The More of Less by Joshua Becker

by Kelvin Belfon

joshua-becker-becomingminimalist

 

I just finished reading The More of Less. It’s by far Joshua Becker’s best book yet! The pages are filled with inspirational stories, biblical analogies, thought-provoking principles on consumerism and lots of practical decluttering tips.

The More of Less became a National Bestseller, with 15,000 copies in sales in the first two weeks on the market! This goes to show that the benefit of owning less continues to hit a deep chord in society.

The book goes beyond physical clutter and penetrates into visions of a life of purpose as the main payoff of minimalism. This idea may sound trite to some. Even so, as one with firsthand experience of the benefits of a minimalist mindset, having a sense of clarity in one’s life makes a profound difference in your day-to-day activities, not to mention your perspective on life challenges when they come.

Three and a half years ago, our family relocated to Colorado in order to pursue our dreams. We were excited about the possibilities that lie in our mountain Shangri-la. But after the initial walkthrough of our newly rented townhouse, we quickly realized the harsh reality of what it meant to move from an almost 2800 sq. ft. house in the suburbs to a 1600 sq. ft. townhouse in the city with no backyard.

I thought about renting a storage unit; but not wanting the extra monthly payments, dumped the excess in the basement. Over the next few days, I regularly cleaned and organized the boxes, bins, bags, toys, books, office supplies, furniture, and lawn equipment in our small home to keep the clutter at bay.

Then one night I discovered Becker’s Becoming Minimalist while perusing the Internet for ways to declutter. Becker’s articles helped me reduce excess possessions, which in turn had a positive effect on our family. With that, we became minimalists.

A year later, we discovered that by reducing, we in fact had made room in our lives for more. We learned that truth rather quickly when boy/girl surprise twins came along. We’ve also benefited in our relationships, home life and personal health. Minimalism isn’t a cool idea. It’s a game changer!

Below is my review of The More of Less by Joshua Becker.

 

 

The More of Less by Joshua Becker – Book Review

In The More of Less Becker makes a conscious decision to share the stories of other minimalists and not just his own. “To be clear, this book is not a memoir about my own journey in minimalism…the book isn’t about me. It’s about you,” he writes with a marked sense of humility in the first chapter. I love the diverse sampling of individuals and couples from various careers and cultures he gathers from all over the world.

The book offers a systematic approach to finding the life most people desire. The first section, chapters 1-5, deals with a philosophy of minimalism, to include definitions and popular misconceptions. Becker moreover outlines the impact of consumerism and how to curtail its negatives effects. This section is priceless (no pun intended).

For Becker, minimalism is all about living a life of purpose. “The ultimate benefit of minimalism is that it enables you to fulfill your greatest passion.” And the removal of obvious obstacles in our domestic, social and emotional atmosphere is one of the most time tested ways we can accomplish this.

One of the most challenging quotations in the book for me was, “Sometimes, parting with our possessions means giving up an image that we have created in our mind of the person we would like to become. Sometimes, minimizing possessions means a dream must die.”

I think we can all attest to the fact that at some point in our lives, how we’ve conceived of ourselves lacks direct correlation to the person that looks backs at us in the mirror. This myth of identity is better off confronted and smashed if we’re ever to end cycles of disillusionment and dissatisfaction about life.

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In the second section, chapters 6-9, Becker addresses the nuts and bolt of the decluttering process. If you are a beginner or feel overwhelmed, Becker has these comforting words, “You don’t have to start with the hard stuff. Start easy. Start small. Just start somewhere.” Those words, I hope will come to readers as a gentle encouragement that it’s okay to go easy and leave tough sentimental assets for the end.

Here the book deviates from KonMari method in some areas. What separates Marie Kondo from Becker is that he advocates decluttering room by room instead of by category. Within this thinking, the slogan “Keep only the best” cues the declutterer to perform a different set of mental analyses than what happens when Kondo followers hear her question, “Does it spark joy?”

In this regard, both Becker and Kondo’s methods are probing us to make decision based on the qualitative merits of our possession. Yet I found Becker’s approach to be slightly less cutthroat. Section two concludes with 6 helpful, yet fun decluttering activities.

The third section, chapters 9-13, is about preventative care. In other words, he answers the question, “How can I avoid relapsing into my old ways?” This section is so good! You won’t put the book down here. What especially became attractive to me was where Becker addresses the dilemma of practicing minimalism in a family or sharing space with someone who may not be onboard with minimalism.

The book is not just an instructional for seekers of a minimalist way. It is also a voyage along the watercourse of Becker’s own development. It opens with the remarkable story of Becker’s Memorial Day epiphany while cleaning his garage. But in chapter 13, the book concludes in Honduras and discusses Hope Effect, a non-profit organization founded by Becker to care for orphans.

One of the biggest lessons of the book for me is found in the diversity Becker brings. The truth I hear him illustrate is that although one may start the journey with just a simple need to declutter, minimalism is bigger than that and can have payoffs outside of our immediate reach.

Minimalism is about silencing the noise of excess in order to find your voice. It holds the possibility of opening up opportunities for generosity, displayed in our concern for others and the environment.

I certainly enjoyed my copy of The More of Less. Pick up a copy. It will be money well spent. If you have a copy of Becker’s new book and have worked your way through its pages, I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a line and let’s keep the conversation going.

 

Before you go

  • The More of Less GIVEAWAY! To enter to win a free copy of the book, leave a comment below. You can enter until midnight MST on Tuesday, June 21st.

 

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12 Unhealthy Habits to Stop…Right Now

by Kelvin Belfon

12-Unhealthy-Habits-Stop

 

Edit your life frequently and ruthlessly. It’s your masterpiece after all. – Nathan W. Morris

 

We all desire happiness. No one sets out to be malcontent. Yet we engage in unhealthy habits on a regular basis that hold us back from pursuing life to its fullest.

It seems like self-defeating behaviors come far too easy for most of us. But over time, they do distract us from our priorities and clutter our lives with unwanted burdens. It happens, even to the smartest of us.

A productive lifestyle is hard work. It requires effort and discipline. It involves making the tough decisions that don’t always feel comfortable at first. But still, we must continually do the work of minimizing the non-essentials from our lives in order to achieve the life we desire.

The 12 unhealthy habits to avoid that I discuss below may be elementary in some respects. You may also find that some take longer to conquer once you get going on them. Be encouraged. It’s never too late to begin the journey and reclaim a better life.

 

12 Unhealthy Habits to Stop…Right Now

1. Stop watching T.V. The average American spends more than four hours watching television That’s 28 hours per week/two months per year/or 9 years in front of the tube in a 65 years span. Ouch! Go outdoors, exercise, read a book, start a business, and spend time with family or friends instead. The goal here is not radicalism. Just minimize…a lot.

2. Stop comparing yourself to others. The images we see on social media, entertainment magazines, reality shows and at the mall can leave us feeling as though we’re in competition with other. You can sometimes feel just plain inadequate. Images can be a lot to live up to.  Mark Twain said it best, “Comparison is the death of joy.” Appreciate yourself and avoid judging others.

3. Stop spending too much time on social media. The average person in the U.S. has five social media accounts and spends close to 7 hours browsing on these accounts each day. Sure, it’s a good way to stay connected to friends and family; but let’s face it, many of us use social media as an escape from what we’ve got going on in life. While social media may be a great outlet for destressing, time’s still ticking. Get on, get off, and keep it moving.

4. Stop keeping grudges. I love what Marianne Williamson says about this,  “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and wanting the other person to die.” Why do we think that holding grudges against others will hurt them? What’s certain is that unforgiveness leads to our own bitterness. It confines us to the past, which becomes toxic to our health. It’s not easy to release people from the hurt they’ve caused us. It doesn’t mean allowing people to continue to hurt us. But if we don’t release the prisoners inside of us, they’re only going to wreak havoc in our lives. Forgiveness is for our well being. When we do, it’s liberating!

5. Stop consuming too much junk food. A regular diet of cheeseburgers, fries, and sugary drinks leads to potential medical problems such as heart diseases, diabetes, obesity, and depression. When possible, practice moderation and switch to healthier choices like fruits, vegetables, grains, grilled instead of fried and processed foods. Since most of us don’t drink enough water, and especially for those who live in more dry climates as I do, always choose water or sodas.

6. Stop complaining about your lack. Many westerners have a chronic discontentment syndrome. We have been programmed desire more˗˗the biggest and the latest model of anything. This is what being grateful and content can be pretty hard for some. Marlon Rico Lee once said, “Be grateful for the things and people you have in your life. Things you take for granted someone else is praying for” – Marlan Rico Lee

7. Stop spending your way into debt. Contrary to the cultural belief, spending money on consumer good doesn’t make us happy. Neither does trying to live a life you can’t afford to replace, should you lose it all. In fact, living beyond one’s means only causes debt, stress, anxiety, divorce and even depression. The average U.S. household carries $15,762 in credit card debt and $130, 922 in total debt! Here’s a better way. Budget before you buy. Pay with cash and ask this one question before your next purchase.

8. Stop blaming others for your problems. Is life challenging and unfair? Yes! But… “when we blame, we give away our power,” says Greg Anderson. Habitual finger pointing fosters bitterness, resentment and powerlessness. Blaming is really a backward way of putting off your commitments. When we blame others, we are in fact trying to put our burdens on others. So, stop procrastinating and take responsibility for those things that concern your life.

 9. Stop caring about what people think. It’s wise to seek counsel; it’s wise to be sensitive to the people around us. But obsession over others’ approval only serves to hinder our personal happiness. Take for example what Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher of Taoism says, “Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.” Let’s face it, mistakes are bound to happen. Not everyone will like you for their own reasons. Life is too short to be preoccupied by other folk’s junk. Live your life without constantly looking over your shoulders.

10. Stop skimping on your sleep. Sleep deprivation causes depression, weight gain, diabetes, decreased performance, alertness, and automotive injury. Turn in at regular times every night and take a power naps when you can in the day. If you have kids, get them to bed at 8pm and make it to bed shortly after. Try to get at least 7 hours sleep every night. It might even save your life.

11. Stop drinking too much. Every day in the U.S., 28 people die from motor accidents involving an alcohol-impaired driver. That’s a death every 53 minutes according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Excessive drinking also increases the risks of liver diseases, depression, anxiety, stroke, cancer and much more. So stop.

12. Stop smoking. The other day, a friend of mine noted on Facebook that he had just returned from Jamaica, where he buried his younger brother due to lung cancer. Smoking increases the risk of heart diseases, cancer, high blood pressure, leukemia, stroke, emphysema, lung infections, infertility, and asthma. If you’re a habitual smoker, seek the aid of a medical professional. Enlist the support of family and friends and put the extra savings you will have to better use.

 

Helpful Notes 

  • Need a motivation with your decluttring projects or with simplifying your life? I’ll be launching a Simplicity Coaching Program. Stay tuned!
  • Congratulations to Denise. You are the winner of Clara’s book “What If It Were Possible?”  Congratulations to Kayla. You are the winner of Clara’s greeting cards.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to Going Uncomplicated, comment below or join me on Facebook.

 

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Simplicity Lessons from Kidtrepreneur Clara Isabel Logsdon

by Kelvin Belfon

Clara-Isabel-Logsdon

 

Meet Clara Isabel Logsdon. She’s a 9 year-old girl who resides in Franklin, TN. There’s no doubt, she’s the youngest businesswoman I have met.

Clara was introduced to me in a recent Coaching With Excellence workshop I attended hosted by Dan Miller. During the orientation, she stood up to promote the muffins she had for sale. Although her mother was nearby, speaking before a group of over 40 adults seemed to be a usual practice for her.

This kidtrepreneur is sharp on her math skills. She’s creative and has a gregarious personality. She’s both an excellent baker and talented artist with the paintbrush; and with those two skills, she’s learned how to earn income for herself.

Clara is an unschooler. Ashley, her mother and I had a fascinating discussion on the subject. If you wish to learn more about unschooling, check out Ashley’s MamaSaysNamaste blog or ZenHabits Unschooling by Leo Babauta.

On the last day of our training, I bought Clara’s book and greeting cards. The cards were 1 for a $1.00 or 12 for $10.00. So I got the bundle deal. What happened next was totally unexpected.

Then the young author and businesswoman asked me, “Would you like me to sign your book?”

“Sure,” I replied. How could I object?

Later, I waited in line to get a picture with Clara. When the moment was right, I asked her following questions. I hope her responses will be as enlightening to you as they were to me:

 Clara-Isabel-Me

How did you start selling books?

Paraphrased: Well, actually, I started selling muffins. Then I did greeting cards because it makes more money. Then I wrote the book with my grandma Yia-Yia (Joanne Miller).

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Paraphrased: I want to be an actress. I like acting. I make my own movies on iMovies and edit them. I like painting with watercolors, illustrating pictures for books and creating stuff. I also like creating images on canva.com and putting stuff on my website.

Oh, you have your own website?!

Paraphrased: Yes, I do. My 6 year-old sister, Ellie Rose has one too but not Juliet because she’s too little…she’s only 3!

What-If-It-Were-Possible

After my quick interview with Clara, I walked away challenged and inspired all at the same time. Out of the handful of speakers and new friends I met at that two-day conference, it is quite possible that I learned the most from little Clara. She has forced me to take an honest look back on my journey.

You see, children are sages. They teach us truths that we have either become too busy or too complicated to see. If you have little ones or care for them, you know what I mean.

The biggest lesson I learned was to be child-like in your attitude towards life. Clara’s book title, “What If It Were Possible?” says it all. Dream big. Use your imagination. Set no limits to your creativity. Be bold, fearless and productive without worrying about perfection.

Helpful Notes 

  • Need a motivation with your decluttring projects or with simplifying your life? I’ll be launching a Simplicity Coaching Program. Stay tuned!
  • Lastly, would you like a FREE copy of Clara’s book, “What If It Were Possible?” or her original set of twelve greeting cards? Simply leave a comment below. The book will be the first drawing, then the greeting cards. Winners will be announced on May 24th and contacted via email. Only US shipping, please. Thanks.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to Going Uncomplicated, comment below or join me on Facebook.

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5 Insights from Israel

by Kelvin Belfon

5-Insights-Israel-HolyLand

 

In the middle of March, I took my first pilgrimage to the nation of Israel.

Let me preface everything I’m about to say with this disclosure. I grew up hearing and reading Bible stories all my life. I even completed a Master’s degree that required a general knowledge of the Middle East. So, to actually get boots on the ground made the idea of going on this trip pretty epic.

While in Israel, I visited a number of historical and archeological sites. To name a few, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Sea of Galilee, The Mount of Olives, Masada, and Megiddo. I ate lots of authentic falafel and hummus and had a good time buying souvenirs at the markets.

One of the things that also made this trip pretty special was that I was leading a group of over 100 people along with my colleague, Micah. We’ve organized and gone on international trips in the past. But the size of our group and level of responsibility opened up new horizons for my leadership gift. It took months in planning meetings, Skype calls, emails, flight and hotel arrangements. In the end, it was all worth the tireless hours of preparation.

We had an amazing group of individuals on the trip. We learned new things, laughed, and sometimes shed tears of joy. The ten days were life changing.

I learned a lot on my tour of the Holy Land. However, here are 5 insights that stood out to me as we knocked about the city and countryside of Israel.

 

5 insights from Israel

Turn your desert into an oasis. In Israel, more than 50% of the terrain is desert. Because of this climate, a shortage in water supply makes farming very challenging. Yet the Israelis have somehow managed to transform their non-arable soil into a lush, green fertile oasis. Today Israel produces 95% of its own food, exporting many diverse crops to the rest of the world.

In the countryside I saw valleys covered with dates, mangoes, oranges and banana trees. There were fields of corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, and grapes. The sense of hopefulness that nourishes this enterprise was pretty well summarized by one of our tour guides who said, “The desert areas will bloom again!”

Such a statement led me to ponder the truth that directly follows from it. No matter how bleak things seem, we can actually overcome limitations, areas of barrenness, unproductivity and a sense of uselessness in our lives. Despite the setbacks of our past, we can become fruitful again. That’s something to be hopeful about.

Isaiah35-Desert-Bloom

Stop, rest and reflect. Everything shuts down for the celebration of Shabbat from 6pm Friday till 6pm on Saturday in Israel. It’s a time where Jews cease from their work and remember God.  It’s also a time for getting together with friends and family and to rest and personally reflect.

Whether you are religious or not, do you stop, rest and take time to reflect?

The notion of Sabbath has really challenged me to slow down from my busy schedule and allow time for recovery. Self-care is so important if one plans on being around for a long time. But also let’s take time to be present and spend quality time with our family and friends.

Remember, productivity happens not only in the things we do, but more importantly, as a result of the things we choose to leave undone.

When possible get a better deal. Inside the Old City of Jerusalem the 500-year-old streets are always bustling with people from everywhere. There are also history sites, such as the Via Dolorosa and Pool of Bethesda. You can explore international cuisine or shop for colorful textiles, Middle Eastern arts and crafts, and souvenirs of all sorts on every side of the streets.

The whole experience was invigorating!

Like other countries I’ve visited, I quickly had to shift from a western mindset and sharpen my negotiating skills while shopping. Visitors can pay more than full price for stuff if they don’t know how to handle themselves in these kinds of markets.

The first thing you have to know is that almost everything is negotiable in Israel. Merchants take no offense if shoppers are looking for bargain deals. In fact, they welcome haggling.

But let’s take our Middle Eastern haggling skills back to the US for a moment to talk about ways that it does apply. Why not ask for a price break on an item you find in a store that seems less than perfect? Why not call your car or home insurance company about a better rate? How about calling the credit card company to inquire about a lower interest rate or a courtesy debt reduction?

It never hurts to ask.

Be persistent. Never give up! Like them or not, Jewish people are resilient. As far back into antiquities as we may go, Jews have been captured, enslaved, persecuted, and murdered en masse by the Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Persians, Byzantines, Arabs, British, French, Spanish-Portuguese Crusaders, Mamelukes, Turks, and Germans. There’s even a fast day, Tisha B’av, that commemorates the various histories of destruction and hardships.

Yet each time the Jews have experienced setbacks, they find a way to start over. They’ve rebuilt…again and again, some 30 plus times! They just don’t give up, no matter the obstacles.

We are all facing our own set of challenges – a bankruptcy, limited finances, business failure, marriage break up, death of a loved one or a debilitating illness. An answer, solution or resolution might seem so far out there from where you are now.

But now is not the time to quite. Keep trying… again. Be persistent in trying until you can thrive again.

Hate is strong but love is even stronger. Adolf Hitler declared, “No one need be surprised if among our people the personification of the devil, as the symbol of all evil, assumes the living shape of the Jew.” This anti-semitic rhetoric ushered in a season of death for millions of men, women and children.

The time I spent at Yad Vashemu, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center, was emotional for me. I wept, especially after seeing the images of the innocent children who were massacred. The face of evil is real and it shows no sympathy.

In contrast to this sad walk through history, on the last day in Jerusalem, our group visited the Friend of Zion Museum. There, I was reminded of the good in ordinary men and women who have made a difference by sticking their necks out to save Jews. Such kind of heroes still exist around us. These are our parents, friends, spiritual leaders, teachers, first responders, members of the military, and…YOU.

The Friend of Zion Museum taught me how important it is to speak up for the voiceless in our local communities and around the world. It is no use to dwell in hopelessness when the possibilities lie before us to take action on behalf of the underrepresented.

It’s true…love conquers all!

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Surround Yourself With The Right People

by Kelvin Belfon

Surround-Yourself-Right-People

 

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn

The people in our lives matter. They either help us reach our destiny or hinder our growth.

I was reminded of this truth in a recent conversation with my wife Camilla. She’s currently working on a PhD degree in Religious Studies. With an 8-year old, 5-year old, 2-year olds twins, me and a house to care for, how she accomplishes all she does is a mystery to me.

Camilla’s academic workload includes attending classes, writing multiple papers, and sometimes grading and delivering lectures as a teacher assistant. What she’s got going on is more than two full-time jobs. She oftentimes turns nights into days; and even that is sometimes not enough.

I have no doubts in my wife’s abilities. She’s smart and industrious. But as she’s stated along the way, the big key to progressing through this PhD is that she surrounds herself with a supportive network.

An even bigger key for her is that she is mindful of “trimming the fat.” What I mean is that she often de-clutters relationships that are bad news for her so as to maintain a minimalist community based on mutual respect and faithfulness. Camilla has assembled a diverse team of professors, colleagues and friends to serve as confidants as she pursues her academic goals.

The doctoral attrition rate is 50% (or even higher in some cases) according to the Ph.D. Completion Project. Besides lack of financial aid, students sighted the most critical factors to success in a PhD program is the lack of an encouraging “program environment.” In other words, feelings of being isolated and abandoned are overriding causes for at least 50% of PhD candidates dropping out.

What this suggests to me is that education, skills, economic force and family history are all good essential determinators in a person’s ability to flourish. But even more essential is getting the right people orbiting your sphere. So, if you want to be successful, you must take this age-old advice seriously– choose your friends wisely.

surrounding-yourself-right-people-

The people on your power team will serve distinct roles. Some will inspire, motivate and highlight your best. Some make great conversation partners for mutual exchanges of strategies, insights and challenges.

Others will not be so easily impressed with where you are. They’ll push you and provide constructive criticism that won’t always feel comfortable. You’ll have to develop a thick skin and not take yourself so seriously around these folks. You’ll have to resist taking offense and judging them when they’re being honest. There’s a difference between a committed mentor and a toxic relationship.

The right people in your life may only surface during a season of crisis. They may be available infrequently, as a quick lifeline. But because of who they are, you may err if you approach them as your best bud. Keeping a respectful distance and not taking up too much of their time communicates maturity and understanding to these kinds of partners.

They might be older, younger, or reside in another zip code. They may not even be a specialist in your field of interest. What makes them golden is that they have a vital perspective because of their emotional distance from your pursuits.

Analyze your social environment. The people in your world are important. Ask the tough questions, “Is this individual interested in my well-being?” “Does she love me genuinely, without strings attached?” “Is he a liability because of the chaos that seems to be a pattern in his life?”

Troubled and drama prone people are everywhere. They encourage underachievement complacency, imbalance, and unhealthy habits. Some can add unnecessary burden to your already busy life, which can end up hijacking your goals and jeopardizes your personal wholeness.

We need people in our lives. They help us achieve more.

But remember…

Surround yourself with smart and encouraging people. Spend time with people who believe in your dreams. Find people who celebrate your accomplishments but are also honest to lovingly push you to your greatest potential.

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Let’s Declutter Without Being Wasteful

by Kelvin Belfon

decluttering-wastefulness-minimalism

 

In the United States we throw away 40% of the food we produce. That’s approximately $165 billion worth of food each year. That’s like the average American household tearing up $2,200 in cash each year. That’s mind blowing!

We are also wasteful in our consumption of non-essential goods. This is anything ranging from precious metals, like jewelry, to electronics, trendy gadgets and appliances. It’s a shocking 1.2 trillion a year on things that we could be happy living without.

Yet, economists argue that purchasing them is the key to our economy’s growth. I get it. We have to keep dumping fuel in the fire to keep it going. But, for what?!

Doesn’t that habit only put Americans on a cycle of wastefulness? We buy things we don’t need that give us a temporary sense of fulfillment. When we are tired of them or they quickly lose our interest, we just toss them without giving a second thought to the matter of where they will end up.

One recent article on money shows that about 10.5 million tons of clothing hit the landfills each year! And while clothes are essential, this study includes that Americans are now buying 5 times the amount of clothes than they actually need.

