December 18, 2010

What It Means to Go Too Far

If you have too many possessions or too many things to do, you know how easy it is to go too far. In principle, possessions and things to do are good to have, but you can end up with too many of them without knowing where they all came from. In the Shamanic Economist blog today, I write about what it means to go too far:

Going Too Far: Getting Past Minimizing and Maximizing

December 15, 2010

New Proof of the Power of Sleep

We have all observed that people look better after a full night of sleep. Now a research team has measured this scientifically. At BBC News: Beauty sleep concept is not a myth, says study.

The idea of people needing “beauty sleep” has acquired some scientific backing, according to a Swedish study. . . .

The authors wrote in their paper published in the British Medical Journal: “Sleep deprived people are perceived as less attractive, less healthy and more tired compared with when they are well rested.”

November 30, 2010

The Hassles of Law of Attraction

If you’ve heard anything about Law of Attraction, you’ve surely heard that what you focus on matters. You tend to get results you intend in the areas that you focus on. The areas you forget about, you tend to neglect, and your results are those of entropy rather than intention.

It is not just a matter of focus. Emotion matters also. When you feel strongly about something, it lends clarity and intensity to your thoughts, and this gives the thoughts more power. Thus, The Secret advises, “Feel good,” and Tony Robbins, “Live with passion.”

November 18, 2010

Gratitude for Desperados

In concerts this year, the Eagles are playing “Desperado” as their final song. It seems fitting. The song’s warning about the perils of seeking peace of mind in material things comes at a time when a lot of people are struggling, working harder than ideally they should, to control their material surroundings.

October 22, 2010

Patience in a World of Illusion

Progress doesn’t always come in neat, straight lines. It can be messy and look like a mistake when you come across it, but it doesn’t have to be criticized just because it hasn’t yet come together in a way that makes sense on the surface.


This is one of the threads that runs through the book Walking Through Illusion by Betsy Otter Thompson. This book imagines Jesus almost in the role of a self-improvement coach telling the life stories of the people around him. In every story, there is always something out of place or happening out of sequence. It seems easy to point to where the problem is — indeed, they are all familiar, everyday problems on the surface — but in each case, Walking Through Illusion suggests a gentler, less stressful way of looking at it.

October 16, 2010

Work and Resentment, or How to Manifest a Million Dollars

Most people feel some degree of resentment about the work they have to do. This is an emotional pattern that not only affects the way people approach work, but also their approach to money, to-do lists, and clutter.

October 08, 2010

Levi’s Studies the Costs of Owning Jeans

Most of the costs of owning things come after you purchase them. In Fear of Nothing and the Clutter Calculator I emphasize the cost of the space taken up by the possessions you keep because this is the simplest cost to look at. For many items, though, the greatest cost is the cost of cleaning. This is true, for example, of clothing that you wear regularly, such as socks, underwear, and especially, blue jeans.

October 01, 2010

The Exterminator Appointment

There were bugs hiding somewhere in the house. An appointment was made with an exterminator. And then they called me.

“You’ll want to be out of the house for about five hours after the exterminator is there,” I said. “And you can’t have any piles of anything on the floor. That would keep the insecticides from working — they wouldn’t reach the floor. It would give the bugs a place to hide.” A minute later, I was saying, “You’re going to need my help.”

August 30, 2010

The Changing Nature of Work, and Home

In his 2001 book The Future of Success, Robert Reich devotes most of a chapter to reasons why work is taking over our lives. If our financial fortunes have declined, we may have to choose between working longer hours and reducing our standard of living. Or, if we are prized, highly paid workers, the financial rewards for working more are higher than they ever been. In the meantime, for all workers, the sense of certainty about future income is less than it was a generation ago. If you have a job now, you might not have one at the end of the year. Or, if you have highly marketable skills, those skills might fade or become less important or less distinctive in just a few years. You have to make money while you can. Even if you are making plenty of money, you might have to maintain a fast pace of work just to keep your career on the fast track or keep up with your field.

