Category: Goals

Year of Discipline: October and November

Hi kittens, I’m not dead. Read on for more info.

General Motivation

Some things have really helped me stay on track this month. I was finally able to hire for my department which has been a game changer in my work life. Simply having another set of hands has freed up my time and brain tremendously, which has in turn allowed me to focus and be more effective. In turn, this has allowed me to free up energy and time for other things, like continuing to order the house and prioritize health…

 

Health

The most important thing I’ve done for my health over the past couple of months is to finally tick off that major goal of setting up some mental health support via therapy. This is something that I should have done a long time ago, but like an idiot, I can see in retrospect how I was trying to muscle through some really challenging things and times thinking that because I wasn’t actively falling to pieces that I was fine. And the frustrating thing is that I KNOW this is bullshit! Had my experience been one of my friends or loved ones, I’d have pushed them to take advantage of therapy a long time ago. The ability alone to create mental space for and talk through the paths in my brain that have become entrenched and may need paving over has been game changing. I foresee there’s still a while to go in some of this work, but I’m grateful to have simply bitten the bullet and wondering again what took so long to do something that would have clearly been of benefit.

Anyway, if you think you may need therapy: seek it out. There are resources at most pricepoints (even though I know it remains a financial burden for way too many people…) and I don’t know a person alive who wouldn’t benefit from a check in with themselves at some point, guided by a professional.

 

Financial

This month I opened a new UK savings account and set up standing orders to pay into it. We made this a joint one to try and share the savings load a bit more than we have done to date. While this may seem odd and very basic, it’s been due to our unique banking situation over the past six years (both US and UK banking that we have to track meticulously, and US debt with UK income from separate jobs). I wasn’t actually eligible for a UK bank account when we first moved here and we had to develop a lot of work arounds, as well as phase my full financial set up in this country, which has taken years. Stemming from this, we have set up a probably too complex system with lots of joint collaboration on debt, but without enough household collaboration on savings. We have this is in our US banking, but didn’t in our UK one and it was good to change that up deliberately.

I also continued my culling project and sold multiple items. In fact, my personal moment of smugness this month was due to scoring a new winter coat–something I put off buying last year–by TRADING for it with a luxury consignment and vintage seller. I had another piece that I bought years ago, a classic case of shopping for a fantasy self rather my real self–which was still in pristine condition. Due to swapping, I effectively scored a brand new with tags, beautiful camel coat that would have cost me a few hundred pounds on its own for no cost, and got value out of something that otherwise was causing me a lot of unhelpful guilt. Second hand shopping, people!

 

Grooming

This year has been good for my hair (she admitted grudgingly). It’s taken literal months but I’ve finally found the combination of products that seems to produce a sleeker, shinier strand that I want and feels more professional.

On other fronts, this has also been a good year for my overall presentation skills…but perhaps more on that in the yearly wrap up?

 

Other

Completed another month of no/low buy challenges, continuing the slow but steady march towards the financial situation we want.

Deep cleaned the apartment and did some more settling and rearranging of stuff.

Read tons of books! I’d fallen a bit out of the habit and behind on my book goals, but more than made up for lost time over the past two months.

Began planning some 2020 travel. I’m sick of talking about it and not making it happen.

Did a small social media fast from Instagram.

 

Year of Discipline: September

“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.”
― Louisa May Alcott

The Year of Discipline is three quarters over; how did September go?

General Motivation

Septmber was the Month of Getting Shit Done, kittens. Was it always as healthy or as efficient as it could have been? Nope. Did it get done regardless? Hell, yes. I actually feel momentarily caught up on work projects, settled into the new apartment, and more or less in charge of my brain. While I’ve not always felt that the Year of Discipline has been as successful a project as other annual themes, this month the habits and skills I’ve been cultivating for months now have helped break what could have been a really stressful month into much more manageable pieces.

 

Health

Exercise fell by the wayside again thanks to the move, and takeaway binges have not helped. I’d be lying if I said I was feeling good in my own skin this month, but that’s no one’s fault but mine. Perversely, our gym is now easier to get to so I have no excuse not to rectify this in October.

It’s not all bad. My new commute is quicker but actually involves more walking and our new apartment is on the third floor of a building with no lift so small lifestyle adjustments are working in my favor a bit. And about halfway through the month when I was able to start cooking again, it definitely made a difference in my general wellbeing. MUCH soup was made and consumed this month.

