The New York Marathon – a runners perspective…

Hopefully I will be this cheerful at the finish...

Hopefully I will be this cheerful at the finish…

Many of my readers may not know, but I will be running in the New York City Marathon this coming November. I am raising $5,000 for Animals Asia and have called it the Moon Bear Marathon in honour of the moon bears I am helping to save from the horrific practice of bile farming in Asia.

Not being a marathon runner I am a little (a lot) nervous but having read this blog post from Pip Coates, an Australian journalist who blogs about running, I am feeling a wee bit better! See what you think:

If you’re contemplating a trip to New York, the best time to go is in early November and the best way to see the city is by taking a unique tour that covers all five boroughs- Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan. The tour takes anywhere from three to five hours and all streets along the route are closed to traffic for your exclusive access; it’s the only New York tour to offer such a service.

Along the way you’ll be entertained by more than 130 live bands, each one a musical representation of the cultural diversity of the neighbourhoods you pass through. Food and drink is provided every kilometre. Numbers are limited to about 45,000 and entry costs from $327 but, despite this, every year it’s harder to score a ticket.

The tour is called the lNG New York Marathon and, yes, you have to run 42.2 kilometres- or 26 miles- non-stop, but that is actually what makes it fun. Especially as you’re doing it with runners from about 80 countries. This event is at once a race, an intense personal challenge, a cultural exchange, a sightseeing tour, a music festival and a giant carnival. If there’s only one marathon in you, this should be it because it’s the only marathon in the world with enough crowd power to help carry you over the line.

The race begins from Staten Island with a steady climb up and over the two kilometre-long Verrazano Narrows bridge that spans the Hudson River. Manhattan – your final destination –looks very far away. As the sun rises, 45,000 pairs of sneakers smack the bitumen. Some runners record the moment on their smartphones; others cheer. The adrenaline courses through your veins; the scene is so at odds with the hours of solitary training in pre-dawn winter darkness that you ‘ve endured to get here.



Once over the Narrows your marathon tour arrives in Brooklyn and a rapturous greeting from the first of some 2 million spectators who will be lining the course and waving signs saying “Black toenails are sexy” , “You’ve got stamina! Call me”, and “You are NOT nearly there”.

The sidewalk enthusiasm evaporates as you enter Brooklyn ‘s ultra-orthodox Jewish neighbourhood where the locals appear to consider you an invading alien force, which to some extent you are. But a few streets later you’re back in the madness passing a yarmulka-wearing rock band with a banner out front declaring: “Shalom to all kosher marathoners. ”

After Brooklyn and Queens, you traverse the long and steep Queensborough Bridge. New York is the hilliest of the five major marathons (Boston, London, Berlin and Chicago are the other four)and here, at about the 15-mile mark, you need to stay focused . You descend into the exit tunnel, take a 90-degree turn and emerge at the southernmost end of First Avenue, Manhattan.

You know you’ve arrived in Manhattan before you see it. The almost deafening roar of countless cheering spectators ricochets off the tunnel walls and when you emerge onto the avenue the scene is staggering: thousands upon thousands of runners and fans stretch straight ahead of you for almost 70 blocks: Those 70 blocks get pretty tedious, however, and despite some entertaining signage (“Run total stranger, run “), it’s almost a relief to cross another bridge into the Bronx. This is the 20-mile mark and things can get a bit hazy. You’re tired and a little voice is trying to fill your head with negative thoughts. Then someone goes and waves a banner saying “It’s OK to cry”. Just as you consider doing so, the live music intervenes. This time it’s Alicia Keys (sounds like her, looks like her) singing Empire State of Mind. You kick on.

Your tour arrives back on Manhattan at 138th Street. It’s time for the return push south along the island – 48 blocks of straight grind up Fifth Avenue. Fortunately the crazy supporters haven’t run out of puff and when at last you turn into Central Park at 90th street, it’s a blessed relief. Yes, you will hurt and there will be scenes of carnage among some of the other runners, but the magnificent, dazzling display of autumn colours throughout the park can still fill you with joy.

