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!

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 🙂

Reading: “The Bullet Journal Method” by Ryder Carroll

The bullet journal method book ryder carroll

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

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

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

The Bullet Journal Method – the book

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

the bullet journal method book index

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

bullet journal method collections

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

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

Benefits and Insights

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

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

bullet journal method book monthly log

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

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

How to … Low Buy?!

bookshelves full with books

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

Out of Sight, out of Mind – Unsubscribe and Unfollow

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

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

Plan ahead for you Low Buy Challenge

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

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

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

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