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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Declutter and Be Happy :)

Some of you may remember a couple of my posts from the Happiness Project. If you were wondering  if I had forgotten about it, not at all :). I was just a bit lazy to put my thoughts together and blog about it every month. With half the year over, I thought it was time to move to the next big part of the project. Decluttering away! For me, a lot of the previous steps especially the one about mindfulness was a decluttering of the mind. But oh well, it's time I got around to doing it for material things as well, so here goes.

I have come across so many decluttering strategies from blogs and FB pages I follow, and have tried some of these on and off for the last many months. I thought I should mention a couple of the earlier ones as well in case anyone else finds them interesting :).

One-thing-a-day: This one suggests that you get rid of 1 item every single day, and just go on until you can't find anything to declutter any more (if that could even happen ;)). In a small way, this is an ongoing activity for me - I find an old bottle of hand sanitizer in the bathroom and I decide to empty and wash and dry it right away (Yes I do that for my dry waste disposal), instead of passing it by for another time. That container in the fridge that you can't remember when you put inside, and know that it will have fungus-y unidentified contents inside - take it out and chuck out the scary stuff immediately instead of closing the fridge and hoping it'll disappear on its own ;).  I think it would help to keep track of what you're getting rid of every day(see this blogger who put up a daily update!), but I find this one a bit too low-key for my requirement.

15-minutes-a-day: This one comes from the Flylady whom I started following for her tips on keeping the house organized and clean (Don't expect to see evidence of this when you actually visit me though ;)). She suggests an interesting 15-minute timer strategy for getting stuff done and also has lots of fun terms to make it more interesting - the 27 fling boogie being one of them. I also like her emphasis that you cannot organize clutter, you have to get rid of it! 15 minutes - Just long enough to achieve a decent amount of work, without getting you mind numbingly bored for doing mundane stuff for too long. When I need to declutter a specific space like my cupboard, I usually set a time - 15 minutes to half an hour - and just stop and complete it another day. This helps curb my enthusiasm which usually goes a bit overboard when I start with activities like cleaning and decluttering - possibly also because I do it so seldom that there's always so much to do :D.

Monthly challenge: This one did the rounds on Twitter a while ago, and starts with 1 item on the 1st day, 2 on the 2nd day and keeps increasing until you are expected to declutter 30 items on the 30th day. I somehow didn't take to it because as the count went up, you really need to spend more and more time on this activity every day (for tracking not just the doing!) and it was just not working for me. There are many interesting charts that you can find online though, that give you ideas about spaces and items and other ways to go about this challenge.

After trying these and being partly successful but also losing steam along the way, I decide that I need a strategy with a specific end in sight. I do intend to use the mentioned ones as sub-strategies along with my own ideas mentioned below. So fingers crossed and all set to go, and here I am with:

Pic source: Popsugar Pinterest page

1 Room a Month:

I looked around my living room this morning, and wondered how many of the devices lying near the TV we really use and need? If I were to move home, what were the items I would really take with me i.e. what do I REALLY use on a daily basis and what wouldn't I even miss? This is the idea that I am taking forward starting this July. Aiming at one room a month gives me the flexibility to look at one or multiple items a day, depending on the room, and also gives me an end goal for the end of the month when I have to figure out what to do with what I have to dispose (more on that below).

If you want to join me, you are most welcome. I am not a list maker, but I am planning to track this just to make myself feel good about it ;). I think noting down or tracking would work really well for something like this, and also help you remember what you want to dispose in every room. And whatever needs to go, must GO. By the last day of the month, make sure that you have got rid of or given away whatever you don't use or need.

One idea from my favorite mom's group(thanks N!) is to collect stuff that is in good shape to give away to those in need - that is a lovely thought and in fact this is something that I have been doing in a small way. Most clothing and toys and even electronic items of ours that are in usable shape have gone to the families of those who work for me, and I intend to keep it that way with this activity as well.

Disposing can prove to be a bigger challenge for me, as I am very particular about segregating my waste and need to know that it's got rid of in the correct manner. This means that e-waste is disposed of to the right agency, and so are old or expired medicines. So in a way, I expect the end of the month to be the toughest part for me but I'm up for it :).

Here's to a decluttered home by the end of 2015!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

London - An Amazing Holiday

After going through our 400 or so photos and finding about 50 to post on Facebook, I understandably ran out of steam to write a blog post about it. But travelogues have always been my favorite way of keeping vacation memories fresh for later, so I had to get to it soon :). Especially this holiday, that was so so special to me, had to be put down for posterity, so here goes.

