Thursday, October 12, 2017

How to find peace in your day

The first rose in our new garden :)

 ‘Our life is frittered away by detail… simplify, simplify’ ~ Henry David Thoreau

I was ruminating today’s blog topic over in my mind, pre-writing it if you will, and I heard the quote above.  It fitted in so perfectly with the theme I wanted to write about so I thought this was a very good sign that I was on the right track!

The thought I was pondering, is that I often think back to my younger years, probably more as a child but certainly as a young adult as well, with nostalgia for a simpler time.

Now when I was there, it wasn’t necessarily simpler, because even as a child I’d have a lot of thoughts running through my mind.  I suppose I didn’t need to pay bills and ring companies about changing our postal address and remind our superannuation account that they still don’t have our tax code right (despite written requests being posted to them.)

Those are all little things, but the little things can really be bothersome don’t you think?  Like a sandfly buzzing around.  And that’s before you start setting the building blocks into place and doing things that will make your life better.  I love the feeling of intentionally designing my life, but sometimes you feel like you’re spending all your time just standing still, you know?

That’s just part of living though, isn’t it.  But anyway, thinking back to simpler times with nostalgia made me want to gather up all the things that complicate my life and then see how I can reduce, simplify or delete them.

It’s not even other people so much as me getting in the way of myself.  Procrastination, leaving things undone and let paper piles accumulate are all ways I can steal peace from my day and it’s all because I am not taking notice of the small things.  Then small things from other sources pile up on top.

When I have words to write, it can seem a waste of time to tidy up my desk, file receipts and keep things up to date, but I have such a clear head when I’ve done those things.  My problem is that I listen to go-getter types that say if you want to be successful you have to be prepared to go through life leaving loads of things undone.

And I get it, I don’t want to major in the minor things, but for goodness sake, I can’t leave my receipts and financial filing in a clutter and expect to be able to concentrate!

So.  Simplify, simplify Mr Thoreau says.  It really is one of my favourite words.  To me that means ~

Do the filing
Clear your desk
Sweep away the paper piles

Aaaaah, it feels soooo good!

What I need to remind myself of – and you if you need it – is that only you know what constitutes a good rule for yourself.  Ask yourself what do you need to feel good on an everyday basis and how can you make it the easiest to obtain.  For me, it’s a feeling of peace.  If I felt peaceful every day, no matter how much I had on, I’d be golden.

What about you?  What do you do to get in your own way and what could you do to alleviate it?


PS. I’ve not read any of Mr Thoreau’s books, but have just ordered Walden from the library.  Are there any others of his you would recommend, or shall I just start with that one?


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  1. The concept of 'touching a piece of paper only once' works well with it, file it or throw it away, don't create a pile to be dealt with at a later time.

  2. Nicole has nailed it. I do that, too. When I get a piece of mail, If it is a bill, I pay it immediately. If it is a receipt I need to keep, I file it immediately. If it is a catalog that I want to look through, I put it on top of whichever book I'm currently reading, and I look at it during my "quiet time", then either recycle or place an order. Junk mail goes immediately in the recycle bin. This works for e-mail as well, which I have set times of day to check. If you deal with these little things right away, they only take a minute or so. If you pile them up for later, they take a considerable chunk of time, so you keep putting it off because you don't have the time, and the pile just gets bigger and requires even more time. It really helps provide a sense of peace, not having a pile of paperwork sitting there, waiting for you. I'd recommend just taking an hour or so and just getting through it, then when it's all cleared away, go with the "touching a piece of paper only once" rule. It really does work well. Good luck!

  3. Your musings and quest are similar to my own. And the specific criteria for "peace" & simplicity change from season to season of my life while revolving around a few core principles....

    By the way, another book I read annually is Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

    1. I have that book to read as well, thank you Rebecca. It's been on my list for a while but it comes with so many recommendations!

  4. Walden is the perfect choice to read. I find a lot of peace when I stay out of other people's business. It cuts out a ton of drama.

  5. I own that book and read Thoreau a lot when I was younger...his writing is very "melodic" and wise. Like Rebecca I love A Gift from the Sea too.

  6. Thoreau is amazing in that if you read each sentence he writes separately, they all stand on their own.

    I do as some of the other commenters do with paperwork - I take care of it all immediately. I've never had a "mail pile" to go through, I could never let it sit there, it would annoy me too much! It's the same with email, I get rid of junk mail as soon as I see it.

    One way I find peace in my day is to say no to invitations when I know they will be taxing. I turned down a couple of these just yesterday because I knew they would be draining even though they were a birthday luncheon and a couple days at my sister-in-law's timeshare. They might sound like mini vacations but to me it is sometimes work to socialize. I've been driving a lot lately in L.A. traffic and it's exhausting! Also, there have been fires here throughout California (near my daughter's college), mass shooting in Las Vegas ... it's overwhelming. I'm trying to limit t.v. time, especially the news where on every channel is a loop of all the tragedy taking place in graphic detail and sometimes I find myself watching it for far too long.

