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Friday, March 30, 2012

Simplifying Your Wardrobe for Good

As always, I will share my own list with you of the simple wardrobe that I keep for myself first. The link for that PDF document is below:

Building a wardrobe that makes you feel good about yourself, fits your lifestyle, is flattering & provides you with several days worth of outfits without having to do laundry can be one of the most challenging things in the universe. Typically men have it a bit easier, or at least they used to, because their options are far more limited. If you watch a movie that's fifteen years old now, you can't tell at all that the men's fashions have changed. However, an eagle-eyed woman can tell instantly what the changes in women's fashion is- not to mention hairstyle & makeup application! With our casual, almost-universally-anything-goes society, it's gotten even more complex to figure out what's a must-have & what we should pass up. I have a simple rule that I live by, and you can adapt it to whatever works for you. I got this little idea from reading the book "Firm for Life", written by Anna & Cynthia Benson. The premise- if a good friend of mine was to introduce me to their nice, proper, genteel grandmother, I'd want to feel comfortable meeting her & presenting myself. If I would feel at all ashamed or worried about how I'd look, I know I've gone too casual, or didn't take proper care of myself. Stick w/ me on this thought, because you might be ready to rebel already. It doesn't mean that I wear a girdle, a fancy dress, pantyhose, high heels, carry a $400 purse & pile on every piece of "good" jewelry I own every day. Far from it.

I wear the same "uniform" just about every day- a short-sleeved polo shirt in a pretty color, black pants, black socks & plain black sneakers. If the weather is a tad cool, I can put on a black cotton vest or zip-up, hooded jacket over my shirt. I recommend keeping a sweater or jacket in a neutral color (my choice is black) at home, and if you work outside the home, one at the office. If it's even colder outside, a black leather jacket, a scarf that brings out my blue eyes & black leather gloves are my go-to ensemble. REALLY cold weather demands either a black-and-white herringbone wool coat or a faux fur (but still extremely warm) coat, instead. The reason I suggest herringbone or another print for wool is because plain black is a lint-attractor in the worst way I've ever seen. Literally, my last (and I can assure you, only) plain black wool coat dated every hair, piece of fuzz & stray fur from my cat that existed, and typically refused any attempt at break-ups. Learn from my mistakes! I own ten polo shirts, and they're in the same style- relaxed fit, short-sleeved, 100% cotton, all in the same size, and come from the same manufacturer. I love Land's End Business Outfitters, personally, and you don't have to be shopping for a business to buy from them. This isn't a paid endorsement, just a simple piece of advice from me to you. Whenever you can wear natural fabrics, do so. They're not always the best choice- synthetics have come a long way- but often pure cotton is the winner. If you can buy Fair Trade, all the better. I love being able to say that I bought items made in the U.S.A., but sometimes, that just isn't possible. Anyway, I own ten pairs of black pants. Being tall & full-figured, boot-cut black pants w/ a 30" inseam are perfect for me & the height of shoe that I wear. Yes, they're the same style of pants, day in, day out. Trust me- no one cares. If they do, I'd have to ask them, "Why do you care if the pants I'm wearing today are the same ones I wore yesterday (and they're not, for the record)?" It's really imperative to try on clothes in front a full-length mirror, and determine what truly looks best, before settling on a "uniform" that works for your life. Knowing your best inseam, depending upon your leg length & preferred shoe height, is really important. You may despise the uniform idea- and that is perfectly okay. But for some women, myself included, it's tremendously freeing to never again stand in front of the closet rod each day wondering if you'll be able to pull together an outfit that suits your body type & day ahead.

Come warmer-weather, you have to consider whether you'll be spending most of your days in an air-conditioned office or home, or outdoors. If you're in centrally air-conditioned spaces all summer, your wardrobe may need very little transition. I had actually never changed over my day-to-day wardrobe before this season, as I'd spent years working in a chilly air-conditioned office in the summer. Also, my workplace didn't allow flip-flops, shorts or sleeveless shirts, so that was out for me, anyway. However, this year I'm living in a warmer home, spending a lot more time outdoors, and am much more active. So I had to pick out summer clothing for the first time as an adult. It's been a very warm spring, and I was miserable in the humidity already. My thick cotton polo shirts & black pants weren't cutting it suddenly! I switched over to conservatively-cut but comfy tank tops with wide enough straps, lightweight dresses & skirts, cropped or Capri pants in thinner cotton, seersucker, Calcutta cloth, gauze & linen. I traded my usual socks-and-sneakers for open sandals, and bought a sun hat. I only bought pieces that would work together in tandem. Every shirt had to go with at least three different bottoms that I owned, and vice versa. I cut out wearing black for warm weather, aiming to wear lighter colors each day. I started to feel better immediately, once I switched over my wardrobe. While I've been a staunch believer in wearing socks & sneakers, the warmer weather (and my own hormonal changes with aging) forced me to dress for the heat I feel much more acutely now. Tela SoftSpots sandals are my favorite, as they're relatively flat, feel like I'm walking barefoot, stretch with my feet, look dressy enough to be worn even to church, and yet go well with casual clothes, too. I also bought a bandana that has these little cooling crystals in it, which expand when dunked in cold water. When worn around the neck, it adds some cooling relief, as does wearing a sun hat. One high-quality bathing suit, a matching cover-up, flip-flops to go with it & a waterproof sports watch finished my summer-ready wardrobe.

I cannot overstate the importance of choosing lingerie & sleepwear that suits you perfectly. It is the difference between really standing tall all day long & slumping your shoulders in shame sometimes. I refuse to sleep in anything but Land's End 100% cotton, Short-Sleeve, Mid Calf-Length nightgowns. I own five, changing them every other night. Their length is perfect for me- if you're more petite, you may like knee-length look better; if you're really tall, you may like the ankle-length styles more. If a nightgown is choking at me, scratching at my skin, bunching up, I'll go loony. I've tried a few other manufacturers' gowns, but they just don't make the grade for me. I have one bra that, for me, is the Holy Grail of Bras- Glamorise's Women's Full Figure Sports Bra. It comes in Black, Cafe, White & a really pretty Periwinkle Blue. I own five in Black, five in Cafe & six in White (white ones are for exercise). (I really deserve endorsement money here, darn it- should have thought of that beforehand!) Since black is a little too dark to wear under my lightest-colored polo shirts, the Cafe is best. Never wear a white bra under a white shirt if you don't want your bra to show through, by the way. Beige is best, or a pretty cocoa color will work great instead if you're of a darker skin tone than me. If you don't know how to do so, get instructions of how to measure for proper bra size online. For a sports bra (whether you're wearing it for a sports purpose or not), the rule of thumb is to go up a band size & down a cup size from what you'd wear in a non-sports bra. I've personally found this to be consistently true, but experiment. Please don't underestimate the importance of wearing the right bra size & style. Especially if you're a bigger woman, you need to have a bra that gives you enough support to stop gravity from taking it's toll more than need be, will help prevent back pain, and help you avoid bra strap imprints on your shoulders. I own ten pairs of high-quality cotton panties, all black, because that's what my pants are. I did have to buy five beige pairs for my summer clothes, too, though. Nylon panties are perfectly okay, but do try to buy panties that have a cotton crotch. Style is up to you, naturally, but full briefs are my choice every time. When the right size is chosen, and assuming your pants are also in your correct size, full briefs should not reveal ANY pantylines. If you wear anything lighter in color on the bottom, choose beige panties. White panties almost invariably will show through pastel or white skirts, shorts & pants much more than beige will- trust me on this. While I'm not a diabetic, I own ten pairs of a black diabetic crew sock that I fell in love with, is easily available, and is never slippery on any floor. I'm a firm believer in wearing foot cream on my feet every day, and wearing socks makes this as easy as pie to make a habit. I own six pairs of athletic lo-cut socks from Wrightsock, for working out. Many different styles of that brand are available on Amazon. They come in a variety of sizes, and many are unisex (even better for simplifying!)

