Tag Archives: simplify

Quality Across Time

1 Jun

Material possessions are not on my list of What is Important in Life. However, I like things made with care and quality, things that last.

There have been times in my life when I have bought “disposable” clothing or furniture, and I have always regretted it.

Thrifty as I am, I need to know that what I buy will continue to serve its purpose for many years, and hopefully look beautiful doing it.

NOTE:  I wrote these words many months ago and saved the draft, waiting until I had more to say. I have not been writing on this site, due to having less time and energy to write the kind of posts I want to write. I have decided to go ahead and post my occasional thoughts, however brief they may be.

In this case, I am writing about things made with care and quality and then telling you that I will publish writing with a little bit less care and quality. I do see the irony.

I think, right now, it is more important to bring some care and quality into my Real Life. I care about writing…and so, actually doing it– even in smaller pieces– improves the quality of my Life, if not my Blog.







19 Oct

Recent events have led me to the rather obvious conclusion that I can reduce my stress level and even simplify my life to a great degree simply by focusing more of my energy on myself.

Shocking, isn’t it?

I often come across The Usual Free Advice about how to feel better and find inspiration by focusing on helping others through volunteer work or other selfless pursuits. This is excellent advice for those who have a natural inclination to focus too much on themselves.

On the other hand, those who have spent decades focused on the needs of others may realize, as I have, that too much outward focus eventually becomes detrimental, and the solution sometimes lies in the opposite direction.

I am taking a minimalist approach to stress. Less outward focus means more inward focus.

Prevent Paper Clutter in Your Home

30 Mar

Do you ever feel like you are surrounded by paper?  You can prevent paper from accumulating in your home by changing some of your habits.

  • Bills, Catalogs, Other Mail — Consider online statements or automatic payments to avoid paper billing altogether.  If you prefer paper statements, pay them when you get them, if possible.  This not only avoids clutter, but helps keeps your finances on track because you are less likely to lose or forget about a bill.    Be sure to shred any paper bills with personal information on them.  Try not to set mail down until you have decided which items you actually need.  Be realistic.  Recycle the rest immediately.  If you must put it down without sorting through, always put it in the same spot, and keep a recycling bin very close.  If you never buy from catalogs, get your name removed from the companies’ mailing lists so you won’t receive any.  It’s better for you, better for the companies, and better for the environment.
  • Coupons — Some people save hundreds of dollars with coupons.  If you are never going to be one of those people, then be honest with yourself about it.  Don’t save every coupon you see.  Are you really going to use it by the expiration date?  Do you even want that item?  Save coupons you know that you will use, for businesses you visit often, or for products you actually want or need.  Also, find out which of your favorite businesses or products have coupons available online so you can print them as you need them and they won’t clutter your home.  A word of warning:  do not use your personal email account if you sign up to receive coupons by email, because you will probably be spammed.
  • School papers — If your child earned a great score on a test, make a big deal out of it and then put it on the refrigerator or recycle it.  If an art project is special, frame it.  You can’t keep ALL your child’s work, so let your child know how impressed you are by the really special ones, and let the rest go.
  • Receipts — You don’t need that three-year old receipt for french fries, trust me.  Save your receipts for anything expensive, tax-deductible, or otherwise important.  File them according to date and review the file periodically.
  • Manuals — Most product information can be found online, so most paper manuals aren’t needed.  If in doubt, look it up.
  • Loose Papers Saved for Reference — If you want to save some papers for later reference don’t just put them in a stack.  Stacks get bigger; you don’t want that.  Consider scanning individual pages for digital storage.  If you need them in paper form, try folders in magazine holders, binders with plastic sheet protectors, and expanding or hanging files.  Be sure to label and date everything and review it once a year.  Be realistic about what you file.  Most people file things they will never need.

If you make some simple changes in your lifestyle to prevent paper accumulation, you will soon see a change in the amount of paper in your home.

My 100 Items

8 Nov

In a previous post (Could You Live With Only 100 items?) I committed to coming up a list of only 100 things I would own if I were to attempt this method of minimalism.

An arbitrary number presents a challenge, and some have handled the challenge with semantics, counting hundreds of books as “one library”, or by not counting things also used by others (like furniture).

