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Monday, August 18, 2014

Be Content: Is it possible?

My writing topic "Be Content" got pushed to the side, partly because I don’t really know how to approach this topic and partly because I am really starting to feel the countdown to baby time and trying to get myself together (read: take more naps).

Contentment is something that I struggle with. On one flip of the coin, I am really working on living every day with gratitude, I strive to live with less stuff, and keep in mind that stuff does not make a person happy, but on the other side, there is something inside me that I cannot seem to keep at bay, my desire for more more more out of this crazy life.

Does this mean I am not content? And is that an ok thing?

Most days I wake up and cannot believe that I get to live this life, an amazing husband, a growing business, a day job that I love, supportive family, great friends, and a baby on the way. I want to live in that feeling as long as possible, but there is something that sits in the back of my brain. An itchy feeling of what is next? How can I hustle today to get me closer to having more? Not necessarily more stuff, or more wealth, but just more, well, everything.

I want my business to grow. I want more “free” time to pursue my passions. I want to write more, teach more, rest and reflect more. I’d love to travel more and not just to visit family. I want to see my family more, too. I want to see things, do things, so many things!

Does that mean I am not content? I have no idea.

Right now, I am trying to have both, contentment that the life I am living is everything I could ever want, and excitement for the future. There is more out there for me if I am up for a chase.

That is where I am these days. How about you?

Friday, August 1, 2014

Gratitude: Journaling

In the three months leading up to opening Boho Cycle Studio, I kept a journal in my Evernote app on my phone. It was a crazy time full of highs and lows. I spent my days working my full time job, nights and weekends meeting with contractors, interviewing instructors, building a website, fighting with City Hall for permits, creating marketing materials, networking with Richmond influencers, and all the million other things that I have blocked out of my mind only to be rediscovered when we go through all of that again for location number 2. There were days when I would hit the pillow feeling like I conquered the world and days when I could see no light at the end of my pity party of a tunnel.

The journal was a way to keep myself sane and document my process. It became my release and the only way I could fall asleep some nights. I would write something about my day, what I accomplished both in the world of Boho, work, and my personal life. I would vent about what was stressing me, keep track of the big wins, and then at the end every entry I would remind myself of something I was grateful for.

Even on the days that I barely made it through, the last thought I had before going to sleep was something I was happy to have in my life, a moment of gratitude. It was amazing the relaxing and releasing effect that exercise had on me.

Some of the things I wrote in my journal that I was grateful for:

“My husband who is too good for me, but somehow likes me anyway”

“My snuggly kitties”

“My friends who always tell me the truth”

“The feeling that exciting things are in my future because I put them there”

“The fact that I live in a place where people are doing and changing and sharing ideas”

“Creative people in the world who inspire me”

“My family, who might be far away, but so incredibly supportive”

There were so many more, and many on repeat. I was thankful for my husband a lot since he was picking up the slack at home, so I could gallivant around town trying to get small business up and running. Looking back it all seems a blur, but a happy one since the end of every entry was something wonderful.

If you are stressed, confused, or just bored, I absolutely recommend this as a way to feel better. Every night for the next 30 days, right before you go to sleep, write down 1 thing that you are happy to have. 

Are your ready to start your own Gratitude Journal?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Gratitude: Soul Pancake

If you have not heard of Soul Pancake, and are looking for some feel good videos, I recommend you check out their YouTube channel, stat! Soul Pancake is a project lead by Rainn Wilson, also known as Dwight from the show The Office. What Rainn and his team do is make videos.  They explore topics such as spirituality, creativity, philosophy, and highlight people who do good for other people. It is serious feel good stuff which in my opinion, is a big part of living with gratitude.

Gratitude is taking time to focus on the good in our lives. We get overloaded with negative messages all day every day. I lump these in to three categories: 1) Media & Marketing, 2) Work/Life Stresses, and 3) People/Relationships. In our plugged in culture, it does require effort to search for positive messages and make time to appreciate them. That is why I love Soul Pancake.

I wanted to share one of my very favorite Soul Pancake videos: The Science of Happiness - An Experiment in Gratitude.

In this experiment, the “lab techs” ask participants to write down their feelings about someone in their lives who was really influential and then the techs asked them to call that person and read what they wrote. What happened after that was not a shocking revelation, but definitely a cause for personal reflection.


