Friday, 10 January 2014

'No new stuff' - bargain hunter goes cold turkey!

So, I have completed week one of my 'buy no new stuff' for a year challenge. The most important thing that I have to report is that... I bought no new stuff! Yay! If you missed the last post you can read about my challenge in my last blog.

I've had a fun week thinking through some of my observations that even one weeks worth of not buying new stuff has thrown up. My first observation happened early on New Years Day....

I'd rather be playing trains
There I was feeling perfectly contented, and even slightly more than that because I had managed to rise early, which always pleases me, when the familiar ping came to my ears of an email plumply landing in my inbox...of course, I check immediately, it could be important (because I probably receive about one email a year that requires immediate attention, and I wouldn't want to miss it, perhaps it has decided to arrive early this year, it being the first day and all that...). It was from my favourite online shop, reminding me of their wonderful online sale, reminding me that some things have 90% off, oooo. I quickly delete it. Be gone temptation. Because there, in to my hand arrived the temptation. To buy stuff, acquire stuff that I don't need. For eyes to feast and suddenly, what I hadn't even considered was now on my mind and there was a lack in my life, because I didn't have what my eyes had feasted on. I deleted the email and went to play trains. With my Youngest Poppet, I should add. Me 1 - Stuff 0.

The temptation is everywhere. Television, internet, magazines, billlboards, it is hard to escape it. It is everywhere because it works. There is only one reason companies pay huge amounts of money advertising their stuff, because we buy it. We buy the many lies they imply and buy the stuff. Job done.

I live on a Hight Road, and walk past shops four times a day most days doing the school run. If I'm honest, most of the time new stuff doesn't really phase me, but I am a bit of a bargain hunter. I just love a bargain. My most tempted moment this week was walking past a shop and noticing some quite nice looking things on their 90% off stand. Normally I would have dashed in immediately but I managed to walk past in a slightly pained sort of way. I looked the other way, to avoid the temptation, only to be greeted by more 'sale' signs on the other side of the road, even the passing buses and lorries were trying to entice me. Perhaps I should look at the pavement, but its grey and largely dull. The sky offers more promise, it is after all part of God's handiwork (even if it has also been grey and largely dull this week!), it speaks of better things, the awesomeness of creation, the glory of God. But if I gaze too long at the sky while walking along, I'll soon bump into a bench or a tree, a lamp post, or a person. H'mm, let me take notice of the peoples ( as my Youngest Poppet would say). Let me stuff the stuff and take notice of the peoples. Because God has made us to be in relationship with people, not stuff. Somehow we have made stuff such a big deal, in all sorts of ways, and so often, on so many levels it is at the expense of the people. People I may never meet, and people I know intimately; perhaps even at the expense of spending precious time with the precious little person whose hand I hold as I wander down the street.

I am so excited about what this year of buying no new stuff holds, I feel its deep layers beginning to unfold already. But my first task is easy and not at all deep... delete the emails.

Thank you for reading. Please do share this post if you would like to!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

The year of 'buying no new stuff'

It's that time of year when the world seems endless with potential and change; today is the day when the change begins and out of last years failures rises a  new and fresh opportunity to become more of who we want to be. I love a New Year challenge and this year is no exception.

My last purchase in 2013.
I hope they will remind me to be a wise old owl
and stop shopping!
This is the year of 'buying no new stuff' for me ( and to varying degrees, my family). Gulp. I am very excited about this but also a little bit scared. Scared because I am going to find it painful and inconvenient and it is going to challenge my primitive need to consume to the core. But I want that challenge. Where as once upon a time the need to acquire meant to survive, or not, it now means more and greater excess, and I'm not sure it makes us happy. And its certainly not good for our beautiful gift of the earth.

My main reason for not buying new stuff this year is I am worried about the state of the earth. We consume as though the earth's resources are infinite and that the waste we produce just disappears when it is out of our sight.             Unfortunately it does not. And that has all sorts of consequences. 

