I spent 21 days on the Paleo Diet. It was somehow both easier and more challenging than I had expected it to be. Here is an overview of my experience and some of the key discoveries I made by going Paleo.
- It was not nearly as limiting as I expected! I was pleasantly surprised how diverse my grocery cart and meals were every week.
- My culinary creativity expanded! I made things I never would think to make in my pre-Paleo diet. It was exciting to try new things- from snacks like clementines dipped in dark chocolate and almond slices, to vegetables like roasted cabbage and main dishes like sauteed shrimp and pork chops.
- I felt substantially healthier.
- My wallet shrunk more than my waistline. Eating fresh fruits, vegetables and lean proteins was not cheap! I found myself spending a lot more money than what I expected.
- Eating out was not easy. While eating at home was pretty manageable, eating out anywhere felt like a multi-phased balancing act. I tried to plan ahead when I knew I would be eating out but reading through menus was a frustrating reminder of all the delicious breads, pastas and other foods I was avoiding.
Overall Challenge Enjoyment: 7/10. I enjoyed the food I ate but it felt limiting to stay perfectly within the paleo guidelines.
Success in Completing Challenge: B. I had a few slips: croutons in my salad, a piece of bread, a sandwich but overall I felt pleased with my commitment.
Likelihood in Continuing Challenge: Moderate (but with some allowances)
I recently completed my 30 Day Minimalism Challenge. The challenge primarily followed the recommendations from Marie Kondo specifically highlighted in her book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up but also took inspiration from some of the other leaders in the minimalism movement.
In particular, I recommend:
After 30 Days I will confess that I have NOT become a ‘Minimalist.’ My house still is in varying states of clutter. I have not learned the art of packing all of my possessions into a single carry-on bag or taking beautiful Instagram photos of a single flower on an otherwise empty white counter. But, I have experienced a true change in how I view my possessions, and more importantly what and where I place value. I recommend this experience to anyone willing to go outside their comfort zone and truly examine their stuff.
Here are the 6 lessons I learned from my 30 days of going minimal:
- Don’t Fight the Process. I tend to approach a lot of ‘movements’ sarcastically and am inherently skeptical to practices that are deemed ‘life changing.’ In my first cursory scan of ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ it was easy to question the process and I rolled my eyes at the notion of holding each of my personal items and asking if they ‘spark joy’…BUT once I really committed to the process, my mindset changed. When I stopped fighting the process, it no longer felt cumbersome, and it actually became exciting to see how easy it was to shed the ‘stuff’.
- Focus on Now. As I combed through my closets, drawers, kitchen, office, bookshelf, and every knickknack in my house I found myself at times talking myself out of getting rid of certain items for various reasons. Sometimes these items were kept for sentimental reasons, but other times they were saved from the donation pile because they were things ‘I might use sometime in the future’. But when I did a mental inventory of some of the items in question, I realized that the bulky sweater that I haven’t worn once but have moved 6 times in the last 10 years because ‘I might need it when it is cold out’ or the salad Tupperware that spills whenever I put it in my lunch box didn’t have a future in my life. It is easy to hold on to things for future use, and sometimes there is a necessity to hold on to certain items. But by focusing on what fits now, your style now, what you need now it prioritizes what you have.
- Be Respectful to Other People’s Possessions. I set this rule for myself before I began my minimalism journey. Living with my boyfriend, means living with his stuff…And he has a lot of stuff. As I started creating piles of my stuff to get rid of, it became VERY tempting to just add some of his stuff to the ‘donate/throw away’ piles. But this was not his journey and I knew it wasn’t fair for me to take ownership of his stuff because of my new found motivation. Our compromise became an agreement that anything I found that I deemed ‘questionable’ or ‘undesirable’ would get placed in a pile on the kitchen table. He was encouraged to sift through the pile and reclaim anything he was not ready to get rid of. This felt like a comfortable arrangement for us. It let me declutter without throwing him into stress. Not everyone is going to be on a minimalism journey. Not everyone wants to get rid of their stuff.
- Save the Memories, Not the Stuff. I am a pack rat, holding on to mementos, trinkets, knickknacks, photos. One of the things I was most nervous about going through the sentimental stuff I have kept over the years. How do you get rid of the blurry photos from your junior high field trip or your old college notebooks with illegible scribbles or training manuals from old jobs? Well, it turns out it is pretty easy. Memories aren’t intrinsically tied to these items.
- Make it Personal. On the other hand, (and for the same reason I did not make decisions about my boyfriend’s stuff) only you can know whether something truly holds a value to you. Sometimes this isn’t based on logic but love. Sometimes you hold onto things because they just are an intangible part of you. There are some things I will never give away. They have no monetary value but I love them… my torn and faded ‘Second City Improv’ shirt from Chicago… my old sketchbooks... my t-shirt quilt.
- Love People, Use Stuff… Because the other way around doesn’t work. This is a simple lesson that sometimes we just need to remember. Stuff shouldn’t trump people.
Overall Challenge Enjoyment: 10/10! This really was a life changing experience. It was enjoyable and eye opening.
Success in Completing Challenge: A-, I may not be a ‘Minimalist’ but I fully embrace the practice minimalists follow.
Likelihood of Continuing Challenge (beyond 30 days): EXTREMELY! It’s calming to go through my house and declutter. Like Lin Manuel-Miranda says a la Hamilton “this is not a moment, it’s a movement’.
30 Days has come and gone, which means so has another challenge. At the beginning of February, I set off on a 30 day challenge to Get Fit. This included eating well (specifically avoiding junk food) and working out every day.
I definitely had some pitfalls and speed bumps, but overall I feel very pleased with the challenge. More than anything, I felt a sense of accountability for my actions. Not eating junk food meant paying a lot more attention to what I was eating. In the end I wouldn’t even say I really missed the junk food I was avoiding (although I did purchase a box of Raspberry Pop Tarts immediately after the challenge ended).
Overall Challenge Enjoyment: 8/10 Working out and eating well was a lovely change of pace.
Success in Completing Challenge: C+
Likelihood of Continuing Challenge: VERY!
We are rounding the corner to Day 30 of my Limited Spending Challenge.
Overall, it has felt like a pretty successful month. Excluding a few specific spending whims and indulgences (namely a spending spree on Black Friday and some online holiday shopping) I managed to stay pretty true to my budget of $80 per week.
Overall this month has forced me to become much more planned and organized. In a typical week, I put about $40-50 towards groceries. Keeping such a tight grasp on groceries really forced me to pay attention to what I was buying and concentrate on the priorities. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I could buy the essentials (brown rice, chicken, broccoli, salad, etc.) without sacrificing healthy choices. If anything, I discovered that much of what I spend in excess on is junk food.
This month has also unearthed a creative flourish of baking. Instead of spending money on various snacks, I managed to tap into my inner homemade baker. I also found ways to maximize leftovers by making new meals out of them and planning leftovers for lunch.
This challenge has given me the confidence to live with less. I feel strangely empowered to know that I can cut my spending by half of what I normally would spend and it has given me some savings that I can use towards my upcoming cross country road trip.
30 Day Review
Level of Success in Completing Challenge: B+
Likelihood of Continuing Challenge Beyond 30 Days: VERY! In fact, I plan to continue the challenge into December.