Life under Lockdown or: what to do when there’s nothing you can do

collage city under lockdown corona 2020

Monday afternoon downtown – had to go to the office to organize some things even though we were technically already under lockdown.

It’s quarantine day 7 today. I’ve been from home since Tuesday, this will last until April 13, at least. I’m used to working from home and prefer it to most other ways of work (like office life), so this is not a problem for me. If I need something I can call my co-workers and I guess we all evaded quite a few meetings that in the end could be e-mails after all. Being the content loner I am, staying at home for days is rather easy for me because I don’t necessarily seek human interaction as much as other people might. To me, a lengthy phone call too can be a great way to stay in touch with friends and family. But – and that’s a huge but – I live with Wonderguy and our two kitties so I’m not all alone during the lockdown. This is something I appreciate very much and which can make all the difference for a lot of people.

 

All this noise … in my head

So it’s not the social distancing that made the last few days challenging for me but rather the constant influx of news and information from all directions. No matter if you talk to your friends, colleagues, and family or if you’re scrolling through your social media feeds: the pandemic is everywhere. It is important to stay informed and know what you should and should not do to help flatten the curve but can be overwhelming too. Sharing your thoughts and fears regarding Covid-19 is important and social media is the place to do so. We want to support each other by sharing our thoughts and emotions, kind words, funny memes, and other positive content that lifts our spirits and spreads some positivity (hopefully). That’s the blessing of our digital age and social media.

Then again, there can be downsides. I’m not used to so much news and I’ve felt overwhelmed and petrified often in the last few days and weeks. I quit watching television news 13 years ago because I don’t like how news content is filtered and presented on TV. I prefer reading about what’s going on in the world, so I get my daily dose of news from papers and magazines (online and offline). Depending on my schedule, my mood, and the international situation I often skip a day or two, because I don’t find the time (and nerve) to keep up to date. Therefore, refreshing the local news sites every few minutes or at least once an hour is an unusual new habit I developed thanks to Corona and one I don’t intend to stick to. My fuzzy brain has an even harder time focusing on anything when conditioned to expect new inputs every five minutes. As it takes 21 days to form a new habit I will get a grip on this and change this behavior asap. After all, this lockdown will continue for several weeks and even then it is not clear what will follow. So the last thing I need is my fuzzy brain being all over the place constantly.

 

Break the cycle – cut the crap

Over the last few days, I saw a lot of people on Instagram describing how they had a hard time focusing on their reading or work with all that is going on. This is a common sentiment I share. You don’t need to have ADHD to lose your fuzzy brain in the current news cycle. You want to stay informed on how your respective government handles the situation, you want to stay in touch with friends and family and you want to find out as much as possible about this virus that is threatening the lives of so many people. But at the same time one can only go so far … and stay sane, calm, and happy.

So what can we do to break the cycle? I for one decided to go cold turkey on news of any kind. I will stay active on the gram and google my way through the world as I usually do, but I will refrain from refreshing our local news channels/the Guardian/Reuters/… every other hour to ‘stay up to date.’ Wonderguy has a much healthier approach towards news and if anything groundbreaking happens, he will keep me posted. In the meantime, I won’t notice every verbal fart of the orange fucktard or the wigmaster of horror, but will only visit news sites once a day to stay in touch with the world outside (my head). Thereby I’m returning to my usual news dosage without this nagging feeling of emergency. This, I hope, will help me to calm down and get back to the things I should and could do in this situation. Like working on my thesis, for example.

Book Bill Bryson 'At Home'

Spirit of the day(s) … 

Seize the day (or night – whatever you prefer)

As I’m used to working from home, I have no issue with doing my ‘normal job’ away from the office. Working part-time I now save some time going to and coming from work, a time I could use productively. I guess most of us work from home right now and while some will adjust quite easily, this can be a huge challenge for others. Having a designated working space at home makes things easier since this may resemble a sort of ‘office’ some might miss. Calling co-workers and/or clients brings the social interaction some miss and helps you stay in touch with your work reality.

A lot of us may feel the effects of the pandemic crisis also regarding their workload. Working at an ad agency I prepare myself for weeks that might not bring as many jobs as we are used to – this will improve eventually but we will feel the result of this not only in our workloads but also our bank accounts. Anyway, this too shall pass – as long as I still got a job half a year from now I’m okay with cutting back.

