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Showing posts from 2021

Coming Soon - The Maximum Gratitude Journal

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Shortly after Thanksgiving I had what I thought was a fantastic idea. As you know, I think gratitude is one of the hallmarks of a full and happy life.  And I've written several posts about the value of journaling to establish and sustain a gratitude habit. So my idea was to create and publish my own gratitude journal! A new habit for the New Year Actually part journal and part inspirational handbook, Maximum Gratitude: Find Happiness and Contentment through the Habit of Giving Thanks begins with a 30 day Gratitude Challenge to jumpstart a new lifestyle.  Next are twelve thoughtful essays interspersed with pages which you can personalize with your own expressions of gratitude – enough for an entire year.  The idea is that you will develop and hone a thankful mindset while constructing a storehouse of positive memories and observations you can turn to again and again. I'm still tweaking some of the details.  I want the result to be attractive and something you'll want to kee

The 2021 Maximum Gratitude Minimal Stuff Recap

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As we come to the end of the year, I'm happy to share a recap of the most popular posts on  Maximum Gratitude Minimal Stuff , and a few of my personal favorites that didn't quite make the Top Ten. Proud moments This has been a great year on the blog.  There are almost twice as many subscribers as there were last January, which exceeds my goal for the year.  This post is the 99th I've written for 2021, and I also had well over a dozen posts featured on NoSidebar.com , which makes me very proud.  The huge financial website, Motley Fool , quoted from and directed their readers to my posts, " How to Recover from Winning " and "How to Get 100% Off This Black Friday."  Wow! Additionally, I published four books this year:  The Minimalist Tool Kit * in March, The Minimalist Wardrobe in July, Comfortable Minimalism in September, and my kids' book Fairhaven Christmas Eve just last month. * Updated June 2023 – The Minimalist Tool Kit is now out of print. W

A Holiday Blessing For You Today, No Matter What

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We think of Christmas as a joyous time, and strive to make it so. But no matter our actual circumstances on December 25th, Christmas Day arrives on schedule.  It can be a desperately hard time for some people, no matter what the calendar says .  At times it has been so for me, and no doubt for you as well. What do you love? Regardless of what else is happening in our lives (or maybe especially because of what we're going through), we want to feel our spirits lift.  So I encourage you, as the holiday approaches, to consider the things that truly make your heart soar. the first light of a winter sunrise the crisp, clean, fresh air a robin or a cardinal on a bare winter branch the aromas of pumpkin pie, cinnamon, and nutmeg twinkle lights on a fragrant fir tree a pile of beautifully wrapped packages you've prepared to give to others music! smiles and laughter the warmth of a quilt, a jacket, or a hug firelight and candlelight ... or something else entirely! Don't get too busy

Minimalism Provides What We're Really Longing For

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A new  study  reveals that all around the world (116 countries and territories were surveyed), 72% of adults said that they would rather have a  calm life of inner peace  and contentment than a life of excitement.  Only 16% chose the opposite. Even in the U.S., Canada, and Western Europe, where one might assume that individualism and competitiveness might cause more people to desire excitement and variety, the vast majority of adults showed a preference for calmness and balance (75% in North America and 68% in Western Europe). The authors of the study admit that the results might be somewhat influenced by the stress and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, but modern life, even without a pandemic, is stressful.  We're constantly connected – overwhelmed by news, bombarded by ads, and obsessively comparing ourselves to what others have and do.  Most of us are busy and overburdened by responsibilities.  And we have environmental stressors – crowds, noise, pollution – that can also be

How Minimalism Makes Room for Joy

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Toyon Avenue in my town has been a special destination for thousands of people every December for more than 20 years. All of the neighbors living in a four-block area decorate their homes for the winter holidays – some with a few strings of lights along the eaves and porch, or a sparkling tree in the front window, and some with many more lights and large decorations covering their home and yard, and even arching over the street. A favorite local tradition There are themes.  One family illustrates Buddy the Elf's journey from the North Pole to New York City (from the movie Elf ), another has Frozen -themed d├ęcor.  Several homes feature Santa and his reindeer and sleigh, several more have beautiful nativity scenes.  There are a few homes decorated for Hanukkah. Obviously, the families of Toyon are passionate about their Christmas displays! It's a wonderful, walkable neighborhood.  My family has gone caroling there many times, and now my husband and I enjoy our grandsons' exci

What Can I Give?

