Gifts: Give Experiences, Not Things

Co-authored by the lovely Aussie based Korean expat Lucy

Linda Lomelino Lucy The Korean Edible Gifts

By Lucy:

“This is the time of the year when we often think about other people rather than ourselves.

Gifting is one of my favourite things, this makes me feel so happy. I have had 5 summer Australian Christmases so far, and I must admit that I love this gift exchanging culture!

For the last 5 years, my boyfriend and I have celebrated Christmas and birthdays every year, which, even with only 2 people in this household, has meant we were able to fill the place pretty quick, because of getting lots of material presents. While they are all meaningful, it gets harder to maintain your home when there is too much stuff.”

This year I was inspired to give experiences and make gifts rather than going the traditional route.

“Why? A couple of years ago I received the gift a horse riding lesson, and it totally changed my perspective of gifting. Getting experience rather than materiel present? What a brilliant idea! It was like a light bulb moment for me. I must say that it was an unforgettable experience, and I fell in love with horse riding since then. The gift of horse riding for me, it will last forever…The gift of learning and experience can be a gift that will last a lifetime. “


give experiences not things quote

From Natalie & Tip:

There’s real science and psychology behind this too:

“Experiences tend to make people happier.”

“Over the past decade, an abundance of psychology research has shown that experiences bring people more happiness than do possessions… Experiential purchases are more satisfying than material purchases…”

- Buy Experiences, Not Things, The Atlantic

Some examples of gifts of experience:

  • Classes / courses / workshops
  • Something you make / bake – Lucy baked Focacia. Linda Lomelino is making diy edible gifts in jars. (above)
  • Invite people round for a meal / gift a meal to those without
  • Music / tickets to somewhere
  • Pampering: Facial / massage / barber shop (Lucy reminds us not to forget that men like being pampered too!)
  • Give back – make donations to favourite causes
  • Give yourself time and space – like this to do list:

Altenative Gift list

PS If you have already bought gifts, don’t despair! We know your family and friends will love them! We would love this to inspire you to having less stressful ‘giving’ seasons and focusing on what really matters to you and your families these holidays. And give yourselves that time and space to enjoy what matters to you. If the to do list is making you stressed, release yourself from your commitments to yourself and gift yourself permission to cross it out and do things that make you and others happy, that are fun. That give you a break.

Happy holiday season! x Natalie & Tip

Related articles: Apartment Diet: How to let go of gifts you don’t want to keep in 2 minutes / Readers Digest: Make Your Own Darn Gift / The Atlantic: The science behind Giving Experiences


Images 1: Left / Right  / 2 / 3

Tuesday Musing: Power of one, Power of many…

Sydney #illridewithyou

I had a whole other blogpost planned, on gifts and what gifts we want to give this season. But then life happened, as it usually does.

Sydney my hometown, was held in fear. Under siege. An awful thing happened. And some people, people like you and me, died.

But some beautiful things happened, and are happening too.

The hashtag #illridewithyou happened. An outpouring, moving, silent memorialising happened. Fear was replaced with well, unity. With hope.

All these things are fleeting. The fear is there. But the collective also breathed together. Stood together. Held together. Rode together.

One lone gunman, one person, did this. One person has power. And the whole has power.

It reminded me of this Cherokee story.

A Cherokee elder sitting with his grandchildren told them,

“A fight is going on inside me. It is a terrible fight between two wolves.

One is: fear, anger, envy, greed, arrogance, self-pity, resentment, and deceit.

The other is: joy, serenity, humility, confidence, generosity, truth, gentleness, compassion and deep vision.”

A child asked, “Grandfather, which wolf will win?”

The elder looked him in the eye. “Whichever one you feed.”

We do NOT get to choose what happens to us. We do get to choose what we do with it.

We have the power to choose, every day, what we want to grow & nurture. What we want to feed.

Wishing you all a peaceful and light holiday season, the world-over. xNat


Images: 1 / 2

Reader’s Question: What Do I Do With Gifts I Don’t Want To Keep?


“What do I do with gifts I’m given that I don’t want to keep”

We received a lovely question from a reader the other day, at the same time as Tip and I were talking about creating some podcasts and videos plus our lovely community intern Lucy suggested making podcasts too…so synchronicity combined with what we teach: “Just start…” So here’s my first little attempt. It took 5 minutes and I used Whatsapp’s new voice recording service.

