Scavenging for Tulips

Does anyone remember what year Milky Pens were a thing? I was going to start this week’s blog off with a story, but I couldn’t get past wondering how old I was when Milky Pens were taking over the lives of elementary school children across the Nation. I suppose my age at the time doesn’t really matter that much, but I just spent a really long time trying to figure out what year Milky Pens were one of the two things I was dying to get from the Easter Bunny, so if someone can help me out, I won’t feel like the past half an hour was a total waste. You can think about it while you read about my favorite Easter ever.

When I was an age determined 100% by pastel pens that were used primarily for writing on your own skin, all I wanted for Easter was a tulip and the aforementioned pens. I don’t even remember if I still believed in the Easter Bunny, or not. What I do remember is that my sister and I woke up Easter morning to a scavenger Easter egg hunt, complete with plastic eggs filled with clues that lead us slowly to different gifts that gradually got more awesome. To my delight, my final gifts were a tulip and a pack of Milky Pens. I don’t really remember much more of that morning, but I do remember that in the afternoon my dad bought a boat (Or three boats. I really think it was three boats that were doomed to never again float in water), and we had to take a car ride to pick it (Or them? I’m not sure of the logistics here) up. During the car ride my sister and I sat in the back seat of my dad’s pickup truck drawing on every visible square inch of the other one’s body, laughing until we cried. I don’t actually remember anything else that happened that Easter. We may not have even had dinner that year, who knows? We didn’t have a whole lot growing up (which is probably difficult to believe after having just told you that my dad bought 1-3 boats on Easter the year Milky Pens were a thing, but trust me on this), so we made up our own traditions, and fed off of each other’s company and laughter. The reason I loved this Easter so much, and the reason I remember the pens is the same reason I remember and appreciate most things from my childhood, and from holidays growing up: my sister.

This year I didn’t have my sister, or any other family, for Easter. I knew that our first holiday away from home was going to be rough, so we planned a little camping trip to distract ourselves. It wasn’t a substitute for my sister, but it was a pretty fun distraction. We camped on a cattle ranch in the Middle-of-Nowhere, AZ, and on Sunday morning we hung out at Petrified Forest National Park*. It was a much needed weekend of road tripping, camping, adventuring, and laughing.

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We got home from our trip Sunday afternoon, and spent the evening in bed eating take out and watching Frasier. I really miss my family, but I’m so grateful when we get to spend our weekends exploring new places and spending time in nature. Especially weeks like this one where I follow the trip with a mid-week stomach virus. Consequently, this week’s post is a little bit shorter than usual, and is going to end pretty abruptly, but if all goes well, you will have much more to read about next weekend, and plenty of photos to check out! I hope everyone has a great week!
*My mom gets us a National Park pass for Christmas, and it is a gift that I fully recommend. You can use it at National Parks and National Monuments, and it can be used for four guests at a time. If you’re interested, you can buy the passes here, and they’re good for a full year!

Patio Cats and Backyard Coyotes

Welcome back! I hope everyone had a great week, and got to do something fun last weekend. Our week was a lot more eventful than last week. After I got out of work on Saturday, we spent the evening on the patio with Courage, 00100dportrait_00100_burst20190413173450745_coverso that was pretty typical. Sunday morning we woke up early to go for a beautiful hike at Hieroglyphic Trail. It was just a moderate three mile hike, but at the end of the trail were giant rocks with actual hieroglyphs and a small waterfall. The entire hike was extremely scenic, and filled with bright flowers. (you can see all of the photos from the hike below). After our hike, we came home, made a giant breakfast, and hung out on the patio again. It was a really great weekend for my mental health, but the real excitement happened on Monday when the coyotes came to town. And by town, I mean our backyard. Monday morning I took Isley outside, and she was acting all weird, but she’s a weird dog, so I didn’t think much of it. A few minutes went by, and she was sniffing a patch of grass when I felt a presence behind me. I turned around and there’s a freaking coyote about three steps away from me. Just standing there looking at me like “oh, hey! What exactly are you?” So I did my best to keep Isley from noticing this coyote because she’s got a really great knack for making other animals really angry. I backed away from this coyote (who really did not look menacing at all. In fact he was really adorable, but he was a coyote, so if he changed his mind, I was going to be in trouble), and headed inside to the apartment. By the time I got inside, watched him roll around in the grass like a cute puppy, and realized that I should take a video, he was pretty far away. Dan I then took Isley out that night before bed and ran into TWO coyotes, so that kind of set the adventure bar pretty high, and the rest of the week was pretty lame in comparison.

Last Saturday I mentioned how our week was pretty boring, so I started talking about goal realization and staying positive. This week was definitely not boring by comparison, but I will still finish what was started (which you can refresh yourself on here). As with last week I would love to hear some insight, tips, and suggestions on goals and positivity. I’m still trying to figure this stuff out myself, so any and all thoughts help, but my final thoughts on the subject include the following:

  • Examining what’s holding me back. How many times have you enviously said to another person “wow, I wish I could do that,” to which they almost always respond with “what’s holding you back?” If you had a dollar for every time, you would probably have one less thing holding you back, amiright? It’s such a frustrating question because the answer always seems so obvious. You can’t just travel the world because you don’t have the money. You can’t spend all of your time volunteering in the jungle because you have responsibilities you can’t leave behind. But what if I told you that these are not real reasons to hold back? These are just obstacles that you have to find creative ways to work around, and that the real thing holding you back is fear. I’m not saying that your fears aren’t legitimate. Quitting your job with no savings and enough debt to make Bill Gates cry, in order to move to South America to help conserve the rain forest is a terrifying idea. But if it’s what you want from the very bottom of your soul, then your lack of savings and huge debt isn’t enough reason to hold you back. If you told me two years ago when I was struggling with so much anxiety that I could hardly leave the house, let alone hold a job, that I would be living on the other side of the country, working full time in a legit job, I would have thought you were insane. If I had told you then that I wanted to live in Arizona, and you had asked me what was holding me back, I would have just rolled my eyes and laughed. A few months later, I would hit my breaking point and decide that I just couldn’t keep living the way I was living anymore. I hated my apartment, I wasn’t happy with myself, and I felt trapped in a small town. That’s when I made the unwavering decision to leave Pennsylvania. It felt like an insane thought to both Dan and me at the time, but when we fantasized about the idea, we were just filled with so much excitement, that we knew we had to find a way. I became obsessed with finding creative solutions to the how’s and the what if’s of the idea, and did everything in my power to plan. The biggest obstacles stemmed from money, but that just meant more of a chance to show off my creativity and problem solving skills. I got such a rush from figuring out how we were going to make this thing happen, that ideas came to me in my sleep. It’s all about living your best life. When you find what you are passionate about, and identify what is truly holding you back, the answers just come to you, sometimes through hard work, research, and phone calls, and a lot of times from unexpected places that you never would have thought to look. If you are looking for some more insight on how we worked through some of our bigger “setbacks,” you should check out these two posts from a few months ago: A Journey and Budget BFF .

