Book Giveaway: New Minimalism

New Minimalism book


Dear friends,

I just finished reading the most inspiring book, New Minimalism by Cary Telander Fortin and Kyle Louise Quilici. Cary and Kyle are the founders of a business by the same name that helps people in the Bay Area deal with excess stuff and create clean, lovely, uncluttered spaces that fit their lifestyles.

New Minimalism is part design book and part practical organizing guide, with beautiful photos that show the kind of spaces I’m aiming for in our house: streamlined and organized, highlighting a few nice objects so that they can be appreciated.


New Minimalism book


Along with photos of inspiring living spaces, the book offers organizing tips, design principles, resources, and a deeper dive into the psychology of why we accumulate clutter in the first place.

See if you find yourself in one of the four archetypes the authors discuss:  Connected, Practical, Energetic or Frugal. I’m definitely Practical, which means I tend to hold on to things like craft supplies, nails and screws, fabric scraps and the like for “someday.” This book helped me see how that seemingly-practical-but-unused stuff is weighing me down, and I’ve started experiencing the joy of letting go of things I haven’t used for years.

New Minimalism is 196 pages and retails for $24.95. Thanks to the nice people at Sasquatch Books, you could win your very own free copy. Simply leave a comment on this page and answer this question:

What is the one space in your home that you would most like to declutter?

The giveaway is open to anyone with a U.S. shipping address, and will run through Sunday, March 4 at midnight MST. I’ll announce the lucky winner on Monday, March 5.

BIG thanks to Sasquatch Books for providing the book for this giveaway, and good luck to all of you!


The signature for Eliza Cross

Uncluttering for Lent



Dear friends,

After creating a Decluttering Snowball Plan last month, I’m motivated to unclutter the spaces in our house, room by room.

Lent started on Wednesday. As you probably know, the 40-day period between Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday is a time when some religious believers abstain from certain food or temptations, following Jesus’ 40-day fast in the desert in preparation for his public ministry.

I’m doing something a little different this year. I’ve decided to give away a box or bag of usable items every day for these 40 days leading up to Easter.

I guess you could say I’ll do my best to give up clutter for Lent. Would you like to join me?

If you’d like updates and organizing tips, you can also request to join the private January Money Diet Community Facebook Group where I post all year about saving money and creating a nice “nest.”

Hugs to you, and enjoy this contemplative season,

The signature for Eliza Cross


Grateful thanks to Khai Sze Ong for the use of the photo above.

How I Trick Myself Into Saving Money


Dear friends,

I’m always looking for painless ways to stash money.

The $5 Bill Savings Plan helps me save about $25 a month. I always look on the ground in parking lots for spare change (found two pennies yesterday!) and collect coins in a jar to take to the credit union.

Monthly automated savings helps. An inconvenient savings account lessens temptation.

But the biggest change to our finances came when I started doing one simple little trick: Rounding.

Remember Rounding?

I recall loving the rounding exercises in elementary school math. After weeks of painstakingly doing long subtraction, 11.82 was suddenly 12! 6.94 was now 7! And 12 minus 7 was 5, give or take a few pennies — so simple.

You may recall my interview with Steve and Jan Berger, a couple I admire for their joyful, thoughtful style of managing money

At the heart of their enviable lifestyle is the same deceptively simple money trick: rounding up expenditures, rounding down deposits.

Over the course of a year, these hundreds of transactions begin to add up to real savings

It requires a mental shift, but you may find that rounding will help you build a money cushion that can be invested, used for an emergency savings account, or spent in a significant way that supports your goals.

There’s an App for That

My actual Acorns balance after 6 months

You can easily use the rounding method to manually make adjustments in your checkbook balance. Alternately, you can make it automatic and watch your savings grow.

Acorns is an app that automatically rounds up your expenditures and invests the difference. I started using the app last year and have been impressed. You can open an account with $5 and the fee is just $1 a month for balances under $5,000. I use the rounding feature, and also automatically deposit $10 a month. (Use this link to join and Acorns will deposit a bonus $5 in your account.)

