The Virtue Game: Play Along at Home

Now it’s your turn!

Here’s how it is going to work: I am going to list sixty-some-odd virtues. You are going to read through the list and see which words get a reaction out of you. Which words do you confidently gloss past? Which words cause you to cringe a little bit? If you want to get really serious about it, for each virtue rate yourself on a scale from 1-10, 10 being that you are Mother Theresa-level virtuous, 1 being you are a depraved ingrate. (Please know I am kidding, please know I am kidding, please know I am kidding.)

As you peruse this list, you might find that some of these virtues mean exactly the same thing to you. If that happens, then skip the doubles. My philosopher husband and I defined them each as something different, but that does not make our definitions correct. Whatever the words mean to you is entirely valid. If some of them are too spiritual or religious-y for you, then skip them, too.

Remember, this list was originally intended as a blueprint for how we wanted to raise our children, not as an indictment of us as people. Low scores do not make us bad people, they make us human. Same is true for you. Low scores indicate that you are self-aware. (Self-awareness is not on my list, but Lucidity is. Rate yourself accordingly, my friend!)

Ready? Let’s do this, you depraved ingrate. (Please know I am kidding, please know I am kidding.)

The Virtue Game:







Brotherly Love
































































































I know it’s not fun to examine our faults. Believe me, I know. But I think that there is such a great benefit to doing it–it is so liberating to be authentic and honest with ourselves about it, that the discomfort is totally worth it.

Hopefully a few of the bottom feeders on your little quiz will become swiftly apparent. As you look at that list, does it evoke any specific memories for you? Can you imagine what it would look like for that virtue to be a 6 rather than a 2? What would have to change in your life for that to happen?

Episode 54: Shopping Hiatus Sing With Your Feet

Talking points: Breaking the cycle of shopping addiction; contentment hunting; being a good steward; the Dopamine Loop; finding motivation to stop shopping. A big thank you to Seven Productions here in Mulhouse France for the use of the song La Joie as the intro and outro to the show, as well as Matt Kugler, whose new album Aventura is out now on all the digital music platforms, who sang it and to Claude Ekwe, who wrote it.
  1. Episode 54: Shopping Hiatus
  2. Episode 53: Curbing Our Impulses
  3. Episode 52: What Should I Wear?
  4. Episode 51: Wardrobe Choices
  5. Episode 50: Decluttering Your Closet

The Funeral Singer

Virtue is such an unsexy topic.

The word virtue brings to mind images of Mother Theresa, Joan of Arc and, for some inexplicable reason, the Salem Witch Trials. Not one of these images evokes any sparkling, dizzying idea of happiness.

I wish that it were as fun to talk about contentment, virtue, happiness as it is to gossip about more salaciously stimulating topics. Facing our shortfalls against an ideal is definitely not exciting, although it can be salacious at times.

And yet I will argue that virtue, or at least, the pursuit of virtue, is what can move us forward most forcefully the Contentment Continuum.

After almost four years of steadily chipping away at how I want virtue to look in my own life, and even more importantly, how I want my children to remember me, I think I can say that pursuing virtue has made my life more contented.

The Funeral Singer

I go to a lot of funerals. I am not a mortician or a pastor, but funerals are my side gig. I’ll sing anything you want me to: from Mozart to the Beatles. It happened by accident and has turned into being a two-to-ten gigs a month side job.

The first time my boys were old enough to ask where I was going all dressed up, death wasn’t on their radar yet. It happened that I was singing that day at the funeral of a woman I knew rather well named Suzanne. I told the boys that I was going to a party to celebrate Suzanne’s life.

Suzanne never married, never had children. Yet hundreds of people were at her goodbye party. Suzanne was the most abruptly honest, most generous, most stylish woman I had the pleasure of knowing. I will never forget the endless line of people with anecdotes about What Suzanne had meant to them.

That day, as I sat in my car weeping about how Suzanne had encouraged me through a tough time in my professional life, I started to think about what I would want said at my own funeral. Specifically, what I wanted those scalawags to say.

I definitely wanted to be remembered like Suzanne. I wanted there not to be enough minutes in the day for people to recount anecdotes of how I made their lives better. The more I thought about Suzanne, the more I realized that she epitomized the virtues that I was lacking so fiercely.

Suzanne was generous and faithfully so, brutally honest yet loving, organized but flexible, wise with a sharp wit, lucid about her looks and knew how to dress so that she always looked amazing.

