Valentine’s Day Q&A — 10 Common Questions

Valentine’s Day Q&A — 10 Common Questions

Happy Valentine’s Day, friend! ❤

This day used to mean a lot of anticipation and then usually disappointment because my made up expectations weren’t met. I think I’ll always have some sort of expectation, but I’ve tried to let it go as much as possible.

The strength and value of your relationship isn’t determined by one day. If you happen to be single (I hope you already know this, but here’s a reminder in case…) your value is not determined by your relationship status. You can be a whole, healthy, happy person as you are — significant other or not.

I thought a relationship Q&A would be a fun way to celebrate! You may be one of my close friends, a family member, or a total stranger. No matter our connection, I hope you enjoy and leave feeling a bit more inspired! Keep reading to learn more about me and my husband, Eric.

1. How did you meet?

Eric and I met in 8th grade at East Millbrook Magnet Middle School. That was 2006, so that means we’ve known each other for 13 years. Wow! It’s reassuring to me that we met in that timeframe because is anyone more awkward or unhappy with how they look than a middle schooler?? It was a challenging time, but we got through it. Started from the bottom…

Eric & Rachel Throwback Pic

2. How long have you been together?

Our relationship was founded on a solid friendship. We dated briefly the summer after our senior year of high school, but that fell apart when he went away for the remainder of the summer. I continued to date other people and he went back to his long time girlfriend. But we remained friends and innocently would grab dinner whenever he was in town.

2013 started my senior year of college and that’s when our friendship started to shift into a relationship. He won me over with many, many dates at El Cerro. I guess the way to this college girl’s heart was queso and pitchers of margaritas — it worked. We began officially dating November 2013. We made the transition from “friend Eric” to “boyfriend Eric.”

The transition to “fiance Eric” came a few years later. Eric proposed to me on a beach in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic in August 2015. I almost ruined his surprise, but I’m so glad I was willing to get my feet sandy before our dinner plans. If you want the juicy details, you can read all about it here.

We got married on July 9, 2016. It’s my favorite day yet! It was an absolute blur, but we were surrounded by so much joy and support. Planning a wedding was no small feat (we were seriously considering an elopement about a month out from the big day), but it was incredible and more than I had ever dreamed of!

3. How did you know he was “the one”?

I knew I could really see a future with him before we were even officially together. We had plans to go to church and then to the NC State Fair. What he didn’t know was that I roped us into an event at church following the service that lasted longer than anticipated. I’m sure it wrecked his plans, but he barely even batted an eye. Had the roles been reversed, I would have freaked out!

Eric & Rachel Fair 2013

I knew him pretty well before we were an “item,” but the more I learned about him and his character, the more I felt safe and sure. We didn’t agree on everything (and we certainly still don’t), but we agreed on the things that matter most of us: faith, family, travel, good food.

4. Do you want kids?

This question comes up so much after you get married. “When are you having babies??” I don’t like to ask others because it can be a very sensitive topic, but I’m happy to answer it here.

We definitely want kids one day! Ideally one boy, one girl. But of course we will joyfully love any baby God blesses us with. In the meantime, we have our crazy girl, Stella. She has taught us a lot about “parenting” and how to work together to keep another being alive and well. When the time comes, I know that Eric will be an incredible father and I can’t wait to be a momma! Although, we’re totally okay if that timing is a little ways out.

5. What’s your favorite thing about him?

Eric balances me out very well. It drives me crazy sometimes that he doesn’t think and act exactly like I do, but thank goodness he doesn’t!

Eric is the hardest working person I know. He never complains about his crazy work hours and he’s always thinking of ways to maximize money making on his time off. He takes his lazy mornings very seriously, but I’ll give him that since he busts his butt while he’s up.

6. What is the best part about marriage?

The best part about marriage is having someone to do life with.

I love that no matter what happens in my day — good or bad — I have someone there that will celebrate a victory or help console a loss.

Eric & Rachel Atlantic Beach

I love that we are a team. He’s always been supportive of my ideas and goals. He pushes me to try new things and helps me however he can to achieve what I’m striving for. He makes a great life partner!

7. What is a challenging part about marriage?

A challenging part of marriage is merging two lives into one functioning, peaceful household. We each have our own way of doing things. We have different definitions of “clean.” We like to start our days differently. There’s lot of compromise, learning, and patience.

