Tag Archive | New habits

Time: Having a broad margin in your life

I read a reference to someone famous writing they wanted a margin in their life. I can’t remember who, and I can’t be arsed finding the reference (it was in Gretchen Rubin’s book, Happier at Home, which I have returned to the library) as I see that as wasting the margin that I want in my life. But I think it was that Thoreau fellow. 

Anyway, I read the reference and thought, in arm pumping style, which is so not me, “Yes, that’s what I want.” 

I want a margin to allow me to do or not do things. Things that do not HAVE TO BE DONE. Things that do not shout at me to be done. A margin to breath. A margin to laze around until afternoon in my pjs. A margin to blog or daydream or gaze out the window and think about gardening. A margin to sit in front of the fan and enjoy the white noise and background family noises and be slothful. 

I used to love drawing margins in my workbooks at school. 2.5cm in red pen, using a ruler of course -how could people stand the wiggly, crocked free-hand line? The margin gave space so the page was not crammed with writing. Of course it gave room to correct errors, if, heavens above, corrections were needed in copying notes or in first drafts. But I just loved the space for nothing but to be space. 

This makes me twitch. Too cramped.

Ah!! Much better.

I want a margin in my life to protect me from work demands. (And sometimes from the demands of homeownership and adult life.)

When I’m home I want to Be At Home. When I leave the office I want to clock off from work. 

My boss sent me a text one Friday this year at quarter past five saying he’d call me later that afternoon to discuss an issue. Really, in whose definition is after five, the afternoon??? Surely the afternoon is nearly up and we are moving into the evening? And it is Friday!

I responded by saying I was now socialising and it’d have to wait until Monday morning. He apologised and explained that he’d written the text before he got on a plane and the text must have only sent upon landing. Still, he planned to contact me after his flight landed and after he had collected his luggage and got to the car from long term parking and he was driving home from the airport. That would be way after 5.30pm. Not afternoon by anyone’s standards, surely?

And by discuss issues he’d off-load a heap of shit by discussing a complaint about which I could do nothing until Monday so I’d just feel annoyed all weekend. 

I am proud of myself for managing my manager. 

Other steps on building my margin: I haven’t looked at my work emails out of hours, since disconnecting the work email account from my phone. 

OK, I haven’t been totally free after hours. Phone calls. Thinking how to deal with some issues. Discussing issues with colleagues. But still I am doing much better at “clocking off” and feeling much better. 

I’m averaging about 45 hours a week at work.  Effectively I work non-stop, maybe stopping for 15 minutes for lunch, but usually working while I eat. Really that’s enough. I am not taking my work home. 

I’m ruling a margin around my life. 

PS. On searching for images on margins in life turns out lots of people want margins and it’s a common concept in self-help blogs and books. That’s me! Jumping on the bandwagon late in life. Oh well, better late than never. Some sites tell you “Five simple ways to create margins”, others how better to use margins. Pfft. Well, der. I need to switch off my connectivity, especially from work. And walk out of the office. Who’d a thunk it??? Anyway, I’ve gone with my metaphoric exercise book margins rather than the usual metaphors of a mindful, quiet, sunset, natural image. Way too obvious!!!

2013, the year to get lean

At the start of this year I aimed to get lean: getting leaner in body, getting the house leaner, getting stress leaner, getting my budget leaner. It was this goal that prompted the year of buying no clothes.

The year has gone by so quickly. Can’t believe that it is time to reflect already.

Body: leaner than the middle of the year. Is it leaner than January? Not sure. I was 65.5 kilos then but I stronger now, so I may be leaner now as muscles weigh more than fat. In the middle of the year, following the eight weeks of incapacity due to back pain, I was just over 70 kilos. Either way I feel leaner now. And others obviously think I am too. Mr Sans is very happy with the return of my waist.

House: things have been going out and fewer things coming in. You all know about my success with not buying clothes and decluttering my wardrobe. I have previously written about the room you cannot enter. While it is not totally emptied and I have dreams to decorate it, the junk room has returned to a study. It is usable. You can walk into the room. I am not embarrassed if people go in there. Kitchen drawers and laundry cupboards are sparser and leaner. Lots of paper has left the house. There is still more to be done – at least another two years of slow and steady decluttering. Books are piling up again! But on the whole, my house is leaner too.

