Waving February goodbye

Posting this late due to a stomach bug wrecking havock in my family…

Really? Already?


In touch with my inner… something!

I’m not at all sure I have been successful with my February resolutions. I feel like I’m not getting the tracker boxes ticked as  often as I would like, being a golden star lover that I am. 

On the other hand, I think I am already feeling the results of my happiness project.

It doesn’t mean that I am a 100% pure sunshine 100% of the time. I’m still tired, cranky and complaining on occasion. 

But more often than not, I can see the silver lining. I am more grateful and perhaps just slightly braver in speaking out my opinions.

 All this just makes me somehow more balanced and in return, more forgiving to my surroundings. That is definitely something for a person whose motto for years has been: “Think negative and you will not be disappointed!”

How about those resolutions then

I wrote before, that I had pretty much bitten off more than I could chew for February’s relationship resolutions. I decided I should go back to the very basics and ended up with this list:

  • Date nights
  • Kiss in the morning, kiss in the night
  • No calculation
  • No dumping
  • Do not expect praise

I’m not even sure anymore, but I think some of them came from Gretchen Rubin’s 21-day-project and some are from her book. In any case, all others than date nights are Rubin’s ideas. 

No dumping

I think the resolutions have lifted the spirits of our whole household at least on some levels. Even though I can’t always follow the “no dumping” -resolution, I am especially careful not to complain to hubby when he is out enjoying a (quite rare) night out with friends. There was a time I used to text shout at him all the little things going wrong (in my opinion) while I was home alone with the kids. Being perfectly aware he will not be able to help, and actually doesn’t have to either.

There is definitely a line between being vindictive and asking help when you have actual problems. So I still might call to get him home, if I happen to fall ill when he’s away, but I will keep from texting every hour because the kids happen to be in a funky mood.

No praise, no calculation

This brings me to the resolutions “no calculation” and “do not expect praise”. I get ample time to go out with friends, to courses, to writing, you name it. Even so, sometimes I feel like I have a slight disadvantage compared to husband, because I need so much more sleep. If it’s my turn to put the kids to bed, I will have no “me-time”. 

I think I’ve been expecting to be praised about the fact what a trooper I am to survive without my me-time, while hubby is out. Even if we divide the nights either equally or – most of the time – to my favour.

From the no dumping to the no calculation, I have realized how dumping the going-ons of the house to my hubby, when he is out, only really spoils the evening for us both. He will have spent the night away, coming back home propably twice as irritated. When the whole point is to let him have his “me-time” so I’ll get a more relaxed hubby home. And I will feel guilty about spoiling his night just about the second after I’ve sent the angry messages (did I ever mention I have really poor impulse control??).

I have made some calculations after all, but only to help me realize how much help I actually am getting from my husband ❤ 

Keeping up with the kisses and date nights

You know what, it does help to remember these little kisses to keep your relationship alive. 

It’s a tiniest moment of appreciation. You take that five seconds from your busy schedule (oh believe me, our mornings can be very hectic at times…) to kiss your partner instead of shouting from afar an absent-minded “bye”. Sad but true, I hadn’t paid attention to this in a long time.

We’ve been pretty good about the date nights too. Sometimes just running some errands, sometimes eating out. Just learning to be a couple instead of always just being a mum and dad 😉 

I have now grown to love these resolutions, because they have made me so much more appreciative of what I have. Perhaps I should interview Husband to figure out if he’s actually noticed any changes (have you, hon?)

In March I will try to have some discoveries about my relationship with our kids. Scary.

Will you be my Valentine?

February is generally seen as the month of love and though in Finland we celebrate friends on February 14th, not lovers, I decided to follow Gretchen Rubin to a month of relationship bliss. 

What is love?

Of course you can love more people than just your significant other, but the word love (= rakkaus) is not a term used loosely in Finnish language. You REALLY mean it when you say it. Well… There’s always a player or two in every pack, but in general it’s pretty serious business. 

So I say it to our kids and my hubby, but even if they are not the only people in the world that I love, they are propably the only ones I’ve said it to, in addition to some past boyfriends.

Once a year we have a day dedicated to expressing love to friends, so we run with it!

In addition to having this cultural background of seriousness when it comes to expressing love, I have of course some ideas in my own head about it. 

In an interview years ago I was asked what I thought love was, and I answered that “it’s a series of compromises”. Even though I was in a completely different place in life then, I still believe the basic idea to be true. (Just make sure, you are not the one making all the compromises!) 

