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Friday, May 17, 2019

7 Secrets of a Clutter-Free Family Home

My husband and I live in an 800 square foot (about 74 square meter) apartment.  When people come over, they always remark that it is so clean.  I actually think they mean tidy and clutter-free.  But having things put away makes it seem clean.  Honestly, if you stopped by my house unannounced, most of the time I could invite you in and not be at all embarrassed.  That is liberating.

"Eli's Room" courtesy of Farmhouse 5540

When our children were young, we lived in a house that was about 1200 square feet (about 111 square meters).  Compared to the average American home, that is small, but my house was usually fairly tidy then too.  Even if the kids were in the middle of playing one of their epic pretend games, with dolls, stuffed animals, play dishes, dress-up clothes, Lego creations, and lots of homemade props, we could make the house "company ready" in a pretty short time.

Does that sound like an impossible dream?

Monday, May 13, 2019

11 Simple Needs of the Minimalist Baby

Photo courtesy of Steve H.

A young couple I know went into debt preparing a designer nursery for their first child.  At a baby shower for this young mama-to-be, gifts included dozens of cute and complicated newborn-size outfits, miniature patent leather shoes, two baby monitors, a white noise machine, a light-up musical mobile, and an elegant pram-style stroller that was very heavy to lift and probably too large to fit into the trunk of a car.

Family and friends were eager to welcome the new baby, and wanted to show their love by giving gifts.  But the cute gadgets and clothes, though fun to shop for and to give, weren't really going to meet the baby's needs.  Expensive clutter had been given in place of useful necessities, which would still need to be purchased.

Giving birth and caring for a newborn are wonderful but stressful activities.  Why add debt and clutter to sleep deprivation and first-time-parent anxiety?

Friday, May 10, 2019

The Busy Child

Just as more and more adults today are proudly wearing the badge "BUSY," so too are more and more children.  Too busy to stop, to engage with others, to listen, to observe, to pay attention, to reflect, to imagine, to properly rest.

Photo by Wayne Lee-Sing on Unsplash

The conventional wisdom is that we must multi-task, we must be on the go, we must push to have a valuable life.  We teach our children that they must do the same: reach for the proverbial stars, or be doomed to a second-rate existence.  We use social media to advertise our successes, making sure our activities, achievements, vacations, and celebrations will be envy-worthy.  What a false and dangerous pursuit.  As a result we are all anxious, acquisitive, insecure, and unsatisfied.

Monday, May 6, 2019

The Joy of Creative Deprivation

"Lazy Morning (275/366)" by Tim Sackton on Flickr

One of the big traps of lifestyle inflation is what blogger Trent Hamm calls the "repeated splurge".

Let's say there's a particular treat you enjoy.  Maybe you like buying books.  Maybe you like going to the coffee shop.  Maybe you like going to the movies, or eating out.  Whatever it is, when your income is low, you can't do it very often.  It's a splurge and so you look forward to it.  It feels special.

When your income goes up, it's very tempting to indulge in that treat more often.  The problem is that as soon as a splurge becomes a regular event, it stops being special and becomes completely ordinary.  You adapt.  Something you used to think was a great treat is now just an everyday routine… except now the everyday routine is far more expensive than it used to be.  You're not any happier, you're just spending a lot more and you no longer savor something that used to be a treat.

Friday, May 3, 2019

The 20 Toy Rule

Minimalism is not just for nomadic bachelors and downsizing seniors.  It's for everyone, including families with children.  Dealing with issues of clutter, debt, competition, dissatisfaction, busyness, and stress, while discovering true value, peace, gratitude, mindfulness, community, and abundance benefits everyone.  So in honor of Mother's Day (Sunday May 12th in the U.S.), I'm going to devote several posts to issues involving minimalism and parenting.

ds302 "Trail of Tears" by Sharon Drummond on Flickr

In 1995, I was a typical American mom.  My kids got toys on their birthdays, on their half-birthdays, at Christmas, on Valentine's Day, in their Easter baskets, on the first day of summer.  I didn't think I was spoiling them, since we knew several families whose kids got a toy every time they went to McDonald's or Target.  The fact that my kids' toys covered the floors of their bedrooms and half the living room as well seemed a normal part of family life.  And me yelling at them to put their toys away?  That was a normal part of life too.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Don't Drown in Paper

Decades ago, everyone talked about a "paperless future."  Now we have many digital options, yet paper still flows ceaselessly into our lives.  It enters our homes daily in the mail, inside packages, from school, as business cards and takeout menus, concert fliers and free community newspapers.

