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Chapter One: Click!

This is chapter one of my book, The Power of Acceptance: One Year of Mindfulness and Meditation. Get your copy at Amazon, Walmart or your other online retailer of choice. And leave a review if possible. Thank you!


I wish I could remember the exact phrase that got it into me, that finally made it go click! But maybe there wasn’t one; maybe it was the book as a whole that implanted it, in some otherworldly, sibylline way. Whatever the case, soon afterward came the more important moment, the one I remember to this day.

It was the summer of 2013. I was sitting in our family room reading Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now as the baby played next to me on a big green comforter on the floor. As he mouthed one unsuspecting rattle after another and pressed buttons that rewarded him with nonsense, I finished the book for the third time. And though I still don’t know the exact point at which it happened, by the time I set the book down, something inside me had changed. I put a hand on Xavier’s fresh little face and he turned to me, looking disoriented. I smiled and he held my gaze and smiled back, then held out his stubby arms. I pulled him into my lap and his head bobbed toward my breast and as I nursed him I considered what I’d just read.

Though I had been raised immersed (some may say half-drowned) in religion, the several years leading up to Xavier’s conception had been focused elsewhere—mostly on my new partner, David, and my growing freelance writing business. Spirituality was still there—part of me, part of my definition of myself—but it wasn’t very close to the surface.

Then, a year before the baby was born, I discovered Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch, and with it a strange brand of spirituality called New Thought. By the time I picked up The Power of Now for the third time, a year and a half had passed, and Xavier was about six months old. I had explored and applied my new beliefs in depth, and now it was time to take the next step. Long days of motherhood begged for community and friendship, as well as increased inner strength. And so, to my still-unfamiliar routine of play dates, car naps and Gymboree, I added going to church.

Another book of mine discusses my attempt to fulfill a two-pronged goal to increase both earthly and divine connection. Meditation was a logical part of the plan, but there was a problem: until that day on the floor with Tolle and baby, I had never truly tried it. Once, while I was still a Christian, I attended one Buddhist meditation session in a home that had been revamped into a temple, but this hardly counted; it was cultural voyeurism, not a sincere effort. It was a minor act of rebellion, of open-mindedness, a pushing of the envelope, the kind of thing a good girl like myself found exciting.

Except one thing: It wasn’t exciting—not at all. Not the least little bit. In that room decorated all in red—red velvet pillows, red calligraphy wall hangings, red-patterned plush carpet—I could hardly breathe for the effort it took to sit still. And when I tried to focus on my breath, as the unsmiling leader suggested, I nearly hyper-ventilated.

And that was just the first five minutes.

Soon, I gave up, and instead watched the clock and the handful of people sitting with me. How do they do it? I wondered as my back started aching and my legs fell asleep. More to the point, why do they?

I shifted out of the kneeling position and moved against the back wall. I considered leaving, but didn’t.

Slowly, slowly, time dripped from the clock, and the final instruction—to open our eyes—came as a relief. I got out of there as fast as possible, shoes in hand, and fidgeted my way to the car.

Which is why it was strange that after finishing The Power of Now that day twelve years later, I decided to try it again.

Like I said: something had clicked.

Sitting on the green blanket, Xavier still in my arms, I flipped back through the pages of the book I hadn’t wanted to read again, then hadn’t wanted to finish. I looked for a passage I’d underlined about Tolle’s unique meditation technique, namely, sensing the energy of the body, then reread it several times.

You know what? I thought, This doesn’t sound so bad. I don’t even have to stop thinking. What if it really can help me connect with the Divine inside myself?

What if it actually works?

I closed my eyes. I tried to sense my body, as Tolle instructed—to feel the subtle energy moving in and through me. It didn’t take long before I realized that it was working: I could feel it. It was there. This was real.

I felt the tingling of my hands. I felt the pulsing of my arms and legs. Though I knew it was probably just a body being a body, noticing it in this way was calming. Suddenly, it hit me: I was meditating. And it wasn’t even that hard.

That evening I took a long walk with the baby and tried the technique again. This time, I didn’t think of it as meditation—I wasn’t sitting, after all—but the feeling I had was the same. I was relaxed, but it was more than that: I was present. I was in a now-place in my mind, rather than in the future or the past. There was a subtle joy and a feeling of love that accompanied this presence, too, which I considered to be some sort of connection with the Divine. And so, the following day I decided to take the next step: I looked up meditation classes in my area.

Not long after that, I was hooked.

Before I knew it, Xavier was one year old and I had spent the past six sleep-deprived months honing this newly-discovered skill. The following year, as I wrote You’re Getting Closer, I expanded my spiritual practices considerably, with success following disappointment following success.

A year passed. Xavier was now two years old, and as I reflected on that milestone in his life I thought about my own progress, too.

And one of the things I thought about most was my failure.


Last November, sometime in the middle of the month, I had the best two weeks of my year. After a couple of particularly enjoyable incidents—one being a trip to see my family—a warm, delicious feeling got into me and stuck, and every day—nearly every moment, even—I felt the presence of God.

I felt it when I read. I felt it when I played with my child. It was there all the time, a bit below the surface of my thoughts. Even when difficulties arose, the state of mind remained; I was able to stay an arm’s length from my problems. At one point during this time, for example, a friend got upset at me for not cleaning up the mess my kids had made at her house. Though our hour-long conversation about it was tense and uncomfortable, delving into past slights and wrongs, I got though it without anger. A few days later, on my most enjoyable birthday in recent memory, I told my husband I felt deeply at peace.

Then one day, a week or so later, that special feeling went away. I still don’t know why it happened. Maybe I’d become complacent, or maybe I wasn’t mediating as much, or maybe it was a new bout of depression coming on. Whatever the cause, it was a great disappointment—one that represented a much larger problem.

This wasn’t the only time a spiritual high was followed by a major low that year—or the year before, for that matter. And so one day toward the end of that year, I attempted to figure all this out.

What am I doing wrong? I asked God over and over. More importantly, what was I doing right before that I am not doing now?

And I didn’t just pray. Every day for a month straight, I tried every trick I knew to get the feeling back. Of course, meditation was the first on my list, as it had been for the past year and a half. I upped my weekly goals from one class to three, enlisting my husband’s support. He took the baby swimming while I went to church or temple, seeking that spiritual high. The hour-long sessions were helpful, but they didn’t get me out of my rut. Neither did my mantras or my visualizations—or my walks, which often incorporated both.

I still felt pretty crappy.

And so, for a while, I stopped trying. I gave up. I was tired of all the effort, the fruitless striving. I needed a break, but what I didn’t realize was that more than four months would pass before I even attempted another sitting meditation.

The time off wasn’t a total loss. During it, I thought about what I needed that I didn’t have—the missing link, so to speak. Intuitively I knew that there was some method I could use anytime, no matter how I felt, that would immediately get me in touch with the Divine. After all, all of the New Thought mentors out there say that spiritual connectedness is our natural state. So why, after several years of striving and seeking, was I still feeling it so infrequently?

Truly, I was missing something.

With this goal in mind, I resumed my current spiritual practices as well as my search for more effective ones. I read more books, discovered more techniques—prayers and ideas I hadn’t yet tried. I counteracted negative thoughts with positive ones, as the collective entity known as Abraham recommends. I re-read You’re Getting Closer and became inspired to again surrender each moment to divine guidance. But while these practices and many like them brought some encouragement, some peace, I never got back to where I was.

I am still not back. Currently, I’m swimming upstream, as Abraham says, very much against the current of the spirit. My thoughts are often negative. My mood is often recalcitrant. Most of the time, I want to be somewhere else. I’m easily annoyed, and easily insulted, and often downright neurotic.

In other words: I’m not feeling very spiritual.

It is the beginning of January, however, and if there’s anything I love, it’s a fresh start. Sure, it’s only a date on the calendar—but it may be just the thing I need.

It’s time for a New Year’s resolution.


Although it was long before the beginning of the year that I decided to make a spiritually minded resolution, until a few days ago I knew only the criteria. The goal, I realized, would have to be doable, something I could stick to all year. It would have to allow for imperfection, and maybe lots of it, and be simple and clearly stated. When one pen, two pieces of paper, my favorite chair and thirty free minutes collided in my world, I sat down to consider my options.

Should I do a sitting meditation every day, and if so, how long should it last? Would five minutes be enough to make it worth the effort, or should I do at least fifteen?

Should I resume my goal to hold myself in continuous meditation all day long? And if so, how would I do it? Would I say mantras, visualize my God-self, listen for action-by-action guidance? Or should I try something else entirely?

Finally, I made the decision. My twofold resolution this year isn’t as bold as my last—and not nearly as frightening, either. I will do sitting meditation for at least five minutes every day, and I’ll remain in the state of meditation as much a possible after that.

