a year of living simply: week 3

Hi everyone! Apologies for my delay in posting… I was out of town visiting my friend Holly in Nashville! We had an amazing time, as we always do when we’re together. I just love this girl so dang much!

me and hol sunshine

Most of yesterday was spent trying to get my life back in order after being away for nearly 3 weeks {visiting my parents in Ventura before my trip to Nashville}… unpacking, laundry-doing, and prepping for the various teaching & tutoring sessions I have this week! Aaaaand perhaps spending some quality time with my sweetheart, who has returned safely from his adventure in Kenya, hooray! I’m so grateful that he had a fantastic trip, and that he is home safe and sound.

allyn kenya with kids

Now… onto this week’s simplicity challenge! Over the course of the year, we’ll be focusing on various meanings of simplicity: in our possessions, routines, spending habits, projects, relationships, food choices, and more. We’ll rid ourselves of clutter — physical, mental, emotional. We’ll reflect on what truly matters to us, and why, and what we hope to do with that knowledge.

year of living simply

Last week, the challenge was to ruthlessly unsubscribe to unnecessary emails. I first went through and unsubscribed to the various spam/promotional email lists I’m on that I haven’t bothered to unsubscribe from even though I never open them and am wholly uninterested. That was the easy part.

The harder part for me was unsubscribing from lists that I am genuinely interested in, but simply don’t have time to read. I realized that I have remained subscribed to these emails because I blindly hoped that some mystical future version of me would one day find the time to conscientiously read through them — even though I know that isn’t true, and even though the slow trickle of them piling up and piling up in my inbox stresses me out. I think this relates to the “Fear of Missing Out” phenomenon that is so prevalent in our social-media culture. I think I was worried that if I deleted an email newsletter that I was interested in reading without actually going through and reading it, I would “miss out” on something important. But no, what I was really doing was to open these emails and scroll through, skimming them mindlessly.

So, this week I ruthlessly unsubscribed, choosing to remain subscribed to only those email lists I fully, genuinely *love* to read, the ones that consistently add value to my life. I told myself that if I missed any one of them, I could always resubscribe. But, not surprisingly, I don’t miss any of them. It might sound silly, but the simple act of unsubscribing and taking back a portion of my inbox has made me feel freer and more at peace. Email isn’t as big as a chore as it once was. And that’s a step in the right direction!

workstation

This week reminded me of the whole point of minimalism: clearing away all the stuff that isn’t important makes room for what truly IS important to you.

This week, let’s continue our digital de-cluttering: go through and organize your photos, deleting any unnecessary duplicates or “bad” ones. My photos on my computer are a jumbled mess of random folders, and my photos on my phone are a disaster zone — I never delete any! This week, I want to get these all straightened out. The beginning of the year is the perfect time to organize your photos, so you’ll have a system ready to go for all the photos you’ll take in 2015! 🙂

I’ll leave you with this insightful post from The Minimalists that I thoroughly enjoyed: “Thomas Jefferson’s 10 Rules for a Good Life”

Questions of the morning:

  • What emails did you unsubscribe from this week? Was it easy, or more difficult than you envisioned?
  • What digital clutter do you struggle with?

a year of living simply: week 2

Thank you so much for your kind words and enthusiastic support of my year of living simply challenge, which I launched here last week! I’m so excited to be embarking on this fulfilling endeavor with all of you 🙂

Over the course of the year, we’ll be focusing on various meanings of simplicity: in our possessions, routines, spending habits, projects, relationships, food choices, and more. We’ll rid ourselves of clutter — physical, mental, emotional. We’ll reflect on what truly matters to us, and why, and what we hope to do with that knowledge.

year of living simply

Last week, the challenge was to identify one or two or three things that you tend to over-purchase, and write out a pledge not to purchase any more of these items for the next month {or however long feels good to you.} Personally, I have a weakness for over-purchasing tea, stationary/notecards, and pretty, flow-y scarves. I pledged to purchase no more of these items for myself during the entire year of 2015, or until I use up the embarrassingly large stash that I currently possess.

I must admit, I was a little surprised at my impulses to purchase these items, even during the first week of the new year! Especially tea. I realized I tend to visit the tea aisle whenever I’m at the grocery store, just to check out if they have any new flavors or any good sales… even though I definitely do NOT need to buy more tea because I have more than enough to last me for a good long while! So, I made a conscious choice not to even stroll down the tea aisle. I did not want to tempt myself. Same with stationary. At Trader Joe’s the other day, I refrained from even browsing their card display. Instead, I used two cards I had already purchased for friends’ birthdays, and used notecards I’d purchased after Christmas last year for all my Christmas thank-you notes. It may seem like a little thing, but it feels like progress!

kind notes

The challenge this week relates to digital clutter. I don’t know about you, but I spend way too much time struggling with my email inbox that constantly seems to be overflowing, begging for my attention, distracting me from the important tasks I truly want to be working on. I have gotten better about responding to email right away, instead of putting it off and letting it sit in my inbox for days. But I still have a ton of email clutter that stresses me out whenever I open my inbox.

