Saturday, November 05, 2011

Simplifying Life for A Highly Sensitive Person

I am a "highly sensitive person" according to the definition by author Elaine Aron. It is an innate trait of psychological sensitivity. I always knew there had to be some theory to explain the overload I often feel. If you haven't read her book, I recommend it, although not everything in her book applied to me (I have never been considered shy, for example, and I don't mind violent movies and occasionally loud music!)

As Aron kindly points out:
  • I am easily overwhelmed by strong sensory input
  • I am aware of subtleties in my visual environment (I notice everything)
  • Other people's moods affect me
  • I need to withdraw on busy days, to a place I can have privacy and relief from stimulation
  • I am have a rich, complex inner life (I ruminate on everything...)
  • I am conscientious
  • I find it unpleasant to have a lot going on at once
As author Elizabeth Gilbert said, "I do better with less on my plate." Amen sister.

Sadly, I don't want less on my plate. I want to embrace life and do everything. So I work full-time, live with chronic daily headaches, take courses, work out regularly and read everything I can get my hands on. However, my trait also means that I sometimes crash and need (prefer) to spend entire Saturdays on the sofa under a big blanket, surrounded by shelter magazines and classical music.

In an effort to manage my brain, I try to adopt systems to simplify only buying white sheets and towels, and wearing a lot of black. I also hate clutter, but I love things, so sometimes it is a battle to keep my life sane and organized...

I love my rules and systems, as they prevent my obsessive brain from melting down.

So I thought I would share a simple system I use to stay organized at home.

I don't have a smart phone and I like to write things I use these wonderful Moleskine black notebooks for everything. I have an annual planner (the big one) for appointments and daily "to do" lists. The small daily notebook is where I take most of my notes (Christmas lists, great quotes, house stuff, etc.) so I don't have annoying little pieces of paper all over the house.
And I file the books at the end of the year (or when the notebooks get full)!

The annual planner is nice as it lays flat, has a week at a glance and a blank page facing each week for my "To Do" lists:
Part 2 is that I only have two kinds of pens that I write with! Years ago, I fell in love with fine-point black markers and I have never looked back. I have not written with a blue ink pen in at least 10 years.

My favorite pen is my Mont Blanc Noblesse Oblige (I love the name), which was a gift:
I also LOVE my black Uniball Deluxe Micro's and buy them buy the box. They are all over the house and in every bag (and at the office):
I am also an inveterate list maker. Here is my Christmas list, where I am recording gift and book ideas for people...
Everyone says I would enjoy an iPhone. I would love to have an iPad or maybe a Kindle. I can see these tools condensing life into a neat little bundle. But honestly, I hate monthly fees for an iPhone, which are higher in Canada (and I am sitting in front of a computer all day at work and all evening at home!). I also don't like relying on a battery for my life.

But above all, I like the tactile bliss of writing things down...

How do you simplify?


  1. Oh, sister, we are much alike. My entire focus is on simplifying now. I do have a smart phone (an iphone) but it's ridiculous that I have it - it is so underused. I read my emails on it and answer the phone. LOL. It was free... what can I say.
    I am a big list maker. I cross off what I did, and move the rest to the top and methodically move along. My plate is always more full than I like, but as long as it doesn't degrade into chaos, I'm good! I love the items you have shown and am putting them on my Santa list!
    xo isa

  2. First of all, I'm more like you than I first supposed. I am so like you that I am more you than you. Wow. That's weird. I actually score 100% on every single thing on that list. Scary.

    I do not, thankfully, suffer the awful headaches that you endure every day nor am I as organized. I wish!

    My sister keeps sending me medical info on this or that. The latest was that the same germ that causes strep is responsible for obsessive compulsive disorder. I had a lot of strep throats. Gee. Is she trying to tell me something?

    Thank you for the suggestions on pens and notebooks. I, too, prefer to work with old-fashioned lists. I'm a simple gal who can just barely manage her pc and cell phone without switching to an iPad or smart phone.

    Fascinating post, Terri. I must get the book!

  3. Life has been a little crazy to help me get a hold of things or at least try(lol) I do what you do..write lists..lots of lists and I feels so happy when I can actually mark things off ;0)

  4. a lovely glimpse into your daily, organized life, terri. I have a similar notebook I use for favorite quotes that I keep at my bedside. I enjoy reading over it on occasion. I also keep a notebook, altho not as stylish, in my purse with measurements and details of needed items, just in case I find something I like while shopping...donna

  5. So much in common! I only use white towels and sheets although the colored ones my husband came with get used in the kid's bath.
    I hate stuff on the fridge. So I bought a magnetic dry erase board for the pantry. We use it to keep a running grocery list and tack all those little bits of paper that are necessary to keep for a while.

