Reading: “An Edited Life” by Anna Newton

Anna newton an edited life cover 2

An Edited Life by Anna Newton, published in early 2019.

“Minimalism as [sic] a broad term. It covers a whole spectrum of living with less beliefs, form owning only possessions that you can squeeze into one suitcase, to halving your collection of ‘Now That’s What I Call Music’ CDs that were about to topple off your shelf anyway. At the strictest end it can be very prescriptive. […] So what I’ve come to see as the middle ground is to aim for a more edited life. It’s an ongoing process that embraces imperfections and shrugs off the need for perfectionism, because perfection just doesn’t exist unless we’re talking about Ryan Gosling.”

Anna Newton is a blogger and author from the UK who published her book An Edited Life – Simple Steps to Streamlining your Life, At Work and at Home just a year ago in early 2019. She started out as a beauty blogger in 2010 and evolved into a lifestyle blogger writing about beauty, fashion, home decor, travel, cooking, and (self-)organization. She also has a successful YouTube channel. To be honest, I didn’t know her blog but saw her book on bookstagram (I guess – I’m not totally sure …) and only after reading it discovered her online persona – mea culpa! Being all about a mindful and well-organized life, Anna’s blog is a great source of inspiration for everyone interested in mindful consumption, creative cooking, and conscious beauty. I enjoy catching up with her from time to time, but even more so I thoroughly enjoyed her book and the excellent tips she shares for optimizing one’s organization. And contrary to a lot of books on similar topics, Anna always does her best to keep in mind that different people live different lives – not just couples and families. Therefore she often mentions various ways on how to handle stuff or follow her advice, whether you have family, a partner, pets, live with flatmates, or are on your own.
But enough of the introduction. Let’s take a closer look.

Anna’s take on LIFE, WORK, and HOME

Anna Newton An edited life TOC

Anna’s table of content which clearly shows her main topics.

“A TIDY HOME = A TIDY MIND. If your belongings are in order then there’s less chance of procrastination and physical clutter getting in the way of tasks that you actually need to complete.”

Anna’s book is divided into three main parts – LIFE, WORK, and HOME – and before she starts with the first part, LIFE, she introduces eight key beliefs that are the basis for everything she writes and talks about. I quoted no. 5 because it is one that I agree with 100% and one that becomes crucial every time I feel like I can’t get anything done: off I go decluttering some corner of our home (but you probably already guessed that). These eight key beliefs make a lot of sense and are easy to remember.
Only after sharing these important basic principles does she continue with the first section of her book, LIFE, and starts out with another topic close to my (and probably many others’) heart: planning. She gives analog and digital diaries careful consideration and compares both strategies, pointing out all possible advantages and disadvantages, even mentioning bullet journaling(!). After dealing with scheduling and possible diary types, Anna dives into a topic that has always been shrouded in mystery to me but became much clearer thanks to her: money, budgeting, financial planning.
She not only explains how exactly a budget works, giving examples so mathematically challenged people like me can follow it (after rereading it several times) but also shares tips and advice on how to save some money why that is important. In addition to several other interesting topics and insights, this was one of the most important chapters for me, since I always abhorred keeping an eye on my money more than is necessary. I used to have an idea about how much money I have left and I regularly put something in my saving account but never before have I found the energy to actually keep a budget and track my income and expenses – praise the Lady, Anna’s detailed explanations were eye-opening and even though I am still not on her level of expertise, it’s much better than it has been …

Anna newton an edited life budget

Anna’s suggestions on keeping a budget …


Subsequently, Anna counts self-care, social life, and setting goals as well as planning for your future as parts of editing a LIFE, and there too she shares some good advice as well as practical examples from her own life to underline how to handle your shit.

Part 2, WORK, was especially appealing to me since I work part-time at an office and but the rest of the time at home; Anna, acknowledging that her situation as a freelancer working from home might not be the rule, is careful to include different types of work settings into her considerations. Still, I found her tips regarding how to set up an ideal home office surrounding most helpful and after clearing some more space am now able to work more efficiently. She also makes procrastination a huge topic (speaking directly to me, I guess) and not only shares tips on how to overcome it, but also thorough analyzes regarding WHY we start procrastinating in the first place. Being aware of possible reasons for certain behaviors make it easier to recognize them and consciously work around it. Of course, for most of us this is not the first time we read about possible causes and solutions regarding procrastination, but Anna’s conversational tone – something most blogger authors embrace justifiably as it makes their writing much more appealing to an audience that is used to them talking like a good friend rather than an omniscient narrator or author – and the way she groups, relates and presents those facts still make it interesting to read.

