A blog about health, wellness and well-being, with advice on how to achieve it... from your inner depth to your outer surface.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Less is More Project: Week 41 - Simplifying holidays and get-togethers

JSM, 2014

This weekend was Thanksgiving weekend for us Canadians, eager-people-who-cannot-wait-any-longer-to-stuff-themselves-with-turkey-and-pie.

And with special holidays come special challenges to simplicity. 

What are the traps? They are laid out before your company even shows up:

  • You clean too much
  • You decorate too much
  • You buy too much
  • You cook too much
  • You stress too much

Once family and friends arrive, you already feel exhausted. You nonetheless keep doing too much:

  • You haste too much
  • You serve too  much
  • You (still) clean too much
  • You talk too much
  • You eat (and drink) too much
  • You worry too much

If you are the guest instead of the host, don't rest on your laurels! You face the same traps:

  • You groom too much
  • You buy too much
  • You talk too much
  • You eat (and drink) too much

No matter what side you're on, host or guest, chances are you will overdo something. It's all too much! What are you going to do in order to simplify this year?

This Canadian Thanksgiving has given me a foretaste of the holiday season to come. This will be the first time ever that I go through the holidays during a Less is More Challenge, which is sure to prove interesting. It will also mark my first contribution to the Simplify the Season calendar, an initiative by Bethany Rosselit, who kindly asked me to write a piece. I was delighted to accept, and will be writing alongside some "bigger names" than me, such as Seth Godin, Tara Brach, Joshua Becker and Leo Babauta, among others. For an early peek, click below:

Simplify the Season


I made an early Christmas present purchase (buying early lowers stress!) Because yes, I will still give presents to my loved ones - presents were the one exception I had allowed for (although I will be more mindful in my choices, keeping everything reasonable). 

I also bought a throw blanket, for myself. It is now freezing at night here, and I get cold reading a book on the living room sofa. Instead of turning up the heat, I will use that wonderful blanket. Better for the environment.

Baking soda is my hair's new best friend. After using it for weeks (months?), I can testify that it works wonderfully instead of shampoo. However, my new experimentation with apple cider vinegar as conditioner proved far less conclusive. For one thing, it stinks! And I'm not sure it really conditions that well. I will have to give it a few more tries before I renounce though.

Your turn to share about your struggles and victories of the week! What did you resist? Did you donate or get rid of anything? Did you face any challenge? Please comment below! And...

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Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Less is More Project: Week 40 - Children and minimalism

Sam Nasim, Flickr

"Of the many people I've met who are not good at tidying, 
most had parents who cleaned their room for them." 
(Marie Kondo)

Minimalist wannabes with children often face the challenges of simplifying not only their life, but the life of others who may or may not be cooperative in the process. In fact, many will say that you just cannot be a minimalist while you have kids at home.

Here are some of the obstacles you might face when trying to simplify, downsize and declutter with children on board:


Consumerism is all around, and children are not immune to it. Oftentimes, they do not have the perspective required to question it either. Which makes them easy targets. Marketing reaches our kids, who in turn reach out to us, who eventually reach for our wallet. Not all kids are into "stuff", but if you have one that is, you know what a daily struggle it can be to constantly say "no, we are not going to buy this".

If you have children, you might also have well-intentioned relatives (and even friends) who enjoy showering them with presents. Which might help cut down on costs, but which also means more stuff in the house.

Add to this the fact that children don't usually have a natural tendency to pick after themselves, and you find yourself with a cluttered living space.

My personal solution is a very big serving of patience and persistence: I trust that with time, my example, and maturity, my kids will gradually learn to distinguish between "just the right amount" and "way too many" possessions. In the meantime, I help them:

  • make the connection between work, money and purchases;
  • figure out their priorities (if you get this, you cannot get that);
  • feel grateful for what they already have;
  • go through their belongings and donate what they don't use.

What are your strategies?


Many will argue that it's impossible, based on the amount of stuff that comes with children, and based on the need of parents for some level of intimacy, to live in small quarters with a family. A tiny house might be nice for one or two adults, but add kids to the mix and it suddenly feels like a recipe for disaster.

Interestingly, a certain number of families opt for very small house nonetheless (or to live on a boat, which is equivalent). I invite anyone who wants to learn more about how to make this possible to google "children+minimalism" and even "children+tiny house".

In our case, what I find the most interesting these days is that despite each of them having their own individual bedroom, my daughters often insist on sleeping in the same bed. I expect this to come to an end at some point during their teenage years, but it goes to show that children might not always have the needs that we attribute to them: right now, one bedroom would suffice.

Any realizations regarding children and space?


We live in a culture of individual growth and fulfillment. If you are a parent, chances are you want just that for your children. Of all the ways to spend your money, experiences have been shown to be the most conducive to happiness. By sending your children to camp or having them participate in organized activities, for example, you are providing them with experiences. What we often forget, however, is that experiences do not all come in the "highly structured and organized form". Some of the best experiences are spontaneous, disconcertingly simple, and free. A sunset. A hummingbird. The sound of the rain. But of course our children won't notice if they are incessantly taxied back and forth to activities or sitting in front of a screen.

I want to suggest that we simplify. Believe it or not, children do not enjoy being rushed all the time: "Hurry, we're gonna be late for your [fill in the blank] practice/lesson!" Who hasn't heard their kid ask "Can we just stay home and do nothing for a change?" I think it says it all.

