SHOPPING BAN UPDATE // 7.25.18

Another month goes by and I'm doing okay.

There are a lot of changes happening. Some definite, some pending. Either way, they're all happening eventually. All good stuff, but I'm terrible at transitions. 

THIS MONTH'S PURCHASES

  1. Okay. I messed up guys. I spent money on a sweater shirt that I didn't need. I bought something on the "don't buy" list and I feel.... actually fine with it. Obviously I have great excuses: it was only $6, I didn't have anything like in my wardrobe, and it's now one of my favorite things I own. I know I probably should be a little harder on myself, but I stand behind this purchase. It was a great deal for something I love and to be fair, I kept the receipt and the tags on for a very long time so I could return it if it turned out to be an impulse buy. But here we are!
  2. On that same day I bought what I originally went to the store to get: a dress. I actually didn't own any and I had a dinner that required I wear a dress (restaurant dress codes). I don't even own a skirt or jumper or anything so it was a necessity. Again, I kept the tags just in case it was a momentary need that I didn't love in the long run but it made the cut.
  3. One thing that wasn't really a thing: I transferred my website to Squarespace and got a year long subscription for it. I went back and forth between WordPress and Square space but in the long run, I think for someone like me who doesn't have money for a developer and also doesn't have a brain for web design, Squarespace is the way to go. Plus it was basically the same price in the long run.
  4. It was Oliver and Ian's birthday this month so I spent some money on decorations and we were gifted some gift cards that we used for Oliver to get a big boy bed set up (that he thinks is a toy, not a bed). Technically it wasn't our money, but it was still spending which is an activity no matter what money you're using. And it's an activity I'm trying to be intentional with which is why I'm here telling you my monthly spending history. 

HOW I'M DOING

Well, I think I just now realized what this is all for. Why I'm choosing to be public about my finances and spending. 

I am not the best at holding myself accountable. I'm far too good at sweeping things to the back of my mind and saying that everything is okay, even if it's not. 

I also think it's easy to feel like you don't have enough. It's easy to feel like you're poor with no disposable income. I can see that it's true for some, but for others, we're just too consumed with consuming to realize we don't need half of what we buy. 

Recently, the idea "the more you bring in the more you put out" has been circling my mind. I'm realizing that the more crap I bring into my house, the more money I waste on things I don't need, and the more waste I put into the world. The more garbage I create. The key to wasting less is buying less and I think that's a version of saving the world I can stand behind.

So I've got some goals to reach, and I've got some things to do. But this shopping ban has really made me think about how much stuff I waste on a daily basis. How much more I could be doing for myself. How much money I could be saving. I'm not rich. Not by a long shot. But I'd like to be comfortable one day. Debt free as soon as I can be. And I'd like to teach my kids how to be happy with what they have so we can all learn to take a little less so we can give a little more. 

GOALS

Savings Reached: $800

I am officially removing the credit card from this shopping ban (because I plan on doing more in the future for all of our debt, including student loans). 

A few reasons why, most of which I cannot say. So I'll say the one I can. 

We're planning on moving by the end of the year. We don't know exactly when and we don't know exactly where. Ian has discovered the right career path for himself that will require us to move a time or two before we can official call somewhere home. 

That, amongst other things, has made me decide that growing our savings (while maintaining credit card interest at least) is the best thing for us right now. With moving fees and transitioning from having me at work part-time to being home full time (which will be an awesome transition for our family that I can do with Ian's new position) a saving larger than just an emergency fund is what we need in this moment. 

Luckily, our savings is looking great! I had no idea we had room to put away this much in just two months but I'm proud of what we've done so far.

Photo by Lisa Fotios

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CAPSULE WARDROBE: THE NEXT STEPS

So you've paired down, solidified your wardrobe, and now it's time to take it to the next level.

Now that it's been almost a year since I committed to a smaller wardrobe, I'm starting to think beyond the pieces themselves and I'm ready to look at my wardrobe as a whole. I'm looking at how my pieces go together, what kind of outfits I can create, and what pieces I need to really round it out.

There's a lot of self discovery that happens when defining your style. The first steps to creating your capsule wardrobe are focused a lot on individual pieces and learning what you feel best in. You start to dabble in fabrics and patterns, but it really takes living with less to learn what will stand out.

Once you get a feel for what feels good, that's when you get to dive into the fun part. That's when the real capsuling begins!

Related: CAPSULE WARDROBE: GETTING STARTED

THE NEXT STEPS

COLOR PALETTE

Having a color palette is one of the easiest ways to create a cohesive wardrobe. When you're working with fewer pieces, it's important that every piece can work together. A color palette is how that happens.

In the beginning of creating a capsule wardrobe, it's intimidating defining a color palette that you're going to stick to. There are so many colors and so many pieces that are made with beautiful colors so it really is hard to choose just a few.

For me, it's helpful to think about what colors I wear the most and what colors look best with my complexion. Red, for example, will never work. I have to many red undertones that are exaggerated by the color red. Blues, however, make my eyes pop which is a plus for me. From there, I choose a few other colors that go with the color that makes me look best, mixing loud and soft colors. Pretty soon I'm thinking of venturing into greens and yellows (so send me all the links to cute things in those colors!).

If color palettes are still a little intimidating, Caroline Joy found a freeing take on creating a color palette for your capsule wardrobe. This season, she defined her colors and then opened up her palette to every gradient of those colors. Yellow then became marigold, mustard, etc. It's a great way to create a color palette without feeling like you're locked in.

PREPARE FOR SEASONS

Odds are, you started your capsule wardrobe with one season in mind: the season you were currently in. Now, it's time to think ahead.

How do you need to prepare for the seasons to come? Are you going to add to your capsule each season or do you want to have a fairly consistent capsule? 

These are important things to know. It'll help you determine what your key elements really need to be, what you're going to get rid of by next season, and how much you'll need to store. When you've determined these things, you'll know which items to invest in and which ones can be a quick, for funsies, purchase.

SUSTAINABILITY

This is the word that makes my budget cry.

Okay, I shouldn't say that. I love building a capsule and I love the idea of having truly high quality clothing that is made to last. The part that makes my budget cry is that it's a huge investment. But it's finally time. I've reach the point where I know the next time I make a clothing purchase, it will be with sustainability in mind.

One of the most important factors in a capsule wardrobe is the ability for each piece to actually last, even when worn often. Each piece should be your favorite piece and favorite pieces get worn until they fall apart. Sustainable pieces will make it so they fall apart much, much slower.

Once you've got the hang of finding pieces you like, it's time to get selective with what you bring in and commit to the pieces that will truly last.

KEY ELEMENTS

At this point, you probably have staples and accents. The staples are things like t-shirts and jeans, for some of us it's even our shoes. These are the pieces that stay through every seasons. The are the string that holds your wardrobe together. You can dress them up or dress them down. Either way, they are the basis of your signature style.

When you figure out what your staple items are, it's time to define the fit, the colors they should be, and where your go to retailers for these items are located. My husband, Ian, has been wearing the same jeans for years. Black Levi skinny jeans. They are absolutely his staple. That and vans lace up shoes. For me, I know I can always rely on a pair of high waisted, light wash skinny jeans. The only problem, I haven't found where my perfect pair lies.

These are the things to think through when venturing into the next step of capsuling. Think about those pieces you go back to time and time again and solidify them. Find the best one of it's kind and make sure it's always handy.

Photo by Shira Gill

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MONDAY LINKS // Oliver's first year

It is hard to believe Oliver turned one this week.

I’ve been reminiscing on where we were a year ago and how much we’ve changed. I’m more aware of how important these moments are because I can’t shake the realization that he will be grown up one day, living on his own with his own kids… and now I’m crying. I’m more active because babies aren’t great at sitting still for long periods of time. And I’ve had to push myself to find drive to keep going, because moms don’t really get breaks.

Motherhood has been a balance. Trying to do everything I need to for Oliver while still trying to remember I am my own person. I’ve had to throw out my idea of a perfect mother and just be the best I can be. That means the occasional weird YouTube video of neon shapes is totally acceptable when your 4 month old is bored and you’re out of funny faces to make.

SO ONE YEAR IN, I’VE LEARNED SOMETHINGS.

I’ve learned that babies would rather play with dirt than any toy in their possession. I’ve learned that as soon as they can move, that’s all they want to do. And, even though you think you know how fast they grow, they actually grow twice as fast as anyone could actually prepare you for.

With all my newfound mom wisdom that we all get when we become moms, I wanted to share my master list of things I used in Oliver’s first year of life.