I also want to challenge my need to consume and acquire. I am a consumer more than I care to be or admit. I was not made for this. And I am ready to learn to be content with what we have (which is loads, shed loads). Contentment is going to be key.

So, the rules.

1. Buy nothing new. As in, shiny, out the packet, never been used by anyone else.

2. It is ok to buy second hand items. But, to challenge my need to consume, (gulp), only when we need something.

3. We can buy food and toiletries. (But with an attitude of 'let's use what we've got first'). And pants if we need them! Oh, and perhaps printer ink.

There will be lots of challenges, and perhaps a few fails (where do I get a second hand Brownie gilet which doesn't haven't have someone else's badges all over it?), but I also hope to discover lots of fun stuff, I look forward to greater creativity, contentment and time. I guess I might even have some more money, which could be used for fun times. Happy days.

I look forward to sharing my journey with you over the next months.

I would love to hear your new years challenges or resolutions, please leave a comment.

May you have a wonderful start to 2014, full of peace and joy.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to share this post if you would like to.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

'They had everything in common'... It's time to share about the 'Sharing Project'!

So, its high time I told you about 'The Sharing Project'. I have been thinking about it for a while, but just sort of didn't get around to it, you know how it is. Tonight, I feel compelled to share, because I kinda think every church should have one. Its so easy, such fun, and well, just so biblical. For longer than I dare to remember I have been pondering how as a church we can 'share' our stuff. The early church 'had everything in common' (Acts 2v44) but in our individualised busy lives how do we do that today? Ponder, ponder. So, I raise the topic with my dear Women's Group, and we ponder together. After some toing and froing we decide that a Facebook page might be our answer. That night 'The Sharing Project@St Mary's Loughton' was born.

Basically, the Facebook page can be used to give things away, make request for things, offer to lend things and ask to borrow things. Over the last few months, hundreds of transactions have been made. Finished with your travel cot? Make a post, and if it is useful to someone they can say 'yes please', or words to that effect. If more than one person would like an item their names go into a hat, real or otherwise, and a 'winner' is decided. We have given away everything from seafood sticks, to shampoo, to clothes, to furniture, to plants, to crepe paper. Toys feature strongly. Even a Cath Kidston bag.  No money is involved, we're simply passing on stuff that we no longer need, to those to whom it would be useful. So many times, stuff has been posted that others really needed, and were about to buy, that I think God is enjoying this as much as we are. Yesterday, A posted that she had some unopened orange crepe paper to give away, amazingly this is the day before B is about to hunt around town for orange crepe paper for a craft project at toddler church! This sort of thing has happened so many times, bikes, TV units, hairdryers, its just fun, and a real money saving blessing! Sometimes people make requests and so often receive what they were after.

As well as giving things away, we are up for sharing our stuff too! We have a document on the page which details what we have to share. My steam cleaner has so far had three outings, and my bouncy castle went to a party. Inspirational Christian books and videos are inspiring lots of people rather than sitting on a shelf. We are also free to make requests to borrow things. Somethings you just need for a short period and probably wouldn't use again. I have recently borrowed blow up neck cushions, travel adaptors and have responded to a request for a booster car seat. Make a request and within an hour or so, someone has probably got one you can borrow.

The obvious benefit of The Sharing Project is that is saves us some money. For some, this is really significant. If you don't have much money, and you can receive what you need as a gift, it can mean a lot.  For others it might mean that more money is available, and perhaps that money could be used for Kingdom purposes. Our personal giving to our church is changed significantly because there is so much we are given. We are so blessed to receive, for instance, clothes for our children, and we are thrilled to be able to pass on the money that we would have spent on them for eternal purposes instead. However, there is no expectation of this. God loves to give us gifts just to bless us. And blessed we have been!

Another benefit of the Project is the building up of community. What starts in a virtual reality has to become real because the stuff we are sharing is, of course, real. So, the reality is, we all turn up at church with bags of stuff to give to people. Many people we will know. However, some we won't, and so introductions are made, bags given and friendships formed. People cross from one side of the church to the other to do this, its amazing! And so easy!