Five minutes is doable every day, I realized as the idea came—even for a busy mom like me. It’s simple and easy to track, and if I’m able to stick with it, the benefits could be enormous. But what really convinced me to choose this goal was that, compared with other options, it’s relatively low-pressure.


Recently, I was reflecting on some of the spiritual books I love that draw so many other people in, too, and with such devotion. Why do I like Eckhart Tolle so much? I asked myself. And Neale Donald Walsch, and Esther Hicks?

Is it because they’re so quotable, so poetic? Somehow, I don’t think that’s it. Is it because they claim to hear directly from a divine Source? Maybe, but Tolle doesn’t channel his books.

The number one reason we love them so much, I believe, is this: they are extreme. They don’t merely describe a nice spiritual practice, or summarize a few lofty ideas. They aren’t conservative. They don’t hold back. Instead, they insist we can all be great. We can all get enlightened. And maybe even healthy and wealthy, too. Barring these goals, we can at least experience something we’ve been seeking a long time: our next major spiritual high.

And we believe them. We read them, then read them again, then try to practice what they preach. Our efforts pay off: we get a glimpse of the bliss they promise. Then we read the next book and wait for more.

Many of us—most of us—are still waiting.

Of course, our frequent failed attempts at inner peace are not the fault of these wonderful authors. Bliss, enlightenment, our next spiritual high—these are, as they say, truly possible for us all. The problem is this: obsessing about where we’re headed doesn’t help the car drive faster; if anything, it tends to slow it down.

Which is why five minutes of meditation feels right to me this year. It isn’t an overly optimistic goal. It isn’t going to cause me to expect fast miracles, or spiritual ascendance overnight.

If anything, it’ll remind me to stay humble.

And although the second part of my resolution is much like that in You’re Getting Closer, namely, remaining in continuous communication with the Divine, there’s one important difference here. That difference comes in the middle part of the sentence: “as much as possible.”

As much as possible. As much as I can.

In a way, the qualifier is an escape clause—a way out of my resolution, should I need one. But I know me, and perfection can’t be my goal. If it is, I’ll just give up. And that seems pretty counter-productive, doesn’t it?

When I’m an old woman, with cropped curly hair, and eight pink sweaters and one pair of brown shoes, I’m going to be good at being spiritual. I’ll have one of those blissed-out smiles for everyone, and upbeat catch phrases like “You do you, Martha!” I’ll be wise, and silly, and sane, too, damn it. Damn it, damn it, damn it: I will. Until then, though, I’ll just be consistent. I’ll just do the work that will eventually get me to that point. Every day, for five minutes, I’ll seek a peaceful mental place. And when I find it, I’ll try to stay a while.

As it turns out, I’m not Eckhart Tolle—or Esther Hicks, for that matter. I’m just a regular person, muddling my way through, hoping for a few answers to the usual questions, such as those I’m asking this year:

  • Will I be able to keep my resolution this year to meditate for five minutes a day?
  • Will I find it hard to do so, or will it be fairly easy?
  • Will I get rid of any part of my neurotic tendencies? Or will they mostly remain?
  • Maybe most important, will I find the missing link I’m looking for—a continuous meditation method that works every time?

I have no idea whether or not the perfect spiritual practice is out there, or whether there’s some other, more important lesson in store. But isn’t the process of discovery a major part of the fun?

Seeking is what makes the finding interesting.


Get your copy of The Power of Acceptance at Amazon or your other online retailer of choice, or be one of the first to purchase it from Walmart. And, if possible, don’t forget to leave a review.

Your House Is Like a Person; It Has a Soul

This is chapter one of my book, The Naked House: Five Principles for a Minimalist Home. Get your copy at Amazon or at your online retailer of choice today.


The other day, I read the craziest thing. Not crazy in the hyperbolic sense, either—actually a bit crazy. And you know what? Part of me believes it anyway.

It was in the book Zero Limits by spirituality writer Joe Vitale, and the words came from the guru who is the subject of said book. His name is Hew Len, and according to him, he has regular two-way interactions—yes, entire conversations—with all sorts of inanimate objects. My favorite line of his, said of a shabby hotel conference room: “This room says its name is Sheila.”

I know, I know: that’s what I thought, too. Still, this isn’t an entirely novel belief. Only a few weeks before reading Zero Limits I read the book Seth Speaks: The Eternal Validity of the Soul by Jane Roberts, which discusses something similar. Seth is the spirit entity channeled by the author back in the 1960s, and the supposed true author of this and several of Roberts’ other books. I figure that anyone who lives in another plane of existence deserves a fair hearing, and because of this I’m tempted to believe him when he says things like, “There is consciousness even in a nail …”

Okay, so you might not be as susceptible to mysticism as I am. And trust me when I say I’m not trying to convert you or anything. I share these quotes simply because doing so makes me feel a bit less kooky when I make the first major philosophical statement of this book, namely: your house is like a person; it has a soul.

Your house is a kindly grandmother or an accomplished musician. It’s a garbage collector or a playful child or an artist. It has an identity and it has a personality, and when you spend time with it, that personality is communicated. It is felt.

Your house is like a person. It has a soul. And that soul can, like a good book, be a friend.


Beauty is actually pretty important

Every time you walk through the front door of your home—or anyone’s home, for that matter—your mood changes immediately. As soon as you take in the entrance and the first room, your levels of enjoyment, comfort and peace shift in subtle ways. Because that’s what happens to us all when we enter a new space: we take on a little bit of its message. This is why people spend even more money on venue and decorations for a party than they spend on music and food. Being around people you love is great, and you can probably enjoy them anywhere. But being somewhere nice with those same people is much, much nicer. It’s worth the extra money, the extra effort.

People often ask why other people like to go camping. The answer is obvious: the beauty. It’s not the hiking, or the swimming, or the campfire with the s’mores (though I love all these things)—you can get those at a cabin. It’s the feeling of waking up in the morning smelling truly fresh air and stumbling to the bathroom surrounded by trees. It’s making coffee and pancakes outside, in one of the many places on the earth that are absolutely perfectly designed, exactly as they are.

No French doors. No balcony. No granite counter tops and tile back splashes. No fountain-like bathroom taps; you’ll use a water pump that splashes your feet. No gables. No Great Grain Number Three from Sherwin Williams. No microfiber. No just-finished maple hardwood floors. Just nature.

And it’s stunning. Every part of it. Everywhere you look. The birds in the trees, the spider on the log. The dirt is everywhere, and the dirt is wonderful. You wouldn’t think of covering it up or getting rid of it, except inside the tent.

This is why you walked three miles with the heaviest backpack you’ve ever carried or packed your car to the brim, drove a long distance and spent two hours arranging your campsite. This is why you used an outhouse this morning and why you ate dehydrated food for dinner last night. This. Just this. Just the beauty.

Was it worth it? It is for me.

Beauty is important. Beauty makes you feel good. It brings peace. It makes you happier. Of course, our homes will never be beautiful in the way that nature is beautiful. But think about how you feel when you walk into your house every day. Is it a good feeling? If it is, is it as good as it could be? If not, why? What do you want to change?


Let’s talk about your goal

Soon, I’ll list the five principles of the Naked House. But first, let’s talk for a second about what we’re really doing when we’re doing all this organizing. What is your goal? What are you moving toward? What do you want your home to make you feel?

When I asked myself that question, the answer was obvious. I didn’t want a fancier house, or a bigger house, or even a sunnier, more cheerful one. I just wanted my house to feel peaceful. Home is where we relax. It’s where we go to calm down. I like feeling cheerful, and I understand that some people love yellow kitchens and light blue bathrooms. This isn’t what I wanted, though. I wanted brown. I wanted a muted color palette with very few adornments and an emphasis on the view from our large windows. I wanted my house to look like part of the earth.

Is that what you want, too? Do you want more serenity, simplicity and restfulness in your life? If so, the tips in this book might help. Because here, we’re not just talking about home decor, or cleaning, or organization. What we’re talking about is changing our environment in a way that allows for a fresh new perspective on life.

We’re talking about how to be happier.

Of course, a serene look might not be your goal. You might want a more high-energy look. That’s fine. But consider adding to your vision the element of peace. I contend that even a brighter home with more detail than mine has can benefit from some degree of minimalism.

Whatever look you desire, take a moment before starting your cleaning process to clearly visualize it. Then, if you get discouraged as you work through your rooms, you’ll have a goal image to recall.


Life is hard. Reorganizing isn’t.

