Are You Caught in a Monkey Trap?

If a monkey discovers a treat in a gourd, it will reach in, grasp it, and refuse to let go even if it cannot pull the treat-filled fist back out of the hole.

It’s a common way of trapping them, I gather.

Humans are prone to making the exact same mistake. We grasp onto things that do not serve us, to the point where it traps us into situations that make us miserable.

Part of that is due to habit and identity. For instance, I spent so many years living on as little money as I could that I had problems breaking myself out of that mindset when it was time to move on.

Another part could be societal programming. We hold on to things like clothes, furniture, food, and possessions because society tells us that it is horribly wasteful and bad for the environment to just toss that shit and move on. We’ll tell ourselves that we’re going to find someone to pass the items onto or place them in a donation bin but we never get around to it–and when we do, we ignore the cognitive dissonance of handing off the problem of “too much stuff” to someone else.

There are several reasons we could be holding onto something that doesn’t suit us. We could have been taught that divorce is wrong so we stay with an abusive mate. We may have heard that only sluts and “bad girls” wear cosmetics and actively dress in a certain manner.

Sometimes, we simply lack the courage to experiment. While we tend to experiment routinely while young, time can lock us into habits that we hesitate to change. “Why fix it if it’s not broke?”

There is a danger to this. If we refuse to change, to evolve with the times, we can become old and bitter before our time. If you’ve ever had a conversation with an elder who insisted upon complaining about technology, shifting societal mores, “kids these days,” and so forth, pay attention.

That is your future if refuse to let go and embrace change.

Monkey traps can sneak up on you. That outfit you wore when you were twelve. The furniture that belonged to your dead relative. The hairstyle you haven’t changed since high school. The types of movies you watch. The books you read. The places you go. The thoughts you think.

When was the last time you mixed it up, made an effort to do things in a different way? Have you ever looked around and realized that you keep the things that you keep and use the things that you use out of habit?

Did you decide to do things differently? What happened? Please share your stories in the comments below.


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I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

The Art of Embracing Change

It is so easy to become stuck in a rut, to do the same things you’ve always done each and every day. Those ruts can be simple ones like grabbing a cup of coffee as soon as you wake up each morning to how you spend your time.

While much has been written about how habits can make us more productive by eliminating decision fatigue, over the years I have discovered that there is a major downside to cultivating long-term habits. These habits cause you to not only resist change but to avoid exploring other options that may be available to you.

When I began this journey after my divorce, my lifestyle was fairly set. I believed that accumulating things was the key to success; that money and possessions were the only things that mattered. That lifestyle was exhausting to me. I worked multiple jobs just to pay the bills and spent any down time I possessed taking care of the stuff I’d acquired for my family.

I didn’t discover success until I changed things up a bit.

  • Instead of paying for cable, I cut the cord and encouraged the kids to watch movies we checked out from the library, purchased inexpensively, or located online.
  • Instead of using credit to buy the things we wanted I actively began to purge the things we owned that provided no benefit to us.
  • I started saving up for larger purchases or doing without instead of buying them on credit.
  • Instead of spending what little time I had free just goofing off, I began to use that time to read and learn.

And it paid off. Our expenses plummeted. It kick-started one of the major steps I used to attain my financial freedom.

But that would not have happened if I had not encouraged myself to explore and experiment with different ways of living my life. I was told that the only way I could become a stay-at-home single mother was to acquire a boyfriend, yet by opening my mind and embracing change, playing with it, I accomplished a dream that those around me believed to be impossible.

Since I left my last public job I’ve realized that I was stuck in another set of ruts. I would work and study. I would only read non-fiction, rarely allowing myself the treat that fiction would provide. I couldn’t even remember the last time I really allowed myself not to feel guilty when I sat down to watch a movie or read a novel.

Video games? Not a chance. Aside from the occasional game of Solitaire, I didn’t even bother.

If I wasn’t working or learning, I was wrong.

I am glad that I finally came to my senses and realized where my habits were leading me. I’ve deliberately began to mix things up now. Instead of a cup of coffee, I’ll drink a glass of water or orange juice in the mornings. Instead of selecting a non-fiction book, I’ll indulge in a novel.

I’m beginning to embrace the change again. It feels uncomfortable and liberating in an odd way but I’ve realized that I’d closed my mind to so many things that I need to mix it up to re-open myself again.

