The Year of Living Minimally – Week Thirty

Living minimally leads to a better environment. Makes sense, right? Less waste.

Here are a few tips that you might already have incorporated into your lives, but if not, they’re easy fixes to clear clutter and help the planet.

No more plastic bags. Some communities have stopped using them – bravo! – and I’m sure you have a few of them in your car. But don’t just use your cloth or recycled-material shopping bags in the grocery store. Take them everywhere (CVS, Target, etc.). If you have plastic bags, there are places where you can recycle them.

Cloth napkins. They don’t have to be this fancy. I picked up a dozen cotton napkins online about two years ago. They’ve stood up well, and with just two of us, we have enough.

Ditch the plastic straw! Most of the time, I get them at restaurants, but I’ve started asking not to have a straw. I do have this lovely glass straw at home, and it’s easy enough to take with me. According to The Last Plastic Straw, 500 million straws are used and discarded every day in the United States alone. That’s 175 billion straws a year, filtering into landfills and littering our waterways and oceans.

And look! It comes with a teeny-tiny brush for cleaning, and its own little bag. Mine is from Glass Dharma – they make great gifts!

These are just three ideas. There are plenty of ways you can reduce the stuff in your house AND make a small difference around you. The landfills and oceans are full of plastic, so whatever positive changes you make today, you do for your children and grandchildren.


The Year of Living Minimally – Week Twenty-nine

We have an appointment with a tax accountant next week, which means I’m gathering paper. As if I’m not already frustrated with the excess of paper we have in this house. And I try! I really do. I’m scanning photographs to save on an external hard drive. I do not keep tax paperwork after seven years (it is seven years, right?!)

We need to file a final return for Jim’s dad, who died last September, and we need to file our own return. Normally, I can handle it (even though I hate doing taxes), because our lives are not very complicated. This year, I need a professional, so I need to be sure I have everything together. And yes, it’s stressing me out a little. So much paper.

Paper can really clutter our lives (sure, pun intended). I work one day a week. But I need to fill out a time sheet for that one day. I send it off to the boss, but I keep a copy…just in case. (I do shred it and send it to the recycle bin as soon as I get paid). I have direct deposit, but still receive a paper receipt for my pay (in an envelope). More paper. Most all of our bills are e-bills now, and I pay them online, but there’s still too much paper everywhere. So my little project is to find ways I can cut down on the paper.

Your thoughts and tips will be appreciated!

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Twenty-eight

Did you make a resolution to declutter this year? Have you started? It can be a daunting project, I know.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • For each new item you bring into your house, find one you can toss out (and by toss, I mean recycle if possible). You buy a pair of new sneakers. Get rid of the old ones. New dish towels? The old ones go.
  • Don’t shop the sales. It’s too tempting. Shop for what you truly need. And purchase quality goods. A lot of the time, stuff is on sale because it isn’t selling – clothes that are out of style, linens that are of inferior quality.
  • Say no sometimes! If it’s difficult for you to turn down requests for your time, then no wonder your life is cluttered! I was that person, but I’m learning. I can’t be everything to everyone everywhere. I used to feel as though I was letting people down when I said no. But I’m doing better.
  • Get rid of one thing every day. I find this to be one of the best tips, especially if you’re overwhelmed with the prospect of decluttering. Just one thing each day!
  • Don’t set a time frame. Yes, I know this series is my year-long blogging project, but I’m not going to stop living this way just because I’ll stop blogging about it each week. For me, it’s like Weight Watchers – a lifelong journey of trying to do better. I stumble plenty of times, but I always come back to trying.

So the beat goes on. This week I was triumphant against the temptation to buy stuff we surely didn’t need. Besides, I never would have heard the end of it!

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Twenty-seven

How many square feet do you need? Do you have empty rooms in your home, bedrooms of children who have long since moved out? Three bathrooms for two people? And what the heck is a ‘bonus room’??!

Maybe you like extra room. But maybe you exist very well in a small space, especially if you live alone.

We Americans have been taught to believe that more is better. A big house is a symbol of success (even if you can’t afford to furnish it). But The Tiny House movement focuses on living in a much smaller area. It’s not for everyone, I know. Perhaps I’d embrace it if I was single, but I know that two people in a tight spot can be trouble.

My first apartment was a studio, meaning there was just one room. It contained my bed, a two-seat sofa, and a table with two chairs. It worked just fine, but as I moved to other apartments, I always opted for bigger.

