Monday, October 5, 2020

5 Common Misconceptions About Minimalism

Lots of people seem to think of minimalism in one of two ways: it's either a cool trend or an affront to society. Neither is true. Today I'd like to talk about five common misconceptions about minimalism--and the true story behind each of them.

Misconception #1: Minimalism is a new trend or it's just a fad

Though the term is believed to have been coined by an artist named Robert Morris in 1966, traditional Buddhists have been practicing what we call minimalism since Siddhartha Guatama (the Buddha) was alive (about 2500 years ago).

Guatama started his life as a prince with an abundance of riches and possessions. Then he eschewed all his worldly goods while in search of enlightenment.

To this day, traditional Buddhists believe that clinging to worldly possessions, which are temporary and fleeting, causes suffering. Extreme forms of minimalism are often practiced by devoted modern Buddhists, so they can focus on their own paths to enlightenment.

This is a partial and highly abbreviated explanation of Buddhism, but you get the idea. Minimalism, in its practical application, is far from new.

Misconception #2: If you're a minimalist, you have to do things a certain way

A lot of the negative comments I see about minimalism talk about how minimalism hurt them--they gave away stuff that they now regret giving away or something to that effect.

First of all, this isn't a cult. Nobody is forcing you to follow a cookie-cutter protocol to becoming the perfect minimalist. The people out there who say you aren't minimalist enough or are too minimalist, are just judgy trolls. Ignore them and do your thing, however it works best for you.

Secondly, minimalism is just a concept. It can't hurt somebody. I'm going to be blunt; if you gave away something you regret, that's on you. If you got swept up and carried away, that was because of the choices you made. Minimalism isn't to blame. It isn't good or evil. It just is. Blaming or "hating" minimalism is an exercise in futility. 

Taking responsibility for your own actions is generally a healthy goal in life, in regards to any choice, including whether to participate in minimalist activities. Learn from your mistakes and find some way to get past them.

Misconception #3: You can't want money or possessions and be minimalist

Minimalists are humans, the same as everybody else. Someone may have 10 articles of clothing, but a 100-book collection that they will never give up. Some would say that's the definition of minimalism, because they don't care about the clothes, but they care about the books. So they've let go of what isn't important to focus on what is. There's nothing wrong with that.

In the same vein, you can do something minimalist and miss what you gave up. For example, a couple of years ago when we moved my mom from the east coast to the west coast, we brought her on a month-long road trip in our tiny, 150 square-foot RV. We needed to make space for her and her cats; even though she was only bringing a few things, the cats needed their own space for their food and litter box separate from our dog.

So I essentially gave away probably a thousand dollars' worth of arts and crafts supplies to make space for mom's cats. And now that we're in a house, I still have yet to replace them all, because we don't have the money (and I'm not really well enough to use them anyway). 

That doesn't mean it didn't hurt, though. It had taken me years to accumulate those supplies, and many of them had fond memories attached from when I was in art and design classes in college. 

But it was the right thing to do, and also a minimalist thing to do--letting go of less important things to make space in my life for more important things. Because helping my mom takes priority over material possessions anytime.

And until we get to the day where a currency isn't required in exchange for necessities, everyone is going to want at least enough money to survive. And probably more than just the minimum, because comfort is part of happiness. In my mind, happiness is a key goal for most everyone's minimalist journey.

I laughed and waved farewell as a few people have unsubscribed when I mentioned my involvement in The Ultimate Guide to More Joy and Less Stress (which, by the way, is on sale starting today through Friday 10/9). The same thing happens anytime I dare to overtly mention something I could make a commission on. I don't know whether it's because people believe it's wrong to ask for money as a minimalist, or they don't think that people who provide a wealth of information for free should ask for anything in return. 

But mama's gotta eat, people. It's not like I'm getting rich off what I'm doing, either. I lose money on this website every year, but I do it anyway because I feel I'm called to write about it and enjoy doing so. It would be great if the blog at least paid for its own expenses. If not, I'll keep doing it as long as I can afford to.

And factually, anyone who earns money in exchange for work is selling. Whether the work is in actual sales, like a car dealership, or the person who delivers the mail, the concept is the same. Everyone exchanges either products or services for money, which is, at its core, selling. It's how the world works.

Some minimalists claim they don't sell anything, while at the same time they mention books they've read and use affiliate links, or they offer to consult or teach classes, or they write books of their own. A lack of blatant advertisement on their websites does not exclude them from selling.

And of course, many minimalists (even traditional Buddhists) must go out into the world to regular jobs. They are all selling goods or services in order to get paid. I challenge you to find a single (paid) job where that is not true.

Misconception #4: Minimalism is about deprivation

The goal of minimalism is not to deprive people of things that are actually important to them.

The goal is to shed the weight of possessions, time-fillers, and people whom you don't care about (or care less about than others) to make more time, space, and energy for the people, things, and events that you care about the most. As for what those less important or more important things are, the answer is entirely individual. It's about what makes the person happy and fulfilled, not about what everyone else thinks it should be.

Using others' ideas of how one lives their lives could certainly lead to deprivation. For example, getting all amped up when you watch a video about someone who only owns 100 things could lead you to do your own frenzied cleansing, trying to reach that magic number. Once you do it, you may discover that you accidentally gave up things that you really wanted or needed. That kind of disgruntlement is, I suspect, usually what leads people to say they "hate" minimalism.

Using an intentional, measured process to declutter your life at your own pace is the way to go. It's fine to use suggestions from others to help guide you in the necessary direction, but it's critical that you think for yourself. If you do, the result should lead to more happiness and fulfillment, not less. Bottom line: adapt minimalism to you, rather than adapting yourself to minimalism.

Misconception #5: Minimalism is an end goal or a destination

Not only is there no "right" amount of minimalism for everybody, but there also isn't a static minimalist destination for each person. Minimalism is a journey that can carry on throughout your life. For me, it's been nearly 10 years, and it's changed as I have. It's part of my lifestyle, and I change it up as needed.

As you can imagine, the minimalism I practice now in a 1400 square-foot house is different from what I did in a 150 square-foot RV. It's also different from the 450 square-foot RV that we moved out of a few months ago, and again different from how I used minimalist practices when we lived in my mother's living room in her former house for four months while taking care of her.

But even if the size or location of my living space didn't change, how I use (or don't use) certain aspects of minimalism would still have changed over the years, because my needs changed. And even if I live in this house for the rest of my life, my version of minimalism will not be the same the whole time.

There are only two things that remain constant in my minimalist journey: 

1. I do my best to make decisions that involve focusing on what's most important to me, and
2. I don't let anyone else decide for me how to practice minimalism.

