Archive for the ‘Routines’ Category

So, I haven’t posted in AGES (I’m too scared to go check JUST how long that has been…) but after I announced my somewhat geeky flowchart diagramming of “what to do with leftover citrus rinds”, some people expressed an interest 🙂 so here it is! This was inspired by @HipGirls great post , which is full of many great ways to use up those peels – yummy, useful and efficient ways to create less waste. SCORE! I didn’t include all the items (just the main ones of interest to me) but this should be a good visual addendum – post it in your kitchen and let me know how it goes. 😀

Maybe next I will post the one I did for the kids – now required to be followed for all ipad time requests. It’s pretty new, so no word yet on whether this has succeeding in cutting down whining…but I am ever hopeful!



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If you’ve ever had an inbox full of newsletters you inadvertantly signed up for and never bothered to remove yourself from the list, you’re familiar with the fact that going along the default, easiest route is human nature. It’s just easier to delete the email (or just ignore it…) than to take that two extra steps to open it and click the “remove” link. Even if all those newletters bother you, chances are excellent you STILL go with the easiest (aka laziest) option. This is just how we’re wired.

So, why is this relevant in life? Because you can USE this “weakness” to your advantage.

I’m very fond of saying “If it’s not easy, I’m not doing it!,” but that doesn’t mean things don’t get done. What it means is, I am always looking for ways to turn “difficult” tasks into “easy” ones, ways to train my default behavior into one that serves my *long-term* interests. Sometimes this involves editing my internal dialogue to reflect a new mindset, but just as often it involves creating barriers. Or, more to the point, HELPFUL barriers.

For example, if my goal is to stop eating ice cream, how do I make that easy for myself? Well, ice cream is yummy, so trusting my willpower is NOT a good plan here. If it’s in the house, I’m going to want to eat it! Constantly! So, instead of having to constantly fight my own impulses (and inevitably fail!), I make it easy on myself: I don’t buy it at the supermarket, period. Now, I only have to exercise my willpower ONCE, while grocery shopping. (And the easiest way for me to do THAT is to avoid the ice cream aisle TOTALLY.) By making this one small change, I was able to drop a fiendish (several pints a week) ice cream habit pretty easily.

Now, I didn’t ban myself from going to the store to get ice cream should I desire it one night, but the fact is, my inherently lazy self would rather NOT take an extra trip just to go get ice cream, 97% of the time. And if I really REALLY wanted it, enough to go out and buy some, than hey, I’m okay with that.

So basically, previously (ice cream in the freezer) all I had to do was “opt in” to having ice cream – it was already there, it was the default. Having it was the easiest thing. Now that the default is NOT having it, to “opt out” of my default requires enough steps that I generally won’t bother.

What happens if those few steps are “too easy” for you? Add some more barriers.

Let’s say that now, once you’re home, you’re ok, but you now buy ice cream at work. You can create a barrier there too: Stop bringing your bank card and limit the cash you carry. This works wonderfully too if you’re struggling to stick to a budget: keep your debit and credit cards HOME. You can’t spend money you don’t have access to, after all!

There are many MANY ways to make your default match your desired actions and make it HARD to veer from the desired default. Think about the habit that you want to change and start brainstorming. Keep in mind that it will probably take some tweaking along the way, and don’t forget that your mindset is an important aspect as well (that is, if you’re trying to eat vegan but still identify yourself as an omnivore, that’s going to be a conflict and your default won’t change that easily). The more ways you can make your desired default EASY and your old default HARD, the better!

Aside from the grocery shopping trick (which I’ve used to cut out junk food of all types as well as “boxed mixes” of any sort) and the cash-only trick, some others I have used include:

– keeping mail in my hand until I sort it over the garbage (otherwise it ends up on a surface…and not dealt with)
– getting dresses and making my bed in a 1-2 punch immediately on waking up (makes it quite a bit harder to snuggle in bed for “just five more minutes”!)
– fold the laundry while standing at the dryer (why it’s easier to put the already-folded laundry away ASAP when I get upstairs versus folding it upstairs and putting it away I could not tell you…but when I bring it up unfolded I am 82% likely to leave it in the bag for AT LEAST a day before dealing with it, so I’ll take whatever trick works!)

I have quite a few more I plan to try soon. 🙂

Do you have any ways to trick your brain into a new “easy” default? Let me know!

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So, I had come across polyphasic sleep through Steve Pavlina’s 30-Day Trial of it several years back. It intrigued me but didn’t catch me on a personal level. However, I came across it again a year or so ago, and it caught my eye again. I did the same thing I did the first time – pondered, plotted possible nap times – but then I started thinking Hmmmm…could I actually do this?

