Keep the coupons, hide the emails

Stores like Michaels, Kohl’s and Bed Bath & Beyond will send out great coupons if you’re on their email list. But they’ll also clog up your inbox with an annoyingly large number of promo emails (sometimes up to 5 a day!). And unless you’re fully in the throes of blank notebook syndrome, no one needs that many trips to Michaels.

If you want to keep getting store coupons but don’t want to see the emails, here’s a handy hack for Gmail:

  1. Log in to Gmail from a computer (you can’t do this on your phone or tablet)
  2. Find an email from the store and check the checkbox to the left of it.
  3. Click More More.
  4. Click Filter messages like these.
  5. Follow the prompts and select Skip the Inbox as your action.

Now, whenever an email from that store comes in, Gmail will automatically archive it and you’ll never see it in your inbox. The next time you head to that store (perhaps to buy supplies for your Saturday tub?) just open your email on your phone and search for the store name. You’ll be able to see all the emails that have been archived and use that snazzy 40% off coupon like a boss.

CB91F786-5412-4500-AE7D-B6CEA6153FFC

Some stores might send emails from more than one address, so you might need to set up a few filters over time, but it’s so worth the effort. If you try it, let me know how it goes. And Happy Couponing!

– Jenna

Getcha some cheap notebooks

I’ve bought enough fancy notebooks and journals in my life to outfit a small stationery store. And most of them stay empty. It seems like the nicer the notebook, the more preciously you treat what you should write in it (which is basically…nothing). And I’m not the only one…

 

notebooks

Today I was sorting through a bunch of papers and things that I’d written in the past few years, and I realized the ONLY notebooks I write regularly in are…

THESE!

compbook

Composition books are really the best kind of notebook. They’re cheap. Really cheap. They travel well. You can buy them at any grocery store. They’re not pretty, which is a good thing. You can write anything in them: good writing, bad writing, terrible writing, sketches of ponies….it doesn’t matter. YOU JUST GET IT ON THE PAGE. It’s the first step. And a cheap-ass composition notebook gets you there with a lot less fuss.

Do you suffer from the blank notebook syndrome too? Try picking up a STACK of these bad boys for the price of one of those fancy little numbers with the leather cover they sell at Barnes & Noble. Let me know how it goes!

– Jenna

 

It’s important to like what you like

They feel like, “Oh, If I’m paying attention to something and no one else is talking about it, I guess it’s not important.” And the truth is totally the opposite. The things that you are noticing that other people are overlooking, those are the most important; those are the things that make you a person….the culture’s never gonna push that, you gotta push that yourself.

-Rob Walker, author of The Art of Noticing

I’ll be glad when…

In my first full-time job out of college, I had a boss named Stanley. It was just the two of us in the office. I was still pretty wet behind the ears, and he was an old school entrepreneur in his mid-70s who didn’t like to take orders and could barely operate a computer. We were a great pair and I adored him.

When we had a particularly busy or crazy period at work, he’d always say, “I don’t want to wish my life away, but I’ll be glad when this week is over.”

He’s gone now; he passed away in 2010. And every time I catch myself saying something like “I’ll be glad when this is over,” I stop and think about Stanley.

– Jenna

Spend out

June is marching on and we’re almost halfway done with the year! And if you’re like me, you’re ready to roll into summer with a list of projects as long as your arm, a towering stack of books to read and a lengthy Netflix queue. You (also like me) might be feeling a bit stretched thin and overwhelmed by what’s on your plate. And that’s just the things we WANT to do, not the things we have to do.

What if, for the remainder of the year, you decided not to take on any new projects, buy any new books, listen to any new podcasts, or add anything to your Netflix queue? What if you devote the rest of the year to SPENDING OUT what you already have? Read the stack of magazines piling up by your couch. Act on the ideas that you’ve had in your head since January. Grab your Saturday tub and cross off all your household to-dos before planning anything new. Use your good perfume and burn the candles you’ve been keeping for a special occasion.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I think it’s a great idea, and I’d love to do it. But  I’m a collector by nature, and I love to compile lists of things I’m curious about and build giant to-do lists and caches of reading material (my sister will also confirm that I am notorious for buying new candles and not burning them, to her eternal frustration).

