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.




4 Ways to Simplify Your Schedule

1.  Let go of one commitment.
Our schedules are crazy because we say yes to everything.  Then we rush around and feel the stress of being too busy, and we begin to feel resentment and regret.  Simplify your life by letting go of just one commitment.  What isn't fulfilling to you right now?  What can you get out of doing by saying that you can no longer make it a priority?  Say no with confidence.  (Bonus tip:  Do the same for your children's commitments.)

2.  Single-task.
The next activity you choose to do, do only that.  Close your browser, put your phone away, and just do that one thing.  If you're reading, focus on that until you're done reading.  If you take a walk, don't bring music or an audio book, simply walk and focus on nature or the people around you.  Just eat a meal, just wash the dishes, just answer your emails.  This is a simple idea, and you can do it right now.

3.  Say goodbye to FOMO.
We often let ourselves get too busy out of fear we'll miss an important event or opportunity.  Let's get real, shall we?  We are going to miss things.  We aren't equally good at everything, and we can't be everywhere at once.  It's far better to focus on the people and events we most value and enjoy.  By concentrating our talents and attention, we'll get more out of every experience.

4.  Limit the noise.
  • Delete text and email alerts (except for your spouse and children who need to be able to reach you), and only check those things at certain times of the day (for example, once in the morning and once in the evening).
  • Create a tech-free zone (the bedroom works particularly well for this).
  • Don't use the TV as background noise.  Turn it off unless you're actually sitting in front of it.
  • Keep one day a week as a face-to-face communication day, and stay off social media for that day.


Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash






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.




6 Ways to Simplify Shared Spaces

1.  Declutter a pile of paper.
Look for a pile where it doesn't belong, such as the kitchen counter or the dining table.  Quickly sort through and handle everything once.
  • Catalogs, coupon circulars, and junk mail should be recycled immediately.
  • Bills go to a designated spot on your desk.
  • Papers that need to be kept (insurance or tax documents, for example) should be filed now.
  • Invites or appointment reminders should be put on your calendar now.  Recycle the notices.
  • Magazines should be put in a designated place.  Consider whether you actually make time to read them or if you should cancel your subscriptions.
  • Children's school work should go into a designated file or box.  Once a week, choose the best and recycle the rest.  Every month or two, choose the best from that saved pile and recycle the others.  At the end of the school year you'll have a handful of top-notch items to store permanently in a keepsake box.
  • "Real" mail, such as greeting card or a letter, should be savored, but unless it's a marriage proposal or a letter from your grown child thanking you for being such an awesome parent, display it on a bulletin board for no longer than a week.  Then recycle it.

Now that you've taken care of the pile, promise yourself to handle the incoming mail and other papers every day.  This habit will take only a few minutes, and then NO MORE PILES!

2.  Clear off the top of your dining or coffee table.
You may have already done this with your dresser, so you know how quickly this one task can change the look of an entire room.  Take five minutes to clear away everything, toss it or put it away, and dust or polish the wood.  Replace no more than two items, such as a plant, a fruit bowl, a flat basket for magazines and remotes, or a favorite decorative item.  Whenever you use the table, return it to this state afterwards.

3.  Put away the toys.
If you have children, you know that toys can migrate all over the house (ditto family members' hobby supplies).  Take a few minutes with your child before bedtime and make sure that all toys get put away.  If this task seems overwhelming, consider the benefits of owning fewer toys.  Meanwhile, help your children learn the importance of putting things away once they've finished with them (and practice this skill yourself).

4.  Pare down your dishes and cookware.
Many people have accumulated far more plates, bowls, cups, gadgets, and things like omelet pans and cutting boards than they ever use.  Realistically, how many does your family need?  How many will actually fit into the dishwasher at one time?  You probably have plenty of duplicates.  Find all of those extras, and declutter them today.  Keep the dishes and cooking tools you like the best, and use them regularly.  If you love holiday china, consider keeping only the dinner plates, or just the Santa mugs.  Once you've streamlined the number of kitchen items, your cupboards and shelves will be less crowded, and your counters will be easier to keep clean and ready for use.

5.  Tackle one junk drawer or closet.
Set a timer for five minutes, and dare yourself to remove everything and only return what you actually use.  You may be surprised how quickly you can make decisions when challenged, and you might discover that you don't need so many junk drawers and crowded closets after all!

