This Is Thirty-Five: Four Questions To Discern The Voice of God

Photo by  Allen Taylor  on  Unsplash

Photo by Allen Taylor on Unsplash

Preface: December 2nd was the first day of Advent in the She Reads Truth Advent series. Last night’s scripture reading was from Micah 7:7:

“I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation. He will hear me.”

Read on to find out why that scripture on that day was significant…

Yesterday, I gave birth to my blog baby. Nine months ago, I launched This is Thirty Four into the world. Like birthing an actual child, I’ve coddled this website and the dream of a writing career from the day it was conceived. Also similar to an actual child, I made lots of assumptions about what “it” would be like: what I would write about, how many “followers” I would gain, what opportunities I would be presented with.

What I didn’t think of was how the process of writing and sharing my life would change me. Nine months ago I couldn’t have foreseen the way that God would use what started as my desire to achieve and be known to HUMBLE ME and help me understand what it means to FIND MY IDENTITY AND MY REST IN HIM.

“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

Nine months ago, I thought I’d use This is Thirty Four to tell the story of my own victory over challenges I’ve faced in life. Yet, during this gestational period, I realized that it isn’t my victory or my story at all. MY LIFE IS A TESTIMONY TO GOD’S POWER, GRACE AND MERCY.

How did I recover from an eating disorder in my early 20s?

BY THE GRACE OF GOD.

How do I live with and fight anxiety attacks as they threaten to steal my joy?

BY FILLING MY HEART AND MIND WITH HIS TRUTH.

How can I cure the ails of perfectionism and stop placing so much emphasis on material things? By remembering that I AM ONLY MADE PERFECT BY HIS BLOOD and EVERYTHING I HAVE IS FROM HIM.

Any story I share is one HE has written.

“He must increase, and I must decrease.” John 3:30

I turn 35 on Friday. What has been one of the most challenging years of my life is finally coming to a close. The past few weeks, I’ve been reflecting on the lessons I’ve learned this year. Here are two:

I can make plans for the future, but the Lord directs my steps each day.

More of Him. Less of me. In all things.

Can I be honest? I’m embarrassed that it’s taken me 35 years to figure these things out. I wonder if I could have learned these lessons earlier and in another way; but I don’t think so.

We see the blessings God has given us in the good times, but we EXPERIENCE GOD and GROW TOGETHER WITH HIM in our difficulties. The easy seasons of life call us to praise what God has done. The hard seasons show us who God is and how much we need HIM to guide us every step of the way.

I assumed that when the tough stuff ended--when I made it to the other side of my year of “wandering in the wilderness”--I’d emerge with clear direction and renewed focus, both for my writing and my life. I spent months praying for clarity, and God seemed silent.

Sometimes the wilderness can end, but the waiting continues.

The closer I came to 35, the more frustrated I became over God’s silence. Not only would the URL I (poorly) chose no longer make sense (if it ever did), but I could not reconcile the feeling that I was supposed to keep writing with the lack of direction for what to write about.

Until yesterday…

I was cooking breakfast when the phrase came to me:

STYLE YOUR LIFE FROM THE INSIDE OUT.

Immediately, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and excitement. I paused and reflected on where the words came from. I wasn’t thinking about anything other than eggs at the time.

STYLE YOUR LIFE FROM THE INSIDE OUT BY KNOWING JESUS, LOVING WELL AND BEING INTENTIONAL.

It even fit with my core values, the things I’m passionate about and what I’ve already been sharing.

And then it hit me: Those words were from HIM. At what felt like the 11th hour, God showed up. On the day of my blog’s “birth,” He answered my prayer for clarity, not just for this website but for my 35th year of life.

KNOW JESUS. LOVE WELL. BE INTENTIONAL.

So how do I know that those words were from God?

To a certain extent, I don’t. We can never TRULY know, this side of Heaven, whether we have heard the voice of God. If we could audibly hear His voice or know with 100% confidence that He was telling us to do something, we wouldn’t need faith. I once heard a pastor say, “On the outside chance I heard God, I’m gonna do what He told me.”

Same here, Pastor.

When I think I hear the voice of God, I do ask myself a few questions. If the answers to these questions are yes, then I (usually) take it as a green light to move in the direction I feel Him leading me.

1.)  Did I pray about it?

2.)  Is what I think I’m hearing God tell me to do in line with Biblical truth?

3.)  Do I feel a sense of peace about what I’m hearing?

4.)  Have other people or life circumstances aligned and affirmed what I’m hearing?

