Saturday, 30 June 2012

Thought Bite



Gorganization Wrap-Up

Today marks the end of our month of getting organized. It’s been busy, it’s been hard, and it’s been worth it. We started with getting our living space organized, then moved on to improve our time management, and concluded with a bit of future planning.

A big thank you to all you readers out there! I’m blown away by how many people are reading this blog and sending me feedback that it is making a positive difference in their lives. When I started this project, I was just hoping to find something to keep me busy as I sorted through the oh-so-painful mess that is getting divorced. I try to approach life’s problems with a little bit of humour and a can-do attitude, which is reflected in this blog. Learning my self-improvement antics are somehow bringing a little sunshine into other people’s lives is such a gift. I encourage you all to keep posting comments and sending emails; I love hearing from you!

The general outline for this one-year project of personal growth can be found here. If you have any requests/suggestions for various topics, please feel free to either post them on the Game Plan comments section, or send me an email (kissingtoads12@gmail.com). Thanks!

Friday, 29 June 2012

Single Girl Snippet: Manifesting Mr. Right







Shortly after my separation, I subletted an apartment while attending job interviews out of town. There was a copy of The Soulmate Secret: Manifest the Love of Your Life with the Law of Attraction on the bookshelf. I picked it up out of curiosity one day. Every chapter, I thought “I can’t believe I am still reading this” --  kind of the way I feel when I read celebrity magazines while waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store.
The book presents a multistep plan to manifesting Mr. Right. Clearly, my soulmate manifestation skills are subpar, so I decided to play along. This involved:

1. Making a list of all the must have and will not tolerate qualities desired in a soulmate.
This was a surprisingly useful exercise. My list was definitely not a carbon copy of the one I would have created prior to meeting the man I was formerly married to.

2. Writing a detailed narrative that starts with “My ideal mate is a single, heterosexual male who is available for a committed, monogamous relationship…”
According to the book, you have to be extremely precise because the Universe has some sort of twisted sense of humour. For example, one poor woman forgot to specify the sexual orientation of the man she was hoping to meet - and then manifested someone who met all of her specifications but was gay. I wasn't going to take that chance.

3. The Collage
I took a fair amount of teasing for this one. It's actually a non-trivial amount of work to collect magazines and clip enough relevant words and pictures. The idea is that whatever you put on your collage will manifest itself in your life. I divided my work of art into various sections: career, personal growth, soulmate, family, and home. I've included the 'Home' section below:


The book cautioned that you have to be emotionally ready in order for the Universe to do its thing and manifest your better half. So, it could be a while before my collage and spreadsheet work their magic. But, they are ready. And with any luck, someday so will I.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Bucket List



There’s nothing like a time of great upheaval to force some reflection on life direction. After my marriage broke down, I felt quite lost and the question of ‘What now?’ weighed heavily on my mind. I decided to give myself a year to get back on my feet. To help guide the year, I drafted a bucket list (ie. a ‘things to do before I die’ list). The plan is to scratch off as many of the entries as possible by the end of the year.
The list is divided into eleven categories: education, professional, skills, languages, experiences, spiritual, health, personal growth, relationships, finances, and travel. It contains more than one hundred entries. Some goals are fairly ambitious (e.g. resolve my existential crisis), whereas others could be accomplished in a day (e.g. picnic under the stars). Some will take emotional strength (e.g. start dating again), and others will require physical strength (e.g. complete a triathlon).

Now that I have a physical list, my goals feel much more tangible. So many exciting things to look forward to. It feels good.


What are some of your goals on your bucket list?

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Facebook Relapse


For some reason, I felt compelled to quickly "check on" my Facebook account. Bad Idea.

Things I Learned When I Reactivated my Facebook Account
1.       There was a party a number of my friends attended that I was not invited to.

2.       My ex-husband’s sister thinks Facebook is an entirely appropriate venue to comment on her brother’s (and my) relationship.

3.       I was 'unfriended' by a girl I never particularly liked, and yet it still somehow bothered me to be unfriended.

4.       Lots of random people I do not know are getting engaged/married/pregnant. I know this because their photos and announcements all show up in my “Facebook news.”

5.       In spite of the fact that I have a really great life, Facebook perusing somehow made me feel like I wasn't measuring up. 

6.       Facebook is addictive. That stupid “People You May Know” thing gets me every time. Why? Because usually I do know those people. And by know them, I mean I recognize their name and vaguely recall who our mutual acquaintance might be. This is usually enough to get me to click on the profile. I mean really, what if the person turns out to be a long-lost BFF and I didn’t friend them instantly – that would be so cyber-rude.

