Recent Demerits (and Gold Stars)

Well. That was quite a weekend. It’s Monday and I’m ready for Friday and a good long nap. More about recent events – some fun, some funny, and some frustrating – later in the week. But, today, let’s chat about demerits and gold stars.

Listeners of Gretchen Rubin + Elizabeth Craft’s podcast Happier will be familiar with their weekly segment that involves sharing demerits and gold stars.

I’ve always enjoyed this section of the program because it seems so…relatable. But one thing has consistently frustrated/puzzled me: they always apply demerits personally and award gold stars externally. This failure to acknowledge positive momentum in their own lives is something I’ve never fully understood. In addition to being motivated to tackle “demerits” by giving them a name, I tend to learn just as much from the positive reinforcement of gold stars.

This got me thinking about recent demerits/gold stars in my own life. So, without further ado…


  • Not going to the dentist. I don’t actually mind going to the dentist, but hate the bill. That alone is primarily responsible for my inertia, especially since I know most of the time there is nothing that needs to be done and a cleaning is…expensive. But it has been over a year and one of my remaining wisdom teeth has started to poke through. I need to put on my adult undies and just make an appointment. [Update: I’ve made an appointment but, whomp, whomp, couldn’t get in until June.]
  • Not snuggling with the kids for 5 minutes at night. I was on such a good roll with this habit and then…stopped. This coincided with John starting his sabbatical which meant, for the first time in years, night after night someone else was available to handle, or at least share, bedtime. But I really enjoy this special time with the kids. Want to hear one of my (ridiculous) excuses for this behaviour? I’ve been taking my watch off earlier in the evening, which means I don’t have a timer strapped to my wrist. And that 5-minute timer was a big motivator for me to carve out the space for post-bedtime snuggles (having a limit makes it feel more manageable because the kids want me to stay for approximately forever when I come to snuggle).
  • Eating too much dairy. I haven’t been eating that much dairy, but every time I succumb to a slice of cheese (I don’t even like cheese that much) or put a splash of cream in my coffee, I end up paying for it later. It seems to trigger allergy symptoms (sore/itchy throat, itchy eyes), and it’s never worth it. Sigh. Thankfully, butter doesn’t seem to have any impact, and I continue to enjoy butter on my favourite muffins daily.
  • Not drinking enough water. For YEARS I consumed huge quantities of water, but recently this has really dropped off. Some of it, I think, is the fact I’ve been trying to avoid bathroom breaks at night. I have a very large (~12oz+ of water) mug of tea early in the morning and drink several Yeti Ramblers full of water, but it’s still a lot less than I used to drink.
  • Taking so long to switch my watch band. I adore my magnetic watch band – being able to specifically dictate the fit on my wrist is wonderful. But, over time, the metal edges started to catch on my sweaters and jacket. Constantly. After living with this issue for over 6 months, I finally switched the strap (gold star?). But the left-hand cuff of my pink puffer coat will never look the same.
  • Going to bed with mascara on. I rarely do this, but then did it THREE times over the course of a week. It felt icky in the morning and it irritated my skin. I know better. Sigh.
  • Not buying new sneakers. Mine have carried me far more than the 500 recommended miles and I can tell they need to be swapped out for a new pair. But, oh, how I hate sneaker shopping. Just because I find a pair that fits in the store doesn’t mean they’ll be comfortable long-term. And there are also just too many brands and features. On a related demerit, I really should try using my orthotics again. I have a pair sitting in the closet. I never liked wearing them, but they might help relieve some of my recent discomfort. [Update: I’ve now worn my orthotics for several days; time will tell if this helps.]
  • Not getting a password manager. I really want/need to do this since I use approximately one million different sites that require unique logins (and some require regular password changes) and it’s a messy nightmare.
  • Stalled 50th-anniversary plans. My parents are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary in August. I’ve started communications for a big photobook/memory-montage book (I put out a call for pictures/writeups from their siblings and friends), but then no one really responded and I’m, quite frankly, lacking the enthusiasm to continue (though I adore my parents and like creative projects).


