A Fresh Start

Hi Friends!

It felt so good to open the door to a brand new year! Our January days have been milder than usual, so the weeks are flying by quickly. I have enjoyed some winter walks in the park with friends and several walks through our yard to check on the garden. Gentle rains have been kind to my perennials and herbs. When the garden is happy, it makes the gardener happy, too!

How do you prepare for a fresh start in the new year? Sharing inspiration and our traditions among friends is one of the special pleasures that I look forward to on the blog every January! I hope that you will share with us, too…

Heartfelt words, from poet Morgan Harper Nichols, are a meaningful welcome in my 2023 Self-Care bullet journal.

For me, the new year always means a brand new, dot-grid, bullet journal overflowing with blank pages… and new possibilities! As the month began, I spent many hours setting up new pages in my 2023 Self-Care journal. It always feels like I am truly creating a fresh start!

For the new year, I have begun stenciling soft, colorful backgrounds with Distress Oxide inks. Adding artwork just makes it more fun!

This year, I’m celebrating my sixth year of keeping a Self-Care bullet journal. Adding bits of color and artwork help to keep it interesting! Each month, I create pages to track my daily sleep, workouts and number of steps. There is something very powerful about transferring the data (in ink, in analog form) from the app on my phone and my Fitbit onto the pages of my journal every evening. It really helps to keep me accountable when it comes to healthy habits! Each evening, I also add to my Gratitude page (so very important, especially during life’s stressful times), list a daily Creative Step, and a daily Small Joy. This nightly bedtime routine only takes a few moments and is such a peaceful way to end each day.

For the past two years, I have also enjoyed a lovely morning routine at my journaling desk. My Morning Pages journal holds my thoughts on creativity, my worries, and my creative plans for the day. Inspiration from walks in nature and my weekly Artist Date are often a topic in my Morning Pages, as well.

‘Dutch Door’ pages hold my growing list of Creative Affirmations

My Morning Pages always end with creative affirmations (from my Self-Care bullet journal, shown above). Over the past two years, I have discovered just how valuable these strong, positive statements can be! In her book, The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron reminds us that, “Affirmations help achieve a sense of safety and hope.” As I close my journal and watch the sun rise from our kitchen window, I feel centered and ready to face another busy day. Julia Cameron’s words are so true, “Morning Pages allow you to happen to your day, instead of your day happening to you.” When I must miss a day of Morning Pages, I can definitely feel the difference all day long!

Choosing a ‘word’ to guide me through the new year is one of the most powerful ways that I welcome each year! Every Fall, I begin listening for “One Little Word” that will help me grow in powerful, new ways. Throughout our home and garden, there are visible reminders to focus on my ‘word.’ This year celebrates my twelfth ”One Little Word.” I can already tell that this will be a very important year of growth as I focus on my new ‘word’ and continue to mindfully practice all eleven previous words!

My 2023 ‘word’ is surrounded by all of the other words that continue to help me live my best life.
There are visible reminders to simplify as I move forward.
Some definitions of simplify in my Self-Care journal

My reading stack is filled with inspiration to help me move forward throughout the year ahead. I read two of these books several years ago, however my life became much too complicated to undertake such an ambitious lifestyle change. So, this ‘word’ has been waiting for me for a while. I am taking a BIG step as I begin this long-awaited journey toward minimalism!

I am also finding wonderful inspiration to guide me in You Tube videos from Dawn Madsen, The Minimal Mom. Her tips feel very practical and encouraging. Of course, everyone’s journey is unique! I am seeing my world through new eyes as I take steps to approach life as a “cozy minimalist.” My end goal is to own “just the right amount of things” to focus my priorities on my passions!

This month, I am off to a good start. Following the “onion method,” I have worked my way through all of the kitchen drawers and cabinets. I have already made many trips to a nearby donation center. Yet I am mindful that this is only the first “layer” of things that I will remove from our home. Each time I go through the kitchen, I will find more things to declutter. At some point, it will feel like I have “just the right amount of things.” Things that I actually love and use!