Here goes:

Reader Question:

My Answer:

Transcript & our happy house rules below.

Happy House Rule Topic: The Art Of Letting Go

Question “What do I do with all of the shit that my in-laws buy for us for the apartment and I don’t have nowhere to put it?”


Letting Go is a big topic for us with happy house rules. I have two suggestions:

1. Does it make you smile? If it doesn’t make you smile & isn’t useful, let it go

2. Life’s Too Short For Bad Vibes – I give you permission to let go of anything that gives you bad vibes. No-one who gave you a git wants you to have bad vibes from it.

PS The poor don’t need your stuff. You can also just let it go to the street. (And by that I mean throw it in the trash. Thinking of where to donate, how to donate, driving to donate, organising donations or where to sell, how to sell, taking images and so forth is all part of the procrastination and how you hold yourself back from letting go. They suck your time and energy almost as much as the object itself. Don’t do that to yourself unless you have absolutely nothing else to do with your time. We’re guessing that you could find better things to do though.)

What do you think? Perhaps you have a gift that you don’t want. Try out our suggestions and let us know how they feel. And if you have a question you want us to answer, send it to us!

Itching to do deeper work on letting go with us? Perhaps a wardrobe cleanse, a general unclutter, or deeper work – like moving on from a loved one, healing a rift or moving on from thinking that limits you from living the life you love – book a session or two with us in person or over Skype. Start now.

Weekend Links: productivity + rest – take an hour to …

time out in the park

It’s been a full week as usual in the run up to the holidays, but even moreso here in The Netherlands as the Dutch version of Santa (“Sinterklaas”) culminates in a present giving evening today, December 5th.  The kids everywhere have been beside themselves with excitement and the parents are running around like crazy to all the special events and parties that come with this time of year.  It IS lovely and a great way to distract from the cold, wet and grey days but I’m just about all partied out and it isn’t even Christmas yet!  Anyway, my plan for the weekend is to just get some things done so that I can spend time with my family but also have at least an hour to myself – something I suggested our PA also take ‘on us’, to do something to lift her soul. We all deserve at least an hour to stop, disconnect from all the beeping and buzzing and demands, and reconnect – with nature, with friends or simply, with ourselves. And I’d like to add that taking a break also helps our productivity – win win!

So this is what I wanted to put into our post today – some “ninja” productivity tips and then some space, for you to do whatever it is that lifts your soul (and no, that does not include kicking back with social media!)

Have a beautiful weekend & big love from myself & Natalie. Tipx


A recent blog find – Samantha has ninja productivity tips for you

My all time favourite productivity rule from our “Clutter Cure eCourse”

My Instagram week of get sh*t done rules that you can find here (You might also notice that I’m taking December off social media – I’ve managed to get a lot more done this week because of it! A post on taking a digital break is in the writing!)

A little video that might help you get some things started (so you can then finish them!)

A bit of interiors mmm – this Tamarama apartment via est magazine

Finally, on my wishlist: This lamp.  Prrr. (sorry, couldn’t resist – in case Santa’s reading)


Image links: 1


Digital Bravery eCourse – Early Bird Offer



We’re pleased to be teaming up with Blog Society to promote their Digital Bravery eCourse that starts on January 26th! It’s a practical, advice filled course designed for for creatives of all levels, regardless of whether or not you are a blogger or have blogging experience, to teach you the ins and outs of maintaining an online presence for your work.

Jaclyn Carlson has brought together her 15 years experience in the marketing, events and PR worlds, plus the skills and lessons she has learned from launching and growing Blog Society to the table, to teach you about Marketing, Branding, Social Media and Building Community in a four module course (run over 5 weeks). Just like our Declutter Cure course, you’ll also have access to a Facebook Community Page where you’ll share ideas and connect to others doing the course with you.

Just click on the pictures in this post or in our sidebar to find out more! Pay in full for an early bird discount of $100 from Dec 1 to 7 and make 2015 your best year ever! And do let us know if you go ahead with the course – we’re very curious what you think.



