Project 333 & Body Image

It’s been about a month since I started the Project 333 Minimalist Wardrobe Challenge. This is a challenge in which you select 33 total pieces of clothing (including accessories like shoes/belts/scarves/jewelry) to wear for the next 3 months.

Since beginning the challenge, the weather here has heated up significantly (which, frankly, scares me a little as I ponder the possibilities for summer temperatures) so I have made a couple switches to make my wardrobe more appropriate.

I’ve traded out my light jacket and a couple other tops in favor of lighter, cooler tops. I also BOUGHT something! And, perhaps counter-intuitively, I have simplicity to thank for that.

I used to work in an office, so at least half of my clothing and shoes were office-appropriate. Since 90% of the work I do is from home now, I no longer have much of a need for those items and I’ve been transitioning to a more casual wardrobe.

In the midst of doing things I love to do (such as prancing around the Atlanta Botanical Gardens) and living with 33 items, I realized I did not have any light, casual, comfortable shoes for walking long-ish distances. So I bought a cute pair of Keds to add to my spring and summer wardrobe. KEDS! They still exist. And I’m kind of wondering how I have survived thus-far without light, bouncy, comfy slip on shoes.

In any case, so far, I’ve had easy days and harder days as I’ve been dressing with less. But what I’ve realized is my hard days are not about the clothes themselves, (and certainly not about a lack of clothes) but are mostly about how I’m feeling about myself and my body. Honestly, this is the hardest part of getting dressed for me: feeling as though I don’t look good in anything, even though I LIKE my clothing.

I’m sure many women can relate and I must say, it’s a sad, sad state of affairs, ladies! So many women have bought into the lie that they need to look a certain way, and I am no exception. It’s difficult to be someone that struggles with weight-whether you’re struggling to lose OR gain.

As someone who has always struggled to lose weight, I used to believe that just about anyone who was smaller than me couldn’t possibly dislike her body. Not only is that belief incredibly self-centered, it’s also not at all true. I’ve come to learn that pretty much every woman, no matter WHAT size she is, still falls prey to the comparison trap and wishes she had a different body from time to time.

We all need to let go of this form of self-criticism and comparison. I am desperate to. Because ultimately,

stop fighting your body
Photo taken: Atlanta Botanical Gardens

there is not a certain size or weight that I need to be. My only goal is to be a healthy, active person that eats well, indulges occasionally and doesn’t obsess about any of it. Much easier said than done, I know.

But I believe Project 333 is helping me move forward. I’ve selected items I love for my little wardrobe, and the items hanging in the closet fit me. This is encouraging me to be thankful. I am thankful that I even HAVE 33 items of clothing in the first place. I am thankful these clothes fit my body just as it is TODAY. I am thankful my body enables me to be the active person I already am. I am thankful for my supportive husband that tells me every day how beautiful he thinks I am.

It’s great to strive for healthy changes in your body and set goals. But I am learning that goals centered around the number on the scale and pant size encourage me to be obsessive and controlling rather than simple and free. When my goals are to become stronger, do push-ups with flawless form and to eat things that make me feel good, I don’t need to weigh myself or track how many calories I’m eating.

Women, let’s stop fighting against our bodies. Let’s optimally fuel our bodies and use them to engage in activities that make our hearts beat faster. Let’s stop over-analyzing ourselves in the mirror, comparing ourselves with others and wishing were something other than we are today. Let’s believe people when they compliment us.

To quote Rachel Macy Stafford in her book “Hand’s Free Life”:

“Today, I am enough.”

 

 

Today, Smile at Someone.

There’s a cashier named Wanda that works at our neighborhood Publix grocery store. Every time I am shopping there, I look for her when I’m choosing a line. She’s got this incredibly warm, bright and happy way about her.

Today, I got lucky and ended up in her line. She cheerfully said hi; I told her hello and how much I love that she always has a smile on her face. She said that she loves her job; loves “making a difference.”

Then, she told me a story. A woman came in once and Wanda was her normal smiley, chatty self. The woman smiled back as Wanda talked and rang up her groceries. The woman walked away.

