52 Weeks of Happy (5/52)

I'm joining Jen at Little Birdie in her project 52 Weeks of Happy. 
The idea is to post about four simple things making you happy each week.

It's been a week of illness here: a throat infection for me and I'm just back from visiting a close relative in hospital, who's suffering from an infection. Luckily they're on the mend. It's weeks like these that make you realise how important health and family are.

Simple pleasures this week …

♥  Family Halloween movie night with chocolate treats.

♥  Leaves to kick about. Don't these steps look gothic?
♥  Two things I love to have on display: my tiny Dala horse (ebay find) and  
    clock from Covent Garden market bought many years ago. 
♥  Enjoying the last few drops of perfume for a date night out with hubby.

I'm blessed. 

Happy middle of the week and Happy Halloween. 




A simple post to simply say THANK YOU to everyone who has been reading, following and commenting on Just a little less for the last 30 days and 30 posts. Writing has given me so much pleasure and reading your interesting comments has made it so rewarding.

When I started this blog I set myself two challenges: to post every day for a month and to write about minimalism in the UK (amongst other things). I think I have achieved both these goals. 

I shall stick to my daily schedule for the time being and so I shall be back tomorrow as usual (today I have posted a little later than usual, but I have had a bit of a day). 

As always, Just a little less readers, it would be lovely to hear your comments.




Minimalist Monday: Stop the Clock

Image from Apatrment Therapy here
There are endless questions we ask ourselves about time: How can I manage my time better? How can I save time? What about me-time? Why do I waste so much time? What shall I do with my time? Where's the time gone? 

Many people today are time-poor: rushing along, keeping-up, catching-up and feeling guilty if they take their eye off the clock for even a short while. We all want to be in better control of our time, no matter how much or little time we've got. Yet we find it so difficult. Life can feel like a race - can't it?

Well, minimalism can give you more time. But it does require ACTION. If you want to create more time you will have to reduce your commitments, your possessions and maybe even your standards and expectations. The process won't be easy but the outcomes will be worth it. By eliminating just a few things from your life you can give yourself more time. Here are my suggestions:

Baby steps:

Edit your wardrobe. 

By reducing the amount of clothes you own you'll have less laundry, more space and will save time making decisions about what to wear.

Start decluttering on a small scale. 

You won't declutter your house in one day or even a weekend, but regular decluttering sessions will give you a more ordered home and less stuff to maintain. Dealing with a lifetime's acquisitions might also make you question how much time and money you have wasted in the past and stop you from mindless shopping in the future.

Think low maintenance. 

How much time do you spend on the upkeep of your home/garden? Spending money on having your lawn paved, conifers trimmed/removed or carpet replaced with hard flooring could be money well spent if it results in less maintenance.

Consider down-sizing. 

Don't just see it as something for your retirement years. Could you live in a smaller house? Could you move to a cheaper area? This might take off some of the financial pressure you are currently under and enable you to lead a less pressurised life. Start making plans for the life you want to lead now.

Re-think how much time you spend working. 

If you can't reduce your hours, could you leave work early occasionally? Many of us practise 'face time' and feel under pressure to stay on at work beyond our contracted hours.

Watch less tv. 
Try a tv-free night occasionally. Be selective about your viewing. Instead: phone a friend; go for a walk; listen to some music; talk to your loved ones; try a new hobby.

Say no sometimes to social invitations. 

You know when you haven't been out for months and then get multiple invitations for the same weekend? Say no or suggest a date that suits you better.

Don't be a slave to fashion or trends. 
Fashion is fun but it can take up time and money. Why not cultivate your own signature style instead?

Stop trying to over-achieve. 

Not every waking moment needs to be accounted for. Taking breaks or doing something you find relaxing is a valuable use of time. This also applies to children - try not to over schedule their free time.

Curb your perfectionist tendencies.

Maybe you're spending too much time just trying to be perfect. Could the cleaning wait? Does the car really need cleaning again? Could someone else do it? Don't buy into the celebrity appearance trap either- try a no make up day, wash your hair slightly less, forget the glamorous nails. Who wants to be valued for their falseness?

