Monday, September 03, 2012

Recommended Reading

I thought I would share with you some of the blogs and books I have been reading that have helped me as I declutter my surroundings and work towards the goal of simplifying and minimizing my possessions and time-commitments down to the truly important.

The following are listed in no particular order. by Courtney Carver is a lovely site.  She has written two excellent e-books:  Simple Ways to Be More With Less and Living in the Land of Enough is the home of Francine Jay, the author of The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, a book I highly recommend as well. Is Tammy Strobel's very interesting blog where I first learned about tiny homes.  Her new book, You Can Buy Happiness (and It's Cheap): How One Woman Radically Simplified Her Life and How You Can Too will be out sometime this month, and I can't wait to read it!

Leo Babauta is a name well-known in minimalist and simple living circles.  He is considered by many to be the Godfather of this movement.  You can find his writings at and  Two of his more popular books are The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Business and in Life and The Effortless Life:  A Manual for Contentment, Mindfulness, & Flow by Sandra never ceases to challenge me.  I always look forward to her posts. is co-written by two good friends,  Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, who call themselves "The Minimalists."  They are one of my more recent "finds" and I have been gleaning a good deal from their writings.  They also have a collection of their essays put together in book format:  Minimalism:  Essential Essays

This is by no means a comprehensive list!  There are so many excellent authors out there who are embracing the concept of minimizing and simplifying to live a more full and satisfying life.  However, what I have listed above should definitely give a seeker plenty of food for thought.  Enjoy!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Getting Rid of "The Gimmees"

You know all about "the gimmees" don't you?  Sure you do!  Usually we associate this phenomenon with a toddler who sees a toy or a treat and exclaims, "Gimme!"  Unfortunately, while social convention dictates that we outgrow our inclination to shout "Gimme!" whenever we see something we want, most of us continue to suffer from a severe case of the gimmees throughout our life.

Shopping is the national pass-time in America.  It starts in our youth where we are told that we must have the latest toy or fast-food kid's meal to be happy.  According to A.C. Nielson, the average child sees 20,000 30-second TV commercials in a year.  As we get older, we start to hang out at the mall with our friends. We buy magazines designed to convince us that the stuff we have is not good enough and tell us that we need the newest, latest fashions or gadgets to be complete.  We grow up and get a place of our own which we feel we must fill with stuff.  And then we get a bigger place so we can have even more stuff.  So it goes, always obtaining and never satisfied.  And that is the saddest part of all:  we are never satisfied, never content.  It's not ever enough.  The thing we bought last week to bring us happiness often ends up stuffed in a closet, a drawer, or the garage by next week as we move on to the thrill of pursuing and obtaining the next big thing.  We end up with kitchens full of gadgets we hardly ever use, closets full of clothes we never wear,  attics stuffed to capacity with things we don't use, and enough hobby supplies to open our own craft store! And even while we are being slowly suffocated by our stuff, we still have the gimmees.  We pore over catalogs that come in the mail.  We shop on line with gusto.  We wish for shinier cars and bigger houses.

So, how do we change this?  How do we change ourselves?  Well, the first step is seeing the problem for what it is.  A person can organize and declutter all they want, but until the reset button is hit and we truly get cured of the gimmees, decluttering will only be a temporary solution. It is necessary to realize that the practice of constantly seeking and wanting more things is toxic and does not really bring happiness.  It is relatively easy to acknowledge this truth intellectually, but changing our heart and our habits is much harder!

