Curating Closets: One Work-out Outfit

I have never been one to stick to a work-out routine long-term. I find that we train our minds to have grit with certain things, but with physical activity, I haven’t had much practice. However, with the turn of the decade, for the world but also for myself, my thirtieth birthday brought on an awareness of muscle aches, tenderness, and fatigue. Instead of dwelling on the regretful lack of physical activity in my earlier years, I decided to start setting it all straight.

Since there are only two exercises that I ever liked, swimming and yoga, I decided to sign up for an unlimited membership at CorePower. I did this a year ago and regretted my decision from a financial perspective. But I realized that without the discipline for sticking to a regular workout routine, I would not get anywhere without a financial reason to push me. Spending money is a great motivator for someone who seeks getting the most value. The last year has taught me the value of outsourcing certain things in order to get high returns. I knew it was the right choice for me.

Which brings us to the topic of work-out clothes.

Having Just One

For those curating closets, I am here to tell you that one work-out set (a top and bottom) is enough for all of your work out needs. I attend yoga classes at least FIVE TIMES a week, and I have one set. In black, of course, not that that’s a pre-requisite for all. Just for me. (Why black? I like to streamline my clothes so that it works for every season. Your color could be rainbow, and that wouldn’t matter so much as the fact that it’s a color that works for you despite changes in weather or mood. For me, black looks good whether my skin is tan or not, whether my nails are painted a bright color or nude, and just makes me feel confident and comfortable overall. Curating closets, after all, is about knowing yourself.)

Maintenance

The secret with having a singular outfit is being pro-active with keeping work-out wear clean. The yoga sessions are heated and intense, and I don’t have an anti-sweat recipe up my sleeve. Yes, I do come out of those sessions drenched. But I shower right after those sessions and in the shower, I hand wash my top and bottom and hang them to dry. I am not so good (yet!) as to attend back-to-back sessions, so my workout attire can typically hang to dry until the next day. In the morning, I take the drying towels and yoga wear and toss it in my “yoga bag” which is nothing more than a ten-year-old enlarged shoulder tote that happens to fit a water bottle, my workout attire, and a yoga towel. At the end of every week, I toss the workout set into the wash with the other clothes.

Avoiding Decision Fatigue

One of the best things about having a curated closet is the avoidance of decision fatigue. Our brains require energy to make decisions and it is not proportional to the size of the decision. This means that making little decisions is just as taxing for our brain as making larger, life-altering decisions. To save brain power for the important stuff, I avoid having to choose for the smaller things in life, yoga attire included. Imagine how much stress and energy it takes to decide which outfit works well for you today while you are rushing to make class. My timelines are always filled with to-do’s, so it isn’t worth wasting time and energy on the mundane. Plus, I guarantee you’ll enter yoga class with a clearer mind, ready to accept all the benefits that the class has to offer, instead of fretting about whether you made the right outfit choice.

Easier Organization

I have met many girls who struggle with organizing their workout wear. Intricate straps make it difficult to hang and bulky to fold. Silky leggings slip right off the hanger. Drives a neatnik quite mad.  It helps to choose workout wear that skips all of that. For me, I have a T strap top with no inside bra cups to lose in the wash. It has an empress style body to hide the fact that I just engulfed a burger prior to class. The bottom of the top has a cinch that can tighten around my hips, for yoga inversions that tend to be unsuccessful. The leggings are cropped right underneath my knee caps, with enough coverage for the winter and enough air flow for the summer. The pants are fairly light, with a drawstring around the waist and no pockets.

Instead of trying to hang my slippery workout wear, I fold my clothes into tiny squares and toss in the bag. The bag hangs on a hanger in our bathroom, making it easily accessible when I’m ready to dash out the door and keeping it off the floor. The hanger is on a rod next to the shower, where I wash the clothes. When wet, the clothes hang on a shower curtain rod to drip into a tub until dry. The next morning they are dry enough to toss into the bag, which helps control clutter, and eliminating the need to search for them later on.

DSC00067

Accessories

I have only a few accessories for yoga. The first is a Maduka yoga mat which is inside a yoga mat bag that stays in the back of my car at all times. Inside this yoga mat bag is a yoga mat cleaner and a lock for the locker room. Additionally, in the cold winter months, I wear a white Eileen Fisher sweater. This sweater is dedicated to yoga only. I don’t wear this sweater for other occasions, and it stays inside the same bag as my workout clothes. I do not change the sweater I wear to yoga either. It is always the same (see “decision fatigue” above). Lastly, I have one yoga towel that I lay over my mat. This yoga towel is also folded inside the bag that holds my clothes. I lay this towel over my yoga mat, and also hand wash the towel with my clothes. I use this same towel to dry myself off after my showers, too. Then it gets hung up to dry on the shower rod, just like everything else.

Having a routine helps me focus on the yoga itself. It makes gym-going a calm and easy experience. For anyone looking to curate their closet, I would highly recommend trying this! If you already own a ton of workout wear, I wouldn’t get rid of them right away. Pick one and see if its an outfit that jives with you. See if you can do without the others. When you’re ready to finally pull the trigger and slim your closet down even more, donate!

