Saturday, January 30, 2016

simplicity 2016: shuffle mode

Two months ago I bought a record player.

Merry Christmas to me. #bossstatus

Basically, it is the most amazing thing in the entire whole.

If my house was on fire and I could only grab one thing, it probably wouldn't be the record player. 

But, I would totally think about it. For like two seconds. And then grab my phone, wallet and keys like a responsible adult. Yes, Mom, I would also grab a jacket and some pants..... sheesh.

Anyway, this thing is super cool and when I play it, I feel like I should put on pearls and vacuum my house. OR, set it up on the hood of my car. At the beach. Because it's portable. #boom

Back to to the matter at hand - simplicity.

It didn't really occurs to me that listening to music could be another area in which I could find value in simplifying.

Because honestly, it sounds weird.

Simplify your music? What does that even mean? 

If you think I am deleting my iTunes library or my Spotify playlists you are sadly mistaken. That's a lot of wasted hours right there and I will go down defending all 4,000 song on my iPod.

Let me explain...

I come home every evening and do one of two things.

1) Watched recorded episodes of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and eat Thai food. (because I love Jimmy Fallon and I love Thai food)

2) Transform into a responsible adult who cooks her own meals and listens to music on Spotify. (because cooking is fun and Spotify Premium had a $.99/3 months special and that's legit)

If I am honest with myself though, I do that first one a whole lot more than the second.

And while watching television isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's something I think, at times, I should limit.

Except for tonight. When I watch Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. That's important. Star Wars is always important.

However, I noticed earlier this month as I dove into this idea of simplicity, quiet music and cooking as my creative outlet is pretty dang relaxing. 

It's also cheaper than Thai food. So there is always that.

Back to my record player.

I had my player for about two weeks before I bought any albums. I wanted my first purchase to be perfect, iconic and amazing. 

So, on a Saturday afternoon, I went to a music store and purchased a used, vintage Simon & Garfunkel album (Dad, you should be proud), along with a few others I found.

When I got home and put it on, you would have thought I had won the lottery. I was giddy and neurotic and I couldn't stop smiling.

It made that perfect crackling sound as the needle dropped and the turntable started to move.

Heaven. Absolute heaven. Homeward Bound has never sounded so good.

While I stood there, soaking up the years of history and nostalgia that only my parents would understand, this thought hit me.

Well, technically it hit me when I had to flip the record over. But, who is being technical? Shut up.

The thought was this: "With a record, there is no shuffle mode. You can't pick the song you want and listen to it immediately. You have to wait. You have to be totally present in the moment, or you will miss it."

As I chewed on that thought for the rest of the evening, it occurred to me yet again how often I flit from one thing to the next. 

How incredibly hard it can be at times to sit still, and how much I miss because I am not being present.

My record player cost around $80. My record cost about $8. The time I am regaining by sitting still has no price, but has a crap ton of value.

I know you thought I was going to make a MasterCard priceless commercial pun. And I was. But then I changed my mind. And instead of deleting it. I left it. 

Because I am lazy and want to go eat a cupcake.

Take a minute to slow down though. Listen to the WHOLE song. Read the book COMPLETELY. Finish the ENTIRE 19 Seasons of Law&Order:SVU on Netflix. Well, maybe not that one. But you get my drift.

Shuffle mode is over-rated.


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

simplicity 2016: hello, it's me

Adele's new song has become the greatest segue for all conversations for all of eternity. 

You haven't heard it? Get it from under that rock and walk into a grocery store for goodness sake. You need this song.

I mean, you can use it for anything.

I mean anything.

Sing it to your laundry. It will totally make sense. It's weird how it works.

Anyway, it's amazing.

And Adele is pretty rad. She and I should be friends.

I also love coffee mugs.

Which people know and buy them for me for birthdays, Christmas and other fantastic holidays where gift giving is encouraged. Like St Patties Day and National Pizza Day.

So anyway, my aunt got me this great mug.

