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5 Good Things To Know About Life

Tomorrow I turn 37. And while the past few weeks been insanely full packing up our home, selling anything we don’t need, putting anything we’d like in backpacks for the next year, then hanging out with friends, I’m still hoping to practice my annual ritual to celebrate another year of life: chill.

My favorite birthday activities include reading with a hefty cup of coffee by my side, watching my kids play, getting some alone time to journal, and going on a date with my favorite boy to celebrate, gin and tonic in hand.

I’ve learned so much this past year. I’ve been stretched mentally and emotionally more the past twelve months than I have since we moved overseas seven years ago.

Here are a few things I’ve learned about life.

1. Living simply isn’t just about having less stuff. It’s also about consuming less.

It’s easy to think that because music mp3 files, digital movie downloads on iTunes, podcasts, blogs, and ebooks don’t technically take up any physical space, it’s perfectly fine to consume as much as possible. You’re not adding more visual clutter or wasting natural resources, so why not?

I’ll tell why not: because when you’re bent on consuming anything presented to you, it dilutes the great stuff you really want to enjoy. It makes the life-changing harder to find. The ‘just okay’ waters down the truly great, making what you need indistinguishable from something that might be wonderful for someone else, but not for you.

5 simple, valuable life lessons

It also clutters the mind and emotions, leaving you as stressed as when you fill your house with needless stuff. I’m learning to be selective with what I consume, even in digital form.

• Read more: Beauty in what remains

2. I really, truly, honestly don’t need much stuff.

I’ve believed this for over seven years now, of course, when I first started this website. But I love it when I’m reminded of this truth. As we declutter and pack for our global trip, we still take boxes to the thrift store.

I’m stoked to live out of backpacks for this next year, all five of us. (Update: Turns out, it was fantastic.)

5 simple, valuable life lessons

• Read more: The thrift store can be your nearly-free storage unit

3. Going gray is a big deal… to lots of other people.

I’ve been fine about my hair going gray for a long time now—it’s a natural part of life, it has its own sort of beauty, and it’s really not a big deal. But several months after telling you all I’m going to let it grow out, and I still get comments.

5 simple, valuable life lessons

A few of you have even said you sense the start of a small cultural revolution here, reminding women that IT’S OKAY to go gray. It’s seen as wise on men… why must it be seen as haggard on women?

• Read more: On going gray in my thirties

4. Your late thirties is not too late to completely change your mind.

I won’t go into details because they don’t really matter. But I’ve long held on to some beliefs that were shaken out of my hands this year, and I’m happy to be free from them. I’ve assumed these ideas as part of my upbringing’s subcultural context, but this past year, I stopped to analyze whether I really did believe them.

Turns out, I didn’t. And I feel lighter, no longer gripping onto them as black-and-white truth.

5 simple, valuable life lessons

• Read more: The More You Know, The More You Don’t Know

5. It’s fantastic to know how you’re wired.

Okay, so I already knew this, but this past year I really challenged things I assumed were true about myself. I read, talked to other people, observed my own thought processes and behavior, and ended this year much more self-aware than in years past.

Once you understand your core wiring, it’s lightyears easier to make choices that are best for you and your family. What’s more—you don’t have to apologize for them. How and when you work, what you say “no” to, why you do what you do, how you educate your kids, who you spend your time with, how you cultivate your marriage… There’s no one universally right way to do any of that stuff. But there’s a right way that’s best for you.

There is so much freedom there. And to not apologize for embracing it… That’s a people-pleaser’s milestone. It’s been big for me.

• Check out: I ultimately created our flagship course about this very thing

5 simple, valuable life lessons

All this points to deeper peace, a lightness I’ve never felt, and fuel for living well. I’m thankful for the bends in the road this past year because they’ve steered me farther down the right path.

Reading Time:

3 minutes





  1. Tina

    As a long-time reader (but rare commenter) I LOVE your birthday posts. I’ll turn 37 in a few weeks and what you say always seems to resonate with me. I completely agree with #1. Over the summer I tried to consume much less media and be much more selective about where and when as well. Being present in the *present* is a wonderful gift.

