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Friday, April 27, 2012

Being Devoted to Minimalism, Simplicity & Organization Doesn’t Mean You Get to Run on Auto-Pilot- Nor Does Your Brain

One of the biggest myths that I bought into (though it was purely of my own making- no one spoon-fed me the myth), was that once I got my life organized, I’d never really have to think about it deeply again. I’d never have to re-evaluate, once I finally got the “perfect” housekeeping, exercise, wardrobe, diet & all my other plans up-and-running. I’d be able to sit back on the couch, watch TV, never worry about anything, and everything would be fairly effortless to get done. This would especially be true because I thought it all out in advance, wrote it all down, stuck to my routines & didn’t buy into things that complicated my life. Right?

Wrong! My belief was about as dumb as thinking that I could open up my own business, and provided I did it with the right business plan, I’d never have to make hard decisions ever again. Yeah, now you see exactly what I mean. I’m here to tell you from hard-won personal experience, life is messy, hard & complicated at times no matter how much you simplify, no matter how thin or healthy you are, how many items you de-clutter, how often you clean, or what routines you have written down. That’s right, I’m saying it, The Big Defender of an organized lifestyle- I’m telling you that life gets rough whether you’re a messy, lazy slob or whether you’re a perfectionist neatnik. In fact, (have the nitroglycerin handy…) being an organized person who thinks in advance may just mean that you’re more than likely a worrier by nature, not that you‘ll be more relaxed all the time. Some of the biggest hoarders in the world, people who wouldn’t clean if a gun was held to their held, are also some of the happiest in the world. Yeah, if you think I wasn’t extremely pissed off to find that out…oh, I was! “Darn it, all these years I’ve worked so hard, de-cluttered all this stuff & cleaned so much, and I’m still anxious & depressed?! What the…?!”

The problem wasn’t because I had too much stuff, or too little, either. The issue was also not with my organizational skills (or lack thereof), or how much I managed my time well. It wasn’t because of the amount of money in my bank account or the weight on the scale. You may be confused at this point, but I’ll explain. Not until I got my whole place de-cluttered, lost lots of weight, had money in the bank or learned to manage my time & home efficiently did I realize that…none of those newfound skills made me any less innately anxious or depressed. I was just an anxious, depressed person by nature who now looked really good on the outside, and whose home looked really decent on the inside.

Well, then why the heck would anyone undertake the journey of simplifying, if it doesn’t bring you happiness? Well, there’s several reasons. For one thing, extra stuff (just like extra weight) cushions us from these very emotions coming up. And stifling emotions isn’t a good thing- that doesn’t mean losing control of them, mind you, but rather facing them headlong like an adult. I was not able to proactively deal with my lifelong “worrier” mode until I no longer had any particular thing to blame it on. I couldn’t throw out there the old excuses of why I was upset- such as “I got up too late, the house is a mess, my mother’s making me crazy, I’ve got weight to lose, I ate too much, my things aren‘t organized, my boyfriend’s being a jerk, I don’t have enough money to buy all the things I want”, etc. I got up in the morning, and sure enough, a few routines later, I certainly could go sit on the couch & watch TV, laugh & enjoy myself, knowing I’d gotten everything done- but my guilt stopped me. To this day, it’s really difficult to just sit still, believing that I‘ve done everything I should have that day. My brain goes around in a chaotic circle 24/7, thinking of things I could be doing, maybe should be doing, finding fault with what I have already done…are you with me here? When you sit down to watch your favorite TV program- the only one you watch- and you must have a pad of paper & a pen nearby to write a to-do list on, there’s an issue. Some people would say that’s just multi-tasking, being really intelligent, or being really organized. What it isn’t, though, is being focused. It’s hard to focus on enjoying your time with friends, family or out at a movie when you’re thinking about the workout you should be fitting in, the closet that you should be de-cluttering, or the dust on the living room lamp. I could’ve relaxed years ago, even with what clutter I had. There are certainly people who would actually consider my “previous life” still pretty organized (I never was a hoarder, for example, just not a good time-manager).
My mother (the greatest annoyance…er, teacher…of my life) is the type of person who can sit & enjoy watching the TV all day, every day, without the undone dishes or dust mites bothering her conscience a bit. She was & still is a crisis cleaner- one of those people who only cleans when it gets so bad she can’t take it anymore or when company’s coming- whichever comes first. She’s no hoarder. Actually, she’s pretty minimalist, not into art or knick-knacks. She likes a clean home. She’s not a slob. She has decent skills in life. She has no problem with me throwing out household clutter. She’ll even take out the trash. But, unlike me, she is not hard-wired to think that a messy house is always a problem house. She also is not one for self-blame (not to be confused with self-analysis), whereas I’m a master at it. The latter of which, I blame on her completely. ;D

