Why it’s good to be bad at things

March 15, 2012

Without wanting to sound incredibly conceited, I was pretty good at what I did in Southampton.  In my day job I was an accountant, and most of my clients and employers seemed to think I did a decent job. For fitness, I spent my time teaching and participating in bodycombat and dance fitness classes, both of which I had done for years and felt comfortable with. People seemed to enjoy my classes and I loved teaching them, and felt that I was pretty good at what I was doing.

Here, on the other hand, I’ve noticed that I am not good at anything! It’s all new to me. I am doing things like building fires, cooking and gardening. Any of my friends who have lived with me will tell you that I am far from a domestic goddess! Cooking and gardening do not come naturally to me! And even after a fair few attempts I still cannot seem to grasp the art of building a successful fire. Sigh. Fitness wise, there are no gyms within 2 hours of me that have classes, so I’m having to find new ways to exercise. Exercise is all outdoors here, and don’t get me wrong, I love that and it’s a big part of the reason we moved. Going for a run or bike ride through mountains and rivers is amazing. But – I am not good it!! My runs barely fit the description – they are definitely more of a jog. And my bike rides tend to slow down to a similar speed whenever I hit an hill!

As I am something of a perfectionist, I have been finding this a bit hard to get used to. It’s difficult for me to suddenly be spending all of my time doing things I don’t feel comfortable or confident with. I have had a few wobbly moments with this until this week when it occurred to me that actually

this is a good thing!

After all, this is an adventure. The whole point of the move was to leave behind our old, predictable lives and office jobs, and try new things. There is a reason I was good at stuff I did in Southampton – it was because I was stuck in a rut doing the same things I had done for years. Being shit at something means I’m trying something new. It means I’m stretching myself out of my comfort zone. It means I’m learning new skills and finding new things to enjoy. So, I’m trying to embrace it. It’s good to be bad at things!

Thoughts on downsizing

March 8, 2012

We have been in our new house for three weeks now, and I did wonder before we moved how I would cope with the smaller living space.  We have downsized from a 4 bed house with 107 m2 of living space plus 2 bathrooms, to a 2 bed house with 60 m2 of living space plus 1 bathroom!   This was a conscious decision on our part; we wanted to spend as little as possible on our living accommodation so that we could work less and enjoy a better quality of life.

However, I did have niggling worries that we would find the adjustment hard.   Not only is our new house smaller, it is also a little more …. basic.  The single bathroom is downstairs, and has no bath, just a shower.  Heating is provided by a multi-fuel stove which heats water and radiators.   I have always lived in a house with central heating before!  How would I cope with waking up to a freezing cold house, having to clean out and light a fire before we could get any heat in the radiators?  Would we get under each other’s feet all the time in the smaller space?  Would I miss being able to soak in a hot bath?  Would I hate having to make a middle-of-the-night trip downstairs to the loo in a cold house?  Would we feel cramped?  Would the house feel cluttered?

Three weeks in, I can honestly say my worries were unfounded.  I have not once missed the bigger house.  The stove is hard work, but we are getting the hang of it (even if I am permanently covered in coal dust!), and the “hassle factor” of cleaning and lighting a fire every morning is far outweighed by the simple joy of sitting in front of the flickering flames with a mug of coffee.  Buying a small, economical house has meant we are able to take time off from working without having money worries hanging over us.  This is just …. amazing.  We are spending quality time with each other, in beautiful surroundings, doing things we enjoy.  We are reclaiming the art of lingering.  We are out in the fresh air every day, walking the dogs, mountain biking, or running.  See that lovely view in the header?  That was taken at Loch Trool, about 4 miles from our house.

Last week, we spent a couple of hours just watching and photographing the birds feeding in our garden. A couple of times I caught myself thinking “I should stop wasting time with this and get on …” before realising that actually, this sort of thing is *exactly* what I should be spending time doing!

Life here is good🙂

A longer update!

