5 Easy Tips for Simple Christmas Decor

Here’s some pics from my home last year (I’m a year late…shrug).

1. Use what you have

A guiding principle of simple is to leverage what you have on hand. For me it is fallen things in the yard (pinecones and branches). Beautiful paper (old calendars and last year’s holiday cards) plus some flea market finds (metal letters, pedistal dish).

2. Work with techniques you enjoy

I can’t say I’m great with origami or paper arts, but I absolutely love the simplicity of paper. I also love anyting I can clean up with a vacuum. Here’s a tree-folding technique I’ll probably do again this year. Looks great with newspaper or pages from an old book (that would otherwise be thrown away). Window displays at Anthropologie and Light by Coco have been big inspirations.

3. Falalalala Fragrance!

The natural kind. Here’s a pot of clipping from the garden center. So wonderfully smelly! Very inexpensive too ($4-6). Place in water, lasts for weeks.

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Love these colors! #holidaypalette

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4. Hang things from the ceiling

This mobile created from a branch, paper trees and thread is very light. The placement above the table gives it more visual emphasis.  Anything in your home that creates shadows and movement will change throughout the day. Such an easy way to add interest.

5. Fill your space with music

Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra, Jingle Bells


José Feliciano, Feliz Navidad


Lou Rawls

Minimalist May with Becker, Fields & Nicodemus

Books, movies, podcasts, online communities, oh my! So many ways to get motivated by (and learn about) others and their experiences with minimalism.

The More of Less by Joshua Becker just released. It got me taking the bus again (so I can read on my way to work… funny how certain changes can improve seemingly unrelated habits). If you’re not familiar with Becker, here’s his blog, Becoming Minimalist. He has a deeply relatable way of processing the world, getting in touch with your values, and creating a life that fills your values (and it all starts at home).

On a recent Smart and Simple Matters podcast, Becker described his focus on creating a community. He gave examples of why it is so beneficial to tap into the support of others when making a change. I never really thought about that before. But, ever since, I can’t seem to get it out of my head. Combine this suggestion with some Deepak Chopra meditation and a saying on my teabag “let things come to you”, and before you know it I’m approaching people and chatting them up about their lives, daily habits and what matters most.

Millburn (left), Nicodemus (right), introducing their film Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. May 3 at the Somerville Theater, Somerville, MA

My focus on minimizing began in October 2014. It’s now May 2016 and for the first time I’m tapping into community.

May 3 Somerville, MA — Showing of Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things followed by a live podcast by The Minimalists (Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus). The show had been sold out. 800+ seats! I couldn’t believe it.  That many minimalist enthusiasts around me? I had no idea because I wasn’t tapped in. Thankfully I had the chance to hear about some other minimalists goals and stories while waiting in line, and even about the local meetup group.

Now I’m part of two minimalist Facebook groups. I’ve seen the movie and I’m reading a book. And Joshua Becker’s Uncluttered Course starts today. It’s spring cleaning season!



Progress to Date — 1,881 items purged.


1,881 items have been removed from my life!

It can be a challenge to actually stop the purging and share the count. The next milestone always feels so close! 2k for example. I’m so close to 2k! However, I’m long overdue from commenting upon 1,500 so here I am.

Today is April 28, 2016. I began my minimizing project 1.5 years ago (October 2014).

I’ve tracked (almost) everything I’ve purged. Why?

The short version

  • Awareness—Which is paramount to habit breaking. Awareness for what I had, why I acquired it, why I got rid of it. What types of things do I tend to accumulate and why?
  • Taxes/Donated Goods—Not a good enough reason. Won’t be doing this again. Filling out the forms added a ton of work to the inherent joy of donating. In my case, the monetary gain did not offset the effort (most stuff I let go of was only worth 50cents-$2 at best…that included brand new beautiful clothes that were in great shape, but too far off trend for the local consignment shop to want them).
  • Sense of accomplishment—I’ve been minimizing since October 2014. After a while I started to lose sight on my progress. Was it so bad before? Have I really changed much? As soon as I access my database of the 1,800+ and growing tally of purged items, I start to remember again. It’s pretty exciting! Recently I modified it so I can start tracking purchases too.


