Talk back to your brain


What is the biggest thing holding us back from using our stuff?
It’s not what other people will think
It’s not your bank account and worrying you can’t replace it
It’s not overwhelm at the number of choices

It’s your thoughts. 

I know, it sounds too simple, but I’ll try my best to show you. Picture your special item (fancy dress, heels, bag, champagne, fabric, good china, candle). Now, picture waking up tomorrow and using it. Seriously, go through the scene in your head. 

Now, hear that soundtrack? Those are your thoughts, questioning your decision. I don’t have to read your mind to know what they sound like:

Really? Today?
Who do you think you are?
For a random Tuesday?
What if you ruin it?
What if you spill?
What will people think?
Psht if you use this now you’ll have no motivation to __________ (lose the weight, make partner, raise good kids, save money).

If this scene sounds familiar then you need Show Pony Summer Series #13 Talk Back to Your Brain.

Boy, are these thoughts convincing, constant, and critical! But, we’re stuck with them! So, if you can’t live without them, you need to learn how to work with them. Now, it’s very tempting to get really loud and tell them to all shut up, but sadly, they don’t go away when you yell at them, instead they come up later, all sneaky and ‘I told you so.’ The secret to quieting them down is compassion. It’s not sexy, or mighty, but it works. 

When you hear: Who do you think you are?
You respond: 
Thank you for trying to protect me, I have this beautiful blazer hanging in my closet and I thought I’d wear it, not because I think I’m a boss lady, but because I think clothes are worth wearing.

When you hear: The good china? What if you crack it! What if it breaks! This is against the rules!
You respond:
Thank you for warning me about the preciousness of this china, but I believe my items are meant to be used. Just because I’m using it tonight and not saving it for Christmas dinner doesn’t mean I’m being reckless. I want to enjoy these dishes and using them is part of that. 

Now, if talking back to your thoughts seems awkward or lame, a good warm-up is a mantra. These can be a quick and practiced way to respond when you hear your critical voices starting up, simply insert your mantra. You can borrow some from me if you can’t think of your own.

Don’t let your candle melt in the closet – this is a reminder of what can happen when we save things for someday when

Nothing is precious – this is a good reminder that items aren’t precious, people are.

Spend out – this is borrowed from author, Gretchen Rubin and is her call to action for herself to not save things, but use them.

I’m enjoying my life as I live it – this is a reminder that we’re not saving things for someday, we are using things now.

Do you have a mantra? How do you talk back to the negative and critical voices that try and convince you not to use your stuff? 

examine the rules


We save our items for ‘someday when’ but have you ever stopped to ask ‘what exactly is the perfect scenario in my mind when I can use this item?’ Today we will be examining those perfect scenarios and rules we have made up in our mind for Show Pony Summer Series Method #12 Examine the Rules

I’ll give you an example of my own. I have a pair of crepe pants that I had made all sorts of rules for. These pants were for a day at the office, no possibility of spills and had to be worn in a formal scenario. Then, I ran into my coworker at the grocery store with her toddler, on the way to a picnic.  She was wearing none other than the same crepe pants that I have. 

What?! This wasn’t allowed! She was going to go sit on grass, with a toddler, in the fancy pants! This is when I realized the rules I had made up about these pants were all just that, made up. These pants didn’t deserve an office, they deserve to be worn and enjoyed! 

Let’s say it’s your quilting project. You have quilting supplies bursting to be used, but you’re waiting for a grand baby on the way, when you have an entire weekend free when you have decided on the perfect pattern, when you’re an expert quilter. 

Examine the rules: Sorry, when is this scenario happening? When was the last time you had an entire weekend free? Are you anywhere close to being a grandparent? How much time are you spending practicing those skills instead of fawning over your beautiful material? Instead of waiting to use ALL your quilting supplies on a huge project why not start something small? Instead of waiting for the perfect pattern, could you try a pattern to see what you like and don’t like? (Insert watercolours, knitting, crochet, calligraphy supplies, camera, any arts/crafts supplies you are waiting for the perfect scenario to use).

How about that fancy bottle of champagne you received as a gift 2 Christmases ago? You’ve decided you will drink it when you get the promotion, or when you host a fancy dinner party, or when you get engaged. 

Examine the rules: What if you didn’t wait for the perfect occasion, but chose an occasion and made it perfect by drinking the champagne? You don’t need fancy glasses or a fancy occasion, all you need is something to celebrate. Your girlfriends coming over this weekend is reason enough!

