Jun 022010

"Valerie was busy, exceedingly busy, arranging matters, in view of the great change impending." Illustration by Charles Dana Gibson (c. 1911). From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

We are at the mid-point of 2010, which is still hard for me to believe! The school year is almost over and summer vacations are upon us. Given the whirlwind of activity, June seemed like the right month to step back for a moment, reflect on what we have already covered so far and catch up on any lingering projects. I know I have plenty.

While we are reflecting, we are going to address motivation generally, how to stay motivated and more importantly what to do when you have relapsed back into comfortable patterns and you need a boost to get you back on track. We will look at this issue from a variety of perspectives at the business and personal level.

So first, to keep the month on track . . . your Ruly Challenge.

The Challenge: Complete the Ruly Motivation Worksheet, which you can download here. Identify how much “free time” you have this month to accomplish your lingering tasks. Identify from your budget how much “free money” you have. Then, make a list of the items you want to accomplish along with the time or money required for these tasks and your personal level of interest in those tasks. You may wish to revisit your 2010 goals. Rank the final list and come up with an action plan for the month.

The point of the Ruly Challenge this month is not to be superhuman but to give yourself a slight push to use your time more effectively. Don’t overschedule yourself and don’t feel bad if you can’t get to everything. You may discover from this exercise that there are things on your to do list that are realistically never likely to get done. If that is the case, you might need to just let it go, drop it off the list and know for the future that you are unlikely to be successful committing to that type of project. If it is a project that has to get done, come up with an alternative way to accomplish it, perhaps through outsourcing or simplifying and accepting a less perfect solution.

I am going to keep things brief today so you can focus your energies on the worksheet. Please share in the comments the tasks that are bugging you the most or your strategies for getting through a massive to do list.

 Posted by on June 2, 2010 Previews, Ruly Challenge Tagged with: ,
May 312010

Victory Gardens--for family and country. Sunday morning in many U.S. communities finds all the neighbors getting together for a good workout at the community Victory Garden. Through cooperation of local organizations, thousands of vacant lots in thousands of cities are being transformed into fruitful gardens, where everyone from grandpa to the youngster down the block puts in hours of patriotic labor (1943). Photo by Ann Rosener. From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

It’s the end of another month and time to summarize this month’s posts and highlight some of my favorite comments. This month at Ruly we have been discussing strategies to bring more order to your yard and garden. We started off with 5 reasons to love your landscaping.

We covered gardening basics, beginning with knowing how much “free” water (i.e. rain) you receive and selecting native plants that are easier to maintain.

Watering My Garden commented:

i live in rome, italy where the local mains supply is extremely hard alkaline water…collecting and reusing rainwater is essential if i’m to enjoy acid loving plants like gardenias on my terrace!

Isn’t it delightful to know that someone is out there watering gardenias on the terrace in Rome? It makes me smile to think about it.

We also discussed weed prevention strategies including mulching and discussed when there can be too much mulch.

Diadia commented:

The best time to de-weed the garden and yard is right after the rain.
With garden gloves and a dandelion digger and a weed bag, it is fast work.

My four year old now points out all the mulch to me when we are in parking lots at various stores. While driving down one of the main roads in town, I saw this unique mulching technique in the median strip that I thought was rather pretty. The edges of the mulch bed are lined with rocks. It had never occurred to me to use two different types of mulching materials. The designer of this bed cleverly used mulch as a design element.

Median strip using rock edging and organic mulch.

Foraging into landscape design, we discussed evergreen plantings and noted that at least 25% of your plantings should be evergreens but that too many evergreens make a space gloomy and depressing.

We had a fun post on topiary plantings, showing the artistry than can be created by shaping plants.

We gave a quick pruning lesson to spruce up your bushes, shrubs and trees.

We discussed 5 signs of the perfectionist gardener.

Mary commented:

I personally know several garden perfectionists, and I agree, it becomes more stressful than enjoyable. I even have a family member who stays glued to the weather reports so he can fertilize the lawn EVERY time before it rains!!!! And then he grumbles about constantly having to mow it and pay an outrageous water bill so it doesn’t burn up. No fun.

We shared strategies for controlling garden predators like deer, rabbits and birds.

