Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Julia's Day 72: In which I review the last few months

HOLY POOP, IT'S THE LAST DAY.

Christa, Day 72: Is This the End of Is It the Beginning?

As I said yesterday, while thinking about today, I can't believe that the project is over. Getting all the way to today from Day 1 has been an interesting journey - and sometimes a rushed one. I think I had more doubled up days that anyone else who made it all the way through. Anyone else being Julia *waves* at Jewels and Smiths. I wish I had some sort of prize to give you for walking down the Simple Living Manifesto item by item with me. And heck, I'd give everyone else who participated, whether a lot or a little, a prize, too, if I could.

Because what a great endeavor, even if in the end all one did was think about each day's simplification idea!

Today's idea? It's refreshingly simple, where other items on the list have been worryingly complex in some cases. Day 72, the last day, offers up a road map we can all use moving forward to ensure we don't allow ourselves to fall into the trap of increasing, useless complexity in the present or in the future.
Always ask: Will this simplify my life? If the answer is no, reconsider.
First, l think I'll ask did this simplify my life... I think the answer is yes. I sincerely believe that I made changes during this project that I would not have made otherwise.

For example, I made the difficult decision to walk away from a job I'd been doing more or less happily for six years because the work and the time involved were no longer worth the pay. I put in the effort to get rid of larger furniture that was taking up space in my tiny house. I started working more regularly on my business side project in the hope that it will someday allow me to spend more time with my family and less time working for someone else. With help from my Internet friends, I have started to experiment with meal planning. I'm still working on being present more when it counts and driving more slowly and spending quiet time doing nothing other than enjoying the feeling of being alive. I'm still in the process of decluttering and destressing, and I don't know if I'll ever get the hang of single-tasking...

But I'm working on it. I'm still working on everything, beginning with Day 1. I've heard it said that it takes 21 days to create a habit - which means I still have a ways to go with some of the later list items!

This may not gel with your experience, but from the beginning, my assumption was that everyone would approach the 72 Ideas in 72 Days Project differently and that everyone would walk away from it with different things.That's cool. Because that was the point. We all need to learn different things, after all. In the end, I plan to continuing applying the lessons I have learned over the past 72 days and hope everyone else will, too.

Moving forward, will that simplify my life? I think it will.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Christa, Day 70 and Day 71:

I can't believe we are one day away from the final day. When I first decided to do the 72 Ideas in 72 Days Project, 72 days seemed like such a long time. And such a lot of simplification! But I guess I'll ruminate on all of that tomorrow. Because right now, I am a day behind! Here's Day 70's voluntary simplicity idea:
Leave space around things in your day. Whether they’re appointments, or things you need to do, don’t stack them back-to-back. Leave a little space between things you need to do, so you will have room for contingencies, and you’ll go through your day much more relaxed.
I think I do this? Notice the question mark. The confusion stems from the fact that I don't lay out specific times to do specific things. So you might say that time for contingencies is built right in since overall my schedule is flexible. Then again, you might say there is not time for contingencies built in because I tend to have a lot on my to-do list. THEN THEN AGAIN, my to-do list is often for the week and not for the day, allowing me an even greater degree of flexibility. Making the whole thing entirely too complicated for a simplicity exercise. Let's just call this one done.

And on to today's idea:
Live closer to work. This might mean getting a job closer to your home, or moving to a home closer to your work. Either will do much to simplify your life.
I live eight minutes away from work by car, which includes some stop signs and traffic lights. Add daycare drop off to that, and I'm still close since P.'s daycare is just walking distance away. Biking to work took, oh, fifteen minutes or so? Compared to my husband, I live quite close to work. However, I am currently trying to convince my boss to let me work AT HOME, which would have me living as close to work as is ever possible. Working where I live, aka living at work. I am okay with that. In fact, I love working at home, in isolation. You might say it is my favorite way to work! So far, I have been allowed to do a test run of working from home on Mondays and Fridays. I think it's working out well, but also have yet to hear feedback from the bossman. We shall see.

See you tomorrow for the big finale!

Julia's Day 71: In which total upheaval causes me to succeed

It took moving nearly 3,000 miles to do it, but the family does, in fact, now live closer to work. Huzzah!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Julia's Day 70: In which the baby makes things super easy

I got really good at leaving space around things in my day when Miss K decided to be pretty much the most schedule resistant human in space. Kinda like her daddy, come to think of it.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Julia's Day 69: In which I vehemently protest

I perceive inherent flaws in minimalist zen to done that make me want to run in the other direction. AND SO I SAY NO!

Christa, Day 69: Well, THAT Was Easy!

Use a minimalist productivity system. The minimal Zen To Done is all you need. Everything else is icing.
Heh. Leo has described exactly how I keep my busy, crazy life in line!

