Posts

Showing posts from 2019

The 30-Day Habit Challenge

Image
Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash A 30-day habit challenge is a commitment to a new personal habit or routine for 30 days. The purpose of the challenge is to find out if this interesting new behavior is something that works well and improves your life.  Maybe it saves you money or time, maybe it helps you eat more healthfully or get more exercise, maybe it helps you get rid of clutter or streamline your wardrobe, or maybe it helps you be more mindful and grateful.  It may or may not become a permanent part of your life.  It's an experiment, meant to be enlightening and fun. Examples: For 30 days, eat 20 meals per week at home (eat out only once per week). For 30 days, get at least 15 minutes of extra movement every day, even if it's a stroll around the block. For 30 days, drink coffee or tea at home and stay away from the coffee shop. For 30 days, allow no snacks (chips, cookies, ice cream, etc.) into your home. For 30 days, add an extra fruit or vegetable to

Song of the Shepherds

Image
Photo by Fabrice Villard on Unsplash I don't often write poetry, but I recently tried to write new words for an old tune, and this is the result: Bright stars shine in a wintry sky, Glory, alleluia. Moon is rising, night winds sigh, Glory, alleluia. Shepherds with their flocks bed down In the fields near Bethlehem town; Silver light glows all around, Glory, alleluia. Angels come with joyous news, Glory, alleluia. A Savior's born for me and you, Glory, alleluia. Choirs are singing peace and mirth To all people of the earth, For God's love grants all souls worth, Glory, alleluia. Through starlit streets the shepherds trod, Glory, alleluia, To see the infant Son of God, Glory, alleluia. Marvel at the lowly place Where God comes down to our sad race And offers His amazing grace, Glory, alleluia. Go and tell both far and wide, Glory, alleluia, Of Jesus' birth at Christmastide, Glory, alleluia. Thi

The Best Christmas

Image
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash What truly makes the holidays special?  Jo March in the classic Little Women says that "Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents," but is that really true?  Jo might be forgiven for that feeling when you realize that she and her sisters were giving up so much else that might have made their Christmas merry:  their father was away serving in the Army during the Civil War, and they barely had money for everyday needs such as food, heat, and clothing, let alone anything special for a holiday. Do you know of anyone in a similar situation?  A family with a parent on active duty somewhere in a dangerous part of the world?  Someone out of a job (or working two or more low-paying jobs) and struggling to buy groceries, coats, boots, or to pay for light and heat?  Perhaps you know someone dealing with health issues and doctor's bills, or unreliable transportation and large auto repair bills. To a family in any of those ci

A Natural Holiday

Image
Photo courtesy of Bartlett Arboretum, Connecticut, USA For the winners of the book drawing, see below....  One of the best ways I know to limit consumerism is to replace shopping time with time in nature.  The world created by God is an effective antidote to the man-made glitter and hype of the marketplace.  When I'm tired of the crowds or the traffic or the constant pop renditions of Santa songs, even a walk through the park can restore my sense of peace and joy. For me, being more aware of the natural world seems to deepen the spiritual impact of Christmas. As the winter solstice approaches, the period of daylight grows slowly shorter.  Sunsets come earlier, and the welcome glow of Christmas lights and candles, and the sparkling winter constellations, remind me that even when things seem dark, the light of faith can shine brightly.  And isn't that the central message of Christmas, Hanukkah, and other winter holidays? So much of our culture is about making mo

Feel the Hygge

Image
(This post contains paid links.) The Danish know a thing or two about coziness and comfort.  During long northern winters when it can be dark for up to 17 hours a day, Danes lift their spirits with hygge (pronounced "hoo-gah"). As days get shorter, wetter, and colder this season, we might all like to snuggle in and enjoy hygge, the Danish concept of positive self-care.  But while hygge has been aggressively marketed of late, it is definitely not about buying something to improve your mood. Meik Wiking, Danish author of The Little Book of Hygge , says that hygge has been corrupted by marketers who have turned something that has always been free into something they can sell.  $100 "hygge blankets" and $40 "hygge-scented" candles are commercial hype.  Hygge, Wiking explains, is not about things.  It's a feeling of contentment that exists "only in the absence of stress and nuisance," when you experience a sense of relaxation and belongin

Guest Author on No Sidebar

Image
Photo courtesy of Deanna Mills I'm so pleased and grateful to once again be featured on the minimalist website, No Sidebar . The piece I wrote is partly about a holiday tradition in my town, and while I like the photo chosen by the editor of No Sidebar, I thought I'd share an actual photo of one house on Toyon Avenue, so you can see the work of some Christmas-loving homeowners. I hope you're making time to savor the people and traditions that mean the most to you during this season.  Ask anybody what they love most about Christmas.  I've never heard anyone mention receiving gifts.  A few mention making or giving gifts, but most speak of lights and music, snow and coziness, family, memories, and love.  Don't miss it!

