A world without stuff

Continuing my mission to declutter my life and live more simply I am sat at a table top sale getting rid of more stuff.  I am surrounded by a village hall full of people doing the same thing.  I have already given bags and bags of stuff to charity and sold some pieces online and through our community shop.   More will be heading to the local charity shop after this event.  I have a wee vision that when the children have all left home Pete and I will build a tiny wooden house and live a minimal existence.  It is for many reasons that this vision is being created including the desire to live more lightly on this planet.  But I am quite sure I am developing an allergic reaction to stuff.

There is no doubt that the vast majority of us have far too much stuff and it is not a legacy I want to pass onto my children.  They all live quite simply and have resisted the idea of acquiring things they do not need.  George loves his books and they will stay with him always but apart from those his room is very minimal.  Harry is very like me and has got rid of lots of unwanted stuff over recent years as has his older sister, Molly.  She needs to travel light as she has a career in conservation so stuff just gets in her way.  Max finds it difficult to let stuff go so his answer to that is not to acquire it in the first place.  He inhabits our box room so there is a real limit to what he can put in it.

I am pretty proud of Pete because he has thrown himself into the decluttering process despite being quite grumpy about it in the past.  So day by day, week by week we are getting rid and it does feel really good.  I feel somewhat cleansed.

My biggest issues is all my making things for my craft business but in recent years this has become much more focused and that has helped me pass materials onto people starting out in craft.  I now have one shelving unit and three old fruit boxes and that is it.  It used to be a lot more than that and even threatened to take over the house at one point.

I don’t have many personal things now holding onto jewellery that Pete has given me and one necklace I inherited from my grandmother.  I have one small hanging rail of clothes and two drawers but I can see ways to reduce further there as well.

So my journey to declutter is moving on well and the trick now is not to acquire more things.  If we are to realise the goal of living in one of these tiny houses we need to keep going.  Assuming I am still making I already have a garden studio that can accommodate all the necessary materials so beyond that we just need somewhere to sleep, sit and eat.  How much more is there than that.  I would love a structure where the whole front opens onto a deck when the weather is nice so that you can expand the house.  Lots of passive solar glass and living completely off grid would suit me very well indeed.  This is easier said than done but our research is underway and a combination of solar power, utilising grey and rain water and a compost toilet should do the job well.  I am sure this would not suit everyone but it would suit us.  Add in a fuel efficient camper van for guests to stay in and us to holiday in and the lifestyle is established.

Pondering on why I amassed so much stuff I am not really sure of the reason.  I think I liked to shop and now I hate it.  I also think I like to home build or nest and that is behind me as well now.  Entering a new decade in life is a turning point for me.  I wanted to have given up my corporate style job by 40 and live more remotely and I achieved that.  So let us set my 60th as the next aspirational moment.  I would like to be in a much smaller dwelling and living as simply as possible by then.  We shall see.  It is something to aim at and that has always been important to me.

Just at this moment I need someone to come along and buy the contents of my table.  A big ask but things are moving so you never know.  We can always dream….

scottish island mum


How I reinvented myself

fiona doubleday

Those that know me well will, no doubt, argue that I have done this many times but I just want to focus on the biggest reinvention when I left a very well paid job as an academic in a university and moved to a Scottish island.


I remember when news of my resignation start creeping around the university.  They only knew me as this fiercely ambitious woman who had been promoted year after year and was, quite possibly, destined for the top job.  So the emitting shock was palpable.  But with it came an assumption that I had found an even more senior job at another institution.   Little did they realise that I was all done with institutions.  When the news flooded out that I was leaving it all behind to become a full time mum, walk barefoot on the beach and braid my hair the shock was even greater!

I was not concerned with their views as I was beginning a phase of my life I was definitely destined to enter.  My late father some years earlier had done the same and had also predicted that I would turn my back on corporate life by the time I was 40; I was 38.  One thing that continues to bind my father and me together is the need for a challenge and if I am truly honest there was no challenge left in my old life so it was time for a change.

With my supportive husband and four fairly young children we took off to live on a Scottish island and grabbed two part time jobs between us.  The first thing we discovered was that we could live on far less money than we had been.  We moved into a small cottage owned by my mother and paid a small rent but it was the other outgoings where we really noticed the savings.  Living on an island is limiting but in a very positive way.  Gone is the currency to spend money all the time.  If there is nothing in the fridge to eat you hit the cupboards to find cans lurking at the back rather than phone for a take away.  Family days out involve a picnic on the beach and a swim in the sea rather than an over-priced theme park.  From the off we loved this lack of spending and it has probably dictated everything we have done ever since.


It wasn’t long before working for someone else lost its shine completely and thoughts turned to running our own business.  As I had worked through a secret exit plan from the university I had retrained at night school in silk painting.  With a friend I initially start a craft business but it became clear we wanted different things from the business so I sold it to her and went out on my own opening a wee craft shop on the island.

crafts 001

That was when the reinvention really kicked into gear and I began to thrive once more.  I was making things for my own shop and I was also making well researched buying decisions and the business was an instant success.  Many things have happened since them, not least the recession, but although I no longer run a shop on the island I still make things and I still sell through other shops on the island and online.