The same goes for the last part of her book, HOME. Those who’ve read other books regarding decluttering, wardrobe organization, and similar topics won’t find anything earth-shattering – something she is well aware of and also acknowledges throughout most of the book – BUT the way Anna shares her own experiences and advises us on how to tackle out clutter and the various rooms we want to ‘edit’ still makes it an inspiring read. She dedicates a part of HOME to the issue of building a capsule wardrobe, something I’ve not read completely since I have not yet reached the point where I want to tackle this issue – still, Anna’s a pro even here (it seems to me) and anyone interested in how a capsule wardrobe works and how you can build your own will find precious suggestions in this part of her book. When sharing her tips on how to keep your home clean she pays tribute to the fact that different people live in different settings again; some live with their family, some live alone, and others live with their partner or flatmates. As mentioned before, Anna is careful to do this pretty much throughout every part of her book – she is always keen to include and address everyone, though of course someone may always feel left out.

The Anna Edit – my résumé

So what was my personal take-away on Anna’s book? I will forever be thankful for her meal plan idea and her thorough advice on how to keep a budget. Meal planning (Anna offers free printable worksheets as pdf downloads) not only made my life a gazillion times easier but it also helped me save a nice amount of money as a result of only having to go to the supermarket twice a week. Budgeting finally gave me a certain grown-up vibe that I didn’t necessarily miss but I am still happy to feel now that I actually know where my money goes. Also, I wouldn’t have felt up to the task of a low buy challenge without seeing in cold print how much money I wasted on stuff I didn’t need (and more often than not didn’t know what to do with once it was mine …).
Anna’s conversational style and special tone made this book a great read and I enjoyed the stories she shared from her life and the advice she gave on the various topics she discussed – always doing her best to include different people and ways of life. Even though this wasn’t my first book on self-organization and a ‘curated life’ (as I like to call it) – it was more like my tenth or so – I would definitely recommend it to everyone interested in improving his or her life in the areas Anna discusses in her book. While I don’t know her that well as a blogger and YouTuber I definitely appreciate her as an author with her own unique voice doing her best to add valuable information and advice to well-established topics.
In my opinion, she does a great job – you may want to find out for yourself 🙂

Reading: “The Bullet Journal Method” by Ryder Carroll

The bullet journal method book ryder carroll

“Studies have suggested that we have 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day. For context, if each thought were a word, that means that our minds are generating enough content to produce a book Every. Single. Day. Unlike a book, our thoughts are not neatly composed. On a good day they’re vaguely coherent. This leaves out minds perpetually struggling to sort this gray matter gallimaufry. Where do you even begin? What comes first? Inevitably we find ourselves tackling too many things at the same time, spreading our focus so thin that nothing gets the attention it deserves. This is commonly referred to as “being busy.” Being busy, however, is not the same as being productive.”

I’ve started bullet journaling more than 3 years ago, though it wasn’t love at first sight (you can read all about that here, here and here). Wonderguy introduced me to the concept of bullet journaling and when I started, I was extremely under-inspired. Watching a video by Ryder Carroll in which he introduces the ‘bujo’ to the world I found the idea intriguing and interesting but wasn’t sure it would work for me. After halfheartedly journaling for a few months in 2016 I quit, only to return to it in the summer of 2018 after realizing that bullet journaling could be extremely helpful for people with ADHD – like me. What brought me back to the bujo was watching Jessica from How to ADHD explain how the BuJo could improve my everyday life (watch it here) and what she as a fellow sufferer advises to focus on (watch it here). This inspired me to give the concept another try since I’m always open to ways to optimize my ADHD me without meds. The second time around I tried harder, buying a new notebook and pens and getting more creative with my spreads and lists and the like. This time around it worked and I’m currently on my third notebook in 17 months. Overall, bullet journaling works way better than most organizational systems/methods or apps I tried over the years, so I’ll stick to it. Pinterest and Instagram are huge inspirations and I realized how much I enjoy drawing and creating bujo layouts, which offer me a creative outlet while also doing something useful and relaxing. As with Marie Kondo’s spark of joy, the bullet journal won my heart the second time around. 

And until roughly three weeks ago I never thought about diving deeper into the subject because hey, it works for me, so what else?