If you can adhere to these two tenets as much as possible, I think you'll find that everything else is superfluous.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Being Happy Despite Tragedy

Everyone is going through a lot right now. Meanwhile, in the background, life goes on, and "normal" not-so-good things happen as well. There's a lot to get in the way of happiness.

Even if your job, your family, or your health aren't in direct jeopardy right now, it's difficult living in a world experiencing so much loss, so many sad and terrible situations. Just being alive during this time is stressful. Those who are getting along fine right now might even feel a sense of guilt over their good fortune.

But there are lessons to be learned from all this tragedy. One, in particular, is how fleeting life is, and how rare true happiness can be. If you have opportunities to feel joy, I suggest you take them and relish in that feeling while it's available to you. Because whatever is happening around the corner could evoke an entirely different feeling.

I'm one of those people who feels the suffering of others acutely, which is why I can't follow the news (unless it's Some Good News). Being empathetic was a helpful attribute when I worked in healthcare, but pretty painful in our current times.

I've already talked about how I choose to mostly live in a vacuum, but today I want to focus on other techniques I use to be happy. Also, I have a surprise announcement related to being happy at the end of this post!

1. I keep things simple

Wherever I can use simplicity to make my life easier, I do it. Sometimes, having more means doing less. What do I mean by that? 

More is less translates into using tools or developing systems so that individual tasks are easier. For example, I have all kinds of splints and mobility aids to help with my chronic illnesses. I have routines down for things I do regularly.

I use apps to help me track things, like a medication reminder app, my Google calendar, my Fitbit app, a meditation app, etc. It might be great to have a single app, but it might not do all the tasks as well as more specialized apps. So I opt for programs that stick to one or two tasks I need to track, and do those tasks well.

As for owning more physical objects, I do it if it makes sense. For example, if you want to put a nail in a board but you only own a screwdriver, it makes sense to go get a hammer instead of struggling through your task with a screwdriver. 

So I may have a lot of different things in place, but they are all present to help me simplify and keep from wasting time on things I can automate or make easier with available tools.

2. I let things go

I'm just as stubborn as the next person. Get me fired up, and I will argue my point of view all day long. But if the next person is just as stubborn as I am, then where does that get me? I've wasted energy, anger, and time trying to convince someone that my opinion is right and they're wrong.

How often does that actually work? You can't force someone to agree with you, and if they don't, then you just used up part of your life that you'll never get back on a useless endeavor.

I'm not saying you should just roll over when someone differs from your opinion. Stand firm in your beliefs, but don't try to push others to have those beliefs as well. State your case and move on. It will give you more time to enjoy your life.

3. I challenge others to be happier

I've mentioned before that mom likes to tell me all the bad things she hears either on TV or Facebook. She's not alone in loving drama--obviously, because otherwise reality TV shows, soap operas, and gossip publications wouldn't have survived for so long.

But for me, I'm not such a fan. So I challenged her: she can only tell me news if it's 100% good news. And the news can't be that it's good for one person but at another's expense, either. It has to be something like: a little girl finished her last chemo treatment, and as her mom drove her home, her whole neighborhood stood in front of their houses and cheered for her.

Mom took the challenge seriously. She told me that lots of people are starting micro-businesses during COVID, and many of them are children who are starting non-profits to help the needy. That's what I like to hear!

So if you have a drama-monger in your life, try giving them this challenge! See what happiness-provoking news they can come up with.

4. I remind myself of all the things to be happy about

I'm reading a book right now called 14,000 things to be happy about by Barbara Ann Kipfer. While I don't feel happy about all the same things she does, it's certainly interesting to see her list. It evokes memories and ideas. So much so that I was inspired to create my own list and share it through social media. This is the list I made today, even though I was laying in bed with a splitting headache while I did it.

My goal with my little happiness project is just five things per day, no matter how big or small. And then sharing those things on social media, to hopefully help others think happy thoughts.

5. I let myself feel all the feelings

While I'm encouraging more happiness, I think it's ridiculous to believe we can be happy all the time. That's just not realistic. Plus, you still need the lows to appreciate the highs. So if I have a memory of something sad or experience a "down" reaction to something in the present, I let it happen. I sit with the emotions and immerse myself in them, instead of trying to ignore or run from them.

But I only give myself a few minutes. There's no sense in dwelling on something for hours or days--that's a dangerous route toward depression. So as the feelings are winding down, I give thanks and send out a blessing that this moment has passed, and go back to happier things.

6. I accept the present

I'm not going to go too deeply into this topic at the moment, because...I made a product about it! Actually, this is something I've been working on for several months in collaboration with a company called Ultimate Bundles. They've put together a guide called "The Ultimate Guide to More Joy and Less Stress: 15-Minute Exercises to Strengthen Your Mindset." I'm honored to be a contributor to the guide. My topic is "Make Peace with the Here and Now in 2 Steps."

The guide goes on sale in early October and will be only $15. It includes a PDF workbook and 15 video lessons--so that works out to be $1 per lesson for a guide that's timeless and yours forever. I also feel that this guide came out at a perfect moment in our lives when we need it most.

Here's the product list:

Clear Your Mind with a Brain Dump by Wella Zina

Do you ever have so many things stressing you out that you have trouble keeping track of them? This lesson will teach you a simple strategy to fix that.

Feel Good by Giving and Receiving Compliments by Liz Wilcox
Receiving compliments can be a great way to boost our self-esteem, but some of us shrug off compliments instead of fully appreciating them. In this lesson, you’ll learn how to make the most of every compliment and use them to develop more self-acceptance.

Get More Done with Tiny Time Blocking by Heather Davis

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by tasks that feel too big. This leads to self-doubt, procrastination, and guilty feelings. In this lesson, you’ll learn a simple solution for making big, scary tasks feel small and doable.

Destress with an Amazing Cup of Homemade Tea by Rachel Silves

If you want to feel more joy and less stress, you need to be kind to yourself. In this lesson, you’ll learn how to unwind and unplug with a good cup of tea, with herbs proven to promote relaxation and calm.

Make Peace with the Here and Now in Two Steps by Maya Nyssa (<--That's me!)

Many people feel stress because their lives don’t look the way they want them to. In this lesson, you’ll discover how to make peace with the present and experience joy because of it.

Get Organized with Small Acts of Decluttering by Samantha Pregenzer

Our environment can stress us out. But when we take the time to organize our surroundings, we feel more in control of our lives. Here’s how decluttering even small spaces can lead to bigger, more impactful changes.

