Life, Curated: Week Two (The Kitchen)

life-curatedweek-2-the-kitchenTo catch you up: Life, Curated is a program that is designed to help you (and me) find time for writing by getting the rest of our lives under control. Starting with a major home overhaul. For the first eight weeks, we’ll be doing major decluttering.

This is not a program designed to give you a Pinterest-ready home. It sprung from my observation (and life experience) that creative people also tend to be super right-brained and right-brained people tend to struggle with organization. This is about digging yourself out, if you’re so buried that you can’t take time for your art without feeling guilt.

You can join us on Facebook to share progress, get support, and see my after pictures.

Okay, onward!

This week we’re working on our kitchens.

I know this is a big one! Even a small kitchen can be stuffed with . . . stuff.

FRESH EYES

First things first, do the Fresh Eyes exercise on your kitchen. Take a good, honest look at the space and ask yourself these questions:

  • What needs to be cleaned?
  • What needs to be decluttered?
  • What needs to be repaired or refinished?
  • What do you need to buy for this section of your house?

Look at your kitchen the way a realtor might–someone totally dispassionate and unconnected. Someone who won’t have to actually do the work.

Keep your exercise in a Life, Curated notebook and hang on to your answers to those questions. You’ll need them over the next six months. I made a Fresh Eyes printable for you. If you’d like to download it and sign up to get weekly Life, Curated posts delivered to your inbox.

DECLUTTERING

A major part of curating is decluttering–brutally. Get rid of anything in your kitchen that you don’t A) love and B) use regularly.

Here’s an example:

You might know that I have a thing for vintage . . . things. I love thrift stores and I have a hard time leaving behind cool mid-century stuff. As a result, I have a big collection of vintage Pyrex. And I LOVE it. But, I have some that I’ve bought, I store, but I’ve never once used.

So, I need to ask myself some questions. Is storing a bunch of Pyrex casserole dishes that I don’t ever, ever use stealing my resources? Do I have to spend time digging through it to find the thing I do need? Am I paying for storage? Am I spending energy cleaning stuff that I don’t ever use? Would getting rid of some of it free up time, money, or energy for writing?

This isn’t about minimalism. I can keep my Pyrex casserole dishes. Maybe there’s something I’ve been using that I don’t like as well. Maybe I can find a place to store my collection that will make it easier for me to use it.

But, the honest truth is that a less cluttered kitchen takes less time and energy to use efficiently and to keep clean. Those are minutes I can spend creating stories.

So, this week’s job is to go through every single cupboard and declutter as much as you can.

Last week I said that you should just get rid of what you don’t keep–donate it. I’ve had a slight change of heart. If you trust yourself to actually do the work of selling it, consider using your discarded stuff to fund your writing career. Use the money to hire an editor or cover designer, or to pay for a class or some craft books.

BEFORE

Okay — here’s the part that’s always a little hard. My before pictures. It’s pretty obvious, even before I do the Fresh Eyes exercise that I have a small kitchen with too much stuff. Every flat surface is COVERED. Especially behind the sink and my poor fridge.

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LAST WEEK

Last week I worked on my entry and hallway.

I ended up donating a huge black trash bag full of stuff, plus filled a box with things I think I can sell. I have the space in my garage to store the sell stuff for a while, but I’m not going to let myself hold on to it forever. When these eight weeks are over, the stuff is either sold or donated. Period.

(I’d just like to note that that filthy floor, caused by muddy conditions outside, has been cleaned!)

Before:

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After:

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Before:

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After:

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And my donations:

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And my sell pile:

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Life, Curated: Week One (The Entry)

life-curated-week-one-the-entryYou might be wondering–what in the hell does housekeeping have to do with writing?

If you’re an adult and you live in a house, especially if other people live there with you, the answer is probably quite a lot. Because it’s hard to take anytime at all to write when every minute of your day could be filled with three other things.

Write, or make dinner.

Write, or clean the toilets.

Write, or vacuum the living room.

You get the point.

So, here’s the plan. We’re going to get a handle on all the adulting stuff this year, so that we can open up some time for writing.

