The Year of Less

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For me, 2015 is going to be the year of less.

See above: Those are my goals.

Most of these are really just building on some life changes I made in the last year.

As I have written, over a family holiday in Florida for Thanksgiving 2013, I began to read about minimalism, and simplicity. You can read about that and find links to some of the best minimalism/simplicity information here.

As a result of that reading and learning, in the last year I have significantly reduced the “stuff” I have, donating, selling or trashing A LOT of stuff that was just sitting around.

As a result, I’ve also been much more conscious about what I buy, what I spend time doing, and the reasons behind both.

For me, it’s been eye-opening. I am striving to live much more intentionally, with reason and purpose behind all I do.

So, all of the things I am striving for in 2015 are in that vein. As the graphic above shows, I am trying to slow down, simplify, and live more deliberately.

One of the specific goals I have is to climb Mount Marcy in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. Without going into great detail, last September I spent several days hiking and climbing in the Adirondacks, and quite frankly, the mountains kicked my backside.  Bad.

The reverse is going to happen this year; the mountains are in for a whuppin’.   Courtesy of yours truly.

One of the things I have done to achieve that goal is change my eating habits. No, I am not dieting. I have changed how and what I eat.

Thanks to help from friends, my cardiologist, and others, I am eating lower glycemic foods, drinking more water (Sodastream!) and eating more green vegetables and proteins. Less sugar, less carbs.

All the changes I have made in the last year have been fantastic. And I am looking forward to an amazing 2015.

What are your goals?

Weekend Reads

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This week there may well be some of the best reads I have found to date. Some really, really interesting stuff.

How science is increasingly revealing evidence of a creator of the universe.

One of my favorite writers/websites for simplicity/minimalism topics is Joshua Becker at Becoming Minimalist. He has written several excellent books, and this week features his most popular writing from 2014, including readers’ favorite posts, Josh’s favorites, most popular guest posts and popular links. Very, very well worth your time to take a look and a read!

When I started down the path of minimalism, simplicity and living with focus and intention, one of the best books I read was The 100 Thing Challenge by Dave Bruno. Is a very entertaiing read about an idea, a blog, and how things go “viral” in today’s interconnected social-media world. It’s one of the best reads in a while…. Its well worth your time.

As I have written before, Tim Challies is a pastor and widely read blogger; he was one of the inspirations for me to begin blogging. In some ways, I have adopted some similar content from Tim, including this idea of sharing interesting things I am reading. He wrote an excellent blog about why he started doing that.

Airline travel is cramped, crowded and not much fun.  And it’s mostly our own fault.  Here is an interesting explanation of how and why airlines fares are what they are, and why service and comfort are what they are.

You may have read that Joe Cocker died recenly at age 70 of cancer. Billy Joel paid tribute to him at his September show at Madison Square Garden, doing an uncanny song-impression.

Here is a really cool, short video that shows how airliners are built. After watching it, I started asking myself, is it not truly a miralce that these things can fly in the first place? While the physics remain simple, the complexity of the machines is truly amazing.

Christmas: How Much Is Enough?

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How much is enough?  For virtually everyone reading this, we have too much.

Of everything.

As Americans we live in the most prolific consumeristic society the world has ever known.  The push is always there for more, more, more.

But how much is enough?  Particularly in the Christmas season?

This year in our household, my wife and I agreed to deliberately buy fewer Christmas presents for our children, and ourselves.

Far fewer.

Since our children were born starting 11 years ago, we have done what most Americans do around Christmas.  By lots and lots of presents.  FAR more than are needed.

But not this year.

For the last year, I’ve been intentionally working to simplify and minimize my life, and my possessions.  So, a logical step was to simplify Christmas present giving.

At my wife’s wonderful suggestion, we are going to try a “Biblical” model for gift giving this year:  3 gifts per person, max.

I say Biblical because the idea comes from the Gospel of Matthew.  After Jesus was born, three wise men came to pay their respects to the child-Savior, and they brought with them 3 gifts:  Gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  That’s where the idea of 3 comes from.

As a theological aside, there are at least two different views on the meaning of the gifts.  Some scholars believe the gifts were just common gifts of the time, without significant meaning.  Other scholars suggest the gifts held deeper meaning as to the identity of the child.  Gold was seen as a symbol of Earthly Kings; frankincense was a symbol of deity; and myrrh (which was used to treat the bodies of the dead) as a symbol of death.

In other words, Jesus was seen as having the status of a King, while also being the Son of God, and foreshadowing his death.

