Minimalish: How Did I Do?

A few weeks ago, I shared the chart below and embarked on a 30-day challenge toward more minimalish-ism. I'm not a minimalist and I don't intend to be, but I want my life to be as full of the good, important things and as shy of the distracting, clutter-causing things as possible. I thought this challenge would be a good way to examine those values and make any adjustments.

I set myself some ground rules:
  • Activities don't need to be done in order, but each needs to be done (or at least solidly attempted).
  • Except for ones that can be done several times (1, 2, 4, 6, etc.), have discipline to do one task each day—meaning, don't do five items on one day to "get them out of the way." Each day should be a practice in one of these minimalish activities.
  • For items that I've done already or aren't really possible (I just don't have a junk drawer, and I already follow a morning/evening routine), find some way to connect a task/activity to the intention of the prescribed one.
So after 30 days of attempting to bring more mindfulness to my daily life and become yet more minimalish, how did I do? (Might want to grab a beverage; this one's a little long...even for me.)
1. Stay offline for one day • I did my very, very best with this one on the Fourth of July. I was down the shore with family for the weekend, having the best time as we do every year. I pulled out my phone to text with my cousin who was on her way down, to call my brother for his ETA, and I only checked one Snapchat. Other than that, phone was put away all day. I don't count calls/texts as being online, so the Snap was my one minor fail. Better than I expected, really.

2. Meditate for 15 minutes • Luckily I'm given the opportunity to meditate for a few minutes every yoga class, but that's not always enough. I managed to get a full fifteen minutes in once or twice, but I really need to make time for go for a full hour-long chakra balance meditation.

3. Declutter your digital life • This felt so, so good. I cleaned out my drafts folder, sifted through starred tweets and bookmarks on my computer browsers and my phone, went through the few dozen Google docs and calendars and iPhone notes I use to run my life, and just dumped all the excess. Ahhh.

4. No-complaint day • I was super conscious of pretty much everything that came out of my mouth on this day. I was off from work, or else I never would have done it. And by the end of the day, I was down at the shore house with my family. How could I have possibly complained?

5. Identify your three to six main priorities • It was sort of by accident that this ended up getting done today. I was emailing with a friend about a(nother) potential collaboration, and still processing my decision to take a 40% pay cut for a new job. Without really thinking about it, I was saying it, and I knew it was true. Aside from the incredibly obvious and non-negotiable family and friends coming first, my priorities are words (writing, writing for a living, working on my book, editing other amazing books, bringing good words to good people), yoga (my physical practice, my internal practice, and bridging the gap for others who deserve this wonderful, transformative discipline in their lives), and running (being healthy, pushing my limits, learning how strong I can be, and defying expectations). I did a bit more in-depth exploration with respect to my career, and identified a few things that are crucial for me to have from my work. Still not sure how I will get them all, but at least now I know what I'm after.

6. Follow a morning ritual (x 6) • Most workdays, I follow the same morning routine: Wake up, yoga, shower, find a podcast for the morning, pour coffee, makeup/hair/dressed, make my bed at some point in there, head off to work. I usually skip morning yoga on Tuesdays because I take class in the evenings. I skip parts of my a.m. routine if I haven't slept well and need to prioritize extra sleep instead. The uncounted days here were either weekends, days off work for other reasons, and days I slept in—insomnia got the better of me a LOT this month, and many mornings on four hours of sleep were rough. Also, I left my job and "routine" went right out the window after the 17th.

7. Streamline your reading list • Apologies to anyone who follows me on Goodreads. I merged a portion of my Google Doc list with my Goodreads to-read list, and got some semblance of order there. My multiple lists of books to read are still longer than they should be, but they're much more organized now.

8. Learn to enjoy solitude • I spend a lot of my out-of-work time alone, and I very much like it that way. Living by myself makes it easy. I rarely don't enjoy the alone time I have, and when that happens, I usually just call up a friend and...stop being alone for a little while. On a few July days, I made it a point to really be present in my solitude and appreciate it for what it makes me capable of.

9. Downsize your beauty collection • I like makeup. I like products. I was, at one time, a bit of a product junkie. And then I moved into a studio and got rid of a lot of them. And then I simplified my makeup routine and a lot of stuff sat around because maybe I'd use it for the next fancy occasion. Fancy occasions came and went and I still didn't use the extra makeup. I've tossed a lot over the last few months, but I still found a few items to get rid of.

10. No email or social media until lunch • I thought this would be challenging, but it was actually a super welcome way to start my day once I embarked on my funemployment just after mid-month.

11. Evaluate your commitments • I have my hand in a LOT of things right now: (1) job transition (2) Feather Magazine (3) marathon training (4) yoga practice and preparations for teacher training (5) full manuscript edit of a client/friend's novel (luckily due for publication in September) (6) my book of essays (7) the novel I've just begun and hope to blast through (8) a literary magazine I'm co-directing (9) this blog (10) family and friends and associated commitments. I actually paused to write out this list and identify the statuses of each and considered how to fit everything in. I think I've got this handled, but it's definitely work. Luckily, it's work I love.