THINGS I USED IN MY BABY’S FIRST YEAR

0 – 3 MONTHS

  1. This swing took some getting used to, but then it was the only thing Oliver would nap in.
  2. When we put Oliver in a swaddle with velcro he started sleeping through the night. It was amazing.
  3. Dressing a newborn is terrifying (especially as a new parent), so I believe these front wrap onesies are a must have. (cheaper here)
  4. Having this pack n play was great for transitioning from co-sleeping to sleeping by themselves, or if you’re not into that it’s also great for keeping them close, and can be used as a travel bed for like, 2-3 years. It’s a pretty good investment.
  5. If you’re doing any kind of pumping, this pump saved me so much time. Also, I found these plastic free bottlesafter Oliver was done with bottle feeding, but I’m definitely trying them with the next kid! (and if you’ve tried them, let me know what you think!)

3 – 6 MONTHS

  1. This book was a big hit.
  2. This rocker/chair was awesome because you could move it from room to room.
  3. Old NavyCarter’s, and H&M are great places to get inexpensive kids clothes because they grow so fast.
  4. We used a playmat often. It’s a great tummy time spot and a good place to let them sit and entertain themselves while you do stuff.
  5. Boppy pillows are awesome for so many things. Breastfeeding, keeping baby upright before they can sit, getting started with tummy time. We honestly used out boppy all the time.
  6. This crib is super inexpensive and goes with any decoration.

6 – 12 MONTHS

  1. This is when we finally got out a highchair to try and feed Oliver. This one has a tray on top of the tray to make clean up super easy.
  2. These bowls are so handy. They have a suction cup on the bottom so babies can’t pick them up and throw them or turn them over.
  3. I liked keeping a balance of snack food and homemade food for Oliver. He loved being able to hold these bars by himself and eat. They’re super crumbly, so while they’re kind of a mess, you don’t have to worry about choking.
  4. These cups became my favorite. It’s great for kids that are upright most of the day, but also good for learning how to use a straw.
  5. This walker was awesome to help Oliver learn to walk and stand up by himself.
  6. Oliver loves riding in his car for walks. It makes him feel like part of the action.
  7. This dump truck is awesome because he can keep his toys in it and walk around with it.

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MONDAY LINKS // summer wardrobe

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Summer is officially in full swing. My jeans will no longer cut it and I’ve become more aware of fabrics and how they breathe. Mostly because none of the clothing I own has a light, airy fabric.

You don’t think about the science behind clothes. The thought that goes into a summer wardrobe is more than just, “that’s cute and floral.” There’s the fabric that adds a light and airy touch. The fit that allows the wind to flow through with out making you feel smothered. I never understood the point in a separate summer and winter wardrobe until I started feeling that heat. Now, it’s necessary.

Still, I’m not great on summer time. My postpartum body look good when it’s covered in clothes that hold everything together, but the breezy, loose clothing is a little out of my comfort zone. It’s been difficult for me to get into summer time because I’ve felt the need to hide. So I’ve been looking for a middle ground wardrobe.

I want a wardrobe for summer that will help me redefine my comfort zone and find confidence in my new body without throwing myself to the wolves. I won’t be able to get every piece this summer, but I think these basics are a good foundation for a fun, beat the heat wardrobe.

SUMMER WARDROBE

  1. First, get to know your fabrics.
  2. Yes to an oversized t-shirt dress!
  3. Obviously sandals.
  4. This light and airy white shirt.
  5. Someone help me find the perfect pair of mom jean shorts.
  6. Linen tank tops are at the top of my need to get list.
  7. You can never go wrong with a good, light t-shirt.
  8. I’ve noticed these shorts are getting a lot of attention this summer.
  9. A simple summer skirt is always a good idea.
  10. And of course I need my stripes to round it all out.

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SKINCARE TIPS FOR ACNE PRONE SKIN

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I’d say my biggest let down with becoming an adult has been freaking acne.

It was suppose to die with puberty. I was suppose to finish growing, settle into my hormonal changes, and that was gonna be it. I’d be an adult and the child-like acne would stay in my adolescence…. nope.

It’s humiliating. It comes with a preconceived notion of dirty and unhealthy. You can lie to yourself and say you’ll be able to cover it up but you know it’s not true. People notice. They don’t say anything to be polite. But they notice.

It really is the most defeating feeling when it seems like no matter what you do, the acne will always be there. I’ve spent years trying anything and everything to get a handle on my acne and for a while it seemed like nothing would work. I’ve had my trial and error moments too many times to count. But recently, I’ve finally done it.

Somehow, I’ve managed to clear up my face! I still get some acne here and there and I have some healing to do, but as far as new flareups, they are becoming less and less as I stick to my routine. So I wanted to share a few tips I’ve found to get your skin on track and stop worrying about those pesky adult acne problems!

NOW, I DIDN’T SAY IT’D BE EASY.

The bottom line is that people with acne prone skin will have to try a little harder than those without. Maybe the effort is the difference between us and people who don’t have acne, maybe DNA is what determines it. Either way, the only way to get control is to take control. So just read through these tips, do all of them, do some of them, do none of them. Just know that doing all of these things together has helped me get to where I am today.

SKINCARE TIPS FOR ACNE PRONE SKIN

DIET

Diet is one of the best things to change when products and routines don’t seem to help your cause.
I’ll be the first to say that I hadn’t eaten very well until recently. I hate cooking and I LOVE junk food. But my body obviously can’t handle it. Like I said earlier, acne gives you an image of unhealthy and sometimes, that image may be accurate whether we want to believe it or not. It took me a while to accept that I had to kick my bad habits and improve my diet but when I did, I noticed a difference almost immediately.

CLEAN BEDDING

Yep. Simply cleaning your sheets and pillow cases once a week can help significantly.
I used to never change my sheets. Actually never. It’s becoming obvious that my acne problems were related to laziness, but I’d bet that is a problem for most of us. Sometimes making a simple lifestyle change, like tending to your bedding can really make all the difference in more ways than just your complexion.

MAINTENANCE

Put it in your routines, make it a priority. Whatever you do, don’t stop maintaining your skin once you’ve achieved your clear face dreams.
A huge mistake I’ve made when dealing with acne is feeling like once I’m clear, I’m good to go. I’d put in effort, get the clear face, then ruin it by slacking on my routines and not maintaining my clear face. So don’t stop washing and tending to your face, even when you’re in the clear.

PRODUCTS

Try out as many as you need. Really learn what skin type you have and what works best for it.
I think us acne prone folk often feel like we have to attack our face with harsh products in order to manage it when really, having sensitive skin may be part of the problem. Our natural oils are there to protect our skin and keep it healthy. When you use harsh products you’re actually stripping away all the natural oils – which will make your face over produce oils – which can cause more acne.
So look for gentle, healing, mostly natural products when creating your product line up. (I like Burt’s Bees everything)

BACK UP PLAN

Let’s be real. There are some days where you just don’t want to do it. You don’t want to put the effort in. You just want to sit on the couch, turn on the TV and never leave.
That’s why you need a back up plan: a product that is not a deep clean, but one that can serve as a quick clean up when you’re really just not feeling the routine.

I like to use micellar water. It’s meant to remove dirt and grime so on those lazy days you can get rid of all the build up from the day without going into a whole big thing.
DON’T MAKE IT A HABIT. Don’t ever let it become a regular thing. But using it occasionally is a great way to give yourself a break without totally skipping your cleans.

PATIENCE

One of the hardest parts of the cleansing process was feeling like it wasn’t working. I’d buy a great new product, try it for a week or so, and when it didn’t work I’d give up very quickly. I felt like the right product would work immediately, but that’s not the case. Typically, it’ll take your face about 2 weeks – 4 weeks to adjust to a new product.
Be patient and take your time trying new products. Really give them a chance. Use them diligently and you may find that it’s the perfect product for you!

HABIT

It’s very important that your skincare becomes a part of your everyday, maybe even twice a day. Personally, I need a morning and night routine to keep this face in check (my skin is very high maintenance). Some people can get away with just a quick make up removal at night and a deeper clean in the morning. Whatever your face needs, just make sure you do habitually.

I know this is a giant list of stuff, but these are all the changes I had to make in order to have clear skin.

We can’t change our bodies, but we can work with them. It’s not always easy, but when you finally get a clear face, you’ll be happy you did it.

Do you have any tips for achieving clear skin? Leave them in the comments!

Photo by Daria Shevtsova

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DEFINING YOUR BRAND: Who You Are

Defining your brand

Whether you’re a business or an individual, everyone can benefit from having a clear brand. We’re all connected and we’re always sharing a piece of ourselves in everything we do. Modern business isn’t based around just the product or service alone, it’s also based around the people who make it happen.

WHAT IS A BRAND?

"A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, taken together account for a consumer's decision to choose one product over another." - Seth Godin

You see brands everywhere. Really, any consumer good comes from a brand. From the red and white of Target to the neutral tones of a high end clothing store, branding is there. It’s intentional and it’s important.

Your branding is the first impression of your company. It’s the theme you create to maintain a cohesive look that helps people to know who you are, even if they don’t know anything about you. A brand is the feeling people get when they see you. It’s the most direct, yet subtle way to let people know exactly who you are and where you fit into their lives.

