Jan. Progress

In which I hit the ground running, making progress on 11 of my goals in the first month of my new list (#1, #6, #11, #18, #19, #44, #52, #59, #85, #87, and #99).

I’ve been very excited so far to be working on my new list. January was a particularly productive month for me, despite being sick for the majority of it. In addition to my 1001, I also completed most of Apartment Therapy’s January Cure. I’ve scheduled the few remaining items on the cure so that I’ll complete them over the next few months.

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But most of my energy went toward my goals here, particularly working on one area of the house. I chose to work on all of my closets for the first month. I went through each one cleaning, culling, and organizing. With help from the hubs, I upgraded one of our main closets with a workable closet system to hold our toy library and my crafting supplies. Now all the closets are ready for use, allowing me to tackle other areas in the house. I’ll be confident in what I decide to keep as I slowly find a place for everything.

I completed my new year’s change review, answering my own questions about last year in order to focus my plans for this one. I doubt I will use the same questions from year to year, but I plan to refer to my answers throughout the year to check in with myself.

I also started to collect my wardrobe maintenance kit, buying detergent to hand wash some of my sweaters and other supposedly dry-clean-only items. I requested and received a garment steamer for Christmas and I’m gathering up things that I already own to mend or replace buttons.

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I printed three of my non-family photos, but have not yet hung them. I’ve been working on developing one satisfying low-cost evening break away from home and tweaking a significantly new cocktail. We added two new framed prints that came from the hub’s Nonna’s collection. Because they weren’t displayed in her house, they don’t have particularly sentimental value. We chose them for the look of them and I added frames. I’m counting both prints as one joyful addition to our home.

I maintained my meditation streak, with one make-up on a day I was sick. I ended the month with a streak of 69 days. I read five middle-grade or young adult books before bed, and two nonfiction books. I also played four new games, thanks to a bountiful Christmas on the game front.

All in all, I’m thrilled with how much progress I made last month. This month seems to be settling into a much more reasonable pace, which is not a bad thing. I’m too thinly spread to keep up last month’s breakneck pace without quickly burning out.

Happy new 101!

Happy 2017! I’m kicking off my fourth 101 list today. I’ll be finishing up posting about my last 101 as I complete its page in my archive. I still have some thoughts about those last goals.

I’m really excited about the items on my new list. I’ve chosen not to break it down into Grace and Joy categories. While those terms still hold meaning for me, I’m looking for a more complete and integrated version of my life. Hopefully these goals will help me find grace and joy in all areas of my life as I streamline, declutter my space and time, and bring more intentional action into play.

I’ve included a lot of serial goals to help me create better, sustainable habits. I’ve also tried to include a little spontaneity in the list as I set myself challenges in the future within relatively open-ended frameworks. I’ve identified natural rewards for all the items, which I hope will help me maintain some momentum and focus.

I’m ready to make some changes in my life. My last list was a slow path back to a sense of myself. I really hope that this new list can help me create more balance and joy in my thoughts, home, and life. It’s a tall order, but I’ll have 1001 days to chip away at it.

I can’t wait.

Using my Time

In which I touch on how I’ve been using the time freed up by my 101-motivated routines to regularly pamper myself without treats (#61).

I added a goal to remind me to pamper myself because I thought that it would be a good way to step back periodically. I did buy myself a few pampering treats, but I can only remember my ring and one big weekend away. A goal with good intentions that didn’t quite work for me. I needed to do more self-care on a smaller, regular basis.

Once I got the hang of my 101-motivated routines, I started thinking about how to make my self-care more routine. I’ve been struggling with prioritizing myself. Not only because I don’t have time, or I have so many other things that will blow up long before I do, but because when I had the chance, I couldn’t think of ways to really make a difference. I was doing a lot of shopping just to get out of the house (the opposite of so many of my goals on stuff and money). I was spending money on food/drink treats and simultaneously getting frustrated when my clothes didn’t fit. And I often came home feeling more lonely than rejuvenated. When I attempted to get myself the pampering treats my goal called for, I felt guilty more often than not.

Part of the problem was that I had no idea what to do for myself on a regular, routine basis. I was waiting for those big, once-in-a-while times, which only put more pressure on them to be fantastic. And each one that wasn’t built more pressure, and the cycle continued.

