About Tabatha

My vision for myself and for the world is peace and joy. Everything I post will be to this end. Style and minimalism are a big part of my life within my vision. Minimalism brings me peace, and style brings joy. I post on topics covering environment, relationships, finance, personal growth, health, career and recreation.

Email Subscriptions

Keeping a peaceful life is easier when living in a decluttered environment, and that includes our email inboxes. When we think of decluttering, our minds picture the overstuffed closets and drawers, not always digital clutter. But it’s there, clogging up our view and wasting our time.

Just like the rooms in your house, you can declutter your inbox by throwing everything out, doing a little at a time, or putting it all in storage and only taking out the things that you use. But emails arrive in our inboxes freakishly faster than we can buy stuff to fill our houses.

One thing that continuously fills the inbox is email subscriptions. They never stop, and seem to reproduce of their own accord. Subscriptions are great because we get regular information on things that interest us. There’s a lot of great, free knowledge out there. A good deal of it is sandwiched between ads and salescopy. But if you can only read the nugget of pure information and not get sidetracked into unwanted spending, the subscription is useful. But without proper management and read-and-delete action, these emails swamp even the most minimalist inbox.

Once you’re on a list, the list owner will not remove your email unless you specifically request it. They can share your email address with other lists too. So the question becomes how to maintain the inflow of information. Here are my top process ideas for a happy subscription/inbox relationship.

  1. Go ahead and sign up for any list that interests you. Easy joy.
  2. Ruthlessly unsubscribe from any that you know you don’t read every time you get a new one. Some will be easy (lists you don’t remember joining). Don’t worry, you can re-subscribe at any time (step 1). Either keep a list of the website/store or let it go. There’s a whole internet out there.
  3. Ruthlessly delete emails that have been sitting there, unread. You can always re-subscribe and get new (and probably back-dated) information.
  4. Delete emails you’ve read. If there’s something you want to share or save, do it immediately after reading. You don’t need to keep every email you were sent, especially if it’s stuffed with sales fluff.
  5. Create filters. It’s not as technical as it sounds and most email providers have simplified this. The result of filters is when an email hits your inbox it goes directly into its folder, waiting to be read. I have filters for health, finance and childcare newsletters, among others. When I have time to read, I go into one and read all relevant information at one time.

Happy reading!

A Resolution for the New Year

How is your resolution after the first few weeks? I realise it’s a bit late, and that every other blogger has something to say about resolutions… but here’s my take for peace and joy.

The key to keeping a resolution is to continually restart it. We aren’t perfect so instead of “I had a piece of cake, might as well start the diet next week”, eat the cake (if you absolutely cannot say no) and begin the diet immediately after the last bite. No second helpings, either. Remind yourself why you’ve made this resolution.

Restart your resolution every 15 minutes if you need to, until it becomes your new way of living. I once set my mobile phone to chime every 30 minutes, reminding me to be present. Drove the family crazy but did the trick. That was four years ago and I still have the habit.

I think this is what many bloggers are talking about when they recommend against resolutions and aim to convince of the wisdom of tiny habit-setting. And certainly it is wise, seeing how humans are, well, human. We’re not digital so why do we think we can flip a switch come the first of every year? That’s due to another human characteristic… impatience. We want it and we want it now. So the real resolution ought to be: being okay with the slow changes and being determined and persistent enough to push through the hard times. To convince ourselves we want that result more than the easiness of our old ways.

So pick one thing you can resolve to change and stick to it over the course of the next year. Mine is to have great health, which has been my not-really-new-year resolution for the last 14 months. My daily habits for health are not perfect but are gradually becoming closer to what I want them to be.

What is your resolution for this year, and are you ready to re-declare it through the rest of 2012 and the rest of your life?

On Gratitude

I attended a Thanksgiving dinner today and was reminded how important gratitude is.

Being grateful brings humility and gladness. No matter how bad things get there is probably something we can still be grateful for.

I’m thankful for the peace I experience daily. I don’t live in a war-ridden territory, nor do I need to see my husband or brother going to fight. I know where my children are, and they are well.

I’m thankful for the basic necessities. I have uninterrupted access to clean water, shelter, heat and fresh food, as well as recreation, education and social involvement.

Every time I get over a nasty cough, I remember how grateful I am to breathe easily.

I’m amazed I can plan for my future, with some level of certainty. I am grateful for the likelihood I will live through my seventies and enjoy my children’s children.

Please add a comment – what are the things you feel gratitude for?

How to deal with people who can’t read your mind

This is a short story about Roberta. She was out with her sweetheart, Jason, and saw an ice cream stand. Wanting a cool treat, she hinted, “Would you like an ice cream?”

Jason didn’t particularly feel the need and replied, “No.”

Roberta waited, but Jason didn’t respond by asking her if she would like one. They continued walking, Jason checking out the goods at the next shop, and Roberta getting more and more upset that she didn’t get the ice cream she wanted, and also feeling that Jason didn’t care about her enough to ask if she wanted the ice cream.

I call this situation “An Ice Cream Thing” — when we don’t feel we can be direct enough to state what we really want. This is actually a form of emotional manipulation. And unless both people are playing the game, there is bound to be an upset in the relationship. There’s more intimacy when people can feel open enough to share their true desires.

