What worked for me in 2016

I love to do a little bit of reflection at year’s end, but I don’t make it complicated. Around my house we use two questions 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 2016. (I’ll share my list of what didn’t work in the newsletter, same as last year. Sign up here if you’re not on the list.)

Much is unchanged since last year; plenty of 2015 favorites are still working for me, like Tieks, decaf, and human maintenance. These are my new (or new again) 2016 additions:

1. Our new puppy. It’s nice to have a dog again. It’s work, but it’s nice. We got Daisy in October, and she’s starting to really feel like part of the family. My average step count is also much better than it was about this time last year, and that’s not a coincidence.

2. School. We made a big change last year regarding our school situation. It was scary at the time, but now? It’s working, for all of us.

3. Back to basics. Simple clothes and simple meals have kept me going through what has turned out to be a very full year. When I get busy, I wear the same thing every day. And when our schedule is full, we eat the same basic meals over and over.

4. The Instant Pot. I’m loving my new impulse buy from Black Friday. I’ve only been using this a few weeks and I already love it because it’s made it so darn easy to make chicken stock, braised vegetables, hard boiled eggs (that I can actually peel!), and cauliflower soup without me having to babysit the stove. It’s also helping me put healthy meals on the table, faster.

5. Saying yes. This year I consciously made my default answer “yes”—to get-togethers with friends, to trips out of town, to cultural happenings. “No” comes easier to me, because I love to stay home. But I’m usually happy when I choose to do the—whatever the thing is—instead.

So this year I went to lots of local author events, had more play dates for the kids than I otherwise would have, took trips to fun places like Nashville and New York and Charlotte, and only occasionally wished I’d stayed home.

6. My flat iron. (Or maybe, my hair?) Sometimes it’s the little things. When my flat iron broke earlier this month, I realized how dependent I was on it. I don’t spend much time on my hair, seriously. I wash it every three or four (or maybe five, in the winter) days and blow it dry.

After that, I just need to spend 30 seconds with a flat iron every morning to have ready-to-go hair. I’m not ready for a fashion shoot or anything, but it’s good enough for me. But when my flat iron broke I had a difficult time making my hair behave without it! It made me realize how much I relied on it, and how I’ll need a different hairstyle (read: no bangs) if I ever go off the grid for longer than a few days.

(I’d had my old Chi flat iron for five years, and when it finally broke I upgraded to a GHD. I can’t believe how much easier it is to use, and suddenly understand why my friends have been able to pull off flat iron curls for years while I could not.)

7. Shelves. After two exasperating trips to IKEA for closet organizing systems, which resulted in the purchase of a whole bunch of stuff that didn’t work (and which, 8 months later, we finally returned), we paid someone to put shelves in our closet. And then our other closet. They look good, they work great, they were cheaper than IKEA, and it’s so much easier to keep things organized now.

8. Bullet journaling. I finally tried it this year and I’m a fan. (Read more on how I got started and the tips and tricks I use and love.)

I’d love to hear what worked for YOU in 2016, and what didn’t, and why. Tell us all about it in comments.


Leave A Comment
  1. Paige says:

    Do you use dry shampoo between washings? If so, which kind? I usually wash every other day, use cornstarch baby powder if needed.

    • Liza says:

      Paige, I wash my hair every 4-5 days and I don’t use anything. It may take some adjusting, but your hair gets less oily as time goes on. On those too greasy days (by the 4th or 5th day), I pull my hair back into a sleek ponytail or put it in a bun. Of course, my hair is long enough to do that. If you have short hair, I imagine that dry shampoo is a necessity.

    • Anne says:

      I absolutely need to do in the summer (Living Proof is my fave, but I also like Dove from Target), but in the winter I only sometimes do. I almost never need to when it’s 14 degrees, but 50 and rainy is another story as far as my hair is concerned. 🙂

    • Kim says:

      It definitely takes a while to work up to more than every other day. I used Batiste brand – it’s super cheap but the guy at Ulta told me it is what all of their stylists use. Longer hair is easier to not wash.

  2. Ashley says:

    Yay for Instant Pot! I love mine and use it all-the-time. Nom Nom Paleo has some great recipes with specific directions for the Instant Pot (http://nomnompaleo.com/post/125878339293/my-top-paleo-pressure-cookerinstant-pot-recipes) – the Kalua Pig & Mexican Beef are regulars around here. There’s also quite a few groups on Facebook that are specific to this. Here’s one of my favorites I discovered from the facebook group – http://www.seriouseats.com/2015/04/pressure-cooker-fast-and-easy-chicken-chile-verde.html Sooooooo good!

    Can I also say one of the “worked for me” things this year was your book club! I’ve read books I wouldn’t have picked up on my own and found new favorites. It seems like I’m constantly changing my mental list of three favorites for my imaginary WSIRN episode. 🙂

  3. Libby says:

    I decided to start a bullet journal this week! I’m excited that I’m not stuck with a format that isn’t working for me. If my weekly layout isn’t working, then I’ll just try something new the next week!
    I simplified my wardrobe, too! I got rid of anything that I didn’t completely love. It’s made my life so much easier and getting dressed is actually a lot more fun!

