Being a Minimalist in College

I’ve started many new endeavors this year, but the most rewarding one thus far has been my journey in minimalism. Even though I have only been back at school for a few weeks, the positive changes that have manifested as a result of this lifestyle change have led me to inadvertently embrace all of my initial goals. Over my winter break I thought about how I could implement minimalism into my life as a college student, and when I returned to campus knew right where to start! Beginning is the hardest part, but the rest naturally follows!

So you may be wondering how I even approached going through all of my belongings in my room. I took to YouTube and Pinterest for inspiration from other minimalists, especially regarding what criteria they used to go through what they owned. Even though “minimalism” might suggest living with as few material items as you can, the essence of the lifestyle is quite different. Instead of living with as few items as possible, the goal is to own only items that bring value to your daily life.

As I looked around my room, I thought about all of the things that I use on a daily basis, and then started at my desk to go through what no longer served me at this point in my life. One of the elements of minimalism that I love the most is its approach to minimizing: an item could have had value and meaning in your life, but no longer needs to. There were definitely things that I found myself holding on to “just in case,” but I was forgetting that everything is impermanent. Change is inevitable, and it is beautiful.

I sorted through drawers and tabletops, appreciating everything that no longer served me but also letting it go. I set everything gently into two large boxes, knowing that others will find meaning in these items as they travel on their own life journeys.

As I looked around the room I knew where everything was and how it fit into my life. It was then that I was able to think about what might add value to my life, if anything. After some reflection, I realized that I now felt as though there was now room (both physically and emotionally) to engage with one of my new interests: essential oils. These take up very little physical space, but contribute positively to my health and overall wellbeing.

Through this minimizing process I felt as though I was finally acknowledging that the person I was is no longer the person I am. Something that most minimalists have emphasized is the relationship between what we own and who we are. In everything that we own we invest some of who we are. Similar to our music tastes, what we own can tell its own story about who we are. And who we are is subject to change. Minimalism highlights the relationship between the self and our surroundings, and suggests that our possessions need not remain permanent.

As soon as I felt comfortable shaping my surroundings to my true self, the rest fell into place. Where there was once makeup lies essential oils; books that I loved are now destined to be enjoyed by others.

My room has become an even clearer representation of who I am. Before it was simply my room. Now it is my sanctuary.

©2017 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.

 

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Where Are We Now?

Since that day, the tightness in my chest still remains. It ebbs and flows, but never truly disappears. For the first few days it was hard to breathe. Each step felt like a mile. Each morning I kept waking up, hoping it was all just a dream. My vision was cloudy; my eyes were a glistening crystal-clear window into the sadness in my soul. They say it takes time to heal, but it seems that time has frozen.

All throughout my life I have been drawn to compassion. Giving to others brings such a pure happiness and elation to my entire being. I love getting to know what has guided others throughout their lives,what has brought them joy, sadness, grief, passion, and every variety of emotion that we can express. Everyone has their own unique light to add to the world, and I love seeing it shine. Compassion is truly the gift that keeps on giving, but it is also one of the rarest gifts of all.

It takes the same amount of effort to love as it does to hate. But why, then, does the latter seem to be more pronounced in the world? Well, perhaps it’s because it’s often easier to see differences over similarities. We look for what makes us different, not the same. In reality, we all have something in common. We just need to take off the blinders to see it. We love to feel safe. We love to feel loved. We love to feel alive. We love to adventure. To play. To learn. To laugh. None of us are immune to sadness. To pain. To loss. To anger. To fear. To heartbreak. The beauty of life is something that we all share. And there’s nothing that can change that.

I do not write this to disparage, in fact, that would be the opposite of my intention. I write this as an invitation to reflect. To open your eyes to what is around you, and think about how you relate to the world around you. And ask yourself this: how does compassion fit into my life?

In my own life experience, compassion has meant transitioning to a vegan lifestyle and valuing all life. It has meant giving back to my community and helping others as much as I can. It has meant embracing minimalism, and living simply so that others may simply live. It has meant smiling at every person I pass, and learning more about their lives. It has meant letting go of anger and instead providing support. It has meant loving myself as much as I love others.

Compassion has a domino effect in this world, one kind act leads to another and another. It adds to your own happiness as well as that of others. It changes the path of action, and calls for healing in times of pain. It brings us closer together, and allows us all to see what makes us the same not what makes us different.

I write this today to ask you to both reflect and enact on compassion. One small compassionate change can make a world of difference.

© 2017 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.

