“The Magic Thread”

Last weekend at church, I had a truly amazing day. During the summer when our ministers are on sabbatical, Worship Associates get to lead the services. It was my honor and pleasure to lead the service this past Sunday. The entire congregation was so welcoming, loving and supportive. I am still “walking on air” after the experience! I wanted to share my sermon with you — but first, I need to share the story my sermon is based upon.

The Magic Thread

“The Magic Thread” is a fable about a boy named Peter who is not very different from you or me. Peter finds it very hard to enjoy whatever he is doing at the moment. He always wants to move on to the next thing in his life. Have you ever felt that way? Summer is too hot—he can’t wait for the autumn to arrive. Winter is too cold—he counts the days until springtime. School is okay, but none of his best friends are in his class, so he wants it to be the next year already. Then, his friends are in his class, but his teacher is very strict and assigns a lot of homework. He is always convinced that his life will be better next week, next month, next season, next year.

One day, Peter is walking home from school through the forest and he meets an old woman, who offers him a shining golden ball of magic thread. She explains, “This is the thread of your life, my boy. If you want time to pass more quickly, all you need to do is pull the thread a tiny bit, and an hour will pass like a second.”

However, she also gives him a warning: “Listen carefully: once the thread has been pulled out, it cannot be pushed back in again. You can only move forward in time, never back.”

Peter joyfully takes the ball of magic thread. All his troubles are over! How easy life will be now, that he can skip forward past all the times of hardship and trouble. School is too boring, so what does he do? He pulls the magic thread and finds himself out of school and working at his first job. He meets a girl and falls in love. He can’t wait to marry her, so what does he do? He pulls the magic thread and—poof!—it’s their wedding day. When he feels sick, what do you think he does? He pulls the magic thread to feel better again. What about when he has troubles at work? Yep, you guessed it! He pulls the magic thread to move on to a new project, a better job, a corner office, a bigger promotion. But, as soon as one problem is solved, it seems another always appears in its place.

Before Peter knows it, he is an old man, and his wife is an old woman. Their daughters are grown and have left the house and moved on to their own careers and families. Peter goes for a walk in the forest, and meets the magical old woman once again. She smiles and asks him, “So Peter. Did you have a good life?”

“I’m not sure,” Peter admits. “Your magic ball of thread is a wonderful thing. I have never had to suffer or wait for anything in my life. And yet it has all passed so quickly. I have had no time to take in what has happened to me, neither the good things nor the bad. Now there is so little time left.”

The old woman smiles wisely and says she can grant him one final wish. “Choose,” she says. “Would you like to continue living with the magic thread, or would you like to live again as if for the first time, without it?”

Can you guess what choice Peter makes? Yep, he gave the magic thread back to the old woman and chose to live his life again, through each and every moment—the good and the bad, the wonderful and the boring. He woke up the next morning as a young boy again in his bed, and he was the happiest person in the world as he walked down the stairs into a perfectly ordinary day.

Below is a video taken of my sermon, or click here to watch it directly on YouTube. I hope you enjoy! 🙂

a year of living simply: week 9

Happy St. Patty’s Day, friends! Hope you are wearing green today so you don’t get pinched! 🙂 I’m excited to get together with Dana tonight to continue our tradition {started last year} of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with homemade Irish coffees, created by the talented Dana herself. I’m really looking forward to seeing her and catching up!

Photo from our St. Patty's date last year!

Photo from our St. Patty’s date last year!

Before heading over to Dana’s this evening, my plans for the day include a few hours of tutoring, making headway on a copyediting project, and some festive baking! I’m going to attempt to make snickerdoodles with green sprinkles mixed into the cinnamon-sugar topping. We’ll see how they turn out!

Now, onto the simplicity…

year of living simply

Last week’s challenge was to do something to simplify or improve your commute. I did a couple things that were SO simple, but that have improved my car time a great deal!

