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.

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.

 

BEcome the change you want to see

School holidays again.  This time for two weeks and my wife is here to help.   She has taken the two boys to the mainland for a movie at the cinema with some of their classmates.   I am at home with our baby daughter and watching the DVD movie ‘SING’ for about the hundredth time and loving it.

Our daughter Charlie was born on the United Nations’ International Day of Dance and already at 27 months old only has to sing out ‘Ra Ra Ra na Ra, ga ga ga na ga’ and we know it is time to watch that animated masterpiece again.   They are all masterpieces actually.   When you think about the generation working in all the animated movie companies, they all grew up with Disney, video arcade games and Andrew Lloyd-Webber.

What is so great about all these movies and especially musicals, is the analogy that with a great intention, an obstacle is faced, a battle is lost, then after some soul searching, faith is restored, a gutsy plan is devised with a good dash of bravery and self confidence, and the day is won.

Two nights ago my wife asked me how to spell the name ‘Jesus’ and this led to a whole afternoon of explaining the Abrahamic religions and geopolitics of medieval Middle East to present day.   Part of the discussion starting at the kitchen table and then when the kids got too noisy, we moved the lesson to my new home office which is actually the garden shed.   A garden shed with newly purchased shingle hanging from the door proclaiming “MAN CAVE.   My cave, My rules” which I purchased from my favorite tobacconist on the mainland.  It was impossible to think, much less work, in the house with three kids running around.

For context, six years ago when we lived in Thailand, my wife went to the Siam Society to hear a presentation by one of the most famous western Buddhist monks, Ajarn Brahm (http://www.bswa.org) who excels in helping people see the funny side of tragedy and restoring trust in human mindfulness.   At the end of the lecture one of the other Thai ladies attending sold my wife two CDs of this monk’s other ‘gigs’ as he calls them.   The purpose being to calm me when the frustrations of working in a Third World country with a sky train became too much.   So I kept those CDs in the car and used to listen to them when I was on a solo drive, occasionally pulling over to cry or listen more intently.

One of the best take aways was when Buddhist monk and Abbot Ajahn Brahm was attending an interfaith conference and was asked his religion.   To which he replied “KINDNESS” adding his faith was “TRUTH” and it was there I was convinced this is where the religious often drift away and the rest is sadly so much of our history.

Not I.   Ever since Alpha’s first day at school four years ago, we have always filled in our kids’ school enrollment forms with ‘KINDNESS’ in the religion section and this also reinforces the fact he was born on United Nations’ International Day of Peace.   Meanwhile, middle child Bravo was born on World Hug Day.  Prior to first meeting their Mother for the first time, I had already set my moral compass to the personal ethos to ‘Learn, Love and Laugh’.   Branding these three words on business cards we handed out to friends when we left Hong Kong.

No more is this reinforced when I am sitting watching SING’s Theatre Manager, koala Buster Moon, revive his Father’s past success with humble work ethic, inquisitive innovation, faith in love and dance music.

Yesterday in the Man Cave, I finally won a major battle with paper, with no small amount of Borkum Riff Cavendish Vanilla I might add.   Bank statements, news clippings, school reports, personal letters, certificates, work related correspondence from past employers, medical and dentist records, anything with a date on it.   With the fervor of a librarian, everything was simply put in chronological order.   Instead of being filed away by topic or subject, as they had been for so long.   Ferried from country to country, often stored in different homes.  Some kept in luggage, others in box files, with more in stacks of like mindedness.   Causing no small degree of madness, gross indecision and mass procrastination.

No more.   Now stands a simple plastic toy box with a date ordered collection of paper recording the personal accounts of Stayatworkfatherofthree from a 1957 newspaper clipping death notice of my great grandmother to an invitation from our sons’ school Principal’s morning tea…..and EVERYTHING in between.   Magazine articles that I had been lucky enough to have published, my best achievements, hearts I had loved and broken and reprimands that had tempered my recklessness every seven years in a 46 year history.   A story of a small boy with big dreams, sporadic fame and illusive fortune.

Of course, what I really should have been doing was book the plane tickets for my next adventure in Cambodia and Thailand.   Sometimes, before we take the next step, it is necessary to get our house in order.   If I don’t get back to write a biography no one wants to read, at least our children can pick up from where I left off.   Should also be easier for the tax department to see where it all went.

Drowning in a sea of ideas, rough sketches, journal entries, itineries and quotes to muse, it is now possible to cherry-pick where my travels had branched and start writing about how my Mother let me BE whatever I wanted to BE, never letting me DO just anything, especially because we did not HAVE everything we needed.  Instilling the same resilience and trust in our children will be the biggest adventure of all.

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