People take drastic measures to deal with how crazy busy our lives are. How often do you respond “I am so busy” when someone asks how you are doing? When did being busy become such a trendy state?
Recently, Mark Zuckerberg (king of Facebook) shared an image of his wardrobe full of identical gray tee shirts & hoodies as he prepared to return to work after paternity leave. The caption was “What should I wear?” The possibilities were not endless.
Zuckerberg has been candid about his choice of a work uniform, but he is not alone amongst successful individuals who choose a uniform. Steve Jobs, Karl Lagerfeld, and Michael Kors all have an iconic work uniform. Even President Obama has shared he only wears gray or blue suits. I sense a trend.
Voluntary Work Uniforms…What Gives?
The rationale behind it is “decision fatigue”. As your day progresses your ability to make a decision wanes. The more decisions you make throughout the day, the worse you become at making them. This is probably why hummus and red wine seems like a perfectly logical dinner after a very busy day at work.
While the idea behind a uniform is enticing, and in many cases incredibly chic (hello Melinda Kahl), I have not come to that sartorial end just yet. I had a uniform in middle school and to this day still struggle to wear khakis. More palatable is the capsule wardrobe that I am slowly paring down to.
As far as my daily decision making, I will try every other half-baked productivity hack instead to get the most out of my day. It’s challenging for me to accept the insanity of having to “hack” my day to get everything done, but I am guilty of checking email on nights & weekends, and taking work home. I don’t consider these behaviors sustainable.
Getting Sh$% Done, Now & Then
As a nation, our productivity has been increasing exponentially over the last century. The super-brains at MIT have determined that an average worker today needs a mere 11 hours per week to produce as much as a 1950s worker produced in 40 hours. Big thanks to email there. Those Mad Men style Martini lunches probably didn’t help, but if we are saving our day drinking for the weekend, shouldn’t we be working less?
For a while, our nation’s increasing productivity was used for increasing material comforts. That’s great, increasing quality of life for all. Yay!
In recent decades, we have just been using it to purchase more stuff. This is where it starts to make my brain itch. We are getting significantly more accomplished in 40 hours, so why are we still working more hours each week? What gives?
That’s a Big “D”
If you take a peek at the US Federal Reserve & US Census data, it starts to become pretty clear. 38.1% of Americans have some form of household debt. When you consider credit card debt, mortgages, auto loans, and student loans, the average US Household has almost $130,000 worth of debt. Yikes. It is an election year so the national debt is a hot topic, but how about the $11.91 trillion dollars in combined debt owed by US consumers?
I have only recently climbed out of the hole I dug myself into in my early 20s. My mother would call this new phase “growing up”. I try not to let her know when she’s right, but in this case, it was time to adult. Adulting is hard, but not half as annoying as being afraid to open mail and answer phone calls from numbers you don’t recognize. Worse still when you have to accept the fact that it is your own damn fault. A lot of my past debt is still hanging in my closet.
We all have our reasons to spend, but retail therapy was mine. I had this twisted idea that if I just had the right outfit, everything would be ok. My broken relationships would sort themselves out, and if I just looked like the person I wanted to be, it would happen. I could dress my way to being polished, together and accomplished. It doesn’t work that way.
I found minimalism at the perfect time in my life. I was going through tons of change and was searching for a way to feel grounded. I was stressed over money, guilty about the clothing I would buy, and craving a more meaningful existence. I am no good at meditating or mindfulness, so I needed something that was a better fit. I needed to change how I behaved.
How To Flip The Script
If you want to save more money there are two schools of thought. You can earn more, or you can spend less. This doesn’t account for the psychology of desire, and our culture that constantly pushes us to buy, and want, and consume. Honestly, telling you to spend less is useless and unhelpful. You have to learn to want less.
Changing deeply ingrained habits is tough, but doable. I go the route of doing personal challenges to try out new habits, testing the waters for a set amount of time to see if it sticks. Worse case scenario I fail, best case, I learn something. I am down to 1/3 of my previous belongings and can fit my entire wardrobe in one dresser and about 5 ft of hanging space (including winter outerwear). Embrace fail and just try it. I read Marie Kondo and did the Kon Mari method, did the #minsgame, and set up a “clothing jail“. Little actions can create big ripples of change in your life, and you can choose to make them positive ones.