12. Define your goals for the year • In conjunction with letting go of a few, I reshaped the ones I still had and set some new ones that align with some new endeavors and developments.

13. Clean out your closet • I really did try to get rid of more clothing/shoes/accessories, but I do purges pretty frequently, including once just in June. As of now there's nothing left to toss.

14. Take a step toward learning a new skill • I was invited this month to collaborate on a project that feels like I was destined for it, and it for me. My co-collaborator and I were certainly destined to work together, as previous successful endeavors have shown. A lot of the necessary work was already in my wheelhouse, but I spent this day doing the research for some new tasks and jobs to make this effort successful. More on this here.

15. Examine your daily habits • I don't really know that I got much out of this, because I'm a pretty habitual person and like routine, as far as my daily need-to-dos go. But I paid attention and "examined" my morning and evening habits this day, and at least I can say I was mindful of them.

16. Don't buy anything for 24 hours (x 10) • Almost every month I set a goal for a couple of no-spend days. This month's goal was 10 days, and I passed! I needed to, for sure.

17. Practice single-tasking • It is so, so rare that I'm sitting down or standing, doing one thing at a time, without a million other things in various stages of done-ness—and without my mind wandering to what else I need to/should be doing. I decided to commit myself to a project and really plugged myself in, shut everything else out, and wrote.

18. Unfollow and unfriend • So long, people I had one class with in college and never spoke to again. See ya, people I went to high school with and could barely stand back then, and don't even know anymore. Take a hike, friends of friends of friends I met at a party and talked to for three minutes at some point over the last decade. It never stops feeling good to remove the extraneous noise from my life.

19. Go for a walk and practice mindfulness • I actually hate walking, honestly. I mean, I don't mind walking to a place that it makes sense to walk to, but if I were going to go for a walk, I'm just going to go for a run. I did, however, have a bit of room left at the end of a run, and walked the rest of the way back to my apartment with music off, checking in on my body.

20. No TV all day, read instead (x 12) • We really never watch TV down the shore, and I've been watching much less TV at home lately too. I've been listening to more podcasts, reading more, and only turn on the TV late at night when I'm ready for sleep, because I'm a loon and need background noise to fall asleep. I don't count this as "watching TV," because, well, I'm not watching it.

21. Journal for 20 minutes • I rarely journal for this long anymore, but it started with my daily gratitude one day and I just let myself keep going.

22. Create a relaxing bedtime routine • I have been a troubled sleeper literally my entire life. Since I was born. (Well, all babies are, but I was a special kind of difficult at bedtime.) When I moved into this apartment back in September, it took me less than a week to identify a few things I have to do in order to have any chance at sleeping well, and I do them—or at least a truncated version of them—just about every night. Makeup off/wash face, brush teeth, peppermint oil on my nose and brow bone, load coffee pot and set timer, check alarms, read, Reddit (I know, I shouldn't before bed, but I do), background noise, sleep mask, sleep. Weekends vary a little bit since my mornings aren't as time-crunched, but this is pretty much every night for me, regardless of what time I'm heading to bed.

23. Go bare-faced (x 7) • I try to do this for a full day once a week, or at least spend a major portion of a day without makeup. Funemployment and beach weekends mean makeup-free faces.

24. Practice gratitude (x 13) • I keep a gratitude journal, where I try most days to write down at least three things I'm grateful for, sometimes with a more thorough journal entry, sometimes without. I don't get to it every day, but try at least a few times a week.

25. Leave a whole day unplanned (x 4) • Generally speaking, this is pretty hard for me. I don't know if I can truly count Fourth of July weekend as unplanned days, because I planned to be down the shore, and I was. But as far as the events that transpired while down the shore, none of that was planned. Ditto my few impromptu days in Cape Cod. I give a pass. 

26. Identify your stress triggers • I have a lot, being that I'm highly sensitive. Luckily, a minimum amount of stress is required for me to function, since it's always been a part of my life. I did take notice of a few particularly stress-inducing events and tried to isolate the actual trigger, so I do think this was successful.

27. Clear our your junk drawer • Honestly? I don't have one. There's absolutely no "junk collection" spot in my house. I barely even have drawers (that aren't home for my clothes). I did clean my entire apartment top to bottom a time or two, so I call this a pass.

28. Let go of a goal • I set a lot of goals (yearly, seasonally, monthly, daily). As the year wears on, some become less important, less possible, or less necessary to describe as "goals." I eliminated one 2015 goal and revised another to better fit with the trajectory of this year.

29. Turn off notifications • After my cousin and brother arrived at the shore house on the Fourth of July, my phone went on airplane mode. I didn't need anyone or anything else than my big, amazing family that day.

