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What simplifying means to me

- Author: Crystal

ForestTo me, simplifying means heading down the path toward the following:

  • Emptying my calendar of obligations that don’t fulfill me or my family.
  • Curbing the addiction to material possessions (<—- click for article)
  • Eliminating as many of my subscriptions and memberships as I can.
  • Filling my life with fresh air, exercise and friends rather than new stuff.
  • Being grateful every day for something, even if infinitesimally small.

Readers, what does simplifying mean to you? Post a comment, or write to Crystal and let her know.

No Comments - Categories: Inspiration

How to exercise and stick with it

- Author: Crystal

I couldn’t agree more with Fred Lee’s post on Wise Bread about exercising to cure the economic blues.

Yep, research shows that exercise can reduce depression and anxiety. And increased mental health is only ONE of the many great reasons to get more exercise. Personally, I like sleeping better and having more confidence and energy.

Earlier this year, you probably made a resolution to get fit in 2009. Well, now that spring is here, there’s little excuse for not putting more exercise into your routine!

Here are what I think are the keys to exercise success:

  • Find a friend to do it with you. There is no greater motivator than being held accountable for your actions! Two or more friends can lean on one another: When one of you just “doesn’t feel like it” that day, the other one will know better and get you out of the house regardless of your excuses.
  • No willing friends? Make some new ones. If you don’t have friends willing to make an exercise pact with you, check out Meetup.com. You will likely find several groups (walking, running, biking, hiking, bowling, dancing, etc.) in your area with meeting locations and times convenient for your schedule.
  • Grasp the magic. Recognize that exercise has a magic pattern. Once most folks start a new routine, they enjoy the first session or two. However, they then begin putting exercising off. Soon they no longer “feel like it”, or maybe just “can’t find the time”. But here’s the magic part: If you can push yourself through the first difficult month or two of exercise, your whole psychology begins to change, not just your body. You’ll start to love exercise and will actually find yourself MAKING time for it!
  • Visit your physician and mental health provider, and tell them about your plans to exercise. Your doctors are likely to be very encouraging and will know ways to keep you motivated – like threatening you with medications for high blood pressure or cholesterol.
  • Just do it. Even though exercise might not seem fun at first, it will make you feel better. And when you feel better, you’ll enjoy things much more – such as exercise. Bottom line? Put on those walking shoes, and head out the door. Right now.

Thoughts on this? Other ideas? Post a comment, or write to Crystal and let her know!

No Comments - Categories: Inspiration

A call to service

- Author: Crystal

Everyone’s been talking about President Obama and the enormous problems he needs to fix to get our country back in shape.

Instead of sitting back and waiting for change to happen, let’s all step up and do our part to help out. It can begin tomorrow with a volunteer opportunity on MLK Day. Check out the Obama team’s USA Service site, which makes it easy to find a local volunteer event and sign up.

What happens to our country and to the world is in our hands.

No Comments - Categories: Inspiration

Clutter is a choice

- Author: Crystal

I really like the candor of Danielle LaPorte’s post on Unclutterer today, which gives the Top 4 By-Default Clutter Choices. These are choices we make, she says. Clutter doesn’t just happen:

  1. My [insert name of well-meaning relative] gave it to me and I just can’t throw it out.
    This is tricky. But it gets down to this: life’s short and it’s your place. Objects carry memories and attitudes with them. If you want your home to be your temple or your chill-zone, then making choices based on obligation are only going to weigh you down.
  2. I really hate this [insert home item or piece of clothing] but I’m waiting to have the money to buy a new one.
    Something amazing happens when you get the stuff you don’t like out of your life – stuff that you do like has the room to show up. So chuck the old futon chair from university days, even if it means you sit on the floor for a while. You’ll be raising the vibe, shedding unwanted pounds and sending the universe a clear signal that you’re ready for quality…right now, not later.
  3. I got it for free, so I may as well keep it.
    Gasp. This is the ultimate gotchya-sucker default choice. ‘Cause ain’t nothing for free, baby! (Well, true love is free, but that’s about it.) If it’s taking up physical or mental space – it’s costing you. Everything has an environmental cost to manufacture, ship and dispose of. And when I think of all the “free” crap that I lugged around from apartment to apartment in moving vans – I could have saved enough to buy stuff I really loved.
  4. But what if I need it someday?
    Trust that if you ever need it, you’ll have what you need to get it. If you haven’t worn it for a year and half – give it away. If you’re waiting to lose the ten pounds, forget it. Just love yourself now. A happy life is an as-is life. And junk drawers are called junk drawers for a reason.

LaPorte says, “simplicity demands ruthlessness.” I can’t agree more. Until we can challenge our assumptions about possessions, we’ll remain paralyzed by our own stuff.

Thoughts on this? Post a comment or write to Crystal and let her know!

1 Comment - Categories: Inspiration

Three (very) simple habits to change in the New Year

- Author: Crystal

Three simple habits to keep your life tidier and more organized in 2009:

  1. Clear out the trash. Every time you step out of your car (e.g., when you arrive at home, the office, the store, etc), make it a habit to collect any trash from inside the car (no matter how small!) and dispose of it properly.
  2. Hang it on the knob. After coming home and putting groceries away, immediately hang your reusable shopping bags on the front door knob. This will remind you to put them back in the car where they’ll be ready for your next trip to the store.
  3. Take 5. To prevent missed bills and embarrassing situations, take just 5-10 minutes out of every weekend to examine your action files and look at your schedule for the week.

