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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Repeat After Me, "I Am an Organized Person"

Until you change your beliefs about yourself, you're going to continue to not only fall back into your old routines, but you will not be able to feel good about yourself all of the time. You can be the person that you want to be. Nobody can take that gift away from you. It's the best part of having free will, that we can elect to see ourselves in a brighter, better light at all times & in all places. Now, if you're surrounded by people, including yourself, who bring you down so much that you cannot imagine getting through a day without giving in to bad habits, crying in sadness, yelling your head off, getting screamed at or feeling self-hatred, you need to make some serious changes. I firmly think from hard-won experience, though, that how we perceive ourselves is what will make the greatest influence on how the world sees us, too.

When you start envisioning yourself in an utterly different way- knowing that you look & feel terrific, performing tasks with excitement & hope, knowing that everything will work out for the best, being an inspiration to those you meet along the way- you will start to notice a difference in your existence. The person that you eventually become follows a simple set of thoughts in your mind. As an adult, no matter what you might have been brought up to believe that you should be, you get the opportunity with each new day to start being who you'd like to be. Even if others say that you can't do something, you don't have to live by their mind's limitations. If your home is in chaos, and you persistently think & say just that, begin to look at it in a whole new way. The words that you use to describe things are the way that you believe them to be. Say a different dialogue to yourself, starting today: "My house is changing for the better each & every day. I know a lot more than I used to know about everything. I'm an organized person who is learning how to simplify, de-clutter & live in a lightweight way more & more all the time. I am more than capable of accomplishing anything that I need & want to. I care enough to make sure my home looks nice. Charity begins at home, and in the home. My house is a warm, inviting place for myself & others to live in. People come here & feel that this is a tidy, well-taken-care-of abode. They see me, and they realize that I'm someone who takes care of myself well. When I see that my own needs are met, I'll always be able to meet the needs of others."

If you need to de-clutter in your home, see yourself spending fifteen successful minutes a day doing just that. Put a picture of it in your own mind, and keep that picture of how you want to live at the forefront of your brain. If you think out how you want to react to situations in advance, I guarantee you that your attitude will change & your achievements will grow by leaps & bounds. Start seeing yourself taking out the trash to the bin outside immediately, every time the bag is full, for example- and you'll start doing just that. That beginning vision is often the missing step between something that you feel you want to do, but just keep missing the boat in actually getting done. You're not in a race- Rome wasn't built in a day, and new beliefs formed about yourself won't all fall into place overnight either. But over the coming weeks, months & years, you'll become the version of yourself you've longed to be. Adapt the following list to your own goals, lifestyle & vision of who you want to become. See yourself doing the following things in your mind's eye, in a calm yet focused manner:
*Waking up on time, feeling energetic & ready for the day ahead. People know you to be stable, reliable, healthy, fit, positive, organized & polished. When you say you'll be up & starting your day at a certain time, they know you mean it.
*Possessing a high level of strength, flexibility, endurance, coordination & balance.
*Immediately making your bed upon awakening.
* Looking in the mirror first thing in the morning & seeing clear skin, healthy white teeth, glossy hair & a fit body, from living a lifestyle that gives you all of this. Loving yourself enough to know that you look great just as you are naturally.
*Washing your face, brushing your teeth, putting on favorite body care products (deodorant, body cream, spritzing on a beloved perfume, etc.), brushing/styling your hair & putting on some makeup each & every morning.
*Swishing-and-swiping your own bathroom before you leave that room.
*Getting dressed every morning after making the bed, getting groomed, & swishing-and-swiping your bathroom. See yourself putting foot cream on your feet before putting on your socks, then putting on your lace-up shoes, feeling prepared to take on the world.
*Spending a few minutes meditating, praying, enjoying nature or visualizing how you want the day ahead to look.
*Putting on a pair of pretty earrings, a favorite necklace or beautiful scarf to set your look apart & feel your best.
*Once you're dressed for today, laying out tomorrow's outfit.
*Having a closet & dresser drawers with a good amount of well-fitting, attractive, comfortable clothing & shoes that are excellent for your lifestyle in them.
*Looking nice in your clothing, accessories, shoes, makeup & clean, styled hair.
*Grabbing a load of laundry on your way out of the bathroom and/or bedroom, and immediately starting the washing machine.
*Going to your clean kitchen, checking your calendar & control journal for today's scheduled activities.
*Next, emptying your dishwasher, followed by making a healthy breakfast for yourself.
*Eating a healthy breakfast, taking any morning medications or supplements, and then putting your dirty dishes in the emptied dishwasher.
*Quickly washing any pots or pans that are dirty, then wiping down the kitchen counter and/or stovetop, from breakfast.
*Having a clean-outed, well-organized handbag that works great with your style & life.
*Getting your ice water bottle from the fridge (which was set up the night before).
*Going for a fifteen-minute walk to bless your heart.
*Smiling, laughing & going through your day having fun, feeling peace & living confidently.
*Rebooting your laundry, putting it through another rinse cycle, in the dryer, and put away, as needed.
*Going through your home room-by-room, equalizing each room by clearing clutter off of surfaces, spritzing some fabric spray on upholstered furniture, fluffing up throw pillows, cleaning up any stains made on the floor (if you have kids or pets, you know what I mean :D), maybe give it a quick sweep or mopping, and spraying a little room freshener to make the place welcoming.
*Performing any detailed cleaning for the day, spending fifteen minutes de-cluttering or working in one zone to get it sparkling.
*Taking a break to savor your clean home, viewing the things that you love in good condition & feeling big sense of accomplishment.
*Refilling your water bottle a few times throughout the day with ice water or unsweetened iced tea.
*Filling up your emptied-out dishwasher as the day goes by, whenever a dirty dish comes into the kitchen.
*Picking up after yourself all the time- when you get something out, you always put it back.
*Eating a small, healthy a.m. snack.
*Taking time to play with your pet, feeding them & giving them fresh water, cleaning out the litter box, walking your dog, cleaning out the birdcage- whatever's applicable to you.
*Checking your email, completing online shopping, balancing your checkbook, responding to paper mail, paying bills on-time & in full, de-cluttering one file folder or desk drawer a day, charging your cell phone or performing any other desk tasks.
*Doing desk stretches in between your various computer-related tasks to give your body much-needed oxygen & movement.
*Eating a healthy lunch.
*Going outside for a quick walk & a few deep breaths at lunchtime, to help your digestion & circulation.
*Performing any work-related tasks with ease & energy.
*Adding any items to your calendar as they arise, knowing exactly where you're supposed to be, consistently showing up on-time for appointments & getting projects finished before they're due.
*Eating a healthy afternoon snack, still drinking plenty of fluids.
*Calling or emailing a friend or family member to see how they're doing.
*Taking out any trash bags that are full, opening up any packages that arrived & getting your mail.
*Dealing with your mail immediately, tossing the junk, paying bills, ordering any needed items & responding to all correspondence expecting a reply.
*Putting anything into your handbag that's needed before you go out- tickets, bus pass, keys, wallet, filled-out forms, your grocery list, et al.
*Easily & efficiently getting errands done, with full concentration- going to the grocery store, bank, etc.
*Eating a healthy dinner, savoring it with your family while discussing everyone's day.
*Quickly cleaning up after your dinner each evening, filling up & running your dishwasher, washing any dirty pots or pans, wiping down the kitchen countertops, removing any stains or crumbs from the stovetop, setting up your coffeemaker for the morning, preparing your water bottle for the next day, packing a lunch for tomorrow (if needed), shining your sink & putting out a fresh dishtowel & kitchen hand towel.
* Instead of spending hours in front of the TV or Internet with no breaks or any physical movement, exercising with your favorite workout DVD at home, or going to the gym.
*Having a relaxing shower or bath after working out.
*Drying your body & hair, then slipping into comfortable, stylish sleepwear.
*Checking your calendar for a refresher on what will be happening tomorrow.
*Reading for fifteen minutes before bed, drinking a cup of bedtime tea.
*Right before going to bed for the night, slathering on hand cream & cuticle balm.
*Settling into sheets at night that are changed weekly, and feel great next to your skin.
*Sleeping peacefully for at least six hours, in a quiet sanctuary of a bedroom.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Prepping for the Day Ahead Includes Grooming Your Fingernails

Some may ask what on earth groomed hands & nails have to do with creating a simple, organized life. Well, that's what I'm here to write about. I'm not suggesting for a second that you need to spend fifteen to twenty minutes every morning or night on your hands & fingernails- far from it. But there is nothing simple about having painful hangnails, peeling nails, torn & bleeding cuticles, rough edges on fingertips, callouses on your palms or dry, flaky skin in the webs of your hands.

Nice hands say a lot about people. I've heard from more than one job interviewer working in a human resources department that they will immediately cross a person off their list of potential hires if they have snagged, broken, bitten-down nails, chipped polish & ragged cuticles. It's symbolic, in their opinion, of the time & care one applies to details in life. If they care so little for a part of their body, what does that say about their attention to detail on the job? Now, I realize, that in doing farmwork & things of that nature, it is much harder to maintain nice nails. Even office work involving a lot of papers & cardboard boxes can be murder on the hands. Healthy self-pampering, however, shouldn't be sacrificed at the altar of efficiency or excuse-making. You owe it to yourself for sheet comfort reasons to maintain clean, smooth nails, cuticles & hands.

