Friday mornings have become blog-editing time. I consolidate the blurbs that I have written throughout the week into one piece and then I reread it a few times, making sure my tangents track back to a cohesive idea and checking for the insane number of typos that occur when your brain has been demoted to the less-than-human-four-hours-of-sleep state. Then I post it. Then my sister-in-law texts me to share all of the typos that she still found.
Not this Friday morning, though. This Friday morning there will be no typos. Just kiding. The thing about this Friday morning that is different is that it is when I am actually writing the whole blog piece. This week has been even more crazy than usual. I can’t help but think of the saying “And the plot thickens…”- what if your plot is so thick it is officially a solid? Then what.
Anyway, the plot thickens.
This week we had a photo shoot for our furniture design business, traveling around to various clients’ homes to photograph pieces and ultimately update our portfolio. Sunday was obviously Easter so family brunch was really a full day, extended brinner. At home, in our condo renovation, we have been working on the installation of two ginormous closet builtins (think cut-out-the entire-doorway-so-they-can-fit-in-the-room ginormous) for both the nursery and master bedroom. In terms of my organizing, I started with a new client this week and oh yeah, the whole time there is still that tiny human that we made and are solely responsible for hanging around.
All of that leads to this morning. When all of the writing breaks that I didn’t take during the week are grouped into one power session and I mean what are experiences if not fodder for writing.
Now because I love multitasking, and eating, these words coincide with the consumption of the scrumptious lox of love bagel pictured above. This is of special importance to me because when your baby says (read: screams) that dairy and wheat are a no-go then you have to cut out some rather important components to this breakfast party. More on that in a second though, first some brief backstory. I was, admittedly, late to the smoked salmon party. Very late. As in I-tried-it-for-the-first-time-within-the-last-year-of-my-life late. We all make assumptions about the things that we won’t like and lox managed to spend the vast majority of my life as one of those, despite my openness to trying most things. Why I tried it the first time is ironically enough because it was partnered with a few of the other residents of thankyouIwillpass list.
Side note - my fiancé, my husband, my business partner- his name is Dave, Some of you already know that, others do not. For those that don’t, I think it best just to introduce him now because my inclination is to call him my husband, as many others do, but it is technically not true yet, so from now on I will just use his name. This should help avoid any confusion should I talk about my husband and then subsequently make reference to planning my self-catered wedding. Also, it is more polite this way.
So Dave. His family has a few food traditions that reappear at all family gatherings, as do most families. Theirs, however, are not generally for the faint of heart. Pickled herring and saltines, chicken liver pate and lox and bagels are some of them. If it is not apparent already why in an act of participation I opted to try the lox, then I will just repeat- chicken liver pate, grey, dreary mush on a cracker. I suppose it could be said that if I tried it that there is a potential that it too might come off the list, but to be honest, I don’t care, there are some things that I simply have no desire to like. Sorry, chicken livers. I tried the lox, nestled atop a cream cheesed bagel and lovingly spotted with capers, red onion and tomatoes and it was fantastic. Horizons expanded. Enter newborn son who by way of 2 a.m. crying fits explains his dietary preferences and the ability to enjoy the newfound brunch mainstay is cut short. At this past weekend’s family soiree, I even commandeered some celery from the Bloody Mary bar, laid some peppered salmon, capers, onion and tomatoes on it (whole-bug-farm-on-a-log?) and tried to think creamy, bready thoughts. It didn’t happen. Many of my impromptu ideas surprise even me with their success. This was not one of them.
I was going to reshelf the dream until my breastfeeding life was over until yesterday at Trader Joe’s I discovered their vegan cream cheese (made from coconut oil, an ingredient that I personally use for every conceivable purpose) and was once again inspired to make something work. Add in their gluten-free bagels and it worked. I also added in an egg because that is another ingredient that I use for every conceivable purpose.
Now if I look past my breakfast and the computer screen, which isn’t entirely useful for writing, I see the living room, which is currently a staging ground for most of our possessions. With each new project that we begin, we shuffle our stuff from place to place to make room for the work. For instance, since moving in in November, our clothes have had 4 or 5 different homes. Right now they live in the master bathroom. Think plastic shelving unit in tub and clothes hanging on the shower rod. Don’t worry though; we weren’t using that shower anyway. It leaks and will continue to do so until the bathroom leg of the renovation begins.
Did I mention we are hosting a dinner party tonight? Oh and that amongst the possessions in the living room, there is not a dining room table.
