Spring Cleaning: 100+ Things to Declutter

Spring is in full swing in the Golden State. Gloomy rainy days intermittently sprinkle their way between days that mimic summer weather, coaxing us poolside a few months earlier than expected. I guess that means it’s time to spring clean. Thanks to our ultimate cleaning list, we don’t need to spend time cleaning our home any more than we already do. Rather, Spring cleaning takes on a larger focus. Now is a great time to cleanse not just our homes, but our bodies, minds, and souls that which does not serve us. This may seem like a large task, but we can take it a step at a time. I have found that the best and easiest place to start is in our physical space. Let’s start Spring cleaning with 100 things to declutter.

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Decluterring changed my life. I became a minimalist after getting rid of the stuff that did not add value to my life. Today, I live a life of gratitude for the few things I own. I spend less time worrying about my things. I have to do less cleaning around the house. And I spend less money, avoiding adding more clutter to my home.

All of these things (saving money, saving time, and worrying less) improved my life significantly. I would consider decluttering as one of the highest forms of self-care. It’s a practice in evaluating life to the fullest, in the hopes of improving it and taking it one step closer to the life I want it to be.

Things I Have Learned During My Decluttering Journey

The art of decluttering is a personal act.

Not everything I declutter needs be decluttered by you. Do not have guilt for wanting to hold on to something that I don’t value. Do not use others as your measuring stick. The goal is to go through the mindful process of being honest with yourself and asking yourself what these items do for your life. Do they give you joy? Add stress? Make you feel warm and fuzzy inside? Support your lifestyle and goals? Do what feels right!

Decluttering one category at a time is essential.

In order to have a clear idea as to what does not belong, you need to assess each category fully. You should not jump from room to room and declutter a little bit in each one. As I wrote in the post How to Get Things Done, we need to focus on the ONE thing in order to get great results. In the case of decluttering, focus on each section of this post and you will be more effective at the job!

This is a sequential process for a reason.

Some things are easier to let go of than others. Start with the closet. These items are easier to let go of because it is the area in most homes where we have excess. The closet also contains items that are typically easy to replace, and therefore easier to let go. And usually, people aren’t that attached to their clothes, unless your a fashionista! I would reserve the most difficult categories (such as paper, digital clutter and memorabilia) for last. They will be the hardest, as they can contain personal information that requires a bit of decluttering resolve.

Decluttering is a practice.

Decluttering is surprisingly not easy. Many people feel anguish, guilt, and overwhelm. It’s totally normal and okay to feel that way. I did, too! Decluttering is a practice. If you start to feel these things, stop. Revisit another day. I would recommend taking all of April to finish this decluttering list. It doesn’t have to be done in one day. And just let go of what feels right to you.

You can always declutter again on your birthday as a sign of rebirth. Or before the holidays, in order to prepare yourself for a busy season. Or in the New Year, to start new habits. There will be plenty of other opportunities, and it takes time to build what I call the decluttering muscle! You are doing great just by starting today.

Without further ado, here are more than 100 things you can declutter this Spring, plus a few tips.

100+ Things to Declutter

The Closet

  1. Clothes that still have tags on them. There is a reason those paper tags are still hanging loosely from the labels. You will likely never wear them if you haven’t already. I don’t know about you, but when I get an article of clothing that I am excited about, I rip off the tags and wear it right away. And I wear it every week! Wouldn’t it be nice to feel that much joy and excitement about everything in your closet?
  2. Clothes that don’t fit. Stop saying you will wear it when you lose ‘X’ pounds. Embrace where you are right now and love your body as it is. By holding yourself against a possible future self, you are hurting the present you. How do you expect to get to a goal in the future when you are not supporting the present?
  3. Clothes that you are keeping just because they were a gift. Let go of the guilt you feel. It isn’t worth hanging onto the clothes. Your true friends and family will understand. To be completely honest, it actually helps them choose more intentional gifts for you in the future that you can actually cherish.
  4. Clothes that you have only worn once. Most likely, there is a reason. Whether it is because it doesn’t fit, isn’t your style, or bothers you in some way, take it as your intuitive self telling you to let it go.
  5. Clothes that don’t go with your style or lifestyle. I like to live with a capsule wardrobe that supports what I do throughout the day. You can read How A Capsule Wardrobe For Work Saves Me Money AND Time. You can also see my current capsule wardrobe here.
  6. Clothes that are at the end of their life cycle. I know you love that T-shirt or sweater with a hole on it, but honestly, you can’t wear that outside of the home and does wearing worn down clothing make you feel good? Probably not. You can thank it for its service, and then let it go.
  7. Clothes that are occasion specific. Think graduation robes, bridesmaid dresses, wedding gown and Halloween costumes. Maybe these held some significance at some point, but the memory doesn’t lie in the hanging on to things.
  8. Excess coats. How many people have multiple coats but only wear a handful? How many sweaters do you have? I usually grab for the same puffer jacket and rain slicker. I rotate through a few sweaters when I stay indoors or need to layer. And I keep one fancy wool coat that I absolutely love and is easy to throw on during those cold winter mornings. That’s it!
  9. Multiple swimsuits. I only have one and it is a classic, black one-piece from Summersalt. My advice for curating swimsuits right this way. It has been two years of using my swimsuit almost every other week, and it’s stretching a bit on the sides. I have my eyes on this new release from Vuori, and I am thinking of bravely adding a pop of color in my life.
  10. Multiple sunglasses. I only own this pair from Warby Parker, and it fits every bill.
  11. Excess hangars. After you’ve decluttered the clothes, you should have a bunch of excess hangars.
  12. Socks and underwear with holes in them.
  13. Shoes that are uncomfortable. Our feet do a whole lot of work. They need to have ample support and love from us, and the best way to do that is to wear comfortable shoes.
  14. Shoes that are worn. They have supported you for long enough, and they need to move on too.
  15. Accessories that you never use or only used once.
  16. Accessories that are unnecessary. For example, scarves?
  17. Repeat accessories. How many scrunchies/hats/beanies do you have? Perhaps pick a one or two favorites.
  18. Tarnished jewelry. This goes into a similar category as holey T-shirts. They served their purpose, but these things don’t make you feel good, whether you are aware of it or not.
  19. Broken jewelry and accessories. You will never fix them like you say you will.
  20. Jewelry you never wear. Sometimes we hang onto things because they are pretty, even when they are not useful. Try to remember that even pretty things hold mental space, and that clutter can have negative effects on your body.
  21. Out of style or costume jewelry. I try to avoid trends, for the sole reason that they go out of style. I pay a pretty penny to buy less things that are iconic and last me many years. The jewelry brand J. Hannah is making waves with millennials who wish to buy high-quality, simple, versatile and timeless jewelry at significantly lower price points. It is where I buy my jewelry. My daily jewelry set includes these hoop earrings, this locket necklace, and a discontinued pearl demi ring which has replaced my wedding ring. All are in silver for simplicity and because it is my everyday set, I never even have to think about what jewelry to wear that day.
  22. Multiple purses. I like to keep one main purse with me. This versatile OG2 purse from Lo and Sons functions as my work purse, travel purse, and gym bag. I do hang on to tinier versions such as a mini pouch and a belt bag from Lululemon when I go on errands or simple adventures. A simple trick I use is to put my essentials in a mini pouch that fits in my OG2 purse. Whenever I want to go with less, I just grab the pouch itself without having to repack a single thing.
  23. Worn out hair ties and bobby pins.

