Diamond-Cut Life

How To Be Rich In What Matters

Diamond-Cut Life header image 1

Happy Earth Day & How To Find A Green Job

April 22nd, 2014 by Alison · diamond-cut life

Green-collar jobs like those in wind energy are crucial for addressing climate change.

Happy Earth Day! The party is at Thor’s and my house this Sunday.

Are you interested in finding green work you can love? Are you here in the Portland Oregon area — or can you be here by this Sunday? Would you like advice and encouragement from Portlanders working in energy efficiency, transportation options and resource conservation? Special appearance by the builder of the nation’s largest renewable energy program (that would be my husband Thor Hinckley — I am so proud of him).

“Right Livelihood” salon and potluck dinner is this Sunday April 27 at 4 p.m. at our home in the Mt. Tabor neighborhood of SE Portland. Leave a comment if you’d like to attend.


→ 2 CommentsTags: ·····

Top Ten Timewasters To Avoid

April 20th, 2014 by Alison · diamond-cut life

We all have exactly 168 hours in a week. The way we choose to use our 168 hours determines how rich we become in the things that matter, like health, integrity, loving relationships, connection to nature and overall happiness.

At the same time,  we all need to relax, and have respite from our responsibilities. I’m a glutton for steaming-hot baths before bedtime, in which I read novels I love and have read many times before (currently Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver — I bet you’d love it, too.)

I think relaxation that renews us is different from timewasting that saps our mental energy and leaves us wondering where our day, week or year has gone. I don’t know for a fact that you should avoid all the ten timewasters I name below. It’s context-sensitive. We know it’s a timewaster when it’s become a distraction or escape from doing the things that give us integrity and make us feel good about ourselves.

1. Celebrity-watching. Has following the news of the Kardashians, or the British royals, or almost anyone else who’s famous, ever helped any of us to live a more worthwhile life? A key problem with celebrity-watching is that their lavish consumption becomes normal in our eyes, when there’s nothing normal about it. And research shows that the layers of income that move people from comfortable to rich do not create more happiness.

2. Spectator sports. I risk at least half the nation booing angrily at me when I suggest that watching sports for many hours per week is not necessarily a great use of time. I know that millions of folks bond happily by rooting for their beloved teams together. It can create unity and shared excitement. But why not find unity and shared excitement, at least sometimes, in being active together, rather than spectating together? Spectating perpetuates Sitting Disease, which my chiropractor calls the new smoking. Getting off the couch and being active vanquishes Sitting Disease.

3. Climate deniers. This is a different, larger-scale twist on time-wasting. Denying that climate change is happening has wasted humanity’s time on the most epoch scale possible. The biggest perpetrators of climate denial are Big Oil and Big Coal, and ExxonMobil leads the pack. For decades these corporations have denied climate change and put their own profits ahead of the entire planet’s health. Science has made abundantly clear that climate change is caused by burning fossil fuels. Most fossil fuels need to stay in the ground. Tens of thousands of ordinary citizens are making great use of their time by working and demonstrating for that path.

4. Shopping as a hobby. We do have to shop and consume in order to live – for things that we need, like groceries. Lots of our shopping in the first world, though, is for wants, not needs. More clothes, shoes or accessories, or more perfect clothes, shoes or accessories (see 10.) can consume hundreds of hours per year. How do we want to choose?

5. Facebook for more than, say, 15 minutes/day. I do think that Facebook can build people’s connectedness. So I’m open to debate on when it tips into time-wasting. Small doses, is my personal mantra here.

6. Fighting the aging process. Some things in life need acceptance, not problem-solving. We’ve all known older people who are comfortable in their own skin and are emotionally available to those around them, and older people who reject their own skin, devote great energy to trying to look young as long as possible, and have little energy left over for others. Which do we want to emulate? Here is my traumatic experience I had last year around aging, and the peace I decided to make with it.

7. Control.  This one is tricky, since there are many things we can influence, or partially control. But we cannot ultimately control people, places or things. When we try to, we waste great amounts of time, and we alienate those around us because we’re not respecting their right to make their own choices, or to contribute in their own ways.

8. Grandiose claims by advertisers. “This weird little trick made me lose ten pounds in a week.” “Three-minute workouts with this machine will make you fit for life.”  “78% return on investment — get rich without working.” Buying into grandiose claims by advertisers sends us on wild goose chases, even if just within our own minds, for easy fixes that don’t exist. Our lives work better when we’re grounded, not grandiose, in our expectations.

9. Checking email. While doing some email is a necessity, like some shopping, checking it constantly is not. Most emails are not that time-sensitive, and many are trivial, destined for deletion. Better to be fully present to what we are doing and the people we are with, and deal with email intentionally, just at times, rather than all the time.

