30 days

30 Days

April 26, 2013

If you’re at all familiar with home organizing websites (or Pinterest) then you’ve probably come across the concept of “30 Days of Organizing.” With my affection for lists and for clearing out and decluttering, I’m always drawn to these lists and often start off making my own with a burst of enthusiasm—enthusiasm that fades approximately five days into the whole deal. You see, I’m always attracted to the fantasy idea of “getting things under control” in a set time, like 30 days. Never mind that life itself resists efforts to control it, and likely will never be under control. Never mind that my list often sounds about as fun as 30 days of dental appointments. (How much interest can I really drum up in cleaning the bedroom ceiling fan?)

So as I was making my latest dreary home organizing list, I pondered taking the 30 days concept in a much more enjoyable direction. What about scheduling 30 days of creativity? Or 30 days of sketching, writing, gratitude, or even pampering? Oh, oh, oh—or 30 days of chocolate! Gee, those sound a lot more fun! Frankly, I have more need of scheduling creativity and fun that I do chores. Despite my sensitive conscience and obsession with contributing to family life, I do enough. Instead of adding more to my workload, I’m going to schedule in some fun.

As I was thinking about this idea, I also remembered something I’d read on Matt Cutts’ blog—a slightly different take on the 30 days concept.  Matt is a software engineer and head of Google’s Webspam team and he chooses a new 30-day challenge every month. Some of his challenges have been 30 days of: exercise; acts of kindness; avoiding reading, watching or hearing the news; drawing something; and ukulele! Here’s a link to a video of Matt giving a short TED talk about 30-day challenges: 

I decided to go for 30 Days of Creativity, and here are a few things I’ve jotted down on my list (any suggestions?): go on an artist’s date; finish filling my sketchbook that only has two or three blank pages left in it; write a haiku; take some photos. At this point, I’m not going to limit myself to any one area of creativity, but I am going to try hard to make it 30 consecutive days. That will be a big challenge for me, because I often find it hard to do anything for 30 consecutive days, even fun things. I usually miss a day here and there, but I won’t beat myself up about that. Any step in a more creative direction will be progress. To keep me honest, I’ll let you know when I officially start my experiment, and post updates about it here on the blog.

In my opinion, we don’t need to add more work to our lives. We need to add more joy, more play, more fun and creativity. There will always be more than enough work to fill our time—but is that really how we want to fill it?

What would you like to try for 30 days?


Dog Paddling in the Ocean...

September 28, 2012

That’s what I feel like I’m doing. Anyone else? Is it just me, or does life seem unaccountably, almost unbearably busy lately? I feel frantic! I have no down time between activities. I’m distracted—more so than normal. I shudder to think what the holidays will be like when I feel like this in September.

Since reading World Enough and Time, I’ve become more aware of time and my use of it, even going so far as to keep a time log a couple of weeks ago. Maybe it’s because I’m more aware that it seems like life has sped up?

From keeping the time log, I learned that I multi-task A LOT, and I do a lot of small tasks that add up to big chunks of time. I had to use a pen with an extra fine tip in order to fit all I did into the half hour boxes of the time log! Even if I was working out on the elliptical machine, I was also reading a magazine. If we had the TV on, I was cooking or cleaning the kitchen, balancing the checkbook or folding laundry. The only time I had large stretches of time doing one thing was when I went to the barn, and that’s because I didn’t record each individual thing I did while I was there.

No wonder I’m so tired by the end of the day. I really do cram a lot of little tasks into my days, often doing them one right after another. Since I can’t really point to any major accomplishment, except maybe keeping our lives running, I never get a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment from what I do. So many things I do “disappear”—they must be done again, and again (and again). They’re not even noticed by anyone unless I stop doing them.

Is this a problem? Maybe. If I’m running around filling my days with the little details, I never have to face my fears—the fear that I won’t have anything to say when I sit in front of a blank page, or the fear that if I stopped “doing,” my worth as a human being would plummet. I want to be a contributor in life, not just a taker, but the way in which I’m going about it now is not sustainable.

I don’t want to live like this anymore. I’m stepping back and calling a halt, starting with a day off tomorrow. I’m going to look at my current schedule and activities and ask:

*Does this need doing?
*Do I need to do it?
*Can it be done less frequently?
*Can someone help me with this so it will go quicker?

It’s a start. Maybe then I’ll be able to get my head above water.

Do you have any tips on controlling your schedule and commitments you can share?


Just (Don't) Do It

September 14, 2012

Despite the love/hate relationship I have with lists, I’m creating a new one: The Do Not Do List.

The Do Not Do List has been on my mind for quite a while. I’ve been jotting down things I won’t do anymore (see below) and I keep stumbling on articles that talk about the concept, which I think is a rather important one. Yes, it is important to know what you want to do. It is just as important to know what you will not do.

There are several reasons why something would land on a Do Not Do List. I’m not talking about the obvious illegal or immoral things, but things that, for whatever reason, you choose not to do. Maybe it’s a chore like washing windows, or a social obligation you decide no longer fits with your life. Do Not Dos can be as simple as “Do not check email before breakfast” or they can involve more weighty items related to work, parenting, volunteering, social or family issues. Each person’s list will be different.

