A Day in The Life of a Working Mom and the 168 Hour Log. How to be More in Control of your Time.

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One of the most influential books I read on maternity leave was Laura Vanderkam’s book I Know How She Does It:  How Successful Women Make The Most of Their Time.

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In the book, Vanderkam gave a number of successful women diaries to keep.  For one week they logged every activity from the first shrills of the alarm, or cries of their babies, through to the last moments of consciousness.

From those diaries, Vanderkam distilled her findings, culminating in the New York Times Bestseller book (link above.)

There are many fascinating practices that came up again and again across these women.  I am sure you can guess many of them – in fact, Vanderkam reviewed some of them in this article for CBS.

Everybody wants to have better mornings.  I know a bad morning for me, is being in a reactive place – not being prepared and then waking up to my baby or toddler’s voice, then scrambling to get coffee in me, lunch prepped, breakfast ready and then out the door.  Why is it bad? I feel rushed. Scrambled. Unorganized. I forget things.

A good morning is having some time to wake up before anyone else, slowly reboot my brain with some reading and social media scrolling, and then get some idea of the things I need to get done in the quiet moments because I’m not a good details person.  I’m calm and grounded when the kids get up, and focused on what needs to be done.  Not all over the place.

That is so much easier said than done, hey?

There are countless articles on the web, advising you on what the most successful people do in the morning. They all start like this “The 10 most important things that…”  “Twenty ways to change your day” etc etc.

My hangup has always been – and always will be – “We already know!   SO HOW DO WE ACTUALLY DO THIS EVERY DAY AND IMPLEMENT IT WITHOUT FORGETTING?”

It turns out, that to take new actions, we must first know ourselves inside and out.

You cannot reprogram yourself without 100% total awareness of what you were doing before.

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I spent a week doing what Vanderkam calls the 168 hour challenge.  I logged my days from wakeup to pass out.  I’d put “go to sleep” – but most days, I’d literally collapse into bed with a blissful sigh, absolutely pooped after a baby or toddler wakeup at 10pm – just when I thought I was in the clear! 

In recording just one week, I was astounded at the patterns I could see. In reflecting upon those patterns, I was astounded at the lessons I learnt and the newfound motivation to adjust my daily practices and incorporate new ones that I had studied (but never implemented.)

I learnt what I needed from my mornings.  What I needed to set my energy up right for the day.  I learnt that with a monkey brain, I needed to set clear intention and focus in my first few moments of the day. I learnt what my natural tendencies are, when my discipline and focus are missing.

Everyone is different.  Where I am trying to slow down my energy in the morning, others may be trying to improve it.  So take the log here with a grain of salt.

The point of this entire post is to encourage you to journal your day and reflect.

Then, set some new intentions.  Try them out with the new motivation you will have.

Try out new things.  Scrap what doesn’t work.  Keep what works.

There’s a reason this entire process took a year.  It’s constantly trying things out, reflecting and going back to the drawing board, researching some more, and adopting other techniques.  It’s not about a perfect 100% dialed in day; it’s about the journey to get there, the constant little improvements, day by day, week by week.  Then, a year later, you realize that a whole chunk of your day has shifted.

It’s about the bravery to break out of unconscious routine and habit, and choose to implement new things with the type of intention that propels you toward your life goals.

I bring to you a before and after  –  a peek into my own day (this is just a 1 day sample.)

Here’s a typical “unconscious day” before I studied and learnt from this book, followed by a “conscious day” where I have successfully implemented a few of the “successful women strategies” as well as other daily routines outlined by people like Tim Ferriss (see his 24 hours schedule here.)   Once you listen to hundreds of hours of podcasts, you realize successful people tend to have very similar morning routines and daily habits.

 

BEFORE – APPROX 1 YEAR AGO

7:10 AM – wake-up to the sounds of my toddler.  10 minutes lying there thinking it’s too early.  Scroll Facebook.

7:20 – Realizing I have to leave for work in only 20 minutes.  Why didn’t I get up earlier?  I could have worked out. I should have gotten up. Coulda, woulda, shoulda.  

7:25 – 7:45 – Get coffee machine on, get toddler up and half dressed

7:45 – 7:55-  Realize I need to leave in 20 minutes.  Berate myself.  Get snack ready for toddler, coffee made and get my underwear on.

