{living intentionally} 3 ways to experience the “selfish” joy of giving this year

I picked up the phrase “the selfish joy of giving” from reading Laura Vanderkam’s “All the money in the world” book a few months ago.

It immediately resonated with me. I have often said that I sign up for Santa Shoebox because there is nothing better than shopping for other kids because I don’t have to find a place for all that stuff.

Jokes aside, it’s so true. There is something that warms my own heart even more than the recipients’ hearts when I fill a Santa Shoebox.

She also mentioned some research that people are more happy from philanthropic endeavours than from spending on themselves.

This was my favourite chapter in the entire book and has stuck with me since.

I also want to highlight 3 ways for each of us to experience this selfish joy of giving the entire year, not just around Christmas.

  1. shopping for individual families rather than giving money
  • She mentions that this is probably not as effective a way to use the money, but it is always a popular way to give. I completely resonated with this. Years ago at my church, there was an appeal to buy a gift for a certain amount of money, wrap it and bring it in. We always enthusiastically participated. Then it changed to just donate the money and suddenly we stopped. It just wasn’t as fun anymore. People (me!) want to feel warm and fuzzy inside while they give.
  • 2. lots of little gifts of a small amount of money
  • She suggests that if you have the mindset of looking for ways to make the world better for $5 – $20 (for South Africans, I just thought R20 – R100), it’ll be a lot of fun for you. One year I put on my list to pay for the person’s stuff behind me. It was so fun and let’s be honest – I didn’t even miss the money (just think of it as tossing a few extra things in your basket at the till, only healthier!)
  • 3. something larger that you won’t feel
  • This is the most exciting part for me. I have visions of paying for science/ maths camps for 5 kids a year. I have a bias because I studied science. If you know of any in the Joburg area, tell me!
  • But how about starting small and sponsoring a prize for the 3 kids who read the most books in the foundation phase at school? I’m going to do this next year – I just need to chat to the principal and the librarian to get the okays, and really, it’s a couple of thousand rands for me but will make me (and the kids) so happy. When I mentioned this idea to my kids, they were really upset that they’ll not be eligible 🙂
  • I’ve also thought about sponsoring a Bible college year for one person. These gifts, while larger, will not break my bank of Marcia (I know how to save and manage my money), but it might be just the thing to truly influence another person’s life, and I really want to be part of something bigger than just me.


Some other ideas I’ve heard from friends:

  1. One friend stopped doing Santa Shoebox and decided to buy something (I can’t remember if it was nappies or formula) on a monthly basis for a whole year. She’s not trying to solely fund the children’s home but she knows that every tin of Nan counts or Pampers. Whatever it was.
  2. Another friend buys hot dog rolls and sausages, prepares them and then drives around her suburb and surrounds handing out food to the beggars on the corner.
  3. Another friend makes cupcakes for all the old people at her nearest old aged home.
  4. I used to read a blog where the blogger ran amazon ads and used all that money (it’s really not a lot) to buy diapers for kids. What a great idea!

I support two World Vision kids from the Eastern Cape (I’m from the EC) but this kind of practical thing sounds like a lot of fun that I can do in addition to my monthly subscription. In fact, 2018 marks 20 years of me supporting a World Vision child.

If you’re looking for something meaningful to do, why don’t you purpose now to set aside a certain amount of money every month this year, and make a practical difference. And if you can’t give financially, there is always your time.

Can you think of some easy ideas to experience the joy of selfish giving?

{reading} Why I read fewer books in 2018 than in 2017

In 2017 I read 120 books. You can read how here (that’s one of the most popular posts on the blog, by the way).

Last year I passed 100, didn’t hit 120 but ended up on 113.

Let me tell you why:

  1. I read longer, more challenging books

One of my reading goals for 2018 was to read books that would stretch me, some more literary fiction. I specifically set a really low Goodreads goal of 80 books. This means I still needed to be reading almost two books a week, so I had to prioritise reading but I could read longer books during a month and not choose ones I’d finish within 4 days instead of say, 6.

