Rachel Heath

Intentional Living: learning to be fully present

On 2013: An Experiment in Priorities, Balance, and Purpose

simplicity bannerHappy New Year! I always love New Year’s Eve and I looooove resolutions. I love seasons in nature and in life, and I’m very good at assigning deep meaning to everyday things… perhaps a little too good. But the transition into 2013 felt incredibly important to me.

We spent the evening with my parents and sister playing games and eating chocolate and drinking wine. Stephen and I celebrated being able to keep our eyes open till midnight and hit our pillows promptly at 12:01. Fun, but not very different than past years. But it felt weighty to me. It felt extraordinary.

Yesterday marked the first day of our year-long experiment in simplicity. We’ll be closely examining our lifestyle and making changes- big and small- to make our life more balanced, intentional, and, of course, (drumroll please…) simple.

We’re examining how we spend our time, energy, and (groan) money. We’re reducing our waste, eliminating distractions, thinking about how our lifestyle affects our global community, and investing in what’s most important to us. We’re actually making changes.

We invite you to join us in asking yourself:

Do my choices reflect my values?

In almost 6 years of marriage, Stephen and I have consistently found our two biggest distractions to be social media and television. The time we spend on these two activities is downright embarrassing. I think the only thing more embarrassing is our bank account, which is usually empty, because we’re terrible at sticking to a budget, constantly “sacrificing what we want most for what we want now” (Gordon B. Hinckley).

First, we’ve come up with a few rules we’re going to stick to throughout the year:

  1. All Social Media (facebook, instagram, twitter, pinterest) limited to set times during the day- once in the morning, once in the evening. I’m one of those people that gets on facebook first thing in the morning, often before I’m even out of bed, and then at random intervals throughout the day. I’m not doing that anymore.
  2. Consolidate our TV time. We have 4 or 5 shows we really like and we usually watch them on Hulu the night after they air. What usually happens is we re-watch an episode of something else and and episode of something we aren’t crazy about and before we know it it’s 10:30 and the evening is over. Instead, we’ll pick one night a week and watch all of them on Hulu that night, keeping our other evenings free to read, write, or – yes- actually spend time together.
  3. No purchasing brand new. We spend far too much money on new things that we could easily find used. So next time I need a pair of jeans, or we start looking for a double stroller, I’ll go thrifting. Obviously, we’ll make exceptions for things like razor blades and underwear… because, gross.
  4. Push major purchases back 1 month. One big problem we have is making major purchases spur-of-the-moment. We’ve decided to make ourselves wait a full month on any purchase over $100, with the idea that the excitement will wear off and we’ll avoid buying stuff we don’t really need.
  5. Tithe and give. I believe in giving. It’s one of our deeply held values, but we don’t really do it. I think there’s no more important time to give than when we have little.

Second, we’ll be choosing a change to implement every month. We’re looking at this whole thing as an experiment, so I’m sure we’ll find that some adjustments work well, while others don’t.

  • January: Goalsetting (There’s no more powerful tool in goal setting than writing them out, making them plain, and having to be accountable!)
  • February: NO social media. (At all. Yikes.)
  • March: Purging (Sorting, selling, giving, and throwing away stuff we don’t need.)
  • April: Practicing positivity (No complaining, self-deprecation, or negative speaking.)
  • May: No restaurants or coffee shops (We’ll give the money away instead. Somebody is getting very blessed this month.)
  • June: Our global impact as consumers (Go fair trade, organic, no slave labor.)
  • July: Shared cooking/cleaning schedule (Divy up and schedule household responsibilities.)
  • August: Reduce our waste (Switch to all cloth, try composting.)
  • September: Family devotional time (make regular time to for family time together in worship and prayer)
  • October: Relationships (Relationships can either enrich or distract us. We’re going to experiment with a balance.)
  • November: No TV at all (Yep, right in the middle of the fall season. I did that on purpose to make it harder!)
  • December: Advent (Evaluating the year- what worked, what didn’t – and celebrating Christ With Us as a family.)

It’s my aim to write one or two posts a week – don’t laugh! So check back often to see how things are going, and join us in whatever aspect of this thing resonates with you. Also, make sure you bookmark Stephen’s blog as he’ll be sharing his perspective regularly.

Here’s to a simpler 2013!



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9 thoughts on “On 2013: An Experiment in Priorities, Balance, and Purpose

  1. Amy Rollert on said:

    I’m working on the no slave labor thing. It’s challenging because no one has a handy list of what brands are OK and what aren’t and it can be difficult to find that info from companies. Slowly working through it- maybe I’ll end up with a list I can share.
    And I love this idea.

    • Try Verite.org. “We take aim at serious problems: child labor, slavery, systemic discrimination against women, dangerous working conditions, and unpaid work.” I read some very troubling stats about cotton production on here once. Seems like a very thorough resource. There’s a link to a multi-country study on the right of the homepage- that might be it. Anyway, let me know if you find any other resources!

    • Oh also- Slavery Footprint. That’s where I found the cotton study. This test will make you look at every single item you own in a whole new light.

  2. Katherine on said:


    This site was really helpful; it rates different brands and you can search by category (e.g apparel, electronics (interestingly, the highest rated electronics company earned a “C”.)): http://www.free2work.org/

  3. Amy Rollert on said:

    Sweet, good sites to know, THough I hadn’t found anything useful on Slavery Footprint, maybe I didn’t explore the site enough.

  4. Alicia on said:

    A few books that you might enjoy…

    Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin (I recommend the second edition – the first edition is somewhat outdated and new-agey)

    Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond

    Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawken

    Freedom of Simplicity by Richard J. Foster (a more biblical perspective on simplicity)

    I found most of these at our local library – hopefully you can get your hands on them for free!

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