There are a couple of simple, quick things that you can do both once or twice a day, and then once or twice a week, to keep your hands & nails at their healthiest. Daily, the second you have a hangnail come up, trim it with a high-quality pair of cuticle scissors or fingernail clippers. It'll keep ingrown nails at bay. Never cut your cuticles, just these little ragged ends that come up. You may also get little tears on the skin around your nails, especially in winter. Trim this skin carefully, as well, ASAP. Then apply cuticle balm or hand cream to help "seal" the skin and/or cuticle. Carry these tools with you everywhere, along with a glass or other good-quality nail file. The minute you feel a snag on your nails, file them. Don't let them turn into a big tear. Get into the habit of using cuticle balm or nail oil every night before bed, then applying hand cream. I like Neutrogena's Norwegian Formula Fragrance-Free Hand Cream. I know what it's like to be dead-tired after a long day & you just want to hit the hay, but I promise, you'll thank yourself for this nightly to-do. If you'll be sitting in front of a computer for uninterrupted hours during the day, use that time to let a layer of cuticle balm settle into your nails. Don't use the excuse, "It'll get washed off in a couple of hours" stop you, either! I keep a little tin of cuticle balm & some hand cream in a pump by my computer, and use them every time I sit down for a long spell of typing. Every time you wash your hands, unless you're going right on to a chore involving water, food prep or handling newspaper, apply a fast absorbing hand cream into your hands. (Again, Neutrogena makes a nice formula here, as does Sally Hansen.) If you're outdoors, make sure it has sunscreen in it.

Wear your nails trimmed short- not down to the stubs, but no more than a quarter-inch past your fingertips- to keep them as smooth & sanitary as possible. If your nails go past your fingertips, I recommend cleaning under them with a nail brush at least once a day, to make sure they're as clean as possible. Short nails make doing just about everything easier, especially food prep. I trim, file, buff & paint my nails every Sunday evening. I like to head into my week feeling prepared for whatever comes up, so Sunday is my evening for pampering. Do this early enough that your nail polish will have plenty of time to dry, if you wear it (I recommend at least two hours before bed for final drying time, after your top coat is applied). If you trim your nails into a gentle arch at the top, they'll be much less likely to tear, peel & break. Buffing them once a week will also help diminish or eliminate peeling nails, will create a glass-like finish for polish to adhere to & keep them shiny without even the need for polish. Nail polish is optional. I know, for some people, the chemicals in both nail lacquer itself & in polish remover is undesirable, and I completely understand that. If you keep your nails trimmed to a relatively short length, filed neatly & buffed every week (preferably on the same day every week, to make it a habit), nail polish should last at least four days before needing a touch-up. Ideally, it'll last seven days, especially if you use base & top coat. A sheer, milky white, pink, peach, taupe or beige without a lot of shimmer is the most professional, simple look to maintain. Revlon makes nice shades, as does Lippmann and a few other retailers. However, I know some women love color, or have a signature shade (such as red) that they adore- do whatever works for you, and whatever makes you love to look at your hands. Using a simple white nail pencil or the plastic tip of a Tweezerman Shape-and-Shine tool makes the ends of your nails look neat & pretty, too.

Lest you think that hand care only applies externally, it doesn't. The diet that you eat & supplements that you take can have a drastic effect on your beauty. Only in recent years has the study of what good fats do for your body really taken off. For those on a low-fat diet, listen up. Cheating your body out of extra virgin coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, safflower oil & avocado oil also cheats your beauty. Cooking with these oils are not that much more expensive than cooking with traditional, unhealthy fats, and is certainly less expensive than the heart medicines, surgeries & other medical issues that could wait for you down the road if you cheat your body nutritionally along the way. They can be taken in softgel form, as well. Vitacost is a good online & catalog source for high-quality, fairly inexpensive supplements of all kinds. Coconut oil taken internally can stop peeling nails, give your extra energy, strengthen your hair & give it shine, will moisturize your scalp & skin from the inside out (in a good way), and will not cause weight gain. The extremely occasional use of shortening, corn oil or peanut oil isn't my issue- but people often use these, or worse oils, in their daily cooking & baking. Even eating butter is better for you than anything with trans fats. If you want to truly give your body the fuel it needs to be energetic & beautiful, cottonseed oil & other trans fats aren't what you want to feed yourself. Study the issue for yourself, especially the medical studies done on these various oils. Look at the ingredients on many so-called health bars. Real food, without sugar alcohol, bad fats & lots of chemicals, is the way to healthy beauty every time.

The other advantage of good hand & nail care is that, if you choose to wear rings or bracelets, you'll have the pretty set of hands to match them. Good hand care now ensures that your hands will age better, helping you to avoid the liver spots that come with aging & sun exposure. Use the gentlest hand soap, dishwashing liquid & cleaning products that you can to avoid drying out your nails & hands more than needed. Avalon Organics makes nice liquid hand soap that looks good in the bathroom & kitchen, but there are many, many good brands on the market today. Experiment. As you know, I love antibacterial everything, but usage of that stuff has to be balanced with moisture. A good way to combine the two is using a product like Gold Bond Hand Sanitizing Lotion. In this, you get the best of both worlds. Keep a pump or tube at every sink, every desk & every spot you spend a lot of time in (like in a caddy by your easy chair). If you make hand care easy, you'll get it done!


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Organize Your Closets & Dresser Drawers By Rainbow to Make Your Life Simpler

This sounds like an obsessive-compulsive request that I'm making of you in the title of this post, I know. However, I promise, it's an easy-to-implement & even-easier-to-maintain closet & drawer simplifier. It's a great way to make sure that you know what you have at all times, and always know where your items are. I swear that if you take the initial few minutes, or even an hour, to set up your closets & drawers this way, you will spare yourself hours of laundering & shopping agony in the future.
There are several reasons why I suggest organizing your closets & bedroom drawers this way. I apply it to shoes, as well as clothing. For one thing, it looks much neater visually. Hang up or fold the clothing from lightest to deepest shade within one hue, going from left to right, and you'll be even better off. For another, when all of your laundry is clean & put away, having it organized by an easy-to-remember color strategy means that you know what you might have too much of in one hue, and what you might be missing in another color.

Simply go in this order:

You can further sort it out by type- nightgowns, dresses, suits, pants, shirts, etc., or you can just do your wardrobe piece-by-piece in color, no matter what item it is. It's up to you. I break it down into basic categories like those listed above, but that's also pretty easy for me since I don't own a huge wardrobe. I like to do this, since then it's easy to see if I'm running low on one particular category of clothing. That doesn't happen too often, since I do one load of laundry a day, usually two, but it's still nice to get a general idea of what's clean in just a quick glance. To reiterate, here is my simple wardrobe list, which covers that basics that I live in & always want to have on hand:

5 cotton, short-sleeved, mid-calf-length nightgowns
5 white sports bras, 5 pairs of black Capri QuikWik pants, 5 pairs of white quarter-cuff athletic Wrightsocks & 1 pair of white athletic sneakers (replaced quarterly), for exercising Monday-Friday
5 beige bras
5 black bras
10 pairs of black cotton underwear
10 pairs of black crew socks
10 medium-to-dark-colored, v-neck, short-sleeved cotton tunics
10 pairs of black cotton pants
1 pair of black athletic sneakers to wear daily, replaced quarterly
1 black cross-body handbag that holds a mini-umbrella on one side & a 16-oz. water bottle on the other, to use daily
1 hanging toiletry bag for travel
1 overnight bag for travel of three days or less
3 shoe bags (each hold one pair of shoes) for travel
1 suitcase for travel of more than three days
1 black cardigan sweater to layer, in cooler weather
1 black, hooded jacket, preferably with a waterproof shell
1 black leather jacket
1 white-and-black herringbone winter coat, a black winter scarf, black driving gloves & 1 pair of black winter boots
1 fall/winter dress w/ hosiery, shoes & an evening bag to go w/ it
1 spring/summer dress w/ shoes & an evening bag to go w/ it
Black leather-strap, two-tone metal watch, a few pairs of earrings & a few other pieces as jewelry

Black is my base color in fall & winter. In the autumn, I start introducing vests, turtlenecks & sweaters into my clothing again. In spring, I wear more khaki & tan as my neutral. Come summer, I throw in white, and mix in some lighter-weight items like tank tops, crop pants, gauze & linen pieces. But thanks to modern heat & air-conditioning indoors, my tunic-and-black pants uniform works for most of the time, especially if the vast majority of my day will not be spent outside.

Many of us have way too much clothing in colors that look bad with our coloring, possess far too many pairs of blue jeans, or own too many pairs of khakis. If you can go more than three weeks without doing laundry, and you still have clothes to may need to simplify what you own. No matter what the women's magazines or catalogs tell you. Your wardrobe may contain ill-fitting, stained and/or torn clothing that really should be tossed, sold or given away. You may start to see that you're only wearing certain pieces repeatedly, and others are hanging up so long that the pieces (and the hangers that they're on) are gathering dust. Be willing to part with those pieces which just don't look right on you, no longer suit your figure, or never work with your lifestyle. Be realistic in meshing your day-to-day life with your possible fashionista desires. Eliminate as much as possible that must be dry-cleaned, hand-washed (because it's so delicate) and/or ironed, and you'll gain back time in your life. Don't keep work suits from years ago when you've been retired for ten years, and know you'll never go back to work again. Every inch, every foot, every shelf, every rod that you give to old, unworn clothing is real estate wasted. Get those clothes tailored by taking in loose waistbands, putting darts in too-loose blouses & having too-long pants hemmed up. Often, this is more inexpensive than you think it'll be, it'll almost certainly ensure more wear (meaning you actually get out of the item enough use to justify the cost), and you'll look better all of the time. You deserve to feel comfortable, polished & put-together!