Katie’s Gift

Last year my daughter gifted me with a small television and a Roku device. I didn’t even know how to operate the remote on the silly thing, so I hooked it up to make my daughter believe I appreciated the gift and let it sit unused.

What do I need a stupid television for, I thought. I have a computer. I don’t watch videos, so I’ve no need to bother.

I brainstormed ways to eliminate the device for ages but I hesitated. My daughter gave me the thing for a reason; the least I could do is learn how to use it. Most importantly, I didn’t want to discard the gift for fear of hurting her feelings.

It finally dawned on me how close-minded I had become. I had created a lifestyle for myself that saw no need for a television, yet I understood that the devices could be useful. I reminded myself of how much joy I received during my childhood when I played arcade games and how the old black and white television in my room allowed me to learn about a world far different than the one that surrounded me. Television has changed so much since then…could it be that I was denying myself of something beneficial due to my shuttered mind?

I sat down one evening and forced myself to learn how to operate the thing.

And by doing that, by forcing myself to explore the potential, I opened my mind to a side of the device that I had not known existed.

A couple of button-presses on the remote and I could stream a variety of music from YouTube that I had somehow missed by using the computer. A few clicks and I could watch old shows from my childhood. I’ve yet to find a modern series on the device that interests me but I felt my creativity increasing. I started writing down ideas almost nightly.

When I didn’t feel motivated, I could press a button and pull up a video that would inspire me to jump up, hop on my computer, and write for hours. When I was done, one button would shut the whole thing down so I could go on with my life.

Curious, I decided to take it a bit farther as I began to wonder at the potential benefits of distraction. When a local store offered one of those gadgets that you connect to a television to play the old video games I enjoyed as a child, I allowed myself to indulge. If anything, it would give me an excuse to spend some time playing games with the kid that I could actually comprehend.

The kid now thinks I’ve been possessed by an alien. I’ll write or work on the house a bit, then sit down and play a round of Galaga. Once I’m done, I’ll hop on the computer completely refreshed and madly start typing.

My rut, my close-mindedness had caused me to dismiss the benefits of distraction. Instead of allowing myself to take a break and do something completely unrelated, I would try to power through. I would tell myself that I was being lazy whenever I wasn’t actually working on a project.

Yet it’s that very distraction, that process of allowing myself to cut loose without guilt that has enhanced my creativity.

When I woke up this morning, the only plan I had for the day was to power through my classwork. I worked on it for a while and realized I was getting nowhere. Normally I would have forced myself to keep banging my head against the wall of this latest lesson. This time I played a video game.

Just those few minutes allowed my head to clear enough that the problem was easier when I returned to it. And I would have never discovered that if I had not forced myself to change up my routine by experimenting with a device that I’d previously dismissed.

So look at your habits, folks. How do you spend your day?

If you spend all of your downtime watching movies, try something different. Read a book. Check out a new blog. Imagine a funny story in your head and write it down.

If you’ve not rearranged your home in years, change it up. Place your furniture in a different place. Take some items out and place them in the attic to see if you need them. Take some things out of your attic and use them for a change.

If you’re used to buying a certain item, switch to a different brand or try not using that item at all.

Is there a certain color you love but refuse to wear or decorate your home with? Why not allow yourself to embrace that color?

Why are you depriving yourself of your favorite color anyway? Are you afraid of what people will think?

Life is too short to be stuck in a rut by refusing to experiment. Open up and try something new!

The results may be surprising.

How to Jump Start Your Life

Do you want to change your life but have no idea where to start?

Look around. Think. Ask yourself this one question:

What is the one thing I can do that will provide the most benefit to my life right now?

Everyone has that one thing that they’ve been ignoring, that one thing that would provide massive change if they would just do it.

  • Clean the house.
  • Take a class.
  • Make a decision.
  • End a relationship.
  • Start a relationship.
  • Create a habit.
  • End a habit.

It can be anything. Only you know what that one thing will be. Since everyone is unique, most of us may not even understand if you attempted to explain it, but there is one thing in your life that, if you changed, would massively improve your life as a whole.

I asked myself this question. The answer was so breath-takingly simple I felt as if a huge burden had been lifted just by allowing myself to acknowledge the benefits I would receive by changing one simple habit.

Changing that one thing doesn’t seem like much, but once you become comfortable you can ask yourself that question again and again. Each time you will move closer to the person you want to be.