Christa, Day 68: The Reality of Traveling With Toddlers vs. Simple Packing

Learn to pack light. Who wants to lug a bunch of luggage around on a trip? Here’s an article on using just one carry-on.
I pack light for me. I have to, because the majority of any suitcase space - carry-on or not - is taken up by toys, books, blankets, tiny clothes that take up more space than you'd expect, and toddler toiletries. Hello, traveling with toddlers. I suppose my daughter could cope with my packing light, but could I cope with her coping? Frankly, I don't want to have to find out. My child, like many toddlers, thrives on routine and familiarity. We pack her blankets so she can fall asleep with the scent of home in her wee nostrils. We pack her toys because the places we go are sometimes not stocked with toys. She can't yet handle sleeping in a regular bed or on the floor or a couch, so one piece of luggage is always the Joovy Room2. Which isn't what you'd call insubstantial. And I'm okay with all this. We won't be packing like this forever, and someday my daughter will be big enough for her own little wheelie suitcase and I'll have enough room to pack light. 

Christa, Day 67: Now That's the Kind of Simple You Can Put in the Bank

Simplify your financial life. Article from a financial planning expert here.
Hmm, looks like we don't have a problem here.

Except, I suppose, for the reality of multiple accounts. When the husband and I married, the bank for some reason would not let us consolidate our accounts, so we have two savings accounts in addition to our one checking account. Which is fine, because being able to do small auto transfers to two accounts has actually let us cut down on fees.

Then we have a higher-yield savings account where we keep our actually savings. A small account with an investment firm. (Very small, but educational.)

And then there are the accounts that are in the husband's name but managed by his family - an IRA, I think. Maybe others. He's not entirely clear on it, which I think is slightly odd since if I had an account in my name I'd want to know exactly what it was so I was aware of it. Especially an IRA, since why not add to that?

Anyway, I just took steps to find out exactly what is going on in that arena so he and I have that information. At which point we can FINALLY make a will. Yay?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Julia's Day 68: in which I am pretty sure I am getting senioritis

I could actually go on at length about why I prefer packing light, my personal strategy to make it work, how to pack light even when you are facing a long flight with a squirmy toddler, etc. But I really just don't want to, and we only have a few days left, so nyeah.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Julia's Day 67: In which I trail off

Yeah, not especially financially complicated here, even with the whole currently-carrying-two-mortgages thing.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Christa, Day 66: MONEY MONEY MONEY MONEY.... MONEY!

For the most part, I love organizational tasks, so it's kind of surprising how much I dislike things like balancing the checkbook or making a budget spreadsheet. Chalk it up to my hatred of money. No, scratch that. I adore money. I just hate the necessity of money and how obsessed everyone is with showing off how much they have of it. The obsession with money leads to people overspending to feel wealthier and so on. Do you know what would make me feel wealthy? Gobs and gobs of money in bank and retirement accounts, my stock portfolio, and so on.

Wait, where was I?
Simplify your budget. Many people skip budgeting (which is very important) because it’s too hard or too complicated. Read more here.
Yeah, budgeting. My husband was nice enough to keep a budget going for some number of months so we could have a better idea of where our money is going. And that was great. Very revealing. The thing is, we're not big spenders. Leo mentions how most people's money downfall is "fun money". Our fun money pretty much equals a couple of sodas and fries at the occasional trip to the zoo, which is essentially free since we're members and go often enough to make it worth it. It's not that we're not fun people - we're just good at making our own fun.

So honestly, I don't feel that inclined to budget. It's actually the one thing we ought to be doing that we're not, according to Dave Ramsey, as we roll our debt snowball. I'm too lazy. And I dislike money, as I said. And the husband is too busy these days to keep on top of the old spreadsheets. I want to try the zero sum budget system recommended in the Total Money Makeover, but for that to happen we both need to sit down together. Which by itself has been difficult to accomplish lately.

Our budget? Currently adds up to one simple directive: Don't spend money on stuff you don't need. The end. Pretty simple, na?

Julia's Day 66: In which I don't really budget

To be fair, it's hard to budget when you're still in the middle of moving. We don't even know what our take-home income will be yet, since taxes/benefits-related expenses are always a bit of a wildcard. Sigh.

If nothing else, I do have an account with Mint.com now.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Christa, Day 65: A Super Mean Mode of Passive Income Generation, Right Before My Eyes

I had so much I wanted to write today about passive income streams and how I want them. How I'm always on the lookout for the perfect passive income opportunity. Obviously, I have not found it yet because I'm still dragging my tush to work three days a week and working from home the other two.

Today's simplification idea:
Strive to automate your income. This isn’t the easiest task, but it can (and has) been done. I’ve been working towards it myself. Article here.
So why am I not laying out all of my ideas for you here? Because one of the links in the article formerly linked above had a malware script built in. No need to click anything to install, it just does it automatically as soon as you visit the link. Luckily, all said malware does is mark all of the files on your computer as hidden so it can show you a super not legit looking pop up that says they'll recover your files for $85. Which they probably do, since those files were never actually gone.

What is slightly funny about all the anxiety the whole thing caused me is that since the whole process is likely automated, from "erasure" to "recovery," someone out there discovered a pretty slick mode of acquiring passive income from unsuspecting people.

