Living Lightly

One of the minimalist ideologies that most deeply resonates with me is the idea of “living lightly.”

For some, this might mean traveling the world with just a backpack that contains all your worldly possessions. For others, it means downsizing significantly (which of course means different things to different folks!). It’s another one of those terms that varies based on the person, and I’m still learning what it looks like to live my life lightly.

But I like think of it as the feeling of being on vacation and living out of a suitcase.  I love arriving somewhere new, unpacking my small pile of clothes in the hotel closet and living light for a few days. It’s a lot easier to get dressed in the morning, choose makeup & accessories and go because I am not burdened by choice. Perhaps, for me at least, it’s one of those things that makes vacation a little bit more relaxing and stress-free.

Husband and I recently returned from an amazing trip out to Oregon. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend it (picture proof below)! Even though we packed a lot into our 5 days, including 3 different hotels, it felt great to throw a “just right” amount of things into my suitcase and jet off to the next place. Now that’s living lightly. And to me, the freedom of it is utterly addicting.

DSC_0874
This friendly bee let me get super close with my fancy new camera! Thanks, bee.

While I LOVE seeing new places, I’ve never been a fan of the actual “getting there” part. In fact, I used to have to pop a Valium in order to get on a plane at all. A couple of years ago, I felt led to work on that. Lucky for me, Husband was traveling a lot for work back then so I had the opportunity. I was able to go with him on a few trips and we had a lot of weddings to go to that year as well; many of which were out of town.

This was well before my minimalist journey began, but to be honest, I think all the traveling we did taught me my first minimalist lesson about the joy of living lightly (although I didn’t know it at the time!) I also learned that there’s really no better way to get over a fear than to jump right into it and just do it. Like, a lot.

I still feel some tinges of nerves before a long-ish flight. But feeling relaxed on our flights to and from Oregon was glorious! It’s an incredible feeling to be on the other side of a fear that was once so crippling.

And even though I can’t declare complete victory over travel fears after this one trip, I now have some major wanderlust. This probably sounds crazy to some people, but I’ve never actually thought this fear was something I could get over; that I’d actually feel free to GO.

And the idea of traveling more has me thinking more about just how lightly I might be willing/able to live.

This past weekend, Husband and I went to a Tiny House Festival just east of Atlanta in Decatur. I cannot tell you how much I LOVE the spirit of Tiny House living.

Buying it outright; not living life with mortgage debt hanging over your head…ability to move freely (if you have a tow-able tiny house on wheels!)…a decision to live with ONLY what you really need because there’s literally no room to pile up un-needed and un-used STUFF. Freedom!

But actually LIVING in a tow-able space is another thing altogether. (Especially since we NEED a king size bed, and we have a menagerie of animals to consider.) But this is part of the reason I wanted to stand in one in real life! It’s the reason we stood in line to get into the festival for like 30 minutes, then stood in line for probably another hour (in the oppressive Georgia heat) just to get to walk through 2 of the 8-10 tiny houses on site.

Sadly, once you’re in there, you really don’t have time to linger for very long, or get a real feel for what it might be like since there are a bunch of strangers in there all trying to see it too. But I’m still glad we went; it was fun to see them in person!

At the end of it all, I’m still not sure I could live in one forever. But man, it would be fun to live REALLY light for 6 months to a year and have the freedom to explore more of God’s beauty with a tiny house in tow.

In any case, I can’t wait to travel again. I am still building up the courage to go overseas, but in the meantime, I have a whole laundry list of beautiful places I want to visit in the ‘ol US of A.

  • Washington State, including Mt. Ranier/state parks, the San Juan Islands and Washington wine country
  • California Wine Country: central coast, Paso Robles, Napa, Sonoma
  • A road trip up hwy 101 and/or the PCH…all the way from Seattle to San Diego
  • Southern Oregon coast, Crater Lake
  • The Coast of Maine/New England
  • Martha’s Vineyard/Cape Cod
  • Glacier National Park in Montana

I’m sure I could go on and on. I’m in love with nature, what can I say…it’s always been so spiritually uplifting to me. And the coast, obviously. SIGH. For now, I will say that I’m very thankful for our home, our animals and sleeping in our own bed. Even if it is hotter than the pits of hell outside. 🙂

Here’s to living lighter and lighter,

S

 

 

 

Practice What Matters

Just over one year ago today, I made a huge change and left my job to “take a year off and see where the good Lord leads me.” And what a year it’s been.