I guess you could say I have somewhat of a practical (eugh, what a word) way of seeing love, but that is not standing in the way of my happiness. I will rather have a husband who changes the occasional diaper instead of one who brings home flowers – and that’s all. And so after years of learning what I really value, I found what I was looking for in my husband.

Why add love on the list at all then…

I love my hubby and totally see us getting old together, but recent years haven’t exactly helped in keeping things fresh. 

Two small kids has meant a lot of sleep lost, a baby with allergy and skin issues, a stretch of unemployment, money worries that came along with that, stress, depression, sickness… You name it. It’s all just too easy to loose sight why you got together in the first place. 

I’m also carrying some personal baggage I’ve known for a long time to exist. I’m digging pretty deep into myself to figure out what happiness means to me, so it actually isn’t surprising that some skeletons are trying to jump out of the closets aswell. One of those skeletons transformed itself into the happiness guideline “must love myself”.

And the resolutions are

Or were?? I’m not actually sure anymore! 

My list at the start of February looked like this:

  • no dumping
  • 21-day-project
  • date nights
  • do not expect praise
  • away demons.

The 21-day-project has given a lot of good reminders about things to do to be happier in your relationships. But I can’t help feeling that perhaps I should stretch that project out along the whole year. I feel like I can’t absorb a new piece of advice every day and really make it work in my favour. I’m thinking for the last two weeks of February I will narrow my scope down and choose only some, like “be aware of unconscious overclaming”.

Then there’s those demons. I was planning to do some exorcism in form of some reading, but I’m realizing my wounds may be a little deeper than that. I don’t want to just drop it, because cleaning those skeletons out of my mental closets is pretty damn crucial. So I’m trying to figure out a new approach to that one.

I also seem to cheat at the “no dumping” rule (oops). I’ve had some difficulties at work and after a crappy day I just need some perspective. But I think I don’t complain about trivial things, like getting my shoes wet or spilling water on the floor that much anymore. So there is definetly a shift towards better things here!
I’m most proud of the fact that we’ve managed to hold on to our date nights, thanks to my lovely parents! Asking for help, when it’s just for relaxing, is another thing that does not necessarily come naturally to us Finns. It’s good to have some adults alone time regularly. 

We haven’t been doing anything extravagant, but it’s still great.

We skipped the theatre and watched Netflix instead. And not My little Ponies!

Weekly Tip: The One Minute Rule

Wait for it…. The life-changing magic of the one minute rule is that you really get an amazing deal of stuff to happen and it ends up feeling like you’ve spent zero minutes doing boring chores!

I am mainly using this tactic to keep up with a tidying routine, but you can find a lot more on Gretchen Rubin’s blog (yes, yes, I am a fan): http://gretchenrubin.com/happiness_project/2006/12/need_a_simple_a/

Whenever I feel like I would just like to leave my plate on the dining table instead of taking it to the kitchen, I remind myself “it takes less than a minute now, but when I have 10 plates, it’s serious work.”

Go and try, it’s great!

Organizing the Apartment to Achieve Structure in My Head

At least that’s where I started from. I mean organizing our stuff. Donating, selling, throwing out. In the end we even sold two massive bookcases.

There you can see one of the bookcases that went. Child in picture was not for sale.

It started with me stumbling upon our then neighbor’s web page. She happens to be a professional organizer. She was just about to start hosting a minimalism game (more on the origin of the game can be found here), I think it was in October 2015. 

You look at that date way over a year ago and think: Why is she not done by now? Well…. We moved twice during last year and having two small kids really does complicate things somewhat! We bought an apartment that was just about to go through four months of plumbing reno. So we moved all our furniture and most of our belongings into storage and took shelter at my parents home (how lucky we didn’t have to pay extra rent!). 

A Toyota Verso is surprisingly large

I think I made somewhat of a rookie mistake and propably saved many such things that should’ve been sold / donated / trashed before the move. I mean we got rid of heaps and heaps of stuff! But obviously my konmari days just were not behind me. 

And that is how January resolution Number 5 became: Organize your living space. 

I had planned to tackle a few things: finish setting up our walk-in closet, get the “office” wallpapered and organized and with some luck, also stick some wallpaper on our bedroom wall.

I got to a good start with our walk-in closet. This one needed a trip to IKEA though (I know, I know –  but even Konmari doesn’t ban buying boxes and stuff, if you have finished cleaning out. And in case of clothes, we’re doing ok). But even here it’s still somewhat of a work in progress. 

