Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Are you happy?

My four year old loves to ask me this question. And because kids shouldn't have to deal with adult problems I always say yes. As forced as it was sometimes.

As weird/bizarre/worrying as this sounds, in the past, I used to be too scared to ask myself this question. I think because the answer scared me. Simply because too often, I wasn't.

There was a constant dialogue in my head that would go like this:

"Sarah, this is not okay. What if, for the rest of your life..."

"SHUT UP! It's fine. It's fine. It's okay."

"But... its not fine. It's wro.."

"I said SHUT UP! It is fine. This is fine."

I'm not sure when it happened but i had come to a point where I accepted that my life would be fine. Aiming for a great, exciting, fulfiling, rewarding life just seemed silly. I had lowered my standards to "fine".

I remember the moment when I was not okay with being "fine" anymore. The moment was quick but ugly. The moment was the straw that broke the camels back. But the moment was enlightening. "Fine" was no longer acceptable.

A life changing event like divorce comes with a lot of reflection. On yourself. And on the past. It sometimes hurts to look back because I literally cannot believe the state my marriage had gotten to, so I try my best to focus on the present, from a position of gratitude, because the present could be far worse. And when you are trying to single handedly parent 3 children whilst working full time there really isn't much time or energy to look beyond the next few days.

So I try and find joy and fulfillment in the everyday. I find joy in picking up my 4 year old from day care and hearing about her awesome day. I feel fulfilled every time me and my girls sit around the table for dinner and have a (poorly cooked, probably quite rushed, thrown together at the last minute) home cooked meal and just talk about everything and anything. I find joy and fulfillment in my daily commute to work as I drive in the car which I paid for with my own money, singing at the top of my lungs to my favourite feel good songs. I feel fulfilled every time I finish a good workout.

These things might seem meaningless or irrelevant but I've come to learn that the small things are the big things.

Without the small things this big things don't have meaning.

Somehow within my marriage I developed the idea that my true happiness and my sense of joy and fulfillment were not important. Everything and everyone else came first. I'm not the first wife/mother/woman to do this but I had come to realise that this was the message that I was communicating to my 3 amazing girls.

It both saddens me and brings me joy to type this but, since the separation I have never seen my children this happy and relaxed. 

The possible impacts of the separation on my children were always buzzing in my mind. I expected to be having to manage and deal with a lot of emotional, weepy and/or angry children. And at times all 3 have each picked one of those emotions and simultaneously ganged up on me. Overall, the vibe in our house is relaxed. My eldest who was chronically shy has come out of her shell like never before and is now a confident public speaker and is on the debating team at school. My middle daughter hasn't had a panic attack in many months. My youngest is known at daycare for both her eagerness to help others but her enthusiasm and determination to learn and try new things. Seeing my children thrive like never before brings me more joy than I could ever imagine.

So am i happy you ask?

Well, I'm definitely happier than I was before. That's for sure. 

One day I hope to be happy as this gorgeous girl is on the swings.

Step 100, 

Monday, 3 July 2017


Looking at my last post makes me laugh at the irony of “getting rid of my favourite things”

I am getting a divorce.

I look back at the person who wrote that post and she had no idea divorce was in her cards.

She had no idea that straws would eventually break the camels back.

She had no idea that she would wake up and realise she had completely lost any sense of self.

She had no idea what she really needed to get rid of.

But she eventually woke up.

And she realised a lot. Very quickly.

She realised her capabilities stretched beyond anything she ever could have imagined.

She understood that the right thing to do isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but it still must be done.

I don’t want this post to just be about my divorce. I’ve done lots of other things since that post. I got a full time job that ticks all the boxes of being close to home, flexible enough for a single mother of 3, allows me to practise any faith and working amongst a team that is awesome 98% of the time. I’m not even going to stutter when I admit that, I’m good at my job. 

I also graduated. Whilst working full time for the last year of my degree and going through the separation. I graduated while trying to navigate a minefield of other responsibilities and challenges, but I still managed to do it. My parents and my children were in the crowd to literally cheer me on. I could hear them yelling “Go Mummy!” as I proudly walked across that stage while whispering to myself, “Girl, you actually did it! Don’t trip!”.