7.       The Facebook sharing experience knows no limits. Prime example: “Lacie just needed to pee during our multi-hour car trip.” You would think that most adults could manage to read about Lacie’s pee break and get on with their lives. But no. There was a flurry of Facebook activity. Dozens of comments, literally. I've seen birth announcements get less response.

8.       I changed my Facebook status (which, historically, I have done about four times per year). Then, I felt compelled to hit refresh somewhat compulsively over the next few hours. Why? I am embarrassed to admit how every ‘like’ and comment somehow fed my ego. I even experienced warm fuzzy feeling towards these likers and commentators. “Oh, Tim ‘likes’ my status – and you know what, suddenly, I really like Tim.

9.       My closest friends and family had all been in touch with me in “real life” while my Facebook account was deactivated. I had not missed out on any important news.

10.  Most importantly: My Facebook relapse did not bring me joy.

I am clearly the kind of Facebook addict that needs to go cold turkey. One little taste of Facebook seemed so harmless -- that was a number of hours ago. I think the next step is to go through my list of 165 ‘friends’ and provide contact info to the handful or so who I rarely see due to geographical constraints, but that I actually would like to keep in touch with. Then, I hope to gather my courage and not only deactivate but permanently delete my Facebook account.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Hitting the Ground Running

My most recent move was my twelfth in ten years. Most of these moves were dictated by whatever academic pursuits I was up to at the time. They allowed me to see the country essentially from coast to coast. Though every uprooting is still difficult, I have slowly learned how to make the transitions a little less traumatic. These are the tips I have found most useful:

1.      You can never have too many friends or even acquaintances when moving somewhere new. If you have friends or family in the city you are moving to, you are golden. If you used to know someone but lost touch, time to reconnect. If you know someone who knows someone, this is helpful too.

2.       If you want to meet interesting people who do cool stuff, you need to be interesting and do cool stuff. This may seem self-evident to most, but it was not always self-evident to me. Learning this lesson has left me very open to trying new things and exploring the world around me. 

3.       Spend some time on Google Maps surfing around your new city to acquaint yourself with local resources and entertainment before moving. I chose my current apartment in large part because of its proximity to public transit, a yoga studio, and a natural food store in the heart of what is a very walkable neighbourhood. I am lazy enough that if fun things are not easy to get to, I am going to stay holed up like a hermit in my apartment and moan about being lonely.

4.       Put on your walking or running shoes and go discover your new city. There are a lot of things that you don’t really notice when you drive by in a bus or car. Plus, it’s easier to strike up a conversation with people if you are on foot.

5.       Sign up for something fun as soon as you can, and try to choose an activity that lends itself well to conversation with others. This will force you to get out of the house and hopefully meet some nice, like-minded people. I attended cooking classes, yoga classes, and a professional conference within a few weeks of moving. I appreciated the social contact, and I did end up meeting some really nice people.

6.       Sometimes, you need to stick your neck out a little if you want to make friends. Although this is very true, it is something I still struggle with. I am shy enough that approaching random people with an invitation to be my friend is not really my style. That said, when I have forced myself to be a bit more outgoing, I've reaped the social rewards.
7.       Best friends don’t happen overnight. When you move to a new city by yourself, it’s easy to feel quite lonely and isolated. Remembering that all your closest relationships were not built overnight can help put your new social milieu into context.


What did you find helped you navigate the transition to a new city?

Monday, 25 June 2012

When Less is More

Fiscal and spacial constraints forced me to really evaluate the lifestyle I wanted to lead after moving to an apartment in a new city just over a month ago. In the end, I made some rather counter-cultural decisions. I currently have no:

1. Wireless Internet Access
I am one of those people who struggles to turn the computer on just for a few minutes to accomplish a well-defined task. Somehow, I always discover a trail of websites on something wildly interesting that I just have to learn about right away. Minutes turn into hours of lost time. My hope is that by restricting internet access to only one part of the apartment, logging on will be enough of a pain that I won't just do it as a bored reflex. You only need to check your email or read the newspaper so many times in one day.

2. Microwave
Historically, when I am eating alone I tend not to make as much of a nutritional effort as when I am cooking for two people or more. My hope is that the absence of a microwave will force me to pay more attention to what I am eating and make healthier choices.

3. Dishwasher
This decision was of a practical nature. Essentially, you could fit all of the dishes I own into a dishwasher at the same time. The idea of having a dishwasher only to run it every 3 or 4 days seemed rather inefficient to me (and, frankly, smelly).

