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Showing posts from October, 2020

Minimalist Fun

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A common myth about minimalists is that we have boring, empty wardrobes, homes, and lives.  That we can't do anything fun because we don't go in for consumer items.  That all we do is declutter. It's a reason some people hesitate to embrace minimalism – they think it's Scrooge-like and no fun. Stimulation Junkies A lot of us want entertainment that distracts us from day-to-day life, something that makes an exciting or relaxing change.  We don't want to expend much energy; we just want to be amused.  So we might turn to TV, movies, video games, theme parks, shopping, Disney cruises, concerts, parties, bars, or casinos for entertainment.  Plenty of these activities have their merits (a good film is a work of art, travel broadens the mind, etc.), but for the most part they allow us to remain passive observers, simply soaking it in. Ultimately, these diversions are only temporary, and some of them are empty, or even harmful.  And when we're constantly looking for va

Free to Fly

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  When I moved from one house to another there were many things I had no room for. What does one do?  I rented a storage space.  And filled it.  Years passed. Occasionally I went there and looked in, but nothing happened, not a single twinge of the heart...  Things! Burn them, burn them!  Make a beautiful fire!  More room in your heart for love, for the trees!  For the birds who who own nothing –  the reason they can fly. Mary Oliver, "Storage"  Sometimes it seems that the longer I've had something, the harder it is to let go, even if I no longer have a use for it.  There are books I haven't read in a long time, and probably won't read again... but they once held a special place in my heart, so there they sit on my shelf.  There's art that I bought years ago and probably wouldn't choose today... but it's been on my wall for so long that it seems grown there.  It's hard to imagine something new.  Music that I once performed, cookbooks that I once co

MINIMALIST TOOL KIT: How to Get More Done

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Several situations have conspired lately to give me a longer-than-usual to-do list.  My husband, too, is extra-busy planning lessons for online teaching (his students are all still learning from home).  Deadlines loom and they must be met, and it feels a bit overwhelming. I'm sure you can relate.  Lots of people have this problem. I'm fairly organized, so I usually have EVERYTHING I need to accomplish on my to-do list, and right now it's getting longer and longer.  But at least I have a list (however long) of tasks in front of me.  Plenty of people don't have everything on a list.  Their tasks might be scattered across different organizational systems, in email inboxes, in browser tabs, on Post-It notes and random pieces of paper, and in their heads. Either way, it can feel overwhelming.  We need to deal with the stress, the fear (of forgetting, of failing), and the lack of ability to focus. 4 Ways to Handle a Long To-Do List 1.  Become clear about priorities. If you do

MINIMALIST TOOL KIT: How to Inspire Change

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A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject. Winston Churchill  I might be a fanatic about minimalism. Maybe you are too, so here's a friendly warning:  It's easy for a fanatic to alienate people from the very point of view she wants them to embrace.  We see it often in discussions of religion and politics, but it can happen any time people have firm opinions about a subject. I've been guilty of all of the following behaviors from time to time.  I try hard not to fall into them, but as you may have discovered during this election season, it is sometimes hard to keep your opinions to yourself.  So these are simply words to the wise. 5 Alienation Techniques 1.  Offer your opinion when no one has asked for it. Enter a family member's cluttered kitchen or encounter a co-worker's cluttered desk, and you may be tempted to offer tips that would help them clear the excess.  You may sincerely want to help them, but it's likely they won

Don't Let Your Diet Define You

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One day we step on the scale and the number we see there shocks us.  It has crossed some threshold we may not even have known we had, and we're galvanized.  "That's it!  I'm going on a diet!" In the early stages, we cut out everything: sugar, carbs, processed food, whatever we have to in order to lose weight fast.  We might even cut too much in order to achieve our goal as quickly as possible.  I've done the starvation liquid diet thing.  I've done the no-more-than-20-carbs-a-day thing. However, at some point we start to feel deprived (and perhaps we really are).  We start eating all of those things again, and we end up right back where we started in the first place (or maybe we're even heavier).  I've done that too. Maybe the problem is that when we try to cut out everything we think will make us fat, we start spending all of our time thinking about food!   What we can have, what we can't have, how soon we can have something, how we'll dea

Beware the Season of Excess

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Halloween in America – October 31 – is the beginning of our Season of Excess. Don't get me wrong.  Halloween is a fun evening.  It's fun to carve jack-o-lanterns.  Fun to make or thrift a creative costume.  Fun to go out after dark (even if it's cold) to trick-or-treat through your neighborhood.  No tricks, really, unless it's trying to scare your little brother by sneaking up behind him and yelling "Boo!"  Just treats from the neighbors. Even teens and adults like to dress up and go to a party, which is also fun, as long as it's not excessive. What do I mean, "excessive" and "season of excess?" Pillowcases full of candy because you went door to door in six neighborhoods – EXCESSIVE. $490 million spent on costumes for pets – EXCESSIVE. Drinking too much at a party, especially if you drive – REALLY EXCESSIVE. And that's just the beginning.  After Halloween comes Thanksgiving, the season of football and overeating.  Then Black Friday

Turn Off HGTV

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The first house I remember living in, where I have many happy memories that took place before I was in third grade, was in a large neighborhood of post-war houses, a little like Levittown. They were smallish houses with boxy rooms.  Most had one bathroom and a low-slope roof called a flat top, covered with white rocks.  They were nothing fancy.  But the first owners, those returning soldiers and their brides, must have felt happy and fortunate to move their few belongings into those little rooms.  Home ownership was an honor, especially for those who had come of age during the Great Depression.  There was a severe housing shortage after World War II, and these unassuming houses were the response to that problem.  They were usually affordable on one income, and many of those young couples were content to grow old together in those homes, never moving again. The real estate shows on HGTV portray the exact opposite of that mindset of gratitude and contentment.  (For those of you who don&#

Visual Noise

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We all know that loud noises can mess up our concentration, even make us feel stressed and on edge.  Think of a busy street corner or a construction site in New York City, Chicago, or San Francisco.  Imagine a packed crowd at a ballgame (don't forget to add the constant loud music and announcements, as well as the cheers and jeers of the spectators).  While it may be fun to join in with a noisy group once in a while, you probably wouldn't want to plant yourself in the middle of one every day.  That might lead to: ringing in your ears (even hearing loss); a headache; a sore throat, from shouted conversations with your companions; the inability to focus on anything except the noise, the traffic, the crowds, or the game.  Many of the same things happen when our senses are assaulted by a lot of visual noise.  The more items in our immediate vicinity, the more our eyes take in, and the more signals are sent to our brains.  Then our brains need to understand, categorize, and filter o

Minimalism for the Holidays, Revised and EXPANDED!

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2020 will live in all of our memories as "that year."   The year of COVID-19.  The year of quarantine and social distancing, of cancelled gatherings, cancelled concerts, cancelled sports events, and cancelled trips.  The year of struggle and loss. In May, a Twitter survey asked "What do you most look forward to doing when shelter-in-place guidelines are lifted?"  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." Does it surprise you to know that almost no one answered, "Go shopping?" Shopping for new stuff is apparently not something we missed during the COVID-19 crisis.  Sure, we bought food, and cleaning supplies, and toilet paper.  Maybe we downloaded some movies or books, or ordered some hobby supplies online so we could spend our free time cr