35 things I’ve learned in my 35 years

I turn 35 this weekend. Whaaa? When did that happen? I’m pretty sure I just graduated from college and backpacked around Europe. And don’t I drink Dr. Pepper without feeling gross for days and still go to concerts that start at 10 pm?

Oh wait, I’ve been married a decade and have three kids.

Confession: I LOVE my thirties. Love, love, love them. I’ll take 35 over 25 any day. I’ve felt so much more confident in my own skin, I’m much more aware of how things work, I enjoy the freedom in responsibility, and I’m better at accepting my limitations.

I still feel like a kid, yes, but each year has gotten better and better. My forties are gonna be amazing.

Here are 35 things I’ve learned in my 35 years.

1. Take the time to learn your colors. You’ll have more to wear in your closet when you only buy those.

2. Make eye contact, practice shaking hands, and don’t slouch when you sit.

3. It’s always better to not go into debt. if you’re making a decision about something, and one choice involves having to pay back money down the road, it’s probably not the better option.

4. It’s also always worth it to completely pay off debt. I’ve been debt-free for a little over three years now, and there’s no feeling like it. If you try it and decide it’s not for you, you can always go back into debt.

5. If you’re standing at the counter and can’t decide which one, go for the one with chocolate. That’s always a good move.

6. Shop thrift stores first, but if you don’t find it, don’t settle for almost. It might be worth it to spend more on quality, or maybe you should just wait until you find perfect.

7. Don’t gossip. Just don’t. It eats away at your soul, and it’s poisoning another one. If you only have friends that gossip, go meet some new people.

8. Find a set of recipes you’re really good at cooking, and stick to these basics when you’re having people over for dinner. Save the new recipe testing for family.

9. There’s room enough for everyone to do what they’re good at. Spend more time finding your element than wishing you were gifted with someone else’s.

10. It’s worth it to work out, but do it for your spiritual, emotional, and physical health. Not just to lose weight.

11. You’re never, ever, ever ready for kids. If you wait until life is just perfect, you’ll never have them.

12. Avoid painful shoes. They’re just not worth it.

13. Look your kids in the eye when they’re telling you something. Even if it’s something inane, like why the My Little Pony named Cherry Jubilee should be red with white hair instead of white with red hair—it’s important to your child, so it means the world to them when it looks like you care, too.

14. Buy cheap markers and colored pencils, but get the better, more expensive kind, too. Pull these out when you and your kids are making something epic.

15. Not many people can pull off wearing yellow. Keep it below the belt, or accessorize with it.

16. Always be reading something. The library is your friend.

17. Babies don’t cost nearly as much as the world tells you they are. Be responsible, yes, but you don’t need their college fund set up before they’re conceived.

18. Think—really think—before you hit that “Update” button on Facebook. Read what you just wrote. Do you sound like a jerk? You’ll most likely regret saying it.

19. It’s better to underpack than overpack.

20. At birth, you’re only given so many all-nighters. You’ll use quite a few in college, but make sure you store up enough for the newborn-having years. Eventually, you’ll run out, and there’s no going back.

21. There will be younger people in your life that stay young in your head, and then when you find out they’ve graduated college, gotten a real job, gotten married, or had a baby, you’re going to feel old.

22. If you feel like you don’t have friends, go be a friend to someone. Take a chance and ask her to coffee or lunch. You won’t know if you’ll hit it off until you just ask.

23. If Morgan Freeman narrates it, it’s usually worth watching.

24. Ask people questions about themselves, and find out what they care about. It’s easy to only talk about yourself when you’re nervous or tired, but people feel loved when you listen to their ideas.

25. You’ll almost always regret that vacation-themed t-shirt.

26. If you think you hate a food, try it again in a few years, or try it cooked a different way. You may be surprised.

27. Don’t wait to have a “sex talk” with your kids. Talk about it, age-appropriately, off and on throughout your days. Remind them that they can always, always ask you anything. But be prepared—they will.

28. Travel to a different country as often as you can. But unless you’re in your twenties or younger, don’t stay in the group rooms in the hostels. Stay in apartments whenever possible, and cook a protein-heavy breakfast. You’ll save lots of money, and you won’t be running on fumes stuck on the metro or in the middle of the Louvre.

29. Don’t turn on the TV unless there’s something specific you want to watch. Play lots of music in the house instead, and try different types throughout the day.

