The exciting announcements I promised.

Over the last several weeks I’ve been working through some rather big and daunting projects. I promised some announcements this week and – since it is, after all, Friday – I guess it’s time to take the plunge. Here we go!

Jump off the Ladder online course

I soft-announced (Is that a thing? It is now.) my Jump Off the Ladder online course yesterday. This is the biggest project I’ve undertaken thus far. The course will roll out in stages: first I’ll debut a Mental track, followed by a track for Possessions, one for Time, and a fourth for Money. The mental track is almost finished and will be ready for enrollment through Ruzuku on Monday! Whoo hoo! If you’re looking for a more in-depth approach to Jump Off the Ladder, this will be it. Believe me when I say that JOtL school is not for the fainthearted. The Mental track is the shortest one, clocking in at five days of activities. Expect Possessions, Time, and Money to be much longer and more involved. I’ll provide a bit more info on the Mental track when I cut the virtual ribbon early next week.

Live Simply Magazine

Oh yeah, it’s happening! I’ve been working with several talented writers and dedicated advocates of simplicity to create the Live Simply Magazine! Where the blog has focused primarily on minimalism, downsizing, and my journey to a simpler life, the magazine will be a great resource for information on a wider variety of subjects about mental, emotional, and lifestyle health. Think of it as your guide through a simple world. We’ll be announcing the date of our first issue very soon, so stay tuned. In the meantime, if you have a particular passion you feel would fit well in our publication, pitch me an article or column at amanda@tshirtsntwine.com. We’re always looking for high-quality, helpful content!

And possibly a podcast!

It’s been a little while since I’ve done my “Meet ______” series, I know. For a while now I’ve been contemplating a podcast in place of my old interviews. I think this would be a more efficient way of telling people’s stories. This is the project furthest from reality right now, as I have almost no idea how to get a podcast started, so any and all advice is welcome!

So there you have it, three big ideas, all coming very soon to our Live Simply world. I hope you’re as excited about these new ventures as I am!

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Some FAQs about OCD, and how it relates to simplicity. (Rhyming!)

I’ve alluded once or twice to my battle with OCD, and I’ve noticed that when I do I often get asked the same questions over and over. Here’s a brief self-interview with some info about my OCD, and how it relates to minimalism and simplicity.

Does having OCD mean you’re a germophobe?

For me, not necessarily. Many people assume that OCD equals an aversion to germs, but (while it is true for some people) that is not the case for me. My anxiety stems from an inability to easily reconcile what is from what my brain believes should be. Most people can understand and easily adjust to unmet expectation, but this is harder for my brain than for others’. For example, if my brain says that my kitchen floors should be clean, but I can feel crumbs under my feet as I walk around, I will experience anxiety because things aren’t right. In this case, it is a surface cleanliness that causes me problems, rather than germs. (The floor could be horribly germy, but if it looks and feels clean, I’m okay.) Other facets of OCD rear their ugly heads occasionally. I have minor issues with symmetry and order (three pencils on the desk should all face the same direction), noises (I often have to leave the room if others chew too loudly), and familiarity (I struggle to use unfamiliar utensils, or spend a lot of time in unfamiliar rooms).

What happens when your OCD is triggered?

OCD is an anxiety-inducing disorder. For me this means I experience severe difficulty breathing, dramatic temperature changes, sweaty palms, insomnia, and hives. Before I got a better handle on my asthma, I would often experience stress-induced attacks as well.

Do you take medication?

I have never yet been medicated for my anxiety. While I definitely don’t look down on anyone who does choose pharmaceutical help, I hope to never take medicine for this disorder. I used to take medicine for my asthma, allergies, and arthritis, and over the last two years I have worked very hard to get myself off of all of my prescriptions. I don’t want to go back to chemicals unless I have no other option. For now I’m working on a mixture of Emotional Freedom Techniques and immersion therapy, and I’m beginning to see some improvement. I’m optimistic!

Can’t you just talk yourself out of it?

Yes and no. The anxiety that I experience is a physical reaction, much like a fight-or-flight response. I have no real control over that reaction at this point. The mental processes that lead to that anxiety are in my mind, so to speak, so hypothetically I could train it out of myself (with help and time.) This, however, is a process not unlike training your body to stop having an allergic reaction to something. Much time and hard work goes into the endeavor, and even then some people will never be able to control their OCD without medication. I do yoga and meditate to help myself remain calm in trigger situations, and that helps a lot. Generally when I find myself becoming anxious, I just try to stay peaceful and wait it out.

Is your OCD the reason you became a minimalist?

On the contrary, my OCD was my biggest obstacle to this lifestyle. I had spent so much time as a pack rat that the idea of letting go of my familiar possessions and striking out into the unknown caused me a lot of struggle. Like with many mental disorders, I have good days and bad days, and often my “down swings” strike right around the time of a move or other dramatic life change.

Does simplicity help your OCD now that you’ve adjusted to it?

Very much. The time I’ve created by simplifying my schedule has allowed me to incorporate yoga and meditation into my daily routines. I lean on my breathing techniques pretty heavily when I’m experiencing anxiety. Having fewer possessions has made keeping my home clean exponentially easier, which keeps my atmosphere (and therefore my mind) very peaceful.