Reduced workloads also mean more spare time, something that gives me an even better chance to pursue my goal of finishing my dissertation this year (I will regret sharing this ambitious goal here because the internet never forgets …). At present dissertation work comes in waves – I’m totally in the flow two/three days in a row and don’t even look at it for 10 days. That’s not a good ratio and there’s room for improvement. Having been sick for weeks was also hindering, though I’ve been well for a week now, so that’s not an excuse anymore. So for now, I know what to use my time and brain for once I calm down a bit …

Getting off the news ticker may not be doable for everyone and you may not even find constant news input as distracting and irritating as I do. So whatever is right for you, find your way to calm down and try to seize the day the way that’s best for you. Read that book, write that book, watch that show, call your friends, finish your paper, sow some seeds and plant some crops, sing, dance, exercise – do whatever you want to do as long as it helps you getting through your days …

Stay safe and healthy – take care!

Using a Traveler’s Notebook as a Bullet Journal (and more) – first impressions

Collage Traveler's Notebook closed and open

The new Traveler’s Notebook in black – already customized 🙂

As I stated in my last post regarding my February update, I bought a Traveler’s Notebook to use as my new main Bullet Journal and Notebook system. There are two main reasons for doing so.

For one, it’s a question of size and format. While I absolutely love my Dingbats Bullet Journal in regards to paper quality, design, and handling I find the width of 16 cm a bit too much – though this is a standard format for notebooks and suits most users just fine. I like notebooks that are a bit smaller, but since the Dingbats checked all my other boxes, I didn’t bother any further – until I found the Traveler’s Notebook on Instagram.
The other reason I wanted to switch notebook systems has to do with how I use my bullet journal. I will go into detail further below. 

After fuzzing about it for several days and discussing the issue with Wonderguy, I gave in. Because of my low buy challenge, I didn’t want to act like spending 65 € on a notebook and inserts is fine, but in the end I decided it’s worth it, which I explain in my last post (LINK). In the end, I purchased a regular sized Traveler’s Notebook in black as well as three additional inserts.

A new way to bullet journal

I use three notebook inserts in my TN as well as the zipper pocket für everyday stuff like post-its, rubber bands, and other things I might find useful. Of those three notebooks, I use one as a bullet journal, one for everything related to Ph.D. and academic issues and one for anything blogging and (creative) writing and reading. This separation of noteworthy fields will make it easier to keep an overview of the different parts of my life I need to focus on. Furthermore, if I fill up one of my notebook inserts quickly, I will only have to replace this single part of my planner and not the notebook as a whole. The other notebooks can stay where they are until I use those up as well.

collage 3 notebook covers

My three notebook inserts and my favorite pen, a Kaweco Classic Sport.

By thematically sorting my inserts, it will be easier to navigate through my notes once the books are full and filed. Additionally, it will also make my life easier because I don’t need to transcribe countless list and collections from one notebook to the other since I use my bullet journal insert mainly as a planner and for short-time lists, but still have my Dingbats notebook for curated collections like my reading list, book shopping list, diary writing and the like. I don’t have to care anymore to not waste pages or space in my bujo because otherwise, I have to do a lot of transcribing with all my list and collections. I can use my bujo insert anyway I want and if I have to replace it in a few weeks no harm done, I just start a new notebook. My longtime lists and collections are not affected by how fast I fill my bujo insert and how often I switch notebooks.

Back to the roots …?

When I started bullet journaling one of my main incentives was to bring everything together in one notebook. Monthly, weekly and daily planner, notebook, diary – all in my bullet journal. Mostly, this worked best for me. But because using my bujo as a diary too, my notebooks filled up faster than I expected and this affected how I kept lists and collections. More often then not I was too lazy to transcribe whole lists to new journals, so I just kept them in my old notebooks. As you may remember, when it comes to my ADHD riddled brain, out of sight is out of mind. So most of the lists in my old journals are simply forgotten.

Another issue Wonderguy frequently mentioned is the fact that my bujo is also my diary, which means that I should definitely NOT forget it anywhere lest I want strangers (or worse: friends or colleagues) to read about my innermost thoughts and struggles. While working at home this was no concern of mine, but once I started working at an office 5 days a week I realized what Wonderguy meant. While it might not be a good feeling knowing someone else could possibly go through your bullet journal because you forgot it somewhere, the feeling gets significantly worse when your bujo is also your diary. Having everything in one book has advantages, but there are also some downsides. And right now I’m about to find out which mix is perfect for me.