10. Perfectionism.  This is a huge time-sink. Yet we generally don’t even realize we’re being perfectionistic as we pour time into final tweaks that make barely perceptible differences. I have been known, ahem, to do this with my writing. Others do it in pursuit of flawless gardens or immaculately clean houses. Letting go of perfectionism can save us hundreds of hours each year. It’s about seeing that we’ve delivered the goods, and have now reached the point of diminishing returns. I think I’ve reached that point with this post (OK, maybe I passed it an hour ago). Time to hit the publish button, and get ready to bicycle with Thor to Easter services, first at Lincoln Street Methodist, then at First Unitarian.

What do you see as a timewaster in your life?

Receive future posts on how to be rich in what matters:



→ 6 CommentsTags: ·······

Being Grounded Versus Grandiose

April 13th, 2014 by Alison · diamond-cut life

Caveman Bridge, spanning the Rogue River in Grants Pass, Oregon

This past week I got to walk to and from work on Caveman Bridge, across the stunning Rogue River, in brilliant spring sunshine. I was staying in Grants Pass, Oregon for my work in rural transit. I felt like I was inhabiting heaven on earth as I strode over the water, I was so rich in what matters.

Walking to work is a grounded thing to do. It uses none of the fossil fuels that drive climate change, and it fosters our health, just like [Read more →]


→ 4 CommentsTags: ······

The Smoking Gun Of Passion

April 6th, 2014 by Alison · diamond-cut life

Where in your life are you the most frustrated? What in you yearns for change, or growth, or even transformation?

Frustration is a smoking gun for passion. Our job is to follow the smoke and identify its source within us.

Prior to last month, I had been as frustrated as a child with ants in my pants with the vacations [Read more →]


→ 2 CommentsTags: ········

Giveaway of Gladwell’s “David And Goliath”

March 30th, 2014 by Alison · diamond-cut life

Mainstream culture tells us that more is better, bigger is stronger, and power prevails. But those of us who are driven by values rather than profits (that would be Diamond-Cut Life’s readership) know that in many cases, the opposite is true.

After a certain point, more and bigger are counterproductive. And power can only prevail in the long run when it is seen as legitimate.

Malcolm Gladwell’s latest bestselling book “David and Goliath” gives us specific reasons and examples of how underdogs and good causes win. Like all of Gladwell’s books starting with “The Tipping Point”, this is a pageturner full of true stories and surprising truths. I always come away from a Gladwell book feeling inspired that I can make a difference in my own sphere of influence. Here are ways that all of us can build our capacity to make a difference.

I’m giving away a hardback copy of “David and Goliath”, signed by Malcolm Gladwell himself, on June 1st. To get into the drawing,  subscribe by email to Diamond-Cut Life. You’ll then receive my weekly Sunday posts. Easy to unsubscribe with a click any time.
      If you’re already a subscriber and want to be in the drawing, just leave a comment letting me know that.

Speaking of which, the winner of a free copy of “The World Until Yesterday” by Jared Diamond is Christina D., a subscriber to this blog. Congratulations, Christina!



→ 7 CommentsTags: ···

The Best Thing We Can Each Build

March 23rd, 2014 by Alison · diamond-cut life

Since starting out in 2007, Diamond-Cut Life has periodically honed and chiseled its focus. I feel like a jeweler, happily crafting ideas into posts here in my living room, like rough geodes into jewels.

Last year, I recrafted my blog’s subtitle from “more joy, less stuff”  to “how to be rich in what matters.”  In 2014, I’ve realized that my “who” needs sharper focus, i.e. who are the community of readers that I’m serving?

And the answer is: Diamond-Cut Life is for people driven by values, not greed.

People driven by greed tend to build material things, such as more deadly armaments to sell to other countries, more prisons that incarcerate ever-higher percentages of our population, and more fracking equipment and pipelines that extract and ship more of the fossil fuels that drive climate change.

Those of us driven by values, though, know the power of building ourselves. Power ultimately comes from within, including the power to reshape the world into a just and verdant place that works for everyone, not just for the wealthy.

The best thing that each of us can build is our personal capacity. That capacity can take many shapes. Here some key kinds of capacity we can build to live from our values and create a better world.

Capacity to sustain a loving, healthy marriage or partnership

Capacity to learn the new skills that constantly changing technologies and workplaces expect of us.

Capacity to generate, via the sun, as much electricity as our homes use.

Capacity to share and conserve resources via choices like living with others, driving sparingly, and heating our homes strategically.

Capacity to live below our financial means, happily and well, and if we have credit card debt, to climb out of it.

Capacity to enjoy and nurture the natural world, which belongs to all of us, no matter our income level or social status.

Capacity to make and eat tasty, healthy meals, especially with locally grown food.