The video is 7 minutes long, so I get it if you don’t have time right this minute to watch it, but I promise it is a good one.

After watching this, I added to my Day Zero Project List: Send 10 Unexpected Gifts to Friends

I hope that checking that item off my list will serve as my own exercise in gratitude. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Live with Less: Hire a Professional Organizer

Stuff is a funny thing.

I am pretty sure stuff does not make me happy. Therefore spending time, money, and space in my life to accommodate stuff feels like time, money, and space that could be spent doing other things that would make me happier. But sometimes stuff can make my life easier (a really good hair straightener, or a laptop that stays on more than 5 minutes without being plugged in). Sometimes stuff can me feel good (my full size body pillow, a fantastic pair of shoes that everyone compliments me on). But at the end of the day, I know that consuming more and more will not make me happier and happier, so it is something I really need to sort out.

It was one of my personal goals this year to learn to live with less. I don’t know exactly how I will track my progress on this, but I do have a few ideas on how I hope to achieve a life with less stuff.

First step, find someone to help me prioritize the stuff and get rid of what I really didn’t need. That’s why I hired a professional organizer.

Kristen (a.k.a. Minima) is amazing. I heard her give a talk at Ellwood Thompson’s on how she approaches an organizing project and was completely sold. Our first project together was actually Boho. I hired her to give recommendations on how to layout our studio and was thrilled with her ideas on how to make the most of the space when it was still a big empty shell. And if that wasn’t enough, I toured her home during an open house and was blown away at how few items she had, yet how complete her space felt.

After all this, I knew I had to have her come home with me. Here is a very very quick synopsis of what she did at the Greenwood house:

1. She came to my home and walked with me and Evan through every room in our house.

2. In each room she asked about how we use the space, and gave us tips on ways we could improve how we achieved our goals for that particular space.
  • Example: you could get rid of this coat rack and put hooks on the wall for easier access to your coats when you need them and one less clunky piece of furniture.

3. She looked at the stuff, and gave ideas on how to sort through and in some cases, helped us come to quick decisions of what we could get rid of or move in that particular space.
  • Example: If you really don’t use this extra table, why not sell it on Craigslist?

4. She gave us quick tips on how to tackle the organizing of particular spaces, like our spare bedroom, laundry room, and closet.

5. She followed up with an action plan that we could execute ourselves (or hire her to execute) with a list for each room to make it function better for the purpose that we gave her.

6. She even took one load of items (that we have been planning to donate for who knows how long) off our hands that day straight to Goodwill the day of her visit.

We opted to execute her plan on our own and have made great progress. We sold a bunch of stuff on Craigslist, cleaned out a whole room for a very specific purpose that will be coming in October, and immediately felt the relief of lightening our load of stuff.

I leave you with two realizations that I had after working with a Professional.
  • Getting rid of stuff feels good.
  • It is easier than you think to get started.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Live with Less: Evernote

I used to be addicted to sticky notes. There I said it and I am sure I am not alone.

I had stacks of them in every color and would stick them to the back of my phone with to-do lists on them. I would use a pink sticky for Boho things, a yellow one for personal things, a blue one for work things, you get the idea. I would have a whole rainbow of notes hanging off my phone case at all times.

Then selfies became a thing and I had to find a new place for my notes so they wouldn’t end up in all my pics (such a first world problem, I know). I started carrying cute notebooks of various portable sizes, but instead of writing my to-do lists on the book pages, I would still write them on sticky notes and then stick those to each page. I just could not break the sticky note habit!!

That is until I decided that I needed to lighten the load in my bag. I was carrying around too much stuff and the notebooks were weighing me down! I moved towards keeping notes IN my phone, in an effort to live with less and stop carrying around so much stuff (not to mention losing important notes to myself). I started using the Notes app that came preloaded on my iPhone. It was ok, but not easy to search or edit. When I used it for to-dos, once a task was complete, I couldn’t cross it off like I did on my stickies. I had to completely delete it from the note, which just does not feel as good. I like to look at my list at the end of the day and feel good about all the scribbled out items. You know?

Then I discovered Evernote. At first, I used Evernote as a separate place to keep notes when I was on a journaling kick. At the end of each day I would type out a few things that happened and something I was thankful for as an exercise in gratitude. I liked how I could search through Evernote way easier than searching through the regular Notes app.

