It's that time of year where people are resolving 'to do better' or 'to do less' or 'to do more'.  Last y...

Books to Kick Start the Year

Thursday, January 02, 2020 BookBairn 1 Comments

It's that time of year where people are resolving 'to do better' or 'to do less' or 'to do more'. 

Last year I spent quite a bit of time working on reducing our family's plastic consumption with quite a lot of success! I did a crude (guesstimate) survey of our original output of plastic and what we regularly consume now (Christmas excluded - though I did purchase quite a few second hand gifts for the children in order to cut down and opted for toys that would get lots of play value such as lego) and I think we have cut our plastic consumption by about half. Becoming more conscious of plastic has also made me think about some of the other decisions we make in more of an environmentally conscious way; the big one being we opted to replace our car with an electric model. And I love it!

On a similar note, I also became really interested in minimalist lifestyles - sparked off, of course, by Marie Kondo and her life-changing magic of tidying up. Now I'm not a minimalist in the strictest sense but I think I have probably always been a 'less is more' sort of person and now I have cut down our family belongings of unnecessaries and am also very conscious of the types of things we choose to buy.

Which leads on to my resolution for 2020: to make the most of what we have. We are very fortunate and live a very privileged life (that we work hard to provide for ourselves and our bairns) and I want to take more time to be grateful for that. As well as making what we have work better. For example, I, for quite some time, really wanted an extension on the back of our house to make a 'family room' but we have decided instead of spending all that money and no-doubt coming up against a lot of technical issues (which are par for the course in our 1760 built cottage), we instead are going to make the ample rooms we have work better. So I am currently typing this in our 'spare room' which has been a part-office and part-extra bed but we have decided to see if we can make this space work as out 'family-play room'. We still need a spare bed so we will look at replacing it with a day-bed or a sofa bed instead. Creating the space we want with little upheaval.

I am also conscious that I want to make our money work better for us too. I know some people find discussing money crude but the long and short of our money situation is that we have enough that I don't need to work but if we want to add to our savings pot I need to stop frittering away money on little treats for the bairns, myself and the house. I find it too easy to pick up a £3.99 magazine for each of us and, as if by magic, thats £12 that I could have put towards something more useful, like a new sofa bed, for example.

And the other thing that I want to make the most of is my time. This year, BookBairn will start school and therefore my time with her suddenly seems more precious. The Wee Page Turner will be start council-provided nursery which means we will have the option of him being in funded nursery for a 9am-3pm day (whether I will choose to fully uptake on this is a different concern I have) and therefore my time with him seems more precious too. I want to make the most of our time together. Not just me trying to get jobs done around them as they play, but much more of 'mummy on the floor' play. Which I am fortunate to have lots of time to do.

So that's what I've decided to go with. A vague and non-measurable goal. To make the most of what we have. Of what I have. And to enjoy it more.

I thought I would share a bundle of books that have helped me with resolutions in the past and present (as well as mentioning one to avoid!) to get those goals off to a flying and informed start.

Turning the Tide on Plastic by Lucy Siegel: Having read this book at the beginning of last year, I realised that simply recycling some of the plastic that we bring into the house isn't enough anymore. We need to try to stop it crossing the threshold. And we have made big improvements, which you can read about in my blog post 'Reducing our Family's Plastic Consumption'. This book was a huge influence on how I tackled the plastic in our home and I found the way it blended fact and advice that I could learn from and put into action a really easy (though in some ways troubling) read. If you are interested in this topic this is a great book to read to get you motivated!

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo: I wanted to read this one for quite a long time as I'm a bit of a neat-freak and I enjoy decluttering but I feel like my job is never done. And following the TV show I picked up the book and got reading and organising. It's something that I feel I can do to make our home a tidier, cleaner and calmer space. And has made me think about what I value and what 'sparks joy'.

