The 100 Thing Challenge

You may remember that I wrote about the “100 Thing Challenge” back in Sept. of 2009.  That was really the beginning of my desire to start living with less.  Well, I just finished reading Dave Bruno’s  book about his 100 Thing Challenge and how it all came about.  In this book he writes about how his life was before the challenge and what led him to create this challenge.

Dave then goes on to describe the process of going through his personal things and making decisions on what to sell or give away.  He talks about his emotional ties to his train set and how he had been hanging on to those trains because of some disappointments from his childhood.  I love how he points out how many of us, himself included, go and buy stuff as an attempt to fix an emotional problem.   That is what shopping does for many people.  It tricks them into feeling like they are solving problems, but really they are only creating more.  

He purged the trains.  He says that letting go of those trains “was inspirational and cathartic.”  I have a part-time organizing business and I would love for a lot of my clients to read Dave’s book.  I wish everyone could experience what it feels like to let things go.  It’s not as scary as many believe.

As I read the book, I felt as if I were sitting down across from Dave and he was telling me the story about his life over the past few years.  His writing is so easy to read and keeps you engaged.  He writes from his heart and lets you into his thoughts and feelings.  He’s transparent, which I love.   He’s real and you can relate to him.  You really get to know Dave and experience the challenge with him through his words. 

I’m inspired by Dave and his story.  I have begun my own 100 Thing Challenge and continue to work on it.  I’m close, but need to continue to pare a few things down quite a bit.  I think it’s a great idea, brilliant really.  Living with less helps us to see what is really important and how much “stuff” we can live without.

I applaud Dave for creating this challenge and I thoroughly enjoyed reading his book and learning  more about the person behind the challenge.

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Love God, Serve Others, Live Simply

I work in the bookstore at our church once every few weeks and this past Sunday they had received in some new merchandise.  This one plaque in particular struck me when I saw it hanging on the wall.  “Love God, Serve Others, Live Simply”.  I love that.  If I focus on those three things, my life will become more in tune with God and what He has planned for me.  The two greatest commandments are to “love God with all your heart, soul and mind” and “to love others as yourself”.  The first one is covered and serving others is definitely loving them as yourself.  Living simply is what Jesus demonstrated for us.  He lived with very little belongings, if any, and was attached to nothing other than loving and communicating with God and serving others.  Shouldn’t I live my life the same way?

1.  Love God. This is obviously the most important thing we will ever do in our lives.  Without God as my focus my life would be nothing, literally.  I’ve tried living without God, and trust me it’s so much more fulfilling when you have a relationship with the One who created you.  No one on Earth knows you better or will always be there like He will.  He is what fills me up inside, nothing else in this world can do that.  Nothing.   When I love God with all my heart, soul and mind I have no room for sins that bring me down.  I don’t have time to focus on anything that could ultimately lead to self-destruction.  I focus above and all things below seem manageable.  Nothing can come second to God.

2.  Serve Others.  Serving others keeps me from focusing on myself.  Focusing on me gets me nowhere and that is not where God ever intended my focus to be.  He wants me out serving others, helping those that are in situations I have been in and can help with.  For me in particular, I know He wants me helping young women make the right choices in life.  He wants me to use my past experiences to help those who are just beginning their adult lives.  I’m just working all that out now and how it will come to be, but that is what God has put a fire in my heart for.  Helping young women with the choices in their lives.

3.  Live Simply. This is something I’ve really been working on this year.  Living with less.  Less attachments, less stress, less commitments, and less clutter.  We need so much less than we think we do.  We should be too busy with our relationships to worry about stuff or be bogged down by it.    Who has time to be tied down to “stuff” when you are busy loving God and serving others all the time?