Making it real

This put the fire in me to start pursuing the virtues the indulgent husband and I had laid out in earnest. It felt urgent. I needed to start becoming more virtuous now so that my boys would start having anecdotes to tell at my funeral!

The husband had made cards, back when we had literally nothing better to do with our time, with each of the sixty some-odd virtues printed on them. I took them out from where we had been hiding them from the scalawags, who liked to play with them as one plays Sixty-Some-Odd-Pick-Up.

I set about trying to make virtue sexy.

Leggy photo of unsexy virtue

A Happiness Project: Not for glassy-eyed newlyweds

There was one quote in The Happiness Project which intrigued me more than any other. I did not write it down, shame on me, and since it was a library book I no longer have it. However, the gist of the quote was this: According to Aristotle, a virtuous life is a happy life. (Here is a link to a really great overview of Aristotle’s take on happiness, in case this intrigues you, too.)

“Virtue, huh?” I thought dubiously. “Virtue is supposed to make me happy?”

Now, remember, I am married to a philosophy teacher and have been for almost 22 years. Not once in those nearly 22 years have my eyes not glassed over when he starts saying things like, “According to Saint Augustine,” or “Pascal once said…” I am not anti-intellectualism. I love ideas.

Glassy-eyed newlywed

What really gets me excited, though, is how I can apply high-minded thought in a practical way to make my life and my family’s life better.

Selfish? Yup. Never said I wasn’t.

Voted #1 least sexy topic in the universe

Virtue, while not exactly what I expected to be a solution to my happiness deficit, was a subject that I could get excited about. As I said, my indulgent husband is an ideas person. Before Scalawag One was born, we had started a list of virtues we wanted to exemplify and inculcate in our children. This was an entirely separate exercise from the Aristotle quote, an exercise which predated my quest for happiness by several years.

We came up with a list of more than sixty virtues. Because at the time we had literally nothing better to do with our time, we rated ourselves and each other on a scale of one to ten for each of the virtues.

I took the twelve lowest scorers on my list and turned them into themes for my Happiness Project. The idea became, “If I can improve on these low-scoring virtues, even a little bit, maybe I will be happier.”

Before I put myself on blast for how unvirtuous I was and still am, please let me say this: Lack of virtue should not disqualify me from being a spouse or a parent. When I said I needed to improve in the virtue of love, it did not mean I didn’t love my husband or children. It meant that I was painfully aware of how unloving I could be sometimes and wanted to change. It also meant that I wanted to love them better and in more meaningful ways. I was giving myself a month to consider this, dwell on it and look inwards to how I could become more loving.

Without further ado, here were my twelve lowest scoring virtues:

  • Contentment
  • Endurance
  • Faithfulness
  • Generosity
  • Joy
  • Love
  • Lucidity
  • Orderliness
  • Peace
  • Self-Control
  • Wisdom

Rescue me from my happiness

In 2016, the year after my eldest was born, I became quite interested in the topic of happiness.

I suppose part of it stemmed from the letdown of discovering that being a parent didn’t complete me the way I had brainwashed myself to believe it would when I was pregnant.

I don’t know where I picked up the idea that being a parent would make me happy, but it did not take one full night for me to realize that I got sold a bill of goods. There is something irresistible about the idea of a warm little package of cuddly goodness who would look just like my indulgent husband as he grew. Then there is the crying, smelly, sleepless reality.

That being said, I did decide to have a second one. Humans are strange.

After the first trimester with my second scalawag, I was knocked out with pre-natal depression. Or maybe it was post-partum depression after the first scalawag. Who knows exactly, since the definitions are fluid and the symptoms are identical.

I started looking into the topic of happiness, discovering Gretchen Rubin and her book, The Happiness Project in the process. Being a project person myself, the idea that happiness might be a project to undertake gave me a little light in my darkness.

I was motivated enough by what I read that I determined to create my own Happiness Project. At seven months pregnant, I fan-mailed Gretchen Rubin. To my delight, Gretchen Rubin wrote back!!!!!! (Note to self: one day if you have fans, make sure you write back. It can change their life!)

In her book, Gretchen Rubin identified areas of her life in which she wanted to be happier and spent one month through the course of year concentrating on each one of the areas.

To design my own Happiness Project, I needed to define what areas of my life I wanted to work on. They were not going to be the same as Gretchen Rubin, because I am me, not her. I left this as an open question while I gave birth and settled into my life as a parent to two scalawags.