The good news is that you can, of course, make these changes. Even without spending any money, there’s a lot you can do. Behavior change is hard. Character change is really hard. Emotional change is even harder than that. But reorganizing your house? Not hard. Just takes time. Put on a good podcast and it can even be fun. If your brain is telling you otherwise, remind it that it’s just one step. You’re not doing it all in a day. You’re cleaning one shelf, one corner, one area first, and you have a designated box (or two or three) for all the stuff that gets displaced. That box isn’t your job right now. That box is for another day. Today, it’s just this shelf, this corner. And when you’re done, your life will be that much simpler for a good amount of time to come.

There are things in life that are genuinely hard, genuinely suck. Organizing isn’t one of them. It’s easy.


A brief word on other kinds of clutter

Some people have a difficult time getting rid of their favorite things. Other people enjoy doing so, but lack the time. If you’re the former type, I suggest that you do what you can and pray for grace for the rest. Many experts suggest that the good feelings you get from letting go of the first few things you let go of (the feelings of freedom and self-care) often help inspire you to continue.

For the latter group, a different solution might be needed. Remember, clutter isn’t only in your house; it can be in your life, too. Is there anything you can nix? Anything you can cut back on? Is it possible that at times, you’re afraid of not being busy enough—of being bored? If so, you’re in good company: I detest boredom. But I’ve learned to busy myself in more flexible ways. Instead of taking on a volunteer project or convincing myself I need to work a bit more, earn a bit more money, I come up with time-consuming hobbies that feed me. There’s always something to do, but there’s rarely a deadline. This is how I declutter my busy life.

Another kind of clutter: mind clutter. This one will kill you. If you’re experiencing guilt, regret, anxiety, depression or frequent negativity, please seek help as soon as you can. You don’t deserve that. No one does. It’s garbage.


What, then, is the Naked House?

Okay, then. Let’s get to it. The Naked House is, in five words, ordered from most important to least:

1.      Bare;

2.      Organized;

3.      Matching;

4.      Clean; and

5.      Quality.

And really, that’s it—the Naked House philosophy in a nutshell. Our homes may have souls, or they may not, but either way the mood they convey affects us. And a house that has all or most of these five traits is the one that I believe helps us find the inner calm that we seek.

In this book we will tour the Naked House room by room, noticing how these concepts are applied. First, though, an overview of each of these five principles in turn.


The Naked House is bare; or, The solution is almost always fewer things

When it comes to making your home a more peaceful place, the solution is almost always fewer things. That’s not the only place in this book I’m going to make that statement, and there’s a good reason for that: the first and most important principle of the Naked House is that it’s bare. (That’s why it’s called “naked,” after all.) And so, the question becomes: what exactly do I mean by this term?

Well, what is the image you have in your mind when I use the word “bare”? Is it a room that is completely empty, as if no one lives there at all? Or is there a couch and a few chairs, maybe even a vase with some flowers? For the purposes of this book, the terms “bare” and “naked” aren’t so much about wearing no clothes as they are about wearing nothing that distracts from your beauty.

It is the complete absence of clutter.


With over 150 Amazon reviews, The Naked House is my best-selling book. Get your copy at Amazon or at your online retailer of choice.

“Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby” Now Available at Walmart

After Rachel and Matthew had their first child, they had a couple of fights. Well, okay, more than a couple—they fought for over three years. They fought about schedules. They fought about bad habits.

They even fought about the lawn mower.

And besides actually having their child, it was the best thing that could’ve happened.

Chronicling their greatest hits, from the Great Birth Control Debate to the Divorce Joke Showdown, Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby is a post-partem story with hope. It offers true stories from the field, nitty-gritty advice and, most importantly, a nuanced understanding of what it takes to be married with children.

Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby is my favorite thing I’ve ever written. Previously available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online retailers, it is now available at Walmart as well. Get your copy today and don’t forget to leave a review.

Everyone Told Me It Was Normal to Be Nervous

This is chapter one of my book, Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby: A Self-help Story. Previously available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online retailers, it is now available at Walmart as well. Get your copy today and don’t forget to leave a review.


Everyone told me it was normal to be nervous. More than nervous—freaked out. Insecure. You’re going to let us take her home now? By ourselves? they remembered thinking before leaving the hospital. Are you sure that’s such a good idea?

And actually, it was pretty weird. The nurses taught me how to latch the baby, how to change a diaper, how to adjust the straps on the car seat. They helped Matt and I get the swaddle neat and tight. But they didn’t say a word about, well, parenting. Crib or bed? Feeding schedule or no? Go back to work or stay at home? All of the hard decisions were saved for another day, not this day, the day Poppy was born.

I labored at the hospital, Matthew there and gone again, making trips between the delivery room, various eating establishments and home. While he distracted himself with errands, I distracted myself with an audio book, trying not to wish he was nearby. Thing was, I didn’t want him there. I really didn’t. I didn’t want to have to have a conversation. But if he would have held me–just that, and nothing more–that might have been all right.

It took two hours for the pitocin to kick in, and in late afternoon the real labor came. For this, Matthew did hold me, both my head and my hand, offering his body as leverage. When the midwife told me to curl, Matthew pushed my legs to my head, and laughed at how hard I pushed back. Lots of pushes. Lots. So many. So many. Then the head was visible, and the midwife asked if I wanted a mirror.

“Yes!” I said.

“No,” said Matt at the same time. Then: “You do, Hon? Are you sure?”

“Yes,” I said. “Of course I do. Don’t you?”

The midwife positioned it for me, and I saw my baby for the first time.

It didn’t look like a baby.

Three more pushes. Hard pushes. Long ones. Then: relief. The head was out, and with a last push for the body, Matthew and I became parents.

Matthew looked at the baby, then at me. “It’s a girl,” he announced.

“We know that already,” I said, laughing.

“She’s beautiful,” he said.

“But we knew that, too.”

“Of course we did. She is perfect.”

The midwife put Poppy, now crying heavily, on my chest. As I smooshed my breast against her mouth, Matthew put his hand on her soft hair.

“There she is.”

“There she is. She is ours.”

* * *

Late that night. Matthew gone again. He didn’t want to sleep on the pull-out. And as I soon learned, it was just as well. No, not just as well; it was better.

I got to spend the whole night with just her.

No sharing. No small talk. No deciding. No details. No normal life stuff. Just life. Just the room, the dark, except the street lamps below the half-drawn blinds, and a simple light behind the bed dimmed to almost nothing.

So this is motherhood, I thought as I stared at Poppy’s face. This is who I am now. Strange that I’m not scared. Everyone says you’ll be scared. But I feel good. I feel confident. It feels simple.

Here’s this little alive thing, sort of like a plant, except that I am her air and sunlight, her photosynthesis. She needs me completely, and I accept the challenge. That is the way this thing works.

It’s the most straightforward relationship I’ve ever had.

Honestly, that was it. That was my conclusion. I would be the giver, she’d be the taker—and I was fine with that. It was when I expected something, when I needed someone to behave a certain way—that was the situation I worried about.

Which is why lying in bed that night, there was only one thing I was worried about, and it had nothing to do with the baby.

It was Matthew.

What’s he going to be like, now that we have a kid? I wondered. Will he be the same person? For that matter, will I? Will being parents affect the way we treat each other? How we are together?

How will our relationship change?

And as it turned out, I was right to be nervous. Because while that first year with Poppy was one of the best of my life, it was the worst for me and Matt.

* * *

The following day, the hospital. Only that room in the hospital, and the bathroom adjoining it. Nothing more. Matthew came and went, bringing meals, bringing news. We opened a few presents, saw doctors, did paperwork. I slept a bit, too, Poppy next to me on the bed, though the nurse had advised against it. When I had to change my pad, the nurses helped me to the bathroom. They changed all of Poppy’s diapers and held her when she cried. It was the first time in my life I’d been waited on so thoroughly, and I relished it. I didn’t want to leave.

The following morning, Matthew arrived at 9 a.m. to take me home, and I delayed the departure as long as possible. When the time finally came—it was close to noon—I took a long last look at the room.

Maybe it was nostalgia. Sentimentality. Hormones. Or maybe—just maybe—it was more than that. Maybe it was the inkling I’d had the night before about Matthew.

Maybe I was sensing the learning curve ahead.

Yes, that was it. Just hours after giving birth, I had the mom thing figured out. I didn’t know how to do anything—not even change a diaper—but I knew how to be alone with my child. But four years into my marriage, I still didn’t know what Matthew expected of me, what he didn’t expect of me, and, most important, what to expect of myself. When it was just Matthew and I, this oversight didn’t matter. I compensated for not understanding what he really needed by giving him more of what he wanted, which worked fine. But now—now I had a second relationship to consider. My usual coping strategies wouldn’t work.

Even before Matthew and I arrived home the tension between us had begun. Matthew wasn’t himself. He was irritable. Hurried. Though whether due to jealousy, neglect or just impatience, I’ll never know.

