When a small thing became a big thing, I knew I was on the right track

A beautiful day in Sydney

This morning, Rafael woke up next to me in my bed, having crawled into bed with me in the middle of the night while his Daddy was working night shift.

I had already been awake for a little while, listening to little Florence chatting to herself in her cot in the next room.

I was watching Rafael sleep, when all of a sudden he rolled over, opened his eyes, looked at me and announced that it was morning and that it was time to wake up.

(How is it that kids always wake up so totally alert?!)

His next words were "Get up Mummy but don't look at your phone".

I was surprised and to be honest a little upset. In my mind, I hadn't looked at my phone in the morning for months and when I used to he had never said anything to me about it.

In response to my question about when I look at my phone in the morning he said, "to check the weather and I get bored. Don't check the weather".

He's right of course. I do check the weather on my phone every morning, particularly now that it's at that awkward time of year when it's freezing in the morning but it warms up during the day.

My weather check takes 30 seconds, if that, and so I had never really given it much thought.

It struck me that now that I am making a conscious effort not to use my phone in front of him, something as brief as the morning weather check must stand out to him.

It gives me heart in a way.

Whereas once upon a time the first thing I did in the morning was roll over and reach for my phone to check my Facebook account, now I make an effort not to use my phone at all in front of Rafael unless it is for something pressing, like looking up directions or making a necessary phone call. And when I do those things, I always tell him what I am doing.

Now he is my everything when he wakes.

He is who I see first (usually he's up before the baby and my husband).

He is who I hug and kiss first.

He is who I play with first.

So, those 30 seconds checking the weather seem to him like time away from him.

Depending on how we each use our phone, reducing it's use might seem like a big deal or a little deal.

Regardless of how challenging it was to me to stop it's excessive use, it is worth everything to know that my son knows that he is my focus when my day begins.

That's how children come to feel loved.

(I check the weather before I go to bed each night now)

~From my journal 9 May 2016

A Full World

My full world
Today I was playing in the backyard with Rafael. He fell over playing football and grazed his arm on the sandstone. He was very upset but we had a big cuddle and came inside to wash the dirt and blood off and put a really big waterproof bandaid (he calls it a bandage) on it.

Then we went back outside to keep playing.

At first he said that he wanted to keep playing but shortly thereafter he very gravely informed me that we needed to go to the house of some friends of ours to play on their grass. I explained that our friends were at work.

What about Tia and Tata’s house?” he asked (his Aunt and Grandfather). I gently explained that they were at work too.

Can Daddy come home from work?” he asked. I told him that most of our grown up friends and family worked during the week but that I am home to look after him and his sister and I can play with him.

At this, Rafael had a little break down. My sensitive little boy who looks for new friends no matter where we go, started crying big wet tears. As he gulped in big mouthfuls of air between sobs he said, “but my world will be empty” and began to cry even harder.

But my world will be empty.

It was a heartbreaking moment but at the same time it was an eye opening moment. A hopeful moment. A comforting moment. A teaching moment.

In that one sentence, my son showed me his heart.

His world is made up of the people that he loves.


I was able to take him onto my knee, cuddle him and whisper into his ear that no matter where our family and friends are they love him very much and that as long as they love him and he loves them, his world will always be full. A teaching moment.

I don’t really know to what extent he understood my meaning but he did start to calm down. Slowly he started to calm down and he gave me a quiet “oh” which looked and sounded like relief.

It comforts me to think that he gets his sense of place in the world from the people that he loves.

It gives me hope that his foundation seems rooted in people rather than things, regardless of the fact that my previous distraction could easily have given him a different idea.

It makes me feel grateful that I have started to live a less distracted life. That I didn’t have my phone in my hand while we were playing. That I wasn’t reading a book or just waiting for our game to end so that I could get back to the housework.

I was outside playing with Rafael. I was in the moment, focused on him and because of that I got to have a special moment with my son and to understand something about him and how he sees his place in the world. How lucky I am to have had that moment and to have made the most of it for both of us. 

Written on 15 April 2016

Happiness is....

Rafael moving his toothbrush so that it hangs right between mine and my husband's and saying "now we can be all together here too".

Eliminating Facebook

We all know it. Technology distracts us from what's important. We use it anyway, telling ourselves all sorts of things to make it alright.

For me, my biggest distraction was Facebook. My use of Facebook had become compulsive. It was like an itch that had to be scratched. I was constantly checking my phone. Even when I'd checked it only just before. I would get excited if there was even one new notification and if there was a new notification then I felt compelled to check it immediately. 

I checked Facebook while I was playing with Rafael. I checked Facebook while I was eating breakfast. And lunch. And dinner. I checked it while Rafael was in the bath. I checked it while watching television, doing the groceries, waiting at swimming lessons, standing in a line. 

I was on Facebook while we 'played' in this cubby
I would spend ages just scrolling through my feed, stopping to read something here, stopping to laugh at something there. 

When I actually stopped to think about what I was doing, what I thought about was what I wasn't doing.

I wasn't acting on my son's requests to play with him, because I was distracted by Facebook. 

