Get rid of things with purpose, not frustration

Just over two years ago, I posted about doing a big declutter. It wasn’t the first time I’d decluttered, but it was the first time I’d been really serious about it without necessity looming over me (like when I moved across the country and couldn’t afford to move everything with me). It was hard work, but I kept at it until I thought I knew what I wanted to keep and what would have to go if I decided to move to a smaller space.

Then, my neighbour had bed bugs that weren’t taken care of quickly enough, so I got rid of more things out of the fear of the bed bugs persisting for another month. Then I moved, quite suddenly, to a space that was about half the size (my current apartment), so I got rid of even more things.

I remember sitting on my bed a couple of weeks after the move thinking, “wow, I hardly have anything left!” I knew that I would need to do a review of everything after living in the space for a few months, but I thought I’d done a pretty good job of reducing my belongings to a level that Marie Kondo would approve of – the necessities, plus the things that made me happy. I thought that I’d hit maintenance mode: a quick annual review; practicing the one in, one out rule; adjusting for changing habits; and continuing to work on that balance between minimalism (or, some variation thereof) and frugality.

But, this past December, I realized that I still had some work to do because I’d been too lenient with myself when it came to art and craft supplies.

I’d started working on an old quilting project and quickly realized that I didn’t want to finish the project. I was working on it because I felt like it needed to be completed, not because I wanted to complete it or had any interest in the finished quilt. So, I quit and pick up another project … which I wasn’t interested in either. Looking at my mass collection of art and craft supplies, I realized that I had so many projects that I’d lost interest in or that simply didn’t fit with my decor or my new space. As I started going through everything, I realized that I didn’t need or want half of what I had, that I didn’t have the time or the inclination to work on most of the projects and patterns I’d kept. Most importantly, I really hated feeling overwhelmed by the very things that were supposed to be feeding my creativity.

I got rid of half my sewing, stitching, painting, and general art supplies. I then:

  • got rid of a third of my linens (bedding, etc.) to make space so that I could make my art and craft supplies more accessible (easy to get to in drawers, instead of crammed into boxes in a hard to access part of my closet)
  • got rid of some more clothes to make room in my dresser and an embarrassing number of books to make room on my shelf.
  • (because I was on a roll) I tackled my bathroom, front hall closet, and most of my storage closet.

At that point, I ran out of steam and simply made a note of any areas that still needed to be reviewed.

I couldn’t believe the amount of stuff I got rid of or the number of things I was adding to a “review in two months” list (i.e., things that I wasn’t sure about and wanted to come back to when I wasn’t frazzled from a weekend of cleaning, sorting and decluttering).

It’s only been a month and a bit, and I’m already seeing a huge difference. It’s easier to relax when everything has a home (i.e., isn’t sitting around in little cluttered piles), it’s easier to access everything, I’m more likely to remember about and use supplies that I can now get to without much effort, and I now have a better idea of what projects I want to complete.

I’ve also started to see a pattern in what I get rid of and what I keep. Almost everything that I keep is stuff that I want to use right now and almost everything I get rid of is stuff that I thought I might need, that I bought just in case or (in the case of crafts, etc.) that I bought because I read too many articles about “sewing essentials” or “tools you need for cross stitching.” I did not need a stash of fat quarters, a dozen basic thread colours, the “essential” watercolour colours, extra cross stitch linen, a dozen instructional books, or a giant bag of polyfill (for stuffed toys, which I never make). Like with books, I did not need buy things while they were popular.

Even now, I think I can get rid of more. And, it amazes me how much stuff I acquired while being totally convinced that I was only buying what I needed. All the money and all the time I’m now taking to sort through it – wasted! What was I looking for when I bought all those things? Was I looking to fill figurative empty spaces in my life? Was I looking to find that craft/art that I would fall in love with? Did I think that I would be an expert if I just had the prettiest fabrics and the most complete collection of tools? What the hell was I thinking?!

I can see why some people take minimalism to the extreme because I’m half inclined to just toss everything and start again, accumulating things only as I need them. Recently, I decided that I could buy a new cookbook (one that I found at the library and know that I will use), if I was willing to get rid of another cookbook. So, I pulled two. Then I pulled 2 books from my unread books and a couple more books from my read books. Then I tossed half my paint brushes (finally getting rid of the crap ones), the quilt that I was holding on to just until I had a chance to finish one I’d started 2 years ago, some linens that I stopped using a couple weeks ago, and … I nearly pulled out my fabric stash with the intent of getting rid of all of it! But, I realized that I needed to stop, breath, step away and think about it.

