All in a Phrase

I don’t know if you have thought about this quite yet, but the new year is just around the corner and not only is it the end of the year – but it is the end of a decade!? I have been feeling very nostalgic and reflective, so this is one of 4 posts that I have planned in honor of the forthcoming 2020. I will be posting every Monday, each with some relation to the new year or the previous 10 years.
I hope you enjoy!

For the past 10 years, I have given myself a phrase at the start of a new year.

Sometimes these are borrowed from someone else, like “who you know is who I am,” borrowed from a camp coworker in 2014, or the entire chorus of “Dancing Queen,” borrowed from ABBA the year I turned 17. Sometimes its simply a sentence, like this one is for the takings, or keep track of your jackets. These phrases are sometimes used more than once, in a row or they bounce around. It’s just a habit I picked up around the time I started (seriously) keeping a journal, and it seems to stick with me throughout the year better then when I make a list of resolutions.

The first couple years of college were cataloged under: Push Through The Fear. Depending on your memory and/or how much of my blog you have read, this might look familiar. It is the title of a blog post all about trying to deal with my major anxiety, and was an alternate title considered for this post that I wrote in honor of my time as an actor. It’s a phrase that was written all over my notebooks, diaries, tucked away in blog posts, doodled on note pages. It is one that has stuck around with me for a while, and for me it acts as a chapter title for that time in my life when my ultimate goal was just to get-through-the-anxiety of whatever I was facing. I just wanted to get better at pushing myself to do what I needed to do, and stop missing out on experiences or relationships. That phrase is what got me through my first day at college; it is what got me to audition for my first college show and later my first performance of said show. Push through the Fear was what ultimately encouraged me to come out and try to build a relationship with my now girlfriend of 4 years. It was with me along every terrifying step of those formative years.

When I got sick and had to essentially quit my life, Fear wasn’t what was holding me back anymore so that mantra quickly got replaced. The goal has no longer been push through the fear, but instead to “practice patience,” because patience takes practice and practice takes patience. It’s been the title of my blog, it’s been doodled on note pages, written and underlined in my journals – I wrote about it too. The goal for the past 2 years has been to focus on slowing myself down, practice bettering my negative traits, and to be patient with – not only the people around me – but also how long it takes to grow. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is Raelee. So as I waited for every test result, as I learned new jobs, tackled medical bills, dealt with germy airplanes, and navigated scary adult processes like renting my first apartment – Practice Patience was there along the way. Not a push to just do it, but a reminder that it is ok to take my time.

Regardless, setting up a phrase for myself has been a way of setting intentions and gathering up excitement and encouragement for a new year. In times of crisis or depression it is something that helps me focus and continue building resilience.

I can tell that it will be a new phrase for 2020. I can feel the adrenaline of a new year, the lightness of a fresh start, the energy of finishing a book and picking up the next one. But I don’t know what it is yet. I never really seek them out, it has always been something that happens organically. I guess we’ll just have to see.


Image description: The photo is of a pile of Raelee’s diaries, journals, and planners. Some of the books are open to certain pages, one on top has a quote from Ernest Hemingway “I am a writer of fiction and so I am a liar too and invent from that I’ve heard. I’m a liar. My excuse is that I make the truth as I invent it truer than it would be. That is what makes good writers or bad”; one entry says “I kissed a girl and I really liked it and now we’re dating, but she leaves for Australia in September and also keeps hanging out with a girl who likes her and now I’m getting jealous” Dated August 3rd [2015]. The pile also features a bunch of scraps, like a dried rose head, movie ticket stubs, confetti from a Taylor Swift concert, and some Polaroids. 


5 Tips to Help You Find Time To Read!

     I can’t count the number of times that someone has said to me “Wow, I wish I had time to read, but I’m too busy” as if somehow I am not also out here grinding through work and school. In my last post, I talked about how I am trying to be intentional. That’s an adjective I have been actively pursuing, in what I eat, how I spend my time, what media I consume, etc. I think that we get so stuck in our habits that we forget that they are habits. They are malleable, and we can change them if we don’t like them. You just have to want to make the change and work at it. I hate to be harsh, but if you really want to read, you have to make time for it. You may have to readjust your routine, and you may have to confront some of your bad habits. You may even have to give up something else to make time for it. Unless your life dramatically shifts, you aren’t going to be any less busy. In this post, I am going to break down how I find time to read, what I have given up to make time, and hopefully give you some ideas if you are struggling to find time or motivation.