Ha?

Julia's Day 65: In which I lament my lack of marketable skills

It's okay, even if a comprehensive book on miscarriage wouldn't sell, I can always fall back on the hope that people will just spontaneously throw money at me for being awesome.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Christa, Day 64: Today's Item Feels Like a Repeat, No?

Simplify your online life. If you have too much going on online, here are a few ways to simplify it all. Article here.
Is it just me, or does today's voluntary simplicity item feel like a repeat? I guess when you're less than 10 from the end of a cool 72 simplification items, you're bound to start consolidating previous ideas. Because I know for a fact we've hit email and how we use the Internet and our bulging RSS feeds and so on.

I'll just say this: My online life is about as uncomplicated as it can get. I work in online marketing. I blog. I keep up with what sometimes feels like hundreds of aunts and uncles and cousins via Facebook. I have a Twitter account for a growing business. I manage social media for clients. I have to research online every day for work. And sometimes I like to unwind by reading savings tips on r/frugal or listen to podcasts of the radio programs I missed during the day.

My online life is complicated, I suppose. It has to be because my job is essentially uncomplicating it for others. I'm in it so I can understand it so they will pay me to take it on for them. And it's a pretty fun job!

Julia's Day 64: In which I discuss falling off the inbox zero wagon

It's not that I particularly enjoy my cluttered inbox, but rather that I am afraid I'll accidentally delete something important related to the move.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Christa, Day 63: Bag Dumpin'

Carry less stuff. Are your pockets bulging. Consider carrying only the essentials. Some thoughts on that here.
Did you know that there's an Internet thing where people arrange the contents of their purses and photograph everything? As you might guess, the resultant photos are usually posted on mommy blogs and lady blogs. At least I've never seen a 'contents of my wallet' or 'contents of my messenger bag' blog posted by a dude. I suppose that women tend to carry more than men, but I'd also suggest that there's a change in that dynamic going on. It's no longer consider unmanly to wear a bag. After all, there are iPads and e-readers and work papers and so on to carry. The briefcase is out, and the man bag is in.

Consider yourself lucky that I'm not going to dump out my handbag right here in front of you. Mostly because I don't feel like having to then pick everything back up and re-organize it within my bag's five compartments. Yes, five. All of which are quite slim, though add up to a bag about six inches wide.

What's in that bag?

Diapers and a slim wipes case, of course. Various bandages and medicines and tampons and other drug store necessities that I'd rather not have to buy when they're needed on the fly. A wallet and my checkbook - because our daycare provider accepts checks but I always forgot my checkbook before it started living in my bag. A pencil case, some candy, some chocolate chips, and my cell phone. A tiny deck of cards. A few ponytail bands. Also, the notebook that I prefer over things like my cell phones calender or a tablet PC for making to-do lists, because I am old school like that. Keys, too.

Can anything be eliminated?

The deck of cards, sure. The candy and the chocolate chips, too, but these are good potty rewards. The pencil case, which is overall quite slim, could be replaced with a single pen. The drug store necessities could go, I guess, but many a time I or someone else has been saved by my small stash of tampons, bandages, decongestants, headache medicine, and so on. Diapers and wipes are non-negotiable, and I am not ready for a minimalist wallet because I need to carry business cards and insurance cards for three people, among other things. The notebook? Not a chance. Ditto on keys and celly. I do, after all, have a daughter in daycare so I need to be available at a moment's notice.

Maybe this item isn't for me or maybe my behemoth of a handbag is already fairly minimalist compared to other handbags. And I'm okay with that - it's not like I truck it everywhere all the time.

Julia's Day 63: In which I reveal the contents of my diaper bag

Considering that I move through the universe in the company of a not-yet-potty-trained toddler, I actually carry very little.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Christa, Day 62: I Can't Say I Mind a Messy Yard

My first yard is attached to my first house. Sure, I've lived in homes with yards but they belonged to other people. In one case, ducks swooped in every morning for a few handfuls of corn and in the process of eating the corn, kept the grass on the short side. Anyway, we were lucky in that the previous owner (who happens to be the midwife who caught P.) planted a whole bunch of perennials. Every spring and summer, flowers appear without our having to do anything.

The first spring, it was a lovely surprise!

Which isn't to say that our yard is maintenance free. Our backyard trees dump entire mats of brown leaves on our back lawn and garden. The wind blows all of the neighbors' leaves into our front yard, just in case we didn't have enough raking to do. We keep two food gardens - a big one in the back and half the front lawn, too. We have borders around the whole house and up against the fence. And so on, taking me to today's simplification idea:
Create an easy-to-maintain yard. If you spend too much time on your yard, here are some good tips.
Too bad the link doesn't work, because it would have been nice to see what the Unclutterer folks do to keep yard work to a minimum. Honestly, I can't say that we spend too much time on the yard. Here's why:
  • Lots of mulch. I can't be arsed to pull weeds from everywhere.
  • The aforementioned perennials make things colorful and cheerful.
  • Staggered perennials, so there is always something in bloom.
  • All the borders. They may be a hassle to trim around, but they make everything look neater without our having to do much.
  • Free mulch in the form of autumn leaves.
  • Less lawn, more food and less mowing.
  • That black plastic that goes around food plants so no weeds grow.
Also, laziness. I don't live in a gated community or have a HOA to deal with, and my neighbors are lovely people who aren't entirely obsessed with landscaping. I can let a few things go here and there without feeling the weight of neighborly judgment pressing down on me. I mow and I trim and I weed here and there, but frankly my day lilies and irises and marigolds are all out of control.