I started getting up earlier in the day, making the most of my best energy time. I also realized that I craved being in my house in the quiet. I drink a large, hot(!) cup of tea. I try to only work on things like my 101, reading, or a creative project. No paying bills or getting a jump on my day! That was hard to commit to, and I still slip up and do “just this one thing that won’t take too long.” From there, my early mornings grew to include meditation.

I’m clinging to possibilities of neuroplasticity. Isn’t that really what the 101 is about? I can change habits because I can change familiar lines of thought. I can cultivate calm and intention with every small moment I successful court one or the other. I can literally create and deepen mental paths to grace and joy.

I’ve been using apps and a few books. I started with Stop, Think, Breathe. While there were certainly aspects that I liked, I didn’t think it was focused internally enough for me right now. I’m not interested on meditating on compassion, I’m looking to slow my mind down so that I can look at my day clearly. Which lead me, predictably, to Headspace. I’ve been using it since August, and feel like it is a better fit for me right now. I’ve also been using One Moment Meditation throughout the day when I need to reset. I’m hoping that the combination of these will have a big effect with practice.

I’ve been working (less successfully) on an evening routine. I need to separate myself from the business of the day. I’ve been trying to end each day with some reading, but I found that I really didn’t want to read my real book. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction, which gets me thinking, which doesn’t work for me for bedtime. So I’ve decided to read a little bit of a juvenile or YA book instead. It’s perfect. Short sections, not as much to think about, easy to blow through and get on to something else.

I’ve been trying to make the most of the time freed up by my routines and keep some of it for myself, but I still fight the pull of all the work around the house that seems to be staring me down as I settle in to do something for myself. But it’s getting easier with each time I practice. I just need to keep doing the thing, Amy-Poeller-style. (“You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing.” ― Amy Poehler, Yes Please)

Routines Around Here

In which I enjoy a sunset (#82) thanks to a new set of routines (#15, #21, #38, #44, #49).

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I didn’t sit on my deck with a cocktail until one month before my 1001 ended. When I did, the experience was much sweeter than the unimpressive sunset. The cocktail represented a weaned baby, a pleasant and reasonably-timed bedtime, and having time to sit with my husband and be adults. That’s what I intended when I put this on my list. Though I didn’t specify it in the goal, we’d also eaten dinner, washed dishes, cleaned the counters. I’d completed my laundry, we were prepped for dinner the next night, and the house wasn’t a disaster I was avoiding.

My new routines were paying off. I’ve been working on doing at least one load of laundry each weekday off and on for pretty much the entire list, and I’ve recently decided to do the laundry on a schedule. Now I don’t have to figure out what load is the most pressing and I have the weekend to do things that come up less often — an extra load of guest sheets and/or towels, jeans, bath mats, etc. (Admittedly, being out of the GI-challenged baby stage helps a lot with this. The GI-challenged toddler produces much less emergency laundry.)

Then I started really thinking about how I can make the most of my time and very limited mental and physical energy. I’ve got decision fatigue in full force by lunchtime. (Do I really want to fight the small dictator on this? This? Sigh.) I read through this Energy is Everything series and changed things again. I added a schedule to our meals so that I didn’t waste time every week thinking “ok, we have pasta, chicken, Mexican, so I could probably do a stir-fry…” and then I created a list of go-to meals in Evernote for each of our categories. Now we can just look down the list, pop it into the meal plan, and check it off so that even if we are always eating “meat with sauce”on Tuesday, we don’t get stuck in a picatta rut.

Realistically, we eat a lot of the same foods each week. Yogurt. Chicken. Cheese. That kind of repetition makes online grocery ordering so fast. I’ve decided that my time is worth the $5 pickup fee. (Not to mention that I’m sure I pick up way more than $5 in impulse buys while I walk around the store.) So we go to the rather far away grocery store and have the groceries delivered to the car. Which means that we might as well go to the library in that direction first to give the toddler a little something before frustrating him by neither GETTING OUT OF THE CAR RIGHT NOW, THANK YOU nor JUST KEEP DRIVING, MAMA. Which means I don’t have to figure out what to do for one morning!

