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.
After a really engaging chat in our #tidy_time channel at work, I was inspired for the bajillionth time to sort through my books and discard even further. I'm donating another bag full and giving 2 other bags to friends of mine after messaging them my wares. At one point in our work conversation I raised a concern I've felt for a while: If I'm giving my discarded belongings to someone else, what if I'm just perpetuating the cycle of accumulation for someone else? My coworker responded by saying, basically, nah. "One man's trash" and all that. It was a reassuring thing to hear and actually helped me see clearer that some of the books I own could be better enjoyed by good friends of mine.
At this point in the book discarding process, I notice the tugging guilt in my body is getting especially strong. It was much easier at first, when the books I threw out were no-brainers that I knew I'd never read. NOW, I'm down to the books I had convinced myself were worth keeping somehow, and with the help of appraising their worth and kindle availability on Amazon, I'm down to the lowest number of books I've owned in over 10 years, if not more. I asked myself: Am I going too far? Am I forcing myself to throw out things I treasure? After sitting with these feelings and holding these books in my hand last night, I think the discomfort is coming from somewhere else.
When I hold a book (especially an artbook) in my hands that I have bought, flipped through when it arrived, and promptly never looked at again, I feel annoyed with my past self. I feel like an idiot for chasing the high of the New Thing in the Mail, the New Thing to Post on Instagram. The Newness completely blinded me from its lack of preciousness. A new, more strict check I'll be doing for myself in the future is: Am I excited to own this because it'll be new? Hopefully this kind of check will keep me from buying things for this reason. Another rule I've developed for myself is to avoid buying artbooks if at all possible. No matter their value or beauty, I am terribly bad about reading or studying them and I don't think that will change in the future.
Another tug I noticed in the war of evaluating my books is the feeling of defeat I'd get if I decided to keep a book that I considered discarding. Perhaps this goes back to the very simple notion of sparking joy -- I was keeping this book because the utility or rareness of it overruled my gut action. Perhaps I saw a 25th anniversary edition cover, or a book that is hard to get on Amazon, and that was my justification in keeping it. As I set it in the pile, I felt like I failed my own test. And this, in itself, made my notice something more: The price and the rareness and the sentimental value mean nothing if it doesn't spark joy.
I mention sentiment because I found a poem book I bought while I was still with an ex. The book itself is beautiful, but I'd had a connection with the Kindle version long before I met this person. The signed physical book, however, instantly makes me think of the poetry reading where I bought it, which makes me think of that ex. Even though nothing bad happened at the reading or at that point in the relationship, it brought back a memory that didn't bring me joy. The extent of my distress amazed me as I was reluctant even to hold the book for too long. A belonging can bind itself to a memory. If you don't like that memory, you don't have to keep it. Seriously, I mean it. "Ah, this brings back memories" is not always a positive exclamation. I find I even get this discomfort with some of my older clothing. If you don't like that memory, discard that item.
It's easy to look back at my past self and be annoyed that I purchased carelessly. I'm trying not to beat myself up about it. Somewhere in the I really should have read this by now is a deeper voice saying You bought this on a whim, and it hasn't interested you enough to give it any time. And somewhere in there is a voice saying, You're keeping this because you bought it, not because you love it.
I'm going to try to elaborate on this idea of sentiment and usefulness much more in a future post. I think books are especially hard because of how equally each side can pull. Until next time!
Good morning! It's 7am and I'm sitting at our dining room table, enjoying the sunrise through the accordion blinds. It makes our plant Amelia look really pretty. This morning I set two alarms for 6:00 and 6:05. I woke up on the first alarm and got out of bed on the second.
Last week I bought a Google Home Mini per the suggestion of a coworker and set it up on my nightstand by my water bottle and humidifier. The thing I struggle with the most is looking at my phone when I wake up in the morning instead of getting out of bed. I turned down moving my phone away from my pillow before because I use it to listen to audio books and so I need it close, either in speaker or headphone form. I was against bluetooth speakers since they YELL at you when they're low on battery during the night. In a discussion in our #tidy_time channel at work, my friend Jumanah suggested the Google Home -- I could play my audio book on it in the evening (Audible has a sleep timer that fades out the audio and stops it) and it could ring my alarm in the morning. Meanwhile, my phone could sit across the room and charge, so I wouldn't be tempted to look at it instead of starting my day.
