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Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Minimalist Woman's Weekly Pampering Routine

My weekly body care routine listed below is organized and designed to keep a woman feeling good, looking good and yet still not being what I would consider a slave to beauty.  You can add on or omit activities as you wish.  I didn't color my hair for a long time, but I started to feel pretty blah without it (and lightening my hair makes me look younger, which I'm starting to need a bit of help on!)  Some women couldn't imagine a pampering ritual without a bubble bath, while others go out and get their nails done professionally.  For me, I do everything myself at home, but I want it all to go by pretty quickly and also be easy enough to remember.  You can always write a little Post-it note on your bathroom mirror advising what activities to do and when to do them, should your memory be less-than-perfect (like mine).  Adaptation is important.  I don't find painting my nails fun or pampering (nor do I like the smell or the expense of nail-care products), but if it's something you enjoy, go for it.  This weekly time of pampering is a good way to remember things which are incidental to beauty routines, too- such as changing out your bath towels, swapping your old razor out for a fresh one, washing your bathroom tumbler in the dishwasher or by hand, washing your hairbrush and comb, etc.  Doing weekly pampering is a way to remind myself of things like this that my scatterbrained self would look right past (I'm way too distracted to remember washing my hairbrush without a reminder from my online calendar!)  I have to admit, I still don't find actually doing these activities pampering- the pleasant feeling is what comes after the work is done, when my hair, skin and nails look so nice.  And when my bathroom is deep-down clean and de-cluttered, too.

A detailed pampering routine may not appeal to a hardcore minimalist at all, which I can completely understand.  I don't think that there's anything wrong with having either mindset.  I can understand why some women don't shave and just don't "do" pampering.  I say rock on with doing whatever floats your boat.  This is simply laid out for the woman who wants to get more organized about the weekly ritual of grooming herself for the week ahead.  I find that the pampering positively affects me mentally, as much or even more as it does physically, though I'm not wild about the extra time the prepping itself takes.  I know in advance that I'll carry myself a little more confidently when I've gotten these things done and that's what provides me motivation.  For me it creates the same feeling as having my hair nicely styled, wearing a pretty pair of earrings or when I have my makeup beautifully applied.  It adds a little spring in my step throughout the day, especially when I glance in the mirror. 

1) Color my hair if needed (I do this every four weeks)._

L'Oreal haircolor has always given me the best, most consistent results of any brand and I've used it for many, many years.  Despite my shade being a bleach and also permanent in color, it's still gentle (no burning of my scalp or anything).  Home haircolor has vastly improved from even just ten or fifteen years ago.  Also, the deep conditioner in the L'Oreal line is the best I've ever seen at any price point and the tube of it lasts me a few weeks after the coloring is done, too.

2) Apply facial mask about ten minutes before I step into the shower._

I have very dry and very sensitive skin but I also tend to break out when using products with irritants or too many oils in it.  I cannot use anything "scrubby" or anything with BHAs/AHAs.  This is the Holy Grail of facial masks for my skin type, the only one I can use on my skin without making it break out or dry out because it's gentle and yet deeply hydrating.

3) Use depilatory on my forearms, if needed.  (This also occurs about every four weeks. The product has to stay on my arms about seven minutes, and then the hair comes right off in the shower with a wet washcloth.)_

Sadly, my favorite Sally Hansen depilatory was taken off the market awhile back.  I have blonde hair but still have a lot of it on my forearms, so depilatory is a must to me (and nobody wants the stubble from shaving on their forearms!)  A side benefit to using depilatory is the amazing exfoliation that comes from using it- and that deep exfolation makes the skin look much brighter afterwards.  The only thing that comes close to that effect is using a good thick salt scrub.  The product below is my replacement depilatory, the closest to what I was using before:

4) Rinse off facial mask, haircolor and/or depilatory in the shower._

5) Apply deep conditioner to my hair (the deep conditioner I use is what comes with my haircolor product)._

6) Shave my underarms & legs._

I'm incredibly picky about razors.  Though these are disposable, they get rave reviews on a lot of websites and I think they're well-deserved.  Unless they're out-of-stock, I won't use any other razors because they shave close, last the longest, don't nick and are reasonably-priced.

