A Year Later – Where are We Now?

It was just about a year ago that I completed the Konmari transformation on my house. I figure I owe you a follow-up. Did I stick with it? Is my house still tidy? Does everything still spark joy?

In a word, yes, with life tossed in.

Like anyone else, we have two young kids and we live a pretty busy life: sports, camping, work, school, etc. Since completing the Konmari process, on any given day, you can walk into our house and it’s pretty decent. There might be a stray toy or two laying about, a dirty dish someone didn’t set in the sink, or I may have decided to skip cleaning the kitchen or folding the laundry the night before, but for the most part, our house is still pretty decent. I wouldn’t want to take pictures and post them, but I wouldn’t be embarrassed to have you pop by on a visit. And that’s what I was going for. I wasn’t going for showroom perfect; I was going for relaxed tidy.

My kids are able to straighten their rooms in a few minutes, and I can straighten and clean the house in a couple of hours (depending on whether or not you want the floors mopped), so I consider that Mission: Compete.

Now that we’ve decluttered and maintained the house for a year, I’m looking more seriously at redecorating the house. I’ve already primed the walls in the master bedroom and replaced the bedding. My next task is to paint the walls, but in my heart, I also want to paint the trim and doors white (and replace the flat panel doors with raised panel doors for more texture), and once I do that in the bedroom, I have to do it throughout the whole house to make it cohesive, which will prompt replacing the floors (from carpet to hardwood), then painting the cabinets, and replacing the counters. I also want to stain/paint the two decks outside and redo the landscaping.

My design style would be a cross between rustic/casual/western/modern farmhouse. I love contrasting colors (black against white, grey against white with pops of red or yellow) and I love old unfinished wood. Straight lines and contrasting textures. I love barn doors on rail systems and old, black wire baskets. I love the texture of corrugated tin and old, weathered ladders. I have a vision in my head for how I want our house to feel. I love bright and airy and old and weathered, but modern and smooth. I want the atmosphere in our home to encourage visitors to kick back and put up their feet on the coffee table.

My husband and I have been daydreaming about moving outside of our little city onto a small acreage, but we want isn’t available presently. For the time being, we’re desperately working on reducing the debts we owe, which ties up almost all of our extra money, so remodels remain on hold. It’s a good thing Christmas is coming! Maybe I’ll ask for paint and rollers and sheets of corrugated tin. It might take a decade’s worth of Christmases to achieve it, but I’ll have it, and when I find that perfect house with that perfect acreage, I’ll take it all with me and start again. 🙂

Turning Negatives into Positives

But…

I’m sure we’ve all experienced a situation where someone pays you a compliment which is then immediately negated by the word but. There seems to always be a but. I know I’ve experienced it more times than I can count and have even done it myself more times than I’d ever like to admit. Who hasn’t? There’s one thing that’s for certain, the but hurts. And in my experience, anything before the but loses all its worth and luster.

Recently, I’ve been more in tune to this type of talk and have been trying really hard not to participate in it… (wait for it…) but (you had to know it was coming), sometimes this is really hard to do. I’ve found that I talk this way with my kids, my husband and my friends, but I’m working very hard to correct it. (See what I did there? If not, keep reading and you will).

I love that blouse, but not that color.
You did a fantastic job, but next time do it this way.
It’s a gorgeous day outside, but it sure is windy.

There’s no way anyone feels good after a conversation that ends with any statement like those examples. Kids who are working so hard to build self-esteem are especially vulnerable to this kind of talk. Nothing takes the wind out of a proud kid’s sails quite like the “you did good, but…” sentence.

New employees are kind of like kids

I started a 2 year internship a year ago last November (yay! I’m almost done!). I’m still learning the process for doing my job, which is extensive and requires a lot of writing. The documents I write are signed by my supervisor and put into official record, so they have to be very well written and she has to agree with what I’ve written or it can’t be signed. She returned something to me earlier this week that I’d worked really hard on with the sentence “Good start, but it needs some work. Please see the comments. Once it is revised, we can go over it. It’s important that you understand why it needs to be revised. Take a thoughtful crack at it.” Um… thanks?

When I opened the document, I saw she had lined through 90% of what I’d written and re-wrote it. The only paragraph that remained was one that is standard for our industry – pretty much a copy and paste paragraph from every other document we’ve ever used in our office, with some minor tweaks to fit the situation. It seemed like the entire document was in red. Why did she even tell me I’d made a good start if she changed everything I’d written? Why not just say “this sucked, so I re-wrote it for you. Better luck next time”? It would have had the same effect on my confidence.

