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Showing posts from 2022

Stop Merely Escaping

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Too many of us trudge through the day.  We get up, go to work, take care of the chores, pay the bills, and go to bed, waking up to do it all over again. We're getting by, going through the motions.  Life works – sort of.  But we're not really happy.  We don't feel any sense of freedom or control, and we're certainly not energized or excited by very much. Sadly, this mechanical existence is so common that we think it's normal.  Maybe other people feel a sense of purpose, but our earlier years of achievement and goal setting seem far behind. If we have any goals left, they involve making more money, buying a new car or a bigger house, taking an Instagram-worthy vacation, or prepping our kids for a top university so they can get a good career, make good money – and end up just like us. This is a hard reality to face, so we don't face it.  Our way of dealing with it is not to deal with it.  How do we make it through another day? We pick up our phones and scroll, cli

And Now for Something Completely Different

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My friend Karen Cadera who works and blogs at teachyourchildpiano.com has created a blog bundle with five authors, including me.  Karen is a musician, teacher, and aspiring minimalist who has been subscribing to Maximum Gratitude Minimal Stuff for quite a while now.  She reached out and asked me to join the blog bundle, and I was pleased to do so.  This bundle includes several resources which are easily worth at least $100, but are available to all of you for FREE . Don't be fooled by the blog titles.  You don't have to be part of a homeschooling family to receive benefits from these posts and resources.  Any parent or grandparent can use ideas for improving family life or enriching their child's learning experiences, and every one of us can use reminders and ideas about living in the moment, practicing good habits, and making intelligent decisions about money and belongings. I hope you enjoy the work of these creative bloggers and download the FREE resources that will b

Accepting Change

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Change is in the air. This week in the Sacramento Valley temperatures are expected to be 90° F. (32° C.) or higher.  If you've been reading this blog for a while, you already know I dread summer heat and dryness.  And here in Northern California it is upon us, although I realize that some of you are barely recovered from winter and still reveling in the fresh beauties of spring. This is only the beginning, and we may still have some time before everything that isn't irrigated turns brown and the sky gets that hot glare (or worse, the brown pall that signals fire).  There may be some time before my enthusiasm and energy levels sink as the thermometer soars. Change.  It's inevitable.  Most of us dislike it, but I've heard more than once that the pain of change doesn't come from the change itself, but from resisting it.  And as far as the impending arrival of summer, that's what I'm doing – I'm resisting. It's silly, I know, because I have no control ov

Five Minute Minimalism

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How many posts have you read here at Maximum Gratitude Minimal Stuff ?  Have you also subscribed to Becoming Minimalist or Be More with Less or another minimalist blog?  Have you read about minimizing, thought about it, dreamed about it, but just haven't gotten started yet? Or maybe you did get a start – last year some time.  You did a first pass through your wardrobe, pared down the kids' toys, got rid of your chipped dishes and glassware, and donated a few dusty knickknacks to the Goodwill.  But then you stalled.  Decluttering can be a huge job, and you just lost steam. You can start again – it only takes five minutes. I know you have five minutes.  Five minutes is a commercial break.  You can scramble eggs or make a cup of tea in five minutes.  Forget scrolling through social media and take five minutes to get back into decluttering. 31 Five Minute Decluttering Tasks 1.  Declutter the contents of your purse. 2.  Clear off your dresser or nightstand. 3.  Declutter your unde

Welcome Little One!

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I'm so happy to introduce my third grandson, Liam!  After a difficult pregnancy, he was safely delivered a few weeks early late last month.  My daughter is well, my son-in-law continues to be a supportive husband and hands-on Dad, and big brothers Elliot and Damien think their baby sibling is "the cutest ever." You may not be a parent or a grandparent, but babies have something to teach us about minimalism.  They are the essence of maximum gratitude and minimal stuff.  They come to us needing only love, warmth, cleanliness, and mama's milk.  Sure, they don't sleep, eat, or poop on any kind of schedule, but we are thrilled to welcome them even so. Modern consumer culture has made babies Big Business, and the number of products sold as "necessities" grows every year.  Yet Liam is satisfied with so little:  his food, a clean diaper, a warm blanket, enfolding arms.  Along with his car seat, crib, a few clothes, and a short list of other essentials , his need