Grow Your Confidence with Positive Visualization by Amanda Foust

When we feel like our goals are impossible, we’re tempted to quit on them. But thinking of ourselves as people who can do it gives us the confidence to keep trying, and today, we’ll look at how to develop that confident mindset.

Beat Procrastination with the “10 Minute Method” by Jill Wanderer

When we’re faced with a big list of stressors or to-dos, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Often, the best solution is the simplest: Just get started. Don’t think, don’t worry, just get to work. This lesson will help you do that.

Experience More Gratitude Through Journaling by Danielle Davis

When we think about sad things, we feel sad. When we think about scary things, we feel scared. When we think about things we’re thankful for, we feel thankful. Thoughts are powerful, and in this lesson, you’ll learn how to harness their power for good.

Calm Down Fast with a 16-Second Meditation by Kelly Page

Sometimes, we need a quick way to reset in moments of stress. In this lesson, you’ll learn a 16-second routine to help yourself calm down and recenter in stressful situations.

Eat Your Way to a Happier Mindset by Dr. Sarah Corcoran

Our minds and bodies are connected. And of the foods we eat can impact our mental wellbeing. In this lesson, you’ll learn about 5 foods that can help you boost your mindset.

Spot the Silver Linings and Feel More Peace by Alexx Stuart

Our happiness isn’t controlled by what happens to us. In many ways, it’s the product of how we choose to view our circumstances. Here’s a guide to help you reframe disappointment into more empowering thoughts and feelings.

Feel More in Control by Taking 100% Responsibility for your Happiness by Greg Denning

One of the most empowering realizations a person can come to is this: You are responsible for your own happiness. Even when your circumstances are bad, even when the people in your life are unfair and disrespectful, you still have the power to dramatically impact how you feel. And in this lesson, you’ll learn how to tap into that ability.

Become More Resilient by Shaking Off Bad Days by Kris McPeak

Some days stink, and we don’t want those days to derail us. Here’s a process to help you bounce back from a bad day and make tomorrow good.

Breathe Into Happiness and Optimism with this Morning Routine by Sandy Abrams

Sometimes, it’s the things we take for granted that have the power to change our lives. One such behavior is breathing. Simple breathing exercises can help you start every day with more optimism, and you’ll learn how that works in this lesson!

As you can see, there are a lot of good tips in here for a great price! I've reviewed my advance copy of the guide and I think it's going to be helpful for so many people; everyone should get this guide.

Also, if you buy early there's a great bonus: a one-year subscription to the Goodnewspaper, which is a $60 value all on its own. I'll keep you guys in the loop, but if you want to be notified directly from the source, use this link:

The last thing I want to discuss is an offer to make you a little money on this product. If you become an affiliate and help us promote this guide, you can receive a commission on each sale. If you buy your own copy and sell five guides, you'll be refunded the cost of the guide you bought as well. There are also sometimes additional prizes for the highest-selling affiliates!

What's great about this company is that they offer "swipe files" of marketing copy and graphics you can use and customize to your personality, so you don't have to worry about coming up with advertising on your own. They also do video training. If you're new to affiliate marketing and want to give it a try, it's a great way to get your feet wet. Not to mention you will have opportunities to become an affiliate for future products. They always have something good in the works!

So if money is a little tight at the moment, this could be the ticket to getting some extra coin in your pocket. Have any interest? Use this link to become an affiliate: 

I hope everyone is doing well and being happy whenever possible. Take care!

Friday, August 21, 2020

How We Furnished a Three-Bedroom Home for Free

When you move out of an RV, you leave all your furniture behind because it's attached to the walls or floor. So when we moved from a 450 square-foot RV to a 1400 square-foot house, we had nothing but our personal items and kitchen stuff. This is the story of how we furnished the house for free.

Disclaimer on furnishing our house for free

When I say "free," what I mean is that after all is said and done, our net costs were zero.  I don't think there's any way to furnish a house without any expenses--unless you could get people to donate everything you needed and deliver it to you at their cost. So while we did spend some money, in the end, we actually made money by using this method. I'll explain how to make a profit at the end of the post.

Things you'll need when furnishing your house for free

First of all, you'll need a vehicle that's big enough to transport furniture. We have our truck, but you can easily rent a truck or van or borrow one from a friend. 

It's also necessary to either be strong enough to move furniture, have people who can help you, or hire someone. Ryan moved all the furniture himself while we collected it over a period of a few months, and then on moving day, he hired someone to help him move it all in so it would go faster.

Third, you need a place to store furniture. If it had been just the two of us moving into a house from the RV, we would have been fine with moving in first with just a mattress on the floor and then collecting furniture gradually. But we wanted mom to be comfortable and enjoy things right away, so we gathered furniture ahead of time.

Obviously, we had no place to store furniture inside the rig we lived in. So we had to rent a storage unit. Lots of places have special discounts these days, where you get the first month "free" or three months at 50%, etc. The "free" month usually involves paying some registration fees. On average, we've rented storage units at 75%-90% off their normal price. Check around, and don't be afraid to switch from one company to another or rent from more than one place at the same time to get the best deals.

Other options are asking someone you know if they have extra room for you to leave some furniture, or stacking things up in your own space if you're moving from a smaller home to a larger one. These ideas work best when you have a set end date in mind.

Fourth--and this is key--you need to have the right mindset. This isn't a gimmick to get brand-new furniture for free. Everything (except our mattresses) is used but in good condition. And yes, we collected a lot of this during COVID and cleaned it well before we utilized it. Nobody got sick. The microdoses of the virus that one comes into contact with from touching a piece of furniture are unlikely to infect the average person. But just in case, you can leave the furniture in an isolated place for 72 hours and then clean it well (this is the practice used by many thrift stores that are now accepting donations).

Patience is also important. You'll have a lot of competition for free stuff, so you won't always get to something first. It can also be frustrating when you answer an ad and are told to get something from the curb, only to arrive and find it's already gone. So, yeah. Patience is a necessity.

Lastly, you have to be willing to interact with people. Luckily I have the hubby for this. He's pretty fearless. He would wear masks and gloves, and strip and take a shower as soon as he got home. He knows he has two immune-compromised people at home and takes our safety seriously. Again, nobody got sick. Yes, there's a very contagious virus out there, but many people remain infection-free because they use the right precautions. This was a necessary risk, as our furniture budget was basically zero.

How we found free furniture

The first pieces of furniture we acquired were by accident. We have a used book business that started on Amazon, and we used to shop exclusively in thrift stores and library sales for our inventory. But once we became stationary, Ryan started buying large lots of books from Craigslist ads. He has a knack for building a rapport with whomever he meets. So often, people would say "Why don't you also take this piece of furniture that I don't want?"

