Life has been moving quickly. We’ve been doing the house hunt for over two months, and we finally have an accepted contract!
The whole process has been nothing but a series of ups and downs. There is nothing like the high of finding a house that could be your home if only you can get it. There’s also nothing like the low of making a solid offer and finding out yours hasn’t been selected. It’s easy to get discouraged, but along the way there were also little blips of excitement. We were back-up offers on two houses, and both houses were slated to fall out of escrow. We crossed our fingers and prayed. The first time it didn’t pan out, but the second time it did.
I was reveling this morning about how far we’ve come, and I got so overwhelmed. My heart started pounding and my vision started to narrow. I thought, did I drink to much coffee? And maybe I had, but I knew that what I was feeling was anxiety. When I’m anxious I can’t think straight. I might have a list of ten things to do, but I can’t figure out how to prioritize them and I lack the motivation to start. When I’m anxious I want to escape, but I don’t have anywhere to go for privacy in this (currently three generational) house. When I’m anxious I feel lost, and I start to question all of my life decisions.
…be productive. …relax. I find myself thinking both of these thoughts throughout the day, and I’m beginning to think these concepts are completely meaningless.
I hurry up to finish whatever task so I can move on and be ‘productive.’ As a stay at home mom, ‘productive’ looks and feels differently than I thought it would. I thought I’d feel productive if I did a daily workout, if I cooked nutritious meals, if I completed all my household responsibilities, and the list goes on. But I don’t really feel productive unless I’ve checked off something on my personal to-do list, like write or read or create. I’d like to say that I do all of those three things every day, but unfortunately I have some days (or even streaks of days) where I’m 0-3.
When I’m not rushing through something to be productive, I’m hurrying through something else so I can ‘relax.’ Relaxing feels elusive because in order to relax I would have to get rid of the pit of worry in my stomach or the throbbing tension headache. I haven’t mastered shutting off my brain long enough to feel the sweet relief of relaxation. And when I’m done relaxing, I often find something unpleasant waiting for me, something that wasn’t attended to properly before I hit pause on my responsibilities.
I am hopeful that if you’re reading this that you can relate. I have to believe that I’m not the only one struggling with the need to be productive and the desire to relax. I’m going to try and put both ideas aside and muddle through just living. I’m going to be more present in the daily monotony and stop worrying about when I’ll get that next blog post up or that long overdue story edited. I’m going to approach relaxing like I do living and put it in my calendar and check it off the list. I put ‘read a book’ in my calendar two weeks ago. I’ve finished two books and I’m onto a third, which is three more than I read in all of 2016.
If you never make time for yourself, for productivity or relaxation or both, you never will until you find a way to make yourself accountable and stop the cycle. I adhere to goals when I write them down in my journal or calendar and then talk about them with other people. If I keep my goals a secret, I let myself down every time. I don’t think I matter a whole lot, and therefore I can easily dash my own hopes.
Maybe making plans to be productive or relax is silly and both should only carry as much weight as something like brushing one’s teeth at least two times a day. I have an app that reminds me to breathe, and sometimes I ignore the friendly chime altogether. I’m not dead, so clearly I’m inhaling and exhaling, but breathing is probably key in restoring balance to productivity and relaxation.
I’ve arrived! In Northern California, that is. My husband and I sold our condo and we are living temporarily with my parents. Escrow was very iffy for a while there, so ultimately it was a great decision that we didn’t sign a lease or try to put in an offer on a house. Packing and moving was an eye opening experience, so I thought I’d share what I learned before those lessons are too far in my rear view mirror.
Thanksgiving is upon us, followed closely by Christmas and then the New Year. It’s the season where we’re thinking deeply about gratitude and self-reflection, but it’s also be a time where material things take center stage, and the comparison game gets all too easy to play at holiday gatherings. There’s a push and a pull to every thought and emotion I have—I want to create memories with my family, but they may not be Pinterest or Instagram worthy; I want to give thoughtful gifts, but I have severe budget and time constraints; I want to be a great hostess and do everything from scratch, but I want to have the time to enjoy myself at my own party; I want to answer questions about what I do all day with pride, but I struggle with feeling like I’m enough.
I’ve been struggling again and I worry that I rely too much on Sesame Street to entertain my kid while I make food or put on makeup. I shared previously some tips on how to manage stress when you feel like you don’t have any free time, so I thought I’d write a follow-up post about how recover after a stressful season and how to keep living life even when everything is in limbo.
I feel like so many things were put on pause while we got ready to put our home on the market. Though we have no real timeline for the move, we know it’s imminent. In the first few weeks our place was listed, we had multiple showings and open houses and I was just trying to survive, but now things have quieted down into a slower pace and I feel ready to be part of the world again.
