2018 has started exactly as I expected – a runaway bullet train hurtling towards 2019 at record speed. We are half way through February; I’ve broken all my resolutions, but I have come up with several new plans for a less chaotic, more ordered life. I have accepted that my house, my head, my life has too much stuff. Stuff that did nothing for my happiness; it was just stuff that needed to be kept organised, updated or tended to in some way. I figured the easiest way to deal with it was to just simply get rid of it.
I have also realised that incremental change is the way to go. I find it easier to execute small, bite-sized projects, record a success and get motivated for more improvements. Here are some of the things I call “quick wins” that you should consider for a less cluttered 2018.
- Take a hard look at your email inbox. Is it cluttered with unread newsletters, marketing emails, notifications, UBER receipts, and junk. Did you miss an important email in the sea of Did you still need a updates from meetup even though you last attended an event 2 years ago? Or marketing emails from a store you haven’t shopped at for 5 years? Or travel updates from a country you visited on your vacation last summer? How many newsletters do you really need? Unsubscribe from all but the most important or interesting. You will save yourself for having to clean thousands of unread messages or even worse, creating a new account every time an account gets too big to handle.
- Review all subscriptions. Are you absolutely using all the products and services you are subscribed to? Are you getting good value for your money? Are there subscriptions on auto-renewal that you had forgotten? Think quality and not quantity. Are they positively contributing to your life or just sucking up time and money?
- Consolidate banking and investment accounts. It’s easier to track one account instead of multiple accounts with different institutions with different terms and conditions. And you might even qualify for preferential services for the extra business you bring to the bank.
- Keep as few credit cards as possible. It’s easier to track, earn more rewards, limit the amount you could possible spend, protect against theft. Find a card that provides the benefits most important to you – cash back, points or miles.
- Plan and prep meals. Save time and money by taking 15 minutes each week to plan your breakfast, lunch and dinner for the week. Also, save yourself from poor food choices, and emotional eating by planning in advance. There are scores of articles available on preparing weekly meals. Check here, here and here. (Disclosure: I really struggle with this item. Logically I understand why I need to plan and make ahead meals but I’m still working through eating my emotions).
- Think about all the low-value, frequent use STUFF you have accumulated. Look at your stash of Toiletries, Spices and herbs, and Snacks. Are there any expired items? Spoilt? Is there something you are don’t like anymore or are most definitely not going to use again? The same principle applies to kitchen appliances, tools and gadgets, and cookbooks. I cannot adequately describe the joy and sense of control I have felt after a quick clearing out of a shelf or drawer or two.
- Lighten up the social calendar. It is tempting to sign-up for every school event and attend every birthday party. FOMO is very real when it comes to parenting. Say no when you need to. Killing yourself trying to do everything and be everywhere just takes away from the joy of the events. The same holds true for those without kids – are you overextended, overcommitted, running after too many things? Pick those that mean most to YOU.
Yesterday my 7-year-old daughter stood crying in her bathroom. “Why do I take so long to shower?” Who knows what goes on within an exhausted and hungry 7-year old mind? Scientists! Forget the gravitational waves, genetic sequences, circadian rhythms, cell regrowth. The real challenge is trying to understanding a child’s emotion-fueled actions. My little girl’s tirade ended with “I will never be perfect!” My “be-who-you-are, love-who-you-are” instinct went on alert instantly. I hugged my little girl and told her nobody is perfect but we must try to always be our best, do our best.
Why are we so hung up on perfection? And what is perfection by the way? Is it Tartine’s sourdough? A sunny day at the beach? Kids snug in bed at 7.30pm? Burrata from Puglia? The third Brandenburg concerto? The structure and design of a single leaf? The beauty of the Himalayas? A girls’ night out complete with a party bus? Mom’s dal? Flight sequences in films by Hayao Miyazaki? A home cooked meal shared with friends? Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album? The Harry Potter books? The silence after snowfall? A coral wall?
Inspired by my daughter I went exploring on what people had to say about perfection. I guess the most famous quote belongs to Vince Lombardi – “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” Hmm… I would settle for excellence any day.
Dali was a bit more severe. He said, “Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”
Some felt perfection was in the realm of the Gods (Carolina Herrera, Michael J. Fox), some felt perfection takes time and cannot be rushed (Voltaire, Alexander Wang). Some focused on the fallacy of physical perfection (Kate Winslet, Tracee Ellis Ross, Mila Kunis).
Nobody probably knows about perfection more than Nadia Comaneci and she says she never thought of the score. If she did, she probably would have messed up. She just aimed for perfection.
I belong to the group that believes perfection is an illusion and what matters is hard work (Drake). As Margaret Atwood says, “If I waited for perfection I wouldn’t write a word. But I would like to think I worked my hardest and gave it my best.”
I recently found myself in need of some fool-proof and positive coping mechanisms in my life. Ways in which I could independently deal with the physical, emotional and spiritual after effects of an unexpected life event. I realized that I need to have more than one way of dealing with stress/sadness/loss/ or any other unwelcome negative feelings. Also, that I needed to do this myself. I may have amazing friends and family to lean on but I would have to carry the responsibility for my own recovery and wellness.
I didn’t cry even though I felt it would help me. I didn’t lash out because really there was no one and nothing to blame, sometimes life just does what it wants to do irrespective of your plans, thoughts and feelings. I was surely in denial for two whole days and acceptance came slowly but when it did I was ready with a plan to move on. Here are somethings that worked for me.
- Do a physical activity – the options are endless. Now would not be the time to try something new like learning to roller blade. Just do an activity you enjoy, something that feels normal.
- Reach out to friends and family – a phone call or a coffee with someone with whom you can be honest and vulnerable. A meetup with a friend or colleague not associated with your current situation who can help take your mind off matters and who makes you laugh.
- Do something creative – bring out that adult coloring book and pencils, bake bread, or cook chili, dance (even if it’s front of the mirror), bead or knit. Anything that connects you to your creative side. It’s all about taking the negative emotions and channeling them towards something positive.
- Pray – pray to whomever or whatever you believe in. And trust in the timing of your life.
- Allow yourself to lose control and indulge for one day – shop, watch TV, eat ice cream, open up a bottle of wine, read TMZ or People, spend hours on FB or Instagram. Know that all of these are most definitely going to make you sick in some way or another at the end of the day.
- Do small home projects – reorganize your wardrobe, clean out the storage closet, refresh bed linens, rearrange furniture. I like to take out all my pretty jewelry, reorganize it and admire my good taste.
- Make some plans for the near future – make a list of home improvements needed, imagine a future holiday, plan a dinner party or a movie night with friends, register for an online course at Udemy or edX, or Coursera. Take some form of action on long wished-for events – look up real estate if you have been wanting to move, browse job postings if you have been wanting to change jobs, look for ways to save for your retirement, or just plain find some hacks to save money.
This by no means an exhaustive list, just a few things that worked for me. Look out for the positive things that can help you deal with the uncertainty in life and the chaos it can bring.