In writing up my plans for 2010, I had a general idea of the shape of my year, and I pencilled in Polyphasic Sleep Trial for September, because I figured I’d be doing the Turbulence Training Transformation Contest in May/June/July, and Burning Man in August, so September seemed a good time. Then, shit happened. The dissolution of my marriage threw off my workout plans and I never really got going with the contest. Additionally, in the process of moving, my ex threw out or otherwise lost the tickets we had purchased for Burning Man way back in January. Many many things got juggled in this whole process, particularly as I worked to keep my head together and sort out my conflicted emotions, as was to be expected.

And in all that, the idea of polyphasic sleep got dropped completely. It was never on my official list, and it simply slipped my mind. Until yesterday.

Now, I had been fairly serious in my research going into this year, and in fact I had bought the definitive book (written by the woman first documented to be on the Uberman schedule as it’s called), so I am fairly prepared, at least as much as one can be. So when it popped into my head last night to do this, and I realized that, quite coincidentally, it was in fact the beginning of September, I didn’t hesitate to say FUCK IT, I’M GONNA DO IT. 😀

The transition period is pretty much a month of hell, but hey I am not working right now anyway, so what better time to try it? The ironic thing is, I was originally shooting for September so that I wouldn’t be pushing hard to work out and get fit at the same time as this major sleep overhaul, and yet…here I am, with the next TT Contest starting September 5th, my last chance to complete one before 2011. (Even better, starting Sept 5 means I will be done just before my birthday – that’s a pretty awesome gift to myself!) And unlike polyphasic sleep, THAT is on my definitive list of shit-to-do in 2010, so that MUST happen. On the upside, I figure working out (and prepping food – did I mention I plan to be mostly-to-totally raw during the 12-week contest?) will give me stuff to do during all those extra hours, especially during the zombie-like transition difficulties.

So, the basics on polyphasic sleep, as I am doing it:

6 naps, 20 minutes each, at 12, 4 and 8 (am and pm)

I have an absurd list of things to occupy my time, several alarm clocks, and have authorized the kids to dump water on me should I not wake up when said alarm clocks go off LOL. I’ve also explained to my sister what I am doing, and given her kill-switch power – so if it seems like I am not getting any better (or start hearing voices or something) after 4 weeks, she will make me quit.

The transition is hellish from what I understand (I am imagining worse than my 9-day fasting experience…and that was pretty epic), so why might a person voluntarily go through massive sleep deprivation in order to train their body to function this radically different way? Well, 6 extra hours a day is 91 extra days PER YEAR. That’s a pretty big plus side.

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FLYing ramblings

One of the things that Flylady goes on about is that FLYing is “Finally Loving Yourself.” I could not agree more. (Mind you, references to “God Breezes” and such are rather…saccharine to me, but I just ignore that and take all the good stuff. The woman is brilliant in many ways.) I know that when I am depressed, when I am down on myself, when some little part of my brain whispers that I don’t deserve good things, *this* is when it is hardest for me to get up and do things. And of course, it’s a vicious cycle: the more that goes undone, the worse the place looks, and the easier it is to be down on yourself. Which is why, some days, I take that “Just 15 minutes” slogan and work it for everything it’s worth.

And those 15 minutes, BOY do they add up. There’s an absolute gem in that mantra. 15 minutes is short enough that you don’t feel overwhelmed, it has a definitive end point, and even better, most tasks that my silly brain blows out of proportion until they seem unconquerable, well, HEY…they’re not. In fact, many a time that “endless” stack of dishes takes only ONE 15-minute session. A regular stack, even less.

Currently, I have reclaimed most of my kitchen (there’s still a disorganized set of shelves masquerading as “art supplies for the kids”, and the tupperware cabinet needs a thorough going-through), the hallway floor is totally clear, the bathroom looks decent again, and my room is only a mess because it is clothes-sorting-central at the moment. I am pretty pleased with this progress, and moreso that I have kept my routines for the past few days enough that what I gained has not lost any ground.

The kids and I have been talking a lot about “keeping the house pretty.” In fact, we promised the house that we would take care of it properly. 🙂 In loving the house, we are showing love to ourselves.

