Friday, February 1, 2013

My Happiness Project: January Review

January has come to a close, and with it the conclusion of the month of "order" in my happiness project.  It is easy to get discouraged by the fact that I did not make as many changes or accomplish as much as I wanted, but writing this post helped me realize that I have made a lot of progress, especially considering I have an infant and was traveling for a week in the middle of the month.

I will start with my daily resolutions.  I trimmed down my list of possible resolutions to two--making my bed in the morning and picking up the house in the evening.  I quickly learned not to be a perfectionist about the evening pick-up.  If the toys are put back in their place and the kitchen table is cleared, I am satisfied.  It's better to do something than nothing at all.  I am not sure why I have opposed making my bed all these years, since I love getting into a made bed at night and my life just feels more organized when I glance in our room and see the smooth covers instead of a disheveled heap.

These simple tasks, as trivial as they may seem, bring a lot of happiness to my life.  Having an ordered environment helps me to be productive in other areas of my life.  If my house is picked up, I want to get stuff done.  If my house is a mess, I want to curl up on the couch and watch trashy television.  Sad, but true.

In addition to my daily resolutions I worked to create order in my house as a whole.  I still have a lot more to tackle in this area, but I knew that going in and gave myself two months to finish the bigger overhaul.  Here's what we have accomplished so far:

(1) Reordered the pantry, consolidating containers, creating a system that freed up the bottom shelf for HP's things.  Now that he's crawling he is getting into everything at his level.  Keeping glass jars of dried goods within his reach was a recipe for disaster.

(2) Henry made a built-in spice rack while HP and I were in Missouri.  It's even better than I imagined.

(3) We found a larger refrigerator on Craigslist.  The one that came with the house was teeny-tiny.  I thought we would be able to make do, but we were constantly rearranging to make leftovers fit and many times there just wasn't enough space for all of our groceries.  Since we only go shopping once a week and cook all our meals at home, we really do need the extra space.

(4) I went through all of the kitchen cabinets and drawers and purged plastic and little-used items.

(5) Henry built a cabinet organizer for the cookie sheets, casserole dish, bread pans, and cooling racks.  Before they would either slide down if I put them on their side or were difficult to access if they were stacked on top of one another.  Now whenever I open that cabinet to retrieve an item I get a small rush of happiness.  It really is the little things.

(6) We bought a desk and bookshelf for the guest room from the Texas State Surplus Store, which will help with this month's organization projects.

(7) We moved the books from the living room bookshelf to the guest room and put HP's toys on the living room shelf.  Now he can easily access his toys and I do not have to constantly watch to make sure he isn't grabbing books and ripping out pages (which he did this morning when he was alone with a book in his room that I forgot about).

We still have A LOT to do.  The enclosed garage is this weekend's project, and it is a complete disaster area.  Right now it's hard to make it more than a few yards past the door.  Other items on the list for the month include:

  • Figuring out a system for HP's clothes and toys in his room 
  • Setting up a new changing station
  • Going through my closet (and either making shelves or buying a hanging shelving unit)
  • Putting items in our new desk
  • Cleaning out the guest room closet
  • Going through the bathroom cabinets
  • Taking a load of stuff to Goodwill and the Habitat ReStore
Phew.  Just the act of writing that out makes me feel overwhelmed.  I am trying to take Rubin's advice from Happier at Home to "go shelf by shelf." On my resolution chart for this coming month I have added a column for "creating order" and am asking myself to spend thirty minutes a day on one of the larger projects listed above.

Part way through the month I also added the resolution to "suffer for 15 minutes," which is another tip from Happier at Home.  She used this method to tackle large, nagging projects instead of putting them off indefinitely.  This week I have been working on our Christmas thank-yous and cleaning out my email inbox.  Once those are finished I will move on to organizing my digital pictures, an item that never seems to make it off of my to-do list because I find it so daunting.

I am amazed at how much a physical chart helps me maintain my resolutions.  I originally tried to use an Excel spreadsheet, but the fact that I had to get on the computer to mark things off discouraged me from using it.  When I did open the document, I ended up getting distracted (Facebook!  Email!  Blogs!) and wasting time. Using pen and paper and placing the chart in a visible location have been instrumental to my success.

While I am continuing the larger projects of order (and will still try and maintain my resolutions from this month--especially picking up in the evening), February is a new month with a new theme: Time.  I will outline my resolutions tomorrow.

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