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Month: October 2017 (page 1 of 2)


This writing thing is turning out to be kind of great. While I’m not writing anything good yet, I’ve actually managed to stick to my writing challenge, and corny as it sounds it’s giving me confidence that I can stick to other promises to myself as well.

When I was younger, I used to be really disciplined and I had this sense that I could do whatever I set my mind to. Throughout my 20s, life whacked me upside the head a few times (as it does all of us to varying degrees) and it made me lose faith in my ability to do and be anything outside the ordinary. That kept me from stepping out of my comfort zone, which inevitably caused my comfort zone to shrink, and I got well and truly stuck in a rut.

Anyway, I followed through on my commitment today and cleaned out a drawer in our kitchen. Besides feeling great, it made me think that maybe the way to get good at stepping out of my comfort zone isn’t to take on these big bold projects like I used to do. Maybe at this point in my life the best way to improve is to take small actions consistently. Who’s to say small projects can’t be bold too?

This week’s decluttering challenge

I had a really draining day today, and it certainly didn’t help my mood that the apartment was in complete disarray after my early birthday celebrations over the weekend. With clutter and mess pretty much everywhereI turned today, I’ve had decluttering on my mind, and I think I’ve come up with a good challenge to kick start the decluttering project; for the rest of the week I will pick one shelf or drawer everyday to go through and pull out the things I don’t want or need anymore. If it’s a busy day, I can choose one of the “easier” spots to declutter, and if I’m feeling up to it I can tackle a more challenging area.

I’m setting up two boxes tomorrow – a donate box and a sell on eBay box, and everything I’m getting rid of will go in one of the two. I’ve already arranged for the donation box to be picked up in a few weeks’ time, so I’ll have extra motivation to get a lot of decluttering done over the next few weeks! I’m excited to see how much I can get done by then!


Since I’m currently on maternity leave, I’m spend a lot more time in our apartment than I usually do, which means that (1) I get a lot more annoyed when it’s messy, and (2) it’s a lot easier to notice the things about our space that aren’t working for us. Lately, I feel like it’s getting almost impossible to keep the apartment looking clean and tidy while also keeping a tiny human alive, and frankly it’s becoming clear that the reason it’s so hard is that we just have too much stuff.

I’m not a naturally tidy person, so for me I think the only way to keep our apartment consistently clean is to make it easy to keep clean, which means that as the saying goes there needs to be “a place for everything, and everything in its place”. The problem at the moment is that we just have so many things that it’s quite impossible to find a place for everything in our apartment. So the first order of business is to get rid of some stuff, and once that’s taken care of, I think it’s time to start thinking about some improved storage solutions for certain areas in our home.

Lately I’ve been so good at putting aside my perfectionist ideas about doing things perfectly (which, incidentally, I just learned that sooooo many people do, and there’s even a term for it, “raising the bar” – check out the discussion about it in this podcast!) and just taking tiny, but consistent steps, so I thought I’d try that for decluttering as well. I’ll be back with an update on how I plan to tackle the decluttering tomorrow!

Things that are good for you part II

I think part of what I was trying to get at yesterday with my ramblings about retirement savings was this: so many things that are good for me are probably a lot easier to do than I think. The key, I think, is to make one great big decision that form now on this is a constant and a non-negotiable, so that you don’t have to keep making the decision to do it every day.

In some cases (like the retirement savings) you’ll be able to automate the rest, but even where you can’t (daily exercise, for instance, or getting enough sleep) making the “big decision” will sometimes make the daily follow up action feel inevitable, which believe it or not makes it that much easier to do. Think about it, once you are out taking a walk, is it hard to complete it? No, the hard part is deciding to get off the couch and go outside, and making a “master decision” that you always go on a walk every tay this saves you from having to decide every day.

At least for me, this seems to be an effective technique – I certainly have been writing a little something every day, even if it hasn’t usually been more than the minimum. So maybe it’s time to think about what other habits I want to acquire, and how I can make a master decision to cultivate them.

Why are things that are good for you always so boring? (aka do you save for retirement?)

