Simple Things: Blue-Light Blockers by The Book Club Eyewear

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

When I was a child, I was (subconsciously) vastly irritated by external stimuli. Jarred by sounds, I could not watching movies or television. Stymied by shyness, I preferred not to go out of my way to make friends. In an effort to be left alone, I burrowed my nose in books (quiet things) and spent much of my childhood avoiding tussling with other kids or listening to adults gossip.

At family gatherings, of which there were many, I would sneak into bedrooms to read, or otherwise take up space on the couch, refusing to relinquish my place once settled. On car rides, with typically hours long, I would pack two to three chapter books and read, staying up the entire way using a dim book light. Even at the school playground, I would sit cross-legged on the cement floor with the heaviest novels I can get my hands on. There was no time to waste falling on tanbark and chasing people to tag when there were many other worlds to travel and see. Some children may have found this habit haughty, but I didn’t care what they thought. While they found joy in rough housing, I made myself a personal book club.

A one member only book club.

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This is the Twelve Hungry Bens with the clear Chunk Chain.

Adults in my life would comment the same thing anytime they found me engrossed in a book, face inches away from the page (only the better to smell the yellowing mustiness with), eyeballs tethered to words. “You’ll ruin your eyesight if you aren’t careful.” Reasoning ranging from, “You’re reading much too close” to “The light is hardly bright enough”, landed on my ears as adults prompted me to immerse myself in society the normal way – playing with children my age. In retrospect, they had a point, not about the importance of social interaction (for books can teach you more about society than kids can) but rather about the risk of losing my vision, and I surprise even myself to say that after all these years of incessant reading, my eyesight is still registering 20/20.

This is a shocker considering that 75% of America using some sort of device for vision correction. Perhaps, it was the books that saved me.

You see, I was quite an imaginative child. Reading a book meant lifting my head every few minutes to process what I’ve just read. This would cause me to look at a point farther away from where I was sitting while my  eyes glazed over and my mind transported me to another place. Since I did most of my reading in my room or outdoors, these mini-breaks meant staring at a far-away tree, or watching a sibling across the hallway in play.

When I am engrossed in a truly gripping tale, you’ll find me scatter-brained, flipping through the pages back and forth, trying to skip parts, piecing the story together impatiently. My eyes were trained to constantly move around, not lock in on one distance or place. According to research, this is a good thing. We need  to stimulate our eyes to different focal lengths to prevent fatigue. Thanks to my spacey brain, I unknowingly protected my eyes by doing just that.

Additionally,  I spent a majority of my time away from screens. Saturday mornings didn’t mean early cartoons, because I usually stayed up too late on Friday nights trying to finish a book under the covers. I didn’t watch TV, I didn’t use computers too often (until my junior year of high school when AIM took over my life), and I didn’t play video games. I didn’t own a smart  phone until I was graduating from college. It was a hand-me-down I-phone 4 when the I-phone 6 was coming out. I didn’t take notes on a laptop like 90% of students. I hand-wrote everything, all the way through dental school at the ripe old age of 26 years old, when my classmates took photographs of Powerpoint presentation on their phones instead of write actual notes. I still had pen and paper in hand. I have had about 8 part-time jobs in my lifetime (Jamba Juice worker, Banana Republic Visuals Specialist, Dental Assistant, Math tutor, School Librarian, Dog-Sitter, Baker), none of which relied on computers, and my actual profession, dentistry, has me mostly occupied in an operatory room rather than at a desk

My only screen-time vice would be this space – my beloved blog. Quarantine has made me especially aware of the impact increased screen-time has on my vision. Stuck at home the past few months guilty of habit-scrolling and incessant COVID-update-refreshing coupled with more blog work, I’ve come to notice a slight strain on my eyes that could only indicate fatigue.

Which makes me wonder, does 75% of Americans need vision correction because of eye damage due to an increasingly digital age?

Enter The Book Club. I fell down a rabbit hole of searching for protective eye wear after I started to notice the symptoms of a stressed vision. I first heard of blue-light blockers from Dr. Hyman’s Farmacy podcast episode with Dave Asprey, who created the simile, “It’s like noise-cancelling headphones for the eyes” when describing a similar product. Both the podcast and TBC reported studies that alluded to the fact that blue light exposure has been linked to disruptive sleep patterns (melatonin regulation), headaches, dry eyes, and reduced attention span. After being in quarantine for only three weeks, I knew that I had to get some.

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When I found The Book Club, I fell in love with the Warby Parker-like chic frames that they had to offer. The price range was very affordable considering the health benefits of the product and the fact that it could save you from years of upgrading prescription glasses. If you already have prescription eyewear, not to fear for they also offer differing grades of prescription lenses. Plus, each pair comes with a fabric case to keep your new frames safe.

