The past 90 days, I’ve been up to something that shouldn’t be all that hard.
Truth be told, it wasn’t THAT hard …
… but leave a mark on me it did.
My internet girl-crush photographer Nancy Ray coined the concept after recognizing that she was a big time shopper of unnecessary “stuff.” The Lord seeded in her heart the notion to try to go three months sans shopping (i.e. Target dollar section, seasonal decor, home decorations, new tops, jewelry, clothes, etc. — ya know, the stuff we buy beyond the basics).
Today wraps 3 months of fasting from unnecessary expenditures, and here’s what I learned!
Catch up on the series:
Some learnings are silly, some are #smh “duh, Ashlyn,” and some? Well, those I never saw coming.
1. I don’t feel pretty unless I have a new outfit on and that’s weird.
Clothes littered the bed, chair, and floor while I ravaged my closet in search of an outfit for a Friday double date.
They were a beautiful, both borderline-Aryan white-blonde … fantastic, always-put-together dressers.
Wes’s outfit game has been keepin’ it 💯 (as the kids say, I’m told) lately.
And I was 2.5 months into pretending I was a stylist, mix-and-matching old clothes and not setting foot in a Madewell, Anthropologie, J. Crew, Gilt.com, or anything else, for that matter.
So, I pulled out an old shirtdress that shot me up with a confidence boost the 6 times I’ve probably ever worn it.
Wes told me I looked pretty that night, I don’t think he knew how much I needed it.
Neither did I, ’til it happened.
The Contentment Challenge taught me that I don’t think twice about spending money for a jolt of confidence.
And hear me out: that’s not a bad thing. If I’m speaking at an event, walking into a conference, or headed to a wedding, you can bet something on my person just cut ties with a price tag somewhere.
But it’s just interesting. How much of my self-assurance and hold-my-head-up factor comes from what’s inside, and how much comes from what I’m putting on the outside? Interesting.
2. Putting my money towards things that are healthy and life-giving is 👍🏼.
Without spending money on candles, new office a-hem “supplies” (aka anything gold from the Threshold line), and weekday evening runs to Ponce City Market to grab a “fun top” from Anthro or Madewell for an upcoming night out (does anyone else call them fun tops?), I started letting myself find joy in buying things that served our whole family of 2 + 2 dogs.
Non-toxic make-up and cleaning supplies (more on that below)
Family albums from Artifact Uprising
PDFs from the Nancy Ray Shop
Essential Oils from YoungLiving
If I bought anything, I tried to see how it would either replace something that’d been used up or enhance a goal we’d shared as a couple.
3. I’m capable of buying just what I need at Target.*
My washi tape collection? It’s doing just fine. I can replenish it WHEN I ACTUALLY RUN OUT OF SOME.
Random desk things from Threshold? My desk is likewise doing just fine, and I’m operating with a cleaner desk.
Birthday cards to stock up? Yeah … I should *maybe* work through my stash and actually send out more notes before buying them for fun.
The Contentment Challenge trained me to walk into Target* and buy what I actually need.
4. Self-care is important for me to spend money on … slash self-care is important across the board.
* Confession: I did buy 3 new nail polishes one day at the end of March. Wes was with me, and I hadn’t done my self-care that week. Back in eating disorder recovery, my therapist team had me start a practice of doing one thing for ME each week, like taking a nice solo walk, or getting my nails done, or going to a non-power yoga class. That week, I had a spa night while Wes was at work, so I got nail polish and facemasks. WHOOP!
4. I don’t wear most the clothes I own … and I actually like the idea of a capsule wardrobe.
Dear Contentment Challenge,
I get it. I only actually enjoy wearing like, 5 colors.
I gave. away. so. many. clothes the past 90 days.
To nerd this up some more, I’ve actually been enthralled with the idea of the Prada Principle as I learn more about decision fatigue: the concept of limiting the number of decisions you have to make each day.
Tom Ford wears one thing every day.
Mark Zuckerberg wears a grey t-shirt every day.
Steve Jobs wore that turtleneck.
Sheryl Sandberg has her fitted dress in blue/red/purple with heels.
Ann & Sid Mashburn here in Atlanta completely lean on a simplified wardrobe.
There are some interesting articles out there (1, 2, 3) — and I completely understand a type more artsy than I may feel 150% inhibited by this notion. However … I kinda am feeling the whole idea of just picking 3-5 colors, 3-5 stores, and downsizing.
7. I breathe better when we have less stuff.
5. I started replacing skincare products with toxin-free ones.
Truth be told, I buy a lot of the makeup I do for the label … the Contentment Challenge taught me that.
Dior mascara, Chanel lipgloss, Laura Mercier anything, Butter nailpolish.
Beauty products are like candy to me.
But through the Contentment Challenge, I started asking myself WHY the labels made me so happy. I realize non-toxic, Think Dirty app-approved products aren’t new, but if you know my back story, you may know I went through eating disorder recovery in 2015. The years leading up to that I was vegan for 2 years, vegetarian for 4, and then a Whole30/paleo enthusiast for 2. Put it this way: I knew Think Dirty was an app when it had like, 2 products listed, and I was one of the first members of Thrive.com.
After recovery, I threw it all out the window.
I didn’t want to hear anything about anything healthy in 2016: if you told me, I couldn’t have heard you over saying “mmmm!” with a spoon buried in a Ben & Jerry’s pint for the first time … ever.
But I’m starting to be more open to the idea, while ever cautious about my storied history with health.
6. I’m starting to swap out Clorox-everything for natural (and DIY) cleaning products.
See everything above.
7. I started using essential oils.
Truly, truly, it started as a way to cut down on our candle obsession … we averaged 1 big, 3-wick candle every 9ish days.
After being on my friend Jenna’s podcast, a mom named Casey was on, and she shared how she used essential oils to support her family’s health and well-being … AND how she had dealt with a lot of miscarriage issues before having an overhaul of products in her family.
A lot of my friends have walked through that, so I thought, why not go ahead and start making little health changes (see: products I put on my body and scrub our home with.
I bought the starter kit for $160 learned how to use them, and I’m so hooked:
Frankensence all over my face before bed and during my quiet time for grounding.
Lavender diffused before I doze, and Cedarwood on my shoulders.
A tension roller on my temples when I’m stressed.
Stress Away by my desk instead of a candle.
Lemon in my water, and Peppermint in my water around that 2 p.m. slump.
Using elements that God created helped ground me.
At the end of the day, the Contentment Challenge showd me I’m called to be a better steward of our money.
“I don’t want to live life unconsciously.”
May it be so, Lord.
Want to do your own? Here are some resources to use during your Contentment Challenge:
- Nancy Ray’s Contentment Challenge PDF
- Seven by Jen Hatmaker
- Kisses from Katie by NAME
- Radical by David Platt
- The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Mari Kondo
- Tiny House on Netflix
- A Dollar a Day on Netflex
- Minimalism on Netflex
- Young Living Distributor Starter Kit, for the biggest bang for your buck