He tried to hide his annoyance with humor. “Should’ve had a home birth.”

I responded with a tight smile and forced laugh. “I liked it there,” I said.

“Yeah, I noticed. Thought you were going to sprain an ankle so you could stay.”

“Don’t begrudge me my reward,” I told him, smiling again. “Besides, I thought about it. Wouldn’t’ve worked.”

The things I didn’t say: “Why do I have to bring up the pain of childbirth this soon?” “Why aren’t you happier?” “Why aren’t we celebrating?” I wanted the day we left the hospital to be special, an occasion. Instead, I just felt sad to go home.

Maybe it was too much to expect him to know how I felt, how I wanted him to support me on that day. But a small gesture made in that tender time would’ve gone a long way towards lessening my fears. He could’ve held my hand. He could’ve told me how proud he was of me. He could’ve just asked me what I needed. It would’ve taken so little, almost nothing—but instead, he chose jokes and I chose smiles.

The first two weeks after the baby was born, I cried nearly every night before sleep. A few times, Matthew heard me; he came to the bedroom and asked what was wrong. Each time I told him the same thing.

“It’s just hormones, Hon. I’ll be okay.”

I was working too hard. That was part of the problem. I always had and didn’t want to stop. Baby in the chest carrier, I cooked, cleaned and, my favorite, organized. There’s never an end of things to organize.

Part of me realized the emotions were normal, and that I wasn’t taking good enough care of myself. Another part of me, though, blamed Matthew.

He wasn’t helping enough. That’s the truth, unvarnished. He didn’t seem to know how to, really. While my life had changed completely—no more day job, constant sleep interruptions—he was quickly back to his usual routine. Work. Eat. Play. Sleep. Weekends: basketball, projects. Which is why, during those first few weeks with Poppy, I felt all the good stuff you’re supposed to feel— gratitude and love—I felt a lot of bad stuff, too. I was scared. I was angry. But mostly, I was sad. Sad that things weren’t right with me and Matt.


Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby is my favorite thing I’ve ever written. Previously available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online retailers, it is now available at Walmart as well. Get your copy today and don’t forget to leave a review.

“The Power of Acceptance” Now Available at Walmart

For a day, a week, even a month at a time, she had the feeling continuously. She had it while she read, while she drove, while she ate, and while she played with her child. Which is why each time the feeling left, it was a great disappointment.

It was the feeling of connection with the Divine, and one spiritual seeker wanted to hold on to it forever. But how?

What was the key to continuous meditation?

In this year-long journal, one woman shares her attempt to do a sitting meditation each day, then remain in the state of meditation as much as possible after that.

Featuring interviews on meditation from long-time practitioners, The Power of Acceptance isn’t a meditation prescription, but rather a personal story of one woman’s spiritual struggles … and breakthroughs.

Get your copy at Amazon or your other online retailer of choice, or be one of the first to purchase it from Walmart. And, if possible, don’t forget to leave a review.

Here Are Some “Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby” Extras

No married couple gets everything right. Here, a few pieces of marital wisdom that didn’t make it into my book, Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby: A Self-help Story.

And remember, you can get your copy of the book at Walmart, Amazon or your online retailer of choice today.

1. Figure out the money thing. Different plans work for different people. The key is to do just that: plan.

2. Figure out which kind of fight you’re having. Is the fight about what it seems to be about–money, in-laws, whatever–or is it about feelings and egos getting wounded? If it’s the latter, deal with the feelings first. Then circle back to the mother-in-law’s casserole catastrophe.

3. Make it into a joke. I hinted at this one several times, but seriously–no, not seriously–this is funny stuff. Marriage is funny. Kids are hilarious. If you can laugh even while fighting, resentment and tension lessen considerably. (The kids will appreciate it, too.)

4. Keep the chores separate. Yours are yours and theirs are theirs. This minimizes chore fights and nagging considerably.

5. Figure out what you can control and what you can’t. Marriage is the Serenity Prayer all over the place.

6. Use “I” statements. You’ve heard this before, but it bears repeating: No matter how unnatural or uncomfortable it feels, make the negative comments about you. After all, it is about you. Otherwise you wouldn’t be dealing with it.

7. Don’t punish your partner. They won’t learn a darn thing through it except to escalate and solidify their bitterness and anger. No one wants to feel like the bad guy. Whenever possible, make them into the good guy and yourself into the good but struggling guy. They’ll become the person you show them in your mirror.

8. Don’t yell. Ever. What is the point?

9. Most important, notice the small resentments and don’t let them grow any bigger. Seeing a few of my married-couple friends repeatedly pass entire evenings together barely looking into each other’s eyes caused me to suspect the discomfort in their relationships. I realized that I never wanted my marriage to get to a place where we could no longer really look at each other.

Invest a few bucks into your lifelong health and happiness. Get your copy of the book at Walmart, Amazon or your online retailer of choice today.

Get “The Naked House: Five Principles for a Minimalist Home” Today

The solution is almost always fewer things.

That’s the Naked House philosophy in a nutshell, though the importance of top-notch organization (a place for everything and everything in its place), design unity, cleanliness and quality round out this book’s description of the most desirable, peaceful home in which to live.

With a tongue-in-cheek, personal style, and featuring interviews with minimalist rock stars, The Naked House: Five Principles for a Minimalist Home is an inspiring but not-too-serious primer on cleaning, organizing and reducing clutter—and on changing the way you view the purpose and soul of your home.

With over 150 Amazon reviews, The Naked House is my best-selling book. Get your copy at Amazon or at your online retailer of choice.

Naked House Interview: “A Minimalist Mindset Has Not Deprived Me of Anything I Wanted”

Photo by Pixabay on

Bernadette Joy Cruz is a money media expert. She speaks and teaches about debt repayment and other financial issues and writes Crush Your Money Goals. Here is the interview we did for my book, The Naked House: Five Principles for a Minimalist Home.

Mollie: Tell me about your experience with minimalism.

Bernadette Joy: I’ve been in the process of decluttering and reorganizing my home as part of my journey to become debt-free. My husband and I paid off $300,000 of debt, including debt from student loans and two mortgages, in three years. Adopting a minimalist mindset was a big part of our change.

At first, I decided to declutter just to find things to sell in order to help pay off our debt. I sold a lot of unneeded housewares, clothing, furniture, etc. At the first garage sale we made over $400 in four hours and that encouraged me to want to get rid of more stuff because we weren’t using any of it and it felt like free money!

Mollie: Tell me more about your debt repayment experience. How did you manage this feat? What did you give up?

Bernadette Joy: We started in January 2016 with about $70,000 in student loans and the rest in mortgages. It started because I felt overwhelmed with how much debt we accumulated in less than a two years because essentially, I cared more about what other people thought about us than about our own well-being. People will like me more if they think I’m smart and have a nice house, right? I started learning everything I could about money and debt through podcasts and YouTube. My husband and I started implementing everything I learned like budgeting and making extra money through side hustles. The biggest things we had to give up were time (we worked a lot during that time period), investing for the first 7 months (we stopped while we paid off the student loans and then resumed at 15% of our total income, more than what we were investing before) and large expenses like travel. All of this was temporary and since we’ve become debt free we’ve resumed all the conveniences and fun including going to see my favorite K-Pop band live in concert, buying a car in cash and going to Italy!

Mollie: What are your most prized beliefs regarding the minimalist lifestyle—the ideas you most want to spread?

Bernadette Joy: Minimalism is not just about stuff. It’s about minimizing anything that causes you stress, including stress at work, stress in relationships and stress in your mind. I’ve worked on automating or outsourcing a lot of things that used to cause me stress (for example, I now have a regular cleaning service that helps me keep tidy instead of agonizing over not doing it myself). I also believe that you don’t have to adopt a poor or no-fun lifestyle that I think people confuse with minimalism. I minimize material things like clothing and unnecessary house stuff to make room and finances available for things like going to concerts and on vacations.

Mollie: Can you share a few specific tips for organizing and simplifying?

Bernadette Joy: Find things you aren’t using and sell them! Garage sales worked great for me in the area I’m in, but I also sold a lot of housewares on Facebook. It’s a great way to encourage you if you’re like me and feel guilty about what you spent; at least you make some money back and use the money towards something you really want.

Work on one room at a time only. Don’t move onto the next room until you complete the previous. Start where you spend the most of your time because you will get the most benefit out of it. I started in my kitchen and in my bedroom. I immediately felt relief getting rid of so many kitchen items that were just cluttering up our space.

I’m a big fan of the minimalist challenge: get rid of one thing on the first day, two things on the second day, etc. for a month. I have committed to it at least once a year, sometimes multiple times a year. I like crossing things off my list and challenges in general and it really got me motivated to keep it up for a month!