My mental health was mostly okay, with one really bad anxiety episode which was more debilitating than usual. Once I register with a new GP, I think this is going to be the next health project I tackle. I’m a million times more healthy in this respect than I was a couple of years ago, but it still controls too much of my brain and I’ve made as much progress as I think I’m going to be able to without professional help.

 

Financial

Let’s be blunt, money was tight this month! Between paying rent in two places, the costs of a move and setting up new utilities, and various associated fees, our bank accounts are frowning at us grimly. That being said, we knew this was coming and had prepared as best we could. Cash was king in September and was used in every situation possible. We spent too much on food because we had to move our kitchen in stages and it wasn’t until last week that I started fully cooking most of our meals again. Entirely too much takeaway has been consumed and we’ve mutually agreed to put the kibosh on all food delivery until about Thanksgiving.

It was also not an entirely virtuous month for shopping: I picked up a dress and two skirts from charity shops and then of course bought products from the newly launched Victoria Beckham beauty line. Then I had an oops moment at 282 Portobello Road when the estimable Claudia cut me a really, really good deal on a long-coveted Barbour wax jacket. I am but human, kittens!

Lest you think I’m detestable for my irresponsibility, we are being partially refunded for some parts of the immigration process (for Jeff at least, partners don’t get this benefit from his work) and I was paid a bonus this month. This got split across savings and debt payments in a heartily satisfying way. We are also due a return of our deposit from our previous apartment which will get the same treatment. The journey towards a significantly improved networth continues!

 

Grooming

A middling month for this, but I am finally wearing my hair down more and more, and thanks to work that has required me to be more client-facing than usual, I’ve had motivation to make more effort in my appearance. On the flip side, every single weekend has been a study in sweaty hair and yoga pants by contrast. We’re going to call September more good than bad overall. I’m delighted that fall has finally arrived. It’s easily my best and easiest season for dressing and I’m excited to pull out the jumpers and boots!

 

Other

We completed a house move!

Got my new passport.

Repotted my plants.

Read several books.

Stocked the kitchen.

 

Summer Capsule Wardrobe Recap

“You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it.”
—Edith Head

Earlier in the summer, I boxed up most of my clothes in the name of science, goals, and moving. Capsule wardrobes are ubiquitous at this point but it was the first time I’d officially tried to do one myself. The takeaway was something I already knew, but found it helpful to be confronted with afresh: I simply own way too much stuff.

I’m not alone in this realization. In fact, I’ve been fascinated to watch some really quality reporting on consumer habits adjust to environmental awareness in particular, but also what seems to be a genuine weariness with the constant bombardment of STUFF TO BUY. Influencer marketing has played a bit role in this, without a doubt, as has targeted ads on all forms of media. We live in an age of conspicuous consumption, but I’m happy to see a general sense of self-awareness start to put some cracks in this.

And of course, I’m guilty. I like “stuff.” I particularly like clothes which–as I have learned thanks to the first move of my adult life which involved furniture–are much easier to transport than home goods.

I’ve written before about how my relationship with shopping has changed as a result of various books and publications, but the truth is that I’ve gotten a bit off track in the last year or so. I still buy mostly second hand, but I’ve been less stringent about that than I would wish. I still buy stuff I don’t need. I still own too much.

Doing a capsule wardrobe before the move unquestionably made my life easier. It gave me one less thing to think about in the mornings, kept my space tidier, and allowed me to pack well in advance. It gave me a sense of discipline, which is of course the big theme for me this year. It also made more ruthless in considering what items I wanted to keep or donate, which is always a good thing. It was a great experiment and I’m looking forward to doing a “cold weather” version of the project eventually.

But what I’m sitting with right now is the fact that, like so many other people, what I really need to do is continue to reduce the amount of things that I own. Living in a new place, having the opportunity to reset a lot of habits (which I enjoy as a process, a by-product of my military brat upbringing), I’m doing a lot of thinking about how to achieve this in a reasonable and healthy way. I continue to reject the idea of minimalism–it’s too ascetic and in authentic–but I know I need to be more clear-eyed about possessions.

