Go Deep, Not Wide

Yes to BOOKS!

Sometimes you read a book that changes you.

I’ve decided to read more of those in 2019.  And not just read, passively consuming yet more information as I have such a propensity to do #lovelearning – but to actually spend more time with each book thinking about how the information can be applied to my life and putting it into damn action.  I’ve actually read my three January books twice – how’s that for deep!

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World is the first game-changing book of the year.

Deep Work is described as “a professional activity performed in a state of 🌟distraction-free concentration🌟 that pushes your cognitive abilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your worth and are hard to replicate.”

How often do we make time to do this? Honestly, distraction-free concentration? Say what? Most people (myself included) live in a state of perpetual distraction! 

Our brains are constantly bumping along in distraction and reaction, doing shallow work, like sending emails and skimming online snippets of information, to such an extent that we’ve actually lost the ability to concentrate in any depth and even think for ourselves.

If you can master your ability to focus and go deep into something, rather than have your attention constantly scattered, you have a serious edge.

I want to work deeply.  I want to master my focus. I want to use my brain, and stop outsourcing all my thinking to google.

My takeaways and action points from this book:

  • Attention residue means when you switch from one thing to another some of your attention remains on the original thing. If you’re constantly switching from a – to – b – to – c, and back to- a, your attention is all over the shop! Focus on one thing at a time for a predetermined set of time. Stick phone on do not disturb and set a timer.
  • Use my google calendar to schedule blocks of time for getting core tasks done. Don’t decide spontaneously to do non-critical or important stuff during these time blocks.
  • Ask myself regularly, is what I’m about to do now the best use of my time? Don’t get caught up in busy-ness for the sake of busy-ness, or let shallow work distract me into feeling productive. 
  • Set up specific times to use social media and email, stay out of these at other times.  Start to build a schedule that means I take breaks from focus rather than breaks from distraction.
  • Actually assess the technology that is chewing up my attention (Instagram, Facebook, Email) to see whether it is genuinely bringing enough value into my life to justify any costs and drawbacks, like the total fragmentation and annihilation of my attention!
  • BE BORED – don’t fill every space with checking of social media. Give myself time to check out, dream, think….a relaxed mind is a creative mind…that’s where the magic is.  Downtime actually aides productivity.  
  • Bonus points, every time I resist the urge to randomly check my phone for messages, social media etc….I am training my mind to let go of distractions. This makes it easier to go into deep work when periods of time have been carved out for it.
  • Quit social media for a month as an experiment – not ready for this juuuust yet but it definitely needs to be done as the thought makes me a bit edgy. 

MY 2019 MONTHLY WELLNESS COMMITMENT

As part of my focus on going deeper rather than bouncing around the surface, I’ve decided that each month I’ll be focusing on just one primary health upgrade.

The  idea is to really establish something as a new healthy habit each month, so that come December I can point to some tangible lifestyle upgrades.

I’ll be reading around my monthly focus, listening to podcasts, and tracking my experience and findings. I’ll blog each month right here with an update on the topic of the month.

Deep Work led me to investigate my relationship to social media and how in control I actually was. This spurred me to start looking at other areas of my life where I might have less control over my actions than I’d like to think I do.

My health focus in January has been addiction as it plays out in food. I’m experimenting with sugar-free January.  Watch this space for my update and top resources for kicking the sugar-habit 🙂

 

Non-violent communication

What a very strange time to be British. I’m heartbroken by the events of this recent week.

I went to bed on Thursday night confident that reason would prevail and that the majority of the British public would listen to the experts and intellectuals who made a clear, reasoned case for remaining in the EU. Obviously the country would choose to remain in the peaceful, collaborative relationship with its neighbouring countries. That the majority of the country would opt to vote with the far-right based on their blatant propaganda not so far removed from the Nazis’ was unthinkable. And yet…the Nazis were voted in, and my country has now voted to self-destruct.

So much confusion now and a lot of emotions. It’s going to take a long time to digest what this means and where this leaves us.

My initial response to the news was reactive to say the least. I went into a panic and, having got the pragmatic business of emailing the Spanish embassy to renew my Spanish passport out of the way, proceeded to indulge myself in a lot of ego-rage. A lot of judgement, finger pointing and despair.