He also started getting into storage unit auctions and estate clean-outs. Because he was doing people a service when it came to the clean-outs, he would either get the stuff for free or get a huge discount because people just wanted to get rid of things. He befriended the manager at the storage facility we used to keep our finds, and she even gave him free items from the corporate unit so that she didn't have to deal with cleaning it out herself. 

On top of that, he had alerts set for Craigslist (example: dining room table) so when something would come up, he'd get an email on his phone and jump on it right away. He tried to combine trips to save on fuel and would look for additional items at the curb to pick up as well (always checking first with the owner that it was ok to take them). You may be surprised to learn that people even give away perfectly working free TVs and other electronics, and that's how we have four TVs in the house.

He developed a network of people who now regularly contact him to take away their unwanted stuff. Through these people, we also acquired some rugs, artwork, and lighting (even a box of free lightbulbs!), so it really was a complete furnish.

Lastly, as we were buying this home, we asked the sellers to leave behind any furniture or other items they didn't want. They ended up leaving us a complete set of dishes, a kitchen table and chairs, an outdoor dining table and chairs, a desk, some bookcases, and several pieces of artwork.

How to offset any expenses so your net cost is free to furnish your home 

First of all--if it's offered and in decent condition, take it. Ryan would accept items whether we needed them or not. If we didn't need it, he would sell it. I have a whole post about selling your stuff for cash if you need some ideas.

By the time we got into the house, we'd already sold enough furniture to cover all the costs to acquire what we had, plus some extra. Not only that, but we'd expanded our business to include furniture, decorative items, collectibles, and whatever else we found interesting. This wasn't something we'd intended to do when we set out on this transition, but with changes to the economy, it became necessary to ensure we have enough income to pay our bills.

You may need patience again while you find new homes for the unwanted stuff. Set reasonable prices, and be negotiable in what you're asking. If anyone wants a delivery and you're able to do so, require payment of a deposit in advance through PayPal or a similar service.

If things don't sell, consider donating them to a non-profit thrift store (we prefer the Salvation Army or the Habitat for Humanity ReStore). Depending on your tax situation, you may be able to deduct the donation on your taxes.

Lastly, you can, of course, offer unwanted items for free again. This won't get you any money back, but you're paying it forward in good karma.

Also, there's no reason why you can't regularly exchange your furniture as you want to change the look of your home. Just rinse and repeat the steps from above. You can also take the items you have and change their appearance in many cost-effective ways. I'll be doing that to stuff we have in upcoming posts, so get ready for some ideas!

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Why It's Healthier to Live in a Vacuum

I'm out of touch. I have no idea what's going on in politics, world news, or local news. I don't know which of my friends or family have changed their relationship status, are having a baby, have moved, or even if they've had a birthday recently. And I certainly don't know the latest celebrity gossip.

I also don't know about the latest gadgets for sale, the newest decorating trends, or the hottest clothing, make-up, or hairstyles. I don't know which recipes everyone's making, the latest fitness craze or the newest diet people are trying.

And this is the happiest I've been in a long time.

How to live your life in a vacuum

Tell everyone that you're taking a break. Or don't--it's up to you. You're not required to inform the public about your decisions for your life.

Stop logging on to social media. Delete it from all your devices and turn off email notifications. Better yet, delete your accounts.

If you're subscribed to any news outlets, shut down those subscriptions.

Don't watch the news on TV or read it online. If an app, like Google, is trying to give you "helpful" suggestions about articles you might be interested in, turn off those notifications.

While you're at it, unsubscribe to any emails that encourage you to buy things. Stop visiting their websites. If the stores are open, don't visit them, either. Make a grocery list, stick to it, and make that your only trip to buy anything.

You may or may not have noticed that this blog doesn't allow for comments. That's on purpose--nobody can leave spam, and nobody can put anything negative either. If someone has something positive to say, or they have a question, they're still more than welcome to email me directly. I just don't see the point in cluttering the blog with a comment section. This is a minimalist blog, after all. Not only that, but I don't write articles so I can display accolades and appreciation for them. I do it to share knowledge and try to help people, and I don't require praise in return.

If anyone you speak to starts to say "Did you hear..." politely but firmly cut them off. Tell them that for your own sanity, you don't want to know. And to please not bring up anything in the future, either.

My mom, who is retired, loves to spend time on Facebook, catching up on what the family is doing. We have a huge family so there's always something going on. Sometimes it's positive, but a lot of it is just drama. She used to try to tell me everything she'd found out, and I finally stopped her because it would put me in a bad mood to hear about it. I said, "Unless someone is born or dying, I don't want to know." I suggest you have the same conversation with all your contacts, particularly the ones who love to gossip.

Maybe that seems harsh. But I'll explain in a little bit why it's a good thing.

Overall, you're going to set some very strict boundaries for yourself and others.

Negative consequences of living in a vacuum

At first, you may go through withdrawal. You may wonder what's going on "out there," and maybe you even relapse and sneak a peek. Or you may find yourself getting caught up in a conversation that you didn't intend to have.

You're going to miss out on things. If you know people who only send invites to events via social media, you won't see them. People might even think that you're ignoring them. 

You'll also miss out on those convenient birthday notifications that Facebook and other apps give. I recently went on Facebook for the first time in over four months and discovered that my friend who died had left me a birthday message on there. His birthday is a few weeks after mine, and I, of course, missed both his message as well as the chance to wish him a happy birthday for the very last birthday he was alive.

A lot of guilt came up with this situation. But I did something very simple to help myself get past it instead of spiraling into more grief. I imagined myself having a conversation with Sundance and telling him how sorry I was that I didn't get his message or wish him a happy birthday. I pictured his response, which would probably be something like, "Awww, it's OK," followed by one of his big bear hugs (he was 6'5") and probably some clever but derogatory name for Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg that he'd made up. Then we'd both laugh and everything would be fine.

Because that one moment--the missed birthday wishes--is just a pinpoint in time during our 25-year friendship. I knew him well enough to know what his response to me would be. And there is no way that either of us would let a little blip like that ruin our relationship.

I'm not going to lie and say that it doesn't still hurt to think I missed that chance to interact with him. But that's just a part of the grieving process, and something I'm willing to accept. The pain reinforces my commitment to honoring his memory by standing up against racism whenever I can.

Maybe, after a trial period, you will decide that you can't cut yourself off completely, but also don't want to go back to the same level of interaction you had before. But I encourage you to give this a real shot before you return to the status quo. Here's why.

