Category: Goals

A New 101/1001 List

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” 
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

I hadn’t done an update in far too long but my most recent 101/1001 goal list recently came to a close. My official reckoning ended at the end May and while I nearly had my list ready to go, I had a few more goals to add that I hadn’t quite decided on. The full list is now live and I’m excited about it–I’ve already put a couple of ticks against some of them to get me started!

Comparing my successes and failures of the last list (47 goal items achieved) I realized that many of them were probably always unachievable. There is no way, for instance, that I’m ever going to go skydiving. I have examined the innermost workings of my soul, and NOPE. It’s never going to happen. Meanwhile a lot of the challenge based goals really helped me jumpstart new habits or undertake long projects that had a measurable improvement on my life (my Year of Health included).

So this time, in considering what I wanted to achieve in 1001 days, I leaned hard into smaller, trackable goals and experiences. Travel features heavily, as there are still so many places I want to see. Learning also ended up taking quite a few slots, whether this means trying new classes, foods, or skills. And clearly I’m in the mood to prioritize experiences like concerts and comedy shows, things that I’ve not always carved out time for in the past.

In some ways this list is a bit less grandly ambitious than my last one, but reading through it, I think a lot of items on it are likely to help make me feel happier and more evenly spread as a person. As I’ve written before, work has really consumed a lot of both Jeff’s and my identities and time over the last six years and while I have no intention of scaling back on career goals, I recognize a need to “divide [my] energies,” as my brilliant friend Hannah once put it. I want to make time and space for creativity and pleasure much more than I have done.

Check it out and let me know your thoughts! And as always, tell me what your Big Ideas and Goals are. I love it when we cheer one another on!

Makeup No Buy

“Treat your makeup like jewelry for the face. Play with colors, shapes, structure – it can transform you.”
– Francois Nars

At the start of the year I gave myself a goal to not buy any new beauty or makeup products until my birthday in early June. This was partially to reset my buying habits for this, my favorite category of guilty pleasure purchases, and partially to help carve out a little extra savings by reducing or eliminating some necessary spending.

Time for some accountability reporting!

When it comes to skincare, I’ve already blogged about how my habits here are a real source of satisfaction. At 33, my skin is probably the best its ever been and my main goal is to keep it that way as long as possible. Drink water, eat healthy, exfoliate, and don’t screw it up with ingredients that muck up the delicate balance–easy! …Right?

Hm, on to makeup then. In this category I did need to make some purchases that were within the limitations of the self-challenge as I had no backups already on my shelves when they ran out. In the past few months I used up my Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation and a Lancome stick foundation which doubled as a concealer for me due to the consistency of the product. I also used up a tube of Givenchy primer. All of these are excellent products that I’d easily recommend, but in the spirit of my financial challenges I wanted to see if I could find alternatives (at least for now) at lower pricepoints. With summer coming in and my skin in pretty good condition these days, I don’t need full coverage makeup and so picked up a Maybelline blurring primer from the drugstore, a skin tint from Glossier, and (the splurge) a Charlotte Tilbury concealer. All of this are working together really well so once again, I won’t be buying anything in this product category until I use them up.

So other than that, did I meet my goal of not buying new products? Well, no, I slipped up twice.

On a work trip that routed me through Heathrow Airport at an ungodly hour of the morning, the dutyfree beauty counters called to me and I wandered past Burberry in a moment of weakness. I’m not sure what’s happened to Burberry’s beauty brand, they were having a bit of a moment a few years ago under then-Creative Director Wendy Rowe, but that seems to have faded. This is too bad, because they had a lot of really good products and I wish they were easier to find these days. Alas for my self control at 4am, they ARE to be found at Heathrow and that’s how I came home with two additional lip products that I didn’t strictly need.

And then, because my brain really does exist in an all-or-nothing state, and because I had already broken my goal once, I found it easy to justify picking up a handful of beauty products whilst on holiday with X in Italy when we discovered a local brand shop and self indulged. I don’t even have the excuse of an early morning flight and sleep deprivation, it was just weak will. Beauty tourism is one of the pleasures of travelling with girlfriends and Italy is the home of many a global brand’s makeup manufacturing hub. It was always going to be a risk! In our case, we discovered the brand Wycon and I picked up a totally unnecessary highlighter, lipstick, and mascara. I also got a three-pan custom eyeshadow palette in the most shockingly basic shades…and I’m completely thrilled with it. It’s easily one of the most practical beauty purchases I’ve ever made. All of these items were at drugstore prices and, while a lapse, were not nearly on par with my infidelity with Burberry.