7:55-8:10 – Get mascara on, baby awake.  Go get him up and dressed, prepare some milk.  Get back to getting dressed.

8:10 – Remember I haven’t made any lunch.

8:10-8:15 – Quickly throw together some breakfast food, get my handbag and get my toddler dressed / brush her hair.

8:15 – Look for shoes, car keys, other random things I need.

8:25 – Couldn’t find car keys, or coat, or something else I need.  Hop in the car.

8:25-8:50 – Drive to work, get there in the nick of time.

9-5:30 – Work at the University.  Wind up staying a bit late and feeling guilty about it.  Don’t take a lunch break or my morning and afternoon breaks – maybe a random 30 minute break  (I am bad for this and it’s a habit I am trying to break.)

12:00 – Buy lunch briefly and go back to work, eating lunch in front of computer.

5:30 – 6:15 – Drive home with a podcast, stress a bit about not being disciplined about leaving on time.

6:15-7:45 – Intentional, present family time with the kiddos.

7:45 – 8:15 – Bedtime preparations, get kids in bed.

8:15 – 8:45 – Husband and I make dinner, eat late.

8:45 – 9:30 – Have a glass of wine, relax and chat.

9:30 – 10:00 – Clean kitchen or complete a short tidying up task so house is clean for morning.

10:00 – 10:30 – Tuck in, read non-fiction.

10:30 – lights out.  Spend next 30 minutes thinking about the non-fiction I just read.

 

AFTER – CURRENT STATE

**Note:  This is an ideal day here- in any one day I don’t check off every one of these things.  I am at about 60% success rate at this point in the game.  For every one item dialed in, I miss the other one.  This is a work in progress (and a fun project at that!)  – but after trying each one of these components, I know now what an ideal day looks like, and what to work towards, and it ALL starts with how that first 2 hours goes in the morning, before I even get to work.  

5:50 – Get up naturally without need of alarm (if I go to bed at 10pm and keep a routine – this takes a lot of discipline!)   I’ve been experimenting with programming thoughts before bed to have my body wake me up – it WORKS.  If you trust it….
5:50 – 6:10 – Lie in bed, slowly wake up with scrolling through Instagram (I only follow accounts whose images represent goals, lifestyles or lessons I want to learn.) Good inspiration.

6:10-6:30 – Make lunch while coffee brewing.  Make the bed if husband is working  (watch Admiral McRaven’s speech on making the bed every day for reference to the importance of this task and how it sets you up for a good day.)

6:30-7:00 – Drink coffee in living room and cross off some to-dos with my businesses I am building on the side.  Last week, this time was for my Kickstarter campaign.  other weeks it might be packing an order I received through my Etsy Store.   *A less “dialed in” version of this would be 20 minutes of Facebook and only 10 minutes of work, lol.

7:00 – 7:20 – Get dressed and actually do some decent makeup beyond mascara.
7:20-7:30 – Specifically assign myself 10 minutes to find shit like my car keys and sunglasses, which I know I constantly misplace.  See, I haven’t improved on it, I just build this time in now and ALLOW myself the time / acknowledge this as a regular event.

7:30 – 7:45 – Assemble breakfast and lunch for the day.

7:45-8:30 – Run on a nice trail somewhere along the commute to work.  Also listen to a favourite podcast for inspiration and to set my frame of mind for the day.

8:45 – Arrive at work with time to change out of running clothes; enjoy a nice americano and a green juice / hard boiled eggs (my go to breakfast.)

8:45-9:00 – Take the time to write down my to-dos and goals for the day in a little journal I carry around.  This helps me control the bazillion ideas I have each day, and maintain a focus.  I repeat this practice at the end of the day before I leave the office, making a note of a small success that day.

9-5:00 – Work at the University

12:00-1:00 – Take lunch.  TAKE the break. Get outside. Do.Not.Work.  Ideal is excercise or listen to the Headspace Meditation App.  

5:00 – 5:30 – Before leaving office, reply to personal emails,plan social events, life administrative stuff like budget checks, iCal updates (my husband and I share one.)

5:30 – 6:00 – Commute home with another (easier listening) podcast, intentionally focus on leaving work at work.