Many things changed over this past year. It was scary at first, taking such a big leap. It was hard and I spent a lot of time feeling guilty over it. Yet I knew, deep in my soul, that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing.

I was a good 8-9 months into my year away from work before I had the faintest glimmer of

live an authentic life.jpg
Photo Taken: Gibbs Gardens Manor House – Ball Ground, GA

what I might actually be meant to do. But those 8-9 months were crucially important because of the things I learned and the ways God changed my heart.

In a way, leaving my job was the first huge step in my personal journey of simplification. Back then, Husband and I had a big dream of moving out to California. I thought about it a lot. Too much, honestly! So much, sometimes, that it caused me great discontent because I was still here in Georgia instead.

And even though I hadn’t yet learned to be thankful enough or content enough with the beautiful life I already had, that too was an important part of the journey. A major impetus to my purging and donating of stuff was the idea that I “wouldn’t want to move across the country” with many of the items I was choosing to part with.

Thankfully, something quite different emerged than discontent and preparing myself for a move that we didn’t end up making.

Somewhere along the way, I began to realize that I’d been holding onto a lot of stuff that would be infinitely more useful to someone else. I realized how selfish I’d been; how I needed to emanate gratitude instead of my own personal desires.

I started this blog to document this journey of simplification and re-discovered my love for writing. I said out loud that I’d always wanted to write a book. I even started writing a little something about my own life and struggles with fear/anxiety.

But recently, I’ve felt pulled into a different book direction: fiction. I’ve been away from

character development
The joys of the character creation worksheet!

here because I’ve been immersing myself there. I’ve been reading about writing fiction and developing good characters and elements of a good plot line.

I’ve been plotting my plot and asking friends if I can build pieces of their unique and beautiful lives into my characters.

I have no idea what will come of this. But I am going to write it. And I am going to be more diligent about coming here to write, too, because making time to practice the things that matter to us ensures we’re living authentic lives.

I’d still love to live in California someday. But the circumstances in which I find myself really shouldn’t matter. Writing and reading and cooking and taking pictures are important to me; my faith and friends and family and pets are important to me – so I’m planning to practice doing and loving each of these to the best of my ability.

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. 🙂

 

 

The Life-Changing Magic of Simplicity

One of the things that both fascinated and excited me after reading Marie Kondo’s Books was her assertion that once you “tidied up your life for good” you’d uncover or discover long-lost passions or your life’s purpose.  In short: your life would change, beyond just having less stuff.

And after reading countless tales of Kondo’s clients who found themselves with different lives post-tidying, I stood with heart and arms open to whatever God would bring my way in the process.

Now that I’ve completed all tidying categories (plus re-visiting several and letting go of things continuously), life is indeed different; different in some of the most unexpected ways.  Now that I’ve had time to absorb the process, it’s becoming very clear to me what exactly has changed and why it does indeed feel so magical. Here are my biggest 3:

Writing.  Perhaps the most profound revelation I’ve had since tidying and simplifying is the desire to write again.  I’ve written on and off in various forms for as long as I can remember.  But I’ve realized as I’ve documented my tidying journey that writing is truly “what I want to do.”  Like….in life.  And honestly, that alone is a big enough revelation for me, especially since the entire past year has been about pursuing God and His purpose for my life.

And as I’ve begun to reflect on this, it’s quite remarkable.  I think about imagery often

life hidden under clutter
Photo Taken: Gibbs Gardens; Ball Ground, GA

used by minimalists and those seeking simplification: that your real, big, purposeful, meaningful life is hidden under years of clutter-whether physical or mental or otherwise. This impacts me so because as I look back on my life, the desire to write has ALWAYS been there.  I just meandered away from it, slowly, over time.  I came back to it a few times, but I never realized that perhaps this is what I’m meant to do until now.

I used to journal and write poems as a kid, tween and angsty teen.  I was on the newspaper staff in high school.  When I first declared my major in college, it was journalism/communications.  As a young adult, writing has always been a major outlet for me.  I’ve always had a vague desire to write a book.