There are a few ways to go about achieving the goal of having a simpler wardrobe based on color selection. One is to pick a single base color, such as black or brown, and then build the remainder of your wardrobe on working with that color. For tropical climates, white, tan or khaki is often the color of choice instead, and for good reason. Following this strategy, your handbag or laptop bag, belts, shoes & bottoms (slacks, skirts, hosiery, socks, etc.) will also be in that color (or a very similar tone). Then you pick colors that are flattering for your face & hair, and also go with your base color, for your tops (tunics, turtlenecks, etc.) Example- if you have pink-toned, fair skin, light blonde hair, and blue eyes, you’d choose cool, pretty shirts in pale pink, baby blue, white, violet- anything that highlights your best features. It’s best, no matter what, to choose jewelry in rose metal, white metal or yellow, unless you have the funds to mix & match, pulling what you do wear together with one piece (like your watch) that has mixed metals in it.

The second way is to form or go off of a list of simple basics, and stick to shopping for items from that list. In this, you're not so much thinking about color as you are having the pieces needed for virtually any situation that you fall into. I found the following list from Real Simple awhile back, and it definitely gave me some new ideas for layering pieces. In a climate with changeable weather, this is especially good advice. There's A LOT of purchasing in just black or white listed in the link down below here, because it's a generic list. But I'd recommend swapping ivory for white if you have warm skin- you'll know if ivory looks better on you than white simply by holding the colors up to your face. You can also substitute any basic color for the black items, such as grey or taupe. Just try to keep that basic color consistent, so that you look pulled-together as much as possible. Keep in mind your body's best assets & problem areas when adapting this list for yourself. Darker colors are of course more slimming, while lighter colors are less so. I have an hourglass figure with broad shoulders & a lot of muscle to certain parts of my body, but possess naturally big, ugly thighs & knees, so it's really important for me not to wear clingy light-colored clothes on my legs & hips. When I wear lighter colors on bottom, they must be non-form-fitting or I look absolutely ridiculous. I don't wear shorts, but instead wear pedal-pushers, Capri or crop pants. If I do wear black leggings for some reason, I'll still wear a tunic or longer jacket to balance it out. I try to show off my shoulders, chest, upper back, forearms/wrists/hands & ankles more often instead through color or jewelry, because those are my better areas.

The other way to go about this is to pick your top four or five colors- your favorites to look at & ones that look great on you- and build your wardrobe with those colors. An example- classic red, cobalt blue, white, beige & black. These are pieces based on that color palette which will mix-and-match beautifully together at all times. The idea is that everything you buy will work with every other piece in the wardrobe- and you’ll always be wearing the best colors for your looks, too. It's a little more limiting though, and for me it's not realistic to try & stick to. I like color around my face a lot (i.e., in my shirts & earrings), and have many shades that are flattering to my particular God-given coloring.

No matter which strategy you choose, if you want to get back to basics in life, minimizing the volume of clothes, purses, shoes, belts & jewelry is a must. I can’t tell you what’s best for your lifestyle, but I can give you a guideline about what works in mine, after many years of constant refinement along the way. For me, a black cross-body purse that holds my stainless steel water bottle & a mini-umbrella in outside pockets, space for a very lightweight book, my keys, my wallet, plus has a bit of extra room for needed cosmetics on the go (lipstick, mini-hand sanitizer bottle, a pill fob, pocket tissues, etc.)- that’s all I need for day-to-day. I picked out a tan color in my purse for spring & summer this year. Cross-body bags are the most comfortable for me, distributing weight evenly across my hips, shoulders, arms & neck as much as possible. I do own one black evening bag without decals that is really lovely for special occasions. I don’t own any belts at all, because I hate wearing them! If I did wear one, I’d only have one in black, and since I wear yellow gold jewelry, I’d want a gold-toned buckle if at all possible. I own a black dress for funerals, but it's a dress that'd also be fine for wearing to church, on dates or for a job interview. It's conservative but pretty. I have a black cocktail dress that fits like a glove & fortunately it does so even w/ weight fluctuations (really try to pick clothes which do this!) Admittedly, it's rarely worn, but nice to have for those few occasions when it's needed. I absolutely love wearing it, and always get compliments when it's worn. This is another really pressing thing- you should enjoy wearing the clothes that you put on. I have one fall/winter dress which is NOT in black, and another non-black spring/summer dress for weddings, church, dates, interviews & anything else that may require just a little more formality than what a polo shirt & black pants provide. While the jury is perpetually out on wearing black to weddings, I think it's better to err on the side of caution- it is not worth possibly offending the bride or a member of the wedding party by wearing black to a wedding in my opinion. Shoes & evening bags of course do not have to abide by this rule, and those being in black is fine. If you wear hosiery for events like these, do yourself a favor & always have at least one back-up pair in case the pair you put on gets a run in it. Make sure that you have the appropriate under-attire, such as slips, strapless bras, or anything else special well in advance of the event. Again, fit should be your number-one priority. I've found that dresses, especially since they're often more expensive than other clothing to start with, are good to buy on clearance at the end of a season. If you visit a good store, even their sale items will be pretty & flattering (I personally like Ulla Popken).

I have one pair of very well-designed, extremely comfortable black sneakers with no decals that I wear every day from the autumn on through early spring, and replace them every three months (which, for me, is daily-wear shoes’ typical lifespan). I’ll be honest- I found the perfect pair of sneakers a few years ago (New Balance WW927), and just keep buying the same brand. They're so comfy, it's unbelievable. The few times I’ve strayed (out of boredom), I’ve usually regretted it. The same sneaker comes in white, and that's what I wear for working out, as well. I do own one pair of winter boots (Toe Warmers brand) in black, that have a tread especially designed to be less slippery in ice & snow. I own one pair of well-padded, comfortable black dress shoes, for the rare occasion that I have to dress up. I wouldn't wear a shoe for daily life that wouldn't also be supportive & comfortable enough to exercise in- that's just a personal rule of mine. You never know what life's going to throw at you each day.

