Blissful Reflection: A RowdyKittens Year End Review

by Tammy Strobel on December 20, 2010

Thanks to reverb10, the month of December has been a month of reflection. I’ve been writing down all my thoughts about the year and responding to the prompts in 750words. In 2009, I did my first annual review and I found it to be an incredibly helpful process. It forced me to look at all aspects of my life, including my health, career, money management, and more.

In this essay, I’ll review some of the good, bad, and shocking things that have happened to me this year. At the end of the post, I’ll give you a few tips to conduct your own annual review. Consider using some of these suggestions to get started!

What Rocked My World

Logan’s Grandmother told us when we were younger that our thirties would be thrilling and she was right. I turned 32 in November and the last few years have been incredible, especially 2010.

Below are a few highlights:

Business. Leaving my day job and starting my own little business was the highlight of my year. I wasn’t sure if I would fall flat on my face or thrive. So far I’m thriving.

I’m incredibly happy with my writing, ebook sales, and the freelance work I’ve completed this year. It’s been an amazing process and I’m extremely grateful for all the opportunities that have come my way.

Of course I’m not getting rich; my goal is to live well on less rather than living better on more. More importantly, learning to run my own small business empowered me on a number of levels.

Blogging. As most of you know, I started RowdyKittens three years ago as a personal journal. I never imagined that it would grow so much. As the blog has grown, I’ve grown and changed tremendously too. I’ve shifted my focus from materialism to relationship building.

Needless to say, the growth of this project has exceeded my expectations. Please know, I’m grateful and honored that you read my written words.

Relationships. Developing strong relationships is the KEY to creating a happy and healthy life. The best part of blogging is connecting like minded people and developing new relationships. And I feel like I’m on the right track in this aspect of my life because I’ve never been happier and healthier!

Events that Shocked Me

All the media attention we received this year was shocking and exciting. If someone had told me in January of 2010 that our downsizing story would be featured in the New York Times and that we would be on the Today Show, CNN, MSNBC, and on dozens of local media outlets, I would have said they were out of their mind.

It’s been thrilling to tell our story and humbling to receive so many emails and blog comments from readers. Readers have expressed how our story inspired them to make changes in their own lives, by paying off debt, making career changes, and more.

The Bummer of 2010

Even though we don’t have a lot of stuff, moving was incredibly stressful. We waited until the last minute to donate extra stuff to charity and that always complicates the packing process.

Once we arrived in Portland and unpacked, Logan had to go back to Davis to finish up his Ph.D. program. Living by myself for an extended period of time was hard. Yet, having some alone time was good for me. In many ways, I think the time we spent apart made our relationships stronger. Now, we’re less likely to take each other for granted.

Happiness, Gratitude, and Lessons Learned

Right now my happiness level is probably an 8 out of 10. I’m incredibly happy and grateful to be at such a good point in my life. With that being said, I still have a lot to work on. Especially, when it comes to reigning in my anxiety.

I tend to be a really nervous and jumpy person. Yoga has helped me tame my lizard brain, but I still have a long way to go. During 2011, I’m going to continue to practice yoga, work on slowing down, and becoming more comfortable in my own skin.

Looking Forward…

Setting flexible goals is really important. Studies have shown that people who set both short and long-term goals are more apt to be happier and healthier. I have a number of goals I want to accomplish in 2011:

1. Sell the book. As most of you know, I’ve been working on a book proposal for the print world. My literary agent is reviewing another draft and I’m crossing my fingers that he can pitch the proposal to publishers in the new year. If all goes well, we’ll be able to sell the idea and I can start writing a print book in 2011! (The book is going to focus on our downsizing story and will include some of the latest happiness research).

2. Evaluate my current eBooks & revenue streams. In 2011, I’m considering adding additional content to both of my ebooks and re-releasing them or I might release a brand new ebook. I have a number of ebook ideas that I’ve been thinking about, but I’ve decided to let the concepts simmer for a while before I do anything.

Over the next week, I’m going to take a hard look at my 2010 revenue streams and during 2011 I’m going to monitor my income streams more closely. I do a majority of my work for free (writing for this blog, responding to hundreds of weekly reader emails, comments, and more).

