A list of the things that made life better in 2023, everything from things I bought, to things I did, to things that changed my life.
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Part of looking back on 2023 caused me to think about the things that really worked this year - you know, the things I used a lot, made a difference in how I think or feel, or added beautiful memories.
So I thought I'd put together a list to share with you because I love looking at other people's list of things they love to see if there's anything I may be missing out on.
These lists are called things like "what worked for me," "what's saving my life," "things I love" and such, but they all focus on products, activities, and concepts or habits that make a difference in everyday life.
So that's what this list is - the things that truly made a difference in my life through the last year. Some you may remember from the Good Things Lists and some I haven't shared before, but you can be sure I stand behind them all - they really are my favs!
(Note: I'm sharing the 12 things in no particular order, only how they came to me as I was thinking about the year and reviewing past good things lists.)
12 Favorite Things
In 2022 I started having issues with extreme dry lips when the weather turned colder. I initially thought it was a vitamin B issue because I've had that before, but it went away completely when we were in Hawaii in November of 2022 and then started up a few weeks after coming home, so the weather was obviously the culprit.
I tried all the specialty lip balms - and even straight on vaseline - regularly applying them all through the day. It only kept it a bay.
Enter Aquaphor Healing Ointment. This magic stuff healed my lips completely at the beginning of 2023 and I've used it almost every night this year and my lips have been great, no matter what the weather!
How I use it: I use regular lip balms during the day and the apply the ointment only at night before bed.
Note on which to buy (if you'd like to try it): Get the Aquaphor Healing Ointment - not the 'lip repair' - while good, that is more of a typical lip balm and it's the ointment that works better.
2023 is when the line a day, five year journal I started in 2022 really showed it's worth - I can't tell you how many times I had totally forgotten something we'd done just the previous year or how I could remind people where we were the year before (like who hosted Thanksgiving).
Since January 1, I can now see two years of activities, thoughts, or reflections - I find this so fun and life-affirming that I really tell everyone I can about this!
It helps that it's probably the easiest way to "journal" ever - you simply write a sentence or two with whatever you want from the day. It's a five minute part of my evening routine, so it's not something I ever need to put off.
When I added this to a Good Things List in 2022, I wrote that it made me excited to not only be consistent in using it, but to look forward to what it will be like to turn to those pages in the future.
I'm here to say this is SO true - I don't want to miss a day because I know how great it is to be able to look back!
Here's the one I keep on my bedside table, but there are different covers to choose from, too. Highly recommended!
Audiobooks have really helped my reading life in the past few years and this last year was such a great year for them that almost all the books on my 2023 best books were audiobooks!
I didn't realize this until after creating the list, but I can see why.
- Two of the books were memoirs, and I choose audio every time for these in case they are read by the author.
- I like listening to a series because the pace is more consistent as I have more time throughout my days for listening rather than sitting and reading (I listen as I clean, cook, edit photos and things that don't need brain power).
- And a couple of the books were ones Brian and I listened to together. We started this a few years ago and not only does it make car trips go way faster, it's been a really nice thing to share with each other and be able to discuss.
I remember when I first started trying to read more (after reading zero books in 2015) that I felt kind of guilty listing audiobooks as "read." Since then I've read articles about how scientifically audiobooks are just as good as reading a physical or digital book (which I still do, by the way - all the time!) and they've allowed me to experience way more wonderful books than I would be able to without them, so I no longer hide the fact that I listen to a lot of audiobooks. They are definitely working for me!
I love to go kayaking and while Brian would do it with me, he never really enjoyed it as much. He always felt cramped in the seat and his back would start hurting.
And you know, it's just harder to enjoy something when you know it's not that fun for the other person you're with (Brian never complained and always worked to find time to go because he knew I liked it - I'm not complaining, just explaining).
Brian tried a friend's paddle board and really enjoyed that experience, but since we had kayaks, he didn't do anything about it.
Until this last year when I finally suggested selling his kayak and replacing it with a paddle board. We didn't have to do the same thing - as long as we were still out on the water, I was good!
And you guys, it's been the BEST thing! He loves it, I love it, and we went out on the water last year more than ever.
We also changed out the racks on our car to hold both (before the racks only held kayaks), which also made it easier to load and unload both things, which made it possible to go for just an hour paddle sometimes (like the photo above at a nearby lake for a picnic dinner paddle on our anniversary).
