The most life changing book I have ever read

About half a month ago my wife showed me a talk on google videos.  It was by Marie Kondo you can watch it here.  That talk was about her method of tidying up the house and how it can change your life. After watching her video I ordered her book The life-changing magic of tidying up. I strongly recommend reading it. It’s only around 250 pages and is very easy to read.

the life-changing magic of tidying up

Her method is simple;

First, decide on what your ideal lifestyle is. When she says this she means specific day to day items. For example I want to do morning exercises everyday. You then have to ask why repeatedly until you get to the very crux of your ideal. Basically why you think that would be an aspect of your ideal lifestyle. It can’t be vague. For example I want a glamorous lifestyle is too big picture. You’ll have to break it down into smaller bits.

Next, get all the clothes you own in the house, every single item and put it on the floor. The idea is that it stuns your brain to see just how much stuff you have. Pick up every item one by one once it’s on the floor and ask yourself if this sparks joy in your life. If it doesn’t have the spark of joy throw it out. If you want you can subcategorise this so that you’re dealing with only shirts, then only pants, etc. I just did it all at once.

You then do this same process for every category of item going in this order; clothes, books, documents, misc, memorabilia. For books she suggests don’t keep a book just because you haven’t read it. There’s a good chance that you only bought that book to teach you that it isn’t to your tastes. The decision for books is the same as the clothes, does it spark joy? If you have books that you need for school or work that don’t spark joy she says to talk to the book about why the book is important and why you need it until it does spark joy. Be careful though, don’t just talk all your belongings into being joyful for you. The decision is meant to come from your instinct not from your reasoning.  You can reason anything into usefulness. This will work against you though.

For documents she says you only need two categories; need to do now and need for life. The first one is documents you need to do right now. The second is documents you need for life such as birth certificates, diplomas and so on. Throw everything else away. If you really think you may need it but aren’t sure you can always scan it into your computer.

For memorabilia she stresses the importance of not holding onto the past. It’s not about whether the thing brought you joy. It’s if it brings you joy now. Treasure the memory and let things go. She says a lot on this topic.

Once you’ve finished deciding on what you want you then decide where things go. She stresses the importance of putting everything in the same place. Don’t scatter your possessions around the place. Have one place for books, one place for clothes, one place for electronics etc. This way you can keep track of what you have easily.

After all this you will have a house full of things you love and only things you love. This is a very powerful thing. My wife and I have been going through our belongings for the past three weeks, we have two kids so the process is a bit slower than it would be if you didn’t. So far we have thrown out around about 10 rubbish bags full of stuff as well as done five trips to the recycling shop. Over the weekend we did everything to do with the kitchen. Now our kitchen is ridiculously neat and clean. We threw out so many things that we didn’t even know we had. Please note though, this process isn’t about throwing things out. It’s about deciding what you want to keep in your life. We haven’t finished yet but already I am happier for it. I strongly recommend watching the video, reading the book and doing it immediately. Don’t worry this is a once only event which will inform you of what you value, who you want to be and what you want to do.

Think yourself better

I would never call myself a Buddhist due to the centuries of baggage accrued. Buddhism now is a far cry from what it’s origin much the way most religions go. That said the fundamental idea behind Buddhism appeals to me. That is that reality is shaped by your perception of it. That your thoughts change the reality around you. That if you can improve your thought processes you can improve your reality. This appeals to me. Forget all that Buddhist monk stuff. Forget the life of vegetarian chastity. That’s not what Buddhism is meant to be about. It’s meant to be about sitting down and thinking yourself to a better you.

For example, the other night I was thinking about the phrase I just want to …. A simple phrase people use regularly. Think about the meaning behind it though. Think about what you are thinking when you think that. I just want to …. implies that you are currently in a situation where you can’t do the thing you want. If you are doing something fun and you are thinking I just want to have fun. You won’t enjoy yourself no matter how crazily fun whatever you are doing is. So I decided to better my life that thought is now stricken from the records. You may wonder what this has to do with thinking yourself better. Language is our means to express our perspective on reality. The way you talk and write goes hand in hand with your thought process.

I’ll keep on thinking myself better, ensuring that any thought process that brings me misfortune is removed. The opposite is true to. Those thought processes that make you happier should be repeated. You shape your reality so shape it to your liking.

A question that’s bugged me for thirteen years

It may seem odd to you that a question would bug me for so long. Perhaps it’s not so much that the question bugged me but that my answer at the time was so terrible. Yes, this is more about regret that I didn’t answer properly. So this blog entry is about trying to give the answer I should have given. The question was given at our grade twelve valedictory camp. At least I think it was a valedictory camp. It could have just been a camp. The question was What can we do to improve school spirit? At the time the question was a little offensive to me. I gave some smart arse joke answer instead of a real answer. At the time it had annoyed me because it was asked by a P.E. teacher so I assumed he was asking why aren’t people into sports day and swimming day?