David and I got used to it during the weekend. I set up a Routine function that tells me the weather and traffic on my commute before playing some chill music to get ready to. This morning I woke up, got dressed (I'm an evening shower person), packed my lunch and set up my laptop/journals in the lovely light of the dining room table. Right now David is working on unreal tutorials in the office and Chrispy is modeling a car from scratch. It's quiet, so I can hear the Sim City soundtrack playing softly from Chrispy's room, and the muffled droll of Tutorial Man from the office.
My plan for this morning is to write this post, and then outline a new post about evaluating possessions. Future mornings this week, I might try a few different things. My neck is always stiff in the morning so I could try some yoga/stretches. I could go for a walk or drive to the coffee place near our house. I'm going to try as much as possible to leave that open for myself. What Jumanah said really inspired me: "5-7am is Jumanah time." I want 7-8:15 to be Taylor time, whatever that means for that day.
I'm publishing this post now, but I will edit it with Days 2-5 (maybe thru 7?) as the week goes on.
Happy Tuesday! Today I'm writing from my sitting desk in the office. Once the sun is up I can open the window and it's not too gloomy in here, even if the sun is breaking on the other side. Just this weekend I realized the arms of my office chair are detachable, which means I can fully scoot forward in my seat without the arms bumping the front of the desk. It also makes the chair slimmer to store since I can push it all the way in when I leave for the day. I've owned this chair for about four years and only now discovered this!
Waking up was slightly harder this morning. David got up before me and I was still feeling groggy, so I croaked "Good morning" at my Google Mini and it told me the weather, my commute, and started playing a morning music playlist. As I stood up and made the bed, I noticed how much I loved the silvery light of the room. The music helped me perk up, so I decided to do a yoga routine for neck and shoulder pain.
I found the routine a little while back on Youtube, so I set up my phone and my mat at the foot of the bed and followed the 17 minute routine. Doing the routine, I enjoyed the feeling of paying more attention and care to my body, with the cool light of the morning and the soft moving air around me from our filter and David's fan. As I stood up, I noticed my shoulders and neck were definitely looser, and I'm glad I decided to do this first thing. I may try to repeat the routine for the rest of the week and see if I can get extended results.
As far as sitting down in the morning today, my only plan was to write an update here. I started working on a future post last night, so I may touch that up today as well. Right now, David is working on an Unreal tutorial behind me and as usual I'm envying his ability to focus on video tutorials -- especially this early in the morning! At 7:50, David and I are going to go to Simply Coffee to pick up a drink and then we'll head straight from there to work.
It is a rather foggy Wednesday morning. I didn't sleep well last night due to some bad dreams, so I'm a bit bummed that the sunlight isn't coming through to brighten my mood a bit. I'm set up at my writing desk and I turned David's LEDs to full blast orange, so I'm adding a bit of warm color at least.
I set my alarms for 7 last night instead of 6, so David woke me up around 6:30. I'm glad he still woke up! The biggest drag about getting up and getting ready today wasn't physical tiredness, it was really just emotional tiredness from the dreams and dragging my gloomy mood through the motions. Since I need to drive David to the mechanic to pick up his car, I decided not to do neck and shoulder yoga today. Instead I warmed up my heat pack and I'm using it to warm my shoulders (and weigh them down) while I work.
David has definitely been getting tired earlier in the day, and while I remain just as alert during the day, I start to get sleepy around 9:30pm, which is good. It's pretty impressive that I'm in bed with the phone away before my mom even sends me a good night message!
I'm honestly, strangely, kind of glad that I've had at least one "off morning" so far this week. It proves to me that, even if everything isn't feeling super great, I can still pull myself together to get up at the same time and get a little something accomplished early in the day. This whole routine would lose a bit of its value if I could only fit it in when things are going Really Good.
THE GLOOM CONTINUES. David got back from work around 11:30 last night, and I usually don't sleep as great when I'm waiting for him to come home. Since he's sleeping in a bit, I stayed in bed a while longer and indulged myself by looking at my phone in bed. Honestly? Didn't enjoy it that much. I think there are much better (and less distracting) times to enjoy social media.