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Recover From the Common Cold with a Rather Uncommon Set of Cures

The last time that I had a bad cold, it was a horrendous one. I woke up one day & felt pretty bad. The next day when I woke up- not awoken by choice, but by the powerful force of sheer misery- at around four a.m., I couldn't breathe. My sinuses & lungs were more clogged than the pipes in those old Drano commercials. I sounded like I'd smoked cigarettes for sixty years straight. I begged God to let me die immediately. I felt so weak & exhausted that a truck might as well have run over me. My temperature was going up by the hour. But, thankfully, I'd learned a thing or two about the benefits of combining Western medicine & germ-fighting AND the remedies more associated with the East.

I immediately alternated taking aspirin & DayQuil- each every four hours- plus took NyQuil at night. I used Lysol wipes, Lysol Disinfectant Spray & Purell hand sanitizer about every two minutes. It worked- my mother, whom I live with, didn't get my cold at all, which is almost unheard of (neither one of us had terrific immune systems, typically). I smeared Vicks VapoRub on my chest & sat unhappily as I alternated between sweating out my illness on aspirin & freezing under the chill of my fever.

But I also did things this time that I had never tried before. I completely believe that these things are what kept what was likely going to be a seven- or ten-day cold down to a five-day cold. I went from a typical three- or four-day run of utter misery (based on prior cold duration) to one terrible day only. I also recovered without lingering effects, such as fatigue, which had previously dogged me for weeks after the actual illness occurred before.

I took a long, hot shower to sweat out & clean off as many germs as possible. I also indulged in multiple mini-steam baths, holding my head over a sink full of hot water, a towel draped over me, attempting to breathe in the heat as much as I could, for as long as I could. Whatever I could do to get myself to sweat out the illness, I did. I drank multiple mugs of hot green tea w/ a ton of powdered ginger & freshly-squeezed lemon juice, alternated with loads of ice cold spring water. I figured the more I cleared out my bladder, the faster I could get this cold moving out of my system, period! The large amount of fluids also helped loosened up phlegm. I imbibed a boatload of Vitamin D, since I knew it wouldn't hurt. I took a double-dose of my multi-vitamin/mineral supplement that day. I had a glass of orange juice, and later a glass of grapefruit juice- both organic, both unpasteurized, both possessing plenty of pulp. It was a little tough on my sore throat, but I knew I needed the Vitamin C. I fixed a can of Progresso chicken noodle soup (the good stuff, with vegetables & all) up w/ a potent mixture of a heaping tsp. of minced fresh garlic, a heaping tsp. of curry powder, a little cayenne pepper powder, black pepper, onion powder & some more ginger. Yes, it sounds weird. Yes, I reeked afterwards. Yes, it tasted strong- but it wasn't inedible. And it was antibacterial, cleansing, purifying, sinus-clearing- all that good stuff. Though I couldn't sleep because I couldn't lay down comfortably, I took the time off of work those days- rest from that place alone probably helped me feel better faster. And I'm a big believer in keeping one's germs to oneself, if at all possible...

By the next day, I wasn't at 100% yet, but I was so much better that I was astounded. I could breathe again- not completely, but far better than one would expect in only one day's time. I slept better, and could even nap some. I wasn't as wiped out. My fever had vanished. The day after that, I actually went back to work for the whole day- and only two days after I couldn't breathe, which was a miraculously short recovery period for me. I have chronic bronchitis due to a couple of bouts w/ childhood pneumonia & perpetually-bad sinuses. Because of my concoctions, the cold quickly moved from my chest back to my head (a sign that it's ending- the reverse means just the opposite), finally disappearing for good on Sunday. It had started on a Tuesday. I'm not a medical doctor, and I can't automatically advise you that doing what I did will yield the same results. But be prepared, have the items in the house on hand, to at least do some of what I did, especially if you're a frequent sufferer of upper-respiratory infections. I know how miserable that is- I've always been incredibly prone to them. Maintaining a regimen of including this type of activity- drinking the green tea, taking the ginger, sipping the fresh juices, plus enjoying all of the healthy goodies the Western world has given me- has helped keep these infections to a minimum for me. In any event, for virtually anyone & everyone, it cannot hurt to adopt some of these steps for your lifestyle, and for emergency situations.


Friday, May 25, 2012

What is the REASON Why You Want to Organize Your Life (or Achieve Any Goal, For That Matter?)

You must have a very powerful force driving you to get organized, if you've been living in chaos, not just a short-term goal, but something that says, "I need to get organized for good." A bit of tunnel vision is needed here, because it requires (just like working out, for example) that you focus on yourself & your stuff. The need to change may be as simple as having the experience of a parent passing away, having to go through all of their stuff (which they never de-cluttered & therefore left you with a huge mess to deal with), and saying to yourself, "I will NOT do this to my own kids." Or it may be something intangible- you can't quite put your finger on it, but you just know that by becoming a minimalist, developing an organized lifestyle & simplifying things, you're beginning a journey which you really want to start on. Either way, it can't be a passing fancy. Usually, unless one is brought up to be organized & have a minimalist philosophy, it takes a certain catastrophe or series of events to make you wake up & have this desire. Western society is very good at keeping minimalist tendencies from surfacing, and drowning them if they do attempt to surface. When you feel the urge to get organized, and it won't go away, when you're no longer happy with your old life, no matter what, you know it's time. It can also be a vague dissatisfaction with a job or marriage that starts the desire, a lingering thought that if you got organized, you'd be able to deal with the problems better that arise in your life. However, I'm here to advise you that organizing can make the problems you have become glaringly clear. The repercussions can be harsh, depending upon the severity of the previous lifestyle you were living in. If you used your clutter or chaos to hide behind, getting rid of it can be downright traumatic. If you're looking for organization or becoming a minimalist as a quest to help you forget about your problems, you've come to the wrong place. It's not a good escapist tool, not for long, anyway. No doubt, the lifestyle can create euphoric moments at times, especially the first time you accomplish a particular step along the way. But euphoria always dies down eventually, and this lifestyle is no different, in that respect. 

Some would say I'm very changeable. Others would say I have an almost obsessive passion for the few things that I do really have an opinion on, and go on in far too much detail when I'm expressing myself. Both parties would be right, at least to a degree. I am passionate- but I am also always willing to change courses in mid-stream, should the need arise. I believe it's a fairly unique characteristic. What some might view as a character flaw- vacillation- I've come to realize is simply a strong willingness on my point to let my opinions evolve on a subject as I gather new info. So you don't have to ever take my opinion as the gospel truth. But before I set anything in stone by writing here, I've already given it careful consideration. I look back at my own experience before I talk to you about any subject I broach. Minimalism is not necessarily for everyone. Be careful towards the tendency most of the zealous get- believing that everyone should live the way that they do. I really have to catch myself in my judgments towards others who haven't done the purging, or have learned the same skills, as I have. Some people need to learn how to organized in a different way & at a different time than we do. Occasionally, they just plain never learn. In many ways, if you're on the right path, your concern about organizing, simplifying & minimizing should be on your own stuff & life. Period. Don't preach to people who don't want the sermon, in other words. In attempting to force your spouse, kids, parents or siblings along for the ride, you may be preventing them from reaching their own Ground Zero, or the point they NEED to reach to get their own powerful reason for change. You have to be willing to accept that they may not change, too. Believe me, getting & keeping your own life organized is typically a full-time job. You can, of course, help those who want to be helped, which will take a little more of your time up.

Keeping in mind the perspective of why you wanted to change, not why you think others need to change, will keep you on the right path in the organizing journey. There is so much to learn about this lifestyle that your primary focus should be on the personal & professional aspects of your own world being right on, anyway. Don't judge others by your standards. I know it'll be hard. Once we get organized, people who live in the same old haphazard, disorganized way will seem even more aggravating- especially when their ways affect us. You may be tempted to give out ultimatums, like "it's my way or the highway!" This is a last-resort tactic, though, which rarely results in a happy, win-win situation. Give up the war, as the battles usually leave too many casualties & no clear winners. Focus on what you need to clear out, organize & simplfy. Clarify your own reasons for changing. Leave the rest up to the Universe.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

There's No Room in a Minimalist Life for Unhealthy Competition & Negative Self-Thoughts

Over my lifetime, I've read scores of self-help, organizing, minimalist, simplifying, housecleaning & other books promoted to help one get better at living. Without fail, every one of them, from the bad books to the superb, had at least one original idea in it. And each author, even if they weren't a particularly great writer, had a story to tell about their own life- and no two people's lives ever look quite the same. Nor do any two people share the exact same perspective on every single subject. Everyone has something fresh to give to the reader. Even people who go through the exact same situation together end up with slightly different takes on the whole event (at the very least). Undoubtedly, certain authors are far better writers than others, both in a please-an-English-teacher way, and in sheer entertainment value. Other authors may not be spectacular writers, but they nonetheless bring loads of experience and/or creativity to the plate, and that can make up for some other errors. There are hoards of people with a master's degree in English who simply don't possess enough imagination, originality & pizazz to write a book worth reading cover to cover. And yet, some of our finest songwriters, comedy writers, screenwriters, playwrights & novelists barely got past the fifth grade. Woody Allen, Dolly Parton, George Burns, Jack Benny...the list goes on & on of people without much formal education and/or who despised it, yet turned out to be utterly brilliant all on their own. Beyond learning to do basic arithmetic, read & write, they needed school for very little help in worldly success. These same brilliant people, while they may joke around otherwise, also knew (or know, if they're still alive) something else- there's room on the boat for more brilliance all the time. There's enough work to go around. Everyone will have a heyday, sometimes more than once. And everyone will have dry years. This is true no matter what business you're in, no matter how talented or intelligent or good-looking you are. So, to me, getting an education just to prove your better than someone else, or in the belief that you'll gain some advantage on a competitor, is a poor reason to seek out a college degree.

