The Value of Living (and Not Sharing)

The Value of Living Through (and Not Sharing) the Mess

“I think you should take some time off from sharing your life with the world.” Those are the words my new friend Saima said to me on my final day in London, and they were followed by a question. “What would it look like if you just wrote for yourself, for a little while?” I didn’t have an answer. We were sitting in her living room, relaxing while waiting for the sun to go down, so we could go out and she could break her fast during Ramadan. I couldn’t think of an answer to her question. The only thing I knew was that I was tired.

Earlier that morning, I had sent Saima a few text messages to warn her I wasn’t in my usual good spirits. I had also sent similar messages to my friend Bianca, before we met up with our mutual friend Laura that morning. After confessing to spending the previous night crying in my hotel bed, I told them I wanted to see them, but that I couldn’t promise I would be the best company. What I was really doing was forewarning them there was a good chance I would cry in front of them, and to please prepare now and forgive me for it then.

Both Bianca and Saima took care of me that day in a way I didn’t even know I needed. They picked the restaurants. Bianca got a better table. And then Saima did something I believe she’s skilled at, but which felt like the greatest gift of all: she ordered food for me. Food for us to share. This was something she’d done every time we’d gone out together, but it felt bigger that night. Like she could physically see the weight on my shoulders, and lifted just a little bit of it off by making a decision for me. I was beyond grateful.

The next day, I was stuck at Calgary International Airport for a lengthy six-hour layover. After finishing the second of the two books I’d started reading on my first flight, I popped my Canadian SIM card back into my phone and called a few friends to tell them I was almost home. The first call was to Azalea, who had been staying at my place in Squamish while I was away. I shared a few stories from my trip, then reiterated to her what I had said to Bianca and Saima—and told her about the question Saima had asked me.

What would it look like if you just wrote for yourself, for a little while?

As we talked about it, I realized it wasn’t that I didn’t have an answer to the question. It was that I didn’t like my answer. I have shared the details of my life on this blog for close to eight years. It started as a hobby, but has since become a part of me—and is now part of my job. And the thought of not writing and hitting publish made me feel really uncomfortable, not just because I worried about what people would think if I disappeared (although that was a concern) but because I literally didn’t know what it would look like if I just wrote for myself.

Azalea listened to this and let me ramble about all the different thoughts and ideas that had come up on my trip. Ideas for book #2, ideas for ways to make money (because writing books isn’t a get rich quick scheme), and thoughts about where I could travel to or live next. One of Azalea’s many gifts is making people feel seen and heard, so she listened and made me feel seen and heard. And then she gave me a different challenge. “Try not to make any big decisions for the next two weeks.” This also made me uncomfortable.

The reason those questions/challenges felt difficult was because I knew they would require me to sit with myself. To exercise the muscle I’ve been working on for the past five-and-a-half years: the one that usually twitches, reacts impulsively and wants to solve problems right away. I knew I would essentially have to do nothing, which felt impossible. There was external pressure to do more, more, more and to capitalize on the success of The Year of Less. There was also pressure to keep up with everything else I’d been doing before the book came out. And then there was the pressure I was putting on myself. How could I opt out for two weeks!?

Fortunately, jet lag forced me to slow down and take care of myself. It took a full week for me to properly recover and get a good night of sleep, so the first of those two weeks off was easy. After that, I realized I wasn’t feeling any clearer about what I was supposed to do next. I tried to write but couldn’t finish so much as a paragraph. I talked about things with friends but never found solutions. I needed some real space. So, I combined Saima + Azalea’s challenges and decided not to blog/post to Instagram/make any big decisions for two more weeks.

I committed to that idea on June 18th. As you can see from the date of this post, it’s been almost a month—and I still don’t feel ready to “return”. The same way opting out of buying stuff for two years taught me a lot about myself as a consumer, temporarily opting out of publishing content is giving me time to think about myself as a creator. Having that space has also allowed an incredible number of ideas to surface—some I had never thought of before, others I had pushed off for various reasons. They aren’t all good. But my home + my phone are cluttered with notes, and that feels like a step in the right direction.

So, at the moment, I think this is going to be the only blog post I publish this summer. I wanted to say hi + thanks to those of you who have reached out, as well as share a little bit of what I’ve been up to. :)

First of all, my trip to the UK was even better than I could have imagined. I visited England (it felt like home), Scotland and Ireland (rented a car and did a road trip!). The weather was unbelievable. Honestly, it felt like the sunshine followed me wherever I went. (If you’re not on Instagram, just pop over and see all the blue sky in my pictures. It was unreal.) And the amount of beauty and history I took in was overwhelming. But the best part of my trip—and most trips—was the people. I’m so grateful to everyone who made time for me and helped me have the best experience possible. You all know who you are, and I can’t wait to see you again.