I'm about to get on my soapbox here, so hold on to your hats! When you get used to wearing supportive shoes, your body will let you know when you’ve let it down by wearing unsupportive ones. Shoes are NOT the place to cut corners, financially or otherwise. Please, please, please listen to me on this one. You may not feel it when you’re younger, but making poor shoe choices will come back to haunt you in later years. Yes, they make look cute or sexy at the time, and occasionally wearing them isn’t what I have an issue with. But what is NOT sexy is being a fifty-year-old hobbling around with hammertoes, bunions & corns, walking with a cane, because you wanted to wear sky-high platform shoes every day when you were twenty-five. Some women (Dolly Parton comes to mind) can get away with wearing heels all the time & not suffer one bit. I’m not one of them. If you are, God bless you. But if you wear high heels all of the time, even if you’re very young, and your knees hurt a lot, you have blisters frequently on your toes, or are suffering from back pain…it’s time to put your health first. I can tell you that years of wearing heels day in, day out, will very likely shorten your calf muscles (and they're not easy to lengthen again), weaken your knees, put you at a higher risk of all kinds of injuries, and will make living a simplified life an impossibility at some point. Whether we like it or not, if you live long enough, chances are your bones & muscles will age a bit- maybe a lot. Anything that you do, even when very young, that causes injury to your body may come back to haunt you later. This is true even if the injury feels like nothing at the time. If you're ninety years old & experience not one ache in your body, again, I am absolutely thrilled for you & wish everyone was just like you, me included!

A bit of advice- a good simplifying tip that also earns a little dough is to sell the jewelry that no one around you wants to have, and items know that you’ll never want to wear again. I've been given some chipped, bent items that were made of inexpensive metals, do not have valuable stones in them, and simply have no aesthetic value to them. While the gift-giver meant well, I'm sure, they're basically nothing but clutter to me. Out of these pieces received, only one held true sentimental value to me (it was worn daily by a beloved family member, and was the only jewelry that he ever wore besides his watch & wedding ring). THAT piece of jewelry most definitely isn't clutter to me. I hope that example gives you an idea of what to keep & what not to. If the piece immediately conjures up a memory of someone or something adored, can still be worn (which, though a little aged, my sentimental piece can be used) & you like it enough to wear it at all, I'd recommend keeping it. If, however, the piece only makes you think of something sad- a divorce, a death, etc.- it's not something to cling to.

Sometimes I get a little tired of a piece of jewelry that I own, but then I see it after a few months, and I'm happy to wear it again. If a few months have gone by, though, and I still don't care for the piece (especially if it has little financial value), I look around for someone to give or sell it to. The same holds true for pieces that don't fit (too-big or too-small rings are the most common "offenders"). If it's three sizes too big...well, odds are you'll never be able to wear it comfortably, at least not for many years. You can put it on a chain or convert it to a pendant- if you really want to keep it that badly. Don't wear watches or anything else that is too tight, causes your skin to become stained from contact with it, or gets in your way constantly. The easiest pieces to get rid of without any guilt or a second thought are costume jewelry pieces that were inexpensive to begin & DO NOT have any historical/real monetary value. Start there, if you own any such pieces. If you think an item may have worth (and it's possible, even with costume jewelry, that this may be the case), visit a jeweler, preferably one who knows what historical pieces are valuable & what aren't. You don't have to sell it if you don't want to, but usually, they're happy to give you their opinion for free or at most, a nominal fee. Be extremely careful when selling truly valuable jewelry. Research your buyer- often, a big-name, large-volume buyer that has been in business for many years, has a place where you can read reviews on them (both good & not-so-good) & has not had run-ins with the law will be your best bet. Private buyers can be an option, but are rarely the safest one, and you may not get full value for your pieces this way- especially when it comes to gemstone jewelry. Remember that right now solid gold of 14k or more is VERY valuable, and may be worth holding onto for a little bit longer, even if you don't wear it. While I never recommend hoarding, jewelry is a very real investment for many people. Fine jewelry, if kept in superb condition, traditionally will only go up in value over the years, especially if made of solid gold. Pieces made of another metal than gold or platinum, or are merely plated pieces (a cheaper metal is underneath the top layer) usually aren't nearly as valuable, and unless they possess a stone which later becomes rare & therefore prized, won't yield an impressive dividend in the future. Tanzanite is one such stone which has (as far as has been discovered) quite a finite supply, and will eventually be unavailable. But invest in jewelry carefully, if you do this at all, and look into insuring any items worth over $1,000.00 in price.

Get rid of the stained, ill-fitting or torn clothes, unless you have a SPECIFIC job that you know is coming up- like you’ll be painting your uncle’s house next weekend, and you need crappy clothes to wear that you can be thrown out afterwards. The only exception is if you regularly get your hair colored, and the coloring tends to get on your clothes. Hairstylists are usually as careful as possible, but spotting can still occur. If this happens to you even occasionally, keep a shirt or two around to wear for that event only- no wearing it to work! You deserve clothes that fit well, make you feel confident, are tailored to your figure, and flatter your own personal coloring. Everything else needs to go!

Here's to being a happy organized minimalist,

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Do You Have a Ritual Or Place To Go To Which Will Unfailingly Lift You Out of the Blues?

Self-love is an important part of getting back to doing what means most to you, and having a ritual you enjoy indulging in when the going gets rough is one of the finest ways to give back to yourself. I’m not saying that the ritual has to work permanently, and in fact, chances are it won’t. The ritual or place to go may change with time, too. But it can provide a temporary respite from a storm which, if left to it’s own devices, could turn into a hurricane. The idea is that you’ve planned in advance a place and/or a thing to do that will serve as your retreat. Don’t get me wrong. There are going to be times when you get caught in the hurricane thrown by life, no matter what, and getting out is impossible. Sometimes (like when you’re at work & can’t leave, or have a young child & escape is simply not an option), you have no choice but to fight on through the wind & the rain. Sometimes you’ll survive with barely a scrap on you, sometimes you’ll survive with nothing left but the shirt on your back. But for today, I’m talking about those storms that there’s no point in driving through, and those times where you actually have a choice as to whether or not you have to drive through them, and can turn around in the other direction. Or, at the very least, you can delay the drive for awhile, making a pit stop. Having such a ritual in place for those times is imperative. It’s a fail-safe when you feel like you’re a pot about to boil over, or you have boiled over & need to just cool the hell down completely, before clean-up can even begin.

For me, personally, going to a movie & either dinner or lunch alone is this respite. I’m lucky enough to live literally around a couple of corners from a huge outdoor “mall”, with several decent restaurants; a big movie theater that’s been built within the last decade, and is therefore very comfortable & state-of-the-art; a few little clothing or specialty shops; a very yummy ice cream store; a mom-and-pop coffee & mini- dessert shop; and a beautiful salon that offers the works- pedicures, manicures, day spa treatments, massages & all kinds of hair-care services. Unless it’s extremely late at night, I can go to this respite center of mine & be assured some place will be open, able to provide me some time to think. If you live alone, such a place so close to home might not be so necessary, as your home itself is then (I would hope!) a quiet enough place of solace to be in. But if you don’t live alone, or if your home is a barebones noisy hellhole, you need another tidbit of space you call your second home in times of trouble. I feel so strongly about this that I believe you should set aside some emergency money, to have a place like this to go to. Literally a respite fund, what you can allot depends on your salary & circumstances, but it’s vital to have a little bit set aside for yourself. How often you can afford to do this, I know, will also depend on personal circumstances. But try never to let more than a month go by without replacing those funds, if you’ve used them up on your last retreat. This isn’t a full-on vacation we‘re talking about, either (unless you’re incredibly wealthy & time is of no object!)

