When was the last time you listened to yourself and paid attention to the words that were coming out of your mouth? Have you ever noticed a pattern? Is there one thing you talk about (or complain about) most days of the week? Maybe it’s a concern about money, or trouble in a relationship, or an annoyance at work. I can look back and think of examples for all of these things, at various points in my life.
A few days ago, I finally noticed I was saying the same few words over and over: tired, exhausted, blur. I was managing the tired/exhausted feelings for a few weeks. It didn’t feel good, but I knew it was temporary. However, “blur” was a new one—and that is the opposite of why I live a slower lifestyle. I prefer to act with intention, so I can create (and actually remember) the life I want. This lifestyle is also a preventative measure for me, because I know what happens when I am tired/exhausted/feel the blur for too long (increased anxiety + panic attacks).
My anxiety hasn’t crept in too much lately, but I do feel like I’ve been operating in a way that is not sustainable for me personally, so I know it’s time to change what I’m doing. And that’s something I have learned many times now, after paying attention to what I’m saying and how I’m feeling: if it’s within your control, you should absolutely make a change and move yourself in the direction you want to be going.
Personally, I know I want to get back to work—slow, intentional work—the work I love doing, and the work I want to remember doing. After listening to this episode of Hurry Slowly, I wrote down my list of work priorities, then matched it up to my existing calendar and realized I wasn’t doing any of them. I wasn’t writing or creating anything. I also had no time to do either. Instead, my calendar was full of things that were draining my energy, and taking up more time than I could afford to spare (think: 3 hours out of the house for a 4-minute interview).
I will never regret taking a step back from work and doing all of those interviews. If anything, I’m starting to see that it was short-term work for long-term success of the book. So, I won’t regret it, and I am extremely grateful for the opportunities. But I genuinely want to do some real work. I want to write and sketch and create! Not so surprisingly, I’ve decided to setup a challenge (with some intentions/rules) to make this happen.
I’m calling it the Season of Work Challenge!
It starts today and ends on April 17th. For the next 30 days, I’m going to:
write every day (this is my top priority)
work Monday-Friday and attempt to take weekends off
track how many hours I work (and how many per project)
try to work 40 hours/week or less, including:
20 hours of writing/creating (4 hours/day)
no more than 5 hours of interviews
and complete at least one new project!
I wish I could say that I thought this was going to be a walk in the park. Every part of this challenge feels like . . . well, like it’s going to be a challenge. I have journaled a little this year, and wrote 750 words/day for about two weeks. But I don’t have a schedule, and I don’t know how many hours I’ve been working. I also haven’t created—much less completed—a new project in months. So yes, this is going to be a huge shift.
Even though it won’t be easy, I haven’t felt this excited about work in a long time. I’m excited to write! I’m excited to have a schedule and structure! I’m excited to attempt to take weekends off! My intention for the weekends is to have 1 adventure day + 1 full day off. This feels sooo exciting! (Are you excited yet or sick of the word? Sorry! Too excited to care!) Spring is here, and I am ready for a change.
Aside from committing to writing one blog post each week, I don’t know what the new project I start/complete will be yet. All I know is that I’m done with the words tired, exhausted and blur—and I’m ready to take back control of my calendar and my work life. I want to finish this challenge and find myself saying three new words over and over: creative, energized and accomplished.
Is anyone else itching for a season of work?
PS – I’m going to stay accountable to this challenge by sharing updates via Instagram Stories! Every day, I will show you a behind the scenes look at whatever I’m working on. I will also tally up the number of hours I have worked each day, share the final number on Fridays, and let you know how my weekends off are going. ;)
As my friend Paul Jarvis says, PRE-S: I’m doing a mini Canadian book tour right now! If you’re in Toronto (TONIGHT), Ottawa (Monday), Edmonton (next week), Squamish or Victoria, come say hi!
Hello, my beautiful friends!
I know it’s been a little while . . . 7 weeks, to be exact! But 7 is my favourite number (my birthday is 7/7) so it felt like as good a time as any to make a return. :)
There are so many things I want to share right now. I’m a big believer in only writing blog posts when you feel like you have something to say, rather than forcing yourself to stick to a strict schedule. I have also taken enough short periods of time off from the blog to learn that distance always helps me generate new ideas—and after 7 weeks, I now have an abundance of them! But first, I want to share some general updates on what I’ve been doing, consuming, and thinking about so far this year.
What I’ve Been Doing
As you probably imagined, I’ve spent the majority of the past 7 weeks promoting The Year of Less. I knew I would have to leave a couple weeks of my calendar open for any possible press opportunities, but I was not prepared for how all-consuming this launch would become. The week before it came out, Raincoast Books (my Canadian distributor) told me they were making it one of their lead titles of the season, which also meant they would be setting up a bunch of Canadian press, etc. That’s when I learned that book launches are a HUGE TEAM EFFORT. I honestly feel like I won the lottery, and have no idea how I got so lucky to have an entire team of people working on this for me. I mean, I know now that this is how they make a living too! But up until a week before the book came out, I genuinely had no idea how this part of the publishing process worked. It’s all been so fascinating, and I’m just extremely grateful to be part of this experience.
So for the past 7 weeks, I have been doing A LOT of press. In the first week alone, I did 30 interviews (more than half of which were radio). I also got to do my first live TV interviews in Vancouver, and am now in Toronto to do more (I talked to Ben Mulroney yesterday! And was a guest on THE SOCIAL!). I was SO overwhelmed by how many friends in the personal finance + minimalism spaces reached out and offered to have me on their podcasts, spread the word, do giveaways, etc. (Thank you, thank you, thank you, my friends!) And then a couple big things happened I still can’t really believe!? Like Vogue listed TYOL as 1 of 7 nonfiction books to change your life in 2018. CBC Books listed it as a work of Canadian nonfiction to watch out for. And then there was this little article in The New York Times . . . yep, I’m still pinching myself about that one.
It has been an incredible time, friends. And something I can’t imagine I will ever experience again!? I mean, I guess I could write more books and have more launches. But TYOL will only come out once, so I have been trying to soak it all up! As such, I haven’t been doing a whole lot of, you know, actual work!? Whenever I have downtime, I’ve been trying to get some quality time in with family/friends, and also going out for walks/snowshoe adventures (and sharing pics of those on Instagram). I’m so grateful for the interviews, but they can also drain my usually-introverted self. But after this little Canadian book tour, I am guessing the press will die down and things can go back to business as usual. I’m still not sure what the “usual” looks like, because it feels like a lot has changed, and the book has opened up some doors I didn’t even know were an option for me before!? But slowly and surely, I will figure this stuff out.
The one thing I have been working on is a new season of the podcast! We’re already three-quarters of the way through season 5, which wraps up at the end of March. You can catch up on all eps here!
What I’ve Been Consuming
Ok, so aside from doing all the things related to the book launch, there’s one thing I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about + trying to change this year, and that’s how I’m consuming information. It started with my decision to cancel my Netflix membership. That’s something I was toying around with for a month or so, then pulled the plug in early January and have been living without it ever since. I will write a full post about this soon, but for now I will say that it is not my intention to never watch Netflix again. I just entered 2018 knowing I wanted to spend less time watching television—and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. Here’s a list of the books I’ve read, podcasts I’ve been listening to, and blogs/newsletters I’ve been enjoying this year.
As you might notice, a lot of them have been on the topic of creativity (although Ally’s memoir has definitely been my fave). I’m also in the middle of reading: Meet Cute, Let the Elephants Run and Scratch.
Being Boss – an old fave I have been listening to since they first launched in January 2015
I’ve also been listening to basically every interview Ruthie Lindsey has done (just search her name in iTunes and you’ll find some) and I think I read she’s starting a podcast!? Fingers crossed that’s true.
At the beginning of this year, I deleted my Feedly account and decided to change the way I find/read blogs. Instead of scrolling through hundreds (even thousands) of blog post titles each week, I have started signing up for people’s newsletters again—and I am loving getting the updates and inspiration delivered right to my inbox. Here are some of the ones I’ve been enjoying. If you have any faves, please tell me about them!
and I support my friends Tammy + Nicole and love the newsletters for their members
(As a side note: this is the exact opposite of how I have been consuming content for the past few years, so here’s a reminder that you are allowed to change the way you do things.)
What I’ve Been Thinking About
Aside from cancelling Netflix, one of the other reasons I’ve been able to change the way I consume information in 2018 is because Jay and I both stopped working on Rockstar Finance at the beginning of the year. For the past three years, it has been my job to read as many blog posts published in the personal finance space as possible. That was an incredible privilege, and I am so grateful that we were able to help so many bloggers by sharing their amazing content on the site! But it wasn’t until walking away that I realized how many hours I would get back each week—and that I would have so many other interests and ideas for what to do with them!
