I've put a lot of focus on the eco friendly portion of my Eco Simple Challenge this year, but the time has come to talk about simplifying.
When I started this challenge for myself, I wanted to see how I could improve our life by being more intentional about the products I use and trying to repurpose things that aren't being used: clothes I don't wear, things taking up space and items that could make other people happy. I didn't realize I was right in front of a phenomenon.
"Tidying Up with Marie Kondo" hit Netflix in January and now everyone and their mother is simplifying their life. I think it's absolutely amazing! I've even used some of Marie's techniques to make simplifying our life easier. As excited as I am about simplifying our home, I'm even more excited to learn more about organizations that are doing amazing things. It's been so easy to collect things and it's super humbling, even embarrassing, to realize how much I'm not using and could be given to people who really need them.
Each month I'll be donating to one or more new organizations than the month before. I'll be trying to think outside the box of your usual donation hot spots. Now, there is nothing wrong with Goodwill, but I'd like to see if I can make my donations go the extra mile, either by making them more easily accessible to people or finding niche locations for items that are harder to find at typical secondhand stores. I've also made a pact with myself to not sell my goods. This isn't me on a high horse, I just want to ensure that by donating our things and simplifying, I'm not then using that money to buy more things.
This month I'm donating my five items to Joseph's Coat here in St. Paul. This amazing organization is strictly volunteer run and has been doing amazing things for the community since 1989. Their focus is on providing no-cost clothing and necessary items for people in the Twin Cities. As equally as important, they work by values of providing each person who walks through their door, regardless of race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation or religion, with acceptance and respect. It was an easy choice to support Joseph's Coat this month.
If you're interested in donating, they have a very helpful list on their website that tells you how to donate and what items they do and do not accept.
Find Joseph's Coat on West 7th St. in St. Paul. Donation hours are 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
So what have I gone through and simplified this month?
1. Women's winter clothes
I konmarie'd the crap out of my closet and broke down all of my donations by what could be most used seasonally and if things are more specific items people look for. In January, winter clothes are obviously the most important items of clothes.
This is an item that can get forgotten about in your closet, but can be used by everyone, but also by the organizations you're donating too. I donated a large box of plastic hangers in numbers we never got close to using.
3. Sheets and blankets
Another winter necessity. Not only did we have some mismatched sets, we had so many sheet sets we never really used. Typically, we swap through two sets, which means the others just sit there unused. This is was very obvious choice to add to our donations to Joesph's Coat.
4. Women's coats
I had quite a few coats that had been forgotten about in the back on my entry closet. These gently used items will be super helpful for others as temperatures continue to drop.
5. Women's winter boots
Again, I had somehow collected several different styles of boots that just didn't get used. They ranged from fuzzy, lined boots to water proof winter boots. I'm happy to know these will be used by other people and not gathering dust in my closet.
I know so many people have been going through their own closets and I'd love to see what you've donated. I'd also love to know your favorite organizations that accept donations.
You can also share in the comments below, or on Instagram by tagging @thesownseed and using the hashtag #ecosimplechallenge.
See you at the beginning of the month for the five items I'm swapping.
I'm finally 30. Honestly, it's felt like a long time coming. I'm an old soul and my 20's were kind of a buzz kill, because I've always felt much older on the inside, like, definitely mid-60's.
For only being 30, I feel like I've learned a lot in a short period of time. I've had unbelievably beautiful experiences and devastating ones that helped me grow. So, as I celebrate this launch into a new decade, I'm sharing the 30 things I learned before I turned 30.
1. Outgoing people can be introverts.
I spent a lot of time thinking that because I am outgoing, silly and enjoy public speaking that I was an extrovert. It took spending a month in Laos to realize I was drained spending time with people and needed to recharge by myself. I've embraced that I prefer cooking dinner at home after a long day rather than going out to dinner with a group.
