Minimalist Valentine’s Day 2019


Valentine’s Day is next week! I’m actually proud of myself for thinking about it before the day is upon me! Being ahead of the day helps me be more thoughtful which is what minimalism is all about, in my opinion.

So, what’s a minimalist to do about Valentine’s Day? What is a Minimalist Grandma to do on Valentine’s Day?

If you search for ideas on the internet you will find that some people equate being minimalist with being cheap. It’s not about being thrifty and saving money, though that can be a benefit of practicing minimalism. However, for me, minimalism means paying attention, being deliberate and not being wasteful. For example, I could go to the store and spend hundreds of dollars buying a bunch of stuff for my husband, kids, and grandkids for Valentine’s Day. Most of which would probably end up in the trash, at the bottom of the toy box or put away with all the other odd things that have no real place.

I could jump on the bandwagon and buy cards, candy, jewelry, and flowers or plan a special night out. All that is great, except when the person you’re doing it all for doesn’t really like or want those things. I speak from experience. I HATE going out to dinner on Valentine’s Day with all the crowds. Too many people! I’m not eating sugar, so candy is out. Flowers are nice, but they die quickly. Jewelry is pretty, but I’m not a jewelry kind of person. Cards, well, they are sweet, but what in the world do you do with them after you’ve read them? They end up in the trash. I’m not going to leave a lifetime of greeting cards for my kids to have to throw out. It’s crazy! Yes, I am frustrating. Just ask my husband.

Ok, that’s me. But what about all those people who do like flowers, candy, cards, jewelry, and dinners out? Get it for them! Being minimalist is being mindful and not wasteful. Giving someone joy is never a waste!

So you see, being a minimalist gift-giver means taking time to think about the person and choosing a gift that they would truly like as an expression of affection. Not just buying stuff to meet the holiday requirement. 

Do some thinking! Let me give you some ideas. Some of these I have done before and they worked out great!

For Adults

  • Give things people need but won’t easily buy for themselves. It might sound too practical to be considered a Valentine’s Day gift, but you might be surprised how excited they will be. How about a few really long charging cords for their phone?
  • Give a thematic gift based on their interests or hobbies. A bouquet of Sharpies for the artist or journaler. A bouquet of wooden cooking utensils for the cook. A bracelet of washi tape for the crafter. The ideas are endless.
  • For the plant lover, give a tomato plant instead of roses.
  • For the cook, give a bottle of good olive oil instead of wine. 
  • Give an experience.  This can get a little pricey, but if you have the money and you’re sure they’ll love it, do it! Buy a cooking class, a chance to drive a racecar or even drive a tank (I’ve seen ads for this!), or scuba lessons. 
  • Give a membership. This can also get pricey and that’s why I do it for Christmas. Buy a family membership to the zoo, the aquarium, a local museum or season tickets for music or theatre. This is the gift that keeps on giving! 

For Kids

  • Give them one-on-one time with you doing something fun. Kids really do love time spent with the people they love. It doesn’t really matter what you do as long as you give them your undivided attention. Put down your phone, don’t include anyone else and spend your time talking and laughing.
  • Craft together or teach them a skill. Teach your kids/grandkids how to make “seed bombs” and then plan a time to go spread the love! Teach the kids/grandkids how to knit, make a cake, play a song on the piano. Kids are sponges and they love to learn if it’s fun and with someone they love.
  • Give an experience like I mentioned above. Take them behind the scenes at the aquarium or zoo. A visit to a museum or planetarium is always fun! Tickets to a sports game. Race go-carts, go bowling, play miniature golf, go horseback riding.
  • Give a membership. Not only are memberships to the zoo and aquarium fun, but
  • Give Apple, iTunes, Amazon gift cards, PS4 or Xbox gift cards. Kids can buy apps, games, movies and even toys they want.
  • Have a sleep-over, dance party, video game or movie party. Even though you may not “like” doing it, if you’ll break down and do the thing, listen to the music, watch the show that your kid loves, it will mean the world to them. 

