Category Archives: Decluttering

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.

The-More-of-Less

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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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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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?

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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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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.

keep updated-minimalism-clutter

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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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!

marie-kondo-calla

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.

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 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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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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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?

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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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.

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 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.

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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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.

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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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.

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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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!

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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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.

 

Be More With Less: An Interview with Courtney Carver

Editor’s Note: The following is an interview with Courtney Carver of Be More With Less.

Be More With Less3

Courtney Carver is founder of Be More with Less and Project 333. She left a 15-year career in sales and marketing, September 2011, so that she could focus on fulfilling the goals and values of her simplicity journey. But these goals were not only beneficial to Courtney. Along the way, her personal discoveries have influenced thousands of others seeking new ways to change their life habits for the better. Courtney’s books, blog articles and educational courses have also inspired my journey in many ways. For these reasons, I’m excited to have her as my very first guest interview. I trust you find her perspectives helpful as you read.

Kelvin: What factors weighed into your decision to embark on the simplicity journey to Be More With Less?
Courtney: In 2006, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. It was my wake up call and it was loud and clear that I needed to make some changes in my life. I didn’t plan to completely overhaul my life, but one change led to the next and now my life is really different than it used to be.

Kelvin: What were some of the immediate changes you made in your life?
Courtney: The first thing I did was change my eating habits. With the research I did, I discovered that a vegetarian diet was best for me. From there I started to eliminate the things that created the greatest stress in my life. That included clutter, debt, shopping, and eventually my job.

Kelvin: What do you recommend for those wanting to simplify their lifestyle, particularly those struggling with letting go of sentimental things?
Courtney: Some things will be easier to eliminate than others, but by establishing why you want to simplify things, you can remind yourself along the way when tempted to keep items of sentimental value. I also think it’s important to note that less is not nothing. You don’t have to get rid of every single thing to experience the benefits of a simpler life. It really looks different for everyone.

Kelvin: When most people hear the term minimalism, they think of an ascetic life. What’s your definition?
Courtney: Getting rid of everything that doesn’t matter so you can define and focus on what does matter most to you. And when I say things, that isn’t just physical clutter. It might include things on your to-do list that aren’t essential, toxic relationships, debt, trips to the mall and other things that can seem like a normal part of every day life.

Kelvin: Tell us a little about your other interests such as clothing (Project 333)?
Courtney: In 2010, I really got serious about letting go. I started in my closet because that was the place I visited on a daily basis. I had so much, but never had anything to wear. I also overspent in clothing and fashion. I knew I needed something besides another seasonal closet cleanout, so I challenged myself to dress with only 33 items for 3 months including clothing, shoes, jewelry and accessories. My first 3 months were October – December in Salt Lake City and we had temperatures ranging from 0-90 degrees.

I thought the experiment would be temporary, but by the end of the 3 months, I knew it would become part of my lifestyle. The best part is that hundreds of people joined in and started their own Project 333 and now thousands from different countries, climates and lifestyles are practicing Project 333.

Kelvin: You’re a vegetarian and have recently committed to take on Joel Fuhrman’s nutrition challenge. How does nutrition weigh into your values on simplicity?
Courtney: The healthier you are, the simpler your life will be. I believe that food is quite possibly the most important factor when it comes to feeling well and being healthy. As a vegetarian, I thought I was eating a healthy diet, but after three weeks of following the Eat to Live plan, it’s clear that there is room for improvement.

Kelvin: Recently you released your latest book, Mini-Missions for Simplicity. What can readers expect?
Courtney: I published my new book, Mini-Missions for Simplicity towards the end of last year and it’s a collection of great experiments you can try to simplify your life. Mini-missions are often one step actions that you can do to improve your health, relationships, bank account or wardrobe.

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

 Courtney Carver writes and speaks about simplicity in life and business. Read more at Be More with Less and courtneycarver.com. You can also follow her on Twitter.

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Saying No To Junk Mail

by Kelvin Belfon

Saying No To Junk Mail

Reducing the inflow of stuff in our homes is one way to keep things clutter-free. For me Saying No To Junk Mail is a big piece of the puzzle.

Junk mail clutters our space. It fills up our mailboxes and creates unsightly piles on tabletops. In our home we receive multiple offers for credit cards, cell phone services, insurances, personal checks, and all kinds of other paper solicitations on a daily basis. We also get newspaper ads from 5 local supermarkets plus flyers, catalogs, magazines advertisings, phone books. In a lifetime, the average American will spend 8 months opening junk mail or 70 hours per year!

Junk mail wastes our valuable time. I have to retrieve it, look through it (in case some bills are hidden in the maze), and dispose of it. Oh and don’t forget the time it takes to shred or destroy the credit card offers. Our junk mail is placed in a box and later taken to the recycle station a few miles away, at least once per week. The average US household handles 848 pieces or 41 pounds of junk mail per year. That’s just too much paper!

