Simplicity Now

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You Can’t Force Simplicity


“You can’t force simplicity;
but you can invite it in
by finding as much richness as possible
in the few things at hand.
Simplicity doesn’t mean meagerness
but rather a certain kind of richness,
the fullness that appears
when we stop stuffing the world with things.”
–Thomas Moore

Written by Shirley | Filed Under Inspirational Life


posted Apr 23, 2012, 6:08 AM by Dawn Mogren   [ updated Oct 14, 2013, 5:25 PM by Roger Twitchell ]

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Most people are mirrors, reflecting the moods and emotions of the times; few are windows, bringing light to bear on the dark corners where troubles fester. The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows. -Sydney J. Harris, journalist and author (1917-1986)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Yes, Polarity

Profess Perfection and  practice Imperfection .
   Desire Solitude but pursue Chaos.
      Explore the Truth and except the Mystery .
        Study Simplicity but often live Duplicity .
          In my Heart  I  know but two Truths ;
           The constancy  of  change and
            The  Wisdom  of  the  Soul's Choices. 
composed  by me  06/2011          

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Slow Gardening Manifesto

posted Feb 15, 2012, 7:34 AM by Dawn Mogren

Downshifting Means...

posted Jan 10, 2012, 6:54 AM by Dawn Mogren   [ updated Oct 4, 2013, 6:25 AM by Roger Twitchell ]

Downshifting means:

   * conscious  choices
   * leaving the material mind set
   * move to sustainability
   * edit all aspects of your life
   * DIY (do it yourself)
   * living green
   * changes in lifestyle ( food ,health care, etc.)
   * live below your means, and
   * be creative and inventive.


Posted by Tao Simple at 6:36 AM 0 comments

The Domino Effect of Simple Living

posted Jan 2, 2012, 6:12 AM by Dawn Mogren   [ updated Oct 4, 2013, 6:20 AM by Roger Twitchell ]

The Domino Effect of Simple Living

by guest

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Faith Janes of Minimalist at Home.

“Change begets change.” - Charles Dickens

Living simply is not very simple at all in the beginning. Making tough decisions and staying motivated is a big challenge. If you stay focused and keep making an effort, you’ll find that each step that follows comes more easily than the one before.

Simple living is the absence of excess. Many consider minimalism and simple living to be focused on possessions. While that is a very practical starting point, the decision to eliminate excess will naturally spill over into other areas of life.

  • Eliminating excess possessions leads to a decluttered home.
  • Eliminating outside obligations leads to a calmer schedule and more family time.
  • Eliminating poor eating habits leads to healthier living.
  • Eliminating mindless spending leads to escaping debt and building a better financial future.

Simple living does not imply simple choices. It requires a level of awareness grounded in your personal values. You must establish your priorities and judge each choice to be made according to those priorities. As you begin to ask yourself why something is important to you you’ll become more aware of why you make certain choices. That greater sense of awareness will give you a guide to measure all of your future decisions.

Pretty soon simplicity becomes second nature. The domino effect of simple living takes over and you’ll be amazed where it can lead.

  • Cleaning out your closets –> leads to utilizing a smaller wardrobe more effectively
  • Using a smaller wardrobe more effectively –> leads to making fewer purchases
  • Making fewer purchases –> leads to saving more of your money
  • Saving more of your money –> leads to getting out of debt
  • Getting out of debt –> leads to less financial stress
  • Less financial stress –> leads to greater personal freedom
  • Greater personal freedom –> leads to more time to pursue your dreams
  • Time to pursue your dreams –> leads to increased happiness and personal fulfillment.

In some circumstances, the domino effect will lead to personal change. At other times, the effects will radiate outward and touch the lives of those around you.

A single domino or a single decision may not seem impressive by itself. But combined with the next and then the next, the effect can be life changing.