 

  • Asking for help. This one can be really difficult for a lot of people, but it’s completely necessary if you want to reach your full potential. I am generally a very independent person, and I have never been good at asking for help, but I would not have had nearly as many opportunities as I have over the past year and a half if I didn’t suck up my pride and start asking for help. We never would have saved enough money to get out to Arizona if Dan and I didn’t ask his parents for a place to stay for a year, we wouldn’t have had a place to get grounded if we didn’t ask my cousin for help once we got here, and I wouldn’t have found a great job if I didn’t communicate with my cousin’s boyfriend that I was searching. Believe it or not, as long as you aren’t taking advantage of people, they actually WANT to help you when they can. It’s human nature to crave the rush you get from going out of your way for someone. And if you’re really struggling, but you don’t personally know someone who can help, a quick Google search can always help you find pages of professionals just hoping you’ll seek their guidance!  Just suck up your pride, and accept help when you need it.

 

  • Finding time for myself. If asking for help is difficult for you, then you’re really going to hate this one. I know this because it’s the one I struggle with the most. I recognize that the ticket to goal realization and staying positive is enjoying life. Balance is really the key to everything. You can figure out what your goal is, push yourself to the limit, achieve the goal, and still be absolutely miserable because you didn’t take time to enjoy yourself along the way. Yes, we need to work hard to get what we desire and deserve in life, but life isn’t only meant for working, it’s meant for living (duh!). Put in your hours, pick up those extra shifts to make more money, take time each night to journal and read books about goal setting and being positive, but above all else, make sure you are taking time to take care of yourself. The greatest defense against burnout is self-care. Whether you’re making time for a monthly pedicure, a weekly bubble bath, hanging out in nature, or just committing an entire day to Netflix and ice cream does not matter. What matters is that you are making that time, and you’re doing it for yourself. Turn off your phone, shut out distractions, and promise that this time is just for you. And don’t ever feel guilty about it. You need this time in order to be at your most productive. Some of my best ideas have come to me in the middle of a candle-lit bubble bath because my head was clear for the first time in days. Seriously, this step can be one of the hardest to overlook, but it truly is the most important.

Realizing your goals and staying positive does not come easy. We have years of experience in people telling us that our dreams are crazy, we need to make safe, obtainable goals, and putting us down, turning truly positive things into negative ones. These thoughts, along with the ones from last week are just starting points. Try them on for size, tweak them to fit your own lifestyle and personality, and do not beat yourself up if you’re struggling. My whole reason for writing these posts is the amount that I’ve been struggling. The trick is to do what you need to do to get back on track, and that’s what these three steps are all about. If you’re having a hard time, take time to reflect on what’s holding you back, ask for help, or just take some time for yourself to clear your head. In the end, those positive vibes are totally worth doing whatever it takes!

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Clear, Focused, and Positive

Truthfully, this past week has been pretty lame. It wasn’t a bad week, or anything, we just didn’t do anything very noteworthy. Aside from enjoying a few days in the high 90’s (my sister has compared me to a snake for my love of the heat, and I’m not even mad about it), and having a long overdue phone date with my person,

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A nice throwback of my cousin/best friend (AKA my person) and me

we stuck pretty close to a borderline boring routine this week. Fortunately, that means that I had time to start working on a small blog series I’ve been wanting write about goal realization and positivity. I’m going to break it down into two or three blog posts because I think it’s really important, and I would love to even get some discussion going on some of the points.If you have anything to add or ask, please feel free to comment or email me privately so we can chat some more!

Does anyone else feel they learn better when they are teaching? I know I definitely do, so I think it’s fitting that I write about something that I’m struggling with and working through right now. You all know that I’ve been in a bit of a funk, feeling like I need more adventure and time to work on things I’m passionate about. I’ve discussed how I broke my time down and made sure I was dedicating at least a small amount of time to everything I was deeply desiring. I’ve talked about starting with a strict schedule, and how that schedule eventually gave me clarity on what my time looked like, and I was then able to flow better through my days, hitting each thing I wanted to do without feeling so rigid. You may also remember that I said I wasn’t feeling as fulfilled as I thought I could feel, and that this solution was just a temporary fix to help me make the best of my current situation while I worked through what what really sets my soul on fire. Well I’m still working through that part, and I want to share with all of you how I’m doing that. I want to offer some insight on what has and hasn’t been working for me, what has worked in the past, and invite you to share some thoughts and insight of your own. Before I begin, you may want to go back to the aforementioned post on prioritizing to refresh yourself on some of my ultimate “whats and whys,” and how creating a strict calendar for a few weeks actually gave me some freedom.  To simplify things quite a bit, what I really crave is a life of passion – and who doesn’t? I want to work hard at a career that I love, one that allows me to travel and gives me time to pursue creative passions. And above all else, I want to travel. You already know that I don’t need a lot of “stuff,” and that I’m not afraid to pack up and move everything I do own to a different place thousands of miles away. So converting a school bus to live in feels like the ultimate dream. But these dreams are still kind of vague, and even they took a while to arrive at. So how did I get here, and how do I plan on gaining more clarity to better direct my focus?

  • Staying positive. Easier said than done, for sure. I typically subscribe to the idea that there is a greater force that wants us to be happy. To be honest, I don’t know what that force is. I can’t say that I’m religious, or that I think it’s necessarily magic of any sort, but I do know that any time I have known a person to truly believe that they can get something they want, and that they deserve it, it happens so much faster than a negative Nancy who whines and complains about never getting what they want. Things just seem to come easier to people who focus their thoughts in a positive way. Now, I recognize that this is largely because the person who doesn’t waste time and energy throwing a pity party is more likely to seek out what he or she desires, but those actions alone speak volumes about the power of positive thinking, and I don’t see any harm in believing that having a more intentional way of thinking gives you an unseen upper hand. Think about it, if you have it set in your head that you are 100% going to have a great day, no matter what happens, how much more likely is your day going to be pleasant than if you wake up just knowing that today will suck? Call it self-fulfilling prophecy, call it faith, call it psychology, it all points to the idea that being more positive will yield more positive outcomes. So with this sentiment in mind, staying positive has been a huge day to day goal for me. This isn’t to say that sometimes I don’t allow myself a good cry, curled up with a teen drama and pint of ice cream, but I do try to focus on pulling myself out of my darker thoughts as soon as can. I use upbeat music, positive podcasts and audio books, a nice long bubble bath, a long walk, or whatever I can think of at the moment to get myself out of my funk. The goal is feel out the negative feelings and move on to the positive ones, rather than dwell or suppress.

