Making Space: New Things for the New Year

It’s customary for most of us to start off the New Year filled with resolutions and the promise of change. We’re pumped and motivated to stick to our goals, go to the gym daily, eat leafy greens, make our beds each morning, or whatever else sounds appealing as a fresh start for the new year ahead. Inevitably, most of us will begin to slack on our resolutions within a short period of time.

This year, instead of making a whole bunch of resolutions, why not focus all that energy and motivation into making space for new things to happen in the new year? Most of us make resolutions because we want to change something about ourselves or our lifestyles. Well, that change can’t, and won’t, happen unless we create an opening for it to take shape. Whether you realize it or not, clutter represents stagnant energy and it will stand in your way of accomplishing your goals.

Statistically most resolutions are bound for failure. Why set yourself up for that kind of guilt and pressure at the start of a new year? Relax! Concentrate instead on getting rid of the dead weight where it bothers you most. Space can be made anywhere and everywhere. And you don’t have to stress yourself out by tackling big, annoying to-do projects that have been lingering around for a while. Start small, start easy. Work your way up to the bigger things. Small wins will boost your confidence and motivation.

If you’re bothered by physical stuff, make space by cleaning out a single drawer or shelf. Go through that medicine cabinet or the deep underbelly of the bathroom sink. It will likely take less time than you think. Or focus your energy on one type of clothing/item (e.g., shoes, socks, t-shirts, etc.). Perhaps you feel irritated by a crowded desktop on your computer. Or too many digital photos on your device. Set a timer for 20 minutes and clean out some of the electronic clutter.

If you need additional tips and inspiration, check out my book, The Art of Making Space: Choosing Quality Over QuantityYou can even download a free chapter when you sign up for The Deletist mailing list to begin making space immediately. This offer expires on January 15, so sign up today! The sign-up box is in the right sidebar. 

The famous Gullfoss in Iceland. The sky cleared for a few minutes and we were lucky to see a hint of a rainbow.

 

Iceland: From Reykjavik to Stykkisholmur

Read the first part here and see more photos here.

We departed early the following day and headed north along the western edge of Iceland. Within minutes of leaving the city area, the landscape opened up to reveal mossy fields dotted with blackened nubby lumps of lava.

The scenery was so spectacular that I scarcely noticed the time passing until we stopped at a wool studio. The owner, Guðrún Bjarnadóttir, showed us how she uses plants and natural materials found in Iceland to dye her wool. She used a couple of imported materials, but the majority was found in Iceland.

Guðrún demonstrating how she makes yellow, one of the easiest colors to create.

After, we stopped at the Settlement Center in Borgarnes where we took a self-guided tour of the Viking settlers in Iceland. Then lunch! I was surprised by the food in Iceland. Every meal featured lots of fresh vegetables, fresh-baked brown breads and copious amounts of butter.

Feeling full and sleepy, we boarded the bus and continued north for one last excursion before reaching Stykkisholmur, the town we would stay in for two nights. We stopped at Helgafell (“Holy Mountain”), a sacred hill about 250 ft. high.

Don’t speak to anyone or look behind you on the way up, we were instructed, if we wanted our wish to come true. Once at the top, go into the ruins, make a wish, and twirl around three times. Then you may speak. 

I tried to remember all the rules, but it was challenging considering the magnificent surroundings. It was hard not to look around at the stunning views while hiking up, but the terrain was just as interesting. Mosses in an array of colors and tiny plants dotted the landscape. From a distance the effect was similar to a Monet painting, but up close, I could see the intricate details and uniqueness of the plants and mosses.

When we had all hiked up and made our wishes, we headed to Stykkisholmur. We took a short walking tour through the sleepy town.

View of the church next to the hotel.

I was delighted to discover the local swimming pool was a 5-minute walk from the hotel. As per usual, the pool was outside. This time I also sampled two of the hot tubs.

It looks cloudy in all the pictures, but that evening it cleared up and we saw Northern Lights for the only time on our trip. It was too cloudy the rest of the time.

