5 Ways to be a Minimalist on your Smartphone

Today’s technology is incredible. We can communicate so easily and share ideas, photos, videos, and art with countless people via the internet, social media, or even just email or text messaging. That said, our smartphones can be powerful tools in … Continue reading

One Word 2016

My-One-Word-300x180“If you’re like most people, each January goes something like this: You choose a problematic behavior that has plagued you for years and vow to reverse it. In fact, you can probably think of two or three undesirable habits—make that four or five…”

These words can be found on the now wildly popular One Word Website.  And oh, how true they are. This time of year seems to be the time for a litany of imperfections to be perfected and a throng of promises to be made commonly titled as “New Year’s Resolutions.

At the gym I work at, we have an expectation that the Monday after January 1st will be crowded with people who have vowed to “get their life back together” by coming to cycle classes and pumping iron in the weight room. My boss tells us to be ready for the New Years crowd, but we all know that that crowd will disperse by mid-February.

And so it seems to be the case with other new years focus on problematic areas in need of correction.

Workout regimes fall to the wayside, diets are broken, cuss words are spoken, and those pictures we told ourselves we’d finally take or put into photo albums remain caught behind lenses or just not taken at all. It seems that the juggling act of trying to improve different parts of our already messy and chaotic lives is just too hard. How can we stay consistent with self-improvement when our focus is split into fractured pieces– our work life, our love life, our families, our personal fitness goals, our dreams, our desires for a better “me”?– it seems impossible to focus on all of it!

The idea behind Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen’s “One Word” philosophy is that we can do something about one thing this year instead of nothing about everything. They encourage you to boil it down to just one single word, to move beyond the cycle of long lists of changes you want to make that never get tackled.

“This process provides clarity by taking all your big plans for life change and narrowing them down into a single focus. Just one word that centers on your character and creates a vision for your future.-myoneword.org

I was first introduced to this idea by one of my best friends, who told me that God always gave her a word that He used to teach her through each year. I thought I felt God using specific words to teach me as well, but I never formally chose one single word to keep my thoughts tethered to during these lessons.

Finally, I was encouraged by another friend to actually pick my “one word” last year, and, although I don’t think I lived it out perfectly, it was helpful to have one theme to keep coming back to  throughout 2015.

My one word last year was “Slow”, which came, unknowingly at the time, during a year that would prove to be chaotic, shifting and a complete whirl-wind.

Having to keep coming back to the word “Slow” kept me grounded during times of change, patient during times of waiting, and calm during times when I normally would have lost my head.

This one word reminded me to breathe when I wanted to just walk out of my classroom full of students and never go back. It kept me patient when our heater wasn’t working in subzero weather and when water leaked all over the floor, pulling up the tile and making it impossible to walk anywhere without slipping or getting a shoe-full of dirty water.

This one word kept me from making hasty decisions when we were house-hunting, and kept me silent when I normally would have exploded with frustration at husband’s and my disagreements.

It kept me patient and plodding along as I trained for my second marathon, restless to race through a long trek that was going to take more out of me than I expected.

This one word kept me from jumping to conclusions when misunderstandings with family and friends arose. It kept me patient and prayerful when I got the letter in the mail that I was no longer employed by CPS, and it kept me hopeful and trusting when I still didn’t have a position number or a paycheck as 109 students met me in my classroom on the first day of school.

“Slow” kept me restful when I was sick and itching to get out of bed and get back to work.

It kept me patient with myself and determined when I was so depressed that I dreaded getting out of bed in the morning to go to a job that I hated.

“Slow” kept me patient with myself during the ongoing transition into working with my husband at a job I had no idea how to do. It kept me calm during times when I felt frustrated with my lack of progress, reminding me that this might be a slow process, and that it was more than okay.

“Slow” also showed me areas in my faith walk that I had skipped over, impatient to grow in places where God had not yet given in the increase for lack of my quiet and calm attention. He scaled me back with “Slow” so I could be nursed in areas I needed to mature in, a slow process that I couldn’t rush through no matter how determined or strong-willed I was.