Alright, what about that fancy loose-leaf tea you never seem to drink? What scenario has your brain painted for when it would be appropriate? It’s 5 pm, the sun is setting and it’s golden hour, Christmas music is playing from the speakers, snow is lightly falling, the fire is crackling, ahhh, you think, the perfect time to sink into my novel with a delicious cup of tea.

Examine the rules: I don’t mean to burst your bubble, but this perfect scene isn’t coming. If you wait for the perfect time to drink your tea, you never will.

It’s been a crazy day, the kids were screaming, the emails wouldn’t stop coming, you have stepped on a lego for the third time today. By some miracle the kids are in front of Cocomelon and you have 20 minutes of silence. You think ‘I could have a nice cup of tea’ and this is quickly followed by ‘what?! On this random Tuesday afternoon when I haven’t showered in 3 days and I smell like spit up? Uhuh, that is for when my life is calm, relaxed, under control.’

What you are saying to yourself is ‘you’re not worthy of that nice cup of tea until your life on the outside matches the Christmas miracle in your mind.’ Thinking this way feels like crap! Your worthiness is not up for debate and it’s definitely worth more than a cup of nice tea. That tea is not better than you. What if instead, you thought ‘mmmm a cup of special tea is exactly what I need, to remember I’m doing my best, sometimes it’s messy, but the taste of that cream of earl grey will remind me it will all be OK.’

Can we change the goal from perfection to enjoyment? Can you use your things to celebrate, enjoy, and relax in the life you have right now? When you examine the rules you realize they were never rules after all.

What rules do you have for your stuff?

Fresh Start


Somehow it’s September and with it comes a fresh start! Author Gretchen Rubin says ‘September is the other January—a clean slate, a fresh start, a chance to use new pencils, fresh notebooks, and begin again.” 

So much of what holds us back from using our stuff is the thought ‘I will use it someday when.’ A fresh start gives you a cue that this is the best time to start. A fresh start ushers in novelty, you’re already embracing something new, so why not tack on something you’ve been wanting to use or start, with it? 

I love anything that can be called a fresh start and I believe seeing something as a fresh start can be a great way to jump start using your things. This September I’m ushering in Show Pony Summer Series Method # 11 Fresh Start.  

Now, September can often mean back to school, back to routine, or trying new habits, but there can be other reasons for a fresh start. 

  • A change in personal relationships such as marriage, divorce, a new baby, a new puppy, a break-up, a new friend, a death. 
  • A change in surroundings, such as a new apartment, a new city, perhaps rearranged furniture or a recently decluttered space.
  • Or perhaps it’s a new life change including a new job, a new school, a new routine, a new club, a new habit, or an upcoming trip.

Whatever the change in your life, if you view it as a fresh start it can be a great excuse to wear and use your things. 

For instance, this summer I started a new office job and before my first day, I decided I wanted to be someone who wears dresses at this job. To make this happen, I made sure I wore a dress in my first week. After wearing a dress the first time and realizing they worked well, it became a regular staple in my work attire. 

The reason I am emphasizing the fresh start is that I know what it looks like to miss this opportunity. You see, I had a previous office job, but I didn’t start wearing dresses at the beginning. This meant that when I decided to mix things up and wear dresses I received comments and attention for it. I didn’t like the attention and therefore would avoid my dresses and continued wearing my regular outfits. I had missed the opportunity of the fresh start!

This method is great if you are someone who doesn’t like to draw attention to yourself and often worries ‘what will people think?’ When you change what you wear with a fresh start you avoid this, you see, this new office space doesn’t know who I am, they don’t know that Gill doesn’t usually wear dresses. When I show up in a dress in the first week they believe this is just who I am. 

Now, for me it was dresses, I really wanted to use this fresh start to wear my dresses more regularly.

  • Perhaps you’re really good at wearing your clothes, but you struggle with makeup, fancy beauty products, self-care, and lighting candles. This method can be adjusted for all of these. 
  • Perhaps you have a new apartment and want to make baths a part of your routine. What if you started taking baths once a week? Put it on your calendar, put out the fuzzy robe and pulled out the bubble bath?
  • Perhaps you’re starting school and want to use all of your special pens, pencils and stationery. You bring them on the first day, write on the first page, and open the package.
  • Perhaps you have a new baby and want to make lighting a candle a part of feeding or nap time. You put out the candle, make sure you have matches nearby and breathe in the smell of your new routine.
  • Perhaps you start a new series on Netflix and decide to always wear your super cozy, super soft PJs?

The fresh start does not have to be monumental, it is just a way to tell yourself ‘we’re doing things differently now, this is new territory with new rules and routines.’

How can you use a fresh start as a way to use your stuff?