The fun gets even more exciting when we are able to bless folks we know outside of our church community, as a witness to the love of God we have received. Sometimes we hear of people who have a particular need, we make a request and are able to bless them. Recently we did a local mission, and went about practically loving people in Loughton. One team went to clean a ladies house. While there they discovered that her bed was broken. A request was made, a bed frame found, the man with the van offered to pick it up, bed linen and duvet sorted out, one person researched a good quality mattress and four people chipped in to buy it. The process probably took a couple of hours, and within a week the lady had a new bed. She has also started coming to church.

What has really compelled me to write today is a post made this evening. One of our church members, who has been coming for the last few months and who has very recently become a Christian, has finally escaped a situation of domestic violence and abuse, and has been rehoused with her three children. However, she has NOTHING to put in her house, other than her children's clothes. She needs everything. A friend of hers put the request out, she needs everything a house needs... I kind of chocked up when I read the post an hour after it had appeared. There were 26 comments. A few hours after that there are 69.  Everyone offering things that would be useful, chairs, sofas, beds, bed linen, toys for the children, a table, a new washing machine, fridge, plates, cups, cutlery, mattresses, cushion covers to be made in the ladies favourite colour, curtains, an iron, the list goes on and on. I know our church is full of amazing and generous people, and tonight I was so blessed to see it. This simple channel of a Facebook page means we can quickly and easily bless someone in real need. How else could we have done this? I'm sure there are ways, and I know the church would have been happy to provide some money to help, but this just seems so easy. Tonight the family rallied when one of its members needs became known.

All this makes me think that every church should have a Sharing Project, for all the reasons above. It is really easy to set up, and really easy to manage (we just delete our posts when the items are gone, or requests fulfilled, we also have a few documents for stuff that can be borrowed). For those that don't have a Facebook account we make posts for them. We have kept it just to church members, otherwise it would quickly become an all over town thing and the sense of community would disappear, however, we love to bless people outside of church who we know.

Please think about if you could start one, it really is great fun and a real channel of God's blessing in so many ways.

Please do share this with your friends, I would love the word to spread!

Monday, 12 November 2012

Some thoughts on knowing God

Over the last few months I have pondered the question of how I know God. God, incredibly and crazily invites us to know Him, its part of why He made us. Our God who flung the stars into outer space and knows the detail of every microscopic everything ever, wants me to know Him. Awesome beyond rational comprehension! He has laid this before us and invited us to be His friend.

On paper I have good ‘knowing God’ qualifications, I have been a Christian for over 25 years (Oh flip!), have a Masters in Theology, have always worked hard and been busy for God, am not really very naughty and am a Vicar’s wife. I sound like Paul explaining why he was such a fab Pharisee. Oh, it’s easy to be blinded! You see, we can look right on the outside but still not get around to really knowing God.

A few months ago I went on a Catch the Fire conference to hear Isabel Allum speak. She is a woman who knows God. Suddenly for the first time I felt like I was with someone who really knew God, who was really friends with Jesus. You know, properly friends, not just saying it, real hanging out together friends. And honestly, the coolest miracles come with being friends with Jesus, it’s just His style. Isabel’s experience of knowing God opened my eyes to a whole new realm of relationship with Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. It made me wonder how many real friends God has. And I realised I had a long way to go…

Unfortunately, by nature I’m pretty hard on myself. I see bad stuff in myself all the time, it is my default position. It’s a bit frustrating to be honest, but the enemy knows what he is doing, he knows how to get to me. However, I have, over the last few years learnt some of his slimy ways, his tricks for turning me from the truth. I am grateful for this because now I recognise him I can boot him out quicker, less painfully and with more strength. Hurray for that! Honestly, giving into the Devil is such a waste of time! (And really, if there is one thing I can’t stand, its wasting time (said the Martha in me (perhaps here lieith the problem?)). However, some days I feel I recognise the ways of the enemy more than I recognise God’s loving ways. I’m not at all saying God isn’t there or doing His thing, I’m just not recognising Him in the way that I might.

