Using a system reset for peace

A system reset is really great because it gets you back to zero. Imagine coming into a brand new place to work. The surfaces are clear, things are in their place, the right tools and ingredients are available and you can begin your task immediately.

That’s what you get when you reset your system at the end of your work each time. And your work could be computer work, paperwork, cooking, exercising, making art, recording music, dancing, house repairs, writing, planning events… anything at all.

It is easier to do the system reset if you have uncluttered and cleaned recently, but it is still do-able if you haven’t. Each time you finish your work, reset the system and add five minutes for decluttering and extra cleaning and you’ll get there eventually.

The term “system reset” came into being on a tenting trip with two under-twos, where we stayed one or two nights in each place and traveled halfway across North America and back. 1) Every travel morning we cleaned and packed our gear. 2) Every travel arrival we set up completely. 3) After each meal (four meals a day) there was a system reset where we put food away, washed dishes, sterilised bottles, boiled water and did hygiene time. It would not have been so smooth a trip if we didn’t have everything ready for our children at any given moment!

So how does one do a “system reset” for peace?

  • Before you leave the office, clear off your desk surface. Put items in their homes and file any paperwork.
  • Empty your inbox at least once a day. Paper inbox and email inbox.
  • Wash dishes after each meal. Wipe down counters and the table. Your kitchen should be ready for you to start making the next meal.
  • Put away your tools, gear, equipment when you’re done. Sweep the floors and wipe dirty surfaces.
  • Wash clothes, swimsuits, towels, etc. once you have a washer full, or spot-clean an item so it’s ready to wear. Empty your lint trap or store clothes pegs away from the elements and insects.
  • Make the time to repair or replace the things you need to get your work done.
  • File papers. Scan them if you need to keep a copy. Shred or recycle the ones you don’t need.
  • Push furniture back to where it should be. Put away gadgets, appliances and utensils in their places.
  • If your supplies are running low, stock up so you don’t get stuck halfway through your work.
  • When you’re finished using the computer, close everything. Shut it down or let it sleep. If you want to save something to look at later… save it (email it to yourself if you need to) as opposed to letting it sit open waiting for your attention.

Four nights away

Yesterday I arrived home after a four-night break abroad. Here are my insights from the trip and how you can vacation more minimally too. I went to a European capital but if you’re going to the middle-of-nowhere outback, please pack sensibly.

  1. Furoshiki: thumbs up. I used my scarf as a light blanket on the cold flight. As a cape to cover my shoulders in the sun. I soaked it in water and wore it as a scarf for coolness. I tied it as a shoulder/shopping bag for water bottles in the museums where backpacks aren’t allowed. One piece of fabric (that goes with all my outfits) – major stylish usefulness quota. It’s easier for men in Europe, where it is totally acceptable, than in North America. Learn a few basic knots and find a square of fabric that suits you. Use it as a belt if you don’t like to wear a scarf, or tie it around your hat while not in use.
  2. A small, convertible day bag: thumbs up*. I use my Jupiter Freedom bag as an arm-band wallet around town. On this trip my arms were bare and the pickpockets were many so I converted it to a gorgeous belt pack instantly. On a night out I removed the ties and had a stylish clutch bag. No switching bags. No heavy backpacks. I carried a map, ID, money, hotel card, space pen refill and lipbalm. One bag – major stylish usefulness. Decide on the absolute minimum you need to carry. There are no what-ifs here (no bandages, hand lotion, hair brush, books, notepads, mp3 players, etc). Find a small hands-free bag with maximum conversion options. Do bring hand sanitiser if the hygiene options are limited.
  3. Thumbs up for packing light. One small** tote and a monk satchel. I had no worries about luggage carts, waiting for (or losing) suitcases, maneuvering stairs or escalators, or lugging armloads around busy and seedy streets. Read for how to.
  4. Being present is great. I think I took in my first opera as much as I possibly could have: orchestra, sets, lighting, singing, atmosphere. It was amazing. I missed my children back home but concentrated on the sites I was seeing and my sweetheart. As a result, four nights away seemed like ten. It was short but completely refreshing and relaxing, and the time seemed to go on and on. I would need books to cover everything, but the gist is: focus your mind on what’s going on right now. Use your senses to take in everything. It takes practice to be present for longer periods of time, but it’s worth it because you’ll feel much more alive.
  5. We usually need less than we think. I still brought too much! A little research would’ve revealed my day outfit was perfectly suitable for the night out (one less outfit + shoes). I brought two little bottles of sunscreen but that stuff is available on every corner pharmacy (one less bottle). The most suitable top I had would’ve lasted with a wash each night, and I wore it more than I planned (three less tops). I poured a little hair gel into a tiny ziploc but it was still too much (less cosmetics). I brought a small bag of almonds but didn’t eat any. A handful would have sufficed (less snacks). If you’re vacationing in an urban setting, odds are you can find anything you’ll need. Avoid the just-in-case syndrome and go lighter!

What are your travel adventures and how do you plan to make it better next time?

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*My husband carried a backpack for his camera so we put a water bottle and two plastic spoons in the side pocket. That’s all we took on our daily outings. If he hadn’t taken the camera I would carry my own water bottle and spoon.

**Size: 44 x 31 x 23.5 cm / 17.3 x 12.2 x 7.5/9.3 inches, Capacity : 23 L / 1,403 inch³

Minimalist unpacking

Well we are unpacked, except for out-of-season clothes and the computer (we bring our desktop and monitor back and forth across the globe… works for us). I’m on a borrowed laptop for the moment. Being minimalist made my unpacking so easy. My bathroom kit is one bag with all I need, always packed. Regular-use clothes go beside the bed. Boots and coat downstairs… not much more to it. I did bring a handful of books that are still packed until I start working next week: a child-rearing reference*, my second language dictionary and notes, a holy book, 4 hour work week*, creative real estate investing and my cookbook*.

I can’t now imagine having 2-3 suitcases each to unpack and put in wardrobes and closets. It is easy and stress free to take out the few items I use every day and know I have everything I need.

Household items can be trickier but we left behind all but the bare essentials (such as baby bottles for the flight) and bought replacement things yesterday. Since we are minimalists, there is no need for fully stocked kitchen so it wasn’t an expensive shopping trip. Most people only use a handful of tools anyway. Do consider putting the fancy utensils and machines in purgatory. Most rental places here are fully furnished so we only need to buy things above and beyond, such as a waffle maker for the weekly family tradition.

Also minimal is the number of things I have to do, but there are always essentials. Not to mention adjusting to the time difference (-8 hours) and finding where to base our recreation activities. So I’ll be offline for another week or two while I get our house in order.

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