6.  Clear out your car.
Our vehicles accumulate a lot of clutter, such as mail, empty water bottles, receipts, coins, CDs or DVDs, toys, even trash.  Use two bags, one for garbage and one for things that need to be put away somewhere else.  If you have an extra minute or two, use a damp cloth to wipe down the dash, steering wheel, and cup holders, or a hand-held vacuum to give the floors and mats a quick clean.  You'll appreciate the difference the next time you go for a drive. 



 Photo by Emma Fiala on Apartment Therapy





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.

If you insist on getting everything perfect today, you might be setting yourself up for failure.  And once you go back on a radical promise, you'll feel helpless to make any changes.  You might believe you're stuck where you are and have no choice in the matter.

Don't give up your ability to change.

Take a simple path to minimalism.  Don't try to clear out every last bit of clutter this weekend.  Just simplify one thing.  Make it completely doable.  Choose something from this list and do it today.  Continue it tomorrow and the day after.  When you are ready, try one of the other ideas I'll be sharing over the next few posts.



3 Quick Ways to Simplify Your Personal Space

1.  Make your bed.
I know, I sound like your mother.  But the whole bedroom looks better when the bed is made, and it really does make a clear, fresh start to the day.  My bed used to have a dust ruffle and a bunch of decorative pillows, and it only looked good if I fussed with it.  Now I have a solid-color quilted coverlet and one decorative pillow.  I merely pull up and smooth the sheets and coverlet, fluff our sleeping pillows and place them at the head of the bed, and center the decorative pillow in front of them.  Pare back on your bed's decorative items if it will make the task easier, and make your bed today.

2.  Clear off the top of your dresser.
Dresser tops are catch-alls for eyeglasses, receipts, phones, loose change, used Kleenex, empty mugs, books, cords, TV remotes, stray toys and more.  This level of clutter is not exactly restful!  Take five minutes to clear away everything, toss it or put it away, and dust or polish the wood.  Replace just two or three items such as a lamp, a special framed photo, a jewelry box, a scented candle, or a green plant.  Now practice keeping it this way!

3.  Clear the bathroom counter and cabinet.
Take everything off and out, and clean the area.
  • Remove all decorative items.  The only thing you need on your bathroom counter is hand soap.  If they are used multiple times per day, you might add a tube of hand cream or a box of tissues.  A (nearly) empty counter is far easier to keep clean and ready for use.
  • Dump half-used beauty products that you didn't like down the sink (it's where they go anyway when you use them), and recycle the empty bottles.  
  • Donate unopened potions and makeup you bought on a whim, unless you can make a plan to use them in the next one to three months.
  • Put unused or expired medications in a sealed plastic bag mixed with coffee grounds or kitty litter to discourage scavengers.
  • Return only the items you use every day.  They'll be easier to find and to keep organized.

Now it becomes your daily task to keep your bathroom counter and cabinet clutter-free. 



Photo by Christopher Jolly on Unsplash






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.

How do you know if you should declutter?  What is clutter?

We are all different, of course, and a house that looks like squalor and disaster to one person might be identified as "a bit messy" by another.  So deciding whether to simplify and discard is a personal choice.  But there are some indications that the situation is getting out of control.



5 Signs of Clutter

1.  You see a LOT of stuff.
As you look around a room, there's definitely a lot of "visual noise."  Things are piled on top of other things, and spread all over the floor.  Merely owning a large number of possessions doesn't indicate a clutter problem, but it's worth consideration.

2.  The stuff is out of place.
If you see a plate and fork in the middle of the floor, you know it doesn't belong there.  Dishes and silverware have a very specific home, and it's not on the floor.  A pile of clothes on the couch or the counter looks like clutter.  Cases of soda or toilet paper in the entry hall or on top of the washing machine look like clutter.

3.  The stuff is untidy.
A large shelf with dozens of beautifully arranged books doesn't look like clutter.  It looks like a loved and cared-for collection.  However, if the books are stacked haphazardly, piled on top of and behind each other, and covered in dust, then the whole situation starts to look like clutter.

4.  The influx of stuff is greater than the outflow.
This is a common occurrence for many of us.  There are so many occasions for which buying things is expected -- holidays, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, graduations, baby showers, retirement parties, and more.  But we don't have comparable occasions for removing stuff from our homes.  Perhaps during spring cleaning or yard sale season some of us do a partial purge, but it is not a regular routine.  And we almost never think about reducing the inflow.

