A Minimalist Hack: Use the Same Toothpaste

I’m no grassroots minimalist. My family has a storage room full of boxes: camping supplies, Christmas decorations, a few Macaroni-and-clay creations from the preschool era. Marie Kondo could surely help us find lots to purge. But, we appreciate clean aesthetics and are always looking for ways to reduce friction with regard to how our home functions.

Take toothpaste.

When our daughter was young, I remember debating – for an inordinate amount of time – what toothpaste flavour to select for her maturing teeth. The pharmacy aisle was full of options. Would she prefer Berry Blast, Strawberry Swirl, or Bubble Gum Twist. Each brand – and there were many – had its own combination of tube characteristics (twist cap vs. flip; hard tube vs. soft). I hadn’t even gotten to the fluoride vs. no fluoride conundrum yet and was already completely overwhelmed. Should buying toothpaste for a 3-year old really be this hard?

Then one day, during a well-visit at the doctors office, my GP happened to bring up teeth-brushing. She mentioned, in an off-hand way: “Feel free to use a rice-sized amount of whatever toothpaste you’re using.”

Surely it wasn’t right to deprive my firstborn of whatever bold-coloured, highly-flavoured concoction the big conglomerates told me she should have? But, I grew up on good ol’ Crest…and I don’t think it held me back in life.

Since then, our entire family has used the same toothpaste (Colgate with Scope); my kids don’t even know they could be frothing at the mouth with Minion-themed Cotton Candy.

Not only does it make fewer decisions at the store, since we all use the toothpaste interchangeably, I only pack a single tube when we travel (we do the same with shampoo).

What supply could you share?

Here’s a Thought: Aim for Progress, Not Completion

I’ve already professed my love for lists. Sometimes, I even relish the assignment of new tasks simply because it allows me the satisfaction that comes from recording new items on my to-do list. Another one added…another one to cross off.

In fact, I’ve been known to add items to a list that are already completed. (Friends have confessed to the same behaviour, so I know I’m not alone).

Why? A sense of purpose. A sense of pride. A sense of achievement. “Look what I’ve accomplished” – gold star to me (and I sure do love gold stars).

Sometimes, though, I can get so wrapped up in focussing on the end goal, I lose sight of – or neglect entirely – the process to get there.

That’s why I’m trying to embrace the concept of progress, not completion.

Let’s take laundry. Oh laundry. The never-ending source of work for any parent. Sometimes I look at that jumble of blended cotton and want to cry. Getting it all put away before another load joins the teetering pile feels impossible. But here’s what I’ve found: making progress can be satisfying.

In one particularly tough season of a precarious work/life balance, I told myself I only had to put away three items of laundry each day. My kids create three pieces of laundry before they’re out of bed in the morning, so the math didn’t really add up. Some days, I’d manage a pair of socks (I counted that as a single item), a dishtowel and a T-shirt. But, most days, I felt up to more. I’d stick to three at a time, but 3 + 3+ 3 + 3 adds up to a full load of laundry…eventually.

Remember Desmond Tutu’s sage advice: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

Sometimes the first bite is the most discouraging and daunting. The elephant – be it laundry, an adoption process, the move to a new city, saving for a college education, or quitting a lifelong addiction to smoking – can seem too big to tackle, even in bite-sized pieces. But, in reality, that is exactly how we have to handle each problem. One dollar at a time, we fund that education. Skipping a single cigarette is the only way to quit smoking.

Step by step we make more and more progress. . .which, ultimately, leads to completion.

Go ahead. Try it.

Casual Friday + Love of the Week

  1. I had a straightforward, but time-consuming, procedure to help deal with my anemia this week. The upside: several hours of uninterrupted reading time. Sadly, neither book I brought along quite lived up to my expectations, but such is life. On the bright side, I was at the hospital over lunchtime and it did feel luxurious to have food (that I didn’t have any hand in preparing) delivered to me while I was sitting in a “recliner” covered with a heated blanket.
  2. Monday we headed to the beach. While we prefer the white-sand beaches of the Southern Shore of Nova Scotia, this was a closer alternative. The kids enjoyed hiking along the shoreline and we spotted a small squid in the water. Though no one had bathing suits on, Levi opted to take off his shoes for a stroll through the water. This of course morphed into practically submerging himself for a swim.
  3. It’s official: we will complete the rest of the school year online. Ugh and sigh. Thankfully, the vaccine rollout is further expanding, so there is hope of reopening on the not-so-distant horizon.
  4. I finished reading The Trolley Car family to the kids…again. This is the book that sparked my lifelong obsession with reading. There were books before, and there have been thousands since, but this book will forever hold a special place in my heart. My tattered copy, gifted to my sister the year I was born, is a delight to me each time I return to it. All these decades later to be reading this book to Abby and Levi, who love it nearly as much as I did/do is pure joy.

