Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover

Life

A few reasons to embrace minimalism

On the Jana Says Facebook page, I recently asked what 10 beauty/makeup items would you keep if you could only have 10 items for the next 10 years (there were some great answers and I'd love to hear yours so please hop on over there and leave a comment). My list included:

  • One of those chunky eyeliner/eye shadow combo things
  • Mascara
  • Tinted lip balm
  • Moisturizer
  • Bath and Body Works paraffin hand lotion
  • My flat iron
  • Ponytail holders
  • Nail polish colors I'm Not Really a Waitress (OPI) and Chocolate Kisses (Essie)
  • An emery board

I didn't include items like soap, shampoo, razors, etc, because I put those in a different category. And borrowing of other items is permitted for special occasions.

(Note: Another exercise I do in my own head is figuring out what I would pack if I had to move in two hours and could only take with me what would fit in the trunk of my car. We can talk about that another day if you'd like.)

The reason I asked the question is because I am becoming increasingly interested in the concept of minimalism. I am intrigued by things like the 40 hanger closet. The idea of having a small amount of items that are meaningful, purchased consciously, used regularly and are of good quality rather than spontaneously purchased junk thrills me. The thought of having one main product–like my iPad–which is multifunctional and portable is lovely.

And while I dwelled on the idea of minimalism, I started thinking about the reasons why I love the idea. And I came up with these main reasons:

Organization

I have learned that one of the best ways to manage my anxiety–which is a trigger for my depression–is to keep my house clean and organized. When I can look at a room, see everything put away, and items that belong in that room are, in fact, the only items in that room, it eases my mind. It makes me feel at peace. Which is extremely important.

Staying organized is hard. There are so many systems and ideas and methods to follow that it can be overwhelming. Overwhelming picking out which one to follow, where to start, and how to maintain. While the simplest advice is “pick what works for you”, I figure that for me, the method that works the best is to not have too much stuff. Beause the less items we have, the easier it is to stay organized as there's less to attend to and less clutter to keep in check.

Narrows choices

I have tremendous difficulty making decisions. Not big, major ones, but small ones like which nail polish color should I use this week or what socks should I wear or water or iced tea. It's annoying, actually, to get paralyzed by small mundane choices. I've realized, though, that part of the reason I get dumbfounded by the choices is I just have too much stuff to choose from. It's like walking into a supermarket and deciding what cereal to buy and you have no coupon to help push you in a direction. There are so many options you just know that you'll make a choice and then immediately doubt yourself.

Only having a few items to choose from helps eliminate that self doubt. You know that everything you have was intentionally purchased and you love it, so there is no regret. Each decision is a good one. And it doesn't take 20 minutes to make, which saves time. That's good, too.

Saves money

I don't even know how many thousands of dollars I have wasted over the last few years buying stuff that I liked in the store or at the counter, used once, and then never touched again because it either fell apart, was sheer crap, washed poorly, or dozens of other reasons. Or they were given away, donated, or thrown out because I purchased many of these items on a whim and never got around to using them.

It's actually quite sad.

Which is why it makes no sense to me anymore to purchase something just to purchase it. It's foolish. Embracing the concept of buying things intentionally forces you to think about where your dollars really are going and it forces you to think about the value of the item in your life. It eliminates shopping as a hobby, which saves money and reduces clutter. And when you are spending money on the unimportant, it doesn't leave much left for the important.

The fourth aspect of minimalism that I like is that it just saves time. Time not spent cleaning and putting things away. Time not spent shopping for crap. Time not spent deciding what to wear so people you don't care about are impressed with how you look. Not spending time on that gives more time for the hobbies, work, people, and anything else you truly love. Time is something that's hard to get back. Why waste it?

I'm not sure that I can ever become a complete minimalist. I live with two other people who don't seem to completely share my ideas. However, I can work on the areas in my control. And I figure that's a start.

How about you? How do you feel about minimalism?

Life lessons from the Emmy awards. And cupcakes!

Emmy-AwardsLast night, just like we do every year, my husband and I watched the Emmys (well, this year we took a break in the middle to watch Breaking Bad. Breaking Bad > Emmys). And, just like we do every year, my husband and I bet on who would win awards. Although this year, since our printer still isn’t hooked up and the app I downloaded sucked, my husband hand wrote the ballot and we made our selections with a highlighter. The fun part about that was the fact that my husband has atrocious handwriting and is careless with his spelling so when I was making my picks, I had to ask him who Juan Baton and Jom Parsnip were (Jason Bateman and Jim Parsons, respectively).

But that’s besides the point.

Also besides the point but something I need to share is that I won our bet. We don’t bet money, either. We bet something way more important. Crumbs cupcakes. If you’ve never had a Crumbs cupcake, send me your address and I’ll have one mailed to you because the cupcakes are amazing and the company does that kind of stuff. I assure you that once you have one, you’ll understand why our bet was so serious. And why it’s such a big deal that I won.

Jana’s note: Please do not actually send me your address. I’m pretty disorganized when it comes to that stuff and I don’t want to misplace your information that would be on my list of people to whom I  need to send Crumbs cupcakes and have the list picked up by an actual serial killer and then he comes to your house because he, too, wants a cupcake and then it’s my fault if something happens to you. I don’t want something to happen to you. Or for it to be my fault.

