trying for a family (something we’re seriously talking about at the moment). So that means saying No to some of the other activities in my life.

Right now I’m saying NO to:

  • taking on any more for the AAEE Conference planning
  • to other volunteer opportunities that don’t have any connection to possible paid work in the future
  • meetings I can postpone until later

I’m saying YES to:

  • time with family and friends
  • actions that will progress the book launch
  • actions that will help me be healthier and stronger (exercise, diet, rest)

What do you say No to in order to say YES to the things that matter?


Working with Chronic Illness – My experience Part 2

21 Jun 16
Megan
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No Comments

This morning I was reading a post from my friend Julie Ryan over at Counting My Spoons where she shared a bit about the rough times she’s going through at the moment and how she’s trying to cope with them.

A lot of what she’s talked about in that post, slowing down and focusing on perspective and a positive attitude, are things that I’ve found have worked for me when learning to live a more sustainable and meaningful life with all the symptoms of a chronic and invisible illness.

I’ve found that, as I’ve learnt to cope better with the constant fatigue and pain that accompany me on a daily basis (hello Foggy Frog and all your friends), my illness seems to become even more invisible.

When the pain first struck it was obvious to everyone around me that something was wrong. I wasn’t able to function at all, I was scared because I didn’t know what was going on, and my body language made it clear I was in pain.

These days it takes a lot of pain and very high fatigue levels for me to look sick. Having accepted what I have to live with on a daily basis, I’ve learnt to ‘ignore’ the pain and the fatigue by focusing on what I can do and simply not thinking about it too much.

These days when I’m out I’m often greeted with ‘you look well!’, ‘it’s good to see you looking so healthy’, or other statements to that effect from people who know me. Inside I might still be feeling like I’m dying but on the outside I look perfectly fine.

This facade does crack occasionally when I overdo it, and those who have seen the sudden change often remark that I looked well one second and the next I looked like I had no energy at all.

What does all this have to do with working?

In most work places you have at least some face to face interaction with other people. People also expect you to look healthy while you’re at work. If you go to work looking like death warmed up you’re likely to be sent home!

I’ve found that being able to slow down and focus on the positive aspects of my life I’m better able to cope with change and with the pressures working puts on me.

Many with chronic illnesses have to work. These people have no choice but to do something in order to have enough money to provide themselves, and sometimes their family, with basic requirements such as food, shelter and clothing.

Others are supported by their family or were lucky enough to have already saved enough money to retire and focus on their health. However, these people still need to feel like their contributing and are ‘worthwhile’.

Personally, I’m lucky enough to be supported by my husband. I work because I want to be doing the work not because I need to in order to survive. I ‘need to’ work in order to maintain my own sense of self-worth and to feel like I’m making a contribution to society.

Because of my own personal situation, I can choose the type of work I take on. At this point in time, half the work I’m doing is voluntary (unpaid work).

The benefit of starting with voluntary or very casual work is the flexibility. Although I still feel guilty occasionally for not doing what I wanted to get done I can just step back and say sorry I need a break if things get too difficult for me. Thankfully I’ve only had to do that a few times so far and I believe that’s because I am taking steps to allow my health to come first.

Building up gradually. I didn’t jump in head first into working after I reached the point I felt I was capable of it. Instead I started with as little as half an hour to an hour a week and slowly built up from there.

I have had set backs along the way but overall I’ve been slowly improving my health and increasing my activity levels. Set backs are, I believe, inevitable when you live with a chronic illness.

Understanding the fluctuations in my health. As I said, I believe set backs are inevitable with chronic illness. My health often fluctuates. Sometimes I can predict it and sometimes I can’t, the important thing is to listen to my body and stop when I need to. The changes in weather through the seasons causes my pain and fatigue levels to fluctuate. Knowing this, I can make sure I don’t schedule too much in the first few weeks of winter and summer (the 2 seasons I’m affected the most). For me, understanding this has been an important part of pacing my activities.

Scheduling rest. Especially early on in my illness, my main tool for pacing was to have set rest periods and starting with very small amounts of activity broken up with larger periods resting. Today I don’t ‘rest’ in the same way I did when I was first ill. Back then I actually slept during the day a lot. These days, unless I’m having a crash and literally can’t keep my eyes open, I try not to sleep during the day at all. My rests are now periods of meditation, listening to audio books or lying in front of the tv (tv used to count as activity when I was really struggling).

