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Showing posts from 2021

New Season, New Habits

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For many of us, lovely autumn is finally here.  For those who live in the southern hemisphere, it is the beginning of another spring. Either way, it's a fresh start. You might already know that I get tired of heat and summer sun, month after month.  Here in northern California, it's almost a miracle to have temperatures lower than 90℉ or to receive any rain at all between May and October.  I think it is almost as difficult as a long, cold, snowy winter, and my husband and I lived in Denver for a while, so I have experienced that type of climate as well and have some basis for comparison. I am quite ready for cooler temps, cloudy skies, and the variety of color and change that autumn provides (it's just like spring in that respect).  I always feel a surge of energy at this time of year, and I'm ready for a new project or challenge. Does the change of seasons make you feel the same?  Are you itching for change and a challenge?  Rather than focusing on a new fall wardrobe,

Look to the End

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Everyone knows that their life will end someday, but no one likes to think about it.  Which is unfortunate, because as soon as you start thinking about the end of your life, you start to live differently. I believed I was thinking about the end of my life when I considered retirement.  I planned how to save in order to make my final years as comfortable and worry-free as possible.  I made a plan for how to distribute my possessions once I'm gone.  But all of it was still theoretical.  I figured my final days were far in the future, and even as I planned for them I didn't take them seriously. Of course it's normal to put a lot of energy and focus on a career.  No one wants to be stuck in a dead-end job with no challenge and no future – we want to climb a corporate ladder, or become a success in our own business.  We want tenure, and publication in peer-reviewed journals.  We want starring roles, medals, and awards.  Or we want to be social media influencers and the subject o

Upgrade Your Closet From Sad to Satisfying

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What am I going to wear? It's the most common question women ask themselves when they open up their closets, and it stirs up two very different emotions:  excitement or frustration. Based on my own experience, and the experiences of other women I've talked to, the feeling of excitement isn't very common.  Sometimes we get it when we've purchased a new outfit, but even then there's no guarantee.  How often have you brought new clothes home only to find that they don't fit, feel, or look as good as you thought they did in the store?  They end up in the back of the closet, tags still on, a reminder of fashion failure. And even if a new outfit is a success, the novelty fades, and our consumer society steps in with ads and promotions that promise even more pleasure if you make another purchase.   The results of buying new clothes every week aren't great.  That fast fashion fix leads to: a closet that's even more packed and hard to keep in order a bunch of cre

You Add the Color

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Comfortable Minimalism is not confined to one particular design.  I hope I've made it clear that your rooms don't need to be ultra-modern stark white boxes with chrome, glass, and abstract art in order to be comfortably minimalist. And you don't need to buy anything to make your home fit some minimalist ideal.  If your beige overstuffed sectional is still usable, and especially if you and your family love to cuddle up or spread out on it, keep it and enjoy! As you become more minimalist, maybe you'll no longer clutter that sectional with a dozen throw pillows, and you'll keep your large coffee table from becoming permanently covered with homework, magazines, remotes, and tchotchkes.  Then it can be ready for a board game or a movie night pizza. Similarly, if you adore your carefully curated gallery wall , especially if it regularly inspires conversations or reminiscences, keep it and enjoy!  There's no need to undo your heartfelt creation simply because it's

Comfortable Minimalism

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Beauty is important.  It makes you feel good.  It makes you happier.  It brings you peace.  This is true in the world around you and in your home environment too. We need the shelter that our homes provide.  But think about how you feel when you walk into your home.  What happens to your energy and your mood?  Does your home make you feel as good as it could?  Does it support the quality of life you need and want?  If not, why not?  What should you do to make a change? These are important questions, because the answers affect you and your family every day. With inspiration from my new book, Comfortable Minimalism: Create a Home with Plenty of Style and a Lot Less Stuff (paid link), you can start making your home more beautiful and welcoming right now, even if you have no money to spend.  Experience more open space, more natural light, and easier home care.  Choose and display the items that bring you most joy.  Make small changes for a big impact. Learn how to do a home tune-up, how t