I turned 31 and sky dived. Sky diving was always something I've always wanted to do and with no one telling me not to and the financial abilities to do it, I had nothing stopping me. Jumping out of a plane taught me that I am braver than I know but at the same time, in the grand scheme of things, me and my life and my situation and struggles are quite small. Looking up at the endless sky and looking down at all the people and places below you as you tumble through clouds, really changes your perspective.

Overall, I am hopeful. I know that this divorce was the right thing to do. I know that I gave this marriage and any chance of reconcile 100%. I don't have any regrets. I know I did the best thing for me and for my girls. I have had moments, and still do though far and few between when I question my decisions, but those moments are swiftly followed up with a sign that the hard but right thing to do was done.

I have a new found vivacity for life that I didn’t even realised had slowly died during the course of my marriage. I didn’t even realise that I had a backing tape on repeat in my mind that just kept telling me “this is it, and its okay but this is really it. This is how its going to be forever and it's okay”, when really it wasn’t. After news of my separation had slowly leaked out to friends and acquaintances, comments from long time friends such as “yeah you got really quiet once you got married” or “welcome back baby girl” opened my eyes to the fact that other people had seen me lose myself before I even noticed. 

I went through a stage where I thought my failed marriage was a waste of 12 years our of my 31 years of life but my mother, my councillor and close friends are quick to remind me, my marriage was far from a waste. My marriage brought my 3 beautiful girls into this world. My marriage funnily enough taught me independence, strength, resilience and in the end it taught me courage. My marriage taught me what is unacceptable in a loving relationship. My marriage taught me that you can’t rely on other people to make you happy. My marriage taught me that self respect is the first key to getting others to respect you. My marriage taught me that having standards and expectations for any relationship whether it be between a couple or between friends, is healthy and necessary. My marriage taught me that open and honest communication is the key to success. 

Above anything my marriage taught me that sometimes the hardest thing to do is the right thing to do, but it still must me done.

Step 99,

Monday, 28 March 2016

Why I'm getting rid of my favourite things

Yes, that's right. I'm giving away things that I love.

The Time Traveler's Wife is my favourite book, ever. I replay the story line over and over in my head and it never bores me. The underlying messages I got from this book are to love your loved ones right now and that even time can't get in the way of a love that is meant to be. I cherish this story.

In saying that, this physical book is not the story that means so much to me. It is just the physical manifestation of a story that I devoured in less than 48 hours. I know for some that is a slow read but for a mother with young children, that is a big accomplishment. 

How many times have I read this book? Once.

Which made me realise I'm never going to read this book again, I already love it enough. I want to share my love for this story with others. I want someone else to enjoy the story as much as I did. Then I want that person to share the story with others as well. 

Giving the book away doesn't mean I no longer love the story. I know I will continue to replay the story in my mind and bask in the moments of joy and mourn the disappointments long after this book is no longer in my possession. 

I had to develop an understanding that our possessions are not where sentiments and memories lie. The memories that matter the most are filed away in that side of the brain, where seeing a life time friend who you haven't seen in years brings back all the funny and meaningful  times you spent together. Where smelling a certain cologne reminds you of that period where you were falling head over heels in love with your soul mate. Where hearing a song on the radio reminds you of all the fun and mischief you got up to with your friends in those carefree teen years.

Don't worry I'm not getting rid of EVERYTHING and I don't suggest you do either, unless you really want to. In that case, do you boo! I'm just keeping the stuff that actually, really, really, matters. Not the "just in case" stuff. Not the "that cost so much" stuff. Not even the "that was a gift" items.

As hard as getting rid of your favourite, sentimental items sounds, with each sentimental item I think I hold dear, I realise I really hold the memory associated with the item more dearly. 

I can't take credit for this "radical" idea of getting rid of sentimental items, The Minimalists have a great post on this exact idea. Like that post suggests, I'm taking baby steps and I'm getting rid of a few things each week. Have a think about the last time you opened that box of sentimental items and really appreciated what was in there. Just take a moment, that's all I can ask for.

Step 98,

Monday, 21 March 2016

The freedom of minimalism

Minimalism is freeing.

You aren't weighed down. You are free from the time and energy spent dealing with stuff, people, commitments and tasks that you don't place value on.