The Bullet Journal Method – the book

Well, in 2018 Ryder finally wrote a book about his wonderful organizational system called The Bullet Journal Method. I immediately put it on my wishlist and shortly before the start of my Low Buy 2020 challenge on January 1st, I decided to treat myself with a few more books (also thanks to my uncle and the invention of gift cards!!), amongst them being Ryder Carroll’s book. I read it within two days – probably because I had some previous knowledge but mainly because its conversational tone and the way Ryder structures the book make it an easy and inspiring read. Starting with “Preparation” concerning such topics as why we journal the way we do and how it could help you, he goes on to explain “The System” – a how-to bullet journal on a practical level –, which is followed by “The Practice”, a close-up look on how-to and also why to bullet journal on a theoretical and mental level, and “The Art” about additional important elements of a bujo. Throughout the book, you find parts that are designed like bullet journal entries to emphasize his point and illustrate Ryder’s concept of the bullet journal.

the bullet journal method book index

Though I’ve been bullet journaling for some time now I still found new insights and ideas. Reading the book I realized that I had completely misunderstood the idea of collections – instead of using them as a way to collect notes, ideas, or make a list, I always thought they were a sort of advanced to-do or shopping list firmly set at the beginning of the bullet journal and without any logic or system. I’ve never made any use of collections therefore, even though I made tons of lists, tracking my reading, collecting meal ideas, wish list of books I want to buy and sewing projects I want to tackle … I’ve just never thought of them as ‘(custom) collections’ and that I could use them in various ways and for different purposes, not just as some sort of shopping list.   

bullet journal method collections

Additionally, I’ve never worked on my goals in my bujo, mainly because I don’t think that much about goals and plans in general. Since my sanity canceled the contract with my mind and decided to go rogue on anxiety and depression many years ago, I refuse to make long-term plans because I think of them as a waste of time and energy. So much can happen in only a few weeks or days, I don’t like to plan traditionally and much rather try to structure my projects in a to-do list kind of doable chunks with a rather open schedule. So when Ryder tasks us with focusing on our goals and structuring them according to his system – 5 years, 4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days, and 1 hour – I was overwhelmed, surprised and a bit angry at the same time. For one thing, I realized that I should probably review my goals and plans from time to time just to see where I’m heading. It doesn’t always need to be a structured plan, I can adapt it the way I want, but it indeed gives me a sense of security and structure seeing what I want to do, already have done, and may need to work a bit harder on. Still, strict timetables don’t work for me because they make me feel caged which in turn makes me furious and unable to focus on anything. I prefer deadlines that give me a certain time frame without scheduling every minute (okay, hour) of my day. Therefore, thinking hard about what I want to do in the given periods when doing Ryder’s exercise was a challenge for someone like me who much rather just waits to see what would come up – sometimes also for practical reasons in regards to working freelance jobs – than actively planning the upcoming weeks, months, or even years.

Another exercise I did not find to be helpful was one in which Ryder wants us to find ‘our meaning.’ To do so, he describes the exercise of “Two Lives” inspired by Robert Frost’s poem “The Road not taken”, in which we should write two different obituaries for ourselves, one for the self that took the well-worn path (stayed within the familiar) and another for the self that took the path less traveled. After doing so, we should reflect on the two lives we described, what we felt during this exercise, what we realized while writing the obituaries, which life we preferred and how we could integrate the accomplishments described in the obituary into our own goals. I found this exercise a bit pointless since I assume most of us prefer one of the two options long before actively deciding which life we like better, therefore following a (subconscious?) inner guiding when writing the obituaries. Also, as stated before, I don’t plan long-term, so I had a hard time imagining two different life paths that I could relate to. And while I did my best I was glad once it was over and could go on reading. Nevertheless, I found these exercises interesting if a bit underwhelming, because even though I’m not a planner and don’t intend to become one I realized that it couldn’t hurt to review my plans and progress from time to time – for someone like me, this is a huge realization. 😀

Benefits and Insights

“[…] the benefits of writing by hand stem from the very complaint consistently leveraged against it: inefficiency. That’s right: The fact that it takes longer to write things out by hand gives handwriting its cognitive edge.”

I agree with Ryder that one of the main benefits of bullet journaling is writing by hand: the haptic experience of the notebook itself, the countless options on how to tackle your special interests and needs in this very own notebook of yours is what makes the bullet journal unique. Everything you add, be it colorful spreads, creative doodles, various collections and whatever you need that makes it work for you is the special magic of this concept.