On the surface, this sounds like a non-event. Someone smiled; someone else smiled

talk to people
Photo: Tybee Island, GA

back. But a few minutes later, Wanda said the woman came back and thanked her for making her smile. The woman told Wanda that she hadn’t smiled in over a year because her daughter had been murdered.

Isn’t it amazing that a simple smile can change someone’s day or provide a moment of relief to someone grieving? It takes no time, effort or money to smile at someone. Even if you don’t feel like smiling, do it anyway. Smiling will make you feel better and may have a much larger impact on someone else than you realize.

I don’t know about you, but Wanda’s little story gives me chills when I think about it. It makes me want to be a better person. It confirms all the reasons we shouldn’t be judging others, and all the reasons we ought to look away from ourselves and up from our phones. Make an effort to talk to the wonderful people you encounter in seemingly mundane places and for goodness sake; SMILE!

Therefore, GO

Part of this process of simplifying life involves taking a hard look at myself and my habits. This means I must be willing to confront ugliness and disobedience to God in myself.

I used to think way too much about myself and what I wanted. God has been changing my heart in big ways, and I am so thankful to Him for that. After all, if I am to place Him above me, I want and need Him to shine a light in my darkest places.

As a Christian, the idea of dying to self and living for Jesus is not new, but in this journey it’s becoming more real and tangible. I must become less, He must become more. Giving away material possessions and the resulting desire to have less rather than more encourages me to look up rather than in; encourages me to lower self and elevate Him.

Of course, I am far from perfect and still tempted to spend too much time thinking about me. The very hardest thing to let go of is your own life-in complete abandonment to what God has planned. But His will is best, not mine. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future.”

Likewise, the notion that as believers, we are called to tell others about God is nothing new. And I think this command can look very different in different people’s lives. But the fact remains that if we are not telling others about Jesus, we are not being obedient.

Matthew 28:18-20 says: “Then Jesus came to them and said, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Therefore, GO. This is part of God’s will for believers. What does GO look like in your life? In mine? I believe the Lord will show us if we will only give up control and let Him. Today, GO might look like sitting in the quiet and writing. Tomorrow, GO might look like inviting a friend that’s struggling to dinner or coffee. Next year, GO might look much bigger or much different. Regardless of what GO looks like each day, month and year, God promises to be with us. That is great news!

And as I learn and practice simple living one day at a time, I find it easier to be present in the present, not wishing or worrying about tomorrow’s GO. Of course we can’t take day-to-day living to an extreme; some planning and thoughtfulness about the future is certainly not wrong. But it becomes a hindrance if we do it in excess. There is a difference between obsessive planning and an unyielding adherence to our own idea of what God is going to do vs. trust, patience and flexibility.

see blessings
Photo: Taken en route to Riviera Maya, Mexico

This is something I have to be very diligent about, given my propensity to control. The practice of letting go has never come easily to me. Perhaps that is the reason I feel compelled to pursue it now.

I would encourage finding ways to let go. What are you holding tightly to that might need to be abandoned back into His care? Take a break from worrying, take a deep breath and see all the blessings you already have. Look at the life God has given you with fresh, thankful eyes. There’s always something to be thankful for.

Remember that feelings are fickle and it’s a choice to indulge in the negative ones. As a fantastic article I read this morning pointed out, “You can stop complaining about your life circumstances, about your losses, about how the world is, and just let go and love what is. Just be. Just accept. Just appreciate.”

You have all you need to enjoy today. Practice looking up instead of in and be flexible enough to go where He leads, when He leads.

Cultivating Mindful Living

It’s been about a month since I resolved to stay off Social Media and avoid mindless internet browsing until after 12 pm.

Honestly, I felt the benefits of this from day 1. Mornings, especially mornings where I have to be somewhere by a particular time, are much less rushed. I feel calmer without all of the “noise” that accompanies social media posts (think politics) and the internet in general.

That being said, I still have moments where I am uncomfortable; moments when I instinctively reach for my phone as a distraction. I think I am still learning just how much this dumb rectangle has enslaved me.

If there’s a lull in conversation, keep occupied with the phone. If I’m waiting for someone to arrive, keep occupied with the phone. If I’m not ready to jump into the days activities and feel like lingering longer, keep occupied with the phone.

