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Back Home [en]

Back Home [en]

[fr] Rentrée. Choses familières.

  • two cats, both happy to see me
  • a snack of crispy bread, cheese, and spanish ham
  • familiar things
  • a hot bath, “unlimited” hot water
  • the winter air smells nice and fresh
  • my luggage is unpacked
  • a couple of pansies I planted this autumn are still flowering
  • my indoor plants all survived
  • I have a valid British passport again
  • no dust, no noise
  • a stable internet connection
  • drinking tap water
  • my bed

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My Pallet Garden [en]

My Pallet Garden [en]

[fr] Ce que j'ai fait aujourd'hui.

I'm Home [en]

I'm Home [en]

[fr] Je suis rentrée. En Suisse, il fait gris et froid et Bagha est mort. Retour à prendre au jour le jour, en me félicitant d'avoir prévu une reprise en douceur après ce mois de décrochage.

I’m home.

Back in cold grey Switzerland, back to my dead cat and other losses that were put on the back-burner while I was in India.

Sorry for the gloom. There isn’t even snow to make things a little fun and exciting.

To be honest, I don’t feel really home. “Home” has lost a bit of its “homeness” without Bagha.

Part of the love I’ve had for my cozy flat these last ten years was because Bagha was here. Not all of it, but part of it. I used to always look forward to coming home after a trip, because it would mean being back with my cat. I missed him when I was away.

OK, maybe I’m painting the picture a little rosy in hindsight. Maybe I didn’t always look forward to coming home from my travels. But I was always happy to see Bagha again. I always looked forward to that.

Of course, it’ll get better in the coming days. I’ll see my friends again, rediscover the comfort of Swiss life, get working on my projects here (both personal and professional).

And scatter Bagha’s ashes in the garden.

Even now, all is not bad. It’s quiet. I have privacy. There is cheese.

I miss India already, though. You know, Nicole, I think I understand what you meant a couple of months back when you told me that you loved and hated it here, because I think I feel the same about India. I love it there. But some things also drive me nuts and make me thing “OMG I’m so glad it’s different at home”.

I’m going to spend more time in India. Two weeks scheduled in October (Delhi, Hindi tutoring) and most certainly January 2012, like this year. I have plans. Go back to the lovely homestay in Mysore. Visit a village near Pune where a friend has relatives. Go to Goa (yeah, even though it’s your cliché tourist destination). Spend a couple of days in Mumbai with Reality Tours and Travel. Plan a trip to Rajasthan (a lead and contacts showed up a week ago). In Pune, visit Parvati temple, the Aga Khan Palace, and one of the hill forts without giving up halfway there. Take Marathi classes. I could go on.

India is huge, diverse, exciting, chaotic. It’s a mess. The disregard for safety and rules can be maddening, but it’s also a healthy release from our coddled and controlled lifestyle here in the West.

I’m home now. A little anxious about how the next days will go, but I’ve decided to take it day by day. Today: unpack, check the state of my bank account and bills to pay, make a few appointments, go to judo. Tomorrow: go to a few appointments. Wednesday: dive into three days of Lift.

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The Wisdom of Small Changes: Incrementally Reclaiming My Flat [en]

The Wisdom of Small Changes: Incrementally Reclaiming My Flat [en]

[fr] Reprendre contrôle de mon appartement, un petit pas à la fois. Chaque jour, ajouter un nouvel élément à garder sous contrôle. Aujourd'hui, c'est nettoyer la baignoire.

Aussi, diviser l'appartement en zones, et travailler chaque semaine sur une zone, 15 minutes par jour.

Inspiration: toute une longue histoire personnelle, et le site FlyLady.

I’m going to tell you about my plan to reclaim my living space, little by little, over the next weeks and months. However, you know me — I’m first going to get sidetracked a little ;-) and tell you how I got where I am, and how the plan was born.

I have lived in clutter my whole life. Both my parents were pretty active clutterers too, so I guess part of the reason is “in the genes” (we recently cleared out the family home to rent it — oh, boy). Other reasons include the fact that there are much more fun things to do in life than clean/tidy (though annoyingly, each time I actually start doing these things I really enjoy them), and my natural tendency to “not do things” rather than “do things”.

I love living in a reasonably tidy place. It makes me less stressed. It makes me less depressed. It makes me happy to spend my days in an environment which is under my control, rather than a sprawling monster of Things. How to tidy my flat and keep it tidy is something that is always on my mental to-do list.

I’ve lived in my flat since I came back from India, over eight years ago. It has been cleaned more or less from top to bottom a few times since I moved on (in 2007, for example — check the “myflat” tag to see more pictures of my living space and its transformations through the years). Over the years, I’ve become quite good at keeping clutter off the floor, but that’s about it. Clearly, I lack a process to keep My Stuff under control. I have lots of stuff.