I have become obsessed with the idea of finding inspiration from other sources. That means not consuming as much of what’s created by people in the same space, but instead consuming content created by people who are in entirely different fields. I’ve been reading about design (and following more designers/makers on Instagram), writing, baking and what it means to live more seasonally. I have also thought a lot about creativity, and some of my fears (and also big ideas!) around what it means to live a more creative life. I don’t know what all of this means for me yet, but it feels really good to be exploring new topics and thinking outside the box.
One thing I know for sure: I’m so happy to “be back”! I have missed writing and missed you. And I’d love to hear how 2018 has been for you, so far. :)
Good morning, friends! And what a beautiful morning it is, even with all the rain we are expecting here. No amount of precipitation will get me down, because today will always be the day my first book was released into the world! January 16, 2018 felt so far away . . . but now The Year of Less is finally here!
The early response to the book has been incredible. And when I say early, I mean early. Random copies started to pop-up all over the world in mid-December. I heard from readers in Australia, Ireland, Ohio, Indiana, Ontario, and BC who had picked up copies from their local library or bookstore. It made me a little anxious, at first, because I didn’t feel “ready” for it to be out in the world. But I have learned that I am probably never going to feel ready! I just have to be ready enough, and that’s where I am now. What helps me feel ready enough is seeing it in your hands, hearing what it has stirred up inside of you, which parts you’ve related with and why. I’ve seen a bit of this start to show up on Instagram, but I want to hear more.
I can honestly say I am totally overwhelmed in the best way possible right now. Part of me wants to say something sentimental, like how I’ve always dreamt of writing a book and seeing it in stores—and that’s true! But I’m just going to spend the day celebrating. I’m not usually very good at that, but this is a milestone I want to remember forever. Here are some ways you can celebrate with me. :)
It’s currently available in hardcover, e-book and audiobook! You can also ask your local bookstore or library to carry it. It would make me extra happy to know it’s in more libraries. :)
2. Write a review on Amazon!
For inspiration, you can read some of the things written by the people who read + endorsed the book, but I want to hear what YOU thought of it. Why did you buy the book? What was your favourite part or the most surprising thing about it? What did you learn or gain from reading The Year of Less? Did it inspire any ideas for ways you want to change your life or your habits as a consumer? Whatever comes to mind, I would greatly appreciate you sharing it in a review on Amazon. This helps authors more than I ever realized. <3
Note: When you visit the Amazon page, scroll down and click on “Write a customer review”! Thank you, friend!
3. Share your story on Instagram!
Here comes the fun part. Ever since I started writing it, one of my dreams has been to see The Year of Less out in the wild. I thought about this when I completed the proposal in Squamish in May 2016, and when I was scribbling notes down on the side of the road during my huge solo road trip around the US, and again when I finished the first draft in Squamish last January. The ideas for this book have come from all over North America—and I would love to see where the final product goes around the world.
But I don’t just want to see the book on Instagram. I want to read your story. Maybe you include some of what you put in your review. Or maybe it’s a story that is much more personal, but one that will help you connect with other readers who are on similar journeys. I have always believed that the more we share, the more we can all learn—and the more we can inspire each other, too! When you’re ready, we’d love to see where you are and learn more about you. Add the hashtag #theyearofless to the end and we will find you. :)
Fun fact! So far, I know people have placed orders in 21 countries: Canada, USA, Mexico, Ireland, England, Scotland, Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, France, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore. How cool is that!?
4. Join the community!
When you flip to the back of the book, you’ll find a page with information on how to join a community of like-minded people who are all trying to become more mindful consumers. On a day-to-day basis, we will connect on Instagram. But for the rest of 2018, I will also be hosting a free quarterly webinar for anyone who wants to get some face time with me + connect with the whole group in one space. The first webinar will be in mid-February, so you have a month to get to the end of the book!
Before I finish this post, I want to acknowledge everyone who has helped bring this book to life. On top of the people you’ll read about in the acknowledgments, I want to thank Tantor Media for turning it into an audiobook (which I narrated!), Raincoast Books for helping me share it with more Canadian readers, and everyone who has taken the time to interview me and share my story with their audiences. I have learned so many things about the publishing industry, especially in these last few weeks leading up to the launch. Being a first-time author, I am continually surprised and delighted to hear just how many people are working on making the book a success. It takes a village, friends, and I am grateful for mine—and for all of you. <3
Good morning, friends! I read three posts this week that I want to share with you. The first was written by author Matt Haig back in 2015, but I only found it recently and it is still so timely. A note that it talks about depression and suicide, but there’s one quote in particular that resonated with me: “Christmas is one of those times when the idea of something doesn’t match the reality.” It is absolutely worth reading all the way through to the end.
The second post is from my friend Bianca who wrote quite honestly about why it’s time we removed the pressure around Christmas. If you’re seeing a bit of a trend here, it’s true that I’m still not in my usual Christmas spirit. I can echo what Bianca wrote: I love the lights! And the food! And I plan to take some days off! So I feel generally ok about the holiday season. It just doesn’t feel very “special,” and I’m starting to realize that is also ok.
In an attempt to remove some of the pressure around it here on this blog, there is just one thing I want to say before I log off for a few days: thank you. Thank you for being so caring and supportive this year—and not just to me but also to each other. We’ve talked about some heavy stuff here this year, and I am so grateful that this space is one that continues to remain open and safe. Thank you for being part of it.
The last post I want to share was written by Daisy for No Sidebar. In it, she shared 10 questions we could answer to end the year intentionally. This isn’t about goal-setting or trying to come up with resolutions or anything else future-thinking. It’s just a simple exercise that can help you reflect on the past year. For everything that’s happened, that felt right for me, so I answered the questions and am sharing them here.
I’m signing off for a week! In that time, I plan to complete a 1,000-piece puzzle, start and finish a new book, and spend two nights in a house on the ocean with some of my family. There’s no cell service and definitely no internet. If I could wish anything for you right now, it would be to unplug for a day—and just be. xo
1. What makes this year unforgettable?
Admittedly, I feel like I am always going to remember 2017 as the year we lost the girls. But I’m also going to remember it as the year I moved to Squamish and finally let myself settle in. Slowing down and letting myself really “be” somewhere came with its own challenges—namely that I could no longer manage my anxiety by hopping around from place-to-place, and instead had to make the decision to deal with it and do some therapy. But it also came with so many bonuses. On top of the beautiful landscapes, I found a community of creative, honest, and vulnerable women I feel so fortunate to now call my friends.
2. What did you enjoy doing this year?
Oddly, I really enjoyed not travelling much. It felt good to get to know my new home, create some routine and learn a few trails like the back of my hand. I also made time to read more books this year, which felt good too. :)
3. What/who is the one thing/person you’re grateful for?
A few people come to mind right away, but I’m going to say that I’m grateful I had the money and resources available to start therapy. For the first two months, I was going weekly which was costing $520-$650 monthly. That was obviously not a regular line item in my budget, and isn’t something I would currently be able to afford to do for an extended period of time. But having my emergency fund made me feel comfortable enough to make that decision back in April and I am so grateful for it. I never would’ve imagined that having savings would’ve been so important for my mental health, and there is no doubt that therapy has changed my life.
4. What’s your biggest win this year?
Aside from the personal growth, it would be remiss of me to not mention the fact that I wrote my first book this year! A real book! One that will be in stores in just a few weeks! (And that you still have three weeks to get the bonuses if you pre-order a copy!) There were so many lessons to take away from writing this book, but one of the most important was that it is possible to complete a big creative project. On the day I submitted the first (crappy) draft, I had this overwhelming sense of I CAN DO ANY CREATIVE PROJECT I WANT TO wash over me. I can’t imagine any writing project feeling bigger or being more all-consuming than a book. Now, I’ve written one. So, I can do anything . . . right? ;)
5. What did you read/watch/listen to that made the most impact this year?
What an amazing question. I’ll start by saying that, without question, my new favourite author is Matt Haig. The most meaningful book I read this year was Reasons to Stay Alive, which came recommended by many of you when I first shared how bad my anxiety had gotten. So thank YOU for telling me about that book, my friends. More recently, I got my hands on a copy of How to Stop Time, which doesn’t even come out in North America until February 6, 2018! It was one of the most enjoyable works of fiction I’ve read in a long time—and Benedict Cumberbatch is going to play the main character in the movie adaptation! How exciting for the author. :)
As far as what I’ve watched that’s had an impact . . . nothing comes to mind. I enjoyed a few shows: 13 Reasons Why, Atypical, The Crown and The Great British Bake Off. But I can’t say that anything had an impact. This is something I’ve thought about a lot lately. Let’s talk about it in the new year. For now, books and podcasts win!