  • Staying on top of clothes that need to be donated/consigned/discarded. I’ve been keeping a regular pulse on what is in everyone’s closets.
  • Photo organization. It’s not perfectly up to date, but I’ve been making an effort to categorize photos at the end of each month which expedites the photobook prep at year-end.
  • Shutting off my iPhone at night. When I catch myself falling into a scrolling pattern at night – when I can tell it won’t be productive or fun – I have been shutting down the phone completely and it still feels liberating! I’m proud of myself for sticking with this habit.
  • Cleaning up my work space at the end of the day. My office is out of the way, so leaving it cluttered and messy isn’t a big deal, but there is something so refreshing about showing up each morning to an organized space. I turn off my computer, put the pens and highlighters back into their holder, push my chair in under my desk; a minute of tidying provides a wonderfully clean slate for the next work day.
  • Using Magic Bags – a lot. I know I’ve talked about this topic more than one would think possible, but my love/gratitude for Magic Bags is unending. It is a nuisance to wait the 4 minutes and 30 seconds required to heat up my two favourite bags, so I often skipped this step until bedtime. But lately, I’ve been doing it 4-5 times a day, especially while working at my desk. One goes at my feet, another into my lap and it makes life so much more pleasant (I still use the space heater, too, but having something warm touching my body is such a help) when I’m warm.
  • Having a good attitude (90% of the time) for our Family Chopped Competition. More details on this Thursday, but over the weekend we divided into teams (John + Abby; Elisabeth + Levi) and cooked an elaborate 3-course meal for friends based on secret ingredients they selected. It’s a daunting prospect for me (cooking with the kids, three courses), but it ended up being a lot of fun.
  • Writing in my One Line a Day journal. I have loved doing this every evening before bed. I’ve forgotten a handful of times but just caught up the following day.
  • Making space for adventure. I spend a lot of time tired, but I’ve also learned that “I can be exhausted, or I can be exhausted with memories.” (And, thankfully, my energy levels have been better lately!) I’ve been carving out lots of time for rest/restoration, and then also trying to show up with a positive attitude for things like our trip to PEI. While John does much of the planning, it takes a lot of mental effort for me to be upbeat, especially if I’m worn down physically. So, gold star to me!

Your turn. Any demerits or gold stars you’re wanting to share this fine Monday?

Header photo by Crystal de Passillé-Chabot on Unsplash

23 thoughts on “Recent Demerits (and Gold Stars)”

  1. Hey friend! This is a wonderful list, I love all of your stars. I also need to set up a password storage thingy but OMG I hate technology and resist change… lol.

    Hope you had an awesome weekend!

  2. Oooh, this reminded me I need to do a photo print and also make appointments for the kids’ dental stuff. My older son turned 18 so I have to check what our insurance says now. More complications! This is a great list, I like the idea of demerits and gold stars.

    1. There are always some “complications” right? Once one thing gets sorted…a few more curveballs seem to get lobbed our way!

  3. Yes, I love the demerits and gold star portion of that podcast. I especially love when Elizabeth has a demerit because hers can be really funny- I remember one time it was her outdoor Christmas lights were still up, and it was April or May.
    You’re reminding me of a huge demerit for me- I’m late scheduling my mammogram. I got one a little over a year ago, but prior to that I had let it go several years in between. I was a complete basket case waiting for the results of that one because I was afraid, if they found anything, it would have been growing for years undetected. When I found out everything was fine I promised myself I would go once a year so as not to go through that stress again- and I haven’t done it. I should have gone in March. Well, Gretchen always says the point of demerits is to encourage yourself to change the behavior, so maybe after talking about it I’ll schedule that mammogram today! Kind of like your dentist demerit.
    P.S. Get new sneakers! Especially if you’re talking about running shoes. Just get the exact same model and size (if it’s available.) That way you won’t have to think about it and you know they’ll fit.