A brand has many elements that come together to create one cohesive theme. This includes logo, website design, color scheme, imaging, and wording. All of these things come together to portray your message and get it out there into the world. Your branding, done well, should create a feeling and a memory to help you stay fresh in your customer’s mind.

WHY BRANDING IS IMPORTANT

Anyone can benefit from taking the time to really define their brand. Sitting and thinking through their message and color scheme. Taking the time to leave no questions unanswered and really define who they or their company really are.

When you think about brands you know, it’s easy to agree that the big players are consistent. They have their key colors and business models that customers can expect. You know what you’re going to get when you walk into Target. Then, within all the brands that Target carries, there are the ones you gravitate towards because you know and trust those brands over others.

All of this is done through stratigic branding. People trust what they know and they know what they remember.

Having a consistence and cohesive brand is the first step in helping to get your message out there. When everything relates to each other within a brand, you don’t even need your logo get to get the word out. Simple patterns within what you put out there, like consistent fonts and imagery, will help to spread the word.

HOW TO DEFINE YOUR BRAND – PT.1

Get the worksheet and discover who you are as a brand.

MESSAGE

Your message is you mission statement. It is the what and why to everything you’re doing.

When thinking about your message, think and about what you’re doing. What sets you apart and what is it exactly that you are doing?

When you understand your what, think about why you are doing what you’re doing. Why did you make your product, why are you saying these words, why should people choose you? 

These are all questions that should be answered in your message. It doesn’t need to be long. The shorter the better. You message needs to be a to the point paragraph of all that your brand is.

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

Your customer experience is the feeling and expectation of your brand. When people experience what you’re putting out there, how should they feel? Comfy and at home, all natural goodness, excited and motivated?

Your brand experience can be communicated through every aspect of what you do, so it’s important to understand up front what you want your customers to feel when they experience your brand. Think of keywords and feelings that should come to mind when people experience your brand.

This will set the tone for every choice you make from here on out. With every decision, you can come back to your message and customer experience to determine the right and wrong decisions for your brand.

IDEAL CUSTOMER

For your ideal customer, don’t get caught up in demographics or numbers. Don’t make your goal to appeal to everyone or large groups of people. Just think of one person. A person you know, or a person you make up. Just think of one and then answer these questions.

  • What do they look like?
  • What do they do?
  • What brands do they love right now?
  • What are their values?

Understanding these key features of your ideal customer will help you to understand who you’re selling to. In a sense, this is your niche. It doesn’t always have to be the subject you’re focusing on. A niche can be a person you’re trying to appeal to. This person doesn’t have to come in large numbers. You just need a few true fans to be successful.

VOICE

The voice of your brand, along with the aesthetic features, is how you implement your customer experience. Your brand’s voice is molded by the words you use, the way you choose to punctuate, and the person you choose to speak in. If you are trying to appeal to education and learning, you may use bigger words with standard punctuation in third person. If you’re trying to excite people and create a whimsical environment, you might use A LOT OF CAPS and EXCLAMATION POINTS!!! Maybe even speak in TONSSS of SECOND and FIRST PERSON!!

When thinking of your voice, think about how your ideal customer would like to be spoken to. What tone would they speak in? What voice would attract them?

Have any branding tips or questions? Leave them in the comments!

Photo by Kara Michelle 

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MONDAY LINKS // marriage

Happy 3 years of marriage to Ian and me!

In 3 years of marriage, we have learned a lot about each other and ourselves. We’ve had a child, moved 2 times, and plan on more of both of those things!

It’s incredible what

marriage really brings to a relationship. Especially one where you were once friends that never imagined you’d date, much less get married. We’ve had to learn to live together while still maintaining some amount of individuality. Our lives have molded together and then skyrocketed into something amazing. We definitely have had to work hard at it, we’ll always have to work for it. But I think we can confidently say we’ve made it over the hill. We’ve made it past the beginning where you know nothing and we now sort of know a little bit of something.

I don’t necessarily have any profound advice on my end to share with you today. We’re still newbies. We might know what marriage sort of looks like at this point, but we still don’t know much. We know how to not get divorced after 3 years. We know how to get through an argument feeling fine. But today, I want to turn to some experts on the matter. I want to share some valuable things I’ve learned and read about relationships and marriage from people who really know what they’re talking about (and a couple things about our love and stuff)

STUFF ABOUT MARRIAGE

  1. An enlightening read about our expectations of marriage and why it’s better than ever these days.
  2. If you’re feeling lonely in you’re marriage, even if you’re not, this is a great read for how to be a better spouse.
  3. Some marriage insight I shared after 1 year of marriage. Not bad for a newbie, I’d say.
  4. Thoughts on communication from some other marriage newbies.
  5. Our story on how we met is quite an interesting one.
  6. And then of course our wedding is pretty cute too.
  7. Some journaling prompts, technically made for valentines day, to make you fall in love all over again.

Photo by Mary Robinson

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LETTING GO OF FAKE FRIENDS

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Relationships are the epitome giving and taking. It’s such a common concept, Give and Take, but it gets overlooked more often than not. You have the people that take more than they deserve and the people who give more than they should. What it really comes down to is self worth. Are you worth more than you are receiving or are you belittling another person’s worth by asking them to give more than they should?

It’s a balance. A tricky balance that stems from what you think of yourself and what you think of others. But you also can’t forget about how others view you. Often times, how the people in your life view you is a reflection of how you view yourself. After all..

“WE ACCEPT THE LOVE WE THINK WE DESERVE.” – STEPHAN CHBOSKY

I personally have had a difficult time realizing that I can’t make someone care about me. I can not force another person to appreciate what I give, even if I give them everything. It’s not a fault of their own, it’s just a difference in beliefs. I will give what I believe people should give, but that doesn’t mean someone else will believe they have to give back. Sometimes it has everything to do with the value of the relationship. Maybe someone receives value from what I give but they don’t see value in me.

Either way, I ultimately have control over how I am treated, but it’s not through forcing people to treat me that way. That is an uphill battle that is not worth anyone’s time. Instead, I’ve found that it is more effective to establish my self worth, acknowledge the toxic relationships in my life, and make the really meaningful relationships top priority.

LETTING GO OF FAKE FRIENDS

ESTABLISHING SELF WORTH

I have an entire post on what redefining your self worth. Establishing worth within yourself is, in my opinion, the single most important step to living a meaningful life. After all, if you don’t find meaning within yourself, you’ll constantly be chasing surface level meaning to fill that void.

One of the ways we fill the void of self worth is from others. We let other people decide how much we’re worth and take what we can get. The ignored texts, the over looked invites, the only reaching out when they need something. We accept these things because we don’t have a sense of worth that makes us believe we deserve more.

Find away to discover worth within yourself. While there are nice people in the world who treat everyone fairly, there are a lot of people who take everything they can from those who are willing to give. This isn’t to say you should stop giving in relationships. Just look out for the people who continue to make you feel worthless. In the end, it’s not up to them to decide what you’re worth. It’s up to you.

ACKNOWLEDGE THE TOXIC RELATIONSHIPS

It’s hard to accept that someone you care about doesn’t care about you. Whether it’s a significant other, a friend, or a family member; it all hurts the same. It’s rejection. It’s the realization that you’ve put effort and care into someone who had no intention of giving you the same in return. The worst is when they let you put the energy in knowing that they will never return it.

As The Minimalist say,

“YOU CAN’T CHANGE THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU, BUT YOU CAN CHANGE THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU.”

Possibly one of my favorite quotes on relationships to date. It basically means that while you cannot control the actions and feelings of other people, you can choose who you surround yourself with.

It can be difficult to be honest about the quality of your relationships. Maybe it’s fear of excepting someone’s true feelings towards you, fear of conflict, or fear of losing someone you care about. Either way, holding onto anything out of fear is only preventing you from really embracing the joy that comes from meaningful relationships.

Don’t sell yourself short, don’t say you deserve it. Be real about the relationships you have and really think about who makes you feel worth it. Not because you need their love to feel worth it, but because you deserve to feel worth it. Anyone who pushes you aside, makes you feel second best, makes you a last priority, or brings you down? It’s time to let them go. You can’t make them love you, but you can choose to stop accepting their poor treatment of you.

MAKE THE MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS TOP PRIORITY

To have good friends, you have to be a good friend. Once you’ve establish who the good ones are, you need to make sure they know how important they are by treating them with the respect they deserve.

Meaningful relationships are hard to come by, but as the saying goes: the best things are worth waiting for. Creating meaning in your life, especially in your relationships, is not an easy task. When you get to the point of being able to find quality in the people you share your time with, you’ll find that it was all worth it in the long run.

Photo by Joseph Pearson 

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SOME THOUGHTS ON ETHICAL BLOGGING

Ethical blogging is a bit of a new phrase in the world. Maybe not a new phrase, but it’s become more necessary than ever to talk about it.

