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Minimalist Interview: Yolanda V Acree

Editor’s Note: The following is an interview with Yolanda V. Acree

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Yolanda Acree is the founder of Yolanda V Acree. Her minimalism’s journey was triggered by a stressful job, needless spending, and a feeling of being stuck in her life. One day she decided it was enough and made several dramatic changes in her life such as quitting her job, moving back home and taking an extended vacay to Mexico. Yolanda is now a life coach, founder YVA Designs and encourages others to clarify their goals and values while transitioning to a simpler lifestyle.

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Kelvin: Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? Where do you live?  What are your hobbies?  What do you do for a living?

Yolanda: I’m from and currently live on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in a small town called Denton. It’s a rural area and you might say, “I’m a little bit country…” My hobby is also a part of my business. I make minimalist silver jewelry under YVA Designs. I’m also a life coach and encourage creatives and other folks to clarify their goals and values while transitioning to a simpler lifestyle. In my day job, I work part-time as a site coordinator for the after school program at the local elementary school.

Kelvin: Who or what inspired your minimalist journey?

Yolanda: My minimalist journey was inspired by my own lack of motivation and feeling stuck. At the time I didn’t know I was assuming a minimalist lifestyle, I just knew something had to change. I felt unfulfilled in my work and was tired of living the “busy” life that many call “normal”: traffic, commuting, needless shopping and errands, binging on TV, and many other unhealthy habits. My solution was to purge and start fresh. I got rid of everything (including my apartment lease) except my clothing, car, and a little savings. I moved back to the Eastern Shore and shortly thereafter quit my full-time job to figure out what I really wanted for my life.

Kelvin: Have you received any criticism from your family and friends or dealt with any personal conflicts as a result of you becoming a minimalist?

Yolanda: I haven’t received criticism from anyone outright. My family and friends have always given me the space to do and be what I wanted. I do live with my mother and she is not a minimalist nor is she interested in becoming one… lol. I will say I’ve had a positive influence on her. Personally though, I still feel a little uncomfortable with the amount of things that inhabit some of the spaces in our home, but my personal space is a place where I can be at peace. The conflict is ultimately internal. Sometimes it feels lonely because no one around me lives this lifestyle. One of the reasons I made minimalism the focus of my site is to connect with others like me such as yourself.

Kelvin:  Besides de-cluttering your physical stuff, what would you say are other benefits of minimalism you’ve experienced?

Yolanda: I got clear on the vision for my life, my goals and values, what I wanted and didn’t want, and it helped me be more discerning about what I allow into my life.

Kelvin:  Do you have any tips for those wanting to become minimalists and to live a less complicated lifestyle?

Yolanda: While the physical decluttering is cathartic and very helpful in changing the energy of spaces, you have to be willing to unpack the emotional baggage of your currently complicated lifestyle to find the true peace we all seek. It’s so important to identify and understand your core values, life goals, and behavior patterns.

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Kelvin: I noticed you’ve embraced the natural hairstyle movement. Is there a back-story or was this also inspired by your simplicity journey?

Yolanda: I went natural back in 2005 and started my minimalist journey in 2012, but I’d like to think “going natural” was a pre-, pre-cursor to this journey. I decided to return to natural because I loved feeling the texture of my new growth in between relaxers and I also wanted to challenge myself to create and accept my own standard of beauty. It was the beginning of my desire to get back to the essence of me. Since I’ve embraced a minimalist lifestyle, I have changed how I care for my hair including using fewer and more natural products, and I even cut my hair to simplify my regimen. My natural hair has definitely helped define my style as a minimalist.

Kelvin: You share a lot of minimalist tips on your YouTube channel. What are 4 videos our readers should check out?

Yolanda: 

Minimalist Journey: My Story

Minimalist Journey: Pro + Cons of Minimalism

Minimalist Journey: How to Simplify Your Mornings

8 Principles of a Minimalist Life

Kelvin: Tell us about the free 7 Day Simple Living Challenge and Workbook on your website. What can readers expect in this challenge?

