A Simple Year Prepares to Celebrate it’s First Birthday!

I was fortunate to see a post last December that announced a new year-long course called A Simple Year.  It is all online and each month has a theme, such as January was all about clutter, March was about simple travel, and April was about how to simplify in our kitchens.  I can’t wait for December when we talk about how to simplify for the holidays!  We have monthly live webinars with the experts, short reading assignments, and simple engaging homework assignments that help us explore the topic at hand.  There’s even an online community via Facebook that one of the participants created for day-to-day questions and support.

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Taking A Simple Year course has been one of my favorite things in 2014, so I set out to interview Courtney Carver, the person behind this great course.  Courtney Carver is the brainchild behind Project 333, the Be More with Less blog and several amazing Micro Courses.  She got into minimalism when a health challenge caused her to stop and assess how to reduce the stress in her life.  Less stress for Courtney looked like; a more whole foods diet, paying off her debts and moving from a 2,000 square foot home into a 750 square foot apartment.  I am really glad that Courtney is able to join us today!

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Courtney Carver

Kathy:  Tell us about your course.  Courtney:  A Simple Year (ASY) is a year-long course about simplifying every aspect of life and work.  I wanted to create something that would support momentum and motivation for a simple life. So often we try something and then lose interest after a few weeks, but with A Simple Year, members can re-engage each month with a new topic.

How did you put the program together with topics and speakers each month?  I reached out to some of the best simplicity bloggers and authors and asked them to participate. We brainstormed topics and then each member created a month of written content, homework assignments (with surprises for completing) and hosted a live webinar for member questions.

Oh yes, I must say I love those surprises!  It’s fun to be rewarded for doing the assignments.  Those rewards help push me to get the assignments done sometimes when life gets busy.  

What do you see as the goal for ASY course?  My intention from the start was to make this a meaningful program for both members and contributors.

What is one of your favorite things about ASY so far?  My favorite thing with ASY and my other work is helping people and creating something where people can learn and engage at their own pace and comfort level. Some people love the live webinars, while others prefer to email questions or work on their own.

Where do you see minimalism going in the next 2-5 years?  Minimalism has been around for a long, long, time, but with more people realizing that they can create a minimalist lifestyle that works for them, instead of following a certain formula, I think more and more people will discover the benefits.

What is your biggest challenge with being a minimalist?  My biggest challenge is restraint. Living with less has come with so many positive benefits and I’d love to pare down even more.

How can I and others support you with sharing about ASY?  Testimonials from course members are so helpful. They really let people know what to expect and give them more information when they are considering the course.

One of my biggest changes from taking the course happens to be a very simple assignment that Joshua Becker gave us in the first week, which was to clear off the main surfaces in your home.  I cleaned off my kitchen table and entry table, so when I enter my home it was amazingly clean and un-cluttered.  That later inspired me to move furniture around a bit, so it totally opened up the room!  I will share that nothing on those surfaces looked a bit bare, so I now have a lovely Buddha and some inspiring cards for people to draw that provide a bit of personality.  But, that is the cool thing about minimalism, it doesn’t have to look a certain way.  This was a simple assignment that took all of 5 minutes, but it has become a way of living for me.  And because my home is now so serene and inviting, I have invited more people over to enjoy my home with me.  

I’m grateful that this hasn’t been a quick course where things might soon be forgotten.  It is a whole year of looking at your life and seeing how you can create a life that is intentionally what you want and less of what you don’t want.  That’s powerful!  

What would you like to see for ASY in 2015?  I hope we attract an engaged, vibrant, thoughtful community like we have in 2014.

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Courtney Carver and Kathy Peterman

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If you would like to be a part of A Simple Year 2015, including discounted rates for early registration, follow this link to be informed.

ABCs of Airbnb

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I jumped into Airbnb full force in July and I’ve been learning new things both as guest and as host.  It is a great way to meet new people, make someone’s day, and to help pay the mortgage too.  I am excited to say I got an article in Swell Magazine.  So I am posting it here so you too might find the pleasures of Airbnb as guest or host.

Swell Magazine article on the ABCs of Airbnb.

Simple Spice

When I became vegan, I got more into food.  With that, came more shopping, cooking, and preparing homemade meals.  Herbs and spices are an important part of a healthy kitchen, so I got quite a collection going.  As I am learning about new ways to be more green and to care for our earth, I have a nice glass jar collection going while using less plastic.  These two things led to a spice cupboard needing a bit of a makeover.

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Spice cupboard BEFORE photo. Lots of spices, but not easy to find and a bit cluttered.

So, yesterday I took on simplifying my spice cupboard.  It began with taking all the spices out, cleaning the shelves, and figuring out my favorite 18 spices.  It takes being willing to make a mess to really get in there and clean and organize.  I found spices that I had prior to moving to Portland, which meant they were more than six years old, so I tossed them.  I also had spices I bought with good intentions, but haven’t used.  It felt good to get rid of the things I am not using or that no longer inspire me.

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Taking everything out is an important first step

I got this neat spice rack off of Amazon and used it to make good use of the space while also making it super easy find the spices that I want.

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Bottom shelf AFTER the project

I originally bought a set of labels off Amazon that were clear with black ink, but they were not easy to see, so I made my own from Avery labels I had on hand.  I had to cut them out to get them to fit, but I like the finished look much better and I love the ease of finding which spice I want without squinting!

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I decided to make my own labels

I could have bought several racks that hold 18 jars each, but I really do use my favorite 18 spices more than 80% of the time.  With that in mind, having less to deal with, versus more to organize, made sense.  So here are my favorite 18!

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My Top 18 Spices are Black Pepper, Cardamom, Cayenne, Chili, Chipotle, Cinnamon, Cloves, Cumin, Curry, Garam Masala, Ginger, Lemon Pepper, Nepali Mix, Nutmeg, Roasted Peppers, Sesame Seeds, Smoked Paprika and Turmeric!

One tip is to buy spices in the bulk section of your food co-op.  This allows you to buy only the amount that you need for that particular recipe.  Bulk saves you money while also avoiding waste.  And having fresher spices in small amounts is better for flavor, your pocketbook and your cupboards!

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The AFTER photo with less to manage and a bit more organization.

What are your favorite spices and when did you last clean your spice cupboard?

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Tech-Free Tuesdays

Each year I take some time on New Years Day to savor the year that has passed and reflect upon what I want to create in the year ahead.  This year I started January 1st by taking a full day to do spa treatments and to “unplug” so I could do some serious reflecting without all the distractions.  I turned off the TV, my computer and my Smartphone to quiet the hum that they create, not necessarily audibly, but definitely with where my attention goes.

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It was a wonderful day.  I woke up and instead of grabbing my phone to see what the weather was like and to do Facebook for 20-30 minutes before my feet hit the floor, I put on my socks, turned on the heater and made myself a cup of tea.  I opened the door to see what the weather was like versus hitting my App repeatedly to predict the future temps and humidity.  Remember those days, when we looked to the sky to guess what the weather might be?

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Around midmorning I was Jonesing to check Facebook to see what was going on that I was “missing.”  Were people out there asking me questions wondering where I was, were recipes floating by in my feed not to be found again, did anyone “like” the last photo I posted?  This part actually became uncomfortable as my own realization hit home that I spend way more time on Facebook than I would ever like to admit.  A book became a new option originally to quiet and focus myself.  Later that book felt like a calm oasis as for the first time in many months I sat down and got absorbed in a good read.

I read.  I went for a walk.  I visited my sweet granddaughter. I cleaned my house.  I then took some time for a luxurious soak in the tub, a facial mask and a pedicure.  I enjoy pampering, and I always mean to do it more often, so this was a real treat.  I had time to plan out my meals, to enjoy the sensuality of cutting and chopping fresh veggies and to chew and enjoy each bite.

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In the evening once again I went from peace to a little pain as I longed to turn on the TV to watch some reality TV shows as my way to escape.  Alas, there was no escape in sight, as I really wanted to go for the whole unplugged experience.  So I did some journaling and read some old entries from a while back and gradually those “cravings” ceased.

The next morning I woke up feeling more refreshed than normal.  I noticed I was referencing my phone and computer less that before my digital detox.  Spending downtime for a day did me a world of good.  Even though it had its pain points, the good far exceeded them.  In fact I am now doing a digital detox one day a week most weeks. I call it “Tech-Free Tuesdays” to help friends and family remember I am unplugging that day.

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Some of the Benefits of a Digital Detox:

  • More Focused.   I think multitasking is way over rated as single tasks make me feel so much more grounded and a part of my experience.
  • More Productive.   Because I was more focused, I was more productive and felt more satisfied about the flow of my day.
  • More time.   I had more time to do the things that mattered to me.
  • More connected.  Today at lunch as I am laughing with my daughter and granddaughter, I looked over to see three women out enjoying a meal.  Their ages appeared to range from their mid-forties to mid-sixties and they all have their head down focusing on their phones.  I smile and wipe the avocado off of baby Ava’s lip as I am reminded to Look Up.
  • Cleaner home. My home is cleaner since my time and energy that usually dwindles away online was put to the task of spiffing up my own environment.   This added to my sense of peace and being grounded.
  • More reading.   I actually hadn’t read a book in quite some time, so this was a real plus.   I have now read about 12 books this year alone, which is probably a 400% increase over last year.   Remember all those books you’ve been meaning to read?
  • Better perspective.   I was able to take time to organize my day and my life.   I was in charge, not my Facebook feed.   (You can insert Twitter, Instagram, Email, or whatever is your favorite technology addiction here).
  • Deeper Relaxation.   It is not easy to describe, but I was able to decompress at a deeper level.   I felt less anxiety even though I usually am a pretty calm person. 