So the challenge for this week is to ruthlessly unsubscribe to unnecessary emails. You know those emails you delete without opening? Or those newsletter-y, informative cause-based emails piling up that you are theoretically interested in, but haven’t opened in weeks months because you don’t have time to read them? Or {for me} all the emails from literary journals with links to stories and essays and poems that I want to read, that I’m blindly hoping some mystical future version of me will one day find time to conscientiously read, even though I know I won’t?

This week, take five minutes to unsubscribe and ruthlessly delete these unnecessary mass emails you never read. See what it feels like not to get these emails for a week. If there happen to be any you miss, you can always go back and resubscribe after the week is over. For now, try it out. I’m excited to hear how it goes for you!

Side note: here is an insightful and thought-provoking post I read this week with a secret to being more productive {hint: it’s doing less, not more!}

Questions of the morning:

  • How was the first week’s challenge for you? What did you pledge not to purchase any more of for the time being?
  • What digital clutter do you struggle with?

a year of living simply

Happy Monday, everyone, and welcome to our new subscribers! Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to visit my little corner of the internet. I am grateful that I get to spend my time with you!

On today, the first Monday of 2015, I’m excited to debut this year’s week-by-week challenge! These year-long series have become my favorite component of blogging. I learn and grow so much, especially thanks to the comments, insights, and support from all of you!

  • In 2013, we did a year of kindness, completing a unique random act of kindness every week.
  • Last year, I hosted a year of Wooden, where we followed the teachings of Coach John Wooden to add meaning to our lives in a variety of areas.

In looking over my goals for this year and thinking about how I hope to grow and where I would like to be as I type to you a year from now, I kept coming back to one word: presence. I want to be more present. I want to be aware of, and grateful for, every moment of this unique and amazing life. Sometimes it feels like life is rushing by so very fast, in a flurry of social media and distractions and texting and constant “busyness”… I want to slow it down. I want to savor it. I want my days to be made up of beautiful moments, not long to-do lists.

making a life quote

Next, I started thinking about fellow bloggers who make me feel excited and inspired. There are many — too many to name right now! — but a consistent theme of their posts is authenticity and simplicity. Paring down your life in order to make space for the things that TRULY matter.

Something lights up in my soul when I think about that mission. Simplicity. Time. Space. Room to breathe, and learn, and grow, and simply be.

And so, with delight, I present to you the yearlong blog series for 2015…

year of living simply

Over the course of the year, we’ll be focusing on various meanings of simplicity: in our possessions, routines, spending habits, projects, relationships, food choices, and more. We’ll rid ourselves of clutter — physical, mental, emotional. We’ll reflect on what truly matters to us, and why, and what we hope to do with that knowledge.

Here’s hoping that by the end of 2015, we will be less stressed, more present, and simply happier in our slightly simpler lives 🙂

For this first week, the challenge is to identify one or two or three things that you tend to over-purchase. What are your spending weaknesses? Maybe you have a bajillion candles around your house. Or twelve different salad dressings in your fridge. Perhaps your jewelry box is crammed with earrings because you can’t resist getting a new pair every time you go to Target. {Which is entirely understandable; they do have super-cute earrings at Target.}

Now, once you have your over-purchase weaknesses identified, make a pledge not to purchase any more of these items for the next month. Or two months. Or six months. Or year. Or however long feels good to you.

Write this pledge out on a piece of paper. Sign it. Date it. {I know it might feel silly, but trust me — signing a contract with yourself makes you much more likely to take it seriously and follow through on your promise!}

Personally, I have a weakness for over-purchasing:

  • tea {I’m sure none of you are surprised about this one} 😉
  • stationary/notecards
  • pretty, flow-y scarves

I am pledging to purchase no more tea, stationary/notecards, or pretty/flow-y scarves for myself during the entire year of 2015, or until I use up the embarrassingly large stash that I currently possess. {Even with all the tea I drink, I’m not sure I’ll be able to get through the entirety of my tea stash. We shall see!}

tea stash

I was tempted to put “books” on my list, too, but since I am a writer and have friends who are writers, I want to be able to purchase their books and support them without going against my simplicity pledge. So, “books” are sort of half on my list — I’m certainly planning to work my way through the giant stack I have beside my bed before deliberately purchasing any more books to read, but I reserve the right to purchase books written by my friends or colleagues or mentors or blogging buddies, etc. Oh! And I’m planning to review a book related to simplicity/minimalism on here every quarter, so I might have to purchase a couple of those books!

I want to end with this lovely quote from one of my favorite minimalist bloggers, Courtney @ Be More With Less:

Questions of the morning:

  • Is there anything you tend to over-purchase or have a weakness for purchasing?
  • What would you like to focus on during this year of living simply?

fabulous friday #14

Happy Friday, friends! It’s been a couple weeks since my last fabulous friday post, but I’m happy to be back today. Taking the time to make note of what I love always gets the weekend off on a great note!

