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My friend and I sat at a restaurant on a recent Friday evening, catching up over dinner. We hadn’t seen each other in four months, we realized, and a friend date was long overdue. As we perused the dessert menu, the chatty waitress approached us and, seeing my friend’s iPhone case, gushed, “I love your phone case!”

 

I looked over at the back of my friend’s phone, at the words written in gothic letters and an image I immediately recognized from the ubiquitous Game of Thrones series.

 

“I love Game of Thrones! The new season is starting on Sunday, and I can’t wait,” my friend excitedly replied.

 

“I’m going to have a marathon Game of Thrones weekend,” the waitress continued. “I need to catch up on all the previous episodes before I start watching the new season.”

 

The animated exchange continued and very quickly, I started to feel out of the proverbial loop. The waitress must have noticed the tentative smirk on my face.

 

“You don’t watch the show?”

 

I believe I saw her take half a step backward in surprise.

 

“You have to watch it! You have to catch up.”

 

“I wouldn’t have the time to watch it,” I replied demurely, looking down at the dark-wood table.

 

What I didn’t mention is that, these days, I don’t watch anything on TV. Until very recently, I used to be an avid Once Upon a Time fan, drawn to the show’s fantasy element (a favourite genre). I confess, I was more than a bit obsessed with the story. The passion suddenly dwindled a few months ago. I used to watch one hour of TV per week. Now, I don’t watch it at all. And I don’t miss it.

 

When Pawel and I had first moved in together, all those years ago, we chose to not have a TV in our home. If we wanted to watch movies, we would watch them on DVD, using one of our computers. That was also the one and only time when, in-between studying for undergrad exams or writing essays, I binge-watched Sex and the City seasons on borrowed DVDs on my laptop. Even when I did not watch DVDs, I found that I liked not having a TV in my home, that no one felt inclined to turn it on to create ‘background noise.’ Without a TV, I could reclaim my time. I could focus my attention on one task at a time, instead of multitasking by studying while watching a show.

 

To simply state that I currently don’t have the time to watch TV shows might sound holier-than-thou. Of course, I have the same number of hours in the day as everyone else. I choose to not make the time for television. The idea of binge-watching a show no longer appeals to me. No, it doesn’t just not appeal to me; it sounds kind of torturous. Likewise, Pawel doesn’t watch TV because he doesn’t want to direct his attention to it when he could be spending time woodworking.

 

Of course, Pawel and I do sometimes go out to watch a movie — probably about once every two or three months — but we are very selective in our film choices. I also have a small collection of favourite films that I like to watch at home from time to time.

 

Not watching TV allows me to make time for mindful activities that I truly enjoy. I do make time for reading, writing, yoga, meditation, crafting, and (yes) sleep. There have been times, in a distant past, when I would stay up late to watch a show in spite of feeling tired.

 

It’s a choice. This choice suits my quest to living more mindfully while embracing the minimalism lifestyle. So, perhaps, I shouldn’t be as demure about it.

 

Do you watch TV on a regular basis? Would you be willing to give it up for a week, as an experiment? Feel free to leave a comment. 

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“You’ve been rearranging furniture again.”

My parents simply stated this fact while allowing their eyes to quickly drift from one piece of furniture to the other, acknowledging the changes. They considered the spot where our living room sofa was newly positioned, to the right of the piano, and I waited with bated breath. At nine years of age, I never felt the need to explain my motives to them, though I hungered for my parents’ approval of my designs.

“I myself used to rearrange furniture in my room as a boy. I would get bored and wanted to try something new, so I would work on making my surroundings look better,” Papa said calmly with just a mere hint of a smile. I sighed in silent relief.

Since my childhood years, I have been preoccupied with bettering my surroundings, trying to make my home a little cozier, more comfortable. The inspiration arises within me suddenly, and not only when I sit quietly at home. There are always meals to be prepared, laundry to be folded, tears or noses to be wiped. I feel the need to make an effort to sit quietly at home more often.

