The Year of the Butterfly


.Today marks the first day of the Chinese New Year, which according to their lunar calendar is the Year of the Rabbit.

Well, I’d like to propose a special New Year for us minimalists: let’s make this the Year of the Butterfly.

Why? Let me explain with an excerpt from my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide:

When we overconsume, we’re like bulls running through a china shop—leaving a destructive path of downed forests, dirty waterways, and overflowing landfills in our wake. In our quest for more goods and unfettered growth, we break the Earth’s fragile ecosystems, shatter the lives of indigenous peoples, and leave future generations to clean up the mess.

As minsumers, we want to do the opposite. Instead of being bulls, we strive to be butterflies—living as lightly, gracefully, and beautifully as possible. We want to flit through life with little baggage, unencumbered by excess stuff. We want to leave the Earth and its resources whole and intact, as if we alighted just for a moment and barely touched them.

The Earth has a finite number of resources for a growing number of people; and as more countries become industrialized, the greater the pressure on the system. When we act like bulls, we grab more than our fair share. We feel entitled to support our consumptive lifestyles at any cost, and worry little about the effects on the environment. We don’t give a second thought to what’s left over for others, or whether we’ll have enough land, food, water, and energy to go around. What’s worse: in a “growth at all costs” economy, such behavior becomes the norm. Imagine hundreds, thousands, even millions of bulls stomping through the world and stripping it bare of its bounty.

When we act like butterflies, on the other hand, we’re satisfied with the barest of essentials. We consume as little as possible, conscious of the fact that resources are limited. We celebrate the gifts of nature—a spring breeze, a clear stream, a fragrant flower—rather than trampling them. We’re aware that we’re stewards of the Earth, and have a responsibility to nourish and nurture it for future generations. We exist harmoniously with each other, and within the ecosystem.

With that in mind, here’s 10 ways we can live more like butterflies this year:

1. Buy less. Resolve to purchase only the essentials, and refrain from acquiring new clothes, décor, electronics, and other unnecessary items.

2. Be content with what you have. To a butterfly, more is only a burden.

3. Act gracefully. Do what you do, and say what you say, with poise and elegance. Brash language and aggressive attitudes just aren’t cool (or particularly pleasant).

4. Appreciate nature. Seek entertainment in parks and forests, instead of movie theaters and malls. Enjoy the latest blooms instead of the latest releases.

5. Eat fresh and light. Like a butterfly, get your nourishment from the natural world—chemical-, preservative-, and hormone-free. Consume only what’s enough, instead of indulging in excess.

6. Preserve the Earth’s resources. Be a minsumer, and consider the effect of every purchase on the environment. Buy used, buy local, and recycle whenever possible.

7. Inspire others with your actions. Instead of preaching, let the beauty of your ways be an example to others.

8. Lighten your burden. Donate your excess to others: Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and local thrift shops can help distribute your castoffs to those who need them most.

9. Live in the moment. A butterfly doesn’t pine for the past, or fret about the future; rather, every moment is its eternity.

10. Love unconditionally. Understand that you’re connected to every person, plant, and animal on this planet, and treat them all with love, kindness, and respect.

I’d love to hear your ideas for living lightly, gracefully, and beautifully this year. How will you make this the Year of the Butterfly?

The small butterfly

moves as though unburdened by

the world of desire

53 comments to The Year of the Butterfly

  • Carli

    Such a great way of summing it all up. If we all celebrated The Year of the Butterfly like this for 12 months… well I can’t even imagine what the world would look like by December!

  • […] miss minimalist – 10 ways we can live more like butterflies this year. […]

  • Steve

    I am trying to resist buying your book but the more I read your blog entries the more I want to experience your wonderful insight.

  • Absolutely lovely and elegant in every way! I love your writing, Francine! Keep it coming! And, you’re right, going minimalist IS addictive!

    Steve: interloan her book from the library; that’s what I did. Or buy it electronically!

    • Nancy

      I had our library get the book, and then I was the first person to check it out. I liked it so much, and wanted to go back and hi-light the key points, so my husband bought me my own copy for Christmas!

  • I think this post is so well-written (especially the list of 10 ways to live like a butterfly) that it deserves to be real printed on paper and stuck on a real fridge.

