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I haven’t written any posts for quite some time now. Things have been hectic recently, both at work and in private life. I do very much enjoy blogging, but I need the time and peace to write.

I love learning and used to really enjoy taking on new projects. Some years ago I really hit the wall – it was just too much and I was forced to slow down. My body and mind said no. The most important lesson I learned from this, was to prioritise and ask myself why I really do certain things. It made me calm down and not force myself to do what everyone else seemingly does, at the cost of my own health. 

Aircraft workers on lunch break 1942

Photo source: Franklin D. Roosevelt Library & Museum

Of course I don’t mean stop doing everything. Believe me, I’m in safe distance from turning into a couch potato. I don’t think that anyone takes harm from forcing themselves out of bed and off to work some occasional Friday mornings when you feel extra tired. As lovely as a few more hours of sleep and a long weekend might sound. What worries me, is when you are in an environment where you feel like you constantly have to achieve. For many this is at work, but it could be a social setting – think of the housewife with her perfect household, the cool and urban single clique where you need to have just the right vintage furniture and impeccable music taste. It can be about keeping up the “perfect” facade, or being at your best at all times when you are surrounded by (what seems to be) brilliant co-workers.

My guess is that they probably feel as exhausted as you. Slowing down and not caring will take some guts, because it naturally means taking a different path than the others. But what if you need to do what is just right for you? Are you making the choices that really brings value to your life, to your health and wellbeing? I think this is vital to do in everyday life.

I will mention two incidents from work, which were meant at great advice (and could also be inspirational and valuable to many), but still provoked me. The first is when a very respected and talented co-worker left his job. He sent around a honest and nice farewell e-mail, where he also encouraged everyone to not waste another lunch again – but spend this time to get to know new people, learn a new language or similar. Lovely idea and great advice, most people thought.

The other was a new initiative from the HR department. Learning at lunch – bring food with you and attend a course during lunch. Also great! Multi-tasking at it’s best – who doesn’t enjoy food and an inspirational lecture? They also created a language tandem overview (I work in an office with 25+ nationalities represented), to make it easy for people to arrange bi-lingual lunches together.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think there is anything wrong with these ideas per se. Such initiatives are not a given at every work place. The problem is when it’s expected of everyone. The fact that it’s communicated through official channels creates that extra pressure. They are basically signalising that “That’s how we do it here: Always learn, always achieve. Never slow down.”.

I mean, don’t “waste” another lunch? On what? Calming down, getting some fresh air and recharging to be able to perform your job the rest of your day? I really don’t mind doing such things once in a while. What I do mind is when my lunch hour is turned into a chore of learning. I spend at least nine hours at work every day. There are plenty of studies done on contentration and the importance of breaks during work. And even without the studies, I’m sure you can very well imagine a day from your own life.

So I slow down. After work as well – when I feel like I have too much to do, I don’t go that extra mile to finish my blog posts. I’m attending a language course after work, but I don’t push myself to go every time. The same with the gym. Yet I enjoy it every time I go, because I have the energy and feel motivated. If it’s something that is not crucial to my happiness, I chose not to feel stressed about it. I take care of myself, and I care little of what other people think in those matters. It’s about allowing yourself to do these things, to be aware of why we make the choices we do. Perhaps you should do so as well. Ask yourself what is important to you and your loved ones, and should you constantly achieve just to compromise on your health?

My lunch breaks are holy. I never waste any of them.

Awareness, mindfulness – many people encourage being more aware of what we experience on a daily basis. We sense the world through our bodies, yet in a hectic everyday life, a lot of us rarely find time to do so.

CC Valerie Rosen (flickr)

CC Valerie Rosen (flickr)

With our bodies, we confront our surroundings. In “The Eyes of the Skin. Architecture and the senses”, Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa discusses architecture and it’s role as something that helps us settle ourselves in the world, to “recognise and remember who we are”. My favourite chapter is that of touch, which gave me the idea for this post.

“The door handle is the handshake of the building. The tactile sense connects us with time and tradition: through impressions of touch we shake the hands of countless generations. A pebble polished by waves is pleasurable to the hand, not only because of its soothing shape, but because it expresses the slow process of it’s formation; a perfect pebble on the palm materialises duration, it is time turned into shape.”

Pallasmaa, J. (2005). The Eyes of the Skin.