Yolanda: The 7 Day Simple Living Challenge is designed to get you to start thinking about your life in a more simple way. If focuses on your mindset, goals, self-care, relationships, schedule, money, and stuff. It encourages you to take a simple step in each of those areas to simplify your life. For example, the first day asks you to do a brain dump. Declutter your mind, sort through your thoughts, and identify what is useful and what is not. Physical decluttering is just one aspect of this process and I leave it until the last day of the challenge purposefully. Minimalism and simple living are journeys, therefore taking one step at a time, one day at a time, is crucial to being successful and making simple living a life-long practice.

Kelvin: You are passionate about people becoming self-sufficient. As an entrepreneur yourself, please share 4 quick tips that people who wish to begin a business can follow.

Yolanda:

  1. Just start. I don’t always follow this advice, but I did when I started my jewelry business. I didn’t tell too many people, I didn’t worry that I hadn’t mastered the craft, I did it because I was inspired. Just dive into what you enjoy and the rest will figure itself out. I’ve been surprised, sometimes disappointed, but I’ve learned a lot, gained loyal customers, and now I can take what I’ve learned and apply it to be more inspired and successful.
  1. Keep going. You will fail, you might embarrass yourself, you will make mistakes, but they are all lessons that will make you a better entrepreneur and show your community that you don’t give up easily and are sticking around.
  1. Celebrate the small successes. It takes a while to become successful. Don’t overlook the small milestones along the way. Recently, I passed 100 followers on Pinterest. While this may be small beans to others, it was exciting for me because it was the only one of my platforms under 100, so I’ll take it and brainstorm how to grow my influence even further. Every time I reach any milestone, big or small, I make a note of it and take a moment to reflect and be thankful.
  1. Be flexible. Your vision for your business and the reality, may not match up immediately or for a while as you learn your business. Be willing to look at your business from different perspectives. As long as what you’re doing is moving you closer to your vision, even if it’s a small step, it’s okay to adapt your reality. Leave room for creativity, mistakes, doubt, and new inspiration.

Kelvin: Do you have any closing comments and advice to add?

Yolanda: I’ve come to understand that minimalism is ultimately a spiritual journey. The greatest benefit I am receiving from minimalism is the gift of discovering and becoming myself. Minimalism forces you to look in the mirror and really see yourself. My hope and challenge for all those on this journey, is that you will understand this and use your experience to empower others. Peace.

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

Yolanda blogs on yolandavacree.com where she inspires her readers to live a simpler lifestyle. You can follower her on Twitter or Facebook.

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 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 Other Side of Complexity: An Interview with Mike Burns

Editor’s Note: The following is an interview with Mike Burns of TheOtherSideOfComplexity.com

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Kelvin: Hi Mike! Let’s begin by telling us a little about yourself. Where do you live, are you single or married, do you have any children, any hobbies, etc.?

Mike: Sure!

Here’s the rundown… I live in Nashville, TN. I’m 39 years old. I’ve been happily married to my best friend for 19 years. I have six kids ranging from 10-18 years of age. I like coffee, funny videos, great movies, and books about making the world a better place. I listen to a wide spectrum of music, but currently prefer acoustic, folk-type stuff and positive hip-hop.

I have multiple tattoos. I am very sober- minded, but I want to have fun and enjoy life. This means that my brain is a mix of Yoda-like mantras and Napoleon Dynamite references. It’s a strange place, but I call it home. 🙂 At the end of the day, I want to know that I loved and lived well.

 

Kelvin: What inspired your simplicity journey?

Mike: My “simplicity journey” began several years back when, due to my job, we moved twice in a 12 month period. When we began preparing for the second move, we realized that there were boxes that we had never opened from the last move! They were full of stuff we hadn’t touched in nearly 6 months.That was the beginning of some significant change.