Setting goals and keeping a To-Do list. Living with Foggy Frog as a constant companion, I often struggle to remember things. This can be very frustrating so I now keep an ongoing To-Do list that I can check regularly and mark off what I achieve. I also break down any big goals (such as my work projects) into smaller steps so that I only need to focus on one thing at a time.

I aim to be realistic about the timeframes I give myself for projects and To-Do list items. For example, most days I’ll only set myself 2-3 small items to achieve. If I do more I add that as I go but as long as I can mark something off my list each day, I’m generally happy.

This week my focus is on the Foggy Frog book. Yesterday I sent out the survey to allow backers to vote on the cover design and today I’m writing my blog posts. Over the last few days I’ve sent some emails to prominent people asking if they’d like to preview the book and provide comments. The rest of the week will likely be spent following up on publishing quotes and the emails, and beginning to plan the book launch.

How do you slow down and focus on perspective to minimise crashes and maximise your success at work?

Working with chronic illness: My experience

14 Jun 16
Megan
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2 comments

Back in December of last year, I answered a reader’s question about pacing and working. In this post I talked about some of the issues we face when we’re attempting to work with a chronic illness. We talked about our inability to be consistent and some simple tips and tricks for trying to avoid crashes as a result of working.

It’s been about 6 months since I wrote this post and in that time I’ve been gradually increasing the amount of work I’m doing myself. I’ve been very fortunate that, although I was unable to keep the job I was in prior to my first major crash, I’ve been able to use the connections I’d made when I was working full time to get establish a very flexible working environment for myself since then.

Back in 2013, I was working full time, studying full time and exercising every day (daily walks and gym at least 3 times a week). That all stopped suddenly when I woke up with pelvic pain so bad that I ended up in the emergency department all day while they tried (and failed) to work out what was causing it. I took a few days off on sick leave and then attempted to return to work even though the pain hadn’t gone and the fatigue was getting worse by the day. Obviously, that wasn’t working so I was yet again on leave.

At the time I thought it’d just be a few weeks and I’d feel better and be back at work. I had test after test to try and work out what was wrong with no clear results. As the weeks dragged into months I began to despair that I would never be able to get back to work.

Overall, I had almost 2 years without working at all before I got to a point where I felt confident with my ability to maintain some semblance of consistency and began to look at returning to some form of part time work.

Initially, I attempted to return to my previous role in a part time capacity, however my employers weren’t keen to take on the liability of having me there if I was to get worse again once starting back at work so I began to look into other options.

I have always wanted to work for myself and both E and I saw this as an opportunity to see how I would go with self employment, however I still wanted to have some form of ‘regular’ income coming in.

While looking at self employment opportunities, I approached an old boss to see if he had any casual work available for me to do as a means of seeing how I go with adding work back in. He did and he’s been great ever since then. Originally I thought I’d be able to build up to 8 hours a week of work for him within a few months but I quickly learnt that this wasn’t realistic. To this day, I sometimes manage that level of work for him but most weeks I only manage an hour or two a week (and some weeks none at all).

Having a boss who has been aware of my limitations from the start and willing to be flexible about how much work I take on has been great. I take on the jobs that don’t necessarily have a fixed deadline as they’ve been waiting for so long for clients to provide their data and so it’s not a big concern if I’m unable to complete them as quickly as I’d like. I’m also able to work from home which is a huge benefit as the few times I’ve attempted to head into the office to work, I’ve ended up paying for it after.

Although I like the fact that this work is paid by the hour, I’m able to work from home, and my boss is extremely flexible, it’s not the type of work I’m really interested in doing long term. This is where self-employment has come into play.

I’ve got two distinct areas that I’m working in from a self-employment perspective, both of which I’ve joined together under the LiveKen banner.

