10 things I learned in 2017

This year I’ve enjoyed regularly posting what I learned—from the serious to the silly—every month. Today I’m sharing a few noteworthy things I learned in 2017, especially those things that I’m still using, telling friends about, and hearing about from you on a regular basis!

1. How to blow dry my hair. This sounds ridiculous, because I’ve been wielding a blow dryer since I was eight years old. But there’s a wide spectrum between functional and salon-good. I’m still not salon-good, but after getting the right tools, interrogating my stylist, and a good deal of practice, I finally understand how to do it, and can get at least a little bit of the bounce of a good professional blowout—at home.

What I was missing before: blow 80% dry before you start with the brushing. The way you section matters. Use a round brush. Blow each section all the way dry before moving on. And this was the big one: let the hair cool off for a sec while still wrapped around the round brush before unrolling.

My favorite tools to make this happen: this round brushthis styling product, and this blow dry spray.)

What I (finally) hope to learn in 2018: how to apply makeup. (If you have a favorite resource, please share in comments!)

2. I cannot function without margin. This is something I found myself re-learning that my actual body protests when I have too much going on. On the surface, I probably looked massively productive. But it wasn’t my favorite way to operate. I felt like a poorly calibrated machine, where the gears are jammed together too tightly for anything to actually move. It works, technically, but it’s a grind.

When I’m operating right up at capacity, I feel like I can’t think, and my body insists on sleeping more than usual, I assume to make up for what I’m asking of it during the day. Thus, my 2018 resolution: to create more blank space, literally and metaphorically.

3. We are a community full of avid readers.

Every summer we survey our MMD readers; it’s one of my favorite things we do all year. Historically, the survey has asked how many books you read each year, but the highest option we’ve given is 25+. (Last year, nearly 65% of you said you read 25+ books per year.)

Many of you have said in year’s past that you’d love to know just how much your fellow MMD readers read … so this year we put some bigger numbers in the survey. I was SHOCKED at how many of you checked those boxes! 12.2% of you read more than 100 books each year.

Here’s the breakdown:

Please note that if you read 1-6 books each year, you are still in very good company. And if you’re one of those outliers who read 100+ books each year, you have found your people.

(The survey revealed that we are also a group who use the library heavily. Is it any wonder, given the rate so many of us burn through books?)

4. How to hit up a used book sale. Speaking of reading stacks and stacks ….

In all my adult life, I’ve never been much of a used book sale shopper. As much as I love books, I’ve struggled with facing roomfuls of cheap used books in the past—it’s overwhelming to this HSP underbuyer, and I don’t want to bring clutter into my life!

But this year we moved, and built bookshelves, and I didn’t think we had books to fill them. I finally visited a series of local book sales at a local historic home. All the books are donated; all the funds go to a good cause. And they are cheap.

So I gave myself freedom to buy books I might end up not wanting (because at fifty cents to a dollar each that’s not much of a mistake, long-term) and decided to buy: 1. anything I’d read and loved and wanted for my personal collection; 2. anything I wanted to read that was available in an attractive edition; and 3. anything that was just plain pretty, like these Penguin classics that make me happy every time I see them.

With these personal rules in place used book sale shopping turned out to be lots of fun.

5. I read 159 books in 2017.

I rarely tabulate how many books I actually read. These days, I track my reading in my bullet journal and I don’t number my list, mostly because I am a free and frequent abandoner.

But this year, inspired by seeing all your year-end reading statistics, I went through my reading log line-by-line, tallying up the books I actually finished.

Data I wish I had: number of books started and abandoned (but in 2017, if I didn’t read more than 50 pages, I didn’t write it down). Total pages read. Details on titles read on paper vs e-reader, and how many audiobooks?

I turned over a new page last week and began my 2018 log, and this year I’m keeping (slightly) more detailed records.

5b. I read 75% of my 2017 books between January 1 and August 1.

I knew I’d done a lot less reading this fall than usual, but … WOW. I didn’t realize the difference was that dramatic!

6. Neutrals are my happy place. I noticed this year that I never seem to wear bright colors these days. I still love me some coral (lifetime fave) or ocean blue (runner up), but not as a top or sweater or jeans. Maybe as a necklace or scarf. Definitely as a pretty book color.