30. Tip at least 20 percent, and if your service was good, tip more. You’ll make a waiter’s day.

31. Take your kids on one-on-one dates. It doesn’t have to be anything monumental—an hour at the ice cream shop every other week with just you could ultimately be one of their favorite childhood memories.

32. Tell your kids about your childhood, and don’t skip the parts where you really screwed up. And apologize when you still screw up as an adult.

33. Date your spouse. Don’t go more than two weeks without spending time sans kids, and try not to make your dates all business. Do fun stuff and make each other laugh, like you did before you were married.

34. Even when you go days without acknowledging His goodness, God is still there. And He still loves you wildly.

35. Getting older is something to celebrate. Not everyone gets to—life is a gift. Embrace your age.

I am so, so very thankful for each and every one of you who reads this site. I’m blown away that I get to run Simple Mom for a living, and that’s all thanks to YOU. I’m not kidding… I thank God for you daily. Whatever brought you here, however long ago, I appreciate you. Very grateful, that’s me.

On Monday, I’m giving some of YOU a birthday present—I’m excited!

What would you add to my list of 35s?

Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. Hope your birthday is wonderful! And yes, 30’s rock. xox

  2. love this list. I turn 35 next month and you’re making me feel better about it! As expected I agree with everything, #29 especially. Thanks to a more prominent spot for the stereo, we’ve been listening to more music lately and it is a good thing. For my part, I’d add: #36 Never forget that appearances are deceiving. No one’s life is perfect and you’re a better friend when the fake wall comes down.

  3. I love the wisdom I find here.

    I need all I can get.

    Thanks, Tsh! – Kate 🙂

  4. Tsh! This is so what my heart needed. What a wonderful list. Bookmarking this post. Thanks so much for sharing and have a happy birthday, dear!

  5. Happy Birthday Tsh!! I am a bit older than 35, lol, and think your list is excellent. You are cleaver, thoughtful and have a kind heart. I hope your 35th year brings wonderful things your way!

  6. Happy birthday!

  7. Get a Brazilian wax…your husband will thank you!

  8. Happy birthday and thank you for sharing your wisdom with us. Some very valid points there, like the no gossip and the travelling with kids, just to name a couple. I look forward to turning 35 and get as wise as you :-).

  9. Happy Birthday, Tsh! Wishing you a wonderful weekend celebrating this milestone. And what a great list! You’ve inspired me to do the same when I turn 35 next year. I’ve been a fan of your blog for a few years now. Besides wishing you a happy birthday, I want to take a moment to thank you for doing what you do — the inspiration (and humor!) that you bring here are simply awesome.

  10. I love this list! So true about the all nighters. Why is it that in our heads, we are frozen at about 24. And then our bodies remind us that we indeed are getting old. I would also add, find a person or family in need and meet it.

  11. Kari Scare says:

    Happy birthday! Mine was Friday (24th), but I have had 5 morr than you. Fun list!

  12. Great list, and happy birthday from a fellow 35 club member! Love your thoughts on debt, friendship, relationships… and with that, I need to get a good book and take my hubby on a date!

  13. Love. It. So many of these hit home for me (at newly turned 38). Happy Birthday Weekend!

  14. The nester linked this post and I’m glad she did I! Love your list, very helpful! The posture exercises totally need them and the sex talk article gave me encouragement. I’ve talked to my daughter about kissing boys and wondered if it was too much for her age…but no, no it’s not!

  15. I found myself nodding my head, “Yes” with each one of your 35 things. 🙂 I turn the big 3-5 next month. Three and a half decades have flown by! I’ve always thought of 40 as being OLD. Now…..not so much.
    I think I would have to add…cherish your second decade (ages 10-20) and make good choices. This is the decade that I look back on most often. It’s the time when you are really starting your life. Making decisions that will eventually shape your future. It went by crazy fast and I often find myself wishing I could go back and talk to my tween/teen self.

  16. I love that this came to my inbox on my 35th birthday, thanks! Happy birthday to you too!

  17. Absolutely loved this post 🙂

  18. Amira Nabil says:

    Thank you for the lovely article, I agree with every single one of them, Happy birthday to you, I turned 36 last July, if I am gonna add I will add this :
    #36 You are never too old to start something or to start learning a new thing even if it is the hardest sport ever or a complicated subject, years of experience you have might be the real prerequisite.

  19. I turned 35 this year as well! I noticed myself being more observant about adulthood versus my youth, and found myself wondering what my 45 year old self would tell my 35 year old self. Life is sooo quick! I love your list.

