Clutter is a State of the Mind

Golden Buddha - Tiger Cave Temple / Thailand

How cluttered is your home? Did you know that Buddhists believe that sweeping is a way to cultivate mindfulness? For the upcoming new year, I plan to focus on cultivating mindfulness in my own so that I can spend less time daydreaming or stressing throughout the day. I read a recent article from ZenHabits.net on de-cluttering:

Clutter is a manifestation of a) holding onto the past and b) fear of what might happen in the future. Letting go of clutter is a way to live more mindfully and in the present.
The act of decluttering itself can be a mindfulness practice.

Why do we have clutter in the first place? Why do we keep it when we don’t really need it? Maybe we think we do need it — for two reasons:

1. We don’t want to let go of the past. Often clutter comes in the form of emotional attachment to objects that have significance to us. They might remind us of a loved one, or a vacation, or a special event like a birthday, funeral, graduation, etc. It might be a gift from someone. All of this is living in the past. I’m not saying we should forget about the past, but letting go of these objects (and they’re only objects, they’re not the events or loved ones themselves) … it is a way of releasing our hold on the past. It’s a way of living more in the present. I never forget the past, but it’s not a place I try to dwell.

2. We’re afraid of the future. Clutter might be things we think we might need sometime in the future. We hold on to them just in case. Over-packing for a trip is a good example — we bring more than we really need, just in case we need them. It’s the same in our houses — we have a ton of things we don’t really need or use, just in case. We’re afraid of being unprepared for the future, but the truth is we can never be totally prepared. We can’t control the outcome of the future, and trying to do so means that we’re never really living in the present moment. We’re always preparing for what might (or might not) come.

Look at your clutter carefully, one object at a time, and ask yourself why you’re holding onto each object. It’s probably for one of these two reasons, if you’re honest.

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Do You Know How to Eat in Public? Find Out

Dining table

[This is a re-post of a previously-published article.]

I’ve always gotten nervous by the idea of eating in fine restaurants, and my fear of publicly embarrassing myself while dining out seems to grow as I get older. I wonder: Which fork should I use? What happens if I spill food on myself? Or worse, what happens if I mispronounce a word on the menu? Will everyone in the restaurant, waitstaff included, know that I am a phony who does not deserve to eat there?

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Honesty and Integrity are Key to Femininity

Hillary Clinton

Many of the articles on Ladies Again follow our theme on better ways to increase femininity through self-improvement. Today, however, I would like to try something different. Instead of writing about the better ways to clean or how volunteering can increase our sense of caring and femininity, I’d like today’s article to focus on one aspect of femininity that cannot be underestimated: integrity.

The dictionary Merriam-Webster defines integrity as a firm adherence to a code of moral or artistic values. You know a person with integrity when you see them. These are the people who are honest, trustworthy and down-to-earth. They are not afraid to be assertive about their values and morals during times when others either oppose them or put pressure on them to conform. Individuals with integrity understand right from wrong, and stick to their principles.

When it comes to women, individuals with integrity are respected and trusted by their peers. These women handle themselves with grace and confidence. They will admit when they do not know the answer to a question, and they will accept responsibility when they make a mistake. Can integrity be taught? It’s possible that it is taught from the family or from religion. The jury is still out if it can be taught in schools.

The subject of integrity is especially relevant today given the role it played in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Voters in rural and urban communities alike found themselves debating the trustworthiness of presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The election was full of enough ethical conundrums to puzzle spectators for years: During the campaign season, Clinton faced an ethics probe over her emails, while Trump faced a lawsuit over his troubled Trump University.

The question many people asked themselves was “Who is more likely to be lying to me? Who is more likely to be telling the truth?” One woman interviewed in a New York Times article accurately summarized many of the sentiments held by voters last year:

I really wanted to have a female president. I think that’s important. But I’m not sure that’s her…I voted for Obama the last time. I don’t agree with a lot of what he said, but I felt he was honest.