Let me be clear that I regret NOTHING about the decisions I made in life… including changing majors to business/marketing, getting an MBA, and all the jobs and skills I’ve learned since graduating.  I am so thankful and grateful for the way this life has unfolded and I can see that the experiences God led me to are proving invaluable to me now.

And today…life is different; it is changed.  I started this blog and write on it frequently.  It keeps me accountable and grounded and challenged.  I have started writing a book.  I recently submitted an article to one of my favorite websites about simplifying life, and it was approved to be published.  The feeling of pursuing and doing what you love is completely magical. In a way, none of this *should* be a surprise.  And yet, to my soul, it is.  It’s a lovely, beautiful, God-given surprise and I am so humbled and grateful for it.

Photography.  Another life-changing bit of magic that has become very clear and taken me off-guard is a desire to learn photography.  After writing about letting go of sentimental items, I was thinking about my love for pictures; how being transported back to an event or place through pictures has always been one of my deepest joys in life.  And while I love capturing moments with friends and loved ones, I have always had a special affinity for the beauty of God’s creation. Among my favorite things to photograph are the ocean, beach, sky, trees and flowers.  As I’ve worked on this blog and chosen background images for quote graphics, I’ve been selecting from nature shots I have been taking for years.  Countless sunsets (and a few sunrises!), ocean and water shots, close ups of the beach, of flowers, of the sky through the trees and mountains and cliffs and pathways have been captured over the years.

Just like writing, I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise that I want to take a photography class, but the fact remains that I could not see it until now.  I am pleased to report that I (along with a friend!) have signed up to take an intro to photography class in May and I can’t wait!

Art. I started taking adult art classes well before my tidying journey began.  However, it has also emerged as a possible area of focus for the future.  My favorite thing to paint is (you guessed it) nature.  I love painting photos that I took while on vacation or visiting somewhere new and beautiful.  That makes the idea of learning photography even more exciting!  I’m not sure where art will take me, though I’ve had the notion to open an Etsy shop someday, possibly even as a joint venture with my fabulously talented and artistic mother.  In any case, it’s another wonderful and intriguing idea that God has planted in my mind now that I’m making an effort to live simply enough to hear it.

I think all of these things feel so magical because I am realizing that they’ve always been a part of me.  They are utterly life-changing because I now have the time, space and energy to pursue them.  There is no part of me that feels sad that I haven’t focused on them until now; I know that God’s timing is perfect and I wouldn’t trade His path for me for anything.

I’m excited to continue challenging myself, letting go, simplifying possessions, habits, thoughts and anything else that God shows me.  Ultimately, He will get the glory for anything that I accomplish, and I know that He will use me in whatever ways He sees fit to better His Kingdom.  My prayer is that I remain open and willing.  Cheers to simplicity!

Be Intentional & Live More

One of the things I have constantly struggled to do is to be present in the moment and live each day calmly and intentionally. I have a tendency to over-book, always say yes, figure things out, and control things. Unchecked, these tendencies result in stress, anxiety and worry. While some thought must be directed beyond the here and now, excessive planning and fretting over the future robs us of enjoying the present.

When our to-do lists are too long to appreciate beauty in the present moment, we are missing out on some of the greatest things life has to offer. It’s hard to focus on a conversation with a loved one when your mind is racing to the next thing on your list (and the next thing after that).  You’ll never see that bright red robin with a fat belly skip across the front porch in the morning if your nose is buried in e-mails while you inhale your breakfast so you can rush out the door.

Between our busy, busy lives and countless forms of “entertainment” at our fingertips, we’ve become a rather distracted society. And as I seek simplicity in life, I’m finding that minimizing distractions is perhaps the most efficient road to a more intentional life.

Many, many things cause us to be distracted. Over-stuffed schedules and to-do lists, minimize distractionsclutter and closets and drawers stuffed to capacity, pings and clings coming from our computers, phones and tablets, advertisements screaming at us from the radio, TV, internet and now, even screens in elevators on our way to the doctor’s office.

I’m not sure it matters exactly where you begin to reduce distractions in your life, as long as you start somewhere.  Start looking at your life through a different lense.  What are the things that you value the most?  Would someone looking in on your life from the outside be able to see those things clearly?  Are you spending the majority of your time on those things? If not, what needs to change? If yes, are you still feeling overwhelmed or stressed? What distractions can you eliminate?

