Let go of procrastination

United States citizens:
You know, you really probably do have time today to do your taxes. Or at the very least pull together all the papers you'll need and find the form. (a hint and have you considered filing online?) There are three possible outcomes: you get your refund early or you figure out you don't have to pay a significant amount or you have extra time to budget for a large amount owed. It's all better than waiting until April.

Rest of the world:
I bet you have some bureaucratic task you've been putting off. Really, it won't take THAT long. Just do it. Or at least get together everything you'll need to have in front of you in order to do it.

Bag 7: Pantry Purge

Go through all your cupboards and pull out anything old & nasty, which goes in the trash, and anything you just aren't going to eat in the next 30 days. That stuff should go in a bag and you should take it TODAY to your local food bank.

If you can make time for it, pull everything out, wipe down the cupboard & dust the cobwebs out, and then put back the keepers.

Update the shopping list with those staples you would eat in the next 30 days if only you had enough of them.

Discard Your Isolation

You are not going home this evening without going out & about first.

Don't go to a movie. Don't go someplace where no one talks to each other.

Go to a coffeehouse that has boardgames and find someone to play something with you. Or try the senior center. Or chat with neighbors working in their yards. Or go to a bowling alley or ice rink and ask for some help improving your skills. Or a pub and improving your darts game. Or the grocery store and how to pick a good avocado. Walk through the dog park and see if someone will let you throw a ball for their enthusiastic puppy. Visit the bookstore and ask for recommendations from other customers.  Go to the coffee shop at a museum and find someone who'll take you to their favorite piece and tell you why they like it. Pretend to be a tourist and ask people to tell you the best place to hang out in your town.

Do not come home until you've had at least 3 interesting conversations.

Unclotting

Most everyone has The Places Where Stuff Gets Shoved Away. Pick the one of those spots which is most central to your day-to-day activities; I'm thinking "hall closet" or "that one dresser drawer" rather than "in the basement" or "in a box under the bed".

Set a timer and spend 30 minutes pulling stuff out of it.

When the timer goes off, or when it's empty, dust and/or vacuum it.

Set the timer for another hour and put stuff back, but do not put back anything that belongs in the trash/recycling, Charity bag, Yard Sale box or somewhere more appropriate in the house.

(Why the second timer? To remind you to stay focused, keep moving and not have this chore eat up more of your day than it needs to).

Bag 6: Foldy clothes

Okay, grab one of them there trusty paper sacks and head for your dressers.

Put into it all the clothes you don't wear anymore because they don't quite fit, are worn out, are the wrong color, etc.

This is a really good exercise for the day when you really really need to do laundry. What have you still not chosen to wear even when the choices are limited?

You may find that you have a whole category of clothes which is heavily slanted toward the bag; buy new ones that aren't bad. You deserve non-holey socks and non-stretched-out or stained undershirts and underwear that has functional elastic.

Be sweet to yourself

Society has plenty of ideas for what couples should do on Valentine's Day, but how about those of us who don't have a valentine?

Today is a reminder that no one knows what we like best better than we do ourselves and that we deserve that sweetness.

Here are some ideas for things you can do today to treat yourself right:

– If the line isn't long at the flower stand, buy yourself a beautiful bouquet. If the line is long, do it tomorrow or the next day instead. Men, you should do this too; flowers are fantastic things to have in your home.

– Do that thing that no one else will do with you or that's just better alone. Indulge that craving for weird/stinky foods. Play a round of your favorite convoluted solitaire game that takes up the whole dining table. Listen to that music that your friends don't like and sing along to it. Spend two and a half hours in the used record store.

– Go to that movie no one else seems to want to go see with you. Eat as much popcorn as you want.

– Get some of your favorite luxury beverage – premium coffee, exotic teas, gourmet hot cocoa – and enjoy it this evening while reading a book you really enjoy or watching an old favorite movie.

– Bath takers should go all out with the luxuries: scents, bubbles, conditioning oils, candles, whatever fabulousness you like best.