The first, and at the moment the largest (bringing in the most income), side of the business is environment and sustainability consulting work. I reached out to my contacts at the local councils to see if anyone had small manageable projects they needed a consultant helping on. I made it clear that my biggest interest was in developing and delivering workshops for the community around living simple, sustainable and meaningful lives but that I would also consider research based projects that fit within my skill and knowledge base. From this initial call out I got two projects:

  • Developing a 3 year Environmental Management Plan for the City of Prospect. This has been a large and ongoing project and we’re about half way through the process now a year on from when we initially started. It’s been a great project with lots of community and staff engagement.
  • Developing a series of Biodiversity Trails for local schools within the Campbelltown City Council. This was also a large project for me and took me much longer than I expected to complete thanks to the ups and downs of my health.

From doing these two projects I’ve learnt a lot about my current capabilities and about the processes and people I need to have in place if I’m going to be successful at working for myself and delivering projects on time and within budget for my clients while maintaining (and if possible improving) my health.

I’ve learnt that when proposing timelines for larger projects like this, I need to schedule in additional time than I think it will take me to allow for crashes and other health related delays. It’s also good to have someone lined up as a backup person (a subcontractor) to complete the work if my health gets to a point that I’m unable to do it.

These two large projects have also led to a few workshops with schools and the Council libraries on topics such as revegetation and up-cycling materials. These have been great for me because, although they don’t pay as well, they have a clearly defined timeframe and allow me to connect with a large group of people within a short space of time. I do need to make sure I schedule time to rest both before and after these workshops but because there’s no ongoing ‘stress’ related to completing them, I seem to recover quite quickly afterwards.

The second branch of the business is invisible illness advocacy. This actually started before I’d established LiveKen, with the idea of a picture book about invisible illnesses and chronic pain. The successful Kickstarter campaign we ran for the Foggy Frog and the Pain Gang picture book, has allowed me to focus on finishing the pictures with the knowledge that I will be able to publish and over 100 copies of the book will be going out into the hands of people who live with an invisible illness to share with their friends.

This is another project that has taken me MUCH longer than I expected it to. We are finally at the point where I’ll be getting quotes for printing within the next few weeks so keep your eye out for more information about this in the next month or so. The plan is for the picture book to be the first step in a larger awareness raising campaign.

This post is getting quite long, so I might stop there today and do a detailed hints and tips post later.

What tips or tricks do you have for working with a chronic illnesses?

Moving…

26 Apr 16
Megan
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4 comments

Moving…

Making choices, clearing room

Time to think, to stretch, to value, to love

Being present, living life

Over the last few months I’ve focused on building up my exercise levels to a point that I can maintain a consistent exercise regime including stretches, a relatively consistent step count, and regular bike rides on my electric bike. Moving my body with the aim of reducing pain levels and increasing energy.

I’ve also helped several friends and family members to move house. It’s been interesting to see the different ways people pack, how they prioritise what to keep, add or give away, and who they have to help them move. I am glad that although I physically couldn’t help much with any of the moves, I was there to support my friends and family.

My brain has been less foggy lately as well. Yes, I still have days that I’m crashed and everything is a struggle but in general I’ve had a clearer head. This has let me move forward on my projects, progress my study, and consider taking on new opportunities that fit my values and allow me to grow.

Everyone in life is moving in one way or another. In most cases though we’re all moving in many different ways all at once.

Physically, mentally and emotionally we’re always moving.

In what ways are you moving at the moment?

 

Challenges and Lessons from our 20 Week No Buy Challenge

19 Apr 16
Megan
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We’ve reached the end of our 20 Week No Buy Challenge and over the weekend Rach and I caught up to celebrate our successes.

In keeping with the No Buy theme, we celebrated with a homemade lunch of soup and sourdough bread with a glass of sparkling wine followed by homegrown peppermint tea and homemade peanut butter cookies.

Celebrating the end of our 20 Week No Buy Challenge with homemade soup and sourdough and a glass of bubbles...

Celebrating the end of our 20 Week No Buy Challenge with homemade soup and sourdough and a glass of bubbles…

As we ate we discussed the challenges we faced during the 20 weeks and what we felt we’d learnt.

My biggest challenge was sticking to the rule of not eating out if I was alone. There were several days where I found myself out and about longer than I had planned to be and in a position where I was contemplating takeaway food. Luckily each time this happened I either made my way to my mum’s and ate there, or someone was available for me to eat out with so I didn’t actually break the rules.