 

  • Getting clear and focused. Okay, so truth be told, I feel like a bit of a hypocrite telling you how to do this one, because it is something I am currently struggling with. My hopes are that putting it out to all of you will a) give me a light bulb moment and/or b) solicit some tips and ideas from you! I have a general idea of what I want: travel, passion, time to enjoy life. The travel aspect I have worked out in my head a little bit more clearly than the other parts, but the “how’s” are largely dependent on so many things that I’m unclear on, so even that becomes difficult to generate a full picture of. What I do know is how I arrived at these vague ideas, and how I’ve been focusing my attention on them. Each night I do a voice journal. I talk about what I’ve been thinking about, how I’ve been feeling, and name some goals and things I’m grateful for. It is amazing what you can talk out with yourself when you’re just saying things out loud, rather than in your head. I have deduced mountains to molehills in fifteen minutes, just having a conversation with myself and a free voice recorder app on my phone. Think crying, hyperventilating, Earth shattering moments solved by just saying it out loud. The opposite has also come from this exercise, recognizing specific details that send me into an overwhelmingly happy place, based off of super vague goals. Talking about your deepest, darkest desires and dreams with yourself into a voice recorded may seem awkward at first, but I swear it changed my life. I know that sounds cheesy, but you can ask Dan – who I have been known to drive a little bit crazy with upbeat thoughts before morning coffee -what a difference this has made on my life. One of the biggest reasons this, along with podcasts and audio books, works so well for me is that I’m a very auditory learner. I love to read and write, but what truly resonates with me is sound.  This is why you’ll frequently find me making up songs to remember where I put my cell phone, why I have a word association for most important things I need to remember, and why teaching other people helps me learn better. I swear by the voice journal, and I’ve also been experimenting with some guided meditation to help me clear my brain and get focused, but those who learn or are more stimulated in other ways might find different approaches work better. A lot of people swear by visual cues, like vision boards, goal oriented computer and cellphone backgrounds, and positive post it notes (my total type A personality also freaking loves post it notes). Some people find that guided journals work wonders. And some people need something more tangible and hands on, like workshops and classes. There are so many ways to help you get clear and focused on what lights up your world, you just have to find what works best for you.

 

I have plenty more that I want to discuss on this topic, but this week I just want to leave it at these two points because I think they’re very important, and that they are two big steps to work through. Both of these items involve taking a good, hard look at yourself. Your attitude, thoughts, and desires dictate so much of your life, so instead of moving on to the part where we work outwardly toward our goals, I want everyone to take (at least) a week to reflect internally on what those goals are, and how to keep a positive focus on them, and on life in general. What I have here is just the tip of a really cool (heh) iceberg. Find what works best in helping you focus and stay positive, and share with me what you find! Like I mentioned, my personal reason for this post is teaching myself by teaching others and sparking some good discussion. I hope you all have a happy week!

(But before you go, please enjoy these pictures of our adorable pets to help you get through this week being happy and positive!)

 

Feeling Into Things

This will be my third weekly blog post in a row, and I gotta tell you guys, this week has not been eventful. Saturday and Sunday were pretty great, and then Monday was kind of a disaster, so I’ve been trying to pull myself out of a bit of a funk, which has resulted in a lot of patio hangs, Starbucks, Pizza Hut breadsticks, and rice krispie treats. I have now had  plenty of time to mope around and wallow in my own totally over-exaggerated misery, so now I want to focus on the good with you guys! As a result, this week will be a short read, but I will tell you all about last weekend, and if you’re really nice, I’ll give you a bit of a surprise at the end of this post!

So Saturday when I got out of work, Dan and I decided to let loose, call an Uber, and get some food and drinks. We went to Downtown Gilbert and got lunch at a restaurant called Zinburger (bet you can’t guess what they serve there!), we drank a beer at another restaurant, and then Ubered back toward home to what might be our favorite bar out here, so far: The Divided Vine. The Divided Vine is super cool because they only serve craft beer and wine (and have dozens of each to choose from), they have food trucks on the weekends, trivia and live music, and the bartenders are super hip and super friendly. If you ever find yourself in Mesa, you better tell me you’re here, and then you should check out The Divided Vine. I’ll go with you! After realizing that we probably didn’t need to drink anymore beer in public, we Ubered back home where we (yeah, you know exactly what I’m going to say) drank more beer on our adorable patio.

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Saturday was a lot of fun because we haven’t actually been doing a lot of “going out” lately, so it was nice to get a little bit dressed up and let loose.

Sunday was the real weekend winner, though. We slept in a little bit, got a late breakfast at a restaurant modeled to resemble a 1950’s diner, and then drove down toward Tucson. The weather was absolutely perfect, the music was fun, and we laughed the whole drive. Our main objectives for this trip were to find wildflowers and to get out of the suburbs of Phoenix for a little while, and we accomplished both. We stopped at Picacho Peak State Park, just over halfway to Tucson. As we got closer to Picacho Peak, the wildflowers got more plentiful, and by the time we were actually in the park, the scenery was breathtaking.

 

I encourage you to go look up pictures of Picacho Peak State Park, and if you’re on Instagram, look up the hashtag #picachopeakstatepark because the pictures I took with Dan’s phone just don’t do this season and this park any justice at all.

We’re planning a longer trip in the near future, so I will have more pictures soon, but the wildflowers might not be in full bloom by that point. After a few photos and some reveling at Picacho Peak, we hopped back in the car and drove the rest of the way to Tucson. Guys, I love Tucson. When we were first talking about moving out here, Tucson is where I wanted to be. The parks and desert surrounding it are unlike anything else, the city is relatively quiet and hip, with plenty to do, but in no rush, and everything just feels so colorful to me. People who are more well-versed in all things Arizona than I am talked me out of it for a list of their own – all very valid – reasons, but our trip on Sunday reminded me of why I wanted to move there so badly. This reminder was both awesome, and disastrous. We had such a great time moseying around the city, checking out street art and breweries, after having seen some of the really cool natural scenery that the desert has to offer, and the sunset that we witnessed on our drive home brought me to tears. I mean that literally, and not in a cheesy, metaphorical way. I literally bawled my eyes out on the drive home because I was so overwhelmed with gratitude for our adventurous day, and regret for not having trusted my gut instincts on moving to Tucson. This, of course, set the tone for this whole week.

I’ve had time to think, reflect, and honestly just straight up brood for a few days, so I’m feeling a bit better now, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t take something very important from this experience: I have to keep reaching and working for my dreams. One glaringly common theme you’ve seen in these past few weeks is that I want even more than what I currently have. I want colorful cities and beautiful nature every single day, not just once a week in passing. I’ve already taken huge strides, but I still have a bit further to go until I’m exactly where I need to be, and days like Sunday are what keep me moving forward. Sure, I might have a week of feeling really hard into my emotions, but it wouldn’t be healthy if I didn’t let go and allow myself to do that once in a while. What matters is that I pick myself back up, recognize what has me feeling down, and use it to fuel myself full force toward the end goal.

