little things add up

Seine river Paris
just imagining this reduces my stress levels…


Almost daily I come across an article about stress, the insidious impact it has on our health, and how to reduce stress in our lives. I’m on board with the concept, but sometimes I find the “solutions” rather stress-inducing themselves, as they often require an investment of time, space or energy that I just don’t have now. While a lot of stress is born out of the choices we make, sometimes there are stressors in our lives that we just have to ride along with and make the best of. It’s not possible to live a stress-free life, at least not for most of us. There will always be something outside of our control (health issues, family squabbles, jerk bosses, broken appliances, traffic) that require our attention, but I’m trying to identify those little, daily, control-able annoyances that also pile up in the mental/emotional inbox, and get rid of them so I can focus on the important stuff.


Morning schedule. Over the last few months, I’ve been feeling totally frazzled by the time I leave for work in the morning, between getting myself ready, preparing our son’s medication and breakfast, getting his lunch packed and backpack ready for school, feeding and walking dogs, preparing something for us for breakfast, making our lunches, and checking personal and work email. I mentally group these tasks into 30 minute blocks to stay on schedule. Lately I’ve found that just by switching two of the blocks I feel much more ahead of the train and SO much less stressed in the mornings. Lesson: don’t be afraid to tinker with established routines.


Hair. While I do really like how it looks now in this longer style, my hair is very fine, thin and wispy and always seems to be falling in my face. This not only itches but also impairs my vision when doing any tasks that require looking down (even if I tuck the front bits behind my ears). I’ve given myself a few months to adjust but feel as though I’m constantly annoyed by this, not to mention having developed a habit of cocking my head to the side to keep the hair out of my vision. Headbands and/or clips just seem like another layer of complication and I’m not willing to lacquer it into a helmet of submission. So I’m going to get it cut in a few days, and will probably go back to a style that’s a little shorter and more layered. Lesson: sometimes form has to take a back seat to function.


Dogs. While I love our morning walk (a bit of quiet time for me), one of the dogs, Byron, is a bit headstrong and flighty on the leash. He pulls, he darts from side to side (sometimes almost tripping me if I’m not paying attention), and eats random bits of plant and other junk off the sidewalk. I’ve put him back on the “Gentle Leader” headpiece, and it’s a world of difference. Seems to calm him down quite a bit too. Lesson: an extra few seconds of preparation can save a lot of aggravation.

Have you made any small changes lately to simplify your life and reduce your stress levels?

Walk the dog in style…

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  1. What a thoughtful and helpful post. I too am evaluating my structures and schedules to cut down on stress as the last month was just too much. I really like the idea of organizing tasks into blocks and then seeing which can be omitted or switched around. I have also been having a love affair with dark blue lately so the tunic is really catching my eye.

    Accidental Icon

  2. So true. Your hair looks lovely longer, or shorter – no worries. While my life is low-stress now, I retain the habits of do-it-all, and do-it-now. Some things can be let go, with no harm to anyone. I have switched to only one cup of caffeinated coffee in the morning, and that helps!

  3. I was moved to hear you describe yourself as “totally frazzled” by the time you leave for work. Wondering if you could hire some help- a dog walker or a household helper to prep those meals? There is only so much better time management can achieve; a helping hand can lift off so much stress. And I always loved your hair short 😉

  4. I am reading this on a very stressful day…so you have me thinking what I can re-arrange or perhaps look at differently. And I love your hair!

  5. One breakfast idea that has been a lifesaver for busy days are these protein pancakes. They freeze well in a Tupperware separated by layers of wax or parchment paper. Then heat in pan or microwave in the morning. My husband and I make a double batch on Sundays, let them cool, then freeze. They only take a minute to warm up in the AMs. Healthy, too! Mostly protein and fiber.

    The recipe: 1 cup of each: egg eaters, low fat cottage cheese, and quick cook (3minute, not instant) oats. Blend in blender until oats are broken up. May add a touch of salt and cinnamon for flavor. Cook in skillet like regular pancakes. One batch makes 8×4 inch pancakes. Each is about 70 calories and 12 grams of protein. Hope you like them!

