5 Ways I’m Living a More Intentional, Designed Life

August 24, 2015
by kay
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I’m a big fan of Jess Lively and her podcast, The Lively Show. Jess talks a lot about a values-based life, an intentional life, and I want to take a moment to reflect on how I’ve made changes in my life to be fulfilled by my decisions.

  1. Waking Up 30 Minutes Early

I love sleep. Not like let-me-sleep-until-noon-every-day, but more like I-want-to-wake-up-refreshed. And so I’ve spent months trying to unlock the secret to feeling that way, to not dragging myself out of the bed at 7 am, when the alarm on my phone rings, and giving myself 20 or 30 minutes to throw on clothes and rush out the door.

I tried, this app that tells you when to fall asleep based on when you want to get up. But I found the times I go to bed don’t align nicely with the times the app suggests.

It should have been easy, but it took me until last week to figure it out—get. up. early. Get up earlier. If I couldn’t go to bed at a different time, maybe all I needed to do was change my wake-up time. And then I read this blog post by Kory Woodard, and was amazed how she, and the women she links to in her post, get up so much earlier and get so much done before I even rise.

It took a few days to go from setting the alarm at 6:30 to actually rising when it went off, instead of running and sliding my screen quickly to just turn it off, but the second half of last week, I felt so much more relaxed waking up slowly, and having that half hour of solitude to read or write or whatever else I might want.

  1. Journaling More

I’ve been journaling since I was a kid—eight or ten years old, probably. But it’s tough for me to keep with it on any kind of regular basis. I still haven’t gone so far as to make a schedule for journaling, to commit to 10 minutes before bed each night, for instance, or the first time minutes after I wake up, but I’m learning it doesn’t have to be an ordeal.

And it helps me understand what I’m feeling that day, and what goals I have for the future.

I firmly believe a joyful life comes from self-awareness, and in my mid twenties, there’s just so much to be more aware of, as I figure out what’s bringing me joy and helping me grow.

Now, I try to journal each night, or at least a few times a week, and remind myself that it doesn’t have to be two pages—sometimes, a few sentences is enough.

  1. Getting Ready for My Week on Sunday Nights

I think it’s hard to want to do chores on Sunday night. You’re trying to let the weekend linger as long as possible. Ironing clothes or writing a to-do list or preparing to mail a few birthday cards just isn’t the ideal way to spend the evening.

But I find it helps me feel more relaxed on Monday, when I don’t know what’s in store for my week. I start with the best intentions, what I want/need to accomplish, and hope it sticks.

I’ve always been the lay-out-my-clothes type, but now, if the dishwasher needs emptying or my lunch requires a lot of prep work, I don’t let it wait until Monday. I get it done. And then, after, I can really let myself relax.

  1. Using My Free Time Wisely

DC traffic sucks. It’s 20 miles from my apartment to my office, and most days, when school’s in session, I spend a little over 2 hours in the car round trip.

The other day, I turned on a podcast about turning negativity into positive thoughts, and how thoughts affect your feelings, and even though it took me 90 minutes to get home, I didn’t focus on the traffic because I was busy bettering myself.

When I worked even farther from my office, I spent a couple weeks listening to the audio version of Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist. Her stories relaxed me, humored me, inspired me and excited me. I felt renewed every night when I pulled into my parking space.

  1. Being Cognizant of My Finances

I have a couple major financial goals for the coming year. And a lot of people would rather not focus on their finances when it feels intimidating, because it’s easier to think the money will come over time, regardless of how we act.

That’s simply not true. I check in once a week, if not more, to make sure I’m working toward those goals and setting myself up for success.

Am I on track? Did I get ahead this month? Fall behind? Is there room next month to make up for it? Are all my bills scheduled?

When the bills are paid and my goals are getting closer, I can take a breath and focus on the people and the relationships around me. Money doesn’t have to prohibit me from living the life that brings me joy.

Now I want to know, how are you living a more intentional or designed life? What’s working for you? What have you tried?

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My Dream Home Office

August 20, 2015
by kay
/ /

My Dream Home Office | Kay Redesigned |

I believe a well-designed, well-crafted life, is an organized life. Not everyone does, and that’s okay, but when I’m stressed, you’ll find me cleaning up the stack of mail that’s collected atop my kitchen counter, or vacuuming, or, most likely, filing all of those slips of paper away.

It’s a mystery to me how I got through college, and my first two years after college, without really hunkering down and researching a good filing cabinet or box, at least, for medical records and car repairs and insurance benefits.

A couple years ago, I manned up and bought this printed orange and green box, and I hate it—the pattern and colors, the size of it, everything is so wrong. It’s stuffed to the max, the sides pregnant and stretching with every added record.

I really want somewhere to house all this paperwork, and keep it tucked away from the “living” parts of my life.

So, by the time I move in early 2016, I am determined to a) set up an office and b) make sure it feels organized but fun.

I truly believe when you love how your home, or your office, or your car looks, you take better care of it.

So here’s my dream office.

PS: All suggestions for office must-haves are welcome in the comments!

My Office Must Haves

desk // cubes // chair // file folders // file cabinet


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Start With Your True Self In Mind

August 13, 2015
by kay
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Start With Your True Self In Mind / Antique House Door

Crafting the life you want doesn’t happen overnight. That should come as no surprise. But that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow.


When I was 23, I almost bought an old, run down condo. The A/C was ancient, the kitchen sink had mold growing underneath, and I couldn’t step in front of the front door without sinking into a puddle of standing water.

When the deal fell through, I was heartbroken. Not because the condo was amazing—it was 30 years old, only had one small bathroom, and felt dark and stuffy—but because I wanted it to be amazing, and was willing to look past all these flaws to just own something. Anything. I wanted to stop throwing my money down the drain with every 4-digit rent payment.

By the end of the month, I was relieved to have canceled the deal before closing day. It would have been a sinkhole for all my money (of which I had none), and a disappointment in just a few short years.


That’s what it’s like when you decide you want to change something about your life. You want it now. Yesterday, really, but if not, then now.

You’re not about to wait six months or a year for it to get better, or shape up. You want to lose the weight, or learn to run ten miles, or wake up at 5 a.m. every day. You want to make a change now that will stick forever.

But that’s terribly hard, and just not fair.


Instead of that condo, I’m working my way toward a townhouse, one that might be almost twice the size as that condo. It might also be newer, much newer, and in a better area. J and I will buy it together. We won’t settle for rattling furnaces (oh yeah, did I mention that racket?!) or neighborhoods with high crime ratings. We’ll find something in our budget, meeting our criteria, because it’s a big decision, and we have to live with it for years.


Whatever it is you want to change, you have to start with yourself in mind: what’s realistic for you, what can you honestly do, without straining yourself, to chip away toward that better life?

Gretchen Rubin had a great interview with Jess C. Lively of The Lively Show, and in it she talks about how you can’t commit to getting up before work and running if you’re not a morning person—don’t try to fix your inner self; you won’t win.

And I love that, because for it to truly be a successful endeavor, you have to meet your current self at your current self’s level. Not your idealized self—your true self.


And above all else, you have to be compassionate with that self. That’s the only way change is going to happen.

If you’re trying to buy a house, don’t cancel your cable service if you know that’s only going to infuriate you every week when your favorite show comes on TV. Cut out something that doesn’t feel so hard to live without.

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