Book Review: The Year of Less

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The Year of Less by Cait Flanders

Rating: ★★★★☆

This book convinced me to stop buying sh*t. That in and of itself is an accomplishment. Really. If you don’t believe me, you should see my amazon account … Yikes.

Anyways, I really enjoyed this book. One, I *love* memoirs that are narrated by the author. It just feel that authors know exactly where to put the emphasis and it just works. Ya know? I’m a big fan.

Since lockdown, I’ve been doing a lot more chores. Normally, during the school year, I barely have time to sleep, so my parents are pretty lax about my not doing chores. In lockdown, my parents have tasked me with doing the dishes most nights after dinner considering my school basically gave up on remote learning. I used to HATE doing the dishes, but oddly enough, now, I kinda like it when I’m listening to a good audiobook. Sometimes I also listen to more narrative based podcasts like Lore or This American Life. So far, I’ve listened to Make Trouble by Cecile Richards, The Year of Less by Cait Flanders, and now Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Anyways, this book actually made me kinda look forward to doing the dishes. Crazy! I know, but let that show as a testament to how good this book is.

Anyway, moving on from my tangent, I just found this book to have some, dare I say, profound insights. One of my favorite ideas Flanders talks about is asking yourself “Am I buying this for the person I am or the person I want to be?” After listening to this, I didn’t think much of it, but now I realize – this is such an important idea. I can’t tell you how many shirts, pens, and books I’ve bought thinking to myself “this is what ideal me would wear/use/read”. Like do I really want to read Pride and Prejudice? No, not really.

Here’s a tidbit of information from The Year of Less I want to share with you all: a shopping ban is more like a browsing ban. Think about all the notifications you receive from your favorite stores. I get an email at least twice a week from LL Bean. I almost always scroll through it, imagining myself as a savvy outdoors-woman. It made me all the more inclined to purchase whatever they were advertising. The solution: stop browsing, stop window shopping (IRL and online), unsubscribe, and unfollow.

Cait totally convinced me to try a shopping ban. I’ll be writing more about that here. She also encouraged me to start decluttering. I will be headed off to college in the fall of 2021, so I want to gradually start decluttering to avoid the massive pain of rapid decluttering.

Lastly, Cait really made me think critically about myself and my finances. Like I said earlier, I’m about to go to college. That means for the most part, I’m going to be responsible for my own finances. My parents have agreed to give me a small monthly stipend for expenses when I’m away, but I still have to be a fiscally responsible *gasp* adult. Because of this honestly scary revelation, I have started tracking all of my purchases whether I spend my own money on it or not. I’m planning to do another post about this. Ultimately, my goal is to be more conscious and mindful about what I’m spending and why.

“The ban uncovered the truth, which was that when you decide to want less, you can buy less and, ultimately, need less money.”

– Cait Flanders, The Year of Less

Honestly, everyone needs to read this book. I think “seeing” someone else do it helps you feel like you can do it – you can want less, buy less, and save more.

I’m beginning a 3 month long shopping ban. I’m hoping to extend it to 12 months, but I’m starting small!

Wish me luck!

Sincerely,

Marie

the year of less

Battle of the Books: The Bullet Journal Method vs. Dot Journaling

Recently, I got into bullet journaling. In quarantine and remote learning, I quickly learned that my beloved Lilly Pultizer Agenda just wasn’t what I needed. I need a place where I could keep all of my tasks and random thoughts. Basically, a place to brain dump.

I had dabbled bullet journalling earlier. In October 2018, I bought a superrr dot grid journal from Walmart on a whim. I *hated* how my spreads looked. I was so frustrated that they didn’t look like the picture prefect spreads I saw on tumblr and pinterest. Long story short, I quit.

I’ve been using my bullet journal (bujo) off and on since then, mostly as a collection of to-do lists. Little did I know that that’s exactly how you’re “supposed” to use a bullet journal. Anyway, since quarantine, I re-entered the world of bullet journaling, and in true Marie fashion, I turned to books to help guide me.

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The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll

The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Ryder Carroll is the creator of the bullet journal method. He started this whole trend. He is to bullet journaling what Kim Kardashian is to naked bathroom selfies. Essentially, he need a framework to organize his life that was simple, effective, and ultimately analog. Working in tech, he needed a break from screens (as many of us do) and choose to pick the mode of pen and paper.