When I began to embrace minimalism, I did so partly because of my concern for how I was contributing to such a wasteful lifestyle. In minimalism, we are called to minimize our needs and haves, de-clutter, downsize, reduce and just simply, get rid of our stuff.

One blogger, after reading Marie Kondo’s, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up took 20 garbage bags of stuff straight to the trash. Some bags contained outdated and obsolete gadgets while others contained items like uncomfortable shoes, never-used handbags and scarves. They were all discarded, even the new clothing. “Out. Out. Out. Damned clutter,” wrote the author.

Such an all-out-war on clutter is a commendable decision. Our clutter mostly comes into our lives as amicable friends. But over time, this innocent relationship quickly turns into an unhealthy obsession, consuming our lives and physical space.

Yet, along with many of Jessica’s readers, I thought as I read, “why such waste?”

As I read, I reflected on my life as a boy. I was raised on little so I had to care for and cherish what I did have. I repurposed old things to make new uses for them… over and over again. I wore shoes till they had holes and then would take them to the shoemaker for repair. So as I read Jessica’s post, I cringed at the degree of wastefulness implicated by her throwing away perfectly good things.

A balance between decluttering and being wasteful was recently brought to my attention by our 8 year-old son. My wife and I had wanted to get rid of extra kiddie cups and dishes, some of which our son was still very fond of having.

As my wife insisted that he make a choice on just a few of his favorite cups that he wished to keep, tossing the rest, he reasoned to her, “Why should we throw away something that is in perfectly good condition just to add it to the landfills, where it will sit there for a long time without breaking down?”

This led me to ponder his question.

Can we become hoarders by sticking to the old waste not want not adage? Yes, yes, yes! But minimalism doesn’t have to be wasteful either. You can live with less without filling up landfills with your want-nots. What to do with unwanted stuff  provide some alternatives to throwing out clutter.

If you are like me and can de-clutter your possessions…good. Consider yourself blessed. Fortunate. Comfortable and better off than many people around the globe!

So let’s be grateful for what we’ve been given. Let’s think about others. It’s not always about us, even when pursuing a simple lifestyle. And let’s remember to care for and be responsible to our planet.

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How to Respond to Rejection

by Kelvin Belfon

How-Respond-Rejection-Job

Thank you for your interest… After reviewing your application, we regret to inform you…

Have you ever received a letter containing those dreadful words?

Well, I have, multiple times. They don’t ever seem to go away and last week after I retrieved my mail, I was reminded of the empty feeling those words leave. It cuts like a dagger to know that something you so anticipated would be a reality, something you had already began to mentally arrange life to accommodate, would not be after all.

There’s a certain natural progression that takes place within the first paragraph of these kinds of letters. First, emotionlessness, then disappointment, then discouragement, and sometimes even depression. Somehow, I’m even programmed to stop reading once my eyes glances those awful trigger words.

Do you know what I mean?

We regret to inform you….

Really?

Over the years I’ve discovered that my response to these letters and rejection in general has changed. I no longer feel inferior or emotional after reading those words.

You see, we all desire acceptance. It’s a basic human need. So rejection is never easy to concede no matter how many times we’ve been declined. Some gut reaction to rejection is to be expected. The secret lies in controlling that response. It’s the only way to help make swallowing the pill much more bearable.

 

How to Respond to Rejection

The first rejection isn’t the final answer. A denial doesn’t mean a closed door. Try again. Write another letter. Make an appeal. Make a phone call. Try somewhere else. Speak with another person, if necessary to a manager. Be persistent, creative, and tenacious. Ask questions and find another way to make things happen. Elbert Hubbard said, “A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success.”

Use the rejection as an opportunity to improve. When someone says no, if possible, find out the specifics of why. Then use the feedback to learn, grow and become better. When I was 21, an online professor said he couldn’t read my handwriting for an assignment. The note was a blow to my ego. But after my pity-party, I did something about it. You see, as I went through school in my country, typing classes weren’t offered. So, I bought a “Learn to Type” program at the local office supply store and got to work on it. I learned and the rest is history.

Don’t take the rejection personal. There are multiple reasons why a position is not offered to you. Some companies have their “man” already lined up before the job posting. There could be too many qualified applicants in the pool for the same position. Whatever the reason, the decision may have nothing to do with your personality, intellect or skills. Everyone is not out to sabotage you. Be kind to yourself and avoid an unhealthy self-judgment or criticism. Clear your mind from feelings of unworthiness and move on.

The rejection is their loss, not yours. Resumes, applications and even interviews don’t always capture a person’s true potentials. Even more, committees sometimes have so many applications to comb through that they end up streamlining their review to a few keywords that they’ve decided tells them whether the candidate they are looking for is you or not. This process is loaded with all kinds of opportunities for error because great applicants are sometimes ruled out without their awareness of it. You live with yourself and know the benefits you can bring an organization or relationship. If you are qualified but have recently received the “we regret to inform you” letter…it’s ok. It’s their loss, not yours.

Use the rejection as motivation to start your own. A “no” might be the exact word you need to hear. If you are passionate about your idea, maybe it’s time to launch your own business. You may need to have a few conversations with key people who know of important connections you need to make or critical facts you need in order to get going. Many people have used “rejection” as an opportunity to build their dreams. Why not you? Why not now?

 

little-more-persistence-Elbert-Hubbard

 

Rejection could mean not now but later. There were times when I thought, “ Kelvin, you’re ready.” But I was young and naïve. In hindsight the rejection letters only protected me. The right timing is everything. In my last semester of college, I applied to continue my education in Israel. The request wasn’t approved and I concluded that the door to Israel was forever closed. It’s been a 13-year wait till now. In just a few days, a work colleague and I will be leading a group close to 100 people on a Holy Land Tour. As I ponder what has transpired over the years since that first rejection, going to Israel is so much more meaningful now.

Be grateful for the rejection. Yes, I know it sounds crazy but a rejection might be a blessing in disguise. Some relationships, work environments or ventures are toxic and hold the potential of sucking you dry. A month ago, I was coaching a young man who was miserable in his job. The turn over in his department was outrageous. When I got off the phone, I remembered how the same position was offered to me 3 years ago. All I could think to myself was, “Yes, I’ve dodged another bullet.” Oh, if we all had a crystal ball we would be writing more thank you notes to those people or committees that reject us instead of questioning our self-worth!

It would be great to hear similar stories from you. Have you experienced rejection that ended up being a blessing in disguise?

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to Going Uncomplicated, comment below or join me on Facebook.

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Going to Israel

by Kelvin Belfon

Going-to-Israel-Holy-Land

“When one door closes, another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.” ~ Alexander Graham Bell

 

In 2003, before graduating college, my wife and I made plans to continue our graduate studies in the nation in Israel. Our goal was to immerse ourselves in the culture, learn the Hebrew language through the Rothberg International Institute at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. There we hoped to deepen our knowledge of the Jewish roots of Christianity.

It was an exciting prospect.

But our applications were disproved and we were left completely disappointed. The dream to visit the Holy Land ended and the idea placed on the shelf as life progressed with jobs, kids, and homes.

All the same, other much anticipated doors opened along the way.

One of them was our relocation to Central Florida. There I had some success working as a student pastor and my wife as a university professor. I cherished our memories there, as a place where we welcomed our first two children into the world. They’ve changed our lives.

But some dreams are not meant to die. Last May, my work colleague and I were approached about organizing a trip overseas. At first I thought the conversation was far-fetched until the destination of that trip was revealed. Yes, you guessed it…Israel.

It’s been 13 years and the opportunity looks a whole lot different this time around. I’m no longer a college student unaccountable to no one but my wife, living the high for the next big adventure. Because of the exploratory nature of the trip, I’ll help lead a group of close to 100 people through the Holy City for 10 days!

I can’t wait to experience Palestine – its culture, people, food, history and geography.

I’m grateful, oh so grateful, for this opportunity. Over the years, I’ve learned to accept doors when they close; but I’ve also learned how to appreciate the dynamic of a moment that opens up new opportunity in my life. Each have helped to form me into the man I am today.

Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I travel.

Shalom!

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My 30 Days No Meat Challenge – Review

by Kelvin Belfon

No-Meat-Challenge-Review

 

In January, I went for a full month without eating meat. It was an experiment I called My 30-Day No Meat Challenge.

I’ve been thinking about going vegetarian for quite some time; but the timing wasn’t always right. Well, last month I decided to take the plunge.

I committed to just a few personal ground rules:

  • No red meat or processed versions of pork, beef, lamb or mutton.
  • No poultry or processed versions of chicken or turkey.
  • Explore other non-meat, plant based protein sources, giving preference to those sources that are least processed. Produce will make up the bulk of my meals.
  • Yes to fish, but I won’t consume it to the degree that it’s just a replacement for the meat I’m cutting out.
  • I will evaluate the experiment after 30 days to see if it’s something I could continue over a much longer period.

Well, after a month without meat, I’ve made a few discoveries that I wish to share with you.

 

My 30-Day No Meat Challenge in Review

  • In the beginning, the challenge was more difficult than I thought. My appetite for meat appeared to be heightened. Savory meaty meals were everywhere!
  • On one occasion when I attended the Martin Luther King Jr. African American Heritage Rodeo with the family, as soon as we entered the coliseum, I was smacked with the smell of all kinds of barbecue. It was pretty tempting. The year before we ordered barbecue turkey legs and chicken kabobs. In spite of all that, we didn’t relapse because we had a plan. Instead, we snacked on foods we’d packed ahead of time that meet with our Challenge guidelines.
  • As the month went on, the Challenge became much easier. I think this was because my family participated. We also limited restaurant dining out to only one time that month. In the last week our children had chicken but that was ok since I felt that the experiment was really mine in the first place.
  • I consumed salmon three times. Two times at home and the other when our family dined at a Japanese restaurant.
  • An area of concern was my protein intake. I worried because there’s a perception that vegetarians don’t consume enough protein. So I consumed lots of cashews, almonds, pistachios, flax seeds, eggs, cheese, beans, spinach, almond milk, etc as recommended by my resourceful wife and my good friend Terri. I plan to read more on the subject to lift this cloud of doubt.
  • My social interaction with family and friends was also a concern. Again, not eating out helped alleviate this potential problem. But, overall, most people were not only understanding but also supportive and encouraging. I’m also grateful for the comments, links of meals and resources you supplied. Much appreciated!
  • Breakfast was the most difficult meal by far. In general, I’m not a breakfast person. As such, it seemed like there were less choices after eliminating meat from my diet. I did however, become pretty expert at making all kinds of smoothies. The kids seemed to enjoy this and made special requests for my smoothie concoctions.
  • This said, I was not as prepared for my no-meat challenge as I might have been. The meal preparation process in our home is typically on autopilot. However, when the children were hungry, I found myself throwing things together more often than I wanted. I kind of felt like a fish out of water, not exactly sure what to cook at times during the experiment. I’m grateful for my talented wife when this was the case. She saved the day each time.
  • I did branch out with a few original dishes on my own. But the bottom-line is that I need to learn to cook more vegetarian cuisine. I’ve been a carnivore all my life, cooking meaty meals with no need for a recipe. I cook on a natural instinct so vegetarian cookbooks are a bit intimidating. I’ll have to be aware of this and get courageous with vegetarian cookbooks or online recipes from here on.
  • On some days my energy was a bit lethargic. I believe this was due to me not eating a proper breakfast.
  • I wish my experiment had had a scientific element. A visit to my doctor and a nutritionist might have helped a lot or taking blood samples before and after my challenge to gauge any changes.
  • My no-meat challenge reminded me of how powerful our minds can be. It was hard saying no to some of my favorite dishes. I know 30 days is not a long time, but I was able to say no even when my desire was saying the opposite. I consider my challenge a success in this area.
  • In some cases, my no-meat challenge became deeply spiritual in nature. There are people who have no choice about their meat consumption. When I abstained from meat, I felt a connection with my brothers and sisters who lived in abject poverty.

What’s next?

I do miss and still crave a few of my favorite meaty meals. So much of my Caribbeanness is centered around food.

A few questions that come to mind at this point are these:

What about the cultural implications of my no-meat diet? Will I be drawing attention to myself when eating with my Caribbean family and friends?

What about my international, humanitarian trips? I’m big on socializing with the locals over meals, which in most countries centers around meat. What will I do when a vegetarian diet is not available?

I think that from here on, I’ll stick to the original no meat rules, but allow a little bit of fluidity when I travel. I need more time to continue learning and exploring before committing to this new diet. 30 days was not enough time.

What are your thoughts?

Last, I was featured on YolandaVAcree.com. I had fun doing this interview where I shared about minimalism, relationships, priorities and more. Check it out here.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to Going Uncomplicated, comment below or join me on Facebook.

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Minimalist Interview: Yolanda V Acree

Editor’s Note: The following is an interview with Yolanda V. Acree

Yolanda-Acress-Minimalist

Yolanda Acree is the founder of Yolanda V Acree. Her minimalism’s journey was triggered by a stressful job, needless spending, and a feeling of being stuck in her life. One day she decided it was enough and made several dramatic changes in her life such as quitting her job, moving back home and taking an extended vacay to Mexico. Yolanda is now a life coach, founder YVA Designs and encourages others to clarify their goals and values while transitioning to a simpler lifestyle.

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Kelvin: Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? Where do you live?  What are your hobbies?  What do you do for a living?

Yolanda: I’m from and currently live on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in a small town called Denton. It’s a rural area and you might say, “I’m a little bit country…” My hobby is also a part of my business. I make minimalist silver jewelry under YVA Designs. I’m also a life coach and encourage creatives and other folks to clarify their goals and values while transitioning to a simpler lifestyle. In my day job, I work part-time as a site coordinator for the after school program at the local elementary school.

Kelvin: Who or what inspired your minimalist journey?

Yolanda: My minimalist journey was inspired by my own lack of motivation and feeling stuck. At the time I didn’t know I was assuming a minimalist lifestyle, I just knew something had to change. I felt unfulfilled in my work and was tired of living the “busy” life that many call “normal”: traffic, commuting, needless shopping and errands, binging on TV, and many other unhealthy habits. My solution was to purge and start fresh. I got rid of everything (including my apartment lease) except my clothing, car, and a little savings. I moved back to the Eastern Shore and shortly thereafter quit my full-time job to figure out what I really wanted for my life.

Kelvin: Have you received any criticism from your family and friends or dealt with any personal conflicts as a result of you becoming a minimalist?

Yolanda: I haven’t received criticism from anyone outright. My family and friends have always given me the space to do and be what I wanted. I do live with my mother and she is not a minimalist nor is she interested in becoming one… lol. I will say I’ve had a positive influence on her. Personally though, I still feel a little uncomfortable with the amount of things that inhabit some of the spaces in our home, but my personal space is a place where I can be at peace. The conflict is ultimately internal. Sometimes it feels lonely because no one around me lives this lifestyle. One of the reasons I made minimalism the focus of my site is to connect with others like me such as yourself.

Kelvin:  Besides de-cluttering your physical stuff, what would you say are other benefits of minimalism you’ve experienced?

Yolanda: I got clear on the vision for my life, my goals and values, what I wanted and didn’t want, and it helped me be more discerning about what I allow into my life.

Kelvin:  Do you have any tips for those wanting to become minimalists and to live a less complicated lifestyle?

Yolanda: While the physical decluttering is cathartic and very helpful in changing the energy of spaces, you have to be willing to unpack the emotional baggage of your currently complicated lifestyle to find the true peace we all seek. It’s so important to identify and understand your core values, life goals, and behavior patterns.

Yolanda-Acree-Quote

Kelvin: I noticed you’ve embraced the natural hairstyle movement. Is there a back-story or was this also inspired by your simplicity journey?

Yolanda: I went natural back in 2005 and started my minimalist journey in 2012, but I’d like to think “going natural” was a pre-, pre-cursor to this journey. I decided to return to natural because I loved feeling the texture of my new growth in between relaxers and I also wanted to challenge myself to create and accept my own standard of beauty. It was the beginning of my desire to get back to the essence of me. Since I’ve embraced a minimalist lifestyle, I have changed how I care for my hair including using fewer and more natural products, and I even cut my hair to simplify my regimen. My natural hair has definitely helped define my style as a minimalist.

Kelvin: You share a lot of minimalist tips on your YouTube channel. What are 4 videos our readers should check out?

Yolanda: 

Minimalist Journey: My Story

Minimalist Journey: Pro + Cons of Minimalism

Minimalist Journey: How to Simplify Your Mornings

8 Principles of a Minimalist Life

Kelvin: Tell us about the free 7 Day Simple Living Challenge and Workbook on your website. What can readers expect in this challenge?

Yolanda: The 7 Day Simple Living Challenge is designed to get you to start thinking about your life in a more simple way. If focuses on your mindset, goals, self-care, relationships, schedule, money, and stuff. It encourages you to take a simple step in each of those areas to simplify your life. For example, the first day asks you to do a brain dump. Declutter your mind, sort through your thoughts, and identify what is useful and what is not. Physical decluttering is just one aspect of this process and I leave it until the last day of the challenge purposefully. Minimalism and simple living are journeys, therefore taking one step at a time, one day at a time, is crucial to being successful and making simple living a life-long practice.

Kelvin: You are passionate about people becoming self-sufficient. As an entrepreneur yourself, please share 4 quick tips that people who wish to begin a business can follow.

Yolanda:

  1. Just start. I don’t always follow this advice, but I did when I started my jewelry business. I didn’t tell too many people, I didn’t worry that I hadn’t mastered the craft, I did it because I was inspired. Just dive into what you enjoy and the rest will figure itself out. I’ve been surprised, sometimes disappointed, but I’ve learned a lot, gained loyal customers, and now I can take what I’ve learned and apply it to be more inspired and successful.
  1. Keep going. You will fail, you might embarrass yourself, you will make mistakes, but they are all lessons that will make you a better entrepreneur and show your community that you don’t give up easily and are sticking around.
  1. Celebrate the small successes. It takes a while to become successful. Don’t overlook the small milestones along the way. Recently, I passed 100 followers on Pinterest. While this may be small beans to others, it was exciting for me because it was the only one of my platforms under 100, so I’ll take it and brainstorm how to grow my influence even further. Every time I reach any milestone, big or small, I make a note of it and take a moment to reflect and be thankful.
  1. Be flexible. Your vision for your business and the reality, may not match up immediately or for a while as you learn your business. Be willing to look at your business from different perspectives. As long as what you’re doing is moving you closer to your vision, even if it’s a small step, it’s okay to adapt your reality. Leave room for creativity, mistakes, doubt, and new inspiration.

Kelvin: Do you have any closing comments and advice to add?

Yolanda: I’ve come to understand that minimalism is ultimately a spiritual journey. The greatest benefit I am receiving from minimalism is the gift of discovering and becoming myself. Minimalism forces you to look in the mirror and really see yourself. My hope and challenge for all those on this journey, is that you will understand this and use your experience to empower others. Peace.

Yolanda, thank you for sharing with the readers of Going Uncomplicated.

Yolanda blogs on yolandavacree.com where she inspires her readers to live a simpler lifestyle. You can follower her on Twitter or Facebook.

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Psychological Development of a Minimalist

by Kelvin Belfon

pyschological-development-stages-minimalist

Almost 3 years ago I became an accidental minimalist. I had a major life changing event that resulted in a move from the east coast to the Rocky Mountains. It was one of the most frightening times of my life.

I arrived in Colorado in the middle of a blizzard with very limited social contacts, a small townhouse rental, one car, a wife, two children, and a moving truck loaded with stuff and no job. Having to move into a very downsized home, we tried hard to accept what seemed life failure. Our estate was supposed to grow, not minimize, right? Yet, frustrated with the chaos that quickly accumulated in our basement, we decided to purge. I sold, gifted, donated, and discarded many of my attachments.

It was during the first 48 months of purging that my thoughts about material possessions (and the past I was trying to hold on to) somehow changed…one car-load of stuff at a time. The process was an emotional one.  It challenged and forced me to reprioritize certain ideals. But in the long run, the ability to say goodbye and to set free those things that represented parts of my history — my move to America, various international travels, rite of passages, expired friendships, family — in the long run, made my life better.

The following is an attempt to chronicle aspects of my minimalist evolution. I hope it helps to explain certain nuances of my journey that I have only hinted in previous posts. Oftentimes, people say that a thing is “life-changing” but without further definition, that phrase simply falls to the ground with no effect.

I hope what I’m about to share doesn’t do that. I am aware that everyone’s experience is unique and may not follow the sequence I’ve outlined here. You’re welcome to join in the conversation below and share your take on any part of this that hits home.

 

Psychological Development of a Minimalist

The crisis stage – “I have a problem.” There are several reasons why people embrace minimalism. For some, it starts with an innocent home de-cluttering project. For others, economic, medical or dietary issues create the impetus. For me, it was a job change and family matters. My conscious response to those two big issues is what resulted in my search  for a clearer sense of purpose and happiness. At the time, the whole episode was extremely painful. But what I didn’t realize was that my “discomfort” with life opened the door to the realization that I didn’t have to continue with things “as is.” I sensed there was much more to lose if I didn’t make a bold change. The desire and courage to make the second part of my life count was what resulted in my move towards minimalism. key concept: infancy, dilemma, enlightenment

 The curiosity stage“I’m not sure what to do?” Most people want simplicity but don’t know where to begin. I needed information, so I Googled “minimizing” and “de-cluttering.” In the process, one night I landed on Zenhabits.net by Leo Babauta. Soon after, I discovered Becoming Minimalist, Courtney Carver, and Tammy Strobel. What these writers were saying was so spot on that I would stay up late nights just reading through all their stuff. They were hitting buttons inside of me and before long, I was all-in with the minimalist world. What’s more, I felt empowered to find a community of like-minded people. I wanted to share thoughts with others out there walking away from challenging pasts, and determined to go into their next phase of life as uncomplicated as possible. One thing led to another, and goinguncomplicated.com was started.  key concept: hopelessness, exposure, learning

 The apprehension stage “I’m afraid to start.” Then a reality hit. How will I function without my stuff? What if I needed them later? What will people think about me? What will my family say when they visit? “Would my change stick?” These were all legitimate questions. The process of letting go can be a traumatic, and that’s the case even after you’ve done all the research and signed on to the idea. This is because our possessions are deeply personal.  Many of our belongings have stories that define how we understand ourselves: our first major purchase, a wedding gift, family heirloom, a business we’ve built. key concept: worry, fear, doubt, self-definition

The releasing stage – “I’m losing control!” De-cluttering can be an empowering experience. But before that happens, a death occurs. If much of what you are is tied to a social network that you belong to, a town you’ve grown up in, an occupation or a relationship, you might feel like the world is closing in when change happens. Your situation can get even more intense if you’re faced with the real possibility of getting rid of keepsakes connected to those things, events, and people. Here’s a good approach. Start purging the stuff that’s easier to deal with in each of the following categories: clothing, books, furniture, toys, appliances, and paper. Then tackle the more sentimental pieces once you gain courage, as recommended in the KondoMarie Method. This stage can take a day or weeks, months and even years. key concepts: action, surrender, separation anxiety, grief

 The disappointment stage – “What’s wrong with me?” I was happy about my de-cluttering progress. And then one day, I found myself sad and even angry about all that I seemed to have had to give up in order to carve out a path toward a better future. The overwhelming feeling of separation and loss can leave a person wondering, “When did I accumulate all this stuff?” “If only I hadn’t gone down that path, I’d be much better off than I am now.” “If I’d been a better custodian of my financial resources, things wouldn’t have ended up this way.” Or, “If I had done things differently or listened to certain people, that relationship wouldn’t be what it is today.” All these and so many other “what-ifs” have the potential of making us an emotional wreck. But we have to know that while this self-guilt is one of the worst parts of the process, it doesn’t have to have a lasting hold. You can move past it. key concept: confusion, guilt, shame, anger

 The gratitude stage“I’m thankful” There is no shame in owning material possessions. If you have them, this means that you are fortunate. So many people are “minimalist” not because they want to be but because of financial limitations and unfortunate circumstances. It’s a sobering reality. So as I decluttered my life, I had to give myself enough emotional separation from things to be able to tell the difference between what matters and what doesn’t.  This stage is key. If it’s not handled well, this is where people can experience defeat and regress. Thankfully, I pushed through the overwhelming feeling that I was somehow giving up more than I had bargained for. In the end, what remained — my wife and children plus surprise twins, a new job, a new house, and many other unplanned blessings along the way — gave me a renewed sense of appreciation for the time tested possessions and obligations in my life. The “disappointment stage,” more quickly than you’d expect, can and does turn into opportunity for gratitude. key concept: appreciation, contentment, obligation

 The empowerment stage“I can live without ______” Clutter does come back. But the more I de-clutter, the easier it becomes to live life without certain accessories. I now know what it feels like to enjoy freedom from holding onto attachments that in the end aren’t worth as much as I’d thought. I’ve also noticed that my consumption habits have changed. I often find myself asking the critical questions before I commit a new purchase. I’ve also become very interested in finding creative uses for what I already have and experimenting with how to make them serve multiple functions. It’s all about being creative and repurposing. key concept: detachment, freedom, independence

The wholistic stage – “It’s a lifestyle” In my infancy as a minimalist, I was mainly focused on de-cluttering my physical world. Overtime, the simplicity ideology started spilling over into other areas of my life — finances, relationships, time management, diet and even the environment. I must admit, I am far from mastering these areas, but at least I’m on my way. Life just feels so much more in-control. key concept: mindfulness, wholeness, experiences

How about you? What emotional or cognitive changes have you experienced in your simplicity journey?