For today, find a quiet spot. Hide in the bathroom if you need to; you can always soak in the tub for a while to have an excuse to think alone.

And ask yourself the question.

How to Start Saving Money

Habits rule our daily lives. From what we do when we first awaken to the last thing we complete as we crawl into bed, we are controlled by habit.

Habits allow our brain to take a break from the mundane, to power down for rest, or even to focus on other things.

Tweak those habits, and you tweak your life.

Try it.

Place a single penny into your change jar, then check off that day on your calendar every single day for a month.

Just one penny. When you drop that penny into the jar tell yourself “I’m saving money; I’m living beneath my means.”

See how long you can keep the chain going. If you want to drop more change into the jar do it, but the goal every single day is to deposit one penny into your little savings account.

You are not to touch that money. That money is your savings. Every time you deposit a penny, you are that much closer to financial freedom. Don’t worry about the details right now; just get into the habit of depositing at least a single penny into your savings jar.

I dare you.

The Power of Ritual

Every single morning the very first thing I do is look at my clock. I turn on the radio, pad to the kitchen, and start the coffee as I head to the bathroom for my daily constitutional.

I tend to take my journal with me; writing while on the porcelain throne first thing in the morning allows me to flesh out whatever first thoughts my mind deems important.

After that I pour my first cup of coffee, let the dogs go potty, sit down at the computer, and write.

Such is the ritual of my morn.

This routine is empowering. I can spend the first few minutes every day mentally composing my daily blog post before I pour it into the computer. I don’t have to think. I don’t have to struggle. Regardless of the time or my level of sleepiness my mind and body know exactly what to do.

It is beautiful in its simplicity.

When I was young I scoffed at ritual. I laughed at my elders when I noticed their habits. I believed that flexibility was the key to an active, happy life.

I was wrong.

It is the little rituals we embrace that ground us. They center us, channeling our focus so that we can meet life head-on. When we prepare our mind with a moment of peace we allow it to recharge. We allow it to relax for a time as we move through our day.

What rituals have you embraced? Please share your stories in the comments below.

The Habit Chain

It takes time to form a habit. Positive habits are definitely worth the effort to build. They can slowly transform our life from the mediocre into an absolutely astounding existence.

When remaking your life it is best to start small. Analyze the things you want to change about yourself and select just one to focus on. This is how Benjamin Franklin did it. He would chronicle his success and failures in a journal for a time before switching his focus onto another habit, in a continual self-improvement program.

This year I have three habits I want to create. I want to read a little bit every single day, I want to write a single blog post, and I want to scoop the litterbox.

I added the last one because I didn’t want all of my habits to just be about me. One must curate a pleasant environment in order to be at their happiest, and I really dislike the results of skipping a day when it comes to scooping that litterbox. My litterbox may be large but I prefer it to be as clean as I can keep it.

In order to get a running start I began my project late last year. I would write those three items down on the daily pages of my planner each morning, checking them off as I completed them. I soon realized that I was spending time re-writing those three things that could be better utilized elsewhere so I began brainstorming a solution.

I recalled reading somewhere about a comedian who would place an X on an annual calendar every single day after he wrote one joke. His goal was to keep the chain going.

I decided to try it. I placed an X over the day after completing every blog post and circled the date when I completed my daily reading. I experimented with placing another mark over the date for the litterbox scooping but when I decided that it made things confusing I printed out a copy of my annual page and stuck it in my Book of Lists to mark off there.

That comedian was right. It is incredibly motivational to have a chain of marks that you want to keep going. I’ve found myself completing my unfinished tasks near midnight just to keep the chain intact.

If you have a habit you wish to acquire I urge you to try it. Use this link to print out an annual calendar and start crossing out the days as you complete the task. It really does help.

Morning Ritual

Back in the early days of my writing career I began a small morning ritual. I would wake up, snag my cup of coffee, and knock out however many articles I needed to write that day in order to achieve my desired income for the week.

Once I finished writing my daily quota of articles I was free to pursue my day.

That small routine forced me to do the work I needed to do in order to survive. Even better, the habit forced me not to procrastinate.

Times have changed since those very early days. I no longer rely on content producing to pay my bills. Instead, I spend a portion of my time each week at a public job that meets my financial needs. As a result, it has become far too easy to allow my writing to be pushed aside.

