I have spent the last couple of days decluttering (Again!). Rather than feeling joyful as I sort things into piles nominally labelled ditch, donate and decide later; I am getting more and more depressed!
It’s bothering me because over the last few years I have tried REALLY, REALLY hard not to bring unnecessary things into my home BUT I still have a mountain of stuff. It’s all useful stuff in some form or another, but I am not sure it will all get used in my lifetime! I have followed the one-in one-out rule but I still have every available bit of storage in my home filled. I had a successful Year of Zero where I bought nothing (well nearly nothing) new in 2018 and again in 2020.
So why do I still have so much stuff? I should have less stuff! When I look at the offending items, most are things I have had for a (really) long time, like stationery that dates back to my first time at Uni, forty-odd years ago! I even have a blank exercise book that belonged to my grandfather! Now that’s serious dedication to resource husbandry and storage stamina!
Writing paper anyone?
I have so much blank and lined writing paper it’s embarrassing! You know that scene in Gone With the Wind where Scarlett is forced to write between the lines on a previously used piece of paper? Well, I need those circumstances to be recreated where paper is in short supply and everyone is desperate for sheets of unused paper! I could corner the market with the amount of ageing writing paper I have managed to accumulate!
Another overstocked item in my stationery cupboard is packets of paper clips! I haven’t bought any in the last 10 years and for some reason, I have 3 unopened boxes of 100!
I know if I were decluttering in the style of Marie Kondo or the Minimalists I would have piles labelled something like: discard, recycle, donate and sell. Well, let me tell you no one wants to buy a hundred or so blank exam writing booklets that I purloined because they had widely spaced lines! You see, I prefer to write on blank paper or paper with 10 – 12 mm feint ruled lines. I hate the standard 8 mm stuff and the fat lined paper is so hard to come by. When my school was ditching some fat-lined exam booklets back in 2009, I grabbed them!
And… I’ve still got them! I have used some but not as many as I obviously thought I would. I guess my plan is to just keep using them until I fall off the perch. Or hope we get a paper shortage! Whichever comes first.
Hoarder or Frugal?
I’m beginning to think I might be a closet hoarder! (see what I did there?) Or am I just frugal? It is all very tidily arranged and nothing is spilling out and there is a place for everything but it’s overwhelming. I don’t agree with throwing things out for the sake of it. If I threw all the paper out eventually I would need to buy more and that would be a waste of resources and just add to landfill. In my mind, it’s better to plough through it one ream at a time!
My vow today dear reader is to not buy, accept or otherwise obtain any more writing paper until what I have is used up! I had better start writing a War and Peace length novel by hand! 🙂
I have written about minimalism, decluttering and consumerism before. If you’re interested, you can start at my post about the Konmari Bandwagon.
Earlier this year I volunteered to take part in an Urban Nature Study for an Honours student at the University of Wollongong. The study involved two Zoom interviews and three urban walks. On these walks I was required to take notice and record my interactions with urban nature. This included what I could hear, see, smell, and feel. To help me remember what I observed I made notes on the voice recorder app.
During the walks I was encouraged to take photos of the things I saw. It was pretty much the perfect sort of study for me! To top it off it we were still under some COVID restrictions so it was not as if I was doing anything else.
The student has submitted her work and I have permission to publish my contributions. I am not sure what her ‘findings’ were. Here is the first of my 3 walks. I have changed some of the street names.
Urban Nature Diary Day 1 – 13th June 2020
Saturday Beach Walk
My walk today was one of the two routes I take frequently. I call this route my “beach walk”. The other is my “neighbourhood walk”. I sometimes run these routes rather than walk. Today, I ran part of the way and walked part of the way as I was stopping to take photos. All up it took me about 1 hour 20 minutes.
This route takes me along Crown Street, past the hospital and railway station into the CBD, I then walk down to Smith Street and head to the beach from here. I walk past Levendi’s (a cafe), along the harbour, past the lighthouses and then past WIN Stadium. When I have the time (as on weekends) I extend the route and walk along the beach to the end of the golf course cut back up Swan Street under the railway bridge, up Gladstone Street, X Ave, Y Street, and then finally back onto Z Street and home. This is a little over 8 km. If I’m in a hurry, I cut back up to the WEC (Wollongong Entertainment Centre) and head back home through the Mall. If I’m running, I can do it in 50 minutes.
And we’re off…
This morning I left home at around 7:30 AM. There was a partial cloud cover. It was fine and crisp. It had been raining overnight so there were puddles and wet leaves on the ground
My phone said it was 12.7oC and dead calm. I had dressed in long tights and a long sleeve lycra hoodie, joggers and socks. I normally listen to music or podcasts while I walk. Today it was a podcast.