Blogging has always been a hobby that over time became a career. It’s the entrepreneurs dream: A platform where you can become your own boss, basically for free.

Now that people are making good money from blogging, it’s become an easy target for a quick buck. People love to include blogging in their side-hustle posts, acting as if you start a blog and then over night you’re making thousands of dollars a month. You just set up your affiliates, place your ads, and you’re ready to go.

That’s the thing though, it’s not a quick buck. It’s not a quick anything. Blogging is the same as any other start up with the only difference being the start up price.

You don’t start making money over night. It’s a slow growth that only comes if you really work at it, and if you really love it.

This is where ethical blogging comes into play.

So many people out there are creating blogs for all the wrong reasons. They’re paying for followers, bombarding us with pop-ups and ads, and they’re really just taking up space on the internet. It’s hard to trust people these days and unethical bloggers are making it even harder.

So if you’re starting a blog, and you really love it, just know that it’s not easy. It’s not an over night success kind of thing. It takes work and honesty, but in the end, it’s all worth it.

ETHICAL BLOGGING TIPS

MAKE QUALITY CONTENT

Absolutely number one most important thing in all aspects of blogging. What is the point if you have nothing substantial to say?

Honestly, I keep up with a few blogs that do a lot of the stuff on this (no-no) list because they’re content is very high quality. It’s not like you have to be profound in everything you do. But the blogs that really make it, like really make it, are the ones that are original. They are written by people who started blogging because they love what they’re doing and they think that they can provide insight to certain things.

Maybe it’s financial advice, maybe it’s insight on awesome brands. It doesn’t have to be anything that’s never been done before, but it has to be authentic. Some of the best bloggers have found their success in simply being themselves and sharing high quality content that people look forward to reading.

DON’T BLOG JUST FOR THE MONEY

Whether you’re writing about a hobby you love, a profession you’ve taken to, or your life in general; you need to love what you’re doing. The writing part is secondary to the subject you’re writing about. Anyone can learn to write well, but none of that will matter if you’re forcing it.

If you started blogging just for money, it’s time to put your laptop up and call it a day. Blogging for money is not inherently bad in and of itself, we all have to get paid somehow. But if you’re blogging about something you don’t know about or blogging for the sake of selling things you don’t believe are useful, it’s going to come across to your readers. Even if it doesn’t, it’s not fair to them.

Ethical blogging is all about sharing what you really love, what you really know, and what you really use. Money is second to being honest to the readers who trust you. Eventually money will come, but you’ll lose it just as fast as you gained it if it’s all coming from baseless statements written for the sole purpose of taking your money.

BE HONEST

It’s easy to hide yourself from people when you’re online. This platform where all eyes could reach you is intimidating and it’s so easy to maintain a false image. Whether it’s for appearances or pride, we all like to put our best foot forward.

Somethings are just personal. That’s true. It’s not necessary to share every aspect of your life with your readers. It isnecessary to be honest when you choose to share. Whether it’s a sponsored post or a simple life update, if you don’t believe what you’re saying, neither will anyone else.

We make blogs to create a community. They are a place where people come to take in the words from someone who gets it. Someone who loves what they love or lives how they live. Whether you know everyone who reads your blog or not, you’re creating a level of vulnerability and friendship with each and every person who invests their time into what you’re saying. You owe it to them to be as honest about the things you choose to say as you can be.

Be honest in what you know, what you use, and who you are. No one likes being lied to.

DON’T OVER-DO IT ON THE ADS

Ads seriously kill me. Sometimes they are the make or break in the legitimacy of the blog I’m visiting. Not to say I disregard any blog that includes ads. I get that when you’re doing what you love you need to find a way to support it. I just think there’s a better way than unintentional advertising.

If you really want to blog for the sake of blogging, it’s all about trust. It’s about the user’s experience. Blogging has somehow become a side-hustle that can get you a quick buck, but those blogs are just ruining it for the rest of us. Don’t take up valuable space on the internet if all you want to do is throw ads in our face.

I think ads are so difficult to accept for me because it feels like the easy way out. It’s easy to become an Amazon affiliate. It’s easy to put ads all over your page. It’s not necessarily going to give you useful things to recommend to your users, but at least you’ll get paid? Sponsored posts and affiliate links to brands you know and trust take work, but I think they really pay off in the long run.

If you are serious about blogging and you want to make money doing what you love, think about what your readers really would like. Think about the brands and companies that your readers would love. Then, work your ass off to be a blog that those brands will want to work with. Be the best for the people reading your blog and make money giving them what they really want.

STOP WITH POP-UPS PLEASE

Like the ads, we all hate pop-ups. Whether it’s for your email list or whatever. Just trust that the people who want to read your blog will figure out how to keep up with you.

Email subscription pop-ups are becoming a thing of the past. When you think about it, even if people are signing up to your email list, how many of them are actually opening it? Most newsletter sites charge per subscriber (or a certain number of subscribers) so why pay for people who aren’t even opening your emails?

Yes, it’s awesome having a solid following that will read anything you post. But not everyone who signs up for your email list will be that type of person if you’re making it too easy to sign up by slapping it in their faces. So get rid of the pop-ups. They slow down your site and people who have already signed up still have to deal with it which is pretty lame.

Ethical blogging doesn’t have to hold you back. It’s just a curtesy to your readers and ultimately will make you a better blogger. Thinking about what you’re sharing and making sure you are being the best you can be. These things will help to move you past the mediocre blog status. They’ll propel you into the realm of bloggers that people really want to follow.

Photo by Nicole Honeywill 

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SHOPPING BAN UPDATE // 6.18.18

shopping ban updated

The shopping ban continues and it’s going pretty well!

I haven’t felt the urge to spend and I’ve thought through the purchases I have made. Our saving account is growing quickly and I can’t wait to start tackling that credit card debt.

THIS MONTH’S PURCHASES

  • Bathing suits. Ian and I had none and we have some summer time fun stuff coming up.
  • Father’s Day gifts. I kept it simple and got my dad and Ian each a mixed six pack of craft beer cause that’s something they both love.
  • Back-ordered shoes. I ordered them about a month before the shopping ban and they were finally shipped (and charged) about a week into the ban. I kind of counted that as a pre-shopping ban purchase, though I was charged during the shopping ban.
  • Pants for Ian. His ripped terribly and he needed a replacement pair.

Otherwise, there have been no frivolous trips to Target. No day dreaming of things I “need.” Just thoughtful and careful purchases.

HOW I’M DOING

I’m actually surprised how well I’m handling this. I think deep down I know I don’t have the budget for things I would really like and I try to keep that in mind when I start feeling spendy.

I think the biggest thing that gets to me is our debt to income ratio and feeling like we’ll never be able to climb the mountain and reach the other side. Our current income is enough to cover some ground and pay for what we need. But when it comes to the bigger stuff, like student loans, we can barely handle minimum payments. Either way, we’ve been fairly good at budgeting and this is our attempt to get even better. We’re hoping that this can set us up to eventually be in a place where we can really tackle all of our debts.

Right now we’re working towards spending less, but also earning more. Financial stability is something that’s very prevalent in our minds. Our focus is on reaching a point where we can live freely without money being a constant stress. We want to create a comfortable cushion for us and our children to have to fall back on if need be. This shopping ban has helped us to see the areas where we’re over spending and put more energy into letting go of our attachment to material items.

GOALS

Pay off Credit Card: $3850.39

Build Emergency Savings: $1000
Reached: $600

This past month I opened a second saving account for us. It’s been helpful splitting our money between 3 different accounts. We have our checking for everyday purchases like groceries, gas, etc. A savings account to put aside money for occasional purchases like bills and rent. And now, we have a second savings account for our emergency fund.

Photo by Toa Heftiba 

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6 WAYS TO BOOST YOUR CREATIVITY

When you’re a creative person, you tend to be someone who needs an outlet. A place where you can freely express yourself without a second thought. Where you don’t have to worry about judgement or embarrassment. Ironically enough, you usually express yourself through your outlet. It’s a way to connect to the world around you.

CREATIVITY IS FLUID.

It comes and goes, almost without warning. When you have it, you feel invincible. When you don’t, it feels like all your purpose has suddenly slipped away and now it’s time to figure out what “regular” people do. Maybe it’s just me, but when I’m in a rut, I feel a loss of identity and personality that feels like it will last forever.

No matter what, we all have those days where the words don’t flow. The brush won’t paint and the cross stitch just can’t find it’s thread. In these moments, we lose our voice. For some of us, our mind goes numb and it’s easy to lose hope that we’ll ever connect again.

This is why I needed to find ways to have a little more control of that creativity. A way that I could harness it and make creativity happen for myself rather than just waiting around for it to happen on it’s own. The biggest thing I’ve found is to make time for myself. I feel like creativity is lost when we’re ignoring ourselves.

