Beautiful and joyful

Historic furniture on display at Philadelphia Museum of Art, July 2007/

Historic furniture on display at Philadelphia Museum of Art, July 2007

“Frugality is one of the most beautiful and joyful words in the English language, and yet one that we are culturally cut off from understanding and enjoying.  The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things.”Elise Boulding

I have been thinking that one of the reasons we rush about with so many activities during holiday seasons, is the sheer bliss of the relative calm when that rush is over.  Several people have spoken recently about the restful serenity of Christmas afternoon, and I have to admit that the older I grow, the more that respite becomes the sweetest part of the season for me.

In the same way, the over-abundance of blessings we feel at holiday seasons — food, gifts, joyous and lively time spent with loved ones — seem to lead naturally to a craving for quiet days and an almost sparse existence, at least temporarily.  Our thoughts may turn with some enthusiasm to our plans for clearing out our possessions, eating more sensibly, getting more rest, and making time for contemplative walks, thoughtful reading or daily devotional breaks.  We begin to sense the happiness of not having things, as Boulding described.

Perhaps this is part of the impulse that underlies the tradition of New Year’s resolutions, but such aspirations need not be formalized into well-defined goals.  We can use the natural rhythms of the seasons as a context for easing into neglected tasks or important plans that have been pushed to the back burner in the busyness of past weeks.  I hope you will find a way to bask in times of stillness during the final week of the year, and take at least a partial break from the typical day-to-day stress that crowds out nourishing rest, resolve and reflection.  May 2014 bring all of us increased awareness of the joys of frugality.

One year ago today

To select well

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Susan

    Julia, even though you wrote this six years ago, it’s as if you are reading my mind this morning! Timeless truth 🙂 .

    • Thank you, Susan. I’m hoping this winter will give me an extra push to get the last of the York County treasures sorted, so I can sell the home sometime this year. But it won’t be easy. Hope you have a peaceful and restful January! Thanks so much for being here. ❤

      • Susan

        Oh, I’m sorry, that’s a tough decision to make. Your current home in NoVA is so gorgeous, though. I hope that helps ease the transition.

        • Susan, it helps. What would help most, though, is to make more friendships or at least connections in this area. I have been trying hard with only limited success, but of course then covid brought all that sort of thing to a screeching halt.

  2. Good morning, Julia!
    I took next week off work (I had unused vacation time), so I hope to do some actual relaxing, as I was truly rushing to get things done (and knitted) before Christmas!
    I agree – fewer thing are – fewer things to clean around! Definitely appealing.

    • Yes, especially in theory. The trick comes in discarding individual items that have some sort of emotional tie. I’ve tried taking photos of things before parting with them (or in the case of cards/letters, scanning them) and this helps some. What helps most is picturing open spaces that allow easy maintenance.

  3. mike c.

    Yes I see your point. Less is sometimes more and, “Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free.”
    And what does that lady say to her clothes? ” Thankyou for being a faithful servant.:
    I release you to another.
    Well– easier said than done. I said,”That is my favorite shirt and it is sticking with me to the end.”

    • Mike, I agree with you that there are some special things that are worth keeping no matter how threadbare they get. About ten years ago, Jeff joked about how worn out my favorite robe (which he had given to me years before) was getting. I vehemently told him– only half joking– that I was never going to part with it and in fact he should bury me in it. I am still wearing it to this day, and love it more than ever. It’s a waffle weave lined with terrycloth and is very warm in cold weather but not ever hot in warmer weather. The only time I don’t wear it is in the heart of summer and I always launder it well before bedtime so it will be ready. 😀 I have a navy blue anorak with that same status, bought just before we moved to northern California in 1999, and in fact it can be seen in many of the photos on this blog. Some things simply can’t be replaced.

  4. mike c.

    This also reminds of the native American practice of potlatch where in order to become a chief one must give away everything one owns at least once – or better two or three times- to show you are worthy of being a true leader.
    The Christmas shooting of a little girl here in Buckhead- Kennedy Maxie is truly heartbreakening. She was seven. It makes me ill. Two groups of young men -arguing at a mall in Buckdhead at the Phillips-Plaza mall, and one starts shooting randomly and now a little girl is gone.

    • See? A place of sorrow for me, on so many levels and for so many reasons. I remember when Phipps Plaza was magical and one would NEVER have been afraid to go there. Some of my happiest memories are of going there with my Mom while Daddy was taking classes at Oglethorpe in the evenings. Oddly, those years were when there were pretty much NO gun control laws. But people obeyed other, more internal regulations, and life was vastly different. Even when Dr. King was murdered, his own home city did not lose a single life to violent protests. Now his legacy of nonviolence is largely ignored. I’m glad to be old.

  5. mike c.

    But don’t you think i can buy just one more book? After all we are going to give everything to Goodwill when we return to the Emerald City anyway. It is too hot here. So can’t i just buy one more.?
    BTW i started reading on the Kindle Michael J. Fox “Always looking up,” confessions of an eternal optimist.” I had no idea this boy can write. It is kind of eerie as the part i am reading he is going on and on about his wonderful time with Lance Armstrong and Robyn Williams at the 2000 Tour de France in Paris and how he is invited by Lance to be in his special little entourage and see the cites and Robyn Williams is such a cut up and has everyone in stitches. So much has changed for these folks in a short time. Micheal is struggling with PD as you know and call’s himself- i guess this is one of their monikers- a parkie. And i will never understand why Robyn took his own life as he faced possible dementia? He is a great memoirist?

    • re: “I had no idea this boy can write” — I’m not saying he did not write it (I have no idea) but are you unaware that most celebrities use ghost writers? Yes, as your comment points out, all is often not what it seems with people, famous or otherwise. Almost everyone has skeletons in the closet and the majority of people deal with unseen problems they mostly don’t talk about. I really believe that. That’s why the edited versions of life that make Facebook so popular (and blogging too 😀 ) can be dangerously misleading.

  6. mike c.

    I did not know that ,but whoever the ghost writer is- if there is one, they are pretty good. But actually i feel he wrote this one- unlike others like Mr. Fake Lance Armstrong. Bruce Springsteen also wrote a really nice memoir. YOu mean i can get someone to ghost write my memoir?? Cool.
    As far as your advice goes on frugality–well- i just ordered another book through Thrift Books.They only charge 99 cents for shipping in USA and free if over ten dollars. And this little company is only about two miles from our house in South Seattle– it is in Tukwila. Close to the airport.

    • Not all celebrities use ghost writers, but all writers of any sort — even the ones who win Pulitzer Prizes– have good editors helping them hone their work. Just read the pre-edited version of To Kill a Mockingbird (recently published in its original form under its first title, Go Set a Watchman). As good a writer as Harper Lee was, that book was far superior after an editor made extensive changes to it. Rarely if ever is any book the results of one person’s work.

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