A little healthy competition, especially in jest, is good for the soul. Unhealthy competition- displayed in cruel Hollywood gossip, plastic surgeon offices, country clubs, high school cliques, many sports & most large businesses day- can be soul-destroying. I, for one, believe that we each have something special to contribute to the world. And that gift, whatever it may be, is so special that no power on earth could ever keep you from sharing it, and from achieving your goals, no matter what the naysayers believe. There's room for everyone onboard. Maybe that's not true, according to some people in the "natural world", but I'm here to tell you that they're wrong. We can choose to build each other up or tear each down, but we can't do both. We live by faith, or we live by fear- again, you'd better decide now which way you're going to go. Fear will set fire to the path of joy & burn it right up. Even if life does disappoint you sometimes, isn't it still better to live happily & believe that good things await you, beyond even what your wildest imagination can come up with? Of course you'll still have to work for things, but you can choose to believe that the magic will come even when you don't see a logical way of something turning out okay in the end.

Intention can draw many things into our lives. We can choose to believe just about anything about ourselves that we want to. We might as well pick the very best to believe in. Now, some things in life- your natural eye color, the set of parents you were born to, the ancestry you come from- you can't believe those things away. (Well, you could, but you'd be believing in a delusion, and I'm a stickler for self-honesty.) You can certainly, though, decide on how much you are going to let those things affect you, and I mean in both a good & in a bad way. I happen to have some pretty spectacular ancestors, no one famous, just good people who lived clean & did right by everyone they knew. I have no doubt that their good choices, many made on purpose, have given me the great advantages that I experience today. The old saying of "the sins of the fathers will be visited upon the children" may be true, but the saintly things have a way of paying back dividends, as well. Call it karma, call it luck, call it anything you want- but live long enough, and you'll get to see that in action for yourself, if you look closely.

Anyone who knows me personally knows that I'm a big girl. However, despite my culture's general preference for small women, I still made a conscious choice many years ago that I was going to believe that I was beautiful. After all, it made me happy to believe it. There were things about me, both on the inside & the outside, that make me beautiful, so I didn't think I was being delusional. So I chose to focus on & magnify those things which were beautiful about me, and minimize those that weren't so flawless. Would I prefer to be a size six? Of course- being thin's easier than being fat in quite a few practical ways. But will it make me love myself more to get to that size? Nope. I made a decision that I would love myself & enjoy every inch of who I am even when the world stood against me & said I was wrong to do so. Soon enough, the world around me got the point, though, and I've had many people giving compliments over various beauty-related things for years. If I didn't have this belief, and many women don't, I probably wouldn't take the time & care that I do to wear my hair nicely, put on lovely makeup, manicure & pedicure my nails, choose good jewelry & always make sure my clothes & shoes fit well, are comfortable & flattering. I'm worth looking & feeling good. It's why I eat healthy, exercise, don't smoke, don't sunbathe & don't drink alcohol. Not out of a sense of self-deprivation, but because I want to look as good as I feel I do now for years to come. I deserve to look & feel healthy. And healthy doesn't automatically equate with muscular, thin or cellulite-free, not for everyone, anyway. Many women gave up on all of these pampering things years ago because they felt they weren't worth any self-love, which is a terrible shame. Sure, you can go through your life believing that you're unlovable, ugly or too fat, but why would you, when you consciously can make another choice?

One of the most touching moments of my life came when a group of girls I went to high school with finally felt comfortable enough to uncover to their bathing suits when we were all at a water park together. Some of them had been feeling self-conscious, afraid of being teased, etc. (They were all beautiful girls, all much thinner than me, and most of their fears were probably ungrounded- but were nonetheless quite real  them.) But when they saw me, in my typical fashion, hightail it off the bus with beach towel & sunglasses in hand, get down to my one-piece & enjoy the gorgeous day, they were all liberated to do the same. After all, if I could do it even at my size, why shouldn't they? We all relaxed & had a good time. If you think that happiness means posessing the exact size, shape, skin tone, eye color & haircolor that you dream of, you're simply incorrect. Those things are temporary, and bring only temporary happiness. The world won't fall apart because you challenge a few beliefs here & there, either. Who said the writers of the womens' magazines are right? These same people that said a hundred years ago that women shouldn't vote because it wasn't "proper" now are the same proponents of "Rock the Vote!" They'll tell you your favorite shirt is out-of-style, your most comfortable shoes are too dowdy, and your haircolor is too dark, only to ten years later say the exact opposite. Their ways are fickle, to say the least. Don't lead your life trying to play a game with an ever-changing set of instructions that aren't even logical when you attempt to decipher them.

Believe me, your life will simplify itself automatically in many ways when you start thinking the best about every situation, and the best about yourself. I'm not telling you to ignore your intuition- there are definitely times when you get a bad feeling about someone or something, and you should heed that at all times. But when there's no need for negativity, let it go. I'm also not telling you that your days of self-improvement are over; far from it. But you can't be a minimalist & expect the worst all the time. You cannot be a simplicity hound & feel bad about yourself. You can't hate yourself & then expect others to love you. You can't be consistently critical of others & feel peace. When your own cup's empty, how can you pour anything into anyone else's cup? You can choose to set the tone for your life, and when you set an inspiring tone, expect to see others following your example.


What to Carry in Your Purse or Messenger Bag

Many times we're left wondering at why we carry the things that we do in our bags which go with us from day to day. We seem to never really have what we do need, yet we wear out our shoulders, backs & arms carrying this heavy bag around anyway!

Fashion aside, the most important thing to do is make sure your bag is as safe & comfortable for you to carry as possible. Before you go purse shopping, list every single item that you have to carry with you daily to help formulate a clear idea of what you'll need in a bag. For my bag, I need two outside deep pockets that are still on the narrow side for my travel umbrella & my 16 oz. stainless steel water bottle. On the inside of the bag, I want one zippered pocket for my keys, room for my sunglasses (which are already in their own case), room for my cosmetic bag, a little pocket for my iPod, room enough for my wallet/checkbook- and I don't want stuff all tightly packed against each other. A small-to-medium cross-body bag that rests on your hip, which is changed over from your left to right side periodically throughout the day, is often the most ergonomic choice. The general rule is the bigger the woman, the bigger the purse should be to balance her out. But that doesn't work for everyone. Some bigger women prefer to carry a small clutch; some small women need to carry a large laptop bag with room left over for gym clothes & reading material. Only you know what'll work best for your lifestyle. For safety's sake when walking, ideally I think at least one hand should be free at all times- a cross-body bag means you can still carry something else in one hand while leaving the other free. This is one reason why I don't like or recommend bags with just two small handles that can't be cast over a shoulder. The handles/straps should be comfy no matter where they hit you. Remember that if you have arthritis, you want to avoid any bag that will strain the joint that your stiffness & weakness is in. It doesn't always work, but a cross-body bag with a hard-to-cut strap can also be much more difficult to have stolen, too. If you travel often or live in a high-crime city, this is something important to consider. If you have to go through the airport often, obviously, you'll need to keep that in mind- generally, the more pockets you have in your handbag, the more time-consuming it is to locate & go through your items. You want to carry a combo of items which are a mixture of absolute essentials from day-to-day with a small assortment of "just-in-case" items designed for true emergencies. Non-emergency just-in-case items shouldn't really go in a purse- they are better allotted to your glove compartment, work desk drawer or any other little cubby you can use. Or if you're traveling, those can be placed in your carry-on/overnight bag. I recommend dropping these items because they require additional space, organization & add weight to your purse. (I have no affiliations with any of the companies or websites selling the following items, and I am not endorsing anything. I simply want to share with you what I've come across in my own research & use that works.)

These are a few of my favorite bags:

Here's a couple of mini first-aid kits to keep in mind, along with a few other essentials I would consider adding & carrying, especially if you often travel with kids or someone who has a serious medical condition:

If you have your own vehicle, I highly recommend carrying a more comprehensive first-aid kit there for more in-depth personal needs. When I worked outside the home, I also kept a complete soft case-first aid kit in my cubicle's file cabinet that was many times over a godsend to have on hand (it was locked up when I wasn't at work).

