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?

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)

When Joy Sparking Spills Beyond Discarding Clutter

Over the past year, I have been undergoing a life-changing process of clearing my home of clutter that contributed to my anxiety and overall discontent. My house always felt messy, I always felt like I had a ton of things to do, and I felt anxious all the time. I’d finally had enough and unofficially dubbed 2015 the year simplifying life and finding more happiness. I say unofficially because I didn’t tell anyone in real life what I was doing.

In a previous post, I discussed finding the “Magic” book that I felt had the power to transform my life and later discussed how the process works. I went into great detail, but I still highly recommend you purchase the book and read it to fully appreciate the process and the effect it can have. The book and process met my expectations and helped to open the door to a life I’m happy to be in.

The concept of sparking joy has infiltrated every aspect of my life. It’s wiggled its way into my Facebook account and resulted in the culling over over 100 “friends” and the removal of about 30 groups I didn’t wish to follow anymore.

Joy Sparking snuck into my phone and removed countless apps, to include Facebook and, surprisingly, MyFitnessPal, an app I had religiously logged into for a running total of 875 days without fail.

It burrowed into our financial world as well, which resulted in my resignation from a direct sell company I’d been a part of for the better part of two years, and the resignation from two others I had only been a member of for a few short months.

The longer “Joy Sparking” remained in my life, the less stuff and things I occupied my time with. I realized that the lifestyle I was trying to accomplish was Minimalism! I have found I need less and less “stuff” to find satisfaction.

I’ve started reading quite a few blogs on Minimalism. I’ve made a list of them here in case you want to check out what Minimalism is all about. I’m liking the concept so far.

What I once thought was a lifestyle of restrictions and stark emptiness is anything but! In reality, it’s a lifestyle of freedom! Since embracing the joy sparking art of decluttering and reducing my volume of belongings, I’m finding I’m free to experience life! I’m able to go camping with my family and not feel consumed by the guilt of accomplishing nothing while I sit by the fire. I’m finding I’m free to go on day trips with my husband and just enjoy his company. I’m finding the time to color with my children. I’m finding the time to visit my father’s farm and collect eggs and teach the children about farm animals. I’m finding the time to dream of what we want our future to be! I’m finding the time to read leisurely again. I have found minimalism to mean I can live the life I dream of living rather than being stuck cleaning the life I’d always thought I was supposed to live.

Less truly is more.

My Struggle with Facebook

Over the past few months, I have been struggling with what to do about Facebook. As I work to remove distractions from my life, I have learned very quickly just how heavy a distraction Facebook is. So, I’ve been slowly weeding it out of my life.

About a year ago, I experienced a personal hurt. I re-experienced this personal hurt on an almost daily basis by way of Facebook updates. I really struggled with the bitterness and anger I felt over the situation. I resented everyone involved – even those not directly involved. After doing some deep soul searching, I learned these people weren’t worth the anger and hurt feelings, and I wanted to cull them from my life. Unfortunately, that would come with confrontation, so I opted to “unfollow” them instead. That unfollow button was the best feature Facebook has ever offered. Unfollowing these people was liberating! I was free from my anger almost immediately. It felt so good I continued to unfollow anyone who ever posted anything that caused me even a moment of irritation, anger, frustration, annoyance or sadness (personal sadness, not sadness over their own situation).

Then I started getting braver. If I just didn’t care what someone had to post, I made the decision to delete them from my friends list. This occurred as part of my Konmari Journey. I think I deleted close to 100 people. I also went through and removed groups and pages I no longer wished to follow. Facebook felt lighter and my newsfeed felt cleaner.

Suddenly, my news feed wasn’t so annoying. But I still had this problem.

I didn’t really give a hoot what was posted on Facebook. None of it was exciting. None of it made me feel happy. But yet I was spending hours reading the newsfeed. Anytime I had a spare second, I’d browse through the newsfeed. Literally, for hours. When I’d get to stuff I’d already read, I’d refresh and start over. What a waste of time!

It was at that point that I decided to remove the app from my phone and only visit Facebook with intent via the computer. This resulted in me cutting down my usage a lot and prevented me from sharing a bunch of mundane who cares stuff. That thing that happened that annoyed me for 5 minutes at some point last week that has since been forgotten did not receive any Facebook fanfare. The stalkers who just troll to see what everyone is up to had no idea I went camping last weekend. You know, because who cares? However, on the flip side, that super cute picture I took of my kid walking with her daddy did not receive any Facebook fanfare, either. Nor did the interception my son got during his flag football game. And did it matter? Not one bit. We still celebrated my son’s interception and I still smile when I see the picture of my daughter and her dad. The lack of Facebook fanfare did not take away from those two moments.

However, Facebook is still a distraction. I currently have a direct sell business (more on that here) that I run through a Facebook group. I also like to keep up with the Konmari communities and minimalism communities on Facebook. So I downloaded the Facebook Groups app thinking that would help me ditch Facebook without actually ditching it. But, I was still viewing too much Facebook from the little glowing rectangle in my hand thanks to the groups app. And I was still viewing hours of Facebook content on the computer.