When I packed away our Christmas decorations, I carefully curated my collection of Christmas ornaments and my folk art Santa collection. Now there are “just the right amount” of the most special ones packed away until next Christmas. I hope that others who discover them at the donation center will enjoy them as much as I did over the years!

The winter months feel like the perfect time to begin working toward my goal of having “just the right amount” of things in our home.

Less is… more!

Less is more… time to focus on what matters most today.

Less is more… breathing space.

Less is more… blessings to share with others.

Less is more… freedom to create art.

Less is a more… relaxing, nurturing “Home Sweet Home.”

Less is more… room to blossom in unexpected ways.

Less is more… freedom for adventures of all kinds.

Less is more… time to savor life’s possibilities!


I’m curious to know what special ways you welcome in the new year.

Are you working toward any new goals in 2023?

Would you like to join me on the journey as I “right-size” the things that fill our home?

If you have worked to declutter, do you have any “words of wisdom” to share with us?


I would love to hear your thoughts in the Comments below!

May your fresh start be a nice one!


💗 Dawn


14 thoughts on “A Fresh Start

  1. Hi Dawn….another lovely, inspirational post! I have done lots of decluttering over the years, yet still feel hemmed in by my “stuff” in my creative space. My problem is I often put down an interest and pick it up years later. I am so grateful I did not get rid of those accoutrements! Decluttering is more about one’s mindset than getting rid of stuff. I think what I need to work on is finding ways to better organize what I have. I do love tidy! I should let that be my motivating factor. As long as I have the space to keep things and a system where I can find it easily (how many times have I been decluttering and found something I forgot I had!), and it looks tidy in the room or storage area, then I feel as though I’ve simplified my life. ❤️Cathy

    • So nice to hear from you, Cathy! Yes, decluttering is definitely a mindset. Several years ago, I had success using the KonMari approach. It was easy to feel the things that “Spark Joy” and donate so many things. Now I am intentionally making time to downsize much, much more. The past few years of helping family members empty their homes have taught me the importance of having “just the right amount of things.” Right now, looking around at all of my things is causing me anxiety. So, I truly welcome the ‘breathing space’ that I am slowly creating in our home. My journey toward ‘cozy minimalism’ feels so important right now. As I consider the inventory in our home, I will always have a few special antique dishes (and teacups!), seasonal decorations, and small quilts on the walls. But my heart tells me that it is time to really downsize! When my heart speaks, I always listen…
      Oh yes, Cathy! Our creative spaces are extra challenging! I am intentionally saving my little Paper Garden studio downstairs for last. (By then, my decluttering skills should be strong and ruthless!😉) I’m grateful that my art + craft supplies don’t take up too much space. However, I’m finding that having so many choices can cause ‘decision fatigue’ that makes creativity more challenging! So, I have spent several recent Artist Dates trying some fun, new creative play sessions.👩🏻‍🎨
      Thank you so much, Cathy, for sharing your decluttering journey with us! Although it is really hard work, the decluttering process always teaches us important lessons. It feels like I am growing stronger as I make important choices. LESS feels like so much… more!💕 So glad that you joined in the conversation today, Cathy! Warm hugs!💗

  2. Your journals are always beautiful. I applaud your skills. With each year, I try to purge a little more. I always have a donation bag in the closet and try to toss a little in so that I can clear another layer. I’ve been sewing and the items are gifts for friends. Then I’m moving on to a quilt top. I’m a person who needs to keep busy.