2. Listening is a hard, but valuable skill to learn (and use).
Around five years ago I realized I talked too much. I would act like I was listening, but instead I was thinking about what I would say next. Sometimes I'd keep talking about something when the conversation had changed just because I felt it was important.. I was missing out on what people were actually saying. I stopped "listening" and started listening. It's amazing what you can learn when you listen.
3. Love isn't always enough.
Sometimes, love isn't enough to save a relationship. Not just a romantic one, but friendships and family too. You can love someone completely, but if the relationship has too many cracks, it's time to let go.
4. You don't have to run a marathon because everyone else is.
Right out of college everyone was running marathons. I started to get a complex about it: "Should I be running a marathon too?" No. I freaking hate running. Comparing yourself to what others are doing and their accomplishments can only make you feel inadequate. Instead, focus on the opportunities you have and things you actually like doing!
5. Excuses are a bad habit.
I had a boss once tell me, "I understand why this happened, but you just give too many excuses." I was so shocked and embarrassed. Had I really been relying on excuses to justify my mistakes and failures? From then on I made a commitment to just own it when I effed up. Even if you have a valid excuse, owning your mistakes goes a long way with people.
6. Self care isn't selfish.
It took becoming a mom for this one to really sink in. Six months into parenthood, I was fried. I was working full time, figuring out being a mom, trying to find time for my relationship, start a business and go back to school. I was exhausted. When I started carving out time for myself, I noticed I started to excel in the other areas of my life, because I wasn't a walking zombie anymore. Start focusing on self care, it's never too late.
7. You can't change other people.
I didn't learn this from a young relationship, I learned this through my brother. Most people know I lost my brother to addiction at the age of 19. We loved and supported him fiercely and he worked hard to stay sober, but sometimes, as much as you want to take the reigns for people, you can only sit back and watch. Which leads me to my next lesson...
8. Grief is a parallel road.
Losing my brother changed my life. At the time I thought it was only in bad ways, but with time I've realized all the beautiful things that have come from it too. However, I'll always be traveling on a road parallel to what life would be like if he were here. It's right in my vision, but I'll never be able to get to it. That's what grief is like as time goes on when you lose someone you love.
9. Life's too short to not eat the cookie.
I spent so many years of my life worried about how I should look. I struggled with disordered eating and made myself mentally sick trying to strive for perfection that was unreachable. Instead, I learned tools to help me remember food is meant to nourish my body and my soul. I eat to fuel my body and don't stress if I want to dive into that cheese board, because that cheese is good for my soul.
10. Being weird is timeless.
I don't know how, but I've always been authentically who I am. I'm not sure how my parents taught me that trait, but I'm working hard to teach that attitude to my daughter as well. It wasn't always awesome and I was bullied a lot as a kid, but as I got older, I felt more confidence in my weirdness and personality. Being authentically and weirdly you is always in.
11. Want to be heard? Be quiet.
Another mom lesson: people listen to you when you speak softly. Is my daughter having a tantrum? I'm going to get on her level and speak as quietly as I can. She can't help but stop to hear what I'm trying to say. People not listening during a meeting? I'm going to stand and speak softly to make everyone around me crane to hear me. Works every time.
12. Meditation changes everything.
This is just fact. Evidence shows that meditation is proven to change your brain to promote less stress, increased happiness and even an improvement in your immune system. Just do it already.
13. Mommin' ain't easy, but it's worth it
I had always wanted to be a mom and getting to do this job is my favorite thing ever. That being said, it's really hard. I wasn't expecting to have so many moments of feeling like I was failing, losing my patience or just feeling inadequate. No one talks about those things. I've tried hard to get to those topics with other new moms, in hopes it lifts them to know we've all been there and they're doing just fine.
14. The unfailing hiccup cure.
I get hiccups all the time and this is the only trick that works: hold your breath, swallow five times, then hold your breath an additional 10 seconds. Now, release your breath slowly. You're welcome.
