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Showing posts from June, 2020

First Things

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A simple life is not seeing how little we can get by with, but how efficiently we can put first things first. Victoria Moran  I'm so pleased to introduce my new book Resilient : How Minimalism Helps You Cope With the Challenges of Life , available now on Amazon.  I cannot explain the problems that arose publishing this book under its original title (Everything to Gain), because for the life of me, I can't understand them myself!  I'm chalking it up to the disruptions of COVID-19, and to the apparently reduced staff at Kindle Direct Publishing.  Resilient (with a gorgeous cover photo by my husband Jon) is currently available in the Kindle edition and will soon (I HOPE!) be available in paperback as well. Because of the issues surrounding publication, I was actually able to add more material and to reshape what I had originally planned for this book, and I'm even happier with the final result. All of us are uncertain about the future, but minimalism can help us deal wit

We Need Nature

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I have to admit I was not much of a nature kid growing up.  I rode my bike and skated on the sidewalk and climbed trees and played tag, but I was not intrepid or athletic, I didn't enjoy getting dirty, and I had no one to guide me toward an interest in the natural world.  My family didn't do much camping, as my mother didn't care for it, and my dad was busy working two jobs, and grew up in the West Indies, so didn't know much about the flora and fauna, or even the stars, of the San Francisco Bay Area.  I liked trees and fog and flowers, but didn't know much about them. My husband, however, grew up on nine acres of woods and pasture in rural Placer County, California.  He and his three brothers roamed the woods, raised cattle for 4H, and backpacked all over the Sierras with their dad, a professional geologist and avid amateur astronomer. So Jon has taught middle school science for over 30 years, and has an informed interest in geology, astronomy, botany, bi

Cultivate Self-Worth

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During the coronavirus pandemic, social media use has increased significantly, according to new data from a Nielsen study.  While social distancing, we are immersing ourselves in social media as a safe way to connect with others. And this is fine, if we control our need for external validation. When I check and recheck the metrics on my blog to see how many page views and subscribers I have, that can be a search for information, or it can be an unhealthy need for external validation.  When I start to doubt my abilities as a writer, or to doubt the value of my message, based on how broad my readership is or on how many people choose to comment, I start losing my sense of motivation and direction. And it's okay to be excited when one of my articles is published on No Sidebar , but I shouldn't let that rush of serotonin become something I need in order to keep writing every day.  If I'm starting to find self-worth in the opinions of people I've never met and an e

You Are Essential

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As a singer, choir director, and music educator, my career role in society has always been deemed non-essential.  With the current emphasis on STEM-based education* and the centrality of organized sports, the arts are always vulnerable to budget cuts, even at the university level. However, the arts require focus and discipline.  They have been proven to develop critical thinking and creative problem-solving, important skills for anyone who wants to become innovative, adaptive, and resilient.  And arts such as drama, dance, opera, and performance in choirs, bands, and orchestras require a cooperative mindset, the ability to collaborate and bring out the best in each individual in order to meet a common goal. I'd say those qualities are essential to our future on this planet. Perhaps we don't intend to label and characterize jobs and people as "essential" or "non-essential," but we have done so in our response to COVID-19.  And it makes sense – some businesses

What Do You Really Want?

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  I didn't know what I wanted out of life, so I'd buy a new phone or pair of shoes. Courtney Carver  Do you shop when you need to feel better?  When you've had a hard day at work, when a loved one has disappointed you, when you're bored or tired?  Shopping seems like a pick-me-up, and a new shirt or pair of earrings might make you feel better, at least for a few minutes.  But when that new thing isn't new anymore, or when the credit card bill arrives, or when you stand in front of your packed closet trying to decide what to wear, you might not feel so good then. And sometimes we just feel dissatisfied, we may not even know why.  We just know we want a change, and that restlessness pushes us toward the mall or the online store, toward travel, even toward a new job or a new partner. There may be real reasons why you need to feel better, but taking a weekend trip you can't afford, buying a new electronic gadget, or going out with your friends to a bar might not be

