A Simple, Honest Life

If You Don’t Prioritize Your Life, Someone Else Will

Oh Hey, It’s Me
Northern California Coast Line

I remember May. I remember Memorial Day Weekend. I remember the redwoods and the northern California coastal air, how it smells like it’s always going to rain and how the fog blankets the coast every morning. I remember camping early in June and hiking up the butte that tried to kill me, but instead gave me an epiphany about turning this site into a reflection of honesty and simplicity. I remember feeling like summer was just about to start.

And now it’s September.

I had a really great summer planned with restful self care weekends in between some of the bigger ticket items such as visiting my parents, going to Spokane, three camping trips, a walking relay event and one of my best friend’s wedding. But even the best laid plans…

Slowly dying inside at our LA office

Work got in the way if I’m being honest. Not just some hard weeks at work, but work travel on top of that, which is never as fun as it sounds. I was down in LA seven times this summer for work and even pulled a 15 hour turn around trip followed by three more days in a row. One good thing is I got really good at packing a suitcase and bringing only what I knew I’d need and wear. But putting in all that work travel against my carefully laid out summer plans meant I was busy. So busy I have barely had time for myself.

That’s not to say I didn’t have a good time this summer, but since my May revelation I’ve been wanting to focus more on my needs and my time. When I can manage those things first, I become a better person at home and with my friends and family. I can allow myself to be in the moment when I’m with other people and give them my full attention and focus because I’ve taken care of myself first. Which leads to the fact that I have not taken care of myself this summer.

I have felt completely out of control. Like things were happening TO me, and I was just a bystander going through the motions because I felt like I had to. I felt had no control to stop these things from happening and I just had to follow through and do them. I’d like to preach about how we all have control in our lives and I could have canceled things or told my work no, but that is always so much harder than it sounds. I think most people don’t feel in control of their lives. We have bills to pay and people to please and plans to show up for.

The best plan I showed up for: Claire’s wedding with my BFFs

So I’ve been having these thoughts in the background about putting myself first and being in my control of my time and my life and meanwhile I’ve just been going, going, going. And when I’m finally able to stop, I end up sleeping because I’m so exhausted. Going to bed at 7 or 8 and when I can sleep in I’m sleeping until my alarm goes off at 9 am. I have to set an alarm because I will sleep even longer than that if I can. So what is that telling me when I’m so tired my body wants to sleep more than 12 hours? It tells me I’m doing too much.

Luckily work is slowing down a bit. There shouldn’t be any more crazy travel for awhile. That helps. And I’ve tried to be more honest with my personal plans. I’ve been trying to say no more. And instead of saying ‘I can’t’ I’ve been trying to say ‘I don’t want to’. Not to hurt people’s feelings, but to put my time in more perspective with myself. It’s not that I don’t want to hang out this week, it’s that I don’t want to make that a priority this week. I know that I won’t be my best if I schedule something this week, I need more time to put myself first and then when I do make plans with someone – when I am truly up for it – I will be more present than I would have been if I had forced it into my schedule. Into my time. Remember, time is our most precious resource. It is literally all we have.

It is okay to say no. I know that it doesn’t always feel that way and there are truly things that we can’t say no to. Work being the most obvious one. If we want to keep our jobs, keep the people in charge happy enough to keep us around, we more often than not feel forced to say yes. I think a lot of people feel this way and I want to share some pieces of a great book I finally got around to reading this summer called Essentialism by Greg McKeown. There are some great tid bits in there about saying no in a work environment and how nos can sometimes be really well received.

Here’s one of my favorite tips:

For example, if your manager comes to you and asks you to do X, you can respond with “Yes, I’m happy to make this the priority. Which of these other projects should I deprioritize to pay attention to this new project?” Or simply say, “I would want to do a great job, and given my other commitments I wouldn’t be able to do a job I was proud of if I took this on.”

Excerpt from Essentialism by Greg Mckeown

Saying no isn’t easy for fun, but you can definitely take a moment to feel awkward about saying no and live with that moment of awkwardness for a short time or you can say yes and live with a day, a week or even a month of regret for saying yes.

“Only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.”

Honey Badger Champs

What do I feel deeply inspired by?” and “What am I particularly talented at?” and “What can I do that meets a significant need in the world? I don’t know yet.

I have to keep working because I have bills to pay and honestly I like the people I work with. We are dodge ball champs after all – another thing I signed up for this summer thinking I’d have more time in my life. Is my work my passion though? No. I’m not there yet. And in the meantime I don’t need to be killing myself and sleeping in 15 hours increments when I can to make up for working so hard at a job that I’m not in love with. Now that things are a bit calmer at work I’m hoping I can re-prioritize my time and my hobbies and really start to think about what I want to do with my work life and how I want to make a difference in the world with the time that I have.