I’d love to hear some of your curating closet tips! Leave a comment and say hello.

Plant Paper, A New Toilet Paper Alternative for Body and Eco-Conscious Individuals

This post is in partnership with Plant Paper, a toilet paper company focused on creating an everyday product that is both body and eco-conscious. All thoughts and opinions are my own. If you wish to check out Plant Paper in person, they can be found at OtherWild General – a bulk and zero waste store located in Los Angeles, CA. 

Environmental change isn’t going to happen overnight placed in a consumer’s hands. At least, not enough of it. Sufficient change required to turn the tide will involve support from large organizations and changes at the macro-level by government bodies. But as a person who believes in the strength of the smallest of action, I also think we, as consumers, have some power. That power is strengthened when our product choices are intentional, especially when buying products required for daily activities whose redundancy magnifies the effect of our actions.

So here we are again, talking about toilet paper.

Toilet paper is a privilege, which I spoke about in my original post featuring Who Gives a Crap.  But for most people in the United States, toilet paper is a “necessity”. And when certain household products are viewed as such, it becomes more urgent to source these products mindfully. If we can curb the way we use, purchase, and choose toilet paper, then we can really make an impact.

So after a year of advocating WGAC, which is based in Australia, I was ever so excited to come across a California company also shedding light on creating eco-freindly toilet paper alternatives.

Introducing … PLANT PAPER!

PP1

Plant Paper is a company imagined by Lee Reitelman and Joshua Solomon, two individuals who recognized that the ways in which we produce toilet paper does not align with neither our bodies nor our environment. The two then partnered with Scott Barry, creative director of LA’s all day breakfast joint, Sqirl, and on a December morning in 2019, I was able to hop onto a call with Rachel Eubanks, business and life partner of Scott.

The calling to create new toilet paper came after Reitelman and Solomon recognized the amount of energy, formaldehyde and chlorine it takes to convert wood to soft paper. We have a tree-based system of toilet paper-making that was not in effect until the Scott Brothers and Dupont Chemical got into the business. Prior to their invention of the toilet paper that we now see in our minds, toilet paper was made from hemp and sugarcane, both materials that take less chemicals and water to dissolve. The first person to ever invent toilet paper was actually Dr. Gayetty and his T.P. was of hemp!

Interestingly enough, when Gayetty first introduced toilet paper to the public, it did not take. Most consumers at the time could not fathom why one would pay for paper that you throw away. It wasn’t until after the 1880’s that toilet paper began to be seen as a product that signifies upper middle class status – and when you have a product that sells a lifestyle, well, it sells itself.

One thing’s for sure. With the growing attention on climate change, intentional living, and ethical consumer consumption, Reitelman and Solomon are right. “Tree paper should be, and will be, a thing of the past.”

PP3

Great for the Environment, Swell for the Bum

The focus of Plant Paper is to create a toilet paper that is good for the body and the environment. The amount of chemicals used in the production of paper used to wipe butts is a long list – the most toxic ingredient included is chlorine which is used as chlorine bleach.

When you think of toilet paper, what color comes to mind? Usually, white. All white toilet paper require a bleaching process that turns the paper from a natural brown tree-color to a color that is deemed “sanitary”. Plant Paper wishes to change consumer perception of what toilet paper looks like. Plant Paper is BROWN, and avoids harsh chemicals such as bleaching agents and formaldehyde. If we can get people to embrace naturally colored toilet paper, then we can eliminate unnecessary chemicals that we are essentially wiping all over our bodies.

In fact, I would wager that not many Americans are aware of the fact that 37 gallons of water go into every roll of tree paper, plus a gallon of chemicals. Chemicals such as bleach and formaldehyde are known to cause UTI’s, hemorrhoids, and fissures in our bodies. But these are things we’ve grown accustomed to because we don’t stop to think that there is another way. 50 to 60% of women will get UTI’s in their lifetime and half of all people will get hemorrhoids by age 50. Something to think about.

Additionally, we must consider the environmental implications. Options on the market for eco-conscious toilet paper include recycled paper such as that of Seventh Generation, which is where most conversations stop. However, the resources required to recycle paper are often more than simply producing from new trees. In a world where resources in general are running scarce, we must consider more than the number of trees we save. We must consider the true cost. Recycled paper is no longer an option that is good enough.

Plant Paper looked at alternatives to both trees and recycled paper. They landed on the notion of using a type of grass to produce their toilet paper. Grasses grow incredibly faster than trees do. They first considered hemp as an option but eventually landed on bamboo, one of the fastest growing grasses in the world. Bamboo can grow up to 36 inches every 24 hours. Because of this choice, they had to turn make their production China-based, which means there is the logistic of still shipping their toilet paper half-way around the world.

