beige and black chair in front of white desk

There’s more to paring down a life than getting rid of possessions and balancing the checkbook on a schedule, I’m realizing.

The living simple movement, at its core, is about focusing on the inner life as well as the outer environment. In the book Slow: Simple Living for a Frantic World,’     author Brooke McAlary punches holes in the myth that simple living means wearing hemp clothing, growing vegetables and eschewing television. Instead, she suggests ways to find a life of meaning and value in an overstimulated world.

Decluttering a life takes time. And it’s ongoing! It’s so easy to pile up more stuff, add more activities, goals and expectations. Journaling is a good way to keep tabs on how I’m doing to keep my life balanced.

 Exercise: Begin a page with the sentence, ‘To me, simple living means . . . ” Compare what you’ve written with the life you’re now living.

Inspiration, Revelation and Illumination

person holding white light bulb beside black bulb socket

Ever been in one of those negative thought spirals that is annoyingly persistent?

Me, too.

Journaling about this the other day, I remembered a favorite affirmation from New Thought teacher Florence Scovel Shinn.

“Thou in me art inspiration, revelation and illumination.”

Hmm. Thought I would try it. I wrote the affirmation, then continued to reflect on it throughout the day. Sort of like chanting. When my thoughts strayed, I returned to the affirmation. Amazingly, this is really working. Already I feel calmer, more centered and definitely more positive and peaceful.

Exercise: When a negative frame of mind is hard to shake, try writing out this affirmation, then continue writing on what it means to you.

Favorite Designs

macro shot of red and yellow flower

A design that crops up again and again for me is the fleur de lis (flower of the lily). In the art journaling world, creating pages around a favorite design is an intriguing way to explore symbols that are meaningful to us.

I finished a stamping project recently that featured a fleur de lis and that prompted me to look up the meaning of the symbol, which is purity, royalty and chastity. The lily shape is also associated with the Virgin.

My guess is that this hearkens back to my Catholic childhood, because the fleur de lis is associated with many Catholic saints. In school, nuns dished out holy cards as rewards for good grades. So completing a project with this design brings me back to that feeling of job well done. It’s funny how symbols define many parts of our personality.

Exercise: In your next journaling time, consider a shape or symbol that you tend to use in your home environment. What is that design’s appeal? Write a page about this, or consider making an art journal page using the symbol.


Going to the Hardware Store for Bread

baked bread breakfast buns

I’m not the handiest of folks, but I know enough about Home Depot to realize they don’t stock groceries on the shelves. So if I need bread or milk, I go to the grocery store.

The emotionally needy people I know aren’t the best choices for processing my own feelings. They have enough going on already.  They’re still in my life because they have other fine qualities. Maybe I don’t see them as often as my other friends, but I value them just as they are.

Learning to accept people for what they are, and not forcing our needs upon those who cannot meet them, is a big ask.

I still slip in this area occasionally, and it helps to remind myself of this little analogy.

Exercise: Choose a person in your life who has disappointed or misunderstood you. Have you been going to their hardware store for bread? Write a page about this.

What’s Today’s Color?

close up of tree against sky

I’m feeling green today.

Not with envy, but with a sense of growth and healing. It’s Spring, and I’m seeing new growth everywhere. An art teacher I had long ago told me that there are more shades of green in nature than any other color. To me, that means growth occurs in stages and the colors change as the stages progress.

Today’s color is a fun topic for journaling. Like music, color bypasses the logical mind and speaks to the emotions. We make choices based on color instinct. Yellow, for instance, means sunniness and optimism, but also is the color of the mind and intellect. Blue indicates peace, while red is passion. Another of my favorite colors, orange, symbolizes enthusiasm.

So what’s your color today?

Exercise: What color comes to mind when you think of the day ahead? (Or, if you’re writing at night, choose the color that corresponds with the day you’ve had). Did the day feel calm and blue, a bit frantic with dramatic red, full of imagination with lively purple?

Hummingbird Syndrome

animal avian beak bird

Ever feel like a hummingbird, flitting from one thing to the next and never really being “there?”

There’s so much to experience in this world – literally or via a screen – that it can be tempting to want to sample it all. Media, of course, helps us with this by offering yet another way to escape the present moment.

Like everyone else, I find it hard to stay where my feet are. Journaling helps with this because I find when I write, I am focused in the now. The present moment is usually pretty simple.

Exercise:   Head a sheet of paper ‘Multitasking,’ and write about how you multi tasked today; the what, when, where and why of it. No need to change or judge, just be aware.


nature summer yellow animal

‘What you are screams so loudly I cannot hear what you are saying.’ – Ralph Waldo Emerson

A lion’s roar can be heard for up to five miles; a tiger’s for up to ten.

In the animal kingdom, a statement of identity is pretty clear. With humans, not so much.

I think we all keep some pretty good traits buried under layers of self justification, fear and a sense of inadequacy. Most of us don’t want to be seen as too big for our britches, but hiding our better selves doesn’t serve anyone. Marianne Williamson once said that it’s not our darkness we fear, but the very great light that is within us.

Journaling is a good way to get in touch with our own unique qualities – some ways that we could roar – that could be expressed just a little bit more.

Exercise: Take a blank page, and title it ‘Strengths I Know I Have,’ and freewrite for 15 minutes. Consider your list; how could these traits be put into use in daily life?