Happy New Year, everybody! We’re getting ready to ring it in with a look back at the last year in the life of our minimalist family…
We’re looking forward to more happy memories, and less of pretty much everything else, in 2018.
What’s your wish for the coming year?
May you be blessed with the gift of time, with presence,
May you be wrapped up in a warm embrace,
And may the wonder of the season surround you each and every day.
From my family to yours,
PC: Peter Ray and Kari Adams
On this, our day, may we pledge:
- To make room for what matters (and let go of the rest)
- To slow down when and where we can
- To honor ourselves and our values without fear or regret
- To treat all mothers (including ourselves) with grace and compassion
- To accept whatever we feel at any given time
- And to trust that we’re doing it right.
Happy Mother’s Day to each and every one of you–may it be simple and slow and filled with what matters most!
Somewhere between the fall and spring I lost my center. Between the national election (and the divides it created in my organizations and families), the anniversary of our unexpected birth experience, and the allure of more (always more!) to be busy with, I lost sight of my goals and priorities. I lost myself. Fortunately, I won’t be that hard to find.
Minimalism is the answer when we feel this way. When we’re unsure of ourselves or our futures. When we find ourselves asking,
- “Who am I?”
- “What am I doing?”
- Where am I going?”
- “What do I want?”
Minimalism helps us answer these questions and silence the wondering. Here’s how:
- Minimalism helps us remember what’s important. Rather than an absence or an abstinence, minimalism is simply the thoughtful cultivation of a life worth living. It helps us identify our core values, priorities, and beliefs. When we do that, we see more clearly what gives our lives real meaning.
- Minimalism removes the unnecessary. When we commit to minimalism, we make room for the things that matter most, and we clear out the rest. By doing so, we start to realize how many of the things that tie us down or cause us anxiety have little to no bearing on our priorities. And if we don’t really need them, we can look at removing.
- Minimalism creates headspace and heartspace. We create space by eliminating the unnecessary. Once we eliminate noise and distractions and give ourselves room to think, we’re able to hear our own voices more clearly.
- Minimalism allows us to honor our values. If we remove the things that don’t honor our values, all that’s left are the things that do. If we’re diligent in this (in keeping our spaces free and clear), we can’t help but live authentically.
- Minimalism teaches us to let go of things. If we practice minimalism, we’re likely to purge things: physical items, calendar appointments, commitments, thoughts, and worries. Over time, we learn to let go. And each time we do it, the act of losing becomes a little less painful. We learn to hold tightly to what matters, but to loosen our grip on everything else. We see that all things serve a purpose in our lives and that it’s okay to say goodbye once that purpose is achieved. We learn to let go: either to enjoy it, or to let it hurt just a little bit less.
I don’t mean to make light of serious questions; finding and honoring ourselves takes work, and a lot of it. But we can make that work a little easier if we practice minimalism and choose the pursuit of a meaningful life.
My little brother got married this past weekend, and I spent a good long time trying to think of some good advice to give him. Having been married for five years myself, I knew he’d be looking to me as something of an expert, but to be honest, most days I feel like I still have a lot to learn. Add to that the fact that I’m a writer by trade and an actor at heart, and I was looking at a lot of pressure to get this advice and delivery bit right.
My now sister-in-law(!) asked me to write my brother a letter to be read the morning of the ceremony, a letter speaking to our life together and my wishes for the next phase of his. I spent weeks wracking my brain for good advice and putting it off. As I was driving to the hotel the morning before, I knew I finally had to come up with something. And quickly.
So I stopped overthinking. I looked out the window at the sublime beauty of central Minnesota— the gilded horizon, the bluest of blue skies dotted with billowy white clouds—and I took a deep breath. I looked down at my son sleeping in his car seat next to me—a tangible reminder of pure and unconditional love—and I took a deep breath. I looked up at my loving husband, the only person with whom I have ever imagined sharing this life—patience, understanding, and good humor personified—and I took a deep breath. And just like that, I knew what to say.
Here is my best advice for a beautiful life, married or otherwise: breathe.
Breathe to slow down the days you want to remember. Breathe in moments when you need to hold your tongue. Breathe to center yourself or to remind yourself of little blessings. Whenever you need it: breathe.
Sometimes life can be messy and complicated. Sometimes it requires careful planning, clever problem-solving, or something in between. Often it’s simple, and all it takes is a clear mind and a deep breath. So breathe.
I’m always looking for ways to spend more time with my son. As a full-time working parent, I always feel like there just isn’t enough of it. So I volunteer to be the sole weekend naptime rocker, or I offer to be the late-night diaper changer. Now I’ve found an even simpler way to squeeze in a few extra seconds every day.
Whenever I’m doing something with my son, whether it’s reading, rocking, or playing, and I feel the urge to move on to the next activity (or, let’s be honest, to check my phone), I give us both an extra minute: no matter what, I stop what I’m doing, take a long look at my beautiful boy, and count to 60. If my mind wanders, I gently ask it to return. If he squirms or fusses, I respond with love. Otherwise, we’re there for the next 60 seconds. Barring an emergency, there are no exceptions.
A minute may not feel like much, and it’s not, which is the best part of this strategy: it’s pretty easy to give up one minute. There are few, if any, things in life that can’t wait that long. And sometimes that minute extends to 2 or 3, but what really gets me is imagining what those minutes will amount to—if I added my minute at playtime, then 2 from his bath, and 3 during bedtime, how much extra time would that be?
- In a week?
- In a month?
- In 1 year?
- In 18?
How about you: how do you find time for a few extra minutes with your loved ones?
I’d been feeling a lot of guilt lately: about the way I look, the way I eat, the way I get distracted by work at home and home at work. I’d also been feeling guilty about the state of my house.
We had such grand plans when we moved in just over a year ago, but then life happened: I got pregnant, we had a baby, and we put every penny that could have gone toward renovating into savings for said baby.
Needless to say, we haven’t done much to the house yet.
And I know we’ll be here forever. And I know it takes time for houses to evolve into homes; that there’s no rush. But then I look at the homes of DIY and lifestyle bloggers through the much-edited lens of social media, and I am ashamed by my negligence.
In January I signed up for a weekly photo class, and I finally got around to my first assignment this summer. As I went around from room to room looking for nice compositions, I was struck by all of the beauty around me, all of the lovely details in my home, in its quirks, and in its piles.
In my little, average house I have so much to appreciate, so much for which to be thankful.
There is beauty all around me already. As much as I’d maybe like to, I don’t need to “shop [y]our house.” Mine might not be much, but it’s more than enough for me.
How do you remind yourselves to be thankful for what you have?