Donate where you can instead of throwing stuff out. If I can’t find local charities, I just post things for free on Facebook or Craigslist. Everything I’ve put out, someone has picked up, so at least I know (or hope) they are being reused!

Mollie: Any final thoughts on minimalism?

Bernadette Joy: For me, a minimalist mindset has not deprived me of anything I wanted. In fact, it’s created more room for things I absolutely love in life and focused more on experiences than accumulating stuff. It’s also always a work-in-progress. One might come to my house and not think it’s minimalist because we own more than a few dishes or towels. But I can confidently say everything I own right now is on purpose and has a purpose, and that is peace of mind that I’m so grateful for.

A place for everything and everything in its place. Get The Naked House: Five Principles for a Minimalist Home.

Naked House Interview: “Nothing Good Comes Out of Chaos”

assorted stationery scattered in wooden drawer
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

Ben Soreff is a professional home organizer at House to Home Organizing. Read more about his company at Here is the interview we did for my book, The Naked House: Five Principles for a Minimalist Home.

Mollie: What was the most cluttered home you worked in like? How did the process of organizing affect your client?

Ben: We have seen everything from estates to apartments, but the only clutter difference is the volume. In some cases, no room is being used for its intended purpose: the cars can’t go in the garage, the home office isn’t being used for work, the dining room isn’t hosting anyone. When you add to that situation not being able to find what you are looking for and having to do multiple purchases, this puts a lot of stress on relationships between family members. The children feel they can’t have friends over and the adults don’t entertain. This creates a feeling of being trapped.

Organizing takes time. Busy people usually just start putting everything in the attic or basement. After that they hide everything in bins and drawers, but eventually those areas fill up, too. This isn’t organization. Being organized is different from being neat or tidy.

Mollie: What circumstances led to your passion for simple living?

Ben: Growing up as a child of a difficult divorce, having control became pretty important to me. People have anxiety when they are not in control and in life there is a lot we cannot control; however, we can control our physical space. My belief is that nothing good comes out of chaos and being a minimalist and having organized systems allows me to be more productive. I see this with my own children: when their room is a mess they simply don’t play in it, but when the floor is clear they actually build things, use their toys and imagination.

Also, as a child I always liked jigsaw puzzles. There’s something about putting a giant mess together into something complete that calms the mind.

When I was young the desire for stuff seemed pretty cool but getting married and having children focuses you on experiences. A kid is excited by the new toy but she is also just as excited by the box it came in, and after a few hours it just goes on the pile with the other unused toys. The older you get you realize that happiness comes from within, that buying stuff doesn’t solve your problems or actually make you happy. Having experiences with friends and family leads to great memories and at the end of the day, all we have are our memories.

Mollie: What are the common mistakes your clients make when it comes to managing their home environment?

Ben: For a lot of people, the act of shopping or the thrill of getting a bargain is the real juice and getting the thing is more important than the actual thing. Also, in our clients’ homes we see items unused and crammed into closets and after reviewing we discover they are gifts the receiver didn’t want, doesn’t like and doesn’t know what to do with.

Most people give gifts to make themselves, not the person getting it, feel better. If someone took the time to give something wanted it would be experiences or consumables; a night of free babysitting is worth more than two hundred items from the Christmas Tree Shops or the Dollar Store.

Mollie: Any additional tips for simplifying the home?

Ben: If you’re a parent, you are the gatekeeper. When your kids are a certain age, they may get up to thirty or forty gifts for their birthdays and holidays. You know how your children play and what they like and steering people to give swimming lessons or tickets to the movies will save everyone in the end.

Another suggestions to cutting down on accumulating because of retail therapy is to pay cash for it. If you really want it, take the time to get cash out. You can also print the page out from Ebay or Amazon and wait a week. If you really still want it, then get it. My economics professor used to say, “More is preferred to less,” but the stress of clutter hurts relationships and your free time and creates anxiety.

Mollie: One final thought?

Ben: Good things aren’t cheap and cheap things aren’t good. Well-made items that you can depend on are more important than quantity.

A place for everything and everything in its place. Get The Naked House: Five Principles for a Minimalist Home.

Naked House Interview: “Take a Hard Look at Your Calendar”

writings in a planner
Photo by Bich Tran on

Kelly Rupiper is Content Director at Upparent, a recommendation-sharing website for parents. She is also the mother of two elementary school-aged kids. See Here is the interview we did for my book, The Naked House: Five Principles for a Minimalist Home.

Mollie: Have you ever significantly reorganized and decluttered your home? What led to the decision and what did you change?

Kelly: Parenthood brings with it a lot of stuff. When my kids were a newborn and a toddler, we moved from a small condo into a larger home and it felt like the floodgates for accumulating toys, clothes, and gear were opened. It was easy to add more and more stuff now that we had the room, and though I don’t think we had gone overboard by common standards, eventually I started feeling like we were spending too much time putting away toys, sorting through piles of clothes, and generally cleaning up. The effort that we were putting into taking care of all of these things was more than the happiness we were getting out of having them. This was around the time that people started talking more about a minimalist lifestyle, and the idea of letting go of the clutter seemed freeing to me. I spent the better part of a year combing through our home and putting together donations, selling items on Facebook, and handing things down to family members. A few years later we embarked on a cross-country move, and this was a great opportunity to think critically about what really needed to come with us and pare down some more.

Mollie: What are your most prized beliefs regarding minimalist lifestyle—the ideas you most want to spread?

Kelly: A minimalist lifestyle isn’t just about owning as little as possible or going without. It’s about limiting yourself to the things that are important, special, and useful to you, and getting to enjoy these things every day because you’re not weighed down by needing to weed through and maintain all of the fluff.

It’s also not just about physical belongings. Think about taking a more minimal approach to the way you schedule your family’s time and attention, too. Take a hard look at all of the after-school activities and obligations on your calendar, and think about how it would feel to spend less time driving around and more time at home as a family.

Mollie: Tell me more about the benefits of minimizing one’s schedule.

Kelly: Aside from keeping more money in the bank and enjoying more family time together, I have found that minimizing the number of activities that kids have on their plates helps to keep them from getting burned out. My kids tend to get overwhelmed when the schedule gets to the point where we’re running from one activity to the next, and lessening their load means they can actually look forward to the things they’ve signed up for.

Mollie: Why do you think people have a hard time being at home with no planned activity?

Kelly: There’s an instinct to feel like we have to entertain our kids, and the choruses of “I’m bored!” don’t help. But when kids aren’t overwhelmed by a playroom stuffed with endless choices and instead have a small collection of toys that inspire open-ended play, it’s pretty amazing to see how well they can entertain themselves and each other without parental intervention.

Mollie: How can people learn to embrace unplanned family time?

Kelly: Simple, low-key family traditions can be a great way to give some structure to your family time without introducing outside obligations. My family does a weekly Friday night family movie night and we rotate the person who gets to pick what we watch. The kids look forward to it all week. We are also reading the Harry Potter series together, and we sit down to read a chapter most evenings after the kids are showered and ready for bed. Introducing fun (and often free!) activities like these gives the family something easy to do together that they look forward to and creates memories that you’ll be able to enjoy for years.

Mollie: Can you share a few specific tips for simplifying a home?

Kelly: Do what you can to keep excess things from coming into your house in the first place. Getting your family on board with this will make it much easier. It’s hard to deny well-meaning relatives who love to buy gifts for your kids, so give them ideas that mesh well with minimalism: a museum membership, a kids cooking class, or one larger-ticket holiday gift (like a basketball hoop or a streaming service membership) for the whole family to enjoy together. My kids will often choose a special family experience like an amusement park trip or theater tickets instead of a large birthday party with friends and gifts.

Mollie: Any final thoughts?

Kelly: Minimalism isn’t just about clearing out your house. It’s about changing your mindset, so you’re better-equipped to maintain your new way of life moving forward. Once you discover and embrace how freeing it is to be living without the clutter in your house and on your calendar, it’s easier to be able to say “no” to the pressure we all feel to take on more.

A place for everything and everything in its place. Get The Naked House: Five Principles for a Minimalist Home.

Naked House Interview: “Living in an Off-grid Tiny Home Is Extremely Important to Me”

snow covered wooden house inside forest
Photo by Adriaan Greyling on

Tara Skubella teaches tantra and conducts tantra ceremonies. See

Mollie: Tell me about your minimalist lifestyle.

Tara: My partner and I are minimalists who live in a tiny home (a converted fifth-wheel) nearly off-grid on the side of a mountain. We’ve been here for three years and love it. We’ve condensed so much of our lives to make this our truth. Not only are we tiny house minimalists, but we don’t have running potable water and heat with wood.