Through touch, we experience being near, we caress and can show affection. Feeling connected to time and place, through touch, smell, vision, hearing and taste. However, it is no longer a given in our lives. When was the last time you ever stopped to just listen? Or when did you sit down, smell the air and let your hand glide across the bench or rock you were sitting on?

Many will perhaps find that this is best done on holidays. When we are not distracted by e-mails and work calls. When the beautiful, yet peculiarly unimpressive imagery from google’s picture search comes alive through scenery of calm oceans or wild forests. Or when walking down the narrow streets twisting through a medival town. The smells and sounds, whether of freshness, calmness or passionate conversation with a hint of cinnamon in the air – we become aware of time and place, and our own position in this world.

Yet it is easy to limit the everyday touch to, well sadly, the screen of our phones. In beautiful scenery or not. The typing on keyboards. When am I most aware? When the “t” on my phone isn’t work properly. Or when my wrists ache from hour after hour of typing. At least the keyboard offers a tactile experience beyond the tips of my fingers. Being touched as well – try touching your hand and see: How is the sensation of your left hand different from the right hand? The hand that touches from the one being touched? Or when you walk with bare feet across the room? Pallasmaa continues:

“Gravity is measured by the bottom of the foot; we trace the density and texture of the ground through our soles. Standing barefoot on a smooth glacial rock by the sea at sunset, and sensing the warmth og the sun-heated stone through one’s soles, is an extraordinary healing ecperience, making one part of the eternal cycle of nature. One senses the slow breathing of earth.”

My experience so far? It’s like finding a lost art. I have found that it is not always easy to be more aware, it requires practice and focus. Nor is the purpose to do so all the time. How do different textures and temperatures feel, or the weight and densities of things?  Start small (I am trying right now as I’m typing). To pay better attention to the sensation of touch, as well as the feelings and memories that arise from doing so, can actually be giving and somehow also very soothing. Perhaps because it makes you aware of what is now. So slow down and feel.

Today I deleted 3 e-mail accounts.

Yes, 3.

Accounts.

You might wonder how I can have so many accounts that I can “afford” deleting three of them. Well, account hoarding happens.

92 unread emails. Hope I didn't miss any.

CC LeoAlmighty (Flickr)

Imagine that you lead a very active online life. Imagine that you are slightly paranoid about one day having your account compromised. It’s in general a good idea to have a few seperate accounts, like a personal, serious one, and one more anonymously named. You don’t always want the spam that signing up for competitions and newsletters might generate, to land in your regular inbox.

The problems starts when you have twenty of them. Or even thirty. One for each blog you ever started. Several with your name. One with a nickname for those annoying newsletters. Another for your freelance work, one for your spam and for your slightly less serious newsletters. I even have one with a name similar to “toomuchstuff@email.com”. I should dedicate one to my plethora of e-mail accounts soon.

Before deleting them, I made sure that all important accounts and profiles connected to them were closed. By important, I don’t actually mean that their content or form were particularly important to me. I simply made sure that the personal data connected to my profiles were deleted – sometimes it takes more than clicking that unsubscribe link. You might have to log in to delete a profile, or even ask the company to delete your user data. Write them anyway if you are in doubt and make sure that it’s confirmed. It might take some time, but it feels great to do some digital decluttering!

For unsubscribing newsletters, there are nifty little programs you can use, such as unrollme, but I haven’t tried this myself. I would prefer not to open yet another account for something. With each account and profile comes a password, and the burden of remembering these is also taken off my shoulders. Ok, ok – it might not be a burden on a daily basis, but quite the pain in the ass when you have to request a new password each time you log in because you’ve forgotten it. Right now I feel lighter and happier.

Do you want to feel relieved? I can highly recommend you to go on a digital deleting spree.

I’m back from the dead. Well I was obviously never dead, but my blog was.

A year and a half ago I started this blog on exploring minimalism, but quickly got distracted as I (semi-)spontaniously decided to quit my job and leave the country to work as an intern in Berlin. It was a radical change, and blogging just wasn’t a priority as it was a bumpy ride. Short update on that: I’m still in Berlin and working full-time for the same company.

I have however decided to start blogging again, and I’d like to share my thoughts and updates on some changes I am doing this year – as well as choices and mistakes I have done.

It took me a long time to settle down, and I’m still unsure if I will stay in this city. For now, I would like to do some positive changes to my life, including getting rid of physical belongings as well of some emotional baggage. In this blog, you can follow my journey, and hopefully my experiences can help and inspire you as well. Even if it means that you’re thinking “Jeez, I’ll never, ever do what she did.”