A capsule wardrobe helped me dress for my actual life, not a fantasy version of it. My actual needs are pretty small in compared to my wants. Learning to restrict the latter has been something I’ve gotten much better at as I’ve gotten older, and I’m hopeful

Year of Discipline: August

“August rain: the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time.” 
― Sylvia Plath

It’s time to recount how my Year of Discipline went down in the month of August, ducklings. I cannot believe we’re nearly three quarters of the way through 2019. This year is going by way too quickly and while I’m not feeling as successful in my theme as I wished to by this point, I have to admit that there are individual months that are dizzying in their productivity. This felt like one of them

General Motivation

This was a tiring month and anyone who thinks of a family wedding as a vacation is deranged, but all things considered it was a good month for motivation. I got a lot done–not always what I would have wished, but a lot nonetheless. Work continues at a manic pace, but that’s on par for the course, and I’m actually seeing some traction on things that I’ve been advocating and pushing for for a long time. Now I just need to pull them off–gulp!

Health

This was a meh month on the health front. I had all kinds of goals that I wanted to meet before the wedding and threw every last one of them unceremoniously out the window. Sometimes you just need to prioritize, and this month the priority was on family and our living situation. Now that we’re back I’m refocusing on food and exercise and hope to focus even better once we’re through the move to a new apartment next month. One thing at a time is okay, sometimes. Don’t ask me why I find it easier to get “into shape” for cold weather season rather than warmer, there is no explaining it.

Financial

As you might imagine, we’re still coping with the double whammy of deciding to move house and immigration costs so belts were tightened this house. Yes, in spite of the travel to the States! My parents were unbelievably generous and paid for our tickets (as well as my little sister’s from Japan) because we couldn’t have afforded it by ourselves, but we also stayed in check. The only thing we really paid for were meals, including a lovely siblings-only brunch the day of my brother’s wedding.

My one indulgence during our travels was a pair of earrings purchased from a jeweler in Corvallis–a pair of gold hoops. They are the most basic things you can imagine, and yet I’ve worn them pretty much nonstop because they are perfect in their basic-ness and filled a distinct void in my jewelry case which is filled exclusively with studs. I added this happily to the annual tally of purchases. Anyone going to the Corvallis area, look up this local and artisan shop in the historic downtown. They make their designs in house, focus on recycled metals, and have a lovely colored gemstone offering. Very much Small Dog approved!

Food was a priority this month and I’m ticking off a goal related to limiting our takeaway purchases. I gave us a little leeway the day before and immediately after returning from the wedding when the cupboards were bare by design, but consider the spirit of this goal well and truly fulfilled. As you may expect, it’s was ridiculous to be confronted with how much money we waste on food, by virtue of how much extra cash I had on hand when restricting myself to homemade meals. We know this to be one of our largest expenditures after rent, and I’m determined to continue with the good habits instilled. I’m also two months into a three month no-takeaway-coffee goal, also with reasonable allowances for things like flights and meetings.

Grooming

I booked a haircut the Friday before my brother’s wedding, only to have my trusted stylist have to cancel last minute. My options were to look like a scraggly mess due to hair loss, or to risk a chop from an unknown entity. Risking dignity, I booked an alternative appointment with a total stranger and ended up looking great! Of course I also had a massive outbreak of eczema on my scalp, torso, arms, and face. Win some, lose some.

I continue to struggle overall with getting up at my designated waking time, but historically that’s been due to failure to get enough sleep in the first place. During my really anxious high points this year, my insomnia was running me ragged and made any kind of routine impossible. As my brain health has trended upward, my body is managing more normal sleep patterns while still clinging to bag snooze habits. Things like running a capsule wardrobe project have helped get me out the door in some semblance of order…even if I still hate doing my hair.

Other:

Got a new piercing per my goal list. Love ’em!

Knocked out another credit card balance.

Did my first of two capsule wardrobe projects.

Submitted my passport re-application.

Subscribed to another news publication per goals, putting money where my mouth is.

Squeezed in an extra debt payment with the money I saved elsewhere.

Year of Discipline: July Accountability

“Summer has set in with its usual severity.” 
–  Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Hells bells, how on earth is it AUGUST already? Let’s not dwell on this too much as I may get dizzy. It’s time again to recap the successes and failures of the month against my yearly theme and this time I have a rather smug report to offer!

General Motivation

Kittens, I seem to have emerged from my funk…it only took half a year apparently! July was the month of Getting **** Done. From run of the mill adulting to bigger life planning, I felt more productive and simultaneously less overwhelmed by stupid stuff this month than I have in a long time. My anxiety seems to have mellowed a bit in the background and while still ever-present and humming, I’ve not been experiencing the spikes and flares that I was in the first six month of 2019. Here’s hoping the trend continues. Lots of small tasks and projects kept me on track this month and I was able to use the launch of my new 101/1001 list as a great jumpstarter for motivation overall.