    I’m curious about #4 though. You say the details don’t matter however I am quite curious! I would love to know what you’ve learned in the hopes of learning something new as well.

    • Tsh

      Thanks, Tina! And happy early birthday to you, too. 🙂

      Well, I didn’t share the specifics on number 4 simply because it’s not necessarily a universal truth that everyone needs to prescribe to, so I didn’t want to derail the entire post with an unintentional debate (not that that happens much on this blog… most of our readers are AMAZING).

  2. Marla Taviano

    Happy, happy birthday, friend!! I’m turning 39 in October (the same age my MIL was when I married her son–ack!), and I’m learning a lot of those same things. Less clutter (in all areas of life), less stuff, less worry & guilt, less dogma, less status quo. It’s a good, good place to be.

    • Tsh

      Well, now, that’s about the perfect summary of this post. Love that, Marla! And thanks.

  3. se7en

    Well Happy Brilliant Birthday to you for tomorrow… wishing you the best and most exciting year ahead… I have a feeling there will be quite a few new lessons to share with your readers next year, what with that impending adventure and all that. Take care and a special thank you for all the inspiration and great work you do.

    • Tsh

      Yes, I have a feeling next year’s birthday post will be a little different, eh? 😉

  4. Steph

    #1 is something I’ve been learning this last year as well. Just because something is simple in physical space doesn’t mean it’s simple in emotional space. Honoring my emotional space just as much as my physical space keeps me much calmer and enjoying life more.

    • Tsh

      I love that idea of honoring our emotional space, Steph. Good word.

  5. Shelley

    Ha! I tell people I’m going gray-cefully 🙂

  6. Carrie Willard (@carrielee)

    Yea for #1 – I’ve been doing a bit of decluttering in that way as well. But like a previous commenter I’m also curious about #4 – perhaps there will be future posts on this topic? 🙂

    • Tsh

      Maybe… but I dunno. It doesn’t have much to do with simple living and I like to keep the blog’s focus there, but maybe on my personal blog one day. Honestly, the topic itself isn’t that important right now—simply the idea that we can always change if we open ourselves to it. 🙂

  7. Kelly

    I LOVE hearing about what you’ve learned this year. It makes me think that I should be more intentional about reflecting on what I learn each year.

    I am right there with you on #2 this year. We’re moving from Minnesota to Florida, from a house to a small town house (with dreams of downsizing even more in the future). We started the process thinking we were fairly minimalist. But there’s nothing like packing up all your stuff that makes you realize how much you own that you don’t really need! You have to actually touch each thing!

    I’m glad to be doing this process in my 30’s and not in my 80’s! There was a great NY Times article recently about elderly folks downsizing their homes that made me so thankful that we’re pursuing simple living.

  8. Laura

    Awesome post I intend to reread a few times for inspiration. And I love the fresh photos too! Thanks Tsh!

  9. Kristi

    Love this post and Happy Birthday!
    I’m 36 and haven’t coloured my hair in years and have no intention to. However, I’m almost disappointed that I don’t have more grey. I feel like people will take me a little more seriously if I look older.
    I guess I’m a little ahead of the curve on #5. Several years ago I decided that I really don’t care what others think. Differences were a constant source of bickering with my sister and her family and with our parents. I just don’t care any more. Indifference is so much more satisfying than being “right” or what society thinks is right.

  10. Jess

    Happy birthday!

    I’m about to turn 36, and while I’m still happily coloring my hair a variety of colors, number 5 completely resonates. A people-pleaser’s milestone indeed! So far, I love this decade.

    • Tsh

      I’m all for hair dye if it makes you happy. 🙂

  11. Michelle C

    Happy Birthday! I guess I’m about 5 years (and one month) behind you. 🙂 I love this post. I think as we grow older, it’s important to pursue both sides of this fine line: one, that we better understand who we are and go with it; and two, that we continue to learn, grow, and change. I don’t always know when it’s best to say, “Well, that’s just who I am” and when I need to make some tough adjustments, but hopefully I keep moving forward.

  12. Caroline Starr Rose

    Happy birthday! Always love when you share what you’re experiencing. Here’s to an amazing year.