I believe that God has a plan for my life (and yours!).  I also believe that we have free will. That means that God is not going to shove His plan or Himself down our throats.  We have to make a choice.  Sometimes, we have to take a step toward His outstretched hand. Sometimes it feels terrifying to take that step, even if it’s small.  Sometimes, taking the first step isn’t that tough but somewhere after that, we start to question and doubt and panic.

In the past year or so, I’ve probably given away close to 50% of our stuff.  Most of it was shoved in storage bins, forgotten, unopened and un-enjoyed for years. Other things we gave away or sold were more difficult to let go of.  I made the difficult decision to leave my job last June.  We cancelled our subscription to cable TV.  I’m staying off of social media sites for the first half of each day.  I have less material things to keep up with, clean and organize.  I have less on my to-do list.  I spend less time watching TV and less time on the internet.  I’ve re-discovered my passion for writing and creativity.  I’m spending more time with the Lord and my family, friends and pets.

This is my journey thus-far and the power of LESS in my life is making room for MORE of what really matters to me.  Your journey begins wherever makes the most sense for you, or wherever you feel God leading you.  But you must find time to slow down and listen and look.  Listen to God, to what He’s placed in your heart.  Look for the blessings and beauty that surround you in the present moment.

Because I eliminated the distraction of social media and mindless internet browsing from my morning routine, I had time to play fetch with my dog yesterday morning before my training session at the gym. Because I decided to eat each meal without distraction, I saw a beautiful, fat, red robin skip across my porch this morning. Because I decided to give things away, I found a desire to own less instead of get more.  Because I took a year off to seek the Lord’s will for my life, I’m writing every day.

Being intentional about life and how you spend your time matters.  It might even matter in ways you’d never imagined!

Digital Challenge: Limiting Social Media

Up until now, the biggest focus of my journey to simplify life has been paring down our possessions.  I believe we still have some work to be done there and it will require a constant vigilance about what possessions we allow into our home moving forward.  In other words, that journey may never be fully “complete” but that’s OK.

Life itself is a journey, and we may never come to a place where we’ve “arrived” fully. There was a time when I would have been reluctant to accept that, but I’m learning that regular growth and change are good for us.  Challenging ourselves to new things keeps life exciting!  Even if it’s scary or takes a lot of effort sometimes.

One of the things I struggle with is feeling overwhelmed with plans and obligations and places to be and things I want to do.  There never seems to be enough TIME.

Last summer, I made the difficult decision to leave my job and take a year off to let God lead me wherever He chooses.  Yet somehow, I still find myself feeling overwhelmed with everything that I need or want to do.

For whatever reason, one of my biggest struggles is getting myself together in the morning.  In my ideal world, I’d be up and at ’em at 7am, bed made, exercise clothes on by 7:15, breakfast and quiet time and caring for my menagerie of animals finished no later than 8am.  I’d spring out the door, work out, and be ready to charge into the rest of my day well before lunch time.  It never works this way.

spend time on what is important
Photo taken in San Diego, CA

So, I’ve been more carefully examining my morning habits.  I cherish the quiet times I spend before launching into any of the day’s activities, and that is always a priority for me. I do not and will not put a time limit on that. Sometimes a cat throws up, or my dog forgets how to pee in the yard and just stands there looking at me.  Those things will happen from time to time.  But I’ve determined that the biggest time-sucking culprit in my morning routine is social media.

 

You guys, sometimes I don’t even THINK before reaching for my phone and popping Facebook open to mindlessly scroll.  That can mean I lay in bed for who knows how long instead of getting up because it is an evil time-suck.

During or after my quiet times, I can usually be found, iPad in hand, with distractions begging for my attention.  A Pinterest notification, or an interesting sounding article I saw earlier on Facebook and now want to read.

And of course, even though I know better, I am guilty of clicking on idiotic articles with extreme titles like: “The ONE thing you should NEVER eat!!!” or “Guy visits [insert political candidate here] Rally and is Stunned When He Sees THIS!!”  You know what I mean.  Sometimes, your curiosity gets the better of you.  Other times, you know you’re entering into a war zone of horrible comments from internet trolls but you scroll through them anyways.

While there are many edifying and worthwhile websites that Facebook or Twitter might link me to (Becoming Minimalist, No Sidebar and Be More With Less to name a few), most of what clamors for my attention on Social Media is just not worth the time it takes up.