Junk mail depletes our natural resources. The 848 pieces of junk mail equals 1.5 trees every year or more than 100 million trees for all U.S. households. Over 28 billion gallons of water is used to produce and recycle junk mail every year. Junk mail produces more greenhouse gas emissions than 9 million cars. Nearly 44 percent of junk mail is thrown away (only 22% is recyclable). And it costs the US 370 million annually to dispose of junk mail that is not recycled.

So why do we keep it coming into our homes?

The problem is that junk mailers always seem to find me no matter how many times I’ve moved and changed my address. The fact is, once you fill out those change of address forms, the Post Office, government agencies and certain companies are  involved in leaking or sharing my information and making it easier for junk mailers to send stuff I don’t need.

How can you stop the clutter?

1.     Use a professional company like 41.pounds.org. A one-time $35 will reduce 80-95% of your junk mail for 5 years. Also check out MyJunkTree.com.

2.     Do it yourself if you have the time and don’t want to spend the money.

Go to the following websites:

  • The Direct Marketing Association or DMAChoice.org and CatalogChoice.org – They allow you to stop major catalogs, magazines or and other junk mail you do not wish to receive.
  • OptOutPreScreen.com or call 888-567-8688 – This site contacts the 3 major credit bureaus and prevents them from sending pre-approved credit card offers to you. I highly encourage this to avoid ID theft. Your Social Security number is required to confirm your identity on this website.
  • WorldPrivacyForum.org – This is a one-stop shop website covering the Top 10 Opt Outs. One issue that caught my attention on the list as a parent was FERPA. Have you wondered why your 6 year old or teen is receiving credit card offers in the mail? The FERPA opt out option stops schools from releasing student directory information without your consent, however with some limitation.
  • Legitimate “Junk Mail” – In some cases companies mail their ads and promotions because we’ve done business with them in the recent past. To opt-out: write, call or go to your online account setting to unsubscribe or cancel the subscription.
  • Make it difficult for marketers to find you – Avoid entering in sweepstakes, mailing product warranty cards that don’t require a proof of purchase or receipt and signing up for in-store rewards cards.

In Saying No To Junk Mail you must be proactive. The process can be a real inconvenience; it requires work and patience. But I want to do my part in saving the earth’s natural resources, so it’s something I’ve started doing in my home. It’s well worth the effort!

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

12 Helpful Decluttering Tips

by Kelvin Belfon

12-Helpful-Declutter-Tip-Minimalism

The journey towards simplicity is enjoyable and a continual growing process. Minimizing does have its benefits: less cleaning, less organizing, less unjustifiable expenses, less debt, less relational stress, less contribution to landfill waste, etc. The good quality of life that come from minimizing is incalculable. Less is truly more!

Since beginning this website, we’ve met others who share our simplicity passion and would like to make a positive change, but just don’t know where to begin. The consistent reaction is not if we should simplify, but how to start the process.

So in response, we’d like to share a 12 helpful decluttering tips to consider. I hope it will be useful to you as they have been for us.

1.  Make the decision. We took ownership in evaluating our past family habits. Then we intentionally researched other strategies before concluding this was the lifestyle we wanted to embrace.

 2.  Start slowly. We started with the easy stuff that had been a cluttered annoyance to us already. Anything unused in years was an obvious target. When duplicates were found, the best was kept and the others donated or discarded.

 3.  5 minutes per day. In our initial attempt to declutter our basement, I was extremely ambitious and worked long hours at a time to make headway. Then I learned about a 5 minutes per day approach recommended by Leo Babauta. Though it seemed insufficient enough time; we gained consistency and momentum without overwhelming ourselves.

 4.  It’s a process. My wife advised a friend the other day, “It took a long time to accumulate your stuff. It all didn’t just happen overnight. Likewise, the process of decluttering will take some time.” So be patient with yourself!

5.  Decluttering shouldn’t be traumatic. We weren’t ready to relinquish certain things at first. But as we got used to making judgment calls on whether to keep or toss, letting go got easier. It was important to allow time for our emotions to catch up with our ambitions as we mastered the important principle of non-attachment.

 6.  Tackle one project at a time. Once an area is decluttered to the best of your ability, celebrate! Then move on to another project.

 7.  Get rid of 1-2 box(es) per week. What has kept us on track was an early decision to fill up 1-2 box(es) of stuff each week for a specific period of time. It’s always amazing to see the assortment of items we manage to collect during the week.

 8.  Use challenges. Courtney Carver’s 86 Your Clutter is a challenge to gets rid of 86 items within 2 hours. Project 333 encourages the not-so-faint-of-heart to live with only 33 items of clothing every 3 months! You can of course adjust the numbers and have fun with it. We even got our children involved in various projects and deliveries to our local charities.