  13. Leanne

    I’m really with you on #5. It’s so much easier to be happy when you know AND accept yourself. Knowing yourself is the first step to determining your personal values and beliefs; following those is the path to happiness. It’s a cliche for a reason: “love yourself” really is the most important lesson anyone can learn. Happy birthday, and best of luck for a year of further personal growth!

  14. Whitney

    I just had to say…that’s my birthday too!! (Only I’m 9 years behind.) So happy birthday a day early. I’ll celebrate with you from afar. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your lessons learned. I hope I have some more wisdom to share 9 years from now too. 🙂

    • Tsh

      Well then, happy birthday to you too, Whitney!

  15. Sara @ Know More Veggies

    Thank you so much for this post! I am turning 35 next month and have had the same types of things on my mind. We try to live simply, but are not currently achieving it in the way we would like. I will be checking your blog for some inspiration.

    • Tsh

      *Fist bump* The late 30s are great, aren’t they?

  16. Melissa

    Tsh, I am so grateful I found your blog and your books. You are an inspiration. Thank you for all that you write and do. And as someone who celebrated the big 3-8 just a week ago, I must say that I agree with number 4 more than I ever imagined that I would.

  17. Shawna

    Tsh I LOVE this and it so deeply resonates with where I’m at in my own personal journey towards honoring who I am at my core, being authentically me, and letting go of the masks we hide behind (I wrote about this recently – &

    All of these things you’ve shared remind me of all the areas in my life where there’s room to reevaluate the ‘why’, why do I do what I do, why do I think what I think and believe what I believe? If it resonates as true, then great! But if not, maybe it’s time to let it go. There’s no shame in each of us embracing what feels *right* for us and our families. There’s room enough to embrace what really meets our needs and embraces who we are.

    As always, thank you so much for sharing boldly in *your* truths friend. So beautiful reminders and inspiration 🙂

    • Tsh

      Thank you, Shawna! I look forward to reading your thoughts soon when I get a chance. 🙂

  18. Anya

    I’ve come to the same conclusion about the mental space that things take up, even if they don’t take up any physical space, and even if they are free. The blog posts you can’t get through, the podcasts you don’t have time for, the e-books you haven’t had time to read– it feels like a long to-do list that I’m failing to keep up with. I’ve been working on that also this year. As for going grey– I can still get away with plucking the odd greys at 43, but it’s a tough subject for me. My mom is obsessed with youth and thinness and appearance, and she has had face-lifts a few times, so needless to say she still keeps up the dark brown hair in her 70’s. I don’t want to be like her– it should probably go without saying that she is a difficult and unhappy lady. I have a sweet 12-year-old who thinks that the most awesome older women are the ones with the long grey ponytails and long grey braids, and I think she’s right. 🙂 In short, you’re inspiring, and your hair looks great. And happy birthday!! 🙂

    • Tsh

      Thanks, Anya!

  19. Andrea L.

    Happy Birthday! Beautiful, inspirational words (and irony of all ironies… there was an ad for hair colour at the very bottom of the post 😉 )

    • Tsh

      Ha! That’s hilarious.

  20. Dahlia

    Would be super happy if you shared the name of the sandals you are wearing in the photo! Also, I’d love a future post about #4 in the future. Thanks!

  21. Liz P

    Happy Birthday Tsh. Your words of wisdom as a slightly older woman (I’m 33 with 5 kids) have been a blessing to me and, in many ways, you have been the mentor I have always sought out but never found in real life. Thank you for sharing of yourself so freely.

  22. Hannah

    Hi Tsh!
    You’ve piqued my interest! I know you don’t want to bring up topics that will cause debates, but I have to ask about #4 as well! My husband and I are going through some things that are making me question everything I’ve accepted as true, and trying to decide for myself what it is I truly believe and why. What a difficult (but hopefully rewarding?) journey. I hope you will take a tiny amount of time to share with me the details and your conclusions. And while I’m commenting, I’d just like to share how much I love what you do. Thank you for your willingness to inspire our generation. You rock!!

