Good Change, Bad Change, It’s All the Same

Photo Credit: Joe Leap

Have you ever wondered why you felt so drained even though you’ve accomplished something amazing? Maybe you’re supposed to feel elated about a career move but then suddenly you’re exhausted just thinking about it. If you express those feelings you’ll be seen as unhappy and ungrateful. It’s okay, there is nothing wrong with you, your body is just responding to stress, it’s just good stress. However, your body responds to those changes, roughly, in the same way as negative change. We go through similar hormonal responses.

Change can be good, in moderation, at the right time in your life.

If you’ve never heard of the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale Test, I recommend you take it. You should retake this test anytime you feel unexplainably stressed, you don’t know why you keep getting sick or have some unexplained health issues. Don’t forget to add things that you can recognize as stress that may not be listed or may not be as straight forward. For instance, if you’ve just graduated college make sure to add ‘end of college‘ and ‘outstanding personal achievement‘. If you’re moving back in with your parents add ‘moving‘ and ‘change in family obligations‘ as well. Thus graduating from college is incredibly stressful, even though it’s an entirely wonderful achievement.

All change is stress to your mind and body!

If you’d like to do some further research head on over to the CDC website to do an experiment on how you personally cope with stress: (https://www.cdc.gov/bam/teachers/documents/stress_body_mind.pdf).

Just know that all change is stress to your mind and body. Just got a promotion? Great, check the stress box. Just had a big disagreement with your in-laws? Sorry about that, but again, check the stress box.

So what do we do about about all this stress? Since it’s inevitable and life happens after all. Learn to recognize the things you can control and things you can’t. If you’ve just lost an important family member, now is not the time to take on optional work. MindTools states, “While this is clearly easier said than done, you can usually avoid moving house, for example, close to when you retire, or when one of your children goes off to college; you can learn conflict resolution skills to minimize conflict with other people; you can avoid taking on new obligations or engaging with new programs of study; and you can take things easy, and look after yourself.” 

Looking after yourself receives a post all on it’s own, but for now find one thing you do just for yourself (that doesn’t include internet surfing or television watching). Schedule time for this, by writing it on the calendar. Do this regularly and more often during noticeably high stress times. It’s okay not to do it all now. That’s the whole point of slowing down. There is a time in life for everything, but the time for everything is not right now.

Meditation also deserves a note here. I am in no way affiliated with 10% Happier but I’ve used their first seven guided meditations and I can happily recommend it.

I’m going to coin the term, Change Seeker, a person constantly in need of change to feel fulfilled.

Personal aside: the military has made me a Change Seeker. I look for change everywhere, I constantly rearrange my furniture, I’m always looking forward to the next place to move or new things to get involved in (or new degrees to get). But I can recognize that I’m, pretty much, chronically stressed (in both good and bad ways). I made a list of ongoing projects and I’m a little embarrassed to share it, so let’s just say it’s over 50 items long. I’m looking to slow my change seeking behaviors and hope to report to you a healthier update in the future.

 

 

Are you Healthy? Check your Poop!

Checking your daily poop for optimized health.

Poop Pageant Image: From Practical Paleo

What’s the best way to determine if you’re currently healthy? Take a look at your daily poop, AND you should be having a DAILY poop.

Finding a healthy balance is extremely difficult for all of us in the Western world. There are so many demands pulling us in so many directions that our health takes a back seat to work, home demands, kids, you name it. But your health (mental and physical) is incredibly important to those around you. When you are miserable, so is your spouse, kids, and co-workers, and that’s partially your fault for not taking care of yourself in the first place.

Take care of yourself, in order to not drag others down!

Now, I’m no guru on the body. I’ve taken my fair share of classes in anatomy and nutrition but I’m not a doctor, holistic or otherwise. I do care about my body though and I know when it feels good and I know when it feels pretty shitty.

In order to feel my best, I need to:

  • Eat Clean, this means eating real food, not something from a bag, can or tub. It usually requires a good amount of prep work but it’s worth every second. I’m planning on doing the Whole30 soon and will post results. Eating clean requires me to Plan, Plan, Plan! I hate this actually, I’m usually the more spontaneous type but if I don’t plan, then I eat junk and I feel terrible!

 

  • I take my supplements! In today’s food market we cannot get what we need from the foods that are being grown and produced. The soil is laden with pesticides and run-off. It’s not worth losing sleep over but it’s worth knowing that you’re going to need to supplement. I take a multivitamin and pre and probiotics. There is a lot that has come out recently about gut health. Want to know if your gut is healthy? Check out this poop pageant, hang it in your bathroom even (no shame in the game!).

