Inspiring Gratitude || 6 Questions to Help You Stay Grateful When You Want More

A slow life is a grateful life. 

Or, at least that's where our intentions lie. It seems that the vast majority of people hoping to simplify their lives are aiming (even subconsciously) to live a more grateful life too. 

However, a grateful life isn't for the faint of heart. Slow living forces you to examine your life, your priorities, and your possessions in a very raw and honest way. You must question your motives. Why do I want to add another chunky sweater to my wardrobe? Why do I seem to always overcommit myself? Why do I want to keep up with the "Joneses" so badly? You must take the path (much) less traveled. 

We simplify, it seems, to purge ourselves not just of our stuff, but to filter our very hearts as well. I firmly believe that minimalism starts in the heart — if you've gone through my intro to minimalism course "The Art of Simple Living", you're more than familiar with that phrase. If you're drawn to minimalism for the aesthetics alone, that's great. (Heaven knows I love a beautifully curated capsule wardrobe more than most.) But for the vast majority of people I've encountered, they approach minimalism/slow living out of necessity, the search for contentment, and for bettering themselves. 

Simplification is the process they work through to find contentment, to design a life they love, to learn to not keep up with the Joneses and forge their own path. 

That can only happen from a heart that isn't constantly wanting more. "More" in the physical and social sense. More stuff + a fuller schedule = success according to our culture. But when your mantra is "less but better" you're bound to be more grateful as well. 

Living a slow life usually equates to living a more intentionally grateful life. But taking the path less traveled can be hard. Here are six questions to ask yourself to inspire gratitude in your day to day.

I catch myself struggling with gratitude all the time, despite how much I've minimized. I still occasionally buy things I really shouldn't and forget to examine my intentions behind the purchase. I still loose the gratitude behind my lifestyle choice — especially as my husband and I work to sell our house and move to our dream location. Gratitude seems even harder when you're in those pesky "in between phases". But I'm working daily to bring thankfulness into my life, even when it doesn't come naturally (which is funny, because really, what don't I have to be thankful for?) 

Here are a few questions I'm training myself to ask to make sure my choices come from a place of gratitude. 

1. Am I buying to fill a heart void or a physical void?

2. Have I said 'thank you' for what I already have? 

3. What am I taking for granted? 

4. How has my life changed for the better in the past year? 

5. What am I thankful for that isn't material?

6. How can I say thank you more than "I need/I want"? 

Ask yourself some of the questions above and let me know your responses in the comments or in an email if you'd rather! 

How A Dress Can Change the World || An Interview with Dressember Founder Blythe Hill + Giveaway!

You know the tightening feeling in your heart that happens when you're confronted with a huge issue that you feel you can do nothing about? The world is full of so much hurt and when faced with overwhelming numbers and statistics, it makes the influence of a single person seem minuscule in comparison. 

That's how I felt when I thought about human trafficking. I've always had a heart for the issue, but when I learned about how heartbreakingly vast the problem was, it felt like there was nothing I could do to make a difference. I'm not a lawyer, I can't travel to foreign countries and pull women and children out of the reach of entrapment, I can't even donate hundreds of dollars to aid people who can. I felt hopeless. 

The facts are these: there are over 20 million people (men, women and children) in slavery around the world, and about 80% of the victims are sexually exploited. According to Equality Now, sex slavery is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. It's not just an over-seas issue either. The FBI reported that, although it's impossible to put an exact number on the amount of domestic victims, it happens all over the country (likely in your city), particularly on interstate traffic. The victims are primarily at-risk women and children, sometimes as young as 8 or 9, and can do virtually nothing to escape on their own. 

Overwhelmed? You're not alone. 

Blythe Hill, the founder of the Dressember Foundation, felt the same way, but didn't let her feeling of overwhelm stop her from doing something about it. I had the chance to speak with her a little bit about the history of Dressember, and what their goals are for this year's campaign. 

Human trafficking feels like an untouchable issue that "normal people" can make no impact on. However, Blythe Hill, the founder of the Dressember movement, believes lasting change happens one person, and one dress, at a time. Join the movement and read more about an amazing movement in our interview with Blythe.

The concept behind Dressember is simple: you commit to wearing dresses for the entire month of December. The dress acts as a "flag" and conversation starter (because, really, who is crazy enough to wear dresses in the coldest season the year?), and ultimately, as a way to raise awareness and funds for victims of sex trafficking. Dressember is aligned with A21 and the International Justice Mission and expects this year to be the biggest yet. To join, sign up here.(SL&Co. is hosting our own team and we'd love to have you on it!) 

*read till the end to enter to win the Dressember swing dress ;) 

Tell us a little bit about the backstory of Dressember and how it all started.  

BH: I came up with the idea while I was in college. I was feeling like I needed a creative outlet, but didn't have much free time. I decided to try a personal style challenge, and came up with the idea to where a dress every day for a month. The next full month was December, and I came up with the name Dressember. Since I love puns, that pretty much sealed the deal. 