  4. Oh the Bullet Journal is one for me as well! I started one around this time last year, and it’s improved my productivity so much!

    And you are right, sometimes it’s the little things that are the most important, the flat iron, saying yes and the right shelves. For me this year it’s always making bigger meals, so I have easy to re-heat leftovers and walking to work instead of driving. It’s done wonders for my well-being (and step-count!) 🙂

  5. Heather says:

    I love hearing what worked for you in 2016! It’s funny b/c I was just talking to my husband about us getting some shelves installed in various spots around the house.

  6. Janet Miles says:

    I haven’t tried bullet journaling yet. My biggest thing this year (started in September) was going back to following the Hungry Girl meal plans and making 4 dinners for myself at a time in foil packs so all I have to do each night is heat it up and add a salad. I’ve lost 12 pounds since then and plan to keep on going. My husband makes his own meals, I just make sure to have the things he likes on hand. We don’t have kids living at home anymore so it is just us. I’ve also added wearing a simple pedometer. Not sure I am actually getting that many more steps in but it is nice to be able to keep track of what I do. Thanks for sharing your list!

  7. Leanne Sowul says:

    Things that worked for me: realizing that I’m a “supply-side” reader, even though I’m always reading something, because I’ll read a LOT more if I’m in the middle of something great; making time for meditation at work; Stitch Fix and Blue Apron; not working after 8:00.

  8. Samantha says:

    I cut off my hair, and when I say that I don’t mean a couple inches or a trim. I cut off over a Foot and a Half of hair! All the way up to my chin. I haven’t had hair this short in a LOOOOONG time and I LOVE it!
    My hair is so thick I actually ended up donating it to two places!

  9. Amy Dougherty says:

    I just wanted to say thank you for posting so much new content regularly. It sounds as if your life is so full with family alone, I appreciate the effort you make to connect with your readers. Your blog is the only one I check (almost) daily, and you never disappoint. If I were going to say what worked for me in 2016, it would be using your blog and podcast as a springboard for my reading life. You’ve helped me with tracking my reading, selecting terrific books (except for that Everyone Brave is Forgiven, have to disagree on that one!), and making reading a priority by eliminating time wasters in my day. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  10. Pamela says:

    My bullet journal is working for sure!! Anti anxiety meds and batch freezer cooking are saving my life!

    What’s not working? My lack of exercise and vegetables. The excess of sugar in my diet. A pile of unused vacation days. And I need to figure out where our money is going….

    I love the simplicity of this yearly evaluation!!!

    • Amy says:

      We used a program called Every Dollar that worked awesome for us for tracking our money every month and knowing exactly where we were. Most banks will just drop in your transactions and then you sort them. There is a small fee but it was well worth it for us!

  11. My sister gave me an Instant-Pot for my birthday this month. I’ve made it as far as unpacking the box and reading a bit of a cookbook my mom gave me! I don’t yet have a six-inch casserole to fit in the top (as many of my recipes call for). I guess I’ll need to start with simpler recipes.

    Tomorrow I have a stretch of time to read through how it works. I’ve already got a meal planned — the one that convinced my sister to buy her own Pot and send me one. 🙂 Here it is!

  12. Liza says:

    2016 was a very rough year for me and my family, but I learned a few things that have me looking forward to 2017.

    1. I’m a project oriented person. I get more accomplished and enjoy work more if I have a specific end goal for what I do. My current job is repetitive, not project oriented. I’m looking at making some financial goals for me to work towards. This will give me motivation to keep going on the days I hate being there.

    2. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone is crazy hard but always has good results.

    3. I need a lot more downtime built into my day. And more sleep.

  13. Ellie says:

    Love to hear what worked and look forward to hearing what didn’t. I’d love to see your new closet organizers :). Merry Christmas! Thank you for your amazing blog. It’s my favorite!

  14. Kelly Engle Paquette says:

    2016 has been a rough year. After a two year battle with cancer my mother passed away in October. I know it sounds crazy, but with the help of hospice it truly was a beautiful thing. Now I find that I’m spending a lot of time sorting out my parent’s finances. It’s hard to think what worked in 2016, but I’m looking forward to 2017. You mentioned that you say “yes” more. I’ve always said “chose people experiences over stuff”, meaning chores will wait, spend time with loved ones. But after this year, I feel like I need to say “no” now and then to have some alone time.

    • Mary says:

      I am sorry, Kelly. I understand exactly what you are going through. One day at a time. My trial was four years ago and I still am recuperating. Take care.

    • Anne says:

      I’m so sorry about your mother, Kelly. And I don’t think you sound crazy (which may also sound pretty strange). Wishing you well as you move into 2017.

    • Annette Silveira says:

      I hope you are healing in just the way you need. Never apologize and never back down from what you want/need at this time, no matter how long it lasts.

