Tag Archives: minimalist

Minimalist Interview: Yolanda V Acree

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

Yolanda-Acress-Minimalist

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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Psychological Development of a Minimalist

by Kelvin Belfon

pyschological-development-stages-minimalist

Almost 3 years ago I became an accidental minimalist. I had a major life changing event that resulted in a move from the east coast to the Rocky Mountains. It was one of the most frightening times of my life.

I arrived in Colorado in the middle of a blizzard with very limited social contacts, a small townhouse rental, one car, a wife, two children, and a moving truck loaded with stuff and no job. Having to move into a very downsized home, we tried hard to accept what seemed life failure. Our estate was supposed to grow, not minimize, right? Yet, frustrated with the chaos that quickly accumulated in our basement, we decided to purge. I sold, gifted, donated, and discarded many of my attachments.

It was during the first 48 months of purging that my thoughts about material possessions (and the past I was trying to hold on to) somehow changed…one car-load of stuff at a time. The process was an emotional one.  It challenged and forced me to reprioritize certain ideals. But in the long run, the ability to say goodbye and to set free those things that represented parts of my history — my move to America, various international travels, rite of passages, expired friendships, family — in the long run, made my life better.

The following is an attempt to chronicle aspects of my minimalist evolution. I hope it helps to explain certain nuances of my journey that I have only hinted in previous posts. Oftentimes, people say that a thing is “life-changing” but without further definition, that phrase simply falls to the ground with no effect.

I hope what I’m about to share doesn’t do that. I am aware that everyone’s experience is unique and may not follow the sequence I’ve outlined here. You’re welcome to join in the conversation below and share your take on any part of this that hits home.

 

Psychological Development of a Minimalist

The crisis stage – “I have a problem.” There are several reasons why people embrace minimalism. For some, it starts with an innocent home de-cluttering project. For others, economic, medical or dietary issues create the impetus. For me, it was a job change and family matters. My conscious response to those two big issues is what resulted in my search  for a clearer sense of purpose and happiness. At the time, the whole episode was extremely painful. But what I didn’t realize was that my “discomfort” with life opened the door to the realization that I didn’t have to continue with things “as is.” I sensed there was much more to lose if I didn’t make a bold change. The desire and courage to make the second part of my life count was what resulted in my move towards minimalism. key concept: infancy, dilemma, enlightenment

 The curiosity stage“I’m not sure what to do?” Most people want simplicity but don’t know where to begin. I needed information, so I Googled “minimizing” and “de-cluttering.” In the process, one night I landed on Zenhabits.net by Leo Babauta. Soon after, I discovered Becoming Minimalist, Courtney Carver, and Tammy Strobel. What these writers were saying was so spot on that I would stay up late nights just reading through all their stuff. They were hitting buttons inside of me and before long, I was all-in with the minimalist world. What’s more, I felt empowered to find a community of like-minded people. I wanted to share thoughts with others out there walking away from challenging pasts, and determined to go into their next phase of life as uncomplicated as possible. One thing led to another, and goinguncomplicated.com was started.  key concept: hopelessness, exposure, learning

 The apprehension stage “I’m afraid to start.” Then a reality hit. How will I function without my stuff? What if I needed them later? What will people think about me? What will my family say when they visit? “Would my change stick?” These were all legitimate questions. The process of letting go can be a traumatic, and that’s the case even after you’ve done all the research and signed on to the idea. This is because our possessions are deeply personal.  Many of our belongings have stories that define how we understand ourselves: our first major purchase, a wedding gift, family heirloom, a business we’ve built. key concept: worry, fear, doubt, self-definition

The releasing stage – “I’m losing control!” De-cluttering can be an empowering experience. But before that happens, a death occurs. If much of what you are is tied to a social network that you belong to, a town you’ve grown up in, an occupation or a relationship, you might feel like the world is closing in when change happens. Your situation can get even more intense if you’re faced with the real possibility of getting rid of keepsakes connected to those things, events, and people. Here’s a good approach. Start purging the stuff that’s easier to deal with in each of the following categories: clothing, books, furniture, toys, appliances, and paper. Then tackle the more sentimental pieces once you gain courage, as recommended in the KondoMarie Method. This stage can take a day or weeks, months and even years. key concepts: action, surrender, separation anxiety, grief

