Making the Most of Your Home During Lock Down

Feeling like a prisoner in your own home?
introduction

Fed up with lock down and having to spend a lot more time at home?Is this stopping you from enjoying your life? In this post I want to help you realise that we are all being offered an opportunity to create an environment we love living in. I believe that now it’s probably more important than ever to take the time and make the effort to turn your home into a place where you enjoy spending time and that meets the needs of you and your family.

In life we often use the excuse that we don’t have time. Now that excuse is removed and you may realise that it’s not the time that you lack, but the motivation. Here are some ideas on how to change that.

Could you spend time at home refreshing the paintwork?
need to do some decorating?

Mr Simple and I are in the process of renovating our home and have been for the past few years. Since we moved here five years ago we have spent many weekends just doing chores in the house. Mr Simple is usually doing DIY and I am cleaning or cooking. Over the summer we will both do work in the garden. Pre-coronavirus we did take time away to have a few holidays, as well as having days out, enjoying the countryside. During the lock down periods we have taken the opportunity to make even greater progress with the renovations than we would otherwise have done.  

Now whilst I can understand that you don’t want to spend all of your life within your four walls – there’s a big and interesting world out there to discover (once we’ve all been vaccinated of course) – why wouldn’t you want to make your home somewhere nice to live? I’m sure if you took a notepad and had a walk around your home you could make a list of lots of jobs that you’ve been meaning to do, but just never go around to. Now you have the time to finally get them done.

Even if you live in a house that doesn’t require any decorating or renovation are you completely happy with how it is? Try looking at your home through the eyes of a guest in a luxury holiday home. What would you love and what would you be complaining about? Then think about how you could change it into somewhere you’d pay to stay.

How about creating a less-cluttered environment?
decluttering

It’s not always about making major changes. One of the topics that I’ve taken an interest in recently is decluttering. I’m sure that’s something all our homes could benefit from.

If decluttering is something that you need to work on then I would suggest checking out The Minimal Mom’ on YouTube. I have recently discovered her and she has some great ideas. She really challenges my thinking about how much stuff I need.

She’s also taught me that little and often is best. Just select a few items each day or each week, that you no longer use and get rid of them. Decluttering is a process that can take months and years, rather than something to be done just one time.

You don’t need to take out all your clothes, Marie Kondo-style and ask if each one brings you joy. Instead, she created a capsule wardrobe by selecting the items that she wears on a regular basis. Then she put the rest in a bag for the charity shop or into ‘quarantine’ i.e. a box in the loft which you can review in a few months to see if you have missed them.

Since discovering ‘The Minimal Mom’ I have cleaned out some of the kitchen cupboards. This is one room in our home which is yet to be renovated, but as I said to Mr Simple, there’s no point paying for extra cupboard space when we do have it renovated just to house items that we never use. All this decluttering has certainly made cleaning a lot easier as many of my surfaces are clear of clutter.

My favourite life coach, Natalie Bacon, tells you the benefits of decluttering your life and home in this blog post.

So, what are you doing this weekend? Stuck at home on a wet Sunday with nowhere to go? Why not use that time well, so that once you can invite your friends round, it will be to a well-maintained and decluttered home that you’ll be proud to show off to them?

Personal development and life coaching can help you create a life you love
more ideas on personal development

Want to learn more about changing your mindset, why not check out ‘Grow You’, Natalie Bacon’s life coaching programme (affiliate link) or one of her free trainings:

How to Live an Intentional Life

Overcoming Self Doubt

Time Management Tools

How to Fix Your Relationship

Online Business

Conquering Anxiety

Scarcity v Abundance Mindset

Money Mindset Exercises

The Benefits of Working from Home

This has been life over the past ten months
recent changes

Over the past ten months many of us have been working from home full time. Therefore we are spending more time in our own homes. Whilst I am looking forward to seeing people in person again and catching up over coffee or lunch, I think that there is so much to enjoy about spending more of our days at home.