I atoned for both of these misdeeds by going through my arsenal to remove at least the same amount of items as I added. My sister is getting some more beauty products (that girl hasn’t had to shop for anything in years), and a few old or expired items went in the bin where they needed to be. My beauty shelves are still bigger than a lot of people’s but they are smaller than the last time I wrote about them. My love of beauty hasn’t changed but my tastes are shifting a bit, as is my knowledge as a consumer.

Most of all, my shopping habits in this area have shifted dramatically. As has been well-documented, I made the consumerist breakthrough with my clothing a long time ago that made me shop almost entirely second hand or through ethical brands with transparent production and labor information. Understanding my style preferences has also helped to shrink my wardrobe over time and shop less overall. The same is happening with my bathroom shelves.

Makeup and beauty is a bit different because they are perishable products, but the same basic premises of “reduce, reuse, and recycle” apply. This project has helped me focus on buying less, using what I already have in creative ways instead of justifying new products, and documenting what I use up (and how bloody long it takes!) before I recycle packaging. Where possible and reasonable I’ve also tried to shop from brands I’m happier to support with my dollars for their commitments to good practice, or just to support independent businesses.

Even though the project is officially ending, I think I’m going to try and keep the spirit of it going through the end of the year. While I may buy beauty items, I’ll continue to do so primarily to replace used up items and if I do buy something totally new, I will first get rid of something I already own that’s similar. I’ll also continue to do Empties blog posts (because I love them) a couple of times a year, so keep an eye out for the next one in August or so. In the meantime, watch this space for a few more posts on how my self has changed over the past couple of years, and why!

Year of Discipline: May

“As full of spirit as the month of May, and as gorgeous as the sun in Midsummer.”
– William Shakespeare

What a month this was, my treasures. I’m just going to have to come out and admit that when it comes to goals and personal progress, most of this month was really just about getting through one week at a time with work commitments. That and a little overdue self-indulgence when it came to girl time!

I’m not entirely happy with myself when it comes to a my annual theme lately. I haven’t felt disciplined at all, just swinging from some version of over-severe austerity to utter laxness, with a side helping of emotional overwhelm for good measure. But I think this is why the idea of discipline felt so important for me to focus on, it’s not a natural state for me–at least a healthy version isn’t. The journey to a most sustainable set of habits and expectations which provide the structure I want is going to be a longer one that I thought, but I think that’s okay.

General Motivation: 

Shocking. Nonexistent. If it hasn’t been work or recovery from work, I don’t know her.

Health: 

*shoves another cheesey bread into her face and cackles*

Finances: 

…actually pretty good. My best friend X and I planned a near-impromptu girls trip to Naples and I was actually to pay for the whole thing up front and basically in cash. I was so excited about this milestone…until one of my brothers got engaged and planned a summer wedding in the same year! And while we’re absolutely delighted, we definitely didn’t plan or budget for a trip to the States in 2019. Ah well. Back on the savings to buy a lovely wedding present and humbly having to ask parents to help us out with travel arrangements. My parents are thrilled, it’s been literally ten years since their last wedding (mine) and the siblings are flying in from all across the world (literally) for the shindig. Yay, weddings!

Grooming:

With the warmer weather now fully in play, I’ve found it easier to make the effort to get up just a bit earlier and try and do something with my mane. Most days. The warm weather also brings humidity and its tendency to laugh in my face when I attempt to do anything grown up with my face and hair.

Other stuff:

Continued immigration work prep and conversations with landlord about extending our lease later this year. These are far from settled but it’s good to focus on moving these along. Here’s to not being stateless OR homeless!

Organized my Dropbox photos, especially my recent travel ones.

Set aside some things to hand over to my sister when I see her this summer–spoiled kid.

Tailored and repaired some clothing, as well as properly packed away my cold weather knits with cedar balls for protection against moths. Like a grown up!

Put the biggest corporate event project I work on all year to bed.

Worked on my next 101/1001 list...watch this space!

Year of Discipline: March AND April

“Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action. ” 
― William James

Discipline, you laugh? Quelle discipline? I’m a month behind on my accountability, and if that doesn’t tell you where I’m at in this project, nothing will.