In fact, I believe that we have allowed smart phones and social media to distract us to the point that we live half our lives with screens rather than other human beings.  Our attention spans are suffering.

Let’s be honest with ourselves about our habits.  How much time are you spending each day on things that aren’t even important to you?  What are the top 5 (or 20!) most important things to you?  In life?  Each day?  I’m willing to bet if you wrote such a list, scrolling through social media wouldn’t be on it.

It’s not on mine, either.  So, I am proposing a challenge.  To myself and anyone else who wants to reclaim time lost chasing the unimportant.  Here’s what I’m planning to do for the next 30 days:

  1. Disable social media notifications on my phone and ipad.
  2. No time spent on social media sites until after 12pm.

You may want to tweak or change these goals so they make sense for you personally.  But I want my mornings back, free from social media.  If I want to read an article from Becoming Minimalist, I can visit the website and read it intentionally.  Not just because I stumbled across it while mindlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed.

Cheers to simplifying the morning routine!

 

 

My Stuff Does Not Define Me.

So, back when we were house shopping and first saw our house, the previous owners had moved out but left their elliptical machine behind.  At the time, it was my favorite cardio machine and I thought it would be amazing to have one at home.  We literally ALMOST did not get this house because we really wanted it and the sellers were refusing to include it (even though they had moved out and not taken it with them).

A couple weeks ago, Husband and I decided to get rid of it.  I hadn’t used it in forever because we belong to a gym that we love.  There is no denying that it didn’t spark joy because it wasn’t fun to use and was huge and ugly. And SO heavy.  Our home office is so much more cheerful now that it’s gone!  And I have more room to do the home workout videos that I actually enjoy.

Isn’t it funny how our wants and desires change over time?  Our tastes change or what’s “in” changes and we try to keep up with it all.  Only problem is, most of the time, in order to keep up, we want MORE, NEWER, BETTER stuff to replace what’s “out”.

I’m not saying there’s never a reason to get rid of something that doesn’t bring joy and replace it with something that does.  But if you’re on a journey to let go of things, I suspect you’ll find many things you don’t need to replace. Even if you hang onto things you don’t love, you may discover that months later, you still haven’t used them. Perhaps it’s time to let them go. This is probably the first time in my life that I’ve been more interested in getting rid of things than acquiring them and it feels fantastic. It’s thrilling (and freeing) to let things go and NOT replace them.  And oh, the gratitude you’ll feel for what’s left!

It can also be a little scary; I won’t deny that.  While I’ve loved going through this process and do not regret anything I let go of, I am still a human struggling with fleshly and worldly desires. There have been several times that I’ve felt a little panic welling up in me. Did I over-do

my stuff does not define me
Photo taken in Highlands, NC

it? Did I get rid of too much?  In those fleeting moments, I have a strange sensation like I’ve lost some part of myself.

I think it’s because we oftentimes view ourselves and our worth or value through the things we own.  In those times, I have to remind myself that I AM NOT DEFINED BY WHAT I OWN.  My things are not who I am inside.  They may reflect things about me, but they do not have any bearing on my soul or who God has made me to be.

And the reality is, I have not gotten rid of too much of anything.  In fact, I’ve already begun to revisit some of the first categories of stuff that I tidied.  Why?  Because I’m starting to notice that there are items I chose to keep in the early going that I haven’t touched since.  Clothes in particular are on my mind; it was so scary to go down to what seemed like such a “small” wardrobe, but there are items that I haven’t considered wearing once since then.

Yesterday, another full carload of items went to Goodwill.  There was a box full of home decor and books to donate that I somehow missed before.  I donated a little glass top table with two chairs that used to live in our guest room, plus a small wicker side table that has long since been cleared off with nothing left to put on it. I donated another bag full of shoes and clothes, and one with towels and pillows.  Most were things that stayed because I hadn’t perfected my ability to detect my own joy; still other things stayed because I am so used to seeing them that I didn’t even think to do a joy check.

But learning to live a simple life doesn’t end after purging possessions.  My guess is that I will continue to find things here and there to donate or sell.  There will of course be things that get worn out and need to be replaced.  Simplification is a process no matter what you are simplifying.  And I need it elsewhere, too…in my mind, in my schedule, and on my laptop.  Who knows what direction I’ll go in next!

Until next time,

S