a peek inside the fishbowl

07 Jan, 2014

A peek inside my closet, and promises I’ve made to myself

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Home/reno|Misc. life

See. I told you that I haven’t been able to shake this resolution thing from my brain.

I’m 41 years old and I’m finally a bit closer to figuring out what things (a) make me feel healthy (b) how to turn those things into a routine that sticks. You’d think that I’d know all of this by now. Perhaps that’s the trick to resolution success: knowing yourself.

I know that I’m more motivated by rewards than by punishment, so that’s something I need to take into consideration if I want to make changes. For example, I’ve been pretty good with my “treadmill before Facebook” idea. It totally works for me, just like a carrot works better than a stick.

Speaking of habits, I want to talk about my closet today.

When we renovated our house, we knew right off the bat that we all needed more storage space, especially in the bedrooms. So Mark got his own closet and I got a small walk-in. This is what my closet looks like with the door open:

My closet

Sweaters folded on the top, knick-knacks and doo-dads at eye-level (think lip glosses, pocket change, hair elastics etc.), folded jeans, a row of purses, and big baskets for socks and underwear. You can’t see it in this picture, but there’s a rail and a shelf on one side, and a shelf and two stacked rails on the other.

This closet has changed my life. Everything I own has its own place now, which has allowed me to stay (more or less) organized and tidy. In designing this small space, the idea of knowing myself has helped me make some changes I really needed to make. I know that I need things to have their own place, and that this makes it easier for me to tidy as I go, instead of a weekly hurricane of tidying.

What else is in there that’s helped me? Lessee. There is a big hamper for dirty laundry, with a lid. Baskets for socks make laundry day a little less onerous. There is a garbage can in my closet too. (This has been HUGE. Tissues and price tags and wrappers are all disposed of  immediately.) There is a bag for charitable donations, so little-worn clothing goes straight in there and it’s easy to cart away. There are hangers that are coated with fuzzy stuff so hoodies and t-shirts don’t slide off (I need more of those).  And there’s this note that I’ve posted inside my closet where I can see it every day:

Promises to myself.

These are promises I’ve made to myself recently. I could have added more – like treadmill time or remembering to eat breakfast – but I decided to focus on these things for my closet post-it.

1) Vitamins: I’m taking vitamin D and B complex.
2) Fresh air: a daily walk is good for my body and good for my brain.
3) Water: I’m not going to go overboard. This is more about being better tuned to my body and not letting myself get thirsty.
4) The one-line journal: this is something I’ll write more about this week.

And then there’s this:

5) Be Myself.

I think this is one of the most important things on my list.

There is something to be said for self-improvement. I think it’s good to challenge yourself and try to be the best person you can be, but trying to become something you’re not is a whole different ballgame.

Some of you are probably familiar with it already, but Susan Cain’s book, Quiet, changed a few things for me in this regard and it has helped me be more content.

It’s essentially about introverts. I’d never really thought about it much before but society tends to apply greater value to extroverts. Consider how many people admire Hollywood actors, people who know how to turn a phrase on camera and who are always the life of the party. But the fact is that society needs both introverts and extroverts for our world to function. The world can’t consist solely of salespeople and motivational speakers, there also need to be thinkers and wallflowers.

Surveys I’ve taken seem to indicate that I’m squarely in the middle (a so called Ambivert) and I have qualities of both introverts and extroverts. But I’ve been beating myself up about those “introvert” qualities for a long time now. Constantly forcing myself to be an extrovert isn’t doing me much good either. It’s time to stop.

I have finally realized that I can choose to be plagued by feelings of inadequacy, or not. I have decided to let go and be happier with who I am from now on… because when you let go, there’s room for other things.

6 Responses to "A peek inside my closet, and promises I’ve made to myself"

1 | Chantal

January 7th, 2014 at 3:36 pm


wow I love your closet. not neat and tidy. Mine is such a mess. But then I think it is over full. I need to pear down big time.

2 | No lampshade on head

January 8th, 2014 at 2:49 pm


I’m so happy you wrote those last four paragraphs. I went to a party two weeks ago where I felt SO awkward. I’ve since thought about those feelings often.

It was a pretty big house party where lots of folks didn’t know each other. A typical Christmas party. The extroverts quickly extroverted. The introverts listened, smiled and laughed vigorously. The more I was talked at, the lousier I felt. I didn’t hate the extrovert. I just wished that for 15 seconds, I would be the one with the great comeback. I left early and felt socially lazy and stupid for not contributing enough. For not showing everyone who I am. I have lots to share but it will never come out in a big party full of strangers. I will never fight to get my hands on the microphone. Ever.

I hope to someday be able to accept that.

3 | Caroline

January 8th, 2014 at 3:41 pm


Oh Andrea – you inspire me so much. I have been trying to follow for myself the list in your closet and look forward to you writing about one-line journal. I must admit I have severe closet envy of all your usability.

I really like ‘be myself’ on your list, it’s taken me many years to care more about whether I find people interesting than whether they find me interesting.

Also, your embargo lessons from so many years ago makes me always think about purchases and this January I have adopted a behavior of use what you have, instead of purchasing – which really makes me appreciate what is already in my own home.

4 | Jen_nifer

January 8th, 2014 at 10:27 pm


I feel I’m an ambivert as well, and Quiet was a big revelation for myself as well. Having read it really compliments The Happiness Project’s”Be Gretchen” mantra.

5 | andrea tomkins

January 9th, 2014 at 1:16 pm


Thanks guys!
And yes, Jen_nifer, that wee lesson from the Happiness Project stuck with me too!

6 | Pearl

January 10th, 2014 at 8:29 pm


good plan for a year. closet sorted by warm or cool clothes, tops or bottoms means less time say, forget it, I’ll stay in PJs.

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our two daughters Emma (18) and Sarah (16). I am the managing editor of our community newspaper, the Kitchissippi Times. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger, and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999... which makes me either a total dinosaur or a veteran, I'm not sure which! The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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