The long story

Do you avoid your basement because it’s too full of junk? Do you wonder why you never just own up to the mess and clean it? Have years gone by living this way? Do you make frequent (and justifiable) purchases from Amazon? Do you shove all the empty boxes into your garage, (instead of diligently break them down to recycle)? When your house gets messy, do you intend to make cleaning a priority, but instead you go shopping for organizational or cleaning supplies (supplies you don’t really need)?  Do you buy new clothes every time you have a special appointment, or maybe just because you feel blue?

I did. I did all these things. For years. I spent way too much money on stuff. I wanted to stop. I didn’t know how. I knew I had to stop, save my money, and to get rid of things that I didn’t love. However, I was apprehensive because I’d gotten rid of things before, only to acquire them again. It usually only takes me four to five years before I’m back in the mess I vowed to tackle.

This time I knew I needed to bring in a new technique that would get deeper into my psyche. I decided to track everything I donated or discarded. I reflected on two important dimensions; Why did I acquire this thing, and why am I letting it go? Doing these two things really allowed me to connect with what was going on inside of me, so I could examine my life and my behavior from a more meaningful perspective.


What else did I track?

Basically, anything that seems to help keep me motivated. Here’s a few of the key areas:

I gave every item a status: Every thing I get rid of is flagged as a Goodbye or as Store/Decide Later. Anything that I acquire (a purchase or a gift I keep) is a Hello.

  1. Goodbye — Applies to things that I donate or throw away.
  2. Store (decide Later) — Applies to things that I want out of my living space, but am not ready to make a permanent decision on where it goes.
  3. Hello — Any thing I bring into my life. I’ve made so much purging progress, that I fear sliding backwards (I’ve done it before). So now I’m tracking my purchases. I don’t track food or consumables like soap or paper towels. I just track the things that could easily become clutter in a year or more.

I categorized all the items: A way of thinking about the types of things I tend to accumulate.

  1. Office Supply (paper clips, stapler, pens)
  2. Papers/Files (anything paper-clutter related, junk mail, stationery)
  3. Clothing (shoes, shirts, jackets)
  4. Decor (picture frames, wall art, candles)
  5. Furniture (chairs, shelves, side tables)
  6. Trinket/Small item (knick-knack, fridge magnet, party favor)
  7. Kitchen Item (spatula, timer, plates)
  8. Pantry/Food (stale crackers, expired canned goods, empty tea boxes)
  9. Toy (lone Barbie roller skate, doll missing an arm, deck of cards)
  10. Holiday/Special Occassion (ornaments, party hats, paper table cloth)
  11. Hardware/Tools (packs of screws that come with everything, and I never use)
  12. Electronic (clock radio, document scanner, printer)
  13. Organizing (jars, baskets, file box)
  14. Linens (bedding, towels, dishrags)
  15. Craft/Art Supply (buttons, glue, glitter, paint)
  16. Books/Media (Books, Manuals, CDs, DVDs)

I documented the reasons the item was acquired: Helps with “facing the music” and being honest with how the clutter is getting created. (Numbers 8 & 9 stole the show)