6:00 – 7:00 – Fully present time with the kids, relieve husband while he preps dinner. Best case scenario is to go outside in garden or to park or walk along ridge.

7:00-7:30 – Eat in various stages depending on who wants to eat and who does not lol.  You know life with toddlers 😉

7:30 – 8:15- Kids ready for bed: Bath, teeth brushing, bottles for baby, set up beds, put on pjs, etc.  Each of us takes one kid, gets them down at same time.  Intentionally focus on breathing and clear mindedness while rocking baby to sleep; not on kindle.

8:15-9:00 – Cup of tea and talk time with husband in living room.  Also: Myofascial rolling while talking a few times a week.

9:00 – 9:30 – Clean kitchen, tackle a few house tasks.  Somehow the physical activities shut down the brain for bed

9:30 – 10:00 Reading fiction (so I can’t think about it) or another Take 10 session from headspace app.

10:00 Lights out.

 

 Evernote Observations from Keeping This Log:

-How much time I was wasting scrolling through social media before.  I still love social media, but filtered it so that the accounts showing up are inspiring or help me proceed towards goals.

-How precious  free, solo time is and the need to get up before my family to get set on the right foot.

-That email can wait.

-That a small habit like a green juice, making my bed, or a good cup of coffee actually does set the vibe for the rest of the day. Small, seemingly mundane tasks have a powerful ability to shape our mindset.

-Morning is a prime energy time.

(When are your energy flows?  Worth noting in your time log)

-The best business ideas for me, happen in the car.

-I use my phone and check emails a lot less often, this has helped with focus and not jumping among too many tasks and diluting energy / effectiveness.

-That there are 168 hours in a week, after sleeping and working, that leaves me 72 hours to decide intentionally what to fill that space with, and how.  

 

Now, here’s your homework:

Spend one day in your typical cycle.  Record what you get up to.

Then, design an ideal day and make it your goal to execute that one ideal day, with the purpose of writing about it – either privately in an email to yourself, your journal, in Evernote, or in your phone notes.

The moment you record your day, reflection happens and a world of motivation opens up.  You can’t help but notice where the obstacles and opportunities are, and you can’t help but become intentional with this one gift we have; time.

You have 168 hours in a week, what do you do with that time?

What I Learnt from Laura Vanderkam’s Book I Know How She Does It – And How I Became more Productive on Maternity Leave

What You’ll Learn:  Some of the best things I learnt from the book I Know How She Does It by Laura Vanderkam – and how I applied it to maternity leave.

Reading time:  5 minutes

This is part of the Great Maternity Leave book club series, where I share some of the most influential books that have shaped 2 great maternity leaves so far. We all have 168 hours in a week and there is so much diversity in our daily schedules. It doesn’t matter what we do with our time, just that we are doing it with mindfulness. With this post I hope to contribute to a larger dialogue on maternity leave and living it with intention.  Using our time on this earth to do something.

Laura Vanderkam’s book was a fantastic opportunity to address my time use and shift the way I look at things.  Below I will outline some of the key points that I took away and how they translate to real life.

The Points That Shifted my Perspective:

I often mention that in coaching, that to take different actions you must experience a shift in perspective. That creates lasting change and lasting results.

I had several ah-hah moments with this book that shifted my perspective, for sure.

Did you know:

From Monday to lunchtime Thursday is only HALF of the week?!  

How does that land with you?   Think about that.

On maternity leave I lose a bit of my day / time awareness, but as a working Mum, this one point revolutionized my perspective.  It is so easy to write off Friday-Saturday-Sunday as “weekend” and be less intentional with our time and how we use it.  Knowing that an entire half of a week is left on Thursday has influenced me greatly.  I am much more of an active participant in deciding what to do with the second half of my week rather than just writing it off as weekend and haphazardly finding something “fun” to do with the kids.

A Constant Reminder That Flows Through My Life After Reading This Book:

Through a comprehensive analysis of mothers’ schedules Vanderkam nails home the point that you can either haphazardly gather up the scraps of time left over in your day, or start the day with clear intention and mindfully assigning chunks of time.  And in those chunks of time are tasks that get you closer to your goals.

She also draws a clear line between busy work and growth work.  These are my own unique terms for them – which I’m trying to come up with at 5 in the morning, lol – so bear with me. I’ll explain.

