Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Sunday, August 26, 2012

How to Get Your Life Together in Three Simple Steps

It seems that when things get really  tough, the item "get my life together" always makes it on my to-do list. I would venture that this is the  case for a lot of people. I always feel like if I had my life together, my library books wouldn't be late, my laundry would get done, and I wouldn't constantly be flaking out on my family and friends. "Get my life together" is a cure-all balm for every ail in my life, no matter what stage or situation I'm in. If I had my life together, all my problems would be easily manageable.

I know that this is mostly nonsense. No one really has their life together, but like the model with artfully tousled hair or the Ikea catalog where everything is perfectly lived-in and perfectly neat, I can't help but idealize and sigh.

Wishful thinking was only getting me so far though, so I started to look at the systems in my life that did work, like regular credit checks, DVD organization, and grocery shopping. I know the list is haphazard, but these are the things in my life that work like magic, with low investment of my time and high yields of enjoyment and/or functionality. After a few days of analysis, I've developed a simple three-step process to get your life together.

1. Figure out what you love.
2. Eliminate the junk.
3. Go forth and do.

That's it. That's how you get your life together. Before you start yelling at me though, remember that simple and easy are two different things. Easy requires little work, but unless it was set-up with care, easy things often have disposable results. Simple things require effort, but focused effort with purpose, effort that will yield clean, clear, satisfying results. Before you can easily prepare dinner from scratch, you need to do the simple work of de-cluttering, organizing, and stocking your kitchen. Just because something is simple does not mean it's easy, but when you're establishing a routine or behavior, simple preparation will make future execution wonderfully easy.

Let's look more closely at the three simple steps to getting your life together.

1. Figure out what you love.

If you don't know what it is you want to do with your time, why are you bothering to free it up? Do you want to be with family, leave your dent in the universe, or just be free to enjoy a nice drink and a good book on a lovely day? What are your priorities, and how do they fit with both your goals for yourself and the basic necessities of life?

Having a hard time figuring this out? Look at what you like to linger on. Is it a good meal? A relaxing soak in the tub? Your favorite movies? Time spent with friends? What makes your heart sing? What do you "waste" your time on, but don't regret doing?

For myself, I love to cook, knit, garden, read, watch movies and TV, explore the world, keep in touch with family and friends, and spend time with my husband and our dogs. I don't care much for changing my home's look with the seasons, dancing, sporting events, eating fussy hors d'oeurves, quilting, rock climbing, painting, or spending much time with cats. All of these are valid activities, and can be enjoyable, but some I like, and some I don't like. Most importantly, I know which is which.

2.Get rid of the junk.

Junk is anything that gets in the way of your life. It clutters your home and mind, and hinders you from doing what you love, so it must go. Junk includes actual stuff that you don't use or love, routines that take longer than necessary or accomplish more-than-adequate results, behaviors that stifle your enjoyment of things and activities, and relationships that bog down your day or emotions. It will take time to get rid of all the junk, but you'll feel lighter, happier, and more content with each weight you shed from your life. Best of all, when you start to get rid of junk, you'll learn to recognize it quickly, and so be better equipped to keep it from entering your life in the first place.

It's easy (or at least easier) to identify physical junk, but behavioral and emotional junk is a little harder to root out. Do you hate doing dishes? Loathe chatting with your co-workers? Reluctantly do your grocery shopping? Or maybe things that are useful become junk when they're out of place. Are you tripping over clothes on your floor? Always stubbing your toe on that end-table? Frustrated with that floor fan when you don't use it in the winter? Lastly, and most difficultly, maybe your junk comes in the form of important relationships. Do your parents demand too much of your time? How often do your kids come to you when they're bored or hungry? Are there friends in your address book that you don't enjoy seeing anymore?

Once you've found junk in your life, it's important to eliminate it effectively. Purging paperwork is only helpful when you establish a system to keep it under control in the future.  Picking your clothes up off the floor once won't solve the long-term problem. Perhaps you need to place your hamper differently, or designate a corner of your room for a dirty laundry pile. If cooking's not your thing, embrace that. Buy frozen vegetables, canned sauces, and easy-to-prepare pastas and rice. You need to eat, but you don't need to spend a lot of time throwing a healthy meal together. Come up with standard replies to decline things, events, and activities you'd rather not deal with. If I don't want to say "Hell yeah!" to something, I often say "I don't have room for that, but thank you", "I'd love to, but that's just not my thing", and "I'm sorry, I need to ________ right now, but maybe later". Don't worry about explaining yourself; it's your time and resources that are being requested, so it only matters to you why you don't want to spend them.

