holiday minimalism challenge

Hi guys! I hope your week is off to a marvelous start! Our little apartment is officially beginning to look like the holidays. We strung up some colorful lights, hung a wreath on the door, and even got this adorable mini Christmas tree! It’s a potted pine, so we’re planning to keep it out on our balcony after the holidays are over. It’s leaning over a little bit and we can’t seem to figure out a way to make it straight… but I think that just adds to its Charlie Brown charm, don’t you? 😉

our-first-xmas-tree

This holiday season, I’m trying out a new challenge for myself. During the span of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I am aiming to get rid of one item every day. {For those of you counting, that would be 31 items in total!} During this infamously busy time of year, my minimalism challenge is making me feel energized. In a season of more-more-more, it is a way of centering and reminding myself what truly matters. It is a way for me to practice gratitude for the abundance in my life. It is a way for me to physically clear out some clutter and make some space in my life.

Plus, I love the idea of someone else being able to benefit from something I no longer use, need or want. That is why I am donating all of these items, rather than throwing anything away. However, you could also use this type of challenge to recycle paper clutter, or even to clean out your pantry/fridge!

Here is my donation tally right now:
-5 books
-1 journal
-1 ornament
-2 shirts
-1 candle
Total so far: 10 items {approximately 1/3 of the way there!}

I will keep you posted on my progress!

An Intentional Holiday Season

Allyn and I are making minimalism a cornerstone of our holiday season in other ways, too. How? By trying to make intentional decisions. I think it is a fun challenge to make do and be creative with what we already have, instead of immediately running out to buy more stuff.

Christmas Ornaments

Since this is our first Christmas together, Allyn and I did not have too many ornaments to decorate our tree. {Part of why we opted for a small tree this year!} We like to buy a Christmas ornament as a souvenir on trips we take, so we had beautiful ornaments from our summer trip to Hawaii, our honeymoon to Yosemite, and our recent Thanksgiving trip to New Orleans. We also had an ornament I bought a long time ago on a trip to Belgium, and two ornaments I ordered as Christmas gifts to myself last year: a photo ornament of me and my sweetie, and one of me, Holly and Céline from college. {Hanging this ornament on the tree made me feel a little teary. Love you and miss you, Céline!}

celine-ornament

Still, that left us with a lot of bare tree! Rather than going out and buying ornaments that were not meaningful to us, I looked around at what we had to see if I could make any. I found a few paper gift tags we had saved from Christmas gifts we received last year, of adorable elves. They made great ornaments! I also found some miniature foam surfboards that had been used as place cards at a wedding we attended — all I had to do was attach ornament hooks and up onto the tree they went. I love these as ornaments because they bring to mind my beachy hometown. We strung some Mardi Gras beads from our New Orleans trip around the tree, along with some pretty ribbon. Also, I had a couple pendant necklaces lingering in my jewelry box with broken chains that I’ve been meaning to get fixed one day. All I had to do was loop a bit of ribbon or an ornament hook through the pendants, and they morphed into lovely ornaments.

Wrapping Gifts

We are using up paper, ribbon, gift bags and tissue paper we already have {a lot of it saved from gifts we have previously received} rather than buying more wrapping supplies. It makes me happy to think of these supplies getting a “second life” rather than just being tossed into our trash can. Yes, some of the wrapping paper is a bit wrinkled, and not all of it is really holiday-themed, but in my opinion that doesn’t matter. I still think our hodge-podge gifts look pretty!

wrapped gifts recycled paper

Gifting Consumables + Experiences

We are also making an effort to gift consumables this year, such as homemade baked goods, granola, and spiced nuts. {Here is a favorite spiced nut recipe that I recently made — so yum!} One thing I love about gifting homemade consumables is that you can reuse glass jars or other containers to “wrap” them in: looks nice, costs you nothing, and is eco-friendly. Win-win-win! I personally love receiving homemade gifts because they seem extra special and filled with love. When I bake something with the intention of giving it to someone else, the entire process becomes one of intentional joy and warmth. I pour loving thoughts about the person into whatever I am making for them. It is a wonderful gratitude practice!

glass containers

Gifting experiences is another fantastic way to celebrate the holidays minimalist-style. Instead of spending our time at the mall shopping sales, Allyn and I are making an effort to spend as much time celebrating with the people we love. For example, for Christmas we are giving my grandparents a gift to the theater: we bought them tickets to see “A Christmas Carol” with us in a few weeks, an annual local performance that my Grandpap has always wanted to see but has never gotten around to before. The gift is extra-special because we get to enjoy it with them. I can’t wait!

Questions of the day:

  • How are you being intentional and slowing down this holiday season?
  • What are your favorite holiday traditions?

some thoughts on simplicity

Even though my year of living simply challenge is technically over, I have fallen completely in love with minimalism and simplicity. It is not just a new year’s resolution or a goal with a finish line; it has become a way of life for me. Living simply reduces my stress and makes my life more joyful. By clearing out what does not matter, I am better able to focus on what matters most to me.