4. Television
I have been offered two free television sets, so the absence thereof is a conscious choice rather than one born of economic necessity. The idea of refusing an offer of a free television has really perplexed a number of people. It's not that I have anything against television -- the problem is more an issue of self-restraint. Turning on the television is just so easy, and the hours just melt away. By not having access to cable tv, I'm finding that I suddenly have a lot more time for other hobbies such as yoga, piano, and painting. And, many shows are available online to get my 'fix' of pop culture.
Bonus: the money I am not spending on cable every month can be put against much more memorable social outings that I might not otherwise be able to afford.

5. Car
The decision not to have a car was entirely a financial one. I have had a car before, and so I am very well acquainted with the convenience that this brings. Grocery shopping via public transit in minus 30 degree weather is not a treat no matter how you cut it. However, because I do not own a car, I was able to rent an apartment in a wonderful neighbourhood known for being especially pedestrian/public transit friendly (and conversely, a real nightmare to find parking in). I also. plan to look our local car sharing program.

And yet, I can honestly say that I feel like I live a life of luxury. I wouldn't want more square footage - even if I could afford it - because being able to clean my entire living space in under an hour is great. My neighbourhood is terrific, with tons of things to see and do. I am enjoying the extra time my lack of television watching and internet surfing is giving me by pursuing long-neglected hobbies. I have wonderful friends who I visit with regularly. And, the money I am saving by leading a simpler lifestyle is allowing me to do things like purchase a gym membership and pay off my student debt more aggressively. I'm a happy girl.

Have you made any decisions to simplify your life? If so, what did you do?

Note: This post concludes the Time Management component of our month of Gorganization. Next, we will look at how to plan for the future/organize our dreams.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Routine

There’s a certain comfort in predictability.

Being solo makes it very easy to stick to a routine. I’m not an early morning person, so a lot of my quirky habits revolve around trying to make mornings run smoother. Most of the following tips are part of the 'best of' compendium of advice from the Chief Gorganizer. Some of the time-saving strategies that work for me right now include:

1. Using a planner
I have been using the exact same type of Moleskine planner for many years. It has the dates on one page, with lined paper facing it.By writing down the things I need to get done, I sleep better at night.
2. Packing my lunch the night before
This means that I have a healthy, balanced midday meal to enjoy the following day. When I leave this job til the morning, all too often I end up eating a Larabar (fruit and nut bar) for lunch.
The above lunch box was a recent impulse purchase at a discount store. I was hoping it would make packing a lunch a little more exciting. The reviews on Amazon are not great, so this may not have been my best decision ever. We'll see. I secretly pine for a PlanetBox lunch box, which are stainless steel bento box-type units. At $59.95 + tx + shipping and handling, it's just not in the budget. But, they are really cool.
3. Taking out my clothes the night before
Worknights, I actually lay out on my bed the complete outfit I plan to wear the next morning (then move it somewhere it won't get wrinkled while I sleep). This way, if I am out of socks or clean shirts there is still time to fix the problem.

4. Filing system
Though not a morning helper per se, since starting to use a filing system, my quality of life has improved. I really didn't realize how much time I was wasting trying to remember which safe and obvious place I was leaving important documents.
5. Putting things away
I am notorious for losing things. Now, things like my keys and wallet always get placed in a designated spot. This saves me a lot of trouble.


What aspects of your routine help you to be more time- efficient?

Single Girl Snippet: the Best Bum Pants

Every girl has that one pair of pants they feel accentuates their posterior especially well. I'm no exception. My best bum pants are a pair of Adidas running tights I bought for $20 at an end-of-season clearance 6 years ago. They have a strategically placed mesh that runs along the sides and back which somehow just makes everthing look better. I wore these pants to my Zumba class. Spandex courage, I suppose.

Walking home from Zumba, I was thinking about really important things like what to make for dinner and whether laundry could wait until the morning. That's when I noticed there was a very attractive guy walking towards me across four lanes of traffic and a median - a Vin Diesel type. I've included a picture below for those of you who, like me, are pop culture challenged. I just learned who Vin Diesel was not that long ago. (He's an actor.)

Ok, so here I am standing at an intersection waiting to cross the street in the perpendicular direction. I'm wearing the best bum workout pants, a t-shirt, and oversized sunglasses. This getup was apparently sufficient nerd camouflage because as Vin Diesel sauntered over to where I was, the left side of his mouth pulled into an appreciative smile. He pulled at his sunglasses so he could make eye contact. I smiled shyly. Moments later, he arrived where I was standing.

And what did I do?

Nothing.

So, he kept walking and that was the end of that.