Things for the Do Not Do list fall into a couple of categories: things you don’t want to do or dislike doing, and things you’d like to do, but currently don’t have the time or resources for. Think about that first type for a minute. We’re adults with (hopefully) mature minds of our own. Surely there are a number of things we do out of habit that we do not need to do. When we stop doing them, we free up time for more important and enjoyable activities.

The second category, things you’d like to do, can be placed temporarily on the Do Not Do List, to allow you to concentrate on a few priorities. You might develop a “Do Later” subcategory on the Do Not Do List. This is the type of thing I put on the Six-Year Calendar of Happiness.

The Do Not Do List helps you get rid of activities that are not adding to the sum of your happiness and productivity, but it also helps you focus on your most rewarding current priorities by streamlining your To Do List. Once something lands on the Do Not Do List, you don’t have to think about it anymore. You should feel a psychic burden lifted from your shoulders.

The Do Not Do List doesn’t have to be set in stone. Some things might stay on it for a week, a few months, a few years. Possibly some things will stay on it forever. Reevaluate occasionally to make sure it’s still working for you.

Here are a few examples of things I currently Do Not Do:

Take clothes to consignment stores. Too much work for not a big enough return. If I have unwanted clothes, I donate them to Goodwill Industries.

Read every article in a magazine. It might sound crazy, but I used to think I needed to read every single piece in a magazine, especially if I bought it instead of checking it out from the library. I would read articles that I was not particularly interested in because I was afraid of missing something I really needed to read, or the one paragraph or sentence that would spark a brilliant idea. I’ve come to realize that if there’s an idea or important concept out there for me, it will find me. I’ve also learned to stop reading books that I really don’t like.

Go on diets. Sure, I could stand to lose a few pounds. I have several strategies I use when the number on the scale (or the waistband on the pants) tells me my weight has crept up, but I do not cut out any food groups, restrict my calories to a very low level or follow someone else’s eating plan. I know those methods do not work for me. I become instantly rebellious, hyper focused on food and generally make things worse for myself. My way is excruciatingly slow (try five pounds in 10 weeks), but I do not usually feel deprived, and each time I have to make adjustments to keep my weight under control, I try to make lifetime habit changes. I also try to do it from a position of love for my body and what it does for me, instead of trying to punish it. Easier said than done, but I’m working on it.

Wear shoes, no matter how cute, that hurt my feet, legs or back. I’m constantly on the lookout for comfortable, cute shoes and I’m willing to pay a bit more for them. So far I’ve had limited success. (Suggestions welcomed!)

We live in a complicated world in which the ability to say no to the extraneous and focus on the essential has become a vital skill. We cannot possibly focus quality attention on as many things as demand that attention. We have to pick and choose, no matter how difficult that might be (and I find it difficult). Even if we feel guilty for giving up unpleasant tasks, it’s still easier to dispose of things we don’t like doing, and much harder to streamline our enjoyable interests.  What are we willing to give up in order to accomplish something significant in an area of highest priority? Putting those things on a Do Not Do List, or even a Do Later List, can help simplify and clarify our lives.

What is on your Do Not Do List?


I Don't Wanna!

May 25, 2010

Do you ever get tired of the dailiness of your daily chores? I’ve been going through a stretch where I am absolutely sick of cooking. I don’t want to make dinner ever again.

I don’t wanna!

Fortunately, I have a wonderful husband who often helps with dinner and has offered to take over cooking for a week at a time. (I just might take him up on that.) The problem is, it’s more than that. I also don’t wanna clean the bathrooms or vacuum or wash the dishes. And let us not even speak of the laundry. Obviously, I was supposed to be born into a life of leisure, and something has gone terribly wrong.

I know I should be able to enjoy the Zen of the sudsy dishwater or the aesthetic beauty of the chopped tomatoes and basil in the salad. But, frankly, I’m just tired of it. It never ends! Sure, I can clean the toilet. Then it will get dirty again. And the family will get hungry and require dinner. Again.

Since I can’t afford to hire a chef or a maid, I have to trick and bribe and reward myself into keeping up with my household responsibilities when I feel like this. I use the kitchen timer. I promise myself I only have to clean while the commercials are on during a favorite TV show. I reward myself with a half hour of reading for pleasure if I empty the dishwasher and refill it. I even—gasp—skip doing a chore at its appointed time. Guess what? The world doesn’t end. The house remains standing, and though it occasionally looks a little disheveled, the health inspector has not yet condemned it.

This ennui tells me something: I need a break. I need a day or two where I don’t have to do chores and errands and cooking. A day or two in which to listen to myself and see if there is anything I could simplify or stop doing. Does my schedule need rearranging? Is there something I should start doing that would feed my soul? I’m learning not to be so hard on myself when I’m feeling a little less than enthusiastic about household chores.

Soon enough I’ll feel better, and I’ll go back to cooking and cleaning with a better attitude. Until then, does anybody have the phone number for the pizza delivery place?

Just a little reminder