GET YOUR HOME IN ORDER. TODAY!

Wow!  Here is where I am going to start.  At home.

Mess creates stress.   Looking at crap (clutter) everywhere just reminds you of all the back stories, baggage and procrastination.  Your mind wanders, anxiety peaks.  Then you get stressed out.  Day turns to crap.  Ever since I was old enough to have my own room which is about the time Japanese 80s minimalism first went mainstream, I have kept my things ship shape.  Because MESS CREATES STRESS!

Sure.  We are all adults and should be able to function in muddy trench warfare or rough camp it in the bush.  But when you are working from home.  That my friend is another story.  This is that story.

It has also helped that for most ( 85%) of my adult Generation X existence, I have rented rather than owned and that generally restricts how much you can decorate and embellish.    Nevertheless, the two times I have owned my own home, less has been more.   Since returning to Australia, we have been renting and we might as well be lepers because people here only worship the real estate gods.

It was only yesterday our clean up efforts of the last month made total sense.   It was a kid free day, so Stayatworkfatherofthree and Stayathomemotheroffour watched a Youtube video of a cruise ship chef showing how they make so many meals for the various on board restaurants.  His initial quote was priceless:

“The Captain steers the ship, but the Chef drives it”

This made so much more sense now.  When we first bought our Bangkok apartment and starting cooking for three children, the first thing we did was rip out the ancient wood panel kitchen with wall facing cooker and single sink.  Re-tiled the floor and made an island double sink with an electric stove and oven on the end.  Anyone cooking then had full view of the living room, the cityscape from the window and everything looked IKEA white ship-shape.  The mood when cooking improved, the flow was more efficient and the food tasted better.

Our neighbor who was a hotel chef said it was the most workable residential kitchen he had seen in our building and we became more adventurous with our cooking, hosted kick ass dinner parties for our friends and our lives, for the first time since Charlie was born, were finally in order.

Fast forward to now and our two and half years renting in Australia and tolerating whatever kitchen was installed, we have now got our groove back.

Everyone has heard:

“Happy Wife, Happy Life”

Fewer have heard my own retort:

“Happy Hubby, Lot’s More Money!”

My productivity has been stellar, Stayathomemotheroffour is totally in the mood, the kids are all falling in line with house rules.  Yes!  Structure is easier when there is less chaos.  But you know what is the best thing?

Good fortune now has more clean open surfaces to land on and we have not had a day without some wonderful turn of fortune.   Not luck you understand.  Good fortune simply appears when there is room for it in your life.  In the last month, we have let go of many possessions, been more hands free with concerns and just simply kept our heads down clearing the decks (is it no accident many of the idioms for coping with life come from the seafaring).

You do not need to own a boat to appreciate things work better when they are stored in the right place and the right place being where you can find them when you need them.  That means putting like-purposed items together.  Sherlock Holmes kills two birds (mental clutter and home clutter) with one stone:

“I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skillful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.”

Words I have lived by since first reading that passage from a Study in Scarlet in 1983 and in no less than 19 fixed abodes in as much time.

So two weeks ago we had our first inspection by the local real estate agent managing the two-storey townhouse we are currently renting.  It kinda crept up on us, but in 72 hours we had jetisoned two-wheelie bins if trash, donated a trunk of stuff to a local Church charity bin and moved some furniture and things around.  IT WORKED.  So let’s not keep it a secret.

1. KEEP ALL THE KIDS STUFF IN THE KIDS BEDROOM…

…..and under no circumstances let it infect other parts of the home.  Specically keep it out of the living room, the carport, our room, any bathroom and all balconies etc.   This step involved us moving a set of shelves from living room to kids bedroom that had nine A4 square compartments full of kids books and toys.  They were constantly taking them out and leaving them everywhere between kitchen and every corner of living room.

2. USE CLEAR PLASTIC BOXES WITH DIVIDERS TO STORE CRAP…..

…and label the compartments.

3. SCHEDULE CLEANING TASKS INTO BATCHES AND DIFFERENT DAYS.

Do not try to clean a home in one day.

4. SORT PAPERS AND DOCUMENTS WITH GOOD MUSIC AND WINE.

If not windy this is even better outside.  Stand as much as possible so you can dance to the good pieces and clean all surfaces first so you have lots of places for pages to land and sort into categories.