This is, by no means, an exhaustive list of questions; and of course, if the decision was about something bigger than the direction to take the content of a website, I would talk with more people, continue to read scripture and PRAY, PRAY, PRAY.

But for now, for this decision, I can confidently say that God spoke, and I am listening.

One more thing before I go…

I mentioned this post on social media last week. At the time, I only had a few lines of it written. Last night, I sat down to write and couldn’t come up with a single word. So it seems, we’ve come full circle.

Any story I share really is one that HE HAS WRITTEN.

“I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.” Micah 7:7

Simplify September: Calendar and Details

Photo by  Steinar Engeland  on  Unsplash

In less than 24 hours, it will be September 1st. Because I am a planner--and I think many of you are too--I'm posting the details of the Simplify September project TODAY! That way, you can hit the ground running tomorrow morning! 

The whole point of Simplify September is to make our lives less complicated. Things tend to get busier and busier during the last few months of the year. Simplify September is a way to slow down, scale back, clean up and figure out what's really important to you. That way, when the holiday season hits (believe it or not, it's just around the corner), you'll know who, what and how to prioritize in order to spend as much time as possible with the people who mean the most to you. 

There are five elements to the Simplify September project: 

1.) The 30-day Simplify September calendar (posted below)

2.) The Simplify September Meal Plans. Week One here. Week Two here

3.) The Simplify September capsule wardrobe

4.) The Simplify September reading plan (more info below)

5.) The Simplify September workbook (more info below)

YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DO ALL THESE THINGS.

You can do some of them. You can do most of them. You can do none of them and simply follow along and see what other people are doing. Pretty much everything in the Simplify September project can actually be done during any month of the year. 

 The Simplify September 30-day calendar is at the bottom of this post. 

Each week on the calendar, we take on a different area of life. In week one, we clear the physical clutter. In week two, we calm the mental chaos. In week three, we simplify our schedules; and in week four, we work on our relationships. Some of the items on the calendar repeat themselves. That's because they are REALLY THAT IMPORTANT. If you find one suggestion extra helpful, try incorporating it into your daily, weekly or monthly routine. 

On Sundays, we meal prep and reflect.

Every Sunday, I will post a new meal plan--with recipes. The meal plans will be updated weekly. Week one is here. Week two is here

I will also take time to reflect on the previous and upcoming week; and I encourage you to do the same. I've created a workbook for each week that includes questions to help you with those reflections. 

If you want the Simplify September workbook and weekly encouragement from me in your inbox, sign up for the Simplify September email list below. 

You can find information about the Simplify September capsule wardrobe here. This includes links to most of the items I'm wearing next month. 

And finally, the Simplify September reading plan is so simple that it doesn't need it's own post: Simply read one chapter from the book of Proverbs every day for the next 30 days. There are 31 chapters in Proverbs, so you'll have to read two chapters one day this month. That's it.

One more thing before you go...

In addition to my Tuesday Truth (Tuesday mornings at 7 a.m. PST on Instagram Live), I'll be doing some bonus Instagram Lives throughout the month. I'd love to have some of you join me on those Instagram Lives to talk about the Simplify September project and what you're learning through it. Send me an email and we can try to set up a time for a LIVE CHAT!  I'll also be using the #simplifyseptember hashtag when I post something related to the project on Instagram. Feel free to tag your Simplify September posts with the same hashtag! 

Everything about Simplify September is supposed to make you feel more calm, more organized and more present for the people and things that matter. If something in this project makes you feel stressed out or frazzled or anxious or not good enough, DON'T DO IT! 

I'm so excited to calm the chaos in our minds, relationships, time and possessions with you! Let's Simplify September together! 

Simplify September Calendar

This calendar was designed by my friend  Amy at Amy's Art Table . 

This calendar was designed by my friend Amy at Amy's Art Table

On Fall Fashion Trends and Dressing Confidently with Style Thief Fashion's Erin Stoll

Photo by  Pete Bellis  on  Unsplash

Photo by Pete Bellis on Unsplash

I met Erin Stoll of Style Thief Fashion five months ago, and the experience changed my life. Ok, maybe meeting Erin alone wasn’t life changing, though she is pretty fantastic. Erin and I met at Rachel Hollis’s RISE Conference. Going to the conference, soaking in wisdom from Rachel and the other speakers and meeting an AMAZING tribe of women who have now become REAL LIFE FRIENDS has made a huge impact on my life and this website.

Erin is hilarious, real and so freaking adorable. I knew we’d be friends from our first conversation. Thanks to the magic of social media, we talk weekly—sometimes daily—even though she lives in the Midwest. Watching Erin rock her fashion styling and wardrobe editing business (while working full time for Special Olympics and being a wife and mom) is a huge encouragement to me to keep pursuing MY dreams, despite how busy the rest of my life might be.