My confidence in my ability to do my job took a nose dive at that exact moment. How am I going to graduate out of the intern program and get a permanent position if I have this kind of response to the document I spent an entire day writing? I immediately wondered if this was the right field for me. It was a serious blow to my psyche. I was so disappointed that I didn’t even read her changes or her comments as to why she’d made them. I’ll read them when I recover from this blow, but for now I feel wounded. Is this how my kids feel when I use the word but? I could only imagine so, which means this is something I desperately need to work on.

Switch it up

When I feel myself engaging in this type of communication, I try to remember what I learned during grad school – to keep what ordinarily would be taken as negative feedback, positive in perception. It’s important to remember that everything behind the but is remembered and everything before the but is negated – so unless you want the person to whom you’re speaking to feel low and broken, switch the order in which you make your statements so they feel more positive.

That’s not my favorite color, but I really love that blouse.
Normally it’s done a different way, but I think you did a great job.
It sure is windy out here, but the sun feels amazing on my skin.

In the situation with my supervisor, I would have felt much better about my document and her changes if she had said “there are quite a few corrections I would suggest, but I think you made a great stab at this. Take a look at what I did and see if you agree with my changes. If you have questions, I’m here to discuss/explain it.” I would have felt *much* less defeated after seeing her changes had she prefaced them with a more positive message like this one. (And I might have actually reviewed her comments already instead of putting it off like I have).

Remember, whatever you place behind the but is what is remembered. So, next time you’re in a situation where a but is necessary, try to spin it around so it’s positive. Leave the person with the positive but, not the negative but. Not only will this reversal of feedback structure help the person with whom you’re talking feel more optimistic about the work they’ve done, it’ll make you feel more optimistic, too. Something as simple as this might just be all it takes to make the world a happier place.

Stifling Stimuli

In today’s fast paced society, we’re bombarded with stimuli on a minute by minute basis. Some people are well equipped to handle it. Others aren’t. Having a few simple tricks in our playbook can be a tremendous game changer.

Like most people who suffer from generalized anxiety disorder, I often get overwhelmed by the things going on around me. The constant demand for my attention drives me batty! This is known as sensory overload.

A little about sensory overload

Sensory overload can come from a variety of sources, but the most notable are noise, crowding, visual stimuli and information overload. There are many other forms as well. For me, I’m affected by a variety of sources, but the most crippling are noise, visual stimuli and information overload.

Someone who suffers from sensory overload will often “shut down” or refuse to participate further in the activity at hand. They can get irritable. They can become tense, fidgety, restless, have difficulty concentrating or have angry outbursts. Sensory overload can affect people who suffer from a long list of disorders. When we think of sensory overload, we typically think of Autism, anxiety and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), but sensory overload can also affect individuals who suffer from fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and schizophrenia. (source)

Treatment and Prevention

Of course, with any disorder or syndrome, there are medical interventions that can be taken to treat the illness, but I’m more inclined to go the prevention route. I’d rather find the source of the issue and eliminate it rather than masking the issue with a cloud of pharmaceuticals – especially since so many drugs end up causing more health problems. Ever read one of those side effect lists?

Instead of drugs, I am utilizing these two techniques: avoidance and setting limits. Avoidance involves creating a peaceful environment. This can be done by producing quiet, uncluttered spaces. Setting limits involves limiting social interaction, limiting the amount of time spent on any one project, and taking frequent “time outs”.

To reduce the visual stimuli, I decluttered my home. I discovered through self-reflection that my home caused me a great deal of stress. Visual overload occurs when I have too much stuff to look at and process. Having papers scattered across all the solid surfaces, clothes scattered all over the floor, toys filling any remaining void, and a mounting to-do list brings me to my proverbial knees. I just can’t do it. Decluttering my home was key to solving this problem. In addition to keeping my home neat and tidy, I have to keep my desk at work tidy too. Books are put away in their cabinet. Pens and pencils are tucked away nicely in their pen caddy. Unneeded papers are shredded. When things are left out, it’s like each one of them is screaming “look at me! look at me!” I’d had enough. The negative (empty) space created in both my home and work environment simply by decluttering or putting them away when I’m done with them has done wonders for my mental status. Decluttering a home is a lofty task. If you don’t know where to start, I’d recommend the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo for inspiration.

NOISE! Oy. Noise. This is a monster for me because how do you tell everyone around you to shut up? You can’t. Plain and simple. But you can create a space where you can get away – most days, this is my car. Mornings at our home are hectic. Everyone is running in a million different directions trying to get things done before we leave. It takes us an hour to get dressed, put on our shoes, and walk out the door. It shouldn’t take that long, but it does. And it’s stressful. There are many times when the stress of getting moving in the morning drives me to tears after I drop the kids at daycare. This time in my car alone, without the radio and without social interaction is vital to me. If I had to go straight from dropping kids off to walking into my office within minutes of each other, I’d be a frazzled mess all day long. The hour long drive to work is my morning stress buster. Most “normal” people don’t have an hour commute, so to those people, I would say bless your heart and suggest finding a ritual you can perform, alone, before embarking on the next part of your day. Stop at a coffee shop and enjoy a cup of Joe before work. Meditate. Take a walk through the park. Something, anything, to help you decompress.

