Beyond the drama…

Beyond the drama there is silence

Beyond the drama there is dignity

Beyond the drama there is grace…

Owning your story, the honest truth, that way lies healing…

There’s a lot going on in my life right now.

In addition to the usual demands of life, I’m spend 3 to 4 days and nights each week in town supporting my parents as my father declines with end stage pancreatic cancer. I’m also travelling through the grief of childlessness and birthing a new creative project.

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This involves big demands, big emotions and being a sensitive soul there is a huge energetic backwash.

In the past, i would have been at sea, lost in the drama of my thoughts and emotions, washed all over the place. Blending, not knowing what was mine and what was absorbed from others. I would have numbed, criticised, diminished, strung out and sacrificed myself.

But years of being and knowing me has allowed me to develop some proactive self care strategies.

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Firstly to self monitor and be aware of how I’m travelling. What am i feeling?  Observing my thinking and particularly being mindful of overwhelm. Most particularly what that looks like for me. The times when critical thinking or emotional numbing is slipping in. Not to judge myself for this, but to just observe it and plan a scheduled break, some self kindness.

Secondly to be proactive in caring for myself. My overwhelm and stress has led to some sleeplessness. Waking up at 1 or 2am. In the past i would have panicked and lay awake, my mind ticking over,  strategising how to regain sleep. Now i just sit and observe, bring myself into the present moment, acknowledge feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. Just to sit for a while and be with it.

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Then, i pick myself up, take myself out to the back verandah and gently lie myself under the stars.  I allow the stress, the overwhelming energy to seep back into the earth. I am cradled by the smells, sounds, the beings and energy of the night.   I absorb the healing balm and i am deeply grateful.

Looking up at the moon and stars, into the face of the universe, helps me gain perspective and peace. Many times i have fallen into a deep healing sleep. I put myself back to bed after a few hours and wake the next day feeling nourished and restored.

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Finally, to know that i am not alone. We all go through struggles and tough times in our lives. That’s part of being human. To connect, sometimes in silence, with dear souls who nourish us, and us them. This sole journey is shared at times with loving and kind companions, even if they are not physically present, it is a shared human experience. When we commune with the goodness of the human collective, sometimes energetically, sometimes through art or literature or other creative expression of the complexity of life, we are never alone.   I am deeply grateful for this blessing.

Sometimes,  a break is not possible, you just have to keep going, to be solid. But i find when i create drama around the exhaustion, it only makes it tougher. When i cut through to the core, the essence of how i’m feeling and what i need right now, it really helps to keep me going.

I’d love to hear what works for you when the pressure is on and you can’t escape, but you need a modicum of relief.

Big love for you today!

sarah

 

 

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Knowing and knowing…

When i started high school in the eighties, we were given a choice of four languages to study – French, German, Italian or Japanese.

I chose Italian. For no logical reason, it was just an intuitive feeling, with implications for my life that i could not have foreseen.

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In year eight, (the first year of high school), each class was streamed according to gender and language of study. My Italian class was the smallest in the year, with 24 students, 20 of whom were daughters of Italian and Greek families.

My school was located in an inner city suburb with a fairly large immigrant settlement population. Post war Australia received many southern European immigrants, all with their own culture, experience and stories to tell.

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This class, was the first time in my mostly white, middle class, suburban childhood that i experienced being in a cultural minority.  It was an eye opening, expansive and in many ways challenging experience.  Of course, you are often not aware of cultural norms and your cultural lens until taken out of your environment.

Later, in my early twenties, i travelled and experienced being in a minority in overseas countries. Truth is, i was culturally blind and naive in many ways, and these experiences opened my eyes to complexity and difference.

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One of the many things I love about other languages, is learning words for concepts where there is not direct translation into English.

For example, learning the Italian verbs “to know”. In Italian there are two words for this, “sapere” and “conoscere”.

The first, “sapere” is to know through the mind, theoretically through ‘book’ learning.  The second, “conoscere”, is to know through lived experience, to know through the heart.  For me, it’s even deeper, a knowing from your soul or your essence.

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Sometimes it feels to me that the journey of life is scattered with opportunities for the ignorance or knowing of the mind to be transformed into knowing of the heart and soul.

I had such an experience this week.

Last weekend, we were out to dinner with friends and the topic turned to discussion of the Irish living in post war England.  A time when racism took the form of violence, exclusion from jobs, education and life opportunities, social exclusion and slurs in the form of “Irish jokes”. I grew up hearing (and telling) Irish jokes, ignorant of the political implications of using humour to point out the assumed stupidity of a whole group of people, supposing it to be funny.