6. What did you worry about most and how did it turn out?
Honestly, I worried about how moving away from Victoria would affect the dogs—and two months later, we lost them both. So, I wish I could say that my worries weren’t warranted, and set an example for how/why it’s important to calm our anxious thoughts. But truthfully, March, April and May were really tough months for me.
7. What was your biggest regret and why?
I don’t regret moving, obviously, but I still feel guilty about leaving the girls. I know that’s something I had no control over. It’s just how I feel; like my leaving somehow prompted the beginning of the end for them. This is something I’m obviously still working through (and might help you understand why I’m still emotional about it).
8. What’s one thing that you changed about yourself?
One of the things that became apparent very early on in therapy was that I had zero boundaries in my life. I basically did anything and everything that would make other people’s lives easier, and put everyone else’s needs ahead of my own. This was true in all of my relationships and it wasn’t healthy. In fact, it was one of the reasons my anxiety got so out of control. Thankfully, I’ve been learning how to set healthier boundaries in all areas of my life. It’s not always easy and I sometimes still let guilt takeover (this article on The Pool is another good read on that topic). But I have set some boundaries, and chosen to put myself first in some ways, and it does feel better.
9. What surprised you the most this year?
Most of this post has felt heavy, so I’m going to share a few fun/random things!
I was surprised to find myself driving across the US, from Minneapolis to BC, for the second time in a year! (And I never thought I would drive through South Dakota again, let alone twice in one year!)
I was surprised to randomly meet up with Sarah and spend two days together in Idaho and Wyoming. That’s some travelling big magic, right there. :)
I was surprised to meet my two closest friends in Squamish on Instagram—and learn that one lives right behind me, and that I can see the other’s house through the trees between our two homes!
I was really surprised to find Cheryl Strayed followed me on both Twitter and Instagram! I still don’t know how or why . . . but yea, consider me still surprised! (Let’s not jinx it.)
And I was happily surprised to find myself picking up and reading more fiction this year. It felt really good to fall in love with characters and get lost in a story.
10. If you could go back to last January 1, what suggestions would you give your past self?
If I had known what was going to happen in 2017, at the start of the year, I wouldn’t have believed it—and I wouldn’t have wanted to believe it. I don’t have a suggestion, per se, but more of a reminder: You will never regret telling people/pets how you feel, showing them affection and making sure they feel your love. When they are gone, the only thing you’ll wish is that you’d had more time together. So I would say . . . don’t rush off. Spend your time with those who matter most. Because there’s never enough of it.
I’ve gotten a handful of requests to share what the holidays look like for me now, since adopting this mindful/minimalist lifestyle. These are the same requests I have gotten every year, for the past four years. And every year, I sit down and attempt to write something helpful and meaningful, but it never feels quite right. The truth is, I don’t have a good answer—and I can’t tell other people what to do. Every year has looked different since my parents got divorced, and I’m still trying to figure out what I want the holidays to look like for me.
Sometimes, I think it’s important for us (us being bloggers) to remember that we are not experts of everything. Not only does assuming you have to be an expert put an incredible amount of pressure on yourself, but it feels disingenuous which people can read/feel. If it doesn’t feel good, I won’t write it. So, I can’t tell you which holiday traditions you should embrace now with your own new mindful/minimalist lifestyle. Instead, I’ve reached out to some of my readers and asked them to share their holiday traditions with us.
The result was a rough blog post more than 9,100 words in length that I never could have written myself. Some of the responses made me smile, and more than a few brought a tear to my eye. After deleting any duplicates and editing it, this heartwarming post is still 6,200 words long but I wouldn’t remove another thing. To make it easier though, I’ve broken the traditions up into six categories: things you can do alone, with friends or with your partner, and things you can do with kids, with family and for others. (And I’ve bolded a few I love/would love to do!)
I hope you take as much from this post as I did, friends. And thank you again. This is just another example of how powerful a community can be when we all come together. I know this holiday season, and future holiday seasons, are going to be richer for me personally because of you. xo
Traditions You Can Do by Yourself
My favourite tradition that I’ve adopted is taking all the working Fridays in December off. It just really helps slow down a month that can move a lot faster. So far, I’ve used one to do my small bit of Christmas shopping and on another I made cards, cozied up on the sofa, and worked on a craft project before I went out to see a friend. – Meghan
Every December, I read the book A Homemade Life and cook/bake one of the recipes. – Cait
I cut holly, cedar, and fir from parks in my neighbourhood, then make a wreath for our front door from the greenery. I use a wire coat hook stretched out to a circle shape, and a little craft wire. It always turns out rustic and beautiful, and of course, it’s all compostable at the end. I just save the wire and coat hanger for next year. – Shannon
For me this year, as I’ve recently become more mindful and minimal, I enjoyed dedicating one full day to making hot cocoa from scratch and watching a really cheesy Christmas movie. It’s still holiday-related, ingredients cost less than $10 (almond milk, unsweetened cocoa & maple syrup) and it gives me a chance to relax away from the chaos that the holidays can sometimes create. – Laura
I enjoy drinking from cheap snowmen glasses my parents had and I try to use them exclusively through the holidays. I use a holiday mug for my tea at home and in the office. I tied jingle bells to my purse and feel a little Santa-y as I move about. I sit in my living room and enjoy the Christmas tree lights, and usually a cat or two is close by. These are my traditions and they make up my good and happy life.
I have to spend quite some time on the road to get from one family to the other. Instead of taking the car, I choose to go by train to have some down time in between family gatherings, to read, to watch the train to pass beautiful landscape, and to listen to podcasts or music. When I was younger, my sister and I knew the song ‘Driving Home for Christmas’ would come on the radio at some point on our drive to our grandparents. Now, I deliberately put it on to get the same nostalgic feeling. – Pia
One of the Christmas traditions I have developed for just me here in the UK is on Christmas Eve. The BBC always broadcasts the nine lessons and carols service from King’s College, Cambridge on Christmas Eve. I like to listen to this and wrap my presents up (just a few gifts for my family). It helps me to reflect on what’s important at this time of year and think of other people who may not be in such fortunate circumstances. The choral singing is beautiful (one of the best choirs in the world) and really helps me to get in the Christmas spirit especially if I’ve been working right up to that point. I think it’s good to build your own traditions, they just have to be meaningful to you. – Vivienne
Every year, on Christmas morning, I wake up significantly before everyone else (think 4 or 5am), in whatever house I’m in. I take my book and a cup of tea (and holiday baking if I have it) to the Christmas tree, and just sit under the lights and read and take the time to reflect on my year and be grateful for the things and people that are part of my life. It’s often my biggest moment of quiet and calm during the holidays, which tend to be a little busy and crazy, and I look forward to it every year. – Mallory
Some years I have been invited to be with friends [on Christmas Day], and other times I am alone. No matter what my plans are later on, I always make sure to go for a run in the morning, and try to do something special for breakfast. Not something stressful-special, but more along the lines of pancakes or cinnamon buns. – Calee
I have two personal traditions. I always go to see a movie on Christmas Day (during the afternoon). I’m going alone. I like this time with myself! My other tradition is reading all the Harry Potter’s book during the holiday. I read all of them every year! – Marie-Michèle
Traditions You Can Do with Friends
Years ago, when my friend Kasey moved from Toronto to Vancouver, we decided to do something Christmassy in the city. One December night, we met up and walked through the Vancouver Christmas Market together. The next year, we went to the VanDusen Festival of Lights. And now that I’m back on the mainland, we decided to do something Christmassy again. On Monday night, we met up and walked through Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, then went out for a nice dinner after. For as long as we are both living in the Lower Mainland, I would like to keep this tradition going and visit one local attraction each year. – Cait
Every year, I go ice skating with my friend and go for a cup of hot chocolate after. It’s always nice to step away from family just for a bit, and have a chat with a close friend. It’s also so festive! – Hana
I have a dear friend I’ve known my entire life, we grew up next door to each other. Our moms used to love to craft together and now we do as part of our holiday tradition. We spend weeks looking for ideas and gathering supplies from thrift stores, and one Saturday in December we spend the entire day laughing and creating while getting glitter literally everywhere. – Patty
I live in New Zealand and a tradition I have had for a longtime is a Christmas morning walk or mountain bike or run in the hills with my close friend. We decided a long time ago that in order to cope with the busyness of the day, we needed exercise and time for ourselves. So we get up early and spend an hour together doing what we love. It’s summer here so the mornings are bright and warm. – Rae
