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Showing posts from September, 2019

Unplug: Why You Should Take an Internet Intermission

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I love the internet.  I wouldn't have this blog without it.  We wouldn't connect via Facebook, Instagram, or email without the internet.  The internet makes extensive research easier and opens up tons of news and entertainment options. But we need to get away from the internet sometimes.  It's open 24/7/365, and we're not.  We can't be.  It's too much.  We need to take breaks from our phones and computers so we can enjoy real life. And when we get back to our phones and computers, they need to be tools we control, not addictions that control us . Courtney Carver, author of Soulful Simplicity , has made it a goal to unplug one day a week.  That's 52 days a year.  52 days a year "to trade what's online for what's right in front of us." 4 Steps to an Internet Intermission 1.  Schedule it. Pick a 24-hour block that works well for you.  It might be a certain day (like Sunday), or it might straddle two days (like Friday after wor

Travel Light

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Photo by Dawid Zawila on Unsplash When we travel, we have the perfect opportunity to try a different lifestyle. Packing for travel is a bit like decluttering.  You have to consider carefully which clothes you'll need, which toiletries and accessories.  Maybe you make a list.  As you pack, you might think of a few additional items it would be nice to have, just in case.  But you're still limiting your choices -- you're only going to take a fraction of your possessions, after all. As you roll your suitcase out the door, are you full of excitement and anticipation, or are you worried that you've forgotten something important?  Hopefully, you let that sense of freedom take over and realize that you'll probably do just fine with what you have.  You know you packed the really important stuff, because those things were on your list. When you arrive at your destination, you're greeted by a clean, uncluttered hotel room with its freshly made bed.  You have

Single-Task

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Many of us have (or had) jobs that require juggling two or three tasks at a time while continuing to be available to bosses or clients.  Or we meet the needs of two or three young children while managing household tasks and honoring volunteer commitments. It can be crazy.  Rushed and overwhelmed, you repeatedly lose focus and have to backtrack, trying to remember where you left off.  You can't give your attention to one thing at a time, so everything takes longer, and any minor holdup can become a major meltdown. Before you know it, the day is over and you feel like you did nothing well .  Perhaps you commute, switching your attention between driving, making phone calls, and trying to get through that audio book everyone's talking about. You're in a hurry, and mentally review your to-do list:  pick up your kid at school, get her to dance class, run to the post office and the grocery store, pick her up again, drive home fast to let the dog out before he has an

Rethink Leisure

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Sitting is the new smoking. Have you seen those headlines?  In the sense that they're both linked to a lot of health threats, then yes, sitting and smoking do have a lot in common. Here's where they aren't alike:  Smoking is much less widespread.   A growing number of cities, states, and countries have enacted laws that ban smoking in all work and public places, including restaurants and bars.  The Centers for Disease control reports that the number of smokers in the U.S. has fallen to a record low. But sitting is far more acceptable.  In fact, we all do more of it than ever.  Most of us have jobs that require little or no physical exertion.  We might do a little standing, lifting, and walking around, but mostly we sit. When we go home, we sit some more, watching hours and hours of TV , streaming services, or You Tube, and scrolling on various social media. The thing that Americans do most often with their free time is not cooking or hiking or pursuing a hobb

Quality, not Quantity

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We took our 3-year-old grandson to the park a few days ago.  He had one toy truck with him -- a very sturdy plastic dump truck.  That little truck was his constant companion for two hours, and when his mama put him in the car seat to go home, he was still cradling it. He has many toy cars and trucks of all sizes at home, and several at our house too.  But when there's only one to play with, that one is cherished.  It almost takes on a personality as he tells stories about what that toy can do.  Go to the beach, play in the sand, play in the bathtub, hold water, dump rocks, roll down the slide to be caught at the bottom....  It's Super Truck! I have one pair of fit-over sunglasses given to me by my son.  They're oversized, designed to be worn over my prescription bifocals, and I love them because I can see near or far while I'm wearing them.  They have wide arms which incorporate a small area of tinted lens, so even my peripheral vision is protected from UV gl

Preserve Public Works

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Some of our greatest treasures are things we don't own, and never can.  All we can do is be grateful and enjoy them: the beauties of nature, music, and art the comfort of good relationships the incredible blessings of good health and an active mind   Think of the valuable public works from which we can all benefit: libraries public parks highways and road maintenance crews law enforcement fire protection water treatment plants garbage removal services public schools and universities health departments government-supported scientific and medical research These good things can be available to everyone.  Yes, they're supported by property taxes, gasoline taxes, and sales taxes, but those are paid by everyone proportionally.  The rich pay more because they buy and travel more, and their property is more valuable.  The poor pay less for all the same reasons.  But everybody contributes, so that everybody can benefit. About public schools, US president John Adams wrote, "

One In, One Out

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Photo by Teddy Kwok on Flickr In decluttering, you identify the belongings you use the most and like the best, the items of the highest quality.  You release things you don't like or use, and all of those multiples you've accumulated.  Next, you find a home for each of the possessions you've chosen to keep. Using containers such as boxes, bins, drawers, shelves, and closets, you put everything away.  Your items will no longer pile up or drift around homeless; each has a place to belong.  As you gain a clear idea of how much each container will hold, you are able to place limits on what you keep:  how many shirts will hang in your closet, how many pairs of socks will go in their designated drawer, how many books will fit on your shelves, how many bins of holiday decorations will fit in the cupboard in the garage. By respecting the physical limits of your space, the things you own can stay organized and uncluttered. But minimalism isn't a choice you make onc