15. Relationships are the most important work you'll do.
Being married is easy, staying married is hard. Like I said, sometimes love isn't enough, but if you treat your partnership like a choice, you put in the work you need to do every day. Sometimes those relationships just don't work out, that's okay. My husband and I work hard for what we have, keeping the end goal in mind: retirement dreams of a hobby farm in Northfield.
16. Your parents are people.
I mean this in both amazing and eye-opening ways. I've seen my parents' flaws as I've gotten older, but they've also become two of my favorite friends. I never knew I could have so much fun with the people who raised me.
17. Don't be afraid to jump.
There will always be a reason why you shouldn't try something. There will never be a perfect time. Regardless of if it's making a career change, starting a business, ending a bad relationship or having a kid, sometimes you have to just take the leap. Except for bangs, don't ever take the leap into bangs.
18. Recognize and check your privilege.
Most of us have privilege. Especially if you're a cis-identifying white person. Accept it. Lean into it and learn from it. Do the work it takes to make sure you're being an ally to the people around you who don't have the same privilege you do. Sometimes this work is super uncomfortable and it should be. You'll mess up and look stupid, but you have to keep trying. This is how we make the change for a better world, each person looking at the work they can do on themselves first.
19. Always make time for things you love.
There was a long time I didn't play music anymore. When my brother passed away, I played every single day as a way to feel close to him. I had wondered why it had taken such a tragedy to make me do something I've always loved. Don't let your favorite hobbies sit on a shelf gathering dust. Those special things are what help make your soul feel alive.
20. "Sorry" is a pretty empty word.
There is way too much "I'm sorry." At this point in my life, I've found it's pretty empty. Now, I've come to expect and communicate that I appreciate improved action far more than "I'm sorry". Don't just accept an apology and move on if you don't think it's genuine. The people who care about you will work to make it better.
21. You don't need to reinvent yourself.
You're fine just the way you are. Period.
22. Just ask for help already.
I'm still a work in progress here. I'm incredibly prideful and refuse to ask for help, most definitely to a fault. It's taken many examples of dropping balls and failing to realize it's absolutely a good thing to ask for help when you need it. Often times, asking for help even benefits more people around you.
23. Being honest doesn't need to be hurtful.
A lot of people like to say, "I just say what I feel! I'm being honest!" No, you're being rude. You don't have to be honest at the expense of people's feelings. Always be truthful, but be gentle with people. Being brash isn't a good look.
24. A small group of friends is gold.
I'm not great at making new friends. I'm so shy in this arena and it gives me such anxiety. I use to think my small friend group reflected on me poorly, that I wasn't cool enough or not friendly. Now I realize I've simply been compiling a group of women I can rely on in the worst times and celebrate with during the best.
25. Learn to prioritize.
Stop thinking you're going to get everything done. Give yourself the freedom to choose what's most important and celebrate each item that get's checked off your list. Somethings really are more important than others. It's about quality of work, not quantity.
26. Take care of your damn skin.
Put on sunscreen, start using eye cream now, exfoliate, at least wash your freaking face! Your skin is the first to go, people! Hormones are a bitch and sun damage is real. Treat your skin like gold.
27. You don't have to like what everyone else does
I hate football, don't like coconut water, dislike running with a passion and find manicures stupid. Whatever! I use to try so hard to make myself like the cool things because it meant I fit in. It was exhausting. Now I'm cool with being a huge Doctor Who fan, thinking carbs are the best, unabashedly loving Carly Rae Jepsen and adoring my plain, copper wedding band.
28. Boundaries are important.
We can easily let people creep into our space and take from us. It's okay to let people know you need to cancel plans because you've had a rough day. Thanks to lots of therapy, I became really good at setting boundaries. Sometimes people don't understand, that will happen, but you aren't living this life for them, you're living it for you.
29. Step outside your comfort zone.
Some of the best and most wonderful experiences in my life have been ones that have scared the absolute crap out of me.
