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!)

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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!

Hello again, 1001

In which I start a roundup of what I’ve accomplished and learned over the course of this list, beginning with a big goal that didn’t work out at all as I’d envisioned (#7).

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Today marks the end of my third 101 list, and I’m really thrilled with how it’s closing out. Surprisingly contented and excited.

I expected the conclusion of this list to be bittersweet because I spent most of the 1001 feeling disconnected from myself. When things were so hard after I had my son, lots of people encouraged me to find something to do for myself. Something I enjoyed or that recharged me. I looked to my 101, which I’d intended to be a road map “back” to myself, and drew blanks. Motherhood was a profoundly unsettling experience. I lost time, energy, and had little to no sense of self. Looking at my list felt like reading someone else’s goals. I felt discouraged not because I wasn’t accomplishing things but because I didn’t feel any sparks of interest. I resented that I’d felt like I needed to improve myself or fix my habits. What more could I possibly do in one day?

I particularly struggled with the one goal I thought would be most helpful: a fairly open-ended challenge to make a plan to maintain three important aspects of my life over the first year with a kid, with monthly actions and results. I wanted to hold myself accountable to not lose track of everything and not become one of those mothers who have no other interests beyond their kid. Instead it just seemed like a reminder of how differently hard things were than I thought they’d be. As I struggled with feelings of isolation, ineptitude, and discouragement, this goal was getting under my skin. I thought I’d be good at this. I thought I’d be bouncing back after four months. I thought I’d handle this better, be happier, be able to be the same person as before and just add on this new role to my sense of self…

But the 101 also really helped me start back to a more balanced and sane view of my life. Even if I couldn’t quite get hyped for some of my goals, I could still relate to my big five wants from a 2011 blog challenge. And then I could see that I had been working on some of the goals all along, because they were still things that were applicable to my new life. Which led to recognizing other things that were applicable, which led to recognizing other things…

Of course, now I know that there were so many other things affecting that first year or so that I couldn’t see at the time. Reflux medicine was like a glimpse into another world. Weaning was downright thrilling. And, after months of being the only one seeing and dealing with it, having someone else recognize a sensory meltdown was healing.

Which brings me here. 1001 days, one pregnancy, one c-section, one son, and one (long) dark time later. 1001 days, immeasurable baby kisses, one SPD diagnosis, seven months of life-changing occupational therapy, and two new friends later. 1001 days, sixty-seven goals attempted, and fifty-two goals completed later. Fifty-two! That’s only two fewer than my last list.

And I’m closing things out feeling great about this last year. I didn’t maintain any aspect of my pre-kid life. I reacted to that goal in a very opposite, negative way when it came down to it. And now, I know why — I can feel it. I’m done with looking backwards. I don’t want to maintain something that once felt right or important. I want to progress to something that feels right and important right now. I don’t want to wonder when or how I’ve changed, I want to explore how I’ll change next.

I’ll be mining my list for what worked for me and what didn’t as I post about those goals I attempted or completed. At this end, I’m looking forward to the beginning of another list in January. I have no idea what will be on it. I have no idea how it will be structured. But this list really reminded me that I could take small, seemingly inconsequential steps towards the life I want to live. I had 101 reminders. It didn’t matter what they were or how many I completed.

All that mattered was taking step after step after step.

In that way, I think this was my most successful 1001 yet.

Light Reading and Lenses

In which I talk about a few new things I bought over the course of the list (#58, #70).

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It turns out that I had no problem buying a few new photography-related items over the course of my list. I’ve gotten and been given a small assortment of photography magazines. They seem to be a blend of too-easy tips, some details on ways I doubt I’ll ever shoot, and useful information. But no matter the content, I’ve had fun sitting down with them off and on and taking a minute to remember why I was drawn to my big camera in the first place.

Since I bought the camera as part of my second 101 list, I’ve been really pleased with my purchase. I’ve never really wished I’d gotten a different model, even as I’ve used other people’s cameras a bit more extensively. (I may slightly wish that I’d gotten a different year, since each version adds some improvements. The version after mine is wifi capable, for example. But I can always replace the body along down the line if I decide I need a few more bells and whistles. For now, my kit is working well for me.) It’s a pleasure to pull it out with no regrets each time.

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So what did I add to my gear since this list started? Turns out, a fair bit! I added a cross-body, side-mount camera strap (which allows me to bend down and pick up a baby easily without conking him in the head with a massive camera). I bought two fixed lenses, the Nikon 35mm f/1.8 and Nikon 50mm f/1.8. I’ve added a bunch of lens filters, not all pictured. And I bought a nice, small bag that looks great sitting out on our counter so that I can keep the big camera handy during our regular old life. No point in saving good pictures for special occasions.

 

 

Reading Completed

In which I check off 15 non-fiction books, a goal (#53) I kind of forgot to pay attention to.

I can remember reading at least 15 non-fiction books over the course of this list. I counted only things that I read cover to cover and that had at least equal applicability to me as to my son. (Parenting philosophy counted, research on sensory processing disorder didn’t.) I can verify only one history book that I read. The rest fall into home, parenting, and style categories. My original goal was to try to keep my mind active with interesting books and give myself a little more to talk about than the daily report of bodily functions. While that didn’t feel possible, these categories do reflect more of my changed life and the things I’ve been struggling with.

I don’t think any of the books are worth mentioning. There very well may have been more that I’ve forgotten. The goal was never about the books so much as the reading.