Then again, my favorite gardens are slightly messy ones that are sometimes called English gardens with lots of plants crowding close to one another. So I rather thing my yard looks kind of nice when it's a little less than neat.

Julia's Day 62: In which I admit that I want to put plants in pots

I have crazy, secret plans for a container garden once we move into the new house. I think, maybe, since it doesn't get too awfully cold here, I might even still be able to maneuver some vegetables - maybe kale and broccoli. Awesome!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Christa, Day 61: But I Just Said I Can't Do RSS!

But subscribe to Unclutterer. Probably the best blog on simplifying your stuff and routines (along with Zen Habits, of course!).


No. I sometimes read Unclutterer. I kind of prefer Becoming Minimalist. But honestly? In general, the principles behind getting uncluttered and paring down are simple. Get rid of stuff. Organize what's left. Get rid of some more stuff. Maybe mental clutter, too. Enrich yourself. Never stop practicing. 


Sounds easy, right? I don't need a feed to tell me what I already know.

Julia's Day 61: In which I opt out for reasons of keeping my RSS feed simple

It's not that I don't like the unclutterer bog. It just doesn't fit at all with how I use my RSS feed!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Christa, Day 60: Makes a BOSS Face

Since I often try to lead into my thoughts on the day's simplification idea with a little story, here's a shortie I told a friend tonight. Once upon a time I thought to myself, hey, I'm a blogger, I should get some RSS feeds in my reader and consume blogs that way. The end result was a reader that had tons of blogs added to it that never got read via the reader. At some point I realized that using a reader was just a sneaky way to put 'read blogs' on my to-do list so I could procrastinate forever. Oops!

Which brings me to today's idea:
Simplify your RSS feeds. If you’ve got dozens of feeds, or more than a hundred (as I once did), you probably have a lot of stress in trying to keep up with them all. Simplify your feed reading. See How to Drop an RSS Feed Like a Bad Habit.
I like to read high profile blogs written by thought leaders and other semi-important people. I like to read blogs written by family and friends. As for all the blogs that fall somewhere in between, I may come across them, or not. Now that I'm no longer a dedicated pro blogger, reading the "right" blogs is no longer as important. I can read the blogs I like. And the ones I really like are in my blogroll here. They're all linked up for me to check, or not, every day when I happen to have the time. If I miss a day? No problem. Nothing is left marked unread, taunting me for not checking 'read blogs' off my to-do list.

Problem solved. Blogs read. Everyone is happy!

Rebecca's Challenge: Make Your Own Simple Living Manifesto

Here we are at Day 60 of the 72 Ideas in 72 Days Project. Over the past two months, some items in the original Simple Living Manifesto have been relevant to me, some not. Either way, it's been valuable to at least reflect--however briefly--on each one.

I would like to pose a challenge to my fellow 72-Days-Project participants: On Day 73, take a look back at the 72 ideas and your posts here. Note which ideas have worked for you, think of anything that you might add to that list, and write your manifesto--one that is an actual manifesto (i.e., a declaration of principles and intentions, in the first person).*

In other words, synthesize what you've learned during the project and make it your own.

Here's my draft so far. Sixty items--some repetitive, some non-applicable--boiled down to just 15. (And I bet I can edit some of these down even further.) How's that for simplification?
  1. I will pause to remind myself each morning of my priorities--my most important things.
  2. I will proceed carefully on new commitments, making sure they align with my priorities (see #1), ensuring ample free time to spend doing what I love, with the people I love.
  3. Every day, I will use my time in ways aligned with my priorities (see #1).
  4. At the beginning of each week, I will create an organized to-do list (for work and home projects alike) of most important tasks. With this list, I will direct myself to the most important projects to focus on each day.
  5. I will continue to work on limiting my communications, taking periodic email vacations, etc.
  6. When tempted to shop, I will continue to remember that less is more.
  7. I will edit rooms, closets, drawers, etc. regularly.
  8. I will spend time each week organizing my computer files to minimize digital clutter.
  9. I will remind myself to slow down.
  10. I will remind myself to be present, to live deliberately.
  11. I will remember to clear my desk once a week.
  12. I will remember to delete emails when I am done with them. (More to come on this... I'm still catching up on posts here, but did figure out some successful strategies for my inbox.)
  13. I will work with my partner on planning and prepping some meals in advance.
  14. I will make time to exercise. (Sigh... I have not been doing a great job with this.)
  15. I will remember to aim for equanimity.
So, what do you think? If you were to simplify the items from the last 60 days into a true manifesto that is meaningful to you personally, what would it look like?

