From NHWN: The Magic of Small, Basic Tasks

“Simple tasks hold magic. They have the ability to untangle our thoughts. They can set us free from our doubts, giving us a chance to feel a small bit of accomplishment. The simple task grounds us, body and mind. ”

I often find inspiration in the shower, while doing the dishes (by hand in the kitchen sink, of course!), or when I’m stuffing mail into post office boxes at my day job. I hope this latest post from Suddenly Jamie on Live to Write – Write to Live inspires you to seek solace in the simple things as well!

~PEACE~

Live to Write - Write to Live

Keep things simple. Keep things simple.

When things get a little crazy (and when aren’t they a little crazy?), small, humble tasks create pockets of sanity in my day. I expect my gravitating toward these menial chores in moments of crisis is a bit like the British tendency to make tea even when (sometimes especially when) everything seems to be falling apart. There is comfort in the simple and the mundane, in purely functional activities that are what they are. These manual labors provide a sense of grounded rationality that is often otherwise hard to find.

Take for instance, mending. For months now, a small pile of clothes has been sitting high on a laundry room shelf, patiently waiting for me to repair ripped seams and broken fastenings. The job was not all that complicated, but I just never seemed to get around to it. And then new damage to my daughter’s favorite…

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The Importance of Finding Your Tribe

As I strive to embrace simplicity, turn my back on mindless consumption, and form positive habits in my daily life, I feel like I’m fighting an uphill battle every day. All around me, friends, family, coworkers, and even casual acquaintances question why I want to live this way.

Why don’t I want to eat a bag of Cheetos and a box of cookies every night?

How can I possibly be satisfied with a 3 year-old cell phone and a 5 year-old TV?

Why don’t I want to go to Wal-Mart?

How could I even consider giving up such a “good job” at the post office, when I’ll be “all set” with a pension for life if I just “hang in there” until I’m 60 years old?

Why don’t I want to make more money?  

Why am I giving away half the clothes in my closet?

Sometimes, in my darker moments, I even start to ask myself those same questions.

Then, every once in a while, I meet someone who gets it. Or I listen to the latest episode of The Minimalists’ podcast. Or I read a new blog post from Leo Babauta or Joshua Becker or Courtney Carver. And I remember that I’m not alone. I’m not crazy. I just want to do things a little differently. I want to live my life a little more deliberately.

If you’re following this blog, then chances are, you’re interested in living a simpler and more purposeful life as well. Some of the people around you probably don’t understand. But remember that there are plenty of us out here who do. Those are the people you have to surround yourself with. They are your inspiration and your allies.

Thanks for reading, and for being on my team. I hope we can continue to help and inspire each other to follow our own paths to meaningful living. It isn’t always easy, but it’s always rewarding.

~PEACE~

Cool Podcasts for Downshifters

I recently started listening to podcasts during my half-hour commute to & from work every day. I know, I know… I’m arriving at this party a little late, but this is by far the best new thing to happen to my daily routine in a long time! Why didn’t I think of this before? Now I’m arriving at my day job energized and motivated, with my mind full of new input for my writing and creative pursuits. By the time I get home, I’ve usually jotted down a few new ideas and resources that I can’t wait to research and start working with.

Plus, podcasts are FREE, and soooo much safer than trying to read a book while I’m driving.

Since I’m just getting started, this is my very short list of the podcasts that have inspired me so far. I hope they’ll do the same for you. If you know of any other great podcasts that have helped you find balance, simplify your life, improve your writing, pursue your passions, live a healthier life, or form good habits, please share!

The Minimalists Podcast

In their new podcast, just launched last month, The Minimalists Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus discuss living a meaningful life with less stuff. This is the podcast that convinced me that podcasts were a good idea, so if you need convincing too, start here.

The Portfolio Life with Jeff Goins

As he does in his books, Jeff Goins shares thoughts and ideas that will help you to pursue work that matters, make a difference with your art, and discover your true voice. Episode 003, “How to Chase a Dream Without Quitting Your Job,” is a must-listen. His guest list is a who’s-who of today’s heavy-hitting inspirational speakers and authors. The episodes featuring interviews with Gretchen Rubin (018) and Tim Ferriss (004) are among my favorites so far.

Speaking of Gretchen Rubin…

Happier with Gretchen Rubin

The #1 best-selling author of The Happiness Project shares her practical advice about happiness and good habits in this “lively, thought-provoking podcast.” Sometimes it gets a little corny, and her topics are widely varied, so I’m picky about which episodes I listen to, but Gretchen’s honest tried-and-true advice usually manages to enhance my happiness in unexpected ways.