I already had figured out that I couldn’t buy happiness. I knew that happiness was not something that could be given to me.

Now I had learned that it could not be found in another person, even a second little eight-pound bundle of promise to whom I gave birth, who looked exactly like me and who slept like a champion.

Was I incapable of happiness?

Challenge Update: Week Two

Buy Nothing and Don’t Covet

Having a plan is fabulous. Keeping myself accountable to this plan is painful. I did buy something this week, and although it is not actually an item of clothing, I am going to report it: I bought a little set of what are charmingly called “Bachelor’s Buttons” (no-sew buttons for denim) to complete a little crafting project.

On the other hand, I was reimbursed for a dress that I ordered in late November that got lost in the mail, so I feel like somehow I made money for my family this week. I am going to admit, though, that I had been searching my mailbox three times a day for that dress from the day I ordered it and continue to do so, as if by magic it will still turn up.

As for the coveting: I continue to be aware of how often and under what circumstances I tend to be most triggered to want what I don’t have. At one point this week, I repeated to myself over and over, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” until I got myself out of a situation. Uncomfortable? Yup. Helpful? Kinda.


One item exited the Pantheon this week: my lovely blush-colored tee. Thank you and goodbye, old friend.

One item was added into the rotation this week: A warm brown lightweight sweater which I was given by a very close friend who was emptying out her closet over the summer. It is a strange color, with a strange texture, but it was brand new, never worn and probably cost a small fortune, so, feeling fortunate, I accepted it.

I never really liked the sweater, but the friend called me this week to announce that she is undergoing a mastectomy next month and suddenly I found I loved the sweater. I guess wearing the sweater was a way to be with her when I couldn’t be with her.

I also discovered that one of my oldest, most favoritist blouses, a hand-me-down from my sister-in-law, although I wear it at least once a week in the winter, had never been entered into the inventory. It is one of what I call affectionately call my “grandma blouses”, my collection of vintage brightly-patterned stretch-polyester button-down blouses.

Go-To Catalog

Nothing really stuck out this week. I was rather frumpy this week, but in a cozy way. There is really only so much one can do when it is snowing and glacially cold out.

Plan Ahead and Mise en Place

This worked, but for one day when I had picked out a dress and leggings to wear for a funeral, only to learn that the unprecedented snowstorm had pre-empted the funeral. I ended up wearing the same frumpy six layers of turtleneck sweaters and cardigans with jeans as the day before.

Repair and Mend, Alter when necessary

My great-great-mother-in-law would be proud.

I took a crew-neck summer blouse I didn’t love and replaced the collar (by some serious trial and error) with a Peter Pan collar that I do love. I would have wanted to make it out of lace, but had none on hand, so I used stained vintage pillowcase which I know to be at least 100 years old.

I mended a big hole on a cute green wrap sweater, a loose hem on a pair of big boy pants for a scalawag.

Green Miracle Sweater

I made a mask out of some fabulous blush colored Paris Flea Market fabric my sister had given me several years ago.

Blush Obsessed

And lastly, I finished a craft project of which I am no small amount proud. Those “bachelor buttons” were for a denim obi-ish belt I made from two denim suspenders which had been attached to a skirt I inherited from a different friend. (I love the skirt, an above the knee number which looks fabulous with my lacy leggings, thank you very much. I am just not a skirt and suspenders kinda girl.)

Bachelor Buttons in Action

I hand-sewed the suspenders together so the belt is about three inches wide, then popped the denim buttons on. Voilà! A new belt that will look super cute as I pursue variations on my Norwegian cardigan and skirt obsession.


I have learned that it is much easier to make myself do things than it is to stop myself from thinking things. I suppose this is the difference between discipline (making myself do things) and self-control (thinking things)?

I felt a little like buying those buttons was breaking the rules a bit. I do not want to give myself blanket permission to start buying sewing or knitting supplies. I have plenty of fabric, lots of handspun yarn to work with. I will give myself some grace on this infraction, with the promise that I better darn well wear that belt.

Stripping Down

The word minimalism is treacherous. For me, before I started hungering for minimalism, it evoked monastic interiors of all white with an uncomfortable chair and an ugly flower arrangement.

Today, minimalism has taken on a very different meaning. Let me show you what it means:

Fuzzy stuff that doesn’t weird me out

This little experiment happened back in June 2020. I guess quarantine had gotten the best of me by that point. I had bought myself a bouquet of white roses at the grocery store. I was curious about what lay underneath the petals. I was curious about the construction of a rose.