First things first though: right now we’re making a non-negotiable commitment.

Ten minutes of writing and ten minutes of reading every day. No matter what. Even if you have to sneak them in the bathroom. That’s twenty minutes a day and it’s okay if it’s a struggle right now. We’re going to work on that. Lean into the struggle. Do it everyday. Like Ray Bradbury said, then see what happens.

Okay, now that’s out of the way, here’s what we’re going to do.

  1. Divide your house into eight areas. Mine are: entry/hallway, kitchen, dining room, living room, other room (for me this is the den/office), bathrooms, master bedroom, Ruby’s bedroom. Do what makes sense for you.
  2. This week we’re going to start with the first section and give it a good hard look. For me, that’s the entry and hallway in my house. I’ve got a coat hanging area, a coat closet, a mail center, and a linen closet. Also, a railing around the stairs to the basement that often gets used as a hanging rack for all manner of things. (I’ll describe the Fresh Eyes exercise below.)
  3. And then we’re going to give it a brutal decluttering. I want you to look at everything you own that’s hanging out in that first section of your house and ask it this: is keeping you around worth my writing time? Do I like you that much? Have I even looked at you in the last year? Will I be sad a year from now if you’re not around?
  4. Take before and after pics. If you want to, you can come share them in our Facebook group.
  5. Keep up with the 7 Super Habits. They make a difference.

FRESH EYES

The Fresh Eyes exercise works like this: take an honest look at the section of your house you’re working on. (I’m just going to assume it’s your entry and hallway.) Ask yourself these questions:

  • What needs to be cleaned?
  • What needs to be decluttered?
  • What needs to be repaired or refinished?
  • What do you need to buy for this section of your house?

Your goal is to look at your house the way a realtor might–someone totally dispassionate and unconnected. Someone who won’t have to actually do the work. Go ahead and list things like painting or getting a new front door, even if you’re not sure how or when you might actually do them.

Start a Life, Curated notebook and hang on to your answers to those questions. You’ll need them over the next six months. I made a Fresh Eyes printable for you. If you’d like to download it and sign up to get weekly Life, Curated posts delivered to your inbox.

DECLUTTERING

We are curating here. Life curating.

Curating means to pull together and sift through. I am not a minimalist and I don’t think I ever will be, so I’m not here to tell you how much stuff you need to get rid of.

What I’d like you to think about is this: every single item that you own takes a little bite of your time and energy and resources. At some point you’re going to need to use it, clean it, dig through it, dig for it.

The point of the next eight weeks is to really look at everything you own and ask yourself: is this thing worth the amount of time it takes away from writing?

Real life example. I own probably 20 pairs of shoes. I regularly wear two of those pairs. A huge reason why I only wear two of those pairs is because digging through all the rest to find something else I want to wear is too much to even think about. So I don’t even think about it. I just slip on my sneakers that are probably sitting in the middle of the hallway. Everytime I need something out of my coat closet, I have to brave an avalanche and take time to spelunk into that space.

I’m looking forward to this, you guys.

What about all the stuff you declutter? My advice is to jut get it out of your house. Donate it. Give it away.

You’ll have to check in with yourself about whether or not you can trust yourself to put stuff aside to sell. Will you actually have a garage sale or do the work to sell stuff on eBay or Craig’s List? Or is boxing stuff up to sell just redistributing the clutter?

If you have the space to store things to sell later, go for it. Mark a box SELL and put stuff in it. Make the decision that after we’re done with this six months, you’ll give yourself a set amount of time to make that sale. If you don’t meet your deadline, donate those boxes.

BEFORE

Okay, here’s where I get brave. Some quick and dirty before pictures of my entry and hallway. It’s muddy and slushy outside and you can see that not having a rug is making the floor pretty gross. And that the coat rack is a major clutter catcher.

And OMG, the inside of that coat closet. Here’s where my declutter time will be spent. Also–just not having to dig through that mess for boots and shoes everyday will open up at least a minute or two of time every day, right? Dang.