5. COMPLETE IN THE LAST PHASE OF THE MOON.

Nothing says preparing for a new moon, like having a purge after the full moon and getting reading for new projects.

6. FOCUS ON THE KITCHEN, THE FRIDGE AND PANTRY

There are menu planners and there are realists.  No home can stick to a set menu, but you can plan meals according to the activities of the day.  This gives you flexibility for unexpected visitors or events.  Make this your rock though as food is fuel and without it being clean and made without haste, you are doing you home a disservice.

7. WRITE YOUR OWN BOOK

One thing missing from so many families are their own traditions.  Don’t just follow a method because that is the way it has always been done.

8.  I AM NOT MOSES.  SO THERE IS NO 8, 9 or 10.

It is Saturday night and we cleaned my Father’s kitchen and bathrooms today, along with several loads of washing, vacuuming and so we are going to have Chinese in the next town.

Have a great and safe weekend.  Variety is indeed the spice of life.

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Options are my Opiates

Recently I saw an article about writing or being a writer contributing to being bi-polar and it is no accident so many WordPress articles cover topics on the whole range of mental anguish.   For a writer, any scene from The Shining is enough to turn you away from a keyboard faster than a surfer from the water after seeing Jaws.  There is an alternative.

Mental anguish manifests itself in so many ways for so many people and for so long.   In fact Sherlock Holmes put it simply “The pain of the mind is far greater than the pain of the body.”  Having spent some time in hospitals and under the knife long before reading the World’s most famous detective (and by the way, the world’s most published individual), mental pain was always greater than physical pain.  Writers block also seems to send people close to the edge as much as anything.

Stayatworkfatherofthree is NOT a psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker and lacks empathy for the most part, with all the sympathy of a tiger.  Nevertheless, my life has always been about “giving while living” long before learning who Chuck Feeney was.  Having been born with Poland’s Syndrome and often being the only Asian face in class and more often than not the shortest in the school, no obstacle has hindered as much as mental anguish.  I found a solution along the way and am sure you will too.

When I left Hong Kong, many of my friends were holding down high paying jobs and taking anti-depressants on a daily basis and so proud happy pills could help them achieve more than those not without this open secret weapon.  Most of the entire generation above us is on mood altering medication.  And now everywhere I look people are suffering in increasing numbers.  It is perhaps the biggest issue since starvation in the 80s.  Perhaps when there is a Live Aid concert dedicated to all the people who committed suicide, public awareness with turn a better way.

Each of our three children shares a class with children suffering from mental anguish in some form.  We first noticed at our Bangkok school most families lived in high-rise condo apartments with limited contact with nature.  Accordingly, we built a sand pit on our balcony, sacrificing any hopes for a naughty hot tub and filled the remaining space with as many plants and trees we could fit.  Our not-so-quick-fix to give them an instant nature fix without having to go downstairs.

In addition, most of the school Fathers worked in the oil and mining industries, thus not at home much.  These were kids with aggression issues.  But this was even more rife when we got to the Australian suburbs.  Honestly, probably not since the First World War have so many Australian children done most of their growing up without a Father.  The mining industry has a lot to answer for and society is already paying the price on so many levels.

Looking to prevent and reverse the damage done to most people, the cause in most cases has been a lack of options.  Not a lack of choices.  In fact most people, including myself, can be positively paralyzed by some of the choices we have to make.  There is a subtle and less than semantic difference.  Choice is almost certainly something you have do, a decision you have to make.  Options are by their very nature, are optional decisions.  Voluntary in most cases and not essential.  Sophie’s Choice.  Stock Options.  Get it?

You do not choose to be a victim.  You do not choose to be sad, bored or worse.  But things are infinitely unhappy if there is no other option in sight, regardless of how many choices you are faced with.  Many people today feel trapped with no perceived options.  They fail to make good decisions and get further imprisoned.  It might be their finances and work, it might be their family.  Some options might require sacrifices that are too great or unavailable.  Most will hear there is always another way to skin a banana (let’s give cats a break).  But seeing that other way is the issue.  They feel they have no other option.

