Closing Loopholes: Sticking with the Shopping Ban


I’ve been requesting books almost compulsively from the library, and they’re coming in faster than I can read them.

I told myself that it wouldn’t be too difficult to give up buying books as part of our 2019 shopping ban because I’ve become such good friends with my local library branch. And that’s mostly been true. Mostly. Because some books are designed to be kept or journaled in or referred to again and again.

No renewals allowed

six library books on a shelf

I was on the waiting list for Julia Cameron’s seminal The Artist’s Way for weeks before a copy was available. And though I was delighted to get it and start reading, I soon realized that her process is intended to be followed over 12 weeks. I only got to keep the library’s copy for three weeks and—because it’s wonderful and lots of other people are waiting for it—no renewals allowed. Unless I wanted to fork over 30 cents a day for three months (and irk plenty of library employees and patrons in the meantime), I would have to give it up before I finished it.

The search for a loophole began.

Essential to my work

This could ostensibly be considered a work-related purchase! Exploring creative processes and improving my writing are essential to my work! I told myself when we started the shopping ban that things needed for the continued operation of my business would be allowed. Plus, it’s just one book. And I think I really do need it!

But I had already convinced myself not to buy new file folders last month just because they were pretty and had stopped myself from buying new wall art just to fill up blank space. I don’t need this book. If we’re being honest, I probably don’t even have time in the next 12 weeks to fully commit to the process. It’s okay to wait.

So with only a little bit of grumpiness I added it to my “for later” book list and moved on. I’ve got plenty to read—including Cameron’s The Right to Write, which is its own delight, and Notes from a Public Typewriter, pictured above and my favorite book of 2019 so far—and more than enough to do until I’m ready to dig into The Artist’s Way with the time it deserves.

150 Hours: A Quest to Spend More Time Outside

A quick disclosure: this post uses affiliate links.

Like most self-improvement projects that I’ve decided to jump into, I got the idea for spending more time outside on Facebook.

Someone shared a link about the #150hoursoutside project, which is intended to help kids spend more time outdoors.

A new challenge

I connected immediately with Leah, herself an “idea person” prone to creating or jumping into new projects. But even more so with the concept of setting a goal to spend 150 hours outside in 2019.

tennis shoes on asphalt covered in snow

I have good friends who are serious runners, horse trainers, dedicated hikers, elementary teachers, and avid gardeners. They regularly spend time outdoors in support of their occupations and their hobbies. Me? I could go weeks only being outside to get in and out of my car at the grocery store or the library.

My sister tells a story about a kid in her preschool class on a field trip to the zoo, asking if they could please turn down the A/C. She had to tell him, “That’s just the wind.”

I can relate.

150 hours over the course of one year works out to a little less than 3 hours per week or a little less than half an hour per day. That seemed perfectly reasonable. It takes about 15 minutes to complete a lap around our block, so doing that a few times most days is definitely achievable. (I do appreciate a good SMART goal!)

In sleet, in snow

I had an early advantage: we had several days of 50- and 60-degree weather, definitely not the norm for Kansas City in January. It was easy to take longer walks in sunshine and chilly—not frigid—weather. I started out with a streak of ten days in a row of spending at least half an hour outside.

But then the ice came. And the snow. And the single-digit temps.

Honestly though, I think I’ve found it easier to bundle up with two pairs of pants and a fleece-lined hat than I will find handling peak Midwestern heat this summer.

In any case, the time outside has literally been a breath of fresh air. Sometimes I take along a podcast or album I’ve been enjoying, but mostly I walk in silence. I’ve been meditating on my big-picture goals and my daily to-do lists, drafting the things I’m writing at the moment (like this post), or just remembering to enjoy looking at the trees. Plus, it beats sitting in front of my HappyLight—no matter how much I appreciate its full-spectrum glow this time of year.

I’ve discovered that it takes me about 15 minutes to get to my local library branch and 20 to get to my favorite grocery store, which make perfect (non-shopping) afternoon errands to complete on foot.

So far I’ve got 10.5 hours under my belt, which puts me just slightly ahead of schedule for the year. I’m genuinely enjoying the #150hoursoutside challenge, so I’m excited to continue taking afternoon-slump strolls and keeping my FitBit well-fed each day.

Freedom from Routines: My Surprise at Missing the Structure

I’ve written before about the hate/hate relationship I have with my alarm clock.

It’s been a long time in the making: I was not a morning kid or a morning teen (sorry, Mom!) or a morning college student. I’m certainly not a morning adult. So I was none too sorry to stop it using it completely and forgo commitment to any routine when I became a full-time freelancer.