Myths of Social Media, Computers and Television:

  • I need to post so others know who I am and what I am up to. This has become such a big deal, they even have a phrase and acronym for it; FoMO (Fear of Missing Out).
  • I only check my phone or computer a few times a day.  Many people are checking their Smartphones every 6 minutes or up to 150 times a day.
  •  I am less alone Click on the link to see a 4 minute video on the effects of social media on our relationships and life.
  • My television helps me unwind.  We can unwind in so many more healthy ways.  Go for a walk.  Talk with a friend or loved one about our day.  Make a whole food meal.  Tidy up your home and get prepared for tomorrow. 

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Breakaway For A Day – Tips for your own Digital Detox:

  • Pick a day to Detox.  Decide if the weekend or a weekday is best.  Put it on your calendar and set a reminder for the day before.
  •  Notify your friends and family.  My family and close friends now know I take “Tech-Free Tuesdays.”  I post a message on Facebook and turn on my out of office on my computer so others know the plan.
  • Create a way to deal with emergencies.  I usually will accept calls just so I don’t worry that someone needed me and couldn’t reach me.
  • Reduce your need to react and respond!  Turn off alerts on your phone.  Put away your computer.  Unplug your TV.
  •  Decide what you want to do for your day.  Have other things to do such as go for a walk, journal, organize a closet, read through that stack of papers you’ve been putting off, get a massage, pull weeds or plant seeds, draw or doodle, take a nap, cook up a great new dish or get together with a friend or loved one.
  • Go for learning versus perfection.  When we aim for perfection we rarely have fun.  Keep it light by going for the learning.  Take a shorter period of time if a full day feels daunting to you.
  • Notice your response.  Take time to journal.  Notice any cravings and how you responded.  Notice how you feel that day and the next day.

I know Michael Pollan said we shouldn’t eat anything our great-grandmothers wouldn’t recognize as food.  I am starting to think we need to live a life more like our great-grandmothers did at least occasionally. A digital detox is one step in that direction.

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Reprinted from an abbreviated article in Swell Magazine.  Kathy is a registered nurse who retired at age 55 and is now exploring the adventures in life after work.  Her interests in health, photography, travel, being green and minimalism led her to create her blog The 3rd Chapter.  She is presently writing an eBook about Raw Cleansing as a Pathway to Health.

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Our Relationship with Money

One of the biggest hurdles we all have to overcome in this life is our relationship with money. My own encouragement would be to tackle it head on from wherever you are at, and preferably to do so before retirement. I will share my own journey and how money and me get along, just to help you have a reference for your relationship with money. None of this is about right and wrong, so I’d encourage you to leave that notion at the door. I also think money is a more touchy subject than sex, at least here in the United States.  And, because we don’t talk about it often enough, it can be controlling us, versus allowing us to be in the drivers seat.

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Some of the important parts of having a quality life

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What I Took On My 6 Day Trip

I was fortunate to have a fun 6 day trip to Seattle, San Francisco, Monterey and Santa Cruz a couple of weeks ago.  I just wanted to share what I took on the trip as I seek to travel as lightly as possible, while also having what I need.

Here’s what I took (with items I could have left behind crossed off):

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Clothes: Jeans, black skirt, fuchsia sweater, black jacket, 4 tops – 1 black long sleeve Flash Dry, 1 gray 3/4 sleeve, 1 blue tank and 1 black and white sleeveless. For sleep 1 pair of cotton shorts and 1 tank. Birkenstocks, socks and 1 extra pair of underwear.

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What Do You Get a Minimalist as a Gift?

A few weeks ago, as my birthday was approaching, my daughter Myra asked me…

“So Mom, What do you get a minimalist for her birthday?” IMG_8173

The quick answer is give them experiences, not things.  Most minimalist will be happy with this.  Of course, to ask the person is key, as minimalism is not a one size fits all way of being.

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Make Each Salad a Religious Experience!

Today as I was making my salad it hit me!  I should make each salad (or any dish really) a religious experience.  By that I mean, to be mindful, to notice the choices I have and put them together to create a tasty, nutritious and beautiful dish.  To have it be a salad that delights the eyes at first glance and pulls you in.  So here is today’s mandala salad for your enjoyment:

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Project 333 – Summer Edition

I took a month off between my first 3 months of Project 333 and June to just wear what I have and see what would work for my summer wardrobe.  For those who are new to this, Project 333 is where you take 33 items of clothing to wear for 3 months.  Underwear, socks and workout clothes don’t count.   I made my own exception for the 3 pieces of jewelry that I never take off.  The goal is to see how fewer choices make life easier and to experience what it is like to live with less.  We always think that more choice is a good thing, but there is a tipping point at which more can suck our energy too.

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My Summer 2014 Wardrobe

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Replacement Time?

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New Aveda 95% recyclable paddle brush to replace the old blue brush

I’ve been known to say “I take good care of my shit” and by that I mean you often wouldn’t know how long I’ve owned something like my car that’s 11 years old, my shoes that walked 1,000 miles or my hairbrush.  You see I got my blue brush back in the 90’s to replace the one I bought as I was pregnant and cutting my hair (like I said I never would do).  Well, my daughter is now 36, so that tells me two hair brushes lasted me 36 years.

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