Motivation Monday: Start Small

Life is overwhelming. From our every day To-Do lists to our goals and dreams, the anxiety of stepping out to tackle all that life has to offer can stop you in your tracks. No one knows this better than me. Just in the last week alone, I have been overwhelmed five times. Seriously! Cleaning the house put me in a tailspin because I worried over what room to start first. Creating a meal plan for my new color-coded diet took me two hours because I felt like I had too many meals to categorize. And don’t even get me started on this website. Do you know how many blog ideas I have in my head? I have started them all, but finished none. It is often paralyzing, and results in unfinished chores and missed deadlines. (Yes, this Motivation Monday post is officially a week late!)

I tend to focus on the big picture. I want to see the end result. I want to reap the benefits. Who doesn’t? But if we’re so focused on looking ahead to the finish line that we stop taking steps forward, we’ll never complete the race.

There is one common factor that can help us in achieving all of our aspirations, no matter the goal. START SMALL.

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It has been said that one of the top habits of a successful person is their ability to start small. Katie Ledecky is an Olympic swimmer from the US, who holds the current world record for the 400-, 800-, and 1500-meter freestyle. She began swimming at the age of six. Although she was born into a family of swimmers, Katie couldn’t swim the length of the pool at such a young age. Although she was determined to get to the other side, she often had to hold onto the rope for help. Did that make her less of a swimmer? No. She knew that in order to reach her destination, she had to continue forward even if it meant slowing down, reassessing her focus, and occasionally reaching out for help. Her small, yet persistent beginning has taken her to her second Olympics, where she continues to succeed.

Like Katie, I also want to reach the other end of the pool, so to speak, on several goals. But the difference is that I seem to always ungracefully jump into the water and then flail around somewhere in the middle. There is no forward movement, no focus outside of the end results, and I never reach out for help.

In order to overcome the sense of being overwhelmed by our goals, we must think on a small scale. What plans to you have? Do you want to start your own business? Do you want to better your health? Do you just want to get your house clean and organized? Let’s think about how we can ‘reach the other end of the pool’ in these types of scenarios.

Most small businesses start with brainstorming. Many of us can dream up ideas. But did you know that there are steps forward in the brainstorming process that we should take BEFORE we advance to the ‘next section of the pool’? When we’re in this initial phase, we should slow down and take the time to focus on questions like, “What could go wrong with this business and how would I solve it?” and “What are the main things I want my customers to know about me?” After you have considered all of the questions that may arise about your business in general, then move onto to the next step… gathering resources. This may be your opportunity to ‘grab the rope’ by reaching out for assistance. See the pattern? Small, slow, and steady progression forward.

When it comes to my health, I don’t want slow and steady progression! I saw a quote yesterday that read:

“Two days into my diet and I’m still not skinny? This is bulls#!*”

Right? I want immediate results. Don’t you? And that is the number one reason why most diets and exercise plans fail. We jump in… all-in… with no small steps planned. We would be better off setting smaller goals. Want to lose 30 pounds? Your first goal should be 10, and only 10. Interested in a 5K? Your first goal should be one mile. Once you’re comfortable with that distance, then you can focus on two. Need to change your eating habits? Pick one thing to slowly remove and replace it. Cookies to fruit. Chips to carrots. Don’t try to give up everything at once. And most importantly, reach out for help! Have an accountability partner. Download an app to use. Join a group in your community with similar goals. All of these things are small steps toward your ultimate goal.

For me, instead of looking at how unorganized my entire house is, I have decided to focus on one room at a time. I am not going to rush. I am allowing myself one week per room. I will start small and take the slow and steady forward approach, beginning with the room that I use the least and work toward my busiest, most cluttered space. Being able to finish one room will not only give me the satisfaction of completing a small goal, but it will also motivate me to tackle the next, more unorganized, area of the house.

Let’s make a promise that the next time we’re feeling overwhelmed by our big dreams and lofty goals, instead of abandoning them, we’ll continue forward, slowing down from time-to-time to reassess our focus on smaller steps, and reaching out for help when needed. Big things are in our futures!

