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Framing Your Year With Thoughtful Reduction

January 5, 2016

As I write this, it’s the first week of 2016.

It’s a new year, a fresh start, and now is as good a time as any to start living your most vibrant life. So let’s see if we can make that happen, okay? Okay!

Just to recap, last week we talked about taking a departure from the typical resolution mindset and instead of thinking about how to cause a revolution in the way you think about your life—a mindset shift that could really make a huge impact on your life one year from today.

Well, this week I want to talk about another practical way that I implement that kind of big change in my thinking at the start of each year.

You may have seen or heard about this approach before, but I like to choose one word as a way to frame up my year and intentionally move forward toward the life that I want. I’ve been doing this since 2012 after getting the idea from a few blogs I followed, and now Jason and I have done this together as a couple for the past two years.

2015’s one-word theme was SAVOR. To me, that word was like a capsule for all of these other things I knew I wanted to fold into my life: a slower pace, sinking into joyful moments, showing gratitude, being fully present, finding contentment in my current circumstances whatever they may be. One of the very definitions of the word savor in fact — which I adore — is “to give oneself to the enjoyment of.” How delightful is that?

I truly believe that by keeping this word (savor) top of mind, these concepts were able to truly permeate my year. I found myself (mostly) soaking up a slower pace and really allowing myself to enjoy some of the fruits of my labors rather than living in a perpetual “hustle mode.” (This was, of course, helped along by our decision to move to sunny California where we found ourselves surrounded by natural beauty, gorgeous weather, and so many other happy components to our daily life.)

Fresh off this year of savoring life’s best moments, I now find myself ready to evolve that intention to something slightly different. But what?

Well, the past month has served as an incredible time of reflection and clarity as I take a look at my daily life and Made Vibrant as a whole. While so much feels like it’s right where it should be, there are still a few areas where stress or anxiety stubbornly remains.

Thinking about how to improve upon that — and largely influenced by one of my favorite books I read last year, Essentialism by Greg McKeown — the one word I want to contemplate this year is: CURATE.

For me, to curate conjures up the idea of thoughtful reduction. It’s about selecting and sorting a few quality things from the many. It’s separating the signal from the noise.

Over the past few years, Jason and I have been making gradual strides towards a more minimal lifestyle and I’ve seen such a positive impact on my happiness from a lot of those experiments. Experiments like selling most of my wardrobe (I currently own about 15% of the clothing I used to) or getting rid of all our furniture/possessions when we moved (with the exception of a bed frame, two desks and a love seat we purchased when we moved to California, everything we own can fit inside our VW Tiguan.)

Ridding myself of all that tangible excess led to some interesting discoveries. Not only do a feel like a lighter, freer, more flexible human being because of it, but throughout that process, I’ve also naturally found myself more concerned with seeking out things that are of higher quality.

In the words of Essentialism, it is the simple notion of “Less, but better.”

That mentality has now bled into so many aspects of my life: less but better possessions, less but better opportunities I say yes to, less but better things I decide to focus my energy on.

By focusing on that word, curate, I want 2016 to be about fully assimilating that idea into every aspect of my life — more specifically my business.

I’m a person who has never found myself hurting for ideas. In fact, I often feel I have far too many ideas. (This will not shock most of you given our history together over the course of these weekly letters.)

The problem with that, however, is that I have this palpable sense of urgency all the time that tells me everything has to be done all at once. As I result, I often find myself working on 15 different things and planting seeds in about 15 different gardens, never fully feeling like I’m fully able to harvest anything to the best of my ability. To use an illustration from Greg’s book, it’s the difference between this and this:

On that note, recently I was listening to Tim Ferriss’s podcast episode with Derek Sivers, and Tim offhandedly says something to the effect of: “We often vastly overestimate the number of things we can get done in one day and vastly underestimate the things we can get done in one year.”

That is so true, I thought, thinking immediately of all the times I’ve had a daily to-do list about 10 things long, and only found myself getting around to 1 or 2 of them. This is a direct result of what’s illustrated above.

“Focus, by definition, requires some elimination. When we try to focus on ‘more’ we often accomplish less.”

Instead, I thought, what if I curate my day more intentionally. In fact, what if I conservatively just give myself ONE to-do item every day. Something I can focus on without the distraction of all my other to-dos. That way, if I get that one big thing done, all the other little things are gravy on top.

And to take that point further: What would happen if curated my relationships — if I focused on maintaining a few of my deep, meaningful friendships instead of feeling guilty over and overwhelmed by trying to keep up with every casual friend and connection I have. What would happen if I more consciously curated the events I attend or the places we travel or the blogs that I read? What if I had a curator’s mindset when selecting the projects I’m working on at any given time?

That’s what I want this year to be an exploration of: less, but better.

All of this not in an effort to restrict or restrain myself, but in an effort to trim the chaos down just enough to reveal the quality.

As the girl who wants to do it all and do it all RIGHT NOW, I know it won’t be easy but I think it will be a great experiment nonetheless! I think there’s a time for exploration and expansion and also a time for reduction. Both can serve us at different times in our journeys and right now I’ve found that I can do a lot more with less.

So, my question for you this week is: what’s your theme word for this year?

What comes to mind when you think of where last year has led you and where you hope to be next January?

