A Formula for Decision-Making Without Anxiety

In business (and life), it’s easy to start overanalyzing when you’re making a critical decision or trying to plan your next steps. This often yields more stress than answers. A four-step process can help you find your answer without thinking yourself in circles. 

1) Gather all the information.

You may be tempted to come to a conclusion as soon as you are faced with a question. Oftentimes, this backfires. If you try to find answers before gathering all the information, you might wind up rethinking your decision at a later date when new information pops up.

Much of the time we don’t even know what information is out there to gather. If it feels like you are faced with an impossible decision, you may not have gathered all the information. Talk to your contacts. Make contacts who will talk to you. Ask questions. Ask broad questions if you don’t know where to begin, just to get people talking. You’ll probably be surprised by how much you’ll learn just by letting people talk.

2) Stop listening to people.

At some point you will have gathered so much information that it feels like there is simply no more room for mental input. If, when you talk to people, you are finding that you are analyzing their information based on your other research and forming confident opinions about it, you’ve probably gathered enough information. It’s time to stop listening to people when they start telling you what you should be doing, because you now have enough information to decide for yourself.

3) Think for yourself.

Think time is important. Sort through the information you’ve gathered without trying to form a conclusion. Mentally eliminate any information that doesn’t mesh with your goals. It’s likely that before you start actively thinking about everything you’ve learned, you will have already started synthesizing in the back of your mind. The decision-making process will feel less fraught with anxiety and mental blocks if you give yourself space to process independently.

4) Talk to people about your decision.

Once you’ve organized your thoughts and have a general direction, talk to people again. This group of people might include family, friends, and trusted advisors who have your best interests at heart. Present the information you’ve gathered and communicate how it informed your decision. Then listen to the opinions of others. Consider all advice alongside the results of your own think time.

You may be surprised by how naturally you reach a decision after following these steps.

– The Editors

The Truth About Pasta

On the heels of the low-carb diet emerged the gluten-free fad. Pasta, which is generally made with wheat flour, was widely deemed “bad.” Now some are advocating that pasta is actually good for you, despite the widespread avoidance of it. So which is it?

Foods themselves are neither “good” nor “bad.” In the case of pasta, it’s the way — and amount — of pasta that is eaten that is generally not healthy. For example, in the United States, the portions of pasta consumed are much larger than those consumed in Italy. What Americans might think of as the size of a side dish or appetizer, Italians would consider an entire portion. Is a controlled portion of pasta bad? No. But heaping, extra-large portions of pasta is certainly not good.

The way pasta is prepared can help determine how healthful it is. Large bowls of pasta topped with heavy alfredo or another cream-based sauce is not uncommon in the United States. This type of sauce adds large amounts of fat and salt to the pasta dish. In Italy, pasta is more often prepared with vegetables or black beans — a combination that provides a substantial amount of folate as opposed to alfredo’s fat contribution.

Pasta, when prepared the right way, can be an excellent source of carbohydrate. Diets that eliminate carbohydrate (or fat) deprive the body of an essential macronutrient. The body needs to take in enough carbohydrate so that body proteins are not broken down to satisfy glucose or energy needs. However, excess dietary carbohydrate alters the body’s fuel preferences to burning more carbohydrates and less fatty acids. Thus dietary fat accumulates in body fat stores. To put it simply, carbohydrates are needed in moderation. So, while that family-sized helping of fettuccine alfredo might not be the best idea, it’s not the pasta that should be reconsidered — it’s what it’s paired with and the portion.

There are many people who need to follow a gluten-free diet for medical reasons, and there are many people who choose to follow a gluten-free diet because they believe that it is healthier. This is not necessarily the case. Being gluten-free doesn’t mean being pasta-free, or low-carb, or low-fat. There are plenty of gluten-free foods available such as bread, pasta, and cakes that contain just as much carbohydrate, fat, and sugar as their gluten-containing counterparts. Being gluten-free doesn’t automatically mean being healthy — though it can, depending on the approach.

If someone who has been known to eat a box of cookies in one sitting adopts a gluten-free diet and does not replace the consumption of gluten-containing cookies with gluten-free cookies, that person may indeed lose excess body fat. Reducing excess body fat reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Is this person healthier because she is gluten-free? No — it’s because she stopped eating cookies.

Being healthy isn’t about demonizing and avoiding certain foods. The body likes balance. When more energy is consumed than is needed (i.e., when pasta is eaten in larger portions than necessary), the body is considered to have a positive energy balance, meaning the surplus energy (pasta) is stored as fat and glycogen (energy reserves). When less energy is consumed than needed, the body has a negative energy balance. The body uses glycogen and fat stores to provide energy, and body weight drops. Energy equilibrium is the goal: a balance of energy intake and expenditure. Controlling portion size, exercising, and choosing healthful food combinations are key to releasing foods like pasta from being labeled “bad” or “forbidden.” Despite its reputation, it is indeed possible to consume pasta while maintaining health. It’s how we choose to eat that pasta that is critical to balanced health.