Integrity is key to caring for and respecting others, and it is a quality that is key to femininity. Interestingly enough, it is also key to masculinity as well, after all, men who adhere to an ethical code are respected and appreciated.

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Clear Skin is Important: How to Get the Skin You Deserve

Basket of products

On Ladies Again, we write about better ways to take care of yourself because we realize that self-care is important to femininity. It is for this reason that we write about our own journeys with weight loss and finding makeup and self-care routines that work effectively. Below, I’m sharing my own personal journey through one aspect of self-care.

For years, I struggled with an obsession that I hid in secret. I would think about it every day, like when I showered, when I was at work, when I was in the library, when I watched television and when I read magazines. I would think about it especially when I noticed my reflection in mirrors and building windows. My obsession was my skin, which was plagued with large cystic acne.

For years, I coasted through high school and college with little to no acne. I had a few small forehead bumps occasionally, but I never had substantial pimples or breakouts on my face. My skin was so clear and smooth that I sometimes received compliments from others about the quality of my skin. All of this ended after I graduated from college and decided to stop taking hormonal birth control. Suddenly and without warning, I started getting large red blotches on my face and massive cystic pimples under the surface of my skin. Shortly after the pimples subsided, dark-colored and deep-pitted acne scars started to form on my face. My beautiful clear skin became rough, blotchy and pitted. I started to have serious anxiety about my skin. My friends and family started to notice the acne breakout happening on my face. Like it or not, your physical appearance is the first impression you make to the world, and I was cognizant of this fact more than ever before. I felt helpless and I was confused about what was going on with my skin, and I felt ashamed and embarrassed.

Makeup did not work to cover it up, and neither did over-the-counter acne facial washes and acne creams. Products that were supposed to help the acne ended up drying out my skin, which encouraged my skin to produce more oil. With the additional oil production, I ended up using more drying creams, and the cycle continued. I also spent a great deal of money on pricey dermatologists. One sinister (and highly-respected) dermatologist convinced me to take powerful antibiotics for months to keep the acne at bay. Doing so led me to have serious gastrointestinal issues as a result. Nothing worked.

Collectively, I spent hours researching acne treatments online and in libraries. I tried one quack acne method after another. I gave up peanut oil and I applied ice packs to my face every day. At one point, at my craziest point, I was sleeping every night with a few cold green teabags on my face. Crazy and desperate, right?

Image of Clear Skin Weekend bookOne day, by sheer luck, I stumbled upon a book that described the role diet plays in supporting overall health. The book, Clear Skin Weekend, specifically detailed the way that processed sugar in particular increases the production of hormones that create oil. Bacteria is attracted to excess oil, so skin infections (acne) happen when bacteria invade the oily pores. People with acne-prone skin have unique skin that is prone to trapping oil, which is why they must take additional steps to minimize the oil and subsequent harmful bacteria on their skin.

Clear Skin Weekend changed my life! The book made it is easy for me to understand the connection between diet and skin care, and gave me simple steps to take to improve my skin and overall health on a regular basis. I learned about all of the different ways that acne-prone skin is unique. Usually acne is caused by a hormonal imbalance paired with acne-prone skin. But sometimes, acne can be caused by a fungal infection or a reaction or allergy to a product.

The book also helped me to realize that sometimes conventional wisdom is wrong. For years, the medical profession has said that there is no link between diet and acne, but new research is showing that they are wrong. I now realize that the birth control impacted my hormones levels in a drastic way, which was altered when I stopped taking the birth control. Then, my hormone levels continued to spiral out of control when I began eating a diet high in refined sugars and low in fiber. Clear Skin Weekend gave me a list of steps to take to change my diet for the better and get my skin back to normal. Not only did my skin improve, but my overall health changed. I had more energy and I lost weight.