 The disappointment stage – “What’s wrong with me?” I was happy about my de-cluttering progress. And then one day, I found myself sad and even angry about all that I seemed to have had to give up in order to carve out a path toward a better future. The overwhelming feeling of separation and loss can leave a person wondering, “When did I accumulate all this stuff?” “If only I hadn’t gone down that path, I’d be much better off than I am now.” “If I’d been a better custodian of my financial resources, things wouldn’t have ended up this way.” Or, “If I had done things differently or listened to certain people, that relationship wouldn’t be what it is today.” All these and so many other “what-ifs” have the potential of making us an emotional wreck. But we have to know that while this self-guilt is one of the worst parts of the process, it doesn’t have to have a lasting hold. You can move past it. key concept: confusion, guilt, shame, anger

 The gratitude stage“I’m thankful” There is no shame in owning material possessions. If you have them, this means that you are fortunate. So many people are “minimalist” not because they want to be but because of financial limitations and unfortunate circumstances. It’s a sobering reality. So as I decluttered my life, I had to give myself enough emotional separation from things to be able to tell the difference between what matters and what doesn’t.  This stage is key. If it’s not handled well, this is where people can experience defeat and regress. Thankfully, I pushed through the overwhelming feeling that I was somehow giving up more than I had bargained for. In the end, what remained — my wife and children plus surprise twins, a new job, a new house, and many other unplanned blessings along the way — gave me a renewed sense of appreciation for the time tested possessions and obligations in my life. The “disappointment stage,” more quickly than you’d expect, can and does turn into opportunity for gratitude. key concept: appreciation, contentment, obligation

 The empowerment stage“I can live without ______” Clutter does come back. But the more I de-clutter, the easier it becomes to live life without certain accessories. I now know what it feels like to enjoy freedom from holding onto attachments that in the end aren’t worth as much as I’d thought. I’ve also noticed that my consumption habits have changed. I often find myself asking the critical questions before I commit a new purchase. I’ve also become very interested in finding creative uses for what I already have and experimenting with how to make them serve multiple functions. It’s all about being creative and repurposing. key concept: detachment, freedom, independence

The wholistic stage – “It’s a lifestyle” In my infancy as a minimalist, I was mainly focused on de-cluttering my physical world. Overtime, the simplicity ideology started spilling over into other areas of my life — finances, relationships, time management, diet and even the environment. I must admit, I am far from mastering these areas, but at least I’m on my way. Life just feels so much more in-control. key concept: mindfulness, wholeness, experiences

How about you? What emotional or cognitive changes have you experienced in your simplicity journey?

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25 Simplicity Quotes by Religious Leaders

by Kelvin Belfon

25-Simplicity-Quote-Religious

 

Religion is a polarizing subject. We all have strong dogmatic opinions about our beliefs. It’s the reason we are often told to “keep your religion to yourself” in public.

But when it comes to minimalism, spiritual leaders throughout history appear to be unified in their theology. History is filled with religious men and women who have lived simple humble lives. They esteemed inward contentment, service to others and the expectation of a future reward.

When Gandhi died, he had less than 10 earthly possessions: his sandals, watch, eating bowl, prayer book, and spectacles. His life became the human billboard for proclaiming his message to India, and the world.

The Indian prince, Siddhartha Gautama, traded his earthly riches for spiritual enlightenment. As the first Buddha, he stated, “Joy comes not through possession or ownership but through a wise and loving heart.”

The Prophet Muhammad who ate simply, slept on the floor and lived with few belongings stated, “Wealth is not in having vast riches, it is in contentment.”

Jesus of Nazareth challenged the cultural thinkings around materialism and “love of money.” He encouraged his followers to, “… not store up for yourselves treasures on earth… but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…”

Physical possessions are not evil.

