Tag Archives: Experiments

My Complete Capsule Wardrobe

This is every single piece of clothing I own for all seasons, all occasions, and all moods. I consider it a capsule because it has a very basic, but strong frame with a few specialties. It is simple, versatile, and put together. I love the style I’ve curated and feel confident wearing my clothes. It’s basically a uniform, but with variations for weather and special occasions.

After delivering my last baby, I got rid of a bunch of maternity clothes and added a few needed items. Now I feel like I’m “finished” – at least for a while. I believe I have everything I need and am not really wanting for anything. I expect the next changes to be made to my wardrobe will be to remove items, from being too worn or not fitting anymore once I get my pre-pregnancy figure back. Otherwise, I will just replace as needed.

Instead of storing out-of-season clothing in the attic or boxes, all of my clothes are ready and available all year long (something I learned from Marie Kondo in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up). This makes being prepared for weird out-of-season weather super easy and it eliminates  the chore of swapping clothes out of storage every season. I’m always a fan of less chores.

And now… the complete list!

Dans Mon Armoire (27 hangers, 1 shelf)
1. blue striped tank-top
2. yellow flower tank-top
3. white button-up tank-top
4. blue button-up tank-top
5. blue dot button-up tank-top
6. black v-neck t-shirt
7. grey v-neck t-shirt
8. blue v-neck t-shirt
9. white v-neck t-shirt
10. white v-neck t-shirt
11. white v-neck t-shirt
12. blue long-sleeve button-up
13. red long-sleeve button-up
14. black long-sleeve button-up
15. blue wrap dress
16. purple wrap dress
17. black pocket dress
18. blue striped maxi-dress
19. black maxi-dress
20. purple and yellow flower dress
21. beaded dress (with 2 slips – white and purple)
22. black and gold sequin dress
23. blue patterned maxi-dress (maternity)
24. blue gown
25. floral sweater
26. yellow flower scarf
27. purple flower scarf
28. blue patterned scarf
29. straw hat
30. black zip-up hoodie
31-40. my shoes (10)

Dans ma vaisselle (3 large drawers)
41. blue v-neck sweater
42. purple v-neck sweater
43. black v-neck sweater
44. white chunky knit sweater
45. white knit hoodie
46. grey shorts
47. blue shorts
48. purple shorts
49. blue jean shorts
50. blue jeans
51. medium-wash blue jeans
52. dark-wash blue jeans
53. tube skirt (maternity)
54-65. underwear (12)
66-69. bras (4)
70-73. pajama tank tops (4)
74-76. pajama t-shirts (3)
77-79. pajama long-sleeve shirts (2)
80. pajama shorts romper
81. pajama pants
82. leggings
83-96. long socks (14)
97-103. short socks (7)
104-106. tights (3)
107. knit scarf
108. leather gloves
109. fingerless gloves
110. knit gloves
111. knit hat
112. bikini
113. swimsuit
114. sarong
115. work jeans
116. long-sleeve work shirt
117. short-sleeve work shirt
118-121. sports bras (3)
122-123. sports tops (2)
124. sports pants
125. sports capris
126. tennis skirt
127. snow pants

Dans le placard (4 hangers)
128. light blue jean jacket
129. dark blue trench coat (with removable liner)
130. snow coat

130 items might seem like a lot compared to Project 333‘s limit of 33, but I’m pleasantly surprised by my number of 130. True, it doesn’t include jewelry or bags, but I’m hardly wearing any now anyway. And it does include all undergarments, exercise/specialty clothing, and clothing for the entire spectrum of weather in New Jersey – from below freezing to nearly 100°F – which Project 333 does not always encompass. Also, Project 333 allows 33 items of clothing each season (33 items for 3 months – 333, get it?), so 132 items are allowed for the year – so I’ve got even less!

It’s not a contest, though (even though I won). It’s about having less clothing choices to make getting dressed everyday easier. I think Project 333 is great. I learned a lot from when I did it. It helped me figure out what I like to wear, to be mindful of curating pieces that coordinate, and realizing I really don’t need as many clothes as I had once owned to be properly dressed.

Go forth – clear your closet, clear your mind, and look and feel fabulous!

Changing the Way I Track My Spending

I first started really keeping track of my daily spending in December 2015. Since then, I’ve tried a few different ways to track, and honestly I’m still not sure if I found the way that’s right for me. But I am learning all along the way, so that’s something. And I’ve decided to share some of my experiences here so maybe you can avoid some of the things that didn’t work for me.