Mollie: What was your decluttering and simplifying process like?

Tara: My first decluttering process happened while I was living in a 1400 square foot house. I donated, gifted or threw away 365 things in my home that I no longer needed. These items ranged from old cleaning products and makeup to pairs of earrings to clothing to a piece of furniture to kitchen supplies and books. It’s amazing how fast you can rid of items no longer used.

This became a ritual I continue to do about every other year, even while living in a tiny home. Most of the items I release these days are small things like pens or pencils, makeup, notebooks, accessories, old food and clothing items. It feels good to have a fresh start every now and then. Releasing 365 things clears the mind and gives us one less object to worry or think about each day for a year.

Mollie: What are your most prized beliefs regarding minimalist lifestyle? What ideas you want to spread?

Tara: Living a minimalist, off-grid, tiny-home life is extremely important to me. I enjoy being immersed in Mother Nature. I depend on snow for water to do my dishes and to boil water for tea. I depend on dead standing wood to heat our tiny home during the harsh 9,000-foot winter months. Living with Mother Earth instead of carving space into her creates a wealth of gratitude each day. Even living the primitive way I do is still very abundant, as I’ve experienced harsh survival situations in the past. Coming home to a cozy, safe space warms my heart.

I also believe living with less helps me with my ADHD. Since my mind is cluttered most of the time, living in a space with less to clean and to worry about simplifies my life even more. Living with less is also a mindful life choice and practice. Consciously choosing what we can live without opens the spirit to reconnect with intuitive choices about what we truly need in order to survive. Otherwise, instead of being more mindful of tasks we look for an easy way out. Thinking this way sometimes isn’t a big deal; however, the more we develop an attachment to objects for meeting our needs, the more we look for answers outside instead of within.

Mollie: Can you share a few very specific tips for cleaning, organizing and simplifying a home?

Tara: Yes. First, if you haven’t used something in a little over a year, you really don’t need it so get rid of it.

  1. Second, if you bring a non-perishable item into the house, release something else as an exchange. For example, if you buy a new pair of socks, donate or gift a pair that has never really fit right. If you receive a fancy new air-vacuumed mug for your birthday, donate the plastic one that doesn’t keep coffee warm as long as your new one.
  2. Also, remember that linens and towels can add up quickly. We only need one to two sets of sheets per bed and one to two bath towels per person. Depending on the family size, three or four kitchen towels is plenty. People often accumulate too many linens because we don’t like to do the laundry. This accumulation also happens with clothing. The more we are able to be mindful with laundry, the less we actually need on hand.
  3. My final tip is to rent a storage unit. Seriously. If you are uncertain about releasing a number of items, rent a storage unit and place those items in it, then see how often you return to use them. For the items you truly need, you’ll be willing to drive to the unit, use it and drive it back. If items stay unused for several months or they aren’t worth the rental fee, then you’ll learn that those unused items aren’t worth the money and effort to keep around.

The solution is almost always fewer things. Get The Naked House: Five Principles for a Minimalist Home.

Naked Interviews: “I Brought Two Suitcases with Me and Two Suitcases Back”

suitcases placed on edge of bed
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on

Haley Gallerani runs The Vegan Abroad, a website about traveling sustainably and as a vegan. Visit it at

Mollie: Have you ever significantly minimized your possessions? What led to the decision and what did you change?

Haley: I would say that I officially became a minimalist in 2018 when I moved to Chiang Mai, Thailand. I brought two suitcases with me and two suitcases back. I knew that I wouldn’t be living in Thailand forever so I didn’t want to purchase too many things while I was there. I did have to purchase a few things for my apartment, but it came furnished so my purchases were minimal.

The biggest way that I minimized my possessions was with my clothing. I used to own so many clothing pieces that I hardly ever wore. I now rotate among around ten different outfits. My biggest tip for simplifying your wardrobe is to only purchase neutral colors. This will allow you to mix and match more than if you own clothing with different colors and patterns.

Mollie: What is your life like now? How often do you travel and for how long? Do you still take only two suitcases?

Haley: I have been in the United States for the past few months, but I will be moving to Europe in January 2020. I am a big believer in slow travel. That means that I spend a long time in one location before moving onto the next. Europe is a bit more complicated than Thailand because of visa issues. I will start in Italy where I will stay for three months: one month in Rome, one month in Florence, and one month in Sicily. Then I will be going to Croatia for three months before finally settling in the Czech Republic where I will get a visa.

I am planning on only bringing one suitcase and a backpack with me to Europe because I will be moving around so much. I know that this is going to be even more challenging since Europe has four different seasons that I need to pack clothes for whereas it was almost always summer temperatures in Thailand. I am excited about the challenge, though, and I think that I will grow even more minimalist.

Mollie: What are your most prized beliefs regarding minimalist lifestyle—the ideas you most want to spread?

Haley: My most prized belief regarding a minimalist lifestyle is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all for minimalism. I think that you have to find what brings you joy in life and focus on that. Clothing doesn’t bring me joy, so that is a very easy area for me to be a minimalist in. I do love cooking, though, so someone could look at my kitchen and think that I am not a minimalist, but then look at my closet and think that I am. Ultimately, I think that minimalism is about focusing on the things that matter to you, and spending less time (and money) on the things that don’t. When you find the things that don’t bring you joy, get rid of them.

Also, try to find ways to simplify the things that do bring you joy. For example, I am an avid reader. I only purchased physical books prior to moving to Thailand. I decided to purchase a Kindle before moving to Thailand so I could easily purchase books in English while I was abroad. It ended up being one of the best purchases that I have ever made because I no longer have the clutter of books anymore, and I can fit hundreds of books on a very small device.

Mollie: Any final thoughts?

Haley: Becoming a minimalist can be scary at first as you are getting rid of a bunch of your possessions. The thought of “What if I need this in the future?” may show up. My advice would be to keep the item that you are questioning for six months to a year depending on what the item is. If you haven’t used it in that time then you should probably get rid of it.

The solution is almost always fewer things. Get The Naked House: Five Principles for a Minimalist Home.

Naked House Interview: “Voids Can Give Meaning and Emphasis to Chosen Elements”

worms eyeview of well
Photo by Filipe Delgado on

Pablo and Beverly Solomon have been minimalist designers for over forty years. Their work has been featured in over forty books as well as numerous magazines and newspapers; on TV and film; and on the radio. You can see examples of their fashion and home designs at and

Mollie: What is the essence of your minimalist design philosophy?

Pablo: You have so often heard it said that the core of minimalism is the concept of “less is more”. We would modify that a bit and say that putting quality over quantity is also minimalism. Minimalism is also the recognition that simplifying your life and achieving a harmonious balance between things and experiences, between your comfort and respecting nature, between activity and rest, etc. are also goals. Minimalism strives to be a physical representation of a serene, uncluttered mind that lives in harmony with nature.

Mollie: That’s an interesting idea. What does minimalism have in common with living in harmony with nature?

Pablo: Beverly is part Native American. One of her core beliefs that we try to follow is that we are just passing through this life and should leave the smallest negative marks behind—that we respect nature by using only what we need and protecting the rest. Minimalism design not only tries to blend the architecture into the setting, but to do the least amount of damage in the process. The concept of your home blending into the setting is representative of your being part of nature, not at odds with nature.

Mollie: Can you share a few specific tips for living a successful minimalist lifestyle?

Pablo: It really begins with choosing to live in harmony with nature and to create a setting for yourself that puts you at peace. Keep the things that you cherish, that bring you happy memories, that make your life more pleasant. Eliminate those elements that just fill space for the sake of filling space. Learn to embrace the concept that voids can give meaning and emphasis to chosen elements. And it is okay to be as minimal or non-minimal as makes you comfortable.

Mollie: How do voids help give meaning? Can you give me an example of how you would use a void in an interior or exterior home design?

Pablo: The most simple example would be a wall. Having one valued painting is emphasized by the blank space around it. Were the wall to have as many paintings as you can cram on that wall, no one painting would have much impact.

Mollie: Any other thoughts?

Pablo: Like so many truths in life, the journey is often more important than the destination. Just considering the mindset of minimalism and taking the first steps in simplifying your life and calming your mind are worth it. Just let go of one thing today. Tomorrow is another day.

The solution is almost always fewer things. Get The Naked House: Five Principles for a Minimalist Home.

Naked House Interview: “Respect the Space as a Defined Perimeter for How Much You Can Keep”

close up photo of yellow tape measure
Photo by Marta Longas on

Amanda Clark is the owner or Ever So Organized®️, a full-service home organizing company based out of Orange County, California. They specialize in decluttering and creating beautiful, functional and organized systems for homeowners. See for more information.