General Motivation: Woof, mixed bag here, ducklings. I’ve had a series of breakthroughs recently when it comes to work and mental health which have been incredibly positive but I’ve also struggled mightily with trying to force myself to stay on target and track with several things. Another minor depressive bout, unhelped by uneven sleep and eating, have not made things easier. However, I must say that the first bank holiday of the year with absolutely oodles of vitamin D helped tremendously.

Health: this has not been what it should for the past couple of months due to injuring my knee in February but as the weather warms up and we have more sunlight, I’m also feeling much more energetic and less sluggish. Basically, I’m turning into a houseplant in my old age. I started exercise a bit more regularly again this month and want to keep doing that into May.

Finances: I am absolutely chuffed with progress in this area! The changes to my banking plan earlier this year have had the exact intended effect and have enabled me to budget even more effectively, which is therefore enabling us to do things like continue to pay down debt and still afford weekend trips with friends AND add an additional £200 a month to my savings fund. We’re still spending way too much on food, but that’s largely because Jeff is still winding down busy season in accountancy world which means he’s taking lunches and dinners at work, and I’m doing more travel than ever with my job which means I’m having to eat on the go. This has never been my working reality before this year and it’s been quite an adjustment to make. That should be dying down with the summer months, however, so a big goal for May is going to be to get back on the meal planning and cooking wagon. In terms of shopping, I made a list of things I wanted for summer, whittled it down to a single item, and paid for it out of my cash budget. *dusts hands in delight*

Grooming: I still hate doing my hair, but I’ve kept at it, so help me god. I also booked an appointment with a stylist whom I’ve gone to previously and like and for the first time in my adult life, prebooked my NEXT appointment for a few months down the road instead of waiting until I felt and looked like an undergroomed poodle to take action. Yes, other women have made this leap a long time ago and yes I am late to this most basic of personal maintenance. Sue me. Progress is progress. If I hate my hair this much the only solution is to turn it over to experts more often.

Other Stuff:

Planned a girl’s trip with X, which I cannot wait for!

Put some major work projects to bed.

Bought fresh flowers for the house every single week this month.

Spring cleaned our apartment.

Opened discussions with our landlord about a new lease.

Empties!

“The most beautiful makeup of a woman is passion. But cosmetics are easier to buy.” 
― Yves Saint Laurent

A fun post for today, kittens, and of the sort that are oh, so satisfying…at least if you indulge your inner nosiness as much as I do. Once again I’ve tracked the number of beauty products I’ve used up since the start of the year as I work towards a more streamlined product shelf and a better grip on my spending.

Body

Once again, this category is deeply unglamorous for a woman who likes beauty as much as I do, but what can you do. I continue to preach the gospel of certain men’s products being cheaper and therefore worth the coin. We share a bodywash in this household and often most deodorant as well. Evidence of my travel heavy life is on display from the sample sizes of body washes, shampoos and conditioners I’ve picked up but I’m making a conscious effort to use them rather than allow them to accumulate. My bath habit is also front and center with two different products for soaking thrown in.

 

Skincare

I crunched the numbers a while ago and my shopping habits in this area had definitely changed. I’ve always owned a mix of high and low price point items, but I’ve made a consciousness effort to find quality, active products at more affordable prices while eliminating the (silly) need to have back ups of most items on my shelf–just in case. In case of what, exactly? Finally, I’ve prioritized the items I already know and work incredibly well for me rather than chasing marketing campaigns that send me off on quests to find new products which almost inevitably leads to disappointment. In 2018 I averaged in my skincare arsenal cost $31 and in 2019 the average is $20. There are some products that are simply worth the money and I will not hesitate to replace…but there are a lot of others where I’ve been able to find equivalent formulations from independent or drugstore brands. All together, now in early 30s, my skin is probably the best it’s ever been. My whole focus is on keeping it this way for as long as possible.

Hyaluronic acids from The Ordinary and two tubes of Priming Moisturizer from Glossier should surprise no one. The Botanics eye cream made it into a monthly favorites post a while ago and my enthusiasm continues unabated, as does my love for Thank You Farmer’s sunscreen. All of these items have been succeeded by their worthy replacements on my shelf. Over in exfoliating acids, Glossier, Sunday Riley and Peter Thomas Roth products run the gamut from serums to masks but I can recommend them all. The only reason I am not replacing them yet is because I am working through similar products on my shelves first. Finally, that Clinique cleanser has seen good service in the wars, but has been firmly replaced by the No 7 brand gel cleanser which I currently swear by. It is such a good product and I have been evangelizing for it heavily.