Since coming home, I’ve been soaking up all the beauty in Squamish and thinking about something that’s been on my mind since I was in the UK: what if I didn’t have a home base? How could I take what I know about myself and combine it into an experience where I travel (slowly) full-time? Could I be a citizen of the world? I made one big decision and decided the answer is: it’s worth trying. People keep asking where I’m moving to next or what I’m going to do, and I have been avoiding the questions. I’m not trying to be vague or rude, I just don’t have the answers yet. All I know is that I will be leaving Squamish sometime in 2018 and heading out into the world.

(To go along with this, I have started the process of decluttering/selling my belongings.)

Another thing I don’t have answers about yet is what’s next for me work-wise—at least in terms of big projects. In late-June, I finished an optional proposal for book #2 and there are still a lot of question marks around how my publisher wants to move forward. The Year of Less has sold more than 47,000 copies (print, ebook + audiobook) around the world, which is unbelievable and has truly exceeded even my wildest dreams. But that still doesn’t mean anyone will want your next book idea. As I’ve been waiting to hear, my anxiety has been ultra-high, but I’ve been trying to accept that I can’t control what happens on this front.

So, on the topic of work I can control, I do have some fun news. I’m currently revising Mindful Budgeting and finally creating what so many of you have asked for: an evergreen planner so you can start using it anytime of the year! It feels amazing to be refreshing the content so it represents what I know today (compared to when I first launched it in 2015). If everything goes as planned, it should be available by the end of the summer.

I also started doing a content audit, where I’m going through every single one of the posts on this site and updating them in some way or simply deleting them. I started with more than 550 posts and currently have just 404—and I’ve only gone from 2011 through to mid-2014! I’ve made sure that anyone who is new to the site could still go back, read from the beginning and understand exactly how I got to where I am today. Nothing about my story is missing. I’m just clearing out all the posts that don’t add to it or help people. (This feels good, especially when you think about how much changes from age 25 to age 33!)

And on that note: I quietly celebrated my 33rd birthday on July 7th. :)

There’s so much more I could say and share, but this post is already way longer than I intended—and I really want to honour my original idea for it, which was to talk about the value of living through (and not always publicly sharing) the messiness of life. I still don’t know exactly why I was sad at the end of my trip. I think it probably had something to do with the fact that I’d been living on the edge of my comfort zone all year—mostly with work, but also with some of my travels. But I’m not going to force myself to find the answer. Instead, I’m giving myself some grace and accepting the fact that we simply can’t be happy all the time (even on vacation).

However, in saying that, I’ve also had a number of conversations with friends since I’ve been home, and I can’t help but notice that a similar theme keeps coming up over and over again. Those of us who have been publicly documenting our life/work/progress for many years are feeling like something has to change. Either we need to take more time off for ourselves, change the way/amount/frequency we share, or quit certain projects altogether. Because it’s starting to feel like it’s all becoming a bit too much, and that it would be nice to live a little more—and perhaps share a little less (or just share in a different way).

What does that mean for me? I still don’t know! Hence wanting to take more time off this summer, so I can keep thinking about this. So far, I can tell you that it’s still “scary” to think about disappearing for a few months. But it feels so much better than pressuring myself to stick to my old schedule or write insightful content. As I said in an interview with my friend Fiona, I don’t want to have all the answers right now. I just want to be honest. And if I’m honest, creating space for myself for the past month has felt like such a gift. I’ve cooked a ton of healthy food. Gone for lots of walks. Read a handful of books and listened to countless podcasts. And I’ve been writing for myself—and not sharing it with anyone. This space is where new insight/ideas have started to flourish. It’s costing me money and time to give it to myself, but putting pressure on myself would’ve cost me more.

The one thought I do want to share right now is more of a note for all content creators: we have an immense responsibility. There is so much “noise” online right now (and so much content, in general). The book has made me realize that the things we share can and will have an impact, and we are so lucky to be taking up any amount of time our audience is willing to give us. I want to take that seriously. I took book #1 seriously, in that I knew exactly what my intention was and the message I wanted people to take from it—and based on responses, I feel like I did my job. I want to bring that same intentionality into everything I do. That might mean I share less content for a while, but I’m hoping that will result in sharing better content later.

