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A Clarifying Exercise for the New Year.

By: Jen Shoop

At some point last year, I came across a great prompt for clarifying and improving daily life. Sit down for a second and think through your day, hour by hour. What petty frustrations bother you over and over again? Small things like coffee consistently not being hot, or phone running out of battery by 4 p.m., or having to prep your children’s lunch at 10 p.m when you’re ready for bed, or having a charger that is too short for you to use your phone in your bed. Write them out. Then, devise solutions for each. I think you will be surprised at how small grievances can pile up and create a kind of background “noise” that no one needs, and that many of these petty frustrations can be addressed rather simply.

I recently conducted this exercise and have found the results incredibly satisfying. I’m likely going to embarrass myself by sharing some of these, but here goes:

+Most nights, I finish the glass of water on my nightstand and then lay in bed debating whether or not I have the energy/desire to get up and refill my glass. I am clearly thirsty for water, but I don’t love the idea of stepping out of my sleepy nest, fully waking myself up for the task. I’ve now begun to bring not only a glass of water but a back-up water bottle to use to refill it on my nightstand each night. Very happy with this improvement.

+Somehow, I have not had toothbrush holders in our en suite bathroom since we moved to Bethesda. I used to use julep cups for this purpose but those absconded for use as vases and decor elsewhere. So, for about a year, I’ve kept my toothpaste in a drawer and have balanced my toothbrush (these are my favorites) on the lip of my sink to dry. This has irritated me for a long time because I in turn always have watermarks on my countertop and it always feels cluttered. I have no clue how I did not think to devise a solution to this sooner. I ordered these from Kassatex — I’ve loved the pattern for awhile now! — and am contemplating buying the entire set of accessories, but for now, am just thrilled to have toothbrushes off the counter!

+We started composting when we moved to Bethesda. We keep a big 5-gallon lidded bucket in our walk-in pantry for this purpose (unfussy and does a great job of containing smell) that Mr. Magpie turns out into a corner of our property for soil every few days, but have kept a smaller bowl out in our kitchen that we fill with scraps, peels, etc and then continuously deposit in the bucket throughout the day. That way, we figured, we wouldn’t constantly be dragging the 5 gallon bucket into the kitchen every time we peel an orange or whatever. But we were frankly shocked by how much we have to compost, and so we’d be ferrying the small kitchen bowl into the pantry all the livelong day. We recently shuffled things around and put the 5-gallon bucket underneath the secondary sink in our kitchen and it is SO delightful to have it on hand/easily accessible any time we need it. I don’t know why we didn’t bring it into the kitchen proper sooner!

+We go through a lot of citrus in our house, and I tend to buy lemons and limes in bulk in those mesh-type bags they sell them in at the grocery. For years, we’d just place the bags in our fridge and work our way through. I noticed, however, that the bottom lemons/limes would grow moldy rather quickly. But putting them out onto a shelf sans bag made for an annoying mess, and putting them in a bowl yielded the same results as the bag. I ordered this wire basket and now keep it stocked with citrus of all kinds and it truly sparks joy. The way it’s gridded prevents mold from growing, and it looks far more appealing each time I open my fridge.

+I buy inexpensive white towels in bulk to wash my face nightly — that alone was a huge improvement for me, as I used to stain my nicer towels with mascara, and now I have a full, fresh stack always at the ready — but now I usually use one per day and then tend to let that one hang for 24 hours until fully dry before placing in the laundry bin (to prevent mildew). This was annoying as I always had one soiled towel next to one clean one. I solved that bottleneck by placing a wire bin underneath my sink for the soiled ones. We also use these baskets for kitchen towels.

+Mr. Magpie has the rights to this one: I am always and forever air-drying items in our bath tub, draping over sinks, etc., and he recently bought and installed this beadboard drying rack on the wall of our laundry room. OMG! Life changing. No more Lululemon strewn about our bathroom, hanging on door handles, etc!

I encourage you to do the same for yourself — you will be surprised at how easily delighted you are at these simple fixes!