    Yes. As in… “physical stuff”!

    Greetings from the Netherlands :)

  • Ashley

    Such a refreshing, uplifting post! It’s funny how life can get so complicated and burdensome when you stray from simple principles like these. Thank you for sharing this, Francine – it’s great!
    p.s. Steve – the book is totally worth it!

  • springleaf

    @Steve, I got the ebook version, no paper, no waste, no transport costs, no guilt ;-)

  • Francine, I love how all encompassing these ideas are! Beautiful and helpful. My favorites are 3 and 10, who goes around saying they need more negativity in their life? Which is my goal for this year, lighten my brain! Light thoughts, good thoughts.

  • Nancy Adams

    Francine- I love your book and your philosophy. Although I have been moving toward minimalism for a while, your book has motivated me to really go for it! I admit it is hard with children, especially one who is almost a teenager and wants to do everything the opposite of her mom! I just figure I will live my life like I want and be an example to her and maybe someday she will get it. Thank you for all your insightful postings. I always look forward to them :)

  • “A butterfly doesn’t pine for the past, or fret about the future; rather, every moment is its eternity.”

    Beautiful! I’m with you. Year of the Butterfly sounds like a perfect adventure in gently flitting through life spreading joy and beauty. All right, I got a little corny there but hey! Sometimes you’ve got to.

    It’s a beautiful analogy you’ve created.

    I’ve been wanting to buy your book too, but I’ve gone book-free! I think I’m going to have to get it and then donate it to the library when I’m done so others can enjoy it too.

  • Carly

    This year I’ve signed up for a childcare course…It’s such a lovely classroom full of laughing, happy girls eager to care for children and give them the best they can. Our lecturer is really inspiring… For every time a person swears they have to put 50 cents into a charity jar that goes to disadvantaged children. She supports all natural cleaners in daycare centers (which promotes safety). We also have a simulated child care room that she has made up from bits and pieces she has recycled, collected from nature or collected from second-hand stores. The idea is that by avoiding lots of ‘plastics’ we can encourage children to be more in touch with nature again. And it also teaches children that items can be recycled and played with again. While I love children’s toys, I must say it’s a revolutionary idea that gives children a larger scope of experience and a better understanding of their world. And why is this related to this post? Well maybe it just might influence some of our smaller butterflies to have more concern for the environment in the future.

  • Didn’t the mythbuster kinda bust the myth of a bull in a China shop?

  • Carly

    By the way, Francine, this is a really beautiful post. When I buy an e-book, the first book I’m buying is definitely going to be yours! :D

  • Betty

    This is a beautiful thought. I love that you used a symbol to
    represent this year. I like it so much that, I think it will become
    a motto in my life. Instead of the year of the butterfly, I am opting
    for my life as a butterfly. This will help me keep focus. :)
    Needless to say, I enjoy butterflies immensely. :) My life has a long
    way to go, to feel that light. Yet, now I have a mental picture of the
    future. Perhaps right now I am a caterpillar, but transformation is COMING!

  • 9. Live in the moment. A butterfly doesn’t pine for the past, or fret about the future; rather, every moment is its eternity.

    Are you familiar with the Monarch Butterfly? I had the opportunity to study their migration patters here on the WEEEEEST COOOOAST! They take several generations to complete their migration south and back north again. Some of the instar caterpillars would consume plants with latex with makes them toxic to birds, this latex passes into its butterfly stage remaining toxic.

    What this does is if a bird should eat such a butterfly it would eventually have to vomit it up, it would remember that such a butterfly was toxic and not eat those butterflies anymore. Thus sacrificing itself for FUTURE generations of the species.

    I am not sure if that counts as “fretting about the future” since you aren’t clear on what that means.

    Over all I find your metaphors relating nature, butterflies into some Eastern Philosophy thing to be rather nonsensical.

    H20 is a Chemical.

  • Betty

    Fat Stupid American: I think it is sad that you don’t get the beauty of
    this “metaphor.”

    It doesn’t seem by your comment, or your “name”, that you are seeking out inner lightness either.

    You do know that your thoughts, and words are powerful right? You should speak well of yourself, and
    others. In so doing you will bless yourself. :)

    Your comment did not add to the value of your life, or to the value of others.

