101 in 1001: the verdict

Remember in early 2009 when I began the 101 in 1001 project with gusto and determination? Well, 1001 days came and went faster than I ever imagined they could, and my 101 in 1001 officially ended last month.

The verdict? I completed 58 out of 101 items.

I’m happy with this number and proud of myself. I did a lot of things I may not have attempted had I not set the goal for myself, which is awesome. There are also a bunch of things I didn’t do, either because they became not as important to me after 2.5 years, they were difficult to keep track of (like doing something X number of times in X days/weeks), or I simply didn’t have the time for them. There are some things I’d still like to accomplish soon, like plan better for retirement, finish (or start!) putting together some photo albums, and be better about keeping in touch with my friends who live far away, so I’ll continue keeping those things on my radar.

Not to toot my own horn, but I also think it’s worth mentioning that I accomplished some things that weren’t ever on my list, like getting published (in a little magazine called Martha Stewart Weddings) and becoming an aunt! Okay, so I didn’t put a lot of work into that last one, but if spending time with my niece prevented me from checking more things off my list, I can certainly handle that. Spending a week playing with her down the shore was much more fulfilling than watching all of AFI’s top 100 movies, without a doubt.

I’m not sure if I’ll create another 101 in 1001 list, but I do like the idea of having a physical list of goals to stay motivated. Have you done your own 101 in 1001 project, or something similar? What was the outcome for you?

If you’re curious, below is my original list with completed items marked in yellow! You can also learn more about the project on my original post.

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killing the (virtual) clutter

You’ve all heard me ramble on before about minimizing clutter in our home. As a lifelong packrat, I must say that I’ve come a long way: over the last few years I have slowly gotten rid of probably half of my clothes (and I still have plenty to wear), I no longer save magazines like I used to (except for Real Simple…I’m sorry, I just can’t…they’re too PRETTY!), and I’ve learned to let go of random little trinkets that were slowly eating up all of my space, to name a few things.

Lately, though, I’ve still felt very buried under clutter. I finally realized that it was no longer physical clutter that was bothering me — it was virtual clutter. A messy desktop on my computer; a million photos saved on my hard drive that meant nothing to me, amidst a very small percentage that I actually care about; a list of Facebook “friends,” probably 80% of whom are people who aren’t really my friends; a Twitter follow list of people I thought I should follow because they could maybe someday tweet about something that may be a business opportunity for me; a Google Reader filled with blogs that I follow because I’m afraid I’ll miss something if I don’t; and a bunch of email inboxes filled with messages I constantly feel obligated to check and/or respond to as soon as they arrive.

I realized it was all sucking the life out of me.

I started feeling like this a few months ago, but I really realized how big of a problem it was when I attended Lara Casey’s Making Things Happen workshop last month (number 81 on my 101 in 1001 list!). When we were asked to make a list of the 10 biggest distractions that hold us back from productivity, the first few I immediately wrote down were Twitter, Facebook, and Google Reader. When I really thought about those three distractions, I realized that it wasn’t the applications themselves that were the biggest problems, but my need to feel like I know what’s going on with everyone, at all times. While staying in the loop on what everyone else was doing, I was neglecting my own priorities and tasks and constantly feeling like I couldn’t keep up.

The day I returned from MTH, I unfollowed about 100 people on Twitter. Will I miss a business opportunity because I unfollowed someone who could have become a client? I guess I’ll never know. But living simply for the “what ifs” is exhausting, and I can’t do it anymore. I unfriended or hid many people on Facebook who bring me down with their negativity or who simply were never good friends to me. (Sorry, girl from college who was horrible to me: why did you want to be my Facebook friend in the first place when you were never even a friend to me when we were face-to-face?) I deleted a bunch of blogs from my Google Reader that I didn’t actually enjoy reading — I just felt like I should have been reading them for one reason or another, so I let them eat up a few minutes of my time every day. No more.

I also created a new email address where all Facebook, Twitter, Groupon, Daily Candy, GoodReads, etc. notifications now go. I take that email address offline while I’m working so I’m not constantly distracted by that little number in the red circle, taunting me and begging me to stop whatever I’m doing to see what just landed in my inbox when it has zero importance compared to emails from real, paying clients.

