mini-review · stuff I read · The Self-Improvement Crazy-train

Unf*ck Your Habitat: You’re Better Than Your Mess by Rachel Hoffman

Summary from Goodreads:
Finally, a housekeeping and organizational system developed for those of us who’d describe our current living situation as a “f*cking mess” that we’re desperate to fix. Unf*ck Your Habitat is for anyone who has been left behind by traditional aspirational systems: The ones that ignore single people with full-time jobs; people without kids but living with roommates; and people with mental illnesses or physical limitations, and many others. Most organizational books are aimed at traditional homemakers, DIYers, and people who seem to have unimaginable amounts of free time. They assume we all iron our sheets, have linen napkins to match our table runners, and can keep plants alive for longer than a week. Basically, they ignore most of us living here in the real world.

Interspersed with lists and challenges, this practical, no-nonsense advice relies on a 20/10 system (20 minutes of cleaning followed by a 10-minute break; no marathon cleaning allowed) to help you develop lifelong habits. It motivates you to embrace a new lifestyle in manageable sections so you can actually start applying the tactics as you progress. For everyone stuck between The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Adulting, this philosophy is decidedly more realistic than aspirational, but the goal is the same: not everyone will have a showcase of a home, but whatever your habitat, you deserve one that brings you happiness, not stress.

Unf*ck Your Habitat is a good, solid “kick in the pants to stop procrastinating and take care of your mess” book by the UfYH creator. It isn’t over-prescriptive or unrealistic (you are not expected to hold each object in your home to see if it brings you happiness, for instance). There’s a lot of acknowledgement that real people are busy, or have messy, sheddy cats, or roommates, or family members, or have trouble with mobility or pain or illness, or mental illness that wreaks havoc on ones ability to even get out of bed much less make it afterward.

The main point is to just get started, even if it’s five minutes of dishes or five pieces of clothing put away – those little bits will eventually add up.

Dear FTC: I bought my copy of this book.

stuff I read · The Self-Improvement Crazy-train

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Life and Love From Dear Sugar

I was interested in Wild, but not sure if I would like Strayed’s writing style enough. So I decided to start with Tiny Beautiful Things since I’d never read any of her Rumpus columns (she didn’t originate the column, but took it over from the original writer and kept the pseudonym).

Some of the letters sent to Dear Sugar are soul-shattering, gut-wrenching confessions and Sugar/Strayed reveals a lot about her own past in trying to help those authors. The response to Stuck (“How You Get Unstuck”) was beautiful, telling a mother who miscarried a pregnancy and is now lost in depression and eating disorders that its OK to be sad, and what happened was awful, and that to get unstuck she will have to take all that pain and use it to transcend.  Some of the letters are rather whiny and Strayed lets those authors know that, too, in trying to help them clear a path out of their predicament (see: “Write Like a Motherfucker”).  Another letter/response (M/”No Mystery About Sperm”) hit too close to home for me – about a woman looking at her remaining years of fertility and whether she should go for it and have a child alone or suck it up and wait, on the off chance she’ll find a non-loser partner who will stay with her/have children.

This is the first time I’ve ever read an “advice column” and actually wanted to know how the people who wrote in were doing after. Definitely going to pick up Wild now (although, not the Oprah 2.0 edition – it’s 3$ more than the regular edition).

stuff I read · The Self-Improvement Crazy-train

The Happiness Project

From Goodreads:
Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. “The days are long, but the years are short,” she realized. “Time is passing, and I’m not focusing enough on the things that really matter.” In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project.

In this lively and compelling account of that year, Rubin carves out her place alongside the authors of bestselling memoirs such as “Julie and Julia,” “The Year of Living Biblically,” and “Eat, Pray, Love.” With humor and insight, she chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier.

Rubin didn’t have the option to uproot herself, nor did she really want to; instead she focused on improving her life as it was. Each month she tackled a new set of resolutions: give proofs of love, ask for help, find more fun, keep a gratitude notebook, forget about results. She immersed herself in principles set forth by all manner of experts, from Epicurus to Thoreau to Oprah to Martin Seligman to the Dalai Lama to see what worked for her–and what didn’t.

Her conclusions are sometimes surprising–she finds that money can buy happiness, when spent wisely; that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that “treating” yourself can make you feel worse; that venting bad feelings doesn’t relieve them; that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference–and they range from the practical to the profound.

In my quest to manage my time and figure out what to do with my life (because I refuse to either wallow in pity or do something that smacks of “desperate singleton” like speed date) I decided to read The Happiness Project.  It seemed like a good fit – a woman about my age, with some of the same worries as me, who creates a year-long project to determine what makes “us” (and directly, her) happy.  I really liked the thought and commitment put into the project – all the reading and research contrasted well with Rubin’s personal experiences.  It was also interesting to see how honest she was when part of her project went awry, like when her husband points out that her enthusiasm with organizing closets is starting to alienate friends. I did find the sections of blog comments a bit boring. I hadn’t missed them in the earlier chapters – I know, I know, she didn’t have her blog at that point – but they seemed too much like filler so started skimming when they appeared.