I’m not sure if this is strange or a natural style evolution that lots of women experience, but I’m going with it.

7. “Effortless” is a lot of work. When people are great in areas where I’m not, I tend to assume they were born that way. It was a real shock to discover that my friend with the amazing handwriting had to teach herself to write that way, and had to practice hundreds of hours to actually get good at it. I’ve never had a green thumb, and envied my friends that do … and then I learned that their handiness with plants was a result of a whole lot of trial and error and study.

This year I commented to a designer friend that I’m not great at placing the little accents that make a house feel like a home—especially when it came to my bookshelves. “Are you kidding me?” she asked. She explained that nobody is naturally great at it; that adding those accents is the hardest part, and it takes practice and lots of experimenting to get it right. It turns out, these “effortless” skills are actually the result of a lot of practice and hard work.

8. Clean left to right. I picked up this tip not in a how-to-clean book, but in a dystopian novel. No matter, it’s still good advice.

Instead of tackling the worst areas of a room first, like I used to, I’ve been following the protagonist’s example and starting on the left, working my way clockwise, and I love it. When I start on the left—which in my kitchen is a tiny counter by the sink—it’s quick and easy to make one small area sparkle, which is so encouraging I want to keep going.

9. Don’t overthink it. This could totally have been my 2017 motto, in hindsight. This past year I have worked hard to protect my headspace, with varying degrees of success. I’m striving to spend my mental energy on what matters, and not spend too much time thinking about the things that don’t.

An important corollary to this could be “don’t overcomplicate it,” something I am exceedingly good at and striving to do less of.

What did YOU learn in 2017?


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    • Kate says:

      But since the fall is 25% of the year, doesn’t it make sense that you’d read 75% of books the rest of the year? The numbers don’t seem so off to me.

      • Alex says:

        I think of fall as the start of September – so four months the, one third of the year. The numbers might even be more skewed than that, frankly. August was a little dry, too.

    • Brandyn says:

      My job is kinda insane in November/December so I know I read less in the fall, but this year was ridiculous. I read 102 out of 107 total books prior to October.
      Glad I’m not alone, but I wish I’d gotten a few more in those last few months.

  1. Joe Joe Harrington says:

    I live abroad, but when we come back to the states Kentucky is my home. Not only that, but we are spending a year in Louisville starting in mid-2019. So I’d love to hear about that discount book sales to stock up for when we return overseas!

  2. Hayley says:

    Make-up! I found a friend who always looks put together & who sells Mary Kay, but isn’t a pushy sales girl (key!), and asked her for help. I took my make-up bag & dumped it out with her and she worked through it with me and then introduced me to products I did not know about and what colours go well with my skin tone, eyes, etc – like make-up primer! (Game-changer for me) I also really love CC cream (I currently use the Arbonne stuff and like it, but when it runs out will probably look for slightly cheaper options).

    Thanks for the hair tips! Will give them a try!

  3. Jenn Anderson says:

    One more cleaning tip (used to work for a cleaning company) is to also clean from top to bottom. You might already know that, but I thought I’d throw it out there anyway. Thanks for sharing the stuff you are learning! I’ve never tracked my reading, but it would be interesting to do so. I mostly use audiobooks right now because I rarely have time to actually sit down with a book and focus on reading. Audiobooks can be “read” while I fold laundry or cook dinner or whatever other job is keeping my hands busy.

  4. Mary in TN says:

    I also often clean in a line or the room’s perimeter — but not in a specified direction. This technique is especially helpful when the room is really messy.

    For makeup I watch YouTube videos. If you double tap on the right third of the video, it will jump forward ten seconds. On the left, back 10 seconds. So you can skip useless chatter or rewatch helpful sections. This is true on the app — don’t know if it’s true on the website. You can also speed up the videos in settings but I only do that for the very slow talkers.

    My daughters and I all look good in coral, tourquoise, raspberry, etc. But one of them only wears neutrals and we think she looks washed out. LOL

  5. Julie says:

    I also learned the benefit of building unscheduled time into my schedule. That will be a priority for me in 2018 (my word for the year is “calm”). Also the need to exercise in some way daily and get more sleep! Basics but so important.