Start Small


When I started using my good stuff I started with a category that felt both manageable and held a lot of special items: my jewelry. Instead of trying to wear all the good stuff, I decided to only focus on prioritizing and actually wearing all of my jewelry. I would love to tell you that all you have to do is decide to use your stuff and tomorrow you can throw open your closet and wear it all. What I have found is that it takes intentional, small steps, to learn how to use your stuff. This brings me to Show Pony Summer Series Method # 10 Start Small. 

One day I realized I had lots of show ponies hiding in my jewelry box. I looked at my bursting jewelry box and decided I would start wearing it. When I went to get dressed, I didn’t know where to begin. Earrings? Necklace? Bracelets? It was overwhelming! Then I remembered, start small.

I decided I would start with just earrings and I made the commitment to wear earrings every day. So, the next day I put on my smallest pair of stud earrings. Sure, I still wasn’t wearing ALL of my jewelry, but the journey had begun. I got comfortable wearing my stud earrings and got in the habit of feeling like an outfit wasn’t complete until I was wearing earrings. After that habit was cemented I started to experiment with my dangly earrings, and after practicing with them I became more confident to wear my bold earrings. 

Once I had my earrings on lock I started the process over with my necklaces. I wore my simplest, most dainty necklaces, the ones I was confident how to pair. Once those became second nature, I moved on to the bolder ones, the ones I usually only pulled out for special occasions or to wear with dresses. Finally, I started wearing statement necklaces, playing around with necklines and really enjoying myself.

After doing the same with earrings and necklaces, incorporating bracelets felt easy. Immediately I could play around with multiple colours, wearing multiple at once, and being more daring. By starting small I had given myself time to get used to being someone who wears jewelry, the time to mix, match, and play. If I had started off day one wearing earrings, a necklace and bracelets and choosing my boldest ones I would have felt uncomfortable and not continued. Starting small allowed me to slowly get used to:

  • Being someone who wears jewelry
  • Pairing jewelry with my outfit
  • Having the confidence to wear the bold, statement pieces
  • To break ‘the rules’ by mixing and matching metals.

You may be thinking ‘come on Gill, you’re making this seem like such a big process, I’m just going to throw on a necklace and wear it out of the house.’

If that works for you, go for it! What we don’t realize is that by choosing to use and wear our stuff we are fighting some long-held beliefs. Beliefs that ‘later is better,’ that we aren’t allowed to wear our good stuff, fears that we will wreck it, or thoughts of ‘what will people think?’

When those doubts rise up, whisper to yourself ‘start small.’ It’s still a rebellion if you wear just 1 thing you don’t normally wear.

How can you start small tomorrow? 

Choose to celebrate


It has been a WEEK! Within 24 hours:

  • My second niece was born (YAY)
  • My Dad fell while rollerblading and needed surgery (NAY)
  • My husband successfully defended his Ph.D. (YAY)
  • My sister moved to Montreal (NAY)
  • My backpacking trip was cancelled to stay close to home (NAY)

Babies, bones, doctors and departures

Not to be a downer, but with great happiness and joy comes sorrow and loss. Celebration and crisis. Freedom and failure. Death and delight. I went from popping champagne on the back porch, to the trauma bay of the emergency department. I went from waving goodbye to a sister to waving hello to a niece.

Under normal circumstances, life does not offer this juxtaposition. Normally life hides celebration from crisis and death from delight. Author Susan David likes to say ‘Life’s beauty is inseparable from its fragility.’ 

It’s a cliche. Life isn’t guaranteed. Things can change in an instant. This is both a warning and a promise. With this information, people behave in different ways.

  • Book the flight
  • Open the savings account
  • Buy the sports car
  • Buy the insurance
  • Take a leap of faith
  • Look both ways

Do you pull back or go all in?

My nature is to pull back. I love a plan, I love a guarantee, I love safety. But I know that holding back the bad also holds back the good. So I practice. I practice by going all in, in the little moments.

  • I buy the real champagne for the celebration
  • I say I love you often
  • I get dressed up to go to the hospital
  • I use the good soap just because
  • I wear something as soon as I buy it
  • I get to the bottom of the bottle
  • I love my people
  • I write down what I’m grateful for
  • I know nothing is guaranteed

This week was a reality check. It was a check-in, am I living my life the way I want to be living it? 

I think so. My takeaway is that nothing can protect you from accidents, surprises, and changes in plans. However, when things are normal, when things are going well, you can lean in fully. That’s what I’m practicing, leaning in for the little things.

Let someone else choose


Sometimes just picking what you want to use can be the hardest part. You look at all the items you never give yourself permission to use and get overwhelmed. 

