Discovering daily ‘pockets of freedom’ to enjoy what you love 

reading-book-1500650_1920.jpg

Some timely prompts this week reminded me how lovely it can be to carve out a minuscule moment during the day to refresh and recharge the batteries.

Even full-time workers (with a commute) can benefit from a few, short simplicity hacks to help smooth the rough edges of an otherwise busy day.

So, what can we do?

Reframe your commute

A recent Harvard Business Review article* (from where the phrase ‘pockets of freedom’ comes) states that the average round trip commute in the U.K. takes 54 minutes. In the US, the figure is even higher at 90 minutes. That’s a significant proportion of the day!

The authors suggest that using the time to shift our mindset can be hugely beneficial, citing the use of daily pre-work rituals to help set our intention for the day ahead and create a sense of anticipation. For example, they suggest that checking the news on the train or taking a look at the calendar for the day helps us transition from home to work.

My place of work is a university, so arriving on campus is like witnessing a small town waking from its slumbers. I enjoy seeing the day unfold, as every day usually brings something new or interesting.

My colleague, Cheryl, comes to work on the bus, using the time to read or catch up with her favourite podcasts. This commute-enhancing activity allows for this little ‘pocket of freedom’ every day.

If I’m doing the school run, I drive, but I also cycle to work when I can. Whichever mode of transport I have chosen, the arrival ritual is always the same:

  • Lunch in the fridge
  • Water from the water fountain
  • Kettle on
  • Computer on

…And breathe

Build pockets of freedom into your day

Writer and friend, Rae Ritchie, has a brilliant strategy for finding more time for her preferred ‘pocket of freedom’, reading. Rae advocates arriving a little early for an appointment so that you can enjoy some delicious moments to yourself with your latest book.

If walking to a meeting across campus, I now try to build in just a few moments to spare so that, a) I don’t arrive in a flap and, b) I might just read an extra page of my book when I get there. It’s an approach also suggested by Gretchen Rubin and Liz Craft on Happier.

Don’t forget lunch times

The French may traditionally take a 2 hour ‘dejeuner’ but I wonder if they ever sing at lunch time? Every Tuesday in term-time, at precisely 13:10, the University music centre runs Fun Choir. No preparation. No fuss. Just turn up and sing! Genius!

Workplace choirs, popularised by Choirmaster Gareth Malone are becoming increasingly commonplace. In researching this article, I realised there’s even a workplace choir organisation based close to where I work.

Eating lunch with a friend offers another lovely ‘pocket of freedom’; we get away from our desks when we can and enjoy around 45 minutes of uninterrupted catch-up time. That’s really valuable and so much better than grabbing a sandwich at your desk and carrying on with work.

Enjoy a moment of mindfulness

Sometimes, you have no choice but to sit and wait. If the ‘sitting and waiting venue’ offers you a window on the world, put down that smart phone. Step away from your tablet. Simply watch the world go by. See this not as lazing about but, rather, a chance to be more mindful and to develop your awareness.

Take your dog to work

Almost every day is an ‘International Day of X’.  Friday was no exception. 23 June 2017 was ‘Bring your Dog to Work Day’. The photos on Twitter of owners and dogs enjoying each other’s company was heartwarming and fun. My workplace takes this a step further, as it brings a team of Pets as Therapy dogs to the library on a regular basis to support students’ wellbeing. This is such a popular activity and is a real highlight in the calendar when revision is otherwise the order of the day.

Unwind at home time

My boss and I often take the 10-minute walk back to the car park together. This ‘unwind ritual’ is our tacit signal that it’s time to transition from work to home. We can reflect on the day whilst drawing a metaphorical line under the proceedings of the last few hours.

Others go to the gym directly from work. This is a great way to de-stress and to transition into evening. Taking some gentle exercise immediately after work is a great antidote to a heavy work schedule. I go to yoga at 6 p.m. every Thursday. I worried initially that I might not make it in time, but the traffic has only got the better of me once or twice.

Early to bed

Finally, go to bed early and you’ll not only get a better night’s sleep but you may be able to enjoy a few more pages of your book before lights out!

Reap the benefits

By incorporating just one or two of these mini stress-busters into your day, you’ll reap far more benefit than the small amount of time they take might suggest.

