I’ve been thinking about this word a lot lately, both in my reading life and in my personal life. I spoke a bit about it in a recent Five on Fridays post but I’m really trying to find ways to SIMPLIFY. I know I said my word of the year would be SAVE, but I’m adding this one too. (I think I mentioned in that post that saving wasn’t just about money, but also about saving time and frustration. The same thing as simplifying if you ask me!)
I've been thinking a lot about simplifying my reading life because my hyper-organization, readathons, challenges, and strict TBRs are really only helpful and motivational when I WANT to read and am reading a lot. Not when I *don't* want to read. I smell a blog post on this!
— Lauren (@bookmarklit) February 24, 2020
When it comes to reading, I sometimes enjoy being incredibly organized and scheduled out. But, as my tweets say above, that only helps me when I’m in the mood to read. When I WANT to read. If I’m behind or not in the mood to read, having TBRs and reading schedules absolutely does not motivate me to read.
When I’m in a reading rut due to my schedules and TBRs, the only thing that can break me out of it is reading a book I REALLY want to read.
When I finished KING OF CROWS, I knew it was going to linger and ruin some other books for me. On top of that, I didn’t finish a book *before* its pub date, so I ended up being quite behind on my monthly numbers by the time I finally finished it.
I slogged through a couple of reads afterwards and really struggled to find the desire to read. I started going to the gym three mornings a week, during the time I’d usually lounge in bed and read a bit. I never wanted to read before bed, after dinner, or during my lunch break either. I just wanted to watch things or listen to podcasts. I got addicted to LOVE IS BLIND on Netflix. I listened to podcasts or watched shows at the gym instead of reading my book on the elliptical or listening to audiobooks. I just… avoided reading.
I ended up being only halfway done with my February goal (meaning I’d read 5 books) by the last week of the month. Enter: IN FIVE YEARS. I wanted to read it and it was the only book I was in the mood for, plus it was under 300 pages long. I blazed through this book in about two sittings and adored it. It was exactly what I needed to get my reading back to normal. It motivated me to finish closer to my goal for the month and hopefully end with 7-8 books read instead. When it comes to reading, I really can’t force specific books or challenges on myself when I’m not in the mood to read. I just need to go back to basics and start a book I *want* to read, no strings attached.
All of that bookish stuff being said, here are some of the ways I hope to simplify my life going forward…
Simplifying My Life
Loosen up the reigns on challenges and TBRs
I signed up for so many challenges this year, as usual, and sometimes it just doesn’t help me read more. I find myself forcing books onto my list just to meet those requirements instead of reading books I actually want to read. I have so many review copies that I’m excited about but I’m constantly behind because I’m squeezing too many other things on my TBR!
I’m not going to force two books for Romanceopoly every single month. I’m going to aim for one if possible, and only if it genuinely makes sense in my TBR. I’ll start rolling the dice a second time to fit a better category. I don’t really care about the rules at this point. As cute as Pondathon was, I ended up stopping it because it was just too much work to update the spreadsheet and calculate points. No harm, no foul.
I’m finding that Calendar of Crime is pretty easy lately because I’m freeing up the categories and always in the mood for a mystery book. If I read two, great, but one per month is the goal. Same is true with my Monthly Key Word Challenge. This one doesn’t need two books per month. The Popsugar challenge actually comes pretty easily right now and I never make TBRs *for* the challenge until the end of the year, when I’m itching to finish it off. The early categories get filled naturally with the books I’m reading.
My biggest challenge so far, challenge-wise, has been my little Rainbow Try a Chapter Unhaul because I just don’t feel motivated to read books on my shelves. Period. I have so many review copies to read that it’s challenging to work on the backlist. I’m going to take two books off the shelf each month and really try to start both of them, but I will not beat myself up over only reading one.
As for review copies, I’m better off being flexible with these too (within reason). My categories work pretty well, where I balance upcoming releases with far-away pub dates that I’m excited about:
This always makes me read at least five review copies per month as well. I’m slowly cranking through! I’m really trying to read some from my backlist too because I’m the worst.
Meal planning and prepwork, grocery budgets, and more on the food side of things
I’ve spoken quiiiiite a bit about grocery shopping, budgets, meal ideas, and general FOODIE things on the blog lately. I did a challenge where I spent only $20-25 per week on groceries while using up my backlog of pantry and freezer items. And I succeeded! I also went ahead and tried a Skinnytaste meal plan for the week to see how that would work in my life.
The meal plans are for one person’s lunch and breakfast each day, but the dinners are for four servings. In a household of two people, this is kind of great. Breakfast can be flexible/freebies depending on our weeks. Lunches can be her ideas and leftovers from dinners. We end up with 24 servings of dinner across 7 days, so we’ll always have things ready to go and be stretched past her “one week” plan!
There are a lot of ways that food-related things can bog people down (myself included) so I wanted to make my life easier overall by doing the classic “meal planning” thing. I want to chop my veggies as needed when I first get them home from the store. I want to wash my fruit and cut the tops off strawberries so I’ll have them ready for snacking. I want to have a day of meal prepping on Saturday or Sunday for the next week’s lunches (and maybe some dinner, depending) and then a little more mid-week as needed too…
Make ready-made snack packs using reusable baggies and plastic Tupperware
Going off of the previous one, it’s been so nice having smoothie packs in the freezer ready to go! Even the spinach goes in there. I just measure my fruit into the bags, add a handful of spinach, and pour the frozen pack into the blender. I pour in my liquid and sometimes add a scoop of yogurt. It makes it so much easier than removing multiple frozen fruit bags from the freezer, measuring them out for my calorie counter, etc.
We also have a lot of nice plastic Tupperware and I’m trying to move into glass ones for our lunches and/or leftovers that need to be heated up. I want to use the plastic ones for snack things and fruit. We’re buying less single-serve bags of snacks and getting big bags of things (we won’t buy snack size Doritos, but a large bag of them, and split them into multiple Tupperware containers or reusable silicone baggies). I’ll be more motivated to eat fruit if it’s washed, cut, prepped, and in a container already.
Buying multiples of my toiletries for the gym
This is kind of a simple one, but it’s helped my life A LOT. I’ve been using the gym about three mornings a week. Since I go before work and it’s only a few minutes from my office, I shower there when I’m done. Buying some duplicates of my makeup and shower stuff has been a lifesaver for me. I don’t have to pack a bag all the time, moving my makeup from one place to another. I just leave it in my bag and keep my other stuff in the cabinet in the bathroom. Yes, it cost more up front, but I plan to rotate things out too. When one of my main cabinet things gets low, I’ll move it to the gym bag to finish it up. I’ll buy things slightly more often but they’re both getting used!