Now, if you’ve gotten this far, then you have earned a surprise! One of my sister’s* birthdays is coming up on June 7th, and I decided to surprise her with a trip home. I had this whole thing planned out in my head where she would be lead to do something fun for her birthday, and someone would say, “oh, we have this gift for you,” and I would walk in, and she would cry, and I would cry, and then we would get drunk and gossip with the girls well past my normal 11 pm bedtime. So Dan and I bought plane tickets about a week or two ago. And then I couldn’t stop panicking about her making other plans to go away or buying expensive tickets that she couldn’t return, and everything would be ruined, and I wouldn’t get to see her. So I ruined the surprise and told her about it. But the good news is that this means I can also tell all of you that Dan and I will be home from June 6th until June 10th! It isn’t a lot of time, so we are going to plan a get together and a few public outings so we can see as many people as possible in this short amount of time. So keep your calendars open for that weekend, and keep reading to find out where we’ll be, and when! Totally worth reading until the end, right? I can’t wait to visit with everyone, catch up on social interaction, and lose out on so much sleep! Until then, keep reading to stay up to date on what we’re doing here in Arizona!

 

*to clarify confusion for those who know me and are thinking “wait, Jenni only has one sister,” you are right only in the most biological sense. Jaclyn and I are blood related, share the same parents, sisters. Keri, whose birthday is June 7th (say nice things and buy her drinks!), grew up next door to us, lived with us for a short period of time after her house burned down, experienced every major point of life – good, bad, and ugly – with us, knows our biggest fears, regrets, and aspirations, and has always been privy to the super secret “ugly fat face” that only sisters are allowed to witness and laugh about. Keri is Jaclyn’s and my sister, and will always be referred to as “my sister” in these posts, and everywhere else.

Where the Wildflowers Are

As promised, I’m back for the second week in a row! I hope everyone had a great week and isn’t too weighed down by the daily grind to kick back and relax or go on an epic adventure. If you are, then maybe this post will help you out a bit. Today I want to talk about our new day to day, and the awesome adventures we are (and aren’t) having. As I mentioned in my last post, when we got here it seemed like things just sort of fell into place for us. I was able to get a really nice 2015 Hyundai Sonata that came fully loaded (like this thing has a panoramic sunroof and air conditioned seats. I didn’t even know they made air conditioned seats.), Dan found a welding job that he doesn’t dread going to every day, that allows him to listen to podcasts while he works, and that gives him plenty of time to go to the gym every day before I get home from work, and I was offered a job as a dispatcher at my cousin’s boyfriend’s new and impressively successful business, with a sweet 6am-3pm schedule and an hour lunch that gives me plenty of time to hit the gym, myself. Soon after finding our jobs, we found an amazing two bed/two bath apartment that allows all breeds and sizes of doggos. We have a great patio for drinking coffee and beer, the complex backs up to a Starbucks and Black Rock (a super cool small coffee shop chain out here), and when we take Isley for her nightly walks, we have some pretty sweet mountain views. So we go to work and the gym every day, come home and cook a delicious meal for an early dinner, take Isley for a walk, and then have the rest of our evening to do with as we please. And then on the weekends we’re free to explore our new surroundings. It’s exactly what we had hoped to find out here. Sort of.

On paper this all sounds great, but if you really know me, you know that if it sounds great on paper to most people, it’s probably driving me insane. Now, before I really get into this and lead everyone to believe that we aren’t beyond grateful for all that we have here, and that we aren’t enjoying every bit of it for it’s full value, I want to be clear that we are. I never would have been presented with a job like the one I have now in Pennsylvania, where I am learning new skills and growing into it more and more each day, and I’m not planning on quitting it any time soon just because it looks too good on paper. There also isn’t a day goes by that I don’t look at the mountains and palm trees on my daily commute and think “holy cow, this place is beautiful.”  That is not at all what I am saying here. What I am saying is that Dan and I both have some unfulfilled needs, and I personally am not good at “well enough.” We didn’t only come here for the weather and job improvement, we came here for some bona fide adventure. And let me tell you, a two bedroom apartment, Hyundai Sonata, and office job do not an adventure make. An adventure has passion, exploration, and plenty of creativity. A completely fulfilled Jenni would have a job that allows the flexibility to travel, something that can go on the road with her, the time to get outside every single day for more than just a thirty minute walk with her dog, time to explore creative passions like writing and trying something new like podcasting, and I think we all know that a big apartment in the suburbs is a far cry from the converted school bus home that beckons to the soul of a satisfied Jenni. This is a great life that we’re living here in Arizona, but is it our ideal life? Probably not.

So how are we making sure that we’re getting the most out of everything we have here? In the exact opposite way from what you’re probably thinking (unless you really know me, then it’s exactly what you’re thinking): A strict schedule and LISTS! I know, I know. I’m complaining about a lack of adventure and how an office job makes it difficult to be spontaneous. But do you know what else makes it difficult? Not thinking you have enough time in the day/week to fit things you really care about doing in because you aren’t managing that time well enough. When we first moved into the apartment I was getting borderline depressed because I felt like there just wasn’t time to go to work, take care of necessary daily tasks, make sure our pets were happy, see all that Arizona has to offer, get to the gym, and pursue my passion of writing. As a result, I was going to work, throwing some spaghetti on the stove, and then plopping down in front of the TV to watch The Office for hours until bedtime. A couple weeks of this and I just felt my true self slipping away. I’m generally a happy and energetic person, but I was just so drained and lifeless, so I decided that something had to change. Dan and I didn’t spend all of this time and effort, and leave our loved ones on the other side of the country for me to sit in front of a TV every night. So I made a spreadsheet that outlined every half hour of every day, and I made sure I fit in time for exploring, time for relaxing, time for writing, time for walking Isley, time for chores, and time for the gym. Do you believe that by doing this I was even able to find time to cook delicious meals, date nights, AND girly “me” time? Truthfully, this schedule was pretty stressful for the first two weeks. But I knew that I wouldn’t be happy if I wasn’t spending at least a little bit of time in every part of what drives me positively, so I committed to the schedule, and after a couple of weeks, a rigid schedule became more like habits that I looked forward to doing, and I was able to ease off of the strict adherence and just go with the flow of things

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Another issue we were running into was the proverbial “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” trap that has plagued couples for centuries. When we would finally reach the weekend and have two and a half days of zero responsibilities ahead of us, we would spend its entirety questioning what we were going to do, instead of doing anything at all. “Well it’s 9pm now, wanna just order a pizza and watch The Office?” To combat this routine once and for all, I looked up weekend events, festivals, and farmers markets, and put them into my calendar so we always had an arsenal of new things to check out. We also came up with a bucket list of hikes, scenic drives, and National Parks and Monuments we wanted to see. Now we spend ten minutes at the beginning of the week exploring our options so we’re preset on what to do when the weekend comes. This weekend we’re taking a drive down to Tucson, detouring along the way to hunt for wildflowers. If you haven’t heard about the super bloom that’s taking over the deserts of California and parts of Arizona, do yourself a favor and look it up.