On maternity leave my little guy sleeps about 2-3 hours in a day.  Multiply by 7 days and that is 14-21 hours a week, where I can have some say in what I do.

For sure, there is housework that is routine and that will always be there.  But I also need to decide what I am going to do with that time that will align with my goals for the future.  I also resist the temptation to do housework which is not going to last (ie: cleaning the living room in the middle of the day when I know I’ll be doing it again at night when the toddler is in bed.)

Even if it’s just 1 hour of each day, am I taking that one hour and getting myself closer to where I want to be?  Or am I filling the time with something else?  

This perspective has helped me a TON. When I feel drawn to an activity in a spare moment of time, I ask:  Do I straight up need some downtime, or shall I use it to get me closer to the vision / goals I have for this mat leave?  I go through this quick decision making process each time I switch activities.  The goals are below.

Some of those days are just coping / napping / sleeping, because on materity leave the wind changes direction and we must adjust the sails.  Last week with teething and very little sleep for either of us, I had to reduce my blogging and just get through it and nap where I could.  It was a temporary pullback from growth activities.  That is okay too.

But the key is readjusting the sails after the windstorm to get back on track to the destination and travel toward the port of call you want to arrive at in 2016.

Here is my own Port-of-Call / Destination:

-Continue to dedicate 5 hrs / week to my online jewelery shop as a steady income source for trips.  My goal is to pay for one trip this year.

-Build the “bricks and mortar” foundation of my coaching business (online presence, brochures, contracts, worksheets, materials, etc.)

-Add a voice of “growth, confidence and self-identity” to the dialogue around maternity leave.

-Being present with my children outside in nature

-“Date” my husband again

-Cultivate my close friendships & be a supportive listening ear

-Reduce my body fat percentage through gluten free, paleo-style eating

-Fall in love with running again

A key component of getting to my destination is the “fuck yeah or no” approach which I learnt from Derek Sivers.  Open this in a new tab and save it for reading.

I Practice saying “fuck yeah” or “no” to every “ask” I get – if my reaction isn’t an excited “fuck yeah” I say no.

Laura mentions in her book that we all have 168 hours in a week.  If you can practice saying no to things that aren’t important, you would free up a ton of time and “feel like the millionaire at Safeway.” I’m not actually sure what she meant by this, but I assume it means feeling pretty good.

The result of this practice is you wind up with more free time and less “busy time” filled with auxilliary projects.  I like these “underbooked weeks” – I feel like I am not a slave to my calendar. As a P in the MBTI Types I naturally rebel against that anyways.   It’s a pretty cool feeling being able to embrace life as it comes and take up things that align with my goals and are simply part of the grand experience of being alive.

I carry that list with me, both in Evernote on my iPhone and in a journal in my handbag (I use iCal as well as an old-school journal.)  I have it memorized, and check in with it constantly – in each decision I make in my day.

Especially in the morning as I decide what I am going to do with this beautiful time on this earth.

Tell me, what are you going to do with your time on this earth?  What is your maternity leave port-of-call in 2016?

 

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The Great Maternity Leave Book Club: Wayne Dyer’s Being in Balance

Why Read This?  Because starting everyday with beautiful lessons from the greats will set you up for a shift in your perspective.  This is what we need to achieve lasting success.

Reading time:  2 minutes

Think of a balance scale with one side weighted down and the other side up, like a teeter-totter with an obese child on one end and a healthy child on the other. In this case, the heavy end that tips the scale out of balance is the overweight child representing your everyday behaviors: the work you do, the place where you reside, the people with whom you interact, your geographic location, the books you read, the movies you see, and the conversations that fill up your life. It’s not that any of these things are bad in and of themselves. The imbalance exists because they’re unhealthy for your particular life—they simply don’t mesh with what you’ve imagined yourself to be.

This excerpt is from Wayne Dyer’s being in balance and is one of the first things I work on with coaching clients.  You must understand what their story is, where they are coming from, what their perspective is, and what they are surrounded by in their everyday life that has caused them to gain emotional, mental or physical weight, that has put the teeter-totter out of balance.

