Apparently I’m making mid-month Head & Heart posts a thing! I find these difficult to begin but easy to complete, so it sits on my to-do list for a couple of weeks before getting anywhere. Anyway, here’s my month of April, or at least how it looks from mid-May.

“A monthly capture of my feelings and doings, in the raw.”

I’m grateful for

Positive feedback on Side Project magazine. Although I love that my friends are loyal customers, there’s something exciting about hearing words of encouragement and praise from people that none of us on the team know personally. It makes me feel like our efforts in promoting it have been working, and that the zine is good enough to move them to contact us or post about it in social media!

I’ve been thinking about

Minimalism and Slow Living. I’ve been feeling stressed out and run down over the past few months, as if I’m always rushing from one thing to the next without time to think in between, and yet still somehow always remaining a step behind. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to slow down, pare things back, and focus on the things that are most important.

A new look for ChiGarden. I tend to start feeling a bit lost with blogging every year or so, and then I know it’s time for a redesign or a rethink about the focus of this blog. For the most part it’s been mostly personal and largely unfocused, and though I definitely want to keep that personal perspective I’d like it to be a bit more cohesive. Something to work on behind the scenes for the next couple of months.

I’m excited for

The Year of Thirtieth Birthdays. This year most of my friends and I will be entering another decade, which means a whole lot of celebrating (and a lot of complaining about being old, which everyone older than us rolls their eyes at). My close group of girl friends are all clustered in May/June/July, so there will be much partying ahead.

I’ve been doing

Tidying up. Most of my weekends in April were taken up with a massive Konmari inspired clean out, with a good chunk of my possessions not making the cut. It’s a long and surprisingly emotional process, but it feels good.

The 100 Day Project. Okay, well I did 19 days and then sort of gave up! The idea was to do one thing each day following a certain theme (I chose 100 days of hand-lettered words and their meanings), the goal being to show up every day and make something. As with any habit, taking a couple of days off rolled into a week, then a few, then it felt like there wasn’t much point in continuing. I love the concept, but there are just too many other projects going on for me at the moment! You can see my first 19 submissions on my Instagram.

Watercolour painting. I’ve been trying to put some bits and pieces together for a future Side Project stationery line, and realising that my skills aren’t quite up to speed with my imagination. Thankfully watercolour is a forgiving medium and fun to mess around with even if the end result isn’t perfect. I don’t think I’ll be doing any hyper-realistic botanical illustrations anytime soon, but cute mushrooms and simple leafy patterns are becoming less difficult!

Reading list

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Yep I’m on that Konmari bandwagon with all the other people asking themselves if their possessions spark joy, and yes I do think it is life-changing. Read my review and lessons learned over here; my own experience with konmari coming up soon.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. This one felt a bit like konmari for your life rather than your things – questioning what is essential in a world that glorifies being busy. I like the idea that you literally cannot ‘have it all’ – life involves tradeoffs whether you recognise it or not, and the key is to take control of them rather than leaving it up to others.

In Praise of Slow: Challenging the Cult of Speed by Carl Honoré. Are you sensing a theme here? This book looks into the spread of the Slow movement, which has its roots in Slow Food but has spread to apply to everything from music to city planning. I don’t agree with everything, but it’s a fascinating to read about how others are bringing a bit more calm into their lives.


Join the fun by writing your own Head & Heart post for the month and submitting over on Helen’s blog at Lime Tree Bower.

You may have heard people raving online about how many bags they’ve thrown out, posessions that “spark joy”, or the quiet pleasure of folding a piece of clothing so it forms the perfect sized rectangle. These people are devotees of the Konmari Method, detailed in Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and I’ve now joined their number.

The basic premise is simple in theory, enough to be able to get the main gist from the many blog posts an articles about the book. The idea is to 1) tidy by category (not by room); 2) take out everything in the category; 3) handle each item individually and keep it only if it sparks joy; 4) discard everything else and only then organise the remainder.

What you don’t get without reading Kondo’s book is her incredible enthusiasm and earnest love for something that most of us (including me) hate doing: tidying up. The writing is repetitive, hyperbolic and almost evangelistic, but I think it’s precisely because of that you wind up trusting her even as she challenges habits you’ve held for decades without ever stopping to think about why. It’s like your friend is speaking to you and suddenly it all makes sense.