 

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My New Life Journey: Why I Stopped Wearing Makeup

Today’s post is one of the most personal posts that I have written on my blog, but it is something that I’ve wanted to write about for a while (especially with my new interests this year, and with my experiences). I am only writing about my own experiences, and in no way want to promote one way of living over another. My personal journey with makeup has spanned many perspectives, and I think they were all valuable for me during each phase of my life thus far. 🙂 My taste and interest in makeup has been something that has changed alongside me, and I wanted to write about that journey since I am embarking on a new one this year.

I started wearing makeup during my junior year of high school. I had problem skin for most of my early teen years, but only started to grow self-conscious about it when I was about sixteen years old. I didn’t know the first place to start with makeup, but I was constantly feeling uncomfortable about my appearance. Part of me wanted to start my journey into makeup to boost my confidence, but part of me wanted to feel as though I didn’t need makeup to feel confident in myself. I started looking online for inspiration, and found makeup tips from articles on Pinterest and YouTube tutorials.

I started my journey with very minimal and basic makeup, and learned from trial and error about what best suited my skin. Over the years I discovered that I have quite sensitive skin, which eliminated wearing foundation and other higher coverage concealers as options. I started to straighten my hair and wear more makeup over time, trying new products until I finally reached a point where I knew what worked best for my skin.

When I entered the world of blogging, I started to learn more about different products and brands. Makeup shifted from being something I did to gain more confidence to something I enjoyed for myself. I loved learning about new makeup techniques and products, and trying them out for myself. It became a hobby of mine, especially in college where I was able to learn how to create more professional and everyday looks. When I started on my vegan journey during my second semester, I began to think about looking into cruelty-free makeup brands. This created a new shift in how I related to makeup, and I started to prefer more natural looks with products that contained natural ingredients. I learned more about what products I liked to use (I did an E.L.F. and ULTA haul a few months ago 🙂 ), and my interest in makeup and skincare grew.

My time in college has caused many a breakout, which I initially thought was due to stress (and I am sure that stress was definitely a factor), but I discovered that on the days I didn’t wear makeup (often weekends), my skin would be a lot less temperamental. I also found that I was slowly going back to being less confident in myself. When I looked in the mirror with no makeup on, all I thought was “wow I look exhausted, I need to fix that”. But my way of fixing it was to cover it up instead of get at the root of what was causing my skin woes.

Once I started winter break, I didn’t wear makeup as often. I started to see improvements in my skin, and felt less like I needed makeup to look more awake and energized. It was then that I started to realize that wearing makeup was allowing me to create a temporary solution to the root of a lot of my skin problems. I had also developed so much as a person over the course of my time in college that I felt more confident in my direction and in my interests. I no longer felt as though I needed makeup to gain confidence, but I did feel as though I needed it to feel and look more awake and present. This shift in mentality coincided with a shift in interest away from makeup and towards skincare. Taking care of my skin started to be more of a priority (and as some of you may know, I started to become a bit obsessed with face masks after a long day 🙂 ). I found that as I focused more on my hydration, nutrition, and skincare, I didn’t feel as though I needed makeup to feel more present.

My interest in minimalism and more natural living over the past few months also contributed to this shift, and I decided at the beginning of this year to officially go without makeup. I’ll be honest, at first it was a bit difficult to feel as confident on a daily basis because I felt as though I was missing a part of my routine. When I looked in the mirror, it was surprising sometimes to see my reflection. But as the days went on, I started to be truly comfortable in my own skin yet again. I became more focused on my skincare routine and making sure that I was staying as healthy as possible. As the days went on it became even easier to let go of cosmetics. There hasn’t yet been a time when I felt as though I would be happier if I were wearing makeup.

My interests have always shifted alongside my life changes, and makeup has been one of those interests. Though I am no longer interested in it for my current path, I think it is absolutely wonderful when people are. There was definitely a time when it added so much to my own happiness and became a hobby of mine that I loved investing time in, and I love watching other people feel the same way. I wanted to write this post as a way of revisiting how my life has changed, and how my interest in makeup has changed with it. A year ago, or even a few months ago, the decision to not wear makeup wouldn’t have been one that matched my lifestyle.

I think it’s really important to live with intention, and to do everything that you do with love and passion. I have been reading about intentionality quite a bit recently, and being able to love everything that you do is such an amazing feeling. I think that it’s natural to have shifting interests in life, and they are all valuable to who we are in the moment that we are living them.

I’m embracing this new year with new visions, but still remember fondly the interests that I have left behind. I hope that you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed writing it. 🙂

©2017 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.

