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Making Better Habits & Choices

High Straightenence by Tracy Benjamin

A weekly column celebrating the neat freak in all of us.

After spending a week away from home on a MUCH needed vacation, I came home feeling refreshed and ready to start anew.  I also felt a bit worried about falling back into our chaotic routine. It was really nice to have a break from the day-to-day because I was able to evaluate what aspects I missed and figure out a few habits/behaviors I want to change around the house.

In my Organizing Goals for 2013, I wanted to figure out how to change/pinpoint bad habits that contribute to our home mess. Having some distance from my routine really helped me figure out what I want to change, so here we go!

-One of the main reasons why things get chaotic and unkempt around the house is the fact that we are all doing too many things at once. I am super guilty of this behavior. As someone who takes on too many things at once (including making multiple recipes in the kitchen at a time!) I feel like most of the time the tornado that I make in the process of doing something isn’t worth the hassle. I also have a 4 year old who adds additional mess to the situation, but that’s not something that I can entirely control.

I think it would help if I reminded myself that I need to SLOW DOWN and BE MINDFUL of my actions. If I slow down, I am less likely to make more of a mess and I won’t spill things as often.  If an action takes a few seconds (like putting away my clothes or putting back a pair of scissors after I’ve used it) I should just DO IT. Because when I have a whole bunch of little things that pile up, it overwhelms me and I feel paralyzed. Plus it’s not rewarding to clean up a bunch of little things. It never ends!

-The weeks go by so fast and I never feel like I have enough time to do all of the things I accomplish. It’s frustrating! Spending a lot of time without reliable internet connection on our vacation made me realize that I waste a lot of time messing around on my phone. I know that my whole family could benefit from me being away from the computer/phone more often. If I have my head in too many places at once, I get stressed. I am guilty of getting short tempered with my son if he’s interrupting me while I’m reading an important email on my phone.  The fact is, if I am around him most of what happens on the internet/computer SHOULD WAIT.

How do I combat this? Set boundaries for myself. My phone and computer usage could be off limits during certain times of day. One of the first things I do is look at my phone when I wake up and then I get sucked in the zone of Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Shutterbean checking. And once I start doing that I keep getting worked up. It can actually alter my mood.  I’ve been testing the waters and ditching my phone while I get ready for work and it’s already helping my productivity. I hope that in the future, I can increase my time away from the phone/computer. Perhaps spending on weekend day unplugged might do the trick? Maybe I could do what Shauna does and not check my phone/email/computer until after I drop Cooper off at preschool. I think it would take a lot of effort, but it could prove to be rewarding.

And with that said, if I have more time to get things done (in a productive/uninterrupted manner) I could actually get ahead of my schedule and do things ahead of time so I’ll be able to build in more relaxing/creative time for myself & family. Perhaps setting timers on my phone so I can go a period of time without using it will help? We’ll see!

-I have a lot of stuff. The problem with having a lot of stuff means that I have to MANAGE a lot of stuff.  I’m constantly trying to manage things, some items get lost in the shuffle. This means I end up buying a lot of things that I already have. It is EXTREMELY annoying to find out that I already have agave syrup when I just bought more? I went through a period of time thinking I didn’t have dish soap and ended up buying three separate containers to find out that I had a few tucked deep in the back of my kitchen cabinet.

I could benefit greatly from setting out time and going through all of our cabinets and getting rid of things I need/don’t need. If I have a designated spot for items, I would be able to glance at the space where I keep q-tips and know that I need more q-tips. In a perfect world, this would be easy. Am I too much of a micro-manager? I dunno.

The fact is, I have to be on top of getting rid of unnecessary items in my house. If I don’t buy new/unnecessary things, I’ll be happier because it means that I have less to manage and we’ll save money. It’s a win/win situation.

-For a long time I used to do laundry one day a week. I really thought that was the right way to do it. Turns out it doesn’t really work for me. When my mom suggested that I do a laundry multiple times a week, I thought she was crazy. It seemed like I would be doing nothing but laundry. Turns out that processing one load of a laundry a night makes it REALLY easy to stay on top of laundry. This one little change has made such a difference!

I am sure there are other ways I can help streamline our day/routine. I always appreciate finding new ways of seeing things and shaking up my routine.

In the next year, I hope to simplify, be more mindful and find new ways of operating that will help my productivity/sanity. It’s going to take a lot of patience and perseverance but I know it will be worth it!

Have you made any big discoveries yourself recently? Are there any shortcuts you’ve found that made a HUGE impact on your sanity? I’d love to hear!

 

 


Tracy Benjamin

Tracy Benjamin is obsessed with good food, great photography, and pretty things.


27 Comments

  • Jane M February 27, 2013 at 5:13 am

    Yes yes and yes. Sadly I lost my mom a few months ago. We took in my dad for a while to get him in a better place. That’s when THE BIG PURGE started! How freeing! Things I was saving, things I thought I may use again SOMEDAY are GONE-GOOD BYE! Just STUFF all went to the curb. ( we even hired a junk man who hauled out our old stuff into his heap for all our neighbors to see!). Not ONCE do I think of the things I purged. I’m trying to get to a better place without all that stuff around. Next up – the sale of my parents home-talk about purging! WootWoot!