I was talking to my sweetie the other day about how this is such a busy season of life with planning our wedding — but even as the words left my mouth, I realized: it is always going to be a busy season of life. There is always going to be an excuse or a reason to justify being busy.

For example, just thinking about the past few years of my life: it was always a “busy season” because I was…

  • finishing up my thesis and earning my graduate degree
  • moving across the country to California
  • starting my John Steinbeck Fellowship
  • getting to know a new-to-me town
  • dating, and then entering into a new relationship
  • starting up my tutoring business
  • finishing my novel manuscript
  • editing my novel manuscript
  • looking for a new apartment to move into
  • moving into a new apartment with my sweetheart
  • and now, planning our wedding

I know that as soon as we celebrate our union and no longer have wedding planning on our plate, other things will pop up to take its place: new jobs, new responsibilities, moving again, starting a family, etc etc etc…

When I start to feel frazzled, it is a sign for me to step back. To refocus and remember what I am working towards and what is most important in my life. I have learned that, if left unchecked, clutter will creep back into my life. My mindset will creep back into that unfulfilling frame of justifying busy-ness and measuring my self-worth based on my productivity. Definitely not a recipe for a happy life! When I notice this happening, I gently remind myself to breathe my way back to simplicity.

I have compiled these quotes to turn back to when I need a reboot. When I am feeling tired, stressed out, and in need of inspiration.

I hope they bring a bit of calm and sunshine into your day, too!

sunset at home

beautiful quotes about simplicity

“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is a nobler art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of nonessentials.” — Lin Yutang


“Most [people], even in this comparatively free country, through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life that its finest fruits cannot be plucked by them.” — Henry David Thoreau


“There is no Minimalist Rulebook. We’re all different. The things that add value to one man’s life may not add value to yours. So hold on to that hair straightener, those colorful socks, that collection of angel statuettes—but only if they are appropriate for your life. Only if they serve a purpose or bring you joy.” — The Minimalists


“Give your most precious people your most precious gifts: love, time, effort, and attention.” — Greg Woodburn

{This idea can also encompass all of your most precious things in life: dreams, passions, projects…}


“For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin — real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way. Something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last in dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.” — Fr. Alfred D’Souza


“Defining routines and systems is more effective than relying on self-discipline. I think self-discipline is overrated. Allowing yourself the option to do what you have not decided to do is disempowering and asking for failure. I encourage people to develop routines so that their decision-making is only applied to the most creative aspects of their work, or wherever their unique talent happens to lie.” — Tim Ferriss


“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” — Epictetus


“We can use Twitter and Pinterest and Google+ to enrich our lives and the lives of others, to communicate and share in ways we’ve never been able to communicate before. Or we can get stuck in social media’s Bermuda Triangle, careening from Facebook to Instagram to YouTube, lost in the meaningless glow our screens. We can use our smartphones to photograph gorgeous landscapes, message loved ones, or map out directions to a distant national park (or—gasp!—to make phone calls). Or, we can use that same device to Twitch: to incessantly check email, thumb through an endless stream of status updates, post vapid selfies, or partake in any other number of non-value-adding activities, all while ignoring the beautiful world around us.” — The Minimalists


“Meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt. Meaning is something you build into your life. You build it out of your own past, out of your affections and loyalties, out of the experience of humankind as it is passed on to you, out of your own talent and understanding, out of the things you believe in, out of the things and people you love, out of the values for which you are willing to sacrifice something. The ingredients are there. You are the only one who can put them together into that unique pattern that will be your life. Let it be a life that has dignity and meaning for you. If it does, then the particular balance of success or failure is of less account.” — John Gardner


 

Questions of the day:

  • Which of the quotes above strike a chord with you?
  • What are your favorite quotes about living a meaningful life?

a year of living simply: week 21

Happy Tuesday, friends! Hope your day is off to a terrific start! I just got home from a morning yoga class and I have some editing & tutoring on the horizon. This evening, Dana and I are going to a fundraising event for my church called Taste of Walnut Creek that promises to feature lots of wonderful food vendors… I’m excited for some delicious eats! Not to mention I’m excited for some quality catch-up time with my girl.

me and dana sideboard

Before I get into this week’s year of living simply challenge, I want to send a big virtual hug and a thank you for your support of my dad’s new book Strawberries in Wintertime! Yesterday, his Kickstarter campaign to take pre-orders was fully funded! Hooray! I am so proud and excited for him.

year of living simply

Last week’s challenge was to wrangle together any gift cards you have lying around, and use at least one of them up! I must admit, the week kind of got away from me with our weekend getaway to Half Moon Bay, but I did gather together all of my half-used gift cards and take inventory. I have a few dollars left on gift cards to California Pizza Kitchen, TGI Fridays, and Applebee’s. I informed Allyn that we will be going out for dessert in the next few weeks to use them up! 🙂

charley!