That has the word "hello" emblazoned on the side.

Which made me think of Adele. See how I connected those? And you thought I was being random. Which I was.

But then I started thinking about how much I love coffee.

Which led to being grateful that I am now having coffee at home instead of buying lattes, and how great that is. Saving money, creamer for days and cozy chairs. So great. 

This thought process led me back to staring into my coffee mug, singing the words to this now iconic song, straight into the heart of my caffeinated beverage.

Because does no one else sing to their coffee??


Man, I love coffee so much.

Then I had this thought...

What if I greeted everything in my life the way I greeted and looked forward to coffee?

What would happen if I made other things a priority the way I do my morning cup of joe?

Would my friends feel more appreciated?

Would my work be more productive?

Would Jesus and I have even better chat times?

I can't be certain until I try it, but I'm fairly certain the answer will be yes.

Simple thoughts about simple things change the way we live.

Also, Adele is a queen.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

simplicity 2016: discomfort is revealing

A week ago I was challenged to give up technology for a week.

And apparently, I suck at it.

It's something I thought would be challenging for sure, but I didn't think it would be so hard.

I didn't realize it was such a distraction from things that are painful and ugly.

I thought it was just a conditioned habit when I'm bored.

I also was not accurately tracking how often I use technology for my day to day tasks.

And right there would be such a great reason to prove why I need technology.

But, I know the truth.

Technology is just a way to accomplish things faster.

Not always better. Not always more efficiently.

Not always simpler.

And that's what blew my mind.

Technology isn't making things easier for me emotionally.

It's just distracting me from dealing with my 'ish.

It isn't making my life easier. 

It's just off putting the things I need to deal with.

So instead of dealing, I binged on Facebook.

Instead of sitting in my mess, I read a lot of Buzzfeed and Googled every question in my head.

Because there is so much discomfort in dealing with your stuff.

And it's discomfort I need to sit with. Without my phone. Without tv. Without email.

Even though I don't like it, I will do it.

Because it's revealing.

And that's powerful.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

simplicity 2016: packing

Right now I'm sitting in an airport.

Waiting to go visit one of my most favorite people in the whole world.

For five days.

I finished packing two hours ago.

Because, I'm the queen.

Is this arrogant? Probably.

Is it true? Absolutely.

I am the best packer I know. 

Not in the world mind you, because that would be pretentious on a whole different level.

But still, I'm pretty awesome at this whole packing thing.

And it's not that I'm OCD (although that's been said), it's just that I don't like a lot of clutter. 

Or a lot of things to be responsible for. 

I just want to enjoy where I'm headed and who I'm heading to.

And as I am settled in at the gate, waiting to board, I looked down at my backpack and duffel bag and smiled.

I've been dwelling a lot on how to simplify my life. 

But, I've forgotten to acknowledge the areas in which I'm already practicing it or have already established it.

Like today, when I went to therapy for the first time ever. 

I walked away realizing I am much lighter than I thought I was. 

Still have more to unpack, but I'm getting there.

So, as I look down at my bag, I'm filled with a strong sense of self acceptance.

Life isn't perfect, but I'm doing better than I think and making more progress than I give credit for.

Join me in giving yourself an air guitar jam fest. Because you are getting there. 

We all are.


Saturday, January 9, 2016

simplicity 2016: i bought a watch

What is this? 1950? No one wears a watch anymore.

Or uses an actual alarm clock. Or does anything unless there is a digital aspect to it.

Honestly? It's kind of sad that the simplicity of certain actions are being lost amidst the technological chaos that is our world.

And I love technology (as I sit here and blog from my computer).

I just know I am missing out on cool things because of it.

As a kid, I would sit in the living room, watching my dad change all of the watches and clocks in the house whenever time change season would come around.

Let me tell you, it was quite the process. But also such fun to watch. There was a method and a system to it. And maybe I'm just a big nerd, but I loved it.

During this first week of simplicity, I have noticed some things. Had some observations if you will.