Mary Oliver wrote: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?” I’m still figuring it out, but while I’m working through it I’m trying to make sure I’m giving myself the time and space to do so.

A Simple Life · A Simple, Honest Life

Email Subscriptions

I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately. Mostly about ways in which I can take back my time from other things and people and make it my own again. Sometimes I come up with really big ideas for this and other times I just think small.

Here’s a small idea that took up more time while I was doing it, but has really shown to have a great payoff.

I was trying to track my phone usage last month and have really clear ‘No Phone Time’ sessions blocked out. Like most people, I start checking my phone within a half hour of waking up. I like to keep my mail app clear of those little red notifications that tell me I have email. That means every time I pick up my phone and see a mail notification I feel compelled to check the email, sort it and in turn remove the notification.

The problem with this is that I was getting a lot of junk mail. Subscriptions I didn’t remember signing up for, discounts for stores I shopped at one time, reminders about sales or points expiring, etc. So when I’d get a text on my phone or even use it to check the time I would end up spending 5-10 minutes more than I wanted to on it going through all the new email subscription junk I would get. Over the course of the day this could end up sucking up an average 30 minutes of my time. Our most precious resource.

So I started unsubscribing. Which at first took up even more time. Some places make it so easy to unsubscribe and others make it a bit of a puzzle. My favorite ones are the ones the iPhone flags and they have just a simple unsubscribe button at the top.

Then there’s the unsubscribe links you have to click, usually found hidden away at the bottom of the email.

That will take you to a website where sometimes you just have to click a button saying ‘opt out of emails’ or you have to reenter your email, or (the worst) individually select which emails you’d like to opt out of.

These are the worst and most time consuming.

Here is the good news. I did this for a solid two weeks and it took up more time than I wanted, but now I’ve started to notice a huge decrease in my emails (and the time I spend checking them. Instead of 25 notifications in the morning and five more every half hour I’m getting three in the morning and about 10 total throughout the day. A major improvement in my time, wallet and well being.

A great way to practice digital minimalism as well. Less distractions on our phones means less phone time over all. I’ve still got a few more companies emailing, but I’ve been practicing the unsubscribe method and I wanted to encourage you all to do the same if you’re feeling like too much of your time is spent on email.

March 2019 - Minimalist Home · Minimalist Home

Minimalist Home – Week Three – Books, Movies, Photos, Paper

Image result for beauty and the beast library
My five year old dream library.

In June 2011 I finished grad school and my Mom bought me a Nook as a graduation present. I was slightly appalled. E-Readers? Those were for people who don’t love books! And I knew I loved books. I spent, and do still spend, almost all my free time reading books. It was also important to me at the time that other people knew I loved books. I worked in a book store and I spent a lot of my free time there browsing books to buy at the end of my shift. And I bought a lot. So many that I had at least over a hundred books at one point that I hadn’t even started reading yet. I had a vision of collecting these books and one day getting that Beauty and the Beast library I’d wanted since I was five. I’m slightly terrified of this reality now. I love libraries, but I don’t think it’d be very nice to own a gigantic one that only I got to use. I’d feel pretty neglectful of them since I doubt I’d ever read them all or even read them more than once. I suppose a part of me still likes the idea of this, but in reality books are meant to be read and if you aren’t reading them then give them away to someone who will or get a dang e-reader. Since the Nook I’ve upgrade to the Kindle Oasis and it’s amazing. Stay tuned at the end to hear about how much I love my e-reader and how I haven’t bought a single book in eight months but have still managed to read a ton of new books for free!

When I moved out of my Dad’s house finally I remember looking guiltily at my now husband because I had about 14 boxes of books that he had to move down my stairs and then up his own when we finally moved in together. “Hey, you wanted to date a book lover, this is what you get. AND LOOK HOW MUCH I LOVE BOOKS. LOOK AT ALL THESE BOOKS I’VE READ. And look at all these others I’ve accumulated since I started buying and hoarding books that I HAVEN’T READ. Don’t worry – I’ll read them someday I’m sure. After I buy and read some more first before I get to the ones I bought four years ago and still haven’t read. Some I’ll reread, but most I’ll never read again. But don’t they LOOK nice. And now people know we love books. This proves it!” Oh me from the past. Slow down crazy.