Yesterday, while out for a walk at lunchtime, I saw somewhere in my periphery that familiar spark of inspiration.

As soon as Pawel and I walked through the front door of our home upon returning from work, we kissed and hugged our children, asked them about their day. Then, without changing out of the dressier clothes we wore at work, we began to move sofas, to the delight of the boys who, it turned out, are just as thrilled as I am about the idea of something new taking place in our home. Pawel, it appeared, did not share my enthusiasm, but he chose to trust my idea.

Two hours later, after the boys were tucked quietly into their beds, I sat in our newly arranged living room, sipping herbal tea, gazing at the flicker of the lavender-scented candle on the coffee table in front of me, listening to a podcast and cross stitching. The rearrangement of furniture in my home awakened within me a renewed appreciation for my comfortable place of retreat. It also allowed me to carve out some time at the end of the day to relax with an activity I enjoy.

We didn’t feel the need to spend money on new furniture or home décor items, but the new design and placement of the living room sofa, a blooming Peace Lily plant to its left by the wide window, bring a sense of novelty to the space. The hearth has been tended once again. We feel a little happier in our home.

Do you enjoy re-decorating your home? Do you tend to purchase new items, or try to use what you already have?

Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend!

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This is a candid account of how meditation sometimes feels, even after many years of semi-consistent practice. I wrote this piece for a writing course that I took last fall, and it has become a favourite. I wanted to share it with you as a reminder that we all deal with the chattering monkey mind. Whenever I feel impatience and frustration start to arise, I remind myself to approach my practice with a sense of humour. Who said meditation has to always be taken seriously? Be patient with yourself and perhaps, for just a quick but important moment, you can step into the temple and live fully in it.

Stillness. One of the doors into the temple. And how illusive it is!

“Ooh, I just sat for a few minutes without thinking a single thought!”

Inhale. Exhale.

“Sssshhh! Quiet! That was a thought.”

Inhale. Exhale. “Continue to focus on your breath.”

Inhale. Exhale. “It will lead you to stillness.”

Inhale. Exhale.

Inhale. Exhale.

“What should I make for dinner?”

“Thinking.”

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

Silence. There’s suddenly nothing but silence and the sound of my breath, travelling. My thoughts continue to circulate, but I’ll keep them in that perpetual vortex, allowing them to spin without escaping through the door into the temple. Oh no, this temple deserves peace. This temple only welcomes silence, but it tolerates the hum that continues to buzz just outside its front door. Accept it, but keep it on the other side.

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New from the workshop:

MaoriHeiMatau

This is a Maori-style Hei Matau (fish-hook) design, made of beautiful chocolate-brown Cocobolo. The inlay is made of pale yellow crushed shell. 

Although this piece is so new it has yet to be added to our online store, there are other pieces in the shop that might appeal to you. Pawel has been working on custom orders recently and would be thrilled with an opportunity to create a special piece for you. So, drop us a line to let us know what you have in mind.

Favourite links:

Here are a few interesting articles I read over the past week and would like to share with you:

Skills in Flux

A New York Times article about the skills we need to develop to succeed — socially and professionally — in ‘today’s loosely networked world.’ This article resonates with me — an INFP with a small circle of friends whom I hold very dear and work hard to keep the connection alive. I often have to negotiate extroverted social networking, followed by periods of relaxing a bit more when I have a chance to get to know a person better and build a true connection. It’s a lifelong learning process that demands evolution of various communication and social skills.

Bare essentials: Learning to live mindfully with objects that ‘spark joy’

This article almost made me want to take a 2.5-hour road trip to London to check out this exhibit. However, having recently been on such a road trip for a work-related meeting, and given that I don’t enjoy driving for longer than an hour at the most, I am reluctant to make the time for the trek. In any case, I wanted to share this article with you because it brings focus to a mindful lifestyle in a tiny home, living with the bare essentials, which is a fascination of mine. We are currently living with as few possessions as possible, though I know we can downsize further. I found it interesting to read the comments of other readers about what possessions they would keep if they had to leave almost everything they own behind. What would you keep if you were to downsize and move into a (tidy and uncluttered) tiny home?