I’m not saying I did it perfectly– there were plenty of times I flew off the handle and was completely out of control when I should have been slow and calm, as my husband, friends, and students will be quick to tell you– but this word “Slow” helped me keep it together more than I normally would during a year when I needed to rest, have patience, refrain from rushing into decisions, be extremely calm, and have painstaking endurance.

“Slow” permeated into all areas of my life– my personal life, my relationships, my work, the forming– or rather, the unraveling– of my identity, my faith walk, and even my health.

Rock4And so this year I trust that the word God is giving me will be perfectly designed to get me through 2016, even if I do not live it out perfectly.

As this new year was approaching I began to ask God what word He wanted me to focus on. Over and over again I kept hearing one word repeated to me, but I didn’t want to listen. You see, it was sort of a scary word for me, and I was hoping that it might be something else. 

But as I scanned my journals, BSF lecture notes, written prayers, and even the songs I had been listening and dancing in worship to, I knew that this was the word He was giving me.

 My one word for this year is “Surrender”.

Is there a more important word in the life of a Christ follower? But even more personally, is there a more important word in the life of a control-freak, type-A, worrier like myself?

I think not.

And so, as I look towards the year ahead, there are definitely some big decisions, plans, and changes coming along down the road. And I’m going to need to surrender all of them to God. 

This doesn’t mean that I don’t do anything about anything or have no part to play in what happens. It just means that I will take every thought, decision, action, and plan captive to Christ Jesus, and be obedient to Him and Him alone. It means letting go of expectation and preference so that I am I indifferent to any choice that is not Jesus-approved. Surrendering my plans, my dreams, my body, my mind, my desires, and my plan to Him and allowing God to really take control of where I end up.

Hm. Sounds a lot like what it means to follow Jesus doesn’t it? I should probably have been doing this already…

But to have a whole year to focus on simply surrendering… is a little scary because it requires complete trust in what I cannot plainly see. (That’s what faith is isn’t it?)

I remember when I first became a Christian about 6 years ago, laying in bed imagining what my life would be like, and God clearly spoke to me saying, “Claire, your life is not going to be anything like what you can dream up right now.”

I still believe that is true today, and that no matter how many times I envision the future, my life is not going to be like anything I can imagine.

And so far, that has proved to be true.

The thing that makes it less scary is that I wouldn’t change it for the world. So I guess I can trust Him, can’t I?

I know I have little hope of living out a long list of resolutions that I might want to make– get up every morning at 5:30am, workout everyday, get certified in 6 different fitness formats, master html and photoshop, open up an online store….. I could go on.

But I can do my very best, with God’s help, at living out one word to the best of my ability, and to allow it to permeate all areas of my life.

And with a word like “Surrender”, I guess I have no choice but to let it control everything I’ve got.

What’s your “one word” for 2016? I’d love to read about what word you’re going to live out this year!

The Overachiever to the Complete Failure

measure successMeasuring Success isn’s easy, but I’m going to try my best to evaluate month to month by setting goals and evaluating my progress. If you missed out on my November goals, here’s the post. (They are also each listed below).

1.) Complete the 10 Hanger Project by only wearing clothes from a very limited wardrobe for the entire month.

Achieved. I think from my previous posts and one I’ll post this weekend, you can tell I’ve done fairly well with this particular goal. I wore only 10 items of clothing (not counting workout clothes) for the entire month of November. You can read about it here, here, and here.

2.) Be able to do a headstand without a spotter, and a handstand with a spotter by practicing with the #GrowWithTheFloat Yoga Challenge.

Complete Failure. I did not keep up with this challenge at all (on my Instagram account, you can see I only got up to day 6 or something). I didn’t make the time to practice and I think I may have been a little over-ambitious with estimating how quickly it would take me to master inversions. It’s still on my to-do list, but probably not for a monthly goal.

3.) Build upper body strength, hip and spine flexibility, and balance by completing the #BuildYourBird Yoga Challenge.

Complete Failure. I didn’t even do this challenge. Probably because I got discouraged by the first yoga challenge/failure.