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to Going Uncomplicated, comment below or join me on Facebook.

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My 30-Day No Meat Challenge

by Kelvin Belfon

No-Meat-Challenge

I’ve been thinking about my meat consumption. Over the years, a few casual conversations, documentaries and books have caused me to question my food choices.

Here is a little personal background.

I grew up an omnivore. In Grenada I consumed fish, chicken, beef, pork, mutton, and lamb. Meat was the main part of every meal. One of my favorite dishes is curry chicken, rice and peas, fried plantains, and a side salad. Yum!

When I migrated to the United States I piled on more meat. As I got exposed to American favorites, I added those to my menu of choices hamburgers, steaks, turkeys, BBQs, and traditional island cuisines such as jerk chicken.

Because I am naturally skinny, I’ve never felt the need to pay much attention to the health risks involved in consuming too much meat. But lately, I’ve been doing some soul searching.

You see, our meat is not what it used to be.

This is the case in America as much as it is in the islands, which have seen a significant increase of imported meats. The animals we eat are injected with an alarming amount of hormones to increase production. Then there are factors of inhumane animals practices that I’ve learned about over the recent years. The treatment of animals raised for food is deeply troubling me.

The health reasons are also significant:

Like most American, I’ve maintained an arms length awareness about the risks of consuming too much meat. Giving up meat altogether is a difficult decision. There’s a certain emotional payoff that comes with meat eating especially when it’s a central part of celebrations and holidays. Also, in my mind, a dish without meat is incomplete. It’s a reminder to me of poor upbringings.

So My 30-Day No Meat Challenge is just as much a health challenge as much as it is a reshaping of how and what I think about meat. It’s a test of my personal boundaries. I want to push the limits of my thinking to see what my life would be without consuming meats for the next 30 days (I started January 1).

Here’s my personal ground rule:

  • I will not consume red meat or any processed version of pork, beef, lamb or mutton.
  • I will not consume any poultry or processed version of chicken or turkey.
  • I will explore other non-meat, plant based protein sources, giving preference to those sources that are least processed. Produce will make up the bulk of my meals.
  • I won’t exclude fish in this experiment, but I won’t consume it to the degree that it’s just a replacement for the meat I’m cutting out.
  • I will evaluate the experiment after 30 days to see if it’s something I could give up over a much longer period.

I’d love to hear from other about this subject. Have you given up meat before? If so, what were the challenges you faced?

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to Going Uncomplicated, comment below or join me on Facebook.

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The Best of Going Uncomplicated in 2015

by Kelvin Belfon

The Best of 2015

Season Greetings!

As we wrap up another year, I’d like to thank you for your support.

  • Thank you for engaging my articles
  • Thank you for sharing my blog posts with your family and friends
  • Thank you for commenting. I enjoy reading your thoughts too

A lot happened in 2015 for Going Uncomplicated and me. Two big events are noteworthy in my mind as I reflect on the year:

Living with Less in a Bigger Space. I thought my minimalist aspirations would cease after our family relocated to a much larger home. Bigger spaces can attract unwanted clutter. This can easily be the case for growing families with small children. But to my surprise, our de-cluttering efforts continued despite the size of our home. More possessions were purged this year as we continued to focus on those essential things that have meaning and value to our family. As our behavior maintained consistency in the habit of living with less, I began to come to the realization that being a minimalist isn’t defined by the square footage of your home. A tiny home can just as well be filled with excess and clutter. Conversely, a big home can consist mainly of what’s essential for comfort and a healthy family life. Minimalism is not a one-size-fit thing. Rather, it’s a mindset that is expressed differently depending on each household’s personality and culture.

Mama Africa: Highlights from my Trip to Uganda. In September, I was invited to participate in humanitarian efforts in Uganda. That transatlantic journey carried a lot of meaning for me. It was my first time on the continent of Africa. Experiencing the tropical climate, lush green vegetation, and variety of flavorful foods was a surreal experience for me. I could not help but compare how similar the environment was to my native home in the Caribbean. That said, I’d have to say that the highlight of that trip was the quality of hospitality and friendliness I sensed from the people I met. The Ugandans I met taught me important lessons that can be transferred to a minimalist mindset. Since that trip, I still have Uganda On My Mind. I can’t wait to return in the near future.

A Year of Blog Posts in Review

As for top Going Uncomplicated post, I’d like to share a list of articles that were meaningful to you in 2015:

Top Posts of 2015 (In order of popularity)

16 Decluttering Tips from The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

25 Thought Provoking Simplicity Quotes

7 Healthy Habits to Cultivate…Slowly

Living with Less in a Bigger Space

10 Tips for Keeping Your Car Clean with Children

Can We Learn Anything from Haiti?

8 Obstacles to Decluttering and What You Can Do

Raising Children in an Excess Age

Minimalist Marriage Advice for Newlyweds

Minimalists Interviews

The Simple White Rabbit: An Interview with Christy King

The Other Side of Complexity: An Interview with Mike Burns

My Guest Post

14 Ways Chores Can Benefit Your Children

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What’s New in the Coming Year

Going Uncomplicated is expanding in 2016. I’m excited about the following projects that I’ve been planning. You’ll hear more about them. But for now, here’s a quick peek at what I’ll be up to in the coming months:

  • Speaking Engagements
  • Personal Coaching
  • Start writing a simplicity book
  • Launching a webinar (launch date TBA soon)

Finally, is there a topic you’d like me to address in future posts? If so, please leave a comment below or send me an email to goinguncomplicated (at) gmail.com.

Thank you again for your support and Happy New Year!

Kelvin

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25 Simplicity Quotes by Religious Leaders

by Kelvin Belfon

25-Simplicity-Quote-Religious

 

Religion is a polarizing subject. We all have strong dogmatic opinions about our beliefs. It’s the reason we are often told to “keep your religion to yourself” in public.

But when it comes to minimalism, spiritual leaders throughout history appear to be unified in their theology. History is filled with religious men and women who have lived simple humble lives. They esteemed inward contentment, service to others and the expectation of a future reward.

When Gandhi died, he had less than 10 earthly possessions: his sandals, watch, eating bowl, prayer book, and spectacles. His life became the human billboard for proclaiming his message to India, and the world.

The Indian prince, Siddhartha Gautama, traded his earthly riches for spiritual enlightenment. As the first Buddha, he stated, “Joy comes not through possession or ownership but through a wise and loving heart.”

The Prophet Muhammad who ate simply, slept on the floor and lived with few belongings stated, “Wealth is not in having vast riches, it is in contentment.”

Jesus of Nazareth challenged the cultural thinkings around materialism and “love of money.” He encouraged his followers to, “… not store up for yourselves treasures on earth… but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…”

Physical possessions are not evil.

We need money and things to function in our society. The wisdom is not allowing them to master or control our lives. Own and use your belonging for the necessary functions they have in your live but always value your life and people much more.

 

25 Simplicity Quotes by Religious Leaders

The following are 25 Simplicity Quotes I’ve put together from different religious leaders. They are meant to inspire your simplicity journey. Please feel free to share them on your favorite social media platform.

  1. “Unnecessary possessions are unnecessary burdens. If you have them, you have to take care of them!” ~ Peace Pilgrim
  1. “Our souls are not hungry for fame, comfort, wealth, or power. Our souls are hungry for meaning, for the sense that we have figured out how to live so that our lives matter.” ~ Harold Kushner
  1. “The more you have, the more you are occupied. The less you have, the more free you are.” ~ Mother Teresa 
  1. “If each retained possession of only what he needed, no one would be in want, and all would live in contentment. As it is, the rich are discontented no less than the poor.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Unneccessary-Possessions-Burdens

  1. “You may have occasion to possess or use material things, but the secret of life lies in never missing them.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
  1. “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.” ~ John the Baptist
  1. “Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” ~ Lao Tzu
  1. “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” ~ Confucius
  1. “To live a pure unselfish life, one must count nothing as one’s own in the midst of abundance.” ~ Buddha
  1. “If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things, then this is the best season of your life.” ~ Wu-Men  
  1. “If one had taken what is necessary to cover one’s needs and had left the rest to those who are in need, no one would be rich, no one would be poor, no one would be in need.” ~ Saint Basil 

Our-Souls-Not-Hungry-Fame

  1. “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” ~ Agur
  1. “Real happiness is cheap enough, yet how dearly we pay for its counterfeit.” ~ Hosea Ballou
  1. “Live simply so that others may simply live.” ~ Elizabeth Ann Seton
  1. “The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things.” ~ Elise Boulding
  1. “You have succeeded in life when all you really want is only what you really need.” ~ Vernon Howard
  1. “It is the heart that makes a man rich. He is rich according to what he is, not according to what he has.” ~ Henry Ward Beecher
  1. “We really must understand that the lust for affluence in contemporary society is psychotic. It is psychotic because it has completely lost touch with reality. We crave things we neither need nor enjoy.” ~ Richard Foster
  1. “One of the advantages of being born in an affluent society is that if one has any intelligence at all, one will realize that having more and more won’t solve the problem, and happiness does not lie in possessions, or even relationships: The answer lies within ourselves. If we can’t find peace and happiness there, it’s not going to come from the outside.” ~ Tenzin Palmo

Profit-Man-Forfeit-Soul

  1. “You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.” ~ Charles Spurgeon
  1. “Smile, breathe and go slowly.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
  1. “If one’s life is simple, contentment has to come. Simplicity is extremely important for happiness. Having few desires, feeling satisfied with what you have, is very vital: satisfaction with just enough food, clothing, and shelter to protect yourself from the elements.” ~ The Dalai Lama
  1. “For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life?” ~ Jesus of Nazareth
  1. “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”  ~ Jesus of Nazareth
  1. “People rush for complexity but they yearn for simplicity.” ~ GK Chesterton

Do you have a favorite simplicity quote you’ll like to share?

Check out TheSimpleWhiteRabbit.com for details on a some of these religious leaders and BecomingMinimalist.com for additional minimalist quotations.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to Going Uncomplicated, comment below or join me on Facebook.

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Uganda On My Mind

by Kelvin Belfon

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Uganda is a beautiful country!

In 1908, Winston Churchill said, “The kingdom of Uganda is a fairy-tale…The scenery is different, the vegetation is different, the climate is different, and, most of all, the people are different from anything elsewhere to be seen in the whole range of Africa.”

Then Churchill concluded, “Uganda is truly the pear of Africa.”

Several features make Uganda a unique home:

Home to 11% of birds found in the world

Home to a significant segment of Africa’s largest lake – Lake Victoria

Home to the source of the Nile River – one of the 7 natural wonders of Africa

Home to the Tallest Mountain Range in Africa – The Rwenzori Mountains or Mountains of the Moon

Home to over half of all of Mountain Gorillas in the world

Home to more butterflies of varying colors than any other East African Country

Home to over 50 varieties of bananas, Ugandans consume more bananas than any other nation in the world outside of Brazil!

But as mentioned in Mama Africa: Highlights from my trip to Uganda, of all the things I enjoyed about Uganda, its people topped my list. They are a friendly people. And because their culture emphasizes hospitality, they are not only welcoming to travelers, significantly, they care for their own!

I had the opportunity to meet a young lady called Sherifah. She had been abandoned by her husband and forsaken by her family. She had little food and lived in a mud hut that was falling apart with no door, no furniture and not even a bed.

Sherifah is blind and has four children.

But a young man named William reached out and became her advocate and protector. Through the HFF Sherifah received a new home and now lives in safety with her children.

This family’s life changed because someone cared. Sherifah’s story, in my mind, fits into the category of special. In a world where people are often too preoccupied with their own problems, it would be easy to overlook a poor, blind mother of four.

To go the extra mile in committing oneself to looking out for Sherifah is a question of compassion, human consciousness and ethics. William shines in my mind as a hero.

 

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10 Heroic Habits I Observed in Uganda

1. Speak up for the voiceless. There are needs all around us. We can show charity to people even in our own “backyard.” Advocate for the unpopular, outcast, discriminated and persecuted.

2. We can do more when we collaborate. In Uganda, The Lone Rangers rarely succeed. There is strength in community. Instead of competing, consider networking with others. Build healthy friendships and teams. When possible, don’t burn bridges.

3. Show your appreciation. One of the families we saw started cooking for us around four in the morning. They rented a small tent and chairs for our comfort. They went the extra mile decorating the table with flowers and their children sang for us. Saying “thank you” would have been what we might have anticipated.

We had come to Uganda with a significant amount of gifts. But what will make this family stand out in my mind for years to come, is how they used their everyday resources to show how much our presence meant to them.

4. Give people a hand-up. Giving people money or gifts is a very basic way of showing compassion. But if unchecked, being someone’s financial benefactor can also harbor laziness, dependency, and can quickly lead to abuse.

A more sustainable approach may be to empower people to turn resources into financial gains so that they can achieve independence and self-sufficiency. Self-worth and a sense of competence increases when people learn to do things themselves.

5. Be content with what you have. We don’t always need the next best thing if we can’t afford the payments. Practice restraint and learn to enjoy certain possessions till they wear out. It’s not only good for your budget but also for the environment.

6. Never despise small beginnings. High School graduate Britney Forsteid met a friendly waiter named Jackson in Kirugu, Uganda. The two had several casual conversations and “exchanged hopes, dreams, smiles and laughter.” Several months later the Mount of Olives Nursery Primary School was birthed with over 400 children enrolled today! Your dreams are never too small.

7. Leave your mark on the planet. What will be your legacy? Will others miss you when you’re gone? Our time on earth is limited. So avoid trivial pursuits and do something significant using your talents and abilities for good.

8. Respect your elders. In Uganda, the government recognizes individuals over 60 years. Some of these individuals are active in the public affairs of their communities. The system is not a perfect one; but it was refreshing to see the younger generation honor and defer to their elders for wisdom.

9. A determined woman is a powerful force. The women’s entrepreneurial group I visited started because they wanted to help support their families and send their children to school.  The group turned a few hours of business coaching and a $1,000 U.S. gift into a tent and chair rental business.

In addition, the group doubled in sized from 35 to 70 members. From their revenue, they now extend small business microloans to their members. Oh, their account balance is now over  $4,000 U.S!

10. There is always a way. I heard the ice cream van sound effect while descending the hills of Mpigi. In the rearview mirror was a man on a motorcycle. He passed our vehicle and stopped ahead to sell his refreshing ice cream to passer-bys. Success is sometimes unorthodox. It involves vision, creativity and hard work.

What other habits would you add to the list?

 

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Sherifah-Old-House-Bedroom-Uganda

 

Sherifah-New-House-Uganda

 

Sherifah-New-House-Bedroom-Uganda

 

Ice-Cream-Man-Uganda

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The Simple White Rabbit: An Interview with Christy King

Editor’s Note: The following is an interview with Christy King

Simple-White-Rabiit-Christy-King

Christy King is the founder of TheSimpleWhiteRabbit.com. She has worked as a lawyer for more than 20 years in the areas of business transactions and intellectual property and has co-authored a handful of legal books. A big change occurred for her family when they recently downsized from a 2,270 square foot house to a 1,250 square foot townhouse. Despite the significant adjustments needed, the family loves their smaller home. An avid reader, prolific writer, outdoor enthusiasts, photographer and gradual minimalist advocate, I trust you will enjoy my interview with Christy.

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Kelvin: Tell us a little about yourself. Where do you live? Are you married, do you have children? What are your hobbies?

Christy:  I live in a suburb of Portland, Oregon, with my husband, 15-year old son, 2 dogs and a cat. I have three adult stepchildren as well. Just this year, we moved from a 2,270 square foot house on an acre and a half to a 1,250 square foot townhouse with no yard.

As for hobbies, my husband and I recently became interested in birding. We spend many evenings sitting on the balcony watching birds and squirrels with our binoculars.

I have a particular fascination for hobbies that feel like magic. I love to bake bread with only natural yeast (aka sourdough) and to make soap from vegetable oils and lye. I also enjoy reading, knitting, gardening, hiking, traveling, snowshoeing and photography.

Kelvin: What inspired you to you start your simplicity journey?

Christy: I’ve been drawn to simplicity for most of my adult life. At first, I thought more about the self-sufficient rural type of simplicity. Having a huge garden, hens for eggs and goats for milk. Canning, sewing, that sort of thing.

Later, I wanted to be the kind of person who could live out of a backpack – or at least have all my stuff fit in my compact car. Even before I became a mother, this wasn’t feasible for me, though, since just my pets and their related necessities would have filled up the car. Plus, I’m not a big risk-taker.

So, while I fantasized about leaving it all behind someday, I kept acquiring things and living in a fairly large space (almost 2,300 square feet). Although we didn’t have any more stuff than your average middle class family, after awhile, it felt oppressive. Plus I’d get frustrated whenever something would go missing – there were too many places to look. Three or four years ago, I decided things had to change.

Kelvin:  What are some of the benefits you’ve discovered from “downshifting” your life? Have you also encountered any challenges?

Christy: We live in a smaller place, so it’s a lot faster to clean and maintain. My husband and I have more time to hang out together and to volunteer. In theory, we also have more time to spend with our son, but he’s a teenager, so he’s not exactly looking for more time with us.

One of the biggest benefits of downshifting is that I now feel grateful for things that are so easy to take for granted. I also feel less stressed and more even-tempered. I spend much less time worrying and find it’s easier to get along with people.

Surprisingly, the number one challenge is the cat’s litter box, and that has more to do with our floor plan than the size of our new townhouse. There’s no good spot for it, so it makes the bathroom a little crowded. It’s not a big deal – and certainly nothing in comparison to the things people tend to worry about when considering downshifting.

We expected to miss our old space, especially the huge yard, at least a little, but we don’t. We have ample room for our stuff, and we haven’t come across anything we got rid of that we later discovered we needed.

There’s also plenty of room to be able to get out of each others’ hair and have some time alone.

Since we live in a planned neighborhood with lots of parks, we have the advantage of nearby outdoor space we can enjoy without having to mow, prune or weed it. I was a little concerned about the lack of a garden area, but this summer, I grew basil, cilantro, dill, rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, parsley, chives, peppermint, spearmint, salad greens, sunflowers and nasturtiums in pots on our small balcony and patio.

Many people are afraid of alienating friends and family. Some of ours think we’re a bit odd, but they’ve all been supportive.

Christy-King-Minimalist-Quote

Kelvin: TheSimpleWhiteRabbit is an interesting name for a blog. What’s the story behind the name?

Christy: When I decided to begin blogging, I thought of dozens of more typical blog names, but the URLs were all taken, and I was beginning to get frustrated. One morning, I was standing in the driveway when a white rabbit hopped toward me, stopped several feet away and studied me for a moment. It was such an odd experience, I decided to use “white rabbit” as part of my blog name.

Kelvin: You’ve embraced the term “a gradual minimalist” on your blog. What does this mean and how could it help others who are interested in minimalism?

Christy:  I’ve always been drawn to stories of people who abruptly changed their lives, but that wasn’t realistic for me. As I mentioned, I’m not a big risk taker.

Plus, the unpleasant fact is that it takes time – a lot of time – to go through stuff to see what to keep and what to toss. Some people have schedules that allow them to devote long hours to decluttering, but that’s just not going to work for busy families.

And even if I did have a ton of free time, I wouldn’t want to spend it all decluttering. I know some would say I could’ve worked really hard for month or two and been done with it, but I much preferred doing a little at a time.

Also, I think it’s better for the environment (and our budgets) if we use things up and wear them out. For instance, I got rid of all the clothes I hated or that didn’t fit well, but I still had a couple more pairs of jeans than I needed. They fit and were comfortable – and they wear out. It just didn’t make sense to me to donate the jeans and then a year later be back in the store buying more.

It seems especially wasteful to get rid of extra items that I can use in the not-too-distant future if the items aren’t suitable to donate and would have to be sent to the landfill. Of course, keeping extras makes sense only for consumables and items that wear out in less than a year or two. It also presumes you don’t have a ridiculous excess. If I had 20 extra pairs of jeans, obviously some would have to go.

Another benefit of gradually simplifying is that it gives us time to build new habits. Decluttering isn’t going to do us much good in the long run if we keep the same old consumerist habits that overstuffed our homes to begin with.

Kelvin: Besides de-cluttering physical possessions, what posts do you recommend readers check out on your site to help enrich their lives.

Christy: Many of my posts offer minimalist tips that aren’t related to possessions or home size. Some are practical suggestions for saving money and simplifying day-to-day living, such as Forget Your Schedule, Save Money by Simplifying and Creating a Custom Home Maintenance Calendar.

Others relate more to changing our attitudes to increase peace of mind, including: G Is for Gratitude, Letting Go of the Past and I Is for Inner Peace.

Christy-King-Minimalist-Gradual

Kelvin: Christy, I enjoy reading the History section on your blog (Is this your lawyer side of coming out?) To me, it’s a reminder that minimalism is a recent trend. What was the inspiration behind this project and which personality stood out the most in your research?

Christy: I’d say it’s less my lawyer side than my nerd side, but those sides are probably related. As far as the inspiration, it’s largely my own interest in learning, but I’ve also seen some complaints that minimalist blogs all offer the same content, and I wanted to offer something different.

The Shakers are my favorite Minimalist in History group, perhaps because I was able to visit Pleasant Hill, an old Shaker community (now a museum) in Kentucky.

Kelvin: Finally, do you have any tips for our readers on how they could keep their life less complicated?

Christy: Aside from the obvious (have less stuff and if possible, a smaller home), it’s mostly about prioritizing.

To me, there is no single right way to simplify. Each person needs to think about their own values and priorities.

For example, you want some more time to spend with your kids, but, to do that, you’ll need to spend less time on other things. Chairing the PTA may be important to you, but the first thing someone else lets go of. Maybe you insist on homemade dinners every night, while someone else will be happy to switch to processed foods a few nights a week.