Regarding my diary and handling my lists, the split is working well. Knowing that I won’t have to transcribe my lists any time soon I work on them with more enthusiasm. When journaling I also have a better feeling knowing that this notebook won’t leave my home and there’s no need to stress about forgetting it somewhere anymore. And because it’s still in some way my bujo and not ‘just’ my diary, writing about my day doesn’t feel too much ‘dear diary’ like. So, for now, I’m fine with using separate notebooks for separate matters.

The planner setup

By splitting my bullet journaling habits up again it’s back to square one in some instances. In regards to the layout of my monthly, weekly and daily spreads I’m back to figuring out what works best for me. Right now I’m with a layout I’ve used before, but I’m not sure if I like it in this smaller setting. I might switch back to the style Ryder Carroll recommends and uses. On the other hand, I need a weekly layout to note appointments and dates, which is the reason I started mainly working with weekly spreads.

TN Bujo weekly spread

My weekly spread for March. There’s room for improvement …

Again, YouTube came to my rescue. Watching videos by Cissy’s Art Cafe and Sarica Studio, I found some inspiration on how to make my new notebook system work best for me. I will try this out in April. Maybe I just need to minimize the weekend segment of my weekly spread. I don’t use my planner on the weekends apart from jotting something down for the upcoming week, so I don’t really need “Sat/Sun” in my weekly spread. On the other hand, sitting down every weekend and doing a weekly spread like the creators in their videos do/suggest will give me a chance to get a better overview of the week ahead. I will see what works better for me.

Overall, I like the look, feel, and handling of my Traveler’s Notebook. I really like it. I even started a bit of scrapbooking and being more creative in my spreads. After all, I can use a different design and layout in my next notebook insert – which will probably come rather sooner than later, especially compared to my other bullet journals. But that’s one reason I chose to use a TN, isn’t it?


P. S.: It took me more than a week to write this post because I’ve been sick (not Covid-19, just a regular cold). I did my best, but if I sound incoherent or slightly off at times – I’m sorry!

Low Buy Year 2020 – my February update

Midori Traveler's notebook unboxed

Spoiler Alert: I did buy something new this month …

Another month has passed and I’m still going strong, most of the time. I have to admit that it’s not that easy all the time. Not because I feel dread and despair because I’m not allowed to shop. Rather, I have to become more aware of what I’m buying or not. Some purchases are obviously necessary – groceries, replacements, medication, gifts. And then there is the twilight zone – washi tape of a certain design and make that I don’t already own? Scrapbooking supplies that may be similar to what I already own but not the same? A new essential oil even though I own several others?

Most of the time I decide on a case-to-case basis, trying my best to stick to my intentions and don’t make myself feel like a cheater. But when I saw an absolute ‘want want want’ pair of sneakers – a style and model I don’t already own – the struggle got real, at least for a moment. It usually starts with me imagining wearing them, how they would look, which outfits I would create, all that. I guess a lot of you know exactly what I mean. And woah, my imagination went wild – I could practically see myself wearing ONLY this special pair of sneakers until the end of (my) time. Like it always is when you reallyREALLY want something. Still, I didn’t do it. I did not buy those magical new sneakers that would bring eternal happiness into my life. Instead, I put them on my “Buy in 2021” list – my first item so far.

But I bought something else. Which is still within certain rules but borders on a huge twilight zone.

Journaling and me

As I’ve written in my post about the bullet journal, journaling and writing things down is extremely important for me. Thanks to my ADHD (as far as I know – maybe I’m just an asshole) I usually forget a lot of stuff people tell me, so I have to write it down. I forget a lot of stuff in general and have a hard time staying on top of things, so having someplace to note my thoughts, ideas, to-dos, and general information is essential to function in this life. Some friends and colleagues actually think I’m very well organized. They have no idea I’m in a constant struggle with my fuzzy brain because they only see the results. And thanks to the Bullet Journal Method, the results are often really good. Thus, I’m always open to new ideas on how to improve my journaling game. And there seems to be an abundance of new ideas out there.