Health

I’m still not exercising as much as I should, but I am exercising. I’ve been doing the occasional spin classes at the gym, yoga at home, and then supplementing this with basic activity like walking home from work and taking long walks at the weekend with Jeff rather than using public transport.

We’ve been eschewing takeaway food while at home, and I’ve been eschewing takeaway coffee in favor of homemade cold brew. Huzzah, summer! Cooking has been a huge priority this month as a result and I’ve been trying to eat much more diversely thanks to our continued grocery box delivery system, which I continue to heartily endorse.

Both in this category and financial below, I’m in the midst of a couple of 101/1001 projects that are helping me focus on both expenses and some basic life admin and not default to laziness when that would be the easy option. My normal grocery delivery service includes some recipe boxes for salads, which I used a few times to eat more veg in general and to try new recipes overall (a goal), and make meal prep (another goal) more easily accomplished. When we are at our least organized, food can become our biggest expense after rent so deciding to focus on this from both a health and money perspective–and as both a couple and individuals–has been an extremely positive choice this month. Which leads me to…

Financial

We did do some shopping this month. I purchased a top and work appropriate summer shoes to replace yet another pair of victims to London’s cobblestones (this city is extraordinarily hard on heels), both heavily discounted on sale. Less justifiably, I picked up another maxi dress and an unnecessary lipstick (because Lisa Eldridge released her second collection and I guess I wear pink now…) and some personal items that don’t fall in my restricted categories (underwear or socks and so forth). Jeff replaced athletic shoes that he had literally shredded.

However, those choices aside, this was a month for pretty successful discipline. Having changed up our budget and finances so significantly in June, and having reached the decision to move when our current lease is up…let’s just say that this was not a month that I was going to let my/our goals slide. This month we paid off the majority of our credit cards in full, paid for our immigration process, and tucked a sum into savings to begin building our emergency fund and also prep for the move. We want to accomplish as much of that as possible using cash! Once back from the wedding, the second half of August and early September are going to be dedicated to the move…and that’s going to come sooner than my brain can comfortably deal with!

Grooming

Ducklings, a revelation: I now understand why people pay to have professional blow drys. I had a work event this month that I wanted to look especially nice at and so splurged for a blow dry service and it was a game changer. My hair has never been as smooth in my life. Alas for poverty but if I were stupidly wealthy, I would absolutely pay for a glam squad to manage my hair for me and consider it money well spent. However, the experience was doubly useful because the pro gamely answered a ton of questions about product and technique for me and gave me a lot of pointers which I used throughout the rest of the month. See?! This is the kind of knowledge you lose when you only get your hair cut a couple of times a year and are too timid to ask questions!

A bit of a side note, my hair also offered a bit of a visual history of my general health and wellbeing travails over the first six months of the year. It turns out I had a hilarious ton of “regrowth” that was only a couple of months old but very evenly distributed all over my head, indicating when I previously had a lot of hair loss due to stress. Yikes. YIKES. At least it’s growing back.

Otherwise, I’m streamlining my style for summer (see the Other goals below), so am trying to put more emphasis on the “finishing touches” of accessories and presentation. This was a good month for that.

Other

Made a decision: we’re moving due to financial motivation. Therefore, did a LOT of property research, arranged viewings, found a great options and put in an offer for this fall. Fingers crossed that nothing falls through, we’d be really happy with this apartment even if it would be bittersweet to leave our current home.

I built my warm weather capsule wardrobe both to meet a challenge and to begin to prepare for a move. I used this challenge as an excuse to get a headstart on packing and begin boxing up other items, continuing to clean/cull/donate/sell as needed. Keep an eye out for the summary blog post on this project at the end of August

Upgraded lingerie drawer, and threw out old and worn items.

Finally, immigration paperwork submitted and residency successfully achieved! This was our big (and by far most expensive) task this month and I’m delighted to have it behind us.

 

A Summer Capsule Wardrobe: The Visual

“Fashion is what you’re offered four times a year by designers. And style is what you choose.”
– Lauren Hutton

Hey team, a slightly unexpected post, but given that I’d already written about this project and that I’ve already started packing for a move that’s not happening for over a month (type A problems, amirite?), I figured why not? Here’s what my capsule wardrobe looks like.