I wasn't watching him show me his new bath trick, because I was distracted by Facebook.

I wasn't watching him learn to swim, because I was distracted by Facebook. 

Sometimes Rafael would even ask me to put my phone down and I would reply "in a minute".

Once, he hid my phone from me right before we were leaving, delaying us by 30 minutes while I frantically searched everywhere (it was under a pillow, in his rocket tent, in the family room) and I still didn't recognise what he was trying to tell me. 

Increasingly, though, I was coming to realise that Facebook was distracting me in a way that wasn't right. I knew that I was using my phone more than I should be and that it was interfering with my time with Rafael but I didn't really have the courage to do anything about it for a long time. 

Then one day, something clicked and I uninstalled Facebook from my phone. 

And it was the beginning of something great.

Happiness is......

Happiness is....

dancing around the living room to Jimmy Giggle singing "Five steps to bed", my husband carrying four year old Rafael, myself carrying the baby Florence and Rafael reaching his arms out to enclose us all in a "four way hug" as we dance together.

A little reminder about being present

Rafael and Florence holding hands in the living room
No matter how hard we try, we can’t always be present in the moment all the time.

The mind wanders. We’re human.

My mind wanders a lot. It always has. Controlling its wandering is, and probably always be, a challenge for me.

It is so easy to start thinking about the groceries, the dishes that need doing or the laundry that needs folding. Even just day dreaming about that nap that it would be lovely to take.

And that’s ok. Sometimes I need to remind myself that it is natural for the mind to wander.

But every now and again I am sent a little reminder about how important it is to try to remain present in the moment, particularly in those moments that I am spending time with my children. 

The life changing effect of decluttering

A funny thing happened as I emptied my house of all the objects that were extraneous to my life and kept only those things that added value to my life.

The house remained tidier.

Items went back into their own spaces.

Junk stopped accumulating.

Things stopped getting lost – I haven’t lost my keys since I started this decluttering process. Not once (every time I think about that I feel like I need to pause just to really appreciate how incredible that is).


There’s less stuff to start with. Everything has its own spot now so when it goes away it goes where it belongs, not just where a random spot can be found for it. Because it’s so much easier to put things away, I am much more inclined to take those few extra steps and put things away. I am more inclined to ask my son to put his toys away before bed and make sure that he follows through. The various surfaces throughout the house don’t attract miscellaneous clutter like they used to because everything has a place to go.

I have learnt that stuff attracts stuff. Clutter attracts clutter. If I leave a little dish out on the bookcase for keys and wallet to go into, then somehow it will also attracts, bits of paper, screws, pegs and a lot of other random things.

I may not have finished, but already I can see the results.

I feel better.

I am more relaxed.

I am happier.

I am less overwhelmed.

I am no longer trying to escape the messy house and I am no longer constantly tidying a messy house. 

Cutting out the excess stuff in my home has significantly improved my state of mind and sense of wellbeing. It is worth taking a moment to really think about how much impact our environment can have on our mind and our body.

More time to spend with these two
With less stuff and a tidier home, I have more time to spend with my family. I can say yes to that puzzle or that game of Baby Chewbaccas (my son’s current favourite make believe game) because there isn’t 13 entire loads of washing to be folded or a floor that needs to be cleared of flotsam and jetsam before we can play.

With this first step, my life began to change. I started to think what other distractions were preventing me from spending time with my family. Not just time, quality time. With the increased time with my family, I really began to notice how much of that time I was actually spending on my phone and not paying attention to those that are important to me. I started thinking about what lessons I was teaching my children, what lessons I wanted to teach my children.

A tidy house was my first step. That first step lead me down a path I never expected, a path to figuring out how to really engage with my husband and my children and really, with life. All it took was that first step. Everyone can take a first step. Who knows where it will lead. 

An action plan

Early on in this journey, when I had just decided that I wanted to make some big changes for me and my family, I wrote an action plan.

Something about that makes me want to laugh when I type it.

Nevertheless, there it is. An action plan. I thought that I might as well share it with you. Starting out can be overwhelming and putting pen to paper and actually looking at my intentions is something that has always made things seem less overwhelming to me. Maybe it will help you in the same way.

I started with this question: what needs to change for me to be able to prioritise giving time and attention to my family, being present in every moment and feeling joy in each and every day.

These were my answers word for word as they popped out of my head and onto paper late one night.

The influence of minimalism - making the connections

I can’t recall the exact moment that I decided to actively look into different approaches to life but before I knew it I was looking further afield for inspiration and motivation to change.

What I stumbled upon first was minimalism. I knew about minimalism of course, but as a consummate purchaser with a borderline hoarder husband it wasn’t a lifestyle that I had ever really considered reading more about.

What I discovered is that minimalism as a lifestyle really has two parts – the part where you eliminate all the excess stuff from your life and the part where you then use the new found time available to you to prioritise what is important to you and what adds value to your life. The theory seems to go that if you eliminate distractions from your life (in the case of minimalism, your possessions) then there is the time and the ability to prioritise your passions and what is really important to you.  