Some of the many fabric collections I created this week. Most are options for a quilt along, but some are just happy accidents.

Getting rid of things I don’t need is a good thing. For me, it’s been really liberating and it’s helped me to see past who/what I’ve been trying to be for years and start focusing on who/what I want to be now. But, I want to be thoughtful about it. I want to be sure that I’m getting rid of things with purpose and not just out of frustration.

I did end up getting rid of some more fabric (not much, but enough to make sorting it in bins a bit easier), but I did so thoughtfully. I pulled it all out during the day and considered what I would make with the fabric and if the fabric worked for my intended project (ex: if it was the right fabric for a cushion cover and if I would actually use the cushion cover).

Taking the time to be thoughtful did mean that it took a bit longer, but I also don’t regret the decisions I made about what to keep and what to toss. And, I think that’s a big part of why my motto (slow) is a good one for me this year. I’ve reached a point of frustration where I’m at risk of making hasty decisions and I need to remind myself to slow down and breath before jumping into something.

Do you guys ever find that you get overwhelmed and want to get rid of everything out of frustration?

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Yoga

Forget all the usual benefits of yoga – I have never been as diligent about sweeping and mopping my floors!

To be honest, I don’t know why I started the 30 day challenge this year or why I actually kept up with it (only missing a couple of days, which I’ve since completed). Yoga has never been my thing – I lack the flexibility and balance needed for yoga. Yes, that’s a good reason to do yoga, but as someone who’s “failed” or not quite managed to succeed at just about every fitness related skill or endeavor, I’ve got to tell you that having some basic abilities is key to success. Yoga is something that I really struggle with because I struggle with just about every freaking pose and transition. I’m too fat or too stiff or too weak for yoga. I can’t hold downward dog for long, I can’t step or hop up to the top of my mat in one movement, and I can’t reach the floor in forward bend. These aren’t mental challenges I need to overcome, they are physical “impossibilities” that I hope to eventually be able to overcome, but that are problems right now.

Even with cheerful, welcoming instructors who encourage you to take your time and do things at your own pace and ability, it can sometimes be very demoralizing to practice something that involves a lot of moves you physically can’t do (yet). Convincing yourself to do something that you know you’re going to “fail” at is hard. Convincing yourself to stick with it is effing challenging and sometimes emotionally demanding.

The reason I’m trying to stick with it is because I’m trying to get back in the habit of doing something for my body each day. I figured that yoga would be a good way to get to know my body again, while also providing gentle stretching, relaxation and a bit of a challenge. Plus, it fits in with my 2018 motto quite well – I’m trying to embrace “slow” this year by slowing down, being more thoughtful, reconnecting with myself, etc.

I’ve managed to stick with daily yoga for January and I’m trying to continue that in February. It hasn’t been easy – I’ve missed several days already – but I’m still working on developing the habit.  Much of my success so far has come from the freedoms I gave myself:

  • I’m allowed to try everything
  • I’m also allowed to say no and move to a pose that I’m comfortable with
  • I’m allowed to quit a practice if it’s making me feel frustrated, sad, angry, or demoralized
  • I’m also allowed to do an easy-to-me practice if I need a break
  • I’m allowed to count a quick 5 minutes practice as my daily practice if that’s I’ll I’ve got in me that day
  • And, I’m allowed to do lots of extra yoga on the weekend if I want to “catch-up”

I started the year with Yoga with Adriene because she does a great 30 days of yoga challenge each January, and she’s so welcoming and forgiving (she’s good about reminding us that we don’t have to do the hard version of each pose and that we’re allowed to struggle). There was one practice that I quit in frustration and one that I was mad at right to the end, but most of the days were fine – not easy, but a level of challenge or modification that I could deal with. And, she put together a playlist for February which I’ve been following.

While I’m trying to avoid unnecessary purchases this year, I’m trying to do whatever I need to do to ensure success, so I bought new yoga blocks. I also made easy-to-access space to hold my yoga gear and I found a couple library books that I think will help with pose modification and, maybe, motivation:

  • Every Body Yoga: Let Go of Fear, Get on the Mat, Love your Body by Jessamyn Stanley who is a plus size yoga superstar. Her book has poses, sequences, and body acceptance – all things I could use some help with.
  • Yoga Rising: 30 Empowering Stories From Yoga Renegades for Every Body by Melanie Klein. This is a collection of personal essays. It’s not the kind of book I’d usually pick up but there is a plus size yogi on the front cover and the summary states, “Explore how body image and yoga intersect with race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, dis/ability, socioeconomic status, age, and size as part and parcel of culture and society.” Yes, please!