    I don’t magically have more time to read than you do. I just decided one day that I missed reading and I wanted it to be present in my daily life. I was a big reader in elementary and middle school, but had lost the drive and focus sometime in the midst of high school drama. In January 2017, while stuck at home because of a compromised immune system and lack of strength, I realized that the time I was spending staring at Netflix could be better used. At that time, I DID magically have more time than you. I wasn’t working. I didn’t have much energy to clean. I wasn’t in school. I literally sat at home all day every day that I wasn’t with a doctor. But deciding to stop binge-watching Gilmore Girls again and start reading wasn’t enough work to actually make it happen. When I tried to read I found myself unfocused even through the most interesting book. I would end up on my phone, or going off to do who-knows-what. It TURNS OUT that when you don’t practice something for a while, you may not be fantastic at it when you come back. It’s almost like reading… is a skill? It’s almost like if you want something to become habit you have to… work at it?

     So, I had to teach myself how to read all over again and how to use my time efficiently. Once I did, suddenly I had plenty of time to read. I read 56 books that year, and 57 books in 2018. And I still managed to work full-time and go to school. I still had social interaction, traveled, ate full meals, and slept a full 8 hours a night. So how did I do it? Let’s explore.

Tip #1: Set a traceable GOAL:

When I first started trying to increase my reading time, I made quantity goals. For me, quantity was a way to motivate myself. Having a numerical goal meant it was easy to track how I was doing. Maybe your goal is a list of titles you want to tackle. Maybe there is an author you love you want to read all of their books. Maybe you set aside a certain amount of time every week that you have to read during. Whatever works, just set a goal. Once I had to goal, it became easier to focus because I was working towards something. Just make sure you can easily track it.

If you pick a quantity goal, there are two factors that will determine how many
books you go through:

  1. How fast you read.
  2. What you read.

I have always been a fast reader. You may read slower or faster, so it is important not to compete with someone else’s book numbers. Instead, consider what books really enjoyed in the past, and how long it took you to finish them. Then estimate how many you could get through within a year. I spent those two years rereading favorites from my childhood, or finishing teen series that I never got to finish. Youth fiction can be really well written, but they are written to be easier to comprehend (This does not mean the book is any lesser!). I also knew that I would go through them faster if they were a series with cliffhangers.

Tip #2: Find your wasted time:

I know you may not want to admit this, but you are wasting time in your day. It’s a waste when it doesn’t help you in any capacity. It doesn’t make you happy, it doesn’t further your career, it doesn’t feed you, it doesn’t heal you. For me, a lot of this time was on my phone. Growing up my phones couldn’t access the internet and none of my friends were major texters. I had SO MUCH time to read!! Now, my phone is a mini computer full of fun and distracting ways to waste my time. I could scroll for hours, and I HAVE. Those hours are better spent, don’t you think?

     I starting tracking my time spent on the phone, which is an app most smartphones have. Suddenly I was faced with exact numbers of time I spent on my phone. Even days when I was in school and at work, I somehow managed to spend an hour or two on my phone. Every time I am in line I was on my phone. Every time I was on a break at work or in class I was on my phone. Waiting for the bus? I was on my phone. Waiting around at the airport? I was on my phone. Waiting for the water to boil when cooking dinner? I was on my phone.

    Now I have been actively trying to use that time to read. I read on the bus, while waiting for the bus. I try to read during my breaks at work, and especially try to read at lunch. If I’m not too tired at night I try to read for an hour before bed. I’ve recently been waking up earlier than I need to so I can sit by my windows or on my patio and take my time with coffee and a book.

“But Raelee, I don’t use public transit!!? Of course you can
read all the time, you’re on a bus.”

OK, well you should if you can because it’s better for traffic and the environment. Not to mention I spend maybe up to an 1 hour on a bus everyday, but anyway.

Tip #3: Find your format:

Audiobooks, friend. They exist, and reading snobs might say they don’t count, but that is bullsh!t. One of my friend pairs her audiobooks with physical books. She can listen to a book on the way to school, and then read the physical book later at home. Personally, I do prefer to hold the book myself, that’s why I don’t use ebooks. But if you are not audibly challenged like me, there are plenty of audiobook subscriptions. Often times they can be cheaper than buying an actual book. Go to used bookstores and get used audio books. Libraries let you borrow audiobooks. My Bioanthropology teacher, Tony, said that he listens to audiobooks so he can adjust the speed. Even speeding up the recording slightly can dramatically cut down the time it takes to listen to a whole book. Play them while you clean your house. Listen while you cook dinner. Listen while you’re in traffic.