Have more ideas to share? Post a comment or write to Crystal and let her know!

No Comments - Categories: Inspiration

Give yourself 20 minutes

- Author: Crystal

When I need to relax and organize my thoughts, I rely on the simple power of meditation.

Never meditated before? No problem! The Meditation Podcast is a guided meditation which is free and easy to download. In guided meditation, you hear a person’s voice asking you to imagine things which fill your mind with peaceful images and thoughts. The voice also reminds you when to breath. It is extremely relaxing and even healing.

The Meditation Podcast has 10 episodes, each about 20 minutes in length. Each episode concentrates on a different relaxing concept, for example – Episode 1: A Basic Meditation, Episode 2: Calming the Body, Episode 3: Positive Thoughts…

Listen on your favorite MP3 player or burn to CD.

Have more ideas to share? Post a comment or write to Crystal and let her know!

No Comments - Categories: Inspiration

How to stop procrastinating

- Author: Crystal

I really like blog posts that challenge me to do better. Like this one from Susan Sabo’s Productivity Cafe. Her advice motivated me to stop procrastinating on something important I’ve been meaning to do.

What I did:

According to Susan, acknowledging your procrastination and telling someone about it are the first steps. First, I told my husband Clinton today that I had been procrastinating on writing out the major scales for my violin teacher.

Next, I tried to break down the process a bit. I managed to print out the blank music paper. Hey, baby steps, right?

Then, per Susan’s advice, I asked Clinton to hold me accountable for this task. Today by 4:30 PM, I need to write out seven scales and show them to him.

Finally, I was to come up with either a prize or punishment for the outcome. As my “prize” for writing out the scales, I get to watch as many episodes of the X-Files tonight as my little brain can handle.

Now if I can just stop blogging and get started…

Have more ideas to share? Post a comment or write to Crystal and let her know!

2 Comments - Categories: Inspiration

More stuff = less time

- Author: Crystal

I really like Rachel Meeks’ simple living blog called Small Notebook. Rachel was featured in U.S. News and World Report magazine this month, where she talks about the time that is consumed by owning things.

“So much of [people’s] time and resources goes into our stuff, to organize, dust, clean, [and] fix it. When you choose to have less, the things you do have become more special, and you can focus on what’s more important.”

Well said, Rachel.

Have additional thoughts or ideas to share? Leave a comment, or write to Crystal and let her know.

1 Comment - Categories: Inspiration

Pay attention to your obsessions

- Author: Crystal

An inspiring article on my favorite productivity site called Zen Habits talks about the importance of paying attention to your obsession, whatever that may be.

Have a great day, everyone.

No Comments - Categories: Inspiration

How to (finally) complete those projects around the house!

- Author: Crystal

We all have long lists of tasks we need to do around the house which we continue to put off. Am I right?

Case in point: I had been meaning to clean the first floor windows of my house (screens, panes and sills) for many, many months. But I just could NOT seem to get motivated to do it! Many of the tasks on my list seemed too time-consuming, too challenging, too overwhelming, and/or too boring. Most times I couldn’t seem to get my husband to help me either…

SOLUTION: A home task “co-op”!

A home task co-op is a simply group of friends who pitch in to help each other – one day at one person’s house, another day at another person’s house, and so on. The group works as a team to get things done at each person’s house!

It is both motivating and fun to have friends come over and lend a hand with your task list! It’s very gratifying to turn around and help your friends with their home projects too. Together you can get the job done faster, better and with more fun and laughter than you can alone!


Here’s how to start:

  1. Suggest the idea of a home task co-op to your friends. You’ll be surprised at the enthusiastic response! People generally tend to be shy or reluctant to ask for help, but most people are relieved at the thought of receiving a helping hand! Isn’t the thought itself comforting!?
  2. Propose a date and time for the first work session. I suggest starting with your own house so you can lead by example. 2-4 hours is a reasonable amount of time to schedule for one work session.
  3. Determine which tasks or projects the group will complete at your house. Let them know what they will be working on.
  4. Gather RSVPs for the work session.
  5. Identify the tools, hardware and supplies (e.g., ladder, paint trays, drop cloth) that you’ll need for the tasks. Borrow these items from your fellow home task co-op members whenever possible!
  6. Consider having light refreshments on hand, such as iced tea and snacks.
  7. Divide friends up into teams (if necessary) when they arrive. Ensure that everyone has something to do.
  8. Take frequent breaks, and don’t feel the need to accomplish it ALL in one sitting. No sense in overworking your friends!
  9. Celebrate your accomplishments!
  10. Decide whose house is next! Encourage that person to start thinking about the tasks he/she needs to get done around the house.

Last weekend, despite the summer heat and humidity, four friends agreed to assist me with a short list of home tasks. They arrived in their old tennis shoes and yard-working clothes. Tasks included cleaning the first floor windows, screens and sills; trimming all my overgrown bushes, hauling the clippings to the woods behind the house; and scrubbing the railings, boards and ceiling of my big wooden front porch.

It took just four hours for five people to do what would have taken me three days to complete by myself! Best of all, we laughed, talked and shared home repair tips as we worked!!  I now have a great looking front yard, porch and windows!

Next weekend, the co-op will resume at my friend Julia’s house to paint her guest room and turn her weed patch into a vegetable garden.

Have more ideas? Post a comment, or write to Crystal and let her know!

No Comments - Categories: Inspiration, Organizing 101, People and pets