How I’m simplifying in 2014

Simple heart

I check my phone too much.

This fact has become abundantly clear to me in the quieter moments with my husband, family and friends — like over the holidays. Though I’ve gotten much better about leaving my iPhone tucked away in a little pocket on the other side of the room, I still get undeniably antsy when I go too long without checking my email. If I hear the noise? I. must. check it.

It’s bad. Kind of embarrassing, really. And seriously: it’s email. If it was anything important, the message would be texted by someone I personally know . . . or, if we want to get really crazy, my phone would ring. With someone actually calling me.

Email is there. Email can wait. And most of my messages? Sales alerts. WordPress notifications (“Little Mary is now following your blog!”). Newsletters I signed up for ages ago but rarely read. Pinterest telling me someone repinned 27 of my pins.

Nothing life-altering. Nothing catastrophic.

There are great messages, too, of course. Notes from friends who wander through this space, messages from old buddies, updates from family. I cherish those messages almost as I would a handwritten letter, clinging to those bits of personal connection in a cold, desolate space.

Okay, I’m totally exaggerating. The Internet isn’t desolate, and it’s rarely cold. You know what I mean, right? Because you’re here with me, seeing these words. We’re hanging in cyberspace, and it’s awesome.

But there’s so much noise on the Internet, too. And I have a confession to make: for a while, the constant chirping of my iPhone? It felt like validation. I got hooked on it. It felt like . . . people were interested, invested, contacting me because I was important and needed somewhere. Doing something! Helping someone!

Whether or not that was true (um, probably not), I feel the winds of change pushing me to move forward. All that vibrating and beeping and chirping? It’s distracting. Distracting from the time I spend with loved ones, distracting when I’m trying to work, distracting when I want to focus on something I’m doing now. I don’t need it.

That noise clutters up my mind and heart and body. Because I’m online all day, five days a week, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the digital menagerie. It’s hard to disconnect at home, because I’m so used to being wired in.

But I want to simplify. I do.

And not just through my inbox battles, either. Like so many of us, we’re trying to conserve our financial resources now and make plans for the future . . . and that means less impulse buying, more budgeting, more making-do instead of running out for replacements.

I’m totally okay with that — excited, even — but it’s a change. And like all change, it takes some getting used to.

The challenge is invigorating, though. I’m ready to tackle new things and de-clutter, both literally and metaphorically.

I’ve already started. By . . .

Unsubscribing from all that email noise. Sales alerts, newsletters, etc. I’ve changed my contact settings for things like Groupon, going to a weekly digest instead of a daily one, and have eliminated WordPress notifications for things like subscribers (though I’m super happy you’re here, trust me!). Where I once would simply delete messages I didn’t want, I’m leaving them in my inbox until I make time to get myself off their mailing lists. If all else fails, I’ll simply create a filter in Gmail to send them straight to trash.

Chocolate chai

Using — and enjoying — what I already have. There are no less than 10 varieties of tea in my desk drawer right now, crowding out all the available space for my healthy snacks and utensils and what-have-you. I don’t need ten boxes of tea. I probably need, like, two. I enjoy the options, sure, and maybe ten boxes would be fine if I didn’t keep buying more. But I do. And I don’t need more. I need to enjoy what I have, and that means a No More Tea law until I get through my stock. So, you know, until 2018-ish.

Side note: this also applies to new brands of mascara, nail polish, lotion, lip gloss. Which brings me to . . .

Cancelling subscriptions. Though I’ve loved subscribing monthly mail products Birchbox and Julep over the years, that’s $30 a month — $360 a year! — I can now put toward other things. And honestly? The samples and nail polish are fun, but that’s just more stuff I’m bringing into our space. I don’t need more stuff. I have plenty, more than I need, and I want to remember that.

Cleaning out my closets. Oh, this is a big one. Dropping four dress sizes means little in my wardrobe still works, and I need to let it go. I want to feel good in my clothes, not dig around like a madwoman trying to find something to belt and “make work.” I didn’t want to purchase new clothes only to change sizes again throughout last year (wasting money), so I justified wearing my ill-fitting stuff by saying I’d invest in new tops and pants when I hit my goal weight. I did that, so it’s time to honor my promise to myself.