1. The first thing I did was to clean out all the miscellaneous items and trash old Larabar wrappers that had accumulated in the backseat of poor Charley, my PriusC. I was amazed at the difference it made! Even though I hardly ever use the backseat to transport people, glimpsing a clean car as I climb into the driver’s seat just makes me feel good, like I’ve got my life in order. Combined with my new “arrive everywhere five minutes early” habit, my drive time has never been so stress-free! It’s crazy what a difference a few minutes can make.

2. I started listening to podcasts while I drive. I love music, but I was getting tired of my CDs and the same old radio tunes. Dana told me about a podcast she listened to at the end of last year called Serial, and after listening to the first episode I was immediately hooked. I stopped by the Verizon store and bought an inexpensive auxiliary cable so I can listen to my phone through my car’s speakers; all I have to do is load up the podcast, click “play” and I’m set to go! {Apologies if my excitement is lame — I’ve never really stored music on my phone, so this is a new experience for me!}

Listening to podcasts during my car time has opened up a whole new world for me. I love learning and I love podcasts, but I can’t ever seem to find the time to listen to many — that is, until now! Twenty minutes in the car here and fifteen minutes in the car there really adds up. I’ve finished all twelve episodes of Serial and today I started listening to This American Life. Now I actually find myself looking forward to my car time instead of being annoyed by my commute! If you have any podcasts to recommend, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section.

charley!

This week’s challenge is to get rid of some paper clutter in your life. How you interpret this is up to you! Perhaps you want to sort through/get rid of one of the paper piles on your desk. Or maybe clean out your desk drawer filled with old receipts. Paper is personally one of my major clutter weaknessnes. I’m planning to attack a certain shelf in my closet where all the pieces of paper I don’t know what to do with tend to congregate in a big tall lilting stack.

Before I go, a couple updates:

  • This month my friend Julie is participating in The Minimalism Game {hosted by The Minimalists} and invited me to play along! The game is to get rid of one thing on the first day of the month, two things on the second day, three things on the third day, etc. I’m doing a slightly less intense version where I am trying to get rid of one thing every day in March. So far I’ve donated 8 books, 3 magazines, 2 shirts, 1 sweater, and recycled 2 boxes I was hanging onto in my closet for I have no idea what reason. Not sure yet what I’m getting rid of today, but it will be something!
  • A few weeks ago I said that I wanted to continue arriving everywhere a few minutes early, and I’m happy to report the routine is still going strong! Setting my clock three minutes early was a BIG help {I usually forget it is early} and, generally, I’ve gotten into the habit of getting ready to leave about ten minutes before I *think* I need to start getting ready to leave. I’m feeling so much less rushed in general, that I’m definitely planning to hang onto this habit!

Questions for the morning:

  • Do you listen to podcasts? If so, what are your favorites?
  • What brightens up your commute?

a year of living simply: week 8

Hi there, everyone! Hope your week is off to a great start. I had a nice day yesterday… before tutoring, I met up with a sweet woman from my church who has been checking up on me since Celine died. She is a wonderful listener and a very warm person, and she brought me this beautiful Calla Lily as a little surprise. So thoughtful! When she had to leave, I stayed at the cafe for another thirty minutes or so, reading and sipping on an Earl Gray tea latte called “London fog” that was absolutely delicious.

calla lily

My grief process has been filled with shock, disbelief, sadness and anger, and yet I also feel intensely aware of all the loving people I am so fortunate to have in my life, who have taken care of me and checked up on me and sent me nice cards and notes and text messages. My profound grief is inextricably linked with profound gratitude.

year of living simply

Last week’s challenge was to be five minutes early to every appointment you have. As I mentioned last week, while I always have the best intentions to be on time early, I had a hard time actually getting out the door when I planned. After some reflection, I realized this was due to my impulse to try to squeeze in “one more thing” before I left the house, and also my tendency to underestimate how much time I will need to get ready, make breakfast, etc.