5.  You justify keeping stuff because it was a gift, or because you don't want to "waste" it.
If you're worried that letting go of something you have no use for makes you wasteful, but you simply store the item and never find a use for it, then you haven't solved your problem!  As decluttering expert Peter Walsh says, "Creating a landfill in your home does not mean you're saving the environment.  You just moved the garbage!"

The same applies to gifts.  If you have no use for something, you should be able to declutter it without guilt.  An item that comes with obligations is not a gift at all.  It's a manipulation.  A true gift is freely given as a token of affection.  If the object itself does not enhance your life, you should feel free to remove it.  It has already served its purpose as an expression of love.  But if you struggle with guilt or the feeling that you "betray" someone when you don't keep his gift, you may develop a problem with clutter.


How do you know you should declutter?

  • Your home is packed full of objects that you don't truly need, use, or want, but that you can't seem to get rid of.
  • You feel overwhelmed and out of control with your possessions.
  • Your mind isn't as happy, relaxed, and focused as it could be.
  • You regularly "lose" things and spend time searching for necessities (or you wind up replacing them because they remain buried somewhere).
  • The stuff you own creates tensions in your relationships and interferes with your family's well-being.
  • The stuff you own fills your living space, hallways, spare rooms, attics, basements, sheds, garages, and off-site storage.  In other words, it's squeezing you and everyone else out.
  • You simply don't know where to start making a change.

Keep reading for help.


P.S. Check out my book, Minimalism A to Z, for practical strategies that help you discover and make room for the belongings and activities that really matter to you, while minimizing everything else.



Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash





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.

We adults seem to be addicted to our smartphones and tablets.  According to Adam Alter, author of Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, the typical smartphone owner is on his device for three hours a day, although almost 40% of us spend up to seven hours every day immersed in our personal screens.  In other words, between 20% and 40% of our waking lives is lost to checking email, texting, playing games, surfing the Web, checking sports scores, and so on.

Computers, televisions, and gaming consoles soak up even more of our time and attention.  During these hours, we are not doing other things (no wonder we have no time to do our own grocery shopping, mow our own lawns, or keep up with laundry).

Of course, digital communication makes it possible to stay connected with people we love who are far away.  Unfortunately, the same technology has the effect of putting distance between people who share the same home.

We are spending a significant chunk of life unavailable to people who are physically present.

But there's more.  "Screens have rushed into childhood at the pace of an avalanche," writes Meghan Cox Gurdon, author of The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction.  This change has made "children more likely to spend their time online than any other place."

According to Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, the amount of time kids spent online doubled between 2006 and 2016.  And since the widespread adoption of smartphones and tablets, Twenge and her colleagues have recorded a plunge in young people's emotional well-being.

"We found that teens who spent more time seeing their friends in person, exercising, playing sports, attending religious services, reading or even doing homework were happier," Twenge has written.  "However, teens who spent more time on the internet, playing computer games, on social media, texting, using video chat or watching TV were less happy....  Every activity that involved a screen was linked to less happiness."

Parents can buy apps and games that promise to stimulate their infants' brains.  Child-friendly devices claim to be able to teach small children their colors or their math facts.  Even Parents magazine (which should know better) has gushed that "Fun and kid-friendly iPhone applications keep your tot busy and learning on the go."

These claims are seductive, but there's something the suppliers of child-oriented tech will never admit.  Their products are inferior.  They are no match for parents and grandparents who actually talk and read to their children.  Nothing is as effective for teaching and nurturing a young mind as a fallible, yet physically present and attentive human being.

Numerous experiments show this to be true.  In 2010, a team at the University of Virginia investigated the effect of a bestselling DVD that promised to teach vocabulary to infants.  Participating families were divided into three groups.  One group of parents watched the DVD with their 12- to 18-month-old children several times a week for one month.  In the second group, the children watched by themselves with the same frequency.  The third group didn't view the DVD at all, but parents were asked to introduce the target vocabulary words during normal conversation with their children.

One month later, when the children were tested, it was discovered that the DVD had no educational value at all.  It didn't matter if the children had watched the DVD alone or with a parent.  The words did not travel from the screen to their minds.  The babies who didn't watch the DVD, but instead heard the words spoken by their parents, had learned the words.