 

  • Keep your house clean with the most eco-friendly products you can find. You can make your own cleaning products or find a good company you trust (right now I’m stuck on Mrs. Meyers). I use a few basics products and try to keep it simple with four bottles for everything!

 

  • Create a healthy mind. I’ve just started the 10% happier meditations. I feel a little silly meditating, but so did Dan Harris when he first started. It’s cooler to be calm than be a lunatic all the time. Yoga is also my go to mind and body workout. I currently practice Yoga with Adriene on youtube. She has so many videos, for every type of yoga imaginable.

 

  • Finally, exercise. The concept of exercise is by far the most difficult lifestyle factor for me to achieve. I need accountability, every single day, or I need a calendar reminder to get outside and move. Exercise doesn’t need to be gym worthy; you can walk/jog around your neighborhood, ride your bike, go swimming, or do a workout video at home (there are so many free ones on youtube).

Do you have any other strategies that keep you at your best?

Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with any of these companies. They are purely my chosen methods of research and products. 

How Living in Italy Changed my Idea of Minimalism

I’ve always been a minimalist per se. I’ve enjoyed scaling down to exactly what I need to make my life calmer and more aesthetically pleasing. Then we lived in Vicenza for three years and even had a baby there! Living in Italy was a perfect chance to observe how the quintessential Europeans live versus consumerist Americans. Here are some of my thoughts:

1. Europeans don’t know they are minimalists.

Europeans don’t really know that they are, what American’s consider, minimalist. They have lived this way their entire lives, making it much easier to continue on the same path of simplicity. Even the gear happy, Germans don’t purchase half the amount of stuff that we, middle-class, Americans do. Their homes are simple and they buy the highest quality items of what they use every day.

They also don’t have a problem living in closer proximity to each other. Even single family homes are much closer together than our ever-sprawling lawns that separate homes in the American suburbs. In Italy, we lived in a townhouse and almost everyone I knew also lived in a townhome, apartment or home that was less than 20 feet from the home next to it.

Household items are also limited, compared to American standards. Good friends of ours, in Germany, have a very fancy espresso/coffee maker. I know this to be a prized possession because it is literally the only thing on their kitchen counter – except for fresh fruit. It is used every day to make high-quality coffee at home, arguably better than any Starbucks I’ve ever had.

There are NO closets!

You read that right…there. are. no. closets. The government actually supplied us with wardrobes when we moved in. Think IKEA wardrobes that you build yourself. If you need a way to downsize your clothes, this will do it. We also each had a dresser but it was still very limiting and I learned to dress with less pretty quickly.

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2. There are fewer advertisements and options.

Billboards stamped over every last square inch of the highway just isn’t seen in Italy, or Germany or Europe for that matter. There are small ads here and there, but the majority of them I saw in cities. However, even the cities have about half as many adverts as we have in the U.S. I’m not sure if there are laws about billboards (like in Vermont) or if it’s just not culturally acceptable to have flashing lights in your face, everywhere you turn? I’d prefer if it was the latter.

Options are far, far less! There are a limited amount of stores that are selling what you want. In Italy, the largest number of stores I saw were bicycle shops, I kid you not. There are about two-three bicycle shops for every small town. Suffice it to say, Italians are big into biking, as are most Euro countries. But options are limited, only two types of children’s fever medications at the pharmacy, only seasonal fruits and veggies in the markets, and only two stores that carried clothing I would actually wear (although that may have been a personal problem).

Lake Garda, 2014

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3. Everything is not open, all the time.

The most difficult adjustment to shopping habits: stores not being open all of the time. Most stores are closed on Sundays in Italy and this includes many stores in the mall. Malls are not everywhere in Italy and you usually have to drive a good distance to find one, when you do finally arrive, you learn that they are closed on Sundays. It brings a whole new meaning to the Sabbath if you know what I mean. When you are forced into a day of rest you take it.

Photo by Narumi Nuber

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4. Their culture is not built on speed (except the Autostrada!)

There is a well-known fact about Italians if you live in Italy; Italians do nothing fast except drive. They do just about everything slow, it took me over a month to order a baby bike seat from one of the many bike shops in my town (this was a normal time frame apparently). Furthermore, it can take over 30 minutes from the time you order your meal until you actually start eating – they are probably cooking it from scratch so it’s usually worth the wait and you can drink plenty of wine during this time.

Italians are built to be slow.  They practice ‘reposo’ – afternoon time to relax or take a nap – the equivalent of siesta. Espresso, although sometimes drank quickly, is never taken ‘to-go’. I tried for months to figure out the word ‘to-go’, in Italian and it never seemed to work. I’m not sure if the Italians didn’t understand me or they just refused to allow me to take my coffee out the door. Even McDonald’s does not have to-go coffee cups in Italy, you can have your Big Mac in a bag to go but definitely not your cafe.

