Blogging:  Concerns and Truths

Blogging: Concerns and Truths

bill payI’ve been consistently posting on my blog here for a couple of months (yay, me!).  There are several concerns that I have had about blogging that probably held me back to start with:

Concern:      I was worried I wouldn’t have enough content

Truth be told, there are plenty of blogs out there that have a more narrow focus than mine, and they are doing just fine.

Even with using blog posts I wrote years ago for Weight Loss Journey 1, I have plenty of ideas to maintain my goal of 2-3 posts per week.  With things that happen to me on a daily basis, thoughts and concerns, stories to share, plus blog posts I have written over the past several years, I have found it easy to maintain this pace without dipping in to my reserve articles.

Truth:  It has been much easier to maintain this pace than I thought.  It was me that was holding me back!

One day I may be interested in posting more articles, but for now posting 2-3 times per week has been easier than I expected.  Apparently, I have more to share than I realized. J

 

Concern:      I was worried people wouldn’t be interested in what I have to say

This blog is probably more for myself than for anyone else, at least for right now.  In order to feel comfortable sharing my life with the internet, I really had to shift my focus from the big, bad world to myself.  I want this blog to benefit other people, for sure.  But for years I have had more guilt about not doing it than I had fear of actually doing it, which led me to finally take the plunge.  I’m not sure if I’m expressing myself clearly so I’ll say it another way.  I’d rather face the fear of what other people think than live with the regret of not ever taking action on the blog.

I have been hesitant to share the title of this blog, even with close friends, for fear they would be harsh and critical.   I think this has to do with a bigger question:

Why is it that I don’t think my words have value?

 

Truth:  People want you to succeed.  More often than not, they will offer support instead of criticism.

 

Concern:  People would avoid my site because the design wasn’t “pretty” or “professional” enough.

Technology is constantly changing.  I have seen the designs for my favorite blogs change over the years, and that hasn’t stopped me from visiting those sites.  I don’t know a lot about the technical aspects of blogging, but there are plenty of resources to help me learn.

 

Truth: People are drawn to websites over and over again because of the content, not the design. I will figure out the technological aspects along the way.

 

I say all this to share what I have been learning over the past couple of months about blogging and how my fears have interfered with taking action in the past.  I have such a different sense of accomplishment now that I am sharing my words instead of just letting them swirl around inside me.  The feedback I have gotten has been positive (thanks!) and constructive; my friends have some really good ideas!

The bigger message I have learned from this is that if there’s something you deeply and intensely want to do but are hesitating about because of fear—do it anyway.  The details will work themselves out.  You can’t wait for circumstances to be perfect; they never will be.  Certainly, there are ways you can plan for success, but don’t let fear or lack of knowledge get in your way.  These things can be overcome!

Is there something your heart yearns to do but you find yourself hesitating and making excuses as to why it won’t work?    Start taking action!  You will feel better and find that you are energized and ideas come to you with ease.  I’d love to hear what you learn along the way!

Weight Loss Journey 2:  Breaking the Plateau

Weight Loss Journey 2: Breaking the Plateau

I have officially lost 20 pounds!

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My period of no carbs has come to an end.  After eating (almost) nothing but veggies, meat, cheese, nuts and eggs since the beginning of July, I’m happy to say that I have lost 20 pounds and definitely some inches, although I haven’t kept track of those.

This past weekend and Labor Day weekend I reduced my limitations, but still tried to stay within a reasonable calorie range.  With Weight Loss Journey 1, the primary method I used to manage my nutrition was counting calories.  It was great because it was like a budgeting system for my daily nutritional needs.  If I wanted a splurge, I had to eat lower calorie foods for the rest of the day.  The wonderful part about that was that there were no restrictions.  None.  I could have dessert, I could drink alcohol, I could go out for pizza—the key was moderation.

All that being said, I have been surprised at how easy it’s been to maintain the no-carb lifestyle, and I wasn’t a ravenous beast like I remember being in college when I did the Atkins system.  Still, though, restricting myself so much has made me long for the day when I finally would have more freedom about how I choose to eat.

I love veggies, I love meat, and I love eggs.   And to be honest, I’m pretty sure I will continue to make low-carb choices as I move on from this point, just because high-calorie foods are not consistent with my goals.  However, I think the reason that I have been on a plateau for over a month is that I have had very little variety and enjoyment in the food planning process.

