The Non-Believer’s Guide to Easy Organization

[This article is the first in my Back to School Series]

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So your days of summer laziness are numbered. In a week or so, your precious freedom will be no more, and you’ll be thrown back into the cruel world of early mornings, late nights, and more assignments than you can count on both hands.

[pause for screams of horror]

Never fear!

Even a very minute amount of planning and a teensy bit of organization can save you bucket loads of stress and end up translating into mountains of free time for you to get on with..stuff that isn’t school.

But maybe when it comes to organization, you’re a disaster. Maybe it bores you, maybe you think you don’t need it, maybe you prefer to be frazzled and stressed all the time because that’s when you ‘do your best work’. Yeah, right. In fact you might even say that you don’t believe in organization, or that it wouldn’t work for you.

If so, I have an answer to your woes:

Easy Organization for Non-Believers!

I promise I’ll make it easy! Just adopt a couple of these little methods and you’ll be golden, baby. Your whole life will be spread out in front of you, you’ll be able to prioritize, you’ll never forget anything, and you’ll be cool as a cucumber. Sounds good to me, so let’s get going!

1. An agenda/hipster PDA/smartphone.


In my opinion, the number one way to get and stay organized is to have your choice of a portable calendar with you at all times. It can serve as a headquarters for your other organizational systems (like to-do lists or budgets, see below) and it really couldn’t be simpler to use. The most important features are:

  1. Daily slots for filling out homework or readings
  2. Monthly calendar pages (you can avoid this by using a wall buy viagra online 100 mg calendar, see #2)
  3. Space for extra notes

Millions of people swear by this system, because it is as easy as falling off a log. Seriously! You get homework? You write it down. You write in appointments for the future, dates of important events (like exams..ugh) and plans you have with friends. Then, every day it’s easy to see what’s upcoming and what needs your immediate attention.

And there are tons of different options for every type of personality:

  • Loose-leaf binder-style daily planners: Filofax, Day-Timer, Franklin Covey, Staples Brand, etc..
  • Bound-page planners: Moleskine, Quo Vadis, etc.. (Chapters carries tons of styles)
  • Phone with calendar function
  • Hipster PDA (if you have dated pages, otherwise it’s just more of a to do list!)
  • DIY! Some people are unhappy with all the styles of planner, so they buy a regular notebook and draw in the calendars/dates/spaces for writing. Time consuming, but at least you get it exactly like you want!

Okay, are you sold yet? I promise if you actually start using a portable calendar (it takes 21 days to form a habit!! Give it a shot!) your life will become simplified. It’ll take some of the stress out of school. All your readings and assignments will be in one centralized location, not scattered on scraps of paper. There’s no need to turn on your computer, the information is always right there!

Plus, there’s customization. Buy pretty pens in a rainbow of colours, decorate the outside with magazine collages or bumper stickers, draw and scribble over all of the blank pages! Dress it up! Make it look like you. :)

I have always used, and always will use an agenda. What would I do without it!? This is my #1 pick for organization!

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2. A great big wall calendar.

Photo thanks to courtneybolton

If the idea of carrying around your life in a day planner sounds too ‘Type A/anal” for you (it’s not! ..is it??), my next best suggestion is a wall calendar, hung front and center in your room.

It’s the same idea as an agenda, but requires a bit more organization up front. It would entail: at the end of the day, collecting all the little scraps of paper/vague memories of your professor saying what your homework is and writing the important dates up onto the calendar. This system would be excellent for people who like to see the big picture, right in front of them. Since the boxes on most wall calendars aren’t very big, this wouldn’t work too well for small, day-to-day things you have to remember, but this combined with a notebook of to-do lists could work quite well!

Actually, I think a great system is to have both an agenda and a wall calendar. That way you get the best of both worlds: you make it easy for yourself to remember things that cross your mind, and you can see clearly and unambiguously when things are due.

An alternative to having a physical wall calendar would be having an electronic calendar. Again, it would serve better as a big-picture kind of thing, but would be a nice alternative to the wall calendar. Two great online services are Google Calendar and 30Boxes, but you could always use the one that comes with your computer. And with the magic of technology these days, you can even sync it with your phone and have an electronic two-in-one system!

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3. Some kind of simple filing system.

Photo thanks to macbeck

I know, I know. You’re like..”Filing? Who do you think I am?”