If you don't deal with it, you'll drown in it.

"Drowning Under a Mountain of Paper" by on Flickr

Friday, April 26, 2019

25 Ways to Waste Less

Don't you hate to walk through a park, or even a parking lot, or drive along the highway and see the garbage that people have tossed from their cars?  Is there anything uglier?

Well, actually, yes there is:

"Plastic Ocean" by Kevin Krejci on Flickr

Monday, April 22, 2019

Go Green With Minimalism

Happy Earth Day.

Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

Reduce, reuse, recycle.  It's the mantra of eco-conscious people everywhere.

Great idea, except that most of us approach the concept backwards.

Monday, April 15, 2019

7 Steps to a Simple Easter

Courtesy of Bobby Haven, Brunswick (GA) News

People don't spend as much for Easter as they do for Christmas/Hanukkah, Valentine's Day, or even Halloween, but it is still definitely seen by retailers as a time to push candy, flowers, stuffed animals, spring fashions, and spring décor (especially tableware). estimated that $18.2 billion would be spent on Easter in the United States in 2018.

Like Christmas, Easter is supposed to be a religious observance, but in America our faith often seems to be placed in money and possessions, rather than in God.  We are devout consumers.  Many of the 71% of Americans who identify themselves as Christians will give more thought to new church clothes, Easter table centerpieces, and full Easter baskets (even if they include a chocolate cross) than they do to the reason for the celebration.

Friday, April 12, 2019

3 Signs You Should Stop Decluttering

We're human beings.  That means we're capable of doing anything to an extreme.

Photo courtesy of Tatiana Lapina on Unsplash

Want to be healthier?  Never eat bread or pasta or rice or potatoes again, let alone pancakes or cookies.  Alternatively, eat 100% sprouted whole grain pasta and bread, along with brown rice, yams, quinoa, and lots of beans, but don't touch beef, pork, lamb, poultry, venison, or seafood ever again.  Even eggs and cottage cheese should be considered suspect!

This isn't a comment on what anyone chooses to eat, whether for health, religious, or ethical reasons.  There can be good reasons for removing or consuming any number of foods.  I'm just trying to make the point that we're pretty good at taking extreme positions on just about anything.

And that includes decluttering.  There are hoarders, and there are people who can fit everything they own into a backpack.  I imagine most of us belong somewhere between those two extremes.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Clean As You Go

"Spring Cleaning" by Nosha 

Want to keep your house neat and clean in a simple, stress-free way?

Just clean as you go.

Friday, April 5, 2019

4 Simple Maintenance Tips

Decluttering is an event, or a process.  Minimalism is a lifestyle.

Photo by Tracey Hocking on Unsplash

We're real people.  We work, we socialize, we have hobbies and husbands and kids.  Stuff enters our homes every day, and if we have no system for dealing with it, clutter can reappear.  So part of the minimalist lifestyle is learning to be a gatekeeper, to keep stuff from once again overwhelming our lives.

How can we do this?

Monday, April 1, 2019

Welcome to Minimalism

You've done it!  You've decluttered, or you've made a lot of headway on that task.  But decluttering is an event, while minimalism is a lifestyle.

Courtesy of

Decluttering is the tool, not the purpose.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Declutter Your Fantasy Self

You are not what you own.

Photo by Kirk Thornton on Unsplash

"Imagination will take you everywhere," said Albert Einstein, and he was right.  As humans, we're limited in what we know and understand, but imagination transcends all of that.

Unfortunately, we tend to bolster our fantasies by buying the props that go with them.  Francine Jay, author of The Joy of Less and Lightly, calls this "aspirational stuff."  These are the things we buy to project a certain image, to impress others, or to help ourselves believe we're a certain type of person.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Spring Cleaning

The days are longer, the birds are busy, the first buds and leaves have appeared.  Everything is energized and ready to begin, and you notice how heavy, tired, and even grubby your home is.