Bathroom Products

  1. Make up you never used.
  2. Makeup that doesn’t really go with your style.
  3. Make up that is unnecessary. (I don’t use foundation, eyeshadow, lipstick, blush, highlighters, fake eyelashes, etc…). In my honest opinion, this Everyday Set is the only make-up a gal needs. If you are like me, however, and dislike ingesting lip color, I would personally opt for the Sunday Edit and call it a day. I prefer to use lip balm only on my lips, and carry around a more au naturel look than most.
  4. Old and expired make up. The shelf-life of these things are not as long as most people think.
  5. Nail polish that’s dried up.
  6. Nail polish colors you never use.
  7. Deodorant that’s dried up.
  8. Doubles of certain bath products. Do you horde shampoo bottles? Toothpaste? Lotions from Bed Bath and Beyond?
  9. Extras of bath essentials. Get in the habit of buying only one at a time to decrease clutter. People are always surprised when we tell them we buy toilet paper rolls individually wrapped.
  10. Travel sized toiletries that you collected from your travels.
  11. Old sunscreen.
  12. Expired medicine. I am constantly checking supplement and pain medicine bottles and making sure they are up to date.

Kitchen Items

  1. Kitchen tools that only serve one purpose and can be replaced by another tool. You really only need a set of iconic kitchen tools, like this one from Material Kitchen.
  2. Multiple sets of knives. You only need a set of basic knives. This trio knife set from Material Kitchen is my favorite for minimalists.
  3. Multiple cutlery or tableware sets. One set is all you need. I prefer to go with white tableware and silver cutlery, both dishwasher safe to simplify my life.
  4. Extra mis-matched mugs. I love coffee vessels! But I usually only drink from one or two pieces each season. My advice is to find a mug that you LOVE and make it an everyday mug. You will cherish the routine of drinking coffee more and imbue significance in that one mug when you tie the ritual to an item.
  5. Seasonal tableware. My parents keep Christmas plates to pull out only once a year. I find it to be a shame because their plate set is so beautiful, but hardly used. It must have cost a fortune back in the day too, because it includes a place setting for 12 people!
  6. Repeat items (two wine openers is one too many). People’s homes are riddled with doubles of things, for the just-in-case. Just get rid of doubles and your life will be simpler!
  7. Gadgets that are finnicky, difficult to maintain, or promise ease of use but instead, clutter the space. My mom has an electric juicer, but I opt for a handheld lemon squeezer and that’s it.
  8. Expired foods in the pantry or fridge. Declutter (and deep clean) the fridge every two weeks.
  9. One-time use ingredients and spices that you’ll never use again. The trick is to avoid those complicated recipes that ask for incredibly unique ingredients that you never use!
  10. Organizational tools that, in reality, add clutter (for example, bins and pantry organizers). Recognize them for what they are – just more stuff.
  11. Paper towels and one-time use napkins. Opt for dish rags, bar mops and linen napkins.
  12. Old rags or hand towels. Thin out your collection.
  13. Placemats. I got rid of a set of 12 placemats and replaced it for one oatmeal-colored linen tablecloth. Less to store and clean.
  14. A plethora of serveware. I like multi-functional things and use cutting boards as cheese boards. I don’t have multiple trays, place mats, or serveware. Typically, when we host, I place the bake pan, pot, or roasting tray directly on a few potholders and call it a day. I will admit, I have a few cake stands, which double as appetizer stands when I can help it.
  15. Excess sauce packets and free napkins from your to-go orders.
  16. Excess pots and pans.
  17. Tupperware with missing lids. I have actually been guilty of this one!
  18. Multiple water bottles and travel mugs. I have one water bottle and one travel tumbler, both from an amazing Japanese company called Kinto.
  19. Broken Appliances.
  20. Fridge magnets.
  21. Chip bag clips.
  22. Junk drawers. The name says it all.

Textiles

  1. Spare bedding. I only keep one for each bed.
  2. Excess throw blankets and decorative pillows. Having too many can create the feeling of clutter. A recommendation I have is to keep neutral colors in the same hue. It’s less exhausting to look at than patterns and plenty of color.
  3. Spare towels. Keep only enough for a few guests that you can host. Keep only one set for your family.
  4. Seasonal textiles, such as sheets, pillows, tablecloths and blankets that can only be used during the holidays or special occasions. Opt for a neutral design that fits all occasions and the every day.
  5. Single use table cloths and napkins.

Home Decor

  1. Seasonal home decor that you only use a part of the year.
  2. Figurines or vases that you no longer like.
  3. Picture frames that aren’t really being used.
  4. Artwork that may be cluttering the walls.
  5. Throw pillows that get in the way or are stored in closets.
  6. Multiple candles or old candles. Alternatively, gifted candles with scents you don’t like and would never use.
  7. Collectibles. My mom really loves her collectibles and I would never force anyone to part with something that means a lot to them. But if you once collected beanie babies as a child and they are sitting in a dusty box in the garage, at least ask yourself the question, “Do I really love these as I once did?”