The book also discussed ways to improve the skin through select products. I learned that products, like skin exfoliants, that work for many people may be abrasive for individuals with acne-prone skin. Acne-prone skin is unique in that it needs to be exfoliated more often than other skin types to stay acne-free, but the methods and products used to exfoliate the skin must be gentle in nature. So, think gentle enzyme exfoliants, not abrasive sea salt exfoliants. The book also detailed hair and skin care products that are harmful to the skin.

If you struggle with acne, consider reading the ground-breaking guidebook Clear Skin Weekend. It’s worth the investment if it will change your overall physical health and improve your self-esteem.

What are your experiences with acne and skin care? Talk about your experiences reading Clear Skin Weekend using the hashtag #ladiesagain.

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Why You Need to Get a Plant Today

Image of plants

How do you show love and care to others on a regular basis? In what ways do you like to show your spouse that you care about them? How do you care for your family and friends? And if you have them, how do you show love to your children?

One of the hallmarks of being a lady is being empathetic to the needs of others. Feminine women know how to show others that they care about them, and that they are understanding and attune to the needs of others. The difference between feminine women and masculine women is in the effort made to think about how to care and support people other than themselves. They know how to listen carefully to loved ones to find ways that they can support them better. Perhaps that includes bringing soup to a friend feeling sick, baking muffins for a neighbor, or offering to drive a relative to a job interview. It might even include occasionally sending a friend a card or hand-written note to show them that you care. Feminine women are masters at recognizing ways to help others around them.

As I continue on my journey to to improve my sense of femininity, I am always looking for ways to improve myself every day. It sounds crazy, but one of the best ways to improve compassion for others is to start small and get a houseplant. I know, you’re probably thinking, how is a nonverbal, static houseplant going to help me improve my compassion for others? Plants are great way to train yourself to think about other entities on a regular basis for several reasons. First, having a plant improves your sensitivity to the needs of others. The only way to keep the plant thriving and healthy is to pay careful attention to its needs. Does your plant need new soil? Is the plant dry and limp? Does it need sunlight? As a plant owner, you will need to think carefully about what the plant needs to stay alive. Depending on the plant, some houseplants require more care than others―think orchids, not peace lilies―so you can actually train yourself to be more caring by purchasing very delicate plants.

Image of houseplants

Second, plants require regular and consistent care, and having one in your home reminds you that the world does not revolve around you all the time. Other people have needs too, and having a plant teaches you to think about things other than yourself and your needs. Much in the same way that plant owners must remind themselves to water and re-pot their plants, feminine women also might remind themselves to call a distance relative to check up on them, or to make plans to visit a long-distance friend.

If you are interested in learning how to improve your sense of femininity, start small by getting one plant, and build up to buying 10-12 plants for your home. Your home will look better as a result of your efforts. If you have enough space in your home, consider upping the ante and starting a small garden. At one point a few years ago, I had a small vegetable garden on my balcony that brought me so much joy! I could not wait to get home from work to check on my tomatoes and zucchinis. At the same time that I had my balcony garden, I spent a lot of time caring for my partner and friends, and I attribute some of that caring to my garden. If there was a barometer for care and kindness to others, my levels were off the chart that summer thanks to my garden!

How do you show love and care through plants? Take a photo of your plant and share it using the hashtag #ladiesagain.

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How Intentional Self-Care Can Increase Your Femininity

Getting a manicure

Have you ever left the house in grungy clothes, without your hair or makeup done, because you thought you wouldn’t see anyone you know? This mindset seems common among young women. Modern-day dress codes are remarkably relaxed compared to what they were a couple of generations ago. (Don’t even get me started on leggings!) Unless you work in a traditional corporate environment, you probably don’t have to dress up regularly. And by “dressing up,” I don’t just mean wearing business clothes; I mean putting time into your hair, making sure your hands are manicured, and polishing your shoes. Think about it – when was the last time you polished a pair of shoes?!