Weekend Soul Food: Murmuration + More Space

how to save time - make space apartmentdiet quote natalie shell tip moore

Hello lovely folks,

The other morning in the middle of breakfast my 1 year old pointed to the sky. I followed his finger and saw hundreds of birds flying together in beautiful patterns. He was totally transfixed and happy watching. I was totally happy watching. And then the moment passed. But I like to think some of the magic stayed because it’s been another big week distilling things to make the knowledge we learn and teach more accessible. We’re also being honest. Our work is about life, including the messy bits. So we’ve committed to sharing our stories on how we approach topics that most of us prefer to ignore, but cause us a lot of stress. Like death. And taxes.

The biggest BANG however was this ‘simple’ sentence above. You can save time by making space.

Time is not in our control but our spaces are. And you can start REALLY small. Like just stopping to look at something beautiful, for no other reason than it’s beautiful. Or adding a plant. Or freeing up some time for fun in your calender… Read more about how, here.

A few weekend soul food links below, less than usual perhaps, because I’d love you to spend the time making space for what matters to you. Because really, that’s what it’s all about.

Happy almost weekend,

Natalie + Tip

PS If there are topics you’d like us to focus on, or something you’d like to see more of – please let us know!

Greening The Bedroom: UrbanJungleBloggers Nov

Decorate with plants” is a big happy house rule for us. And workplace rule too actually. As is a happy bedroom.

So it’s a pleasure to join #urbanjunglebloggers this month on the topic ‘greening the bedroom’.

apartmentdiet nat's place urbanjunglebloggers

Will you play too?

Your effort doesn’t need to be big. It can be as simple as a twig, a leaf, a single flower or a bunch or a little plant. A green pillow case, blanket or poster. A vase. Don’t get bogged down by what you can’t do or don’t have….add some green that you can, something that makes you smile.

green the bedroom inspiration apartmentdiet urbanjunglebloggers

PS Happy thanksgiving for those of you who celebrate and in the spirit of giving thanks – thanks to you ALL for being so supportive of us as we grow this blog into a business!

Images: Nat’s place  / Pinterest 1, 2, 3, 4 (from left to right, top, bottom)

Related posts: Our top 7 unkillable plants + would you unplug your bedroom?

New Habit Monday: Loving My Finances

love your finances happyhouserules

Ahh, it’s Monday again. And instead of getting annoyed that it’s not the weekend I have decided to use Mondays to create a new habit. (As we say, it’s easier to create a new habit then break an old one…preferably with a new habit that makes it hard (or even impossible) to do the one you’re trying to break.)

This month the big habit that I’ve committed to (hopefully for life) is a happy house rules I’m calling #lovingyourfinances or perhaps it’s #respectyourfinances (feel free to weigh in) – although it could be also called ‘stay on top of your finances’ or ‘be balanced’.

In my case this specifically translates into setting aside a very small amount of time every week to do my accounting.

I used to have a very special relationship with accounting. (I’m deliberately talking in past tense, for a new habit to come alive it helps that you disassociate with your old story).

It worked like this:

I avoided.
I got stressed.
A few days before the deadline I panic.
On the deadline (thankfully I have a clever accountant who gives me a deadline before the taxation deadline) I get an email from the accountant. Then my accountant calls.

Then I do my accounting. Only after procrastinating from it all day.

I realised last week I was totally and utterly over this process.

So I created a new habit. I have decided to LOVE my accounting.

Here’s the reality. It is unlikely that I will love the thrill of accounting itself.

If you read this blog regularly you know we like work outside-in – so while it may be a mental leap for me to suddenly love finance admin (I’ve tried, it didn’t seem to work ;) it most certainly is not hard to start doing something differently about it. Money is physical. So why not do something physical about it.

I DO like feeling organised. I do love NOT having my accounting hang over my head. I do love NOT being stressed about accounting or money.

I LOVE not being stressed. I LOVE making a great income because it lets me do things I LOVE like travel and eat in great restaurants (and as my grandfather used to say, paying tax means you’ve made a great income…). I LOVE the time I’m not spending on my accounting.

At the end of the day I know myself. Like exercise, accounting may itself not bring me joy. My accounting being done with ease, freeing me up for fun is what brings me joy.

So I put all these loves together. And allocated a part of my Monday to something I call “Balance Day”.

I’ve also committed to asking my accountant questions. Like, they’re here to help us. Why not just ASK?