Look, I’m not exactly the filing type either. In fact, I’m exactly the opposite of the filing type, making me prone to losing important stuff like reference letters, Visa bills and my copy of the lease. Which forces me to become the filing type. Vicious circle. Anyways, if you adopt what I like to call “pretty much the easiest thing ever” (aka filing) then life is simple! Except when you can’t find the aforementioned documents from before you started filing. Damn!

Steps to becoming a Filing God:

  1. Acquire an accordian/drawer/filing cabinet/box and some file folders.
  2. Label said folders with headings like: Bills, Important Documents, Reference Letters, Old Essays (heehee), Letters, etc.
  3. Sort what little documents you can find, and then vow to always use the filing system from now on!

Again, why not make it pretty? Choose a bright pink accordian or a stack of boxes in bright red and yellow, with purple folders and yellow labels. Have fun with it!

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4. An assortment of to do lists!

Photo thanks to notahipster

Okay, okay. I know my crazy is coming out. What would you say if I told you I used all these methods? Oops. I’m crazy. But I promise they do help me to control my chaos. To do lists are probably my all-time favourite method of keeping my sanity. They are the greatest invention, period.

You already know what they are. So here are some new ways to do them:

  • Make a grid list: the headings being your classes or other commitments, and listing your tasks underneath
  • Prioritize the tasks with your own system of numbers, letters, coloured highlighters or stickers
  • Do it on your computer with Doomi, Simple Task, Evernote, or Anxiety; or on your phone with all sorts of free apps
  • Include other important things like exercise, calling your friends, and things you find fun. That way, you won’t get burnt out by all the work you have to do, and you’ll make time for those things
  • Get a pretty notebook and divide it into sections (school, apartment, friends, fun, etc) for ongoing to do lists; or write a new to do list for every day

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Other Helpful Tips:

  • Set alarms or reminders on your phone for super-important events
  • Use Google Docs for long-term organization of things like doctor’s appointments, your budget and your life list.
  • Write notes to yourself for daily reminders, like ‘eat your veggies!’, ‘call your mom’, and ‘sit up straight!’. Always have post-it notes around for this very purpose!
  • Try and have a place for everything you use on a daily basis, and always put things back into the places they ‘belong’. Try keep those spaces uncluttered! That way, you won’t misplace anything important.
  • Keep an ideas book if you’re so inclined: mine is a big fat basic Hilroy that I carry everywhere to write down inspiration, things to look up online, ideas for blog posts, quotes I like and facts from articles. It keeps my head clear, and gets everything important down on paper. Instant memory!

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Go forth with organization inspiration!!

There you have it folks. Tons of ways to make organization fit into whoever you are. Because it really doesn’t matter what type of person you are, not many of us have an elephant’s memory! So if you’re an artist-type, design and paint your own wall calendar, big and bright on the wall. If you’re a prepster, you shouldn’t have any problem adopting a sleek Filofax (maybe like that one from 27 Dresses?). If you’re indie/hipster, get yourself a stack of index cards and get to work making your perfect system! Any way you slice it, people need a place to permanently remember their thoughts on paper.

So I urge you: go forth with organization inspiration! Blow yourself away with your newly found memory and creative outlet (in decorating your planner, using it as a sketchpad, drawing with pretty pens, etc!) and time will open up for all sorts of other adventures.

And let me know: how do you stay organized? What’s your special system, trick or habit? Write it in the comments section or drop me a line, and I’ll add it to this post!

Until next time, organization gurus…

xoxo,


Introducing the Back To School Series!

Hi guys! Today I’m going to share with you something I’ve been working hard on for next week: my first ever blog series! Starting Monday and going through until Friday, I’ll be posting every day on various topics about going back to school. I chose to do this series next week, because that’s the week before I actually go back to school, but I apologize if you go to school in Ontario and your school starts a week later than mine (lucky things).

Anyways, here’s a sneak peek at some of the possible topics I’m considering!

  • Making, sticking to and loving your budget!
  • Kick-starting your search for the perfect note-taking style
  • Stress-busters and special treats
  • Creating a dynamite routine
  • The non-believer’s guide to easy organization
  • Dorm + Apartment staples
  • Fall fashion!
  • And more…? :)

Click here to see all the posts so far in the series!

I have a few posts already in the works, and I’m getting really excited about this! It’ll be a way for me to:

a) share my hard-won knowledge about getting into the university groove and

b) diminish some of my own stress about second year!

If you have any topics you’d love to see covered in the series, email me and let me know! Or just leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to incorporate it into the series.

I’m really looking forward to hearing your ideas, and sharing mine!

xoxo,

The Beginner’s Guide to Eating More Plants

So, you wanna eat more plants, eh? Maybe you read any book on the subject of the food industry? Maybe you just learned about the health horrors of eating too much meat? Maybe you read my post on the topic?