Ironically, I started my get-healthy journey in part because my favorite black slacks for work no longer fit — a sign I’d hit a weight high (and low). I was tired of fighting with my closet every morning. And I’m right back there again, lamenting that I have little to wear. I’ve already started listing dresses on eBay to help finance new clothing, and I want to focus on investing in neutral, attractive pieces I can wear in a variety of ways. I’m hoping Stitch Fix can also help me with this!

Whatever isn’t sold on eBay will be donated to Goodwill, and that’s that. Gone. No arguments.

No more piles. Spencer often jokes about the piles that accumulate around our condo: piles of mail, piles of clothes, piles of shoes. I want to stop making excuses and start putting things away. It takes a little finesse, given our place is relatively small and not everything has a designated space, but I need to stop being lazy. I need to deal with junk mail as it comes in, not stash it on the bar to be dealt with later. Just deal with it.

And back to email . . . I want to get better about my response time. Too many messages stacking up in my inbox stresses me out — because if it’s there, it means an action must be taken. I want to write back quickly and efficiently, both at work and at home.

And . . . well, I guess that’s it. That should do me. No tall order or anything, right? 🙂

Cupcake liner organization — a Pinterest challenge

Oh, Pinterest. That epic timesuck furthering a misconception I’m craftier and artsier than I really am. I can’t log in without wanting to bake, create or wear everything in sight, and I’ve found some fabulous decorating ideas and saved tons of cupcake recipes for future use. As if I’ll ever run out of those.

And speaking of my cupcake obsession, I’ve amassed quite a few decorative cupcake liners over the years. So many that they’re literally spilling out of my kitchen cabinet, their colorful wrappers winding up on the floor. I’ve been thinking about ways to get organized and keep them clean and accessible, and that’s when I saw this:


The lovely Trish issued a challenge for all the Pinterest addicts out there: actually do some of the things you pin in the month of May. Never one to shy away from adventure, I joined up — and completing my cupcake organization was my first task.

After a few weeks of searching for a comparable glass container, I eventually found one I liked from HomeGoods. Though not as lovely or large as this baby at Such Pretty Things, I’m really happy with how it turned out! And by “turned out,” I mean how it looked when I stacked all my cupcake liners inside. It took less than five minutes.

Here’s mine:

Pretty enough to leave out year-round!

For $4, I have a way to store my cupcake liners and, best of all, actually keep track of everything I own. Do you know how many packages of Christmas cupcake cases I have? (Answer: at least four. That I can find.) Though I might eventually invest in either a second or larger jar (this is already full, as you can see!), I’m hoping my organized storage system will encourage me to use up what I already have. And that will save me money. Win-win!


Many thanks to Trish for much-needed nudge to get crafty! Join the fun this May by completing a few Pinterest-inspired projects, recipes, etc. For more information, visit Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity.

Book wishlists: A real fine place to start?

booksSitting in the living room last night, my sister fixed me with a stare over the textbook she was studying. Feeling her green eyes boring into the side of my face, I eventually glanced up from the novel I was reading.

“If someone wanted to buy you books for Christmas,” Katie asked, “. . . how would they possibly know where to start?”

The question came out of left field, sure, but that’s nothing new with my sister — a woman known for her inquisitive nature, rapid-fire thought processes and huge leaps in conversations. One minute we’re talking about Christmas shopping, and the next? Celebrity gossip. Or reenacting a scene from a movie. Or laughing about something crazy that happened in high school. I guess that’s just how sisters roll; I roll with it.

So the book question? Not taken aback. I got that knowing grin my face — the coy, heart-melting one that seems to coo, “Oh my, presents for me? Really? Well, if you insist.” (Katie has the same one, so don’t go feeling sympathetic that I unleashed that on her, the poor little lamb.)

I started thinking about how I keep track of the books I purchase — and the books I want. I know some folks compile actual wishlists on Amazon and, from what I understand, they can be pretty detailed. At some point or other, I’m sure I started my own; however, I’ve found the absolute best way for me to keep track of the novels I haven’t yet gotten in my hot little hands is through BookMooch. It does double duty: my wishlist on the site obviously tracks whether a book I want becomes available and lets me “mooch” it, but it also serves as a running list of everything I’ve heard about and definitely want to obtain.

