Project 7: Stress

“It is such folly to pass one’s time fretting instead of resting quietly on the heart of Jesus.”– St Therese of Lisieux

How often do we find ourselves worrying and stressing about life and all the little details of it instead of resting? How frequently do we get wrapped up in concerns about things we can’t change, wondering what we will do if x, y, or z happens, wasting precious time and energy trying to create a survival plan for the future instead of really living in the present?

I just got back from a family trip to Nebraska and Colorado, and while I was gone I noticed something: I was an entirely different person on vacation than I had been at home. I was more flexible about what time I went to bed, what time I got up, how I spent my time, and I was fully content living out of a duffel bag. I found it easier to be cheerful and positive. I had more fun. And I was more fun.

And coming back to “the real world,” I knew I didn’t want to fall back into my old patterns. Yes, I have a new house full of projects. Yes, I have to return to work and get caught up on everything I missed. But that doesn’t mean I have to become a bundle of nerves.

In the spirit of Jen Hatmaker’s 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess and my own Project 7, I am endeavoring to reduce the number of things I fill my calendar and my to-do list with. I don’t want to be stretched so thin and weighed down by so many things that I can’t enjoy my life or feel held back from the things I really want to do. I want to be free to experience all that life has to offer.

I know I need to learn how to prioritize and set boundaries. I can’t expect to get everything done in a single day, and I shouldn’t try to. Nor do I have to say yes to everything that comes my way. I found some helpful guidelines for figuring out what to say yes to and what to say no to, and I thought I would share them.

The Courage of No

1 – Know who you are. It’s tempting to tie our worth to our yeses, our hustle, and our ability to get ‘er done. But women who have a clear sense of purpose and identity in Christ are able to say no without letting it prescribe something about their worth. Take time every day to affirm your truest identity — the one you have in Jesus.

2 – Know your priorities. The clearer your priorities, the easier your decisions. Filter every request through the prism of your core values and calling. If it doesn’t pass the priorities test, it might be a sign that you should decline.

3 – Be resolute. Sure, it’s polite to offer some explanation for your “no,” but don’t feel like you have to give a drawn-out justification, even if you know that your “no” will disappoint the asker. As Jesus said, “All you need to say is simply ‘yes’ or ‘no’” {Matthew 5:37}.

4 – Keep perspective. Remember that a “yes” to one thing means “no” to another.

5 – Remind yourself that your “no” is someone else’s “yes.” Your “no” may open the door for another soul to learn, lead, and serve.

6 – Hear God’s big yes over you. There is wisdom in knowing when to walk away, but it takes courage to take that step. Know that when you need to say “no,” God is still in your corner, pouring all kinds of yes down on you! -Jennifer Dukes Lee, (in)courage

We can’t do everything. But we can do some things. The key is to be willing to say no to the things that, although they may be good, are not the best— the best for us in this current season, location, circumstance, and step in this process called life.

Here’s to learning to make that distinction. May you and I both stress less and rediscover the joy that can be found in saying yes and no to the right things.

Project 7: Clothing

As I continue with my own version of Project 7, I’m moving on to tackling clothing, in the spirit of acknowledging that I have far more than I need, have the bad habit of continually buying more because I somehow still think I “have nothing to wear,” and place too much value on my appearance.

I have a habit of regularly cleaning things out of my home and donating them (usually to Goodwill, although most recently to PRISM, a nonprofit that serves the needy population of people who live in the area). However, I find myself itching to get rid of more stuff again only a few months later. Clearly, something is wrong if I’m taking in so much stuff that I’m longing for some relief just a few short months after a clean-out.

In modifying this challenge from Jen Hatmaker’s in her book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, I took a long time to decide what parameters to set for myself.

I like concept of a capsule wardrobe, but I also love playing around with clothes and feeling like I have variety in what I wear, so I’m not sure that’s really the answer for me (even though that was part of Jen’s challenge for herself, too). However, the idea behind the capsule wardrobe system is a good one, and it has inspired me to make changes in how I structure my wardrobe, even though I don’t plan to embrace all the tenets of it.

As this challenge is coinciding with packing for a move, I am choosing to focus primarily on reducing the number of clothing items I own and mindfully investing in good-quality additions. As I pack, I will also pare down the number of pieces I have for a limited time, reminding myself that nobody but me cares if I wear the same things all the time.

My closet is full of items that I don’t love, and I want to work toward building a wardrobe of pieces that will make me feel good, not only because they fit well but also because I know I will get enough use out of them. In reducing my clothing to what I really like, I will be wearing the same things more often, which will certainly be a challenge.