Clink allows you to set up automatic savings triggers. For instance, you can set it to save a certain percentage of every shopping and dining transaction. Clink has no deposit minimums or ongoing fees.

Qapital offers the transaction rounding option, and also lets you set goals tied to certain actions. For instance, you could connect it to your fitness tracker so that every time you walk 5,000 steps it deposits a dollar.

How About You?

What is your best savings strategy? Have you tried rounding your transactions? Are you using a mobile app to automate any of your savings?

We’d love to hear your thoughts and strategies on the Comments section of this page. Or stop by the January Money Diet Facebook Community Group, where we share savings ideas year ’round.


The signature for Eliza Cross


P.S. Grateful thanks to Always Shooting for the use of the quarters image. 


Small Bites for the Big Game

Small Bites by Eliza Cross


Dear friends,

If you’re looking for easy appetizers for a Super Bowl party or casual gathering, we’ve got you covered. These three hors d’oeuvre recipes each have elements that can be prepared ahead of time, so you can relax and enjoy your own party. They’re all from my newest cookbook, Small Bites: Skewers, Sliders, and Other Party Eats (Gibbs Smith, publisher), and the beautiful photos are by Jessica Nicosia-Nadler.  Enjoy!


artichoke wontons appetizer

Artichoke Cheese Wontons

Makes 24

  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/2 cup water-packed artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 24 wonton wrappers
  • Chopped fresh chives, for garnish

In a small mixing bowl, combine the Parmesan, mayonnaise, and garlic powder; mix well. Stir in the Monterey Jack and the artichokes. (Mixture can be used at once or refrigerated, covered, for up to 24 hours.)

Preheat oven to 350°F and spray a mini muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray. Press 1 wonton wrapper into each muffin cup. Bake for 5 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned. (Wrappers can be used at once, or stored in a tightly covered container at room temperature for up to 24 hours; replace in muffin pan before proceeding.)

Fill each cup with 1 rounded tablespoon artichoke mixture. Bake until golden brown, 5–6 minutes. Garnish with chives and serve warm.


bacon wrapped scallops


Honey Sriracha Glazed Bacon-Wrapped Scallops

Makes 15 to 20

  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons Sriracha sauce
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 pound (15–20) fresh or frozen (thawed) sea scallops, patted dry
  • 1/2 pound sliced bacon (not thick cut), halved crosswise

To make the glaze, whisk together the honey, Sriracha, and olive oil in a small bowl; reserve. (Glaze may be used at once or refrigerated, covered, for up to 3 days.)

Wrap each scallop with a half slice of bacon and secure with a toothpick. (Bacon-wrapped scallops may be cooked at once or covered and refrigerated for up to 6 hours.)

Preheat the oven broiler and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Arrange the scallops on the prepared baking sheet. Brush both sides with glaze mixture. Broil, turning once, until scallops are opaque and bacon is crispy, 3–4 minutes per side.


antipasto skewers


Antipasto Skewers

Makes 24

  • 24 pitted black olives
  • 24 small pepperoncini peppers
  • 24 small fresh mozzarella balls
  • 12 jarred quartered and marinated artichoke hearts, halved
  • 24 slices salami, folded in half twice
  • 24 pimiento-stuffed green olives
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 24 pieces

Thread ingredients onto 24 (7-inch) skewers in this order: black olive, pepperoncini, mozzarella ball, artichoke heart, salami, green olive, and bell pepper. Serve immediately or refrigerate, tightly covered, for up to 1 day.


Hugs and enjoy the weekend,

The signature for Eliza Cross

A Decluttering Snowball Plan

Declutter space


Dear friends,

When asked to describe my blog, I often say it’s about Simple Living for Real People.

In other words, we’re in this together–experimenting, trying new strategies, practicing the art of less, and slowing down a bit to enjoy life.