Less cleaning

I love a clean space but I HATE cleaning. I don't think I know anyone who actually likes cleaning. Sometimes (most times) its boring, tiring and dirty. And if you have kids like me, give it 12 minutes for the once clean space to no be very clean anymore. That being said, our family of 5 live in a small 2 bedroom unit. For a lot of people, that is unimaginable. For us, our small home means the messes happen really quickly but the clean up is quick too. Less clothes means items get worn longer and only go in the wash when they are ACTUALLY dirty or smelly and that means I'm doing less laundry. Yay!

More free time

I love to read but hadn't really sat down to read a good book in many years. I love to blog and I'm slowly getting back into it. I actually like to exercise and I am able to fit in about an hour of working out a week which I think is an achievement for a mother of three. As a family, we have more time to do things together and I mean beyond watching TV together. We've actually started to watch less TV and now we try to play board games and card games as often as we can. Our personal favourites are actually snakes and ladders and Uno. Sometimes it really is the simple stuff that matters the most. Even though there technically is always something to be done, wether its blog stuff, house work or uni work, I sometimes find those odd moments where I feel like doing nothing, and I don't feel guilty about it either.


Money is spent wisely

I used to have a shopping problem. Like many people, I bought things I really didn't need. I bought stuff for a life I wanted. Decluttering has opened my eyes on all the crap we spent our money on in the past, and I hope not to make that same mistakes. Now, we rarely go "shopping" for anything, except for groceries of course. When money does need to be spent on something we ask ourselves;

"do we really need this?"
"do we have something already that can serve the same purpose?"
"can we borrow this or get this cheaper somewhere else?"
"where are we going to put this?"
As a family we realised that we value spending time together doing something, or going somewhere rather than accumulating belongings. 

We also have goals as a family to travel. This of course means saving up. With my new job, saving up seems possible, as does paying off our huge debts.

We owe a lot of money to a lot of people. We also have student loans/ HECS to pay off and of course, there's the mortgage. Now that we are no longer passively, almost unconsciously, spending money on things that are a waste or don't hold value to us, a debt free life seems possible. Having debts has really put a strain on our family and our marriage, mentally and emotionally. Being in debt can sometimes feel like you are treading water but drowning ever so slowly. If anything, being in this financial situation has taught us patience and discipline and that we both need to set a better financial example to our children  so they don't end up in the same situation.

As a family, helping those in need, in any way we can, has always been a priority and with money spent a little wiser, we can help others more than we used to. A great article by Joshua at Becoming Minimalists, suggests a change in perspective to see that you are already wealthy and that a redefining of what wealth and contentment is, is a game changer.

Saying Yes to me (finally)

I used to be a chronic "yes" person. Chronic because I would put others needs and feelings before my own. This meant a lot of time was spent doing things and spending time with people I didn't really want to. As awful as that sounds, it gets draining. An assumption is formed that I will always be there when needed. As lovely as a that sounds, I can't be there for everyone when they need me. I am barely there for myself when I need it most.

Minimalism has allowed me to define what is important to me. With that, there is the reality that I have a finite amount of time and resource to spend and that I have to spend it wisely. It can sound a bit selfish but I think that the idea of taking care of yourself first needs to become a more normal and natural occurrence. As a women juggling many roles, I can feel it on those days where I have not nurtured myself in any way, shape or form, by the end of the day, I am usually slumped on the couch feeling like a dirty tea towel.

I was raised by the most selfless parents and though I got all my needs met, now that my parents are much older I look back and try to see what they have ever done for themselves. As noble as martyrdom is, I don't want my children to think that saying yes to others is more important than saying yes to yourself.


Mental clarity

Every time I load up the car with goods to donate, I come home and it immediately feels lighter and my mind feels clearer. These goods which sit around my house, unused, have the power of purpose to someone else. No one donates their goods, money or time and walks away feeling depleted. With more free time, less stuff to manage and the financial worries reduced, I find my mind not as scattered as it used to be. I used to worry a lot and multitask constantly, which was exhausting and I felt it in my overall health and well being. Mental clarity would have to be one of my favourite benefits. With three kids and a husband and a million things to remember a little clarity is a big bonus. 

The best thing about minimalism is that it is different for everyone. It brings different meanings and benefits. It manifests in many different forms. Minimalism is a spectrum and I invite you to think about letting go of some stuff, commitments and mental clutter and find some free time and mental space.

