From Readers: Little Things That Make a Difference

From Readers: Little Things That Make a Difference

Maxwell Ryan
Oct 28, 2008

I wanted to finally share with all of you the lists of small things that you sent in to me last week in response to this email, AT on: Little Things that Make a Difference, which I loved.

There were many of you with many suggestions, so I cut the longer ones down a bit and include them all below. I know it's still a lot, but - hey - they are all good.... and there's strength in numbers. ;-)

Thanks to all of you!

Jennifer, Chicago:

"Put something "steal-able" on your front porch or stoop. A lovely potted plant, real vase with flowers, candle holders, a beautiful wind-chime, funky holiday decorations. I think it sends a signal that you trust your environment and it blurs the lie between inside and outside your home."

From Jennifer's porch


"This is in response to the blog that you just posted. When big things get cut, these are some little things that are still special to me:

• Take a long, slow drive through a fancy neighborhood.
• Buy seafood and make homemade lobster rolls. Take the lobster rolls, potato chips, and strawberries to the lake. Rent a canoe and have a picnic on the water. Turns out to be about $6 a sandwich - cheaper than McDonald's and we get to eat lobster!
• We cook meals at home that are better than the food that you get when you eat out. They turn out healthy and cheap.
• While cooking we usually turn on a movie to listen to or we blast music through the house to make it fun.
• After luxurious vacations when you are sad to be back home and are poor again (because you spent all your money on the vacation), we try and recreate the memorable meals of the trip at home. Pair that with a bottle of wine that you brought back from the trip, and music that you bought on the trip, and you can take yourself right back.
• Can't afford to go anywhere for a vacation? Rent a hotel room in your own city and explore the town as though you were a visitor."

Lisa O:

"Maxwell, here is a little thing that improves my life a notch:

Making home being an engagement, rather than just a landing pad: I'll make a pot of tea (rather than a quick cup) and sit on my sofa with my journals."


"I live in a compact community (snooterville speak for condo) and I put pumpkins on my neighbours' porches in the fall. In the winter I wind evergreen branches around our stairs and in the summer I plant tons of flowers wherever I can, including giant sunflowers.

My next door neighbours' and I have managed to create a bit of wild uniqueness in a strictly manicured environment. We get many compliments on our "oasis".

I live in Michigan and people are floored to learn I moved here from Brooklyn, NY. Apparently my friendliness and green thumb throws them!"


"Making the bed in the morning is something I have been doing for years, it does not take long, it makes the bedroom look better and when you're ready to retire at night it feels better to go to sleep in a tidy bed, it almost feels like sleeping in freshly laundered sheets every night...

The second thing is making lunch for yourself, your spouse or children. First, it saves a ton of money, second, you control both portion size and nutritional content, and third, it's a little of you that goes to the ones you love, lunch after lunch... I cook every night for my husband and make our lunches from scratch, wraps, pasta, soups (sometimes store bought), salads, a little plain yogurt with jam, fruit... It's well worth the effort."


"• Entire family together for a simple organic home-cooked dinner.
• My huge poodle asleep at the end of my bed warming my toes.
• Creating.
• Listening to the birds at 5 am.
• My cat asleep under my arm.
• Listening to the rain fall on the roof at night (a blessing in So. California)."


"One of my big "little things" is to never go to bed without doing the dishes. Who wants to wake up to a fresh new day and still have to deal with yesterday's dirty dishes?"

Mary S., Oklahoma City:

"Sitting on my patio to do my Bible Reading and daily prayers, then the newspaper......doesn't get any better than listening to the birds, the breeze and the traffic in the distance...."


"I started a blog titled Tell Me What You Love.. It's a place for others and myself to share what we love at this moment in time."


"I just completed a beautiful condo project and my new entertaining philosophy is if I am going to invite 5 people over, I may as well invite 50. It always turns out great! Just use fresh flowers and keep the food and drinks simple. Everyone always responds with great enthusiasm."

Liz in Santa Barbara, CA:

"I work at the Natural History Museum and sitting by the creek that runs through the grounds with a packed lunch instead of going out or eating at my desk.

Sitting on the front porch at sunset with my two Maltese boys and having a glass of wine instead of going to a wine bar and sitting inside.

Funny you should mention cleaning the windows. We moved our living room furniture around to reveal all of the floor-to-ceiling window and the first thing I realized was that I need to figure out how to wash them--just seeing the top half, I hadn't realized how dirty they are.

One thing I'd add to your list is "Enjoy the kids' toys & book least to some degree". People don't live in magazine layouts. They live with blocks on the floor and dolls on the coffeetable. I've finally come to the realization that I'm happier if I control/eliminate my own chaos and revel in theirs."


"One way to cut expenses is to do shopping on the internet. I even got a bedroom set from and was as pleased as I could be. I saved on time and gasoline."


• Votivo red currant candles. Making the house smell nice.
• Nice soap in the bathroom and kitchen.
• Cloth napkins.
• Fluffing up the sofa and cushions before going to bed so they look good in the morning.
• Good coffee.
• Soft throw blankets on the couch for naps.


• make your own cleaning supplies, it's cheaper, healthier and better for the environment see: They don't take orders online for Canada but you can call them to place one over the phone.
• enjoy your java at the casa before going to work, out of a super sexy mug
• BYOW - buy a stainless steal water bottle – trendy, cute and good for you and the environment (no need to pick up cases and cases of water)

Tara M.:

"Some of the things I do weekly to ensure my home keeps me coming home are:

• Like you, fresh flowers as often as I can
• I visit our local farmer's market every Saturday
• I love to decorate my fridge with all sorts of momentos from concert tickets to art gallery notices, horoscopes to recipes and of course pictures
• Making whatever outside space you have the coolest it can be is a great way to enjoy your home. I have a great apt with my own little slice of balcony heaven .
• Making sure the cats are well-supplied in toys. They're spoiled but it keeps my home safe if they're happy and distracted!"

From Tara - her cats enjoying their space.


• Email from 10.24.08
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