When asked how they mitigate that choice, Rachel from Plant Paper explains that they try to reduce the impact by shipping in containers and sending in bulk. This reduces the shipping frequency, and all fulfillment of orders originate from centers in North Carolina. Currently, all orders may only be made via their online site, but the goal is to bring ethical toilet paper to locations near you.

Their dream is to eventually create a dispensary system where people are encouraged to bring their own bag and take as many rolls home as they need. Currently, they have their toilet paper stocked at OtherWild General in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles. You can find Plant Paper in the Zero Waste/Bulk Section of the general store. Hopefully, these babies will start popping up at more folk shops and zero waste stores.

Beyond Environment and Health

To say that the environmental and health benefits are secondary to the real reason behind the creation of Plant Paper is true. This goes beyond current consumer trends and green washing and embracing the new status symbols of upper middle class. The true reason to buy a product like Plant Paper is simply because it is the best product out there.

We are a society trained to be content with unsatisfactory products and to accept that “it is what it is”, so much so that we even have a saying for it. We can no longer settle for mediocrity. We got to the point where we created recycled toilet paper with Seventh Generation, ticked off the box that said we were eco-conscious consumers, and stopped further conversation. But that’s not where it ends.

Plant Paper pushes the envelope to do more. How can we replace trees with a more sustainable material? How can we deconstruct the expectation that toilet paper should be white and thereby get away from all the chemicals? How can we reduce the amount of toilet paper usage all together? Perhaps we raise awareness of the recentness of toilet paper, and tell the story of it’s initial rejection by society. Perhaps we shed light on the fact that it is a monopoly controlled by one company, and that is why change at the macro-level is so difficult to achieve. All of this was discussed in my one hour conversation with Rachel, and it has got me excited about this company.

As Reitelman and Solomon worded it in another interview, we’ve created a hybrid car but the end point is an all electric vehicle.

The Verdict:

So now, the question most of you wish to be answered: How is the quality of toilet paper?

Plant Paper is double-sided and 3-ply. One side is soft and silky, what the team jokingly say is for dabbing, whereas the opposite side is textured, you know… for grabbing. With a smile on my face and a giggle in the air, I can see that it is this kind of whimsical thinking and creativity that has the power to change the world.

The branding for Plant Paper is simple, at best. Unlike Who Gives A Crap’s enthusiastic and colorful branding, Plant Paper may appeal more to minimalists who wish not to inundate their bathroom with colorfully wrapped rolls. If I am being honest, I myself prefer a more calm loo environment that reminds me of a zen spa and am relieved to know that such an eco-conscious option exists. Additionally, I prefer the buy-as-you-need approach of Plant Paper over the bulk orders of Who Gives A Crap. I think that what separates Plant Paper from Who Gives A Crap is their vision to be a wellness product in addition to being an environmentally friendly product, but what sells it to me is their hope to change a social norm by getting consumers to question, “Why?”

If you wish to try Plant Paper for yourself, I highly do recommend. I do not receive a commission from Plant Paper for your purchase.

DSC00064

Getting to Know: Michaela Puterbaugh, Founder of Starting from Within

Michaela Puterbaugh is a health and wellness coach based in Cleveland, Ohio, guiding people towards the balanced, healthy lifestyle that fits their needs. She followed her passion and opened Starting From Within, her own coaching program, in May 2019. Her emphasis on an individualized program deviates from the normally structured rigidity of other wellness programs that can sometimes suffocate the motivation needed to succeed. Health and wellness looks different for everybody. Likewise, the path getting there can also be different. Her program focuses on creating simple, everyday habits catered to your lifestyle that will promote life-long health benefits. Not only does she focus on a nourishing diet, but she also emphasizes the importance of lower stress levels, daily movement, and a good night’s sleep. Her belief in everyone’s own ability to heal themselves is what empowers so many of her clients.

I must admit that, in the year 2019, and for the majority of my life (barring 2018), when it came to choosing myself over other things, I was always the first thing to go. Between the bakery and sleep, my clinical patients and my posture, the dogs that needed sitting and my own cat, other people’s needs and my wants, the latter in all of those is what I gave up. I acknowledge that I am very bad at saying no, am very motivated by a desire to be perceived as good and successful, and am very much overwhelmed, stressed and tired at all times. I recognize now that, in much the same way that I needed help in developing my frugal muscles and honing in on the skills needed to set my finances up for future success, I also need guidance in doing the same for my own well-being.

I met Michaela online, randomly, like kindred spirits drawn to each other despite miles of separation. I loved her content at Starting From Within’s Instagram and her positive personality (good vibes welcome). I knew I had to share all the good things she is doing! I interviewed Michaela to share with you guys a little bit about what attracted me to her coaching style.

I also signed up for SFW’s health and wellness coaching program, as a gift to myself for the New Year and the New decade. Now that we’ve graduated from Certified Financial Planning services, it’s time to redirect those resources into continued learning elsewhere. If you’ve been interested in doing the same, now’s the time.

Here’s a bit about what Starting from Within has to offer.


SFW-6.png

Tell our audience a little bit about yourself.