Apparently, my flirting muscles are atrophied from years of disuse.
Sometime in the next few months, I will have to work on that. Not sure how one learns to flirt... there must be a how-to book or something.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Bulk Meal Preparation


When I buy meat or fish, I like to marinate it before tossing it into the freezer in multi-meal-size portions (usually 3-4 servings/Ziploc bag). The meat marinates as it defrosts. I do this for many reasons:

1. Laziness
Prepping in bulk saves a lot of time. One big mess takes less time to make/clean versus several smaller messes.

2. Long work hours
 The chances of me coming home after a 12 hour day and then preparing a wholesome dinner from scratch are about the same as you getting hit by lightning tomorrow. If the healthy choice is not the easy choice, I’m not going to bite.

3. Raw meat handling
I am a little bit paranoid about raw meat handling. The bulk prep means the raw meat-ness is contained to one day, after which I thoroughly clean all the work surfaces in the kitchen.

Today, I bought chicken and salmon while at Costco. These were transformed into 8 Italy-meets-India chicken portions, 10 sweet-and-sour chicken portions, and 9 teriyaki salmon portions in about one and a half hours including cleanup. 90 minutes/27 meals = 3 mins 20 sec per portion. If I pair each protein serving with a salad - which I do most days in the summer -  it ends up being less than 10 minutes of preparation per meal. I also tend to bulk prep my salad, making enough for a two-day (ie. lunch x 2 and dinner x 2) supply (again, the lazy streak).
By planning ahead, I make healthy choices and get to enjoy a fair amount of variety in my diet without a huge time investment. The pre-marinated protein portions are also super handy for last-minute or unexpected guests. I often keep a batch of cookie dough in the freezer for the same reason.

Marinating
From what understand about marinating (and I am hardly a culinary expert), as long as you have an oil (usually olive oil) and an acid (often vinegar or lemon juice), then you are good to go. Everything else just goes in there just for flavour. The less acidic the marinade, the longer you can leave the protein in it. If any of you are foodies and have some insight on marinating, please feel free to comment!
For the curious, the ingredients for the marinades seen in the picture are listed below (not in any particular order). They aren’t from actual recipes – I tend not to measure when I am cooking or use recipes very often beyond just as flavour inspiration. I just taste frequently to make sure things are heading in the right direction. More on how to salvage a recipe gone wrong next month when we talk about nutrition.

Chicken 1 “Italy Meets India”: crushed tomatoes (bottled), olive oil, balsamic vinegar, fresh garlic, red pepper flakes, cumin seeds, paprika, turmeric, black pepper, thyme, oregano, ancho chili pepper, agave.
Chicken 2 “Sweet, Sour, Tangy”: olive oil, tamari sauce, apple cider vinegar, agave, fresh ginger, green onions, fresh garlic, fresh pineapple.

Salmon 1 “Teriyaki”:  olive oil, tamari sauce, agave, apple cider vinegar, fresh garlic, fresh ginger, red pepper flakes.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Meal Planning

A great way to save time and money while eating a healthy diet is to use a weekly meal plan.

What I have found works for me is to sit down with a cookbook or two on Sunday afternoon and choose two or three recipes. I live alone, so recipes that make four portions mean that I eat the same thing for lunch/dinner for two days (unless it is something I can toss in the freezer). For me, this is the upper limit of how much of the same thing I can eat in a given week. However, large recipes are a great excuse to invite company over for dinner. I usually factor in to my planning about one dinner/week away from home.
Once I have chosen my recipes for the week, I put sticky notes on them to mark the pages. Then, I make a grocery list divided into categories: produce, meat, dairy/eggs, non-perishables, frozen, other. I add to the list the basic staples that I keep around for breakfast and snacks, and voila! Grocery shopping is a quick and relatively painless event. And, because most of the produce is earmarked for specific recipes, very little goes to waste.

Example of Meal Plan
Recipes: Rockin’ Moroccan Chicken, Salmon Salad (from Everyday Paleo), Veggie & Ham Frittata
Breakfast: Green smoothies
Snacks: Trail mix and fruit


PRODUCE
Broccoli x 2c
Carrots x 1c
Salad greens x 4c
Ginger
Red pepper x1
Avocado x1
Lemon x 3
Enough greens & fruit for smoothies – whatever is on sale
Veggies for frittata

MEAT
Chicken breasts x 2
Gluten-free ham
 

EGGS/DAIRY
Eggs

DRY/CANNED GOODS
Cayenne
Ginger
Pimento-stuffed green olives
Raisins
Coconut oil
Extra-virgin olive oil
Almonds x ¼ c
Chicken broth
Salmon x 2
Trail mix supplies

Many meal planner worksheets are available online, such as this one from The Project Girl (free download at her website).

