Simple Gifts


‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,

And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,

To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

– Shaker Hymn by Elder Joseph Brackett, 1848

Friday poetry to spur some deep thoughts for your weekend. Truthfully I don’t quite understand this one, which is as poetry should be. I like the feel of it; and I like the idea that simplifying creates space for us to move and grow, even “to bow and to bend” in humility, and ultimately to get where we need to go.

We also needed to counterbalance all the talk of hoarding. My official stance is to throw away your lapel pins.

I came across this poem on Hillary Butler’s site. She’s a lovely Memphis artist you should check out. (Don’t know her personally, but the kids gave one of her pieces to Mama Rote last Mother’s Day. And she’s offering free shipping through today if you’re looking for a valentine for your honey or yourself!)

Other valentine’s gift ideas: yummy chocolates made by nuns! And since most of you, dear readers, are ladies, Israel suggests a nice bottle of Macallan scotch as a gift for your valentine. Guys are straightforward. Simple gifts indeed.

[Here’s a beautiful recording of Simple Gifts by Yo Yo Ma and Alison Krauss for your contemplative pleasure. Have a great weekend!]

A Decorating Idea for Crazy Hoarders


If you’re like me, you sometimes love, sometimes hate to throw things away. I feel so satisfied after clearing stuff out, but on the other hand, I just love things, especially old things and memories. And I love that smug feeling when I’m able to pull out that random dish, hat, book—whatever—to use at the perfect time. I loved growing up in a house where you could find anything. In high school, if we needed an item for a skit, video, or activity, my friends would say, well, the Rotes probably have that. And we did: from wigs and costume clothes, to arrowheads, to books, to a (non-working) motorcycle in our garage, which is just an entirely different story, having to do with my oldest brother, my dad, and which one had the higher level of testosterone.

These days, I’ve grown better at simplifying. I try to make good decisions about what’s necessary and what’s clutter, and I try to be sure that whatever new item we acquire is something that we love (or is really useful—see this post about good souvenirs). (And, let’s be honest, things that can’t fit in our apartment I ship off to—you guessed it!—my parents’ house!)

But as much as I like an uncluttered life, I hate when good things go to waste. I think it’s from Dad. If you know him, you know that he doesn’t own a polo shirt other than those he received in swag bags at golf tournaments. (They’re perfectly good!! Why buy others?) For Christmas last year, Israel and I just saved up all the free promotional items we’d received from work, fundraisers, etc. and gave them to Dad: pens, notebooks, shirts, coffee mugs, keychains, handcrafted souvenirs from a delegation from Guatemala.

Some of the worst offenders in the area of swag that you’ll never use are lapel pins. Unless you work for the organization, or it’s an American flag (because, ‘Merica), will you really wear it? They just seem to be a waste of resources. I don’t even have lapels.

BUT don’t let this cause you anxiety! I’ve found the perfect solution. Toss the backs and use your lapel pins as push pins! When I appointed myself as Israel’s office decorator, I found several commemorative lapel pins among jars of coins and drawer dividers and abysses of forgotten paper and business cards. Repurposed on his bulletin board, they’re functional and create a built-in professional scrapbook.

So I feel somewhat crazy to blog about this, but it’s this kind of epiphany that really makes my day sometimes. Is that pretty sad, that I’ll go to such lengths to feel good about hoarding? Or will you go get your secret stash of lapel pins and implement them on your bulletin board, STAT?

P.S. To be clear, I draw a pretty strict line about what’s appropriate office decor versus home, but that’s another post another day. For now just know lapel pins, the swinging hips Elvis clock, and the Bruce Springsteen poster fall under office.

P.P.S. This year for Christmas, we got my dad a goat. For the gentleman who has everything.

Tips from the Danes: Simple & Cozy

walking in Copenhagen

A year ago, we were exploring a new-to-us corner of the world: Stockholm for two nights and Copenhagen for the rest of the week. (Recall, Ashley’s advice on prepping for Danish fashion and culture, and traveling in general.)

Evidently, I’m a fake blogger because I didn’t record the trip after the fact. (Ashley did! Here and here.) But now that it’s getting cooler, the smell of autumn air is bringing back Copenhagen memories.

It was a lovely trip—obviously!—and the charming Scandinavian way of life and simple aesthetic were inspiring. Here are a few specific ideas to make your life simpler and cozier this fall:

  • Nix the top sheet. The Danes and Swedes sleep on a fitted sheet with just a fluffy down comforter. I did this last night, after Mary Tobin peed through our quilt and top sheet. (I don’t think she did it out of spite, but I can’t be sure!) So I stripped those and pulled out the comforter that had been stored away for summer. It was a delicious night of sleep. And if you’ve got two comforters, a separate one for your partner, I think it could solve some marriage problems.
  • Candles, that’s all. The Danes were so into candles it was ridiculous. Clear off all other tchotchkes and light your (unscented) candles. Ashley and her husband rented a furnished apartment, really just the basics—mostly from IKEA of course!—but it felt so cozy even as the days grew darker and shorter. I was inspired to evaluate what we really need, materially. (Of course, I did go nuts at their equivalent of the dollar store, stocking up on cool Scandinavian napkins and weird trinkets.)
  • French press. Yummier coffee, no counter space. I’m so happy we made the switch.
  • Go outside anyway. “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes.” All the restaurants and cafes still had their outdoor seating available. They added blankets to the chairs and cranked up the outdoor heaters. What a dream it would be to install an outdoor heater on our little balcony! But for now I’ll pull out our sturdiest blanket and park it out there.

Thoughts, feelings, emotions? Other ideas for creating hyggelige? Would you try any of these?

copenhagen hygge

P.S. For more on cultural differences—more than just tighter jeans and “blondes have more fun”—read Ashley’s thoughts as they wrapped up their year in Copenhagen: lessons from the Danes.

P.P.S. If you need another boost to simplify your possessions, here’s a post for you: Nobody’s Dream Job.