Why do you think a seemingly simple idea sparked such powerful change around the world?

BH: For years, I had been looking for a way to engage in the fight against modern day slavery. I didn't have much money to give, and I wasn't pursuing a career in social work, law, psychology, or any field that seemed to connect to making a difference, so I felt powerless. When I decided to align Dressember with anti-trafficking, it came out of that long-standing desire to engage. What has been remarkable is that so many other women must have been feeling the same way-- eager to physically engage in the fight to end human trafficking-- because it has spread so much and grown so quickly. 

Many SL&Co. readers already have fairly limited wardrobes- what would you say to someone who is nervous about the thought of wearing a dress for 31 days? 

BH: Often people hear about Dressember and think they need to go buy a bunch of dresses-- you don't! You can share with friends, sisters, roommates, or consider taking on the extra challenge of wearing the same dress every day all month. I've done that for about 3 of the last 7 Dressember seasons, and I'm always surprised by how limitations stimulate creativity. If someone is nervous about wearing dresses for other reasons than wardrobe limitations, I'd encourage them to check our FAQ page-- we address cold weather, jobs that require pants, and more. 

I didn’t have much money to give, and I wasn’t pursuing a career in social work, law, psychology, or any field that seemed to connect to making a difference, so I felt powerless. When I decided to align Dressember with anti-trafficking, it came out of that long-standing desire to engage.

Besides joining in the Dressember challenge, what is something "regular people" can do to help fight human trafficking either locally or globally? 

BH: Honestly, spreading awareness about the issue is a HUGE need. People still think this doesn't happen, or that it only happens in poor countries. Slavery exists today in every major city in the world, and here in the US at truck stops, massage parlors, around every major sporting event, and more. The children of the US foster system are especially at risk-- when they run away or go missing, no one is looking for them. Traffickers target them for this reason.

How much have Dressember participants raised in the past? Do you have a new goal for this year's campaign?

BH: In three years, thousands of women have raised over $1.5 million. We hope to raise $1.5 million this year alone!

When you're not inspiring people around the world to put a stop to human trafficking, what do you enjoy doing?

BH: Haha-- that makes me sound so magnanimous! Honestly, I'm just a normal person-- I love binge watching netflix (currently re-watching Gilmore Girls), reading, crafting, and cooking (shout out to Blue Apron for making cooking less intimidating for me)! 

Now for the giveaway!

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Blythe was sweet enough to offer a FREE Dressember dress from their collaboration with Elegantees to one lucky SL&Co. reader (it's the one pictured- I'm obsessed, SO soft and versatile). Enter here:

Never underestimate the power of simply using your voice. Together we CAN stop human trafficking. Join our team here!

5 Tips For Getting The Most Out Of Your Clothes

Did you know that the average fast fashion article of clothing is designed to fall apart after only five washes and wears? Clothing giants like Forever 21 and H&M make their money off of cheaply producing clothes that aren't designed to last and selling a lot of them. They're also designed to go out of style within a week after you buy, but that's a story for a different day...

Ethical fashion brands, on the other hand, design their pieces to last. The only problem is, you have to take care of them, to ensure they live the fullest life they were designed to. If you've been shopping with more intention and adding investment pieces into your closet, it's so important to know how to properly care for them. 

No matter where you shop, a few basic tips for prolonging the life of your clothes will save you lots of money in the long run, and make sure the closet-staples you've fallen in love with stay in the same shape they were when you bought them. 

You clothes don't have to fit the "five washes and wears" rule that the producers design them to. Learn how to invest in quality pieces AND care for them properly with these five simple tips.

1. Wash Less

If you're used to wearing something for a few hours and then tossing it in the dirty clothes hamper to be washed, you're probably in the majority. However, most clothes (especially denim) can last FOREVER between washes. Unless something is really dirty, or stinks, you should be able to get at least 3 wears out of it before washing. 

2. Hang To Dry

Dryers are convenient, but at a price to our clothes. While most labels say "tumble dry low", if you have the space, hang dry as much as you can. Not only is it much more eco-friendly, it will preserve the feel, shape, and fabric of your clothes much longer. And, as a rule of thumb, NEVER dry your delicates in the dryer. 

3. Buy Versatile Pieces

Everyone has those pieces that you can only wear a certain way. The shirt that only goes with a certain skirt....you know what I'm talking about. When you buy pieces that are more versatile, meaning they can be worn in multiple different ways and with multiple different outfits, it allows you to extend the use of the item and save money in the long run. The Sotela Shift dress from IMBY is one of my FAVORITE versatile pieces.

4. Don't Let Stains Set

If you spill something on your clothes (it happens), don't let it set or dry. Clean it up as soon as you can, and use a natural stain remover to get the job done before adding any harsh chemicals to the fabric. 