Capacity to keep our bodies strong and fit, rather than succumb to Sitting Disease.

Capacity to travel in ways that support and respect other cultures, rather than consume them.

Capacity to grow our spirituality and sense of connectedness.

Capacity to survive the deaths of loved ones with heartful grief, rather than bitterness or despair.

 Capacity to adapt and evolve as climate change progresses. (Hint: focusing on needs, rather than ever-increasing wants, is a great way to both cope with climate change, and slow its pace.)

To live values-driven lives, the best thing we can each build is our own capacity. Power ultimately comes from within, including the power to reshape the world into a just and verdant place that works for everyone, not just for the wealthy. In what ways do you feel you have strong capacity? In what ways would you like to grow your personal capacity?


Next week I’ll announce the winner of “The World Until Yesterday”, the excellent book I’m giving away at month’s end. It’s by Jared Diamond (the Pulitzer prize-winning author of “Guns, Germs And Steel”.) To get into the drawing, subscribe by email to this blog, below. (Weekly posts will arrive in your inbox. Easy to unsubscribe with a click at any time.)



→ 8 CommentsTags: ··

Ten Ways To Help A Compulsive Hoarder

March 16th, 2014 by Alison · diamond-cut life

We can see hoarding — being out of control with accumulated stuff — as the reverse image of being rich in what matters.

Chaos, lack of usable living space, sky-high storage costs, rodent infestations, shame and social isolation are some of the ways that compulsive hoarders suffer. The families and friends of compulsive hoarders suffer too, from stress, anger and depression. It’s a problem that needs our compassion, and some skills and tips for addressing it.

I’ve used my M.S. in counseling psychology to write  [Read more →]


→ 9 CommentsTags: ····

Top Ten Tips For Visiting Costa Rica

March 9th, 2014 by Alison · diamond-cut life

chain gang

My Costa Rican chain gang in Santa Elena. I’m in the middle, white shirt.

Traveling is a prime way to be rich in what matters. I just returned from eight days in Costa Rica, tired and happy from my first volunteer vacation. Travel can be such a thrill, such a rush, that many blogs are only about travel. I am a generalist, though, writing since 2007 about how the many facets of life come together to create a sparkling, diamond-like whole.   

When we travel, I suggest that we not see other countries and cultures as experiences that we consume. They are not just there for our pleasure. Rather, we can give as well as receive when we travel, especially if we follow the lead of the locals. I didn’t make up this idea. I’m just now [Read more →]


→ 10 CommentsTags: ····

Eight Tips On Compulsive Hoarding

March 1st, 2014 by Alison · diamond-cut life

Hoarding tends to trigger stress, depression and anger in the families and friends of the one who hoards.

I suggest that hoarding — being out of control with accumulated stuff — is the reverse image of being rich in what matters.

Hoarding creates suffering, even though it is triggered by abundance. Rotting garbage, rodent and insect infestations, shame, and social isolation accompany compulsive hoarding. This problem needs our compassion, and some skills and tips for addressing it.

This is part one of a two-part series on hoarding. I’ve used my M.S. in counseling psychology to compile a post on understanding hoarding – that’s today’s post —  and dealing with it in compassionate, constructive ways – that will be Part II.

About a million people in the U.S. are compulsive hoarders. But it’s safe to assume that tens of millions have some hoarding behavior that creates problems for themselves, their families and those around them. And, arguably, almost the entire First World has clutter that cuts into our quality of life.

Speaking of clutter! I don’t mind admitting that I have occasionally paid a pleasant, competent person about $25/hour to help me declutter and organize my home’s papers, cupboards and closets. The decluttering brought me instant emotional relief. When I was younger and poorer, I bartered, i.e. helped a friend tame her stuff, and received her help in return. (The other person’s stuff is always much less confusing than our own. Toss. Keep. Goodwill. Repeat.)  For the record, I’ve been told by my helpers I am not a hoarder. My point is that I can still empathize: stuff is hard to deal with.

Hoarding can be surprisingly hard to identify, in both ourselves and others. A prime reason is that our culture is materialistic, and encourages us to buy lots of stuff, and/or to get stuff for free, whether or not we truly need the items. Even our political and business leaders indicate to us that a healthy economy depends on high consumption, overlooking the fact that possessions are needy things that use up our time, money, energy and living space (and also the earth’s limited resources).

For that very reason, be alert for the symptoms of hoarding. For example, are possessions crowding out usable living space? Is a storage unit costing, over time, far more than the value of its contents? Is clutter blocking essential activities like cooking or bathing by filling up spaces like sinks and tubs? Yes answers indicate hoarding.