Several years ago I submitted an application to make working from home my norm, but this was turned down by my organisation. Now all of a sudden we have all become home workers. My positive views are probably also reflective of the fact that I don’t have children. This is particularly difficult now when parents are having to home school, often alongside working full-time from home.

If though you don’t have kids or they’re old enough to get on with their school work without too much input from you, then I would really encourage you to consider how you can make the most of this period. How many times in the past have you used the excuse of not having enough time as a reason not to exercise or to justify all those takeaways? Now there are no excuses! Imagine you had a time machine and could jump forward six months or a year. What would that you want you to have done during this time? I’m sure it’s not sit on the couch more and eat lots of cake!

Do you know where your time goes?
how do you spend your time?

I would suggest sitting down and thinking about your average day. What time do you get up? When do you start work? How long do you take for a lunch break? How many hours are there between when you usually finish work and when you go to bed? If you aren’t really sure where all of that time goes, and remember there are 168 hours in a week, try tracking your time for a week. Break the day up into 15 or 30 minute slots and note what you spent most of your time doing in each slot. You can find some more ideas and tracking sheets  here on Laura Vanderkam’s site.

Once you have an idea of how you fill your 168 hours have a think about what your ideal week or day would look like. Then start to make some changes. You don’t have to do it all at once. I don’t expect you to leap out of bed at 5am, jog ten miles, meditate, journal and read a good book, and then cook a three courses gourmet meal in the evening all on the first day. In fact, none of these may be how you want to spend your time. The idea is to intentionally use the extra time that you now have, rather than while away your day scrolling your Twitter feed.

Here are some suggestions for activities to include in your day when you are working from home:

Does your morning routine set you up for the day?
Morning routine

This is an area that I’ve written about before, but I so enjoy my time before work. Prior to lockdown it’s likely that some part of your day was taken up by travelling to and from your place of work. Many people used to spend a couple of hours or more commuting. Now you can fill that time with something that you enjoy as your commute just involves sitting down at your desk and turning on your computer.

If this is an area you want to work on you might want to check out Hal Elrod’s book and/or websiteThe Miracle Morning’. He recommends six personal development practices which he suggests that you undertake every day. These are silence i.e. meditation, affirmations, visualization, exercise, reading and scribing i.e. writing/journaling. You can also see what Natalie Bacon says about routines. For myself, I just practise the silence, exercise and writing. I used to read, but I tend to do that before bed now.

I start the working day with a five minute inspiring podcast
Work routine

In order to start the working day I always make myself a cup of coffee. Up until the end of 2020 was listening to Laura Vanderkam’s very short daily podcastThe New Corner Office. Since the beginning of this month I now listen to the Before Breakfast Podcast, also by Laura. Previously I didn’t always take a lunch break, but now I take at least an hour.

I can keep on top of this when I am at home
Keeping on top of household chores

Another benefit of working from home is that I can do chores in my breaks. I usually put a load of laundry on before I start work. By coffee time the machine has finished and it’s ready to be hung up.

With more time at the end of the day as there’s no journey home I can do some housework. Whilst I know that this isn’t the most exciting thing to do, by spending a little time each day keeping the house clean it helps to free up my time on the weekend. By the time Saturday and Sunday come around I don’t feel that all of my free time is being taken up by getting on top of the housework again. I can actually spend some time doing things that I enjoy instead.

It feels good to get outside whilst it’s still light
Mid-day exercise

I know not everyone likes to exercise first thing. An alternative is to take a longer lunch break and get outside for a walk. At this time of year, when it’s usually dark before and after work, we need to make the most of the daylight hours. Occasionally I can kill two birds with one stone by walking into town in my lunch break to do some shopping or collect some books from the library.

Virtual meetings has increased my capacity at work
Change your working practices

As for work itself, whilst others complain about the virtual nature of our work I am enjoying the ability to be in several places every day without actually going anywhere. I can fit more into my day. As I log off from one call I can immediately join another. Previously this might have involved a 50-mile journey along the motorway.