Marriage requires effort and intentionality. We don’t always feel like putting in those things. We get tired, annoyed, frustrated, hurt. But at the end of the day it’s us.

8. What has your marriage taught you?

Marriage has taught me how to put someone else’s needs above my own. I would say I’m an average level of selfish. I’m not the worst, but I’m not the best. If I want to do it well, marriage forces me to think and act selflessly.

Eric & Rachel serving at Hope Community Church

How can I make his day easier? How can I make this situation better? Is there something I can do or say to bring him joy? It’s the little things that make the difference. These thought patterns help me to be more selfless and compassionate in my other relationships too.

9. How do you grow in your marriage?

I strive to grow a little bit everyday. We’re going on three years of marriage this July, so we still have a ton to learn, but I feel like we’ve learned a lot already too.

I look to people that are doing marriage well and listen to their advice. We are so blessed to live in a world of free access to amazing content: podcasts, YouTube videos, Google searches, blogs, etc. We also enjoy spending time with other married couples. I believe in the power of community.

As with most other things in life, you never “arrive” in terms of a good marriage. You also won’t wake up one day with the marriage of your dreams if you aren’t willing to put in the work alongside with your spouse.

We pray, we spend time in community, we spend time together, we learn, we laugh. We do our best to love well and make improvements little by little.

10. What advice do you have for single/dating/engaged friends?

Single friends: You don’t need to wait for a special someone for your life to begin. I used to think having someone would complete me and make me happy. Truth is that I complete myself and my happiness is up to me. Another person cannot fulfill you — that is way too much pressure and power to put on another human being. Be whole and happy in who you are. Trust that your life is working out exactly the way it was planned if you keep doing your next right thing.

Dating friends: If anything feels out of alignment in your relationship, you’re probably right. Trust your gut and your heart. Marriage will not solve any problems, it will only magnify them. Love your person well and start practicing selflessness. Don’t be afraid of deep discussions. Ask the deep questions. Enjoy each other’s company and start cultivating rhythms in your relationship.

Engaged friends: Savor this season. It goes by in a blink. I know you’re probably stressed out and just ready for the day to be here already. The time will pass, so soak it up. Keep in mind what’s truly important and let everything else go. If you’re doing the big wedding day like I did, you won’t even notice if something doesn’t go according to plan. You’ll be too busy dancing the night away and pinching yourself to make sure it’s real. During your reception, take a moment to step back from all the excitement and action to look around the room with your new spouse. Take a mental picture and thank God for this blessing. The adventure is just beginning.


I feel like I’m just getting started with this content, but first I’d love to hear your thoughts. Are there other questions you have that I didn’t answer?

What’s your best piece of relationship advice?

2019 Word of the Year

2019 Word of the Year

Hello, friend. Welcome to the new year.

Or if you’re reading this after January 2019, welcome to the new moment.

First lesson: you don’t need to wait for a fresh year to have a fresh start. Although it does feel like a good time, doesn’t it? Lets use it.

At this point in the year, I’ve chosen my Word of the Year (which is why we’re here) and my main focuses for 2019 aka my goals. I stopped making resolutions years ago because we all know how those tend to go. I give up on resolutions. But goals, on the other hand, I make progress on little by little.

My word felt pretty obvious last year. Before I really dug in too far, it was there. This year didn’t feel that way and I felt panicked. It’s totally not the end of the world to experience a year without a specific word. I had gone through 24 years without a word. But I wanted one.

What is a Word of the Year (WOY)?

Simply put, this is a word (or even multiple words or a phrase) that you want to carry with you for the year.

It might be an overarching idea of what you want to develop (strength, patience, community, contentment, grace, etc). It might be a description of what you want for your year (adventure, fun, abundance, joy, etc). The beauty (and the challenge) is there are no rules. Choose a word (or multiple words) that speak to you.

How do you choose your WOY?

Choosing a WOY is different for every person. The process may vary year to year. Some people know it immediately. Some people have to talk about it, pray about it, wait and listen on it. There’s no right or wrong way here.

Start brainstorming.

Ask yourself questions and write down your answers — you may notice themes in your responses. What worked last year? What didn’t work last year? What do I want for 2019? What do I want more/less of? Where do I want to be when I’m 80 years old?

Read and/or listen to music.

Jot down any word that sparks something.