Stress: epic fail here. Though regular walking and massages, book club, menu planning have helped, there is still a long way to go.

Budget: weeelll…I haven’t done my taxes. But on the up side, I paid off a heap from my mortgage. Just over $38,000 off the principal. Hear that? pretty amazing. And all the money I saved from not buying clothes, meant I could pay off lots (over $38,000 if you missed it the first time) from the mortgage and take holidays. All our bills are up to date, we have no debt beyond the mortgage, and I know roughly how much we spend and when to keep our household running.

Yeah, I’m pretty happy with the year of lean. Makes me feel lighter just thinking of all the weight that’s left this house!!!

No no no November

Droptober is morphing into No no no November.

I know, I can’t believe my wit and verbal prowess either.

The aim is to turn my not eating fatty, sugary snacks into a habit. So I will continue to say no to eating junk foods as a regular thing. Sweet and fatty non-nutritious food-stuffs will be an occasional treat. (OK, with occasional satisfying of cravings.)

I toyed with the idea if saying no to alcohol, beyond the no drinking on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but decided I really didn’t want to. So I said no to saying no.

I will say no to being a lazy sloth and will make sure I maintain my exercise routine – one hour of Pilates, set exercises twice a week, and four walks a week.

Why is it easier to gain weight than it is to lose it?

And why is it so hard to regain a basic level of fitness but so easy and quick to lose it once you stop?

Those two unfair factoids are another reason I don’t want to stop my new regime; couldn’t bear going back to square one again.

But I am, as always, saying no to dieting. Diets that require you to buy, eat and prepare food you wouldn’t normally eat don’t work. You can last on a restrictive or different diet for a short while but you will go straight back to your normal eating patterns. Phewee to diets, I say. Can’t remember where I found this diagram, but it is so true.


I am continuing saying no to clutter. I know I haven’t posted lately on clutter and my journey to get ride of it but I have been making headway. So much so that my kids call me the Queen of Decluttering and my husband, oh, hang on, this bit needs a new paragraph on its own…

My husband who has angrily and repeatedly rebuffed any attempt to thin his wardrobe, today actually said that he needed to get rid of some shirts that he no longer wears! Shocked? I know I was. He never actually made the next step of removing any shirts but the mere change in his thought patterns is cause for celebration. Of course, I didn’t react too much. Don’t want to startle the natives nor make him think he hadn’t come to the realisation on his own. Seems osmosis does work.

But here’s a bit of unwanted decluttering. It was a dark and stormy night. A loud crash was heard. Investigation found this on the floor.


OK, it wasn’t a dark and stormy night, it was Halloween. But no one had walked past the table, there was no wind, no animals. Frightened? I was. And then the smoke detector beeped. No smoke, no fire. Spooooky.

Looking after your back – Sitting right at the office!

My mother use to say, “Don’t sit on your legs. It will give you varicose veins.”

Turns out I was right. It doesn’t. But I wished I’d followed my mother’s advice. My poor sitting technique has contributed to my bad back. And we all know how hard bad habits are to replace, even if you know those habits contribute to pain and illness.

As each episode of back pain returns, it is lasting longer. And I am taking longer to recover. So here is what I am doing to help avoid back pain. Hope it helps someone.

The thing that is having the biggest impact is changing how I sit, especially at work. I have had a Work, Health and Safety Officer evaluate my chair, desk and work practices. I would have laughed a few years ago (What you need someone to tell you how to sit? Oh the arrogance of youth!) but the advice has been fantastic. OK, OK, it’s the same thing as my osteopath and my chiropractor and my massage therapist and my mother have said. And stuff I knew anyway, but now I am prepared to listen to, and heed, the advice.

1. No tucking your legs under yourself. Turns out this twists your body and because you tend to do it in one direction, you cause all sorts of tension and compensation!