Okay. Are you ready for this? Come on over to our Facebook Group for support. I’ll be posting pictures during the week as I do my own work. I love you, you awesome Life Curator!

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Life, Curated: Getting Started

life-curated-getting-started

So, of course I have this big grand idea right when I’m on my way out the door to spend 8 days studying for my MFA in Jamaica.

The Life, Curated idea is so exciting to me! And I can’t wait to get started. But, I’m not going to be able to write much (or at all) about it until I get home on January 12.

If I’m going to have problems, that’s one I’ll take.

What I’m going to do today is talk a little about what I think the next year will hold for this program. And then give you a exercise that will keep you going until I’m home.

Life, Curated is based on this premise: Creative people are different. We are idea people. We’re great at starts and suck at follow through (sometimes.) We’re right-brained folks who do struggle with the little steps that get us from here to where we dream about being.

If that sounds like you, you are definitely in the right place. Welcome to crazy town. I’m super glad you’re here, because it’s way more fun with company.

Here are some things I have planned for next year (remember, I’m right there in right-brained world with you, so these are subject to change!)

We’re going to get our houses in order. For real.

Know what sucks? Feeling guilty about writing because you have roughly eleventy billion other things you could be doing with that hour. (Or even those ten minutes.)

I don’t know about you, but a bunch of those eleventy billion things are related to housework and are things that I pile on myself because I’m so naturally disorganized, I have way too much stuff (because it all has a story!), and I’m great at setting up plans for doing better, but suck at actually doing it.

I have a plan, though, that works with my right-brained tendency and that I think will work. I’m willing to give a try, anyway. And sharing it with you guys? Big part of it. I definitely need a shot of accountability.

It works like this:

Divide your house into eight sections. (Mine are: Entry and hallways, kitchen, dining room, living room, other room (for me this is my den/office), bathrooms, Ruby’s room, and the master bedroom. Our son Nick and Kevin’s parents are grown-ups and I’m not taking responsibility for their spaces!)

We’re going to take three passes through each section. First, we’ll spend a week in each one and declutter. I mean brutal declutter. Get rid of everything that doesn’t make you happy. We’re curating, right? THIS is the curation.

Then we’ll go back and spend another week in each space doing a deep clean. Floor to ceiling.

Finally, we’ll make one more pass and do repairs, make changes, whatever needs to be done.

So, eight sections, three weeks in each one, that’s 24 weeks. That’ll keep us busy, right?

Fresh Eyes.

So, the next two weeks, while I’m gone, here’s how you can get started.

I’ve already done this exercise, to test it, and it was surprisingly fun. It’s adapted from the Sidetracked Home Executives book. Pam Young and Peggy Jones are for sure my organizational mentors, even though they’ve never heard of me. If you’ve heard of the Fly Lady, that all started with these ladies. Fly Lady didn’t work for me, but I love Pam and Peggy.

Think of yourself like you’re a real estate agent. Take a walk around your space–whether that’s a house, an apartment, a trailer, a bedroom in your parents house. Whatever. Look at each room as if you were seeing it for the first time. Look at it as if you were about to try to sell it.

Ask yourself four questions:

  • What needs to be cleaned up or decluttered?
  • What needs to be repaired or replaced?
  • Where does clutter gather in your space?
  • What do you need to buy for this area?

You can just keep a sheet for each room in a notebook, or I made a worksheet for you that I’ll be happy to send if you leave your email address here:

Other Stuff

I have ideas for the rest of the year. Things like:

Curating outside spaces

Curating  storage spaces  (wait until you see pictures of my garage!)

Curating personal spaces (your bag, your side of the bed, your side of the bathroom sink, your car, etc.)

Curating personal finances

Curating health and fitness

You get the idea!

I’m really excited about this. Make sure you join our Facebook group so you can share how your Fresh Eyes exercise is going and get some moral support.

Get the Life, Curated: Recipe for a Fresh Start Course for $7 in January!