A few weeks ago, I finally upgraded all my apps and realized Evernote had added all these fancy features including the most wonderful thing ever….the checklist! Now every day I make myself an Evernote list and check the box of every task I accomplish through the day. I love a check marked list. I love a list in general which is why I dedicated last week to lists and still can’t seem to stop writing about them.

Another thing I love about the Evernote app is, I can schedule myself reminders for future things and don’t have to keep them on a list for a week. So next week, when I need to remind Evan about something on the calendar, I can set up a reminder that will automatically be emailed to me in the morning. That way I can add it to that day’s list and don’t have to look at it for a whole week.

I am sure there are a million features of the Evernote app that I am not using just yet, but it is so nice to have all my lists and notes in one place, reminders for things that would have been a whole separate sticky note, a place to journal that is always with me, and no more stickies all over the place!

If anyone out there has good Evernote tips, I would love to know them! Using this handy app is just one way I have tried to use the resources I have to learn to live with less!

Do you have an app that you use to minimize the clutter of notes and reminders everywhere?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Lists: The Nagging To Do List

I decided to start posting to this blog again when I started reading “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin. I am still in the process of reading this, so if there is a chapter at the end about not starting a blog when you have too many things to do, the joke is on me, because I haven’t made it that far. Too busy.

In one of the first chapters, Rubin talks about a task list of things that she is sure will make her happier once it is done. This list is a list of things that have been put off for far too long. I have such a list as I am sure most people do. I call it my “July to dos – the nagging list”. Literally, that is how it is labeled in my Evernote folder on my phone (more on Evernote that later).

I look at it every day and have given myself 1 month to complete all tasks. So far I am proud of my progress, but man if all of this stuff isn’t the bane of my existence.

Here goes:

  • Clean out car
  • Oil change and inspection
  • Paint the dining room
  • New York Life appointment
  • Dermatologist appointment
  • Cancel cable TV
  • Return Comcast equipment
  • Craigslist/Donate items
  • Reorganize clothes closet
  • Consignment drop off
  • Goodwill drop off
  • Sign up for baby classes
  • Schedule hospital tour
  • Cat vet appointments

Nothing on this list is overwhelming in and of itself, but add them together and I am starting to feel a stress headache coming on. I was hoping for a big shot of euphoria with every check mark, but sadly, the rest of the stuff on the list is still haunting me. I hope once the final item is crossed off the list I will have the feeling of winning the lottery. Only time will tell….

Sometimes it feels better just to put it out there. What is on your Nagging To Do List?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Lists: Day Zero Project

There is something so gratifying about checking something off a to do list. I have always liked to plan and organize. Breaking things down in little goals to accomplish is so incredibly satisfying. For me, the planning part is sometimes just as good as the actual activity. 

A while back I came across this article, "How Vacations Affect Your Happiness". In it they explain that research has show that planning a vacation is just as enjoyable if not more enjoyable than taking the trip. If there are lists and check marks involved, I can completely understand why that would be true.

I was inspired, 288 days ago, to make a big list. Chad Williams introduced me to the Day Zero Project which is a website used to create and share a to do list, 101 things to do in 1001 days. Chad is an adventurer, so his list is way more extreme than mine, but creating this kind of a list is meant to be personal. 

It took me 3 days to finish my list. 101 things are a lot of things! Not everything is something I have never done before, but everything on my list is something to enjoy, nothing like get my oil changed or clean the bathroom type of stuff. 1001 days is a little less than 3 years, so thinking long term is part of the challenge, but also part of the excitement of the list. Thinking about what life will be like that far out is something I do in a big picture way, but not necessarily in a small task kind of way.

Some of the highlights of my list include:
  • Take a cooking class
  • Visit Chicago
  • Host a cocktail party for people who inspire me
  • Start an email newsletter
  • Paint something
  • Go paddle-boarding
  • Send 10 unexpected gifts to friends
  • Ride in a rickshaw
  • Go one full day without saying one word

Totally random, I know. If you are bored or looking for ideas, you can see the full list here

I have checked off a few and it feels great every time. 

The challenge of making a list like this is simply getting started. My advice is start small. Think of just 3. 

What would yours be?