Friday, April 3, 2020

MINIMALIST TOOL KIT: Take the Declutter Dare





Do you have a lot of pent up energy since you're spending so much time at home with so few places to go?  Why not take the Declutter Dare?

Get the whole family involved and follow this link for instructions that will help you to declutter 100 items in just one hour.  YES YOU CAN!

Why not leave a comment below if you take this challenge?  Were you successful?  Was it worthwhile?  How do you feel now?



P.S.  If you enjoyed this challenge, you might like my book Uncluttered.  It's a comprehensive handbook for a simpler life; a creative, encouraging, multi-faceted guide to help you remove the stuff that's bogging you down so you can gain focus and peace.



Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash





The Rewards of Quarantine





As our homes become sanctuaries from the Covid-19 pandemic, they are once again restored to the center of our lives.

I'm feeling cabin fever as much as the next person, but I've also been realizing how much of my life has migrated away from home in the last few years.  During this time


  • we are not traveling outside our home states or countries, unless by unavoidable necessity.
  • we are not commuting to an office, if it's at all possible to work from home.
  • we are not eating out in restaurants (although we may be ordering meals online, we're consuming them in our own dining rooms).
  • we are not seeking recreation away from home, since outside options for shopping, socializing, and other diversions have shrunk to nearly zero.

The World Health Organization has advised people to manage their mental well-being as much as their physical health.  For those who have self-isolated, the WHO suggests eating healthily, keeping regular sleep routines, and reviving hobbies.

But is this advice enough for people hunkered down at home with feelings of fear, loneliness, and sadness?


Monday, March 30, 2020

Precious Time




We all know that time is precious because it's finite. 

But most of us have an uneasy relationship with time.  We feel like it's rushing past us, like we don't have enough of it.  We constantly complain that we're too busy, and we feel stressed about time.



Friday, March 27, 2020

Cope With Loneliness and Stress (Part 2)





Perhaps you're feeling melancholy and isolated at home during the current unprecedented situation.  Your anxiety levels may be up as you worry about world medical events, the economic fallout of Covid-19, or even shortages of fresh food and toilet paper.

We do need to remember that for the vast majority of people who get sick, hospitalization won't be necessary.  They can self-quarantine as if they have a bad cold, and they're going to be okay.



Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Cope With Loneliness and Stress (Part 1)





Are you feeling isolated and lonely at home during this Covid-19 pandemic?  Are you struggling with worry and sadness?

Many of us occasionally fall into periods of melancholy.  For some, it may be winter weather that brings it on (for me, it's the relentless heat and glare of summer).  When ordinary habits and routines are disrupted, it's easy to feel a sense of futility.  That can make you (or your children) less productive, less cooperative, more grumpy, and more prone to unhealthy snacking, impulse buying, and the influence of advertising.



Monday, March 23, 2020

In the White Space





As most of us shelter in place and practice social distancing, one of our most stunning lifestyle changes is a calendar full of white space.

Like many of you, almost all of my away-from-home activities have been suspended or canceled altogether.  Unlike a typical break or vacation, I can't just meet a friend for coffee, go out to see a movie or a play with my husband, or take my grandson to the California State Railroad Museum, one of his favorite places.  I'm sure many of you will miss visiting the gym, the library, your church, or your favorite restaurant.



Friday, March 20, 2020

Uncluttered




Great news!  My latest book, UNCLUTTERED: Make Space and Time for the Life of Your Dreams, is now available for pre-order in the Kindle edition on Amazon.  I will also be publishing a beautiful paperback edition, available April 4th.



Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash










Spring Clean




I've been thinking that this time of enforced self isolation might be the perfect opportunity to do some home improvement.

And besides, the days are longer, the birds are busy, the first buds and leaves have appeared.  Everything is energized and ready to begin, and I've noticed a heavy, tired, even slightly grubby atmosphere in my house.  I'm ready to spring clean!

Perhaps your mother or grandmother immersed herself in a time-consuming, energy-depleting, rafters-to-baseboards scrubdown.  Maybe you were forced to help.  And maybe the thought of all of that labor is enough to make you want to run the vacuum cleaner through the middle of each room, hire someone to clean the windows, and call the job done.



Monday, March 16, 2020

Discover Your True Needs




Leo Babauta, who blogs at Zen Habits, has described a cycle we all go through:

Stage One -- Inspiration.
Something you read or hear about sparks an interest.

Stage Two -- Addition.
As you learn more about this new activity, and find new inspiration and ideas, you start to buy stuff.

