The Year of Living Minimally – Week Forty-eight


Kind of hard to write this week. I’m not sleeping, because I’m so worried about this country. These poor children and their distraught parents. The daily barrage of hatred and condemnation from the White House, the silent acceptance by the elected Republicans. The false information spread by those who don’t take the time to educate themselves to the facts.

“I’ve seen several tweets comparing this to Nazis / The Holocaust and saying things like ‘this is how it begins.’ I teach Holocaust Literature so let me be clear – this ISN’T how it began. This is already several stages along the way.” (Aviva Dautch)

“Make no mistake – no matter where you stand on immigration, what we are doing to children and families in the name of the law is evil. And we, as Christ followers, have a moral responsibility to speak and stand against evil. You cannot remain silent.” (Pastor Stan Cardwell of Community United Methodist Church in Crofton, Maryland)

Chobani chief executive Hamdi Ulukaya, an immigrant who is known for hiring refugees, tweeted that “separating a child from a mother or father is not political. It is inhumane. It is against everything this country stands for. I have seen it in other parts of the world but never thought I’d see it in the land of the free.”

This week I shredded paper and put it in the recycle bin. I used less stuff.

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Forty-five


Old habits die hard. But the only way to change an old habit is by practicing a new one.

Last weekend I went out with my sister. Neither of us is a shopper, but she needed to buy shoes for work and I tagged along.

Now, you may recall that I’ve pared down my shoe collection (black, brown, white, tan, sneakers – that’s basically it – winter boots don’t count in June). But I was drawn in – lots of sandals on sale. I was tempted. I paused, long enough to realize that I have what I need. And the floor of my closet looks good! Hey, buy ’em if you want ’em. This is my personal journey. I’ll survive without those adorable Calvin Klein slides, marked down 40%.

Then we hit the bookstore. Oh, man. Harder than passing up shoes is passing up books.

But I did. I’m behind my own self-imposed schedule for the new novel I’m writing, and I still have plenty of books to read. Besides, if I do buy a book, it’ll be from an independent bookstore.

We are barraged with ads every day. Buy now. On sale. Clearance. Last chance! It’s part of our culture. Changing the habit of consumerism can come slowly. But last weekend, as I returned home with only a bouquet of irises for the house, I felt triumphant.

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Thirty-one


Can we call this post “Round Two”?

This week I recirculated through the house, opening closets and drawers and pulling out clothes and shoes. And I realized that when I first attempted to pare down my wardrobe, I picked the easy things – dressy dresses from 2003, high heels I no longer wear, that brown sweater I never liked and never wore, the extra black trousers.

This time, I looked at my clothes with new eyes. (This is what I do as a writer, too – get that first draft written, do a quick self-edit, then tuck it away for a few weeks. When I go back to it, I see how much needs to be rewritten.) I pulled shirts that I haven’t worn in years. Christmas placemats and tablecloths. A couple of purses I’ll never use.

Living minimally is an ongoing project. Last week I bought new socks and underwear for my husband (because he probably wouldn’t have). Adding means subtracting – and old socks and underwear don’t go in the donation bin! I hate drawers stuffed with…stuff, crammed with t-shirts and rolled-up pairs of socks. Everything needs its place, and sometimes that place is the trash.

We have lots of things that need to go somewhere else. They’re useable, and neither of us wants to throw away anything that can be used by someone else. I think this is why I’ve avoided dealing with…the extra microwave, the china, the sheets and towels. But I must. And I will.

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-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-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.

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Twenty-three


As I slog toward my halfway point in this year-long project, this week I can report, happily, that my workspace looks much better than it did. I forced myself to clean up this space, because last week I said I would! (I should watch what I say, right?)

I refused to take any before pictures, but imagine the space you see above cluttered with papers. Oh, I knew where everything was! One thing I realized was that I had scraps of paper everywhere – words, phrases, snippets of conversation I’d overheard – things I wanted to keep for future writing. So I took a few hours and typed them into a desktop folder called “Snippets.” Yeah.