Slow down. 

Have a pyjama day: watch a favourite film; read the papers in full; finish a book; have a long bath. 

Put yourself first. 

Never get time to do the things you want to do because you put everyone else first? Decide to do one thing you never seem to find time for: join an exercise class, start running or enrol on an evening class.

I have made many adjustments to my life in the last two years, inspired by other minimalists. As a result I am happier with my work/life balance and with the way I use my time. Read my story here and find how I made time to play here.

And if you'd like to read more about time management and slowing down, two books I would recommend are:

The Mind Gym: Give me Time (author Mind Gym)
In Praise of Slow: How a Worldwide Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed by Carl Honoré
Hey - maybe you're already doing some of these things. Great, your minimalist journey has begun! 

Have you tried to rebalance your time commitments? Do you have any tips or views?

Please feel free to comment and have a great week.



A Vintage Saturday

Saturday afternoon, girlie heaven. My friend had seen signs for a vintage fair. Curious, we left the boys at home and off we ventured. We had a wonderful time. Here's a peep of what we saw.

The event was called 'Vintage Street'.

 There were classic cars waiting to be ogled.

Mojitos at a mobile cocktail bar waiting to be sipped.

Cocktails in hand we had a wander around the beautiful gardens.

And then hurried back inside to warm-up and browse more vintage inspired stalls. 

So, a vintage fair - not very minimalistic, I agree. But give me a trip down nostalgia lane any day of the week over a walk down the high-street where every shop is selling a variation on the same thing. An overdose of bunting, cupcakes, retro fashion, memorabilia, music and craft stalls can work wonders to lift one's spirits in these hard-up times. 

Considering the fun we had, the little money we spent was well worth it. We helped support a local event and small businesses so that's alright by me. Our enjoyment was about experience rather than shopping. Who said minimalism had to be austere?



I Know What I Like In My Wardrobe

Work in progress...

Not so long ago, I collected clothes. I bought clothes full price, clothes half price and received clothes as presents. I bought clothes from high street chains, independent boutiques, supermarkets, charity shops and online. I had some lovely pieces; I was often complimented on my style. My first waking thought would be what to wear that day. I tried not to repeat outfits and I was always in search of the next essential garment to compliment my image. I wasn't always entirely honest about my purchases. New acquisitions would be hidden and then (if I could find them) nonchalantly worn weeks later. Who was I kidding? Shopping for clothes calmed me, distracted me and occupied my time.

Eventually I grew tired of the effort, deceit and of the frippery. This area of my life was out of control and needed to change. I envied people who wore uniforms; people who had no interest in fashion; people who basically wore the same things every day, whatever the occasion. I dreamt of creating a wardrobe from scratch. I began to consider quality over quantity and I read about capsule wardrobes. 

And so I began to slowly edit my wardrobe. It was one of the hardest areas of my life to declutter. It felt like a gargantuan task when I started but it was worth it. 

Some basic tips to get you started:

Stop shopping (and browsing) for clothes.

Set aside a few hours to tidy your wardrobe. Make it pleasurable - try and do it when the house is quiet and preferably empty. Maybe put some music on that makes you feel good. Consider your goal - to have less (but better) clothes in your wardrobe and more space.

Get everything out of your wardrobe. Notice the space and visualise less clothes hanging there. Give the space a clean.

Pick up and look at each item. As you consider each item, ask yourself these questions:

1. Does this item suit me?

2. Does it fit me? 
3. Do I wear it often enough? 
4. Is the colour right for me? 
5. Does it go with anything else? 
6. Do I feel good wearing it? 
7. Is it comfortable?
8. Does it justify the space it takes up in my wardrobe (if it's large or bulky)?
9. Am I keeping it for sentimental reasons? 
10. Am I keeping it because it was expensive to buy? 
11. Am I keeping it because someone else bought it for me? 
12. Do I have other similar items that are a better quality or fit?

Be honest with yourself. If you answer no to questions 1-8 and yes to questions 9-12 then these items can go.