Tip #4: Make your routine more efficient:

I wear the same makeup everyday. I have been wearing the same general makeup for several years now. I’ve gotten pretty fast at doing it now, sometimes I even have extra time to try something new. But when I first started doing my makeup, it was messy and took forever. So what changed? Practice. Repetition. Doing it over and over. I cut out the things that I didn’t care for (mascara on my bottom lashes always messes with my glasses anyway; leave lipstick for special occasions, etc). I invested in products that helped me achieve the look I wanted. Hair oil to help with frizz, copper brushes to help with dandruff. Setting spray to keep my makeup on my face all day. Now do that with everything in your life.

    Pretty much all of my sock are grey or black. Most of my clothes are similar enough colors that I can try on six outfits in the morning and it’s still faster than it was in high school. I boil water for my oatmeal at the same time that I boil water for coffee. My travel mug is sitting next to my grounds, my lunch is leftovers from yesterday’s dinner. I always have a book in my purse and next to my bed. This means that to get ready in the morning, or for bed in the evening, I need about 30 minutes to have everything ready. If I took the time to meal prep, the rest of my week would be even faster. If B and I got a french press, making coffee would be even faster. I could shorten up my shower routine, I could shorten the time it takes me to do laundry. I want to be faster at getting the kitchen cleaned up. Speeding all those daily tasks will leave you with more time, as will cutting out the things you don’t need. Which brings me to my last tip.

Tip #5: Sacrifice something:

I am obsessive, and anxious, and I like to do everything. But often, we have to cut something out to make time for something else. I could be playing the sims right now, but I want to invest more time into my writing and my bookstagram so instead I am working on this. I could even be reading right now, but I know that I have some time later that I can read that I wouldn’t be able to use for writing. I’ve also lessened the amount of money I spend on Starbucks so I can use that extra money to buy more books. I used to spend about $10 a week on coffee, and now I can buy a book with that (sometimes even two if I find deals!). I can’t afford to spend that money on both, I had to give one of them up. I don’t have Spotify premium anymore, that extra $5-10 a month goes to reading. I don’t have photoshop anymore ($10-25 a month), I use pixlr or phone apps. I don’t go shopping much for a variety of reasons, but one fun side-effect of that is I have that time and money for books (or rent, lol). Time and money are probably the hardest things to sacrifice and compromise on when it comes to forming new habits, but I have found that they make the biggest impacts.

I hope that this gave you some inspiration to bring books into your life. I really think that there is nothing better than falling into a book. Start small, start by doubling the number of books you read last year. Read one book a month. Just make some time to read. Read the paper, read comic books, listen to audiobooks, read magazines.

Reading is said to:

  • Expand your vocabulary;
  • Stimulate the mind, slowing down the progress of Alzheimer’s or dementia;
  • Increase your capacity for empathy;
  • Reduce stress;
  • Be hella fun!

Any of these tips can be used to help you develop any habit, not just reading. I have been using similar techniques to improve my eating habits. Let me know if there are any tips that you use that I didn’t list. I’d love to try other ways!


This is written from the perspective of a lower middle class white female. What I have access to may differ to what you have access to. What I can physically do in a day may greatly differ from someone who is less able-bodied. Keep your abilities in mind, and don’t push yourself too far just because strangers on the internet have different circumstances. Find what works for you.


Watermelon Hell

Here’s The Deal:

Last week I posted a photo to instagram, claiming I was going to write about “The Watermelon Crisis” and then I didn’t. Today I decided I was going to push myself and finally write about it, only to realize that it wasn’t going to be what I wanted.

I’ve been having an issue lately, where I think of an idea but then I struggle with the execution. Either some outside force steps in and makes the entire endeavor hard to accomplish, or my own head talks me out of it. It’s dandy, just dandy.

I had a joint birthday party a couple weeks ago that was potluck style, and someone left behind a watermelon. Like, a G I A N T watermelon. If I had been smart, I would have looked up the nearest homeless shelter or food bank to see if they would accept it. Instead I panicked about the melon going to waste, and I cut the damn thing open. Without fully thinking through how I was going to store this enormous watermelon, I balled up half of the melon and then sliced up some, and then froze the rest of it.

The Overlying Issue:

My family doesn’t eat watermelon. My mom choked on a piece of watermelon when I was 6, so she doesn’t eat much of it now, and I didn’t willingly eat watermelon until I was a teenager after watching her almost die. The GF doesn’t eat fruit at all really, and the Small Child is not the most reliable eater – half the time her plate of food gets picked at and then dumped in the compost bin. The dog won’t eat it either.
I wasn’t too worried at first though! Some of my friends were coming over the day I cut up the melon, so I figured I would make them eat it.