At home, when things get out of hand, I will often retreat to the shower. A nice hot shower without interruption is priceless! Lock the door and drown in the steam! Then, of course, there’s also bedtime for the kids. As sad as that is to say, sometimes, bedtime is the biggest blessing of them all. And I can’t forget exercise! Taking an hour to focus on yourself can’t be understated. Like they tell you on an airplane: put on your mask before you help someone else put on theirs. Mama’s no good to anyone else if she’s not taking care of her self first.

Information overload is overwhelming to me. I will often miss key details because I’m overwhelmed at the sheer volume of words coming at me and tune the rest out. Taking notes helps. I don’t go anywhere at work without a notebook. If my boss has specific instructions, I’ll start writing them down. Getting the words out of my head and onto paper frees my brain to accept and process the next series of words coming at me. Whether you’re getting directions to an unfamiliar place or taking directions at work, writing them down is ever so helpful. And when you’ve gotten them all written down, you can read them back to the speaker to make sure you’ve got it all correct.

This applies to that long to-do list, too. Don’t keep that thing stored in your head. Write it down to clear up the space in your brain.

Other techniques include limiting interactions with specific people, taking frequent breaks during tedious tasks, and just simple deep breathing techniques. They all help. At the end of the day, you have to know your own physical limits and you have to respect them.

How are you taking care of yourself today?

A Weekend Unplugged – Recap

I mentioned last week that I was going to embark on a weekend free from using my phone for anything other than phone calls and text messages. Here is how that went.

I am quite pleased to announce that I followed through! There were two instances where I used my phone to look something up when a computer wasn’t a viable option, but I did not play any games and I did not stare mindlessly at the phone at any point in the weekend.

My goal was to shut off the data on my phone on Friday at 3:30 pm and leave it off until 5 am Monday morning. With the exception of a few apps I was still using that required data access (my grocery app needs data access for some reason or other), I accomplished this mission. Primarily, I wanted to avoid mindless time wasting using my devices.

I used my phone for text messaging, phone calling, accessing my grocery app and accessing our budgeting app. Oh, and for Google twice.

I made use of my time by decluttering and minimalizing a piece of furniture in our bedroom, which resulted in decluttering and minimizing the whole room and master closet on Saturday. I boxed up the inventory from my MLM business and moved it to the garage to be sorted come spring for the garage sale. I have decided our bedroom is the grandest waste of space in our house. It’s a very large room. It houses 3 pieces of furniture, two bedside tables and a king size bed, with a TON of empty space. I wish I could reallocate that space to another area of the house – like my laundry room or the kids’ bedrooms. Funny thing – when we built the house, having an enormous master was something I was excited about. Now I just look at it and shake my head.

I made use of my time by sorting through and dejunking the junk drawers (there are two) in our kitchen and helped my daughter clean up her room. I washed some communal blankets and swept the floor. I did some minor organizing in the garage and got groceries for the week. I watched Sleepless in Seattle while I folded a basket of clothes and a basket of towels. I don’t think I had ever seen that movie straight through before. It’s a good one. If you haven’t seen it, you should.

I had a few moments of impulse where I reached for my phone during a short break in activities, but I quickly recognized what I was doing and stopped myself. Much to my surprise, I didn’t read as much as I had anticipated. I figured I’d replace my phone with my Kindle, but I did not. I did finish a book, but there wasn’t much left in it and didn’t finish it until last night.

I went all weekend without staring at my phone. And I survived.

What little time I spent on my phone was intentional and productive. I generated my grocery list. I balanced my checkbook. I googled home phone service. And I googled an address.

I really expected to binge on my phone as soon as I broke my “fast” but I haven’t yet. In preparation for my weekend, I removed my games from my home screen. They haven’t been returned. I really thought I’d waste half the day playing the games I thought I’d miss. But I haven’t. It’s 2:30 in the afternoon on Monday and I still have 74% battery left! And I’ve gotten quite a bit of work done at work.

Now that’s not to say I have completely sworn off all time wasters. I did get online for a few minutes on Sunday because my husband said someone tagged me in something on Facebook and I wanted to acknowledge it, so I got onto Facebook on the computer and acknowledged, and I got on it for a short bit today during my lunch break. My usage today has been nothing like what it was in the past few weeks to months. And I like it. I hope I can continue it! All told, my Facebook usage for the last 3 days was probably a total of 1 hour.