March 7, 2012

Hmmmm … so much for updating this blog more regularly!  It turned out that working the day job, teaching classes, buying a house, selling a house, downsizing our stuff, and packing took rather more of our time than we had anticipated!  Far from having leisurely 5 day weekends in between my 3 working days, we seemed to have never been busier in our lives!  However – it was worth it, because – we are here in Scotland!!!

This is what has happened since our last update:

We bought a house in Glentrool Village in Galloway Forest Park.  We originally tried to get our “dream house” near Port William, but the one we wanted was just too expensive and between one thing and another it was too hard to house hunt from 400 miles away! So we decided to buy something “cheap and cheerful” that would do us and get us up into the right area.  So……

….. we bought this rather cute little two bedroom cottage in this lovely peaceful village.

We survived tax return season, got our house fixed up, downsized our possessions

massively, got packed up, and moved up here on February 14!

So – The Big Move has happened!!!!! and sooner than we originally thought as well!

I really will try to update more regularly from now on as I have plenty of time to do so! We have decided to take a “sabbatical” and enjoy getting settled into our new surroundings, so we are not going to be looking for work until September.

So far – 3 weeks into our move – I am LOVING it.  This is the best thing we have ever done!

What did you do with your extra hour?

October 30, 2011

Yesterday I read a great post on Zen Habits from Courtney about busyness. It really resonated with me, as she described trying to do everything, always rushing, never having enough time. I used to live like that too. I have come a long way down the road to living a simpler, happier, more meaningful life, and I’m pretty pleased about that.

Then I went on to facebook. As normal in the UK at this time of year, the clocks went back last night, giving us an extra hour. Of course, time trundles along in the same way and the extra hour is pure illusion, but that’s not the point. Twice a year we talk about “losing” or “gaining” an hour.

What struck me, though, was what people do with their extra time. Almost everyone seems to use it to sleep. Samples from my facebook news feed:

“Hooray for more sleep time!”

“Clocks going back – extra sleep!!!”

“I really need the extra hour in bed tonight.”

What does this say about our society? Why are we so tired, so overworked with our busy lives, that we clutch at the prospect of an extra hour’s sleep so gratefully? How sad is that? Not once have I ever heard someone say, “Great, an extra hour tomorrow, that’s an hour of walking/reading/playing with my kids.” No, its always sleep. How ridiculous! If you are tired and need sleep – then sleep!! But we don’t; we are so accustomed to getting up at a set time, to cramming as much as we can into our precious 2 days of freedom, to working long hours all week, that we don’t listen to our bodies and rest when we need to.

So, if this sound like you, read Courtney’s excellent article and take action to become less busy. And next year, be rested, relaxed and able to spend your “extra hour” doing something you love.

Me? I spent my hour walking my dogs, drinking coffee, reading and blogging. It was a very enjoyable hour.

A short update!

October 30, 2011

Big things have been happening! And now we are much further along towards our Big Move. So I will be updating more often and not neglecting his blog as much. I will also be occasionally waffling on about non Big Move related topics!

So: this is where we are now …….

We have sold our business. I am currently working 3 days a week for the new owners and will do so until at least the end of January. So far, it’s going great! I was worried how I would manage working with other people again, as it’s only been me, Dave and the dogs for the last 7 years!!! But Jaine & Lorna are lovely, we are getting on great, and all is going swimmingly. Having Mondays and Fridays off work is not awful either🙂

We have been back up to Scotland for a week of house hunting and have narrowed down our area to Wigtownshire, probably in The Machars close to Port William. We found 3 houses we really liked and are trying to decide between them with a view to making an offer soon. More on that later!

We have continued to sort through our clutter and downsize our possessions and Dave is now working on our house including putting in a new bathroom and various other jobs that need doing. We want it to be in tip top shape ready to put on the market – either for rental or sale – in January.

So that’s where we are! More details to follow soon!

Things are moving along ….