Margin

I finally finished a great book called “Margin” written by Dr. Richard Swenson.  My mother-in-law, Margaret, gave me this book last year and I have been reading it off and on since then.  I have to confess that I’m pretty bad about starting about 5 books at a time and reading them simultaneously. It really isn’t a very efficient way to read books and I very recently decided I am no longer going to do that.  I’m going to finish one at a time.  I’m also trying to set aside more time for reading because it unfortunately gets pushed to the back burner a lot of the time.

So anyway, I just finished this book Sunday afternoon.  It’s a great book with really good analogies and reminders about how much we need to slow down.   The author is a medical doctor who has seen many of the effects of our fast-paced and stressful lives.  Swenson writes this book with the intention to help all of us develop more “margin” in our lives.  He does not want us living “marginless” lives, which many Americans are doing.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Discerning Christians have long known that God is not impressed with our wealth, education, or power.  Nevertheless, we have labored eargerly in those fields.  What if, instead, we were to begin measuring our progress not by our wealth but by our virtue; not by our education but by our humility; and not by our power but by our meekness?”

“We should keep our needs low, our generosity high, and our expectations heavenward.”

“God is in love with his creation…..your being pursued by love.  He courted you; He followed you; He loved you.  If you go to work or school or church, He is there.  If you go to the edge of the universe or to the borders of hell, He is there.  If you go deep inside yourself, He is there.  In the dark of the night, in your depression, He is there.  On your deathbed, when you don’t want anybody to leave you, He is there.  If you look behind you or before you, He is there, waiting to be allowed entrance into your life.”

“To be a follower of Christ means we should follow Him.  No one lived a simpler, more unencumbered life than He.  His birth was spartan, and His life was free from the ties of possessions or money.  He was born with nothing, lived with little, and died with nothing.  His simplicity was not accidental.  Jesus could have chosen any standard, yet He chose to live simply.”

That last quote really sums it up.  I think we get so bogged down with “stuff” that we want or wish we had or wish we could do or that we are trying to do or trying to manage or stressing out about.  We really need to step back and look at all the areas of our lives (physical, emotional and spiritual) and find ways to simplify and create more margin in our lives!

Reducing Paper Clutter and Staying Organized with Technology

If you are anything like me, you are always looking for ways to reduce the clutter in your life and save yourself time and money.  Those are 3 of my goals on a continual basis.  I love finding ways to solve all three of those goals at once.

I’ve recently been researching ways to reduce the amount of paper that comes through and stays in our house.  If you are not careful you can sometimes be overcome with paper!  I am also always looking for ways to simplify my life and keep everything organized.

Here are a few websites to help with paper clutter and staying organized:

Springpad  – This is a new website that offers a free place to keep track of all of your “stuff” in one place.  Task lists, shopping list, meal planning, favorite recipes, books, etc. 

Qipit – This is an app for your iPhone that allows you to take pictures of anything handwritten.  They will then send you a pdf file that you can keep on your computer and then throw away the paper.  This is basically an iPhone alternative to a scanner.  This is pretty cool.  So if you wrote down a recipe or directions, or even some to-do’s…..just take a picture with you phone and you will instantly have it saved as a document.  (I really want an iPhone now)

Manuals Mania  or TheUserManualSite  –   These sites have all sorts of manuals on-line.  You could essentially throw away all of those bulky manuals and just use one of these sites as needed.  You may want to check the sites first to make sure they have your make and model before recycling your paper manuals.  I did some searches and they had every single one I searched for.  Another great way to get rid of paper overload!

Wesabe and Mint – Both of these cool sites are for managing your money and they are both free!   You can add all of your accounts and they will give you updated balances all in one place.  You can also track your spending and more.   Both of these apps are available on your iPhone or other mobile device so you can check your balances from anywhere.  I have Quicken, but of course I cannot check that from my phone…so these are very handy sites.

Know Your Stuff – This site helps you keep track of all of your belongings in one place for insurance purposes.  It’s a great site for safely storing your home inventory list.

I hope you find some of these helpful.  I’ll keep searching for more sites and tools that make my life easier.  I’ll let you know what I find.

