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.
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?