Courtesy of Jon Trefzger

Now, you can do deep cleaning and reorganization like your mother and grandmother did, or you can use this opportunity to do several other great things by decluttering.

Friday, March 22, 2019

7 Questions to Ask When Decluttering

Decluttering is a process, one step on the path toward a simpler, more intentional life.

Courtesy of

Less stuff means less maintenance, less cleaning, and less stress.  Removing excess brings you more space, more time, and more energy.

Brooke McAlary, author of Slow: Simple Living For a Frantic World, calls clutter "deferred decisions" and "the physical manifestation of procrastination."  But the process of decluttering builds your decision-making ability as you choose what to hold on to and what to remove.  Over time you gain more clarity and confidence about what is important to you.

Monday, March 18, 2019

6 Ways to Start Decluttering

Don't panic!  There is no one "right way" to declutter.  Try one of these six entry points:

Friday, March 15, 2019

Declutter Fearlessly

When someone lives with large amounts of clutter it is often the result of fear.

My mother's clutter was organized.  It was neatly packed away in storage containers, all clearly labeled and precisely arranged in every drawer, cupboard, closet, garage rafter area, and shed.  She could always find what she was looking for, even if piles and bins had to be shifted in order to get to it.

Monday, March 11, 2019

9 Ways to Stop Buying So Much

Want to reduce clutter and gain financial freedom?  Stop buying so much.

Copyright CORBIS

Spend less than you earn.

That's it.  The most important financial advice you'll ever receive.

If you cut back on spending, you'll be able to pay off debt, build an emergency fund, start saving for college or retirement, give more generously.  Spending less could reduce your stress levels and improve your sleep.  It might even improve your marriage.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Don't Kondo Your Home

License CC0 public domain

Earlier this week, I wrote that Marie Kondo had a brilliant insight when she realized that if we declutter by category, rather than by location, we're able to grasp the overall volume of our belongings.  I wrote that, generally speaking, we'd be astounded by how much we own, a realization that would make it far easier for us to declutter what is no longer useful or appropriate.  I agreed with her that recognizing what truly adds value to our lives is an essential perception.

But I think that Kondo's method has a flaw.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has sold millions of copies, yet it seems many people are just as engulfed by clutter as ever.  People are still buying tons of stuff they don't need, and lots of "storage solutions" to try and organize all of it.  People talk about decluttering, but how many are getting decluttered and staying that way?

Maybe the problem is the question she suggests you ask of each possession.

Asking "Does it spark joy?" may not help you solve your clutter problem.

Monday, March 4, 2019

One Way to Tidy Up

Storage experts are hoarders.

Marie Kondo's book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, is intended to help people do more than clean and organize.  Declaring that "storage experts are hoarders," she advocates a one-time process of mindful decluttering.  Her clients end up surrounded entirely by things that enhance their lives, unburdened by stuff that is unwanted or unused.  Even her book, she says, should be passed along when it's no longer needed.

Instead of decluttering room by room, Kondo tackles belongings by category, beginning with what she believes is easiest to part with.  Clothes, then books, documents, miscellany (including kitchen items, linens, and décor), and last and most difficult, photos and mementos.  The process of making a decision about each item gets easier with all this practice.

Your mindset during this process is important.  Kondo explains:

Focusing solely on throwing things away can only bring unhappiness.  Why?  Because we should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of....  After all what is the point in tidying?  If it's not so that our space and the things in it can bring us happiness, then I think there is no point at all....  Keep only those things that speak to your heart.  Then take the plunge and discard all the rest.
Tidying must start with discarding. 

Friday, March 1, 2019

The Truth About Clutter

Clutter isn't cute.

Clutter is something we laugh about, like our coffee or sugar addictions, our over-use of social media, or our binge-watching habits.  But none of those are actually funny, and for many of us clutter is much more serious than a couple of piles on the kitchen counter.

Clutter lies to you.  Clutter tells you "It's not that big a deal" and "You'll get to it later."  But the piles grow.  And so many people just accept defeat in their homes and in how they live and enjoy life.

We make excuses like "I'm just so busy" or "I'm just not organized."  But excuses aren't solutions.  Trying to make it cute, saying "I'm such a clutterbug," just lets you live with defeat.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Self-Love Isn't Selfish

Are you constantly trying to improve yourself?