Some great, some embarrassing, some surprising.

- sticking to my budget is harder than I remember

- I have never been so excited to have money leftover to buy Thai food

- gift cards are a blessing when you have a budget

- social media is an evil curse and a fortunate blessing

- my phone battery is lasting so much longer than it used to

- using my phone less is freeing and annoying at the same time

I also realized how impatient I am.

If I have a random thought, I want to Google it immediately. Because, you know, I might forget that I want to know what a tortoise shell actually weighs. Or if they eat popcorn in India.

If I am at a red light, I want to check FB. Because apparently sitting still for two minutes is a ridiculous expectation to have for yourself.

If I want to know what time it is, I have to find a computer or grab my phone. Since apparently no one wears watches anymore.

So I decided I would get a watch. Nothing fancy, because you know I am on a budget, but functional and simple.

Last night I went to Target, with a gift card (see how I'm sticking to that budget??), and bought a watch for under $15.

This morning I put it on. Since that's why I bought it.

And you know what was amazing?

I barely checked my phone for the first 6 hours of the day. In fact, I left it in my car for most of the time I was out.

Talk about feeling free.

Then it hit me. That's why I waste time on my phone.

I pull it out to check the ACTUAL time, but become distracted by all its other notifications and functions.

I pull it out for one task and one task only, and before you know it, I am reading a BuzzFeed article about Kim Kardashian.

Which is insane because I don't even care about Kim Kardashian.. #facepalm

Today I really liked feeling free.

I also really liked being on time.

I also really really like my new watch.

Simplicity is fun. Sometimes it's hard. But today it was fun.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

simplicity 2016: banana bread is great

When I was growing up, my favorite part of banana bread was the top. It was gooey and sweet and I was a picky little twit who was extremely particular about her food.

Still am, but now I eat my vegetables. Instead of lying about them giving me a headache. Such a great adult I am turning out to be.

Speaking of being adult, I now make my own banana bread, it's quite divine and might even be better than my mom's. (don't tell her)

Even if it is gluten free and...gasp....vegan. What is this world coming to?

And my favorite part now is ALL OF IT. As in the whole loaf. You heard me, the whole dang thing.

Since becoming a vegan almost four years ago, I don't bake nearly as often as I used to. Something about eggs and butter and gluten - all that stuff that makes baking easy.

But, when I do decide bake, it's still an oddly relaxing and centering ritual that can pull me out of the weirdest of moods.

It also doesn't hurt that I live alone and get to eat the entirety of whatever I create. So there's that.

This is still my first week of practicing an attitude of simplicity, and to be honest, it's a little exhausting.

Most likely due to the fact that I have to do everything 1000%, and the rate at which my brain is going is tiring and makes me want to eat.

And last night I did.

That loaf came out of the oven, piping hot and smelling of cinnamon and chocolate. For that is how banana bread should be made my friends.

I cut a slice, put a ginormous slab of "butter" on it, sat on the most perfect couch in the whole world with a cup of tea and took a deep breath.


It's not just being a minimalist, or a penny pincher or even someone who goes off the grid.

I'm re-learning that sometimes it's just fully experiencing and enjoying the small things in the moment that they are happening.

You see, I had the bread again this morning and it was great. But you cannot re-create that piping hot, freshly baked slice of heaven unless you make another loaf.

It's a one time deal. And we shouldn't miss out on those. Because they are amazing in their simplicity. Designed to be enjoyed.


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

simplicity 2016: getting close

"You can't understand the most important things from a distance, you have to get close." 

I am a maker of lists. No, an expert at making lists. Scratch that, I am obsessed with making lists.

If someone told me to go through the day without jotting down my to-do's, I would laugh in their face and then grab my notebook.

It's a habit I have had for as long as I can remember. I guess it's my way of keeping control over the things in my life.

These last five days of practicing simplicity, I have found out some very interesting things about myself.