The ground was wet, and the leaves made it slippery, so I picked my way out my driveway. The large liquid amber at the corner of my driveway drops so many leaves and I have slipped there before so I am always cautious.
The creepy tree
Just before you get to the hospital there is a huge Morton Bay Fig in a tiny park. There is very little room left in the park for anything but the tree. (Image 1) I really like this tree and have wondered how old it is and what it must have been like before it was hemmed in by the road and houses. It would make a good climbing tree as the branches hang down low to the ground. However, it would be near impossible to climb as the limbs are very broad and smooth. The buttress roots spread out for at least 5 metres in all directions. I call it the “creepy tree” because it does not matter what time of day it is, the massive tree is always casting a shadow on the park. It smells dank and composty.
Noisy traffic in the shopping precinct
The noise of the traffic makes it hard for me to hear any birds, but I did notice some dead or close to dead earthworms who had boldly ventured onto the pavement when it was raining and had now become trapped on the drying pavement. A bit of styrofoam captures my attention and I get annoyed and feel that the hi-fi store (likely source of the foam), should be held to account for the amount of foam that blows out of their bins and ends up as pollution on the street near their shop.
This part of the route is in my opinion, nothing but “urban”. It is paved and built up. There are few gardens as most of the premises are commercial. In the CBD itself, the council is attempting to green things up. (Images 2 – 4)
It’s sad to see that their bright little street flower boxes are the target of vandals (Image 5) If there are council workers watering the plants or replanting what has been ripped out, I’ll thank them for their work so hopefully they don’t get too downhearted that not everyone appreciates the little bit of colour the boxes provide. I notice the raindrops sticking to the leaves of plants. (Image 6)
Once I get to the harbour, I join the many others who are enjoying a walk or a run on this nice morning. The clouds are making a dramatic backdrop to the little lighthouse and Belmore Basin. Some pelicans are preening, and people are out in kayaks paddling on the smooth water. (Image 7)
There is a reasonable swell and some surfers are clustered at the end of City Beach. The water must be colder now as most are wearing wet suits. (images 8 and 9)
It’s warming up and I am regretting that I didn’t wear a T-shirt and jacket rather than the hoodie which I can’t take off.
On the Beach
It’s dead calm. (Image10) the air is clear and fresh, but I lament that it is not as clear as it was a few weeks ago when we were deep in COVID lockdown and the sky had a fresh luminous blue with no pollution hanging about in a brown haze.
Once I get to WIN stadium and the footy field/golf course junction I head down to the beach. I take a lot of energy from the ocean and enjoy seeing it every day. For me, it’s peaceful and rugged and energising all at the same time. It’s mid tide so there is some compacted sand to make the walk easier. I have to dodge a few incoming waves to prevent getting my shoes wet but this adds to the fun. The sand shows evidence of last night’s rain with the little pock marks dimpling the sand. (image 11)
There are a few shells. (image 12) Last time I was on the beach there were lots of rocks and pebbles at the wave line and I notice that this time there are very few rocks. I wonder if they were carried away by last week’s big surf or if I was at a different part of the beach. Up ahead I see the little pebble “garden” I was looking for and figure that they do probably get moved as a result of the tide. (image 14.)
Not a rock
I take especial interest in an unusual green “rock” (Image 13). I pick it up and turn it over in my hands. I decide that it’s not a rock after all and probably a piece of roof tile that has been washed down a creek. I’m on the lookout for sea-glass as I collect interesting bits of that.
This is an off-leash beach but there are few dogs. A couple of gulls fly past skimming close to the sand. The air smells salty but since there is no wind to whip the sea spray into my face, I don’t taste it.
As I re-join the road and the buildings, I can hear some rainbow lorikeets squawking and fluttering in a large flowering gum near the dog training park on Swan St. There are some magpies or crows cawing as they fly overhead. I pass a garden which has some nice succulents spilling over the fence and I break off a small piece to bring home and plant in my own garden.
The home stretch
I am about two kilometres from home and I am now very much regretting the choice of outfit! The sun is rising higher and I am getting hotter! It’s a balance between going faster to get home quicker and overheating! On Gladstone Ave there are a few private gardens with some lovely old roses, but today most only have a few straggly petals left. There is also a house with a reasonable size quince tree. They don’t pick the quince and they fall on the ground every year. Each year I say to myself, “next year I am going to knock on their door and ask if I can have them before they go rotten!”
The large date palms on X street, always make me think of the cover of Hotel California (an album by the Eagles).
(I included that detail because the person doing the interview was very young and possibly not a 1970’s music fan!)
I cut across the little park on the corner of X Street and my joggers get wet from the grass. The Bird of Paradise flowers catch my eye and a few spiders’ webs in the neighbour’s garden are glistening with rain.
I am home and it’s time for a cup of tea!