Creative Jewelry Storage

Like most women, I have acquired a lot of costume jewelry. I went through a phase when I bought a new shirt or dress, I also picked up a pair of earrings or a bracelet to coordinate. Before I knew it, I was buying duplicate pieces because I didn’t have an efficient way to store everything and had no idea what I had.

Costume jewelry tends to get a bad rep. It’s an inexpensive way to accessorize. Because of it’s low cost, many of us treat it with less care than we would more expensive jewelry. I would never lay down my pearl necklace in the laundry room or have diamond earrings strewn across the bathroom counter top! But I find myself literally leaving my costume pieces lying around the house.

I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a nice armoire to hold the insane amount of costume jewelry that I own, but I didn’t want to just throw it in a box either. Thanks to Pinterest and a few things I had around the house, I came up with a couple of creative ways to display my costume jewelry!

At some point in time, you probably owned a ribbon board. Most people used them to display photos. I actually had mine hanging over my desk, to keep all of my important notes in one place. Although handy, I wasn’t pleased with how cluttered the board looked on my wall… with all of those notes. I decided to repurpose the ribbon board into an earring and pin holder. I secured a ribbon to the back, and hung it with a large thumbtack.

I used nice 3M brand hooks to hang some necklaces around the ribbon board on my bedroom wall. I have one necklace that was too heavy for the hooks, so I hung it over the ornamental shade of the lamp on my nightstand. I used a wicker basket, lined, to hold additional necklaces and bracelets. I also used old brass candlesticks to store my bangles.

I had originally used a glass vase to store my rings, but found that it was difficult to select one ring without having to pour them all out each time. I had hoped I would stumble across something better one day. That happened last week, when I went into Goodwill to find luggage for an upcoming trip. As I was checking out, there was an extremely ornate candle holder by the register. It was $2, and exactly what I needed.

Now all of my costume jewelry is in one place! It is not only organized, but it is showcased in a beautiful display. I can enjoy it even when I’m not wearing it!

Start treating your costume jewerly a little differently. Just because it was inexpensive doesn’t mean that it isn’t beautiful. Think of creative was that you can display yours. It will make accessorizing easier, and will give a fun way to decorate a room in your home!

Written by Jenn Bauguss

Packing for College

As my niece prepares to move into her freshman dorm at a North Carolina university this week, I thought it would be good to share with you a list of items commonly forgotten when packing for college. After all, this move is stressful, exhausting, and exciting for both the student and their parents. Although most universities provide an essentials list, there are always a few items that are overlooked.

1. Mattress topper – Most students, especially us girls, are too worried about coordinating bedding with our new roommates to think about comfort. I am here to tell you, the mattresses in most dorm rooms are NOT comfortable. It’s very important to take some type of foam or quilted topper to slide between the mattress and your sheet. Thickness and style play a major role in the cost of mattress toppers, with prices ranging from around $20 to $99. It’s really your preference. Do remember that most beds in dorm rooms serve a dual purpose as a couch. Make sure you invest in a topper that will last at least a year.

2. Quarters – Most children grow up with the luxury of a washer and dryer in their home, and a large portion of those children usually aren’t responsible for doing their own laundry in those homes, so the thought of having to pay to use the machines is new to them. Although most parents remember to pack a laundry basket and detergent for their kids, I suggest sending a few dollars worth of quarters as well. Campus laundromats should have change machines located in them so students can exchange their bills for coins, but keep in mind that those machines can break and/or run out of change. It’s good to have a backup stash of quarters readily available.

3. Rain gear – Even as an adult, I often leave the house without considering the weather. I find myself stuck out in the rain without an umbrella. Don’t let your children end up like this. Be sure they have necessary rain gear as the leave for college. I purchased an adorable, compact umbrella for my niece that fits nicely in most bookbags, messenger bags, or even in a purse! If your child feels that an umbrella is cumbersome, invest in a poncho or hooded, lightweight rain jacket. Depending on the region of the college, you may want to consider packing a pair of rain boots as well.

4. Shower shoes – An inexpensive pair of flip flops work best. These can prevent Athlete’s Foot in the shower and keep those tootsie feeling clean on your child’s walk down the dingy hallway back to their dorm room.

