Silence calms my soul…

Do you ever feel like you are on a roundabout that just won’t stop spinning, moments of your life flashing by in a blur? Or running on a treadmill, music blaring, that if you stop for one second you will be thrown off the back of it like a ‘you’ve been framed’ clip! Life can sometimes feel so full and busy and noisy that it can prove difficult to find those moments of calm and stillness, moments to rest and restore your inner balance. Space to enjoy not just outward silence but stillness of the mind.

I recently read that research has shown just ten minutes of silence can improve your memory, with results lasting for up to a week. So if you are as scatter-brained as me, silence is even more essential! This last weekend I was in London with some friends. We were staying in a hostel opposite St Pauls Cathedral. Now London is the epitome of noisy and busy anyway, but add in a regular clanging of bells, and you soon find your stress levels rising and mind clouding! It reminded me how necessary silence and stillness is but also how much I struggle to make time for it.

There are so many distractions. A month without managing to write a blog post has flown by before I could even blink. I am a month behind on my reading challenge of one non-fiction book a month, and it’s only May! I blame Netflix! Life has never been busier or noisier for many of us. From the children’s demands early in the morning, checking the phone for messages, Charlie and Lola blaring out at me in the car, checking phone again for messages, replying to emails, looking at Instagram on phone, shopping for food, cooking dinner, breaking up squabbles, checking Facebook, fitting in some exercise, fitting in some social life, checking phone for messages…you get the picture!

The constant assault of social media in our lives and being in immediate contact with the world can make it even harder to rest and find peace. I know friends that have set a cut off time for their phones and screens in the evening or they may have a screen free day on the weekend. I think these are great ideas to switch off some of the outer noise in our lives and cultivate stillness.

I had been thinking about my time recently and decided to write a list of all my responsibilities and whittle them down by saying ‘Yes’, ‘No’ or ‘Maybe’ to them. I felt I needed to de-clutter my week as I had my house! I wanted to focus on a few things and do them well, rather than feeling like I was spreading myself too thin. I wanted to be more present for my daughters and not feel rushed all the time. It was a useful exercise however I found that it was not enough to just say no to a few things and then expect to be Mrs Zen and have bags of free time! The space I had created was very easily filled with more busyness and noise.

A very wise lady said to me time only really means something because of what you do with it. Time in of itself means nothing really. Have you ever fallen down the Facebook black hole, sitting down to check it for five minutes, only to realise and hour later that you are reading the latest baby news of your great-aunt’s sister’s cousin’s son’s best friend! An hour frittered away. Yet you could have ten minutes of silence and it sparks a creative solution you have spent weeks looking for. Time has potential and we can chose what we do with that potential. To cultivate calm and stillness we need to be intentional with our time. For me this is a challenge to just stop, be still, turn off my phone, stop doing chores, stop exercising, stop planning and just stop. Sometimes I think I find this hard because I’m scared of what I will find when all these things are stripped away. I also find it hard because when I am that still I tend to fall asleep!

My book for April (yes it’s May and I’ve not finished it yet!) is called ‘Daring Greatly’ by Brene Brown. She is a researcher into vulnerability and shame, and talks about how having the courage to be vulnerable can transform the way we live. I haven’t completed the book yet but so far it has been full of lightbulb moments for me and the themes are universal. Every single person would relate to what she is talking about. In fact it’s so good, I was reading it on the train, and I had to stop myself from agreeing with her out loud. I wanted to cheer and shout ‘yes Brene, come on, you go girl’ Rikki Lake style!

One of the things she talks about is wholeheartedness. Wholehearted living is a way of living and engaging with the world from a place of worthiness. Showing up, letting yourself be seen and taking chances, a way I’m sure we would all want to live if we had the courage. From her research she came up with a list of 10 things that people who live wholeheartedly do. One of these is:

 ‘Cultivating Calm and Stillness: Letting Go of anxiety as a lifestyle’.