This week’s challenge is to get an emergency kit for your car if you don’t already have one. I am set to do some solo driving this weekend — driving up to Lake Tahoe for the Word Wave literary event, where my one-act play “Woman, Running Late, in a Dress” is being performed at the Valhalla Boathouse Theatre on Saturday night! — and I realized that, other than my AAA card, I am not very prepared for any type of roadside emergency or unforeseen circumstances should they arise. So my task for the week is to get together an emergency preparedness kit for Charley before I hit the road! I found this great resource list of common items you should have in a car emergency kit.

Also, I recently purchased this resqme tool after reading a story on the Peanut Butter Fingers blog about how her sister used the tool to rescue a couple who were trapped in their smoking car after a fender-bender. The tool is small enough to fit on a keychain {I stashed mine in my glove compartment} and can cut glass and cut through seatbelts. It is only about $10 on Amazon — a worthy investment!

Questions for the day:

  • What gift cards did you discover lying around?
  • Do you have an emergency kit in your car?

a year of living simply: week 20 + my dad’s new book!

Happy Tuesday, friends! Hope your morning is off to a wonderful start!

Before I get into this week’s year of living simply challenge, I want to share with you guys some exciting news: my dad is publishing a new book! Titled Strawberries in Wintertime, it is a collection of essays on life, love, and laughter and has already been compared to Robert Fulghum’s heartwarming classic All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten. Topics include hellos and goodbyes; celebrating “lasts” as well as “firsts”; old, new and rekindled friendships; childhood and fatherhood (and motherhood, too); wedding anniversaries and graduations; the magic of a jar filled with marbles and the beauty of a messy garage. Strawberries in Wintertime is scheduled for release on December 1st, right in time for the holidays. Books make terrific gifts! My dad is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to take pre-orders {and he offers some really cool perks as well, like a Skype “Meet the Author” and the opportunity to have your name in print as a sponsor of the book!}… BUT the campaign ends THIS MONDAY, October 5, and this is your only chance to order an exclusive signed First Edition of the book. So don’t delay! It’s hard to beat a signed, personalized new release hard copy book from a national award-winning writer for just $25!

strawberries in wintertime

If you order a copy, let me know and I’ll put your name in a drawing to win a copy of my collection of short stories, 3 a.m.!

Moving along to our year of living simply challenge

year of living simply

Last week’s challenge was to find a creative way to repurpose or reuse something, instead of throwing it out or recycling it. I tried making granola for the first time {went with this recipe for oatmeal raisin cookie granola, minus the blackstrap molasses and with Justin’s Honey PB because my store didn’t carry the Cinnamon Swirl PB listed in the recipe}…

oatmeal cookie granola

I wanted to make a special treat for my sweetheart because he recently started a new job doing fantastic work and I could not be prouder of him. He is also biking to and from work each day, which means early mornings and the need for a hearty breakfast! So I decided to surprise him with some homemade granola. I upcycled these two metal tea Harney & Sons tea tins to store the granola and keep it nice and fresh.

granola tins

granola tins

Decorated with some twine and handwritten labels, they turned out pretty dang cute!

granola tins with labels

 

This week’s challenge is to wrangle together any gift cards you have lying around, and use at least one of them up! I don’t know about you, but I have at least half a dozen gift cards to various restaurants taking up space in my wallet and glove compartment, some with only a few dollars left on them… but still, a few dollars are a few dollars! It’s time to make a plan and use them up! You could also sell your unused gift cards at websites like Cardpool.

Questions for the day:

  • What did you upcycle this past week?
  • Do you have a tendency to let gift cards sit around unredeemed?

a year of living simply: week 19

Hi there, everyone! I feel like it’s been a year and a half since I wrote to y’all, because this past weekend up till now was a DOOZY in my little corner of the universe. Flashback to the weekend before last, I went to the doctor for a mild infection and was put on an antibiotic, which I took twice a day. Everything seemed fine. Friday night, I still had three days left of my ten-day prescription. Allyn and I made plans to meet up with Dana and Brad for a fun evening of mini-golf. {I had purchased a Groupon for a foursome round of golf at a fun local Halloween-themed place, Ghost Golf.} I felt kind of sluggish all day and in the afternoon decided to pop over to the gym for a quick elliptical/exercise bike sesh. Maybe I just need a little perk-me-up, I thought.