Have your kids ever showed appreciation or even asked for some alone time/doing nothing?

Work/life balance

If nothing else does, having children will force you to reassess the role you give to work, the time and space it takes in your life. Caring for little ones on top of yourself, your living space and your career can exhaust you on good days. In my neighborhood, a large number of women (if not the majority) have work arrangements that allow them to work part-time, from home, or both. There's no reason why we should rush through life and not have time to watch our children grow up. There is no easy decision, and there is no perfect situation, but unless you are dealing with crippling poverty, there are options (and they apply to dads, too).

How do you balance it all?


After the last of three blog posts on "duties", a reader asked: "Is it your duty to have children?" I do not want to get too deep into that argument, but here is what I have to offer for now. Once they have become adults, today's children will be the ones to support the economy. That is one argument. On the other hand, with each new human being comes more environmental footprint. That is another (opposed) argument. I am no expert in demographics, but something tells me that a slow, gradual decrease in natality might be our best solution from a global standpoint. The economy will adapt. There are too many people on Earth for it to remain a healthy planet... unless we change our ways drastically, of course.

What are you willing to do to ensure future generations a place to live?

For more on the benefits of simplifying with children, you can click on the following links:

Do less 

Simplify everything  


It's becoming obvious that I won't be able to quit sugar cold turkey. After two pretty good weeks, I fell for it again. There are so many occasions to consume sugar, and I might not really want to skip them all. Perhaps it will be more realistic to lower my consumption without making it completely taboo. On the other hand, I have begun to cut down on another substance: caffeine. I was not consuming that much - 1 cup of coffee in the morning and 1 cup of tea in the afternoon - but I realized it was still too much on some days.

Big news regarding my absence of spending:

First, it's official that I have completely lost the habit to buy - especially since I'm not even the one who does the groceries: last week, I did go to the grocery store for a couple items, and when came the time to pay with my card, I completely blanked out on how to actually use the card. I looked at the machine, hesitated, tried to swipe, and the patient cashier had to remind me to "put the chip in the bottom" for me to regain my consciousness. Crazy!

Second, less crazy but definitely more exciting, is the fact that I have saved enough, in those past 10 months, to make a significant extra payment on the mortgage, hence shortening its term. Woohoo!

Your turn to share about your struggles and victories of the week! What did you resist? Did you donate or get rid of anything? Did you face any challenge? Please comment below! And...

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Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Less is More Project: Week 39 - Is it your duty to pay income tax?

MTSOfan, Flickr

Last blog post of the "Is it your duty" trilogy!

A friend was recently ranting about the fact that those who actively choose to work less than they are capable of (e.g. part-time when they could do full-time), consequently earn less money than they could, and in turn pay less income tax than they could, are depriving their fellow citizen from fiscal contributions. If those same "slackers" continue to use income-tax funded services and infrastructures, such as roads, schools, libraries, and health care (especially in countries where it's free, such as Canada), then according to my friend they can be viewed as freeloaders.

So let's say you are perfectly capable of working full-time at a reasonable income, but instead decide to stay on the "slow track" by:

  • working part-time
  • refusing promotions
  • working at a job that is not related to your training, and pays less
  • being a homemaker
  • retiring early
  • trading services instead of exchanging money for them (e.g. your neighbor gives your kids piano lessons for free, and in exchange, you tutor her kids for free)

... are you depriving society of something? Not only of the taxes you could pay, but also of your full professional potential?

Past my initial astonishment, I got thinking: are "slow-trackers" causing wrong to hard workers? Instantly, however, I could think of many ways people who work less are benefiting society. They can contribute by:

  • allowing more people to work by sharing the workload instead of taking a full week's work on their sole shoulders
  • volunteering (because they have more time for it)
  • looking out for family members, friends and neighbors, especially those who need it the most, such as children, seniors and individuals with mental or physical health issues (which then cuts on certain "society costs")
  • being an involved activist
  • maintaining and facilitating harmonious relationships
  • contributing to sustainable neighborhoods
  • polluting less (by driving less, spending less on work clothes and generally buying less stuff, etc.)
  • being healthier (from exercising more, taking the time to cook good meals, and experiencing less stress), which in turn means they don't use as much health care as their workaholic counterparts
  • being more relaxed, which in turn means they are more pleasant to be around (a friend of mine whose wife works very long hours says of her that she is often cranky - but I won't name names!) I know that when I work less, I am less impatient with my family members, who in turn are more pleasant to other people, who in turn... and the wheel keeps on turning.

Now, those contributions are not easy to quantify. But I do believe they can make up for the lower fiscal input.

And honestly, if we are going to look at income the tax money that is lost, we should probably start by focusing on fiscal evasion and corruption... don't you think?

What is your take on this controversial topic?


Eating less sugar still hasn't made me cranky or hungry. In fact, I might feel less hungry than I used to, probably due to the fact that my blood sugar levels are more stable. The only thing I feel more than I used to is fatigue: I tend to eat sweets when I get tired, but when this is not an option, I end up going to bed earlier. Which is not a bad thing in itself! 

Your turn to share about your struggles and victories of the week! What did you resist? Did you donate or get rid of anything? Did you face any challenge? Please comment below! And...

Become a follower of the blog/subscribe by email (top left corner of this page)!

Follow me on Facebook (click here)!

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