If your relationships are what cause you problems, you'll need to get rid of the junk more carefully. Getting your life together isn't a good excuse to be insensitive, and some relationships are unavoidable. Setting clear boundaries, not acknowledging petty or belittling comments, and having a firm start and end time for activities are some good techniques for dealing with family members and work superiors.  Finding a different, better-tempered person  helps for clerks, cashiers, and customer service (it also does wonders if you're polite as well). For some relationships, firmly cutting off all contact may be the best solution, though I recommend you try the previous techniques at first, however, I've had to resort to this method for some more extreme, damaging relationships, and though I wish the person all the best, I entirely believe my life is better without them.

Cutting the junk out of your life doesn't mean those things or activities aren't valid or valuable, and limiting time with people doesn't mean you care for them any less; getting rid of junk is about making room for what you love, so that when you do let something into your home or share your time with some one, you can give your best.

3. Go forth and do.

Once you've figured out what you love, and gotten rid of the junk that's in your way, go out and live your life. You keep your house clean so you can have friends over and let your children play without worry. You've prioritize relationships that matter so you can spend time with those people, even if it just means taking an afternoon to talk about nothing in particular. You've streamlined household chores so you can spend more time creating something you love and want to share with the world. While you may have to repeat the first two steps often ( I know I do), don't become bogged down with dreaming and maintenance; go out and enjoy your life. Getting your life together may be a singular item on your to-do list, but maintaining your life is an everyday affair. Once you've invested in the simple work, take advantage of the easy routines to actually live a life you love.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

That's Not How It Works

I don't get it when people list things for sale on E-bay that are still available at the original store, but list the price as higher than it would cost me to get a new one. That's not how E-bay works, sillies.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Internet Has Made Me a Creeper

The other day I was going through my Google Reader when I watched this video about an interesting use of a small space:

I generally like the fair companies flicks on small spaces, but this one was particularly intriguing because Monica Potvin (the woman who shows us around her home) seems like such a personable, fun lady. I honestly want to fly to Spain and invite her to dinner.

So, since I have no money for airfare, instead I did a quick search, hoping she had a blog I could follow. I understand that reading someone's blog and being friends with them are different things, but it is a stepping stone where you can start to know someone. Sometimes you just end up reading what they write, other times they fall off your radar, and in rare circumstances you make a new friend.

Anywho, I just wanted to learn more about this cool chick, but I found out she doesn't really keep a web presence. She has a Facebook account, but that would be creepy for me to friend her, right? And she runs Matteria, a design store focused on the European market, but other than  a brief bio, there's no sign of her on the site. So here I sit, feeling unnaturally limited by the world wide web.

The thing is, I have a hard enough time making friends. I feel like I come off as weird, loud, and flaky. Adding creepy to the list does not make me feel good.  I suppose I could never hit 'publish' for this post, and no one would have to know, but I know, and I also know that if I've had this problem, so have other people. So let's get together and discuss; how do you make friends on the internet, and real life, without entirely scaring them away?

Also, I really do have a problem with being flaky. Weird is just a part of my personality, being loud comes from being nervous, and the level of creepiness is all in the approach. So are there any suggestions to help me become a firm baked good rather than a flaky one?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Magical Mystery For...Lush Lovers

I love that Lush creates all-natural products in small batches with little to no packaging. I also love that all of my toiletries can be found in solid forms at Lush (this means no packaging at all, plus no preservatives to deal with). I love Lush's knot wraps and scents and sense of humor. Really, this post could be just a long list of what I love about Lush, but there is a point to me writing it, I promise.

Lush is releasing a new product line called Emotional Brilliance, but they won't say what Emotional Brilliance is. The site page shows a picture of a woman shushing us. Her lips are a bright pink, and the same color spells "passionate" on her finger. Her nails are painted nude. That's it, except for a link to this music video by Lush's "resident chanteuse" Mira:

The only clue to what the product is comes at 2:50, and is a shot of bottles in multiple colors with the Lush logo and small black tops. Guesses have included bath dyes, eye shadow, lip stick/gloss, hair dye, room scent, and nail polish. My money is on nail polish. What do you think?