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2017 Travel: The Solo Urban Code Bag

I would like to thank Solo for sponsoring this post, and thank you for supporting the brands that make The Wise Willow possible! All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

This year is already going by so fast! The months just seem to go by faster and faster, and before I know it I will be back to start another semester. This week I will be traveling for vacation before the new semester starts, and finding a bag that is perfect for travel can be difficult. Now that I am embracing a minimalist lifestyle, I was looking for a bag that would support my college and professional lifestyle.

I found the Urban Code Endeavor backpack while searching for such a bag, and knew that it would be perfect for my goals this year. I will be traveling more often, and going between work and classes during my everyday hustle. I bring my laptop with me everywhere I go, as well as charger cords, headphones, course materials, and vegan goodies.

Photo by The Wise Willow

The Urban Code Endeavor bag fits laptops up to 15.6″, which is perfect for me since I have a 13″ computer. It has a variety of pockets, which is what I love about it (because I love to have my cords, writing utensils, and snacks in separate places). The bag is made out of high-quality material, which is perfect for someone like me who may or may not carry around a bit too much on a daily basis. The zippers are sturdy, and there is a key chain hook on the front for displaying your favorite accessories. As a minimalist, I am looking to have multipurpose belongings that will travel with me wherever I end up going. And this bag does just that! It’s perfectly sized for the airport, and it’s front-facing pockets make taking liquids and other items out easy (especially for those stressful security lines).

One of the best features of the bag is its back and shoulder padding. I’m someone who gets muscle tension quite easily, and having a bag with great support helps to alleviate tension headaches and back pain from what I usually carry around on a daily basis (or long days of travel).

Photo by The Wise Willow

The look of the bag is perfect for anyone, and matches any outfit. I’m not generally a fashionable person (as people who know me well would say, I quite like to be tacky). However, this bag is stylish and matches even my craziest outfit combinations.

The bag has a five-year warranty, and is designed for city living. I plan on using it for all of my daily excursions and travel adventures! If you would like to learn more about the bag, click here! There are also many other styles to choose from, so you will definitely find something that suits your lifestyle!

©2017 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.

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2017: The Year of Aligning with my True Self

A New Year is here! And with it many inspirations from the past year. 2016 was a whirlwind year for me, and brought significant change for me personally, academically, and experientially. I learned more than I ever thought I could, and I found the directions I want to go in this year*.

At the beginning of 2016 I was still a first year in college, experiencing health problems and struggling emotionally (this was when I wrote many of my posts about rising above struggle, and letting go of expectations). I leaped out of my comfort zone as a result, and my entire life changed before my eyes. I became a more outgoing person with new goals and experiences, a new holistic community, and a focus on wellness. I transitioned to a vegan diet, and entered the summer with a new outlook.

Over the summer I lived on my own, worked forty hours a week, and learned many things about being in the adult world. I returned to college with a greater sense of self, and a comfort with navigating the real world as an adult. I turned 20 in September, and entered a new decade of my life.

In August, before I started my second year, I got a nose piercing to symbolize this new decade. This was a huge leap for me, and I am so glad that I took that step. It has become a large part of my identity this year, and I’ve never looked back.

As I enter this new year, more experiences lie ahead of me. With it comes more change, but change is something I’m no longer afraid of. In fact, I welcome it. Change allows me to grow, and to have experiences that lead to new interests and passions.

As I go into the new year, I have new visions for where my life is leading me. As I mentioned my previous post, I hope to begin a journey in minimalism this year. Now that I have focused on what fuels my body, I have become more aware of what fuels my soul. I have had an interest in minimalism for a while, and the documentary Minimalism (available on Netflix, and I highly recommend it!) reinforced my interest. With this I also hope to start living a zero waste lifestyle. Making my own products (toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, etc.) will save me a lot of money (which is important for my college student budget) and make using vegan products easier. I have also noticed that my body has become more sensitive to products now that I am vegan, so natural skincare and haircare makes complete sense.

I hope to reduce my coffee cup waste, skincare waste, and other products. I have been doing research about the steps that I can take as a college student to reduce my waste, and have found a number of sustainable options that are worth investing in. For example, dryer sheets are something that add a lot of waste and toxins to the environment. There are alternatives (even vegan ones) such as bamboo dryer balls. These are reusable and contain essential oils! There are also reusable produce bags (to eliminate plastic bag waste), reusable cotton rounds for skincare use, and natural alternatives to sponges for dish washing. I also hope to reduce my plastic use (by using a bamboo toothbrush and metal containers). While this will be a gradual process, it feels like a natural extension of my life journey with plant-based foods and vegan makeup.

