Archive for the ‘Simplify’ Category


The Boss of Me

Maybe there are people in the world who are lucky as they can be who never plan anything. They flit through life, spontaneous and free, taking problems as they come and magically making it through relatively unscathed. If you are one of these people, that’s awesome. I hope your life always goes this way and that you never run up against any hardship that you can’t handle in the moment.

I am not one of those people.

Creating my own luck could not happen without my planner. It has all my lists – the to-do list, the errand list (which can be distinguished from the to-do list as things that require leaving the house to do them), the grocery list, etc. It runs my life. Once, I thought I lost it, and I almost had to call in sick. Luckily, it was just in another bag. Crisis averted.

As you may imagine, I am incredibly particular about my planner. For a long time, Kate Spade made my favorite. It had all the elements that I needed and none of the extraneous fluff that I knew I wouldn’t use. Alas, when I was looking for my 2018 planner, I discovered that Kate Spade was no longer offering the yearly planner but rather one for the academic year. No. Just…no. So I had to find a new one, and since it was December and I had yet to order it, I had to find one fast. That was when Emily Ley’s Simplified Planner came into my life. I loooooove this planner. I will let you peruse the website at your leisure (and if you love planners like I do, you’re gonna want to). It’s perfect for me. I’ve already ordered my new one for 2020, and I think we’re going to be very happy together.

My planner helps me manage life overall. Time management strategies help calm me down and keep me grounded. Life doesn’t seem as overwhelming when I can look at it all in writing. Feeling lucky starts from a place of general stability, and having a plan helps me get to that starting point more often.

Do you organize your life? If so, what tools do you like to use?


I’m writing about creating my own luck for the month of October. See the master list of posts here.



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I’m gearing up for the first Sunday of Advent this weekend. Advent is one of my favorite seasons…in theory. I love it, but I want to do all the complicated things to make it Meaningful with a capital M. Which I recognize in my head is ridiculous. Especially for a season that is all about waiting and expectation and hoping, which frankly often means a whole lot of sitting around in stillness and quiet.

But last year, I endeavored to light the candles every day. Which in itself is not that much. But then after I lit the candle, I wanted to complete all the readings from the Book of Common Prayer for the day, which is not a bad goal but maybe not one to take on suddenly during one of the busiest months when I am not so great at doing that on a regular basis any other time of the year. Then after I read all the readings, I wanted to complete an art journal page reflecting the readings and also the word prompt from Advent Word (see image above) for the day that I had in my Advent calendar (which the previous year I had knitted and sewed together with my own two hands). This ritual was designed to play out against a playlist of seasonal hymns, perfectly timed to last the length that it took to finish all of the above.

This is not what waiting looks like. I’m exhausted just reading about it.

As you can imagine, there weren’t many days this actually happened. Specifically, looking back on my journal, I see that there were seven days out of the whole four weeks when I had time to do all of that, and I vividly remember doing two days’ pages at once on more than one occasion. Plans are only as good as their execution, so as plans go, this one was not awesome.

This year still has a plan, because otherwise Advent will pass on by without my giving it a thought other than on Sundays and Wednesdays. But it’s a slower plan that’s more conducive to hope and peace and joy and expectation. I still (will) have the candles (as soon as I buy them), because that part I did do every day last year, even if it was just during dinner. I will still use my cute calendar, but this year, as I have discovered that its little pockets are the perfect size for a tea bag or an Emergen-C packet or a single-serve bottle of hooch, I will simply be enjoying a daily beverage along with my candles/supper/staring at the Christmas tree lights.

There will likely be music in the background from my record player or a Spotify playlist. I will probably still read through some of the daily readings, as that is a habit I’d like to pick up this year, but I’m not going to make an issue of it or feel like I’m running behind if I don’t. I will also sporadically play along on Instagram with Advent Word or with Susannah Conway’s December Reflections prompts, because that’s fun.

But no extra stress or unreasonable to-do lists. Just waiting. And hope. And expecting. And joy. That’s what I hope to take from Advent this year.


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My original schedule for Getting It Together had this week being Adorn – the week I clean out the closet.  I decided, however, to switch it with Rest because:

  1. It’s our week of silence in Story 101.  We are to have a daily practice of silence – whatever that looks like for us.  Traditionally, I would use the week to be off Facebook and Twitter, but that’s not feasible for my work week (both at the workplaces I get paid a salary and my writing/other pursuits). My week of silence will be spent devoting at least 15 minutes every day to each of these restful practices – being quiet and still, reading (this one’s so going longer than 15 minutes), stretching or doing Pilates, writing poetry, and dancing. I’ve put aside specific times every day for these practices. If we’re being totally honest here – this is my favorite week in Story 101.
  2. Life has been stressful lately, and freakishly so, given how easy my summer was meant to have been. Life is really barreling over me. I need relief now.
  3. My bedroom is so full that I can’t really clear out a space around the closet to clean it anyway. It will all be easier and will require less cursing if I just do the bedroom first.
  4. I’ve stopped going to church.  Well, not officially.  I still mean to go.  I really do mean to go, sometime right up to the moment that it’s time to walk out the door.  Then I stop. This doesn’t have anything to do with them.  They’re wonderful. But my hiatus from church has taught me Sabbath. It has taught me what a day of rest really looks like, and now I require it.  I need a day of rest.  Before summer started and I began to move things around (read: into the bedroom), I could go to church in the morning and still come home and rejuvenate. My room is in chaos, though, so being home isn’t so restful. I end up stacking or moving or feverishly cleaning. Or I avoid stacking and moving and cleaning but spend the day with the knowledge – that all those things I need to do are lurking right behind that closed bedroom door – hovering over me like a cloud. This, too, is exhausting. I don’t have time for my weekly rest to require more time than it already does. I need to nest.

