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Category: Daily posting challenge (page 2 of 3)

Gift-related guilt

In yesterday’s post about decluttering, I touched briefly on the guilt that can come with gifts, especially when you’re trying to reduce the amount of things you own. I’m wrestling with this at the moment, because I had my birthday earlier this week, and while I received some really great gifts, I also received a few that for whatever reason weren’t spot on.

For example, I got a lot of books, which normally I would love, but right now I don’t have a lot of time to read because I’m busy trying to keep a tiny human alive (I’m going through a lot of audiobooks at the moment, though) and I already have a big pile of unread books I’m hoping to get to. So today I went to exchange a few of the books I received, and I found a really great brush lettering work book (I love practicing lettering as a way to unwind, I get all zen and relaxed from it) and then I spent the rest of the store credit on some nice candles.

Now, this was a really good trade for me – it gets really dark here during the winter and candles is one of my favorite ways to make the short days feel cozy instead of dreary. These were really nice candles in beautiful colors that I wouldn’t normally buy for myself, and I know I’ll get a lot of enjoyment out of them, yet I still felt guilty exchanging the books for them. It’s odd, but although the candles are “better” for my life right now, I realized I had this unconscious feeling that the gift-givers would be insulted that I exchanged something “permanent” for something consumable and temporary.

Isn’t it crazy how many ideas we carry around about gifts and the meaning they carry? Anyway, in the end I figured the only reasonable thing to do was exchange the books for the beautiful candles, after all if I had given someone a gift that didn’t work for them, I would certainly hope they would exchange it for something that made them happier!

Do you struggle with guilt over exchanging gifts that don’t work for you? Would you ever let the gift-giver know if you exchanged their gift? And would you want to know if you were the gift-giver?

Let it go, let it go!

Although I got started on the decluttering challenge yesterday, today felt like the “real” start of the challenge. All the things I put in the donate box yesterday were easy to get rid of; they were things I was sure I didn’t want or need and I didn’t feel conflicted about giving them away.

The two drawers I picked for today were much harder to finish. I had to let go of a couple of items that I don’t really dislike, they just don’t really serve me anymore. I felt a surprising amount of guilt and resistance to letting them go, because when I got them years back, they were both gifts. Somehow, it felt terrible to let go of these things, even though I rarely use them, since I have other things that serve the same purpose and work better for me. These aren’t items of any particular importance, and I’m quite sure the gift-givers have long since forgotten about them, so it’s fascinating to me that I had such a strong reaction to letting them go. Wonder how it’ll go when I get to the truly sentimental stuff…

To help keep track of my progress with the challenge, I also drew an overview of all the drawers and shelves that I eventually want to declutter (there are 85 in total). I’m coloring them in as I complete cleaning them out, deciding what each will be used for and making sure that each contains only the things that are supposed to go in it. To further up my motivation, I decided that when I’ve finished decluttering all 85 shelves/drawers, I will use that month’s home shopping allowance on a Roomba (I’ve wanted one for the longest time, since I hate vacuuming, but love when the floors have been vacuumed).


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!

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