One way to overcome the gimmees is to assess what you already own.  I started with my wardrobe, culling all the clothes I never wore or didn't like.  Then I began going through the attic, drawers, cupboards and closets, pulling out things we didn't use or need and setting it free.  With each bag or box of stuff that went out of my house, I began to feel lighter and freer.  Somewhere, during all this process, my heart began to change.  I began to see things as just that -- THINGS, inanimate objects.  I'd ask myself, "Do I use this?  Do I love this?  Does it bring me joy?"  It was amazing how many things were not in any of those categories!  So why was I keeping it?  As it became easier to let go of so much stuff, the desire to obtain more stuff began to decrease.  Let me repeat that, because I think it's very important:  As it became easier to let go of so much stuff, the desire to obtain more stuff began to decrease.  I am beginning to enjoy the space I have created.  My home is starting to feel more peaceful.  I am getting closer and closer to owning what I love and loving what I own.  Now I laugh at advertisements and billboards. I avoid the mall like the plague. Catalogs go straight into the recycling.  I do not shop the internet for household items or crafting supplies.  I want to enjoy what I already have.  I am happy to say I believe my case of the gimmees is currently in remission and I hope to keep it that way!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

How to Let Go of Stuff

As I travel this journey of gradually reducing my possessions down to only the things I use and love, I have found that the physical act of sorting, packing up, and hauling away is the easy part.  The hard part is the Letting Go.  So I thought I would share what I have been learning as I let go of my stuff.
The first step is to realize that it is all just STUFF.  Stuff is not not people.  It does not have feelings.  I do not have any obligation to any of this Stuff.  Letting go hurts nobody.  In fact, selling it or giving it away to someone who can use it is a good thing.  Each item that goes out of our home is something we no longer have to maintain, clean around, and shuffle here or there; plus it is put in the hands of someone else who really wants or needs it.  It's a win-win situation!

The next emotional stumbling block is the sentimental attachments we put on things.  Try to look at that item objectively.  Do you actually like that lamp shaped like a shepherdess, or are you just keeping it because it belonged to Great Grandma' Esther?  Remember, the thing is NOT the person.  Getting rid of the thing does not negate your fond memories and the love you have for that person it represents. Don't keep something just because it was loved by someone else!  The question is:  Do YOU love it?

Which brings us to tough one--the family heirlooms.  I have several things in my home I consider beloved family heirlooms.  Some of these things will be very hard for me to part with, and I know would break my mother's heart if I sold or gave to Goodwill.  While I may be ready to let go, I can't change my mom's attachment to these items.  However, since she now lives in a retirement facility, returning them to her is not an option.  On the other hand, I can not allow myself to be emotionally blackmailed into keeping a larger home (or renting storage) just to hold on to furniture I no longer need because I don't want to hurt my mother's feelings.  Here is my solution:  when I find I need to let go of an item I consider an heirloom, I will offer it to anyone else in the family.  If no one in the family wants it, I will have to dispose of it in a proper manner, which may mean giving it to someone else who will treasure it or selling it to an antiques dealer.  And then I will hope and pray that Mom does not ask me about it.  But to be honest, if it gets down to that, I may consider telling her a "white lie" to spare her feelings.  I do not believe in lying and I am quite bad at it, but honestly, there is no need to make a sick old lady sad.

Another big psychological hurdle to be jumped is the I-might-need-this-someday justification for keeping stuff.  To help me over this obstacle, these are the questions I ask myself: 

--Have I used this recently?

--Will I need this in the near future?

--Is this a specialty item which only does one job, and do I own another multitasking item that can do the same job?

--If I were to get rid of this item, but then found I needed it in the future, could I purchase or borrow another to replace it?

--What am I afraid of?  Will something bad happen or will my life be less happy if I get rid of this thing?

If you are still reticent to toss something because you "might need it," then pack it away for a designated time.  If, after that predetermined period (week, month, quarter, or year,) you have not unpacked it, then obviously you don't need it!  So let it go!

If you need more motivation, play a few mind games or thought experiments with yourself.  Ask yourself, "What if we had to move next week into a home that is less than half the size of what we have now?  What would I take?"  Then walk around your house and truly pretend you have to move.  This helped clarify what is really important to me.

Another mental image I use is imagining all my stuff on chains attached to my ankles.  If I am sitting in one spot these shackles may not be a big deal, but if I want to get up and move, all that dead weight is dragging behind.  The more I let go, the lighter my burden and the freer I will be to easily pick up and go wherever life takes us!