Making the Most of Minimalism

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Okay, I'll say it again.  In spite of what some may think when they hear or see the word, minimalism does not necessarily mean that you are able to store everything you own in a backpack; you live in a white cubicle with one chair, one lamp, and a mattress on the floor; you cultivate a loner existence with no family, no friends, and no commitments. I suppose there are some who choose to live this way, but I don't know anyone like that.  It certainly doesn't describe me or others I know who have chosen a minimalist lifestyle. So what do I mean when I say I'm a minimalist? As a minimalist, I try to determine what I need in my life so that I can discover and fulfill my calling, while removing the things that distract or prevent me from doing that. For example: I want a beautiful, comfortable, tidy home, but I don't want to spend all my time cleaning or caring for things.  I don't want clutter to put up obstacles that keep me from dressing, cooking, or relaxing when

Ask One Question

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I have a friend who was recently inspired to start down the minimalist path.  She has two young children, and has lately been feeling overwhelmed by all of their toys, clothes, and equipment (you know... car seats, strollers, waterproof mattress protectors, high chairs, sippy cups, pacifiers, etc.), as well as by her own wardrobe, kitchen, and many possessions in a large house. She's a busy lady, so she's been trying to find time to declutter during her children's naps.  But she admitted she's bogged down by the sheer number of things in every nook and cranny of her house and garage, and by the constant decisions about what to keep and what to remove.  I suggested that she start asking herself just one question:  "What do we need?" It's easy to dismiss the possibility of minimalism because you don't want to live like a monk, or like a college student backpacking through Asia, or like an ultra-cool hipster in a mostly-empty all-white loft. But minimali

Plenty of Style and a Lot Less Stuff

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Angular.  Abstract.  Colorless.  Empty.  Finicky.  Functional.  Not for families. Lifeless. That's how many people view minimalism, and it's not how they want to live. It's not how I want to live either, but I love the idea of clean lines and intentionally chosen details.  I want a spacious, streamlined home, but I also want it to be comfortable and welcoming to my family and friends, including two grandsons under the age of six. If warming and softening a minimalist space seems impossible, relax.  Having less stuff doesn't mean owning nothing.  You can have ease and cheer without sterility. 10 Ingredients of a Relaxing Minimalist Home 1.  Warm whites. Start with your largest canvases:  the walls and ceiling.  Choose a white paint that isn't stark, but creamy and with some depth.  In my house I used Sherwin Williams' Alabaster (a favorite of Joanna Gaines). 2.  Lots of light. Bring in as much natural light as you can with translucent curtains or none at all, or

Just in Case

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"Just in case" might be the most tempting phrase when it comes to keeping things we don't need. But it's a little like an alcoholic's "Just one more" or an unfaithful partner's "Just this once."  It's the top of a slippery slope. Remember the portkeys in the Harry Potter series?  A portkey is a magical object that transports the person who touches it to another place.  That's why some of us feel the need to hang on to material items.  The touch of your grown child's old Teddy bear or your high school sports uniform can immediately take you to the past – to a rosy place of comfort and good memories.  The physical item seems to make the memory closer and more tangible. A cherished photo, a letter, a piece of jewelry, some furniture, or something else might be useful, beautiful, and provide a connection to a loved one or to the past.  But when do all of those physical items become something other than a portal to good memories?  W

Self Actualization Isn't About Stuff

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Did you study Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs in high school or college?  You might remember that Maslow's theory suggests that human beings are naturally inclined to learn and improve, to strive and discover.  If you're able to read this blog, you're probably fortunate enough to be in a position to do this. Meeting Basic Needs Self actualization (the highest section of Maslow's hierarchy) requires first that basic needs be met. 1.  Air, water, food, clothing, shelter Humans need these things to survive, let alone to thrive.  Some of us seem to have much more of these than we need, while others in our world struggle for them.  Some live without clean air and water, or where it's hard to get access to either.  They may worry about how to meet their needs for food, clothing, and shelter every single day. 2.  Loving relationships, family and friends, nurture and care These needs are at least as important as the basics above.  We know that young children that ar

Magic in Your Mailbox

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My mother had a pen pal when she was growing up.  They wrote to each other for over a decade. My cousin and I wrote letters to each other from when we were about six years old until our late teens.  My letters always began, "Dear Patricia, how are you?  I'm fine." I got a long, newsy letter from my grandmother once a month until she passed away.  I wrote long letters home to my family when I studied in England in 1980, to my fiancĂ© when he took a job in Colorado six months before our wedding (we've now been married for 37 years), and to my high school best friend when she moved to Oregon (we're still friends, more than 40 years later). Back then, there was no such thing as email or texting, and long distance phone calls were charged by the minute, an expensive way to keep in touch. But today, handwritten letters are rare. While I still occasionally write letters to a few elderly aunts and uncles, most of the time I don't do much more than sign a birthday card.