Distance Grandparenting Gift Ideas

  • Order pizza and watch an online movie on Netflix or Amazon. It’s so great that from the internet you can give your grandkids dinner and a movie from wherever you are. It would be much more fun if you ordered pizza, too, and watched the same movie and FaceTimed! Distance grandparenting at its best!
  • Create a scavenger hunt. Plan it out, get all the materials together and send it to the parents. Then FaceTime with them as they search for the treasure!
  • Start a Love Letter or Post Card tradition. Write a love letter to your grandchild and then tell them to write you back. You can become pen pals. You can do the same with postcards. Agree that wherever you go, you’ll mail a postcard to each other.
  • Start a book club. Then you can buy them a book or an e-book (if you’re really dedicated to this minimalist idea) for every holiday! Then you’ll have something to talk about!
  • Start a YouTube channel and read books to your grandkids. They will LOVE to watch the videos and they’ll get a chance to “spend time with you.”
  • Bake their favorite cookies and mail them to them. Spread that grandma love! 

Minimalist gift giving is not about being cheap. It’s about being thoughtful and not being wasteful by buying things that people really don’t want.

Happy Valentine’s Day!







Your Dream House


One of the things I’m going to suggest in my new book, “Minimalist Grandma” is for you to walk through your house with a pad of paper and pen. Stop in each room and dream about what you want in each room. Write down all the things you want to change, update, buy or get rid of to make each room the room of your dreams.

Then for each thing you write down, write down what you’d have to buy to make your dreams come true.

That list will naturally prioritize what you can do based on what you can afford and what you need to save for. It will also give you an idea of how much work it will take and whether you really want to tackle it.

Getting frustrated with your house because it’s too small or it’s not arranged how you wish it was is common. However, going into debt and buying a bigger home is really not the minimalist way. I highly suggest that people try to trim down the number of possessions they own to fit the house they live in. That will go a long way in helping you become content with your home.

I also suggest using the rooms for what they were intended for instead of trying to create multipurpose spaces. Trying to have an office in your bedroom or a craft room in your kitchen often only makes life complicated and confusing. It also makes the rooms look cluttered.

So, get out your pad of paper and pen and walk through your house. Start to dream. Then get real about making a list of what it would take to make the house of your dreams inside the house you live in!

Dream on!


This Next Chapter of Life


I listen to a lot of YouTube videos, Ted Talks, podcasts. I tune them up, put in my earbuds and do stuff while I listen. Even the videos I usually just listen. I listen to such a weird variety of stuff you’d probably not believe it.

Well, I was listening to a Catholic priest the other day and he explained something so clearly, and I felt so accurately, that I ordered his book. So, I may be sharing more after I read it.

In his lecture, he described our lives as being in 2 distinct chapters. I sort of think there are more, but I won’t go into that here. He said that in the first part of our lives we are busy finding out who we are and building our lives. He called it, “Building our containers.” Who am I? Where did I come from? What am I here? What is my purpose? You know all those questions we ask when we’re young – and sometimes if we’re older if we had a challenging childhood.

We are busy getting married, starting families, building careers, etc. He then said the next chapter or second chapter we are more concerned with the “Contents of our container.” Here’s where we are searching for meaning. We begin to notice the quality of character, values, virtue, etc.

If this is an accurate description, then the whole decluttering thing makes sense. Whatever age you are when this happens (often late 40’s and in your 50’s) –  the kids are on their own, you’re in the latter stages of your career, your parents are passing away, you are realizing your own mortality, you are becoming more of a mentor, sage than a worker drone and you’re getting a few gray (WISDOM) hairs – you begin to feel this surge of a new life beginning. You realize you can do whatever you want to. Your kids are not taking all your money and your time. You’re old enough and smart enough and mature enough not to make stupid decisions so you can create a new life!

That’s why we want to shed all the stuff that weighs us down. We don’t need all the trappings we did when we were younger when we were competing when we were racing. We’re perfectly fine now with a cup of good coffee and a nice view. We don’t want to clean a huge house, we’re fine with a couple of rooms and good company. We no longer care about the container, we want the contents.

The tag line for my original Minimalist Grandma blog was, “freeing myself up so I can enjoy this next chapter.” I might adjust it slightly to say, “keeping myself free so I can enjoy this next chapter.”

Stay free my friends!