--

*Did it bug anyone but me that the original Simple Living Manifesto is misnamed--that it's not actually a manifesto?

Julia's Day 60: I totally have this RSS thing in the bag

For me, handling my RSS feeds is all about treating it like a newspaper and not like email - if I don't feel an absurd need to read every single post, then it doesn't bother me to mark unviewed things as read when I miss a few days. As a result, I have very little guilt or stress associated with my feeds. Hooray!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Christa, Day 59: Simple Pleasures, I Have Them. When I Can Remember Them

Fill your day with simple pleasures. Make a list of your favorite simple pleasures, and sprinkle them throughout your day. List here.
Sometimes I feel like I need to put simple pleasures on my to-do list. Isn't that sad? Right before 'Create blog post for client' I could jot down 'Savor homemade jam on crunchy toast'. After crossing off 'Pay water and sewer bill' perhaps I'd 'Sit outside and gaze up at the trees and sky'. The truth is I sometimes do put reminders on my many lists so I don't forget the simple pleasures. It's easy to forget that there is homemade jam and to fill my lunch hours with something other than nibbling toast and jam on the porch.

Now that summer has ended, so many of my personal simple pleasures will be put on hold for some months. Walking on the beach, letting the ocean lap my toes, for instance. Family bike rides on sweaty hot days. Fresh berries. The warmth of the sun on my face. Fall brings other pleasures, I suppose. Kicking through leaves snuggled up tight in a jacket. Pumpkin fare. Winter? For me, not so much. We have no fireplace and wintertime foods are what exactly? Snow bites my toes and the short days make me sad. I can't say I'm looking forward to much simple pleasure in the coming months.

Lately, my most consistent pleasure has been waking up a few minutes early to sip my coffee and read whatever I'm reading before hopping in the shower - the official start of my day. I think I need to find more accessible simple pleasures. Things I can do every day, not just when money or time or the weather permits. My simple pleasure used to be lounging about with the P. or taking a slow walk to the playground, but now my schedule and the demands of mealtimes and potty training have kind of eroded that.

I like all of the simple pleasures in the linked article, but they're not necessarily the ones that speak to me. Maybe I'll try not to feel so rushed tomorrow, to savor something. Maybe not - it's going to be a busy day. Hope I do, though!

Christa, Day 57: Great Idea, Not Always Simple in Practice

Go for quality, not quantity. Try not to have a ton of stuff in your life … instead, have just a few possessions, but ones that you really love, and that will last for a long time.
Right now, I am wearing rain boots. The price of these rain boots made my friend gasp. The thing is, though, that prior to buying these rain boots, I spent at least $75 for three pairs of cheap rain boots that all cracked after a year of light use. That's $75 total, over the course of three years. I figure if I get six years out of the boots that are on my feet as I type this, I've come out on top. More years? Even better, and the brand is known for lasting a good long time. Knock on wood.

Truth be told, I don't have a lot of money to my name, but it would only have taken a few more pairs of cheap rain boots to equal the price of the ones I'm wearing now. It made sense to go for something a little nicer. It's my birthday present, I'd just finished up a side job that paid for the boots in full, and I was sick of getting soaked feet every time my daughter wanted to wear her rain boots in the wet.

The thing about embracing quality over quantity is that you have to be able to afford quality in the first place. My guess is that most people who appear to be embracing quantity on paper are actually opting for a lower degree of quality because that's what they can afford, and having to buy more often because they are replacing broken, worn out stuff. Getting to quality assumes that you don't actually need quality X right now and that the price of quality X is even within your reach via long-term scrimping and saving. Sometimes it isn't.

Which is too bad. The equation doesn't work for everything, of course, but it works for a lot. The third-hand handbag from a Parisian leather company I carry every day has taken a beating and stayed (mostly) beautiful, whereas plastic purses from the Target would have long since disintegrated. Nice clothing fits better. Nice sheets feel softer and last longer. Great shoes can hold up to years and years of wear. Amazing cookware will last a lifetime. And so on. If I could - and I suppose when I can - afford to, I'd gladly choose quality over quantity. Fewer shoes, but better ones. A couple of great pairs of jeans that fit like they were made just for me. Dresses for work that will last more than a few years.

If you happen to follow me on Facebook, you know that right now we're embarking on a little debt busting experiment, so it may be that in the coming months I'm choosing neither quantity nor quality. Instead, we'll make do or do without, as the old saying goes. Where doing so won't utterly UNsimplify our lives, that is. I'm no masochist when it comes to frugality.

Christa, Day 56 and Day 58: Um...Nah

Read Walden, by Thoreau. The quintessential text on simplifying. Available on Wikisources for free.

Read Simplify Your Life, by Elaine St. James. One of my favorite all-time authors on simplicity. Read my review here.
Too busy, moving on. Seriously. I read, and it's awesome. I just finished The Total Money Makeover and before that, Game of Thrones. I keep writing down the titles of books I want to read and then losing the wee scraps of paper on which those titles are written. The way I look at it, adding required texts to my reading list is the opposite of simplifying. I don't think I need any more to-dos on my list.