I love my work and I want to make sure my little business remains sustainable in 2011.

3. Build a tiny house. Long time readers know that I’ve been obsessed with little homes since we started downsizing. Our finances are in order and now that Logan has a job, we’ll be able to save even more money.

So this summer we will build a little house with the help of Dee Williams and Katy Anderson, of Portland Alternative Dwellings.

4. Donate more money to charity. This year we donated about 5% of our income to charity. In 2011, I want to step up my giving game and donate 10% of my annual income to charity.

Tips to Start Your Own Annual Review

As you get ready to start you own annual review, think about the things in your life that are important to you.

Begin by brainstorming different life categories like travel, work, relationships, money management, and more. As you review the categories, decide on a theme for the upcoming year. I think of my themes as an overarching goal that will touch all areas of my life. For example, my theme for 2010 was the year of change and transition.

2011 is going to be the year of focus. I’m planning on focusing more intensely on my writing and working on one thing at a time, instead of jumping from task to task.

After you’re brainstormed all your life categories, start writing your thoughts down. Just write and don’t worry about grammar or how your sentences sound. Most of the time, the first draft is a shitty draft. So don’t be hard on yourself if you have to rearrange content or work on grammar. The important thing is to get your thoughts on a piece of paper or in a private text edit program.

Here are a few other tips to consider:

  • Participate in Reverb. For about an hour everyday, I’ve been reflecting on the past year and writing down all the things that pop up. The Reverb prompts are thoughtful and have helped me remember events and ideas that I would haven forgotten about.
  • As you think about each category, consider the good, bad, and surprising things that have happened to you in the past year. Ask yourself what went well and what didn’t go so good.
  • Talk your review with friends and family members. Ask them if you missed anything on your list. Sometimes it’s easy to get wrapped up in your own head and forget about things.
  • If you’re a blogger, share your review with the world. And if you don’t blog, share the results with good friends and family members.

Leave a comment and share a few lessons of your own.

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1 Logan December 20, 2010

Could you link to your 2009 year end review? I think it would be cool to see how far Rowdykittens has come in a year and how many of your original goals were accomplished! :)

2 Tammy December 20, 2010

@Logan – My long ass review wasn’t posted. But, I did the Best of 2009 challenge and responded to the prompts on RK.

So if people search for “best of 2009 challenge” they will see small snap shots of what I did during the year.

3 Sandra Lee December 20, 2010

It’s so refreshing to hear someone say they are happy! An 8 of 10 for happiness is fantastic. That alone is a huge accomplishment. Thanks for these helpful tips on writing an annual review. I’ve been encapsulating 2010 in a few words and phrases, but I may dive into a deeper review like this too. Thanks for all your contribution to make this a better world for all of us.

4 Mark Powers December 20, 2010

Thanks for the yearend reflections, Tammy. I’d been considering posting something similar, and I think you may have just talked me into it!

5 Tiffany S. December 20, 2010

I’m so excited to hear/read about your little house plans! We keep looking for a little spot of land (WA/OR) for a little house. We’re little house ready!

Have you seen the Portland Pockethouse? It’s perfection.

6 Tammy December 21, 2010

Tiffany – I have seen the Portland Pockethouse. Sounds intriguing. I’ll have to hunt it down when I’m back from my holiday break. :)

7 megan December 20, 2010

I just wanted to say thank you.

I started to read this blog after it was in the NYT. It has helped me start on a different thought pattern. I have always been so focused on all of the stuff I *didn’t* have i tend to forget what I do have. Since i started to read RK, I’ve begun to downsize my stuff in small steps and have also started to “clean out” my mind of more materialistic views. I am also encouraging another friend who feels like she’s drowning in her possessions to look at why she has things, instead of building stronger relationships with the people she likes.

My goals for next year is to figure out more ways to give back to charities aimed at kids and pit bull rescues. I live on a paycheck to paycheck lifestyle but want to help others more. I read a quote the other day from Barry Lopez that sums up how I feel – “All that holds us together are stories. Stories and compassion.”