I admit to having a hard time with this list.  Rationalization did occur.

Some of my belongings are contingent upon my living space or financial situation.  For example, I did not count my lamps, or storage bins, because if I lived in a house with more overhead lighting, closet space or built-in shelves I would not need them.  I did not count appliances because they often come with the house.

Some of my belongings are necessary for health or hygiene.  For example, I elected not to count my toothbrush, shampoo, eye drops, or sunscreen.  Also, some belongings are very small, like my library card, and I did not count them for that reason.

I ultimately decided to count items that I choose to own based on my values, lifestyle, and individual needs.  I also counted sets as one item, within reason, for example “bed” refers to the bed with the pillows, sheets and blankets included.

My list:


#(1)  Car with GPS

#(2)  Laptop

#(3)  Digital camera

#(4-5)  Music systems for bedroom and living room

#(6-8)  Houseplants

#(9)  Cellphone

#(10-19)  Art hanging from the walls and ceiling

#(20)  Photos

#(21)  Pine needle basket made by my late grandmother

#(22-26)  Purses and wallet

#(27)  Leatherman tool

#(28-30)  Vases

#(31-34)  Art supplies

#(35-38)  Board games and deck of cards

#(39)  Drawer of jewelry

#(40)  Calendar

#(41-44)  Cookbooks

#(45-51)  Pots, pans, dishes, flatware

#(52)  Towels and bathmats

#(53-57)  Organizational file binders

#(58)  Bookends

#(59-63)  Bed, chair, table, shelves, dresser

#(64-100)  Clothes and shoes


I think you can tell a lot about me from this list.  Some might question why I used up three numbers on houseplants but didn’t include a television…but I stand by that choice.

If I actually had to put this into practice, I am sure I would have to change some numbers, or even sacrifice some things, but I tried to be as realistic as possible and I am happy with my list.

Could You Live With Only 100 Items?

27 Oct

Are you familiar with the minimalist trend of paring life down to only 100 possessions, or even fewer?  There are some other less specific and less arbitrary downsizing movements, but this one fascinates me precisely because it is so specific and arbitrary.

In case you haven’t heard about this trend, here is a short video about it:  100 Items or Less (CBS News)  Also read more about the challenge on Dave Bruno’s  100 Thing Challenge page.

100 items…  Could you do it?  The truth is:  You could do it, although you probably don’t want to, or need to.   Anyone could do it.

I find the idea inspiring.  Okay, not inspiring enough to actually do–I’m not that hard-core about clean surfaces, but…it does makes me wonder!

If I had to choose 100 items to keep, which items would I choose? It reminds me of the old question: “What would you save from your home if it were in fire?”  Hmmm.  If you could safely save 100 things, that would be a pretty weak fire, wouldn’t it?  But you get the idea.  What do you need?  What do you use?  What do you love?

I am going to think about my 100 items, and come up with a list, which I will publish in a later post.

Feel free to share your own list!  I would love to hear anyone’s thoughts on this.


7 Oct

Today’s topic:

What do you want more of?

(Seriously…  Think of a few things.  I’ll wait…)

Do you want more experiences, or more objects?  When you were small, adults probably asked what you wanted to BE, or what you wanted to DO when you grew up.  Now that you are grown, do you still think about what you want to BE or DO in life?  Or do you think about what you want to buy?

Generally speaking, the first step to a simpler, more fulfilling life is to avoid unneeded possessions.  When we own more than we can realistically use, our belongings can get in our way, and prevent us from living the life we truly wish to live.

It helps if we consider the true value of whatever things we own, or are thinking of buying.  Do they serve a function?  Will they give us lasting joy?   Compare that value with the amount of time, income, and living space these possessions can steal from our lives.

What do you want more of?


Do you want more relaxation?


I’ve been reflecting on why we sometimes buy things we don’t need.  Reading a magazine recently, I noticed that advertisements often don’t describe the product, they describe the way we want to feel.

