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How To Help When Someone You Love Has Cancer

With 2.3 million people in the U.S. diagnosed with cancer each year, it's highly likely that all of us will, at some time, know someone (or several someones) living with cancer.

Personally, I can count three in my extended family, and one dear friend, Sandra Cannon, who, thankfully, is now completely healthy and cured. She was “lucky” to have a type of cancer (large diffuse b cell lymphoma) that doesn’t just go into remission; it gets completely eradicated.
 
During her treatment she created a circle of care that included close friends and a chef, learning along the way what kind of help and support she really needed. Here, in her own words, is her list of 11 physical and spiritual gifts for supporting a loved one undergoing cancer treatment.

1) Nice pajamas

Your loved one will see a lot of down time whether they want to or not. It took me a long time to submit to my bed, but the choice turns out to be rest a lot now or die. Rest seems to be the obvious choice.

Read more: How To Help When Someone You Love Has Cancer

On The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

I usually reserve January for coming to grips with the dietary excesses that start with Halloween candy, then carry on through pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, standing rib roast on Christmas Day and oyster stew on New Year's Eve.

But this year I’m putting eating clean and lite aside, in favor of living clean and light. My new resolve to clear the clutter comes thanks to an amazing book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo.

Subtitled, “The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,” Kondo’s book offers detailed instructions on how to unburden your home from its mass of things, and then put what you keep in order.
 
I’m not one to be swayed by self-help promises, but my brief experience with Kondo’s approach, which she calls the KonMari method, has worked some “magic” on me. I’ve read other books about clearing life’s clutter, but there’s something about this neat, trim little book that has had a real impact on my day-to-day existence. Here are just a few of these strategies.

Declutter and organize thing by thing, not room by room. This incredibly simple approach is revolutionary. Start with clothes, then books, then papers, then miscellany, and finish with mementos. I haven’t had time, as Kondo suggests, to pile every item of clothing I own into the middle of a room, so I’ve broken my work down to smaller categories: socks, scarves, work out clothing, pajamas, sweaters, etc. Still, I’ve managed to take almost 15 garbage bags of stuff to Goodwill. I can open all my dresser drawers, take what I need, and close them without a struggle. Magic!
 
Keep only what "sparks joy." Deciding what to keep has always been a burden for me. I’m no hoarder, but I definitely have trouble getting rid of stuff that I “should” like or wear. Those things, whether a set of hopelessly fusty and outdated scarves or a crystal candy dish, trigger feelings of guilt if I so much as look at them. They are not sparking joy. Kondo says they've got to go. On the other hand, if a favorite old T-shirt makes you happy, keep it. Now, I listen to my inner discarder every day. Those ugly coffee mugs and plastic 7-Eleven Icee cups can be someone else’s problem.
 
Folding can be fun! Kondo’s instructions on how to fold clothing are enlightening. Properly folded clothing takes up much less room -- in my experience up to two-thirds less. My once-chaotic drawer of workout clothing feels almost empty -- in part from getting rid of worn-out items but in larger part from taking the time to neatly fold and/or roll each item. (The Japanese have a history of fascination with folding, as One Thing New's Kimberly Weisul noted in a column about it.

Kondo’s method is as follows:
 
“First, fold each lengthwise side of the garment towards the center…and tuck sleeves in to make a long rectangular shape. It doesn’t matter how you fold the sleeves. Next, pick up the short end of the rectangle and fold toward the other short end. Then fold again in the same manner, in halves or in thirds. The number of folds should be adjusted so that the folded clothing when standing on edge fits the height of the drawer…If you find the end result is the right shape but too loose or floppy to stand up, it’s a sign that your way of folding doesn’t match the type of clothing. Every piece of clothing has its own ‘sweet spot’ where it feels just right.”
 
Using this folding technique and standing items on edge, I can assess a drawer’s contents at a glance and see if I’m running low on socks, for example. Yes, even socks and underwear should be folded. If you do, you’ll never have to search frantically at 6 a.m. for clean underwear. Again, magic!
 