30. Don't be afraid of the future.
Aging isn't as bad as it seems. As you get older, life experience really does guide you through. Live in today, because there is literally nothing you can do to predict or change the future. Be happy with this moment.
There are few things more unpredictable than a newborn, especially their sleep schedule. My daughter was a notoriously bad sleeper through the first year of her life. Every night she'd wake at least two times to either nurse or require soothing. There were a few breakdowns where I whispered to my husband "I can't take it anymore!" Even though I knew I'd be right back to being woken up the next night, I never actually dreaded the bedtime process.
Now, clearly that sounds insane, but I promise, I'm not a secret masochist. I knew the middle of the night could be rough, but putting my daughter to bed has always been surprisingly easy. We've never had to do much coddling to get her to sleep. Even now, as an almost three-year-old, she easily occupies herself in her bedroom until she's ready to fall asleep, only coming downstairs if she needs to use the bathroom. How did we manage to make this happen?
Well, I definitely think it's a little bit of karma because overnight was so rough and thankfully it's no longer that hard. However, I think the real secret is we started Tess on a bedtime routine when she was one week old. I know that sounds more than a little crazy, but we firmly believed if we could establish a nighttime routine early enough, we'd have fewer issues down the line. So far, it seems to be paying off in spades.
I'm sure your first question is, "How do you put a one-week-old on a bedtime routine?" Well, it was actually pretty easy. We started by eating dinner at roughly the same time every night, mostly so we knew when to get started on our nighttime routine. Next, we'd give Tess a bath, rub her down with some lotion, put her in her pajamas, read her a book (because it's never too early to start), nurse and then go right into her crib. All this would be done so she'd be in her crib and we'd be exiting the room each night by 7 p.m.
Timing was crucial for us, because as Tess got use to her routine, failing to get her into bed at 7 could mean a cranky kid. We were very upfront with friends and family that any evening activities had to end with us at home by 6:30 p.m. so we could meet our 7 p.m. bedtime schedule. Truly, everyone was more than accommodating, with friends even routinely coming to our house for dinner so it would be easier.
Crankiness was not the only reason timing was so important to us. To be completely honest, a dependable bed time was really always about routine for Jordan and I. Regardless of when Tess would wake up again, some nights earlier than others, we always knew we had a couple of hours to be child free. This was so crucial for us and something we're so glad we started from the beginning of our parenting journey.
Those few hours each night were completely ours. We could use them to have an at-home date night to reconnect or get some much-needed alone time. Even more crucial, we could use those hours to study, because yes, we were super insane and both working our way towards a Masters degree not even a month after our daughter was born. Regardless of what we used the time for, it felt good to have dedicated space to not be a parent for a little while.
That first year is a wild ride. As much as you are in love with your new child, little sleep and lack of hours for yourself can really take their toll. Being a parent is my favorite job, but I still prioritize and relish in the hours that I get to have with just my husband or completely by myself. I crave those hours because they make the time I spend with my daughter seem even more special. And sometimes, I need them because being a parent is hard work and you just need a little break!
Having that time to refresh each night made dealing with middle-of-the-night nursing sessions, teething, sleep regressions, developmental leaps and growths spurts much more tolerable. Even during the worst nights I was able to remind myself it was only temporary, tomorrow night would be different, but I'd still have a few glorious hours tomorrow to be myself again, not just a parent, and help me regain some sanity.
Hygge is really hot right now. This Danish word describes that magical feeling of coziness, comfortability, feeling of contentment and overall well-being. Google hygge and you're likely to come across a lot of blogs talking about how to integrate it into your life. So, what I'm really saying is, "look how super original I am!"
As I read about this Danish word, I've learned it's a goal to aspire to. How can the choices I make in my daily life help me achieve a feeling of hygge? It's as aspired to as love and happiness. With that in mind, I thought I'd walk through some of the choices I've been making this winter to help me find that feeling of hygge, prioritize self care and try and beat the inevitable winter funk.