I still have a ways to go, but thus far my internet detox has allowed me to be more productive with my time and I honestly don’t miss a thing. I am rarely on Twitter anymore, and while I miss chatting with some people who always had interesting things to say, I don’t miss wondering where time went while I was trying to catch up with everything in my Twitter feed. Paring down the virtual clutter has carved out so much more time for work and other things that really matter, like family and friends.

Anyone else up for the challenge of killing the virtual clutter? If so, I want to hear what’s distracting you and how you handle your internet detox!

mini lifesaver

Ever have those moments of panic when you can’t recall an important password? Me too. Or, at least I used to, and way too often. Until I got my hands on this little lifesaver:

Open Sesame Password Reminder Book from Bob’s Your Uncle

Owning a business means acquiring more email and vendor accounts than one can even count, and this password log has been my right-hand savior. I know that I could use any old notebook for keeping track of my passwords, but this one helps me to keep everything alphabetized and organized (and, well, it’s just cute).

tomatoes = productivity?

Staying productive when working from home can sometimes be a challenge, especially when I’m working on projects that aren’t necessarily for a client, but are more self-assigned. I recently discovered mytomatoes.com, which employs the Pomodoro Technique: 25 minutes of work, then a five minute break, and after four “tomatoes” a longer break. Every time you complete a “tomato” and hear the alarm, you log what you worked on, so it’s really great for accountability.

Using mytomatoes.com is what motivated me to have a day free of social networking one day last week. I realized how much time I was wasting on Twitter and Facebook and I needed a break to increase my productivity! For me, it also does double-duty — I need to track my time when I’m doing work for clients, and this way I have a reminder to log what I work on for every 25-minute increment (instead of remembering at 4pm that I should have been tracking my time for the last 7 hours. Oops).

the little things (in the kitchen)

It’s no secret that I am certainly not a master chef. It’s rare that I make a whole meal from start-to-finish, and I am extremely lucky to have a husband who actually enjoys cooking so he doesn’t see it as a chore to make up for my shortcomings in the kitchen. (He doesn’t call them shortcomings, I do :)

The one thing that I have always enjoyed in the kitchen is baking. I don’t know why I see this as being so different from regular cooking, but I enjoy it so much more. Maybe it’s because the result tends to be a bit more sweet and a bit less healthy? I do love sweet and unhealthy things….

Last night I made some chocolate chip cookies from scratch, using the recipe on the back of the Nestle Toll House chocolate chip bag. I feel like that recipe never fails me, and I love the excuse to break out the KitchenAid mixer in all her Ice Blue glory. We have a pretty petite kitchen with limited counter space, so one of the keys to baking cookies without losing my mind (and all of my counter space) has been this:

We registered for this baby when we got married, and for a measley $9.99, dare I say, it has made baking in a small kitchen so much more pleasant. I kind of want another set so I can bake double-batches of yumminess and just keep stacking up :) (And by the way, my cookies look way better than those pictured above.)

While not handy for baking, my two other favorite inexpensive kitchen items are:

I have the worst time opening jars (small hands, overall wimpiness) and this little gadget is amazing. It’s great for jars of any size, and it has not failed me yet!

Our oven doesn’t have the sort of handle where we could hang towels, so we have two of these and they’re awesome at making our kitchen look somewhat organized (or at least like not-a-complete-mess).

What are your favorite little things that make your experience in the kitchen more pleasant?

jewelry stands

I am in a constant battle with my jewelry. I don’t have a ton of jewelry, but I can never seem to find the best way to store what I do have and it always ends up being a cluttered mess. I bought myself a cheap-o jewelry box at Target a few years ago, but it is no longer doing the trick and I am on the hunt for a better (and prettier) storage solution. I am loving these jewelry stands that save space by taking advantage of height.

I don’t love the price tag of that last one, but now that I think about it, it’s something I could definitely replicate myself with a little creativity and some fun vintage dishes. Let me add that to my list of 472 DIY projects I plan to tacke soon! ;-)

are you an unclutterer?

I love this post from Unclutterer. It’s a nice reminder that not all clutter is physical “stuff” (although the physical “stuff” is definitely my biggest clutter hurdle). Go ahead… read it… I’ll wait.

