One Simple Tip to Reduce Clutter

“The weather is going to be just as snowy tomorrow, so I’ll just leave my winter boots in the foyer.”

“I’ll leave my makeup out on the bathroom counter; I’m going to be using it again tomorrow anyways!”

“I might head back out later today. No need to put my coat away in the closet; I’ll just leave it over the dining room chair.”

These are all real-life examples of thoughts I’ve had this week. These thoughts are made with good intentions and meant to be time savers. I’m sure there are many others that you could think of too. Daily-use items, like coats, boots, makeup, bags, and favorite foods could easily save us a few minutes if they were left out in easy reach.

I had a busy week. I got a handful of last-minute substitute teaching jobs, the weather was bad so my car had to be scraped off every morning, and some afternoons I was so exhausted that I left chores undone. So my boots made puddles in the foyer, my makeup stayed on the counter, and my coat stayed in the dining room. By the end of the week, I was picking up my things all over the place and spending a good deal of time returning them to their homes.

There are very good reasons to keep daily-use items in easy reach, but the reality is that items out of place, even useful items, are still clutter. And I can’t tell you the number of times when, even when I leave yesterday’s items out, I reach for something different the next day. Double the clutter! So my one simple tip for reducing clutter is this: live for today.

Living for today means you’re not thinking about what to leave out for tomorrow; you’ll decide what you need when the day is fresh the next morning. Living for today means ending it gracefully by putting away what you used. There are fewer loose ends, less frustration in the morning when you can’t remember where you left your things, and a calmer environment.

It’s helpful to save time where you can, especially for small matters. However, it might be time to judge the scales and ponder if that time-saving is taking peace from your space. This week, I challenge you to pick five items and use them one day at a time, putting them away when you are finished using them. For me, mine will be:

  • My coat
  • My winter boots
  • My makeup
  • My coffee fixings
  • My office supplies, like my pens and post-it notes

What will you choose? Let me know in the comments if you try this little experiment, and how it made you feel at the end of the week.

Analog Creativity Day

Most creatives will recognize this concept of making time for analog creativity. Austin Kleon, author of Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work!, advocates for old-fashioned analog creativity. Analog creation, rather than digital, involve tangible objects such as pens, journals, and paints, coupled with the physical action of moving your hand. This process is fulfilling and energizing. Digital creation severs the connection between movement and creation, and increases the pressure for perfectionism (amen to that!). There is a place for the digital world in creative pursuits. Editing, refining, and sharing are steps that are greatly enhanced by digital means. But for the initial spark of creativity, analog actions can help us connect to something more primal and original. Too often, artists get down on themselves for their work not being “____ enough”. Misspellings, the wrong colors, and dead-end plots are unavoidable, but digital mediums push them under a rug and don’t recognize them as vital to the learning process. Analog creation saves a paper trail of what works and what doesn’t. If you’re feeling uninspired about your latest research paper, art project, or even your daily routine, it might be time to get out some analog tools, like the ones I compiled below, and spend less time comparing your rough drafts to someone else’s final edit.

Analog Creativity Day

I don’t paint or draw on my computer, but I do use it for most of my post writing. After reading Kleon’s thoughts on analog creativity, I have tried to draft more of my posts on paper. I’ve also been enjoying writing out meal plans, to-do lists, and calendars using pen and paper.

Watch Kleon’s TEDTalk here: Steal Like An Artist: Austin Kleon at TEDxKC

What mediums do you use to create?

Using a Kettlebell and 3 Workouts to Try!

At the end of January, it was too cold to run outside and too cramped in my tiny living room to do heart-racing HIIT. So I ordered a kettlebell and started sampling some workouts. Here are my thoughts on this workout method, as well as my three favorite routines.

Why Kettlebells?

A kettlebell is basically a weighted ball with a large, solid handle on top. The reason it is an excellent workout is physics. In most kettlebell moves, the weight is held far away from your body. The kettlebell turns your entire body into a lever and fulcrum. By adding more weight to the end of the lever, the rest of your body has to work harder to move it around. This gets your heartrate up doing simple, static exercises. Muscle-building kettlebell moves are slower and more stationary compared to dumbbell sets; your body is already working hard enough to try to stabilize the extra weight at the end of your wrist!

The only downside to kettlebells is that form is vitally important to prevent injury, and therefore cannot be modified. With other workouts, like Pilates, there are easy modifications within the form for beginners. With kettlebells, the only modifications are fewer reps or a lighter weight.

Kettlebells worked out great for my small space and my boredom with repetitive routines!

Picking out your Kettlebell

Kettlebells come in weights ranging from 5 pounds up to 40-50 pounds (ridiculous). Kettlebells should generally be heavier than the dumbbells you might typically use, because in general you will be holding or swinging the weight and not lifting it.

I use a 15 pound kettlebell, for reference. I’m 5’0″ and I’m not carrying extra weight, but I’m not muscular, I can do about two chin ups, and I can hold a plank for ages. The 15 pound kettlebell feels appropriate for most parts of my workouts. In all of these videos, there are some moves that I simply have to do fewer reps on.

The best way to pick out a kettlebell is to try one in stores. Brush up on the form for a few kettlebell moves, like the rack and the windmill. Try these out (carefully!) next time you’re at a sporting goods store. They should be challenging but not unbearable, and shaking is not a good sign. Once you have your ideal weight, shop around for the best price. I found mine on Amazon.