2. No sitting for extended time. This is a biggie. Do whatever you can to ensure you move at least every 20 minutes: Use a kitchen timer to remind yourself to get up. Install a widget on your work computer that pops up little reminders during the day. You can get it here: Sit Right. It says things like “Walk to your office door” or “How about doing some stretches.” Stand when talking on the phone. Ask people if they mind if you walk together somewhere, eg the office kitchen or just down the corridor, while you talk.


3. Adjust your work station so you can sit up “straight” (like your mother told you).
OK, this is a continuation of the first point. But that first point was a particular problem with me. I thought it was comfortable. Turns out is was causing discomfort and I had to return to the legs under position to ease the asymmetry I had caused in my hips by sitting like that. So what is sitting up straight? It is not hunching! And not leaning forward! And not having your hips and knees at angles less than 90°!


My WHS Officer moved my mouse forward, raised my monitor, moved my phone closer. All only slight adjustments, but they made a big impact on how I had to reach and the stress put on my back. But the biggest change was having the chair at the right height. I now know to raise and lower my chair for computer use or desk use, so that I can sit up straight and not be hunched. For years I have kept the chair at the one height! I thought leaning forward was how you worked when reading and writing. Here’s a good checklist:


Good thing about that Sit Right widget is, it also offers reminders about the way you sit! “Are your hips, knees and elbows at open angles? Adjust them now.”

4. Let the chair do its job. I really love this bit of advice! Do you perch on the front edge of chair, because you “know” you have to hop up shortly? But then that shortly turns into a long time. Do you sit in the chair but don’t use the back rest? Well, your back shouldn’t be doing all this work. Adjust the chair so the back rest supports your lower back, and the seat is st the right height. Then sit into it and let the chair hug you. You will feel your back release when you let the chair do its job of supporting you.

5. Don’t cradle the phone in your neck. Come on! Enough said.


6. Don’t twist. When I had people to see, but they needed information that I had on my computer, I would face them but twist to read my monitor. Now I say, “Sorry, I have to look at the monitor.” And move my whole body to face the monitor. Same with the phone. I would answer it and twist my body to view the monitor. Dreadfully multi-tasking!

If you’re young, you probably haven’t kept reading until here. You probably thought, “Old age, not me, nag, nag, stuff and junk and this and things”. But if you have a sedentary job, don’t wait until pain forces you to sit right. And if you suffer from a back pain and work in an office, I hope some of this helps. It is helping me.

Sources/disclaimer: I am not a chiropractor and am not sponsored by a chiropractor. The Sit Right widget was recommended by the chiropractic practice I attend. The widget and all the images I have used on this post come from this site of the Chiropractors’ Association of Australia.

What’s my challenge?

I have been so focused on work and Dry July that I haven’t thought through a new challenge.

Yes, I had a glass of red tonight. Savoured it. And then, in an act of decadence, followed the glass with a bubble bath.

Mmmm. What to do? What to do?

Think I will review how I am going on:

  • Drinking water.
  • Getting to bed at a decent time, without falling asleep on the lounge.
  • Walking four times a week.
  • Doing the exercises set by the exercise physiologist.
  • Eating two pieces of fruit a day.
  • Restarting my version of the Strong Women exercises.
  • Doing things that Dr John advises for emotional well being: laughter, hugging, something for someone else or being nice to someone, spending time with friends, doing things you enjoy.
  • And of course, I am still decluttering one item a day. And not buying any clothes.

    We all need to refocus now and again to stop good habits sliding.

    Dry July


    I am now over half way through Dry July and into the home stretch. With 2 weekends left to go, I can’t say I am enjoying the booze-free lifestyle. But I am not pining for a drink either.

    I wouldn’t mind one. Several glasses of bubbles over inane chat with friends. A nice glass of red before dinner. These sound nice!

    It’s kinda like if I went without my cup of tea. I could do it. But I don’t necessarily like to.

    Or chocolate. I have that little desire for some. Not a huge craving, where I am pacing around and crabby and short-tempered, biting everyone’s head off. But a little hole in my tummy, saying, “You know, a square of chocolate might fix this. Might be nice!”

