The Life of Bon: How to eat an elephant: I'm stressed.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

How to eat an elephant: I'm stressed.

It's the stomach ache time of the year.

I don't know why the beginning of the school year always gives me a tad bit of anxiety.  I mean, I don't know what ragamuffins are going to wander into my classroom and tell me to f off, I don't know how absolutely terrible their spelling is going to be, and I have no idea exactly why the faculty meetings have to be over four hours long.  On top of that there's the anxiety about what I'm teaching.  Teaching English is awesome because it allows you so much creativity in the classroom.  In the same breath, teaching English is awful because it allows you so much creativity in the classroom.  It is this week of school that I am begging to be a Math teacher.  Just give me a text book with units already developed, worksheets written, tests ready to go and I'll shut up and be happy. Somebody make my curriculum for me, please!

Of course this year there is added stomach ache.  I'm at a new school.  I don't know the other teachers. This English department works way differently than my old English department did, (meet once a week to go over our lesson plans, coordinate with the History department so we are teaching the same thing at the same time, teach American literature in chronological order.  Oh, the changes!) I don't know any of the kids coming in, I'm short 8 desks that won't be here for another month, and the most anxiety inducing of all is I'm teaching AP Lit this year.  I've got no clue in the world what to teach/how to teach.

When I start to think about all this I have mini inside freak out session and then start seriously considering dropping it all to follow my childhood dream of being a ballet dancer.  It usually takes about a day for me to calm down and come to my senses.  Breathe in. Breathe out.  Take it one day at a time.  I don't have to plan for the whole year. I just need to plan for Monday. Isn't there some saying about eating an elephant one bite at a time?  Yes. That.  I've already had three very fun and very successful years of teaching.  There's nothing to say that this year won't be different.  I enjoy teaching.  I'm good at it.  I get along great with 16 year olds.  I'll be okay.

Today I've got Torrie here helping me to stop freaking out.  She talks about simplifying and decluttering our lives.  When I am stressed one of the things that helps me more than anything is to clean and organize.  Isn't that weird?  It's like by wiping off a desk I suddenly feel like I have total control over my life? Torrie is a fellow English teacher except for bless her soul, she teaches seventh grade.  There is a special level in heaven for people like Torrie.  I hope you enjoy this post from her as much as I did- it is spot on.  I am going to have to start using the "One in One out" rule immediately.  Pretty sure it's going to change my life!

You're up, Torrie!

Guest posting for a bigger, much cooler blog reminds me of high school---I once went to this party for "cool kids" (having no clue how I even got an invite), and instead of chatting people up or hangin' out by the pool, I latched onto another scared soul and proceeded to go off into some deep conversation or other until my friends found me and dragged me away.

Hopefully no dragging will be necessary here--that Bonnie looks pretty tough (after all, she teaches 17-year-olds, whereas I just deal with the 13-year-old wimps).

So, fellow scared party stalker: here is what I'm all about right now.

Name: Torrie Meidell

Location: Logan, Utah

Occupation: 7th grade English teacher (a feat for which I'm apparently going straight to heaven, according to most people I meet for the first time who ask what I do)

Blog: Autodidactic Ambitions (autodidact = self-taught, autodidactic = a word I made up. so sue me.)

Current Goals: go meatless 3X a week, read all the books off of the "100 most recommended classics" list, train for another marathon (but maybe not run it--my first one was brutal), follow Dave Ramsey's baby steps to financial peace (currently on step 3!), and my big one: organize and de-clutter every inch of our apartment in 50 weeks, a goal which has come with a surprising twist.

It's this last goal of organizing my life that I wanted to spend some time on today.

Quick life story: I grew up in the immaculate home of my mother, who is the most organized person on the planet. From her personal appearance to her utensil drawer, nothing is out of place. I, on the other hand, naturally shy away from cleaning or anything that remotely looks like housework, preferring instead to spend my time reading or checking out the latest episode of America's Next Top Model.

The problem, though, with growing up in a house that clean? I learned to expect cleanliness and organization without actually doing it myself.

This year of organization has had some surprising twists and turns (check out my journey here), but I think the thing that's surprised me the most was that this whole organization thing has pushed me towards totally simplifying my life.

Perhaps not surprisingly, these changes have brought me enormous satisfaction, so I thought I'd go ahead and share some of the tips I've learned for increasing life satisfaction through de-cluttering with you.

1. Focus on one small section at a time, and don't let yourself meander into some other project before your previous one is finished. Victory gives you the satisfaction and confidence to move on, so don't shortchange the momentum by spreading out your focus. Also, if your area is truly disastrous (like our spare bedroom above was), breaking things into small sections is the only way you'll be able to de-clutter without exploding.

2. Set a goal of how many items you need to de-own before you start the project. Set the number high, and count all similar items as one thing (like all those old school notebooks? they only count as one item that you've tossed). My overall number for this 50-week project is 500 items total, but I would recommend having a goal for each area (15 for the bathroom, 100 for the junk room, etc.).

a purse that was handmade for me that I will never, ever use

3. If you're having trouble getting rid of items for sentimental reasons, take a picture of you with the item and let it go. If something isn't bringing you joy as it currently is, either get rid of it or change its format so you can actually enjoy it.