All of the routines I’m about to suggest show no one in wrist guards. I can’t imagine the bruises on these instructors’ arms after their routines. Before you do too many racks, Turkish get-ups, and locks, get yourself some wrist guards. I like these ones, because they’re bright and the padding is all the way around. Having the wrist guards on gives me the confidence to be more aggressive with the kettlebell

The Routines

For Cardio: This one has plenty of modifications, and it really gets my heart rate up.

For Total Body Toning: After doing this one, my laterals were so sore for the first time in ages!

For a Quick Boost: I did this one on a day when I was tired from a lack of sleep. It was a really nice pick me up!

Do you use kettlebells? What are your favorite routines?

How Knowing Your Sister Bra Size Can Help You Save Money

How Knowing Your Sister Bra Size Can Help You Save Money || amayawritesHere’s a post for the girls: do you know your sister size?

When I was getting my undergarments for my wedding dress, I learned about sister sizes. In general, most people can comfortably wear three different bra sizes, not just one. I was floored, but also so relieved, when an undergarment in one of my sister sizes fit better than the one that I had thought was the only size I could wear.

How do you find your sister size? To find the “size up” option, just go up one cup size and down one band size than your usual. The “size down” option is the opposite: one cup down and one band size larger.  So a 36C, for example, has sister sizes of 34D and 38B. Keep these in mind next time you’re out shopping and try it out yourself.

How can this save you money? I love shopping for bras in the clearance section. For the most part, since it’s an undergarment, I’m not trying to follow trends or stick to certain colors. Having three size options instead of just one makes it easier to score a deal. If one of your sister sizes lands you in a size that is especially small or large, then you will have luck in online clearance deals, which often feature the less common sizes at either end of the size range.

I hope this post has been helpful, but I know it won’t work for all body types. Still, bra shopping is sometimes a frustrating experience, so any tips help.

Transformation Tuesday: Graphic Dress to Graphic Blouse

Transformation Tuesday is a series covering wardrobe transformations. I hope it challenges you to expand the form and function of pieces in your closet.

A recent trip to the thrift store yielded this green and white Banana Republic graphic dress. As you can see, it could stand to be taken in at the sides, and perhaps the sleeves could be shortened to a more flattering 3/4 length. But that may be a project for another day. For now, it’s cold outside, and I know I’ll be layering this piece with other items so the cut is not as important as it would be if I were wearing it alone.

Whenever I see a dress, I also see a blouse. Today I styled my new dress as a top. Tucking it into a pencil skirt fixed the fit issue, and I just pushed up the sleeves with my cardigan I really like that I’m not drowning in the print after covering the bottom and sleeves with some solid pieces. Also, yay for my kitchen having the best light in the house!

Transformation Tuesday: Graphic Dress  to Graphic Blouse|| amayawrites

Dress – Banana Republic (thrifted)
Cardigan – Target Merona
Skirt – Ann Taylor LOFT
Fleece-lined leggings

How would you style a graphic dress?

Everything Block

Just a quick post to be honest: I have writer’s block, artist’s block, cooking block, leaving the house block, everything! The theme of my life is things on hold: I’m waiting for two different applications to go through so that I can substitute teach, I’m waiting for exam results so that I can do a work-from-home job, and I’m waiting for this creative block to let up.

There are definitely posts in the works that you can look forward to, and perhaps listing them here will remind me that someone, somewhere, may be hoping I get to writing sooner rather than later:

  • Banana Bread recipe
  • Analog Creativity Day
  • Germaphobe Devotional
  • Instant Coffee Devotional
  • Favorite Kettlebell Workouts
  • How I Write Lesson Plans

Quick and Easy Spring Rolls

Quick and Easy Spring Rolls || amayawrites

Quick and Easy Spring Rolls || amayawrites

I have had a hankering for Asian food this year. Back in Spokane, there was a delicious restaurant called Taste of Thai that I may have eaten at twice a month last fall.

Now that I am home, there are many less spontaneous Asian food runs. But I still get my fix with these spring rolls, which I eat almost every day for lunch. To be honest, the “fix” is for peanut sauce, but I can’t just eat that with a spoon now, can I?

Once a week, I make a big bowl of vegetable “coleslaw”. For my simple tastes, I just toss red cabbage, bell pepper, and cilantro. You may enjoy adding hot peppers, lettuce, tofu, carrots, pork, shrimp, avocado, jicama, radish, cucumbers, and other herbs. When farmer’s markets open again, this would be a great recipe to help you shop the season and use fresh produce.

To soften the rice paper, just run it under cold water and let it rest on a plate. In a few minutes, it’ll be pliable and ready for fillings. No soaking required!

And talk about budget-friendly! Even in the winter, the vegetables for these rolls only cost about $5. The package of rice paper wrapping will last about a month and is $4.

This is a great recipe for clean-eating, too. The vegetables are raw, high in water, fiber, and vitamins, and low in fat. I don’t feel guilty dressing it up with peanut sauce or chili garlic sauce. And if you don’t like messing around with rice paper, this “slaw” goes great on top of rice noodles or in a vegetable-based soup.

It’s easy for me to ignore or snack my way through lunch, but as part of my vision for 2015, I am committing to putting time into making food that I enjoy. Do you like lunch, or could you pass on it?