  1. Freebie/Swag (anything that comes home with you because it was free).
  2. Needed saving (anything that inspired you, but needed work to be useful)
  3. Imagined different priorities (I had all kinds of handbag-buckles, handles, snaps and straps because I thought I was going to be a purse maker. That was years ago! I loved it for a month. I no longer have that dream).
  4. Deal/on sale (anything you buy because it made you say “only $5!!!”). You could even add another category related to this—Couponing. If you have a stock pile of stuff you don’t need because you had a coupon for it, acknowledge that.
  5. Determined to buy something (when you can’t leave the store because you came for something, and your brain keeps telling you that this means you need to leave with something)
  6. Gift (a thoughtful person gave you something)
  7. Gift requested (acknowledges that registries don’t always mean you get what you need)
  8. Emotional/Impulse (if you feel an impulse to buy something, it’s often coming from some place of emotion)
  9. Emotional/Sentimental (anything you brought home because it sparked warm memories of your Nana, and for no other reason other than that)
  10. Don’t know (when you don’t know where that thing came from)
  11. Spouse (things that came with anyone you merge homes with). Note: This is used only if that person decided to get rid of something. No getting rid of other people’s things! That’s a rule.
  12. Needed at the time (exhausted and purchase a neck pillow at the airport…this could also go in the next category, it’s all how you think about things, and how you felt in the moment that thing came into your life).
  13. Emotional/Justification (just about anything I ever picked out for the cat, and didn’t plan on)
  14. Came with something else (an extra button or set of extra screws with DIY furniture)
  15. Felt obligated (charity events with auctions or raffles)
  16. Something I created (art that was fun to make, but awful to look at)
  17. Inventory awareness issue (we tend to buy crackers, without checking the pantry first, then they get stale)
  18. Attempt to solve a problem (for me it’s usually hair products with promises of volume)
  19. Wanted to try (eye pillow, fancy lotions)
  20. Wardrobe refresh (when you hate your wardrobe, and you attempt to spruce it up without sticking to the plan)
  21. Loved (anything you buy because you can’t bear to put it down!)

And finally, I track the reason I’ve purged an item. This helps me bring my thoughts full circle.

If I acquired something because I loved it, and I purged something because I no longer liked it…what was going on here? It’s helpful to evaluate my thoughts around stuff so I don’t keep repeating the same disruptive patterns.



This post was originally created Oct 2015… above is updated.


Chalk Mural for St. Patrick’s Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I’d like to share something that I’m passionate about, being creative. This week I had this urge to draw. Really draw. To go big or go home. I had a burning need to plan and sink into the process.  One of the most valuable aspects of art and creating is about the process. Never be afraid or self conscious to create. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but creating art can be very personal, spiritual, introspective and uplifting. This is why I love working with chalk. Chalk is forgiving and chalk is temporary.

Here’s some perspective on the space and scale…


What’s this mural about?

  • This mural is for the people at QuickBase, Inc. to make them smile! Put something happy and bright in their day (our initials as a 60s rainbow ligature).
  • It celebrates a weekly office event—Waffle Wednesday (golden waffle at the end of the rainbow)
  • The art is themed around St. Patrick’s Day (rainbow, shamrock, leprechaun)
  • Working towards minimalism has taught me about all the joys of letting go. What a shock! World’s best kept secret. Now that I know about this secret, I can create with less fear. It’s not about putting in hours of work that will soon be erased. It’s about knowing that only the physical footprint will be erased. My experience has been created. It’s a part of me forever.

What’s the process?

  1. Get your inspiration. Mine came from Jessica Hische. Amazing artist (hand letterer). Exceptional teacher (Skillshare course on Drop Caps). The culture at my office is supportive of this type of thing too. It wasn’t my idea to bring chalk art to the office, it was encouraged by our Waffle Wednesday chair.
  2. Ponder & Marinate. It starts with the simple question “what am I going to do?”. Let it swirl and brew.
  3. Research to narrow the clarity. I googled for a visual reference “rainbow letters” and found a very close proximation
  4. Sketch. I started to sketch out Qs and Bs and rainbows… and had to think about how to tie in a waffle (that is the one rule of our murals).  Before I knew it I had a layout I used color pencils to choose a palette. I checked my chalk supply to finalize color choices. Decided on 4 (hot pink, yellow, green blue)chalk_sketch
  5. Go time. Grab your tools, go to the wall. First items used, a yard stick and a level. Use to draw a 3′ straight line in the middle of the board. I took a cereal bowl (from the neighboring kitchen). I used it to trace, creating 3 circles, using the line as my horizontal guide. Knowing how all the stripes would work together was key. I started to fill in the main shapes with the inner most stripe (hot pink)
    FullSizeRender 2
  6. Go slow and focus on your breathing for getting the circles filled in right. I noticed this made the arcs a lot cleaner. Far less lopsided than I usually do.
  7. Put your body into it. For the big arc (rainbow), I started on the left, visualized how it should go, used my shoulder as a pivot, and put my whole arm into it with a really good exhale. Exciting! It worked! A little off, but fixable by shaping.
  8. Create a skeleton first, build the forms on top (sketch then sculpt).
  9. Reassess. When it was almost done, I realized that it needed a Leprechaun. I searched for this on Dribbble.com. Found lots of great inspiration (never steal from these artists! this is their life and they are sharing it with us). I looked fast (as an exercise it can be fun to go quick) came away with some ideas for very graphical beards. Made the guy really hairy so that I didn’t have to get into the details of his coat and face.
  10. Use a damp Q-tip for details. Damp. Wet will drip. I use damp Q-tips for detail work like eyes and cleaning edges. Eyes are generally more pleasing when dark. So, I’ll create these by erasing what is already there.

What did I get out of it?

  • Meditation—I let myself sink into going slow and breathing with intention (as one might do with yoga)
  • Experiencing that a little planning does go a long way.
  • Noticing that this was part illustration (the planning and the skeleton sketch), part sculpting (filling in the parts of the shapes that felt off, redirecting the bend of the line, without having to erase).
  • Walking the line of complex and simple—There’s a lot going on here… Rainbow, Letters, Leprechaun, A Waffle, A Shamrock, Stripes that drip like Maple Syrup! Complexity and trying to say to much is a definite no in graphic design. On the flip side, know the rules to break the rules. All these details being grouped as one (more or less) element works for me.
  • A piece of art I love looking at. Something I am proud of.
  • Learning how to spell “leprechaun”

Can you get rid of 1 thing?

That’s what I kept asking myself in the beginning (after I acknowledged my problem, but before I started addressing it). That’s what started all this.

So, maybe you feel weighed down by too many things too. Maybe you’ve read Marie Kondo’s Life Changing Magic of Tidying up, and feel that a six-month process (no matter how amazing the benefit) just seems too overwhelming.

You can start simply.

Here is one very simple way to begin decluttering your home

  1. Open up a shopping bag. Label the bag “Donations”.
  2. Keep it off to the side in a central area of your home (so that it’s not a chore to find).
  3. Every day put one thing in the bag that feels excessive in your life. Something that you just don’t care for or often gets in the way. Just one thing. Tip: a dried out pen in your junk drawer is an easy place to begin.
  4. Let the bag just sit there until it fills up.
  5. Drop the bag off at a thrift shop or church in need. Note: If you feel hesitation, second thoughts, or you’re just not sure you’re ready to let go, put the bag in the back of a closet or something. If a year goes by and you forget all about it. Get rid of it! You’ve already let go mentally, why not follow through physically?
  6. It’s that simple.
  7. Questions? Doubts? Let me know below.


That is the process I used which led to this…


Additional Resources


Purge your cleaning supplies!

I just rounded up a house’s worth of cleaning supplies. At least 35 different products here! Overwhelming. Is this volume normal? It’s nuts! I bet my grandma would’ve had just 3 products, (and a much cleaner house).

I discarded 1/3 of this mess, and you can too! Here’s how…

First, round up all your cleaning supplies. Scour your house for all items in this category (thank you Marie Kondo). I rounded up supplies from the bathroom, the laundry room and a hall closet.


Next, group all your cleaning supplies by subcategory (gloves, sponges, soap, oven cleaner…etc). This is to help you better understand what you have. Now, you can make informed choices about what to let go of.


Then, get some focus, pare down and purge! I used this cleaning mag to focus my needs (remember, minimizing is all about working to disassociate need from want). Don’t have a mag? You could search online for a good list of basics. You could also sit, and visualize your cleaning rituals then list out all the products you use.


Lastly, put it all back. Be proud! Enjoy the thrill of being able to find things. Enjoy being able to grab (one handed) what you need. Enjoy having nothing topple over!

See, cleaning is really all about strategizing so you don’t have to actually clean or pick up so much.

Ta da! Everything I kept, put back. FullSizeRender (1)

I did end up buying some baskets. IMG_0235These fit the space well and I can slide them out easily. I also use binder clips and clothes pins to hang items, such as the rubber gloves.

Thanks for reading. Let me know if this helps you out. Post any comments/questions below.