What worked for me in 2018

campus path riverside park

I love to do a little bit of reflection at year’s end, but I don’t make it complicated. Around my house we’ve been using the same two questions for years to help us take stock of the year gone by.

They are:

  1. What worked for me last year?
  2. What didn’t?

Today I’m sharing a few of the things (from significant to shallow) that worked for me in 2018. (I’ll share my list of what didn’t work in the newsletter, same as last year, and the year before that. Sign up here if you’re not on the list.)

Much is unchanged since last year; plenty of 2017 favorites are still working for me, like the right tools, and eating the same thing every day, and meeting you in person (of course!) These are my new (or new again) 2018 additions:

1. Water. Two water-holding contraptions have brought me joy this year. After years of patiently waiting for our water to heat on the stove each morning, we bought an electric kettle to heat our water for coffee and tea. It’s programmable—so the water is hot when I wake up. I like to work with a beverage beside me, so I use it often throughout the day to brew my coffee or tea, and it heats up quick.

And this is the year that I’ve finally re-established the water bottle habit. This is the one I use and I love it. I prefer to drink coffee in the morning, but I know I need my water, so I make a point to fill it first thing (usually with a packet of True Lemon) and drink it to take my vitamins. I was adding a scoop of collagen to my water, but I got nervous about cleaning the bottle, so on a friend’s recommendation I started adding the collagen to my coffee. I was skeptical but it’s fine.

2. Putting things in bins. I am organizationally challenged: I struggle to put organizational systems in place, but know I’m happier when I have them. This year I powered through organizing my desk (with repurposed stationery boxes plus a few of these), my closet (with these baskets), and the pantry. (I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the pantry since posting it on instagram: I used these plastic bins and these in extra-large for canned goods.

I organized in stages, and some of it still needs tweaking. I hated to spend money on stuff to corral my stuff, but knowing where everything goes—and being able to see it—is worth it.

3. Shots of color. Neutrals are my happy place, but this year—in my home, my work spaces, and my wardrobe—I’ve consciously embraced big pops of color. The idea makes me so uncomfortable. But the result makes me so happy, like that yellow IKEA chair above. It looks so loud in the store, but it’s just right in my favorite reading spot.

4. Getting places early. I tend to cram as much as possible into any given unit of time, but I’m coming to embrace the idea that arriving early—as opposed to doing one more thing first—isn’t a waste of time. It feels like a little gift to myself: time to sit, time to breathe, time to read. And the gift of not feeling frantic on the way.

I’ve long known I need margin in other areas of my life; why did it take so long to recognize I can appreciate it here, too?

5. The 6 o’clock hour. I love the early morning hours when everyone else is sleeping, and this year I’ve put them to good use. (Except for my days home in between book tour, when I slept hard and long in my own bed.)

For much of the year, I left the house before 6:00 a.m. to work out, a rhythm that worked well for me. Since I returned from book tour, my spring book deadline has been feeling awfully close, so I’ve been using the early morning hours to write.

Either way, I’m grateful to work on a priority before it feels like the day has truly begun.

6. Leaving the house. I tend to be a homebody: I love staying in. But over the years I’ve learned that while I hate the idea of leaving the house, I’m almost always glad I did. And so this year I’ve made myself put on real pants and shoes to go hiking, or to concerts, and so many book events. At least by my homebody standards.

7. Benign neglect. My natural impulse is often to fuss and fret over things … that would be better left alone. Regular readers know this is the year that I became one of those plant ladies. It’s been jarring to realize how much happier almost every plant is if I give it what it needs and then leave it alone. My plants thrive on benign neglect; this has become a helpful metaphor for other areas of my life as well.

I’d love to hear what worked for YOU in 2018, and what didn’t, and why. Tell us all about it in comments.


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  1. Donna H. says:

    I love this list (by the way-nothing showed up when I clicked the water bottle link). I find sometimes the simple things are the best (although simple doesn’t mean easy). For my 2018 list I’d say the 2 biggest things for me were: healthier eating and all electronics off at 7:00 (well, usually).

  2. Jennifer says:

    Benign neglect. I love it. That has been my parenting style once my kids were in high school and it has really paid off. I watch to make sure I am giving the kids all they need, including attention and support, but without hovering or making their choices for them, which allowed them to thrive and GROW, rather like your plants. It might seem intuitive as a way to parent high schoolers, but apparently not. I have a family member who simply cannot take her hands off her kids’ outcomes, and when her kids went to college, it didn’t go well. Anyway, benign neglect definitely has a place in a well considered life.

  3. Mary Jane says:

    We have had some pretty rough years, so this year I changed up my usual self improvement resolutions and resolved to just have fun! It’s been a whirlwind, as I have taken as many opportunities as I could to create fun for my husband and me. We’ve joined things, gone on “dates”, extended ourselves to get to know new people and begin friendships, while cultivating the dear friendships we’ve had through the years. New hobbies, new experiences, time…precious time relished… Our moods have improved, we have things to look forward to doing, plans in the making. And, I think a happy attitude is more attractive to others, as we’re being invited and included, too. This was sorely needed after serious medical episodes, loss of dear people suddenly, and many other scary and depressing occurrences and situations. You never know what’s coming next, so make the most of the time you have. This has been a refreshing year and the best and most adhered to resolution surely did produce it!!