Top 12 Gifts for a Minimalist

Image
Ask most minimalists what they want for Christmas, and they'll probably say, "Nothing." But maybe you want to give a gift anyway, or maybe you're a minimalist (or an aspiring minimalist!) who wants to give gifts, but doesn't want to add to anyone's clutter. Here's a list of gifts pretty much guaranteed to brighten a minimalist's holiday. 12 Gifts for Someone Who Doesn't Want More Stuff 1.  Tickets Minimalists prefer experiences to material things.  If you know he'd be interested, tickets to a play, the symphony, a special art exhibit, a concert, a sporting event, or even a class (cooking, yoga sessions, beginning guitar at the local community college) would make a wonderful gift. 2.  Gourmet items Minimalists prefer consumables to other physical items.  Again, you need to know your recipient.  For some, a bottle of organic wine would be greatly appreciated, others wouldn't care for that at all.  But there are plenty of

Cozy Minimalism

Image
Minimalism is about owning only what you use and love, but it's not confined to one decorating style.  Your home doesn't need to be all white, with chrome and glass furniture and one piece of modern art.  A home can be uncluttered and still be warm, inviting, relaxed, and personal. 7 Minimalist Ways to Add Coziness and Character 1.  Choose natural materials. Natural materials are attractive and comfortable.  Possibilities include a floor or table made of reclaimed wood, rattan chairs, a leather ottoman, a wool area rug, a cotton quilt, or pure beeswax candles. 2.  Let there be light. Open the blinds during the day to maximize natural light, or hang sheer curtains if you need to screen an unattractive view or maintain privacy.  Make sure your windows are sparkling clean and the sills uncluttered.  Mirrors reflect light and visually expand your space.  In the evening, avoid glare by using task lamps instead of ceiling lights, and burn a candle or two for a warm, r

This Holiday, Give Hope

Image
Photo by element5 digital on Unsplash If you're reading this, it's pretty likely that you have a roof over your head, plenty of food on your table, an education, and many other benefits of a modern life. We know, even though we may not like to think about it, that others are not so blessed.  Too many homeless are sleeping on the streets tonight, too many children are going to bed hungry, and too many people are without basic medical care or even clean water to drink.  And, shamefully, that kind of deprivation exists in our own country, not just in some far away locale. Minimalism isn't just about decluttering our homes and our calendars -- it's about realizing that we have enough, and that we can do some good with our excess.  We can donate items we're not using, and we can be generous with our time or our money to help someone in our own town or halfway around the world. The ability to be generous is one of the greatest gifts we have, and it should ma

Limits Make Your Christmas Happier

Image
Photo by Vanessa Bucceri on Unsplash This may sound strange (Or not!  I'm a minimalist, after all.), but the best way I know to make the holidays happier is to create some limits.  Limits are good for several reasons:  they create financial peace of mind, curb materialism in yourself and your children, give you a bit of breathing space amid the bustle and busyness, and force you to choose from among myriad possibilities with thought and care. You know you're not doing your child any favors by over-indulging her.  How difficult will life be if she always expects to have her own way and get everything she wants when she wants it?  Helping her to understand and appreciate limits is one of the best things you can teach your child.  And putting limits on yourself is one of the best ways you can teach it. Ask yourself why you are tempted to buy so many gifts for your child (or for others).  Here are several possible answers: 1.  "Because I love him." Of cour

We Need Grace

Image
Photo by Frank McKenna on Unsplash What is "grace?" "Grace" has the same root as "gracias." 1.  When we say grace, we are thankful. We pause, notice, and appreciate.  By focusing on all that is good in our lives, we crowd out more negative thoughts.  So by practicing gratitude, our blessings seem to multiply.

Your Personal Minimalist Holiday

Image
Photo by jeshoots.com on Unsplash I guarantee that a minimalist mindset will make your holidays more joyful.  And no, I'm not envisioning a Little House on the Prairie Christmas with candy canes and handkerchiefs for gifts. Simply put, managing your money, time, and energy during the holidays will bring more peace and comfort to your days, now and into the new year.  When you find out what matters most to you, and focus your attention and resources on those things, the return is far greater than what you'll get from trying to buy and do it all. Your Money Even if you've already begun (or finished) your holiday shopping, it's not too late to create a budget for your money.  If you're anything like me, you tend to hope you'll have enough money, and if you feel like you've overspent, there's always the credit card.  Problem?  Holiday shopping isn't an emergency (which really should be the only reason you whip out the plastic), and you h