    I can’t say I feel a whole lot healthier either. Actually, I don’t feel different at all. And I haven’t lost weight. I have filled the evening gap where I had a glass or two with grazing on stuff from the pantry.

    Still, at least I know I can do it. My will power is strong. Or perhaps, I am just not addicted to alcohol. I know I will make it through the next few weeks with no worries.

    And there have been times that others might have wavered: drinks with friends, a dinner party, holidays. Events that don’t faze my resolve. Then again, I am not one to succumb to peer pressure, or the pressure of others. I am my own person.

    So at the very least I have proven to myself that alcohol doesn’t figure as something that rules my life. I like it. I like the effect a moderate amount has. And I would be sad if I could never have it again. But I could do it.

    July’s Challenge


    I like to set myself challenges to be healthier, more organised and all round more gorgeous. Some I have achieved easily (drinking water, not buying clothes, decluttering an item a day), some I have conquered after some set backs with concerted and sustained effort (improved sleep hygiene), some I didn’t achieve (tracking my food), some I am still working on (regular exercise).

    This month’s challenge is having one month free of alcohol. You may have heard of Dry July. I had thought about it but decided against it. Our annual ski trip coincides with July. Who wants to miss out on Butterscotch schnapps? On cocktails at the bar? On red wine? Maybe I could just cut back a little?

    Then I got the body fat results – too much fat. And my BMI results – in the overweight category. And then, right at the end of June, I got sick. Three days of not eating, including two days with hardly any fluids, even a glass of water had my stomach cramping. I had no desire for alcohol. So I made the commitment to myself and signed up for Dry July.

    I have not had a drink for 14 days.

    Now it may be that it is actually easier when I am holidays, without the stress of work. I will find that out next week. I haven’t had the need for a drink. Or even the strong desire for one. Not saying it wouldn’t be nice to have a drink with my husband at a bar down at the snow and there’s not much to do of an evening if you don’t drink. I am staying out of bars so I don’t tempt myself unnecessarily. I do like the social aspect of having a drink or two or three. And can’t see myself becoming a teetotaller.

    What I have realised is that alcohol fills a niche when I am bored: time before dinner, what to do? I know, I think I’ll have a glass of … So I have to be careful I don’t just fill it up with junk food.


    Back sliding

    I got one of these as a gift:


    It’s a heated blanket, or throw as they are now called. Don’t be fooled by the picture. No one sits with this beautiful, warming blanket on. You put this baby on and lie down and immediately fall asleep. It is evil, I tell you!

    And what, prey tell, does this have to do with back sliding, you ask!

    So glad you asked. Well, let me tell you what this evil throw has done.

    Remember I had the bad habit of falling asleep on the lounge? My focus for all of March was improving my sleep.

    And I was an outstanding success.

    I identified my triggers, removed obstacles and stayed focused. Every time I was sleepy, I took myself to bed and was sure by the end of March I had broken the habit of falling asleep on the lounge. All of April my new habit was well and truly in place.

    Until my back went out again a few weeks ago! Extremely immobile, every time I rolled over in bed the pain would wake me. So my sleep became disturbed.

    And then last weekend I got this heated throw! I haven’t made it to bed every night this week until after 12, after falling asleep on the lounge.

    So as much as I love this blanket, for my own good I will pack this away. And bring it out for cold weekend afternoons, when reading, watching DVDs, or dozing are on the To Do List.

    But I am like an addict, and I can feel the call of this throw. Did I tell you it comes with a timer and seven heat settings.

    No, walk away from the cupboard, Lucinda. Walk away. Now!

    Now time for today’s log:

  • 1. Did I have a laugh today?
  • Yes, with my sister-in-law. Lookie here, this made me laugh: what the?

  • 2. Did I give someone a hug today?
  • Yes.

  • 3. Did I do a relaxation activity, such as read a book, have a bath, light a candle, dream, call someone and have a chat, sit in the sun?
  • Yes. Read a chapter of a book in peaceful silence.

  • 4. Did I do something good for someone else or be nice to someone?
  • Drove and accompanied a family member for a medical procedure.