This week, I did a few things that all combined to helping me actually arrive not just on time, but EARLY, to my various appointments and responsibilities–even during my crazy-busy Saturday, and even with some unplanned traffic.

  • I set the clock in my car three minutes fast {and am trying to forget that it is fast and act like it is the correct time!}
  • When I determined what time I would need to leave the house to get somewhere on time, I set my “goal time” to leave a full ten minutes before the actual time I needed to leave. That way, even if I was running five minutes late… I was still five minutes early.
  • Instead of trying to cram in “one more thing” I forced myself to step away from the computer and get ready to leave. I realized that I used to neglect to build in time for little things I need to do before hitting the road: brushing my teeth, filling my water bottle, and going to the restroom. These things only take a couple minutes, but still–that’s a couple minutes I need to build into my schedule so I can leave on time!

This week’s challenge is to do something to simplify or improve your commute. I am fortunate in that I don’t have to drive to work each morning and home each evening in rush hour traffic, but between driving to teach and tutor — not to mention to see my sweetheart or meet up with Dana — I do spend quite a bit of time in the car.

charley!

My poor PriusC Charley can quickly become a bit of mess, especially the back seat. I usually just drive myself, and hardly ever have passengers in the back, so it is mostly used to store various things I am taking somewhere or bringing home… and a few things that I just haven’t bothered to do anything with. So this week, in addition to thinking up ways to make my driving time a bit more fun, I am also going to simplify my car environment and get rid of the nonessential clutter!

A timely reminder from my Yogi green tea bag! Happiness comes from being contented with what you have.

A timely reminder from my Yogi green tea bag! Happiness comes from being content with what you have, rather than always wanting more.

Bonus challenge: this month my friend Julie is participating in The Minimalism Game {hosted by The Minimalists} and invited me to play along! The game is to get rid of one thing on the first day of the month, two things on the second day, three things on the third day, etc. I’m doing a slightly less intense version where I am trying to get rid of one thing every day in March. We’d love for you to join us!

Questions for the morning:

  • What helps you leave the house/arrive to things on time?
  • What brightens up your commute?

a year of living simply: week 7

Hello, friends! I’m coming at you a little late with this week’s year of living simply post… I can’t believe it’s already Thursday! I meant to post yesterday, but it was a busy busy day. Tutoring, teaching for Communication Academy, and then last night I went to see my former Purdue professors, Porter Shreve and Bich Minh Nguyen, give a reading at San Jose State. It was wonderful to see them and they both did a terrific job reading from their books.

porter and bich's books

Moving onto living simply… here are a couple simplicity-themed blog posts that really resonated with me this week:

year of living simply

Last week’s challenge was to identify one project or task that you have been putting off, and DO it — or, if it’s a bigger project, do the first step. The goal was to get this task over with and not let it take up any more of your life!

One project I FINALLY DID this week {after transferring it from one to-do list to the next for the past three weeks… does anyone else do that?} was get my application for a renewed passport in the mail. It wasn’t too time-consuming, but did require filling out forms online, printing these forms, taking a new passport picture, and waiting in line at the post office. It feels really great to not have this task taking up any more of my brain space!

passport

This reminded me of something my brother and I have talked about before: how much less stressful tasks are when you do them way in advance of deadlines. Even though getting my passport renewed was a bit of a pain, I still have plenty of time before it expires, so I didn’t feel stressed about it. In fact, I felt like I was “on top of things” for getting it done so far in advance, so this task actually boosted my self-confidence. On the other hand, it would have been enormously stressful had I waited until the last minute {plus I would have needed to pay more for expedited shipping!}

I’m trying to give myself time and space to complete tasks ahead of deadlines, in all areas of my life.

Speaking of giving yourself time… this week’s challenge is to be five minutes early to every appointment you have, whether that is work, a lunch date with a friend, a doctor’s appointment, whatever! My sweetheart is really really good at this. He is always early, and it is one of the first things I noticed about him; being early for things shows his respect and consideration for other people’s time and commitments. Dana is excellent at this, too! Whenever we meet up, I always know I can count on her to be there at the time we’ve set.

