Minimalism: A Beginner’s Guide (Revised Version)

Note: This is a revision of a post I wrote in August 2012.  

Photographs by Joy Sussman, © All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Photographs by Joy Sussman, © All rights reserved. Used with permission.

I once had an interesting discussion on an online forum. One of my friends asked, “How do you get started living minimalistically?”  I was able to quickly throw out some tips on decluttering, but the answer to the question is much more complicated. If it were just about stuff, we would all run to Goodwill a few times and be done with it.

So, I examined my journey toward minimalism, and I’ve  researched the paths of other minimalists. What I’ve realized is that, in order to live a more minimalistic life, you need to consider four things: the reason you have so much stuff, the way you want your life to look, starting (and finishing!) a decluttering process, and preventing the clutter from returning. Let’s take a look at each of these.

First, Let’s Define “Minimalism”

I was introduced to the concept of “minimalism” when I met a couple who were living on a 30 foot boat.  They owned two outfits, one pair of shoes, and he used a rubber band in place of a wallet.  We were intrigued by this lifestyle and are living quite similarly, but this is not the only face of minimalism.

Let’s take a look at how some of the more popular minimalist blogs define minimalism.  Leo Babauta, one of the earliest and most influential writers on minimalism at Zen Habits and Mnmlist defines it this way:

It’s simply getting rid of things you do not use or need, leaving an uncluttered, simple environment and an uncluttered, simple life. It’s living without an obsession with material things or an obsession with doing everything and doing too much. It’s using simple tools, having a simple wardrobe, carrying little and living lightly.

According to The Minimalists, “Minimalism is a tool used to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.”  On his blog, Becoming Minimalist, Josh Becker defines minimalism as removing clutter, decorating in a minimalist style, using money for things that are more valuable than physical possessions, and living a counter-cultural life that is attractive to others.

My favorite “definition,” however, is the concept of lagom.  According to Francine Jay, on her blog Miss Minimalistlagom is a Swedish word that roughly means “just enough.”  She states, “The lovely thing about lagom is that it’s a desirable state of appropriateness, or enoughness—and has nothing to do with scarcity or deprivation. It’s both the opposite of having too much and too little, and instead a celebration of moderation.”

That is the kind of mindset and lifestyle that we’re talking about, when we say that we want to live minimalistically.

What Does Minimalism Look Like?

Minimalism has many faces.  For us, it means owning only enough possessions to live comfortably on an uncluttered 35 foot sailboat.  For Lois, who blogs at Living Simply Free, it means living in a 300 square foot apartment.  However, this apartment is anything but empty.  According to Lois, ” I restore furniture and do many crafts so I have supplies here, but I keep the bare minimum needed to do what I need.”

For John, from the blog Practical Civilization, it means living simply, owning less, and having his own guitar-teaching business.  Kathy Gottberg, from SMART Living 365 and her husband are also self-employed and enjoy having lots of time to spend together in their California home.  She refers to minimalism as “right-sizing” her life.

For Nancy, at Just a Backpack and a Rollie, it means working toward becoming a “roving retiree” with her husband, traveling and living out of two small bags.  For Eliza and Joel, who blog at The Fearse Family, it means consuming mindfully, buying used whenever possible, and being conscious of their impact on the environment.  Eliza states, “We take things a little slower and take a moment to consider the things that happen to us and the choices we make. It doesn’t always make our life happier, but it does always make us feel better about the things we choose in our life. We don’t let life zip by.”

Cathryn, from Concrete Moomin, lives in an apartment in central London, where it is not necessary for her to own a car.  She states that minimalism involves, “trying to stay aware and be mindful of what I own or what I’m thinking of buying and sometimes using a ‘one in one out’ policy on things like clothes or books.”  For Patrick, who blogs at Bumfuzzle, it means living nomadically with his family–first on a sailboat and now in a vintage motor home.  Patrick explains, “We are accidental perpetual travelers. We live simply, travel far, eschew normalcy, all while trying to maintain our boat or bus as a comfortable home for our family.”

Joy, from Joyfully Green, states that, “I wouldn’t consider myself a traditional minimalist. I live in a house that’s bigger than we need, and it’s not sparsely decorated. I think I’m more of a non-consumerist. ”  Her family shops at second-hand stores for clothing and books.   And they live about an hour outside of New York City, so they certainly have plenty to choose from.  Her family shops (mostly) at consignment stores for kids’ clothing, and for books, they head to Strand Books in New York–“the best store for used books on the whole planet!”