– The Editors

To Have A Life, Automate Your Life

I thought I had reached wardrobe equilibrium the last time I cleaned out my closet. Apparently not. As I filled the second bag with clothes to give away, I wondered how I still had so much.

How had I accumulated all these shoes? How many shirts do I really need? How many more times will I edit my closet before I actually reach wardrobe equilibrium?

The problem, I realized, was that my wardrobe seemed to be connected in a strange way to my work: The more projects I had on my plate, the more streamlined I was trying to make my life outside of work. This meant being able to go into my closet and pick out anything knowing that it would be appropriate, look good, and reflect my style without wasting any thoughts on it. My closet editing wasn’t just about getting rid of things—it was about my ability to work efficiently, which meant minimizing the attention paid to anything external.

Here are a few ways you can streamline your life outside of work so you can actually have the life you want outside of work.

1) Unsubscribe from all emails.

A few weeks ago I expressed to a friend my shock at how many emails I had received overnight. I was surprised when he replied, “How many of them were newsletters?”

As much as it would be nice to think that for every ten emails I receive only one needs an actual reply, I am subscribed to precisely zero newsletters. When I do receive one that I haven’t actually subscribed to, I unsubscribe immediately before deleting.

If you find yourself deleting newsletters, offers, etc. every morning because you are overwhelmed by their existence, start unsubscribing. Keep a reading list instead. It is possible to keep your inbox manageable if you opt out of all the excess.

2) Eat the same thing.

If you have a good variety of foods in your rotation, you won’t get sick of them, you won’t miss out on things you need, and you won’t spend time wondering what to eat.

You can be flexible even if you prepare your meals in advance like I do. Have everything chopped, sliced, and cooked for the week so that you can mix things as you feel like having them.

Spend some time figuring out what you need in your diet, and what is important to you (Free-range, vegetarian fed chicken? Milk from growth hormone-free cows? Soy-free everything?) and find brands that match your values. You can clean up your schedule and your diet at the same time.

3) Stick to your routine.

If you leave room for decisions during the day, you are likely to waffle. Have a morning and an evening routine.

If you have tea every night before you brush your teeth, wash your face, and lay out your clothes, you will waste less time than if you decide to brush your teeth at some point before you go to bed while walking back and forth to see snippets of the show you don’t really care about on TV.

Just know that for ten minutes every night after tea, you brush your teeth, wash your face, and lay out your clothes, and there will be no thought wasted about how you are too tired to do any of it and just want to watch TV. Procrastination has never been good for the time-conscious.

4) Edit your wardrobe.

You make enough decisions during the day. Do you really want to stare at a bunch of clothes that don’t really look good together, and don’t really look good on you?

You don’t need a lot of clothes, you just need the right clothes. If you have an outfit that you only wear on days you want to look your best, get more clothes like that. You should aim to look your best every day, and looking your best shouldn’t take a lot of brainpower. Find what works and do it more. Get rid of the rest.

It doesn’t mean having a boring closet—it means being excited about what you’re wearing each day. It also doesn’t mean wearing the same thing every day so you don’t have to think about it. If you can pick out anything and know it is a good choice, no thinking is required.

5) Go paperless.

This is good for so many reasons. Aside from the ink cartridges and paper saved, you won’t have stacks of papers waiting to be filed, or unopened mail burdening your soul. While you should keep a copy of certain important documents, you should also keep your paperwork to a minimum.

There are few legitimate reasons to have twelve filing cabinets full of papers you haven’t seen in twenty years—and when you go looking for the one you do need, how much time do you spend trying to find it?

Often we are faced with a task that makes us wish we had an assistant. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone could pay our bills, bringing us a stack of checks already filled out that just need to be reviewed and signed?

Even if there is no assistant to delegate to, you can still “delegate” to a third party by setting all your bills to autopay. You should still check them for errors as they come in, but you can save a lot of time by just monitoring.

Same thing for grocery shopping. Sure there are some things that you may want to buy fresh, but for the most part, grocery delivery services are a great way to save yourself time.

You’ll need to do some research up front to find one that fits what you are looking for, but it will pay off. Plus, if you eat the same thing, your orders will start to look the same (with a few tweaks to keep it interesting), and you can reorder without even needing to create a new shopping list.

Some of these things may not seem like they are even worth a second thought. That’s exactly the point—they’re not. Automate as much as possible so that you can focus on things that are worth your attention, and you might even find that you have—gasp—downtime.