- I have been eating unhealthy amounts of Thai food (this budgeting thing is eye opening)

- I really like going to bed early (9:30 might just be my sweet spot)

- I enjoy eating dinner on my couch with television, but I am practicing eating at my beautiful table with silence. (it's a good thing)

- Finally, I am realizing I have a really hard time not over planning this whole simplicity thing. Like, it's crazy how much I want to control it...

This morning at our monthly staff meeting, our prez said, "God already has plans. Don't ask Him to join yours; instead, trouble yourself just enough to listen for His."

On my drive back from Cali, I knew without a doubt God was inviting me into His plan of simplicity for this year. 

But, over the last three days, I have obsessed with all the ways I can simplify. 

Making lists upon lists upon lists in my head. 

Today, I realized I need to stop trying to steer and navigate HIS plan and just enjoy the ride.

I need to not get burnt out by Day Six because I think I have to be an expert on simplicity by the end of the first week. 

Think I might be an over achiever?

I also reminded myself today, I do not need to be perfect in this theme or in life. 

I just need to be present and aware, willing to get close and ready to listen.

Only then will it all work out. The way HE planned. Not me.


Monday, January 4, 2016

simplicity 2016: sitting still is hard

I have always struggled with sitting still.

On a plane. The bus. At home. At church....

When I was six years old, I particularly fidgety during a midweek church service. And my mother had had enough of my squirmy ways.

Turning towards me, she said in the most terrifying voice you have ever heard, "If you move one more time, you are going to get it when we get home."

For the next hour, I barely breathed. IT was not something I wanted to experience if I could help it. So I forced myself to sit like a statue.

Also, my nose has never been so itchy. But alas, I could not scratch. Because if there is one thing I know about my mother, it is that she means what she says. Scratch or no scratch.

It was in that moment that I realized sitting still was not something I can accomplish unless I am SCARED TO DEATH.

So yesterday -  I got up, went to church, came home, made lunch, made soup for the week, put ALL my laundry away, got ready for work on Monday and read a book - all before 4:30pm.

It's amazing how much you can get done when you aren't Facebooking everything and/or binge watching Netflix.

And while I loved getting so much done and feeling so accomplished, I also felt bored.

Which is weird, because I have so many things I can do to entertain myself.

I have two pianos for crying out loud. This should not be so difficult.

But there I was, cuddled in my favorite chair with a book I have been dying to read, but I was still so antsy.

However, instead of turning on my TV or picking up my phone, I forced myself to feel the discomfort.

I made myself sit there. It was excruciating. I could almost feel my leg hair growing...

It was good though. The sitting there. Not the hair. That's bad.

I realized in those uncomfortable moments that I am and always have been afraid of missing out on something. What? I have no idea. I just am afraid I will miss it.

And for years, my solution has been to keep myself moving and to keep myself going so I won't miss any of the potential action.

But yesterday, I had an epiphany.

I have forgotten what it is like to sit in the quiet and just be.

I live in a world where I can fall asleep with my cellphone in my hand, constantly being entertained from the moment I go to sleep until the moment I wake up.

As long as my phone is charged, my house has power and my car stereo works, I never have to be bored.

But, that's the problem. I have forgotten how to be bored.

I have forgotten how to just sit and let my imagination run wild. I have become too structured in my distractions.

Simplicity? You are uncomfortable.

But because you are uncomfortable, I have food prepared for the week, I have started reading a delightful book, and I got over eight hours of sleep last night.

Not a bad start to the year. Hopefully the momentum holds, lol.


Sunday, January 3, 2016

simplicity 2016: technology overload

Ah, the dreaded "get off your cellphone" post.

However, before you get pissed and leave this link to go check Instagram (it's there too btw), let me preface with the promise that I will not be a hypocrite.

I have texted while driving.

I have stared at my phone while crossing the street, only to almost get my butt run over.

I have stayed up until 12:30am reading BuzzFeed articles.

Who am I kidding, I was taking quizzes about what kind of pasta I should eat tomorrow.