I think what’s really helped with being able to downsize my books so much is having had to move six times in the last ten years. Every time I’ve moved since that first time I’ve downsized books. Those fourteen boxes went down to twelve, then eight, and for this last move four. Even four felt like a lot though. I mean, I had MULTIPLES of Harry Potter books. I don’t need three copies of Half Blood Prince. I went down to two copies per Harry Potter book a few months back and STILL didn’t realize why I was holding onto multiples so desperately. So I let those go. Then I did the Marie Kondo thing and I held each book for a bit and waited until they sparked joy or not.

I ended up getting rid of 22 books all altogether – more than I thought I would. I finally parted with a few YA books I didn’t really read anymore, and a few books I kept just because I loved the covers. Old me would have been horrified. I also finally let go of my college poetry books. I never read them. I just thought they were cool to look at.

Here is the old bookshelf (three total, really) with built ins on the left below, compared to the new much smaller one on the right that fits all of our movies and books (thanks Ikea!).

THAT’S ALL OF THEM. That’s everything. It still feels like a lot to me. That wicker basket down below has all of our video games too. I’d love to downsize even more, but for now the goal was to downsize enough to get everything to fit into this smaller shelf. We’ve also paired down our DVDs and Blu-rays to only the ones we watch at least once a year. Starting this weekend actually I’m going to flip them backwards and then if I watch them in the next year I can flip them facing out again. This time next year if I have any still facing the wrong way they get donated. We don’t have a lot which is nice, but still, they take up so much room and I’m much more of a reader than a movie watcher. Also, the internet has everything now so if I really want to watch something I can just rent it for the day for around $3.

The next step was photos. I only have one photo album, which is great and it’s not even completely full. It’s also got a real stupid old picture of me in front. It was a gift. Anyway, I have some old photos in here and I’m working on scanning them in through a phone app into my Google Photos drive. There is no point in keeping physical photos when everything can be kept digitally now. I’ve also never had anyone over and literally had them sit down and flip through a photo album. I’ll probably end up keeping 15-20 total in the end. I’m thinking a few that my parents or grandparents wrote on the back of, or ones that I’d like to put on the fridge or cycle through framing. Photos weren’t a huge problem before and since I only have this one album I’m not stressed about it. I would still like to make sure all my physical copies are backed up online in a private album though.

One folder of papers

Downsizing papers was a hard one. I used to have this giant file cabinet I got when I turned 18 so that I could do what I thought you were supposed to: start saving and hoarding every adult document ever. I finally went through this massive cabinet with several different folders and files last year. I went from seven folders to three. The seven folders were filled with documents for old cars I had, but didn’t even own anymore, and they also contained every single paycheck I ever received in my life. This was useful when I was going through the steps for Your Money or Your Life (highly recommend), but now they were just pieces of paper. Then for this week’s challenge I paired it all down to one file. It no longer stays in the file cabinet and it fits neatly in my desk drawer. The cabinet will be donated this week. I kept anything that I need as an original that I couldn’t just take a picture of. I kept a sealed transcript, my vaccinations, original birth certificate, etc. Things that were irreplaceable. The next step is to purchase a fire proof mini safe to keep them in along with the social security card and passport. The goal is to have that safe sit neatly in my desk drawer as well.

This week was a hard one for discarding. There’s something that just hits you about looking at old photos and old books you remember buying and thinking you’d keep forever. I’m getting much better at letting go though.

So back to the BOOKS. How have I managed to read so many new titles in the last eight months and not have had bought a single book? The LIBRARY OF COURSE. I could kick myself for not signing up sooner. I’ve saved so much money! The best part is almost every library now has an account with Libby or Overdrive to get FREE E-BOOKS SENT DIRECTLY TO YOUR E-READER. You can even get Audio books for free! Cancel that Audible subscription and save some $$! I encourage you to check out your library and do this. I didn’t even have to go in and talk to a human to get it done. I did it all online and ten minutes later I was reading a book that was on my wish list forever but I didn’t quite want to spend the money yet to buy. It’s been my favorite discovery of the year. Check. It. Out.

Next week I’ll close out the minimalist home with some really good insight on some of the minimalist books I’ve been reading.

Items 46/30 – AHEAD OF SCHEDULE!

March 2019 - Minimalist Home · Minimalist Home

Minimalist Home – Week One – Minimalist Clothing

Bet you didn’t think I was going to start off this minimalism stuff with Tyler Durden, did you? This is one of the first quotes in the Japanese Minimalist book I’m reading called Goodbye Things. I completely forgot about this quote even though Fight Club was a self professed favorite movie in high school. I think it was everyone’s favorite, honestly. Which actually brings up another great bit from this book: “The problem starts to occur when we buy things just to convey our qualities to others, and our collections start to grow too big”. That’s why I had so much Harry Potter stuff at one point. I AM SHOWING YOU I AM THE BIGGEST HARRY POTTER FAN. It’s why I owned a ton of Blu Rays. It’s why I had a Fight Club shirt in High School. I AM SHOWING YOU I LIKE GOOD MOVIES. It’s why I owned and wasted so much money buying band t-shirts during that time too. I AM SHOWING YOU I AM SOMEONE WHO HAS UNIQUE MUSIC TASTES. Another great bit from the book: “Discard anything if you have it for the sake of appearance.”