Lastly, and most importantly, I appreciated the eco-conscious efforts of the company. Their frames are made of 100% recyclable plastic, and their site demonstrates a fairly easy way to recycle so that it is an accessible act to all. Simply pop out the lens and remove the two screws holding the temples in place. Even the chunky chain and accessories that they produce are recyclable! Their frames are packaged in a box in the shape of a novel made from 100% recycled cardboard. The only plastic present was a small window that I assume is for marketing purposes when the product belies stockist shelves.

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After a day of use, I would vouch that there is a difference in the way screens affect my eyes. The glasses are said to block 30% of UV light and screens have a warmer hue when these glasses are in use. I wear them when I use my laptop, scroll through Instagram, or even watch Netflix or Hulu series on the projector. I try not to use them for regular activities or when I am outdoors. I also do not recommend using them when reading a regular book, as the glasses may cause more eye strain than reading without them. Since the main goal of the glasses is to reduce exposure to blue light from screen use and studies are still being done around its full effects or repercussions, I choose to wear them for only times during the day that I use screens.

Perhaps the best solution, however, is to reduce screen-time, but in a world where separation from our screens have become difficult, I am not sure how valid that noble solution may be. All I know is that I am lucky to have had the history regarding eyesight that I had. I am blessed to have a profession that does not require staring at multiple screens for eight hours a day, five days a week. And I am grateful for TBC Eyewear, who has my back when it comes to protecting my eyes.

This post is in partnership with TBC Eyewear. All content, thoughts, and opinions are my own. The mug is from East Fork Pottery in Morel. The glasses pictured are Fan of Seen Labels in Sky with a Chunky Chain and Twelve Hungry Bens in Bourbon

Curating Closets: Intimates

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

This post is in partnership with Organic Basics, a European based company focused on sustainably producing gorgeous basics for the everyday. Each item has a luxurious quality made using ethical factories with fair wages, eco-conscious packaging, and a sustainable sourcing of materials. They are the ultimate example of a company checking off all the right boxes without sacrificing beauty. 

Before you roll your eyes at me because I am talking about intimate things again, hear me out. In my defense, previous conversations regarding Giving a Crap about using Plant Paper to wipe Tushys all revolve around the subject of the restroom which is NOT what this post is about. But okay fine, it is again regarding intimates, particularly those stored in your closet and worn on your person daily.

As a blog dedicated to droning on about curating en general, I would be remiss if I skip over the article of clothing that people most oft wear. Yet underthings are not at the forefront of the conversations revolving around an ethical capsule wardrobe. In fact, searching for sustainable underwear on one’s own can be a bit of a drag since there are only a handful of companies interested in making them. After much deep diving, I have surfaced with a handful of options that I think are worthy of the slow fashion movement, but of course, first, a word.

Intimates, to me, are not meant to be frilly things. I never did understand the draw to cheap lace, or worse, itchy mesh. And whilst I believe that our homes should contain only the most beautiful things, I am also a firm believer in the practicality of certain items. I like to think that all of my clothes earn their keep, and the most hard-working of them are the ones that I most cherish.

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Organic Basics’s lite singlet and briefs are undergarments that double as pajama sets on hot summer nights.

For example, I have a beautiful blue jumper that I love to wear year round. It dresses up or down, excusing it for every occasion short of a wedding (although I’d gladly wear it to one). It’s pretty to look at, sure, but its also a utilitarian thing made of linen that moves freely with my every action, looks good wrinkled, and is reliable for even the most demanding of activities whether that be yoga or washing my car. It has a simple boyish cut and is loose-fitting, and for all these things, it is one of my most valuable articles of clothing.

I hold my undergarments to the same standard, if not more. I expect them to be versatile, comfortable, and invisible. I don’t want itchy fabrics or skivvies with too tight of a fit. I hate clasps that dig into the skin, voluminous cups that try too hard, and mostly, underwear strings. And the care routine needs to be easy on me too. I would hate to waste laundry loads washing delicates separately, worrying about whether lace would snag, or removing cups before every wash. Forget about hand washing. Despite these utilitarian requirements, I don’t want them to be ugly. They must be good enough to walk around freely on warm summer nights when I have the house to myself (almost never, but I wish). And on top of all this, I expect them to be sustainable, ethical or fair trade? I must have gone mad!

However, I can prove that it is possible for I have found a few companies and styles that fit the bill. I included some that are very precious, and some that are more financially savvy for the everyday. None of these are by any means perfect, but just a more thoughtful solution to intimates. To give you a jump start, here is my list of recommendations.

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PACT provides sustainably produced everyday options at a fair price.

