Tag Archives: motivation

Just Sing a Song! (Or Write a Poem, Or Draw a Picture…)


This little song, “Sing,” first written for Sesame Street in the early ’70s, spawned many covers and gained lots of popularity–and for good reason! It’s one of my favorite “kid-friendly” songs because it has a great message, not only for kids, but for artists of all sorts. Check out the lyrics, below:

Sing a song
Sing out loud, sing out strong!
Sing of good things, not bad;
Sing of happy, not sad…
Sing a song
Make it simple to last your whole life long!
Don´t worry that it´s not good enough for anyone else to hear;
Just sing…

Sing a song!”

The bolded section above is the most important part of the song, for me. “Don’t worry that it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear; just sing.” We singers–and for that matter, all of us artists/creative people–can get so wrapped up in worrying whether our gifts are “good enough” for the world that we strangle the creativity within us. It’s hard to put aside criticism and the fear of other people’s judgments, but it’s far worse to never even be creative for your own sake. “Sing” is a simple reminder to just enjoy our creative gifts, whatever they might be, and not to worry about what other people will think of our efforts.

Do you have a favorite song, quote, etc. to inspire you when you get discouraged about your creativity? Share it with me in the comments!

The Funny To-Do List: Motivate Yourself with Laughter

The following little beauty sits on my computer desktop, courtesy of the Sticky Notes desktop gadget; it contains my to-do list, which I update every time I turn the computer on (about twice a day).

Nothing in the following to-do list is faked; this is my real to-do list from this past Monday morning. I had a deadline–I was rushing to finish my creativity post, so that was top priority. How I drew attention to it, however, is the subject of this post.

Yep, this is pretty much how crazy my to-do list is on a daily basis. I note all the stuff I have to do, but I don’t just list it–I use my creativity and jazz it up a little. I type in emoticons and all caps, make inside jokes with myself, and otherwise write stuff that makes me laugh when I next look at the list.

Sometimes I’ll even include a few mild, funny insults to myself, especially if I’ve been procrastinating on a task that really needs doing (see the Saturday entry at the bottom of the list). Why? Because sometimes you need a kick in the rear to get started on a task, and better it comes from you than someone else, right? LOL

Some might see this as overly childish or time-wasting, but I disagree. Before this, I tried writing a “grownup,” plain to-do list, and guess what? Nothing got done; I felt depressed just looking at it. Nowadays, I try to include as much LOL in my to-do as possible. Mary Poppins was right–a spoonful of sugar DOES help the medicine go down. (Or, in this case, a spoonful of LOL helps the to-do list get done.)

So, if you’re finding yourself stuck on your to-do list with little inspiration to get anything done, you might want to try throwing in a few inside-joke funnies, drawing a silly emoticon face, or prodding yourself along with some anti-procrastination jokes. Who knows? You too might start off your Monday morning with a laugh!

Getting Fit the RIGHT Way, part 6: Wrapping Up With Encouragement

To conclude my series on getting fit and staying fit, I want to offer encouragement, and a few final tips for your own fitness quest:

#1: This is a Lifestyle Change

When you begin your fitness quest, remember that this journey is full of steps toward a better lifestyle. This is not a diet you will only adopt for 90 days, nor only an exercise goal you’ll hit in a year. All of the steps I’ve outlined in previous posts are new habits and routines to adopt so that you can lead a healthier lifestyle.

Don’t think that you can just go back to your old lifestyle after you’ve lost however many pounds or inches. To go back to your old lifestyle is to go back to your old weight and your old level of fitness. Do you really want to do that to yourself, when you’ve come so far already?

#2: This is Not Impossible

I admit, some of the “healthy lifestyle” routines and habits are difficult to adopt at first, and you end up craving your old life quite a bit, especially if you’ve overwhelmed yourself with a ton of changes. That’s why I suggest changing one or two little things at a time, so that you can slowly shift your lifestyle over the course of years. If you feel that a certain lifestyle change is impossible, break it down into possible goals, and achieve them one at a time.