Today, Erin’s sharing her favorite fall trends, the five pieces you MUST have in your wardrobe at all times and how she edits women’s EXISTING WARDROBES to help them feel more confident. I know you’re gonna love Erin as much as I do by the end of this interview…

Jenn Prentice (JP): Oh hey, friend. Thanks for chatting with me. First thing is first, tell everyone about yourself.

Erin Stoll (ES): Why is this the most difficult question? I am so many things! I will narrow it down to this: I'm a wife, mama, lover of people and shoes. I live in Omaha, Nebraska and I love coffee and chocolate…probably too much! 

JP: We met in April, only a few months after you launched Style Thief Fashion. Since then, I’ve watched you and the business BLOOM. You just hosted a styling session with Evereve, and you’re headed to Omaha Fashion Week. Tell me more about Style Thief Fashion and what inspired you to start it.

ES: I have loved fashion my whole life. As a teenager, I read Vogue and tried so many trends (some good and some that were so SO bad). It took me a long time to find my style; but through trial and error, I eventually discovered it. Basically, I would see a look in a magazine and think "I have a dress like that and I could find a similar shoe and add some jewelry." I figured out how to put my own spin on the trends I saw while staying true to what worked for me. Eventually, friends started calling me and saying "Hey I'm going on a date and I don't know what to wear!" or "I want to come borrow your dress, shoes, jewelry." I loved helping them find the perfect outfit.

I had the idea to start a blog when blogging first became big, but I talked myself out of it. I thought: "Why would anyone listen to me? Other women have blogs like this. It’s already been done." You know, all the things we say to hold ourselves back. But then I turned 40, and I felt fearless! Around Christmas of 2017, I had friends at my house for a solid week, asking for my help styling them for their holiday party, holiday getaway, etc. I thought: I could do this ALL DAY. So, I decided to go for it, and I launched Style Thief Fashion in January of 2018.

JP: Where did the name come from?

ES: The name Style Thief came from the idea that I would "steal" looks I saw in magazines, on Instagram, etc. but still make them my own. With my business we are essentially taking away your old look and finding a new you. 

JP: I love that tagline because it feels easy and accessible; and I think a lot of women feel intimidated by fashion and trying to stay “on trend.” What’s your goal with Style Thief Fashion?

ES: My goal is to help women find their unique style and feel confident, no matter what. I’ve struggled with my weight and accepting my body since I was young. Growing up, I would put on outfit after outfit trying to find the perfect thing and end up in tears on my bedroom floor. I’m a lot more confident in myself now—though I definitely still have my days. I want to encourage women that no matter what their size, no matter what is going on in their life, they can feel amazing in their clothes and their bodies when they understand what works for them.

JP: How does the styling process work?

ES: It's important to me that each client I work with focuses on who she is TODAY. We start by clearing out the "clutter"--physically and energetically. I know it sounds "woo woo," but women tend to emotionally hold on to clothes that they used to wear because of a memory attached to them. Or they hold on to clothes because they reflect a size they want to be again. I firmly believe that your wardrobe should reflect you NOW. When we find what works for your body, your lifestyle, your job, your life NOW, you aren't clinging to the past or waiting for the future. You are embracing who you are and that is the path to finding your true style.

JP: Yes, yes, yes!!!!!! I could not agree more with everything you just said. So, let’s dig into that a bit more. How do you think clothes impact our lives as women?

ES: I think clothes have a tremendous impact on women—even if we don’t want to admit it. How many times have you had a great day then you put on a pair of jeans and they feel tight? Or you go into a dressing room and your "normal" size doesn't fit? Or how much money have you spent on an outfit you don't really like but you wear it to fit in with the moms at school, or you want to look "on trend"? While we shouldn't let the size of our jeans or finding the perfect outfit have so much control over our mood, we can't deny that when we have on an outfit that fits our body, is comfortable, or makes us feel powerful, we can take on the day-whatever that looks like for you. When you know your unique style, you can get dressed without all the other drama getting in the way. If you know that when you open your closet you LOVE everything inside and it ALL fits, you can move on and focus on your family, your career, your relationships--the REALLY important stuff!

JP: This is why I’m doing a Simplify September Capsule Wardrobe. Less time worrying about clothes. More time for other things. Speaking of September and clothes. What are your top five fall trends?

ES: Only five? Ok. I can do this…

1.) A great fitting pair of dark or black denim. While I still love a distressed jean, this Fall a clean pair of dark or black denim will take you from the soccer game, to work, to date night.