Compulsive hoarding is considered an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The term OCD has become carelessly used as slang nowadays for everything from a strong detail orientation to bosses that everyone dislikes. But OCD is actually a specific type of mental illness or disability. A truly compulsive hoarder can’t exercise free choice in the same way that other people exercise choice over what items to keep, recycle, give away or discard.

Like other genuine OCD disorders, compulsive hoarding is irrational, and doesn’t respond to logic or reason. Understanding that last fact can save the families and friends compulsive hoarders some frustration. (Only some.)

However, hoarding involves behaviors that all of us do once in awhile. Hoarding is a spectrum behavior, like overeating and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). In the same way that we all sometimes binge on ice cream or lose our keys, we all let some unneeded papers, memorabilia and other items accumulate and clutter our living space. (See my confession, above, of periodically getting help with decluttering).

The fact that clutter is a common problem makes compulsive hoarding easier for a hoarder to deny than, say, pyromania or shoplifting, since the hoarder may state with a bit of truth, “Everyone does this”.

But there are differences. Compulsive hoarders:

  • Are unable to use (at least by themselves) the organizing and decluttering methods that work for the rest of us
  • Often feel embarrassed to let others see how they are living
  • Deny or minimize their hoarding even though it is obvious to others
  • Experience harmful consequences like rodent nests, utility shut-offs, inability to find crucial items, etc.

Some hoarding is collection-based. The collections may be useless, like old newspapers, wine corks, or boxes of cancelled checks from the 70’s. But even if the hoarded collections are valuable, like antique jewelry, furniture, stamp or coin collections, the storage problems are out of control. The hoarder is unable to distinguish that some items are more valuable than others — they all feel valuable.

Some hoarding is fear-based. Hoarding may center on the fear of throwing anything away, more than any active desire to collect things. The hoarder may be perfectionistic, and feel afraid of making a wrong decision on what to keep or throw away. The thought of discarding a thing triggers anxiety, and not discarding it relieves the anxiety. Hence, no discarding. Result: hoarding.

Final facts on compulsive hoarding:

  • Hoarders may be tidy and organized in their personal appearance.
  • Hoarding can afflict people of any income level.
  • Hoarding can trigger stress, depression and anger in family and friends of the hoarder.
  • Hoarding tends to advance with age.
  • Hoarding and social isolation tend to feed into each other.
  • Criticizing the hoarder does not help, and instead leads to greater shame and suffering.
  • Counseling from therapists experienced with hoarding can help.

On March 16th, I’ll post Ten Tips For Helping Hoarders.  Receive that  post and future posts on how to be rich in what matters:

I will never share or sell your email address.


→ 8 CommentsTags: ····

Take 40 Seconds To Help Slow Climate Change

February 23rd, 2014 by Alison · diamond-cut life

When we are rich in what matters, we know we are part of something greater than ourselves. 

The climate we share with each other, and with all species, is greater than ourselves. Our climate sustains all of our lives, even though it is invisible. And it is heating up due to our burning of fossil fuels, even faster than scientists had originally thought. It is causing record-breaking droughts, wildfires and extreme weather events of all types. Its effects in the years and decades to come will be much more dire.

It’s easy to feel helpless in the face of something so big. I sometimes feel helpless about climate change, myself. But when we act with others, we do have the power to slow climate change. Right now is the final opportunity for public comment on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline before President Obama decides whether or not to approve it. Be a part of something than yourself and make your comment here, asking the President to reject Keystone XL. It takes 40 seconds or less. The comment period closes on March 7, 2014.

Let’s encourage him to be a climate champion, not the pipeline president.

More than a million people submitted public comments against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline the last time that comments were accepted. We hope to get even more this time. Numbers really count with public comments.  When I submitted my comment yesterday (in italics below) I saw a gratifying feedback stream telling me that other people had commented 37 seconds ago, one minute ago, two minutes ago, etc. But this shouldn’t be surprising. We all need a stable climate.

President Obama,

I voted for you twice because I saw you as a truth-teller, particularly about our dangerously warming climate. You have said you would not approve Keystone XL if it would significantly impact the climate.

We all know that it would. Any truth-teller knows we have to decrease our extraction and burning of fossil fuels to slow climate change, not extract more so we can burn more, as Keystone XL would have us do.

Please go down in history as our climate champion, not as our pipeline president. Please reject Keystone XL.

Submit your comment rejecting Keystone XL here. You can cut and paste my comment above. Or you can write your own. Be a part of something greater than yourself today – do it now. It will make you richer in what matters.


Next Sunday I’ll post on “How To Deal With Hoarding”. My talented assistant Ursala Garbrecht will then be moderating comments as I am on away on a volunteer vacation in Costa Rica. Ursala Garbrecht is also a professional organizer here in Portland — go, Ursala!

Receive “How To Deal With Hoarding” and other future posts on how to be rich in what matters.



→ 5 CommentsTags: ····