The paradox is people are also told you can do whatever you want, you are free, you have so much potential, you have so many opportunities, although in their minds, none of that is visible without a hard vision of something tangible.   Then add to that mix, the paralysis of choice.  Choosing what to further study, choosing to re-locate, choosing to talk about it is even terrifying.  Much less choosing what to focus on as your life’s work.  The Phantom of the Opera’s lament, the prison of my mind! rings so loud.

More happily, when I was a teenager, Sherlock Holmes put one way to solve a problem is to use a process of elimination.  That is, once you have eliminated everything that is not possible, whatever remains, however ridiculous or improbable, must indeed be the solution.

My first wife could never identify her dream job.  She had never been able to and as a result was traveled the World ticking off her bucket list, until I met her.  Then after five years together, I handed her a fairly complete list of every type of occupation possible to most school-leavers.  After 90 minutes she had systematically crossed out each occupation that did not interest her.  What remained after a further 15 minutes was a circle around ‘locksmith’.   Ironic as it was the only skill I did not possess as a detective, although no surprise given we had only two weeks previous forked out at weekend night call out fee for a locksmith to help us after both forgetting our keys.

My current wife had no hesitation yesterday as we were walking over a hill to the next bay, to challenge this concept.  Again married to someone who cannot articulate nor identify their dream work, I unconsciously rolled out the above-mentioned old chestnut from Watson’s favorite muse.  Boy did it get thrown back in my face.   A fair Thai to English translation would be “You always have a lofty answer to everyone, although never take simple down to earth action yourself like a normal person.”

Point-taken and why I am writing this morning.  How does one make choices when there are no options?   Well options have been my opiates for a long time.  Making choices are much easier once you have ample options (and the all elusive plan most life coaches, mentors, counsellors and millionaires remind us ad nauseam).

What the World does not need is another self-help book.  What we need is a Guinness Record number of people becoming who they were born to be, doing what they were destined to do and have what they deserve for their efforts.

Please leave a comment if you think my family and I can help.

 

 

 

 

Hijacked at almost 3 feet

Well the kids are home from school for a three day long weekend for Australia Day (January 26th) and it is raining too much to visit our boat in the marina.  Everyone was fed dinner early almost as soon as they got home from school or day care in Charlie’s case.

Stayatworkfatherofthree was in the new crib searching the Internet for a custom furniture maker in our area to make a simple round 8-seater banquet table with lazy Susan, when Charlie started her normal twilight whining and shouting, so I took her from my wife’s arms.   After a little cooing and color crayons, I realized my search was hijacked.   I had to engage, resistance was futile, as they say.

So with more crayons and an exercise book left over from Bravo’s 2017 school stationary quota, she was happy to lie on my desk just as Alpha did eight years ago in my first Bangkok office and Bravo did two years later when I was babysitting during work hours.   Loosely scanning the online newspapers and wondering when the rain would stop enough to decorate our boat with Aussie bunting and national flags, I was hijacked again.

The very woman who started, and succeeded, with Australia’s change campaign to have a postal vote on same sex marriage was suggesting, rightly, to have the concept of Australia Day changed to be more respectful of the original people of this land.  Same sex marriage candidates represent close to 11% of our population whereas the original population prior to European settlement represent 2.8% of the census.   

Back in 2008, the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd gave a legendary speech taking Australia’s decade old ‘National Sorry Day’ quantum leaps toward reconciliation and meaningful unison of all present citizens.  That day I sat at my top floor office computer looking out across Hong Kong harbor at a population also colonized by the same armies, with one eye looking at the online video of the speech.   His words brought tears of faith in humanity and my colleagues had rarely seen me blubbing at my desk.   Regardless, the mood was set and less than a month later I met Stayathomemotheroffour and my heart was still full of love for all and faith in all nations.

My Father for as long as I can remember had always told me the main difference between Europeans and indigenous in Australia was that the former marked out plots and said “this land belongs to me!”, whereas original inhabitants had a more scientifically accurate refrain of ” I belong to this land.”

So this evening, my daughter has unwittingly taken me on a path to sensibility and without any desire to celebrate our Nation’s date of taking custody of these shores from the original inhabitants, as was so much the custom in past centuries and how present borders have been drawn.  In fact she has taken me right back to my Hong Kong days where it was my devote practice to work in the office on public holidays so my Chinese colleagues could enjoy time with their families.