5. First Aid kit – Let’s face it, accidents happen! And no one wants their child to be away from home without a first-aid kit. Especially since it’s impossible to pack that “get-well kiss” from Mom. But you can supply them with things that no college kid thinks of: adhesive bandage, cotton balls, cotton swabs, peroxide, antibiotic ointment, and pain medication. First aid kits are available at most pharmacies and department stores in a prepackaged container. You can also customize your child’s first aid kit by purchasing a plastic container (like a pencil box) to store these items in.

These are just a few items that are often forgotten when packing for college. I suggest spending a few hours a day being aware of what you and your child use often, and make notes several weeks before you actually start packing. It is amazing the things we take for granted because we are already accustomed to them being in our home. Tweezers, surge protectors, and flash drives are examples. I hope that you have found this list useful. Best of luck, freshmen!

Obsessed Over Packing

Am I the only person who obsesses over packing for a trip? Out of most of my friends… I seem to be. Perhaps I don’t travel enough? Maybe it’s anxiety? Is it a disorder? Certainly it isn’t vanity, is it?

Usually when I start to prepare for a trip, no matter the length of time I’ll be away, I start with a spreadsheet. I list out the days I will be away and any events that I will be attending while there. Then I write down some of my favorite clothing items or maybe something special that I purchased for the event. I get specific, down to shoes and accessories. Then I spend the next couple of weeks (yes… this begins at least 2 weeks out) fine-tuning my list. My reasoning? One, it ensures I won’t forget anything. It also prevents me from over-packing. Or does it?

I understand the absurdity of this process. It actually makes me sad. Why can’t I pack the day before I leave, like most people do? Will it be THAT bad if I forget to pack an extra outfit (in the event of an emergency?), toothpaste, or the “perfect” earrings for that Saturday night dress? The majority of the places I travel to have shopping centers and grocery stores. If I forget sunscreen or socks, it isn’t like I can’t go buy them.

I remember, once, I went to the beach on a very sporadic weekend getaway. I was literally there only 2 nights. It was the fastest I had ever packed, and when I got to the beach… I had forgotten my swimsuit. Can you believe that? It sent me into a tailspin. I was with a friend, who wore the exact same size as me, and who had packed a plethora of every style and color swimsuit that you can imagine. A couple of them were even new. I still freaked out. Ridiculous, right? Because not only did I have options there in the hotel room… but I was AT THE BEACH. There are stores that sell swimsuits on every corner!! I just don’t understand why I am so traumatized at forgetting (or the thought of forgetting) something that can be easily replaced.

So here I sit, in front of my computer, checking off items on my spreadsheet as I pack for an upcoming conference. My carry-on is already packed to the gills, and everything isn’t in it yet, because I keep grabbing extra shirts out of the closet… you know, just in case. (In case of what, I have absolutely no clue! The conference only lasts two days.) The mentality of using a list to prevent over-packing, really only just causes more work and stress for me in the end. I still take too many things in an effort to not forget something.

Aside from suggesting therapy, does anyone have any helpful hints that they can share? When you travel, when do you pack? Do you have a system? What are ways you prevent over-packing? I would love to hear your tips!

To Do or Not To Do

Do you spend more time making and revising your To Do list than you do actually completing the tasks written on it? There are many days that I feel like “Managing my To Dos” is at the top of my list and I never get beyond that.

On those days, I can’t get motivated. All I do is sit back and wonder how I am responsible for so many tasks. The more I wonder, the more overwhelmed I become; until I get so anxious that I turn to something mindless, like TV or Facebook. After all, it’s easier to be “busy” with something than to actually be productive. Then, before bed, I shuffle items around on my To Do list in preparation of a “more productive” day to follow.

Thankfully, I was introduced to Glynnis Whitwer‘s book, I Used to Be So Organized. No more than a few pages in, I felt as if God had called Glynnis to write this book directly to me. A few days later, I was blessed with Chapter Six. Although the entire book is chocked-full of helpful hints, important information, and a mound of motivation… Chapter Six opened my eyes to the root of my problem.