Stage Three -- Contemplation.
At some point, you pause to consider and ask:  Is this really important to me?  If it is, what's the most essential part of it?  Can I pare down?

Stage Four -- Paring Down.
This is when you start to let go of things.  You figure out what's essential to what you have been doing and learning, and if you don't quit the entire activity (which can happen), you might keep just a few key things.  For example, if you start playing chess, you might buy a couple of fancy sets, a game clock, a bunch of books and apps, and start visiting several websites.  But in the paring down phase, you might decide that chess isn't important enough to keep in your life, or if it is, you only need your favorite set, two really useful books, and one website or app.  The rest you let go.



Friday, March 13, 2020

The Beauty of Boundaries




Some boundaries are so clear we have to obey them, like the "Do not enter" sign on a one-way street, or the bar that comes down just before a train goes through a crossing.  Other boundaries are more subtle, such as the amount of space we leave between ourselves and the person in front of us in line, or the fact that you may shake the hand of a new acquaintance, but you would never hug him.

Boundaries help us.  They keep us safe, preserve our personal space, enable us to cooperate with others, and keep most of our interactions polite.  And boundaries can do even more, if we will take the time and effort to erect and preserve them.



Monday, March 9, 2020

Would You Rather...




Have you ever played "Would You Rather..."?  It's a conversation game where participants must choose between two scenarios and explain why.

If you apply this game to your relationships, your stuff, and your home, you can start to see what you value and what really makes you happy.



Friday, March 6, 2020

30 Minimalist Habits - Part 2




Dear Kelly, Lisa, Trece, Judith, Betty, Bruce, Chris, Donna, and everyone:

Thank you so much for your interest in my new FREE resource, 30 Minimalist Habits.  Please request it using the Contact Form at the bottom of this page.  I need your email address in order to send it.  When you use the contact form, your privacy will be preserved, but I can actually reply to you and send the PDF.  Many have already requested 30 Minimalist Habits using the Contact Form, and I would love to send it out to all the rest of you also!

Best wishes,
Karen


Photo by Alyssa Stevenson on Unsplash





MINIMALIST TOOL KIT: Asset or Drain?





Here's a way of thinking about purchases that might help you avoid bringing wasteful clutter into your home:  Is the item you want to purchase going to be an asset, or is it going to be a drain?

An asset enhances your life and is more than worth the cost and effort of acquisition, storage, and upkeep.



Wednesday, March 4, 2020

30 Minimalist Habits




Please check out the new FREE resource I've created for you!  30 Minimalist Habits will inspire you to simplify your schedule, your home, your diet, and your priorities while encouraging you to make more room and time for relationships, creativity, fun, gratitude, and peace.

To receive 30 Minimalist Habits, request it using the Contact Form at the bottom of this page.




Photo by Arthur Trefzger





Monday, March 2, 2020

Decluttering Quick-Start Guide, Part 4





Overly complex routines can make us feel swamped with too many choices or mired in drudgery.  Tasks like laundry, grocery shopping, yard work, and meal preparation must be done, but we can find ways to streamline the work, or turn it into an opportunity to improve our health, relationships, and well-being.



Friday, February 28, 2020

Decluttering Quick-Start Guide, Part 3





It's often true that a cluttered home is a symptom of an over-busy schedule and an over-commitment to screens instead of real life.

Now, I'm not suggesting that you should drop everything and pare your schedule down to yoga and meditation.  Just simplify one thing.  Make it a daily reality.  When you are ready, try one of the other ideas.  And we're not all the same.  "Simple" will be different for each of us.



Monday, February 24, 2020

Decluttering Quick-Start Guide, Part 2




I hope you're feeling a lift in your spirits since you've decluttered at least one of your personal spaces.  If you feel ready, declutter another personal space, or choose one of the following shared spaces for your next decluttering task.  And remember -- maintenance is key.  As you create new habits for yourself, you'll find that your daily life becomes smoother and more peaceful.  You'll feel calmer and more in control as you deal with the clutter that's been weighing you down.


Friday, February 21, 2020

Decluttering Quick-Start Guide, Part 1




You've decided you want to own and do less so that you can focus on what is truly essential to your happiness.  You want the simpler, clearer, freer life that minimalism promises.  But the task just seems SO OVERWHELMING.  Where can you start?

Some people make radical promises to themselves and actually succeed.  They quit smoking or they give up sugar, and once they take the plunge they don't look back.  The people I know who have managed to stick with such drastic, immediate changes always had a strong catalyst, usually a major health crisis.  But how can you manufacture a crisis that will make you simplify?  You can't just burn down your house.