But since nobody can read our minds, we need to let them know what we want and what we expect. That doesn’t mean demanding or forcing, simply letting someone know what we want, what we would like them to do or what we expect from them. Take a cue from young children, who are not shy at all about what they do and do not want! But we still need to be prepared for and accept their answer. Only ask “Do you wanna ….” if you actually want to know.

This can be a tough habit to change. I still find myself stopping just as I’m opening my mouth (sometimes even mid-sentence) to rephrase what I’m about to say into exactly what I really do want to communicate. The new way may feel impolite and awkward at first. But it is so refreshing to have our desires stated openly and easily. We can save all the time and effort of game-playing and have a real conversation.

Here are some examples.

  1. To a mind reader: Do you want an ice cream?
    To a real person: I could go for an ice cream about now, how about you?
  2. To the mind reader: What do you think about helping me wash dishes?
    To the real person: Please can you help me with the dishes.
  3. To a mind reader: Do you have to go to practice tonight?
    To the real person: I’m having a really tough time right now and I would love you to stay with me for support.
  4. If you can’t think of any way to phrase it, think of what you really want and say: What I’d really like is…

What examples can you add?

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The decline of style and a challenge

Initially this blog was called stylish minimalist. I renamed it because style and minimalism take a back seat to peace and joy. I adhere to my style and I’m a minimalist but the bigger concerns of life occupy my resources, and I would gladly forfeit style for joy and give up minimalism for peace.

What this translates into is spending only a percent of what I did before on how I look and how I arrange my house. And using that time, money and energy to bring some peace and some joy to the lives of myself and others.

Your takeaway is a challenge: to focus on your life’s mission and to lessen how much of yourself you dole out to other pursuits.

So if your vision is for a world where every child has a great education, spend your weekend tutoring rather than redecorating your kitchen. If you want great health for senior citizens, donate a fifth of your paycheque to medical research rather than spending it on entertainment. If you want your children to be happier, unplug the TV, wake up early and spend the day with them.

It’s a version of “put your money where your mouth is,” only it also includes your time and energy. It can be as radical as downsizing your house or as simple as donating a few hours to charity.

What can you do now to make an impact towards your goals?

A home for everything

A place for everything, and everything in its place.

I want to do my system reset so I’ll put my book and purse away. Where should I put the book? It could go here, but I need to clean the drawer first. There’s too much in this drawer. I really ought to declutter it. So, what can I get rid of? I want to keep the necklace but it needs to stay upstairs in the bedroom. Oh, I need to clean out that cupboard too. Hmmm, what’s this doing here? I really use it back downstairs. I’ll just pop it
down there.

Does this sound familiar?

It goes on, until after two hours, we’ve ended up scrubbing the bathroom faucet with a toothbrush rather than putting the hammer back in the toolbox. And instead of a quick clean up we feel that we’ve accomplished nothing at all!

The solution is to have a home for everything. Know where everything goes, permanently. Cleaning up goes much faster and probably gets done more often.

It seems straightforward and in theory, it is. The important thing is to make the “homes” permanent. Here are some more tips.

  • When you bring something new into your life, decide on a permanent resting place for it when it’s at home.
  • Group like items: envelopes, stamps, tape, scissors and stapler in one vicinity.
  • Label it: This is for keys, nothing else permitted.
  • Have a home assigned for temporary items too: papers that come in the post, visitor’s shoes, lunchboxes waiting to go to out, library books.
  • Spend some time decluttering so there is space for the things you want to keep. Add 5-15 minutes at the end of a system reset for light decluttering.
  • Find creative storage solutions: keep the spare sheet set between box spring and mattress, first aid kid in the kitchen, shoes in the workshop.
  • No squatting. Put everything in its place. If it doesn’t have a home, decide on one.

Taking on constructive criticism

“You must do it this way”

Might be a quote from your boss. Your partner. Parent. A friend. Whoever. This comment is going to grate.

It is so hard to take constructive criticism. It feels like a demand, even sounds like one. But as seekers of peace and joy we must not discard information based on our emotional reaction. Otherwise we miss out on a potential goldmine of information.

We need to cool down and reflect: what of this criticism is useful to me? What came from their heart? What will improve my (or my loved one’s) life? And the scariest question: Are they right?

It’s not comfortable but it’s important to take on all advice that comes our way. We need to sift through each piece of wisdom (or un-wisdom, as the case may be) and take what will work, then make it a part of our lives.

The reason this is one of the most difficult things to do, is because who we are, at our cores, who we were raised as, is something we struggle to set aside. Parents, teachers, leaders, relatives and mentors have given us their best and it’s natural to feel that it’s the best. Ever.

Even if it’s not the best one, our culture is so deeply enrooted in our egos that it is almost physically painful to lay it down and admit that it is not the ultimate and best for everyone on the planet.

But if we truly want to improve ourselves, it’s necessary to open our minds and consider how there are better ways. Better ways to live, act, think, wonder and be. Use your vision to determine if a morsel of advice will improve you. In this way, we can look outside our world and learn how to see infinite possibilities.

If you strive to be the best you can, you must take all input and apply the best of it. That’s a constructive suggestion 😉