Travel Items

  1. Additional suitcases. We were gifted matching large check-in bags for our honeymoon and we have only used them once – during our honeymoon! It has been more than five years, and as minimalists, we usually need nothing more than an overhead bag, even when we travel for weeks at a time internationally. See my minimalist travel packing tips in this post!
  2. Neck pillows. Toss ’em.
  3. Multiple backpacks. We each have one that we use for everything.

Office

  1. Books that you’ve already read.
  2. That box of 100 pens or 100 pencils that you bought in bulk to ‘save money’. Change your mindset to ‘Save Space’.
  3. Old pens or stationary.
  4. Unused craft items.
  5. Old batteries.
  6. CDs and DVDs.
  7. Organizational items like bins, manila folders, paper trays, etc.
  8. Office supplies that you hardly use, like stapler, hole puncher, and paper clips. We don’t even have a printer at home.
  9. Excess pads of paper, box of envelopes, or empty notebooks. I like to stick to one notebook at a time. When I finish it, I go back through and decide which information is still needed and I either save that on my laptop or transfer it to my new notebook. Usually, it fills maybe one page.
  10. Gift cards and coupons. I have a habit of using gift cards right away. That might sound silly but I just don’t like to hold onto them. So I spend them once I receive them and let them go. If I have nothing I wish to buy at the time, I use them to buy someone else a present.

Miscellaneous/Garage

  1. Wrapping paper saved for Christmas or birthdays. I like to choose brown paper or something simple that fits every occasion. I tie with jute string and decorate with leaves or flowers from the park outside. You can also check out how I wrapped presents one Christmas using the art of Furoshiki.
  2. Cords with no purpose.
  3. Musical instruments or music devices that you never use.
  4. Old toys.
  5. Rusty plant pots.
  6. Unused paints.
  7. Outside equipment.
  8. Unused or broken tools.
  9. Pet items. Yes, even our pet is minimalist! He has one food and water bowl that’s big enough to fit one serving of food. He has one carrier, one bed from Tuft and Paw, and a litter box with litter mat. And a handful of toys. No pet clothes and certainly no fancy cat tree. Get rid of the half-chewed up toys. And definitely declutter any extra accessories.
  10. Board games that your family never plays. We have a huge collection of boardgames, but if I am being honest, there are a few we never reach for. Perhaps regift it to a friend who also loves boardgames, or to a school in need.
  11. Puzzles with missing pieces or ones that you are never going to use again.
  12. Video games and systems that you don’t use anymore. Try re-selling them online, as my husband has always had success in that.
  13. Freebies and giveaways. You probably only took those items home because they were free. But are they really? Remember that everything takes up mental space and cost you energy.
  14. Loose change. I don’t even carry around cash anymore. Everything can be done online.

Paper Clutter

  1. Old letters you hang on to.
  2. Birthday cards or holiday cards from years prior.
  3. Receipts that you really don’t need.
  4. Bank statements or other records which you can get online.
  5. Notebooks and notes from the past.
  6. Class notes from college days. How many times do you really look at them?
  7. Mail. Open them once you receive them, and then throw them out. Secret – 90% of mail is junk. A tactic I use to really keep mail to a minimum is to unsubscribe to everything. It initially takes work as you need to contact businesses and ask them to take you off their mailing lists, but it is SO worth it.
  8. Magazines that you’ve already read or don’t plan on reading. In line with my previous note, I would get rid of magazine subscriptions altogether.
  9. Photographs that don’t hold meaning for you.

Digital Clutter

  1. Email. I have had the same email since I was in elementary school. One day, frustrated by all the junk and clutter in my digital space, I just hit ‘Delete All’. I never missed a single email and I haven’t turned back since.
  2. Photos on your phone, cameras, desktop, or USB drives. It takes a decent amount of emotional distancing from material goods to be able to let go of memorabilia. This is not for the soft-hearted decluterrer. Be advised, proceed with caution. Me? I am totally fine with clearing my life of photos, and do so regularly. I keep a few, but never more than one USB drive.
  3. Documents. Depending on your line of work, do you really need all your documents? I am a writer and I don’t keep many. I write, I publish, and I delete.
  4. Receipts. As we progress into the digital age, there are very few receipts you need to keep. Most likely, if you have a digital version of it, you can find it somewhere.

Because I started decluttering, I am able to live a more frugal and intentional life. One that allows me to pay back my student loan debt of $575,000! I am able to live in a smaller home and pay less for housing. I love all the things I own. They are beautiful and functional. I look at my items as comrades who help me get through this thing we call life. There is a relationship with my things, for which I have gratitude.

I hope that this year’s Spring cleaning brings you something more than a clean home. A new outlook, perhaps. Or extra breathing room. Either way, share your thoughts and ideas around this post below!

Photo by Mathieu Perrier on Unsplash

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

How to Optimize Timing in a Day

When it comes to my core list of values, it would be safe to say that my number one value is Time. Other things I value include Freedom/Autonomy, Community, Health, Beauty, and Meaningful Work. Still, time takes the cake. Sometimes, I love time too much. Giving quality time is the lowest of my love language scores. I can be pretty selfish with time but I definitely don’t want to be. This is why I am passionate learning how to optimize timing. One day, I will master slowing down the hands of time. But until I become a time guru, I optimize timing in my every day life through tried-and-true tactics that effortlessly speed up productivity in order to free up more time for the things I actually want to be doing with my day.

We all have a chronotype.

We all have a chronotype. A chronotype is a penchant for a particular time of day. You can be an early bird, a night owl, or somewhere in between. Studies show that 15% of people are what they call larks, or early birds. 20% of the population are owls. The rest of the people (about two-thirds of the population) are somewhere in the middle, with most of them leaning towards the lark spectrum. You probably know what your chronotype is, so now let’s talk about focus and energy levels.