  • nikkilooch February 27, 2013 at 7:40 am

    I just got back from a long trip away from home and I feel like I need to make some changes too. Simplifying is so so important. Nothing feels as good as getting rid of junk. I have to remind myself of that when the pre-sort dread hits.

    A change I’ve made recently is checking the fridge. I know that sounds small and silly. I hate throwing away food that’s gone bad. It’s like throwing money in the trash. If I check the fridge in the morning and see what needs to get eaten then I can plan and shop accordingly. I try really hard not to waste anything. This has to go along with you buying 3 soaps when you already had some. I hate that!


    • Tracy February 27, 2013 at 11:51 am

      I just recently put a list on the front of the fridge of possible meals to make with the food I bought from the grocery store. That way I’m not staring into the abyss and thinking I HAVE NO FOOD. It’s really helped remind me what my intentions were food wise! And yes— checking the fridge/cabinets before food shopping is ESSENTIAL and I almost always forget to do so!


  • Darlene February 27, 2013 at 10:32 am

    Hey Tracy,
    I’ve been feeling the same way about just taking the few seconds to do the little things or “complete the task” as I say to myself. Rinse out my french press right after I use it, put away my laundry while it’s still warm (cuts down on ironing too) ect. I am so guilty of trying to make multiple recipes at once- my nickname with my boyfriend is actually Darnado (when I’m in cooking mode and get a little carried away)! Lately I’ve just had to say no to myself more. This may sound limiting, but actually it’s liberating. I don’t have to make another batch of bread tonight, what I actually have to do is…. (make dinner, do homework, spend time with my family). I don’t have to loose an hour on instagram and facebook. What I actually have to do is….(help with the dishes, do a load of laundry, relax and play with my cats and laugh more.)

    It’s been satisfying, but still a struggle for me to slow down and be more purposeful in what I do. I have been noticing that i’m getting the things that are more important done, big picture stuff and small little annoyances that used to make my life feel hectic and out of control. I’m still trying, but this was a great post and speaks to what many ladies out there struggle with.


  • Jessica February 27, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    Hi Tracy –
    Thanks for putting that down in black and white…Great points! :)


  • Natalia February 27, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    this article should have started by dear Natalia as I can relate to every single point. Multi task is my middle name and am I good at it? No, I’m not… I am always thinking ahead and I don’t stop and think what I am doing at the time.
    Buying things I already have? I don’t recall a week when that has not happened…
    I do laundry every day… because if I don’t our house gets even messier. What I need to do is to get my girls to stop putting every single worn item in the dirty clothes bag, because let’s face it, we can wear a pair of jeans more than once…


    • Tracy February 27, 2013 at 4:09 pm

      Thank you, Natalia! I’d like to think I’m a good multi-tasker, but maybe I’m not if I make such a mess in the process.
      Also- I think Cooper should re-wear jeans too! Most of the time, they’re covered in dirt or paint though!


  • Jenn February 27, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    In addition to no phone first thing in the morning, I also have a designated time to turn the screens off -9pm because I want to be in bed going to sleep by 10. Stepping away is always a good way to gain perspective. Glad your vacation was restful and helped you come back ready to roll.


    • Tracy February 27, 2013 at 4:10 pm

      I read that you have to cut out screen time at least a half hour before bed or it makes it super hard to fall asleep. I really REALLY need to do that. I’m sure it doesn’t help with my racing thoughts when I get into bed.


  • Cousin Jen February 27, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    Hey Trace…

    So a few weeks ago, I deactivate my facebook account. I realized how much time i was wasting, going thru updates on my phone, on the computer all day long. I did miss being in touch with family and friends the first few weeks.

    Now while waiting in carpool, or at swim team or dance, etc… i read a book or pay bills or do another task on my to do list instead of “wasting my time” on my phone surfing thru updates and emails. I love it. I keep my phone in the kitchen at night (instead of beside my bed) and don’t touch it until after my kids are off to school.

    I don’t look at it as much or text as much in the afternoons now, when my babies are home. I have so much more time to go outside and play with my kids. I love it! I am so much more active. I realized i was losing so many minutes with them while i just did one more quick email or sent another text. My kids are now sleeping so only now did i get on my computer (for the first time in 2 days) and am reading my emails for the only time today and of course checking out blogs that i love to read, like Shutterbean!

    Cooper will be off to jr high and high school and college beforeyou know it. Enjoy the time…

    Hugs and Kisses…

    Love to the 3 of you..

    Happy almost anniversary too!


    • Tracy February 27, 2013 at 8:30 pm

      Thank you so much for that! I’m really trying to figure out how to balance it all. I love your ideas of ditching the phone. Could I ditch facebook too?!! That might be hard!