4.) Come up with a meal planning system involving freezer cooking, using my crock pot, and strategic budgeting to save time and money in the kitchen.

Overachiever. I was able to do this very well. In October I took the Homemaking Ministries E-Conference and got lots of ideas for how to meal plan and prepare time-consuming dinners ahead of time in order to save time and make things last. I also was able to use this awesome planner to help me in menu planning and grocery shopping more efficiently. The reason I say “OVERachiever” is because I still have muffins, an entire meat loaf, half a lasagna, and a loaf of zuchinni bread in the freezer to have for this month!

5.) Stick to our family’s monthly budget by being wise in spending and planning ahead.

Sort of Achieved. I did go over in some areas due to poor planning on my part (I didn’t plan for entertaining and for Thanksgiving at the end of the month and so I wasn’t sucessful at keeping our grocery budget). But I didn’t spend any money on clothes and I only spent $10 at Starbucks– HUGE victories for this wannabe minimalist/ coffee addict.

6.) Perform a self-choreographed praise dance for my church family.

Achieved. I posted it on my facebook page; you can view it here.

7.) Complete the P90X3 program that I started at the beginning of the fall.

Achieved. This was a beast to get through (90 days is a long time!) but I’m very pleased with my results. I’m at my ideal weight, I can see way more definition in my upper body (something I was lacking before the program), my legs are even more defined, and I lost another inch around my waist. I was a little nervous that I’d loose my running endurance from doing just this program, but I ran 4 miles this morning without any trouble at all. I think Tony did a pretty good job of sneaking in cardio in new ways for this runner! P90X3 is a great at-home workout program if you’re interested in more muscular development and improved agility and strength.

8.) Finalize my bedtime and wakeup routine so that I can make the most of my mornings and get enough sleep.

In Progress… Working evenings as a fitness instructor makes me super wound up at night and I’m having a hard time going to bed at a decent hour. This will probably be an ongoing and developing goal until I figure out what this new routine should look like for this season of life.

9.) Complete my Cycle Certification with FitTour.

Overachiever. Not only did I get my Cycle Certification, but I also got my Advanced Yoga Certification. Maybe that makes up for not doing the yoga challenges?

10.) Find a local CSA to order from to save time and money, and also to be more supportive of local farmers and find ways to make seasonal and healthful cooking a priority for our family.

In Progress… I did find a great place to buy organic meat in bulk, but I am still in search of a CSA for other produce. If you have any suggestions that would work for a Chicagoain, I would apprecaite your comments. BTW, the place I found is called Zaycon Fresh (referral link). They have a particularly amazing deal on organic chicken breast that I plan on taking advantage of very soon!

Well folks, that’s how I did this past month on my goals. I’ll be posting my December goals early next week once I finalize them.

Feel free to share your goals in the comments below— we can all keep one another accountable that way!

The 10 Hanger Project Week Two: On Feelings, Re-Decorating, and Post-It Notes

There are only 2 more weeks left of November. Can you believe it? Who’s ready for Christmas? *raises hand*

I start with this fact because that means I am at the halfway point of my 10 Hanger Project. I originally had set out to go an entire month with only 10 hangers in my closet (and 7 workout items in my dresser). You can read about why I chose to do that here.

Last week I shared with you some of the things I have been learning during the first week of the project as well as some tips for whittling down your wardrobe.

Today I want to talk a little bit about how I’m feeling at this halfway point, and I can probably just sum it up in one word:

(You ready for this? Okay here it is…)

free

giveupSeriously y’all, I have never felt so free!

Free from the love of clothes, free from the countless combinations of what to wear, free from the worry of what others think of my clothes, free from the burden of choices in the morning…

To be honest, I am little anxious for December to come because I know I’ll have to take all of my clothes out of storage and…well, deal with them.

But really, this whole process has been really amazing because it simplifies my life so much.

This past weekend I was thinking about what I could do to encourage my future-self to donate a lot of the clothes I still have in storage. I want to hang on to this simplified kind of style, but I still would like to not have to do laundry multiple times a week. So I came up with a plan:

1.) I got 33 nice wooden hangers super cheap on amazon. (See why I chose 33 here).