– Kaitlin Puccio

How To Reach Your Personal Goals When You Have Zero Time

No matter how productive you are at work, you might feel stagnant. If you’re burning out, the things you once loved doing might start to feel like another thing on your To Do list. You might be too exhausted by the end of the week to spend thirty minutes learning Spanish—especially because it requires mental effort and discipline. But then you might become frustrated that you’re not improving your language skills. You start to feel down—just as another email comes in.

While it may seem counterintuitive, when you have absolutely no spare time there are a few things you might need to add to your schedule. Yes, you may need to add to your overload to give yourself a break—but don’t add just to add. Follow these three steps to do it right.

Step One: Find a mindless hobby.

You’ll want to find a hobby that is engaging enough to keep you from thinking about all the work you’re not doing, but which doesn’t require mental energy. It should be something entirely different from what you work on all day. It should also be something that isn’t a huge time commitment. Until you’ve gotten things under control, you probably really don’t have time to commit, and choosing a mindless hobby that requires a solid hour on a Wednesday night could lead to abandoning the process altogether.

My mindless hobby is baking. This is not the time to create new recipes or take on a daunting new kind of cake that requires beating eggs three different ways. When I bake to give myself a rest, I follow a simple recipe that keeps my hands busy and my mind free. The oven does most of the work. Sometimes I get creative with the decorating, but most of the time I make something that doesn’t require a lot of prep or clean up—because who has time for that?

The key here is to use what little downtime you have to give yourself an actual break—and don’t feel guilty about being mindless instead of learning Spanish. This is only step one.

Step Two: Work efficiently.

If your mindless hobby did its job, you’ll feel like you’ve gotten a decent mental break. Getting back to work will be slightly easier with a clearer, refreshed head. Luckily, finding those first thirty minutes was the hardest part.

After stepping back from work, you’ll be able to refocus and work more efficiently. You will find that your work performance gets better after having time away. Greater efficiency over time will lead to more mindless hobbying, which will lead to greater mental clarity and efficiency. One way to focus yourself: If you think a task will take you one hour to complete, give yourself thirty minutes to complete it. Keep working on the task with the same amount of focus until it’s complete after thirty minutes, and you’ll probably find that you don’t need the full hour.

Will you be able to take on the job of three people in the first week? No. It’s a process. But it’s a process that benefits from the snowball effect, and if you stick with it, you’ll find that you have time and energy for that language textbook/dust collector.

Step Three: Realize your ultimate goal.

You’ve been baking up a storm, giving top performance at work, and feel less mentally bogged down overall. But when will you finally stop feeling stagnant? Wade through the spiderwebs on that Spanish book. It’s time.

Start with fifteen minutes. It’s a short amount of time, so you might not think you can get anything done in fifteen minutes. You can. The short time period will focus you right away, and your mind won’t wander because every minute counts.

Plus, if you are mentally drained, fifteen minutes won’t seem like such a tall order. Starting is the hardest. Thinking about starting makes starting even harder. Don’t waste mental energy thinking about what you’re not doing and how much you want to do it.

Adopting a mindless hobby will give you mental space that will allow you to approach work differently, and will leave you with enough time and energy to incorporate into your schedule something that will make you feel less stagnant. Adding the right things to your full schedule can reduce your burnout and help you reach your goals.

– Kaitlin Puccio

8 Reasons Why I Wake Up With The Sun

Yes, I am still in my twenties and I live in a city where a night out starts around midnight. But by midnight on a Friday, after a standard week of the sunrise doubling as my alarm clock, I’m tired. Here are a few reasons why “early to bed, early to rise” works best for me.

1) Waking up with the sun doesn’t feel early to me.
Waking up well before the sun would be waking up early. I prefer to leap out of bed as soon as the sun begins to cut through the last bits of nighttime navy.

2) The time I wake up seems very natural — both on a social level and on a personal level, even though it may seem early to some.
If I wake up at 7 a.m., I don’t feel like I woke up early. If I go outside for a run then, there will be other people on the sidewalks — and I don’t wonder why they’re awake.

The best time is when I am the only person on the sidewalk. It provides much-needed me-time and mental respite, which is necessary for both creativity and top-notch execution of my work for the day. And if I accomplish something — a workout, foreign language practice, writing — before the sun has a chance to fully rise, it makes for a great start to my day.

3) I feel more rested when I wake up early and need less sleep overall.
Whenever I go to sleep very late, no matter how long I sleep the next day, I don’t feel rested. It could be that if I wake up at 10am, I’m interrupting my sleep in the wrong place. It could be that because I’ve stayed up later, I grew even more tired, and need even more sleep to recover.