The thing of it is that looking back my reaction was valid. School spirit is a very vague term. How can you measure school spirit? How do you know when you’re school has it or not? I guess you could do a survey. Perhaps that’s what they should have done. Found out what the whole population thinks instead of just the grade twelves. Looking back, it’s also a very important question. Not in terms of how can we get people more interested in sports days and so on. That’s not school spirit. It’s a result of it. What is school spirit? It really comes down to knowing you are going to a good school and being appreciative of the fact. It’s kind of similar to national pride. There are two types of national pride. The type where your government tells you how good your country is and the kind where you experience how good your country is. My school was like the first kind. We were always being told how great the school was but since none of us had anything to compare it to it didn’t really mean anything. If you want to boost school spirit or school pride it’s all about the experience the student has. Maybe you can’t make everyone happy but if the majority is you will get high school spirit.

How much attention is too much?

We recently had our second child. Watching her and our first tells us that we made a couple of mistakes with our first child. Not major mistakes mind you. Just little ones. When our first was a little bubs we were incredibly attentive to her. We never let her cry out for particularly long. Always entertained her. Reflecting on it I’m starting to wonder how much attention is too much? When do you reach the point where you are just spoiling your child?

This winter holiday I spent a lot of time with my two daughters and noticed a few things. For one thing I noticed that when I am around my daughter wants my entire attention all the time. I don’t mind as my girl is a lot of fun to play with but it does make me think. Our early obsessive attentiveness to her needs have led to a few positives and negatives. We have a little girl who loves us dearly and loves a good laugh. Another bonus that I’m sure is derived from the way we treated her is that she is an excellent big sister. She gives our second one a lot of hugs and often wants to feed her or help us change her nappy. Since she is copying our behaviour this must reflect on how we treat her. The downside though is our little girl is very dependent on us. She isn’t good at playing by herself. When we are around she expects that same amount of attention we gave her when she was a baby. Due to this I am unable to give our second one much attention. Fortunately this seems to have had a very positive effect on our second little one. She plays on her own for an hour or two without grumbling and she doesn’t need many hugs. She definitely gets more mum time than dad time. The first is my little girl and the second is mummy’s little girl. In a strange way I feel like it’s a bit of a social experiment.

A baby is a blank slate

The thing that I have noticed most since having a child is that humans really are blank slates.  We have no instinct whatsoever.  This is so that we can adapt to any society that humanity makes.  We could be living in the worst imaginable society and we would adapt to it and even justify its existence to others.  That also means we could be living in the best possible society.  Society is what we make it.  It’s ridiculous that so much of our society is based on what has come before us.    That we do things because that is the way it’s always been done.  This is the worst excuse to do anything because it means we are doing it without thought or reason.  People even talk about human instinct as if it exists.  If we have an instinct it is to adapt to whatever society we are in.  That’s all.  Humans aren’t greedy we are born in a society that prizes greed so we become greedy.  Whatever we teach our children, whatever our society teaches the next generation is what society becomes.  With that in mind we can build a better society.

Expectations and Assumptions

What we expect to happen and what does happen can often conflict especially when dealing with other people.  We will often expect people to do or say certain things and then be annoyed or frustrated when those expectations aren’t met.  The problem lies not in our expectations but whether or not we have communicated those expectations.  If an expectation isn’t know then communication will break down.  We should never assume that what we expect of someone is known.  To draw on a classroom analogy it would be just like me yelling at a student for using a pencil without every specifying that I only wanted students to use pens.  That students reaction would just be confusion and disgruntlement.  Instead of acknowledging that they did the wrong thing they would challenge you for never saying that you expected that of them.  There are some things that we can assume people know without us saying.  If instead the student had not been doing the work and I yelled at them for that without ever specifying that I wanted them to do work in my class the student wouldn’t be confused about why they were in trouble and accept it.  Thus we need to understand what we expect and which expectations are commonly known and which ones aren’t.  Assumptions will just lead to miscommunication especially if we are assuming what other people know.

In the moment but out of the moment

Some people say you should live life in the moment.  It’s bad advice really because sometimes the moment sucks and if you are only in the moment then you can’t see any time when it isn’t sucking.  Of course when those people say live life in the moment they usually mean to find whatever happiness there is in each moment and not worry about the future or the past.  I am often living in the moment but sometimes the moment isn’t working out.  Sometimes the moment drags on for a week and I wonder when the next moment is coming.

All this made me realise something though.  Sometimes you get so caught up in the moment that it causes you more harm then any good.  It’s good to get that bigger picture every now and then if not all the time.  Being in the bigger picture is just as important as being in the moment.  Look at the big picture and see where your life is heading, plan out the path you want to get that will lead you to your goals and then jump into the moment of living and enjoying your life.  It’s important to be in the moment but out of the moment at the same time.