I hope to make yoga a habit – maybe not a daily practice, but certainly a most-days practice.

Do you do yoga? Do you know of any good novice/plus size friendly resources I might find useful? 

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Book review: Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

As a Maritimer (someone from the small eastern provinces), Anne of Green Gables was a pretty big part of my childhood. I was lucky enough to be the right age to enjoy the original TV series (1985) with Megan Follows and Colleen Dewhurst, and to visit Green Gables on Prince Edward Island. But, unlike so many of my peers, I wasn’t in love with the book. It was a nice story and I enjoyed seeing it dramatized for TV, but it wasn’t a genre that I was particularly interested in. 

This past fall, I Audible offered a free copy as part of their birthday celebrations and I decided that it would be interesting to re-read the story. Of course, I then ignored it for a couple months, but I finally listened to it. It’s still not my favourite genre, but I have to admit that I was utterly charmed by the story and found the production to be utterly delightful. And, I think that I appreciate the story and the description of the landscape much more, now that I’m older.

The performance was impeccable! Rachel McAdams, who did the full performance, was full of Anne’s sweet and somewhat frantic enthusiasm. She was able to convey the vibrant joy and dramatic sorrows in Anne’s life while still being able to pull off that almost military sternness we all expect from Marilla. It was weird not hearing Megan and Colleen’s voices, but Rachel did a wonderful job and I’m very tempted to get the next book in the series based purely on her performance.

This is one of those books that I’ll likely return to, not so much for the story, but for the performance. It was sweet and summery and everything I’d expect from Anne Shirley.

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A year of slow

I picked “slow” as my 2018 motto for a number of reasons, including the wish to be more thoughtful about things. I don’t want to set rules, but I do want to set out a few manageable intentions to keep me moving forward. So, here are the areas that I’ve decided to focus on this year:

Reading

I mentioned in my original post that I’d already planned to slow down my reading. I’m attempting to read or remove most, if not all, of my unread books by the end of the year, but I don’t want to take part in the competitiveness or need to read more more more that I feel when tracking on Goodreads. So, I’m reading what I want, when I want and I’m only sharing select updates: the occasional review and my monthly unread shelf project update. I track my reading at home in a notebook and in a spreadsheet because I like making charts.

I’m also going to stop making myself finish books, regardless of how much I’ve already read or how great the reviews have been. I’ll be more patient with non-fiction books as they can often be a bit more dry and because I picked them to learn something new. But, as a general rule of thumb, if I’m not enjoying a book, I’ll find something else to read.

Journalling

I’ve already found a better way to do this. I no longer use pen and paper because that creates to many limits for me – I have to be at home or have my journal with me and I have to print or draw things if I want to add a pictures. Keeping it digital means that I can access it anytime and I can even copy my blog posts in to keep track of my thought processes in a month.

This has also helped with time: instead of rushing to jot something down before bed, I use the time I have in the morning before work or during my lunch break to write my thoughts digitally. This has already allowed me to reflect and explore ideas and issues more fully.

Sketching

While I still want to continue my daily sketching habit, even if it’s just a silly doodle or a “crappy” sketch, I also want to give myself more time in case I’m in the mood to sketch several images or work on something more complex. This will also help me to find time to sketch ideas, practice techniques, and make notes about inspirations I’ve found throughout the day.

Fitness

We all need to exercise, but this year I want to focus on building habits instead of pushing myself to be stronger, faster, better. I also want to rediscover my love for walking and taking my jolly sweet time exploring the trails or my neighbourhood. Once I started to treat all my walks as fitness events, I started to feel like I had work harder, walk longer, and use every walk as a means of improving my fitness. Well, that backfired because I stopped enjoying it and stopped walking as much. I want to get back to a point where my walk is focused on enjoying being outside and not on trying to get in shape.

Being eco-friendly

I’m trying to work towards a more eco-conscious lifestyle. I used to be pretty hardcore about the environment, but I let other priorities and “busy-ness” get in the way.  Slow living works well with this because it encourages thoughtful consumption. For me, this means buying less, finding eco-friendly alternatives, and making my own things.