Positive effects of living outside of society's influence

As I mentioned at the beginning, I'm a lot happier living this way. There are a lot of reasons for this.

For one thing, I used to tense up each time my mom approached me, knowing that she probably was going to repeat back the latest tidbits about our drama-filled relatives. She still forgets sometimes, but overall I'm less worried about what she'll say when she starts talking. This means I'm not going to dread her wanting to talk to me.

Statistically speaking, people love drama. That's why reality TV is so popular. There's a reason that tabloids have survived for so long and people can get thousands of dollars by selling a candid photo of a celebrity. It's why our favorite stories have what motivational speaker Lisa Nichols calls "the dip;" the low part of the story that builds up suspense right before the high point or "happy ending." 

But drama and negativity are stressful. It's exhausting to our mental health, immune system, and endocrine systems. Emotional stress can lead to physical illness, or exacerbate conditions that are already present. Reduce that stress, and your whole body (including your mind) will feel better.

My second reason for cutting myself off is that I no longer feel attacked, judged, or shamed about not conforming to other people's ideas of who I should be and how I should live my life. I don't spend my time comparing myself to others, who are blessed with a combination of good genes, luck, and enough free time to curate their feeds until they look like the perfect person. It's not real, but that doesn't stop our brains from thinking that it is, and feeling bad because of it.

The age of the internet and social media has led a lot of people to publicize their lives the way celebrities do--every little thing is documented for the world to see. But if you look at celebrities, they generally are not happy with being in the public eye 100% of the time. They try to disguise themselves or hire bodyguards to protect them from paparazzi and fans. When a new relationship or a breakup happens, they usually have to ask for people to respect their privacy. They don't broadcast their phone number or address. 

Sure, not everyone gets the same level of attention as an A-list actor, musician, or athlete. But anyone with a social media account who has enough people paying attention is at risk for the same level of scrutiny as a celebrity. Removing the temptation to share (or over-share) your life on the internet instantly solves the problem of people on the internet judging your life. I'm going to discuss this trend in detail in a future post.

It may not mean that judgy friends or family won't get to you, but at least this way they have less access. You can also choose to ignore their calls or emails for a while.

The last benefit of living in a vacuum is being more present in your life. Any smart dog knows how important it is to focus on the here and now because it's all we have promised to us. Humans have a lot of catching up to dogs in that aspect of life. The future is ever-changing and never guaranteed, and the past is done. I've done a lot of work on living in the moment in the past six months or so, and I know I feel much better for it. Dwelling on what could've been or what might be different have no place in my mind if I want to truly enjoy what's right in front of me.

Living in a vacuum isn't a perfect solution--you still have to deal with the enemy inside your head

I pride myself in being someone who generally does not care about the opinions of others, and who often goes against the norm. But that doesn't mean I don't feel any pain when I get criticized repeatedly for my decisions, or when people are trying to give me "helpful suggestions" about what I should do. Those words can stay with me long after they've been said. I'm sure I'm not the only one who can hear them playing back like a recording in my head when I'm not in a good place.

Everyone has a different threshold for how their life is molded by outside influences. There's nothing shameful in admitting that you value what others think, or take ideas you see and make them your own. The problem occurs when you feel like your life revolves around what others have decided for you, and you've lost yourself. If you can no longer tell whether you painted your wall "Robin's Egg Blue" because you like the color or because it's trending on Pinterest, there's a problem you need to address.

I like to think I'm impervious to what others think of me. But I'm still aware that it's only when I think of someone who doesn't live with me seeing my home, that I wonder if I've decorated it well enough. I usually only bother to change out of my pajamas and brush my hair when I have an appointment with a doctor or I'm going with Ryan to the store, which means I'm doing it for the benefit of the outside world, not myself.

But on the other hand, we still spent almost no money to completely furnish and decorate our space (more about that in an upcoming post), and I'm still perfectly happy wearing my 10-year-old clothing and thrift store finds when I go out. I also don't care if people think I'm antisocial because I sit quietly while my husband does all the talking. And maybe I'll get dressed for a video appointment with a doctor, but if I'm not feeling well enough to sit up, then they'll see me laying down on my bed when they come online.

Nobody fully understands the complexities of another person's life, so most of the conclusions that people come to are judgment calls biased by their personal experiences. There's nothing we can do about that; we just have to learn to accept that what others think is out of our control. However, we aren't required to live our lives based on their opinions.

You can be aware of insecurities or influences, but that doesn't mean they have to control you. By cutting yourself off from them, you can practice living life a life that's solely your own. Give it a try. See how much more free time you have, and how much lighter you feel when the shackles of the outside world fall away.

Why It's Healthier to Live in a Vacuum

Monday, July 6, 2020

How RV life helps you be more minimalist

I grew up in a house. I've owned houses, rented apartments, and just stopped living in an RV after nine years, including three years where we traveled full-time. So I've got plenty of experience with the unique ways that an RV contributes to minimalism--which go way beyond the size of the space. 

There are many resources out there about minimalism in houses or apartments. I think that subject is well-covered for the moment, so I'll let you peruse those if you wish. I'll delve into my experiences about staying minimalist in a house after RV life in future posts. But for now, let's focus on RVs and minimalism. 

What it's like living in an RV as a minimalist

In case you didn't catch it, I said I "just stopped living in an RV." This has been a long time coming, and not an easy decision to make. There are a number of reasons why it's the right choice for now, but it (hopefully) doesn't mean we're going to stop RVing forever.

The decision has nothing to do with the pandemic, either--it's something we were looking into since last summer. In fact, there has been a surge in "pandemic palace" sales because many people realized that RVs are a great way to continue social distancing but still be able to travel. But the reasons why aren't really relevant to this post, so let's move on to what it's like.

