Category Archives: Monthly Challenges

Experimenting With Rejection

IMG_20130731_184007_395

Editors Note: You don’t actually have to Keep Out, despite the sign. This will just probably be a slightly different post than you’re used to from me. There are no cats, or campers, or deep and hilarious thoughts. Just me musing about the direction I’m going to go for the next phase of my work and life. I’ll be back with more hilarity later this week though if this isn’t your thing! 🙂

A little secret about me, I’m terrible at asking for things. I don’t want to impose or take up too much of someone’s time or energy, I don’t like the idea of rejection and I generally don’t do well with being laughed at… unless I started it. That’s probably not earth shattering, I’m sure if you asked 100 people 98 of them would say they hate rejection. The thing is, out of those I’m sure there are plenty that would ask anyway. That’s where I want to be. And considering I’m an growing entrepreneur it would be pretty handy if I could learn to ask for things, because obviously no one is going to just offer it… despite all my hinting.

I read a blog post the other day about a man who wanted to learn to accept rejection. He knew being turned down for stuff was inevitable and he wanted to get past the fear of asking. So he decided to make sure the fear of rejection didn’t keep him from asking for what he wanted in life, because that would have actually been rejecting himself before anyone had a chance. Deep stuff, yes?

The way he decided to conquer that fear was pretty ingenious, kind of akin to the invention of sliced cheese or Redbox. He decided that for 100 days in a row he would make an intentional effort to be turned down once a day. He would ask for anything that came to mind and assume the answer would be no. He asked a policeman to drive his cruiser, a pilot to fly his private plane, and showed up on a strangers doorstep holding a soccer ball and wearing a full soccer uniform, asking if he could play ball in his backyard. He did anything he could to be turned down once every day.

The crazy thing is that according to the story, in all three of those examples, he wasn’t turned down. He played soccer in that mans back yard, he drove that police car and flew that plane. But as cool as it would be to play soccer in a strangers backyard that’s not really the part that piqued my interest. The part I thought was so interesting was the concept of asking with the intention of being rejected. It takes all of the pressure off, if the answer is no you can just shrug and say ‘Yea, that’s what I thought!’. There’s no risk of looking silly or being embarrassed because you tried and failed. Well, I suppose doing the walk of shame in a soccer uniform might be a bit embarrassing, but you know what I mean.

I think the experiment sounds pretty interesting, and I think we’ve established I like a good experiment, so I thought I would incorporate it into the Year of Change. Plus the answers may very well be surprising. Ya never know, maybe I’ll get to drive a police car.

Now, I think there’s probably a very fine line between asking in a genuinely expectant way and sounding pushy, or even having it sound like you’re just joking. I’m sure learning to ask will be just as important as learning to accept a possible no. The question needs to be phrased politely, but in a way that makes it clear you expect the answer to be yes. I’m sure a smile and the manners you learned in kindergarten will go a long way. And obviously being gracious if and when the answer is no would make the whole thing less awkward. Plus it beats silently backing away like a weirdo.

I’m in a perfect position to try this experiment. I own a small graphic design firm and I’m working on growing it by getting more clients. My ideal clients are small boutique businesses and bloggers, and I need to reach out to those people before I can offer to help them with what I do. I also need to contact other design firms and build relationships that place me on their list of freelance contractors. Another goal is to grow this blog and do more freelance writing, which might include guest posting on other blogs. That means I have to put myself out there for those possibilities.

This is the last day of my first experience with the Start Experiment (you know, the cult I joined?), and Round 2 starts this coming Monday. I’ve spent this first experiment getting my website and portfolio in order and talking to mentors, it wasn’t what I planned to accomplish, but it’s what needed to be done first. I’ve come along farther than I even planned in the beginning, and now I’m ready to reach out and start actually building the business side. So I’m going to combine the two, starting Monday the 12th I’m going to spend the next 24 days asking for things that will help me build my business. The answers might be no, they might be yes, I might even get laughed at. Whatever happens though I’ll keep asking and I’ll share it here, along with everything else we talk about! I might even throw some crazy questions in there just for the heck of it.