For women who are still menstruating, having your favorite brand & needs met in feminine protection to carry on you is imperative. Who wants to have to ask for any of that stuff from others? Assess what your personal needs are likely to be if you're away from home all day and put that amount into your bag. Don't forget to keep that stock replenished at all times. No one should feel shame in carrying this, or talking about it, so I'm not going to attempt to be more discrete. If you're a man reading this, or it otherwise doesn't apply to you, then just disregard this suggestion, of course.

If you wear lipstick or lip gloss, carry your favorite shade with you to reapply during the day, or a lip balm, preferably w/ SPF 15. If you have oily skin and/or wear makeup, carrying a compact of translucent pressed powder w/ a mirror in it is good to have along. If you can find a pressed powder w/ SPF 15 or higher in it, all the better. If you don't wear makeup, but would like some oil absorbing, blotting papers can work. A small tube of a moisturizing cream appropriate for the face, hands or other small dry areas, that has SPF 15 or higher in it, is a good idea to carry with you- not an absolute essential, but it could come in handy. If you have dry skin and/or spend a lot of time outdoors, this is an essential. Again, I recommend something other than just straight hand cream and definitely nothing with a heavy fragrance to it, because it is nice to have something on you which is appropriate for multiple needs. Also, if you have kids or loved ones with you frequently & are the "bag-carrier" in the bunch, a product with SPF is important if you'll be outside. Better to carry a small tube of this with you, than to risk getting a sunburn. And sometimes dry skin can become itchy skin, so a small amount of moisturizer can provide needed relief to the skin in a pinch. Neutrogena makes a couple of formulations that work in this capacity. Paula's Choice (available online at carries a wide variety of SPF 15+ products, including a hand cream. I like her products because they are usually fragrance-free, also a good feature to have in the products you use for numerous reasons. A roll-on perfume tube in your favorite fragrance can also be nice if you know you've got a date that night or will be going out somewhere nice, and is better than a purse spray version (for people around you with allergies). Be aware, though, that even a roll-on can trigger allergies or asthma attacks in people around you, especially in fragrances with musk or floral notes. Don't carry fragranced sprays with you & use them in public restrooms or your workplace (especially if you don't have your own office with a door to shut). I suggest carrying these items in a small cosmetic bag which can be removed easily from your purse if you'll only be going out for a quick trip, such as to the grocery store. Zippered, clear PVC or plastic bags are great cosmetic bag choices- and they also conveniently hold receipts, first-aid supplies or other little items in a place where they can be found in a flash.

Consider your lifestyle when you add in any body products to your bag. If you are very active, have an outdoor job, work in a hectic indoor space where you sweat a lot or work as a personal trainer, you may have needs that perhaps an office worker won't. In any event, I recommend everyone carry with them a 2 oz. bottle of hand sanitizer (I like Purell Aloe Formula), a small Lysol or other sanitizing spray bottle (good to spritz on ATM machine buttons, grocery store cart handles & much more) & a few individually-packaged wet wipes (Purell, Wet Ones, Handi-Wipes, etc.) Keep these items very accessible, preferably on the outer flap of your messenger bag or in an open purse compartment. I learned this lesson about sanitizing surfaces the hard way- after being inside for a week due to a snowstorm, I went out to the grocery store once & ONLY there, yet came home & promptly got sick with both double pneumonia + bronchitis. Yeah, needless to say, I will never again take germs lightly! The little tube of Lysol that I carry with me for sanitizing public-use items is a virtually-unscented formula, with no additional scent added to it (the scent also wears off extremely fast). Usually, organic sanitizer sprays made only with rubbing alcohol & possibly citrus oils won't set off anyone's allergies, either.

Creating a checklist of all the supplies you'll carry with you ensures that when you do your weekly cleanout, you know what needs to be replaced, if it got used up. Here is my own list:

A copy of my friends' & family's contact info (just a couple of folded up, stapled pages of typed info- this saves a lot of headaches when I need to list people as references for applications, have an emergency that comes up & more; if you don't feel comfortable carrying this in your purse, put a copy in your locked-up work desk drawer or your Office in a Bag- don't rely on just the info in your cell phone, in case your phone dies or gets lost)_
Checkbook w/ a black extra-fine point Sharpie_ three of my address labels_ & three postage stamps_
Clean-up/sanitizing supplies (a mini-Tide To Go pen, 3 Purell individually-packaged wipes, a mini-Lysol Disinfectant spray & a 2 oz. bottle of Purell hand sanitizer)_
Contact lens rewetting drops_
Emergency meds (3 Nexcare waterproof bandages, three cough drops, a small first-aid kit, a few Excedrin, a packet Pepto-Bismol chewables, a packet of Dayquil, a pillbox with that day's dosages of medication only, feminine products)_
Fingernail clippers & a small nail file_
Keys on a keychain, on which I carry an emergency whistle, a mini-flashlight & a small pepper spray (pepper spray not legal in all states, but then attacking a lady isn't legal, either...I'll take my chances with the cops if I ever have to use the pepper!)_
iPod (I don't carry this very often anymore, but I did when I worked outside the home, to wear on my lunch hour)_
Mini-umbrella w/ it's own sleeve (I keep this in a pocket on the outside of my purse, with it's own waterproof liner)_
My medical & surgical history (a two-page doc explaining exactly what it sounds like)_
Neutral pink lip gloss w/ SPF 15_
Small memo pad w/ lined paper (really great for grocery lists, to-do lists, song lyrics that come into your head & much more; you can of course just put this info into a PDF or cell phone if you like e-noting instead)_
Small tube of moisturizer w/ SPF 15_
Spearmint-flavored mints_
Sunglasses in their own case with an eyeglass cleaning cloth_
Translucent pressed powder compact_
Wallet (I go through this weekly, too, to clear out receipts, straighten up & count cash/coins)_
Water bottle_

I always carry a reusable, 16 oz. stainless steel water bottle filled with ice water, as well, wherever I go. I notice that if I don't drink water throughout the day, I am left with a sore throat, allergy attack or headache. Once you get used to sipping on fluids throughout the day, your body will feel the difference if you don't do it. It saves you money, if you're used to buying bottles of water or other drinks on the run, and is more environmentally-friendly. FlyLady sells an awesome stainless steel water bottle that I swear doesn't leak, sweat or break- it's available in both a 12 oz. & 16 oz. size. Her bottle fits in any vehicle's cup holder, too.

Whatever you can take out of your purse & keep on your person instead while remaining comfortable, I recommend. I keep my cell phone in a belt clip- one less thing to get lost in my purse, weigh me down, etc. Also, since I almost always keep it on vibrate (habit!), I can't sense that if it's all the way in my purse. When I had to wear ID badges & a key card for work, I wore them on a lanyard around my neck. While I don't personally carry one, a nice option to add your bag is a Swiss Army Multi-Tool. I'm not outdoorsy in the least but I could definitely see where someone who is could use the magnifier, small saw, ruler, needle & more that is in this kind of tool. If you're really big into reading and/or will have a lot of spare time to kill that day, pack a small lightweight book or your e-reader. Use the electronic technology of this day & age available to you, within reason, to cut back on as much weight as possible & go paperless if you can. Keep electronic items covered w/ scratch-guards & cases, just as you would protect eyeglasses.

Keep in mind your particular lifestyle needs when packing up. If you frequently go to bars, concerts & clubs, I recommend carrying a couple of ear plugs in a little case with you. I love Hearos Extreme Ear Plugs & they can be found on You can buy an inexpensive Hearos package there that includes a little storage case for two plugs. I once went to a concert at The Black Cat in Washington, D.C.- Blonde Redhead was playing. Great show, except that it was so loud my ears rang for two days straight afterwards! One of the many dumb things I did at eighteen was to not carry ear plugs although I often went out to live shows. Learn from my stupidity! If you do a lot of shopping, bring papers home a lot from work for business or have small children, it may be worth it to carry a virtually-weightless nylon tote bag in your purse. This can be folded up & kept at the ready for "extras" you pick up throughout the day. If you frequently end up having business dinners, dates or special events in the evening, you may want to carry along a small evening bag or clutch in your bigger, day-to-day purse. Alternately, you could keep this aside in a locked desk drawer or out-of-sight in your vehicle. While not always required in today's more casual environment, sometimes you'll want to switch over from your daily bag to a sexy little clutch at night.

Things that you should NOT carry with you? Birth certificates, Social Security cards & other one-of-a-kind, priceless, incredibly important documents, unless you are going to a place where you MUST present these items. When you are done with needing the document for this place, take those items IMMEDIATELY out of your bag & return them to their normal safe storage place. DON'T carry them around with you regularly. Cut up any outdated or unused store cards, expired credit or insurance cards, voter registration cards if they're no longer accurate, expired ID badges & the like. Don't carry excessive amounts of makeup with you- if you must, keep a backup bag of additional makeup in your glove compartment, work desk drawer or gym bag. Unless you're a triathlete or something & are constantly using these items day in & day out, eliminate the deodorant, perfume and other more extensive body care items- put these in your gym bag, an overnight bag to keep in your car or locked up in your work desk. Purge all old, discolored, expired or odd-smelling makeup, dried-out cleaning wipes, old meds, items w/ incorrect or outdated contact info on it (either your own or someone else's) & as much as you can w/ personal information that isn't essential to carry w/ you (the exception being something like your driver's license- I know that's necessary to carry with you!) Don't carry bills in your purse on a regular basis. Tempting as it may be, a better place for this is your desk or your Office in a Bag. Bills have a way of falling into The Purse Abyss, a parallel dimension for handbags that things fall into periodically, especially when they're really important and/or really expensive items, never to be seen again. Or to be seen when they're past due. Don't carry jewelry in your purse, as this is like sending an invitation to The Purse Abyss to open it's mouth up for you & swallow your valuables whole.