Mollie: Have you ever significantly reorganized and decluttered your home? What led to the decision and what did you change?

Amanda: A few years ago I moved into a new home, more than doubling the square footage of the previous home. I did not declutter before the move because I was pregnant with my third baby and fairly immobile. A month into the move my third baby was born and I decluttered my entire house during my maternity leave. I no longer wanted to organize and re-organized the amount of stuff I knew I didn’t even need. I wanted to enjoy the expanded space without adding more stuff in it.

Mollie: So now you actually have a large home that is spacious, too? What is that like?

Amanda: With more space in my home comes more space in my head; a weight has been lifted. I’m extremely proud of my house and it has been featured in a local publication. That never would’ve happened if it was filled with stuff.

Mollie: Can you share your process for decluttering?

Amanda: Look at one area at a time. For example, a pantry, closet, or even a drawer.

Step one: Remove everything from the space. That means everything!

Step two: Wipe down and clean the surfaces while they are empty.

Step three: Sort like items together. You may be surprised at how many black socks, tubes of toothpaste (you can never find) or cans of beans you own.

Step four: Declutter. Be ruthless. Do you love it? Does it improve your life? Can you purchase it in twenty minutes for under $20 if you need it later?

Step five: You are now allowed to shop for those pretty containers only after you know what you have left. Can risers, plastic dividers for drawers and matching slim velvet hangers really can make a big difference organizing your space. Go wild on Pinterest for ideas or check out my Instagram @eversoorganized.

Step six: Use containers to separate items and label everything.

And finally: Respect the space as a defined perimeter for how much you can keep. Don’t cram more stuff in the space later on. Use the one-in, one-out rule to keep it under control.

Mollie: Any more tips?

Amanda: Yes!

  • Turn all of your hangers backward in your closet. As you wear something replace the hanger with the cleaned item as you normally would. At the end of the season you can clearly see which clothes you have worn and which you haven’t. Consider decluttering those never-worn items.
  • Have a pretty bin, basket or container in a handy area. Put your mail, to-do items and even broken items you’ve been meaning to fix inside the container. Set aside time every single week to work on those actionable items. If you are consistent, very few things will fall through the cracks.
  • File fold your clothes in your drawers. This will change your life.

Mollie: What is file folding?

Amanda: File folding is a simple way of folding your clothes in a square or rectangle shape and then placing them in the drawer on their sides instead of flat. It looks similar to folders in a file cabinet. No more forgetting about what’s on the bottom of your pile: now there is no bottom.

Mollie: Any final thoughts?

Amanda: Less stuff truly means more time, more money and more freedom: less time maintaining the stuff, more money in the bank account because you are buying less and more freedom from consumerism.

The solution is almost always fewer things. Get The Naked House: Five Principles for a Minimalist Home.

Naked House Interview: “Minimalism Is About Personal Growth”

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Kelly Kandra Hughes has been a professional housesitter since 2016. She is also a minimalism coach. Visit her website at

Mollie: Have you ever significantly changed your life to become more minimalist? What led to the decision and what did you change?

Kelly: Yes. I got rid of approximately 95 percent of my belongings by donating, giving away, selling, recycling, or trashing them. Essentially, I wasn’t happy in my current life and I wanted to make radical changes. I followed a career trajectory of which some people only dream: college, a PhD program (for which I had a full-ride scholarship), tenure track position, and tenure. Yet it wasn’t the life I really wanted to live. I had all sorts of health issues related to stress and sleep. My weight dropped to 97 pounds. I developed severe adult acne. I used to hope that I would get in a nonfatal car crash, just so I could take a break from my life for a while.

It wasn’t until I was granted a paid sabbatical for the 2014-2015 academic year that I finally got time to myself. I didn’t miss my job for one second of one minute of one day. That was a wake-up call to me that I needed to make some changes.

While on sabbatical, and after I realized I needed to quit my job, I woke up in the middle of the night and thought, housesitting. I had already been pet-sitting and housesitting for friends while I was on a sabbatical. I wrote down my idea and went back to bed.

The next morning a Google search informed me that, yes, pet-sitting and housesitting is a viable way to live these days. That became my plan: to no longer have a place of my own, but to live in other people’s houses. I didn’t want the burden of storing of my belongings, so I made the choice to get rid of them. My husband and I have been on a long-term housesit in the northwest corner of Connecticut since September 2016. At the time we began, everything we owned fit into our car.

Mollie: What are your most prized beliefs regarding minimalist lifestyle—the ideas you want most to spread?

Kelly: The idea I most want to spread is that minimalism is not just about tidying up and reducing clutter. It’s about personal growth, and most importantly, the understanding that there is no one way to best accomplish this growth. Being a minimalist means you have a good understanding of who you are and how you want to live your own best life … and then acting accordingly. This understanding can be accomplished through self-reflection (e.g., journaling, creating vision boards, praying, meditating, etc.) or with the help of professionals (e.g., therapists, life coaches, pastors, career counselors, etc.).

I also want people to know that the first thing I recommend people get rid of is mental clutter. By knowing who you are and how you want to live your best life, you can say no to things that don’t serve you. Of course, it’s not easy and it takes a certain amount of courage to start saying no. But this freedom then brings benefits in other areas of your life, including increased time, energy, and financial resources to pursue the things that are most important to you.

Start by identifying your core life values. These are the five to seven values that are fundamental to who you are as person. Ask yourself questions such as, “When have I experienced the most joy in my life? When did I experience my lowest points? What happens on the days when I can’t wait to get out of bed? What happens on the days where I dread getting out of bed? Who inspires me? If I could have any job in the world, what would it be and why? What did I dream of being when I was a child? If I could live a perfect day every day, what would that day look like? What are some times in my life I thought I was doing the right thing, but it turned out to be wrong for me?” Look for common themes and patterns, then name those ideas using a single word, such as achievement, service, fairness, creativity, or spirituality.

The second thing I recommend is to identify specific interests in your life related to those values. Values and interests go hand-in-hand. For example, you may value creativity, but you may have no interest in Renaissance art. If that’s the case, next time you visit an art museum, give yourself the freedom to skip over entire floors and head to the impressionists who you find whimsical and inspiring. The good news is, you’ve probably already uncovered most of your interests if you’ve spent time reflecting on your core life values. Review your answers to the above questions and notice what specific activities and events are associated with your more joyful times. Keep those in mind for making your day-to-day and long-term decisions on how you’re going to spend your time, effort, and money.

Mollie: I love everything you said so much. Any final thoughts, Kelly?

Kelly: Here’s something that I don’t think gets mentioned too often: it’s important to stay open-minded and empathetic to others while living a minimalist life. I’ve found that people who experience the kind of personal growth that comes with minimalism are so excited about their journeys, they think their way is not only the best way, but the only way. We may end up self-righteous and judgmental of others who are still struggling on their own paths. I know I certainly did!

We need to remember where we started from and extend empathy to others who may not be there yet. When you live a life of joy and one that lines up with your core life values and interests, people become interested in what you’re doing. When they ask, be happy to give advice on what worked best for you. Otherwise, it’s not our place to judge. Stay focused on your own life and lead by example. I know it’s cliché, but Gandhi was on to something when he said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

A place for everything and everything in its place. Get The Naked House: Five Principles for a Minimalist Home.

Naked House Interview: “I Lost Almost Everything in a Fire”

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Kurt Niziak is a software trainer and data analyst from Massachusetts.

Mollie: Have you ever significantly reorganized and decluttered your home? What led to the decision and what did you change?

Kurt: Yes, but not consciously. Instead, it somehow chose me!

Over a decade ago, my career and financial situation was vastly different. In fact, my own “personal paper route” (as I call it) was surprisingly easy. Financially, I was preparing myself for a life of moderate wealth. The bottom fell out, however, and I was forced to abide by a lifestyle which would be the antitheses of what I once thought I had.

In July of 2018, I had a major fire in my once well-furnished condo. I had stepped out of my home for a mere thirty-five minutes only to return and witness that almost all of what I had acquired over the years had vanished. I say the word almost because, my most important possession (my dog) was miraculously spared. (Thank God).

After the complete shock of losing almost everything had slowly worn off, I was surprised to feel an incredible sense of gratitude. I realized that as terrible as things were, at least my dog was okay. This horrific event proved to be the genesis of a priceless awakening. I began to understand that I really didn’t need many possessions in order to keep on living on a day-to-day basis. Material things somehow revealed themselves in their most generic form, serving as nothing more than distractions.

Mollie: What is your lifestyle like now?