2.) A (faux) leather jacket. I also love the look of a moto jacket for fall. It can be dressed up or down. 

3.) A blazer. Menswear inspired blazers are big this fall! Herringbone, tweed and plaid are all great choices. Keep the color neutral and the fit slightly oversized. 

4.) A black boot. Something like the classic Chelsea boot will go with jeans, dresses and skirts; and you can find a version of it to fit your budget almost anywhere!

5.) Prints! I would choose a button down shirt in one of the following: plaid, animal print or floral. All 3 prints are big and can be worn in countless ways. Choose your favorite and rock it with all of the above. Or pop a print in a dress, shoe or jacket. 

JP: What are your top five wardrobe staples?

ES: This is easy! 

  1. 1. Denim Jacket. It will always be the number one item on my list
  2. 2. Black Dress  
  3. 3. Chambray Shirt
  4. 4. Three pairs of jeans (I know I'm kind of cheating here!) A distressed boyfriend jean, a clean darker denim, and a lighter wash. 
  5. 5. Basic tanks and tees in White, grey, black and a stripe. 

If you have all of the above, you can build SO MANY outfits! 

JP: Well, I gotta say I’m breathing a sigh of relief. I have everything you recommended in my closet, which is good since I’m not buying any new clothes, shoes or accessories until next May. Let’s shift gears again. Two more questions, both a bit more serious. You have daughters. What do you hope they know and understand about clothes and their bodies and how are you trying to model that through your work? 

ES: Whew! Girl this is THE question right here. Well first I want them to love and accept their bodies, and I know the best way to do this is to model this behavior for them.  I still struggle with this some days. It is a journey and I'm still on it! I focus on what their bodies can DO not what they look like. I also let them pick out their own outfits! They know what they like and I love watching them express themselves with their clothes. 90% of the time its not an outfit I would choose for them. My oldest literally throws on whatever is clean, and my five year old would wear a tutu and sequins every single day! But if they feel great, that is what matters! We'll see if I'm still feeling this way when they are teenagers!

JP: Last question. I’m asking everyone I interview this one. At the end of your life, what type of legacy do you hope to leave?

ES: I hope they say that I made them laugh and that I had the best shoes! Ha! No, but really, I want the people I work with and the people I love to know that I believe in them. I want them to feel as though I inspired them to embrace who they are. It took me so long--WAY too long--to do that for myself. So I want to give women permission to embrace who they truly are, and help them find a way to express who that is through their clothes. I want my family and friends to know that I love them FIERCELY and that its never to late to find your inner badass! She's in there!

JP: So where can people find you and get in touch? 

ES: I'm on Instagram at . They can also email me at stylethieffashion at gmail dot com.

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Simplify September: Capsule Wardrobe

Photo by  Alexandra Gorn  on  Unsplash

It’s now October 2nd. The capsule wardrobe experiment is over, and I could not be happier. I have included a few updates that I made to the Simplify September capsule wardrobe below. Here are my final thoughts on capsule wardrobes in general:

  • If you like fashion or variety, a capsule wardrobe is probably not for you.

  • If you have a well-edited closet already, no matter how many pieces you have in it, a capsule wardrobe is not for you.

  • If you live in a place without discernible seasons (ex: the Central Coast of California, where it could be 85 degrees one day and 65 degrees the next), a capsule wardrobe is not for you.

  • A capsule wardrobe is meant to simplify the “getting ready” process. If, at any point, doing a capsule wardrobe feels stressful then A CAPSULE WARDROBE IS NOT FOR YOU.

_________________________________________________________________________________

Confession: Being a fashion blogger is top three on my list of dream jobs. You get free clothes, an excuse to take selfies and a rabid fan base that thinks you look good in just about anything. Count. Me. In. 

The problem with fashion blogging, is the materialistic world in which it exists. Having things and looking a certain way in those things have always been my achilles heel, and being a fashion blogger would only feed that beast. Ironically, I've come closer to my dream of fashion blogging in the last three and a half months of NOT buying clothes for an entire year. The beauty of posting outfit selfies while not buying clothes for a year is that it removes (most of) the materialistic aspect from the equation; and that's what I'm hoping the Simplify September Capsule Wardrobe will do too. 

In case you missed it, my Simplify September project kicks off September 1st. It's a month-long project to go from chaos to calm the last few months of 2018 (or at least the month of September). Because I'm not shopping for a year, I created the Simplify September Capsule Wardrobe (which I'm releasing today so you have time to create one of your own) with items I currently have in my closet. While I linked some similar items below (not affiliate links), the goal isn't to make you feel like you need to purchase something.