2. I worked from home more

I listen to audible books on the way to work. A standard non-fiction read is about 8 hours long and a standard fiction read is about 10 – 11 hours long, so let’s average out at 9 hours.

Given these stats, and my commute being about 45 minutes, in 2017, I’d get through a long audio book in 3 weeks, but on average this year it was taking me 4 weeks because for many weeks, I’d work from home two days.

(no complaints; I’d gladly sacrifice books for focussed deep work time)

3. my reading slump

I won’t go into the whole thing here again but when you’re in a reading slump, you’d rather do other things than read, so I organised, took jacaranda photo walks and had other kinds of fun 🙂

It was really helpful analysing why I read less this year. The bottom line is I’m an upholder and it’s still best for me to make my own rules about reading (and everything else) and uphold those rules.

Read more about my reading rules here, and on re-reading them now, it’s so obvious the commenters are not upholders 😉

How did your reading life compare from 2017 to 2018? Have you noticed any trends?

{2018 Annual review} What energised me in 2018?


  1. Zumba class every Saturday morning. I won’t lie and say my barre180 class energised me because often the only reason I dragged myself was that I knew missing it would mean I’d be so sore the next week.
  2. Kids book club. I wrote on Instagram recently that the best thing about kids’ book club is hearing these kids talk about books they love. It is the actual best.
  3. My book club. You know you should expect this of me so here goes: I keep a spreadsheet of the books we’ve read and the rating I’ve given each of those books. Last year’s average rating was higher (3.91) to this year’s rating (3.65) but this year was so energising for me due to the fantastic discussions. So even if I didn’t personally enjoy a book; I loved the discussions.
  4. My work relationships also energised me this year. Our team is in a good place where we’re all getting along well and enjoying working with one another.
  5. The Enneagram. I wrote about this earlier this year but I also took the personalised coaching and it was fabulous. I can now see when I’m in a good place by how I’m displaying the healthy parts of a 7, and how self-critical I become when I’m stressed.
  6. Walks in nature. I still hate being outside in summer but I have LOVED taking walks and chasing down beautiful things to capture in autumn and spring (jacaranda trees).
  7. Connecting with my friends. One of the best things I did as an upholder last year was to set up recurring friend dates.
  8. Last but not least, the Four Tendencies continue to energise and fascinate me. I will be running regular 4T workshops this year so put yourself on the list if you’re local. I have seen the benefit of knowing your tendency personally, and in my family, and also with clients and colleagues, and it has made my life so much easier with knowing how to approach someone and get my meaning across but also meet their needs. And best of all, I’ve successfully used the strategies for my tendency to create and build good habits 🙂

Bonus – I did a ton of decluttering and organising this year, both during Spring into Organising, and throughout the year. Getting things done always energises me and it’s been great.

What energised you in 2018?

{goals} Word of year recap and new word for 2019

Before I start the recap, let’s have a quick walk down memory lane and look at my previous words:

2009 – simplicity
2010 – consolidate
2011 – courage
2012 – create
2013 – trust
2014 – shine
2015 – enough
2016 – joy
2017 – give
2018 – fun

My 2018 word was exactly what I needed coming off a year of giving.

I had a great year just by asking myself, “what sounds like fun?

Your mileage will vary, of course, but reaching a stretch savings goal for me is fun. Fun was also signing up and completing two courses, starting a kids’ book club, and re-reading books I loved. I had never been much of a re-reader of fiction before this but I’m looking forward to now taking that forward in my reading life.

Fun meant saying yes to Zumbathons even though it would inconvenience me and eat into my schedule. Fun also meant saying no to dancing in a Spanish show at an already very stressful time of the year for me at work.
Fun meant scheduling regular friend dates and not depending on connecting on the fly.
Fun also meant constantly evaluating what no longer worked, and letting that go. E.g. when I realised I was always bypassing a particular podcast, I simply unsubscribed as it was no longer fun.

