12 days of small positive changes

Happy Discardia!

Where is the friction that most directly impacted your life over the past month?

Turn your attention for the next 12 days to improving things in that area.

Just one common example:

Bad or insufficient sleep? Take a break from devices in the bedroom, step away from online/TV distractions for an earlier bedtime, and make your bedroom space as calm as possible.

Give yourself twelve days of gently nudging your world in the direction of better wherever you need it most.

Be kind with yourself this week

Avoid clothes that are too tight or itch. Eat foods that leave you feeling good, not turbulent inside. Surround yourself with silence or soft, pleasant sounds whenever possible.

Create room around yourself to raise hunched shoulders, to breathe deep.

Let all that touches you be by your consent and invitation.

Make space in your world for your best, kindest, most peaceful self.

Heal.

Discardia Guide to Travel Stress Reduction: Quick Test of Your Gear

Pack less, way less
You really appreciate having less when you're racing across an airport or schlepping from train to train in a strange place. Traveling with a single carry-on bag is an art form well worth mastering. Don’t just figure, “Hey, the airlines let me check a bag, so I might as well do so.”
You can cure yourself of this habit the first time you walk off a plane with nothing but a carry-on and are on your way, while everyone else is milling around waiting. Next time you're at the airport, watch the people claiming their luggage. I certainly hope some of them are actually moving to the country at which they're arriving because you shouldn't need a bag the size and weight of a coffee table to get you through a vacation. Who looks oppressed and in pain? Giant Bag People. Who looks excited and adventurous? The ones walking past baggage claim on their way to the exit because they already have all their reasonable amount of stuff.

"Just in case” crowds out present opportunities
Traveling in the 21st century continually reminds us of how much we have in common with people in other places. I’ve been able to pop into a corner store for some forgotten item in cities from Nairobi to Nara to Newcastle. If that’s true while traveling most places on the globe, it’s even truer in your hometown. Quit hanging onto so much stuff “just in case.” Come on. You aren't on the moon! Let the excess go.

excerpts from Discardia: More Life, Less Stuff

 

I hope you're ready to try being happier traveling with less luggage. The best way to increase your confidence about lowering your load is to do this simple test at home before you travel. You may feel a little silly at moments doing it, but it can save you many more moments of discomfort on your trip.

 

Step One: Prepare Your Gear

Most of the places that bags and backpacks travel to are dirty, so spread something easy to wash on top of your bed before you begin packing (or especially later unpacking). Go through your itinerary pulling out and laying on the bed what you will need for each day. Layered clothing is your friend so double up to maximize your options wherever you can. And, when in doubt, leave it out. The odds of needing something you have to buy on the trip is vastly lower than the odds that you'll adore having light luggage every step of the way.

Joe and I travel with two bags each: a carry-on bag which fits in the overhead compartment (we like TravelPro Flightcrew) and an over the shoulder laptop bag or other day bag (I like the Timbuk2 Q backpack, Joe prefers a roll-top messenger bag from Mission Workshop). I also tuck a small, over-the-body-strap purse inside my day bag for lighter or dressy use.

While on the move, keep your day bag in constant sight. This is where you want to have all your valuables, including your passport, money, wallet, laptop, phone, and travel itinerary printout. You'll be keeping track of your suitcase too, but you want to be able to set it out of arm's reach, such as the luggage rack at the end of a train car or airport shuttle, without having to worry too much.

Along with valuables, your day bag is where you'll carry those things you want on the plane or other long rides. These include: snacks, reading material, earbuds, medicine, the quart size bag of liquids (such as shampoo, lotion, toothpaste, etc.) which airport security will want you to present as you pass through the security gates of most airports, and anything else small to keep you comfortable as you journey. Ideally, you should leave enough room in the top of the bag to tuck in your sweater if you get warm on the way.

Everything else goes in your suitcase, including nonliquid toiletries. Roll soft things like undershirts and underwear to create a dense, compact layer on which you can set items more prone to wrinkle. Don't forget to be sneaky with space-saving tricks like filling shoes with socks. Wear your bulkiest garments when practical; boots and thick sweaters are fine on your body but take up a lot of space in your bag. (Here's more detailed advice on packing light from Rick Steves and Heather Earl)

You should be able to comfortably lift your day bag and wear it without pain. It's okay if your suitcase is a little bit heavy but you must be able to lift it from the floor to waist-high racks or security conveyor belts and down again without hurting yourself. It's preferable if you can also lift it above your head to put it in the overhead compartment on a plane yourself, but in a pinch I find there is usually someone strong around who is happy to help if you apologize and ask nicely. 