Wednesday, February 19, 2020

IT'S COMING...




... the book I've been working on for more than a year.


UNCLUTTERED: 
Make Space and Time for the Life of Your Dreams


I have just a few more chapters to write, and then of course I need to do all of the editing and formatting.  But I'm starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Decluttering is a hot topic.  A lot of people are talking about it.  A lot of people want salvation from the frazzled, overstuffed lives they're leading.

UNCLUTTERED is going to be a comprehensive handbook for a simpler life -- not a one-size-fits-all approach, but a creative, encouraging, multi-faceted guide to help you
  • remove the stuff that's bogging you down
  • uncover a cleaner, more spacious home that welcomes and supports you
  • escape the consumer treadmill
  • overcome bad habits and practice better ones
  • highlight your favorite things and memories
  • gain focus and peace
  • discover a sense of freedom and accomplishment 

You can be happier with less, and UNCLUTTERED will show you how.

STAY TUNED!



Photo by Brian Mann on Unsplash





Monday, February 17, 2020

Clutter Defined




Does this sound like a typical morning in your home?  When you wake up, the first thing you see is a messy bedroom, with lots of unfinished projects and items that don't belong in the room.  This immediately sets an unpleasant tone for your day.

You get up and can't find a wearable outfit in your closet.  Either nothing goes together, nothing really fits, an item you want is dirty and possibly buried at the bottom of a pile of other dirty laundry, a button is missing from your favorite shirt, or you dug through your overburdened closet rail and half of the clothes fell to the floor.  In any case, you throw on whatever you can find and feel uncomfortable and unhappy.

You go to the kitchen, and one of your kids is frantically looking for her homework, which can't be found.  You're out of milk for breakfast, and all of the bowls seem to be in a dirty pile in the sink.  To top it off, your car keys are missing for the third time this week.  You feel frustrated and angry, and your stress levels are soaring -- and it isn't even 8:00 a.m.



Thursday, February 13, 2020

Love in Action




Shower the people you love with love,
Show them the way you feel,
Things are gonna be much better if you only will.

James Taylor




You know that actions speak louder than words, right?

Well, actions speak louder than gifts, too.

Do you really want to show love this Valentine's Day?  You can't buy it in a store.

  • Share hugs, kisses, high fives, fist bumps, and neck massages.
  • Call your mother.
  • Put down your phone, look him in the eye, and give him your undivided attention.
  • Reminisce about how you met, and happy times you've spent together.
  • Pay a sincere compliment.  Praising someone's outfit or hair style is nice, but acknowledging her kindnesses, her talents, and her smart ideas is even better.
  • Spread grace where it's needed.  Let bygones be bygones, and make the first move toward reconciliation.
  • Make his favorite food.
  • Notice a need and meet it before you're asked.
  • Spend time with your loved one doing something that she likes.  Learn about it and look for ways to enjoy it, even if it's not your cup of tea.
  • Do a chore that rightfully belongs to someone else.  Don't say anything -- just let him discover it done.
  • Speak positively, and try to go one day without complaining (it's harder than you think).
  • Sing her favorite love song (it's OK if you're not Pavarotti).
  • Write a love letter.  It can be serious or silly.

Happy Valentine's Day!



Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash





Monday, February 10, 2020

Rethink Screens





In 2011, a "parody for the next generation" was published by author "Ann Droyd" (illustrator David Milgrim).  Goodnight iPad destroys the serenity of the "great green room" of Margaret Wise Brown's beloved Goodnight Moon.  Instead of a little mouse, there's a robotic rodent with antenna emitting sound waves.  The comforting fire in the old illustrations is replaced with a fireplace video.  A whole family of rabbits, each oblivious to the others, is sprawled around a "bright buzzing room" full of technology.  And no one can sleep until the mother rabbit throws everyone's screens out the window.

Silly and over the top, of course, but this is the way most of us live now.  In less than one generation, the Internet has become the realm in which we spend most of our time.  It makes possible all sorts of wondrous things, but it is also a juggernaut:  huge, overwhelming, and all-consuming.



Friday, February 7, 2020

MINIMALIST TOOL KIT: Go Small




When you want the absolute best chance to succeed at anything you want, your approach should always be the same.  Go small....  Extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus.
Gary Keller, The One Thing


Recently, I enjoyed reading a blog post by Fiona Ferris, creator of howtobechic.com and author of several inspiring books, including Thirty Chic Days and Thirty Slim Days.  She shared her "favourite easy slimming tip" which is summarized by three words:  choose size small.