Christa, Day 55: I'm Doing Nothing! Better Than Anyone Else! Let's Make a Spreadsheet, Log It, Practice! Prepare for It!

Learn to do nothing. Doing nothing can be an art form, and it should be a part of every life. Read the Art of Doing Nothing.
Here's the truth: I suck at this. I am probably worse at doing nothing than most people. I may actually be THE worst nothing doing in the whole entire world. Five minutes of just sitting around? My brain is in a tizzy, making lists of everything I can do when I am finally allowed to stand up! I actually think that the closest I ever get to doing nothing is exercising - and that's because my body may be doing something but my mind is just wandering doing nothing much of anything. How does that work? Beats me!

Oh, exercise and waiting in line - something specifically mentioned in the referenced article - so I have that going for me. I don't check my phone after queuing up. I just stand there and look around and think. Provided, of course, I'm not trying to wrangle a toddler. Though why I'd bring a toddler to a line up if I could avoid it is beyond me.

Does exercise and standing in line represent enough time spent doing nothing? I have no answer for that. I'd kind of like to try doing nothing at work (har har) not just for the relaxation that could result, but also because it would really freak my coworkers out to see me sitting there, immobile, lost in my own head. Freaky!

What's the takeaway? As much as I joke, I suppose it would be to stop. Just stop. NOT have a look at my email the second the P. is otherwise occupied or feeling like my lunch hour absolutely must be devoted to chores. (Today I threw out some basement stuff that cats peed on, ew.) A little downtime would probably do me good, so as much as I joke about how I can't be still, I should probably devote a little more energy to trying.

Rebecca, Day 49 (still catching up!)

49. Develop equanimity. If every little thing that happens to you sends you into anger or stress, your life might never be simple. Learn to detach yourself, and be more at peace.
I've been reading The power of now : a guide to spiritual enlightenment (Eckhart Tolle), which is an odd but somehow brilliant book. I definitely understand why it's been critiqued as being a bunch of mumbo-jumbo. But from what I've read so far, one of its major arguments is that we should all develop detachment from emotional stressors (though Tolle doesn't phrase it that way). I've been mulling this over and using modifying some of his strategies to be a bit more peaceful about things.

For example, Tolle argues that your mind is not yourself, but we all get tricked into thinking that we are our minds. Okaaay, whatever. But his point is that sometimes, we can look critically at the course our thoughts are taking and take note of unhealthy ruts -- eg., being prompted by X to dwell on Y and feel Z.

The general idea self-awareness and stopping to recognize stress triggers seems a good way to develop equanimity.

Rebecca, Day 52 (catching up!)

52: Make a Most Important Tasks (MITs) list each day. Set just 3 very important things you want to accomplish each day. Don’t start with a long list of things you probably won’t get done by the end of the day. A simple list of 3 things, ones that would make you feel like you accomplished something.
I am a big fan of to-do lists. I've always got a running list of tasks I need to accomplish. For about a year, I used a GTD Moleskine Hack and liked it; then, when I found myself the owner of an iPhone (thanks, honey!) and therefore an always-connected calendar app, carrying a Moleskine somehow became less appealing. And I switched to a single sheet of paper, labeled TO DO, that I'd hang onto for a week (or more, or less) at a time.

One of the advantages of the Moleskine hack was its organization. On my single sheet of paper, I tried to maintain similar categories, and I'd list tasks in different categories ("phone calls," "emails to send," "errands," etc.). It functioned, but inelegantly.

Last week, I tried the "MITs" system described above, writing at the start of the week a to-do list organized by day. Dividing the tasks I had to do according to day helped me ensure time-sensitive items got done earlier in the week. In a couple of important cases, I subdivided by time of day (e.g., "Wed. a.m." vs. "Wed p.m."), according to timing needs.

Verdict: This worked well! I could maintain my routine of jotting down everything I wanted to do in a week, but essentially saved time on a daily basis by having my main priorities for each specific day listed. No thinking "Hm, what should I do next?" -- just "Ah, okay, I'll do that next."

Julia's Day 59: In which I admit to pretending to be a dinosaur

Look, I just find great joy in being goofy to entertain my kid, all right? And so what if that means that each day, at some point, I will end up hopping around pretending to be a bunny in public?!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

Julia's day 57: In which I lament the untimely death of my couch

Focusing on quality over quantity is funny when it comes to spending. You might spend more initially, but you end up spending less over the long run because you don't have to replace things as often. True story!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Julia's Day 56: In which I briefly discuss my reading habits

I'm perpetually behind on my reading list. I suppose it might be one of those things I will regret on my death bed, never finishing Moby Dick or what-have-you.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Julia's Day 55: Leo has funny ideas about "nothing"

I consider myself a bit of an epicure, and the idea of treating a fine meal as doing nothing bothers me. A lot.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Christa, Day 53 and Day 54: Routines and Ritual, I Have 'Em Covered

Day 53 is all about routines... have I even mentioned I am pro routine?
Create morning and evening routines. A great way to simplify your life is to create routines at the start and end of your day. Read more on morning routines and evening routines.
When you work and you have a child, morning and evening routines are a must.