  15. The best things I did/learned this year:

    – My single best thing was rising at 5, 7 days a week, to write/work at a coffee shop. Life-changing for me, lifting me out of a depression I didn’t know I was even in.
    – After losing the baby weight (baby #7!), I finally curated a minimalist wardrobe. Getting dressed takes seconds.
    – BuJo ftw!!

  16. Erin says:

    Working for Me:
    –Waking up really early so I can get my writing done in the morning.
    –Podcasts and audiobooks for when I’m driving, cooking meals, etc.
    –Paying ourselves a dollar for every book we finish (my whole family). We took ourselves on a camping trip in August with our book jar money. 🙂

    Not Working for Me:
    –My hair. Somethings gotta change.

  17. molly says:

    Hi Anne! I always love these posts…thank you for sharing 🙂 I’d LOVE to see a photo or two of your new closet shelves! I’ve been wanting to do something for my munchkins’ closets, and I’m continually looking around online for good inspiration & ideas. If you don’t mind, it’d be fun to see what you chose…
    Merry Christmas! xo

  18. Kirsten says:

    Here’s what has worked for me this past year:
    – On Sunday, I set out my 3 daughters’ outfits for the entire week. Ikea has these great 5 hook wall mounts, and they help immensely in organizing for the week. I love the fact that my oldest, in Kindergarten, wears a uniform.
    – Preparing everyone’s lunches for the next day as soon as I get them all home from school/nursery school.
    – Capsule lunches for the kids (basically, they get the same thing every day, with few variations of main dish)
    – Working on developing a capsule wardrobe for myself. I’m about halfway there, but my outfit usually involves black pants. And, I bought some Tieks!
    – Adding espresso powder to my coffee. I’ve been getting up at 4:15…
    I plan to work on better meal planning/diet changes next year. Also, figuring out an exercise regime that works with my schedule and natural body clock.

  19. Erin Schroeder says:

    I’d love to know where you got the shelves or what brand they are. I’ve been wanting something similar for my master closet.

    WhaWhat worked for me:
    Bullet journal
    Cozy minimalist decorating course
    Decluttering my clothes after 4 kids
    Rowing machine- we got one in August and it’s removed a lot of excuses I used to avoid cardio and I get a lot more exercise now.

  20. Kim says:

    What worked for me:
    -letting go of my to do lists, as in. It even making them daily. At most, I make a list for the week.
    -knowing my limits. Especially with people. As bad as this sounds, I’ve found I have a tolerance level for certain people in my life. I’m much happier when I stick to it.
    -having hard conversations. While not huge, I feel like my husband and I’ve had some relationship bumps to get over. Finally being brace helped a lot.
    -podcasts. I’ve found several new ones – including yours. Which has made my book count suffer since they replace audiobooks.
    What didn’t:
    -SOOO agree on the iPhone storage. Constant battle.
    -going back to work part-time. It was supposed to be a release from my kids. I’ve found it just stresses me out and hasn’t helped with my kids.

  21. Sue Ames says:

    I just read your email from today 12/31 and I have to say your List of “What didn’t work for me” looks a lot like mine except for the coffee and phone calls and iphones. I too am going to try harder this year to get especially the walking one up to pare, the rest — well!! Happy New Year.

  22. Tamara says:

    Hi Anne
    Our local coffee roaster, Craven’s Coffee, roasts a great chemical free decaf and I believe ship nation-wide. Free trade too.?

  23. Abigail says:

    I would love to see a picture of your closets too!
    Working for me:
    -Monthly date nights with husband
    -Bullet journaling!!
    -Started running with a friend once a week. Not much but atleast starting back into running and the accountability is so crucial for me.

    Not working:
    – not consistently waking up early before my kids
    – making meals on the fly- dinner time still stresses me out
    – I’ve started reading in the afternoon when my kids have quiet reading time (which has been awesome) but I often sit and read longer than I need too…which probably leads to my stressed dinner prep. I need more self control to put my book down #bookwormproblems

  24. Annette Silveira says:

    Anne~you asked about coffee roasters in your What’s Not Working post. Check out passport-coffee.com. We’ve bought some fantastic beans from them. They may be what you’re looking for.

  25. Karen says:

    I read this title and thought “not for me!”
    Then I opened my BuJo, wrote down “2016 – What Worked?”
    And came up with a list of 5 things:
    1. Bullet Journal
    2. Instant Pot
    3. Smaller House (better location; less work)
    4. Progress on Intro course (an introduction to language learning using the GPA approach)
    5. Using the Library (again) & learning to use Overdrive

    I think this is the first time in my 62 years I’ve done this!

  26. Claire Oman says:

    Shelves in the closet, happy thought indeed! 😉 Someone had to say it…
    I am just starting a Bullet Journal this year after thinking about it for years (fellow INFP here, can you tell?), pretty excited to get going.

  27. Elizabeth says:

    Would LOVE to see a post showing your closet shelves. Our closet is building basic wire and I’m trying to figure out a better way. Would love to see what’s working for you!

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