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Showing posts from November, 2020

The No-Complaints Challenge

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2020 has been a hard year for all of us.  My husband Jon finally has students in his classroom – half the class at a time, wearing masks and socially distanced.  The third graders at his school had to go back to distance learning last week because two children tested positive for COVID, so Jon realizes that his students could be required to re-quarantine at any time.  The students with asthma and other health challenges are still at home, so he and his colleagues are trying to accommodate student learning in a variety of set-ups.  It's uncertain and stressful for everyone, but he has found that his colleagues are super hard-working, committed educators, and that most of the parents of his students are flexible and good-humored. My father-in-law recently passed away, and some family dynamics have emerged that are less than optimal.  Some hard feelings have ensued.  Lines of communication are still open, and we are doing what we can to create more understanding, but it was sad to dis

Be a Holiday Connoisseur

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I am a glutton. As long as I can remember, I have felt rewarded by eating.  Perhaps I learned the pattern in childhood, when I got dessert if I cleaned my plate.  But it really doesn't matter how I acquired the habit.  The result is that given the choice, I'll take a large serving of adequate quality over a small but exceptional meal.  To some extent, I'm not truly satisfied unless I'm a step beyond comfortably full. No one is going to argue that gluttony is a good thing.  A glutton has an excessive desire for food, drink, work, sex, TV, luxury or other things.  She doesn't just eat or shop – she binges.  A glutton is rarely satisfied for long, and is always looking for the next meal, the next drink, the next purchase, the next trip or experience.  A glutton is easily bored.  A glutton rarely says, "That's too much." I think our culture encourages gluttony in many ways.  That might explain our response to quarantine and other pandemic protocols.  How q

MINIMALIST TOOL KIT: How to Make Your Kitchen Bigger

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The holidays are coming, and we're going to spending a lot more time in the kitchen.  But crowded counters and crammed, hard-to-access cupboards make holiday cooking more difficult, and steal some of the joy from preparing your special dishes. To make your kitchen roomier before you start to cook for Thanksgiving, clear away these space-stealing items. 11 Items that Consume Kitchen Real Estate 1.  Excess serving pieces I'm talking about fish platters, tureens, novelty chip-and-dip servers, deviled egg trays, chargers, or other specialty pieces you rarely use.  Get rid of the ones you're least attached to.  The extra space might be more valuable. 2.  Extra vases Vases can accumulate and fill an entire cabinet.  If you regularly buy flowers or cut them from your garden, keep the same number of vases as your display areas (the mantel and the dining table, for example).  Either gift the remainder with some flowers or donate them. 3.  Old spices In general, keep only those that

Kids, Christmas, and Minimalism

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If you check your calendar, you'll note that Christmas is exactly five weeks away, which probably means that your holiday planning has already begun.  My five-year-old grandson is old enough to begin to understand and participate in Christmas-related activities, such as decorating the tree, making cookies, and setting up the Nativity scene.  Of course, he's also old enough to anticipate gifts, and has already requested "another battery engine," which means that this is likely in his future.  My parents didn't have a lot of money when I was growing up, yet I have some very happy Christmas memories.  Here are some suggestions on how to create a wonderful holiday for your kids while minimizing materialism and maximizing creativity. 7 Tips for a Fun Minimalist Family Christmas 1.  Don't go overboard on gifts. No matter how great the gifts are, by the time your child opens her third or fourth package the experience seems to peak.  The gifts won't be met with a

MINIMALIST TOOL KIT: How to Downsize, Part 2

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We are now entering the "tough love" section of this process.  If you think the first three steps were a challenge, prepare yourself.  These next two steps are the hardest but most necessary of all.  Remember your motto:  "Life is not measured by how much you own." (Luke 12:15) 5 Steps to Downsize 4.  Choose some keepsakes. Framed photos and documents are items you deemed worth displaying in the past.  Curate the best from this select group, and feel confident that they effectively represent your life. Include any photo albums or scrapbooks.  You've taken time and effort to put these together – they deserve to be kept and enjoyed by you and your descendants. Keep three, or at most four, collections.  Figure out which are your favorites.  (By the way, books are a collection.  So are videos and Christmas decorations.) Choose your favorite pieces of wall art.  Set a limit, such as two or three items for each room of your new home.  (Okay, okay... you don't ha

MINIMALIST TOOL KIT: How to Downsize, Part 1

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Many of us live in homes that hold far too much, and we find it hard to declutter unless and until something forces us to do so.  But downsizing in distress, because of illness, financial difficulty, natural disaster, or death is far more difficult. That's why I appreciate the "gentle art" of Swedish death cleaning described by author Margareta Magnusson (paid link).  It's the process of mindfully clearing out your own possessions before others have to do it for you.  It lightens and eases your own life as well as removing a burden from your loved ones.   Here's the motto for your lightened life.  The quote is from Jesus (Luke chapter 12, verse 15): "Life is not measured by how much you own." Whether you actually move from your current home into a smaller living space, or simply undertake a radical declutter, it's a challenge.  But it's also a chance to reinvent yourself, to carry only the essentials into your new life.  By divesting ourselves o

Most of Our Stuff is Worthless

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Have you had to settle a parent's estate?  I have.  My last surviving parent lived in a typical middle-class suburban home filled with furniture, china, crystal, art, clothing, collectibles, and more.  There were even items inherited from my father's parents that had been stored for several decades. My mother was a tidy housekeeper.  Her house didn't look cluttered.  But it was packed with stuff that was mostly unused on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis.  Every room, every closet, every shelf, every drawer was full of a lifetime of stuff.  And something needed to be done with all of it. What do you do with a lifetime of stuff? Losing a parent is hard enough.  But deciding which belongings should be saved, which have some resale value, which can be donated, and what will have to be hauled to the landfill is gut wrenching.  And the cost of hiring a company to go through all of the stuff, separating trash from treasure, and arranging and displaying all of it in preparati

The Magic of Owning Less

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I don't enjoy housework.  Cleaning and scrubbing are not my idea of a good time.  But I do enjoy a clean, tidy, uncluttered home.  I've learned that minimalism works in spite of my natural laziness. You might be lazy like me or a bit messy by nature.  But that doesn't mean you can't be a minimalist. Surprised?  Don't be.  If we create homes that allow us to be lazy, we will be lazy.  If we own an excessive number of dishes, we will continue to reach for more from the cabinet instead of rinsing out the water glass we used an hour ago.  Dishes don't make it to the sink or the dishwasher when we know we can just grab another out of the cupboard. If we own a large number of clothes, we continue to drop the ones we just took off on the floor, or we keep piling them in the laundry room, because we have plenty of clean clothes left in the closet.  We might complain about the mountain of dirty laundry, but we don't do anything about it as long as we have anything cl

MINIMALIST TOOL KIT: How to Declutter Books

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I have loved reading since I was 6, when my bright yellow hardcover copy of Key to the Treasure was one of my most precious possessions.  Even before that, when Mama read a fairy tale or The Wonderful Wizard of Oz , I was smitten by the magic contained between the covers of a book. Book stores are among my most favorite places to spend an afternoon, and I used to purchase something from every school and library book drive I came across.  After all, who wouldn't want all the books you can carry for only $1 or $2 apiece?  I would buy books just because the title or subject looked interesting, or the author was one I recognized, or it was something I had once read but didn't actually own. At one point, my home had five bookshelves, and all were completely full.  Most of the books were mine, some were my husband's, and each of my kids had substantial collections as well.  I'm not sure what the total number was, but I'd guess it was over 300. My daughter got married, an