There's the a.m. routine: I shower and dress, then ready P.'s breakfast. Next, I wake her, and set her right down to eat and drink. Eventually the potty will come first, but not yet. While she dines, I do my hair and makeup, then get her things ready if I've forgotten to lay them out the night before. At that point, I might sit and read while she watches some little cartoon, or we'll try a little German. Then she's gives the potty a go, gets dressed, and we're off.

There's also the p.m. (aka bedtime) routine: P. may have a bath or not, but at some point, jams are put on, vitamins are taken, and teeth are brushed and flossed. After which I read one story, her papa reads one story, and then it's lights out. Unless she "needs" some toy or another and her papa is willing to fetch it. Sometimes he holds for a while if she's feeling insecure, but mostly she falls asleep with little or no fuss. For which I'm grateful.

Do I have my own nighttime routine? Not so much, but there's a list of things I do at night and it seldom changes. Tuesdays and Thursdays are Tedd's days to have alone time, and on those days I do aerobics in the kitchen instead of riding the stationary bike in the family room. The end.

Day 54's simplification idea strikes me as only applicable to a niche group of people who both feel driven to write and also find consider writing a relaxation activity rather than a work activity:
Create a morning writing ritual. If you enjoy writing, like I do, make it a peaceful, productive ritual. Article here.
This assumes you like writing. I like writing, true. On the other hand, I write all day at work, I blog about life, I manage some social media for myself and others, and the last thing I want to do in the a.m. when I'm facing a long day of writing stuff for other people is to wake up extra early to write. I think about writing more fiction, and I want to. I do. But the fact is that I'm kind of swamped by life right now.

Fiction will wait. Sleep, not so much. Time with my toddler, not so much. Someday I'll run out of silly home projects and the P. will want to do anything but spend time with me, and that's when I'll sit down and write stories. Maybe take a class (something I'd like to do but don't have the money for at the mo'.)

I do have a morning ritual, though. For the past few weeks, inspired by some item in the 72 Ideas list though I can't remember which, I've been waking up 20 minutes early to read. This morning, I put on lots of warm layers, poured myself a cup of coffee and then another, and sat down with Game of Thrones. By the time my small period of reading is up, I'm nearly fully awake and just about ready to hit the showers. It's a nice peaceful start to my day - an effortless gift I give myself. Writing, on the other hand, would be work. And while I am a morning person in general, I'd rather the first thing I do each day be relaxing.

And speaking of relaxing, I'll be taking a few days off - as in off the computer - so you won't be hearing from me again until at least Monday!

Julia's Day 54: In which I grow increasingly suspicious of Leo

Look, all I am saying is that the dude has six kids and is implying that every morning he finds a quiet, secluded spot in which to write, uninterrupted, and then give himself a congratulatory coffee or vegan bagel or whatever. I'm just wondering whether his wife enjoys the same luxury!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Julia's Day 53: In which I once again whine that I have no time

In spite of the whining, I actually have a pretty consistent set of morning and evening rituals, one of which involves taking a bath, and the other of which involves visiting a shih-tzu.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Christa, Day 52: Make a To-Do List? Twist My Arm, Why Dontcha?

Create a to-do list? NAILED IT.
Make a Most Important Tasks (MITs) list each day. Set just 3 very important things you want to accomplish each day. Don’t start with a long list of things you probably won’t get done by the end of the day. A simple list of 3 things, ones that would make you feel like you accomplished something. See this article for more.
As long as it's okay that I fudge the numbers a bit. See, I make my week's to-do list on Sunday evenings, so technically that means I can put 21 items on the list. Right? 21 most important tasks. Like fun. And calling Ashley (sorry, Ashley).

Yes, I have to put fun and calling friends on my to-do list so I can make time for it. Stop laughing or the next most important task I add to my to-do list will be beating your butt.

Addendum: I guess I can work on crossing more list items off in the a.m. There, happy now?

Julia's Day 52: In which I discuss convergent evolution

As it happens, I've been making a 3-4 item Most Important Tasks list for, like, a GAZILLION YEARS. Except I just called it a to-do list. You know. Simple.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Christa, Day 50 and Day 51: Sometimes Peace Means Saying Screw Advertising

Day 50? Nailed.
Reduce your consumption of advertising. Advertising makes us want things. That’s what it’s designed to do, and it works. Find ways to reduce your exposure of advertising, whether that’s in print, online, broadcast, or elsewhere. You’ll want much less.
One of my coworkers, upon seeing that I use AdBlock Plus, asked me why. He said "What's the big deal?" And I get it - advertising makes things less expensive because advertisers pay so we don't have to. Viewing advertising is a way we pay for TV, magazines, and so on. Without advertising, the cost of so many things would go up, up, and up. But still. When I answered my coworker I said "I don't look at ads because I don't want to be forced to listen to anyone's message." Not listening is an option. A dastardly one, since it means that sometimes I'm not supporting stuff I like.