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During the conversation, it was implied that I, being the daughter of the white, dominant culture, couldn’t really know and understand what it was like to be an oppressed minority.

I was slightly rattled by this, hadn’t i spent over 25 years working against injustice on both a personal and political level? My husband is Irish and we share everything equally in partnership. I hadn’t been through it, but I thought i was a card carrying member of the inclusive, tolerant generation? How could it be implied that i didn’t really understand?

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During the week, i watched the first season of the series The Man in the High Castle. Based on a book by Phillip K Dick. It is set in a fantasy  early 1960’s North America. The story is located in a dystopian world, where the Japanese and Germans won World War Two.  North America is partitioned into the occupied Japanese and German States, and the neutral zone.

It is a totalitarian system, anyone who is not Japanese or German is an oppressed minority and anyone who does not support the regime is exterminated.  It was a shocking world where people were treated appallingly. This was done in many overt and subtle ways, such as standing back in a secondary taxi queue whilst the dominant culture received preference, remaining silent in the presence of the dominant culture, living in impoverished housing, employment in lowly jobs, living with curfews and starkly, arbitrary arrests, mass graves etc.

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This was confronting, but there was a deeper layer in my response. For the first time I was seeing my own culture being treated as an oppressed racial minority. My gut turned as i experienced it coming to life in the unfolding drama.

What i learned, was not what it was like to be part of an oppressed minority, but that i truly don’t know and can never know.

I knew this in my head.  I had been told many stories, read books, seen movies, spoken to people, did “brown eyes / blue eyes training” etc. I thought I was fairly aware of racism but the experience this week enabled me to “conoscere” or experience that I truly do not know.

It is often said that we don’t know what we don’t know.  The first step to knowing is to become aware of our ignorance. For me, this is to know not just in my mind but also in my heart and lived experience.

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There was a part of me that has been blind to my own racial privilege. Not in my mind, for a long time i have know this, but in my heart, to truly feel and own this.  To ‘conoscere’ this.

Things have changed and come a long way in our society, but there is still so much further to go in achieving peace and justice among all peoples, especially for Aboriginal people.  One of the deep fears of an oppressive culture is being treated as badly as we have treated others. When I look around, I sometimes wonder how we can ever get to a place of reconciliation.

Racism, particularly subtle, internalised racism, is both a dirty secret and an uncomfortable truth. Yet when we look it straight in the eye, we can own it and move beyond.

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The courage to do this gives me hope for the future.

What this experience does for me, is to strengthen my resolve to stand against oppression.  To not take my freedom for granted and to demand that others be free. To challenge injustice that any person, race or class experiences.

I’d love to hear your story or your experiences where knowing of the mind became knowing of the heart and soul.

Sending big love today!

Sarah

 

The healing moon…

By Friday night this week I arrived home exhausted.

Driving home feeling vulnerable, reactive and teary, without any clear explanation. I’d been ‘fine’ all week, keeping busy, carrying on, trying to be there for others, but not really being present and tending to me.

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We’d been staying in town for four nights, busy with family, playing with the kids, running errands, working on my new project during the ‘in between’ moments – busy, busy, busy!

Rolling into bed with a book at about 7.30pm, half a page read before my drooping eyes hit the pillow.

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The truth was i felt ‘off’, not quite myself, for a couple of weeks.  It was subtle, slowing building, the cause unclear, my energy not freely flowing, my critical mind quietly snipping away.

Self care is not my default option, as i carry on, often focused externally, keeping busy.

Looking after me often gets lost, so I need to actively remind myself to stop, connect with how i’m feeling, what i’m needing, and take action to care for me.

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At about midnight i woke in the dark, overwhelmed by sadness and fear.

It suddenly hit me how deeply sad i was feeling in watching my father’s decline, this once strong and active man, his health failing, the impact on him, family and friends.

I had been so busy carrying on, doing practical tasks, supporting and being strong for others. At this moment in time, there was now clear space to truly feel.

At 1am, I took myself outside, bottle of water in hand, max at my side, i sat for a long time in the middle of the garden in the moonlight.

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Feeling her healing light pour down on me, all other distractions aside, the beings of the night around me, I just sat with the moon, present to myself, reaching inside, breathing in the night air, peace and healing. The feelings poured through me.

After a long time, i wandered back inside, feeling my body release its tension as i relaxed into the pillow and a deep healing sleep.

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If you’re going through something big, remember to take time for you, to stop and be present to yourself. It can be such a healing balm.

Sending healing love your way.

Much love
Sarah

Killing should…

Life has been pretty hectic.