For instance, to start on my “healthy eating” goal, I shifted from sugary sodas to flavored water six years ago, and now I couldn’t imagine going back to drinking all those drinks I used to love. (Though I still have random Cheerwine cravings…LOL) At first, I thought I’d hate it and would never be able to stick to it, but by removing every soda from the house and choosing to drink only tea or water when dining out, I found that slowly the craving for sugary drinks went away. I’m nowhere near eating “healthy” as most people conceive of it, but that choice of water over soda is one important step toward it.

#3: If You Mess Up, It’s Not the End of Your Quest

So you broke down and had a slice of cheesecake…or perhaps 4 or 5 slices. Does that mean that your fitness quest is over and you might as well give up?

Absolutely not. And actually, it’s perfectly okay to have a treat once in a while. Just make sure that that cheesecake, or those hot wings, or whatever tempts you, is purely a “once-in-a-while” treat. Take time to fully enjoy it, savoring the experience, and then continue with your regular diet again. (I have to use this trick with chocolate chip cookies–I allow myself two a week as part of my regular diet, but if I end up eating more than that, I just factor that in as next week’s allotment and move on.)

This goes for exercise, too. If you miss two or three days of exercise, pick it right back up the next day, or the next week, and continue on as if nothing has happened. In my early days of Zumba, I would sometimes miss a couple of classes in a row because of terrible nerve-ripping headaches and joint soreness. But I always knew there was next week’s class that I could return to. Soon, as my joints got better and my headaches were treated, I missed less classes, until I was attending regularly.

The point? Don’t give up on your goal just because you got off-target for a few hours (or a few days). Fitness is something that is maintained, not gained and then kept forever. It’s a constant process, which can be put down and picked back up at will.

#4: Think of How Much Better Your Life Will Be

When we’re first trying to get fit, we think of all we will lose–access to our favorite foods, less time to enjoy our favorite TV shows, etc. But to change your thinking, think instead about all the things you can’t do right now because of your fitness level, and how much you want to get back to doing them.

For instance, I had to quit basketball–and pretty much every other physical activity (even running)–because of all the joint injuries I suffered in college. When the doctor says “your knees and ankles can’t take high-impact activities,” it means everything high-impact. And for years I felt stuck by that; every exercise I tried hurt, and felt like the worst kind of punishment.

But now, thanks to getting a little more active in Zumba class and staying with it for a year and a half, my knees and ankles are more capable. Just last week, I walked around the entire outlet mall near my hometown, a feat I have not been able to do in seven years because of joint pain. I was a little sore the next day, but not bedridden like I would have been even 3 years ago.

It might be a small victory to some, but to me it meant I am actually returning to normal life as a young woman ought to experience it. I don’t feel like I’m in a body that’s over 70 years old anymore. That’s my point; if you stay with your fitness quest, you can regain physical abilities that you thought you’d lost forever. Physical capability through fitness is something many people take for granted, but when you lose it, you realize how important it is!

Further Reading

Here are a few other articles I’ve written about exercise and fitness, to keep you more informed. May you be successful and happy as you start your fitness journey!

Getting Fit the RIGHT Way, part 5: Have “Fitness Buddies”

As I well know from my failed attempts at fitness, trying to get fit alone can be painful, lonely, and boring. It feels like there’s no one to talk to about what kind of exercise you’re doing, no one you’re specifically looking forward to seeing when you work out, and worst of all, no one to commiserate with. For me, at least, the lack of companionship hurt more than I cared to admit; I found myself quitting on my fitness goals largely because exercise isolated me too much, and I ended up hating it.

Many people fear exercising in the presence of others because of the judgment factors: “What if they think I’m fat/disgusting/ugly/etc.?” “What if I’m not doing it right and they laugh at me?” If you’re feeling that way, I want you to firmly push that aside. There is a way you can exercise around other people who will not judge you and who love you–exercising with friends (both old and new), as well as family.

Assembling Your Fitness Buddies

When you pitch this idea to your family and friends, remember to talk about and find answers to the following questions:

  • What are some activities that all of you enjoy?
  • Who is physically able to do what kinds of workouts?
  • When is everyone available during the week?

Remember that if the whole group can’t work out one time to all be together, you can break up a big fitness group into smaller ones. You could end up doing a Monday afternoon yoga class with one or two friends, a Wednesday morning walk with your sibling, and a Friday afternoon basketball game with two or three other friends/family members.