Lou commented:

Best line, ” …if you really want to screen these animals out, you essentially need to fence yourself in!” How true. We once tried crushed garlic to get rid of rabbits and squirrels as we were told they were repelled by the smell. Problem was, so were we!

Danny Stewart-Smith provided a soothing and reflective Ruly Mix to help you relax in your favorite outdoor space.

Ruly Ruth discussed the challenges of adjusting to life in the desert both from a landscaping and quality of life point of view. We also discussed 10 reasons people insist on using grass in the desert. After thinking on this list for a bit I would add two more to the list.

11)  Homeowners Associations. Sometimes planting grass is not a choice and is required by the covenants of those who live in planned communities. In those cases, getting rid of grass requires a concerted effort by the entire community. The political challenges of effecting such a change can be tough.

12) The Man Factor. Historically, men have been in charge of maintaining the yard and garden. There is nothing feminine about grass. It does not flower. It is not a pretty plant that is cut and used in arrangements. It largely requires gasoline-powered tools to cut it. If you had to pick the most manly plant, it would be hard to beat grass. Would men be willing to use the same effort to plant groundcovers or flowering shrubs? Hard to say.

We reviewed James Wong’s clever book, “Grow Your Own Drugs,” providing medicinal uses for common garden plants.

Guest blogger Kathy Jentz of Washington Gardener magazine provided 9 landscaping design suggestions to use instead of turfgrass in your yard.

Finally, I leave you with a Ruly Challenge for the month.  This month’s challenge is an ongoing effort that you don’t need to do right away but can be chipped away at continually:

The Challenge: Locate a list of native plants for your area. Look up pictures of each plant and learn to identify them in the wild spaces near your home. Determine which, if any, of these plants you might like to grow in your own garden.

I am still working through a list of Virginia native plants but it has been a lot of fun to learn to identify some of these plants. I discovered that I really like the Loblolly pine! In addition to having a wonderful name it is also a very interesting pine tree that looks a bit like a cross between a weeping willow and a pine tree. It’s needles are long and a bit shaggy looking. The sensitive plant is also a fun one that closes up its leaves when touched.

I hope that you have enjoyed this month at Ruly and perhaps learned a few tips to organize your yard and garden and keep it looking great. Please check back on Wednesday when we start a new month and a new topic!

I will close noting that today is Memorial Day in the United States, a day to remember those who have lost their lives in military conflicts. Thinking today of all those who were not able to see victory but who made the freedoms we enjoy today possible.

Garden party for wounded soldiers (May 21, 1925) President Coolidge speaking with a wounded soldier in a wheelchair pushed by a nurse in white, as Mrs. Coolidge looks on. From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

 Posted by on May 31, 2010 Monthly Recap, Ruly Challenge Tagged with: ,
Feb 032010

We are having one of the snowiest winters in memory this year in Virginia.  Another 3-ish inches fell last night and more is on the way this weekend.  Having grown up in a wintry state, I am really enjoying all this snow.  It makes the landscape so beautiful and quiet.  For some, the snow causes panic and uncertainty.  Yesterday, having been busy on a project for days and not paying attention to the news, I got up and drove my daughter to preschool only to find the parking lot completely empty. School was closed for the day because of the threat of snow later in the evening.

People from wintry states find Virginia’s response to snow somewhat amusing.  Even the President has remarked that the area could use some “flinty Chicago toughness.”

It is a perfect, still morning to issue the Ruly Challenge for this month.

The Challenge:  Document your perfectionism this month in writing.  Pay attention to the decisions or actions that you have unduly agonized over, the projects you can’t seem to start because you are worried the finished product will not be good enough, and the small details you are fussing over.  For an objective perspective, ask someone close to you to note the projects you seem to have spent too much time on or the ones you can’t seem to start (or finish) to share with you at the end of the month.

At the end of the month, you should have a fairly large list of things.  Some of your items will be things that you perhaps should be a little perfectionist about. Some you might want to think twice about.  The purpose of the challenge is to heighten our awareness of our own perfectionist tendencies.  By the end of the month, you should have learned a bit about how your perfectionism is impacting your relationships with others and how to cope with perfectionist tendencies in yourself and others.

If you would like a Ruly worksheet to guide you in your diary efforts, you can find one here.