Also! Do you want to join me in an experiment? The Start Experiment is now open to the public! It begins Monday August 12th and lasts for 24 days. If you’re interested in getting motivated to change your life and want to join us there will be more information on Jon Acuff’s blog starting tomorrow, or you can always contact me to find out what flavor of Kool Aid to bring. 

 

Advertisements

Project 333: Quality Over Quantity

wpid-IMG_20130725_132530.jpg

Writers Note: I know things have been really quiet here lately, I’ve been slacking in the writing department big time! I hope you’ll hang in here with me though, because I’ve been working on making this a much nicer experience for you guys. I’m nearly finished redesigning my own website – www.snazzyturtle.com – and then I’ll be working on the design and branding for the new blog. I’m also building up some content so there won’t be so much downtime in between posts when life gets busy. Exciting things are coming soon!

Have I ever told you about my clearance t-shirt addiction? It used to be a bit of a problem.

Academy Sports, which is like kryptonite to my frugality, always has a clearance section. Always.  They set up rack after rack of t-shirts, running shorts, cargo pants, skorts, and other wonderfulness at deep discounts. Now, I’m not a skort lover, and I really only need the standard amount of pockets on my pants, but the t-shirts get me every time. Especially on the $4.88 or less rack. I mean, who can argue with a $2 t-shirt? Honestly for $2 I might have even bought a skort, it was that bad.

So every time we went, which at times was more frequent than it probably should have been, I would load up on cheap shirts. I might only spend $30 but I would leave with an armload of new clothes. It was a wonderful thing.

The problem was this… for every one shirt out of the bunch that I loved there were usually 5 that didn’t fit quite right. Or after a month or two they started wearing thin, because there’s usually a reason a shirt has been marked down to less than the price of a gallon of milk. Academy really doesn’t have bad clothes, they sell great stuff and I love the store, but the ones they put on the lowest priced clearance rack are probably not made by the really dedicated clothes-making elves. More like the disgruntled elf who really wanted to be a leprechaun but had overly involved parents.

But I would keep them, because who wants to get rid of a brand new shirt? I’m sure I’ll wear it sometime, my tastes will probably change and the odd cut of that neckline will be very flattering in a few months. No, not so much. And so I eventually ended up with a wardrobe that I only wore about 50% of.

That was pretty easy to ignore though… until we started decluttering. I mean really decluttering, the last round or two before we sold it all and moved. That was when I couldn’t avoid the cheap t-shirts any longer. I only had so much room in the closet of the Turtle, and I didn’t want it taken up with clothes I didn’t wear. But I still tried to sneak some of the newer not flattering shirts into the bunch, because I might take up painting or catfish noodling and need something to wear.

Shortly after that I found out about Project 333 and decided to give it a shot, so you basically know the rest of the story. I pared down to 33 articles of clothing, including shoes, purses, hats, and sunglasses, for the first 3 months we were here. Obviously there wasn’t any room for stuff I didn’t like, so all of them went to Goodwill. That in itself was freeing in an odd way.

And then a funny thing happened. I started looking at the price tags on clothes a little different. I still want a deal, but it has to be worth it at full price for me to want it at a discount. The cheapest clearance rack still gets a look through, but now I usually pass up the $2 shirts. After all, 10 $2 shirts that I don’t wear would pay for 1 really nice shirt that I’ll wear for years.

In fact I even bought a $50 hoodie the other day. It was on clearance, retail price of $75. I bought it to replace all of the hoodies that are sitting in my tote waiting for the fall swap. The reason I paid $50 for a hoodie when I obviously could have found a cheaper alternative? Quality and comfort, obviously. The neck of this one was wide and comfy (my biggest complaint usually), the cut was loose but flattering, the fabric was super soft, and it was a brand that I know and love. It’ll last me years in good shape. Because of all those things, combined with the fact that now I have fewer clothes in general, I didn’t mind spending a little extra money for one item.