Anyways, I’d like to welcome you aboard!

**Important: note that I didn’t call this post “The Beginner’s Guide to Vegetarianism”. That’s because I don’t want to limit the number of people who hear my message. I don’t want people to be scared off by the thought of becoming a strict vegetarian or vegan. In my own life, I have started to eschew labels entirely, and have created for myself a hybrid eating pattern that falls under no label. I would encourage everyone to do the same! If you don’t think you can give up eating meat entirely, don’t. Cut back instead, to whatever you feel comfortable eating! It’s not all-or-nothing folks. In my opinion, the most important thing when it comes to ‘vegetarianism’ isn’t people sitting around criticizing each other for their eating habits, and fighting over who is the better ‘vegetarian’. It’s about education, about more and more people learning the information and starting to ask for different practices in the industry. It’s about us realizing we could unite instead of divide against this problem. I’m so sick of people having to be strict vegans for their choices to ‘count’ or to ‘matter’. Screw that! Let’s all eat whatever we want, get educated, and ask for something better. Let’s not ostracize each other or scare people off from learning the information.  **

So. Whoever you are, welcome aboard! You’ve decided to eat more plants! Good for you. Plants are good, plants are great. I love plants.

Here are some reasons I love plants:

Portobello mushroom burgers with bruschetta!

  • They harvest their energy directly from the sun! No middlemen for plants.That’s messed up!
  • “Common estimates are that 2-5 times more grain is required to produce the same number of calories through livestock as through direct grain consumption”(1). Aka the amount of plants that you feed to one cow could feed five times the number of people that the cow could feed. That’s messed up.
  • They come in all shapes, sizes and colours. They’re so exciting and exotic. There’s so many to discover!
  • Plants help you poop great! Thanks fibre. Thanks.
  • Plants are full of vitamins and minerals and antioxidants and yummy goodies that keep us strong and healthy.

How To Eat More Plants

1. Develop your own eating mantra.

If labels are scary, take the pressure off. Who says you have to answer for your choices anyways?? Certainly not me. It’s up to you what you eat, when and why! If you can’t fathom giving up seafood, focus on eliminating everything else. If chicken’s your downfall, eat less of other meats. Or if you want to eliminate all animals, do that! Just make sure your eating mantra reflects your true beliefs about your health and happiness. Once you’ve established in your mind what you want to avoid, what you want to consume, and what you want to explore, solidify it. Stand by it. You really aren’t obligated to explain your lifestyle decisions to anyone else! For example, my eating mantra is: Avoid meat and seafood, unless farm fresh or organically/sustainably farmed (and only extremely occasionally); consume as many plants as possible; explore new sources of protein and new types of fruits and veggies! I still own a leather jacket from before I was a vegetarian, I still eat eggs and cheese on occasion, I’m forever trying new vegan cheeses and recipes. I am a contradiction by other people’s standards but I live by my own. Decide what to be, and go be it. Don’t apologize!

2. Take Vitamin B-12.

If you do decide to stop consuming meat and dairy (0r a lot of meat and a lot of dairy) I (and various nutritionists) recommend taking a vitamin B12 supplement. B12 is one of the only vitamins which is essential and is very hard to find in large amounts in plant sources, making it important to take as a supplement. In my readings about health and plant-eating, it’s the only supplement you really need to be taking, as long as you’re eating a variety of plants, getting protein, iron, zinc, magnesium, calcium and Vitamin D. Sound hard? It’s not. See below!

3. Eat the right foods!


This article from Vegetarian Times is an excellent one. It explains 8 foods that are essential for herbivores (although most carnivores should really be eating these super healthy foods too!). I’ll re-list them here, along with some easy, yummy recipes to try for each!

Tofu – excellent source of protein, zinc, iron, calcium, vitamin D.

  • Tofu scramble tastes deliciously like scrambled eggs, minus a lot of the cholesterol and plus all the goodness of tofu! This recipe is great because it breaks down how to choose the right tofu and make a no-fail version yourself. Or check out this one from Oprah.com!
  • Pad thai is an excellent thing to add tofu to, since tofu (by nature) soaks up the flavours of what it’s marinated in, and tastes just very yummy. Pad thai is one of my favourite dishes of all time! Check out this recipe.