Courtesy of National Geographic Kids

Do most of your thoughts revolve around how you can become the ideal person you long to be?
  • You want to be thinner, more fit, more healthy.
  • You want to be prettier, with better skin, better hair, better nails, better boobs.
  • You want your clothes to not only fit and flatter, but also tell the world how stylish you are.
  • You want to be more successful in your career, respected and better paid.
  • At home, you want to be a great cook, a talented decorator, a fun hostess, perfectly organized.
  • You want a better relationship with your partner, full of intimate communication, great sex, and complete equality when it comes to money and chores.
  • You want to be the wisest, most loved and trusted parent, and you want your children to be smart, confident, kind, and successful in every way.

I could go on, but I think you're already nodding in agreement.  In every facet of your life, you want to improve, do more, have more, achieve more.

A desire for self-improvement is both a blessing and a curse.  Many people accomplish great things because of their desire to be better, to be more.  It is a natural human desire to grow, evolve, and thrive.

But this quest can also make you very unhappy.

Monday, February 18, 2019

One Simple Piece of Relationship Advice

I met my husband 36 years ago this week, and we've been married for nearly 35 years.

Courtesy of Dane Wilson

People are so funny when I share that information.  Sometimes they say, "You don't look old enough to have been married 35 years!"  Haha.  What a very kind lie.  Other times they say, "Wow!  How do you do it?"  I guess they believe we've been perfectly fulfilled and blissful for all of that time.

Here's the marriage is perfectly fulfilling and blissful all of the time.  Every marriage has rough patches, and some of those patches are pretty big.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Love Every Day

Valentine's Day is yet another American holiday taken over by shopping.  How many diamond ads have you seen in the last few weeks?  How about perfume ads?  Flowers?  Chocolate?  Ads for special couples' deals at restaurants and boutique hotels?

Valentine's Day is the third largest shopping occasion of the year (topped by Christmas, Hanukkah, and other winter holidays, and Mother's Day).  This amounts to nearly $20 billion in spending for the holiday, including gifts for pets, which account for almost $700 million.  One article I read said that Valentine's Day is too huge for marketers to ignore, and that it's like Black Friday for florists, chocolatiers, and jewelers.

Monday, February 4, 2019

The Limits of Friendship

Genuine Relationships Always Make You Happier.

The 21st century is an amazing era of communication.  I remember my grandmother's party line, and having to wait for someone else to finish their phone conversation before you could make your call.  I remember when my boyfriend and I ran up a bill of over $200 one month calling each other long distance (this was more than 35 years ago, when $200 paid my car payment AND gas for the month).  I remember lots of snail mail letters, which were nice to receive then and are practically miraculous today.

Now we can call anywhere, anytime, for a fairly reasonable monthly fee.  We can email or text or post pictures and comments on social media and get nearly instant responses.  Communication is easier, faster, and cheaper than ever.  But what if we're actually becoming more disconnected by connecting with hundreds, even thousands of others?

Friday, February 1, 2019

A New Love

Introducing my newest grandson, Damien!

Courtesy of Elizabeth H.

Babies epitomize maximum gratitude and minimal stuff.  They come to us with nothing but themselves, yet we are thrilled to welcome them.

My daughter is well, despite some last minute complications.  My son-in-law continues to be a kind and supportive husband and father, and my favorite little boy, my grandson Elliot, is excited to be Damien's big brother.  Love seems to fill all our hearts and overflow with thanksgiving for the new member of our family.

And Damien himself is satisfied with so little.  Mama's milk, a clean diaper, a warm blanket, enfolding arms.

Along with his car seat, a cradle, onesies, swaddling cloths, booties, a cap for his head, and maybe a baby tub and some diaper cream, his basic needs will be met for the first few months.  Just add smiling faces, quiet words and songs, cuddling and kisses, and you've covered the essentials!

Monday, January 28, 2019

Friday, January 25, 2019

A Body In Motion Stays In Motion

It's a law...Newton's First Law.  Maybe you learned it in high school science.

A body at rest stays at rest.  A body in motion stays in motion.

So decide to be the body in motion.  Don't stayed mired in situations that don't fulfill you.  Take one step, any step, to start moving in the direction you want to go.  Starting is the hard part, but once you do it, you'll have momentum to keep going.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Why Minimalism?