My name is Michaela and I am originally from Canton, Ohio but now live in Cleveland with my partner Sam and our dog Arthur! I graduated from Oberlin College with a degree in Comparative Literature and Hispanic Studies but decided to follow my passion– health and wellness. I ended up enrolling in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and received my health coaching certificate in May of 2019! Upon graduating, I started my own practice called Starting From Within where I coach people individually, lead workshops, and teach wellness programs!

What inspired you to start your health and wellness coaching business, Starting from Within?

I have always been amazed by the power of nourishing foods and healthy lifestyle habits and their impact on overall health. I do not think enough people realize that their small daily habits matter when it comes to living a healthy life and preventing disease. I want to be a support resource for anyone who is trying to eat healthier, manage stress levels, incorporate daily movement, or sleep better. I do believe that each person is entirely capable of healing themselves if given the right opportunity which is why I named my practice Starting From Within 🙂

What are the services your future clients can look forward to?

I love to work with people through an individualized approach. People all have different needs, so I try to honor that individuality and not just apply a one-size-fits-all approach. I offer one on one, bi-monthly sessions (in-person or virtual) to get to know each other, set clear goals, and break those goals down into manageable steps. I always provide resources that align with my client’s overall health vision such as recipes, books, journal prompts, grocery lists, handouts, podcasts– you name it!  My mission is to help people improve their diet and lifestyle in a way that works for them.

What is your philosophy regarding health? Worded another way, what does being healthy mean to you?

To me, “being healthy” encompasses the state of our mental, physical, and social well-being. How we feel, how we think, how we move, how we eat, how we sleep, how we deal with stress, how we treat ourselves and how we treat others is a huge part of it. I think being healthy is about finding that balance between all of those things while living out our life’s purpose.

In what ways do you lead by everyday example? What are your daily health habits?

I love cooking with whole foods and creating delicious, easy plant-based meals for myself and my family. I also love exercising and try to incorporate some form of that into my days such as spinning, lifting, or running. I’ve learned that exercise for me clears my mind, gives me energy, and helps me sleep better at night. On a deeper level, I have been trying to get more in touch with my intuitive self through journaling and meditation each morning. I find that those two things are not only helpful in managing stress, but also great ways to get to know myself and my mind a little better.

On Instagram, you share numerous recipes for healthy eating. I love that your recipes are simply made and am very grateful that they hardly require a long list of ingredients. In terms of ingredients, what is your top advice when it comes to sourcing food?

SFW 2.png

 

Local, seasonal, and organic is ideal! Growing your own food is even better. However, not everyone can do that or is able to afford organic produce all the time. So I would recommend checking out the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen lists to know which fruits and veggies are heavily sprayed with pesticides and which aren’t.  I love buying produce from farmers markets because a lot of the local farmers grow their crops without pesticides even though they don’t have the organic certification.

My #1 advice for anyone is to try to eat food in its most pure form. So cooking with whole fruits and vegetables and avoiding things that have been heavily processed. With a little olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder you can make anything taste good!

I think that people get lost in all the fads when, in actuality, the best solution is to eat simply. I am a pretty big believer in eating what we have historically allowed our bodies to adapt to. The food industry is changing so quickly these days, and I believe that we are putting our bodies through a roller coaster ride, making it hard for our bodies to keep up with all the changes. What are your thoughts on that?

I completely agree. I think as a society we are actually really confused on what to eat, how much we should eat, when the best time to eat is, etc. Admittedly, it can get tricky since big companies and brands fund a lot of research and since food advertising is everywhere. I think that if we block out the background noise and really try to get in tune with our own bodies, the answers become a lot more clear. Each one of us has a completely unique biology, so I don’t think it is ever helpful to follow these fads or trends. By adhering to certain diets, we actually lose touch of our innate hunger and fullness cues and ignore what our bodies actually really need. This brings me to the concept of intuitive eating which involves rejecting the diet mentality and healing the relationship with food. This disconnection is an issue I see a lot in my practice and believe it is a bi-product of our diet-obsessed culture.

You probably expected this question, but what are your thoughts on the gluten-free fad? I am working with farmers preserving ancient heritage grains that are nutritionally beneficial to our bodies (freshly-milled prior to mixing). I try to adhere to traditional sourdough making processes in order to make bread more gut-friendly. I am worried that gluten substitutes will be part of the rapid changes that make up the roller coaster ride. What is your honest opinion?

I love the work that you are doing to ensure that your bread is made with quality ingredients! I really wish that our food industry was made up of more people like you who truly care about what they are offering to consumers. I personally am not gluten-free and don’t believe that everyone should be on a permanent gluten-free diet if they do not have celiac disease. The most important thing is making sure that the food we eat is made from quality ingredients. That goes for bread too. The typical bread laying on the grocery store shelves for weeks is usually loaded with preservatives, ultra-processed and yes, very inflammatory. However, so much of the gluten-free substitutes that are out there now are also super processed and made with a whole list of ingredients that aren’t any better for us. Whether you eat bread or not, make sure that whatever you are eating is made from high quality ingredients!

