Tag Archives: Downsizing

The Simple White Rabbit: An Interview with Christy King

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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12 Helpful Decluttering Tips

by Kelvin Belfon

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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.

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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Becoming Minimalists

by Kelvin Belfon

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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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