 Glass that gets washed up onto the beach and has been made smooth and translucent by the action of the sand and waves.
I’m a bit of a research study enthusiast and this study combined a few things I like to do, walk, take photos and write! In addition to that I was helping someone out so it contributed to my happiness! Doing good for others boosts your mood! As I said I have not seen the student’s finished work or even really understand the purpose of her study. However, having to stop and think about how I interacted and experienced nature in my urban setting was interesting and made me feel a real sense of connectedness.
Apart from this study I am also participating in a two long term health studies. One called the 45 and up study which has a long questionnaire every 5 years; and another 3 year study on dementia and lifestyle which has frequent questionnaires which alternate between eating and exercising habits. Once each year there is a comprehensive set of cognitive and memory tests.
I have also just done a five week stint being a “patient” for a trainee medical professional to assist them with their tele-health skills.
Being a writing frugalist, I wasn’t going to “waste” an extended piece of my own writing without including it here! It was a win-win! She got some observations for her research: I got a blog post! (Maybe 2 more if I publish the others!)
Have you mastered mindfulness, or are you a mind full person like me? You may have noticed that I am not very good at paying attention to anything for a very long time. Without external accountability from others, lists and reminders, I would chase after bright shiny things that come into my field of thinking.
I can stick to some things. I am extraordinarily proud of myself for sticking to this blog for three years with weekly posts. However, I have jumped from topic to topic which, according to the SEO experts is a bad thing. I should be sticking to a branded theme.
I’ve wanted to add meditation to the mix to help calm down my mind. To help me tame the thoughts that keep me too busy when I should be sleeping. The ideas that jump into my head when I am trying to concentrate. The thoughts that stop me from getting into a flow state more often.
I’m a meditation failure!
I’ve tried meditation a few times with online apps but decided I was useless at it because I could not stop my thoughts from intruding. In a serendipitous twist, a course I did for school this month, has allowed me to see the light! (No cosmic rays, no angels singing! Maybe a little bit of new-age synth music!)
You don’t have to silence your thoughts when you meditate; you just let them slide on past and then refocus.
The realisation that it is impossible to stop thinking and that this is not the aim of meditation was a revelation! Even though I had read that before, hearing it from a real live human being with her personal anecdotes, made the difference. The aim is to concentrate on one thing, like your breathing, and then if you get distracted, which you will, refocus. If you get distracted again, refocus. If you get distracted again, refocus! As many times, and as often as you need to. Over time you’ll get better at it, and the time you can remain focused will increase. And ta-da!! You’re meditating!!
Courses at the Nan Tien Institute
The course, Mindfulness, Theory and Practice for Schools centred around ways of embedding mindfulness into schools so that it becomes as fundamental as literacy and numeracy. It was held at the Nan Tien Institute, a higher education campus attached to the Nan Tien Temple. The temple is the biggest Buddhist Temple in the Southern Hemisphere. The Institute offers many other courses including degrees and diplomas. While rooted in Buddhist philosophy, this course was secular in nature.
It was fascinating, and by the end of the second day, my mind was bursting (in a positive way) with ideas and plans. I was invigorated even though I had been sitting for two full days, listening intently to the lecturer, Dr Nadine Levy.
Nadine had the knack of drawing out good discussion and the room had a great vibe. I came home committed to incorporating meditation into my daily routine on top of any plans I may have for my school.
Mindfulness is big business.
Perhaps I’m late to the party, but I am hoping the insights learned at the course will be a permanent change for me. Mindfulness has been a buzz word in the wellbeing industry for many years now. It has/had a bit of a bad rap (in my age demographic anyway) as being a bit hippy and woo-woo, but despite that, it is a darn good idea.
Scientific studies have shown that mindfulness and meditation are effective in treating anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses. It’s cheap and universally available. It requires no special equipment and doesn’t need the internet! Having said that there are many useful apps available that can help you with your daily practice. Check out Smiling Minds (free), Calm ($A60-ish p/a) or 10% Happier ($A140 ish per annum).
My favourite mindfulness definition so far is “the mental art of stepping out of your own way”.
Dan Harris, the (US) ABC journalist, author and podcaster sums it up well in this short video.
Nadine led us through 7 or 8 mindful/meditation activities during the course. In that short time, I felt that my memory improved and that I was thinking very creatively. I slept well that night and woke up refreshed—an unusual occurrence for me. I am up to Day 4 of practice on the Smiling Mind app, and I’m feeling good! I’m going to make an effort to make it stick. I intend to include a 10-minute meditation into my morning routine. That’s do-able!
I am not going to go into detail about what mindfulness is or isn’t in this post. I’ll save that for future posts, but I warn you, this Old Chook has found another topic to bang on about!
On another note, if you are an educator, I’d highly recommend the course. It runs a couple of times a year.