Be careful & know that it is you who chose to simplify, organize, get a cleaner life and/or home, and minimize. Don’t take it personally when others don’t seem to notice, or care about, your efforts in this direction. Now, if you vacuum & then your husband purposely goes & dumps a bowl of cereal on the clean floor, you have my permission to throttle him, or whomever the offending criminal may be. But very rarely do people purposely, rudely go out of their way to mess up your life, or the things that you do. Especially when those people are loving family members or friends. You have to enjoy the journey for what it gives to you personally, and the gift that it allows you to give to others. That gift may be your additional quality time spent with them, it may be that they never run out of clean towels (will it really kill you to wash a load of laundry for another person?) or simply that you don’t nag them anymore because you’re at peace with life. I’m not saying that you should be a doormat. If you live with a “messy”, then they’d better be contributing something else to your life to make it worth it, namely love & hopefully a good income. Nor should you put up with people who will outright refuse to do a simple chore when you yourself are busy with another task, something that they can easily accomplish. Balance, my friends, balance- that’s what life is all about.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Five Products Are All it Takes to Get a “Perfect Ten!” Manicure

Having a set of hands which always look presentable, and yet are simple to achieve & maintain have occasionally been expressed to me as being an impossible goal. Not by a long shot is that true! It is easy to have the simple, yet beautiful, hands & nails that you’ve always wanted. And contrary to the belief of many people, you don’t need to apply nail polish to have great-looking fingernails, or spend two hours every other weekend in the manicurist’s chair. You’ll still be ready to play in the dirt, go out ice-skating, help your kid with a school project, present a PowerPoint production at work or go out to dinner w/ your significant other- and your hands will always look nice, I promise!

Here are the products that I recommend you should invest in:

1) Cuticle pusher 2) Fingernail clippers 3) Tweezerman Shape & Shine Nail Tool [a nail file & buffer] 4) Hand Cream & 5) Cuticle balm or nail oil

Once a week, I push my cuticles back, after take a I shower. My cuticles are softer then, and it doesn’t hurt at all. If any excess skin comes up, I just lightly brush it away. DO NOT CUT YOUR CUTICLES OFF! Don’t ask me why- just do as I say! I recommend the Titania brand cuticle pusher because, well, I own it & and love it. An orange stick also works just fine. I bought my cuticle pusher on, for about $12. (As usual, these aren't formal or paid endorsements, just one beauty addict's advice coming out here!) I keep it in my manicure kit, in my bedside table drawer. It’s a cuticle pusher on one side, and a triangle-shaped deep-cleaner for under the nails on the other.

Next, I trim my fingernails w/ fingernail clippers- toenail clippers are usually too heavy-duty for this job & can be a little unwieldy for a delicate chore. Tweezerman & Manicure Magic are two brands that I know of which sell good clippers. Not every woman wants or needs to do this weekly trimming. Some women simply don’t grow nails that ever get long enough to need trimmers. Some want to grow their nails at all times, and won’t willingly cut their nails back. Whatever floats your boat. The warning that I gave you about not cutting your cuticles doesn’t apply to hangnails, which do need to be trimmed back. In fact, throughout the week, whenever you have a hangnail. Trim it back as far back as possible, being careful not to trim back to much & bring on blood (err on the side of caution). The sooner you get to a hangnail, the better. Therefore, I recommend always carrying a second pair of fingernail clippers in your purse. (The little clippers are also good at trimming loose threads on clothes- got to love a multi-tasking tool to carry around!) Personally, my fingernails will grow, but I don’t like them long at all. They’re way too much of a pain to care for in that way. I’d rather have ten short, matching fingernails, all the same length, shape & finish every week. I snip them carefully, five little times each fingernail, from the outside in. It’s kind of like a half-moon octagon. A trim off the one corner, a trim between that corner & the center of the nail, right in the center, then between the center & the untouched corner, and finally, the last corner. It should have the basic shape you want- now it just needs to be filed. I recommend not going either too oval in shape (with the sides trimmed down too far) or two squared-off (sides not trimmed & filed much, or at all). Ovals can be weaker & look at bit too 1980‘s on most women. Taken too far, the cutting down the sides can lead to ingrown nails (yikes!) While a more popular shape to this day, very square-shaped nails can snag more easily, and can also be slightly weaker than a crescent shape. It does depend of your hands, but squared-off nails can make fingers look a little thicker, too, and are arguably a tad masculine.