The thing is, when we moved in we did so with essentially nothing. No furniture, no dishes, no towels. I wanted to start anew. Creating a curated and purposeful life for us. We would buy and make with intention. Part of this was driven by my minimalist and organized nature and part by what I have come to call my “floor cushion ideals”. I definitely held romantic notions of cushions scattered on the hardwood floor, our friends coming over for cocktails, intellectual conversation and jazz on the radio. We would be unencumbered and free. In reality, we host our friends on a folding table in our would-be dining room and until the one we custom ordered was delivered earlier this year, they made fun of us for not having a sofa.
Needless to say, so far this has proven to be an interesting, if not trying, worthwhile, if not unique, experience. For one thing, it makes the shuffling a little easier. Less is less when it comes to moving stuff around. I actually can’t imagine how we would have done any of this if we had had more things. Plus things are slowly coming together and knowing what I do now I wouldn’t have started this any other way. As I type, in fact, Dave is installing our master closet builtin so that this weekend our clothes can make one last move and meet their forever home. And by forever home, I mean the last place they will live with me until they are donated or sold so that I can buy a new piece of apparel.
This brings me to my last set of thoughts for the day, the ones that pertain to creating a more purposeful, organized lifestyle for yourself. These are a series of starting points that I gave my new client this week. She lives in my building, which is fantastic because I had a 45-second commute and was able to bring my coffee with me in a mug. It is also great because when I left part way through our session to come home to feed my son, she had some time to ruminate on what we had started and when I returned she had a Post-It note of areas of concern. I will share some of the basics that I shared with her.
This is not for those with a home library, that is an entirely different league, this is for the people with a cluttered bookshelf or two, a few well-intentioned stacks of books around the house, the adults whose YA and high school collections still linger. Books can be a sticking point for a lot of people. As a reader and a writer, I get it. Books run the spectrum from being like an imaginary friend or security blanket whose story comforted us when we needed it, giving us an outlet into a world that is not our own, to being no more that a sly name drop, a title on the shelf that we hope impresses those who see it. Sound familiar? Then do your books a favor and move on. If you truly love books then let them go. Their one purpose is being completely negated by being your shelf ornament. Pass them along so they can be read by others. Personally, I either directly share a book with a friend, donate them to Amvets or sell them to a used book store close to my condo from which I then use the proceeds to buy my next read. This does not mean, of course, that only those with giant libraries should keep books. If there are books that you will definitely read again, that you like to lend out but receive back or have a very distinct importance in your life then keep them. But that is not every book. It's not.
We live in a digital age. Things will only become more and more so. Take advantage of that.
I do think I should take a moment to step back and explain something before this seems geared solely toward the über tech savvy younger generations. It's not. I find a lot of value in what technology can offer but I also understand its moderation. Personally, I do not have the Facebook app on my phone nor do I have any games. I didn't have Instagram until I started using it for our furniture business and this blog. My son will not watch TV or use an iPad or phone until he is at least two and even that seems early to me. I do not believe in a heads-down, shoulders-hunched, screen-based lifestyle but I do think there are a lot of benefits to the intangibility technology can provide. Also for anyone who says that technology is unreliable, I promise it will last longer than the ink on your already-half-faded receipts and one day, should the whole system go down, there will be much larger concerns than losing your tax filing from six years ago.
In truth, most of the papers that we hold on to can simply go. I have seen drawers full of torn-open, empty envelopes, old to-do lists, torn out magazine pages with content that is now six trends behind and endless packing slips (these aren't even a receipt with slightly pertinent information!). Start by going through all of your paperwork and purging the unnecessary and the things that already have digital counterparts (think old bank statements and credit card bills). I promise that you will not feel an ounce of regret for getting rid of these things. The papers that you are left with should then be scanned into digital format (most printers now come standard with a scanner) with the originals discarded. There are some exceptions to these rules, obviously. Wedding certificates, birth certificates, Social Security cards, etc should be kept and having a small, designated area for them is fine.
I'm going to come right out and say it, if everything means something then nothing means anything. Basically if everything is important to you then nothing is because you have completely leveled the playing field and there is no spectrum of significance. You need to play favorites. There has to be things that matter more to you than others. Pick a box. One for each member of your household. I usually use ones that come with nice pairs of shoes because they tend to be of a sturdier, more quality construction. For each box, each person should very specifically pick the items that are of the greatest significance to them. I choose things that even when I'm not looking at them, I still know exist because if it is something that never crosses my mind until I see it in a box, it needs to go. People, love, memories, emotions, they don't live in objects. They exist within us. Don't hold onto objects thinking they keep you connected to the memories because they may really just be keeping you one step removed from the memory itself.
