Blog

Autumn Clean vs Spring Clean

I like the idea of Autumn Cleaning.   I mean, I understand why some folks want to Spring Clean – literally and figuratively getting rid of the dark and gloom of winter – but for me Spring is the time to be outside enjoying the weather, trying to tame the garden and the rampaging grass of the lawn.  Autumn, on the other hand, is a slowing down of those demands and a time for thinking about the approaching Winter.

For me, Autumn is the time to consider all the “stuff’ I have inside, and to decide if I really want to live with it over Winter!  Most often the answer is, not especially!  So out it goes, in a delicious decluttering of those unneeded items which then get donated to the local Op Shop or Resource/Recycle Shop.  The benefit I get from the lovely clean feeling of tidy cupboards and reclaimed space in my house is indescribable.

Autumn is a time for burning off garden waste, and the smell of smoke on the crisp, cool air is one of my strongest “sense-memory” triggers.  Smoke in Autumn always makes me remember all those times my Hubby and I worked together cleaning up our previous property.  Garden tasks also include pruning off plants that have suffered the first ravages of frost, replanting bulbs that have overrun their space in the garden, topping up the mulch in preparation for the cooler weather. Autumn is a great time for weeding too, as the not-too-dry-not-too-wet soil is just right for pulling them out without too much effort.

So for me, Autumn Cleaning has way more pleasures, subtle though they may be, than than Spring Cleaning.

Here’s to Autumn, a time for consideration, for preparation … because we all know, “Winter is Coming”.

 

I’ve been thinking ….. Determination

Sometimes my determination to DO something is a good thing.  Well, maybe it is more of a stubborn streak to be truthful, but “determination” is a much nicer sounding word to attribute to my need to get things done.

Take, for example, my dripping mixer tap on my bathroom vanity.  It had been dripping from under the mixer handle for a good while now – ok, let’s not beat around the bush, months, it actually had been dripping for months!

Each morning and evening I would be greeted with a little pool of water laying languorously on my wooden vanity, glistening in it’s innocence.  Each morning and evening I would wipe away the pool and wrap a facewasher around the base of the fitting to soak it up. Still, sometimes the drip was super exuberant, rejecting the absorbent hugging talents of the facewasher, and I would be greeted with a larger pool of water, coyly threatening to drip onto the floor.

I was pretty sure that all I needed to do was change the filter cartridge and the problem would be fixed. I had done this successfully on my bath mixer tap many years ago, so I did have some evidence to back up my deduction.  (On a side note, I did ring a Plumber last week and he suggested I simply buy a complete new mixer fitting – $120ish – and he would then come and install it!)  Still, I was confident that if I could only change the filter, which would cost about $17, the issue would be fixed.

So, why let it drip, why not just fix it?  Well, sometimes I DON’T let my determination carry me through, and since I had attempted to – unsuccessfully – change the filter in this very tap when I changed the bath one, I had been putting the confrontation off.  I hadn’t yet found my “you can do it if you really want to” smile/grimace since last time I used it, when I donned it to do whatever-needed-doing-that-I-didn’t-have-a-man-to-do-for-me-anymore-since-he-inconveniently-died!

The problem was the handle itself, last time it would not come off.  I had removed the grub screw – which I promptly dropped down into the well of the fitting, never to be seen or heard of again – but I could not get the handle off.  It was completely oblivious to my gentle persuasion to uncouple from it’s shank; it was also completely unresponsive to the increasing violence of pulling, gripping, and wiggling that I inflicted on it.  In the end I hung my head in shame and decided that the filter really didn’t need to be changed (it wasn’t dripping then).

So there I was yesterday, my determination (a.k.a stubborn streak) finally overwhelming the memory of my last failure, standing in my bathroom prepared to not give any quarter to my opponent this time.  Perhaps, I thought, perhaps I really didn’t try hard enough last time!  This time I would really get to grips with it, and if I busted the whole thing in the process, well then, surely the plumber would come out to visit over Easter!!!!