Because apparently I cannot make that decision for myself. Even though I am a grown arse woman who pays rent and has a job.

I have been glued to my phone when someone was talking to me, and I didn't hear a single word they said. How rude of me...

I have used my phone as a distraction when I am bored, and a solution when I don't want anyone to talk to me.

So, I cannot get on a soapbox and tell other people what to do.

Instead, I'll just share how I am going to address my technology addiction.

Two nights ago, I left my phone in the living room before going to bed. And instead, like my parents did, used an old school alarm clock to get up the next morning.

It really shouldn't have created any anxiety, but it did. Not proud of that at all, but there I was, laying there wanting to check Facebook.

Even though the chances of my having any notifications were slim to none.

Last night was better. I was in bed earlier than normal and slept better than I have in months. That should tell me something right there.

My rational for years has been, "What if someone needs me?" And, if I am honest, the number of times someone has called at 2am are extremely low. So there goes that excuse.

I have also started putting my phone in my backpack instead of mounted on my dash when I am driving.

Why? Well, because I can tell myself that I am not going to text and drive; but I still get 'bored' at red lights and want to check social media.

Even though no one has messaged me, poked me or liked any of my crap.

Finally, I am putting my phone away while I am sitting in church. This shouldn't be something that's even an issue. But it is.

So, I put it in my bag, on the floor, out of sight. But it wasn't out of mind. Which is so terrible.

It's terrible that I cannot even sit through an hour and a half service without checking my 3"x5" piece of glass and radiation.

It's only been three days of  COAT (cellphone overload adjustment therapy). That is not a thing by the way. Maybe it should be, but that's just what I am calling this part of my simplicity challenge.

So what's my take away for that past few days?

I am sleeping better, my neck doesn't hurt from looking at the ground and I got so much out of the message this morning.

I also had time to cook all my meals from scratch, do laundry, clean my house, hang with friends AND read books. All while being in bed before or by 10:30pm.

What is happening in my life?


That's what is happening, and I am kind of in love with it.

Even though it is uncomfortable and will take some getting used to.

Overall? It's pretty great.


Saturday, January 2, 2016

simplicity 2016: counting the big bucks

Yesterday I cancelled a movie membership - for documentaries - because I'm a nerd.

Then I cancelled my Scribd account - think Netflix for books - because I'm a HUGE nerd.

Continuing with this theme, I cancelled my Sirius XM membership - because spotify, and I don't use it.

I've also decided to continue not buying weekly lattes - because, I find I like coffee at home more than a latte.

And finally, I lowered my data on my phone plan - because, I need to get off my dang phone.

I am also fairly motivated by saving money. Which is funny considering how many random things I pay for on a monthly basis. Didn't realize how much until yesterday...

Since my personal goal for this year is to simplify, I am looking around myself to see what I have that I don't use, what I pay for that I don't really want and what do I use in excess just because I am bored.

Hence the cancellation of more monthly subscriptions than I realized I was paying for.... #facepalm

I don't need to justify cancelling any of these expenses, but just for the sake of this post, I will explain for thought process.

Movie/Documentary membership: I have Amazon Prime, I use my best friend's Netflix, and pay for Hulu since I don't have cable.

Scribd: I may or may not personally own almost 200 books. I also have a library card for three different library, that's just ridiculous.

Sirius XM: As I mentioned, I have spotify. I also have a record player and many many CDs...don't judge me, I like CD's. I also miss cassette tapes, so there's that.

Coffee: Lattes are not a need, and caffeine in a ceramic mug totally tastes better. Especially when your ceramic mug is Wonder Woman. Or the poop mug. That one's great too.

Phone: I just really need to get off my dang phone. I am on it too much, wasting time and frying my brain cells... I am too dependent on a piece of technological equipment to keep me from being bored and to keep me safe.