I plan to follow the basic structure given here, taking everything out of my closet, cleaning it, sorting things into piles, trying things on again, and not rushing myself in the process.

I’m sure I will have to keep reminding myself why I’m going through my clothes yet again, and why I’m trying to exercise restraint in buying new pieces impulsively if they’re not quite what I’m looking for. I will set goals for myself: Reducing shopping. Keeping only what fits & is in good condition. Keeping what I love. Investing in quality over quantity. Saving for good, long-lasting pieces that won’t go out of fashion with the next trend.

 

Do you find yourself with clothing you don’t really love or get enough use out of? What do you do about it? How do you keep it from growing again after a cleanout?

 

For further reading:

Why Keeping Only the Clothes that “Spark Joy” Is Magical by Shifrah Combiths

How to Finally Clean out Your Closet for Good by Courtney Carver

Project 7: Spending

In my aim to revisit specific areas of my life through Project 7, focus intentionally on them for a month, and see what changes I can make to better align my daily life with my long-term goals, I now turn to my spending.

I’ve written before about budgeting, cutting out shopping, and getting rid of debt, but I am once again motivated to think about how I spend my money for a different reason: my sister and I are househunting! We have barely begun the process, but I know it’s going to be an expensive one.

In light of the inevitably huge expenses we will face, I’m setting aside July as my month to closely monitor my spending. After thinking so much about my possessions last month, I know I don’t need to fill my home with more and more stuff to be happy. But I also know that unless I’m really careful about what I buy on a regular basis, it’s easy to look back at the end of the month and be surprised about where my money went.

I am committing to taking a good, hard look at my budget and revising it as necessary to allow me to save the money I need for our new home. I don’t know for sure what we’ll need yet, but unexpected repairs could come up at any time, and I want to be prepared to handle them. Of course, I also want to allow room for buying more fun things like paint or furnishings.

There are some things that I obviously can’t cut out of my budget this month– things like groceries, gasoline, rent, utilities, and tithing. However, I do plan to stick to those categories and not make impulse buys. I have far more than I need, and I know being able to have more money saved for a future goal is going to be well worth the tightened purse strings.

One thing I have begun to do is create a long-term shopping list of things I’d eventually like to buy when I have the money (mostly bigger-ticket items, but not always). Creating a shopping list might sound counter-intuitive in trying to save money, but by creating this list, I’m forced to prioritize my spending. I know that if I want to be able to buy the items on my list, I have to be willing to say “no” to buying other things.

This way, I’m not refusing to buy the things I could really make use of, but I’m also not emptying my bank account by going on huge shopping sprees. It gives me breathing room and ample time to evaluate whether I really do want a particular item enough to pay for it. By putting something on a long-term list, I’m essentially forcing myself to hold off on buying it for a while, and giving myself the opportunity to wait it out and see if my desire for it was a passing thing or if I still want it down the road.

Do you have any tips for keeping your spending in check? I’d love to hear them!

Home Improvements

This month, I’ve been trying to focus on my physical possessions (although I’ll admit it seems like early summer business has distracted me quite a bit).

In trying to make my house (apartment) a home, I’ve done more decluttering and purging (shout out to my cousin for having a well-timed garage sale!) to create cleaner, more simplified spaces, which has felt like a bit of a cop-out since the effect is pretty minimal. After getting rid of unnecessary clutter and reorganizing what was left, however, I do find myself spending less time staring at my stuff and feeling dissatisfied with how much I have and how it’s organized/arranged. I’m getting closer to feeling like I have kept only the things that are useful or beautiful and gotten rid of the excessive clutter that just takes up valuable space.

I’m also working on some projects to spruce up what I already have and make it more beautiful so that I can feel more at home in my space. After all, we all want to feel more comfortable, restful, and peaceful in our homes, right? I find that comes more easily when our heads aren’t full of a list of improvements we need to make in order to appreciate our surroundings. Sure, there are always going to be things that need repairs or upkeep, but I’m talking more about doing the things necessary to transform a space full of drab, uncoordinated things that appear thrown together by chance into a cohesive space that doesn’t make us feel discombobulated or anxious to fix it.

I commissioned my sister and her friend to create a headboard for my new bed, both after seeing the great job the two of them did on her headboard and after realizing that a store-bought one would cost quite a bit more (and I didn’t see any I loved). They did a great job!

Eventually, I hope to work with them to frame my full-length mirror, too. My sister added a large wooden frame to hers a while back, and it looks so much cleaner, crisper, and polished (no pun intended) than mine that’s screwed directly into the wall with the manufacturer’s brackets.

