A Season of Less

I’ve always been kind of contrary. I like the idea of doing the opposite of what’s expected or what everyone else is doing. It usually puts me in a place where it’s less crowded and less chaotic and I like places like that.

Being on the verge of Christmas Chaos had me thinking today–thinking about what I could do to feel good and not overwhelmed and spent by the end of this month and the end of the year. I looked around the house and it hit me, I want less. I would love to start 2016 with less.

So here’s my plan, everyday in December I will throw out one large trash bag worth of stuff and fill another large trash bag of stuff to be donated. By the time January rolls around I’ll be ready for the new year, new projects, new ideas. I’ll have a clean (or at least cleaner) slate.

The more I thought about it the more I saw the modern logic to my plan. December used to be a time of filling your house with stuff; food stuff, indoor projects, stuff you needed to get through the long winter. Homes were literally stuffed to the rafters with the provisions needed to last until spring. It was a great idea for a little house on the prairie.

But for a modern, post-industrial household it’s not only unnecessary, it’s demoralizing and frustrating. With so much cheap (really, really cheap) stuff available we’ve filled our houses to the rafters with knickknacks, geegaws, gag gifts, maybe-someday clothes, etc. Today, Cyber Monday, my email inbox was overloaded with millions more items I could add to the pile, each for a price so low it was hard to say no. All that stuff looks great until the boxes arrive and you realize you have no place to put it.

I’m not religious and don’t really celebrate anything this time of year but this year I’m changing all that. 2015 is the start of Declutter December. Anyone and everyone can celebrate but it works especially well for contrarians, people like me who tend to run in the opposite direction when I see the crowds approaching. Something tells me I won’t have to wake at 2 a.m. to go battle someone for the last box of trash bags.

So, who’s with me? Who else wants to declare today the start of Declutter December?

Ways That You Can Value Your Work – Chick in Charge Part 2

In my post last week I looked at ways that women, especially those who work from home, often diminish the value of their work. Whether a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) a home-business entrepreneur or a combination of both, millions of us do jobs that are undervalued by both ourselves and society.

While I looked at some of the reasons why in last Sunday’s post, I want to point out specific changes I have made in my life that remind me of the importance of my work. Most are not huge or expensive, but they remind me that my time, skills and goals are important to me and others.

Schedule

As I pointed out in my post “3 Things You May Not Have Considered About Working From Home“, your schedule becomes fluid and flexible without an office to report to. It’s both a blessing and a curse and some of the best advice I ever got about making it work for you was from a book about treating SAHM work like a real job. I wish I could remember the title, but I read it so many years ago that I can’t give this fabulous author credit. Her suggestion was that I look at my mom job as a split shift. Shift one was morning to after lunch and shift two was from late afternoon until bedtime. The break in the middle was nap time which is when so many mom’s would frantically clean and, in effect, never take a break; sometimes not even a lunch break. If you re-imagine your day to be work in two shifts, the break in the middle becomes more obvious and necessary. Long after my kids stopped napping they still had an hour or two of quiet time in their rooms every afternoon. This was important time for me to recharge my self and mentally prepare for my second shift. Using this time wisely made a huge difference in my energy and enthusiasm for the work that needed to be done every night.

Her technique still serves me well. My days don’t break up quite so nicely, but I’ve learned to work with the rhythm of my days to get my work done and give myself necessary breaks. If you work from home and you’re a night owl, it is possible to keep working until one or two a.m. but the key then is to either sleep in or take a nap after your family’s morning routine. It is amazing how productive you can be when you allow yourself to follow your natural rhythm and schedule in breaks.

Another important and easy technique is putting your work on your family’s schedule. The power of this didn’t become obvious to me until I had an at-home job with a regular paycheck. As a university instructor I have frequent deadlines and online meetings I must attend. These obviously went on the family master schedule because they involved others and therefore were important. I’ve never missed one. Somehow I’ve always managed to arrange all the practices, field trips, dentist appointments, etc. around my paid work. So why couldn’t and wouldn’t I do the same for my unpaid work (or marginally paid, like writing). It’s just as important to me. If I want it to be my main source of income someday I need to allocate time and energy to it. So I’ve added writing and marketing time to my schedule. Once it’s on there it is much less likely to disappear under a lot of other tasks that might feel urgent at the time but don’t fit into my big picture.

Surroundings

Creating a work space that supports you is another way to value the work that you do. Too often when we work at home our “office” is carved out of left-over space, cluttered, or non existent. To do your optimum work you have needs. They will vary from person to person and if you are doing more than one job from home you may need different designated spaces for each type of work. Homemaking magazines love to feature clever and crafty kitchen spaces for mom to manage the family schedule, grocery lists, school information, etc. The convenience of the location might work great for some, but that room is too busy and chaotic for me. Not to mention that all office supplies within view in the kitchen are considered fair game. For me I need a space to spread out, where I won’t have to move things every time I need to cook, and where the pens and scissors I like will not constantly disappear.

When looking at the work space(s) that support you consider things like; amount of sunlight, proximity to fresh air, heat or air conditioning; view of the TV (whether necessary or a distraction); ability to close yourself away from interruptions or noise; and space for supplies (that won’t be pilfered). This is your office so decorate and organize it in a way that makes you want to use it. Paint is cheap, decorative folders are cheap but both can do a lot to make your space uniquely yours.

After a recent absolutely heavenly massage I decided to add the scent of essential oils to my home office. For less than twenty dollars I bought a diffuser and an oil blend designed to encourage brain activity. I don’t know if I’m having more brain activity but I’m loving the scent and the quiet little motor is fantastic white noise. The most important thing about the diffuser isn’t the cost or if it’s markedly increased my productivity, it’s the fact that I took the time and effort to get it. I made my work space a priority.

And I’m really just getting started. A she-shed is calling my name. (If you’re not sure what one is, search Pintrest.) What better way to give your work the space it deserves than a building dedicated solely to it.

I hope I’ve inspired you to take your work and your work spaces more seriously. If you get some ideas from this post I’d love to hear from you. Comment below and let me know how you make your work and your work space reflect their value. When you value your work, others will too.