As soon as I got home from the gym and showered, I knew I had made the wrong call. Now in addition to tired, I felt feverish and achey. But I didn’t want to call off our plans to meet Dana and Brad at the last minute, so I drove to Ghost Golf. When I arrived, Allyn felt my forehead and immediately confirmed that yes, I felt warm. The four of us went ahead with our round of golf and I had a great time despite feeling under-the-weather. {And I even lucked into a hole-in-one! That never happens to me!} Dana and Brad were sweet enough to let me bow out of our plans for after-golf ice cream, rain-checking for another date.

ghost golf

IMG953605

I went to bed Friday night thinking I was coming down with a virus. I hoped beyond hope I would wake up in the morning feeling better, because we had made plans months ago to attend the Renaissance Faire on Saturday to celebrate Allyn’s mom’s birthday. I had never been to a Renaissance Faire and was SO looking forward to going with Allyn’s family! We all had pirate costumes and everything. But I tossed and turned all night, feeling feverish and chilled, and in the morning I felt exhausted. I knew there was no way I could go along to the Faire. I ended up sleeping until after noon, but when I woke up I noticed I had a rash all over me. That was when I called my dad…

… and thank goodness I did! It hadn’t even occurred to me that something could be going on with the antibiotic I was taking, because I’d already been taking it for a week by that point! But Dad said, “I once had an allergic reaction to an antibiotic. I think you should go to the doctor and get it checked out.”

Thankfully there is an Urgent Care clinic nearby my house that is open on weekends. I made an appointment and skedaddled over there as soon as they could take me. A doctor examined me and quickly confirmed that, yes, I am indeed allergic to the antibiotic Sulfa. Good to know!! She told me to immediately stop taking it, and that I should begin to feel better soon, though it could take up to a week for it to get out of my system. I was relieved to know what the problem was.

On Sunday, my rash got much worse. I have always had sensitive skin and have gotten a few all-body rashes before, but this one was by far the worst. It has been a long time since I have been so sick. Allyn came over and brought me popsicles and Benadryl, but the rash seemed to be getting worse, not better. So Sunday afternoon he took me back to Urgent Care. Another doctor took one look at me and said, “Oh honey, Benadryl isn’t gonna help that.” I pretty much looked like a bright red lobster! {I told Allyn that I am his lobster. Haha.}

So I got a steroid injection and a prescription of steroid pills to calm down my poor freaked-out skin. Today is the first day I don’t feel itchy! Yay! Traces of the rash are still visible, but it is much better. And I finally am beginning to feel back to my normal energy levels and normal self. I feel so grateful for “normal”!!

What I learned through this whole ordeal:

  • Allergies to antibiotics can kick in after 7-1o days, not just when you first start taking a medicine! In fact, the doctor said I could have possibly taken the whole round of this antibiotic and been fine, but then had to take it at some point in the future and been hit with an allergic reaction within the first couple of days. If you are taking a new medication and start to feel “off” or get a rash, go to your doctor!
  • Listen to your body. I am so glad I went to Urgent Care over the weekend instead of waiting until Monday to go to the doctor. If I had continued taking my antibiotic, or if I had not been able to get the steroid medicine when I did, I would have been SO much more miserable and sick than I already was.
  • Plans can be cancelled and postponed and remade. Your health is most important. I had so been looking forward to the weekend because I had all these fun plans: Ghost Golf, dessert out, the Renaissance Faire, fancy dinner with Allyn’s fam at the Country Club, church community circle, double-date in the city with another couple from Allyn’s grad program… and everything except for Ghost Golf was left on the “cutting room floor” so to speak. I missed out on everything I had been so excited about! But, we were able to reschedule the most important things, and now I am able to look forward to them again. There will be another Renaissance Faire next year. I hate to think what could have happened if I had tried to push my body to do all.the.things this weekend. I think I would have simply collapsed!
  • Love is in the details. I had been looking forward to enjoying a weekend of fun activities with my sweetheart. Instead, I was feeling sick on Friday, we were apart all day Saturday, and Sunday I looked like The Creature from the Black Lagoon. No matter. Allyn came over to simply sit by my side on the couch, watching golf with my grandpa and chatting with my grandma. He held my hand and kissed my forehead. He told me it was going to be okay. He refilled my water glass, brought me dry Cheerios and saltine crackers, and still looked at me as if I was beautiful, even though I was covered in a gross rash. He drove me to the Urgent Care and sat with me while they gave me a steroid injection because he knows how much I hate shots. He came with me to pick up my new prescription. In a lot of ways, I feel even closer to him after this weekend than I would have after our planned weekend of sharing all those fun activities together.

Which is all to say… I am so so so happy to be on the mend!

Moving on to our year of living simply challenge

year of living simply

Last week’s challenge was to examine your nighttime routine. I have been trying to get to bed earlier because I have been waking up earlier, which has been a challenge for my natural night-owl self. I’ll often find myself trying to fit in “one more thing” before I wind down for bed… and then looking at the clock and an hour has passed and I’m already past my “goal time” of falling asleep.

I’ve been trying to work on creating a relaxing nighttime routine that I will look forward to. For me, this means at least an hour before I want to fall asleep, I change into my comfy PJs and get all ready for bed: wash my face, swap out my contacts and put on my glasses, etc. Then I brew a cup of warm tea like chamomile or fall spice, look over my to-do list for the next day one more time, and climb into bed. I like to call my family to say goodnight, and then I give myself thirty minutes to an hour of reading in bed. It feels luxurious and is the perfect way for my book-loving heart to wind down after a busy day. I sometimes will watch TV, but only if I have a special show I want to watch — not just to watch mindlessly. I find that reading calms me for sleep much more than watching TV does.