Was it easy to grab little pouches for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and just heat them up in the microwave?  Absolutely!  Was it convenient?  For sure.  Did I have immediate results?  Most definitely!

But on the flip side…Did I get a little sick of veggies?  Yes.  Was it frustrating?  Yes.  After eating like a rabbit for almost 3 months and seeing my weight plateau after 6 weeks, I was ready to throw the scale out the window and stomp around grabbing for carbs like Godzilla storming Tokyo.  I thought to myself “stay consistent, Bridget, it will all be worth it”.  And truthfully, I was still seeing results, just not in the numbers.

I’m proud of myself for the amount of self control I’ve had.  Aside from the no-carb hiatus on Labor Day weekend, which I planned ahead of time, I never (knowingly) strayed from the plan.  Several times I had to send food back at restaurants, which is completely against my character.  One time I literally spit peanuts out after reading on the label that there was added sugar.

Those situations take a lot of discipline.

It would have been easy to shrug it off and think, “they went to all the trouble to cook this” or “It’s just one bite, it’s not going to make a difference”, but one bite could easily lead to an entire cookie, or an entire carton of ice cream.  That may sound extreme, but everything I put in my mouth takes me closer to my goals or farther away.  I am proud of the discipline I’ve had commitment  I have made to my health and my body.

So here, we are.  I’m still on a weight loss journey but my methods are going to change a little from what you’ve seen since July.  From now on, I will let myself have a bit of something sweet here and there.  My goal is still fat loss, and by default, weight loss.

This is my focus from here on out:

  1. Calorie counting with moderation will be the mode of managing my nutrition.  Carb-free no longer
  2. Increased exercise to help burn fat at rest and to manage stress.
  3. The focus is on long-term health, not weight loss.

I don’t feel the sense of urgency and time pressure that I did with weight loss journey 1.  My primary concern is to create and maintain healthy habits which will keep me healthy for the rest of my life.  Certainly I have goals, and a general idea of what size I want to wear and how much I want to weigh, but truly that hasn’t been the driving force for my actions.  Maintaining my health is a marathon, not a sprint (sorry for the cliché), and it will matter more what I did over the course of my life than it will over a period of time.

That’s all for now, folks!  In addition to finally getting through that plateau I’m happy to say I continue to sleep well and have a good amount of energy.  As I write, I’m able to cross my legs under my desk and my pants continue to grow loose.

How are you getting closer to your goals?

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Inquiring minds want to know: What is all this business about Weight Loss Journey 1 and Weight Loss Journey 2?

Weight Loss Journey 1: I lost 75 pounds from 2009-2011; I’m reposting the blog posts I wrote on Sparkpeople during that time

Weight Loss Journey 2: I have gained back the majority of the weight I lost and have been on a quest since July 2015 to lose the weight again.

Sorry about the timing of the posts, I know that’s probably confusing. But they are only appearing at the same time because I didn’t start my blog earlier. It may be helpful to read the posts by category if you want to catch up. Enjoy!

Overcoming Obstacles

silhouette-936715_1920So if you’re a detail-oriented person, you may have noticed that I really got the inspiration and made the decision to start this website back in the end of April 2011.  However, it didn’t actually launch until August of 2015. You may be thinking, “Bridget, what the heck took you so long?”

I’m addressing this because it relates to my mission in this website—to help people overcome obstacles and get the best life has to offer.  For me, the obstacles facing me were fear and lack of knowledge.

Here are some of the thoughts I have had.  “Would people really be interested in what I have to say?  Do I really have something valuable to offer?  Could I really be successful at this?  Do I really have the time it takes to devote to a functional, well-maintained, and lucrative website?”  Of course, they all center around the fear that I’m not good enough and I don’t have what it takes to achieve something that I really want to do.

So, what to do in these situations?

Put these thoughts out of your mind.

I truly believe that if you have a lot of fear about something it’s because you are truly meant to do it, and that its your own insecurities holding you back. If you follow your inner compass and allow yourself to believe you are capable of achieving what you want, take a step forward.  Just one step.  Then, when you see that work out, take another.  Just one step at a time.  Anyone can take one step.  When I have fears like that, it helps to remind myself of times in the past that I have been afraid, but took action and had success despite the fear.

Fear isn’t what holds you back.  You are what holds you back, if you choose to let fear paralyze you.  It’s a choice.