So how do I hold myself accountable to this kind of plan? How do you turn off the fire hose so that you can actually drink the water you’ve already got? I’d love to hear your suggestions!

– Jenna

A big ol’ bunch

Sometimes the best way to add some simple luxury to your life is to buy a BUNCH of something inexpensive. It can be really visually pleasing and give you a feeling of abundance. Also: one breaks, gets lost or wears out? No problem, you’ve got 11 more! If you’re looking to get a big ‘ol bunch of something, here are a few of my favorites:

Pretty pencils or pens in a cup
buncha-pencils

A row of books with beautiful covers
buncha-books

Big stack of fresh kitchen towels
buncha-towels

100 matching hangers!
buncha-hangers

A trio of delicious gins (if you want to become a minor expert in martinis)
buncha-gins

There’s a million other things you can get a big ‘ol bunch of to enjoy, like magazines, candles, house plants or notebooks. Do you have a favorite?

– Jenna

 

It’s quiz time!

We’re all creative in our own way. And if you’re in the mood for a fun quiz (which I ALWAYS am), check out Adobe’s My Creative Type. It’s a beautiful, fun and interactive quiz that aims to identify your specific kind of creativity and also give you tips on which other creative types to partner with in order to maximize your efforts.

creativetypes

Here’s a bit of the description for my type, The DREAMER:

The world is a place of beauty and magic in the eyes of a DREAMER. Where others see facts and figures, you see symbols, metaphors, and hidden meanings.

You’re deeply emotional and intuitive, with a vivid imagination—the quintessential idealist and romantic. The inner world is always where you’ve felt most at home. You’re happy to roam your mental landscape of thoughts, emotions, and fantasies for hours on end.

You’re naturally drawn to express your inner world through literary pursuits, music, and the visual arts. Think of yourself as the “magical realist” of the creative types: like the literary masters of that genre, you naturally infuse your everyday life with the beauty and wonder of the imagination.

That feels pretty spot on to me! It’s always so gratifying to read something that so perfectly captures a part of your personality you’ve never been able to put into words yourself.

You can take the quiz at https://mycreativetype.com. If you do, tell me what your type is in the comments. I’d love to know!

 

Becoming a minor expert

Maybe you’ve memorized all of the U.S. presidents since George Washington. Or you can instantly recognize any type of flower and remember it by name. Whatever the subject, being a “minor expert” can be really gratifying and a lot of fun.

What’s a minor expert?

I first heard of the term a few years ago on an episode of the podcast Happier with Gretchen Rubin. As a minor expert, you don’t know everything about a subject, but you know more than the average person. And it seems that whenever you dig in deeper to any subject or pursuit that you’re interested in, you want to continue to learn more.

The key to identifying an area where you can be a minor expert is that you genuinely LIKE the subject and are curious about it. Otherwise, it’s just no fun. There should be no forcing yourself to learn about the Civil War if it bores you, or trying to learn about trendy whisky cocktails if you prefer gin. But if you follow your natural interests wherever they lead, you really can’t go wrong.

A trick to help you on your way

One trick I’ve found to easily absorb chunks of information associated with minor expertise is to keep the information out in plain sight, where you can interact with it on a daily basis. It’s a trick that teachers use all the time. My third grade teacher listed all of the helping verbs (there are 22, in case you’re even remotely interested) on a chalkboard and left it up all year. Every time I was bored or my mind wandered, I’d look over at that chalkboard and those verbs. Eventually, I could recite them from memory. And I still can! In high school, I’d stare at a banner that snaked around my math classroom with the first 20 or so digits of pi, and after a while, I could remember way more of that number than any mass communications major would EVER need to know.

Holy crap Jenna these are SUPER nerdy examples. Get it together. The point is, even random, not-so-interesting stuff sticks if you’re exposed to it enough.

