Finding Enough in a Culture of Excess (and Personal Challenge)
How do you know when you've hit "enough"?
I've asked myself this same question over the last few years, and every season dictates a new answer. In high school, I thought "enough" was what you felt when you finally "had it all." At sixteen, that looked like being the editor-and-chief of a street-style fashion magazine in New York City.
I used to think success was wearing high heels to work (which, in NYC, seems like a death sentence for your feet), living and working in a high-rise skyscraper, and grabbing happy hour cocktails with friends after work. Oh, and living in an apartment with a walk-in closet, even if I had to turn my small bedroom into one.
Although this definition of success was specific, it only took one semester in college to set fire to the dream. My friends joked that I gave up on fashion journalism because I discovered yoga pants, but I knew there was something deeper at play.
With fashion journalism, I wasn't just losing a career path.
I was losing my grip on "success", or at least my first definition of it.
All the things I thought were important and impressive didn't seem as satisfying anymore. How could a six month timeframe have changed my mindset so quickly? It was the first time I felt my ideals shift as I started to question what I truly desired.
That was back in 2011. Now, seven years later, I'm facing the same question.
What do I desire?
And what do those desires say about me?
The last question is what I've become more interested in, especially after recently reading The Year of Less and More or Less, two books I devoured in one weekend. The former details the personal journey of a binge consumer turned mindful consumer who gives away 70% of her belongings and pays off $30,000 of debt (who also happens to be a dear friend). The latter discusses our social construct of "enough" and what it looks like to shed the excess in order to live generously.
Surely, I don't have to tell you my definition of "enough" has changed since high school. Simply revealing the books I'm reading right now already shows that.
But how has it changed my definition of success?
I used to think success had to do with your work, your output.
Now I think success has a lot more to do with alignment.
And that alignment leads to enough, no matter what we see in our closets, our wallets, or our resumes. Enough is less about what we can measure and more about good works that stretch beyond what's quantifiable.
This conversation is well and good, but what do we do with it? How can we practically put this into action in our daily life? This thought inspired me to think about how I can not only adopt an attitude of enough but a practice of enough.
What better way to build a habit than through a personal challenge?
To make sure this idea didn't just live in my journal, I wanted to create a game plan for how I could shed the excess, embrace enough, and give back in a big way. Along the way, I decided to write a blog post to document the process and let others keep me accountable.
It has a few different phases, so stay with me.
Phases of enough over excess challenge:
- Phase 1: Purge of Physical and Digital Space
- Physical: Purge my closet, toiletries, office supplies, books, all media, etc.
- Digital: Simplify mobile apps, file folder organization, transfer files, back up old files, establish digital detox, etc.
- Rule: All money generated from secondhand clothing sales on Poshmark and miscellaneous sales on Craigslist will be donated to local food bank. All additional items not sold will be given to Goodwill and The Salvation Army.
- Phase 2: Long Term: Create Intentional Consumption List
- Purpose: Combat future excess (both physically and digitally) by creating an intentional consumption list. Start with my core values (already defined - yay!) and create an approved and not-approved purchases list. Use it as a master guide for well into the future.
- Phase 3: Short Term: Quarter-Long Enough Experiment
- Rule: Every time I would have made a purchase on the "not approved" list (example: $5 hot chocolate while networking at local coffeeshop), I will write it down and plan to donate that amount to a local food bank. I will do this for everything cumulated in the quarter and share.
- Not Approved Purchases: No take-out coffee (err, I mean hot chocolate), dinners out, grabbing drinks, new clothing, new home decor, etc.
- Approved Purchases: Groceries (hey, a girl has to eat!), gas, usual living expenses (rent, heat, water, internet, etc.)
- Invitations: Instead of dinners out or take-out coffee, invite friends to my apartment. Suggest other fun activities (yes, even in the winter!) and things to do than spending money on other experiences.
To those of you who may be reading the details of this challenge and thinking "Wow, that seems a little excessive, don't you think?", it's still something I'm excited to test out this quarter. (Also, did you see what I did there? *wink*)
Cutting my spending won't hurt since I'm naturally a saver, but I'm excited to see how this challenges me with giving.
Sure, I've made room for some giving, like with the Your Own Way Conference last year, but I know I can do much more. Not only that, but I want to do more.
I'll be posting my progress and personal reflections along the way.
And if you're still wondering why in the world I'm writing about this and not creating more business resources, it's because I already have a blog archive full of them. In this season of my life and business, I'm focusing on personal writing.
So here goes nothing!
What are your initial thoughts to the Enough Over Excess Challenge? Leave them in the comment section below. But let's remember to keep it "Minnesota Nice", okay?