Also, practicing mindfulness and gratitude can help us feel our lives are less complicated, even if nothing external has changed.

Christy, thank you for sharing with the readers of Going Uncomplicated.

Christy is the blogger of TheSimpleWhiteRabbit where she inspires her readers to gradually live a simpler lifestyle. You can follower her on Twitter.

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Mama Africa: Highlights from my Trip to Uganda

by Kelvin Belfon

Mama Africa

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” – Frederick Douglass

 

I had a wonderful experience in Uganda.

The lush green tropical vegetation was picturesque. The food was amazing! It was fresh, colorful and flavorful. But most of all, the people were beautiful. They were kind, friendly, and hospitable.

Our main assignment was commissioning the Mount of Olive Primary School in Kirugu, Uganda built by the Hoffman Family Foundation (HFF). The new, larger two-story facility will house over 400 students.

We encouraged and trained a group of entrepreneurial women. There were 70 women present who had previously started their own businesses to support their families. The story of what they did with just a small micro-loan is a remarkable.

Throughout my time in Uganda, our group drove many miles to see several different schools as well as sanitary and water projects.

But the highlight of my trip was visiting the children supported by HFF. Their smiles brought tears to my eyes because I was once their shoe. For a very significant part of my youth, I lived without my biological father or mother. But people, in most cases strangers, rallied around and helped me get what was necessary for living accommodations and an education.

This first trip to mama Africa has created memories that will live on. I’m grateful for the invitation. I was deeply inspired. I ate, played, laughed and cried. I grew.

I do plan to continue traveling as the opportunity becomes available. I hope Uganda is a very real part of that plan. International travel is a passion of mine. I enjoy learning new things from other cultures, serving and empowering others.

Finally, I want to thank everyone who expressed their thoughts and offered prayers over my travel. I appreciate your many comments and Facebook messages.
I will share more about Uganda in upcoming posts. For now, enjoy a few of my favorite pictures below.

Uganda-City-Kampala

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Uganda-Guy-Recycle

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Uganda-Guys-Motorcycle

Uganda-School-EWALDI

 

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Going to Africa

by Kelvin Belfon

going-africa-Caribbean-black

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain

 

Over the years, I’ve had quite a few opportunities to do missionary and humanitarian work in other countries. I love meeting new people and learning about their culture in the process.

This trip, this time is different.

Hundreds of years ago, some of my ancestors made the Trans-Atlantic journey from Africa to the Caribbean under very different circumstances. For so many different reasons, the dream of going to Africa has held a very special place in my heart ever since I was a young man growing up in the Grenada.

Even now living in the United States, married with children, a job and numerous responsibilities, I never thought it would happen, at least not anytime soon.

In a few hours I will begin a brief, but much anticipated journey back to Africa. I will land in Kampala, Uganda. There I’ll be working with the Hoffman Family Foundation. Through the Foundation, a school that accommodates  approximately 500 children was built. The grand opening ceremony will be this Thursday.

I’m excited to be invited to participate in such an important occasion. I can’t wait.

Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers.

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Organizing is Good. Decluttering is Better.

by Kelvin Belfon

Organizing-Decluttering-Minimalism

“If you need to buy stuff just to organize your existing stuff, maybe you own too much stuff.” ~ Courtney Carver

 

No one ever plans to be messy. But over time, clutter creeps in. It grows, overtakes our living spaces and then our lives. No one is clutter-proof.

It’s estimated that the average U.S. household has 300,000 things! That’s clothing, appliances, electronics, books, paper clips, and…you get the point. It’s mind-boggling how much we own, most of which we never use.

In our home, we’ve organized to keep the clutter at bay. It’s quick, easy, fun, makes the most efficient use of spaces, and the results are always aesthetically pleasing. Some organizational processes are just plain cool!

Perhaps the biggest benefit of them all – Organizing makes us feel good about our accomplishments. I like to see the fruits of my labor and organizing does just that.

In some cases organizing can be temporary. It gives the impression that you’ve resolved the issue, like organizing the clutter in the children’s bedroom. But the mess soon resurfaces, wasting time when you end up having to repeat the organizing process again and again.

On the other hand, de-cluttering or de-owning is initially tough and scary. It requires lots of time and intentionality. It asks the difficult questions about our stuff. When was the last time I used this item? Is it useful, beautiful or does it add value to my space?

In de-cluttering unwanted possessions are discarded, not kept and organized. This gives our efforts a more permanent result. There is less cleaning and organizing with fewer things. Room space has more of a grand, peaceful, and relaxing atmosphere.

When we giveaway or donate unused items in good condition, we help make a difference in the lives of other. This is a big motivation. Organized unwanted possessions might look great in the closet, attic or garage. But having the courage to gift your goods could do so much more good in putting a smile on someone else’s face.

I think the biggest payoff in all of this is that de-owning forces us to become conscious consumers. Shopping can be an expensive obsession. The satisfaction of making the purchase only lasts for a while until we think we need something else. When we regularly de-clutter, we are forced to rethink our values and most often to change our consumption pattern. A habit of de-cluttering engrains the habit of asking yourself when in a store, “Do I really need this?”

Lastly, de-cluttering can help with the family budget. Instead of investing in fancy organizational systems, turn some of your unused belongings into cash. We’ve done this so many times. The money can be used to pay bills or reduce debt depending on your situation.

We like organizing and still plan to continue this habit in our home. However, the default has changed. We now first discard as much as possible, then organize what’s left.

Organizing is good. Decluttering is better.

What do you think? Are you an organizer, a de-clutterer or both?

 

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Minimalist Marriage Advice for Newlyweds

by Kelvin Belfon

Minimalist-Newlyweds-Marriage

“Love is a partnership of two unique people who bring out the very best in each other, and who know that even though they are wonderful as individuals, they are even better together.” – Barbara Cage

 

Recently I had the privilege of reuniting with a good friend. I drove 12 hours to the destination, stopping only once for 10 minutes. I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to see him and his fiancée.

I met my friend when he was only 16 years old in our youth group. He had a timid and reserved disposition. Over the years, I’ve witnessed him blossomed into a leader and thinker.

About year ago, Camilla and I had a surprise visit from him. We met for lunch and he talked about life, being almost done with his bachelor’s degree, and a girlfriend. He dreamed about his future with this girlfriend by his side, as his wife.

Within the year, he broke the news to me. They were engaged…and happy about the prospect of building a life together.

On Saturday, July 18th, Kevin and I stood at the altar side by side. Oh, I felt so old. It had been 8 years since we first met; he had become a man, and would soon be Savannah’s husband. It was a proud and emotional moment for anyone who knew him well.

During the ceremony, I was consumed with thoughts that lasted the duration of my 12-hour drive back home, “What might minimalist marriage advice for newlyweds be someone like Kevin?”

In my car, driving across the country, thoughts about my own marriage and so many others held my attention. I thought about the destination of some I knew back home who were seriously dating and a few friends who are newlyweds.

I thought about my own children. I know, they are so young but I couldn’t help wonder what their ideals might be when the time comes for them to start a family.

Camilla and I had our share of ups and downs since our “I do” moment about 16 years ago. But we’ve grown and continue to be best friends. The idea of trimming the fat in our lives and separating wants from needs is an ongoing exercise in precision. I’m no expert yet, but I thought it to be appropriate to share a few thoughts to newlyweds out there like Kevin and Savannah.

 

Minimalist Marriage Advice

Value your spouse more than your possessions. Relationships are more important than things. However, our actions tend to reveal the opposite when we spend long hours working and caring for excessive material possessions. In a report on the Psychology of Materialism, research finds a connection between struggling marriages and high levels of materialism among couples. Materialism can lead one to become less focused on nurturing his/her relationship with the opposite sex. Your spouse should never play second fiddle to the things in your closet, living room, garage or wealth. Value and love your spouse more than any of your possessions.

Take control of your finances. Couples bring unnecessary strain in the relationship when they start off their marriage living beyond their means. Bad financial problems continue to be one of the leading causes of divorce today. It addition, it can lead to distrust, constant conflict, depression, stress, and even bankruptcy. The obvious but not so fun solution – live on a budget, set aside an emergency fund, and start paying off debt. Another time-tested bit of advice – avoid credit cards, get-rich schemes, other forms of debt (gambling, opening lines of credit, etc), and learn to pay yourself first from every paycheck. That is, save at least 10% of your income. A great read is Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover.

Consolidate but stay true to who you are. It is conceivable that both partners could potentially bring together enough stuff to crowd out a home from the start. As such, you need to be even more ruthless in taking inventory, consolidating and pitching duplicate. Ask yourselves, “What do we really need?” Then minimize, keeping the things you absolutely love and can’t live without. Giveaway or donate those that will only junk up the new life you’re trying to build.

Broken, outdated, and personal items from past relationships should be purged. It’s a new season, be willing to let go and make room for the new person in your life. You are now one, a unit, and a team. Yet don’t feel threatened about losing your individuality.

Chose quality over quantity. Better quality items will last longer and save you time and money. If you received similar wedding gifts, pick the better quality item and exchange the rest for something you need. Better still, if you can, get the cash and pay off debt or save the money. When purchasing new furniture, appliances and other home items, select those that can serve multiple functions as they can sometimes conserve on space. Unless absolutely necessary, don’t rush the process. Exercise patience in accumulating good quality items instead of buying things you’ll need to replace frequently.

Do NOT compare your marriage with others. It’s a common mistake for newlyweds to compare themselves with other couples. Judging your marriage based on the examples of your parents, friends, mentors and even fictional characters in a book or movie is a distraction from discovering the potentials that lie within the walls of your own home. Don’t try to live up to the Joneses either! Some people have accumulated what they have through inheritance, gifts, or years of handwork. What they have may even be an avatar of the level of their indebtedness.

Another thing, don’t embrace negative marriage stereotypes. “When the honeymoon wears off, you’ll experience reality.” “When you start having kids things will get harder.” “When you…. [fill in the blank]. Sure you’ll encounter difficult seasons in life but every marriage is unique. You don’t have to live up to traditional expectations. Expect the best, be positive, patient and forge your own path! When you encounter a pothole, deal with it as a team and move on.

 

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Spend your time making memories, not accumulating things. There is nothing wrong with material possessions. Newlyweds need certain basics possessions. But along the marriage journey, treasure moments with your spouse. Be intentional about seeking to create memories. These are more significant and long lasting. Avoid trying to impress each other with things tied to their monetary value during anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays. Invest in things with value tied to what your spouse means to you.

Stay healthy together. Do you remember the Freshman 15 syndrome? It’s when students would gain an extra 15 lbs in their first year of college as a result their unhealthy diet and more sedentary lifestyles.  Well, the same can be true for young married couples. Studies find that newlyweds are more likely to gain weight after the “I do” moment.  As such, newlywed should stay active by exercising or walking regularly. They should also eat a healthy diet that focuses on fresh vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes. Avoid eating box meals loaded with processed and GMO ingredients. In general, limit dining out on fast foods.

Communicate, communicate, communicate. I saved this one for last for a reason. It’s probably the most indispensable advice that you want to chew on after you’re done reading this article. The more newlyweds can share with each other, the more likely they’ll stay together for the long haul. Avoid keeping each other in the dark when it comes to your fears, career expectations, children, finances, frustrations and dreams. Keep the lines of communication open, constructive and honest. Be specific, not even the most talented spouse can read minds. Lastly, communication involves actively listening to your partner, even when you already know the answer to their question. It’s more about honor and respect than being right or having the last word in every verbal exchange.

What minimalist marriage advice would you like to share?

 

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6 Benefits of Monomealing

by Kelvin Belfon

mono-mealing-food-health

 

Summer rocks!

It’s the season devoted most to leisure and spending time with loved ones. The weather is just right for outdoor activities like swimming, hiking, kayaking, and vacationing or visiting far away family and friends.

There is also no school! This means no homework and no studying. Kids even stay up a little later than usual. And there is always something on the grill: corn, kabobs, chicken, salmon, steak, hamburgers, and hotdogs.

As a youth in Grenada, monomealing was another favorite. I ate lots of mangoes, watermelons, bananas, sugar apples, guava, oranges, and sour sop. They were all free and abundant during the long sunny months.

Some days, monomealing was the perfect solution. I have devoured many buckets of delicious mangoes for lunch and late night snack over the years. When it was especially hot, a juicy watermelon was the ideal cure.

 

mono-mealing-on-papaya

So what’s monomealing?

Till last year, I’d never used this trendy terminology. Although, when I came to know more about how it’s done, I found myself thinking, “This is nothing new, you’ve practiced monomealing your whole life.”

In essence, monomealing is eating only one (mono) food type in abundance, usually a raw fruit or a vegetable, for ones meal. For example, one might eat a hand of bananas for breakfast or a dozen oranges for lunch.

The idea behind monoeating is healthy, clean eating. You load up on a fruit or vegetable in its natural raw form with nothing added to the food before it is consumed.

So no, you can’t monomeal on pizza or cupcakes. These are complex, processed foods. Some people mono-diet for extended periods of time to lose weight. I don’t promote this approach. What happens after the weight is lost?

In our home, we like monomealing as often as possible. When our local grocery store has specials like a pineapple or cantaloupes for 99¢ each, we load up on these hydrating fruits and mono-meal. Our children participate as well.

 

mangoes-mono-mealing-benefits

 

6 Benefits of Monomealing

1. It promotes a healthier diet. Monomealing improves your food consumption quality. Eating raw fruits or vegetable provides the natural nutrition your body needs and craves opposed to loading down our GI tract with processed meals. An improved diet can reduce the risks of potential illness and diseases.

2. It’s easier to digest. Sure you can combine various food ingredients when having a standard meal. But digestion takes longer. When you eat one fruit or vegetable at a time, the body has only one food to digest opposed to a complex meal comprised of pizza, salad, chips, and soda, much of which ultimately spike/crashes your insulin level, raises cholesterol and inflammation, lowers immunity, makes you sluggish, and eventually gets stored as fat.

3. It helps determine allergies. When we consume multiple ingredients, it can be difficult to identify the source of an illness. But monomealing can help isolate allergens. If you find you do have a food allergy, please seek a professional healthcare provider immediately.

4. It keeps the body hydrate. Fruits are filled with approximately 90% purified water. When consumed in abundance, fruits can help to keep your body hydrated and detoxified.

 

fruit-mono-eating

 

5. It encourages gratitude. The process of touching, smelling, chewing and enjoying the flavors in my mouth helps me appreciate my food. When I monoeat, I’m also grateful to the farmers who help keep us fed.

6. It’s simple. Keeping things uncomplicated in the kitchen can save you time and money. There is less time spent preparing meals and more time for play and enjoyment! Buying fruits over everything else on the shelves is a huge budget saver.

Why not consider monomealing at least one meal a week. Raw and organic is best when consuming large quantities of fruits and vegetables! Your body will thank you for the reset. Last, when you monomeal, don’t binge yourself through the whole event. Slow down. Breathe. Be grateful and enjoy your meal.

Have you monomealed before? If so, what’s your favorite food for monomealing?

 

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8 Obstacles to Decluttering and What You Can Do

by Kelvin Belfon

8-Decluttering-Obstacles-Minimalism

 

Is there too much clutter in your home?

The simple solution is to declutter. That is, look through your belongings and get rid of the non-essential items you no longer need.

Minimize, minimize, minimize.

It’s a great suggestion. I’ve encouraged loved ones, friends and even online followers toward the minimalism path. But let’s face it, uncluttering is not easy.

I decided to downsize my belongings 3 years ago. I was tired of hauling things around every time our family relocated. The clutter was taking up too much space, and became a hassle to clean up and reorganize on the weekends.

I was highly motivated to reclaim my time. Yet like most, letting go was challenging and I wasn’t sure how to begin. I was frustrated, discouraged and emotional when going through my sentimental items.

There are legitimate reasons why people choose to hold onto things. But the inability to bring our feelings about the stuff we own into alignment with our goals is directly related to the power we have given these things to imprint on our sense of self.

If you resonate with any obstacles below, be encouraged. You are not alone. There are things you can do to beat the clutter.

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8 Obstacles to Decluttering and What You Can Do

1. “I’m too embarrassed” – “What will people think?” This fear of humiliation is tied to our worry that we might somehow fall into the category of pack rat or even worse, hoarder. But don’t be ashamed. There is always a reason why our possessions accumulate. They may have originally arrived from an emotional event, an inheritance, a hobby, or simply because we were blessed to afford extra. But all these things together can mushroom if not put in check. The support from a loving family member or friend to help.

2. What if I need it later?” We keep things around just in case. Over time they pile up, take up space, cost money in storage, become outdated and turn into junk. Our motivation is often driven by an over-realized need for security. Yet we rarely go back to reuse those possessions.

If you must keep certain valuables, for emergency purposes for instance, keep them updated, in good condition, and tidied up. For those just in case items you’re not sure about, put them in a box or in a hidden location. After 30-60 days, if you haven’t used them and you know you won’t in the next 6 months, consider donating. Another recommendation is the 20/20 rule. If you can replace an item for less than $20.00 in less than 20 minutes from your location, then get rid of it.

3. “I have no help” – “Where do I start and how do I go about tackling the clutter?” The job of decluttering a room or space can be hard work. For some folks, clutter has an overwhelming or paralyzing effect, especially if there is no prior experience of having to declutter. This may be true if you’re elderly, disabled or going through a transition in life. Solicit help from family, friends or hire a professional.

4. “I’ll do it later” – We all have good intentions. I’ve meet people who’ve keep their possessions because they were planning to sell or donate. But that intention never happened. Now years later, their space is cluttered. Barbara Hemphill is right, “Clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions.”

Fight the procrastination tendency by going public. Share your desire with someone who can hold you accountable. Make a call; some local charity organizations will pick up your unwanted possessions. Last, seek a professional like my friend Christine Li of Procrastination Coach.

5.  “I can’t get rid of the sentimental items” – This is probably the toughest category to tackle. Mementoes such as pictures, love letters, childhood items, wedding china, and family heirlooms should be addressed last in the minimizing process.

If an item is no longer useful, adds beauty to your home or if it brings negative memories, get rid of it. Consider even utilizing your digital options. Take pictures of memorabilia that will most likely deteriorate over time or gift them to family, friends, museums, or donation store. However, if something sparks joy, keep it.

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6. “What will I do with all the unwanted clutter?” – “Some people won’t take the decluttering plunge unless they have a plan.

The good news is that in minimizing, we can help out other families with clothing, appliances, linens, and toys. Your local public libraries will accept book collections in good condition. As well, animal shelters welcome donations of sheets, towels and blankets.

7. “Hold it, I paid good money for my stuff!” True, no one likes to feel like they are throwing away their money. I’ve bought expensive electronics and household items. I keep them out of guilt though they were outdated, broken or no longer worked.

The logical action is to sell to recoup some of the money. But let go and move on. Give it away, donate or discard.

8. “The item was gifted to me” It’s common to collect items gifted from birthdays, holidays, special events and conferences. If you have kids, this category can easily create accumulation, which makes keeping things tidied up a challenge.

“Will people think I’m ungrateful?” Maybe, maybe not; but a gift is yours to do with as you please. Take small steps and when you are ready, let go of those things that have run their course in usefulness to you.

 Have you experienced any other obstacles to decluttering?

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The Other Side of Complexity: An Interview with Mike Burns

Editor’s Note: The following is an interview with Mike Burns of TheOtherSideOfComplexity.com

The-Other-Side-Of-Complexity1

Kelvin: Hi Mike! Let’s begin by telling us a little about yourself. Where do you live, are you single or married, do you have any children, any hobbies, etc.?

Mike: Sure!

Here’s the rundown… I live in Nashville, TN. I’m 39 years old. I’ve been happily married to my best friend for 19 years. I have six kids ranging from 10-18 years of age. I like coffee, funny videos, great movies, and books about making the world a better place. I listen to a wide spectrum of music, but currently prefer acoustic, folk-type stuff and positive hip-hop.

I have multiple tattoos. I am very sober- minded, but I want to have fun and enjoy life. This means that my brain is a mix of Yoda-like mantras and Napoleon Dynamite references. It’s a strange place, but I call it home. 🙂 At the end of the day, I want to know that I loved and lived well.

 

Kelvin: What inspired your simplicity journey?

Mike: My “simplicity journey” began several years back when, due to my job, we moved twice in a 12 month period. When we began preparing for the second move, we realized that there were boxes that we had never opened from the last move! They were full of stuff we hadn’t touched in nearly 6 months.That was the beginning of some significant change.

About that same time, I stumbled upon books by Joshua Becker and Leo Babauta. Over the past several years, we’ve tried some fairly drastic projects, like selling everything except for what would fit in a 6×12 trailer and moving across country. But, the more significant efforts have been those smaller daily decisions to value people over things.

 

Kelvin: What are the benefits you’ve experienced as a result of simplifying your lifestyle?

Mike: There are a number of benefits that we’ve experienced as a family over the past few years. Here are the 3 that always come to mind immediately:

1- Less stress. Our minds aren’t NEARLY as cluttered with all of the concerns and worries that come from overscheduling, unrealistic deadlines and busy-ness. We are free to think about the future and be creative.

2- Closer relationships. Because we say “no” to a lot of the hectic activity that is typical in our culture, we are able to spend quality time with each of them. We work together, play together, and have serious, life-changing talks.

 3- Lots of creativity! Eliminating lots of unnecessary stuff has left space for us to be creative and pursue passions. We’re able to bring new things into existence. It’s SO much fun! We are all able to come up with ideas and see them through to completion. We couldn’t do this if we let things get too complicated.

 

Kelvin: When most people hear the term minimalism, they imagine a young single person with no children, who is living without possessions. Is a minimalist lifestyle achievable for large families?

Mike: It’s definitely a challenge. But it’s doable. We live a somewhat clutter-free life. You might call it “clutter-free-ish.” It’s a work in progress. It’s successful at times and less-so at others.

I’ve written quite a bit about the topic of simplifying with a family, but, if I had to narrow down my recommendations, I think I’d probably say these two things: Prioritize relationships and adjust your expectations. It doesn’t matter how much you eliminate or how “clutter-free” you become if you don’t value people over things. If you become obsessed with the number of objects you have and lose touch with those you love most, you’ve accomplished little.

 

Kelvin: The Other Side Of Complexity is an interesting blog name. What’s the inspiration behind the name?

Mike: The name was inspired by a famous quote that has been attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

 “For the simplicity on this side of complexity, I wouldn’t give you a fig. But for the simplicity on the other side of complexity, for that I would give you anything I have.”

I’m not sure exactly what he meant, but here’s what it triggers in my mind: An idea of simplicity that doesn’t acknowledge the fact that life is complicated is naïve. However, there is a different kind of simplicity that is found when we don’t surrender and keep working toward our ideals.

That’s the kind of simplicity I am pursuing. To me, it’s a more realistic simplicity. Joshua Becker, of becomingminimalist.com, calls it “rational minimalism.”

Life isn’t always cut and dry. It can be difficult to navigate. But, if we work through the complication, we can find meaning and happiness.

 Mike-Burns-Family

Kelvin: Besides de-cluttering physical possessions, what posts do you recommend readers check out on your site to help enrich their lives.

Mike: Sure. Here are a few of my recent favorites:

4 Simple Tips for Becoming a Better Person

Priorities Change

6 Reasons Why You Should Question Your Beliefs

If you’re standing in crap, step out of it

 

Kelvin: I notice that time management is another one of your passions. Can you recommend a few tips to help us simplify our daily schedules?

Mike: There are SO many different perspectives on time management. Here are five tips to consider, no matter what tools or approach you use:

  1. Accept the fact that you can’t do everything.
  1. Get clear on what’s most important to you.
  1. Determine what you have to do to live for those things.
  1. Say “no” to anything else that hinders you.
  1. Find what motivates you and use it.