This is the reason it took me so long to launch this website even though I’ve really known what I wanted to do since for years!  Eventually I just decided that it doesn’t matter how much I hem and haw about my content and my layout; it won’t benefit anyone for my ideas to remain ideas.  I will be the first to admit that this website is a work in progress and it may be a little rocky to start with, but it was more important that I get it out there and make it a reality than to try to make everything perfect before I did something with it.

So here I am, embarking on this journey, which I believe will be a positive one.

Oh yeah.  The other obstacle—lack of knowledge, is one that can be easily overcome.  I really have very little technical knowledge and I’ve never had a website before, so all the jargon is very new and unfamiliar.  I feeling like I’m kind of groping along in the dark, but fortunately there is a lot of (free!) information available on the internet, and other bloggers and supportive people in my life are very friendly, helpful, and forthcoming  with lessons they have learned along the way.

Embracing Fall

leaves-449622_1920School has started, the pools have closed, there’s a chill in the air, and Starbucks has started serving Pumpkin-spiced lattes.  Christmas decorations have made their appearance in craft stores.  Fall is officially here!

Summer is my favorite season, so saying good-bye is always difficult for me.  This year, instead of dreading the season of cold and darkness, I’m trying to engage a more positive perspective about autumn and the unique things that only come this time of year.

Beauty

There’s nothing quite like the beauty of the orange and red colors that show up on the trees at this time of year.   I’m taking a trip to the mountains this weekend, and I’m actually hoping for the trees to change a lot this week so I can take in the view on the ride.

Down Time

Everything feels just a little slower during this time of year.  School has started, so kids have stopped running around outside and begun hitting the books again.  There seems to be fewer parties.   The sun is setting earlier, which means people are home with their families instead of staying out late.  The chill in the air encourages me to cuddle at home and read or watch a movie instead of going out.  It’s nice to have a slowed pace and get a little bit of rest and relaxation.

Comfy Clothes

Skimpy summer apparel and beachwear require a lot of work:  regular shaving, uncomfortable strapless bras, keeping your toe nails painted for wearing sandals.  Fall allows for jeans that are well worn, shoes that cover your whole foot, and a comfy cardigan sweater. It’s just less work.

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Getting Ready for the Holidays

I’m (a little) embarrassed to say that I’m among the percentage of Americans that has already begun Christmas shopping.  I can’t help it, when I see something I know someone I love will like (and its decently priced), I buy it just in case I don’t see it again later.  Honestly, it helps my budget and time management to do it this way.  Fall means that winter parties and holiday time with loved ones are approaching!

Unique Flavors

I already mentioned the appearance of pumpkin spice lattes (it seems pumpkin flavors are popping up in everything!), but there’s also apple cider, seasonal beers, and warm soups that reappear in the fall!

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(Dear coffee creamer companies, can you make a pumpkin spice sugar-free, dairy free coffee creamer for those of us on no-carb diets?  Please and thank you! J)

Extra sleep

In addition to the slower pace, one of my favorite things about the fall is daylight savings time.  Yes, I hate losing the evening sunshine, but there’s a weekend with an extra hour of sleep!  Big sleepers, rejoice!

 

What is your favorite part of the fall?

Weight Loss Journey 1: Running in a Thunderstorm Makes You Move A Little Faster

thunder-953118_1280*****This post first appeared on Sparkpeople on July 28, 2009*****

Today I had one of those days when you’re forced to stop taking yourself so seriously. There has been a lot going on this week, some serious stuff with close friends, so my exercise has been more sporadic. Today I turned down some quality time with one of my favorite people in the world because I HAD to get in a walk. Now, I’ve walked in the rain before, which can actually be quite pleasant as it takes the edge of the humid North Carolina summer heat, but this was a different thing entirely. When I left my apartment I thought I could squeeze in four miles of walking before the sun went down. At the end of my first mile, the skies turned dark, the wind changed direction, and I could hear the rumble of thunder in the distance. The second mile runs on a hill where there are fewer trees, so I determinedly continued into my second mile, fixated on completing my goal of four miles. The skies didn’t open up, but the thunder continued and worsened and lightning started striking all around me. I think there were actually two storms converging on one another, because the two purple masses in the sky seemed to be moving toward each other.