The goal of the Simplify September Capsule Wardrobe is to show you--and myself--that WHAT WE HAVE IS ENOUGH. No article of clothing, pair of shoes, handbag, NOTHING can truly make us feel more confident in who we are. Sure, material possessions can give us a temporary high, but until we understand that who we are RIGHT NOW, THIS MOMENT, FLAWS AND ALL, is enough, we'll keep trying to fill a hole that simply can't be filled with the things of this world.  

Ok. Enough soapboxing. Here's how the Simplify September Capsule Wardrobe works: 

1.) Pick 30 items, including shoes, handbags and accessories but excluding pajamas and workout clothes to wear for the month of September. (Sidenote: When I wear workout clothes, it's because I am headed to the gym. I shower and change almost immediately afterwards. If you are into the athleisure trend, then workout clothes will need to be included in your capsule wardrobe.)

2.) Wear those 30 items--and only those 30 items--during the month of September. 

3.) Post your outfits on Instagram using the hashtag #SSCapsuleWardrobe. 

Here's what my Simplify September Capsule Wardrobe looks like: 

IMG_7172.jpg

Here are the principles I used to create it:

1.) Pick items in the same color families. 

2.) Choose items that will transition easily from day to night or work to play. 

3.) Decide what items you love and what you can live without for a month. For instance, I can use the same tote bag and minimal accessories for 30 days, but I need a variety of shoes. 

Other things I considered when creating a capsule wardrobe: 

1.) The weather 

2.) Upcoming activities and events 

Finally, here are some of my favorite items from my personal Simplify September Capsule Wardrobe: 

1.) Longchamp Tote Bag (mine is gray)

2,) Leith Tank Dress (color: tan)

3.) Billabong Sea the Sun Kimono

4.) Backless mules

5.) BB Dakota Faux Leather Jacket Update 10/2/18- I swapped this for a basic black top to wear on girl’s nights out. More versatile, and the weather didn’t end up being as cold as I thought it was going to be at night last month.

6.) Loft Boyfriend Jeans

7.) Distressed Black Jeans

8.) Striped cardigan

9.) Black bodysuit tank top

10.) Black maxi skirt - **Update 10/2/18- I swapped this for another pair of jeans.

I'll admit, I'm a bit nervous about this whole experiment. September weather where I live can be anywhere from high 80's to low 60's, so figuring out what items to include in my personal capsule wardrobe was a bit of a stretch. Still, I'm committed to showing you guys--and proving to myself--that I can get by on less and still feel confident in who I am!

Comment below if you're joining the Simplify September Capsule Wardrobe challenge, and let me know one item you're planning to wear! 

***8/21/18 UPDATE***

Some of you asked about the rest of the items in my capsule wardrobe. Here they are: 

11.) Graphic tee (You can design your own here!!!!)- Update 10/2/18- I swapped this for a more versatile blue button down shirt.

12.) Black v-neck t-shirt

13.) White v-neck t-shirt

14.) Tan Peep Toe Booties (similar here

15.) Cole Haan Sandals (similar here

16.) Black Peep Toe Booties (similar here) - Update 10/2/18- I swapped this for my favorite green jumper. I wear it all the time and should have included it in my capsule wardrobe initially. 30 days without wearing it would have been a BIG MISTAKE.

17.) Gray tank top

18.) Denim jacket

19.) Statement belt

20.) Cropped dark wash skinny jeans 

21.) Striped bell sleeve shirt (similar here)

22.) Gold Statement Earrings (similar here

23.) Basic gold stud earrings (similar here

24.) Lightweight black blazer (similar here

25.) Denim shorts

26.) Off white cardigan

27.) Gray circle cardigan sweater (similar here

28.) Off white tank- Update 10/2/18- I swapped this for a pair of statement earrings. Turns out, I DO like wearing a variety of accessories.

29.) Knit pullover sweater (similar here

30.) Floral shell tank top (similar here

12 Ways To Live Intentionally Today

In 2008, I started a blog called The Style Geek where I wrote about the intersection of fashion and technology----years before Instagram and Pinterest launched and well before the term "brand influencer" was in our common vernacular. Women like Emily Schuman of Cupcakes and Cashmere and Joy Cho of Oh Joy started blogging around the same time. They, along with so many others who hopped on the blogging bandwagon back them are now millionaires..and I'm, well, not. 

So what happened? Why did Emily and Joy succeed and I didn't?

First, they didn't give up. They consistently produced quality content, even when it felt hard or they weren't motivated. I, on the other hand, was often too tired from working a full time job and binge watched "How I Met Your Mother" on Netflix instead of pursuing my dream of being a successful author. 