bullet journal method book monthly log

I thought long about buying this book because I already practice bullet journaling and I didn’t ‘need’ the book. I don’t follow Ryder’s concept to the t because I need some color and I’ve come to realize that I like drawing and all that (even though I’m shit at it …). Though I embrace minimalism in various parts of my life, my monthly spread is not the place to be as minimalist as Ryder is and that’s also what he mentions repeatedly: What makes the bullet journal special is how adaptable it is. You do you, and while he provides you with a concept and overall structure, what you make of it is up to you.
In his book, he gives an excellent overview of his method with an in-depth analysis of its concepts and ideas. And though you can find information and inspiration regarding the bullet journal all over the internet, nothing beats the original source. Ryder does not simply bolt through his ideas and topics, eager to fill a book with much information and hardly any soul. Rather, he gives insights into how he came to develop the bullet journal method in the first place and what fundamental issues lie beneath, such as the effects of writing by hand, or why rapid-logging is beneficial to the fast mind and why we should keep track of our goals (yes, even me …). Without reading this book I would’ve never realized how much more a bullet journal can be than just a ‘personalized planner.’ So if you’re already bullet journaling and feel like it is perfect just the way it is, you may feel no need to read this book. But if you are curious about what this concept could do for you apart from the obvious things so well documented on YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest, you may want to give this book a try.

I am happy I did and it will continue to inspire and guide me for some time to come.

How to … Low Buy?!

bookshelves full with books

Being the ADHD nerd that I am, I always try to be prepared the best I can for upcoming plans and challenges. Educating myself in regards to every possible eventuality that could occur gives me a sense of security and peace of mind, knowing I will be able to handle pretty much everything life throws at me (note that I say “pretty much everything” and not “all” – I’m an absent-minded idealist, not a complete idiot). This, of course, means that I did my best to prepare myself for the challenge ahead, my Low Buy  2020. Watching videos, listening to podcasts and reading some inspiring blog posts all contributed to me still going strong and not even missing shopping in any way on day 12 of this new adventure. It wasn’t that easy and enjoyable to quit smoking, that much I can already say. My various sources provided me with some valuable tips on how to best navigate through a world that is focused on mindless consumption as a way to raise your spirits, and I picked those that work best for me. Here are my favorites. 

Out of Sight, out of Mind – Unsubscribe and Unfollow

I heard and read different opinions regarding unsubscribing and unfollowing to remove yourself from even the slightest temptation. Whereas some want to stay informed about what’s going on – especially those coming from makeup low/no buys – others insist on unsubscribing and unfollowing to make your life a lot easier during a low buy or no buy challenge. I agree with the latter. Consequently, unsubscribing from newsletters and similar E-mails as well as unfollowing some accounts on Insta makes this challenge a lot easier. I’m susceptible to seeing something online and instantly wanting it, especially regarding clothes, backpacks, and bags. I’ve worked in marketing and advertising long enough to recognize certain linguistic devices and design elements, thus it’s not necessarily the ads or E-mails I fall for, but rather a look promoted by some influencer or a certain kind of website with a minimalist look, elegant and low key – that’s my soft spot.
So better safe than sorry – unsubscribe, unfollow, un-everything that helps you not to feel like you’re missing out or denying yourself a better life. Also: less spam mail, more spare time – hooray!

When removing myself from all temptation, this also means not going to the stores or shopping malls. Since I’m not a big fan of crowds in general this is a rather positive consequence of my Low Buy. The same applies to online shops: I don’t want to buy anything so why should I visit their website?

Plan ahead for you Low Buy Challenge

I removed every shopping app I had on my cellphone and tablet – nothing is more convenient than scrolling through Amazon when you’re bored, so by simply removing the app it’s not THAT easy. Some suggest to also deleting your credit card/bank detail from online store accounts so that you have to fill in all your information every time you want to make a purchase. This would probably thwart quite a few shopping ambitions since most of us can’t remember all their information and are often simply too comfortable to get up and search for it in a bag, wallet, or wherever you store it. I haven’t done this because I don’t think I need it – but it’s a good advice for those who may need it.
In addition to removing all shopping apps, I’ve also created a wish list were I record all the items that I may want to buy after giving it some time and consideration. As my Low Buy Year should largely be a No Buy Year, I won’t buy most of the items on my wish list  before 2021, if ever. The only exceptions are items deemed necessary (as I explained in my Low Buy Rules). And books. But I got a separate wish list for books since a monthly book budget of €50 doesn’t necessarily mean I can buy every book I want. Planning is key. Always.

Furthermore, meal planning will also help to shop consciously, though this might not be for everyone. I started meal planning a few months ago – inspired by Anna Newton and her book The Anna Edit – because I don’t like cooking and I’m not exactly creative in the kitchen department; in combination with the fact that without a clear plan I have a hard time shopping groceries (some say that’s one symptom of ADHD – whatever it is I hate it) a meal plan is a great way to make my life much easier. However, one of the side benefits I never thought of is that we’re saving money. 