Don’t you think it is unnatural for us to possess things that don’t bring us joy or things that we don’t really need? I believe that owning only what we love and what we need is the most natural condition.

(“Hai, Kondo-sempai,” I would say, eyes shining like in a shoujo manga).

Yes, there’s a lot of bits in there that are distinctly Japanese and perhaps less applicable to a Western audience, such as the notion that inanimate objects have feelings. But regardless of whether or not you intend to greet your house upon returning from work, stroke the leaves of pot plants and put your bag into a cupboard after thanking it for its service that day, showing care and respect for your possessions is a good thing. It’s also vital in maintaining things once you’ve stepped out of the high turnover world of fast fashion, and only possible once you’ve culled down to items that you care about enough to look after.

Anyway, I’m currently about three quarters of the way through my initial discarding phase (will do another post as my One Thing for April, which looks like it might leak into May a little), and here are my top takeaways so far:

Visualise the destination

The first step is figuring out the lifestyle you want, in as much detail as possible. I have alphabetised Pinterest boards dedicated to this sort of thing, but in the end the number one priority for me? Having a house that minimises my dust allergies as much as possible. Secondary is minimalist chic, but to not lose a day to sneezing and mucus every fortnight is a big deal to me. All of a sudden it became clear that I need to minimise anything that gathers dust, and arrange things such that they are as easy to clean as possible.

Discard, then organise

There’s surprisingly little in the book about organisation methods, aside from Kondo’s suggestion most people just keep reorganising their non-joy-sparking possessions in order to fit in even more. Discarding before thinking about organisation strategies sounds logical and straightforward, but sometimes you really have to make yourself remember it. After discarding things, the job of organising is usually far simpler than it might have originally appeared.

You don’t have to keep every single thing anyone ever gave you

I am not really a sentimental person, and I don’t really like looking back at things unless it’s through the hazy rose-tinted glasses of my selective memory. But I’ve still kept pretty much every card, letter or present anyone has ever given me for the past 20-odd years, because I felt like it would be rude to throw them out. Having someone tell me that it’s okay to feel gratitude for something without keeping it forever felt like a huge relief. If you have a present that I’ve given you, please feel free to toss it (I’m rubbish at gifts anyway).

The true purpose of a present is to be received. Presents are not ‘things’ but a means for conveying someone’s feelings. When viewed from this perspective, you don’t need to feel guilty for throwing a gift away. Just thank it for the joy it gave you when you first received it.

Pull out everything (yes everything!)

It sounds logical to cast your eyes over a bookshelf/wardrobe/kitchen drawer and sort of mentally decide what does and doesn’t spark joy rather than taking it all out and making a mess, but Kondo specifically says that this method is WRONG. It doesn’t sound like it should make a difference, but I think it’s a scaled-back version of the Endowment Effect – sitting on your bookshelf, those books are really yours and it’s hard to let go because you give them greater value than they really have. But spread out on the floor and picked up one by one, you start to realise that actually that last Dan Brown book really sucked, you’re unlikely to ever cook anything from the book by that top fine dining chef, and you don’t care to learn enough Japanese to read that manga you bought there almost ten years ago. Actually it’s kind of like the Cheerleader Effect, where it looks attractive en masse but might only contain a few sparky gems, if any.

Question everything

Everyone has things that they do because they’ve just always done them – putting away and taking out clothes seasonally, keeping every bank statement and bill, storing lightbulbs and batteries in random drawers and cupboards, leaving a trail of hairpins all over the house (maybe that’s just me). Pulling everything out and reducing it right down brings these odd habits to light, and questions why they’re even necessary in the first place. Realising that there’s actually a better way is quite a relief!

Extreme minimalism is not (necessarily) the goal

There’s a lot of numbers thrown around in Konmari, but not much about how many things people actually kept after going through the process, no boasting about getting by with only x number of possessions. The aim is not an extreme degree of minimalism, unless that’s your specific goal. The process is inherently personal and emotional, so will probably vary wildly between people with no right or wrong answer.


I sound a little derisive in some of my descriptions, but I do actually believe that the Konmari method and tidying up can be life-changing. More on that to come!