How Did I Get So Much Stuff?

All clutter comes from somewhere. For me, it was a combination of family heirlooms, “must have’s” that I thought I needed in order to be a successful adult, collections, and great deals that I couldn’t pass up.

Lois’s clutter began when she first moved out on her own and strove to make her house look “like something out of a magazine” to show that she was “successful.”  John never collected very many items, but he found that, like me,  he ended up buying clothes he didn’t wear.  He also inherited a number of knick-knacks.

Like Lois, Kathy felt the urge to overspend as her income was growing.  She explains, “We got a bigger, nicer house, nicer cars, nicer stuff…but we weren’t really any happier than when we were just trying to figure it out with little or no money.”  Nancy, too, grew up with the belief that stuff meant success.  She states, ” It was a visual mark that you had made it so we all kept upgrading. Often without eliminating.”

Eliza and Joel kept a number of collections and had a hard time turning down good deals.  She states, “He was a childhood collector (a trait he still holds in adulthood) and has kept all of his trading cards and figurines and old toys. Now he collects media – lots of vinyl, DVDs, VHS, CDs etc. I love the vintage aesthetic – particularly the 1960 and the 1970s. Because a lot of the time I found stuff either cheaply or that was rare I just kept filling the house with more and more.”

Cathryn’s home became cluttered when she and her husband moved in together.  She states, “Both me and my husband had lived alone for a while before we met so when we got our first place together we had at least 2 of most things, including furniture.”  Joy’s weakness was books.  She explains, “My husband and I–and both of our children now–are big readers, so books are our collective weakness! An old bookshop has a lure like a siren’s call!”

So what about you?  Take a long, hard look at the source of your clutter.   This is really the first step toward decluttering.

How Would Your Dream Life Look?

Decluttering, or even minimalism for that matter, is not an end in itself. If you are aiming to make minimalism your only passion and decluttering your only hobby, you probably won’t be happy. That is why it’s important to consider your intentions, as you move toward this type of lifestyle.

For us, our passion has always been sailing. We wanted to have the time and the money to pursue this passion, and that required some restructuring of our finances and our priorities. We wanted to live aboard full time, and that led us to seriously reduce our material possessions.

Lois’s drive is to live in a way that sustains the environment.  In order to limit her consumption of the earth’s resources, she has made upcycling and second hand shopping a staple of her life.  She states: “Rather than purchasing what I need new I first look to find it used, and am not ashamed to dumpster dive for what I need. I have very little in the way of clothes, shoes, or even kitchen utensils.”  Living in a small apartment has helped Lois to achieve these goals.  She explains, “My little apartment has allowed me to experiment with how little I can get by with without feeling deprived.  As a result I have no microwave, no fridge (I do have a small freezer to store food I grow), and no stove.”

John states that, ” I suppose my main goal in decluttering was to reject what the mainstream was telling me: ‘Buy this widget to be cooler, look better, be in the know.’ I called BS on this and enjoyed the money and peace of mind I saved in the process.”  And he adds, “The overarching goal is to surround myself with awesome people and memories. I want to collect experiences with people, not things.”

Kathy’s goal is to keep her life “right-sized,” to stay completely debt-free, and to continue to invest in real estate so that she and her husband can work, or not work, at will as they get older.  With a goal of traveling when desired and following her passions and interests, Kathy plans to live purposefully no matter where in the world that might lead.  She states, “We chose adventure and experience over stuff and we have been working on paring down to the basics so we can sell our rent our house and hit the road sometime soon, staying where we like for as long as it suits us.”

Eliza and Joel’s goal is to create a calm, stress-free home.  She explains, “We want to be able to focus our energy on people we love and exciting experiences, but we also love being at home and want home to be a place that reflects us and is soothing to be in.”  Cathryn’s goal is to simplify her home, so that less time will be spent looking for things.  She states, “My goal in decluttering was to reach a point where we only own things that we need, that are beautiful or are very sentimental in some way.”

Patrick’s family began with the goal of spending a year sailing the Caribbean.  They later decided to sail for four years, and then ended up traveling in a motor home.  As for their future plans?  According to Patrick, “Tomorrow we’re driving to Deception Pass State Park. Beyond that, who knows? One thing we’re sure of for our future is that we’ll never own a big home filled with lots of stuff. We like our simple life and being able to pick up and go at the drop of a hat.

