I'm not a procrastinator. I'm not saying it as a brag (though it was beneficial for school), I'm just stating the nature of my disposition. Putting things off makes me squirm. I love to multitask. I love to finish things early and move onto what's next. I love the satisfaction of getting all my chores out of the way so I can enjoy the rest of the day.
My proactive nature, however, is also a product of my anxiety disorder. I worry, I fret, I seek certainty, and there is a finality that is comforting in getting things done. I pester my boyfriend about throwing away empty amazon boxes. I seek to finish work all at once instead of taking what might be a healthy break to rest. I struggle to relax. If I go through a day without making, cleaning, or organizing something, I feel "lazy." I have to work hard to relax. It's something I'm trying to improve on, so that my daily happiness isn't tied so closely to how much I accomplish.
That being said, just as I'm working to integrate relaxation into my anxious disposition, I know many people seek to bring proactive habits into their own daily life. The opposite of procrastination, in my mind, is anticipation. By looking just a step further into the next moment, I believe you can better enjoy the present.
Put things back when you're done with them.
How often? All the time.
Prime candidates: shoes, coats, kitchen gear
Put them back where? If you're asking yourself this, hop on over to my Resting Space post to learn a little more about picking smart home bases for your belongings. Once you get used to putting things back when you're finished with them, you'll barely realize you're doing it. It'll become a natural part of using any object.
I very recently got rid of our shoe rack in the living room and stored all of our shoes in the ample border space under our bed. In this spot, they're just out of view but easy to grab. When I enter the house, I take off my shoes and tuck them in their space under the bed. I avoid leaving shoes out unless I'm putting them on or taking them off.
We now use the same technique for any kitchen gadgets that we don't use daily, but often. Our rice cooker has a spot in a cabinet where it is easy to reach and take down. When we're done with it, it gets washed and put away so we have room on the counters.
Reset your household.
How often? Every night for quick surfaces, weekends for vacuum/heavy cleaning
Prime candidates: fluff up pillow or blankets, clear documents/cups off desk
At the end of the day, I usually reset our living room area so it's fresh to be used tomorrow. This includes putting pillows back on the couch, smoothing out the blankets, throwing away any napkins or to-go bags, and returning glass cups to the kitchen/washing machine. This could also be done in the morning, so be sure to hone in on what time and spaces make the most sense for you. More involved surfaces like kitchen counters usually get wiped down once the dishes are put away and we're done preparing food.
The secret to making cleaning/tidying more manageable avoiding the need for day-long purges. Letting your mess build up to the point where you need a weekend and a hazmat suit will eventually build a negative association that cleaning = time consuming. This doesn't have to be the case. A quick vacuum every weekend, a wipe down at the end of the day, a weekly laundry routine — these things are so much more manageable when they're peppered into your daily life in small, easy amounts.
Prep to go before you go.
How often? Anytime you're going out.
Prime candidates: wallet, glasses, keys, food prep, clothes for the next day
Especially if your morning routine is involved or requires a degree of promptness, preparing your belongings for the next task at hand will lighten the load on your mind when that task rolls around. It's the same reason people avoid packing for a giant trip the morning of.
On Monday mornings, I put my planner and pencil case in my backpack, along with my lunchbox, sunglasses and key fob. With my belongings settled, I can sit down at my laptop and work until it's time to leave, and then I can get up and go.
Use a planner or to do list.
How often? Depends on the person. I recommend beginning and end of the day.
Like freeform analog? Blank dot grid journal.
Like structured analog? Daily/monthly planner.
Like freeform digital? Google docs, keep, or notion.
Like structured digital? Any.do and Google calendar.
You don't need to be an avid writer or journalist to benefit from a planner. Also, feel free to use what medium works for you. I legitimately use all of the above platforms for different purposes and for different reasons. None of these ways are the right way, as long as they allow you to ask these important questions:
Morning: What do you need to do today? What's coming up this week?
Evening: What did I do today? What will I need to do tomorrow? Did my plans change at all?
Live mindfully the rest of the day.
How often: As much as you can!
If you're actively trying to improve on the other things in this list, it will take an amount of conscious effort to change your habits. However, as you build these habits, I believe that you will begin to take more appreciation for your surroundings and your daily life. Putting things back, cleaning regularly, preparing your belongings for outings, and keeping a planner — these are all things you can do while living in the moment. They will reduce second-guessing, forgetfulness, and letting clutter pile up around you.