Some items will be easy to sort and others more difficult. If you are not sure about an item put the item of clothing in your keep pile for the time being. This is what I normally do. You can repeat this process again soon.

Sort your clothes into three groups: keep, donate/sell, throw (if in bad condition).

Put your selected clothes to keep back in your wardrobe. I find it easier to organise them in some way, for example: colour; length; garment type; work/home; Summer/Winter.

Bag up items to be thrown and items to sell/donate. Move them out of your bedroom ready to leave the house as soon as possible.

Stand back and admire your new ordered space. That's a good start. Feel good about what you have achieved and look forward to enjoying your clothes again.


Once this ordeal is over and done with, hopefully you will experience that 'less is more' feeling about your clothes. Maybe, you will be inspired to tackle other cluttered areas of your life. That's the magic of minimalism that can keep you going.

I have been editing my wardrobe for the last two years and have at least halved it. But I still have too many clothes. I don't feel comfortable owning clothes that I hardly wear and I need to continue editing my collection. The reality is that if you rest on your laurels for too long you can be back at square one again. I will post about my wardrobe again soon and in the meantime I'm off to practise what I preach.

Have a great weekend.

Have you edited your wardrobe recently? Do you have any tips? Please share.



What If ...?

The poem 'What If ... ' by Andrew Motion, the former Poet Laureate, can be seen on the side of the Sheffield Hallam University building. How refreshing to see the written word on a building without any advertising or images. The poem dominates the cityscape and can be read from the nearby station. It must have been seen by thousands of people. By students with their 'What If...?' dreams and older people reflecting on their lives, 'What if...?'

When I read poem last weekend it got me thinking that our futures are unwritten no matter what our age. And no matter what stage you are at in your life you can still look ahead and dream.

Do you spend too much time reflecting on the past? The past is written - it's what we do today and tomorrow that's more important.

Here's the poem that appears on the side of the building:

O travellers from 

somewhere else to here.
Rising from Sheffield Station 
and Sheaf Square
To wander through the 
labyrinths of air.

Pause now, and let 

the sight of this sheer cliff
Become a priming-place which lifts you off
To speculate
What if..?
What if..?
What if..?

Cloud shadows drag 

their hands across 
the white;
Rain prints the sudden darkness of its weight;
Sun falls and leaves 
the bleaching evidence of light.

Your thoughts are like 

this too: as fixed as words
Set down to decorate
a blank facade
And yet, as words are too, 
all soon transferred

To greet and understand 

what lies ahead -
The city where your dreamling is re-paid,
The lives which wait 
unseen as yet, unread.

◊ ◊ 

Andrew Motion broke the mould of Poet Laureate by stipulating that he would only hold the position for a period of ten years rather than the expected lifetime. His aim was to use clear language and to write about ordinary lives. For example, he wrote about homelessness for the Salvation Army and about bullying for Childline. He also wrote a poem 'Regime' in protest of the invasion of Iraq.

Did you enjoy this poem?
What are you going to make time for this weekend? Please share.

Have a gorgeous Friday xo



Honey, Honey

Squeak, squeak, squeak, squeak… don't worry, I have lost my voice, not my mind.

But I have found a wonderful natural medicine.


Sweet and silky smooth it is soothing my ravaged throat as I work my way through a box of herbal fruit teas.

Honey has some amazing properties (even if you don't have a sore throat)

Benefits and uses of honey:

 It can prevent cancer and heart disease as it contains flavonoids which act as antioxidants.

 It can help reduce ulcers and other gastrointestinal disorders because it fights bacteria.

◊ It acts as an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal helping reduce odours, swelling and scaring in wounds.

◊ It can increase athletic performance. It can be just as effective as expensive sports drinks as it is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream.

◊ It can reduce cough and throat irritation, particularly useful if your cough is keeping you awake at night.

◊ It can reduce facial redness and soreness and has softening properties which means it can be used in beauty treatments for skin and hair.

◊ Eating local honey can help in the treatment of allergies such as hay fever.

All this and it is delicious cooked with lemon, mustard and chicken amongst other things. And it's a great Abba song to sing along to.

Do you use honey as a natural remedy or beauty treatment? Please share.



