Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Visual Incremental Progress

I do information work for a living -- which at the end of the day leaves me with very few tangible widgets. As a balance I have an extremely physical craft in knitting; it may not be fast but at the end of the very slow witchcraft there are socks, a hat, a shawl from what was previously pretty string. 

And I don't do especially well with grand challenges. There are some challenges I do each year related to my knitting but even those are mostly against myself. Can I get X done in Y time? And if I don't make those goals? Well there's usually very little consequence. I might not get a small prize from a yarn store or a knit vlogger that I watch. My Annual-Review-Type goals for work are always ambitious but then pretty much every year something drastic happens and takes me in a way I couldn't have anticipated in January... so to some degree I've accepted that those goals will be fluid too. 

For 2020, however, I decided that there were a few numbers I wanted to track to see what the change was over the twelve months. I'll run the last set of numbers for the year on Thursday and calculate the total difference. I had vague goals around the numbers: I'd like these to go up (savings balance, numbers of books I've read); and these to go down (student loan, number of skeins in the yarn stash). 

By not having absolute goals beyond "more here" / "less here" -- I actually found it really compelling. On the first of the month -- or fairly close to that-- I'd run my numbers. How many new books had I read in the past month(?) and please God was that number higher because if it wasn't that meant I'd had absolutely no concentration. 

As we came into midsummer, the number spreadsheet was a talisman and had expanded. The First Tab is just Numbers.  There are Nine Columns and a note field with only a couple of comments. One column for date recorded at the 8 numbers. I wasn't measuring everything; I was mostly measuring things I could control a little bit and there was change in the numbers.  

Other tabs tracked yarn I bought "during COVID" as I tried to support the many indie dyers that I hope make it through; small successes I had at work; my current list of research projects and their status; a totally failed attempt to track the types of prosecco I drank. Those tabs were more or less successful -- the numbers tab was really the one I kept coming back to again and again. 

I've decided I'm going to keep the spreadsheet, or at least a version of it for 2021. At least one numbers column is going away -- I paid off my student loan and that debt is gone! But I have a couple of ideas for numbers to replace it. Things I'd like to see generally go up or down.  I'll make that decision on Friday.  

If you'd like to see some incremental progress or change -- maybe you'd like to have a spreadsheet too. No public accountability, just for you, and make sure a column or two is happy things like craft projects you finished or really great baked goods you ate.  For me it is part of using things up -- but also gives me a sense of wins over the longer sense. I hope it might do that for you as well. 


Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Category 2: Kindle Books

The first book that I remember actively reading on a Kindle device was Anathem by Neal Stephenson. I was traveling to DC and borrowed a circulating early Kindle reader from work because it was going to be much lighter than the three inch hardcover that I was wading through at home. That was apparently February 2011 -- per my Kindle library and it was the second e-book I'd purchased from Amazon.  (The first was a short story by Eloisa James.) 

Now, ten years later, I have 219 books in my Kindle holdings. Amazon isn't known for being particularly good with allowing users to manage their libraries -- so after navigating a messy import from Amazon to Goodreads and then Goodreads to a spreadsheet and then doing cross validation of the spreadsheet back with my Amazon holdings and then cleaning up my Goodreads; I now have a spreadsheet that includes even the book I bought on Tuesday. 

Caveat: I use Goodreads to track things I've read. It's inexact but gives me a general idea of how many (mostly fiction) books I've made it through the year. I have a lifetime membership to LibraryThing and someday would love to get my print library updated and my e-library also aggregated there; and or on a catalog my sibling put together. Basically I'd like to have everything properly sorted and cataloged, but that's not a project I'm working on right now.     

Screenshot of Kindle Notification alerting that series are grouped now.
(I logged into the Kindle app on my phone tonight to learn they are grouping series now! That's nice) 

Right now, I'm facing the pixel mountain of 174 Kindle books which are Unread. And at the rate I read books this year that'd be a half-dozen years worth of fiction reading.  I used to read 2-3 new books a week for fun and here we are in nearly 2021 and I'm wallowing in rereads (which I do not count). I also read and look at screens so much during the day that by the end I don't want to focus on a printed or e-page and I go for an audiobook instead so I can knit, or fold laundry, or just move around. 

But this is a little private library of "Things I Thought I'd Like to Read' and even working back through confirming titles and adding series information, I kept thinking "ooh, that sounds good, maybe I should start that." So Past Me was Shopping Thoughtfully for Present and Future Me. It's mostly historical romances and murder mysteries, with a few giant histories added in for good measure.  

So - using up -- or at least moving things to the Read pile. I plugged my tablet in --it's been sitting by the bed being wistful and hoping that someday I'll charge it properly. We'll see how that goes. It did at least turn on after a few minutes so I'm hopeful. Once it's had a moment and been restarted three times,  I'm going to download a few books and see about reading rather than another endless round of Farm Heroes Saga. 