When it’s time to fall asleep, I keep my phone on silent and plugged in across the room, turned face-down so that I can’t see the little blinky blue light if I get a message or an email. I also like to keep my room cool, so sometimes I sleep with the window open. This time of year, nothing says comfy to me like feeling a cool night breeze from the window and snuggling down under the covers!

This week, with my illness/allergic reaction, falling asleep was much more difficult due to my itchy rash! I found that sitting up and turning on the light and reading when I was having trouble sleeping, as opposed to tossing and turning in frustration, calmed me down and got me feeling drowsy again much more quickly. One night, I actually got a lot of great ideas for my new novel-in-progress, so I’m glad I sat up and turned on the light and wrote them down! I guess a little insomnia can sometimes be a useful thing. 😉

All in all, I’m learning to wind down for the evening much earlier than I used to. Note to self: dusk doesn’t mean you’re going to be up for six more hours; sunset isn’t a signal to see how much more you can cram into the day!

dusk in key west

Dusk settling in Key West {photo from my trip there in 2013}

This week’s challenge is a simple one: find a creative way to repurpose or reuse something, instead of throwing it out or recycling it. Perhaps that means washing out that jelly jar and using it to store/organize some of your bathroom supplies. Or using that old tea tin as a planter for a windowsill herb garden. You could even wrap an empty oatmeal container in some pretty paper and use it as a gift box for homemade baked goodies! There are numerous “upcycling” ideas all over Pinterest and the Internet… just type in what you have and add “upcycle ideas” and you’ll get plenty! I look forward to hearing what you do — feel free to share in the comments!

Questions for the day:

  • What did you learn from examining your nighttime routine? Did you make any changes?
  • Have you ever been allergic to an antibiotic or other kind of medicine or food that you didn’t know about until it happened?
  • Do you have any upcycling success stories or tips to share?

a year of living simply: week 18

Hi, friends! How is your week going so far? Mine is off to a good start! I picked my sweetie up from the airport on Sunday after his “boys weekend” in San Diego with his high school buddies. I must admit, I was relieved to see him walk down the stairs to baggage claim with no cast on his arm or crutches! {Those crazy guys do a pretty intense Olympiad of sports competitions!} It was nice visiting with him Sunday night and yesterday morning before I left for tutoring commitments. This morning, I had an excellent PT session, met with my lovely friend Trish from church, ran a few errands, stopped by the gym to lift weights, and am meeting up with my dear Dana for dinner tonight after a tutoring sesh with a new client. All in all, a pretty great day!

me and dana my bday

LOVE. HER.

It’s finally cooled down a little here in California, and yesterday was the first day that sort of felt like the beginning of autumn… overcast skies and a hint of chill in the air. I’ll take it! I love the autumn.

Please send your thoughts and prayers to the victims of the horrendous wildfires sweeping across Northern California. My heart breaks watching the news footage. Sending all good wishes that the fire is under control ASAP — and that we might get some precious, precious rain to help the efforts of the firefighters!

Moving on to our year of living simply challenge

{And if you want to catch up or refresh your memory on the previous posts in the series, click on over here for the entire list.}

year of living simply

Last week’s challenge was to examine your morning routine, and perhaps try making some changes to see if you like what happens. During the summer, I dabbled with getting up earlier in the morning {which meant going to bed earlier, as well!} to feel like I “get a jump on my day” and have some quiet time before the rest of the world awakens. I have always been a natural night owl, but I love the peace and calm of the early morning. I found that I really liked this earlier time schedule, and in general have kept my rising time earlier than it used to be: around 7 a.m. as opposed to 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. Of course, some mornings if I wake up feeling particularly tired {and I have room in my schedule} I let myself sleep in a little later. It’s important to listen to your body!

One thing I worked on this week was to stop pressing “snooze” and just GET UP. Sometime in the last couple of years, I got in the bad habit of pressing snooze multiple times each morning, and — though addictive in the moment when “just five more minutes” seemed like a dream come true — I didn’t like the tone it set for my day. I associate the “snooze” button with negative consequences: not having enough time, rushing out the door, feeling “behind” when the day has just started. Plus, I want to energetically leap into each day, excited about the projects and activities I have on the calendar.

So, this week I put a moratorium on the “snooze.” And, I learned that even when I felt a little groggy when I first turned off my alarm, once I got out of bed, washed my face, drank a glass of water, and put my contacts in, I felt energized and ready to face the day. I think I will always be one of those people who wakes up feeling a little groggy; that’s just me. It doesn’t mean I need “five more minutes” of sleep. The grogginess usually melts away within a couple minutes of getting up, before I’ve even taken my first sip of tea!

tazo pumpkin spice chai tea

When I thought about my ideal morning, I realized that I wanted a little more calm, quiet, “me” time before leaping into my day. Reading in bed for twenty minutes with my mug of tea first thing in the morning feels indulgent, like I’m on vacation — but, really, why can’t I do this every morning? Why does my routine have to be eating my bowl of oatmeal in front of my email inbox? It doesn’t. In fact, it shouldn’t. When I have a bit of quiet time to journal and read in bed first thing in the morning, I feel more centered and focused to dive into the day’s tasks.

