A big ‘to-do’ about nothing.


I have always been a big advocate of the ‘to-do’ list. I even kept a book of all my school holiday ‘to-do’ lists for many years. Anything not completed would carry over to the next school holidays. Usually these would be projects that required a bit more time; sewing or letter writing or sometimes even just reading all the free newspapers I was receiving through school.

During stressful times I would write ‘to-do’ lists to keep focus or stop myself from forgetting important things. Sometimes it helped me order things in my brain, or give priority to those tasks that needed it while not forgetting those that were important but not time bound.

I have been known often to ‘cheat’ on my ‘to-do’ lists and add things I’ve just completed in order to cross them off. There is that real sense of accomplishment when finishing something on a ‘to-do’ list. in fact, according to this guy there is actually a dopamine release when crossing an item off the list. This is, of course, juxtaposed with the crippling sense of defeat we feel when we fail to cross anything off the list that day at all.

When I was briefly unemployed in my early 20s I wrote weekly lists to give myself the sense of accomplishment I’d always felt when working or studying. I felt this gave me focus and stopped me from the inevitable unemployment blues. I would still highly recommend this as a strategy for bringing focus when your life feels completely unfocused.

More recently I have noticed a flaw in the ‘to-do’ list scheme. I was writing a school holiday ‘to-do’ list, which I usually found to be a really fun task to start the holidays. I had begun to notice, however, that by the end of the holidays I was feeling annoyed at myself. I hadn’t crossed off enough things. There were dozens of things I should have and could have completed that I didn’t. The ‘to-do’ list always contained fun things as well as practical things and necessary things, but it didn’t ever include things like “stay in your PJs all day” or “read your book in the sunshine” or “hang out with BP and Little Fearse in the backyard”. The ‘to-do’ list didn’t fit with our new slow and simple life.

For this reason I have abandoned the holiday ‘to-do’ list. I’ll still make a ‘to-do’ list if I have a particularly busy week, or have a lot of appointments and things that need doing. I still make ridiculously long and absurd ‘to-do’ lists for BP who seems to like the challenge. I still think they have a purpose, but no longer will I schedule tasks into my leisure time. There’s nothing simple about that.

Do you ‘to-do’? What do you love or despise about lists?

Mama xoxo

How to create a nude inbox.

A month or so ago I started reading into the idea of digital clutter. It’s not an area that I had particularly noticed to be an issue, until I started reading. I realised that my personal email inbox really did cause me some anxiety. I felt a little weighed down by all those random emails every time I logged in. In some ways they were becoming as burdensome as my physical filing inbox and my storage box full of sentimental letters and cards.

This article really helped me to prioritise my digital stuff, although the process is definitely ongoing. What I am most proud of is my inbox, which has stayed empty now for a month and a half. It has never looked like this before. I was even able to delete whole folders of old emails, mostly without reading a thing. My 2004 book club folder? Scratched. That friend I haven’t spoken to in 10 years? Deleted. University email folder? Gone!

nude inbox

It was really satisfying to see that junk disappear and encouraged me to realise how much digital stuff matters when it is cluttering up my life. I check my email every day. Every day I was confronted with pages and pages of irrelevant messages. Now I’m not. I decide what to do with those emails immediately.

The folders that are used most regularly are ‘Admin’ and ‘Tax’. Any receipts that come through go straight into the Tax folder. I generally rejig my tax spread sheet each year in a two hour session. This can only be done because I keep my paperwork handy. I don’t want to spend days gathering my tax information. A two hour session saves me a lot of anxiety. The Tax folder is one of my key tools for keeping taxation a stress free task. The Admin folder takes anything that I may need to access again for reference – mobile phone bills, Paypal payments, bank / super / frequent flyer etc statements. This should be periodically emptied, also.

Other handy folders are:

  • ‘Old friends’, which takes those random emails that come through that you’re not ready to part with, but don’t want to create a whole folder for.
  • ‘Work related’, which stores anything that comes in and needs to be kept for work.
  • ‘Brothers’ which contains anything at all from my brothers and their partners.
  • ‘Family History’ which stores any handy information for genealogy.

I try to avoid having too many individual folders for separate people. Grouping them works well for me –that’s an individual thing. The family history folder is relevant because that’s a hobby of mine. Everyone’s needs when it comes to email folders will be different, but I can’t recommend having some kind of email filing system highly enough.

The key to these systems, as with any form of decluttering, is doing it now. Read the email, file it. Don’t sit on it, don’t wait to decide where it goes. The article above recommends having a ‘to do’ email folder if you need to action something from a message but don’t have time to do it right now. Just get that message out of your inbox.

I also recommend exploring the idea of filtering your emails, if you haven’t already. I receive at least one email a day from my local Freecycle group. These go straight into a dedicated folder (and are usually deleted straight after reading). Ditto for any emails from Ebay. They are also deleted as soon as a sale is finalised and feedback is given / received.

There is something empowering about having at least this small part of my life organised and under control. It gives me hope for other areas of my life, like my actual filing.

Now, if only I was able to apply this same system to my professional inbox. Eeep.

Mama xo

Downsizing The Man with “Nothing”

Mama Fearse has been “de-cluttering” the Fearse Cave recently and has been prompting me to part with anything that I don’t really need. I’m all for this as we have a house that bursts at the seams with “stuff” due to lack of space for said “stuff”`, So I had a look around the house, parted with a few stubbie holders that had been gathering dust since the winter of 2005 and then realised I don’t really HAVE any stuff.

My worldly possessions basically consist of a television, an extensive vinyl, CD and cassette tape collection, some audio equipment, a collection of gaming consoles and a pile of sneakers that has been shrinking rapidly due to my favourite brand essentially throwing quality control out the window in recent years.  These are things that I can’t or more to the point wont “downsize”.

I have too many T-Shirts, I’ll admit it, somewhere in the range of 60 to half a billion of them sit folded, scrunched and stuffed in my cupboards, with fairly persistent poking Mumma Fearse has managed to get me to part with fistfuls of these in recent times and send them off to the Op-Shop. I’m happy to do this because they get repurposed and truth be told I really only wear the same 6 or 7 T-Shirts in rotation depending on the cleanliness or ability to locate them at any given time. I could get rid of some more I guess but it is only going to marginally de-clutter the clutterfest that is my cupboards until next Christmas when the T-Shirt Tsunami rolls back into the Fearse Cave.

So how do you de-clutter your life when you have “nothing” to part with?

I’m trying to create less waste, eg. No plastic bags from the stores, repurposing takeaway coffee cups after use (great for freezing soup/stock in BTW), taking a water bottle with me to basketball instead of buying sports drinks at the stadium, just generally trying to consume less, as is the point of BNN.

The question remains though; how do make zero less than zero?

I have always been a relatively messy person. I find order in chaos. If you put something like my wallet in a place of prominence where it is plain to see, I can’t find it. If it’s in the back pocket of the shorts that I wore two days ago that’s under a pile of clothes and children’s toys, I’ll find it in a nanosecond. Same goes for my office/studio, there is stuff everywhere. The vinyl is not in any particular order, but I know where every LP is, I have packing boxes full of notebooks of lyrics that are not organised in any type of way but If I need to find a specific song or verse, I can find it with relative ease. However my chaotic system of “organisation” does tend to have things spread/strewn about a room in a rather “just been robbed” aesthetic.

I figure seeing as though I have nothing to part with physically, perhaps I can part with the chaos and divide the small number of things I have into smaller organised fractions in order to lessen the clutter and space that my few possessions currently occupy. It’s worth a shot. I’ll post some before and after shots later on once I have dug a trench to the centre of my little universe and start downsizing outwards.

Wish me luck