With about 2.2 miles to go it’s time to draw on all your reserves of mental strength and remind yourself how to run properly as your body is close to seizing up in protest. It’s time to think about why you signed up for this tour, how much it means to you, who you are doing it for.

A few more bends in the road, the faces flash by and then you hear the blissful sound of the race announcer counting down the final few hundred metres. It’s all you can focus on: the finish line, the blue timing mats, the crowds in the stands, the overhead electronic timing clocks.

You run so hard to the end- and then it’s over. You can stop, but you can hardly stand, the emotion is overwhelming. Someone wraps you in a heat sheet, someone else pins it together and then someone drapes a heavy medal around your neck and takes a photo. You’ve completed the world’s biggest marathon. And you’ve got a medal to prove it.

If you would like to help me achieve my $5,000 goal towards the rescue of  moon bears from bile farming feel free to donate here!

Read Pip’s blog here. 

Is my desire to recycle an excuse to keep stuff?

How and what should I donate?

This is such a common problem – you want to declutter but you don’t want to just put items in the bin, especially if they are still good or if they have cost you lots of money. hit the nail on the head so read on for some interesting ideas:

Deciding exactly how to purge your clutter can be a difficult process. Do you trash it, recycle it at a recycling center, recycle it by repurposing it into something more useful, sell it, or donate the item to charity or to someone you know who wants it? And, like you suggested in your question, recycling, repurposing, donating, and selling items can be an excuse to hold onto clutter if you’re never actually following through and recycling, repurposing, donating, or selling the items.

I try to use the following guidelines when purging items:

  • Trash the trash. If something is trash, it should be trashed. You can compost the environmentally friendly items, but if a product needs to go to the dump, by all means take it to the dump. And, if something is a hazardous material, be sure to take it to your county’s hazardous waste facility. Trash is clutter and you shouldn’t hold onto it a minute longer than necessary.
  • Recycle what can be recycled, but do it now. People who live in city’s with curbside recycling pick up have it the easiest — put your recycling on the curb and be done with your aluminum, glass, paper, and plastic products. If you don’t have curbside pickup in your area (or have larger items, like steel beams) you’ll need to drive to the closest recycling center to make deposits. I recommend incorporating this errand into your weekly schedule so the recycling never builds up beyond seven days. For other recyclable items that aren’t accepted at most recycling centers — eye glasses, electronics, clothing for rags — only recycle these items IF you’ll recycle them in the next seven days. If a week passes and the items are still lingering, trash them. Schedule the recycling action items on your calendar (research to find where you can recycle the item, boxing and shipping of the item or dropping it off), as well as the deadline for trashing the item if you fail to recycle it.
  • Only sell, repurpose, or give an item to a friend if you do it now.You can sell, repurpose, or give an item to a friend, but only do this if you’re actually going to follow through on the action. Similar to recycling, schedule the action items on your calendar and a deadline (I give myself two weeks) for when it will be out of your house. If it has been two weeks and you still haven’t rid your home of the objects, trash them.
  • Only give good items to charity. As Peter Walsh so aptly stated in his book It’s All Too Much:

    Goodwill receives a billion pounds of clothing every year. Ultimately, they use less than half of the clothes they get. Clothing is cheap, and the cost of sorting, cleaning, storing, and transporting the clothes is higher than their value. If you wouldn’t give an article to a family member, it’s probably not good enough for charity. Sure, it’s great to get the tax deduction and it makes you feel like you didn’t waste money buying the clothes, but if you’re truly charitable, be sensitive to the needs of the organization. Charities aren’t dumping grounds for your trash.

    Read the entire article and all the other reader’s interesting comments here:

Ever wonder what your donation $ buys?

$100 = 10 trees planted

This morning in Australia the top story in the media is how we will be paying a levy through our Medicare system that will help to pay for the Qld andVic flood relief.

