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!

‘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: “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.

“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. 🙂

  

So Marie Kondo opens a shop …

… and shit hits the fan – in quite opposite directions.
Die-hard fans and design aficionados appreciate the forthcoming sparks of joy they expect from ordering a $200 tea container or a $75 tuning fork with rose quartz – things every home obviously needs to have. Haters meanwhile have a field day; Twitter and Instagram are abuzz with hilarious comments regarding Kondo’s new business venture.

Kondotuningfork

“She is never without a crystal” – Marie probably is on rather intimate terms with Airport security personnel … 

I get it. The woman who preaches freedom from all clutter and empty surfaces now sells stuff no one needs at quite hefty prices. Marie Kondo is this cute little Japanese lady who likes to jump around whenever she sees boxes of clutter on Netflix. She has already sold us three books when one would have been enough (who really needs The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying up or Spark Joy when The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up contains all the main information?)  – and will try to sell you two more, one children’s book on friendship (Kiki & Jax – the Life-Changing Magic of Friendship) and one on organizing your workspace/workplace (Joy at Work – The Life-Changing Magic of Organizing your Working Life) – in 2020. I’m not sure I want someone who sends her socks on vacation every time she puts them in the drawer explain to me how I should streamline my workflow. Imagine explaining to your boss that you won’t be able to make it to the afternoon meeting because it may take a while to thank every individual key on your keyboard for its excellent service today … Well, at least we are already used to Marie writing books. And it’s not the first time someone uses the same ‘story’ over and over again to make more money (just look at Allen Carr’s “Easy Way” books).

Kondobooks2020

Brace yourself, there are new books on the way.

But a shop? Consumer capitalism tells us that this is OF COURSE the next thing in line. People not only want to read about and implement the KonMari method, they want to live KonMari. And what does ‘living KonMari’ mean? Buying it, of course. That’s also what all the fuzz regarding ‘Hygge’ is about. People in Denmark aren’t just happy because they live in a world full of cozy blankets and lovely interpersonal relations, they also live in a country that provides government welfare, a high wage level, and what Americans like to call ‘free health care’ –  long story short: when you can afford to lose your job or get sick, you can also sell cheap shit like scented candles and polyester blankets under the label ‘hygge’ – and apart from the label this concept does not necessarily include anyone or anything from Denmark at all.

Same goes for Marie. The goods she sells are elegant, well-designed, and nice to look at. She opened her own online store and did not start a partnership with Walmart or H&M to sell tons of junk but instead offers high-quality design items. Of course a tea container also serves a certain purpose; more so than a computer brush or a flower bouquet tote, at least in my personal opinion. Still, nothing in Marie’s shop is important OR something we may not already have (EXCEPT for the computer brush, maybe?). But hey, no one has to buy it. There are people out there buying overpriced stuff from a mediocre blond actress who made an empire out of selling shit no one needs – and I’m not just talking about Goop for that matter. So why should Marie, with her well-thought-out concept of sparking joy not at least try? No one has to watch her show. No one has to buy her books. No one has to feed the money monster.

Kondoflowertote

Groceries and other things one could carry around in a tote will vanish into thin air the moment they come in contact with this Flower Bouquet ONLY Tote …

Also, while we’re at it, what about all those influencers who promote slow fashion, conscious living/consumerism, and minimalism and still regularly present new stuff? Yes they get free samples from mainly independent companies and small labels that are more often than not worth mentioning and promoting BUT what is slow, conscious or minimalist about presenting new skin care, clothes, bags or the like every other week on Instagram? We are all trying our best to live up to the ideals we cherish, but this might not be as easy or consistent as we would like it to be. Life is full of inconsistencies and gray areas. Is it possible to withdraw from classic consumer capitalism in a way of not constantly wanting new things and being content with what one already has? I guess so. I hope so. I’m sure as hell trying my best. Because I don’t want to KonMari my shit every few years. But I fail quite frequently and there’s much room for improvement.

I’m still following slow/fair fashion, minimalist, eco friendly influencers on Instagram – in some instances the same ones who lost their rather self-righteous shit about Marie Kondo’s shop … whilst promoting new stuff they ‘received for free’ even though they are on a shopping ban right now or so (oh my, what a coincidence!). Because I like their posts, need my daily dose of procrastination, and it’s actually just 4 or 5 people so their ‘influence’ is manageable … 😀

BTW: there’s an interesting article on VICE regarding Marie’s new shop; the NYT too writes about the dubious nature of the backlash Marie is receiving for her new online store. As I said: gray areas everywhere …

Reading Marie Kondo and so much more … “The life-changing magic of tidying up”

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_b

Being the aspiring minimalist that I am, I only got the ebook version of Marie’s masterpiece.

My oh my – the world is my oyster and I am allergic to seafood … I have to change. Or: I have to change something.

Over the last few years and months I’ve read tons of books about ADHD, anxiety disorders and mindfulness. One thing I’ve learned is that I can focus and work better in a clean and organized environment. Moreover, I’ve learned that I should streamline as much as possible – what to cook and eat, what to wear, what music to listen to when working/writing/feeling blue, what to read … – and eliminate unnecessary choices so as to save time and energy.  I’m also practicing my own version of mindfulness, using the App Insight timer for meditation and following advices from authors like Ruby Wax and Mark Williams, Matt Haig and Aaron Gillies (to name just a few).