She explains:
Whenever you have the choice of a size to order, whether it's a coffee, chocolate bar, menu item, package size or even the size of a piece of fruit -- choose the smallest.  What I've found is that it's the first bites (or sips) of something that are the most pleasurable.


Monday, February 3, 2020

MINIMALIST TOOL KIT: Tiny Steps

My new book, The Minimalist Family, is now available on Amazon!  Starting at midnight (Pacific Standard Time), just as Wednesday, February 5 begins, I'm running a free book deal on the Kindle edition (also downloadable to your computer, tablet, or phone).  The deal continues until midnight on Saturday, February 8.




Can you remember a time you felt inspired to make a change in your life, to dump a bad habit or start a better one?  What happened?  Were you able to take action and accomplish that change, or did you hit a roadblock?

Here's what often happens to me:  I read a book or an article, watch a documentary, hear about or talk to someone who is changing their life, and I feel that surge of excitement.  I think, "Maybe I can do that too.  I want to make that change."  I'm motivated to go for it.

And then... pfffft.

  • I decide I need to do more research.
  • I get distracted by email or Pinterest.
  • I fix a snack.
  • I run a bunch of errands.
  • I'm tired.
  • I watch "just a couple" of episodes of my favorite TV show.
  • I have to make dinner.
  • Or worse, my inner critic jumps in and says, "You'll never change; don't bother."

Don't we all experience this?  We may love an idea, but actually making a change is hard.  It's easier to do what we've always done, even when we sense there's something better.


Saturday, February 1, 2020

My New Book!

I'm so excited to announce that the Kindle edition of my new book, The Minimalist Family: How You and Your Children Can Find More Joy with Less, is being readied for publication on Amazon.  It should be available by Monday, February 3.  Look for more information then!




Monday, January 27, 2020

Kinder Consumption


Graphic by Sarah L.com (shared by Rebecca Somogyi on Facebook)


We are all consumers.  We must consume to meet our needs and stay alive.  We need food, shelter, medical care.  We need clothing, communication, transportation, education.  We need, so we consume.

But our culture is focused on constant consumption, 24/7, without a thought for the cost to others or our planet.  The consumer society is self-centered and individualistic, placing value on what we possess, and idolizing those who indulge themselves in luxury and waste.  We have created a short-term, throwaway culture.

We also consume time, that precious, limited, God-given resource.  We waste a ton of it, mindlessly watching TV, playing video games, and scrolling through social media.  We squeeze most of the rest of it, priding ourselves on our busyness, gaining self-esteem by imagining we are indispensable because our calendars are crammed.  We shortchange necessities like relationships, creativity, and sleep in favor of our go-go time consumption.

Our use of time has become a great divider, according to Ruth Valerio, author of L is for Lifestyle: Christian Living That Doesn't Cost the Earth.  There are those who spend time to save money, and others who spend money to save time (so they can make more money).  Our culture is heavily invested in the latter, encouraging us to buy more smart devices and even hire people to fill our grocery carts.  The fact that we become chained to our jobs in order to afford the time-savers seems to escape our notice.  With that mindset, we'll be chronically short of time forever.


Monday, January 20, 2020

MINIMALIST TOOL KIT: Buyer's Remorse


Photo by Sahin Yesilyaprak on Unsplash


Open your closet door, dig past the first items you see, and look at ten things you've shoved toward the back.  Out of those ten things, how many of them fill you with buyer's remorse?  How many of them had you completely forgotten you owned?

Look at the last ten purchases on your Amazon account.  How many of them fill you with buyer's remorse?  How many of them had you completely forgotten?

Find an old grocery store or Target receipt.  How many items on that receipt fill you with buyer's remorse?  How many of them had you completely forgotten?

Look at your credit card statement.  Ask yourself the same two questions about the first ten purchases.

Don't despair.  No one is perfect at this test.  I'm certainly not.  Whenever I dig into closets or drawers or look at my Amazon history, I usually find at least a couple of items I've forgotten or feel that I wasted money on.  Why on earth did I buy this?

This kind of assessment can be painful, but it also provides insight into the quality of my buying decisions.  Honestly, they're not as good as they should be.  But they're better than they were before I started thinking like a minimalist.

It's good to feel that buyer's remorse.