      • Peetu February 28, 2013 at 1:16 am

        On the topic of Facebook, I ended up deleting the app on my phone. That ways I don’t end up wasting time on my phone just ‘coz I’m bored or have nothing else to also. Also, I ALWAYS logout of facebook on my laptop. The overhead of logging in prevents me from checking facebook every few minutes. Because of all this, I now open facebook only twice a day and am there for less than 10 mins everytime.


        • Tracy February 28, 2013 at 11:28 am

          I just deleted it this morning. I think it’s going to make a huge difference. I waste so much time on FB (even though I don’t update my status EVER) and there’s nothing super important that I look at there. Brilliant!


  • Teacher Goes Back to School February 27, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    Love, love, love these types of posts because they help me feel not so alone. So thank you!

    One thing I’ve been doing to be more mindful during the day with my daughter is to not check electronics when she is awake or under my care. My husband does breakfast with her while I furiously catch up on social media and when he leaves for work, I put it down until nap time. Except for podcasts. Little girl loves her some Joy the Baker podcast! When papa gets home after school, I’m back online.

    This one change has made me much more patient with her and the days have generally been more pleasant.


  • I love lists, Friday! – Shutterbean March 1, 2013 at 12:32 am

    [...] diving back into reality after my trip to Mexico. This week on High Straightenence, I talk about Making Better Habits & Choices in my life. It’s time for a much needed fresh [...]


  • Lizzie March 1, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    This is a great post. Being mindful is something I’m really trying to do, too. Good luck to you!


  • Judi Setzer March 2, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    Thanks for posting this, Tracy, I am also trying to be more mindful, and work on my time management. I also truly need to organize my jewelry. Any ideas???


  • Aimee @ Simple Bites March 2, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    Whoa, you got into my head with this one. I had so many similar sentiments when I got back too. I’ve been cleaning/organizing like a madwoman with some inexplicable urge to shape up certain areas of my life. Slowing down? Yes. I’m seeing two friends this week that I care about, I just haven’t made time for yet. Thanks for the further inspiration.


    • Tracy March 3, 2013 at 8:38 pm

      I’m so glad you’re in the same boat. I wonder if this is all coinciding with my urge to SPRING CLEAN. Anytime I live out of a suitcase for a week, I always get the urge to simplify. There’s something so nice about being able to only have the essentials with you. It’s a reminder that we really don’t need much to get by.


  • Weekend links and Bite this Book winner | Simple Bites March 3, 2013 at 5:39 am

    [...] Making Better Habits & Choices :: Tracy’s High Straightenence blog on Homefries ~ Like Tracy, I’ve been re-evaluating priorities since getting back from Mexico. She’s got some great ideas. [...]


  • Stephanie March 3, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    My biggest improvement to productivity came when i installed chrome nanny on my computer which locks out my social media websites during work hours and also puts a limit of certain site *cough cough pinterest cough* for the rest of the time. Those websites were such a time suck and without them I found all that time I was looking for.


  • Shannan March 4, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    I recently started the ‘one minute thing’ (my trademarked term!) where if a task takes less than a minute I HAVE to do it immediately instead of putting it off. I can’t tell you how much of a difference this mindset is making.


  • Liv @ The Salty n' Sweet March 5, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    I think all of these points are so important. I’ve been applying for jobs at breakneck pace, constantly putting a lot of stress and pressure on myself. It can be a very demoralizing, but I keep repeating the mantra that this whole process is a marathon, not a sprint, so that I don’t spend my entire week stuck in that negativity. And taking a break to do the things I love on the weekend, pretty much treating those two days as a vacation, really refreshes my mind and body!


  • SunflowerGrrl March 7, 2013 at 7:22 am

    Great post, Tracy. As for managing phone/computer time, it’s been helpful for me to figure out the payoff I’m getting from hanging out in email or social media. Here’s a great article on that topic: http://www.theklarichter.com/meet-needs-to-break-bad-habits/


  • Ariel March 24, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    I haven’t used it myself, but my friend just recommended this: https://www.outboxmail.com/learn/features —looks like exactly the ease and organizing you are looking for.


  • Libby May 15, 2013 at 8:56 am

    I know I’m super late to this ball game but after listening to the most recent Joy The Baker podcast where Joy was talking about purging her clothes, I was craving more inspiration for simplification and organization and management. So, I’ve been periodically cruising High Straightenence. The comments on this post are so helpful, too. I’ve already deleted the Facebook ap from my iPhone and can’t wait to have more time away from that thing. :P

    Another commenter mentioned, “finish the task”. Which is a HUGE problem for me. I have to tell myself that part of having a latte in the morning, is cleaning off the little end of the steamer knob, too. And not only that, but when I start to straighten up my home, I’ll pick up a bottle of nail polish and take it to the bathroom, in the bathroom I’ll see something that needs to be wiped up, go to the kitchen for a paper towel, start a load of dishes… I can work all day and my house doesn’t have anything to show for it! So I’ve started speaking to myself OUTLOUD, “we’re only tidying up the living room, right now!”