Don’t be afraid to get creative when you brainstorm ideas for group fitness activities. I knew a group of three friends in college who got together after their afternoon classes and did jump-rope in the campus Quad, for instance. All you have to do is make sure the activity is something you can easily fit into your schedule, and that it’s fun for all of you to do. Whether it’s attending a group exercise class together three times a week, or doing exercise videos in somebody’s living room every Tuesday night, choose something that gets you moving!

“But What If None of My Friends/Family Want to Do My Exercise Routine?”

Has this question occurred to you? Don’t worry, it occurred to me, too. I wanted to work out, but it seemed like so many of my friends and family were too busy with work. What to do then?

#1: Ask Around in All Your Social Groups Till You Find Someone to Work Out With

Once I realized so many of my close friends and family were busy, I began asking about where some of my other acquaintances worked out, and finally one of my Choral Society friends told me about a Thursday night Zumba class that she really enjoyed. I came to that class one evening just to observe, to see whether I could physically do the workout. Once I came and saw that I’d like to try it, the next Thursday night I was there with bells on. And, as this blog post proves, that began a huge life change.

What helped me stick with it? Well, for one thing, it really helped to have someone I already knew in the class with me. My Choral Society buddy gave me an “anchor” for the class, so I knew I wouldn’t be in a room with total strangers. But that wasn’t the only thing that helped….

#2: Talk with the People Working Out Around You

It doesn’t take much to start a conversation, even if you’re shy. Just saying hi to the people near you, smiling and being friendly, can make your workouts (and theirs) a much happier experience. Observe those around you, see who looks friendly/amenable to conversation, and then introduce yourself. That can be all it takes.

For me, I started out not knowing anybody in my Zumba class, but I set myself a goal to introduce myself to at least one new person every time I went to class, and to talk a little with everyone I had met before. Now there are at least 10 people I look forward to seeing in Zumba class, and we have more fun in class because we can joke back and forth about being uncoordinated or missing a few steps.

#3: Invite Close Friends to Join You in Your New Workout

Once you have a fitness routine established and a couple of casual fitness buddies at your workout place, start inviting other friends to try it with you. In this way, you can be their “anchor,” helping them try out a new activity without feeling like they’re in a roomful of strangers, and they can give you an even stronger social connection to your workout if they continue on with you. (And if they can’t continue for whatever reason, it’s perfectly okay, because you’ve already made connections with others who come to work out with you.)

The Bottom Line: Fitness Can Be a Party

I find that the more social connections you have to your fitness routine, the more likely you’re going to keep doing it. That’s really the only difference between my current Zumba workouts and all the other workout routines I’ve tried in the past–this time, I’ve made friends who Zumba, and we all laugh and have fun together while we exercise.

Next Week: A Few Other Small Details, and Other Fitness Articles to Read

As a way to conclude this series on beginning your own fitness journey the right way, I’ll cover a few more minor points, as well as including some more “exercising the right way” strategies I’ve written about on my blog before. Catch it next week, just in time to start working on your New Year’s resolutions!

Don’t Hate Your “Work in Progress”

I have a little confession to make: I’m often disgusted with my own efforts while I’m making art.

If I’m trying to design a web layout, I get frustrated if the design or the implementation just won’t align right; if I’m writing a bit of story, I get mad when I just can’t seem to script out the scene stuck in my mind. And that’s to say nothing of how I try to learn a new piece of music. I absolutely hate how slowed-down and imperfect the piece sounds if I can’t seem to play it correctly at normal speed. (As a child, I used to burst out crying and run from the room because that sound created such anxiety in me–playing it slow made every song sound stupid, and it made my skin crawl!)

This is part of my perfectionism, and I would wager that many fellow creative people go through similar emotions–the gripping fear/frustration of the physical creation not matching the mental idea. But this isn’t a healthy mindset, either for your creativity or your sanity. In fact, this mindset has kept me from a lot of my best work.

How This Actually Stunts Your Creativity

This fear, disgust, and frustration is one reason my novel isn’t published; it’s a reason that I wait so long between layout designs for my websites. I hate looking at (or listening to) a half-finished product and detesting what I see because it doesn’t match the perfection in my mind. But as much as I hate seeing the terrible, muddy chaos of a half-finished work, it’s part of the process–and it must be endured, if I’m ever going to finish anything!