  • Too many hair products
  • Exploding jewellery box
  • Blazers galore

To combat the overwhelm of choosing where to start I bring you Show Pony Summer Series Method #9 Let someone else choose. This method is easy, have someone else pick which show pony for you to use or wear. Kids, a spouse, a partner, a virtual friend. Hold up the items or category you want to focus on and let them choose. Alone? Do a round of eenie, meenie, miny, mo and put on or use whatever you land on. Don’t let overwhelm or analysis paralysis stop you from getting started. 

I had 3 summer dresses I hadn’t worn in a long time and decided to put on a dress. I really wanted to wear my white embroidered dress but was talking myself out of it, so I enlisted the help of my husband. I held up the three dresses and without skipping a beat he said ‘the embroidered one.’ Just like that he gave me permission to wear the one I wanted to wear most and wouldn’t give myself permission to do so. It really is that easy!

If you can’t decide, don’t. Have someone else do it for you, or close your eyes and point. The practice is in using your things, not choosing the right thing to start using. There is no right answer, but having a method or another person choose can make it all easier.

How do you choose what to start using? What’s your method?

Finish Before Replacing


Do you ever wonder how you collected so many options? You started with one and now you have five half used items. One of the main culprits for letting a category get out of control is starting a new product before you have finished the original. Perhaps you realize you’re nearing the end of your sunscreen, mascara, moisturizer, handsoap, shampoo, (insert any product), so you’re proactive and buy a replacement. Perhaps you’re not looking for a replacement but see a promising new brand, or find a specialty item on sale and are excited to use it. Instead of waiting until you have finished the original, you start using the new one right away, without getting rid of the original item. This brings me to Show Pony Summer Series Method #8 Finish Before Replacing.

The best example of this in my house can be found in my freezer. I have bread bags galore with 1-3 slices left. Whether it’s an aversion to crusts, or simply a fresher loaf arrived, I often forget about finishing my current loaf before moving on. Whether it’s your freezer, your cupboard or your closet, replacing before finishing can lead to way too many options, getting overwhelmed and not finishing any of them. An easy test is to evaluate the items, how much is left in each? If there’s only ⅓ left in each bottle, you know you love to replace before finishing. 

Fixing this is easy, simply use SHOW PONY METHOD # 3 choose one item to use up all the way, and put the rest out of sight. For the second step you have options, either you can stop buying replacements before you have finished the original. Or, get in the practice of buying a replacement and storing it out of sight until it is done.

I find it better to have a replacement waiting in the wings. Recently, I thought  I was reaching the end of my daily sunscreen so I bought a replacement. I expected to hit the bottom within a couple of days, but it wasn’t until a month later that I finally used the last drop! It was so easy to finish the bottle and look for a replacement, instead of having 2 bottles to choose from for the entire month.

Do you often replace an item before it is finished? Let me know how this method works for you!

Put on the show pony first


I had a necklace I wanted to wear, it had stayed on my jewelry stand too long and today was the day. So, I got dressed and put on my necklace. I was so proud of myself until I realized the necklace didn’t go with my outfit. So I took it off, vowing I would wear it tomorrow. The next day the same thing happened and after a few days of this pattern repeating I realized my mistake – I needed to build the outfit around this necklace, not add the necklace at the end. That brings me to Show Pony Summer Series Method #7 Put on the Show Pony First

When you decide to wear an item such as earrings, shoes, necklace or flirty top, put it on first or if this isn’t possible (I’m looking at you, shoes) put it in plain sight as you get dressed. Then, as you put on a top that necklines clash with your earrings, you take off the top instead of the earrings. This may seem very obvious, but it’s very easy to get to the end of your outfit, put on the special item and decide on the outfit instead of the special item. We think ‘I tried, today’s not the day.’ We don’t want to try, we want to show our show ponies what life is like outside of the house. Thus, we need a strategy. The strategy is to choose your intention of wearing your special item over your intention of getting dressed quickly.

Now, another take on this method is to experiment with this item when you are not in a rush to get out the door. I know that when a timeline is breathing down your neck, the first thing that gets cut is your determination to wear your show pony. So, when you find yourself with nowhere to be, decide to play! Put on some fun music, put on the show pony and try on ALL the things in your closet. Those that it goes with and those that it doesn’t. You may be surprised at what you come up with. I’m serious, put on the special item and start pulling, mixing, matching and playing. There are no rules, except to find an outfit you can wear with this special item. Quick, before you take it all off and slip into your sweats, take a selfie or make a note. Then, when you go to use this item you’re already prepared with kick ass outfits!

Have you ever made the intention to wear your special item and then left the house in your old faithfuls? What item will you start with and build your outfit around?

What’s the problem?