To begin working toward a better, more fruitful life, you must have a clear image of the child up on the other side.  This is obviously best case scenario and life is never going to be perfect.  To balance out the teeter totter you can work towards the lighter child – and also lose some of the weight from your heavy child.

 

I liked this analogy; it was simple to understand and apply to my life, and is one of the highlighted sections of this book.

I sat down and had a good hard think about what creates my “heavy child” and who my “light child” is.

Things that create my “heavy child”

-Project / admin oriented duties at my ft job

-Staying up late to get alone time then feeling fatigued the next day

-Overconsumption of coffee

-Overconsumption of “treats”

-Not getting outside enough / lack of exercise

-Social media feeds that have no relevance or benefit to me

-Surface level conversations

-Reading articles about parenting that cause fear, caution or cause me to question my techniques

 

 

Things that create my “light child”

-Coaching oriented duties at my ft job

-Early nights and early mornings

-Moderation of coffee & lots of water

-Gluten free eating

-Outdoors trail running and strength work

-Reading books

-Being inspired by bloggers with great outdoor family life activities

-Deeper, interesting and inspiring conversations

 

 

Think about your own maternity leave.  What is your heavy child? What is your light child?  Have you read any Wayne Dyer and what, in his works, has stood out to you and impacted your own life?  I’d love to hear in the comments.

 

The Great Maternity Leave Projects:  Never Forget to Take Vitamins – Using Charles Duhigg’s Book The Power of Habit

Yes ,this one is straight from the original GML Project list in my lovely little journal, which I have kept to this day.  It was one of the first tasks I undertook and it really has a soft spot in my heart.

In order to accomplish this, I had to buckle down and study the science behind habit and really dig into psychology.  Little did I know that reading this book would change my morning routines forever.

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I was on a plane to London England, and picked up this book at the airport (I believe books choose YOU so I always buy them when I am travelling or randomly in a bookstore.)  I just happened to be thinking about creating a multivitamin “habit” and boom, come across this.  Sometimes the universe is not so subtle.

 

I highly recommend this book and if you do not have the time to read the whole thing, cover to cover, Charles Duhigg has a very comprehensive website.  You can also use the amazing app Blinkist to read all of the latest releases in 15 minutes or less (what I do!)

What really nails Duhigg’s points home, are the examples.  I started a book club section on the Great Maternity Leave Project, and will be following up with a more detailed big post on this book and what I took from it for maternity leave.

(Most of the books I read involve business examples – but they are easily translatable to maternity leave, so that’s what I do for you! )

 

So how did I manage to hack my own brain’s habit loops and make the multi-vitamin as automatic as having a coffee in the morning?

HABIT ANCHORING + HACKING THE HABIT LOOP.

Our brains are very intelligent and will make as many routines as possible a habit, so that can dedicate most of its energy to sorting through information and thinking through tasks like decision making and critical analysis.

So when you get up and do routine things, make a coffee or tea, habit.  When you check your phone.  Habit.

Habits get taken over by an older, deeper part of the brain. Did you know that? Me neither.

That is why bad habits are so hard to break. 

That’s why this book was so fascinating.  I liked the smart science and research in it.

 

But we are talking about forming good habits here.

Pick a habit you already have, a routine which is almost automatic for you – you wind up doing it subconsciously.

For me it’s coffee, for sure.  It’s literally the first thing I do after I put on my housecoat.   It’s automatic. I go to the kitchen, get the grinder going, assemble my aeropress and we’re off to the races (or blogging in my case.)

 

Duhigg Proposes the Habit Loop.

Cue + Routine/Habit + Reward

So, I decided to

1.) Hack the Loop

2.)  Anchor the habit to another good one I have.

 

Here’s how I did it.

Cue:  Getting out of bed & feeling tired

Routine/Habit:  Coffee cup on table. Making coffee before anything else

Reward:  Coffee + I love relaxing with my coffee and writing.  Both enjoyable  (I linked those two habits at an earlier stage.)

 

Remember, the habit I wanted to build was to add multivitamins to my day.

ANCHORING THE HABIT:

I anchored it by having my multis RIGHT BESIDE my aeropress / coffee maker.  The visual cue could just NOT be ignored.  And I know I will NEVER forget to have coffee.  So by anchoring multivitamins to coffee, I know they will never be forgotten.

