I love coffee.
I could go on and on about different roasts, brewing methods, and what to put in your coffee. I'll spare you those details but trust me. I like to drink coffee.
The problem is it becomes a vicious cycle when you drink too much coffee. It happened to me without realizing it. I was still tired after my regular coffee, so I would get more at work. I fell into this routine. Then I added afternoon coffee. Sometimes the afternoon coffee was late enough that I had trouble getting to sleep at night. Then I was even more tired the next day. More coffee!
Over time, it started to bother my stomach. I realized I was drinking way more than a pot of coffee most days.
Here’s a weird sidebar.
The “cups” labeled on coffee makers are not normal cups. They’re 5 ½ ounce cups. I was putting down 12-14 “cups” every day and often more. I was also spending a lot of money on coffee because I don’t like to drink cheap store brand crap. I grind my own beans and was paying about $15 a pound for coffee.
The money I was spending bothered me a little. The worst thing about my coffee addiction though was being dependent on it. If I was going to travel it became a source of anxiety. Where will I find coffee? Will it be decent coffee? Will I offend someone if I bring my own coffee to their house to make? It didn’t matter what time I was getting up, I still had to find some coffee first thing in the morning. That’s what I hated more than anything. Letting coffee run my schedule.
I decided I needed to quit but realized I'm no quitter.
I decided I needed to at least cut way back. When I made the announcement to my wife, she was rightfully skeptical. Then, being an engineer, I did what most engineers would do. I made a spreadsheet.
I’ll spare you these details too, but in short I figured out the coffee-to-water ratio I was using. I wanted to keep roughly the same ratio as I decreased the amount of coffee. No one likes watered down coffee. I figured if I decreased the amount by two ounces every three days I wouldn’t notice too much.
I started on February 10th and here’s what happened. I did fine for two weeks. Then when my dad was in the hospital far away and not doing well, I traveled to see him. I even did OK during that trip but it was impossible to accurately measure how much I was drinking. I did my best to enter an estimate in my spreadsheet. I came home and did well for a couple more weeks, only cheating once or twice with an extra cup of coffee at work. I had cut my intake of coffee in half. Then I stalled out when my dad passed away. I completely gave up after the Corona virus pandemic hit and I was working from home everyday.
I maintained the reduced intake, but as Michigan’s stay-at-home order dragged on I crept right back to where I started. Ultimately, I’ve decided that drinking a few cups of coffee is not such a horrible thing. Besides I feel it’s my duty to support the two coffee shops here in my small town.
In the end, not much has changed. But I don't feel like I failed.
What has changed is my attitude toward coffee. Even though I’m back to drinking almost my full amount every day, I don’t feel enslaved toward it like I used to. Some days, I don’t grab my first cup until I’ve been up for a while. I would have a good headache if I went a day without it, but I would be OK. Besides, during the extended stay-at-home order, going out to grab a cup of coffee and pick up a bag of beans from the local coffee shop will be one of the few times I get away from home.
I think we can apply this to our decluttering efforts. It can be about our attitude toward our clutter. Don't let your stuff own you and don't be a slave to it. It might seem like you're failing but maybe you're not. Maybe we just need to think about it differently?
It's a little ironic that right after I published my last post, I found out I would be leaving my hectic job for a different position within my company. I thought for sure that a less stressful job, closer to home would mean more time to write. After 5 months at my new job though, I'm just now writing again.
I have however, been spending more time with my family. I actually get to see my wife and most of my kids in the morning before leaving for work. I also haven't been taking out my laptop in the evenings and weekends to get prepared for the next meeting. It's been nice. The busy times help you appreciate the less busy periods of life even more.
One thing I've found regardless of where I go, I end up having a conversation with someone who is struggling with the same clutter problems that I am. Right after coming to my new job, I had nearly the same conversation I've had many times with other people. We usually agree on a few things that happen at home.
I wish I had the ultimate solution to all of it, but I don't. We can read another book on decluttering or watch another episode of Marie Kondo, but unless we act on the lessons from those resources, we're just wasting time. So I want you to know two important things. First, you're not alone. Second, it's only going to get worse if we just keep buying things we don't need.
You aren't the only with too much clutter
Like I said earlier, I've had the same conversation over and over. People everywhere are struggling with the amount of clutter in their homes. Have you ever had someone over who saw your basement for the first time. I always apologize to people for the way mine looks. The usual response I get is something like "this is nothing, mine is a lot worse".
Here's an idea. The next time you're thinking of taking some items to donate somewhere, you call up a friend and see if they have some stuff to get rid of too. In my case, there's a brewery near the local Salvation Army store. I like to drop off a car load at the Salvation Army and then celebrate with a pint.
Stop buying things you don't need
Clutter is like calories when you're trying to lose weight. If you burn 500 calories by working out but then eat 1000 calories at the pizza buffet every day for lunch, you're not going to make any progress. We have to resist the bargains at our favorite discount store and we have to resist the mindset that because we got rid of something in our home that we just made space for something else. Fight that urge and enjoy the extra breathing room instead.
I'll leave it at that and keep this post short. I've been neglecting my website and my Facebook page lately but I'm going to change that. Expect to see more posts but probably short ones and more content being shared on Facebook even if it's not my own. Thanks for reading.
You blink and over 4 months goes by. I can't believe I haven't posted anything since last September. In that time, I've started a new, much busier job, taken on the titles of Cub Scout Den Leader and Church Youth Group Leader, and the baby just turned a year old. I've been busy.
I thought I was already busy since the baby came along, but the new job has been insane. I didn't like sitting at a desk waiting for the workday to end, but now my day flies by and I'm rarely at my desk. The problem is when it's time to go home, I suddenly feel like there is a lot left to do. I end up staying a few minutes longer.
