(Trying to) Try Something New for 30 Days

My year of trying something new for 30 days is coming to an end. Here is a recap of the final months.

I had designated August as the month when I would read for an hour a day. I love to read but I was seldom allowing myself the luxury of just sitting down with a good book.  When I chose August for this goal I figured it would be a breeze because we were going on vacation.  IMG_5240

We rented a house and spent a fabulous week with extended family on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  However, we filled the days with everything but reading. It was perfect…but I hadn’t read for an hour a day.

So September was designated as my reading month. But…this didn’t transpire either.

In October, Hannah had been reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo and suggested that I read it, too.  Having just failed at two months’ attempts to read an hour a day, I opted for the audio version and was soon completely enthralled. I listened to it while driving, folding laundry, painting the garage, etc.  Marie Kondo’s underlying philosophy is that if an item doesn’t “spark joy in your heart” you should not keep it.  Of course, she goes into much more detail and has a systematic way of decluttering and organizing but this basic mantra has truly been life-changing for me.

As Kondo suggests, I started with my clothes.  Using the gauge of touching each piece of clothing and asking if it “sparks joy in my heart”, I had quickly filled at least eleven bags of clothes to donate.  Mike became a fan of this strategy, too.  It made me laugh to hear him say, “This sweater isn’t sparking joy in my heart”   as he added another item to our donation bags.

It felt liberating to have purged our closets and drawers of perfectly good but unwanted items. Dropping off our bags of clothes at our favorite local thrift shop was satisfying knowing that at the very least our donation would benefit a worthy cause and perhaps some of our items would spark joy in someone else’s heart.

Beyond the bonus of having significantly fewer items in our drawers, Kondo provides specific suggestions for how to store belongings in a manner that will make it easy to maintain a tidy environment. The simple change of folding and storing items vertically instead of in stacks in a drawer has been a completely unexpected bonus in keeping things organized.  I can easily find what I’m looking for and it’s always easy to put things away.  Maybe everyone else is already using this method but I am so pleased to have been enlightened.

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The next task was organizing books.  Kondo discusses a strategy for parting with books.  We had been saving shelves of books that we decided we really didn’t need anymore. In one afternoon I had been able to part with a huge number of books.

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here was room on our bookshelves and the books that were left were ones that we had specifically chosen to keep.

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We were able to donate a shopping cart of books to a local grocery store that sells them and then donates the proceeds to a different charity each month. Once again, this felt like a win-win arrangement.

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To be sure, this will be a long process as I continue to tackle all of the other areas she addresses. Because her method was developed for Japanese clients she doesn’t specifically talk about some of the more American areas that I will also be approaching such as our garage, cellar, attic and barn.  But I am confident that I now have the skills to apply her strategies to all of these areas as I organize the items which “spark joy in my heart”.

Since learning about this method I’ve been pleasantly intrigued to find how pervasive this philosophy has become in my daily life.  My November “Try Something New” was to complete my Christmas shopping by November 30th. In the past I have found myself easily whipped up into the madness of shopping.  I was an easy target for stores’ attempts to lure shoppers into buying impulse items.  But this year, I had a specific plan and time line.  I’m happy to report that I did very well with this new experience.

The added bonus was that I was armed with my new, life-changing mantra.  I easily resisted items that would have previously found their way into my shopping bag.  I didn’t want to bring items into my home that weren’t truly going to “spark joy in my heart” and I certainly didn’t want to burden others with this type of item.

December’s “Try Something New for 30 Days” was inspired by a piece I heard on NPR.  They reported on research that discovered that people with heart disease who wrote down what they were grateful for had tangible beneficial changes to their heart. Thankfully, I don’t have heart disease and I have a multitude of things for which I am grateful.  But I began writing two or three things that I am grateful for in my journal each night.

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Often during the day I’d make a mental note of something I’d want to add. To be honest, there were a few nights when my list had a bit of a snarky slant (e.g. “I’m grateful that I have finished my work -even though it’s midnight!”).  But I found it comforting to frame it in a positive way and I now have a lovely record of what was making me feel grateful each day.

This year of “Trying Something New for 30 Days” has been exciting, fun, enlighteninginspirational, heartwarming, and satisfying. As 2016 begins, I look forward to another year of “Trying Something New for 30 Days”. Perhaps you’d like to give it a whirl, as well.  I can guarantee that it will be a fabulous way to embrace this new year.

Happy 2016!

Try Something New for 30 Days-Eating Locally

Choosing to eat locally for my “Do Something New for 30 Days”  for the month of July was an easy choice.  I knew there would be plentiful fruits and vegetables from a multitude of sources. Early in July I went to our favorite farm, Butternut Farm, where I picked cherries for the first time.