I have a number of other simple living blogs I love to read, and one of my favorites is Frugalwoods. Mr. and Mrs. Frugalwoods are the real deal–they live very simply at a homestead in the country, chop and burn their own firewood, and even cut their own hair.

Mrs. Frugalwoods recently wrote a lovely post about decluttering her whole house over a period of 4 to 5 months. This BIG, somewhat overwhelming idea stuck in my mind. Wouldn’t it be heavenly to have a completely uncluttered home?

But where to begin?

A Space Blessing Decluttering Plan

Because I’m a certified Type A, I love lists and plans.

With that in mind, I decided to apply the same principle of Dave Ramsey’s Debt Snowball Plan to the spaces in our house.

Similar to the idea of systematically tackling debts from smallest to largest, I made a list of spaces and arranged the list from least-cluttered to most-cluttered. “Decluttering Plan” sounded too dreary, so I named it a Space Blessing Plan

This took some time and several drafts to get it right, so I was glad I wrote it with a pencil.

I counted freestanding closets like the linen closet as one space. I listed the utility room in the basement and the garden shed as individual spaces. Then I took the two largest and most challenging rooms — the garage and basement — and divided them into smaller, more manageable parts.

The result is a nice, tidy list from smallest to biggest. Here’s how it looks:


Space blessing plan


Doing this plan helped me get real about each space in our house, and order it from least clutter to most. Decluttering the powder room, the #1 space on the list, only took about ten minutes but it was so satisfying to write “DONE” and move on!

My hope is to get through all of the spaces on the list by the end of this year. We’ll see how it goes.

How About You?

Would you like to try creating a Space Blessing Plan, too? I’d love to hear about your ideas and decluttering experiences on the Comments section of this post, or over at the January Money Diet Community Facebook Group.

I hope you enjoy a relaxing, uncluttered weekend.


The signature for Eliza Cross

Grateful thanks to Michael Browning on Unsplash for the lovely photo of the yellow chairs above.

15 Tips to Plan an Amazing Garden

fresh vegetables


Dear friends,

When it’s cold outside and the days are short, I love to daydream about the garden and make plans for the next growing season. Do you feel the same way?

Here are some ideas to help you get started.

1. Before you plan a garden, it’s a good idea to know exactly what hardiness zone you’re in. Here’s the USDA map showing plant hardiness zones. You may want to err on the side of hardiness to account for increasing weather extremes.

Decide Where You’ll Plant Your Garden

2. If you have a typical yard, you might be inspired by the Urban Homestead website. This family grows 3 tons of food on 1/10th of an acre!

3. Check out these inspiring edible landscapes for beautiful ideas about expanding your growing area in non-traditional spaces.

4. If you have a small yard or garden plot, you may enjoy the “Square Foot Gardening” method to maximize your yield from a small space.

5. If you live in an apartment or a space without a garden, here are some container gardening tips.

6. Check out the community gardens in your area. The American Community Gardening Association has a nifty interactive map to help you find one near you.


Lettuce container garden


Figure Out What You Want to Grow

7. Growing a vegetable garden can be a great way to save money. However, gardening can also be a great way to spend money. For thrifty tips, you might enjoy “Frugal Gardening, or How to Avoid $100 Tomatoes.”

8. If you want to grow veggies from seed, but don’t have time to start seedlings indoors, you’ll be happy to know that you can direct sow seeds for beans, beets, corn, cucumbers, lettuce, melons, onions, peas, radishes, spinach and squash.

9. It’s always fun to peruse the new seed catalogs and online offerings each year to see what new varieties have been introduced. These are some of my favorite seed companies:

10. The site has a wealth of information about growing your own food — including tips for how to sell what you grow as an extra revenue source.




What Else Do You Want to Plant?

11. For flowers, check out Floret Flowers’ dreamy new online store.

12. Eden Brothers has a selection of beautiful wildflower mixes.

13. Perhaps you want to create a garden space where you can relax and enjoy being outside. You might enjoy reading “A Garden Where There Once Was None” about our transformation of a patch of overgrown brambles and bushes on the south side of our yard.


