Many personal development experts recommend selecting a theme for each year to help guide our focus and direction. Some even advocate doing this in lieu of creating specific personal and professional goals. Last January, I selected two words as my guiding focus for the year, simplicity and joy. Without comprehending the irony in my doing so, I also laid out fairly extensive lists to govern my wardrobe and shopping as well as my overall life during 2014. That wasn’t exactly simple, was it?
While I experienced some success with simplifying my life and increasing my sense of joy last year, I think I diluted my focus too much by having two themes, as well as a large number of goals. Thus, I have decided to do things differently for 2015. In the spirit of both simplicity and joy, I have opted to only have one single theme for this year. At first, I selected “flow” as my word/theme for 2015, but I soon felt myself inextricably drawn to another word.
In today’s post, I share my word/theme, why I chose it, and how I believe it can help me get to where I want to be with both my wardrobe and my life. If you haven’t selected a word for 2015, it’s not too late! We’re only a little over a month into the year, so there’s still plenty of time to select and fulfill upon an inspiring and empowering theme. Check out this post for some guidance on choosing your one powerful word for the year. If you’d like additional direction, you can sign up for Susannah Conway’s free 5-day email course, which walks you through a thought-provoking and fun process to help you figure out your word for 2015.
A Powerful Word and How I’m Living Its Opposite
As I was reading “Everything that Remains” and “A Day in the Life of a Minimalist” by Joshua Fields Millburn of “The Minimalists” (I highly recommend both books!), one word kept coming up over and over again: deliberate. Every time I saw that word, I became more and more acutely aware of how much I was not being deliberate in my life.
There are so many mornings when I have the best of intentions for what I will accomplish that day. Yet, time and again, I end the day feeling extremely frustrated about all that I didn’t do. Sure, I keep myself very busy and am pretty much always up to something. But I seem to be flying by the seat of my pants most of the time, giving in to momentary whims rather than focusing on what’s most important to me. I feel like I have A.D.D. in that I constantly shift my attention from one thing to another. I may be working on a blog post, but I find myself periodically checking my email or Facebook or getting up to complete “one quick task” that could probably have waited until later (I must have done those things at least ten times while writing this post!).
The result of my flighty behavior is that I don’t feel very good about myself much of the time. I feel like a perpetual underachiever, always “busy” but rarely completing what I’ve identified as my most important tasks. I regularly have over twenty tabs open in my browser, and my blog feed reader and article aggregator are typically seriously back-logged with unread articles. Although I have managed to let go of my magazine addiction, I still suffer from a serious case of information overload that’s fueled by a grade-A FOMO affliction.
“Too Much” vs. Deliberate Living
I have been feeling very drawn toward minimalist writings as of late because I feel a strong sense of “too much” about my home, my digital information, and yes, my wardrobe. I truly want to pare things down to only what’s truly necessary and/or that which adds real value to my life. I want to be deliberate in my actions and with my possessions. Thus, I have selected “deliberate” as my word for 2015. To be deliberate means to be at choice and intentional about one’s actions, one’s time, and one’s possessions.
When I think of myself living in a deliberate way, I am filled with a sense of peace and calm, which contrasts sharply to the anxiety that is typically percolating within my psyche at any given point in time. I recently published my second book, “End Closet Chaos,” and I do feel that I’ve gone a long way toward eliminating the wardrobe angst that I used to feel. I believe I’m well on my way toward feeling peaceful about my closet and its contents. Yet I feel like I’m many miles away from eradicating the deep sense of chaos in the rest of my life.
I’m not going to set any concrete goals for my wardrobe, shopping, and life this year, but I will paint a picture of how I’d like things to look in those areas by the end of 2015. I will let my word, deliberate, and my broad-range vision guide my path through the deep fog in which I find myself engulfed. I am already beginning to see a patch of light at the end of the tunnel and I know that freedom from clutter, information overload, time management woes, confusion, and frustration toward myself is within my grasp. It all starts with one simple word and an intention to live my life in a more focused and deliberate way.
Let’s start with shopping. How does a deliberate person shop? Well, she knows what she’s shopping for and she shops with a list. She doesn’t allow herself to get distracted by new, flashy merchandise, big sales, and “amazing deals.” She looks for what she needs and if she can’t find the right items, she leaves empty-handed. She’s also willing to spend more money to buy higher-quality merchandise. While she takes advantage of sales when they meet her needs, she’s also willing to pay full price to obtain the items on her shopping priorities list. She never buys things just because they are on sale and rarely purchases “multiples” unless it makes good sense to do so, as in the case of undergarments, layering pieces, and other such items.