To help avoid the creative crash, I’ve compiled a list of all the things that make me feel like making again.

6 WAYS TO BOOST YOUR CREATIVITY

  1. INDULGE IN A NICE DRINK.

    I can’t get over how something as simple as a drink can put me in a relaxed state. Not necessarily an alcoholic drink (though those are nice too), but a really good coffee or tea. Whatever floats your boat. Coffee is my go-to because it gives me an afternoon boost that really gets my mind flowing. There’s something about creating and coffee that really is nice.

  2. SCHEDULE YOUR SCREEN TIME.

    I’m finding that I have to set very specific boundaries for myself in order to stick to things so scheduled screen time is a must. This includes phones, computers, tv’s. Whatever has a screen and distracts you from your thoughts. Personally, I think screen time is what has made me feel like I don’t have enough time in the day for the things I want. Really, it should be that I’m so busy creating that I don’t have time for screens. To be fair, some screens are necessary for creating, but try to set boundaries with the programs you allow during certain times. You’d be surprised how much you can create when you have nothing else to do.

  3. SIT OUTSIDE AND DO ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

    I am used to having at least one or two things going on that “need” my attention, so when there is nothing going on, it’s a little daunting. It puts pressure on me to actually entertain myself. One day, I just did it and it was awesome. I actually sat and looked at the sky and the trees and the clouds. Something I haven’t done in maybe 15 years. I felt so calm just taking in the world around me. In just five minutes my head was filled with all kind of thoughts and ideas that I wrote out in a notebook for over an hour. It’s become a daily routine for me to sit outside with coffee and a journal and listen to the wind while writing whatever comes into my mind.

  4. KEEP A JOURNAL.

    It is a great way to move past surface level thoughts. The ones that get stuck on a loop in your head that aren’t helping, just adding stress. Journaling is a great way to get those thoughts out and written down so you can move to the good stuff. It’s therapeutic. You get to vent and say whatever you need to say about anything. It doesn’t have to be clever, there’s no one to impress. It’s simply a space to get everything out. Every once in a while, you’ll write something brilliant.

  5. STOP COMPARING, THE UNPRODUCTIVE WAY.

    Unproductive comparisons will never help you progress. They hold us back more than we know. It’s taking time to focus on what you don’t have while acknowledging what other people have. If you’re like me, you get caught in a cycle that eventually leads to feeling like you’re not good enough which can make you feel like there’s no point. That’s the unproductive comparison.

    There is a productive way to compare: Rather than getting stuck in the cycle, write out or talk about what qualities you’re looking at in the other person. Think about what specific details you’re comparing and turn them into goals and admiration. Learn to admire the people you’re comparing to and be excited for them because they’ve made it. You’ll get there too. All it takes is a good attitude and a little determination.

  6. STAY IN THE MOMENT.

    I’m constantly reliving moments from my past, thinking of things I could have done better. I also love dreaming of the future, imagining all the things my life could become. I’ve had a problem living within the life I have right now. Sitting and enjoying a moment that I’m in is really difficult for some reason.

    That is why I have these lists.

    This is why I need to evaluate my life and add in these little moments of self love. It puts me in the moment. It makes me happy to see where I am right now. Learning to sit in the current moment I’m living has played a big part in growing my creativity. Day dreaming is a great way to know where you want to be, but we could always be better right now. If you’re waiting to live in the moment only when everything is perfect, you’ll wind up missing everything. So love yourself, be in the moment, and keep creating.

BONUS

SEE WHAT OTHER'S ARE CREATING.

“Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again.” – Andre Gide

In all forms of creativity, you’re saying something. You may not be saying something new to the world, but you’re saying something based on your own point of view.

Seeing what others have to say can spark an inspiration in you that brings their point to a whole new perspective. A perspective that may reach some that the other perspectives could not.

Don’t look to other creators for the sake of stealing, but to inspire something new within yourself and to bring a new perspective to the world.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova

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SEO BASICS FOR NEWBIES IN 2018

Getting information to the world has become more extensive than just putting it on the internet and waiting for someone to see it. There’s more content than ever and it’s really hard to keep up.

The bottom line is, not everything on the internet is useful or necessary. We’re all just adding photos of our coffee and videos of our cats that will live in a database long past the day it’s relevant. Those little things start to crowd search engines and they’re making it necessary for those search engines to be smarter. They have to put all of the information that’s out there through a series of strategic tests in order to make sure they are giving the right information to the people seeking it.

As a blogger or person who wants to be found on the internet, you may be penalized for things you don’t even know are factors. You may have valuable information that’s just not getting through the door. This is where SEO comes in.

WHAT IS SEO?

SEO, Search Engine Optimization, was once known as a strategic use of keywords but is now so much more than that. It’s a long term action plan to get your site onto primary spots on search engines.

By understanding what search engines are looking for when presenting search results, you can shape your site to be optimized for high ranking spots on relevant searches.

WHY IS SEO IMPORTANT?

SEO strategies are the most direct way to get viewers for your site. People use search engines for almost everything these days and those search engines have tools that scan the internet to get the most relevant and helpful results for those users. SEO is your way of telling the search engines that you provide relevant and high quality material for certain searches.

If your SEO is on check, your site views will rise in numbers. You’ll be able to reach more people that are specifically looking for people like you.

SEO BASICS

USER EXPERIENCE

A positive user experience is not just good for being found on search engines. It’s also how you will get users to stick around. Once you’re found in search results, you want to give users a reason to stay and read what you have to say. Maybe even to come back for more. User experience is one of the best ways to ensure high ranking search results and longterm readers.

GREAT CONTENT

Of course we all want to provide great content, but it’s easy to focus so heavily on being found that you forget what you want people to see when they find you. It’s important to make sure you write good content first and worry about SEO second.

To make sure you have high quality content, get a clear idea of what you are writing and why. We’re all trying to add some kind of value so make sure you are making your content the best for your desired subject.

USER INTENT

This is a new thing search engines are learning. For every topic people search, search engines are anticipating the information surrounding that topic that they are looking for.

If you make sure to cover all of the key points surrounding your main focus, you’ll be able to ensure you are providing all the information the user may be looking for.

LOADING SPEED

The number one thing that will kill your search engine ranking is a slow loading page. Search engines can test this in the time it takes to load search results. If your page loads to slow, search engines won’t suggest you to users.

To make sure you have fast loading pages, make sure your photos aren’t too large and try to limit the amount of content you try to fit on one page. (e.i. instead of a full blog feed for your home page, maybe just have a few featured posts with “read more” links)

READABILITY

Information is absorbed quickly these days. The phrase tl;dr (too long; didn’t read) exists for content that is poorly formatted. This is why it’s important to format your site in a way where key points are prominently displayed.

Making sure your pages show clear intent and key topics will help search engines to understand what information you are sharing. It will also captivate readers and convince them to stick around and read what you have to say.

KEYWORDS

Yes, you still need keywords for SEO. You can think of keywords as the main focus and sub-focuses of your content. They are the words that will initially catch the attention of search engines, while everything else is what determines if they will display your site in the results.

Using up to five keywords (but no more than that) will help search engines to find your site based on what the searcher typed into the search field. You can use keywords by simply typing them into your content. Make sure you display your keywords prominently within your content to help not just readers, but search engines see what you’re writing about.

HEADINGS

Headings are a great way to display your main topics and highlight keywords. Most sites include built in headings that you can choose from. H1 and H2 are the most popular headings, but there are many options so you can properly format your pages.

When you include one H1 and a few H2 headings, especially headings that include keywords, you’re letting search engines know the gist of what you’re writing. Using headings as a way to display the bullet points of your content and to help your site to appear on more searches.

SUBSTANCE

It’s important that you have a lot of material to choose from. Blogs with less than 100 posts and sites with a small amount of content don’t appeal to search engines as much. They can appear as inactive and search engines do not display inactive sites.

Much like the users that are searching, search engines like to rely on established, dependable sources when displaying their search results. Make sure you’re not getting discouraged before you have the substance to appeal to search engines. Just find ways to add substantial content to your site to help it look more reliable to search engines.

BACK END

While each part of SEO is important to remember, the back end is the easiest to forget. It’s the nitty gritty that users don’t see so creators often leave it untouched. When we forget about all the back end material, we’re missing out on prime SEO opportunities. After all, search engines live in the back end. It’s all they really know. It’s important to make sure that every possible inch of SEO potential is being reached in order to make your site as easy to find as possible.

METADATA

Metadata is the official term for “back end.” It’s what puts our content in a language computers can read. It helps us control where our images are found, the descriptions that come up for our content, what search engines think our site and our pages are for, etc.

When you’re filling out something for your site, it’s important to pay attention to these areas:

  1. IMAGES
    titles, alt text, description – use keywords.
  2. URLS
    permalink and slug – make it short, direct, and to the point.
  3. META DESCRIPTION
    make it enticing because this is what users will see in search engines.