It’s supposed to be the white boxes only. You can imagine it, right?
As I’ve told, January was a time of sickness in our household so that was pretty much where I ended up with my resolution. January is almost over so no massive changes will take place. 

But!! I’m only slightly sad (for missing my opportunity of a renovating weekend – I love to be home alone for that purpose!) that January wasn’t the month to tie the loose ends, because of my new found understanding of time:

Not everything has to be accomplished today. You will have your moment!

I always have next month to try and tackle this:

Office / junk yard

I have some approaches to suggest if you want to clean out your apartment:

Read Konmari for inspiration even if you can’t really follow her method to the point. She won’t know. Her way of giving thanks to each item given away has made me think, how much material and effort goes to making a simple t-shirt for example. When you are finished with tidying up, I encourage you to think hard if you really need to buy something new.

– Clean in alphabetical order (method I learned from my neighbour). So tackle for example books, magazines, sheets, pens, tools etc. This approach is usually doable even if you can only spare moments of time here and there.

– If you have decided (like me) that you really don’t want to hold on to a piece of furniture anymore, start making space. Two ways to do that: get rid of the stuff that is in that said piece of furniture, or start making space elsewhere (by getting rid of stuff! Not organizing ;))

– find additional tips on pinterest

– Try Gretchen Rubin’s one-minute-rule (amazing, really! Thanks again Gretchen!)

– Believe when the organizing guru’s say that you’re not doing yourself any favors by holding on to something, “because it cost me so much”

– Limit your options: 

If a food item does not fit in here something has to go

Phew! That was a long one. 

Any great organizational tips you would like me try? Just let me know in the comments!

The Makings of Happiness Project Guidelines

The Makings of Happiness Project Guidelines

More like guidelines for life, I hope!

In her book (and blog: Gretchen’s tips on writing commandments) Gretchen Rubin has listed her 12 commandments.

I like her idea very much and encourage you to check her post out too, if it so happens you stumble on my blog first.

I listed a lot of things in my bullet journal about why I want to do a happiness project anyway. What it is that I hope to become at the end of my project. What kind of person I want to be. For example I tried answering this list of questions to start off with: Get started by Gretchen Rubin.

The first thing I wanted to do was to change the headline.

Perhaps it has something to do with the very protestant work ethic in my country (I for one relate commandments with the bible and I wasn’t too happy about that) or just the translation of the word “commandment” in Finnish, I just thought it too harsh a word to be associated with my happiness project.

So I call mine “guidelines“. I find it to be an encouraging word, so that I can choose each day to follow my guidelines (or not, but propably yes, because I think they really represent me). I wouldn’t be surprised if over time these guidelines will change. Some will become obsolete. I will figure out new things. But for now, I’m happy with my list.

I found that figuring these guidelines out wasn’t at all an easy task to tackle. I think I got the idea a bit wrong initially. But as I kept thinking about what is the whole point of me embarking on this happiness journey, the guidelines started appearing.

Some are straight from Gretchen’s book, like “Let it go”. But there just wasn’t a better way to describe how I want to get over things faster. I am quite an elephant when it comes to forgiving and forgetting. And I have found that being stuck on feelings, past events, failures, negative thoughts in general does nothing for my well-being.

I won’t explain all my guidelines here, because I’m sure they will play a part in my blog posts throughout the year. But as “be kind” is surfacing in January, I’ll go a bit into detail about that one.

I (like many others) felt there was a lot of negativity going on in the world last year. I admit that sometimes I felt like I wanted to punch something. But as Martin Luther King, Jr put it:

Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

So I’m determined to be kind; not only to the people around me, but to any service personnel, random people on buses, to people who annoy me, to nature, to animals…

Another important one that is going to fuel my whole project and that has been somewhat of an inspirational “quote” in my life for some time:

Be an Optimist Prime.

Weekly Tip: Gratitude Journal

Weekly Tip: Gratitude Journal

If you do nothing else. If you can’t do anything else. Do this: 

write a gratitude journal.

I have been doing it everyday now since the beginning of January. I have tried before, but like with everything I have done in the past, took it too far. Tried to write a page full of things. In pretty handwriting. BIG things. It doesn’t work like that (well, not for me anyway.)

In my bullet journal I have a really teeny tiny slot to write down three things everyday I was grateful about. And for the first time yesterday it really paid off! 

It had been quite an exhausting week (and weekend), mainly because I was still not completely recovered from my flu and suddenly my hubby got a gout attack in his foot. If you are familiar with gout, you’ll know the  infection will make a person completely immobile until it’s cured. I missed some nice appointments I had made with friends and so on. 