I just have to remember now to call it paddling instead of kayaking!
5. (Almost) Monthly Trips
In 2023 I set a goal to go somewhere or do something once a month. I had found that if I didn't put this on my calendar or to-do list, months would go by where we didn't do anything at all (well, away from home - you know what I mean).
They weren't all expensive and some only lasted a day, but they served the purpose to get us out of our everyday life, sometimes meet with others, and gave us something to look forward to.
And making a goal and getting them on the calendar? That worked. So much better than last minute scramble for hotel rooms or realizing the season had passed and with it the things you wanted to do.
6. Essential Oil Roll-On for Pain
This one was a complete surprise to me! I've suffered hand pain (arthritis?) in my hands after knitting for a couple years now. If I go on a knitting spree, my left hand will hurt for days.
So when I read the testimonials for this essential oil blend for pain, I decided to give it a try since it wasn't expensive. I got the roll on and just roll it all over the area of pain in my hand before going to bed if I have pain.
And it worked! Believe it or not, it actually decreased the pain in my hand. AND since using it regularly whenever there is even a little pain in my hand, I don't really have the days of pain after knitting for a long time.
It hasn't taken the pain away completely, but it definitely lessens it and makes it easier to manage pain and still be able to knit for more than a few minutes at a time.
I love when these things work, though I know they may not work for everyone. If you've tried this, I'd love to know how it worked for you!
Check out the Restore Essential Oil Blend here.
7. Spice Cupboard
Organizing my spice cupboard is definitely one of those things I wish I would've done earlier - I put it off for three years after moving into the farmhouse. Why??
While it did take a few hours to go through everything, decant, label and then organize, it's been totally worth it. It's something I use almost daily and it's just so much easier to find things now.
Not only that - I love opening it and seeing all of Brian's aunt's cute little vintage mason jars and matching lids (I now have all zinc lids, replacing the few white ones pictured).
Plus, the larger jars are perfect for the things I buy in bulk and use more of, like herbs and cinnamon, eliminating all those little bags and jars of extras that wouldn't fit in the smaller spice jars. I kept the spice jars for things I use only occasionally (like marjoram) or don't use a lot of at a time (like cayenne).
If you'd like a similar look and function here are some things I found that would work like my vintage jars:
- 12-pack 1/2-pint mason jars with sloping sides.
- 30-pack 8-oz sloped side jars with gold lids.
- Or use reproduction zinc lids on regular 4-ounce mason jars.
8. Portland Leather Purse & Wallet
I'm so glad I discovered this sort of local company - I've loved the purse I bought a few months ago. It's the best size for me and holds all I need without being bulky.
I ordered from the Almost Perfect Sale (runs all the time) for great savings and I can't tell any difference from a regular leather purse, even after months of use (and it looks the same as when I bought it, too).
They have sales occasionally and during Black Friday I bought a wallet (almost perfect, too) that fits perfectly in my purse. My daughter also bought a couple purses that she loves (I think one came from the outlet store in Portland, so if you're local near the Gladstone store, check it out.)
If you'd like a coupon code, click this link for 30% off your first order of $100.
9. Window Cleaning Cloth Set
I was influenced to buy this kind of expensive cleaning cloth set for windows (well since it seemed like microfiber), but I'm still in awe of it months later.
It goes beyond basic microfiber, cleaning windows and mirrors quickly, efficiently, and streak-free (which my regular microfiber didn't).
Since buying it I've wet the darker green cloth - it's a different fabric than regular microfiber - and used it to wipe down both outside and inside windows as well as mirrors. After following up with the dry waffle weave microfiber-ish towel, it dries and leaves everything crystal clear with as little elbow grease as possible.
No more dreading the window cleaning chore! Window Cleaning E-Cloth Set here.
10. Nuud Natural Deodorant
Here's another thing I want to tell everyone about, Nuud Natural Deodorant!
This stuff is so amazing - you only use a pea size or smaller amount, rub it on your pits and it works for days. I kid you not - three days. Even with showering in between.
Brian and I are still on our first tubes which I bought last summer! So the fact that it lasts longer outweighs the higher cost from regular natural deodorants - but that's not the only reason to use it.
Yes it lasts longer, yes it's cost effective, yes it made with natural ingredients - but the biggest selling point for me?
It truly works to cut odor - like you don't smell at all! (And you know if Brian uses it that it really works, because he wasn't a believer when I first started with it.)