I think this post is getting away from me a little bit.

Let’s circle back.

Last night, my husband and I watched the Emmys. And just like 2 years ago (go easy on me with that post, please. It was written not long after I started blogging and really, I kind of sucked as a writer and blogger back then. I’m only slightly better now), I learned some things from watching the show that were completely unexpected and important lessons we can apply to our own lives:

  • Brevity. Last night, one of the winner’s made this speech: “I gotta go. Bye”. Social media erupted, praising Merritt Weaver for her amazing speech because really, there was nothing else to say. Her speech captured the moment perfectly. It was short and to the poing. Not so much sweet, but short and to the point. What we can learn: sometimes, saying just a few words has more impact  than droning on for minutes or hours. How many times have you sat in a meeting and your boss or co-worker just kept talking and talking and lost her audience? How many times have you read an email that was just so long winded your eyes glazed over halfway through and you forgot what you read in the beginning? Probably too many to count. So, the next time you’re in a position to communicate something important, remember that brevity and conciseness go a long way.
  • You won’t always impress everyone. Neil Patrick Harris hosted this year’s show and after seeing what he did with the Tonys that one year I watched because American Idiot was nominated and I wanted to see if it won, I, and probably millions of others, had very high hopes for him as a host. And honestly, I didn’t love what he did. He kind of flopped a bit at times. But that’s fine. Maybe I expected too much. What we can learn: Not everyone will love what you do all the time. You may think you’re doing a great job but there may be expectations that are so high they’re almost impossible to reach and then, inevitably, people will be disappointed. Let it go. Don’t worry about them. It’s one thing to accept their criticism and use it to improve. It’s another to let it destroy your confidence.
  • Awards aren’t the only validation for success. Every year, there are disappointments. Every year, there are some actors nominated and they never win. Yet when you watch what they do, it doesn’t stop them from doing incredible work or receiving consistent critical acclaim. It doesn’t stop them from having legions of fans. What we can learn: Even if you never win an award for your work, don’t let that stop you from consistently doing the absolute best that you can. Whether it seems like it or not, there are people who take notice and to them, your efforts mean everything. They are the people you need to keep working for, not those who give out awards.

With that said, I’ve gotta go. I have a cupcake to pick out.

 

I made it! From scratch!

Last week, I decided to participate in Money Saving Mom’s Make It From Scratch Week. I already make most of our food from scratch but there are some things that I’d been slacking on, so this was a great opportunity (and motivation and incentive) to give it a try (and to restart the pioneer project that kind of fell by the wayside over the summer when we moved). I made it through 4 of the 5 projects I had planned and only one of them turned out terrible. I consider that a major success. And I didn’t have to spend much money to complete the projects, which I also consider a major success.

Here’s what I did, along with the links to the pins that gave me the ideas:

Onion soup mix–I made this so I could make onion dip without those little packets. Either I messed up by using Greek yogurt instead of sour cream or this mix is not intended for that purpose. Doesn’t really matter, though, because it turned out terrible and also the turmeric made it an unappetizing yellow. I do not suggest you follow ink my footsteps and make this. However, if you have a good recipe for homemade onion dip, I’d love to see it.

20130918-071214.jpg
 

Breakfast sandwiches–now that we live 15 minutes from my husband’s work, he feels that leaving 10 minutes before he needs to be there is sufficient time. I don’t get that math but math has never really been my strong suit. In any event, he doesn’t eat breakfast at home so in order to make sure that he does, in fact, eat breakfast, I made these so he can just heat them up at work and chow at his desk. And I eat them, too. Also I cooked the eggs in a muffin tin. That was fun.

20130918-071343.jpg
 

Oatmeal packets–also a breakfast idea for my husband as I do not eat oatmeal, nor does our daughter. Because we’re smart and oatmeal is gross. In addition to leaving promptly 5 minutes late every day, my husband also does not pack his lunch the night before (please do not get on me to do it. He is a grown man and can put leftovers and fruit in a lunch box by himself) and this way he doesn’t have to spend extra time putting breakfast together, too. He can throw a bag in his lunchbox and heat it up at work. It also gives variety to the breakfast sandwiches.

20130918-071451.jpg
 

Salsa–the previous owners of our house didn’t just leave use carpet stains and dog hair. They also left us a dying tomato plant that we’ve brought back to life and now it won’t stop giving us tomatoes. They come off at a rate of about 5000 a day. Before one round went bad, and some have because they produce faster than we can eat them, I decided to make salsa since I actually had all the ingredients in the house. Even fresh cilantro. Which is a pain in the ass to work with.

20130918-071627.jpg
 

Glitter barrettes–didn’t get a chance to make these. But they’re on my list for the next installment of Pinterest project Tuesday. Which I totally need to resurrect.

Did you participate in the challenge? What did you make? And would you be interested in following along on my pioneer project?