And because I am SUCH a HUGE nerd, I tallied up how much I will save over the next year, just by cutting out these extras.

drumroll....... $1545.....

yes, you read that correctly, I will save almost two grand if I just stopping wasting my money...

Now, as a self proclaimed budgeting wiz, I am a teensy bit embarrassed by my mindless spending.

I mean, what happened to me? I have had a budget since I was 16. On a hand drawn spreadsheet. Because I find consumer math fascinating.

So then how did this happen... how did my spending get a little out of control. Because while I could easily tally these extra expenses, I also know that I can look at my bank account and see where the rest of the money goes.

I think, at least for me, my personal life has just become cluttered with so many unnecessary things, I have adapted and put myself on auto pilot.

Spending just because I think I need something. Not taking the time to see if I can get the same experience for free. Not checking to see if I already have batteries before buying more.

Last week, I spent Christmas with my Gramma (one of my favorite humans); and I had a revelation while I was there.

When I am at her house, everything slows down, and everything makes more sense. I'm not sure why, but it does.

And when I thought about that on my drive back to Seattle, I was deeply challenged to address this in my own life.

You see, I complicate things for myself.

Tangibly speaking, I buy stuff to make things easier in the moment, only to not need it or want it later. To me that's complicated.

I also waste. Not intentionally but I over plan and waste.

I also don't fully and completely appreciated the things I have. Because I am too busy buying crap.

And it's all because I am too much in my head and forget that I don't have to be perfect. And the expectations I have for myself? No one else has those for me. So I can calm the heck down.

2016? I am really glad you are here, and I am glad I get to simplify. Because, it's only day two and I already feel lighter.


Friday, January 1, 2016

simplicity 2016: the great purge

Last month I participated in an amazing campaign called Dressember. It exists to bring awareness to the darkness of human trafficking and allows people to raise money to support some really incredible organizations.

Essentially, you wear a dress every day for the entire month and use your personal fashion to start conversations and shed light on a serious issue. It's pretty rad.

When I started the month, I had many friends ask me, "Elizabeth, do you have enough dresses for the entire month??"

Oh you guys are adorable. Thank you so much for pretending like you don't already know I am a clothes hoarder.

You didn't know that? How is that possible? I mean, have you seen my closet?

You haven't? That's right..... I wear the same jeans and sweatshirts almost every week....

So when friends would ask if I had enough dresses, I chuckled maniacally and answered, "Yes. I have 30. 30 dresses. Not counting skirts. Do I have a problem? Maybe. But, it's not like I'm going to go to a meeting about it or anything...."

And so I began this journey, thinking I would have no problem figuring out what to wear and I would just float through the month.

Then I realized how out of control my clothing stash really was. I own 30 dresses and I didn't wear half of them.....

Which leads me right into my personal theme for this year. Simplicity.

Simplicity can take on many forms, and I am truly looking forward to seeing what this journey is going to hold for me.

Am I going to become an extreme minimalist who sleeps on the floor and eats rice all day?

Am I going to go entirely paperless because...trees?

Am I going to find that the responsibilities I tell myself I need to carry really don't need to be carried at all, but rather, released from my type A, vice like grip?

Who knows what I will have to say a year from now, but for today, or rather the month of January, I am focusing on a few things. A few being three. Why only three? #simplicity

I got up this morning, picked out my outfit, and went through all my dresses.

Then I went and got a box, and put 17 dresses inside that box.

17 dresses that I didn't wear one single time over the last 31 days.

17 dresses I don't want to get rid of because they are pretty, even though I don't remember when I last put them on.

So I had a little chat with myself. About how I don't need them. I won't wear them. Someone else can benefit from them...etc

And that is why, these 17 dresses will find a home at Hope Place, a woman and children's shelter run by Seattle's Union Gospel Mission. My life is filled with excess, and if my excess can fill someone's void, then that's what I want this year.

I have many more areas in my house and in my life to purge; but for now, my closet is cleaner, my heart feels lighter, and I revel in the fact that simplicity might just rock my world for the better.