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with a good definition of Minimalism. Fumio Sasaki, author of Goodbye Things, defines a minimalist as “a person who knows what is truly essential for themselves, who reduces the number of possessions that they have for the sake of things that are really important to them.” I started the idea of a minimalist wardrobe for myself because I finally came to the conclusion that I don’t like fashion. I don’t get it. I’m not very good at it. I just want getting dressed in the morning to be easy. In that respect I succeeded. But somehow when we moved last week I was back to having not enough hangers for my clothes. I had to think how it got back to that. Well, I got a few clothes for Christmas. I did go to Good Will in January to look for shoes and ended up finding a super cute t-shirt (see said blue t-shirt in donation pile AGAIN below). I might have pared down my wardrobe from 106 items to 63, but now I was certain I had more than that.

So my goal for this month is to donate/free myself from one item a day for a total of 30 items. Since I’m starting with clothing I went back and counted the number of clothes I had. It was 70. So I gained seven items of clothes. So I went through again and really thought about what I wore and what I needed. I had a drawer at the bottom of my dresser full of what I thought were spring/summer clothes and it turns out there was some of that in there, but it was mostly old work out clothes and swimsuits I didn’t wear anymore. Five items gone from there. Then I tried on all five pairs of my jeans and turns out there was one pair I wasn’t really using a lot because it was a flare fit and that’s not my style. Tossed that. I went through everything and ended up keeping only 60 items, three less than after my first wardrobe purge. Here is a picture of everything that went away:

In our new place we are so lucky to have a walk in closet with built ins. It’s something I always dreamed about having and now it’s a reality. In between moving out and moving in I was thinking about that closet and how much I loved it and how I only wanted to fill it with things I loved. I took that to heart with this purge. I’m very happy with the result.

My next big task in regards to my wardrobe is to keep doing check ins with myself on it. Have any new items come in? How did they get there? Did I purchase them? Did someone else purchase them for me? That should help keep my clothing item number at a flat rate.

Also, WAITING a few days before I buy anything, clothing related or not. Keeping a wish list online and coming back to it in a week. Do I still need it? Probably not.

If I do need to do shopping, I want to be very mindful of what I buy. Can it go with more than one outfit? Will I wear this more than once a week? Does it match with everything else I have? Is it good quality? For instance, I have two short sleeve blouses for work for spring/summer and I’d ideally like to have three. I have one black one and one gray one. I’d like to have a dark blue one as it would go with all three of my work pants and flats. Once I buy that blouse I think I will have a perfect number of everything I need. The next rule for me will be if I buy one of something, discard one I already have. I feel great with only three pairs of jeans. If one gets a little run down and I feel I need another, I will discard a pair before bringing a new pair in.

Image result for i had it all i had stereo that was very decent. a wardrobe that was getting very respectable i was close to being complete

I think another thing I need to think about is that my clothing doesn’t need to express anything to anyone else. I do not need to to say I have money with brand names (because I don’t). I don’t need it to convey my hobbies. My personality will do that for me with the people I care about. As Tyler Durden says, “You are not your fucking khakis.”

When I began my Wardrobe challenge at the beginning of December, I was reading Marie Kondo’s book. I heard about it from a minimalist blogger I really like and I used it as my guide. How was I to know that three weeks later, Kondo was going to revolutionize the way American’s think about their things with her Netflix documentary I didn’t even know what coming out? The reason I bring this up is that now that ‘tidying up’ has become ‘a thing’, donations centers are being FILLED with people’s JUNK. Mine included in December. But I don’t like doing that if I can help it. I don’t want to add to a landfill either. So if you’re thinking of going a minimalist route, before you donate I suggest joining your local Buy Nothing group. I have given away so many things locally thought it and it’s a good way to meet your neighborhood and build a sense of community. I was able to donate all the clothing above AND all my moving boxes to someone who needed them. It’s such a wonderful thing and I recommend you check your local chapter out. It’s free to join of course!

I’ll be back next weekend with an update on my kitchen. I am looking forward to going through the boxes that have yet to be unpacked and pairing down my possessions in there. I swear I only use about twenty things regularly in my kitchen, but I have over 200 items in it.

Items purged: 10/30