Category Archives: the basics

The Basics: Keeping Your Area Clean

If there’s one thing that motivates me to get everything else done, it’s keeping my room clean. For some people, maybe the bedroom is not that motivator. It might be the kitchen or the bathroom or the laundry room.

But for me, making sure my bed is made, my clothes are all put away and my desk is clear is a surefire way to make the day get off to a good start.

Probably the best tip I can give for keeping this a priority without it getting overwhelming is to time yourself. Right now, get up, set a timer and do the minimal things to get your area clean.

Ready? Go!

OK. You’re back. How long did it take? It takes me less than 5 minutes to make my bed, clear off my desk and put clothes in drawers. Five minutes! When you’re trying to motivate yourself to do it, it seems like it’s going to take at least three hours. Prove yourself wrong by timing yourself so that next time you’re tempted not to do it, you can remind yourself how little time it takes.

It really does make a difference. The picture above is of my nicely made bed on a sunny September day. Just looking at that picture makes me want to sit on the bed and write a letter, or read a book, or write blog posts for next week (or… look for jobs online).

For a comparison, here’s my unmade bed. What can I say, I’m a rough sleeper.

Now that I look at that picture, I’m thinking maybe the best reason to make your bed right away is so you aren’t tempted to crawl back in it.

Whatever your area, whatever your motivation, pick that most important area and go at it. You won’t regret it!

And that’s the end of a week of looking at the basics! In case you’ve already forgotten where we started, here are the topics we’ve covered this week:
* Introduction
* Spending time with God
* Running and exercise
* Drinking lots of water

Come back next week for new recipes and a new once-a-week series on how to use the Internet to your advantage!


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The Basics: Water

Yesterday’s basic leads pretty well into today’s, but this one can stand alone pretty well, too.

Drinking water every day is one of my basics because it makes me feel so darn good. I don’t have to worry about how my body is going to handle all the sugar that’s often found in Coke.

By “coke,” I mean all kinds of “soda,” because I am from The South.

Yesterday I was talking to someone who mentioned that he’d recently given up Mountain Dew, but it was hard because it was his favorite drink. I only drink Mountain Dew when I go to Taco Bell (it’s a strange association, I know), but I’m the same way with Cherry Coke. I will fight all kinds of temptation to drink Sprite, Root Beer, etc. but if you pop a cold Cherry Coke in front of me, I will cave (note: this is not a challenge for anyone to try).

Now that I’m getting up three times a week to work out at 5:30 a.m., I’m trying more than ever to make it worth it. I’m watching what I eat, and, almost as important, what I drink. If you start reading the labels on soda cans and juice bottles, you’ll be surprised. You could eat two Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in lieu of that juice, and friends, that is worth it.

I know what you’re thinking. But I don’t like water! It’s hard for me to look at an entire Nalgene and think about drinking it all. Instead I just have a cup that holds about 10 oz. I fill it with ice, then fill it with water. And I drink all the water as fast as I can (within 15-20 minutes). Then I go refill it. Because it doesn’t have water in it much, the ice lasts for a long time. And there’s just something better about cold water. And it’s easier to do things in small amounts.

And if you’re exercising, it’s even more important. You can drink Gatorade, but that’s got a lot of sugar in it. And if you’re drinking any coke at all during the day, you have to drink an equal amount of water just to cancel out the dehydrating effects of the water (At least that’s what my high school cross country coach told us. I never challenged him on it.).

I started with an all-water diet for a week, and by the end of the week, I was craving water. Now, when I realize I’m thirsty, water sounds like the best thing.

Except when I’m at Moe’s. Then I get Cherry Coke.

Or Taco Bell.

Photo by drummerguy8706


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The Basics: Running

Today’s post is doing double duty as I continue to write about the basics and also take part in Works-for-me-Wednesday. If you’re here from Shannon’s blog, thanks for visiting. If you like what you see, please consider subscribing to my feed!

Monday we talked about how to focus on the basics, and yesterday I wrote about spending time with God. Today we’re moving from the spiritual to the physical, because one of the most influential basics in my life is exercise.

I have a T-shirt from a 5-kilometer (3.1 miles) race. It says “New Brookland Lions Club: May 20, 2000.” I wore that short to work out in the other day and was amazed as I considered the fact that I’ve been running – kind of – for more than 8 years. In 2000, I had just finished up eighth grade and was looking ahead to high school. I had hardly run at all, but my mom was going to run in that race and so I had been doing some running with her.

Since then, I’ve run cross country races in high school and a few road races in college (a 5-mile leg of a marathon relay, a 10K in April). And since I started college I’ve gone to the gym fairly regularly.

I go in phases. Sometimes I’m really pumped up about it, especially if I’m training for something specific. Other times I hardly go at all. I’ve rode the exercise rollercoaster many times, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that I feel better when I run. It’s amazing what endorphins can do.

I’m not saying that running and exercise is a cure-all. But running fills a lot of different needs. Allow me to elaborate.

Running lets you be alone.
I don’t have kids that I need a break from, but everybody enjoys some peace and quiet. And I’ll bet you that if you’re with a lot of other people (say, with family over the holidays) and you say you’re going to go for a run, no one will offer to join you.

Running gives you time to pray and think.
My mind and heart are always refreshed when I get back from a run. When you don’t have anything else to focus on, your mind tends to wander to what’s heaviest on your heart. Maybe someone you know is sick. My mind often goes to the little girl I sponsor in Peru. Even if you go on a short run, that’s 20-30 minutes or uninterrupted time for you to pray and work through whatever’s on your mind.

