The week between Christmas and New Year is traditionally a great time to reflect on what we have achieved in the past twelve months and to set our goals for the upcoming year. 2017 was a Universal 1 year, the beginning of a new cycle, when we plant the seeds for the next ten years. Twelve months ago, I didn’t even know what numerology was, and it was a yoga teacher at my favourite wellness retreat, GAIA, who sparked my interest by asking the simple question if we believed in numerology. I did some research and was fascinated by what I found.

After a life-changing Kahuna massage on the 31 December 2016, I was propelled on a journey of exploration and self-discovery which resulted in the conscious decision to end my marriage after living with my husband for 23 years.

I embarked on a journey to simplify my life and signed up for the Simple Year 2017 online programme, which had landed in my inbox early January. The programme promised a new topic each month, such as clutter, food, money, relationships, and busyness, presented by a specialist in this area. When I read through the description on the website, I listened to my body and signed up on the same day.

This post is a summary of some of the topics that stood out for me and of some of the areas I initiated change in my life.

January: De-cluttering

The major goal for the first month of the year, where we would tackle the clutter in our life, was “to learn to reconnect with what’s truly important in life so we can identify clutter and let go.”

I read the material on the website and decided to de-clutter part of our garage, which hosted my studio. Over the years, I had amassed lots of acrylic paintings on canvasses, notebooks and visual diaries from design school, several presentation folders with my assignments on foam core board, A4 folders with archived brochures from suppliers of colours, finishes and furniture, craft material, and props, which I had used for styling jobs or for decorating at shows and events. There was a lot of stuff! I was reluctant to throw out the supplier archive, as a lot of my time had gone into building and expanding it.

However, after a rollercoaster of ups and downs in my business last year, I had made the decision to focus on writing and let go of the interior design side of things apart from the tips and resources around downsizing, which were the core of my book website.

A Simple Year 2017 came at the right time and gave me the permission to let go of the physical objects that kept me attached to the past and prevented me from moving forward. I booked a Council cleanup, and a few weeks later the pile of stuff was gone. I instantly felt better.

February: Busyness

In February, the motto was slowing down in our crazy world of busyness. I had come to a point where I could not hear it anymore. No matter whom you met, when and where, everyone was busy. It seemed to be fashionable to ‘be busy’. I tried to ban this word from my vocabulary and noticed in my daily conversations how challenging it was not to say it. In the next weeks, I made a mental note how often people said that they were busy. It occurred to me that people just said it because this was what everyone expected. The other person would nod in agreement, and the superficial small talk would continue. No one was actually interested what the other person was doing and what they were passionate about. I was determined to ban the word busy from my vocabulary for once and all.

The material on the website included a list of nine articles about how to ban busyness from your life. I especially liked the ones about the art of lingering, of doing nothing. The author encouraged the reader to allocate time to wander unknown paths and, at the same time, to wonder and observe the world in awe. I could very much relate to these strategies, as I had spent hours and hours sitting on our deck trying to make sense of what was happening in my life after my spiritual experience at GAIA.

One of the homework tasks was to create a slow space somewhere in our home. By definition of the programme, a slow space is free of screens, uncluttered and decorated with things that inspire us and make us happy. I did not have to create this space, as I already had my slow space: our bedroom. Apart from my time as a student, I never had a TV in my bedroom, and we kept this rule in our family home, much to the protest of my teenage son. However, in this matter, I kept steadfastly.

The next homework task was to find a suitable morning routine to start the day. Similar to my evening routine, I had developed a morning routine over the past years. I used to get up at 5am and spend the first hour of the morning writing my memoir or working on other projects before everyone else was up and got ready for work and school. I cherished the peace in the house and the stillness of the early morning hours. As I was always an early riser, I found that my most productive time was in the mornings. Over the year, I changed this routine and started going to yoga at 6 am most mornings to practise mindfulness and meditation.

March: Travel

The March theme was Travel. The goal for this months’ activities was to discover your passions, recalibrating your life to focus on your passions and reducing the unimportant at the same time, packing (for travel or life) and eventually becoming more focused because of less distractions.

The content was quite practical, for example, we were encouraged to write a packing list for an upcoming trip. This suited me perfectly, as we had booked a holiday at the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. I followed the guidelines and put together my new packing list according to the following structure:

Core items: things that are foundational to my happiness and ability to function wherever I end up.

Secondary Items: Items that are important in the moment, but may not always be so.

Tertiary Items: Things that might be useful when considering outside variables.

What if’s: The last category and the least important (you might as well leave them at home).