That’s all great, but you know what’s not great? This book. Urgh! This book was great, until I was on like page 250 with what felt like no end in sight. Allow me to number my thoughts so this some incomprehensible rant.

Number One

This book is so dang self congratulatory. He spends a solid fifth of this book raving about how amazing the bullet journal system is. He also goes on these pseudo-intellectuctual tangents about matters about philosophy for example. That particular tangent felt completely out of pocket because isn’t this a book about bullet journaling?

Number Two

For a book about bullet journaling, this books talks surprising little about bullet journalling. The second fifth of the book is consumed by Ryder’s absolutely random life stories. If I wanted a memoir, I would’ve bought one. The third fifth of the book is stories of people who had wonderful, life-changing experiences with their bullet journal. Like, great, bullet journals are amazing – we have established that. Now, will you finally tell me how to make and use one???

Number Three

This isn’t necessarily a complaint, but the advice in this book is just fine. It’s really not anything special. It’s perfectly satisfactory. If I was rating this book solely on the advice given in book, I’d give it a solid 3 stars.

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Dot Journaling: A Practical Guide by Rachel Wilkerson Miller

Dot Journaling: A Practical Guide by Rachel Wilkerson Miller

Rating:★★★★☆

I liked this book! I really enjoyed it. Compared to Carroll’s book, this book is fun, interesting, and concise: three adjectives you could not use to describe Carroll’s book. I enjoyed this book for three main reasons:

Number One

Rachel Wilkerson Miller is seriously funny. There were moments while was reading this book where I had real laughs out loud. In this except, Rachel talks about a list she started called “Wins” in which she writes things that went well.

“As you may recall, 2016 was a garbage year (although calling it that honestly feels a bit unfair to garbage), so I did except to find [many wins]. But I ended up filling four pages with all the good things that happened to me in 2016″ (Wilkerson Miller 152).

Number Two

This was a quick read that taught me everything I needed to know. I feel that productivity books, in particular, ought to be as concise as possible. Why delay the positive gains from reading said productivity book because it takes you a month to get through it?

Number Three

Practical Examples. For every major idea introduced in the book, there are also accompanying pictures to show you how to do it. I wouldn’t consider myself a visual learner, but seeing examples was incredibly helpful in deciding how I wanted to organize my bujo. Additionally, Rachel also shows multiple ways of accomplishing the same spread (ex. 5 different ways to do a habit tracker).

Final Thoughts

Obviously Dot Journaling: A Practical Guide by Rachel Wilkerson Miller wins! I just really enjoyed this book. It’s 172 pages compared to Carroll’s 320 pages. This is pretty trivial considering the whole point of a bullet journal, but Wilkerson Miller’s graphics are just so much more visually appealing.

Originally, I was skeptical of Dot Journaling: A Practical Guide. I thought “If I’m gonna try bullet journaling, I should go straight to the horse’s mouth”. I was wrong. Ryder Carrol’s book is truly a waste of money. That should be your big takeaway from this post. If you want to learn bullet journaling for Ryder, himself, check out his youtube channel. I do think his youtube videos are helpful. He comes across far more approachable and humble on his youtube videos than he does in the book.

The Verdict: If you’re going to buy a book on bullet journaling, byDot Journaling: A Practical Guide by Rachel Wilkerson Miller. But you really don’t need a book – Ryder’s youtube videos will be more than enough for a beginner. However, Rachel’s book is a delightful read and has new and interesting ideas and spreads.

Links to buy (Amazon):

The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll

Dot Journaling: A Practical Guide by Rachel Wilkerson Miller

Happy journaling!

Sincerely,

Marie

Dealing with Disappointment

Yesterday, I competed in an online Congressional Debate tournament. It was States. I was so amped up and excited. I thought I had a real chance at placing in the top three. I didn’t. I got sixth.

I was incredibly disappointed, sad, frustrated, and angry. I spent the rest of the day “licking my wounds” and processing my own disappointment.

First, I yelled and screamed. That lasted like a minute because I was pretty beat from a long day of competition.