Another journey that I am hoping to begin is that of no makeup. I started wearing makeup during my junior year of high school to boost my body confidence. I continued wearing makeup ever since, mostly to make myself look more awake now that I am in college. However, my acne has started to reappear and my makeup use may be contributing. Now that my body is more sensitive to chemicals, I have adverse reactions to products I didn’t used to react to. I have become a lot more confident in how I look without makeup, and thought that it would be a good time to start this journey. Not only would it be better for my skin, it would save me money and time. Instead of makeup, I am going to invest in natural skincare (coconut oil, etc.) to keep my skin healthy and to eliminate chemicals.

This is a lot to tackle in one year, but natural living has been something I have wanted to pursue for years now. Ever since I started watching Raw Alignment on YouTube, living a natural lifestyle has become more realistic for me. I can’t wait to share these new journeys with you, and to keep having life-changing adventures! As always, feel free to message me if you’re also interested in these lifestyle changes! I would love to collaborate and learn from your experiences!

What are you hoping to achieve in 2017?

©2017 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.

*Instead of resolutions I love to find what has worked for me to continue or expand upon in the upcoming year, and move on from what didn’t work.

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Embarking on my Minimalist Journey

When 2016 was beginning, I had no idea that I was going to be transitioning to a vegan lifestyle and starting the process of living a more natural and balanced life. It was quite a journey (in fact, the beginning of 2016 feels like forever ago) and I am yet again ready to begin another journey that will lead me to be more aligned with my true self.

When I went to college, I did what most college students do: look online for lists of what I needed to bring with me. I went out and bought all that I ‘needed,’ and I can vouch for how heavy my boxes and bags were when I was bringing them to my first-year room! I had things that I was going to maybe need, and since I was just about to start living on my own I thought I needed to be prepared for everything. As the year progressed, I used about one third of all that I brought. Realizing this, over the summer I made an effort to significantly reduce what I was bringing, and I learned through experience. I reduced everything to the minimal amount possible, and was able to unpack and decorate in record time. Not only that, my room felt like a sanctuary from the start and I knew where everything was.

As this past semester came to a close, I had a wonderful experience with ThredUp. When I realized the practicality on a multitude of measures of investing in secondhand clothes, I know that I will never go back. I was able to purchase clothes I was interested in, and go through my closet and my dresser to figure out what I no longer needed. I sent a full bag of clothes back to ThredUp, and now have an aspiration to clean out every time I invest in new clothing.

Now that I have had time to think about where I want my life (and my blog) to go in 2017, the concept of minimalism resonated with me and my values. As many of you probably know, I have always tried to live by the mantra: live simply so that others may simply live. I’m in a unique position of being in college and not having many personal possessions, which to me is a wonderful place to start. I made sure to go through my belongings before starting my first year of college, and have generally been pretty aware of my consumption. That being said, I was able to donate quite a bit of items at the end of my first year and at the end of last semester. Every time I cleaned out my items, I felt physically lighter knowing that those items would be put to better use. I also started reading from the local library or on an e-reader to save money and space, because my love for reading often leads to clutter (and I am one of those people who only reads books once, unless they’re amazing which has definitely happened!).

But as I look at what I own, there are a lot of things that I could live without. As I have been doing some research about minimalism, I realize that many people have gone quite a few years out of college and into adult life before considering this path. Since I already went through that process, I feel as though I can start actively living a minimalist lifestyle and focusing on being present in what truly matters.

Yesterday I watched a documentary on Netflix called Minimalism, and it further confirmed my interest in this lifestyle. It was extremely well produced, and I now follow The Minimalists on Twitter and Facebook, and listen to their podcasts online. I have found several other resources as well that have helped me start this journey, and if you have any suggestions for other resources I would love to hear them! Experiences like this are really about learning together, so I would love to hear what your experiences have been, what interests you about minimalism, and what your journey has been! Let me know in the comments or send an email to thewisewillowblog@gmail.com!

For the New Year I hope to start a series on this blog devoted to minimalist living (especially being a minimalist in college), and share the resources that I have found with you if you are also interested in this lifestyle!

©2016 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.

 

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Tips for New Bloggers: What I’ve Learned

I’ve been meaning to write this post for quite a while, and as I was thinking through my blogging goals for 2017 I realized how much I have learned in my time of blogging that I would have loved to have known when I first started out. Being a new blogger can be quite overwhelming, especially if you start out self-hosted like I did. But I learned so many things along the way and read so many helpful posts from other bloggers (usually that I found on Pinterest), that I wanted to make my own post one day in hopes that it would help new bloggers love the journey they are about to take! This is going to be quite a long post, and none of it is sponsored (it’s simply resources I’ve been using after many months of trial and error). If you find it helpful, I would love it if you would share it so that others can learn about the resources that helped me get to where I am today! 🙂 So without further ado, let’s get into it!