The next stage of the game is filing. File in one direction, towards the outside of the hand, not in a see-saw motion. The reason I recommend the Tweezerman Shape & Shine Tool? It is not only a filer, but it also had a nifty three-step buffing side, as well. On one end, a nail cleaner makes up the end of this dynamite but inexpensive tool. Then three progressively-smoother files are on the workspace on one end of the tool. The blue one is what you’ll want to use for fingernails & those little rough edges that can build up on the skin of your fingertips (the others are for feet- one to file rough skin & one file better suited to smoothing the thicker, rougher toenails out). Getting a quick file done on those fingertip “calluses”, if you could even call them that, does help make for even sleeker fingers. A glass nail file is my second-place pick, and is the kind that I used for years. That, too, is great- definitely an improvement over simple emery boards, which are my dead-last resort.

I used to think that buffing nails was overkill, and a myth that the beauty crowd perpetuated to make us spend more money, time & energy than needed on our nails. But I was wrong. If you are going to use nail polish, buffing is especially important. Even if you don’t wear polish, it can leave smooth nails that shine like highly-polished silverware & won’t snag even your most delicate clothes. I literally feel the difference when I run my fingertip over a buffed nail, compared to an un-buffed one. The Tweezerman tool makes it effortless, but I know that Revlon also sells a nail buffer, and I’m sure that probably hundreds more exist out there. It’s now a step that I refuse to skip. It’s totally up to you, but if you wear hosiery, silk or other delicate fabrics, give even more thought to buffing your nails, as it really is the “finishing touch” to getting the softest, finest hands.

Hand cream comes in infinite choices. My two favorites during the day are Gold Bond Hand Sanitizing Lotion (no fragrance) & Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Fast Absorbing Hand Cream. For nighttime, I like the Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Fragrance-Free Hand Cream (it’s richer than the fast-absorbing formula) or philosophy’s Time on Your Hands cream. Time on Your Hands, it should be noted, cannot be used on hands w/ an open cut or sore, as it’ll sting. This formulation is awesome- it contains an exfoliator, but without any scrubbing agents or anything obvious. If you’re out in the sun a lot, a hand lotion or cream w/ sunscreen- I know Paula’s Choice makes one, and I think B&BW does, too- is a must. You must apply hand cream frequently, if you suffer from dry skin. Painful cuticle & fingertip skin tears/cracks are a result of too little moisture getting to the skin, and hangnails are also often due to that. Few things are more painful to deal with (on a minor scale), either, than the conditions I‘ve just listed. Put hand cream wherever you can. Usually, a pump works best, unless the lotion will be in a bag. Hand cream at every sink, in every bag & in every drawer is an absolute must for me. Give away fragrance-free hand creams to your friends as gifts. They make great stocking stuffers. Often, shops will have “buy 3, get 1” sales or some other such offer to get you to buy more- in the case of hand cream, take them up on it! Just use hand cream as often as possible, and use as much in volume as possible- include your wrists, forearms & elbows, if you squeezed or pumped out a bit too much!

Finally, I’d like to give you one last trick of the trade, the one that separates the girls from the women! Cuticle balm or oil, when used daily/nightly, can really take your nails to the next level, especially if they’ve long been neglected. If you’re just taking off artificial nails for the first time in a long time, it’s an absolute necessity that you invest in such an item. While it’s pretty quick to get hands back in shape, nails & cuticles can be more ornery, and balm/oil penetrates where a hand lotion or cream just won’t quite make the cut. There are many brands of cuticle balm or salve out there- Badger, Barielle & Burt’s Bees are three that immediately come to mind. Or you can use a nail oil instead - the T.I.P.S. oil is my favorite, but there are several specially-designed oils for fingernails out there, and extra-virgin olive oil or extra-virgin coconut oil alone can work just fine, too. Most nail oils come in a fingernail polish-type bottle, with an applicator just like nail color has, as well. This makes application pretty foolproof & relatively quick. With either balm or oil, try to apply it at a time where you will not be getting your hands in water or near oil anytime soon- perhaps first thing in the morning while sipping a cup of coffee, or maybe before bed, while taking a little time to read an inexpensive paperback book. When I worked in a call center, I put it on right before I got on the phone in the a.m., and thus my nails were a captive audience until my next break (at least an hour after I started taking my first calls of the day). I recommend that you pick a time to do this each day or night, and stick to it. Make in convenient. Put a balm or bottle of oil in your desk drawer, one in your purse, one on your bedside table- as many places as you can afford to stash them. ThisWhen you have the good intentions, and the product is conveniently located amongst your most commonly-used areas, chances are you will get it done.