4) I am more productive in the morning.
I like to wake up and start the day immediately, which allows me to get a lot done in a few hours before the workday begins. My standard workday is very long, but after a full and fruitful day I can wind down in the evenings, as opposed to winding up before bed to finish what’s on my plate and then struggling to shut off my mind and get to sleep.

5) Waking up early in the morning sets me on the right path.
If I wake up late, I feel like I’ve lost the day. Especially if emails have already started coming in. Yes, I get emails overnight, but unless they’re urgent, I reply to them with the batch of emails that starts rolling in at 9 a.m. And as soon as emails start, my workday starts — which means it will be hard to find time to break away from my responsibilities to workout or do any of my usual early-morning tasks.

I feel ready and excited to start the day when I’m up early — I suspect partially because watching the sun come up motivates me. The other day I replied to my overnight emails first thing in the morning — which I usually don’t do — and thought, “What are you doing? You’re missing the sunrise!” This small inconsistency in my schedule threw me off, and I felt like I was running behind for the rest of the day.

6) There are less interruptions.
I am sure you’ve read this one before. In my case, there are less interruptions partly because others aren’t around in the early morning to distract me, and partly because I give myself permission to ignore non-urgent responsibilities until 8 a.m. — and after 11 p.m.

I need to implement boundaries in order to prevent myself from being consumed with my work. I also try to respect other people’s boundaries, and not call too early on a Monday morning (I know it’s prime settling-in time) or send emails late on a Sunday evening.

I may be alone in my thinking, but I can be just as efficient and productive if I remember that the people with whom I am communicating are people with lives, families, and hobbies.

Yes we are all busier these days, and some things simply can’t be avoided (work comes first!). But my brand is not just about what I can produce — it’s about respecting those around me and their need for down time in order to rev up (indeed, improving their quality of work); and simple, old-fashioned consideration (I still actively avoid making dinnertime calls — only for about an hour — even though I know most people are still in the office at dinnertime and not actually having dinner with their families).

And guess what? My work doesn’t suffer for it. Where the lines cross between a healthy sense of immediacy and respecting other people’s time is the apex of efficiency.

7) I enjoy the daylight.
I tend to enjoy daytime activities more than nighttime activities, so I don’t feel like I miss out on things that happen at night. I like to be active all day and then quiet down at night. Once it starts to get dark, I shift gears. And it’s not as if I never go out at night. I’ll just go to the 8 p.m. show instead of the 10 p.m. show.

This is only true for my day-to-day work, and does not apply to special events, occasions, bookings, performances, etc. I am always eager to participate in those at any time of the day or night, because I am in a different mindset when those things are happening (I suppose it’s inertia).

But if there is a week during which I am scheduled to be mostly in my apartment writing or working on a new product, my schedule is much more strict — it’s more “corporate” in a way because of the type of work I’m required to do that week — and I certainly don’t want to be writing at 11 p.m. if I can be writing at 11 a.m. instead.

8) I eat better.
Getting out of bed early in the morning means that I’ve started my day accomplishing something that I wanted to accomplish. My next accomplishment is eating a healthy breakfast. Quickly these little accomplishments add up, and soon I start to see it as a running streak of positive things that I don’t want to break.

Does this mean I never eat chocolate? No. But it does mean that I eat more vegetables and don’t eat right before bed — and if I do eat that chocolate, I eat a reasonably-sized portion instead of a double. All these things combined, and their physical and mental impact, contributes to my effectiveness during work hours.

None of this means that I never stay out late. I’ve worked straight through the night and into the next day plenty of times. It happens, things come up. Last year I was working with an illustrator based in New Zealand and a newspaper in England. I would be awake very early in the morning for England and up very late at night for New Zealand. It was an odd schedule for me, but it was necessary, and I adapted.

However, I won’t often choose to stay out until 1 a.m. doing something I am only half interested in, because it takes a lot for my body to get back on track. I suppose I’m in the habit of waking up early. It’s hard to make a habit, but so cruelly easy to break one — and snowball into breaking two.

Whenever the situation allows I wake up early, and get to bed early (not single-digits early, but early enough). Friends have expressed how they see it as unusual for me to head home at 11 p.m. when they’re just about to head out — but I don’t. To me it seems perfectly natural. And really — it’s not as though I’m waking up at 4 a.m. everyday. That would be early.

– Kaitlin Puccio

How My Schedule Expands My Comfort Zone

Having a schedule and sticking to it makes it possible for me to fit in everything I need to accomplish. I have daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly tasks. Knowing that these are things that must be done routinely takes away any decision-making that might sap my energy.

Should I run this morning? If I asked myself that every morning, I’m sure I would convince myself that this morning is not the morning to run—and then I’d regret it for the rest of the day. Putting it on the schedule eliminates the decision. I will run in the morning. End.