We’re pretty clear on what we want from our lives. We recognize our daydreams, and feel into what drives us. We just haven’t figured out how to get to it yet. We’re taking steps every day – sometimes huge strides, and sometimes baby steps,but in the meantime we’re also appreciating everything we already have. I am so grateful for all of my opportunities and the amazing new things I have to explore out here in Arizona, but every time I feel like I’m losing that spark of excitement for life, I take a step back to see what I’m missing and think about how I might be able to get it. It’s an imperfect process, but it serves me well, and it has lead me to some pretty great things already.

Gallery

January 2019-March 2019 Photos

And as promised, here are some adventuring photos, in no particular order or organization. Sorry ’bout it.

That First Scary Step

I really dropped the ball, guys. I promised to keep you all up to date on our adventure out to Arizona, I promised to bring you along on our journey to finding a new life out here, and I promised pictures. Now we’ve been here in Arizona for almost two months, and I haven’t delivered on a single one of these things. I can sit here at my desk and tell you that it was because life happened, and trying to find a way to keep up and not let it run us down took some time. I can tell you that it was because goodbyes are hard, and thinking about addressing the people and the lives we left back in Pennsylvania has just been too difficult. I can tell you that I am sorry, and I plan on making it up to all of you ten fold. Or, I can tell you all of these things.

The truth is, leaving our friends, family, and the only home we’ve ever known was hard. I cried ugly, full body, cries for like two months leading up to the move, and then on the day way we left, I had to all but have Dan drag me out the door and lock me up in the truck until we got out of Pennsylvania. I don’t have a history of making friends easily. When I was younger, my only friends were my cousins, my sister, and next door neighbor – who my mom told me I had to play with because I was being weird and rude by staring silently at her from across the yard while she enthusiastically tried to be my friend. Later, I would rely on other people to make friends for me. Two of my best friends are actually my sister’s best friends. My other best friend and my husband were introduced to me by the person who might actually be the only friend I’ve ever made on my own, and I’m pretty sure that he actually just felt really bad for me when we first met. My lack of friends isn’t because I’m a tragic goth who likes to sit in the dark writing poetry about all things depressing, and it isn’t because I’m a cold, raging bitch (…I think). I’ve just always been comfortable being alone and observing. Making friends has never been an active goal for me. I like people, I like having fun,  talking about life and drinking beers on patios with good, well-meaning people. But I’m also just happy to be alone, watching teen vampire dramas in my pajamas, or listening to podcasts during a solo walk in the woods. The point being, if I say you’re my friend, I really mean it. I don’t put time and energy into people or things that I don’t really care about. So leaving behind a genuine tribe was hard. You guys made this move the single most difficult decision I have ever made, and because of that, I have not been able to face my computer screen to address you, or our trip, or where we are in life. I want that to change, though. I miss everyone back home like crazy. Probably more than I expected.

People say that you don’t know what you have until it’s gone, and I never fully experienced that feeling until this move. I knew that I cared about the people and the places that I grew connections and roots to, but I also knew that I wanted to experience more than just small town living in Pennsylvania. So another reason I have been having such a hard time is that I feel some sense of guilt, and I have been battling over whether or not I feel regret for making this trip. I have cried more in the past two months than I have in the past six years of my life combined. But I have also learned more about myself, about what I want, my hopes, my dreams. I have pushed myself in ways that I otherwise wouldn’t have, and I have learned new skills and lessons that I couldn’t have learned by staying in the same place forever. In just two short months, I have new clarity in so many places, and I have found blurred lines that I need to explore that I didn’t even know were there. So do I regret moving to Arizona? Absolutely not. Do I have moments where I question this? Yeah, like all the time. But in the end, I know that I’m growing from this experience in a major way. And who knows? Maybe one day I’ll move back to Pennsylvania a new woman. Or maybe I’ll finally live out my fantasy of building a skoolie, writing a podcast, and traveling the country with my husband. In any case, I know that no great change has ever come before a big, scary step, and I’ve taken that first scary step. So far I have a super nice car, a really great job that I never would have landed without moving here, a really cute apartment, a boat load of crazy new experiences, a new outlook on life, motivation to write more, get outdoors more, and be healthier.

With clarity and motivation come goals, and two of my goals are to stay more connected to people, and to write more often, so starting this week, I PROMISE that I will treat you to this journey and transformation. You can look forward to a new blog post every Saturday morning (but probably actually Saturday early afternoon. I live on Pacific time now, so my morning is far from yours). I will discuss the honest truth of how I feel being so far from friends and family, I will talk about my ever changing goals and aspirations, and I will keep you informed on what we’ve been up to with our lives. My support system may not be here physically, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want all of us to be together virtually and in spirit, so subscribe to this blog, follow along, and take care of each other in my absence from Pennsylvania.

 

Headed West

Hello all! I hope everyone had a great holiday and New Year! I know it’s been a while, and this is going to be more of a series of quick bullet points than a well-written post, but we’re almost at the end of our road trip so I wanted to update everyone on our trip. As a lot of you know, we left early last Friday. We had originally planned on leaving Thursday, but after having spent a long weekend in Boston, we wanted to be sure to one last quiet evening with our families before shipping out. I have so much to say, so what I think I’m going to do is work backwards a little bit. Tonight I’m going to post some photos and a brief overview of our trip to Arizona, so far, and then next week after we get settled in a little bit I’ll go back and talk more about the few weeks leading up to our move.

So first of all, we have been doing a lot of driving. We have driven through 16 states since December 30th, and as of tomorrow we will have driven through 17. On our way to Boston we drove through:

  1. Pennsylvania
  2. New Jersey
  3. New York
  4. Connecticut
  5. Rhode Island
  6. Massachusetts

On our way out west we also drove through Pennsylvania, but then added the following to the list:

  1. Maryland
  2. West Virginia
  3. Virginia
  4. Tennessee
  5. Georgia
  6. Alabama
  7. Mississippi
  8. Louisiana
  9. Texas
  10. New Mexico
  11. And tomorrow we will be in Arizona!

Day 1:

The first day of our trip started out a little bit rocky. We were both a bit emotional, and exhausted from crying. Okay, so only one of us cried, but that person (who will remain unnamed) cried enough for at least two people. It took a lot to get into the truck and drive away, but once we were on the road and the unnamed cry baby got a nap, things started looking up! Until we hit two big accidents, putting us behind about three hours. So at this point our ten hour day of driving was starting to look like thirteen hours of driving, and that was eventually increased to about fifteen hours after hitting a severe thunderstorm with winds over 50mph. It was a long, rough day of driving, but we eventually made it to our motel. Our motel was a cheap one in a small town outside of Knoxville, TN that was clearly designed solely to accommodate for people passing through. We unpacked our pets, ordered some quick food, and after eating passed out on top of the less than trustworthy looking sheets.

