Caring for Things
In January, I came across something called “The Minimalism Game,” a month-long challenge to get rid of one item on the first day of the month, two items on the second day, three on the third, etc. By the end of the month, you’ve purged nearly 500 things.
Now, I’ve been planning my escape from Tennessee for years, and I was determined that 2023 was the year I was going to get out. That was my primary motivation for paring down my belongings: the less you own, the less you have to pack up and move. I had also been making piles of stuff that I wanted to donate or stuff that needed repairs or whatever, and I was tired of being surrounded by unfinished tasks.
So I made the commitment to myself that I wanted to play the Minimalism Game, and I set up a list in my favorite note-taking app to keep track of what I purged. It took me six months (not 31 days, oops) to complete the first round, but my house started feeling noticeably lighter before I even reached the halfway point. I also completed a second round in September while I was packing up my house, and now everything I own can be shuffled onto a truck in twenty minutes.
Caring for People
A few days after my move to Cincinnati, I told my therapist how my health-related lack of energy in the past few years has really helped me to prioritize what matters and what doesn’t, especially with regard to physical belongings. She replied that I also seemed to be having an easier time letting go of relationships in my life and gently asked if there might be some correlation there. (This is where I mimed the idea of my mind being blown because I get very dramatic when I’m excited.)
Because yes, I have been hitting my limits so much faster with unhealthy family relationships and toxic friendships. I am like a bumbling baby giraffe when it comes to setting boundaries, but I am learning (and reading) and practicing. I say "no" more than I say "yes”—so that I can fulfill my few commitments with joy instead of resentment. And I overcommit anyway and get plenty of practice issuing genuine apologies when I can't be the friend I want to be.
It had just never occurred to me that letting go of things and letting go of people might be related.
Caring for Myself
Everything made sense once my therapist pointed out that I have an innate tendency to take responsibility for the things and people around me. This makes me a wonderful caretaker because I can effortlessly identify the needs of others and find ways to meet those needs. (It makes me a great accompanist, too—something I’ve been told my whole life but never understood until now.) And it’s also the fastest way for me to give away my energy and ignore what’s best for me.
So my homework assignment from therapy: pay attention to what I’m trying to take responsibility for that isn’t actually mine to worry about. And omg, it’s everything? Half of my energy crisis has to be because I am trying to be everyone’s project manager, therapist, cruise director, life coach, and best friend. And you know who secretly needs all of those things right now? IT’S ME. HI. I’m the goofball—it’s me.
Just being aware of this is already so helpful. I get to use my gifts when asked—like when my dad wanted help re-organizing his pantry, and I intuitively knew how to set it up for him—and walk away from problems that aren’t mine to solve. Because I’m not used to setting this boundary with myself, it’s still a bit exhausting, but I know it’s going to leave me (and my relationships!) so much healthier in the long run. And I’m really, really excited about that.
Fewer things, fewer relationships, fewer commitments. More time to care for everything and everyone I choose to keep in my life.
When I left Tennessee, I resigned from two jobs, church and state: playing piano for my church and processing mountains of paperwork for the state department of transportation. I might end up looking for similar positions elsewhere in the country, or I may jet off to England and marry a duke. I haven't really decided, but I did dream up a few fresh options this week. Feel free to hire me as:
- the person who straightens the platters on “the gingham altar” for the technical bake section of GBBO (between when the bakers bring them up and the judges see them)
- a selfie consultant*
- the senior curator for a museum of hedgehog photography
- a digital organizer—someone who will rename all of your chaotic files and put them in perfectly logical folders
- the official Instagram influencer for Panera Bread
*People actually ask me about this more than I care to admit, but the real secret is to be very vain (and clean your camera lens).
Last week, I moved from rural Tennessee to Cincinnati (another story for another time), and I am desperately waiting for the weather to cool off after a very warm and humid summer. I will miss all of the sunshine, but I am genuinely looking forward to cozy scarves and hot chocolate. I made a point of unpacking my autumn favorites first when I got here, and because I am the overly excited friend in the group, I am going to share those things on my blog. Love me.
Home & Office
Ugg robe ($80) • I bought this just before my move and almost lost it to a USPS mail-forwarding fiasco, but the shipping gods knew I needed this. I'd already tried two other robes, both of which were flimsy and cheap and awful. This robe? It’s perfect—thin enough that you could pack it for a trip and yet so cozy and soft and warm that you can forget at least three of your troubles while wearing it.