  4. The early morning hours are the best for me, too. I love the quiet that surrounds me when I’m up and about while the rest of the world is sleeping. I get up early for my “day job,” and while I occasionally like to sleep in when I can on weekends and days off, I often find myself awake at my usual time anyway. Instead of grumbling about it and trying unsuccessfully to fall back asleep, I get up, make myself a cuppa, put on a cozy sweater over my pjs, and start writing. It’s the best way to start my morning, and I get so much done during those quiet hours, leaving me to feel like the rest of the day is at my disposal for the rest of my daily life.

  5. Jes says:

    I have given myself a pass on adding to my Goodreads account. I am going back to a simple notebook and writing down the titles, but even then, if I forget I don’t sit and rack my brain trying to remember what I’ve read. I drank more tea instead of coffee. I asked for help, and with the advice of a book coach, I was able to pinpoint why my novels keep falling apart in the middle. Lastly, I have learned to give myself a lot more grace. By nature I am a disciplined person, which is great, to a point. Sometimes I just need a good old pass on responsibility to keep my anxiety in check and my mind clear.

  6. I’m a homebody too, but agree that I’m almost always glad I went…within reason. I can’t schedule too many things without breaks or I get irritable. And, I put collagen in my Vitamin Water every morning too!

    One thing that worked for me – varying my workouts. I’ve always worked out a lot, but as a I hit 40, my body started to break down (first my back and hip, then plantar fasciitis, then my tennis wrist). So, now I work out 6 days a week, but try not to do the same type of workout more than once a week.

    • Ronda says:

      Yes, I agree I’m always glad I went within reason. I have found I have to put on my schedule time at home for just down time – not just to throw in laundry/clean real quick, make dinner etc. As I need time scheduled to just do what I want at home: read a book, make something fun, play a game or if I’m really lucky take a nap or a really relaxing shower.

  7. Ros says:

    The ‘baskets’ solution is such a help. Also trays – if a bunch of things live on the countertop, it looks much less cluttered if the same bunch is in a tray on the countertop. And the lack of visual clutter, in turn, is good for my nerves.

    Realization/resignation of the year: I actually do need sleep (despite what my kids seem to think), and the single best thing I can do to improve my life is to get more sleep. So I go to bed earlier and I’m better at making sure that my husband does half the nighttime wake-ups with the toddler and preschooler. Much improvement to my mood.

    • Kristin says:

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who has to remind myself to make my husband do half the nighttime wake-ups! When they were babies and nursing, of course it was me, but now that they are a toddler and preschooler, it doesn’t have to be! Now I just need to work on the going to be early part :o)

    • Anne says:

      You’re so right about the trays! I only started using them a few years ago and it amazes me what a difference they make. A few things on the counter look like clutter; those same things in a tray look tidy.

  8. Emily says:

    Oh, I love this list! In 2018 I started doing yoga, traded tv for library books, let my oldest daughter take on more responsibilities that she begged for (including chopping all the vegetables we eat), and focused on praising my kids instead of trying to control them. It was a great year. 🙂

  9. Joan Carothers says:

    The thing that worked best for me this year was not being worried over not getting everything done! The one goal I had and kept well was my goal to read 110 books and actually write down the title and author. Thanks to the reading log from Modern Mrs. Darcy, that was easy! I feel good that I kept one goal well and can see what I did. Now to add a journaling aspect to some of my other goals for 2019!

  10. Gwyn Clark says:

    Have had my eye on the ikea chair for awhile, am going to take the plunge and buy it for my reading space. I love yellow too! Where did you find the foot stool? It looks so cheery with the chair.

    • Anne says:

      I was afraid of the bright yellow, but I love it. (You can’t see it, but the rest of the furniture in that room is grey, so it’s a welcome burst of color.) The little footstool is from Arhaus.

  11. Zoe says:

    This year going to the gym 3x a week, writing my blog with book reviews and reading for these reviews helped me to reach some key goals. I’m seriously considering the morning slot idea and loved your prioritising of drinking water- I’m going to finally get a water bottle xxx

  12. Pat M says:

    Three things have been working for me big time this year.
    1. Getting up at 5:15 to do yoga (I’ve discovered Yin yoga – gently prolonged stretching) and meditate for just a few minutes.
    2. Keeping a spread sheet of books I’ve read, books I want to read, and books I’ve purchased for Kindle that I have not read yet (over 100!)
    3. Checking in with your blog and podcast regularly. I love them both.

  13. Grace says:

    As an English person it’s so strange to see an electric kettle as a new item-I don’t think I’ve ever been in a house without one!