Love of the week: Several years ago, after a week spent vacationing with my sister’s family – who all had their own Yeti’s – I decided I wanted to invest in one for myself.

Originally intended to keep my favourite hot beverages hot, I found it to be too effective. Hours after filling my Yeti with tea or coffee, I would still burn my mouth.

I pivoted and made the switch to it being my at-home water cup and have never looked back. Aside from the colour (which I love; hooray for small aesthetic decisions), my favourite feature is the magnetized lid*. It is so convenient to drink from, holds a large quantity of water (I have the 20oz tumbler and fill it at least 4 times a day), and looks as good as the day I bought it (no stains or dents).

*It is NOT leak-proof, sadly, but that is its only flaw in my eyes.

Don’t Quote Me: Plan It. Do It.

I’m a big fan of Laura Vanderkam. I find her no-nonsense advice refreshing. There are no complicated rules, just straightforward suggestions for how to arrange your time to fit in personal wants and needs. She says things you might expect to hear from a pragmatic, but loving, friend.

Plan it in, and do it anyway.

Laura vanderkam

I regularly find myself repeating a particular turn of phrase or idea from one of her books or weekly blog posts.

A personal favourite: Plan it in, and do it anyway. She notes that when we say we wish we had more time, what we’re really looking for is more memories. Endless Friday evenings spent scrolling on Instagram are unlikely to produce meaningful memories, but that magical Handel’s Messiah concert we attend in an old cathedral likely will.

So her suggestion: plan in something that excites you.

To me this has meant: booking the concert tickets, scheduling the walk with a friend, arranging that evening bonfire on the beach. When things come up, which they inevitably will – the baby slept fitfully all night, which means you also slept fitfully; it’s raining; or any number of other reasons that would entice you to reach for your pajamas and settle in for a night of mindless scrolling – do it anyway.

Admittedly, there are times when the opposite approach may be both ideal and highly memorable but I think, in general, our future selves are far happier when we capitalize on opportunities for adventures.

These don’t have to be grandiose affairs. They can be as simple as going out for a dessert crêpe with your spouse, taking your daughter to a Saturday matinee at the local movie theatre, or setting up a tent in the living room for a weeknight campout, a family highlight during our ongoing lockdown.

They could be big too. That temporary Matisse exhibit at the Met or a whirlwind 24-hour trip to Paris are sure to leave a lasting impression.

So, the next time you feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day, identify some potential adventures (big or small). Then, plan them in and do them anyway.

But don’t quote me…

Casual Friday + Love of the Week

  1. We remain in the midst of a province-wide lockdown. As spring edges closer to summer, we’re plodding along through online learning and gathering restrictions. It’s going…okay. I think it’s safe to say we’re all weary, but it is encouraging to see the new caseload tick lower.
  2. I had the chance to talk with Laura Vanderkam about her upcoming book, Tranquility by Tuesday. I had participated in some research surveys related to content for her next book and she was interested in interviewing me further over the phone. Hearing her voice was – exhilarating. I can’t wait until 2022 when her book hits the shelves; maybe I’ll make a cameo?
  3. Last weekend we had a turkey dinner with all the fixings. To make things even more memorable, we went all out with a Christmas-in-May celebration. I dug out some random Christmas decorations, pumped Bing Crosby through the Google speakers, and the kids woke to the delicious scent profile that signals Christmas in the Frost household: cinnamon coffee cake, bacon, and eggs. Yum. A small gift for everyone helped add to the excitement. So often this type of thing falls flat. I’m happy to report this particular event was well received and the vibes of Christmas joy really did permeate the day.

Love of the week. Our local library. During the start of COVID lockdowns in March 2020, our library closed for all services. For months our winter-themed picture books (that I couldn’t return) served as a depressing reminder of lockdown. As someone who visits the library weekly, and usually has 100+ books on my holds list (really), this was a big deal.

Finding ourselves back in the midst of a full lockdown has been discouraging, but the library immediately made the switch to curbside pickup. Smiling librarians have already delivered two huge bags of reading material and it just makes me so happy.

Good, not perfect

One of my favourite mantras is a paraphrase of Voltaire, popularized (for me at least) by Gretchen Rubin: Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

One of my favourite mantras is a paraphrase of Voltaire, popularized (for me at least) by Gretchen Rubin: Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

How often the allure of the “perfect” keeps us from even attempting a task. Yet, most of the time, an outcome of “good” is preferable to complete inaction.

For example, I’ll get stuck in the loop of thinking “If I don’t run at least 5 km, there’s no point in running at all.”

That logic is clearly flawed – runs of 3 km would, in fact, add up. If I’m able to squeeze in that distance three times a week (very doable), that’s 36 km for the month, which certainly isn’t nothing.

So instead of aiming for perfection – what about aiming for good…and done.