In my post regarding the rules of this Low Buy year, I stated that I only will buy replacements when it comes to stationery items. Well …

Wonderguy bought a Traveler’s Journal a few months ago and while I liked the idea of having different notebooks for different needs, I didn’t like the format. His is a normal A5 size from Paper Republic (the Grand Voyager XL), which I find too big. Granted, my Dingbats bullet journal is A5 too – yes, too large – but it’s my favorite notebook regarding paper quality and overall design. As for the size or format, my perfect notebook would be a classic Moleskine, but the ghosting in Moleskine notebooks is just too much. Therefore, I decided to use Dingbats notebooks which come with the perfect paper and they also care about the environment. Until I found the Midori Traveler’s Notebook.

Unlike Wonderguy’s Grand Voyager, the Midori Traveler’s Notebook (now produced/sold by Traveler’s Company Japan) has the perfect format and size for me. I’ve loved the idea, and now I found a notebook as well. So I started pondering. Would it be cheating if I decided to switch from my Dingbats Bullet Journal to a Traveler’s Notebook? Would it be worth it? Was I ready to wait nearly a year until I could try it out? I took my time and waited for several days. During this time I discussed the issue with Wonderguy, I read blogs and watched videos about the notebook, and did some research on its components and what I would buy IF I bought one. After finding a little shop in town that sold the Traveler’s Notebook and its various inserts, I finally gave in. Convincing myself that I didn’t have to order anything online but could support a small shop with my purchase, I went there and got myself a brand-new Traveler’s Notebook.
And I’m really happy.

Don’t get me wrong, I still feel a bit like a cheater and intend to make very good use of it. I will write about the Notebook in a separate post, so I won’t go into detail on how I use it just yet, but I’m absolutely delighted with the format and the feel of it. The system of inserting separate notebooks for different topics allows me to bring all my notes together which makes it easier for me. At the same time, I didn’t ditch my Dingbats Bullet Journal completely. Apart from ongoing collections and lists, one important part of my bujo is my diary which I will keep in my Dingbats. But more about that in a different post.

What else?

I didn’t indulge in my book budget for the obvious reason of already buying a pricey new notebook system. It’s not that I want to justify this purchase by treating it as a ‘book’ and hey, everything’s fine. It’s rather that I want to acknowledge the fact that things are special this year on the shopping front. So to keep it down I decided to read what I have instead of treating myself with new books. I’ve been sick this month and went through four books in five days which felt great (apart from being sick, of course). I absolutely love discovering my shelves, even when realizing that I don’t love everything I own.

Inspired by some YouTube videos I delved into scrapbooking to give my journaling new impulses. Since I don’t always feel inspired to draw or doodle but still love some color and design, scrapbooking seems like a good idea to design my spreads and pages. Doing so adds some life to my notebook and helps me stay focused. I am a visual learner, meaning that color coding, images, and designs stimulate my perception and help me filtering information. Integrating this in my daily journaling and jotting important things down helps my fuzzy brain keeping a better overview. So while I bought some scrapbooking papers and stickers, I didn’t invest a lot of time and money into it since I won’t need that much. Furthermore, I can simply print pictures I find on Pinterest and use those, so that’s that.

I haven’t done my budget yet but I assume I’ll meet my saving goal (or at least almost), adding some more money to my savings account. However, I have to get better in keeping track of my day to day expenses. I know there are a lot of apps for doing exactly that and I already tried some of them. It’s just that I’m not much of an app user. I work better with pen and paper, and forgetting to jot down an expense happens regularly, no matter if digital or analog. So I will try to improve this.

What’s up … March?

March should be a quiet month. There’s no huge bill to pay apart from my usual fixed expenses and we are not expecting any visitors or otherwise big events apart from our anniversary. It will be a quiet month (hopefully) and if all goes well I might be able to save a bit more money. We’ll see …

If you are on your own low or no buy journey, I wish you all the best for the upcoming month – you can do it! We can do it! Let’s share ideas, inspiration, issues, and perspectives – everyone’s on a different path, and it’s always interesting to hear/read other’s stories 🙂

Reading: “Enough” by John Naish

John Naish Enough book cover 1

“We drown out the big questions by marching behind the brass band of infinite ambition. It’s a march that apparently need never end: today’s idea of success increasingly involves attaining unprecedented levels of health, power, and celebrity.”