For Joy, it’s all about living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.  She avoids new products that were “probably made in China under bad working conditions.”  She states, “Manufacturing, packaging, and shipping new products collectively take an awful toll on the environment, and I really want to minimize how much we contribute to that whole mess.”

Minimalism will not look the same for everyone. Your dream might be radically different from someone else’s.   Without a vision, you will just purge for the sake of purging, and run the risk of living a life of doing-without.  Both of these activities are surefire ways to experience burn-out.

All Right, So How do We Get Started?

For Lois, it began when she removed knick-knacks that well-meaning friends had given her.  And then she got rid of her television.  According to Lois, “Once that was gone I was on a roll and couldn’t stop decluttering.  That space was going to reflect who I was and no one else..”

John got started decluttering during a move.  As he was packing, he saw how wasteful he had been living.  He states, ” I had a weird obsession with only hanging onto stuff I knew I would use on a weekly basis. It gave me peace of mind knowing that I wasn’t hoarding anything or taking my fair share of raw materials from society.”

Kathy began decluttering when she sold her house.  She explains, “Because we were still in sales (real estate) and saw that the market was going to  (and then did) crash we decided to be very conservative and scale back on everything.  We sold our big fancy house before things got too bad and came out okay (we were never over-leveraged) and bought a smaller, energy efficient house completely free and clear.”

Nancy and her husband began by selling her husband’s collections on e-bay.  From there, they progressed to emptying out closets and selling the items on Craig’s List or donating them.

Eliza and Joel decided to buy nothing new for a year.  She was surprised at how much this transformed their lives.  She explains, “Decluttering was just a bi-product of the whole transformation from consumers to “non” consumers – if there is such a thing!”

Cathryn has moved a number of times, and this helped her and her husband to make progress decluttering.  She states, “With each house move we gradually filtered through everything and for a while we didn’t even own any furniture and just rented furnished places to make moving house a bit simpler.”

Patrick’s family decided to live nomadically 11 years ago, so they sold most of their belongings in preparation.  Patrick says, “From that point on we were hung-ho to sell everything we owned.  We didn’t make it, however. We still ended up with a bedroom full of stuff in my in-laws basement—mostly big ticket furniture items that we couldn’t figure out how to sell (this was before Craigslist was really a thing).”  These items were purged after they returned from sailing.

It was a sad situation that led Joy to embrace minimalism.  After her parents passed away, she and her sister had to go through their possessions.  She was surprised at how many possessions they had accumulated, after living in their house for so long.  Joy explains, “I didn’t have children at the time, but I already knew that I didn’t want my future children to have to go through all of my stuff for weeks, weeding out and throwing out.”  She began decluttering after that, making sure that the stuff is “moving out, not in!”

There are lots of “how-to” articles for the task itself, so I don’t feel the need to re-invent the wheel. All I can add is that, if you’ve got a passion you’re working toward, you will have success with any method.

Some Links on Decluttering

How to Win the War on Clutter

Twenty Questions to Clear Your Clutter

Declutter Your Fantasy Self

Zen Mind: How to Declutter

10 Decluttering Principles to Help Anyone Clear the Clutter

59 Ways to Simplify Your Life

Do You Dare Count Your Clothes?

Mama Fearse’s Top Tips for Toy Culling

Breaking up With the UPS Man (My Ode to Non-consumerism)

Life’s Too Short for Flat Soda and Stale Doughnuts

Lessons From a Yard Sale

How Do I Keep the Clutter FromComing Back?

This is the challenge.

We would declutter, then it all would mysteriously come back. Here are some tips for keeping your house clutter-free:

–Make sure friends and family understand, in the gentlest terms possible, what you are trying to do. Christmas used to be a great clutter-fest, until I started writing about minimalism.

–Look back at your reasons for gaining clutter. Address those specifically. For example, if you take in a lot of retail therapy, find some other way to release stress.

–Lois recommends having a place for children and grandchildren to display their artwork.  If it is full, something must come down before something else can go up.

–John uses a “one item in, one item out” policy.  If he buys something new, something else must be thrown out.

–Kathy imagines whether an object will fit into her right-sized home and 99% of the time it won’t.  Decision made.