Whatever word you choose, it’s my belief that mindful, intentional living is always a recipe for a vibrant year, so I know this exercise will bring you value!

Exploring Minimalism: Doing MORE With LESS

October 7, 2014

As you guys know, I’m no stranger to life experiments. 

Whether it’s a 30-day lettering challenge or trying out veganism for a month, I’ve always been a big fan of making big intentional changes in my life to see where they might lead.

It’s always been my theory that if you want feel a big shift in your perspective, you have to make big shifts in your daily existence.

Well, here I am again, ready to make a shift.

Last week, as I was catching up on one of my email newsletters, Jess Lively mentioned something at the bottom of her email that caught my eye:

“Recently I read a (new to me blog) called Un-Fancy from start to finish – something I haven’t done in a loooong time. I’m obsessed with Caroline’s capsule collection concept of living with a limited number of clothing pieces each season.”

I was intrigued. And wouldn’t you know it, the link brought me to a cute lil’ blog called Un-Fancy, where I devoured post after post of Caroline’s documented journey to maintaining a “capsule wardrobe.” I had never heard of a capsule wardrobe before and I tore through each post with a deep fascination. I felt like Jack The Pumpkin King in The Nightmare Before Christmas… ♫ “What’s this? What’s this? There’s style everywhere…” ♫ (Any fans in the house? No? You’ll have to excuse me… I think that’s the October talking…)

Anyway, after some extensive Googling/Pinterest searching, I found that the specifics vary slightly in terms of number of items, what counts/doesn’t count, etc. but in general a capsule wardrobe is the concept of narrowing down your whole wardrobe to under 40 items for a season. In Caroline’s case, she goes with 37 pieces, including shoes. The idea is to have pieces that you absolutely LOVE and then you can mix and match them to create an endless slew of different outfits. The creative in me loved that part especially, and I appreciated that on Un-Fancy, Caroline shows each daily outfit so you can see how her 37 pieces can translate to different outfits/occasions.

So it got me thinking: how many pieces do I have in my own wardrobe (hint: a lot) and how many of those pieces do I actually wear on a regular basis (hint: not a lot.)

We all know how overwhelming it can be to look into our over-crowded closets and think to ourselves I have NOTHING to wear. Umm… that’s never actually true. It’s just that with all the options, it’s hard to really SEE what we have. It sounds strange, but I suddenly realized that less options = more creative room to build outfits.

Sometimes by taking things away you make the space to gain something else. 

And so this whole idea of minimalism started making a lot of sense to me.

But keep in mind, Jason and I are no strangers to the idea of minimalism. We had the great fortune of meeting and befriending two of perhaps the most visible minimalists in the country, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. Known simply as (surprisingly) “The Minimalists,” Joshua and Ryan run a blog all about their journey with minimalism, and we’re lucky enough to call them friends. We have heard both of them share their own personal stories about what led them to build a life with less, and over the past two years they have inspired several conversations in our household about what it means to live a more minimal existence.

Among some of our changes, we’ve tried to stop giving gifts on special occasions (and instead we opt for trips or experiences) and we now think much more critically about our purchases. The key question we ask ourselves (at The Minimalists recommendation) is “Does this thing bring me value?” It’s not an exaggeration to say that that one question has changed our lives.

See, minimalism isn’t about being able to fit all your worldly possessions in a backpack. It’s simply about conscious, intentional consumption, whatever that looks like for you. It’s about being mindful of the things we acquire.

As many of you know, Jason and I are moving to San Diego soon. The first step in that process is selling the house, and so we had our favorite photographer Laura Evans come over to shoot the house yesterday. To prepare for the shoot, we did a deep clean and clear out of every room in the house, and I have to say, I was kind of appalled at how much STUFF we had accumulated over the years. When you see it all out in the open like that and you realize that’s how much money you’ve spent on things that you don’t even use on a daily basis, it puts things into perspective for you. I kept thinking, How much money could we have saved? How many more trips and experiences could we have had? 

All of this swimming around my head, I finally decided to bite the bullet and try my hand at the capsule wardrobe thing. First step, I whittled my wardrobe down to only my favorite pieces (about 50) and I sold the rest of it. I still have some decisions to make (I’d love to get that number down to about 35-40) but I already feel so much better. It’s amazing the mental and emotional weight holding on to things can carry with us. This morning I felt lighter somehow and unbelievably excited as I faced my refreshingly sparse closet.

Anyway, I’ll keep you guys updated on the experiment, but in general this week I wanted to encourage you to take a moment and ask yourself:

What’s one area of your life where you could use a little LESS?

Maybe it’s something related to your environment, like me. Maybe your closet needs a good clean out, or it’s finally time to de-clutter that desk of yours. But maybe it’s deeper than that.

Maybe your minimalism extends to social media, like Jason, my better half, who is currently going social-media-free for the month of October.

Maybe you could use more minimalism in your commitments. Could you benefit from saying “No” a bit more so you can go deeper and give more to the things you’re currently doing? Could you take on fewer clients for more money, less complaining for more joy, maintain fewer acquaintances and enjoy deeper friendships?

Whatever it is, this week I challenge you to shed the excess. 

And feel free to share your experiences with me by replying to this email. I’d love to know how you plan to do MORE with LESS.

Have an awesome week, you guys! Remember, life is a gift, so let’s show our appreciation accordingly.