Tomorrow is the 1st of February. The start of a month is the perfect time to teach yourself a new, healthy habit. If you are still rocking at your New Years resolution, I am super proud of you. If you screwed it up by the 2nd week, it’s ok. Try a smaller goal for February, and just make the goal to get to the 29th still trying. You don’t have to be amazing, just try.
5 Steps To A Meaningful Life
It could be your home, fashion or friendships that you want to improve. Is there something in your life that isn’t adding value? Are you drowning in clutter, is your closet full but you have nothing to wear, or do your friends bring only drama to your life? If it all feels a bit intimidating to bring simplicity to these areas of your life, these five tips will get you started.
- Visualize the change you want to make. Write it down to hold yourself accountable. Want to unclutter your apartment? Start by just writing it down. Include how these changes will make you feel once you have accomplished them.
- Break the change down into bite-size pieces. If you want to get in shape, you can’t just start by running a 5k. You will hurt yourself and get frustrated/quit. Find the tiniest step you can take to begin building momentum, and create action items so you can see your path to success clearly. It could be as simple as filling up one bag of things to donate to charity each week. Just make sure its not so small that you wont see the difference and lose momentum.
- Find an accountabilibuddy. It is easier to hold yourself accountable when someone else is on board with you. I let myself down at the drop of a hat (like trying to wake up at 5:30am, ugh, I am all about the snooze button), but I find it very hard to let my friends down.
You can also share your goals and progress on social media to stay motivated since its very hard to quit with everyone watching! If I hadn’t done my #minsgame publicly with my partner on Twitter, I never would have made it to day 28. If one of us was slacking and saw the other person already posted their donation pile for the day, you can bet we found our next batch of stuff to get rid of right away. Healthy competition is a great motivator.
- Use affirmations. An affirmation is a positive statement, like a mantra, that you recite to stay positive and achieve your goals. When you feel stuck or want to give up, you recite your affirmation. They are usually short, and it only matters that they resonate with you.
I have a friend who teaches workout classes and when doing a really tough exercise she always says “it’s just 30 seconds of your life, don’t give up, you can do anything for just 30 seconds”. This is usually followed by six more brutal sets of 30 seconds. When you focus on the one at hand and remind yourself that this little bite-size piece you are trying to tackle is only 30 seconds of your life it’s much easier to push to the end.
Make an affirmation that you can use each time you start to stumble.
- Celebrate success, and embrace fail. Changes don’t happen overnight. Be kind to yourself and let tiny bits of progress propel you forward. You will slip up, you will backtrack, you will make mistakes– but that is not an excuse to give up. One cheat day will only ruin your diet if you give up altogether, and it is the same if you come home with a bag full of fast fashion from H&M. Own your mistakes.
If you keep slipping up, be honest with yourself and assess why it is happening. With fashion especially, going shopping can be an activity to do with other people. Try planning activities that don’t include the temptation to shop, but still give you social engagement. It’s about finding the right balance.
My challenge for February is to not dine out. I am saving money to travel more. The convenience of going out to eat because I don’t feel like cooking is not as valuable to me as being able to travel. Putting this in perspective is what will hold me accountable. That, and my accountabilibuddy.
I have learned to value experience over objects, but I had to train myself to get there. I still am enticed by a cute skirt, or an amazing pair of shoes, or a cheeseburger & oysters at the restaurant next door. That “want” for immediate gratification will take some time to overcome. I find the more I face it head on, the easier it becomes to deliberately choose that which will bring the most value to my life. You have the power to choose, you just have to make the right choice to get where you truly want to be. Will you find as much value in the quick fix, or in the realization of your long-term goals? (trick question)
What change do you want to see in your life? Let me know what personal challenges you are working on in the comments section, let’s be accountabilibuddies!