There was a time, not so long ago, when I really didn’t like my life. I worked too hard, got too little sleep, scorned myself for not being perfect, and basically didn’t treat myself very well.
“This is NOT what I want my life to look like,” I used to grumble, typically several times a day.
I was grateful for all the blessings I had (which were a lot), but I was plum worn out.
In the years since then, I’ve made great strides in creating a life I love — a big, bold, creative life, in which I’m feeding my creative hungers and pursuing my goals without sucking myself dry (usually).
What changed between then and now?
Certainly having a husband who really champions and supports me helps a lot. Ultimately, though, each one of us is 100% responsible for our own happiness, and I’ve done a lot of work, internally and externally, to change my life around.
Off the top of my head, here’s a partial list of what I’ve worked on in the past several years that has made a difference (the operative phrase here being “worked on” — I’m still working on these, and consider them works in progress!):
- I make time to feed my creative hungers, even if it’s just a few minutes.
- I developed — and regularly implement — my Keys to Creative Flow (aka Creative Sandbox Rules).
- I started meditating regularly (hat tip to Susan Piver and her wonderful Open Heart Project).
- I finally built regular — ie, daily — exercise into my day, thanks to my treadmill desk, which has also dramatically reduced my back pain.
- For coming up on two years now I’ve been getting chiropractic and samurai massage every 2-3 weeks, which has made a huge difference and also dramatically improved my quality of life.
- I’m getting to bed earlier and generally getting more sleep, which also makes a dramatic difference in my quality of life.
- I hold myself to more human (rather than superhuman) standards when it comes to how much I expect myself to accomplish each day/week/month.
- I’m getting more and more intentional and ritualistic about the way I structure my time (yes! I’m embracing the concept of a schedule!).
- I’ve weeded my friendship garden of narcissists and energy vampires.
- I’ve become much more intentional about practicing self-compassion.
- In the same vein of self-compassion, instead of always trying to be perfect, I started intentional embracing imperfectionism.
- Instead of always also trying to be extraordinary (hey, I’m a 4 on the Enneagram; it’s what we do!), I’m (working on) accepting and embracing my ordinariness.
- Thanks to the Great ClutterBust, I’ve been clearing clutter out of my life.
Looking back on that list, it all really boils down to my Golden Formula:
Self-Awareness + Self-Compassion = the Key to Everything Good. (Click to tweet!)
Self-awareness = Asking: How does this make me feel? Is this helping or harming me? What do I truly need right now? What am I truly hungry for right now?
Self-Compassion = Reminding myself I’m human, that my mistakes are human mistakes, and treating myself with the same kind of loving kindness I’d treat a friend with.
A Case Study: the Studio of Doom
Let’s use my Golden Formula to take a look at the last bullet point above, clearing clutter out of my life.
When I approach life through a lens of self-awareness, I see that being surrounded by mounds of clutter drains my energy, makes me feel less productive and less competent, makes me cranky, and generally blocks my energy flow.
The self-compassionate response is not to beat myself up for having a clutter-filled studio, but instead to remind myself that I’m human, and gently guide myself to take baby steps in the direction of clearing that clutter out!
Self-awareness helps me realize that I’m about 5,000% better about doing tasks I’m resistant to when I have a gang of kindred spirits gathered around me, walking the same path and cheering each other on.
So I created the Great ClutterBust back in April to gather such a tribe around me, and we achieved miracles, not least of which was that I succeeded in transforming my Studio of Doom into a studio that actually makes me smile when I walk in the door!
It was such a success, that I knew the Great ClutterBust needed to be a regular program. (After all, I have the entire rest of the house to tackle! 🙂 )
So six months later, on October 1st, I started the second Great ClutterBust.
My intention this time around was to get to done on the last 10% of clutter still remaining in my studio: the boxes of slides (yes, slides!) that had been taking up multiple cubic feet of space for decades; the boxes of data CDs and DVDs that I haven’t touched in years; the box of unknown papers to be shredded, recycled, or archived; the pile of stuff to be sold or given away accumulating in the living room (aka, Outbound Mountain — hat tip to Denice for coming up with that great moniker).
Well, I’ve done some of that.. but then last week happened.
Last week I got almost no physical clutterbusting done at all, yet it was perhaps one of the single most successful clutterbusting weeks in my life.
One word: YNAB.
Actually, YNAB isn’t a word at all, it’s an acronym — it stands for You Need A Budget (aff).
What is YNAB?
It’s a piece of software, but it’s also an entire system and mindset for how to manage your finances, and in one week it has already changed my life for the better.
Before YNAB, I felt like I was always walking through fog when I dealt with my money. I have a bookkeeper (ah yes! another recent quality-of-life improvement! forgot to mention that one above) and excellent software to track money I’ve already spent, but when it came to making decisions about whether or not to spend money in the present and future, I was always in the dark.
I had no idea of what my real money situation was.
A few weeks ago I paid my very last payment on the former Enormous Mountain of Debt (hooray! happydance! celebration galore!), and MM and I had a number of very fun discussions about what we wanted to do with the monthly money that used to go toward debt repayment. We knew we wanted to save or invest it, but how much to allocate to retirement savings vs. home improvement vs. saving for travel vs. saving for other stuff??
I’d been hearing murmurs about YNAB for months, if not years, but it wasn’t until last week that I finally clicked over to the website, youneedabudget.com (aff), dug in, and downloaded the software (and the free iPhone app).
I was a bit skeptical at first, because the way YNAB asks you to think about budgeting is totally different from any other budgeting protocol I’d ever experienced. It kind of threw me off, and it took me awhile to wrap my head around it.