Remember, the less you own, the less you have to care for and worry about.  Think of all the extra time and space you will have to breathe.  Think about how much easier it will be to keep your home clean.  Look forward to the freedom and joy that will be yours when your home contains only the things that you love and find useful. I know that's what I'm doing, and even though it is hard to let go, each step closer to that final goal feels great!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Kick-In-The-Pants

One topic that has been on my mind a great deal the last few months is "minimalism."  No, I'm not referring to the decorating aesthetic of bare white walls and spartan furnishings.  I am talking about living with less Stuff, paring down your life to the essentials, owning (and doing) only those things that are useful and bring you joy.  This philosophy is not about organizing your clutter, but rather letting go of it!  How many plates does one family need?  Why are there boxes and boxes of STUFF stored in the attic untouched for months, even years?  Why do we keep closets full of clothes that we don't like and never wear? Why are we constantly running from one activity to another, never slowing down to just "be" and enjoy the moment?

All this Stuff & busyness weighs us down!

So, hubby and I determined to do something about it.  Enough is enough!

First, let me clarify:  we are not hoarders.  You would not have ever walked into our home and thought to yourself, "Wow, they have a problem.  It's time for an intervention."  It was usually reasonably tidy and comfortable. However, we had six 72-inch tall bookshelves packed with books, plus 3 more bookshelves full of my crafting supplies.  Our closets were all filled.  The attic was also full.  I had to store things on top of the refrigerator because my kitchen cabinets had no more room.  Not being able to find something we really wanted was a too common occurrence.  Getting the vacuum out of the coat closet was a pain due to the amount of Stuff stored all around it...

You get the picture?  Our Stuff was not serving us.  In fact, it was frequently impeding us from living joyfully and causing frustration.

So, the Great De-Stashing began.  We sorted and tossed and donated piles and piles of Stuff.  And then we did it some more.  Hundreds of books, bags of clothes, unused housewares, furniture we never liked, all removed from our home.  Each time we let go, the easier it became to let go of more.  The thrill of loading my car full and hauling it off was even more exciting than the thrill I used to get shopping for something new.  In fact, shopping and buying more Stuff is the LAST thing I want to do these days.  And you know what?  So far, I have not missed one single item I have let go of.  Literally thousands of pounds of Stuff has left our home, and still there is more to go!

And now, you may be asking yourself, "So what about that 'Kick-In-The-Pants' mentioned in the title of this post?"  Well, as I write this, my hubby is in the middle of a job another town.  If he lands this job, it would not only necessitate relocating, but it will surely require serious downsizing as the cost of housing in the new community is significantly higher than where we currently live.  In fact, the four of us could very likely go from living in a 2,000 + square foot, 5-bedroom house to a 2-bedroom apartment with less than half our current square footage!!!

How's that for a kick in the pants?

Stay tuned for more posts discussing minimalism, including some how-to's and recommended resources.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mindless Mindful Running

There are many people who run to clear their minds.  It can be a very zen-like experience.  I remember that  feeling well, getting in "the zone," mesmerized by the rhythm of your feet moving...but that was a long time ago for me when I was much younger. Starting over years and years later, running barefoot, trying to have correct form and avoid injury has made my runs anything but "mindless!"  Instead, I find my mind constantly engaged, focusing on the terrain and my body to make sure I don't hurt myself.  The entire time there is an internal conversation going something like this...

"Mind your posture.  No slumping.  Keep your core strong!"

"Careful with your stride...quicker and shorter."

"Drive your knees up a little more.  No shuffling!"

"Quiet, gentle contact with the ground.  No pounding!" 

"Don't push so hard.  This isn't a race."

"I know this feels good, but it's time to take a walk-break.  Remember, you are in this for the long haul and don't want injuries."

"Stop worrying about what those people must think of you and your bare feet."

"Make an adjustment on your foot strike, I can feel some friction.  No blisters allowed!"

"For goodness sake, smile!  This is supposed to be fun, not work!"