Those were the days I enjoyed empty streets and a quiet building without interruption or delay and my best ideas would arise.   Freedom to create new strategies and file away at my own pace.   I was single then and exploiting the path less travelled.   Reaping great financial rewards and thinking I was the only one.   That is until last month when we were back in Bangkok and one of our American neighbors mentioned most of his luck and riches have come from working when other people are enjoying a public holiday.  If any thing, my own reasoning has been largely that you can exclusively take any incoming sales enquiries.

More importantly though, it has always been more a lack of interest in resting or partying for the sake of it.   Two years ago I firmly told our founding Partner that Stayatworkfatherofthree does not need any government gazette to tell him when to take a rest from work.    He agreed wholeheartedly and admitted to doing the same.

While tomorrow most of Australia will wear anything with a flag or our Olympic colors and all the nation, even the 2.8%, will wish they were never born anywhere else and love this country as much as anyone.   Most of Australia will also be drinking, some to celebrate and some to forget and commiserate.

You can bet I will be at my desk and hopefully my daughter will be there and I can teach her nearly three year old psyche that we belong to the universe and this planet does not belong to any of us.   That is if her brothers can stop arguing about who owns which toy!

Read This Before You Buy any Time Management System

Last week I managed to convince an aging relative to part with enough dry trash to fill a city council recycling wheelie bin.  Old jars washed and never used to make jam, cardboard boxes, newspapers, empty plastic and glass bottles, magazines, and a good number of CD and DVD cases.  (Empty as all the discs were them transferred into space-saving albums).

 

There is now less clutter as you enter that house and an airy feel giving rise to an ability to plan for the future, tranquility and time management.  Said relative was going to wait until December to start, although still putting out an empty recycling wheelie bin every second week.   So we agreed on my giving $100 in return for a wheelie bin full of the non-personal debris described above.  So far, so good and it was only October.

 

Organization is best kept as a daily practice, rather than backlogged until enough time is accumulated an event has to take place.  Because that time never comes and that event is never completed.

 

Then a couple of days later on our island paradise, I set out to explain our company’s Core Four Management system and doing so touched on the concepts of the sun and moon, four seasons, menstruation and circadian rhythms, our bodies and societies all seems to conspire against.

 

In short, by simply first taking into account the season, phase of the moon and time of the day, it is easier to schedule certain tasks, duties and activities when the mind, body and spirit are in the mood to encourage effortless flow.  It is impossible to improve on nature in this respect.

 

Back in 1996, the multinational I was with sent us all on a six month journey to corporate time management.   We were given leather bound clip paged journals with specially printed pages and pockets for expenses, project planning, although mostly to record to do lists down to the minute each day.   A year later I bought a PalmPilot and a copy of The 7-Habits.  Master of my Universe, got my first wife on board, started a two new companies and a total disregard for nature’s own punch cards and planetary cycles.  Ironically, this was all in Hong Kong, where so much of peoples’ lives are governed by moon phases, seasons and 12-year cycles.

 

It wasn’t until 2013 in Thailand when we were building Core Four, that I started re-researching moon phases and circadian rhythms.  Prior to that in 2007, the Jack Reacher novels were all the rage and my main take home was a new found ability to know exactly what time of the day or night it was, without looking at a time piece.  (It is very easy, once you start paying more attention to the sage, natural lighting, local temperature, immediate activities and your body clock).

 

The key objective was to determine what time of the day was best for certain activities and to compensate or reschedule depending on the phase of the moon and season.   For example, not trying to do financial book-keeping activities in summer at 4pm when blood pressure rises and there is a full moon.

 

When you look around at local public holidays and local cultural festivities, things do make a lot more sense.  School calendars are on to this and most daily schedules of early primary grades mirror circadian rhythms of young children.

 

1. Plant in spring, Nurture in Summer, Harvest in Autumn and Rest in Winter.

That means start new initiatives or projects in spring for example.  Cultivate their success throughout summer, and so on.

 

2. Check the Moon.

In general, your energy under the moon mirrors the four seasons.  In the week leading to a full moon you will increase your highest physical energy and it is best for high impact exercise and physical activities like washing and waxing the car, pleasuring your wife and playing sport with the kids.  Think of it like you do Summer.