5. Know Your Style

If you're in the habit of buying things you don't wear often, getting to know your personal style will be one of the hugest favors your do yourself and your wallet. Not only will you feel better in the clothes you buy, you'll invest in pieces that you love and naturally want to take care of. It really is a win/win. 

If you're not sure how to define your personal style, sign up to receive updates on our course launch which will give you every thing you need to create a wardrobe you love. 

Mindful Living: How Mementos Translate To Memories

I have a trunk filled with mementos from all my early years of travels. Some may even call it a “footlocker,” although it’s never lived at the foot of any bed.

If nothing else, the description gives you an idea of its size, which is substantial. It has those nifty silver-colored latches on either side. It also has a place for a padlock, should I decide to have an extra layer of protection for these things that represent local and foreign places I’ve been and things I’ve seen.

I have stopped counting how many times the trunk has been moved from new place to new place. With each move, I open the treasure chest and peer inside to see what I could get rid of to lessen the load. As you might expect, I have rarely removed even one item from the smorgasbord it’s become. I also haven’t added anything new in over a decade because those items have found a public place somewhere in my home.

Now that I am even more committed to mindful living, every time I go through a phase of actively purging things, I review the items in this trunk. Over the last several years, I have even made a point of mentally preparing myself to remove as many items as I can; yet every time I close the trunk and put it back in its place, the mementos remain intact.

Because each review of an item turns into a wonderful reminiscing. So I convince myself that it’s OK not to throw anything out.

After all, I’ve contained it only ONE trunk.

And we have the space.

And it’s so sturdy, it’s a great base onto which we can stack other boxes.  

And…you catch my drift.

What I have a learned through the countless attempts to throw away things from the trunk is that they are not “things”.

When it comes to day-to-day items from my closet, my kitchen, or my office, I can purge with reckless abandon. I have no problem quantifying, if you will, the value of the item and its importance to my daily life.

But year after year I’ve found that this trunk of mementos falls into an entirely different category. As I hold each item, I have a sensory experience with sights and sounds. The clarifying details of each interaction become more heightened instead of what would have been only general recollections.

It is as though these items contain the very heart of my early travel history.

And while it seems counterintuitive - therein lies the beauty of mindful living for me. I am making a mindful choice to keep this trunk and dispose of things only when I am able.

What I have a learned through the countless attempts to throw away things from the trunk is that they are not “things”. I am so grateful for everything I’ve learned and gained from these opportunities that I am unwilling to dispose of the things that unlock these visceral reactions.

So this year, I will once again attempt to remove from the trunk but will be more forgiving of myself if, after the lid is closed, the garbage can remains empty.

What mementos of yours are your “memory keepers”?

Do you struggle to let go of sentimental clutter? Enroll in The Art of Simple Living to kickstart your minimalism journey. 

Life Isn't That Simple Right Now, And That's Okay Too

I often think back to an article on Simply Liv & Co. called “There’s No Such Thing As An In Between Phase In Life". That post resonated with me and I try to reflect on it when I’m feeling overwhelmed and thinking about the “next thing” in life.

Right now, my life is incredibly busy. The life my husband and I live is full of school, work, a toddler, and exhaustion. Our plan to finish our education and raise our daughter simultaneously has left little room for free time in our lives. I’ve recently considered if I can even call myself a minimalist or someone who believes in simple living during this crazy period of my life. When I look at our calendar, overlapping in colors and details, I become overwhelmed and start looking forward to when there will be more white space on the page.

Olivia points out that viewing periods of our lives as an “in-between” phases distracts us from the narrative. She says, “I love viewing life as a story or journey. I often think about other people's lives, wondering where they've been or what their goals are. Believing in the existence of in between phases essentially is like saying that this point in your life is a chapter (or two) you would like to leave out of the novel.” This chapter in my life is long and it’s hard, but that doesn’t mean it contradicts my values and ideals.

Sometimes life doesn't feel simple. Here's why that's okay.

Despite my jam-packed schedule I’m still living a life where I strive for simplicity and authenticity. I may not be able to have as much time as I’d like for self-care, but I do try to find as much time as possible to spend with my family. I may not be able to read all the books on minimalism that I’ve been planning to read, but I am making a compromise by prioritizing writing instead. I may not be able to frequently go out to coffee or dinner with friends, but I am able to eat healthy, homemade meals that my husband and I make together.

Sometimes living simply means compromising and making things work to the best of my abilities. It doesn’t feel simple, but when I step back and look at my life, I can see that I’m still following my values. We are intentional with our time and pursuing our goals, while still enjoying the simple moments when they come our way. This part of life may feel like an “in-between” phase, but really it’s just another part of the journey.

Maybe you’re in a similar busy period in your life, I’d love to hear how you live simply and authentically even when life gets a little crazy.