Take a look at your list — does any word speak to you? If there are a few, look up the definitions and see if one stands out. If not, don’t stress. There’s no deadline. This is your word, so it’s whatever you want it to be! You even have the flexibility to change if the chosen word falls out of alignment. The purpose is to set your intention as it works best for you in this season.

2017 was the year to Become.
2018 was the year to Flourish.
2019 is the year to…

Rest: cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength.

When I was working through my questions, I noticed a theme of rest.

Rest worked well in 2018.

I crave refreshment, rejuvenation, and recovery.

I’m not just talking about physical rest, although that’s extremely important to me (even though it’s an area I struggle in). I mean soul rest too. Giving myself the space to breathe, think, and just be.

I heard a phrase on Emily P. Freeman’s podcast and it stuck with me. To sit down on the inside. She was talking about peace. That soul rest we can feel when we take the time to slow down. I want that even when our schedules, days, and lives are hectic.

Rest means being purposeful. It means knowing, setting, and sticking to my priorities. It means saying no to things that aren’t my best yes. It means letting some things go. It means pouring into myself so I can be, feel, and do my best. Yes, that all sounds lovely.

So this year I’ll practice rest. Honestly, rest doesn’t feel natural to me. It feels scary because it requires trust. I’m trusting that everything will be okay without me. If I’m taking the time to rest (my body, my mind, my soul), that means I’m not doing.

WOY Ideas

abide / able / adventure
balance / be / beloved / bloom / brave / bold / breathe
change / cherish / confidence / consistent / courage / contentment / cultivate
deeper / delight / devoted / diligence / discover
embrace / enrich
faithful / fearless/ finish / flourish / focus / freedom
grace / grateful / gratitude / grow / grounded
happy / healing / heart / hope
implement / intentional
join / joy
kind / knowledge
learn / less / light / listen / love
manifest / meaningful / mighty / mindful
natural / nourish / nurture
obedient / open / organized
peace / play / powerful / prepare / present / progress / purpose
question / quiet
ready / redefine / renew / rest / rise / rooted
savor / self-discipline / shine / simplify / steady / still / strength / surrender
thankful / thrive / trust / transform
unshakeable / unstoppable / understanding
value / vibrant / vitality
wellness / worthy
yes

This is YOUR year! I’m so excited to see how you will use 2019.

Have you chosen a WOY?? Let me know in the comments below what yours is ❤

18 lessons 2018 taught me

18 lessons 2018 taught me

This post contains affiliate links. See affiliate disclaimer here.

I’m a big fan of reflecting at the end of a year.

What worked?
What didn’t work?
What did I learn?

A year can feel long and short at the same time. A lot happens in 365 days. If I don’t dedicate some time to look back, I won’t be moving forward as strong as I could. My goal setting planner, PowerSheets, actually builds this practice into the prep work. Perfect!

*PS- it’s not too late to grab your own set of PowerSheets, but do it soon because they sell out! I want 2019 to be your best, most intentional year YETUse code FREESHIP18 for free domestic shipping on orders over $50 — offer ends today at midnight ET. It’s also the LAST DAY to place your order for guaranteed domestic delivery by New Year’s. Lets make progress on our goals together, yall!

I’m sure you’ve learned many things in 2018. There is benefit to learning lessons from others without necessarily having to experience them yourself. Or sometimes we need the reminder of the lesson we’ve learned before. In no particular order, here’s the lessons I’ve learned this year.

2018.