MINIMALIST TOOL KIT: Ten First Steps

Image
There are many ways to start down a minimalist path; it's not a one-size-fits-all blueprint.  See if any of these ideas resonate with you: 1.  Visualize your pared-down life. Take a break with pen and paper and make a list of three to five things that would change if you embraced minimalism.  Would you have a living room that's ready for relaxing and socializing? a kitchen with clear counters ready for cooking and baking? a polished table ready for dinner or a family board game? a bedroom that's private and restful? a bathroom that's spa-like? fewer but better toys that your kids can put away on their own? fewer but better clothes that fit and flatter and make getting dressed a pleasure? a calendar with some empty slots for down time or spur-of-the-moment creativity? a balanced budget, with a plan for getting out of debt? or some other improvement in your day-to-day life? Discover your minimalist priorities. 2.  Make your bed. I kno

A Minimalist Black Friday

Image
Photo by Xiaolong Wong on Unsplash HAPPY FIRST ANNIVERSARY! Yes, it was exactly one year ago today that I published my first post... and today I'll share a revision of that post. "Are you ready for Black Friday?" It was just friendly chitchat from a store clerk, but it caught me by surprise.  The aisles were packed with people shopping for Thanksgiving dinner ingredients, just as I was.  But in our consumerist culture, Thanksgiving Day has become Black Friday Eve.  The real event is a long weekend of shopping. I'm not the first to notice the irony.  Thanksgiving, which is supposed to be a day about being grateful for all you have, has become a time to make a shopping list and plan your retail strategy, because everyone you know (yourself included) wants even more . Apparently, the true meaning of the holidays in America isn't family, or peace on earth, or the light of goodness and joy shining in spite of the darkness of human woes. It's ab

Just Start

Image
I had another post scheduled for today, but it came to me while I was watching my husband do push-ups at 5:30 this morning that I needed to write again about habits. Many of us have good habits that were taught to us (nagged into us) when we were small, such as "wash your hands" and "brush your teeth" and "turn off the lights when you leave a room."  (My dad was a stickler for that last one!) And there are habits that every minimalist should practice to help keep clutter at bay.  Maybe you also learned some of these habits when you were young.  "Don't just put it down, put it away" is one that was often uttered by my mother, and it started with toys and clothes and wet towels and went on from there.  If that's not a habit for you, you might want to learn it now. "It's a lot easier to keep up than to catch up" refers to the fact that having routines for household chores, and cleaning as you go, will keep your

Put Your Blinders On

Image
Photo by Alex Jones on Unsplash You don't need to know exactly where you'll end up in order to begin. Minimalism is not a one-size-fits-all blueprint.  It does not look the same for everyone, because minimalism is all about discovering the people, activities, and things that have value for you , and minimizing the things that take time, money, and energy away from what you value. I can't write a prescription or step-by-step road map for your minimalist journey.  I can give you ideas, suggestions, and challenges to help you question, test, and reveal what minimalism looks like for you and your family in your current situation and time of life.  I can try to inspire you on your way. What I have no intention of doing is laying blame on you.  Clutter and overwhelm may strongly impact your life today, but clutter doesn't need to define or limit you.  It doesn't need to have a say in your life going forward. You can change that picture. Watch TV for jus

Three Sentences

Image
Photo by Caroline Hernandez on Unsplash When I was a young mother, if you had asked what was most dear to me, what were my absolute highest priorities, I wouldn't have hesitated to say my husband and kids.  There would have been no question in my mind that they were the center of my life. I wouldn't have said my greatest concern was my house or its decor or the list of things I wanted to buy to "improve" it.  I wouldn't have said it was food, or my next diet.  I wouldn't even have said it was singing, or pursuing my next role.  After all, I had chosen to home school my kids, and opera singing was now a hobby. I wouldn't have said so, but that's where my thoughts, efforts, and money went. I was constantly shopping or planning what to buy next.  I ate junk to fill some sort of lack, but I was still dissatisfied.  How could I be otherwise?  My time and energy were spent on things that didn't really matter. My problem was really a spir

A Recipe for Mindless Living

Image
Looking for a foolproof method to wreck your ability to be present for your own life?  Just follow The American Plan , a twelve step program for mindlessness, guaranteed to leave you numb and disengaged: 1.  As soon as you're awake, pick up your phone and flick through social media feeds and email. 2.  Continue to do this as you eat.  Pay absolutely no attention to the calories you're inhaling. 3.  Make sure to ignore roommates, spouse, and kids in favor of your phone! 4.  Determine to fit two hours' worth of tasks into 45 minutes, and do everything while thinking of something else.  Let your anxiety and impatience continually simmer. 5.  Eat lunch in front of a screen, once again failing to notice what you eat or how it makes you feel. 6.  Continue to rush while trying to fit in more tasks than you have time for, letting your temper boil over when anyone gets in your way.  Drive around town like a bat out of hell. 7.  Eat plenty of snacks and drink coff