So long, structure

arrows-background-black-and-white-745365.jpgBut it turns out there can be a downside to having a completely unstructured sleep pattern. Like regularly staying up until 2 a.m. watching Black-ish working and taking naps every afternoon. Add in the manic rush of the holiday season and I was feeling more than a little disoriented by the time 2018 came to a close.

I knew better than to set any kind of resolution, but I did want to be more intentional about my sleep habits and general daily routine in the new year. Let’s just say that the first week did not go as planned. (Can’t break a resolution if you don’t set a resolution!)

Enter: the coworking space

But this week I’ve been working out of a coworking space, which has encouraged to get me up and going earlier in the morning, be more productive during the day in an office setting, and more comfortably relax in the evening—and to get to bed before the stroke of midnight. I’m not sure if it’s the space itself or just the change of scenery, but it’s done great things for my sense of accomplishment.

Away from home, I’m not getting distracted by the TV or snacks or a sudden urge to vacuum. It’s easier to draw the line between work and not-work when there’s a short commute at the end of the day. (Otherwise, it’s remarkably easy to let the workday just bleed right into everything else.)

I don’t have any plans to return to a regular 9-to-5 schedule, but this week has given me some insight into how far I’d swung out of any routine—and made me appreciate the value in creating a little structure in my day.

How about you: Is routine your friend or your foe? If you’re a freelancer or remote worker, what tactics help you stay in the groove?

2019 Shopping Ban: Why I’m Not Shopping This Year

I was searching for a pair of boots in the back of the closet—ones I usually just wear around the holidays—when I found it. A plastic bag from Kohl’s with a pair of boot socks and a couple of shirts that still had their tags, the receipt crumpled up in one of the sleeves. I had no idea how long they’d been stuck back there and I was too embarrassed to check the date on the receipt.

A common problem

I know I’m not the only one who’s been here.


One of the books that really stuck with me in 2018 was The Year of Less from Cait Flanders. I’ve had my moments of minimalism over the years, but mostly my tendencies lean more toward packrat. I buy things on an impulse, I like to “take advantage” of a good sale, and I get sentimental about the things around me.

I’ve flirted with the Container Store method (buying my way toward organizational salvation), the KonMari method (keeping only what sparks joy), the cash-only method (put those credit cards away), the wait-30-days method (don’t shop on impulses). None has been an outright failure, and yet . . .

What I liked about Cait’s book is that it points to something beyond the stuff itself—and also the money itself. It’s not exactly that the things I like to buy are terrible or extravagant or regrettable. It’s just that it’s become a habit. I didn’t have any trouble spending my money before, but now I have the Amazon app in my pocket and find myself looking at Target’s clearance endcaps more than weekly. Yikes.

So much stuff

My apartment houses two adults and a cat but it’s stuffed to the brim with stuff: stuff we don’t really need, stuff we don’t actually use, brand-new stuff we don’t even know exists in the back of our closet.

So we’re going to stop.

My husband and I are doing a 2019 shopping ban.

We can buy groceries, fresh flowers, birthday cards. We can buy household and personal care items like laundry detergent and shampoo, but only when they run out. We can buy cold medicine and cat food.

But no books. No clothes. No trinkets or gadgets. No throw pillows or vinyl records or scarves or impossibly adorable baby clothes for our niece and nephew.

It’s going to be tough: I love to shop and to find clever things and to support local makers and to send gifts to my loved ones.

But it also already feels like a relief. There’s a line in the sand and an opportunity to reset that impulse. I hope that by the time this year comes to a close, the biggest thing I’ve bought myself this year is some mindfulness.

Meals on Wheels

When I leave Evelyn’s house, she usually says something like, “Thanks for sharing a few words with me!” or “See you next time! Stay coolio!” It’s always the best part of my week.

Hot food for seniors

I’ve been delivering Meals on Wheels for about a year. Every other Thursday I drive around my city for about 45 minutes to take hot food to seniors. Some of them don’t leave their houses much. Some are on restricted budgets. Some just don’t cook.

Some tell me about the phone call they just had with a son or daughter or grandkid, and some talk to me like I’m the only person they’ve spoken to all week.

It’s a great program: providing a nutritious and hot meal, a little human interaction, and a built-in wellness check (if someone doesn’t answer, program managers follow up to ensure the client is okay). In the winter, volunteers provide a couple shelf-stable meals in case drivers aren’t able to get out there because of inclement weather later in the season.