Disregard the stuff on the left, those are options for the various aspects of my brother’s wedding and photographic evidence that I am still debating betwixt. Say rather dithering, I have NO idea what I’m going to wear.

Focus on the right side. That is 20 items, all inclusive of bottoms, tops, and toppers. As I’ve written, I’ve made it a month so far with naught but what you see here and so far…I don’t hate it? It’s been interesting to see how little I actually need versus what I actually own. Not pictured are the three cardboard wardrobe-style boxes I have already pre-packed up in advance of our move, currently taking up too much space in our living room. Yes yes, I’m ridiculous, we know.

I’m curious if this project and our move will make me change my mind about keeping any individual items but for the moment I’m fine locking up that up (literally) as a problem for another day and focusing on whether I can stick to what you see here for another month. I confess I didn’t necessarily plan for a crippling heatwave!

A Summer Capsule Wardrobe: The List

“Anyone can get dressed up and glamorous, but it is how people dress in their days off that are the most intriguing.”
—Alexander Wang

So, capsule wardrobes. The internet is awash in content about it and recommendations on how to do it about. Some people encourage as part of a minimalist lifestyle (a worthy goal that holds zero appeal for me, an unrepentant maximalist), some people as a way to push a reset button when it comes to style or consumerism (which I think is a great idea on the whole). Books have been written about this stuff.

I ignored most of it. My intentions were not lofty but deeply practical. The major desired outcomes were ticking a box on a goal list, and finding a way to begin packing now for a move that wasn’t happening for another month and a half. Any added benefits such as a reduction in stress or faff when getting out the door in the morning were gravy, as far as I was concerned.

The only advice I followed, which seemed fundamentally sound was simple: have a color palette. The idea was that if everything came from the same general grouping of colors, the chances of everything matching one another and creating easy outfits was much higher. Blue and white together are one of my favorite color combinations generally and especially for summer, so I chose that with black and green (my other favorite mix) thrown in for variety.

I was most dubious about this idea working with workwear, notoriously tricky at the best of times and hugely intimidating for a London summer where we might legitimately experience all four seasons in a single week (if not day!), but thus far it’s working great. I’m getting use out of my investment pieces and have enough basic, mix-and-match items to deal with the variance in temperatures, sun, and wet.

Some people include shoes or accessories in the list of items, but I couldn’t be bothered with that, nor did I see any point in listing items like sleepwear, activewear, or other specialty items. My list didn’t include items for my brother’s wedding, for instance, or the t-shirts I often sleep in (usually purloined from Jeff…). The only rule I gave myself, plucked more or less from thin area, was to try and restrict myself to 20 core items.

Notwithstanding the general laissez-faire and last minute approach to this project, I’m still a bit surprised that the first month of this project has sort of just whizzed by. This indicates to me that I still have too many clothes (which is not news), but also that my general project towards overall wardrobe streamlining is working. For a while in my 20s, when I was still deciding who I wanted to be and how I wanted to dress, I had a lot of things that would never have gone together no matter how hard I tried. These days, the mix between reliable basics and statement, personality pieces feels correct and more like “me.”

Without further ado, this is what my two month capsule looks like:

Tops (11)

  • White silk button up shirt (Everlane)
  • White silk button up sleeveless top (Everlane)
  • White silk tank top (Everlane)
  • Black sleeveless top
  • Black silk button up shirt (Everlane)
  • Blue and white polka dot silk shirt (Sezanne)
  • Blue cotton button up (GAP)
  • White linen shirt (found at a street market in Italy)
  • White t-shirt (Everlane)
  • Green cotton tank top (GAP)
  • Green and print silk button up shirt (& Other Stories)

Bottoms (5)

  • Black trousers (no clue)
  • Light blue jeans (Glassworks)
  • White jeans (GAP)
  • Navy pencil skirt (J Crew)
  • Navy shorts (GAP)

Other (4)

  • Black short sleeved work dress (MM LaFleur)
  • Navy sleeveless work dress (MM LaFleur)
  • Black and white print casual dress (J Crew)
  • White linen blazer (J Crew)

I’ll check in at the end of August and let you know how the project turns out, but I’m curious! If you have done a capsule, what did it look like? How did you build it? What were your rules, and why?