HACKING THE HABIT LOOP:

I thought about how powerful the coffee habit loop is, that I have above.  So I decided to use the same loop principles.

BEFORE:

Cue:  Getting out of bed & feeling tired “I need coffee.”

Routine/Habit:  Coffee cup on table. Making coffee before anything else

Reward:  Coffee + I love relaxing with my coffee and writing.  Both enjoyable  (I linked those two habits at an earlier stage.)

 
AFTER:

Cue:  Getting out of bed & feeling tired “I need coffee.”  Addition:  I did research on how having healthy micro and phytonutrients helps with energy ,and began to reframe them as another form of “coffee” for my body.  I began to use feeling tired as a cue for good nutritional practices.  I also looked at nutrient depletion in post-partum women to strengthen my resolve to rebuild my body’s stores.  

Routine/Habit:  Coffee cup on table. Making coffee before anything else.  Addition:  I put my multi-vitamins in a cute little le creuset espresso cup, right beside my coffee cup! Taking them happens before anything else, AND I get a nice glass of water in before hitting the coffee.  

Reward:  Coffee + I love relaxing with my coffee and writing.  Both enjoyable  (I linked those two habits at an earlier stage.)   Addition:  Meh.  There’s no intrinsic reward to taking fish oil and glucosamine sulfate and multis…  so this one not so much.  But the other TWO stages were hacked.

 

And that my friends, is how I NEVER forgot to take a multi-vitamin again.

 

While you are on the topic, you might enjoy this read on hacking your morning “energy” and mindset – by by shifting your Instagram or Social Media habits.  

 

How to Have a Great Maternity Leave: Declutter Physically with the Konmari Method

The nuggets of wisdom I have pulled and applied to my maternity leave after reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.

For two years I had been adamant that I’d never own too much stuff.

As a coach, it is important to always dig deeper and ask wait, but why?  

In October 2013 I was 9 months pregnant and working on wrapping up my Mum’s home & estate (she passed away from cancer when I was 6 months pregnant.)  Possession was just a few days before my due date.

One morning I was sitting in the garage, running a final HUGE garage sale with a bursting belly and looking out upon a lifetime of accumulated items from our family home.

It was incredibly hard to let things go.  I think it is particularly hard when you lose someone, because you want to hold onto everything of theirs tighter. I caught myself lovingly picking up a few items, gazing at them, smelling them to see if I could smell her perfume, then talking my way through which few pieces to keep.  People probably thought I was nuts.

Though it could have been a tragic day of garage sale-ing, that day wound up becoming strangely humorous.  An aggressively pregnant female, equally aggressively hawking everything like the best of street vendors.  All the poor unknowing shoppers having their car loaded up with extra free items by a waddling pregnant lady.

I so clearly remember standing in the middle of the garage, when EVERYTHING was gone, with a coffee, and I yelled up to the sky “HOLY SHIT MUM YOU HAD SO MUCH STUFF!” and then collapsing into my chair laughing and shaking my head.

I spent the rest of the afternoon gathering old papers from her super organized filing cabinet.  SO organized in fact, she had documents perfectly arranged from the mid 1970s onward.  I prepared the fire pit in the back yard and started to go to town on getting rid of the documents.  Funnily enough, that is also the day I just about burnt our family home down before possession.  I learnt that burning large quantities of paper on a gusty day is a terrible idea.  Let’s not tell my firefighter husband about that day, ok?

One thing I want to do with the Great Maternity Leave (GML) is share with you the books that I learn from and show you the unique ways that I incorporate them into my life, by building habit loops from them. I believe this is one of my first “book study” posts.  So here we go!

On my second maternity leave, I picked up  The Life Changing Magic of Tidying: A Simple, Effective Way To Banish Clutter Forever by Marie Kondo, whose method is called the “Kon Mari” method. It was part of my project to let things go and in the process, declutter.  It wasn’t even that I had this picture in my mind of a perfectly organized, clean home.  I just hate owning too much stuff.  I get irritable and stressy.

In economics, there is a concept called “the point of diminishing returns.”

As you accumulate more things, you go up the bell curve.  At the top,  the returns neutralize, then begin to decline.  I know exactly how that translates to the home.

You forget you even own items, you can’t find them, you value them less, you don’t remember to use them, etc.