  6. I wear my thinning hair short these days because it always looks good, doesn’t fall in my face and doesn’t drive me crazy!
    About your dog. I’ve got a 60 pit bull mix who even with one of those pointed metal collars wants to go see every dog on our walk, not fun(I’ve tried two kinds of gentle leader and neither work for her). My sister recommended a training collar, one that gives a brief shock and warning tones. Let me tell you that she is now a pleasure to walk and I almost never have to shock her unless we are learning something new. There is nothing like a well trained dog to decrease stress and increase fun. We live off a long private drive so I can even walk her without a lead here. She comes back to me immediately. Fun.

  7. We are at the very beginnings of our first major home reno, a bathroom. This is already stressing me though it hasn’t truly yet begun. We had a leak in our roof which ran down from the second floor to the first and had to have large holes cut in walls and ceiling. That is when the reno stress started. I decided that it is the best time to do the bathroom reno since the bathroom is half ripped apart already. Now I just try to avoid looking at the dining room/bathroom and keep telling myself this isn’t permanent. It too shall pass.


  8. Agree, mornings can be such a rush so any extra saved time is helpful! I am on public transit so 5 minutes late can mean I have missed my bus…..
    I changed the lunch prep to the prior evenings most days. Or I add an extra 5 minutes and do 2 sets in the morning one for that day and one for the next. Not perfect but acceptable and gives the added bonus of making me feel efficient!

  9. Like you I have fine thin hair and recently tried a slightly longer style – just didn’t work, there was way too much fussing required. I went to a shorter style, especially at the front, and am now much happier – no hair falling over my face which I hate. I look forward to seeing your new style.

  10. My life is a lot less complicated than yours (kids out of house, very flexible work schedule). Even so, we have tried to simplify. We make oat groats once a week and microwave every morning. We bring our lunch to work–either peanut butter sandwiches or homemade bean and cheese burritos (which we do en masse). We are lucky in that we don’t mind the repetition. I don’t like to make dinner when I get home, so I do that the night before. I am good at turning dishes into other dishes–so roast chicken turns to white bean chili turns to…(haven’t decided yet). We mostly eat one-dish meals.

    I think you mentioned a while back that your guys need more variety in their meals.

    I only look at two brands of clothing now (EF, Garnet Hill). I only buy skincare from Paula’s Choice or from her recommended products.

    My daughter is always telling me I need to use a hot iron on my hair. I remember to do that about once a week. I do remember to use sunscreen and lipstick every day.

    I have very low skills in and standards for housekeeping and laundry. So I do live in a mess–still working on that one.

    And I haven’t written a blog post in over a month. But I would be so very sad if I couldn’t read your blog.

  11. You sure are juggling a lot. And it sounds as if a haircut will make you feel a lot better. Since you have such lovely hair, I suspect you’ll be glad once you return to a more manageable “do.” It is very flattering either way.( I’m sometimes flummoxed buy how our husbands (if they still have hair!) seem so blithely to avoid hairstyle ‘anguish” like ours…!) Re the dog-walking: I was exactly in your shoes a few years ago. I also found that a “gentle leader” collar was the perfect solution to the problem of a rambunctious, 85-lb. Labrador retriever. If I may, I want to venture a reflection on your current state-of-being. The detail and care with which you prepare and offer each of your very tastefully written Blog posts suggest that you devote to this project a significant time commitment (not to mention skill and wit). While I am so, so grateful for your advice and upbeat offerings, I hope you will take care of yourself as often as need requires. If it were possible, I would happily lend you a helping hand, making school lunches, etc. etc. Surely, many of your readers feel the same way! Hang in there. Take a Blog day off… (And maybe take a nap this afternoon? 🙂 It works wonders for me.)

  12. I despise hair falling into my face. My aging hair is also thinning, straight as a pin and I, too, have tried in vain to wear a style very much like yours. Just not happening. Cut your hair and move on. It is very freeing!

  13. I think the stress solution for many issues (at least for me) is to embrace what is natural. For years I fought against my curly hair and white skin…but embracing what I have instead of trying for something different has given me peace! For you, shorter hair may be much more manageable with your hair type!! jodie
    ps…it only takes us over half our lives to figure these thing out, eh?