First, I created a budget listing expenses by category. Then, throughout the month, I would list every purchase amount made and also color-code them by category. I would input those amounts into a formula to be balanced within the budget. It looked something like this:

Note: all amounts are made-up.

It was very colorful and the color-codes allowed me to see where my money went, but it was also very labor-intensive and didn’t really help me at all when I was at the check-out counter. I would spend first, think later. So it was a lot of work and didn’t help me stick to my budget. I needed to try something else.

Next, I tried to simplify things a bit. Instead of keeping a running list of every purchase I made, I just added the amount spent into the “spent” section of a slightly different budget set-up I created.

The design was a lot simpler and thus easier to use. I did need to make sure I was keeping track of purchases as they happened because they weren’t detailed in the spreadsheet so it was harder to figure out what amount corresponded to what purchase receipt. It helped a little bit more with deterring spending — I’m not sure why. Maybe because I had to keep track more often? Maybe because after a year I was just naturally being a bit more mindful? Still, keeping track of what purchase was affecting which category was hard to do at the check-out counter.

In the past few weeks, I’ve decided to try yet another strategy. This one incorporates the budget spreadsheet with the calendar in my bullet journal. I use yet another reincarnation of my budget to determine a weekly spending amount (ideally in cash), then write that amount on the Sunday block of a new week. Then, throughout the week, I subtract the dollar amount I spend each day, hopefully not straying past $0 by the end of the week. If I do stray past $0 during the week, I subtract that deficit from the next week on Sunday.

The new budget:

And the calendar… it’s quite messy, but it looks like this:

Maybe you can tell that I am already really far beyond this month. I did buy a new computer, though. My hope, however, is that I will be able to amass many more highlighter-green days, a.k.a. no-spend days, to make up the deficit by the end of the month. Seeing that negative number everyday is a motivator, but I’ve still yet to find out if it is motivating enough. The highlighter-green days are inspiring — they are my goal.

So if you are looking for ways to track your spending, maybe some of this will help. I’m sure there are tons of options to look at online. And don’t be afraid to play around with different strategies to find out what works best for you. And remember, what worked best for you last year, might not be the best anymore — don’t be afraid to change it up and keep it fresh. As long as you’re trying to keep track of spending (i.e. keeping what’s going out less than what’s coming in), I believe you are on the right path to some financial comfort.

Check In – 2017 Reading Resolutions

In the beginning of this year, I laid out some Reading Resolutions for myself. After less than a month, it already impacted my reading experience. Now that we’re almost half-way through the year and I’ve hit an “end”, I have some more updates on the experiment.

Summary:

  • Books Bought – 3
  • Books Read – 22
  • Books Abandoned – 9
  • Books Listened To – 1
  • Books Borrowed – 7
  • Book Club Reads – 4
  • Books Owned Left Unread – 1

Books Bought. I have bought 3 books so far in 2017 and was generally happy with all of them. One I foresee myself re-reading over and over throughout my life. The other, my husband and a friend also read (3 reads for the price of 1!) and would like my sons to read it as they get older as well. The other was fun and interesting, but honestly I could’ve borrowed it from the library because I doubt I’ll ever read it again (although I do want to continue with the series).

Books Read. If you  care to see all the books I’ve read so far this year, you can check out my Goodreads. Some have been for pleasure, some for book clubs, some for research, and some out of curiosity. I’ve loved some, liked some, found some to be okay, and hated some. I don’t give books star ratings because I don’t think it is a complex enough review and doesn’t enhance my reading experience at all (I just don’t like doing it).

Book Abandoned. There were 9 books on my shelves at home (mostly “Andrew’s books”) that I attempted to read this year and gave up on. I abandoned each for different reasons, most of which can be summed up with “not my cup of tea”. That’s probably why I’ve never tried to read them before, but now I can say that I’ve given them a fair shot.

Books Listened To. I did listen to 1 audiobook version of a book I had not yet read on our shelf. I listened at work, but it was a quick book and not too intrusive. It was easy to listen to and I enjoyed it. I don’t think I would have kept with it if I had to put in the effort to read it myself, though. It may have been abridged, but oh well, I got the story.

Books Borrowed. These were books I still had out from last year, were for book clubs, or for my own personal research. Namely, the research was for potty training Wingnut and I’m so glad I borrowed that book. It was exactly what I needed, when I needed it.