But you know what? Since I decided to limit my consumption of ads years ago - it began with not wanting to pay for cable TV - I have found myself wanting less. Wanting fewer upgrades. Being satisfied with what I already have. And I see it working in my child. She has never asked to bring home anything from the grocery outside of fruit. No one has told her she is supposed to covet certain toys and certain brands. I plan to keep her in this bubble for as long as I can. Would that I could put myself in a more perfect bubble, since advertising still creeps in.

And now for today's voluntary simplicity idea:
Live life more deliberately. Do every task slowly, with ease, paying full attention to what you’re doing. For more, see Peaceful Simplicity: How to Live a Life of Contentment.
Oh, how I struggle with this. Being American and none too fond of cooking, food is a definitely point of possible improvement. As is driving. Hey, welcome to America! Where the lunch breaks are short, the commutes are tedious, and the workday is long. Doing every task slowly and with care isn't exactly easy-peasy when your workload is overwhelming and there never seem to be enough hours in the day. I'm not saying that's MY situation, but it is generally true among U.S. citizens. Or so it seems.

Having read the referenced blog post, I can say that when it comes to Day 51, I'm winning some and I'm losing some. I do try to enjoy simple pleasures throughout the day, but I'm sometimes so immersed in other things that it's easy to forget or to go overboard. Solitude? No can do, but I try to stop and just be at least once a day. Not easy with a little kiddo hanging on me though. I'm working on doing less and leaving space, and frugality is right up my alley for so many reasons.

But I can't say that downsizing my to-do list is for me. Every time I try to limit my list to the essentials, I never end up doing anything fun. Fun, for me, is a to-do list item.

Julia's Day 51: I would like to let go

Slowing down is super extra relevant in my life right now, so I'm going to try to do it. Not my usual paradigm, to be sure, but hey, my usual paradigm is wildly flawed!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Julia's Day 50: Why living in the capitol is awesome

Yeah, so we really don't have billboards, and I don't have cable. It's funny, I think I see the most ads when I ride the metro. Or, you know, check email on someone else's computer.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Christa, Day 48 and Day 49: Miles and Miles of Files and the Unpossibility of Detachment

Yesterday's voluntary simplicity idea made this suggestion:
Simplify your filing system. Stacking a bunch of papers just doesn’t work. But a filing system doesn’t have to be complicated to be useful. Create a simple system.
I just now put away the last of my pending files. After reading the referenced blog post, I can honestly say that what I am good at is having all of my pertinent paper in one drawer (putting aside what's in the fire safe) and what I am bad at is filing those papers immediately. Yes, I have stacks. Or had, since today I took those stacks, recycled what was unnecessary, and actually filed the stacks. I know for a fact that new stacks will grow. Oh well. Overall, there are so many people who are worse at this than I am. Hopefully my filing system is clear enough for my husband to find what he'd need in the event that I died or was in a coma or decided to run away to Mars.

And on that cheery note, onto today's simplification idea!
Develop equanimity. If every little thing that happens to you sends you into anger or stress, your life might never be simple. Learn to detach yourself, and be more at peace. Read more.
The really really big bad things? I cope with those with a calm, almost zombie-like attachment. (In my world, zombies get the giggles.) The driver who turns without signaling? Sends me into a fit of rage that can stick with me throughout my commute. I am not sure what wires got crossed in my brain to make me this way, but it's part of why I'm better at working alone than with others.

Little things at work drive me CRAZY. People asking me to edit their work, as if my having an English degree means I have nothing better to do than proofread the world's writing. Sometimes my husband's chewing drives me crazy. Really low volume music drives me crazy. LOTS of things drive me crazy. Not good, right?

But I try to achieve upeksa. I have these weird little tricks I use. Like when someone is driving badly, I tell myself a story that explains it. They're rushing to the hospital where their hurt child is being treated. They were just let go from their job. They're feeling sick and need to poo badly. Or I breath deeply and remind myself that there are people who are actually suffering real injustices in that moment. Or I just tell myself that I need to stop getting so emotional over first world problems. I practice empathy and understanding. (Okay, I try.)

And so on. My husband is, 99% of the time, an absolute pillar of upesksa, and that helps, too, since he does not hesitate to tell me to quit getting so angry over nothing. Which is good, but also ANGER INDUCING. What a catch 22 that is, right? What's my homework for today... let's see... how about starting with the road and the drivers and the delays. This week, I will try to achieve upeksa while driving to and from work. Wish me luck!

Julia's Day 49: Feelings...nothing more than feelings

I have a serious lack of equanimity mainly because I take everything personally. And that's bad. But I am trying to change.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Julia's Day 48: Filing schmiling

I am so very glad that my husband takes care of filing. Although, if recent events are any indication, perhaps I ought not be so trusting.