I’m reading a book at the moment called ‘Change your questions change your life’ which is coming in rather useful. What a fortunate case of serendipity that I happen to have just turned to the following page in the book as this all kicked off. A useful map to navigate  the murky waters of my own mind right now.

choicemapRegardless what the situation is, we’re constantly facing things that impact us mentally and emotionally.  Although it’s easy to feel powerless and reactive, we can choose how we respond to these situations by choosing the sort of questions we ask.  We can choose between going into judger mindset or learner mindset.

Judger mindset

Unhelpful questions that lead us down a narrow alley into the judger state of mind are things like:

Why are they so stupid?

What’s wrong with people?

Why bother/what’s the point?

Whose fault is it?

You can see from the picture where this gets us: The ‘Judger Pit’. Irresistible as it feels to head in this direction, it’s not much fun down there. Questions that lead us down into the judger pit make us feel pessimistic, depleted, depressed and like victims. We really want to get ourselves out of there as quickly as possible. Ideally we don’t want to go there at all, but realistically we’re all ‘recovering judgers’.  So don’t waste time beating yourself up for falling into this, just change your questions to open your mind up again and get yourself out onto the positive road of the learner mindset. I’m finding this extremely challenging right now, but it’s useful to be aware of this map, for whenever I’m ready to come out of my judger pit.

Learner mindset

Learner mindset questions include:

What happened?

What am I longing for right now?

Are my current actions going to get me that?

What can we learn here?

What are other people thinking, feeling and wanting?

What are my choices right now?

How might this be good?

What’s useful about this?

These questions help us experience more openness and lightness, more energy and optimism, which will ultimately help us get better results.

We all ask ourselves questions from both mindsets. With awareness, we have the capacity to choose at any moment which questions will frame and shape our thinking, listening, speaking, and relating.

Notice the sort of questions you’re asking and try switching from judger to learner to see how you feel. I’ll be doing my best in the coming weeks to pull myself into learner mindset. But for now, my heart’s not quite done grieving what we’ve lost. 

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Why I Eat Weeds + 10 Reasons You Should Too

A ten-year journey to a whole foods vegan diet has culminated in this, I’ve finally gone full-on-feral.

DSC_0029wildwisdomofweeeds

The Wild Wisdom of Weeds by Katrina Blair

 Joking aside, the book The Wild Wisdom of Weeds has recently opened my eyes to a whole new world. It’s testament to just how domesticated and disconnected we are from our environment that it had never occurred to me that weeds might be just like many other plants, edible and nutritious.

When I recently heard that the dandelions growing in abundance in my neglected garden, the dandelions I had always seen as a nuisance and done nothing but try to kill and remove were not only edible but actually a superfood my first through was ‘REEEALLY???’. I contemplated my new dandelion friends with an air of suspicion. ‘You mean I can just pluck you from the pavement and eat you??

Why was this such a weird concept? Because they hadn’t been presented to me via the supermarket as one of the narrow group of 10-15 plants that we humans now eat?

It’s shocking but this is the extent to which we are turning our backs on and forgetting the planet’s huge biodiversity. The average human now eats between 10-15 plant species in a year. There are around 80,000 edible plant species in the world and routinely we eat just 10-15 of these. What impact is this loss of diversity having on our health and our capacity to live to our fullest potential?

dandelionpesto

Dandelion pesto: 2 cups dandelion leaves, 1 cup cashews, 3 tbs lemon juice, 3 cloves garlic, half cup sunflower oil, 1 cup basil, 1 cup water, pinch of salt. Blend it all up. Enjoy!

The Native Americans used around 1,200 different plant species in a year. The idea of being able to identify that many different plant species blows my mind somewhat. Compare that to many  people today, myself included, who sadly recognise more company logos than plants growing in their own neighbourhood. Isn’t that a little insane? And sad? 

We’ve created a system on earth which has domesticated us and in this process we’ve forgotten some pretty fundamental things. Chiefly that we are animals roaming a planet and entirely dependent on nature’s abundance for survival. This disconnect and disharmony can be seen in our unsustainable and consumption-based relationship to our home planet.

So what’s this all got to do with weeds? And why should we eat them? 