    • Tsh

      Thank you for your kind words, Hannah! We’ll see about diving in to #4. 🙂

  23. Amanda E

    Happy Birthday! Thank you for sharing about your year. I am hitting 34.5 and starting to heal and see who I really am. This is a scary and amazing process. I appreciate your allowing yourself to be you and to take a stand for the simple amazing life that you get to live by choice. Thank you for taking us all on the journey with you.

    I really enjoyed your take on the clutter we take in to ourselves…. So big and so key! How I have let too many things keep space in my mind and heart that have no place there. It’s time for me to de-clutter internally. What a task I have, but a very worthy one.

  24. Lisa

    Happy Birthday Tsh! Brilliant post. And I believe you’re quite possibly a fly on the wall of my own brain! 😉 Particularly as I turn 38 on Sunday and have been pondering my own life lessons of late. PS – can I just say how funny it is how many readers’ birthdays are this month?!

    I’m living out #4 as my 38th birthday present. I’ve left my corporate career behind and am launching on Monday! Big step. New direction. Life restart. It’s scary but feels amazingly right! I think 38 may very well be my best year yet! 🙂

    Thanks for the continued wisdom and inspiration!

  25. Sarah

    Happy Birthday! I turned 40 this summer and I have been living out all these lessons as well. My hair has been gray (actually, mostly white) for quite a while. I have learned so much about myself this last year. And you know, #4 has been a big one for me, too. I hadn’t realized how much of my life had been lived according to things I thought were non-optional truths, but really aren’t. And I’ve learned that if my life doesn’t look a certain way, I’m not doing it wrong. I’m not a bad mother, a bad wife, a bad person, just because I don’t do all the things that are good to do and I don’t believe that a good thing equals the right thing or the only thing. I can like what I like, not like what I don’t like, and believe what I believe while not believing what I don’t believe. I’m still trying to be comfortable with this freedom. 🙂

  26. Crystal

    Happy Birthday Tsh! I love a good birthday wrap up…such a good time to stop and reflect. I’m learning that I need regular breaks to make decisions. A mind that is foggy and longing for a holiday should not be relied on to make big life decisions. Something that is helping me clear some of this fog is planning a European adventure next year! No better way to sweep out the cobwebs.

  27. Lisa

    I’ve been a long time reader and know that you are a Christian, but please tell me, have you left your faith in #4? No judgment here, I just think it’s important to me to know whether the writing I’m reading is from a person with a certain worldview or not, if that makes sense. Doesn’t mean I WONT read it, just means I will read/filter it a little differently. You don’t have to publish this comment. But if you have left your faith in Jesus, could you please let me know by sol? It would mean a lot! Thanks and good luck!

  28. celeste


    What tools did you use for self-examination to know yourself better?

  29. Jaime

    Happy belated birthday Tsh. I will be turning 37 on Sunday. I have been reading this blog for a while now and I am always inspired. Thank you.

  30. Jaimee

    Thank you for sharing this post. The title so inspired me that I HAD to write my own list (not based just on Simplicity) before I allowed myself to read yours. I am turning 37 next month and wanted to come up with my own independent thoughts on the matter. So here’s my list:

    1. Make time for relationships
    Get together with family and friends regularly. Schedule time. Don’t wait for it to happen on its own, because it won’t. Invest in the people who matter to you. If their loved one dies, go to the funeral. If you are thinking of them, send them a card. Tell them that they matter to you.

    2. Life really is short
    Get on with it! Don’t wait for your dreams to happen. Don’t hope for a different/better life. Take life by the horns and make it happen! You only get one go-around. Make it count.

    3. Stay curious and keep learning
    Read books. Explore the Internet. Take classes. Attend lectures and workshops that interest you. Join a discussion group. Follow your passions—you never know where they will lead!

    4. You can change your mind (thank God!)
    What you believed about life when you were 18 or 30 might change, and that’s okay. You might have sworn your life would look a certain way at age 50, and it doesn’t look anything like that. That’s a good thing. It means you’re open to life’s new and unfolding opportunities.

    5. Decide who you want to be
    Think of the people you most admire. Think ahead to the kind of person you want to be at age 50 or 60. Then take actual, concrete steps each day to become that kind of person.

    Maybe others will want to share their learnings?

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