Motivated by my new packing list, I further de-cluttered my wardrobe and packed a big pile of pieces for our local charity. I noticed that suddenly many items I had clung to for many years had lost their importance and meaning to me. It didn’t matter if I owned them or not. It felt liberating to give them away, to let them go. This exercise made me also aware what I was missing in my wardrobe, a classic white shirt, for example. I am a Summer Personality in Colour Psychology and therefore love classic pieces that stand the test of time. A while ago, I had sorted out my white shirts, which I had owned for ages, and not yet bought a new one. I made a mental note to fill this gap with an essential wardrobe piece. Focussing on your essentials when packing for travel is a great way to avoid too much stuff you never wear during your holidays.

April: Cooking

I never liked cooking very much. It was a chore that loomed at the end of every day, and I only dragged myself into the kitchen because the boys needed a proper meal at least once a day.

When the April topic of the Simple Year programme hit my inbox, I opened it reluctantly and logged in to the website. As usual, I found a list of links for further reading plus a short video demonstrating how the presenter had arranged her pantry.

Similar to the previous months, de-cluttering played a major role in the cooking session. One of the tasks was to tidy up your pantry and stock it with those ingredients that would help you create a couple of quick meals if needed, for example, if you have changes in your schedule and can’t stick to your initial cooking plans.

I thought that this was a helpful suggestion and realised that I had implemented it already when I scanned my pantry with her tip in mind. I had done a major pantry makeover back in 2009 after a naturopath had analysed my eating habits and found them to be the reason for my ongoing fatigue during the day. A radical pantry overhaul reduced its contents considerably, and I now only stock ingredients, which I use on a regular basis plus selected baking ingredients I use from time to time. However, this initial pantry makeover had set me on a path of making pantry de-cluttering a regular habit. Every few months, I go through all my products and throw stuff out that is past the use-by-date or was never used after I bought it.

Once I had read all the material I decided to print out the cookbook, just in case. I knew I would need to make a conscious effort to get started with cooking other recipes than the ones I repeated on a weekly basis based on what the boys liked. Maybe it was time for a change.

This change arrived on my doorstep a couple of days later, in perfect synchronicity and universal guidance. A young girl introduced herself as a member of the Hello Fresh family and offered me an introductory discount for two weeks of 20 family meals delivered in a Fresh Box once a week. The meals were quick and easy to prepare and cook, and I wouldn’t get it any cheaper. I reluctantly listened to her explanations feeling something in my gut resisting this new approach of meal organisation and preparation. However, she was adamant and persistent – qualities which I appreciate and own myself – and I promised her to give it go for a couple of weeks starting Easter Monday after our return from the holidays.

We used Hello Fresh until November and only canceled it, as I decided to further change my diet and eliminate dairy and gluten. What Hello Fresh has taught me, though, is how to create interesting meals with fresh ingredients, and I kept my favourite recipes.

 

July: Money

The fear of not having enough money to support my sons and myself in the future and to sustain my desired lifestyle kept emerging on a regular basis this year.

When the topic Money and Mindful Budgeting popped up in my inbox in July, I was intrigued by the synchronicity of events. I had been working with my coach on letting go of my money beliefs, which have been standing in my way for a long time. In the past, I never really faced them, as I relied on my husband’s income as my safety net.

Over the past nine years since we arrived in Australia, I had been maneuvering myself into a financial dependence from my husband to the point where I kept suppressing my emotions because of the fear of not being able to support myself alone. As I had now taken responsibility for my life, I was aware that my future financial situation would be challenging and that money played an important part on my journey.

I had already started working on my personal budget and listing every expense in our household into an excel sheet. With the material of the Simple Year programme came a document called The Mindful Budgeting Programme. It encouraged me “to stop making impulse purchases, start making mindful decisions and move you in the direction you want your financial life to be going.” This was exactly what I needed at the time. The author suggested printing out the following eight templates at the beginning of each month.

  • 5 x weekly spending sheets
  • 1 x monthly budget template
  • 1 x monthly check-in sheet
  • 1 x blank monthly calendar template

The weekly spending sheets were a great indicator of how much money I spent and for what I spent it. Every day, I documented what I had spent, no matter how small the amount. I also colour coded my spendings to see the proportions between necessary expenses for myself, my sons, and the ’nice to haves’. Once I started listing every takeaway coffee, lunch, purchase at the supermarket, post office, local bookshop or newsagent, I noticed how much I spent without thinking about it. It required some discipline and keeping track of receipts during the day, but I found this a very valuable exercise.

The other interesting by-product was the fact that the mere thought of having to write the expense in a worksheet at the end of the day prompted me to think twice if I really needed what I was about to buy.