In a way, what I was reading about minimalism was reminiscent of what I think Marie Kondo was trying to say in her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – if you keep only those possessions that spark joy and eliminate the excess then you have more time available to you because you are spending less time maintaining your possessions.

What I was reading really resonated with me.

I want my children to feel loved, to have a strong sense of self and place and to value people over possessions. It occurred to me that by eliminating all of the distractions from my life (so far as was possible) I would be able to give my time, wholeheartedly, to my family and in doing so be able to achieve my goals.

In this way, I would say that minimalism was what connected that first step of tidying my home with a desire to me more mindful in everyday life.

I had already started the decluttering process and so I began to think about what other distractions existed in my life and what I could do to be rid of them.

Some important reflections

My inspiration
Decluttering my house had a much bigger effect on me that I could have foreseen. As my life became more straightforward, as my sense of well being improved and as the amount of my stuff reduced; I started to think about what I wanted.

How do I want to live? What do I want to teach my children? What kind of parent to I want to be for more children.

These are some of the things came to mind....  

I want to be more engaged in the moment. I want to be more engaged with my children. I want to be more engaged with my husband. I want to me more engaged with my life.

Then I asked myself....

Why am I not engaged? How am I not engaged? 

And I answered....

My first step - declutter

The book that started everything
Shortly after my mother-in-law’s death I read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. It was all the rage and when I saw the title of the book I immediately thought “that’s for me”.

At the time I read it, I didn’t really connect my desire to read the book with the bigger picture stuff that I had been thinking about.

I just knew that I felt as though I was drowning in an overwhelming mess at home and that I wanted to do something about it.

The book was small and easy to read. I finished it off quickly and immediately got to work.

Marie Kondo’s premise was simple: tidy big, tidy once (over a maximum 6 month period) and never have to tidy again. I was skeptical, but I was ready to give it a go. Her system is this:

  • Declutter a single category at a time: clothes, books, paperwork, komono (miscellaneous everything else) and sentimentals.
  • Complete each category before moving on to the next
  • Hold each belonging in each category in your hand and ask yourself “does this spark joy”? If it does not, discard it in whatever manner is most suitable
  • Make a space for everything else and ensure that you always replace the belonging in that space

Awesome”, I thought. I can do that.

I started with my own clothes and soon I had four bags for donation and two bags for the rubbish.

Slowly slowly I began working my way through the rest of the house and the categories.

Paperwork, which I was dreading, really wasn’t as bad as I was expecting (although two months after completing that category I still haven’t got around to the shredding).

Toys, on the other hand, was not only as bad as I had envisaged, it was worse.

I still have a long way to go. I have completed most of the major categories but I still have some of the miscellaneous category to complete (like DVDs, CD’s, random cables etc) and the sentimental items.

But I immediately began to see the results. I started to feel more relaxed. I had less work to do, more time to myself.

With this first step my life began to change and I began to look for even more ways I could change my life.

My first step was about stuff. Excess possessions. Decluttering.

Yours might be about technology. Less time at work. Doing one thing at a time.

We all have to take a first step to get started and it might just change your life.  

The trigger

Every journey has a trigger and then a first step.

For me the trigger wasn’t about my distractions, my relationship with my family or even about whether I was using my time on earth in the way that I would have liked.

For me, the trigger was twofold – my supremely out of control house and the sad passing of my mother-in-law.  

I’d been aware for a very long time that the state of the house was having a negative impact on my state of mind.

I was becoming sick and tired of always feeling out of control because of the state of the house. It was untidy and unclean. No matter how much I tidied, the house would be messy again within hours. You couldn’t see the kitchen table or the benches for the amount of stuff just lying about on them. There were clothes and detritus all over the place, in every room. I couldn’t see the bed or the bedroom floor under all the clothes everywhere. Who knows if they were clean or dirty. The bedroom had become downright hazardous at night time as I tried to navigate my way out of the room in the dark to the baby’s room. The family room could barely be played in because of the volume of stuff in there. The bookcases and drawers were full of miscellaneous stuff that had no other place to go and just collected. The more stuff there was lying about, the more stuff seemed to accumulate.

One of the most frustrating effects of this excess of stuff was just how often I would lose things. Nothing seemed to have its own space. Everything ended up anywhere it felt and as a result I could never find what I needed and needlessly spent valuable time looking for lost objects like keys and phone and being stressed about it.

I felt unhappy at home and would try to go about to avoid the mess, only to get that sinking feeling again as I walked up the front steps at the thought of the mess that was going to assault my senses as I opened the front door.

I was increasingly aware that we were spending way too much money and I suspected that a lot of that stuff was stuff that I didn’t need. Yet, when I left the house to avoid the stuff, I usually ended up at the shops spending more money on more stuff that we didn’t need.

Here’s the thing. I have always been aware that my environment impacts greatly on my sense of well being. The more stuff I had, the messier my house was. The messier my house, the more stressed I was. The more stressed I was, the more overwhelmed I felt. The more overwhelmed I felt, the more I needed to find an escape. The more escaping I did, the more stuff I seemed to accumulate. It was a vicious cycle.