the 30-day minimalism challenge

“Less is more” is all the rage as evidenced by recent obsessions with normcore fashion and getting back to basics. I applaud efforts to shop locally, get kids outdoors and conserve time, energy and resources. But there’s a difference between making a lifestyle change and adopting a trend for the fifteen minutes it’s hot.

By way of example, I recently came across the 30-day minimalism challenge. “Looks interesting,” I said to myself. “I think I’ll try it.”

I didn’t tackle the tasks in order, because “define your goals for this year” was number 12 on the list, but it made sense to put it first. The next day, I meditated for fifteen minutes (longer than my usual five to ten). And the day after that, I decluttered my digital life. But then one day I was supposed to “unfollow and unfriend” which I already did under digital decluttering.  Number 28 said to let go of a goal, but I had just defined them.

Go one day without makeup. Read a book instead of watching TV. Clean out your junk drawer, closet, beauty supplies. Learn to enjoy solitude. I relish downsizing, reading and solitude. I found myself less and less inspired by the tasks. After six days, I slacked off, not because the challenge was hard, but for the opposite reason. Frankly, changing my behavior for one day didn’t feel particularly meaningful.

In my opinion, it’s more impactful to pick one item and own it for a sustained period of time. Last year I vowed to not drink bottled water unless it was my only thirst quenching option. I not only succeeded in curbing an expensive habit, but I saved an itty bitty corner of the ocean at the same time.

I don’t mean to dis the 30-day minimalism challenge. Addressing one’s inherently bad practices for one day is better than not at all. Some might even use it as a launchpad for long-term change. But this particular challenge feels like fast food minimalism; it’s one thing to embrace tenets of less is more because it’s en vogue and another all together to do so purposefully and with clear intention.

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43 by 43

Celebrating the big 4-0 in Copenhagen in December 2009.

Thursday at Biker Barre, one of my new spin sisters mentioned that she had created a list of 40 things to do by her 40th birthday. I like a good challenge (as we all know) and I like birthdays even more (as we also all know) so while my birthday is a mere 140 days away, I have spent a great deal of time coming up with items to put on my own 43 by 43 list.

Here are the first five goals:

1. Spend my birthday not in DC. This one should be easy since I have tentative plans to be in Hawaii, but you never know what shenanigans by a lame duck Congress might tether me to my desk. I haven’t managed to be out of town on my birthday since the epic 4-0 celebration in Copenhagen, so I think it’s about time to make a December beltway escape.

2. Roast a duck. For years I have been saying that I’m going to cook a duck. This fall, I’m doing it. And I’m going to serve it with a nice Chateauneuf du Pape. Inquire within if you would like to come over for dinner that night (or shoot me the honored duck).

3. E-publish at least one short story. The one have been working on is essentially finished and its sequel is half done. I just have to have the courage to turn it over to my editor, Caitlin. (You know I have been dying to say that.)

4. Launch in an official capacity Cloakroom Style, my new side business that I am finally positioned to get off the ground. It won’t replace my day job, but if I can beautify Capitol Hill, and in the process, earn extra shoe money, I will consider myself a huge success.

5. Take the boys to a city they have never visited. The obvious choice is New York City, so Colin and Jack (but Colin, especially) can finally see all 1250 feet of the Empire State Building.

Those are five rather significant goals, so the remaining 38 will have to include such pledges as don’t overreact as frequently, pick up items from the dry cleaners on time, and think before speaking (or emailing). Not that those challenges aren’t as meaningful, but they are easily (i.e. subjectively) measurable (by me) and do not require as much planning, cash or creative energy.

Except the think before speaking/emailing part. That’s going to require some serious concentration.