    I do better when I get lots of alone time to relax. I relish quiet. Sometimes I don't even want music playing. Birdsong in the yard is perfect noise for me :)


    1. I may have been thinking about Emerson, not Thoreau. I got them confused there! They're both amazing though :)


    2. Keep safe, D! I know what you mean about socializing being draining too sometimes :)

  7. I was born in the 24-hour cusp between Leo & Virgo, which means I tend to fling myself into things on the one hand, but love order & routine on the other. In this area, thank goodness, my mildly anal-retentive Virgo side rules.

    I have always loved systems & in the last couple of decades have worked to create strong systems & routines where they help me live the simple, drama-free life I love. And then to simplify them down to the bare bones (my Virgo half loves designing fabulously complex systems, but my Leo half won't put the effort into keeping them up!) So everything that benefits from a well-designed & maintained routine now has one, and I keep them as simple as possible.

    I pay bills the minute I receive them (I use internet & phone banking). Any paper I don't want or need goes into the recycle bin immediately upon bringing it into the house. I keep my "to read" piles (magazines, scientific journals etc) to a minimum -- if I haven't read something within a week or two I doubt I ever will, so I get rid of it). I firmly believe in that old adage: a place for everything & everything in its place. I don't let stuff pile up & am ruthless about getting rid of anything I have no immediate use for. My SO is a little more relaxed than I am but does keep his messes to a dull roar (his messy stuff doesn't bother me as long as the bills get paid on time & important papers are filed where we can find them quickly).

    I'm not as up-tight as this might sound, but I really do find that having my life & home running smoothly makes me happy. My motto: I don't "do" messy (whether it's in my personal life, my home or my paperwork)!

    1. I find systems such as yours work well for me too. Uptight to some, perfect for me :)

  8. When I take care of all my small errands, I always feel so much better. Just the other day I had to tackle a pile of mail, make an appointment, call my insurance company and fix a charge on my credit card. It was so relieving finally being able to release all these things from my mind (and erase them from my to-do list as well). I love that feeling.

    Anon, I so agree with you. My quiet time is precious.

  9. You'll love Walden! It will be interesting at this point of your life! Love the perfect hot pink rose from your garden! You are right in that only we know which rules really apply to our lives - so we have to be responsible and make our own set.

  10. Just bought Walden on my Kindle :) Also looking at A Gift from the sea. I love this post Fiona! I also learnt the only touch a piece of paper once many years ago and try to do this - although not always successfully :) I have a large pile of paper in my hall which I have "processed" but don't quite know what to do with next - do I throw away bank statements I can access on line - if I have to pay $1 per page after 2 years to retrieve them.....

    I have been having thoughts about the whole concept of organisation recently. I am in a job as a project manager where it is my job to be "organised" and yet I hate lists - except weekly menus for some reason. We recently hired someone to help with my admin and she is by all accounts very "organised" and she is lovely but she is so slow because she needs to figure out her system... in the meantime she is driving me nuts. I have all the info in my head or have an organisation system of my own which she can't understand. After 3 wks she has folders of sticky notes that she has still not managed to co-relate and I have told her at least 3 times how and where each item co-relates. I have many people tell me I am organised and I very rarely reveal that I am "not" by the objective measure - but even with my fading 51 year old brain - which is not the steel trap it used to be I have realised I remember far more than most people - which is "organised" because I don't have to write it down to remember an invoice I paid a year ago and how much it was for!!! My house is also "organised" because I am unsentimental and hate clutter - I just throw it out if it is in the way :)

    1. Why not file those papers in a box so that if you need them it's easy to retrieve them? Lots of workplaces have archives, why not homes?

      I was wondering about throwing out old shop invoices and bank statements that are over ten years old. The IRD law here in New Zealand, as you'll probably know is that you must keep things for seven years.

      My dad was there at the time and he told me you have to keep business paperwork for seven years, BUT, if the tax department find something they want to explore, they can go back as far as they need to.

      I have nothing to hide, but I decided that keeping one more box of papers stacked neatly in our shed felt far more peaceful to me than the prospect of not being able to come up with stuff if it was asked for.

      If it's entirely personal, I usually keep the last 1-2 years of bank statements etc, but you could keep more if it feels better to you.

      Your new colleague sounds precious :)

  11. Hi Fiona! Oh, you speak volumes to me about the beauty (and necessity) of completing all those little nagging details before we can even concentrate! I can't begin to focus or work, when the to-dos are undone. I like systematic and beautiful organizing. I also wanted to commend you on the success of your books and blog! I own all your books and love the way you see life. Positively! Keep it up, I am hooked~ Koma Murray ( is my little startup blog

  12. I find it hard to do creative work if there is a mess around me. I work better in an organized environment.
    It probably was my mood at the time, but I found Thoreau a bit whiny and irritating. Especially after I found out that he took his laundry to his mother's once a week for her to do it!! I do hope you enjoy it better than I did, many do so I am in the minority.
    I have had a very busy week, and am feeling a real need to pull back and have some quiet time. xo

    1. Haha, that's so funny about Thoreau and his washing! I'd remember a detail like that too :)


Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

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