The Ebb and Flow of Our Days

With the exception of night owls, 80% of the population follow a typical peak, trough and recovery timeline every day in terms of focus and energy levels. The peak happens in the morning for most people. This means that the morning contains the most energy and potential. The trough happens around the afternoon, typically between the hours of 1 and 4 pm. But don’t worry. There is a recovery period in the early evening hours, when the energy levels start to rise again.

Technically, the same applies to night owls, with the peak skewed into the evening time. This makes planning the day for night owls a bit more complicated. Unfortunately, the social systems in place are not catered towards night owls. School, work, and social gatherings follow the majority’s preference, and the night owls are left to struggle with providing the expected output during their most difficult times. However, knowing this, there are still ways for night owls to optimize timing. They just have to skew their important work towards their peak times.

How to Optimize Timing

With the knowledge that certain times of the day offer more focus and energy than other times, we can certainly set up our schedules in order to optimize timing!

During peak hours, there is vigilant focus. Tasks that should be associated with these times of day could include crunching numbers, writing essays, or whatever it is that would require max attention. For me, this task is writing my blog posts. I need a lot of focus to sit down and get words on a page. Distractions are a writer’s worst enemy. Because of this, I make it a point to rise early in the mornings before my husband does, make myself a pour-over coffee and perch on our dining table to write. I like to write under lamp-light, and heaven forbid I ever open email before the writing is done.

During the troughs, we undergo a low level of energy and focus. This is the time to answer emails, do administrative work, attend meetings we are not leading, or do some networking. Interestingly enough, while attention span is low during the trough, moods are high – perfect for socializing! This is also a great time for self-insight or problem solving. Remember that troughs occurs in the afternoon.

Some people think I am crazy when I say that we should wait to open emails until after lunch. In reality, though, I try to open emails only once a week… Tuesdays after lunch are my ideal email days. I also make all my calls at this time. If I have to do some planning, I do a much better job in the afternoons. In the late afternoons when my dip is the lowest, I reserve time to take-in information through podcasts, books, or online courses.

Now your company or work situation may not allow for this, and I am not saying you must do this or quit. But studies have shown over and over again that this is ideal. And as you know, I am always working towards what is ideal.

I don’t think the responsibility should fall only on the individual for setting up these schedules. Companies should also embrace these facts and try to structure work in ways that would optimize productivity. Instead of scheduling meetings around who is available, it would be better to schedule based on what the meeting is about. If it’s a matter of accounting, then early morning would be fine. If it is for brainstorming ideas around an upcoming project, then late afternoon is better.

Lastly, there is a slight increase in focus and energy in the evenings. I recommend that this time is spent doing creative work. I like to do my reading, art, and relaxing in the evenings.

My Typical Day

Since I am able to structure my WFH days best, I wanted to share with you an example of how I incorporate what I learned into my calendar. I wake up early and do my writing as soon as possible. I try to get a workout in in the mornings as well. Then I do more tedious tasks in the AM for my blog. After lunch is reserved for Rye Goods emails, blog emails, any calls I have, and taking in information through books, podcasts, or online courses.

Below is a typical Monday for me:

  • Blog work entails Pinterest Pins, writing posts, or working on SEO.
  • Admin can include Rye Goods order placement, emails for both Rye Goods and the blog, any meetings or calls with coffee shop owners, or sending out affiliate emails for the blog.
  • Taking in Info can either be listening to a podcast while cooking dinner, an online CE course for dentistry, or doing a course that will improve my blogging skills. Sometimes, when I am really tired, I will just read a book and call it a day.
  • Relax time is where we get creative. Mike likes to dabble in guitars in the evening, whereas I prefer to read or so any art work. Sometimes, I just like to organize things, or plan out the next day.

Of course, not every day is perfect. Below is a sample Tuesday.

  • My sister who lives in Spain can only do our weekly call during her evenings, which means I have to take her call in the morning. I make it a point to connect with her once a week, so even though it’s a socializing event and a call, I still have it scheduled in my mornings.
  • My workout class is in the evenings, which works out since my sister takes up my mornings. I usually like to get my workouts out of the way early in the day, but this is a good way to unwind too. My energy tends to slightly pick up around early evening, so it isn’t too bad.
  • I try to do Thinker Tuesdays, which is a brainstorming and re-assessment event. It is a time for insight, so afternoons are best for it.
  • In general, most things stayed the same. Now we can look at what changes on a day of dentistry.

This is what a Thursday looks like:

  • Writing and workouts are still in the early mornings when focus and energy levels are highest.
  • I like to do my big cases in the morning before lunch. I have the most focus and attention during that time of day. After lunch, I have a lot of kid appointments and exams, as most people like to come to the dental office after school or work. Most of my socializing happens in the afternoons. Exams are also problem-solving tasks that require insight, which is why I prefer to do them after lunch. Like my WFH days, the afternoons are best for taking in information, so data collection through x-rays and medical history are also better reserved for the afternoons. If I owned my own dental practice, I would definitely stick to a strict schedule of big cases in the mornings, exams and planning in the afternoons.
  • There is still a relax time section in the evenings for me to get creative!

A Note on Taking A Break

I take breaks frequently. They say for every 52 minutes of work, you should take a 17 minute break. Of course that’s just an average. I find that I can focus longer in the mornings, sometimes working for 1.5 hours before needing a break. However, in the afternoons, my attention span decreases significantly. I have to take a break every 30-40 minutes. Whatever it is, take breaks! They are crucial to productivity.

The best breaks involve:

  • Movement! Do yoga, stretches, HIIT excercises, or take a walk.
  • Nature! Get outside. Sit outdoors and drink a cup of tea. Take a walk around the parking lot or in the neighborhood. Or simply perch by a windowsill. Even a view of nature helps.
  • Other People! Studies have shown that taking a break in a social group is more restorative than taking breaks alone. We may feel like we need space from our co-workers, but gathering around the water station or the break room is actually the best way to recoup some of that energy.

If you liked this post on how to optimize timing, you may also like a few other things I have written about getting stuff done!