When I thought about my 2019 word, I had the word YES in my mind from October. But suddenly as December approached, I felt like I needed to think about the word some more. I wanted to add something about caring for my body, marriage, relationships, etc. so I thought the word might be TEND.

And then I was 98% certain the word was CULTIVATE.

I did all my goal-setting prep work with the word CULTIVATE in mind until I listened to the Secret Library podcast with Susannah Conway and about 8 minutes in, she asked, “what do you need to be in 2019?”

And right there as I was tidying up my bathroom, I said, “I need to be bold”. Suddenly, I felt an excitement, a deep resonance, a yes-ness about that word.

That excitement was what was lacking about cultivate for me. It’s a great word but it didn’t excite me.

Bold (from Dictionary.com): not hesitating or fearful in the face of actual or possible danger or rebuff; courageous and daring

I then looked up in my Bible app (YouVersion) some of the scriptures that referenced bold

Proverbs 28:1b …the godly are as bold as lions and
Proverbs 10:10 … a bold reproof promotes peace
2 Cor 3:12 Since this new way gives us such confidence, we can be very bold

Yes! This was my word.

So here’s what bold means to me:
1. I need to be bold again at work, take risks and step out. I’m now the longest in tenure in my position in our section and I’ll admit that I sometimes feel a bit stale.
2. I need to be more bold in asking for what I want. I’ve been very much about “holding things loosely” so as not to be vulnerable and get hurt, but actually, I want to be more bold with relationships in saying, “this is also what I need”. E.g. I don’t want shallow, superficial friendships. I want reciprocal friendships where we have fun, yes, but we are also vulnerable and can share our hearts.
3. I want to be bold and take care of my body the way I know I need to – eat better, drink enough water, move more. This is honestly the only area of my life where I’m this undisciplined!
4. I also want to be bold in speaking what is right in situations. That is who I am but in “speaking the truth in love” and “being gentle”, I’ve gotten too soft. Understanding my enneagram number this year has opened my eyes that this is how God made me to be and there is actually nothing wrong with being me.
5. And last but not least, I have totally wigged out on being bold with this part of my life – coaching, speaking, and workshops. I sort of let it be known accidentally that I do this but I don’t boldly market myself even though I know I am good at helping people in this way. An Instagram organising friend said she didn’t even know half the things I do because I never talk about them – it’s true. So even if my marketing efforts fail, this year at least, I’m determined to be persistent and keep being bold about these gifts I’ve been given to serve the world. Please hold me accountable because this is the area I’m most likely to slack on.

So bold is my word, and I’ve chosen tend and yes as supporting words.

Tell me, how did your 2018 word play out for you, and what is your 2019 word of the year? I can’t wait to hear!

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to you!

Thank you for reading along faithfully every week. In a world where blogging is not nearly as popular as it was years ago, I appreciate you reading along about living intentionally and getting organised.

And then, I wish you a year ahead with a guiding word that inspires and motivates you, and the peace that being organised brings.

Lots of love

Marcia

PS If you’re local to Gauteng, and you’re interested in hearing more about a Four Tendencies workshop, add your name to the mailing list here (this doesn’t indicate any commitment). If you live in other parts of the country, I am happy to come do a workshop if you can get 10 people together.

 

Coincidentally

Lovely things to do, eat, watch, try in 2019


I made this free printable a few years ago because I like to make a list of lovely things to do when I have a birthday.

It’s like a goals list, but super fun ones 🙂

Some of you will say that all goals should be fun; I disagree because we all know there are things you should do as part of being a grownup that aren’t necessarily fun (dental appointments, I’m looking at you!).

I didn’t get around to make my lovely things list in August but I’m going to do it with a twist for next year.

  • Lovely things to do read this year
  • 19 lovely things to do in 2019

Ideas for you:

  • lovely things to watch this year (if you’re a movie/ TV person – I am not)
  • lovely places to eat at this year (if you like to try new restaurants – I don’t like new restaurants but I do like working my way through some menus…)
  • lovely things to cook this year (I could get behind this idea)
  • lovely friends to see this year
  • your choice

Have fun with it, friends.