 

Makeup

Tracking your usage is incredibly useful in curbing your spending because it takes so damn long to use a makeup product. The surest reason I have for not buying anything new is the fact that I’m already assuming my descendants will have to bury in my unused powder products someday. Perhaps I’ll leave my highlighters to my nieces or something…

Anyway, because they take so long to use, it’s always very satisfying to toss a few makeup empties into the bin under my bathroom sink. I’ve made it through multiple perfumes including a full size and a sample of scents from Frapin. This has become my go to fragrance company and I own two additional scents, one of which was a Christmas present last year. They are the most gorgeous things and very unlike anything else on the market right not. Which, as a snob, I love. That bottle of Tom Ford is a sneaky addition because it’s my husband’s scent but I, ah, have been known to spritz a whiff or two of it in my time. Don’t tell Jeff.

But I’ve also made it through another tube of Givenchy primer (not my first, though I’ve since replaced it with a drugstore option to trial), two mascaras, one brow gel, and a full bullet of lipstick (Chili by Mac, also featured on a favorites post).

What I think I really like about this update is how many of these I have shouted out before and been loyal to for months, if not years. As I said, I’ve really gotten to a point where I know what works for me and what I enjoy wearing and using. By the end of 2019 I should have a tightly edited, highly effective skincare arsenal and a honed makeup collection which is smaller than it’s been in years. I may do a separate post on how my beauty preferences have changed and my hoard has shrunk since my last update a year ago, let me know if you’d be interested in some posts along those lines.

In the meantime, to the comments! Share with me the products you swear by, where you save in your budget, where you splurge, and how your habits or tastes have changed over the years. It’s a topic I will never get bored with!

Year of Discipline: February

“Self-control is the chief element in self-respect, and self-respect is the chief element in courage.” 
― Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

This month I decided to make a list of chores that I keep putting off and get them done. Somewhat motivated by a lot of thinking about burnout and “errand paralysis” last month, I decided that the only way over some of my backlog of tasks was through.

Work travel this month really threw me off some of my exercise, eating, and budgetary habits, but once back home and settled I was able to get back on the path of virtue.

General motivation. I had work travel this month, and Jeff is in the middle of “busy season” for his profession, so it was a chore to make maintaining the house a priority, but we did it. We also finally upgraded our vacuum cleaner after five years using an incredibly cheap (and increasingly unreliable) one picked up from Argos when we first moved to London. The difference has been night and day. We’ve also been really good about our “fewer lazy days,” goals by making sure we get out of the house and do something fun or together every single weekend so far this year. In February this has meant going to see a movie with serious Oscars buzz, wandering in central London, date nights, or just walks along the river.

Grooming. I hate doing my hair. I hate it. It’s so boring, it never ends up doing what I want, and I always feel ridiculous whenever I try to do anything remotely stylish with my mane. But since I want to get better at doing my hair this year, I made it a point to be sure I was prioritizing “doing” my hair this month instead of just throwing it into my signature pony tale and going. This meant digging out the mysterious hair products hiding in my bathroom drawer depths that I don’t use enough and, surprise, they helped. I also bought little travel sized items for my gym bag for post morning exercise grooming. While that week of travel was not my sartorial best, the rest of the month was easier to prioritize–not least because the workmen are finally out of our apartment!

Financial. Since changing around some bank account options, I have restarted my monthly savings goal of putting at least an extra £100 straight into a savings account that I cannot touch no matter how much I want to. While our primary motivation is still debt payment, I want to bolster our emergency fund. I also kept my credit cards more or less on ice this month and stuck to a cash only system. We’re staring down the barrel of a large bunch of fees for immigration purposes which is incredibly stressful to think about, so every single pound allocated to that is a deposit towards mental health at the moment. Speaking of…

Health. It was difficult to stick to my good habits while travelling, but once back at home I was right back to meal planning and prepping on the weekend and making healthy food decisions. I strained the knee and hip joints of my dodgy leg which also had an impact and a week of exercise went down the tubes due to it. While not thrilled with this, the only solution is to try and do better next month!

Other stuff: 

Continued the art framing project, as part of my overall ambition to protect our pieces and actually begin using them to decorate.

Passed my immigration test!

Life admin. I made it a project to unsubscribe from almost every single marketing email list I can find so that the only things coming through my inbox are newsletters I have signed up for and enjoy, practical things like banking and order tracking, and correspondence with actual human beings that I know and like. Delightful!