So, as another week rolls around, what will you do to enjoy a little ‘pocket of freedom’? What positive ritual or simplicity hack can you build into your day to help recharge your batteries? I’d love to know!

*Harvard Business Review, May-June 2017: Reclaim Your Commute – Getting to and from work doesn’t have to be soul crushing by Francesca Gino et al.


Join us!

Join hundreds of others in the Midlands Minimalist Community, receiving unique news and content that’s only available for subscribers.

button_join-the-community-2

The love that flourishes when you let go of stuff

engagement-ring-2093824_1920.jpg

There’s bound to be something among the things you own that you really love. Some people love shoes (and are famous for it); others love clothes or have a signature scent that they truly adore (and which others associate them with). The list goes on.

“Love begins in a moment, grows over time and lasts for eternity”

I love rings. I always have. I own my paternal grandmother’s wedding ring that she first wore on her wedding day in October 1932. Having had it cut off because of dupuytren’s contracture, she kept this simple band of gold then had my birthstone set into it for my 18th birthday. It has little monetary value, but I enjoy wearing something today that my grandmother wore decades ago.

Can you be a minimalist and still love stuff?

Everyone’s definition of a minimalist lifestyle differs. My minuscule keepsakes take up no room but I value owning a bit of family history (and I wear my rings frequently). I suppose that’s the point: if the stuff you keep adds value to your life, then enjoy it. Use it. Wear it and let it bring you joy.

You may fill your home with stuff but it won’t fill your heart

We all know that the acquisitive pursuit of stuff can lead to anxiety, debt and emptiness. You may fill your home with stuff but it won’t fill your heart. On the contrary, clutter can be detrimental to wellbeing. That’s why decluttering is such a powerful tool.

Furthermore, the kind of love that flourishes when you let go of stuff is truly remarkable. It changes lives.

With This Ring

Bearing in mind my love of rings, I find Ali Eastburn’s story remarkable. Eastburn attended a women’s retreat when she found herself asking what might happen if she sold her stuff to help others. She then had the most daring and radical thought of all:

“I bet if I sold my wedding ring I could feed an entire village in Africa.”

Well, she did sell that ring and went on to found her charity, With This Ring. Eastburn’s own ring funded the drilling of a well in Africa, but the charity has since grown to change the lives of so many people through acts of generosity and love. Eastburn’s donation didn’t just change the lives of other people; it changed her own, as she was finally able to end what she called ‘an insatiable love of stuff.’

The Hope Effect

Joshua Becker is best known for his writing as the founder of Becoming Minimalist. However, the charity he founded is likely to have a more profound legacy. The Hope Effect seeks to implement family-based solutions for orphan care around the world. With a ‘two-parent’ style home, the charity’s mission is to transform the lives of children who would otherwise experience institutional care. How much hope and love abounds when ‘stuff’ is no longer the focal point of people’s lives!

The experientialist approach

Using your precious time and resources in the pursuit of activities or experiences (as opposed to things) will ultimately provide far greater reward than the short-lived rush of pleasure experienced when buying something new. Even better, enjoying activities with others helps build social bonds, which are a very important ingredient to wellbeing and happiness.

The month of love

Whilst February may be the ‘month of love’, June is traditionally the most popular month for weddings. A quick search on the web explains that, since the goddess Juno was the protector of women in all aspects of life (particular in matters of matrimony and childbearing), a wedding in Juno’s month was considered most auspicious.

This summer, my husband and I celebrate 20 years of marriage. We had so little when we started out so, inevitably, embarked upon the pursuit of ‘more and better’. Only now do I truly understand that love can flourish even more when you let go of the things in your life that no longer add value.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll take a closer look at that little pot of rings I keep at home. Letting go of them would no doubt generate more love than wearing them on my finger ever could.


Join us!

Join hundreds of others in the Midlands Minimalist Community, receiving unique news and content that’s only available for subscribers.

button_join-the-community-2


Interview with Jen Gale

Jen Gale.jpg

Jen Gale

What would it mean if you spent a whole year buying nothing new? What changes would you have to make? What impact would there be on you, on those close to you and on your finances?

5 years ago, Jen Gale set herself this very challenge. It not only changed her year, but changed her life.

In this exclusive interview with Jen, I discover what prompted her challenge, the experience of living through a ‘make do and mend year’ and asked how her life had changed as a result.