Quality doesn’t have to mean more expensive, you can shop around and find brands that are well made and not quite as expensive, or you can buy as you find things on clearance, which is what I try to do. But the plain and simple truth is that if you aren’t buying as much you can afford to pay more per item, that’s just math. In the end you might even find you’ve saved a little money while getting nicer stuff, which is a pretty cool bonus.

So, I think that’s been one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from this project so far, the lesson of quality over quantity. And once you apply it to one area of your life it’s easy to extend the thinking elsewhere… household items, time, fitness, relationships, even food. I think we can all agree that one really nice sandwich made at home trumps 5 gas station corn dogs any day. Right?

Look around, is there something you’ve been avoiding spending more money on by spending less money more often? Or something you’ve been giving a ton of time to but only halfway doing? I was guilty of it in a lot of areas, but it’s a work in progress!

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Average

First off, I have to apologize for having gone rogue and left you hanging here. I hope you found the Oreos and the remote.

Evidently our brief tent camping adventure actually tried to kill me, which might make me the biggest wuss in the history of tent camping.

In reality that’s probably not what did it, but the timing is definitely hard to ignore. I’ve been sick for the last eleven days with pleurisy. Which I now know is a Latin word with the literal translation “Horrible stabby pains throughout the torso accompanied by sudden onset asthma”. I think the Greeks referred to it as “Oh my God why does THAT hurt now?!” and it’s marked on the Mayan calendar as a series of flying monkey carvings and comic book swear words.

Needless to say I’ve had trouble focusing on writing anything of any significant purpose. But as of yesterday I’m feeling much better. I believe it’s due to threatening myself with a return trip to the doctor… cleared it right up. Others might attribute it to the round of steroids, but I’m sure it was just my super strong self control.

I haven’t just been lying around groaning though. I mean, I have been lying around groaning, but I’ve done plenty of other stuff as well. Remember that secret society I joined a couple of weeks ago? The one that you probably thought was a cult when I disappeared? Well you can quit tracking down their bearded leader, it’s turning out to be one of the best things I’ve done in quite some time.

Last week we were placed in groups of 24 and given a partner. We introduced ourselves, started private Facebook groups, shared a cup of Kool Aid, and waited for the actual experiment to start on Monday.

The experiment itself is nothing overly magical. Right now it consists of a short email every morning asking us to do something very simple, to take one small step down the path towards our goal. Pretty basic stuff.

If I’m being totally honest with myself I was actually pretty skeptical when I joined this group. As excited as I was about the mysterious aspect of the project and the possibilities that came along with it I really didn’t know how it was going to help any of us face our fears, much less achieve our goals. I’m not sure Jon Acuff even knew what he hoped to accomplish, which is probably why he called it the Start Experiment and not the Definitive Start Project.

I’m no stranger to goal achieving attempts either, I’ve done plenty in the past in an attempt to try and move myself along. I’ve read books and bought courses, I’ve joined small groups of other entrepreneurs. I’m a pretty smart girl and when I set my mind to something I can be very motivated. But despite all that I’m still basically in the same place I was 5 years ago career-wise. Nothing significant has changed. I’ve learned things, improved things, gained business and lost business, worked and not worked. But the net result of it all is that I’m still not where I want to be, nor am I much further down the path. Things were getting stagnant in the life’s work department.

Then a funny thing happened. I joined a group of 2,547 other people who also wanted to push through and do something more with their lives. People who had lofty dreams and challenges and fears just like I do.

At first it was disorganized, no one really knew what to do or expect from the project, or what was expected of us. But in the last few days things have started to happen in big ways for people. Something has shifted in the wind. People are coming out of their shells, they’re making moves previously considered unfathomable, they’re doing things that were totally unconsidered, although entirely possible, before.

I personally have stepped way outside my self induced shell, and I have to say the air is pretty invigorating out here. I’ve put myself out there and asked for help on my own website (do you have any idea how humbling that is for a designer?), I’ve confessed my fears and faced them in front of hundreds of people, I’ve made great contacts with people doing exactly the thing I want to do, I’ve found people willing to mentor me and others willing to be clients, my website looks better than it ever has, my teeth are whiter, and my laundry smells like fresh cut daisies. No kidding.