This is a Special New Year Wish !

posted Dec 30, 2011, 5:46 AM by Dawn Mogren

Reward Yourself with Time and Creativity in the New Year

by Wendy Philleo, December 19, 2011 at 2:49pm

It’s that time of year! A lot of people can’t stand New Year’s resolutions, but I enjoy thinking about all the possibilities when a fresh year lies ahead. Nothing has been delayed, tarnished, or spoiled, and it’s a time to reflect, dream, and plan. Below are my ideas for indulging myself with both time and creativity in the new year:

Quieting the mind

My father used to spend months at a time in silent meditative retreat. Yes, that’s correct—months at a time. So you’d think I might be able to meditate for a mere 15 minutes a few mornings a week. But so far, this has been an elusive goal for me, which is why it’s back on my list this year. After all, meditation changes your brain, and I think it’s important to press "pause" on the busyness of our minds.

The idea of contemplation or reflection (how can you not like those words?) seems like such an important part of being truly conscious in your day-to-day life. But it’s not easy to meditate—at least for me! Yet I’ve also come to realize that I find meditative peace in other ways than just sitting still. Running for long periods or finding uninterrupted time to draw can take me to a space that truly quiets the mind. Perhaps social support would help me if I joined a weekly meditation group.

Embracing the local

I find that a great way to newly appreciate where you live is by putting on a visitor’s hat with full gusto and doing the activities you’d do if your best friend was in town for a week—like going to that art museum you’ve been meaning to visit, taking that buggy ride around town, or using the new outdoor skating rink. Then, put on your “insider’s” hat and go do the things that might seem slightly intimidating but have always intrigued you, such as exploring your local art and musical talents.

I just went to a $15 one-woman show by Denise Stewart, Dirty Barbie and Other Childhood Tales, at our local theater in Charlottesville, VA. It was wonderful and inspired me to commit to seeing more live shows in 2012. Why not go to the open mike night you’ve always heard about? Or see what the city is offering. We recently stumbled across free rollerskating every weekend afternoon and became regulars for a few months—our kids loved it!

Finding time

We talk about time a lot at New Dream, especially about the importance of getting off the overwork-overspend-overconsume treadmill (as well as advocating for a shorter work week, flexible schedules, and more vacation and paid leave). It’s a topic I’m constantly drawn to because it’s something that everyone can relate to and that can dramatically affect your quality of life. Recently, I found more inspiration on this issue from an unusual source.

I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I picked up the 4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss (it seemed like such a marketing ploy, which it is), but there were plenty of useful tips in the book. And I found a lot of common ground with the themes of New Dream. For example, Ferriss is all about ways to live more, work less, and follow your passion. I appreciated this quote in particular: “One cannot be free from the stresses of a speed-and-size obsessed culture until you are free from the materialistic addictions, time-famine mindset and comparative impulses that created it in the first place.“

Ferriss talks about the need to replace the perception of time famine with an appreciation of time abundance. He observes that a lack of time is often actually a lack of priorities, and that doing less (i.e., being selective) is the path to more productivity and enjoyment. Two recommendations that I’ll be spending more time on next year are reducing the time I spend on e-mail, checking it only at certain times of the day to reduce distraction and enable longer periods of focus, and going on periodic “media fasts” to recognize and limit how much time I’m spending consuming TV, Internet, and other media.


Sometimes there are little things that just feel like a triumph and tiny protest against cheap mass production, like learning how to make bread, knit a hat, or darn a sock. It’s almost a daily occurrence in our house that my daughter and I search in vain for a sock without a hole (not to mention one with a match, but luckily she still doesn’t mind wearing mismatched socks). My first thought usually is, my daughter needs new socks, but really, she just needs mended socks!

Yes, it’s a teeny tiny step but it will feel so good! So in the new year, I’m going to set aside one night or so a month to do these small things. It’ll be the night when, instead of seeking out my book for relaxation, I’ll take out that box of holey socks and put on a podcast of David Sedaris or Terri Gross or This American Life and darn a sock for the first time in my life.


