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)

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Dress my Best

In which I get into a few of my wardrobe goals (#29), (#76), and why I don’t think they are as superficial as they may seem.

I have completed going through every item of clothing I own. I’ve purged a lot of things, stored everything so that all of my clothes for my current circumstances are out and accessible. No more seasonal switches to trip me up or hide things that never get used. I have stored minimal wardrobes for maternity and nursing clothes in case I need those again. I washed and refolded everything. I even set up changeable drawer dividers in my dresser. It feels pretty good right now.

With that done, I’m turning my attention now to updating and reducing my wardrobe so that I love every item. I think I’ll be game for more reduction as I get used to the amount of clothes that I have. It feels so much smaller than it used to, but I’m already seeing that I keep passing over a few items in my drawers. From now on, I’m working on a one-in-one(or more)-out rule. I recently spent out a hefty chunk of change to buy some new dresses that will work better than ones I have.

I’ve tried to identify needs for my clothes so that I am not swayed unnecessarily by sale prices.

  1. Squat test — I squat in public more than ever before, so I’m struggling to find tops that cover but don’t distort my proportions too much.
  2. Pockets! — I want to keep my phone close by me for its camera and connection to the outside (adult) world.
  3. Color pallet — I’ve really enjoyed keeping my clothes within my current color pallet. It has made shopping faster, changing clothes after some baby fluid incident faster, and I find the overall effect calming.

Right now, I have a few items that I really love. The dresses I recently bought fulfill that criteria, and I’m looking forward to slowly replacing and reducing what’s left until all of my pieces do. I will not complete this goal by the end of the 1001, but I’ve really laid a great foundation for the future with my steps so far.

I find that feeling comfortable with my clothing has helped my mood a lot. I really enjoy wearing something that flatters my body and fits my personality. It’s a big boost to put on one thing in the morning and not run through seven shirts that don’t work and just make me feel out of shape and wasteful. I feel like I’m still meeting my post-baby physical self, and it is very disconcerting to change my own mental image of my body. I can work on that by wearing things that flatter and make me feel good. Connected. In control and making progress.

Clearing out my space

In which I touch on a few goals (#11, #24, #29, #42, #53) that are all linking to clearing physical items out of my space.

I feel like I’m genetically programmed to keep too much stuff.

(That way, I can shift the blame off of myself when I finally go through my desk drawers and find 30 floppy discs, Hollywood video AND Blockbuster membership cards, or pens that don’t write. Or when I go through my shelves and find books I have no intention of reading, free bookmarks I don’t use, or decorations that have no meaning to me. Or when I go through my drawers and find clothes that don’t fit my style, life, or body anymore.)

This year, I have been doing a major house-wide purge. Sometimes I feel like I’m starting to see results, but others it is so discouraging to continue to work and still feel like I can’t find what I need, I have nothing to wear, my things are still all over the place.

I’m slowly working though the ridiculous amount of paper that I have. Filing, shredding, but mostly recycling: old coupons that got swept up in a pile, or old grocery lists that was out away in a purse, or why did we think we needed to keep this? I think the amount of junk mail we pile up in a week is disgusting. And it is way too easy to let that pile up.

We’re cleaning out in the garage in order to get at least my car in, but it doesn’t look like we’ll get the second car inside until we build out a lot more storage. I’m trying to take the progress for what it is worth and not let perfection be the enemy of good.

I’ve also been doing a lot of hard work on my clothes. I’ve got a ton of clothes that just don’t fit any more — not me, not my life. I’ve already donated one big load of clothes and am working on at least two more. (We’re donating baby items to a different location than the rest in the hopes that they get a more direct route to folks who need them than a thrift store.) While I’ve reduced a lot, I feel like I’ll cut more out when I am not comparing to the items that were clearly not working. Just because this one is better than that doesn’t mean that this one is good. Right now I’m storing three separate wardrobes — one for life now, and two in case I decide to have another kid, and then decide to nurse another kid. I’ve decided that all my items need to fit in my closet and dresser — no seasonal items under the bed, no fancy items in the guest room.

I’ve been reading some non-fiction books to keep me motivated on clearing out the clutter and making the most of my house after I finally get it cleared out. I think I’ll revisit a few books that I read back in my first 101 while trying to develop my style, which I feel needs a practical update these days. I hope those might keep me motivated to make the hard choices on clothes.

I’m trying to get some real progress, which is a lot messier than rushing through and “organizing” things out of sight. It’s been good but overwhelming. I haven’t hit the balance between working enough to keep momentum and working so much that I completely burn out on it.

On to April

In which I create actions for the new month to maintain my life (#7).

I’m pleased with the results of my March actions towards maintaining three important aspects of my life.

To address being active and present in my life, I posted almost-weekly about items on my 101 that I’ve already accomplished. This got me looking hard at my list again, and at my past year. I’ll continue to post those old accomplishments as I get a chance. This month I’ll be working on seeing my life as it is now by identifying something noteworthy about each day. Just one small thing that will keep me connected to what’s going to and separate today from yesterday and tomorrow.