I know It might sound crazy or even cult like, and it might be very hard to understand how a simple little experiment could have such an effect on so many people, but in reality it’s not just the experiment. It’s the other people going through it with you. It’s the accountability, the community, the fact that no matter what you’re afraid of there is definitely someone else afraid of the same thing and another 20 people ready to tell you that your fear is completely unfounded*.

It’s also the tasks we’ve been given. We weren’t told on the first day to write a business plan or hand out 5 business cards. Instead we were told on the third day to identify our superheroes, those people who have come before us and done exactly what we want to do. That in itself was a humbling experience, reaching out to someone and saying “Hey, I’m not sure I know what I’m doing, but you seem to… can I ask you some questions?”. That’s not something I would have willingly done before, and it’s pretty damn hard to do if you’re older than 12. But I’m learning now that it’s oh so important.

I’m also learning to ask for help, I’m learning to not stop learning, and that no one operates in a bubble. All from letting down my guard and admitting that I can’t do it all myself. Which ironically is something I actually didn’t need a group of 2600 people to learn, but I’m glad I found them anyway.

It’s been a pretty intense four days to have only received four short paragraphs by email. I feel really good things coming out of this, and I can’t wait to share them. Especially now that the flying monkeys are gone.

For now the moral of this story is this little quote, which is one of my favorites. I’m starting to think it’s the key to a lot more than I thought.

I hope you can find something scary to do today.

 

Everything you want is on the other side of fear.

– George Addair

 *Unless it’s a fear of garden gnomes, the conclusion was reached that the fear of garden gnomes is well founded.

It’s That Time Again – Project 333 Season Finale

wpid-IMG_20130701_085750.jpg

This will be a two post day as I try to catch up from last week. I’ll post an update on our air conditioner situation and some other things shortly!

The end of June marks the end of my first go at the Project 333 challenge.

In case you haven’t been keeping up with my clothing inventory (And why not?) I decided to try Project 333 after we made the move to the Turtle. After going through our closet to declutter and then move I started to realize I was not the minimalist I originally thought, and it looked like a fun experiment.

So in the beginning of April I laid all my clothes out in the bedroom and painstakingly narrowed them down to what I actually loved and wore. The rest was packed away in a tote and taken to storage. For the last 3 months I’ve worn only 33 items of clothing including my shoes, purse, hats, and superhero costumes.

This first three months have been full of a lot of different temperatures, and I’ve cheated a few times, but I have to say I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ve spent so much less time deciding what to wear, and my closet has never been more organized. And in a bit of an unexpected turn of events I’ve actually learned a few things about myself.

I don’t actually need 33. There were several things that were barely worn this time around. I’m not sure how many, but I’d be willing to bet I actually only wore 25 items on a regular basis. That gives me a little confidence in how little I can get by with.

Choosing wrong isn’t the end of the world. I made a few mistakes when I chose my wardrobe the first time, and the weather wasn’t quite right for certain shirts and dresses. The last few weeks it’s been warm enough, but next time around I’ll save those things for the ‘summer’ cycle. But even though I’ve cheated a few times, nothing bad happened. Courtney Carver didn’t come busting out of the closet and cuff me. It’s just a challenge meant to make you look at part of your life more objectively, to reevaluate your needs. The number almost doesn’t even matter, it’s the process and intention that counts.

The second time was much easier than the first. Part of that might be the similarity in the weather between these two cycles, most of my clothes from last time were already warm weather things. Part of it also has to be that I’m a little more confident in knowing the things I actually wear now. I’ve learned what I really need on a regular basis. The first time around there was an odd amount of fear that I would choose wrong or that I would want the clothes I was putting up. This time was pretty simple… I made sure about half of my shirts were comfortable t-shirts and the other half were nicer looking. I kept out my jeans and all my shorts, and added another dress that would work for a little nicer event.