As always, I’m terrible at getting my Head & Heart monthly post done in a timely manner! Now most of the way through April it’s a bit hard to cast my mind back to March, but I’ll give it a try…

“A monthly capture of my feelings and doings, in the raw.”

One Thing for March

My One Thing for March was going to be a home office makeover, but challenges early in the month made that feel a bit too ambitious. My goal wound up being to just keep swimming and make it through. Some months that’s enough of a goal, I think!

I’m grateful for

Alone time. I’ve long ago learned to (mostly) deal with my shyness and I do like meeting people and socialising – as long as I can have a good bit of breathing room on my own afterwards. I generally try to keep my weekend socialising to a maximum one thing per day, or just one for the whole weekend if I can get away with it. It sounds like a weird excuse to make to people but I’ve discovered how necessary that space is to me, and I’m grateful I’m able to make time for it.

I’ve been thinking about

How we put people into boxes. A pretty standard starting point in a conversation with a new person is “So, what do you do?” (the other one I get a lot is “Where are you from?”, “Yes you’re Australian, but where are you from?”). It make sense, an effort to categorise people and the way we tend to refer to acquaintances for those who can’t remember names well. But conversationally is it really the best option? If someone is really into what they do it’s easy to follow up with more questions, but if you don’t know enough about their profession to carry on the conversation or they seem to really hate their job then it’s a bit of a dead end. I also feel like more people I know are taking breaks from their career, changing course, have an unusual situation that’s difficult to explain or just really don’t feel like their job is a big part of their identity.

The past month I’ve had a few people tell me, separately, that they don’t like to ask “what do you do” and go with something more along the lines of “what are you passionate about?”, which sounds like it could be a pathway to much more interesting conversations! What do you think?

I’m excited for

A week off. I booked a whole week off of work in July (my birthday week!) without any plans. It feels a bit weird taking time off when it’s not for travelling somewhere and it’s difficult to not start thinking about what projects I could complete with a whole week free, but the point was more to have some time to relax, think and not be rushing around. I just read about Bill Gates taking a week off twice a year for his “Think Week”, so I feel a bit more justified, although I don’t think I’ll be taking a helicopter to a remote cottage and blocking all calls.

What I’ve been doing

In March I was mostly just madly trying to get Issue 2 of Side Project completed and into stockists. The hard work certainly paid off and now it’s full steam ahead with the next one!

I’ve been reading

The Life-changing Art of Tidying Up,(aka that konmari method book) by Marie Kondo. I intend to write a proper review on this one – the book itself reads oddly, but I did actually find it rather life changing!

I gave up on On the Road – I can wade through a classic if I feel like I’m getting something out of it, but the characters and their escapades just don’t hold enough interest for me in this case. Life is too short, and my to-read list is too long.

More from me elsewhere

Side Project – Issue 2 is out (and sold out)! I didn’t write anything for this one, but tried my hand at editing, proof-reading and some illustrations.

Interview on Duke St House Blog – the lovely Amy interviewed me about Side Project and what goes on behind the scenes!


 

Join the fun by writing your own Head & Heart post for the month and submitting over on Helen’s blog at Lime Tree Bower.

Photo of African penguins at Burns Beach, South Africa. Which I will finish posting about eventually!

After our safari tour in Kruger Park we were driven back to Johannesburg (Jo’burg), then flew down to Port Elizabeth (PE) on the south east coast of South Africa to begin our drive along part of the famous Garden Route.

As it turned out locals tourists alike had the same idea – every hotel was full to the brim (thankfully we had booked a few days earlier). Beaches were teeming with people and the smoke of portable braai, which is taken far more seriously than an Australian barbecue. We visited the beaches along Jeffery’s Bay (JBay), St Francis Bay and Plettenburg Bay (Plett – are you sensing a trend here?) and ate oysters in Knysna.

We saw the Big Tree and crossed the huge suspension bridge in Tsitsikama National Park, and visited the worlds largest free flight bird aviary, nerdily identifying spotted birds in the guide book. We walked through forests in George, clambered through beautiful formations in the Cango Caves and dined on ostrich, kudu and springbok at the foot of a mountain Swellendam.

The landscapes in this part of South Africa varied greatly from beautiful beaches to native forests to dry shrub areas that reminded me of Australia. But coming from such a flat place myself, I’ll always be fascinated by hills and mountains.