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Commit to a Date

So many times, after running into an old friend, we would say to each other “We must get together soon!” Rarely did these desired visits ever materialize in spite of the best of intentions. Recently, I decided that the obvious solution was to just commit to a date. Right there, right then.

The results have been great. It’s very easy to work around a coffee date that is set three weeks in the future. Friends have also embraced this new philosophy. About a month ago, when I nonchalantly said to a close friend from home that she should visit me “sometime” in my new city, her immediate response was “I am free during these specific weeks. Let’s pick dates now so that the opportunity does not pass us by.” Brilliant. This means the visit will actually happen, even when I forgot to follow my own advice and commit to dates.

This new philosophy also forces me to pay more attention to what I say to people. “We should get together sometime” is often used as a polite expression of warmth with no substance behind it. I’ve caught myself saying just that to people I didn’t especially care to spend copious amounts of time with, but felt somewhat obligated to acknowledge the past familiarity between us. I try to choose my words more carefully now. “It was so great to see you” works nicely for these situations. It’s something I can genuinely say after a serendipitous five-minute catch-up at the grocery store with an old acquaintance, with no implication of future commitment.

And now, I must go prepare for my friend’s visit.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Facebook Unplugged


One of my many bad time management habits involves Facebook. I never had the self-restraint to just check my account weekly or monthly. No, it was a daily bad habit. And, I am sure that if anyone actually computed the number of hours I spent on Facebook, I would be embarrassed to have wasted so much of my life.
Then one day, I finally came to the realization that something needed to be done: I deactivated my account. There is nothing quite like having your estranged husband post about his new relationship status to bring the role of Facebook in your life sharply into focus.                               
It was strangely refreshing. I was still in touch with all my closest friends outside Facebook, i.e. in ‘real life.’ Anything I really needed to know, someone told me. Life went on, minus the personal information overload. Bonus, I gained an extra 10 minutes every day. That’s two and half days of my life every year.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Thought Bite: Giving Up

10 Minute Cleanup


Friends of mine (who are married to each other) have a daily 10 minute cleanup. I think they even set a timer, and then whatever gets done in that 10 minutes is it. They reported that it made housekeeping in general much more manageable.

So, I tried it out.

They were right.

My space is so small that 10 minutes puts a good dent into whatever mess is lying around. Knowing I only have to tidy for 10 minutes makes the task feel less arduous. On occasion, I’ll tidy longer if I feel it’s easier to just finish whatever task I am working on rather than leave it for the next day. Now, I wake up to a tidy and clean apartment most days. It’s great.

Monday, 18 June 2012

e-Junk


The number of emails I get every day can be overwhelming. I have two email accounts I check daily (work, home), and a third I check a little less regularly (blog).

A little while back, I noticed that the amount of junk email I was receiving was rapidly getting out of control. Important emails were getting lost because of this. Upon closer inspection, I realized I was unwittingly responsible for a lot of the e-junk. In the next twenty minutes, I unsubscribed from newsletters, store flyers, and coupon groups.

The payoff has been immense. I no longer waste precious time sifting through upwards of twenty or thirty messages daily in the hopes of not missing important messages. I still get stupid emails like 'enlarge your manhood' or 'sign up now for 500 free casino tokens,' but at least these are easy to spot as nonsense and there are just a handful of them per week. That said, if anyone has any tips on how to avoid receiving these type of messages (I already have my inbox set on exclusive), I'm all ears.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Happy Father's Day!

This is how I will be celebrating with my father:



After completing our 10K race, he wants:

Wishing all the daddy readers a wonderful father's day!

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Stop the Paper Tsunami

The less stuff you have in your living space, the less time needs to be set aside for organizing/cleaning/filing. One area I especially struggle with is paper chaos. It just somehow gets away on me. Last week, I set up a filing system. This week, I want to try to reduce the amount of paper that comes into my apartment in the first place. I am taking a cue from my neighbours on this one:


And with that 5 minute time investment, I am never going to have to sort through junk mail again. Bonus: this decision is both time-efficient and eco-friendly.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Single Girl Snippet: Nobody Here Knew I Couldn't Dance

Until last night.

It’s not that I don’t understand the concept of dancing. After a decade of music lessons, I can pick out a song's rhythm. It’s more the ability to spontaneously coordinate my limb movements into something to be proud of that is the problem. Luckily, if you’re wearing heels, people will cut you some slack for your lower limb movements. You just need to sort of shuffle or march in place, and you’re fine. It’s the arms. I never know what to do with the arms. I mean, do I just leave them hanging by my side? You can’t always be carrying a glass of wine… or, maybe you can. (Note to self: dancing arm problem potentially solved.)

