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.

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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.

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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!

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Improving My Health

by Kelvin Belfon

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Keeping an exercise routine wasn’t something I scheduled into my life back home on my island. Because transportation was limited, we walked to go everywhere: grocery store, school, post office, church and special events. If I was late, I ran. And I was late quite frequently. Then there was the seasonal farming, which was a serious “workout” under the hot tropical sun.

In school things were more formal. Physical education class required demanding exercise drills followed by cricket and soccer games or track. Games after school with the neighbors were a ritual we looked forward to as kids. We were very active and always took advantage of being outdoors.

Our diet wasn’t perfect. The starches we ate fueled our active lifestyle. But they only became a problem as people got older and sedentary. No one talked about being a vegetarian or vegan except the Rasta man, known to abstain from meats, especially pork.

I don’t recall using the word dessert in my vocabulary. If you were hungry after dinner, you went outside and found fruits such as golden apples, skin up or sugar apples. Julie mangoes remain my all-time favorite.

When I moved to Miami, Florida in the 90s, I tried to continue my “healthy lifestyle.” I jogged a little and ate well but it was tough. The fast food I saw advertised was cheaper and seemed to fit my busier schedule. It was also much easier to vegetate.

Though my wife embraced natural habits, I became lazy about fitness. And because we moved around a bit, living in different states, I always had the perfect excuses:

  • “I’m too busy”
  • “I’m too cold”
  • “It’s too expensive to eat healthy”
  • “I’m a married man with kids to focus on raising”

Then during a certain period, some time ago, I came across the hot topic suggesting that the leading causes of death in America are preventable by a healthier diet and regular exercise. Moreover, weight did not always factor in what was considered “healthy.” The fact that one can be unhealthy and appear “good” on the outward scared me. When I began focusing on simplicity last year, improving my health was an obvious decision.

So I make some changes. Juicing, reducing the consumption of animal fat and eliminating most processed foods from my diet were key. Regular exercise helped reduce stress, kept my mind alert and motivated. It provided a time for meditation and kept me from becoming lethargic during a time of unemployment.

On several occasions, I even went jogging in below freezing temperatures. These were some of the most refreshing times. They gave me an excitement about my ability to face the tough times and anticipate success.

But getting outdoors wasn’t only for me. I enjoyed all kinds of activities at the park with my wife and kids. Everyone benefits from an active lifestyle and a healthier eating habit.

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Value People, Not Things

by Kelvin Belfon

Value People, Not Thins

One of my childhood memories growing up in Grenada was the custom-made plastic coverings on our living and dining room furniture. This décor trend actually seemed to be pretty standard throughout the island.

The purpose of these plastics was to protect the chairs and sofas they covered. These furnishings were usually some of the most valuable or difficult to acquire items in the home, and consequently off-limit to playful children. Despite this logic, I heard a different message being communicated to me.

Similarly, the fine china and other precious items housed in our mahogany cabinet were considered untouchable. They were only used during the Christmas season when hosting special guests. As children, we were served with either plastic or aluminum, even when the guests arrived for dinner.

I remember gingerly washing each cup, plate, utensil, and vase in preparation for our visitors, knowing the high value they held in our home. Washing dishes is normally a mundane task; but washing tableware such as these was a stressful project. The message I was being taught through these experiences was that these possessions were more important than me.

In telling my story to my Jamaican wife much later, I learned that she too had a similar upbringing. Their formal living and dining room furniture as well as chinaware also held a sacred space in the home. But in 1992 Hurricane Andrew passed through her city; and unfortunately, most of their valuables were destroyed.

Having survived the 165 miles per hour winds, her family experienced a radical change in their regard for possessions. Such sacredly held home goods became acceptable for common use.

I don’t believe there is anything wrong with owning pricey commodities. And definitely when one works hard to acquire something, caring should be the obvious response, right?

Yet, things are what they are, just things.

Things are replaceable. They wear out over time, get lost, stolen or destroyed. Things can give us a certain amount of satisfaction and enjoyment. Yet, they can create an unhealthy obsession in our lives if we’re not careful. And definitely, things should never supersede the value we place on people.

People are truly priceless! They are beautiful and irreplaceable.

Because of this belief, I’m even more so intentional in how I relate to friends and family. As distracting as the acquisition of stuff and the never-ending upward climb for success can be, I have to be even more thoughtful in my actions, speech and quality time with those I love. In the final analysis, there should be no doubt in their minds what’s more important to me.

Likewise, there should be no doubt in the minds of your family and friends regarding what’s more important to you.

People, not things, are our most prized possession.

Value people, not things!

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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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I’m My Kid’s Dad

by Kelvin Belfon

Im-my-kids-dad

 

My children are my world! They are one of the relationships that matter in my life.

As a child, I grew up in a single parent home. My mother, Diana, did her best to provide for my younger brother and me. She made many sacrifices and worked long 12-hour days, sometimes in 3 different jobs.

My mom didn’t graduated from High School because she had me at such a young age. Yet, she always encouraged me to excel academically. She wasn’t perfect but loved me. Today, she remains a very close friend and one of my biggest heroes.

Now that it’s my turn to parent, I understand the challenges she faced from a whole new perspective.

Parenting is not easy; and I’m quickly realizing how much I need to learn. The temptation to bail out emotionally is definitely there. It’s easy to say, “I’m busy,” or “Go ask your mom.” But I must resist these excuses.

It really doesn’t matter if your father was there or not. We still need to step up and take an active roll in our children’s lives. The risk of being an absentee father (physically or emotionally) is too high for us to ignore.

There are many influential people in my children’s lives. Grandparents, teachers, spiritual leaders, coaches and mentor, but a father’s influence has the greatest impact. It’s my job to invest my time, values, wisdom, passions, and love into them.

I want to be DAD.

This is not about being a perfect father because no one can achieve it. What’s required is to be present and do our best. Living the simple lifestyle helps me avoid distractions and stay focused on what matters most, my children. They are one of the important relationships in my life.

I’m my kid’s dad!

Thank you for reading!

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What Matters Most

by Kelvin Belfon

What Matters Most

Many people dream about vacationing or honeymooning in some beautiful tropical paradise. Yet because Camilla and I are islanders, 14 years ago we picked Colorado as our honeymoon destination. It was an opportunity to experience a new culture and to see the Rocky Mountains for the first time. The whole idea was romantic and exciting!

Last year, life for us shifted and we had the opportunity to relocate anywhere we wanted. We picked Denver. It was like a dream come true. But even in the most idyllic place, life can still become complicated. I was unemployed and my savings were dwindling. I had an abundance of free time but free time in this case was stressful.

Even after I found a “buffer” job, I worried about the bills and the things we might needed in the future. I was hard on myself and began to wallow in thoughts of failure. But my family gave me much needed perspective. Each evening when I came home, they would greet me with the biggest smiles. My children would run to meet me at the door chanting, “Daddy’s home! Daddy’s home!”

It felt good to be admired despite what I thought of myself during that difficult period of transition. The constant affirmation led me to start asking, “What matters most in life?” I thought I knew, having drafted quick lists in my past. But regardless of what I thought I wanted, I often failed to give them the highest value in my life.

I’m getting closer to answering the what matters most in life question.

To start, an outlook of gratitude and healthy relationships are most important to me. These are easy to express, but probably not so easy to master. They require living with minimal clutter and distraction. They require consistency. And because I love myself and the people closest to me, the effort is worth it.

So, what are the things that matter most to you?

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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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