This quote is from 2008. It resonates with pretty much every time frame from the late 80ies to today. But while the consumer culture of the last century was too analog to even imagine, John Naish would probably never have imagined how manifold one could present one’s infinite ambitions on today’s social media nightmares like Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn. We are drowning in everyone’s opportunities. We are drowning in various ways to buy happiness. We are drowning in unwanted goods we don’t need any longer because we found something much better. This is as true in 2020 as it was in 2008 when John Naish wrote and published his book Enough – Breaking free from the world of excess.
In eight chapters and one afterword, John does his best to analyze the various ways our capitalist and consumer culture defines the meaning of “enough.” He covers as diverse topics as Enough Food, Enough Information, Enough still, Enough Options, Enough Work and – being the ADHD anxiety depression freak that I am – my favorite, Enough Happiness. You could read this book just like any other, or you only read the topics you’re most interested in, leaving out others you don’t care about. Still, you find a thorough investigation and analysis of how we came to where we are now (or rather were back in 2008).

Information Overload

Take for example Enough Information. Back in 2008, TV news reports were one of the most important news sources the majority of people turned to whenever they wanted to see what was going on in the world. Two years before, amid my mental health tour de force, I quit TV news for good and never looked back. Apart from a short stint in New York where I watched a local news channel due to a minor terror incident I haven’t seen TV news footage in more than a decade. Naish argues similarly, stating that TV news coverage focuses only on the absolute worst while a focus on local news will prove that the world isn’t that bad. He also never owned a TV (I ditched mine in 2012) because, well, absolute overload. Today, with Facebook, Twitter and newspaper apps offering push services, it’s even harder to escape the flood of solely negative 24/7 news coverage.
But ‘information’ doesn’t start and end with the news – even though Naish, who (still) works as a journalist in the UK, could have focused solely on this part of the problem. He also includes the fact that we’re getting much too much information per se throughout our days, be it a text message, WhatsApp, E-mail, or a mention/retweet/like/reply on Twitter/FB/Insta. Even more than in 2008, thanks to our phones we are available 24/7 – and people expect us to be. Have you ever had a discussion with someone because you read their WhatsApp but didn’t reply immediately or within the next hour? Ever had a friend who was angry at you because you didn’t instantly reply to their FB message even though he could see YOU’VE READ IT so why didn’t you reply?
Like what the actual fuck?
Naish covers this topic too, though more regarding text messaging (oh the good ole days without blue ticks when you had to pay good money for verbal diarrhea) and E-mails. He underlines the fact that constant interruptions are not a way to function, work, or live productively:

“It takes about 4 minutes to recover from an electronic interruption and regain your train of thought. So if you have 30 e-mails a day and look up 30 times, that’s 120 minutes of recovery time.”

Think about it. Two hours every day just because of your phone vibrates. It need not be an e-mail. It could be any messenger, Instagram, TikTok, anything no one really needs but your FOMO keeps you alert and active. It costs you valuable time. When I want to avoid distraction at all costs I usually put my phone in flight mode. Actually, I use flight mode rather regularly and it’s one of my favorite features because it keeps the world out and helps me relax and focus on my work, my play, and my life. Do you remember the times 10, 15 years ago when you could use your phone as an alarm clock as well and still TURN IT OFF? Not anymore in the era of smartphones in which your phone keeps you on edge 24/7 while at the same time invading your privacy and possibly even influence your mental health, depending on how well you cope with the overkill of news and social media.

All work and no play …

But enough of digital gadget bashing. Naish has a broader focus regarding how much enough there is on this world – today even more so than 12 years ago. In Enough Work Naish analyzes how we developed from doing our best to sustain ourselves, earning and working only as much as we needed to see the acquisition of stuff we don’t need as more important than time and personal freedom. A society that creates the illusion of consumerism as the main way to express one’s personality and execute personal freedom will never value the luxury of having more than just a certain amount of free time at one’s hands. So people who do not work full-time but prefer to have less money and more time – people like me, depending on my freelance projects – may be seen as traitors by some. We don’t work 8, 9 hours a day so we are not valuable members of society. It’s a scandal we are allowed to take vacations at all. Naish emphasizes this change in perspective regarding work when he writes

“[…] Many people chose to earn only as much as they needed to pay for basic food, clothing and shelter. Why go to work on Monday mornings if you don’t need to? That balancing act was thwarted when consumerism successfully persuaded people that what they really wanted was not more time, but more material goods than they already had.”