It's equally important to have a wallet that works for you. Either pick a lightweight wallet that holds just enough (coins, cash folded over, a couple of black checks, a few cards + your state ID or driver's license), or choose an organizer wallet which combines a checkbook, calculator, wallet & zippered coin purse together. It's your choice- maximum space & organization vs. going very lightweight. Neither is better or worse in theory, just different. If you want to go the minimalist route, FlyLady's wallet is nice, as are several other small-but-pretty-complete wallets:

I admit that I personally prefer an organizer wallet- I like to just have everything in a single, organized place- my calculator, checkbook, coin purse, card holder & billfold in one. Even if you don't have credit cards, most of us have a state ID, visa or license, grocery store discount & coupon cards, a voter registration card & a debit card. Yes, it's a bit heftier to do this, but I'm willing to take the tradeoff. If you can, pick a wallet that will stand out nice & brightly against your purse lining, especially if you have to carry a bigger bag- no more digging around in a store for it while people are waiting impatiently in line behind you! These are my favorite organizer wallets:

Every single week I have a Purse/Wallet/Office in a Bag Cleanout, which is precisely what it sounds like. Set a day that works for you to do this consistently, record it on your calendar & stick to the schedule. I promise that once a week is usually plenty to keep clutter & chaos at bay, especially if you only carry the essentials. Remove unneeded receipts, gum wrappers & other trash at least once a week.

Stylists & women are always on the fence about choosing a colored bag versus a neutral. I say pick out whatever appeals to you. Don't "settle" on a bag you don't love, especially if you'll be using the same one for months on end- when it's the right bag, you'll know it. I prefer to keep my fall/winter bag in black. In spring & summer, I switch over to a tan-colored bag. Wearing your "signature color" in a bag can be a lot of fun, too- obviously, my favorite color is turquoise! The functionality & comfort of the purse is even more important than the color, though, and definitely more important than someone else's opinion. Wear what you love, what's comfortable & what works for your life, regardless of what anyone else says or thinks.  

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Minimalist Jewelry Style for Women

Nothing has been more difficult for me to simplify & minimize than my beauty routine, including what jewelry that I want to wear to complement my looks. Shoes & clothes never concerned me too much- but jewelry & makeup are my weaknesses. That said, it can be done, and you can still look good while being a minimalist.

For some people, being a minimalist means wearing one pair of high-quality stud earrings every single day, never changing them. This is especially true if those earrings were picked out especially for them, are set in a good metal, and are of their favorite material and/or gemstone. For others, minimalism means wearing the same set of pieces every day. I see some ladies wear a chain with a pendant on it day after day (usually diamond) without fail- the jewelry just becomes a part of them. Others drop it down to just a watch & their wedding band. There's no right of wrong way to go about this. There are a few suggestions I can make, though.

Costume jewelry is enjoyable to wear for some people, even a passion to collect for others. But only in rare cases does it ever become a collectible item, because costume pieces tend to wear out so much quicker than fine jewelry & were so cheap to begin with that by the time they're old enough to assume "antique" status, they're not in hot shape anymore. I don't personally recommend buying costume jewelry, if your goal is minimalism & simplicity. It can't be viewed as a good investment, in my humble opinion. It can be made out of a material which causes allergic reactions, such as a cheap metal, plastic or paint- this can include stained (green) fingers from rings, oozing from earlobe piercing holes (again, cheap materials) & rashes. It takes up valuable storage room. Cheap pieces of jewelry oxidize faster, becoming ugly to wear much more quicker than pieces made of fine gold & gemstones. Silver tarnishes more if it isn't worn regularly, so if you know you won't be wearing the piece much, either buy storage for your silver with a special tarnish-resistant treatment in the lining, or don't buy it at all. Silver is much more easily dented than solid gold, as well.

Watches are less important to wear than in previous eras because we now carry things with us that have clocks on them- cell phones, laptops & more. Our cars have clocks in them, too. Goodness knows, our workplace more than likely has clocks everywhere. So only in very rare events is a watch a must-have item now to tell time by. Watches are a pain in the neck if they're not water-resistant. There are many fields of work where having one on is simply impossible, because too much moisture, dirt or other substances could end up stuck between the watch & your skin. The skin needs to breath- at the very least, remove your watch before bed every night. I own a watch that I love, I do look at it for the time throughout the day & it looks very nice- but I wouldn't buy myself a watch again. It's a hassle every single time that I need to clean a bathroom, wash the dishes, get showered, etc., to remove the watch & put it back on or put it away. It's one more thing to store. One more thing to protect. One more thing that'll eventually stop running & need a new battery. Some of the same basic annoyances occur with bracelets- I have a few beautiful ones, but they can still get on my nerves. If you are a heavy computer user, too, the extra metal on your wrists can making typing literally a pain! Rings get water under them even in just a simple hand-washing, picking up every single bit of dirt, grease, lotion, and more. They can snag delicate items like bras, anything with lace, pantyhose, mesh bags & more. If you do take them off to apply hand lotion or so something else, you had better bring a good memory with you. I knew a lady who forgot her wedding set was left by a sink, which she had taken off to wash her hands after using the restroom at work. And removing one's rings certainly is important for truly hygienic hand-cleaning, so I understand why she took them off to begin with. But she walked out, forgetting to put her very expensive diamond rings back on. Though she remembered her error fairly quickly, the rings were gone nonetheless, by the time she got back to that bathroom. She never did get them back, or find out who took them. An extremely expensive lesson, as well as a guilt-ridden one, to learn.

Necklaces can catch on hair, break & get lost, feel heavy on the neck (depending on the thickness), and can occasionally cause allergic reactions. It can be a challenge to pick the perfect length to go under or over clothes just right, adding one more thing to think about when getting dressed. Necklaces can get in your way, getting caught in long hair, in car doors, in seat belts & more, depending upon their length. If they are long & beaded, and the string holding the beads together breaks (yes, this has happened to me), have fun gathering those beads all up! Necklaces can swiftly wreck your manicure & rough up your nails with no more than a clasp which is acting difficult. Necklaces & bracelets can be difficult to get on as time goes by, particularly if one suffers from arthritis.

Earrings are a great way to still look put together with minimum hassle. Obviously the more intricate, longer & detailed they are, the less minimalist they'll be. Chandelier earrings are beautiful, as are big hoops, but they're a no-no if you work in a medical field or with kids. Heavy earrings, extremely popular in the 1980's & once again in vogue nowadays, will eventually cause your earlobes to extend downward with aging even more than they naturally would. It's getting more & more expensive to buy earrings in a good metal with every passing year, and the bigger the earring, the higher the cost. If jewelry is a passion of yours, like it is for me, I'll be honest- there will always be one more piece that I'm just dying to get! You really have to think hard about your personal economic situation here, as well as what your looks mean to you & the outside world. There is no doubt that the longer the earrings, the more in-fashion the jewelry, the more extravagant the pieces, the more wealthy & sometimes youthful you can look. Jewelry isn't just about sentimentality or polish, but about ego, at least for some people. It can actually be a touchy subject for just this reason, as is makeup, fashion or shoes. What you think you can live with in the name of minimalism might change from time to time- in fact, I'd be surprised if it didn't. If you wear a lot of jewelry every single day, though, pull back from it for awhile. Wear nothing more than a pair of studs or your wedding ring for a few weeks. See if it makes your life easier. See if you can live without the status symbol that your jewelry may have presented to you, if that's what they were. See how people react to you with less jewelry on. See how much more you can get done when you're not stuck fiddling with multiple pieces on. See if you're actually more comfortable without the weight & care of it all the time. There's nothing wrong with experimenting, and actually, you should experiment to find your personal middle ground.

A simple pair of 14k or 18k gold studs can be worn virtually forever by most people, even in the shower or to bed, so long as the back posts are secure. Huggie hoops are also a cute, simple choice for the ears. Rose gold looks beautiful on women of Nordic coloring (cool-toned skin, blonde hair of any shade, blue or light green eyes), and I love that metal when mixed with white gold in a jewelry piece. White gold has a richer, warmer look than bright sterling silver & tends to produce far fewer allergies than silver can. Yellow gold looks decent on just about everyone, but people with warm skin tones look especially great in it. Titanium, platinum, rodium-plated sterling silver & stainless steel are options often picked for wedding rings & watches, which require a metal that's less fragile. Silk-fit or comfort-fit rings are something to look for, especially in a wedding band. It makes a surprising different in ring comfort to be designed in that manner. Sterling silver gets scratched far more easily than gold or any of those metals listed, though it's less-expensive choice & youthful brightness make it an attractive option to some. There are many different finishes on silver that minimize how well you can see scratches- mesh, ribbing, sparkle & diamond-cut textures are popular both for their added durability & the extra sparkle these impart. Silver is often purposely darkened or tarnished carefully in places when used in Native American/Southwestern jewelry, as well as in some other ethnic jewelry pieces, such as from Bali. You may find a style from either your own cultural history or something entirely foreign to you that "speaks" to you when you start seriously studying jewelry. If you're leaning towards getting so minimalist you want to wear only one item of jewelry, your "signature" piece, think about the gem that goes along with your month of birth as an option. Or pick your favorite gemstone of all, buy one high-quality stud earring pair in a metal which you won't have an allergic reaction to, and wear those alone for awhile. Some women are all about having a "signature" fragrance, shoe style, hairdo or look in jewelry, while others like to change it up all the time- don't fight your natural inclinations, or you'll probably end up feeling frustrated. I got very bored with only having a couple of pieces that I wore day after day- it took the fun out of wearing the jewelry to me. But I'm a creative type & I've always loved change in all formats. (I'm known for having "mood hair".) Think about your existing wardrobe, your personal coloring & about what you already own in jewelry. Age can change how you feel about a certain look- many women love silver when they're younger, but prefer the rich look of 18k yellow gold later on in life. Since the price of gold has gone up drastically in the last few years, buying sterling silver pieces plated with 14k or 18k gold has become an affordable option. Remember that plated pieces will eventually wear out in finish, though, and their value will always be less than if the same piece was made of solid, pure gold. Again, wear what you love, what looks good to you, but that doesn't get in the way of your life being lived enjoyably. 