What are your top five staple ingredients to always have around in the kitchen?

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Sprouted oatmeal
  • Some type of cruciferous veggie (cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage)
  • Japanese sweet potato

What foods are best for energizing the body? How about the mind?

Any fruit or veggie in its most whole form nourishes the body and mind at such a cellular level. Knowing where your food comes from such as your local farmers market or your own garden also adds such an energizing quality to it because it was most likely grown with love and didn’t have to travel far to get to you. The way we eat also affects how we digest foods and use them for energy. For example, when we sit at a table, un-distracted and relaxed, we are creating the perfect environment for our digestive system to do what it’s exactly supposed to do. When we feel stressed, our body feels it too and can divert the blood flow away from our digestive system. That stress affects the way we digest food and absorb certain nutrients which can lead to gas, bloating, and indigestion. So back to your question– I believe that eating in a relaxed state and eating whole fruits and vegetables is the best source of energy for our mind and body!

SFW-3.png

Do you believe in foods that nourish the soul? For example, I know that coffee is sometimes considered unhealthy. But it enriches the soul in so many ways (mine anyway!). We think of health as a part of the physical world, but can health perhaps be a part of the spiritual as well? I don’t need coffee to be productive, but it sure warms me up from the inside.

I am so with you on that! Coffee often makes me feel very jittery but I love it because I am usually drinking it with good company in a cozy spot 🙂 I absolutely believe in certain foods that nourish the soul such as a grandmas old recipe or even a favorite childhood restaurant. My biggest piece of advice on that is to be completely present and fully enjoy whatever it is that nourishes your unique soul even if it’s not the best quality or the best for you. Connecting with food in that way can seriously go a long way for someone’s health!

SFW 4.png

I know your work mostly revolves around food, but real briefly, would you care to share some thoughts on exercise? If you had to choose between healthful eating and exercising, which would you prefer?

Oh gosh I don’t think I could pick between the two! They are both necessary components in my overall vision of well-being. I love exercising and believe it is super important! As I mentioned earlier, regular exercise has been shown to improve sleep and mood, increase energy, enhance cognitive function, and so much more! There are so many different ways to exercise but the most beneficial type is the one you LOVE to do. If it is something you love doing or if it makes you feel empowered, you will stick with it.

What is your favorite detox regimen?

I don’t necessarily believe in detox regimens or juice cleanses because our body does it naturally for us. However, I do think there are ways that we can support the natural detoxification process by getting quality sleep each night, drinking lots of water, eating cruciferous veggies, and drinking green tea. I also like to start my mornings with a big glass of warm lemon water which may also support detoxification.

These days, I hear more frequently that the cause of certain symptoms (such as skin problems) is stress-related. We live in a fast-paced world. In what ways do you show self-care?

Yes I really do think stress manifests itself in so many ways in the body. It also shows up differently for different people. I think it is more important than ever to find ways to manage stress and practice them regularly. For me, I love to have a consistent meditation practice. I also like to limit my time on technology to give my mind a break. Self-care doesn’t have to be expensive or look a certain way– getting outside, breathing fresh air, exercising, laughing, playing with my dog, having meaningful relationships are all forms of self-care in my book! We shouldn’t look at self-care like it’s a luxury, instead we have to view it as something that is completely necessary to our well-being.

I love that last thought on self-care as a necessity rather than a luxury. Lastly, in honor of the New Year, out with the bad and in with the good. How do you suggest we start anew?

I think realizing that at any moment, we have the opportunity to make a change so why wait until New Years? People put a lot of pressure on New Years resolutions and if they don’t end up working (which many don’t), they view themselves as failures. Instead, I would advise picking up a small habit that is aligned with a larger vision and start today! Starting out with small steps makes a bigger goal much more attainable and likely to happen. Always remember to treat yourself with compassion, be flexible, and view it is a learning process.

SFW 5.png

Favorite books: 

  • Intuitive Eating (to reject the diet mentality)
  • Deliciously Ella (a delicious, super simple plant-based cookbook)
  • In Defense of Food (to rethink our food industry)
  • A Monk’s Guide to Happiness (if you are new to meditation)
  • City of Girls (just a fun fiction read 🙂

This post is not sponsored by Starting from Within. All recommendations are truly from the heart and from experience. I have signed up with SFW’s health and wellness coaching program myself, in an effort to focus more on a balanced and healthy lifestyle. If you wish to look into what she can offer you for the new decade, set up a free 30-minute consultation here

Thoughts on: Mundane Action

There are times when I think about what people will think once this loan repayment journey is over. The most likely truth is that most of my journey will be forgotten. All of the middle ground where the suffering happened will be overshadowed by the end result. The happy ending will supersede all. As humans, it is natural to only remember the beginning and the end as we take away the life lesson but forget the mundane events of the everyday.

It makes me sad to think that they’ll look at what we’ve done in paying back $575k in student debt and immediately assume that the going was easy.