We need money and things to function in our society. The wisdom is not allowing them to master or control our lives. Own and use your belonging for the necessary functions they have in your live but always value your life and people much more.

 

25 Simplicity Quotes by Religious Leaders

The following are 25 Simplicity Quotes I’ve put together from different religious leaders. They are meant to inspire your simplicity journey. Please feel free to share them on your favorite social media platform.

  1. “Unnecessary possessions are unnecessary burdens. If you have them, you have to take care of them!” ~ Peace Pilgrim
  1. “Our souls are not hungry for fame, comfort, wealth, or power. Our souls are hungry for meaning, for the sense that we have figured out how to live so that our lives matter.” ~ Harold Kushner
  1. “The more you have, the more you are occupied. The less you have, the more free you are.” ~ Mother Teresa 
  1. “If each retained possession of only what he needed, no one would be in want, and all would live in contentment. As it is, the rich are discontented no less than the poor.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

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  1. “You may have occasion to possess or use material things, but the secret of life lies in never missing them.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
  1. “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.” ~ John the Baptist
  1. “Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” ~ Lao Tzu
  1. “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” ~ Confucius
  1. “To live a pure unselfish life, one must count nothing as one’s own in the midst of abundance.” ~ Buddha
  1. “If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things, then this is the best season of your life.” ~ Wu-Men  
  1. “If one had taken what is necessary to cover one’s needs and had left the rest to those who are in need, no one would be rich, no one would be poor, no one would be in need.” ~ Saint Basil 

Our-Souls-Not-Hungry-Fame

  1. “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” ~ Agur
  1. “Real happiness is cheap enough, yet how dearly we pay for its counterfeit.” ~ Hosea Ballou
  1. “Live simply so that others may simply live.” ~ Elizabeth Ann Seton
  1. “The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things.” ~ Elise Boulding
  1. “You have succeeded in life when all you really want is only what you really need.” ~ Vernon Howard
  1. “It is the heart that makes a man rich. He is rich according to what he is, not according to what he has.” ~ Henry Ward Beecher
  1. “We really must understand that the lust for affluence in contemporary society is psychotic. It is psychotic because it has completely lost touch with reality. We crave things we neither need nor enjoy.” ~ Richard Foster
  1. “One of the advantages of being born in an affluent society is that if one has any intelligence at all, one will realize that having more and more won’t solve the problem, and happiness does not lie in possessions, or even relationships: The answer lies within ourselves. If we can’t find peace and happiness there, it’s not going to come from the outside.” ~ Tenzin Palmo

Profit-Man-Forfeit-Soul

  1. “You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.” ~ Charles Spurgeon
  1. “Smile, breathe and go slowly.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
  1. “If one’s life is simple, contentment has to come. Simplicity is extremely important for happiness. Having few desires, feeling satisfied with what you have, is very vital: satisfaction with just enough food, clothing, and shelter to protect yourself from the elements.” ~ The Dalai Lama
  1. “For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life?” ~ Jesus of Nazareth
  1. “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”  ~ Jesus of Nazareth
  1. “People rush for complexity but they yearn for simplicity.” ~ GK Chesterton

Do you have a favorite simplicity quote you’ll like to share?

Check out TheSimpleWhiteRabbit.com for details on a some of these religious leaders and BecomingMinimalist.com for additional minimalist quotations.

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

Simple-White-Rabiit-Christy-King

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.

Christy-King-Minimalist-Quote

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.

Christy-King-Minimalist-Gradual

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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Minimalist Marriage Advice for Newlyweds

by Kelvin Belfon

Minimalist-Newlyweds-Marriage

“Love is a partnership of two unique people who bring out the very best in each other, and who know that even though they are wonderful as individuals, they are even better together.” – Barbara Cage

 

Recently I had the privilege of reuniting with a good friend. I drove 12 hours to the destination, stopping only once for 10 minutes. I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to see him and his fiancée.

I met my friend when he was only 16 years old in our youth group. He had a timid and reserved disposition. Over the years, I’ve witnessed him blossomed into a leader and thinker.

