Monthly Archives: January 2013

Gift giving

My daughters each got a “Girl Scout” shirt

Because I have teenagers and my nieces and nephew are all in the tween and teen years as well, Christmas gift giving has become a transfer of gift cards in recent years.  This year, I decided to give cash.  That way my beloved kids can spend — or save — as they choose.  They get what they want, and I’m not perpetuating necessary consumption.

In an effort to keep the gift thoughtful and personal, I folded the money using origami techniques.


Older nieces got bow-ties

Nephew and youngest niece got hearts


Semi-minimalist Holiday decorations — Just in time for takedown


Over the past two years, I’ve decluttered more than 60 percent of my holiday decorations (yeah!).  On Black Friday this year, instead of shopping as I’ve done in the past, I decorated the inside of the house while DH decorated the outside.  I think we were both done in less than an hour.  I was very happy with the inside … a (reduced) collection of oldest DDs nutcrackers in the front window; a (reduced) collection of youngest DDs snowglobes in the entry and a (not reduced) collection of Christmas photo frames of DDs each year with Santa on the Kitchen window sill.

Now that the holiday decorations are coming down, I’ll be reducing some more — mostly Christmas dishes and linens that haven’t come out in several years.  My dream (for my future little cottage) is to have fresh cut greens for garland and wreath with some flowers for color and very few things that require storage, care or maintenance.  I’m down to three small boxes and two large boxes for inside and one large box for outside.

How about you?  What were you able to minimize this year?  Did it work out for you?

A simpler home: lessons learned from Habitat for Humanity

Our house was this color when completed – without the porch

I worked on my first Habitat for Humanity build in November.  I actually got to work on two houses — the one being newly built and another a mile away that was built 12 years ago and has been bought back by Habitat because the owner could no longer pay the mortgage.

I learned a lot on this build about Habitat homes:

  • Habitat owners are not given a “free” home (which is what I thought).  They have to be low-income, but have enough income and savings to qualify for the loan.  They have a mortgage just like I do.
  • Habitat houses have grown to meet the US demand — 12 years ago the standard home was smaller and only had one full bath.  Today, the house is about 200 sq ft larger with two full baths.

And about myself:

  • I could SO live in that house.  The simple Craftsman-style home (that we painted Wedgewood blue with bright white trim!) was just the right size for two or three people and with a few tweaks would fill my requirements with ease.
  • The older I get, the more I appreciate simplicity … the straight lines of the Craftsman style allowed for easy trim painting (imagine a Victorian?!) and the low profile made all of the work doable with just a standard ladder.
  • The beauty I find in houses these days is as often from the care taken and the flowers planted than from the home design itself.  Though I LOVE houses of virtually all types, the ones I’m most drawn to are well-situated small cottage-like houses with flowers and picket fences.  I could see this house in loving hands becoming just that.

Lao Tzu said, “In dwelling, live close to the ground.”  I can see where he was coming from.