Why I left Book Group

Last October I decided to do something new (better than buy something new).

A continental style cafe had just opened near us and was starting a book group. Great opportunity, I thought, to discipline myself to read more and to get out and meet people.

I bravely went along to the initial meeting where we politely chatted and put our top three suggestions for a book to discuss into a hat. The titles for the first few months were drawn: Water For Elephants, The Finkler Question and Room.

So I had a whole month to read and digest a new novel. BLISS. I sped read it the weekend before. Panic set in like I hadn't experienced since I was fifteen. Was this for fun, where's the DVD, isn't that what students do nowadays? I speculated.

At the next meeting the coffee was pleasant but the conversation was stilted. No one would actually say that the book wasn't that great (why had we chosen it?). We seemed to be sticking to a script that the leader had found on a website. A third meeting was planned - right I'll give it another go, it will warm up next time, I hoped. This time two people dominated the group. One who openly hadn't read the book (she could have least read the end) yet still 

managed to talk about it and everything else under the sun. And another just fresh from hanging up her graduation gown who thought no one else in our small city had ever been educated. I had some pretty compelling things to say about that book but I decided to keep my own counsel.

Reader, I never went back. Maybe I was unlucky, I don't know. We just didn't seem to gel and I didn't trust the group with my most profound thoughts. I'll stick to Richard and Judy's website and swapping books with my friends and family. Because I think reading should be relaxing, an escape. As it says on the poster: 'My book club reads wine labels'. 

But if anyone's got any recommendations of books or good experiences of book groups then I'd love to hear. 



52 Weeks Of Happy (4/52)

Making me happy ...

 18 year old Jake Bugg's debut album 'Mercury'. LOVE IT. Bought by my seventeen year old son with his hard earned money. We get to hear snatches of it – in the car, kitchen and from his bedroom. Some beautiful subdued tracks. 

◊ My Autumn staple wardrobe has reappeared: leggings and tunics. Cosy.

◊ Love catching sight of dewy spider webs like this one outside our house.

◊ Stunning dip dyed leaves seen on my visit to the Tara Centre, Derby.

Joining in with  Jen from little birdie in her project to celebrate four simple things that are making you happy each week.

Be happy xo



Minimalist Monday: Letting Go

and it can be difficult to let go.

But if you can let go you will be freer and lighter.

Let me explain.
I'll take you back in time.
It will be worth it.

Once upon a time you were young and fancy free.

You had your entire life ahead of you.
You were free to go in any direction.
Free to enter a new relationship.
Free to travel.
Free to be open to spontaneous opportunities.

Somewhere along the line you settled down.

Life became serious.
You became established in your career, relationships and habits. 
You experienced SUCCESS.
You acquired possessions: for your comfort, leisure and hobbies. 
You bought stuff to save time, to celebrate your happiness,
your individuality and STATUS.

You tried holidays to experience the freedom you once had; exhilarating hobbies to feel young again, fine wine and dining to escape, designer goods and expensive pampering experiences because you deserved it.

You got into more and more debt.
You felt under more and more pressure.
You were constantly busy and always tired.
You were trapped and overwhelmed. You could never keep up. 
Maintaining and dealing with your stuff began to get you down.

Recognise this person?

You can redefine yourself in ways other than how much you earn or own.

Ask yourself:

Wouldn't it be great if I could start all over again?

I bet you wouldn't buy so much stuff second time around. I know I wouldn't.
You know that feeling of lightness you experience when you go on holiday? Everything you need in one bag, suitcase or boot of your car? You could have that feeling all of the time.

If you recognise that your possessions are actually tying you down you may find it easier to let go of them. Minimalists call this 'non-attachment'. Our possessions can become a burden: they take up a lot of space and need a lot of organising and maintenance. 

What would you save from your home if you were faced with a natural or man made disaster? (other than your loved ones)

How many things do you own that couldn't be replaced?

What do you really need to live your life now? 

Strangely, I have found that having less stuff doesn't make me feel insecure. I feel happier, more in control and more open to life with less possessions.