Kurt: I suppose that I am a bit more grounded. I am cognizant about how we are all such insatiable consumers. I try instead to take better care of the things that I do have, rather than fantasizing about what I don’t have. Furthermore, before purchasing or storing anything, I think about whether I really need it.

We all are conditioned to believe that our lives can only improve via addition—as if we were painting a picture, adding more and more layers. Unfortunately, this approach seldom gets us the results we are looking for. Perhaps it’s a sculpture that we should be creating instead, our goal only arrived at via subtraction. We discard the pieces that are not necessary.

Mollie: Can you share a few specific tips for cleaning, organizing and simplifying a home?

Kurt: In his wonderful book 12 Rules of Life: An Antidote to Chaos, Jordan Peterson is quick to point out an approach towards minimalism which (at first look) appears rather benign. However, this simple concept has saved me, time and time again, from the shackles of a personal two- or three-day funk. Peterson states that one risks feeling depressed, anxious and powerless should they fail to keep their bedroom clean, or surroundings in order. Whenever I motivate myself to use this simple tactic, it has never failed to make me feel more balanced—more in control.

Cleaning, organizing, etc. are extremely powerful minimalist tools. They help combat feelings of chaos. If things are clean and in order, I have a better chance at having a more positive experience in the outside world. Physical clutter seems to muddle my brain and often prevents me from having any semblance of harmony. It is so simple, yet it seems to always have positive results.

Minimalism (to me) is not merely the act of owning less. It also leads to appreciating things more. It proves itself, time and time again, as a powerful life approach. All I know is that when I fail to encompass minimalism, I am at risk of feeling like nothing more than the proverbial hole of a doughnut.

I will say however, that my own personal happiness has neither significantly decreased nor increased over the years. It is just less complicated. One doesn’t end up wasting time fooling themselves into thinking that acquiring more will improve one’s life.

I do what I need to do in order to survive. I often (jokingly) say that I am just as miserable now, as I’ve always been. A bigger house, better car or more stuff will not enhance my life very much. These things might be nice to have but it becomes a fool’s errand to obsessively pursue. It’s just an example of victory through surrender.

A place for everything and everything in its place. Get The Naked House: Five Principles for a Minimalist Home.

Naked Interview: “My Car Is My Home and the World is My Bedroom”

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Nick D’Urso is a freewheeling AirBnB rental owner. He teaches people how to make their money work for them (rather than the other way around) at

Read my full interview with Nick and many others. Today is the last day to get the Kindle version of The Naked House for 99 cents on Amazon.

Mollie: Have you ever significantly minimized your possessions and simplified your life? Tell me the story.

Nick: In July 2019 I left my corporate job back home in Brooklyn, New York. I bought a car in Phoenix, Arizona to drive to Argentina. I pretty much left everything I owned except a few clothes, my laptop, a camera, and a drone. I built a bed in the back of the car and I have been living on the road ever since, camping at some of the most beautiful places in Mexico. I’m about to enter Belize.

My car is my home and the world is my bedroom.

Mollie: What did you buy along the way? Do you have good camping equipment?

Nick: I haven’t bought much. I bought a new suspension for the car and two front lower control arms. The car is old and I was worried about the rust and being stuck in a country with no parts if something happened. Other than that, I bought a cooler, folding chairs, and a BBQ. At some point I’ll have to buy winter clothes when I reach Argentina but I’ll tackle that when I get there. I also bought a new phone using Google Fi because it works in over 200 countries on their unlimited plan.

Mollie: How long do you plan to travel and what will you do after that?

Nick: Everyone asks me this question. Truthfully I’m planning this trip to find a place where I can build another AirBNB property close to the water so I can run scuba diving excursions. I don’t have a time limit. My goal is to travel around the entire world and it’s taken me 6 months to do all of Mexico. I promised my mom and dad I would spend Christmas with them in 2020. But other than that I don’t have a time limit.

Mollie: What led to this drastic change?

Nick: The thing that led me to this decision was being caught up in the humdrum of everyday corporate life living in New York City. I personally couldn’t take going to work every day to make money to spend at a bar on the weekends with friends, over and over again. I wanted to get more out of life.

Mollie: What do you want to get out of life?

Nick: I would like to teach people that money isn’t everything. It’s a vehicle to get you to where you want to be. We’re all taught that we need to go to school and get a job that pays well. Everyone wants a raise and to earn more money. But the truth is that you most likely make enough money and that money can actually make you more money but your habits prevent that. People look at my Instagram and ask me how I do this. I tell them I drive a ‘98 Chevy Blazer with a bed in it. You don’t need a lot of money to do what I’m doing; you just need to change your habits. And that’s the mark I want to leave. Money is great, but you don’t need to exchange time to earn more. Other than that I would say I just want to be happy and meet amazing people all around the world.

Mollie: What are your most prized beliefs regarding minimalist lifestyle—the ideas you most want to spread?

Nick: My most prized beliefs behind my minimalist lifestyle change is that it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks about you. I want to spread that to everyone around. With social media nowadays, most people seem to be in competition with people they don’t even know.

Naked Interview: “I Shed Tears Through the Process”

Mary Potter Kenyon is a grief counselor and the author of seven books, including Called to Be Creative and Refined By Fire: A Journey of Grief. She lives in Dubuque, Iowa. For more information, see

Read my full interview with Mary and many others. Get the Kindle version of The Naked House for 99 cents for the next three days on Amazon.

Mollie: Have you ever significantly reorganized and decluttered your home? What led to the decision and what did you change?

Mary: In April 2018, I was offered my dream job an hour from where I lived. I made the decision to sell the four-bedroom, two-story house where my husband David and I had raised the last four of our eight children. David had died in 2012 and my seventh child was poised to leave the nest, leaving me with one daughter and a huge house. Not only did I need to declutter in order to sell my house, the house I purchased in my new town was 760 square feet. I had to do some serious purging, with less than two months to do it.

I began by deciding which furniture could come with me, and my heart sank when I realized my four bookshelves, my huge solid oak desk and my mother’s kitchen table would not fit. The owner of the house I was buying agreed to leave a folding IKEA table in the kitchen, the only kind of table that worked. Two living room chairs would need to be sold. A beautiful closed cabinet that was filled with office supplies and photo albums. A kitchen shelf. The one thing I knew had to come with me was a shaker-style cabinet I’d inherited from my mother, but it would need to be emptied of some of her things to make room for the single shelf of books I would keep.

I went through closets of clothing. As I pulled things off hangers, I priced those I thought would sell. I even had a box of my husband’s shirts stashed away, which my sister Joan agreed to take off my hands and make into Christmas stockings for my children. I wasn’t just dealing with stuff, I was dealing with memories, and I shed tears through the process. I went through thousands of books. The first two boxes sold for $150 at a bookstore, alleviating the distress a little. By the time I held my first garage sale, I’d whittled down my possessions drastically. The most daunting task, though, was the paper: a file cabinet and a trunk filled with letters, college papers, photos, and even scrapbooks from high school. I handed my son a bag filled with twenty daybooks (daily diaries) to burn because I couldn’t bear to dispose of them myself.

After two garage sales, several trips to a thrift store, and even filling my front lawn with items I advertised for free on a local online giveaway board, I ended up with less than half my original possessions. By then, it felt freeing to have dealt with years of accumulated clutter—to have made decisions about which things meant the most and gave me pleasure and joy when I looked at them. I would come to regret only the loss of the desk and the daybooks.

While I no longer have a separate office, I do have my own space, a back room that spans the entire width of the house and serves as both bedroom and office. Everything in it was consciously chosen to survive the Great Purge of 2018. The bedroom portion is sparse: an end table and a twin bed topped with a mockingbird quilt that matches the curtains. Outside of a washer and dryer in the opposite far corner, the rest of the large room is designed around the comfy brown recliner my children gave me for Christmas. When I sit in it to write or read, I’m surrounded by things that bring a smile to my face.

There is the Shaker-style cabinet I inherited from my mother, filled with things I treasure: my collection of autographed books, a hand-blown glass turtle my son Michael made, a toy sheep from my childhood, and bricks my daughter Rachel painted to look like the covers of my books. My grandmother’s trunk is topped by one of Mom’s quilts and her hand-carved Saint Michael statue, his sword upraised in regal glory.

Walls are adorned with paintings by my mother and daughter Emily, along with photographs taken by my son Dan, one framed and another on canvas. A rustic wooden rack is attached to one wall, the wire baskets holding stationery and greeting cards. Wooden letters with the cover designs of my six books on another wall spell the word “writer,” handmade by my daughter Elizabeth. Finally, there’s a book-themed lamp atop an end table Katie painted to look like book spines. I love my smaller space.

Read my full interview with Mary and many more. Get the Kindle version of The Naked House for 99 cents for the next three days on Amazon.