How to Recover from Winning

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Did you watch any of the recent Olympic coverage?  I don't care whether it's gymnastics, rugby, swimming, or table tennis, there's something about seeing the incredible performances, the feats of strength, agility, endurance, and mental fortitude.  No matter who wins, it's moving to realize what that athlete has accomplished, and what every athlete who has participated in the Games has achieved.  How often do you get to witness such joy and fulfillment? But once you've reached the top of your game, what happens?  How does anyone, world class athlete or not, deal with the loss of identity that comes with achieving an all-consuming goal?  Striving toward a goal is often not just part of our identity, it is our identity.  Working toward that goal becomes what we are all about.  And once the task is accomplished, it can be a little terrifying, because now what? I suppose we think that once an Olympic athlete wins a gold medal, everything in her life will be perfect fro

The Choice is Yours

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My husband is going to his parents' house again this weekend. That doesn't sound strange, does it?  Unless I tell you that his parents no longer live there. My father-in-law passed away last fall, at the age of 95.  My 93-year-old mother-in-law has moved to Arizona, and now lives in a small house across the street from her oldest son. Yet the home they lived in for 58 years is still a responsibility. My husband and his brothers have spent a lot of time over the past several months clearing out their parents' home.  Recently, they discovered ticket receipts from their family's 1968 ocean voyage to Europe on the Cunard Line's Queen Elizabeth .  They were in a box that had been in their parents' basement for over 50 years.  They've told so many stories about that trip.  Jon has many vivid memories, even though he was only 8 years old at the time.  The receipts don't add anything to those memories, nor does the unopened junk mail that was thrown into the box

Why and How to Limit Screen Time

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I watched a 3-hour DVD on Saturday, as well as some of the special features.  Then we turned on Olympic coverage and watched that for almost another 3 hours, including plenty of advertisements.  Before bed, I checked my email and wound up scrolling on Facebook for about 40 minutes. That's not a typical day for me, though for many people nearly 7 hours of non-work screen time isn't unusual.  According to the most recent studies , Americans spend an average of 4.5 hours watching TV every day, plus over 5 hours on their smart phones (sometimes both at once).  This is time spent texting, emailing, shopping, watching videos, using social media, playing games, etc. – not making phone calls.  Some people spend up to 12 hours on their devices every day. I don't know when they work or sleep or anything else. Not surprisingly, even though plenty of tech entrepreneurs are excited about the ongoing growth in this area, some experts are becoming concerned.  Obesity, anxiety, and depress

Clutter and Obesity - There IS a Connection

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There is scientific evidence that clutter and obesity have a relationship.  Jonathan Bailor, author of The Setpoint Diet , explains it pretty succinctly. Stress hormones are involved in weight and hunger signals.  One of the most influential on weight is cortisol. Among cortisol's many functions is to trigger the release of insulin, which then delivers glucose to cells for the energy to deal with short-term stress.  This is part of your body's survival response to stress.  If a predator starts chasing you (the typical type of short-term stress faced by humans for the majority of our history), you need fuel fast.  Then the crisis ends, the glucose is burned off, and a relaxation response gradually returns the body's systems to normal. The trouble is that your body responds to all stresses in the same way.  If you experience marital problems, financial difficulties, job stress, an argument, worry, or guilt and shame over your weight or your clutter, it's all "a saber

Bring the Mountain Closer

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Most overweight people feel a lot of shame.  Feeling proud of myself for something to do with food is definitely not typical. I suppose that pride aspect is part of the reason I like to start a new diet.  I feel virtuous about all I'm giving up.  Shedding those first few pounds feels like a reward for how "good" I've been on the diet.  Have you ever had that feeling? But once the water weight is gone, and weight loss slows, or maybe even stalls, I stop feeling like there's anything I can be proud of.  I haven't lost the dress size I vowed to lose; I haven't even lost 10% of my body weight . I know I'm not alone in this.  So how does anyone keep from giving up? The sad truth is that every big goal has a point at which we feel that we're making no progress.  It feels like the goal isn't getting any closer.  It's like walking toward a mountain on the horizon that seems as if it's receding into the distance.  Trent Hamm, who blogs at The S