    1. Yes. Elizabeth’s demerits really make me laugh!
      Schedule that mammogram.
      And yes, I know I need to buy the sneakers. I am a HUGE fan of buying the same thing on repeat…but I don’t love my sneakers and I really do want to try for something else. But then the whole process is onerous to me…so I do nothing. I HAVE been wearing my orthotics for walking the last few days and I do think it is helping some, but I can’t wear them running.

  4. Yes to the password manager! Why don’t I just do that!?!
    I have dental issues and go for a cleaning every three months. I dread going. My periodontist isn’t even covered by my insurance, so it’s all out of pocket and I get grumbly about it. Why do I even pay for dental insurance if I end up paying for everything out of pocket anyway?

    1. That sounds frustrating about the dental bills! Either way I get grumpy – if I go and they tell me how good everything looks I hate the bill for getting this good news. But if they find a cavity, then I hate that bill even more because, well, fillings and dental work is expensive. It’s 100% worth it, I just have a hard time spending money at the dentist for some reason?! Maybe because health care is free in Canada and it always feels like dental work/eye exams should be covered under that same umbrella. Also, my sister is a hygenist and when she used to live handy I was able to get cleanings/X-rays for free. Now that I’m paying out of pocket, I’m also jealous of my younger self for her access to free dental work!

  5. I have wondered why they give gold stars to others and not themselves! They don’t seem to want to give themselves credit/recognition? But that’s the point of a gold star!

    Let’s see. Demerits = our bedtime routine. We need to do something about Paul’s insistence that we stay in his room but it’s going to be really hard so I have been putting it off. We are going to see how the transition to the pre-k class goes, which starts next week, and if bedtime doesn’t start to improve, we need to figure something out! Gold star = I met up with my 2nd time mom group at a new-to-us park close to our house. We’ve been talking about meeting up for months and finally got our act together. It was so fun to see them/see their kids!

    It is sadly easier for me to come up with demerits than gold stars today… and maybe always? I limited myself to 1 of each but could have kept going on the demerit list without having to think much, but would have had a harder time coming up with gold stars. 🙁 I am way too critical of myself and always have been!

    1. I haven’t listened to the episode yet, but I noticed that Gretchen (I think?) awarded herself a Gold Star on this week’s episode!

      Bedtime can be so rough. There isn’t any “right” way to do it, but I did label things as “Hard Resets” with the kids over the years where we would talk about and implement a BIG change overnight. And I’d actually call it a Hard Reset. Sometimes ripping the Bandaid can be the best approach. That said, hopefully that won’t be necessary if he doesn’t have those longer naps any longer.

      Gold star indeed for meeting up with the mom group!

      I tried to even out my lists for the internet, but it was very skewed to the demerit side when I started drafting the post.

  6. I’m not familiar with the demerits/gold stars approach to self-awareness but I like it. Seems like the things we did in kindergarten are still useful. I’m guilty of too little water each day. I like the idea of a line a night journal. That sounds like something my tired self could do on the regular.

  7. I can empathize with the snuggling issue so much. There are so many things that I love to do with my kid and that SHE loves and yet are… inconvenient? Or not my favorite? Or something small that prevents me from doing them enthusiastically. And yet when I DO them, I remember how great they are for such a small outlay of time/energy. But it’s the DOING them that is so hard. Sigh. Being a human (and a mom) is hard.

    And I am with you on the mascara thing!!! It is sooooo easy to fall asleep with my mascara on. (Plus, then I can just roll out of bed and do school drop off without feeling like I have to put on makeup!) But it makes my eyes mad and I’m sure my skin doesn’t love it either. I am trying to be better about this.

    1. Yes, yes! Inconvenient or “not my favourite” are things I can relate to 100% That is why I do TRY to identify things that I “don’t hate” as I once put it. And I love snuggling…it’s just another thing to think about. And sometimes the whining to have me stay longer can be a bummer AND once I lay down with them I start to feel tired and lack enthusiasm to get up and finish my adult responsibilities for the day?!