As for my personal life: I’m going to keep some of that to myself for a while, too. Because even though this year has been filled with some amazing events and milestones so far, it’s also been really mentally taxing. Penny recently wrote a post that took the scrambled thoughts I’ve had about this out of my mind and put them in the right order. She said: “When you are really in the midst of making progress, it is all-consuming. It is stressful, of course, but it is exhilarating. And it is virtually impossible to stop the process long enough to reflect on what is happening, let alone write or even call home about it. We don’t write in the mess. We live it.”

I don’t think I am a mess right now, but I am definitely making progress. Life is changing. Work is changing. Home is changing. Each one of those things is changing in a really big way, so combined it feels absolutely massive—and I’m not ready to share it all yet. I’m going to keep living through it, and talking it out with my closest friends/family, until I get a little clearer and find my way back to myself (or perhaps my new self). What I can tell you right now is that I don’t think I’ve cried since I’ve been home. In fact, for the past week, I’ve been putting headphones in, cranking up music, and dancing around my kitchen a couple times a day.

One of the last things Saima said to me in London was, “I don’t think your pain is a bad thing. I think it’s showing you that something you’re doing isn’t working.” Those two short sentences instantly calmed my anxiety and quite literally felt like they brought me back down to earth. It was like a reminder that I didn’t need to be sad about being sad (aka slip into depression). It was just time to pay attention and make some changes.

It’s a good thing I have lots of experience doing that. :)

I’ll be back September 4th, friends!

Subscribe now and I will talk to you then, xo

  • I would never be able to share the details of my life with the world like you do, I simply don’t have the guts. So kudos to you. But if time off is what you need then that’s what you should do.

    And 47k books is simply amazing! Congratulations!

    • Ha, I appreciate the kudos. And I’m glad I’ve shared what I have. But think it’s time to just live and not share the personal stuff anymore. Thanks, friend :)

  • I’m so happy to hear that your trip to the UK exceeded your expectations! And I wish you all the best as you contemplate what’s next. As scary as it is, it’s also kind of exciting to know that you have a host of possibilities in front of you!

    • It’s true! I just sort of feel like my life is a bunch of confetti that is floating around right now and I’m waiting for at least ONE piece to land, haha. Being in limbo is not easy. Thanks, Chelsea! :)

  • So glad to hear from you again. I don’t usually post comments, but I was starting to wonder if I had been I subscribed in some way. I’m glad that your trip exceeded your expectations. I know you had wanted to do this trip for a long time. It sounds like you have really grown his year and if taking time to sit with yourself is what you need, then by all means do it – even if it makes you a bit uncomfortable.

    The content that you put out into the world is much appreciated. As one other commenter wrote, many of us – me included – could never put ourselves out there like you have, but we have all been the beneficiaries of you doing so. When you are ready, we will all be here waiting for you. Excited to hear what you decide to do next, but only when you are ready to share 😀

  • So good to read your update, Cait. I think it was Courtney Carver who said not to write about it when you’re in the midst of it, So, good for you. It’s your life; it’s up to you to share with the world as much or as little as you like. Whatever happens next, if you’re being intentional and deliberate and taking decisions that feel right, you’ll do what’s right for you. C x

    • If I’m honest, I used to hate that saying because I thought: but we are always going through things, and we can’t just wait until we are experts! But, of course, now I get it. Thanks, Catherine. Lovely to hear from you! x

  • whew – to be honest I’m not too sure exactly what I want to say in response to this (feeling all the feels), but I know I wanted to leave a comment to show my admiration and respect for you to share yourself so honestly like this with all of us. It does not go unnoticed, so thank you.

    I am excited for you in your future endeavors (whatever they may be). Wish you the best of luck! Your thoughts about being a ‘citizen of the world’ really resonated with me – it’s definitely something I’ve thought about too so curious how you approach this!

    But really, it’s important to take time for ourselves, so to echo the other reader comments, we will still be here when you get back. Enjoy time for yourself and look forward to hearing from you again. Cheers!

  • We often get so busy that we forget that we need to take care of ourselves, too. Thankfully, you had some pretty great friends to shine a light on some options for you. Enjoy this time you have and we will be here when you come back.

    This post really made an impact on me. I love that you share so much of your life because you tend to be a mirror for a lot of us to look at our own lives and see where we can make changes. That is what this post did for me – I realized that I, too, needed to make some changes to fine tune what I was already doing. Thank you for that.