Whether an RV is big or small, motorized or towable, there are a few constants that every RV dweller has to deal with:
  • Every time an RV travels, it's like putting the rig through an earthquake. So ideally, everything should be put away or attached to something when you're on the road. And just like when you move from one house to another, even the most carefully-packed items can break in transit. Would you risk bringing your grandmother's fine china with you in the car every time you left the house? Probably not. The rattle factor limits what you can bring in an RV--a plus for minimalists who focus on minimal possessions.
  • Each vehicle also has weight limits, and exceeding these limits can put dangerous amounts of stress on the axles and tires, increasing the risk of a blowout. In our experience, you can usually fit more stuff in an RV than you safely should for weight considerations. So keeping the storage half-empty is better for safety and makes you naturally more minimalist!
  • It's fatiguing to pack up your whole life each time you have to move the RV. Not necessarily if you rarely move, but if you change spots every day or two, you are going to get tired of spending an hour or two putting stuff away each time. Especially if you have better things to do, like earn an income, take care of your family, or go out into the world. What's great about RVs is how most of them are designed with tons of built-in storage space. This makes it easier to keep things organized and behind closed doors, where they are less likely to get damaged. Ryan and I got into a routine of having less stuff but also putting things away immediately after use. During the time when we traveled often, it took us about five minutes (often less) to get ready to leave. This habit was reinforced with the reward of wasting less time packing.
  • Since RVs are heavier than an average passenger vehicle, fuel consumption is typically higher. From both an eco-minimalist and financial minimalist standpoint, there are pros and cons to RV travel. We found that compared to when we commuted to work in a car (just one car for the two of us), we drove much less in our RV lifestyle. So while each trip we made with an RV used more fuel because of the weight fo the RV, over the course of the year we traveled fewer miles than when we drove to jobs. It's also possible to travel in ways that reduce your carbon footprint and save you money--you just have to do some advance trip planning.
  • Speaking of one's carbon footprint--the smaller square footage of an RV means that there's less space to heat and cool than a typical home. On the flip side, approximately 100% of RVs have thinner, less-insulated walls, roofs, and floors than your average sticks-and-bricks home. So unless you aren't bothered by extreme indoor temperatures, your climate control system will be running a lot if you stay in hot or cold places. If you're hooked up to electricity at a park, it's possible to pay just as much (or more) than you would on standard house utility bills. Many RVs also use propane to run the furnace, which is an additional cost and more fossil fuel use. The beauty of RV life is that you can change locations as desired, so you can live in your ideal climate year-round. This is called "following the weather" or being a "snowbird." This freedom is in my top five reasons why I loved being an RVer--life just feels better when you can choose to live in the climate you like best, year-round. You can also add a solar power system to help offset your electricity use, although it's difficult (and more expensive) to set up a system that can run an air conditioner.
  • RV pipes are a smaller diameter than house plumbing, and cannot withstand the same amount of water pressure. Additionally, a typical RV hot water heater is exceedingly small (6 gallons is the norm, or 10 gallons if you're really lucky). All this means you're more likely to use less water. This is especially true if you choose to camp without water hookups. It becomes second nature to never leave the water running while you brush your teeth, wash dishes, or even take a shower. If you want to increase your water conservation as part of your eco-friendliness, an RV will get you accustomed to some of those habits.
  • When you visit a campground in an RV, you're just renting a spot, but during that time it's your home. You naturally have concerns for the appearance of the campground--namely, you don't want to see trash lying all over your "yard." I think RVing makes people who love nature want to take even better care of it, and more conscious of how their actions impact the environment. Not only do you make sure to pick up your own garbage, but you pick up everyone else's, too. Sadly, this isn't the case for everyone--there are still plenty of people who live in RVs and litter. But hopefully, they are the minority.
  • If you want to be more minimalist as a way to spend more time with the people you live with, traveling in an RV is certainly one way to do it. For better or worse, personal space and separation are cut down dramatically in an RV. If you move around a lot, you'll be socializing with each other more than anyone else by virtue of not knowing anyone in places you visit. But even if you are stationary, when you're in the RV, you're only steps away from each other. Managing this closeness successfully could mean finding new ways to have alone time and deal with conflict. This micro-sized habitat can magnify positive bonds as well.   
  • "Resetting to zero" is a term used by Colin Wright, author of books such as How to Travel Full-Time and Becoming Who We Need To Be. In his blog, Exile Lifestyle, Colin talks about how at least once per week he resets his home to its "resting state." This means cleaning all surfaces and putting everything away. Getting his inbox to zero (a goal I would love to start striving for) and checking off any urgent items on his to-do list. Colin says that if you aren't a minimalist, this reset is a great way to get a taste for what minimalism feels like. Well, imagine how much easier it is to reset to zero in a tiny space like an RV. Most of the time you can deep-clean the interior of a rig in an hour or two.
  • RV travel gives the opportunity to explore new places while still living your day-to-day life. It reduces or eliminates the hassles and discomforts of sleeping in strange beds, lugging around suitcases, and dealing with airport security. You also can take your time visiting, because you don't have to worry about using up all your vacation days. Any day you can achieve a balance between how you make money and how you spend your free time, it's like going to work and then being on vacation five minutes later--all in the same day. It's so much more relaxing when you are someplace new but still have the comforts of home. The peace of mind this type of living provides gives you a sense of freedom because you aren't taking up your time and emotions worrying about what you left behind "back at home." And freedom leads to a feeling of control over your life and how you lead it--a penultimate achievement in minimalism.

Related posts:

What is an Eco-Minimalist? 


A summary of my thoughts on minimalism as an RVer

Overall, I think being in an RV can make minimalist aspirations more efficient. There is less chance that you will hold on to things you don't need. If you're unsure whether your possessions or hobbies are really important to you, a few months of shuffling items around to get to other stuff should help clarify that. 

If you're like me and having an uncluttered space helps your mind feel uncluttered, then RV life can get you to that clearheadedness faster. You're forced to find a home for every single item, so it doesn't become a projectile during travel. Knowing where each possession you own lives when not in use makes it so much faster to put things away. You also spend less time trying to find lost items since there are only so many places you can look (although it's still completely possible to misplace things!). In short, you can easily set up your life to be cleaner and more organized than it ever could be in a bigger place.

You'll also find out quickly which relationships are built to last. Superficial connections probably won't survive when you leave people behind to travel and have to make an extra effort to keep in touch. The same goes for spending 23 hours per day with your significant other five feet away. But you can also build more friendships with people you'd otherwise never have met. And you can strengthen ties with previously-distant relatives if you add visits to them along your travel route.

As for costs, aesthetics, and environmental concerns, there are lots of tweaks you can make with an RV lifestyle, the same way you can with a house. I mentioned water conservation, solar, and trip planning before. Lots of newer RVs are also built using eco-friendly materials--our last two RVs were certified green. The tiny spaces are harder to ventilate, so you may find yourself switching from harsh, smelly cleaning products to something gentler (and cheaper) like diluted vinegar.

Even something as simple as owning a smaller trash can will make you more conscious of how much waste you're producing. And the first time you're parked next to a hoarder who's got junk piled both inside and outside of their RV (we dubbed them "Fortresses of Solitude"), the aversion you feel will make you want to never be that type of RV dweller.