I don’t know what got into me, but I took one of those roses and started removing the petals. Once I had removed the petals and saw the weird scraggly yellow structures (image at the top of the page), I thought “Wow. Who knew something so ugly could sustain something so pretty.” But then I started getting weirded out by the ugly yellow things and wondered what was under them.

Well. Let the record show, at the very heart of a white rose is pretty fuzzy white stuff.

For me, this is the essence of minimalism.

A rose, in order to be a rose, needs to look like a rose. But without the structures: the fuzzy white stuff and the weird yellow things and the petals, it wouldn’t hold together and be recognizable as a rose.

For me, minimalism is the process of stripping down to the core of who I am, so that at the end of the process, my inside and my outside match.

I am a minimalist who wears turquoise petticoats and lacy leggings because that is who I am on the inside. I have gone through the process of stripping down to the fluff of who I am. My failed attempts to follow current fashion trends, my efforts to follow the complicated rules of capsule wardrobes or points systems for a wardrobe I”ll adore were never going to satisfy me, because they didn’t address who I was at my very core.

Today I know better who I am, what sets my heart vibrating and why. This is true across the board and not just in my closet because I have done some heavy-lifting about what I want for my life. It started with my wardrobe, it continues in my wardrobe. But it is branching out to the other areas of my life, too.

I will never live in an empty white room; I will never be sophisticated (unless I am playing dress up). My minimalism exists in a brightly colored room with vintage patterns and a petticoat in every color.

My minimalism requires of me that I only own as many clothes as I can store on the number of hangers I currently own. It requires that my family only own as much stuff as can be put away in easily five minutes with all hands on deck. It requires that I not have more than one out-of-routine event on the schedule per week.

Minimalism keeps stress from ruling me, which is what inevitably happens when I don’t have a place to hang up clean clothes, or there are too many toys out, or our schedule is upended.

Figuring out what is underneath the petals and the weird yellow structures requires some stripping down. It can be painful sometimes, but it is worth the effort. Being coherent on the inside and the outside is worth effort. Being you is worth the effort.

Saying Thank You and Goodbye

Only fourteen days into my challenge I have to make a tough, tough, tough decision.

I have a favorite t-shirt. I inherited it from my mother-in-law, who had put it in a pile of clothes she was going to donate to the Salvation Army two years ago at Christmas time. I loved the color: a pretty blush pink. I loved the fit: a few little buttons on the front. I loved the texture: lightweight and fluid.

It did not take me long to figure out why the item was going to be donated: it was full of little holes. Not moth holes, mind you. The material was simply poor quality, constantly making new little holes. I loved the t-shirt so much that I mended those holes for two years, each time the mending becoming more conspicuous. Pretty soon I couldn’t even keep up. I was mending it before, during and after every single time I wore the t-shirt.

Even today, as I think about finally retiring this t-shirt, I think, “Oh, I’ll just wear it one more time. Just once…” I have been saying that for about a year and half.

So today is the day. Today is the last time I am going to wear my favorite, perfect blush-colored t-shirt. Tonight, when I take it off, I am going to thank it for its service. I am going to tear it into rags and use it dust my piano.

Having a plan for the t-shirt once it is no longer wearable makes me feel a touch less guilty, but I still have a little bit of that awful sense of regret, similar to what I have felt when I have had to take a beloved pet to the vet, knowing she wouldn’t be coming home.

This t-shirt has no bad memories attached to it. It always brought me joy to wear it. And yet I have to say goodbye to it. It feels like a low-budget tragedy.

So: Dear lovely blush-colored t-shirt: thank you for bringing me joy every single time I wore you. Thank you for giving me practice mending. Thank you for helping me discover a color I didn’t know I would love. By exiting the Pantheon, you are making room for something else that has been ignored for too long to become a favorite.

Dust in Peace.

The Cycle of the Imperfect Life

I mentioned here the vicious cycle of dissatisfaction. I want to take a deeper dive into that cycle, because it is at the root of so much of my discontent.

The cycle looks like this:

1. See thing, love thing, want thing
2. Connive to obtain thing
3. Anticipate how thing will make life perfect
4. Become inevitably disappointed when thing does not make life perfect
5. Develop self-contempt/buyer’s remorse when thing does not make life perfect.
6. Start seeking new thing to make life perfect. (Rinse repeat)

This cycle is born in the desire to have a perfect life, which is, on its face, a laudable desire. Who doesn’t want a perfect life, right?