Repotted growing plants. Gotta keep my chlorophyll children alive!

 

Year of Discipline: January

“Self-respect is the root of discipline: The sense of dignity grows
with the ability to say no to oneself.” 
― Abraham Joshua Heschel

This month I really tried to use the fresh start energy that January often brings to practice some new habits, without getting too affected by the #newyearnewme attitude that I find personally unhelpful. New Year’s Resolutions do not work for me, which is why I like yearly themes instead. Themes, I find, allow me to vary what I’m doing or focusing on at any given point rather than holding me to a prescriptive lists of dos and don’ts.

So, how did the Year of Discipline start off, you ask?

Exercise (blech). I’m not going to meet my 101/1001 goal of a certain amount of exercise per week for a six month period. This is annoying because I’ve had a lot of stretches where I was really dedicated to exercise and was seeing the benefit of it–even if I hated every single minute of it. But on the other hand, my Year of Health last year helped me to lose a lot of weight, sort out medications that were clearly affecting other areas of my life, start eating healthier overall, and nearly eliminate what were once chronic migraines. So while I’m still working on exercising more regularly, I’m not beating myself up too much over missing out on this goal. I did track my exercise this month which included days at the gym, but also included a step-counting challenge for charity for work, and walking home from work as many days as possible, even though the January weather isn’t exactly a Londoner’s delight.

Healthy eating. You might have seen the Instagram Stories over December…to say I indulged would be a hilarious understatement. One of the best things I did for my health over the past couple of years was to drastically reduce the amount of sugar I was eating but that had fallen by the wayside in the last few months of 2018. I took this month as an opportunity to really be mindful about my food and deliberately healthy in my choices. This isn’t some kind of personal revolution, I’m not jumping on the latest trend, and it’s not something I’m going to be particularly rigid about moving forward; I just appreciated the chance to deliberately focus on reinforcing the good food habits I’ve spent a long time building. This month I cooked almost all of my food at home, with one night out and one brunch with friends, and deliberately carved out time to cook on the weekends and during the evenings.

Waking up earlier. One of the unintentional bad habits I’d found myself sliding into was hitting the snooze button more and more, which made for rushed and grumpy mornings. I also noticed that I didn’t have as much personal time as I wanted. Work has been pretty consuming which has meant late nights or lack of time or energy for personal projects in the evenings or at weekends. I decided to try and free up some more time in the morning instead and do you know what? It worked! After the first week of adjusting to my new wake up time, during which I woke up but allowed myself to get up and moving at a leisurely pace, I was gradually able to introduce more and more action to my mornings. Sometimes I made breakfast, sometimes I did some light exercise, sometimes I just read the news and got my social media fix. It made for a much better and less frantic morning routine. Did I miss a couple of days due to overslept alarms and unintentional snoozes? Yes, but less than five, so I’m going to call this a goal achieved.

Financial health. Jeff and I put some big payments towards our personal debt in December and were determined to not use our credit cards more than strictly required. I literally took them out of my wallet this month to rely on cash as much as possible. I also saved on travel costs by walking home when I could, packing my lunches, and curtailing my afternoon coffees at work. I scheduled appointments with my bank to finally make some minor changes to my accounts to facilitate improved savings habits. I had a bit of a wobble when it came to shopping which I wrote about here, but the total damage was under £250, which is something I more than accounted for by changing my food habits.  Budgeting: fun, no. Another month of debt payments? Yes.

Other stuff:
I used some of our budget this month to start the long put off project of framing our art. This is going to take a long time to do so we are going one piece at a time, starting with a print we bought last year.

Took another batch of items to donate to charity shops and donation centers. The water damage to our apartment finally got repaired and we used the opportunity of camping in our living room for two weeks to go through our stuff and set aside items for repair or donation. It was cleansing, even if we did spend the day arguing!

Reorganized the house. See above.

Scheduled my next batch of immigration work, including a test.

Tried to dress better overall. This month I played around a bit with my wardrobe and found ways to wear favorite items, styling or layering them for the colder weather. I also really made my morning grooming routine more of a priority…which was not easy given that workmen were in our house for two weeks and we were sleeping on the living room floor!

I renewed an out of date library card. While buying books is allowed this year, I’m trying to minimize this by taking advantage of the community resources I benefit from.

Booked a dental appointment and processed the insurance claim immediately.

What did you do for yourself this month, kittens? There are NO wrong answers.