This experiment has been replicated many times, always with the same result.  In fact, a 2017 study concluded that young children learned six to eight fewer vocabulary words for each hour of baby DVDs they watched compared to children who saw no videos (presumably because during the hours of watching DVDs, they participated in no human conversations).

A 2015 study at the University of Arizona, Flagstaff, found that parents and children who played with electronic toys spoke less to each other than the parents and children who were asked to play with traditional toys like blocks, dolls, and books.  The machines made the noises; the people gradually became silent.  In fact, the best object for eliciting parental chatting and infant vocalizing turned out to be a picture book.

Other studies have established a huge difference in the brain activity of a child looking at a picture book and having the story read to her as compared to a child watching a video.  In the former situation, fMRI scans show brain activity in all higher-order brain networks.  While watching the video, however, "the brain stops doing anything, except for visual perception," explains Dr. John Hutton, a pediatrician at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital.  "The child is seeing the story and watching it, but not integrating this with other higher-order brain networks....  Too much screen time is a setup for atrophy, or underdevelopment of these higher-order brain networks."

It's easy to hand a device to a child and tell him to "be quiet and watch this video."  It lets us be lazy and self-centered.  But the effects are less than optimal.  In fact, screen time, especially in children younger than five or six, may stunt brain development.  It may contribute to children becoming less imaginative and more passive, with greater dependence on having information and ideas given to them by an outside source.

It's a huge problem, especially as screens become smaller, more affordable, and more portable.  There are fewer and fewer barriers to their use.

You know how you feel when someone ignores you in favor of her phone, or when conversation is interrupted so she can show you the "amazing video" she found on YouTube.  Imagine how it feels to a child to be continually interrupted and ignored in favor of a small machine.  And with increasing isolation comes feelings of unhappiness, disconnection, apathy, even hostility toward others.

Parents, it's your job to create the barriers.  Please -- do it for yourself, and do it for your children.



P.S.  If you enjoyed this post and found the information valuable, you may appreciate my new book, The Minimalist Family: How You and Your Children Can Find More Joy with Less, available now on Amazon Kindle and in a beautiful paperback edition.



photo by McKaela Lee on Unsplash











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.

This is one minimalist change that you may not even notice if you slow down and savor whatever it is you're eating or drinking.  It's a really effortless way to take in fewer calories and less sugar, fat, and whatever else you're trying to avoid.  She adds, "The fun thing is that you can implement it today without any planning, fanfare, or deprivation!"

This is a good example of what on the surface appears to be something that is too trivial to make any difference.  But that's the beauty of it!  It is one simple decision -- not a list of rules to follow or figure out for every meal or snack, not a tedious journal of calculations and trade-offs.

It's one decision one time and for every circumstance.

A small size, consistently chosen, over time makes the difference between maintaining a healthy weight and NOT.  Oh, how I wish I had figured out this simple idea decades ago!  And yet, although it is a simple idea, it's not how most people make decisions.

Especially here in America, we're always conscious of getting our "money's worth."  The large size is only 60 cents more?  Go big.  Two for the price of one?  Get two.  Buffet dining?  Fill that plate, and then fill it again.  Never mind that you're now full of discomfort and regret.  You paid for it -- you're going to get what you paid for!

We make money decisions the same way.  If you can qualify for a $350,000 home loan, then you're going to spend all of it!  Never mind that it's just you, the hubby, and the dog.  That five bedroom, three bath behemoth will give you room to spread out.  And then you fill it with furniture and decor and other stuff, because an empty room or an empty wall would make it obvious that you don't need so much space.  That three-car garage is going to be filled with three vehicles too (or not -- your stored stuff might force the vehicles toward the driveway and the curb).

We minimalists can buck the trend!  Narrow your focus and sharpen your gaze.  Can you make one decision one time and for every circumstance?  Make it a statement -- your signature behavior.

"I always..."

  • choose size small.
  • add a vegetable.
  • park at the far end of the lot.
  • take the stairs.
  • save $50 (or another amount) automatically from every paycheck.
  • shop local and second-hand before considering other options.
  • write 200 words first thing every morning.

Or "I only..."