At the same time, communication devices and channels make it easy for work to spill out of its usual place and time slot. Phone calls and e-mail go with you, if you choose, and you might very well choose to stay connected in order to not miss a chance to do some work, knowing how uncertain the future is.

August 19, 2010

The McMansion Is Dead

The McMansion is dead.

It doesn’t mean very much if I say that, but this is a CNBC writer saying it: “Death of the ‘McMansion’: Era of Huge Homes Is Over.” CNBC was right at the heart of the culture of financial excess that gave rise to so many oversized, poorly designed, often poorly constructed houses all over the United States and elsewhere, so when they say that trend is over, it means something.

August 14, 2010

The House Question

“Life’s too short to clean your own house,” was the headline on the brochure I got in the mail. In the parody you see to the left, I took this idea to the logical next step.

You see, there is a grain of truth in the original advertisement. If you can’t clean your house, it isn’t because cleaning is such hard work. It’s because you don’t have time. What this really means is that you’re not spending much time in the rooms of your house. Maybe you’re there, but you’re not really there — you’re on the phone, watching TV, checking on what your friends are doing online, or whatever, but too busy to really experience the room you’re in.

April 16, 2010

Scientific Evidence to Explain Why To-Do Lists Fail

A new scientific study lends credence to the idea that to-do lists don’t work. The study suggests that, when it comes to taking action and creating results, humans have two-track minds.

The study, “Divided Representation of Concurrent Goals in the Human Frontal Lobes,” summarized in the Ars Technica story “In multitasking, more than two tasks do not compute,” used brain scans to observe brain activity while people did two or more things at once, and when they switched tasks or were interrupted. The resulting picture is of a brain that has two areas for guiding tasks. They can work together, for focus on a single task, but more often they split up, with one focusing on one task, the other one focusing on a second task.

April 10, 2010

Graptitude and the Clutter-to-Riches Story

I coined a new word, “graptitude,” in a dream a few moments ago. It’s the word “gratitude” with the “p” transposed from “grasp” or “grip,” and it refers to the practice of feeling grateful for the objects in your immediate physical surroundings — the things that are close enough that you can touch them or pick them up in your hands.

This is an idea you might have picked up from The Secret or from the mass of movies and writing that surrounded that work, with the talk about an “attitude of gratitude” and the vision boards made up of pictures that represented a person’s future material surroundings. In keeping with the mystical approach of The Secret, though, it made no attempt to name most of the things it talked about. Graptitude was just one of dozens of ideas that would fall under the rubric of Low of Attraction.

And graptitude is one of the simplest demonstrations of Law of Attraction. If you feel good about the physical objects that are around you already, it becomes easier for you to collect the material possessions you really want. This works, as countless rags-to-riches stories attest, even if the physical objects you see when you start out aren’t your own possessions. It works even if the things around you don’t have any worldly value. It works because feeling good about material things makes it easier to own material things, including the things you ideally would like to own.

April 06, 2010

Why It’s So Hard to Use Up What You Have

A month ago in the Happiness Project blog, Gretchen Rubin wrote about her challenges with her resolution to “Use up what you have”:

And sometimes I find myself saving things instead of using them, even when that makes no sense. I buy new white t-shirts, then “save” them. I don’t use the lovely stationery my sister gave me for Christmas, I’m “saving” it. But not using things is the same as wasting them. I want to put things to work and use them up.

The difficulty with this, of course, is a matter of scale. If you have an ordinary amount of possessions, it is already more than you can possibly use up.

March 27, 2010

Earth Hour

Earth Hour is happening right now — tonight at 8:30 local time. It’s a collective action that probably 5 to 10 percent of the world’s population is participating in — shutting off their lights for one hour. It’s a way to save money on electricity and a chance to look at the night sky (weather permitting, of course).