I had a group of friends who would get together to host an ‘Orphan’s’ Christmas’ for those who didn’t have family, or couldn’t see them, or for whom family Christmas was difficult for any reason. And it was, and is, designed to be utterly stress-free. You come if you want to, but it’s ok if you don’t. You bring food to contribute if you want to, but it’s ok if you don’t. You can bring gifts if you want to, but it’s ok if you don’t. And it’s ok if you want to bring gifts for some people but not for others—there is no sense of a gift exchange, just giving if you want to. Gifts are usually small, and very frequently handmade or consumable (or both). There’s a long table, made up by putting tables together—people bring chairs and crockery and cutlery as needed. It’s all mismatched and no one cares. There are favourite foods that certain people bring, but they may or may not appear in any given year. Every year around the table are people from a range of religious traditions and none. Dietary restrictions are dealt with by letting everyone know what’s in each dish, and people choose what they want to eat from what’s there—and there is never a shortage of food or options. We always have a great time, eat too much, laugh a lot, and all help out with the clear up. Over the years, new partners and friends, and children have been added to the mix, and it’s become accepted practice that family Christmas happens in people’s home in the morning, but that we meet around lunch time for a laid-back, relaxed party that starts in the afternoon. Kids get put to bed or taken home at some time, some people will stay overnight and people come and go as they want. It is always relaxed and happy and welcoming. – Sarah
Me and a couple of friends meet in the last weekend of November to make Christmas puddings. There are 3 friends at the core, plus some years siblings and or partners join us, and now one of my friends has had children and they are joining in too. Lots of giggles, stirring, grating, chatting and the occasional badly sung Christmas tune. The puddings get distributed among friends and family (or donated to charity if people have too many!). – Ally
When the parents of a good friend of mine passed away just before Christmas, she and I started a new tradition of going skiing first thing in the morning on Christmas Day. We had first tracks, (because most people open presents, etc. before heading to the ski hill), we splurged on a special lunch (not the cafeteria), and it became a wonderful new tradition that allowed her to remember that even though her parents were gone, she would never be alone for Christmas. – Kim
We have not exchanged gifts for years now. What my husband and I do instead is have friends and family over for dinner on a Friday or Saturday night between Christmas and New Year’s Day. I wrote about the experience last year (pictures included). This year, it will take place on December 29th and we’ll again have about 25 people. We usually manage to seat them all at tables in one single room and in reasonable proximity. All that is required of our guests is for them to attend and bring the spirit of the season with them. We take care of the rest. – Hélène
I moved away from my friends and family a few years back and have started to introduce my own traditions in an effort to enjoy the season. Before Christmas, I’ll host a potluck with my friends in my current town and, on Boxing Day, my friends at home all go out for supper and then drive around looking at lights or head back to someone’s house to just enjoy being together. – Susan
Traditions You Can Do with Your Partner
A tradition I inherited once my husband and I met was to watch the 80s film Christmas Vacation each year on the night after the Thanksgiving feast to kick off the holiday season. Now that we’ve lived in other states, we continue to do it just the two of us. And in recent years, we’ve made an effort where we’ve lived to attend the local community tree lighting, as they’re free to attend, pretty, and can help you connect with the area in which you live. – Stephanie
My husband and I share an advent calendar. It’s one of those customizable sets of drawers in a shape set ups. We decorated it together a couple years ago, and I get the odd days and he gets the evens. It is mostly filled with chocolate but we try find one or two presents that will fit the drawers to scatter through the days. We both have to be present for the opening of each day and it is a fun little routine for us in the mornings. – Meghan
We like to drive just north of where we live where there is a community of homes that all put up the most epic Christmas light displays. The past couple years we left it too long, so it was super busy and slow when we went to look. But it starts on December 1st, so this year we went on the 5th to beat the crowds. So fun! – Dayle
We just started doing the local Jingle Bell Walk/Run together. That takes place a couple of weeks before Christmas and people come out dressed up in Santa hats, blinking icicle lights, elf ears, etc. It’s a lot of fun, helps charity, and it ends in free breakfast by the beach. – Sandra
In the weeks before Christmas, we plan and save our spare money to cook a 5-star meal together: la crème de la crème! Also, my boyfriend doesn’t eat breakfast, so for Christmas morning, I plan and enjoy some *me time*, which includes cranberry pancakes, maple syrup, a good book and a good coffee, all while listening to a Christmas playlist. – Odile
We paint an ornament each to add to our Christmas tree, attend a local play of the nutcracker, exchange one gift each Christmas Eve (pyjamas are the usual), and I still cook a turkey and all the fixings (which we then eat till New Years lol). We also go ice skating and sledding, if we get snow. – Crystal
We celebrate our own little Christmas on the 23rd, dubbed Christmas Eve-Eve. We watch old Christmas movies, open the gifts we got each other, and enjoy Chinese takeout for dinner. As a total introvert, Christmas Eve-Eve is my favorite part of the holiday season; it’s the one time when we can just relax at home together. – Laura
This year we are living on a boat doing The Great Loop, so I don’t know where we will be for Christmas but I know we won’t be around family. I will be looking for other people in the marina who don’t have plans and ask them to share the day with us. Our one tradition that can travel with us anywhere is ordering takeout pizza on Christmas Eve. We started that when the kids were little and have followed through with it each year. – Mary
My boyfriend and I are adopting a tradition from Iceland: to exchange books on Christmas Eve and stay up all night (or most of the night) reading our new books. We are very excited for this new tradition because we have demanding families and it will be nice to just spend the evening relaxing and doing something we enjoy. – Sara
My partner and I have spent the last few years with our own, very simple, holiday tradition: We rent a cabin for a night or two in a nearby State Park. It’s naturally fairly minimalist because the State Parks shut off most utilities during the winter, and the cold definitely keeps the crowds out. They usually have electric lights and a wood stove for heat, but that’s about it. We have found, though, that we don’t need anything more when we can spend all day tromping around in the snow, exploring and relaxing. We sometimes still exchange small, thoughtful gifts, but the real gift is spending a few days alone (together) in the woods. It gives us a calm in the midst of the storm that is The Holiday Season. – Ashley
Christmas traditions changed quite a bit once we got married 3 years ago. We are still slowly working on making our own traditions, but our favourites so far include playing lots of board games while munching on homemade baked goods. And we love to attempt The Globe & Mail Christmas crossword. We almost finished it last year! – Katrina
Every year, my husband and I sit down before we pack away the Christmas decorations and write down wishes for each person for the next year. Then, on Christmas morning, we read the wishes. It’s interesting to see how much happens in a year. It can be bittersweet, of course. But also lovely. – Sarah
Over ten years ago, we chose to lead an alcohol-free life, so we don’t “do” New Year’s Eve. We get up early on New Year’s Day and take the ferry to Block Island, which is off the coast of Rhode Island. Block Island is beautiful and deserted at this time of year, so we explore and spend time outside, enjoying the natural beauty. We stop at an overlook, looking out at the ocean, and share our intentions for the coming year. We listen to the silence and sounds. We stop at the tiny grocery store and chat with the locals, admitting that we’d gone to bed at 10:00 the night before! We arrive back home, cold, tired and peaceful. – Anne
Traditions You Can Do with Your Kids
My daughter’s advent calendar has a little chocolate and something Christmassy and free/cheap to do together every day (e.g. watching a Christmas movie at home, making a gingerbread house, making Christmas decorations, visit Santa at the grotto, etc.). This year, I also added to buy food for the food bank and socks for the homeless as two of the activities. – Virginia
We’re just starting to build holiday traditions. This year is the first where our daughter isn’t a baby, so showing her things like Christmas lights at the zoo or going and looking at the fancy decorated trees are the traditions I want to instill. My favorite one from last year was to go downtown, have brunch at a fancy place, dress up for it (or at least dress the baby in something festive!), then go look at the big tree in the middle of downtown. But our traditions are fluid, too. This year, we’re doing “Christmas” the weekend of the 15th because we’re going to Arizona for ten days. – Kathleen
I’m still figuring out what our traditions are but some of the things we do include: making Mexican hot chocolate with my daughter at least once a week (I let her pour the hot chocolate from a teapot we love and share); playing Christmas music in the mornings to get the day started; watching my daughter make a dance routine for any Christmas song she likes (this year it’s Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas”); and putting reindeer antlers + a red nose on my car (kids LOVE it). We also put a tiny Christmas tree in her room with lights. My aunt gave it to her and she loves it. – Teresa