–Nancy reminds herself of her goals, when she wants to make a purchase.  She explains, “I see something that I think is cute or fun for the house (sometimes even useful) but then I think, ‘Ya, but you will be hauling this to the Goodwill in less than a year.'”

–Eliza and Joel set goals, such as removing 1000 items from their house within a year, or getting rid of 2 items for every item they buy.

–Cathryn avoids shopping at stores where she knows she’ll be tempted to make a purchase.

–Patrick avoids recreational shopping, and only shops when something wears out.

–Joy puts catalogs into the recycling bin as soon as they arrive.  Instead of having a basket of magazines to read, she keeps a basket of books.

Now all that’s left is for you to get started!


Note:  The photographs in this post were taken by Joy.  If you would like to learn to take pictures like that, you still have time to enroll in her photography course!  Here are the details.



Texas Women Bloggers

Lesson #10: Notice the World Around You

Note:  I don’t quite have an update on the boat or apartment for you yet.  It’s coming, since we have 4 days to get out of here!  Work has been slow since the last update, because I pushed myself so hard that I ended up getting sick with a cold or the flu or something.  We’re still plugging away, but we haven’t accomplished enough to justify an interesting update post.  So, in the meantime, I will share another of my 35 Lessons in 35 Years.


Life is fascinating.  It really is.

Living in the city in a warm climate, I have had less reason to stay inside and more reason to be out and about, exploring.  I really am an avid people-watcher, and amidst this sea of humanity that we call Houston, there is much to watch.


Coming out of a challenging–yet very necessary, important, and beautiful–time in my life, I carry all that I have learned with me as I observe this world we live in.  I love to watch and to talk to other people and realize that each and every one of them is on a journey similar to my own.  We all see life through the clouded lens of our own perception, and our journey is one of clearing that lens.  And eventually removing it.

We are all on a journey to find and understand love, to belong.  We are all searching to discover who we are.  We are all emerging from the fog of perceived unworthiness.


We all have a story to tell, and lessons that we’ve learned.

Watching everyone with this knowledge, removes the filter of judgement.  Yes, people do funny things.  We all do very funny things!  We get caught up in dramatic spats that are largely irrelevant.  We valiantly fight shadows and chase ghosts.  But seeing this in ourselves and in everyone else reminds us of our common humanity.


When I rode my bicycle to work, Rob asked me if I would like to bring a MP3 player.  While I often do enjoy good music, I declined the offer.  The beauty of my ride is to be a part of everything and to experience it all:


The singing of the birds in the morning

The lights on highway 3

The rising sun that greets me

The ducks swimming along the bike trail

The gentleman taking his morning walk

The crossing guards I see every morning

The smell of breakfast cooking at the local restaurants


I used to wander through life, completely lost in thought and always seeking distraction.  When I read about the importance of “present moment awareness,” I laughed because this was something I was simply unable to do!  My mind was always busy, always noisy.  I couldn’t just force it to be quiet!

And I was right.  Quietness is not something that can be forced.  It was only through looking deeply into those thoughts, and into my mind’s reason for being noisy and seeking distraction, that I was able to find peace.  Peace was my reward, for my journey into the heart of my fears, my journey toward seeing reality as it is.


So if you find yourself unable to put that phone away, or always wanting those headphones on, maybe just putting it away isn’t the answer.  Look deeply, and lovingly discover what it is that you are trying to escape.

Adventure Updates

Happy Sunday, folks!

I figured it was high time that I gave you an update on all of our adventures.  The beginning of the week was slow going, because I had to go to a 4-day-long training.  But since Friday, we have made up for lost time!  The interior work on Breaking Tradition is about halfway completed, so it looks like we will be able to move to our slip at the marina at the beginning of August.  We’ve cleared out the cluttered places in the apartment, so we will be able to empty it out over the course of a very LONG day, by the end of July.

Here are some more details on our progress:

A Place to Call Home



I have mentioned that Breaking Tradition is in the town of Clear Lake Shores, which is some distance from the marina where we keep Kiwi.  What I didn’t tell you is that, when we drove into this town, it was love at first sight.  Clear Lake Shores is mainly located on a man-made island, where everybody drives golf carts to the park to watch the sunset on Saturday nights.  Clear Lake Shores is the yachting capital of Texas and boasts having more boat slips than people.  Breaking Tradition is currently at a rental slip at a private residence.