Haphazard Solution #1:

I looked up recipes for watermelon dishes, thinking I could make a fruit salad or something. I didn’t fully process the fact that watermelon is, well for lack of a better word, watery. Like, super watery. Most of the recipes I found were paired with mint (which I didn’t have), or cheese (which I am not meant to eat), or soaked in alcohol (which I didn’t have a lot of). I found smoothie recipes, and we had a bunch of other fruit left over from the party, so I literally just threw all of it into a blender and hoped for the best. It wasn’t great.

And Then: 
The plans with my friends got cancelled.

Haphazard Solution #2:

Now I felt inclined to drink more of the damn melon to make up for fact that they wouldn’t be drinking it. The second round didn’t go great. I tried adding sparkling water to make it bubbly, but with watermelon.. it flopped. My hands smelled like watermelon. The counters were stained with watermelon. I bought mint to try to follow those stupid recipes, only to realize that I don’t like the taste of raw mint leaves blended up with watermelon – that just makes the mellow melon flavor herby. Uck. So now, I not only have too much watermelon, but I also have a packet of mint.

The Last Straw:

Today I used up some fruit we had frozen and some of the good ole watermelon. I made a decent smoothie, even had some yogurt in it. I got all excited about staging, and ripped off a nice mint leaf and washed off some lil raspberries to really spruce up my smoothie. I even used two straws: a reusable mickey mouse straw, and a compostable paper straw. I went to take a nice photo, and was mentally planning the recipe blog post I was going to write while I was drinking it… and I knocked it over. I tried to clean up the mess with a towel and ended up smearing smoothie all over the fireplace and the floor…

Watermelon Hell:

I hate watermelon. Its deceivingly pretty for one thing, and then it adds little to nothing in regards to flavor. I have had about 10 smoothies with that damn melon. The first few were great! It was hot out, yum a smoothie. But now the smell of it makes me want to cry.

What I Have Learned:

  1. When bringing melon to a party, bring it pre-sliced.
  2. When freezing melon, ball it first, and then sprinkle some lemon and lime juice over it, and leave a few mint leaves tucked into the container. Put in fridge so it can marinate, and then move to the freezer.
    Balling the melon means that the stupid fruit flesh won’t fuse together into a giant pink ice block mess. Ball the melon first and you have leverage.
  3. Watermelon literally tastes like sugar water and is a waste of melon. Eat an avocado.
  4. I need to give up on having a pretty aesthetic.
    Or at least pay more attention when setting up.


BYOC (Bring Your Own Cup)

BYOC is a party technique that my friends and I regularly use. I’ve been trying to reduce the impact I make on the environment, but I also like to host parties. Often parties lead to a ridiculous amount of trash, and that’s normally because hosts use disposable dishware to make clean-up easier. But that also means a lot of waste.

A big factor in this is the cups. Unless a host remembers to put out a sharpie next to the disposable cups, guests often end up using 2-3 cups. SO MUCH TRASH!?

SO we figured, if everyone could bring their own cup, it would knock down two birds with one stone! Plus, if you have cute novelty cups, and this way you get to show it off!

Everyone brings a cup of their choice (a mug, a tumblr, a wine glass, a flask, whatever!) and then rinses it off before heading home. This limits the dishes and clean up for the host, and everyone knows which cup is theirs!


Bonus! If you absolutely need to use disposable plates and dishware, see if you can find ones that are compostable! Amazon has quite the selection. And just a heads up, they can get a bit pricey. But it could be worth it in the long run. ❤

If You Give A Minimalist A Present…

It is my birthday month!

*pauses for you to sing happy birthday*

Aw, thank you! Since it is my birthday, and this is my first time dealing with gift-giving since making the transition to a minimalist lifestyle, I figured this was the opportune time to talk about how to give gifts! This is specifically from a minimalist lens, but frankly I think it should, and can, be applied to everyone.

I HATE giving presents. I really do. I put so much pressure on myself to find “The Perfect” gift, which really, it doesn’t exist, and it shouldn’t. If you are GOOD at giving presents you might be shaking your head at me right now, but hear me out.

Many if not most minimalists choose this lifestyle because they want to either:
a)put their money into high quality products as opposed to lots of cheap items (quality over quantity essentially);
or b) they want their money to go to memories and experiences instead of surrounding themselves with shtuff.