Day 2:

Our next stop would be New Orleans. We woke up super early, still not entirely prepared for our eight and a half hour drive to Louisiana. We drove through a small piece of Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi to get there. We were pleasantly surprised with how beautiful Alabama and Mississippi were, and how well the roads were maintained. When we got to our motel right outside of New Orleans we were immediately skeptical of the area. It was a filthy, scary area. Think Gotham meets Camden. It was dark and you could see crimes taking place without even having to look. But we were on the third floor, and we didn’t plan on walking anywhere, so we just said “screw it,” and went up to our room. Big. Mistake. By the time we got all of our stuff unpacked, we counted nearly a dozen roaches. So we repacked our stuff and started calling around trying to find nicer hotels that could accommodate for us and our pets at 8pm. We eventually found one about fifteen minutes outside of the city that was in a much safer neighborhood, and it ended up being the nicest room we stayed in. Unfortunately, we didn’t get settled in until close to 11pm, and had to forget about our night out in the Big Easy. Instead, we grabbed a couple of beers at the TGIFriday across the street, and went back to our nice room to catch up on some sleep.

Day 3:

We woke up on day three with 75 degree weather and sunshine, so we were super optimistic. We made reservations for brunch at an awesome jazz club called The Maison. If you’re ever in New Orleans, definitely check it out. The food was amazing, the music was amazing, and four days later I still can’t stop thinking about the bloody marys. After brunch we walked around Frenchmen Street (tip: if you’re more into the jazz vibe of New Orleans than the dance club vibe, do Frenchmen Street instead of Bourbon Street), and the rest of the French Quarter. We did all of the touristy things, like take pictures of trolleys and Jackson Square, checked out local bars and voodoo shops, and hang out in a cool coffee shop. We ended the night with a really cool and spooky vampire and witch tour of the city, which was straight up my alley. We decided around 8pm that we are old, married, and boring, so we should get back to our hotel to snuggle our pets and get rest for the next day of travel.

Day 4:

On our fourth trip day we only had to travel about five and a half hours. This time we were headed to Shiner, TX to check out the brewery. Anyone who drinks with Dan and me (so like, most of you), knows that we are borderline obsessed with Spoetzl beer. Their Holiday Cheer is the only thing that gets us through the winter. So we drove through the rest of Louisiana and part of Texas to get to the brewery, and we were not disappointed. They offer free samples, which are essentially free flights of beer. I was definitely buzzed by the time we left the brewery, so it was a good thing I wasn’t driving. While we were at the brewery, the girl working there told us about a local bar that serves Shiner on tap, so we checked that out on our way back to the motel. It was a really cool small town dive bar where the locals all drink Shiner and wear cowboy hats not at all ironically, and pints of Holiday Cheer are $2.50. The locals were super friendly, and the bartender talked to us the entire time we were there. If we weren’t already on our way to Arizona for a huge move, we may have been looking for jobs near Shiner, TX!

Day 5:

Day five wasn’t a very exciting day. We had a short drive and nothing big planned, so we slept in and then drove about four hours to Ozona, TX. If you’ve never heard of Ozona, you are not alone. Don’t even bother to look it up, there’s nothing there.

Day 6:

On day six we woke up super early to get to Roswell, NM. It was only a five hour drive, but it got pretty tedious toward the end. New Mexico eventually gets really awesome, but the part between Texas and Roswell is painfully boring (more on this in Day 7). When we got there, though, it didn’t disappoint. This place was so touristy, and I couldn’t have been more excited. The McDonald’s was shaped like a UFO and the Dunkin Donuts had an alien holding up their sign. After checking into the motel and getting the pets situated, we headed to the International UFO Museum and Research Center. It was really cool, and I’m basically a professional on aliens and UFOs now. After the museum, we got dinner at a really cool place called Farley’s, and basically just spent the rest of the night drinking beer.

Day 7:

Today is day seven of our trip, and it was another relatively uneventful day. We drove to the halfway point between Roswell and Gilbert, AZ to a town called Lordsburg, NM. Our only objective here is get some rest before hitting the road for the very final leg of our journey tomorrow. The highlights of today were definitely the scenery and going through a Border Patrol Inspection Station. Everyone told us that New Mexico was super gorgeous, but after driving into Roswell we were getting skeptical. However, after about an hour into our drive today we got to see amazing mountains, deserts, canyons, and even some snow. It was like driving through four or five completely different locations all within a five hour stretch.

Tomorrow we finally end up at our final destination in Gilbert, AZ. We will be ending our road trip adventure, but beginning our even bigger adventure of starting new lives in the southwest. I can’t even express how much I miss everyone back home, but how excited and grateful I am for this whole experience. I hope you guys all continue to follow along with us as we navigate an entirely different part of the country, and build our lives from the bottom up. We love you all so much!

P.S. Our pets are doing way better than we expected! A lot of you have been asking about them. The cats yell for a while when they’re first put into the car, but after less than an hour they’re usually napping quietly in the back seat. Isley is forever neurotic, but as long as she has access to her people, she’s a good girl in the car. And all of them are doing really well in the hotels. They’re just happy to have beds and new places to explore!

P.P.S. I’ll add some photos when we get to Arizona, too. They’ve been trying to upload for about three hours, but the internet here isn’t strong enough.

Budget BFF

Hello, everyone! I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving, and has been able to sleep off any turkey and carb induced comas encountered. It’s been about three weeks since my last post, and the closer we get to our move, the more up to date I want to keep everyone. Some of you may have noticed that I’ve been absent from social media for a couple of weeks now. I plan to keep it that way for a little while, and so this blog will be my main platform for communicating with you guys. My next post will discuss that in a bit more detail, but with the holiday shopping season upon us, I want to talk about budgeting today. Specifically, I want to lay out how we were able to plan for our move financially.