I’ll be honest; I was scared. I swear there were times the lightning seemed only a few feet away. Since I hadn’t been to this park since last Thursday (it’s Tuesday) I was determined to keep going, and I was actually surprised at the amount of energy that I had. A good portion of the time, I was running. I think it was a combination of the pent-up energy I had from not doing cardio in so many days and my strong desire not to get hit by lightning! All I kept thinking about was my mother’s voice telling me not to get too close to the trees because lightning travels through the trunks. Then were the conflicting voices telling me I had to finish the four miles because that was my goal “even if it killed me” and the prayers I kept saying to God thanking Him for keeping me alive.

In hindsight, it really wasn’t that dangerous, but it felt like it at the time. I felt so silly, all these thoughts, and feeling like I was in so much danger. Meanwhile the other crazy people on the trail seemed to be taking their sweet time with not a care in the world. I must have looked like a cartoon character. Every time there was a bolt of lightning I would start sprinting, then slow back down into a walk until another bolt of lightning hit and I took off again like I’d been slashed by a whip. I’m sure I was the picture of anxiety. You could probably slap my face on the “before” picture of an ad for anti-anxiety medication (the “after” picture, of course, being the expression I wore when I finally reached the sanctuary of my car). Unfortunately or fortunately, I’m not really sure which, my sensible side took over and I stopped after that second mile, just about when the rain came pouring down in torrents. I have seen a lot of storms, but this was definitely one you didn’t want to be caught outside in, especially in a park full of big, lightning-conducting trees. Needless to say, I didn’t take the extra minute to stretch until I was safe (and relieved) in my apartment. What is the purpose of telling you this tale? I’d like to say that I’m an overcomer and achieved my goal regardless of the obstacles in my path. However, although I am an overcomer, circumstances can change your plans a little. I realized that while it’s important to make your health a priority and achieve your goals, you have to be flexible and adapt when things don’t turn out exactly as you plan. I think I’ve been getting into a rut with my exercise lately, not being very creative, but the important thing is that I’m still doing it and still making it a priority. Also, I haven’t been spending that much time on SparkPeople lately. However, reconnecting today was definitely helpful. Today is weigh-in day and I didn’t lose this week (I think I’ve got girl issues contributing to that anyway) but when I plugged in my measurements it was motivating to see the graphs that showed that I’ve lost inches on EVERY area that I’ve measured, and I have consistently measured my body every week since the end of May. As I write this I’m shifting my focus to the positive-no, I didn’t do four miles today, but I did run more than I have any other time! Who cares that my motivation was avoiding getting hit by lightning! Who cares that I didn’t lose any pounds this week–I’ve lost 15 pounds in two months! I’m adding clothes to my “too big” pile daily! Most importantly, though, I’m still committed to making the effort, and I’m not giving up on myself. And, thankfully, there are other ways to work out than running in a thunderstorm…

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Inquiring minds want to know: What is all this business about Weight Loss Journey 1 and Weight Loss Journey 2?

Weight Loss Journey 1: I lost 75 pounds from 2009-2011; I’m reposting the blog posts I wrote on Sparkpeople during that time

Weight Loss Journey 2: I have gained back the majority of the weight I lost and have been on a quest since July 2015 to lose the weight again.

Sorry about the timing of the posts, I know that’s probably confusing. But they are only appearing at the same time because I didn’t start my blog earlier. It may be helpful to read the posts by category if you want to catch up. Enjoy!