As I have said before, I am a social worker, working with families. Although I am not meeting anyone in person at the moment there are benefits to virtual working. One is that I can have shorter, more frequent meetings with clients. People who previously I may have only met on two occasions I am now seeing three, four or even more times. This makes me feel that I know them even better than before.

I have also taken the opportunity to do some preparation for dinner whilst listening to training courses or attending team meetings. Chopping veg and cooking doesn’t take much brain power so I find that I am able to concentrate on what’s being said at the same time.

So there we are, a few ideas for you. If it all seems too much effort just think about that future you. Looking back you’ll always wish you had done the hard thing and I know you can. A slimmer, healthier, more organised and hopefully happier you might just emerge from this period of enforced seclusion.

A New Direction

I started ‘writing A Simple Life’ two years ago
Introduction

I have been writing on ‘A Simple Life’ for just over two years. Up until now it has been a blog about saving money, with some ideas about personal development thrown in. I started ‘A Simple Life’ when I discovered FI/RE – financial independence, retire early – as this is what everyone does. Like all other FI/RE seekers I wanted to share ideas about saving money, making money and to monitor my own journey.

As time has gone on my interests have developed into a love of personal development. This culminated in me joining Natalie Bacon’s life coaching programme ‘Grow You’ in February 2020, from which I continue to learn every single day.  

Over the next year there will be some changes on ‘ A Simple Life’
The Way Forward

In 2021 I will be changing the focus of ‘A Simple Life’ and starting to explore more personal development topics. By doing this I want to help you to make positive changes in all areas of your life. I believe that feeling happy and fulfilled is all about examining your life and making positive changes, no matter what life throws at you. Many people blame their circumstances for their unhappiness. I want to share with you how by making simple changes, including having a more positive mindset, it is possible to create happiness without changing anything about your circumstances.

Life should be considered and planned
Living Life in the Precontemplation Stage

I have been a social worker for almost twenty years. I work with people who are trying to make changes in their lives, or those who need to make changes, otherwise their futures look bleak. Unfortunately the majority of the people that I meet don’t think that they need to make any changes in their lives. I would regard these people as being in the ‘precontemplation stage’ of the ‘Cycle of Change’. This is a concept developed by Prochaska and DiClementi (1983). People in the precontemplation stage are unaware of or have a vague recognition of concerns, but at this stage they have not considered that their behaviour needs to change.  

In order to look at a wider definition of precontemplation let’s look at one of the dictionary definitions of ‘contemplation’:

the state of being considered or planned

So precontemplation is a time before you actually consider or plan. Now the reason that I say that the majority of the population live their lives in the precontemplation stage is that they don’t live considered or planned lives. Life is lived on autopilot. Most of us are brought up to think that our lives will follow a certain path and that’s just the way it is. For the majority of people that means school, university/employment, marriage, children, grandchildren, retirement, death.

Do you struggle to get up as you dread the day ahead of you?
Living a Considered Life

Whilst each and every one of those can be amazing (except perhaps the death part!), I want you to make choices about the life that you’re living. Do you wake up in the morning and bounce out of bed, looking forward to the opportunities that the day ahead brings? Are you able to look on the bright side when life doesn’t always go as you expected and accept that there will be good times and bad times along the way?

You may be thinking that the answer to a happy life lies in winning the lottery or making a killing on the stock market and retiring to a beach somewhere. If that’s what you really desire that’s fine, but the answer to happiness lies within you, in the choices that you make, in your attitude to life and in your thoughts. As we all know, particularly from 2020, life is unpredictable and there are many things over which we don’t have any control. What we do have a choice about though is our thoughts. This is the basis of life coaching, or at least the life coaching taught by those who have trained with The Life Coach School .

Many life coaches practise what Natalie Bacon calls action coaching. If you want to lose weight they will suggest diets to follow or if you want to get fitter they’ll recommend exercise programmes. I’m sure that like many people you’ve tried to get thinner at some point and found that the problem is not finding an eating regimen to follow, but actually sticking to it. This is where thought work comes in. Life coaching helps you examine your thoughts about your body, about eating and about weight loss. Once you have the motivation, action is easy. We’ve all heard of people who have tried quitting smoking for years without success, but a scary diagnosis leads them to give up overnight. None of the tips and tricks for quitting have changed, it’s just their motivation that’s different.