Reduce, reuse, recycle – reducing is the first and most important part of being eco-friendly. That’s why you see people who are trying to live zero-waste. I doubt I could ever be dedicated enough to be zero-waste, but I can slow down my consumption to be less-waste.

Simplifying

Tying in with the idea of reducing consumption, I also want to continue to work on simplifying my space. I know that there are still some areas with room for improvement (i.e., things that I don’t need to keep), but I would like to end the year with the comfort of knowing that I have purposely and thoughtfully made the decision to keep the things I have. This is partly because I’ve discovered that I really value living a more simplified life and partly because I want to set a good starting point for next year, when I will be working on redeveloping habits around things like book buying (i.e., not letting myself get back in a place where I have nearly 200 unread books).

That’s 6 things! They’re all things that I’ve already started to work on, things that support where I want to be, and things that will help me with some intentions I have for the future (being more eco-friendly, refocusing on my health, etc.).

I’ve already started to implement some practices that I think will be helpful. For example, I recently borrowed a cookbook, The First Mess Cookbook by Laura Wright, from the library and immediately wanted to buy it. Instead of ordering it on the spot, which had been my usual habit, I took some time with it. I reviewed the recipes, the types of ingredients needed, and even the author’s website. I then considered if I really needed it. In the end, I decided to buy the book – yes, I’m buying a book, but I came to that decision slowly and thoughtfully. Also, I’m getting rid of two old cookbooks that I never use.

Each month, I’m going to make a short (very short) list of things that I can work on to help me live by my motto and each day I’m going to try and remind myself to slow down, breath, reflect, and live more intentionally. This month, my list includes:

  • Remember to weed things with thoughtfulness and purpose, not just out of frustration
  • Have a nice hot bath with those bath salts you’ve been saving for a cozy night
  • Consider sketching with purpose, even if a piece takes more then one day to complete the picture
  • Take a few evenings to fill past sketches with colour, because colouring is fun

My list isn’t too serious, but it does help me work towards my goals. The challenge for me will be remembering to do these things.

Do you have a motto? If so, how are you working towards keeping that motto in mind over the year?

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Re-reading books

The most recent Lit Chat with Lauren and the Books (#3) had Simon of Savidge Reads as a guest, which was delightful because he’s delightful. They had a lovely chat about the questions, which were: Do you re-read books? Why or why not? Are there any specific titles you go back to regularly? What makes you go back to them?

Up until recently, I would have said a very firm “HELL, NO! … … … Except for Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

It’s not that I’ve never re-read books. When I was a kid, I re-read picture books over and over and over again. And, when I was still convinced that I wasn’t a reader (i.e., having a hard time finding new books I wanted to read), I re-read a number of favourite books from when I was younger. I’ve re-read a number of Diana Wynne Jones, CS Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle, maybe a Janet Lunn, and several Terry Pratchett books.

But, on the whole, I’ve always been really against re-reading books. I couldn’t understand why so many people re-read books or (shock! horror!) re-read them annually! Of course, I also liked to pretend that I never re-read books. All the times I read/listened to/watched all the variations of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy apparently didn’t count. Nor did the fact that I have been slowly (very slowly) working on listening to all the Terry Pratchett Discworld books, even the ones I’d already read. And, as I started trying to remember books I’ve read in the past, I realized that I’ve also re-read (and would not say no to re-reading again) a number of favourite series from my childhood: The Chronicles of Narnia, the Time Quintet series, and the Chrestomanci series.

Then, Sara Baume happened to me. Almost as soon as I finished reading A Line Made by Walking, I knew I was going to re-read it. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that I really wanted to re-read. 

But, I “never” re-read books! No. Not me!

I have two main issues with re-reading books: there are lots of other books for me to read and I’m afraid that I won’t enjoy them the second time around.

The time factor is easily dealt with by finding audiobooks. I listen to audiobooks when I commute and sometimes when I’m doing chores, so I can easily listen to a couple of books a month and sometimes it’s nice to listen to something that I don’t need to focus on or that’s fun.

The enjoyment factor can’t be helped. We all grow, change, and evolve, so we won’t necessarily like a book that we loved 10 years ago, or even 2 years ago. Does that mean that we should avoid re-reading any books? Clearly not. We just need to go in with an open mind, cleared expectations, and the knowledge that we might not love it the second time. And, if you find that I you don’t love, or even that you hate it, that’s OK. It just means that you can make room for new favourites.