2.) I rearranged my entire house (it’s small–don’t be too impressed) so that I no longer have my own dresser anymore, which significantly limits my drawer space.

3.) Posted-noted Hebrews 13:5-6* and 1 Timothy 2:9-11* all over my house (think War Room), and decided to practice the spiritual discipline of memorizing these verses of scripture to remind me to be content, self-controlled, free from the love of possessions, and acquiring an inward adornment rather than an outward one.

*Note: I used a combination of translations with the phrasing that spoke to me the most. Bible scholars, don’t hate– this is what works for me.

That last step is particularly important. I know all scripture to be God-inspired and profitable, and His word tells me that it will never return to Him void— so I know that His Word WILL have an effect on me. I am counting on it to transform my mind so that I do not fall back into the patterns of this world. These scriptures are also applicable to other areas in my life in which I need encouragement, but we’ll stick to the subject at hand for now.

The first two steps will be very helpful as well because they significantly limit the amount of space I have for clothing.

I won’t be able to just put the clothes back exactly where they hung or were folded up before– I’ll have to be choosey about which ones to keep and which ones to give away.

I plan on documenting all of this process when it happens in December, but I have to tell you, I am not exactly looking forward to it. I think it might overwhelm me to see so many clothes that I literally do not need. These two weeks have proven this fact– I do not need them!

things I actually need

I’m half tempted to just dump the entire lot of them and stick to these 10 hangers forever, but I don’t think these clothes I have now will work for when the seasons change or when someone gets married or if I can’t do laundry one week.

Still, I am hoping and praying that these last few weeks of the 10 Hanger Project will motivate me to maintain this detachment to clothes and simplistic approach to my wardrobe.

That is, after all, what this blog is mainly about— simplicity– minimalism– at least wannabe minimalism right?

Thanks again for walking with me through this journey. It’s pretty amazing what one random idea in the middle of the night will turn into over a month-long process.

10 Hanger Project Week One: Baggy Clothes, Fear of Failure, Wardrobe Whittling Tips, and #OOTD

Well, I have officially survived the 10-Hanger Project Week One. If you are unfamiliar with this project, check out my blog post and get all the deets.

I will start by saying that I had to make some minor adjustments to the wardrobe… well, given that it’s only 10 hangers, I guess they would be considered major adjustments, but I think I’ve finally got it figured out now.

See, when I started the project, I chose items I thought I could make great combinations with. The only problem was the timing: I decided to do this right when the seasons were changing, so I chose some items I haven’t worn since last fall.

Well, over the summer I completed the Insanity Max 30 Program with my friend Michelle and we kicked the crap out of it! I lost almost 2 inches around my waist, and I wasn’t even trying to! All I wanted to do was tone up a little and work out with my friend– I had no idea I even HAD 2 inches to loose around the middle! I guess a terrible last year of teaching made me stress-eat and gain some extra pounds that I didn’t realize, or maybe I just toned up more than I thought. Anyway, right after that, I started the P90X 3 program, which I am ALMOST done with (check out my November goals— I’m so close to completing that one!). I haven’t taken measurements, but I’m guessing I lost some flab and toned up with this program as well.

That being said, the skirt and the dress I chose for my 10 Hanger Project did not fit me at all. Check it out:

IMG_6076

***Note to self: try on the clothes before you decide to wear them for 30 days straight.

So, I swapped out and put the baggy clothes in the donation pileIMG_6077.

My new items are on the side ————->

You can see that they are vey similar to the previous ones.

Here are some tips I’ve learned through this process:

1.) Don’t keep clothes that don’t fit. Even if they are just a tad too loose or a tad too tight, you’ll feel uncomfortable every time you wear them, and you should feel great in every item you own.

2.) Do an in-depth closet evaluation at the beginning of each season. This will help you get rid of things that may not work with your style anymore, or things that don’t fit right or have stains, holes, or too much wear. Just because you loved it last fall doesn’t mean it’s salvageable this fall; just because you lived in it last summer doesn’t mean it’ll work for you this summer.