I always say that I am an organized person stuck inside a disorganized person’s body… I am such a slob/lazy bum by nature in many ways, but I have become such an OCD nut in other ways. I ALWAYS had a messy room when I was younger, and I still acquire piles of randomness throughout our apartment pretty often; yet, I can’t function at work until everything on my desk is organized and in its place, my web browser has the necessary tabs open (different Basecamp tabs for our different companies), I have read every new email in my inbox, and I have a nice to-do list set up for my day. It’s almost like all of my organizational tendencies go into my work and there’s none leftover for the rest of my life. (I’m weird… I know.)

These days, I’m trying to pinpoint what aspects of my life have too much clutter and I’m striving to rid the rest of my life (and our space) of clutter; I definitely feel a lot calmer and happier when there is less clutter surrounding me. It would also be great if when we’re ready to move into a house, we can pack up everything in our apartment knowing that it’s actually useful to us because we’ve already weeded out the junk. That’s the goal, at least… we’ll see how it goes!

What are your clutter habits?

My 101 in 1001

I mentioned this challenge back in December, and I finally {FINALLY!} finished creating my 101 in 1001. I’m really excited about this, because I am the type of person who functions very well when I’m following a “to do” list. When I don’t have a list, I don’t know where to begin, no matter how much I want/have to do. Hopefully this list will keep me motivated to keep doing and learning and growing. I’ll continue to update this post as I complete tasks (and I’ll link to it in a sidebar for easy reference, if you’re interested in keeping up with my progress!).

I’m back-tracking a bit on my start date, since I had many items in place weeks ago, and I completed a few tasks while I was working to finish the list. Here’s the lowdown, taken from the lovely Kate at Pretty Damn Fabulous, who first brought my attention to this great idea… you can also learn about the project here.

The Mission:
Complete 101 preset tasks in a period of 1001 days.

The Criteria:
Tasks must be specific (ie. no ambiguity in the wording) with a result that is either measurable or clearly defined. Tasks must also be realistic and stretching (ie. represent some amount of work on my part).

Why 1001 Days?
Many people have created lists in the past – frequently simple goals such as New Year’s resolutions. The key to beating procrastination is to set a deadline that is realistic. 1001 Days (about 2.75 years) is a better period of time than a year, because it allows you several seasons to complete the tasks, which is better for organising and timing some tasks such as overseas trips or outdoor activities.

Start Date: January 1, 2009
End Date: September 28, 2011

Bold/italicized – Completed Item

Strikethrough – Replaced Item (see end of post for replacements)

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Get Artsy – 6 completed
1. Take a Sewing Class
2. Sew a pillow
3. Design a Gocco wall print, just for fun (September 18, 2009)
4. Create/buy art for above the bed (January, 2010)
5. Paint mirror frames in the stairway (May 5, 2009)

6. Make a new scarf with the yarn I already have
7. Set up an Etsy store (April 18, 2009)
8. Sell something on Etsy (May 2, 2009)

9. Create rehearsal dinner albums for parents
10. Create wedding albums for parents (December, 2009)
11. Create Blurb album of Weddingbee posts
12. Create a shadowbox of wedding mementos
13. Create a scrapbook of RSVP cards, well wishes, postcards, etc.

Get Cultured – 5 completed
14. Read 5 non-fiction books (5/5)
15. Read 10 books of my own choosing (10/10)

16. Organize or participate in a book group
17. Watch all of AFI’s top 100 movies (2007 list) (31/100)
18. Go to the ballet
19. Go to the orchestra
20. Attend a live music performance of someone I don’t know who is not famous
21. Attend a play in the city (Philadelphia) (The Lion King, April 13, 2010)
22. See a Tony Award winning musical on Broadway (In The Heights, Feb. 19, 2009)

23. Attend a play at the local theatre (Media, PA)
24. Attend a concert of someone famous whom I’ve never seen before (June 12, 2009 – Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood)

Get Deep – 2 completed
25. Go to a movie alone (Eat, Pray, Love, August 2010)
26. Identify 100 things that make me happy (0/100)
27. Identify 25 things I like about myself (0/25)
28. Go to a coffee shop with a book and enjoy the afternoon solo