About year ago, Camilla and I had a surprise visit from him. We met for lunch and he talked about life, being almost done with his bachelor’s degree, and a girlfriend. He dreamed about his future with this girlfriend by his side, as his wife.

Within the year, he broke the news to me. They were engaged…and happy about the prospect of building a life together.

On Saturday, July 18th, Kevin and I stood at the altar side by side. Oh, I felt so old. It had been 8 years since we first met; he had become a man, and would soon be Savannah’s husband. It was a proud and emotional moment for anyone who knew him well.

During the ceremony, I was consumed with thoughts that lasted the duration of my 12-hour drive back home, “What might minimalist marriage advice for newlyweds be someone like Kevin?”

In my car, driving across the country, thoughts about my own marriage and so many others held my attention. I thought about the destination of some I knew back home who were seriously dating and a few friends who are newlyweds.

I thought about my own children. I know, they are so young but I couldn’t help wonder what their ideals might be when the time comes for them to start a family.

Camilla and I had our share of ups and downs since our “I do” moment about 16 years ago. But we’ve grown and continue to be best friends. The idea of trimming the fat in our lives and separating wants from needs is an ongoing exercise in precision. I’m no expert yet, but I thought it to be appropriate to share a few thoughts to newlyweds out there like Kevin and Savannah.

 

Minimalist Marriage Advice

Value your spouse more than your possessions. Relationships are more important than things. However, our actions tend to reveal the opposite when we spend long hours working and caring for excessive material possessions. In a report on the Psychology of Materialism, research finds a connection between struggling marriages and high levels of materialism among couples. Materialism can lead one to become less focused on nurturing his/her relationship with the opposite sex. Your spouse should never play second fiddle to the things in your closet, living room, garage or wealth. Value and love your spouse more than any of your possessions.

Take control of your finances. Couples bring unnecessary strain in the relationship when they start off their marriage living beyond their means. Bad financial problems continue to be one of the leading causes of divorce today. It addition, it can lead to distrust, constant conflict, depression, stress, and even bankruptcy. The obvious but not so fun solution – live on a budget, set aside an emergency fund, and start paying off debt. Another time-tested bit of advice – avoid credit cards, get-rich schemes, other forms of debt (gambling, opening lines of credit, etc), and learn to pay yourself first from every paycheck. That is, save at least 10% of your income. A great read is Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover.

Consolidate but stay true to who you are. It is conceivable that both partners could potentially bring together enough stuff to crowd out a home from the start. As such, you need to be even more ruthless in taking inventory, consolidating and pitching duplicate. Ask yourselves, “What do we really need?” Then minimize, keeping the things you absolutely love and can’t live without. Giveaway or donate those that will only junk up the new life you’re trying to build.

Broken, outdated, and personal items from past relationships should be purged. It’s a new season, be willing to let go and make room for the new person in your life. You are now one, a unit, and a team. Yet don’t feel threatened about losing your individuality.

Chose quality over quantity. Better quality items will last longer and save you time and money. If you received similar wedding gifts, pick the better quality item and exchange the rest for something you need. Better still, if you can, get the cash and pay off debt or save the money. When purchasing new furniture, appliances and other home items, select those that can serve multiple functions as they can sometimes conserve on space. Unless absolutely necessary, don’t rush the process. Exercise patience in accumulating good quality items instead of buying things you’ll need to replace frequently.

Do NOT compare your marriage with others. It’s a common mistake for newlyweds to compare themselves with other couples. Judging your marriage based on the examples of your parents, friends, mentors and even fictional characters in a book or movie is a distraction from discovering the potentials that lie within the walls of your own home. Don’t try to live up to the Joneses either! Some people have accumulated what they have through inheritance, gifts, or years of handwork. What they have may even be an avatar of the level of their indebtedness.