Nourish Your Body
One of the biggest ways I've tried to practice self care hygge-style is by really nourishing my body. To me, this is a two-fold process. First, I've really focused on trying to eat nutrient dense foods that taste delicious and nurture my body. It's especially important to really pack in the foods rich in vitamin D, since we're not getting our regular dose with the ample sunlight of summer. Some good examples are fatty fish like salmon, tuna or shrimp. Don't eat meat? Egg yolks and mushrooms are also great additions!
Fueling your body with nutrient-dense foods is very important, but so is the second part: eating foods that make you feel warm and happy. Life is too short to not have foods that warm you from the inside out. Think yummy soups like pho or ramen, chunky stews with veggies and oxtail, congee topped with mushrooms and a perfectly pouched egg. Don't stop there! Drink that coziness with bone broth, herbal teas and even a perfectly brewed cup of coffee. Your food shouldn't just nourish your body, it should nourish your soul, so choose options that make you feel warm and happy.
Check out some of my favorite nourishing recipes over on my Pinterest page!
Slow Down Just Because
I'm busy, you're busy, we're all super busy. One of the most important self care lessons I've learned is to listen to when your body needs rest. Embrace that sometimes, it's okay to do nothing. Find the things that you've been meaning to make time for. Do you have a book list you've been waiting to tap into? Light your favorite candle, put on some snuggly socks and get reading! Is your Netflix watchlist a mile long? Snuggle up with a warm blanket and enjoy an episode of a show that makes you happy. Great British Baking Show, anyone? You could also try setting aside time to journal. Writing down your gratitude for the day is shown to improve your outlook significantly; who doesn't want that?
It's really easy to make excuses for why we're too busy to give ourselves downtime. The truth is, there will always be something that needs to get done or that we should be doing instead. Sometimes, it's more important to give yourself the space to rest and do something that serves no other purpose but making you feel happy.
Need a cozy blanket to add more hygge to your Netflix binge? Check out Love Your Melon, which also gives back with each purchase!
It feels a bit opposite of the cozy nature of hygge, but getting outside is an important aspect of living a hygge-minded life and giving yourself important winter self care. It can be super daunting to imagine heading outside during the coldest months of the year, but getting fresh air can make you feel like a whole new person.
Take advantage of those sunny winter days and get outside! Take a short hike or try a new outdoor activity like cross country skiing. Even better, get outside with your kiddos! Get snowy and sweaty. Breathe in that amazing cool, crips air and get those warm and fuzzy feelings about winter.
Check out a few of my favorite winter outdoor spots: Dodge Nature Center and the Minnesota Zoo!
Pampering myself is critical in the winter for self care. Face it, most of us don't have that budget to hit the spa on a regular basis, but you can always bring the spa to you. Hygge is all about the importance of a total feeling of well-being, which pampering yourself can definitely achieve! Sink into a warm bath and embrace that feeling of contentment you get by just being. I love to put a cup each of epsom salt and baking soda in my baths, then choose an essential oil that fits the situation, like lavender or eucalyptus. Just be careful to choose an oil that is okay for direct skin contact. Peppermint oil may be a bit much! Also be mindful of which oils aren't appropriate for you if you're pregnant or breastfeeding! You can learn more about what oils may irritate your skin or be harmful during pregnancy here.
Don't want to DIY a soak? Honey and Sage Co. has some of my favorite soaks!
The most beautiful thing about hygge and self care is that it can be so easily blended into your daily life, even by devoting 15 minutes each day. It's easy to use the excuse that you have so much to do or that parenting takes priority, but you'll never be able to fully give yourself to those important roles unless you feel like your cup is full.
So, wrap yourself in a cozy blanket with a hot mug of tea and binge that next episode of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Go ahead, hygge it up.
If you're interested in learning more about hygge, check out "The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living."