Humidifier ($80) • Ya girl has been working on her hydration for a few years now, and it's still not enough for that summer-to-winter transition. My lips get chapped, my nose bleeds, my hair starts trying to conquer neighboring cities—and then I remember that I own a humidifier. And this one doesn't wake you up in the middle of the night with a "blub blub" soundtrack; it's cute and quiet, as all appliances should be.
Desk pad ($16) • At one point, I was working from four different desks in three different offices, and I made sure every gosh dang one of those desks had a desk pad on it. I'm not always loyal to this exact brand, but I definitely love this style: minimal and clean. I like that they act as a giant mousepad while also making it easier to clean up spills and crumbs while also protecting the actual desk from scratches and ink stains. (This isn't really related to autumn except that I just bought a new one a week ago as a moving-in present for myself.)
Self-care & Beauty
Vaseline ($3) • Listen. This might seem obvious to everyone else, but I didn't understand the S-tier powers of Vaseline until a year or two ago when a dermatologist recommended it (instead of Neosporin!) for helping a wound to heal without scarring. I really put that to the test when I had shingles on my face this summer—yet another story for another time—and came out the other side with zero scarring and zero redness. I know it's going to come in clutch as the air starts to dry out.
Redness-reducing moisturizer ($35) • Speaking of redness, though, I do have a skin condition that is basically Dandruff+, and it means that the skin on my face is often redder than the skin on my neck or the rest of my body. I can cover it up with make-up, but I also wanted to address the underlying irritation and give my skin some relief. This moisturizer has tea tree oil in it, and I cannot even tell you what a difference it has made in my skin's appearance and in my overall confidence. It's lightweight enough to work well under make-up and powerful enough to use year-round.
Autumn eyeshadow palette ($70) • This is my first Patrick Ta make-up purchase, and I am so impressed. The color pay-off on the matte shadows is insane, the shimmers and glitters blend like a dream, and the whole palette is full of beautiful purples, golds, oranges, pinks, and browns that work in dozens of cozy combinations. This is the Gilmore Girls opening credits of palettes.
Apps & Tech Gadgets
MacBook Air ($999+) • Okay, this is another one of those things that is only seasonal because I bought it a few weeks ago (as a belated birthday present for myself), but I love it so much that I had to include it on the list. This is my first Air after owning three Pros, and I was really nervous that it would feel slow. And the only problem with the 2015 MacBook Pro I was using was the battery life, so I wasn't even sure I could justify the upgrade. But omg, this baby has the super-fast M2 chip and a battery life for days (even in the face of Adobe software)—plus it's a cute champagne gold color and barely weighs anything? I'm obsessed.
Sony noise-cancelling headphones ($330) • Autumn seems like it should be quiet and calm: gentle breezes, leaves softly tumbling to the ground, animals curling up for their winter naps. But leaf-blowers exist. And I can't afford enough to therapy to endure that sound—or most sounds, to be honest—so I basically live in these headphones. I've tried several alternatives from Bose, Apple, etc., and these are the most comfortable (for me) with the best battery life and support for connecting to multiple devices.
It Didn’t Start with You ($6+) • I can't fully explain this, but when the weather is cooler, I have much more patience for books that require deep thinking. This is definitely one of those books. My therapist recommended it, and I have learned so much about inherited trauma and how that literally shapes our DNA (the main topic of the book). I have also had some really meaningful conversations with my dad and brother about our personal and shared experiences. This sounds grim AF, but I promise that it is actually lovely and healing. (And maybe a bit grim, lol.)
Only Murders in the Building ($8+) • I have been obsessed with this show since I saw the very first trailer for it, and it absolutely lives up to the hype. Selena Gomez has charmed me to the point where I might have an IRL crush on her, and Steve Martin and Martin Short are perfection. I love that they all seem to be using the show as an excuse to work with their A-list celebrity friends in the weirdest and cutest ways. It's one of the few shows I will watch on a weekly basis as the episodes release, and I'm thrilled to hear we're getting at least one more season.
Any links to Amazon products in this post are through their affiliate program, so I get a small commission if you buy one of those products using that link. But what I'd rather get is the smug satisfaction that you are making smart decisions with your money, so prioritize that, friends.