These are all the little details we love to forget but it really will hurt us in the long run.

Tip: Yoast for WordPress is an awesome meta tool for SEO. It’s not an end game, but it’s a great start and gives you access to all the key points you need to reach.

CONSISTENCY

It’s important that your content is consistent. From the topics you write about to the images you use, everything should be cohesive.

Content should be fairly consistent in order to show search engines you’re a good source for over all user intent in searches. After all, a baker writing about fixing a car is less reliable than a DIY mechanic blog. That’s not to say you can’t write whatever you want. Just know that if you stick to one topic or area of expertise you are more likely to be found for that topic in searches.

UPDATE

Always create. Always update. Updating and freshening up your content will show you are active. Active sites are more likely to be used in search results.This means every page. Every post. Anything that is on your site that can be updated, should be updated. At least, anything you want to see in search results.

Another plus to updating, you're constantly creating content for your followers and making old content more valuable. It will always be easier to give more to your current readers than attracting new ones. Update and create for the sake of your site, your SEO, and most importantly; your supporters. 

Have any SEO tips? Have questions about SEO? Leave them in the comments!

Photo by Jessica Arends

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MONDAY LINKS // blogs to follow

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I’ve never been much of a reader. While I’ve discovered a slight joy for it recently, there’s not much that really strikes me. In order for me to really sit down and pay attention to something I’m reading, I need something captivating. Something personal and relatable. That’s why I’ve grown to loves blogs. In my own blog, I try and put a piece of myself in everything I write because the blogs I really love do just that. They find a way to show that even personal experiences create opportunities to connect with the world around you.

SO THESE ARE THE BLOGS I CLING TO.

The ones that are written with purpose, not for the sake of getting views, but for the sake of telling a story. For the sake of saying that you’re not alone, that everyone has ups and downs. The ones that really show you that it’s okay to embrace your short comings and that you deserve everything you try for. They don’t let you make excuses but they give you a break when you need it. So lets dive into some awesome bloggers that inspire me with every post they make.

BLOGS TO FOLLOW

  1. Jessica Rose Williams for all things wardrobe and minimalism. It really feels like you’ve walked into her home for a chat and a cup of tea.
  2. Un-Fancy for ultimate style inspiration. She really makes style something attainable for us all.
  3. The Lifestyle Files is a lifestyle blog focused on minimalism and simple living with a twist of boss-lady mixed in.
  4. Laura Ulrich has a real knack for story telling over on her blog, Abide.
  5. For an all encompassing lifestyle blog, Wit & Delight offers honest posts ranging from real people problems to city guides and style tips.
  6. Selective Potential is a style blog that offers relatable style with a wide range of shops and pieces.
  7. Britnee Tanner is an insightful minimalist who offers thought provoking posts on all things minimalism and simplifying.
  8. Almost Makes Perfect is an all around lifestyle blog written by the incredibly witty Molly about her life as a new mom with impeccable taste.

Photo by The Lifestyle Files

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HOW TO BUILD MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS

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What we put in our lives should bring us joy and relationships are no exception. The people in our lives can influence every choice we make. From the clothes we wear to the career we choose, the people we care about are in every decision. They mold our values, they give us another perspective that can bring us to new worlds.

It’s important that we surround ourselves with meaningful relationships that add value to our lives and take steps to let go of the relationships that bring us down. In doing this, we discover the people who help us to be the best version of ourselves. The ones who are there when we need them, who point us in the direction that will make us happiest.

The people who want the best for us are the people who deserve the best of us. They are the ones who deserve to feel more important than the meaningless, short term joys around us. It’s time to start being for others what we want from others and to harness the “meaning” part of our meaningful relationships.

HOW TO BUILD MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS

PUT THE PHONE DOWN

This is my newest pet peeve. You go to see family or friends and everyone is on their phone. Sometimes, when they’re not on their phone, their talking about stuff on their phone.

When you cling to your phone while visiting with someone, you’re telling them they’re not enough. It communicates to them that you either don’t have time or there is something more interesting or important than the moment of their life that they are attempting to share with you.

If you don’t really care about someone, don’t waste their time. If you do care, show them by giving them your focus.

BE HONEST

White lies have become toxic. It’s the lie we tell ourselves is okay. We aren’t willing to realize that a lie is a lie, whether it’s good intentioned or not. It’s still deceiving someone for your own personal gain. Whether you’re telling someone they look skinny when they don’t or that you love their new boyfriend when you hate him. You’re only doing it to avoid a moment of discomfort for yourself. What you may not realize is, you’re not only preventing a possible meaningful moment between you and the person you care about. You’re also inadvertently weakening your trust towards them.

When you lie, big or small, you are showing everyone around you that you cannot be trusted. After all, if people can’t trust you with the little stuff, how can they trust you with the big stuff? Trust others by trusting them. If someone doesn’t want to hear the truth, they shouldn’t be asking the question in the first place.

LISTEN

Don’t just hear, don’t get the gist. Actually take the time to hear and process what people are saying. Feel what they are feeling, go through their stories with them. It’s not just about having something to say. Practice listening without planning your response ahead of time. It will not only help you to feel closer and more connected to the person you’re listening to. It can help you to form a response that could really add meaning to the conversation.

GET PERSONAL

Avoid the surface with as many people as you can. Any relationship can become a meaningful relationship if you let it. When someone asks how your day is going, give them an honest answer. If someone wants to hear your opinion, don’t just tell them what you think they want to hear. Let yourself be yourself. Put it all out there and don’t hold back. If someone doesn’t like it, it’s okay. You can’t let a few “bad reviews” hold you back from finding the people that will really like you for you.

DON’T RELY ON OTHERS TO AFFIRM YOUR WORTH

My biggest weakness over the years has been basing my worth on numbers. The amount of friends I have, the number of texts they send me, the number of likes I get, the number of followers I have.. It makes your friendships unreliable. Follows aren’t there for you. Likes on a photo can’t truly encourage you. Texts don’t mean personal contact and more friends does not always mean good friends. The people in your life should remind you of the worth you already have, not hold it all in their hands.

Growing up I was always told that all anyone needs is love and acceptance. Now I know that if you want it, you have to give it. So build meaninful relationships. Find the value in others and harness it by exposing the value within yourself.

Photo by Clarisse Meyer

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MONDAY LINKS // minimalism

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It’s no secret that becoming a minimalist has changed my life. It’s helped me find peace with where I am and where I’m going. Despite what it may seem, minimalism is more than just getting rid of things for the sake of having a cleaner home. The stuff is just practice for the bigger things. You start by getting rid of the things in your life that you just don’t use which leads to discovering things about yourself. You discover that you have more than just things that weigh you down.

But, with every trend there comes “gurus.” People who found a way that works for them and try to say it will work for others. You get people with the lists of things that people need. Some who say you have to only own this much stuff. It really turns a lot of people off to this idea that isn’t suppose to have a standard. It’s not suppose to be one type of minimalism. Sure, there are guidelines. But we all have different need and different desires. It’s not possible for any one lifestyle to fit every person.

I felt it was important to reflect on the things that inspired me to become a minimalist in the first place. I’m not one to see what others are doing and take it word for word. The people who truly inspired me were the ones who simply shared their story. The ones that guide without demanding. These are the people who share minimalism for exactly what it is. The open-ended, do it yourself, lifestyle that it was meant to be.

For anyone that is interested in becoming a minimalist for the sake of creating their own path to a meaningful life, enjoy my links to resources that really helped me a long the way!

MINIMALISM INSPIRATION

  1. A quick guide to minimalism.
  2. The podcast that inspired me to be a minimalist. 
  3. A reflection on my journey to minimalism.
  4. An interesting post on why millennials are getting into minimalism. This is also my favorite blog as of late.
  5. A documentary on minimalism and the people who are living it.
  6. A list of lies that keep our homes and lives cluttered.
  7. An inspiring post on how minimalism helps you live fearlessly.
  8. A week of journaling prompts for creating a minimal life.

Photo by Saar Manche

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REDEFINING HAPPINES

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Happiness. The state of being happy. 

Happy. Feeling or showing contentment. 

The word happy has taken on a whole knew meaning. What was once a simple contentment has becoming an expression for pure joy. Absolute glee is what we really mean when we say, “happy.” When you break it down, happiness is suppose to be simple. Content. Essentially, a lack of chaos. Finding no wrong with the world around us.

It’s a big promise people like to make, happiness.

You’re promised happiness if you find the right job, the right house, the right spouse, the right clothes, the right friends. If everything lines up perfectly, you’ll find happiness. Which basically means that you have to seek the things that will make you happy or make yourself appear like someone that can make others happy which will, in turn, bring things to you that will make you happy.