And then it was an easy jump to doing a lot of prep for the rest of the week during Sunday’s nap time. We are eating better because cooking doesn’t take as long. We are wasting less food. And we’re getting all the trash out before our main trash pickup.

I’ve been working hard to have a better cleaning baseline, and while it’s certainly better, I have a long way to on that. Right now I’m focusing more on getting clutter out of my house than on regularly mopping the floors. But once a surface is clear, I am working hard to keep it clear. So we’re getting better about nightly kitchen clears and taking things back upstairs. And when that doesn’t quite happen, that’s the priority before moving on to the next project area. Same goes for my email inbox. I gave myself more leeway on that goal — 50 items rather than 25 — because I’ve signed up for a number of newsletters that arrive by email.

I created the routines prompted by my list. When I realized that thinking about this kind of never-ending work was a small-but-constant drain, I scheduled them so that I don’t have to think about them. Then I changed the schedule so that the week began on Saturday. Shifting the weekend to the start of my mental week has been surprisingly great. Just between us, I feel like I could market a whole line of specialty planners based on this concept. (Don’t steal my idea, right?) Starting on Sunday breaks the weekend in half, and suddenly Sunday isn’t so much weekend as it is day-of-dread-before-Monday. And Monday start? Obviously puts the focus more on the work week, even for my stay-at-home-mom self. But the Saturday start, ah, the Saturday start is a kind of magic. Suddenly the week starts with the life you’ve been working for. Family, home, adventures. I spend the ‘beginning’ of the week enjoying my family time, recharging, and prepping to get through the week ahead as easily as possible. I don’t have to slog through the week to be “rewarded” with a weekend and feel cheated when it’s full of work, too! Even though the days are obviously the same, the mental trick works for me. I’m either really gullible or on to something.

Here’s my working plan:

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But what am I doing with the time and energy that this frees up? More on that later. (Spoiler: there are more routines!)

Too Much Stuff, Too Little Time

In which I discuss my efforts to have less (#2, #11, #24, #33) and know exactly where to put it all (#42, #46).

Alas, I am not, nor have I ever been, a minimalist. I would really like to have the right things in the right amount and know exactly where everything should go. I have been working towards a reasonable, practical, and joyful level of stuff, but I find it slow and hard going. Add in the baby/toddler perfect storm of too many outgrown things and too little time and I found it hard to see the progress. I still have an unreasonable, impractical, and stressful amount of stuff.

But I am making progress. I found at least two things to donate or get rid of each day for a month. I did an initial clearing and organization of papers in my office. I donated to a men’s suit drive, a prom dress drive, and have pulled out my suits and professional dresses to donate in the next thrift store load. I’ve edited down our movie collection.

The hubs and I worked a lot in the garage, but were never able to organize it enough to fit both cars in. We have prioritized using that space for other projects, so I haven’t even been parking my one car inside, but I am all set to do that as the weather cools off. (No coats in the car seat will make for pretty miserable getting in and out of the car as it is!)

I did reorganize the cleaning supplies in my laundry room once I redid the cabinets in there, but I don’t think I’m really making the most of that storage yet.

And therein lies the real challenge that I think these goals highlighted but didn’t completely alleviate. By focusing on obtainable actions, I completed many of these items. But my life also changed a ton, my stuff changed more, and my motivation was … scattered. I wasn’t working systematically towards a clear, overarching goal. Those completions didn’t help me change my mindset or habits towards other categories of things or clutter-magnetic locations.

I’ve been reading a lot of books to help me figure out exactly what stuff triggers my stress, my husband’s stress, my son’s stress. To help me figure out what we actually crave from our spaces and our possessions, to recognize where we have different priorities, and to map out the feel I want the house to have. Some of the books were helpful, some weren’t great fits. None resonated enough that I feel like I have a clear action plan.

The clutter is mostly mine, which makes me feel frustrated and guilty, even as I can’t quite get rid of enough. The solutions will need to be mine, but with my family’s needs in mind. I am definitely more motivated than ever to get things down to a new reduced baseline. These reducing and organizing types of goals have been on each of my 101 lists, and I expect they will appear on my next list, too. But I know now to focus as much on the never-ending process of changing my habits as well as clearing out my backlog. I’m excited to see what I can come up with within my 101 format. And I’d be happy to hear any suggestions you guys have!