In my quest to figure out what to do with my arms during situations of social dancing - and possibly even refine my lower-limb shuffle/march signature move – I went to a Zumba class. One of the beautiful things about living in a city where everyone you know can be counted on one hand is that what happens at Zumba stays at Zumba.


When the lean, mean, 70-year-old instructor walked into the room, I knew I had found the right level of Zumba for me. (And, if there were any doubts regarding her vintage, the knee-high nylons visible below the standard Zumba-issued capris sealed the deal.) That said, this lady could move. And, she was really good at cueing the class as to what came next -- so there were very few dancing collisions. For a little extra treat, she sang along to the “Olé, olé” part of Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot in her very best opera voice. Halfway into the hour-long session, the instructor announced that we had all danced so well we had earned a great privilege: THE DISCO BALL! The crowd (50 middle-aged ladies, 3 girls in their late 20s/early 30s, and 1 guy who looked like he should have been teaching the class) went wild. I didn’t ask whether or not they earn the disco ball every week, you know, in case it's a touchy subject. The darkened room with swirling lights was kind of fun.

All in all, I’m glad I went. It gave me a few more ideas as to things I could possibly do with my arms while dancing, but I think I need some more work before publically performing these little gems outside of Zumba. Also, the moves that involve shaking your hips or shoulders totally eluded me.  I’ll add them to the list of things I need to figure out how to do. So, fingers crossed that between now and the end of my year of personal growth, I learn how to dance.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

No One Values Your Time as Much as You Do


The idea of no one valuing my time as much as I do was a concept that stunned me the first time I came across it. But, the more I reflected on it, the more I realized it’s actually quite true. And that’s when I tried what for me was a radical experiment: instead of completely re-juggling my daily/weekly schedule to accommodate requests, I started putting firmer boundaries on my time commitments. This is what happened:
-My insurance broker agreed to meet with me in the morning rather than the afternoon, saving me a second trip to the same part of the city that day.

-When I sold some textbooks, I told all of the students who bought them to meet me on a particular day at a given time to pick them up. Everyone showed up except one girl – and she arranged for a friend to come get her books for her.

-When someone called wanting to meet for coffee on a night I was exhausted, I suggested meeting later in the week. This meant I got both the rest I desperately needed, and had a much better quality visit with my friend.
-My landlord agreed to meet with me on an alternate day than the one he proposed, which allowed me to go out to dinner with a close friend.

-When I ordered furniture and appliances for my apartment and was given choices of delivery times, I picked something. Then, I coordinated multiple deliveries on the same day.

No one died. No one accused me of becoming a self-centred ego-maniac. No one was really inconvenienced by my new time tactic. I, however, really reaped the benefits.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Gorganize Your Time


One area of organization that I struggle with is time management. Ironically, it seems that it is when I am busiest with work that I somehow manage to fit in the quick phone calls, the thinking of you emails, and the doctor’s appointments.

Everyone gets twenty-four hours each day. Some people just seem to have a knack for making the most of that time. Over the course of the next week or so, my focus will be to create more time for the things I enjoy and to minimize the time I spend doing things I do not enjoy.

Thought Bite

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

The Big Reveal

After mulling over the issue of maximizing the use of my apartment space and reducing the amount of stuff I own, this is what ultimately transpired:
Exhibit A – The office/dining room/music room/guest room/laundry drying area

The plan is to eventually purchase a folding table and chairs for hosting dinner parties. I would be able to store these in one of the storage closets. For now, the small table and two chairs suffice for both dining and as a workspace. The floor space in this room comfortably accommodates an air mattress for guests. It is also big enough to set up my laundry drying rack. I love the IKEA Expedit shelving unit – it’s a surprising amount of storage space. The basket on top is for everything that is either 'to be dealt with' or 'at risk of getting lost.' The little pots were discussed previously.



Exhibit B: Kitchen

I tried to keep things pretty simple in the kitchen. One of my favourite features in this room is the washing machine. It’s a nice visual reminder to toss in a load once or twice each week while making dinner. I find I keep on top of the laundry more now than when I lived in a house with the laundry room in the basement. I keep two large hampers in the cubby designed to accommodate a dishwasher. I put all dirty clothes directly into the hampers (rather than on the floor in piles, which was my previous system); laundry is already sorted when it comes time to turn on the machine.

 Exhibit C – Reading area/bedroom/sitting area/painting area/yoga area
The 'coffee table' is actually two super cheap ($10 each) tables from IKEA side by side. This way, they can be easily separated and moved when entertaining. The hanging cubby thing in the coat closet is a great space saver - I keep all my day-to-day footwear in there. I'll have to figure out something else come winter/spring when it's wet. Sports gear and winter gear live in baskets in the same closet.