I re-read The Martian Chronicles last year. It wasn’t was life changing as it had been when I first read it, but it was still good and I don’t regret re-reading it. If anything, I’m sort of glad that I’m able to let go of the curiosity about whether re-reading it would be a good idea or a bad idea.

Do you re-read books?

I already own this #book, but I really love this cover #art - Martian Chronicles, by #raybradbury

This post was inspired by Lauren from Lauren and the Books (YouTube) who recently started a series where she’s answering questions from Lit Chat : Conversation Starters about Books and Life by Book Riot, which you can buy via her affiliate link or via pretty much any book story (ask your local book shop for it!).

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Slow

Snow

I recently posted a review of Gretchen Rubin’s The Four Tendencies. In it, I talked about how New Year’s resolutions don’t work for me. The truth is that goals in general often don’t work for me. I tend to feel stifled by the “rules” I need to follow to meet the goal, annoyed by the rigidity of the goal, and/or frustrated with the expectation that I have to follow through, even if I find something else I’d rather focus on.

When Kandise posted about her goals and resolutions, she spoke of having a mantra or motto. And, I keep going back to her post.

Themes (or intentions or mantras or mottos) are loose enough that they could work for me. They aren’t rules, just suggestions. And, they leave a lot of room for movement within. For example, Kandise is choosing nourish as her motto. This could mean so many things! As Kandise notes, it could mean to nurture, to promote the growth of, and/or to furnish or sustain. You could use it to focus on physical health, maintaining or improving relationships, giving yourself more downtime, etc.

I almost used the same motto, but when I started thinking about some of the things that I want to do for myself and my life, I realized that nourish isn’t quite right for me this year.

To find the right theme, I thought a lot about last year and some of my successes and failures. One of the biggest changes that I’ve made in the past two years was to downsize, both in terms of square footage and stuff. It has given me so much and allowed me to set up a home that I truly love (I cannot emphasize this enough – space spaces are perfect for me!). On flip side, one of the biggest mistakes I made in the past two years was getting sucked into a book buying vortex. I allowed myself to be driven by the need for books, both through gamified reading challenges and allowing myself to watch booktube unimpeded. After some reflection, I realized that I let this “Read! Read! Read!” mantra become a problem – instead of quitting books I wasn’t enjoying or taking a break from books I wasn’t in the mood for, I skimmed or increased the playback speed just to finish it. I’ve also been focusing on shorter and shorter reads, just to increase the numbers, which is silly!

To be fair, there were a couple of books that I’m glad I finished. But, I should have allowed myself to slow down and enjoy the books I really wanted to read, instead of trying to make myself read all the books everyone else loved and all the books I thought I needed to read.

I’d already planned to slow down my reading this year. That’s why I got rid of half my unread books and cancelled most of my library holds. I want to slow down and read what I want to read when I want to read it.

While contemplating some other changes I want to make (mostly related to being more eco-friendly), it occured to me that my motto ought to be “slow.” Slow reading, but also slow living in general. I want to stop rushing through daily journaling, daily sketching, art projects, and evening chores (including making dinner). I want to slow down my consumption, both in terms of dollars spent and impact on the environment, like how much plastic I generate (condiments, toiletries, mixed greens, etc.). I want to stop feeling like I have to pick up the pace when I go for a walk because I’m fat and clearly need to exercise more. The view is beautiful and I’m far more likely to keep leaving my house if I’m allowed to enjoy it, so I need to slow down and enjoy it. (For example, I let myself take the bus to work this morning, after spending 5 frigid minutes in the -35C windchill to see the blood moon – had I been determined to make myself walk, I doubt I would have done more than glance at the moon.)

I don’t want to stop outright, I just want to slow down and take more time to contemplate what I actually need and want. I want to get to know my body again through gentle means, like yoga, and see where that takes me. I want to light candles and curl up with whatever book I’m in the mood for, even if I’ve already started a dozen that week. I want to focus less on easy foods and more on easy-enough. I want to stop feeling guilty about how far I got away from my tree-hugging days and start feeling like I can proudly call myself eco-friendly.

I don’t yet know all the specifics, but that’s the beauty of using a motto – I can build it as I go. I’ve already worked on slowing down reading, and I somehow managed to convince myself to do yoga almost everyday January and commit to trying for another month of yoga in February.