I’ve got good news – I’ve made these 7 printables and they’re ready for you to download here.

Care to share your lists? Please tag me on Instagram and tell your friends to sign up for their set of lovely lists too.

Merry Christmas to you and your family

 

 

Dear readers

Merry Christmas to you and to your loved ones.

I hope you have a wonderful day and that you feel the love of Jesus surrounding you.

Lots of love

Marcia

 

PS come back tomorrow because it’s the start of International Planning Week 🙂

PPS I hope you put a “To Marcia, From Marcia” under the tree 🙂

 

{2018 Annual review} What went well this year?

This is part one of my annual review, where I start with the question I always use:

What went well this year?

  • I read a lot of books (the year is not over and I think I’ll end on around 110). In fact, I read more than I thought I would read, especially since my Goodreads goal was only 80. Many of them were great books, but that’s another post.
  • Book club was so much fun this year. This is year two for us and I think we’ve ironed out almost all of the logistical issues around choosing books, deciding on hosting, bringing eats, and so forth.
  • I had great work rhythms. I should write a post about my end-of-week work routines, but it’s in my Instagram Story highlights if you want to take a look. I’d venture to say if I didn’t have good work habits, things could have been even more overwhelming.

  • The kids were happy at school and with their teachers, and they both still love being active and reading. I also started a kids book club which has been one of the most fun things I’ve done this year.
  • We had 3 family holidays which is perfect. Dion and I would obviously prefer 4; – in 2014, we managed to go on 4 holidays and that was the absolute perfect rhythm…. and was also the last year we didn’t have kids in Big School.
  •  I did awesome with my sleep. This is a strange thing to put down but it’s something to celebrate for a night owl like me. I’ve been tracking my sleep since 2015 and it’s now a reliable 7 hrs 40 ish with good, uninterrupted, restful slumber.
  • I had a great week of prayer in October. Prayers that were answered (that I know about) – jobs!
  • I did all my 18 in 2018 goals. I did scrape in those last two but there you go.

  • I’m up to date with my photos. I also devised a system for school (see Instagram Story highlights) and holiday photos. A project for holiday photos will go onto my 19 in 2019 list because I’m only up to 2017 with regard to holiday photo printing.
  • I took an Enneagram coaching course which was amazingly insightful and best of all, I think it brought me closer to God.
  • I also took the Four Tendencies deep dive course which was so much fun I will be taking my accreditation early next year to run live, in-person workshops. Isn’t that fun? If you’re local I’d love to have you.
  • As far as the house is concerned, we painted three of our rooms upstairs, one of them navy. We also bought two new couches and a new armchair (these were so overdue – we replaced furniture we’d had for 15 years, and we received those as hand-me-downs from an uncle who was upgrading). And we put in a shower in the kids’ bathroom which was probably the best money decision since we now have our own bathroom completely to ourselves again. It’s hard to believe we’ve already been in this house 2.5 years.
  • I exceeded my personal savings goal (I just throw a stretch number out at the beginning of the year and see if I can hit it).

  • My system for tending close friendships is also working great. This is also for another post.
  • I took more than 60 photowalks this year and many drives to look at autumn leaves, winter branches or jacaranda trees.
  • I also decluttered another big stash of books I don’t plan to read and donated those to our local library, I decluttered bags, shoes and scarves (but I know this is ongoing) and gave away more than 60 notebooks. I was not allowed to buy more than 10 – readers, I confess I failed!
  • I put myself out there and ran two blog projects – Spring into Organising and this current project, to write for 15 minutes every day in November.
  • My core is stronger because I’ve now been doing my barre180 class for 16 months.

Over to you.

What went well in your life this year?

This is our Christmas pep talk

Despite all the gorgeous Instagram and Facebook posts that show beautifully decorated homes, delicious food and every family member being kind and loving, this Christmas perfection is not real life for a lot of people.