And Tim Ferriss…

The Tim Ferriss Show

“Self-experimenter” and best-selling author Tim Ferriss “deconstructs world-class performers from eclectic areas (investing, chess, pro sports, etc.), digging deep to find the tools, tactics, and tricks that listeners can use.” I haven’t had a chance to listen to many episodes, but I love everything Tim does, and his wide-reaching guest list – from Seth Godin to Jamie Foxx – is guaranteed to engage and inspire.

Over It And On With It with Christine Hassler

Life coach and author Christine Hassler coaches live callers on the problems – and opportunities – we all face in relationships, careers, health, transitions, finances, life purpose, spirituality, or anything else they have questions about. She uses her signature balance of practical tools and spiritual principles to help us all overcome the obstacles that hold us back from living the lives we were meant to live.

All of these podcasts, and thousands more, are easily accessible via the iTunes store. Happy listening (and learning)!

~PEACE~

Quick Update on my June 2015 “Stuff” Challenge

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I can’t believe how much stuff I’ve gotten rid of so easily, and also how much more I can still part with and not even miss it!

I’ve purged approximately 300 items from my house so far (goal for the month: 465).

I started off following the “1 item on day 1, 2 items on day 2, etc.” formula, but I quickly found that when I really dug in, I eliminated many more things than the date called for. So I simply carried my “balance” forward a day or two until the numbers evened out and I was back on schedule.

My husband helped boost my numbers last weekend by cleaning out the basement and dumping a bunch of old magazines, albums, and countless other objects. He’s a bit of a “collector,” but he admitted that he enjoyed eliminating some of the overflow. It felt great to finally get him on board with my goal and relax my assault on my own stuff for a few days. I didn’t get an exact count, but he claims to have removed at least a hundred items, so I’ll take him at his word. He’s definitely redeemed himself since the steak knife incident in my previous post.

On the “down side,” my uncle sort of moved in with me this month, and brought with him a whole bunch of his own stuff. My pantry closet is now stuffed with junk food! While this presented a bit of a setback for my “Stuff Challenge,” I’m really enjoying having him around, so it’s all good. Family before stuff. Always.

I’m looking ahead to the last week of the month and wondering where to start, but I have hundreds of books, magazines, and CDs that I haven’t even touched yet, so I’m optimistic!

~PEACE~

 

June Challenge Update

I’m one week into my de-cluttering experiment, following The Minimalists‘ formula for getting rid of one thing on the 1st day, two on the 2nd day, three on the 3rd day, etc. for an entire month. Here’s a quick day-by-day summary of my progress so far:

  1. Tossed out a freezer-burned bag of blueberries.
  2. Put a jar candle and candleholder in the “Yard Sale” pile.
  3. Got rid of 3 bras that were no longer fulfilling their purpose.
  4. Shredded 4 old job-bidding cards from the post office.
  5. Gave a small crock pot and Dremel tool to my friend for her new jewelry-making hobby, and added a plant pot, laundry bag, and pitcher to the yard sale pile.
  6. Picked 2 suits, a dress, a jacket, a pair of pants, and a purse out of my closet for the “Donate” bag.
  7. Trashed 7 expired food items from my pantry shelves.

Most articles so far fit into the following “disposal” categories:

  1. Donated
  2. Trash
  3. Gave to a friend
  4. Sold (via yard sale or Craig’s List)

The donated and yard sale items haven’t gone anywhere yet, but are forming two piles in my bedroom, awaiting their final destinations. By the end of the month, I plan to have several bags of clothes to donate, and multiple boxes of items for our yard sale.

As soon as I started this challenge last Monday, it became clear that I would have to take it to the next level by not only getting rid of old stuff, but also by NOT acquiring anything new this month. That means no new clothes, household items, electronics, etc. (Still waiting to buy that iPad!) Consumables like food, and personal care & cleaning products are OK, as are electronic purchases that don’t take up any physical space, like Kindle books and iTunes.

I also realized that I would have to get my husband on board with my mission when he came home Friday night with 5 steak knives that he picked up at a yard sale! SIGH. Five steps forward, one step back.