We take our daughter to the local farm, just on the edge of the town where we live, and select a gorgeous real Christmas tree from the wonderful selection they sell there. Ours is around 5 ft. tall and we know that they grow about a foot a year, so that’s 5 years worth of tree! That’s pretty humbling when you look at it like that. We bring it home, give it a good drink for a day, then drag it into the hallway of our home, where we decorate it with simple lights, plus red and silver baubles. Because it’s at the foot of the staircase, I put the lights on as soon as I come down in the morning, so our daughter can enjoy seeing it when she comes down for breakfast. – Catherine
This year we’re going without a Christmas tree, by request from my 11-year-old son who said, “Some people don’t like setting it up because it’s confusing getting the right branches in the right places and some people don’t like decorating it because it’s boring and some people think it takes up too much space and makes a mess. But I really like Easter egg hunts. Can you hide the presents in the lounge room Christmas Eve for us to find as a treasure hunt on Christmas morning?” So we’re trying that this year. – Sharon
On December 23rd, when work and school are finished for the year, we spend a night in the city. We live in a semi-rural area outside of Melbourne, Australia, and don’t get into the city much throughout the year. We spend our time checking out all the decorations in the town square, the Myer windows (a department store with amazing Christmas windows usually based around a children’s story), the beautiful buildings which have Christmas scenes projected onto them and generally getting into a festive mindset. My kids bring their money box change collected throughout the year and give this to buskers. We absolutely love to watch the many music, comedy and dance performers. To top it off, we stay in a hotel with a swimming pool which we love as it’s usually very hot here. The breakfast buffet is always a highlight too. – Jacqui
I have two daughters (27 and 26) and our tradition on Christmas Eve is to watch Christmas movie classics like: Miracle on 34th Street, Polar Express, Elf (is that considered a classic?), and It’s a Wonderful Life. We sometimes add in a new one and there are times when we don’t get through them all. We always watch It’s a Wonderful Life last. – Sharon
I have watched Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) on Christmas Eve every year since I was 4 years old. I watch holiday movies all month long, but save that one for Christmas Eve. – Cait
We have two Christmas traditions with our girls. 1. We make sure to be in our own home Christmas Eve night so we can wake up and have a slow morning with our girls – open presents, eat donuts, and play in our pyjamas! 2. On Christmas night we have a slumber party in the living room with our girls, watching Christmas movies until we fall asleep. We also started a New Year’s tradition with our girls last year. We write down a bunch of fun activities on slips of paper (movies, card games, charades, board games, etc.) and have the girls pick surprise activities out of a bag throughout the night. We made it to midnight and had a ton of fun! – Jaime
Since my eldest was 4 years old (he’s 27 now!), each year I have written a letter to each of my children in which I talk about significant things that have occurred in their life that year and ways that I’ve seen them grow. I tell them how proud I am of them and how much I love them and include a special prayer or Bible verse for the coming year. Initially, I put the letter in a box that checks had come in and wrapped it in silver paper covered with clear contact paper and I put the name of that child on the top of the box. Over the years, the boxes have come to be known as the kids’ “Silver Boxes” and they are under the tree each year. My son’s silver box now has 23 letters in it. He has told me that reading my letter is the best part of Christmas for him. This year, I also plan to write letters to a couple of friends as well, just letting them know how much their friendship means to me. The recipients don’t have to keep the letters, but they don’t take up much room if they do wish to save them. And each one is, of course, very personalized. This sort of gift doesn’t take up much room, doesn’t cost anything, and lets the recipient know how much they mean to me. – Susan
This year will be my son’s first Christmas and I can’t wait to make them wonderful for him. Something that I am going to do is prep a Christmas Eve box for him. A little box with a pair of..
Well, friends . . . today’s post is a special one. There aren’t many times in your life that you’re able to announce your book is available for pre-order. In fact, there is only one time that you’re able to announce your first book is available for pre-order. Today is that day for me, and I am thrilled to share the good news: The Year of Less is coming out in just six weeks (January 16, 2018), and is now available for pre-order in FOUR regions!
I can’t begin to describe how it feels to be typing these words. In some ways, it still feels like a dream. A few years ago, I couldn’t have imagined that I would ever get the opportunity to turn part of my story into a book. And even when I started working with my literary agent, I couldn’t have imagined the book would become what it is today. Here’s the description you’ll read on all the sales pages:
In her late twenties, Cait Flanders found herself stuck in the consumerism cycle that grips so many of us: earn more, buy more, want more, rinse, repeat. Even after she worked her way out of nearly $30,000 of consumer debt, her old habits took hold again. When she realized that nothing she was doing or buying was making her happy-only keeping her from meeting her goals-she decided to set herself a challenge: she would not shop for an entire year.
The Year of Less documents Cait’s life for twelve months during which she bought only consumables: groceries, toiletries, gas for her car. Along the way, she challenged herself to consume less of many other things besides shopping. She decluttered her apartment and got rid of 70 percent of her belongings; learned how to fix things rather than throw them away; researched the zero waste movement; and completed a television ban. At every stage, she learned that the less she consumed, the more fulfilled she felt.
The challenge became a lifeline when, in the course of the year, Cait found herself in situations that turned her life upside down. In the face of hardship, she realized why she had always turned to shopping, alcohol, and food—and what it had cost her. Unable to reach for any of her usual vices, she changed habits she’d spent years perfecting and discovered what truly mattered to her.
The first two paragraphs might make you—my longtime readers—think the book is just a story about the shopping ban. But the shopping ban is only the timeline. The real story is all the stuff I wasn’t comfortable sharing with you that year. It was too hard; too real; too emotional. I needed time and space from it all, before I could finally put pen to paper. Now, with the help of my agent and editor, I’m finally sharing it in The Year of Less.
I shed a lot of tears while writing this book. There are stories here that I haven’t shared with some of my closest friends, and I still feel a little anxious about putting them out into the world. But YOU have taught me, time and time again, that those are the stories we need to share with one another. It gives us something to relate to, helps us feel less alone, and maybe even gives us ideas for how to change our own lives for the better. I mean it when I say I’ve gotten some of my strength from you.
When I look back at the posts I have been most nervous to publish, over the years, all I remember is how supportive you were. The Year of Less feels like my most vulnerable post x 100. So yes, I’m a little anxious and slightly terrified, and am pretty sure I won’t sleep much the week of January 16, 2018. But I’m also really proud of the work I’ve put into this book. I shed a lot of tears, but I wouldn’t change a thing.
And now . . . it’s available for pre-order! And in six weeks, we’ll all be holding it in our hands.
I shared this news with my email list back in July, so you might have already pre-ordered your copy. But my list has grown by about 40% since then, and there are also so many updates to share: like that you can now order the Kindle version! And the audio CD! (It will be available on Audible on the release date.) And it’s available in Canada, the USA, the UK and Australia! I got so many requests from readers in Australia in the summer, so that last part makes me extra happy.
But the best update is that I’ve created three free bonuses for anyone who pre-orders a copy of the book!
The first bonus is an audio download (33-minute MP3) where I take you behind the scenes of how the book came together, which chapters were the toughest to write and why, and what I’m hoping you’ll take away from it.
The second bonus is The Month of Less Challenge (PDF) which is a 30-day challenge where you can stop yourself from consuming or doing one thing each day. It’s an introduction to my philosophy of what it means to “live with less”.
The final (and best!?) bonus is a three-part webinar series! Between December 15 – January 12, I’ll be hosting THREE x 1-hour webinars talking about: (1) how to manage your money and time during the holidays, (2) how to set fewer and more intentional goals for the new year, and then (3) a Q&A about anything you like! These are totally free. I’m all yours for three hours. :)
To Claim Your Free Bonuses…
Step 1: Pre-order the Book
After placing your order, you should receive a confirmation email in your inbox. Simply forward a copy of that email to firstname.lastname@example.org as proof of purchase, and I’ll send you the free bonuses!
Thank You for Your Support, Friends!
I wouldn’t be here without you. And thank you to the amazing group of friends who read and endorsed The Year of Less. If you’re curious what they thought of it, here are the kind words you’ll find inside the book. I think you’ll recognize more than a few of these names. :)
“If you’ve ever felt there must be more to life than consumerism and its vicious cycle, you’ll find inspiration to break free in The Year of Less. Cait’s highly readable and personal story is encouraging, challenging, and unbelievably helpful.”