I don’t enjoy it, so why do I keep going back?

I may have found my reason. Fear of Missing Out. FOMO. Emily Torres, author of Minimal Millennial speaks about this syndrome (is it really a syndrome?) here. It finally made sense. It’s the reason I kept Facebook Groups. It’s the reason I kept Facebook Messenger. It’s the reason I was still viewing Facebook from a computer. I was scared of missing something.

My sister-in-law and I are both working on weeding Facebook out of our lives and she has also indicated that the fear of missing something keeps her from giving it up completely. But what are we really going to miss? Someone’s gripe? Someone’s brag post? The opportunity to compare our wonderful life to someone else’s wonderful life that we view as being slightly more wonderful than our own?

If anything, Facebook is reducing the awesomeness of our own lives every time we  browse the newsfeed. My life is awesome. I have a great job. I have an amazing husband and wonderful children. I have a suitable house, a suitable car, and make a suitable living. I don’t need to validate any of that by making a braggy post on Facebook. And I most certainly don’t want to cheapen it by comparing it to the life of some “almost friend” on Facebook that might appear to be better than my own life. That’s not fair to me or my family.

So, I’m working a bit harder to ditch Facebook. I removed Facebook Groups from my phone. I deactivated my business persona account (the one where I made some selly posts and tried – and failed – to keep up with my customers) and I deleted my business “like” page. In the next couple of weeks, I’ll be deleting my business group as well. I’ve already announced to my “clients” that I’m closing my doors to pursue the things that make me happy, so keeping the group open is a moot point. I may post my direct sell inventory on a garage sale page to get rid of it or I may just have a garage sale – I haven’t decided how I want to tackle that yet. I’ll send a message to those I wish to remain in close contact with and exchange phone numbers. Once that’s done, I’ll have little to no reason to ever frequent Facebook again. And why have an account if you aren’t going to use it?

So, I will begin the process of downloading the joy sparking images from my Facebook account very soon. I should have most of them saved already. Then it’ll be “adios Facebook”.

Have you deactivated or deleted your Facebook account? How has your life changed as a result? What additional advice might you have for me?

Freeing up Time for Things I Enjoy

My husband and I have been attempting to make headway in our debt for quite some time now. We were making a little bit of a dent, but it wasn’t as big as I’d like it to be, despite following the Dave Ramsey plan to the best of our ability and willingness (i.e. we refused to sell off everything we own – which is precisely why we’re only making a small dent).

Early in 2014, in an attempt to make a bigger dent, I decided to join a direct sell company. It was a good idea, in theory. I knew I’d be working a lot and had hoped to have a lot of parties so I could make that killer residual income that everyone talks about making. Unfortunately, for me, that wasn’t what happened. I didn’t have lots of parties. My parties didn’t produce a lot of sales volume. And I didn’t make a killer residual income.

But I was determined to see it through and thought that if I just worked a little bit harder, I’d find success.

So I kept trying (read: bugging my friends to have parties). I provided prizes and incentives for my hostesses (read: I spent my commission before I even received it). And I carried our product everywhere (which meant I had to spend commission to buy product I didn’t earn).

Unfortunately, none of it was enough and I ended up spending much more than I made. It wasn’t worth the time I spent on it.

So I have decided to hang it up. With my current goal being to seek joy in everything I do and own, this just had to go. I absolutely love our product. I use the product every single day. I enjoy looking at the catalog. I think it is fairly priced for the quality and would (for the most part) buy every item in the catalog. I know it’s a high quality product that will stand the test of time. I’ve been abusing some of the products for over a year now and they’re still holding strong.

However, soliciting for parties does not bring me joy. I don’t enjoy bugging my friends. I don’t enjoy begging for parties on Facebook. I don’t enjoy spending money on marketing materials only to have no new customers coming in. It’s with a heavy heart that I give it up because the company is a great company. They shower their consultants with gifts and pay decently. But I can’t bring in the sales I need to make it worthwhile.

It’s all about doing what makes us happy right? Working this business was just another thing I had to do that didn’t make me happy – much like having a tooth pulled. When I compare it to other things I spend my time doing, it’s not a joy sparker. Scrubbing toilets makes me happy (b/c they’re clean, yo), doing laundry makes me happy (who doesn’t love clean clothes), pulling weeds makes me happy (it makes my flowers happy too). But soliciting for parties every single day and getting zero parties does not bring me joy.

It’s time to enjoy knowing my weekends are open for football games, baseball games, racing, fishing, camping and sacking out on the couch, or whatever spontaneous thing my husband springs on me next. Having the freedom to be spontaneous was a major part of the purpose behind simplifying, minimizing and decluttering my life. I wanted to be free of the never-ending to-do list. If my husband walked in and said “hey, let’s go do this today”, I wanted the time and financial freedom to do it.

I’ve announced it to my clients already, so they’re aware. Put a check in that box. It was fun (not really) while it lasted. I have a couple of catalog parties scheduled to be submitted yet this month, but after that, I’m closing my website, selling my inventory and disbanding my Facebook group.

Did you recently free up a bunch of your time? How did you do it?

My “Magic” Book

Once upon a time, my house was a disaster.