+ Everlane – Everlane has a line of intimates that include bottoms, tops and bodysuits. While the functionality of the latter escapes me, I find their bottoms and tops collection to be very practical. My sister gifted me eight black and light gray bikini bottoms under my request for neutral colors in a singular style one birthday, and they have been my go-to bottoms for over a year. They have lasted weekly washes without needing to separate them from the rest of my clothes, which have made laundry day wonderfully easy for me and lighter on the environment. I have yet to observe any holes on them. They are thin enough to be invisible with most things I wear (an exception would be yoga pants), and they are very comfy. While I admire Everlane for their efforts to partner with ethical factories around the globe and providing transparency in terms of where clothes are made, my only gripe about Everlane is their lack of size inclusivity when it comes to producing clothes. But in terms of basic underwear quality, I have no qualms.

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+ Organic Basics – I had the pleasure of trying out Organic Basic’s lite singlet and briefs soft touch collection in TENCEL – a material made of wood pulp – and it is absolutely luscious. It is the prettiest piece of underwear I own. Pictured above in dusty rose, the couple is my ideal outfit for lounging around the home on hot summer days with the windows flung open and fans whirring overhead. The material is silky soft and light, while at the same time providing enough coverage  – thus freeing me to mill about, read a book on the couch, or even write from the dining desk in my drawers. This also doubles as a pajama set and while the singlet has no padding for coverage itself, I’ve worn it underneath a scrub top without people knowing any better. For the record, that’s partially thanks to my girlish frame. Still, the practicality doesn’t undermine it’s beauty. Organic Basics definitely knows what’s up. A company founded with sustainability as a whole in mind, they care about the material of a product as much as it’s design. Functionality and timelessness are both key features to having something last and Organic Basics has both down.  They work exclusively with certified factory partners (which they transparently share with their consumers) with a safe working environment free of child labor and forced labor while also paying a living wage and including employee perks such as free lunches and child care. I cannot boast about this pairing enough, and would definitely look into their SilverTech Activewear as well, which is treated with a safe, permanent bluesign approved recycled silver salt called Polygiene. For those who are wary of synthetic or recycled materials, they also have a line of undergarments in organic cotton. TheDebtist readers get 10% off Organic Basics when they use the coupon code DEBTISTOBC. 

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Organic Basics commit to plastic-free packaging, even going so far as to use recycled materials for their boxes.

+ Pact – Pact (photographed below) gifted me a number of items to try on and I have to say this brand is for the practical type who can do without the frills. Pact makes sensible underwear for busy people in an all-organic matter. They use GOTS certified organic cotton and are Fair Trade USA Factory certified. My only gripe is the individual plastic packaging that they ship their products in. I tried their Classic Racerback in black, the Modern Racerback in heather grey, and a more traditional Triangle Bra in pewter (pictured). I also tried on the High-Rise Hipster in black and the Boy Short in charcoal grey. I have to say that their products are perfect for my lifestyle. They are equally as useful at a yoga class, on a run, underneath scrubs, sweating over bread turns or running errands – which take up the majority of my time. The bras are neither constricting nor bothersome. The modern racerback is the only one with cups which provide more coverage for bigger-busted women but due to my girlish frame, I find that the cups are actually a nuisance and prefer the lighter coverage options. The modern racerback also is made for taller people and without the adjustable straps fit a bit frumpy on me. The other two bras, though, fit like a glove. The bottoms are more standard with the boy short having a thicker material than the hipster. I would like to note that my husband also sports PACT boxers and briefs and he has reported a sincere affinity with their underwear. While they aren’t the fanciful undergarments you would wear to a tea party, they definitely fit the bill for incorporating sustainable clothes into everyday wear.

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Wireless and clasp-free triangle top is my go-to bra for low cut attire and comfort.
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My capsule wardrobe has low frills and neutral colors.
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These high-rise hipsters and classic racerback almost classify as a full on bodysuit.

+ Botanica Workshop – This line of underwear is for the vintage-loving, delicate type (even their brand name exudes beauty) searching for pretty pieces worthy of a higher price point. Their most gorgeous best-sellers include bras made of silk and lace, or some limited-edition, small-scale, dyed-by-hand pieces. My favorite part about the brand is their passion for minimizing waste. Recycled and second-hand supplies are used in the production of their garments, which are drafted, cut, and sewn by hand. As a company, public transportation and walking are the main modes of travel, encouraging the business to grow on a very local level. Founded in 2014, the company partners with local artisans and technicians to produce small production runs in line with the slow fashion movement. Tiny details such as these made a huge impact and it shows in their products. For those who wish to walk around freely but be fully dressed, they’ve got a line of slip dresses which I would love to try out one day. Looks absolutely dreamy. 

+Land of Women – Whereas the previous attracts the more feminine, I have to say that no one has perfected minimalism like the Land of Women. Without sacrificing luxe, their underwire are made for those looking for something other than cotton. I am not sure how ethical the Italian silk-like fabric they use is (it’s very beautiful but there is little transparency about the material itself), but they sure do know how to maximize style in minimalist cuts. Plus it’s a great resource for swimmers, too!