God has promised that He will always be with us. A wonderful truth. He is with me right now. I don’t feel Him particularly, but I believe it. To be honest, reminding myself of that truth is enough to make me stop right now and worship, and to ask Him again to help me with this. And yes, when I stop and engage with him, His closeness becomes more obvious. Trouble is, you can be with someone in a room and not engage with them at all. Like a marriage, it takes an effort to connect properly. You can be right with them, but you still have to choose to get to know them, their heart, who they really are. You have to look at each other, stop what you are doing and chat, share heart to heart, study them over time, be real and honest together. You reap what you sow. If you want to know and love God you need to sow into your relationship with Him, and really make it about a relationship rather than just a learning and doing process. Sometimes I can feel too busy for that, but without it everything else is probably missing the point. When I say too busy, I don’t really think that is a good excuse. We always make time for what is most precious to us, although sometimes that has to involve some reflection and doing life a bit differently. To be honest, life will always be busy, and I can’t afford to do any of it without Him!

While knowing about God isn’t really quite the same as knowing God, it is of course helpful for us to study who God is through studying His word. After three babies, and not enough sleep for a gazzilion years (mainly my own fault, I confess, just have more pressing things to do than sleep!), I have the most awful memory. It’s a problem for me because I just really struggle to remember scripture, I can do a detailed study of something and by day 3 I have forgotten all about it. I asked the Lord the other day to help me with this. He said, really rather quickly, to go to bed a 10pm. Oh. That. Is. No. Fun. I guess it means an ongoing 10pm, rather than just a one off. Oh. I imagine my life descending quickly into disorganised chaos because so much ‘making life work’ stuff happens after 10pm, and any scraps of ‘me’ time have to be relegated to happening while asleep. God is bigger than me though, and knows me thoroughly, so I’ll choose to trust Him on this. (Ok, must go…9:46pm, I am trying to be obedient!)

…Ok, back again! What I was going to say before being obedient was… knowing scripture so helps in knowing God, it isn’t really knowing God, but we know who we are looking out for, who we are having a relationship with, what His ways are, how we might please Him, or offend Him. How much He loves us, just for being who we are. Without Scripture we might find ourselves worshipping in the wrong direction, or confused about why our God isn’t being who He we think He should be. Knowing Scripture helps us learn what God’s voice sounds like, and to me, that seems key in knowing God. Being able to hear God’s voice seems key to knowing Him. We can’t have a proper relationship with someone whose voice we do not recognise. I struggle with this, it is my tussle. Sometimes I feel as though I just don’t hear, or hope to hear in ways that I don’t. I hear His voice through the bible, and sometimes I just go with hoping I have heard His voice in my inner conscience (like the going to bed at 10pm thing), and see what happens. I know God speaks like this, but I’ve been wrong about it so many times, it makes the journey slow. Other times I reflect and think I have heard, but realised it was probably God too late. Like recently, while on holiday, I felt I should text a friend about not letting my chickens out that day. I didn’t get around to it, and they got ‘got’ that evening. My knowing God is growing, but He must be a bit frustrated about my ‘hit and miss’ hearing of Him; so am I! “Lord help me remember your word, help me recognise your voice”.

“Be still and know that I am God”. I’m a bit anti stuff at the moment. God spoke to me recently about not storing up treasures on earth, and it has caused me to begin a journey of de-cluttering and clearing space, making space for Jesus. I don’t sit down easily, and my junk has distracted me and eroded quality time, kept me busy doing nothing; stuff just does. So, bit by bit it needs to go. My kitchen has changed in the past few days, I have cleared surfaces, found hidden homes for everything I need, and sent to the charity shop everything that I don’t. It has cleared my mental space no end, and I can feel my airways so much more open to God, so much ‘stiller’. My kitchen can be a place I can experience God more easily now. I need to know God in my kitchen because I spend quite a lot of time there, doing what God has called me to do. When I am not in the moment of sitting and shutting my eyes to be still, being in a non chaotic environment really helps me connect with Him.