The floor (carpet) similarly was covered with papers – accordion folders of previous years’ tax stuff (ugh), photos, insurance policies. Look, I’m confessing here! This area was in rough shape. The filing cabinet is now being used appropriately. I can find what I need.

Oh, and I filled four paper bags with recyclable papers. I shredded what needed to be shredded.

It’s a happier place today!

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Twenty-one


How are you holding up? ‘Tis the season for stressing out. Well, not me. I’m not going to do it.

Not this year.

Here’s our ‘tree.’ My Christmas cactus didn’t bloom this year (it’s fickle that way), but I adorned it with little fairy lights and nestled one ornament in it – a sweet ceramic dove inscribed with Jim’s dad’s name. Jim received it from the funeral home that held a lovely memorial service for all the family members who’d lost loved ones this year. It seems fitting to keep things simple this year. We’d scaled way back on our decorations before this year, but the little tree and the strands of lights will sleep in their bins for a bit longer.

I’ve minimized my shopping, too. Give experiences, time, things that can be consumed. How about taking a friend to the movies? Lunch? Coffee? If you’re a couple, decide on a getaway, or home improvement. I know some parents work with their children to donate gently used toys and games before Santa brings more – what a great idea!

Jim did mention a couple of books, and he’ll get them. Remember I donated a few boxes of books earlier this year? That was to make room for more books (haha). My sisters and brother-in-law will be able to eat and/or drink their gifts.

Honestly, we have everything we need. Do you?

For more insights about gift-giving, check out The Minimalists’ post on gift-giving

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Twenty


I cannot post a photo of the garage. It looks pretty much the same as it did two weeks ago, only with a few more items (yes, I’m screaming inside my head). But on the plus side, it looks like we have a buyer for Jim’s father’s house, which is good (and a relief as we head towards winter). Jim brought home the ladder, step stool, wet/dry vac, and hand truck that were in his dad’s garage. So, I’ll get to the garage at a later date.

This week, in the midst of holiday parties and social events, I got to thinking about how this minimalist endeavor should pertain to eating. Yes, if you know me, you know about my lifetime struggle.

Joshua Fields Millburn writes all about the minimalist’s approach to food here. Now, some of his practices might work for you, and some may not, but I like the idea of food as fuel rather than food as entertainment. I like the idea of ridding myself of as much junky food as possible (yes, even the beloved Swiss chocolate).

Given all the stress of the past two months, I’m surprised my weight isn’t higher, because I am a stress eater. And thankfully, my lab results were good – cholesterol, sugar, blood pressure all normal. But I can do better with what goes into my body.

And we all know that portion sizes in the US are outrageous. Giant cups of soda and coffee, a slice of cake served on a dinner plate and enough for the table to share. Even our plates have changed. Check it out:

The plate on top is from my husband’s mother’s good china (what do we do with this service for eight???) The plate measures 10 1/2″ across, but the actual food part measures only 7″ across. The plate on the bottom is from our everyday dishes (Crate and Barrel, 1994). The plate still measures 10 1/2″ across, but the food part is practically the entire plate.

Anyway, you know this already, right? I do, too. I just forget sometimes. I’m going to try and be more mindful – and minimal – about my eating.

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Seventeen


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I recently binge-watched the newest season of “Transparent” on Amazon – and “Jesus Christ Superstar” figures heavily into the episodes. The early-70s musical was a backdrop for my teenage years, and I’ve been singing around the house this past week:

“Try not to get worried, try not to turn on to

Problems that upset you, oh

Don’t you know

Everything’s alright, yes, everything’s fine…”

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This quote has been around for a long time. The first time I read it was in Cynthia Cooper’s courageous book, Extraordinary Circumstances. The quote has stayed with me over the years as obstacles and unexpected difficulties have appeared in my life. Worrying can have a negative effect on your health (making you tired, stressed, leading to weight gain and depression). Before you let worry consume you, hit the pause button.

Part of my journey toward living minimally is freeing up the mental clutter. Worry is part of that clutter, and while I’m the one in our marriage who tends not to worry (balancing out my better half), I understand the “why” behind worry. The more we tidy up that clutter, the more at peace we can be.  “Try not to get worried….” 🎶🎶🎶