Land of Extremes

Drought, heatwaves, floods and fire – we seem to have experienced it all in Australia so far this year, and so it was with great relief that we welcomed the rain the day after my last post.

This is my citrus that I posted last time, with its leaves curled up in the prolonged heat – and here is the transformation the following morning, looking like a completely different tree.  There were even a few blades of green grass that popped up during the night.

 

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Before the rain

Citrus

and after!

So now our tanks are overflowing and it has been raining on and off ever since.  Amazingly, the grass, which was brown and so dry that it was painful to walk on barefoot, is lush and green and needing to be cut.

I love the sound of the rain falling on the roof and to have some relief from the heat at last.  Blue, cloudless skies are all very well, but for now, my favourite colour is grey!

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Summer Catch Up

So the summer is over and I am pleased to say that the tasks that I set myself for the New Year are underway or have been done.  Much crafting has taken place, but more on that later.

More important has been the gardening that I started in January.  Up and out each morning for a couple of hours’ work, mostly weeding and mulching, before the temperature started to soar.  By mid morning it was just too hot to keep going.  Temperatures in the mid to high 30’s have been pretty constant, with some days topping 40 degrees Celsius.  Not much fun when the pool is too hot to swim in and it takes several minutes before the water coming out of the hose is cool enough not to burn.

 

I have gone from gardening for pleasure to gardening for survival – survival of the plants.  One of our two water tanks is empty which we use for watering the gardens.  Lucky we have town water and not reliant on them for supplying water to the house but it has made it difficult to keep the water up to the trees and shrubs.

We’ve hardly had any rain this year and each day we have our hopes up, only to be disappointed when we see another cloudless sky.

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This is one of our poor, sad looking orange trees.  I am watering them when I can but unfortunately citrus like lots. The rest look about the same with their leaves curled up.  Citrus is not a good choice for this region, but as they were already here when we moved in I have been trying to look after them as best I can.  Our grass (I could not even loosely describe it as lawn) is so dry it crunches underfoot.  However the frangipanis, petunias and most of the other plants are surviving.

We are supposed to get rain today and it is looking very overcast  Is that thunder I hear in the distance?  I hope so.

Find the Joy

marie kondoThat’s the message in “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo, a charming little book that I happened to come across about a year ago.  What’s it all about?  Basically, decluttering, or as she quaintly puts it, tidying.  I only noticed this book as it came up in my “Recommended” list on my E Reader, and the Japanese author caught my eye following our two trips to Japan.

This is not a book review per se;  if you want to find out more, Google has numerous sites which explain it all in more detail, or better still, buy the book!  Rather, I wanted to convey how reading  this book has been life-changing for me.  So follow along and you might just learn something! (LOL)

Basically, the idea is not to try to decide what to discard, but instead what you want to keep, by sorting out everything in strict categorical order.  Ask yourself if you love it;  if not, give yourself permission to get rid of it.  That’s it in a nutshell, but there is so much more to it than that.

As to the order of sorting, you start on the easy things, such as clothes, where it’s not too difficult to make quick decisions, then work your way through to the hard stuff, such as personal papers, photos and mementos.  By that stage, the idea is that you would have honed your skills enough to make some big decisions.  How do you get rid of unwanted gifts and expensive clothing mistakes?  Marie explains how – and no feelings of guilt!  That has to be a miracle!

However, be warned …. this is not a job for the faint-hearted.   It really is hard work and once begun, Marie recommends sorting out one category at a time and not stopping until the entire house is done.  All up, it took me a couple of months.  I started with my tee shirts and donated two-thirds of them immediately.  Everything that I have kept, I love.  The strange thing is that I have no desire to replace anything that I have discarded.  Although, on second thoughts, maybe not so strange, as I was probably only wearing the ones that I kept anyway!  Along the way, I discovered a couple of forgotten brand-new items still with tags on and somehow it seems that I had unknowingly bought two identical tee shirts!  How did that happen?

 

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Obviously I don’t need to buy any more black, white or striped tees for a long time!  There’s even room for the yoga gear on the far right.

 

What if you are the only one in the family who wants to give this method a try? It’s very achievable;  Marie covers that as well.

Because of space constraints in Japan, Marie recommends folding a lot of things for which she has certain techniques, for example, underwear.   I followed her instructions, even to the extent of arranging them in colour order, light to dark, so now I can see at a glance what I have instead of searching through messy, untidy drawers.  Tea towels are now folded and stored in shallow baskets.  No more storing items in piles where the things on the bottom never see the light of day.

 

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Easy tea towel storage – put in at the back and take out from the front!  A year on and still looking neat.

 

When it came time to sorting out all my cleaning gear, this involved collecting it from everywhere in the house, putting it in a pile on the floor and going through it all individually.  I’m always running out of paper towel in the kitchen and much to my surprise,  found a forgotten supply in the laundry!  How long had that been there?  Now I store the paper towels all in one spot.  That is one of the benefits of sorting by category, rather than by one room at a time.