  14. Susan, we have identical hair issues. About six months ago I had my very fine blond hair cut short with lots of layers. It was an excellent cut, but it just wasn’t me. I somehow felt that my head was too small for my body. Now I’m letting it grow back in. What a disaster, and six months of feeling not quite right. My advice, for what it’s worth, is to have your hairdresser cut your hair shorter very gradually. If you want layering, do that very gradually with longer layers at first. Hopefully you will eventually hit on the perfect length, which is what I’m hoping for.

    Regarding stress, I don’t think it can be avoided. Its effect can be reduced by being aware that it is always there, and by not letting small irritants get to you… easier said than done. I’m retired and theoretically have lots of time, but the problem is not really time, it’s my mental outlook. Good luck with this!

    Just so you know, I and I’m sure many others love your blog. It’s not only fun to read, but it’s really helpful. I think my wardrobe has improved since I’ve been reading it. Much thanks for all the good advice!

  15. Ugh, stress. So ever-present, as you said. I have to admit: one of my favorite anti-stress solutions is reading your blog! It always provides a delightful mini vacation from my stressful reality. Yet as another commenter said, you take such time and care with your informative yet witty posts that I fear creating them might add to YOUR stress (simply due to the amount of time each post must take). Selfishly, I hope you’ll never stop writing; but for your sake, I hope you find a little relief from the many, many things you do each day. All the best–and many thanks.

  16. You certainly have more to deal with in the mornings than I do. Plus way higher standards in terms of doing your own food preparation. I get a coffee and croissant when I get to the office. I am trying to simplify my life, right now it’s mainly decluttering my house. It does make sense to have some standard meals that I could actually make at home more often. Aniko’s pancakes sound like a good idea, simple and make ahead for breakfast.

    PS love the Madewell bag, but I’m decluttering, not aquiring more!

  17. I tend to get up a bit earlier which give me plenty of time in the morning. I love the early mornings when it is quiet before the day really gets started.

  18. Your hair looks beautiful – either length. You are fortunate to be able to wear both well.

    I don’t know how you manage so much by yourself in the mornings. Never-ending stress is not healthy and I agree with Duchesse – maybe you could get some help with the advance prep of meals and also with the a.m. dog walking.

  19. One more comment – I love your little spaniels! Send them to me in Florida for a while – I’ll be glad to walk them anytime they want to go out…

  20. Bless your heart, Sue! You have a lot on your plate. You made some smart choices already and the outfit you posted for strolling along in Paris is (as always) beautiful. Take good care of yourself. I have no helpful suggestions for you, as I’m retired and my child launched.
    You’re doing a hero’s work and I look forward to seeing your new haircut!

  21. This is really quite brilliant. None of your changes are very big but seem to have made a huge impact on your stress level and your morning. Brilliant.

  22. Please don’t use shock collars on your little spaniels . A hefty pit bull might cope but your two would be traumatized . I actually find that walking my dogs de-stresses me so perhaps you should cut down in other areas first , maybe , as suggested ,less frequent blog posts ? Could you work less hours in your main job ? You do seem to be a very busy lady

      1. It seems like every FB friend I have who owns a pet has posted about their pet eating stuff and then upchucking it. I think the leash that keeps your pup from snarfing down heaven only knows what sounds like an excellent idea that should save you from disagreeable clean-ups in the future.

  23. She didn’t say she was using a shock collar. Perhaps writing her blogs is one way of destressing. It sounds like she was trying out some new tactics to make her life less stressful. If these changes dont work I bet she will try others. She sounds like a very smart lady to me. Reading her blog is one way I destress.

  24. I have no stress compared to your list! But I would suggest one or two things if you can work it into the routine. When you make dinner, prepare extra portions and package them up for the next day so lunch is already done. And on the weekends, make something ahead for breakfast. I like these:
    You can double easily and modify these loads of ways as you know and they reheat well, just add toast. Breakfast in 5 minutes! I also like make-ahead yogurt parfaits and the old standby boiled eggs, made ahead and kept in the fridge.
    If you like walking the dogs, great. Or hire someone to help once a day. Good luck, hang in there.