Dare to Non-Conform

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As a teenager, I often argued with my mother, usually ending with a comment like, "You just don't get me, Mom.  I have to be myself!"  Which is funny in retrospect, because I was always desperately trying to conform to what my peers were doing. Even as adults, we continue to try to fit in.  Look at a typical group of friends, and you'll often see similar hair styles and colors, similar clothes, similar manicures, similar phone cases, even similar gestures and vocal inflections. If we're the one person in a group that doesn't conform, we tend to think that the others are "normal" and we aren't.  We think there may be something wrong with us if we're too different from everyone else, and we worry that others will ignore or reject us if we aren't like them.  That can feel scary. But being "normal" is overrated.  Sometimes we forget we don't have to do what everyone else is doing.  Being unique, finding our own passions

Memories, Not Mementos

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Updated July 2022 - Why do we keep boxes of mementos that we'll never look at again? Here are three reasons, and a simple strategy for enjoying more memories with less. My father kept a box in our garage which contained – among other things – old French and English primers, math textbooks, his vintage drafting instruments, and his father's early 20th century brass microscope.  At one time his wooden chess set lived there too, but it made its way into the house and we all played with it.   My brother claimed the long-hidden microscope after my father passed away, but the lens had clouded after years in the garage.  The books had to be dumped – they had been ruined by bugs, heat, and moisture.  (My daughter has the chess set, still in use .) How often do we keep things because we think we should ?  We don't use them, we don't even look at them.  We pile them in the attic or basement and let them molder. My grandfather's microscope no longer looked like this. Photo c

Love Limits

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Photo by Marivi Pazos on Unsplash His hair is sweaty and his face looks hot, but he doesn't slow down. Up, across, down, run back, up, across, and down again.  The sweat slips down his cheek, but his eyes are alight with eagerness and fun. He's my three-year-old grandson, and if I didn't call him over for a sip of lemonade now and again, he'd climb and slide and run around the play structure until he dropped from exhaustion.  He has no idea of limits. He may take only one bite of his grilled cheese, but could eat "yummy wallypops" all day if I'd give them to him.  He needs a bit of firmness at bath time or clean-up toys time or bedtime, or he'd never be clean or rested until fatigue took over.  He needs to be slowed down and reminded to wash his hands, or he'd just run out of the bathroom to play some more.  He can be quiet, but rarely chooses that state.  He needs the discipline of limits so he can stay healthy, comfortable, and soci

20 Ways to Increase Your Happiness by Being Kind

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Updated July 2022 - Kindness has a boomerang effect. Shout at someone or give them the finger in traffic, and you can be sure that they or someone else will do the same to you. Smile and wave, and you'll get the same response back (even from a stranger). Our behavior is like a mirror, an echo, a boomerang – what we give is what we get . Doing good makes you feel good. Studies show that when we are kind to others (even in small ways) we become happier, but self-indulgence doesn't increase our feelings of well-being.  Researchers found that the more generous and helpful people were, the more purposeful their lives felt.  Knowing they were useful and needed made them happy. This finding demonstrates the opposite of what advertisers want us to believe.   As long as your basic needs are met, acquiring more won't make you happier.  Your life won't improve if you buy the next hot item or luxury upgrade.  But removing the excess and busyness so you can pursue your life pu

Journal Your Gratitude

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I can stand in the middle of certain stores and pick up plenty of items that might "spark joy."  I'll bet you can too.  But there's a ripple effect to retail therapy.  When I look for joy in belongings, I always need the thrill of something new.  Contentment is short-lived, because the next acquisition beckons.  Then I need more space to store stuff, more time to take care of stuff, and more stuff to keep me interested once I've tired of the "old stuff." If you've ever turned to shopping as a source of comfort and pleasure, I'd like to suggest a powerful replacement. The practice of gratitude actually changes your brain in multiple positive ways. Current research shows that gratitude increases serotonin levels, improving sleep, mood, and metabolism.  Even more interesting, an attitude of thankfulness stimulates the production of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that's activated when something good unexpectedly happens.  While acquiring

Identity -- It's Not What You Own

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We all need love, acceptance, community, and a sense of accomplishment.  These factors contribute to our mental health and self esteem. Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash Psychologists such as Abraham Maslow have demonstrated that once our basic physical needs are met, we embark on a path to self-improvement.  Whether that leads us to seek out new experiences, new skills, new possessions, or a new look, we always want something more and different. This drive has a positive side.  Invention and innovation have always come from the urge to be and do more and better.  Dissatisfaction with the status quo has created tools, machines, art, music, democracy, and movements for human rights and social justice. But it doesn't always lead to happiness. Unfortunately, the desire to "be all you can be" also fuels discontent.  I know you've felt it, when everything you've already done or acquired feels like old news. We're always trying to enhance our looks, o