But thanks to the excellent (and FREE!) classes on how to use the (easy and brilliant) YNAB system and software, within a few days I was up to speed, and a total convert.
(Confession: being the quintessential diver-inner, I took the entire offerings of YNAB classes over the span of four days: half-hour intro on Sunday, three hour-long classes on Monday, and the final two classes on Wednesday. Five and a half hours in total! No wonder I didn’t get to my physical clutterbusting! Do not feel you need to do the same! I’m just obsessive this way.)
By Wednesday MM and I had fully embraced the four rules of YNAB methodology:
- Rule One: Give Every Dollar a Job
- Rule Two: Save for a Rainy Day
- Rule Three: Roll With the Punches
- Rule Four: Live on Last Month’s Income
We’ve already been spending less — thanks to about a thousand times greater awareness of where our money is going — we have a clear picture of our finances for the first time, and we’ve created (and are actively implementing) a savings and investment strategy!
Perhaps just as important, we’re working together to make it all happen. It’s been a delightful surprise to find that with the help of YNAB, talking outright about our spending, and making decisions together as to how to allocate our dollars, has been a fun bonding exercise!
Clutter is Clutter
The upshot is, as I’ve giddily told MM about fifty times, we finally have a handle on our financial life! We finally have a financial life — with clear, specific goals and a path to achieving them.
And although I did not spend those five and a half hours tackling the physical clutter I’d intended them for, I realized that getting set up with YNAB counted as clutterbusting just as much, if not more, than my weeks of transforming the Studio of Doom into the studio I now love.
The clarity of really understanding — and having control over — our financial situation has brought me the same kind of serenity and calm and sense of freedom and ease of breathing as clearing out all the physical clutter that was blocking me up.
I have literally wished for this kind of clarity for my entire life!
In fact, in the greater scheme of things, converting to the YNAB way may very well have a more extensive impact on my quality of life than tackling the Studio of Doom, and that’s saying a lot!
I have been evangelizing about YNAB to all my friends and family (hey, it’s hard not to enthuse about something that has had such a profoundly positive impact on your life!) I really think it’s a brilliant system, and encourage you to check it out for yourself.
You can implement the system whether or not you buy the software, but there’s a 34-day free trial of the software, and all the classes are totally free (and pure instruction — no sales pitch). Plus if you’re lucky, you might just win a full license — they give one away in every free class!
In fact, I won one myself in the intro class! 🙂
If you do decide to buy the software ($60), you can save $6 (10%) by clicking on one of my YNAB links, like this one here. (Full disclosure: I’ll also make a $6 commission if you buy. Though I’d be evangelizing about YNAB regardless.)
I wish I’d had YNAB years ago… If I’d had it fifteen, or even six years ago, I’d never have gotten into debt.
Aw, well, correct forward, and better is better! Life with YNAB is definitely better.
Great ClutterBust – the Holiday Edition
Meanwhile, if you’re itching to bust some clutter yourself, whether of the physical or financial kind, or any other kind of clutter (“to-do list” clutter, digital clutter, habit clutter, schedule clutter), due to popular demand by members of the October Great ClutterBust, I’m running a special Holiday Edition of the Great ClutterBust.
Join us, and you’ll be amazed at how FUN it can be to bust clutter!
The session officially starts on November 12th and runs through December 19th, but register now and you’ll get instant access to our rockin’ private Facebook community, and the Great ClutterBust resource page (chock full of worksheets and questions to help you clarify your clutterbusting goals), so you can get a jump on clearing your clutter out NOW.
Click here to read more and register now.
Hope to see you inside!
Note: The links to YNAB in this post are all affiliate links. You’ll save 10% ($6) if you end up making a purchase through one of my links, but I’ll also make $6 in affiliate commissions, and I am ethically (and legally) bound to make sure you know that.
If you don’t want to send a commission my way, you can still get 10% off by finding someone else’s affiliate link elsewhere online (they’re all over the internet — just do a Google search for YNAB discount), and send the $6 to them. Or go straight to youneedabudget.com and pay the full $60. I’ll never know the difference. 🙂
PS — Pssst! Know someone who might benefit from seeing this today? Pass it on!
Mark Wade says
Such a “jumper inner”!
Melissa Dinwiddie says
Thanks, Mark. 🙂
I love your self-love list. I do I do I do. When reading over the first half of this post, I couldn’t help but wonder how you manage those stretches that require intense effort and big to-do lists. Not the everyday pace. I’ve got an everyday pace that is similar to yours. I’m talking about the pace of pushing towards an exhibit (my life right now) or launching a new product, etc. The big projects that take a lot of time and energy and focus and sit on a deadline. How do you remain all zenned-out and balanced in those stretches of time? (haha!! I’m back to the time-management, energy-management questions. Apparently I just need someone to pat my head and tell me it’s gonna be okay! ha!!!!)
Melissa Dinwiddie says
Haha! Well, you’re assuming I DO remain zenned-out and balanced in those stretches of time, Mandy! 😉 Great question, though — how to handle those times when everything’s necessarily out of whack because of a big project? This would be a good one for me to tackle in a Question Time post! I’m adding it to the queue! 🙂
Yep I’m looking forward to some Question Time posts!!!
Ann Flora says
Based on your glowing recommendation, I tried YNAB and loved it. I just bought it through your link. Thanks for evangelizing!
Melissa Dinwiddie says
Oh, yay, Ann! I’m so glad to see someone else getting their financial life in order thanks to YNAB! It’s been such a life-changer for me and my husband. 🙂 Thank you for buying through my link!