Anxiety as a lifestyle, rushing, striving for perfection, fear of failing or messing up. With a busy life it’s so easy to fall into this rhythm, to find yourself on that hamster wheel, chasing your blinking tail! So my challenge to myself is to plan more times of quiet and stillness into my week. To cultivate the habits that bring calm and stillness and try and limit the habits that don’t. If you come to my house and there is a massive pile of washing up, don’t mind me I’m just cultivating calm and stillness!

 

Advertisements

What the blazes is a Capsule Wardrobe?!

 

‘The practice of keeping a small number of useful clothes in your closet and remixing them each season’

 

Whenever I start talking about this subject with my dear long suffering husband his eyes glaze over and he has that ‘I love you but I don’t give a toffee about capsule wardrobes’ look on his face! So sorry if this post makes you want to fall asleep in your bowl of cornflakes but I get pretty excited about anything that makes my life easier and a capsule wardrobe does just that!

I’m not going to lie, my fashion sense as a young adult was highly questionable. I’m talking brown checked trousers, orange Teflon jumpers, oh the horrors. Fruit of the loom t-shirts and shell suits, what was that all about! University introduced me to a whole new world of fashion crimes. I spent my uni days sweeping the pavements of Manchester with the bottoms of my baggy skater jeans and I had a wardrobe-full of ASBO worthy hoodies! After university I found it really hard to move on from the hoodies, it was a bit of an obsession! Throughout my twenties and through two pregnancies I found it really hard to discover my personal style. I often felt like I was stuck between adolescence and adulthood and my clothes portrayed this. Choosing clothes felt like a chore and I mostly felt uncomfortable, un-confident and frumpy in what I wore.

Last Christmas my sister-in-law mentioned that one of her New Year’s resolutions was to try out a capsule wardrobe. I’d never heard of this so I checked it out online, in particular this site, www.un-fancy.com, and totally loved the idea of a minimalist wardrobe. I have tried it out now for a year (clunk…that’s the penny dropping why I always seem to wear the same clothes!) and totally plan to carry on. The magic of the capsule wardrobe is in its simplicity and minimalism. It allows space for creativity and really helps you find your personal style.

How to build a capsule wardrobe

-Pick a number and limit items in your wardrobe to that number for example 37

-Include Tops, Bottoms, Shoes, Dresses, Outerwear

-Exclude workout clothes, accessories, pyjamas, underwear and formal wear

-Store items you love but are out of season somewhere else, and donate the rest. Only keep items you really love

-Remix every 3 months for each season. (Our seasons are pants so it is a bit of a challenge, layers work well!) Mix in items you have stored or buy a few new pieces to freshen up your wardrobe for the new season. Rotate items but stick to your number

-shop less

Benefits

Find your style – By keeping only those clothes I really loved and regularly wore, I was able to discover what I really liked. I like mostly neutral colours, particularly black, love stripes, nothing too feminine. I like a little bit of edgy and comfort is a priority.

Confidence – Its great knowing that you actually like every item in your wardrobe and you feel comfortable in it. I definitely feel more comfortable in my own skin in my 30’s than I did in my 20’s and it’s nice to feel my clothes reflect that.

Decide what to wear in less time – Most mornings I get both girls dressed, pour their cereal then I have about 5 seconds to get dressed before they spill something or get into an argument – True fact! So easy and quick is good!

Buy less disposable fashion – I have always had a quantity rather than quality approach to clothes. And the appearance of ‘Primarni’ has fed this, when clothes are that cheap you can afford to buy and dispose. This new approach has helped me chose my clothes more carefully. I might now spend more on an item that will last. I also think about whether it goes with other things in my wardrobe and if I already have something similar I try not to buy it. We’ve all been there, repeat buying the same style of top again and again…guilty!

After one year of my capsule wardrobe journey I’ve learnt a few things, made a few bad purchases, but absolutely love the freedom it brings in my day to day. So hooray for that! I am looking forward to trying to be more creative with it this year now I’ve found my feet and maybe sharing it on here will help me with this. I look forward to sharing my spring wardrobe with you at the start of March

If you want to learn more and get some ideas check out Caroline’s blog www.un-fancy.com it’s seriously amazeballs and she is about to start blogging again after a year break woohoo!