Explanations will arise, however inaccurate, that dismiss the difficulty of the task, as people say things such as, “Well, she was a dentist and made a lot of money. Of course it was doable.”

Excuses from colleagues about why it wouldn’t work for them will also ensue. “She had a husband who also made decent income”, “She was fortunate enough to have a bakery that took off”, and “She had her writing to help support such a hefty loan repayment.”

It makes me sad because if that were the case, if everyone forgot the effort, then this would be for naught. People will continue to believe that paying back debt is an unreachable goal. People will still avoid pursuing financial freedom, viewing it as attainable only to those who have luck on their side, or to those who have more than.

But none of that is true.

They say that it would be difficult to pay back debt if it is more than twice your income. Well, mine was almost quadruple my income. But I still pushed myself to do it.

I want people to know that my success will not be a result of me making TONS of money relative to my loans.

It will be because of penny-pinching habits, mindfulness, diligence, and hard work.

I want people to know that any success I have will not be because of sheer luck.

It will be because of a constant refining of the self, a vigilant search for the essentials, and a questioning of the status quo.

I hope people remember that it wasn’t easy. I have days I never speak of, spent curled up in a ball on the floor, my hand in fists, my eyes flooding with tears. There were moments full of self-doubt around both my abilities and my choices. Days when I felt lonely because I worked so much. Days my back hurt from doing dentistry and my shoulders hurt lifting cast iron lodge pans. I have burn marks on my arms and bags under my eyes. It isn’t easy, but it’s a meaningful life, and I want people to remember that.

Maybe then, it would help push them through the tough times when they are most ready to quit.

I was ready to quit, too. Hundreds of times.

This story will never be told as widespread as other stories, because it is not an overnight success. The tabloids, the news, the audience … none of them want to hear about mundane action. But it is mundane action that will make ordinary people do extraordinary things. It’s a shame because, well, the non-telling of my story will mean that Regular Joe’s will never reach their potential to be super-heroes. Students will continue to carry debt. Society will continue on with their life-cycle.

But if my story gets shared once or twice, I have hope that it saves a handful of people.

The younger a person hears a story about personal finance, the easier it is to reach financial freedom. In much the same way, the sooner a person with student debt is convinced of their ability to pay it back, the more money they save. Every day that they wait to refinance is a day wasted and a few dollars lost in interest. Every day a person debates about whether they can dig out of debt, they dig themselves a bigger ditch.

I write to empower people in small ways, which over time lead to big results. After two years of writing this post, I still do not believe in the word negligible.

A water carves its way into solid rock, and over-time, forms the rock into an easier pathway.

This is how I want to transform people.

I am no SuperWoman.

I am so very ordinary.

If there is one thing people remember about me and my story, I hope it is that.

 

My Favorite Things

1.This bakery

DSC06226

for all the joy its brought me and for giving me something to be thankful for.

2. This stack of books

DSC06246 - Copy

for reminding me of that special day.

3. This cat curled up in a ball

DSC06248 - Copy

for keeping us warm in the night.

4. This matcha latte and agenda pad

DSC06220

for keeping me energized and on task, respectively.

This hand-thrown espresso mug

DSC06207

for mornings full of pondering and reflection.

Simple Things: Photo books from Artifact Uprising

This post is sponsored by Artifact Uprising, a paper company celebrating memories for paper people.

When it comes to gift receiving, I err on the side of sentimental, favoring things such as freshly baked goods and home-made candles over easily store-bought trinkets. The more effort to make or find an item, the more value I place on it. This, of course, is my own bias, one that requires a bit more patience and generosity from those who are kind enough to tolerate my tendencies.

For those who have like-minded acquaintances but who wish to ease the holiday gift shopping, might I suggest a material gift worth buying that is equal in thoughtfulness?

DSC06178

These Artifact Uprising books are my most cherished books. Despite the dust that hovers over the cover from infrequent use, they are books that consistently bring a smile to my face when opened. Their ephemeral practicality is offset by their long-lasting insinuation of good vibes only. Apart from these books, I keep a small handful of physical photos that reside in a wooden box, most of which were, too, taken from the night we wed. These books are a collection of snapshot moments from that happy time.

DSC06239 - Copy

In it lies all the hope of a future ahead,
roads unpaved and in our control,
challenges accepted which we did not yet know,
triumph from overcoming hurdles which taught us we can
and trust in what forever is supposed to bring.

Custom photo books from Artifact Uprising are nothing short of gorgeous. Their layflat album is made from premium linen and comes in 12 color options and 5 album sizes. The wedding variety includes foil stamped text, preset or of your own design, in either gold, copper, silver, or white.  There is an option to include a protective wooden box to house your book and keep it safe. It’s similar to my own wooden box that keeps my prints and memory sticks.

Multiple book options are available as well. I personally chose a simple hardcover book with a sleeve depicting my most favorite photo. I like the simplicity of uploading and re-arranging that digital scrap-booking has to offer these days. Less fuss, for an equally fine finished product. The books are just as beautiful with or without the cover.