Streamlining mundane tasks and eliminating choices goes hand in hand with decluttering, at least in my little corner of this world. I’ve already started decluttering and discarding months (years?) ago, and though I read Francine Jay’s The Joy of Less early on, in the beginning I didn’t have a system regarding how and what to discard. I just knew I had too much and I wanted to change that. For further inspiration I read Fumio Sasaki’s Goodbye Things as well as a German book by Lina Jachmann, Einfach leben. Finally, somewhere along the way to ADHD-reducing minimalism I encountered Marie Kondo and let me tell you: I was not impressed.

Marie and me: no love at first sight

To be more precise: the first time I read The life-changing magic of tidying up I was rather disappointed and a bit irritated. Because when Marie Kondo explained that

The socks and stockings stored in your drawer are essentially on holiday. They take a brutal beating in their daily work, trapped between your foot and your shoe, enduring pressure and friction to protect your precious feet. The time they spend in your drawer is their only chance to rest.

I wasn’t sure what to make of this. I felt terribly sorry for my socks which was NOT helpful for someone like me who tends to a) feel guilty for pretty much everything (thanks gran!) and b) anthropomorphize A LOT of things which makes discarding stuff even more difficult. But apart from that all these sparks of joy she was talking about did not resonate with me. Therefore I decided that Kondo was not for me and put it aside. Several months later I discovered the wonderful and hilarious podcast By the book in which the hosts Kristen and Jolenta did an episode on Marie Kondo and her bestseller. Listening to it I realized that I may have missed some important points and decided to give her another chance. I even watched an episode of Mario Kondo’s show on Netflix –and finally I saw the light … once I saw this tiny lady jumping through pure chaos while staying happy-go-lucky I finally understood why she was taking her socks on a lovely little holiday every time she puts them in a drawer. She lives in her very own little world, all tidy and organized and full of joy, which seemes strange but wonderful. I decided to give her book another go.

Oh the (sparks of) joy!

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_6

The ebook from a different angle – taking photos of a ‘real’ book is a bit more inspiring …

The second time around it worked MUCH better! I ignored the cheesy bits and adapted Marie’s plan to my needs. After all, I live in a medium-sized European apartment and not a Japanese single flat; it was also not the first time I started a decluttering tour de force, so I focused on my weak spots and paid less attention to those areas that are already well organized.

Following Marie’s plan I started with my clothing. I imagined I would be left with a few T-shirts, some pants and two skirts but it was actually not THAT bad (or good). Since I’ve applied the ‘one in, one out’ rule long before Kondo-ing the shit out of my stuff, looking for the sparks of joy in my drawers and closet was not as fulfilling as I had imagined it to be. I had already discarded a lot of clothes, shoes, and bags before so this time around it was mainly about the spark of joy and nothing more. Still even the second time around it took me more than one round to eliminate all the items that didn’t spark enough joy. I guess I overlooked some less sparkier items and mistook them for great bearers of joy, love, peace, and happiness.
I still have a hard time figuring out what the spark says about my bags and backpacks – I’m not that much into fashion and shoes but I do love me a good handbag (or backpack for that matter). So I decided to disagree with Marie in that life-changing can be seen as a relative term and also describes a “life-long” process of figuring out which bag to keep and which to let go of. After all everything in life is a process, so why hurry?

A few weeks after the big closet decluttering bash I kondo-ed my books. This was a bit easier as I discovered quite quickly whether there was a spark or not. ‘Professional’ books (mainly academic books) did not offer the option of joyous sparks – Foucault very probably wouldn’t give a shit about his potential on the spark-of-joy-o-meter and that’s fine with me – so they were out of bounds. Regarding most of my other books I realized that I have very ‘sparkly’ bookshelves and still prefer books over pretty much everything else – even bags.

Books were the last category I’ve Kondo-ed thus far. I got a list somewhere which tells me exactly what I should declutter next (bathroom items, maybe?) but my main concern was clothes and books. Since I got these done I feel no urgency to tackle any other category soon. I’m not a fan of relying solely on digitalized photos and documents, so while I like to have a digital backup ’somewhere’ (beware of the ADHD brain’s ‘somewhere’), I don’t intend to throw away all my photos or important documents just because Marie or any other minimalist say so.
Furthermore, for me decluttering and discarding has a calming and cathartic effect so I’m in no hurry to empty our apartment in record speed. To me a certain form of decluttering, discarding, and rearranging is a life-long process that changes the way I myself and my life (our life) changes. So while I appreciate Marie’s efficiency, I see no reason to emulate her. I still stick to my ‘one in, one out’-rule, not with books but with everything else, and I apply Marie’s spark joy approach whenever I’m not sure if I should keep or toss a certain item. Both methods are very useful and give me good results.

However, decluttering is not my main issue anymore. I progressed to a more urgent problem I’ve developed over the last couple of months: digital thrifting.
I invest hours in searching for the right piece only to wait several more days or weeks until the price drops so I can finally make my bid. I get a sort of adrenalin rush when days and weeks of observing an offer finally pay off. On a bad day checking my apps and wishlists is the perfect diversion and also leads me to believe that I’m achieving something even though all I actually do is planning to accumulate stuff I don’t need. What was a nice little pasttime became a nasty habit. While in the past I would have had a few beers to drown a shitty day or smoked more ciggies than I should to calm my nerves, I now found a different crutch to help me calm down when I feel a bit blue – cheaper than drinking or smoking, but only slightly healthier. Also totally irritating for someone who is actually all about REDUCING the stuff she owns …. 

But that’s a different story.