7) Use bikini trimmer._

Without a doubt, the best ladies' trimmer I've found is below:

8) Groom eyebrows right after my shower._

9) Trim and file my nails (fingernails every week; toenails every three weeks)._ Push back my cuticles on my fingernails, as well._

This awesome 3-sided tool files down both rough skin around the nails and the nails themselves via the different degrees of filing textures on the tool.  It also has a tip at the edge which cleans under the nails.  While I don't often buff my nails very often, the buffing trio on this tool are really excellent for high-shine nails without having to use nail polish.  I LOVE this tool, especially for the fingernails:

A good titanium cuticle pusher, used right after a shower or bath, is an essential tool for groomed nails.

Here's to being an organized minimalist,

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Learn Housekeeping, De-Cluttering, Organizing and Time Management Skills to Gain Inner Strength and Stability

This morning I actually got up when I was supposed to, instead of indulging in my deep and abiding love for sleeping late.  It was nice to sip my coffee and have my breakfast without feeling like I was on countdown.  When I showered and dressed, I didn't have to watch the clock every second, leaving the house with my makeup only halfway completed and my hair not looking the way that I really wanted it to.  I had time to make my bed, spritz it with Febreze, lay out my outfit for tomorrow, swish-and-swipe my bathroom, take out the trash and load up the dishwasher with dirty dishes which were used this morning, before I had to leave the house for my college class.  You may think I'm some of organizational queen after writing this blog for about a year, but I'm not that way at all!  I have to work just as hard as anyone else to fight laziness, boredom (let's face it- routines do sometimes get stale and monotonous, no matter how helpful and important they are) and exhaustion.  I'm no stranger to the feeling of, "Why can't it all just be finished already?  I'm so tired of being the only one stuck doing these chores!  Why can't I go to bed just ONE NIGHT and feel like I got everything on my mental to-do list done?"  It's easy to feel like a loser instead of a champion in a world of endless information, opportunities, places and people pulling for our attention.  I'm no more immune from that feeling than any other person on earth, no matter how many time-management, organizing and housekeeping skills I have under my belt.  People might assume that being a single, child-free person prevents that feeling of "the housework is never done!", but it doesn't.  Everyone has responsibilities and chores that they have to do.  Even single people with small homes still have to de-clutter, clean, organize what they do own well, file, stick to their calendar's scheduled activities, go grocery-shopping and cook.  No matter how simplified, minimalist and organized you get, there will always be something left over to clean, something new to learn, someone in your life still demanding to be given help in one manner or another.

But I digress.  I had a weird thing happen to me recently.  After months years of feeling kind of low on energy, lacking a certain sense of peace continually and experiencing physical pain that drained my mental resources as well, one morning I woke up and simply felt...good.  And I kept feeling good.  My mind was also quite clear.  The guilt that had hung over my head since, well...birth...seemed to evaporate into thin air.  I didn't have some magical surgery or start taking a new drug.  No new workout plan or diet was begun.  I didn't fall in love or have any other logical reason for the new feelings.  And the crazy thing was that I didn't know what to do with my newly found energy, sense of peace or happiness!  It felt abnormal to be healthy, clear-headed and happy!  I didn't even know I really wasn't feeling healthy and happy until this strange, rather miraculous thing happened.  I had energy left over even after a day of classes and housework.  I felt good about myself.  The self-criticism just stopped, like a stereo playing a tape in my brain got unplugged.  I have no logical explanation for it.  If I could tell you how to replicate it, I would.  I stopped hating my body.  I stopped judging everything I did, said, ate, didn't do, didn't eat, didn't say.  It is a freeing thing to have gone through thirty-two years of perpetual self-criticism and all of the sudden realize that I am perfectly okay just as I am.  You could say that going back to college (which has been an overwhelmingly positive experience) is behind it all, but I believe it's deeper than that, which I'll explain. 