To plan ahead also means keeping track of your money. Even though this challenge is not mainly about saving money but rather about my inner peace and freedom from shopping as a crutch to use whenever I feel low, one of my main goals is saving a decent amount of money. Having some money on the side will buy you the freedom to live on your own terms whenever you feel the need to do so.
Keeping a budget will help you to track your money, seeing where it goes and planning where it should go instead. I don’t like apps so I do it the traditional ‘analog’ way with charts and lists, and I’m only at the beginning of actually telling my money where to go BUT I’m on my way. If you decide to keep a budget yourself, find a way that works for you – you will find tips regarding #budgeting all over the internet.   

That’s the last post of my Low Buy for Beginners series – for now.
I will continue to write about my Low Buy Challenge 2020 as well as the books I read and the life I live … just as I did before. Enjoy 🙂 

“Any fool can make a rule …”

Before deciding to start my Low Buy 2020 Challenge I went on YouTube and watched videos by Hannah Louise Poston, Christina from style apotheca, Signe from useless_dk, and Hailey Evans, amongst others, for inspiration and to get an idea of what I actually want to do – low buy, no buy, a whole year, just a few months?
Thanks to Signe I realized early on that a complete No Buy year would very probably set me up for failure because in the end I wouldn’t be allowed to buy a single book for a whole year (yeah, I know, I’m such a drama llama when it comes to books …). That’s why I granted myself the luxury of a 50 Euro book budget every month. My main objective is to rediscover my bookshelves and read what I have – so best case scenario would be to save additional 50 Euros every month – yet if I absolutely HAVE to get a certain book (maybe even for professional reasons) I can buy it without breaking the rules of my Low Buy challenge feeling like a total loser.

bookshelves with books and plants

Another thing that became clear early on was that I needed set up some rules for myself if I wanted to suceed in not buying anything I don’t need. I’m a grown-ass woman and intellectually capable of grasping the basic idea of a ‘low buy challenge’ BUT the issue may get a bit more complicated over time and I know I have to give myself some guidelines to follow so I won’t start bullshitting myself … Thus, I did some research and voilà – THE rules! 🙂

My Low Buy 2020 rules:

1) I will not buy any new clothes, bags, backpacks, or shoes. Nothing. I got enough stuff to get me through more than just a year and I will make use of it.

2) I will keep track of my spending to keep my eyes on the prize, i.e., see how much money I save by not buying shit I don’t need. I will do so by tracking my expenses in my bullet journal because apps simply don’t do the trick for me.

3) I will buy replacements WHEN NEEDED. This includes groceries, medical items, skin care products and toiletries, household goods, stationary/office supplies, plants (as stated before I might have killed one of our green friends …), fabric and wool. BUT: I will buy this only WHEN NEEDED. I will not accumulate a collection of notebooks, deodorants, or candles as long as I got enough of it and don’t need one specific item. I will use up (or discard) what I own before buying anything new.

4) I can sew or knit something new if I want to BUT (again) I will use the fabric and wool I have at home before buying anything new. Only then am I allowed to buy materials for one new item per month. In doing so I want to train my patience by actually making something myself – which takes much longer than simply buying it – and also create a sort of appreciation for clothing in general. Garments don’t grow on racks, they are made by someone and it takes time and workmanship to create a piece of clothing. So why not take a step back and do it myself – I got the equipment but lack skills and patience, so this promises to bring lots of fun.

5) I will only have two take-outs per month at the max.

6) I have a book budget of 50 Euros per month. Since book shopping has never been a problem in the first place, I want this one thing to continue ‘as usual’. However, I will not spend more than 50 Euros – if something is too expensive, it has to wait. So I have to think hard about which books I really want and which ones I put on my wishlist. 

7) I will buy gifts for others or spend money on shared experiences. This includes vacations, lunch/dinner/coffee dates, and trips to a museum, the zoo or the like. Since I’m not a huge socializer to begin with, it’s not like this is something that happen three times a week. Usually I have a fortnightly lunch date with a good friend of mine as well as the occasional coffee date with friends or family. I couldn’t afford vacations for several years not only for monetary reasons but also because of mental health issues. That’s why I don’t want to cut back on traveling for this Low Buy challenge in general, nevertheless I will focus on the experience and not on the shopping opportunities when up and away. In the end it’s not like I’m flying across the globe every few weeks …

8) No IKEA, no mugs, no home decor and the like.

9) No video games. I will use what I have.

10) Whenever I see an item I want to have I put it on my wish list. Having and (pretty much) curating a wish list will give me an understanding of the things I WANT compared to what I actually NEED. It will also give me the certainty that even though I may not be able to buy it now it will not be forgotten and can be bought in a few months/weeks time.

My main incentive is to save some money. I was good at saving money when I had none – it’s time to get back into that spirit. Because the only thing worth spending money on is time for yourself … at least to me. 🙂