Being still physically and taking specific time out, every day, if not more than once a day is also a must. I find reading the Bible with a pen ready to underline and make comments really helpful, journaling helps my wandering mind focus so much better and I so often hear His sweet whisper when I do this. Having a heart open to Him, forgiving everyone I need to, trying to be a disciple rather than just a believer, listening to worship music as often as I can, reminding me of who God is and His truth to us. All these things put me in a place for knowing my God better. When I think about it, it is the most fundamental thing in life, and it worthy of everything I can give it.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

I must remember that I am their teacher

It has occurred to me recently that I have forgotten what an important role I have as a teacher in my children's lives. The role of caring both practically and emotionally remains fairly obvious to me, but that of teacher somehow slips fairly easily out of view. I don't know about you, but sometimes I get exasperated with my children for not being exactly how I want them to be. I somehow expect them to just 'get' things that I no longer have to think much about because at some point they became a habit. Today my middle poppet had a friend around to play. I was getting rather frustrated that she wasn't engaging properly with her friend, making sure that her friend was doing something that she enjoyed and that she was feeling welcome (surely watching the telly is not an ideal playdate!). I then realised that I hadn't actually talked to her about the importance of making people feel welcome and how to be hospitable.  Or even how to be a good friend. It needs to be part of my role to teach her such things, I can't just blame her for not getting it!

Each of our children, with their different personalities, will find some things easier than others. I can see that my boy (2) has a more natural 'tidy gene' than my older poppets. It will still need to be nurtured, but I think order will come more easily to him, its just who he is. Some children seem to just 'get' habits and routines, others just don't. I remember being genuinely amazed when a little girl who was having a sleepover asked if she could brush her teeth. She asked all by herself! "Wow, I didn't know that sort of thing happened!" I thought to myself. I however am still working on the old toilet flushing thing. When I say 'I', I obviously mean teaching my children to form the habit. The Vicarage has a lot of folk coming in and out, its kind of important to me that they get this habit. (Confession: meeting currently going on in lounge, just did quick reckie of loo, all fine, phew!).  I know I have told them a zillion times, about a zillion different things (washing hands, tidying bedroom, table manners, not sucking thumb/hair/clothes etc etc, not dawdling and time wasting, doing homework... the list could go on!) that they have to do or stop doing, and I can be known to get rather frustrated about it, but perhaps I have forgotten to talk to them about the why of things ( when I do this I might even realise that somethings aren't actually as important as I thought!!). Perhaps my teaching methods (verbally repeat repeat repeat! Blow up and hit roof occasionally!) are missing the mark and I need to stop and think a bit more creatively about how to engage with them. Perhaps I need to understand their perspective a bit more ( how will they know they have to hurry up because we are late, if they can't read the time... I'll need to teach them the time then!)

Somehow I need to take this aspect of my parenting role more seriously because there is a lot I need to teach my kids that I can't leave to chance, and that a lot of the world would want to teach differently. Particularly important to me is what they are learning spiritually. I love what my kids are learning at children's church and church clubs, it is  immensely valuable and I am so grateful for it. However, I cannot consider it job done, because the main role is mine (alongside the Vicar). We are their primary spiritual teachers. We need to be talking to them about who God is, how to relate to Him, teaching them how to read the bible and pray. Helping them create habits that will draw them closer to God who loves them. Teaching them how to be a disciple and live it. Our lives need to reflect and model everything we value to them. And so does our speech, how we honour others, how we forgive and love. I live in my head a lot, my head is always busy and I can quite easily forget to speak. I need to remember that explaining my actions might help them to see that my faith affects my behaviour.  To let them know that I am praying about this or that, and getting them to join me. Mainly my 'sit down' times of prayer and bible study happen when they are asleep, early in the morning ( it is hard to preempt them though to be honest!) or in the evening. They don't really see me read the bible much. They don't really see that I have a habit that is important to me. Perhaps I need to make it  more obvious to them.