      • Victoria says:

        Americans writing about kettles is always funny! They’re basically as important as oxygen to the British. I can’t even imagine how horrible tea tastes made in the microwave like I see sô many doing.
        On the other hand, I love buttermilk pancakes with bacon and maple syrup which most people in the UK think strange. And I pronounce oregano the American way just to annoy my partner ?

        I’ve just bought a timed water bottle which I’m trying to make a habit.

        • Anne says:

          This made me laugh, because we’re just back from the U.K. where kettles were EVERYWHERE. Every little shop and bookstore had one behind the counter. 🙂

  14. Brenda says:

    I have never been a standard size for clothing as an adult, but I like clothes. However, as I grew older, I found it more and more difficult to find clothes I liked that fit, so I kind of gave up. But last spring, when I was poorly dressed by necessity at a wedding, I got my wake up call. I found some vendors that sell clothes that fit me (I’m just into plus-size on the bottom, and just below plus-size on the top), and I made a plan and spent some money. At 55 I have 30-something friends complimenting me on my fashion sense!

  15. Dana says:

    Here’s what’s working for me:
    Water I bought a large,bright blue inexpensive plastic tumbler that I keep on the kitchen counter to remind me to drink more water. 1 full glass ad soon as I get up in the morning and then whenever I pass by the kitchen, seeing it 8s a cue to drink at least a half glass. I also set it in the table at meals.
    Yoga: After my water, the 2nd thing I do is 40 minutes of yoga each morning. I used to do it when I worked but when I retired and then moved I lost the habit. Re-establishing that routine has done so much to improve my morning and the rest of the day.
    Prayer I am using The Divine Hours book series by Phyllis Tickle for my prayer practice. I am enjoying this practice as it gives some structure to my prayers and my day.
    Streamlining my wardrobe. This is a work in progress but so far I am happy with it.
    Thanks, Anne, for your ideas and thanks to all who shared.

    • Yvonne says:

      Dana, I can relate to all of these things! Got the water drinking going, working, too, on getting my daily yoga practice back. Have you heard of Yoga with Adrienne? She has really good free You Tube videos available. I am back to my morning meditation and look forward to it. I also do some spiritual reading every day and I’m going to look into the book series you mentioned. Thank you!
      Wardrobe is a work in progress for me, too. Well worth the effort of finding clothes that work with my lifestyle. That and keeping my house orderly and calm make a big difference to me.
      Thanks, Anne. Love your blog.

  16. Holly Kincaid says:

    Following your suggestion that I saw earlier this year: keeping a paper journal of the books I’ve read and another one with the list of books I REALLY want to read. I was keeping an Amazon wishlist of possibilities and it was becoming overwhelming. Too easy to add to the list that way

  17. Carrie says:

    Yes to pops (or more!) of color. I have added a LOT of color to my life this year. Home, clothes, even getting the sunny yellow new i-phone. It makes such a difference. I love looking into a closet that is transforming into a bright and happy place. Also on the closet note: I have learned when the MAJOR sales happen at high quality stores so that I can fill my wardrobe with beautiful pieces at prices I can actually afford. Sometimes my size is sold out by the time the big sale happens, but a lot of the times I snag the last pair of shoes in my size..or last sweater. Or whatever. So worth the wait!

  18. Kate L Olson says:

    Benign neglect is both my parenting AND teaching motto 🙂 And I mean that in the best way possible – not stepping in to disturb kids playing or learning and letting them tell me when they actually need me! I find everyone is a lot more calm this way – I’m glad to hear it works for plants too.

  19. Kristina says:

    The number one thing that worked for me this year was therapy. I lost a pregnancy and a friend was murdered – there is no way I would have gotten out of bed most days if it would not have been for my amazing therapist! I’m ending the year so much stronger because of what she taught me!

  20. Liz says:

    I laughed when I read your last item, Benign neglect! That was my mother’s parenting philosophy. She had 5 children before the age of 25 and lacked organizational skills. She counted it successful day if we all made it through fed, clothed and relatively clean. It was a lovely wild childhood.

  21. On the email I got, you mentioned you have a problem with losing your phone. Well… if you have a tablet or tabletop computer, and you have a Google profile check out “find my phone” and it should ring even if you have it on silent. I think!

  22. Heather Hibbs says:

    I got my husband a few Tile’s for Christmas, because he is forever losing his keys, phone, wallet, etc. It has already been life changing! It’s linked in an app on your phone and the good thing is – if you can find your keys with the tile, for example, and push the tile, it will ring your phone. So far it has worked well for us! Just be sure to get one of the newer ones with a replaceable battery.

  23. I love this simple reflection. What worked for me was LESS planning. Yes, that sounds strange but it’s what God is leading me to do…it’s a trust thing. I plan to plan even less this year. 🙂

  24. These are all really wonderful but I found myself identifying the most with the last one with the plants. I, too, have noticed that with my plants. They are happiest when I give them exactly what they need and then leave them alone. Well, sometimes I go talk to them or just stare at the wistfully, but other than that I leave them alone ha ha!

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