The problem is that personal freedom only goes as far as you have sufficient funds. When part-time work earns you enough to sustain a living – which may be the case depending on your education and work experience – then this concept works well. But the moment children, mortgage, credits, cars, and other issues I can’t think of right now entering the picture, it may be less about consumerism as a practice of personal freedom and more about pure survival. So while I personally agree with Naish and have a rather unconventional work biography (which is also a result of my mental health issues), we should never forget that a lot of people all over the world don’t have enough personal freedom to decide how they want to work.

How much is too much?

Still, consumerism is the source for a lot of problems we have been facing for some time now. Enough Stuff and Enough Options both deal with how consumerism and its consequences don’t make our lives any easier in the long run. Too many options cause anxiety in regard to fearing we make the wrong decision and can, therefore, be highly counterproductive. This is not limited to shopping options. Before I decluttered my wardrobe (four times so far …) it often took me up to an hour to find something to wear because I simply had too much. Nowadays, with a much smaller closet, it can also take quite a while because I can be a moody dresser; still, I’m much faster now that I don’t have so much stuff anymore. This may sound familiar to some of you. No matter what, more stuff and more options don’t equal more happiness. It only means you spend more time deciding on something and/or taking care of your things. And it also means you have to work more hours to earn more money to afford more stuff and options. Naish provides a wonderful quote in this regard that I want to share with you to conclude this paragraph:

“Shopping gives you a sense of choice and power which is often absent from the rest of your life.”

One of my favorite chapters is Enough Happiness which deals with the happiness and self-improvement industry that flourishes on the premise that feeling down is a vice we need to get rid of. Don’t get me wrong: I suffered from depression due to my anxiety issues and I still get very VERY low from time to time. I suffer from anxiety and can spend hours imagining the worst outcomes of the most basic situations. I am all for working on the self and not giving in to every little bad vibe that grazes on my frontal lobe. BUT this also became a very lucrative industry. Furthermore, it is simply not realistic to be happy and content all the time. You would either be on drugs or out of your mind to not go through some lows from time to time. That is fine. It is still healthy, even if it doesn’t feel like it. And it’s human. There’s nothing wrong with you. One woman’s pleasure is another one’s plight – that’s life. Naish taking on the happiness industry and its mantra that it will bring you never-ending happiness is an interesting and entraining read. Even more important is that he broaches the subject at all. More often than not this industry exists as a sort shadow society that everyone knows about but hey, as long as no one is hurt, let them improve themselves and don’t talk about it. And that may be right. But it is still important to tackle the topic, to point out that everlasting happiness is a fairytale and that certain lows are indeed just fine. But if it gets worse you should not just go and buy a book and a sound bowl but maybe consider seeing an expert to get professional help – not for eternal happiness, but mental health.

While reading this book I got the impression that Naish was ahead of his time. While 2008, 2009 saw a growing awareness of the dark sides of capitalism thanks to the financial crisis, a lot of his arguments that refer not only to consumerism but also sustainability and environmental issues have become more urgent and therefore present in the media and politics. So even though when reading about the growing distractions caused by cell phones made it clear that some time has passed since this book was published, overall it has lost none of its relevance and poignancy over the last 12 years. So if you want to enjoy a critical reflection on our society of never enoughs, riddled with a charming British sense of humor, get yourself a copy of John Naish’s Enough and find out for yourself when you may want to reach your personal point of having, being, feeling enough – and enjoy it.

John Naish Enough book cover 2

Oh the temptation! – A spontaneous Low Buy Update

Since the start of my Low Buy year on January 1st, I haven’t been to a lot of shops except when I know exactly what I need. My main reason is not so much avoiding any temptations but rather the fact that I don’t need anything so there’s no need to go to shops in the first place. Why waste my time in places I got nothing to do except standing around?
This week a dear friend of mine returned from her six-week trip to New Zealand and we celebrated our reunion, going out for lunch and strolling through the city. She was looking for a pair of pants and I needed to get another insert for my traveler’s notebook. Thus, I took her to a shop where we could get both – and more.

I went to get my notebook while my friend asked the sales assistant if she could show her some trousers. All the while I didn’t think about looking around because I knew I wouldn’t buy anything apart from the notebook. Yet this changed when my friend found some amazing pants that looked great on her and were exactly the sort of pants I’m always on the lookout for. Stylish yet comfortable, with a loose fit and of great quality – oh how I felt the temptation …
So much so that I tried on several different colors and styles myself until I had found a pair of pants I loved. However, as I was standing in front of the mirror, I realized that I already have at least two pairs of black pants that look exactly the same. Three months ago I would have said that one could never have too many black pants, 50 % off was a great bargain and so forth. In the end though, this was about WANTING and not NEEDING something. It would have been classic impulsive shopping – just the behavioral pattern I wanted to change.

drawer full of pants

Obviously I already got some pants …

Rules for fools?