 

The week following the full moon is one of rest and like Autumn.  One harvests what has been sown.  Pack up and clear away.  Do the accounting and filing.  Make space for the next month’s projects and the new school term etc.   Little to no exercise.  No high impact.

 

Then in the week leading into the new moon, start increasing activity to low impact.  This is winter of the moon and you need to keep the blood flowing and warm.   New projects can be initiated and plans can be underway.  Exercise is best between 06:00 and 09:00.

 

In the week following the new moon, up the tempo and exercise is best between 09:00 and 12:00.  It is like the moon’s spring.  Working towards summer.

 

3. Only then check the Clock

For general daily activities, the circadian rhythms are best summarized as follows, with a little value-added by Stayatworkfatherofthree:

 

05:00 – Join the 5am Club and rise before the rest of the World, look out the window at what kind of day it is going to be.  Sit down with a beverage and start creative writing, painting, exercising.

 

06:45 – Blood pressure rises sharply.  This will be the creative burst that gets you those amazing paragraphs, images will clarify on the canvas and you will get a second wind in training.

 

07:30 – Your melatonin will stop secreting and you will no doubt be able to finish the creative task you started two and a half hours prior.

 

10:00 – This is the highest alertness of the day and when most office workers finally get down to business.  It is the best time for listening and driving.

 

14:30 – Best time for your coordination-based tasks.   Handle tricky items with effortless finesse.

 

15:30  – Best reaction times and why parents can manage to keep so many balls in the air at school pick time which quickly morphs into feeding time at the three -ringed circus.

 

17:00 – Strongest cardiovascular processing and greatest feats of strength.  Good time for second workout, mowing the lawn, cleaning and playing anything.

 

18:30 – Blood pressure is it’s highest.  Worst time to be driving and highest incidents of road rage, accidents and poor coordination caused by confusion of rods and cones in eyes.   Much better to succomb to gently tidying up for the day, kicking a  ball with the kids, de-briefing with colleagues or going for a walk.

 

19:00 – Body temperature is it’s highest.  Shower time!  Swim time!   Get into the open.  Water the plants.

 

21:00 – Get ready for bed.   Melatonin starts secreting again.  Early sleep is the best meditation and poor man’s facelift!!!

 

Go on.  Give it a try.    Nature has given us the best tools and enough waking hours in a day to do all necessary.   Early sleep is the best meditation and poor man’s facelift!!!

 

The next time you are having difficulty with a task, procrastinating or scheduling too far down the calendar.  Take time to see if you are in the correct season for that activity.

 

Perhaps it is the wrong phase of the moon to be starting a new way of filing or a new novel.   What time of the day is it ?  Are you trying to harvest in Spring and planting in Autumn?

 

And what of menstruation?  Well, merely the observation that 364 days of the year can be neatly divided 13 times into 28 day periods.  Not 12 months.  That is enough for a whole different blog.

 

The Four Seasons

So there I was a month ago sitting beside my Dad’s wheel chair in the waiting room of his psychiatrist and there was this painting behind the reception counter.    Doesn’t it just sum life up in one moment?

Life being a series of four seasons in rotation.   Nothing lasting forever unless, you jump on a plane and chase winter.

Six summers ago I designed a company management system based on a four color system much like the above picture.   So much so we will re-launch the system with a new group of colleagues under the banner of The Four Seasons.

More so because one of our newer colleagues overheard me playing this video of Max Richter’s new arrangement of Vivaldi’s Classic.   This young Thai gentleman leaned over and asked me what this piece of music was called.  Most likely because he had heard it in so many car advertisements, although he admitted it helped him concentrate and finish reports.    Ditto for me.   I have been using The Four Seasons to overcome procrastination for years as it is 44 minutes long and ensures I finish or at least make a dent in whatever nasty bit of a task I am wrestling with.

Please enjoy and with all credit due to the creators:

If anyone would like more information on our Core Four Management System, let us know as it all started when I told someone I had a hundred things to do and no one to delegate to.   How wrong I was !

Even better it will now center around 44 minutes, rather than the original 90 minutes recommended for focused productivity.

Meanwhile, there is Super Tropical Cyclone heading towards our tropical paradise.   Of course the wind will not last forever.   It is nearly the end of cyclone season.

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