Today my middle poppet was relieved to find a favourite cassette tape she thought she had lost. She said to me ' I need to keep my desk tidy because then I wouldn't loose my tapes' ( a Hallelujah moment!). Ahhh, yes, a small step in the right direction. Parenting is a long slow process, but little steps of progress can be seen, especially if we look for them. I need to be more ok with that. And I need to remember that I am their teacher (among many other roles!), they were born needing to be taught, and that is part of the role God has given me.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

What are you dreaming about?

A couple of days ago I took some time to write down my dreams. I had been watching a DVD that was teaching on how God wants us to fulfil our dreams. I have to confess that slightly stretches my understanding of God's plan for our lives, which I have always taken to be rather serious, with not a lot of fun thrown in. This understanding of God rather reflects my own personality, I can be rather functional and serious about things! So, I'm in the process of trying to figure out more of God's personality. I keep being surprised by phrases like "He will take great delight in you". As a mother, I know what it is to really delight in my child, and it, has so much positive emotion in it. We are to "Be joyful always", surely that shouldn't always be serious! I have read these verses many times before but through my rather serious mindset, and I somehow dismissed the emotion that goes with them. I find it much easier to latch onto words like 'sacrifice' and 'die to self'. They're all in Scripture, so I must continue my exploration of understanding who God is. He is much more beyond my understanding than I can comprehend, phew for that!

Anyway, the challenge was to write down 100 dreams, so I thought I would give it a go. I put aside my concerns that my dreams might not be from God, thinking that He would help me fulfil the ones He had in mind for me, and started writing. "Are these in order of importance?" the Vicar asked later (No.3 - to have a flat stomach. No. 5 - to see my children really loving God) "Er, no, they're just coming as they are coming".

Quickly I realised that I was going to struggle to find 100 dreams, I was chewing my pencil end after number 13! Perhaps this stage of my life has done this for me, so responsible for others, my life fitted around their's to the point there is not much time to dream just for me. I'm ok with that, it is the time of life. But the Lord says "without a vision the people perish", so it is wise to try to keep dreaming. I'm currently up to 25 dreams written down. I love the fact that I have to have a good old ponder and find a few more, to search my depths and discover more of who I am. There is something about the act of writing them down that brings them to life, and makes me take them more seriously (there I go again, so serious! Nb. dream No. 18 is to laugh a lot!). Mainly, its up to me to get on and do them. Lots of them are attainable if I put my head to it, some of them easily so (No. 8 - to walk regularly in the forest), others will take a bit more work (No. 9 - to run a half marathon), some will require a bit more God intervention (No. 2 - to be able to sing again. I love to worship, but woe be tide the person standing next to me. My voice packed up after my third pregnancy, can't even lead the playgroup singing any more, and I used to sing in a worship band years ago, honestly, its embarrassing!). I have no dreams about owning a big house (I'm blessed to live in one already though!) or cottages by the sea (I have a caravan, and can't imagine being happier in anything else, I get to change the view, sooo cool! I really love my caravan!). I don't dream about owning more material stuff, although I do have a few dreams about getting rid of stacks of clutter (although if I'm honest I would love a big blackboard for my kitchen, and my Christmas list is carefully taking shape, so I'm definitely not without my material desires, h'mm, actually No. 26 - huge blackboard for the kitchen, No. 27 - some Cath Kidston tea spoons, soo cute!). Lots of my dreams are to do with the dearest people in my life, the Vicar and my children, to be really unified and connected. I love that. I love them. I dream about knowing God more, and being a better friend. Some are about what I feel God has called me to, to connect the church with the community, I need to keep dreaming about those, because my time is coming.