UPDATE (SPOILER ALERT): A quick Google search search shows that Emotional Brilliance is a full make-up line based on color therapy. Some people are excited, some not so much. Apparently Lush used to have a make-up line called B Never Too Busy To Be Beautiful, detailed here. Honestly, I hope the Emotional Brilliance line is more toned back, as a big draw for me to Lush is the simplicity and versatility of its products. I guess I'll just have to wait until July 21 to find out.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Google Reader is My New Favorite Thing

The internet has things worth my time.
I used to spend hours on the internet going through a bunch of bookmarked sites that I wanted to keep up with. I don't know why I never tried an RSS feed, I just didn't. However, a few months ago I started using Google Reader, and I absolutely love it. I get all the content from all the sites I love, and I only have to go one place for it. Initially I spent just as much time keeping up with my favorite sites, but having everything in one place helped me better limit my reading time and cut out sites that didn't inform me well or bring me joy. Once I realized how to save time, it became an easy thing to do, and now I get to writing just as often as I read (which explains my recent return to the blog-o-sphere).

Another technological advancement that has saved me time? My Amazon Kindle. I can read books, magazines, and newspapers all on one device, it's easy and guilt-free to highlight things, and I can look up word definitions in seconds. This might be sad to admit, but I love my kindle (which I named the Kimdle) so much that reading regular books is actually tiresome. The Kimdle is easier to transport, easier to find things on, and so much more versatile than regular print media. While I'm a complete convert, my fiance likes his only for novels because he finds reference materials too bothersome to flip back and forth for.

All of this sort of got me thinking (and by sort of I mean I had to think of something else to say because this post is shorter and more self-indulgent than usual) about the value of technology versus the feeling of a physical thing that will show wear, tear, and love over the years of its life. The first thing that comes to mind in this somewhat tired debate is my favorite gardening book ever, Garden Anywhere by Alys Fowler. I have this in book form, as it's not published on the kindle. Over the years I've added notes, drawings, and addendums to the wonderful text that Fowler authored. I wouldn't dream of throwing  this book away, because of the amount of growth and living documented in it's pages. However, I've chucked a number of my other much-loved books as soon as I got them in digital format. The deciding factor for me is whether or not the object can serve as a journal of my life. The books that were passed down through my family and now belong to me tell stories outside of the printed words and pictures they contain. Other books, whose tales I love, but whose physical being tells no specific story, I have released into the universe, perhaps to become a loved prop in someone else's life story.

Ultimately, why we all read.
For me, the Kimdle lets me read more and in a better way. I have a  box of books and journals that mean more to me than they would to someone else, but I now mostly read on my Kindle because I can find material easily and quickly, as well as read through them with better understanding and interaction. Likewise, with Google Reader I can keep up with a lot more of what's going on in the world and in a lot less time. Rather than mourn the loss of analog and physical formats, I rejoice in how easy it is to find inspiration now, and compensate for my cold digital consumption by creating warm analog offerings of my own, like my garden,  homemade meals, knitted goodies, and little stories or essays, all of which, ironically enough, I share with the world through digital means.
When I saw this I knew I had to share.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Lazy Wedding Planning

My sister (very thoughtfully) gave me a wedding planning book for my birthday, as I'm engaged, but the very thoughtful gift is making me think way too much, and now I'm starting to go a bit wedding-crazy. Not in a bridezilla way, but just in an overwhelmed, frustrated kind of way.

So to distract from the frustration, and the fact that my brain is too tired to write a funny post here, I present the weekly wrap-up:

Things I Wrote:
A review of different reusable egg carton options. There are actually a lot more of these than I thought there'd be, but they're kind of hard to find.

Things I Thought Were Great:
A Teavana store opened in my area. I'm in morning cuppa heaven.

Things I Did:
I made my own homemade lotion. The recipe still needs a little tweaking in my opinion, but the resulting lotion bar was perfectly usable in the meantime.

I took this fun picture of the in-laws' dog:
He wants to steal the raw-hide that's right in front of his face (despite appearances, that's not a dildo), but he knows he's being watched. I love watching little doggie brains try to work around problems.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Betty White May Be an Evil Genius

Hey friends,

Remember how Betty White experienced a huge surge in popularity due to social media like Facebook and Twitter? And remember how that got her the chance to host some shows, guest star in others, and become a go-to pop culture reference? And did you see how that got leveraged into a huge birthday tribute that was almost as big as the Golden Globes?

If you answered yes to all of those questions, then you probably saw the show right after Betty White's birthday dinner where she led a legion of elderly in tricking, pranking, and taking advantage of the young(er). Nothing too terrible happened, at least not in the first episode, but I imagine that senior citizens will be less and less content to remain the early-birding, constant-voting, benign old people they are today.

Scariest of all is the fact that Betty White (and her super-secret white-haired think-tank) used a young person's tool kit to overtake a young person's world. They've turned our own technology against  us. And that is why Betty White may be an evil genius.