Thursday, November 20, 2008

Accidental Diet

Well, it looks like I've failed miserably so far to keep on top of updating this blog. What can I say? I honestly haven't had the motivation. Which I know is a lame of excuse since the blog itself is supposed to be a source of motivation and support. I've been slammed by work, school, etc. and just haven't felt I had anything clever or helpful to say. I want this blog to be useful to those of you who take the time to read it. On the other hand, in order for it to be really useful for me I have to be more diligent about updating. I suppose I could try the diary style update a la Bridget certainly wouldn't be nearly as entertaining as Ms. Jones' Diary, but it would help keep me on track and connected.

As far as progress goes, I have made a little. The fact that I'm trying to save money by brown bagging coupled with being too busy to eat has lead to what I'm calling the "Accidental Diet." Because I need to save both time and money I'm eating a lot of baked potatoes and peanut butter sandwiches. I'm supplementing with baby carrots, apples, bananas and raw almonds. Since my roommate moved out, there are few snack foods in the house, so basically my eating habits have improved with very little effort from me, mostly by "accident." This new diet has lead to some good initial results and I've decided to get serious about working out again to compliment the reduced calorie intake. The workout schedule has been full of false starts and a real lack of commitment, but I'm feeling much more motivated now. Especially because I've lost 10 lbs. without really trying or feeling that I've given up anything. Besides brown-bagging lunches and not bringing a lot of snack foods into the house, I've gone against conventional wisdom which says don't eat late at night. In the past, I'd eat dinner before class, but then be hungry again when I got home somewhere between 9:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. Then I'd end up snacking on junk. Now I don't really have junk in the house. I eat some almonds or an apple before class and have dinner when I get home. I'm up for a few hours anyway, so this works for me. As I said, it goes against conventional wisdom, but who likes conventional anyway?

My weight loss also seems like good example of how the Paradoxical Theory of Change works. Once I stopped trying to change, change happened. I recently became aware of the critical thoughts I frequently had such as "I really need to lose weight" "I've got to lose weight, " etc. These thoughts drained away my energy and made me feel ashamed. They certainly didn't help me to lose weight. Once I became aware of them, I was able to stop them and stop the energy drain. I'm sure this has also contributed to the success so far of the Accidental Diet.

On the apartment front I've honestly just been maintaining the status quo for a while and not making a lot of progress in overall organization. That's about to change. I have the Thanksgiving holiday weekend coming up and I fully intend to dedicate it to deep cleaning and organizing the apartment. This is going to be a big push not only so that I can head into the New Year with things in shape, but also because I plan on doing more entertaining, starting next month so the place needs to be in shape.

With the end of 2008 looming, I feel I really want to make a big push to start 2009 on the right foot. I'll be updating over the long weekend to let you know how progress with the apartment goes. And I'll also begin weekly weigh-ins and report back the results--yikes!

p.s. Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I have much to be thankful for this year as I've had some amazing trips, great times with friends and family, fantastic meals and spectacular wines!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Spinning My Wheels

WTF? It seems like lately for every tiny bit of progress I make in one area, things go straight to hell in another. It would be great if I could report that I had a handle on at least one aspect of my life, but sadly I cannot. I am feeling extremely frustrated this week. I'm sure the financial chaos the country is facing right now is not helping since it could directly affect not only my savings, but my compensation as well. I'm just not certain that is the only thing bothering me. I basically feel like each and every day is a colossal struggle for me. I struggle to keep my apartment from lapsing into utter chaos, to perform at work and school, to eat healthy foods, to get some sort of exercise, to keep my head above water financially (something that hasn't been a problem for me for several years). There is just not enough time in the day to deal with everything so corners must be cut which results in going backward instead of forward. I just can't seem to keep all of my plates spinning. I made progress cleaning and organizing my office this week which felt great. My apartment, on the other hand, seems to have spiraled out of control. The problem right now isn't just clutter, the place is actually a mess which is extremely anxiety provoking for me and yet, I cannot seem to motivate to clean. I've also been eating way too much fast food and other garbage the past few days as I haven't felt like cooking (which I normally really enjoy.) I feel overwhelmed.