Another thing, don’t embrace negative marriage stereotypes. “When the honeymoon wears off, you’ll experience reality.” “When you start having kids things will get harder.” “When you…. [fill in the blank]. Sure you’ll encounter difficult seasons in life but every marriage is unique. You don’t have to live up to traditional expectations. Expect the best, be positive, patient and forge your own path! When you encounter a pothole, deal with it as a team and move on.

 

couples-wedding-simplicity

 

Spend your time making memories, not accumulating things. There is nothing wrong with material possessions. Newlyweds need certain basics possessions. But along the marriage journey, treasure moments with your spouse. Be intentional about seeking to create memories. These are more significant and long lasting. Avoid trying to impress each other with things tied to their monetary value during anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays. Invest in things with value tied to what your spouse means to you.

Stay healthy together. Do you remember the Freshman 15 syndrome? It’s when students would gain an extra 15 lbs in their first year of college as a result their unhealthy diet and more sedentary lifestyles.  Well, the same can be true for young married couples. Studies find that newlyweds are more likely to gain weight after the “I do” moment.  As such, newlywed should stay active by exercising or walking regularly. They should also eat a healthy diet that focuses on fresh vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes. Avoid eating box meals loaded with processed and GMO ingredients. In general, limit dining out on fast foods.

Communicate, communicate, communicate. I saved this one for last for a reason. It’s probably the most indispensable advice that you want to chew on after you’re done reading this article. The more newlyweds can share with each other, the more likely they’ll stay together for the long haul. Avoid keeping each other in the dark when it comes to your fears, career expectations, children, finances, frustrations and dreams. Keep the lines of communication open, constructive and honest. Be specific, not even the most talented spouse can read minds. Lastly, communication involves actively listening to your partner, even when you already know the answer to their question. It’s more about honor and respect than being right or having the last word in every verbal exchange.

What minimalist marriage advice would you like to share?

 

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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

The-Other-Side-Of-Complexity1

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.

 Mike-Burns-Family

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.

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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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Raising Children in an Excess Age

by Kelvin Belfon

Raising-Children-Minimalists-Excess

 

Pull out your Webster’s Dictionary, and have your child define minimalism. Then have them memorize a few simplicity quotes.

For a weekend assignment, have your child read Joshua Becker’s Becoming A Minimalist. “What does minimalism means to me?” would be a great topic for a 1-2 page report.

Finally, encourage your child to discard 10 of their toys, take down all bedroom wall decorations, clear out all cheap plastic trinkets made overseas.

I know what you are thinking.

“Kelvin, are you serious?”

We can all agree, this would be a highly radical method, bound to be received with a bit of resistance.

In our home, we avoid using minimalism terms when speaking to our 7 and 4 year olds. It’s not necessary. Plus, our children are not deprived of owning toys, games, musical instruments and of a decorated room.

I can’t assume my children will become minimalist by default. Minimalism was my choice, not theirs. It would be nice, but there’s no guarantee. But I can’t coerce them or demand absolute loyalty for the cause. What we can do as parents is to love our children unconditionally.

So how do I go about making this important to me message stick with my kids?

Be an example. Speak less and model more! Actions have more credibility with children. Make your child a priority and spend more time with them over caring for your possessions. Live out the lifestyle you’ll one day want your child to emulate. It’s the best way to communicate minimalism to your child as recommended by Courtney Carver.

Get your child involved. When my wife and I are working on a de-cluttering project, we sometimes involve our children. If it’s in their bedroom, they help decide what clothing item, book, or toy stay and what gets donated to charity. They may also accompany us to the donation center. Whatever conversation happens along the way we use to clarify ideologies, answer questions and develop interest in simplicity concepts.

Encourage your child to give. Children are inherently narcissistic. My children love the word mine! and I’m told I did, too. It’s normal. But encourage your child to give back and share with others. When possible, create opportunities for them to gift possessions to a friend, someone in need, or even better…their time, like serving in a local food pantry.

Minimize your child’s media consumption. Television commercials are a catalyst for materialism in children. “Ads exacerbate children’s desire for material things; and this desire gradually leads them to equate consumer goods with happiness and success,” says Suzanna Opree. I’m sure you’ve experienced the “Dad/Mom can I have _____?” after a TV commercial.