The importance of having processes in life was driven home by my foray into the GTD (Getting Things Done) method. So far, I have not succeeded in implementing GTD completely (I particularly suck at weekly reviews, I think I haven’t ever managed to do one). I do, however, use quite a lot of elements from this method:

  • ensure I have a system in which I can capture all the stuff that’s on my mind
  • have an inbox (though I don’t empty it very often, but at least it keeps all the stuff to be dealt with in one place
  • think in terms of “next actions” and “projects”
  • know that when I’m procrastinating, either I have too much stuff sitting in my head, or my next action is not clearly defined
  • use an A-Z classification system, with printed labels on folders, for all my paperwork.

The idea of having a process is underlying in two previous “housecleaning” articles: Taming the Dirty Dishes, way back in 2002, and Keeping The Flat Clean: Living Space As User Interface, in 2003. But it’s not quite there yet, or expressed clearly.

Two years, ago, I had a groundbreaking conversation about my diet with my Doctor. I was leading a very unhealthy lifestyle (even without smoking or drinking) and knew it, but I was so wracked with guilt and discouraged by the amount of changes I had to make to my life that I just didn’t do anything. He showed me how important it was to not disrupt my life and diet completely, but to make small easy changes like prepare a few leaves of lettuce while my pizza was warming in the oven, or cut up an apple before the meal so that I’d eat it for dessert.

A year ago, I officially rediscovered the importance of morning rituals. I’ve also come to accept that having some things under control is better than none, even if all the rest is going to the dogs. Last autumn, for example, I decided that even if my kitchen was a mess, I would at least keep the table clean and void of any clutter, so that I would have a nice place to eat.

Recently, I started cleaning my bathroom sink (almost) every morning. I don’t use soap or anything fancy, but I have a sponge I keep on the sink and I give it a quick wipe whenever I use it. Looking into a clean sink in the morning is clearly nicer than when it’s dirty.

Now that I’m in the habit of (#1) washing my bathroom sink (it doesn’t require any cognitive effort for me to do it, it’s just part of the things I do like brush my teeth or use my neti pot), I’ve started thinking about other small changes I could make. And I’ve already made some:

Last week-end, I decided that if I wanted to tackle this flat, I had to do it little by little. So, on Saturday a week ago, I did two things in that department: caught up with the kitchen dishes (they were running away again) and put the laundry away (I live out of the clean laundry basket). Oh yeah, and I got Roomba to work.

Cleaning my bathroom sink each morning has reminded me of FlyLady. I first heard about it when Florence Devouard mentioned it at Going Solo Lausanne. I didn’t really investigate it then, but filed it away somewhere under “system/community which starts with cleaning your sink, and then you add extra stuff to do each day”.

I looked it up this afternoon and spent a couple of hours reading through it. FlyLady is a system/community designed for stay-at-home moms, or “Sidetracked Home Executives“. It is e-mail based, and indeed, does start with getting you to shine your kitchen sink (read why) and get dressed to the shoes.

Are YOU living in CHAOS (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome) like Franny in the pink sweats? Do you feel overwhelmed, overextended, and overdrawn? Hopeless and you don’t know where to start? Don’t worry friend, we’ve been there, too.

Step through the door and follow FlyLady as she weaves her way through housecleaning and organizing tips with homespun humor, daily musings about life and love, the Sidetracked Home Executives (SHE) system, and anything else that is on her mind.

The whole tone of the site is very caring and motherly, with a lot of educational redundancies and extremely detailed instructions. The system actually instructs you to stop and rest for 15 minutes doing something you like, or to only declutter for 15 minutes at a time. Some of it might make you cringe, or laugh a bit if you’re a computer geek, but I really think they’re onto something and it’s well worthwhile spending some time reading the various pages on the FlyLady website.

Obviously, I’m not a stay-at-home mum and I don’t own a house, so I’ll be taking a shot at my personal interpretation of the programme. Here are the ideas I like:

This “slow but steady” system reminds me a bit of dieting strategies. You’re better off with a diet that makes you lose weight slowly, and is in fact a lasting change to your lifestyle, than with a crash diet that makes you lose loads of weight but will see you put it all on again as soon as you stop.

Same with clutter: if you stop everything for three days to clean the house top to bottom, you haven’t in fact made any changes in the lifestyle that caused you to accumulate so much clutter in the first place. By changing things slowly, you’re actually making modifications to your lifestyle which will allow you to keep the clutter under control, rather than clean everything and end up knee-deep in clutter two months later.

As FlyLady says somewhere on her site (quoting from memory): “Your house didn’t get cluttered in a day, and it won’t become uncluttered in a day either!”