 

Kelvin: You and your wife have written several books to help individuals and families simplify their lives. Please share your top 3.

Mike: Writing these books has been an amazing exercise. We’ve had a great time working together, and we’ve really grown from the process! I’m not really sure how to decide on a “top 3,” so I’ll do it this way.

Most popular= Simpler: Declutter your life and focus on what’s most important

Most effort / Most proud of= James and The Big Battle: A Children’s Book about Allergies

Joint effort / Potentially most helpful for families= Living Clutter-Free with Kids in the House

 

Mike, thank you for your time and for sharing with the readers of Going Uncomplicated.

Thank you!

Mike Burns is the founder of The Other Side Of Complexity where he inspires his readers to live a simpler lifestyle. You can follower him on Twitter.

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Why Embrace Difficulties

by Kelvin Belfon

Why-Embrace-Diffulties

“Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult.  Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”    ~ M. Scott Peck

 

There is no such thing as a perfect life. In this life we’ll experience highs and lows. On some days things will go as planned and some days, we may be hostilely blindsided and spun around in a whirlwind of chaos and injury.

Have you ever asked yourself, “Why me?” You were the nice person. You did everything right and even played by the rules. All the same, trouble came knocking on your door.

It happens. It’s all part of our journey. No one is immune to life’s vicissitudes. Trouble comes to us all. It’s not a matter of if it will happen, but in most cases when.

Trials can invoke the worst in us at times. The stress can cause anger, blame, self-criticism, complaints and even withdrawal from others. It’s no fun.

Still, our difficulties are not the adversary. Their arrival isn’t always to punish the person experiencing them. Bad things do happen to seemingly good people!

A natural human response to the discomforts of life is to try to avoid or run away from our problems. But the more we avoid, sometimes, is the more the issues force themselves upon us. It’s inevitable.

There’s no way that I can even pretend to come up with something formulaic to ease the pain either. At any rate, I haven’t discovered yet a consistently effective and healthy remedy for hard times in my own life. But what I’ve found is that we can change our perception of and reaction to them.

We don’t need to see trials as evils; but we can choose to use them as a catalyst for personal maturity and character development. The season you’re in may very well still be pretty painful; but I can say for certain that a perspective change helps to move us from fighting the process, which only makes things worse, and toward accepting the journey, which leads to maturity.

 

How Can Difficulties Help?

  • They create opportunities to solve problems. Our aptitude, skills and creativity can be unleashed to resolve the most improbable challenges. Unearth the diamonds that exist within each challenge.
  • They bring perspective. We can gain insight and wisdom from our current plight that will help solve future challenges.
  • They reveal our values and priorities. When our world is shaken up, we learn to value and prioritize the important people, things and experiences in life.
  • They help us minimize. In the same way, when faced with challenges we learn to discard the non-essential to survive it all in the end.
  • They help us discover our strengths. Problems build endurance and perseverance to keep us going when we feel like giving up.
  • They bring humility. Our troubles are a reminder of our frailty and dependence on others.
  • They confirm our relationships. Friendships are tested when things go wrong.

Accept the difficulties of life. They are only seasonal, created not to last. Don’t give up! Make the necessary adjustments. Learn what you can for the future. This is all part and parcel of the uncomplicated lifestyle.

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Calla’s Minimalist Story

by Kelvin Belfon

Callas-Minimalist-Story

Last month, I published 16 Decluttering Tips from The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The article was my review of Marie Kondo’s book. This book has been one of my most thought provoking reads on the subject of decluttering.

Calla, a reader, thanked me for the review. She then downloaded the book a day later and commented, “I have to admit I will be joining her [Marie Kondo] cult following!”

Much later, there was another comment, “Ok, so I am a full on follower!…I completely changed my [decluttering] belief…I can’t thank you enough Kelvin for your motivating review.”

I was encouraged and inspired. Calla shares her minimalist story with us. Enjoy!

My name is Calla and I’m from the Great Pacific Northwest state of Oregon.

I didn’t think I had clutter because my possessions were always organized and out of sight. When I moved 10 years ago from a 1300 sq ft condo to a house with 1500 sq ft, I was surprised at how much stuff I had accumulated. Carrying those boxes down three flights of stairs inspired the simplicity bug in me.

Immediately, I got rid of 5 boxes of stuff and got rid of at least one box every month for 10 years. My strategy was simple: declutter one item that I didn’t need each day.

But it was challenging to keep up with the clutter. As more room became available in closets and in the garage, people wanted to store their stuff in my house. In the beginning, I agreed to their request for a few months. But now, I just say NO.

After reading Kelvin’s review of Marie Kondo’s 16 Decluttering Tips from The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I still believed my daily decluttering method worked just fine for me. But then I checked out Marie’s YouTube video on the folding method and vertical storage and got hooked.

I decided right then and there to download the book.  After reading it, I stayed up and reorganized my wardrobe. I even got rid of 5 plastic storage bins!

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What I liked about the KondoMari Method is her idea of keeping items that only spark joy. I bought a suit in London that I only wore once every couple of years; but it makes me happy and brings back memories of that trip every time I see it.  So I kept it. This concept for me was a shift from other methods that advocate tossing things that aren’t being used on a regular basis.

Another concept I like is decluttering by category not location. It was a wake-up call for me to see how much of a particular item I actually have. When items are stored and used in several locations, it’s easy to be unaware of your inventory.

calla-declutter-kondomethod
My advice for those who are thinking about taking the simplicity route, read this book, check out YouTube videos, and then take the plunge. If it doesn’t suit you, you can always stop.  To start, the order that is recommended in the book serves the KondoMari Method, so I would stick to it.  I’m only half way through her categories and plan to finish them all.  The categories I have done have proven to be worthwhile.

At the very least, check out the folding & vertical storage on YouTube video!

Calla, thank you for sharing your story with us!

If you have an inspiring discovery in your approach to decluttering, please share it with us. Also, do you have a simplicity story you’d like to share?

Send an email to goinguncomplicated@gmail.com

Finally, I would like to take this time to thank everyone for being a reader of GoingUncomplicated.com. I appreciate your comments, messages, Facebook and Twitter shares. You’ve encouraged me along the journey.

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The Art of Meaningful Conversation

by Kelvin Belfon

art-meaninful-conversation

“Clutter isn’t just the stuff in your closet. It’s anything that gets between you and the life that you want to be living.” – Peter Walsh

 

Mastering the art of meaningful conversations is a key to advancing your life goals.

Two weeks ago, I was offered an amazing opportunity. I shared the good news with my wife Camilla and a few close friends. Then I called my mother and did the same. She was excited and happy for me.

Five minutes into our conversation, I began to doubt. I started to explain to mom why the opportunity wouldn’t work. She listened then interjected in a stern motherly tone. She encouraged me to stop the negative thinking and, “clean up your vocabulary!”

I was offended at first but she was right…again!

It was also confirmation of a certain aspect of minimalism that I have been subconsciously brewing.

In my opinion, it’s a mistake to limit minimalism to just the physical.

Clutter comes in various forms. And oftentimes, if we don’t get mental clutter in check, everything else we try to accomplish in our physical space becomes burdensome and unsuccessful. In my case, it was through a conversation with my mother that I was reminded of excessive verbal clutter resident in my own speech.

Words are powerful. They can create doubt and fear or inspiration and greatness. We might even say that words shape reality. Yet, all too often the conversations we have with ourselves are that part of life we consider last on the list of things needing tidying up.

What we say to ourselves, I believe, is the most important conversation we’ll have.

Negative self-talk only leads to us spinning our wheels rather than soaring ahead in life. We limit our potential. We invoke hopelessness into an otherwise promising future. We also reduce the probability of accomplishing challenging goals when we engage in pessimistic self talk.

There is an art to meaningful conversation and the key lies in the dialog that goes on inside of us.

The conversations we have with others can either be meaningful or superficial. They can engage our challenges and provide new and stimulating directions for the future.  Or they can reinforce negative self talk that stunts growth. They can even digress into empty gossip or a judgmental spirit. This is superficial and a waste of time.

Less is more and this also applies to conversations we have with others.

Let your conversations count. Let them be meaningful.  Be truthful. Say what you mean. By doing so, you’ll reflect a more accurate picture of who you are; and, as such, relationships are less complicated. We avoid potential toxic conversations with this focus.

If we are to make progress in our minimalist journey, we must master meaningful conversations.

These few suggestion I’ve since found useful in keeping my conversations meaningful. Use brevity and get to the point. It’s okay to keep your conversations short. Avoid empty redundant dialogue and exclamations that only amount to over-exaggerating your reality.

 Respect the value of other people’s time. Listen and ask questions. Be positive, helpful and build others up, even when correcting others. Finally, let love be your motivation for sharing your thoughts with others.

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16 Decluttering Tips from The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

by Kelvin Belfon

Kondo 16 Decluttering Tips

 

I recently read the highly popular The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by 30-year old, Japanese consultant and home-organizing guru Marie Kondo. It was an amazing read!

Kondo has attracted a cult like following on tidying up. She promises that, “When you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too.” As a result of her popularity among those who are looking for order in their lives, she has sold over 2 million copies of her book worldwide.

Once I picked up The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I couldn’t stop reading. The content was bold, provocative, unconventional, yet easy to implement. To say the least, everything I’ve learned about decluttering was challenged.

On a negative note, The KonMari Method might be a little unrealistic for large families. In my experience, decluttering is an ongoing process, not a one-time event when you have children. The book also didn’t address how to deal with children and their toys, a major source of clutter.

Overall, I highly recommend the book and would like to share 16 decluttering tips from it.

 

16 Tips from The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

  1. Declutter in one shot, not little by little. If you tidy a little each day, you’ll be doing it forever. When it’s done in one go, you’ll see how much stuff you really own. This can create an emotional shock value which can alter our behavior.
  1. Discard first, organize later. “Do not even think of putting your things away until you have finished the process of discarding,” says Kondo. Decide where things should go only after you’ve discarded what you don’t need.
  1. Sort by category, not by location. We are trained to tidy the bedroom, living room, kitchen and rest of the house. But Kondo says this is a fatal mistake. When we declutter by location, we repeat the vicious cycle in other locations. Purge by category such as: all your clothes, books, and so on.
  1. Begin with the end in mind. Ask yourself, “What do you hope to gain by decluttering?” Visualize your destination because tidying up is just a tool, not the final destination says Kondo!MarieKondo
  1. Choose to keep only what “sparks joy.” Most minimalists and decluttering experts emphasize elimination or discarding. A much better approach, argues Kondo, is to focus on keeping the things that “spark joy” or makes you happy. In essence, the true art of minimalism is removing the non-essential so we can enjoy those things that do matter.
  1. Handle each item then let go with gratitude. Pick up each item, feel it through our fingers and ask the question “Does this spark joy?” If it does, keep it. But then express your gratitude to the things that fulfilled their role or purpose in your life. “Thank you for giving me joy when I bought you” or “Thank you for teaching me what doesn’t suit me.” This anthropomorphic treatment of our possessions, argues Kondo, will make it easier to release our sentimental possessions.
  1. Start de-cluttering the easy stuff. People get stuck and self-sabotage their efforts by purging sentimental belongings first. But when you begin with the easier things, you are better prepared to tackle the mementos later on. Kondo recommends simplify in the following order:
  • Clothing
  • Books
  • Paper
  • Miscellaneous
  • Mementos such as photos, love letters, childhood stuff, etc
  1. Resist the urge to repurpose clothes into loungewear. Avoid keeping torn or worn-out clothing just because you may use them later to relax around the house or use them as pajamas.
  1. Don’t let your family see. Once you’ve decluttered, avoid getting your family involved because they’ll want to keep your stuff because of their sentimental value.
  1. Focus on your own clutter. Getting rid of other people’s things (i.e. family members or friends) without their permission won’t help them. Instead, it could risk jeopardizing the relationship. Lead by example, tidy up our own stuff!
  1. Remove your books off the shelf and put them all on the floor. Books you’ve read have been experienced argues Kondo, so let them go unless they “spark joy” when you touch them. Release unread books as well, since maybe their purpose was to teach you that you didn’t need it in the first place.
  1. Discard the majority of your paper clutter. To help decide what to keep, Kondo provides 3 categories: papers currently in use, paper that need to be kept for a limited period and those that need to be kept forever. This does not include love letters or journals. All legal documents should be kept, if unsure, seek the counsel of a professional.
  1. Storage experts are hoarders. Expensive, sophisticated commercial organizing storage methods don’t help us reduce clutter. They are only temporary solutions at best. Kondo write, “The secret to maintaining an uncluttered room is to pursue ultimate simplicity in storage so that you can tell at a glance how much you have.”
  1. Store things vertical, never pile. When items are stacked, storage possibilities become endless, things in the bottom get lost and squashed. Vertical storage encourages you to notice the clutter as it develops because it takes up space.
  1. Don’t scatter storage spaces throughout the house. Clutter accumulates when we fail to return items where they belong. Thus, store items of the same category in the same location vs. throughout your home because of convenience.
  1. Give every possession a home. Clutter will develop when items do not have a designated storage location. Decide where you are going to put things after they’ve been used.

Have you read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying? If so, what were your thoughts?

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What to do with your unwanted stuff

by Kelvin Belfon

Unwanted Stuff

Yesterday was a good day.

I was outside mowing the grass and raking the leaves from the lawn. It’s sweaty work but I enjoy the fresh air, the little exercise and the mental break from my normal routine.

Then my daughter and I started cleaning up the garage. In the process I noticed 2 boxes filled with stuff we had gathered throughout the house a few weeks ago. The intent was to take them to the donation store.

But I had some hesitation while loading the car trunk. You see, some of these items were valuable and in good condition. Should I sell, giveaway or just donate as originally planned?

It’s a question people have asked me in the past. So I’ll like to explore a few options below.

 

What to do with your unwanted stuff?

Sell your still-worth-something items

I was unemployed when I began minimizing my possessions. I donated my unwanted belongings, but then started selling them to help earn extra income.

One time I sold a dictionary set for $403.98! That aided in our rental payment. In addition, I sold clothing, household items, small appliances, furniture, movies, and old cell phones and more.

Turn your unwanted clutter into cash! Use websites such as Amazon, eBay, Craigslist, Etsy and Facebook’s Garage Sale Groups. You can also organize your own yard/garage sale, use a consignment store, pawn shop or antique store.

But selling is not for everyone! It’s hard work, like hosting a yard sale. Online can be time consuming as well, like taking pictures, uploading images, driving to the post office or connecting with buyers.

The biggest disadvantage though is the loss of momentum in the de-cluttering process. When you decide to sell, items may sit in transit – in a room, attic or garage for months before being sold. So an alternative plan is turning them over to a new home.

 

Give away your need-a-new-home items

If your unwanted clutter is still in decent shape, consider giving them away. Freecycle is a great place to trade, barter or give away things still in good working condition.

Let me clarify this point.

Contrary to popular belief, one man’s junk is not always another man’s treasure. If it’s broken, missing parts, worn out, and seen its last days… discard it. Do yourself a favor, don’t try to pawn it off on others just because you’re still stuck on the sentimental web of having it. Stop yourself from making a fatal mistake and skip to my last option below.

Now that I’ve clarified what I mean by good condition, let’s move on.

There are people all around whom for whatever reasons, struggle to purchase brand new things. Thrifty stores are not always cheaper either. So bless someone with what you have lying around and never plan on using again. Let them have it…for free! Believe me, you’ll still function just fine.

Most often, we are the answer to someone else’s prayer. Rather than pray or wish a person well; give what you’ve got. One of my friends was overjoyed when I gave him a few of my books he was planning to purchase. Yet, they were collecting dust on my bookshelf.

The experience of giving our need-a-new-home items has taught me and my wife something about gratitude. Giving your stuff away is a luxury that not everyone can enjoy. And giving without expecting anything in return is the essence of real giving.

 

Donate your good-for-a-cause items

The idea of hosting an 5 hours a yard sale for little return or meeting up with potential Craigslist buyers may not be your thing. You’ve gone through the trouble of de-cluttering, now you want the clutter gone sooner than later.

Then consider donating. It’s by far the easiest and most convenient method.

Simply collect your unwanted items, load them up in your car and then drop off at a charity store such as the Salvation Army or Arc Thrift Stores. These agencies will accept almost anything from a books, clothing, tools, VHS and even cars!

Your charity store will also give you a donation receipt. This is a nice benefit for expensive belonging. If you decide to itemize on your taxes, be sure to keep your receipts.

 

Unwanted Stuff_donationpic

 

Recycle/Throw away your seen-its-last-days items

When possible, recycle items like magazines, newspapers, cell phones, batteries, computers, and digital cameras. Look for neighborhood programs outfitted to recycle whatever you need to get rid of. Recycling may require a little effort but it does so much good environmentally.

Let’s get real. If it’s not the kind of thing that should be recycled, then toss it.

In my work as a food bank manager, I see people try to pass on stuff that’s at the end of its life all the time. People will donate a 7 year old expired can of soup, used jars of peanut butter, t-shirts with stains and multiple holes and broken electronics with missing parts. Seriously?

Be honest if it needs to go. And please, at all cost, let’s stop giving our crap to the poor!

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10 Tips for Keeping Your Car Clean with Children

by Kelvin Belfon

Keeping Your Car Clean

I enjoy driving a clean car.

But my expectations have drastically changed since the addition of our four children.

Over the last 2 years, my children have decisively marked their territory in the backseat of our car with toys, leftover food, snacks crumbs, dishes, clothing, books, crayons, paper, rocks, stickers, unfinished experiments, and all such things required in their world.

I know that for them, everything is in its necessary place, but from my perspective, it just looks like a dump, like the aftermath of a hurricane. Going back there to access the damages from week to week can be pretty disturbing for someone like me.

Our cars were a never-ending nightmare to keep clean. After spending a good chunk of time cleaning, vacuuming and wiping down the seats, my heart would sink in disappointment and frustration when after just 3 days the warzone would return with a vengeance.

I’ve had far less problem tidying up and de-cluttering our home; but our cars…! They just seem to be my kryptonite.

I’ve been tempted quite a bit to raise the proverbial white flag and surrender in defeat. I had the right excuses too: I’m a busy parent of 4 small children. It’s winter, extra muck is to be expected. Carwashes can add up to an extra, avoidable budget expense! Everyone will understand. Some won’t even care or notice, right?

But recently I decided to regain control and conquer this Achilles heel. First, I gave the car a thorough cleaning with both my 4 and 7-years helping out. Then we had a short family meeting. Yes, I included our 12-month-old twins in there too, but they gave no input!

It’s been almost 2 months. The exterior of our vehicle is in need of a wash but the interior remains significantly improved. The frustration is now at a minimum. And I’m less freaked out.

 

Keeping Your Car Clean_vanquotepic

 

10 Tips for Keeping Your Car Clean with Children

1. Avoid food in the car. As parents, we are always rushing from one event to the other. So snacking in the car is a normal routine. But if you can, don’t make it the norm. Reserve food in the car for emergencies only. Resist the habit and you’ll win every time.

2. Provide a home for the trash. This was the game changer. I’m not sure why it took me so long to adapt. Each child has a plastic grocery bags to dump trash in. Professional trash bags for cars are also available if you want a fancier look.

3. Empty the trash when you refuel. This is a handy tip used by lots of parents. But even better, every time we get home, we do inventory and the kids pick up their space before leaving the car. This will help avoid bad odors and garbage building up.

4. Keep toys to a minimum. Toys will clutter your car in a heartbeat. This will happen if your kids treat your vehicle like their entertainment hub. Encourage conversation and sightseeing as alternate activities. This will also help improve their attention span. Another big reason to limit or even eliminate toys is because they can become dangerous projectiles in the event of a sudden stop or accident.

5. Follow the clean car golden rule. What goes in, must go out! That is, if your children bring something in the car like a toy, coat or book…at the end of the day, they must put it back where it belongs.

6. Use a seat organizer. Seat organizers are great for helping keep things in their rightful place. Some may also protect your leather seats from showing prints as well. But avoid the tendency to store all the possible non-essentials you can find in your seat organizer, or you’ll be defeating the purpose and committing the same crime you wish to reform your kids from.

7. Wipe-up during downtime. You are sitting in the school line waiting for your kids or at the park watching them play…quickly use a wet wipe to dust off the dashboard or clean up a spill. Regular cleaning intervals will reduce the need for a major car wash project.

8. Enlist your children. Put your little ones to work. It will help reinforce the idea that they need to own the damage they do to their space. Moreover, use the occasion as another opportunity to connect with your child.

9. Use an air freshener! This will keep funky sports equipment odors at bay. Use the ones that eliminate bad odor and not just compound bad odors with perfumes.

10. Schedule monthly cleaning. Your vehicle can still accumulate trash or crumbs despite all the aforementioned. So once or twice a month, take some time to give your vehicle a proper clean. The good news is, it won’t be a war zone at this point.

It’s unrealistic to have a spotless car at all time when you have children. Be reasonable, messes and spills will happen. In our home, we also adjust during certain seasons, like snowy winters. But still, you don’t have to succumb to the helpless parent syndrome like I did. You can take proactive steps!

We are always teaching and modeling behavior as parents. What we allow in moderation, our children will do in excess. Be consistent, intentional and in the process you’ll be helping your child for years to come.

What other tips do you use to keep your car clean?

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What I Learned from my 3 Mothers

by Kelvin Belfon

My 3 Mothers

Over the course of my life, there have been 3 mother figures that have wholly influenced who I am today.

First there is Lizzy, my biological mother who gave birth to me in her teens. Because of our age difference, people would often mistake us as siblings. Actually, we’ve always been more like best friends more than anything else.

Mom worked long hours, sometimes at multiple jobs in order to put food on the table. She’s always been encouraging and supportive in all my endeavors. In my book mom’s number one.

Then there is Cooley, an upbeat, business minded, no nonsense single mother of 2. She had a contagious smile and persuasive personality while selling at the local market. I lived with Cooley from ages 3-5.

Finally there was Sister Nelson, a short, slim, soft-spoken but driven woman. I’m not sure of the exact number; but she had over 10 children, helped raise the majority of her grandchildren as well as the children of non-family members, like myself.

Sister Nelson had many roles: wife, mother, grandmother, friend, farmer, businesswoman, matriarch, spiritual mentor, and community leader. I lived with her from age 11-21. Two years ago she passed away. Oh, how I miss her so.

These 3 women expressed their love very differently, but equally impacting, toward me. My mom was a hugger and giver. Cooley and Sister Nelson were less emotional. But you couldn’t tell with these 2 women because they treated me like family.

I also learned many things from each of these heroic women. I’ve observed their actions, rehearsed their wise counsels, and modeled their ideals. Maybe there were life lessons to be learned after being reprimanded or spanked. I’m glad they loved me enough to correct me and guide me in the right path.

What I learned from my 3 mothers

So, here are the 16 lessons I’ve learned from my 3 mothers.

Cooley

  • Say please when asking for things
  • Say thank you when given things
  • Say excuse me before interrupting adults
  • Show respect to strangers, and especially your elders

Sister Nelson

  • How to wash clothes by hand and iron them
  • How to be grateful for the small things
  • How to clean a house and keep a yard looking good
  • How to love God with all my heart and care for his people
  • How to grow a backyard kitchen garden and care for animals like sheep, goats and chickens

Lizzy

  • How to cook
  • How to eat with a knife and fork
  • How to take pride in how I present myself, especially in the way I dress
  • How to be responsible and independent so that I can take care for myself without asking for handouts
  • How to work hard and sacrifice for long term goals
  • How to keep going despite setbacks and obstacles
  • How to not take no for an answer, dream big and focus on ending well

I’m grateful for my biological mother. She’s been a very close friend to me. But women who care for those who are not their own, are exceptional. They have a special gift. Their love is a choice, not an obligation.