Want to let go of the past and live the life you want to live now ? Then why not try:

Baby steps:

Start to take action on any debt you have. Seek advice.

Start saving instead of spending.
Start buying less - ask yourself: Can I manage without this?
Don't be seduced by advertising, fashion or peer pressure.
Do a mini declutter: try one area first, maybe your wardrobe or kitchen
Accept that you may have made financial mistakes in the past.
Spend time rather than money on yourself and your loved ones.
Consider your needs now: Could you manage with less?
Give up one of your status symbols: designer clothes or fancy car.

Heavy stuff I know but why not try one of these tips and reflect on how

it makes you feel. 

Maybe you're already doing some of these things: Woo, you're a minimalist already and you didn't know it!

Let me know how you get on and have a great week.



Keeping Sunday Simple

Hmmm ... (said Hubby - or words to that effect). However, they can easily fill up with left over tasks from the week and that is what happened this morning. I will endeavour to put that right over the next few weeks. Maybe, then I will get tea and toast in bed and time to read my book.

Did you manage to keep your Sunday simple?

Oh, talking of simple do you like the new header? The owl has been retained as it was drawn by my 13 year old boy. I LOVE it.




FRIDAY AFTERNOON at the Tara Kadampa Buddhist Meditation Centre, Etwall, Derby. 

A great place to visit for courses, a walk in the gardens or a visit to 'The World Peace Cafe' (all of its profits are given to projects dedicated to world peace). 
Strolling around these beautiful grounds with a dear friend we connected with nature, each other and ourselves. 
A lovely afternoon.

This is what peace means to me:

What does peace mean to you and where do you find it?



Fab Friday

Can you believe it's 50 years this month since the release of the Beatles' first single 'Love Me Do'? 

Their cheeky charm, studenty vibe, literary skill, artistic experimentation and ability to write, structure and record songs put them in contention for being the greatest band of all time. As the number one selling band of all time they must be seen as a huge influence on our times and not just a marketing con or fad as some have said.

My older brother is a MASSIVE Beatles fan and so they (along with Bob Dylan) were part of the soundtrack to my youth. 

What do you think? What's your favourite Beatles song? Beatle?

It's nearly the weekend 
I'm looking forward to a glass of wine or two and hoping to get that cafe experience (I missed out last weekend): warming soup, cupcakes, coffee, chat... 

What are you going to make time for this weekend?

Worth a visit:

 What can you achieve in 15 minutes? 
 Great Art
 This review of The John Lennon Letters by Hunter Davies
 The simplicity of this post

Have a fab weekend 




Meet 'Moondance' our beloved VW campervan: a 1979 Westfalia left hand drive Californian import; colour - California beige.

Sadly she is no longer ours. She was an impulse buy 10 years ago and we had 5 happy years with her. Our boys were 3 and 7 at the time and loved sleeping up top on the double bunk. We slept in the bottom double bed that could be made by putting back the seats. We took her to Glastonbury festival, France and Woolacoombe amongst other places. Doing the weekly shop in her was also great with all the floor space for bags.

She was in good condition when we bought her and the interior was immaculate and unchanged. Gas hob, hook-up, fab tiny wardrobe, even a wine bottle storage box next to the gear stick. 

Yes, she was a financial drain and gave us some scary moments: breaking down on the Avonmouth Bridge, Bristol; failing petrol gauge and indicators in France (we had to do hand signals). Yes, we couldn't afford her really - we took out a loan to buy her and even moved house for her (with a side drive). Yes, it was cramped with the 4 of us in living in her for a week. No, we wouldn't make such an extravagant impulse buy now. But, we don't regret buying her as she gave us some carefree times and wonderful memories.

In the end we found the maintenance of her too difficult and expensive for us. She really needed some serious work done on her to solve rusting wheel arches etc. and so she was snapped up by a dealer. I know she has been well restored.

I still love VW camper vans and my heart skips a beat when I see one on the road. 

You could say that camping and travelling in Moondance was our first taste of the simple life and living in a small space. 

We have talked about hiring a van and that may happen one day but for now I have my memories. 

California Dreamin' ...