    • Jens


      I think Fat Stupid American is engaging in what we in the UK call “winding up”, where a contrarian view is taken for the perceived humour in it. The more agitated you get over him, the more he delights in it.

  • julie

    i just finished your book last week. wow. and another wow! oh sure, there are a lot of “how to organize and declutter” books out there…most of them include how to purchase cutsey little baskets to corral your items…i think you all know what i mean. well, your book was the FIRST book i have ever read about this subject that delved into SO much more…the deep rooted ideas behind why i/we hang onto “stuff” and how letting go can be so rewarding and relieving….simply, put, this was the BEST book i have read in a very long time because it provided the impetus to actually do something with my excess. i have always “prided” myself (:) that my excess was carefully organized and superbly but excess is excess no matter how organized it is…i did a BRUTAL purging of posessions through out the house last week and i am continuing to reaccess and fine-tune the process this week. it has felt amazing….when i open a drawer that has been decluttered and now has been left sparse but extremely useful, i FEEL a weight lifted. LITERALLY. who would have thought opening a newly organized kitchen flatware drawer could be so liberating…:)it has also been so rewarding to let go things and let them be appreciated, enjoyed and used by others…that blesses me…sorry so long winded but i wanted to let you know how much i appreciate you and your book!
    julie harris

  • Very nice entry. I especially liked #3. I appreciate kind and non-offensive language online. It’s much more encouraging when all you want to do is improve your life and the lives of others. Thank you.

  • KC

    Absolutely love this post and agree with it wholeheartedly! Thank you

  • Francine, I loved today’s post it was just what I needed to read. Please keep them coming!

  • miss minimalist

    Oh, you lovely people! Thank you so much for all the wonderful comments, and kind words about my book {blush}.

    YOU are my inspiration, and the reason I keep writing. :)

  • I love your 10 tips! I particularly like the “get back to nature” one, because it is so true. Many of us do not try to enjoy nature anymore- it has become either a beautiful backdrop in a window or a hindrance to travel or plans. We should learn to enjoy it for what it is. I mean, honestly, what could be nicer than taking a walk through a forest listening to the birds high above, or just sitting and listening to a stream run swiftly by.

    We are blessed to live here, and we should accept that blessing with grace, poise, and elegance.

    Thank you for the post! :)

  • Kim

    . . . and this is why yours is one of the very few blogs I follow anymore. Beautiful. Caring. Gentle. Lovely.

  • Louise

    Thank you for that beautiful post! I very seldom comment on the blogs I read but this is a good opportunity to tell you that your book is changing my life. It has totally shifted my view of possessions and the streamline system is a fantastic practical way of sorting everything out. I’d tried a few different systems in the past but this is the first one to have really delivered. I’m so pleased as I have a young child and now know that I will be setting him a good example as he grows.

  • alisha

    Finally purchased “the joy of less”!!!
    I”ll be moving in less than 3 weeks, and have been pondering over what to take and what to ditch… Needless to say, your book is an extreme encouragement. HOWEVER! I still found myself saying, “aaaw, why not? this thing won’t take up THAT much space…” and then… about 2 hours ago, my toilet defected on me, soaking everything in it’s 3 meter radius, which of course, included several boxes that I had already packed. A major wake-up call.
    I have finally managed to clean up the flood water (it wasn’t pretty…) and realized that I am actually smiling! Life has a funny way of giving you little hints… Happy Chinese New Year.

  • Beautiful. I think I’ll print out a little butterfly to remind myself to live with less.

  • Thank you for the tips. I needed those reminders. Very anti-minimalist of me to say, but it’d make a great poster!

  • Mitsuko

    I wrote this from Japan.
    I finished reading your book last month.
    I am living in tiny old wooden house in Japan.
    Once I moved here, it looked so serene.
    But now…
    I will make it serene again.
    Your book is like a bible for me.

    I’ll write again about progress!

  • F:

    This is classic. I have included in on my new blog listed above. I am about to start your book and look forward to enjoying it immensely.


  • Great post! And what a coincidence: I’ve just started a new blog about minimalism and other things what interest or inspire me and its called: Butterfly dance (and I’ve just read your aricle)!