Jen, you first came to prominence when you wrote about your ‘My Year of Buying Nothing New’ during 2012/13. What was the catalyst for this?

I always say that I’m not entirely sure..! I do remember becoming suddenly aware that our eldest, who was about 3.5 at the time, seemed to have already tuned into ‘stuff’. He was doing that thing of demanding (very vocally!) to be bought anything bright and shiny that caught his eye whenever we ventured out to the shops. I remember feeling quite shocked that he had already tuned into these societal messages that ‘more’ is good.

At about the same time, I read an article about a lady who was doing a ‘Secondhand Safari’ – a year buying nothing new; I slightly naively thought that it sounded like a fun challenge!

How did those around you respond to your ‘make do and mend’ philosophy?

The kids weren’t really old enough to understand what we were doing, or indeed to really argue about it, which certainly made things easier. I think it would be a very different challenge to undertake with them now at the ages of 8 and 6, or as teenagers!

My husband was great. We had an initial ‘heated debate’ about whether a newspaper counted as something new, but after that was ironed out, he was really supportive.

I think he was probably more attracted to the money saving benefits of reducing our consumption, which was never really a driver for me, but he got stuck in fixing the washing machine, the toaster and even the microwave. He also made a ‘Fix-it box’ where we put anything that needed mending – he ended up fixing all kinds of things, from toy cars to wooden railway track!

What did you find most challenging about it?

In all honesty, the year buying nothing new wasn’t anywhere near as hard as I thought it would be. The most challenging thing ended up being the blogging. Somewhere along the way I decided for some reason that I wanted to blog every day through out the year, and as you might imagine, this ended up being the most difficult part of the whole thing!

Christmas was also a challenging time. We started our year in the September, so the festive season came upon us very quickly. I decided that in addition to making all of the presents, that we also needed to make all of our own decorations, including the tree… After hours scouring Pinterest for inspiration, I found a picture of a tree that looked fabulous and was made of egg boxes! I decided to try and emulate it, and the result was a little…underwhelming.

Eggbox Christmas Tree

Jen’s eggbox Christmas tree

Now that you’re through it, what did you learn? What were the benefits?

I learned so much, and it has totally changed my life. It has changed not only how I shop, but how I see my place in the world.

I used to see things that I wanted to change in the world, but never really thought that I could do anything about them.

The biggest lesson of the year was that I CAN do something about the things I want to change. They might only be little things, things that seem almost inconsequential, but it is really important that I do do them.

If we all make small changes, then collectively we can make a big difference.

What aspect of your experiment have you maintained, all these years later?

We are more relaxed now that we are no longer constrained by the ‘rules’ we set ourselves for the year, but we are still far more conscious and thoughtful about the things that we buy.

I try whenever I can to find the things that we need second-hand and charity shop shopping is still my favourite type of shopping! If I can’t find it second-hand, then I explore the most ethical option available. Sometimes that means buying an ‘ethical’ product from a business with values that align with my own, and sometimes that can simply mean choosing to buy from a local independent shop rather than a large chain store.

Tell me about your interest in sustainable living: was this always part of your values, or did this develop over time?

I always thought I was quite ‘green’ – I did my recycling! But as the year progressed, I was forced to confront so many of the big issues that are affecting the planet and our global society – issues I had been vaguely aware of before, but had somehow chosen to look away from.

I had never really joined the dots together and seen my role as a consumer in the whole system. I had never believed that my actions could make a difference, but now I know that they do.

Having developed a wonderful community of like-minded people, you’ve recently launched a business helping ethical and environmental entrepreneurs unlock their potential. Tell me about this!

I’m so excited about this!

As you say, over the last few years an amazing community has sprung up around the blog, and we have an amazing Facebook group of over 6k people, all making small changes every day, and inspiring and motivating each other to keep doing one more thing.

I’m really passionate about encouraging and empowering people to take responsibility for the impact of their actions, and this applies to business owners as well as individuals.

There are so many amazing ethical businesses and social enterprises out there making good stuff happen and having a really positive impact on the world. I work with them to help them to unlock their potential, and to amplify the impact of their businesses. I really do believe that all businesses should be ‘good business’ and should take into account people and planet as well as profit when they are making decisions.