MINIMALIST TOOL KIT: The Secret of Contentment

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Contentment is impossible when you continually hunger for more.  Advertising, social media comparisons, and awareness of the Joneses keep you longing for whatever the next purchase promises to provide.  Even a bucket list of desired experiences can keep you from fully savoring the current event, since it's only one in a long line. Contentment only comes when you realize the blessings you already possess, and when you appreciate the opportunities and experiences you've already enjoyed. Contentment allows you to be fully present for your life, ready to find value in the here and now. Ambition can push us toward achievement, but unbridled desire eventually makes us unhappy.  It's a hunger that is never satisfied.  Achievements ultimately don't provide contentment, because the next hill is always there to be conquered. Wise people from all eras and cultures have warned us about this. Chinese sage Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism, said "Be content with what you have; rejo

It's Not Shopping We Miss

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A recent Twitter survey asked "What do you most look forward to doing when shelter-in-place guidelines are lifted?" Does it surprise you to know that almost no one answered "Go shopping"? The most common answers were "Hang out with friends," "Visit family members," "Take my family out for dinner," "Go to a concert," "Go to the library," "Use our city parks," and "Hit the gym." Amazingly, we seem to have learned that shopping for new stuff isn't something we've been missing during the COVID-19 quarantine.  Sure, we've bought food, and cleaning supplies, and toilet paper.  Maybe we've downloaded some movies or books, or ordered some hobby supplies online so we could spend our free time creating something. But when it comes to quality of life, it turns out that shopping for clothes, furniture, electronics, and cars is not essential.  Accumulating more physical stuff doesn't reall

Why Less is More

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My voice teacher (I trained to be an opera singer) loved to say it:  Less is more .  That always annoyed me, until I finally figured out at least some of what she meant. I have always had a powerful voice, but when I internalized some of that power – when I sang less – I had more focus, more breath, more resonance, more color in my voice.  When I stopped pushing, my voice was more free, more agile, I had more control and more dynamic range.  I could still be powerful, but I could also use the power of an intense pianissimo . How does this work in other areas of life? If I own less, each item I own needs to be more useful, more suitable to my needs and wants. If I own a 33-item wardrobe , each piece needs to coordinate with several other pieces.  Each item needs to be of high quality.  Each item needs to fit and flatter.  There isn't room for something that isn't well made, doesn't go with anything else, or doesn't make me feel good when I'm wearing it. If I own les

95 Ways to Simplify Your Life - Black Belt Simplicity

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I realize that these final suggestions are not for everyone, but if you've considered or implemented the previous ideas, you might be ready to go a bit deeper. Part 7 – Black Belt Simplicity 88.  Live smaller. A smaller home generally costs less, uses less energy, and takes less effort to clean and maintain.  How much space do you really need? 89.  Try a Buy Nothing experiment. Be an anti-consumer!  For 30 days, 90 days, or even a year, buy nothing except necessities:  food, toiletries, cleaning/maintenance supplies, medications, replacements for things that break or tear.  If you must buy a gift for someone, make it consumable (flowers, food, or concert tickets, for example), donate to their favorite charity, or pass along something of value that you own (such as jewelry or a book). 90.  Drive less. If you can walk, bike, or take public transit, you can leave the car at home.  Can you go car-free one day a week?  Do you really need a second (or third) vehicle?

95 Ways to Simplify Your Life - Mindset

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A change in mindset can bring about a desire to simplify, but simplifying can in turn change your mindset.  These changes will bring more serenity and satisfaction every day. Part 6 – Mindset 76.  Be present. Don't pine for the past or fret about the future.  Today is all you have.  Be here now. 77.  Be open. We live in an era of polarization, because we so often believe there's only one way to look at an issue.  Be willing to consider ideas and viewpoints that differ from your own. 78.  Be true to yourself. Keep an open mind, but don't be afraid to listen to your own intuition and moral compass.  Don't feel obligated to live according to others' expectations. 79.  Offer grace. You don't know the details of others' circumstances, and you have no idea how well you'd react to their situations.  Try to see the good in other people; don't be too quick to condemn. 80.  Offer forgiveness. A grudge is a heavy burden.  You don't h