It may seem like having a strict schedule leaves no room for down time or spontaneity. This isn’t true. On the contrary, having a set amount of hours that I devote to a specific task leaves more hours open than I’d have if I kind of worked on something for oh, an hour or so, maybe with a snack break, so then maybe an hour and a half because I stopped for a snack.

It might also seem that having a set routine doesn’t allow for new experiences. That’s exactly why leaving room for down time, or “flex” hours, as I call them, is important. If something new and exciting comes up, I try it.

Sure, I might need to swap two hours of writing for two hours of flex time, but a swap doesn’t mean I eliminate writing that day. Having a malleable routine is crucial to expanding my comfort zone and experiencing new things. It’s a discipline, but it’s important to leave room for the oddballs in your schedule.

Personally, I don’t like to be unprepared or faced with the unfamiliar. If I never ventured into new territories, however, I would be extremely limited. Does this sound familiar?: A new opportunity will arise, whether work-related, social, or personal like a new dance class, and you excitedly put it on your calendar. Maybe it’s two weeks away.

The day before it happens, you wonder why you decided to do it, perhaps looking at how much other work you have to do that week. The day of, you think about what you would be doing if you hadn’t agreed to do it. But since it’s on your calendar, and you have already committed to it, you stop thinking about it and do it. Afterward, you are happy that you did it, had a great time doing it, and want to do it again. This has certainly happened to me.

So why is it necessary to put things on the calendar in order to make them happen? Because trying new things is a discipline. Walking into a room full of strangers and striking up a conversation is a discipline. Stepping out of that ever-small comfort zone is a discipline. But the more it’s done, the more natural it becomes.

These days, if I don’t do at least two things per week that are unfamiliar or out of the norm for me, it feels strange. It’s become a habit to expand my boundaries, and it enriches every aspect of my life. I may not want to do something, but I know that it’s the one thing that I don’t do that will be the thing that would have made all the difference.

– Kaitlin Puccio

How To Make Travel Less Stressful By Reconsidering Your Luggage

Travel is often associated with stress. Anticipating the mound of work emails waiting for you upon your return, making sure you don’t forget to pack your swimsuit for the beach, TSA (enough said).

But traveling for a vacation should be exciting rather than taxing. Although many factors contribute to the complete de-stressment of travel, overhauling your relationship with one simple element can bring much of the fun back into vacation before even walking through the airport body scanner (now there’s a good time).

Luggage. A symbol of travel. An indicator of status. A small piece of the ultimate jet set lifestyle. And sometimes, your biggest foe.

Whether your luggage never seems to be the right size or have wheels that actually roll, it’s a necessary part of most vacations. It is the start and the end to vacations. And though it may not be immediately obvious, it plays a huge role in how you feel about your trip.

So if you find yourself saying that you need a vacation after your vacation, repair your relationship with your luggage in four simple steps.

Step 1: Find the bag.

If you look at your luggage as a necessary byproduct of travel rather than an accessory—as you would a handbag or briefcase—it’s time for new luggage. You’d probably rather spend your money on the vacation than the luggage, right? Good luggage doesn’t have to be expensive. Say you live in a big city. Stay in two Fridays in a row instead of taking a cab, eating out, buying drinks, and you can save up more than half the cost of a decent bag.

It’s important to find a good luggage that you’ll be proud to walk around with. If you own a pair of jeans that fits you perfectly, you probably want to wear them all the time. Similarly, if your luggage fits you perfectly, you’ll want to travel more. The excitement of travel will return, overriding the anxiety.

What is the ideal luggage? Eventually, you’ll want a matching set: big bags, small bags, bags inside of bags (e.g. cosmetics bags). Many companies offer classic collections that never change, so you can keep adding pieces as you need them without winding up with mismatched suitcases.

Start with two basics: a small bag for weekend trips and a larger one for longer travel. Preferably something small enough so that it doesn’t need to be checked (unless you’re traveling for weeks at a time, in which case you’ll need a bigger bag no matter how small you can roll your T-shirts). But make sure it’s a bag that wouldn’t cause you to shed tears if you do need to check it and consequently spot it being tossed around like a leafy salad.

Your luggage should look professional in case you wind up traveling with your colleagues for business, but it should also reflect your sense of style. Do you want to look sleek and savvy? Then your luggage should, too.

Neither women nor men need a luggage the size of a draft horse in order to fit everything (see step 2). Navigating your luggage shouldn’t make you feel clumsy. Vacations should make you feel good. If you anticipate struggling with your luggage, it’s not the luggage for you.

Step 2: Fill the bag.