 9.  Use technology and local resources. Netflix, YouTube, and local libraries are great alternatives to owning. Using these resources helped us eliminate our VHS videos, DVDs (about 90%), CDs (99%) and over 200 books.

 10.  Let go of the cheap stuff.  This can be a hard one, especially when we’re used to justifying why we should keep trinkets around. We changed our thinking and started asking rather, “why should ‘this’ item remain our home?” It’s purpose has to be meaningful or useful. In the end, we determined to let go of “just in case” items if they were relatively cheap or could be easily replaced. By extension, this commitment forced us to shop less, make shopping lists, and avoid impulse buying to reduce the inflow of clutter into our home.

11.  Handling sentimental stuff. Because of the memories associated with sentimental things, you may need to deal with them later in the process. Again, tackle what you are capable of doing at this level. As you become more advanced, the decision becomes easier.

12.  Keep communicating. It’s easier to declutter if you are single. Since we’re a family of 4, collective decisions on what to relinquish can potentially be challenging. So good communication and getting everyone involved is important. However, when others don’t share your opinion on a decision, do the best you can and model instead of telling, remembering we’re all at different stages in the journey. Ultimately, unity is more important than winning every decision.

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Becoming Minimalists

by Kelvin Belfon

BECOMING-MINIMALISTS-Minimalism

It was the 2nd of January when Camilla and I arrived in Denver. The kids couldn’t wait to see their new bedroom. We were all excited to move into our new home! But after completing the initial walk-through and seeing the actual dimensions, I had one horrifying thought, “How am I going to fit all the stuff sitting in the moving truck into this townhouse?”

Renting a storage unit was an option; but it was also an added cost. The landlord, perceiving our plight, began showing us alternate storage in the basement. We had no fallback. This had to work.

While unloading the truck, one of the plastic bags tore and the contents, my CDs, scattered everywhere. One of the younger moving guys looked at me and said, “Dude, have you guys ever thought about going digital and not carry all these CDs around?”

It was embarrassing. I felt old. I’m glad it wasn’t my cassette collection that I disposed of the month prior to our move! Although I had burnt the albums unto my laptop; I still kept the discs…some, for over THIRTEEN YEARS! This incident led me to ask myself, “Why am I keeping around things I’m no longer using?”

So to make everything fit, the basement became the “dumping” ground. My mother, who flew in to help us unpack a week later, started organizing the clutter. Thinking I could do better, I re-organized it when she left. It took days. But when we needed something, usually stuck in the back, the mess returned.

This ended up becoming a weekly chore for me. It felt like I was always stuck in the basement. Keeping everything in order was taking my time away from Camilla and the kids. Then I had an epiphany. “Why not minimize instead of the constantly cleaning and reorganizing?”

I began researching online for ideas and stumbled upon Zenhabits and Becoming Minimalists. These bloggers totally inspired me so much that I couldn’t stop reading.

All of these events combined had a major impact on my thinking. My wife was also experiencing the same feelings. So, becoming minimalists was the lifestyle we embraced.

It’s been 11 months now and eliminating the excess has turned our home into a more spacious and attractive place. I can’t wait to see what more we’ll do as our thinking continues to shift.

What factors have motivated you to simplify?

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The Journey Begins

by Kelvin Belfon

The Journey Begins

I was born in the beautiful Caribbean island of Grenada. There life was simple. I didn’t have much or know how bad things were until I was older and more aware of the world around me. I had the necessities: food, clothing and shelter. For the most part, I was content.

After graduating from community college, I taught elementary school and loved the experience. Helping and empowering others brings me joy and a sense of fulfillment.

I immigrated to the US in 1997. Moving from an island of 110,000 people to a city of over 2 million in the greater Miami, Florida vicinity was no small thing. There were far more choices than I could reasonably process. Tasks like ordering from a restaurant menu, walking through a mall, or driving on a 6 lane highway were overwhelming. I felt lost at times; but for the most part things remained relatively simple.

Then things started to change.

I married a beautiful Jamaican girl, decided to work on another degree, bought my first home, and had two loving children. I’m very grateful for these life-changing events. However, there were also credit cards, mortgages, student loans, car notes, utility bills, and bad relationships.

Sometimes we lose focus. The chaos and complexity of life invades our space. Life is difficult but at times we make it harder on ourselves. And before we know it we find ourselves empty and unfulfilled.

I believe we can make life easier.

This is my quest: to simplify, de-clutter, and minimize in order to enjoy what matters most in life. I’m going uncomplicated! This new journey began earlier this year when my family and I relocated to Denver, Colorado. Unlike other moves, this one forced me to search deep within and reexamine my priorities.

My goals for this blog are to:

  • Focus on the things that matters most
  • Learn the art of simple living
  • Share my journey in hopes that it will help others
  • Connect with other like-minded individuals

The journey begins!

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image by: Gillian Claudia Johnson-Baptiste

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