Book Club Reads. I only enjoyed 1 out of 4 book I’ve read for clubs so far this year. There are 3 more books that are scheduled and in which I’m just not interested. I love books and discussing books, but I honestly don’t know if book clubs are for me. I may do another post entirely about this.

Books Owned Left Unread. I acquired this one this year as a free give-away (darn free stuff clutter). I haven’t read it yet and I’m not sure if I want to. I may keep it around, though, because it’s a classic. Maybe one day I’ll want to read it? (Doubtful, but defo possible.) Maybe my children will need to read it for school? (Our school district usually provides all books.) I don’t know. Maybe I should just get rid of it — like I never even free-stuff-clutter-collected it in the first place.

My Resolutions were originally designed to last the whole year, but I’ve read through all of my unread books much faster than I anticipated. (Granted, abandoning books is a very speedy way to get through them.) Therefore, I don’t think I will continue the resolution of not borrowing books for the rest of the year. I will continue to read my shelves — there are a few books I want to re-read before the new release in the series comes out — but I will allow myself to borrow books now, too.

I will only check-out ONE book from the library at a time, to continue with my slow, enjoyable pace. I will only read what I really want to read. And I will buy books if our budget allows it. I have deep inner contention between whether I should buy or borrow books — perhaps that can be another post in and of itself.

I feel like this experiment has gone very well. I feel very free knowing I’ve experienced all the books on the shelves in my house. It opens a lot of possibilities for what to read next. …Almost too many possibilities. We’ll see how it plays out for the rest of the year.

For now, let’s try this:

  • Read only 1 book at a time.
  • If the budget allows, only buy a book when I am ready to read it.

I’ve always wanted to be at this point — where I have no TBR (to-be-read) at home so if I feel like going to the bookstore, I can buy a book and start reading it right away with no guilt! Amazing. I’m here! I’ve done it! After years and years and years. I’ve finally successfully minimized to-do clutter when it comes to books and it feels amazing. 🙂

 

Cooking

I don’t think cooking more in itself will simplify my life. Buying prepared food is easy and fast, but it’s expensive (and spending more money than I have complicates my life). It would be even more expensive to have a personal chef to prepare all of my meals for me, so that’s not happening any time soon. Therefore, knowing how to cook is a very useful skill.

Cooking simplifies food in the way that we know everything that went into our meals. Our diet is simplified. Cooking from scratch reduces the ingredients so we’re eating basic elements of life grown from the earth, not “edible food-like substances” concocted in labs or extra ingredients to lengthen shelf time. (Michael Pollan’s books and documentaries are great resources for getting back to the roots of our food and how humans eat.)

I did not learn how to cook growing up. I could prepare myself some food — like boil pasta, make myself an English muffin pizza, pour cereal, chop up a salad, etc. I could survive, but my repertoire was not very balanced or interesting. I didn’t know what a roux was, how to reduce a sauce, how to make pancakes from scratch, what causes food to rise or be sticky or caramelize, or what happens when you whip in some air. I’ve learned a lot and I continue to learn new things all the time. (I still don’t really know the difference between boiling and braising.)

I’m not taking a kitchen 101 class or a cooking course or anything. I’m just going in the kitchen and trying my hand at cooking different recipes. Sometimes they work — most of the time they work — but sometimes they flop. I learn from both outcomes. And I’m having a lot of fun doing it.

I put “cook new recipe” on my weekly to-do list for a month before I finally got around to doing it, but now I’m on a roll. I don’t even have to put it on my list anymore. Every Saturday morning before work, I drink my coffee and flip through a cookbook (usually The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook) and pick out 2 or 3 recipes to try to that week. Then I go to the grocery store after my shift and get everything I need to cook those recipes. This has been the best form of meal planning for me so far.

Cooking is more than a hobby for me. I wouldn’t really call it a passion either. It’s a way of life, I guess? It’s a way to life? We cannot survive without eating and being able to provide for ourselves will make ourselves better — more independent and more sustainable. And, above all, I enjoy cooking. I think it’s fun and interesting and sexy and delicious.

Cooking, I believe, is love — that we give to ourselves and share with others.

Some Thoughts on Minimal Privilege

About a year ago, I wrote about increasing satisfaction through deprivation. I tried my best to turn a difficult situation into something from which to learn and grow. I wanted to feel good about a state of lack and so I decided to be appreciative.