And once you've spent your time accomplishing these tasks, you can live in the present without worrying about what you need to accomplish. Focus on the tasks you've made, and if new ones come up, you can add them to your planner or list. Then, at the end of the day you can reset and figure out what comes next.
You can probably tell from the existence of this blog that I'm a strong believer in the power of routine. When I have a routine, I feel the most centered and focused. My moods do better following the path of the day and I can anticipate and deal with challenges that come. In regular intervals in my life I've stopped to make an "Ideal Daily Routine" on binder paper or Google Docs or Notion, outlining all of the things I should do in what order in order to have a perfectly optimized and happy day.
However, life doesn't have much of a care for sticking to MY routine, no matter how well-thought-out and optimized I make it. When overtime cuts in, when I get sick, when I simply need more time to sleep — these are the times that concessions need to be made to get through the day on time. No morning yoga. No carefully-timed computer breaks. No meal prep or regular evening exercise. It's a frustrating exercise in what I consider important.
An example: I sleep in later on a weekday, so I'm obviously not going to have time to write. My priorities are: enough makeup to look alive and lunch to eat later, so I take my essential medication, put on makeup, make lunch and go. Everything else has been determined to be non-essential to me getting out the door. A tiny side note — having efficient resting spaces for my belongings and less belongings overall means I have an easier time prioritizing and finding what I need, even when I feel more rushed.
This past week has been challenging for my brain and I. My brain relies far, FAR too heavily on a sense of accomplishment in order to feel happy. Nothing especially harrowing has happened this week, just overtime at work which deters me from productive mornings. I still go to bed at 9:30 if I can, but the longer work days makes me more tired overall. I sleep in until 7 or 7:30. Since my priority is going to bed at 9:30, I missed my three workout nights this week. I didn't draft a new blog post. I didn't cook any dinners. The result is me on a Saturday feeling rather miffed and guilty because I "fell off the horse."
Since I'm expecting this dilemma to trouble me consistently in my tidy-aspiring life, I figured I'd make a post about it. Many of the youtube accounts I watch for minimal/tidy lifestyles showcase the best of the best of their lives. It is up to me to remind myself that other people fall off the horse too, and that's okay. The important thing is to avoid chastising ourselves for falling off and encouraging ourselves to get back on.
I'm taking this weekend to reset. I'm pretty sure this coming week is going to be busy too, so it's important to rest and rehabilitate both my mind and body. One of my goals in the future is to measure my daily happiness by experience rather than accomplishment. This is my reminder to whoever is reading this: Drink some water, take a break if you need it, and be proud of yourself for trucking along.
One of my favorite things to discuss with others is the personal projects they're working on outside of their job or school. I try my best to encourage my friends to continue with their ideas and make something new. In this post, I've collected some of my favorite suggestions that can turn an idea into reality.
Keep in mind that all of these suggestions are geared towards personal work!
It doesn't need to be perfect. It just needs to exist.
"I'm not ready yet" is even MORE dangerous.
If "readiness" is stopping you from moving forward, then it's a notion worth leaving behind.
People appreciate output more than ideas, and you will too.
Make it exist somewhere besides your head.
Imagine a painting you want to create. It's the most beautiful, Renaissance-era painting full of intricate foliage and skin tones and expressive, captivating eyes. Now think about painting it, and having it come out exactly how you imagined. Exciting, right? But, if I imagine actually making it, my mind begins to list off the things I'll have to narrow down or learn. What kind of flowers? What is the subject like? Can I really paint drapery in clothing? What if I mess up their expression? I'd really have to plan and draft to even get it close, and even then, it might not be good enough. There's no way it'll be what I want it to be.
The solution is make it anyway. Make it anyway if it makes you excited, and fully expect it to be less than your wildest dreams. I HAVE to be this way when I draw animals at the zoo. Animals move around a lot, they have unfamiliar forms from what I usually draw, and I can't count on having a good view. It's very easy to feel like a crummy artist at the zoo. So, I take it in stride and try to make myself laugh. Bad drawing? Give it cartoon eyes. Not sure how to do the legs? Give that tiger human feet. It's far from perfect, but I'm still drawing and I'm still learning. And any silly drawing on that page is still more valuable to my learning than the ideal Joe Weatherley sketch in my head.