July 27, 2011

Wow it’s been far too long since I updated this!  If you’re wondering where we disappeared to, well, we have been busy! Check out the sidebar ….. we are not exactly proceeding according to schedule but we are most definitely getting things done!

So a short and sweet update ……

So, as you can see from the Big Plan sidebar, we are a little behind schedule with the clear out.  However, most exciting, we are way ahead of schedule with selling the business!  We have agreed terms and we will be handing over in October!  This gives us more leeway with the house clear out too – I will still be working in the business to help with the handover, until early 2012, but hubby will not have much in the way of work, so come October he will be devoting himself to clearing things out, decorating and generally getting the house ready to put on the market after Christmas. 

We have had a two week road trip in our camper van in Scotland which was UH-MAY-ZING.  We traveled up to John O’Groats, across the north coast and back down the west coast and saw some of the most spectacular scenery I have ever come across.  If I had had any doubts about moving (not that I really did!) they would have been quashed.  Being close to nature, near to mountains and lochs, having peace and quiet, being away from the city …. even the evil Scottish midgies could not put me off.

That was us camping at Glencoe …. pretty amazing🙂

We also found a house that we liked the look of ….. so watch this space!

More regular updates soon I promise🙂

An update!

February 27, 2011

Wow this blog has been sadly neglected! If you’ve just arrived here via the 2011 All Star minimalist blogs and are wondering why tumbleweeds are blowing past and there is a sheen of dust over the last entry, fear not, we are still alive.  We have been trundling along with our downsizing and have been too busy to actually blog about it!

So – an update is called for!  Our plans are progressing nicely!  As you can see from the do list, several more things have been crossed off.  The latest downsize has been books.  I knew this would be a mammoth project – we have a lot of books – but I didn’t fully appreciate just HOW MANY! We didn’t count them up but it’s got to be over 400 books that we are giving away.  We considered trying to sell them, but looking on eBay at what job lots of books go for, we thought we would get so little for them we would rather give them to charity; there is an Oxfam bookshop near us and even if they only sell for 50p per book that will still be a couple of hundred quid to a good cause, which gives me a shiny warm glow.

I will live up to my billing of providing “racy clutter shots” (love that!) by letting you peruse the following …

  • Crates of books ready to cart off to charity.  There are 9 full crates in this shot, and a further 2 in another room!  Insane!!

 

  • Here is what we have left – one small bookshelf each.  Yes, mine is the one with the Harry Potters, Dougal and Firefly; Dave’s is the one with serious literature and autobiographies!

  • And here are some empty shelves waiting to be disposed of.  This photo makes me happy!🙂

Also on the book front, Dave bought me a Kindle for my birthday and I am absolutely made up with it.  I toyed with the idea of one for ages, but I love the feel of books and was quite anti the whole idea of an e-reader.  However, the prospect of all my books in one small package won me over and I decide to give it a go.  The plan is that I will keep the shelf of books as shown above, but to try to buy any new books on the Kindle.   I have actually been incredibly impressed with it!  It’s easy to read, easy on the eyes, lighter and easier to hold than a paperback so great for reading in bed.  My one dislike was that I love to read in the bath and didn’t dare take the Kindle in with me – I am a bit of a klutz so expensive electronic equipment and water are not a good mix!  But I have even managed to sort that; I can stand my Kindle up in its case on a stool next to the bath, set it to voice mode but with the sound turned right down (the voice is very irritating!) and it scrolls through the text at a leisurely pace while I read hands free from my bath.  Result!

As well as the books, I have also scanned and saved all my photos and ditched the hard copies.  Don’t worry, they are all backed up onto external hard drive :-)  So we are doing quite well at clearing out space, although there is a long way to go still! It’s scary how much clutter we have accumulated over the years!  There will be some car boot sales in our future …

In other Big Move news, we have someone coming over next week to talk about buying the business.  WOW!!!  That feels like a big step!  I am also starting a zumba class next week which is very exciting!  Previously I have only taught Les Mills classes which I have really enjoyed, but these are attached to gyms who have to pay an expensive licence fee to run them.  Given that we are likely to be moving to the middle of nowhere with no gyms for miles around this was not going to be much use bringing in any money after our Big Move.  So, I have trained in zumba which I can teach anywhere – I’m starting classes here to get some experience and then hopefully this will have the potential to be an income stream when we move.  An income stream doing something I enjoy!  So all good!