This method is so different from anything I’ve tried in the past, which usually involved buying yet more containers to fit into every nook and cranny,  and I was surprised to discover that this particular decluttering book was a bestseller and the Konmari Method is well known in many countries.  Some research about Shinto beliefs helped to clarify what Marie was referring to when she writes about respecting possessions and thanking them for the work they do for us.  Yes, I must admit that I thought this sounded a bit “out there” at the time, but now I understand that in Japanese culture, inanimate objects have a spirit, so hey, if thanking them (silently, in my case!) helps me to respect my possessions and be more organised, I don’t have a problem with that.

I don’t know why, but just reading this book makes you want to get started straight away, and Marie goes into such depth, it’s like having her at your side as you embark on your tidying “festival, as she puts it.

I went on to read the second book, “Spark Joy” which is an illustrated Master Class.  So when it came to organizing socks, it felt good to smooth each one out and fold them neatly into three instead of those horrible, tight balls I was responsible for.  I must be getting into Marie’s mindset – while I worked I started to think how much they (the socks) would appreciate it!  No hope for me now!!  The thing is, though, it works!

After completely filling my entire car three times I stopped counting, as I took unwanted possessions to the op shop.  I sorted out my craft studio – sold all my jewellery making gear that I was no longer interested in and donated at least 4 bags of craft books, not to mention the collection of unwanted dressmaking fabric.  The result is that I now have much more space for everything that I actually use and I was able to donate a huge pile of containers to the charity shop, for which they were extremely grateful.

So what have I learnt on my “tidying”journey?

  • Less is definitely more, no question
  • Let it go, it will set you free … really!

Obviously, I have embraced these books and feeling very happy and empowered with what I have achieved.  I highly recommend reading them, but just as one size doesn’t really fit all, this method may not be for everyone as you will see from some of the reviews.  You need to (as a Westerner) be prepared to read them with an open mind. Some people have not and a few of the comments were a little bit unkind (in my opinion anyway).  That’s also the reason why I waited so long before jumping in with my opinions.  I wanted to see if it worked long term or would I go back to my previous untidy habits?

Well, the “tidying” took place nearly a year ago, and the result?  Very happy to say that all the hard work has paid off.  It was amazing how quickly I forgot about the mountain of stuff that I donated, sold, gave away or threw out and it hasn’t been replaced.  No regrets and no more “spring cleaning” – ever!  I’d say that it’s been a big success, wouldn’t you?

Winter Break

 

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Despite the heat, my little pansies are surviving

After a quiet winter as far as blogging goes, I’m back again.  My posts may have been inactive, but I was very actively enjoying everyone else’s and reading lots of books, quilting, cross stitching and getting sick with the flu.  Also busy in the garden, pruning, weeding and mulching every tree and plant in sight.

Winter is a nice time to recharge, snuggling under a rug with the cats, eating chocolate and watching movies.  The chocolate part was fun at the time but I’m regretting that now I’m back at the gym.  I see some hard work ahead!

Now we are officially into Spring, but it feels like we have jumped straight into Summer!  The temps have been soaring in Queensland to mid 30’s (c)!!!  Everything is dry and brown and the fire danger is high.  Yesterday we had a brief storm which resulted in about 5 mls of rain, but we need so much more.  The grass is actually crunching underneath my feet, but hopefully we’ll get some good rainfall soon and everything will suddenly turn green again.

Just back from a nice little getaway in New Zealand.  More on that next time.

Catching Up

Yes – catch up time!   On weeding in particular.  It’s taken me a few days to look closely at the garden after being  away for over a month.  The first reason was because the grass was so high that I couldn’t actually see the garden, and secondly, I just didn’t want to know how much work was in store for me.  As you can see, I have some work to do!

 

 

I don’t know about you, but when I have catch up on chores like sorting out the filing system, cleaning out the fridge or in this case – weeding, I tend to procrastinate for an inordinate amount of time, only to realise that the job would have been over and done quite quickly had I just got in there and made a start straight away.

So yesterday I bought a magazine featuring some garden ideas.  But rather than making me feel like rushing forth armed with my favourite gardening implements, I compared my bit of weed covered earth with the glossy images of perfect tropical paradise, which the owner modestly proclaimed was a bare, wind swept desert only a year ago, and wondered why I haven’t achieved a lot more in the last two years.

One step at a time, I remind myself, so on that note I will venture out and start on the cat’s garden.  This was last year’s project of which I was quite proud – after much consultation on the web, a cat’s paradise of only  good, safe plants such as  herbs, rosemary and lemongrass.   As I lovingly tended it, I could just picture the two cats finding shady spots to laze on a summer’s day, nibble on cat grass and roll in the catnip.

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Unfortunately, the reality was that after some time exploring said garden, Samurai discovered, after 6 years of doing nothing more active than chasing the odd garden lizard which always got away, that he could jump the fence and became far more interested in exploring next door’s open, empty patch with hardly a plant in sight!  Higher fences proved no challenge, with the result that the cats now have three connecting cat enclosures;  so rather than being in the garden they now look down on it.

Even so, the least I can do is to give them a weed-less view!