Turning off the lights would seem to interfere with your usual activities, but since it’s only for an hour, it won’t really. If you’re like most people, there are so many things you have in mind to do that it won’t be any trouble at all to come up with an hour’s worth of things to do that don’t require lights in the evening.

To participate in Earth Hour, just turn out the lights for an hour starting at 8:30 p.m. local time. To see what this looks like in cities around the world, take a look at the pictures at the Earth Hour web site

March 13, 2010

“It’s Never About the Clutter”

A few days ago I had the chance to pick up and look at a book purporting to use ideas from personal organization to help people lose weight. This was a book that was released to great fanfare a few years ago, but it never caught on, and flipping through the pages, it was easy to see why.

March 10, 2010

Planning Is Guessing

The new book Rework might be about managing in big business, but what the authors have to say about planning applies just as well in any part of life. The authors don’t use the word suspense in the essay “Planning Is Guessing,” but they don’t have to:

March 07, 2010

Abundance Thinking vs. Fear of Nothing

Louise Hay’s new post “Clearing Your Clutter” is a nice summary of the major issues people face in addressing clutter: it’s easier to add than to take away; the energetic basis of clutter; the influence of thinking from the Great Depression (which affects all of us, whether we realize it or not).

Hay explains the issues surrounding clutter, but doesn’t offer an answer for it, beyond paying attention and remember to feel a sense of prosperity. It is a difficult answer because, if you’re like most people, spending time around clutter is enough to take away all your feelings of prosperity. How can you feel the wealth of the universe when you are stuck in the debris of your life?

This is why I suggest to people to address clutter only a few minutes at a time at first. You can get a few things taken care of before the focus on clutter drains away your feeling of abundance. But there is more to it than this.

March 04, 2010

The End of Closets Stuffed Full of Clothes

Last year’s biggest fashion trend, from my vantage point at least, was wearing the clothes of the year before. Most people, suffering from the financial pressure of a recession, didn’t buy any new clothes — but that doesn’t make it a fashion trend. What made it a fashion trend was that people who did buy new clothes mostly weren’t wearing them, preferring instead to follow the trend by wearing their slightly older clothes.

And this year? Simon Doonan, writing in the New York Observer, says this is “The End of Trends”: “Nobody is keeping score. All bets are off. Anything goes, even scrunch boots.”

March 01, 2010

How Big Is Hoarding?

Hoarding, holding on to possessions that do not advance a person’s life or that would be more valuable elsewhere, can have a huge impact on the life of an individual or a household — but how big is it in the world outside? It is bigger than you would think. Hoarding is so widespread that it can move the world’s largest national economy. As I wrote in my Shamanic Economist blog today, hoarding by businesses was so big in the fourth quarter of 2009 that it gave the worst recession in recent U.S. history the appearance of a recovery for that quarter.

Economic recovery sounds like a good thing, but it is a tragedy when thousands of businesses are spending billions of dollars on things that they can only store for later, and ultimately throw away at additional expense. Yet in the United States, we are all part of a culture of hoarding. It is part of the pre-industrial mindset that comes to us from the 19th century, and most of the time, we are not even aware of the ways the hoarding mentality colors our thinking. What is needed is a shift in emphasis from preserving the value of things, as important as that is, to maximizing our ability to work, which is ultimately what will deliver our success.

We can all be part of the solution by making this shift in our individual lives. If you are thinking of buying something that you realistically may never have the chance to use, let it pass. Focus instead on acquiring the things you need for what you are doing right now — the things that will improve your ability to deliver immediate results. Clear away clutter and give yourself more room to work. Shorten your to-do list so that you can take more immediate action. This all sounds terribly mundane until you start doing it, and then you realize: the shift in emphasis from things to action is a shift potentially big enough to change everything.

January 18, 2010

Picking Up After a Failed New Year’s Resolution

January is half over. The year is 1/24 gone. Enough time has gone by for me to forget my new year’s resolution (embarrassing, but true). Others have given up — life is too busy and will power is not enough to accomplish the transformations they were hoping for.