About that same time, I stumbled upon books by Joshua Becker and Leo Babauta. Over the past several years, we’ve tried some fairly drastic projects, like selling everything except for what would fit in a 6×12 trailer and moving across country. But, the more significant efforts have been those smaller daily decisions to value people over things.

 

Kelvin: What are the benefits you’ve experienced as a result of simplifying your lifestyle?

Mike: There are a number of benefits that we’ve experienced as a family over the past few years. Here are the 3 that always come to mind immediately:

1- Less stress. Our minds aren’t NEARLY as cluttered with all of the concerns and worries that come from overscheduling, unrealistic deadlines and busy-ness. We are free to think about the future and be creative.

2- Closer relationships. Because we say “no” to a lot of the hectic activity that is typical in our culture, we are able to spend quality time with each of them. We work together, play together, and have serious, life-changing talks.

 3- Lots of creativity! Eliminating lots of unnecessary stuff has left space for us to be creative and pursue passions. We’re able to bring new things into existence. It’s SO much fun! We are all able to come up with ideas and see them through to completion. We couldn’t do this if we let things get too complicated.

 

Kelvin: When most people hear the term minimalism, they imagine a young single person with no children, who is living without possessions. Is a minimalist lifestyle achievable for large families?

Mike: It’s definitely a challenge. But it’s doable. We live a somewhat clutter-free life. You might call it “clutter-free-ish.” It’s a work in progress. It’s successful at times and less-so at others.

I’ve written quite a bit about the topic of simplifying with a family, but, if I had to narrow down my recommendations, I think I’d probably say these two things: Prioritize relationships and adjust your expectations. It doesn’t matter how much you eliminate or how “clutter-free” you become if you don’t value people over things. If you become obsessed with the number of objects you have and lose touch with those you love most, you’ve accomplished little.

 

Kelvin: The Other Side Of Complexity is an interesting blog name. What’s the inspiration behind the name?

Mike: The name was inspired by a famous quote that has been attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

 “For the simplicity on this side of complexity, I wouldn’t give you a fig. But for the simplicity on the other side of complexity, for that I would give you anything I have.”

I’m not sure exactly what he meant, but here’s what it triggers in my mind: An idea of simplicity that doesn’t acknowledge the fact that life is complicated is naïve. However, there is a different kind of simplicity that is found when we don’t surrender and keep working toward our ideals.

That’s the kind of simplicity I am pursuing. To me, it’s a more realistic simplicity. Joshua Becker, of becomingminimalist.com, calls it “rational minimalism.”

Life isn’t always cut and dry. It can be difficult to navigate. But, if we work through the complication, we can find meaning and happiness.

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

Mike: Sure. Here are a few of my recent favorites:

4 Simple Tips for Becoming a Better Person

Priorities Change

6 Reasons Why You Should Question Your Beliefs

If you’re standing in crap, step out of it

 

Kelvin: I notice that time management is another one of your passions. Can you recommend a few tips to help us simplify our daily schedules?

Mike: There are SO many different perspectives on time management. Here are five tips to consider, no matter what tools or approach you use:

  1. Accept the fact that you can’t do everything.
  1. Get clear on what’s most important to you.
  1. Determine what you have to do to live for those things.
  1. Say “no” to anything else that hinders you.
  1. Find what motivates you and use it.

 

Kelvin: You and your wife have written several books to help individuals and families simplify their lives. Please share your top 3.

Mike: Writing these books has been an amazing exercise. We’ve had a great time working together, and we’ve really grown from the process! I’m not really sure how to decide on a “top 3,” so I’ll do it this way.

Most popular= Simpler: Declutter your life and focus on what’s most important

Most effort / Most proud of= James and The Big Battle: A Children’s Book about Allergies

Joint effort / Potentially most helpful for families= Living Clutter-Free with Kids in the House

 

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

Thank you!

Mike Burns is the founder of The Other Side Of Complexity where he inspires his readers to live a simpler lifestyle. You can follower him 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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