This week I actually took what felt like the first irrevocable step towards the Big Move – everything up to this point has just been clearing stuff out, and we could have backed out at any point without anything really changing.  On Friday, though, I handed in my notice for one of the Les Mills classes I teach, in order to focus on zumba.  This might sound trivial but it was quite a huge deal for me.  I have taught the class for over 4 years; it was the first class I trained in and taught when I became a fitness instructor, and I am very fond of the members there.  However, I knew if we wanted to go ahead with our plans this would have to go at some point.  I’m taking on 2 zumba classes per week, and have been so busy with that and my existing classes, that something had to give.  The whole point of this change for us is to have less stress, more free time, better quality of life  ….. but continuing with that class while doing 2 new ones was going to mean I was teaching 4 nights every week and having LESS free time!   So I knew it was the right thing to do; but it was still scary taking that step, and it felt quite momentous.  The great thing was that after I formally handed in my notice I felt as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.  I felt so happy and calm and chilled for the rest of the day.  I’m sure I will shed a tear at the end of my last class, but I know I’ve done the right thing and it feels good to have made the first real step towards our big change.

Whew! If you’re still reading thanks for following along this far!  I shall endeavour to update more often over the next few months so the entries are a little shorter!

CD madness!

January 8, 2011

Today we tackled item number one on our do list: CDs!

We brought all our CDs down from the loft; went through them deciding what we wanted to keep; ripped what we wanted to mp3; and then packed the CDs up into crates ready to get rid of them.

Honestly, I had no idea we had so many CDs.  Around 300!!  All of which have been stored up in our loft to keep them out of the way, with the result that they have not been getting listened to!  Madness!  It’s actually been great to find some old favourites that I hadn’t heard for years and listen to them on mp3.  I intend to put some on my iPhone to enjoy with my workouts this week!

Even better, my genius husband found Music Magpie, a rather nifty website which allows you to scan the bar codes on your CDs with your webcam and offers you a price for them!  Plus free postage! So I reckon we will get a couple of hundred quid to add to the Big Move savings pot.  Downsizing rocks!🙂

We have a plan!

January 4, 2011

Happy New Year!

So it is the start of 2011 and everyone is busy making their resolutions … lose weight! get fit! give up smoking!

We have decided against resolutions this year.  We have goals instead!  The main one being to spend this year getting ready for our Big Move early in 2012.  We have some fitness goals and stuff too, but mainly 2011 is going to be about working towards our Big Move.  It seems so far away at this point that it would be easy to just let things drift and find ourselves, come the autumn, no nearer to achieving it.  So, with that in mind we sat down and drew up our Big Plan for 2011!  You can see the Big Plan in the sidebar to the right, and every time something gets done, it will get crossed off the list. 

Spring 2012 seemed a long way off until we started the list.  Now, it seems barely enough time to get everything done, bearing in mind that all this has to be done in spare time while staying with our day job until we  are ready to sell up!

You will see some things are still a little vague; we are not sure yet if we will be selling our house, or letting it out, so the list will get updated as we go.  But it’s really good to know that the framework is there.  It makes our Big Move seem much more real!

It’s been a long time coming …..

December 18, 2010

Recently I told one of my friends about our downsizing plans, and she said “Wow! That’s out of the blue, where did that come from?”.  It made me wonder if we were making a huge life changing decision rather hastily (although we have not, as yet, done anything too irreversible anyway!), but later on I got to thinking about our life together and the path it has taken since we met 13 years ago and realised … actually, we have been heading this way all along, just doing it in small stages!  Here is a brief history of our previous downsizing …..