Second, I sat in bed, wallowing. My mind ran in circles beginning and ending with “What could I have done better?”, “What’s wrong with me?”, and “Why did the judges like x competitors’ speeches over mine?”

Third, I cried. I had a nice good cry. I refuse to cry in front of other people, but when I’m alone and need a release crying is a great option.

Fourth, I journaled. It was a short entry about half a page in my A5 size notebook.

Fifth, I took a nap. I genuinely think there isn’t a single problem that can’t be made better by taking a nap. I loveeeee sleeping. I think I might have been made to sleep. Sleeping is key 🔑!

Sixth, I ate my favorite snack: strawberries and Nutella. There’s nothing like your favorite snack to cheer you up when you’re feeling low. Be careful not to overeat as that might make you feel even worse. Remember: there’s NO shame in going back for seconds, thirds, fourths or even fifths!

Seven, I declared to myself and my family that I was “over it”. This declaration was helpful because I decided to be done with wallowing and self-pity (which is fine in moderation). At some point, you just have to move on, so I moved on.

Writing this post now feels cathartic and renewing. I’m letting go my disappointment and resolving to spend my time on things that will make me feel good!

Disappointment is shitty, but you’re not! You will get through this!

Sincerely,

Marie

It’s OK if you’re struggling.

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It’s okay if you’re struggling. I am too.

This is a hard time. It’s hard to be productive and feel good all the time, most of the time, or even some of the time.

I struggle to focus every day. I have a hard time even starting my work, much less actually doing it. And that’s okay. We have to be kind to ourselves. It’s the only way we’re going to be able to get through this time.

Here are so ways I’m practicing being kind to myself

  1. Not beating myself up when I have an unproductive, depressed day.
  2. Eating healthy foods – so I can avoid the groggy and gross feeling I have when I eat too much junk food. Some of my current favorites are celery with peanut butter, carrots with raspberries, and orange slices.
  3. Journaling – I already have a whole post on this linked here, but this saves me every day. Having a place to air your feelings unfiltered is essential.
  4. Going on walks – Sometimes I have to force myself out of the house, but when I get outside, I feel so much better.
  5. Reading – Right now I’m reading The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer. So far, I like it a lot.
  6. Crocheting – the simple repetition of crocheting helps me to quiet my mind. I also like to listen to an audiobook while crocheting. Right now I’m listening to James Madison: A Life Reconsidered by Lynne Cheney (former Vice President Dick Cheney’s wife).
  7. Writing letters – I have started pen-palling to my reverend and friend. I absolutely love it!
  8. Meditation – I can’t say enough good things about the Headspace app! It’s a gamechanger!
  9. Maintaining personal hygiene – No one wants to admit that their hygiene has fallen off a bit since social distancing began. I definitely don’t! However, taking 15 minutes to wash your face, brush your teeth, do your hair, and slap on some mascara and lip balm will make you feel soooo much better!
  10. Acceptance – accept the uncertainty and just focus on what you can do to make yourself feel better.

These are hard times. I won’t lie to you and say I’m doing well. I’m not. I’m nearly three weeks behind in my history and chemistry classes. My motivation is nonexistent, and frankly, I’m depressed. I just have to accept what is and work on making tomorrow better.

PRACTICING SELF-CARE IS THE FIRST STEP TO GETTING BETTER.

Sincerely,

Marie

The Great Outdoors + Best Hiking Equipment on Amazon

Trail to Sengekontacket Pond

I never thought of myself as particularly outdoorsy, but social distancing has changed that. I have always enjoyed spending time outside whether that was hiking, spending time in a beachside cabana, or kayaking on a lake, but I seriously HATE bugs! I would attempt to do my homework outside, but as soon as an ant crawled on my leg, it was time to pack up and go inside.

Intellectually, I knew going outside and getting those exercise endorphins were critical to my mental health. Still, I opted for TV, YouTube, and Instagram instead of a walk.

Since I’ve been stuck at home, I’ve taken more time to explore my soundings, walking down streets I’ve never been on and seeing neighbors I hadn’t seen in years.