The No-Spend Year by Michelle McGagh: This might seem a strange one to recommend as to be honest I thought there were lots of things that weren't all that great about this book. It was a bit overly long, self-indulgent and London-centric. However, it has motivated me to make a change with the way I value our finances. And the way I will look to plan our financial future. And so I plan to embark on a low-spend January. (To call it a no-spend would be inaccurate as I do plan to buy the children new shoes as the old ones don't fit and I have an appointment booked to get my eyebrows tamed which I don't intend on cancelling. I also want to plan a fifth birthday party for BookBairn. All of which are not necessities and could be avoided but I don't feel it's too extravagant to plan for these lapses so long as I cut back on spending on other things.) So in short this is an interesting book and a simple place to start if you are looking for motivation to save some £££.

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport: Reading this book changed my life. Completely. It totally changed my perspective on how I use screens and technology and how I spend way to much time on my phone and how easily I let myself pick it up and waste my time on it. But only using your time to add value to your life rather than spending so much time on social media, etc. The book describes digital minimalism as "a philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else." There are few sections that are a bit 'dry' that I would recommend skimming (using my time wisely there!) but the overall message is something that I really needed to hear and found it really helpful.

The Happiness Project / Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin: I previously read The Happiness Project and found it to be so readable and enjoyable that I plan on starting off my year by reading it again! So just a brief recommendation as I can't remember all the details but I do remember that it's really about choosing to build a life that makes you, and your family, happy. So a good one for me to start the year off by reading. Last year, I started the year by reading Better than Before which is really a guide to changing your habits for the better so that you maximise your good habits and eliminate your bad ones. So whether your are planning on eating better, or exercising more, or spending more or less time on something this is a great book to start of your year by reading as you can use the advice to fit your life. I also really like Gretchen Rubin's writing style which mixes academic research with engaging storytelling making it an enjoyable as well as informative read.

And finally one not to read:

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam: I chose to read this book for a couple of reasons: firstly because I want to make better use of my time; secondly I thought that it would be good for this blog post; and thirdly because it came recommended. But I hated it. I thought it was an extremely poor book. Firstly, it's totally out of date. She doesn't even mention phone/screen time which in a book about time usage these days seems to me to make it totally redundant. It is also quite dismissive in places. And although she occasionally acknowledges that not all people have the same opportunities, her regular response to 'if you don't have time to do something and it's not something you enjoy' then outsource it and pay someone else to do it. How unrealistic and privileged does that sound? She also seems to think that everyone has endless supply of childcare options and therefore everyone has time to work. Now I know I am speaking purely from my own experience and that's probably why this goaded me so much, but childcare where we live isn't cheap (and I know it's still a lot cheaper than elsewhere) but until my children are old enough to be applicable for state-funded childcare (which in Scotland is about to get a huge increase in number of hours which will help many people with working and childcare arrangements but even then, for most, it doesn't start until aged 3-3.5). The only useful information in this book was the title: the realisation that I have 168 hours in a week which is actually quite a lot, even once you deduct for sleeping and the suggestion that you do a time-log to see how you actually spend your time. But in short I would not recommend this book and if you know of a better book on the subject I would love to read it.

So there you have it! Some books to kickstart your new year (new decade) resolutions!

Good luck with your resolutions,
Kim x

(I'll let you know how I get on with mine as the year goes on!)

Disclaimer: these are all my choices and bought with my own money or borrowed from the library or from friends. If you click on the image of the book below you will be sent to using an affiliate link.  This means that if you choose to purchase on, I will receive a small sum (around 20-90p per book) from Amazon at no extra cost to you. I understand that you may not want to use an affiliate link, but if you like reading our blog post please just think of it as a small tip for a tip-off to an awesome book. And know that your support means I can buy more books! For more information check out our For Readers Section.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Good luck MummyBookBairn. Enjoy your time with BookBairn and The Wee Page Turner. They are both fantastic. I know it’s an old adage but “they will grow up so quickly” so enjoy them. I’m looking forward to seeing lots of them this year. My new year resolution is the same as last year and is quite simple:- to get a wee bit lighter and a wee bit fitter. I managed it last year so fingers crossed. Have a great 2020.