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Showing posts from 2021

Coming... 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! 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 keep for a long time.  I've

The 2021 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. This has been a great year on the blog.  There are almost twice as many subscribers as there were last January, which actually exceeds my goal for the year.  This post is the 101st 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 "100% Off."  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. Whew!  Listing it out like that makes it look like I kept a crazy writing schedule, but I can honestly sa

A Holiday Blessing

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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. But still 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 to stop and savor these things.  Slow down, breathe deeply, and take them all in.  Go stargazing, do a kindness for someon

What We Really Long 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 ha

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. 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. It's a wonderful, walkable neighborhood.  My family has gone caroling there many times, and now my husband and I enjoy our grandsons' excitement and wonder as we walk slowly along the street.  At various times we've warmed ourselves by outdo

What Can I Give?

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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 ox and ass and camel which adore. Angels and archangels may have gathered there, Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air, But only His mother, in her maiden bliss, Worshipped the beloved with a kiss. What can I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb. If I were a wise man, I would do my part. Y

Declare Your Independence from Holiday Hype

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I 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 definitely would not have worried about special clothes or a formal family photograph or Christmas cards.  He probably would not 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 would not have lamented that they weren't participating in a

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 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 only Christmas music during December, an

More Magic, Less Mania

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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 . If self-care isn't something you usually do, and you keep insisting 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."  Sound familiar? If you fall into that mode, or you're just interested in enjoying more magic and less mania during the next several weeks, try one or more of these simple tips. 25 Ways to Take Care of Yourself This Holiday Season 1.  Create a morning routine. Take a little time for yourself first thing

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 myself 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 almost seems unavoidable in our culture. Most of what I own is stuff I really need or is something 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. It turns out even COVI

100% Off

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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. 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 and "must have" gift lists.  "Wh

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&#

Through the Lenses of Gratitude

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Given the very real benefits of practicing gratitude, why do we so often struggle to develop the habit?  A survey done by Janice Kaplan, author of The Gratitude Diaries (paid link), found that while "more than 90% of people think gratitude makes you happier and gives you a more fulfilled life... less than half regularly express gratitude."  It's yet another case of knowing what's good for us and failing to do it. What are some of the obstacles to developing a grateful mindset? We're busy and distracted.   We may feel thankful for someone or something, but then the phone pings, or a child needs attention, or a colleague asks a question, and we move on.  We felt the impulse to say thank you, but it got buried under a to-do list. We notice the negative over the positive.  This might be an evolutionary adaptation, since our ancestors had to pay attention to potential threats in the environment in order to survive.  But in modern times it means that ten things can go

A Day in the Life of Gratitude

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My husband and I live in an apartment, which means I don't have granite countertops or shiplap on my walls.  My kitchen appliances are white, not stainless steel, and I'm never going to have hardwood floors.  I guess that means I'm out-of-date and off-trend, so I should hate my house and commence complaining about it regularly.  In fact, we should probably just move! Here's what Henry David Thoreau has to say about that in his classic, Walden :  "I say beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes. "  Hmmm.  So it's me that needs to be renewed, not my surroundings.  I need eyes of gratitude to see how much I really have. Water I get up in the morning and walk into my bathroom.  I can turn the faucet in the shower and not only get clean water immediately, day or night, but I can get HOT water.  Women all over the world walk long distances to get a bucket of water, and if they want it hot they have to also gather