I’ll be honest and tell you that I’ve cheated on some of my mindfulness goals a time or two. Like popping on HGTV with my Sling TV app during lunch this past weekend (which I haven’t done in WEEKS) because, in my own words, “It’s the weekend and I don’t care.” I’ve opened social media roughly 3-5 times before 12 pm; most times I caught myself and closed it. Other times I was actually looking for something specific (like testing how quickly WordPress publishes my  blogs on Facebook after I linked the two).

It’s definitely challenging to just BE in those blank spaces of life and that is the thing I want to work on the most. The truth is, learning to be mindful is not easy-it’s work. But I believe if I keep working at it, mindful living will become my habit rather than acquiescing to constantly available distractions and an inability to focus.

After several weeks of eating my breakfast in solitude at the little table off the kitchen by myself, it still feels weird to sit in silence and NOT be playing on my phone or iPad. It still feels like an effort sometimes. Yet I know it’s fostering more of a sense of calm in me as I start my days. It’s forcing me to be present, be in the now.

And that’s truly one of my big life goals: to live as much in the here and now as possible. We’ve all heard “take it one day at a time” so often that it hardly holds meaning anymore. But if most of us would stop and think about that, I think we’d realize that perhaps we spend a lot less time in the here and now than we should.

The Bible says that God gives us grace for each day; that we ought not to worry about the

enjoy the journey
Photo taken: Kennesaw Mountain, GA

future. To me, living mindfully and focusing on His presence through each part of my day is the ultimate freedom. Not worrying about tonight or tomorrow or next week/month/year. Not being so preoccupied by stuff or my to-do list or what I want to accomplish that I lose sight of what’s truly important in life.

I want my journeys to be as full of love and joy as my destinations. And it is in the seemingly mundane moments of life these past several weeks that I’ve seen the power of a daily focus on God’s presence and the present. I’ve seen more beautifully colored flowers and trees while driving to and from my normal weekly destinations. I’ve heard more bird songs as I’ve sat quietly with no distractions on the front porch. I’ve smiled at more strangers while I grocery shop.

The big moments of life are certainly great, but it is when I’m present enough today to notice the tiny ones that my heart explodes with joy, gratitude, and love for the journey itself.

Re-naming The Bucket List

It’s a rather chilly day in Georgia today. I am NOT a fan of cold weather, but I think (and hope!) we’ll be seeing the last of temperatures in the 30’s tonight…until next winter. Still, it’s gorgeous, the sky is brilliant blue and the cheery afternoon sun is making our home office bright, warm and cozy. I couldn’t resist coming in here to write a little something!

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately. Happily, there is no shortage of books written by people who found a bigger, more meaningful, more purposeful life after simplifying. One such book is called “You Can Buy Happiness (and it’s cheap). How One Woman Radically Simplified Her Life and You Can Too” by Tammy Strobel. (She writes on a great blog called Rowdy Kittens.)

At the end of each chapter, she includes what she calls “micro-actions” that you can take to simplify and be more intentional. In a way, they are each challenges to focus on those things in life that truly embody happiness (hint: it’s not possessions!).

I highlighted a couple micro-actions that really interested me and one was to create a bucket list. Let me begin by saying I kind of (really) hate the term “bucket list.” To me, it suggests a list of outlandish things that you’d probably never do, but once you were “getting older” or found out you only had X months to live, maybe you’d think about trying to make them happen because, darn it, you’re almost out of time.

But Tammy Strobel points out that making a list of things you want to do before you die is a great way to clarify your priorities in life. I’d honestly never thought of it that way but it makes sense. If I were to sit down and think about things that I REALLY want to do in life, what would that list look like? AND WHY WOULD I CALL IT A BUCKET LIST? I don’t want to wait until I am staring death in the face (or even until I hit an age that might be considered “old,” whatever that means now) to pursue things I want to do before I die! I’d rather call it a LIVING LIST and start thinking about it now.