Get Domestic – 5 completed
29. Take a cooking class (September 9, 2009)
30. Make dinner at least 3 nights a week, two weeks in a row (October 2010)
31. Make pizelles with Nana’s recipe
32. Make home made ice cream
33. Host a party for friends
34. Take a cake decorating class
35. Decorate a cake (or cupcakes) for a loved one’s birthday (October 4, 2009)
36. Take lunch to work everyday for two weeks (Jan. 2009)

37. Try 30 new recipes (15/30)
38. Have fresh flowers at home for 4 weeks (4/4)

Get Geeky – 3 completed
39. Set up personal blog with modified template to my specifications (Jan. 2009)
40. Finish wedding recaps on Weddingbee (September 15, 2009)

41. Take an Illustrator brush-up class/seminar
42. Create a project completely in InDesign (was trained in Quark!) (December, 2009)

Get Healthy – 5 completed
43. Lose 7 pounds (3/7)
44. Take a dance class
45. Try two new classes at the gym
46. Drink 8 glasses of water daily for 3 weeks (0/21)
47. Try three new OnDemand fitness routines (3/3) (November 2010)
48. Wear a bikini on a NJ beach (July 2010)
49. Floss every day for a month (30/30)

50. Eat fruit every day for a week (0/7)
51. Work out three times a week, two weeks in a row (February 2010)

Get Organized – 10 completed
52. Sell wedding items that are no longer needed (Jan. 2009)
53. Clean and vacuum inside of car and get storage systems for items in car
54. Organize family and friend’s birthdays in one place (Google Calendar, September 2010)
55. Buy/make birthday cards and greeting cards to have on-hand and send (October 2010)
56. Organize jewelry with a new storage system (September 27, 2009)
57. Clean tarnished jewelry
58. De-clutter the bedroom (January, 2010)
59. Solve MacMail alias problem (March, 2009)

60. Finish HTAC photo album
61. Legally change my name (June 12, 2009)
62. Change name on credit cards, etc. (June, 2009)

63. Get a new passport
64. Back up all digital images from 2008 and earlier onto disc (Feb. 6, 2009)

Get Covered – 1 completed
65. get AAA membership (Jan. 2009)
66. get life insurance
67. write a will (and make husband write one, too)

Get Rich (or at least get my finances in better order) – 6 completed
68. have checks printed under joint account (October 2010)
69. have portion of direct deposit automatically entered into joint account (October 2010)

70. set up BillPayer under joint account (October 2010)
71. get free credit report — cancel any dormant accounts
72. set up 401K
73. transfer old 401K into new one
74. Create a financial plan with the hubby (October 2010)
75. Set up PayPal to be able to receive payments (April 2, 2009)
76. Put money in savings each month (at least $50) (32/32)
77. Put $5 in savings for each completed task and $10 for every uncompleted one

Get Generous – 2 completed
78. Pay 10 strangers compliments (2/10)
79. Purge and donate old clothes from closets at least three times (3/3)
80. Volunteer for the MAC (Media Arts Council)
81. Pay for the person behind me at a toll or drive thru
82. Serve food at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter
83. Send 12 cards or letters for no reason at all (0/12)

Get Social – 4 completed
84. Mail Christmas Cards out before Christmas (December 20, 2010)
85. Make plans with a new friend (March 4, 2009)
86. Call one faraway friend a week for 6 weeks (0/6)
87. Have a girl’s night once every other month (8/16)
88. Plan a surprise birthday party
89. Have a dinner date with my husband once a month (32/32)
90. Have a double-date with friends once every other month (16/16)

Get Stuff – 0 completed
91. Buy a digital SLR camera
92. Buy a home

Get Adventurous – 7 completed
93. go to Chicago (May 12-15, 2009)
94. Go to a taping of Oprah (September 17, 2010)
95. Go to Las Vegas (March 4-7, 2010)
96. Take a vacation outside of the US
97. Stand outside of the Today show on a weekday morning (and meet Matt Lauer) (Feb. 20, 2009)
98. Go to NJ to take glass-blowing class (wedding gift) (September 5, 2009)
99. Take a Mother Daughter Trip (NYC, Feb. 18-21, 2009)