The one downside: this is a European product, so it does take weeks to ship. There is an option for a subscription so you don't run out, but other than that, you have to be thinking in advance to get your next tubes.
Get this amazing deodorant here (and check out the ingredients and tips for using).
11. Strength Workouts
This is probably the biggest change for me this past year. I went from three times a week cardio and Barre3 workouts to five and six days a week strength and HIIT workouts, which I've done every weekday morning since last February, making it a habit now.
After years of doing bone strengthening activities and eating foods good for bones I was still diagnosed with osteoporosis at the end of 2022, which was discouraging.
After reading up on it, I realized that cardio and the light weights used in barre weren't enough for bone health, so I found a program that had really good workouts with dumbbells at home. I started with lighter dumbbells and have been buying a few more heavier ones each month until my at-home gym is decently stocked now.
While I really liked the workouts with the program I joined for 6 weeks (Faster Way) the eating program didn't work for me (it was too much food), though I did like using macros to balance my diet better.
So now I use the Macros First app to track things a few times a week to make sure I'm on track and I do a kettlebell HIIT and regular HIIT and three strength training sessions each week (upper body, lower body, and total body) which I find on You Tube. (I've also heard good things about the workouts at Sadie Active and Paragon Training.)
Why have I kept up with this training for almost a year? I feel so much stronger!
During the gardening season I can have 4-6 hour days outside which can include a ton of bending, hauling, digging, and more. I used to pretty much not be able to move easily the next day after one of these marathons and last summer I didn't have that problem! My back hurt less and while I was sore, I could still move and didn't feel nearly as stiff.
I like being able to lift things easier and I feel like I have better balance and core strength (I also like how my arms look, ha!).
12. Pure Protein Powders
Because of this emphasis on strength training, I need more protein than I used to get. I think I was getting 60-75 grams protein previously (though I didn't track it), and my goal now is to get at least 100 grams daily.
While I concentrate on protein that comes from real food sources like meat, poultry, legumes, and whole grains, to get the amount I need daily it's nice to supplement through protein powders to get to my goal.
The thing is, as soon as I started reading the labels of the many, many types of powders I realized how much crap they are putting in these things -wow! It was kind of shocking to me since they are supposed to be a health thing.
You literally cannot buy them from the shelf if you don't want sweeteners, flavors, preservatives and who knows what else - you have to go online to buy.
After researching, I've found a couple brands of whey-based pure protein powders that I buy regularly and one collagen:
- Naked Whey Grass Fed Whey Protein Powder. This contains only one ingredient: whey protein. It was such a relief to find this after looking on store shelves. There is no flavor and it blends easily into smoothies, hot drinks and baking. The downside to this brand is the price and that it can sometimes be hard to find. I add a half scoop in each of the two cups of coffee I have daily in the morning (one scoop was too milky in one cup) as an easy way of getting 12.5g of protein.
- Bulk Supplements Whey Protein Concentrate Powder, Unflavored. When I couldn't find the Naked Whey, I found this brand that's almost as pure - it contains sunflower lecithin in addition to the whey protein. But it's only about half the price as the Naked Whey. It dissolves just as easily and leaves no flavor that I can taste in my coffee. This provides 11.5g of protein in a scoop.
- Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides. There's a lot of conflicting information out there about whether to count collagen as a protein for your macro count. Some sources say you shouldn't because it's not a complete protein while you can find many sites that say you can. For awhile I didn't, but then I realized that we eat lots of foods that aren't complete that we count towards protein (beans, anyone?), so I started counting it. It's not my only protein, so not being complete isn't really an issue. I add a scoop to my tea two times a day which gives me 12 grams. But the main reason I take this daily is because it's made a HUGE difference in my nail strength. Like huge. My hair also feels thicker and I can only hope it's doing the same for my bones!
Need plant based? Try to find one that has the least amount of additives like this Naked brand of pea protein. (I found the pea protein used in many of the plant-based powders to have a distinct flavor, plus they add a lot of ingredients, so I stick with whey.)
I hope there's something on this list that makes a difference in your life in this coming year! If you've already used something after seeing it on a Good Things List, let me know in the comments - OR if you have something you can share with me!Disclosure: affiliate links in this article will earn commission based on sales, but it doesn't change your price. Click here to read our full disclaimer and advertising disclosure.