So, off I started:  turn off water to house – check.  Turn on bath tap to drain remaining water in pipes – check.  Pull off mixer handle – AAAAAARRRRRRGGGGH.  Take big breathe – check.  Try again – nope, not budging.  Get rubber hammer, tap it gently – check.  Still not moving.  Get screwdriver and pry up under the handle … vigorously … still NOPE.  Turn on computer and Google “how to remove stuck mixer handle” – check.   Google suggests that I may have a bonded male\female coupling cause by calcification, and the answer is …. Vinegar!

And so it was!  Vinegar sprayed under the handle helped dissolve the bond and I was able to use the screwdriver the pry up the handle.  I also found the lost grub screw, laying disconsolately in the cone well, still shiny and un-calcified.  YAY, I thought to myself, you’ve done it.  All that was left was to unscrew the cone and the hex fitting holding the filter in, easy peasy, right?

Innocence is easily shattered folks.

Of course the cone wouldn’t unscrew.  Of course I didn’t have a wrench large enough to fit around it.  Out to the shed to see if I had a bigger one, trek back inside to find it still wasn’t big enough, back to the shed to look despairingly for something that I could use to remove this thing barring my road to accomplishment; grab (I am ashamed to admit) a clamp – to see if I could “clamp” it and twist – NO,NO,NO!

Ok, ok, maybe vinegar in there would help too, {sprays vinegar}.  Hmmm, what did I do last time – oh, pliers, I used pliers!  Back to the shed to get the pliers (only, mind you, after I had tried my teeny little jewellery pliers first – obviously they didn’t work).  Pliers applied – check.  Twist – check.  It moved – oh happy days – twist again, joys of joys, it unscrewed.  Use the wrench to remove the hex nut, take out the cartridge, soak everything in vinegar, scrub off calcification with wire brush, spray it all with silicone lubricant and screw everything back together.

Simple as!

So, you see, determination is the only thing that let me accomplish this task, and save myself $$ in the process.  So much for Plumbers and their easy answers.

I’ve been thinking …. Procrastination

I was never much of a procrastinator – but I’ve morphed into one lately.

Not at work, I hasten to point out. When I’m getting paid for my time I make sure that my time is worth what they pay me. It’s reassuring to know that my “paid” work ethic hasn’t degenerated into the realm of positive procrastination! My personal time – that’s another story altogether.

Used to be that if there was something to do – I did it, just so I knew it was done, and then I could relax. These days I can successfully ignore lots of little things for ages and ages, and then, when I finally coerce myself into doing them, it really is an uphill, grudged effort.

I don’t know when it happened, I think it’s just been sneaking up on me little by little. I can’t say that I’ve had any great change in my basic personality – I still DO love to accomplish things, it just seems that I don’t have the compulsion to do it right now anymore.

Maybe it’s old age, maybe it’s the wisdom that supposedly comes with old age, maybe I’ve come to realise that there really is more to life than “doing it now”, but somehow I’m doubting it – I think I’ve just got lazy in my personal time!

Ouch, that admission hurts.

Now, I don’t mind so much that I procrastinate in vacuuming, dusting or gardening, not even that I positively avoid listing my jewellery on Etsy (it’s such a time-consuming task for such a teeny reward). Nope, what’s bugging me is that I am procrastinating about doing what needs to be done to get this business venture up and on a firmer footing.

I should be coming up with brilliant ways to advertise myself, I should be out there speaking to groups about what I can offer, I should be putting myself on the line, and in the light, and generally stepping out of my comfort zone, to promote what I can do. – And there we may well have the crux of the matter!

When I was working at my previous employment and I had to promote the organisation, I could do that easily. I could talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime. I believed in the service we provided, and it wasn’t personal! If it didn’t convince people I didn’t take it personally, as it just meant that they didn’t need our service. With my venture, if people don’t want my service – well, that IS personal, because I AM IT!.

I need to find away to take my personal fear of “selling myself” out of this equation about promotion. It should be easy – I DO believe in the service I am providing, I DO know that I provide quality services and that I am good at it, I DO believe I am value for money. Sadly, somehow it’s just not working for me, and I am procrastinating about finding ways to promote myself.

I know that if I don’t overcome this, my business will never take off, and I will be a slave wage for the rest of my life (if I am lucky enough to be able to continue working as a casual where I currently am).

I need to find a way to procrastinate about procrastination – don’t two negatives make a positive?