Best of wishes for 2011.
– Meg

8 Tammy December 21, 2010

WOW thank you so much Meg! And thanks for sharing a little bit about your story. I wish you the best in the new year.

Love the Barry Lopez quote! Very awesome and so true! Speaking of stores have you read Bird by Bird? It’s a fantastic book. If you love to write, it’s a must read.

9 megan December 21, 2010

Tammy – thank you for the book suggestion.

In another comment you recommended the “Little House on a Small Planet.” I just checked that book out of the library near my house and read it because of your past recommendations. It gave me a lot of ideas to maximize my small house (595sq ft), so i can maximize my collections of books and kids toys, instead of packing them away out of sight. I look forward to seeing the things I do adore while i continue to find either new uses for things I can’t bear to part with or finally give up because they have no place.

Great book. :)

10 Derek Diedricksen December 20, 2010

Good stuff all around! Your approach and intentions are very positive too- we need more like it/’em. I think there’s something to tiny housing and happiness- well, and living off very little too- 2010, and life in general has been great for me- and I’m just loving, like you are, doing whatever I please, and am passionate about. Happy holidays to you and Logan, and may 2011 be even better for you!
-Deek

11 Tammy December 21, 2010

Thanks Deek! And right back at ya.

Shay talks about tiny homes and happiness in her book, Little House on a Small Planet. I recently re-read the book and a majority of the folks she interviewed said living in little homes improved their well-being and quality of life. :)

12 Anna December 20, 2010

This is great — I definitely needed a reminder to think in a more focused way about the past year (a year mostly of transitions and change) and to prepare for the coming year. I have so many goals for this year, I definitely like the idea of a more focused review, thanks!

13 Taylor December 20, 2010

Hi Tammy, great list of things to reflect upon. I have about 8 balls in the air at one time and I am working to define a better use of my time. I have designed a small house with some interesting construction techniques…let me know how i can send them on to you guys to look at (if your interested) Kent from tinyhouseblog is a friend.

Have a great holiday season.

14 Tammy December 21, 2010

Thanks Taylor! I’d be interested in checking out your work. If you’d be willing to share, that would rock. My email address is tammy (at) rowdykittens (dot) com.

Kent is a friend of mine as well. He’s such a nice guy!

Have a fantastic holiday. :)

15 Kristy Powell December 20, 2010

Can not wait to be a reader through your tiny house building adventures! Here is to your 2011! My year is likely to be one wild adventure (not my normal setting). And reading about your 2010 to 2011 shift I can already imagine that my 2012 will be one of focus. I love how for balance and growth a cycle of that sort is required. The crazy, uncomfortable, exciting years are actually harder for me and I’ve got one coming. And so here is to my 2011 as well!

16 Laura December 20, 2010

Your goal to save 10% of your income brought to mind a great piece I heard on PRI’s The World last Friday. Follow the link and click on DOWNLOAD MP3 to hear this short interview with Toby Ord who gives away a good chunk of his income to fight world suffering: http://www.theworld.org/2010/12/17/the-world%e2%80%99s-poorest-countries/
He’s started on organization called Giving What We Can dedicated to encouraging people who want to give away at least 10% of their income: http://www.givingwhatwecan.org/
Very inspiring!

17 Tammy December 21, 2010

@Laura – Sweet! Thanks for the links. I’ll be sure to check them out. :)

18 Arielle December 20, 2010

I really relate wit much of this. This was also a year of change an transition for me. I also want to reign in my anxiety, (I am too a “lizard brain”).

Loved your article.
The first one I read was the downsizing one used on yahoo news, and really helped since I read it just a few months before moving so the move was even easier. Now I try and maintain a minimalist lifestyle which has helped a great deal. Thank you!
Keep writing inspiring articles!

19 Tammy December 21, 2010

@Arielle – thanks for leaving a comment. I’m happy to hear you’re been reading along since the yahoo article was published.

If you can, try and start practicing yoga. It’s a fantastic way to tame the lizard brain. :)

20 ET December 21, 2010

Have you considered where will you put the tiny house? This seems to be such a hurdle…

21 Tammy December 21, 2010

@ET – Yes we have a few options we’re looking at. Nothing has been settled yet. But I’m sure everything will fall into place.