For example, this week, I’ve finally begun to write on my novel again after six months of being completely stalled. As I began to write again, I wondered, “Why did I wait so long? What had me stalled?” The answer: I hated looking at my unfinished work and seeing how badly it compared to the awesomeness in my head. (Thus, this article came about, documenting my own silliness and fear; like a bad dream, the negative emotions get easier to bear if you share them.) But I lost six months of writing time just being stalled because I thought the work wasn’t worth finishing. I stunted my own creativity with my perfectionism.

Don’t Make the Same Mistakes I’ve Made!

If you’re suffering these same feelings, and you let them stop you, then you too will be stuck as I have been. Remember, nothing looks or sounds right until it’s finished, whether it’s a painting or sketch, a piece of music, a poem, a novel, anything. This is part of being an artist–being courageous enough to dig into your own work and finish it. And in fact, once your piece is finished, you end up with a much better product, because you’ve subjected it to your own criticism first, and you’re more aware of any flaws or mismatches in your work.

So, today, I encourage you to go back to an unfinished work of yours. Go back to it, and just see what you can do with it. If you have to push aside your first idea and try something new, go ahead; if you need to rework just a bit of your previous efforts to continue on with your next idea, that’s perfectly fine, too. Just don’t be afraid to dig in and get your hands dirty. I promise you, it will turn out better than you think.

Getting Fit the RIGHT Way, part 3: Feed Your Exercise

Fitness is not achieved just through exercise; you also have to feed your changing body the types of fuel it needs.

This week I’m stepping on my own toes here, since I am a very picky eater and have a lot of difficulty eating what I “should” eat. I’ve often rebelled against the bland or nasty flavors that I discover in “healthy” food as opposed to unhealthy food…but I’ve noticed that when I do not provide my body with enough nutrients, I get tired faster, I hurt more, and I’m more likely to quit my exercise routine. I would guess that I’m not alone in that.

Eating “right” has become such a cliched phrase in our culture, and yet no one seems to know what it means anymore. What I have discovered is that you should plan your eating around your exercise and your daily routine, rather than the other way around. You’ll need different kinds and amounts of foods than you might be used to eating…and, as I discovered during my research for this post, there ARE tasty healthy foods you can eat to fuel your body!

Pre-Workout Snack: Light, Easy to Digest

Yes, you CAN eat before a workout without getting sick! I didn’t think it was possible until I tried some of the following ideas; I didn’t realize that my heavy food choices were the main culprit behind my waves of nausea during intense cardio exercises.

Small portions of lighter foods (which don’t take a lot of energy to digest) will kick into your bloodstream faster and provide you with more energy during a short workout. You’ll want to avoid foods that will kick your blood sugar up too high, though. Don’t do what I did one time and scarf a bunch of very sweet cookies before my workout; I ended up lightheaded 30 minutes into Zumba because my body’s insulin response to the cookies was so strong.

One caveat: if you’re going to work out for longer than an hour, you’re going to need foods that take just a little longer to digest, so you have some fuel left over for the long haul. Foods that have a little more protein, fat, and/or fiber (like beans, cheese, egg, etc.) are best bets, but still keep the portion small so you don’t end up with stomach cramps.

In general, a pre-workout snack, consumed about an hour before your workout, made up of fruits, whole-wheat bread/crackers, cheese, yogurt, eggs, or legumes (beans, lentils, etc.), will be good for you. Here are some specific snack ideas:

  • Bread with cheese or egg
  • Grapes and cottage cheese
  • Banana with almond butter
  • Whole-wheat bagel topped with jam
  • Half an avocado spread on toast
  • Black beans with brown rice
  • Multi-grain crackers or pretzels with hummus or cheese
  • Protein shake with fruit and oats
  • Small sweet potato with steamed broccoli in olive oil
  • A slice of whole-wheat bread with crunchy peanut butter
  • Apple with a handful of walnuts
  • Oatmeal with your favorite fruit added
  • Half a banana blended into half a cup of yogurt
  • Greek yogurt, with fruit if possible
  • Brown rice with chicken

During Your Workout: Just Water and Honey, Honey

You can take in food/drink during your workout? Sure, why not? If you find yourself in need of a little energy boost, it’s not a sin to munch or sip on a little something. It’s better than passing out in the gym!

