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Showing posts from April, 2020

Be Quiet Amid the Noise

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I think my digital attention span has hit its limit. With content arriving constantly from all directions, I feel more harassed than enlightened.  News sites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, podcasts... the list goes on, and includes TV and streaming services.  It's too much to absorb, too much to keep up with, and too much time invested for too little return. Do you remember what it was like before the Internet was a constant presence in our lives?  I do.  I remember being able to concentrate, having time to imagine and think.  I remember turning on the TV to watch a specific show rather than sitting through a multi-hour binge.  I remember being bored and finding something useful or creative to do rather than scrolling through other people's photos and reposting GIFs or memes. Sometimes we need to be quiet amid the noise.  We need to think our own thoughts rather than reading everyone else's.  When I start to feel FOMO (the Fear of Missing Out),

On Eating Less

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Have you found yourself stress-eating over the last several weeks?  Eating more snacks because you're sitting more, or because you're bored?  You're not alone. Apparently, sales of snack and comfort foods are soaring, and articles about the "Quarantine 15" (pounds gained during this time) abound.  (Full disclosure: I've gained 4 pounds as of today.) But you don't have to obsess about a diet or resign yourself to being heavier at the end of quarantine.  We may be buying more shelf-stable foods and desiring meals that are quick and easy to put together, but that doesn't mean we have to compromise our energy and our immune systems by eating poorly. I'm going to simply focus on eating less.  Call it The Minimalist Diet. Now, I'm not talking about truly depriving myself of calories my body needs to maintain and repair itself.  I'm talking about a simple reduction of portion size to two-thirds to three-quarters of what I would norma

Our New Normal

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Do you find that our current situation is putting things into perspective for you? I don't want to disrespect the very real suffering that is occurring for many reasons:  COVID-19 illnesses and deaths, loss of income causing desperate financial difficulties for many families and businesses, and feelings of fear and isolation felt by so many, especially the elderly and parents who are struggling to engage and entertain their young children without the park, the library, school, sports, or play dates. But has quarantine changed your level of busyness and consumption?  It has for my husband and I. We're driving much less.   That isn't because we're not working, but because he's working from home and I'm not making any unnecessary shopping trips for books or spring clothes (my favorite stores are all more than 30 miles away).  And we haven't driven out of town to visit our kids or grandkids -- video chats are filling in for physical get-togethers.

Clear Mental Clutter

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This is a chapter from my new book, Uncluttered . Most of us hang on to mental clutter just as we do physical clutter.  We worry, we complain, we gossip, we hold grudges.  These things steal our time, spoil our attitudes, and keep us from living with peace and purpose.  To be truly clutter-free, we must deal with these issues as well. 7 Types of Mental Clutter and How to Remove Them 1.  Worrying Worry is a complete waste of time and energy.  We worry about things that haven't happened and may never happen, and it makes us anxious and grumpy.  Most of the things we worry about are out of our control, but even when we have the ability to prevent a negative outcome, we tend to whine about it before we take preventative action. Worrying (like most types of mental clutter) is a habit, so you have to consciously train yourself to behave differently.  When you catch yourself fretting, stop and change your thoughts.  Focus on what you want to happen, rather than on what

Prepare for Re-Entry

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At some point our current crisis will come to an end, and we will return to "normal" life. Remember normal life, just a few short weeks ago?  We were busy -- usually too busy -- and anxious to keep up with what everyone else was doing, seeing, buying, eating, wearing, aspiring to.  We spent a lot of time shopping, and not just for things we needed like food, medicine, and toilet paper.  We weren't a community surviving together in challenging circumstances -- we spent our time competing and comparing and desiring what someone else had. This global tragedy has cost too many lives and too many livelihoods, but it has had an upside.  We've been given a break from the constant barrage, and we suddenly have the freedom to evaluate our lives with almost no external pressure to keep up with the Joneses or anyone else. We've all been stuck in roughly equal circumstances, and we all have the opportunity to emerge from this difficult historic moment as better ve