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. Springtime! The weather this week has been absolutely gorgeous, and all the trees are bursting into bloom. Not to mention it staying light out past dinnertime thanks to Daylight Savings — it feels like the transition from winter to summer has officially begun. I love this time of year!

spring tree

2. My friend Kelsey’s laugh. This girl has one of the most beautiful, contagious, joy-filled laughs I’ve ever heard. I talked with her on the phone this morning for the first time in a while, and it was wonderful to hear her voice and her laugh. It’s been a couple hours since we hung up, and I’m still feeling happy from talking to her.

3. Oatmeal with strawberries. All this week I’ve swapped out my usual apple-and-peanut-butter oatmeal for strawberries-and-vanilla-ricemilk oatmeal, and I’m loving it.

strawberry oatmeal

4. Wisdom from some of my favorite bloggers, particularly these posts:

5. This beautiful video {thanks Allyn for sending it to me!}: 20 strangers kiss for the first time

Now I’m off to the gym and to run some errands! Tonight should be a low-key, catch-up-on-New-Girl-episodes kind of night, but this weekend is gearing up to be busy with fun plans. {brunch! birthday celebrations! double date!} I’ll be back on Sunday or Monday with a goals post/recap, but in the meantime I want to leave you with these two quotes that have really been speaking to me lately:

“The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” -Bertrand Russell

“If you try too carefully to plan your life, the danger is that you will succeed — succeed in narrowing your options, closing off avenues of adventure that cannot now be imagined.” -Harlan Cleveland

Questions for the day:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • What are your plans for the weekend?

fabulous friday #7

Happy Friday, friends! I am writing this at my grandparents’ kitchen table; we arrived back up north late Wednesday night. I miss my parents and brother and friends in Ventura, but it is nice to be back with my family and friends up here. I always try to think of that ache in my chest of missing someone as a blessing, because it means I just have so many people in my life to love and care about!

It’s always hard leaving Mr. Mur-dog because he doesn’t know why I’m leaving or when I’ll be coming back. Poor guy always gets upset when the suitcases come out of the closets. Apparently he’s been sleeping on my bed ever since I left. I’ll see you again before too long, little buddy!

Murray on bed

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. This gorgeous painting that my amazingly talented and thoughtful brother made for me for Christmas. It’s of the constellation Cassiopeia, a constellation featured in one of my favorite movies ever, Serendipity. This painting makes me think of watching that movie countless times with Greg {he’s such a sweet brother, watching chick flicks with me!} and the beautiful shades of blue night sky make me feel content and at peace.

20140108_125610

2. Speaking of thoughtful gifts, Holly sent me this beautiful bronze sunflower barrette. I smile and think of her whenever I wear it!

sunflower barrette

3. My Grandpap’s iPod playlist. This morning, Frank Sinatra serenaded me as I ate my oatmeal. Doesn’t get much better than that! {Especially when my Grandpap sings along. Such a cutie pie!}

4. Running into familiar faces around town. I stopped by Starbucks to do some writing after yoga class yesterday {I’m hopping back aboard the yoga train after some time away and it feels SO great!!} … I was sitting there typing away at my little table when I noticed three women sit down at a table nearby. I recognized them immediately: some of my grandma’s friends! I waved hello and we had a nice chat. After living here for five months now, it’s exciting to finally be at a point where I run into people I know around town.

5. Inspiring bloggers. In particular this amazingly empowering body peace manifesto by Heather Waxman. And these helpful budgeting tips by Whitney @sometimes.always.never.

Tone-it-up-heather-waxman-love-your-body

Questions of the day:

  • What do you have planned for this weekend?
  • What are you loving right now?

april foodie pen pals reveal

FPP-post

This was my second month participating in Foodie Pen Pals through The Lean Green Bean, one of my favorite blogs! Here’s how it works: you visit The Lean Green Bean and enter your contact info to sign up for the next month of Foodie Pen Pals. Then the amazing Lindsay matches you up with two other bloggers or food lovers: one person to send a foodie package to, and one person who will send a package to you! Then you spend $15 putting together a box of fun, yummy treats for your pen pal, pop it in the mail, and eagerly await the arrival of your own foodie package!

Natalie from In Natalie’s Shoes sent me a package this month. She sent me a box filled with delectable goodies:

foodie pen pals april

  • homemade brownies with Reese’s peanut butter eggs inside
  • dark-chocolate-covered  pretzel slims from Trader Joes {these are addicting!}
  • a jar of cookie butter, also from TJ’s {amazing spread on apples!}
  • honey glazed almonds
  • Special K chocolatey pretzel cereal bars
  • Nature Valley Almond Crunch granola bars

Thanks, Natalie!! This package really brightened my week! I would encourage all of you to check out Natalie’s food/travel/craftiness blog: http://innataliesshoes.wordpress.com/

If this kind of thing sounds fun to you, go sign up for May Foodie Pen Pals at The Lean Green Bean. It only takes two minutes and it is a blast!