I’d like to eliminate my phone as a source of distraction in my life and I feel this experiment was very successful and I’d hate to see the work I’ve accomplished come undone. So, I think I’ll continue my experiment and not move my games back to my home screen. I don’t dare say forever… but I would like to see how long I can manage to go without them cluttering up my life.

How ‘bout you? Ever think to give up the electronics for a weekend?

A Weekend Unplugged

In a world that runs on technology, with micromachines that run the consumer life, it’s easy to get wrapped up and lost in the ones and zeros that are constantly filtering in.

I’ve noticed that our world is nearly always looking at a glowing screen, be it a computer monitor, a tablet or the phones in our hands. It’s next to impossible to look around and not see someone staring at their devices – whether it’s the park, the mall or a restaurant, you are guaranteed to find someone lost in their device. I am one of these people and it bothers the shit out of me.

I haven’t taken a tally of how much time I spend staring at a screen, but I know for a fact it is way more than I want it to be. At this very second, I’m writing this post using my phone while my kids are watching videos on a kids’ site or challenging themselves on SumDog on the laptop. (The husband is snoring away in the recliner). The tv is even yanking at us – despite no one watching it. I bet the picture is similar in any random home across the nation.

I’ve tried to take steps to reduce my own use of technology – hoping those around me will see what I’m doing differently and join in, but reducing the apps on my phone hasn’t been enough. What I’ve removed, I’ve replaced with something else. Instead of scrolling through Facebook, I’m playing games or reading blog posts. It’s ridiculous.

Our brains are constantly seeking stimuli – something it can analyze, information to process. It’s no surprise we are so into our devices. They’re a constant stream of fresh stimuli. There’s always something new. Why watch that beautiful bird in the tree when we can gaze into the looking glass and see something we haven’t seen yet?

But while we’re staring at our phones, our lives is passing us by. The seasons are changing, our kids are growing and our relationships are dying.

Because my dependence on technology and all that it brings to me is wildly out of control, I am putting the phone down and walking away. I’m not going to use my phone all weekend long. I’m shutting the mobile data off at 3:30 pm on Friday and not turning it back on until Monday at 5:00 am. I will only use my phone for its originally intended use – communication with people close to me. Text and calls is all that my phone will be used for this weekend.

It’s going to be hard. Oh man, is it going to be so very hard. But it’s necessary. I can’t go on like this. I’m so overwhelmed by the time I spend on my device that I want to scream.

When I feel the itch to check Facebook Groups, I’ll grab a book. When I feel the pull to play a game, I’ll go outside with my kids. I’ll find movies to watch. I’ll catch up on the shows we’ve missed recently. I’ll take a walk. I’ll play a card game with my kids. But I will not pick up my phone.

How is your technology use? Do you need a break too? Care to join me? Comment below with “I’m in” and we’ll go in together.

No Spend November

It’s no secret that our society is overwhelmed with consumerism and debt. Statistically speaking, the average American household credit card debt tips the scales at $16,140 with an average interest rate of 14.25% (source). That’s a lot of money!

My husband and I contributed to this number in previous years but have since worked really hard to rectify that situation. We dug deep, rearranged our budget, and made a plan to pay off our cards and we saw it through. But we still live pay check to pay check, and that’s quite depressing.

I’ve been following a lot of different kinds of blogs lately – minimalist, homesteader, and frugalist alike. One thing I keep seeing between all three genres is making do with what you have, not buying what you don’t need, and curbing the excess spending. This blogger is of the same mindset.

When my husband and I set out to correct our debt problems, I adopted the Dave Ramsey plan (well, sort of) and started budgeting and snowballing debt. It’s been a very slow process because we still had bad spending habits. If we wanted something, we simply bought it – but we bought it differently. Instead of dropping the credit card on the counter, we dropped the debit card and then I performed some creative financial magic at home to make the numbers work so we didn’t end up overdrawn. Unfortunately, our savings was always the victim – hence why we still live pay check to pay check nearly 5 years since my Dave Ramsey discovery – three times as long ago as it takes the average Dave Ramsey follower to pay off all their debts. In the end, we’re still treading water.

I’ve been using You Need a Budget to budget and track our spending for about two years now and I’ve noticed a trend: we still spend too much. There are two categories in which we consistently spend too much money: groceries and free spend (Free Spend is the category Dave Ramsey says you have to have for frivolous spending that does not take away from the 4 walls of your financial house – my husband and I both get $25 a week for free spend). We consistently go over budget in both of these categories by $200 on average. That’s too much money. What’s it getting spent on? Dinners out, impromptu grocery shopping trips, gas station stops, coffee stops, unnecessary buys, lazy pizza dinner nights, etc.