I made my lunch and ate a granola bar. Unfortunately I'll be going to work slightly later today because I have to get my allergy shots at 9am. I just realized the productive thing I should do with this extra home time, which is putting away the dishes on the drying rack. I really don't want to, but I'm writing it here to hold myself accountable.
Also, I am TIRED today. I don't have any coffee at home, so I'm considering going and picking some up. I'll see if David wants to join. Even though I'm wide awake now, if I got back into bed I think I'd fall asleep no problem. I'm going to avoid doing that. I'm not sure what in particular is making me more tired -- between my varied sleep quality and my body adjusting to this earlier time I think that's reason enough. Hopefully I can perk up later in the day!
Friday is here! What an interesting week it has been. Last night my eyes were pretty strained, so I went to bed feeling quite tired. This morning, I woke up at 6am and got out of bed 3 times to snooze the alarm on my phone. At least each time I became a little more alert, but I think I needed the extra time laying down today. Sometimes when I wake up but I'm not ready to get up, I look around the room and stretch my neck and shoulders and let myself space out. It's probably not quite meditation, but its a meditative moment at least.
I got out of bed at 7am and got ready for the day. I'm really enjoying how easy it is to pick something out to wear from my wardrobe. I'm ALSO very grateful to work somewhere where leggings, high tops, a giant paint-covered black t shirt, and a tent-like denim jacket with 60 pockets is an acceptable work outfit. I think if I worked somewhere requiring pencil skirts and heels or button ups and ties I would go insane.
I'm really hoping for sunnier weather soon. It makes getting up early a lot easier. I think lighting is very important to me -- I've only mentioned "natural light" a billion times on here and on twitter but I really do value soft, diffused, warm light. I'm really not a fan of overhead lights or any cool lights. I think they remind me of classrooms. Luckily the lighting at work is pretty multi-directional and mostly warm, and I have my monitor brightness turned down so I don't get too much blue light. I'm really going to try to focus on my eye strain exercises during work today.
Yesterday I discovered a few cool minimalist menswear accounts that post pictures called "flat lays" or #flatlays, which is basically just showing folded outfits on a white or minimalist background to appreciate the simplicity of the outfit. Probably my favorite account I've found so far is Andrew Hong. I feel like finding the compromise between minimalism and fashion will be an interesting aspect to figure out for myself in the future.
Will grab coffee on the way to work! Looking forward to a relaxing weekend -- will probably write a conclusion on Saturday.
Happy Saturday! It is almost 2pm and....I slept in today. I know. I still set an alarm for 6am, and I considered it, and 7am too. I ended up waking up for real around 8am and got out of bed at 9am. Considering "sleeping in" used to mean noon to 2pm, this is still a big improvement and leaves me so much of my day to enjoy. I'll probably give myself that same freedom tomorrow and then continue with 6am mornings on Monday. Hopefully in the future I can close that gap between weekday and weekend wake times, but I'm okay with it for now.
My mornings this past week have been so enjoyable. I think Monday and Tuesday were still the strongest days as far as my energy and my quickness to get out of bed, and then the weather got gloomy and I was more tired on Wednesday through Friday. It didn't discourage me, though. I found myself looking forward to that early morning time during the week even moreso than my evening time. That's pretty impressive for a part of my day that used to be nonexistent.
Top Things I've Learned This Week:
I will do an update later on in the year (?) to let you guys know how my morning routine has evolved! I wish you all the best with your early day endeavors.
David was kind enough to lend me his Canon Rebel T2i and his wide-angle lens (from his real estate photography days) so I could take some decent pictures of our clean house.
7:30 Wake up with sleep app which picks a time in a 20 minute window based on my REM cycle. At this point, I usually lie in bed for 10 min on my phone. I'd like to stop doing that.
7:40 Pick out an outfit. Take medications. Put on makeup.
8:00 Water my plant, Amelia. Make a PB&J, pack fruit and cheez-its.
8:15 Out the door. Drive to work while listening to music or audio book. Drink half a water bottle and eat a granola bar for breakfast.
8:50 Pull into Target parking lot. Scoot to work.
9:00 Arrive at work, check Slack, refill water, fill out my To Do list for the day.