I'm curious -- how do you consume ebooks? On your phone? On a separate device? My partner has moved over to a Kobo and *loves* it.... so I'm looking at the Paperwhites again if the tablet doesn't work out. 

Friday, December 18, 2020

Category 1: Hand Lotion

Essentially, as long as there has been Bath and Body Works, I have had an overstock of scented hand lotion. While I was never quite as loyal as some friends to a particular scent, nor did I ever really achieve the scent-stacking of early B&BW years, there was certainly the "Black Raspberry Vanilla" period of my life. 

My collection got much bigger when, while living in Queens, there was a B&BW between the train and my apartment. Long day? Let's go see about a new lotion. Upset about something? Clearly I need a new body scrub. Celebrating? Tiny hand sanitizers for everyone.  

I'd gotten out of the habit, and then it came roaring back a couple of years ago -- a friend had gotten into a direct sales/mlm thing and since I continue to like lotion... 

Image of drawer full of a dozen hand lotions

That's nearly all of the lotion stash. There's one more tub in the bathroom cabinet that I need to move into the drawer.  I clearly have some particular preferred scents: lemon, vanilla/marshmallow, mint, and occasionally some fruit of the peach/mango variety. 

You will notice that these are all the *new* hand lotions. Let's look at my desk where I sit everyday, shall we.  

Three hand lotions, one for summer, one fall, one winter

I tend to moisturize as a passive fidgeting habit throughout the day. But here you can see we have the summer lotion (clementine and mint), the fall lotion (spicy clementine), and the recently arrived winter lotion (peppermint and marshmallow).  Three open lotions just in one room. There's also lotion on my bedside table, because inevitably my hands or feet are dry at the end of the day. 

Now, except for the OMG I found a brightly scented lemon lotion moment...yes it was a moment, no I don't regret it -- I'm fairly consistent in my lotion purchases -- one tube here, one there, depending on what strikes my fancy.  But what has been different in 2020 is that where lotion goes with me and my ability to say "ahh, too much lotion, hey friends at work..." has changed. If we were in late 2019, I'd bag up some of these, leave them on a central table at work with a "Please Adopt Me" sign and they'd be gone by lunch. I'd also have a purse lotion and work bag lotion that would be in rotation during out-and-about of normal life and at least one of those would get lost.  

So what's the plan for using this up. Well, first, I'm moving two of the office lotions to other locations in the house where I sit to knit or read for long periods.  I'm also going to make a concerted effort to not buy more lotion just because Oh Interesting Scent. I have lotion -- I'd like to use it before it hits the ~3 year mark after which it may be less stable (per WebMD, check your local lotion for expiration dates).

I'm still holding onto that unused bottle of Black Raspberry Vanilla though -- memory lane that scent. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Welcome to My New Distraction

Being at home for months at a time makes you incredibly aware of the things that you own. Friends told me of epic hauls through their closets and cupboards, making plans to get to donation places early before they stopped accepting for the day/week due to others cleaning out.  

I'm not there, at least not yet. There have been donation trips and a couple of large batches of Mailing Things To People (with their enthusiastic consent), but nothing systematic or comprehensive. 

And this isn't either...

This is growing out of my noticing that I've bought yet another book on my Kindle app when I couldn't tell you the last time I opened and actually read something in said app. Or the piles of physical books and yarn I've bought this year as an attempted to cope with disruption, uncertainty, rage, fear, and constant change.  Or vaguely wondering what is in the larger of my two jewelry boxes, which I haven't opened in at least a year, possibly longer. 

There are many things that I own which are not precious -- which were at some point supposed to be transient items in my life but because of how much I bought, or because I forgot I bought it, or because it's not actively On Fire In Front Of Me This Moment, they've languished. Even more frustrating, some of these things were gifts, things which were generously given and I haven't *used* them. Some I've saved for a special occasion which clearly hasn't arrived yet. 

I scrawled out a category list of things the other night I wanted to pay attention to and see if I could make a particular effort to use or use up. I came up with 29 categories in that first pass and I've added more since then.  (Don't worry, the list is digital!)  

I'm writing about this because I love writing-- and it helps me to work through what I think about things or examining why I have a Bath and Body works hand cream from the early 2000s and whether I actually need to keep that still, only as a perfume aide memoir.  

My goals are to look at those categories, see where the overload is. Have a place to think or talk about these things. See what I can use up or donate where appropriate, discard where not. I have no aspirations of minimalism; of no-buying years; etc. I know those don't work for me and I end up over compensating and ending up with more stuff. 

It was the original plan to start this in January; the traditional New Year's resolution and getting started, but the ideas have been fizzing in my head and working on this has been a new focus after an exhausting fall.  

Welcome, thank you for joining me and reading along. We'll see how this goes and if I can keep momentum going for a year. Join me here or Instagram (or Twitter -- though I expect that to be lightly used) and play along. Maybe you have 10 lemon hand lotions too.