Revisiting the To Do List

About a year ago, I posted about living life without a To-Do list. I want to let you all know how I have done with the only New Year’s Resolution I gave myself this past year. I’d say about a C+. I have had a list some weeks. The list was probably needed because those weeks were busy enough I would have forgotten things otherwise. And I have created this mental To-Do list of thing to fix around the house before next summer. But–I am living the month of December without a list, and have given myself permission to not start the next home project (painting my daughter’s room) until she goes back to school after winter break. What this has meant for the month so far is more naps on the couch and books being read and a much more patient countenance. I am feeling smugly satisfied. satisfied cat

Oselo McCarty

Oselo Mcarty

Oselo Mcarty

Oselo Mcarty was born in 1908. She lived and worked in Hattiesburg, Mississippi as a laundress for 75 years. Her formal education ended after she had completed the 6th grade (so approximately 1920) and after that she joined the family business of washing and ironing other people’s clothing. She lived simply and saved. She never married or had children and by the time she was 87 years old, her savings were enough that she started a scholarship and the University of Southern Mississippi with $150,000.

Minimalist Christmas Decorations

One of my co-workers was telling us about the seven [!!!] themed Christmas trees that she puts up each year. She reports that it takes her two weeks to get them all up and three weeks, after the holidays, to get them all taken down and put away. Yikes! I can think of so many, many things I would rather do with that time.

I do decorate. I put up the stockings.

Same stockings we have used for years.

Same stockings we have used for years.

And a fresh wreath on the front door.

Compostable too!

Compostable too!

It took me one minute, fifteen seconds, [middle son timed me] and cost $15.

My kind of holiday cheer.

Minimalist Gifts

Not wanting her minimalism to dampen the joy of gift-giving, reader Patricia asks for some suggestions for gifts to give and receive that are not objects. Here’s a few of my favorites:

My Favorite Gift

My Favorite Gift

1) My absolute favorite gift to give and receive is time together. Consider tickets to an activity you both enjoy like a sports event, a play or a trans-continental train ride. A trip to Europe would be welcome. Once, I gifted my father tickets to the Glen Miller Orchestra (a favorite of his youth.) Mom, dad and I attended the concert together. I have seen my father cry just twice in his lifetime. On the day his mother died, and when he was thanking me for the gift of the concert.

2) Consumables: Sure, chocolate, wine and cheese are good. But how about postcards and stamps? Crossword puzzle books? Handmade soap? Firewood? Decorations made from nature that will decompose, like flowers, pumpkins, ivy, pinecones, etc. I knew a woman who loved to grow flowers. She collected vases from friends and thrift shops. All summer long she created beautiful floral arrangements and delivered them to the local nursing homes.

3) Purchase digital services like I-tunes or Shutterfly.

4) Photos (print or digital) of your loved one’s family. Preferably ones they could not easily get themselves like antique family photos that you have copied for the whole family or candid snapshots of your nieces and nephews when you have them for a sleepover.

5) A gift to a charity that you both admire. The Red Cross. The Heifer Project. Habitat for Humanity. Physicians Without Borders. You get the idea.

6) A gift of service. Cleaning out the gutters of an elderly homeowner. Babysitting for new parents. Use of your guest bedroom, if you live in  a place people like to visit. If you have a talent like photography or baking the most amazing treats, you can offer to do that for a special occasion.

We are limited only by our lack of imagination.


The Art of Re-Gifting

Every successful minimalist knows that it’s not just one big declutter and then you are done. Keeping stuff out of your dwelling space requires vigilance and multiple strategies. Donating to charities, garage sales and asking loved ones not to buy you stuff are all excellent strategies. As is re-gifting. There is to be no shame in it, if done right.

Here's some stuff I have been collecting for the past year to re-gift at Christmas.

Here’s some stuff I have been collecting for the past year to re-gift at Christmas.

Here are the rules of re-gifting:

1) Never, ever, ever give the gift back to the person who gave it to you. Ever. If you don’t trust your memory, put a note with the item reminding you who gave it to you.

2) If at all possible, leave the original packaging and tags on it.

3) The gift needs to match the person. Don’t give a Christian music CD to an atheist or a leather belt to a vegan. The goal is not to just get rid of stuff (if that is the goal, just donate the item to charity) but to find a home for the item where it will be loved and used.

4) Don’t re-gift to someone who is offended by the concept.

Now go out there and have some simple, frugal, minimalist fun.

Shhh….It’s a Secret

I’ve been working very hard on a Christmas gift for my daughter. Don’t tell her what it is.