    • Oh my gosh, I am so grateful to the people I met in the UK. Their wisdom and support was unlike anything I’ve encountered. And I’m so glad I could pass it on, and that this post was helpful for you too. :)

  • I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the parts of my life I do share online and the parts I need to myself. It is an interesting responsibility we have as content creators. We’ve built audiences based on what we share, but that doesn’t mean we don’t get to keep anything for ourselves.

    I also am trying to be more aware of the kinds of content I’m sharing. I want things to be genuinely useful and helpful for people, not just the next trend because I want the clicks.

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Cait! See you in September.

  • This is a beautifully honest post, Cait. I frequently struggle with where the divide between Online Erin and Real Life Erin should be, and sometimes I think I cross over that line. It’s a very hard thing to figure out, especially when you’re a smaller,newer blog and still trying to grow your audience!

    I’m happy your trip went so wonderfully and that you’re giving yourself space now to figure out what’s next. And I do wish I could visit you in Squamish before you move!

    • Maybe we can have a little retreat here one day together instead, my friend! I will always love Squamish and want to visit. :)

  • Hey friend! While I totally appreciate the concern, I think the fact that I haven’t shared the reasons *why* I’m going to leave Squamish means you (and others) might jump the gun on being worried/offering advice. The list of reasons is long, one of them being how insanely expensive it is to live here (which I know you can understand). Just because we love a place doesn’t mean we get to stay there. And I actually think I’ve done a lot of really good “sitting still” kind of work on myself, since I’ve been here. I’m definitely not running away. I don’t know what’s next for me, but I feel really excited to see more of the world. That is all. :)

  • Thank you for sharing! I know so many things are up in the air for you at the moment, but If you’ve managed to get this far I’m sure you’ll work things out to be better than they’ve ever been. As a brand-new creator myself, you’re a HUGE role model for me and I have tremendous respect for what you’ve accomplished. I hope one day to have the same kind of positive impact on people that you’ve had :-)

  • ::counts down for September 4th::

    I’m so glad you have these people in your life. Being reminded to pay attention and make changes is invaluable. It’s so easy to forget or skip or dismiss. I love that you’re dancing around the kitchen. #goals

    • Honestly, the best thing about both Squamish and London has been the people I’ve met. You best be dancing with me, friend!

  • I’ve been reading your blog for a long time, but don’t comment a lot. I’m one of the people who has admired your honesty about sharing your life here and in your book in the past, but I can understand why you might want to change some things. Personally, I would like to get in touch with other people online about slow living, minimalism and personal finance, but I’m worried about privacy issues. I haven’t figured out a good way to do that yet. Good luck with figuring everything, like others said, we’ll be here when you get back.

    • It’s an interesting challenge for sure, E. I would say, reaching out to bloggers you love might be one way to connect. But I also think blogs are changing right now, so we all need to be looking at different ways we can connect with each other. :)

  • Enjoy this time away – it’s well deserved and is certainly needed. In fact, I think all of us – bloggers and readers alike – need to take time away now and then. And potentially slow down altogether. I’m finding we are overwhelmed with both consuming and creating content – there’s just so much! It’s great stuff, but our brains can only absorb a limited amount, and so we need to honour that and sometimes stop to just breathe. Really great content that helps people when they need it will be evergreen, and so there’s not a need (in my opinion) to keep coming up with new stuff so often. Continuing a community where people can be real and share and learn is wonderful – in person and online. If that’s something that can be done without overwhelm, to me, that’s the best way to continue to serve. Thanks for that Cait!

    • “I’m finding we are overwhelmed with both consuming and creating content – there’s just so much! It’s great stuff, but our brains can only absorb a limited amount, and so we need to honour that and sometimes stop to just breathe.” YESSSS. I have been saying this all year, Kelly – in interviews and with friends. I’m really starting to see the value in creating LESS but BETTER content. Because there’s way too much to keep up with, and everyone (both creators and consumers) is drowning in it. I don’t know exactly what that’s going to look like yet, but I see it as an exciting challenge!

  • I love this post so much, Cait. Your friends are amazing finds and they gave you so much beautiful and delicate insight and guidance; good eggs to keep around! I firmly support you taking a step back, and I also am really excited about your mindful budgeting planner as I was JUST frantically tweeting at you about one the other day.

    • Yay! I’ve had an annual planner for 3 years that runs from Jan-Dec, but creating an evergreen planner feels better. I’m really excited to see how it comes together. :)

  • Cait, You are wise far beyond your years. I am a 65 year old reading your blog, and I gain so much insight from it. All the best to you in your ever-evolving life.