Budget: This Year’s BFF

The idea of creating a budget is often a daunting one. The Virgo in me comes out when organizing numbers and making up spreadsheets, so I love this stuff, but I also know that no one really wants to have to think about where their money is going. Unfortunately, in order to reach specific financial goals and have total control over your pockets, budgeting is a necessity. Lucky for those squeamish of numbers and planning, there are tons of resources available to help with even the most basic financial planning. Here’s how we utilized these resources and our own abilities in order to pay off a good chunk of credit card debt, pay our bills, and save enough money to live without jobs for three months in less than a year:

  1. We got super real about what we needed, what we wanted, and what we could live without. What we needed was to pay our bills, eat healthy meals, pay down our credit card debt, and save enough money to get to Arizona with enough cushion to live without jobs for three months. What we wanted was to be able to afford an occasional night out, our weekly Starbucks, and a good quality beer on a Friday night. What we could live without was pretty much everything else.
  2. Now that we knew what we needed and what we wanted, we hit the internet for budgeting tools. Our biggest savior through the budgeting process was Mint by Intuit. This website is fantastic for all things budget related. You can link online accounts to automatically populate payment amounts, you can set specific budgets and it will break down your spending by category to help you keep on track, and you can use the credit card payoff goal to help you set a specific budget aside for bringing down your debt. Dan and I put in all of our fixed monthly bills, our grocery and gas bills averaged from the months leading up to this time, we created an Arizona savings goal, and entered our credit card debt information into the payoff tool. We assessed how much money we would have left over each month after paying for the necessities and hitting our monthly savings goals, and then determined how much money we realistically had to spend on debt payoff and lattes. We allocated the bulk of our remaining monthly income to debt, and gave ourselves a predetermined entertainment allowance each month. Every single dollar had a job.
  3. Once we had a solid budget working for us, we asked ourselves where else we could save. It’s important to note at this point that there are two places we were able to save that most people are not as fortunate with. Living rent free for a year and sharing a car during that time were huge in our savings plan. I know that not many people have these luxuries, but the point here is that we got creative with our financial cuts. We looked at our budget and asked “where can we lower our expenses?” Some other areas that are more realistic for other people include auto loan refinancing, trading your car in for a less expensive one, downgrading your cell phone plan, cutting back on eating out by just one day a week, not ordering alcohol when you go out, cancelling subscriptions and monthly memberships that you don’t use, switching car insurance companies, reevaluating your grocery bill, carpooling to work to save gas, and anywhere else that you can trim the fat on an expense without sacrificing your entire quality of life. Again, Mint.com is an excellent resource for finding out where you’re spending too much money by using your linked online banking information to break down your spending into different charts, graphs, and statistics.
  4. We were saving money in every way we could, so now we just asked how we could make our money work for us. I am by no means a financial expert. I am clueless about stocks, bonds, and anything that uses the words “compound” and “interest” even close together. What I do know is that if I can save money or make money without too much thought, I’m going to do it. So a high yield savings account and Acorns are my besties right now. I’m confident that these two tools are just the tip of the financial iceberg, but they’re so simple to use, and have been so helpful to me. For those who don’t know, Acorns is an easy to use app that helps even the clueless (like me!) invest their money by using round-ups of every purchase you make with a linked card. So my overpriced latte that cost $4.69 is rounded up to $5, and $0.31 is sent to my Acorns account to be invested into my personalized investment portfolio. I don’t even notice that I’m spending the money, but when I check my Acorns account and see that I have another $100 invested this month, I feel like a Rockefeller. If you don’t already have an account, do us both a favor by signing up here so you can start saving, and I can start getting some referral bonuses 😉
  5. Finally, we stay positive. It can feel tiresome tracking your money and managing your income closely, but we remind ourselves of the rewards. I also cannot speak enough on the subject of uplifting and educating yourself. Positive podcasts and audiobooks are my daily lifelines. I will more than likely suggest them in almost every one of my posts. My past month has been filled to the brim with positive thinkers like Jen SinceroRachel Hollis, and Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus of The Minimalists.

Just Say “No”

Do you guys remember the DARE program in elementary school? We, as 10-year-old students, would gather once a week and practice ways to say no to peer pressure. How many of you thought at the time that this was ridiculous? Of course you would say no when you didn’t want to do something, it isn’t that hard to just not do a thing. Well, 10-year-old Jenni, you were just as wrong about that as you were about wearing chunky heels with your white striped sweat pants and Backstreet Boys t-shirt on picture day. Saying no to your friends is hard. Like really really hard. So when you’re trying to save money, but your friends are trying to go out to eat every night of the week, what do you do? You throw on an over-sized boy band t-shirt, channel your inner stubborn AF 10-year-old, and you just say no. You have to remind yourself of why you’re saving. You have to remain steadfast in your goals. If your friends truly care about what’s best for you, they will understand. What I found to be most helpful was clear communication of why I was saying no, as well as an arsenal of less expensive alternatives. It’s frustrating to have a friend always tell you no to dinner plans, but “dining out won’t work for me this week, maybe we could get together for a beer at my place after dinner,” or “I have a great new recipe that I would love to try out on someone, maybe we could have dinner at my house, instead?” puts both parties in a winning situation. You save money, your friends get to be graced by your shining presence. Stand firm on your budget, but be patient with your friends. No one is ever going to be on the exact same journey as you, financial or otherwise.

Holidays and Special Occasions

This section is where I make a huge confession to you guys. My last post was about minimalism, and this one is about budgeting, but Friday was Black Friday. I am not immune to the powers of marketing during the holiday season, and 50% off at Old Navy gets me every. single. time. So how can I possibly touch on budgeting during the holidays and other special occasions? Well I can tell you that I’m not perfect, and I do know that it’s okay to splurge every once in a great while. However, we have to recognize the difference between an occasional treat – to oneself, or to loved ones – and overspending. As a special occasion approaches, take a look at your budget. If your sister’s birthday is coming up and you know that you will want to take her out for a special birthday dinner, arrange your entertainment budget for the two weeks leading up to it so that it’s focused on her special day. If you love gift-giving during Christmas, consider getting creative. Etsy is proof that people go wild for DIY gifts. If you aren’t crafty, consider what you are good at. You could use your cooking or planning skills to throw a dinner party for your loved ones, your bar tending skills to create special namesake cocktail recipes for each of your friends, a handwritten card goes a very long way,  and a well thought out Spotify playlist with a special someone in mind is the new mix tape. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to show people you care, and when your entire graduating class is home for the holidays, pressuring you to go out for drinks every night, just picture them back in DARE when they were playing the not so persuasive cool guy. You said no to them then, you can say it now.

 

As I mentioned earlier, I’m off of social media right now. So if you want to stay updated on our trip, please please please subscribe to this blog. Also feel free to send me an email at jenniferLkaulius@gmail.com so I have a way to contact you in the future, as well. Enjoy the holiday season, and happy budget-friendly gift-giving!

A Journey

Hey all!

It’s been a few weeks since I last posted, but I’ve been thinking lately about a small series of posts I want to make leading up to our move date that answer common questions Dan and I are receiving. I will be highlighting how we chose to move to Arizona and why it means so much to us, how we are preparing for this move financially, as well as logistically, and what we plan to do when we get out there. With tomorrow being the beginning of our two month countdown, I feel inspired to take some actions that directly correlate with one of the most common questions we are asked: what about all of your stuff?

When Dan and I first moved in together we lived in an average sized apartment in Emmaus. Neither one of us was living on our own prior to this, so we had to furnish our apartment from scratch, and our little one bedroom dwelling looked so empty. So we filled it with “stuff.” We bought book shelves, decorations, throw pillows, lamps, rugs, centerpieces; everything that comes to mind when thinking of how to fill a space with meaningless items.