I’ve set up some low buy rules to get me through this year and I was about to ignore them for the sake of satisfying a sudden urge that would probably vanish after a few hours (it did). While getting dressed again I gave this thought some time to sink in and I hated it. Every time I go somewhere to buy a gift for a loved one or something I need to replace, I’m always so happy that I stick to my plan. And all of a sudden in the heat of a fleeting moment I wanted to cheat myself out of feeling good about myself for no other reason than WANTING something?

Long story short of course I did not buy those pants. I got my notebook and waited for my friend to continue our afternoon stroll through the city. At the risk of sounding narcissistic and arrogant, I was proud of myself and I felt relieved I did not give in and buy those pants. I may be a fool but at least I stick to my rules (fingers crossed) …

Rules and Reality

“Any fool can make a rule” – I chose this title (which is actually part of a quote by Thoreau) for a good reason. Every time I start walking down some unfamiliar paths, I fear that I will make a fool of myself one way or another until I get some practice or expertise. Inspired by my YouTube playlist full of great advice on low buy, no buy, and minimalism, I established my rules. Yet despite my optimism, I knew it could get tricky at some point. Hence the ironic title and a premonition that it may serve me and this plan of mine well someday in the future.
Well hello – this day has arrived and I did pretty well. By writing about it here, by putting it out there somewhere, it feels like I’m making a confession even though I did nothing wrong. I was on the brink of doing something stupid, but I didn’t do it. Though it may sound ridiculous I thought about how I could explain a new pair of pants to Wonderguy, who would have noticed at some point. Maybe not immediately – after all, he is not the warden of the wardrobe – but he would have recognized it. Knowing about my low buy challenge and being highly supportive of it, there is no way I could have justified buying yet the same black pants again. He might deny it but he has a sixth sense for my guilty conscience purchases – which makes him my perfect supporter.

Cats on bed

Cat content – always a good idea. Even more so when in dire need of some positive vibes.

Get inspired again and again

So if you ever set out to embark on your own low/no buy adventure, make sure to talk or write about it. Hold yourself accountable by making your intentions known to the people around you. In doing so you will feel like shit if you break your own rules. Be vocal about your plans and they will haunt you!
(Re)Watch inspiring videos to motivate you again, read about how others handle their low buy and no buy journey on blogs. Connect with fellow low buyers/no buyers and support each other through all the temptations and difficult moments that might arise. Be it a shitty day at work, anxiety, life or something else that usually triggers you into buying shit you don’t need – reach out to others who share your path. Reddit is a good place to look for kindred spirits, as is YouTube and Instagram (I’m not on Facebook anymore so I don’t know about that). Let’s support each other and be serious about this whole endeavor. Because in the end, it’s not just about each of us, it’s about how we interact with the world around us, learning to cope with what life throws at us without running away into the open arms of the next ATM or online shop.

I did it – for the first time and (very very) probably not the last time.
You can do it too 🙂

 

‘Less is more’ – my Low Buy January recap

This Friday the first month of my low buy year ended and it’s time to look back on these 31 days of NOT shopping. How was it? How does it feel? How am I? Could you do it too?

It was great. It feels great. I’m doing great. Yes, you can (if you want to)!

four book covers

So many books … still not enough time?

Spending time not shopping

As most of you who went on a low buy or no buy challenge know, the moment you ditch your compulsive shopping habits is usually also the moment you suddenly have A LOT more spare time at your hand. Surprisingly though, at least for the first 31 days, I had no trouble at all filling new found time slots with projects and things to do.
For one, I read much more. I signed up for a reading challenge on Goodreads and I’m already three books ahead! Right now I’m reading four books — one non-fiction, one for research purposes, one of my beloved Jessicas, and a self-improvement book — which is less than ideal in general and for someone like me in particular but in the end right now it’s ok for me because I feel like a kid on summer break — the world is my oyster and so are my bookshelves!
Having so much more time also enabled me to FINALLY get back into a proper research mode, usually spending my afternoons writing or reading some papers and actively working on my dissertation again. It’s still not ideal but it is far better than it has been just two months ago, so I’m heading in the right direction. Besides, one thing I’ve learned over the years working as a (freelance) writer and copywriter is that it often comes in waves — one day two, three, five pages are no problem at all, other days every line you accomplish seems almost impossible. So maybe ‘ideal’ is whatever works best on any given day, as long as I just keep working.
I also got crafty again embroidering my Kanken and already planning some design for my other backpacks. I created some rather fancy bullet journal spreads, doodling my way through February and some other collections and lists I started. So overall, January was a great start into a year in which I plan to explore and establish new paths, ideas, and ways to handle my stuff.