With regard to the friend/spouse observation, having just showed the worksheet to my spouse who commented that the worksheet was a “recipe for an argument,” you might want to tell your friend/spouse to keep the observations very specific and limit them to the facts only.  For example, instead of “You spend too much time on your hair.” (a judgment) the observer might write about a specific instance,  “Spent 45 minutes on hairstyle before we could leave for dinner on 2/7.”  (a fact).  As the research subject, develop a little of a thick skin about this.  Pick someone you know has only your best interests at heart and who is allowed to tease you sometimes for your imperfections (and perfections).

Remember to laugh about the items that end up in your diary.  They are not things that should make us feel bad about ourselves but insights into the lovable neuroses that we have.  It’s OK to say, “I am completely neurotic about _____ and I always will be.”  It is helpful for you to recognize this and be able to laugh about it.  It is helpful for others to know it too so they can adjust their response appropriately.

Game for the challenge?  Who will you select as your observer?  Please share in the comments.

 Posted by on February 3, 2010 Ruly Challenge Tagged with: ,
Jan 292010

Is it just me or is it unbelievable that it is already the end of January!   This month at Ruly we focused on goals and goal-setting strategies.  We learned from a variety of voices about how to set and achieve goals, summarized below:

Ruly also provided some helpful tips and advice:

We also discussed the Haiti earthquake and reviewed emergency preparedness and disaster survival strategies.  The situation in Haiti continues to bring both positive and negative updates.  Heartbreaking stories of amputations, food and water shortages and orphaned children abound.  But there are positive stories of survival as well.  I could not believe the CNN video below of a young boy pulled from the rubble after 8 days.

As proof that miracles do happen, The Washington Post reported just yesterday that a teenage girl was pulled from the rubble alive after 15 days without food or water!

The Ruly Challenge

Since we are closing out one month and preparing for another, the one thing we have not yet discussed is The Ruly Challenge.  This month, it seemed most appropriate to set The Ruly Challenge at the end of the month.  Armed with knowledge of goal setting techniques, this month’s challenge should hardly be a surprise.

The Challenge: Identify your goals for 2010.  Write them down and post them somewhere you will see them frequently.

Perhaps you will reaffirm a New Year’s Resolution, or perhaps now that the rosy shine of the new year has dimmed a bit, you might revisit what is achievable given the reality of your everyday life. Your goals might be a small rather than grand–something you have a decent chance of actually achieving come December 31.

For myself, I plan to set goals in the following categories:

  • Fun
  • Health
  • Finance
  • Relationships
  • Organization

I hope that you do set organizational goals for yourself.  Rather than a broad, general goal like “Be more organized,” break it down into something small, specific and objective, like “Clean out the linen closet.” My goal for Ruly in 2010 is to help you implement organization, timesaving and stress reduction strategies in at least 3 areas of your life.  Of course, I hope that you will find much more than 3 but 3 is my target.  If there are specific areas that you are looking for help in, please share in the comments and I will see what I can do.

On Monday, we start a new month with a new theme.  Please check back then to see.  Today is the last day to receive a Ruly thank you note for your comments by e-mailing your address to info@beruly.com.  I will be practicing a resolution this weekend by sending out my thank you notes.  I continue to be impressed by the comments.  I read them all and thank you for adding life to Ruly and teaching me as well.

Have a great weekend!

 Posted by on January 29, 2010 Monthly Recap, Ruly Challenge Tagged with: , , ,
Nov 042009

This month’s Ruly Challenge will give you back precious space, put money in your wallet, save the planet and perhaps allow you to shed a few pounds too! Intrigued?  Read on!

When I opened my own pantry last week, I found it was so jammed that I could hardly fit in the new groceries.  Taking a hard look at what was in the pantry, I decided it was time to reduce and become more streamlined.

The Challenge: To the best of your ability, aim to subsist on nothing but the current food stores in your pantry and refrigerator/freezer.  Eat as many meals as you can from the ingredients you already have, purchasing as little as possible.  Clean out your refrigerator and freezer and unclutter your fridge doors.

Food waste is a serious problem in the United States.  The issue has been researched and documented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Due to the perishable nature of food, there are losses throughout the food production and distribution cycle but the largest percentage of losses occur at the consumer level.