I also thought it interesting the number of people who assumed that there was a problem with either Rubin or her marriage since she was embarking on an exploration of being happy. Apparently we aren’t supposed to “improve” ourselves unless we’re “broken” (because preventitive maintenence is only good for cars not for people).

The Happiness Project was a fun summer read.  The entirety of Rubin’s project is a bit much for me but she has a lot of food for thought.

The Self-Improvement Crazy-train

Resolution Wrap-Up, Week 7

Slightly better on the work-out front – one trip to the gym, a ballet class, and a brisk walk in the snowstorm on Friday evening due to the city bus getting stuck on a hill (one of the fellows and I decided to hoof it the half-mile to the mall rather than sit and stew). I meant to hit the gym again on Saturday but got caught up in my closet cleaning frenzy followed by a stint on Ravelry. I’ve also tried to keep the snacking at night down to a minimum or at least try and have a snack for dinner and then have a salad when I get home at night; I’m really trying to keep the overall calorie count down.

I think I’ve lost a whole pound. It’s not much but it’s a start.

The Self-Improvement Crazy-train

Resolution Wrap-Up, Week 2

I missed a few days on my food diary, whoops, but I did try to keep the overload of non-healthy things to a minimum, like no scones everyday, no venti mochas, etc. I also tried to keep the snacking late at night down, too; I didn’t cut it out entirely but I feel like I’m not raiding the kitchen for the time being.

I definitely need to add more veggies into the mix (yuck, tastes icky). This would be helped by my actually going to the grocery store. Perhaps I should do that today.

I bought a few new gym things last weekend – who knew that finding sports bras for those of us who are well endowed would be that hard? With regular sports bras, as you get into larger sizes the band width just increases, not the cup size. I did finally find some by MotionFit for $44 a pop. Ouch. But at least my boobs aren’t stuffed up under my chin. Then, as fate would have it, I slipped and fell in the store parking lot later that day. I caught myself on the hood of someone’s car, doing a strange one-armed triceps dip in the process, and strained my latissimus muscle on that side. Hurts a lot. So I didn’t make it to the gym until yesterday, rats, but I did do about an hour of cardio (ran out of steam the last 15 or 20 minutes but the point is to actually do the time; I’ll build endurance later).

Plan for the day (I work at 3pm):
1. Go to the co-op. Buy fruits and veggies.
2. Go to Hy-Vee.
3. Gym? Maybe after work since I don’t think I’ll have time between grocery shopping and making it to the store (snowed a bit again so the roads are a little covered).

The Self-Improvement Crazy-train

Last Year’s Resolution

After some thinking, I did remember that I actually did make some progress on one Resolution last year. I had resolved to get my finances under control – basically DON’T WASTE MONEY.

I did manage to get the spending under control somewhat helped by the fact that last year I really tried to ride the bus to work everyday rather than drive. So: $1.50 per day for the bus fare versus gas for the car and $5.50+ to park the car per day. I only have to gas the car every three weeks or so. I did a good thing for the environment, too.

So I can manage a Resolution. A bit. Maybe this healthy thing will work.

The Self-Improvement Crazy-train

Time to get serious

So, I’ve gained back some weight. OK, all the weight I previously lost. Which should really piss me off and get me in a competitive mood, but it doesn’t. I feel really…resigned to the fact that I’ll always be a fat(ish) girl. This feeling does not lend itself to action.

So it’s time to get serious. Like I said earlier, resolutions and I don’t play together very nicely. Something always gets in the way, mostly my holey memory. I just don’t remember to do things like write in a food journal, go to the grocery store, or put clean gym clothes in the car. I’m thirty now, so you think I would have this memory thing down but I don’t. It’s the New Year so I’m hitting the re-start button and I’m going to try and get this thing figured out.

1. Keep a food diary. I have a black journal all ready to go (I actually bought it last March trying to do the same thing but I only wrote in two days; I tore those out). I should really market my own food/workout diary; the commerically available ones all scream “I RECORD EVERYTHING I EAT AND DRINK” because they’re spiral-bound with “Food Diary” printed on the cover. Why isn’t there a more discreet version available? I could make a fortune.
2. Eat better. Confession: I hate vegetables (they taste like dirt, even after washing). I’m going to have to rectify that, somehow, without drowning everything in dressing or peanut butter. I also don’t eat really, really bad things just not the best things for me.
2a. Remember to go to the grocery store more often.
2b. Get smaller sizes in my white chocolate latte. And don’t get a scone everyday.
3. Go to the gym more often. Since I haven’t gone very often as of late this one shouldn’t be too hard. I just have to remember to take clean gym things with me – I won’t go to the gym if I have dirty ones or if I have to go back home to get them.
3a. Be serious about going to the gym. I have crappy joints and I still love to dance. I’ll dance longer if I don’t have to drag about an extra 30-40 pounds.
4. Remember that fad diets are crap. I know this, I’m an epidemiologist. Lower calorie intake + more calories burned = fat burned. It’s a simple equation; just needs some practice to get it right.

I need to break some habits.

BTW, I have to mention that I really like the CBS drama Eleventh Hour. Probably because of Rufus Sewell.