“Self-improvement” is one of the most odious phrases, isn’t it? I hate the notion that by learning something new, or changing the way we do things, we are improving ourselves, or that that is the purpose of learning or changing. We are what we are, i.e., we are good people, we are doing our best (most of the time), and we shouldn’t have to constantly strive to some ideal of perfection, or feel that our very selves aren’t up to snuff.
And yet I’m kind of a sucker for systems or plans that solve problems. I’ve tried plenty of them, and abandoned plenty of them. But in the past couple of years, I’ve become a disciple of three systems that have helped me solve problems that had previously been highly resistant. Since we have arrived at Resolution Season–a blessedly short, but intense couple of days in January–I’m going to share these things here, in case they help somebody else. I’m not preaching these three approaches, beyond saying that I’ve tried all of them for at least a year and they’re still helping me and I’m still a fan.
This is not a healthy-lifestyle blog (although knitting certainly is part of a healthy lifestyle), nor is it, thank goodness, a weight loss blog. I think that overall there should be a lot less talk and concern about weight and fatness and thinness. It’s so reductive, so dehumanizing. It’s also boring and ineffectual. But a couple of years ago, I was exasperated and a little panicky about putting on weight despite being active and moderate and all that. Someone told me about the Whole30, and I tried it for 30 days (that’s the “30” in Whole30). I feel better, I’m lighter, I’m a better cook and food shopper, and I don’t waste my life worrying about what I’m eating/not eating, or what the scale says. The program is available for free at the Whole30 website. There’s an engaged community, on Instagram and elsewhere on the Internet, serving up meal ideas and support in a friendly, non-obnoxious way.
Go ahead and mock me–I love orderliness. Maybe it’s the Scandinavian in my DNA, but a sparsely furnished, freshly vacuumed room brings my blood pressure right down. (If I should happen to faint, whisper to me gently, “Kay! I washed the windows!”– and I’ll come to immediately.) Clutter is the bane of modern existence. Too much stuff, and no rational, maintainable way of dealing with it. Before discovering the KonMari Method through Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, the best I could do was periodic grand purges, accompanied by unsustainable efforts to “organize.” It’s a nutty book in some ways: if you take it fully to heart, you may find yourself talking to your handbag and socks to let them know how much you appreciate them. But something about Marie Kondo’s overarching philosophy–does this object spark joy?– has worked for me. Am I living clutter-free? No. But as God is my witness, I will never knock over half the bottles in the spice cabinet, cussing and looking for cardamom, ever again. KonMari has given me a way of thinking about stuff that has made this January feel a lot lighter than last January, and all previous Januaries. This year, I have no teetering piles of paper, no doomed intentions of getting yet another pack of hanging folders and labeling everything meticulously to set up the year ahead. Enough said: if this is a problem, try KonMari. Talking to your socks just might work.
(Look on my spice drawer, philistines, and despair.)
This is fun: the Bullet Journal. I started my first one last February, after trying and failing at a variety of perfectly good list-making and calendar apps. The Bullet Journal is a “customizable and forgiving” paper journaling method. It’s quickly learned, and offers a way of keeping track of all the stuff you have to do, all the stuff you want to do, and all the stuff you did and you want to remember you did–you just put it in your Bullet Journal. The video is here. Bonus: every January you get to buy a new notebook! And if you let it go and don’t do your journaling for a day, or a week, or 3 months, you know what happens? Nothing! You just pick it back up again where you are, go back over your old lists, transfer them to your current lists, and carry on your merry way. Super liberating, an organized friend that is there when you need it. (And don’t forget: new notebook every January!)
(This is Cristina Shiffman’s bullet journal, with its Alabama Chanin-inspired fanny pack. Brilliant.)
How We Knit
If you want to take a break from self-improvement–I mean, solving problems–check out the #loop2loop and #howIknit hashtags on Instagram. Kristine Vejar of A Verb for Keeping Warm has invited knitters to share tiny videos of themselves knitting. It’s fascinating and fun. There is endless variation, but this is the one that amazed me. Have you ever seen anybody turn their finger into a bobbin like that? (And while you’re on Instagram, drop by @annshayne and @kaygardiner–who knows, we might get somebody to take videos of us knitting.)
Happy Monday, all! It’s 2016!