Post-Scripts.

+The first job each morning.

+Household favorites and repeat buys.

+My favorite home gear.

Shopping Break.

+Such a pretty dress. It reminds me of some of the pieces from Anna Cate, which are like twice as expensive. So into brown these days!

+Lake just launched its Valentine’s Day collection! Had to order a set of these for myself and these for mini.

+LOVE this orchid-colored Naghedi. This boxy pink Clare V. would also make for a cute exclamation point this season.

+Intrigued by this bergamot-scented laundry detergent, which I’ve heard compared to The Laundress (currently undergoing a major issue — they found bacteria in a lot of their products so throw away any items of theirs you own!!)

+J McLaughlin is running a big sale, and my reversible puffer coat is on sale! Also intrigued by this vest/coat hybrid.

+I am obsessed with this funnel neck sweatshirt in the perfect cream color. On sale in heather gray!

+This jumpsuit is so spectacular for a bride. Like a rehearsal dinner moment? City Hall?

+This striped arm chair looks far more expensive than it is.

+This $28 puffer comes in such good color options.

+These monogrammed pouches are a great gift for a new mom, or a bride-to-be, or a girlfriend, or a child (monogram with something toy specific, like TONIES, or LOL DOLLS, or CARS) or or…

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4 thoughts on “A Clarifying Exercise for the New Year.

  1. YES!! SO true how small grievances pile up, which makes overall stress and frustration pile up too. For me, it’s the onslaught of paper. I have been trying and sometimes succeeding with practicing “OHIO” (Only Handle It Once) with mail and other paper. The idea is to make a decision right away to 1) keep/file, 2) recycle, 3) shred. I kept a letter opener and receptacles for recycling and shredding by the door and I try to just get right to it then and there. The other change I did was — I used to check the mailbox every afternoon/early evening at the end of my daughter’s outdoor play time, because it coincided with when our mail arrives. And of course as soon as we would get home, I would just dump the mail in a corner and attend to her (remind her the sequence of taking off shoes/jacket, putting them away in the proper place, washing hands, prep dinner, etc) and then the mail would just sit there. So I thought, why was I sticking to this mailbox checking routine that wasn’t working?? So instead I would check the mail after school drop-off in the morning so that when I got home I would have the bandwidth to address the mail right away. It sounds so “duh” but then sometimes habits/routines get so built-in that it takes more conscious effort to change it.

    The other thing that I was having a hard time with was leftover food storage. I thought I could trust my memory with when something was prepared/cooked, but then I find myself going through the fridge thinking, when did I cook this? Now I keep a roll of masking tape and a sharpie on top of the fridge (instead of having to go through my drawers to find a marker, etc) so I can easily label a container of leftover food with the date.

    There are probably more pain points I would like to solve, but these were top of mind!

    On the topic of laundry detergent — I have been happy with Clean People detergent sheets! Smells fresh (not headache-inducing), takes minimal space, gentle for sensitive skin, and easy to pack a few or several sheets for trips where we anticipate doing laundry (like at vacation rentals).

    1. Oo these are such great improvements! Specifically like the idea of rearranging a “chore” to a time that works better for you. I’ve been trying to figure out what to do about the children’s lunches. I used to do it last thing before bed and that drove me crazy because it felt like a hurdle to get through before bedtime. I now try to do it while I’m prepping their dinners (and cutting boards, etc are already out / fruit is already being sliced), but it’s still not great as I always feel kind of harried making lunches and dinner simultaneously while attempting to catch up with my children and husband after the workday…maybe I should do it while I make MY lunch midday. Quieter. Thanks for the prompt.

      xx

      1. Oh man, lunchboxes! I wish I had a suggestion for this, but I struggle with it too — and I only have one kid for whom to pack lunch. I end up doing hers in the morning, as she’s so picky with textures, and always has been. As in she can tell if a sandwich was assembled the day before vs the day of… really?? How did she develop such a discerning palate?!

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