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

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Photo by Marissa Grootes on Unsplash

How to Get Things Done

A bit pet peeve of mine is when I hear people say “I got nothing done.” The reason is because I highly doubt not a thing was done. Surely, one doesn’t spend a day sitting around staring into space. We don’t spend all our time meditating, though that would be nice. “I got nothing done” really means, “I did a lot of things today but none of them moved the needle towards where I am trying to go.” To me, that is a shame. Wasted time and wasted energy are two of the most unfortunate results of our unintentional lives. So I wanted to write a post today about how to get things done. More accurately, I am writing about how to get the most important things done. So that we can all end our days feeling fulfilled and closer to the person we wish to be tomorrow.

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Identify the ONE thing

The first reason why things don’t get done is simply because we are not aware WHAT exactly we want to get done. I guarantee you that a majority of people will not be able to recite off the top of their head what their number one priority for today is. They may have a long laundry list of to-do items, but they have not taken the time to prioritize the list. How can we expect to accomplish anything without a compass to guide us?

The most important thing you can do to attain a goal is identify the ONE thing that needs to get done. Every day, you should have a clear idea what HAS to be checked off your list. This one thing should be the most important step towards achieving your goal. However, some people have trouble identifying the one thing in the first place. So let us go through an example.

An Example

Let’s say you want to become more fit. That is your goal. In order to become more fit, you can exercise in the morning. Some people might think to themselves, ‘Okay, that’s my ONE thing. To exercise in the morning’ But it isn’t the most important thing because in order to exercise in the morning, they have to wake up an hour earlier. So then they think, ‘Fine, that’s my ONE thing. I have to wake up earlier’ But in order to wake up earlier, they need to sleep earlier. And in order to sleep earlier, they need to turn off the TV earlier. Which means the ONE most important thing that will set them up for their goal should be turning the TV off earlier.

If you say exercising in the morning is the most important thing, then you are setting yourself up for failure. Because getting up early is crucial to working out. Sleeping early is crucial to getting up early. And turning off the TV is crucial to getting to bed on time. By skipping all those steps, you will miss your morning workouts once in a while. And when you miss a morning workout, you will be disappointed. After feeling disappointed, you will give up on your goal.

Therefore, the first step is identifying the ONE thing.

Prioritize In the Morning

Tackling your ONE thing is easiest when you have the most motivation, energy and inspiration. To be honest, the time when you are most prime for all of that is early in the morning. I cherish my early mornings. I wake up early and do my most important work at that time. That’s why early morning jobs are my favorite! When planning your day, clear your early mornings for the things that are most important to you and your goals.

Early mornings are NOT the time for checking emails, commuting, or cleaning up around the home. Those are trivial tasks. This sacred time should be spent doing the most important thing that will advance you towards your goal in one of the seven circles: Physical health, Spirituality, Personal Life, Key Relationships, Job, Business or Finance. Pick one of these seven circles to focus on a goal, then pick the ONE thing.

Put Yourself First

The last reason why people never get things done is because they don’t put themselves first. Let’s use our job as an example. What is the first thing people do when they log into work?

They fire up their computers and check their inbox. They get back to other people’s emails. A morning meeting is called. After the meeting, they have five minutes to spare. They check social media or emails again until, PING! A message is received from Slack.

At the end of the day, they get nothing done. Why? Because they spend their whole day prioritizing everything else but their one thing! My priorities don’t live in my inbox. Everyone else’s does. It’s a fallacy, and quite ego-centric, to believe that everyone else needs you right now. Trust me, if they really need you, they will find you.

When you log into work, focus on the ONE thing you need to get done for your job that day. This will turn you from being an ordinary worker to an extra-ordinary one. Ask to leave meetings if they don’t serve you. Stop responding to emails that don’t require a response. Actually, I don’t even bother opening up emails that I don’t believe to be urgent or necessary. Likewise, I don’t play phone messages from people I don’t know. If they really need me, they will send it again or find another way to reach me.

The Fallacy of Emergencies

And by the way, even if someone “really needs you”, and they seek you out, you still don’t have to give them your time. At least, not right away. There are very few emergencies that require your immediate attention. When my WFH husband comes to me and asks for my attention in the middle of my blog work, I simply say, “I am busy right now. Let’s revisit this later.” I do the same for my assistants at the dental office. That’s it. Because most ’emergencies’ can wait an hour.

In a work environment, a majority of ’emergencies’ are actually emergencies because someone else did not do their job. Someone did not have the foresight to predict what a deadline needs. The reason there are urgencies in an office is because of procrastination, not because of a sudden requirement.

How many times has someone messaged you on Slack begging you to help them finish something that is due at the end of the day? Isn’t it because that person did not prepare enough to get all the pieces for their project done? Well they are adults and they know how to plan better. They just don’t plan better because they assume their time is more important than yours. They assume everyone else will drop their to-do lists for them, because in the past, that’s probably what everyone else has done. It’s a perfect example of our work email culture.

How to Respond to False Emergencies

For those scenarios, I am very honest and say, “Sorry, I am booked.” Even at the dental office. If a patient calls and my schedule is full and they say they a tooth broke when they bit down on something soft, I don’t squeeze that patient in. That would be unfair to everyone else who has a designated appointment time. That would be unfair to my assistants and my staff. Plus it would stress me out, which would be bad for my health. I simply say, “Sorry, I am booked. But you can come on another day.”

In reality, that patient probably had a fractured tooth or a cavity that set up their tooth for failure. That would mean they haven’t come in for their recommended treatment, or they haven’t come in for a while for an exam. It is very likely something like a fracture or a decay would be caught if the patient had come in every 6 months. What they are essentially saying through their actions is that their life and their time are more important than yours. And they expect you to drop everything you’re doing to accommodate their timeline.

Reframing Your Role

Now, you might be thinking, ‘That’s not very nice’. You might be thinking, ‘My boss will think I’m a slacker.’ Or, you might be thinking, ‘I’m not a team player if I do not help my co-workers.’ But none of that is true. Let’s reframe.

It isn’t nice to your assistants, staff, yourself, or your scheduled patient when another person gets squeezed into the schedule and you run behind.

Your boss will not think your a slacker. The true slacker is the person who keeps getting promoted because they get everyone else to do their work for them.