Then there’s me. I have the best intentions, but it seems like I’m always headed out the door five or ten minutes later than I planned to. As someone who is perpetually trying to squeeze in “just one more thing” before I leave, this week’s challenge is a really important one for me. We’ll see how I do!

Questions for the morning:

  • What task did you finally get done this week?
  • Do you tend to run late, or are you an early-arriver?

a year of living simply: week 6

Happy Wednesday, dear readers! I hope you are all doing great and enjoying this “short” week after the Presidents’ Day holiday. This morning I’m cooking up a batch of chili but instead of using ground turkey, I’m subbing in roasted butternut squash inspired by this veggie chili recipe I found. I’ll let you know how it turns out! I’m bringing dinner to Allyn’s tonight after I teach my Wednesday afternoon classes for Communication Academy.

Before we get into this week’s simplicity challenge, I wanted to share with you this outstanding fundraising project The Minimalists are doing to build a school in Laos. They’ve partnered with Jhai Coffee, the world’s first completely philanthropic coffee roaster and cafe, started by Tyson Adams. Here’s a brief excerpt from their blog post:

Today, under half of the population of Laos has access to clean, safe drinking water. So Tyson decided that perhaps he could focus less on his material possessions and instead find ways to help.

Since 2013, Jhai has partnered with the Lao Government; Jhai Coffee Farmers Cooperative (JCFC); and a private water-filter company, TerraClear, to serve 23 schools—helping 3,277 children along the way. In less than two years, they have provided 25 water purification filters (filtering up to 99.99% of bacteria, parasites, and suspended solids); completed 21 WASH programs (Jhai’s Hygiene program); installed seven Unicef-manufactured water pumps at schools that previously had no access; built a coffee storage warehouse for the JCFC where farmers house their coffee in a safe, climate-controlled environment, which increases profits for each family; and given organic-coffee training to fifteen member villages for increased quality and future earning potential.

All of this because one man said no to the status quo and yes to contribution.

You can read more here. Check it out — I was so inspired! And now… on to this week’s simplicity challenge!

year of living simply

Last week’s challenge was to get digitally organized and simplified. I’m going to be honest and admit something to you guys: my computer was a disorganized mess. I had set up file folders at some point, but many of them hadn’t been used in ages. For a while I’d been saving most documents to my Desktop, which was so cluttered with .doc files that you couldn’t even see the faces of me and my brother in my Desktop photo. It was overwhelming to even get started, but I told myself just to do a little bit every day and see where the end of the week got me.

Now my computer isn’t completely organized, but I’d say I’m about 80% there. It is SO much better than it was before. I set up a system of file folders for different projects I’m working on, and broke up my .doc files into different categories so now I can find things easily. Speaking of which… I found a bunch of beginnings of stories and essays that I had started at one time and then forgotten about, and I’m so excited to get back to them! It felt like discovering hidden treasure.

This week’s challenge is to identify one project or task that you have been putting off, and DO it. Or, if it’s a bigger project, do the first step. Often we put something off because we think it’s going to be a chore, but the irony is that it becomes so much more of a chore the longer we put it off because it continues to take up our brain space. Don’t let this task take up any more of your life — get it over with this week!

Questions for the morning:

  • How did it go getting your computer organized?
  • What tasks do you tend to put off?

a year of living simply: week 5

Hello everyone, and happy Wednesday! Hope you are having a great week so far. My week has been a mixture of “grown-up” things like getting my tax stuff in order and scheduling doctor’s appointments and going shopping to keep my fridge stocked with veggies; and restorative time reading, journaling, talking to my family, and soaking up time with friends old and new. I also met with two wonderful women from my church to talk a bit about Celine and how much I miss her. Sometimes I feel the need to cocoon myself, but other times it just feels good to talk about her.