Now let me say, I'm not complaining.  I thoroughly enjoy my little runs.  I am trying to accept it for what it is at this moment.  Instead of bemoaning the fact that I can not skip out and run miles and miles effortlessly, I try to find joy in each step of my journey towards that goal. It is a great pleasure to get outside in nature, feel the various forms of ground (concrete, pavement, sand, mud, grass) under my feet, and work my muscles.  Right now, running for me is anything but tuning out.  It is much more a tuning IN.  No distractions like an ipod or monitoring device checking my heart rate and time.  No padded shoes to cushion and insulate my feet.  Just me listening to my body and trying to experience and enjoy the world around me.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


The following is something I wrote on a barefoot running forum about my first barefoot run last week:

Let me explain something. I am NOT a runner. I used to run years and years ago. I loved to run. But running did not love me. Even in my teenage years, my track and cross-country career was riddled with shin splints and stress fractures. As an adult, every time I tried to pick running back up, the same old injuries would start to return. It was so frustrating. No shoe or insert seemed to help. I was beginning to believe that these flat feet just weren't made for running. So I walk...a lot! (And wish I were running.)

I've been reading about barefoot running. I've been walking barefoot as much as I possibly can around the house, yard, and during my frequent visits to the neighbor's house across the street. (Yeah, that may not sound impressive, but pavement gets pretty hot when the heat index is 112 degrees outside!) I've been searching and shopping for the "right" minimalist shoes so I could get started...but that idea seemed to be nixed by several of the more experienced barefoot runners I read. I still want some minimalist shoes...but I'll add those once I'm sure my form is good.

So today (July 3) was the day. I was ready to take the plunge. Once the afternoon sun had moved down a bit and it cooled to a nice, chilly 91 degrees or so I donned my flip flops, grabbed my neighbor's big dog, (bad guys don't bother ladies with big dogs as quickly as a lady alone,) and I headed for the paved greenway just a few blocks from my house. Once I was off the very bumpy, gravelly pavement that is in front of my house, I slipped off my flip flops and tentatively started to walk. It felt good! Then I broke into a run. It felt great! Even though the path was littered with debris (twigs, acorns, etc.) from the big storm a few days ago, my feet didn't hurt. Equally amazing to me was that I didn't feel as winded or wiped out as I have gotten lately when I've tried to add some running into my walk. It felt easy and natural. I did several intervals of running, forcing myself to stop and walk because I am determined to avoid injury!

I can not believe that I did nearly a full 2 miles walking and running barefoot! Needless to say I am quite thrilled and hope this is the beginning of a new journey for me and my feet!

Tuesday, July 03, 2012


You know the old saying:  Keep It Simple Stupid.  Okay, maybe it's not the most polite way to make a point, but it does make a point!  Since I last blogged I have been reading a lot about the idea of simplicity and minimalism.  Am I planning on joining a Buddhist monastery and culling my possessions to only one robe and one bowl?  Goodness, no!  However, I can honestly say that THOUSANDS of pounds of STUFF has left our home and it feels so good!  I have been going through closets and drawers and the attic and letting go of all that STUFF that we don't use or love.  It is an ongoing process, but this is my goal.  Eventually I would like to say that every single thing I own is either useful and/or brings me joy.  If time permits, I will write more here about my journey.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Latest Venture

Hello! Long time, no blog!

I've been a busy little bee, although I haven't made time to write about it! One thing that has kept me hopping is that I recently opened an Etsy shop. (Thanksgiving, 2011)

I am selling some hair sticks and jewelry.

But the best-sellers have been my fiber-arts accessories, like the drawstring project bags.

And I've made some zippered box bags in various sizes.

There are no exposed seams in ANY of my bags, even the box bags. Here's one turned completely inside out!

Many of my drawstring bags are completely reversible.

For folks on a tight budget, I offer a K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Sweetie) Bag which is also fully reversible.

There are snag-free beaded stitch markers in fun shapes too.

Feel free to drop by the shop and look around any time!
If you find something you like in the "sold" section, feel free to contact me.
I have been doing a lot of custom orders and I am happy to reproduce designs whenever materials are available to do so!


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