  8. Right now, the biggest demerit I have to give myself is for mindless night time snacking. I am NOT HUNGRY. Eating junk on the couch tastes great but then makes me feel bad, AND I KEEP DOING IT WHYYYYYYYYYYY?

    1. Night snacking is so comforting. I’ve done it a lot less in recent years, but may have had 2 muffins at 10 pm last night after a huge supper. I was hungry (I think?), but mostly it just felt good to eat something at night!

  9. I just had this conversation with my Mom, who’s notorious for forgetting passwords. I helped her setup a password manager (Dashlane – highly recommend it!) and she still doesn’t always use it. What am I to do?! LOL (Note: get a password manager, Elisabeth!)

    I love that you clean up your workspace at the end of the day. I (try to) do the same every night. There’s nothing like a clean workspace in the morning to start your day.

    Demerits: I need to badly organize my closet and get rid of some clothes. I started some spring cleaning last weekend and hope to get it done as part of that.
    Stars: I completely washed off our outdoor furniture and cleaned up our patio last weekend… only to have it rain today (after not having rain since December! Go figure!).

    1. Thanks for the recommendation. I just need to do the password manager already. I’m sure it will be NO BIG DEAL! Though, then, I have to use it.

      You have no idea how all the mentions of “I need to clean out my closet” make me wish so desperately I lived next door to every reader. Cleaning out closets is MY JAM.
      Great work on the outdoor furniture. I have such a long list of outside tasks (which are a list of demerits in and of themselves…but I’m currently choosing to ignore that fact!)

  10. good summary and I’m impressed with your gold star on shutting down the iPhone at night. I moved it to bathroom now but maybe next stage is shutting it down. I hate dentist too, more the discomfort than the bill but having pain is less fun so I go with first sign of pain.

  11. My work set us all up on Lastpass last year for added security and I use it for all of my personal stuff, too, and it is SO NICE to only have to remember one password at all times. I hope you can make the switch soon. It’s truly great. (And so much safer!)

    Let’s see… my demerit is not taking time to do my skincare routine every night like I should. I need to be better about it! I always feel better when I keep up that routine. My gold star is that I’ve been sticking to my 11pm bedtime this month and I’m really proud of myself. I’m going to inch it up by 15 minutes every month until I’m getting to bed at a decent hour (ideally, 9:30).

    1. I know, I know. I just need to do it (and I suspect it won’t take long to do everything that needs doing!).

      Good for you for sticking with a bedtime – it’s harder than it sounds.

  12. So at first I wasn’t sure of the idea of “demerits”. It seemed like, well, flogging yourself when you’re already down. But then again… if it prompts you to action (ahem, sneakers and password manager…? :>) then maybe they’re not a bad thing? I guess it’s better than calling them “fails”! 🙂

    I can sympathize with your lack of enthusiasm for the shoe-buying process. I really really dislike (trying not to say “hate”, ha!) when I have to run an errand that I know will take longer than I want it to take, even if it is necessary. Sigh. I have boxes and bags of books to take back to the half price bookstore (they give you a bit of $$ for bringing books in… more recent books = more $ but you get a few cents even if they’re old and unpopular books). But I dread going because… I can’t leave the store while they’re going through my books. I feel like a prisoner – in a bookstore, for Pete’s sake! I just need to shift my perspective and remind myself how much I love browsing bookstores. But oh, the idea of taking the hour to drive there, give them the books, wait… (I’m pathetic, aren’t I? Go on, you can tell me…)

    Your gold stars are pretty darn good, in my opinion! Writing in your journal and making time for adventure? Those both get two, I think. 🙂

    1. I can 100% relate to your description of the bookstore. I feel the same way about a consignment store locally. It’s NO big deal and I can literally leave my bag, but it somehow feels like this big job and I’m keen to avoid it. I hate staring at the bag of clothes waiting to go in but I put it off for ages. It’s in a slightly inconvenient spot for parking and the store itself, though lovely, is very small. Once I’m in, everything seems fine but as ridiculous as it sounds the parking situation + the fact it’s small (and often quite busy/crowded) just makes the task always feel so, so dreaded.

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