  • drink water with meals.
  • eat between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
  • eat meat on the weekends.
  • carry a credit card when I'm traveling.
  • shop on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
  • spend 30 minutes a day on social media.
  • wear a 33-item wardrobe.

Let's go small to meet our big goals.




Photo by Jeremy Yap on Unsplash




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.

Sometimes, because we've failed before, or because we think we're too busy, too old, too broke, too tired, or too something to change, we allow the roadblock to kill our motivation.

Other times we go ahead and jump in with both feet -- I call this the "whole new me" approach.  We make a gigantic vow.  Our motivation lasts for maybe two days, and then we decide it's too hard.  We mess up, or lose interest, or simply forget.  We label ourselves ("I'm too _______") and stay stuck in our rut.

You know what?  We aren't too anything.  We're just scared.  We fear disappointment.  We fear failure.  We fear what others may think.  But saying "I'm too _______" is easier than facing those fears.

My dad used to say that if something could be done in one minute or less (hang up your coat, turn off the light, sort through the mail, etc.), then you should stop making excuses and just DO IT NOW.  That used to annoy me (he said it a lot), but now I see the wisdom in his statement.

Big change comes from hundreds of tiny steps.

Maybe you want to become debt free, lose 80 pounds, write a book, quit watching TV, sell your house, travel the world, eat more vegetables, home school your kids, give up sugar, dump tobacco, or hike the John Muir Trail.  Start making a change the moment you feel inspired.  Instead of letting yourself get sidetracked, or attempting to change everything at once, take one tiny step immediately.  What can you do in one minute?



4 Steps to a New Habit

1.  Write your goal.
Write it on a dozen Post-Its, and hang them everywhere.  Read it back to yourself, and keep reading it every day.  

2.  Tell a friend or loved one about your goal.  
Choose someone you trust, who will be encouraging, rather than someone who might point out how hard it will be to reach your goal, or who might say, "Why on earth would you want to do that?"  Ask that person to check in with you as you progress.

3.  Make a list of 3 to 5 tiny steps that will move you toward your goal.  
This is just the beginning, not a complete "conquer it" plan.  For example, to give up sugar, you could start by leaving it out of your coffee.  Next you might leave it out of your oatmeal and use cinnamon and a few raisins for sweetening instead.  Then you might give up your mid-morning sugary snack and have an apple or a cheese stick or some raw almonds instead.  You get the idea.

4.  Begin the first tiny habit.
What is a tiny habit?  Let's say you want to improve your fitness.  Your tiny habit could be that you will jog in place or do jumping jacks for one minute every single day.  I know, one minute sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?  It's like choosing to forgo sugar in your coffee while you eat a piece of pie.  So what's stopping you from doing it right now?  Go ahead, I'll wait.

* * *

I'm going to guess that you exercised for more than one minute, which is fantastic.  But you didn't have to in order to meet your goal.  With such an easy-to-reach goal, you have a better chance of continuing day by day until it's a habit.  

Practice your new habit every day, and as it becomes a part of your normal routine, gradually increase the time you devote to it.  Before long you'll be exercising for 10 or 15 minutes every day, which will bring a ton of health benefits, from increased cardiovascular endurance and higher metabolic rate, to improved cognitive performance and a more positive outlook on life.  All starting from one minute every day.

You can use the same method to eat more fruits and vegetables (add one every day), to keep mail and other paperwork under control (take one minute to recycle/file/respond every day), to declutter (toss or donate one item every day), or to make yourself happier (write down one thing you're grateful for, sit in the sun for one minute, or meditate for one minute every day).

Don't try to be impressive, just be consistent.

Stephen Guise, author of Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results, calls these changes "too small to fail."  When you do a tiny habit every day, you enjoy immediate success, find it easy to exceed your goal, and continuously move forward.  You control your behavior by completing a very simple task, and over time this practice creates new, better habits.

Is there a change you've been contemplating?  A new direction you feel led to take?  A daydream you want to turn into reality?  Take one silly, tiny step toward that goal NOW!



P.S.  Don't forget the free book deal on the Amazon Kindle edition of my new book!  It starts at midnight (Pacific Standard Time), just as Wednesday, February 5 begins, and continues until midnight on Saturday, February 8.  The Minimalist Family is also available in a beautiful paperback edition. 

(Photo courtesy of Elizabeth H.)







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!