  • […] Francine from Miss Minimalist: Visiting Francine’s blog is like find a cozy nook and settling in with a hot cup of herbal […]

  • Great post, i like everything you write here! I’m trying to live a peaceful life, be more natural and kind. Thank you for your beautiful words! :)

  • Susan

    Beautiful thoughts….Reminds me of a “life-changing” moment I had 20 or so years ago. I was in a dusty, musty second-hand store when I noticed a Monarch butterfly beating its beautiful wings against a filthy window. It retreated to the windowsill, exhausted, until it regained just enough strength to again seek its freedom from the prison in which it found itself.
    I walked over to the window and gently cupped the butterfly in my hand and carried it outside. It was a particularly sunny bright day in Northern California.
    The butterfly sat in my hand for just a moment…until it realized that its complete freedom required only a motion of its wings. It launched into the sky and flew straight up towards the heavens.
    In that brief moment…I felt as though my own soul had been somehow released from the prison in which I had allowed it to dwell for way too long.

    It’s a moment I can feel as vividly today as the day it happened…..

  • […] referenced another of Francine Jay’s blogs, “The Year of the Butterfly”. The small butterfly moves as though unburdened by the world of […]

  • Tina

    I just read your book “Frugillionaire”, which I got on interlibrary loan. I had read your more recent book already. I like the minsumer posts so much I keep re-reading them. I can’t remember buying new clothes except underwear in years. Thank you for your blog.

  • Tina

    I read both your books on inter-library loan.
    You are a source of motivation for me. I continue to purge and give away. Keep only what is really loved and necessary. I am on the highest shelves now, seeking what I had put away years ago and can give away more.

  • Tina

    I am re-gifting some things to my grandchildren this year. Wrapped in paper from the thrift store. My house plants are blooming which in Chicago in winter gives me great pleasure. The only new gifts I bought were good water color paper for the boys to paint on and good paints and brushes. The other side gets the grandkids museum memberships. No environmental impact there at all.

  • Tina

    I only buy small sizes of household staples now, then wait for them to be nearly gone before I buy more. NO more “stocking up”. If something is on sale it will be again. Trying to prepare myself for life in a tiny space if I ever get there. I am sitting next to a big pile of books and magazines to be given to the library, I got them all for free. I only have 2 pots I use regularly.

  • Tina

    We use our small suitcases to put our winter clothes in our small 5′ by5′ storage room for the summer. I was looking in what used to be my son’s closet to see if he had left a warm shirt behind and I found a few. We had a cold snap and I am wearing an old shirt with my son’s old sweatshirt on top. I seldom buy anything new, and I love to reread some of your posts. In my neighborhood there are 4 resale shops with interesting merchandise. You can buy brand new T shirts for men for $1.50 at one or designer slacks at another for $15. I think it’s silly to buy clothes to wear around the house new.

  • Tina

    Once again, I am looking at my clothes. Most are over 10 years old. This year I bought 2 tops and 2 sweaters. We went to a fancy luncheon and ate perhaps 1/3 of the food on our plates so we took home the rest. Next time, I will bring foil and a plastic bag in my purse. Servings in the US are huge. I hope the untouched plated food will go to a food bank.

  • Tina

    Living with less is a noble goal. I have been giving away china to the local Historical society. The craft group there makes gifts out of the pieces I donate and sells them at the gift shop. I found 9 more teacups that haven’t been used in years. I have 4 each from 2 different sets of china I never use already.

  • Tina

    I have been helping my brother and his wife clean out their huge home so they can move to a small apartment. I have 2 pots, a frying pan and a slow cooker. So I made a big pile of all the pots, pans, and baking equipment they won’t need. And then all the extra glassware and cups they won’t need. They are moving near their daughter who told them just to bring what they really loved and needed. I also filled a bag with expired medicine because that can’t go in the water or a landfill.

  • Tina

    A woman I know has a house full of stuff. She moved out over a year ago and the house will be demolished. Rooms and rooms are full of clothing and dishes. I took some linens for the local animal hospital. I want to give more to Goodwill and veterans’ groups. She wants to keep everything. We own 6 bath towels. She has at least 40. My mother, a life long hoarder, now looks like an amateur.

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