Step 97,

Monday, 14 March 2016

The challenges of zero waste

The transition to zero waste has had its fair share of challenges. Zero waste is not a wide spread passion of the majority of the community, therefore it can feel a bit isolating and restrictive. The idea of whether I am actually making a difference plays in my mind all the time. Are the changes I am making around my home really enough?

After reading the book Zero Waste Home, and going back the "first R" of REFUSE, it is very true that zero waste starts from outside the home.

Social situations

I'm blessed to have a big family and too many friends to count on my fingers and toes but that does equate to a busy social calendar, where food is normally involved. To be honest I have felt a little apprehensive to pull out my own plates, cutlery and napkin which I brought from home, at a social gathering. I sometimes feel my actions come across as a judgment on other peoples actions. Friends and family have apologised to me when handing me leftovers covered in cling wrap or as they offer me a plastic bag, which I actually makes me feel super uncomfortable, as though people feel accountable to me.

With any new habit, the more I quietly pull out my own plates at a social gathering the easier it gets.


Grocery shopping

The biggest challenge has been finding deli counters/butchers that will consistently allow me to bring my own containers. It's been a hit and miss for me so far. Having worked in a big chain supermarket before, I know how easy it is the tare a container before filling it up. I understand that there could be some hygiene or food safety concerns, so I've decided to make a stand and if the person on the other side of the counter does not accept my container I just go without. Let my dollars do the talking.

We've cut down greatly on how much meat, chicken and animal products we eat but not completely. My containers and I have gotten lots of odd looks, lots of staff trying to shove my purchases in a plastic bag before cramming it into my container. I've even had a cashier put a single, new plastic bag into my tote bag for no reason, so I politely removed it and said "I really don't need this thank you."

As much as I try to avoid supermarkets, sometimes I can't. I shop at the Asian store a lot for sauces, snacks, pastes and coconut milk, but I've come to realise that there is not many zero waste options in there. Noodles and snacks are normally HEAVILY or INDIVIDUALLY packaged in plastic. One of our favourite snacks from the Asian store is dried seaweed and the amount of packaging that comes with it is literally disgusting. The kids and I really miss eating it, but the solution lies in getting the kids excited about picking snacks from the bulk section and letting them try a new snack each time we go.

Eating out

Similar to grocery shopping I'm confused when disposables and single use items and almost forced on me after I have said I don't need them. I have gotten a bit of an attitude at some smaller cafes when asking them to use my own coffee cup. I will never understand cafes and restaurants who use disposables for patrons who are dining in. We don't eat out very frequently for this and many other reasons but I didn't want zero waste to become overly restrictive. Eating out zero waste, like anything else, just requires a bit of planning and being proactive.

Non-recyclables already in my home

As I declutter the way through our belongings, I'm currently in a situation where I have things to get rid of that, but I have no idea where they should go. These items have already been knocked back by the Salvos/op shops. I've tried cash converters for goods that I thought were worth something but it turns out they were worth peanuts. I've offered goods up for FREE on local trading pages and nothing. I've asked friends and family if they needed them, whilst feeling guilty that I was shoving my crap onto others.

So what do I do? This begs the question of why, as a developed country, we don't have sustainable waste management for lots of items, such as worn out shoes and electronics that work but may be out of date. For now these items are sitting in a box in the laundry but I hope this box is somehow  removed from my home by the end of the year in a sustainable manner.

This post is not meant to discourage anyone from going Zero Waste. I want others who may be going through the same adjustments and predicaments as me, to know that you aren't the only one and that there is no such thing as a perfect "zero waster."

My intention is also to show that there will be obstacles and moments where you have to take a step back and see where your values lie. Zero waste forces you off auto pilot and gives you the chance to say "Now, wait, hang on. There has to be a better way to do this."

I hope this post triggers a "Now wait, hang on." moment in your everyday life. Even beyond zero waste, to how you are in your everyday interactions and where you are investing your time and energy. Take a moment and see if you could do something better. Anything. I'm sure, like me, dealing with waste and rubbish was never on your radar, because as long as the garbage person came to empty the bins when they were full, well then we didn't have a problem. I think it's safe to say that we may just have a bigger problem than we think.

Step 96,

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