If you prefer your inputs to be audio-based (and not as nerdy), you could replay a song or a podcast or a recitation of a poem. They key is repetition and familiarity. Personally, I’d like to learn how to tie some fancy knots, so I think I’ll dive into this website and print some photos to keep by my desk!

knots
c/o animatedknots.com

Whatever your topic, becoming a minor expert can help you meet new people, discover new interests and increase your confidence in your abilities. Because the goal of becoming a minor expert is not just the knowledge itself, but, as Gretchen Rubin asks, “where will it lead?”

Are you a minor expert in something, or do you want to be? I’d love to hear!

– Jenna

An ode to my Caboodles

Caboodles has a fun origin story. The company was created in 1987 when People Magazine printed a photo of Vanna White with her makeup collection, which she kept in a tackle box made by the Plano Molding Company. Plano Molding saw the story, realized the potential of this untapped lady market, and bam, Caboodles was born!

vannawhite
Caboodles was first class, paying cash, sittin’ next to Vanna White.

The first Caboodles case stayed pretty true to the tackle box shape and functionality, but was coated in perky shades of white and peach. The company reissued a limited edition version of that first case for its 25th anniversary in 2012, which now resells for up to $200 on eBay.

caboodlesa

Soon enough though, the lines softened and the color options expanded. I still have my pink, peach and turquoise Caboodles case from the early days, which I’ve used to hold everything from makeup to chemistry sets to plumbing tools to art supplies. They were a staple of sleepovers and “getting ready” rituals before middle school dances (a spritz of Love’s Baby Soft and some Bonnie Bell Lip Smacker and you were GOOD TO GO).

From the start, Caboodles were marketed to a female audience. They are still portrayed as girly, fun, and frivolous accessories. Candy-coated signifiers of superficial pursuits.

caboodles1

BUT. There is something about a Caboodles case that always made me feel powerful. And I suspect I’m not the only one.

Humans are a species that rose to dominance with the help of tools. We used flint to make fire. We fashioned a wheel. We created an axe, and then cut down trees in order to make more tools we could carry around with us. And in modern culture, where women not only get paid less than men but are also allowed fewer pockets, access to portable tools (and the self-reliance it provides) still feels like a bit of a power play, doesn’t it?

Caboodles, in all their pastel glory, helped open a new world of possibilities for me, and I hope for a lot of other girls as well. They were fun of course, and that was the initial draw. But they came to represent so many values that weren’t previously being marketed to girls with the same vigor they were for boys, like organization, preparedness, and competence. Caboodles represented CAPACITY, in whatever form you wanted it to take and however you wanted to fill it. And that is some sneakily powerful magic to unleash for a young person, whatever their gender.

caboodles4
Sure, you could use that little brush for face powder, but why not a fingerprint kit for your fledgling private-eye business instead?

It’s been 32 years since Caboodles hit the scene, and they’re marketing the original designs in a new “Retro” line. I’m having fond thoughts about what delightful items might soon be filling the pink, purple and lime green Caboodles of middle schoolers (and adults!) of all genders. Maybe some fuzzy stickers for trading with a friend, homemade lunches, raspberry pi computers, insulin shots, Burts Bees, or a harmonica or two. The possibilities are endless.

So the next time you catch a glimpse of a Caboodles in the wild, say a silent thanks to Vanna White, and imagine all the possibilities that are waiting to be explored in that little piece of pink plastic perfection.

– Jenna

Feeling the gap

I’ve been thinking about an often-cited quote from Ira Glass, host of This American Life:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

― Ira Glass

I’m feeling the gap, BIG TIME. And the only thing that seems to help me keep moving forward is to not think about where it’s going or who likes it or who hates it or if anyone even notices it.


the-creative-process


c/o Big Leap Creative

I’m trying to embrace the shitty first draft, even if it ends up as the final draft. For now, it doesn’t need to be good. It just needs to be written.

– Jenna