One last check: Turn your closed day bag completely upside down. Nothing should fall out. If it does, that's not the right bag to take lest casual losses or pickpockets ruin your good time.

 

Step Two: The Imaginary Airport

Now is where it feels a little silly, but stay with me; it's worth it. Couples and families should do this step together. Everyone should have a piece of paper and a pen to write down things they're learning in this step. This piece of paper also serves as your pretend boarding pass. No one should have anything that won't be traveling with them.

Wearing exactly what you'll be wearing when you set out on the trip, stash anything from your pockets in your day bag and note anything else which security may ask you to remove before passing through the x-ray such as belts with large metal buckles.

Now put on your day bag, lift the closed suitcase off the bed, and roll out of the bedroom(s) to form a line in front of another doorway.

Quickly retrieve your passport from your day bag. Show your pretend boarding pass and your passport to the doorway. Roll on to allow the next person to do the same and quickly put your passport away securely.

Return to the bed, which is now playing the part of the security x-ray conveyor belt. Put your suitcase and day bag on the bed, leaving space to between them for you to set the extra things you will need to show security. This varies from airport to airport and country to country, but often includes laptops, removed shoes, jackets, and permitted liquids in their quart bag. Here's how it works with TSA in the United States. Step back from the bed and confirm you can comfortably assume these two positions without your unbelted trousers falling down:

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You probably won't need to assume that second position (for which I amusingly could only find that particular official TSA image) unless they need to do extra screening with a metal detector wand. It happens not infrequently and it's not a big deal, just relax and stay pleasant if it ever does.

Now you can step back to the bed, move your suitcase to the floor, and quickly return everything to your day bag. If your shoes aren't slip ons, it's polite to shoulder your day bag, pick up your shoes, and roll your suitcase over to one of the recombobulation benches to sit and put them back on out of the way.

Hooray! You're through security!

Roll on to your living room, set your day bags on your seat, lift your suitcases above your heads for a moment putting them in the imaginary overhead compartment, then set the suitcases aside and, standing awkwardly over your seat whilst pretending not to bump your head, remove your jacket before sitting down. Put your day bag laying flat right in front of your toes and breathe a sigh of relief. Now, without elbowing your seatmates, remove your reading material from your day bag and relax. Write down any notes you have so far.

Next, put away anything you've removed from your day bag, put your jacket back on (or stick it in the top of your day bag), and retrieve your suitcase again lifting it in the air briefly. Roll back to a doorway in a line, quickly remove your passport from your day bag and show it to the doorway before returning it to safekeeping and rolling on.

Now with all your gear, day bag still on, walk around rolling your suitcases for at least 10 minutes. Set a timer so you aren't tempted to cheat.

After this enlightening interlude—during which you will likely discover if your bags are too heavy—return to the bedroom and place all your gear on the bed.

Hooray! You're out of the airport!

 

Step 3: Venturing Out of Your Hotel

Now it's time to see how well your day bag works. Remove from the bag anything that you wouldn't be taking with you on a day trip including a stop at an internet cafe. Stash your passport in an inside pocket of your suitcase. Think about what the weather will be like at your destination and change clothes or add items to your day bag as appropriate. Now walk, take a bus, or if you need to drive somewhere nearby where you know there's a café or library with Wi-Fi.

Walk around for little while with your day bag on, stopping to adjust the straps or otherwise improve its comfort as needed.

Visit the café or library and use their Wi-Fi if you have your laptop or tablet, or a public Internet terminal if you don't, to check your email and send a test message. Being able to stay in touch is a great way to stay calm while you travel. Remember to log out of any accounts you logged into when you are all done.

Walk around a while longer, again testing the comfort of your day bag. Note any items which seem too heavy for everyday carrying and decide if you will leave them at home or keep them in your suitcase in future.

How do your feet feel? Are these the best shoes for this trip?

While you're out walking keep an eye open for interesting postcards of your hometown. These are ideal for writing thank you notes on your journey.

 

Congratulations! You've made your upcoming trip much better!

The benefits of low-alcohol drinking

'Less can be more' in your glass as it can in your home and calendar. Many people enjoy mixed drinks—or would like to if they weren't laid low by them. It is possible to have the best of both worlds and sample great cocktails without getting sleepy, stupid, sad, or sick.