+ Nude – Nude is a family run factory in Valencia, Spain that ensure good working practices via a safe working environment that provides something as personal and sweet as pastries and snacks to their fairly compensated workers. Their locally manufactured organic cotton basics come in stylishly functional cuts available in nine beautiful and earthy colors. Their products also encapsulate men’s boxers, socks, and swim attire.

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A word on storage: I store my delicates in drawstring muslin bags separated by tops, bottoms, and socks. The bags are then stored in a collapsible gray bin underneath a bathroom cabinet, where I also store all of my folded clothes – which is to say, most of my clothes. The separate bags make it alright for me to toss the underwear unfolded when in a rush putting away laundry, without creating an eyesore. I used to keep all intimates in a large dresser drawer when I was in college, but I’ve found that I had a tendency to rummage through and mess with the piles so that by the end of the week, I would have to refold the entire drawer again. Sometimes, I’d spend a good few minutes looking for a sock pair. Having bags to corral like things together have helped a ton. The muslin ones that I own are ones I’ve collected throughout the years which wrapped anything from Aesop products to Mejuri jewelry.

TheDebtist may receive a small commission for purchases made using the links throughout this blog post. As always, thank you for supporting those that choose to support the workings of this space. 

Apple Walnut Tea Cake

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

This post is in partnership with KitchenAid and Le Creuset. Both companies have agreed to partner with the blog as I document my baking adventures. This particular recipe was modified from the book Tartine No.3. Instead of the Kefir, I substituted Bulgarian yogurt. I learned how to bake bread with Tartine and own two Tartine books. This third edition goes through the nuances of different flours and I would highly recommend to those who have the basics of bread baking down but are looking to discover a little more. 

It’s Monday, the first week where I resume normal schedule at one of my dental offices. Back to four days a week, 9.5 to 6. When I heard the news last Tuesday, I have to be honest, I was a bit saddened. I really enjoyed the quarantine and found that it helped me to slow down my pace, We got to experience “retirement life” and I am now jealous of Mike’s ability to continue on in this way while I go back to work.

It isn’t that I dislike work. And I’m not ungrateful for the opportunity. I am quite conscious of the people without work, who have been struggling to get by these past few months, so I know how lucky I am. It’s just, I was enjoying the leeway that life gave me, which I never give myself. For once I was forced to have no obligations or responsibilities.

I spent the latter half of last week lamenting my loss, coupled with jamming my few moments of free time with “activities”. Which goes to show my need for a forced pause. The activities were “slow” – but still, the moments were teeming with shenanigans, to say the least.

These included cooking, baking, seeing loved ones and old friends, running and hiking every morning, being out in nature, practicing yoga, reading books, meeting for a book club, a Zoom coffee date, writing a ton, playing board games and watching movies. My anxiety-driven state pushed me to do more with my time, cherishing every moment, squeezing out more than usual with what I had left, as if a drowning woman gasping for air – a contrasting dichotomy that displays exactly who I am and how I want to live.

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I know I shouldn’t think of this time as an “end” to something good, but in a way, it is. It was a period of self-reflection and self-discovery even beyond what I had already achieved. It coincided with the close of the bakery and for the first time in a year, I was baking for myself. It was afternoons of tea cakes and mornings of matcha lattes, coffee lip drips and lounging about couches. It was a time for rediscovery of fiction and podcasts, as well as re-connection with friends and family.

In celebration of all said things for the month of April, I baked a cake. A life flushed with metaphors, I wanted to have a celebratory marker rather than a funeral. This is my ode to April.

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Apple Walnut Tea Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup apple grated
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup leaven
  • 1/2 cup Bulgarian yogurt
  • 1.5 cups Spelt flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp clove
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons olive oil

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The Process:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Grate apples until you have 1 cup. I found that an average apple is about 3/4 cup.
  3. Place the grated apple, egg, leaven and yogurt in a KitchenAid stand mixer and mix on medium speed with a whisk attachment until well-incorporated. If your leaven is thick, you may need to stop the mixer half-way and scrape the sides with a spatula.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, sugar and spices (all the way until the salt) and mix together.
  5. Add the olive oil to the dry ingredients and use two knives to cut the oil into the flour mixture until well-incorporated.
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the mixer, along with the walnuts and mix on medium speed until well mixed.
  7. Take a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan and spray the inside with baking spray. I like to line the bottom with parchment paper for easy removal.
  8. Bake for 60-70 minutes, rotating the pan 180 degrees halfway through for even baking.
  9. Remove from the oven and let cool in the loaf pan for 30 minutes.
  10. Invert onto a baking rack, and let cool completely to room temperature.
  11. Slice and enjoy.

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This loaf is on the drier side due to the walnuts (quite the contrast to the Lemon Poppyseed Loaf). It also is a bit earthier in flavor, more robust thanks to the spices, and hardly sweet at all. The apple is a very light flavor, so if you’d like a more moist, apple-like cake, you may add grated apple until you reach your preferred consistency, perhaps another fourth of a cup. For me, the dryness and walnuts add a coarse texture to the loaf, which I absolutely love. It pairs really well with a matcha latte.