I tried taking on the big challenge of re-fitting the slip-covers that have been on our couches since we moved in. The couches and covers were generously given to us, and while we are incredibly grateful to not have had to shell out a large sum of money for furniture, the covers don’t fit well and look rather disheveled. However, I discovered the work was far more difficult than it was worth, since it’s a bit above my skill level as an amateur seamstress. But I tried!

I also rearranged some of the kitchen cupboards’ contents to try and make our storage more efficient. I ended up moving some things around in our linen closet, too, and finding enough room to store some bulk items in there to create more space in the kitchen. I’m not sure how long it will last, since I feel like I’m continually coming up with ideas that seem more logical or efficient, but we’ll see!

What sorts of projects have you done around your house to make it feel more like a home? Do you have any tips for working with what you already have to create a more personalized and relaxing space? I’d love to hear them!

Making a House into a Home

Hand-drawn-quote-by-The-Inspired-Room-blogOkay, okay, so I live in an apartment, not a house, but bear with me, all right? “Making an apartment into a home” just doesn’t doesn’t have the same ring to it.

What would it take for you to transform your house into a home? Do you think there’s a difference, or are they one in the same?

I hadn’t really thought about it until just recently, when looking further into ways to declutter, reevaluate, reorganize, and make the most of my spaces as I continue through the possessions focus of my Project 7 adventure.

Have you ever walked into someone else’s house and instantly felt comfortable, safe, relaxed, or at ease? Did you feel, in other words, at home?

While a house can merely be a dumping ground for all of life’s stuff, a home is so much more. Home is a place we come to at the end of a long day to unwind, relax, and find comfort. It holds part of our heart, is filled with memories, and occupies a special place in our hearts.

I want my home (currently this apartment, but at every stage of my life going forward) to welcome others in and to welcome me in at the end of my day. I don’t want to be stressed about maintaining it, frustrated trying to find things, unsettled when it seems like things just aren’t arranged optimally, or just dissatisfied with the general impression of a place that is lived in but not especially loved.

In thinking of what I wanted my home to look like, I asked myself what I wanted the dominant feelings conveyed by each room to be— the mood or atmosphere, if you will. I want the purpose of each room and the desired atmosphere to guide how I fill the space. Instead of haphazardly placing things around the apartment, creating a mis-matched, aimless grouping of my belongings, I want to be more intentional in creating a calming space that welcomes people in.

What makes each room special? What do I love about a particular space? What don’t I like the look or feel of? What would I change? What kind of story would I want my space to tell a stranger about me?

I’m going to keep these questions in mind as I survey my apartment one room at a time and try to slowly transform it into a place that feels more like home. Will you join me in doing the same with your space?

What do you want your home to feel like or look like?

 

Image source: http://theinspiredroom.net/2015/06/17/home-2/

Why We Keep So Much Stuff

imagesDo you ever wonder why we keep so much stuff in our homes? We know we have more than we need, often more than we even want, but we have a hard time letting go just the same. Why is that?

I think many of us feel guilty wanting to get rid of things that have some sentimental value. We feel connected to things that remind us of the past or connect us with a loved one, and we think it somehow would be disrespectful to get rid of said thing. But the memories we have of time spent with those closest to us don’t reside in possessions; we can get rid of things we don’t use or love and still hold dear to our memories.

I am not my stuff; we are more than our possessions.
Our memories are within us, not within our things.
Holding on to stuff imprisons us; letting go is freeing.
You can take pictures of items you want to remember.
Old photographs can be scanned.
An item that is sentimental for us can be useful for someone else.

I don’t think sentimental items are bad, or evil, or that holding on to them is wrong; I think the danger of sentimental items (and sentimentality in general) is far more subtle. If you want to get rid of an item, but the only reason you are holding on to it is for sentimental reasons—and if it is weighing on you—then perhaps it’s time to get rid of it, perhaps it’s time to free yourself of the weight. That doesn’t mean you must get rid of everything, though. – Joshua Fields Millburn

That’s not to say we can’t keep anything that is sentimental; it just means we don’t need to keep every birthday card or every piece of our grandma’s jewelry if they’ll just sit in a box in our closets. We need to evaluate items outside of the sense of nostalgia they carry and choose to keep just the ones that really mean the very most to us.

We may keep gifts from friends and family members because we feel bad about donating or selling them, even though they’re not things we particularly like or use. We hang onto them because we’ve created a sense of shame surrounding the idea of getting rid of gifts from loved ones. We think they’ll notice if we don’t have their gifts around our house, but the truth is they really won’t. And they’d likely feel bad for making you think you had to keep something just to appease them.