My spring/summer wardrobe is getting there. I put a few shirts that just weren’t quite right into a donate pile and the rest of my non-33 warm weather stuff went back into the tote headed for storage, but this time it was only a few things. A pair of flip flops and a few t-shirts I might like more for fall than summer, plus a pair of overall shorts I’m not quite ready to let go of yet. I’m hopeful that by next year my 33 will be my actual wardrobe for the season. That might be a bit harder to do for fall and winter, because I have lots of sweaters and boots, but at least I’m narrowing down half the year.

Having a self imposed limit is perfect for me. I tend to hold onto things that I kind of like, or that I might like later on. It really helps to put a cap on that, it makes me re-evaluate every piece I keep out. It has to fit just right, be the right color, not be uncomfortable at all, and look pretty damn good. Otherwise in the tote it goes.

Today marks the start of the next three month cycle, and it was a no brainer for me to keep going. I was actually excited to go through and reset the closet, so I pulled the tote out on Saturday afternoon and chose my next 33 a couple of days early. I’m curious to see what I actually wear out of the bunch, so this time I also turned all my hangers around as I put things up. When I wear something and put it back I’ll turn it’s hanger around the right way and at the end of 3 months it will be obvious what’s been used and what hasn’t.

Here’s what I’m starting with:

1. Aviator sunglasses
2. Brown purse
3. Under Armour visor
4. Strappy brown sandals
5. Reef flip flops (I’ll have to replace these by next year… they’re mostly just decorative at this point)
6. Sneakers
7. Jeans
8. Cutoff denim shorts
9. Regular denim shorts
10. Capris
11. Nike running shorts
12. Hangout t-shirt
13. Jack Daniels t-shirt
14. Yellow Old Navy t-shirt
15. Nike t-shirt #1
16. Nike t-shirt #2
17. Green tank
18. White shirt with leaves
19. Shirt with cool back
20. Blue tank
21. Blue strapless dress
22. Coral sundress
23. Pink dress
24. Blue plaid peasant top
25. Red t-shirt
26. Black floweredy dress
27. Grey kitten heels
28. White shirt with blue flowers
29. Lacy t-shirt
30. Nike t-shirt #3
31. Life is Good t-shirt
32. Green v-neck t-shirt
33. Grey racerback tank

Swap items:
1. White strapless shirt
2. Green flip flops (In case the others don’t make it till next year)

If you haven’t heard of Project 333 you should check it out or create your own version… it’s a neat little challenge that might help you simplify your life a little more. Or at least your closet!

Project 333 – 2 Months In

So, I seem to be doing Project 331… or maybe 313, I’m not sure.

Tomorrow brings the end of my second month living with less clothes. And evidently I’m both better and worse at it than I thought.

I was prepared to confess how big of a cheater I have been, and I still am a bit, but after writing this post and re-writing my list to share with you I realized that during the excessive swapping this month I’ve actually shorted myself by two items. Challenge accepted.

Regardless of the amount I have though, I’ve still swapped more than the three items that were laid out in the original challenge, and I’ve cheated twice as well. So here we go… allow me to rationalize myself to you in order to excuse my terrible cheating.

It’s been one month since my last confession.

First off, there was one pair of jeans that I had originally kept for the sake of variety because I was going into an office every day. With no office in the foreseeable future I decided to nix those, and since the weather has warmed up substantially I decided to swap out my heavier North Face jacket and another jacket for two more t-shirts. Swap Numero Uno.

I’ve also found that my wardrobe changed a bit when we moved to the campground, as you might expect. I started this with one pair of denim shorts, a pair of overall shorts, and a pair of capris. That was my normal summer wardrobe, and last summer it was fine because I was inside working quite a bit, plus we lived on a shady hillside. Here, however, I’m outside a lot more. And while our actual campsite is shaded the rest of the park stays pretty sunny. I walk in the mornings and at night, carry my laundry over to the main building, take my work outside for much of the day, and most evenings we sit outside relaxing until nearly time for bed.

