While beneficial to my performance in school, my college apps, and my eventual graduation, it has become more and more apparent to me recently that my habit of frontloading work over relaxation has become a toxic behavior. My friends — my partner David especially, have helped me realize this, and now I'm trying to take active steps to balance out my days.
The New Weekly Planner
While I didn't think I needed it for a long time, I made myself a weekly planner spread in Notion. I have a physical planner, which I still enjoy filling out, but if I need to move a task or an event around, I have to white it out and write it in somewhere else (pencil is not my jam).
(click to enlarge!)
This is my template for the week, Monday through Friday. As you can see, I have a top section that is divided off, with emojis for Morning, Afternoon and Evening. Under that, I have a palette emoji section which is specifically for personal projects. Then there's the work section, which is for any freelance or contract work I'm doing. Finally, there's the sparkle emoji, for non-work related chores.
Striking a Balance
NOW, I am trying to sequester out a few things a day for myself. I get my personally fulfilling art, my freelance work, and my chores out of the way bit by bit, in any order I choose. I don't HAVE to do chores or work first. When I cross out everything for that day, like I did on Monday, I have fulfilled my obligations for today and it's time to RELAX. Today, I'm using my relaxing time to idly write this post. Later in the evening, I'll be going out to get drinks. I'm DONE being productive for today.
Perhaps this format seems obvious to others, but it has taken me a long time to arrive here. For years I was dividing my tasks by what was most productive and piling that on first. It's almost like a person eating only brussel sprouts on a Monday, only steak on Tuesday, only noodles on Wednesday, only pasta sauce on Thursday, and saving ice cream only for Friday. There's a reason we're supposed to eat balanced meals (I'm still working on that too, lol), and the same goes for a balanced day.
Once my vacation is over, I'll hopefully be back to 8 hours workdays and a regular work week. When this is the case, the "work" part of my day is accounted for. David reminds me when I get home that I've done a huge amount of "being productive" simply by being at work, and being at home is a time to relax. I shouldn't be piling on the chores or trying to jump right into personal project work, even if it's fun.
I want to feel more in control of my schedule and not always ride the wave of productive guilt. I'm hoping this peek into my schedule may help others with the same thing.
A popular explanation for the clutter of one's house is the owner's lack of organizational skills. "I'd keep it cleaner, but I'm just not organized." It is perfectly fine to not enjoy organizing. To those of you out there that could take or leave labels and categories, I have good news for you: You don't have to be organized to be clean. And unfortunately, the inverse is true as well: people who are organized don't necessarily keep clean houses. In fact, people who obsess about organizing (like me) often have a harder time with minimizing and staying clean!
Change your habits for accumulation.
Monthly photos on your phone.
Every month, I go through all of the photos on my phone and delete anything I don't want to save. Once I'm down to the bare minimum I need to upload, I log onto Google Photos (where my phone albums are backed up) and download them onto my archiving hard drive. I try to be good about doing this once a month so I keep storage open on my phone and review my photos often.
A quick easy disposal regimen for mail.
As far as mail goes, I have a "deal with it now" policy that I enforce if taking action will take less than 5 minutes. Mail that I need to deal with goes on my desk keyboard so I'm forced to interact with it. Junk mail goes right in recycling. This way, there's no mail buildup from day to day in our living room or kitchen. Avoiding "for now" piles is a great way for less organized people to get through tasks without needing to categorize.
If you finish a book and don't think you'll read it again, donate it to a used bookstore or give it to a friend who may like it. If you're anything less than 100% sure you won't read it again, I urge you to donate it. Worst case, if you are overcome with a burning urge to reread this book, you can buy it again or get it for cheaper on kindle. ( I DARE YOU MIKHAIL )
When everything has a comfy place, the sensation of clutter fades.
My favorite example for this is shoes! Shoes, when in excess and without the right "organization" to seperate them, can be a huge source of stress. They're an object in which the force of habit can be very strong, and so we hide away shoes we never wear but might need at some point, and at least if you're me, wear the same 3 pairs of shoes every day. If we feel motivated to bring more shoes in the open in order to encourage wearing them more, the result can be a cluttered space full of guilt fighting habit.
Shoes are a great item to narrow down to your absolute favorite pairs for each occaision. Push comes to shove, when that party comes around, I'm going to wear that one pair of heels that don't hurt like crazy. I'm going to wear my converse, sneakers, or docs to work. I keep all of our shoes under the bed just at the edge, so they're out of reach of being tripped on but are easy to grab. These days, I can reach under the bed at a certain location and know the pair I want will be there. The distress and guilt I felt about owning a giant shoe-bag full of shoes I never wore has faded away, and I feel a comforting sense of familiarity with the 6 or so pairs of shoes that are still in my life.
Organized clutter is still clutter.
Too many books that you organize by color, genre, and type, are still too many books. You can check out my tidy trilogy post for more info on this. In addition, less stuff means less of a need for labels, file systems, folders, and containers. If you decide to discard your collection of NatGeo mags, that means you don't have to figure out a place and a system for keeping them organized.
Open spaces are easier to clean.
A giant rack full of DVDs or books is a challenge to clean or dust, since you must take out all of the books, wipe them down, wipe their surface down, and put them all back.
In Fumio Sasaki's book Goodbye Things, he talked about minimalism making cleaning three times faster.
To clean a table with a bunch of knick knacks on it, you need to:
To clean a table that has nothing on it, you need to:
This principle can be applied in many different places in the house at varying degrees. When thinking about how you want to structure your space, you will always benefit from thinking of the upkeep it will require. And less stuff will always equal less upkeep.
There are overlaps between this post and an earlier post of mine, which covered the difference between Minimizing, Organizing, and Tidying. What spurred me to write this post was thinking about the tidy material I've seen that talks about organizing like an immovable pillar of the perfect lifestyle. I think that outlook is a bit unfair to people who may not be suited for organizing, but still want to live a tidier life. The prospect of reducing the need for organization is honestly a huge relief for myself, as I used organizing as a band-aid for excess for many years. Minimalism, in my mind, is the critical thinking key to creating a space for yourself that you enjoy.
I hope y'all find these thoughts helpful! Until next time!