Running any business on your own can be lonely, and there are aspects of running an ethical and ‘conscious business’ that provide additional challenges. I provide the support and accountability that is often missing when we are working on our own. I can help ethical entrepreneurs to get really clear on their vision for the future, and to work out a strategy to get them there more quickly and easily.

What’s your vision? What kind of businesses are you looking to work with?

I want to make ‘good business’ the norm, and for that to happen we need more enterprises that are gently disrupting the status quo of ‘growth at all costs’.
I work with anyone wanting to run a business that makes a difference. Entrepreneurs who have a clear passion and a purpose that guides their actions, and you want to develop truly sustainable businesses, both environmentally, and financially.

What’s the one thing that we can all do to live more sustainably?

I think it comes back to the thing I touched on earlier about taking responsibility for the impact of our actions. So often we buy things, we do things, almost on auto-pilot. We very rarely stop and really think about what we are doing, and what the impact is on the environment, and on the people who have made the things that we are buying.

We all make hundreds of decisions every single day, and we all have the potential to make the best choices we can, just be taking a bit more time, and being a little bit more thoughtful.

I think that’s why our year buying nothing new worked so well. Because we couldn’t get the things we needed straight away from the supermarket or on the High St, it put a stop gap in the way of our purchasing, which was enough to create the space and time needed to think about the things I wanted to buy.

What would you advise anyone looking to live a more intentional life?

Take the time to stop and think – it doesn’t have to be a deliberate mindfulness thing – it’s just that fraction of a second before knee-jerking into doing something out of habit or because we are stressed/tired/busy.

As you might expect, I am a massive fan of the power of a period of buying nothing new – a year might be a little extreme for most people, but I really do think that even a week, or a month, is enough to make us more aware of what we are buying, and where from. It helps to create that stop gap and that space, and to be more conscious of what we are buying.

Where can we go to find out more?

I have continued to blog at My Make Do and Mend Life, and we are part way through a year of One Planet Living – looking at a different aspect of sustainable living each month.

My coaching business is at jengale.co.uk and you can find out more about me and my work with ethical businesses. I’ve got some great blog posts up there about things like ‘how to face your fears’ or ‘how to beat comparisonitis’ and I’ve got a podcast launching very soon packed with interviews with ethical entrepreneurs and changemakers!

What or who inspires you?

I’m really inspired by the online community! Social media can be a mixed blessing, but it has enable me to connect and engage with so many wonderful people and do build a wonderfully supportive and inspiring community, all inspiring each other to change the world, one baby step at a time.


About Jen

Jen is an ethical business coach, inspiring change makers and purpose-driven entrepreneurs to create positive impact and a better world.

Having originally trained as a vet, Jen responded to her inner voice, telling her that there was something more! So, she made a bold move and now spends her time coaching business owners and start-ups who want to make a change too, unlocking their potential and enabling them to live the lives they dream of and to genuinely be the change they want to see in the world.

Listen to Jen’s podcast, Making Good or visit Jen’s homepage for free resources, courses and coaching!

Making good


Join us!

Join hundreds of others in the Midlands Minimalist Community, receiving unique news and content that’s only available for subscribers.

button_join-the-community-2

UK changemakers who are making good

AND, WW, Camp folded diagonal square

It’s rare that you’ll find a minimalist blogger writing about – or recommending – products or services. That goes against the grain, right?

Minimalist or not, we are all consumers. We consume to survive and to function in society. However, our journey towards minimalism or simple living may help us to be more intentional in our purchasing. We may become curious about where our clothes were made, wonder if the packaging from our foodstuffs can be recycled, or whether the products we use in our home are helpful (or harmful) to the environment.

UK changemakers

Here’s where some new UK brands are setting out to make a difference to the way we buy and consume everyday things. Changemakers to the core, these people are running purpose-driven businesses designed to have a positive impact on both people and planet.

I did a bit of research and was amazed at the creativity and ingenuity of these small businesses that are definitely putting values first, so I thought I’d share them with you. Let me know what you think! Do you choose to buy certain products because the values of their company align with yours? Note that I have not been sponsored to write this post; it’s simply for interest and to get the conversation going.