Remove the electronic box from your child’s bedroom. Set a TV viewing time limit. DVR your shows and fast forward through the commercials, opt for approved educational shows on Netflix or Amazon Prime and use a DVD player to avoid overexposure to commercials. Most importantly, discuss the ad messages with your children that they happen to view. This will empower them to make decisions on their own.

Help your child appreciate what they have. Our children are not entitled to everything they see. It’s just not realistic. My neighbor’s children have a garage full of the latest toys. What do I do when my children come home asking for what they’ve seen? Your answer, like mine, might be no even if you can afford it.

Also, sometimes having your child wait for an item or save up their own cash to purchase it helps them learn sacrifice and appreciation. Use these moments to teach about the values you wish to foster within your family without condemning other families.

Teach your child to value experiences. As parents we love giving things to our children, especially material possessions. It’s a valid expression of love.

But may I suggest that a much better gift might be to use occasional opportunities to teach our children to value the experiences they share with people. Going to the museum, camping in the backyard, making conversation as you go for a hike, or watching a movie with homemade popcorn are priceless events! What happens in those instances is what will be cherished forever.

“Live out the lifestyle you’ll one day want

your child to emulate.”

Raising children in an excess age has its challenges. We cannot totally shelter them from the influences of people who do not share our values or monitor all their media consumption.

Be patient. Love your child. Model your expectations. Focus less on seeking a minimalist label or ideal. Rather, teach them the timeless values of generosity, moderation and simplicity. You’ll still be successful even if they never call what they do minimalism.

 

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From Being Taken to Giving

by Kelvin Belfon

from Taken to giving_image

I’m a little late in saying this, but… Happy New Year! I pray good health, wholeness, and much success for you and your family in 2015.

I took a blog Sabbatical in October of last year to care of a few personal matters. So in this post, I’d like to highlight top accomplishments and events from last year.

Blog Review

In 2014 Going Uncomplicated experienced lots of growth. Here’s what contributed to that boon:

I’m grateful for all your encouraging comments, emails, and Facebook and Twitter messages. Thank you for supporting me through the first year of goinguncomplicated.com!

Relocation Gone Bad

In August, our landlord informed us of his desire to sell the townhouse we were renting. Though we might have wanted more room since the birth of the twins, we chose to be content with 1600 sq. ft. and maintained a minimalist mindset about our living space. Anyhow, the thought of moving with 4 children was a nightmare.

But by the end of September, the townhouse was under contract and on October 1, we found an even smaller 3-bedroom townhouse in a village-like neighborhood filled with very nice amenities for rent. After the second walk through, we decided it was the place. We were excited.

But the “new” landlord became unreachable after we locked in the signed contract with a down payment and the move never happened. In short, we were scammed and suffered a tough financial loss.

Our New Home
We were tired, had no home in the docket and our cash was limited. Being scammed was a difficult lesson to learn. Yet my determined wife decided to go after the impossible. Two days before Thanksgiving, we became homeowners. It was, simply put,  a miracle.

We are extremely grateful! The family has more space. The kids have a backyard. We have a sense of stability. And more importantly, we are home.

I’ve recently been asked, “So can you still consider yourself a minimalist now that you’ve bought the stereotypical ‘house with the picket fence’”? I’ll have much more to say about the implications of our home ownership in upcoming blog articles.

Trip to Haiti

Two weeks after moving into our new home, I took an 8-day trip to Haiti. It was my third time on the island but this time was special. My work colleague and I visited some schools, an orphanage, and the feeding programs of Mercy and Sharing founded by Joe and Susie Krabacher. And as a bonus for coming alongside that non-profit, we had the honor of bringing encouragement and hope to so many amazing people we met along the way.

I love the people of Haiti. I enjoy the culture, food and their beautiful beaches. But the staff of Mercy and Sharing made for the most impressive part of the trip. Every day, these people care for abandon children and the disabled, individuals who would otherwise have no hope. The Krabachers and their team of workers truly serve from the heart.