Hydration is mainly the key here; since you lose a lot of fluid while working out, you need to replace what you’re sweating out. You want to avoid very sugary sports drinks, though, as they are little better than sodas.

Read the labels carefully on any sports drink you’re thinking about getting, and make sure that the drink will provide carbohydrates and sodium as well as fluid. The folks at WebMD suggest that a good sports drink has at least 14-15 grams of carbs in 8 ounces of fluid, and should also have 110 milligrams of sodium and 30 milligrams of potassium in 8 ounces of fluid.

Flavored water with very little sugar or other additives has also proven to be a good idea mid-workout, especially for people like me who hate the taste of plain water. This option is better for weight loss, whereas the sports drink is a better option for athletes.

As for actual foods to eat during a workout, some studies have shown that honey, especially darker honey, can provide not only a carb boost, but antioxidants and vitamins as well. A spoonful of honey might be just the thing when you’ve been going hard and need a little sustenance!

Post-Workout Foods: The Foods to Rebuild and Recover

After their hard work, your muscles need protein and carbohydrates to recover and repair themselves. It’s best to eat as soon as you finish your workout–giving your body immediate fuel helps it absorb more of the nutrients from your food, and it also stokes your metabolism, helping it burn more for a longer period of time.

You can generally eat the same kinds of foods after your workout as before your workout, but you can have a little larger portion post-workout to help keep your metabolism going. Here are some more food ideas:

  • Burrito made with 1/2 cup beans, 1/2 cup brown rice, 2 tbsp. guacamole, and a little salsa
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole-wheat bread
  • Protein shake: 1/2 banana, scoop of protein powder, some almond milk, and some hemp seeds
  • 8-ounce glass of chocolate milk (or plain milk)–I’m not kidding!
  • Salad with 1/2 cup roasted chickpeas, light olive oil and vinegar
  • Banana with peanut butter
  • A cup of sauteed/steamed vegetables with a half cup of tofu
  • Tart cherry juice (helps with sore muscles)
  • A cup of quinoa, mixed with a cup of black berries and 1/4 cup pecans
  • 2 slices of multi-grain bread, spread with raw peanut butter and agave nectar

Other Real-World Nutrition Hints from My Experience

  • I find that trying to drink very cold water during my workout leads to chest pains–the chill of the water shocks my working muscles and leads to not-happy time. To combat this, I set my water bottle outside the fridge for about an hour before my workout.
  • Sometimes I get really nauseated during my workouts, especially if we’re doing very intense cardio work. If this happens to you, don’t be ashamed to step back completely from your workout for a few seconds and take a few sips of water; I’ve tried this and it helps me a lot.
  • One of my favorite post-workout meals is a small serving of fettuccini alfredo; I ate this one evening because it was leftovers from lunch, and I noticed I felt much more energized and didn’t crave all the sugary stuff in the cupboards. (I admit, this is a calorie-laden snack, but it did the job of restoring protein and carbs!)
  • Pre-workout, I enjoy eating either a cheese stick (usually the low-moisture part-skim mozzarella kind) or a slice of bread spread with peanut butter. I had chosen this because it was lighter and was made up of some of my favorite food–funny that these two snacks appeared in similar forms in my research for this post!

For Further Reading

I couldn’t have written this post without the information included on the following pages. Check them out for even more nutrition-linked fitness info!

WebMD: What to Eat Before, During, and After Exercise
USNews: Best Workout Foods: What to Eat Before a Workout
Shape.com: Best Foods to Eat Before and After Your Workout
FitSugar: Bad Weight-Loss Technique: Exercising on an Empty Stomach
EatingWell: The Best Fitness Foods: What to eat before, during, and after a workout
SportsMedicine @ About.com: What to Eat Before Exercise
Bonus: USNews: 8 Foods to Help You Lose Weight

Next Week: Starting Slow

Want results from your workout quick and easy? Unfortunately, your body doesn’t work that way. We’ll see the importance of getting in shape gradually in the next installment of “Getting Fit the RIGHT Way!”