Weight Loss Journey 2:  Non-Weight Benefits

Weight Loss Journey 2: Non-Weight Benefits

It has been over 2 months since I began Weight Loss Journey 2 in early July 2015.  Within the first 6 weeks, I saw incredible progress, to the tune of 15 pounds of weight loss.
Almost another 6 weeks later, I still see the same 15 pounds of weight loss on the scale.  No more.  I want to see the scale change (and get under 200 pounds again—soon!) but I’m trying very hard to avoid focusing on the numbers.  Because the truth is, I’m still seeing results and I’m still staying consistent with my habits.
So today, I’m going to tell you about the other changes I see—the ones that have nothing to do with numbers on a scale.
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  1. More energy
    My body feels lighter.  It’s easier to move, and it’s easier for me to jump up and do something instead of sighing heavily and struggling to stand up.  My Zumba classes are more fun for me because my body cooperates with what I tell it to do; it seems to even enjoy the movement!
  2. I can cross my legs
    This may seem like a minor thing but for a girl who likes to feel like a lady, I like being able to cross my legs.  As my legs have gotten bigger in the past, I have lost that ability.  I’m getting it back, and it makes me feel feminine and girly.
  3. My clothes have a looser fit
    I have talked about this a little bit with a pair of capris I wore the other day, but I’m seeing it in other clothes as well.  Earlier in the week I tried on a pair of pants that had gotten too small for me to feel comfortable wearing in public; they were just too tight.  In fact I forgot I had them because they were hiding out in the bottom of my drawer.   But I tried them on the other day and didn’t have to struggle with the clasp or pull to get them over my hips.  I have a feeling I will go back to wearing them soon!
  4. Prioritizing my overall health
    With the change in my nutritional habits, I have experienced a decrease in the desire for sugary sweets and unhealthy foods.  Along with that I seem to have placed a different value on prioritizing my sleep, emotional health, and maintaining my energy levels. 
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  5. Others are noticing the change in my body
    Family and friends have commented on the changes they see in my body.  My boyfriend told me there’s more definition in my face and coworkers points out the overall change they see on a daily basis.  I am seeing visible changes in my legs and arms, face, hips—all sorts of places.
  6. Seeing the “big picture”
    Maybe it’s because I’m focusing on long-term goals, but I’m finding it easier to view my health on a bigger scale, instead of just going through the motions of feeding myself and tending to my basic needs on a daily basis.  I want to enjoy my life and that means prioritizing my health, not just now but for the rest of my life.  I have found that I am pursuing goals in other areas of my life as well.
  7. Pride in my accomplishments
    I am proud of myself for making my health a priority.  Instead of cursing myself for doing not doing what I “should” be doing, I am patting myself for all the discipline I’ve have over the past couple of months.  It seems easier to be kind to myself when I treat my body with respect and have been reaping the rewards of improved health.
 
What changes have you seen that aren’t related to the scale?  Whether you are pursuing weight loss or other goals, how does it affect your view of your life?

************************************************************

Inquiring minds want to know: What is all this business about Weight Loss Journey 1 and Weight Loss Journey 2?

Weight Loss Journey 1: I lost 75 pounds from 2009-2011; I’m reposting the blog posts I wrote on Sparkpeople during that time

Weight Loss Journey 2: I have gained back the majority of the weight I lost and have been on a quest since July 2015 to lose the weight again.

Sorry about the timing of the posts, I know that’s probably confusing. But they are only appearing at the same time because I didn’t start my blog earlier. It may be helpful to read the posts by category if you want to catch up. Enjoy!

Book Review:  The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

book-933234_1920Book Review:  The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
This book was recommended to me by a group that I follow that encourages women to learn about and honor their true nature.  This writer has spent her life tidying, and has a unique way to tidy such that you will be surrounded by the things you love and can maintain a lifestyle with fewer belongings.
Marie grew up in Japan and talks about different lifestyle aspects of the culture that were new to me, having lived in America my whole life.  She has a great respect for people’s homes and their belongings, which was clearly reflected in the way she spoke about caring for possessions.   This book talks about how not only to get rid of things that don’t bring you joy, but also how to let go of these things—a very important distinction.  That can be one of the hardest parts of “tidying up”. 
First of all, when the writer talks about “tidying up”, she means what I usually call “decluttering”.  I struggle with both clutter and cleanliness and have made strides to declutter over the past several years.  Having read books about clutter already, I was hopeful there would also be an element of “cleaning” discussed as well, but there wasn’t.  Obviously though, if there are less belongings you have to deal with and there is a place for everything, cleaning will be easier because there will be less obstacles. 
Her system is respectful and effective.  I won’t give away the details of her method because I think the book is worth reading, and I recommend it.  Also she goes into the background of why she recommends the things she does, and gives examples of what she has learned from her lifetime of decluttering and helping people organize their own homes.  She also has an order in which she recommends addressing different types of belongings.  I just finished the book the other day, and thus far I have cleaned out my clothes (including tops, pants, socks and underwear), papers, cleaning products, and several other random articles.  I’m not done but I have made a lot of progress, and her system is easy to implement.
Overall, a good read.  I liked her casual style of writing and the way she used examples to highlight barriers that people face.  If you want to surround yourself only with belongings that spark joy and get rid of the extra stuff you don’t need, I recommend this book.
Weight Loss Journey 1:  New Meaning to Down and Out

Weight Loss Journey 1: New Meaning to Down and Out

 **This post first appeared on Sparkpeople on June 23, 2009**
Weight Loss Journey 2:  No Carb Hiatus

Weight Loss Journey 2: No Carb Hiatus

I’ve been on Weight Loss Journey 2 for about 2 months now.  I’m down 15 pounds but I feel like the inches are continuing to melt away, albeit slowly.  A pair of capris that were tight earlier in the summer felt very loose to me yesterday, especially around the belly.