An Idea: Giving What You Never Had


As Minimalist Grandma, I have stripped a lot of things away. Slimmed down and I am streamlining my life. But you know that, dear reader.

However, I’m sorting out more than just my stuff.

I am now making decisions about my time and talents. What do I keep? What do I discard?

I have to determine what is important to me because (not trying to be morbid, but) I have an estimated 30 (+,-) years left and I want to make them count. I don’t want to squander them.

I have had the luxury of being able to “retire” from a job that was very stressful and affecting my health. I loved it, I was passionate about it, but I just couldn’t do it anymore. So, now I have to decide how I will use my time and talents. Do I go back to work? Do I start a new career? Do I volunteer? Then….doing what?

So, how do you sort out yourself?

I’ve taken personality tests, been to counseling, read tons of books on the subject of finding your passion, finding your genius, discovering your second career, answered a hundred questions and I’m not really any closer to knowing, to be honest.

I’ve used the divining rod method (is what I call it), you know where they say, “just follow your heart.” If I did that then I’ll be a professional cookie eater and movie watcher.

I’ve been told, “be patient, it will come to you.” Well, I’m not patient and I feel the clock ticking. And I’ve never been the sort to just wait around for something to happen.

However, I have a theory that seems to ring true with me.

My theory is people often are passionate about giving to others what they never had and desperately wanted.

Now it doesn’t always prove true but you’ve heard of the guy who became a doctor because his mother was misdiagnosed and died. The mother who, as a kid, was always hungry and as a mother herself makes sure that her cabinets are full to the brim and a guy who wanted to become a grocer because of that (both true stories).  You see what I’m talking about?

I came to this theory late in life. When I looked back over my work history and activities that I have been involved in I realized a few common threads. And I found those common threads had a common thread.

Let me explain. The common threads that I found were that I get really passionate and emotional about: telling people about the greatness I see in them, letting people know that just because they’re not very good at one thing doesn’t mean they’re bad at all things, listening to people – really listening, acknowledging those who feel invisible and cheering people on in what they’re passionate about.

And I also get really emotional about people finding out about their family history.

And I also ask pretty personal questions because I want to know and people need other people to know about them.

In my life, the jobs that I’ve held included all of these things. I made a great assistant because I love to encourage people in their passion. I made a great Vet Tech because I paid attention to the animals who couldn’t speak about their pain. And teaching, well, it includes ALL of those things. I don’t know that I was a great teacher, per se, but I really encouraged kids and made them feel good about themselves which gave them the best environment in which to learn.

The common thread among those common threads was that those were the very things I felt that I didn’t get growing up.

I’m not trying to be a whiner, but I’m just saying that perhaps a way to identify our passions, our genius, is to identify what we are longing for in ourselves and then find a creative way to give it to others. And in the giving we receive.

It’s seems sort of a backwards idea. It seems like we should be giving out of our abundance, but I find that I give best and most from my lack.

It sounds quite selfish now that I read it on the screen. But life’s a journey, isn’t it? Maybe the first step towards healing and being a better person is to identify my weaknesses.

Hi, my name is Jill and I am selfish. (and a chocolate chip cookie addict)





Minimalist Wardrobe – It Really Works!


I used to be able to dress myself. You could actually say I had a sense of style. That is until I had my first child. After that my body was not the same.

I didn’t know what I looked good in. I didn’t know how to dress a “Mom.” I was so busy with raising my son that what I wore was way down on the priority list.

Then came my second child. Things changed even more. Then we were financially strapped and even if I knew what I looked good in or knew how to dress a “Mom” I couldn’t afford what I would have liked.

I haven’t been comfortable with my clothes since I was teenager, and I’m half a century now.

My closet and I have had a love/hate relationship for years. I really wished I could have found Narnia instead of all the pieces of clothing that almost fit, I almost liked, that were a good deal but not exactly what I wanted and what I might fit if I lost a few pounds.

I have purged and reorganized and reinvented my clothing so many times that I can’t keep count.

So, during this latest decluttering fest I purged my closet once again.

However, I did something different this time.

Let me tell you what I did. I decided to follow Marie Kondo’s advice and only keep what I love. If it didn’t fit just right (right now) or if I didn’t like the color or length or material, I tossed it. So, I was left with only clothes that I felt good in and I loved. There wasn’t much left to be honest.

