I am going to ask you to be indulgent with me as I define these categories. They are a product of hundreds of I am a person who… statements with which I do not intend to bore you. The definitions are idiosyncratic and reflect the state of my heart and my thought process when I defined them. They are entirely debatable, which is, of course, part of the fun!
At the end of this article you will find a printable calendar for the first week. It is not perfect, but it gives you a place to start jotting down ideas about where you are currently in regards to these themes for the first week.
The more I write about this, the more I realize that there is to say. So forgive me while I try to pare down to the essential, even if everything doesn’t immediately make sense to you. Case in point: Contentment
For the purposes of my Ideal Life Exercise, I define Contentment as my relationship to my stuff. My buddies over at Collins Dictionary define it as a feeling of quiet happiness and satisfaction. When I began this process, I was dealing with a feeling of eternal dissatisfaction because of stuff, thus this loosy-goosy category name, What I want to feel about all the stuff in my life is simple satisfaction and happiness.
Within the domain of my stuff, I like to think about things like stewardship (how I take care of the stuff I own, including mending and fixing things), decluttering (getting rid of stuff that I don’t need anymore), decision-making about what comes into the home. I also include in this category my dreams about the kind of place I would like to live and where and in a small way, my relationship to my clothes (although they get full treatment in another category.)
In the Things to Consider rubric might be: purchases we need to make, items we are hoping to donate and the best way to deal with it. Things to Do includes things like take the little boy clothes to their cousins’ house, or give the bikes they don’t ride to little friends who need a bike.
When I consider the Work category, I mean anything I do to make ends meet. This can mean financially, but it also means the work I do around the house to make sure that things run smoothly.
My writing falls into the Work category. For my novel writing I set chapter goals for myself for each week and words per day goals as well, short and medium-term goals. One day every twenty-one days I ask myself how I am doing against my goals. Also, my querying and agent research falls in the Work category.
For example, the next time this theme comes up, I will be able to say that I finally got up the nerve to call the editor friend of a friend for an information interview. (A fact which I will be celebrating with a cup of Marco Polo tea, as one who celebrates everything does.)
If this theme falls during a part of my monthly hormonal cycle during which I am at my least productive, the answer to What is working? can sometimes be nothing. I usually am able to relativize these thoughts, but hormones are real, friends. It’s important to recognize that sometimes I feel like nothing is working for a real, biological reason.
Wednesday: Schedule and Family Life
In my Ideal Life, I am a person who doesn’t panic at 5:00PM because I don’t know what is for dinner, whereas this would be my entropic tendency if I did not actively pursue my Ideal Life exercises.
Therefore, I attempt to make a three weeks to a month’s worth of meal plans on this day so that I do not panic at 5:00PM everyday. Do I stick to the exact meal plan every day? Nope, not always. But it means that making our grocery list is easier, and most importantly, I do not panic.
Also, on this one day I take a look at the three weeks ahead for our family: are there vacations, days off of school coming up? What activities does everyone have? Who needs to be where when? In this way, I am not caught blindsided and have time to plan ahead, even if it just inside my head.
In my Ideal Life I am a patient, just, kind and even-keeled parent. In my Real Life, I am none of these things. Thus the importance of being compassionately honest with myself about how I am doing in this area.
I try, for example, to actively have one special connection moment with each boy every day. This may sound contrived, but it does not come naturally to me (how I wish it would!) This is one moment where we make eye contact and both of us smile, bonus points if one of us is laughing. These moments are part of What is working? and What isn’t working?
The indulgent husband and I rely heavily on the Simplicity Parenting model: the idea that less stuff, less activities, and more connection, more simplicity is the way to healthier, happier families. This has meant that we made a quality of life decision that one of us will always be available to them, and that we will, as long as necessary, live on one salary. It’s exhausting for us both, but it is part of our Ideal Life. It’s a price we are willing to pay. Sometimes it “works”, sometimes it doesn’t.
But we’re working on it.
Friday: Clean House
I am a terrible cook and a terrible housekeeper. Thus why decluttering has been such a life-changing step in my life. The less stuff there is in the home, the less stuff there is to put away. We literally only have enough dishes for one meal. This forces me to do to the dishes (we don’t have an automatic dishwasher) after every single meal, so that I don’t get the option of putting it off. This little hack came as a result of pursuing my Ideal Life: I am a person who doesn’t leave dishes in the sink or on the draining board for five days.
However, there are certain thankless tasks which must be done at regular intervals and cannot be MacGyvered, like the dishes hack. I check-in with myself every three weeks to make sure they have been getting done: have I changed the sheets? Have I washed the floors? Have I scrubbed the toilet? It should not be that hard, but believe me, for someone like me, it really is.
Saturday: Body Positivity & Health
On the last day of the first week, I take a moment to consider how I am feeling in my body and in my health.
Have I been binge eating lately? If I have, then why? Stress? Boredom? Anger? How is my sleep? Restful? Fitful? Peri-menopausally insomniac? Have I been drinking enough water?
I wear a pedometer in my bra every single day. I put it on top of the washing machine when I do my Mise en Place in the evening. Does it keep an accurate count in the bra? I don’t know. But since I do it every day, it gives me an apples to apples comparison. Every single day I write down how many steps I did. They say we manage what we measure, and this is an easy, literally effortless way to track how active I have been in a day.
This is also the theme in which I got serious about tracking my monthly cycles: in my Ideal Life, I live and work in harmony with my hormonal cycles. Linking different phases of a menstrual cycle to the ups and downs of my moods, my productivity and creativity was an eye-opening adventure, one I wish I had started on twenty years ago.
End of Week One
By breaking down my Ideal Life into “themes” little goals naturally begin to appear. I’ll say it again, “We manage what we measure.” So if I want to make progress towards my Ideal Life, having measurable goals is important. They can be tiny! Any progress is good progress.
So there you have it, Week One in a nutshell. Each day, one Ideal Life theme. I truly hope these little snippets inspire you to think about your own Ideal Life in bite-size chunks.
Here is the promised printable, which gives you the prompts and a tiny bit of space to take some notes.
As I said at the beginning, there is so much more that could be said about each of these themes. If any of these speak to you, I would encourage you to start writing some “In my Ideal Life, I am a person who…” statements, without regard to what your current situation is. Take a moment to dream. The steps will reveal themselves. For now, just start dreaming!
Tomorrow: Week Two themes!
This article is part of a series called “MacGyvering KonMari”
Part One: A Good Decluttering
Part Two: I am a Person Who… (fill in the blank)
Part Three: One Theme to Rule Them All
Part Four: Ideal Life Week One Themes (You are here)
Part Five: Ideal Life Week Two
Part Six: Ideal Life Week Three Themes