My husband and I lived in a three-bedroom house, and now we live in a two-bedroom condo. The extra bedroom has become a repository – my books, his guitars, an elliptical machine we don’t use (but should). If we stay here, my goal is to clear out enough stuff to set up my office there. I’d rather put the space to use.

Could you downsize from your current living arrangements?

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Twenty-six


It’s the midway point for this year-long project. Some weeks I blog about removing (recycling, donating, tossing) things from my house – clothes and shoes, books, objects, papers – and other weeks I blog about finding joy in minimalism.

We’re all so busy, aren’t we? Life never slows down, it seems, unless we’re lucky enough to find ourselves sprawled on a beach, under a warm sun (wearing plenty of sunscreen). But that’s not reality for most people. Here in southern New England, winter’s grip is firm and unrelenting. And while bad weather may keep us indoors more than we’d like, many of us feel stressed. Overtired. Nervous about the future. Nervous about the present.

Stress affects our health, of course. I know it firsthand, as the stresses from my old job contributed to sleeplessness, anxiety, weight gain, higher blood pressure, and even severe back problems. Stress can come from a variety of sources, and while we can turn off the TV, tablet, and phone (I hope you do!), some stress comes from just being a parent, a child, a spouse, a co-worker.


This week, I’ll ask you to stop for ten minutes each day. Ten minutes is easy. Just sit quietly and breathe. Let your mind relax and focus on breathing. Try not to be distracted (headphones can help if there is ambient noise in your home). This is where you start. Today you can find calm in the storm. Peace.


Note: For the next two weeks, I’ll be focusing on writing my new novel. I don’t intend to miss posting, but I won’t be clearing anything out of the house. Perhaps my year of living minimally will focus instead on the writing process! 

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Twenty-five


Just a bowl and a spoon. My dear friend Lynne once said it would be enough. I tend to agree, at times. I have eight basic white dinner plates, eight white salad plates, eight seven white bowls, eight white mugs. We never use the mugs, because we have at least a dozen other mugs.

Plus, I have six cobalt-blue dessert plates, four dessert plates trimmed with strawberries, two shallow bowls, two not-so-shallow bowls, assorted small bowls, six glass footed dessert bowls, four ramekin bakers, two teapots, and another small baking dish with a cover. This is what’s in one double cupboard in my kitchen.

Then there’s the other cupboard with all the mugs. And the cupboards on the bottom with all the pots and pans and the wok and the skillet and the small food processor and the colander and the strainers…..

And the china cabinet, with the service for twelve, the ‘good china’ that had belonged to my husband’s mother, a woman I never knew. Plates and small plates and cups and saucers and a gravy boat and platters and more. The Wedgwood set that my mother had treasured. And above, on shelves, there are Sandwich glass candle holders and a teapot from England and and Austrian glassware and a plate from Japan…..

I’m exhausted just typing it all. And what do we use? A mug for coffee. A plate or bowl for breakfast. Another plate or bowl for dinner and glasses for water or wine. 90% of the items I wrote about above are not used. If I run the dishwasher, it’s once a week at best.

So, it’s my mission to donate as much of these things as I can. Someone must need dishes.

Note: I do understand that, for some of you, your family heirlooms will be passed down to your children (even if they don’t want them!!). Our situation is different, and I’m more than willing to let certain items go. My husband might need a bit more encouragement.

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Twenty-four

It’s the first week of a new year, and I imagine some of you have resolved to clean out your clutter. Right? Yay! I’m your greatest fan.

Today is Thursday, and I’m watching a blizzard out my window. It’s a day for soup and books and movies and naps. Winter in New England can be harsh, but sometimes it’s a blessing – we’re forced to stop. Stop running in circles, driving aimlessly, buying things you don’t need (yes, milk, bread, and toilet paper are okay). Read, chat, watch a movie or play a board game with your kids. Snuggle with your partner, or your pet. Stare out the window and be thankful for warmth and food. Tomorrow we can head outside and play in the snow!

So I’m not decluttering today. I’m enjoying time with my husband and our little dog. I’ve got soup simmering on the stove and flashlights in case we lose power (fingers crossed we don’t). If you’ve made a resolution to get rid of your excesses, great. Remember, you’ve got an entire year to work on it!

If you must be out today (thank you to police, fire, rescue, Hospice workers), stay safe. If you have to shovel, go slow and take breaks. And if you live in a warm climate, well, look at what you’re missing.