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.
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.
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.
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!
Note: I participate pretty equally in all book forms! I'm slowly reading paper books less and less, but I still enjoy them.
We've used them for hundreds of years. Their weight and feel is strong enough --and engaging enough -- to stand competition against the e-book format, simply because the loss of the analog nature would be too much to bear for many . Strangely enough, I find I have a much harder time focusing on a physical book, which is why I've moved more towards e-books over time.
E-books helped me survive concert band. I would open up a book on my music stand just next to my binder, and sit and quietly read while our director yelled at other sections.
I would read on my phone in between class. In college I used my kindle to buy textbooks, and would bookmark and highlight pages to take notes and keep track of difficult passages. I could flip between chapters in class with 2 clicks.
We got my dad a kindle, since he used to have to bring 3 or 4 books with him on a business trip in order to have enough to read. He has never gone back.
Fortunately, the kindle paperwhite has removed my only reservation with reading on a screen with their analog-esque, matte-sheen surface.
Audio books are my secret to falling asleep. For years I had issues with shutting down my brain when it was time to go to bed. I started listening to audio books of books I'd already read as a way to distract myself so my body could settle down. I still use them to this day. I remember loving audio books on roadtrips as a kid, and I remember my parents buying big 12 pack CD's of long books for my dad to take on his mountain commute. Nowadays, I listen to audiobooks for new things as well, since I can sample the narration on Audible to see if I like the performance. PS: I think audio books are absolutely just as meritable as reading in text form, don't @ me.