Mothers are human, not perfect. They share a unique place in our hearts. Their love is sacrificial and unconditional. Mothers work tirelessly without proper compensation or appreciation. They are willing to give up their dreams for their children. I witnessed these qualities from all 3 mothers that I’ve had.

I honor all mothers: biological, married, adoptive, step, single, nannies, and all who serve as mother figures. You never hear it enough, but…

Thank you!

What have you learned from your mother?

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Living with Less in a Bigger Space

by Kelvin Belfon

Living with less

I’m a minimalist.

I love the idea of less –that is, less clutter, less cleaning, less organizing, and less storing.

I also enjoy smaller living spaces which is ideal in minimalism. Seldom do folks talk about upgrading in my minimalists circles. But a few months ago, a series of unexpected events lead to my family’s decision to go bigger.

Although our family experienced a 50% growth, I still resisted the idea of relocating. The thought of moving with 4 children was too stressful, especially when two of our children were as young as 6 month old. Plus, our 2-bedroom townhouse was cozy since embracing the newly discovered minimalist lifestyle.

Yet, in spite of our wishes, a move became inevitable when our landlord decided to sell the townhouse. My wife and I secured a similar minimalist space for rent. To our dismay, that deal ended up being a rental scam. Now frantic, we began looking, a process that would cost us about 4 months of uncertainty.

You can imagine our relief when we finally found a well-maintained house for sale. But the home was loaded: 3 bedrooms, a finished basement with half bath and utility room, garage, and backyard.

It was perfect!

We had way more than enough room to entertain; and the children had a good sized fenced yard to freely roam. Happy and grateful over these big pluses, I was at the same time nervous about all the potential maintenance responsibilities. Hadn’t I just spent almost 2 years de-cluttering every area of our home?

I gotta admit, the moment was pretty emotional for me. The return of more clutter, cleaning, and expense of furnishing rooms and updating spaces…“This house purchase was a step in the wrong directions,” I concluded.

It’s been 6 months and we’ve settled into a routine. I’m less anxious about the big house. Everyone is happy about the extra space, even our now one year old twins who love crawling up stairs. The best part…our family remains committed to a simple lifestyle. We are living with less in a bigger space!

With everything now unpacked, we continue to de-clutter our home and find new purposes for old things. It’s a never ending process. We still sell and donate unused furniture pieces, kitchen appliances, dishes, clothing, toys, and books, just like in the past.

Everything must have a home! That’s shoes, coats, clothing, bags, toys, mail and those little things that seem to collect all over the house. This is a struggle for me though not the case for my wife. We’ve also renewed our fight against the ever growing accumulation of children’s toys and junk mail.

Storage containers are good on the eye and keep us organized. But over time they can become clutter magnets, keeping stuff hidden for years and even decades. So we decided to empty a handful of containers, and use or giveaway the unused contents.

What’s more, we have in fact added some new things to our home. When you own a house, you want to customize and make it your own. It’s only natural, especially if you’ve been renting for a handful of years.

 

“Your minimalism isn’t dependent on square footage. It’s a lifestyle and mentality!”

 

But at the same time, we’ve built in strategies to keep over-accumulation far off. For example, limiting our trips to the home improvement, appliance and furniture stores. We’ve also focused more on quality vs. quantity and intentionally left some areas of our home unfurnished because not every space needs to be filled.

Not all minimalists live in tiny houses or apartments. That’s because your minimalism isn’t dependent on square footage. Some prefer a little more real estate, especially those with larger families. Minimalism is not about seeing how much misery you can tolerate. There is no right or wrong methodology. It’s a lifestyle and mentality; and this will work differently for everyone.

Minimalism is also more than subtracting the unnecessary. It’s about creating a safe, positive, meaningful and enjoyable space where lifelong memories are forged. Big or small, this sacred place, I like calling home!

 

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Raising Children in an Excess Age

by Kelvin Belfon

Raising-Children-Minimalists-Excess

 

Pull out your Webster’s Dictionary, and have your child define minimalism. Then have them memorize a few simplicity quotes.

For a weekend assignment, have your child read Joshua Becker’s Becoming A Minimalist. “What does minimalism means to me?” would be a great topic for a 1-2 page report.

Finally, encourage your child to discard 10 of their toys, take down all bedroom wall decorations, clear out all cheap plastic trinkets made overseas.

I know what you are thinking.

“Kelvin, are you serious?”

We can all agree, this would be a highly radical method, bound to be received with a bit of resistance.

In our home, we avoid using minimalism terms when speaking to our 7 and 4 year olds. It’s not necessary. Plus, our children are not deprived of owning toys, games, musical instruments and of a decorated room.

I can’t assume my children will become minimalist by default. Minimalism was my choice, not theirs. It would be nice, but there’s no guarantee. But I can’t coerce them or demand absolute loyalty for the cause. What we can do as parents is to love our children unconditionally.

So how do I go about making this important to me message stick with my kids?

Be an example. Speak less and model more! Actions have more credibility with children. Make your child a priority and spend more time with them over caring for your possessions. Live out the lifestyle you’ll one day want your child to emulate. It’s the best way to communicate minimalism to your child as recommended by Courtney Carver.

Get your child involved. When my wife and I are working on a de-cluttering project, we sometimes involve our children. If it’s in their bedroom, they help decide what clothing item, book, or toy stay and what gets donated to charity. They may also accompany us to the donation center. Whatever conversation happens along the way we use to clarify ideologies, answer questions and develop interest in simplicity concepts.

Encourage your child to give. Children are inherently narcissistic. My children love the word mine! and I’m told I did, too. It’s normal. But encourage your child to give back and share with others. When possible, create opportunities for them to gift possessions to a friend, someone in need, or even better…their time, like serving in a local food pantry.

Minimize your child’s media consumption. Television commercials are a catalyst for materialism in children. “Ads exacerbate children’s desire for material things; and this desire gradually leads them to equate consumer goods with happiness and success,” says Suzanna Opree. I’m sure you’ve experienced the “Dad/Mom can I have _____?” after a TV commercial.

Remove the electronic box from your child’s bedroom. Set a TV viewing time limit. DVR your shows and fast forward through the commercials, opt for approved educational shows on Netflix or Amazon Prime and use a DVD player to avoid overexposure to commercials. Most importantly, discuss the ad messages with your children that they happen to view. This will empower them to make decisions on their own.

Help your child appreciate what they have. Our children are not entitled to everything they see. It’s just not realistic. My neighbor’s children have a garage full of the latest toys. What do I do when my children come home asking for what they’ve seen? Your answer, like mine, might be no even if you can afford it.

Also, sometimes having your child wait for an item or save up their own cash to purchase it helps them learn sacrifice and appreciation. Use these moments to teach about the values you wish to foster within your family without condemning other families.

Teach your child to value experiences. As parents we love giving things to our children, especially material possessions. It’s a valid expression of love.

But may I suggest that a much better gift might be to use occasional opportunities to teach our children to value the experiences they share with people. Going to the museum, camping in the backyard, making conversation as you go for a hike, or watching a movie with homemade popcorn are priceless events! What happens in those instances is what will be cherished forever.

“Live out the lifestyle you’ll one day want

your child to emulate.”

Raising children in an excess age has its challenges. We cannot totally shelter them from the influences of people who do not share our values or monitor all their media consumption.

Be patient. Love your child. Model your expectations. Focus less on seeking a minimalist label or ideal. Rather, teach them the timeless values of generosity, moderation and simplicity. You’ll still be successful even if they never call what they do minimalism.

 

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25 Thought Provoking Simplicity Quotes

by Kelvin Belfon

25 Simplicity Quotes

I love quotations! They oftentimes serve as a window into timeless insights that inspire our lives. Yet, we know that the truths and instructions they teach are not always easy to practice.

The following are 25 thought provoking simplicity quotes that have motivated my minimalist journey. I typically share these on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

Be inspired. Please share them, but more importantly, practice them too!

  1. “He who buys what he doesn’t need steals from himself” ~ Swedish proverb
  1. “If you need to buy stuff just to organize your existing stuff, maybe you own too much stuff.” ~ Courtney Carver
  1. “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” ~ William Morris
  1. “Minimalism is not a decision to live with nothing. It is a decision to live with the essential.” ~Joshua Becker
  1. “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” ~ Hans Hofmann
  1. “Eliminate physical clutter. More importantly, eliminate spiritual clutter.” ~ H. Mondfleur
  1. “Stuff is not passive. Stuff wants your time, attention, allegiance. But you know it as well as I do, life is more important than the things we accumulate.” ~ Dave Bruno
  1. “Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone.  The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.” ~ Lin Yutang
  1. “There are two ways to be rich: One is by acquiring much, and the other is by desiring little.” ~ Jackie French Koller
  1. “Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough.”~ Charles Warner
  1. “You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.” ~ Charles Spurgeon
  1. “Simplicity involves unburdening your life, and living more lightly with fewer distractions that interfere with a high quality life, as defined uniquely by each individual.” ~ Linda Breen Pierce
  1. “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” ~ Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
  1. “The trouble with simple living is that, though it can be joyful, rich, and creative, it isn’t simple.” ~ Doris Janzen Longacre
  1. “Sell your possessions and give to the poor.” ~ Jesus Christ
  1. “Smile, breathe and go slowly.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
  1. “Reduce the complexity of life by eliminating the needless wants of life, and the labors of life reduce themselves.” ~ Edwin Way Teale
  1. “It is the heart that makes a man rich. He is rich according to what he is, not according to what he has.” ~ Henry Ward Beecher
  1. “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.” ~ John the Baptist
  1. “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” ~ Socrates
  1. “Unnecessary possessions are unnecessary burdens. If you have them, you have to take care of them!” ~ Peace Pilgrim
  1. “The greatest step towards a life of simplicity is to learn to let go.” ~ Steve Maraboli
  1. “Clutter is the physical manifestation of unmade decisions fueled by procrastination.” ~ Christina Scalise
  1. “Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.” ~ John Maeda
  1. “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

 

How might your life be improved if you just took one of these quotes and applied it fiercely to the rest of your life?

 

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Can We Learn Anything from Haiti?

by Kelvin Belfon

Can we learn anything Haiti_image

In early December last year, I took a trip to Haiti. It was an 8-day thought shifting experience! The people and culture there reminded me of the things I love about growing up on my island, Grenada. In many ways it felt like going home.

Susie Krabacher, the co-founder of Mercy and Sharing hosted Micah, a work colleague and me. This non-profit organization has provided care and education for the abandoned, orphaned and disabled children in Haiti for the last 20 years.

Our schedule included touring the schools in Port-au-Prince and Cité Soleil. In the town of Williamson, we visited an orphanage, school and trade center. Then we hiked into the remote hills where we visited children and widows in that village.

Last, we flew to Cap-Haitian, located to the northern part of the island. There we marveled as we watched in full operation Mercy and Sharing’s feeding program that supports over 900 people every day.

As we walked along the earthen pathways, it was hard not to be submerged in sadness for the people, who by First World standards, would be viewed as destitute. The 200 Haitians employed by Mercy and Sharing are the true heroes. Together they care for over 5,000 people in various capacities!

 

It would be easy to lose hope!

The needs in Haiti are overwhelming.

  • Haiti is considered the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
  • About 80% of the population lives in abject poverty (making less than $2.00 USD per day).
  • The Life expectancy is 57 years.
  • Less than 50% the population is literate.
  • Only 25% of the population has access to sanitary water.*

Haiti have also experienced several natural disasters, like the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that killed over 230 people and displacing 1.5 million in 2007.

In sum, it would be easy for anyone in Haiti to complain about living in such a deplorable condition, and many do. Life on the island for most is tough. But I also met many people who were resilient and filled with hope and joy.

I went to support, but very quickly the roles were reversed. The Haitian people inspired me. Their fortitude and determination were exemplary. I observed their behavior in the crags of crisis and heard their stories. In the process I learned a few lessons I’d like to share with you today.

 

Cap Haitian_image

 

Things I learned in Haiti

  • Smile! No matter how bleak your situation might seem. You may lose everything but never lose your smile.
  • Hustle, hustle, hustle. Too many of us give up so easy after the first “No.” Haitians are known for finding alternate means to make things happen. Avoid excuses, explore your options, and put in some extra time. Fight for your dreams. It’s time to hustle!
  • I’m the solution. It’s not up to the government, your employer, friend or family member to bail you out. Be the solution to your problem. In the process you’ll succeed. Someone said that people who learn to solve problems will prosper.
  • Greed is universal. Yes, even people in a poor nation can be materialistic and accumulate junk they don’t need. We all desire more. Greed is a human condition that affects the rich and the poor. So guard your heart against extremes.
  • Recycle. In Haiti most people don’t have the luxury of changing their wardrobe every 6 months or buying a new car because it’s over 60,000 miles. Use your possessions to the fullest. Be creative and re-purpose for your possessions when possible.
  • Start something. The sidewalks of Port-au-Prince are filled local merchants. Everyone is selling something! In the United States, we have more resources and opportunities. So I asked myself, “Why not me? Why not you? Now!” Write the book, open your dream store, or start an online business. Be entrepreneurial.
  • Contentment is possible even when you own little. There is nothing wrong in owning really nice things. The problem is when we continually want more and more things as a source of happiness. Did you eat today? Did you sleep in a building with insulation and doors? Learn to be content with what you have no matter how little it might seem.
  • Love yourself. Your self-worth should never be motivated by the size of your bank account. Even with little you can make yourself presentable and gain the respect of others. Be proud and walk with your head up high.
  • We all have something to give. Giving a financial gift can make an immediate impact in someone’s life. I give regularly. But giving money is not the only way. In Haiti, the Mercy and Sharing staff give sincere smiles, motherly kisses, heartfelt embraces, verbal affirmations, and their time to children they serve.
  • Be grateful. Appreciate what you do have such as your life, self-worth, character, health, family and other valuable relationships. No matter how depressing our situation might appear, we can always find something in our life we can be grateful for.

How about you? Have you learned something by observing another culture or just by the way other people live their lives who are less fortunate than you?

 

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7 Healthy Habits to Cultivate…Slowly

by Kelvin Belfon

healthy-habits-cultivate-grow

 

The older I get, the faster time seems to just fly away. It was only 10 weeks ago when I began to make plans for the upcoming year. I could not wait! Now it’s the middle of February with only 10 months in the year left. Ouch!

The same is true of my New Years resolutions. These commitments seem to just fly away. Each year I make my typical list…again: Spend more time with the family, pray more, gain weight (yeah, I know, but it’s true), become debt free, and so on.

Then the struggle to stay consistent usually begins around this time of year – February. The enthusiasm starts to slow down and eventually the well-intended promises never make it to the finish line.

The reality is that only 8% of people are successful at achieving their resolutions. Despite this fact, I keep making them, each year. Any accomplishment is better than a life without aspirations, I reasoned.

But over the last 2 years, I’ve made small changes. Instead of resolutions, I’ve decided to focus on cultivating healthy habits to change my lifestyle. The following are 7 habits I’ve been working on slowly.

7 Healthy Habits

Becoming an early riser. I’ve always been a nighthawk, consistently staying up past midnight. And that worked for most of my life. But now, the combination of longer workdays and caring for my little ones have left me exhausted at nights. The switch to rising early was a tough shift. I love sleeping in. But morning is the time when I can be most productive.

Embracing minimalism. In the last 13 years, I’ve accumulated quite a bit of material possessions. The majority has been gifted from my wedding; but later I acquired more on my own every time we relocated. It seems like there has always been a need to customize the new space with new things.

My decision to embrace a minimalist lifestyle has helped create more space, reduced time spent cleaning and caring for things, made our home eco-friendly, and minimized potential debt. But creating room for family and other valuable relationships has been the biggest benefit. In this area, I continue to grow.

Improving my health. I’ve become careless with my diet since moving to America. It’s been more processed foods instead of the normal raw fruits and vegetables. Junk food was cheaper and more convenient. In addition, my exercising routine was non-existent. Returning to a healthy habit of caring for my body was and continues to be a challenge. But I’m taking baby steps like walking more, jogging, and eating raw foods.

Fostering a lifelong learning passion. I had a library with over 5,000 books! But since graduate school, I began to read less, sometimes spending more precious time in front of that rectangular box – the television – than I ought to. Personal development doesn’t just happen by osmosis. So I’ve regained my commitment to reading regularly, exposing myself to new thoughts and ideas.

Establishing relationship boundaries. In the past, I lacked boundaries in my relationships. Because I love to please, I used to have a hard time saying no and letting people know how I really felt. As a result, this was perceived as weakness. I allowed people to control and manipulate my life. It was toxic.

Ending certain relationships, although necessary, was pretty painful. Even so, establishing boundaries by saying no was extremely liberating. I even saw other benefits, such as the improvement of my physical health.

Confronting fears. I’ve never really mastered the English language. So I’ve really feared the idea of starting a blog and going public with my writing. The same was true about other major decisions like relocating, starting a new job slightly outside of the career I’d been used to, and, of course, ending toxic relationships. Fear is paralyzing! But I’m stepping out little by little to confront the unknown.

Practicing Contentment. I must admit, I keep wanting just a little more each week, each month and each year. My wants are typical like a house, car, clothing, electronics, etc. The problem is that no one’s ever truly satisfied once we start going past the basics. We want the best, biggest and the latest.

The habit of contentment is learning that more doesn’t equate happiness. It’s accepting yourself, avoiding meaningless comparisons with others, and living a life of gratitude that brings fulfillment. Sounds good, but I struggle to practice everyday.

Cultivate with the right motivation

The above habits are not exhaustive.

They are strategies you take along your journey, not the final destination. Becoming an early riser is not the goal. On the contrary, the goal is to give the most productive hours of the day to achieving those things in life that are musts.

Moreover, becoming health conscious is more than loosing weight. The greater motivation is to avoid preventable diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart attacks. This enables us to be around a little longer for our loved ones.

…Slowly 

When making resolutions, I used to give myself timetables. But the reality is, to make a habit become a lifestyle requires lots of time. I may need even a few years to get there.

We need time to cultivate new habits, and even more, to unlearn old ones. So lets give ourselves permission to go slow, fail, and restart again…all without condemnation, until we achieve what we desire to be.

What healthy habits are you cultivating in your life?

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From Being Taken to Giving

by Kelvin Belfon

from Taken to giving_image

I’m a little late in saying this, but… Happy New Year! I pray good health, wholeness, and much success for you and your family in 2015.

I took a blog Sabbatical in October of last year to care of a few personal matters. So in this post, I’d like to highlight top accomplishments and events from last year.

Blog Review

In 2014 Going Uncomplicated experienced lots of growth. Here’s what contributed to that boon:

I’m grateful for all your encouraging comments, emails, and Facebook and Twitter messages. Thank you for supporting me through the first year of goinguncomplicated.com!

Relocation Gone Bad

In August, our landlord informed us of his desire to sell the townhouse we were renting. Though we might have wanted more room since the birth of the twins, we chose to be content with 1600 sq. ft. and maintained a minimalist mindset about our living space. Anyhow, the thought of moving with 4 children was a nightmare.

But by the end of September, the townhouse was under contract and on October 1, we found an even smaller 3-bedroom townhouse in a village-like neighborhood filled with very nice amenities for rent. After the second walk through, we decided it was the place. We were excited.

But the “new” landlord became unreachable after we locked in the signed contract with a down payment and the move never happened. In short, we were scammed and suffered a tough financial loss.

Our New Home
We were tired, had no home in the docket and our cash was limited. Being scammed was a difficult lesson to learn. Yet my determined wife decided to go after the impossible. Two days before Thanksgiving, we became homeowners. It was, simply put,  a miracle.

We are extremely grateful! The family has more space. The kids have a backyard. We have a sense of stability. And more importantly, we are home.

I’ve recently been asked, “So can you still consider yourself a minimalist now that you’ve bought the stereotypical ‘house with the picket fence’”? I’ll have much more to say about the implications of our home ownership in upcoming blog articles.

Trip to Haiti

Two weeks after moving into our new home, I took an 8-day trip to Haiti. It was my third time on the island but this time was special. My work colleague and I visited some schools, an orphanage, and the feeding programs of Mercy and Sharing founded by Joe and Susie Krabacher. And as a bonus for coming alongside that non-profit, we had the honor of bringing encouragement and hope to so many amazing people we met along the way.

I love the people of Haiti. I enjoy the culture, food and their beautiful beaches. But the staff of Mercy and Sharing made for the most impressive part of the trip. Every day, these people care for abandon children and the disabled, individuals who would otherwise have no hope. The Krabachers and their team of workers truly serve from the heart.

John Bunyan said, “You have not lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” This statement has become even more so true to me since my trip to Haiti.

In this life we’ll encounter disappointments. It’s inevitable. The key is to learn and fight through them. Be grateful and when possible help those in need.

More soon….

 

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Why the Outdoors is Good for You

by Kelvin Belfon

Why the Outdoors is Good_image2

About 3 months ago, my wife and I were giving our friend Bonnie a ride home. It was a beautiful day in Denver, Colorado. The mountains were dark green and capped in white against the deep blue sky. The scene was picturesque.

In unison we said to Bonnie, “Oh, look at the mountains. How beautiful!”

To our surprise, she responded, “What about them?” We proceeded to explain how fascinating it was that the mountains seem to have a different personality every day; and, as such, looked different every day.

Bonnie looked out the car window and said, “I’ve never noticed them before.” Bonnie is a 12-year resident of Denver.

I’m always amazed how many of us fail to notice and enjoy the natural beauty that exists around us. Just this Fall season alone, I’ve observed…

  • Yellowish / bright orangish sunrises
  • The brisk, fresh morning dew
  • Varicolored butterfly landing among a bouquet of flowers
  • The sound of running water in a creek, birds chirping, and wind passing between trees, and so on.

My love for the outdoors started in Grenada as a child. We played outside quite a bit. Our teachers sometimes held class outside under trees. We spent hours at the beach, did our laundry in the river, and had cookouts…all outdoors.

Since moving to the US, I’ve had the opportunity to live and visit multiple metropolitan cities like the New York, Boston, Miami, San Francisco, and now Denver. The social life, culture and infrastructures in more populated cities are unparallel.

Yet each time, I find myself craving for the outdoors. I can’t escape the longing to discover life beyond the four walls of my home to see the green foliage, look into the deep blue sky and stare at the stars at night. And the older I become, the more important this becomes to me.

Why the outdoors is good for you?

Fall_Leavesimage by: Quest Demy

It relaxes our body. The outdoors clears the mind, relaxes the body and reduces anxiety after a long day. Scientific studies show a lower level of cortisol (a hormone that indicates stress) when people go outside on a nature therapy.

It improves our health. A short walk can do wonders to our health. The fresh air increases oxygen to our brain and sunlight our vitamin D intake for FREE! The lack of vitamin D is known to cause cancer, inflammation, and weaker immune system.

It increases our energy. Stepping outdoors invigorates the mind and body. That’s because increased activity releases endorphins that are known to boost energy and combat “mental fatigue.” We also sleep better when we are more active during the awake hours.

It reduces depression. Stepping outside triggers a sense of awe, gratitude and a positive outlook of life. As a natural consequence, such moments remind us of the things that are most important.

It stimulates creativity and imagination. The outdoors sharpens our thinking, helps us dream, concentrate (this is especially the case in children after a walk in the park), and restores our memory.

It’s educational, beautiful and free!