All About Hosting:

I had read from a number of other bloggers about all of the intricacies of hosting, and determined that self-hosting was the best way to start out. There are two main options for hosting: free hosting sites and self-hosting platforms. Free hosting sites (such as Blogger, Weebly, WordPress.com, etc.) allow you to create a website for free and start blogging right away. Self-hosted platforms (of which there are quite a few, Hostgator, FatCow, and SiteGround to name a few) have a monthly hosting fee and usually have sites through WordPress.org (the paid-for service). There are many pros and cons to both, and I thought I would create an infographic outlining these! If you would like to download this infographic, click here: All About Hosting!

I currently use SiteGround for self-hosting, and I couldn’t be happier! They have amazing customer service that is available 24/7, and their servers are always working properly with no website downtime for updates. They currently have a holiday sale going on, and you can click here to learn more and sign up! By clicking that link, they’ll know that an existing customer has recommended you to them and they will be able to get you set up with that in mind!

All About Branding:

The next topic is personal branding for your site and your social media. You’ll want to have a name in mind before you create your site, regardless of what hosting option that you choose, because it will be a large part of everything that you make from there on out. Additionally, if you purchase a domain name (and own that part of the internet, as a result) you cannot change your name without having to buy another domain. As you are thinking about a name, think of one that you’ll be able to use for the foreseeable future regardless of whether you change blogging niches (which happens often!) or not. I thought about my blog name for a few weeks, thinking through everything until one came to me as I was washing dishes in the sink. The Wise Willow, I thought, and immediately knew it was the one. Logos starting appearing in my mind, and I rushed to the computer to check if the domain had already been taken. Once you have a name you love, and have checked that the domain is available (if you are going to purchase and self-host), you’re ready to go!

Branding is one of the most important parts of blogging because it draws readers to your site. Your brand tells them about you and your blog, and should be a visual expression of what your blog represents. I have rebranded a few times (not changing names, but changing logos and color schemes) and my current logo is one I plan to keep for a long time. Now, like me, you might be thinking how do I go about making a logo? When I started blogging I made my logos with Word, which is not an experience I would recommend. The formatting was never consistent, and it took ages. That’s when I stumbled upon Canva.com, a free graphic design website with all of your design needs! I use Canva for everything and cannot express how much I love it! You can sign up for free and keep all of your designs archived to free up space on your computer. There are size dimensions created for you, and you can also create your own based upon what your website banner is supposed to look like (themes vary in terms of what the logo looks like). They have free and paid-for elements but I have yet to pay for something because you can upload your own content to the site and use it in your designs. Now, another question you might have is how can I legally use images I find? It’s important that you only use images and illustrations/elements that you own or have created, or ones that have no rights tied to them. Pixabay.com is my favorite website where all of the images are free for commercial use. I download their images (the small size usually), and upload them to Canva to create personalized designs. I also use some of these images in my posts if I haven’t taken any that suit the subject matter. You don’t have to cite them, and you are legally protected. Once you have established your brand, you’re ready to spread the word about your site and content!

All About Social Media:

Social media is one of the most important aspects of blogging. It helps you find an audience, potential customers, brands to work with, and a community of other bloggers to go to for support and friendship. I have made so many amazing online friendships, and feel as though the blogging community is one of the most supportive out there! There are many social media sites to pick and choose from, and by no means do you have to be on all of them. In fact, I encourage you to only be on ones you know you will use. Quality over quantity! I am on Instagram, Facebook (pages), Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Google+, and Bloglovin’. Admittedly, I don’t use Google+ often, but I have the page created in case I have an audience that prefers that medium. I am expanding my involvement with YouTube, but I am always on the other social media platforms. Twitter is my favorite platform, followed by Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and Bloglovin’.

Canva will allow you to create banners for all of these social media sites, so that your branding can remain consistent and recognizable over all formats. Create accounts for the social media platforms you are interested in and get started! I could write for ages all of the things I have learned about each of these sites, but I think I will start a series for each platform since this post is already quite long! Let me know in the comments if this is something you would be interested in! 🙂

Skilled.co recently developed an incredibly helpful social media infographic that has lots of information about the pros and cons of sites, who typically uses each platform, the best times to post on each platform, and more! If you would like to take a look, click here!