  1. Removing my phone means better nights and mornings. I’ve gotten into a better rhythm of “putting my phone to bed.” I went into detail of phone boundaries in this post, but to keep it short and sweet: phone boundaries have definitely improved my morning and evening routines.
  2. Sometimes stepping back from a responsibility is the best thing I can do. I believe I’m a type 2 on the Enneagram. If that means nothing to you, I’m a helper. I want to say yes and often times I commit to way too many things. In the event I can step back from something I’ve already said “yes” to, it can be helpful. But more importantly, I’m trying to learn and demonstrate the use of my best yes.
  3. Things don’t always go according to plan, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. There is joy in the moment. Even when I didn’t plan it this way. Even when it’s not what I would have chosen. Much of life doesn’t happen the way I would expect, so it’s better to embrace it.
  4. It’s okay (even necessary at times) to say no in order to protect my energy. More Ennegram 2 coming out. More learning to do with how to use my most powerful words: yes and no. Maybe next year that’ll be a lesson learned. For now, I’m realizing the growth that is possible.
  5. Word of mouth can go far and do wonders! My husband’s ice cream shop, Vida Dulce, opened this year. We honestly relied on word of mouth and social media. Reviews and recommendations are so powerful! If there’s a place you love, share about it! It means the world.
  6. It’s important to take the time to celebrate others. If you want to be celebrated, you should celebrate others. Of course it’s fun to celebrate our achievements and milestones. But wow, it’s amazing to be a part of celebrating other people! This year, we celebrated weddings, graduations, new businesses, new homes, new jobs, and so much more. It helps build bonds with the people in your life and make your world so much sweeter.
  7. Just go to bed earlier… it can wait. I had gotten into a bad habit of going to bed too late because “one more thing” needed to get done or I lost track of time. No matter what, it can wait. The rest is worth it.
  8. I actually am stronger than I think. Mentally. Physically. I’m stronger than I thought and I realize that more and more each time I push myself to do a little bit more than I thought I could.
  9. All things are fixable — don’t stress. Stress only makes things worse. I can’t think of many things that can’t be fixed, so might as well not stress.
  10. Words are powerful. Proverbs says life and death are in the power of the tongue and I believe that fully. We have the power to build people up or tear them down with our words. The same is true of ourselves and our thoughts. I should be mindful with how I use my words and thoughts.
  11. If I don’t ask, the answer is always no. I can’t expect to get what I want and/or need unless I go for it. The answer may still be “no” or “not right now,” but at least I did my part.
  12. It may not feel like it in the moment, but it’s always worth it to be patient and kind. I can get super impatient. It can be very tempting to be rude right back to the person that obviously woke up on the wrong side of the bed. BUT it always feels better to be the person that was kind and patient.
  13. The good things won’t happen if I don’t take the next right step to move towards them. All I can do is take the next right step. I won’t know the entire staircase, but if I keep putting one foot in front of the other I’ll end up where I need to be. I used to get weighed down in knowing and doing the right thing, but it’s more about the next right thing.
  14. My days and life are better when I’m grateful. I believe in an attitude of gratitude, but in October I started a formal gratitude practice. Each night I write down ten things I’m grateful for and it has totally transformed my days. When we look for reasons to be grateful, we find them.
  15. It’s refreshing and needed to “sit down on the inside.” I first heard this phrase on Emily P. Freeman’s podcast and it stuck. I love the thought of this, letting my soul sit down take a rest. I came to the realization I’m not very good at that and I would like to improve.
  16. People want to support me, but I may need to ask for it so they know how. Sometimes it’s best to tell your people exactly how they can support you instead of hoping they read minds and then being disappointed.
  17. I’m infinitely more successful with a plan. I thrive on planning. As we discussed earlier, things don’t always go according to plan, but I feel all around more productive and successful when I have one even if it’s just to get me started. Know yourself and work with your strengths.
  18. The best is always yet to come because I keep learning and improving. I learned in 2018 that this will always be true. Amazing things have happened, but even better things are ahead. Amen!

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13

2019, lets do incredible things.

If you’re looking for additional wisdom and encouragement, check out my annual lesson posts from 2016 and 2017. Leave me a comment below sharing a lesson or two that you’ve learned this year

Flourishing Contentment: The Challenge Review

Flourishing Contentment: The Challenge Review

We introduced it in October and I completed it in November. 

What am I talking about?? This challenge. You can get all the details in that post (I encourage you to check it out!), but the short of it is this: declutter every day and don’t bring anything new into your home. Simple enough. 

Through the course of the challenge, I decluttered 465+ things. Wow! That’s a lot of extra stuff that was just taking up space and energy. 

You may have followed along with this contentment challenge journey on my Instagram stories where I documented my decluttering every single day. In case you missed it, they’re saved to my highlights as inspiration and encouragement for you.

Throughout the process, a lot of you had questions about what I was doing. You may be thinking you could never do it. That certainly isn’t true, but continue reading to help overcome objections you may have. If you still have questions to hurdles to jump that I didn’t discuss, let me know in the comments and we’ll work through them together. 

How the challenge went

The challenge went really well! I honestly enjoyed it, especially once I implemented the tips I will share next. It wasn’t easy, hence the word “challenge,” but I believe it was well worth the effort.

I was 100% for the decluttering portion. The no spend aspect was harder for me. In this challenge I determined that “no spend” meant not buying new things, so dinner with a friend, gifts, or buying extra food for a gathering was totally okay.