Clear Lake Shores is a duck sanctuary as well!


Since we were smitten, and since it would be very difficult to move Breaking Tradition to Kiwi’s marina, we decided to try to find a slip in Clear Lake Shores.  That led us to Legend Point marina, the closest marina with facilities, to the boat’s current location.  We looked at the marina and loved it–it’s secure, has a lot of grass, and has two pools and hot tubs as well as a clubhouse.  It seemed perfect for us!

We thought it might be a longshot, since they do a credit check.  (Our house will be on our credit report for one more year).  But we tried, and we negotiated.  And we can move in August 1!

Great Purge #3


Earlier in the week, I worked on decluttering in the apartment, after my training sessions for work.  We emptied out the walk-in closet and are now using it as a staging area, for items that will go to the boat.  We emptied our closet and got our bedroom down to just furniture (to be donated right before we leave).  The dining room, living room, and bathroom are down to just furniture, and and we have made progress on Beanie’s room and the kitchen.

The challenge in Beanie’s room has been the toys.  We gave her the master bedroom, so that she could have room for all her toys!  To pare down, we divided her toys into three piles: toys to keep at the boat, toys to donate, and toys to take to Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  Grandma and Grandpa have offered to have a “toy library” for Beanie, so that we can keep some of her toys at their apartment, and she can exchange toys when she visits.  We thought this was a great way to meet Beanie’s desire for novelty, and to allow Grandma and Grandpa to “give” her “new” toys, without buying and adding to her collection.

As far as the kitchen is concerned, we are preparing to have very limited cupboard space and only a small dorm fridge.  A lot of our storage containers have been purged, and we will eventually downsize to a smaller (however better) pressure cooker.  Our slow cooker and blender will stay.  We do plan to splurge and have etched “Breaking Tradition” flutes made!

Progress on the Boat

We have had an extremely productive three days!

On Saturday I got to work painting the v-berth.




And then we added carpet…




Rob made a counter top and got to work on the galley.



Today, we brought Beanie to the boat for the first time.  She enjoyed playing with her Pokemon toys in her new bedroom.


We put up some of her posters.


We brought her “Where the Wild Things Are” picture that was a part of her nursery before she was born, and has been a part of her room everywhere we’ve lived.  It started out in her room on the boat.


Beanie decorated her space with stick on stars.  Tomorrow she will add dinosaur stickers.


She definitely had a great time!


Today, my goal was to finish the head.  On Breaking Tradition, the head takes up the entire hallway between the v-berth and the main salon.  The sink and cupboards are on one side, and this is where I found a perfect place for Beanie’s picture.  We will be putting in a new counter top tomorrow.


The toilet is on the other side which, happily, didn’t require any painting.  We will be putting a picture over the rotten spot on the wall!


Otherwise, the boat’s previous owner stopped by today and helped us with the electrical system.  Which is very exciting, because we’ve never had a boat with a 110 system before.  On Moonraker, everything ran off of an extension cord and power strip.

All in all, we’re making good progress, and I feel very optimistic about moving to our new marina at the beginning of the month!

Letter to My 16-Year-Old Self

Don’t worry, you’ll get an update on our adventures soon.  We’ve been working on emptying out the apartment, and this next week we will get started on the boat.  When I have significant progress or news to share, I definitely will!  In the meantime, I’ve wanted to do a post like this for awhile, and the timing seems perfect right now.

Pictures are from a trip to Palm Beach in Galveston.

Pictures are from a trip to Palm Beach in Galveston.

Dear Bethany,

(Yes I’ll call you that, because I know that’s what you want to be called.  And here’s one little secret–in the not-so-far-future, they will!) OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I know you feel hopeless right now, and it seems like life is an endless stream of rejection and self-doubt.  I will give you some reassurance, but, for reasons you don’t yet understand, I am not going to tell you what is around the bend.  You need this journey.  You need to see first hand the strength and wisdom that you already possess. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA But I will tell you that there are changes, just around the corner.  BIG changes.  Within the next year, you will lose.  But, more importantly, you will gain.  And both of these changes will set the course for the rest of your life. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA At this juncture, you think that you know your future.  You are relatively sure you know the rather calm path your life will follow.  And I can tell you that you’re wrong. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA You have already discovered the kindness that is a part of your very soul.  But you have yet to discover that you have an adventurous spirit as well. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA You will not lead a pre-determined life.  You have more choices at every bend, than you can even comprehend.  You will be one of the few people to see all of the choices, and you will use this to create a life that is uniquely yours. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Just wait until you see where you’re going to live when you’re 35!  You will never guess…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA You want to know if it will get easier.  The short answer is yes.  The challenges you face now will not persist relentlessly. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I know you don’t want to hear this, but it will also get harder.  You will face challenges, but you will find the strength within yourself to not only survive them, but to thrive and grow from them.   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

You will survive, you will thrive, and you will contribute to the world in so many ways that you can’t even imagine.