Last night, the blower on our furnace broke down. We had no heat, save for a small space heater we borrowed to keep the children’s bedroom warm (Andrew and I piled on blankets to stay warm while we slept), while a snow storm blew outside.
During the day, with the snow falling harder, the space heater actually did a pretty good job of keeping the house warm while we waited for an available HVAC technician to come take a look at our furnace. The temperature in the house never even dipped below 60°F.
As we endured this slight inconvenience, I kept thinking about what I wrote about in my Increasing Satisfaction Through Deprivation post and I didn’t feel as comfortable with it. I mean, I think it still has its merits, but since I read a guest post on Becoming Minimalist about Minimal Privilege, I just haven’t been able to think about it in the same way.
All of us are permitted to have our own feelings and experiences. My experiences are not less valid because someone else experiences something harder. But being aware of what others may be going through is a powerful concept. I feel less flippant about using deprivation as a tool — using my privilege to choose how and when to deprive myself — when it is a real life struggle for some people.
I sometimes feel bogged down by our debt, but I don’t really have to worry about having enough food for my family or having the electric cut off or being able to keep the family warm enough. We are quite fortunate and it will serve me well to remember that.
It’s also good for me to remember that others may not be as fortunate as myself so I can do what I can to help, whether that be by donating to charities, helping a friend, or by being more mindful during conversations.

Sweet Talk: Where I Am Now?

There’s a bit of a [huge, glaring] discrepancy between my post this past Wednesday and the post of my September-October sugar journal. As in, Wednesday I admitted I was still struggling with sugar, but I claimed to have given it up for good at the end of October.

I honestly don’t even remember making that decision. That obviously wasn’t very mindful of me. Now I’m thinking that it wasn’t a conscious decision at all, but one born out of my frustration at the difficulty of introducing moderate sugar back into my life. It was kind of like, this is hard! I give up! Instead of re-evaluating where I should make some changes to make things work better for me.

I doubt it was the next day that I started eating sugar with abandon, but once I stopped tracking what I ate, I just didn’t pay as much attention. I paid attention, just not as much. Not enough.

It was a gradual slide from the end of October to now. I still don’t feel addicted anymore, which is very good. But I’ve given in to cravings and I’ve had bad days where I felt like crap because I didn’t realize how much sugar I was consuming throughout the day.

I must be honest with myself and admit that I am not an all-or-nothing type of person when it comes to food. Cigarettes? Definitely. I’ve never had one and never will because they are proven bad, bad, bad. Alcohol? I have some. It can be harmful, but it has some benefits, too. So I drink in moderation. But I’ve never struggled with either of them like I struggle with sugar.

I like my original Rules and am going to follow them again. I won’t track everything I eat, because as long as I’m avoiding sugar that’s NOT

  1. part of a whole food or
  2. honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, or
  3. the occasional exception
    1. ice cream, when there is walking involved
    2. homemade desserts (i.e. dinner parties)
    3. restaurant desserts (rare)
    4. anything I want on my birthday

I will be fine. Those 3 sweetness circumstances are hard to come by in my suburban New Jersey area, believe it or not, unless I’m cooking at home. It allows sweetness in my life (fruit, honey, syrups, birthday treat) without the likelihood of extreme excess (half a box of cookies, cake icing, jars of candy, etc).

It’s an ongoing experiment. I will not allow perfection to be the enemy of the good here. I will be mindful, while still enjoying small pleasures. I will try to be better. I will do my best.

Sweet Talk: My 6 Week Sugar Journal (9/16-10/16)

[This is a companion post to Sweet Talk: My Battle With Sugar]

The Rules

  1. Eat whole foods.
  2. Accepted sweeteners are:
    1. honey
    2. maple syrup
    3. brown rice syrup
  3. On my birthday, I can have whatever kind of ice cream I want.

Reminder — Sugar per day = 6-9 teaspoons or 25-37 grams

[Food list has been omitted for brevity.]

DAY 1

Went quite well. Good start. Actually quite shocked about the amount of sugar in the Taco Bell stuff.

DAY 2

A little nervous today because I have work and there are treats here. I have gum for intervention. And, whoa, that bread! Gotta stay away from certain brands.