Minimalist Living: When a Lot Less Is More

An article on why the current generation of 30-something adults is embracing the minimalism trend. This is a fun read and even features a quiz to help you find out whether you just might be the owner of too much stuff or if like me, your results will be, “You’re a minimalist. Live a little.’

If you are enjoying this blog and would like to read more about our journey along the path of mindfulness, please feel free to subscribe to be the first to receive our updates in your inbox once (sometimes twice) per week. Please also feel free to SHARE this post with your friends via email or a social media platform.

Thank you for you support!

Wishing you a fantastic weekend!

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It started with a typical Saturday afternoon, during a weekly house cleaning session. One moment, I was wiping dust off the floor-to-ceiling book shelves in the basement, which serves double duty as a playroom, and the next, I found myself starting to pick up toys with which our children no longer play, putting them into an empty cardboard box. The children were playing upstairs at the time, but upon hearing me make noise in the basement, they came downstairs to inquire.

“Boys, you have many toys with which you don’t play anymore. Correct?”

They both nodded.

“I’m wondering whether we can share these toys with children who might make better use of them.” I watched their faces for a sign of understanding.

They nodded again and agreed with me when I explained that this meant we would collect toys that are no longer needed or wanted in order to give them away. I clarified that we would never have the toys returned to us.

The boys readily started to pick up one toy after another, considered whether they need it, and then added it to the box, which filled very quickly.

The children got to keep their favourite toys (mostly Lego) and are now able to easily find the toys they need when they need them. Not surprisingly, they realized they don’t need very many toys at all, and since they naturally gravitate toward Lego and other building blocks that encourage the use of imagination and creativity, I have a suspicion they will not be easily bored anytime soon.

This impromptu de-cluttering session led to a change of perspective. For the remainder of that day, whenever I stepped into another room in our house, I asked myself whether we need all the material items we managed to acquire over the past 7.5 years after moving into our current home. Pawel and I have never had a fear of letting go of material objects. Neither are we serious collectors of random tchotchkes. Yet, there seemed to be too much stuff that we do not need. I grew tired of seeing busy kitchen counters. I spoke with Pawel and explained to him that I wanted to edit our home and throw out, sell, or give away various pieces that we do not need to keep and/or do not enjoy. To my relief, he told me he’s on board.

I will continue to write more about our project to ‘edit ruthlessly,’ inspired by the Ted talk by Graham Hill. I will also share photographs of our home as it looks now, after our most recent de-cluttering session.

For now, let me leave you with a few of our reasons for choosing to de-clutter our home:

  1. Having fewer possessions that need to be maintained and cleaned / dusted on a regular basis allows us to spend less time cleaning our home and leaves more time for family fun.
  2. Getting rid of old stuff simply feels good. We like to think of it as a home detox. We have more empty space in our home, which feels refreshing. I used to feel the need to fill every empty spot, but that is no longer the case. I want to live in rooms that feel comfortable but appear more spacious.
  3. We don’t like to feel that our possessions own us.
  4. Editing our possessions helps us to appreciate the items that we do have and use on a regular basis. We don’t need 10 different pots and pans in the kitchen, but we appreciate the two large pots we use for cooking soup every week (one to reheat and bring to work in a thermos for our lunches and the other to enjoy for dinner, at home).
  5. It’s easier to find something in an uncluttered home. We know where every item is located.
  6. Our style has changed in the past few years and our design philosophy has evolved.
  7. I was inspired by the numerous minimalist bloggers who have emerged in the recent years. I enjoy reading about families who have drastically reduced the size of their belongings and moved to live in small apartments or tiny homes. I have always preferred to live in a smaller home, so I’m intrigued by the tiny home trend.

How do you feel about minimalism? How would you describe your own lifestyle when it comes to collecting possessions? Perhaps you also have recently gone through a substantial de-cluttering session. I would love to read your story.

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