Breakfast of Wanderers

The sunrise tends to wake me up on the weekend days- not because of some inner-light that syncs with the solar forces; the real reason is much less transcendental than that. The “blackout” curtains on our bedroom windows evidently lied about their skills on their resume and my unconscious bias was unfairly influenced by a gut-confidence in their cozy, homespun, buffalo check design. Our windows face full east so the disparity between the advertising and reality became apparent at once.

Mike is able to sleep through the shiny-ness, but I often find myself heading upstairs to enjoy a large mug of some hot liquid while reading on my kindle or wondering if my early morning half-motivation to write something is going to result in my fingertips actually stringing sentences together on my keyboard. Today, the motivation appears to have been real enough.

I am standing at the breakfast counter that separates our kitchen from our living room, sipping piping hot Darjeeling, and flipping through lonely planet’s The Travel Book with semi-absorbed interest. The book is a large, heavy account of vivid photographs and informational blurbs of every country in the world. It was gifted to me by my dear friend, Chelsea, years ago at my bridal shower. I flip through the pages from time to time and have found it to be my go-to entertainment during power outages, which happen more often than in our previous Brooklyn homes (where we never once lost power-ahh the good ol’ days).

I took The Travel Book off of the shelf in our bedroom the other day, realizing that it was not stored in a spot where I use it. It’s not like the book was caked in dust or anything, but I knew it would serve a better purpose upstairs, which it has done as I have looked at it three or four times since.

I enjoy wandering the varying landscapes that spread across the glossy pages, engaging in silent meetings with the smiling locals and being confoundingly absorbed in the intense, bright-eyed stares of more conspicuous emotion opposite the photographer’s lens. I feel the warmth of hot dust on a ranch in the Buenos Aires province, release myself to the wind that flutters strings of colorful prayer flags in Bhutan, and cower at the unimpressed, stern confrontation of an army of albatrosses in the Falkland Islands.

Travel is fuel for excitement and entertainment in our home, as it is for many other people, I imagine. Taking out the excess has resulted in a personal increase in my mental capacity for planning and organization and my favorite things to plan and organize are trips.

Throughout the pandemic, I have satiated my wanderlust by way of virtual walking and driving tours in places around the world from the comfort of our turquoise couch. I have also delved into planning trip itineraries for multiple destinations, trips that will, in hope, actualize some day. My adventures have taken me to the remote corners of Barrow in northern Alaska, the focused (and thin) atmosphere of Everest Base Camp, the sustainably artsy towns and rainforests of Bainbridge Island, a crunchy Quebec City in a growing blanket of snow, the valley-nestled city of Thimphu in Bhutan, and the Greek island of Tinos in a heat wave.

I’ll pick up the remote some nights and Mike will say, “Where are you going today?” I pull up the map on my phone and zoom into different countries like a curious satellite before I settle on my destination. Without having to book a hotel, pack a bag, and remove my belt, liquids, and laptop to go through airport security, I am transported to a new life experience. I gather my surroundings through sight and sound and record them in my mental travel journal.

My virtual travels throughout this past year have broadened my adventurous spirit and geographical comprehension. I feel lucky to live in a time when these places and experiences are virtually accessible. While I cannot recreate the other sensical experiences of my destinations, nor the personality and heart of a location and its local inhabitants, I can be aware that the places and people of the world have so much to offer and that I want to absorb as many experiences as my human lifespan will allow me to.

To-Do Dos in a Clutter-Prone Profession

Since going back to work, I am getting reacquainted with the concept of relying on a to-do list to stay organized. Unfortunately, minimalism in the workplace is nearly impossible for an administrative professional. My work day seems to go by in light speed, filled with tasks to complete, paperwork to file, data to enter into databases, voicemails to check, phone calls to answer and make, fax machine busy tones to check my blood pressure, and so very many questions to ask that come with the territory of being new and having to learn so many unfamiliar processes very quickly. I aim for a clear desk by the end of each day though rarely get to experience the serene joy of the sight of bare, faux-wood screen printed on laminate.

When I come home, I find it hard to leave the workday behind me and sometimes find myself jotting down to-do tasks with invisible sharpies on vanishing, fuchsia post-it notes in my head. I have to remind myself to slow down and tell myself that the work will get done when it gets done and that it’s okay if it’s not going to be done today. Having worked in a profession so conducive to clutter on and off for seven years, I know all too well that it is important to take a step back from the nitty-gritty details of my admin workday in order to fully rest and refresh my mind and body.

For me, being able to relax at the end of the day is reliant on my staying organized during the work day. It is extremely noticeable when I get lazy with updating my to do list. My shoulders ache from the tension of worry, my thoughts buzz around in my mind – flapping restless wings of disquietude, and my heart hammers flutters of remembrance into my esophagus every once in a while when I remember not to forget a task. Luckily, there are tools that I utilize to help keep myself organized.

In the wonderful world of technology that we get to live in, there are so many options for task and project management. I rely on my to-do list as a backup memory to minimize the times that I experience the annoying, worry inducing feeling that I can’t quite place my finger on something I needed to do. I choose to use good, old-fashioned Google Sheets to stay organized, though there are other tools available such as apps like Asana and Trello that I have heard work well too.

In my To-Do List, there are five headers: Date Logged, Status, Date Completed, Task, and Notes

Writing down what a task is along with the date that I learned of its existence helps to ensure it doesn’t get lost or forgotten. My “statuses” are In Progress, Complete, and On Hold. Once a task is complete, I add the date completed to the sheet which lets me know I can go about the very quick business of forgetting it ever existed. I could go a step further and add formatting to move completed items to another tab in a sheet, but that is a minimalism task for another day.

While it may never be possible to eliminate physical clutter in a profession like mine, it is still possible to reduce clutter in your mind by staying organized. Reducing thought clutter and silencing the buzz of frantic self-reminders helps in achieving a state of peace each day and allows for more restful sleep, leaving you more refreshed at the start of the next day.