I like the idea of getting outside your comfort zone and experimenting with new things that may be wildly impractical to your daily life. Think of Steve Jobs’s experience of taking a calligraphy class at Reed College—at first glance, not a lot of real-life application, but what he learned in that class ended up having a huge impact on how the Mac was developed. A new class or workshop, especially if it’s outside your normal realm, can make you see things differently and may tap into excitement to learn again, or open your eyes to entire mini-systems orbiting in your backyard that you knew nothing about. Maybe it’s a huge DIY community of homebrewers, or perhaps an improv class or even a trapeze class (yes, in a few big cities you can do this). Just find something that tickles your fancy or scares the hell out of you! Hmm…what am I going to sign up for? Still thinking about it!

Taking a stand

Tired of politics, corporate dominance, awful school food, bottled water, littering, mountaintop removal—or whatever really irks you? Then do something about it! Take a small step, but do something that matters. Do more than just write an e-mail—go to your next city council meeting, go to a creek cleanup, organize a trash pickup, give a screening on mountaintop removal, join or create a city food council, join an Occupy protest, create a buy-local campaign, start an energy savings club. Get together with your neighbors and talk about what’s possible. (See our Collaborative Communities program for ideas and keep a look out for our new toolkit on Sharing Resources—the first chapter of our Community Action Kit coming out in early spring.)

Reconnecting to nature

You know how good it feels when you’re out on a walk or hike and the sun is streaming through the leaves, and the air is clear and sharp and you’re just so glad to be outside—and you think, why don’t I do this more often? Indeed, why not? I want to take more frequent walks at parks closer to home, but then also plan for longer hikes. Schedule that time—a day a month where you go on a longer hike and get farther away from the hustle-and-bustle of everyday life. Go with friends, take a family hike—put it on the calendar now before it gets too busy. Nature reawakens your spirit like nothing else can. And it’s only when we step outside our everyday lives that we can see what’s really important and what’s not. 

Resisting over-shopping

There are three strategies I employ when I feel like I want to buy things that I don’t need but just really want. First, I tell myself I can’t buy anything new until I clean out/re-organize my closet—well, that usually kills the desire right there, since I don’t often have the time or energy to do this. But then when I do clean out or organize my closet, I realize I have plenty of clothing, and I’m so happy I’ve cleaned my closet that I no longer feel a desire to buy new items. 

My second strategy is to get off as many catalog lists as possible so they don’t pile up by the door (we use Catalog Choice, but there are other ways to take action). But when I do get a catalog that I like, I look through it and rip out whatever it is I want to buy and put the ripped pages in a folder in my office marked “Shopping.” For some reason, this is satisfying in-and-of-itself. Then, if I still really want the items weeks or months later, I can look in the folder and reassess—although at that point I usually don’t want them. And if I do, then I tell myself I can’t order those things until I clean out my closet...and so it goes!

My third strategy is to organize a swap, most often a book swap. I really like to buy books—there’s nothing I like better than a stack of new books. So when I’m feeling drawn to the bookstore, I e-mail a bunch of friends that I’m having a book swap the following week, and to come on over. Everyone brings books and leaves with books, without a penny dropped. I also realized recently that I can check out magazines at my local library. I’m a magazine junkie, so this was a big discovery for me! Now, I can get a huge pile of magazines—from Harpers and The New Yorker to People and Vanity Fair (no guilt—they’re free!)—so I can sit with my cup of tea and bowl of popcorn and feel incredibly indulgent with my comforting stack of new reads next to me. 

All in all, not a bad way to start off the new year.

Wendy Philleo is Executive Director of the Center for a New American Dream.