Browsing as I was writing this article has brought me over to SHE forums, a community which functions on “challenges” and peer support to deal with household tasks. Remember Website Pro Day and WoWiPAD? :-)

The FlyLady website method is actually based on a book, Sidetracked Home Executives(TM): From Pigpen to Paradise, and one of the co-authors has a site called The Brat Factor, which is all about taming your inner brat (there’s a CD and DVD involved, of course) — but it looks fun (that’s how you tame brats). Your inner brat is the part of you that procrastinates, leaves the dishes in the sink, doesn’t put the clean laundry away& know him/her?

So, I’m going to set my timer to do 15 minutes of decluttering in my hallway (zone 1, I’ll consider it’s already Feb. 1st). Each day, I’ll add a baby step to the ones I’m already doing. I’ll post each new baby step on my Digital Crumble.

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Back Home [en]

Back Home [en]

[fr] Retour en plaine.

So, I’m back home. I haven’t turned on the router yet. Arriving in my flat a bit less than two hours ago, I saw myself preparing to leave, frantic, packing late, rushing to do things before my week offline (most of which I did not manage to do). I didn’t want to go on my holiday. If I hadn’t set the dates in advance with a friend, I certainly would have cancelled.

Back here after five days in the mountains, I feel different. I feel slowed down. I realize that I’m taking the time to do things. Unpack my toiletries. Empty my backpack. Take a bath. And I want to sit down and write a bit before I go back online, because I’m not sure what will happen when I will. It’s silly, isn’t it? I’m in charge, so I should decide — but there are different me’s, and it’s not always the one I want which wins.

Online — my office — is a fast-paced world. Spending five days away from my world of too many choices did me a lot of good. Nothing but walk, eat, sleep, read, and sort photos. In discreet but present company.

I can slowly feel it starting — this feeling that I need to quickly do this, quickly do that. But I don’t want to live my life quickly. I want to take the time to enjoy it. Slowly, more slowly.

As I was soaking in my bath a little earlier, I realized that I could enjoy this slowness whenever I wanted. I mean, there is nothing material to prevent me from doing so. Thing is… how do I switch into the mood? That’s the big question.

I’m a bit apprehensive right now. I want to go and check on my office, see what happened while I was away. It’s exciting, in a way. But I’m afraid of getting caught up completely. Where will I start? Do I just jump in? Do I take advantage of my “rested” state of mind (physically exhausted, mind you) to try and do things differently? Plan ahead? Tomorrow is catching up day. Go through e-mail (oh yes) and decide what I need to do next. Deal with emergencies. That’ll be enough for a day.

Online is fast-paced, but it’s also noisy, busy, full of people (and very quiet of course). It’s a busy city. As I’m “always on”, I think my life has become a bit of a “busy city”. So has my flat. Part of why I get sucked up in it has to do with how I deal (badly) with alone-ness. But maybe now that I’ve had a few silent days of walking in the mountains with myself, things will be different.

It’s quiet outside.

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There's No Place Like Home [en]

There's No Place Like Home [en]

[fr] Qu'il fait bon être de retour chez soi!

I’m home.

– I know how the oven works and the temperatures on the dial mean something to me.
– The water in the shower is hot immediately, no need to wait.
– Bagha is there.
– Dressing-gown.
– Sleeping in my bed. With my nordic-style bedsheets. Mmmh.
– Frozen lasagna from Migros, tastes “just like it should”.
– Quiet. Calm. Silence. (Just a bit of thunder now and again.)
– Shopping on auto-pilot with no surprises. Price tags indicate how much I’ll pay, tax included.
– Spotlessly clean busses.
– Dreadful *grumble* winter-like grey *grumble* weather.
– Paying my bus fare with my CASH card. No need to convert bills into quarters.
– A fridge filled with familiar food.
– Did I mention the calm and silence?

It’s been [a long time](http://climbtothestars.org/categories/india/trips/india-2004/ “India, 2004.”) since I was away from home for so long.

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Excluding One Category From Blog Homepage (WordPress) [en]

Excluding One Category From Blog Homepage (WordPress) [en]

[fr] Comment exclure une catégorie de la première page de votre blog WordPress tout en la gardant dans les archives.

The simplest method I’ve found up to now (and I’ve only just found it) if there are certain categories of posts you do not want to see appear on your main blog page, but that you still want to see in the archives, is to use query_posts().

Here’s an example:

This needs to come in right before the while ( have_posts() ) { line. The $query_string parameter means that you can still pass parameters in the URL, so things like special Event Calendar pages will still work.

Careful, though, this only works for one category at a time. You need to use WP_Query for that, and build a separate loop for the homepage.

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