100. Take a girls only trip (Las Vegas, March 4-7, 2010)

101. Take a completely impulsive, spur of the moment road trip with husband

Additions/replacements – 2010 – 2 completed
6. start a business (April 2010)
45. run a 5K race
53. write a manuscript (and submit to publishers)
77. attend Altitude Design Summit
81. attend a Making Things Happen seminar with Lara Casey (January 26, 2010)

an uncluttered life

One of the “adventures in adulthood” that I’ve been really working on has been de-cluttering my life. I have always, always been a pack-rat. For as long as I can remember, I have saved ticket stubs, notes from friends, birthday cards, clothes that I associate with a particular day, etc. More often than not, these things get buried away for years, behind more clutter, and become all but forgotten.

When I went away to college, I brought way more stuff than I needed, even though I was only a 45-minute drive from home (or a UPS package away from anything I may have suddenly needed). Photo albums, all four high school yearbooks, nick-nacks from friends, clothes I’d never wear, etc. I probably barely even glanced at half of the photo albums I brought, but I was so attached to my memories that I needed them there with me, even in a 10′ x 10′ cinderblock cell that they got away with calling a “dorm room” that I shared with another person.

When my mom sold my childhood home five years ago, there was an overwhelming amount of stuff that had to be cleared out of my old bedroom. I threw out a lot, but eventually I was so overwhelmed (and emotional) that I just boxed up whatever was left and moved it to her new basement. Over the last few years, I’ve tried to slowly go through those plastic bins filled with my youth and weed out the things that just aren’t important anymore. Some things, I don’t even remember why I saved them; other things I still associate a memory with, but then I have to ask myself if throwing out whatever token I have kept all these years will help me remember the memory any more clearly? The majority of the time, the answer is no.

I have really learned to reevaluate why I save things, and I’ve learned to get rid of clutter before it consumes my space (and my life). Nick has helped me with this; he often gets frustrated, but I try to remind him of how far I’ve come, and he reminds me when something isn’t worth keeping. The apartment that we have now shared for two and a half years was solely mine for two years before he moved in. I had more clutter filling up this apartment during that time than two of us have now, so I think that proves that I’ve come a long way.

Instead of once or twice a year, I now go through my closet every few months to get rid of any clothes that I don’t wear anymore (we donate old clothes to the Salvation Army). Recently I finally got rid of the pants that I wore on my first date with Nick. I probably hadn’t worn them since the fall we met five years ago. Isn’t that ridiculous? It’s as if for the last five years, those pants signified to me how far our relationship has come. Well, my husband is sitting right next to me now, so I think that’s a pretty good symbol of how far we’ve come. Bye bye, pants. (However, I do still have the Violet Beauregard Halloween costume I was wearing the night we met. There are some things I will always be attached to!)

I buy a lot fewer magazines these days than I used to, but now the only ones I save are Real Simple (and if there are interesting articles in other magazines, I’m starting a binder with items I’d like to keep for reference). Any books that I have already read (or haven’t read and I have realized that I never will) get donated to the used book store down the street. (Unfortunately, this just closed last week, which I’m really sad about. They only accepted books in excellent condition, and every book was $2 to purchase. They were in such condition that you always felt like you were getting a brand new book for $2.) When my birthday or Christmas is coming up, I ask for things I need or really, really want so I won’t end up with a bunch of stuff that just sits around taking up space (and was a waste of someone’s money…. I hate knowing that someone spent their money on something that I’ll never use).

Last weekend, we spent a good amount of time cleaning/purging, and I finished packing up the last of some wedding items that I sold through the Weddingbee Classifieds. Since last weekend, I have been in a noticeably more upbeat mood when I am at home at night and on the weekends. I feel more relaxed and a lot less overwhelmed. I feel more inspired to start little projects because I have a tidy space in which to work on them. It really makes a huge difference to live in an uncluttered space. Today I discovered Unclutterer.com, a great blog with daily tips on organizing your home and work space, which I’m going to bookmark to help me stay uncluttered.

Do you struggle with being a pack-rat, or do you live a minimalistic lifestyle? How do you decide when something is worth keeping and when it is just taking up space?