As I mentioned in last week’s post, I’ve been thinking a lot about this last sentence of my simplicity challenge summary: We’ll reflect on what truly matters to us, and why, and what we hope to do with that knowledge.

year of living simply

Celine’s sudden death has shifted my attention to the big-picture things. I’ve been asking myself:

What do I want my legacy to be?

I want to brighten the lives of other people. I want to spread joy and kindness. I want to write books and blog posts and stories and articles that make people feel comforted, supported, inspired, and understood. I want the kids I teach and tutor to feel more confident and proud of themselves. I want to plant the seeds of trees that will provide shade for future generations. I want to help causes greater than myself. I want my loved ones to *know* how much I love them, and to always feel like I have time for them. I want them to know, always, without a doubt, how important they are to me. I want my legacy to be a ray of sunshine that makes other people smile.

Last week’s challenge was to do some free-writing or journaling about your WHY for simplifying your life.

  • What do you want to make room for?
  • What do you want to get rid of {physically and emotionally}?
  • How do you want to feel?

I want to simplify my life to make room for what’s most important to me: namely, my passions and the people I love. I want to feel like I have TIME, like my days aren’t just flying by mindlessly. I want to notice and savor the everyday moments of beauty in my life. I want to feel energized and excited and FREE.

Since writing is my passion and a major vehicle I use to spread joy and connection in the world, I realized I need to set aside some time to simplify and organize the backbone of my writing life: my computer files.

This week’s challenge is to get digitally organized and simplified! Delete unnecessary files; clean out your Downloads folder; organize your Word documents into folders; clean up your Desktop. Even if you’re not a writer, I’m willing to bet you use your computer every day and it contains files important to your life and your dreams.

a year of living simply: week 4

Hi there, friends, and thank you so much for all your words of love and support after my last post, about Celine. The biggest source of comfort for me in the wake of such loss has been sharing about her to others and hearing about her from others. She touched so many, many, many lives!

Since Celine’s death, I’ve been thinking about simplicity, but in a slightly new way. Instead of brainstorming challenges we can do together {which, believe me, I still have a ton of ideas!} I’ve taken a step back and have been focusing on the underlying reason behind this desire I have to simplify. You might call it “the WHY.” I’m thinking about this last sentence of my simplicity challenge summary: We’ll reflect on what truly matters to us, and why, and what we hope to do with that knowledge.

And I keep returning to this idea: Simplicity means getting rid of all the crap that doesn’t matter, to make room for what DOES matter.

Like relationships. Like passions. Like health. Like love.

year of living simply

My world changed forever last week, and in many ways I am still in shock and it still does not seem real. I am trying to be gentle with myself, as my wonderful minister Leslie advised, and to lean into the comforting embrace of friends and family who have been so loving and understanding and patient.

I have also been doing a lot of reflecting. Celine’s sudden death has shifted the way I think about my goals. I’m thinking more about big-picture things right now — as in, what do I want my LEGACY to be? Celine did so many incredible things in her far-too-brief life: things like moving to Paris, traveling all around the world, going to fashion school, and more accomplishments and amazingness than I can put into words here. Without a doubt, she inspires me now — as she did in life — not to put off my goals and dreams. There is peace in knowing that she was pursuing her big dreams and living the life she wanted.

celine on train

But what I have also been thinking about — and what others who knew and loved her have been paying tribute to — are the “smaller” things she did … the jotted notes, the kind acts, the random phone calls and Skype dates, and basically just how LOVED she always made me feel. I think Celine’s real legacy is the way she treated people and the goodness she brought into the world. This week I’ve been feeling less urgency to mindlessly pound out work towards my goals, or simplify just for the sake of simplifying, because I’m feeling the need to step back and recalibrate what is most important to me — what my true priorities are.

This week, do some free-writing or journaling about your WHY for simplifying your life. What do you want to make room for? What do you want to get rid of {physically and emotionally}? How do you want to feel? What do you want your legacy to be?

celine legacy

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?