Raised Garden


What About Timing?

14. Seeds for Generations has a very helpful Garden Planning Calculator with a wealth of information about germination times for growing dozens of plants from seed, average days to maturity, and more.

15. A garden journal is an invaluable tool for helping you keep track of planting times, ideas for future plants you want to try, successes, failures and more. Here are 7 things I write in my gardening journal.

How About You?

What are you planning for your next garden? Are there fun new veggies and plants you want to try this season? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the Comments section of this post.

Hugs and happy daydreaming,

The signature for Eliza Cross

Share on Pinterest:

Plan your garden

When Decluttering Means Letting Go of an Old Dream


Dear friends,

Since we moved into this house 11 years ago, two bins have remained unopened in the garage.

The labels read ‘BOOKENDS.’ You wouldn’t think bunch of bookends would carry emotional weight for me, would you? And yet they do.

This past weekend as I was putting Christmas ornaments away, I saw those two BOOKENDS bins and felt a pang.

I took notice, and decided to go sit for a little while and delve into my feelings. Why did I feel sad, and what did those two boxes of bookends represent? I closed my eyes for a few minutes and prayed for enlightenment.


Bin of bookends


After some soul-searching, I realized that the bookends were a tangible reminder of a period when life felt secure and settled. In our last house, when I was married, we hired a craftsman to build a handsome wall of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in our living room. Our two book collections were beautifully merged, and I assembled a dozen pairs of bookends from antique stores and eBay to make the shelves look like a magazine spread.

That house represented my total, all-in commitment to our marriage. Always financially conservative, I threw caution to the wind and sold a rental house I owned at the time so we could afford the bigger house and remodel it just to our liking. It was a place where we welcomed a baby and grew our family. It was a house where we built dreams.

Two years later, hardly anything had gone as planned. We were separated, and the dream house was put up for sale. I downsized to a smaller home, and stored the bookends in the garage. For Someday.

I guess for the past decade, I subconsciously imagined that Someday I would unpack those bookends because there would again be a house with a big wall of bookshelves, and more books to merge. So the bins have stubbornly remained through numerous garage decluttering attempts.

Going Deeper

Here’s what I realized this week, after contemplating and getting clear:

I think it’s finally time to let those old bookends go. I have different dreams and plans now. My family and I are happy and content here, and someday I’d like to downsize again. The book collection gets a little smaller every year.

Dreams change over time, and now I’m in a phase of life where I want to live lighter. Do you know what I mean?

It’s funny, but once I got clear about my attachment to the bookends, I started evaluating my deeper motivations for hanging on to a bunch of other stuff. I think 2018 is my year to finally let some things go.

How About You?

Would you like to try an experiment? Go to your storage area, and stand there and look at your things for a quiet minute or two without judgment. Then ask yourself these questions:

Do any of these things evoke strong emotions? If so, can you spend a little time thinking about why, and what story or hope or dream or plan or attachment the object represents to you?

Next, ask yourself this:

What would happen if I let this go?

In “Farewell, My Punch Bowl,” I wrote about giving away a heavy crystal punch bowl after hauling it from house to house for 30 years because I wanted to keep it in case I might like to make punch someday for a party. I finally realized that if I ever did want to make punch (hasn’t happened yet) I could borrow a large bowl from a friend or neighbor.

Perhaps you’re ready to let some old stuff go, too.

If you have things that you’re just not ready to part with yet, honor that feeling. Tuck those precious things away, and be gentle with yourself.

You will know what to do when the time is right.

Just as I know that the time has finally come to let go of my weighty bookends.


The signature for Eliza Cross

The January Money Diet Begins with Challenge #1

January Money Diet Day 1

Dear friends,

Happy New Year, and welcome to the first day of the 2018 January Money Diet! This year, we embrace our new dieters and say hello to many repeat dieters who have participated before. Our diverse group includes money dieters from across the globe – the U.K., Canada, Norway, Austria, Australia, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Singapore, the U.S. and more. Welcome, everyone!