All About Blogging Niches:

You may have already heard of blogging niches, or areas of expertise that bloggers will associate with. These can include travel, food, cooking, college, parenting, and many more. You most likely have thought about what you would like to write about, and may be thinking of one of these niches. Niches are great for finding online communities of like-minded creators, and for keeping your content organized under one umbrella topic. I personally am a Lifestyle Blogger, and I chose this niche for a few reasons. I am currently in college, and have written many posts about my college experience. However, I also like to write posts about DIY projects, book reviews, thoughts and inspirations, music, my vegan lifestyle, and more. Because of this, I identify under the umbrella of Lifestyle, since my topics all fall under a variety of categories. This niche allows me to expand my content, but also has drawbacks as it is sometimes harder to find online niches that fit my content.

All About Saving Your Content:

A blogger’s worst nightmare is to have their site crash and all of their content to be lost. I tend to have bad luck when it comes to technology, so I back up all of my text and media with a free DropBox account. I simply copy the text of the post when I write it, and then put it in a word document. I then upload that document to DropBox along with a folder of all of the images I used. It’s just another way to make sure your content is safe! You can use other sites as well, such as Google Drive, for the same purpose.

All About Posting Schedules:

When I started my blog, I wasn’t sure how often I had to post. I saw bloggers who posted every day, and some who posted twice a month. All of them had amazing blogs and a large following, which left me in the dark about the best approach. To be honest, it’s completely up to you! I have always had the mindset quality over quantity, and with being a part-time blogger I knew that posting once per week during the semester (and more during breaks if I wanted to) was the best way to go. I was able to stick to this schedule because it accounted for my personal circumstances, and it made me feel accomplished over time. There’s no need to rush into your blog to create content right away, write when you feel inspired and create a posting schedule that you know will be realistic for your own life and writing process. 🙂

All About Monetizing Your Blog:

This is something that I am still relatively new to, and I didn’t start working with brands until August of 2016. I started my blog for my passion of writing, and still keep that in mind every time I receive inquiries from companies. So how does all of this work? Well, for me it all started when I received an email from a brand asking if I was interested in working on a collaboration with them. How did they get my email, etc? The more that you engage in your online social media platforms, join Twitter chats and Facebook groups (something I will write a post about soon!), and comment on other blog posts the more that your name will get exposure across the Blogosphere. It took a full year for me to get my first offer, and I hesitate to get more involved in the world of monetization. I only work with companies that I know support my visions, which means that I don’t take many opportunities. I also don’t currently have ads on my blog, because I want to keep my blog as personal as possible. Because of my limited experience with monetization, I highly recommend searching “blog monetization” on Pinterest or looking at my Side Hustle: Blog! Pinterest board for posts that discuss monetization options more in-depth! 🙂

I hope you found this post helpful! I would love to start a series that includes my tips and advice for bloggers on a variety of subjects, let me know if that is something you would love to see! If you like this post, please share it on your social media or on Pinterest so that others can see these tips! I hope to help as many people as possible, because I know posts like these definitely helped inspire and encourage me when I started blogging! As always, if you have any questions I would love to help in any way I can! Send me an email to thewisewillowblog@gmail.com! 🙂

©2016 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.

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How I Organize During Winter Break

I am officially on my Winter Break, and am in the process of organizing after my finals week. During finals week and many other busy weeks during the semester I saved many of my files in the wrong folders on accident, and saved lots of blog images to my desktop so that I could find them again. But it’s definitely time to do my yearly clean with my accounts and computer files to get ready for the New Year! I thought I would go through my typical routine for organizing all of my files and accounts, as a lot of it involves blogging as well!

Computer Clean-Up:

Since I use my computer for my college and blog work, it can definitely get a bit cluttered! I always make new folders before each semester for my new classes, but somehow I always end up with files all over the place despite my attempts at being organized. So at the beginning of break I first go through my old files to see if there are some that I can delete from a year or two ago. I then open up a few Finder file windows to do the rest of the clean-up! With this process, I go though and determine the files that need to be moved to a certain class. I also look in folders that I’ve already created, because the default saving function sometimes puts them in the wrong place.

Once I’ve sorted all of my files, I then create a new folder for the new semester and new class folders for all of my upcoming assignments. This saves room on my computer, and also ensures that I start the semester off organized and sure of where everything is. I also go through all of my blog photos and delete them from my desktop or downloads folder, and start fresh for the New Year. I also backup all of my existing content in DropBox just to be on the safe side!

Email Clean-Up:

Between my email accounts, it can be hard to keep on top of deleting messages I don’t need on a regular basis. Because of this, I make sure to go through all of my email accounts over break and delete unnecessary and old email messages. I also go through my spam folders, which actually accumulate quite a few messages! Having a decluttered digital presence makes me feel much more organized and ready to handle what’s ahead!