TheDebtist may receive a small commission via links throughout this post. As always, thank you for supporting the companies that are behind the workings of this blog. 

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Gift Guide: Mother’s Day

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

Mother’s Day is a week away and with stores closed, I would say that now is considered last minute, thereby making this post a wee late. But there is still time, so here goes.

This year, I wanted to focus on an aspect that my mom in particular struggles with: sleep. She is not alone in this, as many mother’s will report having reduced shut-eye after giving birth to kids. Something about their over-active Spidey senses constantly tingling, or so she says. After everything our moms sacrifice for us, it seems to me that sleep is the one thing they deserve most.

Now that the kids are out of the house, my mom still has a bit of insomnia. “It’s a habit that’s hard to break.” Resisting the urge to take medications that leave her drowsy in the morning (she has suffered an accident of falling asleep behind the wheel because of these Western solutions), my mom has turned to more holistic approaches. In an effort to give back to moms around the world the gift of rest and relaxation (and more importantly, sleep), I made a thoughtful gift guide to getting them one step closer to their dreams.

+ This eye mask and this eyewear to help block up to 30% of blue light.
+ This diffuser or  tea set to calm the senses.
+ These slippers, for shuffling in the middle of the night.
+ A new sheet set  for the upcoming summer months.
+ A light pajama set or a singlet to lounge in.
+ A support cushion for a ritual before bed.
+ Water Glasses for the bedside table.

Of course, insomnia is a health issue and I’m not here to belittle that fact with gift baskets and the sort. If your mom or someone you know really is suffering from sleep deprivation, may I suggest speaking with someone about what could possibly be done. Perhaps the answer lies in non-monetary solutions, like yoga, meditation, or a way to relieve her of her responsibilities and stress? Regardless, I hope those privy to insomnia this Mother’s Day find some comforting thing to bring them back towards a restful evening in bed. We appreciate all that you have been willing to sacrifice, but sleep shouldn’t be one of them.

XOXO

Monthly Goals: May 2020

This post was sponsored by Smitten on Paper but all opinions, thoughts, and tips are my own. Smitten on Paper is a paper company based in Monrovia, CA. They have daily planners as well as wedding services including invitations and thank you notes. They also host a number of workshops, for those into stationary and calligraphy.

I always get questions about how I get so much done. Balancing blogging, dentistry, dog-sitting and once a bakery on top of being a wife, sister, and daughter can seem like much, and people often wonder, “How can you even consider yourself as someone who lives a slow lifestyle?” But I do.

You see, a slow lifestyle isn’t just dawdling on the couch reading, or sitting cross-legged on a meditation pillow for an hour in zen (although I also do both). Slow living is all about being mindfully in the present moment. Not surprisingly, when you choose to live slowly, you get more out of the time you have.

Once of my favorite aspects of slow living is intentionality. In order to have time for the things that matter to you (books, exercise, bread, whatever it is that excites you and lets you call this a life), you need to be intentional with what you do. Most people are not intentional enough. They try to do thirty different things at once, instead of honing out the single chore that will get them to where they want, fastest. It is this minimalism with what you choose to do that paves the way to slow living.

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Creating Goals

On the first of every month, I write down the goals I want to accomplish. I list personal goals, work goals, home goals, health goals, finance goals, and leave a category for “other“. However, just saying I want something done doesn’t actually get it done. I tie each goal to a habit that I want to form that will get me there… slowly.

Why habits instead of tasks?

When habits are formed, they stay for good thereby improving you over the long-term. When tasks are performed, they are checked-off and dropped, never to be seen again. The difference is that habits make your future life EASIER. You store certain actions that make you 1% better each day in such a way that, eventually, takes no extra energy. Once a habit is formed, it becomes rote motion, thereby making you more efficient. Aditionally, your brain power is now reserved for other thoughts or actions. You compound the interest invested in yourself, and you continually get closer to the person you want to become while also gaining the freedom to stack on even more goals and habits come next month.

Starting this month, I wanted to share with you guys my monthly goals on the first of the month. More importantly, I will share the habit I tie to them, to demonstrate how I use talent stacking to make me one bit more efficient each day.

The goal isn’t the important part. I don’t care if I don’t reach it at the end of the month. It’s the habits that I track. I mark my top habits and physically track them on a daily basis using Smitten On Paper’s Weekly Agenda (#gifted). It is my favorite planner, and the monthly goals page is so helpful to keeping me focused.

I note the goals here in the following manner: GOAL –> HABIT

I hope this is helpful.

May 2020 Goals

 

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PERSONAL:

  • Decrease phone use –> Dock phone when at home, do not allow the phone at the dining table or when in conversation with others, remove the Instagram app after every use to add a barrier to habit-scrolling, set screen time goal of 30 minutes or less per day.
  • Show self-care —> Remember to wear the NG every night and turn on the humidifier before bed.