So this week is Rest.  The plan for the bedroom is twofold, because honestly – if I can just get the room clean and organized this week, it will be a miracle. So some of the fancier things I want to do will have to wait their turn.

Short-term goals:

  • Clear out. Go through all the boxes (some still packed from the last time I moved…two years ago) and get rid of everything that I don’t need or can’t realistically expect to use within the next year.
  • Organize.  Put whatever is left after I have cleared everything out to place.  If it doesn’t seem to have a place, reconsider if it’s really something I need to keep.
  • Clean. Dust and vacuum. Control the allergens that make me wake up stuffy every morning.

Long-term goals:

  • Make curtains out of the blue sheet set. 
  • Make a headboard, covered with the material from the fitted sheet of that set. I thought about making it to fit in the holes that my dad left in the platform frame, but after searching for DIY instructions on the subject, I ran across this gem.  I like the way it looks, and it seems to be a lot simpler to make than one that actually fits the bed frame.  So for my first foray into headboard-making, this is the one I’m going to go with. I also like that it includes instructions on how to make your own piping, because I’m totally doing that with an old, holey blanket that I was just going to throw out.
  • Rearrange so that there is room for my little blue chair somewhere in the room.  
  • Possibly get a chest (more drawers?) to hold linens to put at the end of the bed.
  • Put up coat rack behind door.

Whew.  I could have spent the whole summer just on my room, it seems. We’ll see how this goes.

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(Photo Credit – Jennifer Upton – A Shared Lens)

Every morning, at precisely 5:03 a.m., my internal clock wakes me up.  This has been happening sporadically for about a year, but it has happened EVERY DAY for the last two weeks. It doesn’t seem to matter what time I go to bed.  I could crash at 10:30, or I can stay up reading until 2:00.  Still – 5:03.  On the dot.

I don’t know why my body has decided to betray me in such a way.  I don’t know why it’s angry with me or what I could have possibly done for it to think I deserve this treatment.  Et tu, body?

I have been ignoring it.  I have woken up, looked at my phone, seen the odious numbers 5:03, cursed vehemently, rolled over in a huff, and fallen right back to sleep.

Yet it keeps happening.

So I’m going to give in. You want to wake me up at 5:03 a.m., body?  FINE. We’ll see how you actually like getting up at that time.

My fear, of course, is that my body will like it.  I do not look forward to the few weeks it takes to adjust my falling-asleep time to the new, ungodly getting-up time. The next few weeks might be rough.

But once I do adjust (and please let it happen quickly), I foresee the following benefits:

  1. I can have breakfast and wake up (read: start caffeinating) at home, where I can do so in private, instead of at work, where I must do so around other humans. People I work with – don’t worry – there will still be coffee at the desk in the morning.  In fact, this way, you might get more than one cup before I drain the pot.
  2. I can do morning free writes leisurely, at my desk, instead of tapping away on Margeaux the iPhone, one eye still closed, in between alarm snoozes.
  3. Morning reading time?  Yes, please.
  4. Once I get used to it, I could start going to the gym again.  I am generally not a fan of the gym, but I am a fan of running.  Do you know what a good time of day to run outside in July in Texas is?  NEVER.  There’s not a good time.  It’s so hot.  You could die. So I can get up and go use the track (and maybe the weights, on days when I just flat out lose my mind and forget my personality, which is actually quite likely at 6:00 in the morning) at the gym.  Yes, I realize that the gym is open at other times of the day. But will I ever, ever go when I know that it’s full of 18-year-olds?  No.  No, I will not.  So 6:00 a.m. is my gym time, if I am to have a gym time at all.
  5. I will be able to do all of these things and still get to work on time.

So I’m skeptical, but I’m willing to try, if for no other reason than it means I’ll only have to wake up once.

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The novel is started.  My characters are self-absorbed jerks, so I might have to give them a nice social cause  or a back story that justifies their jerkiness, just to keep from killing one of them off soon.

Their misbehavior, of course, played right into the Seventh Annual National Novel Procrastination Weekend.  I’m not avoiding writing!  May it never be!  I’m merely avoiding murdering one of the little bastards in my story.

And that closet wasn’t going to organize itself.

In doing so, I have stumbled upon an epiphany:  I have a whole lot of stuff that I never use.

No one needs this many t-shirts.  If I wore a different shirt every day, without any repeats, I probably wouldn’t have to do laundry until mid-January.  I wish I were exaggerating.

I have two more loads of laundry that I’m not going to do today, because if I did, I wouldn’t have any place to put the clean clothes.  My closet and drawers are overflowing.

On the one hand – oh, what magnificent abundance!

On the other, freakishly larger hand – oh, what frightening excess!

One might say, “Why don’t you just go in there now and get rid of half of it?  What’s the big deal?”  Clearly one has never met me, or if one has, one is quite mean-spirited and is trying to bait me.

I have control issues with getting rid of things when I don’t know that those things will be used and not just tossed in the trash. Sure, I made this pile:


But I am already second-guessing my choices, wondering if they’re good enough that someone will actually want them and get some use out of them, or if they will end up being tossed in the garbage after a year because the good people at the thrift store need to make room for other items.  It helps that two of the shirts are going to the desk, where I know the part-timers will fight over who gets to take them, because they have to wear a UNT shirt at the desk, and none of them have been working in Housing as long as I have, so they’ll welcome the extra shirt.

I know this is good.  This is something I need to do.  Still, it gives me anxiety.

Anxiety is no excuse for impeding progress, though.  So every month, I am going to get rid of at least ten items of clothing.  I’m going to continue this monthly practice until my closet and dresser can actually hold everything.  And if I buy something new, I have to get rid of a comparable item before I can welcome the new one to the fold.

Okay.  Now back to those pesky teenagers.

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