3.) If you have clothes that are very similar, get rid of the ones you like least. There is no use having 5 of the same gray tee shirt or 3 black skirts. Choose the one that is the most flattering, makes you feel the best, or is the most versatile. Donate the rest, especially if they no longer fit (like in my case)!

4.) Don’t be afraid of failure. This isn’t so much a wardrobe tip as it is a life tip. If I was going by my own rules, I would have just stuck it out and worn the clothes that don’t fit me. It honestly made me fearful to share this failure with you because I felt like I was cheating– I didn’t get this project absolutely-positively-perfectly-right.

But the point of this entire 10 Hanger Project is to get rid of my attachment to clothes. There may have been a time when I would have noticed that the dress and the skirt didn’t fit right, but still tried to keep them and make them work because I was attached to them. One of two things would happen: 1.) they would have hung in my closet, never getting worn, or 2.) I would have worn them, and felt awkward and uncomfortable the entire time (I probably would have looked pretty awkward too!).

No, no no. This time, these babies are gettin’ tossed! I failed at picking out the very best 10 items for my project. I failed. It’s okay. Fix it. Be flexible. Move on. Breathe.

And finally, I wanted to share with you some of the outfit combos I came up with this past week (#OOTD):

Not bad right?! See, I don’t need new clothes! In fact, I only need a few. But I’m not going to lie, laundry has been a doozy… Now I know what it feels like to have LITERALLY nothing to wear by the end of the week!

Thanks for tuning in with me as I journey on this minimalist mission this November!

What do you think would be the most challenging thing about whittling your wardrobe down?

The 10 Hanger Project

10 Hanger Project

This November my goal is to simplify in the area of my wardrobe.

Some of you know that I have been known to be a little bit of a fashion addict… or maybe you have no idea. Well confession time: clothes have become an idol for me.

I’m not proud of it and it’s quite embarrassing to share this with the public– I was even embarrassed to share it with my husband (as if he didn’t notice already), and he knows just about everything about me.

Some of you know me well, or perhaps just follow me on Instagram. Either way, you may have noticed my somewhat obvious obsession with clothes and brand names which appeared seemingly out of nowhere (just look at my #OOTD posts and you’ll get an idea).

I want to get into why this happened to me, but I think I’ll save it for another blog post.

For now I’ll just say that the accumulation of more clothing wasn’t doing for me what I wanted it to; it wasn’t making me happy, it wasn’t making me feel better about myself, and it wasn’t making me feel fulfilled. In fact, I found it was the opposite: I was spending too much money on clothes, which stressed me out after I’d see the cumulated amount, and then I’d feel guilty, selfish, and empty inside, wondering why I couldn’t just be content with what I have and stop looking for my worth in material things.

After a long talk with God in the bubble bath (we talk there; it’s cool), it was decided that something must be done.

But how do I curve an addiction that surrounds me everywhere you go? I mean, I don’t live in a nudist colony, so people do wear clothes. How do I kill the idol of clothes wile having a closet full of beautiful ones? Sure I could work on self-control and stop buying more, but buying more was only part of the problem; the accumulation that had already occurred was an equally important role in this addictive stronghold.

We decided to go drastic. I pulled aside 10 hangers from my full closet, then chose 10 items to hang on them.

Hanger 1: thick black and white Aztec printed cardigan sweater

Hanger 2: beige boyfriend blazer

Hanger 3: gray scoop-neck tank top with breast pocket

Hanger 4: black skinny jeans

Hanger 5: navy and white striped oversized tee shirt

Hanger 6: dark wash denim skirt with pockets

Hanger 7: black flowy long sleeve shirt

Hanger 8: chambray button up shirt

Hanger 9: multicolored basic flannel

Hanger 10: gray and black v-neck dress

I took the rest of my clothes to another closet in our house which I rarely go to and boxed up the contents of my entire dresser save for my sock drawer, underwear drawer, and a few workout items (I’m a fitness instructor, so workout clothes are a must even if I wasn’t also in love with exercise).