As we all know based on the insane amount of emails and commercials, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are in November. I did spend money, but I think they were super reasonable purchases and the sales definitely helped. We purchased a new vacuum (much needed since we were still using the one I had in college), and new cups and a blade for our Nutribullet that we use daily (the others were super old and weren’t working anymore). I’d say that’s a win! 

I feel more peace in my home and like my spaces better because there’s more room and less junk. Most of the things we have left are things that we actually like and use. It’s amazing what a difference a month can make.

Tips for your challenge

  • Make a list of all the areas to declutter in your home: I did this before the challenge began because I’ve been trying to declutter anyways. It was helpful for me to see a big picture and helped me formulate a game plan. It also made me feel better because it was all down on paper instead of being an abstract idea in my head 🙂 
  • Set aside a space out of the way for sale/donation items: For me, this was our guest room closet. It’s best that this space is not one you need to declutter (since you’ll be adding more things to it) and ideally out of sight. This is where your sale and donation items will live until the end when you can drop off or put together a yard sale. 
  • Go area by area: Start in one area of your home and declutter in that space each day until it’s totally decluttered. For example, your bathroom or your closet. Don’t forget about drawers and cabinets — get into all the nooks and crannies. 
  • Get ahead if needed: You may not have a lot of time each day to declutter or you may know you have a really busy day coming up. If I had free time, I would use it to get ahead of the game and declutter in advance. I still stayed on track for the challenge, but I didn’t stress myself out by adding more to my plate on an already busy day. 
  • Have accountability: Accountability can be internal like a tracker or external like a friend or social media. Being able to see your progress will help keep you motivated to continue. A tracker would be especially helpful if you don’t start on the first of the month. 

What I learned

We have way too much stuff. I have been decluttering little by little over the last few years, but I still had SO much stuff to get rid of. 

New things are always coming in our home via mail, gifts, purchases, etc. With this in mind, I can be more intentional about what I bring in. I have a much better idea of what we have and what we need, so I can purchase based on that.

I have found more contentment through this challenge. Buying things still make me excited, but that happiness is usually short lived. I can wait to buy things in order to make sure it’s worth bringing in. You have a choice about what you fill your space with. 

It was helpful to have the set number of items to get rid of each day because it helped me be more ruthless. There were things that were easy to part with, but there were also things that felt sentimental and it was harder. I can release emotional ties to things because they’re just things. Letting go of something doesn’t mean the sentiment goes away too. I can appreciate whatever that thing was and the purpose it served and then make space for more joy and peace. 

We are blessed to be able to have a lot of nice things, but some of these things don’t benefit us anymore. What has become clutter for me can be used to bless someone else. If it’s still in good condition and useful in general, it was important for me to set that aside to be used by someone else in the future. We are blessed to be a blessing. 

Now it’s your turn. 

I think it’s always a good time to reevaluate what is “living” in your home. This time of year is especially great as we’re bringing lots of new things in and thinking about a fresh start.

If you’re up for it, I challenge you to take on the Flourishing Contentment Challenge in January. Let me know if you accept. I’d love to cheer you on and be a resource to help you.

Cultivating healthy phone boundaries

Cultivating healthy phone boundaries

We have a powerful tool right at our fingertips: our phone.

It’s an amazing source for connection, business, and entertainment. It’s also an unfortunate source of distraction as I’m sure we’ve all experienced. How many hours have you wasted mindlessly scrolling Instagram or checking your email for the 104th time? For me, it’s way too many to count.

I love those apps on my phone, but there’s a time and a place for using and enjoying them. I knew something about my habit needed to change when I was beginning and ending my day on my phone. That kept me up too late and took away precious time I could/should be using for other more important things.

Boundaries needed to be determined. 

The boundaries have been set and my relationship with my phone is so much healthier. To help make the boundary setting easier for you, I’m sharing nine tips that I used to make it happen.

Use an actual alarm clock, not your phone.

I’m not as self disciplined as I need to be first thing in the morning. If I use my phone as my alarm clock, it’s way too easy to just open it up and play with it in bed. That’s not how I want to use my first moments of the day. Spend the money and purchase an alarm clock — it’s well worth it.

Charge your phone away from your bed.

Since your phone is no longer your alarm clock, you can move it away from your nightstand. Put your phone to “bed” at your designated time and let it charge there. Ideally this is outside of your bedroom, but at the very least across your room. Removing it from your immediate space will keep you from mindlessly using it.