To tackle routines that support but not restrict me, I found two things to donate or get rid of each day in March (#2). I cleaned out a lot of recycling and trash that was lurking where it shouldn’t be, and found a lot of stuff that will be going to good homes. Over the next month I’ll be working to get all those items I identified out of our house, and I hope to post about the places I’ve decided to donate them. Having destinations in mind really helped me let go of some items.

In order to get back to feeling awesome, I went through all my clothes and purged or stored them (#29). I included maternity clothes in this, and I made it a point to get everything stored in my bedroom, rather than taking up space that we need for other purposes in the guest room. I have some items that need mending or alterations, but everything else has been taken care of. I’d like to continue to reduce and improve my wardrobe, so I’m thinking of this as my initial pass. This month, I’m going to take this a step further and attempt to find a few pieces that will fill some holes that I have. I’ve defined some specific goals for my wardrobe, but shopping has continued to be frustrating and largely fruitless. So this month I’m going to enlist some help and book a personal stylist appointment at Nordstrom. I hope I can pick up a few new things that will be exciting. I’d really like to feel better about what I’m tossing on in the morning, and I’d really like to be able to get dressed without a whole lot of fussing around.

31

In which I get my life back in view (#7). Maybe.

Long time no see, 101 list. Not that I’d forgotten about it, or even stopped accomplishing things on it, since last I posted, but I’ve been a little busy…

Year 30 Collage

Good busy, but really hard busy too. I’d told myself that I wasn’t going to worry about getting balance in my life until four months after the baby arrived — fourth trimester, plus a little buffer. So at four months, when things still felt overwhelmingly impossible and I was trapped by the cutest jailer in the world who refused to be put down for entire months, I started to worry without any clear path ahead. I’d lost sight of myself and felt like I couldn’t see my son or my family clearly either. I didn’t recognize my life either as it had been or as I’d thought it would be. I didn’t recognize myself physically, emotionally, or mentally. It’s been getting better since the holidays, and I’m feeling generally fine and capable now. And finally, at eight months, I’m starting to feel my way back to some sort of a new balance around here.

I think I’m starting to be a person again. Hi.

I just had a birthday. 30 wasn’t a hard jump for me, but I’m feeling 31 a bit. Where did last year go? I am over a year into my 101 list. I’m turning my attention to one main goal right now: Make a plan to maintain three important aspects of my life over the next year, with monthly actions and results. (Spirit of the goal preserved, even if it didn’t work out to be quite his first year. I’m declaring this the new, practical starting place.)

I was having a really hard time articulating three overarching aspects in a way that felt cohesive and correct, but I realized that I’ve already done this in my big five from a blog challenge back in 2011. I glanced at it for inspiration, and it was like stepping through the looking glass. I think I remember being that person, and though I don’t remember exactly how it felt, I want feel that way again.

I’m going to focus on three of the five wants this year, and I think my original explanations are still spot on:

I want to feel awesome.

I want to have routines that support but not restrict me.

I want to be active and present in my life. 

(Our home is pretty set at this point, and I’ll get back to living broadly in a little bit. Right now I just want to live and am content to let my life broaden away from baby poop conversations at a natural pace.)

I’m sure of a few more things. Most of my monthly actions will encourage me to edit. Edit my wardrobe, my habits, my systems, the sheer amount of stuff I touch on a daily basis. I need to make the most of my time and brain power because I feel the lack of both. I seek grace, here. I can find the joy in my life now, but grace is sorely lacking.

In March, I intend to tackle my three overarching themes (in reverse order) through these small actions:

Post at least once a week about the things I’ve already accomplished on my list.
I need to remind myself that I wasn’t absent last year. I am very slowly shaking the feeling that I missed this patch of time. I definitely couldn’t see the forest for the trees in relation to motherhood, and I know it’s the same way for other aspects of my life. It happened. It was what it was, and I was there. It was more challenging than I thought it would be for me, and I was tired, covered in bodily fluids, but that’s how it was. I didn’t miss it. There were parts of it that I enjoyed and ways I made progress on both parenthood and personal goals. I need to see that I didn’t disappear for the year.

Find two things to donate or get rid of each day for one month. (#2)
I’ve already started this one, and it is long overdue. I think that my frustration level with my lack of time and control may finally kill the guilt over letting “perfectly good” things out of my house. My sanity is worth any money I may have spent on an item that I’m no longer using. Once I get a better idea of what my stuff will look like after a big clean out, I’ll have a better idea how to create some useful maintenance routines.

Go through all my clothes and purge or store. (#29)
I feel like a shapeless blob, but I will no longer try on five things each morning that exacerbate that feeling while living with different sizes and styles of clothes piled on every single surface I can find. I enjoyed defining a style for myself back on my very first 101 list, and I was excited to adapt that style to my maternity clothes, so I’m hoping to get back to that feeling. (I might be the only person on the internet who misses maternity clothes.) My life is different, so my style needs to be different too. I’ll be clearing my slate here. I need to see what I’ve got so I can seek out the pieces I need to get dressed easily and happily, even when it is my third outfit change of the day.

So there are my first actions of what I expect to be an interesting year-long challenge. I am hoping for a lot of results with these monthly goals, but I’m most excited to identify small actions. Just thinking about what I can reasonably hope to achieve each month should help me get my perspective back. It will certainly help me get back in gear on my list. And maybe my list is a path back to a more balanced life.