12:30 Lunch. Refill water bottle and grab coffee.
1-5:30 Work. Refill water bottle a few times. Grab snacks. I switch between sitting and standing, listening to music and youtube videos, and talking to my deskmate.
5:45 Scoot to parking lot. Drive home w audiobook and a salty snack to sate my hanger.
6:20 Arrive at home. Put lunchbox away, change into workout clothes.
6:30 Zumba in the back yard.
7:00 Shower and wash face. Face lotion.
7:30 Put together leftovers for dinner.
8:00 Watch Youtube videos with David.
8:45 Decide to rearrange pictures in the Office. Re-hammer and hang everything.
9:30 Sit down and start typing out blog ideas. Including this.
10:00 Fill out habit journal. Yawn a lot and feel grateful that my brain gets to rest soon.
10:30 Set half hour sleep timer on audiobook. Turn on the humidifier and turn off the light. Bedtime!
When I first started my tidying journey, I thought one big weekend was going to be the start and end of minimizing my belongings and maximizing joy. Even typing this out, I realize now how silly it was to think it so simple. It's like the curse of the "final" delivery file, leaving you with a submission titled comission_v02_edit03_finalthistime_SUBMITTED.png.
The reality has been much more gradual. I tend to fixate on instant gratification: one day shipping, instantly finding a buyer for furniture I'm selling, getting a reply email 5 minutes after it's sent. Through the process of tidying I'm learning yet again how to be a Work in Progress and have peace with the state of my home. I'm in a constant state of refining what criteria I use to discard and keep possessions. Each time I discard, it becomes easier to identify what is important.
I used my newfound joy-detection from Marie Kondo to go through my closet and discard anything that didn't spark joy when I hold it or tried it on. At least, I thought I discarded "anything." I filled up 2 garbage bags full of clothes to donate, and felt that now I finally had my ideal, lightweight closet. I looked at it with satisfaction. At that point, I still had two under-bed storage containers full of costumes and seasonal clothing, not to mention another bag full of bathing suits. I tried to put those out of my mind, since they were out of sight in any case.
In clothes-tidying round 2, I immediately attacked all of the items I'd been ruminating on during the weekdays. There were tops I decided to hold onto that I changed my mind on. I tried to remember the last time I wore any of my skirts. With a freshly fiery determination, I bagged another whole pile of clothes and felt satisfied yet again. Now I'm done.
At this point I'd started reading Goodbye Things by Fumio Sasaki and my discarding criteria was turned on its head yet again. I had a new ideal: I only wanted to see things I felt good in and enjoyed wearing inside my closet. In addition, I decided to take Marie Kondo's advice and get rid of seasonal clothing storage -- EVERYTHING was going in the closet. I sat on the floor, surrounded by various sweaters and Halloween costumes I'd been hesitant to part with, and steeled myself yet again for a more brutal takedown. I saved all but two of my most re-wearable costumes and discarded bikinis since I now prefer one-piece suits. I kept only my favorite sweaters since I get to wear them 10 days out of the year. Success! I was finally done!
Goodbye Things was still gnawing away at me. I sorted through my desk materials and get brutally honest with myself about folders and clipboards and extra never-used pens. The result was four newly empty plastic drawers. Could I fit all of the clothes from our dresser into the closet if I use those drawers?
It was worth a try. I rearranged, which is my favorite part of tidying, since it's like puzzle solving to find the right way to make things fit. I'm finding that the puzzles get easier the more I minimize. Not only could I fit David and I's clothes in the closet, but I could fit our laundry basket in there as well. This was a huge and exciting change, since getting rid of our dresser would mean much more room and ease of movement in our bedroom.
I donated even more clothes and I was able to move my meds and makeup boxes into my side of the closet on top of my clothing bins. It's now a one stop shop for all of my morning needs.
And the weird and cool thing is, as always, I can't really remember what I've discarded now. I know there were many objects and many items of clothing. I feel like their weight has left me, and the memory of the guilt and dust they collected has gone with it.
Will I probably always think I'm done, that I've reached the final stage of my home? Most likely. Little by little that stubborn need for final-ness is fading away, and I hope I can find more joy in the Now that is my house, instead of the ideal I hope it'll become.