Because everyone loves a good list, here it is:

Top 10 Reasons to Eat Weeds

  • They are globalised plants for our globalised world. The 13 plants listed in this book (amaranth, chickweed, clover, dandelion, dock, grass, knotweed, lambsquarter, mallow, mustard, plantain, purslane, thistle) transcend continents and cultures. Wherever human settlements are found, whatever the climate or terrain, these  common weeds can also be found. It’s almost like they’re following us…hmm…might nature be trying to tell us something?
  • Eating weeds is a super-easy way to diversify our diet. Studies have shown that the more diverse our diet, the better our chances of staying healthy for a long time. I’ll take some of that!
  • They are abundant. You don’t need intensive farming or any effort to grow them, they grow themselves!! With a growing population and an
    dandelionjuiceingarden

    Super easy juice to turbo-power your day: blend dandelion leaves, lemon and an apple. BAM!

    increasing drive to push GMO crops and monoculture as the solution to get more and more food from our already depleted soil perhaps we’re looking in the wrong places. Perhaps the weeds are mother nature saying ‘Look, humans, look! I’m trying to feed you, I’m right here, in your back garden, in the pavement cracks, wherever you go, here I am, trying to nourish you!’

  • Weeds thrive on soil disturbed by humans. They pull nutrients from deep beneath the earth’s surface and regenerate the soil. They are the superheroes sent to nourish and save the planet and us from…well…us. When we eat wild weeds we collaborate with their planet-rejuvenating efforts by utilising far fewer resources. 
  • They are exceptionally nutritious. A dandelion growing in between the pavement cracks is probably more nutritionally potent than crops grown through commercial agriculture which have been hybridised over time and grown as mono-crops in compromised soil.
  • Wild weeds are free, you don’t need to be wealthy to eat wholesome and truly organic food. Nature doesn’t discriminate, she wants to nourish everyone.
  • They can re-awaken our primal memory, the memory of our true source of creation. When we eat these wild weeds we start to remember our connection to the planet. They offer a direct link to the wild intelligence within us.
  • dandelioonquinoa

    Dandelion flowers can add beauty to a simple meal, and you can eat them too. With an array of B vitamins, proteins, amino acids and trace minerals you’d be crazy not to 🙂

    They are ridiculously resilient as any gardener can tell you. If we try to resist them we fight a losing battle against nature. If we work with them we align ourselves with the powerful force of nature and experience strength and richness. We are what we eat; when we eat these hardy weeds they gift us their resilience and survival superpowers!

  • Eating them instils trust in our ability to survive and thrive in harmony on the land. Our source of life is all around us and always available. Our survival isn’t in the hands of politicians, it’s in our own hands and how we chose to use them to connect to our environment.
  • They are medicinal containing all of the vitamins and minerals we need to thrive in the form of a living whole plant making them far superior (and cheaper) than the supplements purchased in store.  A side benefit is that no energy is wasted in producing, packaging and shipping them around the globe. You can more than likely freshly harvest them from within walking distance of your home! 
  • If we shift how we look at these weeds to see them as allies, and cultivate a collaborative relationship with them,
    minkyandjasperingrass

    My cats seem to appreciate the wild-jungle-approach to gardening too, everyone’s a winner!

    we might just shift how we care for our planet.

  • Last but not least, if you’re a lazy gardener like me you now have the perfect excuse not to mow the lawn or do any sort of arduous garden work.  What was previously laziness is now intentionally holding a space for nature to spring forth and nourish you. 🙂

Inspired to take a walk on the wild side? Be warned, these wild weeds taste…well, wild!! Your domesticated palate will need some getting used to the intensity of these plant rebels. Start with a few leaves mixed in with your regular food and let me know how you get on!

How to Get More Done in 12 Weeks Than Most People Do in a Year

What if you showed up for your life every day at your full potential? What might be different? What could you achieve? What aspiration or dream is inside you just crying to get out into the world? What if everyone tapped into their soul’s desire and gave birth to their highest potential, to their unique offering to the world? What kinda awesome world would that be?! Why is that only some people reach true greatness while most people never really bring forth what they’re capable of?

The Twelve Week Year – an answer to these questions?

This here book is a game-changer. If you want to get shit done in life, turn dreams into reality and generally be the great person you’re capable of being then this is well worth a read. You can throw out your calendar, because thinking in terms of twelve-month-years is old hat. New Year’s resolutions are out the window too. Why wait until 1st January to powerfully align your vision and actions? There’s no time like the present, there is literally no time like the present.