You are a team player because you are holding your co-workers accountable for their job responsibilities. By doing so, you are actually making them better workers. They will improve their organizational skills, plan for projects better, and become more efficient at work.

Put Yourself First In Everything You Do

And putting yourself first does not apply to just your job. If the circle you are focusing on is personal life, perhaps getting the morning to yourself before the kids wake up is important to giving you the stamina for the rest of the day. In that case, wake up 20 minutes earlier to do something for you. This could be reading a book, making a mindful cup of coffee or meditating. Without it, the whole day will feel horrendously arduous.

So you see, you have to put yourself first. Ignore the rest. Focus on the ONE thing for YOUR goal. And trust me, you will get things done earlier in the day. You will jump from being an ordinary person to an extraordinary person. You will achieve your goals and improve your life.

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The Secret to Success

Success stories aren’t a result of a singular trick. There is no fast-lane approach to success, no matter how hard we wish it were true. Sure, there are lucky strikes, but those are few and far-between. And for those who get lucky, most of the time their success dwindles away because they aren’t used to dealing with success anyway. Honestly, the secret to my successes in life centers around one thing: continued growth.

What does this mean?

Let’s do a bit of psychoanalysis.

I am naturally a cautious person. I am not risky, so I don’t think I am successful because I take risks. Also, I am an introvert. Therefore, I am not especially good at networking my way into things. I am a hard-worker, sure, but I value simple living. In conclusion, it can’t be because I work harder than most. The flip-side of my coin is that I rest harder than most, too.

But there is one thing I am, and that is naturally curious. I like to ask questions, especially ‘Why?’ I like to read books and learn new things. New experiences are like a drug to me. Every day I am trying my own social experiments. I also enjoy optimizing situations. ‘How can I make this better or more efficient?’ I am always trying to be 1% better. Lastly, I like to listen to others, and take in what they know as new knowledge. I like to read between the lines, and pick up on things that lies in the sub-conscious realm of a conversation. It’s fun to see things others cannot.

Because of all of this, I think my successes are due to continued growth. This is a result of a natural curiosity, rather than endless energy. There are many things I do to ensure that I continually grow. I listen to three podcasts a week. I read two books a month. And I take courses online.

My favorite course website is Skillshare. If you wish to embrace that same curiosity, you can sign up for Skillshare using the code: aff40dtp to receive 40% off an annual subscription! The sale ends February 28. If you wish to learn more before signing up, you can read how Skillshare helped me grow my blog here. If you’re a numbers person, you can also check out my blog income reports here. That will tell you how much money I make blogging from home. If you are worried about the pricing, think of it as an investment in yourself. I always pay myself first.

Out of curiosity, to what do YOU owe your success?

Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

How to Recover From the Holidays

The holidays are just around the corner and you may already feel a bit of burnout creeping in. Every day I am asking my patients what their plans are, and “nothing” seems to be the favorite answer. We may already be burned out from the rest of the year. Every day I am asking myself what my soul needs in the new year to flourish. Others may be asking themselves what they need just to get by. Whatever the case may be, don’t forgo making plans to recover after the holiday season. The tendency may be to jump head first into 2022. Perhaps it’s better to pause, take a break, and breathe? Here are a few of my favorite ideas to recover from the holidays.

Take time off of work.

You might feel like working full-speed in order to pay for the holiday spending is what you need to do. But I love taking time off of work to recover, even for just a day. I am lucky enough to not work a 9-5 job five days a week and to have flexible schedules. However, if I did work a traditional schedule, I would certainly request time off after my busier days. This time off isn’t for completing tasks, organizing the home, or socializing. This is a chance to reset, evaluate, and prepare. Activities that are perfect for this include getting out in nature, meditating, taking a yoga class, going to a coffee shop to write, or even getting away.

Take a vacation.

Sometimes, a separation of schedule isn’t enough to take the mind off a to-do list. For me, it also usually requires a separation of space. Taking a vacation or going away from home is a great way to recover from the holidays. My choice stay is GetAway! Stationed nationally in nature, these tiny cabins are the perfect way to disconnect from the world and reconnect with the earth or whatever grounds you. I would even recommend going without your significant other. It’ll do wonders. You can read my review of the GetAway experience here. Make your first booking with my referral link and receive $25 OFF your first stay (minimum two nights required).

Declutter the Home

We accumulate a lot of things over the holidays. I look at the things we received as gifts and consider what they are replacing in our space. We try not to keep two of anything so that’s an easy way to declutter. I also try to really consider the function of things. I get rid of a lot of stuff at the end of the year. Part of that is my natural response to the frenzy that is the holiday season. I declutter to alleviate myself of the overwhelm. But the other part of it is this: I am preparing my space for an intentional life.

Clean and Organize

I don’t know about everyone else but my house tends to look as scattered as my brain after the holidays. I usually need a day to reorganize and clean. Some of the things I do is clear out the fridge and store the leftovers, which are plenty. I put the gifts away and remove the decor, which are few. I clean the kitchen, wash sheets and towels, and sweep the floors. Throughout the year, I use this cleaning list that I wrote. It is saved on my Iphone under ‘Notes’ with checkmarks next to each task. I do a weekly cleaning time block each weekend and address the tasks little by little. It’s a simple way for me to get things done.

Give back to yourself.

In the name of giving to others over the holidays, we tend to forget about ourselves. There are many self-care strategies that you can implement to give back to yourself again. This includes getting into an exercise routine, laying off the sweets, lessening the alcohol and coffee, and being openly grateful.

I know that this list is short and sweet, but these are my favorite ways to recover from the holidays. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, nor does it have to be expensive. Just make sure you are doing something for yourself to recover. The holidays is a stressful time for everyone. Don’t feel bad if you need to tell loved ones you need a break, or more space, or less time with them. We need to say no, in order to say a bigger “YES!”. That’s a good mantra to have in 2022.

Intentional Living: Invest in Rest

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A good night’s sleep is one of the best forms of self-care. It is regenerative for the body, mind and soul, and much to any frugalist’s joy, it is free. Often viewed as an unproductive activity, getting a good night’s rest lies low on the priority list for the majority. On the contrary, I attribute much of my productivity and success to sleep – and a lot of it, too!