I’ve known a few friends that literally go to the nicest hotel they can for the night, simply to have a clean place to sleep where they can escape from their spouse or roommate for a time. This place, obviously, can’t be too far from home. It should preferably be some place that you can go nearly any hour of the day or evening. Therefore, a park or a particular walking path isn‘t often the respite I‘d refer you to, unless you’re using it during the daytime & it’s completely safe. And safety needs to be a priority, because this a place you will want to turn to even when you’re really upset or sad- and that means you might not be in the best frame of mind (please always put your safety first!) A bar, then, especially if you know you will drink if presented with the opportunity, may not be your best bet. If, however, you can nurse a drink or two with water or a soda in between each imbibing, and the bar is to your liking otherwise, okay, I’ll give in. If you drive, though, PLEASE do not drive if you are at all under the influence. Leave enough time after you have an alcoholic drink (and make two drinks your maximum, period), drink a full glass of water or a soda in between drinks, have a little something to eat nearby or at the bar, and calm yourself down before you even think about getting behind the wheel again. Try to find a place without lots of loud music, people that’ll be hitting on you, where you’ll be elbowed all night in a crowd (hardly a mood-lifter), or with a less-than-friendly staff in place. Even if you do nothing but blankly stare at whatever sports game might be on the TV for a couple of hours, not having the person that is on your current negative emotional radar around is better than staying & letting their energy infuse your psyche. I’m telling you to have this respite set aside & to use it even if (however rarely) it’s your fault that the argument or whatever fallout occurred. Once you’ve said the nasty words, or if more violently-inclined, thrown the punch, you can’t take it back. Better to walk away, cool off, get your head together, and come back later. You may owe the other person an apology already, and if all they’ll do at the moment is pick on you instead of accepting it easily, you need to be prepared not to add more propane to the already-overflowing tank.

I really do suggest that the other person NOT know where your place of respite is. If they find out where it is, odds are you’ll have to find another place. This place needs to be a haven for you- and that means your significant other (or whoever it is that pushes your buttons too many times in a row frequently) won’t show up there to get you even more unhinged. Having a cell phone or an ability to make a phone call at the place of business isn’t something you neglect, though. You can always turn the phone ringer off, or just ignore the person if they’re irking you. But don’t put yourself in a dangerous situation on purpose- and being without a phone, or access to phone, is incredibly dangerous.

I didn’t start having this respite for myself this until I was in my thirties. And I’m really sorry that I didn’t utilize this place of mine until then. I would’ve saved myself a lot of misery, money & bad decisions in the long run. Locking yourself in the bedroom doesn’t count! You have to physically get yourself off of the offending premises for a time. Maybe another person isn’t even involved. You may just have gotten bad news over the phone, and you feel like the walls are closing in on you. However briefly, get away from those walls. If it’s the dollar-fifty movie theater in town that you go to, and you’re watching a movie you’ve already seen, so be it, as long as the calming-down theme works. Spending a couple of hours in a darkened movie theater by yourself, w/ no one interrupting you, no one raking the coals of your fire again, can be incredibly soothing. I know so many people who refuse to go to a movie or out to eat by themselves, because they don’t want to appear to be a social outcast or feel self-conscious. If you feel that way, trust me, you are taking yourself too seriously. Chances are, no one is even looking at you, you definitely are not the only one to have ever gone to a movie or out to eat alone, and even if people are looking at you, odds are, they’re not judging you. Get over it, because even if they are judging you- that’s on them! This is not the rushed-at-lunch-hour-fast-food-eat-by-yourself-in-the-car break I’m talking about, either. I’m talking about going to a place that serves food you really like, preferably somewhere that you can sit quietly (without the interruptions or abrasive noises of kids, loud drunks or huge throngs of people) & maybe get a glass of your favorite wine, beer or spirit. Where time is not an issue.

You may get into a conversation w/ a nice waitress or bartender, which could be good for you. A stranger can often be nicer to you, and maybe even provide a refreshing breath of change in some other way, that you desperately need to feel, see & hear. Trust me, if such is the case, the universe has done this for a reason. And trust the universe to provide you w/ the people, situations & places you need at all times. What seems like the hundredth hellish argument your roommate started may be the catalyst to help you see that it’s time to move out your own. A stranger may comment on how pretty you are in passing, making you realize that a spouse’s cruel & repeated advisement that your butt is too big is not worth putting up with anymore. A “chance” talk with a complimentary businessperson may be the boost that you need to end employment with a company that takes advantage of you too often. Never disregard things that happen during your respite. They can provide the most important contacts, assessments & yieldings that you’ll ever gain in your life.

Staying out all night long without even making a phone call to who you’ve left behind isn’t necessarily the best thing to do. After you’ve cooled enough to at least tell whomever you left behind that you are safe, that you’ll be coming home in the morning (or after work tomorrow, whatever the case may be), do so. Don’t get a missing-persons case started in your honor, if you can avoid it! If you intend to go to a hotel by yourself for the night in advance, you don’t have to tell the other person that specifically, but I would suggest you advise them in advance you won’t be back that night. If they follow you (not unheard of), drive to the police station nearby or some other extremely busy & safe place- do not keeping driving to your sanctuary! Even if the other person’s not a danger to you, don’t give them easy access to your safe place‘s location.

A friend’s or family member’s home can be an okay place to go, and is perhaps better than nothing, but I wouldn’t really recommend it, personally. Maybe you have an especially terrific mother or father or aunt that you can go to at any hour, and they’ll be okay with it, without fail be a comfort to you, and consistently provide be a safe place to recuperate your wounded feelings or thoughts. But there are a couple of caveats to this. For one, a particular friend or family member may actually not be thrilled that you stopped by unannounced. You’re dependent upon them being physically there, unless you have a key to get in, and that can present it’s own weird complications. They may have had a crappy day themselves, and really don’t want you there- and having an argument with, or even sensing judgment from, yet another person will only make you feel worse. Whomever you escaped from may know much more easily where you went if it’s somebody easy to think of, like your dad‘s place, and may show up there. To me, this is simply not best. There are myriad reasons for this, many of which I’ve already discussed. Friends & family should be great sources of comfort, yes- but they can prevent one of the best things from happening to you, a thing which can give you a fresh perspective. Anonymity and/or solitude in another place can be a brain-changer. I can’t begin to number how many times I’ve gotten my head cleared, had a totally-fresh series of thoughts & figured out real solutions, from going to my own personal sanctuary. There’s real power in this. Talking over the problems yet again w/ your best friend or parent isn’t a bad idea. But it may not give you anything new to bring forward, when it’s time to head back to the belly of the beast once more. Safe solitude is one of the most-underused techniques in our current society for solving problems, getting a new spin on life, and healing a broken heart. Self-care is often the last thing on the totem pole, and taking time out to indulge in it can really be a form of healing. If it’s the time of day when you can get this done (and assuming a practitioner is available to help you), a pedicure, massage or aromatherapy session can bring you back to a center you might not have even known you possessed.

