Monday, January 27, 2020

Kinder Consumption

Graphic by Sarah (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


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, 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.