They are very excited about Chore Wars, a website designed to allow you to win experience points for (what else?) doing chores. I am having waaaayyyyy too much fun setting up nifty names for chores and locations through the house. For instance, the kids’ room is the Warrior Training Camp (min is the Queen’s Parlor). The most important thing though is that, despite my having signed up a few days ago, it is NOT finished being set up with! Why? Because I have NOT let myself get distracted with it! I’ve spent a small amount of time each day updating it, but have not let it get in the way of, y’know, actually GETTING STUFF DONE. This may seem obvious, but it’s all too easy to get sucked up into the interwebz and hey, I’m proud of myself. 😀

I’ll post a link to my Chore Wars character in a few days, when it’s all updated and such. It’s pretty nifty, and anything that brings more fun into life? I am down with that!

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When I started this blog, I wanted to choose a topic. I wanted to write about things that had a great relevance to my life, that meant something to me, things I am passionate about. Sexuality was an oft-proposed topic. I am very positive-sexuality oriented and a number of people were on my case to write from that perspective, and about my experiences with poly, with bdsm, etc. How could you work kink and parenting, who did you tell about your multiple relationships, all sorts of things. And yes, this was something I could go on about at length (as anyone who’s ever got me started about poly knows LOL!) But thinking about kink and parenting got me thinking about parenting, about cosleeping and natural childbirth, about breastfeeding, “extended” nursing, babywearing (aka slings), cooking for kids, free-range kids, all things I am wildly interested in as well (as anyone who’s heard Eva’s birth story on their first date with me can attest…) Thinking about feeding kids got me pondering cooking from scratch, essential spices in the pantry, “un”cooking aka raw food and green smoothies. That brought me to Craig Ballantyne and Turbulence Training and the Transformation Contest (all of which I learned about through Stumptuous, AMAZING site), which in turn got my mind on changing habits and routines and Flylady and housekeeping. Which links right back into everything else.

So in the end, I chose the title “Easier Than You Think” because I want to write about all these things which, in my mind, are so connected and which generally I feel get a bad rap as being “hard” when, well, they don’t have to be. Some of these things I grew up with and so didn’t struggle with overly, but for the most part they are all things I have changed about myself, my perspective and my approach to life over the years. So I know from experience that it’s not as hard, as daunting, as it can seem, and that even the stuff I am currently in mighty combat to change :p will in fact look pretty simple when I look back on it.

Which brings me to what’s on my mind today. These things all go together; teasing out “where to start” in a :LIFE: is not only silly but is pretty much impossible – a starting point can be anywhere. It’s all connected. For me, things fall apart first in my home, if something is not quite right in my mental state. Why is this? Well, probably because I grew up in a VERY messy household. Intelligence, curiosity, integrity, all sorts of things were valued…but cleanliness? Just wasn’t really high up on the list. Things suffered even more when my father – the homemaker, a quite unusual thing for the time, died unexpectedly when I was thirteen and my sister was ten, leaving my mother suddenly widowed with a new house we’d been in less than a year that she had no real idea how to care for, landlady responsibilities she had never signed up for, and OH did I mention my sister and I went through puberty the year after that…at the same time? (I apologize to my mother upon occasion for the whole puberty thing…) The house was atrocious, terribly horribly bad. But it was what I was used to, and though it may seem intuitive if you’ve grown up with it that way, there is “learning” in how to keep a house neat. Not just how to CLEAN it – that I excelled at, I could take the worst, most terrifying room, and get it spotless through an insane amount of work…I just couldn’t maintain it, I couldn’t KEEP it neat.

Over the years, I lived in my own place (sort of) with two roommates, and we battled over dishes and such. I discovered Flylady and overthought it instead of taking baby steps, I just wasn’t grokking the reason yet why you can’t fix everything in on fell swoop. I got married (to one of my former roommates), moved in with my inlaws for 9 insanely difficult months (suffice it to say, my mother-in-law grew up in EXACTLY the opposite situation as I did, cleanliness-wise, and even for that, it remarkably anal), and then my husband and new baby daughter and I moved to our own, totally independent place.

And there I struggled. My husband, having grown up in such a different way, was always on my case about the house, or so it seemed. I was working, and he was the one at home with the baby (no longer quite so unusual a choice), and even with that, I wasn’t keeping things clean enough for him (despite that he did most of the work). This caused so much tension that it led to our separation – he left me while I was pregnant with our second child. Now, the house was nowhere NEAR as crazy as it was when I grew up, but the constant fighting finally got to be too much for him. For my side, I couldn’t figure out what his issue was. I mean, he told me, but it didn’t make any sense. Meanwhile he wasn’t stellar either – among other things, he would splurge money that wasn’t “his” to spend, often putting us in difficult financial situations that should have been easily avoided.

We were separated for two years. How we got to a point of reconciling after that is a long story, and one worth telling in its own right, but a big part of it is that I finally figured out WHY he was upset. I finally understood one of his favorite sayings, one I just never :got: before: “A room is like a mind.”