Going outdoors doesn’t have to be complicated. Keep it simple! Do some gardening over the weekend or enjoy the animals in your backyard like my friend Marshall in Florida does.

Step outside your house or apartment to explore your neighborhood and downtown. Visit a park, people watch, jog or go cycling. Take a walk on the beach, for all my island and east-west coast friends.

Spend your break time outside the office. Eat lunch on the grass or walking around the building.

Take your children on an outdoor adventure. Play, smile, laugh, take pictures or do 1 of the 15 Ways to Enjoy the Outdoors This Fall.

Fall is a beautiful season. The leaves change their colors and the temperature is just right for outdoor exploring. So challenge yourself. Disconnect from your social media and electronic devices for a few hours per day.

Go outside. Relax, breathe and enjoy. Your body will thank you for it!

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to going uncomplicated, comment below or join me on Facebook.

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When Sentimental is no longer sentimental

by Kelvin Belfon

When Sentimental is no longer Sentimental_image

 

When I became a minimalist over a year ago, I was zealous.  Aggressively clearing counter tops, emptying overcrowded cabinets and storage areas and discontinuing unwanted junk mailed, I wanted to quickly rid myself of all the clutter in sight.

Fulfilled by the big payoff of what we were actually able to accomplish in a short time, my wife and I determined to continue minimizing for one year. Our approach was to fill 2 boxes of stuff each week while reducing the inflow of unnecessary items.

Less clutter meant more living space! The need for more space is something we had not anticipated, but were very grateful when we first got news that we were unexpectedly having twin babies back in March. Our decluttering endeavor was perfect timing.

With the birth of our twins and our family suddenly growing to 6, certain adjustments needed to be made. With the added responsibility of caring for preterm twins, the momentum that had driven our initial eagerness to reduce the extras in our home did lessen.

In this new approach we’ve begun to tackle the Big S in our home. That is, the sentimental stuff. I call sentimental things the Big because these things are our most prized possessions: wedding china, ornaments, clothing, jewelry, books, and such. Yes, they are our untouchable attachments.

Where this issue concerns such commodities I own, I have rationalized keeping them with the argument that I worked long hours to accumulate some of these things. They are dear to my heart because of the lovely memories and emotions they invoke. Some of these items go back 15 years when we were first married. Hence the term “sentimental.”

Such sentimental possessions are just as meaningful to my wife as they are to me. Twelve months ago, we wasn’t ready to part with them. We needed time…lots of it. But now, lots have changed. We’ve come to the place where we can both say, “Its time.”

You’ll Know When Sentimental is no longer Sentimental

You’ll know when it’s time to let go of things that carry deep memories. You don’t have to copy anyone’s timing. Make minimalism your own. There’s no need for extremes. Minimalism is not living without possessions. You will still own sentimental things. But because your perspective will change, because your attachment to things diminish, over time, it becomes easier and easier to let go.

Here are a few reasons why:

Sentimental things add clutter to our home. I had certain possessions that got in my way…literally. They made cleaning a pain, took up storage space and required extra time and care. The worst part, these items added no value to my life. So I had enough. They had to go.

If you can’t display or use it, let it go. This principle helped my wife and me evaluate whether an item would stay or go. “Let’s use the china or let’s get rid of it,” we said to each other. My wife is a good cook and we love entertaining, so having dishware that is slightly more special is important to us to keep. There was a trade off, however. As we made cherished items more accessible for our enjoyment and to share with others, we gave away less meaningful items.

Remember the past but embrace the future. Sentimental possessions are like soul ties that keep us married to what has been. They help us remember the good times with euphoric longing. The problem is that when things go wrong in our present, we tend to want to reach back to times past, and, comparing it with our present, try to replicate what is now crystallized in history. For many, going into the future without the crutch of our past is a scary process. But by idolizing old memories, we never really allow our future to speak for itself.

On the other hand, the things we keep can unduly bond us to negative and painful events such as dating relationships gone bad, divorce, bankruptcy, and extended periods of unemployment, to name a few. Let go! The future is brighter when it doesn’t have to bring with it the shadows of yesterday.

When possible, go digital. Storing stuff in boxes makes them inaccessible, especially when the occasion requires that you quickly have them at arms reach when you’re working on a project or away from my home. Also, scanning pictures of memorable events, such as your children’s school project, clears the clutter while preserving meaningful memories.

It’s better to give than to keep. There are people in need around us who can use our valuables…right now. I was recently the answer to someone’s prayer when they received some books that I finally let go of. But if no one comes to mind donation is an alternative. Keeping things boxed up, knowing that the chances of them ever being used again is quite slim, is a waste of valuable resource. For me, it just doesn’t feel right. But giving is always rewarding!

We are not our possessions. Our sentimental things are just that – things. They do not define who we are as individuals. People remember people, the memories shared together.  It’s people who are the most sentimental possession one can ever have.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to going uncomplicated, comment below or join me on Facebook.

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How to end a toxic relationship

by Kelvin Belfon

How to End A Toxic Relationship_Image1

All failed relationships hurt, but letting go of a toxic relationship is actually a gain, not a loss.  ~ Marc and Angel Chernoff

A few weeks ago one of my readers commented on a post I’d written, “I’m pretty good with de-cluttering the physical stuff from my home. What weighs me down are my relationships. How can I deal with them?” And another reader confessed, “Ending toxic relationships is the hardest thing to do.”

We all can identify with these observations.

Saying no to toxic relationships can be challenging for several reasons. First, when a person is raised in an abusive environment, he/she easily accept such harmful behavior as normal. And if you don’t know a problem exist, you are least likely to desire change.

Second, a needy or low self-esteem can create an unhealthy dependency on others. And this dependency has the potential of eroding our better judgment in dealing with abusive people.

Third, toxic people can come off nice, warm and charming. Or, at least, they appear to be so in the beginning. They are people we’ve come to trust such as parents, siblings, friends, dating partners, mentors, spiritual authorities, co-workers and such. So the thought of separation seems impossible. Moreover, most of us tend to be pretty hopeful that people will change despite their controlling inclinations.

My Journey

One of the most difficult things I’ve had to do is to dissolve longstanding relationships that had become counterproductive. Over the years, I knew things had gone wrong and others saw it too. But I couldn’t let go. The truth is, I didn’t want to because I craved acceptance. I also feared exclusion and conflict.

Then one day a friend said, “What you are experiencing is not normal.” I felt offended at first; but it was truth that I just couldn’t contradict. So I started reading and researching these kinds of negative relationships. It was as though blinders had been taken off my eyes. I felt liberated.

It was hard to put into words what I was experiencing. But several months after I had ended the relationship, another friend helped me verbalize what I had been feeling all along. Sometimes we do need that outside person to help identify these complicated association.

Ending the relationship was a long painful process. But it was one of the most important steps I have taken in regaining control of my own life. Freedom is a beautiful thing!

The following are some of the steps I’ve learned in ending toxic relationships.

How to End a Toxic Relationship

Be honest with yourself. Acknowledge that you are in an unhealthy relationship. Admit that you can’t change the toxic person.

Become aware. Learn the signs of toxic relationships. Read, observe and ask lots of questions.

Avoid damning yourself. It is important to examine yourself, to acknowledge your shortcomings. But it is not helpful to be excessively self-deprecating at this point. Toxic people specialize in making their victims feel horrible about themselves. Don’t cave into their attempts to make you feel as if you are any less than you are.

Establish healthy boundaries. Boundaries exist for our protection. Take baby steps in clearly articulating your feelings. For example, “When you _____, you make me feel _________. I would like you to stop it.”

Keep the conversation short. Plan what you’ll say. Toxic people are manipulative and persistent. A simple, “This relationship is not working out” might be all you need to say to avoid opening up Pandora’s Box.

Learn to say “No” Without Blowing Up, Wimping Out or Running Away.

Seek help. Invite family members, trusted friends or a professional to give their honest assessment of this relationship. Never be afraid to ask for help. Others can see things overlooked by our emotions.

Consider physical separation. If necessary, a temporary separation can provide a time of reflection and healing. In other cases, permanent physical separation might be the only viable alternative.

Decide how you want the relationship to end. You can confront the person directly and gradually reduce the communication until the relationship dies on it’s own. You may also choose to go cold turkey and terminate the relationship abruptly with no further contact.

In some cases, writing a letter and sending it may be the way to go. If the letter you choose to write gets really deep into reciting histories of abusive events within the relationship, you may want to reconsider whether you need to mail it after all. Recounting the past to an abusive person often does little to help if that person is in denial.

Seek inward wholeness and healing. Why are we attracted to toxic individuals? One professional counsellor has said that it is because unhealthy people attract other unhealthy people. I have found that the best antidote for dealing with the habit of attracting unhealthy soul ties is to become active in building up one’s own self-esteem. The more wholeness we possess, the less dependent we are on controlling people.

Ending a toxic relationship is tough. The process is like going through the death cycle — denial, anger, grief and recovery. This is why repairing a broken relationship early on is always a good alternative when possible. But if reconciliation is not possible, it is in your best interest to end this relationship decisively. Draw a clear line and don’t’ turn back in weakness or fear.

Remember, you deserve to be treated with dignity. You are a person of worth. No other person should be allowed to control your life.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to going uncomplicated, comment below or join me on Facebook.

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Signs of Toxic Relationships

by Kelvin Belfon

Signs of Toxic Relationships_Image1

 

Taking inventory of one’s possessions and minimizing excess is no small task. Yet, when it comes to managing relationships, this area of life can be a bit more unwieldy. People can require a pretty significant amount of emotional and time commitment. And while people relationships can be complicated, they are also potentially our most valuable possession. So let’s admit from the start–letting people go is never an easy task.

Still we need to be intentional with the people we allow in our personal circle. Our relationships can either make us or break us. And our quality of life is dependent on it. Positive relationships add value; but toxic relationships can be harmful to our health.

We’ve all come across these sorts of people within our family, among friends or in the workplace. Toxic relationships don’t only involve physical abuse, either. Some of the most life debilitating forms come in very discreet packaging, through both verbal and nonverbal interactions.

These interactions are nevertheless toxic because they bring on feelings of guilt, unhappiness, condemnation, and unworthiness. They can leave us emotionally drained. Toxic people cause unnecessary stress, anxiety, depression and serious medical problems such as high blood pressure and even heart issues.

In my experience with toxic people, they’ve left me feeling trapped and controlled on account of me suppressing my true feelings over time. I’ve even blamed myself in the past for issues that arise as a result of their boundary crossing.  Like most of us, I knew something was wrong in the relationship; but I didn’t know how to read the signs of toxic relationships. I ignored my own intuition and allowed the dysfunction to continue for too long.

Learning the Signs of Toxic Relationships

Learning from the lived trials and pain caused by these types of people, I’ve become much better over the years at identifying the signs that tell when a relationship has reached its expiration. Here are a few:

You are not allowed to grow. Toxic people love to bring up your past and enjoy talking about your mistakes and failures. They are often judgmental and will make feeble attempts at fixing you. You can’t do anything right around them. And even when you take steps to improve yourself, toxic individuals get uncomfortable with the new you. They may even laugh at the thought of your positive intentions.

Your physical appearance is belittled. These unhealthy individuals will make you self-conscious about your looks. Physical features such as your weight, height, skin color, or even certain cultural distinctions are a constant subject of conversation. Toxic people will even banter about your physical disabilities, such as in the way you walk or speak. After being around them, you may leave feeling small, deflated, lonely or unsatisfied with yourself.

You’ll hear more trigger words. I’m sure you’ve heard them, “If you love me, then you’ll…” “Forgive me, I’ll do better next time…” “I didn’t mean those words…” Toxic people are liars and deceptive. They may even use tears for an emotional pity party. But there is no change. The truth is, there will never be. They break promises to continue their manipulative abusive behavior.

You are abused by their position. We are taught as children to honor and respect authority; and we should. But toxic people don’t play fair. They use their roles and titles to control and often get away with it. Because of their status, they are able to cowardly hide their shortcomings and make themselves unaccountable. And they play that game very well. They also tend to demand recognition and dependency on them.

Serving their agenda is priority. Toxic people are narcissistic and tend to use others for their aggrandizement. They use people’s emotions, time, skills and financial resources for their gain. Their agenda must be your goal. There is no mutual positive exchange in this relationship. Only the toxic partner benefits while your feelings and opinions are ignored.

You lack energy instead of feeling motivated. Toxic people are needy, weak individuals. They drain your energy with their constant complaints, frustrations, ongoing drama, and need for attention. So you retreat, become non-communicative and even hesitate to spend time with this person. The relationship grows to be superficial and you only meet out of obligation.

You feel isolated from other relationships. This is the “divide and conquer” strategy where toxic people try to alienate you from others important people in your life. Over time, you become suspicious of them. Later you find yourself fighting or disagreeing with these friends or loved ones for no apparent reason. This is because your manipulator has craftily succeeded in sowing his/her seed of distrust in you already.

You defend your abuser. This follows the previous point. The toxic individual demands loyalty and you willingly play that role. Yet they may betray your trust to others without any feeling of remorse. And because you are so emotionally attached to this person, you justify their unhealthy behaviors. When outsiders point out any abuse or inconsistency in this relationship, the toxic individual expects that you, the victim, will fully defend their cause. This is one of the most sinister strategies, sometimes called Stockholm Syndrome.

Toxic relationships are NOT normal or healthy. They demand too much energy and deplete from your sense of well-being. Life is too short to allow others to control you. Learn to read the signs or take a profile test to determine the health of your relationships. If you are in a toxic relationship, seek help and get out now.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to going uncomplicated, comment below or join me on Facebook.

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10 Lessons Learned from Reducing Our Children’s Toys

by Kelvin Belfon

Reducing-Children-Toys-Minimalism

Who doesn’t like giving gifts to their children? It’s how we are wired as parents. I’m easily moved to buy toys for my children since I had few of my own as a child.

Growing up, I had to build my own toys most of the time. I made toys like spinning tops, kites, and playhouses from various parts of coconut and banana trees. We also enjoyed outdoor games like marbles, and hide-and-go-seek.

While living in Venezuela, around the age of 7, I received one of the best Christmas gifts ever. It was a black and white remote control car with multi-color flashing lights. My mom had saved up enough to buy the perfect toy. And I treasured it because it was one of the very few store-bought toys I had ever owned.

Things are so much different today. Without any effort on the part of my wife and me, our children can easily accumulate a huge amount of toys from friends and relatives alone. Toys easily flood our home from birthday parties, holiday gifts, freebies given out at events, and school events. It’s not surprising that the average American child receives roughly 70 new toys per year. And although only 3.1% of children live in America, they consume 40% of the world’s toys!

 

10 Lessons Learned from Reducing Our Children’s Toys

When my wife and I started decluttering our home, our toughest challenge was the children’s bedroom. Their toys were a major source of clutter yet we hesitated to get rid of ones we thought were special to them. Still, we remained committed to facing these kinds of challenges along our simplicity journey. In the end, we purged their room not once or twice but on several occasions. As I reflect over the last few months, here are 10 lessons learned from reducing my children’s toys.

1. The donated toys were not missed. Wanting to get rid of your child’s favorite toys is pretty gutsy move. Who can anticipate their reaction? To our surprise, life for our children continued as normal. They weren’t fixated on what we gave away but played with the toys that remained without any complaints.

2. The focus was on quality, not quantity. We had specific criteria for what we kept or tossed. Some toys are like dust collectors; they are cheap and serve no educational or creative value. Those got tossed first. Also, the size of the toy didn’t matter either. One quality toy is better than 20 oversized toys that junk up the place.

 3. Creativity was stimulated. Too many toys in a room can create overstimulation of varying sorts. Fewer toys encouraged more space to create, imagine, and invent new things.

4. Parent-child bonding was promoted. I’m often enlisted to help build space ships, helmets, shields, robots, musical instruments and more. These projects demand extra time and imagination. They don’t always look pretty; but doing them creates the most memorable moments. My children are proud of their accomplishment and value their time with dad because of it.

 5. Simple was just as fun. Sometimes my children are super heroes with a bath towel, Jedi knights with a piece of stick or the masked Zorro with construction paper. Have you noticed your child playing with an empty box instead of the $50 gift that came with it?

6. The bedroom was easier to maintain. Fewer toys meant over all less clutter, less organizing and less cleaning. What would take hours, now only takes minutes to complete. I love it!

7. Sharing was encouraged. I noticed my children playing and cooperating with each other even more. We also maintained a policy that whenever a new toy is brought into the home, one must be given away. It is our desire to instill gratitude, contentment and generosity in the process. My children have embraced this idea really well. They’re actually very eager to give away their toys to other children!

8. Children got involved. Before touching anything in their bedroom, we discussed the idea of decluttering to our children and involved them in the process. We even took them with us to the donation store. When it was time to tackle their toys, it was a natural progression as they helped decide what stayed and what was went.

9. Children were not as overly sentimental. We kept the toys that added value to our children’s lives and discard those that did not. It didn’t matter how the toys or who gifted them to us. We took an even bolder step in this process. To reduce waste, we communicated to our family and friends our preference for educational toys and museum and park memberships. Our friends and family are slowly but surely catching on to our ideals.

10. It’s not about the parent. We often try to relive our childhood through our children. The notion that, “I had little, so my child will NEVER experience lack,” is not reality or a good lesson to teach our children. The experience of lack is part of life.

Toys are important for a child’s social and mental development. This is why our children still own toys. But I do believe fewer toys can benefit children. I turned out to be all right with less and I think my children will as well.

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The Subconscious Minimalist

by Kelvin Belfon

subconscious-minimalist-minimalism

A few weeks ago, I went to a yard sale in a nearby neighborhood. While parking my car, I noticed it was a moving sale. There were beds, dressers, coaches, tables, carpets, and lamps all over the lawn. I also saw a number art pieces, kitchen utensils, electronics, clothing, and books in the garage driveway.

Perusing the items, I overheard a conversation the owners were having with a customer. “Yes, we are downsizing. We have too much stuff.” I paid for 2 books and introduced myself. Then I asked the ladies about their move and we had an immediate connection.

Susa and Martha are sisters, probably over 60. They’re moving into a condo that was half the size of their current living space. They’re both fed up of their clutter and tired of maintaining it. But their main motivation, they want more time with their loved ones.

The most notable observation, the women never used the word “minimalism” or “simplicity” during our conversation, not even once. I explained the concept and shared my story briefly. They were in agreement, “Yes, Kelvin, that’s the life we want…simple!”

I call individuals like Susan and Martha The Subconscious Minimalist. They are people who wish to not have their possessions possess them. They desire an unburdened lifestyle; one that allows them to pursue their passions and enjoy their relationships. But, they are unaware of the label.

The Subconscious Minimalist use terminologies such as:

“I’m downsizing”

“I’m decluttering”

“I’m getting rid of debt”

“I want to spend more time with family”

“I need to slow down and redefine my priorities”

“There is too much clutter and unhealthy relationships in my life”

The tide is changing

I’m discovering more people seeking simplicity, everywhere. Some are family members, friends, co-workers, and strangers (especially online). Many would never comment on a blog post but they’re out there reading and quietly reforming their lives.

If you are a Subconscious Minimalist or someone who is already on the path, consider the following to simplify your life.

Take baby steps – Begin with the easy projects like de-cluttering a table counter, cleaning a small closet or removing one item off your to-do list. Then celebrate the small victories; they’ll serve as motivation for more challenging ones.

It’s a process – It will take months and even years, especially if you have a large family or lived in the same location for a long time. So be patient with yourself. No one’s keeping track of time.

Focus on the goal, not the label – Minimalism is just a tool to helps us eliminate the non-essential while bringing clarity and focus to the things that matters in our lives. Labels are good and serve a specific purpose. However, adopting the term “minimalist” is not as important as taking action to achieve your desired goals.

Find strength in community – It helps if you have a supportive family. But if you don’t, surround yourself with like-minded people. You’ll make new friendships; and perhaps some bloggers out there will inspire and mentor you from a distance.

Create your own path – Simplicity looks different for everyone. Find your own sweet spot and avoid comparing yourself with others. You don’t have to count your possessions, live without things you love or change your individuality.

Pursue your dreams – This is most important. Don’t allow the burden of material possessions or an unhealthy relationship to deter you from your dreams. Be willing to let go of anything that is in the way of your destiny.

So take the leap! Embrace a life of less debt, less anxiety, less organizing, less drama while focusing on the things you love.

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Go Small, Think Big & Be Happy: An Interview with Tammy Strobel

Editor’s Note: Go Small, Think Big & Be Happy: An Interview with Tammy Strobel of RowdyKittens.com.

Go small, think big & be happyTammy Strobel is founder of RowdyKittens.com. She is also the Author of “You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap)” and My “Morning View.” Along with her husband, Logan, in 2005 they began to simplify their lives, downsizing from a 1,200 square feet apartment into a tiny 128 square feet house on wheels a few years later! Their story has been featured on many major TV network. Tammy’s blog and “Writing in the Digital Age” e-course has inspired me to start my blog. I trust you’ll find this Go Small, Think Big & Be Happy: An Interview with Tammy Strobel to be inspiring and challenging.

Kelvin: Tell us your story. What was your life like and why did you start your simplicity journey?
Tammy:  About seven years ago I took a life changing trip to Mexico. At the time I was volunteering with the Mexico Solidarity Network and was unhappy with my career and huge mound of debt. After visiting Mexico and seeing so much poverty, I realized how trivial my problems were back home with politics at work and feelings of inadequacy in my culture.

When I got back, I knew I had to make some serious life changes, but I didn’t know where to start. A few months later, Logan and I happened to watch a You Tube video featuring Dee Williams and her tiny house. Once we saw Dee’s video, we knew tiny house living would be an iconic way for us to pursue a simpler life.

So we started taking steps to transform our lives, like paying down our debt, selling our two cars, and giving away a lot of stuff. Seeing the video of Dee and her little house was a big turning point for us. It gave us a whole new perspective on what our lives could be like. It was empowering to realize I could live life on my own terms.

Kelvin: How has your life changed since going to a more minimalist lifestyle?
Tammy:  Living in a small home has given me so many gifts. For example, I notice so much more now, like the birds chirping in the morning, the sound of rain on our little metal roof, and where the sun rises and sets. I love having more time to focus on doing things I love, like writing, talking long walks, and hanging out with friends. I don’t have to clean as much now, so I have more time to do fun things!

Kelvin: 128 square feet! That sounds impossible. What’s it like living in a tiny house and what advice would you give those thinking about downsizing?

Tammy: Living in a small house is fun and it’s given me many unique opportunities. For example, we are living in a rural part of California, now. We would not be living in this area, if we didn’t have a small house on wheels.

There are many small steps you can take today to start living more simply. First, clear off one surface in your home. For example, a reader recently sent me a photo of her uncluttered desk. She spent the evening organizing stacks of papers, mail, and other random belongings that were cluttering the surface of her work space. Now that it’s organized she’s able to sit down to pay her bills and she feels happier. Taking that one small step made her life feel a whole lot simpler.

Second, ditch the television (or watch a whole lot less). Television is a huge time suck and by watching less, you’ll have more time to do the stuff you love, like taking a long walk in the evening or reading a good book.

And last but not least, let go of excess stuff. Start by giving away ten belongings each week to friends or to a charity of your choice.

Kelvin: Tell us a little about your other interests such as teaching and photography?
Tammy: Teaching and photography are part of my daily life and business. I love teaching because I feel like I’m making a difference in my student’s lives. I also love photography. I lose myself in the landscape, my pets or the tiny details I’m trying to capture with my lens. When my dad was sick, and soon after his death, this came in handy. On the days when I couldn’t seem to escape my sadness, I would go for a walk with my camera. Inevitability, I felt better about myself — and happier — because I was getting a little bit of exercise and taking photos of subjects I loved. Collecting images has changed my perception of the world. I pay more attention to tiny beautiful moments; and that makes me feel happy and grateful.