I am now going to force myself to clean my entry way. I've been piling crap there all week so it now takes some serious navigation to actually enter my apartment. I am hoping that clearing the path will not only reduce my anxiety, but also motivate me to do more. At the very least I won't trip and kill myself. I suppose this would be progress. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Progressing Slowly

It has been a few months now since I started this blog and I must admit I haven't posted as often as I would like and I haven't made as much progress in getting a life as I would have liked either. I haven't had any big recent successes to report, but I believe I should be blogging regardless. The point is to chart my progress (the ups and the downs), solicit your feedback and hopefully give you some inspiration as well. I have made many great strides in getting rid of clutter and creating a peaceful and nurturing home environment, but I'm not there yet.

I was able to get rid of a ton of stuff at my yard sale a few weeks ago. All the big items were sold and I was able to pack up the few remaining items in my car and haul them immediately to Goodwill. It was a great feeling to be free of these unwanted and unneeded items! Plus, I like to think someone who truly wants or needs them will now have them. I haven't accomplished any big projects since then. While it is true that I am extremely busy, I need to make the time to care for myself so that I can maintain my busy schedule and be there for my clients. Caring for my home is an extension of this self-care and so must be a priority.

One thing I've realized is that I need to do enough work throughout the week, even if it is only ten or fifteen minutes per night, so that I can afford to spend some of my Saturday and Sunday afternoons cheering on my favorite teams now that football season has started. With my work, school and clients, I know I need the down time to recharge. Doing a few minutes every night helps me to keep on top of things so that they don't pile up, becoming a more daunting task and sucking my energy. One area I have had good success in is keeping up with the dishes. Now that my roommate has moved out and I'm just one person, it is easier than ever to wash up the few dishes I use every night. It takes barely any time and I'm rewarded with a clean kitchen without spending a ton of time or energy.

I have also been better at keeping up with mail, especially junk mail. I try to sort it daily, sending most to the recycle bin as it comes in and shredding things with sensitive information on the weekends. The one area of major downfall is magazines. I love magazines and have several subscriptions. Unfortunately, I don't really have the time to keep up with reading them and they are now contributing to the clutter. I plan on reducing my subscriptions as they expires, renewing only a few of my favorites. I am also going to try putting a time limit on myself. If I haven't read the magazine within two weeks, I will pass it along to friends.

Despite the changes I'm making and the work done so far, my apartment still has a long way to go. Sometimes it can be discouraging as I just can't seem to get everything done. And there are times when I really just don't feel like doing anything. It can be a struggle, but I know from the success I've had so far that it is worth it to keep going. With every unnecessary item I've donated or tossed, with every closet, drawer or cupboard organized, I feel an increased sense of peace. Even if we can't see it because it is in a closet or cupboard, we cannot help being aware of the clutter in our lives. It causes stress and robs us of energy. So, I will continue on with the struggle. I'm sure there will be many ups and downs. And you'll hear about all of them here.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Step 2: Simplicity and the Art of Living Well

Life has a way of teaching us lessons. Usually this occurs in the school of hard knocks, kick you when you're down style we've all come to know and love. Every once in a while our lesson shows up in the form of something wonderful though. That's what happened to me the other day. A friend and I decided on the spur of the moment to have lunch at our favorite restaurant, Craft, for no special reason at all--which is really the very best reason to treat yourself! One of the things we love most about Craft is the simplicity and quality of the food. Great ingredients do not need to be drowned in sauces, spices or dressings to shine. While enjoying our luscious diver scallops, Cobb salad and hen of the woods mushrooms, we talked about how much we preferred this type of food to virtually anything else around. Craft is not an everyday kind of restaurant (unless you are a lottery winner or Hollywood mogul--either of which I am quite willing to become, btw). It is pricey. We both agreed that we'd rather brown bag it most days instead of eating out at inexpensive and mediocre places and put the money saved toward the occasional Craft splurge. Quality over quantity is something you hear all the time, but I don't think it is a concept most Americans embrace. In America, more and bigger is always better. I've been guilty of this myself. In college I wanted to drink as much as possible so Black Label beer was great. Now that I've developed a more sophisticated palate (and have less tolerance for hangovers) I would really rather enjoy a couple of Fat Tires. I'd rather have one perfect artisanal truffle than an entire bar of cheap chocolate. Sometimes less really is more!