In the past the clear signs of a sinus infection that appeared last night would’ve been the last straw.

Instead I did this:

I took out my bullet journal and wrote my three lines (and I will make an exception sharing these with you now):

– My sister-in-law took our daughter to a friend’s birthday party (so I saved a trip on the subway and bus with two kids). 

– My goddaughter (in lack of a better word) came over to play and the girls played so sweetly together it was a joy to watch

– Hubby’s foot is possibly on the mend (as he can actually sit for some time and bear SOME weight on the foot). 

And as I was writing my list I was filled with joy from the past day’s events and actually had a good and worry free night of sleep.

Concentrate on the good, do not dwell on the bad. 

One of my guidelines for the year will be the same as Gretchen Rubin’s: “Let it go”. Applies perfectly here too. 

January Resolutions and How to Approach Them

I am an overachiever. Big time.

So the usual resolution making in my case looks something like this (picture in your head, if you will):

Resolution: “I want to exercise more.”

Approach: “Must exercise five times a week.” (And of course if I don’t, I’ll consider it a failure and start eating ice cream.)

Reality: Went from zero exercises in a week to five. Lasted for a week. Body couldn’t handle the sudden strain and didn’t have enough time to recover. Also have a full-time job, a husband and two small kids, so should be home every once in a while too.

Conclusion: I suck. If I can’t even exercise correctly (ehm, what?) why bother at all.

Pretty soon I have “failed” but only because my goal was insane to begin with.

That was – or is supposed to be- the old approach. But if I was ever going to succeed in making 12 months worth of realistic resolutions, I needed to come up with a better plan.

To ensure that I wasn’t going to get tired of my happiness project during the first week of January, I put down as my first two guidelines (these are what Gretchen Rubin calls her twelve commandments):

“have patience “and “have mercy”.

I’m telling you folks, it has not been easy. I am such a weird mix of perfectionist and short temper, I’m always getting in trouble with my plans.

There is one thing to being an overachiever though. As Rubin points out in her book, I like “my gold stars” too.

This has meant that tracking my resolutions has been helping me keep them (well, the ones possible when your fever is sky high)!

I was inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s task lists (she has made printable copies, in case you’re intrested) and Ryder Carrol’s bullet journal and made a habit tracker to my journal for the first month.

Look for #bujo #habittracker hashtags in social media and you will get the idea.

So with my clever new approach and my pretty turquoise Leuchtturm 1917 journal (https://www.leuchtturm1917.us/notebooks/ or Akateeminen in Finland) I decided to tackle these things first:

– Theme: Boost Energy. I had absolutely no reason to disagree with Gretchen Rubin on this. To have any hope of achieving my goals for this year, I would need energy.

Gretchen has good starting tips in her book and blog, and one revelation came from her idea of nagging tasks. I didn’t put that on my list, instead I knew what really made me feel miserable and because of that, was very energy consuming.

On the list it went.

Number 1 habit to track: play with kids.

This may sound weird to some, but with a list of errands and a full-time job it is really not self-evident that this happens every day. And it makes me feel really bad.

Number 2: SLEEP. Kind of self-explanatory? Well of course not everyone is troubled by this, but when I’m stressed, sleep is the first thing that goes. So, sleep.

Number 3: Eat better. I also tend to eat stupid stuff when I’m stressed. And the stupid stuff makes me feel even worse. Out with all the diets! (No, doesn’t mean you are allowed to eat only pizza and candy!)

Number 4: Exercise. I’m totally aware that I become mind- numbingly boring when I sit still for too long. It doesn’t necessarily mean that regular exercise has been part of my life lately. I want to make it so again.

Number 5: Organize your living space. I can’t even… Every unfinished job in our apartment drives me insane and drains my energy. I try to cope and “have patience” but too many loose ends are just too many. Fixing it.

Number 6: Last but not least. Write. Anything, anywhere, I don’t even care. As long as I’m finally writing again!

I realize people usually ask about resolutions during the first days of the new year. But by the end of January it’s typical to forget about them. I challenge you to think: Did I make resolutions? Were they truly worthy and achievable goals? If they were, have I followed them?  If not, should I make new ones?

Life has a way of throwing curve balls at you when you think you have finally cracked something. I haven’t been very successful with many of my resolutions due to being sick since 10th of January.

But I’m not kicking myself because of it and totally plan to continue on my path when I get my health back. Perhaps I’m already learning…

Our daughter drew Rapunzel