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Showing posts from August, 2020

Simple Money

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Introducing my newest book, Simple Money: Achieve Financial Peace and Abundance with Minimalism , available now on Amazon! Minimalism doesn't mean lack and deprivation.  Minimalism is a tool that helps us find happiness by steering us in the direction of what we truly desire. Physical clutter can be obvious: that unused treadmill, those stacked up boxes, or the pile of knickknacks, mail, and various remotes on the coffee table.  But financial clutter, such as debt, overspending, and a fuzzy understanding of what we owe and where our money goes can be much less apparent.  When we let go of financial clutter, we create more resources to accomplish the things we really care about. I'm not a financial planner or investment guru.  I grew up knowing I would have to work and figure out how to pay for the things I needed.  I've budgeted and run the accounts for our household, both when we were underwater on our mortgage and overburdened with credit card debt, and as we have climbed

30 Day Challenge: One Suitcase

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It's an eye-opening experience to have to physically carry everything you own. When I was in college, I spent two summers traveling all over the western part of the US and Canada, singing with a choral group.  I took the ferry from Seattle to Victoria BC, saw snow falling on hot springs and geysers in Yellowstone Park on July 4, toured the amazing Carlsbad Cavern in New Mexico, and hiked the Mist Trail to the top of Vernal Fall in Yosemite, as well as singing concerts in nearly 150 venues.  I lived for ten weeks each time out of a single suitcase (and a garment bag for concert attire). I learned to love the minimal completeness of packing for travel.  You can be weighed down by multiple pieces of luggage that have to be checked, hauled around, unpacked and repacked, or you can enjoy the agility of a single rolling bag.  Of course, you have to consider carefully which clothes you'll need, which toiletries and accessories.  You might include a book or a journal; you'll surely

Break the Consume/Donate Cycle

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My first step to a better financial future was to start paying attention. I was living and making decisions on autopilot, but one day, as I decluttered my closet for the umpteenth time, my eyes were suddenly opened. I spent a lot of time organizing my closets and drawers, and regularly donated bags of clothing to charity.  Since that was the case, I couldn't understand why my closet always felt too full.  It must have escaped my notice that I went shopping almost every weekend and on most lunch breaks, just for "entertainment."  I didn't always buy things, but the more you browse, the more you are tempted. My wardrobe was like a revolving door, yet I wondered why I could never save any money.  Yes, the connection should have been obvious, but I enjoyed all of my new goodies (at least for a while), so it was easy to ignore.  When I finally linked my shopping habit to my empty bank account, I stopped shopping almost overnight.  From then on, I wore and enjoyed the cloth

MINIMALIST TOOL KIT: A Place for Everything

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When our two children were young, we lived in a three-bedroom house of about 1200 square feet.  Compared to the modern American home that is small, but in spite of that my house was usually fairly tidy.  Even if the kids were in the middle of playing one of their epic pretend games, with dolls, stuffed animals, play dishes, dress-up clothes, Lego creations, and lots of homemade props, we could make the house "company ready" in a fairly short time. Does that sound like an impossible dream? The secret isn't really secret – everything had a home.  Everything . I know you've heard this:  "A place for everything and everything in its place."  But what does that mean?  And why should you go to the trouble? It means I can hand my child any item that belongs to her or is used by the whole family and say, "Put this where it belongs," and she knows exactly where to go.  I can ask her to go get an item, and she can, quickly and without fuss, locate the item a

Work Less

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It's not just the current and seemingly insurmountable political divide in America – human beings are really prone to extremes.  In education, for example, the pendulum swings all the way from rote or programmed learning on one side (boring, but easily facilitated by computers) to discovery-style, discussion-based, hands-on learning on the other (which leads to deeper thinking, but may leave students light on concrete facts).  In another circumstance, we have hoarders on one side and location-independent, live-out-of-one-backpack proponents on the other. The challenge is always to find a compromise which takes the best of both approaches (as in education), or a happy medium that meets the needs of the majority of people (as with minimalism, which seeks to meet essential needs and a few strongly-desired wants without excess).  When it comes to work, I think most of us fall into one of two extremes: We work way too hard, with little boundary between work life and everything else, and

Make Time for Low Tech

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I just spent nine hours in front of my computer.  Again.   I took only three short breaks, and spent maybe ten minutes outside.  I even ate lunch at my desk. I know this isn't healthy, but still it happens much too often.  Maybe it does for you too.  And now we're getting our kids ready for distance learning, which will require them to spend hours a day in front of a computer. Before school starts and life gets busier, let's take some time to live with less technology. Technology has always been touted as progress, the revolution that will change the world.  And I certainly use technology.  I don't publish this blog on parchment, after all, and I'm not keeping cool in this August heat by means of a servant wielding a palm branch. But as we keep breaking boundaries and changing the way things work, sometimes we lose sight of the fact that some of the best (and healthiest) solutions are low tech. I'm going to use what I think is an urban myth to illustrate, becaus

Get Ready for At-Home Learning

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I was a homeschooling parent. My older child turned 5 in 1994; my younger child was 16 (and ready to go to the local community college) in 2007.  During those 13 years, my kids did not go to school. They didn't have computers either, until we got our first desktop in 2001. We lived in three different houses during that time.  The largest was just over 1200 square feet, but for four years we lived in a two-bedroom home of about 800 square feet. Both of my children have earned college degrees with honors. And yet I never spent a ton of money on school. If you have children beginning distance learning this fall, you've probably seen a lot of social media images of the ideal "home classroom" situation.  These usually involve a separate "school room," a desk, and organizational items such as a large white board and a lot of cute, matching storage containers. If you're starting to panic that you don't have a spare room for your home school, and you don'

Our Unused Items Are Not Harmless

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Many of us live in homes that hold far too much.   We find it hard to declutter unless and until something forces us to do so.  As long as we have the room to stockpile all of our extraneous belongings, we will.  Our drawers, counters, closets, basements, garages, spare rooms, and rented storage spaces become full. What's the harm in that? Another way we stockpile is with collections.  We buy one item we like, and then another (because we're convinced that a single item looks too bare and lonely), and then someone gives us another.  Now we're officially a collector, whether of world globes, graniteware coffee pots, Marvel action figures, vintage cameras, old wooden cutting boards, or something else (I used to collect patchwork quilts).  It becomes a hobby, and we spend tons of time and money hunting for the perfect item to add to what we already have. It reminds me of a squirrel putting away nuts for the winter, though at least the squirrel will eventually eat the nuts.  Co

Minimalism is Full of Possibilities

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The style icon Coco Chanel famously advised, "Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off."  While removing a scarf or a bracelet won't leave you underdressed, it does make room for other accessories to shine. This sounds a little like the Japanese aesthetic of "Ma."  Ma is a concept that celebrates emptiness or negative space.  It's found in Japanese architecture, interior d├ęcor, and garden design as well as music, flower arranging, and poetry. In a home where there are too many things, there is no place for the eye to rest, and nothing is highlighted.  Think of a 19th century Victorian interior suffocating in heavy furniture, tasseled drapes, marble busts, travel souvenirs, dark paintings, macabre hair art, doilies, ferns in every corner, and patterned everything. I get a headache just thinking about it. Unfortunately, some of us live with a decorating "style" that is rather Victorian, even if it involves brighter colors