Whoo-hoo! I did really well today! If I had a different brand of brand it would have been even better. Selfie-high-five! I did have 2 pieces of [sugar-free] gum at work though. I remember gum tasting better when I was younger. Now it seems… sensational. Like, sensational in the bad way like U.S. cable news stories are. I guess gum is not good because it is formulated. It is not good because it is not a whole food.

DAY 3

The sugar level of that jam is so crazy! I was soooo close to the limit, too. I’m learning, though. And I’m still proud of myself for today because I didn’t have any dessert at the German buffet. None! I resisted all the cakes and puddings — even the fruit. Good thing, too. I mean, damn, jam!

DAY 4

I can’t believe it’s only been 3 days. If I wasn’t keeping track, I’d have thought I had been “good” long enough and deserved a treat. Then I would have kept treating and treating, being addicted again. But I’ve really [barely] just begun.

I helped my mum make peanut butter bonbons today. Specifically, I did the chocolate melting and dipping part. And I didn’t eat or lick any of it at all!

I resisted salt water taffy, cookies, and grapes at work today!

DAY 6

Whoo-hoo! I did it! I got nervous there with that drink with dinner. I only drank half. It was a treat from Andrew. He brought pizza home for dinner and I saw he brought a 2 liter of soda home with it. I knew I wouldn’t drink it, but was a little disappointed because I wanted some. I really like the flavor of Dr. Pepper. Then he pulled out a bottle of Izze for me. And for a moment I got even more upset. He thought of me and my ragus aspirations and got me a special drink. So thoughtful of him! But I still didn’t think I should drink it. But I checked out the ingredient list and the sugars were from all natural juice. If I only drank half, I could fit it into my day.

And it was a very special treat. I wanted to drink more, but I was just really thirsty so I had water. Lots of water. I don’t know what Andrew did with the other half of the Izze Maybe I’ll find it [flat?] in the refrigerator tomorrow. I’m really, really appreciative of his help, support, and love.

DAY 7

Lot and lots of sweets at work today because of our supervisor’s return. I just enjoyed their ascetics. 🙂 Belly feels a bit bloated and squishy — just my monthly hormones? Or that drink yesterday?

DAY 8

I’ve been in quite a good mood for the majority of this past week. Could it be less sugar-fueled mood swings? Or the slightly cooler weather? Even Andrew noticed my good mood tonight.

DAY 9

Alright! Success, even with some cake in there. I treated myself to a big portion since I controlled the sweetness. Not too sweet at all. Sweetened by maple syrup and brown rice syrup. (The coconut whipped cream I attempted was a total fail, though.

Although I must say that after such a big portion so late at night, it’s sitting pretty heavy in my belly, and even up my throat a bit. I guess after 9 days I’m a bit detoxed?

Still in range for today so that’s good.

DAY 10

Oh, no!!! 2 teaspoons over. 🙁 It turned out I got the wrong kind of coconut cream and there was sugar added. 🙁 Won’t be making that mistake again. Back on target going forward.

DAY 12

Nice! Super low! I hope I didn’t forget to write anything down… Oh yeah, I had a slice of cheese to distract myself from a sweet craving.

DAY 13

Today I really wanted a rich, sweet, buttery cookie (more like a box of cookies), but I did not. So I felt deprived today.

Andrew offered me a bite of the rice pudding at the diner after dinner. I refused (even though I wanted some!) and Andrew said, “Good. That was a test. You passed.” I must admit I was proud of myself for “passing” his “test”. I mean, I can do it! I’ve been doing it for 13 days! That is quite the achievement for me. Honestly, I don’t know how I am doing it. Being mindful, I guess; paying attention to what I eat. And honoring myself.

Got quite the headache at the end of dinner until even now, though. Don’t know if it’s related to what I’ve been eating or something else.

DAY 14

I felt kind of deprived again today. Wanted… something. Sugar, I guess. That satisfying sensation in my mouth. Although, I guess it’s not “satisfying” because I never could get enough.

DAY 17

I was a bit lazy with tracking my food today and did it all tonight. Eh — it’s a Sunday. And I erred on the side of caution at dinner because I wasn’t sure where my numbers were so c’est bon.

DAY 18

Another headache tonight. 🙁 Upset stomach, too — too much coconut oil on popcorn?

DAY 23

Mother-in-law brought over freshly baked chocolate chip cookies today. Homemade! Warmish and smelling delicious! Chocolate chip cookies, especially homemade, are my favorite. This is quite a test. I will pass.

