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Walking back to happiness

January 3, 2016

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Walking is very uplifting and I try to do it every day if I can. I can breathe the air into my lungs and clear my head. It gives me an opportunity to focus on my external surroundings rather than worrying about things.

Walking on holiday is best of all. The photo above was taken last summer while on the Precipice Walk, near Dolgellau. This a fabulous walk with amazing views for relatively little effort.

Whether I am holiday or not, walking is good for my health. A few years ago, I was involved in a 4 week trial of using a pedometer. I aimed for 10,000 steps a day. My percentage body fat decreased from the ’cause for concern’ bracket to the ‘healthy’ bracket. I had to return the pedometer at the end of the trial but ever since then I’ve been more conscious of the benefits of walking every day.

A couple of years ago, I changed job and moved house. There are some good walks near where I live, including a footpath that starts 50 yards from my front door. So there are lots of options for walking on the weekends or when I have a day off work.

During the working week, I think walking helps me to ‘unscrunch’ myself after a few hours sat in front of the computer indoors. But now that I work in a city centre office, there are fewer options for nice walks during my lunch break. And some days I don’t even get a proper lunch break.

Even worse, my knees were starting to get really sore. I suspected that this was caused by all the pavement-pounding I was doing walking to the train station and back every day. One July weekend last summer my knees were so painful, I rested in bed and ignored the pull of the lovely sunshine outside my window. My knees felt temporarily better but I didn’t want to give up on walking altogether.

So my husband recommended trying some walking trainers. We did some research and then I ordered a pair of Brooks Addiction Walker Wide Ladies Walking Shoes from Millet Sports. Brooks have a reputation for making trainers that support feet properly, and I liked the fact that this particular style was available in a wide fitting.

As you can see from the photo below, these shoes have really thick soles, especially from the middle of the foot to the heel. The shoes feel very comfortable and supportive, and they have made a huge difference.

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I wear these fantastic walking trainers any time when I am going to walking on pavements, whether at the weekends or while walking to and from the train station on my commute. The fact that they are black means that I am not too embarrassed to be seen arriving at work with them on my feet! Then I change into normal shoes when I get to the office.

I am so happy that walking is a pleasure once again.

Oxfam Unwrapped Charity Gifts

December 20, 2015

Archie the Goat - with Gift Tag

I am a huge fan of Oxfam Unwrapped Charity Gifts. It makes me feel good to buy gifts that really make a difference to people’s lives.

This year I bought a pair of goats (they have a special half-price offer on at the moment, so it was effectively two goats for the price of one!).

An Oxfam Unwrapped goat is a valuable gift, for the following reasons.

  • A goat can provide a family with milk to drink or help them set up a budding business selling their produce – giving them the chance of a secure livelihood.
  • The goats are sourced locally and fully vaccinated, which means they’re fit, healthy and ready to supply a family with milk to drink or sell.
  • Goats also produce crop-boosting manure.
  • Because this gift includes business training, a family is more likely to get the best possible price for what their goat produces.
  • When their goat has kids, they can go on to help another family or be sold to raise money for essentials.
  • Oxfam often provide two goats which allow breeding. Beneficiaries can then build, and grow a herd of their own.
  • Last year, Oxfam provided livestock to farming families in places around the world from Honduras to Somaliland.
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Photo credits: Abbie Trayler-Smith; Rachel Walsh; Oxfam AUS

Over the years I’ve bought a variety of Oxfam Unwrapped gifts to support education, beekeepers, vegetable plots and new mothers. Each year, new items are added to the range. For example, you can buy a ‘pile of poo’ to fertilise crops. The gifts are accompanied by training and advice so that the recipients can make the most of the items they have received.

So I hope you’ll check out Oxfam Unwrapped if you’re looking for last minute Christmas gifts. For more information on how it works, watch this video:

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Blogpost written by me. No payment or other inducement has been received. Photos, video clip and factual information provided by Oxfam Unwrapped.

Downplaying Father Christmas

December 5, 2015

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I was 6 when I stopped believing in Father Christmas, but I tried not to disappoint my parents by telling them what I thought just in case they still believed in him. I didn’t realise that they were just playing along with everyone else. It was quite disappointing to find out I’d been lied to by grown-ups.

If I had my way, I would have been more honest with my son about Santa. The only reason I’ve kept quiet is that other family members asked me ‘not to spoil the magic’. So I’ve tried to steer a careful course, treating the character of Father Christmas like any other beloved fictional character. I never said, “You do know Buzz Lightyear isn’t real, don’t you?” and I’ve resisted saying that Santa isn’t real.

I don’t ask my son to write a letter to Santa. It’s important to me that Christmas is not seen as being all about presents. One year, my son came home from nursery with a Christmas list consisting piece of paper with pictures of toys cut out of an Argos catalogue. It annoyed me very much.

Also, I think the whole idea of a stranger spying on children to decide whether they are ‘good or bad’ is creepy. There is no ‘Elf on the shelf’ in this house!

A couple of years ago, my son wanted to put some snacks and a carrot out on Christmas Eve for Santa and Rudolph. I ate the food rather than let it go to waste. When asked whether I had eaten the snacks, I admitted that I had. My son was a bit cross, because he had intended this to be a test to find out whether Santa was real or not. However, this was soon forgotten in the excitement of Christmas day.

I’ll let you know how this year goes!