If we’re ever going to find our way out of this financial debt we dug our way into in the early years of our marriage, we’ve got to change the way we spend money. Point blank. But how do you change the way you spend money? With drastic measures, of course!

Enter: No Spend November. You’ve heard of No Shave November, where guys opt out of shaving for prostate cancer awareness, right? Well, No Spend November is where people opt out of spending money for financial wellness awareness. And I’m jumping on board.

For the month of November (and 5 days of December – maybe all of December and January), I will have a defined set of rules to follow in regard to monetary spending. These rules apply to the grocery and free spend categories of our budget – nothing else will change. The rules are as follows.

1. Bring lunch to work every day and eat it. No trips to the cafeteria.
2. Make coffee at home. No trips to the coffee shop – except on Veteran’s Day when I’ll get a free cup from Starbucks.
3. Make a meal plan for each week, buy according to that plan, and stick to the plan. No unplanned trips to the grocery store unless I legitimately need an ingredient for dinner and cannot improvise.
4. Use the public library or Kindle Lender’s Library for new books. Do not purchase any new books during the month of November.
5. Limit dining out with the family to restaurants that we have gift cards for, and budget accordingly for the rest of the bill.

Most No Spend November participants say no to dining out altogether, but this is just my challenge and not one my family has agreed to participate in, so I’m trying my best to be strict enough to break my own habits, while being flexible enough to keep my family happy. As such, some dining out has to remain.

Expected result: My expected result will be less creative financing stress to deal with each week, more money available to set aside for upcoming gifting opportunities (Christmas and birthdays are right around the corner), and setting my Free Spend money aside each week to be used next spring on raised garden beds for my vegetable garden. I have lofty goals for 2016 which include a lot of landscaping, debt payoff and savings endeavors because I am very tired of living on this debt treadmill. I want off. I’m not willing to sell all my stuff like Dave suggests, but I am willing to make some sacrifices to my current lifestyle to push it forward. I’m willing to skip the expensive coffee flavored sugar milk in lieu of cedar planks for my garden or red wood mulch for my flower bed. I just have to make it a habit to do so. November is my month to make it happen.

I will revisit this topic in December to share how I did.

What about you? Have you ever thought about participating in a No Spend month? What are you waiting for?

Ready for a change?

I had a conversation with someone earlier today about something they want to change about their life. We got to talking about what steps this person was taking to realize that desire and I noticed they weren’t really doing much to get them closer to their goal. I wanted to ask them why they weren’t working harder; why they weren’t doing what they needed to do to see the change. Why are they just sitting there while their life passes by, living the same life day to day that they are unhappy with?

I consider myself very proactive and driven when it comes to setting and reaching for my goals and while I know not everyone is of the same mindset, I get frustrated just the same when I see someone slighting themselves or making excuses for why things haven’t turned out like they envisioned. This situation often makes me think the person is lazy and passive – like they’re sitting idly by hoping things will change without their needing to do any actual work, but maybe they’re actually just uneducated. Maybe they don’t know how to make the changes they long for. Maybe this lack of knowledge is what has them frozen in their current position. Maybe they need someone to help them along. Maybe there needs to be a class on how to change their life…

Welcome to Life Change 101, an abbreviated overview on making a life shift happen. 

Whether you want to go back to school, lose some weight, reach a fitness goal, get pregnant, improve your mental health status or start a new career, one thing remains true through it all – you have to actually work for it. You have to evaluate what it is you want, become educated on what it will take to achieve it, and then execute a plan to make it happen.

When you find your life isn’t where you wanted it to be, there are two things you can do – you can sit there and hope it’ll magically change, or you can stand up and make it happen. If you should choose the former, don’t expect much to to be different when you wake up tomorrow morning. If you choose the latter, however, prepare for infinite possibilities. Before you start, though, there are three questions I recommend you ask yourself.

What change do I want to make?
What do you think will make you happier? Is a job change in order? Do you want to go back to work after taking time off to raise your children? Do you want to go back to school? Lose weight? Improve your fitness? Have another kid? What do you want? Why do you want it? Some soul searching might be required for you to truly determine what you want to see your life become. This might require some time so don’t rush it. It’s important to move forward, but it’s more important to move forward in a worthwhile direction. Don’t just move to move. Move with a purpose you truly believe in.

What do I need to do to accomplish my goal? 

  1. Learn what it’ll take to go back to school, what options are available to help pay for it, and how you’ll fit it into your life.
  2. Look for internships to help you gain experience in your field if you’ve been out of the professional world for an extended period of time.
  3. Study nutrition and fitness and educate yourself on how the human body works if you plan to compete in a long distance race or lose weight.
  4. Evaluate what obstacles that stand in your way – child care, finances, shortage of time, etc.

