Friday, January 29, 2016

Hobbies, Dreams, Ambitions, and When to Let Them Go

Image via McKinley Law for Unsplash

This month, I came face to face with my dreams. The ones that I think about every day, the ones that have faded a bit, and the ones I completely forgot about.

I decided to join Emily Freeman's linkup about what we learned in January, and when I took a look at the month, this was the main topic that I had been wrestling with.

It started with my innocent quest to clean out clutter and have less stuff/more freedom- the great promise of minimalism. I dredged up old sheet music, fancy drawing pastels, bead-making supplies, and even a few dated books on how to flip houses (comical now, considering what has happened in the market).

I found myself surrounded by piles of my old hobbies and dreams, feeling a little deflated.
And wasteful.
And even guilty.

The thing about dreams, goals, and ambitions is that when they end up in the back of a drawer or shelf, they tend to fester. They nag at us, reminding us that we aren't doing enough.

"Why haven't you started on me yet?" they demand. "Don't you remember what you envisioned yourself becoming by now? Tick... tick... tock..."

"By the way- don't forget about how you spent money on that class or that supply or that book. Or even worse, think about all the time you've invested so far. Why haven't we amounted to anything?!"

And then they end up in a donation pile, and make us wonder why we even bothered dreaming in the first place. 

But minimalism and simplicity are supposed to have the opposite affect, right? They are usually so kind and gentle, with their promises of freedom, space, more time, and more peace. I just can't see them taking the guilt-trip route. "And here's that house-flipping book (insert eye-roll). What a good-for-nothing space/energy/time/money waste that was! Think of trees that went into producing that!" See, it's just not the tone of simplicity.

So what is the point of all this? What is the point of my sad story with my sad little piles?

I did learn something in January, well... realized something.

Here's what I already knew going into January:

Creative pursuits are a healthy, necessary thing for a full life.

I am a middle-aged adult, with a family to care for, and limited time.

Narrowing a focus helps us excel to our maximum potential in limited areas.
Malcolm Gladwell makes the claim in his book Outliers that it takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery in a field. And I buy that.

Maybe a hobby doesn't require that level of proficiency, but it still takes some amount of invested time to be rewarding.

Here's what I realized in January:

Sometimes, I get a little carried away with ambitions and dreams, and don't think through the time or effort required to succeed at them. I love the thrill of new beginnings; I'm not so great about getting to the finish line working on it.

I can use the process of minimalism to weed out less important goals, and simply let them go.

I can give myself permission to not feel guilty about that.

I can learn to be more discerning with future ideas that come popping into my head.

As for the goals I want to keep in my life, but don't necessarily have 10,000 hours to become expertly proficient in them, I can work on them in my SPHERE.

I've been thinking a lot about the word "sphere" in January. My sphere of influence, my sphere of capability, my sphere of connections. Spheres are limiting, but in a good way.

Rick Warren points out in his book The Purpose Driven Life,

"The word boundaries refers to the fact that God assigns each of us a field or sphere of service... When we try to overextend our ministry reach beyond what God shaped us for, we experience stress... Just focus on finishing your race."

Before the world of the internet, social media, followers, and YouTube sensations, there were spheres. For the most part, people used their talents and dreams to contribute to the local community, or even just their own families. I think, in most cases, nothing more is expected of us now.

When it came down to it, I gave away my house-flipping books, but I couldn't throw out all that old sheet music. Playing the piano is a dream I've had since kindergarten, and a hobby I have invested thousands of hours in. Instead of letting it go amidst the business of middle-aged life, I've let that pile of music keep its space on my shelf. And I don't worry that it's not giving me loads of money or accolades. I just play in my sphere. I play often at church, and at the family Christmas Eve party. I am now teaching my children, and a few friends on the side. That brings me great happiness, and I'm guessing it enriches the few lives in my sphere.

And that's enough reason to hold onto a dream.

How about you? Any dreams worth keeping, or letting go?

Monday, January 25, 2016

One Tip for Dealing with Fear and Uncertainty

Image via

My 5-year-old son is suddenly obsessed with tornados. He's realized that volcanos happen in far away places, earthquakes happen in far away places, and he doesn't know what a mudslide or hurricane or tsunami is yet.

However, he's pinpointed the main natural threat to us Minnesotans: tornados. What started as a minor fascination has developed into full-blown fear.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

9 Happy Things

When January hits, I usually start craving change. Change in the temperature, change in eating habits, change in our winter routine. I used to count down the days until January changed into February.

However, I'm learning to not just wish every January away, but live in the frigid present of this month too. January has a lot of happiness to offer, and I almost appreciate (and hold onto) all the little, happy things in my days more when it is bleak outside.

Here are some things that made me really happy this month:

Monday, January 18, 2016

The 6 Day Digital Cleanup

Jens Kreuter via

I used to think January was so bleak and bare, but as I've gotten older, I relish the emptiness. As the calendar page turns, it becomes such a perfect time to declutter every area of life. I have spent the last week clearing off counters, cleaning out drawers and closets, and taking down unnecessary extras. Things are feeling good around here. Really, really good.

Since I am in the decluttering zone already, I have the motivation to tackle my digital life. I tend to put this off, since it can be so overwhelming. Digital clutter piles up so fast and furious. Daily texts and emails accumulate with more speed than randomness in a junk drawer ever will. Don't even get me started on family photos.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Word of the Year: ADVENTURE

Photo by Ibai Acevedo via

"Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing..." Helen Keller

Since it is January, I wanted to replace the word of the month with a word of the year. I see a lot of bloggers doing this, and I like to focus on something small and concise. I'm all for simplicity, even in life ambitions.

This post, and this theme for the year, isn't necessarily about adventure in the context of excitement, travel, or exotic and fancy experiences. We are a family that likes to build a savings account, heads to the neighborhood park on the weekend, visits relatives for our vacation, and has a night in to night out ratio of... like... 9000:1. Some may think we are a bit boring, but there is still room for a lot of daring adventure - in a different way.

As I am reflecting on this year, and what it may look like, I see opportunities for adventure in 3 contexts:

Thursday, December 31, 2015

December Links

Hope everyone enjoyed the holidays! Here are some of my favorite articles I came across in December:

When Change Becomes Your Norm from Journey Mercies
An interesting perspective on change and acceptance from a former expat.

Health and Fitness, The Minimalist Way by Nia Shanks for Becoming Minimalist
Each time I hear about a new diet, fad, or fitness accessory, I think, "Isn't this supposed to be simpler?" This post outlines perfectly how staying healthy in the new year doesn't have to be expensive or complicated.

How I Used Art to Express Myself When I Lost the Words to Grief by Janice Lynch Schuster for Maria Shriver Blog
A beautiful article for anyone who has dealt with grief, and a great tip to cope.

My Word for 2016 (That I'm Removing from all Conversations) from Practising Simplicity
Some people chose a word to focus on for the year; Jodi is focusing on removing a word from her year's vocabulary-and it's a good one.

Monday, December 28, 2015

A Process to Simplify New Year's Resolutions

How to set realistic goals

It's time again to think about fresh starts, change, and self-improvement. Many of you may be excited about setting goals, and others... not so much. Some may be thinking, "What's the point?" after many years of resolutions not sticking (been there). 

However, change is good, improvement is great, and the New Year presents a perfect opportunity to try again. 

For 2016, I am taking a slightly altered approach to my resolutions. It is going to be an unusually busy year, a year where there is just a lot going on in our family life. I can already foresee that, realistically, there is not going to be much extra energy for things like willpower. 

I don't want to just abandon goal-setting though. Instead, I've decided this is a year for SIMPLE goals.