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Showing posts from March, 2020

Precious Time

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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. Some of that is our own fault.  We may have one or both of these bad habits: We fear missing out on an important opportunity, or a valuable experience, so we say yes to every request for our time.  We jam-pack our schedules, and our children's schedules.  We let being hyper-busy measure our self-worth, instead of focusing on giving our best talents and energy to a few activities we deem essential.  We forget that when everything is labeled "important," nothing is. Often, because our use of time is so unfocused and so driven by FOMO and our need to feel important and worthwhile, we get fatigued and lose motivation.  Then we allow ourselves to wallow in time, to waste it with frivolous activ

Cope With Loneliness and Stress (Part 2)

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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. We don't know how long it will be until things return to normal, so it's important to create a "new normal" in your schedule at home.  Psychologist Dr. Robin Henderson believes it's best not to think too far ahead.  "I like to think of things in two-week chunks," she says.  "What's my life going to look like for the next two weeks, and how am I going to manage that?" So let's continue to look at strategies for coping with stress and loneliness that don't require medic

Cope With Loneliness and Stress (Part 1)

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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. It is possible to shake off these moods without resorting to pharmaceuticals.  Every one of the following suggestions is backed up with medical and psychological research, and none of them cost any money to try. Important note:  If feelings of sadness and depression persist over a long period or deepen to the point where they are seriously impairing your life, talk to a doctor as soon as possible.  Occasional melancholy may be

In the White Space

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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. In design, white space is not merely empty -- it has a purpose.  White space holds all other elements in balance, enabling them to stand out and be appreciated.  White space is calming; it lets us breathe. I don't want to downplay the economic impact of closed businesses, or the sense of isolation that can result from canceled events and services.  But during this unprecedented time, we have a chance to enj

Uncluttered

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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

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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. Unlike our ancestors, the majority of us don't heat our homes with open fires or light our rooms with candles or kerosene lamps.  We aren't forced to use either an icy privy at the back of the yard or a stinky chamber pot stored under the bed.  We have was

Discover Your True Needs

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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 l

The Beauty of Boundaries

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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. Minimalists often create boundaries which help them enjoy more space in their homes or preserve time and energy to do what is most important.  Boundaries are especially useful when replacing an unhealthy habit with a better one. Since habits are facilitated by familiarity and the path of least resistance, we need to introduce some frictio

Would You Rather...

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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. For example: Would you rather have your curio cabinets, shelves, and collectibles that fill an entire room, or enjoy a smaller home that costs $300 less every month? Would you rather have a garage full of packed boxes, or room to park your car out of the weather? Would you rather have your father's first edition Stephen King novels, or a close relationship with your sibling? You may not realize it, but these represent the types of choices you are making as you declutter, downsize, or death clean.  It's important to ask yourself the questions so you can imagine the results before making a decision you regret. So often, we fear that decluttering will lead to regret. 

MINIMALIST TOOL KIT: Asset or Drain?

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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. A purchase that becomes an asset allows you to have more time and energy for the important things in your life.  It provides efficiency, or a measurable return on your investment.  An asset provides more time, money, happiness, or energy than was taken to obtain it. Ask these questions: Does it help create more time? Does it help generate income or help save money? Does it align with your values and what you want out of life? Does it bring joy, happiness, and fulfillment into your life? Examples of asset purchases: Better cookware, knives, or an appliance you will regularly use to more easily create healthy, home cooked meals, saving tons of money over rest

Decluttering Quick-Start Guide, Part 4

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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. 4 Ways to Simplify Daily Routines 1.  Wear a uniform. Former President Obama has his gray or navy suits, Steve Jobs had his Levis and black turtleneck.  Designer Giorgio Armani sticks with an all-navy outfit of tee shirt, drawstring pants, and cashmere sweater, while art director Matilda Kahl chooses black trousers and a white silk shirt.  Having a uniform makes decisions about what to wear super easy, and once you settle on your own iconic look you always feel confident and put together. Check your closet for styles and colors you gravitate toward, since these may form the basis of your uniform.  For me, it's black or dark wash straight-leg jeans, minimally patte