Getting Fit the RIGHT Way, part 2: Gear Up Appropriately

I talked last week about beginning your exercise routine right, and I mentioned that dressing for workouts is like dressing for battle. I’m not kidding or exaggerating when I say that, either. If you’re serious about working out and doing it right, you need to have the proper equipment, and that includes “workout” clothing and shoes.

I’m not talking about wearing certain brands or certain colors–I’m talking about pure functionality here. I see so many people come to the gym in jeans or long pants, old T-shirts, and worn-out sneakers, and then they wonder why their feet, legs, and back hurt 10 minutes into a workout, or why they’re burning up and can’t get cooled off.

When you don’t wear the right kind of clothing and the right shoes for the activity you’re going to do, it’s like sending your quarterback out on the field without a helmet–you’re setting yourself up for injury and discomfort.

First and Most Important: Shoes

Every type of exercise needs a different type of shoe to go with it. It’s not just about wearing any old “sneakers”–your shoes must support whatever activity you’re doing, and different activities require different support. If you’re going to be running or shifting your weight around a lot, you’ll need a shoe that helps your foot stay stable while you do that so you don’t turn or twist your ankle. By contrast, if you’re going to be standing a lot (like lifting weights), you’ll need a shoe that gives your foot maximum support, and so on.

You’ll need to take into account your own individual foot needs here; I’m completely flat-footed, so I need a shoe with extra stability and support built in to keep my ankles from rolling inward and causing me more pain. This is something you can check with your doctor about, as well as checking with a knowledgeable salesperson who can tell you about shoes for sports.

Don’t think your shoes are important to a workout? Take it from me; I last 5 times as long in my Zumba workouts thanks to my current shoes. If your shoe does not support your foot, you’re more likely to sprain your ankle, cause knee problems, and even hurt your hip or back, even if you’re young.

Just as Important: Your Workout Clothes

How much heat can you tolerate while you exercise? It’s largely a matter of where you’re exercising (indoors or outdoors), and your individual heat tolerance, but your clothing must be addressed if you’re going to work out for any length of time.

For instance, if you’re comfortable working out indoors in long sleeves and long pants, that’s great–go ahead and wear what feels best to your muscles. I, however, find that I overheat (and thus get tired) very quickly while exercising, and so a sleeveless top and shorts help keep me ventilated. When I tried to exercise before, I worked out in old jeans and T-shirts, and I couldn’t understand why I got so tired so fast. Then, when I got the sleeveless tops and shorts to exercise, I found my endurance level was much better. Getting the heat off me was the key. (I swear I could exercise 3 times as long in a meat locker or something–that’s how much I hate being hot while I exercise. LOL!)

All kidding aside, if you’re working out in colder weather or colder environments, like an overly air-conditioned room, you’ll want to make sure your clothing keeps your muscles warm. Jogging suits, sweatpants and sweatshirts, etc., aren’t just fashion statements–keeping your muscles shielded from cold, even a little, makes them more pliable and ready to exercise, so that you don’t cause injuries like muscle pulls or even tears.

You’ll also want to make sure your workout clothes are easy to care for. If you can’t just throw ’em in the wash and dryer after working out, you’re likely not to stick to your workout routine; who wants to hand-wash their workout clothes in the sink when they’re exhausted? You might laugh, but if you’re trying to get started back exercising, you want to remove all the excuses you could possibly come up with for skipping the gym, and workout clothes could be an excuse if they’re too difficult to wash and dry.

Whatever you choose, make sure that your clothing does not impede your movement, does not keep you too hot or too cold, or catch on itself/other items of clothing. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on workout clothes; I bought my two sets of workout clothes for a grand total of 30 bucks at Walmart. But they fit well and keep me cool, and that’s what’s important.

An important side note for ladies: Get a sports bra–or two. I know it gives us a “mono-boob” look, I know it’s not the most fashionable thing in the world, but it’s better than having to hold your jiggling “girls” with your hands while you’re jumping around. Believe me, I’ve been there. The natural movement of your chest as you exercise will only create soreness, as well as accelerate the effect of gravity over time (you know what I’m talking about), if you are not properly supported. Give your breasts the proper support while you exercise, especially if you’re a well-endowed lady; trust me, it will make ALL the difference. Not only do you breathe better, but you don’t feel as self-conscious, and you move more freely. I layer two sports bras for extra support–it really works!