The eco-friendly part of the theme feels like a little bit of a stretch from “slow,” but it’s not really. If you look up slow fashion, slow eating, or slow living, they all tie back to being more environmentally conscious and more thoughtful about choices. There are some areas I’ll struggle with (slow fashion for plus sized people can still be a bit of a challenge, especially if you don’t enjoy regular trips to peruse second hand stores), but for 2018 I’m going to focus on easy changes and start planning for other changes. Or, in some cases, simply being more thoughtful (ex: maybe I can’t find eco friendly jeans that fit, but I can be more careful about picking jeans that are well made and I can take better care of them so that they last longer).

I’m committed to using slow as my motto, but I want to take some time to think about it and consider what sorts of actions I can consider taking to reflect the motto. Naturally, as I’m trying to live my motto, I’ll take a bit of time to do this :)

Are you using a theme/motto/mantra/whatever? I love to know what it is and why you picked it?

Clouds

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The unread shelf project: January update

This project is going quite well, so far, though I did allow myself to get a little stressed out about library books this month. Despite cancelling most of the holds I had, a number of them all came at once. After stressing out about it for a few days, I finally just decided that I had to return all of them. I could borrow them later, when I have fewer unread books on my shelf.

I then decided to review my holds again and cancelled some more. I kept most of the audiobooks on hold and a couple of short books on hold. I also kept all holds I have on cookbook because I typically just flip through them to see if there are any yummy looking recipes.

It seems silly to get stressed out about library books, but I really want to make my way through as many of my unread books as possible this year. So, having all these unnecessary books slowing me down so early in the year just felt like a big roadblock.

Despite this hiccup, I managed to read quite a few items from my unread shelf:

I also quit two books, including one that, despite having kept my interest for most of the book, started to bore me. Or, maybe I just really wanted to read something else. I may return to it, but as it’s available at the library, I removed this book from my unread shelf.

All told, that’s 9 items removed and another 3 in progress.

I also accumulated a few items over the month. Most of them were planned acquisitions that had been included in my initial count of unread items. The exceptions being:

  1. Some audiobooks via my subscriptions (planned, but not included in the initial count). I’m working on using up the last of my Audible credits and started my Kobo subscription in December. I did not use my January Kobo credit yet, but I did neglect to include my December purchase in my initial unread books count. And, I got Transit from Audible (which I finished this weekend) and Minds of Winter from Audible (which currently reading).
  2. 5 magazines that a friend gave me (3 volumes of Pure Green magazine and 2 volumes of Alternatives Journal magazine). I’m not worried about these because I likely won’t read them cover-to-cover, so they’ll be relatively quick reads. And, I’m not 100% sure I’ll keep them.
  3. Uppercase magazine #36 (planned, but not included in the initial count).
  4. One ebook bought in a moment of weakness after thoroughly enjoying another book by the same author and seeing A Memory of Violets for $2.09

So, my current tally sits at:

  • 53 physical books (2 books in progress)
  • 7 magazines
  • 9 audiobooks, plus 2 unused credits (1 audiobook in progress)
  • 17 ebooks (1 ebook in progress)

Here’s a chart, because I like charts:

Overall, I think this project is working well for me. I wasn’t expecting much progress in January. And, frankly, after weeding about half of them before I even started this project, I didn’t really care. Going into February, I realize that I need to make time to read magazines and ebooks, so I’ve pulled a magazine to sit on my ottoman and put my Kobo by my bed. I may also create shortcuts to the ebooks I’m reading on my cell phone’s home screen as a visual reminder.

I had originally planned to read or get rid of 6 books each month, which would get me down to about 20 books at the end of the year, but I’m trying to be less regimented with my reading (reading what I want, when I want), so I think I’ll just see how things go for a few months.

Are you participating in the unread shelf project? If so, how’s your reading going?

Currently reading Birds Art Life by #KyoMaclear It's utterly delightful! . I won this book from @49thshelf_reads during their 12 days of Christmas contest in December ♥️

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Book review: The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

I love the idea of making resolutions, but I’ve never once succeeded at sticking to a resolution. Heck, I typically struggle with monthly or weekly goals. For years, I tried to set resolutions or monthly goals. I even tried bribing myself or setting up mini-milestones, rewards systems, accountability, etc. You name it, I tried it.

