How I learned to stop worrying and get clean

I’m a tidy person (as long as you don’t ask my coworkers).  I take good care of my space and I like getting down and dirty now and then, with the reward of a sparkling house to show for my work.

But since I’ve started living in my current apartment, I never had time to really take on my chores the way they deserved.  There was always something else I needed – or really wanted! – to do.  Going to the gym, trivia with my friends, getting some great project knocked out at work, catching up with my family – there are a million ways I can think of spending a few hours, and they all kept winning over cleaning.

Then I read this amazing book: Happy Money, by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton.   I heard Michael speak at the Boston Book Fest, bought the book on the spot, and think it’s the best purchase I ever made.  Until this week.

Because this week, I finally got a house cleaner.  And now, I’m never looking back.

Coming home and seeing that my stove really CAN get clean, looking at our shiny mirrors and smudge-free floors, kicking off the month with a squeaky-clean start – it made me realize how much I had resigned myself to just be constantly a little bit unhappy with our apartment, our home.  I thought that somehow, if I couldn’t make this work on my own, I deserved to not be satisfied.  But after reading Happy Money, I realized that this simply isn’t true – not when I could spend a few bucks to have some help.  Now, I don’t just have a cleaner house – I have more time to do the things I care about (who would have thought you could buy time!  These authors did!), and I have a house that I want to welcome people into 10x more than before.  And I plan to do just that.

And if it gets dirty again because my friends and I have some fun?  The cleaners are coming back next month, and we can start fresh – together – once more.

Reasons to smile

Since I’ve written some actual posts this week, it’s time to do a wrap-up of life in general.  Here’s what’s making me happy right now:

  • The coming long weekend
  • Making social plans around “Say Yes to the Dress: Bridesmaids” viewings
  • My really healthy shopping list (let’s see if I can follow through!)
  • The fact that I’m going to the happiest place on earth (no, not Disney!) in less than two weeks
  • The balance between my 2 AM nights last week and my evenings in this week
  • Making it to both gym classes this week (my legs are KILLING me!)
  • The fact that the last two random coupons I googled worked, and saved me more than $30, combined (always worth a shot!)
  • The way that my hands smell like basil from tending to my tiny garden
  • My sister’s work successes (go Beanie!)
  • Plans to see my friends, my family, and my fabulous boyfriend all in the near future

And you?

Things I love right now

January went by in a blink (as did winter as a whole) but I don’t mind – life is good in Beantown!  Here’s what’s making me happy these days:

  1. Fun new ways to be active – from adventures at a trampoline park last week to morning yoga today and plans to work with the AMC and my friend Annie to tap 200 maple trees this weekend, I am loving all the great ways to have fun and get moving.  I’m always looking for more – let me know if you have ideas!
  2. The fact that I don’t have to watch the Superbowl to see the commercials this yearbecause they’re all already online!
  3. Getting angry about things that count – this might sound counter intuitive, but being pissed off about stuff that matters makes me feel alive.  From girl scout cookie scandals (more on that later) to fighting back against Komen’s backhanded slap to Planned Parenthood to standing up to MHC’s weird Facebook post that questioned if women could excel in math (yes, really), being vocal for issues I care about makes my days worthwhile.
  4. Awesome tech ideas, like Doodle’s new “Unplugged” feature.
  5. Great conversations with smart people – at the MWPC, the New Leaders’ Council, in my office, and over the internet (hi Matt and Anju!).
  6. New books.  Next up – Maine and Half the Sky.  You know where I’ll be this weekend when not out in the woods with my sap-covered drill…

Not on the life is good list: Taxes.  Not. happy. about. that.

What’s making your day/week/month/2012 happy?

Music Monday: Looking on the bright side

Since I shared my thoughts on having a positive outlook, I’ve been thinking of optimistic songs and the messages they send. I’m a firm believer in the idea that there’s a song for every moment (and they should be sung more often, in public whenever possible).  These are the songs I sing that remind me to “put on a happy face” because “nothing matters but knowing nothing matters,” and the ride will be more fun if you can “look on the bright side of life.”

So, I’m dedicating this entire month of Music Mondays to my favorite optimistic songs, starting with this Monty Python classic.  It’s originally from “Life of Brian” but it’s been re-appropriated for the musical “Spamalot” in recent years – a gem I just got to see in person (with Nolan on the keyboard – hi Nolan!).

[Warning: there are a few swears in here.  I mean, it is Monty Python…]

You can check out the Spamalot version here.

Accentuate the Positive

When the skies are brighter canary yellow
I forget ev’ry cloud I’ve ever seen,
So they called me a cockeyed optimist
Immature and incurably green.

I have heard people rant and rave and bellow
That we’re done and we might as well be dead,
But I’m only a cockeyed optimist
And I can’t get it into my head.

– South Pacific

I have often been told that I’m “too positive”.  That I can’t see the negatives in situations, and I focus “too much” on what good can come from something rather than giving time for the unwelcome consequences to set in.

My response, out loud or just in my head, is that life is too short to dwell on the negative, and especially on negative things that are irreversible.  I’ve been through enough in the last 25 years to realize that instead of spending energy worrying about the past, our lives will be much more effective – and almost always much happier – if we move forward and make the best with what we have.

That doesn’t mean pretending bad things don’t happen.  Whether it’s spilling coffee on yourself (luckily, mine was iced this morning as it trickled down my arm) or regretting a mistake at work that takes time and effort to undo, or mourning the loss of a dear friend, crappy stuff happens to all of us.  But from this, we should find ways to let unhappiness sink in, and then transform it into something that is actually meaningful.  Double-check those lids from now on or just be glad it wasn’t not.  Proof your work with a friend before sending it off to a client.  And write letters and spend time with the other loved ones in your life because there are tons of people who will still benefit from your company, and the best you can do is to have no regrets next time.  And now tell me – what would be gained from lamenting the past instead of learning new lessons?

I just read this article by Shawn Achor.  He asks “Are happy people dumb?” and the short answer is “Nope, their happiness makes them more effective and more successful.”  His article goes into the scientific reasons that happier people get more out of life, and his links offer tips on how to be happier.  Check it out – the proof is there!

In closing, I want to draw your attention to the serenity prayer.  When I was a kid, I had a fake stained glass representation of this prayer, and my aunt Lava taught me a tune to go with the words.  Now, it pops into my head when I find myself getting stuck worrying about things I have no power over, and it reminds me to refocus.  Here’s the version I think of:

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Right there is my secret to happiness.  My way to live each day and make it count, and the calculations I make when I determine that life is better as an optimist.