Become a Lifelong Learner

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I've always been a worrier.  As the oldest child, I was never able to follow in anyone's footsteps.  I always felt like I was heading into "unknown territory" alone, with no one to rely on or ask questions of.  Maybe I was being fanciful, but I wound up feeling that I had to anticipate and figure out everything ahead of time so I wouldn't mess up.  This belief made me pay attention to details and become a problem-solver, but it also made me a nervous perfectionist.  Once I figured something out, or felt like I was pretty good at something, I clung to that.  I liked feeling that I knew what I was doing.  I was able to live with the fact that there were plenty of things I wasn't any good at as long as I had one or two areas where I felt competent.  And if I wound up being better at something than most of my peers, I let that activity become my focus. That's how I became a musician, specifically a singer.  Being an operatic soprano was essential to my self-im

Fight the Tide of Entropy

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One of the promises of minimalism is that by choosing to own and do less, we make space for more comfort and calm, and time for the people and activities we really care about.  After all, why bother to declutter and curb shopping and strategically "miss out" on some events if doing so doesn't actually bring the energy, focus, peace, and contentment we desire? Minimalism needs to be more than a self-righteous response to greed, thoughtless consumerism, and useless junk.  It needs to be more than a rigid control of the number of things we own or will allow onto our schedules.  Otherwise, minimalism becomes a dismal set of rules.  It becomes an excuse to opt out of life, rather than a way to deeply and intentionally enjoy more of it. That form of miserliness is not what Maximum Gratitude Minimal Stuff is about, as I think you can tell if you've spent much time here.  But we do need our homes to provide a refuge from our always-on, high stress world.  We need to achieve a

What Do You Do With All of Your Stuff?

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So you've decided to pare back and downsize.  You're in the process of decluttering your life.  Fantastic! Here's the hard truth:  No one wants your prized possessions.  Not even your kids. Okay, "no one" might be a bit of an exaggeration.  There are probably a few Millennials who would love to have a china hutch or a vintage Ethan Allen bedroom suite.  But May Kay Buysse, executive director of the National Association of Senior Move Managers ( NASMM ) has it right when she says,  This is the Ikea and Target Generation.  They don't have the emotional connection to things that earlier generations did.  And they're more mobile.  They don't want a lot of heavy stuff dragging down a move across country for a new opportunity. Young couples starting out don't want the things that generations before them saw as marks of sophistication and middle class comfort, such as formal china, crystal, and silver.  And they definitely don't care about collectible

Conquer Your Fear of Less

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We've all found ourselves packing for a trip, worrying that we'll need something, and cramming it in.  But once we return home, we realize that we actually used about half of what we brought, needlessly carrying and keeping track of all the rest.  If only we could have lightened the load right from the beginning! That crowded suitcase is a symptom of fear.  Fear makes us hang on to our stuff.  It makes us nervous about not having enough for our needs.  It makes us anxious about forgetting our loved ones or the highlights of our past.  It prevents us from practicing creativity, resilience, and adaptability.  Fear keeps us from reaching out to others, whether to ask for help or to offer it.  Our fears rarely materialize, but we often let them control us.  It is fear – not minimalism – which narrows our world and makes our life experience poorer. Minimalism helps us realize how little we actually need.  It helps us identify the perfect Goldilocks balance of enough and no more. Man

Good Friday

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A faithful person sees life from the perspective of trust, not fear. Bedrock faith allows me to believe that, despite the chaos of the present moment, God does reign; that regardless of how worthless I may feel, I truly matter to a God of love; that no pain lasts forever and no evil triumphs in the end. Faith sees even the darkest deed of all history, the death of God's Son, as a necessary prelude to the brightest. Philip Yancey A very happy Easter to all of you! Photo by Thanti Riess on Unsplash