This is the general subconscious message others love to play on. Of course, we all know that having a shirt will not make us eternally happy. It’s what the shirt can provide that makes us easy to fool. The commercial that shows the pretty girl with the perfect shirt. You know the one. She’s smiling in the sun with five of her closest friends. She goes to her dreamy job where she’s designing more shirts just like the one she’s wearing. When the day ends she goes home to her perfect boyfriend who’s made an amazing meal and you can tell he’s the kind of guy who will ask if she wants a back rub.

Now, if only we could get that damn shirt.

Have we ever thought to ask why we seek happiness? Why can they trick us? Why, as a society, have we all started striving to be happy? It makes sense, why wouldn’t we want to be happy? It’s almost a silly question to ask, except we’ve changed the definition of happy and I want to know why. Why have we made happiness more than it’s suppose to be. It’s not suppose to be joy or glee. It’s not suppose to be an overwhelming feeling that consumes our whole body and mind. That’s why we have words like joy and glee, to describe the overwhelming feeling that happiness was never meant to be. All it was ever suppose to be was, content.

In a sense, what I think we are all really striving for is meaning. To have a purpose in the world. To be content by establishing purpose to our existence. Happiness isn’t what makes life worth living. Happiness is the feeling you get when you know your life is worth it. Now, isn’t that much easier to achieve than infinite joy?

Photo by Arielle Vey

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MONDAY LINKS // simple living

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As I dig further into minimalism, I’ve started seeing this phrase pop up: simple living

For a while it seemed out of reach, especially when thinking in terms of simple = easy. It seemed like simple living was a luxury that only the most successful people could possess. A simple life full of slow mornings, meaningful activities, and time. Time to enjoy the life I’m living. Not living paycheck to paycheck. Not living for the weekend. Just living.

Recently, I’ve started seeing what people really mean when they talk about simple living. They’re not talking about living an easy life. They’re not saying that they already have everything, just that they have enough. They don’t need the latest and greatest, they’re not chasing the newest trend. They’re just choosing to live.

So that is what I’m working towards. Eliminating the stress and making every moment a moment worth living. I’m working to slow down and be intentional in everything I do. It might not be easy, but it certainly is worth it.

On my journey to simple living, I’ve found a few resources and created a few to help my process to creating a simple life. It doesn’t take much to get started, but having the words and stories of people who are living simply is always an encouraging way to get started. For me, it helps to see all the different means to the same end. Taking in all the versions of simple living that are out there has helped me to take the steps in creating a life that is right for me.

So take a look at the list I’ve put together and let me know if there are any motivations that helped you on your journey to simple living!

SIMPLE LIVING IDEAS AND INSPIRATION

  1. An introduction to simple living.
  2. Quick tips to simplify.
  3. A 7 Day Hygge Challenge to help you slow down.
  4. Declutter your time to focus on the good stuff.
  5. Practice a little self care.
  6. Journaling prompts to get started with simple living.
  7. A good read on the beauty in a mediocre life.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova

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HOW TO GET MORE FREE TIME

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I’m a bit of a busy body that hates being busy. I like having things to focus on, I just hate having things to do. I quickly become overwhelmed and it can be hard for me to stay on track because I think about all the things I need to do vs. all the things I want to do. It feels like there’s not enough time in the day to do everything, so I wind up not doing anything at all.

It really makes me long for the good old days. The days when you didn’t have a build up of time clutter that keeps your focus away from things you find meaningful. The days when sitting and reading a book was as productive as you needed to be. Not to say I wouldn’t get bored sometimes without my smartphone, but it’d be nice to have the option to have a simplified version of modern day life.

That’s what I’ve been working on this year: finding some free time. Standardizing the things I need to do so I have more time to pursue the things I want to do.

HOW TO GET MORE FREE TIME (WHEN IT FEELS LIKE YOU HAVE NONE)

TRACK EVERYTHING YOU DO IN A DAY

This is a really good way to get an understanding of how you really spend your time.

  1. At the end of each day, make a list of what you did.
  2. Evaluate what essential and what is a waste of time.
  3. Add the essentials to a to-do list and make a point to avoid the time wasters.
  4. Do this everyday until you are satisfied with how you’re spending your time.

When you take a look of what fills your day, you may discover that you have more time than you thought. Studies show that the average person will spend 13 years watching TV and browsing social media. Imagine if you spent all that time working on a craft or passion. Your time is precious, so do something great with it.

SET SOME ROUTINES

For the longest time, I always claimed to be “too irresponsible” for routines. Even starting my routines was a bit accidental, but they are the number one thing that help me to not only standardize the things that need to get done, but automate them. I added things that need to get done to my morning routine so by the time I really start my day, all the tedious stuff is out of the way. My laundry is started, my bed is made, my dishwasher is clear, etc. Even though I’m technically doing more because of my routines, the things I’m doing need to be done and now they are not standing the way of the things I want to do. So round up all the tedious, necessary tasks and add them to a routine. You’ll find that your time will be spent stressing less about what you need to do and enjoying more of what you want to do.

START TIME BLOCKING

Time blocking is where you dedicate a specific time or part of the day to a certain type of task. Take writing this post for example. I know that around 3pm, Oliver will take a nap; so I dedicated that time to drinking coffee and writing a blog posts. I’ve time blocked my mornings to be house work and my nights to be relaxed time. If you want to really get into time blocking, when you’re writing out what you do in a day, color code each type of task. Then, for the next day, put similar colors near each other so they can all be done in one sequence. This way you can move cohesively through your day and ultimately get more things done, faster.

DO THE LITTLE THINGS RIGHT AWAY

Putting your glass in the dishwasher, unsubscribing from email lists, taking your shoes off in the entry instead of the middle of the living room. The little things that are like annoying little bug bites on our time, but when we put them off they transform into giant shark bites. Those little things used to get the best of me. They were the things that I would put off until I couldn’t stand the build up and I’d have to spend hours on a task all at once that would’ve taken me 30 seconds to do in the first place. If it’s going to take 2 minutes or less, just do it now. Your future-self will thank you.

GET RID OF PHYSICAL CLUTTER

Minimalism was my first step in taking control of my time and happiness. I used to be very overwhelmed by the idea of maintaining my stuff. Finally I realized the stuff was not worth my time. Putting the stuff away, the upkeep, the organizing. It took away from the things that were truly important to me, so I let it go. If nothing else, minimalism taught me to question each item I owned. I learned to ask, “Is it useful? Does it bring me joy? Or is it wasting my time?” I still have stuff, but none of it steals my time.

TURN OFF YOUR NOTIFICATIONS

Turn off instagram, facebook, whatever notifications that pop up on your home screen. When your phone is constantly buzzing, it takes you out of the moment you’re in. For anyone who is afraid of missing out on something important, I have to ask: how many urgent notifications do you get in a day? In my experience, it’s usually someone liking a picture or posting something half witted. Don’t give into the social media madness. Check your phone when you have downtime, but leave the notifications for the important things.

DON’T STRESS VARIETY

It’s okay to wear the same thing two days in a row, it’s okay to eat the same thing for every meal. When you find something you like, don’t feel obligated to change it. If you have a favorite shirt, wear it all the time. Meal planning? Make that toast you’ve been loving for every meal. Not only is it easy, but it adds excitement to your day because you know you’re going to get something you enjoy. If something starts feeling monotonous, find a new favorite to enjoy for a while.

FOCUS ON ONE THING AT A TIME

I understand the feeling of not having enough time. That feeling that if it doesn’t happen right now, it never will. The harm in this way of thinking is we feel pressure to take on so many things that we never get anything done. When you take a step back and focus on one thing at a time, you are able to give it the attention it needs to create an outcome you can be proud of. Take right now for example: I would love to upgrade pieces in my home AND my closet. Taking on both is not only expensive, but it’s a lot of styling to figure out all at once. So I picked one, the closet. I made a master list of everything I need/want and I’m focusing on one piece at a time. When I’ve completed my closet, I’ll move onto my home which will then happen one room at a time. Maybe even one part of one room at a time. It may take some time to get to the end result, but I’ll wind up having exactly what I want rather than sort of, kind of what I want quickly.

DON’T TRY TO BE SOMEONE YOU’RE NOT

It’s so easy to work towards a goal just because you feel like you’re suppose to. For me, it was working out. I really felt like working out was something I had to do because that’s what a responsible, healthy person does. I really had to take a step back and think about why I felt this way. Was it really something that was valuable to me? Did it bring me joy? Was the stress that working out brought to my life worth the outcome? For me, no it was not. Instead, I found more “me” ways to improve my health that didn’t include apprehension. So really think about why you’re doing the things you don’t love to do. You may find that you don’t really need to do them at all.

Let me know some ways you’ve found more free time in the comments!

Photo by Almost Makes Perfect

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2 QUESTIONS TO MINIMALISM

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Minimalism is a very simple lifestyle. It’s simple to be it, and just as simple to begin.