  6. I just got an iphone about a month ago. Honestly I don't love it. I miss my blackberry. I don't have apps not do I care to have them. I think it's pretty that's about it. I too love to write things down. So I would never put appointments in it because it takes a lot of time, when I could just write it down in my to do book. I tend to wind down looking through my favorite designe books (any thing NEll Hill) I like to relax in a favorite chair with a cup of tea or coffee and one of my dogs on my lap. When I'm stressing, which I can and often, I pray and try to breathe and relax. I'm not a screamer, I like peace and try to be surrounded by peaceful people and comforting friends . But life can be crazy. Just do the things you love to do honey and know that your not alone.

  7. I use a paper weekly planner. i need to follow your example and use a notebook to keep my notes. I'm always finding bits of paper around. The pics of your pens are really nice!

  8. I can see a lot of myself in that list. I think that's why I'm a home body. On busy and stressful days at work, I tend to turn myself off so I can get through it.

    I tend not to be a list maker but I'm feeling I should be as I'm getting older. I do love Moleskins and I have several that I've used for keeping ideas, making notes and doodles when I'm out exploring or taking an art class. I have no special pen because I couldn't keep track of it.

    Your photos are awesome. No need for a better camera.

  9. hi terri,

    i hate a full plate. i have no idea how i raised 3 boys.

    i like my simple life now. it's tempting to complicate it with a cell phone and cable and a million other luxuries but i've been strong and resist that urge.

    thanks for reminding me exactly why i don't want those things.

    i don't make lists anymore either. as a caterer, my life was one big list and i hated that part. in actuality it is a pretty boring life i lead. and i guess i'm ok with it. xo janet

  10. Like you, I am a "Highly Sensitive" person. I have Elaine Aron's book- I felt slightly embarrassed, or perhaps a better word is "precious" buying it with that title but boy could I relate to so much of what she talks about. I'm easily overwhelmed and irritating ambient noise is one of my worst issues (though I also love loud music too!)
    I'm sorry that you suffer from daily headaches-what a terrible thing.

  11. Terri,
    I don't where to start except to simply say I identify with just about everything here!

    I love a unibol and now must check out some of your other pen recommendations and put them on my "list" of wishes.

    You must read Edith Wharton's DOH and I just finished an American Heiress, something to tide me over while I wait for the Downton Abbey series to resume! The Art of Racing in the Rain will make you laugh and cry. I've lost count of how many people I've told to read this book.

    If you lived closer, we could swap books, music, migrane RX's, lists and no doubt many other things!

  12. Anonymous11:42 am

    Three words. Uniball Vision Elite. This coming from an ex-Uniball Micro and Impact devotee.

    The best part of my week was havingThe Salvation Army truck pull up to the house this morning whereby we filled it up. Better than a cleanse, I tell ya! I now claim the title Minimalist but I do enjoy the iPad.

    Great blog post!

  13. Wow. We are so much alike. If only my house was as beautifully decorated as yours! ~sigh~ I lack in the creative department.

    Otherwise, I simplify more every day. At first it was the result of my pain level - I simply could not overstimulate my brain when the pain level was already at 8/10.

    Then both hubby and I discovered that we *really* prefer a simpler, almost minimalist life. The stress level dropped with every "cleanse" (much like the one described by nouveaustitch). Once we weren't constantly working our way around "stuff" that we did not need or want, a lot of other areas of life became simpler too. Quite remarkable really.....

    I've kept notebooks for years. It helps to keep me organized and is especially helpful at work. Example: If I answer the phone, I write down the name of the caller immediately (especially if it is someone I don't know) so that I can use the name either in the conversation or when we end the call. People love to be known by name - it's just human nature. I also know that if I don't write it down, I'll forget a new name before the call is done. Again - overstim means forgetfulness for me, so the books help a LOT.

    *must check out the Uniball Vision Elite!!!

  14. Oh, I meant to add: I loved "The Art of Racing in the Rain".

  15. I think I am about 75% of what you described. I can get overwhelmed very easy...and want to retreat and not answer phones or emails...I try to exercise 5-6 times a week to calm me down...and even though I have an iphone...I am still a note paper list girl...need to write it down and cross it off. Sorry for the headaches....I don't get those but do get neck and shoulder aches often.
    Hope you have a peaceful week :)

  16. Thank you so much for sharing this! I have never heard of a HSP--and I think my son is one! I definitely have these tendencies, but I see them so much more in him. This concept gives me so much clarity into him and how he works. Thanks again!

  17. I hate lists and list making..
    i just don't do them..
    I have not yet gotten an iPhone, nor iPad altho everyone says I must, and that i WILL LOVE them..
    my office is chaos..
    but it is mine and when it becomes too overwhelming..I simply shut the door..
    when i return, calmed, everything is just as i left it..
    ready to be tamed..
    ps.. i adore those pens!!!
    warmest hugs..

  18. Anonymous4:41 pm

    I'm more like you than you are.
    If that made any sense.

    When I'm understimulated I want some action, but when it happens I feel a strong need to sink back into silence and clear my head.

    Also, don't resist the smartphone. Sync your iCal, set reminders, and you end up with a foolproof system for making appointments and meetings on time. Save the rest for the notebook.

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