30. Evaluate your last five purchases • Figured my last day on salary (17th) would be as good a time as any to look this over. I'm not on a freeze but I am trying extra hard to stick to my budget this month and have been doing pretty good on my no-spend days. My last five purchases are pretty solid:
(1) drink at last night's bon voyage happy hour (my amazing former coworkers picked up the rest <3)
(2) Chipotle for lunch, which feeds me for two days;
(3) chiropractor co-pay (not quite a purchase, but money spent), non-negotiable and always a good decision;
(4) brunch with friends in Philly, that I was able to keep low-cost and was worth every delicious bite;
(5) new running shoes, to alternate with my half-worn pair for the next ~8 weeks of this marathon training plan.
(I give myself an A- for these; I probably didn't really need Chipotle for lunch.)

So how I did was...pretty damn good, I must say. I managed to run out of new tasks before I ran out of days, which meant I was repeating some of the more easily-repeatable ones (gratitude, no TV, etc.) The one-off items felt really good to get done, and I felt a weight lifted each time I decluttered some aspect of my life and mind. It's really all intangible, but I do have to call this experiment a smashing success!

In fact, I think I'm going to make a list of some of these more repeatable items and see how long I can go checking off at least one every day. Or maybe look beyond and try to find or create a new challenge...

If you participated in this little challenge, I'd love to hear how you did! Did it change anything? Would you repeat any of the items or undertake the challenge again?


  1. I enjoyed reading this. I think you did really well. I'm also not a minimalist in most areas of my life and not looking to be, but I do like to examine what I'm doing and how I'm living and see if I need to make some improvements or slow my roll on some things.

    The only prompt that I was like "huh?" about was the streamline your reading...the day I don't have a super long reading list out there is a sad day in my life. LOL

    Have a good weekend!

  2. I read every word and you did great! I love your answers to most of these so I dont even know how to begin to comment. Love that you let your phone go at the shore and turned off notifications as well. I think even though you work well with stress (like I do) its good that there was a prompt about actually identifying trigger. I really should try to take that on board even if I dont do the entire challenge.

    I'd love to know what happened on the shore hehe. Also - A day unplanned? I think that would have been the hardest for me since I cannot see myself leaving a day unplanned. Maybe a Saturday? I dont know!
    I dont have a junk drawer either! And im with steph what do they mean streamline reading? Thats the only one thats a no.

  3. This was such an amazing challenge for yourself and I just pinned it to remind myself to try this - and what better time than next month right!! I'm really hoping to do #4 more than once :) xo, Biana -BlovedBoston

  4. Absolutely loved this entire post and challenge! What an awesome thing to do for yourself! I'm with you in that I won't ever be a minimalist, but I love clearing the clutter both physically and mentally and making room for the important things. I really think I may give this a try in August- I'm so glad you shared!!!

  5. I loved reading this. I forgot to do this, maybe next month. I really, really, really REALLY need to get my digital life organised, it's a mess. I also would love to set up some sort of routine, both morning and night, because I have neither going for me right now. Great job girl!

  6. I love this challenge and I think you did an awesome job! No tv would be the hardest for me, I can't believe you went so many days without watching it. I love unfriending people on facebook, its so nice to not have to see that so and so is selling ItWorks! anymore or someone else went to the bar.

  7. It sounds like you did awesome girl!!! There are a few areas in my life where I could probably stand do be a little minimalist or more intentional with and I feel like maybe your quest has inspired me a little bit. I hope you have a great weekend!

  8. I read every single word you wrote because I can't skip a single word you write. <3 I'm proud of you and your minimalishness, especially the way you can shut off your phone and live the life in front of you. Funemployment is killer for make-up free faces and double-sweats. The 2015 goal you dropped was a visit to the Pacific Northwest, right? Sad, but the right choice!

  9. This is awesome. I've been trying to do a few of the same things, like deleting unnecessary "friends" off Facebook and cleaning out my closet. It helps that I'm about to move, so I'm trying to be minimalistic in all aspects. You did a great job, though. Probably better than I would have been able to do! Congrats! :)

  10. Okay so I totally did not follow through with this, but I did keep it on my mind throughout the month and I did complete some tasks that needed completing. I do a lot of these on a regular-ish basis too, though.
    I chose one of my long training days to be no-complaint day...perhaps I should try that every time? ;)
    I REALLY need to toss my fancy makeup. I'm the same way, I don't even use it when I do have a fancy occasion (I just fancy up the makeup I use on a normal basis). But all the colors are so pretty, and I spent so much money on it...I don't know why I can toss clothes like nobody's business but I'm like please no, not the eyeshadow I haven't touched in 2 years!
    Just curious, why don't you think you are or want to call yourself a minimalist? I'm not saying you are or aren't, but you definitely have a lot simpler and more mindful practices than most people I know (which is one of my favorite things about you!). Ben and I were just having this conversation the other day, like where is the line between minimalish and having minimalist practices and actually being a minimalist?

  11. You rocked this challenge! I'm so glad I had the opportunity to do it as well, so thank you for sharing it way back when!

  12. Thanks for sharing this. I am currently doing the challenge and it's been so eye-opening.


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