Maybe we hold on to things with the intention of maybe using it someday in the future. But if we dug a little deeper and asked ourselves how often we’ve really ended up using things we’ve stashed away for that “just in case” situation, we’d maybe be more willing to let things go. The truth is that we rarely need the things we keep by this kind of justification. We make ourselves feel better for holding onto things we don’t need by saying we may one day need them, but we often never do. And, frankly, many of such things could be easy to replace if we find out we do surprisingly need them ten years down the road, and we would have saved ourselves the storage space for those ten years in the meantime.

We might even delude ourselves into thinking we’ll use miscellaneous items for a rainy day craft or fix our collection of broken things, but most of us likely don’t follow through with those ambitions. We store up boxes and boxes of craft supplies, scraps and tidbits of various things we can’t justify throwing away, hoping we’ll get to make something beautiful out of them eventually. We ought to be more realistic, keeping what we’ll actually use, but realizing we’re probably not going to take the time to fix most things (unless you’re especially gifted with upcycling, then more power to you!).

We keep things out of fear of not having enough down the road. We think that if we let go of something, life’s circumstances will take us by surprise, throwing us a curveball we don’t know how to react to. But we need to realize that holding on to more and more stuff isn’t the answer. Facing the underlying fear is a much better solution. And it will free us up to get rid of the unnecessary things that are cluttering up our homes and our lives.

What other excuses do you find yourself making for keeping things around? Will you join me in letting go of the guilt and fear?

 

Resources:

Fear Is Why We Have Too Much Stuff by Leo Babauta, zenhabits.net

How to Let Go of Stuff Guilt by Ruth Soukup, livingwellspendingless.com

10 Ways to Let Go of Your Stuff by Erin Rooney Doland, realsimple.com

Letting Go of Sentimental Items by Joshua Fields Millburn, theminimalists.com

How to Simplify Your Stuff and Honor Your Memories by Courtney Carver, becomingminimalist.com

Image source: https://hotcutegirlygeek.wordpress.com/2013/01/11/too-much-stuff/

Project 7: Possessions

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Oh, how easy it is to accumulate stuff. We keep childhood toys, clothes, concert tickets, birthday cards, all the artwork we’ve ever done, every book we’ve read, all the gifts we’ve received, and enough other stuff to crowd all of that out. In fact, it is pretty difficult to not find yourself holding on to at least some of those things as time goes by.

But I want to live differently, despite the pull to just go with the flow. I have no real need for many of the things that try to claim space in my life and my home. I have limited space, as I’m sure you do as well, and I want to fill it with things that I actually like and use. If something is just going to sit in a box on a shelf, it’s wasting valuable space and needs to go to someone who will get better use out of it.

My cousin is holding a garage sale later this month, so I thought it was the perfect time to turn my attention to my possessions. Living in a small apartment for the last several months has been a good motivator for getting rid of unwanted possessions, but I know I’ve still been running on autopilot in sorting through things (read: actually not sorting through them very thoroughly).

In pursuit of ridding my life of excess, I’m striving to be more intentional in how I pare down my possessions. I want to be happy when I look around my apartment, not stressed about having to clean around everything or figure out where to put everything.

I bought a new bed this weekend, and it ignited a little fire in me to try to transform my living spaces into a more polished home. Fitting that goal in with a limited budget is definitely challenging (and a big reason why I haven’t pursued it before), but as I get older, I feel the pull to have a more put-together, “adult” home of well-made things instead of just a random collection of hand-me-downs and sale items that I don’t really love.

This doesn’t mean going on a ridiculous shopping spree or completely overhauling the apartment my sister and I share.It means looking for creative solutions and ways to repurpose things and likely realizing I don’t need some of the things that I think I do after all.

I plan to carefully survey what I have, keeping everything that is beautiful or useful, getting rid of excess, and beginning to carefully curate a more pulled-together, lovely space, a little bit at a time, as the need arises and the budget allows. Yes, it means being willing to invest in quality pieces, but it doesn’t have to happen all at once.

Along with decluttering, it also means organizing what’s left. Especially with such a small space, putting thought into how and where things are stored is crucial. Once I take the time to decide what to get rid of and what to keep, I plan to rethink my storage plans to maximize the space I have.

I plan to focus on different areas each week, putting greater time and thought into choosing what things really deserve a place in my home and which things will be given the chance for a new start with someone else.

Will you join me this month in my spring cleaning fever and take a good look at the things that fill your space?