WORK:

  • Get more affiliate projects for the blog –> Apply to at least 20 affiliates, get at least 10 partnerships
  • Increase blog views from last month –> Post at least five times a week and get another podcast on the books
  • Get through dental continuing education classes —> Do one online course every day on Mondays through Thursdays

HOME:

  • Keep the home tidy –> Put things in their proper place once you are finished using them.
  • Make it look neat –> Make the bed every day.
  • Keep it clean –> Run Roomba every other day, deep clean the house every other week.

HEALTH:

  • Get into a workout routine –> Run or do yoga 6 times a week, Work up to running 6 mikes.
  • Protect the eyes –> Wear Blue-light glasses from TheBookClub

FINANCES:

  • Limit spending –> less than $250 in groceries and dining out, less than $75in gas
  • Increase income –> Make bonus on a daily basis
  • Tackle loans –> Take advantage of the 0% interest rate on student loans right now and funnel all the money towards debt before September 30 hits

OTHER:

  • Start writing a book –> Work on it thirty minutes a day.

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Tips on Habits

If you’re looking for inspiration – check out this ditty about the power of habits. For more creative minds who struggle with the structure of habits, may I suggest this read? Lastly, a few tips on how to make habits stick.

  • Create a path of least resistance by setting up cues and reminders for yourself to get a habit done. If you want to read every night, set a book down on your pillow when you make your bed. If you want to exercise every morning, put on your exercise clothes the minute you wake up.
  • Make it something you want to do. There are many habits you can do to get you to a goal. For example, if you want to lose weight, you can try multiple diets, stop buying plastic, get a gym membership, go on a run, do yoga in your PJs, eliminate just sugar, &c. There are many habits you can use to get you to the same goal. Choose the habit that works for you. You only need to pick one.
  • Provide motivation. Try using a habit tracker for that natural neurotransmitter kick. It’s FREE! Or try a reward system where you promise yourself something after reaching a goal using the habits you created.
  • Hold yourself accountable by sharing with a friend, or the world. Tell somebody about what you want to accomplish. Agree to get something done together with someone else. Use people around you to hold you accountable, too.
  • Make it a positive habit. Verbage is key. If you write something in a negative way, you already start with negative thoughts and your chances of success are diminished. For example, instead of writing “Spend 25% less of my weekly wages this month”, write “Pay 25% more towards credit card debt.” You feel good after your habit, instead of feeling starved.

Of course, there are many other tips and if you have one or two you’d like to share with other readers, please do!

See you in June!

 

Intentional Living: How to Curate a Minimalist Home

Growing up, I was always impressed by still-lifes and images of homes. Museum-like staging of historical dwellings on field trips and home-decor magazines alike had me imagining what my ideal house would look like. As an early twenty-something, I would peruse magazines and circle with a pen the items that I would love to own one day. Along the way, I collected trinkets here and there every time I visited Ikea, Crate and Barrel, and Target … until one day, I woke up to having too much stuff. I realized that instead of the clean, well-manicured homes that I looked up to as a teen, what I had was a very dirty rented room that held a hodge-podge of mismatched items and styles. I didn’t know who I was, which style was “me”, and I suffered many hours keeping things tidy.

These, of course, weren’t my biggest life problems – only a reflection of other aspects that bothered me about myself. After spending months (then, years after the first phase) of de-cluttering, I decided that I was not going to put in all that effort just so I can fill my space back to an over-whelming state, where I had to spend most of my free time organizing stuff, tidying up after trinkets that find their way out of their proper places like the toys from Toy Story.

Like with everything else, I decided to slow. it. down. Limit what I purchased and bought for my home, so that I could discover the whos, whats, whens, and whys of things. I wanted to be the curator of my own museum, and while homes aren’t meant to be museums themselves – they’re meant to be lived in and touched and loved and messed up, even – neither are they meant to be storage units holding symbols of our financial status. But as curator, I wanted to make sure that what I had was worth keeping.

The skill of curating doesn’t magically come from a bout of de-cluttering. In fact, I would go so far as to call it a completely separate ability that places more importance on our stewardship of what we allow in, rather than our selection of what we get rid of. You could be very good at de-cluttering without being good at maintaining your clutter. You need both skills to be able to create a minimalist space that allows for maximalist function.

With books up the wazoo about how to properly de-clutter a space, and movements that have people Marie-Kondoing their homes, I think what people still struggle with the most when creating a minimalist home is the inundation of stuffs through our doors – aka: the curation itself.

A curator for a museum needs to have a passion for the job, a knowledge about history and the arts, an eye for detail, patience and superior organizational skills. They research different pieces before deciding on one and manage the finances and lending needed to get the best piece for their space.

A curator of the home requires similar things, requiring knowledge of the self, patience, and the willingness to research options before a purchase.