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Strawberries were still available, too.

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We had already been regular visitors to our local farmers’ market but in July we made it a point to schedule a trip each week. I absolutely loved going from table to table filling my bags with top quality fruits and veggies.  Being able to speak with the people that had grown the food and knowing that we were supporting local farmers was especially satisfying.

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Although much of what we bought was produce, we often added other items such as bread, granola, and some fabulous local bacon.  IMG_5177

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Farmers’ markets were a major source of local food but we also took advantage of other options.  A co-worker sold eggs for a mere $2.50 a dozen!  I soon had a standing weekly order. Jumbo zucchinis from her garden were offered for $1.00 each. What a deal!

In previous years we have had a garden that has provided us with a bountiful amount of food.  Alas, despite our best intentions (and even some actual planting) this did not transpire this year. However, we have a hearty wild blackberry patch that provided us with some lovely berries.

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My eating locally goal included eating out, as well.  Although I don’t frequent chains often, it’s not uncommon for me to pick up a coffee at Dunkin Donuts.  But for the month of July, I resisted falling into this habit.  Luckily, we have a fabulous local coffee drive-thru which provided a constant supply of superior iced coffee.  The baristas at the closest location always remember our order.

IMG_5115I am an avid tea drinker and I have loved switching to this local White Heron tea from Portsmouth, NH.

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Periodically we do our long runs in nearby Portsmouth and New Castle for a change of scenery and a flatter course.  We have happily scheduled these runs on a Saturday so that we could incorporate a trip to the even more extensive Portsmouth Farmers’ Market.

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This weekend while in Portland to visit Hannah while she sold her hand-crafted cat teepees and dog bow ties at Anthropologies’s Sit, Stay, Love event, I had an opportunity to go to the Portland Farmer’s Market.  I contentedly strolled through the booths packed with pumpkins, squash, flowers, and so much more.

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At the suggestion of one of Hannah’s co-workers I sought out Kennebunk Cheesery and added two divine cheeses to my bags.

And thankfully, because I believe pumpkins are an essential part of autumn, I was able to begin my pumpkin collection at other booths.

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Although not everything we ate was local, we truly made an effort to purchase locally whenever possible. I’m pleased to report that this goal has extended past the month of July.  Trips to the farmers’ markets are frequent and I consciously seek local sources whenever possible. I find myself choosing a route that will allow me to stop at tiny road-side stands where I pull over to pick up some corn or tomatoes and happily place my money in the honor system box knowing that my little contribution may be supplementing a family’s income and will certainly be providing my family with fabulously fresh and local food.

 

 

June- “Try Something New for 30 Days”

You may have noticed that I am (finally) writing about my June “Try Something New for 30 Days” as August is (sadly) winding down.

When I designated June as my month to try new physical activities, the timing seemed perfect. Summer was emerging and I planned on having lots of time to engage in these exciting activities.  Hannah and I brainstormed an optimistic list of possible experiences from routine running to more adventurous paddle boarding.

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June 1st I was ready!  I found a terrific yoga for runners video on the Runner’s World website and jumped right in. I was surprised that the poses felt relatively easy (i.e. I could do them) and I immediately knew the stretches I got from the session would be incredbly beneficial to my running.

Next day, I did an online Pilates routine.

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Although this really wasn’t new it was different from running. I have been using Pilates for strength training for over a year, particularly during the winter on days when it was difficult to get outside.  I had been amazed with how toned and strong I felt during the time when I was doing Pilates almost daily.  However, recently I had done very little so it felt good to be doing this type of activity again.

I did a little weight work out-literally.

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Then I began to venture into truly new activities. I googled hula hoop videos and gave that a whirl (pun intended).

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Ditto for a barre workout. I loved it!

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Some of the activities I did with others, including basketball,

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darts,

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croquet,

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and mini golf.

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Mike is very serious about his mini golf.

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We even upgraded to real golf-well, the driving range.

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I was happy that some of the tips my dad had given me when I was a teenager had stayed with me and I even hit a few good shots.

As June ended I continued to be hopeful that I would check a few more activities off of my list.  I did get to add boogie boarding when we tried it on our vacation in the Outer Banks.

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However, summer has whizzed by, as it always does and I still have many activities on my list that do not have a check by them.  While I am sad that the summer is evaporating, the list will remain on my fridge and I look forward to continuing to check off more and more new activities as time goes by. And I know that I will also be incorporating a number of the activities I tried in June into more of my everyday life.