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Showing posts from December, 2019

The 30-Day Habit Challenge

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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

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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

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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

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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

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(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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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