On top of all the personal stuff, my new project is now going full steam ahead.

I’m focused, writing, planning, thinking and creating like a maniac!

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In the middle of it all, my dear friend asked me to give feedback on a written draft.

My first internal response: ugh, what a drag, i’m so busy and exhausted, and not up for focusing my limited mental energy on this.

So i asked about her timeframe and let her know i’d need a couple of days.

It felt like i should do it.

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Then i had this internal dialogue. (as I do, lol!)

“Sarah, you’re writing this material about self care, setting boundaries, being able to say no, practicing what you preach might be a good idea!”

Perhaps this was a test for me to set limits?

On the other hand, I have been saying ‘no’ more often recently.

Especially to the non essential stuff.

It sat in the back of my mind for a few days…

The shoulds kept rolling around.

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Then another thought stream, if i were to do this, what might be a positive motivation rather than feeling obligated and dutiful?

I love this friend to bits and love supporting her to reach her goals. She has done so much for me over the years. She’s also had a really big couple of months and is having a stressful week.

This one thing, although inconveniently timed, would really help her out.

After I’d shifted my thinking to a more positive motivation, my energy lifted.

I opened the document and editing it was a breeze.

It even allowed me to appreciate the knowledge and skills i’d gathered over the years.  A little unexpected boost!

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Being generous is easy when we’re feeling good and giving something that doesn’t mean that much to us, but the challenge is when we’re not feeling up to it.

Then it is truly a gift of ourselves.

My friend and I try hard for authenticity and honesty in our friendship.

So the best bit, when we talked afterwards, I got a chance to let her know it wasn’t great timing but i did it because she is precious to me.

Our text convo went like this:
• “I almost messaged to say I wasn’t in the head space but it was for you! Means you’re special! Hugs sx”
• “How good does that make me feel. Thank you again.”

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We all know that the headspace in which we approach a task makes a difference to the experience, but how often do we actively manage our thinking?

Should, must, duty and obligation can feel like draining energies. I’m trying to delete them from my list of motivators.

Even if i do feel obliged, and i plan to say yes, then I’ll try to find a constructive motivation, particularly when it’s challenging.

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When we do something for others, it can be such a gift to let them know we’re doing it, not from duty or obligation, but because they mean so much to us.

Feels good huh?

Wishing you a day of good energy flow!

Big love
sarah

 

Big girl glasses…

Some of the best things about being human – our magic, our strength and our foibles. The last can be a source of frustration and amusement.

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Here’s my latest one…

Just recently, i went to my first optometrist appointment, did an eye test and received a pair of prescription reading glasses.

Now that seems like a pretty pedestrian thing to do, and it is.

Except that my eyes have been overcompensating and my reading has been fuzzy for a few years. The denial and avoidance was not just because i’m the procrastination queen!

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So why? Why has it taken so long?

I could make excuses, time, money, busyness etc, but that would be bollocks, cause we all make time and find the resources for the things that are important.

The truth is, it’s because i’m getting older!

Much as my ego likes to pretend that i’m not, that part of me, that bit that fears aging, focused on my eye sight and pretended everything was fine!  Just give it time, it will heal itself!

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I am also one of the few family members without glasses, and I kinda liked that uniqueness!

Don’t our egos tell us funny stories?

Quite a few years ago, my sister mentioned that 44 is often the age that people with otherwise good vision might need assistance with eye sight.

But not me! Forty four came and went, and i was fine, right?

My little ego danced away in denial about getting older for over two years.

come to the edgeFrom the Wisdom of the Oracle by Collete Baron Reid

So a few months ago, I called myself on it, put on my big girl pants, made the appointment and took myself off for the eye test.

Turns out i have presbyopia, common garden variety, age related, near sight degeneration.  It’s harder to focus on short distances, but my long distance vision is fine, better than 20/20.

The Chinese word for this “Lao Hua” or old sight. So it turns out that whilst i had myopia of the mind, I was evolving old sight of the body!

My body is one of my great wise teachers. Mental note, listen more!

Standing in the glasses shop, i spent almost an hour trying on specs for my hard to fit nose.  (This post is being written peering through said lenses.)  And of course, it was the best thing i’ve done in ages!!

IMG_20160203_143316Remembering how much I love reading, the last few months i’ve been ploughing through the stack of books on my bedside table. Most evenings are spent engrossed in some tale or wise tome.

Reading is an early love, it’s been missed and welcomed back with a big heart. Luckily my parents read to us as kids, instilling a life long love. Feeling gratitude for all our writers and thinkers.