Like the supremely helpful and considerate person I am, I told Katie I would send her the link. You know, to my massive wishlist — only 133 books. (Which pales in comparison to other folks’ lists, I’m sure.)

But all of this got me thinking: how do other people keep track of the novels they want to spend time with? Spreadsheets? Notebooks? Journals? Scraps of paper? Tattered napkins covered with scribbles and left at the bottom of purses or wallets? Because I like my BookMooch method, but I’m wondering if there’s something better out there. Or something that will better allow me to put my OCD toward list-making and other organizational tools to better use.

So I’m curious. Tell me if I should change my methods and, if I listen to you, you’ll get the satisfaction of knowing you changed the mind of one of the most hard-headed people on the planet. I could make you a button or something . . . and it might be kind of awesome.

And while I’m on the subject? I should mention how great it would be if we were all buying books for the holidays! Literacy = fun. Novels = exciting. And there’s a whole website dedicated to this movement!

Musing Mondays: Oh, that TBR mess

musing_mondays Here’s this week’s question:

As a follow up to last week’s question, Joseph asked how you keep track of your TBR list. Do you have a paper list or on your computer? Do you take it with you when you go shopping? How do you decide what gets added to it?

My TBR stack, circa February '09. It's now... bigger.

My TBR stack, circa February '09. It's now... bigger.

Oh my! I’d love to say there’s an absolute method to my TBR madness, but that may not be true. I mean, I do have some steps in place . . . like, say, reading a ton of blogs, looking for books that appeal to me and then adding them to my BookMooch wishlist. This usually works pretty well! It’s in a list format, which I love, and it’s easy for me to see if something I want will become available that way. BookMooch just tells me.

But many newer books are hard to get your hands on, so I typically put those on a separate list in BookMooch — my “saved for later.” I scout around LibraryThing, too, and check out what might appeal to me based on the recommendations of other users. That’s really how I find my books! I just listen for and read recommendations online, and talk books faithfully with friends and coworkers.

When I go shopping for books in the ol’ brick-and-mortar stores, I usually do take a little snippet of paper with some of those TBR titles on it — though I’m more likely to just go in looking for one book, take a coupon and be on my way! I’m known to grab books on a whim, though, based on cover art and/or the synopsis. I’m pretty bad about that, actually. Before I buy a book, I really try to do some research on it . . . checking it out on blogs, reading reviews on LibraryThing or Amazon. But every now and then, a book just speaks to me from one of the little themed tables at Borders! And I’ve found some great literature that way. Probably things I would have never chosen had I really thoroughly “researched” them, but books I love all the same!

And as you can see above, once something is officially added to my TBR stack — when the book is in my hot little hands — it just goes in the stack. There’s no rhyme or reason to the stack . . . I have too little room to actually organize it. At one point, I was trying to put quality paperbacks on the left and mass markets on the right, but that soon became too much to keep up with. Now, I just throw the next batch on top and pray it doesn’t topple over!

Booking Through Thursday: Storing books

booking_through_thursLet’s go Booking Through Thursday!

This week’s question: “How do you arrange your books on your shelves? Is it by author, by genre, or you just put it where it falls on?”

I would have thought I’d be very anal-retentive about this, but I’m actually not. I store my books in only one particular way: they get tucked onto whichever shelf I can fit them! I have limited storage space and can’t really organize them the way I would want to — which would probably be alphabetical. The only books on my shelves are ones I’ve finished and can’t bear to part with. All of my TBR books are in stacks on the other side of my room — towering piles of them by my bedroom door. It’s not terribly efficient, but at least most of them are in one place!

The only exception to this would be my Jane Austen books. On the top shelf of my white bookcase, I have all of my JA novels, fiction and biographies grouped together! There are probably around ten titles now, not including the ones I haven’t started yet. I like knowing they’re all together — and with my compilation of Austen’s self-penned letters! It makes me happy!