Go for good enough.
Good enough for what?
Good enough to move on, feel accomplished, and work on something else.
Make the project that captures your mind so a new one can take its place after, don't table it because you don't think you're ready or you may not "do it justice." Finished exported work also shows commitment and confidence, even if you have to fake it. This is an especially important point for students and visual art students who are trying to build up portfolios. Stock up on ideas. Small tests and little works will help you see what sticks, what makes you excited to create. Then you can refine those ideas and make them bigger and stronger and whatever you want them to be.
Don't be afraid to downsize your project in order to start.
Do you have a dream project, but you're not sure how you'd even start? There's a chance that you may need to break it down. Take that hundred page epic comic, that beefy novel, that giant mural, that home redecoration station, and turn it into:
You don't have to give up on the bigger dream, be it a movie or book or startup or Youtube Channel. Breaking this dream into chunks will make it more achievable!
BONUS BENEFIT: Sometimes the small project will satisfy the itch for your idea. Maybe you thought you'd write a YA series, but one book will do the trick. Maybe you thought you'd start a blog, but one post scratched the itch. By breaking the project up, you had a chance to test it and now you can move on to the next idea!
Identify what might be holding you back.
The problem may be learning a new skill in order to accomplish your goal.
Perhaps you're jumping into an area of media you haven't touched before and going outside your comfort zone. I certainly struggle with this. As a competitive person and a lover of routine, I get unreasonably perturbed at anything I'm not instantly good at.
Don't say: "I'll do this project once I'm good at screenwriting."
Say: "I'll do this project to learn how to screenwrite."
The problem may be finding the time you need to commit to your idea.
Solution: If you have limited free time and tend to fill it up quickly, make a pre-scheduled block of personal time to set aside for this project. This will discourage you from over-booking yourself. It will also take away the urge to only work on it "when you feel like it" or "when the moment strikes."
Don't create in a cave.
It is very tempting to imagine withdrawing from the world, keeping your project a complete secret, and then publishing it to the amazement of your peers. Or at least, I've imagined that before. While being secretive may be an effective tactic for a large-scale movie or game studio to keep their fans (and make sure nothing is spoiled), I think it's important to remember a key difference. Behind the curtain of NDA, collaboration is still happening. However, if you're one person, working in a secret private cave can be discouraging.
Tell your trusted friends about it.
I've heard this is a common tip for people trying to work out more or lose weight. By telling other people in your life, you're holding yourself accountable to others. More importantly, you're opening up the opportunity for a support network that will encourage you with your progress. This is the perfect time to appreciate the most supportive friends or family in your life. Ingest their positivity and their respect for what you do and bolster your own confidence along the way.
For this reason, I really enjoy telling people about my personal projects. Afterward, someone might say, "This sounds really cool! Keep me posted on this!" or even better, "I'd love to help out!" It's a wonderful, encouraging feeling and it helps me remember that my work doesn't have to exist in a vacuum.
Choose how much you share.
Want to keep your work private, but still receive encouragement along the way?
Share your progress with a trusted friend or family member.
Want an impartial but professional third party?
Take a class, join a workshop, or take private lessons!
Want a global location to share project updates on the internet?
Start a blog, dev log, or social media account!
It's all about finding the right balance of privacy and accountability to keep moving forward.
Learning to bake!
Baking and cooking revolve around sharing your creations with others. A wonderful cake is wonderful not only because it's beautiful, but because it tastes good and others can enjoy it. You can't make a wonderful cake without making a few okay ones first. A baker grows their skill by trying different things and sharing them. They can figure out what works, and also what they enjoy doing.
YOU CAN DO THIS!
Imagining an experience is very different from the experience itself. Experience helps you grow, both by failing and succeeding. Go for good enough, break down your work into manageable chunks, and share your progress with others.
Whatever it is, I believe you can make it happen!
Minimizing, Organizing, and Cleaning are my triforce of Tidying.
By identifying the uniqueness of each activity,
we can better understand how to strengthen our tidying skills.
The Importance of Distinction
What matters is not thinking you're doing one when you're doing the other.
Some actions can be both!
Both Organizing and Minimizing - Going through your closet and donating old stuff.
Both Minimizing and Cleaning - Taking out the trash.
Both Organizing and Cleaning - Drying off and putting the dishes away.