My second biggest challenge was accepting that some things that at the beginning of the challenge I classified as non-essential became essential purchases during the 20 weeks. The t-shirt I’m wearing in the photo above was purchased during the 20 week challenge but it was an essential purchase as I lost at least 3 of my t-shirts and 2 dresses to old age (they became see-through or massive holes that weren’t worth repairing were made while carrying big loads of things into the house). I also gave away a couple of t-shirts because I wasn’t wearing them (they weren’t comfortable on me or they didn’t go with enough of my other clothes). Thus the new t-shirt in the photo above…

Having said that, none of the old clothing went into landfill, I have either cut them up for rags (the see through and holey ones) or I donated them to charity or someone I knew who would get more wear out of them than I was.

Lessons Learnt

I’ve struggled a bit with identifying the lessons I’ve learnt during this challenge, mainly because I didn’t find it all that difficult to comply with and because a lot of what I ‘learnt’ I already knew (the challenge just reinforced it).

The main things it reinforced for me were:

Always prepare for the unexpected.

I could have avoided the unexpected needs for eating out by always taking at least a small snack with me when I leave the house. I did do this most times and it saved me a few times from having to buy something. I also took my zero waste eat out kit (straw, cloth napkin, bamboo spork) everywhere with me and used it on several occasions to avoid using disposables and most trips I took my keep cup as well.

If you can identify your values, it’s easier to say ‘No’ to the things that don’t fit with them but it’s also important to be aware of other people’s values as well.

The No Buy Challenge fit well with my values of being conscious of the impact my actions have on the environment and the wider community. There were several purchases we made as a family (E wasn’t participating in the challenge) that, if it was just me, I would not have made but that were made because they fit with E’s values. There were other purchases we considered that I said No to because they didn’t fit well with my values and I couldn’t see any long term benefit for anyone in the family.

Each of us are individuals and we need to make compromises at times if we are to maintain healthy relationships. We need to set our own boundaries about what is acceptable and what isn’t.

Buying is the cultural norm and it’s difficult to move away from these habits.

Although I’ve never been a big spender, participating in this challenge made me more aware of the times where, in the past, I would’ve just made a purchase without really thinking about it. Even most of my few purchases during the challenge (the earrings early on, a duplo set and a few children’s books secondhand, and the t-shirt mentioned above) were made without much thought about them before hand. It was only after I bought them that I actually considered what they meant in terms of the challenge.

Rach had a lot more trouble with this than I did, there were several times during the challenge where she contacted me because she was considering a purchase and needed to discuss the options and whether they were actually essential. She also found that she enjoys shopping and for that reason alone it was difficult to stop.

Not buying new things makes you appreciate what you have.

Both Rach and I removed things from our houses during this challenge. Rach gave several bags of clothes to charity and took the time to assess what she has in her wardrobe. I, as mentioned above, lost several items of clothing to old age and gave away a few items that I didn’t wear.

We’ve both realised that we have enough, and for some things (clothes in particular) more than enough, in our lives. We are grateful that we live in a society where we have choices for clothing, shoes, kitchen appliances and other household items. We are not living below the poverty line and don’t need to struggle to meet our basic needs.

I like making conscious choices that align with my values.

Although it takes more time, during this challenge I’ve added several more homemade items to our lives. As well as the laundry liquid, cloth napkins, peppermint and fruit we already make or grow, I’ve been trying my hand at making my own sourdough bread (so far no reactions) and other ‘old fashioned’ recipes that are better for my health and the environment.

Although there are a few purchases I now need to consider making (new underwear and sandals to start with) I’m still going to be conscious of my purchases and my allocation of my time and resources. This No Buy Challenge has helped me to progress my larger challenge of living a simple, sustainable and meaningful life.

Did you participate in the challenge?

If so, what did you learn? If not, would you consider a challenge like this in the future?

Zero Waste Purchases: No Buy Challenge Update Week 11

16 Feb 16
Megan
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I did some shopping this week…

There, I got that off my chest. I didn’t break my rules for the 20 week no buy challenge, but I did buy things I wouldn’t normally buy (they were on my to-buy list a long time.

If you’re a regular reader you’d be aware that I’ve yet again been trialling new drugs and suffering from very frustrating side effects that are impacting on my quality of life.