To set you off on the right foot, I’d discounted the Life, Curated: Recipe for a Fresh Start Course to $7 for subscribers. To get the code (and the worksheet), enter your email address right here:

The course gives you a powerful seven day program that you can use to kick yourself out of a rut anytime you feel stuck. I do it every January, but also anytime things just aren’t going the way I want them to. There’s nothing like a Fresh Start!

 

 

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Life, Curated: Recipe for a Fresh Start

life-curated-recipe-for-a-fresh-start

The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is, really, the perfect time for a Fresh Start. It’s my favorite week of the whole year.

I have this thing that I do, every year, during this week. A little series of things that help me to reboot before the new year starts. A recipe, I think, is the the best way to describe it.

I started doing this twenty years ago, at least, and I’ve added and taken away and tweaked the whole thing until it’s just what I need. Not just before the New Year, but anytime I find myself stuck or slacking or otherwise needing a Fresh Start.

Sometimes I do it during the week before my birthday. Or when I’m between writing projects and I’m just not sure where I’m headed next. Or when I’m unhappy with some part of my life.

The Fresh Start Recipe opens up my head and my heart to new ideas and possibilities and puts me in the right frame of mind to take action.

There are seven steps, so it fits perfectly in a week. There are daily tasks that build on each other and culminate with a routine that supports your Fresh Start going forward.

The Fresh Start Recipe is designed to help not only focus creative energy, but to organize yourself so that you have the time to devote to those creative pursuits. Not hours and hours. Minutes.

Minutes that you can give to your writing, guilt free. Minutes that will make you a professional.

It starts with the 7 Super Habits. I wrote about those right here.

It moves on to goal setting and time management and all sorts of game-changing fun stuff.

You can get access to the Recipe for a Fresh Start course by joining the Ninja Writers Club. (Use the code ANITRY to get your first month in the club for $7.) Scroll down the bottom of that page and click on Life, Curated: Recipe for a Fresh Start to learn more about the course.

It’s really important to me that anyone who wants to a Recipe for a Fresh Start can have it, so if you can’t afford $7, I have scholarships available. Just drop me a line at shaunta@whatisaplot.com.

There’s a Facebook Group for Life, Curated. This is a year-long project and I’d love to have you join us for the journey.

 

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Life, Curated: The Basics

life-curated-the-basics

A few days ago I told you about this new thing I want to do in 2017. Life, Curated.

Today, I thought I’d share the basics.

The very first basic: I’m learning a lot of this stuff right with you. Let’s call it learning out loud. I’m so happy that you’re along for this ride, because I’m not sure it’s something I’d want to do on my own.

Also, I think it’s going to be AWESOME and there isn’t anything better than sharing AWESOME with people you love.

So, here goes.

There are six pillars of Life, Curated. Number one is: Community. Because we are in this together.

community

Here are all six:

  1. Community
  2. Systems
  3. Tools
  4. Themes
  5. Habits
  6. Mentors

Community

There’s a Facebook Group. I don’t want to flood Ninja Writers with posts about organizing your hall closet or ideas for delegating laundry to someone else. And I want a place where we can talk and be honest and help each other.

I’m not entirely sure what’s going to go down in our Facebook Group. I’m thinking at the very least, I’ll link to the Life, Curated posts there. And challenges? I love a good challenge.

I hope you’ll come join us over there. Help shape this community.

Systems

Systems are just what they sound like. Little automations that keep Life, Curated rolling right along.

A system for making sure that you meet your most important life goals.

A system for getting dinner on the table without eating up all of your writing time.

A system for making sure you’re not one of the all-work-no-play types.

You get the idea.

Tools

Some of the tools we’ll use are analog. A bullet journal. A couple of different planners. Notebooks. Etc.

A couple are digital. Like Evernote and your email service and a cool program for keeping track of submissions to agents and editors.

Themes

Themes are the heart of Life, Curated.

They’re life, broken down into parts so that you can get at it all more easily.

Every month for a year, we’ll focus on one theme.

Habits

If Themes are the heart of Life, Curated, habits are the soul.

