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Showing posts from March, 2022

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

Acting and Becoming

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As I ate my fourth oatmeal berry cookie I felt a little over-full, but it still tasted good, so I kept chewing.  Later I was sorry I hadn't stopped at two, the way my husband Jon did.  I don't bake cookies myself.  I don't even keep flour and sugar in my house.  These cookies were from a bakery.  But by eating any of them, let alone four large ones, I was betraying my resolution to cut down on sugar and simple carbohydrates in my diet.  The same was true when I helped Jon polish off some chocolates given to him by a student on Valentine's Day, even though we had decided not to buy any candy for each other. I talk about healthy eating, and sing the praises of vegetables and lean protein, but I don't always do a good job of living up to my ideals.  I'm a hypocrite. Or maybe I'm just a fallible human being slowly trying to improve myself.  The original meaning of the ancient Greek word "hypocrisy" is "acting on the stage, playing a part, pretendi

Why Every Financial Decision Matters

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Most of us think we can "afford" something if we can acquire it in a socially acceptable way.  As long as we don't steal it or run up debt we have no intention of repaying, we can "afford" it. If the monthly payment can be made to fit into our budget, borrowing money rather than saving for what we want is how we manage.  We also tend to make financial decisions based on what the people around us decide.  We buy clothes, vacations, cars, even houses based on what our friends – or the people we want to hang around with – choose.  We don't always give a lot of thought to long-term financial freedom or happiness. David Cain, author and creator of raptitude.com , has a job in construction.  He has noticed that most of his colleagues drive full-size pickup trucks because "it's just altogether more manly and awesome to be able to drive over curbs onto muddy new developments" than it is to park your small sedan on the street and walk to your work site.

Cultivating Purpose

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I get out of bed before my alarm goes off, stretch, shower, make a cup of tea and grab some cottage cheese.  Then my computer is on and I'm writing, working on a new book.  I don't take a break for almost two hours, yet the time feels like it has flown.  I'm energized, not depleted by my work. I love my job as a writer, a passion I didn't really discover until I started writing about the joys of minimalism.  I enjoy working every day, even on the days when the words don't flow as smoothly as I might wish. What gets you out of bed, excited to begin the day ?  I'm willing to bet it isn't a new outfit or doodad for your home, or even a new car.  Isn't it more likely to be a long-anticipated event or an exhilarating challenge?  Maybe you're eager for the beginning of a new project, or for its satisfying completion.  Or you could be looking forward to a special trip or a visit with a much-missed loved one. What's your goal? Sometimes looking at people

Gas Goes Up

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Gas prices just went up again, and I've never seen them so high.  We drive a Kia Forte sedan.  It's not a big car and it doesn't have a huge gas tank, but we spent $44 to fill up.  Just a few weeks ago we would have spent about $35. Some of you are still reeling from financial setbacks due to the pandemic, and the last thing you need is to spend another $10 or $15 on fuel every week (or even more).  You might have to take that extra money out of your food budget, or go an extra week or two between haircuts, or cancel a streaming service or other subscription in order to find the funds. I know that complaining about gas prices is petty, and it just shows how safe and entitled I am.  There's a war happening, and people are being forced to flee their country, and others are being injured and dying every day.  My problems are miniscule. They are miniscule, but I still need to deal with them and so do you.  So let's not complain – let's take action. 12 Ways to Save

Digital Minimalism

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Decluttering your junk drawers, getting rid of duplicates, streamlining your closet, donating dusty knickknacks, and choosing to keep five instead of fifty sentimental items are all fantastic steps toward a simpler, more focused life.  So is removing yourself from activities that just keep you busy rather than fulfilled, and leaving a little white space in your schedule. But ask yourself these questions: Do you check email only to look up from your phone an hour later wondering where the time went? Does a visit to Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter wind up taking an entire evening? Do you have so many apps on your phone (or icons on your desktop) that you can barely see your wallpaper? Do you find it harder to pay attention and remember things? Do people keep asking you to put down your phone and just listen for a minute? Do you want hours of your life back every day? If you nodded at one or more comments above, you may need to declutter your phone habits as well as your home, garage, yar

When Life Moves On, Move With It

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Have you ever found yourself going through old paperwork and feeling strangely nostalgic about it? Recently, I was cleaning out some files and found receipts and paperwork for a remodel we did about 14 years ago, in another house.  I started to read through the notes and look at the old paint sample cards and fabric swatches I had filed.  Suddenly, I realized that my brain was playing a trick on me.  I hadn't seen these files in years and wasn't going to be looking at them again.  Was I feeling a bit pensive because we completed this project when both of our kids were in their late teens and still living with us?  Was I feeling wistful about the house we were thankful to sell in 2012?  Whatever the reason for this odd attachment, it made no sense to keep these outdated files. Sure, those were happy days, and finishing that big job gave my husband and me a great feeling of accomplishment.  But these are happy days too, and I can tackle new projects that make me feel purposeful,

Life Weeds

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How long has it been since you took time to think about the important things you want in your life?  I'm not necessarily talking about bucket list-type items.  I mean, will your life really be dramatically poorer if you never go skydiving, or if you don't make it to the Taj Mahal or Machu Picchu? What do you desire that really will make an important difference to your life?  What are your true priorities?  The dictionary definition of priority is "something given or meriting attention before competing alternatives."  You decide what that means for you.  It might include your education, your marriage, your children, your career, your friendships, your spiritual life, your health, your financial stability, developing your talents, or something else.  Maybe it does mean a trip to Machu Picchu! Here's another important question:  Why do so many of us just seem to drift through life?  Maybe we've given some thought to our true priorities, yet we still get up and g

Spring is Decluttering Season

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You know that feeling.  The cooped-up cabin fever feeling.  The winter-is-driving-me-crazy feeling. But the day is coming soon (or maybe for some of you it's already here) when spring will assert herself.  Something will bloom.  A tree will unfurl a few delicate lime-green leaves.  You'll hear a robin.  The sun will shine through the clouds and the temperature will warm just a bit. And along with a shot of hope and energy, you'll notice how dingy and scruffy your home looks.  Crowded and heavy.  Time for a thorough spring cleaning! (I know some of you live in the southern hemisphere, and maybe you're tired of summer heat and glare.  But soon you'll feel a cooling freshness in the air.  The trees will start showing their beautiful fall colors, and with the change of seasons will come the desire to start something new.) I totally agree.  I'm ready to tackle every corner of my home.  But before we get out our lemon cleanser, our dust rags and brooms and squeegees,