In particular, the brain fog (which I had got to manageable levels) has been so bad I’ve pretty much been unable to do any work for the last few weeks apart from attending meetings (listening but not contributing as much as I usually would) and writing here on the blog.

Yesterday, when I came onto the computer to do some work (I didn’t manage to actually do any work in the end)* I got completely distracted. Don’t ask me what distracted me because I honestly don’t know but somehow I ended up looking at sustainable living/baby related sites.

Our kitchen has several plastic and glass (pyrex) storage containers but as part of my journey towards zero waste I’ve been wanting to get my hands on some leak proof stainless steel containers for getting meat from the butcher. I also wanted to get my own spork to go into my zero waste eating out kit instead of transporting a cutlery set (i.e. cut my kit back to a spork, straw and napkin, along with my sandwich wrap, jar of snacks and stainless steel drink bottle for longer trips out and about.

My original zero waste eat out kit... spoon, chopsticks, straw and napkin. I want to replace the normal sized spoon and chopsticks with a reasonable sized spork (a more flexible tool with less to carry around)

My original zero waste eat out kit… spoon, chopsticks, straw and napkin. I want to replace the normal sized spoon and chopsticks with a reasonable sized spork (a more flexible tool with less to carry around)

On one of the sites I ended up on I found a good special on both of these items so jumped in and bought myself 2 stainless steel containers (with BPA free lids that seal and a removable divider inside) and a bamboo spork.

My zero waste purchases

My zero waste purchases

I also bought my supplements online for the first time (calcium and folate), so now I’m waiting excitedly for my packages to arrive!

I’ve also started a list of things that I will need to consider buying in the near future. Because my wardrobe is now so minimal and I wear my favourite things most days, I’ve reached the point where things are starting to wear out.

Some of these things won’t be replaced, like the 2 dresses that reached the “I can see my undies through them” point in the last few weeks, because I have already decided I had more than I actually needed of these items.

I’m now down to 7 dresses. I wear dresses almost every day, all year round. Seven is probably still more than I need but as things wear out I consider whether I need to replace it or if something else I already own fills the same niche. I’m getting closer to the magical 33 Items recommended by Courtney Carver from Be More with Less in her Project 333 (I’m down to 36 items, excluding underwear, shoes, and accessories – scarves, jewellery, hats, etc).

Other things will need to be replaced, like undies. I bought 4 new pairs of undies from the local shops in July last year (bonds brand). These are already reaching the point where they’re starting to go see-through or holey. They’re also not very comfortable to wear anymore, riding up or falling down regularly.

My other 3 pairs of undies I bought online in March (2 months earlier) and they’re still going strong with no sign of being even close to worn out. They’re extremely comfy and actually function as pads (just add inserts) by themselves if you want them to. Last time I bought 3 pairs of the charcoal grey colour.

I want to keep some colour in my collection so I’m considering replacing the most uncomfortable ones I’ve got with more of the Maia Hipster Lunapanties but in other colours (one pair each of aquamarine, festival pink, and royal stripe).

The more uncomfortable ones are still ok at the moment, and the ones I want are reasonably expensive for underwear, so I’m going to hold off as long as I can (hopefully until the end of the challenge in 9 weeks).

I’m also going to need to replace my sandals at the end of summer. The inner lining tore the other week and although we have attempted to fix it the patch is already tearing as well so they’ll need to be replaced. I have worn them pretty much every hot day since October 2014 so I guess they’ve done their stint (probably equivalent to almost a year of daily wear).

I’m considering Birkenstock sandals like this or this because they’re meant to be long lasting, and sustainably and ethically made.

How do you decide when it’s time to let go of your favourite items?

*I have managed to do some work today which is great! I’ve been really stressed about how bad my ability to get things done has been, especially given I have commitments to meet.

Share Your World – Week 5

04 Feb 16
Megan
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The questions this week have been very thought provoking and I’ve struggled with a few of them but here we go… Let’s Share Your World!

If you had a shelf for your three most special possessions (not including photos, electronic devices and things stored on them, people or animals), what would you put on it?

I don’t really focus much on ‘stuff’ and ‘possessions’ any more so I’ve struggled to think of 3 things that would go on the shelf.