Over the past two months I’ve also discovered the wonder that is silky feeling running shorts. These things are awesome! I started out with just one pair that I walk in (remember workout clothes don’t count), but they’re so extremely comfortable that I wanted a black pair to wear with t-shirts, which led to also finding a pair in grey cotton. So I’ve added two pairs of shorts, and to do so I got rid of more shirts. Swap Numero Dos.

Let me preface the next part of this story by saying that I should know when we leave the house to take a change of clothes, a passport, and an overnight bag. Just sayin’.

Really though, we’re pretty spontaneous, and a short trip to the store sometimes turns into a 14 hour journey. As did our trip to Wal Mart on Saturday. We had already been out all day at yard sales and a little local festival (found a $2 duffel bag for the upcoming trip… woot!). So we came home, spent approximately an hour on an impromptu clean-out-the-basement-and-wipe-bird-crap-off-the-car session, and headed out again about 4 o’clock to pick up a few things from the Mart.

Long story short, Marty ended up playing music with some of his friends at an annual Memorial Day party until nearly 2am. In the gap between watching bands play in the park in Lewisburg and going to the party the temperature changed big time, and I had left in shorts and a tank top! So to avoid freezing to death or having to go the whole opposite direction for a pair of pants and my cardigan the decision was made to steal clothes from the stash of Non-333’s I have in a tote in storage for now. The aforementioned dark jeans and jacket made a much appreciated brief appearance, but I’m happy to say as soon as we got home I stacked them in a dining room chair to head back to storage. Cheat Numero Uno.

Last but not least, yesterday I put on the blue and coral running shorts that I usually only walk in, went for my walk, and got so busy I forgot didn’t want to change back out of them. They’re just so comfy… Cheat Numero Dos.

So, 600 words later, I’m a terrible cheater! However, I feel a little justified in the fact that my entire lifestyle changed twice in the last two months. Once when we moved to the campground (we had only been here a week when I started this challenge), and again when I left the office. I feel like future quarters will be a little easier now that I’m settled in.

I do have one problem though, and maybe you guys can help me out. Our weather here is pretty unpredictable, last year it warmed up at the beginning of March and didn’t cool down again until November, this year has been rather cool some days in May still. In April when I started this we were still having 30 degree mornings and mild days, while this month we’ve had a mix of 90 degree days and 60 degree days, some cold nights and some warm. Next month I imagine will be pretty hot.

I needed my North Face jacket when this started, but after about a month it was taking up valuable real estate that I needed for warmer weather attire. It’s probable that I won’t have to swap as much the next time around, so I could keep it as one of my three swap items, but you just never know around here.

So, if you’re doing The Project too, how do you handle the weather changes in spring and fall? Do you live somewhere that summer starts in any random month between March and June?

In case you’re really bored or just curious, I’ve added my updated list below for your perusal.

My Current 33 31

  1. Aviators

  2. Brown leather purse

  3. Reeboks

  4. Brown t-strap sandals

  5. Reef flip flops

  6. Rubber boots – White Nike tee

  7. Favorite Silver jeans

  8. Dark jeans – Black running shorts

  9. Holy capris

  10. Denim Shorts

  11. Denim overalls

  12. Coral sundress

  13. Pink dress

  14. Blue strapless sundress

  15. Dark blue tank

  16. Grey knit tank – Brown and Coral North Face tee

  17. Green racer back tank

  18. Grey racer back tank

  19. White tube top

  20. Green v-neck shirt

  21. Light blue t shirt

  22. Orange baggy T-shirt

  23. White t-shirt with cool back

  24. T-shirt with leaves

  25. Mesh t-shirt

  26. Titans t-shirt

  27. White T-shirt with blue flowers

  28. Brown 1/2 sleeve shirt – Gray running shorts

  29. Brown cardigan

  30. Grey merona pullover

  31. North Face jacket (Will swap out later)

  32. Hangout t shirt

  33. Under Armour visor

Defining Simplicity. Or Not.

I think sometimes when people start trying to change their lives for the better by making intentional choices and downsizing they get caught up in all the labels, numbers, and monthly challenges that are floating around.