The book provides a framework for how to get shit done. How to make shit happen (my paraphrasing).

I’ll summarise the five key components to this method:

Vision

You need a truly inspiring vision. Something that stretches you and is bigger than your current situation/capacity. It should genuinely light you up and have the power to keep you on track and propel you on your mission to greatness. This vision is your ‘big why’. Whatever it is you want to achieve make sure you’re super clear on why you want it. It sounds obvious but if you don’t have a compelling reason ‘why’ then when (not if but when!) resistance crops up you’re going to give up and return to familiar (and comfortable) old patterns.

You may be tempted to skip this whole visioning part as a load of woo woo but that would be a grave error. Without a compelling vision we are much more likely to choose comfortable old actions that give us short term benefits over the uncomfortable (i.e. new and unfamiliar) actions that are going to get us to the new place where our goal is hanging.

As an example, one of the commonest goals is to lose weight. If you haven’t gone through this first step of getting super clear on your why then you might be setting yourself this goal with a vague idea that it would be good to look like the beautiful-skinny-people-in-the-mags. That’s not a compelling why. Your spirit doesn’t give a hoot about the skinny-mag-people.  It’s superficial. When the shit hits the fan you’re going to eat the cake. And the chocolate. And-fuck-it-the-days-a-writeoff-nowanyways-so-gimme-the-crisps-as-well.  You need to dig deeper. If you’re carrying extra weight that would genuinely be best released why is that?  What’s the benefit? Maybe you would feel lighter and have more energy to play with your kids? Suddenly the stakes are a lot higher. If you don’t hit your goal (of taking care of yourself properly and releasing excess weight) you’re not going to have the sort of energy you aspire to have for your kids. That’s a powerful incentive to keep you on track

Your vision has to be compelling enough that you want it more than your current comfort.

Planning  ‘a vision without a plan is a pipedream’

I loves me a good plan. This is where the stationary and fancy diaries come in, more on those later.

The vision is awesome but ‘the physical universe will not respond to your desires, no matter how passionate or intense they are. The one thing that moves the universe is action.’

If you want to make shit happen you need a plan of action. Once you have a compelling vision you need to break this down into executable actions. What are the key actions that will take you a step closer to your goal? What are the habits? What would the person who can achieve your goals be doing on a daily and weekly basis? Make these specific and measurable and schedule these into the diary. What gets scheduled gets done!

As a personal example, I’ve dabbled with blogging in the past, in one Gregorian calendar year or another. It was an idea I had of something i’d like to do but it just never really materialised. I was waiting for inspiration, motivation or a complete blog to just land in my head fully formed. I also had all sorts of blocks around not knowing how to write and not enjoying writing, not having any ideas blah blah….

When I sat down to set my goals for my first 12 week year my main goal was to have a website with a weekly blog.  What are the critical actions needed to write a  weekly blog? Err…writing on a weekly basis. It ain’t rocket science, really. What are some non-critical actions that won’t contribute to this goal? Checking Facebook, responding to emails, watching netflicks, making another cuppa tea…

I committed to siting down for 2 hours after breakfast on Sundays to write. The beauty of this approach is that for something that really sets you up for results the focus isn’t on the results themselves. We have little control over the actual results we get, but we do have control over out actions. So all we need to do is focus on doing the actions that will most likely contribute to the results we want. With that in mind I haven’t specific ‘write an awesome blog every Sunday’. I haven’t even specific write a blog every Sunday. I’ve simply committed to sitting down and writing for 2 hours.

Process control

Structural and environmental support will give you the extra oomph needed to achieve excellent results. Will power and motivation are in short supply and won’t power you through the consistent effort needed to see really awesome results.