Updates

I apologize for not much blogging this week.  It has been a busy week, but I’m back!   I wanted to post some updates to two of my previous posts.

Cleansing  – The cleanse went great and I felt so good, however I was starting to feel a bit weak.  We started back on fruits and vegetables after the 5th day, and now we are continuing to eat healthy.  We are eating organic food as much as possible, as many fruits and vegetables as we can.  Not much, if any, meat and no caffeine or sugar.   I feel so good and my skin is softer than it has been in longer than I can even remember.  My clothes are looser and my stomach is definitely flatter.  We have not been exercising much yet, but I plan to work on that this weekend and next week.  I know that will make me feel even better!

100 Thing Challenge – I’m still working on my 100 thing challenge, I am not down to 100 yet, but I did give myself until January 1st to do this.  I have paired down my clothes and jewelry quite a bit, but I still have a little ways to go.  I notice there are still things that I do not really wear.  I do however miss one or two things I gave away.  Oh well, overall I’m happy with how my closet looks and feels.  I think this challenge is a teeny bit harder for a female given we have to include a little bit more accessories, etc.   But I’m still going to do my very best and I think I can do it.

I love the New Year, it is such a great time for fresh starts and I feel as if I have a jump-start on 2010.  I just need to stay on track!

Priorities

I recently found this great blog called “Keeper of the Home”.  It is written by a Christian wife and mother (named Stephanie) whose tag line is “naturally inspired living for the Christian homemaker”.  She writes about being a Christian wife and mother and offers healthy alternatives to homemaking.  She has some great tips and a lot of interesting posts.  One that I really enjoyed recently was her post on the burdens we carry that we were never intended to.  That is something I think all of us need to take to heart.  There are many things in life that we do or want to do, that are not necessary to our main goals in life.  We get busy just being busy and we sort of lose track of where we are going and why we are going there.

Don’t get on the “busy” train when you do not need to be.   Then you’ll end up somewhere and someone you do not want to be!  

Read her post here  and take a look at the example of her “Priority List” that she took a picture of.  Her husband came up with this and I love it!  I want to start making one of those on a daily basis, it will be so freeing and will keep me on track.

Try to stay on track with your priorities and do not let yourself get “busy” doing things that do not really matter!

Meal Planning

I am always looking for ways to improve my meal planning.  Meal planning seems to be some sort of science.  The best meal planning utilizes one item for multiple dishes, includes items that are on sale or that you have a coupon for, and keeps everyone in your family happy, satisfied and healthy.  That’s a tall order.

My husband and I were married almost 2 years ago,  and ever since then my goal has been to come up with a “Favorite’s List” of dishes that we all enjoy, that are fairly easy to make, that do not use expensive ingredients, and that are pretty healthy.  We finally put together that list the other day.  I’ve tried all kinds of different dishes, a lot  that worked, and some that well….didn’t. 

We came up with a list of 31 dishes for our “Favorite’s List”.  I will use this list every month and rotate these dishes throughout the month.  I plan to make copies of the list and then cross off what I have made for the month and continue down the list.  It takes a lot of pressure off of me to try and come up with our weekly meals.  Now I can look at the grocery store flyer and at the coupons I have, and pick the dishes that best use those items.  I also do not have to think whether everyone will like the dishes or not because these are tried and true recipes that I have already cooked and they have already enjoyed!  Bonus.

I will of course throw one or two new dishes in there each month depending on ingredients and coupons.   I love this idea.  I will keep you updated on how well it is working, but so far so good!

I love making my life simpler ANY way I can!   In what ways do you make meal planning and grocery shopping simpler?

Checking Off To-Do’s

to-do-list-padIf you are like me, you have one or two tasks that you continuously put off and add to the next day or next week’s list.  You know what I’m talking about.  There are always a few items on our lists that we just do not want to do, but when we finally do them they usually only take a few minutes and we feel so much better!