Get involved

Meals on Wheels is a national program and I recommend it to anyone I know who’s looking to get involved in their community. All you need is the occasional free lunch hour and reliable transportation.

Currently, 1 in 5 Americans is over the age of 60—and that population is expected to nearly double by 2060. People are living longer, but many of the eldest in our communities start to have physical and financial challenges that put them at risk for going hungry. But two million Meals on Wheels volunteers are supporting them, one lunch break at a time.

Do you volunteer in your community? What causes are you most passionate about?

5 Easy Steps for a Luxurious At-Home Facial


One of the best things about working for yourself is that you can work anytime! And one of the worst things about working for yourself is that you can work anytime.

After a couple exceptionally busy weeks, I found myself nearing a breaking point: I was not making enough time to take care of myself and it was showing in my stress levels. So I’ve been creating space on the weekends to relax: with a novel, with a TV show, or with a facial.

Let’s be real: when you think of facials when you think of self-care, that can get expensive in a hurry. But I’ve found some little luxuries that won’t max out my credit card and still feel like a true treat. My routine these last few Sundays has looked a little like this:

1. Scrub

I’ve long been a fan of Indigo Wild’s stuff. (They’re not paying me!) They’re a local Kansas City company, they make all-natural products, and their scents are amazing. But I don’t think anything can top their Rosemary-Mint & Walnut Sugar Scrub. It’s like absolute magic on your face, leaving it looking and feeling like new.

2. Mask

I used to love picking up a sheet mask, but typically went for the bargain option at a big-box store. It turns out those are often full of scary chemicals—like hormone disruptors and known carcinogens. Yikes! But Indigo Wild’s Detoxifying Charcoal Facial Treatment is thick, refreshing, and carcinogen-free.

3. Moisturize

Dry winter skin is a pretty common issue, especially if you tend to have dry skin year-round. Last year seemed particularly harsh, but luckily I discovered Wild Wash Soap Co.’s Winter Crème. “Deep hydration” is almost an understatement: super soothing and basically an overnight miracle for restoring dry skin.

4. Roll

Ice rollers can help alleviate redness and puffiness, shrink pores, and calm skin. Plus, it feels wonderful! I actually bought this one (full disclosure: affiliate link) to help with occasional migraines, but it makes a perfect addition to an at-home facial. It also helps soothe angry muscles after you try to force yourself to go for a run.

5. Treats

Sugar is not known for promoting healthy skin but adding a beer and a small treat can make the whole thing seem even more indulgent. There are few things, particularly on a Sunday afternoon, that can’t be improved with a bag of caramel bites.

What I love most about this process is that I can take enough time to really enjoy the process, but it’s not such an ordeal that it becomes a chore or a major scheduling hassle.

Do you have a favorite self-care routine? I’d love to hear about it!

Daily Rituals

One of the best and most immediate perks of giving up my corporate job was that I could stop setting my alarm. I’ve always struggled with getting up in the morning: no matter what time I go to bed or how long (or how well) I sleep, I’m always happy to stay in bed a little longer. The snooze button and I have a close, personal relationship. I really hated having to be somewhere at 7, 8, or 9:00—especially if I was expected to wear business casual clothes and more than a swipe of mascara.

The routines of artists

red book cover for Daily Rituals by Mason Currey

But left to my own devices this summer, the pendulum swung the other way. Having no routine has made me feel anxious about how I’m getting things done and guilty for eschewing all structure in my day. As I started trying to come up with the perfect daily agenda, I found the book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work from Mason Currey. He compiled the daily routines of writers, composers, painters, choreographers, philosophers, filmmakers, and scientists—often in their own words. It’s a wonderful and interesting collection of insights.

Some wake at 4:00 in the morning, others at noon. Some follow a minute-by-minute routine and others let their intuition guide them. Charles Dickens went for “a vigorous three-hour walk through the countryside or the streets of London” ever day promptly at 2:00. Truman Capote only wrote while lying down, always with a cup of coffee and a cigarette . . . shifting from coffee to mint tea to sherry to martinis as the day progressed.

It turns out there’s no one schedule that defines the creation of good and important work. I still haven’t decided on a routine that works for me, but I’m slowly carving one out. So far it includes making the bed as soon as possible, finding a half hour for a walk, leaving my phone in the other room when I’m writing, and still not setting an alarm. I’ve decided I don’t care whether I wake up with the dawn or just in time for lunch.

What about you? Do you have a particular routine or ritual?