What worked for me in 2013

I’ve spent a lot of time these past few weeks looking back over 2013, and two questions have helped me more than any others:

  1. What worked last year? and
  2. What didn’t?

The answers to both questions are hugely helpful. Today I’m sharing what worked for me last year. (While it’s helpful to pinpoint what didn’t work, those answers were a lot less interesting!)

Here’s what worked for me in 2013:


what worked in 2013: 10,000 steps

1. 10,000 steps. I have been flabbergasted at how effective tracking my steps with my Jawbone UP has been. My success with this has made me revisit my entire approach to goal-setting. (Post coming soon.)

It Starts With Food: the Whole 30 handbook

2a. The Whole 30 (for Will, too). This rubric worked beautifully for us and we’re both so glad we did it.

2b. Sarah’s elimination diet got rid of her headaches and tummy troubles. After nearly a year off those foods, we’ve even been able to add a few back in with no ill effects.


3. Automatic deductions from checking to savings eliminated the friction between my good intentions and getting things done. Having a decent plan helped, too.

Home life

4. Family therapy. I’ve been thinking about it for a while; in October we actually did it. It was worth it just to hear a professional say I’m not totally screwing up this parenting thing.

special breakfasts

5. Special breakfasts. This was easy and fun and totally worth it.

6. Hiring help. Getting some help with school and work and life was one of the best things I did in 2013. We found someone amazing who’s been coming a couple of times a week to help with school, play trains with Silas, supervise when I go to the office, and do my laundry.


with camera

7. Taking a photography class. I’ve been wanting to learn to shoot in manual for years. Usually I can figure things out by reading the manual, but that wasn’t helping with this goal! This class made things finally click.

8. Setting up “office space” in our home for me. Last winter, Will set up a makeshift table for me in the corner of a bedroom as an “experiment,” and I loved it immediately. This fall I’ve upgraded to a real desk (if a $20 Ikea table counts as a “real” desk) and a real bookshelf.  This started as an experiment but it caught on immediately. I love, love, love it.

stitch fix

9. Outsourcing my shopping. Using services like Stitch Fix and Tog and Porter helped me elevate my style from “Anthropologie sale rack” to something a little more deliberate and thoughtful and me.

10. This. (Not for the faint of heart.)

On the blog

summer reading guide

11. The summer reading guide. I have so much fun doing this, and I get thank you emails for the book recommendations all year.

12. Long, weird post titles. Like…

From the department of shallow

13. Learning to contour. I’m not a pro, but I’m getting better with my weapons of choice.

Off the top of your head, what worked for you in 2013?

*****     *****     *****

Reminder: the link-up to share your favorite books of 2013 is tomorrow!

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  1. Maggie says:

    I love this post because I also made myself write down what worked this year and should be continued. For me it was a) weekly meal planning b) weekly bible study with friends c) tracking spending every pay period and d) hiring a cleaning service.

  2. When we saw a financial planner the first year we got married, and we were as poor as church mice, he told us we couldn’t afford to NOT save money. We started having it automatically withdrawn from our account once a month. It is a bill to us, but a bill that pays later. Delayed gratification. We have bought vehicles with cash. We have went on vacation multiple times. We put a down payment on our house. The automatic withdrawal in the key!

  3. Desiree says:

    I haven’t finished my what worked for me in 2013 but I have to comment about #10. You totally opened my eyes to a product I’ve never heard of, I just had baby #3 and am looking forward to testing that out when the time comes. Thank you for letting me in on that!

  4. Ana says:

    Just ordered my Fitbit yesterday (I’ve had it sitting in my Amazon cart for MONTHS and just spent some of my Christmas $ on it.) I assume I walk a ton, but I want to know for sure (and then increase it). #10 on the other hand…eek. I’m not the least bit squeamish about bodily stuff (I’m in healthcare!) but I’m easily embarrassed, so the thought of having to “deal with it” in a public restroom at work horrifies me.

  5. Jacey Verdicchio says:

    So many great things in this post. Whole 30 is definitely on my “what worked” list this year, too. Also: buying groceries with cash, using an app to track my cycle, coconut oil as moisturizer, thred UP and Stitch Fix.

  6. Kim says:

    2013 could have been a financial disaster if we hadn’t been following Dave Ramsey’s plan for several years. Stockpiling groceries and couponing for years also was huge.

    We had lots of answered prayer and with that came lots of unanticipated travel in the car, weekends out of town and little time for planning, budgeting, etc. The nature of the traveling also meant a lot of expenses that we couldn’t have planned ahead for.

    Having money and food set aside does wonders for kicking anxiety in the tale when the unexpected happens. It isn’t always the rainy days that cost a lot, it can be the ones filled with sunshine too.

    Love the link to contour. Thank you!

    Lots of great ideas and reminders.

  7. Ashley says:

    Love this post so much Anne!

    What worked for me? Surviving…

    This year I hope to get comfortable in my own life, embrace it, and thrive!

    Thanks, as always, for being an inspiration!

  8. Anne says:

    Oooh, I will add these questions to my goal-setting. Thanks!

    Off the top of my head…..formalizing kindergarten gave a routine-boost and firmer purpose to the day. Nice structure of the day.

    I’ll probably try #10 sometime, too. 🙂

  9. Finding a little “office” space for me is on my list for this year! Perching on the kitchen counter with my laptop ISN’T working for me anymore! There are a few large purchases I want to save up for this year, plus try to get through my husband’s final year of grad school debt free! (School debt, that is. We still have a mortgage and car payment. As much as I’d love to really chip away at that dang car payment this year, I know we’ve got to focus on paying for his school this year.)

  10. Sarah Mudd says:

    Whole 30 is on my list of what worked too. It’s amazing the difference you can feel after cutting out the bad! #10– I didn’t even know something like that existed but I think I need to try it!

  11. Sarah says:

    I am interested in what you’d have to say about family therapy. My husband and I are in marriage counseling, but sometimes I wish my kids had someone else to talk to about what’s troubling them. What made you decide to do it? How did you know things were “out of whack” enough for you to make the call? Personally, I’m such a survivor (meaning that I just cope with and handle whatever is happening) that I think I don’t always notice that “it” doesn’t have to be “this way.” And how did you know who to see? That’s a hurdle for me too. I know that’s really personal, but would you be willing to tell a little bit about your experience and how it’s benefitted your family?

    • Anne says:

      We were honestly lucky: we established a relationship with a therapist when our firstborn was little, because a family therapist’s service were part of our treatment plan when our child had developmental delays. We’ve bumped into him occasionally over the years so he still had a pretty good idea of what we were like, what our family dynamics were like, and where we were coming from. It had been half a decade since we’d met with him regularly but it wasn’t too strange to pick back up where we left off.

      When we originally connected with our therapist, we got a referral from an acquaintance who was currently using him for similar issues (development delays, at the time).

      I debated for a solid six months–maybe longer?–before I actually made the call. (In hindsight, I should have just called right away. Just the act of showing up for an appointment did wonders in boosting my peace of mind.)

      I’m going to write more about family therapy at some point in the not-too-distant future.

  12. kay kerns says:

    Two excellent questions! I actually got out pen and paper and made a list.
    1 Low sodium diet + more water + exercise = lower blood pressure w/o meds
    2 Weeding out my clothes = cuter outfits, more confidence
    3 Kept all holidays and celebrations SIMPLE = less expense, more fun time
    4 Camping with my boyfriend drew us closer together (even though we were homeless, it was still fun

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