Dressing yourself in comfortable yet supportive clothing and shoes will help you have more endurance, keep you from injury, and just feel better about working out in general. If you don’t garb yourself for battle, as I put it, then you’re setting yourself up for discomfort and pain, and possibly quitting exercise altogether.

Wearing the right gear is but the next step to getting fit the right way. Next week I’ll be stepping on my own toes by talking about another important bit of fitness: feeding your body the right foods for exercise. Tune in next Tuesday!

Slaying the Clutter Dragon, part 10: A Look Back

In 10 weeks, I’ve come so far in my war on clutter. From barely being able to swing my bedroom door fully open, now I can walk freely through nearly half the room, and I’ve cleaned out over half the closet. Who would have thought?

I certainly didn’t think my war with the Clutter Dragon would go this well, since it never has before. But then again, in my past battles, I tried to de-clutter and clean all in one day, and I ended up tired, defeated, and nothing really changed. And in the past, I didn’t really try to get rid of anything that wasn’t just trash.

This time, I made up my mind to sell or donate anything I didn’t need, and that was the big change. Plus, I tackled one small area a week, and documented it with this very series of blog posts, so I held myself accountable.

What Have We Learned from Battling the Clutter Dragon?

Part 1 (The First Sword Charge): Start with a small area to clean out. Don’t try to tackle a whole cluttered room (or a whole cluttered house!) in one day all by yourself, especially not one as cluttered as mine was to start!

Part 2 (The Valiant Sword Sweep): Clearing the floor of clutter is often the most important part–you have to have clear places to put your feet when you’re cleaning, otherwise you’ll get hurt.

Part 3 (Horrors in the Hidden Abyss): If you don’t clean out your storage spaces from time to time, you will end up with clutter so bad you can’t live in your space anymore. Clean out the storage places, and you create places for your new favorite/important items to live.

Part 4 (Blundering in the Dark): When you tackle a cluttered storage space, you have to divide it up into small areas just like a cluttered room. Try to tackle too much and you’ll just get discouraged.

Part 5 (Nitty, Gritty, and Dirty): Arm yourself with cleaning products (dusters, disinfectant, paper towels, wipes, broom, dustpan, vacuum cleaner/sweeper, etc.), especially if you’re cleaning out a storage space that has lain untouched for many a year. You’ll thank yourself for having cleaning stuff at the ready!

Part 6 (A Swipe at the Dragon’s Leg): If you find yourself daunted, take another look at the clutter situation. What’s keeping you from working? Once you’ve found the reason you’re suddenly too tired/discouraged to de-clutter, then set about getting rid of it. Believe me, this helps so much!

Part 7 (A Desperate Sally Forth): Even if you don’t feel like tackling a usual-sized small area of your clutter, do SOMETHING to battle the Clutter Dragon in your life. Even if it’s just half a tiny closet shelf, or one box of books, or one corner of your room, keep fighting the war on clutter!

Part 8 (Where the Beast Hides): Don’t just move clutter around your house thinking you’re “dealing with it.” You haven’t dealt with it until you’ve sorted it out, thrown away everything that’s too broken to repair and sell, and sold/donated the rest of the items you’re not using and don’t want to keep.

Part 9 (Hacking Away at the Cache): Be ruthless about what you’re going to throw away and what you’re going to sell. If the item doesn’t make you happy, isn’t useful anymore, and/or is too broken to use/display anyway, what good is it doing you? When you’ve spent your life trapped by clutter, you can’t afford to be overly sentimental. Keep what is truly meaningful, but make room for yourself to live in your house with your precious items, too.

Closing Thoughts

In closing this series of blog posts, I hope you’ve found courage and motivation to fight your own Clutter Dragons. It’s an ongoing siege, a state of constant vigilance against the problem of “too much stuff and not enough space,” and I’m not nearly done with my own war on clutter. (I’m just done blogging about it for now, since I think 10 weeks on the same subject is quite enough. LOL!)