I’m so glad you’ve joined us. Whether this is your first January Money Diet or you’re a seasoned alumni, I promise you’ll enjoy this generous community of like-minded people.

For the next 31 days, we’ll take a break from spending cash on anything but essentials.

We’ll share skills to s-t-r-e-t-c-h our money while living well, having fun, and enjoying splurges. We’ll take steps to make our living spaces comfortable and uncluttered.

We’ll encourage each other, cheer each other on, and share lots of ways to live large without spending. At the end of the month, we’ll each do something extraordinary with the extra money we’ve saved.

First, a Little Housekeeping…

If you’re a regular Happy Simple Living reader but you haven’t “joined” this year’s January Money Diet, you need to sign up (just one time) here.

Otherwise, you won’t receive the daily e-mails for the next 30 days. If you don’t receive an e-mail from me tomorrow (Jan. 2), just jump over to the January Money Diet page and sign up and you’ll be back on track.

If you can’t remember whether you signed up or not, you can fill out the form just to be on the safe side and you won’t receive duplicate emails.

You’re also warmly invited to join the private January Money Diet Facebook Group to connect with other dieters across the globe.

Okay – let’s jump right in with the first challenge, shall we?

The January Money Diet begins with a month-long initiative to help strengthen our relationship with money.

The Link Between Giving and Receiving

Prosperity and giving are connected in a beautiful, mysterious way. It might not make logical sense, but the more we give away, the greater abundance we experience. We receive more, and then we can give away even more. In the process of sharing with others, we also feel happier.

In a month when many of us feel squeezed after the holidays and anxious to get back on track financially, it might feel almost counterintuitive to start a money diet by giving more. And yet, because I’ve experienced this wonderful paradox in my own life I know that giving unlocks amazing things for each one of us.

The age-old Biblical principle of sowing and reaping is the yin and yang that brings balance and joy to the way we manage money.

Here is your first challenge, which you can work on at your own pace throughout the month.

JMD Challenge #1: Give 31 things away

During this no-spend month, look for opportunities to share your abundance with others.

Some of us may choose to give away 31 things we no longer need — perhaps items like clothes, furniture, coats, dishes or other things that would bless another person. By clearing out clutter and making space, we’ll have fewer things to clean and keep track of and more breathing room.

Some might decide to prepare a hot meal for someone, or send an encouraging note, or teach someone a skill, or babysit, or listen, or give a back rub, or shovel a snowy sidewalk, or pass along a book. What you give is completely up to you.

Be on the lookout for unexpected gifts and blessings that come your way this month, too. Visit the JMD Community Facebook Group to leave comments about the 31 gifts you give, and share your experiences of both giving and receiving. You can also use the #JanuaryMoneyDiet tags on your Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest posts. I can’t wait to hear your stories!

I’m excited to share this journey with you, and you’ll be hearing from me again tomorrow.

Until then, enjoy this New Year’s Day and the promise of a fresh financial start in 2018.


The signature for Eliza Cross

3 New Things About the January Money Diet

Do something amazing in 2018


Dear friends,

The 9th annual January Money Diet starts this Monday. Have you signed up? Here’s what’s new this year:

#1. Even if you’ve participated in past years, because we’re using a new mailing company you’ll need to sign up one time here:

It’s easy — just enter your first name and e-mail address, and you’ll receive the daily e-mails (every day but Sunday) and challenges throughout January.

#2. This year during the January Money Diet, we’ll be giving special attention to making our homes nice. January is the perfect month for creating a comfortable, uncluttered “nest,” — without spending money, of course!

#3. We’ve created a new private JMD Facebook group for support and encouragement. Just request to join and we’ll get you approved. While you’re there, be sure to introduce yourself!

So far we have 2018 JMD participants from Norway, Austria, Germany, Sweden, Canada, the U.K., Australia, Singapore and the U.S. Welcome to all of you!

I can’t wait to embark on this adventure with you.

Here’s to doing amazing things together in 2018,

The signature for Eliza Cross