Low Buy Year 2020 – my February update

Midori Traveler's notebook unboxed

Spoiler Alert: I did buy something new this month …

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

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

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

Journaling and me

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

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

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

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

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

What else?

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

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

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

What’s up … March?

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

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

Reading: “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 🙂

The Renaissance of the Bullet Journal

bujocover.jpg

Being all over the place is nothing new for me, as most of you will know by now. Apart from some serious ADHD doing a lot of freelance work (mainly writing and editing) as well as (still) organizing a dissertation may add even more pressure to my already overwhelmed mind. Furthermore, I have so many ideas in my head, ideas for texts, stories, what to read, which book to blog about, what to sew, and a lot more, that I mostly forget them and have neither the time nor the place to take a note… As stated before, I don’t use my cellphone for everything all the time because hey, there’s nothing better than wanting some down time and fortunately not remembering where you put your (silent) phone – this is pretty much heaven for me, so I’m most definitely the wrong person when it comes to productivity apps and the like. I need a calendar. I need a notebook. And I could really need a personal assistant, but unfortunately I can’t afford one. Also, I’m much to introvert to want to share my life and all that’s in it with someone outside my head… So instead I decided to give the bullet journal another go, after a rather half-hearted test of the concept two years ago (you may find some gibberish about it here).

After not succeeding last time I tried to adapt the concept for my needs, I decided to go in 200%, meaning I even bought a new notebook dedicated to the renaissance of the bullet journal in my life. The first time around I used an old notebook I bought years ago, which did not provide the best hardware and left me feeling rather underwhelmed by the results I got from my various layouts and doodles (a lot of ghosting, and also just plain paper, which in hindsight is not the best choice for a bujo – I now use one with dots). This time I bought a dotted Moleskine with roughly 200ish pages. Though I got some ghosting there too, it still provides a much better hardware for keeping and actually using the bullet journal …

My main goal this time around was to bring everything together in one place – not 15 different notebooks for different topics, but one notebook for everything, from my schedule to my to-do lists, my calendar, my diary and my various list for books I want to get/read, stuff to cook, ideas for my blogs and the like. Apart from all the notes for my thesis – my thesis notebook is not full and finished at this point – it seems to work this time around, at least it has for the last two months (yeah I know, what a milestone, two months and counting …). I even started to do some serious doodling and coloring, though this is light-years away from all those sophisticated and beautiful bujo spreads one sees on Instagram and Pinterest. But that’s ok, I like doodling around a bit, even trying my hand at some sort of hand lettering (or rather my interpretation of it) just because it’s fun. I got something called “daily recap”, which I use when I include some journaling in my bujo, so I won’t need an additional diary anymore. And once my thesis-notebook is full, I will include all my notes for my thesis project in my bujo, too. The big idea behind all this is to confine my chaotic state of mind and thought to one single notebook at a time so that I have one place to turn to to find my ideas, concepts, plans, memories, lists, and much more. I got a vintage label maker to put the dates of  the specific journal on the spine once it’s full, so I won’t get lost in various notebooks. So for now, it seems like a pretty good idea, and it feels like it’s a good way to tackle my ADHD state of mind…

bujocoveraugust.jpgAt least in theory. August is my third month with this new system of mine, I started my current bujo in early June. For the last three months I tried some layouts, seeing what works for me and what not, what is ok to design and draw and what is simply too arduous to do every month. I still experiment with some stuff – trying to keep a gratitude log has not worked that well overall, though I think it’s useful and important for someone like me; the spending log too has not worked out as planned, but I guess some things need time to get used to, so I will continue to include one in my monthly layouts for some time to come. I feel great with some other things – using the bujo as a diary and a work notebook makes a lot of things easier and motivates me to write much more in general.