By the end of the month, I’m sure I’ll be scraping to find 30 items to eliminate, but this early in the game, I’m having the opposite problem. It’s hard to stop at one or two things. Inertia is a strong force! De-cluttering one area leads to another, then another. In addition to the list above, I also found myself shredding 53 debit card receipts that I’d stuffed into my checkbook, and eliminating the pile of junk mail and catalogs that had accumulated on the table by my front door.  I’ve got big plans for the piles of unread magazines in my office, but they’ll just have to wait until week 4!

These days, I definitely derive more satisfaction from having less stuff and holding on to my money than I ever got from spending money and buying new stuff.

My, how I’ve evolved!

~PEACE~

 

 

Next Month’s Challenge

Now that my post-every-day-in-May challenge is almost over (so sad, I know), I’m looking ahead to next month and thinking about what else I can do to improve my quality of life in 30 days. As I mentioned in last week’s post on decluttering, my plan for the month of June is to follow the Minimalists’ suggestion and remove 465 items from my home by June 30th. I’m already scoping out my closets, drawers, and cabinets, and tallying up all of the stray articles that have outlived their usefulness and need to be discarded/relocated. I love getting rid of stuff. It’s cheap therapy. This should be fun!

I also have an idea that I’d like to quit drinking for 30 days, but that will have to wait until June 7th, because I have a family wedding on the 6th. I can’t even begin to explain how much I really hate weddings, plus alcohol always makes my in-laws more tolerable. I don’t expect this challenge to be nearly as much fun as decluttering.

Of course, I’ll keep you all up to date on my progress. If I learned anything this month, it’s that accountability partners are an important factor in staying motivated and following through on my promises to myself. Thanks for the help!

~PEACE~

From The Guardian: Why tidying up could change your life

“The junk in our homes clutters our minds as well.” I wholeheartedly agree!

Why tidying up could change your life | Life and style | The Guardian.

I love the suggestion from the Minimalists that we take a month and remove 564* items from our homes:

“This is a way to declutter in daily steps. On day one throw out, sell, donate or recycle an item. On day two, two items. On day three, three items, and so on. After 30 days, you’ll have removed 564 items.”

That may be my new challenge for the month of June. Stay tuned.

~PEACE~

*I did the math, and it’s actually 465 items. Still a lot of stuff!

 

Freedom From Choice

For me, the foundation of a simpler, streamlined life is built on good habits. In her new book, Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin asserts:

“A habit requires no decision from me, because I’ve already decided. Am I going to brush my teeth when I wake up? Am I going to take this pill? I decide, then I don’t decide; mindfully, then mindlessly. I shouldn’t worry about making healthy choices. I should make one healthy choice, and then stop choosing.”

I agree with this approach, and have had some success with using habits and routines to save my time and brainpower by eliminating some of the decision-making from my day.

When I eat the same healthy breakfast or lunch every day, I have one less thing to agonize over during the course of my day.

Dressing in the same basic work “uniform” saves so much time — no more staring into the closet trying to figure out what to wear every morning!

My friend Norm starts every day by going for a run, without fail. It’s as much a part of his morning routine as showering and brushing his teeth.

Why reinvent the wheel every day when there are so many aspects of our lives that we can put on autopilot? By eliminating some of these mundane decisions, we can free up our minds, and our time, to focus on more interesting choices and opportunities.

Honestly, though, the only downside I’ve found to this method is that I do get bored sometimes. A soothing routine can start to feel like a rut after a while. I crave variety in my diet. I get sick of wearing the same old clothes all the time. So once in a while, I make the conscious decision to mix it up, at least for a day or two.

But after I get it out of my system, I usually return to my same comforting routines and good habits. What can I say? When you know what works for you, you stick with it!

~PEACE~

 

 

A Tiny House Alternative Worth Considering

From the age of 10 until I was almost 35, I lived in a mobile home. Two of them, actually: first in a trailer park with my parents, then with my now-husband on our own land. When we built the house we live in now, I joked that my only non-negotiable requirement was an upstairs.

In my 25 years of mobile home living, I learned to appreciate their efficient use of space. I also enjoyed a lot of years without a big mortgage, which enabled us to save a good chunk of the construction costs for the new house. Now, we rent out our mobile home to pay our (small and almost-paid-off) mortgage. The old trailer has been very good to us!

In her book Trailersteading: How to Find, Buy, Retrofit, and Live Large in a Mobile Home, Anna Hess profiles a collection of folks who have discovered the advantages of mobile home living. For a number of people, mobile homes don’t carry the stigma of “trailer trash,” but rather represent freedom from big mortgage debt and the opportunity to live a simpler life.

I’m all for that. How about you?

~PEACE~