Being outside gives yourself time to decompress. Think about all the content and information you take in every day. For me that’s YouTube videos, Instagram posts, episodes of 30Rock, music by my favorite bands, text messages, emails, news articles, homework, novels, textbook reading, and so much more. Spending some quiet time even if it’s only 10 mins can help reduce your mental clutter and leave you feeling less groggy.

Since I have been spending a lot more time outdoors and finally have the time to go hiking consistently. I decided to pick up some new gear. Here’s why I’m planning to buy and/or bought.

Number One: SPF jacket

This jacket both protects your skin from the sun and provides a lightweight layer for those cool moments in the shade. Also, it’s light even to tie around your waist or stuff into your backpack without weighing you down.

Number Two: Hiking socks

You cannot underestimate the importance of a good pair of socks. Enough said.

Number Three: Flat belt

Belts are great! I’m slim hipped, so I wear belts daily. This is a great belt in general, but is even better when hiking because it isn’t bulky and is light weight.

Number Four: Hiking boots

These came highly ranked on the Strategist, my go to website anytime I need to buy something online.

Number Five: Mosquito Repellent Balm

This is a wonder product! I was hiking in July in Camden, ME when I began to sweat off my bug spray. I had every imaginable insect buzzing around my ear. I felt like Zeus! (haha) This stuff is amazing. I lather it on to my neck and ears before hiking. Because it’s a balm it doesn’t just slide off with a little sweat. I highly recommend. Pro tip: Make sure you wash your face as soon as you get home from your hike because it will clog your pores.

Trails at Point Lookout in Camden, ME

Number Six: Hiking pants

Convertible pants are kinda dorky. I get it. But they are so so so functional! I was planting trees in Puerto Rico in the Summer of 2017 and being able to unzip my pants and wear shorts for when I got over heated was invaluable. Functionality over everything!

Planting Trees in Humacao, Puerto Rico

Number Seven: SPF shirt

Protect yo’ self! No, but seriously. Skincare is healthcare. The skin is the largest organ of your body. Take care of it.

 

Happy trails!

 

Sincerely,

Marie

My Journaling Tips & Tricks

I love to journal. I’ve kept a journal off and on, mostly off, since I was about eight. For the past 5 years, I have been writing entries into my journal/dairy/whatever-you-want-to-call-it about once a month at least for multiple times a day at most. I really enjoy just writing down my thoughts. I typically journal when:

  1. I’m stressed and need a release.
  2. I’m sad and don’t want to talk to someone else.
  3. My therapist tells me to.
  4. I have very intense feelings (either positive or negative).
  5. Something awesome happens, and I just have to record it.

For journaling some of my favorite supplies are:

Journaling has been such a great way for me to get in touch with my feelings in a safe, low stakes environment. Here are my tips to be successful in journaling:

Number 1: Keep It Low Stakes

It’s absolutely OK if you don’t journal every day. I’ve gone months without a single entry – that’s okay. It’s ok if you misspell a word. Lastly, it’s ok not to journal about every single thing. One of my friends records every single thing she does every day in her journal. That could never be me. It’s also OK is you’re the person who wants to record every moment in your journal, but you don’t have to.

Number 2: Find a Style that Suits You

It doesn’t have to be perfect, pretty, or aesthetic. It just needs to be functional and work for you. Until this week, I only really ever journaled in one way; just blurting out my thoughts on a page. I don’t really even have paragraphs – just my sentences on a page. Occasionally, I write in my journal as if I’m writing to my future self, or to someone who may be reading it. One of my favorite entries are my “State of the Union” entries. In these there are two columns: In and Out. On the “In” side are things that I’m enjoying: this could be anything (people, movies, pens, activities) and on the “Out” side are things I’m over or are upsetting me. Last, is a style I’ve just recently started. One night, I was lying sleepless in bed around 12am, and I decided to journal to get all my thoughts out in hopes out actually getting some rest. But I just had too many thoughts, so I just started a numbered list of everything that was running through my head. I keep writing until I get all my thoughts out or get tired, normally the latter.

Number 3: Set a Time to Journal

Generally, I journal before I go to sleep. I do almost all of my journaling in bed, so I keep my journal on my nightstand. Setting a dedicated time to journal helps to cement it into a part of your routine.

I hope these tips can help you in writing and maintain a journal!

Sincerely,

Marie