– Joshua Becker, author of The More of Less
“Cait Flanders is a brave woman. As I read, I cried. But my heart also brimmed with joy. For anyone who doesn’t think they can, Cait’s story shows that it doesn’t matter where you start, only where you go from there.”
– Gail Vaz-Oxlade, host of Til Debt Do Us Part and author of Debt-Free Forever
“Cait’s audacious goal—a yearlong shopping ban—has sparked a deeply personal book full of lessons for all of us on finding more fulfillment and meaning in our lives (without all the stuff!). A game-changing read for anyone searching for simplicity in our consumer-focused world.”
– Rachel Jonat, author of The Joy of Doing Nothing
“Cait comforted herself with alcohol, binge eating, and compulsive shopping, then finally said, ‘Enough is enough.’ This isn’t another book about how to live with less, but instead a heartbreaking and then a heartwarming story that shows us if we are willing to let go of the things we think we need, we can have a life we really want.”
– Courtney Carver, author of Soulful Simplicity
“Creating meaningful change in your life takes significant time and effort, and in this book Cait shares a deeply intimate view into just how substantial that change can be. If you’re looking for inspiration and practical examples of how to take steps toward a better future for yourself and the people you love, The Year of Less will give you that and so much more.”
– Anthony Ongaro, founder of breakthetwitch.com
“This book is such a gift. A gift for anyone who’s ever wanted to change but has been afraid-afraid to fail, afraid of what we might discover about ourselves as we strip back the layers, and afraid of what will happen if we don’t. Cait writes beautifully and honestly about the work of creating a life with less, and gives you permission to step off the ever-revolving carousel of compulsive and mindless consumption and into the goodness that lies on the other side.”
– Brooke McAlary, host of The Slow Home Podcast and author of Destination Simple
“An inspiring story of how one woman overcame the obstacles of addiction—to shopping, alcohol, and food—to create a purpose-driven life. You will walk away ready to change your life and with an understanding of why embracing less will set you free.”
– Elizabeth Willard Thames, author of Meet the Frugalwoods
Hello, friends—and hello, December! It’s hard to believe that my year of slow living experiments is almost over. It started with the slow morning experiment in January, where I allowed myself to wake up naturally and have a slow, quiet morning before the start of each day. Slow mornings are something I have managed to continue with all year, and have helped lower my anxiety about both work and life. Now, this year of experiments has come full circle, and it’s time to focus on slowing down my evenings—particularly, my bedtime routine.
If I’ve never mentioned it before, I have always been a troubled sleeper. The first time I can remember experiencing an extended stretch of insomnia was in the ninth grade (age 14). I would either lay awake until 3am and then sleep for only a few hours, or I would wake up around 3am and never fall back asleep. This went on for weeks, before I was finally so exhausted that my body just knew what it had to do. And then I would sleep well for a few weeks or months, until my insomnia came back for another stretch of time.
It’s fair to say I have had at least one or two stretches of insomnia every year since. So I wouldn’t consider myself an insomniac, and I feel fortunate to get the amount of sleep that I do. But I still don’t have the healthiest sleep pattern, and I know there are two things to blame.
The first is that, most nights, I don’t give myself a lot of downtime before bed. This past month was the worst, because the book launch has meant there is work I could do at all hours of every day. But I am currently in the habit of working right up until bedtime, then closing my laptop, crawling into bed and trying to fall asleep right away. There has been no time to read and no time for a bath, and no time to just be quiet and do nothing. I’ve actually been falling asleep ok, but that’s because of my other bad habit. I can’t even believe I’m saying this.
I bring my phone to bed with me—and I have been opening the Netflix app and falling asleep to the quiet sound of a boring show. I know, I know. I KNOW. I’ve combined the two worst things you could do in bed: look at your phone and watch TV. I will say, I don’t do this all the time. It’s a bad habit I seem to pick up when I’m stressed or sad. I did it for a couple months in 2015, and I did it for a couple months in 2016, and I’ve been doing it a lot since the dogs died. It’s like my body and mind can’t take the silence, and I just need a little comfort (that I no longer find in alcohol or food). So, I just do it. I don’t feel good about it, and I don’t even like admitting it. But it’s because I don’t feel good about it and don’t want to admit it that I know it’s time to change the habit for good. And you guys are the best accountability partners a girl could ask for, so that’s why I’m sharing it here.
My intention for December is to take back my evenings altogether. That starts with signing off from work earlier and having at least a couple of hours to myself. With the book coming out in just six-and-a-half weeks (!!!), I know the to-do list will continue to scroll through my mind, but I really need that downtime. I want to curl up on the couch with tea, read for fun again (it has all felt like work lately), and soak in a lot of epsom salt baths. That is what my body and mind really need.
What I don’t need is my phone or Netflix in bed, so that is changing cold turkey today. I’ve deleted the Netflix app, and the phone will lay upside down on my dresser (out of my reach). Maybe I’ll eventually get to the point where I don’t even bring it into my bedroom, but I have a lot of early morning interviews these days, so my phone’s alarm clock is currently essential. So, I’ll relax after work, then read in the tub and/or in bed, and fall asleep without the soother that my phone has become. That’s the plan for December.
Experiment #10: Slow Evenings
no work/social media after 7pm
after work, write down the next day’s schedule/to-do list
no TV/phone after 8pm (and definitely not in bed)
read a book every night (probably in the bathtub)
create/practice/share my new bedtime routine
I’ve known I needed to do this experiment all year, but I think there’s a reason I pushed it to the very end: because it meant I would have to share my dirty little secret with you (that I bring my phone to bed) and because I would have to stop doing it. In the minimalism/simple living space, I feel this pressure to be totally “awakened” and in control of every part of my life. But I’m not perfect. I’m self-aware, but that doesn’t mean I do everything right. Like I’ve said before, I’m just trying to do the best I can. We all are. And I’m really grateful I can share all parts of myself here with you.
What are your goals/intentions for the last month of 2017? I’d love to hear. :)
This is a guest post from my friend Rachel. I was going to wait until next week to share it, but already get the sense that people are stressed with end-of-year commitments + the holidays. I hope her message helps. <3
I haven’t been bored since 2009. And that’s not a good thing. I’m a mother to three small kids, one of whom has special needs. My husband and I do our best to keep our life as simple as possible. We recently left the city for a small town so we could have more time for our kids and ourselves. We both work from home which gives us a lot of flexibility. And our kids aren’t signed up for lots of classes or teams. They have time for free unstructured play and we eat most of our meals together at the same time everyday.
But even with this idyllic on paper lifestyle, there’s often little time for me to simply sit and be still and quiet. And I need that time. I need to shirk off any worries, clear my brain and simply do nothing. You probably do too.
In 2010, I got excited about minimalism and spent three months ruthlessly decluttering my home. It was cathartic, exciting and fruitful. My husband and I got rid of things that were meant for someday (that never came) and unshackled ourselves from the belief that our possessions represented who we were. We saw that we really needed a lot less than we thought we did. And we sold a lot of things—my wedding dress, our car—and were able to pay off almost $80,000 in debt.
It was humbling and invigorating all at once. And it kicked off what I would later realize was a lifelong journey searching for simplicity in my life. Because once I got rid of the stuff, I found that yes, my life was easier in many ways. But it also made me see having less was great, wanting less was even better (nod to Joshua Becker for that idea). Another layer to this whole minimalist journey was revealed.
How do you make yourself want less? It’s a hard question to answer. I kept asking it of myself and kept finding that I wanted less, felt less concerned with conventional measures of success like deep and expensive wardrobes, new kitchens and impressive salaries, when I lived my values more. When I spent more time outside. When I worked on being a kinder person. When I put my phone and laptop away and spent more time offline. When I did those things that make me feel great: exercising, reading a good book, connecting with friends and cooking a nourishing meal at home.
When I tried something new, be it a sport or creative pursuit, I felt less focused on wanting stuff and felt more peace and connection with myself. Shutting out advertisements as much as possible has also helped me want less. I don’t keep tabs on trends or fads or what the latest gadgets can do. Wanting less has been a long, slow, and continual process built around making my life align with my values.
Of course, shifting your life to really align with your values takes time. It’s an ongoing process and there’s no quick solution. But there is one small quick way I have found to get that same peace and connection with myself daily. It doesn’t involve trying rock climbing for the first time or committing to a weekly volunteer shift at the library. It’s easy. It’s free. And you can do it anywhere. It’s doing nothing.