Do you have any other questions, or thoughts on OCD and Simplicity? Leave me a note in the comments!

The Beauty of Being (Understood)

infj

I know I’ve been writing a lot of personal introspection posts recently. Bear with me – I’m turning some corners and making some incredibly exciting discoveries about myself and my life. I love to share.

Let me preface this post by saying that I am the single. most. awkward. person. I. know. It’s bad. Sometimes it’s worse than other times. When I meet someone new, I’m usually intelligent (coherent), charming (quirky), and engaging (spastic.) Okay. But as a rule, people are usually okay with me  – or if they aren’t, they pity me enough to not let on. Then we get to know each other a little better, and things begin to go downhill. My mouth begins to say things my brain has not pre-approved. I become a little too opinionated. I ask personal questions. It’s during this stage that I discover whether or not I can truly be friends with this new person. People who can’t hack it jump ship around this time. It’s okay. No grudges here. I get it. The keepers hang on for dear life, and make it through the awkward phase. Well, I never outgrow the awkwardness, but as they get to know me, they can filter the things I say and do a little better.

As embarrassing as that is, being alone is even worse. As a rule, I try not to venture out in public by myself. When I’m in my home, I can walk around on my toes all day without falling over. I can balance a book on my head and never, ever let it fall. I can toss candies or popcorn into the air and catch every single one in my mouth. I’m (clearly) a graceful marvel. And if I’m out with someone else, I’m usually okay. But alone in public, I lose all adult motor functions. I stammer for no reason. I run into things that aren’t moving. I spill drinks on myself. In the last 10 minutes I have been eating chips in this particular coffee house, I have missed my mouth three times. Three. Three times I have attempted to bite into a chip and it has fallen into my lap. Someone approached me a moment ago to ask if I would sign a document as a witness. They made this request right as I stuck a chip into my mouth. Instead of biting into it and swallowing, I pulled it back out of my mouth, saliva and all.  I am a horror in public by myself.

And every time I interact with someone new, I get the near-uncontrollable urge to say “most people don’t get me right away. Please don’t give up on me too early.” When I’m in the zone, focused on a problem, I come across as aloof and unsociable. I can’t think and walk at the same time. I’m an early adopter and a natural crusader, leading people to believe that everything I campaign for is just a phase I’m going through.

And I’ve never quite been able to accurately articulate any of that before now.

I took the Myers-Briggs personality type test. My result: INFJ. Introverted intuitive, extroverted feeler, judging. And the explanatory paragraph literally sums up my existence. I feel like I want to print it out and just hand it to people when we first meet. More than anything though, I felt so relieved. I feel like, while it doesn’t make me any different, having someone else explain why I am the way I am is so freeing. I feel like just having someone else say it makes it more acceptable. It’s so nice to be understood.

100 Posts, and the trap of the Stats page.

100

Yesterday Tshirts & Twine reached 100 posts. It was kind of an accident. I meant to save post 100 for today, and write something deep, humorous, helpful and inspirational (as I do.) Instead, my 100th post was mostly pictures of the stuff hanging on my walls. Oops.

Interestingly enough, that post was inspired by a comment from another WordPress blogger who always has fantastic thoughts to share. She posted a comment on my daily article, and post 100 was my response to it. My initial reaction was that I had squandered an opportunity for a great recap post. Maybe a “100 articles nostalgic something-or-other.” But after a moment, I realized that I wasn’t sorry I had used my 100th article the way that I did. I value communication and sharing very deeply. I’m thrilled that the post ended up being part of a dialogue, instead of another monologue.

So now I’m thinking that maybe I’ve missed the point a little bit regarding my stats page. I’m not going to lie: I watch the numbers on my blog. I get excited when a new “daily views” record is set. I almost always reply to comments, and hitting new “follow” or “like” milestones makes my day. But if I was really honest, those things are not what this blog is all about.

Yesterday I accidentally did another interesting thing. I revealed my list of personal values. I had been saving that for a later post, but I couldn’t accurately explain my decor choices without it. I created the list while I was reading Jenny Blake’s Life After College (well worth a read, even if, like me, college was a good bit ago.) These ten words represent the ten principles by which I live, work, create, and interact with the world. For me, Living Simply means that everything I own, do, or think corresponds to one or more of these values. So without further ado, here they are (in no particular order):

Freedom

Refusing to be a slave to money, stuff, commitments, fear, or stress.

Simplicity

Focusing on what’s really important, and letting go of things that aren’t.

Inspiration

Finding ways to expand my worldview and experience new things.

Passion

Loving what I do so much that it never feels like work.

ProblemSolving

Seeking creative solutions to life’s puzzles.

Communication

Speaking my mind truthfully and with kindness.

Momentum

Always moving forward, no matter how slowly.

Sharing

Telling my story; believing that my unique experiences can create positive change.

Creativity

Never settling for the status quo, but reaching for originality.

Adventure

Choosing to view every new experience as an opportunity, and believing that even the worst can lead to the best.

If I am to be a real advocate of Simplicity, I have to refocus. When I’m living by these values, I can’t justify fixating on the numbers. Milestones and new records can be exciting, but they aren’t the point. So today, on post 101, I’m walking away from the Stats page.