So I did.  Here is a sampling of items on my living list (though I’m sure I haven’t completed it yet):

  1. Learn photography
  2. Write a book, get it published
  3. Travel to beautiful places
  4. Sell at least one painting to a stranger
  5. Ride a horse on a beach
  6. Go on a hot air balloon ride
  7. Try Living in a tiny house
  8. Live in a completely different part of the country

Once you make such a list, Tammy suggests asking yourself some questions:  How expensive is it? How can you change your life to achieve these things? How many of them involve buying more stuff? What kind of emotional experience does that stuff embody? Is there a way to get that same emotional reward without buying another object?

I don’t have answers to all of these questions, but pretty much everything on my list is an experience. Not only that, they are experiences that I want to either share with others or that I hope will help/impact others. I have a good start in some areas; I’m signed up for a photography class in May and I’ve been writing my brains out for awhile now. And I suppose not everything on my list has to be expensive, but travel certainly can be!  I have no idea what it costs to go on a hot air balloon ride. 🙂

One thing my little list DOES tell me is that when I sat down to think about it, the things I

things i want are not things
Photo Credit: Flower Fields, Carlsbad CA by Sunil Jagadish

want out of this life are not things. Sometimes I wonder what my list would have looked like a couple of years ago. Maybe it would have more “things” on it. Or maybe it wouldn’t; maybe the list would be the same and the answers to the questions above would just make it even more obvious that my time and efforts hadn’t been focused in the right place.

I’m not sure what additional changes to make to pursue some of the items on the list. I know there are many, many options but I also don’t need to have an answer right now. Sometimes, it’s just fine to sit with a question in your heart until the way becomes clear. Further, I’m focused on submitting to God’s will for my life. I believe that He puts desires in our hearts. I want to grow closer to Him so I might recognize the desires He placed in me vs. desires I may need to let go of.

He will lead us to the next steps if we will let Him. As I’ve taken steps, some huge, some small, I’ve come to realize that I feel more alive and closer to Him when I am taking the RIGHT steps.

Maybe a good first step is to think about your one life and make a list of the things in your heart. If you’re far from those things, ask God to show you how to inch closer. Better yet, ask Him to show you if they are His will for you in the first place. We are all here for a reason and I, for one, want to discover mine!

 

 

Community = Love

There’s nothing quite like finding and joining communities of people. Whether it’s a sports team, a book club, a small group from church, or an online community of like-minded individuals, they foster a sense of belonging and encourage us to think outside of ourselves.

When you’re part of a community, you have the privilege of learning from people withcommunity love whom you share commonalities, but who may be very different from you. I love this because it challenges me to consider views and opinions that perhaps I’ve never thought of before. It is an invitation to connect with people who might be outside of your typical sphere.

For years, Husband and I did not really know anyone in our neighborhood. But we’ve met several couples that hang out pretty regularly and with whom we have quite a bit in common. At the same time, we are the only couple in the group without kids. But I love watching their sweet families grow and change, and learning from these fantastic mothers that I have met. I know that I can’t relate to the struggles of parenting, but it sure is nice to know there are a few doors I can knock on (and have knocked on!) when I lock myself out of the house.  Not to mention I will have no shortage of places to run for advice should I take the plunge into motherhood myself.

We have an amazing community group from church that we meet with and learn from regularly. While we share our faith, we differ broadly in occupations, gifts and life stages. We help each other move and throw each other baby showers. We have girls nights and we encourage each other through tough times.  Each one of these women and men are special and I am grateful.

The farther I get from my old self and the pursuit of “stuff”, the more clearly I see that these types of communities and my “communities” of other friends and family are to be cherished. It’s not that I didn’t know that before. It’s just that now I have more space for it, and I also have a clearer, less cluttered mind to fully appreciate it.

Just recently, I’ve discovered how large the community of folks searching for a simpler life is. It is a wonderful group of writers, experimenters and encouragers. People who come up with new ideas, new challenges, new ways to simplify and share the revelations they’ve had in their own lives.  While I’ve only just begun to “join” this community, I highly value these strangers. Their blogs, articles and books have inspired me in my own journey.