The workout items included:

1 white tank top with shelf bra

2 tee shirts: the world vision 6k race one and the insanity max 30 one

1 pair of leggings

2 paris of jogging pants: one dance studio pair to wear to dance rehearsal and over the leggings, and one pair to use for running outside

So really I guess this should be called “10-Hanger-plus-7-workout-items-and-all-my-underwear-and-shoes-Project” instead, but I was mostly focused on the majority of my wardrobe to be inaccessible  to me so that would have to be satisfied with less.

Remember, I’m the “Wannabe” Minimalist; this is not easy for me to do.

For the entire month of November, these clothes will be the only clothes I wear. Yes, it will be challenging. Yes, I will wash them.

Here are the rules:

  1. Any combo of the clothes on the hangers may be worn.
  2. I can repeat outfits, but my goal is to be creative…. still I think it might be virtually impossible to wear a different combo each day of the month and not look like a crazy person.
  3. The limited clothes do not include accessories like scarves, jewelry or belts, and do not include underwear or shoes either.
  4. Workout clothes are for only working out or teaching fitness classes in. Except the leggings; I can wear them under the skirt or the dress. But not as pants because that’s tacky.
  5. No cheating; stay strong!

I will be updating you on my outfits, my progress, and what I am learning during this whole process, because I can’t even express to you how crazy this is for me or even all of what I’m hoping God will do with me during this time.

But I hope I’ll come out on the other side of November more content with my life, more free, more selfless, and more confident in who I am.

I hope to learn to appreciate even more what truly matters in life, and I hope I am able to forget about myself and my appearance in ways I never could before.

I hope I can break free from the stronghold of greediness and vanity so that I can focus more on loving God and loving people well. 

I hope that come December, when I pull out those boxes of clothes again, that I’ll be able to cut my former wardrobe by at least half so that I can continue to carry what I learn through this month with me onto the new year. 

But who knows what I’ll learn this November?!

I’ll be sure to keep you posted with lessons, thoughts, and pictures that document my walk through this #10HangerProject. That way, we can learn together and hopefully come out less of a wannabe and more of a minimalist on the other side of this 30 days.

Grow with the Float: A November Yoga Challenge

This week is the end of October and we start a fresh month.

November, to me, always signifies the beginning of Christmas preparations, even though December 25th seems far far away. But if you’re like me, you are already making a list and checking it twice, trying to figure out how these presents and food items will all fit in your budget. It seems Thanksgiving gets totally glossed over with Christmas shopping sales and Black Friday.

But this year I want to make sure I am being intentional about slowing down and really savoring the fall– after all, it is my very favorite season.

It would have to be something to ground me, humble me, get me outside and trying something new instead of reverting to the same old habits of rushing around. Something to get me to look at things in a fresh way, to slow down and appreciate life. Something that forces me to breathe.

FullSizeRender (3)I was on my Instagram feed a few days ago– I follow some incredibly amazing people, from photographers, bloggers, fitness queens, fashionistas, my favorite famous musicians, and all the way to dearly loved personal friends. But one account that I follow called @coffeeandrainbows–a really amazing mamma who shares my passion for caffeine and headstands– popped up in my feed with the hashtag #GrowWithTheFloat. The picture is here on the blog, so I don’t need to describe it to you.

The #GoWithTheFloat Challenge is this:

Each day, the IG accounts @upsidedownmama, @coffeeandrainbows, @casa_colibri, and @natashawinter will give followers a different pose to jump/float to. This will build tons of core strength and also the necessary strength for press work. Even if you can’t float into the pose, you can always try to do the pose with them.

And here’s the part I loved– they “decided to keep it simple”– no sponsors or prizes or entries. Just working on the practice of yoga together for the first 12 days of November.

What a perfectly mindful, humbling, inspiring, and strengthening way to start a new month. I know this will challenge me and force me into a mindset of acceptance, determination, perseverance, and peacefulness.

I will be honest, I will not be able to do all of these poses very well. However, building physical strength is definitely one of my goals, I thought I’d share this challenge with you all so you can join in as well.

You will be seeing these poses on my goal list for the month of November.