We ended up having to rush this part of our trip in 4 days to make it to Cape Town in time; it’s really a stunning part of the world that deserves a lot more time to do properly. Just try not to do it around the new year to avoid the crowd!

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Well February flew by – unsurprising I suppose, considering it’s such a short month. Still have to make time to pause and reflect on how things are going for Head & Heart :)

“A monthly capture of my feelings and doings, in the raw.”

One Thing for February

Yep, I’m just going to go ahead and chuck my own extra category into my Head & Heart posts this year. As mentioned earlier, this year I’m setting myself One Thing as a goal for each month as my version of resolutions. In February The Boy and I went without meat, which was in fact not as difficult as we had thought. Hot weather lends itself well to simple salads and cold vegetable quiche. Legumes, eggs, cheese and nuts were our friends; mushrooms and eggplants stood in for meat often. I missed meat in dishes I’m used to it being featured in, and The Boy got sick of salad, but we made it through the month without any slip-ups. I think I expected to feel different (carnivorous friends warned I would get tired and slow; vegetarian friends said they felt lighter and more energetic), but I didn’t notice it. We’ve gone back to eating meat in March, but I’m much more mindful of eating less meat, more vegetables and overall much more simply.

I’m grateful for

The great response we’ve had to Issue 1 of Side Project, which is now sold out! We even had some wonderful readers write great testimonials for us, which I am SO grateful for. I really hope we can maintain the enthusiasm for Issue 2!

Owning our own place – there’s been some drilling of holes and upgrading of bathrooms going on lately, and that’s something you just can’t do in a rental property.

I’ve been thinking about

The moments in between. Waiting for the bus, in line at a shop, dentist waiting rooms, making a cup of tea. I used to try to fill those moments with things that give me a false sense of productivity – checking social media, trying to quickly read an email, jotting things down in to-do list apps. But I think that not trying to fill the gaps can give the mind time to wander and be creative, which is probably more valuable than scrolling through Twitter.

More exciting ways to cook vegetarian meals. I’m not sticking with a completely meat free diet, but there are benefits to not eating meat every day which I’d like to keep up. After a month I’m kind of stuck for ideas for vegetarian meals that aren’t too repetitive – any suggestions?

I’m excited for

Emergence Creative Festival, which I will be at by the time this post goes live! I’ve been to conferences relating to tech or to food, but this promises to be more of an ‘un-conference’ spanning many creative disciplines and mixing in some of South-West WA’s awesome food and wine. I really want to look beyond my own industry for inspiration going forward, and this looks like just the place to kick things off. Yay for my job!

Messing around with film photography. It’s expensive, time-consuming and you never really know how things are going to turn out until it’s too late, but there’s definitely something in film that you just can’t get with filters. I’m bringing my old Ricoh along to Emergence and we’ll see how we get along.

What I’ve been doing

Watercolour painting. Okay, just a little bit of dabbling at this point, but it’s so fun! To me it feels a much freer and casual medium than acrylics or oils, which I’ve never gotten the hang of, but still more committal and textural than digital art.

watercolour

Learning more about magazines, writing and social media at Perth Writers Festival. The three of us in the Side Project team attended a day of talks all about magazines, with speakers from some of my favourites – Kinfolk, Dumbo Feather, Uppercase, Alphabet Family Journal and Smith Journal. It was so cool to hear about others’ experiences starting a publication and making it sustainable.

I’ve been reading

Still struggling through On The Road – why do I do this to myself?

Also a lot of proof-reading and editing Side Project Issue 2, which is much more fun!

I’ve been spending my money on

We had a bit of a splurge on a Fitbit Aria smart scale, after our cheapo Target one kept giving vastly different results each time you stepped off and on (3kg can do a lot to a girl’s self esteem okay?). I don’t think it’s going to magically help me lose weight, but it is consistent in its measurements and syncs via wifi!

More from me elsewhere

Some free printable love cards featuring flamingos, and a write up about the brush lettering workshop I ran up on the Side Project blog.

My experience in a letterpress class over on my lettering and calligraphy blog, teresawatts.com.

A couple new public transport haikus up lately.


Please do check out the main Head & Heart list on helario.us, and join in the fun if you’re in the mood for sharing!