A couple of years ago, I finally admitted to myself that resolutions and goals just don’t work for me. I wasn’t sure why, I just knew that setting resolutions was setting myself for failure and the accompanying guilt.

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Last September, I read The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin. In it, she explains that her research has suggested that there are four main tendencies: Upholders, Obligers, Questioners, and Rebels. At first, I assumed I must, absolutely, without a doubt be a questionner. After all, I question pretty much everything: Why do I need to go to bed on time? Why do I need to do homework? Why do I need a boyfriend? Why do I have to read classics? Why do I have to get married, have kids, buy a house?

I did the quiz and immediately scoffed at how little she knew. A rebel? As if!

Honestly, I only kept reading because I wanted to prove to myself that either her quiz was flawed or her theory was wrong.

I knew for a fact that I wasn’t an upholder, I was pretty sure I wasn’t fully an obliger, but surely I must be a questioner! The more I read, the more conflicted I became. On one hand, she clearly knew what she was talking about and it seemed that she was on to something. On the other hand, I wasn’t fitting into any of the tendencies (or their subgroups). By the time I got the the rebel section (the last), I was convinced that I must be an outlier.

But, her little quiz was right. I’m a rebel: I do things my way, I push back when people try to convince or oblige me to do things their way, I rarely stick to to-do lists, I refuse to abide by silly work hierarchies, … essentially, I live by my own rules. I guess I never saw myself as a rebel because my own rules happen to be in line with social graces. I value a quiet, peaceful, and equitable life. I like being accommodating and polite. And, I think that makes me seem like an obliger or questioner. But, I’m full on rebel.

So, how does this relate to resolutions and goals? Well, they’re basically rules. The point of a resolution is to make yourself adjust your behaviours to meet certain criteria or ideals. We make rules (eat less, exercise daily, read X books a month, etc.) in order to get the result we want. For a lot of people, this is a system that works really well. A lot of people have the means to convince themselves to follow a rule: enjoying the challenge, finding someone to be accountable to, finding the proof that it’ll be beneficial, etc. But, for rebels, we need consequences, and resolutions typically don’t have significant consequences – if you don’t do it, life will go on as before.

Now I have a much better understanding of why resolutions and goals don’t work for me. This has made me feel much less guilty, because I don’t feel like I’m a lesser person for not making resolutions.

As for the book: It’s an interesting read and it gave me a lot of insight into myself and into other people. I feel that I’m in a better position to understand where people might be coming from and how I can work with them. Or, why I sometimes clash with some people.

Even if self-help books aren’t usually your thing, you might find this book interesting.

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What’s your favourite book?

I have never once been able to answer this question with any ease. Even on those rare occasions when I can name a singular book, it usually comes with stipulations: favourite book at the moment, favourite book in a specific genre, favourite book in particular mood, etc. I don’t have a favourite book. I don’t think I’ve ever had a favourite book.

Heck, I don’t even think I have a favourite genre. I used to think I did (fantasy), but I’ve been trying to expand my horizons in the past couple of years, and I really enjoy a number of genres. I suppose if I had to pick, I’d probably pick fantasy (especially magical realism) or literary fiction, as most of my top rated books fall into those genres. I like books that feel magical. They don’t have to have, or even hint at, actual magic, but they have to feel magical: a special sort of bond between friends, evocative writing, a hint of mystery, a quiet beauty overlaying the story, etc. I also enjoy quiet books, books with wit, books that celebrate people with flaws and fears, books that echo their antagonists personality, or books that don’t rely on an epic climax or conclusion.

But, how does one pick a favourite book? How does one even pick a favourite author?

I have authors who have been instrumental in my reading life: Margaret Atwood for writing books that gave me new insight into what stories can be, Ray Bradbury for charming me with his writing style, Terry Pratchett for writing books that I can read or listen to even when I’m grumpier than the hounds of hell, Graham Oakley for showing me that kids books can have both humour and detailed art, JonArno Lawson and Shaun Tan for showing me that books don’t need words, Neil Gaimen for igniting my imagination, Catherynne M. Valente  for enchanting me with her imagination, John Scalzi for writing complex but accessible SciFi that doesn’t make me (a woman) feel like an outsider, etc.

All of these authors have taught me something and given me a great deal through their books, but I wouldn’t call them favourites. I don’t/haven’t read all their books, nor have I loved all of the books that I’ve read by them. Admittedly, I used to think that Atwood was my favourite author, but I’ve found other authors and books that speak to my inner Canadian wilderness:  Jocelyne Saucier, Jesse Ruddock, and Heather O’Neill come to mind.