The core Discardian principle of Quality Over Quantity comes into play in multiple ways to achieve this.

  1. Slow down.
    Be mindful of what you're consuming. One of the best aspects of good cocktail drinking is tuning in to the present moment and to those you're with, so amplify that by paying attention to what you're having. Take time to enjoy what you've got and space out the alcohol with a glass of water between rounds. You'll get more enjoyment out of your drinks—and out of the next morning!
  2. Drink less of better.
    Satisfy your senses with smaller sips and smaller servings of something well-made with complex ingredients. Whether you like sweet or bitter, tangy or rich, there are amazing cocktails to be enjoyed in classic serving sizes (generally just 3-6 ounces).
  3. Base your drinks on lower-proof main ingredients.
    By not including more than half an ounce of high-proof spirits (40+% alcohol by volume) and carefully selecting recipes which allow their less "hot" components (such as sherry, vermouth, and port) to shine, you can discover a whole world of amazing cocktails, both classics and new creations.
  4. Be a snob.
    Now I don't mean you should only have top-shelf products in trendy bars; I'm talking about the good kind of snobbery that keeps you from wasting time and health on things that don't provide you with real pleasure. Save your liver for those cocktails worth having, in the time and place, and with the company that makes those moments special.

Want to explore more in this realm? I've got a whole book of ideas for you (my second book!) and it's called The Art of the Shim: Low-Alcohol Cocktails to Keep You Level.

Thanks again to readers of either of my books for your support and encouragement to keep on writing!

Rescue the stressed

Even the luckiest of us feel a bit of extra pressure around the end of the year. In a 2006 survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) over half of respondents reported that they often or sometimes experience stress, irritability, and/or fatigue during the holidays, with the leading stressors being lack of time, lack of money, and commercialism or hype (in contrast to work and money, which lead at other times of year).

It’s not just Christmas. The whole season is enough to make anyone rebel against all that pressure. I’m not the only one to invent holidays out of that stress: Buy Nothing Day and Festivus owe their origins to some of the same forces that launched Discardia. From the moment we lock the front door on Halloween night and poke through the leftover trick-or-treat candy, we jump into a wild, obligation-ridden bobsled run, whisking us through Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve, until we’re dumped headfirst into the cold, slushy snow of the first bleak week of January.

We feel the whirlwind begin as ads suggest “the perfect gift for the such and such on your list.” This list is assumed; of course, everyone has a list. Everyone must be buying. Post-turkey Friday comes and the retail frenzy begins. The crowds and the sensory overload of enforced commercial festivity. “Bring on the cheer, dammit!” seems to be the underlying message of the barrage of Christmas music, holiday movie promotions, and red and green advertising plastered on every surface. Sometimes it seems like you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting a Santa—and, as December barrels on, the temptation to do so grows.

Prioritize your energy. Emotional turmoil can almost always move to the bottom of your list. Find a little breathing space and give some to others when you can see that they need it. Ease the tension and let something other than drama take your time.

Even the very best group of family or friends can sometimes be annoying, so I encourage you to do two things when stress starts to kick in at big gatherings. When you need a little room, find a way to take it. Good techniques include walking the dog, washing some dishes, amusing the littlest kids, showing the newest family member around the neighborhood, running a last-minute errand, or having a shower. Along with taking care of yourself, make space for others. Build some alone time into your events. Don’t make a fuss over people retreating from time to time. Whether between family, friends, or lovers, making room for each other’s “me-time” builds stronger relationships

Rescue the stressed. Useful phrases include, “I need a little walk before the pie. Care to come along?,” “Mom, I’ll do that for you, but sit down for just a moment and tell me again about the trip where you got this vase. That was right after you two got married, right?,” “Okay, that’s got about an hour more to cook and everything else is all ready, so you all can relax or read or whatever and I’ll let you know when we get close to dinner time,” and “Who else is ready for a nap break?”

Create opportunities to free yourself and your loved ones for joyful engagement.

 

(This post is a little taste of the book, pulled from a couple sections as a seasonal tip.)

Daily Setup for Success

One of the best habits I've built up over the past year or so, with the most consistent payoff, has been tidying the bedroom every day. Sometimes I get it done in the morning, sometimes it's not until just before dinner, but almost every day I return the room to calmness and breathe a sigh of relief and satisfaction just looking around.

