Library of Progress

What Worked in 2015, and What Didn’t | January 2, 2016

‘Tis the season for year-end introspection! Following the lead of several other bloggers whose lists I enjoyed, here’s what worked for me, and what didn’t, throughout 2015.

1. Our new house! We moved near the end of 2015, so we’ve now completed our first full year of living in our new house. Sure, there’s some things we’d like to do and improvements we’d like to make but even without those, our new abode works SO MUCH BETTER for our family in every way. It’s not even that much bigger—only about 250 square feet—but the layout and location is so much more comfortable and fits our lifestyle better in every way.

2. Date days and monthly overnights. We started getting much more aggressive about scheduling regular date days in April, after going through a bit of a marital rough patch in the first quarter of 2015. It started out as my mom taking C just for a weekend day here and there but gradually morphed into roughly monthly (or as close as we can make it) overnights. Having a full day and night to ourselves on a regular basis has helped so much. We managed one full weekend away this year, but two would be even better in 2016. I also have a number of federal holidays off where daycare is typically open, and we’ve talked about David using his PTO on those days to give us even more alone time together.

3. New daycare. We needed to switch daycares anyway after we moved because her previous center—which we loved and which was very sad to leave—was completely out of our way. We ended up enrolling her in a brand-new Spanish immersion daycare center only about five minutes from our house and which is on the way to both our offices, and she is thriving there.

4. Duolingo. C entering an immersion program prompted me to resurrect my own dusty Spanish. I studied Spanish from junior high until halfway through college and did summer immersion programs in Costa Rica and Spain the years I was 15 and 16, but it had been ages since I’d worked on it with any degree of focus. I’ve been earning at least fifty “points” (and often more) almost every day since August. I still need to do a lot more listening and speaking practice, but it’s been great for refreshing all my verb tenses and learning a ton of new vocabulary, and I’ve really enjoyed making serious progress on my goal toward fluency.

5. Any.DO. I learned about this one from Ashley. It just works for me in a way no other to-do list or app ever has. I love the grid format and the “someday” option in particular. I dump everything in there: shopping lists, meal ideas, work stuff, life goals and dreams, blog ideas, personal to-dos. It does mean I’m constantly whipping out my phone to enter yet another item, but I am extraordinarily more relaxed compared to the alternative, which was trying to keep track of it all in the maelstrom of my brain or various scraps of paper.

6. Grid Diary. This was a late discovery, but it’s the first time I’ve ever journaled successfully for any length of time, despite having felt the pull to do so my entire adult life. The app has you enter the weather and your mood, and then answer a series of questions—either ones the app randomly selects, or you can create your own and save it as a template so you answer the same ones every day. I use it to track my health, what I did each day, if I spent any money, what made me happiest, what I’m grateful for, what progress I made against my goals, and what I can do to make tomorrow great.

7. Seasonal bucket lists. Over the summer, I started keeping a “summer bucket list” in the Notes app on my phone of things for our family to do—places to visit, excursions to go on, experiences we wanted to have—so that we never wasted half of a Saturday morning sitting around trying to figure out what to do. It worked fabulously well and I created similar lists for fall and winter. The summer and fall lists had so many items that we never got to about half of them, so there’s plenty of new stuff to carry over to 2016. Winter in MN being what it is, there are only so many indoor activities to do and they tend to be repeats from year to year, but such is life. That’s why I keep the list, to make sure we never “use up” any winter items in other seasons so they’re at least mildly more interesting when they come around again.

8. Ban on restaurants and takeout. We started this in October as a way to combat an insidious habit of throwing up our hands and ordering takeout at the slightest hint of fatigue or disorganization. It worked. We did loosen the reins ever so slightly in November and December, but it did what it was designed to do. Now we save takeout nights for the rare occasions we truly need it, and restaurant outings are special again.

9. KonMari. Decluttering has always been, ah, a particular pastime of mine, plus we moved in 2014 so we were already pretty well pared down. So we didn’t get the satisfaction nor the major visual impact of purging our house of truckloads of unwanted crap. I was sending probably a bag or two a month to Goodwill pre-KonMari, and that amount didn’t change throughout the process. But I did find that looking at my stuff through the “spark joy?” lens turned out to be an incredibly useful barometer; leaving aside more arbitrary measures like “have I used it in two years” or “do I have room to store it,” I had an immediate and visceral yes or no reaction to almost every item I looked at. It’s definitely not a once-and-done thing; contrary to what the book claims, I am pretty sure that I—and most people—will be doing this for a lifetime, but I do believe that having KonMari-ed your house in full will have a lasting effect in that going forward, fewer possessions will come into your house than might have otherwise, and that you will look at what you own and buy with more scrutiny.