I can’t say no.

Why?

There are more reasons than I care to admit:

  • I see every opportunity as a learning experience. I like to learn. I feel like the more knowledge I have, the easier things will be.
  • It looks good on my resume. The more work I do, the more options I’ll have professionally.
  • I don’t like to disappoint people, and I’m an overachiever. These two go hand-in-hand. I just want to do my best while helping others.
  • I’m searching for my purpose. Come on, don’t you wonder what God’s will is for you? What if I turn something down that is a crucial step in my life’s journey?

Glynnis discusses all of these concerns in her book – and shares detailed, personal examples – because she has struggled with saying no too! By understanding the emotions that cause my disarray, Glynnis helped me to see that my To Do list is, in fact, manageable.

The best thing about Chapter Six of I Used to Be So Organized is the importance of prioritizing responsibilities. Glynnis presents five key questions that we should all consider as we sit down to list out our tasks.

  1. What can only I do? These priorities are the first on the To Do list because only we, as individuals, can do them. For me, developing my faith and taking care of my health are two very important priorities that I have often let slip off my of list altogether. However, these should come first.
  2. What has God entrusted to me? In a nutshell, God has already blessed us with things that require responsibility: our homes, our families, our talents. Caring for and nurturing these things are significant projects.
  3. Am I a good steward of what I already have? Ouch! This one stepped on my toes. Do I manage money well? Do I care for my home? Do I love my family in the way that I should? Do I work effectively as I can? What is my attitude when God calls me to do something? Glynnis writes, “God is always watching to see how I’m doing with what He’s already given me. When He sees I manage things well, He entrusts me with more. When I’m neglectful, the opposite happens.” What a powerful statement to consider!
  4. What passion has God put in my heart? This is one that we need to really pray over to ensure we truly have a passion for it, and not a crush. Some examples include: encouraging others, being a writer, adopting, or volunteering.
  5. What has God asked me to do that I haven’t done yet? For me, one is running. I used to say I’d only run if something was chasing me. Part of me still holds true to that comment. That is why I struggle with considering the sport. After my father’s heart attack, though, I knew I needed to develop healthier habits. I prayed consistently for the Lord to guide me on a conducive path. I’m not sure what I was expecting for an answer, but I certainly wasn’t prepared for. . . RUNNING! I prayed harder. I heard “Run!” even louder. Running is one of the best exercises. I’ve read all about it. It would be very beneficial for me to start. Something is holding me back. The truth is am holding me back. So it was great to read this from Glynnis, “I once heard this statement, “Old orders are standing orders.” Meaning, if God asked you to do something…and didn’t revise the directions, He still expects you to do it. It’s never too late to be obedient.”

Isn’t it so much easier to sort through your giant list now? But I’m sure you’re thinking, What about all of the items that do not fall within these five categories? Well, Glynnis reminds us that once we have a clearer idea of priorities, we shouldn’t be surprised if it takes time to work things out. She warns us to be prepared to have to resign from certain things that we once committed to. That doesn’t mean you necessarily have to stop abruptly. It is okay to see a project out. But before taking on any new tasks, make sure there isn’t anyone else who can do the job. Pray about it. If God didn’t call you to do it or you don’t have the necessary passion for it, SAY NO!

Once priorities are in place, and old tasks [that we should’ve said no to, but didn’t] are cleared from our schedules, we must be smart with how we use our time. Beware of common time stealers like television, email, social media, gossip, shopping, and even exhaustion. If you need to check email or want to watch your favorite TV show, be sure to set aside time on your To Do list for these things. Once your time is up, walk away from the computer or turn off the television.

Glynnis writes, “For every yes, there is a no. As you say yes to bringing order to our schedule and home, identify where you need to say no. This effort will take time away from something else. It will take mental focus. It will take sacrifice.” Like many other things in life, prioritizing doesn’t come easy. It is a skill that requires practice and dedication. But I feel by following Glynnis’s advice, I can finally take back control of my To Do list! If you’re struggling in this area, I recommend picking up your own copy of I Used to Be So Organized.