Several months ago, when I first had the idea to start this blog, I stumbled across a site called No Sidebar, which is a collection of articles meant to help people “Design a Simple

screen-time
Photo Credit: NoSidebar.com

Life”.  I noticed a link at the top of the page that said “Write for us.” I clicked it, read about being a contributor and bookmarked the page. “I’m gonna beef up my blog and someday, I am going to submit something to this site,” I thought to myself. Today, an article that I submitted to No Sidebar was published. (The photo on the right is what they created to go with my article!) In just a few weeks time, I realized that writing is what I want to do in life and a stranger liked something I wrote enough to publish it on his website. It’s humbling and incredible and amazing. Perhaps, just as I’ve suspected, writing for a living could be what God is calling me to do.

Ultimately, I believe each one of the communities I belong to is helping me become the person I’m meant to be. I am so thankful for each of them. My dream is that someday, God will use my words to inspire and encourage people in a big way. As I continue to let go and let Him flow through me, who knows what the coming weeks, months and years will hold. Through it all, my eyes are on Him.

Project 333

One of my goals in learning simplicity is to continue to look for ways to challenge myself. Being intentional about change is a good thing; it helps us to deal with the many changes we cannot control that will occur in our lives.

Giving away so many of our possessions (and continuing to pare down here & there) has been a wonderful first step for me personally.  Sometimes that change was easy and delightful; other times it was harder.  It seems to me that it only gets more challenging the more you do it.  And I say: bring it on!

That’s why I am trying Project 333-the minimalist clothing challenge created by Courtney Carver over at Be More With Less.

Honestly, when I first read about it, I didn’t even consider doing it.  But one of the glorious things about simplifying and getting out of your comfort zone is that you become more willing to try something new; to expand your horizons and experiment.

So what is Project 333?  Courtney originally designed it this way:

  • Select 33 items to wear for the next 3 months
  • Includes: clothes, shoes, jewelry and accessories
  • Does not include: pajamas/lounge wear, workout clothes, undergarments/socks (but don’t wear pajamas/lounge wear or workout clothes as daily outfits!)
  • Box everything else up and/or put it out of sight

While these are the basic “rules” of the challenge, Courtney reminds everyone willing to take the plunge that this is “not a project in suffering.”  That means that you can tweak some of the rules if you need to, and that you should be picking clothes that you can “comfortably live, work and play in for the next 3 months.”

This had a couple of implications for me:

  1. I am not including jewelry in my 33 items.  I am pleased with the simplified state of my jewelry and selecting what to wear each day does not take up time as I’m getting ready for the day.
  2. Since we are still having chilly mornings/evenings here in GA, my tentative wardrobe picks include a couple of light jackets, long jeans and a pair of close-toed heels.  Once we’re fully in summer I will never wear a jacket or close-toed shoes and it’s highly unlikely that I’ll wear jeans.  When that happens, I will allow myself to swap some of my items for more weather-appropriate ones.

It’s intriguing to me just how much a “capsule wardrobe” and dressing with less has impacted those who’ve tried it.  People rave about it and all the benefits associated with it. I think I’ve had a glimpse of why after giving away so many clothes: most of us need far less than we actually have!  Here are some of the benefits others have shared:

  • Less time getting ready in the morning (no time spent trying on multiple outfits before deciding what to wear; something I still desperately need!)
  • Less money spent on clothing
  • More comfort/confidence in appearance
  • Less desire to buy more clothing
  • More compliments from others

I love the sound of all of that!  And honestly, now that I’ve decided to do it, I am wondering why it sounded so scary to begin with.  I’ve compared getting dressed at home to getting dressed on vacation many times: it’s infinitely easier when you’re on a trip!  You bring an outfit for each day or a few mix & match options, and getting dressed is easy.  It’s only when you become overwhelmed with choice that it becomes a time-consuming and often frustrating challenge.

I’ve picked my wardrobe for the next 3 months, and I “officially” began the challenge onProject 333 Friday, April 1.

The space on my side of closet with just my 33 items (clothing + shoes) is fantastic!! Here’s what I have to wear for the months of April, May and June:

  • 2 pairs of jeans
  • 3 pairs of shorts
  • 1 skirt
  • 4 dresses
  • 2 light jackets
  • 2 cardigans
  • 15 tops
  • 4 pairs of shoes

Stay tuned for more observations and thoughts….so far, it’s been fairly easy.  I broke the rules once already for a warmer pair of shoes.  But it was worth it. 🙂