In a way, I’ve always been a little envious of the people who have a favourite book (or two). I feel like there must be a great deal of comfort in knowing that you can always turn to that book and enjoy it.

That said, not having a favourite gives me a bit of freedom and flexibility, because I don’t have to worry about being crushed if I meet someone who hates it or find out that the author have opinions that I find very problematic.

Where do you sit on the matter? Do you have a favourite book, author or genre?

This post was inspired by Lauren from Lauren and the Books (YouTube) who recently started a series where she’s answering questions from Lit Chat : Conversation Starters about Books and Life by Book Riot, which you can buy via her affiliate link or via pretty much any book story (ask your local book shop for it!).

Some of my old books have pretty trippy covers. Love them! #RayBradbury #books//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

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The Unread Shelf Project (and my 2018 reading goal)

One of the reading goals I had last year was to read more from my pile of unread books. While I did do this, I also added far too many new books to the pile. When I counted all of my unread books at the end of December (paper, electronic, and audio), I had about 175.

Me in January: "I'm going to reduce my TBR (to be read) pile this year to just a dozen or so!" ... Me mid-year: "Yeah! I'm doing great!" ... Me in December: "Oops." 😬

I know I can read a lot in a year, but that was overwhelming. I don’t need, or want, that many unread books at home. I’d like to have a very small selection of unread books. Five seems like a good number to me, but realistically it will probably be five paper books, a couple ebooks, and a couple audiobooks. I think that will be just enough to offer a bit of variety, while still leaving room for borrowing or buying new books.

So my goal this year – and yes, this is my only reading goal – is to read through my unread books.

As soon as I made that decision, I suddenly felt motivated to weed my unread books pile. The number of paper books I had didn’t even fit on my shelf, so I decided to weed them until they could all fit. I got rid of most of the books that I could find at the library. Then, any books I didn’t think I’d reach for in the next couple of months. And, finally, any books I didn’t think I would replace if they magically disappeared.

That got me down to down to 89 books. Three of these have since been read and another three were quit. As of today, I have:

  • 56 physical books (3 in progress)
  • 4 magazines (1 in progress)
  • 7 audiobooks
  • 16 ebooks (1 in progress)

This feels very manageable to me, especially as I’ve decide to be really ruthless with quitting books. I’m genuinely interested in all of the books I have left, but I don’t want to waste my time on books I’m not enjoying. So, I’m going to give each book a couple chapters, but if I’m not enjoying the book, I’m not going to keep reading it, regardless of how long it’s been waiting to be read.

I do have a few odds and ends of things that will be added throughout the year:

  • A few pre-orders
  • A monthly audiobook from my Kobo subscription
  • Uncanny magazine (electronic)
  • Uppercase magazine (quarterly)
  • And, let’s be honest, at least one or two of the books that I refuse to remove from my Chapters wishlist

I’m also trying to be sparse with my library borrowing: I cancelled over half of the holds I had at the beginning of the month and will be avoiding putting more on hold for the time being. The only exception being audiobooks because I tend to get through those pretty quickly as I listen to them on my commute to and from work.

At first, I was just going to wing it, see how many I could get through in the next couple of months, and re-access the situation mid-year. But, then I discovered the #theunreadshelfproject2018 on Instagram via Jennifer who I met online through the Novel Editions online bookclub. The Unread Shelf Project 2018 is co-hosted by @theunreadshelf, @katereadsbooks_, and @calsreads. There are occasional challenges (monthly and weekly, I believe) which, so far, seem to be designed to both help you see what’s in your unread pile and to motivate you to read those books. For example, two of the first challenges were to count all your unread books and to feature an unread book on Instagram each day for a week (the intention being that we should re-visit our unread books).

I probably won’t do all of the challenges because following rules flies in the face of my rebel nature, but I hope to use the challenge as a means of motivating me, especially when I get tempted by all the pretty new-to-me books I could be buying (I’m looking at you The Good Lands!)

So, there you are. My 2018 reading goal is to read books I already own. Next year, I might tackle all of the art books I own and haven’t really read (unless skimming or looking at pretty pictures counts).

What are your 2018 reading goals? Do you also find large piles of unread books very stressful? Or, are you one of those magical people who can own 300 unread books without batting an eye?

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