Bonus picture of a fresh fish meal in Stykkisholmur, much appreciated after the swim. 

 

Read more about the trip to Iceland here.

Forgiveness

This time of the year people are supposed to let grudges go. Get into the holiday spirit. Forgive and forget, isn’t that what we’re told?

Every time I experience how amazing it feels to forgive, I’m always left wondering why it’s so hard for us to do when it feels so good? To be fair, maybe this isn’t hard for everyone, but I find the hardest person to forgive is myself. Though through practice I discovered that even this was possible.

Some years ago I took a four-week art therapy workshop at Callanish on “Loving Kindness and Forgiveness” and experienced the sensation of forgiveness. Each session started with a check-in where we shared what was going on with us that week. This was followed by a guided meditation-relaxation session focused on loving kindness with forgiveness added in. After meditating, we went into the art room where we were free to choose any available materials to create whatever we wanted.

One particular session, it seemed as though everyone’s energy was synchronized in a peaceful, calm way. The session started with some heartbreaking news of a recurrence from one of the participants. Something about her story touched me deeply leaving me open to forgive everyone, but especially myself. For big things. And small things. A heaviness I had gotten used to carrying was replaced by giddiness, followed by a wave of tranquility and calm.

It happened seamlessly in a single instant during the meditation. I forgave myself and released bad feelings I had about a lot of things. Resentments, anger, hurt… all dissipated to be replaced by something nicer and space. That day in the art room, I can still recall the synthesis of our respective creativity. One woman’s knitting needles clacked together rhythmically. To my right I could hear the sound of shears cutting through fabric as one woman created a string of flags to spell out the word, “gentle.” It was her own personal reminder to be that way with herself more often. The scratchy swiping of my brushes against the wooden boxes I was painting added to the mix. 

I’m big on forgiving, but I don’t always like to forget. This doesn’t mean I hold grudges, but it does mean I try to remember the lessons learned. And try to forgive as often as possible. It feels good.

Running stream at Wulaia Bay.

Keyboard Shortcuts: Hidden Time Saver

A couple of years ago I accidentally discovered an underutilized time-saving technique, using keyboard shortcuts. It was something I hadn’t really thought about so I decided to learn more at a “lunch and learn” offered by my client at the time.

It was really eye opening! Every time we move from the keyboard to the mouse, we’re expending more time and energy than we need to. Learning keyboard shortcuts is a great way to make your movements really efficient, plus you can avoid some hand/finger strain from all that mouse clicking!

Since I know that habits are hard to change, even when they’re being replaced by better, faster ones, I decided to approach this one in small chunks. Here’s how I started:

  1. Go through a list of shortcuts, or observe one action you do with your mouse that interrupts your flow on the keyboard.
  2. Pick 1 – 5 keyboard shortcuts that you think would be useful.
  3. Write them on a sticky note.
  4. Place the sticky note where you will see it when you’re working on your computer (e.g., your monitor).
  5. Be mindful and try to incorporate them into your routine. Make an effort to consult your sticky note when you’re working to help remember the new actions.
  6. If you forget, be gentle on yourself. Changing habits takes time!
  7. Once you have mastered the ones you selected, pick a few more and start over.

Here are a few I use often for PC or Mac:

  • Tab = to move to another cell or field (e.g., when filling out forms)
  • Shift + Tab = to move back to a previous cell or field (opposite direction of the action above)
  • Control + C = to copy something (on a Mac use Command + C)
  • Control + V = to paste something (on a Mac use Command + V)
  • Control + X = to cut something (on a Mac use Command + X)
  • Control + Z = to undo something (on a Mac use Command + Z) – this is a big favorite!
  • Shift + left, or right, arrow key = to highlight one character of text to the right or left
  • Shift + command + left, or right, arrow key = to highlight a whole line of text (on a Mac)
  • Shift + command + up, or down, arrow key = to highlight text above/below (on a Mac)
  • Alt + Tab = to shift between open applications (on a Mac use Command + Tab)

Click below for more:

Keyboard Shortcuts in Windows (10, 8.1,7)

Mac Keyboard Shortcuts

Getting Unstuck and Finishing Tasks

Sometimes I really wonder why it takes me so long to get certain things done. I’ve noticed that home repairs fall into this category. I know that part of the challenge is even a small repair, or change, requires effort, exacerbated by not having the right equipment or tools to get the job done. Most of the repairs require more than one person and must be done during “business” hours because of noise by-laws.