My dreams reflect a lot of who I am, my values and priorities. Writing them down and has made me remember them, and reminded me to seize the day ( I went for a run this morning, you won't have seen me, I only go when there is no one around!). I still have 73 dreams to think about, so I'm going to take a lovely hot bath ( the best place to dream I find, and the Vicar often hears from God in the bath, something about being still me thinks), humbly offer my dreaming to God and have a good old dream. I want a few more impossible dreams, because nothing is impossible with God, and a few more fun ones, just for, well, fun! And you, what are you dreaming about?

Thanks for reading!

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Thursday, 20 September 2012

My current top three household tips

A couple of weeks ago I had a small but significant revelation. I was lying in bed, doing a bit of pre-sleep internet surfing, checking out some new blogs, when I came across a tip about having clear flat surfaces to enhance simplicity in one's life. I'm fascinated and drawn to simplicity in our complex world. It was a simple and understated tip...'clear your surfaces and leave a few nice looking bits out, plants work well'. I immediately saw the potential and being a woman who likes to get on with things, got up, donned dressing gown and headed for the kitchen. Two hours and well passed midnight later I felt like I was in a different room. A peace had descended, my kitchen had become a pleasant place to be. Gone were the piles of old mail, gone were the random things that just don't live in the kitchen at all ("Plastic ducks, why have you sat there for so long? Swim along! Hammer balanced on the spice rack, goeth home! Dead plant, compost in the composter!"). I rearranged, flung in the bin (ugly useless things mainly, I was stunned how many had taken up residence in my kitchen!), hid previously public things in private spaces, and cleared my surfaces. I strategically placed a few pretty things and the odd orchid. Lovely! The effect was significant immediately, but most fascinating to me is that it has lasted. It is sooo much easier to put things away when there isn't a pile of stuff it could join. I seem to clear up so much easier both while cooking and after meals, everything seems to take less time. Cleaning is much much easier, and far less intimidation. My head is clearer, and I find myself less stressed in the kitchen. Marvellous! Without really saying anything my family all seem to find it easier too. Clutter seems to breed clutter, and confusion, and stress. Honestly, clear surfaces are great, I highly recommend them. I'm slowly working my way through the house. I'm so into less being more! Costs nothing too! So, that is my current top household tip.

My next tip is everything needs a home. Everything. This is not really a 'done in an afternoon' type of job, more like months, but a bit can be done now and again and the benefits soon appear. If something has a home it is easy to put away, you don't have to think about it, you can just put it there. Hopefully, so can everyone else (I know, this is where the tip is possibly flawed!). You will also know where to find it again, saving much precious time and frustration. It might even mean that you and your family don't miss a plane, or a train, or a party. And it might save a few arguments. It has to be worth it. I find all sorts of containers help the process along, they make brilliant homes, defining space and preventing cross contamination. If they are pretty so much the better! This is also a money saving tip. If you know where something is, you will know quickly whether you have enough of it, or whether you have to buy more. How many times have I spent ages looking for sellotape, couldn't find any, bought more, found the sellotape I couldn't find when I came home, and now I own loads I don't really need. Obviously, this could also apply to expensive items, meaning it could cost you lots of unnecessary money! Anyone lost a passport and had to pay for a new one?

My final fave tip, is the 15 minute tip. I can do (almost) anything for 15 minutes. This is a great way of getting particularly dull stuff or stuff I'm resisting doing done. It is a manageable amount of time, not intimidating, but not insignificant. I choose my task, set my timer and get to work, knowing the timer will ring shortly. Because I am up against the timer I am focused and work hard. The timer goes off and I stop. If I haven't finished I can do another 15 minute slot later. I am always amazed at what can be achieved in 15 minutes.

Really I love these tips because they are about making life simpler. I don't want my focus to be on my home and my stuff and my cleaning, they are so not the point but I find they can demand more of my time than I am wanting to give. These tips are about lessening the demands on us from these things, and so creating more time and emotional space for us to be who God created us to be and do what He created us to do.

I would love to hear your top tips, please do share!

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