In my house, we still have disagreements, tantrums, children not listening or being ungrateful and me stressing about getting all the food warm at the same time.

I’m guessing you can relate to a little something. Maybe there’s a family member or two missing due to death, illness or just other plans this year. We spent one Christmas in the hospital with Kendra when the twins were two.

So I’m writing this quick blog as a pep talk to you and to me:

  1. Define just one thing you want from Christmas

Is it to sing a nice song at church? Is it to have Christmas mince pies and tea for dessert? Is it to spend time with your family? Is it to see the look on a child’s face when you’ve gifted them something they truly want? Or is it to open your To Marcia, From Marcia gift? 😉

(I want to go to church, focus on Jesus and sing my favourite song, O Holy Night. If this song is not on the rotation, I’m prepared because I have about 4 different versions that I like right on my phone!)

2. Remind yourself of the part you are there to play

Glennon Doyle once wrote on Instagram that when we imagine we’re the director of the play, then there’s the pressure and we feel like it’s up to us to make everything “perfect”. When we remind ourselves that we just have a bit part in the play that is Christmas (or any major holiday), we relax knowing that we only have a small part to play and we can then laugh at the Uncle that is drunk or saying inappropriate things, instead of taking it personally that they are Messing Up the Play.

Or something like that. You get the idea.

This has been very useful to me over the last couple of years as I tell myself my job is to do only x; it’s not up to me to make sure everyone has fun (although, as an enneagram 1, I can so easily take it all upon my shoulders).

3. Remind yourself that yes, it is the day we use to commemorate Jesus’s birth but it is still just a day.

Repeat after me, “nothing about today has to be perfect”. Jess Lively said that, I wrote it down and took a picture. Who made the rule that Christmas had to be perfect? Seriously, keep asking yourself that question.

A normal day has things that go well and things that don’t. The chicken takes longer to cook and everyone’s starving but the family member you worry about is particularly pleasant and non-combative.

4. Remember your personality and honour it

If you’re an extrovert, allow yourself the time to enjoy being with the people as this will energise you. If you’re an introvert, feel free to escape for 5 minutes to “tidy the kitchen” or “check on the kids”.

May I suggest this fantastic episode of Sorta Awesome where Meg Tietz and Gretchen Rubin talk about how the Four Tendencies show up for celebrations. I loved this episode so much. Gift yourself an hour and take a listen – it’s worth it.

and last but not least…

5. Stay off social media

You’ll just get depressed about the gifts you didn’t gift or receive, the food you didn’t cook, the family you didn’t spend time with and everyone else’s perfect kids.

I jump on Instagram for five minutes to post a Merry Christmas photo, and then I’m offline for the rest of the day except for phone calls to family.

Which of these tips resonated most with you? How do you remain calm and joyful over Christmas?

My favourite things about my 2018 diary

As I transition into the new year… and my new diary for 2019, I thought that I’d take a few minutes to note down and review my favourite things about my current diary.

 

Colour. I love the turquoise colour with the gold foil lettering and embossed feel. The pages are white with grey and turquoise shadowing.

Feel. It is gorgeous to the touch.

Zipper. I carried my bullet journal and other bits and bobs inside, and because it zips up, nothing has ever fallen out.

Paper. The paper is thick, smooth to the touch and is lined with a width that is perfect for my size handwriting.

Month at a glance page with a separate goals page

Weekly planner.  It is horizontal which is possibly the only thing I didn’t love at the start of using it but I have had no trouble adjusting at all.

Special sections: prayer list, priorities and notes for the week

There are more things but I don’t use the rest 🙂

They did not import the 2019 version of this diary to South Africa but a reader (hi Michelle!) let me know that she got one in Germany. If you’re lucky enough to get one of these, enjoy it.

We have had a great year together 🙂

Tell me your favourite thing about your 2018 diary.

PS if you missed it, I showed you all my diaries from 2007 in my Instagram story highlights. I’m happy to add them to the highlights again – you need to just tell me to do so in the comments.

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