 

 

 

Why I’m quitting the magazine habit

October 31, 2015

magazine stash

Hello I’m Ruthy and I’m a magazine addict. Commuting by train every weekday means that I frequently pop into to WHSmiths to purchase yet another monthly mag. But as of today I am calling a halt to this habit for the following reasons:

  • glossy magazines make me feel vaguely dissatisfied with my life
  • there is too much temptation to buy things featured in the magazines, whether it is a new handbag or a recipe book
  • the content is actually pretty repetitive and predictable, so now we are in October it is all about how to have the perfect Christmas and in January there will be diets aplenty…
  • there is lots of interesting stuff to read online these days, including some fantastic blogs
  • magazine issues pile up around the house and make the place look untidy
  • they may only cost a few quid each, but I dread to think how much I have spent in total over the years…

I’ve made previous attempts to quit this habit but I am really determined to stop now. By saying this publicly here I hope that my willpower will be strengthened.

This also links in with my intention to collect moments not things. I’m going to keep track of the money saved by not buying magazines and put it towards a trip to Paris with two of my sisters in the spring. More news about that soon!

Writing down 3 good things every day

September 13, 2015

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Every evening, I try to write 3 good things that happened that day in my notebook before I go to sleep for the night. That way I fall asleep with some happy thoughts fresh in my mind, even if I have had some challenging things to deal with that day.

I started a fresh notebook for September. It was a TK Maxx bargain, but the paper is lovely to write on.

This idea was inspired by Karin and her Embrace Happy facebook community. Lots of people share their 3 good things online, but I prefer to use a notebook for the following reasons:

  • I like to keep my good things a bit more private, rather than being concerned about what might seem impressive on facebook
  • using a notebook as it means that I am not looking at a screen before I go to bed,
  • and it is easy to look back through what I have written on previous days.

Mostly, my 3 good things are small pleasures, a nice meal, a walk, a book, time spent with my husband and son. All in all this is a really great way for me to collect moments, not things.

 

 

Decluttering with Sam Walker on the radio

September 12, 2015

Visiting Sam Walker

I was on Sunday Breakfast on BBC Radio 5 Live last weekend, helping presenter Sam Walker to declutter her wardrobe. The photo above shows me, my son and Sam standing next to Sam’s wardrobe just after we had finished recording.

The whole experience was great fun. Sam was every bit as lovely as she sounds on the radio! I really enjoyed showing her how to use the Konmari method of decluttering, as described in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying’ by Marie Kondo.

We went through the following steps:

  1. First we pulled Sam’s clothes out of the wardrobe and laid them on her bed.
  2. Then Sam picked up each item one at a time and decided whether that dress, top or skirt sparked joy.
  3. It was obvious which items of clothing brought Sam joy, because they made her smile – these clothes could be kept.
  4. If an item of clothing made Sam frown and pause then it was good indication that it was no longer bringing her joy, and that this item should go.

Sam got the hang of this really quickly, and soon there was a big pile of clothes to take to the charity shop. Some of the clothes in this pile still had tags on, but Sam admitted that she wasn’t likely to wear them. We put the clothes that brought joy back in her wardrobe.

There was also a very small pile of clothes where the decision was less clear-cut. I suggested that Sam should put these clothes to one side and revisit them in a few months.

Later that day, Sam told me that her husband also had the bug and had done even better than she did.

It just goes to show that the Konmari approach is very simple to use. One of the reasons it works is that it gives you permission to keep the items that bring you joy and to get rid of the items that do not.

It also gives you confidence to know more about what suits you, and helps you to make better decisions about what to buy in future. This should lead to fewer items hanging in your wardrobe unworn with the tags still on!

If you want to listen, I have saved the 5 minute clip from ‘Sunday Breakfast’ 06/09/2015 on my audioboom account. Please note, this works best on a desktop or laptop computer and may not work on mobile phones or tablets.

Collect moments not things

August 23, 2015

Father and son paddling in the sea

I was a terrible spendthrift until I turned 40. Now I aim to ‘collect moments not things’ and I’m much happier for it.

The photo above shows my husband and son paddling in the sea. I remember this as being a really lovely moment, worth more to me than any swanky handbag or fancy gadget.

As I grew up I was told that spending money on experiences, such as going to the cinema or eating out, was a waste of money because I ‘would have nothing to show for it’. But I have learned that buying things just for the sake of it does not bring happiness, it just means your house gets full of stuff you don’t really want or need.

For some time now, I have been buying less stuff and decluttering the stuff we already have. Items that we are not using could be used and enjoyed by other people. I’m never going to manage to be a proper minimalist, but I have already made progress on creating more space and reducing the amount of stuff in our home. This is especially important because our current house is smaller than our old house, and has much less storage space.

I’m a big fan of ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A Simple, Effective Way To Banish Clutter Forever’ by Marie Kondo. It has really helped me to get rid of items that do not bring me joy, and to make better use of my favourite things.

With limited money available, I would rather spend money on experiences than things. In particular, I don’t want to waste money on things that do not bring me joy!

I’ve worked to get my credit card bill under control by having a wishlist, instead of buying things as soon as I see them, and using cash wherever possible. We are aiming to to be mortgage free by 2020, by making regular over-payments to shorten the mortgage term.

This is also about trying to be a good role model for my son. I have talked to him about why I think having fun together is more important than having things, and why having less stuff means that there is more space to play. We still buy toys, particularly Lego, but we are more selective.

When it comes to expensive toys, like games consoles, I have explained that I think it is more fun to spend the same amount of money on a seaside holiday. This seems to have worked (so far!), because my son loves the seaside as much as I do.

So if you carry on reading this blog, you can expect to see more about moments and less about things.

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