  25. I sympathize with the stressful, busy mornings…but I completely empathize with the hair issue. My husband much prefers my hair longer (a man thing?), but once the summer heat hits (as it has in Northern Florida) all I want is to get it off my neck, pronto!! Plus shorter hair is so much easier to manage if you’re in and out of the water, as I try to be swimming as often as I can fit it in. Longer hair can be just too much work for stressful days; plus I find that the longer my hair gets, the flatter it looks. Flat is NOT a good look if you’re no longer 20 years old…

    1. What is it with men and long hair? 🙂 I know, biological hardwiring, but they don’t understand the upkeep required!

  26. I want to add my voice to those who say (1) thank you for writing about this, (2) having a hair style that does not fit your life style is not a worthwhile, no matter how great it might look.
    I also want to (gently) suggest that you are trying to do too much in the morning. I’ve been down that road of meds, breakfast, lunches, backpacks, dog walking and feeding, and getting ready for work. There’s got to be a better way. Make sure the backpack is ready to go before bedtime. Prep the meds before bedtime. Get as much of lunches packed before bedtime as feasible. Also, in my house, anyone who was physically able to get their own breakfast was responsible for getting their own breakfast, and for putting dishes in the dishwasher afterwards. Good luck!

  27. Very helpful post. 🙂 The Gentle Leader really works. My dog tolerates but doesn’t like it. She can be quite comical when I first put it on her to go for walkies. Hair…I have the same hair type. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to the long-in-front style because…right, it’s not so functional. I’m loving my present pixie cut, it’s a keeper! Look forward to seeing your new do. Mornings: I’ve incorporated meditation into my a.m. routine and it’s helped reduce stress.

  28. May I ask if your husband helps out in any way ? I noticed you did not mention any contribution from him.

    1. Hi Gloria, yes, in the mornings he’s getting our son up, helping him get toileted, dressed, fed and ready for school. (We have a teenager with mild cerebral palsy and severe cognitive impairment.) It’s a team effort.

  29. This is something I really need to do. I’ve been working really long, relentless days (at university and then freelancing/blogging when I get home) for the last few months and I need to sort my life out and try to get the balance back.

  30. I agree with Duchesse that a part-time helper in the mornings would be a godsend. And I understand why you don’t want to do such tasks late in the evening.

    Hair! Along with comfy shoes, one of the classic topics. My hair (thick, curly, mostly silver with dark streaks) is very long now and I’ve been wearing it in a braid, but want to have it cut shorter. Not short, as I look dreadful in short hair, but certainly long enough to tie back so I don’t have hair in my face when I’m working. Of course the cut is up to you; there are probably stylist tricks to keep it from looking too severe even if shorter.

    Has your hair gone grey enough yet not to need colouring? If so you could achieve an effect similar to your current ash blonde colour with an anti-yellowing conditioning product that is much less trouble and less hard on hair.

    I really like that top; I’m not usually fond of blue, but love true indigo with the slight greenish tinge. And of course love your little dog most of all.

    1. Lagatta (and Duchesse) We’ve actually considered the idea of help in the morning, but it’s almost impossible to find someone here willing to work the 1-2 hours a day we’d need. And I can’t say that I blame them!

  31. I loved the images – it reminded me of walking through Paris with our English cocker spaniel when we spent a day in town on the way to somewhere else one summer (coincidentally a July 4th)!! The dog had a bathe in the fountains of the Louvre but wasn’t allowed to walk through the Tuileries… so we wandered all along the Seine instead. We spent a beautiful couple of hours relaxing in the park while husband and daughter went up the Eiffel tower and had a gorgeous ride back to the Hotel de Ville on a bateau mouche as the sun set. Simply beautiful!

  32. I gather you live in Los Angeles…are you a member of any neighborhood association website? I live in Northern California, in Palo Alto, and our local neighborhood website has been a treasure trove of information. If you have one, I’d suggest posting a help wanted notice there…maybe there is a high school student or community college student with flexible hours who could lend a hand in the morning.

  33. I started reading Slow Your Home and listening to the podcasts. She is great and I have learned so much!

  34. You have such lovely defined features, you would really suit an urchin cut, and they are so easy to manage just wash and go 🙂

  35. Yogurt for breakfast. I buy full fat yogurt and add fruit and/or jam or jelly even honey for flavor. It’s very quick.