    Today’s decluttered item = advertising material from a conference I attended in 2012. As I am about to attend this year’s conference, I thought it was about time I sorted last year’s material. After all, I haven’t looked at it since, nor used it so into the recycling bin. I read an interesting post on 365 Less Things about using the floor as a storage space. It made me do a double take. Yes, I do that. So out with unneeded things. Don’t store them. Don’t hang onto them. Don’t make your house cluttered, uncomfortable and messy.


    Ruiz’s First Agreement


    Impeccable means without flaw. It comes from the Latin for without sin.

    So what does this have to do with words and emotional well-being?

    And what does this mean?

    This means to use your words to plant positive seeds in others. Don’t focus on the negative. “I tell it like it is” is an excuse to be negative and create a negative reality. Don’t use language to create flaws or spread negative emotions such as anger, revenge, hatred. Against yourself as much as against others.

    You may have heard of self-fulfilling prophesy. When you say something will happen so you create it. An example is saying you can’t do something, so when you “try”, you believe you cannot do it and you fail. Or the child who is constantly told he is dumb at Maths, always giving up because he “cannot do Maths”. Words have power. Power to create reality and power to hurt.

    Now we come to the big gun in our daily interaction with others. Gossip!

    Ruiz likens gossip to a computer virus – it spread and does harm.

    Gossip is like the spreading of poison. A poison that hurts those being spoken against – as gossip is often half-truths or lies – and those who gossip as it creates a negative mindset, one which opens you to negativity. And, of course, if you gossip, people know that about you: that you are a gossip, a teller of tales, not to be trusted, one who speaks ill of others and who will just as easily speak ill of the person being spoken to as soon as that person leaves.

    So use your words to share love – love for yourself and love for others.

    Now time for today’s log:

  • 1. Did I have a laugh today?
  • Yes, time for some self-deprecating humour and time to laugh with others, and evil cow that I am, laugh at others.

  • 2. Did I give someone a hug today?
  • Yes.

  • 3. Did I do a relaxation activity, such as read a book, have a bath, light a candle, dream, call someone and have a chat, sit in the sun?
  • Yes, watched a favourite TV show.

  • 4. Did I do something good for someone else or be nice to someone?
  • Listened to a heart-wrenching story, offered advice and gave support to a family in need.

    Today’s decluttered item = inspired by Claire I have had another go at my bedside table. A screw, a mini peg. I mean really? Where did these things come from and why did I think I should keep them? A receipt and local newsletter I can understand, but how does junk collect?

    I have a looooong way to go to reach Claire’s minimalism but after disposing of these items from the top, I now have a much nicer tabletop. I also put things back to where they are meant to live but had lazily been left by me on the bedside table. One day I might be ready to show my actual table!


    I also gave away a little tourist knick-knack that was given as a gift. But no photo.

    Coping skills

    When developing a new habit, you need to start out with a conscious effort and have a way the activities will fit in your day to become routine.

    I cannot see a way I can put a plan in place to laugh or to do or say something nice to someone, but I definitely can for the other activities. So to ensure they are done as naturally as brushing my teeth or putting my keys away (today my son said he misses my regular “Where’s my key dance” which now never happens because of my routine) I will have set times for these activities.

    Hugging = there is always time for a hug but to make sure it definitely happens, I will hug my kids when I come home from work or when they come home, if I return before them.

    Deep breathing = I will start the day with some deep breathing exercises after breakfast on our verandah.

    Relaxation activity = I will make time after dinner for some pleasurable and relaxing activity.

    Now time for today’s log:

  • 1. Did I have a laugh today?
  • Yes.

  • 2. Did I give someone a hug today?
  • Yes, my darling husband.

  • 3. Did I go some deep breathing?
  • Yes.

  • 4. Did I do a relaxation activity, such as read a book, have a bath, light a candle, dream, call someone and have a chat, sit in the sun?
  • Yes, had a chat and drink with Mr Sans.

  • 5. Did I do something good for someone else or be nice to someone?
  • I gave some heartfelt compliments.