DSC06246 - Copy

However, if you prefer a more creative or tangible collection of memories, there is a scrapbook that you can physically put together, old-school style. The book comes as a binder, which makes the addition and removal of pages simple. There are envelopes for those who are inclined to pick up sea shells or fallen leaves as commemoration of stolen moments in time. Each scrapbook comes with a credit of up to ten free prints, as well as pen, note cards, picture corners, and adhesive. The option to provide the supplies makes it easy to gift to those acquaintances with whom you share very little or no photos, or who you know have a particular way of doing things … thinking only of myself here. I never said I was easy to love.

All Artifact Uprising products are made with utmost consideration for our environment. They use Mohawk Options Paper which contains 100% post-consumer fiber. All of the electricity used to manufacture the paper is matched with renewable wind generated electricity.

“Occasionally you’ll find a storied spec of this paper’s past from the recycled fiber within—we see these as beauty marks of a better choice for the environment.”

For their wooden products, they use reclaimed wood from already fallen pine rather than source from completely healthy trees. 250,000 feet of fallen pine has been reclaimed from the Rocky Mountain forests as AU works to harness wasted resources into products that  accompany life’s best experiences.

Photo books aside, if you are looking for other sentimental holiday gift ideas, here are a few.

+ A single large format print, and a minimalist frame to hold it in for the decorator.
+ Walnut desk top calendar, plus a wooden desktop frame for an office worker.
+ Table numbers for the engaged, and thank you cards for the newly wed.
+ A baby book for a new momma, and a baby board book for what the stork brought.
+ Custom folded cards as this year’s stationary set for someone you love, holiday cards for yourself.

A shipping reminder:

If you are gifting Artifact Uprising for the holidays, products must be ordered by December 15 with USPS shipping in order to arrive in time for December 24. Orders placed between December 16 and December 22 will need to be shipped using FedEx shipping for arrival by December 24.

This post is sponsored by Artifact Uprising, a paper company celebrating memories for paper people. TheDebtist may receive a small commission on the goods purchased from this post’s affiliate links. My utmost thanks for supporting brands that support this blog. 

Living Slow: Season of Becoming

This post is in partnership with East Fork Pottery,  a company slinging hand-thrown, timeless pottery in Oregon using regionally-sourced stoneware clay. Their beautiful food-safe glazes are made in house and lend their pieces character, but in an unfussy and classic manner. The collection is, truly, a treasure trove.

It’s been a bit quiet here for the past week, which should be indicative of the fact that I’ve been restless in real life, struggling with a personal decision that’s difficult to make. Usually that’s how it is. Cyber silence equates to a madness that requires its own space and time. But I wanted to put thought to digital paper for a moment, as an observance of this period of growth.

DSC06210

Last week, I was presented with an alternative job opportunity that, when on paper, holds better weight than my current position. However, there are some non-practical reasons why I want to keep my current position. Ultimately, it came down to production limited by the number of days, or production limited by fees. I had to consider adding a 1.5 hr  round-trip daily commute to my currently non-existent one in exchange for much easier work. I had to decide whether having newer and better materials that made my job easier was more important than sweeter and easier patients who made my job easier. I was pulled between something new and something familiar. It was a week full of angst, emotion, and pressure to make a decision. I sat by the window sill staring into space, deep in thought, reflection, and sometimes just straight up brooding. Tears were involved.

If I took the easier job that is farther away which has more difficult patients but newer materials, I would only work 2.5-3 days a week, and still make the same amount of production at 4 days a week. But when you add the hours of commute and subtract the amount of money spent on gas, those 3 days really equate to 3.6 days, and is that difference worth it. The physical work will be easier due to newer materials, but demanding patients increase the mental and emotional energy required to work. The gratitude will be centered around the ease of work, rather than meaningful work. Both cups are half-full. Which would you choose?

DSC06198

The paradox of choice is real. Both options are starkly different, but both are also good. My husband pointed out that I couldn’t go wrong either way. It’s a fantastic position to be in. But the fear of choosing wrong is what cripples. If the opportunity didn’t present itself, it wouldn’t be hard for me to continue what I was doing. There would be a distant nagging of the things I could improve if the practice were my own, but I wouldn’t be restless like I am now. When there is an alternative, it is much harder to ignore what could be.

Equally crippling is the feeling that a choice needs to be made. If I am going to leave  the first office, it would be best to tell them as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the office of opportunity is waiting on the sideline, seeing if I would take their job offer. I think it’s hard to be in-between. The pressure prevents any real growth.

In my life, I‘ve tried to reduce choice in order to increase bliss. In general, it has worked very well. While I don’t like choicelessness, I like having reduced options. But I know making choices is the hard part of growth. So choices need to be made.

I have an evasive tactic that I turn to when faced with difficult decisions. I just pick one -the one that intuitively seems most appealing – and then I move on with my life. I do that because I know I can always pivot. I do that because I know that there are worse things to choose from, and that outcomes in general are not bad  in the grand scheme of things. But I also know that I do it to alleviate the guilt, stress, and responsibility of that choice. I am only ever choosing one real thing – to run a way from my own discomfort.