Make a list of everything that stands in the way of you achieving your goals. Next to this list, formulate a list of how you can overcome those obstacle. From this, formulate a plan for how you’ll make it all work.

Find scholarships to pay for school. Talk to your employer about tuition assistance. Talk to friends about how they made attending classes fit around a full time work schedule and a family. Make arrangements with friends for childcare swapping to provide care for your children while you attend classes or hit the gym. Check with your health insurance policy or life insurance policy to see if there’s a discount or incentive that accompanies going to the gym and improving your fitness. Check with your employer as well; some employers pay gym memberships because they understand a fit employee is a more productive employee. You never know what’s out there or who’s willing to help unless you ask around.

Am I ready to execute my plan?
You’ve done so much work to this point determining what you want to do and how you will be able to do it, all that’s left is the execution! You know all there is to know about the degree program you want to study. You’ve talked to your boss and he’s agreed to adjust your work hours so you can take classes. You may have found an internship to get you experience in your degree field so you can add experience to that blank resume. You found a friend who’s willing to take your children two nights a week so you can take your classes in exchange for watching her kids while she runs on Saturday. You’ve done all you possibly can to prepare. You’ve mapped out the path. All that’s left now is to walk it. Strap on those boots and let’s get to hiking!

Bottom line:
Nothing comes to anyone while sitting idly by. You won’t get the life you want by sitting on your arse waiting for it to land in your lap. It just doesn’t work that way.

Whatever the change is you wish to see in your life, you must acknowledge that it’s not going to just happen to you. You aren’t going to wake up tomorrow and have the life you always dreamed of. You have to get out there and make it so. You have to fight for what you want. No one is going to give it to you, but it’s there for the taking if you should decide to you want it badly enough. The only thing standing in your way is you.

Getting Back on Track

When I started my Konmari Journey to Decluttering and Minimalism, I didn’t set out to finish in any particular time frame, but my first round, what I call my “pre-Konmari”, took about 6 weeks. I went through my clothing, CDs/DVDs, books, paper and the kitchen (which I think is one komono category with about a million subcategories). Then something happened and I got a little off track.

After some time passed, I picked it back up and kept trucking with a goal of completing the process by our vacation in October, only to be sidetracked by summer. Baseball, racing, camping. You name it, I was distracted by it. I was really in no hurry to complete because I really didn’t need to be.

Then late this summer I joined a challenge on Facebook to complete the Konmari process by Labor Day – always a sucker for a challenge, I accepted. I evaluated what still needed to be completed, learned I didn’t have as much left to complete as I thought, planned it out on a calendar, and set to work making it happen. Come Labor Day, I considered myself a Konmari Graduate! It felt amazing to be done. We went camping a few times after this and came home to a spotless house. It was so great.

Then October struck and we went on vacation. I tried to make sure I had everything done before I left, but I didn’t (there was still unfolded laundry littering my dining room table and some clutter had popped up here and there as we packed and prepped). After we returned, we didn’t unpack in a timely manner so we added half unpacked luggage, plus the unfolded laundry we washed as soon as we returned home, to the laundry that remained from before we left. Add to that detritus from too many nights of take out and 10 days worth of untouched mail, and you have what I call a disaster. My anxiety was mounting!

After a week and a half of doing no chores and having no routine, it was very hard to get back on track and maintain our Konmari graduate status. But we’re now one week post-return home and things are getting back in place. After spending a weekend and 3 weekdays looking at the mess we’d created, I buckled down and tackled the job before it became insurmountable. How?

Lists.

I made lists. I am an amateur Bullet Journaler (still not entirely sure this is the perfect method for me) and used that system to make my list. I thought I’d ease in by doing the biggest project first – folding laundry.

Wednesday night: fold laundry (didn’t happen – but a bunch of other stuff did).
Thursday: fold laundry (didn’t happen, but more other stuff did).
Friday: fold laundry (who am I kidding??)
Saturday: Get groceries, Birthday party, etc.
Sunday: Clean the house!!! (and fold laundry – for real this time).

Throughout the rest of that week, I cleared the counters again, cleared the launch pad in the living room (I’ll write a post about the importance of a launch pad someday, but in the mean time, you can learn about one here), put away the blankets (those things migrate and take over our living room!), cleared the coffee table, got the kids to put their toys away, cleaned their rooms, and got my sink shiny again, etc. This weekend, I focused on vacuuming, catching up on laundry, and made time to wash all the curtains in our house (some were looking pretty dusty), and took the kids to the farm to chill with their grandparents. I even folded and put all but one basket of laundry – it was still drying so I have an excuse. Yay me!

