Some of you may have noticed that I largely disappeared from sight for the last couple of years, and the answer is a simple reason: life is crazy. There’s probably not a person out there that can’t relate to that statement. It seems that demands on time and energy grow every year, without any margin to rest and recharge. For two years, I reduced my activities to the minimum so I could deal with family issues and my own health: no travel, no blogging, minimal social media. For a while, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to return to traditional publishing. I’d been planning on going indie just to get some breathing space. That is, until I got connected with the wonderful folks at Tyndale House Publishers and decided I could have no better partner if I were going to keep writing fiction.
But that brings me to a 2017 that is even more jam-packed than the ones that came before. One book to edit, two to write…a platform to rebuild, a street-team to grow, publicity to plan. Not to mention a husband who works full time, teaches martial arts four nights a week, and is starting a business… plus two boys who have school (30 minutes from our house—that’s two hours a day in the car for me), therapy appointments, tutoring, and separate activities. Oh, did I mention that we have multiple health conditions and food allergies, all which require a slightly different diet?
I figured out years ago that I can keep exactly three things in my mind at any given time, and do two of them well. And those things are constantly rotating. It requires meticulous note-planning and note-taking, the tools for which always feel less than ideal. So this year I’ve decided to focus on three things:
Devising a planning system that works for me
I’ve tried everything: Blue Sky, Erin Condren, The Spark Notebook, legal pads, the Bullet Journal. None of them quite worked for me the way that I wanted them too. The problem is, I’m both structured and freeform— I absolutely must have a traditional visual calendar to figure out where I need to be at any given time, along with the space to take notes and jot down reminders. Normally, my desk ends up littered in sticky notes, which is probably the least efficient way to plan.
What I really need is a combination of the two: traditional monthly calendar and freeform notebook, with a clean, minimalist feel. I adore beautifully decorated and designed pages, but the thought of doing it myself gives me a panic attack. I facetiously told my friend that I’m going to invent the Mullet Journal: business in the front and party in the back. After she stopped laughing, she said, “That’s a great idea. You should make it…and blog about it too.” And since this person is part-friend and part-life coach most days, I’m gonna do it.
Meal planning — for real this time
Guys, if you know me, you know I love to cook. But I am a terrible meal planner. My idea of meal planning is wandering through the produce section to get inspired by the pretty, locally-grown vegetables. Really not the most sensible way to use my time or structure my week. I’m also just started a low-histamine diet, which introduces a whole new level of restrictions and difficulties, especially since I can’t precook anything and hold it in the fridge for use later in the week. But I have to have a plan, and because of both my requirements and my kids’ food allergies, picking dinner up at Chick-Fil-A is not longer an option.
So I need a relatively-affordable, mostly-organic menu, flavors that my children will actually eat (they’re not as enamored with ethnic food as my husband and I am), and things that can be quickly cooked from fresh ingredients or prepared, frozen, and then quickly reheated in a reasonable amount of time. Oh, and don’t forget that I’m crazy picky about my food and most of the “umami bombs” I rely on for big flavors are now verboten. Let’s just call it Meal Planning Impossible, shall we? Feel free to come along for the ride…or just lay bets on how long it takes for me to lose my mind. I’m thinking they’re even odds.
Paring down — big time
I’ve been running behind the minimalism train since I read two books in late 2014: The Power of Less by Leo Babuta and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. We have a fairly modest house, but we are people who like stuff. I tend to be a collector unless I keep those impulses in check. But all my things were suffocating me. The time it takes to maintain, organize, and work around all the stuff is time I’m no longer willing to spare.
So I’ve decided to board that train for real and get serious about some major paring down. Did you know that you actually don’t need thirty colors of Post-It Notes in your desk drawer? I know that’s a humorous example—after all, Post-It Notes just take a little bit of space—but multiply that mentality towards everything you own and it can become a serious problem. I’ve already cut my kitchen gear by two-thirds and I’ve gone to a year-round capsule wardrobe to simplify my closet. But there’s still a lot of work to be done. The final goal is to have the minimum that I need to live plus the things that I absolutely love and put a smile on my face every day. Life’s too short and time’s too precious to be sucked into the black hole of consumerism. This year, I’m opting out.
These are some big goals and big changes, but I’m willing to bet most of you are feeling the same need for a fresh start for 2017. If you want to play along with the big New Year Makeover, I’d love to have you. Leave a comment below about your 2017 goals and we’ll do this together!