I want to try expanding on this a little further and maybe doing ten minutes of yoga and/or meditation in the morning, as well, before I venture out into the world.

picnic view

I love misty Bay Area mornings like this.

This week’s challenge is to examine your nighttime routine. What are your habits at night, before you go to bed?

  • What time do you go to bed? Is it generally the same time every night, or is it scattered?
  • When do you start “winding down” before bed?
  • What are your “winding down” activities? Do you read? Watch T.V.? Play games on your smartphone?
  • Do you stay up later than you intend, or do you usually get to bed about the time you planned to?
  • How is your sleep quality? Do you have a hard time falling asleep? Do you wake up a lot during the night?
  • What is something that makes you feel relaxed? Is there a way you could fit that into your nighttime routine? What would that look like?
These questions are not meant to judge. There is no “right” or “wrong” answer to any of them. They are simply questions for you to reflect upon as you think about your nightly routine and what changes you might potentially make to improve, simplify, or streamline it.  

Questions for the day:

  • What did you learn from examining your morning routine? Did you make any changes?
  • What is your nightly routine? What do you like about it? What {if anything} do you wish to change?

a year of living simply: week 17

Hi, everyone! Hope you had a fun, relaxing Labor Day weekend. Mine was a nice mix of working on projects, taking long walks in the sunshine, lounging with a good book, and Netflixing “Orange is the New Black” {I’m a tad late to the party and just started watching… but I can see what all the buzz is about; that show is addicting!}

It’s hard to believe it is already September. The summer flew by! Yet also, it felt long, in a good way. My summer was filled with so many experiences and big events — graduations, travel, teaching, celebrations — that looking back at the beginning of the summer seems like a long time ago. I was talking to Allyn the other day about how July 4th seems like an eternity ago, since a lot has happened in my life since then: I traveled to Chicago to meet up with Holly {+ T.Swift in concert!}; went home to have a few weeks with my family; taught my Eighth Annual Summer Writing Camp; my brother moved to NYC and started his new job; I taught two weeks of Communication Academy camps; I gave my first-ever sermon at church and launched a Young Adults Community Circle; I house-sat/dog-sat for my aunt’s family for a week; I stepped out of my comfort zone and did Improv for the first time… and, I signed with an amazing literary agent {my dream agent!} to represent my novel to publishers. All in all, it’s been a very busy and very exciting couple of months!

This photo encapsulates my summer... exhilarating, wind-swept, filled with sunshine and smiling as I just let myself go with it!

This photo encapsulates my summer: exhilarating, wind-swept, filled with sunshine and new adventures… squinting and smiling as I just let myself go with it!

However, unfortunately, my year of living simply posts went on an unintentional summer hiatus. The entire blog went on a bit of a summer hiatus. At first, I was stressed about it. I felt guilty for not posting. I made lists and tried to figure out when I could wedge in the time.

But then I realized: that was exactly the opposite of what my year of living simply is intended to be.

It’s not about shoe-horning more and more stuff — even meaningful stuff you enjoy — onto your daily to-do list.

It’s about letting yourself do less.

It’s not about rushing around and cramming every minute of your day with stuff.

It’s about letting go. Giving your days margins. Giving yourself grace.

summer grace

So, I gave myself margins and grace. During a crazy-busy season of my life, I let some things lay dormant. Including this blog. Including this year of living simply challenge.

In many ways, I feel like that in itself was my simplicity challenge this summer. Having the faith and the patience to let go, to set it down, and know that the time would come when I could pick it back up again.

And so. Here we are. Summer is drawing to a close, and autumn is upon us. I feel the whirlwind settling a little. I feel that anticipatory energy I always love in the autumn. The start of a brand-new school year {even though I am no longer in school, I still feel the energy!} A blank slate. A row of freshly sharpened pencils. Brand-new notebooks. A new schedule of classes with different teachers and people. {Literally or metaphorically!} Possibility, sparkling everywhere you look.

And I think it’s the perfect time to bring back my year of living simply challenge. I feel rejuvenated and ready to get back on schedule. Ready to refocus on simplifying my life and reflecting on what matters to me. I hope you’ll join me!

{And if you want to catch up or refresh your memory on the previous sixteen posts in the series, click on over here for the entire list.}

year of living simply

In honor of the back-to-school time of year, this week’s challenge is to examine your morning routine. What are your habits in the morning?