Say No to Leggings

On top of this generational change, we feel as though we can be especially careless when no one is around. Working from home? Why not stay in your pjs! Staying in to catch up on chores? Forgo the morning routine!

These habits may seem harmless; maybe even an improvement from the rigorous appearance expectations of generations past, but they may be diminishing our femininity. Plus, what message do you communicate to others (and to yourself) when you only feel the need to look nice when you will see specific people? It seems to me that this whispers the idea that I am “less” on my own; that my value comes through being validated by others. This is clearly a degrading idea when written out on paper, so why do we behave this way? Trading self-care for convenience subtly eliminates our unique feminine aura that make us so different from men.

To remedy this problem, I suggest that we start putting more effort into our looks for the sake of ourselves. I personally struggle with this because I’m a very low-maintenance person. When left to my own devices, my appearance turns into a frizzy, wrinkled mess. I’ve even worn clothes that smelled like mildew because I was too lazy to remove my clothes them from the washing machine in time! This behavior may be suitable for a male college student, but certainly not for a feminine woman. And I definitely don’t want to bring these habits into my future marriage. If you also hope to be married, realize that marriage won’t change you into a new person with new habits. That is why we must improve ourselves now.

If you live in a cold climate, winter is the perfect time to put some self-care into practice. I’ve started to regularly exfoliating my skin by making homemade sugar scrub with three ingredients: granulated sugar, essential oil (lavender works great), and an oil, such as olive or coconut. I’m actually killing two birds with one stone because the scrub is a handy way to use up the refined sugar I’m trying to cut out of my diet. Another habit to pick up in the dead of winter when there’s nothing going on is to draw a relaxing, hot bath. Add Epsom salts and essential oils to your bath water to detoxify and relax. If you’re really feeling motivated, light some candles and put some music on. After a few nights of treating yourself to these mini spa sessions, the week won’t seem normal without them!

So what I’ve learned from this experiment in self-care for the sake of self-care is that when you treat yourself poorly when you’re alone, it really does affect your outlook. Taking time to treat yourself well can very possibly “change your life,” because even though others may not notice, you will know that you’re wearing underwear that matches your bra, that your cuticles are trimmed and moisturized, that your hair is regularly trimmed, and that you floss your teeth everyday — and consequently have excellent gum health. Even small changes can boost your confidence levels. And we all know how attractive confidence is in men and women.

Maybe you think you are too busy to add self-care to your schedule. Well, we are all busy, but after considering the changes that can happen in your life, why not make time to do things like have your nails done (or do your own manicure), keep your ends trimmed, and perhaps re-work your budget to get an occasional massage? (The benefits of massage are well-documented, by the way. We also wrote about massage techniques before.)

After implementing some new habits into your life, you may start to notice that you are becoming a softer, more gentle person. As you treat your body and mind gently, you may in-turn treat the world more gently. This has a profound effect on the way that people react to you. For example, treating
men with genuine respect may result in men, if they are worth their salt, showing appropriate affection toward you!

Speaking of the way you treat your mind, intentional self-care cannot be limited to our physical bodies. We must also care for our minds and spirits. The Bible instructs us to guard our hearts with all vigilance, for from them flow the springs of life (Proverbs 4:23). Our brains are constantly processing information from the media, TV, movies, friendships,  relationships, and basically everything we’re exposed to.

Consider also this passage:

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or
praiseworthy – think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8

We must be the guardians of our hearts, and the way we do that is by carefully choosing what we allow into our minds. In addition to the  information we consume, we also must be conscious of what we say. Life and death are in the power of the tongue. Perverse speech can break the spirit. (Yes, more Bible verses – they just pop into my mind!) Dwell on what is true, and speak what is true in love. This will profit our overall health. Humans are made of mind, body, and spirit – and good health means that all three of these components work together harmoniously.

To bring all of this information to a point: femininity is about having a spirit of openness. When we “tie up the loose ends” of our personal care routine, we become more confident and open to receive from others. As our insecurities start to diminish, we can love others well through vulnerability. So slow down and introduce some tender love and care into your life. As they say, to love others you must first love yourself.