Doing nothing can sound lazy. This is not doing nothing as in “I’ve been sitting around in my pyjamas all Sunday watching television as a form of procrastination.” This is not doing nothing when you’re supposed to be doing something. This is an intentional quick break to reset and destress. Think, using that time on the bus not to distract yourself with a podcast and several flips through your social media accounts but rather, sitting on the bus, ears and eyes open, letting any worries or stresses go, and enjoying the scenery that flies by. It’s keeping the television dark after nine o’clock so you can take some deep breaths and calm your mind before you go to bed. It’s starting your day at a slow pace, and without distraction and noises, so you can have a clear head for the day to come. And sometimes it is even taking a quick break in the middle of your work day to walk outside, inhale some fresh air, and let go of whatever thoughts are cluttering your mind.
Doing nothing is a way to restart your brain. Escaping or blocking out the noise and thoughts of the day gives me a space to reboot myself. My oldest son is into all things ninja and he likes to do a pose where he stands on one leg and has his hands in front of him in prayer position with his eyes closed. He calls it being in the centre of peace. My centre of peace is sitting with a mug of peppermint tea and staring at a fire, letting any concerns or worries leave my brain. Sometimes my centre of peace is just a pause during the day, a few minutes for deep breaths and silence. Finding my “centre of peace” lets me empty out any negative thoughts or worries and reset.
It’s really hard to shut the noise out, these days. We are always connected. Information is always rolling at us. Now more than ever, we need to protect our mental real estate. We need to empty our brains of other people’s Instagram posts and our worries over the ‘what-ifs’ in our lives. Put the screens away. Sit in a quiet room. And simply do nothing.
If that sounds scary, if being without entertainment or worries sounds uncomfortable, start slowly. Try to make some of your activities quiet. Cook without music on or walk to work in silence. Work towards time, however brief, spent in silence without thinking about the next thing to do. Think of it as a luxury you gift yourself: the time to simply do nothing.
This is a guest post from my friend Jillian. It dawned on me, recently, that I don’t think I’ve ever had a guest post about family. Jillian is changing that in a BIG and meaningful way.
I never searched out minimalism. Rather, I stumbled upon it first as a type of survival tool. Our story is a bit of a winding and twisting journey. But our minimalism story starts 3.5 years ago, while I was sitting in a job interview and honestly killing it. The interviewers were over the moon happy to hire me on the spot, but I was distracted. I was trying to hold focus on the interview, but my phone was exploding with text messages and missed calls.
See, while I was interviewing my heart out, a 5-year-old boy with big hazel eyes had just been dropped off at our house by a social worker. He had been in foster care for a while and had disrupted from the last 5 homes. (This happens when foster parents or the birth family aren’t able to meet the child’s needs and a new family has to be found.) The social worker was rather confident we couldn’t handle him either. I have soft eyes and a sweet smile that hides the depth of my love, tenacity, and gumption. She mentioned, almost offhandedly, he also had two little sisters. No other family had been able to keep them together and the “state” didn’t want to attempt to place them together again. I just smiled my sweet smile and said, “Well, we aren’t every other family. When you are ready, we are ready for anything.”
It was lie. No one is ever fully ready. His little sisters moved in a few months later. I quit my job. I lived at the end of my rope for the next year.
Having four little kids at home is a lot (6, 5, 2 and 1). Just that alone. But it wasn’t just that. There were 12 appointments a week of various meetings, therapies, and with professionals. There were difficult visits with birth parents. There were court dates and a rotating door of overworked social workers. There were lawyers, judges, and court-appointed advocates. There was the uncertainty of not knowing what the future held for these kids I loved so much.
Plus, there were these sweet kids. They had seen so much trauma and neglect in their short lives that every behaviour was broken. I had the skill, knowledge, tools, and love that was needed. But I was exhausted. Like lay on the floor at night after I tucked them in and cry silent, hot tears exhausted. Until their nightmares started. Every one-to-two hours during the night for 3 years.
It’s all too much. A life at the end of our rope.
We were all at the ends of our rope. While it was challenging to be the ringleader of this circus, it wasn’t any easier for my kids. The two-year-old had lived with 5 different families before us. She called me and her birth mom, mama. They had to be dragged to appointments and meeting after meeting. They had their own trauma and no skills or words to express what they were feeling.
Just getting them ready for the twice-weekly visits with birth parents would nearly break us. They were excited, terrified, overwhelmed, full of dread, happy, conflicted: all at the same time. So they hit each other, melted down, took off their clothes, bit each other, screamed, hid and lost their coats. It was like dressing a whole litter of pissed off kittens into costumes and taking their picture. I would arrive to drop the kids off at the visit only to be criticized, belittled or ignored by the birth family. I would smile my sweet smile then go cry alone in my mini-van.
The foster care process isn’t easy or fun for anyone—not foster parents, not kids and not birth families. They lived in a constant state of anxiety not knowing if they would be with us for the next birthday, or at Christmas, or when school starts. No one knew.
So minimalism found us.
I imagine most people start with minimalism with their stuff. Decluttering and all. Maybe they need an awesome blog, or hear a podcast, and think “I SHOULD get rid of some of this stuff!”
I needed it in every area of my life, all at once. I dubbed 2015 the year of “Easier, not harder”. That was my only litmus test. Is this easier or harder?
I stopped wearing color because I didn’t have the time or skill to coordinate outfits.
I said no, and opted out of most of my commitments that were, in fact, optional.
I pulled my kids from sports.
I ate the same breakfast every single day.
I told all my kids teachers we weren’t doing any homework. ANY. No signing reading charts, no math worksheets, no flashcards. We aren’t doing it. I’m not signing it. Honestly, I’m not even going to look at it. I was so thankful for what the teachers were doing at school, but I couldn’t add “teacher” to my list of things to squeeze into our evenings.
I had to set boundaries with professionals. “No, I can’t change our appointment time every single week. Either keep our set time, or we skip it.” With 12 appointments on the calendar, having them all shift by 30 minutes or 2 hours IS a big deal.
I had to learn minimalism in my relationships. Most people were incredibly supportive, encouraging, and really understood the importance of what we were doing. And some people . . . didn’t. I didn’t have any leftover emotional energy to hear, “Why are you doing this? Why don’t you just give them back? The system is so broken, you shouldn’t have to put up with this. It’s fine if you want those kidsin your family, but even if you adopt them, it doesn’t mean they are part of our family.”
I started owning the fact that I live in a real human body that needs food, water, exercise, and sleep. I started to accommodate those seemingly unreasonable demands of my non-robot body.
Bit by bit, we were doing better. Not just surviving with our nose barely above the waves, but almost flourishing.
Then in the same week in June 2015: We were officially asked to adopt our kids, and we found out we were pregnant.
Enter minimalism, level ninja.
I’ll admit, I had a bit of a mommy meltdown when I found out we were pregnant. Sure, we had spent thousands upon thousands of dollars on fertility treatments over the years. Sure, we had tried for 7 years. But now? Adding a baby definitely didn’t fall into my “easier, not harder” motto.
We had been shopping for a bigger house. We were a family of 6 in 1,650 cozy square feet. A bigger house seemed to make sense. Every single person who came to our house echoed the words, “So when are you moving to a bigger place?” like it was the chorus line in a Disney movie.
But the saying “a baby changes everything” is true.
Turns out, we didn’t want more and bigger. Our entire life already felt “more and bigger”. We wanted less. Actually, we all needed less.
Less clutter. Less cleaning. Less overwhelm. Less hectic. Less appointments.
We needed margin for the right kind of more. More engagement. More quiet. More stories and cuddles. More adventure. More travel. More time in the garden. More focused time. More creativity.
More stuff and more space weren’t going to give us any of that.
We donated 50% of the kid’s toys, and decided to only keep 3 out at a time to play with. And I saw the kids settle in. Instead of the anxiety, overwhelm, fighting, and frustration they felt when confronted with a massive heap of toys, they just played. Slowly, carefully, thoughtfully with one toy. There was no cleaning up, correcting, and promoting at the end of the night. Each child set one toy on a shelf and it was over. That one simple change freed up a mountain of emotional and relational energy.
I made it a mission to touch every item in our house. I would ask a few questions. Is this a “hard-working” item, or is it “lazy”? Because we didn’t have space for lazy items. Our home couldn’t be a storage unit for barely used items. I would ask, “If I didn’t already own this and saw it at a yard sale for $5 would I buy it instantly, and with joy?” Because if it doesn’t add $5 of value, it doesn’t deserve a place in our home.