The local chamber of commerce put on an event a few years back to teach younger people about saving for retirement, and I stopped by with a friend more or less by chance – it was in the building right next to our office, they offered free beer and we just happened to be free that night. It was an eye opening experience – long story short where I live, people in my generation who do not save anything for retirement in private accounts are looking at a pretty steep decline in living standard when they retire and/or a high retirement age.

Ever since that day I’ve saved at least 10% of my paycheck for retirement (my preferred method is to set up an automatic monthly contribution to an index fund, and then forget all about it), and I’m hoping to bump up that number in the future. It never ceases to amaze me how many people my age don’t save anything for retirement, figuring it’s so far off they’ll work it out later (if this is you, please, start today, compound interest is your friend!), yet I could easily have been in that category myself if I hadn’t happened to learn about it.

Why is it that the things that are good for us – saving for retirement, going to bead early, regular exercise, folding and putting away laundry right away – is just so… boring and difficult to get yourself to do?

The bare minimum

It’s been an incredibly long day, and I could really use some sleep, but I haven’t written anything yet today, so instead of passing out in bed here I am. It never ceases to amaze me how I can know intellectually that the best thing to do overall is to do the bare minimum in my writing challenge and go get some sleep, yet still really struggle to forgive myself for not doing more, doing better.

Here’s to challenging that uncomfortable feeling that the whole world will collapse in on itself if I don’t confound expectations, and doing the bare minimum.

One in, one out

I mentioned working on shifting my mindset from quantity to quality focus in my post on my self imposed shopping restrictions, and aside from buying only things I really love, that also entails paring down the amount of things I have.

I want to go into decluttering in a lot more detail in future – it’s another one of those things I really, really want to work on, but I convince myself I have to do it perfectly and KonMari the whole apartment, which makes it all too daunting and so I never do anything.

In the spirit of tiny habits, I’ve decided to try to start out small with a one in, one out habit. So for every item I bring in through my monthly buys, I have to let one thing go. This month’s boots are getting exchanged for a white J Crew blouse I never wear, which I’m giving away a friend it looks better on, and the collapsible table is taking the place of the lamp I used to have on my bedside table in our last apartment (it’s broken, and it’s about time to own up to the fact that I probably won’t be fixing it).

Tiny habits

Have you ever heard about tiny habits? It’s essentially the theory that if you want to cultivate a new habit, you should start by doing the smallest possible version of that habit (the classic example is if you want to build a habit of flossing daily, you should start by flossing just one tooth) so that it becomes so ridiculously easy to complete that you can’t not do it.

My problem with this has always been that I always expect myself to do more than the minimum version, which leads to a higher barrier to doing whatever it is, which leads me to not do it. (Seriously, I’m not kidding when I say letting perfect be the enemy of good is my signature move)

Anyway, I went to bed and suddenly realized I hadn’t written anything today. It would have been so easy to just go to sleep and leave it, because which sane mother of a tiny baby wants to spend time writing at midnight when she could be sleeping?

But instead, this is me trying to just do the thing and be satisfied with doing the tiny version of it. Behold, the five minute, 200 word blog post. Night!

October buys

So as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I decided a few weeks back that in order to get a handle on my online shopping, I’d limit myself to buying one item in the clothing/shoes/accessories category and one in the home decor category per month.

I’ve really been enjoying taking the time to “window shop” and trying to decide what to spend my October items on, and because I tend to have pretty expensive taste, I really enjoy feeling like I can get exactly what I want without feeling guilty, since I’ll only be buying the one item this month.

That said, this month’s fashion item is still a bit of a splurge, but since I turn 30 this month (eek!) I figure it can be a sort of birthday present to myself, so I don’t mind spending a bit more than I’d usually do.

I’ve been looking for the perfect black suede over-the-knee boots for ages, so when I finally found a pair that checked all the boxes, the Stuart Weitzman Allgood boots in black suede, I knew immediately I had to get them.