    • Heartfelt thanks for your sweet words, Judy! I really love keeping a bullet journal. My ‘secret sauce’ is the colorful artwork! 😉 Each morning and evening, I look forward to using my favorite markers, pens, and inks in my Self-Care journal! I love sharing my journal because it has become such an important part of my self-care (especially during the past several years!). I even share it with my doctor!
      So proud of you, Judy, for the ongoing purging! That is my ultimate goal. For now, I’m working hard at simplifying our entire house. This is the best time to ‘dig’ through things indoors while the garden is sleeping! Before long, I will be wanting to dig in the garden beds.🌱
      Judy, you are truly making the best of your winter this year! Your friends will love your creative gifts. A quilt top sounds like a big project! It’s sure to keep you happy all the way ’til springtime arrives! You always inspire me, Judy! 💗

  3. Hi Dawn! As we move into the new year and yes I have decluttered a few drawers and organized a few closets, I have to agree with Cathy. In my heart I am not a minimalist and I don’t think I ever could be. I have read several blogs about minimal decorating and find their homes cold and uninspiring. While I don’t like clutter, my eye needs a place to rest, I love collections. Even other people’s collections I find fascinating and I love the history and the story. Every year after the Christmas things are put away, I enjoy the clean slate I am left with, but then I begin to add my things back in and they bring joy to my heart and make me smile. I think I am a gatherer by nature! LOL And I will add that I am blessed with a huge barn for storage, so I am very fortunate.
    I haven’t picked a word the last few years, I think I am still just trying to breathe! Maybe my word is “forward” because that’s what I do best, I just keep putting one foot in front of the other and move forward. I love your journaling and wish I could be better committed to it and I do make sure every day to make a mental note of what I am grateful for. Right now, the sun is streaming in the window and dancing across my mother’s chair and bouncing around on the wall from the crystal hanging in the window…and I am grateful!
    Love and hugs!

    • We are so much alike, Chris! 💕 True kindred spirits! However, I don’t have a huge barn to store my collections. So, ‘simplifying’ is my way of downsizing to “just the right amount” of things that I love! I’m calling it ‘cozy minimalist’ style… just right for our cozy, little home.
      I have a sweet story to share…
      My husband and I were introduced by a dear, mutual friend 21 years ago. John and I emailed for a week before he came to pick me up for our first date. We chatted about important things ~ like family, careers, travel adventures,… in our emails. So, of course, I asked him about his decorating style.😉 He told me he was a minimalist. (John truly is a minimalist!) Oh dear, what would a minimalist think when he sees my cozy, little home filled with collections of antiques, baskets, candles, cute pillows,… (My years of reading Country Living, Country Home, and Old House Journal served me well!) So, the morning of our first date, I gathered lots of cute things from my living room, and hid them in the basement. 😊I didn’t want to overwhelm him with with cozy charm! We began spending lots of time together and I slowly added my treasures back, one-by-one. Thank goodness, John adapted to all of the coziness very well!😊 One time we traveled to Bisbee, Arizona with my parents. We all stayed in an old schoolhouse B&B. It was soooo charming!! John said the sweetest thing, “This looks just like your house!”💕 My heart melted…
      So, ‘simplify’ will guide me as I curate our home to have just the right amount of things! It feels so good to work toward my dream of owning less things… and more space, more time for art, travel, and all kinds of new possibilities! It feels very exciting (even though it’s hard work at the moment)!!

      Chris, ‘forward’ is the perfect word, dear heart. You are my hero for all that you are doing every day, Chris! I think of you so often, with great admiration and love. Your gratitude practice is so important! I cherish the special moment that you shared this morning, Chris.💕 I was so happy that you were there for Susan’s virtual gathering. My heart smiled when I saw your name appear!
      Sending love, huge hugs, and snowflakes all the way to Texas!💗

      • I just love your story about you and John. ❤️ I can just see you removing items to the basement😂. I can report that Jim and I were kindred spirits, as his home was filled with things that belonged to his mother and all the wonderful things from his life visiting Europe, China and Africa. We are both gatherers!!

