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Showing posts from July, 2020

Don't Wait to Downsize

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Maybe you're like me, and you've helped a newly-widowed parent pack up and sell their home. You've spent days (maybe even weeks) going through drawers and closets and boxes full of stuff, deciding what to do with old books, papers, paintings, furniture, towels, knickknacks, DVDs (or even VHS tapes), dishes, mementos, small appliances, tools, and more. You've had to decide what to give away, what to sell, what to throw away, and what to remove to a new dwelling that is half or a quarter of the size of the home they're leaving. And you've had to do all of this while your grieving parent turned their focus from the lost spouse to the often dusty and unused possessions they're losing.  Instead of using their time and energy to begin to recover and move on to what is left of their own life, they're worrying about the loss of their belongings.  My mother said she felt like she was losing everything. And then a few years later, when that parent dies, you go thr

A Minimalist Decorates

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Some trinkets multiply.  One figurine becomes a set.  One photograph becomes a gallery wall.  People collect cameras, globes, vintage signs, ironstone pitchers, old tools, dolls – almost anything. Even if you put together a collection over many years, and pay only a few dollars for each item at a thrift store or tag sale, you still need shelves and curios to house it all, and you'll be dusting it forever. In traditional Japanese homes, d├ęcor is kept to a minimum.  Usually just one or two items are displayed in a small alcove called a tokonoma . The tokonoma often holds a calligraphic scroll or painting, along with a bonsai, an orchid, or a simple flower arrangement.  The items are appropriate to the season, like spring blossoms or fall foliage, and express an appreciation for both art and nature. You don't have to create a Japanese interior with tatami mats, translucent shoji screens, and square low-slung furniture to put the concept of a tokonoma into practice.  You don't

JOMO: Make Staying In Fun

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With COVID-19 cases surging once again, now is not the time to try to do more.  And haven't we learned that when we're rushed and stressed by trying to do it all, we don't do anything well, and we miss out on the little moments that bring us joy?  So really, COVID or no COVID, we need to respect the fact that our time and energy are finite. Instead of trying to do more, we need to make the most of doing less. The Joy of Missing Out is defined by dictionary.com as "a feeling of contentment with one's own pursuits and activities, without worrying over the possibility of missing out on what others may be doing." The concept of JOMO is liberating.  It makes life more peaceful.  It frees you from the hold that social media, advertising, and celebrity lifestyles might have.  It allows you to feel positive and secure about yourself, your choices, and your beliefs.  When you stop worrying about missing out, you can concentrate on making home more fun.  And that's

Be Kind, Be Smart, and Stay Safe

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Here we go again – and it's really our own fault. The majority of states in the US are showing a marked upswing in cases of COVID-19.  Due to this resurgence, the State of California has once again closed restaurants, bars, movie theaters, museums, and more.  In some counties (including mine), fitness centers, churches, and personal services like hair salons and my son's massage therapy facility have also been closed. Most of the spike in illness represents more community transmission.  In other words, many of us have become complacent about the disease, tired of restrictions, and lax about wearing face masks, social distancing, and hand washing.  Too many people are ignoring the guidelines, even though individual behavior is so important in controlling the virus. And since so many people who test positive for COVID-19 are asymptomatic (they get tested because they were exposed to someone who is sick), there could be a lot of people out there spreading the disease without even

One True Need

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We interact with machines all day, every day.  I'm currently writing on my computer while streaming classical radio online.  My phone is charging on the table next to me.  I'm waiting for the cycle on my washing machine to end so I can put the towels and jeans into the dryer.  I'm enjoying cool air from a fan, and drinking tea cooled in my refrigerator with ice produced in my freezer.  My husband is driving our car to the bank and the grocery store. We rely on these machines.  They truly make our modern lives possible.  I wouldn't want to do without them, but obviously people have.  If I had to, I'd adapt. What none of us can do without is nature.  We can't live without sun and rain, healthy soil, and the plants that grow in it. We need birds and bees and insects.  And who hasn't felt joy on hearing a robin in spring, or a meadowlark singing as it rises into the air? We need trees to absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, for shade and cooling, and to pro

Happier Without

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If you think about it, there are a lot of things we own simply because almost everyone we know owns those things, or because someone gave them to us or convinced us we needed them.   Unless you live in a large city, you probably own at least one car.  You might own a set of fancy dinnerware that only comes out at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  You might own knickknacks or books or sporting goods that simply gather dust.  Maybe you have chairs that no one ever sits in, or heirloom silverware that you have no time to polish. Even though we're all constantly bombarded with the message to buy, buy, buy, it's hardly ever suggested that we might find greater satisfaction in not owning something.  But as a minimalist, I've learned that some of those "must have" items aren't , at least not for me. 1.  Television When my husband happens to mention to his 6th grade students that we don't watch TV,  the response is always, "What do you DO at night?"  It'

MINIMALIST TOOL KIT: Action is the Key

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"If wishes were horses, beggars would ride." It's an old, old proverb, and unfortunately, it's true.  We can't wish our way to thinness, fitness, or a clutter-free home.  We can't simply push a button and get a world that provides a decent life for all without fossil fuel consumption or plastic waste.  We can't just buy a cure for all diseases or display a bumper sticker that will end all discrimination. Change is never so easy.  It takes time.  Motivation.  Determination.  And hundreds, if not thousands, of small actions, repeated over and over. I've been working on a counted cross-stitch Christmas stocking for my younger grandson.  When my children were very little, I made such stockings for each of them.  My daughter Elizabeth was happy to have me unpick the stitches of part of her name and change it to Elliot for my older grandson, so he's been using her vintage stocking (with my initials and the year – 1990 – stitched on the toe).  But my son

What Do You Miss?

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My daughter texted after our video chat the other day, and said that our 4-year-old grandson had cried a bit after we ended our call.  His complaint was "I miss Grandma and Papa!" I really miss him too, and I'm sorry he cried, but I'd rather have him cry about missing us or any other family member than about not getting a new toy or something else he wants. The same is true for me, or anyone else who might express longing for something they miss.   We should miss people, not possessions. As we settle into the "new normal," what is it you miss about your old life? The freedom to call a friend and meet for coffee or lunch? The freedom to enter a store without a mask? The freedom to attend a movie, concert, play, or sporting event in a theater or arena? You might be missing steady employment, and if you're in that uncertain situation, I truly feel sorry for you.  My son, a massage therapist, has been unable to see clients for three months.  Another friend,

What's Important Can't Be Seen

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As the fire season in California gets longer and longer, the possibility of evacuation and loss becomes more real.  So it wasn't just an intellectual exercise when my husband and I discussed what we would take if that necessity arose.  But as we looked around our home, we realized how much of the stuff we own we could easily get along without. That's not to say it wouldn't be a hassle if all of our possessions were damaged or destroyed, and it's not to say we wouldn't miss some of them.  But we agreed that we can enjoy these things while we have them and at the same time their loss wouldn't be devastating.  That's actually a liberating feeling. We don't have to wait for a dangerous situation.  We can begin today to think about what we really need and treasure.  We can get rid of the clutter and excess, and loosen our emotional attachments to everything else.  This can be a very peaceful way to live. Look around your house and imagine you have thirty minu