The Only Way to Beat FOMO

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Fun to say, but not so fun to live with, FOMO – the Fear of Missing Out – drives many of us toward debt and burnout. We struggle with the fear of missing out on activities, information, opportunities, trends, connection, and many other things.  We struggle to keep up, to be noticed, to be included, to be valued.  FOMO keeps us from looking inward to discover what really matters to us, and pushes us to look outward at peers and influencers, desperate to have what they have and do what they do. FOMO keeps us unhappy and unfulfilled. You might be suffering from FOMO if you say yes when you'd really rather say no scroll endlessly through social media to see what others are doing and thinking obsessively check your phone for texts, tweets, and likes buy things you can't afford to keep up with "everyone else" spend your days in a rush choose popularity and convenience over quality constantly compare and criticize yourself and others exhaust yourself (and your family) trying

Creativity Loves Limits

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My mother was born early in the Great Depression in her grandmother's house.  But when her mother was ready to take my newborn mom and go home, she had a short distance to travel – across the yard and into the barn, where she was living with her husband, my grandfather. Yes, my mother's first home was her grandparents' barn. At least it was a roof over their heads.  They didn't wind up living in their car or a shack made of scrap materials.  And they weren't starving.  My grandma and her mother raised goats, rabbits, and chickens and grew a big garden.  My grandfather was able to get seasonal work in the logging industry as a tree climber, scaling tall trees and removing their limbs.  Eventually he found year-round employment as an agricultural land leveler. But I understand that "less is more" is not a slogan that resonates with everyone.  When you grow up wearing dresses made from flour sacks and going barefoot during the summer so you can save your one

Maximize Your Investment

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If you're interested in minimalism, you probably already know that the pursuit of more and more possessions doesn't make you happy.  You may experience a bit of short-term excitement when you acquire that new gadget or outfit, but the enjoyment doesn't last.  Before you know it, the new item is no longer new – it's just part of all that you own.  And while it may be useful, using it becomes part of the daily routine.  And so, when your eye is caught by something "new and improved," your desire shifts, and now you can't wait to own that new thing. For most people, this pattern repeats itself over and over until our closets and cupboards are full, there's no room in the garage to park a car, and every weekend is spent servicing our stuff. But minimalists realize that a ton of possessions won't necessarily make anyone happy.  In fact, they might actually prevent our happiness. I'm not saying that we don't all benefit from having the items we

Buy Nothing Update

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I've known for quite a while that I have enough.  I have a full home, a full belly, a 4-year-old reliable car, medical care, life insurance, and plenty of education.  My husband is a tenured teacher with an excellent pension plan.  We have good health, good vision (with glasses), decent hearing, and our minds still work pretty well.  We have a happy, almost 38-year-old marriage and wonderful relationships with our grown children, our son-in-law, and our grandsons. What more could I possibly wish for? And while I realized that I might need a few clothes for the summer (I was down to three short-sleeved tops) and of course food, gasoline, personal care items, haircuts, and the like, I was strongly aware that I had no need to purchase new home d├ęcor, kitchenware, tech gadgets, shoes, accessories, or more than two fancy coffee drinks per week. I started my Buy Nothing Year on January 3rd, because I already had enough . Do you think that sounds extreme?  It's been three months.  Are

Minimalist Advice to My Younger Self

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When we were in our 20's, my husband and I bought a house because That's What You Do when you've been married for a few years and plan to have children. Turns out neither of us really loved the house, and I, especially, was not cut out to live in a town of 5,000 people who mostly grow rice, hunt ducks, and listen to country western music.  There's certainly nothing wrong with any of that, but it's not me. We stuck it out for eight years.  We refinanced when interest rates dropped below 10%, but took out the equity and spent it.  Instead of saving money or paying down debt, we used every extra penny to buy stuff for our kids or for the house.  We paid thousands of dollars in mortgage interest while saving a few hundred dollars on income taxes every year. I spent a ton of money trying to turn that house into my dream house, and when we sold it we just about broke even.  Once we paid off the first mortgage and the second, we netted almost exactly the same amount on the