Beware doing things that will cost you big-time in cash or credit, or things where you know you’ll have a problem over-indulging in. Over-drinking alcohol in a public setting isn’t an issue for me, and eating a dessert in a restaurant won’t cause me to overuse sugar as a soother- having other people around deters from abusing substances, I guess! But eating a big box of chocolates alone, and downing them w/ a bottle or two of wine, is a bad idea for me- it solves nothing, and is just a way to gain weight more easily. Just sitting & feeling sorry for oneself isn’t a good salve for frustration. If you know you can’t stop at one or two drinks, whether you’re driving or not, DO NOT go to a bar or other place where liquor’s served. Getting drunk, while it may temporarily block the pain of the current moment, is too risky in too many ways to count. Don’t do it. Don’t take recreational drugs (this includes high doses of prescription drugs) as a respite. Again, it may temporarily smear the pain enough to make it unreadable, but it’ll be legible again in your brain in no time- and is not only unthinkably dangerous, but illegal.

Shopping is also something that I do not recommend undertaking in the heat of anger & hurt. Once in a great while, if it’s something that you needed to do anyway, and if you have good self-control over spending money, it’s all right. An example of an “okay“ splurge- If your bras aren’t feeling good anymore, if you’re not getting the support that you need for your girls, and you can’t seem to find the right size to shop for, spending an hour or two getting a proper bra fitting done & buying one or two bras that lift you up (literally & figuratively), look great & are in your price range can be wonderfully invigorating. But, in general, shopping should be undertaken when you’re in a good mood, have budgeted the money in advance, and have a clear head enough to know exactly what you’re looking for beforehand. Too often, otherwise, you’ll end up overspending, buying something that you don’t need or even really want, or you’ll try on something that doesn’t fit or look good on you- and then you’ll really just feel worse.

And if you think that I didn’t learn this info the hard way, you’re dead wrong. I’ve done the overdrinking, overspending, over-everything to try & fix the pain, block it out, end the suffering. It only came back to bite me in the ass nearly every time. Thankfully, as I never drove, and never did anything illegal, I never put myself in any serious danger. But I definitely didn’t make myself feel any better in the long run, I spent more money that I should have (and paid the price later on, believe me), and didn’t learn anything valuable when I looked to just block out the pain instead of dealing with it as an adult. And that is the vital difference.

By giving yourself a respite, you give yourself a chance to think outside the heat of the moment, the fire of your anger, and the sorrow that other person may inspire inside of you. If you need to make some changes in your life, or figure out a new way to approach a persistent problem, you can’t do that if you’re drinking, shopping, smoking or eating mindlessly. A respite, while it is indeed a form of escape, it’s a thoughtful one. It’s about self-nurturing, not self-destruction or saying. “I’ll leave your ass & get back at you, too!”, to the situation or person causing you pain. You may have already said to yourself, “What does this have to do with organization or minimalism?”, but hopefully, what I just wrote answered that question. Minimalism isn’t about denying yourself what you want, nor is organization or simplifying. Just the opposite, in fact, is what you’re going for. To be an organized minimalist means that you are always in the process of minimizing that which is negative, unhelpful, fruitless & painful-without-need in your life. It means choosing the healthy, organized way to solve problems & resolve the struggles that we all come up against in your life. They can be related to the space in your home, the way you put things in your purse or how you decorate your office, which is what you might traditionally think of organizing as being about. But there’s a whole lot more to a chosen lifestyle of minimalism, organization & simplification, which is what I hope you‘ll come to me to find out how to do. We’re both learning together, by the way, me right along with you- I didn’t come out writing this blog hold all of the commandments in place. I’m a student of life, too, and will be even if I live to be one hundred years old. I told you I wouldn’t be like your typical personal organizer- and I meant what I said!

Peace to you,


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Reframe Your Past in Your Mind- To Whatever Gets You Through the Night

Occasionally I think back nostalgically on my childhood, though if you ever blurt that out to anyone, I'll have to smack you. The public must believe my childhood was pure misery! Just kidding. At least on the weekends, chaos ruled my household. There were no assigned chores, I could stay in my pajamas all day without so much as a sideways glance from my Washington D.C.-commute-wearied & work-distracted lone parent, the TV played perpetual good movies on cable, or MTV played terrific music videos all day long. Those were the days, like Archie & Edith Bunker sang nearly every week for ten years. My weekend days were made up of walking twisting paths, most long-forgotten, lost to time, probably never to return to my aging-by-the-minute brain. If I managed to get dressed & go outside, that is. If exploring wasn't a part of the game plan, a long trip to the playground might be in order, perhaps taking a walk on a new path near my apartment complex might be fun, or I'd simply join a game of catch that was played on the sidewalk with a couple of casual friends. I came home for dinner when one of two things happened- one, it started to get dark, or two, my still-distracted but responsible-enough parent called out for my butt to get inside right now. The Voice of Mom was The Voice of God, as far as I was concerned, and I never disobeyed it. Nighttime always meant a few hours parked on the sofa, cuddling with Mom, watching whatever awesome movie, comedy special or great series happened to be on HBO that night. This was the 80's, after all- if you had HBO, MTV, Showtime & CBS (because watching "Dallas" was mandatory protocol on Friday nights), you were set. I remember television so fondly & distinctly (better than what happened in real life, but that'll be in another post), that you'd think that I wrote scripts for the TV show, "Dream On".

This was long before reality TV, before artists were signed to record deals who couldn't sing a note, before the channels grew so plentiful that you couldn't remember if you even had Starz or not. This was when corded phones were still the norm, cordless phones were gigantic & unreliable & TV remote controls resembled Atari game consoles. There was no HD, no LCD, no plasma. You were lucky if you had a cable box & got your sound in stereo, instead of depending upon rabbit ears or an antenna on your rooftop that could get struck by lightning & burn down your house. Owning a three-hundred-pound television, with a huge area behind a glass door for stereo equipment, the exterior made of solid wood, was considered a sign that you had made it! Lest you think I've lived a complete life of leisure, I assure you that the cleaning gods paid me back for my childhood freedom in spades, once my teens hit. This was back when you needed Pledge, a polishing cloth, Windex, paper towels & a vacuum attachment designed to clean up cloth-covered speakers just to "simply" dust the TV each week. I know, because I was the one stuck with that chore eventually! Child labor quickly became legal in my household one day. I'm still not sure why. Anyway, back to the TV. This sucker had to have wheels underneath it, because otherwise, it was unmovable without Sly Stallone picking it up on one side, and Ah-nold picking it up on the other. And if you were really lucky, the back of your TV looked like a gigantic pegboard, full of holes to let the big old machinery breathe (if it overheated, were in deep). It also came with colorful little openings all over the pegboard, in "strategic" locations, made for...hmm. Maybe more speakers? A microphone? Headphones? Oh my God, I'm getting a headache trying to remember what plug went where! And there's at least ten cables back here already! Even the cable guy was scratching his head & cussing out the set the last time that he came out to hook up this monstrosity. Also, this pegboard from hell, since it was attached to a giant electromagnetic machine, was a living dust attractor & was conveniently placed against a wall with a very expensive painting over the TV, for weekends full of dust-induced pleasure! (No wonder I got chronic bronchitis when I was twenty-eight...) And like that lovely red vehicle in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", that TV, wall & painting better not even be breathed on wrong!