Sell the jewelry that you no longer wear, put it in your will for someone to get when you pass on or go ahead & gift it off now, as special occasions arise. Economically-speaking, it is a very profitable time to sell gold jewelry, and even sterling silver is going up in value like never before. Tanzanite (as there's a finite supply), diamonds, rubies, sapphires & emeralds are immensely popular choices that simply don't lose value over time assuming they're kept in good condition. Clean your jewelry w/ a soft toothbrush, a little liquid soap & water, rinsing & drying well before selling, storing or giving jewelry away. Gold jewelry, especially earring backs, can be sanitized in rubbing alcohol, too, which helps prevent infections & adds some sparkle back to pieces which have seen better days. Special silver plates are sold which you can pour some water & Borax onto, and lift tarnish off of sterling silver very easily. I have "rescued" several jewelry items this way, even ones the wearer thought was beyond help. Remember those items which sit in our jewelry boxes for years untouched may end up being the jewelry that another person wears & loves every single day. Part of simplicity is learning not to hoard & not to be stingy. If you forget that you even own it unless you come across it once every blue moon, give weight to letting it go for good. The money you could earn from selling it may pay off debts that have been hounding you, could enable you to buy a few new organizing pieces for your wreck of a bedroom closet or make some other positive, simplifying change in your life. Consider the trade-offs carefully.

Here's to being a happy organized minimalist,


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Don’t Be Ashamed to Write Down Your Routines & Post Them Throughout the House, In Your Office in a Bag Or Anywhere Else You May Need Them

My title might seem strange to you, unless you’re a born-perfectionist like me & have a brain which isn‘t quite up to snuff anymore. My memory is not what it used to be. That’s just the way it is. I try to remember everything that I need to do at all times in my head, but honestly, if it’s not written down, I may skip a step. And I won’t be skipping it on purpose- it just really won’t come to me until it’s usually too late! You’d think, as long as I’ve been doing my routines, that they’d be automatic by now. And some of them are- but it’s still easy for me to miss steps along the way. I know it’s said that if you can’t remember your routines, that they’re too complicated, but that’s simply not always correct. Not every routine can be so simplistic that the mind alone can relied upon 100%. Many a time have I started applying my eye makeup only to realize I haven’t yet put in my contact lenses- the reason being that since I only have mild near-sightedness, so it’s quite easy to forget I even need the lenses. That is, until I can’t see road signs easily when I go out for a drive! Once I’ve put the makeup on, though, odds are I’m going to have trouble putting in my contacts without something getting on them. If you’ve felt the pain of an eyelash on a contact lens stabbing you in the eyeball, you know exactly what I mean! No matter how many times I’ve done the routine, and for some of them it’s been hundreds or perhaps thousands of times now, I can still forget a step. I may remember all but one step, but the one I miss is often what can make the biggest difference.

I simply type out my routines in a size 14, easy-to-read font, the typeface colored purple in honor of The FlyLady! I space them so they’re easy to cut into simple-to-see instructions. You can put them under lamination (sheet protectors work well) & include a checkbox beside each item, then use a dry erase marker to check them off as each step is done. When the whole routine’s finished, or the next time the chore comes around, you can wipe off the dry erase ink with a damp rag & start fresh again. I don’t do all of that, though. I just printed the routines out, attached double-sided tape to the paper (since it looks neater that way), then stuck them up on my mirror in the bathroom, over the kitchen sink & wherever else I need a gentle reminder of each routine‘s steps, laid out in the right order. There would have been a time that I was too proud to admit that I can’t keep it all in my head, but those days are over.

Sometimes I’m tired, in a bit of a hurry or just have brain fog- and in those moments, I want to be able to just look at a list & go to it. Think about what a pilot has to do before lift-off can occur. They (ideally) follow a list of things to check off, a particular protocol to follow, making sure that all ground is covered on that airplane before they leave the runway. These guidelines aren’t put in place to be a noose around the pilot’s neck, which is how you may see written-out routines. No, they are a list developed after years of (sometimes deadly) in-flight trial-and-error. We should view our written-out routines with the same gratitude- someone has taken the time to make sure that everything we want to get done is laid out in an orderly manner. All we have to do is read the list, top-to-bottom & left-to-right, perform the items on the checklist, and we are given a big peace of mind for doing so. Granted, that pilot’s following of the checklist is a matter of life-and-death in some cases, and if they don’t do their job, at the very least, they could get in trouble if something wasn’t checked out & then malfunctioned. At most, a whole lot of lives could end because the checklist wasn’t followed & safety points weren’t reviewed. Many terrible accidents in history (such as the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986) were due to simple human error. The people at fault in that case didn’t deliberately do anything wrong- they never meant any harm. One of three things had to occur in these types of horrid situations- either the people didn’t have a complete list of safety precautions written out to begin with, contradictions existed in the laid-out precautions (leading to confusion or disregard), and/or the worker(s) unknowingly missed performing a vital step in an established checklist. Sometimes, a correct checklist was never even developed on a high-level basis due to laziness, or perhaps a lack of knowledge on the part of the writer. Or maybe someone in management had the checklist, but didn’t pass along the complete knowledge to everybody at the site, which would have ensured the consistency of every single worker following every step in proper order each time the routine had to be done.

You may think it’s a leap of ridiculousness for me to compare a nuclear power plant disaster to a missed step in cleaning a bathroom, for example. But even at home, not doing one step in our routines could be the beginning of a minor problem, or it could develop into a major catastrophe. Think about getting your laundry out of the dryer. If you aren’t in the habit of cleaning out your lint trap after every load, and lint builds up more & more with every passing load in that trap, never emptied out, that is a house fire waiting to happen. Granted, you probably won’t have to tape a Post-it note to your dryer to remember to clean the lint trap every time you get a load of laundry out of it. But don’t be upset if that’s exactly what you have to do. What’s more important, your pride & reputation as a “perfect” housekeeper with a perfect memory, or your safety? Sometimes we just plain get distracted while doing chores, or are absentminded that day already, for whatever reason. The occasional mistake usually isn’t cause for disaster, but when it isn’t written down somewhere that we can consult periodically, the opportunity to overlook an important practice rises again & again.

We all have stress in our lives. Don’t add to it by trying to keep everything in your head, when you know in your heart you just can‘t do it all without this kind of help. This includes doing things for our own personal grooming, cleaning the house, completing projects at our jobs on time & more. If something happens & we forget the step of, say, disinfecting our toilet bowls every time we clean them, we drastically raise the chances of viruses & other illnesses being passed on from person to person in the household. Missing a step repeatedly isn’t worth the potential price you‘ll have to pay. You shouldn’t feel like people will make fun of you if they see your bathroom swish-and-swipe instructions taped on the mirror. If they do tease you, ignore them or advise them that you simply get so much joy out of your home that you want to keep it as nice as possible- that’ll usually shut them right up! What frequently happens, though, is your guests, family & friends will see that sign & say, “Gosh, you’re so organized! Maybe I should try that trick…I might remember to do the chore more often that way.” If you feel like you just don’t want to leave signs out where all can see them, add the pages to a simple three ring binder & carry around that binder with you. Or you can use a cheap spiral memo pad & pen that you carry in your purse to jot down to-do’s & routines. Maybe you’re more of a “paperless” person. In that case, you could utilize one of the many electronic programs on modern cell phones or laptops, including alarms going off in alert & all the technology you can stand. Whatever works for you, do it. If you are brilliant enough to keep it all in your head in every case, and your routines aren’t suffering due to missed steps, then please just disregard this teaching, and more power to you. I just wanted to admit to one of my own personal weakness, and share with you how I’m overcoming it to achieve victory.


First-Aid Kits, from Simple Ones to Buy, to The Ultimate First-Aid Kit List to Put Together

For a purse or bag, this mini-kit is perfect:

This is the best soft pack I've ever seen, and the one I own myself. I also bought ones for family members who don't live with me. Trust me, it's worth every penny. Dollar for dollar, I think it's one the very best kits, and can easily be stored just about anywhere. Everyone I know who also has the kit adores it.

