As I write this it’s late Sunday morning. It’s one of those non-descript winter days. Overcast, grey and cold. The boy is in the shed pottering about. The dogs are in there with him, lying beside the fire. I’ve just had a hot shower to warm me up, after taking them for a long walk this morning. There’s a chicken cooking in the oven, and Meg is lying beside the fire in the lounge keeping me company.
It’s 11.30am and I’ve realised I have the rest of the day to do whatever I please. The house is clean and tidy. Our breakfasts and lunches are sorted for the week ahead. The washing is all done and put away. I have a feature story waiting to be edited for my role with Creative Countryside. But it’s not due for a couple of weeks.
The best thing of all though, is that my mind isn’t full of clutter. And this has been the biggest benefit of slowing my life down, and living a life less frantic.
A year ago things were different.
A year ago my monkey mind was my constant companion. While it drove me nuts, I thought it was normal. Part of my personality and who I was. I'd tried many mindfulness and meditation practices. But nothing seemed to work. My mind was always full of chatter.
There was always a long list of things to do running through my head. I was constantly thinking about what I needed to do next, and then after that, and then after that. And it wasn’t because I was disorganised. We have a running joke in our house that I can get more done before 8am than most people get done in a day! It was simply that I had too much on my plate. And because of that I had no white space in my days. And no white space in my mind.
A year ago if, on a Sunday morning at 11.30am, my fiancé suggested we go out for lunch I would immediately feel anxious. My mind would go into overdrive. I’d start panicking about everything that still needed to be done that day. Of course I would go. But I didn’t make for very good company as I couldn’t relax.
That’s how I knew something needed to change. Because I wanted space to be spontaneous. And I wanted space to be a better fiancé.
So I started to take things off my plate, little by little. And as I decluttered my life, I began to realise the biggest payoff was that I was also decluttering my mind. With less things to do, there was less for my mind to think about.
As things started to slow down I began experimenting with my routines and rituals. To try and decrease my mind clutter even more.
Because there is this thing called decision fatigue. It’s been well researched and talked about. Apparently there are only so many decisions our brains can make in a day. And by 2pm most of that decision making power has been drained. Particularly if you use up a lot of it at work, like I do. So the less decisions one has to make in the day, the better.
There are now very few decisions I have to make outside of work. It might sound dull, but I know exactly when and where everything fits into my week.
I know that on a Tuesday morning I stop at the petrol station to fill up the car. I know that on a Wednesday afternoon I go grocery shopping after work. I only shop once as all the meals are planned. There’s no getting home on a Thursday night and wondering what to have for dinner. I know what time I'm going to walk the dogs and how far I can go in the time I have. Most of my days are the same. As are most of my weeks. But it means I don't have to think about any of it.
This has created so much space. The space in my days has allowed me to do more of what I enjoy, as well as be more spontaneous. But it's the space in my mind that has been the most life-changing.
While I still have days where my mind has a bunch of drunken monkeys chattering away in it, they are now rare. Most days my mind is clear, focused and calm.
And that is exactly how I like it. It’s what living a quiet life is actually all about.