  20. Teresa Green says:

    Happy Birthday!

    I’m in love with my 30s too. I hated my 20s and am so happy to be out of them. I would add: Stress is controllable. When you realize you are stressed, stop and breath. Watch the wind blow the trees and the clouds move through the sky. It is worth it for the five seconds it takes to be aware that nothing changes if you allow yourself to stop stressing. It makes it so much better.

  21. Happy birthday, Tsh! As a 28-year-old who feels a little behind the times (married, but still renting, no kids), it’s good to realize that there are so many great things still coming up. Thanks for your list and your blog, which has been a highlight of the interwebz for me for the last 3 years.

    Live it up!

  22. I loved this list! Thanks for sharing and Happy Birthday!!!

  23. Love this post. I love my thirties too. My life is much less dramatic and chaotic than it was in my 20’s. I would add learn something how to do something you’ve always wanted to do and don’t let your age stand in your way. Like learn to play guitar, learn to sew, learn how to do video editing, or learn a sport. I’m taking swimming lessons in a couple weeks!

  24. 36. It’s not the number of years you’ve lived, but how you’ve lived them.

    I had my first child, a son, after I turned 36. I didn’t really grow up until my son was born. I am now 47 with three children. Life is so much better than when I was 35.

  25. Followed a link here (don’t remember from where!), and I love this. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

    I have to agree – the 30’s rock. I can’t wait to see what the 40’s are like. And thank you for #22. I needed to hear that. Badly. 🙂

  26. Happy 35th, Tsh.
    Loved your list so much.
    I agree about TV and traveling and not going into debt.
    Also? Yay for libraries! Our family visits the local branch at least twice a week.
    And painful shoes? Not worth it. Even if they are cute.

  27. love it! I am turning 40 in December and am inspired to create a list of 40 things I have learned in 40 years!

  28. Nothing like a milestone to get us to consider what really matters! Congrats!
    Love the ones about eating chocolate and reading every day …
    I did some re-evaluating after 36 years of marriage … came up with 8 random observations and 2 questions worth asking …

  29. Happy Birthday! I thoroughly enjoyed my thirties and didn’t think things could get any better. I was wrong. My children were born when I was 37 and 40 and things just keep getting better. Life throws you a curve ball now and then, but the other side of menopause was a pleasant surprise for me.

    Never underestimate the impact of a simple and sincere “Thank you.” This is especially true with husbands and mother in laws.
    Smile at strangers. You never know if you are making a difference in someone’s day.
    No matter how bad a time you are having with your children and how hard it is at the moment, find at least one positive thing you can say to your child each day about why you like them. This sounds easy until you have teenagers.

  30. Good list. I concur with almost everything…I have to admit I’d love to get a vacation t-shirt! I’ll be turning 38 in about a month and keep wondering how I got to my “late 30’s” so fast. My 30’s have been kind of rough for various reasons, but I still love being 30-something, and I look forward to the 40’s too. I just really enjoy maturing and seeing my kids growing up. Big fan of Morgan Freeman here too! 🙂

  31. stopping by from Blue Eyed Bride, and so glad I did! I loved this post!

  32. Such a beautiful and gracious post! I’m turning 30 in March… I like the structure you’ve given here and I love that you are willing to learn as you go, but overall, look for blessings, not pitfalls. So happy I read your post this morning! Happy Birthday 🙂

  33. I love this! Such amazing advice. Hope you have a happy birthday. You are a very wise woman. Thank you for sharing.

  34. What a great list of things! I turned 31 this past winter/spring (what do you consider a March birthday? Winter in Michigan where I live now but Spring in North Carolina where I used to live), and I definitely agree that the 30’s are wonderful! I had a history professor who once said, “Every decade has been better than the one before.” and I decided I would take on that philosophy myself instead of bemoaning aging. I’m desperately trying to convince my husband that we should do #28 (my sister and her family live in Brussels at the moment) even though we have a 2 1/2 year old and a 7 month old…

  35. Another brilliant post. Wishing you the best birthday ever! Thank you for your brilliant, inspiring and generous insights. I love and cherish your emails. Emma

  36. Wow. I’m either really impressed with how quick a learner you are, or just thankful I learned the same things by the time I was 45! Thank you for putting into words so much wisdom! I’m sharing with my beautiful daughters, and I hope tons of women will read this and be enlightened!