Low-dose chewable aspirin is one thing that should be kept on hand for inflammation, chest pains (it may help save a life), reducing fevers & will help even those who can't stand swallowing pills. Obviously, you don't want to give it to someone allergic or in certain situations with kids, but it's invaluable to keep on hand for the aforementioned times of distress:

I recommend having a first-aid kit in every home, automobile & workplace. If spending $21 is going to give me peace of mind in the event of a medical emergency, I consider it a bargain. I did add a few items to it for completion- a tube of Orajel mouth/tooth/gum pain reliever, Dayquil liqui-gels, Nyquil liqui-gels, Pepto-Bismol tablets, a pen, a small memo pad, a digital thermometer, a small bottle of Aleve & a small bottle of Advil (for those allergic to aspirin, or those who have liver problems, for which neither Bayer aspirin, Excedrin nor Tylenol will be appropriate) & a couple of different-sized Ace bandages. In my freezer I keep additional ice packs, especially because I suffer from fibromyalgia, and the inflammation that comes from that is less-than-enjoyable. I have a microwaveable heat wrap that's fairly big, and works well for injuries needing heat, not cold. My favorite topical pain product which is also cooling is from Walgreen's, and it's called Pain Relieving Ice Blue Gel. I much prefer it to the other brands sold out in stores, and it's cheaper, based on quantity. Absolutely essential for achy legs that come with overwork, aging & standing for long periods of time. It seems to work much better than aloe vera on burns or inflammation, too. The cooling effect is nice, but not intense. You can order it online here:

There is no such thing as a perfect first-aid kit available to buy, by the way. You are most likely going to have to include some add-on's. Everyone's household is different. For minor cooking burns, blisters or sunburn, I use & highly recommend the following burn gel, which has no menthol in the product (it makes something normally excruciating actually bearable & it has no discernable fragrance). I keep this in my kitchen at all times:
A good sleep medicine that's OTC, has pain-relieving properties & works fairly quickly is not bad to keep on hand, either (don't give this formulation to those with liver problems- it follows the same guidelines as Tylenol). This is a quick-release formula that seems to work best overall with the least amount of side effects. Don't make taking it a habit, though, as you will gain tolerance to it, meaning the product will cease to work for.

Waterproof bandages are indispensable for cuts on places that get lots of water, like a fingertip. I use them whenever I get a paper cut or something like that. Less water getting in your wound equals a faster healing time & helps prevent infection. Nexcare is the only suitable brand that I've found.

Self-closing Ace bandages are less annoying than ones that require the little metal clips to hold them in place. They are good for wrapping knees, ankles, elbows & more.

Keep a cold compress in the fridge or freezer at all times for inflammation, injury flare-ups & fevers:

A microwavable wrap can be a blessing for those with poor circulation, someone who gets cold easily or in a home with less-than-adequate heating. I own Dreamtime's wrap, have given one as a gift to several of my friends, and they ALL love them. This can also be used cold, if you store it in the freezer (it's a big help in that way if you suffer from headaches):

Here is a basic, printable list that I tucked into my own first-aid kit at home to make sure I wasn't forgetting anything, and to know what's missing if some item is used up:

Below is what I call "The Ultimate First-Aid Kit". I got this list from a paramedic. I don't know how much money you want to put into a first-aid kit, and of course, you need to consider your finances, what is applicable to your loved ones, and what you could live without. I don't own every single item on this list, and some of these items won't be readily available over-the-counter. That said, I wanted to pass it on, because I think it's the best list I've ever seen for a truly complete first-aid kit. If you're involved in civil defense or another similar hobby, hopefully this list will help.

* (1) Poison/Venom Guide with Pics
* (6) 3"x3" Gauze dressing pads, (3) 2-pks
* (20) 4"x4" Gauze dressing pads, (10) 2-pks
* (25) Transprent Waterproof Bandaids
* (1) Hydrogen Peroxide 16oz - Stop Bleeding
* (1) 12"x30" Multi-trauma dressing
* (2) Emergency pressure dressings
* (2) 4" Conforming gauze roll bandages
* (1) 6" Conforming gauze roll bandage
* (4) 36" Triangular sling/bandage, w/2 safety pins
* (24) Alcohol cleansing pads
* (12) Povidone-iodine infection control wipes
* (1) .5"x10 yd. Waterproof tape, plastic spool
* (2) 1"x10 yd. Waterproof tape, plastic spool
* (1) 3"x10 yd. Porous cloth athletic tape roll
* (2) 1"x10 yd. Porous cloth athletic tape roll
* (1) 4"x5" Instant cold compress
* (2) 6"x9" Instant cold compresses
* (1) Burn relief, 4 oz. plastic squeeze bottle
* (2) 2"X2.2yd Steril Gauze Roll
* (8) Eye wash fluid (6-.68oz, 1-8oz, 1-4oz)
* (12) Dramamine - Motion Sickness
* (1) 24"x24" Biohazard bag, 10 gallon capacity
* (4) 10"x12" Ziplock bags
* (2) CPR one-way valve faceshields, latex free
* (8) 52"x84" Emergency blanket
* (8) Exam quality vinyl gloves, 4 pairs
* (1) 7-1/4" Utility shears
* (1) 3-1/2" Deluxe tweezers, stainless steel
* (2) Benzocaine spray - Numbing Spray
* (1) Steril surgical stapler with 35 staples
* (30) Steri-strips skin closures
* (1) Steril surgical staple remover tool
* (50) Assorted fabric bandaids
* (12) Sudafed - Nasal Decongestion
* (12) Advil - anti inflamitory
* (25) Aleve - anti inflamitory/pain relief
* (4) Gas-X Strips - Gas and Bloating
* (12) Tylenol PM - pain medication
* (1) Neosporin - heal fast/reduce scars
* (1) Merthiolate Anticeptic - Infection Control
* (2) Iodine Tincture Anticeptic - infection control
* (1) Hydrocortizone Cream - Itchiness
* (10) Ammonia Inhalant
* (5) Bee Sting Swabs
* (1) Surgical Scissors
* (2) Orajel
* (2) Forceps
* (2) Curved tip Oral Syringe
* (90) Blood Lancet
* (1) 4-Way Nasal Spray
* (1) Stethascope
* (1) Blood pressure cuff
* (1) Neuro-PenLight
* (1) Neuro knee tapper
* (1) Hand sanitizer
* (4) Scalpels
* (1) Snake Bite Kit with pump
* (1) Cotton Balls
* (1) Lotramin spray
* (1) Quick clot sponge
* (40) Advil Migraine
* (6) Finger splint
* (3) Aluminum Splint
* (8) DenTemp
* (1) Digital Thermometer
* (1) Visine - Dry Eyes
* (1) Chapstick - Dry Lips
* (1) Floss
* (13) Cotton Swabs
* (30) Q-tips
* (6) Cottonelle Wipes
* (10) X-Large Bandaids
* (1) Ear Drops - Ear Aches
* (1) Ring Relief - Ringing Ears
* (10) Ibuprofen - Pain/Fever
* (42) Prilosec - Heart Burn
* (2) Surgical Mask
* (1) Alcohol 16oz
* (1) Eye Patch
* (36) Tums - Upset Stomach
* (1) Lotramine - Fungiside
* (25) Mickey Mouse Bandaids
* (2) Suture Kit
* (1) Toothache kit
* (10) Tongue depressors
* (2) Oral airway kit
* (3) Light Sticks
* (1) Swiss Army Knife
* (1) Angiocatheter
* (3) Steril needles
* (1) 1cc syringe /w needle
* (1) 3ml Luer Lok
* (1) Nylon suture
* (2) 1 X 18 Tourniquet
* (1) ReCapIt
* (25) Breathe Right Strips
* (25) Knuck/fing Bandaids
* (10) Imodium AD
* (40) Nitrile Gloves
* (10) WetOnes
* (10) Sunblock spf30
* (10) Insect Repellant
* (10) Hand Warmers
* (10) Nail Files
* (1) Toothbrush
* (1) Sensodyne Toothpaste
* (10) DayQuill/NyQuil caps
* (2) Bandanas
* (1) Radiation Detector
* (2) Chinese Patch
* (75) Floss Picks
* (1) 6"X6" Adhesive Pad
* (4) Sterile eye pads
* (10) Large Adhesive pads
* (10) 3"X4" non-stick pads
* (6) 8"X4" adhesive WtrPrf
* (1) Albuterol Inhaler (new)
* (12) Allegra
* (1) Dental Scraping Set
* (1) Tiger Balm
* (10) Cottonelle wipes
* (1) Voltaren Gel
* (10) Excedrin Migraine
* (20) Piroxicam
* (4) Super Glue
* (2) emergency water pak
* (1) Benadryl Cream - Allergic Reaction
* (1) Benadryl Spray - Poison Ivy
* (1) Anbesol - Cold Sore/Canker Sore
* (10) 3"x5 yd. Latex free elastic bandages
* (20) 6" Steril Q-tips
* (2) Epipen (Adrenalin for anaphelactic alergic reaction)
* (1) Tape Measure
* (1) Cotizone 10 - anti itch
* (3) 5"x9" Trauma pads
* (2) 8"x10" Trauma pads
* (1) First aid guide
* (1) Eye wash cup
* (42) Iodide tablets

Here's to being a prepared organized minimalist,