Lentils – protein, fibre, iron, B vitamins, folate

Beans – iron galore!, fibre, protein, potassium, zinc, calcium

  • One of my favourite ways to eat beans is in a vegetarian chili. This recipe from Moosewood is wonderful, it’s what my mummy always makes!
  • This recipe for Southwestern Bean Burgers comes from the new Moosewood Cooking For Health cookbook. It’s one of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten, period. The tortilla chips make it amazing.

Nuts – lots of protein, zinc, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium (almonds)

  • As a snack! I usually don’t leave the house without a little tupperware of walnuts and almonds!
  • Try any of these yummy looking nut recipes
  • Throw cashews into your stir frys or quinoa salads

Whole grains – one way to get B12 without a supplement, but take the supplement too!, zinc, fibre

  • Quinoa salad! Cook some quinoa (keen-wah) and add chopped carrots, radishes, cauliflower, green onions, avocado, anything. Add some salad dressing of your choice and eat up. Yum yum.
  • Eat whole grain bread
  • Consume couscous, bulgur (in chili), brown rice, rye

Leafy greens – antioxidants, iron, folic acid, vitamins A and C

Dried Fruit – high sources of iron, fibre and protein


Keep in mind too that people are crazy these days about ‘getting enough protein’. The truth? We currently consume about twice as much protein as we need!(2) So relax a bit. It’s highly unlikely that you will suffer a protein deficiency. Concentrate on the above foods and you will get more than enough vitamins, protein, iron and fiber that you need daily. So don’t listen to the uneducated naysayers about this..

4. Avoid the wrong foods!

As you can see from #3, there are so many delicious foods that can be used creatively to make delicious meals. There is no shortage of yummy vegetarian recipes that do not include massive amounts of processed anythings, so explore the world of plant-y goodness! But make sure that along the way you’re not taking the lazy, unhealthy way: the path away from goodness and health. Here are some foods you definitely do not want to eat!

Processed foods – well, even if you’re not eating a plant-diet, you still shouldn’t be eating too many of these foods. I know they’re hard to avoid, but the amount of sugar and salt and the lack of nutritional value makes foods like chips, pop, junk or fast food bad for your body and mind. And just because they’re ‘vegetarian’ doesn’t automatically make them a healthy choice!

Starchy, white carbs – carbs are our friends, but not of the white, thoroughly processed and stripped of their nutritional content variety. Don’t head towards white pastas and pizzas, just because they don’t have meat in them! That is not the way to go, especially since incorporating whole grains and veggies into your diet is not very hard at all, once you make the decision to.

5. Continue to educate yourself.

Learn learn learn! Learn as much as you can about the power of plants, about the terrors of our food industry, about what you can do for your health. Look up recipes online for ways to incorporate super foods! Read up on the health implications of eating more plants! Once you’re educated on the topic, you can start to reach out and inform others. Education is the catalyst for change, and our generation can be the critical mass against the food industry! So learn and teach and educate. Here are some resources I truly love and recommend:

Books:

The Omnivore’s Dilemma – Michael Pollan

Eating Animals – Jonathan Safran Foer

The Kind Diet – Alicia Silverstone

Fast Food Nation – Eric Schlosser

Quantum Wellness – Kathy Freston

Skinny Bitch – Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin

Moosewood Cooking for Health

PETA’s Vegan College Cookbook

Websites:

Crazy Sexy Life

Vegetarian Times

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So.

Okay my plant-based friends, I hope that my guide to plants and their delights helped you in one way or another. Maybe it inspired you to try making an animal-free meal, or maybe to give up animals altogether! Either way, I hope that you learned something of value.

Please let me know if you have any questions about any of this stuff. Most of my information comes from the books I’ve read (all of the ones listed above) and various articles online. I urge you to read the material yourself and come to your own conclusions, choose your own path. Try to eat consciously, monitor how you’re feeling and consult your doctor if you experience any health issues. Generally though, if you follow a colourful and careful plant-based diet, you’ll be doing more for your health than with any other eating pattern out there!

Happy eating my friends!

xoxo,

Style Direction: Tribal Gypsy

Okay, I hope that everyone here reads Gala Darling by now. If you do, yay you! If you don’t, start. I adore her blog.

Anyways, the reason I mention her is because she does this absolutely killer feature every so often called ‘Style Direction’, where she outlines her general aesthetic for the coming months. And they’re incredible. Read them here and here.