The problem is twofold: Firstly, living, as we do, on Earth 1, there is no such thing as a perfect life. Secondly, most of the time we don’t have enough foresight to know what would make our life perfect at any given phase of it, and even then, it will be perfect for only a moment. We really only know what was perfect once it is gone.

For someone extremely in-tune to the desire for contentment, I sure let myself get caught up in the hurricane of wanting stuff.

Case in point: I had bought myself a pair of leggings in November because I wanted to be able to wear my collection of pretty dresses in the colder weather. (Reserve judgment please, I am not a legging kind of girl, so yes, this was a first for me.) I included them with an online order from a sporting goods store that included some shoes for the boys.

Apparently I over-estimated my size (good problem to have, amiright?) but I still liked the feel of the leggings and since I was able to wear them with dresses that didn’t show of the saggy baggy elephantish knees, I decided to hang on to them. These things did genuinely make me happy: now I could wear my dresses that I love so much instead of just being a winter slouch in jeans.

However, I started thinking that having a pair that actually fit, that didn’t bag at the knees might make me happier. I started thinking about how I would get to the sporting good store and purchase a pair in the right size. I started conniving to obtain the thing.

Although I desperately wanted to stop buying clothes, I started thinking about how this new pair of leggings would make all my problems go away. Now I could wear skirts that were above the knee in the middle of winter! Now I could feel super cute! My life was going to be so much better!

Well. Now I was on the lookout for excuses to go to the sporting goods store. Turns out I got the excuse-we needed a needle for our pump so that our sad deflated collection of balls could get inflated. Perfect!

But guess what? They didn’t have the leggings I wanted at that store. Nope. But what they did have was a more expensive, extremely beautiful pair of leggings that looked like they were make of lace but were actually sturdy workout leggings. If I just had these leggings, then I could look super dressed up and cute and warm…

But they were expensive. Definitely more money than I would spend on myself.

So I returned home empty-handed, but had opened Pandora’s Box.

Now I was conniving to get something else. Now, I had found the very thing, the thing that I knew would make my life absolutely perfect, that would tie together every item in my wardrobe. And since I knew I was intending to attack a buy-no-clothes resolution for the new year, having something to tie it all together would be very useful.

With a sum he had received for Christmas, my indulgent husband decided he wanted to buy some new running shoes. He really did need the shoes, but his desire to go into a store to buy them did not register on the most sensitive of scales. So I offered to order them from the sporting goods store. (Aren’t I thoughtful?)

Oh, and I threw in the leggings, both pairs, into the basket, too. Finally I was complete.

Except that not an hour after I placed the order I already had buyer’s remorse.

Here I was, fresh off of Step Five in the Cycle of the Imperfect Life. If I wasn’t careful, I would arrive at Step Six in very short order.

It has become urgent to me to stop this cycle and get off the hamster wheel. I don’t like feeling incapable of dismissing these urges. It feels helpless and hopeless. By setting myself a rule for the year, I find that while I have coveted a little here and there, I have not experienced the urge to possess.

I call this a win.

Pandora’s Box

The opposite of contentment is not misery, it is dissatisfaction. Dissatisfaction can make us miserable. It is not however, the misery of poverty, hunger or isolation. We can be hungry and still be content. We can be isolated and still be content.

It is dissatisfaction that gets me started on the vicious cycle of wanting things. I say me, but let’s be honest, the advertising industry exists to cultivate in each of us just enough dissatisfaction to get us started on the hamster wheel of wanting.

Toy Catalogs are Eeeeeevil

This can be most easily illustrated with my scalawags. Those boys are not miserable. They have lots of toys, plenty of clothes, free time to play, parents and family that dote on them. They are, however, often dissatisfied.

It started in October two years ago when the toys stores (bless their hearts) sent out their Christmas catalogs. Our family has a “no advertisements please” sticker on our mailbox in the lobby of our building, so while in theory we should be safe from the wily world of commercialism, in practice it is not so.

The mailman, who probably got a financial incentive for delivering the catalogs, left a stack of at least ten of them right on a little ledge by the mailboxes. So no, we didn’t get a catalog. We got two. Each scalawag took one. They pored over them, fought over them, circled things they thought they wanted. (They wanted everything.)

They wanted things of which, until that day in October 2019, they did not suspect the existence. This was a Pandora’s Box on which we all would have better off not breaking the seal.