Kanken Embroidery

I tried something new and embroidered a Kanken.

Spending time shopping

Apart from being the newly (!!) reformed compulsive shopper that I am, I still spent more than enough time ‘shopping’ things I needed. First to mention are groceries, of course. Thanks to meal planning I only have to get groceries about twice (three times at max) a week, but that’s still more than enough.
And then there are those everyday items you never realized how regularly you need them. How often do you buy laundry detergent, toothpaste, or soap? We’ve adapted a lot of our cosmetics and household product to sustainable and/or low waste options, but you still have to get that stuff from time to time — something that does not become obvious until you only go shopping when you need something…
Additionally, apart from buying only what I needed, I also shopped locally most of the time. Instead of ordering an item online just because I could I now took the time to look for shops where I could buy what I needed. So when my gran asked me to get her a sustainable alternative for her plastic straws, I did not order them online but first went to the local zero waste store to see if I could get stainless steel straws there — of course, they had several different versions! When needing yarn for my embroidery project I also went to three different shops until I finally found what I had been looking for. This took some time, but also gave me a new understanding of how to act more sustainably and buy more consciously, using the resources I had all around me — sometimes just five minutes away. After all, this is how I shopped until just about ten, maybe fifteen years ago. Ordering online was an option, but just one of several. It was not the main option and my first choice — and so one could say I’m on my way back to the future that looks surprisingly similar to a not so long ago past.
Admittedly I also spend half of my book budget for January on Amazon, so those tiny steps I took pretty much amortized itself with this act, but since I would have had to order those books anyway, I decided to do it on my own without the hassle of interpersonal interaction (after all it’s called The Merry Loner for a reason)

Because I completely forgot about my tuition fees which were due in January (as every year but bless this mess that is my brain …) it was not a successful month regarding my saving plans, BUT it could have been much worse. I plan to do my best to undo some of the ‘losses’ in February by taking a close look at upcoming financial obligations before they take me by complete surprise thereby planning accordingly to not end up frustrated at the end of the month.

Room for improvement

January was an overtly social month. We went out for dinner with friends three times and I had three lunch dates, which is definitely more than I and we usually dine out in a month (we are literal homebodies). This is something that did not go according to my plan and rules and I want to change that in February. As I don’t want to rebuff my loved ones when they ask me or us out, this may become a true challenge over the months but sometimes it’s also a question of timing: I hadn’t had a single dinner date (meaning going out for dinner paying for it myself) in December, only to have a surprise visit from friends and family on different weekends in January – something like this can come up and when it does it depends on how you want to handle it. I decided to give in and spend time with people I love, but you could decide to instead invite them over to your place and cook. You could also do something completely different to appreciate your loved ones without having to spend additional money. This is why low buy rules may sometimes be prone to bending at the edges according to what is within limits. Yes, I overspent on eating out BUT at the same time I didn’t use up my whole January book budget. One does not amortize the other, still it is a way of bending the rules without having to feel like a complete failure.

February low buy — what lies ahead?

According to what I wrote earlier, I will do my best to calculate upcoming expenses. February 5th is my mom’s birthday and I will spend some money to get her a gift. We have a sort of town festival coming up which may add some additional costs, but not that much. I have to pay my train tickets for an upcoming holiday and the annual fee for an app I decided to keep. Apart from that, I hope for some smooth sailing and fancy saving my book budget for the month because this idea of ‘rediscovering my bookshelves’ works surprisingly well, so I may stick to it for now without adding anything to my collection.
I’m not a big planner and I won’t ever become one but trying to keep an overview of what’s coming up this month hopefully is sufficient for my low buy life and also gives me a sort of grown-up vibe (again) that is 15 years late. In the end though it’s about what works for me which may be different from how others handle their life (and low buy). We are here to share, support, and inspire each other — let’s do exactly that! 🙂

 

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 🙂