Reclaim your time and space

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 April, 2012, 12:00am


Parkinson's Law states that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. Likewise, clutter expands to fill the space available for its existence.

And so do meaningless, time-wasting, valueless activities. My ideal financial status will always be beyond my reach. Every now and then, I throw up my hands in despair at the fact that there is just never enough time or space - or money - to create more of the time and space that I think I need before I have the life I really want.

I am tired of feeling like a victim of my circumstances. I have always been a fan of cliches such as 'less is more', 'waste not, want not', 'plan your work and work your plan', and 'a place for everything, and everything it its place'.

This year is the time to delay no more. We all have the same allotment of 24 hours in a day, and this is reason enough to opt for quality over quantity.

Life is too short to waste energy trembling in the face of the to-do list: battling the paper tiger, crying over expired food at the back of the fridge or searching for something to wear in a wardrobe that is bursting at the hinges.

There are too many things I would rather be doing, fun stuff like painting, writing, playing with my children and reading for pleasure.

These desires are different for everyone, but it is a common story we hear too often: simple pleasures being sacrificed on the altar of busyness. I am determined to live intentionally, not so I can squeeze even more in, but so that I can really enjoy what I have today instead of believing the myth that happiness will come only after achieving X, Y and Z.

In order to take the stress out of streamlining my life, I am making some little changes that are making a big difference in my life: they are all about setting limits on things. First, a reality check: are my expectations reasonable?

It is surprisingly easy to swing between extremes in any area of life. For example, I've been fat and lazy all winter, so now I'm going vegan and training for marathons. Or, I've been neglecting my creative self, so I am going to quit my job and become a starving artist.

Moderation takes discipline and is usually more successful at standing the test of time. Rather than recklessly throwing myself at my ideals, I am going to take it slowly. Balance is my friend.

Nutrition: I can't grow my own vegetables and cook all my daily meals from scratch, but I can try to use as many fresh, locally grown foods as possible. Home delivery veggie boxes are available in Hong Kong and are a great way to ensure a good amount of the healthy stuff is eaten every single week.

Exercise: before I had children, I enjoyed two-hour workouts at the gym six days a week. This is not an option now, but most days, I can fit a quick workout in, being mindful not to spend too long chatting to friends or resting between sets. I try to walk instead of taking the bus and take the stairs instead of the lift.

Television and internet: I'm not ready to rid television from my life completely, but I have stopped channel surfing and tend to switch off the box after watching whatever show I turned it on for.

I have turned off the push notifications on my phone so that mail only comes in when I say it can. I use the Read It Later app on my iPad so I don't pander to every online article or site that pops up throughout the day.

Paper: I don't like my scanner enough to go 100 per cent paperless, but I can sift out the junk mail downstairs at the mailbox to prevent it coming through my door at all. My rule is to touch a piece of paper only once, and it has only three options: the bin, filing cabinet or my purse (to take to the post box or wherever else it needs to go).

Clutter: excess is ugly - figuratively and literally. Clutter creates and perpetuates stress in a way that is sometimes only noticeable by its absence after a big spring clean.

As much as I struggle to admit it, I don't actually need 28 pairs of shoes. I don't need six months of groceries stocked in my kitchen at all times.

My daughter does not need to own every Disney princess doll.

Rather than worrying about the possibility of regretting getting rid of something, I am focusing on the joy of giving excess things to people who do need them - and taking pleasure in the empty space they leave behind once they are gone.