The remaining pictures are from Clear Lake Shores, the current home port of Breaking Tradition.

The remaining pictures are from Clear Lake Shores, the current home port of Breaking Tradition.

You will have the opportunity to make every one of your dreams a reality. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA You share a stronger connection to everything and everyone around you, than you realize.  You will make so many true friends, who will be willing to travel to the end of the earth for you.  You will experience unconditional love over and over, and it will become even stronger after you finally recognize its presence. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I am telling you all of this, that you may have hope.  But I don’t want you to do anything differently.  The mistakes you will make are only a part of the journey.  You will learn so much, grow more than you can fathom, and you will find no room for regret. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I love you, Bethany.  And the time will come, when you will find that love within.



Yourself, 19 years later

(I can’t tell you my last name!)

Breaking Tradition

Rob and I have had some weird anniversaries.

At the conclusion of our first year of marriage, we had a wonderfully romantic time eating the top layer of our wedding cake, camping in the middle of the woods.  Much to our surprise, the top layer was banana…

On our fifth anniversary, we both had horrible colds and made a trip to the doctor together.  

After six years of putting up with each other, we got a baby-sitter and went for a moped ride, where I broke down 10 miles from home.

My dad had heart surgery on our tenth anniversary.  (Thankfully, it went well!)

We dragged anchor in Charlevoix on our eleventh anniversary.

Last year, instead of celebrating twelve years together, we dealt with the stress of emptying out a house, after ten years of living there.  At that time, we didn’t know if we would have a home in Houston, when we arrived.

This year, we figured we would celebrate our lucky 13th next weekend, with a must-find-a-boat trip to Louisiana.  There were some inexpensive boats there, in our price range.  We would buy one, then have an adventure down the Intercoastal Waterway, back to Clear Lake.  We would then dock the boat at Kiwi’s slip, and Beanie would attend the school in that area–I gave her teacher permission to give them her files already.

But life is what happens when you’re making other plans.

The day after the fourth of July, Rob did his daily check of Craig’s List, and something unusual was waiting for us.  It was a Ericson 35-1, from 1967, the same year that Moonraker was made.  It needed love and an engine, but it was a cutter rig with a furler, steering wheel, and a lot of other equipment we’ve never had the experience of owning, on a boat.  It even came with an inexpensive slip.

Its name was Breaking Tradition.


When I first saw this boat, docked in the delightfully eccentric town of Clear Lake Shores, it was Moonraker all over again.  There is definitely room in my heart for two loves.  (Or three?  Sorry, Rob!)




We will have our work cut out for us.  The interior will need new cushions, and there is a lot of cleaning to do.  It will be difficult to get this boat into our current marina, so we will need to find another.  (Or come up with a shower, if we keep the slip it’s in!)

Back where I belong!

Back where I belong!

We will need to repaint the interior, fix the galley.  And…yeah…come up with an engine!  Or find a tow to a marina…



Beanie will be attending a different school.  We’ll need to research that, and make sure all of her paperwork finds its way there.



The boat is 35 feet long, but at least 1/3 of that is cockpit.  We’re probably dealing with less than 300 square feet for Rob, Beanie, the cat, the fish, and me.  And right now, it has no fridge.  We will have some decluttering to do!



But we’re excited about the boat.  It’s more than I could have possibly hoped for.  And we love Clear Lake Shores.

The boat is famous, by the way.  Its hull number is 7, and there are not very many, if any, more of its kind.  Google “Breaking Tradition Ericson 35-1″ and you WILL find pictures of this boat.

It’s still crazy that we’re doing this.  As a family of 3, we’re doing this.  Not for 91 one days a year, but for 365.

Life has become an adventure again.  Stay tuned.