While effective, there is more to packing than rolling clothes. When packing for a vacation, you’ll probably want to pull out all those clothes that you never wore that would be perfect for a European vacation or trip to Napa. To achieve this dream of the perfect wine-tasting outfit, you need to be able to see what you have.

If the space around you is organized and clean before you start throwing clothes onto your bed to pack, you’ll find that you’ll be less stressed. Decluttering your packing space will declutter your mind. You’ll be able to see exactly what you’re bringing, won’t forget things, and will probably realize that you’re packing entirely too many pairs of pants for one week. So, before unloading your closet, tidy up your room. That way you’ll know that whatever is out is what you’re packing.

Closet-to-luggage packing almost guarantees that you will overpack. Tried and true packing strategies such as choosing a color theme and bringing two shirts for every pair of pants won’t work if you don’t remember what you’ve already packed.

It’s not usually ideal to second-guess yourself, but it’s almost always necessary to do so when it comes to packing. How many times have you returned from a trip with entire outfits that you never wore? It’s wasted, weighty space. Travel light and you’ll feel light. Hauling heavy baggage on vacation—or anywhere—is something you can and should avoid by laying it all out beforehand.

Step 3: Unpack the bag.

Returning from a trip can be depressing. Returning to a clean house is less depressing. Waking up to an already unpacked luggage can be positively heartening—especially if you’re going straight back to work. Nothing can unravel leftover vacation bliss like digging desperately through your luggage for your toothbrush five minutes before you need to leave for work.

Most times the return trip feels long and tiring. By the time you’re home, all you want to do is put your feet up, or maybe go straight to bed. The good news is that it will take you no time at all to unpack, and you might sleep better knowing it’s done.

If you’ve packed correctly, your clothes will all be dirty. Straight into the laundry bin! Your cosmetics and/or toiletries will all be together in a little case that you can take straight into the bathroom—because after a flight, even if you do just want to go right to bed, you’ll want to wash the plane air off your face.

What’s left? Your phone charger, maybe some books or magazines, a few other random items, but not much. And why leave your beloved luggage lying in the middle of your bedroom floor because of a few leftovers? Take care of them right away, and you can be completely unpacked in five minutes.

Plus, you came home to a clean house, right? No reason to mess it as soon as you walk in the door. You can extend your mental vacation by a few hours if you don’t start cluttering right away or adding useless items to your to-do list like “unpack luggage.”

Step 4: Store the bag.

Even if you purchased a piece of luggage that you really love the look of, it will probably wind up in the back of a closet next to your yoga mat and other things that don’t always look excellent lying around an apartment.

But now that you’ve invested in it, it requires a space of its own where it can remain in good condition, with the rest of the set, and ready for its next use. Unless you’re really tight on space, don’t store things in it or on top of it. If you store things inside, the next time you go to use it, you’ll need to empty it first. Then you have random items sitting around your apartment, and you’ve added a step to the packing process.

If you store things on top of it, as silly as it seems, you’ll get frustrated every time you reach for your luggage and need to move things to get to it. Remember: viewing your luggage in a positive light will help keep your vacations relaxing rather than stressful.

The benefits of keeping your luggage storage space clean and clear extends beyond eliminating frustrations. Picture your luggage, which you are proud to own, piled high with other stray items from your life. And then picture it without the excess, neatly standing on its own in an uncluttered corner of your closet. The first image is a natural stressor.

This applies to anything that you keep in your closets. Just because the items in your closets are behind closed doors doesn’t mean that your mind won’t see through those doors and dwell on the disorganization.

When you love what’s inside your closets instead of just using your closets as receptacles for things you don’t want seen or don’t know what else to do with, you’ll feel better. You’ll use what you have because you’ll actually know what you have. Use more of what you have, and have less of what you don’t use.

– The Editors

3 Tips For Cleaning Out Clothes and Books

Two things I tend to accumulate most are clothing and books. Having so many of each doesn’t fit well with my personality—I prefer to be more minimalist. I would rather own a few that I really love than own a whole pile that is just okay. But since I love both fashion and books, I find it hard to let go. There is a lot of literature on how to clear out clutter, and I’ve certainly tried many tactics. Here are three tips for cleaning out and maintaining both bookshelves and closets that work for me.

1) First, ask yourself if you love it.


If you hold a book in your hands and remember how the last time you held it in your hands was the fifth time you read it, it’s probably a favorite that you’ll read again and again throughout your life. The great thing about books is that the good ones aren’t over after you’ve finished reading the last page. Every time you read a good book you will gain something new from it. Identify these books and keep them.

Clothes (and shoes and accessories):

There may be clothes in your closet that you love but never wear because you love them. It may seem strange, but I’ve done this before. I will buy a dress that I think is untouchable, so it sits sadly in my closet getting wrinkled, it’s gleaming title of “favorite dress” draped glumly across its hanger. Don’t just keep these. If they’re still a favorite, wear them.