Friday, January 17, 2020

Why Minimalism is Better for Kids


Photo by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash


The typical American family is drowning in stuff:  toys, clothes, electronics, trophies, paper, plastic.  It's a privilege to be able to afford this abundance, but when it comes to our kids, we're a nation of hyper-consumers.  Perhaps you've seen this statistic:  the US is home to just 3% of the world's children, but consumes 40% of the world's toys.

I'm going to let that sink in for just a moment.



Monday, January 13, 2020

Do Your Own Death Cleaning




"Do not ever imagine that anyone will wish -- or be able -- to schedule time off to take care of what you didn't bother to take care of yourself.  No matter how much they love you, don't leave this burden to them."
Margareta Magnusson The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning 


My mother passed away last February, and I'm glad for her sake that she suffered from dementia.  She never knew how much care she needed during the last two years of her life, and especially during the last six months, when she could no longer do anything for herself.  She would never have wanted to require that level of care; she would have felt that it made her a burden.

None of us wants to be a burden on our loved ones, either at the end of our life or afterward.  And yet that is what we may be without even realizing it.

Don't believe me?  Here's a simple question:  What will happen to all of your stuff when you die?  I don't mean your property or other assets that may be covered by your will.  I'm talking about your stuff -- the stuff in your house right now.  Your clothes and shoes and furniture and kitchenware and books and mementos.



Friday, January 10, 2020

We Have Something In Common


Photo by Thom Holmes on Unsplash


Dear Readers,

When I was growing up, I sometimes imagined the year 2000, but I never ever thought of 2020.  It sounds a bit like science fiction, doesn't it?

Sometimes, when you listen to the news of unrest and violence in the world, the escalating effects of climate change, the widening gap between rich and poor, the increasing reliance on technology instead of our own memories, intelligence, and physical abilities... it's easy to worry and fear the future.

Fear of the unknown is a natural human response.  We all have that "fight or flight" instinct, and we all probably lean more to one side or the other.  In the face of a challenging unknown, my brother is likely to become aggressive and take risks.  His "fight" instinct is stronger than mine.  I'm more likely to fret and hang back, to try and assess all possibilities before committing myself.

I want to be a person of faith and hope.  I want to take care of real life difficulties with patience, humor, energy, and positive feelings about the eventual outcome.  I want to remember that beauty and kindness and blessings are also daily realities.  But I must admit that I rarely come close to this ideal.



Monday, January 6, 2020

What Gets You Out Of Bed?


Photo by Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash



What makes you get out of bed, excited to begin the day?  I'm willing to bet it isn't a new outfit or doodad for your home, or even a new car.  Isn't it more likely to be


  • a long-anticipated event, such as a trip you've planned?
  • a challenge, such as opening night of the play you're in?
  • a visit with a much-missed loved one?
  • the beginning of a new project, or the long-awaited completion of a project?

Some of those things don't cost money.  They don't involve shopping at all.  A pleasure that quickly fades, like buying a new phone or eating another meal out, will never cause you to jump out of bed in the morning.


Friday, January 3, 2020

Choose Joy

This is a reprint of an article I wrote as a guest author for nosidebar.com, originally published on December 20, 2019.  I think it's worth starting the New Year with this message.


Photo by Andreas Kretschmer on Unsplash


Self-talk is the voice inside your head.  It makes no sound, but it's a constant narrator.  It controls your decisions, your actions, and your attitude toward yourself and your experience of the world.  And for most of us, self-talk is negative.

We may put on a good show, but many of us are mired in negative self-talk.  Have you noticed?  That insistent voice has added to your stress and anxiety for years, maybe even decades.  It has magnified your worries and lessened your happiness.  It turns small problems into big ones, and overlooks or plays down all that is lovely and praiseworthy.  It steals your joy.


Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Are You Ready For a Reset?


Photo by Danielle Macinnes on Unsplash


It's January 1:  a new year, a new decade, and a time when many people are thinking of a new start.

Now, I don't mean that your past needs to be dumped, or that you must leave your loved ones and launch into the world with nothing but a backpack.  I'm not saying you need to move house, change careers, or end relationships.

When my husband and I had to give up our house after the 2008 economic downturn, we could have decided to blame others and become bitter and mired in our own mistakes.  Instead, we chose to be thankful for the opportunity to start over and to find out how little our happiness depended on where we lived or what we owned.  We decided to reset, and it brought freedom, peace, and hope in place of the entrapment, stress, and regret we had lived with for too long.

A reset lets you get back to basics, to challenge assumptions and habits that have crept into your life.  It lets you notice and give thanks for all of the good stuff, and to start to free yourself from some not-so-good stuff.