Agriturismo near Lake Garda: Please research agriturismos before visiting Italy, your trip won’t be complete without one.

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Basically, Europeans are forced into a life of simplicity and slowness. Europe is not perfect, they have their own political issues and economic problems, but I don’t think most would argue that their lifestyle is better for the soul. Italians live some of the longest and healthiest lives on the planet (see Blue Zones and Mediterranean Diet) and other European countries live some of the happiest lives on the planet (see Denmark).

Maybe you’ll see another post on how to apply these principles while living in America – but I’ll have to figure that out for myself first!

Put on your Best Face

I’m old enough to know what make-up I like by now. I’ve had plenty of experimenting over the years. But I’ve settled on a very selective few products that I love and use every day.

My favorite room to declutter with my clients (I’m a professional organizer) is their bathroom. I ask them to put their daily make-up on, that they wear every day to work. Then, I ask them to add the products they would wear for a night on the town or for a wedding or special event. They look beautiful and sexy and ready to go, even though we are still in our cleaning clothes! But it’s really fun to see what people choose.

Then we get rid of the rest!!! Even if they just love this one item, if it’s never used, it goes. Sometimes we love certain make-up just because we love to look at the colors but it doesn’t actually look good with our skin tone or eye color. Sometimes we feel guilty because we spent too much money on something that just isn’t right for us. Same goes for clothes. Let go of that guilt.

Here’s a sneak peek into my make-up (and yes this is ALL of it).

 

The first photo is my daily make-up. It all goes into the striped bag you see in the photo. I use almost all of this every day. Included are concealer, face powder, blush, eyebrow powder, mascara, eyeliner, and Burt’s Bee’s lipstick and chapstick. Plus the brushes that go with each item. I planning on converting the eyebrow powder to a pencil, which will eliminate the small brush.

My special event makeup is everything in the striped bag plus an extra foundation, a shinier eyeliner, and an eye palette. I keep this all in my special event clutch. I know where it is and I keep it out of my everyday wear (put away in my closet) so I don’t have to think about it until I actually have a special event!

I’d love to see your pared-down make-up. What are your favorites and where do you keep your dressy make-up?

Start with You

I find advice that begins with ‘start with yourself’ to be the best. I love Dave Ramsey and when my husband and I took Financial Peace University together I used to lay in the bath at night and watch his success story videos. Dave Ramsey has always recommended to ‘Pay Yourself First’. And it’s great advice. It’s worked for me and it’s worked for other people I know. Airplane stewards always direct you to place your oxygen mask on yourself before helping others around you, even including your children. It’s not just good advice it is life or death, even though in an emergency I imagine I’ll hold my breath to help my kid. But I know it’s not the right choice when I really think about it because who will help my kid when I’ve passed out from no oxygen!?! So basically pay yourself first, take care of yourself first because I bet no one else is going to do it for you.

My advice regarding minimalism is to focus on yourself first. There are many minimalist writers and bloggers out there and most of them recommend cleaning out that garage or basement first or even going for the easy trash in the living room method. I don’t recommend that. What you will get is trash removed from the living room and nothing else. I know this from experience and I’m sure a lot of people out there are just as overwhelmed as myself. So instead, pay yourself first!

Take some time and talk to a couple friends about ways they have simplified their lives. A great friend gives you energy. Find them, keep them, use them and support them in return. Don’t bring those people into your life that use, use, use and never give anything back, this person is NOT a friend! Your life will be so much better. You will have a support group, your own little cheerleaders leading you through life. Talk to your friends about what drives you crazy, what fills you with the most dread, what you miss doing the most and what you wish you could change, and what works for them. I bet you’ll learn a lot about your friends and how they keep a home, manage homework, pick-ups and drop-offs and so many other great things that could make your life easier that you never thought about. Plus, coffee and brioche with a friend is always a good thing.

Some great advice I’ve come across from books and my own friends and family are:

  • Drop perfectionism and the guilt it produces.
  • Get a relaxing hobby, like yoga. Or any other hobby you thoroughly enjoy just for you.
  • Learn to say “No” when you really don’t want to do something.
  • Treat negative people like the plague. They will only take your energy and give you none in return.
  • Find something to fill the shopping void. Do you shop when you are bored, stressed? Fill that gap with something you love…that isn’t shopping.