Running helps you stay healthy.
Notice that I didn’t say running helps you lose weight. It will do that if you’re paying attention to other factors as well (like your diet), but even if you’re not losing weight, you’re maintaining health by forcing your body to exert itself.

Running is so easy, anyone can do it.
This is one of the reasons I started running. I’d never been good at games that involved balls, so running was a natural choice. And to be a runner, you don’t have to run 4-minute miles. You just have to get out there and run.

Running is fairly inexpensive.
All you really need is a good pair of shoes.

Running is something you can do anywhere.
Of course, be smart about it, but as long as you’re in a safe environment, you can run no matter where you are. And in my opinion, running outside is way more fun than running inside, anyway.

If you don’t exercise regularly, it’s not hard to start running. You can take a look at the beginner’s guide I posted on my other blog earlier this year if you need help getting started. And feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me with any questions you have.

Seriously. Running works for me.


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The Basics: Spending Time With God

Yesterday I told you that my four basics are God, exercise, water and bedroom. For the rest of the week, I’ll be focusing in on one of those things each day.

My list of basics has four items, but if I only had to pick one item, the fundamental thing on my list would be spending time with God.

In Psalm 27:4-5, God tells us the following:

One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple.
For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion;
In the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me;
He shall set me high upon a rock.

David was the king of Israel when he wrote that. If that much was true for him, how much more so should I desire only to seek the Lord?

That’s why spending time with God is the number one priority on my list. If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you know that not spending time with God affects the rest of your day. You can have the highest aspirations for how your day is going to go, but if you trust in yourself instead of in the strength of Christ, you’ll fail miserably.

OK, so we’ve got the principle: spending time with the Lord should be on our list of basics. But how do we apply the principle?

I’ve tried several different Bible-reading plans. Some were successful; some were not. Right now I’m using Dan Edelen’s plan, which so far has been transforming. I’m still in the read-through-a-book seven times part (I started with Matthew), but already I’ve become more familiar with different stories in that particular book.

Regardless of the plan you use, the important thing is not to read through the Bible in a certain amount of time. The important part is to be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:1-2) so that you can live a life that glorifies God.

In addition to reading the Bible, I keep a prayer journal. I have three columns: In the first one, I write the date I started praying; in the second, the specific request; in the third, the date when God answered the prayer. Some requests will never have a “God-answered” date because they’re continual prayers, like victory over sin or a strengthened relationship with Christian. I’ll be praying for those things until I breathe my last breath. But other things, like prayer for peace during a job interview last month, are definitely answered at a certain time. And so the prayer journal allows me to have a record of God’s faithfulness, in case I’m ever tempted to doubt (which you know if you’ve seen my other blog).

Aside from prayer and Bible reading, it’s also encouraging and fulfilling to read books about God. Right now I’m reading a book about the Ten Commandments by a Puritan named Thomas Watson. It’s a hard book to read, but it’s stretching my mind, my heart and my worldview. I read a couple pages each night before bed, and it complements well my prayer and Bible reading time.

Well, now it’s your turn. If you’re a Christian, how do you devote energy to spending time with God?

Photo by DrGBB

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What Are the Basics? Where Can I Get Some?

Introducing: The Basics
What’s the most important thing in your life? If you were allowed to have only three goals each morning when you woke up, what would they be?

How can we determine if we’re taking care of the basics? And if we realize that our lives are not simple, what can we do to get back to the basics?

I’m a recovering perfectionist. Wanting everything to be perfect may be a worthy goal, but you can’t ever reach it, and so most of your best efforts end in futility. Life is actually much more abundant when you focus on the basics, because when you’re content with the simple, it doesn’t become necessary to make it more complicated.

Practically Speaking
I have a mental checklist of four items in my head when I wake up every morning: God, exercise, water, bedroom. This is a list that has developed over time without a whole lot of intentionality on my part. Those are simply the things that I consider basic to everyday life. And I’ve found that if those four things are taken care of, my life is much more abundant.

Here’s what those four items signify for me:

  • God: Reading my Bible, prayer, reading God-centered books
  • Exercise: Running, going to the gym, walking the dog, group exercise, and – for the next 6 weeks – boot camp at 5:30 a.m. three times a week
  • Water: Make water the primary liquid I drink
  • Bedroom: Is my desk clear? Is my bed made? Are all my dresser drawers closed? (You laugh – but it’s an issue)

How Do I Decide On My Basics?
Having a list of four items isn’t necessary. Your list may have eight or twenty or one hundred items. My list works for me because it’s short and easy to remember.

If you’re married and have kids, they’re probably included in your ‘basics’ (If they’re not, I’d suggest some prayer and re-evaluation). If you have a job (unlike me), probably some of those responsibilities are on your list.

The point is not to make this complicated, but instead to force you to pare down everything in your life into the simplest terms possible.

Think about the things that mean the most to you. Think about the things that bring you joy. And sometimes it even helps to think about the things you least feel like doing when you’re not motivated at all. It sounds counterintuitive, but honestly, when I feel down, all I want to do is drink a bunch of coke, watch TV and totally ignore reading my Bible. There you have three out of my four basics (and who ever really feels like tidying up?).

Help! My Life Isn’t Basic At All!
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t worry about trying to find your basics. It took me a couple of days to narrow mine down to the bare minimum, and I’m sure as things change in my life in years to come, my list will change as well. The important thing is making sure the basics are taking care of, so you can be better equipped to handle the nonbasics.

For the rest of the week, I’ll be focusing on each one of my basics in order to help you think about the things that are most important to you. Tomorrow: spending time with God.

photo by aka_kath

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