Photo Clean-Up:

My phone photos (and photos that get uploaded to my computer) also tend to get quite out of sorts, and cleaning them up makes room for new memories! I also like to save photos to my hard drive and to DropBox or Google Drive to make sure that they last through any mishaps (such as when my phone of almost two years decided to stop working properly a little while back). Sometimes I’ll even edit a few and make fun collages for celebrating the end of a year. 🙂 It’s always great to have a fresh start for a new semester!

Subscription Clean-Up: 

I also take the time to look over my subscriptions for YouTube and other social media sites to make sure I am still interested in them, and take the time to find and follow new ones. It’s always interesting to see how much my interests have shifted in a year! I also like to clean up my Pinterest boards, likes, etc. to make sure that I am up-to-date on everything for the New Year. With Spotify, I clean up my playlists and make new ones based upon my current music interests. I’ve been listening to so much music lately (especially during my delayed travel day) and have been meaning to make more playlists!

I hope you enjoyed this post! I’m getting back into the swing of blogging, but am also planning lots of exciting things for next year! Stay tuned! 🙂

©2016 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.

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Blogmas Day 11: My Winter Skincare Essentials and Giveaway!

Winter has officially arrived (the snow is falling as I type this), and with it the woes of winter skin. Many of you probably know that I’m a little bit obsessed with skincare, because when my skin is healthy I feel amazing all around! There are small, everyday things that I do to keep my skin healthy like hydrating and eating nutritious foods, but in the winter my skin definitely needs all the help it can get!

I thought I would show you all of my winter skincare essentials, and what my winter skincare routine is (especially for Finals!). At the end of this post there is an exciting giveaway announcement, so stay tuned! 🙂

Winter Skincare Essentials: Face Masks

Sparkling Pear Pore Cleansing Mask

Face masks are one of the most relaxing ways to take care of your skin in the winter. I love to put one on while I am cleaning my room, reading for a class, writing a paper, or relaxing and watching YouTube. They are very versatile and each have their own benefits for your skin! I have been loving three that I recently got, and they have helped to keep my skin clear when it normally flares up from stress.

The first two that I am loving at the moment are both from the Feeling Beautiful line: the Dead Sea Minerals Anti-Stress Mask and the Sparkling Pear Pore Cleansing Mask. Both of these are very cooling for the skin, and each have their own benefits depending on what your skin is in need of. I love to use the Anti-Stress mask to calm irritated skin, or when the wind has been particularly harsh.

Dead Sea Minerals Anti-Stress Mask

It tones down redness and calms irritations! The Pore Cleansing mask is perfect for when you feel as though your skin needs a little extra detox from the stress and environment of exams and hectic schedules. One of the things that I love most about these masks is that they don’t dry and crumble like most masks I’m used to. I’m not sure why, but I am definitely not a fan of that tight and crumbly feeling, so I love these for that reason. They are also quite cheap, and the bottles are huge! They are perfect for ending the semester on a good note.

Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask

I am also loving the often-raved about Elizavecca Milky Piggy Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask. I was given this as a holiday gift and tried it out today after coming back from a long paper writing session at the library. Besides the fact that it has an adorable pig wearing a face mask on the front (and we all know how much I love pigs…), this is one of the strangest masks I have ever tried. It has a very odd consistency, and when you put it on your face it tingles and foams up. After about six minutes the mask is completely foamy! As soon as I washed it off (which definitely took some effort because there was a layer of product under the foam) my skin felt very hydrated and healthy! I highly recommend it, especially since it always gets some great laughs and is a fun way to take care of your skin! 🙂

Winter Skincare Essentials: Moisturizer

Lumene Bright Now Vitamin C Moisturizer with SPF 15

Over the years I have come to realize the importance of wearing sunscreen on your face every day. This may sound odd to some people, especially during the winter, but the sun’s rays are damaging to skin all year round. I started using sunscreen on a daily basis a few years ago, and the difference is phenomenal. All of my dull skin is gone, and my skin is left a lot softer and hydrated.

I love moisturizers that have SPF in them, as this is a great way to combine the benefits of both. The moisturizer that I have been loving lately is the Lumene Bright Now Vitamin C Moisturizer in SPF 15. This moisturizer wakes up your skin with Vitamin C extracts, and also protects it with its sunscreen formula. It wears well under makeup, and isn’t oily on the skin. I wear this under another tinted sunscreen for my skincare routine, as this gives my skin an even tone.

Winter Skincare Essentials: Facial Cleansing Tools

The ULTA Dual Action Cleansing System

I have always gone the route of using my hands to apply facial cleanser, without thinking too much about it. When I was on ULTA the other day, I saw the Dual Action Cleansing System and knew I had to look up reviews and learn more. The reviews were raving, and I thought I might as well try it out (especially since I was approaching one of the most stressful times of the semester).