Scenic route to B&B
Day 1 & 2: After arriving on Saturday afternoon, we chilled out at my friend Aarti's place for the rest of the day (other than being introduced to London-style grocery shopping ;)). She had already made exciting plans and bookings for us at Cambridge, and we set off soon after breakfast the next day. The most important question of "Train or Car" was answered by her 6 year old who loves trains. This meant passing through the King's Cross Station that is synonymous with Harry Potter for me, though there wasn't enough time to check out Platform 9 and 3/4ths ;). Once we reached Cambridge, we decided to take the scenic route through a nature park area to reach our B&B, The End House, and got there just in time for tea offered by our host, Jonathan. We set out soon after to make the best of the rest of the day, walking through the picturesque streets and making our way to a pub and later a restaurant for dinner.

Tasteful decor at our B&B
Day 3: After a refreshing night, we got ready and had a lovely breakfast at the B&B, which really was so tastefully decorated that it was a pleasure to be look around and appreciate it all.

Thanks to Aarti and her husband Anirudh, who've lived in London for a while, we had a great guided tour of Cambridge which was packed with a whole lot of lovely experiences including punting on a boat on the river and a tour of St. John's College. We even managed to browse and buy a couple of books at a used booksale at one of the small churches, that was meant to raise money for renovations. The day ended with attending Evensong at the King's College Chapel before we absolutely had to leave and get back to London.

Day 4:  This was our most "touristy" day in London, with Aarti going in to work and Jayashree and I setting out, well armed with the Tube (Metro) map and a data connection on her phone. We managed to cover most of the highlights including the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace where we literally ran to try to get to the Change of Guard at 11:30 am. When we saw the crowd there, we dissolved in giggles thinking of what little use our wee bit of exertion had been, as we just could see some glimpses of the happenings through gaps in the crowd :D.  Like the fox with the sour grapes, we told ourselves that it wasn't such a big deal anyway and set out to find lunch and then move to Westminster Abbey. Here, we diligently listened to all the parts of the audio tour to try to understand the majestic space, nodding more vigorously when we recognized at least some of the greats who are buried there. Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery were also dropped in on by evening.

We ended the busy day with a lovely Italian dinner followed by a musical rendition of the Lion King at the Lyseum Theatre, which was something I had been wanting to see ever since our New York trip. It was as spectacular as expected :).

At the Shard
Day 5: We had our London local back as tour guide, which means we managed to get a glimpse of some unusual sights. We started with a local marketplace, the Borough Market, abounding in various food offerings to choose from for our lunch. The next destination was the Shard building, where instead of going to the top just for the view, we decided to go visit a cocktail bar near the top instead - the best way to get a view and an experience ;). After experimenting with selfies and clicks of each other and of our gorgeous drinks, and of course much gossip and giggles, it was time to leave. Next we visited the South Bank where we walked around and had coffees and finally got too late to enter the Tower of London which was to be our last stop for the day :P.

Day 6: We had the most amazing weather that made it ideal for our plan of visiting the Kew Gardens. This is why some photos like the attached one have my friends looking like ants while I try to capture the surroundings in the photo :). We took the tram to the points of interest and also walked around to catch sights like the Japanese Garden, Bluebell fields and the Greenhouse with tropical plants like our very own banana growing in it! The highlight of the afternoon was an English tea session at Orange Pekoe, again thanks to Aarti's research and making the booking for us. After getting back home for a bit, we set out to Ronnie Scott's Jazz Bar  where we also met some friends, followed by dinner at Ceviche which was in Soho.

At the Tower of London
Day 7: We set out bright and early for the Tower of London, determined to make up for missing out on it the last time we tried :). We hung around at the Yeoman's tour for some time, but it was quite crowded and we decided to explore a bit on our own as well. The Crown Jewels and the suits of armor along with the history behind all of the exhibits held our attention for a while, and then we moved on to a coffee meet with an old friend who lived in London.

Day 8: I was leaving only the next day, but Jayashree was returning to Seattle a day earlier. After seeing her off, the morning was spent at another college friend's home. I said this in my previous post too, but there was something about meeting old friends whom I hadn't met in 15+ years -  We could just pick up where we left off even with minimal or no staying of touch in the interim :). We also scouted some bookstores searching for music books for S before heading back home.

Day 9: Off to the airport and a 10 hour flight to get back to the kiddos and to reality ;). They had been in good hands so I had not spent much time worrying about them, other than trying to speak to them every morning.

For those who read this far, thank you :). More pics in my FB album at: