Category Archives: simplicity

confessions of a sort-of-organized-minimalist

my vintage lingerie, folded and organized into my drawer

my vintage lingerie, folded and organized into my drawer

At a recent work party I had to offer one detail about my life that none of my coworkers already knew.  My “secret” was that I have moved my household 14 times in the past 20 years.  Ugh.  And have I mentioned just how much I hate moving? (maybe once or twice)

One of my coping mechanisms for having relocated so many times is to live a fairly bare-bones existence.  Just about every time I am tempted to buy something I imagine myself exhausted and packing boxes and ask myself if that new widget is really worth the effort that it will take to relocate it when the time comes (as it inevitably will).  Though I’m no Miss Minimalist, I’m not too far off from that end of the extreme, either.

Despite the fact that I’ve already internalized a fairly simple lifestyle, when a friend recommended The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering & Organizing, I downloaded a copy of the book despite an earlier decision to avoid decluttering self-help books.  I found that it affirmed a few of the habits that I’ve already incorporated into my life.  For example, I only keep things that I love (or as Kondo says, “items that bring delight”).  So if an item has a bad memory associated with it, or if it brings up negative feelings rather than pleasure, then off it goes to the Goodwill.  Ditto for items that are redundant or broken or threadbare.  Then for those delightful items that make the cut and stay in my home, I find a permanent place for them so I can put them away and keep the house tidy.

One element of Kondo’s book that rang especially true for me is that she recommends folding one’s clothing and linens into tidy squares and stowing it upright, in drawers.  A favorite time of the week is Sunday afternoon when I’m doing laundry and I take the warm clothes out of the dryer and fold them into tidy piles based on who they belong to and/or where they are stored in the house.  I have particular folding patterns for cloth napkins and bathowels and tshirts and sweaters and skivvies.  For me there’s a lot of comfort in the ritual of folding the same dishtowels and tank tops and pajamas every week, and I especially love how the fabrics of such things become softer with age (and as I touch each item, in my mind I rehearse the story of how I acquired it–that crazy pair of socks from Portland or that blouse from Brussels or the tidy stack of matching washcloths that I bought to mark my move from my student apartment to my first real house).

The satisfaction that I feel from folding my laundry is certainly heightened by the fact that such rituals are how I have made “home” in so many places so quickly over the years.  Because home has not been a precise location, but a set of comfortable behaviors that I brought along with all of those packing boxes, to each new space.


so simple, so tasty

radishes, farmers cheese, chives and toast

radishes, farmers cheese, chives and toast

Today’s simple pleasures: fresh cheese, good bread, and local veggies. Yes, please.

As I stretched this morning I felt a warm burn in my belly and realized that I was starting to pull against some of the scar tissue from my surgery last year.  I hadn’t realized just how tight I’d become, from that.  And I’m trying not to be (already) discouraged about just how much work lies ahead as I regain my former flexibility.  I knew that I had a significant amount of scar tissue to work through in my lower leg, but I hadn’t considered that as a lingering issue for my abdomen, too.

life, the universe, and everything

Being the geek that I am, I’ve been anticipating tomorrow for quite some time.  It’s not only Towel Day, but it’s my Towel Day–I’ll be turning 42, which means that it is destined to be the perfect birthday.

Except, of course, it is not.  I’m not wandering in Italy this year, I’m not hosting an inspiring fundraiser, and I’m not throwing a party for friends.  In fact, I haven’t been feeling well at all lately due to this.


At the same time, I’ve never felt more at peace with my life than I do now.  I’m not railing against a rigid religion, or feeling friction from a failing relationship, or worrying about what lies ahead.


My days are filled with many pleasures: a satisfying job, many books to read, much time on the ocean, a happy home-life, and friends who like to talk long into the summer evenings.  If I could sum things up in just a few words, it would be that I am satisfied.  Satisfied with who I am and all that’s happening in my life.  In fact, that’s the primary reason I haven’t been blogging much anymore–I don’t have angst and worries and unfinished business.  I’m recording many of my simple pleasures on instagram, but find little in my everyday life that warrants blog discussion.

I have enough.  I am enough…

I suspect that, for me, that’s why 42 is The Answer to “life, the universe, and everything.”  So many things just aren’t necessary on our travels when we know where our towel is.  The rest just seems to work out one way or another.  Or, perhaps we learn that whatever does happen is answer enough.


Reading Andrea’s post about busy-ness reminded me of a change I made awhile ago.  I decided that I wouldn’t reply to people that I was “busy” or “too busy” when they made a request.  Because it seemed that I’d fallen into a pattern of using that excuse to get out of doing things that weren’t important to me.  Instead, I started replying with a more specific response, either letting them know what was precluding me from attending their party/concert/kaffeeklatsch or explaining that I couldn’t help them because I had another responsibility that was taking priority at the moment.

Doing so gave me the opportunity to affirm my priorities, such as replying that I couldn’t attend an event because I wanted to spend time with my daughter that night, or I couldn’t join in on gathering because it was a morning that I needed to be out on the ocean, getting some exercise.  I’d like to think that it made my relationships with my friends and associates more authentic, too.  Because I was able to honestly respond to their requests with an affirmative “Yes, I will attend,” or a “No, I have another engagement that will take precedence on my calendar.”  I’m not sure if that was how it was received, but it made me feel better than just the canned reply of “oh, I can’t–too busy.”

But, additionally, I have been trying to take more time for friends lately.  A chat in front of the fireplace, taking a yoga class together, or even just a brief phone call.  I don’t want to ever be “too busy” for friends, and it feels good to make time with them as a higher-priority item on my list of possibilities.

2012 Retrospective #2 (simplicity)

Post #2 in my 2012 reflections…

Simplicity is one of my core values, one reinforced by my Quaker beliefs.  The best way that I’ve incorporated simplicity into my life in 2012 has been in the home where I live.  It’s uncluttered and open, and thus it’s easy-to-care-for.  It rarely looks messy just because there isn’t much stuff to pile up.  In general, my fridge and cupboards and closets are sparsely-filled.

When I moved, I got rid of stuff.  As I packed, before any item went into a box I asked myself whether it was useful and whether I loved it.  If it wasn’t either of those two things, it moved on.  Broken stuff was discarded.  Anything that I hadn’t used in more than a year went to the goodwill. Also, if something had a bad memory attached to it, it didn’t make the cut.  That last element is an important one–I realized that bad memories can clutter my home just as much as piles of physical objects.

One lesson that I’ve learned from my recent travels, is that there’s very little stuff that you actually need on a daily basis.  So I’ve incorporated that lesson into the ways that I’ve organized my surroundings.  Also, I learned from some of the hotels that I encountered in my travels that sparseness makes feel more comfortable than a space full of many things. (note: I took this to an extreme during christmas when I realized that I couldn’t stomach piles of gaudily-wrapped packages under the tree.  Instead, I used the soft white packing paper that we’d recycled from our move to wrap our gifts)..

Another way that I “keep it simple” is to arrange all of my financial documents to be delivered online (no more paper!), to shop online, and to keep my google calendar updated.  When I bring in the mail each evening I sort it immediately and try to deal with each piece of paper then, instead of letting them linger somewhere in a pile.  That, and I try to keep stuff in the same spot all of the time so it’s not hard to find when I need it (no more searching for shoes and keys and phones).

Most importantly, and this is related to my first retrospective post about finances, is that I resist the pull to accumulate more things.  When I’m tempted to buy something new, I first consider how I might meet that need in some other way besides accumulating more stuff.  Maybe I can netflix or ILL that movie or book (or buy it on kindle).  Maybe I can use a slightly different-shaped pan instead of buying a new one with a specific purpose, or maybe I can downscale my giftgiving to a small thoughtful thing rather than many unnecessary things.  Or maybe I can wear some sparkly earrings with that favorite older dress to a special event instead of buying a new one.

Overall I’ve learned that a quieter simpler life feels better than one filled with busy-ness and things.  Sure I am still often crazy-busy (lining up one to-do after another each evening until I’m exhausted just thinking about it all).  But…I still feel as though this year has taught me much about what’s really important.  And what that is is something that rarely has a shelf-life or a price-tag.  Instead, it’s time spent on the porch swing with a book, or giggling with the kids over a meal, or singing too loud while on a road trip, or a ramble on the beach on a windy day as I am squinting into the horizon.

This sweet hedgehog bell hangs in the doorway to our home.

Retrospective Post #1: Finances

things I like…

At my daughter’s suggestion, reading one of her favorite book series (the Protector of the Small trilogy, my entree into Tamora Pierce’s oeuvre).  And then talking about the characters and the feminist themes at the dinner table.

It’s such a simple thing, but it’s been making me very happy lately to have my daughter share a bit of her literary world with me (that, and I love bouncing my writing ideas around with her–she’s one smart cookie!).


pilgrim classic: Our House

It seemed time to run this post again–it was orginally published on October 20, 2006. A lot has changed in our home since this video: we’ve moved to a slightly bigger place, we now have a couch, and we no longer own that big table.  But a lot has stayed the same (i.e. BOOKS)…

For your viewing pleasure, I’ve created a brief house tour video.  This is for all those folks who are shocked/amazed/mortified that our family lives in ~750 sq ft of space.  Of course, if we were in Japan, we’d probably have half this space and call ourselves lucky.  But here in SoCal, our ‘living small’ lifestyle is definitely an anomaly.

The tour is limited to half of our home, so you’ll miss about five bookshelves (primarily the kiddos’ books and our magazines and journals). TobyJoy decided not to make an appearance in the show (EllyCat is the star) and John, CatGirl and GameBoy were at school during the tour, so the house is pretty quiet. One note: I mention that the table in the LR is “my desk,” well it’s also the heart of our home. We eat meals, watch movies, play games, read books, pray, and entertain guests around this table. Even as I type this post, John and I are working on our laptops at the table, and CG has a whiteboard that she’s drawing on at the table.

Our home is my very favorite place.  There is a lot of love within these walls.  It’s not fancy, but it’s home.  🙂

PS: kudos to John for helping me to compress the video for youtube!
PPS: Did you notice my oh-so-vintage-cool record player?? I’ll play some of my 80s record collection for you the next time you drop by for a cup of tea 🙂


pale pink camellia, originally uploaded by pilgrimgirl.
This morning in Quaker Meeting we considered the value of simplicity. I thought my readers might enjoy seeing the queries that go along with that value:


Life is meant to be lived from a Center, a divine Center… a life of unhurried peace and power. It is simple. It is serene. It takes no time, but it occupies all our time.
~ thomas r. kelly, testament of devotion, 1941

A life centered in God will be directed toward keeping communication with God open and unencumbered. Simplicity is best achieved through a right ordering of priorities, maintaining humility of spirit, avoiding self-indulgence, resisting the accumulation of unnecessary possessions, and avoiding over-busy lives.

Elise Boulding writes in My Part in the Quaker Adventure,
“ Simplicity, beauty, and happiness go together if they are a byproduct of a concern for something more important than ourselves.”

  • Do I center my life in an awareness of God’s presence so that all things take their rightful place?
  • Do I live simply, and promote the right sharing of the world’s bounty?
  • Do I keep my life uncluttered with things and activities, avoiding commitments beyond my strength and light?
  • How do I maintain simplicity, moderation, and honesty in my speech, my manner of living, and my daily work?
  • Do I recognize when I have enough?
  • Is the life of our Meeting so ordered that it helps us to simplify our lives?

Mary Monday: what should I fear?

a simple cabin, originally uploaded by pilgrimgirl.

I love small cozy spaces like this cabin in Temescal Canyon, where our family stayed last weekend. My fantasy would be to live in a small bungalow cottage near the beach someday. With one big room for entertaining and a small sleeping loft with a step ladder. And a front porch, of course!

This weekend I found myself immersed in something of the fantasy life that I dream of: staying in an oceanfront room, spending the long hours of the evening chatting with old & new friends over a multi-course meal, wandering up and down the wet sand in the dark as I mulled over the concerns of the world, falling asleep to the insistent rhythm of the waves. And not to mention a victorious morning paddle out on the open ocean in a tandem outrigger canoe (it was a race, our first in a 2-man boat!).

And of course, I have a wee morsel of Mary Oliver poetry for you today, this is an excerpt from “Little Summer Poem Touching the Subject of Faith.” These lines reminded me of the fear I had to face down on Saturday morning as my paddling partner and I realized that we’d have to do a surf entry for the boat in some rather rough waves. We came ever-so-close to not going through with it…

And therefore, let the immeasurable come.
Let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine,
Let the wind turn in the trees,
and the mystery hidden in dirt

swing through the air.
How could I look at anything in this world
and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart?
What should I fear?

One morning
in the leafy green ocean
the honeycomb of the corn’s beautiful body
is sure to be there.