But before I had a chance to fill my closet up with more stuff I almost liked, I had to make this latest trip to see my kids. So, I had to pack. I had to put this capsule wardrobe idea to the test even if I didn’t want to.

Thankfully, most of what I had left in my closet were in the black, white, gray and blue color scheme. So, I could combine just about every piece I had to make several different outfits. I ended up packing up just about every article of clothing I own now.

Because I didn’t have much, I didn’t have to wash a ton of clothes before I packed. I also didn’t have to think too much about it. I just packed what I had.



I couldn’t believe I could pack so quickly with such little stress.

Believe it or not I had something to wear for every situation, even the funeral I didn’t know I’d be attending when I packed!

I have been convinced that a pared down, minimalist wardrobe is the way to go!

I’m so relieved and I feel so free! Clothes have been a burden for years! I know now that I will be able to live with just a few, good quality, interchangeable pieces.

The key for me is to only own pieces that I really love. That way I can and will wear everything! And then all I have to do is the fun part of combining the pieces to fit the occasion. I love it!

It really has brought me peace,


I Saved the Hard Stuff for Last


It’s 3am and I can’t sleep. I haven’t been able to sleep well for a few weeks now. It might be hormones. It might be something I’ve eaten – for 3 weeks straight? Probably not.

I know what it is and I’m going to be flat out, wide open honest with you.

I have been “washing pots.” 

The term “washing pots” came from my stepmother who noticed that when her daughter wanted to avoid doing something that was difficult or that she just didn’t want to do, she’d get out her perfectly clean pots and wash the outside of them until they shined.

It describes the busy work we do to avoid something we don’t want to do.

For the past year I have worked at decluttering MY WHOLE ENTIRE HOUSE and now that I’m coming down the home stretch, I see that I saved the hardest stuff for last.

I cleaned out and cleared out every closet, every drawer, every conceivable nook before I made it to this place – the place I’m at this week. I went through every piece of paper in my mountain of files so that I could have all the important papers to put in my fire proof safe.

The dreaded safe where all the most important papers go. The papers that include my will and all the information that my kids will need for when I die.

AARRRG! I hate this part!

I don’t hate it because I’m scared or I don’t know what I’m doing. I hate it because I’ve dealt with this stuff WAY TOO MUCH!

You see, I’m the youngest child of the youngest child. I’ve outlived everybody. It’s a lonely place to be. People say that the youngest children have it easy, they are the babies, everybody takes care of us. Whatever! The youngest children bury everybody. I hate to be that blunt, but it’s 3am and I haven’t slept well in weeks.

In my life (even in this past year) I have had to make decisions that I shouldn’t have had to make for people I love. I made them because I loved them, but I wish I could have been spared the pain.

After sitting at the big, shiny conference table faced with how we were going to pay for my sister’s funeral and this past year sitting with my friend, literally on her death bed, getting a will together and making decisions that should have been made earlier, I decided that I was going to get my S%#@ together beforehand so that my kids wouldn’t have to suffer more than they needed to whenever I bite the big one.

So, I’ve spent the past 4 days pouring over a booklet that takes you through all the questions and things you need to consider for when you die. I’ve been to the cemetery every day for 4 days making those tedious decisions that make you say, “Will this really matter when I’m dead?” I’ve answered inane questions like “Do you want a view of the lake or a view from the hill?” with “Are you kidding me? I won’t be there, what does it freaking matter?”

I’m sorry to get so morbid and on the verge of cussing but it’s hard.

Steave has had to go through this with me, poor guy. He is just like everybody else and would have just put it off but he’s married to me and I’ve made him answer questions like, “Do you want a quote on the grave marker?” and “What about music at the memorial service?”

I’ll be honest, it has raked my soul over the coals, but I just keep thinking about my kids and how I just want to make it as easy as possible for them. I know, I know, it’s impossible to take away their grief, but I have been the one having to make these decisions for a family member while I was grieving and crying my eyes out and I want to spare them as much unnecessary tedium and pain as I can.