You’re ready to use your stuff, you’re excited, and you’ve given yourself permission, but why can’t you do it? Perhaps the reason is Show Pony Summer Series Method #6: What’s The Problem? Perhaps you don’t yet have what you need to use your stuff. Let me walk you through a few examples of how figuring out the problem helped me start using my stuff.  

I had a beautiful hydro flask water bottle that I never seemed to reach for. It was the nicest bottle I owned, kept all my drinks super cold, but I didn’t ever reach for it. So I asked, ‘What’s the problem?’ I didn’t like the wide mouth. When I went to drink I often spilled, I prefer drinking from a straw, I didn’t like the huge wide mouth. So I went to fix the problem by buying a lid with a straw attachment. Now you won’t see me sipping from anything else. It’s my workhorse, I use it every day and have never drank more water. Seriously I leave it at work and drink at least 2 litres of water a day. Straw for the win!

I had a beautiful bracelet that was dangly, and delicate and all things sophisticated, but I never wore it. What’s the problem I asked? I could never get it fastened. After 5 min of struggling with it, twisting myself into knots to get it on, I would put it back in the box. What did I need? An extension to make it easier to get on. I bought an extension and now I wear it all the time, I even wore it on my wedding day. Once I could easily put it on myself it became a regular item.

The bracelet on my wedding day

My fabulous, functional, fancy Timbuktu backpack sat in the closet instead of going on adventures. I never reached for it even though it was grey and goes with everything and is the perfect size. What’s the problem? It was from a company and had an ugly company patch on the front. I loved the backpack but didn’t like the advertising, or the questions that would come with using it (It was a Google patch, don’t ask). What did I do? I bought an iron patch, off Etse, on a night shift (I remember because my coworker helped me choose), covered it up and it’s become my workhorse. Seriously, this thing has been to Paris, England, Ireland and all over Vancouver.

I never seemed to light my candles or use my bath bombs. I knew I wanted to set a mood or relax after a long day, so why was I not lighting them? I asked myself ‘what’s the problem?’ The location! I didn’t have everything I needed in one spot. My matches were not stored close to my candles. When I spotted the candles and was inspired to light them I would think about digging out matches and skip it. To fix this I found a convenient place for my matches near my candles and now it’s easy peasy. Another common problem is storing your bubble bath or bath bombs out of the bathroom and not at the ready for when the mood for a bath strikes!

When it comes to using your stuff I stick to the method that it shouldn’t require a credit card. You already have more than you need, you just need permission to use it. However, today is the one exception. If you need to buy something small to fix a problem with an item, that’s an OK time to buy. All of the items I purchased to make my items work for me were not expensive, and definitely cheaper than the cost of the item. I figured out the problem, decided on the solution and bought the one thing that would solve it.

Do any of your items have problems? Can you think of an item’s problem you can fix with an easy addition? Imagine how much more you could use this item if you fix this small problem! Share below what you discover!

Photo credit Jen Newman Photography

First shall be last, last shall be first


You’re digging through your closet and discover things you didn’t even know you own. You think ‘well, if I knew these were here, of course I would prioritize using them!’ Today is that day, I have the perfect trick to discover the fancy items hiding in your closet and trick your mind into letting you use them. All you have to do is change the order of how things appear in your home. You can do this simply by using Show Pony Summer Series Method #5 First Shall Be Last, Last Shall Be First.

To do this, you recognize a pile, drawer or closet in your house where the show ponies have migrated to the back, bottom or top. For me, this included my pile of dish towels. I realized that when I used my dish towels, washed them and put them back, this meant the same 4 were being used over and over and the nicer ones were migrating to the bottom, never being used. To change this, I took the pile and flipped it over, keeping the same order, but ensuring the workhorses were on the bottom and the show ponies were on the top. This meant I didn’t have to make a decision, I simply reached for the top dish towel and started using it.

Another example is clothing drawers. As I wear certain clothes, and they get returned this pushes certain clothes to the front (I fold my clothes the Kon Marie method of folding), while certain other items were always at the back. This affected which items I was reaching for every day. So, I flipped the order and was happy to find myself reaching for unworn items. 

Another place to do this is the hangers in any of your closets. Switch the order of the hangers and you will be amazed at what’s lurking at the back. Of course, you can still push past the front ones, but it helps you realize what you haven’t been using and could be.

Where else can you change from first shall be last and last shall be first? Perhaps your jewellery, your shoes, your cereal, your hot sauces. I’m serious, switch up the order and look at all the items hiding at the back. After you flip it, vow that you will use it in order.

What area in your home will you flip? What show ponies are hiding at the back, bottom or top of your closet?!