The best bit, not only does it help with physical focus, but it also helps with concentration. Wearing the glasses, the book or computer screen is in full focus but the background is fuzzy, which reduces distraction. It’s like a tunnel of focus.

The cure for the mental myopia – to embrace aging, of course! Still working on that one!

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Here’s a question for you.

Is there anything you’ve put off that ultimately, will probably be really good for you?

Love to hear your story.

Wishing you a brilliant day of love and connection with yourself

Big love

Sarah

Some of the fab books recently devoured:

  • “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • “Daily Rituals” by Mason Currey
  • “The Go Giver” by Bob Burg and John David Mann
  • “Poke the Box”, “Tribes” and “We are all weird” by Seth Godin
  • “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle
  • “Zen and the art of making a living” by Laurence Boldt
  • “What I know for sure” by Oprah Winfrey
  • “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown

And a few others…

Cracking your life code: Some thoughts on life purpose…

Over forty years, I’ve done a lot of thinking about life purpose and meaning.

I grew up with 5 siblings, three older and two younger. My three older siblings, (my main formative influence) are creative, intelligent, focused and motivated people. From a pretty young age all three appeared to know exactly what they wanted to do – medicine, art history and music, and they moved towards it with passion and clarity of purpose.

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I assumed this was normal, to know from a young age one’s life’s passion and to work tirelessly toward it.*

Truth is, i had no idea what i wanted to do. What was my passion? Let alone the focus of my life’s work. From my youthful perspective the one thing on my immediate horizon was to have a partner, build a solid economic base, and in the distant future, the conventional dream of children and a settled life into old age. This seemed the secure path.

My second life was a creative anarchic life. To follow my curiosity and my passions, to feast on the experiences of life, to create, to be happy and do what i loved. In my youthful eyes, these lives didn’t seem compatible and i was not secure enough within myself to risk chasing my creative dreams. The second problem was, what did i love? That didn’t always seem so clear.

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Over many years I caught myself in a head trip between these conflicting lives – the secure path and the creative life. I also believed I needed to ‘find my life purpose’ and ‘to find my life passion’.  I felt lost and inferior because it just wasn’t that obvious.

After finishing school, i took a year off to work and experience the world, hoping this might crystalise my focus. I worked about 8 different jobs over the year (bar work, waiting tables, admin, delivery driver, martial arts instructor, etc), none of which i found fulfilling or engaging of my passions but from which i learned the value of education.

This motivated me to go to university. My choice was between a creative arts degree and the more ‘sensible and secure’ commerce degree. I chose the secure path and put my creative life in a box. Of course, i was a square peg in a round hole. Accounting, economics, marketing all left me feeling empty. The second part of my degree was populated with politics, law and Italian language subjects (i ended up with what i call a COMARTS degree!)

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At 19, I fell into doing part time youth work engaging my passion for social justice, whilst the ‘sensible and practical’ commerce studies could establish a base to build my career. (A concept I later abandoned). I learned an enormous amount from these studies, and whilst a helpful detour, it never felt like my path. I became a shadow artist, stuffed away my creative side, locked down with fear and self loathing. Not surprisingly, my twenties were characterised by depression, escapism, self destructiveness, isolation and brokenness.

Twenty five years later, and gradually awakening to myself and my dreams, I’ve now completed the decade long and unsuccessful journey of creating children, the death of my other big dream. The most painful losses are those that challenge your identity, your sense of self, to not be a mother is a huge loss of part of myself. So how does one move forward?

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How does one build a creative life with dead dreams piled at your feet? Here are some things that helped me…

First – Acknowledge the bigness of the loss and feel it deeply, intensely, wholely – don’t buy into the story of the mind but sit with the feelings of the heart
Second – Learn how to care for, nurture and love yourself
Third – Know that you are not alone, that every human experiences grief and loss, this is our shared heritage
Four – To practice gratitude for that which you do have, particularly the love and support of others
Five – When you’re ready, to gently imagine a future life, one that honours the bigness of your grief but also allows you to move forward.

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What has this journey taught me about life and life purpose?
Here are some key questions I’ve asked myself in building a creative life:

1. How would you like to feel in your life? Don’t get lost in the detail, ie what your life should look like, instead start with how you’d like your life to feel.

2. What relationship would you like to have with yourself? Who are you? What make your flourish? What are your interests, skills and talents?

3. What lifestyle would you like to create? What is truly of value to you? Your beliefs, passions, what resonates with you and what doesn’t? For example, what does abundance mean to you? Is it possessions, creative expression, time, money, status, career success, family, friendships etc

4. How do you want to be in the world? I’ve found the key to life purpose is not about the doing, but the being. How do you want to experience the world?