Side note, my husband happened to have come home just after the mailman passed with the toy catalogs in 2020. He took the armload of them and took them directly to the recycling bin. May the Earth and the toy stores forgive us our glee for outwitting the scalawags.

Who doesn’t love a nice box?

Limiting Exposure

What is patently obvious for toddlers is far less flattering when applied to ourselves.

During my thus far twelve-day long attempt to stop coveting things that aren’t mine, I have discovered that on the days I work at home and only take the boys to school, I limit my exposure to things that tickle my coveting bone. I have less to report on my daily review.

On the other hand, my coveting is through the roof when I venture out into the world. I cannot cut myself off from the world, but my first lesson is clear: Don’t put yourself in situations where you will be tempted,

Window shopping is not inherently evil. But “knowing what is out there” makes me want what I don’t have. Wanting what I don’t have makes me dissatisfied with what I do have. Dissatisfaction is the core of what I need to nip in the bud in my life.

Stop the Madness

Now that I am intentionally considering these covetous thoughts–the “oooh, I love your mask!” or the “where did you get those shoes? I want the same!” or the “that jerk just ate the cookie I wanted”–and am flabbergasted by the sheer number of them that pass through my head every day, I recognize that I need to shift the thoughts.

I am going to start by attempting to shift the thoughts away from what I do not have to what I do have. I know it is going to be awkward and clunky, like thanking items that I am about to discard. But I know that good things sometimes come in awkward and clunky packages.

Impetus for Minimalism, part two

Although as a child my favorite book was Little Mommy, once I got married, thoughts of being a parent were far from my mind. I wasn’t interested. There was no urgency.

However, when, after fifteen years of marriage I discovered I was pregnant, I dove in with two feet. Naturally, being who I am, I was concerned about what I was going to wear while pregnant. I was curious about how my body would change. I got very excited about dressing a baby bump.

I learned shortly after my positive pregnancy test that I was expecting twins. I was excited beyond reason. I read everything there was to know about twins. I knew it would be hard work, but I knew I could do it.

I remember what I was wearing the day I went for my visit to the OBGYN. I was wearing the sunny yellow scarf I had bought over the summer, impatiently awaiting the cooler weather so that I could wear it. I felt like living, breathing sunshine.

Within an hour, all light had disappeared. The twins in my belly were barely alive. They were not going to survive.

The miscarriage did not happen naturally. After nearly a month of waiting for my body to let the babies go, I had to go to the clinic to complete it chemically. I remember what I was wearing that day, too: a roomy blue and gray striped t-shirt with a pretty bow and matching blue and gray striped socks.


I was pregnant again nearly immediately once my body recovered from the miscarriage.

However, I never again wore that sunshine yellow scarf or that blue and gray striped tee with the pretty bow. Or those socks. Please, not those socks.

For three years, those items sat in a drawer. I saw them every single time I opened the drawer, but I would move them aside while I hunted through for something else, literally anything else to wear. Every time I saw them, my heart would ache.

The moth infestation put a culling of my wardrobe on a fast track. As I discarded ruined items I could not bring myself to discard that t-shirt, scarf or socks. They weren’t damaged. So I kept them.

I still never wore them.

Eventually, I discovered the KonMari Method. I was intrigued with several concepts of the method, firstly, that we should only keep items in our life that spark joy. Secondly, when we discard items that don’t spark joy, we should thank the item for what it meant to us while we owned it.

Obviously, the t-shirt, the scarf and the socks did not spark joy. They went further than simply not sparking joy, they were actively caked in grief. Once I realized this, and realized that every single time I opened the drawer and saw them there, I experienced my grief again, it became easy to want to get rid of them.

I didn’t want to thank these items, but I did it anyway. It felt silly, but I said, “thank you for the joy you gave me when I bought you and for being with me when I needed you.”

It felt so very good to not see those items in my drawer anymore. From there, I went through my closet and removed every single item which I knew I would never wear again because it reminded me of a difficult passage in my professional life. I thanked them and discarded.

By the end of this process, I had less than half of the items in my closet than I had originally owned. It felt amazing. I could see nearly everything. Nearly everything but my winter sweaters could fit in my closet and in my dresser.

I was experiencing decluttering momentum. I wanted to make more space. I wanted less stuff.

My impetus for minimalism is that it freed me from the emotional ties that bound me to my grief and my regret. Minimalism has not made me happy, but it has put me on the path to contentment.