They start reading blogs, looking for ideas, learning about a lifestyle that’s relatively new to this generation. And there are so many great blogs out there right now, there really is a simple living movement going on (more on that in a future post!).

But it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the stories of people doing awesomely cool things and having so little to tie them down. And everyone seems to have their own name for what ‘it’ is… simple living, voluntary simplicity, minimalism, no one is the same. Which is perfectly fine, it’s a beautiful thing that we don’t have to conform to one certain way of living.

But for someone just diving into this world there might be more questions than answers at first – Am I a minimalist or do I just believe in voluntary simplicity? Is there even a difference? Do I have too many pairs of pants? She only has one outfit… I look like a hoarder in comparison. Could I fit everything I own in a single suitcase? I could see how a person might even give up before they make any real change in their own life.

There may be a feeling of perceived peer pressure… if you can’t get down to 100 possessions, or 33 items of clothing, or cut off your cable, what’s the point of doing anything at all?

Or inadequacy… If you aren’t going to quit your job, move to Guam and start a school for orphans, then you might as well just stay right where you’re at. What’s that? You don’t want to sell your house and live in an RV? You like your dishwasher?! Well, you’re just in the whole wrong place then.

There are so many distinct and amazing stories of people changing their lives available in a single Google search that it can be really easy to start comparing yourself to these people, your stuff to their stuff, your life to their life, and get frustrated.

Monthly challenges like Project 333 are a fun way to expand your mind and help you realize how little you really need to be happy… or maybe that you really like having more than 33 items of clothing. I love taking on a challenge that pushes me out of my comfort zone, just to see what I can do.

Reading blogs is another one of my favorite things, it’s a nice way to see how others live and get tips to apply to your own life. I learn something every day from some of my favorite bloggers.

But challenges and blogs are not definitive guides to being minimalist. There is no one right way to change your own life.

The thing is, minimalism/voluntary simplicity/intentional living/zen living/whatever you choose to call it is never the goal. If your goal is to own nothing while not improving your life in any way then you need to reevaluate.

Simple living is the means to an end, and both the means and the end will be different from one person to the next.

Maybe your end goal is to quit your job and start a lifestyle business, or maybe you love your job and you just want to have more free time on the weekends because there’s less to maintain.

Maybe you want to be able to spend more of your time or money helping others, or maybe you want to travel the world while you can.

Maybe you like to kayak every weekend, or maybe you’re perfectly happy at home watching a movie.

It doesn’t matter what your goal is.

Intentional living is the act of removing the unnecessary so that you have more resources available for the things you love, whatever those things may be.

Its about having an extra healthy respect for moderation. Understanding that you have a finite amount of resources available to you – time, money, energy, space. By choosing to focus those resources on what improves your life you are helping those things grow in your life. The catch is that to do that you have to take something away.

If you’ve spent all your time working a soul-draining job to pay for a house that demands too much from you than there’s no time or money left to devote to enjoying a hobby that feeds your spirit, or to just relaxing and enjoying your family.

If your closet is stuffed with clothes you don’t really like then you can’t appreciate the clothes that make you feel great.

It’s about keeping what you love and clearing away the rest.

If you dearly love your wedding china then by all means keep it, and use it! But if you haven’t opened the cabinet since before the honeymoon maybe you can let it go and make room for something better to come along.

I’ve kept all sorts of things that other people won’t understand. I have a seashell on my desk that I found on the beach last year… it’s a perfect conch shell. To some people it would be clutter but I find it beautiful, and it makes me feel a certain way when I look at it. It’s also one of only a very few things I have sitting around. And because of that I get to look at it nearly every day and remember walking on that beach and being so happy to find a perfect shell. How many of your favorite things do you look at every day?

On the other hand, I’ve gotten rid of countless knick knacks, most of the pictures hanging on my walls are now in a box waiting to go in albums, and I have a total of two coffee mugs, but other areas of my life are improving so much because I’ve made room for them to.

It’s amazing what starts showing up when you clear a path for it.

Project 333 – Thoughts From Day 22

wpid-IMG_20130327_172538_070.jpgI’m now 22 days into this experiment in paring down my closet, and I thought it might be time for another update.