At the end of the week, I answered the following questions:

  1. What was the best money you spent that week?
  2. What have you been proud of?
  3. What is my goal for next week?

The other helpful worksheet was called Align Your Budget, which the programme suggested to fill out every three months. The aim was to adjust your budget in a way that it helps you achieve your goals. Step one focussed on your top priorities at the time you filled out the sheet. This was not about financial goals but more about anything that I wanted to do, achieve, or places I planned to visit. The author suggested setting the timer on two minutes and write down what comes to your mind in this limited timeframe.

Then, I prioritised my top 5 financial goals that would help me achieve my priorities. In the next step, I revisited me weekly spending sheets and/or bank accounts to see how much money I had allocated to each of your goals. This was an area I needed to improve on, as I had never allocated anything to a private account, as I simply did not have my own after moving to Australia.

The last step on this sheet was about finding creative ways to achieve my goals quicker. It prompted me to think about where I could adjust spendings, stop buying something altogether, or maybe sell some of my belonging.

Finally, the programme suggested thinking about my financial goals every time I was about to make a purchase or swipe my credit card. My plan was to go through this worksheet every quarter and see if my goals had changed. This would allow me to adjust my budget accordingly.

I was determined to follow through with the weekly spending sheets until the end of the year and align my budget again in October. I liked the feeling of having control over my finances something I had been neglecting in the past.

September: Relationships

When I started reading the material of the September topic, I remembered a book that I had read in 2014, Minimalism - Living a meaningful life by Joshua Fields-Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, aka The Minimalists.

I revisited some of the chapters and pulled out an old notebook where I had written down some exercises to evaluate my current relationships and specifying what kind of relationships I wanted in the future. I even remembered how I had felt at the time that the relationship with my husband had become more and more unfulfilled and dissatisfying. However, three years back, I was not courageous enough to make a decision and live my truth.

Similarly to the vision board I had created for my business, the Minimalists suggest painting a vision of your ideal relationships by answering the following questions:

  • What do you really want?
  • What must not occur within the relationship?
  • Who do you need to become to attract this kind of relationship?

Reflecting on my experience with these exercises, I became aware that it had taken me three years to finally step out of my comfort zone into the unknown. But I felt deep within me that it was the right decision, and throughout the year, I had had first glimpses of what new relationships outside my marriage can look like. Since the beginning of the year, the Universe had introduced new people into my life, people, who I instantly ‘clicked’ with and who made me feel good.

I felt like my energy tank was filling up every time I came in contact with one of these new people in my life. In hindsight, I noticed that they all have one thing in common: they build relationships from a place of trust, kindness, and compassion. I also liked the idea of having breadth of close relationships with people who are important to me rather than just focusing on a very deep relationship with one person.

As the Simple Year programme emphasised, “Research has found that we need close, strong relationships to lead healthy and happy lives. Relationships allow us to feel cared for and understood, and they offer validation, security, and can be a source of support during difficult times."

 

October: Healthy Eating

At the Arbonne Trainings Conference in September, I had decided to do our lifestyle programme 30 Days to Healthy Living, which is a holistic approach to conscious living including nutrition, exercise, and mindfulness. To detox and cleanse the body, I eliminated dairy, gluten, alcohol, coffee, soy, and corn for 30 days. My main goal was to experience how I would feel without these inflammatory foods.

As if the Universe supported my efforts in cleaner eating, the Simple Year programme featured the topic ‘Food’ in October. I opened the documents and smiled when I read about principles for healthy eating, why it is important to establish healthy eating habits, how to develop these habits, examples of healthy food choices, and recipes to get started. The Simple Year programme described and confirmed what I had set out to do for the month. Previously, I would have still thought that this was a coincidence; however, after all that had happened to me in 2017, I believed it was Divine Order.

As the situation at home became more and more emotionally demanding, I knew that I wanted to support my body with healthy, easy-to-digest foods. Interestingly, I felt much lighter and less hungry than before. My body seemed to digest what I offered him much easier and quicker. I hadn’t drunk alcohol for the past eight weeks since I had chopped off part of my thumb while cooking dinner. Although, at some occasions, I would have liked a glass of bubbles, I refrained from it as long as I was on the programme. When the end of the month came closer, I decided to consume alcohol on special occasions only in the future.

December: Gratitude

The last month focused on gratitude, one of my top values, and I have been practicing gratitude on a daily basis for a few years.

I am especially grateful for some of my best friends who supported me in 2017 and all the new people in my life who the Universe sent my way this year, including my Kahuna bodyworker, my coach, my Arbonne upline, and my lawyer. All of them approached me from a place of trust, kindness, and compassion, a place where I want to hang out more often in the future.

How has your year been? What have you simplified? What are you grateful for?

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