Ever since I was young, I was very fond of the stuff. My parents love to tell the story of how I would nod off in my high-chair, often plopping my face down on my food. I was the last to wake up on Christmas morning (well, every morning for that matter) and the first to fall asleep at night. At family get-togethers, one could be sure to find me on the couch, hogging up the sitting space asleep in fetal position. I took afternoon naps until high school and even in college, I was one of the few people who got eight hours of sleep, frequently trading in a night of partying for my warm sheets.

There was a time when I went against my sleeping pattern and took up midnight shifts as an early-morning baker. I noticed the toll it took on my health. Even though I was still sleeping eight hours every night, the fluctuation between night shifts and day shifts every other day really wrecked my body. I started depending on coffee, lost a lot of weight, and had trouble eating. My mind was exhausted and I noticed that I was on survival mode, less productive overall and more lenient about my tasks and deadlines. It only took three months for me to realize the effects, and while I was happy and alive, my body was barely keeping up.

As I gained awareness of my body’s circadian rhythm, I learned that my optimal sleeping time is 9 hours per night. If I receive less than that, it is best if I take a mid-afternoon nap. Now there are groups of people who would argue against the health benefits of this. But every person is different and the range of ideal sleep time is vast. Regardless of what the actual number of hours is, sleep is a crucial part to your overall productivity and here is why you need to make sure you get enough of it.

Reasons to Invest in Rest

  • Sleep is important for memory and processing daily experiences.
  • A night of sleep more than doubles the likelihood that you will solve a problem requiring insight.
  • Sleep clears toxins in the brain.
  • Sleep is the most crucial factor for peak performance, memory, productivity, immune function, mood regulation.
  • Even mild sleep reduction has detrimental effects on cognitive function many days afterwards.
  • One-third of working Americans sleep less than six hours a night.
  • Sleep deprivation was declared a public health epidemic by the CDC in 2018.
  • Lack of sleep increases the risk of heart disease, obesity, stroke, and cancer.
  • Getting consistent sleep is very important to your health.

As a person trying to live an intentional life, I care a lot about sleep. I understand that the long-effects of getting enough shut-eye will outweigh the few hours I lose each day. Investing in rest doesn’t just mean making the resolution to sleep a set number of hours each night, although that is the FREE self-care part of it. However, one must also consider what they sleep on.

I spend a lot of time curating my bed, and highly recommend getting a mattress and pillows that are ergonomically beneficial. Spinal problems caused by having a cheap bed will translate to decreased quality of life and productivity. My personal favorite company is LEESA. We own their mattress topper and pillows, and it has been such a game-changer. I used to have a lot of neck and back pain due to maintaining static postures and craning my neck at the dental office – so much so that I would wake up in the middle of the night from the pain and spend entire Saturdays lying on the couch unable to move. Once we switched to high-quality pillows and added the LEESA mattress topper, the pain went away! After watching my dad undergo three spinal surgeries in the last two years, I knew that I was not going to wait until my own symptoms got worse. If you want to step up your bed game, Try LEESA! Get up to $400 OFF a LEESA mattress this MLK weekend by clicking on my affiliate link. They have a great trial-period guarantee. For those who are wary about making such an expensive commitment to their health, LEESA also offers 0% financing through Affirm for as low as $25 a month, the equivalent of 8 drip coffees! Think of it as getting better sleep and saving on the coffee.

Likewise, I also invest in high quality bedsheets made out of clean fabrics that are good for the skin. I really like Parachute’s linen sheets and have written why Parachute sheets are the only sheets you need to own this post. Since then, we’ve tried a cotton duvet cover from them as well, pictured above, and we love it just as equally.

An alternative for those who wish to have cotton sheets is PACT. Pact is an eco-conscious company who makes clothing and textiles for the home. Currently, they have a sale on their bedding and bath products lasting until January 31, 2021. Simply use the code REFRESH25 to receive 25% OFF. You can access the sale by clicking on my affiliate link here.

Shop Pact Today.

Other rituals I have around my sleep include making my bed every morning so that the sheets stay clean, turning on a humidifier, and putting my phone away an hour before bed. We also wash the sheets frequently, vacuum the mattress, and rotate the toppers and pillows as outlined by my ultimate cleaning list.

Regardless of what you do to make sleep an important part of your day, make sure to prioritize it for the years to come!

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The True Cause of a Spending Problem

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

Do you have a spending problem? Are you someone who just can’t make ends meet? Have you found that no matter how much you increase your income, you can’t break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle? Do you find yourself shopping when you are stressed or tired or sad? Perhaps this post is for you.

It may not be what you want to hear, but the truth is this:

A spending problem is the result of not knowing who you want to be, or where you want your life to go.

Emotional spending occurs because a void needs filling. Unfortunately, more often than not, the spending itself fails at solving the problem. Rather, it extenuates it by creating a loop cycle that enlarges the void and brings us further from our true goals.

For example, have you ever tried to treat your stress by shopping online? At first, it felt good, but after a while, regret starts to sink in and your newfound purchase falls short of delivering lasting happiness, not to mention instantly decreases in value. Does it sound familiar to you? Because it sure does to me.

Not knowing who we want to be or what we want our life to look like makes it difficult to know what is worthy of our time and money. If we do not have a clear purpose, goal, or ambition, then it becomes easy to fall into the cycle of spending our resources on what people around us promote, rather than what we need. Because what we gain was never truly for us, it doesn’t fill the void at all, resulting in spending again, and again, and again.

If you want to treat a spending problem, my financial advice is to start with you. Define who you want to be and where you want your life to go. At least, that’s what we did and it worked for us. Because I used to be like you, too. I had $30,000 in credit card debt. I had more than half a million dollars in student loans. I went shopping every weekend in my early twenties and bought avocado toast while I was in dental school. I had a serious spending problem, until I realized who I was and what I wanted.

