Tag Archives: clutter

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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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.

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The Subconscious Minimalist

by Kelvin Belfon

subconscious-minimalist-minimalism

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

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

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

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

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

The Subconscious Minimalist use terminologies such as:

“I’m downsizing”

“I’m decluttering”

“I’m getting rid of debt”

“I want to spend more time with family”

“I need to slow down and redefine my priorities”

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

The tide is changing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Not Every Space Needs to Be Filled

by Kelvin Belfon

Not Every Space Needs to Be Filled

“Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”~ William Morris.

A few months ago, my wife invited some girl friends to our home. It was a completely unplanned and unscripted get together. Everyone had a wonderful time of sharing and laughter.

During the visit, one of the girls wanted to see our food pantry. In our kitchen, we opted for a stainless steel rack so that we can track everything and be forced to keep it all organized. Our friends loved the idea. But while looking at the area added, “But you still have space to put another rack next to the one you have and make it look nice.”

It was an innocent comment, one with the best of intentions. But later that night Camilla and I reflected on the statement, noting how much our values have changed. In the past, most likely that space in the kitchen and others throughout our home would have been filled with stuff, perhaps unintentionally, but nonetheless…filled.

We all struggle with this issue. The human tendency is to add, acquire and accumulate more stuff. Having things is not bad; it’s about knowing what’s enough for you and resisting the tendency to add something to every blank wall or vacant corner.

When I was a boy, I noticed that the tendency was to fill every space available in the home. The living accommodations were small. Yet the rooms were filled past capacity with furniture. There were an abundance of trinkets on tables and counters, wall decorations, posters, plastic plants, boxes, and electronics. The closets and cupboards were crammed with things we seldom used.

Empty spaces were a symbol of misfortune, disappointment and lack. It made us uncomfortable. So we fill it. Filled spaces mean economic stability or represents success. But I’ve learned, Not Every Space Needs To Be Filled…even when you can afford to fill it.

Empty, clutter free spaces can save valuable time. There is less cleaning, reorganizing and maintaining required. Empty spaces can be calming because they don’t overstimulate our mind. When we create space, we can more easily appreciate and cherish the things we do have that matter. The spaces that are intentionally filled stand out with more beauty and meaning.

As we’ve committed in our home to reduce clutter and create more spaces over the last 11 months, we’ve gained so much more space without changing real estate. The spaces we’ve gained are reminders to be content, live unattached to material possessions, avoid engaging in the comparing game (something I’ve done too often), and resist the impulse to accumulate.

I’m also reminded to value people, not things; because my relationships are most important. But even more significant, empty spaces have taught me to accept myself. Retail therapy is not a healthy solution most of the time.

Empty spaces don’t have to be boring or unimaginative. Allow your personality and creativity to be reflected within your living space. Make it welcoming and inviting. It’s your home. Embrace uncluttered, clean space. Most importantly, embrace yourself!

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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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