  37. Happy birthday! Great pieces of advice you gave here. I’m in my late-20’s and been very shy and almost embarrassed to tell people my actual age. It’s really nice to know that I should be looking forward to getting older. Thank you!

  38. Just nodding my head at most of your 35 things. I am looking at my 40th in about 2 months. Yikes – I need to make my list. Thanks for sharing Tsh!

  39. What a wonderful list!

  40. Your list is awesome!! great way to mark the passing of years and as they say in the BCP “growing in grace!”
    Love your #29 – We’ve gone screen free ( tv, not computer) for the month of august and I can’t AMEN you loud enough on it – so much more time to together.
    Blessings in this new year – and thank you for #34 – I desperately needed the reminder this morning.

  41. Annie Ferrante says:

    Happy Birthday, Fellow 1977-er!
    I will be turning 35 in November, and I just wanted to tell you that “Organized Simplicity” and your blog have changed my life immeasurably!! I am working on simplifying, starting by quitting my job to spend more time with my kids. We’ll figure it out…we don’t need things to impress other people, right!?!?
    You are the most inspiring 35 year old I’ve come across and I really wanted to thank you for encouraging me to do things I never would have imagined – baking my own bread, all kinds of “greenness,” and savoring every moment of my family’s precious life!!
    I know I don’t know you, but thank you from the bottom of my heart!!!

  42. Ah, a lot of these tap in to my recent conversation about people calling (and actually treating) the wedding day as the biggest/best/most important day of their lives.
    It’s not! And it shouldn’t be!
    It should be great, memorable and well tuned to the newly-weds but life and great days should always be up-and-coming. From yesterday till eternity. ;]
    I’m in my 20s and luckily I always felt ‘just right’ in my skin for whatever age I was. I’m looking forward to my 30s and my 80s, but mostly I’m looking forward to doing my best to enjoy the rest of Today.

  43. In retrospect, I can’t say I’m super fond of my 30s. Even though I’ve faced some challenges in my 40s, I’d say I feel better equipped and less uncertain. Love this list. For me, #12 informs everything else. If your feet hurt, you can’t focus on the big stuff.

  44. Beautiful! Happy birthday!I like these tips so much that, so I had to share it with my readers. I hope you’ll like it. 🙂

  45. This was beautiful! I’m going to save these words for the future to look back on. Thanks!

  46. I love your list and #23 had be laughing…I have been saying this for years! I am not yet in my 30s ( just a few months away) and I am looking forward to them, mainly because so many people like yourself claim that their 30s have been awesome. Have a great weekend!

  47. LOVE LOVE LOVE this post – and this blog in general! Thanks for some great reading. 🙂

  48. Thank you for all this advice…especially #34! Also, thanks for your voice of encouragement and sincerity… most of the time I go away from lists like this feeling like I just gotta pull myself up by my bootstraps and do better. But this one doesn’t give me that feeling at all. It encourages me and motivates me in a very positive way! Thank you.

  49. Happy birthday! I love this list to pieces, but the apostrophes in the images are driving me nuts!

  50. Newbie reader and newbie commenter but I just have to say how much I love this! It’s so very simple but purposeful as we grow older and our focus changes….I just loved it. Also, the Morgan Freeman line? Genius. Looking forward to reading more from you.

  51. Happy Birthday! I would add, “Plan your time to get somewhere so that you can walk more than you drive the car.” You’d be amazed what you see when traveling at your pedestrian speed.

  52. This is beautiful. I love them.

  53. Ursula Liao says:

    Happy very belated birthday, Tsh! You’re so awesome. I really like this post a lot. I pinned it to my well said board. 🙂 I agree with mamta that you have a gifted knack at expressing things. I especially like your perspective on #35, “…Not everyone gets to. Life is a gift.” Amen. Question about packing though – you’ve traveled more than me, so why would you say under-packing is better than over-packing? Like, what about when you’re reaally cold or SUPER hot and you weren’t prepared for it? Maybe that just happens rarely? Can you share more of your wisdom on that? Maybe it’ll help me on future trips. 🙂 Thanks for blessing us with your writing and encouraging us with your wisdom!

  54. This is wonderful. I love this!

  55. Really enjoyed this post. I had to laugh at #21….this happens to me often, especially over Facebook!

  56. I had to LOL at #4. We are debt free (except the house) and I can’t imagine wanting to go back to having debt.

    Also, #23 is so true. Morgan Freeman always narrates great shows.

  57. Honest and beautiful, thank you.

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