My favorite book on minimalism (“30 Days to a Simpler Life”) is quite outdated but has some great tips:

  1. Make forms for everything you do repeatedly (i.e. grocery shopping, chores, parties, volunteering). You can keep all these forms in a binder or in a family command center.
  2. Teach your kids to be responsible for their things. This one will save you more time than any other advice. Teach them young and save yourself time later.
  3. Make lists of all the things you need to do and create a management center on the fridge or open wall. Make sure your husband and children know these lists and are involved in helping you cross things off. Lists can include menus, shopping lists, activity lists.
  4. Pick one night a week to catch up on calls, emails, bills and forms. Sunday night is a good night, right before the next week starts. Forget about these tasks the rest of the week.
  5. Buy clothes that do not need dry cleaning, sheets that do no need ironing, an easy to manage hairstyle and other things you think will make your life easier. Life can be easier when we choose things that simplify our lives.
  6. Install a stacking washer and dryer in a closet near a teenagers room. You’ll never talk about wash again when it’s their own responsibility.
  7. My favorite advice from the book! “My major strategy for simplifying is to get as much exercise as possible, eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep, look for the best in everyone, and have a regular and exciting sex life. The rest falls into place.”

7 Minimalist Indulgences

‘Minimalism’ can sound like a harsh word. It conjures images of living in a white room, with white furniture, white clothing and maybe even pristine white children in shift dresses. I promise you it is not. What it is, is freedom. Freedom from always being behind on cleaning, freedom from a job that feels like slavery, even freedom from mundane tasks that seem to take up your whole day. There is room in minimalism to enjoy life immensely. I’m not talking about $10,000 vacations but little joys that you can find on a daily basis. Here is a list of 7 indulgences or extravagances I allow myself quite often for free (or very cheap).

1. BATH TIME: Bath time had to be number one on my list. It’s my time, all mine. Sometimes I read in the bath, sometimes I just soak and let my mind focus on my breathing to recenter myself and sometimes I give myself a real spa treatment with oils, bubbles or salts. Try it, on a weekly basis, I dare you!

2. A REALLY GOOD BOOK: It seems that there are readers, then there are non-readers. I’m of the belief that the non-readers have just not found what genres of books they enjoy, or even just a really great author that they just can’t put down. Cultivate your interests, dig deep to find some excitement in books. I promise a really good book is so much more rewarding than any movie. Right now I’m reading ‘Nefertiti’ by Michelle Moran, I’m into historical fiction and this is an exceptional one (my second time reading it) but if you’re not into historical fiction, please yawn and continue on your way to more exciting genres.

3. A TEA or COFFEE with FRIENDS: Nothing compares to downtime with a friend, to chat, to gossip, to create wonderful ideas with or plan great trips with. All mamas need to find the time to do this. I usually put my child in care during the week to find girlfriend time, but if this isn’t available to you, I insist you illicit your husbands babysitting skills on the weekends and find an hour or two to just get away with a friend (or sibling). If all else fails, invite your friend over for afternoon coffee and watch the little ones destroy your living room while you nonchalantly chat over your steaming cups. It will be worth the 15 minutes of clean up after they leave.

4. SEX: Sorry Mom. Earmuffs! Nothing is more indulgent than sex and I’m assuming that if you’re a mama that you’ve had sex and continue (although much less regularly) since the babies were born. Find time for this, SERIOUSLY! Enough Said.

5. A GREAT OUTFIT: You know you have that outfit (or at least you have it pinned on Pinterest) that you just love. It makes you feel like the best possible you. Wear this outfit on any regular day, not a special occasion, just a day where you run errands or pick up the kids or go to work on a normal Monday. Wear this bad ass outfit and feel awesome, if for no other reason then that you are awesome! (If you don’t own this outfit that you have in mind, save up for it and buy it. Oh and be prepared for the compliments!)

6. MASSAGE: Now this might be a little pricey, depending on where you go. Word of mouth is usually the best way to find someone who is good, but if you don’t know of anyone then I would recommend a massage school. Google it for your area, they can be really cheap and although the students are still learning I find that the massages are pretty close to any regular massage therapist. I’ve been to one amazing therapist when we lived in Tennessee and I can’t seem to find anyone that good ever again. When you find THE ONE, go to them, regularly. They will get to know your needs, where you are tight, sore, etc. I find I can always do my own nails and facials at home but I can’t massage myself (and my hubby doesn’t compare to an actual therapist, sorry babe).

7. DATE NIGHT: I love date night. It can get boring if you let it. Just dinner and a movie every time is boring. Soon we are trying a ‘date day’, going to a museum not far from here that I’ve been dying to go to and spending the day near the water and eating a wonderful lunch (I hope it lives up to my expectations). Next ‘date day’ we are planning on snowboarding because that’s what my husband likes to do and we can’t do it with two little ones. Make sure you are trading off and on for things you like to do with what your husband likes to do, makes it fair and interesting.

Single? Take yourself on a date, a place you’ve been wanting to go but have been waiting for someone else to take you. Just go!

Do you have any other indulgences you would consider minimalist? Things you love to do that don’t require shopping and bringing more junk into the house?