There is no shame in couponing, unless maybe if you are an extreme couponer. But that has more to do with the sheer volume of (superfluous) things that you will acquire and less about the act of couponing itself. I mean using coupons is a mild have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too opportunity. You keep more of your money and get the things you want and need too. That being said, a drawer full of expired coupons holds no positives. To help yourself, remember to use them, I recommend placing them together in an envelope or the like and then keeping that envelope in your leaving zone. Whether with your reusable shopping bags or just your jackets, you should have a space, preferably by the front door that houses all of the items that live at home but regularly make outings with you. There are also several phone applications that centralize your coupons and let's be honest, you may forget your bags, your jacket and even your keys, but you are not leaving without your phone.
Why are we comfortable with a wormhole scroll through Instagram that can quickly distort time, making a five-minute intention into a thirty-minute distraction, but when it comes to something like dealing with the mail, a task that in reality takes just a few minutes each day, we are left with an insurmountable feat and a countertop/drawer/basket full of envelopes? Whatever the reasons, I promise you that ultimately being clutter-free and up-to-date will make you feel way better than a million pictures of stylish puppies and pastel cookies ever could. If you live in a high rise or apartment like my client and I then chances are there is a wastebasket near the mailboxes for discarding obvious junk. One would hope that these bins are ultimately earmarked for recycling but if you have concerns about that or if you live in a house or building without the option, then place a small recycling receptacle near where you usually go through mail so that the obvious junk can go immediately. From there, sort through the remainder and execute on each piece immediately. The main categories that might remain are:
CIRCULARS/COUPONS: If these survived the first cut and there is a coupon (here's looking at you, Bed Bath & Beyond) that you will actually use, then put it in the coupon spot discussed earlier. Peruse the circulars for items that are on sale and you would like to purchase, add those to your grocery list and then discard. Many companies also now offer digital versions of their coupons so if there are ones that you regularly use, look into subscribing to their text or email counterparts.
BILLS: If it is a bill that you pay online then either pay it immediately or set a reminder in your phone or on your computer to pay it on its due date and then discard the paper. If it is a bill for which you will mail in a payment then this is one of the few pieces of mail to keep. Temporarily. Feel free to keep these out. When the rest of your space is clean and organized, this pile will serve as a tangible to-do list that will prompt you to get it done so that that spot can also be clear and tidy. Neat begets neat. I can't say enough though about making bills an online process. Digital copies of the bills save paper and online payment, especially automatic, saves time and more paper.
PERSONAL: This one is a little trickier for many people and my initial suggestions can seem a little callous but they are really quite the opposite. If I am sent a greeting card, I open it, read it, appreciate it and then it goes in the recycling bin. The sender shared a sentiment with me. They thought of me, bought the card, wrote the message and sent it my way. The sentiment is in those actions, not in the paper itself. I thoroughly appreciate their having done so but I don't need that bifold card stock hanging around in order to appropriately show that. If the cards happen to be for a holiday purpose and you like to decorate with them then do so. Just please discard them when the season is over. If the mail is an invitation of some sort, then immediately write down the information, whether in your phone's calendar or in a planner, RSVP, if necessary, and then discard it. If it is a letter or card that is of exceptional importance then put it in the keepsake box that we discussed earlier.
PLEASE REMEMBER THAT EACH OF THESE ARE SIMPLY A JUMPING OFF POINT. THEY MAKE FOR A GOOD GUIDELINE BUT THERE IS MORE UPFRONT WORK TO BE DONE IN ORDER TO FULLY IMPLEMENT CHANGES THROUGHOUT YOUR WHOLE HOUSEHOLD.
Now, the really important part. Food. Here is the recipe for my breakfast today.
LOX OF LOVE RECIPE
2 Bagels (gluten-free or regular)
Red onion, thinly sliced
Tomatoes, thinly sliced
Cream cheese (vegan or regular)
Try to select two bagels with large center holes. If needed, cut out the centers to create more space for an egg yolk and then halve the bagels. Oil/butter a flat frying pan over medium-high heat. Place the 4 bagel pieces on the pan (inside down) and crack the eggs into the four centers. Cook for about two minutes until the eggs look set up, and then flip the bagels. Cook for another minute or so and then remove from heat. Spread each half with cream cheese. Next sprinkle on the capers so that they will be glued into place by the cream cheese, followed by the red onion and tomato. Top with lox and enjoy. Thoroughly.