So, Balance day for me means:

I spend 20 minutes meditating (another new habit from this year), 20 minutes on accounting (invoices, emails, receipts, email accountant etc) and then I have an activity I call FUN. This can take 1 hour. It could be coffee with a friend. Drawing. Whatever.

My new habit is balancing my accounting which has been draining to me with EASE and FUN.

I’m balancing my books with balancing me.

And who knows, maybe in the process I’ll love finance. In the meantime, I’m sure loving knowing about my financial situation rather than hiding from it.


Do you ignore your finances and accounting? How’s that working for you? Perhaps it’s time for a new habit/s?

And while you are thinking about that, here are two simple habits anyone can do to keep their accounting more easily organized.

1. 12 Envelopes:

Have 12 envelopes. Label them January 2014, Feb….

Have them next to your door / in an easy space. Every day empty your business related receipts into the envelope. Sometime every month, even in front of the tv, put the amounts into a spreadsheet.

Add a stamp and send to your accountant, or file in a safe place.

2. Digital: 12 Folders

Create an acconuting folder. Create 12 subfolders January, Feb…., drag anything into there…

When you sit in front of the tv…print and add to envelope….

That’s your accounting – DONE


Would love to know your thoughts and what new habit this inspired in you!


Weekend Links: Soul Food

Stephanie Stamatis and Luisa Brimble via

Hello lovely folks,

It’s been a big week for us, and perhaps for you too.

We’ve been out exploring interiors at the 1st or 2nd store, working with brave clients making space (in their closets, homes and lives) for more of the experiences they want and reflecting about death and loss in today’s fast paced world.

We’re also getting closer to what this blog-turned-business is. We want to share what we’ve learned the last 5 years working on our spaces and lives and the last 20 years in following (and not following) our own paths….the simple rules, processes and ideas we have learned that help us “cut through the noise & focus on what matters“, to “live lighter, and work better“.

Our hope is that in sharing our stories and lessons, you too can clear through the noise to focus on what matters to you, too.

And now for some links to keep you inspired over the weekend:

Moving On: When Someone Close To You Loses Someone Close To Them

harry araten fall

Death. That word we whisper and ignore.
And for the most part we can.
Until we get an sms or a phone call or catch a comment on facebook…
And yet, even then.
Our world demands that we move on FAST.

Often people come back to work, are told to get on with their lives.

The concept that grief persists weeks, months and years later seems strange in this fast-paced world of ‘moments’ and ‘messages’/’notifications’ strung together…that disappear into the whirlpool of feeds and phones.

Move on we’re told. Move to what’s next.

I have been relatively lucky (tfu tfu tfu as the Jewish & Greek grandmother’s hiss) that death and loss has touched me by the side. That is, over the years I have known a large number of people close to me who have dealt with large and powerful loss. The loss of a parent, the loss of a sibling, the loss of a partner, the loss of a child…

I cannot say anything directly about how they feel for I have always been the bystander or observer, but I have often been next to it. My personal experiences as an adult have seen the loss of grandparents, but, even though those are hard, a person who lived a full life has a different funeral and passing.

That said I do come from a family that grapples with loss in their shadowy back story of WWII. So perhaps my experiences with loss are the whispering ones I grew up with. Haunting tales never fully told that live in me.

But I digress.

This week, this Thursday, marks the day, exactly one year ago when I received one such phone call. And it shook me to my core. Again, I was by the wayside, far away from Australia. Close family friends of ours were in a car accident, and Hans, dear Hans, was somehow, confusingly dead.

Harry Aratan Love-Songs

My son was 5 weeks old and like most new mothers I was lost in that between space of sleep and sleeplessness, and hormones.

Perhaps because of this I had an experience. I have no other words for it and in some ways it doesn’t matter. Many of us have experiences and episodes, some we ignore and some journeys we would never care to share. What I can say is that I suddenly found myself there, on the shadowy side, for the first time…I was THERE, wherever there is, and I put out the call.

I don’t have other words to describe it because these shadow worlds are not places for eloquence. They are places for experience.

But I put out the call, and they, whatever they are, came. And Hans was held and moved on. And I was back HERE.

harry araten balancing the world

I know the place, because I am also a storyteller, and stories tell of it. In my story landscape it is the Well of Wyrd that sits below Ygdrassal, the world tree. In others it is the outer barren lands between. Or the journey to Pardes. Or behind the veil.