I am a simple person. I enjoy reading books and baking bread. I find joy in quiet time and yoga. My mind is healthiest when I am outdoors collecting rocks on a beach. I wanted a life of financial freedom. I wanted to be able to choose a job to my liking. I wanted the autonomy to work in a way that is aligned to my values. I want the freedom to call my own hours, to choose days of rest, to pursue other passions, and I understood that I couldn’t do that if I chose material stuff, trends, and status symbols. That’s how this all started.

I was lucky enough to find a financial advisor in my early years who delved deeply into what I wanted for my future. It was only then, when I saw the big picture, did I have the motivation to get rid of my spending problem. And if I am being honest, without a clear picture of where I wanted my life to be, I would just as likely have reverted back to my previous ways. It was the clarity that kept me going.

The true cause of a spending problem is not being intentionally clear enough about your life.

Here are good places to start:

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If you have trouble paying off your credit card debts, you can always try The Credit Pros. They will help identify the most damaging and most helpful credit items, as well as provide advice and educational tools.

The Ultimate Cleaning List

In my opinion, one of the best things 2020 did for us was turn our attention inward – on our relationships, on ourselves, and on our homes, to name a few examples. The latter, especially, has been prominent this year for me. I have spent a decent amount of time introspecting on the first two over the past few years, however, as an avid traveler, work-a-holic, and on-the-go person, the latter was neglected until the stay-at-home culture forced me to, well, stick around.

One of my goals for an intentional 2021 is to keep my living space sparkling clean. It has been transformed in the last year into an oasis from the outside world; a safe haven where we all work, rest, and rejuvenate. My best moments of 2020 have occurred under this very roof. It only seems appropriate to pay my respects in the form of diligent maintenance and care.

On that note, in the process of writing a 2021 New Year Resolution list, I side-tracked to create my own guide to keeping a dwelling spotless. I wanted to share with you guys what works for us, although depending on your home, your list of needs may differ. I separated tasks into daily, weekly, monthly, bi-annually, and annually time frames. Along the way, I added a few tips on how to make this list (which can seem overwhelming at first) a sustainable practice built out of habit. I would venture that after a bit of practice, you may find cleaning your home to be quite the opposite – relaxing and fun in nature. Enjoy!

The Ultimate Cleaning List

Every Day

TIP: I consider every day tasks as habits that are built into your normal lifestyle. At first, they may seem like just another thing to check off your list, but eventually, they should become routine movements that are done quickly and without much thought. These every day cleaning habits will ease the more long-term cleaning tasks, so definitely don’t ignore them!

It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.

John Wooden
  • Make the bed
  • Clean coffee maker
  • Wash dirty dishes
  • Wipe down kitchen counters and table
  • Wipe down bathroom surfaces
  • Sanitize kitchen and bathroom sinks
  • Squeegee shower
  • Vacuum floors (Ever since we switched to this Dyson V8 Absolute, Vacuuming has been such an extreme joy. It work great on our cement floors and the carpet attachment is perfect for rugs! I would highly recommend this product as it is one of the top five purchases we’ve ever made that improves our day to day lives.)
  • Put things away at the end of the day

Every Week

TIP: It helps to tackle these tasks throughout the week. Finding a schedule that works for you and your home is very important. For example, we do laundry, change bedding and mop floors on Saturday mornings. We toss expired food when we return from our weekly grocery shopping, as we are stowing the new groceries away. I scrub the bathroom tub during one of my showers on a weekday when I am off from dentistry. I wipe down kitchen appliances after an especially messy meal prep. I vacuum the furniture regularly and clean the vacuum whenever I notice it’s messy.

In order to avoid over-whelm or wasting away an entire weekend, use little pockets during your workday to do these tasks. While some people will scoff at the distraction this provides, my argument is that sedentary lifestyles are the bane of our existence and the general cause of our health problems. By committing to one task per work day, you are giving your eyes, mind, and body a break while providing necessary movement and blood flow to your work life. Plus, you’ll get your heart pumping, and I would argue it still makes for a productive day!

  • Laundry
  • Mop Floors
  • Change Bedding
  • Toss expired food from the fridge
  • Scrub bathroom tub
  • Wipe down kitchen appliances
  • Clean microwave
  • Sanitize sponges
  • Dust and vacuum furniture
  • Clean vacuum

Every Month

TIP: Just like the weekly tasks, I would disperse these cleaning items throughout the month rather than wait until the last weekend. Of course, that is just my personal preference. I know a few people who find greater success in procrastination and monthly deep cleanings. I can only imagine how cathartic that must feel!

  • Wash car
  • Wash vacuum filters
  • Vacuum vents and woodwork such as base boards
  • Dust and clean light fixtures
  • Wipe down inside of fridge
  • Wash shower curtain liner
  • Clean patio surfaces
  • Wash comforter
  • Clean range hood
  • Clean washing machine using a cleaner cycle
  • Clean dishwasher
  • Sweep the garage every month

Every 6 months

TIP: Unlike the weekly and monthly tasks, I do recommend doing these things at the same time. It is most efficient to pick two months out of the year to tackle these tasks. For some, that may be spring cleaning season and right before the holidays. For me, I like mid-year in June and at the end of the year in December. June is my birthday month and December is right before the new year. Both months symbolize a new beginning for me, so I like to start my beginnings fresh.

  • Deep clean windows
  • Wash couch covers
  • Vacuum mattress
  • Wash pillows
  • Clean inside of oven
  • Clean drapes

Every Year

TIP: We only have a few yearly tasks in our household. These are easy to plan ahead for. I simply add a reminder in my planner regarding these tasks and then order the parts when I come to that month. Once the parts arrive, it is only a matter of doing the task right away instead of waiting for dust to collect.

  • Change AC filter
  • Change Water Filter

If you happened to like this list of mine, please check out my Weekly Cleaning List Download which I created to help stream-line cleaning tasks around the home. If your resolution is to maintain a clean home in the New Year, this checklist may facilitate that by simplifying and organizing those tasks. Simply print and stick on a fridge or kitchen cabinet, tuck inside a planner, or lay by your nightstand as a daily reminder. Share it with your loved ones, I won’t mind! This is a way for you to support this space and the content you find here in an intentional way, while allowing me to continue making a living without resorting to advertising. I thank you for being in this space and hope that this list provides useful.

Happy Cleaning!