Personally, I simplify the process down to three questions – which I ask of myself before I make a purchase. I ask them in the following order of importance:

Is it beautiful?

Beauty is my first question because I find that without beauty, I can easily fall out of love with something and lust after a nicer alternative. And while there are always nicer options, when you fall in love with the beauty within an everyday thing rather than the thing itself, no matter what happens to that thing or to you, you will have a sentimental connection with the piece that makes it hard to even look at another. Metaphors aside, I find that beautiful things hardly feel like clutter. A hand-made ceramic mug left sitting on the table with coffee drips dried from the lip is an artful piece on its own. A beautiful cardigan thrown over a chair looks almost staged when in reality, it was flung there forgotten after a more pressing life-matter beckoned. We are attracted to beautiful things, and of the three, sentiment is the strongest decision factor as to whether an item earns its keep. Because when something no longer becomes necessary or breaks and become dysfunctional, when it has lost its purpose and meaning, a person may still choose to keep it simply because it is beautiful.

Is it functional?

I like to think that what I own earn their keep. They do the hard work for me. They help me to not only live, but also to thrive. My things deserve my deepest gratitude for the sole reason that without them, my life would be a little less than. So it goes that my second question is to the functionality of a piece. Will it do it’s work? Is it practical? Will it hold against the tests of time? Things considered include the brand (is it reputable?), the material (I prefer iron, wood, ceramics, and linen), the maintenance (I don’t like delicate thinks that require looking after) and whether it does the job well (it must be efficient as well as easy).

Is it necessary?

This is the last question that I ask of myself, because sometimes, after you’ve determined that something is both beautiful and functional, you may also realize that you already own something else that does the same. And if two things fill the same void, then one of them will, eventually, have to go. An example that I have is tupperware. We love to cook. And we always run out of tupperware. But our tiny tupperware cabinet is 80% full with containers when all are available. I could choose to buy more containers so that we never run out, but I would hate to have a weekend where all are empty and spilling out of the tupperware cabinet. That is the exact definition of clutter! Not to mention the stress and waste of time spent on said weekend organizing tupperware into kitchen cabinets. So I refuse to buy more. Instead, I look for alternatives. I grab a casserole dish and put a lid on it. I store things in glass jars that we’ve kept instead of recycled.  Currently, on our kitchen island is a dutch oven holding everything bagels with the pot lid on to keep them from going stale. These and more, just so the home doesn’t accumulate things for the sake of having them. It’s a fun game I play. The less stuff you have, the more creative you can get.  What I’ve learned from this experiment is that in the moment, we may feel the need for something, but the moments often pass, the need – temporary. Most times, it is this final question that stops items from entering our home.

Surely, there is a long list of people who have Marie-Kondoed the ish out of their homes during quarantine. To you, I say congratulations. Before we all re-enter back into what once was, I wanted to share this tip on curating. Good judgement about what to consume can easily be clouded when we are stressed, which tends to happen at our usual pace of go-go-go. So before we return to “normal”, do recall that normal wasn’t working, and de-cluttering was more than a trend. This period has shed light on what was uncomfortable and what you felt was most important, so let’s hang on to that just a bit longer. And continue to take it slow.

Less Waste: Wool Dryer Balls

Laundry day. Reserved for the weekends and days off. I remember when laundry used to mean pulling out a tub, filling it with water from a hose, squatting on hind legs and scrubbing whites and delicates, then wringing them out to hang dry on a line. It wasn’t too long ago that this is exactly how laundry day went. And when it rains, you run outside and snatch the fresh clothes off the wire, and wait until the rain stops to hang them all back up again. Gotta love that island life.

It’s 2020, you say, but leave it to me to find romance in clothespins and hand washing.  And while it may sound primitive to our American ears, it may not be so far from what the rest of the world still does. When we went to New Zealand, I was surprised to see that while most households toted a washer and dryer, locals preferred to dry clothes on a wire in their garden. Some have a spinning wheel that turns with the wind. Others had more modest lines. Everyone, though, hauled the laundry to the outdoors.

See also, parts of Australia, Europe, all of India, parts of Asia, certainly where I’m from.

And while this is hardly the way we do it at home, what with a washer and dryer available, this isn’t the first that I lament the loss of more romantic methods in exchange for modern convenience. I’ve been considering lately of hanging a clothesline on our newly renovated balcony to air dry sheets and towels. Is it second-rate to believe that they smell and feel better aired out? Also – more sanitary? Most minimalists in Japan immediately rinse towels and dry them outdoors to keep clean. Hotels hang up bathroom rugs on the side of the tub to dry right away. We hang our towels. The sun is supposed to be naturally anti-bacterial. Maybe there’s something to it?