I would definitely include my childhood teddy. He’s been through everything with me and he’s not going anywhere…

2014-12-16 18.55.58

The second thing I’d put on it is the old cigar box that currently holds my yearly letters to E. Starting from our wedding day I’ve written a letter to him each year as part of his anniversary gift.

The third thing I’d add would be my special jewellery… My engagement ring (was my great grandmothers) and wedding ring, my heart necklace (6-month dating anniversary gift from E) and my crystal necklace (also a family heirloom).

If you had a box labelled ‘happiness’, what would you put in it?

NOTHING, or a note that just says ‘Be Present’. I would use it as a reminder that happiness comes from within, not from external sources.

What do you want more of in your life?

I’m very happy (or as happy as I can be) with my life at the moment but I’d be happy if I was able to have more family time and less pain/health issues.

Daily Life List: What do you do on an average day? Make a list of your usual activities you do each day.

An average day… I was planning to do a day in my life style post like my friend Joy and Toni Bernhard anyway so I guess I’ll describe it here.

Wake Up time… Generally between 8 and 9 am (although the last few days I’ve woken earlier then fallen back to sleep). At this time I take a moment to scan my body and see what parts are hurting the most and the least (there’s never no pain so it’s more an assessment of how well the day is going to start).

While still lying in bed I do at least a 5 minute meditation before stretching and slowly sitting up. Most days I’ll take a shower (sitting on the floor to avoid falling over or making pains worse) and get dressed.

Breakfast is the next task to address. I make a cup of tea and see how much energy I have. Most days I just have a piece of fruit or something premade that’s easy to eat. When I have the energy I’ll make a cooked breakfast with veggies and eggs.

While the kettles boiling (and breakfast is cooking) I’ll do a short sun salutation. Just 5 minutes is enough to stretch out my muscles but it also wears me out again.

After eating breakfast it’s time for another rest so I’ll sit on the couch drinking my tea. I may browse Facebook on my phone.

After 10-15 minutes rest, I’ll read through some blogs for up to 30 minutes (usually closer to 15 minutes) then push the button that sends the robot vacuum on a round of the kitchen/family room and laundry.

I’ll clean the litter trays and then assess how I’m feeling.

If it’s a good day I’ll do an hour or two of work (writing blogs, working on consulting jobs) or spend some time cleaning up around the house with regular short rest breaks in between. If it’s a bad day I’ll put the tv on or listen to an audio book.

At around 11:30 I’ll start thinking about lunch. Generally this will either be left overs or a sweet potato which I throw in the oven with salt, pepper and oil and leave to bake for an hour.

After lunch I have a nap before either doing a bit more work/housework or putting the tv/audiobook back on.

Around 5 I start considering dinner. I slowly make dinner taking lots of rests and by the time E is home (generally between 6 and 7pm) dinner is ready to eat.

We eat and watch tv until around 9-9:30 when I take my medicines, floss and brush my teeth, shower and bed.

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

I’m grateful that I’m able to live a slow life. Over the weekend E and I were able to slow down and just relax. I spent a whole morning listening to audiobooks while E was on the computer and doing things around the house, we visited family and we went for a slow walk in the local national park.

This week I’m looking forward to continue living slowly. Taking the time to enjoy the simple things like the warmth of the sun and the sound of the rain. I’m also looking forward to afternoon tea with Rach as a special mid-challenge catch up as part of our 20 week no-buy challenge.

A simple wardrobe with chronic illness

02 Feb 16
Megan
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Another week down in the No Buy Challenge and another week of sticking to the goals. I’ve decided that instead of focusing my posts on the challenge each week (I will if there’s anything to update you on) I’d start doing some of the other posts I’ve been planning with just a short update at the beginning for the challenge. So, as promised in earlier posts, today I’m focusing on my simple wardrobe.

Over the last few years I’ve become increasingly interested in reducing ‘clutter’ in our house. With limited energy, my ability to maintain the house to an ‘acceptable’ standard of cleanliness had dropped. All too often there were items lying over every conceivable surface in the house, washing piling up (dirty and clean) and dishes in the sink.