Discover, Celebrate, Transform, Engage, Create, Capture, Awaken, Dare, Choose, Empowered, Inspired…

These words were taken from a series of magazine advertisements for everything from yogurt to perfume.  I’ll bet you didn’t know a cup of yogurt could do all that, did you?  It can’t.  It’s got calcium and protein, sure…but it’s not going to awaken your soul.

If you want those kinds of feelings, it’s no use looking for them on store shelves.

Buying things you don’t need–or keeping all those things you already own but don’t really like–will not bring you any closer to the life you want.  These behaviors will only fill your house, and empty your wallet.

Think about the life you want.


Do you want more travel opportunities?


Think of the kind of work that always holds your attention, the activities you enjoy, and the people you love.  Now, visualize a way they can all come together in your life.  Move yourself in that direction.

Remember:  Happiness has no price tag, and it doesn’t take up any space in your garage.

I’m No Einstein, But I Knew This!

18 Sep

“We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life.  All that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about.”

~Albert Einstein~

In other words, to be happy, we don’t need to have a lot of STUFF, we just need to have FUN.

Get Simple, Baby!

10 Sep

I asked one of my kids if he thought his life was simple or complicated.  He didn’t know what complicated meant, but he said his life is less simple than it used to be.  He meant that life was only “simple” when he was a baby– because he “couldn’t really do anything, so there was nothing to do”.

How simple can life be, for non-babies?  I don’t know, but I’d sure like to find out.  I believe that for almost everyone, life can be simpler and more organized than it is now.

Commit to finding  at least one way to simplify your life this week.  Protect your free time and your home from the clutter of habits and objects that suck all the time and space from your life.  You don’t need to color-code anything, you don’t need to buy anything, and you don’t need to make anything perfect– just make something in your life a little simpler, or faster, or cleaner.

Wall of Irrelevant Text (Less is More: Part Three)

9 Aug

Today’s topic is journalistic minimalism.  (I’m for it.)

I just clicked on an article (from Yahoo/New York Times) about a person who did something pretty interesting.  At least, that’s what I thought I clicked on.

What I found were two or three paragraphs on the interesting person, followed by 35 to 40 more paragraphs on a bunch of stuff I didn’t care about at all.

Moments of my life seeped away, as I scrolled and skimmed.

There were quotes and references from:

  • financial analysts
  • psychologists
  • professors, associate professors, and scholars
  • economic advisers
  • consulting groups
  • warehouse store spokespeople
  • industry professionals
  • retailers
  • researchers
  • magazine articles
  • more psychologists, more professors, and more analysts
  • a film maker
  • and… my personal favorite irrelevant commenter… a “home entertainment adviser”.

My scrolling paid off.  The end of the article returned briefly to the interesting person, with a link to her blog.

If you are interested:  Tammy Strobel is the interesting person, what she did was downsize her life to the extreme, and her blog is called rowdykittens.com.  I like her blog.  It has a lot to do with simplicity, and I’m all for that.

All I needed were the two or three paragraphs that were actually about her, and the blog link.  So why did I need to scroll through an endless stream of quotes and tangentially related information?

Sorry, Yahoo/New York Times…I’m not interested in what a warehouse store spokesperson, a consulting group, or a home entertainment adviser have to say about…well, about anything.

Less Is More: Part One

11 Jul

Today, I am aware of all the things in my life that I have successfully reduced for the better.

Less complicated, less fattening, less time-consuming, less expensive, and less annoying….means more enjoyment of my life!

Here are three examples of how I have simplified my habits.

(1)   THEN:  Making deviled eggs.

NOW:  Making boiled eggs with Spanish paprika, sea salt and fresh ground pepper.  Less fattening, less work, less time, less mess–more modern, more healthy, more time spent with family and friends!

(2)  THEN:  Wrapping gifts with paper and ribbon selected and purchased.

NOW:  Using simple gift bags, often recycled, with gift tags I make myself.  Less trash, less money, less time–more fun, more creative, more “eco”!

(3)  THEN:  Saving piles of old magazines.

NOW:  Saving individual photos, recipes and articles that interest me, in organized binders with sheet protectors for easy reference.  Less clutter, less forgetting why I saved them–more instant access, more benefit!  (I have already tried some of the recipes, with good results)