  • When your alarm goes off, do you push snooze, or do you leap out of bed?
  • Do you scramble around feeling rushed?
  • Do you never know what to wear, or wear the same outfits over and over?
  • Do you forget things at home?
  • Do you never have enough time?
  • Do you wake up feeling tired, or are you energized for the day?
These questions are not meant to judge. There is no “right” or “wrong” answer to any of them. They are simply questions for you to reflect upon as you think about your morning routine and what changes you might potentially make to improve, simplify, or streamline it.  
morning

Questions for the day:

  • How can you give yourself margins and grace in your ife today?
  • What is your morning routine? What do you like about it? What {if anything} do you wish to change?

a year of living simply: week 16

Hi, everyone! Hope your Tuesday is off to a terrific start! I’m soaking up time with my fam and crossing my fingers we get some rain here in California this week.

It’s time for this week’s simplicity…

year of living simply

Last week’s challenge was to look ahead on the calendar and prepare for upcoming holidays and celebrations: Father’s Day, graduations, birthdays. I bought and wrapped presents for my brother’s graduation, my sweetheart’s graduation, my dad’s birthday {coming up at the end of the month} and Father’s Day. I also bought some cards, though I still have to write in them. I noticed that the whole process of shopping for gifts seemed much more enjoyable when I was doing it with plenty of time in advance.

clothes for goodwill

This week’s challenge is to clean out your closet! At the very least, try to get rid of one item. Make an honest assessment. If you haven’t worn something in the last six or eight months, are you really likely to wear it tomorrow or next week? Why not give the item to someone who might love it, and make room in your closet for only pieces that you truly LOVE? {One of my goals of this year of simplicity is to only keep pieces that I absolutely love and feel fantastic in!}

I think we all tend to overestimate the amount of clothing we need. Wouldn’t life be simpler if we had fewer options to choose from when we stand in front of our closets each morning? I was super inspired by the way Jen Hatmaker only dressed with seven pieces of closing for an entire month as part of her book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. And blogger Courtney Carver has written about how much she loves having a small capsule wardrobe — learn more at Project 333.   

Questions for the day:

  • What did you get a jump on this past week?
  • What is one item you can get rid of from your closet?

a year of living simply: week 15

Hi, friends! Hope your week is off to a great start. I’m off to a morning PT session and some tutoring appointments before I head home to pack my suitcase because… tomorrow I’m leaving on a jetplane for Los Angeles for my amazing brother’s MBA graduation! I’m so darn proud of him. This evening, before I go, I’m meeting up with Dana at one of our favorite local places. So glad I get to see her before I leave!

So that’s what my day is looking like. Backing up a bit, how was your Mother’s Day weekend? I was bummed I was not able to be with my mom in person {though we are going to have a belated celebration this upcoming week when my brother and I are both home!} but I did get to talk to her on the phone. Suffice to say, I am beyond grateful that I am gifted with this amazing woman as my mother. I could go on for hours and hours about how kind, caring, supportive, funny, generous, and all-around wonderful she is. I love you, Mom!

Mom and Me

I did get to spend time with Allyn’s delightful mother Barbara on Mother’s Day. She is a firecracker, with so many hilarious and fun stories to share. She is also extremely enthusiastic and encouraging of my writing, which means so much to me. Plus she raised a pretty dang stupendous son who I love very much! 😉 She has welcomed me into the family with open arms. I was lucky to be invited to join Allyn, his mom and sister on their Mother’s Day tradition of going to the horse races! It was my first time ever going to the racetrack and it was a blast. The horses are gorgeous and I loved watching them run. We bet $2 on each race and I ended up winning a couple, so I walked out of there with $1.26 more than I walked in with! Woo hoo! Enough to pay for the $1 hot dog I ate for lunch, haha.

races mothers day
horseraces mothers day

Allyn and I left the races a little early so I could head home to cook Mother’s Day dinner for my grandparents and extended family! I am the oldest grandchild and, as you know, not yet a mother, and I was thinking that if I didn’t volunteer to cook, one of my aunts or my grandma would likely end up hosting a Mother’s Day get-together for our family. I wanted them to be able to relax on their special day, so I stepped up to cook the meal. I made a chicken & bell peppers pasta dish and snickerdoodle cookies for dessert.

chicken and peppers

snickerdoodles

mothers day

Everything turned out great, and it was so lovely for us all to spend time together. It made me especially happy to see my grandma so happy. She was all dressed up in this pretty new blouse my mom got her for Mother’s Day!

Doesn't she look beautiful?

Now it’s time for this week’s simplicity…

year of living simply

Our last challenge was to journal about your beliefs — about yourself, your life, your relationships, your world — and reflect on what you wrote. Is something you believe about yourself holding you back? Is anything an old, worn-out belief that is no longer serving you? How about letting go of it?