For those just getting here I started this month by joining Project 333 for the first time, a 3 month long challenge which entailed taking about two thirds of my wardrobe, packing it away in a tote, and moving it to our storage building for now. You can find the original post here.

I wasn’t sure how easy or difficult it would be when I started, even though I didn’t wear a ton of clothes to begin with. It was just a little scary those first few days, looking at the gaping hole in the closet where the rest of my clothes used to live and not having the options I had before.

Now, 22 days in, I have made a few mistakes, learned a few surprising things, and can honestly say I really do enjoy it and will continue on when this 3 months is up. It makes me proud to look at my clothes and realize that I’m really only using what I need, and I’m looking forward to going through a full 4 seasons of this and finding out what my resulting wardrobe looks like.

Here’s a few bullet points… mistakes, surprising revelations, high points, etc.

I think my most surprising realization was the effect that this has had on my overall happiness. I didn’t realize this benefit until about a week and a half in… I looked in the mirror one day, and for about the 4th day in a row said to myself “You look pretty good today, good on ya!”. Because I don’t always talk to myself, but when I do I want to sound like an Englishman from the 1800’s.

The point being, that by having to choose my absolute favorite clothes I now end up wearing something I love every day. By extension, even though I’m wearing the same clothes more often, I feel better about myself. And ya know what else? Nobody notices or cares that I wore that shirt six days go. I logically knew this would be a benefit, but I don’t think I expected it to have an effect on my overall mood and self confidence, so that was a neat surprise.

– I lost my cardigan for several days (it fell to the bottom of the closet behind Marty’s shoes, and I didn’t look for it hard enough apparently) which really messed up some outfit choices! I did eventually find it, but the whole ordeal confirmed that for me, in this season, it’s a staple of my wardrobe.

– There have been a couple of times that I’ve gotten a little frustrated because something I wanted to wear was in storage. It was never a style issue, it was actually all weather based… we had a really cold snap and I ended up being outside for extended periods twice during it. But, other than my one cheat (see below) I managed to get by. And I realize that the frustration wasn’t at the challenge itself, or the lack of enough clothes, but at my own failure in choosing the right clothes for our weather. I’ll know better next time around hopefully.

– I did end up cheating once. I didn’t keep a long sleeved shirt out originally, I had a pullover and a cardigan, but there are times in early spring that a long sleeved shirt layered under a t-shirt is the best choice. We had a ballgame to go to on a particularly nasty cold evening, and I didn’t want to freeze to death for the sake of my experiment. So I found a long sleeved shirt that I hadn’t taken to storage yet (it was in the wash at the time), I had thrown it in the back of the closet to take later. Even with the long sleeve, my pullover, and the North Face jacket I still froze! I hated to cheat, but not enough to be even colder for those couple of hours. That also reaffirmed the fact that I need a long sleeve at all times, just in case!

– I bought a few things yesterday, which were mostly upgrades to things I already had, but two of them did have to be swapped into the closet and something else removed. I took out my North Face jacket until this fall and replaced it with a bit lighter weight zip up sweatshirt that I bought on clearance. I also swapped out a strapless shirt for a long sleeve shirt I picked up (also on clearance). The strapless shirt will probably come back out for the summer round, but I really won’t have much chance to wear it until then. I’ll be better equipped to make realistic choices based on the weather from now on I think.

I don’t buy clothes very often, but I’d like to eventually have a smaller wardrobe made of higher quality pieces… so I picked these two well made shirts up on after season clearance, as well as a pair of really nice, thick, comfy lounge pants, and a nice running shorts/tank set (did I mention it was a great clearance sale?!). I then swapped out two pairs of pajama pants that worn out or didn’t fit, a pair of running shorts that didn’t fit well, and several pairs of pajamas and a few workout shirts. I think all in all I came out with less items and more quality, so no buyers remorse here.

So far my overall impression of Project 33 = really positive. I’ll be joining up again at the end of this season for sure… hopefully you’ll join in if you haven’t already!