I know that there is a danger to journey there and I can only say that I thank Hans for taking me to the place and and giving me a final gift (of many)…that I returned safely to this one. I thank my newborn son and Mr. too, because it is exactly in life and grounding that we can return healthily. I don’t imagine I could have gone there had I not so recently moved phases and become a mother.

But what of all these stories I am sharing with you?
Why am I taking you to the lands between life and death?
Perhaps because I realise as I write, there is nothing to fear. Not there.

The fear is HERE.

The fear is here that we are not living the life we need. The one that taps us on the shoulder and whispers to us. The one that tries to stare back at us in the mirror while we cover ourselves with make up and armour, and our homes and closets with things.

OK, so that’s our fear.

But what is it is we fear when someone around us loses someone close?

From observation I have noticed it is two things:
1. That it will happen to us and we will have to change 2. That we will say the wrong thing.

We will come back to 1, because this is not about you right now….for 2 I will share something that I have learned.

There is little wrong that you can say if you are checking in on someone from a true place of love.

Do not be hurt if they don’t want to talk with you about it (one of my lessons).

For most people in mourning being asked regularly, after most people have forgotten to ask, “how are you doing?” and “do you want to go for a walk or drive (or dinner)?” is what they need.

Really. In general women will want to talk and men will want to move. Another gift clarified from knowing Hans is that men will often talk more comfortably, openly and freely while driving or walking.

Rainbow-Rain-harry araten

I have a close friend who lost her sister in a house fire when we were young. I can’t even imagine it. Not for one second. But we went for a walk every weekend for 2 years. One of the things I learned from her was that people at work expected her to be OK after a few weeks. They found it easier to ask the woman who worked next to her about her eating disorder.

It made sense to her but made her sad. She just wanted people to ask her if she was OK. How she was coping.

Araten, Harry The Art of Happiness

Yesterday I spoke with an old work colleague and he made me realise that some of Tip’s and my work here is to bring back some old truths. Of things that matter to humans.

This being human is a weird thing but no matter how many things we have and how much technology we use to cover it up and enrich us (and it DOES also do that – hey I can talk to you from the other side of the world! Through binary!)…but there are still things that humans need: love, connection and yes, rituals.

An understanding that we are part of larger cycles that go further and beyond what we can see. There IS comfort there.

And I think we want comfort. Especially around times of loss.

harry araten forest of pictures

Which brings me to rituals. Tip and I talk about habits but we also talk about creating rituals.

The finality of a loss takes a long time. Much longer than we sometimes expect. But many of us have lost the mourning rituals that help us on our way back. Most religions have mourning rituals lasting a year. And that first year is JUST to understand the person has moved on.

I often hear stories of people who’ve only begun to deal with the loss, or have the breakdown, 2 or 3 years on.

In the context of such rituals it makes sense. The finality doesn’t come in the instant. It comes much later. When you realise you want to talk to them about something. When a memory returns and you can’t share it with them. Or worse, when you realise that the memories are fading. That you DON’T remember anymore.

To those brave ones of you who are facing loss, I take my hat in my hands and offer you the comfort that you will get through this, in time.

To those friends dealing with loss around you I ask that that you offer your hands. Your ears. To let go of the fear that you will say or do something wrong. Or that it will happen to you. Or that you are glad it didn’t happen to you. There is no shame in these thoughts.

We are human and our way is complex and inherited are memories and thoughts and fears that have been passed down through the eons.

But our actions, the ones we perform right now, they are the ones that we have power over. Trust yourself that they are the right ones. And when you make mistakes, accept them.

Those seeking actions – here are some borrowed from rituals around death…parents, you’ll notice it’s a similar list to what you would do for friends who have just had a newborn:

  • Bring over a cooked meal
  • Go and look after the kids
  • Sit with them
  • Connect with them (by all means, use modern technology! Pick up the phone, send an email….)
  • Share stories that make you laugh and cry
  • Offer a hug
  • Go for a walk
  • Do some loads of washing and clean some dishes
  • Treat them to a massage


images: Harry Araten

Thank you, Hans. In loving memory.