5. How can you find your way back to yourself and your essence?

6. How do you create you life with spirit so that all you do is an expression of your essence? How do you listen to your inner wisdom, your intuition, gut instinct, the messages of your wise self? How do these guide you?

7. What are you curious about? If you’re still not sure, gently follow your curiosity.  Follow the bread crumbs.

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I’m reading the book “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown, and came across this insightful letter extract from Peter Drucker to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi…

“I am told I am creative – I don’t know what that means… I just keep on plodding… I hope you will not think me presumptuous or rude if I say that one of the secrets of productivity (in which I believe whereas I do not believe in creativity) is to have a VERY BIG waste paper basket to take care of ALL invitations such as yours – productivity in my experience consists of NOT doing anything that helps the work of other people but to spend all one’s time on the work the Good Lord has fitted one to do, and to do well.”

This struck a chord because it’s so easy to get caught up in supporting or helping the work of others and lose focus on ourselves and our work. So I asked myself the fundamental questions “what is my life’s work?”

I meditated and pulled some oracle cards from Collette Baron Cohen’s deck The Wisdom of the Oracle. I use oracle cards as catalysts to access my own inner wisdom.

IMAGINE and CO-CREATE

The core message I received is to use my imagination to work with spirit to build a creative life.

That seems very airy fairy, but it feels like an awesome life purpose for me. Perhaps it’s not to do an actual thing, but to experience life, to feel and to be at peace with myself and my uniqueness?  I’ve used the questions above as prompts to focus my thinking.

I’d love to hear how you have grappled with these questions in your life.

Dreaming and imagining can be a hard and brave thing to do, especially if you have been hurt. This week, I’m going to start in the place of IMAGINING and wish for you some sacred moments for your dreams as well.

Big love
Sarah

* A clear life purpose from a young age is not the case for most people. Liz Gilbert beautifully articulates this in her talk “Flight of the hummingbird: the curiosity driven life”

http://www.supersoul.tv/supersoul-sessions/elizabeth-gilbert-flight-hummingbird-curiosity

Cleaning out the cobwebs… or the joy of an unreflective surface!

It is slightly ironic that i would create a blog called the ‘spiritual homemaker’ when i’m not really the biggest fan of housework.

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It’s not just about the gendered nature and assumptions about housework that kept women confined for so long, and that it is still mainly done by women. Or that lack of gratitude i have for a home, and the time, health, resources and opportunity to clean it. Or even the social attitudes towards the lack of inherent value of this work. (If you want to shut down a conversation quickly, answer the “what do you do?” question by saying you’re a homemaker!)

Truth is, that i see homemaking as an art form, but I’m just not that great at it. It doesn’t greatly interest me and i’m a bit of a procrastinator on things that i’m not excited about.  I’ve tried loads of things to get me motivated, but the long term consistent repetition of mundane tasks i find challenging.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to have a clean house, luscious food in the fridge, a beautiful homely vibe in the house, but i’ve got to admit i’m just not the biggest fan of creating it. You know, doing the work!

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This week, i’ve been musing on my father’s cousin’s quote that i often heard in childhood – “i do love to eat, but i’m not the greatest fan of cooking”.

He ate out, a lot.

It is interesting to investigate the illusions that we sometimes carry about ourselves and to be really honest about that which we like to have and that which we like to do / create ourselves.

Today i saw this daunting post flow through my facebook news feed, and wondered if anyone, (who doesn’t have paid help), actually does this in their home. And if they do, do they do anything else, such as work, raise children, indulge in hobbies, play, have fun, write wingey blogs etc?

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When i saw this post, my first thought was, gosh, my bar is set pretty low! lol!

On the other hand, i realised how useful it would be to have an annual house maintainance / cleaning schedule and to actually follow it.

In the spirit of this post and my inherent housekeeping lassitude, i am declaring a New Year Housecleaning Week for my home (ok, it may end up spanning the month).

I’ve listed the areas of the house that need cleaning / decluttering and i’m doing one area each day.  I haven’t scheduled it into my diary.  There is just the list to work through, a little each day so it’s not overwhelming. Bite sized chunks!

Today it’s the bathroom!

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Why is it that i always start with the bathroom? I have a simple hosting philosophy, when anyone visits, toilet cleaned first!

And of course, I’ve blogged it now, so i am accountable!

I’d love to hear your strategies for keeping your home as you like it, or is it a case of just getting on with it?

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Enjoy your nest this week!

Wish me luck!

Sarah