5 Challenges to try in 2017

2016 was an interesting year, and for many it’s one they are happy to see the back of. When looking forward to 2017 and thinking of things you might want to achieve and changes you want to make, instead of the usual resolutions which barely make it past January you might want to consider some month long challenges to help you make some positive changes throughout the year. These are 5 that we undertook in 2016, and I’ve written a little bit about how we found each one.

Going Meat Free

With growing concerns over the impact of meat farming on the environment there is a lot of interest in reducing how much meat we eat and a rise in the number of people opting for a vegetarian or even a vegan lifestyle. I felt unconvinced that with 3 fussy children and my own personal love of eating all of the meat that we would be able to become vegetarians so we eased ourselves in by giving up meat for lent this year. You can read all about that here. But it was much more successful than I’d anticipated and has led to my husband becoming a card carrying vegetarian* and to us no longer eating meat at home**. We opted to still eat meat when out at restaurants or at other people’s homes to make our meat free lent a little bit easier, you could even give yourself a day where you eat meat each week or other allowances to help you with the challenge. I think you will find it a lot easier than you might imagine and to be honest other people’s opinions on your vegetarianism will be the biggest hurdle in this challenge.

*Not an actual card.

**I made an exception at Christmas, but shhh don't tell anyone.

The Minimalism Game

I’ve been a minimalist for two years now but only recently become aware of “The Minimalism Game” created by The Minimalists. They have a great website full of really useful insight into why a life with less might be for you and the Minimalism game is a great way to start your journey. I wish I’d discovered it sooner but it was a great way for me to clear out even more stuff and woke me up a little to the continual process minimalism is. The idea of the game is on each day of the month to get rid of as many items as the corresponding date. So on the 1st you get rid of one thing, on the 2nd, two things and so on until the end of the month. It’s a really easy way to declutter your life and was a big success for us back in October, and even the kids got on board adding some of their things to make up numbers towards the end.

Clutter Free

Project 333

Another challenge linked to Minimalism is project 333. You can only wear 33 items of clothing for 3 months. Doesn't sound too hard does it? I failed to mention it includes accessories, coats and shoes. But don’t let the shoes thing put you off. I tried this in the months leading up to our house move in 2016 and I’m planning on doing it again for January to March this year. It’s a great way of seeing what you really need and what you actually enjoy wearing. Once we had moved and I went to unpack the clothes I hadn't been using for the 3 months about 90% ended up going to charity.  Exceptions include; underwear, exercise clothes (so no excuses not to be active) sleepwear and wedding rings or other sentimental jewellery you never take off. Find out more here and give it a go, it’s a fun one.

No spend November

Back in November we undertook No Spend November. We had already discussed the idea of doing a month without spending before we realised it was an actual thing, and we kind of made up our own rules for this one. We allow a certain amount of money each month for our weekly food shops and that amount stayed the same but the general spending money we have each month for treats, outings, clothes, miscellaneous unnecessary items from Tesco and even money for car parks we weren’t allowed to spend. Our exceptions included school related expenses, which in November were plentiful with trips and Christmas activities, and at one point in the month our smoke alarm battery died so we decided our safety was a bit more important and went and purchased a new battery. It was a really fun challenge in a lot of ways but it was definitely the toughest one we undertook this year. We very quickly became aware of how easily we spend money and how little thought we give to it, we found that a bit like when you're dieting you can only think about food, we spent a lot of time thinking about and wanting to spend money. Whilst not being able to just pop to the shops if we ran out of anything was definitely a challenge (running out of dishwasher tablets and having to wash up by hand like some sort of cave woman was the low point for me) by the end of the month we were being a lot more thorough in our weekly shops and running out of things unexpectedly became a rare occurrence. The real struggle by the end was missing out on treats and fun activities. We were lucky enough to have a few annual passes that allowed us to park freely at some nice beach car parks, and gave us access to fun days out, but simple things like getting a hot chocolate in a cafe after a bracing walk on the beach were sorely missed and made us realise how lucky we are to have the ability to have these treats normally and made me very aware of the imporatnce of having a living wage. This is not a challenge for the faint hearted but it’s definitely worth considering and I can’t imagine you would regret it. (Plus just think how much money you’ll save!)

Some free fun at Rhossili in November

30 Days Wild

We undertook this challenge in June with The Wildlife Trusts and you can read about how we got on here. This is all about making time to get outside and do something “wild” everyday. You can do this any month of the year but in June The Wildlife Trusts have lots of resources and ideas on offer to help inspire you and keep you going. It’s definitely the easiest of all these challenges and I love anything that gets people outdoors more so I’d strongly recommend giving it a go.

These are the 5 challenges we undertook in 2016 but the internet is full of inspiration of other challenges you can undertake in 2017, and if you are anything like me having that structure and guidance can really be a big help in keeping going. Since I know when I am left to my own devices and there’s no accountability I’m pretty likely to give up on day 2. 

As well as undertaking another project 333 in 2017, We will be attempting another No Spend month and I’m starting to feel guilty about the amount of waste we send to landfill so there may well be a “plastic free July” or “Zero Waste” month in our future. Watch this space! (and be sure to subscribe below so you don't miss any future blog posts.)

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