I put away any clothes that are sitting on the floor, chairs, or dressers. I put the change from pockets into the coin jars (one for quarters and one for everything else) in our home office. I empty the trash basket and straighten the throw rug. Most importantly—and this happens virtually every day—I fluff the pillows and make the bed; so easy with just a sheet and duvet!

For the rest of the day and, most importantly, right before bed I see a space that's exactly how I want it: a calm, restful nest for a great night's sleep. In the morning, I'm greeted by a room with everything in its place, ready to launch a good day.

Get Back to Your Happy Place

Step one to a good weekend is dealing with the essentials. Do these things on Thursday night or Friday morning or first thing when you get home Friday after work.

1) Water: Go get a big glass of water right now. Now. Do it. Water is the means for your body to do a little Discardia of its own. Purge out the bad stuff; set yourself up for the good stuff. Drink that glass of water all up while you put in this little chunk of progress and then refill it when you're done and have another.

2) Food: Nothing fancy, just eat a small meal with something good for you and something yummy. And while you're preparing it, if you come across anything spoiled in the fridge don't you dare set it back in there. Throw it in the trash and carry that nasty baggage out of your house.

3) Sleep: Are your sheets dirty? Change 'em now. (Always have a clean change of sheets; it radically improves your quality of life.)  Now lie down on the bed for a moment and see what the first thing you're going to see when you wake up is. If you don't like it and it isn't nailed to the wall, get it out of your sight. Maybe it’s just clothes strewn around. Maybe it’s something that doesn’t even belong in the bedroom.

4) Motivation: One more step. We took care of the last thing we see before sleeping and first after waking. Now make sure that walking in the front door doesn't drag down your mood. Straighten that doormat, tidy that shoerack, put away (or at least move) that clutter in the front hall. Let the first sight of home remind you of what you like about this place, not of your to-do list.

Ahhhh. Nice.

Discardian weekend: be true to yourself

Eat something good for you that you like, then find a project you really enjoy and put in a good chunk of time working on it.

Suggestions:
– Tidying up and catching up with your newspapers, magazines & catalogs. Don't get hung up on reading guilt and think you need to finish them all. Just get them looking nice and read the quick stuff/toss the junk.

– Catch up on uploading photos to Flickr (or other photo sharing website, which I have heard might exist, but why?) and title/tag them while you can still remember what they show. Charge your camera battery while you're at it and then (important) put it back into the camera today.

– Clean up your desk or project space and then spend an hour doing the most creative thing you do there, writing, sewing, drawing, whatever you like.

– Clear the dining room table and the kitchen counters of stuff that doesn't belong there, wash the dishes so the sink is ready for action, then plan a nice meal. Head out to the farmers' market to shop for ingredients if you have one in your area today.

Share what you did in the comments!

You’re the expert on you

Sure, you can get good ideas and interesting advice all over the place, but no one knows what you need better than you do yourself.

All you have to do is listen.

Make time regularly to get back in touch with what you need and want. Keep taking care of yourself too as you take care of those other demands on your time & energy.

Be kind.

Be honest.

Be brave.

Creative Adjustment

Who are you now and how have you changed since you last asked that?
Are you doing projects based on the old you's available time, energy and interests? Do they still fit you now?

Run through your mental list of "I really ought to get better at…" goals. Do they still fit you now and the you you want to be at the end of 2007?

Me, I'm entering what I expect will be the busiest year of my professional life since I ran my own business and in which I think I'll probably travel more often than my two previous busiest years of travel combined.

So, adjustment #1: letting go of the commitment to publish to my website every day.
It's not to say I won't still post as inspiration strikes, but I don't need to come home from work to a whole other to-do list & set of deadlines. When work is a steady race against an enormous set of goals, clocking out needs to be filled with free time, flexibility, open-ended playing, easily conquered projects chosen to match my mood and energy, and the option to do nothing in particular at all.

Another major part of this work year is reminding myself of my current role which has grown increasingly strategic and focused on customer relationship building.

Thus adjustment #2: bidding farewell to that little internal voice which still worries about my XHTML, Javascript & CSS skills slipping behind the cutting edge.
I don't build web pages anymore. I create the vision for applications which use the web. My background helps me in proposing features and designs, but I don't have to put all the pieces together to make it go – and what's more that hasn't been my job for over 4 years.

How about you? Are your expectations of yourself up-to-date?