Just Imagine

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Schools have been out for nearly four weeks, and some districts have said the students will not return this school year.  Teachers are scrambling to create at-home assignments, post video lessons, and plan class meetings using Zoom.  But many people are concerned about students falling behind. Maybe they will fall behind when it comes to regular curriculum or standardized testing. But what if the real, important, long-term result is something quite different?  What if these students wind up gaining more than they lose? For example: What if they develop stronger relationships with their parents and siblings? What if they become more creative, more self-reliant, and more able to entertain themselves? What if they learn to love reading, journaling, and crafting? What if they notice and start appreciating birds, flowers, trees, clouds, stars, and other features of our beautiful world? What if they learn to enjoy simple pastimes, like a conversation, a

Little Things Mean a Lot

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Recently, I read this question in an essay by Ben Mikaelsen, and it made me think: Whatever I'm doing, every minute of every day, if everybody in the world were doing the same thing, would it be a better world or a worse world? The example Mikaelsen shared was about littering.  If no one is around, and you toss a used gum wrapper on the ground, who's to care?  Why does that matter?  Well, if 7.5 billion people around the world all did the same thing, it would instantly fill up a whole landfill.  What a mess!  So he chooses not to commit that small act. On the other hand, if you smile at a stranger, maybe it momentarily lifts his mood, but otherwise it's not a big deal, right?  However, if everyone decided to smile at strangers, we'd create bridges of understanding and peace all over the world.  That small act, repeated by all of us, would change everything. I often feel that my efforts to do good in the world are so puny they make no difference.  Sure, I

Il dolce far niente (The sweetness of doing nothing)

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I truly hope that you and your family are keeping well as you self-isolate during this time.  And if you are, I hope you're giving thanks for your health your home, which shelters you and your family the many essential workers that keep medical and other necessary services functioning your ability to remain connected with others, online if nowhere else. Right now, you may be missing a lot of things:  your church, your gym, your children's school, your favorite restaurant, your office camaraderie, the trip you had to postpone or even cancel.  You can't go where you usually go or do what you usually do.  And it's easy in such circumstances to feel impatient or morose, to just want to hurry through this time and get back to "normal" life. Yet we don't want to simply waste these days.  We don't want to just hurry through life to get to a different time or circumstance, do we? Oh, wait a minute... maybe we do.  Isn't that

All That Remains: Learning, Laughter, and Love

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It's all been canceled.   School, sports, concerts, plays.  Weddings and even funerals are being postponed.  No one is traveling.  Movie openings have been put on hold; museums, zoos, galleries, bowling alleys, and parks are closed. Whatever you might have been planning, it's probably not happening any time soon.  This weird limbo is our current "normal," and even if we're lucky enough to remain healthy and able to earn a living, it still takes some getting used to. But some things remain. 1.  Learning You may be suddenly home schooling, and your kids are suddenly parted from their teachers and friends.  But learning can continue -- learning can always continue, for both you and your children! Now is your chance to do more gardening and crafting with your kids.  You have an opportunity to teach them some of your skills, including skills they need for life like cleaning, cooking, and how to use free time wisely rather than wasting it. Here are a

The Magic of Reading

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"Now for it!  Now for the last gasp!" said Sam as he struggled to his feet.  He bent over Frodo, rousing him gently.  Frodo groaned, but with a great effort of will he staggered up, and then he fell upon his knees again.  He raised his eyes with difficulty to the dark slopes of Mount Doom towering above him, and then pitifully he began to crawl forward on his hands. When we read of Sam and Frodo's last desperate attempts to destroy Sauron's evil Ring in The Lord of the Rings , author J. R. R. Tolkien helps us to see and feel their torment.  They are in pain, so parched they can no longer swallow.  The fumes of Mount Doom make breathing difficult, and they are dizzy and stumbling.  Only their strength of will enables them to continue the journey to "the end of ends."  And we are there, toiling with them. And yet, Mount Doom is not a real place.  Sauron and the Ring are not real, and our heroes Frodo and Sam are figments of imagination.  But Tolkien&

MINIMALIST TOOL KIT: Take the Declutter Dare

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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

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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 hobb