I’m a pretty organized person, but even I put off stuff sometimes.  I have to push myself to get those tasks completed.  Here are some of my strategies in doing so:

  1.  Set Up A Tickler File.  A tickler file helps you to organize your to-do’s. Once you set up a system and can trust that you WILL look into the files each day, it is a great way to assign days to your to-do’s and then forget about them.
  2. Make Time.  You MUST make time to take care of your to-do’s.  It will be difficult, and there will be a million other  obligations,  but you must carve out time to take care of your tasks so that they do not pile up.  Set an appointment with yourself each day for 30 minutes to an hour and go through your daily to-do’s and do them one by one.  If you need a longer amount of time, then maybe schedule two times during your day where you complete your to-do’s.  Then stick to it like any other appointment.
  3. Write It Down.  I have to write everything down or I will forget it.  I save so many reminders in my phone it’s almost embarrassing.  You can ask my husband.  He hears my little reminder bell go off about 50 times a day.  Sorry honey, but I cannot function without reminders.  I sometimes get caught up in what I am doing and need a reminder to get me back on track.  I either write down what I need to do and then put it in my tickler, or I set a reminder in my calendar on my computer and phone.  This then allows me to forget it for the moment, knowing I will be reminded when I need to take care of it.  That helps relieve all those floating thoughts in my head that tend to stress me out.
  4. Break It Up.  If you have a large to-do, break it up into little to-do’s and then schedule those accordingly.  When you have a big project to do it can be very overwhelming. 
  5. Delegate and Scrutinize.  If you have to-do’s that others can help you with, by all means delegate.   I think there are plenty of us that tend to do more ourselves than we actually need to.  I am one of them.  I just do not think that it might be easier to ask my husband to stop by the cleaners on his way home.  I add it to my to-do list and try to fit it in.  From time to time you need to step back and take a look at your to-do’s and see what makes sense for you to do and what makes sense for someone else to help with.  We must also scrutinize our list to make sure everything that is on it is in fact important and needs to be accomplished.   I have found items on my list that were not worth my time.  Our time is valuable.  Remember that when you are creating your list.

I hope these help in some way.  Start today and work towards getting more of your list accomplished today instead of pushing it off until tomorrow.  These are the tools I use to help myself get through my to-do list.  But most of all, it all comes down to that famous tag line we all know…..Just Do It! 

THANKFUL THURSDAY:  Today I am thankful that most of my to-do’s are accomplished today.  I still have a few to do, but it is still early!  🙂

Focus On One Thing At A Time

imagesIf you are anything like me, you sometimes focus on too many things at once.  When you focus on too many things at once, usually nothing gets completed all the way through.   There will usually be a trail of unfinished projects if we continue on this way.

At one job I had a few years ago, I cleaned off my desk daily and only had the bare essentials on top of the desk.  The computer, my pen and whatever project I was working on.  I would not get out another project until I was finished with the one on the desk.  It worked so well.  That job allowed for this type of focus and concentration on one thing at a time.  I know some jobs do not.  I have had those jobs.  I think, however, that you can work towards focusing as much as possible on one thing at a time.

Here are some ways to help you stay focused and get more accomplished in your day.

1.  Plan your day ahead of time.  The day before, or the night before, plan out your day and the tasks you must complete.

2.  Do not overbook your time.  We tend to schedule way more than we could ever accomplish in a day.   This only adds to our frustration. 

3.  Set times for going through emails.  If you can focus on just going through emails once or twice a day, that allows you more time to focus on your to-do’s.  To help stay focused during the day and not be tempted to read emails, turn off any of the notifications you currently have set to tell you that you received email.  This will keep you on track and not tempt you to stop what you are doing and go read the email that just came in.  If you do that all day long, you will  be interrupted constantly and you will not be able to accomplish as many of your tasks.  You would be practicing LIFO – Last In, First Out.  That pushes all those projects you’ve had on your desk for a while further under the pile. Obviously there will be times you must reply to emergency emails, but really stop and think about how responsive you need to be.