As part of my year of ‘Enough‘ last year, I spent a considerable amount of time removing a lot of the things and stuff that had built up but wasn’t actually needed, useful or loved. I have focused mainly on my own things, hoping to lead by example for E so my wardrobe was one area that got regular attention and I’m quite happy with the result.

There are many, many posts out there about how to create your own minimalist wardrobe, check out:

This is how I’ve modified the guidelines I read to suit my lifestyle and preferences.

An initial culling

When I first began my wardrobe clean out I pulled everything out of the cupboard and tried it all on with Janelle (my trusted friend) to assess what I liked and actually fit well and looked good. Anything that didn’t meet any of these criteria either got donated or thrown out depending on the state they were in.

Chose a colour scheme

I chose two main neutral colours – black and grey (I do still have a few white and brown items but mostly black and grey) – and two spectrums of accent colours blue/green and pink/purple. Anything that didn’t fit these colour schemes were donated, apart from my orange coat (A honeymoon purchase and my favourite winter coat).

Turned my coat hangers backwards

Last year I turned all my coat hangers around and only flipped them when I wore an item, anything not worn at the end of the year was donated. I found that all my short sleeved shirts are now gone, I tend to wear blouse style tops if I wear my suits, and I only have one long sleeved shirt.

Thanks to this process I now have room to hang everything, including jumpers, t-shirts and bottoms (were folded last year) so I’ve turned them all around again this year so I can assess how many of these items are actually worn throughout the year.

Pay attention to how I feel in each item

Throughout the year I donated several more dresses because they just weren’t comfortable, either they were too tight or they had zippers/buttons on them that were just not comfortable against my overly sensitive skin (a symptom of my Fibromyalgia).

Pay attention to what I wear most

A lot of the guides for minimalist wardrobes recommend X number of tops, X pants, X dresses, etc. This idea didn’t work for me.

I’ve found that because my tummy can (and does) bloat daily – going from almost flat to looking 5 months pregnant by the end of the day – I tend to wear dresses more often than any other item of clothing. I hardly ever wear skirts, jeans or pants any more – anything with a waist band that isn’t stretchy really.

As a result I only have one skirt, one pair of jeans (maternity jeans), two pairs of shorts (one stretch cotton), a pair of maternity leggings (worn almost daily in winter). In comparison, I have 9 dresses.

I also get really cold quickly so I have more items that I can layer such as cardigans, jackets, etc.

From 2 drawers + hanging to just hanging...

From 2 drawers + hanging to one row of hanging (shirts in foreground are E’s)

 

This wardrobe suits my life with chronic pain, limited energy, and daily fluctuations in body shape (bloating).

Maintain

To avoid a recurrence of wardrobe ‘clutter’ I’ve established some guidelines to maintain my wardrobe:

  • One in one out (for every new item that comes in an old item needs to leave the wardrobe)
  • Stick to colour scheme (any new items need to fit with my colour scheme)
  • Natural fibres (no wool) – my preference is for cotton or bamboo, I’m allergic to wool so none of that
  • Pockets! (Over half my dresses now have pockets and I’ve made a decision that any new dresses need to have them, this helps dramatically with reducing what comes in because there aren’t that many out there that do)

What items of clothing do you find yourself drawn to most days? Do you think you could live with a minimalist wardrobe?

Share Your World: Week 4

28 Jan 16
Megan
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I can’t believe it’s almost the end of January already and we’re up to week 4 of Share Your World 2016 !

So far this year I’ve been struggling to maintain my balance. If I look at it from a week or month point of view I’m doing ok but on a daily basis I’m still struggling. Some days are crashed on the couch and unable to do anything much other than listen to an audio book or the tv in the background. Other days I’m rushed off my feet trying to do appointments and out of the house activities… I haven’t worked out the balance there yet.

It’s difficult for me to work out how to do this properly because I see the benefit of not having to drive more than once or twice a week (it’s still an activity that wears me out a lot) but then it means those days I am out I don’t manage to pace my step count, I don’t get my usual rest breaks, and I just over do it in general.

I’m also struggling to get any sort of regular routine in place for work activities. I’d love to be doing at least a minimum amount of work each week but Foggy Frog seems to be my constant companion again and he’s making it very hard for me to do anything for more than 5-10 minutes at a time with any hope of having reasonable results.