Old Time Wisdom , Adundance through farming

posted Dec 27, 2011, 7:01 AM by Dawn Mogren

Old Time Wisdom , Adundance through farming

This story is from Donna L. Pellegrin, as told to her by Erma Lee Oliver Pellegrin and submitted as part of our Wisdom From Our Elders collection of self-sufficient tales from yesteryear. Homemade Provolone
Nothing Went to Waste
Whenever my mother hears John Denver’s famous lyrics, “Country Roads take me home,” it brings up vivid pictures in her mind of the 40-acre farm in Viropa, West Virginia, where she and her family not only survived the Great Depression but flourished through it. My mother, Erma Lee Oliver Pellegrin, the youngest of ten children, was born on the farm in 1930. She is the last surviving member of the Oliver family. She looks back on the farm with a sense of nostalgic pride. “My father had a gift.” she recalls, “He could grow anything.” And indeed he did.
My grandfather, Jim Oliver, once known as Giovanni Battista Oliverio, was an Italian immigrant. He spent his youth doing farm work on the rocky hillsides of Calabria where a day’s wages might be a tub of ricotta cheese. When my grandfather’s work ethic and knowhow met the fertile soil of West Virginia, the land produced in abundance, “pressed down, shaken together and running over,” as in Luke 6:38.
On the farm, there were apple trees, pear trees, grape vines, a strawberry patch, a corn field and about an acre where my grandfather cultivated an exceptional variety of vegetables and herbs. Near the farmhouse was a special garden where he grew his prized tomato plants. Seeds from the best plants were saved every year for future harvests. Decorating the fringe were my grandmother’s flowers. Gladiolas, zinnias, marigolds, portulaca and masses of purple petunias provided beauty and romance both outdoors and inside the house.
My grandmother, who was my mother’s namesake, brought from Italy the skills that would make her an exceptional farmer’s wife. My mother reflects on her own mother, “She could have a feast on the table in two hours.” As the farm had no phone, a carload of relatives could show up unexpectedly and stay for days. “When a car pulled up, she would send one of the boys to wring a chicken’s neck and send one of us girls to gather from the garden and in no time at all the table was set with chicken, fried with peppers and potatoes; corn on the cob; pasta; greens and every kind of vegetable you could imagine.”
It was my grandmother who made the butter and the homemade cheeses on the farm. In a large tub on an old stove in her wash house she would stir the milk and vinegar mixture until the cheese curdled up and separated. A tin can with holes in the bottom was employed as a strainer. She made ricotta, mozzarella and provolone that hung from the ceiling to age. It was also my grandmother who was in charge of canning. Any fruits or vegetables that were not immediately eaten were canned and stored for winter or made into wine. In times of drought the previous year’s surplus was a godsend.
My mother often points out that the farm was a place where resources were blessings and nothing went to waste. The cows and chickens were mostly fed from the food that was grown on the farm, and in turn their manure was collected and used to fertilize crops. If any feed was purchased, the colorful cotton feed sacks were used for girl’s dresses. White cotton flour sacks were embroidered and either used for pillow cases and dish towels, or sewn together for use as sheets. All fabric remnants were used to make the beautiful quilts that covered the beds. Old bread, corn cobs, apple cores, and other kitchen scraps were fed to the hogs. Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs were recycled in the outhouse. There was no garbage pick-up on the farm and little need for it.
When a hog was butchered, all parts of the animal were put to use. My grandfather stored the hams, bacon and other cuts in the smokehouse while my grandmother ground the sausage and stuffed it into casings made with the hog’s own intestines. The feet were pickled in jars, the stomach was prepared as tripe and the fat was boiled to make soap. Even the pig bladder had a purpose. My mother laughs, remembering from her childhood, “I would hang around until someone would clean the bladder and blow it up for me. It made a great ball.”
The Oliver family also made use of all that grew wild on the farm. From early spring, dandelions, pokes, purslane, watercress and mustard greens were all picked and eaten in salads. Sassafras root was collected for tea. Walnuts, hickory nuts, blackberries and pawpaws were gathered in the fall, along with mushrooms in such abundance that my grandmother would can them. The wooded area was a place my grandfather took his boys to hunt for squirrel, quail and rabbit, and if anyone came across a turtle, there was turtle soup for dinner.
The Great Depression had no effect on the bounty from the farm, which was not only sufficient to feed the Oliver family, but many others as well. Cousins came to the farm regularly, sometimes for entire summers. The owner of the farm, a prosperous relative who lived in the nearby town, came each day for his family’s portion of fresh milk, eggs and produce. Also, the occasional stranger, desperate for a meal, would stop by and ask for food. Some of these men would be so grateful they would offer to do work on the farm as payment.
Eventually, when my grandparents grew older and many of their children moved away, they decided to move off the farm to a house on a plot of land closer to town. My grandparents, however, were not about to turn their backs on the lifestyle that had sustained them for so long. They brought the cow and the chickens with them and planted a large garden that produced enough each year to keep them well fed for the rest of their lives.
Note: Parts of this article are from the family history of the author, which will be published at a future date.
Photo Credit: Fotolia/ Ruggiero.S.: Provolone cheese for curing.

Please send email submissions to with the subject line "Elder Wisdom" or send

Homestead Skills from Days Gone By

posted Dec 27, 2011, 6:43 AM by Dawn Mogren   [ updated Oct 4, 2013, 6:37 AM by Roger Twitchell ]

From Mother Earth News, letters submitted as part of their Wisdom From Our Elders collection of self-sufficient tales from yesteryear:

Making sorghum during WWII rationing:

Winfred During the Depression:

A New England Homestead:

Mother Earth News search returns page for "Homestead Skills from Days Gone By":

Make Your 12 Days of Christmas More Green

posted Dec 21, 2011, 6:54 AM by Dawn Mogren   [ updated Oct 3, 2013, 6:35 PM by Roger Twitchell ]

Make Your 12 Days of Christmas More Green

by Farmers' Almanac Staff | Monday, December 8th, 2008 | From: Featured, Home and Garden

Make Your 12 Days of Christmas More Green

While the twelve days of Christmas may bring much joy and happiness, lots more garbage is generated in the process. Some studies suggest that 20% more waste is generated during the holidays than any other time of the year. But that doesn’t have to be the case.

“With more Americans concerned about preserving the environment, a ‘green Christmas,’ rather than a ‘white’ one, is becoming top-of-mind for many this holiday season,” says Tommy Linstroth, a sustainable expert for the national public television show, Farmers’ Almanac TV. “Many consumers are realizing that some of the extras they’re purchasing are just filling up landfills, so they are looking for ways to make their holidays more earth-friendly.”

To help make your 12 days of Christmas more environmentally sensitive, try these 12 “green” tips and hints from Farmers’ Almanac TV and Farmers’ Almanac, one of the nation’s oldest brands promoting resourceful and sustainable living.

12. Get Energy Saving Lights. When decorating the house and tree, buy strings of LED lights, which look the same as conventional incandescent bulbs, but last longer and use 80 to 90 percent less energy. Plus, they put off much less heat, so you won’t burn your fingers if you touch a bulb.

11. Point Out Both The Trash and Recycling Bins. When your holiday guests come over, make sure you point out where the recycling bins are – and insist that they use them.

10. Make Compost From Your Tree. Instead of tossing your holiday tree out on the curb for the garbage service to take, find out where you can have it chipped up for mulch or compost. Or, you can purchase a living tree that can be planted outside after the holidays are over.

9. Gift CFLs. For the man or woman who has everything, try gifting a pack of compact fluorescent light bulbs. Most people say they’ll switch to these energy-saving bulbs once their current ones run out. So why not save them a trip to the store?

8. Recycle Office Paper for Packing Filler .
Don’t bother with expensive packing material for those fragile gifts. Instead, try using paper from an electric shredder as filler.

7. Send the Very Best with E-Mail . Stay in touch with friends and family with an e-card or personalized e-mail this holiday season. They will appreciate your thoughtfulness and appreciate your concern for sparing the trees.

6. Microwaves Save Energy. Cooking a big holiday dinner? Use the microwave or pressure cooker whenever possible. These appliances cut the cooking time and save energy.

5. Recycle Last Year’s Cards for Stickers. Use last years cards to create “to” and “from” stickers. Just cut out pictures of cherubs, angels, trees, religious motifs, snow scenes, etc. from last year’s holiday cards and write the names of the giver and receiver. Then glue or tape to your packages.

4. Gift Recipes, Dress-up Clothes, and Other Recycled Products. Instead of buying something new, think about recycling things that have value to the recipient. Compile a book of favorite recipes for the cook on your list, or create a box of dress-up clothes for young kids.

