One Year Review - 52 Weeks of Challenges!

Happy First Birthday, Blog!

The first "52 Small Challenges" post went up exactly one year ago today, on September 1, 2014. At that time I had very little blogging experience, no idea how it was going to go, and high hopes of turning this into something big. 

One year later, I have considerably more blogging experience (but still no idea how to create a graph that I can add to a post, or how to get a birthday hat onto the cat in my logo), some idea how it's going to go (slowly), and high hopes - well, let's just say they've been tempered by experience. 

But I kept it up for a whole year! I'm pretty excited about that. 

Challenges with Challenges

It turns out the biggest challenge of all is not coming up with ideas, motivation, or things to write about. The biggest challenge is time.

Everything that goes into this - planning, executing, and documenting each challenge with words and photos, putting together the posts, general blog maintenance - takes time. That's true of everything in life, I guess, but especially true of blogging. What happens behind the scenes to make even a short post takes a lot more time than you'd think. More than I realized, anyhow. 

When I find the time, it's time well spent. I love sharing what I'm doing and hearing from  readers. I don't have a huge following by any means, so it's always a pleasant surprise to find out someone I know has been reading the blog. And when I see strangers commenting or liking the posts on Facebook, it feels great. 

But it's still difficult to find time to put it all together. I'm more impressed than ever by bloggers who work full-time jobs, maintain households or businesses on the side, and still find time to post every day. This is mostly unrelated, but travel bloggers in particular impress me. I've yet to write a single travel-related review, let alone a meaningful post while actually traveling. But others do it all the time!

Year Two Plans

Going into the second year, I plan to make a couple changes. First of all, I'm getting rid of the "social challenge" category I hated so much, and substituting a "personal choice" category. Anything goes those weeks, including a duplication of another category. Basically, whatever I feel like doing that week, I can do it. Hopefully this will allow me to continue to explore things that don't fit somewhere else, such as not wearing makeup, while avoiding things I'm simply not inclined to do, such as personal social challenges

I experimented for a while with some weekly extras (links, frugal things and Food Waste Fridays), that ended up being too much to do every single week. But I still really like the ideas behind all those things, so I've decided to make them monthly. I might even come up with a fourth regular post, so I'm posting something like that every Friday. First Friday of the month will be links, second Friday will be frugal things, etc. And it'll be a month-long compilation at the time I publish it, so hopefully full of good stuff. But not too much food waste. 

Other Thoughts

The longer challenges (1% savings challenge, capsule wardrobe) although I've posted irregularly at best about them, have been fun, too. In a sea of short challenges, it's nice to have something that continues on, that I don't have to think (or write) about every day. 

The second biggest challenge has been the challenges themselves. I do a lot of things for seven days that I'd like to keep up for many more, but it's so hard to make that happen. First of all, a lot of my spare time is taken up by the current challenge. Second of all... actually, maybe that's it. 

On another blog, I read someone's comment that they hate the word "challenge." The comment-writer was sick of push-up challenges, personal challenges, challenges in general. For a minute, I felt bad for thinking about challenges all the time. But after further thought, I realized I get a lot out of these challenges, and if I'm helping someone else, maybe even just one person, explore more options, then I'm happy with that.

Because for me, that's what it's really about - exploring the world around me. Seeing what else might be done, how else I might go about this "living" thing. And along the way, sharing what works for me, what doesn't, what you I might do, what it turns out I can't do...

Besides, what option do we have? Keep doing the same old things, forever? Or try new things, whether we call them challenges or not? I guess it's obvious what I'd choose. 

regret nothing.jpg

Year in Review

Looking back at the challenges I've undertaken (you can see them all in the index), I can pretty easily tell you what seems to be sticking. 

  • I've stuck with this breathing technique for exercise, which I started using for running and now use any time I feel out-of-breath, whether I'm hiking or climbing stairs. Sometimes I even use it when I'm walking, if I'm with a fast walker or the terrain is hilly. Seriously, I swear by it. If I develop amnesia and forget about it, I think I will feel something important is missing from my life. 
  • I continue to declutter. I've decluttered nearly every space in the house (including the kitchen, basement and officeholiday supplies, laundry room, our book collection, the attic, my wardrobe and the basement, again. And there's been more, but I haven't blogged about it. Other than Eric's half of the garage, I can't think of an area that hasn't been decluttered at least once. There is still work to do, but I find the thought of having less clutter so pleasing, I can think about it to calm my mind if I'm worried about something else. 
  • The $400 food budget and 1% Savings Challenge continue on. It's nice to see our grocery expenses come down and our savings grow. 
  • I am maybe ever-so-slightly more mindful than I was before. 
  • Smoothies happen about three times a week and I tend to feel better on days when I drink them. 
  • The social media fast has had a lasting effect on my social media consumption. I mostly lost my appetite for it, although I still peruse it from time to time.  
  • And the No Makeup Challenge was wildly successful. Entire makeup-less weeks go by. ENTIRE WEEKS. It's crazy. 

There were many things I tried and liked, but didn't stick with, including all the "exercise every day" challenges, but especially Janathon and 20,000 steps, and all the meditation weeks, 

Some were one-offs, such as caulking the bathroom. I'm not doing that again, hopefully ever. 

Others weren't exactly completed, including freezer cleanup and a lot of the creative challenges. 

There were a few I tried but hated, such as all of the diet ones (just kidding) (not entirely). Hate is a strong word, but I do find them very difficult to stick with. 

And then there were some surprises. My biggest successes (social media and no makeup) came from my least-favorite social category, as did one of my most-read posts, which was this one about Scotland and Ireland). 

Conclusion

In the end, I think it's worth it. I tried a lot of things and found a few that stuck and continue to enrich my life, including some I don't think I would have tried if it weren't for the blog. Having a social/exposure element keeps me motivated most of the time. 

Hopefully you'll stick around for another year of challenges! While I'm going to try to come up with new things, I'm sure I'll revisit some older challenges, too. As always, I'm open to suggestions for new challenges. Let's see what another year brings...