    • Of course, friend! I imagine I’ll be on the island for the month of December, at the very least, before I head out into the world. Would love to see you! :)

  • Thank you for sharing this with us, as vocalizing it puts it out in the universe and helps in looking at ourselves in being authentic or help define/redefine what authentic is.
    May the wind be beneath your wings to fly in the meantime. Rock on Cait!

  • I realize I’m a little late to the party here, but I wanted to congratulate you on being able to let go of what you thought was your identity in order to figure things out. I think that’s really hard to do, actually, so kudos to you!

  • I couldn,t agree more, sometimes you need space from it all, i have realised sometimes i need to stop explaining myself, keep myself to myself and listen to God and myself,
    I think the internet is to blame for alot of this problem, and i need to switch it off and connect with myself and those that matter the most, i mean alot of what the internet pumps out is non of my business and i also i cannot do much about the issues etc, my mum used to say “keep your own council” she did have a very valid point in that quote, Too much information, explaining and seeking validation in the wrong places has done alot of harm,
    so yes having some space and doing what feels right for you every now and then is wise and sensible
    hope it refreshes you and brings much perspective to your life
    kind regards
    love Jacqueline

  • Your book has inspired me so incredibly much and made me think about what I’m putting into the world, too, though I don’t have an official, regularly-run blog (yet). I like your friend Saima and her words “I don’t think your pain is a bad thing. I think it’s showing you that something you’re doing isn’t working.” That sounds right to me. Your book found me in the darkness of my grief after losing two very close family members and helped me put my thoughts back together on how to move forward, and these words, like those in your book, feel right. Life keeps moving, even when/if you’re not ready to and you need a break. It’s okay, and even sometimes necessary, to step off the ever-moving train for a while, though. It’ll be there when you get ready to get back on, if you want to. (I’ve been previously told that becoming a hermit is not something to aspire to, but I’m also arriving in a place where the judgements of others matter less to me, so I’m reevaluating that shared opinion. You must do what feels right to you, and what makes your soul sing.)

    I wish you all of the best in your progress and adventures, and happiness in everything you do. And thank you–more than I have words for, thank you. You’ve made a significant difference in my life.

  • Hi Cait,
    I put your book on hold at my public library and waited patiently for it to be my turn. I read it quickly, eager to get to the end (no slow reading for me). Once done, I needed more, I wanted to read the back stories to the ones you share in your book, so I started reading the archives from your blog. Each and every one, Today on my break, I have caught up and my first reaction is to say that I am sad that I need to wait until September to have more. However, my most sincere thought is that it has been absolutely wonderful binge reading your blog. I feel that, like a character on a show, I have watched you grow into a very better version of yourself year after year. I can appreciate that you listen to your body (including heart & mind) and do what is right for you. I look forward to seeing the new posts, when they come out. But I do have to say, if you are ever stuck in the Calgary International Airport for a long period of time please reach out I will be happy to entertain you, as this is where I call home.

  • I’m about half-way through your book and just wanted to THANK YOU for writing it. While I’m not (yet) on a shopping ban (just taking it one month at a time), I’m on a Own Less streak and this has been amazing. Also, unsubscribing from emails, why have I never thought of that before?!?!? GENUS.

  • Cait – Are you familiar with Colin Wright’s blog, Exile Lifestyle? Although he’s moved on from this concept now, he used to move to random locations around the globe for 6 months at a time, bringing only a few possessions. Locations were determined by his blog readers.

    I’m not suggesting you do this, but I found his insights on this process very interesting. And please know that you owe your readers nothing! Do what’s right for you, right now, whatever that may be.

  • So glad you made this post. LIke your other readers, I had been worried! Good luck with your process and I hope you will be back when there are things you want to share. I really like your writing.

  • Dear Cait, I’ve just finished reading your book for the third (!) time, each time has given me new things to think about. I really like your tone and so much resonates with me, and I recognize myself in many of your stories. I just wanted to say thank you for “putting yourself out there” (even though I’ve understood from this post and your previous writing it is/can be full of (internal) conflict of course). Your writing has really helped me acknowledge things about my consumer habits and making small changes that turned out into huge leaps. Im already looking forward to book no 2, until then, Im re-reading your first one :)
    Big thank you and very grateful, all the way from Sweden :)

  • Hi Cait, I just finished your book. I loved it. I started a shopping ban a month ago on my own, but needed some guidelines. I love your writing style. So authentic and I am really inspired. Thanks so much!

Comments are closed.