Prior to the list, I could see all the things that needed to be done, but I didn’t know where to start. Creating a list of all the things I needed to do helped. I was able to take that first thing on the list, focus on it, and knock it out. Then I moved onto the second item. And so on, on down the line, until the list was complete.

Additionally, I always put the machines to work first. I always start the washer and dishwasher before I do any kind of cleaning. I can’t even get started on any task until the dishes and laundry are going. Stop by my house on any given day and you’ll see me wandering around aimlessly until I get those two machines taken care of. I physically have to start a load of laundry and must have a cleaned out sink (clear of all dirty dishes) before I can start dinner. It borders on OCD, actually. It’s really a no-brainer if you think about it. By starting the washer and dishwasher first, you’ve already tackled a large part of the cleaning up process in most homes – you’ve collected all the dirty laundry and all the dirty dishes and taken care of them. Boom. Two tasks (maybe 4 depending on how you make your list) done, before you’ve even started cleaning!

As you move along through your decluttering categories, ideally you’ll find a way to go from start to finish without stopping, but that’s not how life works. If you should find yourself getting sidetracked or backpedaling and aren’t sure how to get back on track, start by putting your machines to work first and making a list. It works for me every single time.

But beyond all this, it’s important to give yourself a break. Rome wasn’t built in a day and getting caught back up with the house chores likely won’t be done in a day, either. It’s  more important to spend time with your husband and children or hang out with family and friends than it is to have that perfectly spotless magazine ready home. So, do what you can, but make time for bonding, fun and relaxation too. You’ll get it done eventually.

Minimalism and Anxiety

I was inspired to write this post after reading another with the same title over at A Minimalist Abroad. Berin talks about how minimalism helped him to reset his priorities in life – his job, his daily activities, and stressing over things that truly do matter vs those that don’t, thus reducing his overall stress and anxiety. It was a great read. I hope you’ll check it out.

A few years back, I was also diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and depression, as well as post partum depression and attention deficit disorder. I was a mess.

What I found to be true for me, personally, is that specific situations and stressors triggered most of my symptoms. The feeling of dread, the feeling of overwhelm, that desire to escape it all and run away vs fight it out. All of those things, for me, were triggered by my environment.

My job at the time triggered my panic disorder and, in turn, caused the PTSD. Leaving that job was a tremendous step in the right direction, and while it was disappointing to end that chapter in my life, it opened doors to a similar but less stressful aspect of the same career field. My panic disorder lightened tremendously upon leaving. I think I still suffer a bit from the PTSD; some of the things that triggered my panic way back then still produce a bit of anxiety for me now, but they’re quickly fading as triggers the longer time goes on. The post partum kind of goes away on its own as the post-pregnancy hormones a woman deals with start to level out, so that’s gone now. The ADD is still something I deal with on a daily basis, and it’s frustrating, but I’ve learned to cope. I don’t feel depressed anymore, but my doctor tells me that all of the above stem from general depression as a jumping off point, so if you have one, you have depression as well. Whether I believe that or not… I don’t know.

One thing that stuck around for me, however, was the anxiety disorder. It plagued me daily. I constantly felt on edge with a short fuse. I was no longer taking medication with a doctor’s approval, and my symptoms were mostly manageable, but I still wasn’t where I wanted to be. I felt angry a lot and I didn’t like it, so I started really analyzing when I felt my worst, what my environment was like during those times, and what I felt might reduce those triggers.

Through some serious soul searching and being real with myself, I discovered most of my anxiety came from my home environment. I made a list of all the things at home that stressed me out. Once I felt that list was complete, I made a list of all the things that stressed me out that I had direct control over – things like bills, housekeeping, laundry, etc. Those things I couldn’t control I knew I had to just let go.

I found I was stressed b/c I was so overwhelmed by my duties at home. Our house was in a sad state of disarray and I hated it! I didn’t know where to start! And once I got started, I simply couldn’t keep up. I was constantly working on something. I was always telling my children I couldn’t do [insert whatever activity here] with them because I had [insert whatever household chore here] to do first and then I’d have to do [another chore] and [another]. My poor kids. They had a mom who was too busy and too stressed to be a mom! I dreaded going home at night because I knew my work was just beginning as I filtered through the list of things I needed to accomplish that I would never actually get done – ever – and because my attention would be pulled in so many different directions: kids, dinner, laundry, general cleaning, etc, etc, etc. It was never ending! I was very unhappy.

I knew something had to change so I brainstormed how to change it. I made a list of what I felt was the solution and how to achieve those solutions.