Kelvin: RowdyKittens is an interesting business name. What’s the story behind the name? Give us some advice for those wanting to start their own microbusiness.

Tammy: Well, it’s a long story. You’ll have to read “You Can Buy Happiness (and it’s Cheap),” for the full story. In short, my blog name is the result of a fun brainstorming session about blogging and business.

I started my micro-business in January of 2010 and I’ve learned a lot since then. If you want to start your own small business, try:

1. Starting a website. This website should be your home base on the Internet. It’s a place where people can learn about you and the services you offer. Plus, developing a website is a wonderful exercise to define your business goals, objectives, and the services you want to offer clients.

2. Pay attention to the details. What kind of entity is your little business? A sole proprietorship or a corporation? Do you have a business account for expenditures? Pay attention to the details so they can help inform your big decisions and help you focus on daily tasks. Paying attention to the little things will help you treat your business like a business and keep expenses in harmony with income.

3. Develop a product or service to sell. Selling a product or service is the core foundation of any business. Without this component, you’ll have trouble paying the bills. It’s essential to show how a particular product or service will benefit the buyer.

Kelvin: Recently you released your latest book, My Morning View. It’s a combination of both images and words which makes a little unique. What was the inspiration behind this project and what can readers expect?
Tammy: After my step-dad Mahlon, died in June 2012, I was depressed and sad. To try and make myself feel better, I went on long walks with my camera. Right before the new year, in 2013, I came up with a fun idea. I decided to start an iPhone photography project about gratitude, grief, and good coffee. I called the project  “My Morning View.”

Each day I get out of bed, make a cup of coffee, and then I go outside and took a photo of my morning view. My coffee cup makes an appearance in the frame too. Then, I share my photograph on Instagram and Facebook.

I began this project because I wanted to start my day with a positive, creative activity. Mahlon loved coffee and the great outdoors. I thought the photography series would be a wonderful way to honor his memory.

I never expected that I would turn this series into a book. I love photo sharing sites, like Instagram, but books have a different feel. Also, for the last year blog readers have asked me to create a photography book. So, I finally took the plunge and did it!

In “My Morning View,” I share my story, photography tips, a selection of my best photos, and a brief how-to guide. I try to remind readers that even when everything seems to be falling apart, we can find beauty and practice gratitude every day.

Tammy, thank you for your time and for sharing with the readers of Going Uncomplicated.

Tammy Strobel is a writer, photographer and teacher. Read more at RowdyKittens.com. You can also follow her on Twitter.

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Identifying Mental Clutter

by Kelvin Belfon

Identifying Mental Clutter2

I love music. Calypso, soca, salsa, dance hall, reggae, and country were all in my upbringing. Reggae is one of my favorites.

The influence of Bob Marley in the Caribbean is so strong that it’s felt all throughout the world. Redemption Song is one of the most popular Marley songs known internationally. In certain life situations I find myself repeating parts of it over and over: Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.

You’ve heard it! Though the original context of the song is slavery, there is so much more here. First, this song is a cry for freedom from the entanglements that clutter our thoughts and weigh us down. Intentional action and personal responsibility is key to change in its message; none but ourselves can free our minds.

When I first set out to simplify my life, I knew the area between my ears had to be addressed, not just the tangible stuff I own. The brain is a beautiful organ; yet, it can absorb quite a bit of clutter. It’s the storage for everything, the good, bad, and the ugly.

Moreover, unlike physical junk, de-cluttering the mind is not a simple task. Our thoughts are not something we can collect, box and drop off at the local thrift store. Oh, how I wish we could! The good news is that it’s not impossible to get rid of emotional baggage. We can find clarity in our thoughts. The key is identifying mental clutter or junky thinking that’s going on. The following are the ones that have at least plagued my mind.

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Things that Clutter the Mind

Self-Sabotaging Tendencies – It’s true, sometimes we are our worst enemy, criticizing and doubting our own abilities. We self-destruct by either coming up with reasons why we can’t do something or by predicting a negative outcome. The truth: We are enough; we are competent and capable of doing anything.

Past Hurts/Failures – Human tendency is to monumentalize our past mistakes, pains and failures. We rehearse them till they have become larger than life, till we are discouraged or depressed by the very thought of them. The truth: Our best days are still to come. The past doesn’t have to determine our tomorrow.

Other People’s Expectations – We ask, “What will they think?”  The opinions of our parents, spouses, siblings, friends, teachers, or mentors can easily haunt and debilitate some of us to no end. Even as adults, those early childhood influencers are still so strong in our minds. The truth: You’ll never be able to please everyone. So live your life!

Perfectionism – Like the above tendency, perfectionism is rooted in pleasing others. It stunts our creativity, consumes our thoughts in the minutia and creates an unhealthy obsession to do everything right all the time. Truth: Give yourself the freedom to fail and make mistakes; and punch perfectionism in the face.

Unforgiveness – We can’t just “forget about it” like some of our friends would like to encourage us to do. But left unchecked, unforgiveness leads to bitterness and bondage. It too is an invisible enemy that slowly erodes us. Truth: “When we forgive, we free ourselves from the tie that binds us to the one who hurt us. We become liberated.” – Claire Franzier-Yzaguirre

Regretful Feeling – Have you ever said, “If only I had gone to that school, taken that job, married that person or done whatever…”? All of this line of questioning steals our joy and robs us from our present. There’s no point to dwelling on the past. Truth: You have more power to influence the unwritten future than your past, which is now history. Life is constantly changing. Staying flexible opens us up to new opportunities.

Fear of the Unknown – Fear is not always a bad thing. It’s helped me avoid lots of dangerous situations. But there is an unhealthy fear that creates indecisiveness, procrastination, avoidance of trying new things, and accomplishing bold dreams. The “What If” syndrome is a crippling decision making tactic. Truth: Inform yourself with the facts. Then expose yourself to others knowledgeable in the area you are considering. Finally, take action! You’ll find in most cases that your fears are not as bad as what you made them out to be.

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The Importance of Staying Flexible

by Kelvin Belfon

Staying Flexible

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.” ~ Albert Einstein

Two days ago I celebrated my 39th birthday. A lot has changed over the years. When I was 9 years old, my teacher, back in Venezuela, asked the class to draw a picture of what each student wanted to be. It was easy, I wanted to be un maestro (a teacher)!

Since then, I’ve dreamt of becoming a professional cricket player, working in a Spanish embassy as a translator in some foreign country, being a pastor, a banker and even a business owner.

Along with these ambitions, a few unexpected life events also happened. I’ve lived in 3 different countries (Grenada, Venezuela, and now the US) and visited over 10 others. I earned a Master’s degree in my field a few years back. And the mother of all unpredicted accomplishments…I’m husband and father to what is considered in this country, a large family.

Marriage was never on my radar. When it happened, I cried during the ceremony from pure joy. Camilla and I didn’t have plans for children either. And we didn’t try to get pregnant for the first 8 years. Today, we have a 6-year old boy, a 3-year old girl and 4-month-old boy/girl twins. It’s funny how you change over tim.

I think it goes without saying that over the past 39 years, one of the key lessons of life I’ve learned is the importance of staying flexible.

Life Is No Smooth Sail

Life is not constant. Change should be expected as a normal process with lots of ups and downs, losses, disappointments, and victories. I struggled with this concept when I was younger. But now I’ve become more open to handling life’s uncertainties with maturity.

A rigid or inflexible mind causes frustration, unrealistic expectations, constant feelings of regret and unhappiness about your current state of being. Inflexibility may also lead to stubbornness and keep us stuck in the past. Over the last year or so, I’ve stumbled upon a handful of great opportunities that I fear I might have missed had I taken the stubborn route.

The Importance of  Staying Flexible

Staying Flexible is liberating and gives us more choices. If something doesn’t work one way, having the courage to consider another option is what I consider true freedom.

Staying Flexible helps us turn obstacles into opportunities. What may appear as a delay or detour sometimes can really be new possibilities and teachable moments in disguise.

Staying Flexible helps us avoid the tendency to make unnecessary comparisons with others. Like, for example that profile picture of your old high school friend on Facebook, who you perceive to be successful. Yes, that’s the kind of comparison that causes us to wrongly ask ourselves, “What’s wrong with me? Why haven’t I accomplished this status by now?” This kind of mindset is unfair to you.

Staying Flexible helps us embrace the present. So, you are now on your fourth career option. So what? Keep following after your dreams but remain fluid and adaptable if a change really becomes necessary. Living in the past, constantly rehearsing the what could have beens of life will only steal your joy and your right to a life marked by inner peace and personal freedom.

So stay Flexible!

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Becoming A Conscious Consumer

by Kelvin Belfon

Becoming A Conscious Consumer2

As a child I didn’t have strong consumer opinions. This is partly due to my culture’s low view of a child’s ability to contribute to household decisions. Children were seen but not heard.

It was also due to tough economic conditions. I recall standing in long lines, excited about the powdered milk, oil and cheese distributed by our government. It was free and we took it, gratefully.

But the primary reason for my limited opinion in what I purchased or owned was this: I never really had “my own.” My mother was a young single parent desperately trying to make a living. To help I was moved around to live with others. Not living in a house that was truly my home made me naturally a passive consumer. I learned to be grateful for anything and accepted things as they were given to me.

A lot has changed since immigrating to the United States. I’m a well-educated, independent thinker who has been exposed to a great deal of information and resources on a variety of consumer topics. I remember when I first visited a shopping mall and supermarket in the US. I was astounded, and quite frankly, overwhelmed by the seemingly limitless options there were to any one thing you might want to buy.

Today, I chuckle at the fact that without thinking, I have over the years enjoyed purchasing all kinds of milks – Cow’s milk, Soy, Almond, Rice, Hazelnut, Coconut, Hemp, and so on…. Yes, I’ve even learned that there are 11 different types of milk and counting!

More options doesn’t always translate into better consumer habits. In fact, the opposite is true. We are bombarded by advertising messages that legitimize our obsession with accumulating unnecessary stuff. As such, the choices we make can quite often be unhealthy and not beneficial.

What’s worse, many of us are so caught up comparing ourselves with unrealistic images and misinformed notions of what others have or how they live their lives that we are on a constant treadmill toward an unreachable consumer destination.

Sadly, this unconscious lifestyle leaves us unfulfilled, wastes our time, squanders valuable resources, and leaves us in debt. We all need to break from this obsession with excessive consumerism.

Becoming A Conscious Consumer

Consciousness is defined as being “awake, perceiving, aware or understanding what is happening.”

Minimalism has forced my wife and me to become more mindful about what we consume, to be more conscious within each decision we make for our home. This includes where we choose to live, what and where we eat or clothes we buy, what household possessions we keep, and services we hire. Most importantly, this included how we educate our children and what we will and will not expose them to.

Conscious consumerism can be practiced in every area of life.

It’s about regaining control and taking responsibility for our actions.

It’s becoming active and wholly engaged in life.

It’s observing.

It’s being thoughtful.

It’s taking action instead of allowing things to just happen to you.

It’s asking the right questions.

“Why should I make this purchase?” “How would this food choice affect my health?” “Why do I need to follow this cultural trend?”

Like myself, sometimes we don’t always have the necessary information to make wise decisions. You may not even be independent or capable at the moment to make your own choices, as I once was. You may not be able to be a conscious consumer in every area at this moment. But you can start where you are, with what you have. As the late Dr. Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, you do better.”

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6 Simple Things to Add to Your Life

by Kelvin Belfon

6 Simple Things to Add to Your Life

I recently took a trip to our local Goodwill store. It was after my wife de-cluttered our kid’s bedroom, again. This has become the most challenging room thus far. I tackled a much easier project, the basement. The back car seats and trunk were filled with boxes, all containing clothes, toys, books, backpacks, and electronics. The pay off is that we’ve now reclaimed a good amount of space in both locations.

Since the whole family has been on board from the beginning, downsizing our living space and being more particular about the things we accumulate has been a collective effort. Our trips to the store have been reduced significantly. We are constantly learning how to live without excess.

But I’ve been asking myself what is the essence of a simplicity lifestyle. We tend to associate this simple living movement with ideas like, less is more, reducing, emotional detachment from things and recycling? Yet, I believe the simple lifestyle requires a more comprehensive description.

It’s also about embracing habits that promote wholeness, health, and fulfillment. It’s about adding the things that enrich our lives and make us better individuals. So, instead of focusing exclusively on eliminating or removing things, consider adding a few things.

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6 Simple Things to Add to Your Life

1. Me Time – This sounds narcissistic but we need more time to ourselves. We need time to think, meditate, decompress, and dream. Extra time is needed for the body to rest, heal and rejuvenate from the busyness of life. In some cases, our bodies need to catch up on much needed sleep. I’m often refreshed, empowered, and creative after my times of solitude.

2. Relationships – People are our most prized possession. Spending more time with our loved ones: spouses, children, family members, and friends is important. This is never automatic; it’s something we prioritize. My wife recently told me about the death of an old high school friend’s husband. The whole thing was so sad. The husband lost the battle to cancer. Events like these remind me of the brevity of life on this earth.  Let’s value the time spent with loved ones.

3. Memorable Experiences – Let’s be honest. We remember the memorable experiences shared with people far more than we do most purchasing events. The “good feeling” we get from buying things is really a temporary high. And it doesn’t take that long for consumables to become annoying clutter in our homes. Experiences, on the other hand, build stronger and longer lasting relationships. Instead of things, give people the gift of experiences. Spend some quality time spent with your children this weekend. Go hiking with a good friend. These are very simple ways of showing the people in your life that you value them with little to no money involved.

4. Financial Freedom – We need money but obsessing over it can lead to enslavement, frustration and regrets. Financial freedom is living unencumbered by debt. It’s having options, the power to choose. Financial freedom is knowing what’s enough and avoiding our culture’s need to accumulate. It’s no wonder that some the benefits of financial freedom are restful sleep patterns, low stress, and all around healthy mindset.

5. Healthier Diet and Exercise – Eating healthy and maintaining a regular exercise regimen can add longevity to our lives. Increasing our consumption of fresh, green vegetables and fruits in our diet is a better choice than opting for the processed, refined foods. The American Heart Associate says an extra 30 minutes of exercise per day can boost mental wellness, build immunity, reduce risk factors and prolong optimal health.

6. Spontaneity – This was much easier earlier in my married life. My wife and I took numerous unplanned, last minute, and exploratory trips. We are now a family of 6 with routines and schedules to keep us sane. Yet adding spontaneity to our lives is freeing. It gives us a sense of adventure and provides an opportunity to relax, smile, laugh, and create the memorable experiences mentioned above. So we have to be creative in this area. For example, take an unplanned trip to the mountains or go on a date with that special someone.

How about you, what would you add to your life?

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Twins And Minimalism

by Kelvin Belfon

Preparing for the Twins3

The twins are here!

Yes, we are excited to announce that our baby boy and girl were born March 8th. Words cannot convey our joy to finally see and hold our little ones.

When we moved to Denver last year our plans were simple: find stable employments, establish our home, and for my wife, begin PhD studies. We became even more focused on our priorities as we embraced the simplicity lifestyle.

We started de-cluttering all unnecessary possessions from our home. Among the things we discarded were maternity and baby items in storage for over 3 years. In our minds, we were done with having more children. Or, at least, so we thought.

Just one month after giving away all the maternity paraphernalia, we were both taken by surprise to find that Camilla was pregnant. Yet we continued with our minimalist commitment, resolving that one additional child would be easy to manage.

But my wife sensed something different about this particular pregnancy. She was much bigger than normal and had never experienced morning sickness with our previous children.

Then came the big news. During our monthly midwifery visit in January, we heard what sounded like 2 heartbeats. “How could this be?” I thought. An ultrasound was immediately requested and waiting for the appointment seemed like eternity. I reasoned even more, “We don’t have twins in our family!” But the doctor confirmed, “Yes, you are having twins and it looks like a boy and a girl…Congrats!”

I was speechless.

I waited a few days before going public. I was still in denial. When I finally did tell my family and a few friends, some replied in jest, “Thought you were a minimalist.” “Aren’t you guys going uncomplicated?” And, “You may need to change the name of your blog.”

Staying Focused

I’m told having twins can be a challenge with more sleepless nights, messy cleanups and overall expenses. It’s natural to justify more gadgets and gears around the house with this shift. We’re a family of 6 now! The game plan has to change now, right?

We do plan to purchase what’s necessary to accommodate our family growth; but even more so, we don’t want to go beyond and overextend ourselves. The concept of twins and minimalism will be challenging. But we’ve learned over the course of months to appreciate what we have and where we are in life.

Should we throw it all out now that we’re considered a big family? No, our plan is to embrace the challenge of discovering what it means to be a big family that remains faithful to a “less is more” ideal.

How this works for us is based on the following decisions we’ve come up with so far.

Housing – Remain in our 2 bedrooms, finished basement townhouse. We’ll need a larger space in the future but this will work in the interim.

Baby Room – Our first two children had specially decorated nurseries, but the twins will share space in the beginning with us in bassinets. Later on, all 4 children will bunk together.

Furniture – We purchased a couch to help my wife sleep during her pregnancy. Recently we’ve added 2 cribs and a comfortable chair for nursing.

Vehicle – This is not optional. We need a bigger vehicle, so we plan to sell or trade our 5-seat car for one that seats 7.

Minimalism Without Extreme

We had no idea that minimalism was preparation for our twins. We’ve been creating more space throughout our home for the last 12 months. What we didn’t know is that the space we created was so that we could accommodate more, not just more tangibles, but two more precious lives – our twins. It’s true. Sometimes our ability to receive more depends on our ability to reduce.

We understand the need to remain flexible and make necessary changes along the way. We are experiencing this already since our babies were born 2 months early. The daily visits to the neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU) for 6-8 weeks is an adjustment. We’ve placed a few de-cluttering projects on hold…even this blog. This is why knowing what really matters is important. And for us it’s our little ones and never our stuff.

Finally, I’m thankful for the loving support of our family and friends. The right relationships make all the difference in the world. They’ve helped in the middle of the night, cooking, giving, or just offering their love.

So, as it turns out, the going uncomplicated journey continues with more challenges, but even more wisdom and insight gained along the way.

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Not Every Space Needs to Be Filled

by Kelvin Belfon

Not Every Space Needs to Be Filled

“Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”~ William Morris.

A few months ago, my wife invited some girl friends to our home. It was a completely unplanned and unscripted get together. Everyone had a wonderful time of sharing and laughter.

During the visit, one of the girls wanted to see our food pantry. In our kitchen, we opted for a stainless steel rack so that we can track everything and be forced to keep it all organized. Our friends loved the idea. But while looking at the area added, “But you still have space to put another rack next to the one you have and make it look nice.”

It was an innocent comment, one with the best of intentions. But later that night Camilla and I reflected on the statement, noting how much our values have changed. In the past, most likely that space in the kitchen and others throughout our home would have been filled with stuff, perhaps unintentionally, but nonetheless…filled.

We all struggle with this issue. The human tendency is to add, acquire and accumulate more stuff. Having things is not bad; it’s about knowing what’s enough for you and resisting the tendency to add something to every blank wall or vacant corner.

When I was a boy, I noticed that the tendency was to fill every space available in the home. The living accommodations were small. Yet the rooms were filled past capacity with furniture. There were an abundance of trinkets on tables and counters, wall decorations, posters, plastic plants, boxes, and electronics. The closets and cupboards were crammed with things we seldom used.

Empty spaces were a symbol of misfortune, disappointment and lack. It made us uncomfortable. So we fill it. Filled spaces mean economic stability or represents success. But I’ve learned, Not Every Space Needs To Be Filled…even when you can afford to fill it.

Empty, clutter free spaces can save valuable time. There is less cleaning, reorganizing and maintaining required. Empty spaces can be calming because they don’t overstimulate our mind. When we create space, we can more easily appreciate and cherish the things we do have that matter. The spaces that are intentionally filled stand out with more beauty and meaning.

As we’ve committed in our home to reduce clutter and create more spaces over the last 11 months, we’ve gained so much more space without changing real estate. The spaces we’ve gained are reminders to be content, live unattached to material possessions, avoid engaging in the comparing game (something I’ve done too often), and resist the impulse to accumulate.

I’m also reminded to value people, not things; because my relationships are most important. But even more significant, empty spaces have taught me to accept myself. Retail therapy is not a healthy solution most of the time.

Empty spaces don’t have to be boring or unimaginative. Allow your personality and creativity to be reflected within your living space. Make it welcoming and inviting. It’s your home. Embrace uncluttered, clean space. Most importantly, embrace yourself!

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Letting People Go

by Kelvin Belfon

Letting People Go

Relationships are one of the deepest human needs. This is because we are gregarious beings, sociable, fond of companionship and having a deep need to share our lives with others. Some of us are less or more cordial than others. But at the core, we all crave relationships.

Relationships are key to our happiness, quality of life and success. The right people can help propel us in the fulfillment of our goals, while the wrong associations can bring pain. No relationship is neutral; the company we keep affects us all either positively or negatively.

Recently, we’ve become purposeful in taking inventory of the kinds of relationships we have and the quality of our human interactions. We realize that it is possible to maintain a clutter-free home and work area while never truly experiencing wholeness. De-cluttering material possessions alone is not enough.

Letting people go has been one of the most challenging tasks of our simplicity journey by far. Things can be sold, donated, or thrown away if deemed useless. This is not to overlook the fact that we can be sentimental when it comes to certain memorabilia that have intrinsic value.

Things can be symbolic of the people we care so deeply for, but they are not the people themselves. Emotional bonds we have with things are nowhere as profound as the depth of relationships we have with people.

How do we let people go when a relationship has run its course?

Despite the handful of times we’ve had to deal with letting people go, dealing with problematic relationships still gives us heartache. It’s not an area we’ve mastered. Bad relationships will never cease to exist as long as we are in this life. However, we can minimize the pain of letting people go if we know a few keys about relationships.

  • To begin, when possible, it’s important to make every effort to repair broken relationships. We should be courageous enough to admit wrong, give others the benefit of the doubt, and most of all, forgive. No one is perfect. Sometimes people deserve a “do over.” But if you are dealing with a chronic or dysfunctional relationship, the signs that you’re in a bad relationship might already be obvious to you. It’s time to let the person go and move on.
  • Some relationships are toxic. Although certain people can seem nice or well intentioned, they may have relational habits that are pernicious, that they may or may not be aware of. They bring unnecessary stress, regret, drama, and abuse. They use, manipulate and control others. They may even do really nice things for you; yet with the wrong motive, their actions bring pain.

If you’ve determined that the relationship is truly going in the wrong direction, take action quickly. Don’t allow toxic relationships to drag on. Remove yourself from it and give yourself permission to love people from a distance. You deserve better!

  • One of the hardest lessons we’ve had to learn is that not every relationship is meant to be permanent. Naturally, most healthy people evolve in their outlook and sense of self. Despite the fact that you’ve grown, their perception of you may never change. Some people are just not going to be comfortable with the new you. Their static view of you will make your life miserable and zap your energy and spirit. Be grateful for the good memories. But there comes a time when you must cut the strings and let go.

We all need people in our lives. But we must use wisdom with each relationship commitment. Consider quality over quantity. A few good friends are far more meaningful than having hundreds of casual friends who merely “like” you.

And most importantly, cultivate positive friendships for health and wholeness. Start off by not giving too much, too soon of yourself. Take baby steps in a relationship. Trust is earned over time.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to going uncomplicated, comment below or join me on Facebook.