Get yourself a planner where you can write out your goals and your actions for the week. Schedule these in and tick them off as you go. I’ve discovered this Self Journal which is awesome and appears to have been designed with this book in mind. It’s a 13 week planner with loads of space for each day (2 whole pages per day) which really reflects how important a single day is in this new 2 week year. You can write down exactly what you need to do and tick it off as you go along. There are weekly reviews built in so you can celebrate the wins from each week and reflect on areas for improvement and refinement for subsequent weeks. This book states that ‘you are 60 to 80 percent more likely to execute a written weekly plan than a plan that is in your head.’  So write it down somewhere!

strategic blocks/buffer blocks

Another shocking statistic – you are 70% more likely to reach your goals if you’re in a group of people aiming for the same thing. Don’t go it alone, get some peeps, some accountability partners to check in with and keep each other honest.

measurement  – confront the truth

Score yourself on a weekly basis. Look at the actions that you’ve decided you need to take on a weekly basis to hit your 12 week goal and rate yourself based on how many of these you actually achieved this week.

If you’re hitting 80% of the actions you’re well on your way to hitting your goal. Recognising mini-achievements on the road to success adds to our motivation and builds confidence that we’re making progress.

If you’re not hitting 80% of the actions then you’re probably not on track for success. This cold-harsh fact can be tough to swallow but this is crucial information. If we don’t face reality we can’t expect to change it.  identify what’s not working so well and take appropriate action the following week to get your score moving in the right direction.

Time Use

Time is such a precious resource. We don’t all have a fortune to invest in ourselves but we each have the same 24 hours in a day.  Just like money we have the choice to either invest our time or squander it.

Spending our time with intention is the key to making shit happen. Don’t waste time on irrelevant stuff, be purposeful about how and where you spend your time and energy. Keep coming back to your vision and asking yourself, is this taking me closer to my vision?

The benefit of a 12 week year is that in creates a heightened sense of urgency. A week is now the equivalent of a month and a day is a week. Every day counts. And so it should. Today is a microcosm of our life.  Our relationship to today is our relationship to our life. If we’re not paying attention and making today count we’re not paying attention or making our life count!

Schedule in the important actions you need to get done in a week. Block off ‘strategic blocks’ in your diary for the important ‘turning-dreams—into-reality stuff.  Also schedule in ‘buffer blocks’ for low-level activity like checking email, social media etc.  I’ve grouped all my email and social media into one half hour window per day. What doesn’t get done in that time isn’t important enough. This system keeps you focused and attuned to your overarching vision and anything that’s not critical gets sidelined, as it should.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying

When yoIMG_3620u’re sorting through your stuff and trying desperately to justify keeping something you haven’t used inyeaaaaars…’what this? no this should definitely stay, I wear this like, literally, all of the time, like right now!’

With a title like this you’d be forgiven for thinking that the effects of tidying might have been over-stated somewhat by the publishers in an attempt to grab the reader’s attention. Well, it turns out that it does exactly what it says on the tin. Marie-Kondo’s book shows just how tidying can be both magic and life-changing.

The first stage in tidying is deciding what makes the cut, what items do we actually want to keep in our homes.  To consciously shape our homes into our very own personal sanctuaries we need to ensure that they only contain items that bring us real joy or serve us in some practical way. Sounds sensible right, but if we take a look around, how much stuff do we have that neither gets used nor brings us joy?

To assess whether something gets to stay in our newly-fashioned sanctuary Marie Kondo (the author and professional tidy-uper) suggests taking the item in our hands and asking ourselves ‘does this spark joy?’, and feeling into our physical body, listening intuitively, for the answer.

This is by far the quickest method I’ve come across for getting clutter-free and down to the minimum amount we need for maximum happiness.  Get out of your rational head where you will find a million reasons to justify keeping something you never use (see above picture) and just feel whether it makes you happy or not. The process gets easier and quicker as you move through all your possessions and you rapidly hone your joy-ometer.  She recommends working through items in the following order: clothes, books, papers, miscellany, and finally sentimental items – from easiest to hardest, so you’ll be a pro by the time you get to those challenging sentimental items.

Marie Kondo explains that the reason we hold onto things that don’t spark joy is either attachment to the past or fear of the future. That’s right, tidying is deep work! When we face our possessions and work in this way we have to work through our attachments and fears.  Wouldn’t it be AMAZING to have no attachment to the past or fear of the future but be totally and utterly present to the constantly unfolding joy of the present moment?! Well, tidying will get you there without spending a fortune on therapy!

One of the things that struck me as I went through this process is finding items that I had been holding onto that didn’t spark joy and that I didn’t use but that I had been holding onto because of a feeling of guilt that I ‘should’ be using them. Either because they were a gift from someone or because of my own  ‘wouldn’t it be good for me if I read that magazine/book and got that knowledge into my brain? I should do that one-day’ type-thoughts.