That’s not to say minimalism is easy. There’s nothing easy about going against the grain. Ignoring what everyone is telling you. Forging your own path to a meaningful life. One that doesn’t include all the products and lifestyles being shoved in your face at every swipe through your phone. So yes, it’s simple, but it’s not easy.

In it’s essence, getting started with minimalism is simple. It takes two questions being asked over and over again to get into the mindset of minimalism. It’s a practice and the beginning gives you a lot of it.

THE BEGINNING OF MINIMALISM

The theme is that a minimalist always starts their journey with a purge. The ultimate declutter to begin your new life. It’s a “from the ashes we will rise” kind of mentality. This is where the “practice” of it all begins:

  • Practice confronting our things and looking at our lives directly.
  • Stop letting our things take control of our lives and we begin the to take control of our things.
  • Purge.

While we purge we ask questions, we examine each part of our lives in order to let go of the things that are holding us back.

THE QUESTIONS

IS IT USEFUL RIGHT NOW?

I added the “right now” because it’s easy to give anything potential use. Sure, I’m not using my curling iron right now, but I might one day.

One day is a dangerous phrase. We fill our homes with things that might come in handy one day and give our present selves all the responsibility for things our future selves may never use.

There’s a rule in minimalism. Not everyone follows it, not everyone has to follow it. But it’s a rule that was created to help give perspective on the usefulness of our things. It’s the 90/90 rule where you think on whether or not you’ve used an item in the last 90 days. If not, will you use it in the next 90? If the answer to both is no, just set it aside. And if you don’t think about it for 90 days, it may be time to let it go.

DOES IT BRING YOU JOY?

Not everything that brings you joy will be useful. Photos, art, plants, etc. None of these things really have a use. You can’t bake a cake with them, you can only entertain for about 2 seconds. Ultimately, they are fairly useless. Unless, of course, they bring you joy.

Minimalism is not deprivation. It is not selling your your record collection that you enjoy daily just to clear clutter. It’s not putting all your books on a kindle in the spirit of downsizing. It’s not taking away the things you love to create an open corner of nothing. It is simply clearing the things that don’t truly stand out to you. The things you hold onto out of guilt or because you feel required. It’s taking all of the things that hold you back out of your life in order to free up your time, space, and money for the things that remind you what butterflies in your stomach feel like. The things that bring happiness and meaning into your life.

THAT’S NOT TO SAY IT NEEDS TO BE BOTH

The things that are useful don’t have to bring you joy. You need each item to fit at least one description, but it’s not required that they have to be both in every instance. Most of us need an oven. Is it going to be the oven of our dreams? Maybe not. But it serves a purpose and that’s what matters.

The things in your life don’t have to be both useful and joyful, but they do have to be at least one of those things. Life is better when it’s filled with meaning and we can learn how to create it by starting with our stuff.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova

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MAINTAINING DIGITAL CLUTTER: The Phone

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You finally get a hold of your physical clutter and your time clutter yet, you can’t settle down. There’s still something you can’t quite manage sitting right in your pocket like a cozy chaos machine. There’s the emails you have to remember to reply to, the texts that come in no matter what you’re in the middle of doing, there’s hundreds, maybe thousands of pictures where your kid was doing something cute and then stopped as soon as you got the camera ready. All that digital clutter is taunting your brain, daring it to take charge and manage it.

I’d say our phone may be the number one thing we all can’t leave the house without. It holds a lot of our digital clutter that we can’t forget because it’s attached to our butt everywhere we go (I’m a phone in the back pocket gal). I don’t know about you, but I feel a little sense of panic anytime I have to find something on my phone. I know it’s probably somewhere I can find it, but all the junk I have to go through is what keeps my stress levels high.

Its time to get control. Don’t let your phone rule you. It’s time to for you to rule your phone, clear the digital clutter, and organize it in a way that is manageable to maintain.

MAINTIANING DIGITAL CLUTTER

APPS

Apps don’t accumulate as quickly which makes them much easier to organize. The best way to maintain them is to organize your device in a way that will make any new apps stick out like a sore thumb.

  1. Go through your apps and delete any you know you don’t use.
  2. Move the apps you know you use to the front page of your device. If there are any apps that are in a similar category, make a folder for them if possible.
  3. Any apps you need but not very often, move them to the second page. Again, if there are any that are very similar, put them in a folder.
  4. With any apps you never use but can’t delete because your phone won’t let you, put them all in a folder on the very last page.
  5. If you have any “not sure” apps, move them to the front page for now.
  6. Wait a month. If you don’t use them, delete them and if you do use them, move them to the proper location (either frequent use or infrequent use).
  7. Do steps 5-6 with any new apps you download so you don’t forget about them.

Once you have your system set up you’ll be able to manage your apps and prevent future buildup.

TEXTS

There are so many different texts we receive: the frequent conversation, the occasional conversation, the group text, the verification code, and the notification. The conversations that end up forgotten that take up space on our phones and add to our mental clutter. They sit on our phones, getting in the way of accessing the truly valuable conversations. So here’s how to handle each conversation type to prevent that build up of text clutter.

The Frequent Conversation – These are the digital clutter that actually add value. They are texts you want to easily access to talk to the people you love (or have to) all the time. Deleting them would wind up being a bigger stress than just letting them sit on your phone. Embrace your frequent conversations.

The Occasional Conversation – I like to delete these when the conversation ends. Sure, I may have to start the conversation again, but who knows when that’ll happen. No matter what, I have the contact so why do I need to save a conversation? Unless this person adds conversation you don’t want to forget, why let it clutter your phone?

The Group Text – These conversations fall under the first two categories but can often get out of hand. A typical group text can blossom into a full family tree: The whole group and any groups that branch off from there. Don’t let the group text take over your phone. Just cut it off when you’re done with it. If you need to talk to a specific group of people again, you know how to make a new group text.

The Verification Code – Either you sign up for something or forget your password or log into a new device and all of a sudden you have a new text taking up space. These are the texts we receive that have a follow up action to them. Typically going to where ever the verification code is supposed to be used. Because of this, it’s easy to forget about them and move on; leaving them uselessly sitting in our text app. So just delete them after you enter the code. You’ll never be able to use it again, so why keep it?

The Notification – Just turn off those text notifications. Save your text messages for things that are absolutely necessary. You’re time is way too valuable to be interrupted by someone liking your photo on instagram. In fact, I encourage you to turn off all notifications for social media. If you want to know what’s going on, go on the app when you’re think about it. Don’t interrupt your time with what other people are doing. I promise you’re not missing a thing.

CONTACTS

This is more of a yearly maintenance. Maybe monthly depending on how often you have to add contacts to your phone. Either way, set a frequency and date to go through your contacts and make a calendar alarm. Anytime that alarm goes off, it’s time to go through your contacts and delete anyone you haven’t talked to in the last year. If you really need to get a hold of them later, I’m sure you’ll be able to find them on social media or through a friend.

NOTES

I turn to my notes app often to quickly jot down something and hope I understand it later. The problem is, later never comes. Too often I’ve writing something in my notes and it becomes as forgot as it would if I had just relied on memory alone. So I came up with two ways to not only manage my notes, but also to prevent my thoughts from getting lost in a sea of notes.

Categorize – The first line of every note is what appears as the title. I have taken advantage of this and created notes with categories like Grocery, Post Ideas, etc. This helps me to keep only a few notes where I can easily find a thought by looking in the most relevant category.

Follow Up – Once a week, set a time to go through your notes and create action items from them. Whether it’s a simple to-do or a creative idea, most notes can be turned into a task. You made a point to remember this thing for a reason so you owe it to yourself to follow up and make it happen one way or another. Once you’ve made a to-do, delete it from the note to make room for more.

PHOTOS

Photos are the easiest digital clutter to accumulate. Managing this clutter honestly seems like an impossible task at times, but I’m here to tell you it’s possible.

The first step to taking control of this digital clutter is to find some kind of cloud. Mine is Google Photos, but there are a lot of option out there. Then, go create different folders (or albums) for all the categories you think you’d need for sorting your photos. When you’re sorting, feel free to create any new albums you may need. Be as specific or broad as you’d like. Once all your existing photos have been organized (deleting what you don’t want and categorizing what you do), follow the steps below to keep your photos maintained without having to do a bunch of work all at once.

  1. Take your photo(s).
  2. Delete the photos you don’t want as you scroll through looking for the money shot.
  3. When you find the money shot, if you’re not going to edit it, move it to a folder to organize it into a relevant category.
  4. If you do edit your photo, move the edited version to a relevant folder and delete original.
  5. If you want to keep both the edited and original, move both to their relevant folder(s).

PODCASTS/MUSIC

The world of streaming is a beautiful place. You don’t really need to own any digital media anymore because you can basically stream anything. So just start streaming these two things. Don’t add to your digital clutter with tons of apps for streaming, but there are apps that are an all in one, like Spotify! If there is anything you absolutely love but can’t find through streaming, that can be the exception. Otherwise, just stream it.

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