In addition to my limiting belief of myself as someone who has trouble saying, “No” — that, after a conversation with my sweetheart and some reflection, I realized may not be true about me anymore — I also examined my idea of myself as “not a morning person.” I love the feeling of waking up early with the whole day in front of me, but I have always thought of myself as more naturally a night owl… I’m going to experiment with going to bed earlier and getting up earlier, and see how I like it!

morning quote

This week’s challenge was inspired by Mother’s Day. It is such a wonderful and important holiday — with the intention of celebrating mothers and mother figures in our lives and thanking them for all they do and have done for us — but I think the true purpose of the day can easily get lost in hurry and stress. Everything is so busy that it is common to wait until the last minute, and then suddenly the day is upon us! We rush around getting cards and flowers and gifts, not focused on the meaning behind them as much as simply having SOMETHING to give.

But what if we approached things a little differently? Specifically, what if we gave ourselves more TIME? When you have a lot of time to do something, it is infinitely less stressful. You don’t even need to spend more time doing the actual thing; simply having more time before the deadline minimizes stress. Looking ahead on the calendar, many of us have graduations to attend in June, plus June 21 is Father’s Day. Your challenge for this week is to prepare for one or more of those upcoming events: brainstorm thoughtful gift ideas, buy cards, plan activities to celebrate. You could even write the cards and wrap the gifts in advance so you are all ready to go! If you have any birthdays coming up in the next couple months, you could plan for those, too. Also, remember you don’t always need to buy material gifts for people — a donation to a favorite charity or a day spent with you doing something fun are meaningful gifts that don’t add any STUFF to a person’s life! 
Greg and me

At Greg’s undergraduate graduation, three years ago!

Questions for the day:

  • What limiting belief did you let go of?
  • What is one thing coming up that you can get a jump on starting today?

a year of living simply: week 14

Happy Wednesday, my friends! This morning, I was woken up by a wild turkey gobble-gobble-squawking on the lawn outside my bedroom window. It was quite a unique alarm to wake up to and a funny sight to usher in my day. 🙂

Today is going by quickly thanks to a mix of writing, “housekeeping” business type stuff, errands, and a gym session where I tried out the elliptical for the first time in a long time. It was exciting to do some cardio again without pain! My PT is working, slowly but surely — I just have to keep being patient and doing my exercises.

Now it’s time for this week’s simplicity…

year of living simply

Last week’s challenge — inspired by Lauren Singer, a 23-year-old blogger living in NYC who hasn’t produced ANY waste in two-plus years — was to pay attention to how much waste you produce and try to produce less. I found that simply being attentive helped me produce less garbage. For example, I refrained from using paper towels whenever possible, and instead of grabbing a stack of paper napkins at Starbucks, I only took one. I made sure to recycle even small pieces of paper, like oatmeal packets, that can easily sneak into the garbage. I reused envelopes when mailing packages at the post office. Instead of using Ziplock baggies to pack my veggie snacks, I used reusable containers. {Purchasing glass containers is on my to-do-list!} I aim to continue being aware of and working to reduce my waste, and I have a goal of learning how to start a compost container, too, for food waste. My sweetheart composts and it was something I was attracted to about him from the very beginning — his care for small details to help the environment. #treehuggersmakemeswoon

allyn trees

This week’s challenge was inspired by a conversation I had with my sweetie earlier this week. We always call each other to say goodnight and talk about our days, and sometimes we wind up on these conversational tangents that are really fascinating and I feel like I learn so much more about him from our long meandering talks. Anyway, somehow we got on the topic of how we perceive ourselves, and he said something I wasn’t anticipating: that sometimes he is surprised by things I say about myself here, on my blog. For example, a few weeks ago when I posted about how I’m learning to say “No” to things and how I tend to say “Maybe” and hem and haw and dread until I eventually say “No” and feel like I’m letting the person down — Allyn said that he never had that view of me at all. He sees me as someone who is very intentional about how I spend my time and proactive about committing to the things that matter to me. Of course, he admitted, there are surely things in my daily life and routine and work obligations, etc. that he doesn’t know about, but still — it got me thinking.

And when I tried to come up with specific examples of things I have said “Yes” to lately that I really haven’t wanted to do, my list was pretty dang short. A lot of memories I have of that behavior are pretty far in the past, like back in my high school and college days. I realized that maybe, without realizing it, I’ve been holding onto a limiting belief about myself and haven’t given myself credit for learning and growing. Maybe I am a different person now — stronger, more self-aware, more intentional and proactive about my time and my commitments — than I used to be when I was afraid to say, “No.” Perhaps in this instance, there is more truth in the way that Allyn sees me, than in the way I see myself.

view of trees

So this week’s challenge is to do some journaling about your beliefs: about yourself, your life, your relationships, your world. Be honest. Don’t write about what you “think” you should believe; write the story you tell yourself, deep down. Then reflect on what you’ve written. Is something you believe about yourself holding you back? Is anything an old, worn-out belief that is no longer serving you? How about letting go of it? If you are the type of person who likes ritual {as I do!} write your limiting belief or idea on a slip of paper and burn it to symbolize releasing it from your life.

Questions for the morning:

  • How did you reduce the waste you produce?
  • What is one limiting belief or idea that you could let go of today?