Have a great holiday.

22 mark December 21, 2010

tammy – your website and life has been and is a constant source of inspiration to many. I know I’m not alone in thinking this – rowdy kittens has been a lifechanging blog to read and act upon. i hope your review of 2011 brings you and the world even more positives. thanks for sharing it all with us. mark

23 Elizabeth December 21, 2010

Hi, Tammy! What a great year end review! I also enjoyed your blog about “Lessons Learned” from three years of Rowdy Kittens. You answered a lot of questions that had been swimming around in my head and I feel better prepared to enter the blogosphere. Happy 2011!

24 Tammy December 21, 2010

@Elizabeth – Awesome! I’m happy that my post about blogging was helpful. That makes me happy. If you have anymore questions, just ask. :)

25 Kasey December 21, 2010

I am definitely inspired. 2010 was an odd one for me and the end has been rough rough rough, so I’ve been brainstorming ways to move forward with some clear goals in mind and some perspective on the recent path. This is a big help, so thanks!

By the way, I love your blog and it always, without fail, helps put me in a positive frame of mind and leaves me feeling a little more at peace with my day, my self and the world around me. And as a fellow Portlander, I must admit I feel very proud of your successes. Silly, I know, but we are a loyal group, we Oregonians, aren’t we?:)

26 Tammy December 21, 2010

Ahhh thanks Kasey! I appreciate the kind words.

I agree about Oregonians being a loyal group; that is one of the best aspects of living here. I feel so lucky to have found incredible new friends in Portland and in the surrounding areas.

Best of luck! I hope 2011 treats you better than 2010. Thanks for reading. :)

P.S. Since you’re in Portland, we should have coffee sometime. Maybe in the new year?

27 Kate December 21, 2010

I’m coming to reverb10 way, way late but I think I’ll try to at least write a little something about the ones that really call to me. Thank you for pointing it out, Tammy, I think I needed that little kick to get me really thinking about where I’ve been and where I’m going — I’ve been too long in crisis mode, without time or energy to focus on anything but the now.

28 Ayngelina December 21, 2010

Thanks for the tips, really insprirational. There’s only 10 days left but I’m signing up for Reverb10 now.

29 Lisa Fine December 22, 2010

Tammy, I love your last point about sharing a review with the world. I’d been thinking about doing a review, and it’s something that could easily be pushed to the side. But I’m going to write mine next week and post it to my blog, because I want to be more open with my readers, and I want to take the time to reflect on my year. Thank you.

30 Laura C December 22, 2010

Anxiety has been my project this year as well. My anxiety overwhelms me, much as I would imagine hanging off a cliff by one finger would overwhelm a person. The truth is, however, that I am never really hanging off a cliff. I have made a practice of evaluating everything, as it is, with no emotion or weight attached every time I become anxious.

Anxious about a promotion and the things that COULD happen: How is the job now, how am I doing, how is the team doing. What are the strengths and weaknesses, any messes that I need to clean up coming in to it? Make a list, make a plan, revisit plan when anxiety comes back.

Anxious about the hubby still being unemployed and unemployment running out: what does the bank account look like, where do our extra expenses come from, can we cut them out, make a list of fun cheap date-type stuff to do NOW before you run out of money and look at it as a chore, keep hustling those extra outside of work gigs. Enjoy the fact that we have health and happiness. Money is just a comfort.

I am an overly analytical person. I always blamed that part of my personality on my anxiety, but I have found that when I harness that side, and use it neutrally and logically it helps me work through some really large problems. (Lots of exercise helps me out too.)

Thanks for the blog and the inspiration. I am working on my re-verb now.

31 Chelsea December 22, 2010

So excited you are starting on the house! I look forward to hearing more. I’m moving to Portland next month and looking at building a tiny house as well in the next year or two. Working on tweaking plans to be more accessible for those with mobility issues/can’t use a sleep loft. I really love the photos I’ve seen of Portland Alternative Dwellings work. If you need hands to help hammer I’d love to check out your house in work and help where I can to learn more about tiny homes. Best wishes for 2011!

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