Maybe some of you are not from the possibly-warped & very much undisciplined school of childhood that I went to. Fun as it was(?), I learned not one time-management skill, I didn't learn how to accomplish a single chore, and I certainly did not reach any goals until my teens. Even then, I struggled with the desire for structure against the fun of chaos. Usually, chaos won, and that's probably why I'm writing this blog right now. Now, there are two sides to the coin here, as is always the case. My mental freedom as a kid, it could be argued, led to the same mental freedom that I possess now. Maybe it made me more creative, more willing to think & live outside the box. I'm not exactly conventional, and neither was my childhood. The long hours, spans of time unplanned by anyone at all, without much parenting intervening on what I did, time spent simply "being me" might actually have done me a world of good. I had a lot of time to sing, a lot of time to dance, a lot off time to pretend that I was beautiful, rich, drove a convertible & lived in California. I had lots of time to dream that I would be thin, tan, long-haired, rich & famous someday (not one dream came true, by the way, unless you count a faux tan). Maybe all that unstructured time & space even made me eventually become the skeptical being that I am today, one who always searches for the truth, not willing to settle for someone else planning my time, always shaking off the hand of suburban monotony.

For years, I've alternately looked back fondly on these memories of a loosely-woven youth; or in a more negative frame of mind, felt it was a span of wasted time that I could never get back. The lack of routine, the lack of structure, the lack of a parent that actually cared where I went every hour of the day haunts me even now sometimes. Looking through the veil of "what could have been" is a misty water-colored memory, all right. The lack of the other parent being there at all was another reason to feel I'd been denied so much that I SHOULD HAVE HAD! But then I look at the people who had all that I felt I was due (and I didn't get), and I wonder if they're really any better off for possessing what I lacked- and not having what I did (especially some freedom from the 'rents). The truth is, a lot of them have screwed up just as much- sometimes more, sometimes less- as I did. Some of them have blown opportunities that I never would've passed up, because they possessed an entitlement attitude that I didn't have. Some of them became drug addicts & went to jail, even though they seemed to have the greatest parents on earth.

My point is this- the way that you choose to look back on your life, on your past, is up to you. That sounds incredibly simple, but it often is not at all simple to implement. And don't think for a second that I've mastered the art of easy forgiveness, forgetting the negative, or viewing things in an entirely positive light. It's always a work in progress. But the idea is that I'm working on it. Okay, so I didn't learn time management skills completely until I was in my early thirties. I didn't know how to run a household easily, efficiently & completely until that time, either. So what? In the scheme of things, it's not a big deal. It is not the end of the world that I didn't have a filing system set up until I was in my mid-twenties. Some people never learn these skills at all, or learn them too late to really be of much good. My life is one that I'm sure at least a million people in this f-ed up world would LOVE to have, because it's a pretty good life.

Remember...Simplicity=Letting Go of Perfectionism. And, like it or not, letting go of perfectionism doesn't just apply to how we see the present. It applies to both how we view the past, and to our vision of the future. I cannot stress that last part enough. There is not going to be a magical day when it all comes together on earth & you never again experience no loss, no pain, no illness, no worry- I'm 99.99999% sure of that much. I certainly hope for that in a beautiful afterlife, but while on earth, troubles are going to come your way, no matter how good you are. It isn't that you deserve the troubles, or did something to bring them on- they just happen. You have to be willing to accept that your present learning comes from what happened in the past, and that, if you are wise enough to accept the life lesson, you've already won something great. You also must be willing to accept that you will make mistakes in the future, and so will people around you. You'll never get to a point when you do it all right, or when others around you do it all right, too. You cannot change others easily. Whether or not you can change them at all is debatable. What isn't debatable is that you can change yourself. Look at life in the best light possible. I'm not saying put your head in the clouds. It is possible to be both pragmatic & positive. It isn't "hope for the best, but prepare for the worst", it's " try to live in the moment & be joyous, and trust that, somehow, it'll all work out in the end". That's what I'll be trying to do, anyway.

Peace to you,


Monday, March 26, 2012

The Benefit of Wearing an Apron with Pockets Around the House

There are a few things that signal to the brain "Time to get to work!", even when you're at home. Two of which, getting dressed to lace-up shoes every morning & having a set of daily routines written down, have already been well-covered by a great mentor of mine, The FlyLady. But there's one trick that I'd like to cover for you, which I actually discovered on my own- wearing an apron with pockets.

You may be picturing down-home moments on the farm, with one of the Walton women calling everyone to dinner right now, when you read the word "apron". I would love to have that life portrayed in the famous TV show, but I'm afraid I'm a bit too much of a city girl, way too attached to my computer, and far too lazy to ever attempt such an existence. But a lesson can be learned nonetheless, and wearing an apron is a major simplifier in life. I am not just speaking to women, ahem. If you're a man, if you're home all day or you help with the chores at all (and you'd better be- if you're well enough to read this, you're well enough to help out a little around the house!), an apron is appropriate for everyone. Lest you think only a thin person can find an apron that fits, there are oversized ones in just about every color on the Internet, even if you can't find one in the store. There are aprons with bibs (that go around the neck, in other words), or aprons that simply tie at the waist. Unless you have a neck problem or are just extremely neat (a.k.a., never spill a drop of anything on your shirt), I'd recommend the traditional, or bib kind. I recommend getting one that is fairly lightweight, cotton if possible, adjustable in the neck, and one that washes easily. Again, unless you're very neat I would recommend wearing a darker color rather than a lighter one- lighter colors will of course show dirt & food much more easily. It is entirely up to you how often you wash your apron but frankly, once a visible stain is on it, even on a dark color, it goes into the laundry basket for me. I didn't build my apron collection in a day, but I do have several dark ones now on-hand.

Think about it. Aprons protect your clothes from bleach stains, accidental spills of food & drinks during mealtimes, cooking stains, dirt or ink picked up on your hands that could be transferred to clothing in a nanosecond if you touch your clothes, and many more things. I cannot tell you how many times I haven't worn an apron, was dressed in a beautiful but light-colored shirt, and promptly made it look ugly for the remainder of the day with a droplet of spaghetti sauce or iced tea. Pockets in an apron can store little items right at your waist, which would otherwise bulge out in pants pockets & look strange if you tried to wear them that way. These optional but useful items can include a timer (a great tool to help you get more done without overdoing it, or forgetting something important), a memo pad & pen, a compact mirror (with or without pressed powder), lip blam or gloss, a Tide to-go mini-pen for treating clothing stains, a notepad & pen/pencil, your cell phone, an iPod- the list goes on. Particularly if you're not wearing an outfit that allows you to wear something on a waistband or belt that day (like your cell phone which is stored in a clip), an apron can really come in handy to wear.