4.  Filter your To-Do’s.  Go through your to-do list and really scrutinize each item on the list.   Look at your time and your most important goals.  Are all of the things on your task list contributing to those?  Or can you relieve yourself from a few obligations?  Are you putting more on you than you need to? I know I do this, so I find it very important to go back through my to-do list and look at it as my husband would.  He is my efficiency expert.  He points out so many to-do’s I take on that are not necessary.  It’s very freeing…give it a try.

5.  Set Appointments With Yourself.  Just like you set appointments for meetings and dr. appointments, set some appointments with yourself.  For instance, from 2-3pm I’m going to focus only on this project.   Then STICK TO IT.  That is the hard part, but you have to see the importance of these appointments with yourself.  They are extremely important when you want to accomplish the tasks on your list.

6.  If It’s Too Big Break It Up.  If a task or project is too big to do in one day, then break it up into little chunks and schedule the chunks into your day as if they are a project themselves.  If you need to send out some invitations, but you first have to pick out which ones you want to order, come up with the wording, then gather all of the address before hand addressing and taking the post office?  Then break those up and put “pick out invitations” on your to-do list for one day.  Once that piece is done, the next day during your project time put “work on the wording” to do during that time.  This creates manageable projects.  Sometimes we cannot do a complete project in one sitting or one day, but we CAN complete one more step of the project. 

The whole idea is to simplify your projects first, then assign a time to complete them, and most importantly stick to the time allotments you make for these projects.  Focusing on one thing at a time.  You WILL get through your list, and you will be much more focused.  It just takes some planning and effort.

Please let me know if you have any additional ideas or helpful hints to add.

10 Item Challenge

This weekend we had a garage sale.  It felt SO good to get rid of some of our “stuff” and get paid for it!  We are continuing to minimize our belongings everyday.  I took a bunch of our books yesterday to Half Price Books, and also added more items to Craigslist to try and sell.  We are realizing we don’t NEED much, and a lot of this “stuff” was just sitting around collecting dust.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m participating in the 100 Thing Challenge, and my goal is to have my personal belongings down to 100 items by January.  This is helping my overall goal to minimize and simplify my life. 

To help with all of this minimizing, I decided to create another smaller challenge of my own.  My goal is to only have 10 items in each of these areas.

  1. My purse
  2. My wallet
  3. My bathroom drawer
  4. My desk drawer
  5. My jewelry box
  6. My car

I figure by working on these areas, it will break down my overall goal of 100 things into smaller chunks.  So today I am going to start with my purse.  Here is a current list of what items are in my purse:

  1. Wallet (with 10+ items inside)
  2. Makeup bag (with 10+ items inside)
  3. Camera
  4. Sunglasses
  5. Reading glasses
  6. Wipes
  7. Kleenex
  8. Gum
  9. Cell Phone
  10. Pens
  11. Phone charger
  12. Camera charger
  13. Bottle of Advil
  14. Allergy medicine
  15. Hand lotion
  16. 2 bottles of hand sanitizer
  17. Mini umbrella
  18. Hair bands
  19. Glasses cleaning cloth
  20. Business cards

Needless to say, my purse is heavy!  And although a lot of this stuff comes in handy sometimes, I do not think I need to carry around so much stuff every single day!

So, for this week I’m going to put only these items back in my purse:

  1. Coin purse (with cash, license and debit card)
  2. One pen
  3. Chapstick
  4. Brush/Mirror combo
  5. Cell Phone
  6. Gum
  7. Sunglasses
  8. Hand lotion
  9. Cell phone charger
  10. Camera

And that is it.  I will work on my wallet and then put it back in my purse, but for now I’m going to work with just my coin purse with the essentials.  My wallet will need to be trimmed down quite a bit.  

My shoulder is going to thank me! 

See if there are any areas you want to minimize and try the 10 Item Challenge.  Let me know how it goes!