I’m always sucked in by articles that track someone's “typical” day. You know the ones. They make you question how you’ve survived this long and accomplished anything at all.
Over time, though, I've mentally begun grouping them into two varieties:
- Business Folk and The Insane. This type tends to start with a wake-up between 3 and 5 a.m. and then use the word "work" in every other time block. Things like children, dry cleaning and eating dry farm feed in a moving vehicle get slotted in around the work. And then bedtime happens four to six hours before waking up to repeat the cycle. Some people, I think, feel these are behaviors worth emulating. I've seen them in person, though, and they just make me sad.
- Creative Folk and The Independently Wealthy. Here, the period of sleep is more in line with all medical advice. "Putter" or "make progress toward" are words used frequently to describe blocks of time. Somehow, this type gives the impression of sustaining life through a steady schedule of yoga, meditation, reading, French-press coffee, and tapas. They seem quite rational and happy, but I want to know where the money comes from.
Someplace between the two, I'm certain there's a middle ground. And I'm pretty sure that the way to reach it is to simplify. What? Everything.
Decluttering is a start. That's not to say that I'm advocating a totally minimalist lifestyle in any way. My family is full of history buffs and readers, so there's a certain sense that we're responsible for holding onto something from the last generation to share with the next. And I've traveled. My friends have traveled. I have things that I truly love and would like to have around me to remind me of wonderful times.
Similarly, I don't intend to reduce my selection of brightly colored Chucky T's or super-cool earrings. And I will not choose a single palette of nail polishes to use for the rest of my days (the newest addition is described as "limeade creme," and it's truly amazing). Beyond that, though, I think about the clothing purchases that will undoubtedly follow my slow-but-sure return to fitness and find myself seriously in favor of things like a capsule wardrobe or a daily "uniform." It's the same approach I've taken with make-up. One brand, limited selection, make it work.
Perhaps that appeals because, as a former boss once tossed over her trendy and well-dressed shoulder at me, I am not a clotheshorse. The fact is, a couple great-fitting pairs of jeans, a few t-shirts or tanks in bright and rich colors, and one fan-damn-tastic leather jacket would do me just fine for everyday, thanks. Add a couple of sweaters and slacks for business (and a suit-type thing just in case), a red dress to make the guys who always see me in jeans pay attention, and I'm pretty much good to go. Round it out with a couple styles of boots, a pair of heels, those fabulous sneaks, earrings and nail polish, and plenty of workout wear/sweatshirts, and I'm golden.
It's not that I dislike looking good. Truly. It's that I have much better things to do with my time and money. I also prefer functional attire, so I can get down on the floor if I need to, or help a kid carry a drum, or change my own tire. Although, let's be honest, I totally have AAA for that.
Even before I get down to wardrobe-recasting size, though, decluttering comes into play. I'm only half joking when I say I could be living in my car next year. Grad school doesn't come cheap and I want the loans off my back ASAP. The only major expenses I have beyond those right now are related to housing. So, I'm seriously considering ways I might change up the housing expenses after graduation next spring. Becoming an itinerant house-sitter is a viable option. In which case, I'd pack all of my worldly goods into the smallest storage unit possible for the duration of that adventure. With such a possibility in mind, I'm cutting back on all the things I don't really need.
Art supplies for kids I don't have are nearly all gone, and beloved childhood toys significantly reduced. I've created a tremendous "to be read" pile of books and magazines that will then be passed along, or, if exceptional for some reason, kept. All my other books have been culled down to those I truly see a reason to hoard. Long-dead electronics are finding new homes or recycling centers. CDs are getting uploaded and then, if I really don't want to lose the music, slipped into binders that take up less space. Then there is the paperwork. Much of it's gone. The rest is being ruthlessly organized. And the files on my computer face the same fate.
How does all of that relate to a day in my life? It all gives me less to think about, once it's done, and that's when true simplicity becomes reality. In an odd way, less clutter and better organization make it easier to slow down and think about things that make a huge difference:
- Eating better. I do love my CSA share this year.
- Moving more. Walking, running, frisbee-ing: good.
- Sleeping deeper. I finally replaced my mattress.
- Working smarter. I'm defining how much I can really do well, and when, and how.
- Interacting with humans. I'm still working on this!
On that last point, a friend berated me (with best intentions) over dinner last week about getting "out of my comfort zone" to meet people and expand my social circle. And here I thought this whole freelance, MFA, life reboot thing was pretty uncomfortable. In fact, her point was well-taken, although we might achieve the goal in different ways. I've never been a joiner, and I'm not quite comfortable doing the things I like to do with others yet, anyway. ("You run ahead; I'll be here dying.") So I'll keep going slow and steady, and when I feel confident in myself, I'll push the envelope.
And that is when a day in the life ought to really be worth talking about.