It really has been so much more pleasant to sit across the big, shiny conference table from the cemetery guys and laugh and make jokes when no one has died than after someone has. I’d rather walk with the cemetery guys picking out “property” in the sunshine than leave my kids the chore of containing their emotions when all they really want to scream is, “My mom has died! Who gives a flying rip about the color of the granite under the marker???”

Been there, done that.

So, that’s what I’ve been doing. Kinda creepy. Kinda sad. But it will be good to have it done.

This decluttering process has lead me inevitably and naturally to this point. However, I have been messing around with my pantry and my linen closet to try to put off this moment for as long as possible. I really did save the hardest part for last.

After tomorrow, however, when I return from the cemetery letting them know that I’ve decided on the “Deco” design rather than the “Laurel” design for the grave marker (insert eye roll here) I can get back to more fun decisions like, “What font should I use for labeling my office supplies?”

Then maybe I can get some sleep and maybe, just maybe, dear reader you will be spared another 3am rant and roll.

I wish you peace.

Now back to forcing my eyelids closed.



What To Do When Discarding Gets Tough


If you are new to minimalism or you haven’t waded in very deep you will think this discussion about how difficult it can be to throw stuff out, declutter, and clear your space is much ado about nothing.

You might even think that it’s just a selfish existential crisis.

If you do, then this post is not for you.

However, if you know how difficult discarding your possessions can be or maybe you’re at the point where you’re in knee-deep but you’re stuck – read on friend.

Over a year ago, I made a goal to go through everything I owned and rid myself of the excess, pare it all down, take stock, declutter my external life and my internal life.

The kick in the butt that got me going was having to go through my best friend’s belongings after she died. I realized that someone, at some point was going to have to go through my stuff. So, I decided to do it first.

Everyone has a motive, a kick in the butt, so to speak that gets them started on this path. And while our “whys” differ, we all get to a point where it’s just overwhelming.

And in the year or so that I’ve been decluttering my life, I’ve gotten overwhelmed several times and I want to share what I did. Maybe it will help you.

I found there are 2 kinds of “walls” that I hit:

“There’s just too much stuff and I’m going to be doing this for the rest of my life and I’m just too tired” wall.


“This is just too emotional, I love all my stuff, I feel like I’m throwing out ME, no one will remember my life if I have nothing to show for it, I’m going to cry my eyes out and throw up” wall.

When I hit those walls I just walked away. I laid on the couch and watched a movie. I got out of the house, went for a walk in the park, called someone and talked about something totally different.

I walked away sometimes for an hour, a day and sometimes for a week or more.

It was hard to walk away because I was on a mission, I wanted to complete the task, but I couldn’t with that cannon ball weighing down my gut.

I would get emotionally or physically exhausted and the only cure was to quit – for a while.

Then when the cannon ball would shrink and disappear and I got my energy back, I went back to work.

You have to have patience with yourself! 

In my plan for clearing out that I detail on the Free Your Home Plan page I explain how I have made “sweeps” through my house, discarding a little at a time. I know it’s the opposite of popular decluttering plans, but I have found it very helpful.

I’ve gone through different rooms, or closets and decluttered and discarded as much as I emotionally or physically could. Then I’d walk away. Then later I’d come back to it and I have found that those times of “rest” gave me time to emotionally detach from items.

During those rest times I could ask myself things like, “how long has it really been since you used that?” or “do you really love that thing?” or “is there someone who could use it or love it more than me?”

It was when I took the pressure off myself to decide RIGHT THEN that I could more easily let things go.

It would be during those times of rest that I would be inspired. I might think of someone who would really love an item. Or I might think of a wonderful way to donate it. Or I might think of a way to display and get the item out where I could enjoy it everyday. Or I might just be able to discard it with peace.

See, that feeling of peace is my compass, my guide. I have found that giving myself time to “come to peace” about an item means that I have no regrets. I don’t think back about something I threw out in haste and say, “dang, I wish I would have kept that!”

If I don’t feel peace about, I just can’t bring myself to do it – whether it’s keeping an item or discarding an item.

Think about it this way, if you love something, you can’t just stop loving it in a second. (Of course I’m not talking about the junk in your life, but when you get down to those emotionally charged items, you have to give yourself time to be able to let them go.)