  6. Berta says:

    How to abandon a book that infuriates me because of poor writing, poor editing or just no real point. Yesterday I gave up when Kindle said I was 75% in but I realized the author didn’t really know where she was going. I no longer feel guilty because there are way too many wonderful books out there and I am on the downslope of life so I will enjoy my books or so good-by.

  7. Emily says:

    Your blow dry primer spray changed my life! I have used it ever since you recommended it and I’m obsessed with it. I only wash my hair once per week-ish so it’s worth it to me to put in the effort that often. I also have a ton of hair but that spray lets me blowdry it in less than 10 minutes. Miraculous!
    My goal was to read 75 books this year, but I ended up at 85. It was a fun year.

    • Meghan says:

      Yes, me too! I just came over here to comment about the blow dry primer spray. I also decided — inspired by you, Anne — to learn how to blow-dry my hair this year (I’m 36). I’ve worn a pixie cut forever, but grew it out to a jaw-length bob in the spring, and because of how thick and unruly it is, I really need to blow-dry it to make it look good. It’s one of those skills that can go under the “looks effortless but takes practice” heading!

  8. Cheryl says:

    I feel I ought to say ‘Snap’ as I too read 159 books last year. On 31st December I had to tell myself to ‘Step away from the books!’ as I instinctively wanted to make it 160, because it sounded a better number. I am the kind of sad person who keeps both a monthly and running tally of the number of books they read.

    • Anne says:

      Snap! I love your “step away from the books” comment—it makes it sound like your reading year was one long cooking show. 🙂 (We love cooking shows around here!)

    • Stacey says:

      I had to do that in 2016 – I had read 99 books on 31st Dec and was about a third of the way through my 100th. I decided I’d rather spend the day with my family than reading but it still annoyed me!

  9. Sarah says:

    I love your list, but I had to laugh. I thought one of your points was that you couldn’t do without margarine. I had to take a second look. I didn’t think Margarine was normally a food to be craved lol 🙂

  10. Laura J says:

    I just started tracking my books on Goodreads this year. I have a shelf called “started but ditched 2018”. I had a string of poor books I started but then ditched last week. I found I felt I had to keep reading because I had more ditched than felt right. Happily, I was able to get over that feeling.

  11. Lauri Manes says:

    I didn’t learn it in 2017 but I totally get your style evolution move to neutrals. I have been more of an all black all the time clothes wearer, but have had a love for brights forever up until the last couple of years. You can just do so much with a neutral wardrobe. I think one of your posts about capsule wardrobe is what brought me here to begin with!

  12. Victoria says:

    I like bbq sauce with fries.

    My boss may have been horrible but people in the industry respect me.

    I need to plan when to do things, not just add them to a list, otherwise I treat myself as a failure if I haven’t completed everything in an hour. Especially bad when the list involves huge jobs like painting a room.

    I really enjoyed New York and now know that yellow cab drivers are as crazy as they appear on tv (London definitely has the best cab drivers ?).

    My partner can sneak healthy things I wasn’t sure about into my food and I won’t notice.

    I love my new nutribullet.

    Scrolling endlessly does not constitute ‘relaxing’.

    Looking forward to time in a cabin in Feb/Mar is a great way to cheer me up through the winter.

      • Victoria says:

        Thank you! The company has cabins in forestry areas and they have hot tubs for each cabin and log burners. Just four nights and I pretty much spend all of them in the hot tub ?
        This year has been really hard in a lot of ways and work has been very difficult. It’s led me to have a great deal of anxiety. Sometimes I look at a great big list of jobs, work and personal, and it’s so overwhelming I can’t do anything. But if I could look at a calendar and say “no it’s ok, I’ve planned to do that on Wednesday”, it made the list more manageable.

  13. B Cres says:

    I’m trying to learn the best makeup for me too. I recently discovered Flekk cosmetics. I sent a selfie, they sent back a recommendation based on my skin/hair tone and eye shape. They make it so easy and I am impressed with the quality of the eyeshadow and brushes. Their guide and tips really help! https://flekkcosmetics.com

  14. Liza says:

    I learned how to do makeup by watching What Not to Wear. Seriously. I paid attention to the girls who had similar complexion to me and what colors and techniques they used. I’m a very basic makeup user now and still don’t wear it half the time, but at least I know how to choose decent colors and how to apply them.