Second, they remained confident in themselves. I'm sure they had days, weeks or even months of self-doubt, but they didn't let temporary discouragement or anxiety influence the course of their lives. I spent a lot of time looking at what THEY were doing, told myself "I could never be like them" and threw in the towel. 

Third, they managed the "everyday chaos" of life (their minds, schedules, relationships, money, etc) so that they could focus on what mattered most and reach their goals. Ten years ago, I was still getting control of the basics of life: managing my anxiety, learning how to be a good friend and wife and figuring out how to spend my time and money. Launching a blog and pursuing my dreams was pretty far down on my to-do list and seemed like something only people with money, intelligence or some sort of magic could do.

If I had known then what I know now, I might be farther along in my career than I am today. Emily and Joy weren't richer (at the time), smarter or more magical than me. They just kept going, remained confident and controlled their chaos a little better. And yet, I'm grateful for my journey--for the struggles and the self-doubt and even for the fact that I shuttered The Style Geek after a few months--because all of it brought me to today. To thirty four years old. To this blog and this post. 

My goal with (re)launching This Is Thirty Four is to create a space on the Internet where women can come to find encouragement and practical tips for how to find freedom from the "everyday chaos" of life, so that they can live more intentionally and spend time on what truly matters. To be honest, I'm still a work in progress myself. Most of what I write on here is just me, preaching to my own heart. By God's grace, I'm growing in new ways every day, and if something I write on here can make another woman's life a little easier, then I'll consider this whole thing a success. 

Now about those practical tips I just mentioned...

Since this blog is called This Is Thirty Four and since I'll be talking primarily about how to manage our minds, relationships, time and possessions, I created a list--a manifesto, if you will--of 34 things you can do RIGHT NOW to start living more intentionally in the aforementioned areas of life. I've listed 12 of my ideas for intentionality below, and you can join my newsletter list below to get the full list! The Monthly 34 email goes out on the 30th of every month, so you'll get this month's edition delivered to your inbox tonight! 

For now, here are 12 ways to start living more intentionally TODAY: 

Intentional minds:

  1. Start your day off centered- Meditate, pray or read your Bible. Then, write down three things that would make today great and three things you are thankful for. 
  2. Listen more than you watch- Queue up podcasts about topics you enjoy (I'm always sharing my favorites in my Instagram stories), and listen to those instead of watching TV. I quit watching TV (with the exception of a Monday night Bachelorette viewing party with friends and the occasional Netflix comedy special) earlier this year. I cannot believe how little I miss it or how much I've grown from listening to podcasts instead. 
  3. Realize that people think about you far less than you THINK they are thinking about you. That conversation you keep dwelling on or that thing you had stuck in your teeth or that time you ran into your boss while you were wearing a bikini at the beach. No one is thinking about it more than you are. Stop wasting mental energy on something that's not really that important after all. 

Intentional relationships: 

  1. Make a list of people who are important to you, but who you haven't talked to in a while then text them just to let them know you're thinking about them. I guarantee it will make their day! 
  2. Don't mix phones with food. If you're eating a meal with someone, put down the phone and engage in conversation with them instead. 
  3. Let your "yes" be "yes." If you told someone you would be there, be there. Keep your commitments to others and they'll keep showing up for you. 

Intentional time: 

  1. Put down your phone- Full disclosure: This is something I'm still working on. I'm TRYING to designate specific times of day to check social media and texts and then put my phone down the rest of the day. I think I'll be a lot more productive, and I know I'll be more present with my friends and family. 
  2. Prioritize your day- At the end of each day, take a look at the next day's schedule and to-do list and decide what MUST get done first and what can't be put off one more day. 
  3. Share a calendar with your significant other- Seeing what each of you has going on during the week helps avoid surprises--and conflict. If you haven't already listened, Rachel and Dave Hollis just did an entire RISE Together podcast on how to plan with your spouse

Intentional possessions: 

  1. Control what comes in- One of the main benefits of going A Year Without Clothes is that there's not a lot of new stuff coming into my house these days, and thus, it seems a little less cluttered. Be aware of the ways new "stuff" creeps into your home. It comes in through shopping and through things like party or wedding favors, hand-me-downs, artwork from preschool, mail, etc. When you figure out the source of the clutter, you can stop it before it starts. 
  2. Clean your kitchen every night- I know it sounds painful, and at 10 p.m. when you just want to go to bed and the dishes have piled up in the sink, it FEELS painful. But starting your day off with a clean kitchen will help you better manage the state of your entire household throughout the rest of the day. 
  3. Realize you need far less of everything than you think you do. 