There are even ways to modify the space if you have physical limitations. People replace their steps with ramps or add wheelchair lifts. Small areas are fairly simple and cheap to remodel. If you're handy, so you can raise or lower countertops, make walkways wider, and replace fixtures with more ergonomic ones without breaking the bank. Even if you just want it to look prettier, you'll need smaller quantities of materials to get the job done.

No, RVing is not for everyone. And there are a lot of things that are different in an RV from a house that could be dealbreakers for people. But as someone who's been an RVer for many years, I can tell you it's my first choice for a living space. And I know I'm not the only one who feels that way!

Being in an RV can make minimalist aspirations more efficient.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing

It took me a long time to get started on this post. I have to be honest--each time I tried, I was so filled with both sadness and anger that I put it aside. Also, I'm on a medication that makes my eyes blurry, so please bear with me if I've made any mistakes.

If you're reading this when I wrote it (June 2020), then you know there's a lot going on in the world. But what I want to talk about specifically is racism. 

For the past year-plus, I've been hyper-focused on the minimalist tenet that I hold most dear: letting go of things that matter less in order to have more time, space, and energy for what's most important to me. What's been most important in my life lately has been taking care of my own health, and making sure my mom has what she needs.

That means that I've been neglectful in other areas. I've avoided watching the news, mostly stayed away from social media, and haven't reached out to my friends and family very much.

That last part led to a lot of guilt when last week I was informed that my friend of 25 years died from a heart condition I didn't know about. Not only that, but I can't travel to his memorial to say goodbye to him. So I decided to spend some time having a private memorial with just myself. 

In remembrance of my friend Sundance

It brought up a lot of memories of all the good times we had together. We bonded over many things--being shy people who tended towards creativity and introspection, our mutual love of cooking, and how we both wanted to be our own bosses someday. 

I also remembered how often the group of friends that we met through treated Sundance like an outsider, made jokes about him, and overall were very cruel.  Long after I broke ties with that group, he and I stayed in touch. 

These days, you might call some of the behavior I witnessed against him "microaggression." But a lot of it was just outright racism. I don't know why he put up with it, but I can tell you for certain that he handled it with more grace than I did. I frequently got into shouting matches over the behavior of our so-called "friends."

When people take a sensitive, caring person like Sundance who trusts them and they treat him like an outsider, that can lead to one of two results: an angry person who turns and spreads more bitterness through the world, or someone who rises above that behavior and continues to stand up for what is right. Luckily, my friend took the high road.

So a great deal of the strength I am drawing to write up this post comes from Sundance. His spirit stays with me while I push forward. He was a loving, kind, intelligent person who didn't always feel like he fit in anywhere. I understand that feeling very well.

I could have stayed hidden in my house and spent my time mourning my friend Sundance. That would be the easier thing to do. But he was very vocal in support of civil rights, so in his memory, I'm not going to stay quiet.

As for my own experience with prejudice, it's something I've felt throughout my life in many forms, which may surprise people because of where I lived. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. I didn't label my friends by their appearance, economic status, race, cultural background, sexual preference, or religion. None of that mattered to me. In fact, I paid so little attention to it that I can honestly say I don't know the ethnic background or religious preferences of many of the people I grew up with, and they don't know mine. It just wasn't something we needed to discuss in order to have a good friendship.

But even in a diverse and supposedly open-minded place like the Bay Area, being a multiracial female who spent the better part of four decades with a mystery illness that was finally diagnosed, I encountered a lot of people who felt it was their duty to criticize me and inform me of all the reasons why my life choices, and even my very existence, were not up to their standards. I've come to a few conclusions due to this experience.

I don't claim to be any sort of expert, nor do I have all the answers. I also don't claim to be victimized in the same ways or as badly as others in the BIPOC community. I can only speak for myself about what I've been through and what I've learned from it.

Happy people don't spend their time trying to hurt other people.

Have you ever been around someone who made you feel like you have to walk on eggshells in their presence? There are some people who seem to be just waiting for someone else to say or do something so they can pounce on it and explain how wrong they are. What a miserable life that must be, spending all one's time looking for negative things to point out in others.

Anyone who has to tear someone else down in order to feel superior to them probably doesn't have very much self-esteem. I can imagine that constantly attacking others never fills up the empty hole inside of someone. Yet they keep doing it, maybe because they don't know what else to do.

This is not an excuse for those that behave in hurtful ways. They are still wrong for their behavior, and the damage they do is very real. But perhaps we can find some compassion for them because they are clearly in need of guidance in the right direction.

The instinct to fight back is perfectly understandable--and something I'm guilty of doing myself sometimes. But I think we all know it doesn't lead to any long-term resolution for the core issue. When it comes to a response, let's use Michelle Obama's guidelines as a model for our behavior: go high when they go low. You can say: "I see you. I can see that your words are coming from a place of pain. However, trying to hurt me as well is not acceptable. Maybe you can tell me what I can do to help you, but if not, then I hope your life gets better." 

If you catch yourself sinking into this type of unhappiness, remember that lifting up others is a way to bring yourself up with them. Dragging other people down will only anchor you to the bottom as well.

A person's right to an opinion is not the same as having an educated opinion.

People love to cite their right to freedom of speech. Can you say whatever you want? Sure. But saying it doesn't mean it's true or even valuable. For example, just because something was posted on social media or broadcast in the news doesn't guarantee that whoever said it researched and fact-checked it. Quite the opposite--some people purposefully make statements full of lies in the hopes that others will help them spread their propaganda. 

And no matter who this person is--whether they're in a position of power or famous or should know what they're talking about--this does not guarantee that what they wrote or said is correct.

When you repeat something just because it sounds true or it fits with your opinion, it's you that looks like the fool when it's debunked. So do your homework, and think for yourself. Don't let others form opinions on your behalf.

Also, don't be so convinced that something is correct that you ignore blatant clues to the contrary. Most particularly in the past few years, I have observed a trend of willful ignorance. People want so badly to be right about a person or situation that they choose to close their eyes to opposing evidence that is right under their noses. There are huge consequences to this behavior that will affect us far into the future, including other countries looking at the United States as a huge joke for how we behave. This country is not so all-powerful that it can withstand poor relationships with other countries indefinitely--other nations' opinions of us also affect our economy and safety.

So if you can't verify something as accurate, don't repeat it, and don't let it seep into your brain and become something you agree with.

Labels are a form of bias.

You may notice that in speaking above about my friend Sundance, I mention racism against him but didn't mention his race. If you're hoping I'm going to tell you his race now, you're out of luck. It shouldn't matter to anybody--it certainly didn't change anything in our friendship.