Regardless, there was one thing that we took home from our second trip to New Zealand (well multiple eco-conscious things but, this in particular is related to laundry day) and that was dryer balls made out of sheep’s wool, which we toss into the tub right before a spin. If you’ve never been to N.Z., there are sheep everywhere. Alas, there were plenty of woolen items from slippers to sweaters to house products. Stores dedicated to wool stuffs ran amok especially on the south island, and we came across these dryer balls walking around Queenstown on a hot summer afternoon.

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These dryer balls in particular are wonderful since they are reusable and replace disposable dryer sheets. Additionally, they are unscented (which I love!), although those who prefer to smell like lavender or other can easily add a hint of essential oil to mimic your trademark scent. I, myself, have extremely sensitive skin so the less chemicals on my clothes, the better.

From an eco-conscious perspective, they reduce drying time by absorbing moisture and separating the laundry so that air circulates more freely. They are 100% natural (nothing more than wool), and can easily be dried on the sill. Lastly, they store quite nicely in a muslin bag, keeping them collected and ready for the next load.

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For those wishing to refute disposable dryer sheets, I would highly recommend this trick. In the U.S., you can get yourself some from Parachute, Coyuchi, or any grocery store that sells eco-friendly alternatives to household goods.

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Frugality: Self-Care

When I first set out to write a piece re: self-care (yet again), my initial though was to create a curated list of small businesses to support, and let support. In the spirit of being helpful to those who may need it most, I then concluded that perhaps doing so would make a thing as vital as breathing itself unattainable for many, especially at this time.

To commoditize caring for the self as it has been by consumer industries seems suddenly wrong and unaligned with what it was originally created to be – that is, a movement that promoted the under-privileged to care for themselves because… who else would, if not them? Which now, knowing the provenance of the term, makes me quite uncomfortable with turning self-care into something that benefits consumer culture.

In an effort to respectably recognize it’s humble intention, I am now sitting down to write of self-care with a different lens. Self-care doesn’t have to be pampering yourself, as defined by most millennials. It doesn’t require spending money buying things or paying for services. As much as the cosmetic industry would like to make us think that our pores and skin are working against us, or the fashion industry  wants us to believe that everything can be cured by a shopping spree, trust me when I say that neither is true and both are baloney.

It’s quite easy to convince someone that happiness lies on the other side of a credit card swipe (especially when that someone is mentally exhausted or extremely stressed from say, oh, work … or a pandemic!) but come on, we’ve all felt it. That uncertainty afterwards that lingers in the back of our mind. A feeling of guilt that our hard-earned dollars went into someone else’s pocket. Or the regret of not choosing to spend “free-time” in our PJs on the couch, rather than going out to treat ourselves to food and drink. Face it – anything that makes you feel like crap afterwards is NOT self-care. It’s an easy hide-under-the-rug kind of care. An avoidance of care, if we are truly being honest. Another thing to add to the to-do list in order to not-do anything about important things.

Well, you get the gist.

So here we go. A tribute to what self-care was originally meant to be.

  • Make your bed – and other ways to tend to a home (here and here). Something as simple as washing and changing the sheets can be as therapeutic as buying a new bed set, I guarantee, without the stresses of deciding on a new color, where to put the old one, and which of the two you’ll use.
  • Work on your finances. Taking care of your future self in the form of budgeting and saving is an OG approach to self-care.
  • Turn off the phone. Set some boundaries.
  • Take a long bath – no need for bath bombs or richly sensuous oils. Just turn on the water, sit in the dark, light a candle, listen to music with no words. Easy does it. I personally dislike baths, but I do like to clean the bath tub as a way to show care.
  • Nap without guilt – to which my roommates laughed because apparently, some people are able to do just that. I always feel guilt and unrest after waking up from a nap – as if I’d wasted precious time. But I am trying to re-learn that sleep is productive in its own right.
  • Drink plenty of water. If you want to fancify it, add lemon slices or mint sprigs. A mixology fact- tapping a stem of mint leaves on the back of your hand makes it more aromatic. Add ice, if it’s all you got.
  • Write a list of ten things you love about yourself – or what you want to accomplish, or who you care about, etc.
  • Practice breathing exercises or meditation.
  • Alternatively, stretch a few times throughout the day. Body movement is the best way to combat aging. Avoid static postures. Dance, if you must. Like no one’s watching, too – it’s a real mood booster.
  • Reduce your social media follows. Curate your feed. Much of how you feel is dependent on what you see and who you follow. If you follow athletic people to motivate you to lose weight, but they also make you feel bad about yourself, maybe they aren’t the best follow? Same goes for aesthetic spaces, models, clothing companies – everything that makes you feel like worthiness requires something better, or more.
  • Do absolutely nothing. For me, this is the ultimate form of self-care. An activity that takes me a while to get into, it is so much better than any solution you can immediately achieve.

I am sure there are plenty more, none of which requires spending. I’d enthusiastically promote the tabulating of your own personally gratifying self-care activities, and to carry that in your back pocket like arsenal. Because if not you, then who? And if not now, then when?