One of the key things I advocated in my post was simplifying during times of stress or particularly busy seasons and figuring out what commitments you can forgo while you’re under pressure. But what happens when your schedule isn’t so tight anymore and you feel like you have room to breathe again? Do you just revert back to the way things were before? Or maybe you’re living a new normal and you have to figure out what you want your life to look like now.
I want to share that as of this week, my home is officially on the market! It’s been quite a challenge to get everything ready, but I’ve learned so much and I can’t wait to share more about the process. In the meantime, I’d like to offer some ideas on how to manage stress when you feel like you don’t have any free time, a topic super relevant to yours truly.
We all are busy people juggling work, social, family, home, and financial commitments, but there are times in our life when already full schedules may explode with even more obligations. When I’ve looked for support via the internet or in casual conversation, I’m often met with unhelpful advice about the importance of creating routines. People tout their morning routines, bedtime routines, work out routines, and money management routines as some sort of miracle cure for whatever ails you—but the last thing I want to do when I’m pressed for time is create another routine or try to improve upon one that has already been a struggle to maintain.
During times of stress I advocate for simplifying life as much as possible. Cut back to the bare bones so that you have more time to dedicate toward whatever is in front of you. Maybe you’re transitioning in your career and you’re overwhelmed because you have a lot to learn in a short period of time, or perhaps you’re approaching a significant date (graduation, surgery, wedding, travel, etc.) and it’s keeping you up at night with worry, or there’s a big life change (birth, adoption, moving, etc.) on the horizon causing feelings of anxiety. Consider what you can give up and let go of to give you peace of mind.
Four Things to Do to Manage Stress When You Feel Like You Don’t Have Any Free Time
I’ve been working all week on a different post, but the more I wrote the more I struggled to keep the point cogent. I decided that this is the post that actually needed to get written. So, before the week ends I just wanted to put something out there: it’s okay when things don’t work out. It’s okay to put a project on pause and revisit it when you have more time and energy. It’s alright if you set a goal and don’t reach it, and it’s fine if you don’t accomplish one of the many items on your to-do list.
Here are three things to remember when you don’t meet your goals:
I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on my first month back at blogging. I decided to plunge back into writing without much thought–I used to blog off and on, I love writing, and I missed it. I needed an outlet for my creativity and the thoughts swirling around in my head. To be totally honest, I wasn’t even sure what kind of blog this would be when I started it. I chose my blog name based on my Instagram and Twitter handle, and I thought it had a nice ring to it for a lifestyle blog. I idealized that this would be a place for me to write about travel, food, and fashion with humor. What this has actually become is a place for me to spew out thoughts on life, post amateur food pics, and my cobbled together attempts in the kitchen. I do hope that it will continue to evolve and I’ll find my voice and aesthetic. But for now, this blog is still searching for an identity.
Here five things I’ve learned during my first month as a blogger:
Let go of fear
It’s scary to put yourself out there for people to read and judge. I’ve always had this fear of being discovered as some sort of fake, which is why I try my hardest to be real. I don’t take myself too seriously, and I’m the first person to point out my shortcomings. I don’t want to misrepresent myself in any way, but I also don’t know how I want to portray myself on the internet. It’s tricky. I’m intensely private, but I so love the feeling of being open and expressing myself without fear.
Move past the overwhelm
There’s so much to learn and figure out when you’re launching a blog. Some things work, and others don’t. I try not to put too much pressure on myself to know everything right away. Graphics and photo editing have always been a stumper for me. I’m working on it, and with time I’ll hopefully improve. Actually, I know I will. There’s very little I’ve tried in life that I couldn’t master to some extent. But I have to be careful and limit myself. There’s got to be a balance so that I can still write, spend time with my kiddo, and learn the business and marketing side of blogging.
Don’t get annoyed
I don’t have this app on my phone, I don’t have that plugin on my laptop, I’m not signed in here. Ugh. It’s annoying to try and keep up with everything, and even worse when you make a mistake, or a lot of them as is my case. I’m really terrible at remembering hashtags, and all I can do is shake my head after I hit post and notice after the fact. But everything is a lesson if you’re receptive to learning and growing.
Celebrate small achievements
It’s so satisfying to set small goals for myself and meet them. I wrote a little bit about the daily goals I have and the apps and tools I use to remind myself to do them. I set a goal for myself last week to post three times and I did it. I did it on my first try! Woohoo!
Keep the momentum going
I have so much I want to write, and I can’t write fast enough to keep up with the ideas. What’s more, I feel like blogging has given me energy and confidence in other aspects of my life, too. I feel like there’s momentum to my creativity and productivity and it makes me feel excited for the future.