As I've been removing clutter from my home, I am convinced this concept applies there too. Clearly it is necessary to be ruthless whenever you make a purchase so that you end up with quality items you truly love and use rather than closets full of crap you wish you had never bought. We live in a disposable culture where most things seem poorly constructed, meant to be replaced rather than repaired. I think this is a shame considering our landfills are already overburdened. When I started shopping for furniture last year, many people thought I was crazy to spend as much as I did. I wanted something that would last though. I wanted furniture made from actual wood, not particle board. I will have this furniture for years to come and I am really glad that I took the extra time and money to find the quality pieces I wanted. Similarly, I've always heard that French women have fewer, but higher quality clothes. Realizing that I wear only about 10% of the clothes I own on a regular basis, I see that this concept can work. If you are wearing the same clothes over and over (and you know you are) consider why this is. Probably because these pieces are the most comfortable and look the best on you. So why not buy just a few really great pieces instead of several so-so items? Remember also that the cheapest thing is not always the best value. If it isn't made to last, odds are you will spend more replacing it than you would have on a higher quality product in the first place.

The lesson for me is that by concentrating on quality in our lives (that goes for quality people too, btw!) we can live well without necessarily spending a lot more over time. Quality food choices will make us healthier over all. Quality purchases will make our homes attractive and comfortable without adding to our clutter or our landfills. Quality people will make our lives richer without added chaos.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Feng Shui Update

I continued to de-clutter over the 4th of July weekend and things are going very well. The work was a little slower as I got into more detailed work such as weeding files. I plan to tackle the two hall closets tomorrow in preparation for a yard sale next weekend. Whatever doesn't sell will be taken immediately to Goodwill. My roommate will be moving at the end of the month so I'll be working on fixing up the new "guest room" once his stuff is out. I have admit that even though I still have a long way to go, I do feel a certain lightness and easiness now that my room is less cluttered. Maybe the energy really is flowing better, or maybe the decrease in chaos just has a calming effect. Either way, I believe this is going to make a difference in my life. I got rid of several more "blue widgets" this weekend and, in doing so, realized I had held on to many of them far too long. The emotional attachments that once made me keep these items just weren't there any more. I experienced the actual feeling that these items had become burdens to me--filling up space and weighing me down. What a relief to finally let them go! Do you have things in your home that are not useful or beautiful? Things you just don't love or need? Think about how these items are taking up space and requiring cleaning or other upkeep. Is the energy wasted keeping them around really worth it? What would happen if you decided to let go?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Billboard Wisdom

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."
-- Henry David Thoreau
I saw a billboard for Bacardi today which read “Live Like You Mean It.” This really struck a chord with me and not just because I enjoy a good Mojito. I started this blog specifically because I want to start living deliberately, to work actively toward creating a life. With the exception of a few major decisions, I am guilty of just allowing life to happen to me rather than being an active participant. I can’t say I’m happy with the results. I realize there are many things beyond our control, but so much of where we end up depends upon the choices we make. Living without intention has led me to a place in life I don’t really want to be with no real idea of how I even got here. It’s like that feeling you get when you’re young and drinking all night with your friends seems like a good idea. You wake up the next day and think to yourself, “How the hell did I get here?” Sure you had a good time (you think), but you feel like hell and you seem to have spent all your money. You may even be in the wrong house. I feel just like that only on a larger scale. I woke up and realized I was in the wrong life! So I've decide I will live deliberately, with intention, “like I mean it.” Because when my time comes, I want to look back and KNOW that I really lived.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

STEP 1: CREATE A NURTURNING ENVIRONMENT. In other words, get up off your ass and clean house!