Downshift Number 1: Getting out of London

When we first met, I was working for an financial firm in London and hubby (or fiance as he was then) was working in Hampshire.  We moved to Commutersville halfway between the two so we could commute off in different directions every day; me by train, him by car.

This was, it’s fair to say, horrible.  We left the house at 7 am and got home around 7 pm.  We did this for about 6 months before we had a major heart to heart about how our lives were going and realised, hey!  What’s this all about?  We never see each other!  We’ve just got engaged, we want to spend lots of time together, but every night we are too tired to do anything but eat and sleep, and weekends are taken up with all the chores we don’t have time for in the week.  And so downshift number 1 was decided: I would quit my job in London, get one near him; we would move there and chop our daily commute down from 90 minutes to 30 minutes.  Extra free time = approx 10 hours per week.  Woo hoo! 

Downshift Number 2: Going self-employed

Moving back from London was a huge improvement to our quality of life but after a few more years of the 9-5 grind we started to re-evaluate again.  There was a point after I qualified when my charge out rate went up to something ridiculous like £75 per hour and when I worked out my hourly pay it was under £20 per hour. I know employers have to allow for costs of rent, holidays, etc but it made me think, hang on – if I worked for myself I could keep the whole £75 and work considerably fewer hours for the same money!  So in 2003 we both left our jobs and set up as self-employed working from home.  Looking back, I can see the seeds of our current attitude there – most sensible couples would have gone with one partner staying employed for a few years to mitigate the risk, but we just jumped in with both feet!  We took around a 50% pay cut to do this, and reined in our spending quite considerably, but it was well, well worth it.  Working from home was great and we never looked back.  No commute meant so much more free time, and also the flexibility to arrange our time as we wanted.  A huge improvement.  Extra free time  = at least 5 hours per week. Which brings us to 15 in total from where we started.  Result!

Downshift Number 3: Becoming a fitness instructor & working fewer hours

Working from home was brilliant, but financial work was not exactly thrilling me.  It paid the bills very nicely, but I always said that if we won the lottery I would give it up without a second thought and become a fitness instructor   (I was really enjoying classes at the local gym and had been for a few years).  Then it occurred to me that actually, I could still train as a fitness instructor “on the side” so that’s what I did.  I guess it doesn’t count as proper downsizing, but it was a  shift of time away from “something I don’t enjoy but pays the bills” to “something I do because I love it”. I now teach 3 regular classes a week, mostly in evenings so it doesn’t really interfere with the “day job” but still, it’s 3 hours a week where I earn peanuts compared to what I could earn if I spent that time doing “proper” work.  So I’m counting that as downshift number 3.  We have also gradually reduced our “day job” hours since we set up as self-employed – we probably work an average of about 30 hours a week.  So to add that to our running total, I reckon extra free time  from where we started is probably at least 20 hours a week.  We’ve salvaged half a working week of free time!! I look back now and wonder how we ever lived like that …..

Downshift Number 4: ???????

And so, here we are, at the verge of our next – and probably final! – downshift.  We’re not sure exactly where we are going with this one yet!  We want to live a simpler, more  natural life; we want to be in the countryside, not the city; we want to work fewer hours.  What, you say, even fewer than the measly 30 hours we already work??!!  Well, yes.  I feel kind of greedy for wanting more spare time, when we are very lucky to have so much already, but life is short and as the heading says, you only get one of them.  Every hour that I spend sitting at a desk doing something boring or pointless is an hour where I could be walking my dogs, snuggling with my husband, chatting to a friend, dancing, reading a good book … well the list is endless.  If we can find something that pays the bills in even fewer hours a week, brilliant.  And if we can find something that we can do together and provides us with more job satisfaction too, well that will be the icing on the cake.

So, that’s where we are.  On a long a slippery slope towards becoming total slackers.  Oh yeah🙂