Things were stacked everywhere.
Kids’ toys were heaped about.
Laundry sat in baskets for weeks on end.
We couldn’t find anything we were looking for quickly.
Mornings were hectic and chaotic.
Counters were unusable.
Pictures could not be shared publicly.

I tried everything. Marathon cleaning. Room-by-room cleaning. Buying storage containers. 15 minutes here, 15 minutes there. One-in, one-out. Burning down the house and starting from scratch… ok, so I didn’t do that last one, but I thought about it on more than on occasion. I even thought about tackling it “TLC Clean Sweep” style where everything gets removed from the house and placed under a large tent in the front yard and sorted as either Keep, Sell or Donate. But that seemed a bit overwhelming so I scratched that idea pretty quickly.

One thing was for certain: I was absolutely desperate for change in our home. I didn’t enjoy my life. I seriously felt like I was constantly cleaning and never getting anywhere – like a hamster on a wheel. I shared all the housekeeping memes on Facebook that blamed my kids for the mess.

Like this one:

image

Or this one:

image

The truth is, the kids weren’t solely to blame.

I grew up in a house that was perpetually neat. We had a couple “lived in” messes here and there, but they were short-lived messes. My husband grew up in a house very similar. But my bedroom was always a mess growing up. My parents used to joke that they could pull the carpet up and sell it as brand new b/c it had never been walked on thanks to all the clothes that blanketed my floor. My mom would send me to clean my room and it would take an entire weekend – to clean one room! Why?

My husband’s room, conversely, was always clean. I remember staying at his parents’ house with him before we moved in together and he’d clean his room every morning. He’d put things away and pick up laundry. Everyday.

Both of our houses growing up were always ready for company. However, our house together was anything but. At first it was, but over time it got messier and messier. I couldn’t figure out why we couldn’t get our house decent like our parents’ houses. Were were just lazy? Yeah, probably a little bit, but this was more than just laziness.

And it only got worse once we had kids, and even worse yet when the kids became mobile.

I felt like I was drowning every day. I could not keep the house clean. I finally gave up. Our house wasn’t filthy. It was just messy. And it really bothered me. I came home everyday dreading the pending workload. I felt anxious just thinking about coming home from work. I preferred being at work b/c it was less work – and the work I did have to do had an end point – unlike the work at home.

The years went on and I honestly kept trying. I’d go in spurts where cleaning was my passion and I’d feel like I’d made headway, but then life would get busy and it would go right back to the way it was.

As with the start of every year, I vowed to make this year different. 2015 was no exception. Except, it was. 2015 was the year I discovered my “Magic” book.

I was a posting member of the forums over at Mark’s Daily Apple, a health, wellness and nutrition website, and accidentally stumbled upon a post by a friend about her Magic book. At first, I wasn’t all that interested until she kept talking about it and much better her home felt. I inquired. She shared the title and mentioned another poster having introduced her to it. So I checked out the blog of this other gal. She kept talking about her Magic book and how it transformed her life and how easy her house was to keep clean now. I was in. Hook, line and sinker!

What is this “Magic” book, you ask? Well, if you know me on Facebook, you already know. If we aren’t friends on Facebook, here it is.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo.

As cliché as it might sound, this book changed. my. life. Serious as a heart attack, here, folks. This book was my game changer. This little $10 200 page book was all it took.

This book told me what the problem was. I wasn’t lazy. I was overwhelmed. I was overwhelmed because I had too much stuff! I already knew this but for some reason having this book tell me this was eye-opening, as silly as that sounds. This book taught me how to declutter the proper way. Not room by room, but category by category. It taught me not to just throw things away like every other book on the planet did; rather this book told me to keep only those things that make me happy. What a great idea: keeping things we love, that make us happy. Get rid of anything that doesn’t fit into that “I really like this; it brings me joy” category. It taught me how to set aside the “I spent so much money on this I can’t just get rid of it” and the “But so-and-so got me that as a gift. I can’t get rid of it” excuses. It seriously changed how I looked at the things in our house – I was seeing things with new eyes, if you will.

Since reading the book and implementing Marie’s suggestions, my house is literally only 5 minutes away from being “company ready”. Clear the coffee table of our drinks, empty the recycling and maybe run a load of dishes through the dishwasher and we’re completely ready for company. On any given day. No more marathon cleaning sessions for birthday parties! No more telling people “let’s meet at your house”. No more telling my kids their friends can’t come over for fear the kids will go home and tell their parents what a mess our place was. No more. We’re free of that embarrassment! Finally! And the effects of the book are spilling over into every aspect of our lives. There are far too many positive impacts to discuss in this post – we’ll touch on them later.

Suffice it to say this book has changed my life and the lives of those around me. And I’m so grateful!

Have you read the “Magic” book yet? If you haven’t, I highly recommend you get it on order. You can check your local library, but from what I’ve seen on social media, the wait list for this book at libraries is so long people are waiting upwards of 9 months for it to come available. Just spend the $10. I promise you won’t regret it. I’ll check in again in a few days, give you some time to read my “Magic” book and then we’ll discuss it further.

Happy reading!