This has led me to even deeper consideration for things beyond the job itself. The job, it’s just a stage in my life. In the end, neither choice is perfect, but neither is also wrong. Both are transient, not one being the end point. But I’ve thought about my tendency to run when things get difficult. My wish to reduce, in order to ease. My need to asphyxiate in hopes of control. My obsession with doing, instead of just being.

I can say I’ve been much better the past two years. Slow living has been a great mentor in that. But this is one of those moments where I need to tell myself, “Wait“. Instead of searching for clarity, wait for the fog of emotions to roll out and clear. Instead of wishing to tell people about it, wait for them to ask you of your thoughts. Instead of trying to get every answer imaginable, wait for that inner knowing to surface from within. Stay to see what happens, instead of going to see where the river runs.

I came across this quote  from @trustandtravel’s Instagram, and it spoke.

“Do not fast-forward into something you are not ready for, or allow  yourself to shrink back into what’s comfortable. Growth lives in the uneasiness. The in-between. The unfinished sentence. You are a season of becoming.”

-Danielle Doby

Becoming is a hard thing. But it’s also necessary. So much of the time, we do, and therefore we are. But we never just “be”. How do we ever expect to become?

The espresso cups in soapstone are perfect for tiny hands, mid-afternoon espresso shots, as well as after dinner green tea. For the bold, sake shots and other libations fit well within this tiny vessel. We are very much in love with this cups and can only speak highly of the quality and the beauty of these products. They are not placed in cabinets with the other dinnerware but are on display on open shelving. Today only, East Fork will be having a Seconds Sale. A discount of 30% will be applied to a handful of clay goods that did not quite make the cut. Although with slight blemishes, these pieces are still functional and beautiful. I urge people who have been hankering for dinnerware to consider salvaging these pieces and including them in your home. I appreciate East Fork for their zero waste attempt. Seconds sale begins at 12pm EST, and pieces will go fast (or so I hope). This post contains affiliate links and TheDebtist may receive a commission if  you so choose to purchase.

DSC06193

Prepping for a Mindful Holiday Season

It’s mid-November and I’m left wondering where the first half of the month went, let alone the majority of the year. It seems that as we age, our perception of time quickens,  as if a reminder that the time we have left dwindles. Perhaps this is why mindfulness becomes more relevant as we get older. Perhaps it’s why senility exists, as a pungent way to signal the world that we are focusing on the things that don’t really matter. I wonder if this blog brings that same sort of light, without the heartbreaking undertones of senescence. Hopefully, it has brought you something.

Today, I want to take the time, before holiday rush, to instill mindfulness in the home before good cheer takes away all thought in our fervent search for comfort and joy. Let us welcome the holiday season in all the right ways. We will be wishing and receiving all season long, which isn’t wrong per say, but I think it would behoove us to approach it with some serious thought so as to avoid the need to de-clutter and figure ourselves out all over again amidst the noise in 2020.

A few suggestions, nothing unheard of especially in this space, if I may.

  • Take stock. Make a mental note of everything you already own. Figure out ways in which they can do double duty in function. Find what is enough in your life, with an intention to add less.
  • Declutter. Always declutter. It seems my advice runs redundant but it signifies the habitual act of. Get rid of the noise distracting from the important parts of the holiday season. Hone in on what brings you true joy. Strengthen the ability to know what holds value and what does not. This will also help with the selection of which social obligations you commit to, lest you run amok trying to please everybody and not enjoying the season at all.
  • Write your wish list early. And then publish it late. In the meanwhile, edit, edit, edit. Treat your wish list like a draft. It’s similar to pausing prior to purchasing things. Sometimes, it’s even more important to do because of the ease with which we can ask for things. Sleep on it. Search the house for dopplegangers of stuff (are you asking for things you already own?). Prioritize, putting needs at the top and considering making do without the wants. Perhaps you’d like to request consumable giftsFor ideas, a simple holiday gift guide.
  • Focus on the non-material. Not just in gift-giving and wish-making, but also in the doing. Forego the stresses of perfect Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas mornings. Rather, revel in the gathering. Spend less time thinking about what to wear in to the holiday party and more time focusing on the conversations you wish to have. Et cetera. If you need a reminder, create an advent calendar for a slow holiday season. If you’d like to take it a step further, write a no-gifting letter or say no to Secret Santa.
  • Simplify. Instead of asking for ten things from one person, ask for one or two thereby lightening their need to make even more decisions. Instead of decking halls this year, maybe go bare to save you from entering 2020 with a large amount of un-decorating to do. Instead of ordering holiday cards, email a digital picture. There are many ways to simplify, some of which I’ve written about here and here.

I am always of the mind that we need to prepare for the holidays in different ways. In doing less and thinking more. It’s worth a try, in hopes that we all enter the new decade with truer joy, and a lot more peace.