If you like these suggestions and want more of them, don't forget to sign up for The Monthly 34 Newsletter. And, if you've got a tip of trick for living more intentionally, leave it in the comments below! 

***Updated 7/30/18 @ 9:00 PM***

I had high hopes of creating a beautiful PDF entitled "34 Ways To Live Intentionally RIGHT NOW" and send it out to everyone who subscribes to my email list. At 9 PM, after working on said PDF for two hours and then realizing I didn't actually know how to include it in my newsletter, I decided to pivot. I'm listing the additional 22 ways to live intentionally below. If you're still reading this post and you aren't subscribed to my newsletter, you win. If you are subscribed to my newsletter, I'm sorry; and I hope you know that I mean it when I say that "perfect is the enemy of the good." 

22 More Ways To Live Intentionally RIGHT NOW

1.) Plan your week- Every Sunday, sit down and look at what's coming up on your schedule and your to-do list. Mark down when you want to accomplish what and where you need be when. 

2.) Identify your time sucks- Determine the things that take more of your time than they should and figure out a way to stop doing those things. 

3.) Stop multi-tasking- Focus on one thing at a time. I guarantee that whatever you're doing will get done so much faster than if you were multi-tasking while doing it.

4.) Learn to say "no"- It's the most powerful word in your vocabulary when it comes to protecting your time. 

5.) Schedule seasonal purges- Especially of toys and clothes. (Pro tip: You can make a decent amount of money by selling toys your kids no longer play with right around late October or November. Market them as Christmas presents. People will go nuts. 

6.) Hang wash and line dry your (nicer) clothes. It's a pain, but they will last longer. 

7.) Focus on quality- It's better to buy one pair of shoes that cost more but lasted longer than six pairs of shoes that only last a week. 

8.) Read before bed- Get out your Kindle...or a headlamp..and read a book before bed. You'll go to be happier than if you spent the night looking up other people's Instagram profiles. 

9.) Text people back ASAP- I am so guilty of not texting people back in a timely manner. In fact, I can think of one person I owe a text to right now. BUT, I'm working on it. Bottom line: Texting people back within a reasonable amount of time, shows them that you truly care about them.

10.) Identify your people- You can't be friends with everyone; and you definitely can't develop quality friendships with lots of people. Figure out the people who matter most to you. Put them first. Spend most of your time with them, and cultivate those relationships. 

11.) Try to "out-give" the other person- This is especially helpful if you're in a long term relationship. Do more for them than they do for you, and don't keep score. 

12.) Keep learning- Never stop. If you think you know everything you need to know, you're wrong. 

13.) Workout- Do something active every day, if possible. This is probably the best tip I can give for mental health. 

14.) Eat healthy- Cut the alcohol and processed food. Add in the veggies, proteins, fibers and fats. Read Body Love by Kelly LeVeque for more.  

15.) Go to sleep- Everything looks better and less overwhelming after a good night's sleep. 

16.) Stop listening to music that makes you feel something you don't want to feel- Maybe music doesn't affect you the way it affects me, in which case, this recommendation is not for you. But if the songs you listen to put you back in a relationship you don't need to be focusing on or a season of your life you'd rather forget, then STOP LISTENING TO IT. 

17.) Realize that you have a choice- You control your mood, what goes into your mouth and what comes out of it. You choose what your day is going to look like and who you are going to spend it with. You get to choose your life. 

18.) Unfollow people who make you feel bad about your life. Social media can be a great place, and it can be a terrible one. If someone is causing you to feel insecure or insignificant, then UNFOLLOW THEM and don't think twice. 

19.) Know yourself- Make a list of your core values as a person. Start with three to five, if you need a number. Then structure your schedule and your life around those values. 

20.) Stay organized. 

21.) Surround yourself with people who push you to be a better person. 

22.) Know that one mistake doesn't define your day or your week...or who you are. 

How To Pack Strategically--And On Trend--For Summer Vacations

Packing For Family Vacation.jpg

Ah, summer vacation. For some, the term conjures up endless days of relaxation, reading, doing whatever you want in the sun or beside a body of water. For others, it simply means a break from your normal routine. If you're a parent, summer vacation might also mean a little bit of stress...especially when it comes to packing. 

For the next two months on This Is Thirty Four, we'll be talking about time and possessions. If you're like me, when heading out on a trip with your kids, you tend to throw half of all you possess into your suitcase; and once you reach your destination, you don't even use a lot of what you packed...and you hate all your outfits.  