Many thousands have already donated to this cause to the tune of  over 176 million dollars. With this in mind I read an interesting article in Real Simple magazine that I thought I may share with you all, on what a $100 donation actually buys, whether it is for floods, animals, medical etc:

Animals: $100 = 10 cats microchipped

Nature: $100 = 100 trees planted

Building houses: $100 = 1 toilet, 2 hard hats, 3 hammers

Children: $100 = 50 children’s books

Doctors: $100 = 3 first aid kits, 24 blankets, 10 surgical scissors

Families in Africa: $100 = 10 mosquito nets

There are 1,000’s more charities but doesn’t it put it in perspective when you can see how your $$ can be spent?

Reaching out from Hurricane Katrina to the QLD flood victims…

That's rather an understatement!

In the Saturday edition of the Brisbane Courier Mail, there was a lovely letter from a lady called Elisabeth Gleckler, a survivor from Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Elisabeth was writing to let flood victims in Queensland know that they were being thought of from across the other side of the world and to share some advice on what she had learnt from the disaster.

She wrote:

The pictures and stories from Queensland touch us her in New Orleans. We know what you are feeling and what you will have to do to rebuild. Maybe I can offer some advice for what to expect as you get back into your houses.

Set your expectations for longer timelines. Things will not happen fast (except the destruction) so be proud of each small step and yet think long-term.

Keep steady and try not to react to the momentary ups and downs.

Take care of one another. Your neighbours, family and friends are the ones who will pull you through the rebuilding.

Don’t forget the little things to help one another – small gestures can be so important. Focus on one another not the swirling rumours.

Don’t let your insurers off the hook. They make profits from you not getting your full measure of a payout for damages.

Don’t give up. Document, file suit, argue, keep the pressure up. If you paid premiums, you deserve all that they owe you.

Be very careful of contractors: The good ones are gold, the bad ones are very persuasive. So if you feel a little warning signal about them, trust the feeling. You may need some repairs but you don’t need to be the victim of fraud or poor workmanship.

Finally, there are some good things that come out of disasters.

I learned a lot in post-hurricane Katrina. I have a new world view and I developed a nuanced sense of humour. I encountered lovely people who came to help us rebuild, volunteers, (some from Australia). I found out that I can thrive and be a fine person even in a disaster – and no amount of water can wash that away.

Elisabeth Gleckler, New Orleans, USA

Keeping positive in the face of adversity

The devastation of the flash flood

I don’t feel like writing in my blog today – I feel physically sick after watching the flash flood scenes in Toowoomba where tragically 8 people lost their lives yesterday. Apparently we in Brisbane will feel the force of these floods either today or tomorrow.

Instead I am sharing the positive words of a friend who pretty much hit the nail on the head: Robyn Simpson from “Choose the Tude” who is running a 30 Day Tude Challenge on Facebook for the New Year.

Hi all!
I hope you’re keeping dry and safe. This rain in QLD is amazing! I feel for the people who have been evacuated from their homes (some twice), and for the loss of life in such a freak natural disaster.

Sometimes life happens, and not as we plan it. Things from beyond our control affect our happy equilibrium. This is when the power of your ‘Tude really pulls through. It’s what we choose to do with what life throws at us that makes the difference between a positive life experience and a miserable one.

The same thing happens with goals… life happens—what do you choose to do about it? Today’s ‘Tude Tip is a gentle reminder that even when things aren’t going as you plan or visualise, you can still choose to find a positive side to them. Sometimes these ‘happenings’ are a blessing in disguise.

I can almost guarantee, once you have moved through adversity with a positive ‘Tude, you can handle anything!

The other positive that comes from a diversity such as the floods is the generosity of fellow humans… as of yesterday nearly $30,000,000 has been raised through donations.

If you want to contribute you can do so on the QLD government site

Keep dry, keep safe and keep positive.
With Grati-Tude!


The joy of donating – your time, your money & your stuff!

Giving a little can mean so much

It is yet another day of pouring rain here in Brisbane, but if anything it is this bad weather that is bringing out the best in people.

Last night Australia held a nation-wide telethon to raise money for all the flood victims in the north of the country (they raised over $10 million in donated funds) and I have had countless enquires from clients who have been decluttering and wondering how they can help by donating their goods.