This series stands as proof that you CAN reclaim a room, a closet, even a small shelf, even if you are a hardcore hoarder like I’ve been in the past. And what’s more, you can maintain the change, just by being a bit more aware of how much stuff you own. (And don’t worry–when I finally reclaim my entire room from the Clutter Dragon’s terrible reign, you’ll hear the shout of joy all the way over at your house, no matter where you live in the world. xD)

Today is a Good Day to Write

[Trekkie points for you if you got the Lieutenant Worf reference in the title]

Today’s post is simple but essential for all us writers to understand: any time can be writing time. The planets don’t have to be aligned just right, and the stocks don’t have to be up; it doesn’t matter if all the stuff on your desk is organized just so (unless you’re OCD, in which case it does :P).

My point is, you don’t have to wait for the perfect atmosphere and perfect setup to be able to write. In fact, if you wait for the “perfect time,” you’ll be waiting forever. Don’t hold yourself to just writing on a certain day or at a certain time of day, or just writing in one specific room on one specific desk–take inspiration wherever and whenever it comes.

This is where the old-fashioned portable notepad strategy comes into play, writing down ideas as they come to you. These days, however, the “notepad” could be a smartphone or tablet just as much as good ol’ pen and paper. However you choose to keep track of your ideas for stories, poems, and the like, make sure you note them somewhere and don’t let them float off into the ethers of your mind.

And lastly: when you DO write, think positively about your writing experience. Don’t focus on the drudgery of trying to get to some arbitrary “number of words” goal, and don’t keep thinking about how difficult this particular scene is to write. Think instead about how awesome it is to finally put this scene down in writing, after months of seeing it flash through your head.

Today IS a good day to write. Keep in mind that you’re the creator of this little world on paper (or in a digital file), and you can direct it anywhere, at any time, in any amount of words you choose.

Slaying the Clutter Dragon, part 9: Hacking Away at the Cache

The siege on the Clutter Dragon’s hidden hoard continues, with another week and another installment of sorting clutter. ONWARD! 😀

This week, I began with this mountainous pile you see below:

This pile, affectionately nicknamed “Clutter Mountain,” was yet another obstacle to the process of cleaning. I had to scale Clutter Mountain and conquer it, like Sir Edmund Hillary conquered Everest.

Unexpected Philosophy Amid the Climb

The actual process of de-cluttering progressed much as the last post did–removing items one at a time from the top of Clutter Mountain, making a decision about each item on the spot, and putting it in one of three areas: keep, donate/sell, and toss. Another big black trash bag served as the Toss zone, so it could be easily removed from the house when it was full.

But I found myself waxing philosophical about the journey as I worked. Contrary to my expectations, I was beginning to enjoy myself, even if I had put off the work as long as I could. And once I was finished conquering Clutter Mountain (which actually only took about 15 minutes once I got down to it), I was even energized enough to think about tackling the more grown-up clutter that lay on the table where the mountain of childhood had once stood.

It led me to an interesting realization: the more you de-clutter, the easier it is to do, mentally. Even though I had dragged around part of the day trying to avoid the task, once I got around to doing it rather than mentally whining about it, it was much easier, especially since I had set the hard and fast rule of “make a decision about each item RIGHT NOW.” (You wouldn’t believe how freeing that is, not until you’ve experienced the kind of quick de-cluttering it engenders.)

The Results

At last, Clutter Mountain has been conquered! WOOT! Only the slight layer of grown-up junk that was there before remains, and that might even be gone later, if my cleaning bug gets me again. 🙂

The chair I appropriated for my “Keep” zone gained only one new item–a little Paddington Bear, much-beloved from my childhood. He ain’t goin’ anywhere. 😀

As for the “Donate/Sell” zone…well…it got more piled up. LOL! But that’s a GREAT thing–there are plenty of toys here in good to almost-new condition, just in time for Christmas. Just think, some of these toys in this pile could make a little girl’s (or even a little boy’s) Christmas that much brighter!

I even had to start a new “Donate/Sell” box on another surface in the basement, because I had so many toys I sorted into this zone! This represents another step forward for me–not only am I sorting these things to be taken out of the house, but I’m getting more comfortable with the idea of getting them out of the house, instead of hoarding them.

As for the Toss zone, I didn’t photograph it, but the big black trash bag, empty at the beginning of the task, is already 3/4 full. WOW. :O

Next Week: The Philosophy I Thought Of Today

In next Tuesday’s post, I’ll share some of the clutter and cleaning philosophy I came up with while busy doing the work for this week. What I came up with might surprise you!