What I was feeling, was some kind of strange psychic clutter – but addressing physical clutter seemed to me the most logical place to start, before I used my own coaching skills on myself and dug deeper. That’s for a later post.

As began to rapidly accumulate boxes of outgrown clothes with two babies, I could feel my irritation building up. Finally, on a luxurious child-free excursion to Chapters, I picked up this book, which called to me with its simple, clean packaging and fonts.  I often let books choose me, and this one sure did.

In the Rock Tumbler Essay, I discussed the fact that we are exposed to so much information – to the point where is hard to remember (or implement) all of the lessons we receive each day.  I believe that you should just stop worrying about your baby brain, all the “Shoulds,” all the information and relax – relax with the confidence that a few of those many river rocks will tumble out as semi-precious gemstones which you will always remember (if you are reading this thinking, WTF, go read the Rock Tumbler Essay!)

I want to share with you the semi-precious gemstones that came out of my brain’s rock tumbler as I read this book.  These are all things I have done since reading the novel.

Everything should have a home.  When an item has a home to return to, after serving its duty, you will remember where it is.  Think about it.  Why do we ALWAYS lose car keys, remotes, sunglasses?  Because they are constantly changing locations.  Create a home base for them. A basket, a designated drawer.  Whatever works and is obvious.

Let me tell you, calling down the hallway “they are in their drawer!” rather than spending 15 minutes helping someone search for car keys *cough* husband *cough* is preferable.

Ask yourself if the item has given you joy lately.  Remember my “Hell yes or no” essay?  Same principle applies here.  If you let a “meh” item go and regret it (unlikely) – guess what, there will always be a thousand stores nearby with even better versions of that original item.  Reassure yourself with the thought you can buy another if you miss it.  Rest assured, I never have.  I honestly didn’t trust Marie Kondo when she told me I wouldn’t regret letting things go.

Since then, I have ruthlessly been letting things go with this mindset and it has been absolutely liberating. My day to day functioning is not affected by a few pieces of wood, metal, glass or plastic.

When I have trouble with items because of some kind of attachment, I line them all up on the bed and choose one, and decide to transfer all of the meaning and memories into that one object.  I take photos of the others, to save.  Then let them go.  For the special items I have been letting them go to people who will be deeply touched. Letting them go to a loving home rather than collecting dust on a shelf is incredibly rewarding.  You’ll love it.

Treat your items with kindness; they have performed a duty for you.  Honestly, this stuck with me, but I’m still working on it.  Last night I put BRIGHT Sparkly blue nail polish in with a white load in the laundry machine.  Yup. I wouldn’t say I’ve nailed it. Please feel free in the comments to help a lady out and let me know if there’s a way to salvage my white laundry.

Employ the Kon Marie folding method.  At first, I thought, “ain’t nobody got time for that!” but I’ll tell you what… first, nothing wrinkles.  Second, it is incredibly easy to pull items out of the drawer without wrecking everything else.  Third, you can see every item right there in one go.  It’s lovely once you get used to it and the time investment is minimal once you get good at the folds.

Tidy by Category instead of location, and do it in bulk.  Lots of little tidying, luckily, never worked for me anyways. It’s pointless with small children.  Instead of working on each room, decide on days for certain things.  When you think about it, our grandparents often did this.  Sunday, laundry day.  Boom. All done for a week or so.  Then you can forget about it. No picking away at it all week.  Remember how I said I started this project to address psychic clutter? I promise you the tidying by category really helps reduce psychic clutter.

And my own piece of advice after working letting a lifetime of objects go:

Work on your mindset.  Think about it, we don’t own anything.  The objects are here on this planet, for much longer than we are.  We are just humans passing through in that object’s life. We are temporary blips.  Temporary caretakers.

All of the meaning we place on an object, we do with our minds.  Just as easily as giving something meaning, we can take it away, or transfer it.

Remember, we are simply temporary caretakers of wood, plastic, metal and glass objects.

The Kon Mari Method is quite revolutionary.  Everybody takes a different piece away from the book.  For me, the book offered a profound opportunity to let items go easily and declutter both physically, and mentally.

Though I’m nowhere near a the minimalist home I envision (I have too many travel trinkets and books for that!)  my entire mindset around tidying up has changed.