She has a chest of drawers, that has been hers since she was about 6 months old. She never liked the color, and as a child covered it with stickers. C.O.V.E.R.E.D.

For her gift, I have refinished it. I wish I had a photo for you, before the stickers came off, but I don’t. Here’s one with most of the stickers removed.

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Then I stripped it and sanded it.

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And here it is with the darker finish that beloved daughter prefers and some new hardware.

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Close up of the new drawer pulls.

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Back Porch Remodel

I have been working like a fiend an a project that will likely become a Christmas gift. I’ll post photos on that one when I’m done. In the meantime, here is the remodel of the back porch, which was actually done this past summer.

Here is how it used to be:

The back yard at dinner

Looking toward the back yard, through the screen and support bar.

You can see the screens (not clear in this photo that most of them were torn and not doing their job.) The screens and support bars, wrapped around to the sides of the porch, enclosing it. There use to be a screen door too, but I had removed it, years ago, as it was structurally unsound.

View of back porch from yard (facing west)

View of back porch from yard (facing west)

The screens and support bars have been removed, opening the view to the back yard. Horizontal lathe was added for privacy.

View from the porch, facing north. Lovely neighbors that way...and the air conditioner.

View from the porch, facing north. Lovely neighbors that way…and the air conditioner.

The lathe on the south side.

This sad little plant is a purple clematis, which as it matures, will climb the slats, adding beauty and privacy.

This sad little plant is a purple clematis, which as it matures, will climb the slats, adding beauty and privacy.

And I changed out the light at the back door. The old one (sorry, no photo) was original to the 1936 house.

Modern, but not clashing with the style of the house. Plus, it has some fancy movement detector, so it turns itself off until you (or one of the hundreds of squirrels in the neighborhood) approaches.

Modern, but not clashing with the style of the house. Plus, it has some fancy movement detector, so it turns itself off until you (or one of the hundreds of squirrels in the neighborhood) approaches.

What I love about this remodel is the  increased openness to the yard, and the increased privacy from the neighbors.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

I am very, very seriously considering selling my house next spring. I have been looking around with the eyes of a potential buyer, so as to be able to get top dollar when I am ready to sell.

I see that I have three main tasks to get this house to “appeal to 90% of the people 90% of the time.”

1) A few of the rooms need new, neutral paint.

2) The upstairs bath needs a new floor and sink, paint and new light fixtures.

3) I need to add decorative items in to give it a more homey feel. [I find this incredibly amusing. Usually when a house is being staged, it needs to be de-cluttered. This is truly a minimalist-only problem.]

While I have been working hard on some of the more labor intensive parts of this months long task, I needed a quick pick-me-up for motivation. So, I staged the living room. Here’s the photos.

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The couch. It’s twelve years old. I don’t think I’ll take it with me when I move. It used to have a twin, but the rough-housing Improv troupe broke it and this summer I replaced the broken couch with these two chairs.

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The small table replaces the coffee table. The cat is an attention hound, he shows up whenever I pull out the camera. The bookcase in the background I pulled out of my daughter’s room, as it has too much furniture.

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The books are borrowed. I clearly need to find some more stuff for the shelves. In a pinch, I can borrow from friends. The horse head in the window is a family piece. He used to be on top of a iron post and was planted in the front of my great-grandfather’s yard for people to tie the reins of their horses when visiting, so the horses would not wander off. He’s a hitching post. Or was.

Close up of his sweet face.

Close up of his sweet face.

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So, the count in my living room has gone from seven to sixteen. But I plan to only take three items to my new home: the two red chairs and the table. Oh, and the cat.

Peace Pilgrim

I’m adding a new category of posts. I’m going to include occasional posts about a minimalist, historical or modern, that I admire.

Peace Pilgrim is such a person.


She was an American woman who walked across the United States between 1953 and 1981 sharing her message of peace. She owned only what she carried in her pockets. You can read more about her here:

Cleaning Routines


What follows is a not-all-inclusive list of things I clean and how often I clean them.

Daily or more often: dishes, kitchen counters, cat’s litter box

Couple times per week: laundry

Weekly: sweep floors [mind you when my kids were toddlers, I mopped the kitchen floor daily] clean toilets, clean shower/tub, wash towels

Couple times per month: mop floors, dust, clean the cat hair off the sofa, clean the gunk off the stove

Couple times per year: clean windows

Yearly: clean gutters, wash curtains in basement, clean oven [I don’t roast a lot of meat-it doesn’t get that dirty]