Nonetheless, we thought the idea of three gifts was a good one, if for no other reason than we recognize that our kids and ourselves have far, far more stuff than we need.

So, I encourage you to think about what the Christmas season means to you.  If you are a follower of Christ, it has deep religious and theological meaning.

If you don’t believe in Christianity, it still likely has significant meaning.  Love, family and giving to others.  Not a focus on ourselves, but of things more important than ourselves.

Either way, it’s about more than just buying and receiving lots and lots of gifts, most of which we don’t need anyway and likely won’t use or remember within a matter of a few weeks.

How much is enough?

Scripture link:  Matthew 2:1-12
Photo credit:  Pixabay.com

Stop Buying Crap You Don’t Need

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Today, Black Friday, is the largest shopping day of the year.  In some ways, its become a bigger “holiday” than Thanksgiving.

People go out insanely early, some even camping out in line for hours, to get shopping bargains.  Stores and malls are crowded.  It’s crazy.

I’ve never been a big Black Friday shopper.  In fact, quite the opposite is how happening.

Exactly a year ago a significant change began taking place in my life.  On vacation in Florida, I began reading about simplicity and minimalism.  I read just about everything I could find, and discovered something my soul had long been searching for, I just didn’t recognize it.

LESS IS MORE.

I have found that all the stuff I had was weighing me down; it was a hinderance; it was visually distracting; and most of the crap I had I didn’t even need or use.

So, over the last year I have simplified, minimized and significantly reduced the number of “things,” the “stuff” I have.

I’ve not just decluttered, but de-owned.

And I’m far better for it.

If you stop and actually LOOK at everything you own, you’ll be shocked.  I was.  It’s staggering the amount of stuff we have.  And most of it you don’t need and don’t use.

I have found much joy and freedom in reducing the amount of stuff I have.  I think you would too.

So, below are some links to the most useful reading I found on simplicity and minimalism.  Take a look, you might be surprised at what you find.

Scripture link: Ecclesiastes 5:10 (Amazing, huh?  Yea, its in the Bible!)
Photo credit:  Pixabay.com

Buy More Stuff?

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That season is upon us.  Yup, THAT season.  And I’m not talking about the Christmas season where Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus.

I’m talking about the Black Friday season.  The go-to-the-mall-and-buy-more-tons-of-crap-we-don’t-need-season.

We live in a culture where we are CONSTANTLY bombarded with advertisements, all meant to convince us to by more stuff.  And it works.  ALL.  THE.  TIME.

And buried in those really clever and often entertaining ads, is the message that if we just buy this particular product, life will be better.  We’ll be happy.

Problem is, it’s been going on our entire lives, and we’re no more happy than we were before we bought most of the crap we already have.

If we are dependent on stuff to make us happy we will continue to be caught in a viscous, never-ending cycle of buying the newest, latest-and-greatest, whatever it is.

It doesn’t work.  It just doesn’t work.

And deep down, when we really think about it, when we critically analyze it, we know its true.

All we have to do is look in our closets, our attics, our basements, our drawers, and our storage units.  There’s all that STUFF and we’re still not happy.

Heck, I bet you even forgot about much of the stuff you already have!

Truth is, stuff can’t ever make us happy.  Because if it did, we’d already be happier than we can imagine.

So if more stuff can’t make us happy, what can?

 

Scripture link:  Ecclesiastes 5:10 (Amazing, huh?  Yea, its in the Bible!)
Photo credit:  Pixabay.com

 

 

Weekend Reads

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Something as simple as checking and responding to emails before and after work, or when we take a “day off” can have a real impact on our health.  This study found employees reported worse sleep, higher levels of burnout and more health-related absences from work. 

Over the last year, I have been intentionally working towards simplifying my life, spending time, energy and money on things that are truly important and matter.  One of my absolute favorite blogs on this subject is Becoming Minimalist, and this is a really good article.  Don’t Just De-Clutter, De-Own.

I’m glad to see some retailers are pushing back against the trend of the last couple years of more stores opening on Thanksgiving.  I’m done buying crap I don’t need.  Enjoy your Thanksgiving at home, not at the mall.  

As I’ve mention in the past, Billy Joel is my all time favorite rock-n-roll artist.  Billy recently completed a tribute to Sir Paul McCartney.  Listen to Billy’s version of “Maybe I’m Amazed.”

You’ve probably heard that debt can be a “tool,” and that there is “smart debt.”  Is that true?  Read this article by Dave Ramsey: The Truth About Debt.

A research group at the University of Amsterdam partnered with the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester to devise a method that would definitively prove what were the catchiest songs of all time.