Even though it really is just one big room, I chose to wall off the bed area (again with an Expedit shelving unit) to create a pseudo-bedroom. It just seemed weird to entertain people while sitting next to my bed. Plus, now if I don’t make the bed in the morning, it’s not the first thing you see when you walk in the door. The shelving unit serves as both a room divider and a dresser. The fabric boxes contain most of my wardrobe (work and formal clothes are hanging in the bedroom closet).



I hang my clothes sorted first by type, then by colour. I realize this sounds a little OCD, but it makes it easy to find things that match and to resist sale items when I know how many blue shirts/black pants/etc. I already have at home.

Another space saver is the shoe organizer under my bed, which I picked up at a clearance sale for $5.

My yoga mat stays tucked away in a closet when not in use, but the floor space in the living room is sufficient to practice. Same goes for my painting easel. The internet connection is next to the sofa. I chose to opt out of wireless internet (more on that next week when we talk about time management).

What are your best tips on making the most of smaller spaces?

Note: This post concludes the organizing space module of the month of gorganization. Getting a small, simple space organized was a surprising amount of work. I wouldn't qualify the process as 'pleasant' by any stretch, but it really is nice to be able to find things and not to be drowning in clutter.
The next topic we will explore is organizing time. If you have any specific post topic requests, please feel free to either post them below in the comments section, or send them to me via email (kissingtoads12@gmail.com).
A big thank you to all my readers. I'm flattered by the number of hits this site gets daily so early in the game. I encourage you to leave comments on posts so that we can learn from each other over the course of this one-year project.

Monday, 11 June 2012

The Empty Cupboard

There is an empty cupboard in my kitchen. Part of me feels compelled to put something in it, as though I am somehow disrespecting the shelf space by keeping it bare. However, a larger part of me really enjoys seeing the emptiness. It’s kind of like a little room to breathe.

My kitchen, though well equipped, reflects my minimalist aspirations. This is part of the ‘new me’ as my old kitchen overflowed with cookware, serving dishes, Tupperware containers, and more. There is something quite freeing in only owning the basics (spice collection aside – we all have our weaknesses). I find I keep on top of the cleaning much more easily. This is more out of necessity than some newfound cleaning drive. For example, I only own one Tupperwear container at the moment. And, I am experimenting with a cutlery drawer that looks like this:

I realize that this is not practical for families. However, I have a history of being one of those annoying people who somehow manage to use eighteen spoons and twelve forks over the course of the day. This new system of only keeping one set of cutlery in the drawer forces me to be more cognisant of that. The rest of the cutlery set is tucked away for when I have company over. Not having a dishwasher further motivates me to create messes only as needed. I’m hoping that moving forward, I can keep the kitchen chaos under control.

 What are your strategies for taming chaos in the kitchen?

Sunday, 10 June 2012

The Doesn’t-Belong-Here Box

This is my “Doesn’t-Belong-Here” Box:


The items that end up in the Doesn’t-Belong-Here box fall under the following categories:
1.       To be given away.
2.       To be sold.
3.       To be returned to its rightful owner.

What I love about the Doesn’t-Belong-Here box is that everything that is on its way out of my home is contained. It becomes very easy to find the shirt I want to give my sister, or the book I need to return to the library. It also means that as soon as I realize I no longer have a need for an item, it is quickly dealt with rather than languishing for months in otherwise useable living space.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Finding My Keys

I can never remember where I put things, especially things that are shaped like a wallet or a set of keys. For this reason, I am trying a new tactic:
On the left is the bag I bring with me to work. In the evening, I try to pack whatever I will need for the next day (including my purse) so I don’t forget things in the morning. On the right are my keys. The plan is to continue putting my bag and my keys in this exact configuration every day. This should make them easy to find on a consistent basis. Even for someone like me.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Single Girl Snippet: The Boy Next Door

Excerpt from a conversation between my dad (D) and me (M):

D: Looks like the apartment next to yours has a guy living there.
M: Yeah, I know.
D: How do you know?
M: I saw the clothes on the line.
D: Well, aren’t you observant.
M: Kind of hard to miss, really.
D: He’s a boxers kind of guy.
M: I wasn’t going to go there, Dad. But, you’re right -at least this week, anyways. And, I’m going to say he’s of about average build.
D: Whoa, I think you’re looking a little too closely at that laundry.
M: I think he would probably prefer we discuss his build than his undergarment preference. And, I think you’ve just convinced me to hang my own undies up to dry inside my apartment rather than on the clothesline.


