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Kings Mountain, North Carolina, United States
"A mind lively and at ease" is a blog by a first-generation Russian-Ukrainian immigrant Maria K. (Maria Igorevna Kuroshchepova). An engineer by education, an analyst by trade, as well as a writer, photographer, artist and amateur model, Maria brings her talent for weaving an engaging narrative to stories of life, fashion and style advice, book and movie reviews, and common-sense and to-the-point essays on politics and economy.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Bit Little Change digest - November, 2014

Weekly small change challenges

Week 1 - declare war on somewhat-bad habits.

Some bad habits are obvious - smoking, doing drugs, drinking too much alcohol, driving around without your seat belt on. Some, however, are not so straightforward. In some cases, they are rather nice, in fact. Just... little indulgences, pick-me-ups and such.

The Starbucks addiction. An occasional high-end cup of coffee - I can dig that. "Occasional" being the key word here. But every day - twice, sometimes three times a day? Even if all you get is one basic coffee first thing in the morning, every morning - say a tall Caffe Americano for $2.49. That's over $900 a year. You can buy a top-of-the-line coffee maker AND take a nice weekend vacation. And for most people it's not just one cup and it's far from basic. There are now coffee makers that can be programmed in the evening and have your coffee ready for you in the morning. Get one and set that money aside for something fun - like enrolling in a foreign language course, going somewhere you've always wanted to go, or paying off your debt (yes, it IS fun - when you see that zero balance on your credit card statement).

Daily TV watching is another time waster and health underminder. Someone said to me recently "sitting is the new smoking". True. People sit for their jobs, sit in the car on the way to and from work, and then come home and sit there in front of the TV. Stop it. You don't need to waste 730 - 2190 hours a year doing that. (That's 30 - 91 days, by the way, or 1-3 months per year an average American watches the damn box.) You can get all the world news in 10-15 minutes from BBC web site, your shows - from Netflix, and your games - over the internet. The rest is celebrity gossip, political wrangling, and other stuff you don't need to wast your time on.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to seek and destroy these sneaky habits and, as The Oatmeal would say, defeat your Blerch.

Week 2 - make one radical change.

This doesn't seem so small, does it? But I am not talking about anything like picking up and moving to Antarctica, or quitting your job to take up professional salsa dancing, or running off with the handsome UPS guy. There are plenty of "I've always done it this way" things in our lives that can be altered. The reason? Thought pattern interrupt.

While I am a huge fan of routine and stability, I must acknowledge - it can and does lead to the staleness of thought and stupor of new ideas. Sometimes, a minor jolt is required to get yourself unstuck.

Let's say, you've always had the same thing for lunch - a ham and cheese sandwich, an apple, maybe a cup of coffee. Have a champagne lunch with crab cakes instead. Ok, so you might want to pick a non-work day for that - but do it.

If you always shop at the same store - pick a time and go somewhere different. Make a point to thoroughly check it out and see everything they have to offer. This particularly applies to clothes shopping - a lot of people, men and women, ALWAYS shop at the same places, afraid of disappointment elsewhere.

Or, let's say, you always wear black - wear color. And we are not talking - adding a white shirt under a black suit. That's cheating. No. Color. Something other than black. No black garment of any sort anywhere on you.

These are minor envelope pushers - but you might be pleasantly surprised how they impact you. You might discover your thoughts going in new and fascinating directions, your mind acquiring a new sort of clarity and teeming with ideas. It's not an easy task - but very worth it.

Week 3 - let go of other people's stuff.

You probably don't even know this - but your house is full of things that should belong to someone else. Some are obvious - like books or tools you or someone in your household borrowed from a friend or a neighbor and forgot to return. Find them and return them.

Then there are other things. Books, for instance, that you have read and not particularly liked, or thought you might read but didn't, but you hold on to them because they are books, and you can't bear to part with books. Why not give them to people who will read them and like them, and possibly even keep them for the right reasons?

There are clothes that feel good and look fabulous - on someone else. So, what are they doing in your closet? They don't fit you - but you hold on to them in case someday they might, even though, at the bottom of your heart, you know that is unlikely. They don't look good on you - but you can't let them go, because you paid too much for them. Sell them on eBay or take them to a thrift store so that their actual owners might find them and give them a new lease on life.

If your kids are grown up, their baby clothes no longer belong to them or to you ("but what if my children have children!") - they belong to a new mom trying to find good, sturdy baby clothes at a discount. Duplicates and triplicates (or even more-plicates) of hammers, screwdrivers, saw blades, and fastener sets don't belong to you - they belong to a young family trying to whip their fixer-upper starter home into shape. Old magazines, unopened bills and advertisements belong to a recycling facility. Old sheets and blankets you no longer use even for the guests belong to a local homeless shelter. Leftover cans of paint, rolls of insulation, and sheets of plywood really belong to Habitat's ReStore.

Free your home from things that belong to other people and make room for your own life.

Week 4 - read to improve your life.

Many self-help books have a bad reputation, because, it's true, a lot of them are crap. However, that is not a good reason to discard them altogether. They are not all the same and many can well and truly change your life in a positive way.

Pretty much everyone in this group is an avid reader - with more than one book going on at the same time. Make a point to identify the area of your life you would like to improve and add a book on that subject to your current reading material. Here are some ideas:

- Self-esteem, discipline, goal-setting, follow-through, life changes - "Success Principles" by Jack Canfield, "The difference maker" by John Maxwell, "What to say when you talk to yourself" by Shad Helmstetter

- Turning dreams into plans - "Put your dream to the test" by John Maxwell, "Change" by Brandon Burchard

- Style, clothes that fit, dressing appropriately for various occasions - "What not to wear" books by Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine (for women); "Off the cuff" by Carson Kressley and "Dressing in the dark" by Marion Maneker (for men); "Dress your best" by Stacey London and Clinton Kelly (for both men and women)

- How to decorate and entertain (including on a budget) - "Freaking Fabulous" books by Clinton Kelly and "Queer eye for the straight guy" by the Fab Five

- Making a house a home, making the most of small spaces - "Style" by Thom Filicia and "Not so big house" books by Sarah Susanka

- Life in general - biography of any person you admire and whose achievements inspire you.

Member contributions

Small-scale gardening with unbelievable results.

Tea bags working double time.

Whether or not you like and buy Dove products, I do rather like the message in their new "real beauty" series of videos. Particularly prominent is the reminder that we really should take care of how we talk about ourselves in front of our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. We might not realize it - but they do listen, and they often inherit our own insecurities.

All hail amazing earthships!

Recommended reading

The Charge by Brendon Burchard

Current initiatives

Operation "Moving Mandy"

Nicola Tesla museum

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