Labels are a tricky thing. Especially in the written word--we have to use descriptors to get our point across, but by labeling people or things, we're trying to fit them into neat little boxes. And when you box something up, you're separating it from everything else around it.

The divisiveness that results from labeling causes so many problems. If everyone was treated with respect regardless of how they look and acceptance of their right to be themselves and make individual choices, then labeling wouldn't be necessary. Labeling highlights differences, and prejudiced people see differences as "less than" or "wrong." Also, people are too unique to be shoved into categories. Nothing is ever that clear-cut and trying to make it so is dishonoring how special it is to be an individual.

Speak up when people use labels in a negative way, and be mindful of your own language habits as well.

Ignoring something you don't like doesn't make it go away.

It's disappointing that a country that was founded as a haven for those who were different simultaneously has such a long and continuous history of racism. I can only be thankful that we've made some progress, but it isn't nearly enough.

It's sad that it takes the extremes of people getting injured or killed in a way that's highlighted by the media to bring about some much-needed changes. Meanwhile, so many others have had their lives and deaths go unnoticed because it wasn't sensational enough for journalism. During those lulls, it was probably easy for some people to convince themselves that things weren't that bad anymore. It was simpler to say that things were getting better, that other people were handling it, and that not everyone needed to get involved in order to finally solve this problem once and for all.

That just isn't true. Nobody can just sit back anymore. As many have said, it's not enough to not be racist. We must be anti-racist, and we must all take action against racism.

I'm sure it can be intimidating to speak up, even if you know what other people are doing is wrong. You may feel like it isn't your place, or you don't know enough, or you might say the wrong thing.

If you're unsure, there are a few simple steps you can take:
  1. Do more research. There are many groups out there that can provide you with more knowledge and recommended actions.
  2. Be a good listener. If someone affected by racism has something to say about their experience, pay attention. Ask if there's anything you can do to help them.
  3. Withdraw your support from people and organizations that don't align with your ideals. You can also go a step further and send them a message about why you will no longer patronize their business, vote for them, donate to them, etc.
  4. Be thankful for any advantages you may have. Share the wealth if possible.
  5. Love and kindness, first and always.
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.


Sunday, April 26, 2020

Happiness Care Package

Hi friends! We're going through some interesting times right now. If you're not used to the isolation that can come with social distancing, then loneliness and depression can creep in. So I've put together a little happiness care package for you. I hope this gets you through some difficult times. Feel free to share these ideas with anyone you think might need some help. Stay home and stay safe! 

Shows and movies to watch for happiness

My favorite movie of all time is The Princess Bride. This is a classic that never fails to lift my spirits, and one of the few movies that I will watch more than once. I even have a DVD of it (bought used), so I can access it whenever I want. It's actually the only DVD that I own.

TV series The Good Place. Kristen Bell is one of my favorite actresses. It's great to see Ted Danson back in action, and the rest of the cast just comes together seamlessly. This is the first show in a long time that I looked forward to watching each week.

YouTube channels that will increase your happiness

i_am_puma: Russian couple who have a rescued puma as a beloved pet. Guest appearances from their hairless cat as well. You don't need to understand Russian to laugh at their fur babies' antics.

Kittisaurus: Maybe large cats aren't your thing. Claire has the solution--lots of adorable house cats that are clearly the center of her universe (and her apartment). My husband wants to steal Lulu.

Tucker Budzyn: If you're more of a dog person, check out Tucker the Golden Retriever. He has great comedic timing. You can watch him and his furry friends on their adventures, including food taste tests, checking out new toys, and trying to fight mom's curling iron.

Julia Westlin: This independent artist has the voice of an angel. She covers songs, sometimes a capella, where she and her partner sing every single part and make every instrumental sound--something that looks like it would take hundreds of hours to record. She also writes and performs original works. Well worth a listen.

2CELLOS: Cello music isn't always classical music! It's amazing what these guys can do beyond the music you typically expect from cellists. Look up their covers of "Thunderstruck" by AC/DC and "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana. I wonder how much money they spend on bowstrings every year...

My channel: I haven't added to it in a long, long, time, but I have lots of old travel videos on there, and some funny pet-related stuff as well. You can also get a tour of two of the previous rigs that we sold, in case you're curious how we had things set up.

Books to increase your happiness

Soulful Simplicity: How Living with Less Can Lead to So Much More by Courtney Carver. Courtney is a blogger and author who has also been a mentor to me in my own soul-centered minimalist life. In this book, she tells her story and provides actionable tips for creating a happier, simpler life for yourself.

The Healthy Habit Revolution: The Step by Step Blueprint to Create Better Habits in 5 Minutes a Day by Derek Doepker. Why not take this time at home to make some changes to your habits?

The Alchemist by Paul Coelho. The story of a boy who goes on a journey following his heart.

Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey. If you're old enough to remember this mini-skit from Saturday Night Live, then this will bring you back to a good chuckle or two. If you have no clue what I'm talking about, then you may not get the joke if you read this book...Google the book's title and author name to watch some clips from the show first.

Little treats for happiness

I used to love eating Nutella, but it contains milk products and I don't do dairy anymore. I just recently found this chocolate-hazelnut spread which is non-GMO, organic, and vegan. The containers are BPA-free and they donate part of their profits toward sustainable agriculture.

Speaking of chocolate, I now have to do something I never thought I'd do, which is to drink caffeine every day. I have a CSF leak, and conservative treatment includes caffeine to try to raise back up the pressure. I can't tolerate coffee, so I opt for either matcha or hot chocolate. But I get sick of plain hot chocolate, so I found this tasty cinnamon oil to add to my chocolate. Just a few drops are enough to make my drink a real treat.

I'm not big on scented candles, but I do love the light smell of lavender. Lavender essential oil diluted in a spray bottle and sprayed on a pillow or around the room makes for a relaxing atmosphere.

I'm a big advocate of taking a nap. I know lots of people are against the idea because they think they're too busy or it makes them lazy. But sometimes it's necessary. 

Other ideas to make you happy

  • Join a group of people who have like-minded interests through a website like Facebook or Meetup
  • Download a video conferencing app and have a virtual party with your friends
  • Give yourself a spa day at home using things from your kitchen, like oatmeal, sugar, oil, and lemon. Look up free recipes online for inspiration.
  • Turn on your favorite upbeat music and dance and sing.
  • Start a journal
  • Begin a morning routine
  • Learn how to let go of negative feelings
  • Manage stress better
Remember, with the world put on pause, this is a time when we can hit the reset button. We can start making better choices and building new routines to create a happier life for ourselves. I'll be talking about that more in the future.