Minimalism is an act of faith at first. We paired our life down—appointments, relationships, classes, sports, commitments, stuff—with no guarantee of a better outcome. There was no promise in writing that what we would gain would be better than what we were letting go of.
You pull your kid from a sport and just hope. Hope that the extra two hours a week somehow adds as much value as the sport was adding. It takes a bit a faith to hold space. To create margin and not rush to fill it up again.
We got rid of “perfectly good” toys. (Ok, and a crap ton of McDonald’s happy meal toys.) It’s an act of faith to say, “We are going to donate all these ‘perfectly good’ toys that at one point we actually spent money on,” and just hope that “less is more”.
To the parents.
I kind of just want to give you a hug, at this point. I’ve raised six kids (my oldest passed away). I have to say that motherhood, in the thick of it, is the hardest and most beautiful part of my life. It has been my defining work.
So, if you feel like your kids will kick, scream, and cry themselves into a puddle, if there were less toys, less classes, less sports, less commitments. Remember this: If you are maxed out, they are maxed out.
My very normal kids hate picking up toys. Actually, I think they hated it even more than I did. They hated being corralled into the van. They hated the rush and my grumpy “Where in the world are your shoes!? Why are they in the bathtub? Can anyone answer me this!?! WAIT!?! Why are you covered in purple paint? OMG, I don’t even care. Come on. We are SO late. Please, please, please just put your shoes on.”
Despite what it seems, minimalism is a perfect fit for families. Here is how we started this journey with the toys. (Because no one likes living in a house that looks like a daycare crossed paths with a tornado!) I had this conversation with my four kids who at the time were 3-8:
“I think I haven’t been doing a good job. I think maybe I’ve made it too hard for you guys to pick up your room. The job is simply too hard. And that’s my fault. So here’s what we will do. You pick up as many toys as you can handle. Then I will come clean up the rest. I’ll put them away on this special toy shelf. Anything you can take care of, just pick up and you can keep that in your room. The only rule is, only keep as much as you can handle. If it gets to be too much for you to take care of on your own, I’ll come put it away.”
They managed to clean/organize about 5 toys. All the rest I took out of their room and put on a “toy shelf” that they could swap toys (if their room was clean).
It also made it simple to see what toys we could sneak away in the dark of night. If they hadn’t picked the toy off toy shelf in a few months, obviously it wasn’t a high-value toy. (If your 4-year-old willingly parts with toys, I salute you, dear Jedi Master! We are SO not there yet!)
For parents who are terrified to start, this is about an easy of a sell as you can get. And my kids loved it. No shame, no blame. Just me making their life easier. No more cleaning, no more tears over not being able to organize their room.
Big family minimalism.
When you walk into our home, “minimalism” might not be your first thought. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is white (even stuff that was white when we bought it!). There is a pile of shoes and coats and winter boots by the door. It’s loud with laughing, playing, and often someone is crying. I’m probably making chocolate chips pancakes. I’ll make you a cup of tea, but a toddler will interrupt our conversation every 90 seconds.
But if you look closely, you’ll see a family flourishing with less. Happy, healthy and whole. Our days are full of reading, writing, folding laundry, hiking, gardening, and travel. We eat real food, at a table. We have adventures on the weekend and a game night each Friday. We get enough sleep and have real conversations.
Sometimes I let myself wonder what our alternate life would look like. What path our three adopted kids might have taken if they didn’t end up together with us? But I don’t stay there long. Because my 90 seconds is up and a 4-year-old is peppering me with questions again (that I have already answered 12 times today).
Jillian drinks tea daily and writes about intentional lifestyle design, mini-retirements and creating financial freedom over at Montana Money Adventures. She lives in Montana, right by Glacier National Park, with her husband, 5 kids, and dog: cheesy taco.
Hello, friends! It’s that time of year again! The Mindful Budgeting 2018 Planners are ready! :)
If you remember, I had originally decided not to do another planner this year. The list of reasons why aren’t particularly important (as many were likely stemmed from anxiety). But thanks to your requests + some help from current users of the 2017 planner, I changed my mind! And now this little project I dreamt up in 2015 will carry on for another year. So, thank you for both the push and the support.
Based on the covers, you will notice most things are the same as last year. My designer did such an amazing job, I didn’t want to see her covers go. It looks/feels the same inside, too. But, thanks to your suggestions, there are a few new templates that will make it just a little bit better! And as a fun bonus: I created a free 10-page PDF workbook you can get started with while you’re waiting for your order to arrive!
Before you keep reading, I want to stress two things. First, this is not my “book”. This is a daily planner I’ve been making every year for the last three years that is designed to help people with their personal finances. We’ll talk more about my memoir in the first week of December! And two, I know this planner isn’t for everyone, because no financial tool could possibly be for everyone. But if you think it could be for you, keep reading. :)
The Mindful Budgeting 2018 Planner
Even though this might look like an ordinary day planner, I consider Mindful Budgeting to be somewhat of a course in that I’ve laid it out hoping you will use it a certain way. There is something for you to do every day, week, month and quarter, all of which I outline at the beginning of the planner.
Every day, there is designated space for you to track your spending as well as your to-dos (this is the reason I first created the planner in 2015). At the end of every week, there are also three questions for you to answer that will help you reflect on your spending and plan for the week ahead.
At the beginning of every month, you will write a budget—then later update it, based on the spending you track throughout the month. There is also space for you to reflect on your spending, your habits, and any changes you’ve noticed in yourself or your life.
Every month, you will also be able to update the balances of your debts and your savings (or assets). And thanks to the suggestions from current users of the 2017 planner, I have added three new templates: one to calculate your net worth, one to track your bill payments, and one to map out + budget for large annual expenses.
Finally, every quarter, you will complete a four-step exercise that helps you figure out what your current goals and values are, so you can make sure your monthly budgets align with them; this is, personally, one of my favourite parts of the planner!
By using the Mindful Budgeting 2018 Planner, my hope is you will achieve your goals and finish 2018 with a better understanding of your personal finances. If nothing else, I hope the planner helps you realize what matters most to you, so you can make sure your spending and saving aligns with that.
Full list of features:
Daily spending sheets, where you can track both your spending and your to-do list items
Full monthly calendars (with Canada/USA holidays)
Monthly budget templates
Space to do weekly check-ins and monthly reflections
Quarterly exercises to map out your goals and make sure your budget aligns with them
Spreadsheets to track both your debt repayment and savings progress
*NEW* Spreadsheet to track your net worth
*NEW* Spreadsheet to track your bill payments, so you never miss one
*NEW* Worksheet to map out + budget for large annual expenses
Twelve motivational quotes to inspire you, and
Instructions on how to use the planner daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly.
Pick from One of Two Covers
There are not one but two different cover designs for the Mindful Budgeting 2018 Planner. Rest assured, what’s inside both options is identical, so you’re not missing anything by ordering one over the other. Just pick the cover that suites you best!
While you wait for your planner to arrive, you can download and get started with a new workbook! This PDF contains 10 pages designed to:
figure out where your money has been going
name some financial decisions you can be proud of
dream (big and small) about the future, and
identify how you want to feel about money by the end of 2018.
After placing your order, you should receive a confirmation email in your inbox. Simply forward a copy of that email (or at least a screenshot of the order details) to email@example.com as proof of purchase, and I’ll send you the workbook!
International Orders (and Prices!)
As you know, I’m Canadian, and therefore the $45 price tag you see above is in Canadian dollars. While the exchange rate usually works in most people’s favour, I also know it’s a lot easier to budget for a purchase when you know how much it’s actually going to cost! So for those of you in the USA, the UK and Australia, here are direct links to the planners in your currency:
Each Mindful Budgeting 2018 Planner is ordered, printed and shipped directly from Blurb—my print shop of choice. There are usually a few different shipping options, depending on where you live. And your planner(s) should arrive in a cardboard box, similar to what you’d expect to receive if you ordered a book off Amazon.
That’s a lot of information to digest, so I’ll sum it up by saying this: only buy the planner if it’s something you plan to actually use next year and you have the money for it. I know it’s not for everyone, because there isn’t one financial tool that will work for absolutely everyone. Personal finance is personal, and we all have to find the systems that work for us. I am grateful that this little thing I created has helped hundreds of people so far. And if you think it’s one of the tools that could work for you, I will be grateful for that too. :)
As always, I’m here to answer any questions you have about it!
Read Full Article
Read for later
Articles marked as Favorite are saved for later viewing.
Scroll to Top
Separate tags by commas
To access this feature, please upgrade your account.