How I "Tidied" For Years with No Net Change
I tidied my own room as a hobby since childhood, but my criteria for minimizing was too weak and didn't have a goal beyond "remove junk." I organized the same amount of stuff without discarding much, and I bought enough to replenish the things I threw away.
Think about the AWESOME people that commit on no-waste living. They are breaking the cycle of throwing away as much as they consume. A minimal lifestyle is a similar idea.
Minimizing works best with:
The Minimalist Step
Similar to my Spring Cleaning post, imagine you're going to tackle a room or area.
Without some consideration for minimizing, you won't increase the simplicity of your space.
Without these minimizing steps there is no net change in the simplicity of your life.
Organizing is NOT Minimizing.
Throwing things in drawers is not tidying, and it's not cleaning either.
It's hiding the problem. Putting something back to its home base (or any random obscured space) is not reducing its presence in your life. For the things you're happy to own, this is less of a problem. For things that feel heavy in your life, it can be a huge issue.
Organized junk is still junk.
Going through your pens, throwing out 2 broken ones to feel good about yourself, but keeping 40 more pens than you need is not minimizing. One person's criteria of junk may be different from the other, but be careful not to assign worth to something just because it has labels, categories, or a "dedicated collection shelf."
Minimizing is Critical Thinking
A resting space is the the natural location where a belonging is kept, either out of subconscious habit or intention. Chances are, many things you own already have their own resting space or "home base." Do you always leave your purse by the door? Your wallet at your nightstand? In this post I'm going to consider some tactics for building more tidy resting spaces for our belongings.
Perks of Tidier Resting Spaces
How to Choose a Tidy Home Base
In Use vs. Resting
Some items will have two homes: one for when they are out and in use, and one for when they're resting. This resting or storage spot doesn't have to be obscured (in a drawer, cupboard etc) but it can be. Many people use a key rack to keep their home and car keys, a great example of a resting place. Their "in use" place for keys is wherever their owner takes them.
Example: My Desk
A Tactic to Reduce Phone Usage
For the duration of this post, I will be referring to negative space interchangeably with "breathing room," as the latter term feels more positive (!) and applicable.
Focal Points in Design
Negative space is an essential concept in many different art forms, including graphic design, interior decorating, photography, film, and illustration. People are drawn to visuals that give them a clear sense of where to look. Visuals that demand attention over their surroundings are called focal points, and they are the center of activity and attention.
Terminology I Use
Some of my favorite focal points:
Inverse from negative space + focal points is "chatter" - information that has too many facets to be digested concisely.
Some of my least favorite forms of chatter:
"Breathing Room" Applied
The concepts of negative space, focal points, and chatter can come in handy to determine what we find most important when arranging our lives.
Try to think of your own examples for each as you read along!
note: When it comes to the home, the right combination of focal points and negative space can make you feel comfortable in each room. Breathing room can also be helpful when considering your closet. It is visually soothing to leave room for all of your belongings so they can rest without pressure.
Note: Especially for fashion, one person's focal point may be another person's chatter. Also, having comfortable clothing is a great way to minimize your sensory experience and focus on the "statement" of your outfit. Building up a wardrobe of clothes you feel both comfy and good in is the best way to minimize your time spent worrying about what you wear.
Note: Meditation is an obvious example of breathing space for your mind. However, giving yourself moments to daydream, regroup, or let your mind go blank can be a helpful form of mindful negative space. Journals and lists can help unload your mind onto paper and remove the burden of remembering everything.
Note: This one is very...abstract, but I feel like it works just as well as the other themes.
We tend to function better when we have only a few strong and clear focuses in our lives and we give them the space to breathe.
Let's use focal points to tidy up a room!
Go into a room and observe the path your idle eye makes. What does it stop on first? Where does it linger? Is there something that is a focal point that you'd rather not be? Or something that has faded into the background that you wish you could appreciate more?
Picking a focal point for a room or a wall can help you simplify your vision.
EX: My Office
Before and After!
Office Tidy 2: Electric Boogaloo
I'm not making this blog because I think I have it all figured out. Heck, my office was still a long way off from my ideal layout when I moved in about a year ago! It was still far off only a few weeks ago! Only recently have my tastes changed to prefer minimalism, so anyone reading this is along for the journey. Negative space is nothing new, but it was fun to figure out how to apply it to more abstract parts of my life.