Set and respect time limits.

I highly recommend limiting your screen time. I’ve found it’s easiest for me when I create concrete “rules” (like no phone after 10pm) because it takes the thought out of it. Set time limits that work best for you. The blue light emitted from our devices negatively affects our sleep, so take that into consideration when choosing your phone’s bedtime.

Apple released a built in app called Screen Time and it’s the best! You can set time limits for certain apps, big ones for me being social networking and productivity (apps like email). It tracks your usage and will actually “lock” apps if you’ve gone over your limit. I have my time limit set from 10pm-10am so that I’m giving myself plenty of time at night and in the morning to take care of myself and have a break from my phone. If you have an iPhone, this is a must! I’ve heard of other apps and websites that do similar functions, but I love that it’s just built into the phone’s software.

Unfollow/unsubscribe/delete.

Clean up your digital life. Are you following someone you don’t enjoy seeing? Unfollow. Are you getting emails that you always delete? Unsubscribe. Are there apps on your phone that you never use? Delete. You’ll spend less time on your phone when you’re not having to sort through so much extra stuff.

Turn off push notifications.

If you’re anything like me, you feel a sudden need to check your phone when a notification comes through. The point of push notifications is to grab your attention and make you click through to whatever it’s notifying you about. Use your phone on your own time and desire, so say goodbye to those push notifications. You can check in when you want and the notifications will still be there.

Practice social media/phone free time.

It’s a great habit to practice social media free days and phone free time. For my husband and I, date nights are generally phone free. We don’t mind a quick Instagram story to share something cool we’re doing or grabbing a photo to document the fact that we dressed up. BUT we don’t want to be the couple that’s spending their whole dinner with faces in the phones. The best things in life are experienced away from our phones.

Schedule posts in advance.

You might be someone that runs a small business and absolutely needs to use your phone — I totally get it! Try creating and scheduling your posts (social media, blog, podcast, etc) in advance and then set aside some time to engage on that post once it’s live. You’ll be more intentional with your time and actually free yourself from feeling like you need to be glued to your phone.

Enjoy phone free hobbies.

Get outside. Read a physical book. Play a board or card game. Take your dog on a walk. Put the phone down and enjoy. And don’t feel the pressure to pick up the phone to share about what you’re doing with all your friends. It still happened even if you didn’t share it.

Seek accountability.

Accountability can be with another person or with your phone itself. The Screen Time app I was talking about provides a huge source of accountability for me. It literally “locks” my apps at a certain time so I can have downtime. It’s helpful to share your goals for healthy boundaries with someone else because they may have good ideas to overcome your struggles and can encourage you to be phone free when you’re together. I believe accountability is always a good thing when we’re talking about something we want to improve.

There ya have it! Nine tangible tips and my favorite tool to help you cultivate healthy phone boundaries. Is this an area you struggle in? Which tip will you implement first?

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Flourishing Contentment: The Challenge

Flourishing Contentment: The Challenge

Contentment is not the fulfillment of what you want, but the realization of how much you already have.

I have found the best way for me to overcome a bad habit and cultivate a good habit is to participate in a challenge. Sometimes that’s a challenge that I’m doing alone. Sometimes that’s a challenge I’m doing with others. Regardless, I love having a goal to focus on and a set time period to push for it.

It can be overwhelming to try to overhaul our life for forever, but we can make changes for a set period of time and see how it works. Usually it sticks or at least moves me closer towards the ultimate goal.

Spending money used to be a major bad habit. I would mindlessly spend (usually on a credit card), but it was never fulfilling. The moment of opening a new Amazon package would bring a moment of happiness and then that would fade. I’ve come a long way, but I’ve noticed that shopping still has grips on my heart and happiness. The social media comparison certainly doesn’t help.

I’ve been wanting to do a challenge like this for a while, but I always thought “oh this isn’t the best time.” As with anything, there will never be a perfect time, so might as well go for it! So here we are: The Flourishing Contentment Challenge.

To put it simply, this is 30 days of no new stuff and minimizing the stuff you already have in order to make space for peace, joy, and contentment. I was inspired by Nancy Ray’s Contentment Challenge and The Minimalists’ Minimalism Game and thought it would be brilliant to blend the two and put my flourishing spin on it.