So, if you’re overwhelmed and you don’t think you can do this, just know that you’re not crazy, you’re not an obsessive hoarder, you’re just a person who cares and that’s a wonderful thing.

So, give yourself some time. Take a break.

And when you feel peace about keeping or discarding an item you’ll know it’s right. Trust yourself.

What you want from minimalism will come – in time.




Review of Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”


I know I’m about 2-3 years behind trend. That’s typical for me when it comes to anything cultural. But I just discovered Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”  and devoured it in a couple of hours and I now see what all the hoopla was/is about.

If you’re like me and you missed it when it came out, Marie Kondo, a Japanese cleaning consultant shares her KonMari method of clearing out and cleaning up.  She explains  the transforming affect that tidying up your home can have on your life. She explains her system and shares stories of how her client’s lives have been impacted by her method.

Her Japanese respect for all things blends with her childlike heart and to hear her share about thanking her belongings for serving her and describing how she greets her house and thanks it for sheltering her just makes me want to hug her. It’s a precious book.

I read it with an open mind and with a desire to find a better method for ridding myself of all the stuff that’s weighing me down. And that is part of what she presents, that if you rid yourself of excess stuff you can find out who you truly are, what you truly love and what your purpose is.

She has many ideas that I agree with. I agree with her philosophy behind discarding and cleaning up for the most part. I do believe it can be transformative, that it is a dialog with oneself and that the things we keep and throw away can be very telling. I also  agree that when discarding things it could be helpful to ask one’s self, “Does this spark joy?” I think that is a reasonable approach to making the difficult decision whether to throw something out or not. I agree wholeheartedly with a point I also said, “Your family doesn’t want your stuff” so don’t try to unload it on them.

However, there is one major part of her plan that I don’t agree with, and that is doing it all at once. Kondo proposes that a person go through their whole house all at once and that is the key to the transformation and the ability to keep your house tidy.

I agree with her that it is a benefit to do the big clear out while one has the momentum and excitement about it. I also agree that it can be a positive shock to one’s system to see their home suddenly all neat and tidy thereby propelling them to keep it that way.

However, for a person my age (though Kondo says she has clients in their 50’s) I think it would be too overwhelming. I think it would be too much pressure not to mention physical work. By the time you’re in your 50’s and your kids are adults and gone and you’ve retired or changed careers, you have a LOT of stuff (that is emotionally charged, I might add) to sort through. I just don’t see how it can be done in one fell swoop.

I consider myself a “thrower-outer” therefore I don’t think I have a ton of stuff, but it would have been impossible for me to go through my whole house in one or two days. My plan of making “sweeps” through my house has been a great help to me because I have been able to do an initial throw out session, then make 2 or 3 more sweeps after removing a little at a time. I can take an hour (or less) here and there to discard more. I will admit it does take mental effort to maintain a minimalist mindset at the beginning. You can take a break, but you have to make yourself get back to task.

For example, I did an initial sweep to my book collection. In the following days, I walked by my shelves and as I did I’d see a book that I thought could also be discarded. I’d think some more and then when I had the time I made a second sweep. I removed more books. I didn’t feel the pressure to have to decide in one day. And then just today, probably months after the initial sweep and a week after a secondary sweep,  I walked by my shelf again and I pulled a book out and put it in the box by the door to be donated.

I feel by giving myself time, making my “sweeps” I am actually developing a minimalist mindset and subsequent lifestyle.

I think the “all-at-once” method is really the only thing that I had a problem with. I think she has some great ideas on the order in which one should approach discarding. Starting with easier items such as clothes and saving the emotionally charged items after you’ve gotten used to throwing things out is brilliant. Going through your things by category instead of room is great (I address that in my plan when I tell you to take everything to the place where it will be stored. That way you get everything all in one place before you go through it.) I think she has some great ideas for storage. I think she has some beautiful thoughts on gratitude and ways of thinking about living our lives in the present.

Don’t get fooled by her sweet voice, she’s a tough cookie. She’s pretty brutal about throwing some things out!

I have a few places in my home that I’m still working on, but when I make another sweep of my clothing, I’m going to try her method for discarding and storing clothes. I love the idea of NOT having seasonal wear! Can it be done? I’ll let you know when I get there.