So I had reinvented how I made a living, how we spent time together as a family and what our priorities were.  It was a gradual process as I let the island speak to me and I truly believe that Arran is a place where dreams can come true.  That is because you have space.  You have space to think, to dream and to turn all that into a new reality.  The island encourages you to think outside the box and it supports you as you do.  It creates just the right context for reinvention and I am quite sure I would have failed anywhere else because I would have gone against my own destiny.


Things changed again when I began writing and I now spend more time doing that than any other activity and it still amazes me that people are willing to pay me for something that I love so much.  I do realise that I am a very lucky bunny rabbit.  Reinvention takes courage, I have no doubt of that.  It also requires an unquestioning intention to succeed but I can’t help thinking that that is a useful thing to pass onto my children.   My ex-colleagues were keen to point out that I would regret my decision and I am here to say that I never did; not for even one moment in time.  My moments are less cluttered, they are far reaching and aspirational with just a small hint of true contentment and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  So what is my top five pieces of advice for those of you desperate to reinvent yourself?  Let me see….

  1. Be bold and be fearless as you actually have nothing to fear.
  2. Have an outline of a plan but keep it thin on detail.
  3. Relocate as your new space is just waiting for you.
  4. Drop money as a priority because in the big scheme of things it matters not.
  5. See the change you want to be…..have a vision of the new year and work towards it with a fierce sense of determination.

But above all that have fun with your new invention and know that your life is, very much, in your hands.  Wishing you every best wish for your new happiness.

PS  And yes I have braided my hair and walked bare feet on the beach!  Xx

scottish island mum


The jewel in the crown

I have rather taken to wandering of late.  My time has been reconstructed as I am currently working with a cooperative of writers with the core group being American.  The outcome of that is that I wake to a rather full inbox which I deal with early and thus I have stretched time a wee bit.  I am probably working as hard as ever but in a different way and I must say that it suits me well.

In my wanderings today I ventured across the burn that runs to the sea and looked for beach treasure on the other side; virgin territory!  I am always on the hunt for the perfect pottery fragment which still eludes me.  These fragments are filling my new large glass vase well sitting alongside the perennial sea glass.  I am not disappointed with my finds so far this year but that perfect bit of pottery remains buried to be released by the tide one day soon.


Of course the absolute jewel in the crown does not belong to clay but to glass and the very rare glass bottle top.  To find one brings a rush of ‘dreams coming true’ and over the years I must have found about ten or so.  That works out as roughly one a year.  Sometimes the rush of perfection is slightly tarnished on close examination as wee chips are often found.  So, when a perfect one is found all is very well with the world indeed.

It is true to say that I do my best thinking when I am wandering but today I was in reflective mode as I remembered what I anticipated my 50s would look like; or more specifically what I would look like.  I had imagined a short neat haircut and timeless classic dresses and a Filofax permanently glued to my hand.   As I enter my 50s I can see my predictions were totally wrong and it rather made me smile.  My hair is the longest it has been since I was a child and just as determined to do its own thing as ever.  I shuffle around in jeans and lots of layers to keep out the cold and my wellies are never far from my feet.  I have no Filofax having decided that I don’t want to be that organised and have swapped that for a rather inspiring Earth Pathways diary. 

I must confess that I prefer the version that I am now as it is far more in keeping with a life-long strategy to stay on the edge of mainstream expectations and just be myself.  I do, however like to think of each year in my life as a new one and capable of offering me all that I could ever need or want.  I have long since learnt the power of positive thinking as something capable of delivering enormous riches in life.  So, in that sense life will offer up a reflection of such thoughts and, in thus I have some control.  Some time spent on the land today confirms the wonderful cycle of life as spring bulbs are pushing through everywhere.  It is comforting to rely on the constancy of the seasons as they signal that spring is, indeed, on its way.  It is just February and I am already out in my garden studio working with the enormous peace that brings.  Buddhism teaches us gratitude and that is a very humbling space to occupy.  I certainly have a whole heap of things to be grateful for so I just need to remember that going forward.


I have signed on the dotted line to take part in the island Open Studio event in August so I have finally decided that this is the year to focus on art.  Although only at the sourcing, gathering and sketching stage I have as strong sense of direction emerging but I feel the key is to do something every day.  My career as a writer opened up enormously after I had spent 2013 writing a blog post every day.  This will be why I am a failed pianist as I failed to practice every day; my Grandpa was right all along.  My underpinning philosophy for my art journey is the notion of ‘reclaimed.’  I have worked with reclaimed materials as a crafter for years so it still a natural path to tread as I take my first wee steps into art.


Although constantly aware of the aesthetics of art I do want my pieces to speak to people in ways that individuals can seek their own meanings.  This is, however, a bit ambitious but those of you who knew me back in the day when I wrote a dance degree and opened it to non-dancers know just how fearless I can be when I put my mind to something.  So, at the moment I am playing with form and structure but in ways that speak to the original space they inhabit.  The reclaimed piece of pallet wood that I am making into a canvas was once a tree and its personal history needs to be acknowledged.  I have been touched deeply by home school studies with Max on the Amazon rainforest and although distant from it I have always had a deep connection with trees.

This takes us back to our beach fragments and that perfect piece of pottery.  Trust me I will know when I will see it.  With each piece I find I try and work out what it once was acknowledging that it too was once of the soil.

So, in my wanderings on this day I found not one but two perfect glass bottle tops.  Of course I did.


Speak soon,

scottish island mum