I’ve been thinking …. Customer Service

Well, more truthfully, the lack of it!  It seems old-fashioned customer service is a thing of the past (and I’m not that old,… really, I’m not!).

Looking for a definition of Customer Service, I came across this one which I like, it’s from an article on Study.com
“Customer service is the act of taking care of the customer’s needs by providing and delivering professional, helpful, high quality service and assistance before, during, and after the customer’s requirements are met.” 

What has prompted all this thinking about Customer Service? Well, I have had several recent horrible examples of bad customer service due to a decision I made to upgrade from ADSL to Broadband.  These examples made me realise that “online” customer service can be one of those areas which fail badly, and one of those areas where it is extremely hard to find anyone to discuss that with.

I’m sure you have probably come across websites where it is nearly impossible to find a phone number to actually contact some-one to talk to about problems, instead you need to submit an email and wait … and wait … and wait until they might eventually deign to reply with some innocuous, run-of-the-mill “gee, we are sorry you had this problem”.

Then they proceed to not actually address your issue, or do anything about your problem, because, hey, you’re one of a plenitude of fish in the big, vast internet ocean, and they really just can’t be bothered with minnows because they want to catch whales.

Yes, I’m a bitter minnow. 🙂

But it’s just not online where there is a problem.  Good old physical customer service has also become a fairy tale in most places – the Supermarket being a prime example, the Service Station (where you actually used to get service – the hint was in the name), government services, the doctor, the baker, the candlestick maker!  Seems like the one thing they don’t train staff in these days is customer service – although they will all ask for that in their employment ads and list it as a selection criteria at interviews!

Anyway, enough of the negative, the good news is that I am in a position to make a difference in my business, being the sole employee has it’s perks.  I can strive for the highest standards of customer service and know that they will be maintained or The Boss will be having serious words with herself.

Sometimes it is just the little things that make the difference, like returning calls when you say you will, replying to emails in a prompt manner, completing your work to the best standards for each job, good manners, polite and friendly communication, and a willingness to make sure your client is as happy as they can be with your work, and if not, addressing those issues straight away.

For me it really does come down to this:  If I was my own client, how would I want to be treated?  That’s all I have to think about to make me try that little bit harder to do it well.

The old saying that “the Customer is always right” can be a very good thing to strive for, but sometimes the customer is NOT right, and it is then that customer service needs to step up to the mark and find out how to make the customer happy with being wrong!
(I’d like to re-write that old saying to something more like: “Good Customer Service is your right”)
I’ve been on both sides of that divide, making a complaint and (in my past employment) receiving complaints.  It’s easy to be cynical in both sets of shoes, so I try to remember what it feels like to wear both shoes when I am in either of those situations now.  One foot has a steel-capped boot, one has a chunky heel – makes me walk funny but it helps keep me on the straight and narrow!

I’ve been thinking …happiness

I’ve been thinking about happiness.

All the different ways we humans try to find it, strive for it, keep it, pretend about it and encourage it.

There is so much in social media about “how to be happy”, “do this to be happy”, “blah, blah, blah happy” – and some of it is worthwhile, a lot of it is irritating, and large part of it is just advertising for “the next big thing”, or indeed, the last “slightly-small-thing-that-has-been-rehashed” – and most of it is absolute rubbish!

Despite attempts by many people to improve social media with positive images and messages (which, actually, sometime have the complete opposite effect on me), I don’t think you’re going to usually find meaningful “happiness” on the internet.  If you have been one of the lucky ones to do so, I congratulate you.

So, I’ve been thinking about “being happy” – and what does that mean to other people?  I have a cousin who famously/infamously (well, within a small portion of my family anyway) said “I don’t do happy”; part of me admired that and part of me was appalled.  The expectations that we should present a happy facade, most of, if not all of, the time has always been a see-saw contradiction for me.

Let me tell you what I mean….

A while ago, well a few years ago actually, a new person started where I worked.  They came with an attitude of “happiness” – by this I mean that if you asked them how they were (as you tend to do with those you work with) you would get “extraordinary, fantastic, great” or similar descriptives.  They explained that they wanted to look at the world positively, to stop being as negative as they had been, and had decided to do it this way.