You already have all the storage you need. The KonMari method is completely storage-system free. No trips to the Container Store required. As Kondo puts it, “Storage experts are hoarders.” The solution is not to find a place for all your stuff, but to cull your stuff to fit the space you live in. Once you discard what you don’t love, and fold what you do, you’ll have more than enough room. With all the extra space I’ve created, I’ve moved items from my own overflow storage back to my drawers, discovering a few ‘lost’ items in the process. In my kitchen, the tea and coffee cabinet is free of weird teas I will never drink, and the mugs fit easily on the bottom shelf.
 
The word “tidying” is misleading; “jettisoning” is closer to what I’ve done so far. And it feels great. I really do feel lighter. Kondo offers a completely new take on “getting clean” that I’ve already recommended to anyone polite enough to listen to me rave about it.
 
Kondo has an even bigger lesson in store for her readers: The ultimate, far-reaching impacts of tidying, according to her, include learning that “letting go is more important than adding;” confronting and addressing our “attachment to the past or anxiety about the future,” which manifests in the stuff we keep; and understanding that memories live in our hearts and minds, and not in mementos.

I can't guarantee this book will change your life. But it really has changed mine. -- Emily Brower Auchard
 
Missed our last issue? Here you go:
New Year, New Ideas

If you liked this story, you might also like:
Six Steps to a Lovely Condolence Note
Is Multi-Tasking Frying Your Brain?
20 Things To Be Thankful for: 2014 Edition

Got a story idea? Think we're fabulous? Email us at more [at] onethingnew [dot] com, follow us on twitter, or visit us on facebook. And help us spread the word. We appreciate your help in getting the word out about what we're up to!  

Dads Who Are Raising Our Daughters

girlsatschoolIf you have a daughter, it’s hard not to be discouraged about her future, given the constant media messages about girls’ lack of confidence and disinterest in engineering and computer science. Is she getting a fair shake in math class? Will she really be encouraged on the field or in the pool?

The answers to these questions are in the hands of the coaches and teachers on the frontlines, and lately I’ve been feeling much more encouraged about the opportunities for girls in my Northern California community. I always knew that parents, both moms and dads, are doing their best to inspire their girls to become confident, capable women. What I don't think I fully appreciated was the depth of knowledge, and support, that existed among the guys in my community on behalf of all girls -- even when they have no daughters of their own.

I recently had an opportunity to chat with three of them, including Greg Chambers, lawyer, father of three boy, and girls water polo coach at Drake High School; Conrad Gregory, realtor, father of two girls and girls soccer coach at Drake High School; and Nate MacDonald, father and middle school math and STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art and Math) teacher at White Hill Middle School.

From what they told me about their day-to-day work, it’s clear these guys really have our girls’ backs.

Read more: Dads Who Are Raising Our Daughters

Small Golf, Smelly Food and Plain English

smellyfood“We need a more contemporary reimagining of our millennial transitional paradigm shifts.” -- From the Gobbledygook Generator from the Plain English Campaign 

I was on a crowded train on the London Underground recently when I noticed a poster that featured the tagline “Please Don’t Eat Smelly Food.”

The poster is one in a series of public service announcements created by Transport for London, a group whose aim is to promote travel etiquette by encouraging “everyone to be more aware and considerate of each other when travelling around the capital.”  In 2013, they invited travelers to send in poems that focused on ways everyone could improve the commute through “small changes to their travel habits."

The winning poems centered around problems with litter, pulling the passenger alarm in a non-emergency situation, not letting passengers get off before new ones get on and, as I noted, smelly food.

There is a special type of beast
Who likes to sit down and feast
On the train and on the bus
Unaware of all the fuss,
That takeaways (although easy)
Can make others feel quite queasy.

OK, it’s not Shakespeare or Elizabeth Barrett Browning. But it got my attention, making the point clearly and simply. There’s not really a lot of different ways to interpret “Please Don’t Eat Smelly Food.” 

Read more: Small Golf, Smelly Food and Plain English

The Basic Personal Finance Concept They Don't Teach In School

More than a year ago, Connie wrote a column for us on the importance of remembering two key concepts that we were taught in school but that we may have forgotten: percentages and percentage change.
 
This week, as I perused yet another dubious pitch from our bank -- and had a familiar debate with my husband over whether this particular refinance offer was worth considering -- I was reminded of another mathematical concept that can easily get left behind:  the time value of money.
 