In all honesty, my skin has never felt cleaner. The brush isn’t too rough, and never leaves any irritation. It cleans away more dirt than I thought possible to have on my face after washing it with a facial wipe and balancing toner. I use it with my Burts Bees Deep Cleansing Cream, which has menthol in it for soothing irritation and cleaning pores.

I use this brush at night to make sure that I thoroughly cleanse my face of all impurities before bed, but don’t use it twice a day just to make sure that no irritation develops. In the morning I use my balancing toner instead to cleanse my face before applying moisturizer and sunscreen. So far my skin has improved, and it feels much cleaner with this new routine!

Exciting Giveaway!

I knew that I had to give one of these cleansing brushes away, because I am such a huge fan! I am running a giveaway through the New Year, which is open to all U.S. residents. I promise I will have a worldwide giveaway at some point! 🙂 Enter below (there are three different ways to enter), and good luck!

Click the link below to enter! 🙂
a Rafflecopter giveaway

©2016 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.

 

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Blogmas Day 9: Learning from Creativity

When I was younger, creativity was a natural part of my life. I loved to read, write, draw, and imagine. It was a natural extension of my true self, and how I spent much of my time. As I got older, this creativity got replaced with obligations and other interests and started to lose its second nature feeling. At the beginning of high school, I would dread “creative” projects because I felt as though I no longer had the ability to construct something with loose guidelines. This sentiment continued for quite some time, until I stumbled upon Pinterest (and eventually the world of blogging).

I started to remember my interest in creative endeavors (especially related to writing), and it felt as though I was reconnecting with something that I forgot I ever had. It has now been over a year since I started this creative journey, and took on the title of a “creative”. I have learned so much since embracing this title, especially since, for a time, I didn’t think it would apply to me.

Being a part of the creative world has taught me that everyone is creative. Creativity comes in so many forms, and there is something that everyone can contribute to. When I got older, I became more judgmental of my creative forms instead of embracing them as my own. I started comparing them to the endeavors of others, and gave many of them up because I felt as though I was not meant to pursue creative journeys. But comparison really is the thief of joy. What was once fun and relaxing turned into a stressful pursuit of hoping the final product would be something I was proud of, and something I wanted others to see. I lost my own creative touch, and instead focused too much on what I thought were mistakes. I took someone else’s pursuits and made them my ideal, instead of focusing on what I loved about what I was doing.

Blogging has taught me how to embrace and love my creative energy. I no longer strive to be like the ‘ideal,’ I only strive to be happy and to have joy. I will make clay sculptures to release tension and stress, and by embracing my energy I love the end result. Instead of extensively planning the process so that the result turns out like I think I want it to, I allow my creative imagination to take control and make spontaneous decisions. This is how I write as well. I think about what I feel inspired to write about more generally, but let my imagination and creativity take the lead. I tap into my thoughts, dreams, inspirations, and passions to create something that I truly love. This is the beauty of embracing your own creative.

I have become a huge proponent of collaboration over competition, because everyone’s creativity is different. All creativity is valuable, and when you work with others the result can be wonderful. Combining unique creative energies is a wonderful way to add to the creative world, and to learn about the thoughts, passions, and dreams of others.

I encourage you to dive right into the creative world, especially with something you have never tried before. You never know where your passions lie, and you could discover something truly life-changing. I rediscovered my love of writing through blogging, but more importantly, I rediscovered my creative joy. I’ve learned how to apply my interest in art and visuals to my graphic design elements, and I’ve used my blog as a way to explore other interests and step outside of my comfort zone.

Delving back into the world of creativity has led me to rediscover the spark that comes with creative imagination. I see the world in a different light, one full of potential and passion. If something characteristically negative happens, I think about what it has taught me and how I can portray that in writing or visuals. I think about where my true emotional energy stems from, and how I can tap into that to create projects that bring me (and hopefully others!) joy.

Creativity has yet again become second nature for me, and has found a new place in my life. I love sharing my take on the world with others, and hearing about their own pursuits and endeavors.

As I finish off my semester, I have been thinking about how creativity has provided me with a constructive and valuable release for all that I have encountered. It has helped me reframe my state of mind, turning negatives into positive learning experiences and reflections. I have learned and pursued new interests, and changed my mindset. What has creativity taught you? I’d love to hear in the comments! 🙂

©2016 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.

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Alyssa DeBella

21 | Lifestyle blogger | Minimalist | Dreamer ✨| Language Lover 💕| Animal Obsessed ❤️🐶| Double Major 📚| Vegan 🌱 |Traveler ✈️ (currently in: Europe)
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