A lot of people think of "minimalism" as a huge white room with a white couch, a glass table, and some modern art.

That is one minimalist style or design aesthetic, and it might be appropriate in the expensive penthouse apartment of someone who has a trust fund but no family, no pets, and whose hobbies are travel and yoga.  However, most of us don't (and don't want to) live like that.

So what do I mean by "minimalism"?

To me, minimalism means living with less clutter, busyness, debt, and stress so I have room for what really matters to me.  I want to enjoy, appreciate, and savor the people, activities, and things that bring value to my life, while minimizing everything else.

There are many reasons to explore minimalism, and the "why" will be slightly different for everyone.  Figuring out your "why" is key to finding motivation and endurance when you encounter obstacles in your minimalist path.  So settle in with a cup of tea and a notebook and pen, and think about what has brought you to this place in your life.

Monday, January 14, 2019

14 Ways to Cheer Up, Minimalist Style

The holidays are over, the weather is cold and gray, and maybe you could use a bit of cheer.  Many people eat or drink or shop when they're a bit down.  What would a minimalist do?

by Ginny at Small Things (

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Beauties of Sleep

Shakespeare had it right.  Sleep not only "knits up the raveled sleeve of care," it is as necessary to life as food, water, and exercise.

Courtesy of Elizabeth H.

The final ingredient for our minimalist, whole, and healthy lifestyle is one we too often overlook, especially in our modern over-busy, over-stressed lives.  Yet a deficiency in this area is linked to increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.

Sleep is not the enemy of productivity; it is not what you do when there's nothing good on TV.  It's essential.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Simply Move More

Food and drink are absolute necessities, but our minimalist, whole, real lifestyle for health is missing a couple of important ingredients.  Diets don't work without exercise, do they?

A truly healthy body is flexible, strong, full of energy and stamina.

I watch my three-year-old grandson.  He's constantly bending, squatting, getting down on the floor, then up on his toes, climbing, skipping, reaching.  He often gets sweaty, but he's never out of breath.  He has a good appetite and he sleeps like a log.  And he's cheerful, curious, inventive.  The picture of health!

Now, I'm 55 years older than he is.  Obviously my stamina and agility are no match for his.  I'm also unfortunately quite overweight, which means my joints are somewhat stressed and I do occasionally get out of breath.

But improvement through baby steps and consistency is the name of the game.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Better Drinking

How are you doing with your minimalist (unprocessed, whole, real) food lifestyle?

In my experience, a diet means sudden, radical change.  I'll be highly motivated for a while, and then I hit a plateau and get discouraged.

By using tiny habits, there are many more ways to be successful.

If I think in terms of tiny habits, my focus is different.  Rather than worrying if I don't lose weight one week, I can look at my success in maintaining habits.  I can easily meet and exceed my tiny goals, which means I'm always making progress.  Continuing to make better and better food choices should be permanently sustainable, which means that over time I will see bigger changes.

It also means that I'm not measuring the success of the entire lifestyle solely by whether I lose weight, but also by improved health in many different ways due to the gradual accumulation of new, better habits.  There are many more ways for me to be successful than just a number on a scale or a piece of clothing.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Resolutions That Work

Consistent baby steps get you where you want to go.

Like most people, I have both good and bad habits.  On the plus side, I floss and brush, put items away when I'm done with them, turn off lights, and never leave clothes on the floor.

Unfortunately, I also eat out too often, exercise too rarely, don't save enough money, and occasionally binge on carbs.

My good habits come easily, probably drummed in by my mother or natural to my personality (I have a need for order).  The bad habits continue to flourish because of laziness, greed, and lots of excuses:

"I'm too tired to cook."
"We're in a hurry; it's faster to go out than to cook."
"I deserve a treat."
"I got a work out when I deep-cleaned the house yesterday, so I don't need to exercise now."
"It's way too hot (or cold, muggy, rainy, etc.) to take a walk today."
"It's not realistic to give up sweets forever."
"I'll just buy this one thing now and save more next month."
"I save more money than most people...more than nothing, anyway."

I'd like to change these habits and eat more healthfully, exercise regularly, lose weight, stay out of debt, and build savings.  I make plans and resolutions, but I don't keep them.