A year goes by, and we realize that Emmaus isn’t the town for us, so we pack up our nearly overflowing apartment and move to Bethlehem. Guess what? The Bethlehem apartment is too big for our stuff. Even with all of the non-essential items we have to fill the empty spaces, there’s just so much room. So we go out and buy more stuff.

Another year goes by and Dan and I get married. You guys know what happens when you get married, right? Yup! You get to make a sweet registry filled with things you’ve “had your eye on, but wouldn’t have purchased for yourself.” And do you know what else happens? Your super awesome friends and family buy you that stuff. They spend their hard earned money to buy you a kitchen gadget that you will use maybe one or two times. And you now have the accumulation of “stuff” from your first apartment, your second apartment, and your wedding. Your cabinets are overflowing with bulky appliances, you have knick-knacks that take hours to dust, and you have six extra blankets to take off of your couch and bed to wash each week.

I don’t know about you guys, but clutter stresses me out. I absolutely cannot be productive if the room around me isn’t clean and organized. So I started spending a lot of my time cleaning around my things. I would wake up in the middle of the night because I felt like things around me weren’t in the right place, or they were covered in dust. It took me nearly two hours to start my homework every day because I had to make sure all of my stuff was “just right.” I recognized that this was becoming such a huge problem for me, so my initial solution was to just give in to the mess and let it go. I tried to only organize and clean once a week, but the clutter just sent me into a depression. So I shopped. That’s right, I decided to combat my depression over material objects with more material objects.

You guys are smart, I know you can see where this is going. I was spiraling out of control, and I knew I needed to handle this situation in a more productive and positive way. So I stopped shopping and started selling, donating, throwing away. Dan and I moved into a new, much smaller apartment in Nazareth, and we downsized like crazy. We got rid of so much stuff, and we never looked back.

A few more months go by and we start dreaming. We wonder what it would be like to be like The Minimalists we saw on Netflix (seriously do yourselves a favor and check these dudes out here, I’m obsessed with their podcast right now), and to live more intentionally, keeping only the things that are necessary and bring us joy. We start imagining a lifestyle where we can just throw our stuff into a single vehicle and travel wherever we want. This idea excites us so much. It’s all we can talk about for weeks; so we start to make it a reality.

The real question, though, is “how did we downsize enough to fit all of our stuff into a pickup truck (with two cats and a dog)?” We made a plan, and we took the following steps:

  1. We downsized our wardrobes. When people realize how much clothing Dan and I have between the two of us, they either praise us for our abilities to keep things relatively simple, or they just about faint. Usually it’s the latter. But let me tell you, having a small and simple wardrobe makes life so much easier. We have less laundry to do, we don’t take as long to decide what to wear, and we know that every item of clothing still fits nicely. In order to get to this faint worthy point in our wardrobes, we did two things.

First, we emptied our closets completely, sorting our clothing into three piles: definitely keep, maybe keep, get rid of. The definitely keep pile was full of clothing items we wear daily, or at least  few times a months. It was all clothing that we knew still fit, was in good shape, and fit our current style. This stuff got put back into the closet. The maybe pile was put into a storage bin, and included clothing that still fit, was in good shape, but we maybe didn’t have a reason to wear as often. We still really liked these pieces of clothing, but couldn’t really remember the last time we wore them. We closed up the storage bin and kept it in the closet for a month, promising to get rid of anything we didn’t pull out to wear in that time. The final pile was sorted through for donating, selling, gifting, or just throwing in the trash.

Now that we had a clear idea of what clothing we had left to work with, and where  we might need to fill gaps, we started using this method by Kristi Soomer of Encircled. Kristi has a great way of helping you find your personal style and utilizing it to create a perfect custom minimalist wardrobe. We didn’t stick to her plan perfectly, but it really helped us to recognize what we really want and need from our clothing.

2. We carefully considered each item we have. This one is a bit more difficult than the wardrobe because it takes a specific mindset and strict personal guidelines. Dan and I went into this understanding that it isn’t “stuff” that makes us happy, it’s people and experiences. So we decided that we would take a week or two to slowly go through each room together. We grabbed a super fancy box of wine, and started ripping our apartment apart. If something was not used regularly to increases productivity or survival (think cooking utensils, sheets, towels), or it did not frequently give us joy (think record player, Playstation, Legos), then it went in the trash, to Goodwill, to a friend, or was sold. This one was not as easy as the wardrobe, but we held each other accountable, and it felt so liberating when we were finished.

3. We digitized. We have one small fire proof box that we keep our super important documents like birth certificates, social security cards, and diplomas in, but other than that, everything is digital. Pictures, bills, receipts, they all get scanned and sent to a Google drive for safe keeping. Whenever we can avoid having a trace of paper lying around, we do. This one is difficult for a lot of people, so if you decide to downsize, don’t feel bad if you have to skip this step or come back to it later. I get it, pictures mean a whole lot to people. The way Dan and I see it is that we rarely pull these physical photos out to look at them, so there’s no harm in carrying them with us on our phones and computers, instead. But not everyone feels that way, and that’s okay!

4. We started declining gifts. This one was the hardest for me by miles. I was raised to appreciate gifts, and value everything that is given to me. I mean, who wasn’t? So it was really hard to say no when people offered things to me that they thought I would like. I appreciate those sentiments so deeply, but we just couldn’t take on any more stuff. Here’s the thing though, our true friends and family totally got it. There was a little bit of resistance in some areas because it’s natural to want to give gifts to those you love. That feeling of giving is part of what people love so much about birthdays and Christmas. But when we explained that we simply didn’t have the space, and would rather they spend their money on experiences with us, rather than stuff that we probably wouldn’t use, almost everyone was happy to comply. Communication goes a long way!

I do want to note a few things. Dan and I both recognize that this is an extreme. We know that minimalism isn’t for everyone. I also want to make note that minimalism looks different for everyone. Minimalism to me is about simplifying to have more time, space, and energy for the things you love. If you are at your most peaceful surrounded by mountains and mountains of books, and that makes you genuinely happy, but you feel like you could simplify by getting rid of your TV, that’s great! If you’re closer to an extremist and think that mountains of books sounds like stressful clutter, and you would rather own a Kindle, that’s great too! It’s all about eliminating the things that don’t make you happy to make more room for the things that do.

Dan and I are two months out, and while we have decreased our stuff down to about a quarter of what we previously had (if that), we still have more to go. One thing I’ve learned is that minimalism is a never-ending journey. It isn’t just a once and done process. We will inevitably acquire more stuff, and we will have to purge our stuff pretty regularly. This is just the start of our journey. If you want to learn more, I cannot recommend The Minimalists  enough. Listen to their podcast, read their blog, watch their documentary. A lot of what I’ve discussed here comes from their ideas and knowledge, and they have so much more insight to offer through any and all of their platforms.