Plus one surprising outcome:
Writing uncovers who you really are
When I became a mom and after I left my job, I felt like I lost my sense of self. I didn’t know what my identity was anymore. I felt like I didn’t have anything interesting to contribute or feel worthy of happiness. I was in a dark place and I felt alone. This happens to a lot of people at many different stages in life, usually during some transition where everything that is familiar and comfortable changes or disappears altogether.
Starting a blog got me to think in a radically different way. Writing demands interaction with the world instead of experiencing it passively. I make time to read blogs rather than just clicking on a link when it floats by. I make the effort to talk to people, even though it scares me. Not much on the surface has changed, but even small steps have made a huge impact on my life. I have something to add to the conversation now, and my days are just a little bit more interesting than they were before.
I am a sucker for blog posts with enticing titles offering tips and trick to keep my house clean. I recently saw a post about twenty things people do on a daily basis to keep a tidy house, and I just about went bananas. TWENTY THINGS. Without clicking, I conjured up a list in my head and stopped at ten because twenty things seem impossible for the average person.
This year I reimagined what kind of home I want to keep, and it’s inspired new routines and the way I look at my space and interact with my things. My house is a reflection of how I see life–a work in progress. I’m not done organizing or decorating, and I’m totally okay with that. My house is far from what some would consider clean, but on most days, my house is clean enough for me.
Five tips for having a cleaner and happier home:
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Your home should be a judgement free zone
Have you ever gone over to a friend’s and she profusely apologies for the state of her house? Do you insist that her house is fine, and that it’s not a mess at all. You say, “Oh please, you should see my place!” My guess is you’re very familiar with this type of exchange. If you don’t judge your friend for the state of her home, why are you judging yourself so harshly? Your home should be a judgement free zone.
Little messes exist wherever we dwell because that’s where we live. Let’s work on being proud of our homes, no matter the state they’re in at any given moment.
How you judge someone else’s home says nothing about them and everything about you
If you find yourself inwardly cringing at your friend’s house and thinking, “Ugh, get it together, sister. Your house is a dump,” I implore you to take a good look at yourself in the mirror. Judging someone else because their home is not to your standard is a reflection of your own internal struggle to feel good enough. Being critical is the result of insecurity, and while mocking and judging may create a sense of superiority, italso seriously undercuts any potential for true friendship.
It’s human nature to compare ourselves to others, but let’s minimize this kind of negative thinking and focus on positivity instead. An attitude adjustment can go a long way in making a home happier.
Figure out what works for you and don’t get fatalistic
I’m a messy person, but I’m trying to reform. I haven’t perfected a system for keeping my home truly neat, but I haven’t given up yet. One area I really struggle with is my son’s toy collection.
After Christmas my husband and I read the now infamous The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Marie Kondo helped us confront our issues with purging items that had been gifted to us. We were able to effectively sort this massive toy pile into bags we dropped off for donation and organized what we kept in our underutilized storage cubes and baskets.
Keep going until you figure out which method of cleaning and organizing works best for you, because dear reader, I don’t want your loved ones to have you removed from your home via crane when you’re old and senile and have forgotten the way to your front door.Was it over the tupperware collection and through the plastic bags or was it under the freebie water bottles and over the Time magazines?
It’s okay to take cleaning shortcuts
I run our robot vacuum every day. You heard me, I have a Roomba, and I love it. I was not always so on board with a robot vacuum (they’re not cheap!), but I’ve become so dependent on my Roomba over the past ten years that I’ll definitely shell out more money to replace it immediately when this one dies. My Roomba vacuums my house EVERY DAY, so I’m still way ahead of the game even if the Roomba doesn’t get corners so well and occasionally eats a sock.
Swiffer mops and dusters, Clorox wipes, and other convenience cleaning items can be worth a little extra expense. I don’t have access to laundry facilities or a a utility area directly in my condo, so it’s unrealistic for me to keep a hoard of wet, dirty cleaning rags or a dirty mop hanging around. I know I can save money by cutting out these convenient indulgences, but realistically I know I won’t clean regularly if it’s more difficult.
Decide what is clean enough for you
I would love to have a spotless kitchen, but I’ll settle for doing the dishes every night. I make the bed and run the Roomba every day without fail. My husband takes out the trash, cat litter, and diaper pail every night. Anything else we accomplish on top of that is gravy.
Maybe your list of what must get done on a daily basis is very long or maybe it’s very short like mine. Whatever you decide works for you is clean enough, and you should be so proud of yourself.
Are there any cleaning tips or tricks that really work for you? Have your perspectives on housekeeping changed over time?