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

--William Morris

I’ve decided to begin my quest for a life by cleaning, organizing and decorating my apartment so I can enter without tripping over anything, relax when I’m there and even actually invite people over from time to time without feeling embarrassed. I’ve been looking into the practice of Feng Shui and it seems I’ve violated pretty much all of the principles. Perhaps this explains my life. Even though I have no intention of hanging wind chimes in my apartment for any reason, having a clean, organized home makes practical sense to me. Chaos in my surroundings is anxiety provoking. I am an admitted germaphobe, but I am not a neat freak. A certain amount of clutter is fine with me. At some point, however, my apartment has crossed over into the chaos zone. Since I’m rarely home—work, school, internship, volunteering, rare social engagements—I’m surprised by how insanely disorganized my apt. has become. On the other hand, since I'm so busy, when I am home I barely have time to do laundry and clean the bathrooms, let alone anything else. Plus, when given the choice between cleaning and sitting on my ass, I'm likely to choose sitting on my ass. Wouldn't you?

I began clearing out the clutter last weekend and am hoping to make even more progress this weekend. Once my roommate moves out, I’ll have extra storage space as well so by the first week of August, my apt. should be thoroughly clean and organized. As you can see from this "before" picture, I've mostly been using my bedroom as a storage unit. A rather poorly maintained and disorganized storage unit.

I have a tendency to keep things just because they were a gift, or I think perhaps someday I will have a use for them. The emotional connection to objects is one of the biggest road blocks to getting rid of clutter. If Aunt Tootie gives me a blue widget, I will feel guilty getting rid of it even if I hate blue widgets and have no use for them. I realize now that if I don’t really love or use the item, then it really is just part of the chaos. If I give it to Goodwill there is a chance someone who really needs or wants it will find it there. This idea has freed me from feeling guilty about letting go of many blue widgets. And I think Aunt Tootie would really rather the widget were put to good use by someone else rather than collecting dust in a corner of my apt.
I also have quite a bit of sentimental stuff from my EX that I’m not yet ready to part with. I packed the majority of it into a storage bin after our break-up. This time around I was a little more ruthless and I was able to actually throw out a few things I knew I would never need and that wouldn’t be useful as Goodwill donations. I had a few pangs, but in my heart I knew it was the right thing to do. I’m sure as time goes by, I’ll be able to get rid of most of the stuff in the bin. I may not be entirely over the relationship yet, but I am aware that it is impossible to embrace the future if you continue to cling to the past. It is time to move on.

After a weekend spent sorting and organizing, I took the photo below. Not yet perfect, but a great improvement. Phase two happens this weekend and I will report back on the results. Wish me luck!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Getting a Life!

Well it has finally come to this. My life has become such a mess that I’ve finally decided to do something about it. Oh sure I’ve said it before. Usually around January 1st; usually in an alcoholic haze. I, like everyone else , have made the same promises year after year: lose weight, pay off debt, organize home, save money, read Proust, get to work on time, find better job, quit smoking (I don’t actually smoke, but since this is a perennial favorite of so many of you, I include it here). You get the picture--we all want to be better people, but actually doing it? That’s hard. Who has the time? Who has the energy? Well desperate times call for desperate measures and right now I am nothing if not desperate. I always envisioned the kind of life I would lead, the job I would have when I finally decided what I wanted to be when I grew up, the charming and wonderful Mr. Right, the lovely home…and yet here I am a few months past a birthday ending with a zero and it seems I really haven’t made any progress in any of these areas. Overweight? Check. In debt? Check. Hating job? Check. Spinster? Check. Apartment in chaos? Check.
So, I’ve decided to embark upon a journey of change, because in the back of my mind, I always thought that if I ever really gave it a shot, I could actually be better. I just always thought eventually, when I grew up (like that’s ever going to happen), I’d not only figure out what I want to do with my life, but I’d finally get my shit together too. So I’ve decided I either need to actually do something to create a life I can live with (dare I say, actually be happy with?) or I need to just accept what is and stop bitching and moaning. Since I rather enjoy bitching and moaning and would really rather have a proper life, I’m going to try getting one. You, Dear Readers, are invited to join me on this quest. You can help me out by keeping me honest and I can help you out by inspiring you to get a life too. If I can do it, anyone can. Of course if I can’t, well, you’re probably screwed too.