“In 1994, the food supply provided an estimated 3,800 calories per person per day, enough to supply every American with more than one and a half times their average daily energy needs. Given this abundance, few of the Nation’s resources have traditionally been devoted to measuring or reducing food waste. . . . From foods forgotten and spoiled in the refrigerator to the uneaten vegetables tossed in the garbage, consumer and foodservice food waste is the single largest source of food loss in the marketing chain. Estimated at 91 billion pounds, this food loss accounted for 26 percent of the edible food available for human consumption in 1995.”

Estimating and Addressing America’s Food Losses,” Food Review, January – April 1997

Tim Jones, a professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona, has spent decades going through people’s garbage to determine the truth about our consumption and waste patterns. Professor Jones estimates that each household wastes 14% of their food purchases, throwing away at least $590 per year.

“[F]ruits and vegetables are the single biggest category of wasted food. . . ‘[T]hat’s what healthy people do, right? They eat lots of fruits and vegetables. So they buy those, usually on a Sunday, let’s say. And then all week long they get home from work, tired, they have prepared foods that they do have. And finally the next weekend when they get around to finally having some time, let’s say on Saturday, and they go in there and open it up and most of it’s already mush.’”

Anthropologist Suggests Ways to Stop Wasting Food,” National Public Radio, November 27, 2006

“Cutting food waste would also go a long way toward reducing serious environmental problems. Jones estimates that reducing food waste by half could reduce adverse environmental impacts by 25 percent through reduced landfill use, soil depletion and applications of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.”

Study: Nation Wastes Nearly Half Its Food,’ The University of Arizona, UA News, November 18, 2004

Growing up, I watched my Depression-era grandmothers save or freeze every morsel of food they prepared or were served.  They took leftovers home from restaurants before it was popular to do so and cringed if you didn’t eat everything on your plate.  Nothing was wasted.  As someone who has never known hunger, I found this behavior odd.

We are now so far away from this parsimonious food strategy.  It is so easy to buy food in huge quantities cheaply and just throw away what we don’t want or need. The Ruly Challenge this month asks us to step back for a moment and think about what we really do eat in a month.

If you only purchased what you truly would eat (and a little more for emergency storage), how much money might you save?  Would your waistline also benefit? Would you make better shopping choices in the future?  Will you learn something about yourself and evaluate the goals you have for yourself with regard to eating versus the reality of what you actually consume?

As for me, all of the excess staples and impulse food buys over the past months are now waiting for my family’s consumption.  So far, I have eaten breakfast from the pantry (oatmeal) and have made several lunches and dinners from the fridge and freezer.  Accomplishing this challenge requires some creativity.  We all get into standard patterns of eating (cereal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, etc.).  To use up your food supply, you will need to change your eating patterns and perhaps invent new recipes. (I had a yummy smoothie yesterday blending together orange juice concentrate, frozen blackberries, a tube of Go-Gurt, water and ice.)

At the end of the month, if there is something you still have not touched, it is time to decide whether it gets thrown out, donated to a food charity, friends or family or gets to stay.

Of course, I expect you to deviate from the plan for Thanksgiving meal preparations but in this regard, be thoughtful about how much you are preparing and have a plan to use all the leftovers.  Use Thanksgiving as a feast to reward yourself for your discipline and reflect on those who may not have such luxuries.

Finally, at the end of the month when your food supply is down to a minimal level, clear out your refrigerator and freezer, wash the inside and outside of your fridge and, if your fridge is covered in magnets, photos and other “stuff” decide which objects get to stay on the fridge and which can be tossed or preserved elsewhere.

In the business context, you could adapt these strategies to the office kitchen.  How much food and snacks that you are paying to provide are your employees actually consuming?  Have you built up a stockpile of coffee to last you the next year?  Would it be worthwhile to do a quick survey to see what people are eating/drinking and what is just going to waste?

The challenge this time is a bit tougher than last time.  I suppose the shortcut version is just to toss out a bunch of food at the end of the month but that isn’t really the point if you do that all the time anyway.  I encourage you to make at least a small effort.  Please feel free to post comments on your progress and creative recipes along the way!

Bon Appetit!

 Posted by on November 4, 2009 Ruly Challenge Tagged with: , ,