Ok, that sounded like a good idea, I thought, I might try that.

So I did, for a while.

For a while it made me happy, but then I started to feel deceitful, and became resentful of saying “I’m fine, things are great” when I really didn’t feel that way.  Was it wrong to tell the truth about how I was feeling?  Did I have to try and make other people feel happy by telling them what they would prefer to hear, rather than what I wanted to say?  Was my state of mind, my happiness (even when I wasn’t really happy), less important than theirs?

I came to the conclusion that, ironically, sometimes my happiness depends on me not pretending to be happy!  I don’t need to be the doom and gloom of the party, I don’t need to bore you with whatever is making me unhappy, but if you ask me “how are you?” on one of those days, you’re going to get a variable answer – depending on where you sit on my “closeness” scale.

I want to be positive, and I am practicing and becoming better at it, because being positive in thought and actions does have a good impact on your life.  Even when it isn’t completely true it can still have meaning to me, when I know that I am trying to reach a level of “feel good” but I just need a teeny bit of self-pretend motivation to get me past the bump on the path.

Being free to be true to myself, and speak truly about that, is the base of my happiness … and I won’t sacrifice that just to make someone else happy.

New Year Compulsions

Each New Year’s Eve finds me weeding out my possessions, spot-cleaning and tidying, moving ornaments and pictures to find a better “home” for them, because I like the idea of starting a new year with a fresh house arrangement – even if it is only a minimal surface change.

Some years I have been know to completely re-arrange the furniture across several rooms, but this year, even though I feel the compulsion, I am resisting, as I think I have finally (after many, many years) achieved the optimal major  furniture layout for my house (small stuff still gets moved whenever the whim takes me).

There’s something about voluntarily surrendering things I don’t need – or want – anymore that gives me a clean, shiny feeling.  I also like the idea that even if I don’t want them, someone else may treasure them in the future (because at some stage I obviously did).  It’s the “circle of stuff”!  (You know:  you buy stuff you like, then one day you don’t like the stuff anymore and you pass it on to the Op Shop in the hope that someone else will like your, now, unloved stuff).

I now have some empty spots in my home just waiting for something “new” to move in, particularly on my kitchen bench, but I’m hanging out for just the “right” thing!

I hope your New Year brought you happy, clean, fresh feelings, and that the year ahead is filled with all good things.

Time: Definitions, Philosophies & Quotes

I’ve been doing a little googling about time, it’s enough to make your head spin!  So many varying definitions (and so many articles talking about them) for such a tiny word – and now I wonder how much time did it take to try and explain time?
I’ve chosen to go with the definition shown below (and no, not because it came up at the top of the search – oh, ok, maybe I was trying to save some time by picking it, but then I had to go and look at the others, so in actual fact I didn’t save any time, and really you can’t save time anyway (I wrote about that in another post) as it ticks on by whether you use it or not – Time doesn’t care!).

Definition

time

noun: time; plural noun: times
the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole.

Next I had a little peek at the Philosopy of Time – but I just didn’t have the time to read about Time!  I liked the following little bit of wordiness though.
 

Philosopy

Eternalism is a philosophical approach to the ontological nature of time, which takes the view that all points in time are equally real, as opposed to the presentist idea that only the present is real, and the growing block universe theory of time in which past and present are real while the future is not.

Eternalism (philosophy of time) – Wikipedia

Gee, so now I get to choose between Eternalism, Presentist or Block Universe – but does that actually matter, because as far as I can see Time is still going to pass the same as it always has done, regardless of what definitions or philosophical tags we try to attach to it.

By now I was feeling a little depressed, so I wanted to spend some time in positive reinforcement, and the internet is loaded with a plethora of quotes about time, amongst which I found these two little gems.

Quotes

Forever is composed of nows.  – Emily Dickenson

But what minutes! Count them by sensation, and not by calendars, and each moment is a day.  Benjamin Disraeli

**********************

I hope your nows are building up to a great forever, and your day is filled with minute sensations.

 

(Shameless Business Plug:  if you don’t have time for yourself because you are too busy doing everything in an ever decreasing pool of hours – call me, my business is all about helping you find time for you!)