That is mostly how I shop these days. I feel like I am almost there in terms of being a deliberate shopper. However, I still make some mistakes and still feel hesitant to spend more money on certain wardrobe items. Yet I am also quicker to realize when something won’t work for me. I’m more likely to return things post haste rather than allowing them to hang in my closet for months and months before I either return them (if I can) or pass them on without them ever having been worn. I feel that my “Love It, Wear It” (LIWI) challenge and my ongoing outfit journal will help me to realize the deliberate shopping vision I laid out above. Since I started the journal last summer, I have already noticed a sharp decrease in my shopping mistakes and I believe that I will continue to improve this year.
The Deliberate Wardrobe
What does a deliberate wardrobe look like? I view a deliberate wardrobe as one that meets a person’s needs for her actual lifestyle, as opposed to an imagined or aspirational one. All of the clothes in a deliberate wardrobe are valued, suit that particular woman’s personal style aesthetic, and get worn on a regular basis. With the possible exception of a few formal or specialty items, everything is appropriately utilized. Such a wardrobe contains the colors, patterns, and styles that best suit the owner’s complexion, figure, and style preferences, but is not overly large. Everything fits wonderfully, is impeccably maintained, and is ready to be worn (unless it’s in the laundry, of course). The closet pieces are organized in a logical and intuitive manner such that it’s very easy to find what is needed to get dressed well each day. The deliberate wardrobe sparks joy and evokes a feeling of peace upon opening the closet doors.
I am a lot closer to the vision above than I used to be, but I see some significant gaps that need to be closed. I still feel that I have too many clothes and am not wearing many of them often enough. I have also held on to some items out of a sense of guilt and obligation rather than because I truly love wearing them. Much of my wardrobe is still too formal for my casual, laid-back lifestyle and I still own some garments and shoes that are either fussy or uncomfortable to wear. All of this being said, I believe I will reach my vision of a deliberate wardrobe this year. I already notice the strong effects of my LIWI challenge just one month after its genesis. I’m finding that my definition of “enough” is evolving and it’s becoming much easier for me to let go of things that don’t meet my lifestyle needs or style preferences.
A Deliberate Life
Here’s where things get trickier and where the rubber really meets the road, so to speak. I could easily divide “a deliberate life” into multiple categories, but my vision is still a bit foggy so I’m going to keep things simple. I see a person who’s living a deliberate life as someone who is highly focused and in control of her thoughts and actions. She easily gets out of bed each morning ready to start her day and she knows what she wants to accomplish. She sets out her key actions for the day and starts working on those things as soon as possible. While she is working on her most important tasks, she doesn’t allow herself to become distracted by urgent but not important stimuli such as email and social media. She knows what she wants to get done and she does those things, plain and simple.
A person living a deliberate life is in control of the information that she allows to enter her consciousness. She has taken the time to consider what’s most important to her and she filters everything else out as much as possible. She controls her day rather than her day controlling her. At the end of each day, she feels proud of herself for what she has accomplished. She also has a balanced life. She is not “all work and no play,” but she’s also not “all play and very little work.” She loves to have fun, but she has a clear delineation between work time and play time. Because she focuses on what needs to get done during her work hours, she is more able to enjoy her down time, as she is free of guilt and negative feelings toward herself.
Not a Utopian Vision
I realize that no one is perfect and I’m not looking to fulfill upon a utopian vision for how I should live my life. However, I am ready to move on from the chaotic, unfocused, and unreliable (to myself anyway) way of being that has been my modus operandi. I want to feel proud of myself far more often than I do today. I also want to feel a stronger sense of peace and calm and, yes, the joy that was my aim during 2014. I’m not entirely sure how I will reach the vision that I outlined above, but I believe that being deliberate will be a strong guiding light on my way toward the flow that I originally selected as my 2015 touchstone.
I will periodically write about how my focus on being deliberate is impacting my life – and my wardrobe – this year. I will also share my challenges in this regard, as writing about my struggles always seems to help me find a way out. I’m also delighted that my journey has been able to inspire others along the way and I hope that continues to be the case. I’m excited to see how “deliberate” can help me improve my life this year and beyond!
Now it’s your turn to share.
- Have you selected a word/theme for 2015?
- If so, what is it and why did you choose it?
- What are your thoughts on deliberate shopping, wardrobes, and living?
- What has helped you to be more deliberate and intentional in your actions and with your life at large?
I welcome your insights on all of these topics!