9. Memberships and establishing a weekend routine. We purchased memberships to the zoo, the aquarium, and the children’s museum this year and we more than got our money’s worth. David tends to have a harder time coming up with things to do with C on his own, so these tend to be his go-tos, and they never get old. I think it was Ana who wrote once about how weekends can be tough because even when you have things you want or need to do, the lack of structure compared to weekdays can make it hard to figure out where to start and with what. We adapted this pretty well over the year—almost every weekend morning we make breakfast, go on an outing of some kind to exhaust the kiddo, return home for lunch and naptime, and then veg out/play at home in the late afternoon and evening when she wakes up.

10. This individual smoothie blender. David and I both have our own preferred method of making smoothies, plus not having a giant blender with a bunch of parts to take apart and clean each morning means we are infinitely more likely to actually make and drink them.

11. Reading. I’ve been tracking my reading on Goodreads since 2008 and have been hovering around the 40-book mark for the last few years. In 2015 I set a goal to read at least 52—so a book a week—and met it easily, plus a few more. Audiobooks, graphic novels, YA, it all counts.

12. Upright chest freezer. Our chest freezer died midway through the year (taking a bunch of frozen meat and fish with it, gross) and we opted to replace it with an upright instead. I absolutely love not bending over at the waist to sift through a black hole of freezer-burned goods—we’re able to freeze all kinds of things that we didn’t have space for before, and it’s saved us tons of money as we’ve shifted away from cooking “fresh” and toward more of a freezer-based methodology (I guess) ever since C was born.

And now for what didn’t work:

1. Exercise. While we took plenty of walks during the warmer months, I still haven’t managed to establish any sort of regular exercise since C was born over two years ago. I miss what Pilates, Zumba, and weight training did for my fitness level, but I just can’t bring myself to care enough to start them up again with any degree of consistency or sustained interest. Long walks aren’t nothing but I always feel like I could be doing so much better, since I used to be reasonably fit. Then again, for me, exercise has always been far more about mental health than weight loss, so the long walks are doing their job in that right. Which brings me to…

2. My clothing situation. I’m currently sitting ~25 pounds above my pre-baby weight, two years postpartum, and I was overweight to begin with. Not a stitch of my former wardrobe fits and I still have not figured out how to dress myself in this new body. I have bought the bare minimum of new clothes since then because a) clothes shopping now sucks even more than it usually does and b) I absolutely do not want to stay this size, yet I’m doing very little to change the situation. I feel frumpy, lumpy, and terrible about my clothing all the time. When I do buy new clothes, they’re almost all black, which is depressing in its own way. Speaking of which…

3. Our laundry situation. The new house has basement laundry instead of main floor, meaning we have to lug our clothes up two flights of stairs to be folded and put away, a major disincentive. I always put the household linens and C’s clothing away, but mine and David’s doesn’t ever get done and more often than not, we end up dressing ourselves out of wrinkled baskets in the dusty basement. That sounds awful and it is. It needs to stop.

4. Going caffeine-free. This was an interesting experiment. I went caffeine-free for the month of September after realizing that the anxiety spikes I’d been feeling throughout much of 2015 might be less related to several major life upheavals, as I’d thought, and more related to a steadily increasing intake of caffeine. I went cold turkey, toughed out the headaches, and emerged on the other side feeling positively AMAZING, more calm and clear-headed than I’d felt in years. Unfortunately, I love coffee and Coke too much for it to stick, and I gradually started “cheating” more and more until I was back up to my previous level. I would have loved for it to become a permanent state, but I know myself and it seems unlikely.

5. Working from home. I worked from home almost exclusively during 2014 because my then-boss lived in another state and my presence required in the office was minimal. I’m now in a new job that also has a large amount of flexibility to work from home, but this position has extremely different responsibilities and it’s just not working as well anymore. The occasional work-at-home day is fine, but a longer stretch like a week or two, forget it. Even if none of my coworkers are in the office, it’s just better if I go in.

So there it is! I’m sure it’s not an exhaustive list, as 2015 was a year of tons of changes both large and small, but those are the things that stand out the most.

Here’s to making it work in 2016!


Posted in Uncategorized


  1. […] I spent some time working on my terrible clothing situation. Our bedroom is set up so we have a dresser in the closet, which David was using, and one in the […]

    Pingback by Reentry | Library of Progress — January 4, 2016 @ 3:22 am

  2. Our lists have lots in common! You are speaking my language with the decluttering/purging:)

    And I just recently cut back on my caffeine because my sleep has been so broken at night. All of my kids are sleeping through the night but I was still waking up off and on at all hours. Finally it dawned on me to cut my coffee back to one cup a day- it had crept up to more like four- and it has made such a difference.

    Loved reading your list!

    Comment by Katherine — January 4, 2016 @ 7:22 pm

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