      • I love that story, too, Chris. What would have happened if John walked in the door for our first date and was totally overwhelmed by pretty things???? He is the only minimalist that I know. Together we create a happy balance! There is a little sign in our dining room that says, “Still cozy after all these years.” 💕

        You and Jim were meant to be, right from the start! It would be so fascinating to hear the stories behind all of your gathered treasures. I’m planning to photograph several treasures before I part with them. Then I will still be able to hold their stories in my heart forever.
        The nicest people have fascinating barns ~ Chris & Jim, Laura & Aaron, and Susan & Joe!😊💗

  4. Very inspiring, Dawn, and beautiful as well! Decluttering is on my list, and I’m making progress, little by little.

    • You are so sweet, Ginnie!💕 Little by little, working in layers, we are both making progress. Each time we revisit an area of our homes, we can peel back another layer by simplifying even more!
      The Minimal Mom, on You Tube, has lots of helpful tips. She uses the questions: 1) Do I use it? 2) Do I love it? 3) Would I buy this again? Those prompts have been helping me make decisions. She also asks, “Can I live without it?” The Minimal Mom also recommends displaying sentimental items rather than storing them. I love that idea!

      Our home will never look sparse or empty. That’s not my style. Instead it will have “just the right amount” of things that that we use and love!
      Sending you big boxes of happy, decluttering vibes, Ginnie! We should share our successes and cheer one another on. That would be helpful! Warmest hugs, my friend! 💗

  5. Hi Dawn!! You shared your one special word SIMPLICITY! with me today which reminded me I that I’m behind on reading your blog. So of course, the first thing I did when I got back home, was curl up with your sweet words. I just love to hear your thoughts, look at your pictures, and admire your beautiful watercolors, stamping, and most of all— gorgeous handwriting.
    For me, the issue with going through cabinets, and peeling back the layers of our “clutter onion” is always TIME. Finding and making the time to actually do it. Reading your blog is an inspiration though and I am going to look at those books you pictured about simplifying. It is so important. Progress will happen one way or another. I hope!! And I hope I get to see you soon!!
    ❤️ Until then! ❤️

    • So wonderful to see you here on the blog, Mo! I’m so grateful that you made time to come visit. Your sweet words always warm my heart, dear friend! Finding time to simplify is definitely challenging with all of my family responsibilities. However, I have been very intentional about making time two days each week to simplify and organize. I can definitely see and feel the ‘breathing space’ and it feels so amazing that I am very motivated to continue!! 💕 I plan to do as much as I can while the garden is sleeping.

      Two wonderful opportunities arose last week that inspired me to share things that I no longer need. First, I learned of a young woman, with special needs, who is struggling to furnish her first apartment. My heart felt so happy last Sunday as I filled many bags with household items and pretty things that I thought would add touches of coziness to Nicole’s first apartment! Although I don’t know this young woman, I felt a special closeness and look forward to continuing to share with her.
      Last week, our wonderful, public library was collecting craft supplies for the annual Craft Exchange. It felt good to fill two bags with paper crafting supplies that I no longer need and drop them off at the library. Our amazing library staff organized all of the donated supplies for crafts of all kinds. The Craft Exchange was yesterday and I decided NOT to go to the event to choose free supplies, as I did in years past! I am very grateful for the supplies I already have in my little Paper Garden studio.

      Summer Break might be a great time to begin, Mo. You might try just setting a timer for 10 minutes and decluttering one drawer. It feels so great that you will want to do more! Mo, I still remember how hard you worked to refresh your pantry and how happy you were with the whole new look!
      I look forward to seeing you very soon, Mo!!
      Warmest hugs!💗

      • Your thinking is so on point, as usual, Dawn!! One drawer at a time. Try not to get overwhelmed with the huge job of the entire house. Baby steps- “gentle goals”….and summer break!!!
        Nicole will be so lucky to have anything from your home— what a great connection to have made! AND very smart of you to sit this one out for the art supply exchange. All good things 🙂

      • Oh, the funny surprises we discover way in the back of our closets, Mo! Heartwarming, sentimental treasures, too! “Gentle goals” have been a very helpful as I simplify our home this year. Thank you for being here and joining in the conversation, Mo! See you soon!💗

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