Want to manage your time better? Life coaching can help you.
Reasons why you might want to have a life coach
  1. Help you reach/achieve your goals
  2. Control your emotions
  3. Understand your motivation
  4. Improve your relationships
  5. Manage your time
  6. Help you change career
  7. Lose weight

We’ve all heard of therapy, which takes you from dysfunctional to functional. Life coaching takes you from functional to exceptional.

I don’t pretend that I am a life coach and I don’t propose to start a coaching programme here on ‘A Simple Life’. What I do plan to do though is to give you some of that action coaching, i.e. ideas for how to improve your life and also a different perspective to help you perhaps change your thinking about situations. Natalie also has lots of free training on her website and so I’ll make sure I let you know about those, particularly if they’re relevant to the topic of the post that you’re reading.

As a member of ‘Grow You’, Natalie Bacon’s life coaching programme, I have had the chance to become an affiliate and so will be including my link in my posts to encourage you to check it out. Obviously you can just stick around here and read my posts. Hopefully you’ll still get lots of ideas to help you live your best life.

Until next time, take care and best wishes, Sam.

Developing Relationships

crop smiling diverse girlfriends with exercise books speaking on terrace
Topic of the month

As I have mentioned many times before, I am in a coaching programme called Grow You. The topic of the month for November was ‘strengthening relationships’. Natalie Bacon, whose programme it is, prepares a workbook and a video lesson each month. I thought that I would share with you the thoughts that came up for me when going through the workbook and give you a few ideas if your relationships are something that you want to work on.

Friendships

When it comes to friendships I’ve usually been someone who has a small group of friends or even just a best friend. As I’ve written about before I struggle to find people on my wavelength. For example, as I write this we have just gone into tier four and all my neighbours are complaining about their celebrations for Christmas being cancelled. Perhaps because I am not a big fan of the festive season or because it was so obvious what was coming, I found it hard to have sympathy with them.

silver colored heart lock bridge
I tried to be grateful instead of complaining
Cultivating a positive attitude

Instead of moaning I try to find things to be grateful for. I know it’s a cliché, but I really do believe that we spend too much of our lives moaning. I tried to find the positives in our situation:

  • We have a warm and comfortable home.
  • We have food in the cupboards.
  • Even if we can’t see family we can Skype them

You don’t have to look far to find others worse off than yourself. Complaints about the situation being unfair are still ringing in my ears. Unfortunately the idea of fairness is something that society has created. Life isn’t, and never will be, fair. Most of the time life is random and out of our control. We just like to think that we can control it, but 2020 has made us all re-evaluate that. My belief is that we need to focus on what we can control, which is our own behaviour and accept what we can’t e.g. natural events such as the weather or coronavirus. For me, my work is to develop relationships with others who also have a positive attitude.

white beads on question mark sign
I have realised that I asked a lot of questions
New friendships

Whilst working on this topic I had the opportunity to go on a hike with two neighbours, neither of whom I know very well. One of them lives in a very large house, which makes me feel slightly intimidated, but she is very down to earth and I really enjoyed talking with her and getting to know each other. The other neighbour I found to be quite prejudiced and although I was and still am polite to her I don’t feel that we are similar people or that I would want to pursue a friendship with her.

Both that day and other experiences have made me realise that the majority of people talk about themselves most of the time. Even with people that I really like and feel that I could be good friends with, I have found that they hardly ask me any questions about myself. In contrast I have realised that I ask a lot of questions of people. This is because I want to get to know them. I am not sure whether I come across as nosey, but that is not my intention. I am truly interested in understanding what makes them tick, in learning about how they see the world.