A couple days later…
D: Did you meet him yet?
M: No, but I saw his arm.
D: His arm?
M: Yeah, hanging more laundry. I would have had to stick my head out onto our shared balcony to see the rest of him. Somehow the idea didn’t occur to me at the time. It seemed so much more natural to just plaster my face to the wall in my kitchen trying to catch a glimpse of Mystery Laundry Man next door.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Filing: The Prequel

As mentioned in a previous post, keeping paperwork organized is not one of my strengths. In an attempt to get myself better organized, I am taking a page from the television show Til Debt Do Us Part:

The containers are cheap flowerpots from Ikea. The labels are:
-Housing/Utilities
-Recreation/Gifts
-Personal Care/Clothing
-Food
-Transport/Other

I am hoping that because they are so easily accessible, I will start putting receipts in them when I walk in the door. Once sorted like that, it should be an easy transition to move them into the bigger filing system at the end of the month. I am experiencing a bit of "Where did my money go?" syndrome lately. This should help me figure out the answer to that mystery.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Filing System: Before and After

To try to tame the  paperwork chaos in my apartment, I am creating a filing system. With any luck, I'll stop losing important documents. The paper situation intially looked something like this:


Eeek. Yes, those baskets are full. Yes, there are important papers in there. Yes, that black box is the start of my last failed attempt at getting my paperwork organized.

These are the headings of my new filing system:
- Housing & Utilities (Warranties/Manuals, Contracts)
-Personal (Medical, Lawyer, Hobbies, Important documents, Miscellaneous)
-Work (Current position, Previous position, Reference material, Certifications, Resume)
-Financial (Income tax, Banking, Insurance)

This is the end result (plus a big bag of paper for recycling):

It was a very lengthy, painful, and tedious process that I hope never to have to repeat again. Moving forward, my goal will be to touch every piece of paper coming into my apartment just once before it lands in its appropriate home (recycling, filing, or pinned to my bulletin board for ‘action’ items). I'm hoping that will be a better approach to controlling the paperwork chaos.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Calm Space, Calm Mind

My work requires me to do a fair amount of reading at home, and the distractions in my apartment seem to multiply when I sit down to focus. For this reason, I try to keep my space reasonably tidy. Also, I enjoy impromptu gatherings. I hate the idea of missing out on socializing with friends because I am too embarrassed for them to see my living space.

My quest for a tidy, zen-like space on a budget is a work in progress. These are the tips I have found most helpful thus far:

1.       Owning less stuff.
o   After purging things that were neither beautiful nor useful, I needed to look at the quantity of the beautiful and/or useful things I had kept. I could only wear so many shirts. My socks overflowed their dedicated drawer. I did not need separate sets of dishes and cutlery for company versus everyday use.

2.       If you’re going to keep it when maybe you shouldn’t, at least put it away.
o   I own a surplus of both cookbooks and spices. It’s almost embarrassing. Almost. My cookbooks live stacked two layers deep in a bookcase. The spices are in little labeled containers inside one of the cupboards. Having these things neatly stored allows me indulge in a little surplus without compromising valuable living space.

3.       Never underestimate the power of baskets, boxes, and labels.
o   Gathering little items into a box or basket can really tidy up an area. I use baskets to gather up things that are otherwise a pain to store (e.g belts, scarves, hats/mitts). Matching boxes/baskets can make you look organized even when a peek inside the baskets will show you’re really not. This is why a number of my baskets are stored above eye level.

4.       Painting the walls is an easy way to change the mood of a space.
o   I really like neutral tones. The people who rented my apartment before me preferred bright pink and yellow on the walls. To each their own. Figure out what works for you.

5.       Plants bring a lot of life to a room.
o   Bonus: they help purify the air, especially certain varieties like spider plants.
o   Double bonus: you can choose edible varieties. Fresh basil in January is wonderful.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Single Girl Snippet: When You are the Only Little Fat Man Around

After living out of a suitcase and boxes for a week, I was VERY happy to see the IKEA delivery guy at my door with the do-it-yourself assembly kits for my furniture. I opened the first box, laid out the pieces, and pulled out the instruction booklet. The second pictorial diagram illustrated the following:


Clearly, the single little fat man that was me with a hammer was supposed to call on a very happy-looking little fat man with a pencil to help me out. In this new solo season of my life, I am the only little fat man around. So, I grabbed my hammer, stuck the pencil behind my own ear, and tackled the furniture. What I lacked in second-little-fat-man-ness, I made up for in sheer determination. It took some artful gymnastics, but finally the shelf came together. I survived.