How do you pace yourself with activities outside the house or with adding in any work?

Anyway, being Thursday today, it’s time for another round of Share Your World.

Share Your World – Week 4

What one thing are you really glad you did yesterday?

Yesterday was one of those super full days where I over did it. That doesn’t mean there weren’t things I achieved that I’m really glad to have done though…

I managed to make it in to town to have lunch with E and one of his work colleagues before heading to the meeting I had in the afternoon. This is something that I really enjoy doing as it doesn’t happen very often these days unless I have a medical appointment in town.

Are you generally focused on today or tomorrow?

I do have a habit of focusing on things that I feel are important or scary that might be happening in the future but these days, thanks to the uncertainties related to my health, I’ve gotten a lot better at just focusing on one day at a time. Most weeks I don’t even look at my calendar in advance unless I’m booking something in. I might check it the night before when I’m getting ready for bed or when someone asks me what I’m doing.

Would you want a guardian angel/mentor? What would they tell you right now?

A mentor (or several mentors) provides inspiration, advice and guidance to help you succeed the best in life. Yes, I’d want that in my life and look up to several people in my life now as mentors.

Right now my mentor would be telling me to remember to be gentle with myself. As you might be able to tell from the last few posts I’m feeling very frustrated about my limitations at the moment. I’m wanting to do way more than my body will actually allow and I’m struggling to accept it. If my mentor was here right this minute they’d be reminding me that my health is the most important thing, without it I can’t do anything. They’d be telling me to continue to listen to my body and rest when I need to, to accept where I am at the moment, and to not set unrealistic expectations for myself.

Would you rather live in a cave house or a dome house made out of glass? (photos of the houses found on google search)

I love the idea of both but my dream house would be a dome house that’s built into the ground with lots of glass… something like this.

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

I’m grateful for the understanding and support of the wonderful people in my life. I realised in the last few weeks that I’m not going to meet my deadline for one of my consulting jobs. When I contacted the client to let them know they’ve been very understanding and said there is no rush and to just work on it as quickly as I can.

Being able to spend time with my friends has also been very satisfying.

In the next week I’m looking forward to talking with my doctors about some test results I got in the last week and hopefully getting some guidance on how to approach the issues that have arisen (More to come in an upcoming post on this).

Week 8 No Buy Challenge: swaps and give aways

26 Jan 16
Megan
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We’re quickly approaching the half way point in our 20 Week No Buy Challenge and so far there haven’t been too many difficult decisions I’ve needed to make.

Over the last week in fact, I’ve given away a lot more items then we’ve had come into the house which feels great. On the weekend Rach (who’s doing this challenge with me) brought over a top she no longer needed/wanted. It fits with my colour scheme (greens and pinks) and is made of cotton so we traded. In exchange for the top I gave her some material to use in her conversion of one of her dresses to a skirt.

On the same day I also had one of my other friends over and let her go through the big bag of clothes I had taken out of my wardrobe over the last few months. Most of the clothes were things I’d either not worn in over 12 months or I’d gotten something that does the same job (little black dress for example) but fit better with my wardrobe guidelines (the new little black dress is cotton and has pockets). From this process, Janelle (my friend), received a few short sleeved shirts for work and a couple of dresses and a beautiful leather bag with matching belt. She described it as:

“shopping without actually spending money”

E has mentioned that he thinks I’m getting a bit obsessive with the decluttering but I don’t see it that way. Yes, the process seems to have some level of inbuilt momentum… the more I do it, the more I want to reduce… but I’m not thinking about it 24/7 like I tend to do when I get obsessed with a topic.

I’ve seen so many great benefits from reducing the amount of stuff I own. I have always struggled with keeping the house clean and often became overwhelmed by tasks that need doing but lately that’s started to change. Now that most things have a home, and one that isn’t stuffed so full it’s difficult to fit everything in, it’s generally very easy for me to put things away as soon as they’ve been used. This means keeping the house clean is much easier. I find that my stress levels are much lower now that there are generally clear shelves and counter tops. I know what I own and I’m not tempted as often by impulse purchases.

Have you been on a decluttering journey? What benefits have you found?

Have you ever swapped items with friends instead of buying new?