DAY 26

I found lunch to be really sweet today. Can you imagine? Me! Thinking half a kiwi and a few slices of orange makes a meal “really sweet”!

DAY 34

Really wanted a little Hershey chocolate bar today. I even had Andrew bring one to me. He said I shouldn’t deprive myself. Recent event highlighted the “life is short — enjoy it” argument for me. But sugar does not equal an enjoyable life. My self control is something I am proud of. I am not depriving myself — I’m teaching myself to be responsible, starting with a rigorous test.

I did not open that candy bar. I didn’t even smell it, ha. It sat next to me on the couch and I forgot about it — that would have been inconceivable a little over one month ago. The power is shifting back to me, away from sugar. I am proud and I will carry on.

DAY 38

I’m really doubting whether I want to go on with this or not. Part of me wants to just continue for 3 more weeks to complete the 8 week detox program designed by the writer of I Quit Sugar, but another part argues that she just made that 8 weeks up, it doesn’t mean anything, except, perhaps, that that’s what worked for her.

I feel good. I feel in control. I feel more confident when it comes to sweets. Wasn’t that my goal? To not be addicted? To not be a slave to cravings? Is wanting to do 8 weeks or 100 days just a silly quantifiable measure?

I never planned on quitting sugar for life. It, especially in chocolate, brings me great pleasure. I want to learn how to live in harmony with it in my life.

Aha. I will continue while introducing sugar back in my life, tracking what I eat and its sugar grams for the 3 more weeks, to learn how it looks like in my diet and practice moderating it.

DAY 39

Wow. Looks like I overdid it already. 🙁 Those little bits of sugary chocolate have a lot of grams and add up fast!

DAY 40

Wow, I’m bad at this.

DAY 41

Boo me! Well, no, boo frozen yogurt. I can’t believe that! It is SO much more sugar than ice cream! Give me fatty creamy ice cream — fro-yo is a disaster!

Boo me, this whole this is a disaster.

THE END

I am not going to track my sugar any more because… I have decided to give it up forever. (!)

I’ve tried to reintroduce sugar into my diet during this past week and it’s been horrible. I have noticed my moods were not as stable, my skin is broken out, and I’ve felt awful on the days that I’ve gone overboard. And it’s SO EASY to go overboard.

So I’m just giving it up. I won’t worry too much about ketchup and fruit, but I will be mindful. And perhaps on special occasions I will indulge. But I mean super special occasions. And I will indulge in good stuff, that’s worth it. The end.

Sweet Talk: My Battle With Sugar

I love(d) sugar. Too much. I was dependent on it. If my children didn’t nap, I went crazy, and a big reason for that was that I couldn’t have my sugary snack. I would only eat sweets while they were napping because I didn’t want to give them any. I know the effect sugar can have on a child. It’s something I’m battling 20 years later. I want to spare my children if I can.

First, I read I Quite Sugar by Sarah Wilson. I also flipped through her The I Quit Sugar Cookbook, but it is not great for anyone who wants to be mostly vegan. For vegan sugar avoiders, I would recommend Crazy Sexy Kitchen by Kris Carr.

If you don’t want to read an entire book, there is this extensive, yet un-definitive, article by Gary Taubes for The Guardian.

As for my own story… it is disappointingly incomplete and failure-ridden. But it is a pursuit that I am still very interested in. Avoiding sugar is a very, very tough battle to fight on the American food-front, but I want to get strong enough to win it. Or at least survive through it.

I first became interested in quitting sugar when I realized I was addicted. I craved it and ate as much as I could, even though it left me feeling like crap. I needed it every day, usually at certain times, or else I would be irritable. I didn’t like being dependent on it to stay out of cranky moods. I wanted to be free of the addiction and I also knew it would be healthier for me.

I kept a journal, as suggested by Sarah Wilson, for 6 weeks — from last September to October — to track my sugar intake and how I felt. I will post a summary of those 6 weeks in another post.

Right now, I can’t say that I’ve quit sugar. I am much more aware of how much sugar is in foods, though, so I am better prepared to lower my intake at meals. It’s a lifestyle change, for sure, so I think it may be something that I can never complete. But I count being more mindful as a step in the right direction.

“If you are fighting to overcome an unhealthy addiction in your life — you are doing a noble thing.” – Joshua Becker

2017 Reading Resolutions

These resolutions are designed to help me read slower. I’m going to challenge myself to follow (or experiment with, if you will) all of these rules for the entire year to see how it effects my relationships with books. Hopefully they will help me be less stressed by books and enjoy reading more.