So knowing this, how can friends and families go about giving gifts so that (this sounds harsh, but stick with me), so that they don’t hinder the minimalist? I’ve seen a lot of minimalists who stop giving gifts all together, one woman said something about “We got to a point where we were just giving money back and forth and it seemed pointless” but I COMPLETELY DISAGREE! Giving gifts is stressful, but it feels good! It’s fun to see the receiver’s face light up! And when you see them using the item later, you get a sense of pride for being so intuitive. Its great to GET gifts! It’s just plain fun to get a present from someone. I have a dress my best friend bought me as a birthday present – I think she got sick of my staring at it every time we passed the store – and everytime I look at it or wear it, I think back on the trip we were on and how surprised I was. The GF got me an authentic Polaroid Camera from the late 90’s and while I don’t use it often (film is expensive, yo!), every time I use it or look at it I am surprised all over again at how well she knows me. Overall it depends on what your love language is. Mine is stuff, but I also don’t want to be surrounded by a ton of crap.

SO, what should you get? I have ideas for you. And again, I think that these apply to everyone, not just minimalists.

  1. Something that can be finished:
    Things that can be enjoyed, but have a definite ending are perfect gifts, bonus points if it could be reused in a different way. Things like candles (maybe in a jar that can get used for another candle, or as a mini-vase?) or wine (bottles can be reused or tossed in recycling), these are two things that also could be used when they are given, so it becomes a part of the experience. These are also great host’s gifts for a dinner party or holiday gathering.

  2. Something that grows:
    If your gift is for someone who likes plants, or desperately needs something living for their home, then plants are perfect. A bouquet of flowers are nice, but they will dies so I’ve always seen that as a better “congrats!” type gift. A plant would (hopefully) grow and last a while. If the person isn’t great at growing things, or if you are uncertain: succulents. They are super *in* right now, and they are low maintenance.

  3. Something you can do together:
    Do they love animals? Go to the zoo. Do they love wine? Wine-tasting. Do they love burgers? Go to that hipster overpriced burger place. Do they like scary things? Go skydiving. There are millions of things to do in this world, and they are all more fun with a friend. This is a tad less appealing, because it involves planning and scheduling, but those memories will likely be more cherished than any knick-knack you could have bought.

  4. Something they picked out:
    My friend did this for my birthday last year. While shopping together, I was stuck between buying two purses, and months later she went back and got the one I didn’t pick. If you’re minimalist is a shopaholic (like me) this could be a dangerous option. It’s very likely that they didn’t get the thing because they thought deep down that they wouldn’t use it. My friend just got lucky, honestly.

  5. Gift cards or cash:
    This is less personal, but you can rest easy knowing that it will be appreciated and used. If you want it to be more personal, then get a gift card that is specific to a store you know that they like (Such as Lush or Sephora for beauty product lovers; Target for ANYONE; a nice resturant, etc). Plus, you don’t have to stress about picking something out!

  6. If none of those work? Ask them.
    I have a list written up of things that I want and will get eventually but they aren’t a priority right now. There are two books i’m interested in, but I have others I can read for now. I have those cute Eiffel Tower scissors from Target on the list; I need new scissors but I also need food. If you get them something that they specifically know they need and want, then there is little to no chance that your gift will go unused or get thrown out in 6 months.


I want to comment on gag-gifts. My mother (for example) loves giving gag-gifts. And they’re funny, and great for a little while. But they almost always get regifted or thrown out. Most of them are made from plastic, which means (not to get nasty, but) you are wasting resources for a moment’s amusement, and there are easier ways to accomplish that.
     I also want to say, tread carefully about giving gifts you made yourself. If it something that they would ABSOLUTELY use, like a mug or a blanket, maybe rethink it? Things like art, or decor, those are things that everyone has a unique preference for. I may love something you make because YOU made it, but do I have the space? I would say this most applies to kid art. If you are having a child make something for someone, make something that will last and they will care for. Instead of a paper mache lion, how about a drink coaster? Instead of a necklace made from macaroni, how about a handmade key chain? Do they love reading? Help the child “write a book” and gift that. My sister made me and the GF little wooden things that have our name on them, and while I love that she put in the time to make these for us, I have NOWHERE to put them without them collecting dust. I’m thinking of stringing them together to put on our door, but if that gets annoying, I’ll feel pressured to keep them, despite the fact that they bring me stress.

Oh, and don’t take them to a store and “pick something out!” because that puts weird pressure on them! I see that randomly in movies or tv shows and it’s just awkward. Unless they are 5, and you’re at Toys R Us, and then it’s amazing.


What gift giving tips do you have? Any tips on minimalist gift giving? Share them with me!