Aprons can actually end up being a money-saver, in the short- and long run. When your shirts & the front of your pants are protected from stains, you do not have to pre-treat them before going into the wash (hallelujah!) Not having to do that is a time-saver, as well. This cuts back on the pre-treater you need to buy. (Don't automatically throw the clothes you wore into the hamper or laundry basket- at least with shirts & slacks or skirts. You may have to do less laundry this way- if you didn't get any stains on your clothes & didn't get sweaty in them at all, why not wear your clothes one more day?) Anyway, assuming your pre-treater didn't work, and neither did washing or even soaking the stained piece of clothing, the clothing either has to be worn stained (not very appealing) or thrown out. I've ended up throwing out very nice shirts that, unfortunately, got a bleach stain on it once (absolutely unfixable, of course, once on the clothing & not rinsed out at once), and were not fixed by dying the shirts again. I know some people will continue to wear clothes that are stained & to each their own, but I'm not one of those people. I don't feel good about myself in stained or torn clothes, and if I don't feel confident in it, I'm not putting the item on. Aprons not only can prevent stains, but tears in fabric, as well. Especially thin shirts or ones with a particularly intricate weave, which can easily get ripped or frayed. The same premise of permanently-stained shirts applies to torn or pulled ones. Is it really worth taking the chance? Aprons can quickly & easily be removed. If someone sees you in an apron, they may be a little surprised, but they'll probably just assume that you're cooking or doing something else important around the house. (And what's wrong with that?) It's not the end of the world if the apron gets stained or even torn (the latter of which is incredibly hard to do, by the way), especially if they weren't very expensive to start with -and I don't recommend wearing an apron you feel is too expensive to get stained, obviously. You can still be a fashionista in public, and just wear an apron around the house when you're cleaning the house, cooking or doing laundry. But I promise you, when your hair is done, your face is made up nicely (if you enjoy wearing makeup), the rest of your clothes & shoes are comfortable but tasteful, wearing an apron over it doesn't look bad at all. If anything, you look like you are raring to go do some serious homemaking, and there's nothing wrong with that!

Here are a few aprons that I like:

I've even begun laying out my apron along w/ my outfit & shoes for the next day. Since, for the moment anyway, I'm at home most days, I'm going to wear the apron much of the day. Setting it out the night before helps my forgetful brain remember to put it on in the first place!

Here's to being a happy organized minimalist,

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Pick Three Things That You Want to Accomplish Each Day

This is for those of us that have a constant, running to-do list that's a mile long. I don't care whether you are a full-time, stay-at-home mother, a corporate executive who flies on airplanes every week around the world or are a retiree living in a condo overlooking the ocean. I want you to set manageable, reasonable limits, goals & dreams for yourself. Part of simplicity is getting back to doing what's important, and letting go of what isn't.

I used to keep a monstrous lifetime to-do list, a yearly to-do list (five years out at a time, including the current year), a monthly to-do list, a weekly one, and finally, a daily one. They all descended like some weird food chain in my life. I followed a day-runner system- which is so aptly named- that cost me $50-$60/year to set up. I spent hours on those lists, especially in time for the new year on Jan. 1st, convincing myself the next year would be my most fruitful yet. I lived for writing down these lists. Refining them. Trying to stick to them. Beating myself up when I didn't stick to them (that was my most frequent activity, though it was oddly enough nowhere on any of my to-do lists...) I made myself crazy. I didn't live in the moment- I lived in the life that I hoped to have "someday", if God answered my prayers, if I was good enough, if I could stick to things well enough- you get the picture. And, don't get me wrong, I got things done this way. I'm not putting down this system. It just didn't work for me. If anything that I just wrote resonates with you, please read on.

I got rid of the planner. (Collective gasps are going off right now, I can just hear them.) I now own a wall calendar, use the Google calendar online & write down three things to accomplish on my to-do list every day, and that's it. I'm going to go through these things one by one, don't worry, and I'll explain how they work for me infinitely better than the old planner system did.

The wall calendar is in a spot where all in my household can see it. On it goes doctor's visits, haircut appointments, my dinner menu, birthdays- things everyone in the household needs to know about. I don't have to spell it all out for you, but this gives you an idea of what occasions should be on the calendar. Where you place this is entirely up to you. Don't be afraid to experiment. Personally, mine is within reaching distance of my desk, in my home office. My home office is my hub, and my wall calendar is an extension of that. Some people put their calendar in the bathroom- hey, think about it, everyone has to go in there at some point during the day! Others like it in the kitchen, especially because it contains their dinner menu (more to come on dinner menus in future blogs). Know in advance that I'm going to bring FlyLady up a lot. I'm not telling you to sign up for her program, I'm not affiliated with her in any way, and I'm not officially endorsing any products. I'm just letting you know what works for me. Her wall calendar is the biggest & the best that I've found. It holds almost all of the info I need to write down for each day, and then some. It's really strong & has a nice pocket in the back, to hold concert tickets, greeting cards, etc. Don't get a calendar that's too small- especially if you write big. Everyone in the family should feel free to write on it. People are incredibly creative, and if you go out on the web, you can get more awesome ideas to personalize & organize your calendar. I write in black ink for events, purple ink for my dinner menu, red for something that I have to do monthly & green to cross out the previous day (that helps me keep track of what day it is!) I love to write with fine point Sharpie pens, because they're dark & make my handwriting clearer, but use whatever you like.

The Google calendar, for me at least, is more personal. I'm in charge of it, and I alone view it. I'm not ashamed of it, but I'm able to add things like "Buy a new coat for Sabrina's graduation gift", without Sabrina knowing in advance that I'm doing that, thus ruining the surprise. My Google calendar has all the same info on it as my wall calendar, but it's also spectacular for items that repeat constantly (like working out, doing a load of laundry daily, paydays, etc.) Having to write out my routines in long-hand every day would be the biggest pain in the neck I could ever think of. I'm no genius- I need my Google calendar to remind me that today is my uncle's birthday, that I have to wash the dining room tablecloth periodically, when I last washed the bedroom comforter, and more. The Google calendar is wonderful to keep running lists on- if I know I'll be shopping on the 1st of the next month, I can add things to the list throughout the period beforehand as I think of them. Yes, of course you can do that on paper- but my Google calendar can't get lost or thrown away- paper can, of course. It works for me. I have a daytime routine of things I want to achieve around the house every day, an evening routine & a before-bed routine. With the Google calendar, I can add or delete items on these lists as needed. If they were solely on paper, I'd be going through an awful lot of Wite-Out to fix the constant changes I make to these lists!

Finally, the three items a day on the to-do list is what helps me make little personal goals for myself, things which aren't usually repeat items, and that I don't want to waste calendar space on. They may also be on my Google calendar, though. I write this on either my memo pad that goes in my purse, or on my computer's Notepad, depending upon my schedule for the day. The reason that I say three is because, on a normal day, it's a manageable amount to achieve. The goals can range from "Write Grandma an email back", "Call back Nancy about job offer" or "Eat the leftover salad in the fridge". They're important things to me, but things that I may be hesitant to get done (good old procrastination at work there). It is my personal way of pushing myself just a tad, pleasing "the planner" in me, and yet still living for today. Now, if I'm sick, have a lot to do outside the home, or am on vacation, the daily to-do list is usually not on the plate for that day. Or I may drop it down to just getting one important thing done.

As I've said before, and I'll say many more times in the future, please don't feel that you have to start doing all of this at once. It took YEARS for me to build this system up, and tweaking it is a lifelong process. Start simple. I'm giving you a picture of my daily life now, but please know that five years ago, not one piece of this puzzle was in place. Be patient with yourself, your life & your health. And, as always, adapt the system to suit your life, tastes, personality, energy level & health.

Peace to you,


Friday, March 23, 2012

Are Your Goals REALLY Your Own?