Ryan Holiday talks about this phenomenon in his book, ‘Ego is the Enemy’. He suggests that our lives are films and we are playing the starring role. Everyone else just has a bit part and they aren’t as important as we are. We all like to think that we are special, whereas in fact we are all human beings just trying to find our way in this world.

woman wearing teal dress sitting on chair talking to man
Try to listen more and talk less
A few things to think about and try out
  • Do you ask questions of others when you meet?
  • When you ask ‘How are you?’ do you really want to know the answer?
  • Are you just waiting for them to take a breath so you can jump in and start talking about yourself?
  • How about instead of that try to really listen to what they are telling you?
  • Be interested.
  • Ask questions to help deepen your understanding.
  • Refrain from telling them that their exact situation, or something even worse, happened to you and what you did.

So there we are. My current thoughts about relationships. If you’re interested Natalie Bacon has a free lesson here on how to fix your relationship, which focuses on your relationship with your significant other.  

Making Life Run Smoothly

man and woman walks on dock
at home

We all love going on holiday, but how often do you arrive at your destination only to realise that you’ve forgotten something. One time Mr Simple forgot to pack any pants and we had to stop on the way to buy some. Fortunately they are something quite cheap, but if he’d forgotten a more expensive item or some medication we might have had to turn around and drive home.

So what’s the answer?

A packing list. Every holiday is going to be slightly different, so when you create one list, not everything on it is going to be relevant all of the time, but you will be able to adapt it. Whether you’re off for a beach holiday in the sun or a week walking in the Lake District there are basics that you’ll need. If it’s the latter you can ignore the swimsuit, but you will need the rucksac. If you’d like to see what’s on my list I’ve created a Freebie here just to give you some ideas and to get you started.  

woman in yellow tshirt and beige jacket holding a fruit stand

Another example where a checklist can come in handy is when buying groceries. I have a master list of all the items that we buy and when I do the shopping order I refer to the checklist and then see if we are running low on that item. Ideally you would notice when you’re getting low on something and add it to your shopping list as you go through the month, but that doesn’t always happen. Maybe you’re in the middle of cooking dinner and although you meant to do it you got distracted. By using this checklist it means that you don’t do your order and after it arrives realise that you’ve run out of something, but didn’t buy it. Alternatively you don’t get to the supermarket, see a product on the shelf, think to yourself, ‘I wonder if we’re running low on that?’, buy two and get home and find there’s already plenty in the cupboard.

How often do you clean the bathroom and then 30 minutes later you’re lying in the bath and you realise that you missed something – the mirror’s dirty or you forgot to check whether there’s a spare toilet roll in the cupboard. So what’s the solution I hear you ask. A cleaning checklist.

To be honest the possibilities are endless and by taking a little time to think about what areas of your life would run more smoothly and then creating a checklist, you can save yourself hours and make life run much more smoothly.  

books business computer connection
at work

I have also recently started to use checklists at work. I am a social worker. For every case there are certain tasks that have to be done. Previously, each time I was allocated a case I would sit and write a list of what I needed to do. Obviously that meant I would create that same list several times a month. Sometimes I’d miss things off, only realising later on that I’d overlooked a task. Basically, I was reinventing the wheel every few weeks. What a waste of time!

Then I came up with the idea of creating a standard list which I use every time. Now circumstances do vary and sometimes I have to add things and other times points aren’t relevant, but on the whole I use 95% of the list. It is such a time saver and I have shared it with several of my colleagues.

I also use checklists when I am writing reports. Every situation is different and there are certain issues that I need to consider; certain questions that I have to ask to make sure that nothing gets missed. Over the years that I have been doing this job I have developed a list of prompts for myself so that I don’t miss anything. There are occasions, usually fair unique situations or something that rarely comes up, where important points are overlooked and when that happens I add that to my checklist so I never forget it again.

So, it might take a little time to write out, but for many tasks you probably already have a list in your head anyway. Maybe you have written lists in the past and thrown them away. Next time you’re planning your packing or creating your shopping list, write it in a notebook and keep it. Next month, when you’re doing the shopping list again, or next year, when you’re packing for that holiday in the sun, you can just open your notebook and there it is, a list, already written for you!

If you need anymore convincing about the usefulness of checklists take a look at this short video by Matt D’Avella.