I was so inspired by this idea that I decided to try and emulate her way with words and seemingly endless sources of inspiration with my own little style direction piece. It won’t be as good. :)

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Tribal Gypsy

Photo thanks to The Sartorialist

She’s a new-age free spirit with so much joie de vivre it’s impossible to keep her down. She’s a creator, not a consumer. She lives her life out loud. She isn’t interested in looking “perfect” and isn’t interested in trends. She wears whatever catches her eye, whatever she feels good in, whatever suits her best. She never lets society place restrictions on her clothes, and she isn’t afraid to wear the brightest colours in the crayon box: Carribbean Green, Jazzberry Jam, Wild Strawberry, Neon Carrot.

She abhors plastic surgery and orange skin. She hates all things fake. She loves natural beauty, embracing your curves and smile-lines and she believes you’re never too old to dance.


She believes everyone in the world was born to cry, smile, laugh, sing, dance: the universals. She doesn’t believe in bad dancers or bad singers. She doesn’t believe in regrets. She is fascinated by all cultures of the world, and lets them be her inspiration for fashion. She loves to wear chunky necklaces, thin gold bangles, dramatic earrings; blouses from Romania, pendants from Mexico, colourful scarves from Paris. And if she’s never been to these places, she wears pieces inspired by them.


Her style is like a chameleon: it changes with her mood. One day she might be channeling a hippie, the next a fashion maven who lives in Soho, the next a African warrior princess. No matter what though, she always listens to herself before the trends. She wears her summer dresses and sandals in winter and her fall boots in the summer. She mixes and matches patterns, revinvents her accessories every few weeks, and styles her clothes in new ways all the time. She doesn’t shy away from wacky looks or avant-garde fashion. She’ll try anything. She loves patterned tights! She only spends money on things that are ‘spot-on’ and perfect for her.

She loves culture, and explores the city she lives in as if she were a tourist. She makes plans to visit highly-rated restaurants, museums, outdoor markets, vintage clothing stores. She has a favourite bakery, bookstore, park bench, library. She doesn’t mind wandering around downtown, admiring shop windows or eating street food.

She has boundless enthusiasm for adventure and learning, she soaks up trivia and opinions like a sponge. She isn’t judgemental and views all religions, races and lifestyle choices as equal. She makes friends by really listening and being interested in other people. She doesn’t just wait for her turn to speak, she tries to understand the other person’s point of view.

She loves to make care packages, cookies and collages. She loves to write letters to her friends, sealed with a kiss. She always carries around a notebook, a novel and a lovely pen. She can make a killer gin and tonic.


She loves to fill her apartment with beautiful photography, ethnic rugs, candles, posters, strings of white lights, Chinese lanterns, bowls of candy, huge bright flowers. She likes statuettes and hand-made vases and natural soaps. She loves flea markets and garage sales.


She likes to experiment in the kitchen with different flavours and ingredients. She isn’t afraid of dragon fruit or pomegranates! She makes her own jams and soups, brownies and hummus. She is an active participant in her health, and strives to follow the Food Rules: things like “If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t” and “treat treats as treats”.


She likes flowy, floaty, colourful, bright, intricate, comfortable clothes. She likes shoes that don’t give her blisters, and heels that make her legs look great. She loves boots and cute sneakers. She loves bags that have a personality; in fact she likes it when all of her clothes have a personality. She likes her fashion to have a story behind it. She likes hats. She likes clothes that are fun and vibrant.


She isn’t afraid to be alone! She can eat alone, sit alone, go to the movies with herself. She doesn’t mind what other people think of her, because she knows they are probably only fascinated by her anyways. She is a life enhancer.

She’s just herself.

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Well. What do you guys think?

Keep in mind that this is only my personal style direction, I’m not saying everyone has to like the same aesthetic as I do! I am also not suggesting that I already am this girl..I still have a long way to go before I become as fashionable and cultured and adventurous as she is. But I am drawing inspiration from what I find the most attractive.

You may remember a previous post where I talked about my love for Coco Chanel style. And while it remains true that I adore spots and stripes (George of the Jungle? Anybody?) it came to me like a jolt the other day: I’m trying to be somebody I’m not. I was trying to be the classic, classy, perfect girl, who carries a gorgeous bag and has tailored clothes.

And while I love that aesthetic and the girls who can pull it off, it’s just not me. My style is full of colour and personality, and somewhere along the line I’d forgotten about it. So consider this my first step towards Radical Self Love: admitting to myself what I really like and accepting it completely (that’s more Gala for you!).

I would love to know: what is your style direction for now? What clothes/accessories are you most attracted to right now? What are some pieces you’re totally coveting? What are some new ways you want to style the clothes you already have?

Tell me!!


Much love to all of you,