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Showing posts from December, 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