  15. Ripple says:

    I used to read A LOT when I was a teenager and since I started high school it was a downhill – I think back then I read like a one or two books a year – which as you said is still good and better than 0 books at all. 2017 was a year when I finally forced myself to get back to it – only forced at the beginning because then I loved it even more than I ever have. I read around 15 books in 2017 – around because few weren’t on goodreads and I just lost the track. But in 2018 I want to read even more and I have this urgent need to read constantly. Unfortunately I can’t right anything right now because I have my exams coming soon and need to focus on studying but after all that – I’ll be back on the right path! And bloggers like you inspire me so much to read even more and more. Thank you for a lovely post!

    With kindness,

  16. Joy says:

    In 2017, I learned how to fit writing in before work by getting up 30 minutes earlier.

    I also learned that while bullet journaling doesn’t work for me for my daily life (an Arc notebook that I divide into sections works much better), it is perfect for my reading life. I appreciated your idea about logging books privately and not putting all of them on goodreads, which I did in my reading journal.

  17. Emily says:

    My blow dryer of ten plus years just died and there’s way too many replacement options. Which dryer are you using and loving? Others can chime in too. Thanks!

    • Jamie says:

      Get a Dyson!! It’s expensive but you will not regret it! My hair usually takes forever to dry – it’s thick and curly and long – but I’ve got my drying time down to about 8 minutes to fabulous!

  18. Marissa says:

    I adore this blog! Not only do I find 95% of my reading recommendations here, but the posts you do here and there about personal and home style are so encouraging and helpful. Sometimes I feel like I should have figured this beauty stuff out in high school (but I was too busy reading!). I’m glad to know another adult woman who is figuring this stuff out, and with such helpful tips and observations along the way! (Shiny vs Matte and Drapey vs Structured was a favorite a-ha this year!)

  19. Terry says:

    Your blow dryer primer didn’t mention a specific blow dryer. Does it make a difference if you have a pricey one, or are they all pretty much the same? I have thin, fine hair and it dries quickly, but I’ve always wondered if I’d be happier with an expensive blow dryer. I know it made a huge difference with the flat iron.

  20. Cleaning left-to-right reminds me of the Mount Vernon method of cleaning from Sandra Felton’s Messies’ Manual. She visited Mount Vernon and was told the cleaning ladies start at the front door of a room, then work their way around the room until they come back to the door. The next day they pick up wherever they leave off. That’s how she started to order her cleaning/tidying in her own home.

  21. Courtney says:

    I’m curious if the cleaning left to right is called something? I have always done this, its the way my mind works and will always start with the left side of the house and then move to the right going from room to room. I feel scattered if I don’t do it that way. I’ve always thought it was some crazy OCD thing I have, but now that I see it here I’m wondering if there is something more to it.

  22. Diana says:

    I love how honest you are here with things you are still learning. And yes on the hair drying! I’m mid-30s and I feel like I still have SO MUCH to learn about hair and make-up! I guess I thought I would have it figured out by now?? Nope!

  23. Stacey says:

    Anne, your blow drying tips have changed my life! Seriously, though, after I read your post, I started waiting a second or two before releasing my hair from the brush and I can’t believe what a difference that has made! Why did it take me 42 years to learn this?!?

  24. Florence Katono says:

    Wow 159 books, we should exchange countries. I am also making a write up on the books I read in 2017. I think I have read up to 25 (still counting). All the same I like that there are others like me. As you have shared, I will learn not to overthink it. hihihi

  25. Cindy says:

    Don’t try to learn make up….let that go. Try moisturizers that even skin tone ( I Love L’Occitane) and let your beautiful skin speak for you. It makes me sad to see younger women become dependent on concealer and cover up etc. Go natural! Its truly beautiful!

  26. Marion says:

    What I learned in 2017 is that I’m tired of reading post apocalyptic, end of the world, “macro” crisis stuff in fiction. I plan to read more hopeful stories, more introspective stories, and more of how people interact with each other on a daily level. I believe all art and entertainment in the past few years has swung too far in the post apocalyptic or “macro” crisis direction and the pendulum needs to swing back the other way.

  27. Natalie says:

    At 49, I finally learn how to dry my hair! Mind blown
    Of all the things I have learned and enjoyed about your blog, I never in a million years expected this to be the most life changing tip!
    Thank you Anne!

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