Unlike percentages and percentage change, the time value of money isn't, as rule, taught in school, although some high schools do have financial literacy courses that include it. I’m not going back to school any time soon, but my kids recently have. The time value of money is one thing I really wish they’d learn there, although I suspect I’ll end up teaching them myself.
 
The time value of money is something that we understand intuitively. Most of us have heard about the so-called “marshmallow experiment,” in which a three-, four-, or five-year-old child is put in a room with a marshmallow. The researcher prepares to leave the room and tells the child that he or she can have two marshmallows if the child can just wait until the researcher gets back. Then the clock starts ticking, and we find out how long the kid can wait before scarfing down the marshmallow.
 
The kids who wait longer are said to have better executive function. We accept that the ability to resist temptation, at least for a while, is a sign of maturity. We also accept that if you wait longer for something, it’s somehow fair that, when your time finally comes, you get more of it.

The flip side: If you’re getting something now that you weren’t scheduled to get until later, you’re entitled to less of it.
 
This relationship between time and value becomes even clearer if we replace marshmallows with money. Marshmallows don’t earn interest and can’t be invested; money can. Money today is worth more than the same amount of money tomorrow. If we’re going to have to wait to get our cash, we should get more of it. Or at least an extra marshmallow.
 
Theoretically, it seems fair. But when we suddenly find this idea actually enshrined in our legal system and on Wall Street, it can seem suddenly, outrageously, unfair. Which is why it’s so important to understand what's going on here before agreeing to be bought out of your lottery ticket or other long-term contract. Or deciding it’s a good idea to refinance your house. These aren't things you want to screw up. So bear with me.
 
Take the refinance offer. I’m going to simplify it a bit, but you’ll still get the idea. The bank promises us we’ll save $20,000 over 20 years if we refinance. Let’s say we’re going to pay $5,000 in closing costs. We come out ahead by 15 grand, right?
 
Wrong. We have to pay the $5,000 now. We get the $20,000, but we have to wait 20 years before we get all of it. So how much is that $20,000 worth in today’s dollars?
 
Let’s say, that, over 20 years, we think we can average a six percent return on money we invest. Let’s also assume that, by refinancing, we save $1,000 per year for 20 years. The $1,000 we get at the end of the first year is actually worth $943.40 in today’s dollars, because if we invested $943.40 for one year at six percent, we’d have $1,000.
 
The $1,000 we save 20 years from now is actually worth much less, because to get $1,000 in 20 years, we only have to invest $311.82 today. You can figure this out by dividing 1,000 by 1.0620. Don’t worry: There’s a button for that. To figure out 1.06 to the power of 20, simply type “1.06,” then press the yx button, then “20.” You’ll get 3.207.
 
If we figure out how much the $1,000 is worth in each of the 20 years, and then add those numbers together, we’ll know what that $20,000 is really worth -- in today's dollars -- if it's doled out over 20 years.
 
It’s $11,473.89. That’s a far cry from $20,000.
 
That may still make the refinance a good deal. But we won’t save $15,000, as it first appeared. In today’s dollars, we’re saving $11,473.89 minus the $5,000 in closing costs, which equals $6,473.89.
 
That’s why lotteries generally pay out over 20 or 30 years, and why people who opt to get the whole thing as a lump sum get much less than the headline-grabbing number that gets bandied about (although no doubt, it’s still a lot of money).
 
I don’t know if you get as many refi offers as we do, but I hope you look at them carefully before calling the bank. I hope you or a teacher explains this to your kids and friends. And I hope you get to save more than $6,000! -- Kimberly Weisul

September 11, 2014

Missed our last issue? Here you go:
Before Summer Ends...

If you liked this story, you might also like:

Math That Matters
How to Negotiate Like a Woman -- and Win
Lilly Ledbetter, Equal Pay for Women, and Toyo Tires


Got a story idea? Think we're fabulous? Email us at more [at] onethingnew [dot] com, follow us on twitter, or visit us on facebook. And help us spread the word. We appreciate your help in getting the word out about what we're up to!

Image courtesy of flickr user kenteegardin via Compfight cc



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