Success!

Picture by Bridget

Picture by Bridget

More people have commented on my progress and have noticed the changes.  I’m less concerned about other people noticing than I am about just enjoying and nourishing my body.  I’m trying to appreciate how it looks, how it moves, and how it gets me from one place to another.  At my Zumba class on Wednesday I had a ball.  I felt like my body was lighter, it moved more easily, but the best part was the amount of stress relief I got from the exercise!  My body is an extension of who I am as a person, and I want to treat it with respect and care in the same way I do my soul.

Over the long weekend I went on a beach trip with some friends.  I had decided before I left that I wanted to put a hiatus on my no-carb lifestyle for the trip.  I didn’t go hog-wild, but I did enjoy some ice cream, Oreos and milk, alcohol, and loosened the reins on the types of things I allowed myself to have for meals.

I told my boyfriend that I had an irrational fear that I would gain all the weight I had lost just over the weekend.  I remember having a feeling like that during Weight Loss Journey 1, as well.  But in general, I continued to avoid unhealthy options at the beach.  The food tasted so good!  But it was also greasy, unnaturally sweet, and made me feel heavy and bloated.  The bloat feeling was what surprised me the most.  And on the way home I was nauseous.  I may have eaten something strange but I really think it was due to the drastic diet changes I made over the weekend.

Because of all that, it wasn’t difficult at all for me to jump right back into the no-carb habits that I have been practicing for the past several weeks.  It was actually kind of a relief to return to more natural, healthy options.  My body was craving vegetables, in particular, and it also seemed to take a day or two for my body to readjust to the health foods.

This experience made me more aware of how good I feel when I’m taking care of my body.  I have a lot of energy when I’m nourishing my body with healthy foods.  I get better sleep when I’m exercising and doing things to manage stress.  I feel happier and more balanced when I put energy toward caring for myself and for my relationships.

All in all, the no-carb hiatus was a great success.  I found that I was eager to make good choices and get back to eating healthy, natural foods.

What do you do that makes you feel your best?

************************************************************

Inquiring minds want to know: What is all this business about Weight Loss Journey 1 and Weight Loss Journey 2?

Weight Loss Journey 1: I lost 75 pounds from 2009-2011; I’m reposting the blog posts I wrote on Sparkpeople during that time

Weight Loss Journey 2: I have gained back the majority of the weight I lost and have been on a quest since July 2015 to lose the weight again.

Sorry about the timing of the posts, I know that’s probably confusing. But they are only appearing at the same time because I didn’t start my blog earlier. It may be helpful to read the posts by category if you want to catch up. Enjoy!

4 Tips for Keeping Your Car Clean

When I bought my first car in 2001, a little Dodge Neon, I was anal about keeping it clean.  Every time I got out of the car I took everything with me that didn’t belong.  At that time, I was in college and lived and worked on campus.  Other than going to and from recreational activities, my car didn’t get a lot of use.

Fourteen years later, even without children, my car-cleaning habits couldn’t be further from that.  I have a 35-minute commute each way to work.  It is not uncommon for me to eat and drink in the car, take long road trips, cart my pup to and from his favorite places, and go back and forth between home, work, the gym, stores, and various other places.  I have changed my clothes and shoes, applied makeup, brushed my hair, and slept in the car.  Of course, I do the normal things too, like charge my phone and listen to music.  Oh, and drive!

My boyfriend and I live in different states (140 miles apart), and I live over 500 miles away from each of my brothers, and almost 600 miles away from my parents.  And since family, friends, and travel are important to me, that adds up to a whole lot of driving!  Suffice it to say that I spend a lot of time in the car.

Over the years, I have learned a lot about how not to keep my car clean.  At any given time the floor of the passenger seat is typically littered with empty sports drink bottles, various articles of clothing, miscellaneous items I intend to give to people or take places, empty grocery bags and receipts, and multiple pairs of shoes.  And dog hair–there’s always dog hair!  My friends pick on me about never being able to drive if we are carpooling because there’s no space for anyone other than me to sit.  To my credit though, I usually keep the trash to a minimum, but since I save empty bottles to recycle them they usually stay around longer than anything else.