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Ladies are Always on Time

Woman Rushing

You’re meeting a friend for dinner, and you were supposed to be there at 2:00 p.m. Traffic is moving at a turtle’s pace. You rush to park and you run into the restaurant sweaty and flustered. It’s 2:47 p.m. and you’re late again. Sound familiar?

If you’re like me, you may have had similar struggles getting to places on time. I call it being “punctually-challenged.” Getting anywhere has always been a very serious struggle for me. I’ve been late to dinners, weddings, graduations, exams, and hair appointments. I have always known that I have had a problem with punctuality, but I did not seriously confront the issue until I missed a flight earlier this year, and I had to pay quite a bit of money to buy a last-minute replacement ticket. Not only did I have to pay for the extra ticket, but I missed an important meeting because of the flight delay.

Eventually, I had to admit the truth: Regardless of the exact reasons for my tardiness, my inability to show up on time was turning me into a person who was unreliable, rude and inconsiderate. These are all qualities that are neither feminine nor caring. Even though I may have had very legitimate reasons for being late from time to time, it was ultimately my fault I was late at the end of the day. I could have added more time to my schedule to prepare, and I chose not to do so.

Never Be Late book cover.
Never Be Late book cover.

All hope is not lost, because there are a number of ways to curtail frequent tardiness. To learn how to improve my timeliness skills, I sought out Diana DeLonzor’s book “Never Be Late Again: 7 Cures for the Punctuality Challenged.” In the book, DeLonzor describes a few of the root causes of lateness and procrastination, such as genetics, anxiety, attention deficit disorders and indulgent childhood experiences. Some people are thrill-seekers who need a sense of urgency to get things done, while others have a hard time saying “no” to meetings and tasks. DeLonzor argues that punctually-challenged people have time management issues for a variety of issues, such as a lack of discipline and goal-setting skills. Additionally, DeLonzor states that a large number of procrastinators have time perception issues, where they think that it takes less time than it actually does to complete work assignments.

The first step to curing tardiness issues is to take responsibility for your lateness. Decide that it is unacceptable to be late. When you decide to meet at a particular time, you are making a promise to your friends and employers to be responsible. Start to think of lateness as a “promise broken or as a loan unpaid.”

“Many people rationalize their lateness by attributing it to factors beyond their control or by minimizing the selfishness of the act,” DeLonzor writes in the book. “Yet in failing to acknowledge and take responsibility for our actions, we hamper efforts to improve.”

The next step of curbing your lateness is to change the way that you think about waiting time, such as when you are early or bored. I had an issue getting places early because I did not want to just sit around and wait for the other person to arrive. After all, bored time is wasted time, right? Wrong! Fill that time doing something that you like to do, such as reading a magazine. You can write in a journal when you have free time. Or just look out at the sunset. I now carry a small book with me everywhere so that I can always read in my extra down time. Always plan to get to your meeting early, rather than exactly on time. Aim to get places 10-30 minutes early, that way you have a buffer in case something goes wrong that causes a delay in your schedule.

Find a way to say “no!” to yourself by repeating a personal mantra. Procrastinators tend to pile on activities to fill their day, so they often convince themselves that they can get everything done smoothly, even when they cannot. DeLonzor explains:

“Create a mantra to curb your optimism. Instead of saying ‘If I hurry, I can …,’ slow down for a few minutes, take a deep breath and think about what you’re doing. Then repeat one of the following mantras: ‘Am I being realistic or optimistic?’ ‘Am I doing too much?’ ‘Is this something I really need to do now?'”

DeLonzor offers a number of exercises to help the punctually-challenged curtail their timeliness issues. Overall, it’s a great read for anyone who has experienced issues getting places on time.

What are your strategies for getting places on time? Share them in the comments below?

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