– Book a treat for yourself. Schedule a massage. Reserve a fun, sporty car for a weekend drive. Make a plan with a friend to try out that great restaurant. Plan a little vacation to somewhere you've always wanted to go.

Go for the record: the easy stuff

Spend an hour or so today just making your place less chaotic. Put on music to keep you moving and cheerful while you do it.

– bring the dirty dishes all back to the kitchen sink

– gather up the recycling (including those already-read newspapers and the don't-need-to-read-it junk mail and catalogs that have accumulated and carry it out

– dump all the trash and carry it out

– hang up coats, put away shoes, and put the clothes piled around into the hamper, drawers or closet as appropriate

– do the dishes

– look around and see what's still out of place or in your way and do something better with it.

After an hour, don't stress over what remains. Things are a whole hour more like how you want them to be. Enjoy that and relax.

The Daily Load

What are you carrying around with you every day?

Take your backpack, laptop bag and/or purse, wallet and beltware and lay it all out on the table.

Do you really need all this shit with you all the time? Do some weeding to optimize your kit.

Are you using the right thing to carry it all around? Last time I did this exercise I changed to a smaller laptop bag which sets an upper ceiling on the amount of stuff which can accrete into my routine load.

Don't forget to create the mini-kit that has just the essentials for a walk or evening out. I have a simple little wallet sized pouch that holds my transit passes, ATM card, credit card, paper money, health care card, driver's license, small pieces of yellow paper and space pen. With that, my keys and my mobile phone (with its built-in camera), I'm pretty much ready for anything that doesn't require my computer.

Get in the habit of quickly returning your bag and kit to its base condition – toss that extra change into a jar on your dresser, throw out the wrappers, put the receipts in with your bills, etc. – at least once a week. Your back will thank you.

Color and your closet

I have to confess, I generally hate clothes shopping. I get overwhelmed by the choices and depressed by the culture adoring disposable fashion and stick-figure thinness. Here's something I did which made a real difference for me.

Figure out a handful of colors that you really like to wear and which look good on you. They don't all have to go together, but they should cluster in a couple overlapping groups so you can make the best use of your wardrobe.

Go poke around in your closets and drawers and note the colors of your favorite clothes. Think about outfits you like that really seem to match up well. (If you're colorblind, have a friend with good fashion sense who isn't help you out with this).

List these colors out and decide on half a dozen you're going to focus on and figure out the ones that can be worn together.

For example, I chose black, red, grey, pale pink and sage green. Black & grey go with everything, including each other.  The pink & the green go together well. Red is great with black or grey.

Now when I'm shopping, I'm looking for my colors first. It makes it really easy to scan a rack (or a catalog) and zero in on just a few things that might suit me. It's then very quick to flip through things eliminating things I don't like about the fabric or details ("Too synthetic & shiny", "Too busy a pattern", "Too many fiddly lacy bits around the cuffs"). When something does connect and it's in my price range, I check the sizes and try a few on to find which one for this manufacturer is flattering to me.

Over time, as I do the "turn the hanger around backwards, put it back the normal way after wearing it, and 6 months later get rid of the backwards stuff" trick, I find my closet has largely settled into my chosen colors with a few exceptions, most of them dresses or suits for special occasions, rather than the mix-and-match outfit ingredients.

Shopping for clothes is still not anything close to my favorite activity, but it's a lot more tolerable now.

Transform one annoyance

I bet you have a tool you use every week, maybe every day, that bugs you. It's adequate which is why you haven't replaced it, but it is sub-optimal and it slows down your day or just doesn't put you in a good mood.

Replace it with the good version.

Maybe that means having to do without something else for a little bit, but as you skip that fancy coffee drink or pack a lunch or don't go out to dinner, think of all the days ahead where you won't have to put up with that leaky-spouted teapot, low-suction vacuum cleaner, nose-slipping eyeglasses, bendy-handled measuring spoons or streak-leaving windshield wiper blades anymore.