If you haven't already done so, make a list of lifetime goals that you have for yourself. Make it as long or as short, as detailed or vague, as outlandish or realistic as you want. I won't be able to peek in & look at them, after all. :) I would recommend that you write every single thing that you can think of, though, even if it takes you hours to complete. If it's done in three minutes, too, that's perfectly okay. Just make sure that your list's not missing anything.

I know that MANY times, especially in the self-help circles, this exercise is used in a prescribed way. It is usually a tool to light a fire under your belly- at it's worst, it's a tool an author might use to guilt-trip you into action. Well, you won't get that from me. In fact, I'm about to give you some very different advice. I want you to review every goal very, very carefully. I don't want you to necessarily think of every single step that you could take to meet that goal, though you can if you wish. Some people love this kind of exercise, and some loathe it. I hope that I can help both kinds of folks here. With each goal, I want you to examine it from what may be a new light.

The typical approach at this point is to take the goal, break it into bite-size steps you can take to meet it, set a date & time to meet the goal one step at a time, and an end date (deadline) by which you want to reach it. My approach, however, is not so typical. I want you to realize first that time itself isn't even real. I mean, according to law it is, but if you give it some thought...we just made it up. Granted, the scientists & all worked out an awesome system to categorize what we've named time, but it's an illusion nonetheless (just like our belief in paper money having real value, but that's a whole other topic). I want you to ask yourself why, if you're inclined to do so, you are giving a specific deadline to meet a goal. For example, if you're now thirty-eight, you may have a goal that you'll "be in the best shape of your life when you reach age forty". Now, the goal, in & of itself, is perfectly neutral, neither good nor bad. It's an incredibly common goal, usually reachable- although outside circumstances can certainly stop it from occurring, that's true enough- and it just may bring you some joy to reach it.

I want you to look deeply at the goal. We'll continue to use that same goal as the example. Why is forty the magic age, or the deadline for you? Recognizing that the creation of what we call time is nothing more than a way for our minds to turn order into chaos, think of your goal in that light. I'm still not saying it's bad or wrong. I just want you to broach it from this new angle. I want you to also know that (if you aren't thinking along these lines already), the goal may not really be yours at all- in other words, not something you'd have come up with on your own- but may be a goal that has been repeatedly, socially-programmed into you to have. It may be a goal which is desirable for you to meet in theory, yes. It may be a goal that others would like to see you meet- your personal trainer, your children, your spouse, your mother, even the leader of your nation. I'm not saying that just because it was social-programmed, if that's even the case, that it was wrong. Just recognize what's driving the goal.

In this exercise, you've found my simple question to ask yourself every time that you set a goal for yourself, major or minor. You can ignore me or call me kooky- I don't mind. I'm not an expert on anything. I'm just passing on some information that's made me rethink many things in my life. Ask yourself if the goal is something that you would've come up with if you lived in a different culture- one where exercise is not revered, one where weight is not relevant whatsoever, and fitness is not considered a measure of health- if you'd still have the goal. If you would still have the goal, no matter what- even if you were alone on a desert island, with no one to reward your efforts or see your work- chances are it's a goal from deep within you, not one that's been programmed into you to possess. If you're only doing it for the glory of the outer world, if you'd rather spend the time on something else, but feel you must achieve this, you may want to go over just how worthwhile it really is. What happens after you meet the goal? Will you continue to set ever-higher mountains to climb? Do you want to continue with the disciplined lifestyle that such a lifetime goals incurs? Is this a goal you've had for years, or did it just occur to you? What even brought the goal to mind in the first place? Can you locate, in the windmills of your mind, the origins of the goal?  

Remember, too, that much must be sacrificed to live a goal-oriented life, as opposed to a live-in-the-moment life. One is not better than the other, necessarily. But every goal you set for the future exacts a cost in the present, and it usually is not a one-time cost to pay. Ask yourself if the goal's end result is really worth the time, the effort & the potential risk involved. Keep in mind that an injury can occur, someone close to you may get seriously ill & take your time away from dieting & exercising, or your life may even end before you get to the finish life. The goal may, however, be a welcome respite from day-to-day life's struggles. Reaching the goal may make you realize that you can achieve even bigger & better things. Everyone is different, and I place no judgment on your answers- the judgment, and final decision, is yours.

From now on, if you choose to live a goal-directed life, do it consciously. Because to live with total consciousness is paradoxically live the most simplistic life available. The important thing is to go after what is simplest for you to follow- and that is the self-directed goal, the one you'd choose to go after even if no one else cared when you achieved it. But if it's merely a socially-programmed, societal-guilt-induced goal, there is usually nothing simple or minimalist about it. And the goal will then be unlikely to fulfill you- worse, it may even make you feel like you're walking on an ever higher & faster treadmill, one that you'll run out of strength to bear. When the goal comes from the outside, not the inside, it's achievement "high" or "buzz" will likely be short-lived, if the good feeling even comes at all.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Eliminate Yourself from Email Subscriptions that Overload You

All right, I admit it, despite the hours spent on them, my initial posts are just too damn long for the average person to digest. I didn't get that feedback, and considering my readership is somewhere between 0 and 5 people, I shouldn't worry. And I'm not. But what I will do here, for this blog, is practice what I preach. I want to help you get organized, and live a more minimalist lifestyle. And, life being what it is, I will try to do that quickly every day from now on. These aren't going to be sent to you in any kind of order, so don't see some hidden genius on my part. I'm simply throwing out suggestions to you from now on that work to simply, minimize & organize your life a little better, one day at a time. That's all anyone can ask for.

Email is terrific- getting excessive email can be the bane of one's existence. My tip? No matter how tempting, DON'T purposely sign up for emails from retailers. I'm a woman- I get it. What about those special sale offers that one only hears about if they're an email subscriber to a particular store??? If you're not in any kind of debt, have money to freely spend every time you want to, and you're happy with your shopping life (and email life), by all means, ignore this suggestion. But if you're in debt (especially with credit cards, and this includes store cards), carefully consider what stores you really need to buy things from, how many offers you get from that which take significant savings on items that you or your family NEED, and whether or not your self-control is high. Only you know the truth. If these ads are simply causing you to spend money you don't have, on items you don't really need...well, remember that organizing & minimalism is the goal here. Remember, businesses are there to make you feel that you must update your wardrobe, beauty routine, home & just about all aspects of your life every single season & holiday. Once you realize that you do not need to update anything unless it's worn-out, no longer fits or is in some other way no longer servicable, you regain power. I encourage you to remember that happiness will not come from whatever new item or service is being peddled to you. Buy only what you need, when you need it. And eliminate any temptations in your path as often as you can, enemies on the path of minimalizing, simplifying & organizing out lifes for good.  

Many times, we can easily eliminate ourselves from ad services that don't even interest us by following an "unsubscribe" link down near the bottom of the email. If it's from a company you never buy from, a political outlet you have no interest in, or you got on the list by mistake, just take yourself off. Remember a phrase I learned from FlyLady - "Do it now." It'll take approximately ten seconds to unsubscribe from the list. Even if a mini-survey appears, if it lightens the email load, it's worth dealing with. Eliminate what causes you no emotional strain to get rid of first. It is a work in progress to get rid of a lifetime's worth of conditioning that we need to get bigger and/or better in every element of existence. The work never ends, and it's often one step up, two steps back. Take a step every day toward the better way, and celebrate that step, too.