He would say this, and I would nod, maybe smile, and thought I got it. But I didn’t.

Living on my own, with only a 2-year-old, left me no one to blame for things being out of place, and no one to clean up except myself. I was well and determined to prove him wrong, very motivated to show him that FUCK YOU I can do everything you can do, and BETTER, and a whole lot else besides. I wasn’t doing it in a mean way really, but I was absolutely certain that, his naysaying aside, I COULD change, and I WOULD dammit. And so I returned to Flylady.

This time, I read the whole thing, I let it sink in, and I started small. I kept my sink shiny, and I read the emails daily, and what do you know, my house started to come together. And as my house came together, I felt better. When I wanted to make something, I could find the materials I needed. When I woke up in the morning and walked into the kitchen, I wasn’t overwhelmed at the dishes needing to be done. In fact, my shiny sink positively HUGGED me. It made me smile, giggle even, every single morning. It was AMAZING. I could think clearer, I could relax, and I WASN’T cleaning all the time. In fact quite the opposite. I felt like I wasn’t doing much “work” at all. What made the difference, what finally taught me not how to clean but how to KEEP things clean, was routines.

At the end of every night, after putting Ana to bed, I would pick up any stray items in the living room and kitchen and put them away. This was the work of only a few minutes. (It helped that I got in the habit of, whenever moving from one room to another through the day, asking myself “is there anything here I can take where I am going and out away?”) Then I would sweep the carpet (again, tops 3 minutes) and HEY the living room was now pretty much spotless. Moving into the kitchen, I would wipe down the counter, stove and table (maybe 5 minutes…if I was slow), do the dishes (usually 15) and sweep (2 minutes). Then I would mop (something I used to dread but realizing it actually took very little time helped a great deal!) All in all, I’d be done with the main rooms in less than half an hour, and WOW did it look good after. And I felt great. Instead of tiring me out, having the house clean gave me energy.

And somewhere in all that, I finally understood. When the room is cluttered, your mind is cluttered. Your energy is all tangled up and everything is hard. Finding things (in room or mind) is difficult, it takes lots of work, and often ends up in needless duplication (anyone who’s ever bought a 2nd, or 4th, pair of scissors when you couldn’t find the first (or third) knows what I mean here…). When the room was clear, my ENERGY was clear. I could relax. Nothing whispered at the back of my mind, telling me “look at those dishes, you’ll have to do that soon”, or reminding me for the umpteenth time that “you’d better mop up, it’s getting downright sticky in there.” When I relaxed, I was truly relaxed. Nothing needed doing because everything urgent was DONE. “A room is like a mind.”

And oh, what a difference it made to understand that.I finally understood that THIS is where we had been crossing wires, this more than anything else. When the room was messy and the kid just gone done for a nap, *I* had seen two hours to spend with my husband, precious minutes to catch up, to talk, to fuck, to snuggle. I didn’t want to CLEAN, that was WORK, and kept me from that vaunted couple-time. But for him…the subconscious message he got if I pushed him to chill with me was “she doesn’t care if I can relax”…pretty much the complete opposite of what I wanted him to feel. We both wanted the same thing – enjoyable, pleasant time as a couple – we just crossed wires in understanding how to get there.

That brings me to today. Three years after we reconciled, we are apart again. For some of the same reasons and some different ones, but on the whole a very friendly separation. It’s been four months since we broke up, and while I am doing quite well in a number of ways, I realize some things definitely suffered. And chief among them has been my routines. Now, to be fair, my routines had suffered a great deal before we separated, and so the structure for them was already crumbling. As I mentioned, keeping my house neat is one of the easiest things for me to lose, even though it gives me so much benefit. Still, changing such entrenched habits and mind-processes IS difficult. Or rather, not difficult, but one must respect the process, the fact that it takes TIME to create new pathways in your brain, and moreso, to program those new pathways to take precedence over the old ones that have been carved in.

I forgive myself for the fact that the house has been pretty bad. This is important – if I don’t forgive myself then I can’t move forward – and, that said, I have been getting back to Flylady and my routines. One of my favorite sayings of hers is “You are never behind. Just jump in where you are.” and that’s what I have been doing. I’ve pulled out my timer, and in 15-minutes bursts I’ve made a goodly amount of progress over the past week. The most important thing is that I have KEPT the progress I have made, because I have not just been cleaning but also doing my morning and evening routines. THAT is the important part.

A room is like a mind…and I am ready to let mine be clear again.

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