Today I am donating my time – to help a fellow professional organiser move house after being struck by personal tragedy and each week I volunteer my time helping the RSPCA, making sure foster animals have good homes to go to.

Sometimes it isn’t until you hit rock bottom that you realise how much people do care – and how much they are willing to give to help. What can you give up today that will help someone else in need – your time, your money, your excess items from around the home? Not only will you enrich your own life, your generosity and caring will make a huge difference in someone else’s life.


The Wastefulness of Decluttering

Another great article from Leo Babauta from Zen Habits. He hits the nail on the head!

The great feeling of donating to charity...

I know there are many of you who want to declutter, or who have already gotten started … but you hit a roadblock.

And it’s a big one: you don’t want to be wasteful. Your gut tells you that getting rid of perfectly good things — things that cost a pretty penny to get in the first place — is wasteful as hell.

I recently received this letter from Marissa, a brilliant reader:

“I am currently going through my possessions for the umpteenth time to have/own less. My issue I am having now, is that when I donate/throw away items I don’t “need” I feel like I am wasting money. At one point in time I used my hard earned money to buy this item and now I just want to get rid of it. Though this does help in my future shopping habits so I don’t buy anything on a whim or just because I want to have it, I feel like I am throwing away money into the trash/donation bins.”

This is such a common question that I thought I’d address it here — if you’re holding onto stuff because you feel it would be a waste of good money if you got rid of it, here is the answer you are looking for:

I hereby release you of your burden.

You are free. You bought these items with hard-earned money, and you don’t want that money to go to waste, so you’ve been holding onto them. It’s a burden that keeps you from freeing yourself of these unneeded possessions — it forces to you keep the space they occupy, to maintain these possessions, to constantly see them every day even if you don’t want them, to walk around them or trip over them or live in a cramped, cluttered space. This is a burden, paying penance for your initial wasted expenditure of cash.

But: the waste was when you bought it, not when you get rid of it. You bought something you didn’t really need — and the real waste would be to ignore this and not learn from it.

So here’s how to make sure that by decluttering possessions you don’t need, it’s not a waste:

1. Learn your lesson. This might sound condescending, but it’s not meant to be — if we don’t realize our mistakes, we can’t learn and avoid them in the future. So realize: you shouldn’t have bought the items in the first place. Avoid doing this in the future, by buying as little as you possibly can. Stop being a consumer, and start living.

2. Realize that keeping the items is wasteful. If you keep stuff you don’t need, it costs you money — you pay for the space to store it (lots of possessions means bigger homes or storage containers), you pay to maintain it, it costs you time (and therefore money) to keep it and go around it, you have to fix things when they break, you have to sort through things to find things, you spend time moving things around, and so on. Getting rid of this unnecessary stuff frees you of this waste.

3. Find someone who will use it. It’s a waste to keep something when you’re not using it (a good reason car-sharing is a much better use of cars than private ownership, btw). So find a friend or family member who needs it, or give it to Goodwill or some other such charity, or donate it to a library that will let many others use it. Consider starting a neighborhood tool library, or a book-sharing spot in your community. When someone else uses your items, it’s not a waste.

4. Test the waters. If you’re unsure of whether you’ll need something later, put it to a test: have you used it in the last six months? If not, you probably don’t need it (unless it’s seasonal — then ask if you needed it in the last year). If you’re still unsure, box it up with today’s date, and check on it in six months — if you never needed to open the box, you didn’t need it.

5. Don’t let your possessions own you. If you hold on to possessions because you feel it would be wasteful to get rid of them, they are controlling you. They are dictating your life, rather than you creating the life you want, living how you want to live. Let go of possessions and be free — living otherwise would be the true waste.

6. Make better use of your time and space. Once you’re freed of this clutter, don’t waste your freed time on acquiring more stuff. Spend your time on incredible experiences, not on possessions. In the end, get a smaller house, now that you need to store less stuff, and help save the earth while you’re at it (a smaller home, along with ditching your car, is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your carbon emissions).