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"What can we give _____ this Christmas?"  This question is usually answered by a list of possibilities from a store, which makes retailers happy but might not be useful or desired by the recipient . Why don't we think outside of the (gift) box to provide more value and meaning to everyone? Give your heart. One of my favorite Christmas carols has a lovely, simple melody by English composer Gustav Holst, and profound, yet earthy lyrics by English poet Christina Rossetti. In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone. Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow, In the bleak midwinter, long ago. Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain; Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign. In the bleak midwinter, a stable-place sufficed The Lord God almighty, Jesus Christ. Enough for Him, Whom cherubim worship night and day, A breastful of milk and a mangerful of hay. Enough for Him, Whom angels fall down before, The

Declare Your Independence from Holiday Hype

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It occurred to me when I was proofreading  my last blog post  that the wonderful, simpler Christmas my family experienced the year I had pneumonia might not have happened if my husband had been the one to get sick.  Why?  Because the person who was always trying to create the lavish, "perfect" holiday  was me , not him.  If he had been ill and recovering, I would probably have gone ahead with my usual preparations. Jon, left to himself, would have created roughly the holiday I described.    He would not have felt guilty about not entertaining or baking a bunch of picture-perfect goodies.   He wouldn't have worried about special clothes or a formal family photograph or Christmas cards.   He probably wouldn't have bothered with gifts except for the kids.   He'd have written some checks to charity and made phone calls to loved ones on Christmas Day.   He'd get the kids to church on Christmas Eve, but he wouldn't have worried if they didn't participate in

Our Unexpectedly Wonderful Minimal Christmas

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What truly makes the holidays special?  Jo March in the classic  Little Women  says that "Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents," but is that really true?   Maybe Jo felt that way because she and her sisters were giving up so much else that might have made their Christmas merry:  their father was away serving in the Army during the Civil War, and they barely had money for everyday needs such as food, heat, and clothing, let alone anything special for a holiday.  One December changed everything. That was the year I had pneumonia, and even as I began to recover, I was much too depleted to do my normal Christmas preparations.  I'd clean the bathroom or make the beds and need to rest so I could cough and breathe (the pneumonia had aggravated my asthma).  My husband worked full time, and our children were only 5 and 7 years old, too young to offer much help. How did we celebrate that year?  First of all, I made sure the radio was tuned to a station that played

25 Ways to Enjoy More Magic and Less Mania This Holiday Season

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If you've ever gotten sick or felt run down over the holidays, you've experienced the results of holiday stress.  You could blame it on cold weather, or the dehydrating effects of indoor heat, or being around other people who are sick, but at this time of the year you are likely cleaning planning spending socializing eating  drinking and doing  more while resting and recharging  less . A healthier holiday If self-care isn't something you usually do, and you insist on putting everything else before your own needs, you probably go into overdrive during the holidays.  You go out of your way to make sure that everything is perfect, and that everyone has "the best holiday ever."  Then you collapse once it's all over.  Sound familiar? If that's your typical holiday pattern, or you'd like to do more than survive the next several weeks, try one or more of these simple tips. 25 ways to take care of yourself  When you're healthy and happy, you're in a be

How to Avoid Giving the 12 Days of Uselessness

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I've been becoming minimalist for many years, and yet I still acquire useless stuff. Whether it's unsolicited mail, a gift from someone who doesn't know me very well, or something I buy because it looks interesting or useful when I see it in the store, I just can't seem to stop adding useless stuff to my life.  It seems unavoidable in our culture. Most of what I own is stuff I need or things I enjoy having, but I'd estimate that even after all of these years of living with less I could probably part with at least one-quarter of what I own and never miss it.  I guess these items felt essential when I acquired them, but they turned out to be the opposite.   As I get older, that 25% unneeded inventory will grow and grow until the day I die, at which point  100% of my stuff will be useless , since I won't be taking it with me.  What I will do is leave my children with a few more things that are probably useless to them. Overloaded It turns out even COVID-19 couldn&#

How to Get 100% Off This Black Friday

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It's almost here – the biggest shopping weekend of the year (Black Friday through Cyber Monday)!  In the mall, crowds will be pushing and pulling to buy stuff they didn't even know they wanted until they saw the "huge sale prices."  And even if we don't go crazy at Target or in the high street, we might work at filling an online shopping cart. "What should we get for Uncle Matt?" It's ironic and disturbing that we follow the holiday dedicated to the spiritual practice of thanksgiving with a spending orgy.  It's as if that short pause for gratitude makes us all the more determined to get back out there and grab more stuff.  We had to miss one day without our usual fix. Of course, we "have" to shop for Christmas, but we struggle to come up with gift ideas for all of the people on our list because pretty much everyone we know already has everything they need and most of what they want.  This makes us especially vulnerable to ads and sales

7 Tips That Help Get to the Nitty-Gritty of Gratitude Journaling

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Keeping a gratitude journal is the most well-known gratitude practice for good reason:  It's very simple and highly effective. But maybe you're staring at your pretty new journal and wondering how to start.  How can you make this practice as meaningful as possible? 7 tips for keeping a gratitude journal 1.  Write twice a week. I used to think that writing in my journal every day was best for cultivating thankfulness.  But Robert Emmons , the world's leading scientific expert on gratitude, suggests twice per week.  Why?  Because making daily entries seems to cause what Emmons calls "gratitude fatigue."  It becomes too routine, just one more thing to cross off a to-do list, and doesn't stimulate the desired response. I suggest you choose two specific evenings so that you don't forget – perhaps Sunday and Wednesday. 2.  Be specific and detailed. Journaling works because it takes the thoughts that flit through your brain and makes them concrete .  But you don&