I realised that if I actually wanted to use those things I would have done so already.  I haven’t used them because I don’t really want to, they don’t resonate with who I am right now and what I’m interested in. Letting those things go is liberating, I accept exactly who I am right now and what I am and I’m not interested in.  By sending these items back out into the world I give myself permission to be the person I am today and create space for the person I am becoming.  Marie Kondo’s advice is ‘Cherish who you are now’.  Hell yes!

Another thing I found eye-opening was going through all my old yoga teacher-training notes and papers. Now Marie Kondo is very clear here. Unless it’s your passport or some other absolutely vital document (so basically just your passport) get rid of all papers. That’s right, all of them!  She’s especially strict on seminar/course notes which she devotes a whole section to.

If you haven’t taken what you’ve learned in a course and applied it in your life and thus activated and embedded that knowledge, well it’s basically pointless. It’s not doing anything sitting on your shelf or crammed in some boxes, it’s just taking up bandwidth and blocking the flow of energy around you. You’re not going to look over those notes again and you’re blocking new information from entering.

And it’s true, I rarely look at these old notes except at times like these when I’m looking at everything I own. I’ve been holding on to all these notes for the second reason, fear of the future. I might need these. I might forget how to teach, I might need inspiration etc…  Putting these all into the recycling bin I release that fear. I trust that I have everything I need and anything I need in the future will be provided.  I’m creating space for new ideas and new inspiration to flow into my life.

Sentimental items. This is the hard part and I’ll confess I’m yet to tackle this. I have an ottoman stuffed with old diaries and photos. On previous attempts to par this down I found such joy going through old letters, photos and diaries that I decided it would be foolish to get rid of this stuff. The diaries especially are a nice reminder of my life-journey and diving into them is basically time-travelling, which is cool.  So for now, I’m sorry Marie, they’re staying.

On this area Marie Kondo says that ‘It’s not our memories but the person we have become because of those past experiences that we should treasure… this is the lesson these keepsakes give us when we sort them. The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past.’ Totally get it, but going to disagree somewhat on this point, for now at least.

The beauty of this method is that the results extend WAAAAAAY beyond a tidy home. Through the process you become very clear and attuned to what gives you real joy, to what you value, to what makes you sparkle. This seeps out into other areas of your life. You may suddenly realise that a relationship you’ve been in hasn’t actually been working for you and isn’t bringing you the joy you now expect as, err, STANDARD from, err, EVERYTHING in your life, and you’ll have the courage and confidence to change it.  Your tolerance for anything that isn’t working hard to uplift and support you takes a nose-dive off a cliff into oblivion and you feel empowered by the knowledge that you decide what makes the cut in your life, you decide who and what gets to appear in your story,  the work of art that is your life that you are consciously creating, day by day, micro-choice by micro-choice.

If you’re interested in bringing some magic into your life I wholeheartedly recommend reading this short book. Here’s a summary of Marie Kondo’s method:

  1. Group and sort your belongings by category (not by room – this is a common mistake)
  2. Tackle the groups of items altogether in turn, in this precise order: clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous, sentimental items. (In descending order of difficulty)
  3. With each group, take each item in each group in your hands one by one and feel in your physical body the response to the following questions ‘does this spark joy?’ If the answer is no, thank it for whatever purpose it’s served (even if it’s just to teach you in this moment how much unnecessary crap you’ve bought and how poor your purchasing decisions have been in the past) and then let it go on its merry way, releasing it from the ‘unloved stuff’ prison you’ve been holding it in
  4. You are then left with items that only spark joy or are of actual necessity
  5. Voila, your house is a sanctuary, filled with items that spark joy, with lots of space for you to enjoy living in the present.

I’m running a book club meetup to get together and have a lively discussion about this book and the general question of ‘how much stuff do we actually need to be happy?’ RSVP to join the get-together here –http://www.meetup.com/Reading-Yoga-Meditation-and-Conscious-Living/events/230607943/

Here’s a link to the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Life-Changing-Magic-Tidying-effective-clutter/dp/0091955106/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1461926977&sr=8-1&keywords=the+life+changing+magic+of+tidying