  • We have too many bills
    • Fewer debts would result in fewer bills
    • Buying less would result in fewer debts
    • Keeping things longer would result in fewer debts
    • Spending within our means would produce fewer debts
    • Paying extra on things more often would reduce our debts
  • My house was constantly an overwhelming “where do I start” mess
    • The house would be less messy if people put their things away
    • People could put their things away if their things had a home
    • Things would have a home if there were fewer things to house
  • Mount Washmore was insurmountable
    • Laundry would be less overwhelming if I did one load of laundry a day
    • One load a day would be sufficient if everyone had fewer clothes

Things like that.

In very timely fashion, I stumbled upon Konmari and the Magic book, which, in turn, led me to minimalism. As soon as I read the book, I felt like I had a chance to actually take control. As a Type-A personality, control is important!

Since completing the Konmari method and embracing minimalism, I have found my anxiety is nearly gone. I still have anxious moments and times when I feel super stressed to the max, but like Berin said in his post – these stressors are produced by things with meaning now, not a to do list I can’t keep up with. I know that I’m at a point now where I can forgo the to do list once or twice a week if I need to take a break or if the kids need extra cuddle time and things aren’t going to end up wildly out of control again. I don’t have a mountain of chores anymore – I have routine chores that are done in a very short period of time.

It all works now and my anxiety is so greatly diminished that I don’t think I suffer from generalized anxiety disorder anymore. Now I think I suffer from occasional situational stress, which is a normal part of life. Finding this way of life has been so absolutely blissful. I am so very thankful.

You can get your own copy of the Magic book here. (affiliate link)

The Facebook Project

A while back, I started noticing how much time I spent on Facebook. I noticed how much I was using my cell phone, primarily, which was my typical link to Facebook. Facebook was where I spent most of my time while using my phone. Hours would pass and I would have nothing to show for them. This was a problem. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that if I eliminate Facebook, I’ll eliminate the “I use my phone too much” problem. Two birds; one stone.

So, I removed the app in an attempt to spend less time there, opting instead to be more intentional with my use of Facebook by accessing it only via computer. I did indeed spend less time overall on Facebook, but it still wasn’t enough. I wasn’t accessing Facebook at home anymore (dragging out the laptop and logging in was meh… so I don’t do that very often), or while on the go, but I was still accessing Facebook too much at work, a problem in and of itself.

On days where I didn’t have a mountainous workload, this was probably a little ok, but there were days when I actually had quite the workload and I still went to Facebook. And while I was there, I was either consciously or subconsciously reading the newsfeed. I want to be a better employee, and Facebook is certainly not making that possible.

On the days when I was subconsciously browsing, I’d find myself losing hours of productivity. On days when I was consciously browsing, I’d find myself thinking “who cares?”, “blah, blah, blah”, “quit bragging”, and a number of other “I’m annoyed by this post” thoughts. I found myself skimming most of it, bored.

What I wanted was to eliminate my newsfeed, focus on the one or two groups I enjoy, and my public blogger page. I tried to avoid my newsfeed, but that danged thing has a magnetic pull that is hard to avoid.

My solution? Unfollow everyone! Ok, well, not everyone, but 96% of my friends list. I kept my family and some non-family who I really enjoy keeping up with. The rest were unfollowed. I noticed after doing this that my newsfeed was riddled with posts from public pages – pages I had “liked”. So I unliked them all. I also left every single group except for 6 (4 of which I’ll be leaving as soon as I am no longer employed by the Direct Sell industry – my departure from those groups will be noticed immediately and I don’t really want to have to explain myself to them).

This is what I’m calling The Facebook Project. There are 4 intended consequences for this project.

Reduce the time I spend on Facebook. My newsfeed is whittled down to the bare necessity. It’s minimized to things that I suspect will bring me joy. After performing my cuts, I discovered I only had about 5 minutes of reading material available to me. Perfect!

View Facebook consciously and intentionally. My newsfeed is minimized to the point that I’ll run out of things to mindlessly read very quickly and will have to find something else to occupy my time and mind. Additionally, if I think of a friend and wonder what they’re up to, I can intentionally go to their Facebook profile and check in. This will also allow me to keep up with the people I really want to keep up with rather than Facebook determining who I should grace my newsfeed.

More Life Less Consumed. *pun intended* My life will be less consumed by distraction, by aggravation, by idleness, by stress, and by the pull to keep up with the Joneses.  These things won’t be eliminated all together, but there will be one less source. Exactly what I need.

More privacy. This goes without saying, but I’m saying it anyway. 😉

The next step is to find a way to block the mobile browser from accessing Facebook and all those event invites I get… oy. Anyone know how to do that?

Until I can walk away from Facebook and never look back again, this is my solution. What is your relationship with Facebook like? Do you have any tips for reducing the time spent there?