When I initially started my search for the perfect OTK boot about five years back, I originally considered the iconic Stuart Weitzman 5050 boots, which are quite similar to the Allgood. I know a lot of people love these, but after trying them on I knew they weren’t for me. First, I’m not crazy about the stretch neoprene back – to me it cheapens the boot somewhat, which for $ 650 boots I’m not willing to put up with. The second thing I don’t love about them is they have a very round toe box, which makes the foot look a little clunky to me. (I also looked at the SW Lowlands, which don’t have either of these issues, but they’re quite a bit longer and felt a bit overwhelming on me, since I’m only 5’4″ and my legs are on the shorter side).

I can’t help but think a lot of people must have disliked these two aspects of the 5050 boots, since SW have now seen fit to launch the Allgood, which is essentially the same boot with these key issues “fixed”. The suede version is all around suede, with the back the same type of stretch suede as the Lowlands (bizarrely, the back on the nappa version is faux leather – why??), and the toe box is slightly more almond shaped. I’m super excited to wear the Allgood boots all fall, and will put up a thorough review once I see how they hold up!

My home decor buy this month is much less interesting (but very necessary). We have a few dinner parties coming up with more guests than we can seat at our dining table, but we’re not really looking to replace our table since we don’t have enough room to keep a table that seats 10 out permanently. So instead I spent this month’s item on a sturdy and not too hideous collapsible table that we can get out (and cover in a tablecloth!) when we have guests, and stash in the attic the rest of the time.

Have you ever restricted your shopping to a certain number of items? How did it work out for you?

Photo by bargainmoose via Flickr (CC license)

Grappling with my online shopping problem

I have a shopping problem, specifically an online shopping problem. Lately I’ve just been buying too much stuff, and a lot of stuff that, when it came down to it, didn’t work out as well as I imagined it would when I bought it.

I think my shopping habit got a bit out of hand when I was pregnant and started using it as a coping mechanism when I was worried about all the overwhelming changes going on. Being a new parent is overwhelming too, and so I just seemed to continue (it really is freakishly easy to shop on your phone when you’re half-conscious while breastfeeding at night), and before I knew it I had accumulated a pile of clothes and home decor items I really could have done without.

Weirdly, I have no problem at all with over-shopping in brick and mortar stores. Mostly I think this is because I don’t particularly like browsing in stores, but there’s also the fact that online shopping is designed to be so, so convenient (kudos to the people whose job it is to lower the threshold for purchasing something from Nordstrom online, you all are too good at your jobs) not to mention the element of fantasy there is to online shopping – it is all too easy to fool myself into thinking the midi skirt I’m looking at will look as good on me as it does in the pictures, even though I’ve never in my life met a midi skirt that didn’t make me look stumpy.

It might seem like the obvious solution would be to stop shopping online and limit myself to purchases in brick and mortar stores instead. Unfortunately, I actually don’t think that would be a good solution for me, because most of the things I would want to buy are not really available in stores around where I live, or the cost is disproportionately higher than buying online.

I briefly considered setting a budget as a way to limit my online shopping, but there are a couple of reasons why I don’t think that would work too well for me. First,my shopping problem isn’t first and foremost a financial problem (I always spend less than I earn, save 10% of every paycheck for retirement etc.) – it’s really more a question of being thoughtful in my purchases, which a budget wouldn’t necessarily help with. Second, I’m trying to move from a quantity to a quality mindset and generally reduce the amount of stuff we have, and I worry that a spending limit might lead me to make some less than stellar buying decisions in order to get “more” out of the set amount.

However, it’s clear I need some sort of limits on shopping, lest I drown my whole family in J Crew cardigans and candle holders before we even get to Christmas. So, I’ve decided to limit my shopping to one item in the clothing/shoes/accessories category and one in the home decor category per month for the next year. Hopefully, I’ll consider my purchases more carefully and end up with items that I truly love. I’ve already been enjoying taking the time to decide what I’ll use my October items on and I think I’ve almost decided. I’ll be back with an update on that tomorrow!

Photo by Klaus Burmeister via Flickr (CC license)

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