Category Archives: Consumerism

The More of Less by Joshua Becker

by Kelvin Belfon

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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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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

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  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.

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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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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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Raising Children in an Excess Age

by Kelvin Belfon

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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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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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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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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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