That will stop with this new year. Every single morning I intend to write a single blog post as I sit down with my morning cup of Joe.

Just one post.

I can do one post.

A single post, written every day, will result in 365 posts on this website by the end of the year. That will allow me to achieve my writing goal for 2019.


What small routine can you incorporate into your life with this new year that will take you closer to achieving your goals? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Simplicity of Habit

Some habits can aid the pursuit of simplicity.

The morning coffee, for instance.

When you wake up in the morning and drink your dose, relax and plan the day ahead.  Write down on a notepad what you wish to get accomplished.  Ruthlessly mark out the things you do not NEED to get done immediately.  This is not a lesson in overtaxing yourself–we are just wanting to cover the basics of the day.

Just relax with that cup.  Don’t read your emails or check the news–make this part of your day relaxing to set the tone and get started right.  Sip, make a general plan and relax.

Make this small routine a habit each morning and watch your days change for the better.

Forgetting the Family Cloth

Some habits die hard. Bathroom tissue is among them.

Several times today I found myself grabbing off of the roll left in the bathroom for camouflage. Not good.

I will continue to correct myself as I work toward saving more money.

I have more cloths, purchased on sale so that I don’t have to worry about running out before laundry day. I hope I won’t anyhow…

Fortunately I try to do laundry at least twice a week because I don’t like my kitchen towels to soak for too long.

Which reminds me.. I washed the family cloths that I used during my cycle… not a single bloodstain remained on any of them. I am quite pleased.


It is 8:30 pm here, and I have managed to wash all of the dishes for the evening. The kitchen is clean as a result, and I can breathe easy knowing that a night has passed and my goal has been met.

I look forward to the day when getting all of these dishes washed every night is a habit! It will be sooo pleasant to wake up every morning to a clean kitchen!

On that note, the two mini blinds I scrounged up looked so great in the kitchen I bought one to finish out the other kitchen window and mounted it this afternoon. This one I mounted inside the window frame as opposed to outside (like the ones I scrounged). It gives a cleaner look to the window now that all of the brackets from years of curtains and blinds have been removed! I had to remove part of the window trim to place it (and a really ratty piece of trim on top broke off as a result and I tossed it) but I really like the clean minimal effect. I chose off-white for the color instead of bright white, so it blends in with the paneling better. The best part is that the shade is recessed so we won’t be knocking it.

I plan to replace the trim on these windows after some more important things get accomplished. They aren’t pretty, but considering that I paid cash for this home, I am NOT going to complain!

I am going to live with the mini blind look in the kitchen for a while. If we like it then I will put them on other windows as well.

A Simple Goal

In order to simplify one’s life without going insane, one must start small. Only by taking small bites can one even hope to begin corralling the chaos that rules so many of us. Each of us has different needs, different lives – as a result our steps will be different from each other. What one thinks is laughable another will think essential. It is all part of our uniqueness.

I have decided to take one simple step. This is my goal for the next few months – a habit I wish to develop to simplify my life.

I have set a goal to have all of my dishes washed before going to bed every night. Period. Not washed and dried, not put away – just washed and placed on the drainer to air-dry.

This goal is the most important habit I wish to gain right now, for by having all my dishes washed when I go to bed I will not be greeted by unwashed dishes when I wake up, thus making a better start to each day.

This also means that I won’t have to wash dishes before cooking breakfast every morning (an unpleasant ritual when you’re hungry), and a more pleasant kitchen overall.

Each person has something that is important to them, and this is important to me.

For accountability I plan to post how well I’m doing here on the blog, and when this has become second nature I will move on – but only then.

For tonight the dishes are washed, the sink is cleaned, and life is good.

Goodnight, fair world!

Bad Habits are Hard to Break

Even as I post things on Freecycle, even as I smile and hand my things to strangers, danger lurks in the form of bad habits.

Simplicity is living with less, yet I find myself wanting more at times.

Tonight it was my serious weakness: information.

I found myself resisting the urge to give Amazon even more of my money so that I could scratch that itch.

They had some books on simplicity I would loove to read.

I don’t really need them however. There is plenty of information readily available on the Internet. If I buy these books, I fail in my goal of having less to deal with.

I did not fail. Instead, I blogged.

I feel like an addict who is having a hit waved before my face.

It is soo hard at times.

It is okay, I won this round.

Time to celebrate with a hot cup of tea.