Splosh

Splosh is first on my list. It offers an innovative approach to how we buy and consume home cleaning and laundry products, which made me curious to find out more. The Splosh method means that you buy a starter kit of the basics, followed by re-usable refills that come directly to you in the post. The company claims that its products are not only great value but they are more convenient and miles better for the environment. As soon as my current batch of ECOS washing liquid runs out, I’m going to give this a try.

Screen Shot 2017-05-11 at 15.07.54

Lost Shapes

lostshapes

Anna Brindle’s runs ethical clothing company, Lost Shapes, selling fair wear certified, organic cotton and sustainable fabric tops that are hand printed with original designs. We all know that the most ethical way to consume clothing is to buy secondhand, but if you don’t want to do this (for whatever reason), it’s great to know there are companies out there, making clothes on home turf and selling directly to the customer. Anna’s designs are fun and easy to wear. Check out her ‘optimist’ collection. I like her slogan: Another nice day, which works well whatever the weather!

Anna Brindle printing

Anna Brindle printing

If you’re into ‘cool clothing that tells tales’, also check out:

Where does it come from?

Imagine buying something and being able to trace its entire journey. Jo Salter wanted the assurance that the clothes she was buying for herself and her kids weren’t contributing to cruel labour practices or contributing to the world’s pollution problems. So, she set up Where does it come from? which allows the customer a chance to trace the story of each item purchased by typing a unique code into the organisation’s website.

Jake and Maya Kids

Jake and Maya Kids pride themselves on waste reduction, offering clothes that grow with your kids, as they include adjustable features to maximise the lifespan of each garment. If you have little ones, this sounds fun, especially if the clothes can be passed down from one child to the next.

Bough to Beauty Bespoke

Not a beauty business as you might infer, Bough to Beauty Bespoke is a UK-based organisation run by Vix Lawson using laser engraving to create name badges, coasters, keyrings (and more) out of sustainably-sourced wood. If you’re an events company, in particular, how lovely it would be to produce name badges for delegates that they can take away and re-use?

I love their little challenge:

“Do you take your own bag to the shops? Ever considered taking your own badge to work events?”

Upcycled gifts with a social conscience

Harjit Sohotey-Khan’s approach is to partner with social enterprises in India to produce a range of handmade accessories made from upcycled materials.

How many organisations can claim to espouse fair trade and zero waste, as well as using upcycled materials that are made by hand by artisans from women’s cooperatives?

Harjit’s www.jewelledbuddha.com sells beautiful scarves and necklaces whose proceeds are improving the lives of the artisans who make them. If gifting is your love language, it’s worth checking out these unique designs. They’re not cheap, but then you wouldn’t expect them to be; they’re beautiful and made to last.

Deodorants with a difference

earthconsciousdeodorantrang_grande

Angela Manton treads as gently as she can with her own consumption, seeking out eco-friendly and ethical options whenever she can. It follows that her natural deodorants contain ingredients that are kind to the body. When washed away, they also pose no threat to marine life. Packaged in plastic-free packaging too which also helps the environment, her company, Earth Conscious, supports the Marine Conservation Society with donations from its sales.

I sent for one of Angela’s vegan lavender deodorants, which I’ve trialled for the last few days. I liked the gentle fragrance; the application was straightforward and – most importantly – it did its job.

Mooncup

Whilst we’re on the subject of personal products, boys you can look away now.

Designed by women for women, Mooncup® is – and I quote – “the original, soft, medical-grade silicone menstrual cup designed by women as the convenient, safe and eco-friendly alternative to tampons and pads”.

I’ve tried this product for the first time recently and I can simply say that I really wish I’d used it before. It takes some getting used to, but once you’ve trimmed the stem to the perfect length, you’re good to go. Not only is this product good for the environment, given the reduction in waste, but it’s good for your purse, too. Once purchased, a Mooncup will last several years. In my case, it’ll probably see me out. Even better, Mooncup’s doing some amazing charity work, which is both humbling and inspiring.

What about you?

Do you have a preferred supplier of ethically-sourced, sustainable goods whose products you love? If we’re going to buy something, it’s great to know that we’re contributing to the greater good in so doing.

It would be good to see your recommendations, so feel free to reply below.


Join us!

Join hundreds of others in the Midlands Minimalist Community, receiving unique news and content that’s only available for subscribers.

button_join-the-community-2