The Commitment

  • I commit to not purchasing anything new for 30 days. I am blessed and already have all the things I need. 
  • I commit to decluttering my home little by little for 30 days. I am blessed and have way more than I need.

Read the guidelines below for more information about how we are going to make these two commitments happen.

The Guidelines

  • Determine your why for completing this challenge
    It doesn’t have to be anything grand (although it can be), but having a why will help carry you through the 30 days. It can be something simple like “I want to see if I can do it” or something deep like “I use shopping as a way of coping with stress or sadness and I want to break the chains.” This is totally up to you, but take some time to think about what’s drawing you to this challenge.
  • Prepare in advance
    Prepare your heart and your actual space. Do any last minute shopping. This is not a last minute splurge shopping trip (we’re breaking up with that habit, remember?), but an opportunity to get items you actually need. If there are others living in your home, have a discussion with them about your intentions and goals for this challenge. Set a date to begin and put it on the calendar.
  • Choose something inspirational to consume
    This may be a book, podcast, blog, or YouTube channel. Whatever you choose, try not to purchase it. Maybe it’s something you already own or you can borrow from a friend. The library is an incredible resource! Podcasts, blogs, and YouTube videos are free. Some of my favorites are The Joy of Less by Francine Jay (book), A Simplified Life by Emily Ley (book), and The Rachel Cruze Show (YouTube).
  • Gifts + necessities are okay
    Please continue to purchase food and needed items from the grocery store. Buy your mother a thoughtful gift for her birthday. The point is not to completely cut down your lifestyle or refrain from celebrating loved ones, but to reset your heart when it comes to stuff. With this challenge in mind and the shift it causes, I can pretty much guarantee you will shop differently.
  • Replace your tendency to shop with something fulfilling
    When we’re trying to cultivate a new habit, it’s important to replace the “bad” with something “good.” We’re taking away shopping from our life for 30 days, so that’s going to leave a hole that will be filled. Lets fill it intentionally. This may be a hobby, prayer, journaling, a walk outside. Whatever sounds enjoyable and fulfilling to you.
  • Simplify your space
    Each day of the challenge you will declutter an item, but this will increase each day. For example, on day 1 of the challenge you will declutter 1 item; day 2 = 2 items; day 3 = 3 items; day 9 = 9 items; day 30 = 30 items. Make sense? Anything, big or small, can go! Donate, sell, or trash.

The less clutter, the more breathing room you have for what matters. -Emily Ley

Are you ready to truly cultivate peace and contentment? Let me know in the comments below when you will begin this challenge. I believe it has the power to shift your heart and create a happier home.

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How to spend less + make progress in your finances

How to spend less + make progress in your finances

Hi, my name is Rachel and I’m a recovering shopaholic.

After graduating college and one job change, I found myself in a job that paid us weekly. Is that the best thing ever or what!? Money was coming in weekly. I wasn’t rich in any sense, but I felt like I was and I certainly spent like I was. Amazon orders and other online shopping boxes showed up at the apartment at least weekly. I didn’t keep a budget. I just spent what I wanted until I literally couldn’t spend anymore.

I had my wake up call when I had to ask my parents for money because I didn’t think I could make the next bill. My parents are gracious and loving, so they didn’t think twice about helping me, but I was a grown, college educated, employed woman who needed help from her parents because she wasn’t handling her money well.

If you are in that place, no judgement at all. I’ve been there, but you don’t have to stay there. Please, learn from my mistakes.

It’s really hard to make progress in our finances when there’s no extra money left over at the end of the month. Maybe you have debt payoff or savings goals — those can’t be met without excess money to go towards it.

One solution: spend less.

Another solution: earn more.

Best case scenario is to do both simultaneously, but if you have to choose just one for now, choose to spend less. You may think that’s impossible. Keep reading because I’m giving you TWELVE tips that I have personally used to get out of debt and save more than I ever thought was possible for me. And I still use these tips. Are you ready to start making progress on your financial goals!? These are in no specific order except for #1…

#1: Budget + Track Spending

If you do nothing else, do this. Budgeting and tracking makes the biggest difference because you’re being mindful of where your money is going. And now that you’re paying attention, you’ll be more wise with it. You may even feel like you’ve gotten a raise! Once those numbers are written down, you can make the choices about where your next dollar will go. “Is it worth going out to eat when I have food at home instead of putting this $30 towards my goal?” That’s up to you.