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So much for the second try. Right now I’m still very enthusiastic about it all, and I hope it stays that way (I probably wrote that the first time around too). I long for some method to ease my mind and help me stay (get?!) more organized – not using any medication, there are days I can literally see my thoughts popping up and then slowly pulling back again, only to disappear in some sort of dark corner where I won’t find them again any time soon – the trivial and simple ones as well as the important and interesting ones. And when this happens I don’t have the time (or nerve) to look for just the right notebook to jot this special thought down – it’s at times challenging enough to find the one-for-all bujo in time to not lose the thought or idea. Maybe it works this time around. I dream of shelves filled with my bujos of the past few years while I stand next to it, all happy and organized and oh so polished.
Yeah well, one can dream …

FYI: if you want to find out more about why a bujo can be really great for ADHD minds, you may watch this very interesting and funny video –wonderguy found it for me and it helped me find a good concept for my current bujo. Enjoy 🙂

Shame on me: an update on how I blame everything that doesn’t work on my bullet journal…

bullet journal, planners and tools

Long time no see, again – an update on how I blame everything on my bullet journal…

So for months now I regularly thought about what I could probably blog about. I even had a few ideas – quite a few at times – usually when I had nothing with me to take some notes (for the tech nerds: talking about analog note taking, like on paper, as well as digital, like evernote, Google Keep and similar stuff). Often this happened shortly before falling asleep, which seems to be a high time for me imagining stories, or rather, little passages of something that could be a story one day.

IF I would bother to turn up the light again and write it down. Or at least had my cell phone at hand to take a note… Both of which I don’t do and have, which is actually pretty stupid considering the fact that I haven’t written a creative (or academic, for that matter) thing in weeks – might be even months, if you’re referring to something ‘finished’. I did that ‘note taking at night’-stuff years ago, many, many years ago when I still believed in it. Also, I was drunk every night back then, so this might be another reason why I did it, because aren’t we all a bit Bukowski if we want to?

No holy grail of organizing?

I’m trailing off… So I’ve already written about starting a bullet journal in the high hopes that this might improve my ADHD fuzzy brain. So far, it hasn’t worked out that well. I set it up according to Ryder Carroll’s video and several other tips I found all over the internet. I added lists (‘collections’) where I jot down ideas, inspirations, important things, and more. I also have a section for “Blog IDEAS” in my bullet journal. I also got a “everyday recipes”, “sewing projects”, “stuff to get”, and similar pages in my bullet journal. Some I even tried to organize, like, using a sticky note (post-it) to make them stand out and easy to find (if I don’t find something of everyday use within the first seconds of looking for it, it may as well be lost in outer space, because I will simply forget about the whole thing). Still, I don’t stick to it. I forget, I don’t act, nothing happens. Even with this oh so glorified bullet journal, I’m not capable of organizing myself.

Of course I’m to blame (even though mini-me finds ways to excuse myself from any responsibility for the things in my life). I chose an A5-sized notebook, which is fairly easy to work with as a sort of homemade calendar and planner, but it obviously does not fit in every single bag I own. And I found out over the last few months that this journal works shit for me if I do not carry it everywhere I go – literally. Only then will I be able to get myself to use it daily,  use it every time I need it.
Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? You will be a better, less chaotic and more stable and organized person when you just switch your fucking diary to a more workable size. Great, isn’t it?

Back to start

I will try and hope for the best. I do know that it’s not actually a question of size (it never is), but also a quest for discipline. For everything that might be even slightly helpful to get all plans and goals on track again. Getting some structure in your everyday life when handling two to three jobs, freelance stuff and still trying somehow to accomplish a dissertation is exhausting and seems impossible, at least for me. But I will go on, and it will work out somehow, eventually. Because, looking back, it always did. But on this path “t will all work out”,  it never felt as hard as it has for weeks, months, the last one and a half years.

I already own a smaller notebook. Now I only have to convince my inner postwar child (thanks, granny!) to waste a perfectly good, half-used notebook for the sake of trying something slightly different. If you had any clue how strict I am with myself regarding unnecessary escapades, you would know how difficult this will be….