I’ve already written about slow reading, but honestly I was a bit crap at following those rules. I still read more than one book at a time, listened to audiobooks (while working), wasn’t choosy enough (only certain books are available on audio), and didn’t abandon one or two that I probably should have.

This year I’m going to go quite extreme (for me) and not let myself borrow any books. I work in a library. The largest library system in the entire state. This is going to be verrrrry hard for me.

I’m going to try this because I think it is the best way for me to actually SLOW my reading. Having access to millions of books all the time has just gotten to be too much. I see so many books, then I want to read so many books, I check so many books out, and they pile up. And then I have to lug them all back and forth from the library. I get ahead of myself because it’s free. Accepting free stuff is probably my worst clutter habit.

Not allowing myself to borrow, I hope, will make me better appreciate my own bookshelf. We have over 100 books at home, maybe even 200. Some I’ve never read (mostly “Andrew’s books”), some are favorites that I’ve nearly completely forgotten, and others are stories I like to read over and over again. But my own books have fallen to the wayside in comparison to all the NEW! and FREE! books at the library. This year, I will give my own books the love they deserve. And I already know that I like them!

This year’s resolution also still allows me to buy a book if I really want to. I’ve tried book-buying-bans before and it makes me feel a bit deprived, if only temporarily. Going to the bookstore and picking out a book to buy is a pleasure for me. So I’ll still get to do that this year! But, honestly, not that often because there isn’t a lot of room in our budget for books. So maybe a book or two per season.

So. In a nutshell, like a Grimm’s fairytale dress, the Resolutions:

  • Do not borrow any books.
  • Read only 1 book at a time.
  • Be very mindful of the monthly budget when considering buying a book.

And, of course, the Exceptions:

  • I may finish the 1 library book that I have checked out now since I am half-way through.
  • I may still borrow books or audiobooks for the book clubs in which I participate. This year, I expect 18 book discussions between 2 book clubs. There’s defo not enough money in our budget for that.

I’m excited — this should be interesting.

Experiments vs. Challenges

I read a little something about experiments versus challenges in Joshua Becker‘s The More of Less and I really like what he had to say.

I’ve tried a few minimalist challenges in my day. (You can read about some of them here.) And although I definitely learned from them, I find it very hard to stick to the strict guidelines of such challenges in my everyday life, especially for the long term.

Challenges provide a definite end-point . When we have an end-point in sight we can just stop — decluttering, eating more or less of something, shopping less, etc — without the challenge leaving a lasting affect. Not always, but that end-point is enticing. And then it’s harder for our brains to imagine a way in which we can continue those goals for the rest of our lives.

Challenges almost act like fad diets instead of a well-balanced and curated lifestyle.

Gretchen Rubin discusses this topic at length in her latest book about habits, Better Than Before. It’s hard to form a sustainable habit from a short-term goal. Harder than if you go into something with a more open mind — mentally ready to adjust and overcome obstacles — and no plans of stopping. Rather, with plans to keep going and going, always making yourself a little bit better.

That’s why I like how Joshua Becker talked about experimenting. Experiments are a little more flexible, adaptable, and forgiving. If you are experimenting with buying less, but you discover you need a new shirt, you can buy it. It’s part of the experiment, rather than what makes you fail a challenge.

Everyone is different, though, obvs. Some people really respond well to challenges. Competitive people perhaps? But I respond well to fun experiences and I find that experiments are more open to keeping the joy alive rather than focusing on barreling to the finish line.

Speaking of how everyone is different… I recently discovered something new about myself. I’ve found I’m a bit more successful when I don’t tell people that I’m trying something new, like an experiment or goal. Gretchen Rubin talked about that in Better Than Before, as well. I can’t definitively figure out which of her Four Tendencies I really lean towards, but surprisingly I’m more of an Upholder when it comes to things like trying to floss every day.

Keeping it to myself went against a lot I read (before I read Better Than Before, of course). I’ve often heard that telling others about your goals keeps you accountable and more likely to succeed. Except, of course, if your personality tends to rebel or resist others’ expectations. What a AHA! moment. Although, as with everyone being different, sometimes I act differently in different situations… So confusing.

But that’s why I like a little wiggle room. Put out your feelers. Test the waters. Grow as you go. Take a break from the competition and try experimenting a little.