4. Employ the one in, one out rule: if you acquire one new thing, you have to get rid of one old thing.

5. Surround yourselves with messages and media that inspire you to be happy with what you have instead of making you feel like you need more. I used to follow a lot of fashion blogs and spend hours on Pinterest and read a ton of magazines, but I found that all of those things just made me compare my life to someone else's, and mine seemed to always come up short---my clothes weren't good enough, my apartment wasn't beautiful enough, I myself wasn't skinny/pretty/smart enough, etc. etc. But once I stopped following all that and let my main blog feed be filled with people who I found inspiring (like Bonnie) and blogs that supported my goals (like The Minimalists and Sylvia's Simple Life), my own drive for stuff drastically decreased. (And a bonus? We're saving a LOT more money now, too!)

There's a lot more I could add, but I've held you hostage long enough. Have you ever tried de-cluttering or simplifying your life? What tips would you add?

Make sure to visit Torrie here!


  1. Ah the first week, I'm so TIRED!!!! It all gets easier from here my friend!


  2. I keep waiting for all my nervous first day jitters to kick in, I imagine they will next week. I am not sure what it is about the first day of school and new kiddos that puts me right back in the mindset of a nervous adolescent...perhaps because I teach teenagers and all. Best of luck!

  3. Yeah, I'm super stressed about starting my school year, too. Maybe it's because my first year of teaching (last year) was so difficult, or maybe it's because I've heard terrible stories about the incoming group of kids, but either way, I'm a bit sick to my stomach about the whole thing.

    Thanks for letting me guest post! I had fun writing it up.

  4. Eating an elephant, love it. You will be fine, just take it one step,er bite at a time girl! Really liking today's sponsor!

  5. Dear Bon, (?)
    Aside of the fact that you're LDS and you served in my awesome country, I have a total blog crush on you! (!!) I just love how you express yourself and how colloquial your writing is. I am also a teacher and I feel your pain and know your fears. Scary as heck. One day when we become BFFs I'll tell you my story of teaching Spanish in the ghetto.
    Now, after reading about your friend Torrie, I might develop a blog crush on her too because we're moving, we're downsizing, we (I) need that inspiration to declutter, and because she watched ANTM! (I still do, 32 y-o mom, PhD candidate and all, I watch America's Next Top Model. There, I said it).
    Anyhow, yep. I love reading what you have to say. You're very candid and this little blogging world needs more candid women. Enough with the "you look fab, girl!" crap. Enough.
    All right, I already have my foot in my mouth. That was all I wanted to say.

    Ana Paula
    {Visit me at Mommyhood, PhD}

  6. Bonnie, my dear!!

    I feel all of your pain! Every word! My oh my! Even though opening a new school is fun, it is crazy. I found out that I have 43 kids in French 1. They keep cramming them in with all the new enrollment and only gave me 36 desks. Kids will be on the floor on Monday. We have no printers. No printers anywhere in our building!!--well, I guess they are in boxes somewhere, but only one per department once they get set up. And our computers are not connected to our projectors. Also, we found out that there is no budget for blinds and so this weekend, I will be at my sister-in-law's house, cutting and hemming up curtains that I just bought at Target so I can have some darkness for my projector that hopefully will magically work on Monday. Sigh.

    Girl, I am going to miss our fun faculty lunches together, laughing our heads off at crazy colleagues and students. That will be the hardest part. Okay, in a week or two we need to go get ice cream and vent it together. I do like what you said--we can eat an elephant one bite at a time and all will be okay. Thank you!

  7. This will be my 7th year teaching AP Lit! Maybe I can help a bit :).

  8. Back to school is stressful! I am doing inclusion english & social studies this year with all new coworkers as well. Give us both a few weeks and I am sure we both will have found our groove :)

  9. You'll do great at your new school Bonnie. I'm living through all my teacher friends and teacher bloggers because I'm still in search of a classroom. Have a great year!

  10. I'm feeling that way right now, too, especially because I haven't taught English yet. I even had a "1st day of school" dream last night! Aach!
    Our Fairy Tale

  11. Man you guys are a Bedford/St. Martin's department! I used to sell those textbooks. Good stuff. Aaaaand I totally know the hell you're in. I teach college composition. Talk about total freedom! It's a nightmare.

  12. i'm in my 11th year of teaching and I always get anxiety at the beginning of every year! and I've taught every grade (except 6th and 7th). I started out with 8th graders, went to high schoolers after that, and am now in elementary. here's a secret...they're ALL scary! ;)

  13. The first week of school is stressful. We fill the first 3 days with preservice and then the kids start on ThursdAy. Let me tell you, three days worth of meetings is not a good way to start off the school year! I have been teaching for 6 years and for the first 4 I was at a different school every year, which, as you know, adds a new level of stress at the start. Nth is year, after having bounced from meeting to meeting, I walked in my room to find two past students writing me messages of encouragement on my board: " know we love you and have a great first day". Good mantra for the year!

  14. So stressful~ But I know you can do it. Once the year starts and you get to know everyone, it'll all work out. Stress is stress though, so I hope you can relax a bit and take one bite at a time.

  15. I'm so happy to read this! Not that you're anxious, but that it's normal :) I'm starting my first year teaching, and my pre-K classroom has been scaring the crap out of me.