But if I had to be honest with myself, these are just excuses I make so I don’t feel so guilty and silly about procrastinating on doing things that I know will make my home better.

A couple of weeks ago I decided I was going to put up the counter lights I had purchased over 2 years ago (!) from IKEA. I refused to face another long, dark winter without proper lighting in my kitchen. One evening after dinner, I assembled all the necessary pieces and tools. The project didn’t require a hammer or drill, so it could be done after hours. I convinced my partner to help  and we did it.

Total installation time: 1 hour

Total project time: 2 years, 1 month, and 1 hour

End result: I love it! I’m so happy to have proper lighting in my kitchen. I instantly forgave myself for waiting 2+ years to install it.

A friend of mine once told me that she often gets stuck on a task or project because she doesn’t know something and this causes delays or even a complete stop. With the counter lights, the big delay for me was figuring out how to attach the transformer to the cabinets without a drill. Although even when my brother devised a drill-free, easy solution, it still took me another 6 months to get motivated.

Some tips for getting unstuck:

  • Pick one project.
  • Write down all the tasks that need to get done.
  • Put them in a logical order.
  • Break the larger tasks down into smaller, more manageable ones.
  • Aim to get one of these smaller tasks done every week (or month!).
  • Release the bad feelings and guilt about yourself, as these may only de-motivate you further.

You may not be moving fast, but you’ll still be moving forward.

Next on the task list, putting up my new livingroom curtains.

Total procrastination time: 6 months and counting

Final step: Finding a helper and time during “business” hours to install

First Days in Iceland

In October, my family and I spent almost two weeks traveling around Iceland with Overseas Adventure Travels. I arrived in Reykjavík at 5am and spent my first hours drinking coffee in the airport while waiting for everyone to arrive. Even at the airport, everything seemed extra expensive. I bought a coffee and a juice for about $21CAD!

Finally, everyone arrived and we headed to the hotel, ate breakfast and got ready for sightseeing. Our first stop was the Reykjavík Art Museum, conveniently located across the street from our hotel. The museum was closed, as were many things during our stay because the tourist season was over, but we enjoyed statues by Ásmundarsafn Sveinsson on the grounds surrounding the museum.

Woman Churning Butter by Sveinsson

After the museum, we went to the Reykjavík Botanical Gardens. Even though summer was over, we still enjoyed the greenery, the ponds with water fowl, and a replica of an Icelandic turf house, a type of home that used to be built. And then we headed to Laugardalslaug, a public swimming pool.

Perfect landing!

While researching the trip, I discovered that Icelanders love swimming. My kind of people! I was excited to learn that every place we stayed in had a local public pool nearby. I went swimming five times during the trip in four different cities. When we arrived at the Laugardalslaug, I was surprised to learn that the pools are outside, but the water was warm thanks to the geothermal heating. Another surprise was the number of hot tubs at the pools, each with its own specific temperature. The hot tubs are the cultural centre of the town; it’s where you hear all the good gossip.

Refreshed from the swim, we headed back to the hotel for dinner and then rested up for sightseeing the following day. The next morning we headed to an innovative business center that specializes in producing cod in a sustainable way. They’ve created methods and techniques to use 100% of the cod in a variety of different products.

Sustainable Cod Production with zero waste, except for the packaging used for the cod products

After the business center, we visited the National Museum of Iceland. Then we walked around the downtown area enjoying the sights. We went to the tourist center near a manmade pond. One thing that really impressed me was the height of the buildings. Everything in Toronto is growing vertical, so I really enjoyed seeing large expanses of the sky unimpeded by condos.

Reykjavik near the tourist center

Read more about the trip to Iceland here.