3. Go Organic. Cooking a Christmas bird or steak? Be sure to choose organic foods for your holiday dinner. Organic, free-range fowl and grass-fed beef is easier on the environment, and your dinner will taste spectacular!

2. Use Paper Bags for Gift Wrap. Wrapping paper doesn’t have to come in rolls! Dressed up brown paper bags, or even newspaper, make fine wrapping paper, and most people are more concerned with what’s inside than what’s on the paper!

1. Break Out the Good Stuff. Entertaining guests? Use metal flatware and real glasses and dishes rather than disposable options. They look better, your guests will appreciate it, and you’re not creating any waste in the landfill.

Bored? Don't Go Shopping!

posted Dec 6, 2011, 9:21 AM by Dawn Mogren   [ updated Oct 4, 2013, 1:26 PM by Roger Twitchell ]

Bored?  Don't Go Shopping!

Find something to do that doesn't involve money.

       INSTEAD: Play cards, a board games with freainds and family. A new board game called 'Settlers of Catan' and 'Ticket to Ride' are quite interesting.
       INSTEAD: Read or re read to yourself or someone else or a group . Discuss as you go along.
       INSTEAD: Thorughly clean/declutter a room or the garage. (Oh, you are so lucky to have a home).
        INSTEAD: Make  a pantry meal or Use It Up recipe
        INSTEAD: Make simple homemade gifts.

Ideas for handmade gifts

Small knitteds - gloves, scarves, hot water bottle covers, hats, tea cosies, phone covers, little toys,,cushion covers, bags. Some of these can be felted/fulled for extra interest.

Edibles - chutneys and jams, pickles, nice teas in a vintage/retro tin, sweeties, toffees, mustard, home made wine and liqueurs, home dried fruits, ketchups.

For the home - trimmed tea towels, handknitted dishcloths, quilted wallhangings, small samplers, restored picture frames, pot pourri, lavender bags, covered coathangers, little scented bags for hanging on handles, framed photos of family,etc you've taken yourself, pincushion,needle book, scissor keeper, book of promises (eg babysitting, 1 hour's housework, the ironing, etc)

Bathtime - homemade soap, bath oils, bath salts, knitted washcloths, herbal bags for the bath, hand sewn toilet bags, trimmed hand towels, homemade lotions and potions packed in pretty jars and bottles.

For the garden - home saved seed in handmade decorated packets; homemade handcream, exfoliating soap, wheat bag for those digger's aches and pains!

Handmade books, personalised printed notepaper and envelopes.

Hamper of bits and bobs from the above lists, packed in a pretty lined basket.

INSTEAD: Have a Craft and homemade pizza Social  . Idea for pizzas; fruit, savory, veggie, etc.

Just some ideas.

And some other anti-boredom ideas...

And of course you weather allowing you could go out and have a really nice bike ride, with others or alone, it's good either way.

If you have a camera, any camera, take time out for nature photography possibly just in your own yard/garden/neighborhood if desired.  If you don't have a camera, just carefully observe what's going on out there for awhile.

Spending time up close and personal with nature helps you stay in tune with nature however you do it.

And some thoughts on resisting an urge to buy yet more stuff...

One can look through catalogs, go people watching in a mall, whatever, and notice that a wonderful somethingorother is being sold for only $x.  One can then simply be grateful that a thing such as that wonderful somethingorother is being sold for only $x, and thus leave the sight of the wonderful somethingorother filled with joy that it's being sold for only $x.

The fact that it's being sold for only $x doesn't also mean you have to have one, but only that it is being sold for $x.  Nothing more.  And then when you leave, not only will you still have $x, you will also have the joy in you that that wonderful somethingorother is costing so relatively little, which is certainly enough.



New yarn from old sweaters

posted Nov 30, 2011, 9:14 AM by Dawn Mogren

.   Neat article on  recylcing old items to new yarn .  BE FRUGAL AND HAVE FUN.

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