The back seat is a different story; that is the dog’s domain.  When he was a puppy Elliot had the habit of jumping over the seat to curl up in my lap.  He was small enough that I could pick him up with one hand, how could I resist?!?  But of course that became less and less safe as he grew and roamed about the car, or switched positions on my lap.  He would still curl up there if he had the chance, and those flimsy store-bought separators weren’t enough to keep him at bay.  With my brother’s help I fashioned a device to keep Elliot in the back.  Sometimes I joke that I moonlight transporting prisoners on the weekend.  J  Besides Elliot, I use the back seat for groceries and luggage.  The trunk always has miscellaneous junk in it.

My boyfriend’s car is immaculate, and fortunately we take his car anytime we go anywhere together.  There is no extraneous clutter, I never have to position my feet around any loose articles on the floor, and it is always comfortable and clean.

From learning about what I haven’t been doing right, and observing what other people seem to do right, I have compiled a list of top tips to help keep the car clean.

  1. Every time you get out of the car, take what doesn’t belong. 

This is one thing my boyfriend always does, and what I used to always do when I first had my own car.  Take it all out–trash, things that belong in the house, and especially, things that will melt or smell if left in extreme weather.

This is simple, but easy to avoid.  If you can, try to take everything that doesn’t belong out of the car all at once.  This may require multiple trips at first, but it will also help you to avoid bringing things into the car that don’t belong!

  1. Don’t treat your glove compartment like a junk drawer.

It’s okay to have a little change for tolls, an atlas or roadmap, a pair of sunglasses, and a phone charger.  And certainly, always keep your car’s manual, insurance cards, and registration handy.  And as a single woman cruising the highways, I am a proponent of a car emergency kit in your trunk, complete with jumper cables (trust me).  But don’t overdo it.  An overnight bag is too much if you’re just going to the grocery store.  I know all kinds of things can happen on the road and it’s easy to accumulate little things you don’t know what to do with.  But chances are you’re not going far from home, and if you are going on a long trip you will probably have anything you might need in your luggage.

  1. Plan ahead

As I said, I don’t have children.  But I know that Elliot will get wet, his feet will get muddy, he might accidentally scratch the seat and his drool will get on the window.  Gross, I know.  That is why I keep a seat protector on the back seat of my car (and of course, the barrier I mentioned from keeping him in the back).  And on the bottom floor of the back seat, I keep carpet cleaner (to clean the car’s upholstery), window cleaner (to address the drool), and paper towels in case of accidents.  To combat my own mess, I also try to keep a bag for trash in the front.

For those of you with different circumstances, that will look different.  Some children will need to stay occupied in the car, and will require activities and toys.  Some families have accident-prone members that may spill things or need band-aids close at hand.  Children may require car seats or booster seats, and adults may need extra back support.  A trip to the beach will result in extra sand and wet clothing, and snow and mud can accumulate on the floor during the winter.

You get the idea, and obviously everyone’s situation is different.  Pinterest has a lot of great ideas on how to keep stuff for the kids organized, and how to protect areas that may get messy.  Plan for where you’re going and who will be in the car; just be careful not to accumulate a lot of stuff that’s unnecessary.

  1. Do a deep clean on a regular basis

Just as with your home, a vehicle will benefit from an occasional deep clean.

Every couple of months I stop at the car wash on my way home from work to take advantage of the coin-operated vacuum cleaner.  My boyfriend takes advantage of a free vacuum during a Jiffy Lube Oil change. Yesterday I used my lunch break to get some sunshine as I cleaned out all the trash, grouped together all the items that I needed to take into my house (which I took in the house as soon as I got home—see tip 1), and give the seats and windows (especially in the back) a wipe down.

Another option is paying to get your car detailed.  I’m extremely thrifty, though, so that type of treat is not something I indulge in on a regular basis.  About a year ago I bought a Groupon for this.  It was thrilling–the car was so clean!  The seats were vacuumed, the control panel was dust free, it smelled fantastic, and it felt like I had just bought a new car.  (Dear friends and family, if you ever don’t know what to get me a gift, a gift certificate to have my car detailed is always welcome!)  You can also take a little time to detail your car yourself, there are tons of products and tutorials on this.

These four tips are the best I’ve seen for keeping your car neat.  Regardless of your method, you will appreciate your car more when it is clean, clutter-free, and comfortable, and you will want to keep it that way!

What other tips do you have for keeping your car clean?