A few minutes extra quickly turns into an hour until I decide to just pack up my laptop and go home. I pick up the baby at daycare, go home and cook a quick dinner for everyone before we need to head out to whatever activities the kids have that evening. Later, I often end up pulling out my laptop for a few minutes to prepare for the next day.
This has turned into a bad habit that I'm trying to break. I know that my family has been affected by my new schedule and it's not fair. I started reminding myself that the company has been running for a long time without me and it will continue do so when I'm gone. Whatever is not done will still be there tomorrow.
As it also turns out, only in the last couple of years have I learned to appreciate certain music. Some of my friends would call it blasphemy, but I just couldn't listen to Pink Floyd. At some point, one of their songs caught me in just the right mood and I really listened. I don't know why but suddenly I realized how good some of their lyrics are. Now one of my favorite songs is Time. (lyrics from https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/pinkfloyd/time.html)
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
I am constantly reminding myself that when I'm older I will never wish I had spent more time at work. I will wish that I had spent more time at home with my family before my kids are grown and become busy with their own lives. I'm declaring a late New Year's resolution to slow down and spend more time with my family before it's too late.
Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Do you ever wonder where the time goes when you start looking at your phone? You have a few minutes to sit down and relax so you grab your phone and open up your favorite social media app. The next thing you know an hour has gone by, that laundry still hasn’t folded itself, and the dishes are still on the counter. Do you know what you’re really spending your time on when you look at your phone?
Thanks to an app called Rescue Time, I have recently learned what I’m doing and it was enlightening. I first installed it a few months ago and kept checking the app to see my stats. It was a bit confusing at first and I almost gave up and uninstalled it. The app shows color coded usage for either today, the last 7 days, or the last 30 days. Sometimes I would just get the message “waiting for data from your motorola XT1585”. The color coded pie chart and color coded list of apps looked cool but I had no idea what the colors meant.
The numbers were scary though. My most used app by far is Waze because of my long commute. Aside from 17 hours of trying to avoid traffic jams, looking at the last 30 days told me that I spent 10 hours on Facebook, and 3 hours texting. This wasn’t that helpful other than to point out to me how much time I wasted on Facebook. I already knew it was too much.
The real magic happens when you log into the Rescue Time website. Suddenly you see details and find out what all those colors mean. The basics of it are that there are Categories and Sub-Categories which Rescue Time actually does a pretty good job of figuring out on its own.
You can completely customize this by putting apps in whatever Category you choose or adding your own. Then, every app (i.e. Activity) gets assigned a Productivity Score of Very Distracting, Distracting, Neutral, Productive, or Very Productive. This was a little bit of a time investment but once I spent time adjusting all these, the reports and dashboards are more useful.
Here are just a couple of screenshots. The first is my monthly dashboard from July where you can see 17% of the time I was on my phone it was on Social Networking. Don’t be too impressed by the large Reference & Learning bar because I categorized Waze under Reference. You can tell Rescue Time to completely ignore an app so I might do that with Waze.
You can see in the next image one of the nice features of Rescue Time. You can drill down in more and more detail. Here is July’s usage by day. You can go further in detail by picking a day to see exactly what time and how long each app was open.
There are many more reports and dashboards available as well as a weekly email report you can sign up for. This is all just the free version too. A Premium plan is available for $72 per year but keep an eye out for deals if you’re interested.
You can also install Rescue Time on your Apple, Windows, or Linux computer to track your activities and websites. I haven’t tried this feature out yet but I’m sure the results would be a little depressing. As much as I try, I know I’m not the most productive person when I get a screen in front of me.
If you keep finding yourself wondering at the end of the day where in the world your time went, then you need to try out Rescue Time or something like it. Just remember, the data from Rescue Time is only as good as your willingness to to take back your wasted time. Challenge yourself or others by competing for the highest productivity score or at least set some goals for yourself. Pretty graphs aside, you will still need to find your own motivation to remove yourself from the digital world and see what else you're missing out on.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve been reading more about happiness lately and trying to put into practice some of the things I’m learning. I recently finished the book Happier At Home by Gretchen Rubin and I’m looking forward to reading some of her other books on the subject. I liked the approach of Happier At Home where she dedicated each month to a specific aspect of life to focus on improving her happiness.
She began in September which sounds odd except that she has two school age daughters. Like most parents, watching your kids go off to school each fall feels a lot more like a new stage in life than January 1st ever does.
The topics Gretchen chose for this project were:
As she goes through each month, she echoes a lot of the lessons learned in her earlier book, The Happiness Project. I admit I wish I would have read that first but it’s not absolutely necessary. She reviews many of those lessons and what she calls “The Eight Splendid Truths” about happiness whenever they apply. There is also a section at the end of the book listing them all together in more detail.
Two of my favorites were truth number 3 and 6. They are great words to live by.
A few other nuggets I pulled from Happier At Home were ideas she had like celebrating holiday breakfasts with your family. Some holidays like Valentine’s Day are difficult to celebrate as a family but she realized they generally were all together at breakfast. She went all out for fancy breakfasts with decorations for several holidays. That doesn’t work for everyone but it’s a cool idea.
I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily a happier person after reading the book but Gretchen definitely lays out a lot of ideas for you to think about. Remember, I write these posts as much for myself as I do for others. I know darn well I need to keep reminding myself of the two Truths above when I get so frustrated with my kids. It’s a process, maybe you could call it a journey even, but I don’t think happiness is necessarily a destination. It takes work and positive thinking.
There will always be good and bad times, and different aspects of your life to focus on. The monthly topics listed above may not be the same topics you or I would choose to focus on right now, but in a section at the end, she encourages everyone to embark on their own unique happiness project.
Good luck with yours.
Copyright Dave Lubke and www.davelubke.com, 2022
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