#2: Utilize a wish list

My husband and I follow Dave Ramsey’s baby steps, so this is something I started doing once our debt was paid off and we had fun money to spend again. I made a note in my phone called “Wishes” and anytime I thought of something I wanted, I’d add it to that list. This gave me the space to really consider if I wanted/needed that item — many times the want for it would fade. I do the same with my Amazon Wish List. I don’t need to buy everything immediately when I want it. Impulse purchase cure.

#3: Don’t kill time in stores

This may seem obvious, but I would still do it. I would use Target or HomeGoods as a way to kill time during my lunch break or waiting for an appointment. We both know you never walk out of those stores empty handed. So, stop flirting with the temptation!

#4: Create + stick to a shopping list

Again, seems obvious, but I used to grocery shop without a list. That was dreadful because I would forget something and purchase way more than I needed. Now I go into stores with a purpose.

#5: Utilize reusable products

What kind of things do you buy often that you could switch out for something reusable? It’s probably the little things, but those add up. I love using straws for my drinks, but I hated having to buy them every month. I also hated the extra waste (#savetheturtles), so I spent $7 on Amazon for 4 stainless steel straws that will last me forever! I bought some magical microfiber cloths to clean my surfaces instead of having to use paper towels and cleaning supplies. It may cost a little more upfront, but it’ll help both your wallet and the planet in the long run.

#6: DIY

This can be applied to any area of your life. Instead of purchasing something, can you make it/do it yourself for free or cheaper? The first example that comes to mind is fruit/veggie cleaner. Instead of purchasing a $15 bottle, I make my own with products already in my kitchen. Another recent example: a tree fell in our backyard a few weeks ago during Hurricane Florence. We could have spent almost $5,000 to have a company remove it, but we decided to get a little help and do it ourselves. It costed us an afternoon — worth it.

#7: Declutter

If you want to change your life and your finances, decluttering is a must! You probably don’t realize the amount of stuff you already have. Why else would you buy 7 of essentially the same black t-shirt?? When you declutter, you will find things you forgot you had that are actually useful to you and you’ll see the things you do have (that you won’t need to purchase). Plus you won’t get suckered into buying all those fun organizational tools. You don’t need em if you don’t have so much crap.

#8: Meal plan + prep

Another one of those things that will take some time and energy upfront, but will save you so much! Meal plan, make your grocery list based on that plan/what you already have, grocery shop, then prep it. This simple rhythm will make your weeks smoother and more enjoyable. You won’t waste food because you’re buying what you need and using it, you won’t eat out as much, and you’ll eat healthier. All around winning!

#9: Get creative with dates

Spouse dates, friend dates — think outside the box. It doesn’t have to be dinner at a restaurant to be meaningful. Go for a walk. Cook dinner at home. Bring over a bottle of wine to your girlfriend’s house and catch up on their comfy couch. Have a movie night. There are many ways to spend time together that are free or super affordable.

#10: Be resourceful

Use the things you already have. I haven’t bought gift wrapping in years except for maybe a few times for wedding gifts. In a large bin I keep gift wrapping (bags, tissue paper, gift card holders, etc) that I’ve been given and use them for gifting others. I remove the labeling and clean out glass jars from candles, cooking supplies, sauces to use for storage. I check out books from my local library instead of buying every one I want to read. Little things add up.

#11: Simplify

Along the lines of decluttering, simplify your space, your schedule, your life. You don’t have to say yes to every event or get together. You don’t have to decorate for every single holiday and season. You don’t have to fill up your walls and counters with home decor. It’s okay to remove things from your plate.

#12: Contentment

Once I started being grateful for the things I already had, something in my heart shifted. As Rachel Cruze says, “live your life, not theirs.” You gotta do what’s best for you. Things will not make you happy. Doing more will not make you happy. Joy comes from within and I believe that starts with being content with your life.

Lets be free from the mindset that we must spend money to be meaningful, to have fun, to display our value. Money is a powerful tool, but when we use it mindlessly we hurt ourselves and others. You get to choose how you spend it. How you spent it demonstrates your priorities.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
-Matthew 6:19-21

In October, I want to challenge myself specifically in the area of contentment. I’ll be sharing all the details about this Contentment Challenge in an upcoming post, but if this sounds like something you want to grow in, stick around. I would love to do this with others!

Will you be using any of these tips? Share your favorite below ❤

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