This summer, my family will spend three of the next five weeks living out of suitcases. Our kids are still young and require a lot of cargo: clothes, snacks, toys, books, car seats, etc. So, in order to cut down on the baggage my family is taking on flights and road trips, I'm getting strategic about the way I pack for myself on our family vacations. Not only am I taking fewer items in my suitcase, but I'm also excited to wear the outfits I've chosen.  

Below are three steps for packing strategically--and on trend--for a summer vacation, interspersed with actual outfits I'll be wearing on my trip to Lake Michigan this week. Warning: These steps will require some effort to implement. So, don't start packing late at night or an hour before you have to leave. If you already know where you're headed, you can start implementing some of these steps RIGHT NOW. 

Outfit one.jpg

Step 1: Analyze your vacation before you begin packing

Here are a few questions that I asked myself before packing for our week-long trip to Lake Michigan: 

What types of activities will we be doing?

What types of clothes and shoes will these activities require?

Who will be going on these various activities?

What will the weather be like while you're there? 

(Pro tip: If you use a day planner, you can write out the answers to these questions in there and use it to make your packing list.) 

During our trip to Lake Michigan this week, our whole family (my parents, brother and sister-in-law included) will be hiking, going to the lake, getting ice cream and doing a lot of putt-putt and other kid-friendly activities. We rented a cabin, so we'll probably eat most of our meals in; but Russ and I might be able to sneak away for a date one night. The weather is supposed to be in the high 70s and low 80s with decent humidity. 

Armed with the aforementioned info, I packed mostly shorts, tank tops and sandals in my suitcase. I included one romper...because rompers are basically socially acceptable pajamas...and a cute, cotton dress for a potential date night. All my clothes are kid-friendly...because hikes mean dirt and ice cream means sticky hands...and my shoes are comfortable and won't get ruined if caught in a late afternoon rain storm. 

Lake Michigan Outfit three.jpg

Step 2: Visualize your outfits

I consider myself a fairly stylish person, and I have a decent number of clothes in my closet. But every morning--and consequently every time I pack for vacation--I think the same thoughts many of you probably think: What am I going to wear? I hate all my clothes.

The truth is, I have a lot of cute things to wear--and so do you. We just need some outfit inspiration. My go-to places to get inspired? 

Liketoknow.it and Pinterest.

If you're not familiar with the Liketoknow.it app, it's basically where fashion bloggers go to show off their outfits and link to the clothes they are wearing so you can buy those items from their affiliate links. It's dangerous for your wallet, but it's a WEALTH of outfit ideas. 

If you're trying to avoid spending money, like me, you might want to try Pinterest. There are a ton of fashion bloggers to follow on there, OR you can simply search for the type of outfits you're looking for. While I'm no fashion blogger, I do have a Summer Style inspiration board that I refer to often. 

As you're saving on Liketoknow.it or pinning on Pinterest, try to find outfits that have similar color schemes, styles and even incorporate some of the same basic elements (ex: a white tank top, denim shorts, etc). This will make step three much easier.

(Pro-tip: Only save or pin outfits that are similar to pieces you already have in your closet. The idea behind step two isn't to save money on new clothes, it's to find new ways to wear what you already have!)

Once you've saved some outfits on Liketoknow.it or pinned them to a Pinterest board, go to your closet and set the pieces that you think you might want to pack aside. It's ok if it's a huge pile, we'll whittle it down to a carry on in step three. 

Outfit number two.jpg

Step 3: Only pack pieces that can be worn more than once, in different ways

This is the key. This is how you go from a mound of clothes that will never fit into the overhead bin, to an easy to manage carry-on. First, sort through the clothes you set aside after you got inspired in step two. Then, create outfits that incorporate similar pieces. I packed all four of the outfits in this post in my suitcase for Lake Michigan this week. You'll see the same shoes, denim vest and shorts in multiple photos. Finally, put away any clothes that can't be worn more than one way...unless it's a romper...ALWAYS. PACK. A ROMPER; and put the remaining items in your suitcase. 

(Pro tip: If you still have too much stuff, go back to step two. It might be helpful to lay the outfits for each day out on the floor side-by-side, so you can see how everything works together.) 

 

Lake Michigan Outfit Four.jpg

I hope this post is as helpful as it was fun for me to put together. None of the clothes in this post are linked because most of them are way too old to still be in stores. BUT, if you see an outfit or a piece of clothing you like and want me to try to find something similar for you, just send me a message! I love helping people find cute clothes and feel more confident in their own skin. 

Happy summer, friends! We'll return to our regularly scheduled (and a bit more introspective) content next week!