There have been a lot of upheavals in my life in the past four years.  I quit an old job which was no longer fruitful, got a new job, my mother (whom I live with) retired after working full-time for thirty-seven years, I got laid off unexpectedly, dealt with long-term unemployment, have moved house twice and started college full-time after sixteen years away from any type of schooling.  So to say that I've learned how to keep persevering through upheaval and maintain normalcy despite big changes in lifestyle would be an understatement.  My mother's retirement was an intense period of adjustment for me, for example.  She worked down the road and always had a long commute.  As an only child of a single parent, I was used to (and loved) having lots of time alone.  Suddenly I had to live with someone who was in my house nearly 24/7 and wanted a lot more of my attention.  I resented the disturbance in my routines and invasion into my private time.  And someone who left me more dishes to wash, wanted dinner earlier in the evening and took over our public spaces (such as the living room) incessantly.  I didn't like the changes and to be honest, it is still not easy to have so little solitude.  But, just like dealing with unemployment or moving to a new home, you learn to adjust and make do. 

No one can provide you with a real sense of inner strength that comes from knowing you can take anything life can throw at you and still survive.  If I'd known four years ago what was in store for me, I would've said I didn't have the inner resources to survive all of that.  I've gone through everything essentially alone- there was no boyfriend, no husband, no father or grandfather there for me.  I did the majority of the physical work for our moves and had to pay for a lot of the expenses.  I've had to continue paying the same old bills that I always have, relying on God alone more times than not to miraculously help me get by month after month financially (and I can say with pleasure that He invariably did just that).  I signed up for college all alone, not knowing if I could handle the workload (I've got fibromyalgia and that's an unpredictable disability at times).  I've had my mother, my aunt and my best friends to lend some emotional support, but they could not do the work for me.  

I could not have thrived or even survived these changes without having daily/weekly/monthly/quarterly/yearly household routines and a variety of practical organizational skills to ground me.  My inner tenacity didn't come from some magical, intangible quality I possess or a wonderful personality trait I was born with.  I'm not discounting the strength, guidance and knowledge that I'm certain I received from God directly (or the intellectual gifts that my genes gave me), but I also had to develop and repeatedly practice earthbound skills to keep my life on an even keel.  Only by performing those routines (organizing, cleaning, de-cluttering, studying, etc.) day and day out could I learn from them.  God could only work with me to create a new life out of old ashes when I also put forth the effort myself to change my previous disorganized ways over and over again.  I could not have dealt with undesired and long-term unemployment without my hard-earned organizational, housekeeping and time management skills, for example.  Going back to school as a teetering-on-the-edge-of-middle-age woman would have been impossible without the years of mastering those same skills behind me.  They aided me with gaining inner strength and stability, and they will do the same for you. 

Don't be fooled into thinking there's not a deeper meaning to organizing one's physical spaces, learning how to file papers or keeping a home clean.  I now know that I could be faced with anything and still have the ability to survive the event.  I can have a lot of things taken away from me, but my skills are mine to keep.  Don't gain these same abilities just to help, please or impress others.  Don't do it for them, or at least not just for them.  Keep at it for yourself.  Learn and master these de-cluttering, housekeeping, organizing and time management skills so that you can take life as it comes (tragedies included) and stand strong.  I think that a good deal of my new energy comes from knowing just how strong I really am, and that no one will ever be able to take that from me.  I know what to do now with my new sense of energy, happiness and peace- to keep adding to my legacy through hard work, giving love and learning out to our universe as I go about my business.  I can be a beacon of stability and strength even when events in our world are just the opposite.  I wish you all the same knowledge and inner fortitude.

Here's to being a happy organized minimalist,