2) Focus on what to keep, not what to give up.


It’s hard for me to get rid of books, even if I didn’t like them or know I’m not going to read them again (or ever). But I had so many books that I wasn’t reading any that I really wanted to read. I acquired books from work, friends, family, etc. So I made a list of all the books that I owned, then identified the books that I was excited to read and would buy right then if I didn’t have it already. I kept those books, started reading them, and sold the rest. If I ever want to read a book that I sold, I consult my list, and find it in the library.


It will be hard when you come across clothes that you recall excitedly buying and see that the tags are still on. It makes sense to think that if you haven’t worn it yet, you never will. Before convincing yourself to say “Farewell fair fabric,” consider whether you never wore it because your closet is jammed full with clothes that you do wear, but don’t like. Once you get rid of things you don’t actually want to wear, the things that you do will appear. If you want to keep something, keep it. It’s the other things that need tossing.

I may not be sure if I want to get rid of something, but I’m always sure if I want to keep something. If I vacillate at all, it goes. It seems to me that when I ask myself if I want to get rid of something, I lean toward keeping it. But when I ask myself if I want to keep something, my answer seems more objective.

3) Clean out in layers.


The first book that I decided to sell was a big step. It took days for me to choose one. As soon as I decided to sell it, the sell pile grew to about 100 books in three minutes. I had to break through the keep-all-books inertia. But after 100 books, the momentum stopped. I had gotten rid of the books that I definitely didn’t want on my shelves.

But there were still books that I didn’t definitely want to keep, but didn’t definitely want to give away. I took a break, then went back at it for round two. This time I was in a different mindset. I was dealing with a different category of books—a second layer. I considered each book. If it wasn’t a definite keep—for whatever reason—it went.


In times of stress or extreme change, I tend to clean my closet. Sometimes that means cleaning out, and sometimes that means just rearranging, refolding, and neatening. It gives my hands something to do while my mind clears itself and rests. This means that nothing in my closet goes untouched or unnoticed for years at a time, even if it just gets moved around. Anything with irreparable holes gets weeded out.

I infrequently buy new clothes because I only buy things that I love (not so easy to find!). When I do buy a new piece, I take an inventory of the existing pieces in my closet. I’ll quickly notice the shirts that look old, the jeans that are frayed, and the shoes that are clearly worn out. It looks shocking compared to my new wardrobe piece. Those items are immediately removed from my closet, and I’ll take note of what I need to replace, such as a black sweater. Maybe a few days later I’ll return to my closet, motivated by my miniature clean-out, and go through the rest. Round two: the not-so-obviously clutter.

Very infrequently do I need to do an intense belongings-purge. I simply don’t have a lot of room to begin with. But I do find that I can keep a surprising amount of clothing and books in a small space, and applying these three tips has helped me stay on top of my accumulation rather than be buried by it. I now only acquire books and clothes that I unwaveringly love, keeping my shelves and hangers pristine—and my mind uncluttered.

– Kaitlin Puccio

Intestinal Fortitude

Sometimes, for me, having food restrictions isn’t a big deal. It is what it is. I wouldn’t “kill for a piece of bread.” I mostly cook at home, and mostly stick to the same types of foods. Generally I’m not tempted by foods outside my norm, like sweets, because I feel better when I stay away from them.

It took months of slowly transitioning different foods into and out of my diet to find my equilibrium. For example, I’ve been gluten-free for years, but only in the past year have I started changing other parts of my diet. First came the switch from dairy milk to dairy-free milk when I realized that I was intolerant. Then all dairy products followed with the exception of cheese. I love cheese, and have not given it up completely, but I did take a hard look at the type of cheese I was eating, and how often.

I’ve always seen cheese as a treat. A good cheese plate makes me disproportionately happy. But that wasn’t the type of cheese I was eating. I was eating the type that lasts for almost a year in the package, with lots of ingredients that don’t sound edible, and which doesn’t taste like cheese. So, I stopped.

With every change I made—which included not only eliminating foods, but adding foods and being picky about their origins and journey to my plate—I felt a little better. My workouts were better, my mind was clearer. I was even pleasantly surprised when I went out to dinner and requested steamed vegetables, a plain baked potato, and steak, “with nothing on any of it—no salt, no spices, zero, nothing, just the food itself, totally plain,” that my request was honored. It may seem bland, but the taste of food itself, when totally unmasked, it quite astounding.

But then. After weeks, months of me swapping foods, perfecting my meal plans and prep, and reaching maximum efficiency such that I never even thought about what to purchase or what to cook, having food restrictions became a big deal.