Texas Women Bloggers


Lesson #9: Just Listen


Note: This is the ninth of my 35 Lessons in 35 Years.

I have a strange tendency, in social interactions.  I get nervous, fidgety, and become very eager to fill the pauses in the conversation with fascinating and funny stories.

Now, telling a good story is wonderful, but it does nothing to ease my nervousness in the interaction.


Did I talk about myself too much?  Have I made myself interesting?

Do they like me?

I think for most of us, conversations are a lot higher-pressure than we want to admit.  We’re planning out what we’re going to say, while the other person is talking.  We’re not doing this because we don’t value the other person.  We’re doing this, because we want them to like us.  We don’t want to be judged.


And yet our efforts turn into a cycle.  We play our role, plan our words, and make it through one interaction avoiding judgement.  But then, we feel more pressure in the next.  We feel like we need to wear masks, and hide behind personas, so that we will be liked.

So how do we change this?  By realizing that we are misunderstanding the entire situation.

The people we talk to are not focused on us.  They are concerned about their own words, and about avoiding judgement for themselves.  They, too, are stuck in the illusion.  And if we offer them a way out, they will more than likely be grateful for it.


The way out of the illusion is to listen.  Listen to what the other person says, hearing without judging.  When you inevitably begin to plan out what you’re going to say next, think of questions that you can ask.  Be genuinely interested–not because what you have to say is unimportant, but because your curiosity will be healing to both you and those around you.

I remember a time that I visited two friends, and they both spent the entire time talking to me.  It was as if a listening ear opened a floodgate for them–they were yearning to feel valued, to be related to without fear.  And at the same time, I heard their stories, and saw how we were similar.  Our fear of being judged comes from the misperception that we are different, inferior, vulnerable.  By listening to those around us, we can see are shared fears, our shared love, our shared humanity.

It is through seeing past the illusions of fear and judgement that we truly discover our connectedness and ability to love.


Sunday Supper: Low Carb, Gluten-Free Enchiladas

Happy Sunday!

I have decided to get back into the habit of posting recipes every week.  Last night’s dinner was my inspiration for today’s selection.

I don’t do well eating carbs.  My recent trip to Michigan, filled with midwestern breads, rolls, potatoes, and–most importantly!–potato salads satisfied my need for nostalgia, but left me 8 pounds heavier than when I had left.

Back at home, I found that my intense craving for Tex-Mex food was at odds with my need to get back on track with eating low-carb.  Fortunately, I found this recipe, which involves tortillas made from eggs and almond flour.  The tortillas do taste “eggy,” but within the casserole, they are excellent.

This dish is also gluten free.  Unfortunately, it does involve a lot of cheese, so it is not Paleo.  It could easily be adapted to be vegetarian, but substituting beans or mixed vegetables for the chorizo.

Here is my adaptation of the recipe:

8-10 Low Carb Tortillas

1 small tube browned chorizo

2 cups shredded cheese

2 tablespoons butter

3 ounces brick style cream cheese (1/2 of brick)

1 cup broth

1/2 cup sour cream

2 rings cut off of a habernero pepper, finely chopped

Chipotle Pepper (ground)

To Make the Tortillas

4 eggs, beaten

3 tablespoons water

1/2 cup almond flour

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons ground flaxseed

4 teaspoons grated parmesan

Dash sea salt

Generous dash chipotle pepper (ground)

1.  Whisk ingredients together to make batter.

2.  Pour batter in a thin layer on greased skillet.  Spread to make a tortilla approximately 6 inches across.  DO NOT POUR TOO THICKLY!

3.  Cook over medium heat until tortilla begins to set.  Flip and cook until done.

4.  Makes 8-10 tortillas.

To Make Casserole

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease casserole dish.

2.  Mix chorizo and 1 cup cheese in large bowl.

3.  Divide mixture evenly and roll up in tortillas and place seam side down in casserole dish.

4.   In the skillet, with remaining juices from chorizo, melt butter, stir in cream cheese and cook on low until melted, about 1 to 2 minutes.

5.  Stir in broth and simmer over medium heat, whisking until smooth and slightly thickened and bubbly, stirring frequently.

6.  Stir in sour cream, habernero, and chipotle pepper to taste.  Heat until warm.

7.  Pour sauce over enchiladas in casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

8.  Cook for 25 minutes or until bubbly.