10 strategies to improve self-esteem, part 2

If you missed part 1, you can read it here

I am constantly working on improving my self-esteem. It’s not something that comes easily to me. At all. Most of the time, I’ll say something nice to myself and follow it up with a dig or a “but”. Which kind of doesn’t make sense. Why give myself a compliment only to follow it up with an insult?

I don’t know. It’s just how I’ve worked for so many years that it’s almost impossible NOT to do. But when I insult myself, I give others the freedom to do the same. I really don’t like that. Being insulted hurts and further damages my already damaged thought processes. Also, the insults make me feel like the negative voices are right. And they can’t be right all the time. Right?

Right.

So every day, I battle to make them wrong. I do it following these steps:

post quote6. Stop comparing yourself to others. Comparison is dangerous. Comparison to others is probably the worst possible thing you can do to yourself if you’re trying to improve your self-esteem. Because there will always–ALWAYS–be someone who, on the surface, seems perfect. Perfect looking, perfect job, family, social life and OMG, look at how much money they have! But you never know what’s going on beneath the surface. Maybe that person inherited that huge house because both of her parents are dead. Maybe that person with the seemingly perfect family had to work really, really hard at conceiving her children. Maybe that fancy vacation and all those parties they attend are sponsored by work on you’re only seeing pictures from her one night off. You never know what the true story is. So don’t compare yourself because what you’re comparing might not be real at all. If you find this hard to do, take a Facebook break. Because Facebook is the worst place to go if you’re working through this step. And it’s also the source.

7. Acknowledge your talent and skills. It is my belief that every single person has some sort of talent, even if it’s small or weird (like eating spaghetti with your feet). If you’re anything like me, you don’t recognize or admit what you’re good at because for some reason, it makes you feel like you’re showing off or bragging. Guess what? You’re not. If you’re good at something it’s because you were blessed with a talent and then you worked hard to get better at it. You put in time, practice, effort, and you deserve to be proud of what you can do. There is no absolute no reason to hide your talents or to let them wither away. Acknowledge them. Use them. Embrace them. Share then with the world. Or at least your family and friends. It’ll be hard at first but as you get more comfortable with sharing, you’ll gain more confidence and realize that yes, you can do this! You ARE good at (fill in the blank). And there’s no shame in being talented. post quote 2

8. Rebut the argument in your head. Anyone who knows me well knows that maybe, every now and then, I like a good argument. Actually, I’ll only get into an argument or debate if I know I’m right or if I passionately believe in something. Which is why this is the hardest part of the 10 steps for me. When I’m feeling particularly down, I do my best to go all Lincoln-Douglas on myself and usually, I just wind up in a draw. It’s hard sometimes to convince myself that I’m better than I think. I’m assuming it’s hard for some of you, too. But that’s when we need to do it most. When you tell yourself something negative, you need to combat it with a positive. Or reframe the statement in a positive light. Or just stop saying negative things to yourself (it’s hard for me, too). Negative self-talk is probably the most damaging, hurtful you can say, and if you say it to yourself to make sure that no one else says it first than we’re more alike than you know. But we need to stop saying those words. (more…)

A few thoughts on 9/11

I’ve always purposefully avoided writing about 9/11. I never know what to say, and I fear that anything I say will be misconstrued, won’t be sympathetic enough, taken as callous or selfish, or they simply won’t make sense. There are others who write more poetically or beautifully or sympathetically about the day than I will. But I’m going to give it a try anyway.

memorial

Like most people, where I was on 9/11 12 years ago is burned into my brain. My story isn’t very interesting or important in the grand scheme of things so I’ll spare you the details. I will tell you that being from New York, having friends and family living and working in Manhattan and not being able to contact any of them did not do anything to calm the anxiety I felt while stuck outside 30th Street Station (Philadelphia). It’s also the only time I’ve ever hitchhiked. Good judgment and reasoning ceased to exist that day.

I felt more emotions in that 24 hour span of time than I had felt in most of the years before it (and most of the years after as well) but the strongest emotion I felt was sadness. I still get sad and it’s perhaps why I still can’t watch a movie or documentary about 9/11 or why I still get teary when I see footage of anything related to that day. It’s just too much for me to process.

Still.

Twelve years later.

While I’ll always remember the sense of patriotism throughout the nation that day and in the days following, the heroics of first responders and average citizens, the lives lost, the promises that we, as a country, would rise above and rebuild, I’ll never understand the caliber of hatred that led to the attacks on our country and my home state of New York. I just can’t process hating strangers so much. And when I start to write about it, my brain goes in 17 different directions and what I’m saying devolves into me being on a soapbox. 

This is not the time for me to be on a soapbox. This is a time for me to offer a sympathetic ear and prayers for those who need it. For those who are hurting that extra bit today. For those who live with the literal scars of those events every day. For those whose lives were changed forever. For those who’ve had to rebuild. And to remember those we lost.

While it’s perfectly fine to go about our normal lives today, please take a moment or two to reflect on what you’re thankful for and to remember. Remember so that they’re not forgotten.

Although it’s been overplayed and use a lot in conjunction with this day, Miami 2017 (I’ve Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway) is one of my top 3 favorite Billy Joel songs. But it doesn’t stop being amazing or powerful. Because this:

“They turned our power down

They drove us underground

But we went right on with the show”