As nice as it had been to be in my little food bubble, sometimes you have meals with people, and sometimes those people are business contacts. Maybe those contacts are interviewing you for a position over lunch. There are some times when you just don’t want to spend twelve minutes detailing your dietary restrictions to the waiter. My plain-eating regimen was working well for me, and whenever I strayed, I felt unwell. As if lactose were angry with me for giving it up, and got its revenge with even the slightest amount of cream in my soup. But in order to maintain my plain eating standards, even if I order the plainest thing on the menu, I might still spend twelve minutes grilling the waiter about how it’s made and with what.

This is where “intestinal fortitude” comes into play, particularly for celiacs, who must be diligent and insistent about making sure their meal is uncontaminated. Quite literally, the physical intestinal fortitude of celiacs is directly related to their mental intestinal fortitude. Courage, stamina. Guts. How fitting.

No matter what your food restriction is, there will likely come a time when your intestinal fortitude will wane. Just remember to listen to your gut (okay, I know, I couldn’t help it), because your health should always be your priority, even when it’s inconvenient, and difficult, and you wish it weren’t so.

– Kaitlin Puccio

Six Ways to Fit Days

Fitness is an important part of my life, not only for my physical health, but also for mental clarity. But with a busy schedule, going to the gym may not always seem like a priority. Here is how I stay healthy, and fit everything in without sacrificing sleep.

1) Make it a priority.

There is no doubt that our schedules get busier every year. Between time spent at work and time spent with family, there seems to be little time for me-time. But just as work and family are priorities, your health should be a priority, and a large part of that depends on staying fit. Don’t want to live out your days down the road in a nursing home, or be too frail to run around with your grandchildren? Staying fit can help prevent that.

2) Change it up.

My routine isn’t very routine. I make sure to balance strength exercises with endurance training, and always stretch after my muscles are warm. And I don’t mean touch my toes for ten counts. I mean splits, back bends, and calf stretches against the wall for thirty minutes. Short muscles will make me tight. Cross-training is also important. I regularly run, bike, and do ballet, but I also play tennis, take aerial classes, ballroom dance, and practice Pilates to make sure that I’m using different muscles in different ways and keeping my body alert.

3) Get enough rest.

Sleeping enough at night and allowing your body rest days are just as important as regularly working out. Your body needs time off to prevent injury. Ever go to the gym having only four hours of sleep and with already fatigues muscles? Better make sure your spotter is on his toes. My brother once went to the gym so exhausted that he fell asleep between sets of sit-ups. Your body will tell you what it needs. Listen and oblige.

4) Eat right.

Your body will also tell you what you need nutrition-wise. If you aren’t eating enough carbs, you will feel it. But it will take some time to understand this second type of body language. Only after you start eating right will your body recognize what it’s missing or getting too much of (and I don’t just mean cutting down on the brownies—I mean really knowing how many fruits, vegetables, carbs, fats, proteins, etc. you are consuming, and adjusting it for what you actually need). That doesn’t mean you can never have a brownie, or that you always need to measure your vegetables. Once you adjust to what’s right, any other way will feel unnatural.

5) Have a workout corner.

Do you roll out your muscles while watching TV, but only if the roller is right there? Maybe you always do your ankle exercises with the TheraBand, as long as it’s within reach. But you put your five-pound dumbbells away last spring and haven’t used them since. It’s certainly unsightly to have a pile of exercise equipment anywhere in the house that’s not a gym, but if you need to roll your muscles before bed and will only do it if the roller is right there, there is a solution. Make yourself a little workout corner in whatever room is most practical. If you roll out in front of the TV, put it in the TV room. The equipment will be small—a foam roller, dumbbells, TheraBand, etc. so it won’t be too cumbersome. Place everything in the same corner of the room, and put it back when you are finished using it. Remember when you took toys out of the toy chest in your parents’ living room as a child? Same idea. Everything will be where you need it when you need it, without being unsightly.

6) Don’t buy into the myths.

Carefully consider the beliefs you have about fitness and nutrition. Where do they come from? How do you know they are accurate? If you want to be the master of your own fitness and health, there will be some research to do. Think about things that you might not even think you need to consider. Are you doing push-ups correctly? How did you learn? If you aren’t doing them properly, you aren’t doing much good. Think you can’t be a runner because you’re a ballet dancer? Find out where that idea came from, why, and whether it’s true for your body before you write off running.

It may seem impossible, but getting and staying healthy doesn’t require a lot. Even if you start by working out one day per week, it’s better than doing absolutely nothing. Start small and build up. Soon it will become a regular part of your schedule—and you might find that even though you’re doing more in your day, you’re more focused and productive at work and have more energy for your family.

– Kaitlin Puccio