We’ll be building sustainable, life-changing habits that will not only help us curate our lives so that there’s space for art, but will bring all of our biggest, boldest goals into focus. And reach.

Mentors

Finally, I have this idea about finding mentors. Not necessarily in person (although that would be awesome, and you never know!) But, mentors where writer-types live: in books.

I really can’t wait to see how this all unfolds.

If you want to join me on the journey and you’d like to see these posts in your inbox, fill out the form below.

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Life, Curated: Art Matters. Make Room for it in 2017.

life-curatedI bet my life isn’t all that different from yours.

The things that fill yours up might be different from the things that fill mine up, but that filled-up-to-the-brim thing? We both have that going on.

Here’s my life:

I’ve got Ninja Writers going on, of course. That’s a full-time job full of passion and love.

I’m working on an MFA from Sierra Nevada College.

I have the same old stuff that any adult-type person has. You know, making sure we don’t end up on a very special edition of Hoarders. Making dinner. Getting some exercise. That sort of thing.

I have three kids. One is a twelve-year-old soccer player. One is away at college. And one is in his early-twenties and has special needs and lives at home still.

My parents-in-law live in our basement apartment. They both have dementia.

So, basically, my husband and I are the peanut butter and jelly in a generational sandwich.

Oh. And I write novels.

I love my life.

I truly do. All I’m saying, though, is that there’s just a whole lot of it going on. So much that the thing I tacked on at the end, my art? Carving out minutes for it in my day can be a monumental task that ends up being wracked with guilt and pretty easily passed over.

Sound like you? Work. Family. Home. Life. And your art way, way down at the bottom of the list.

I bet I’m like you in another way, too. I’m utterly right-brained. A creative creature whose brain works in one mode: Big Idea.

I’m fantastic at ambitious starts and struggle with finishes, because all the middle details get away from me.

I might not care so much about the unfinished things, if I didn’t have this one pivot point in my life when I was 24.

My mom died.

She was 48, so I was exactly half her age. I was a new mom with a marriage (to my high school sweetheart) that was on the verge of complete implosion (that happened a year later.) And I remember sitting in my grandma’s house, hurting everywhere, missing my mama so much,  wondering how the universe could expect me to do the rest of my life without her.

I started thinking about all of the things that she wanted to do with her life when she was 24.

She probably thought, before she got sick, that she  had a whole lifetime left.

She definitely thought it was okay to put a bunch of stuff off until her kids were grown up. She had no idea that she’d die the spring after her youngest child graduated from high school. Who thinks about that?

So, on top of having a strong orientation toward Big Ideas and a lack of the basic make-up that would make seeing those ideas through to any sort of fruition easy or intuitive–I have this strong drive to actually achieve the things I dream about.

That drive is strong. As a result, I’ve come up with some systems that help me stay true to my goals and figure out how to do what doesn’t exactly come naturally: all the little steps to get from Big Idea to Goal Achieved.

In the last eighteen months I’ve written two novels. I’ve lost 120 pounds. I started Ninja Writers, which allowed me to quit a day job that was sucking the soul right out of me. I started an MFA program and finished my first semester.

I still have lots of room for improvement. There’s always tons to do. But, my systems help. A lot.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to introduce them to you.

And I’ve got this idea for a plan (you know it’s a Big Idea) for making major progress toward my goals in 2017.

The Big Idea, which I’m calling Life, Curated is this: I hear so many people talking about being too busy to write. They put off their creative life in deference to literally everything else and give their art the left over scraps of time and energy.  I don’t think it has to be that way.

I believe that we can curate our lives in such a way that there’s time for all of the important things–including creativity, writing, art, music . . . whatever it is that feeds your soul and ignites your passion.

I don’t think you have to choose between writing and making dinner for your family. Or writing and making a living. Or writing and taking are of your elderly parents.

If you chip away at the stuff that doesn’t matter, what’s left can really shine, right?

If you’d like to come along on that ride with me, just leave your email address here. That will put you on the list to get new posts when they go live. I’ll send you my most effective tool…the secret weapon that’s helped me to meet my goals more than anything else ever has.

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