John Bunyan said, “You have not lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” This statement has become even more so true to me since my trip to Haiti.

In this life we’ll encounter disappointments. It’s inevitable. The key is to learn and fight through them. Be grateful and when possible help those in need.

More soon….

 

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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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10 Lessons Learned from Reducing Our Children’s Toys

by Kelvin Belfon

Reducing-Children-Toys-Minimalism

Who doesn’t like giving gifts to their children? It’s how we are wired as parents. I’m easily moved to buy toys for my children since I had few of my own as a child.

Growing up, I had to build my own toys most of the time. I made toys like spinning tops, kites, and playhouses from various parts of coconut and banana trees. We also enjoyed outdoor games like marbles, and hide-and-go-seek.

While living in Venezuela, around the age of 7, I received one of the best Christmas gifts ever. It was a black and white remote control car with multi-color flashing lights. My mom had saved up enough to buy the perfect toy. And I treasured it because it was one of the very few store-bought toys I had ever owned.

Things are so much different today. Without any effort on the part of my wife and me, our children can easily accumulate a huge amount of toys from friends and relatives alone. Toys easily flood our home from birthday parties, holiday gifts, freebies given out at events, and school events. It’s not surprising that the average American child receives roughly 70 new toys per year. And although only 3.1% of children live in America, they consume 40% of the world’s toys!

 

10 Lessons Learned from Reducing Our Children’s Toys

When my wife and I started decluttering our home, our toughest challenge was the children’s bedroom. Their toys were a major source of clutter yet we hesitated to get rid of ones we thought were special to them. Still, we remained committed to facing these kinds of challenges along our simplicity journey. In the end, we purged their room not once or twice but on several occasions. As I reflect over the last few months, here are 10 lessons learned from reducing my children’s toys.

1. The donated toys were not missed. Wanting to get rid of your child’s favorite toys is pretty gutsy move. Who can anticipate their reaction? To our surprise, life for our children continued as normal. They weren’t fixated on what we gave away but played with the toys that remained without any complaints.

2. The focus was on quality, not quantity. We had specific criteria for what we kept or tossed. Some toys are like dust collectors; they are cheap and serve no educational or creative value. Those got tossed first. Also, the size of the toy didn’t matter either. One quality toy is better than 20 oversized toys that junk up the place.

 3. Creativity was stimulated. Too many toys in a room can create overstimulation of varying sorts. Fewer toys encouraged more space to create, imagine, and invent new things.

4. Parent-child bonding was promoted. I’m often enlisted to help build space ships, helmets, shields, robots, musical instruments and more. These projects demand extra time and imagination. They don’t always look pretty; but doing them creates the most memorable moments. My children are proud of their accomplishment and value their time with dad because of it.

 5. Simple was just as fun. Sometimes my children are super heroes with a bath towel, Jedi knights with a piece of stick or the masked Zorro with construction paper. Have you noticed your child playing with an empty box instead of the $50 gift that came with it?

6. The bedroom was easier to maintain. Fewer toys meant over all less clutter, less organizing and less cleaning. What would take hours, now only takes minutes to complete. I love it!

7. Sharing was encouraged. I noticed my children playing and cooperating with each other even more. We also maintained a policy that whenever a new toy is brought into the home, one must be given away. It is our desire to instill gratitude, contentment and generosity in the process. My children have embraced this idea really well. They’re actually very eager to give away their toys to other children!

8. Children got involved. Before touching anything in their bedroom, we discussed the idea of decluttering to our children and involved them in the process. We even took them with us to the donation store. When it was time to tackle their toys, it was a natural progression as they helped decide what stayed and what was went.

9. Children were not as overly sentimental. We kept the toys that added value to our children’s lives and discard those that did not. It didn’t matter how the toys or who gifted them to us. We took an even bolder step in this process. To reduce waste, we communicated to our family and friends our preference for educational toys and museum and park memberships. Our friends and family are slowly but surely catching on to our ideals.

10. It’s not about the parent. We often try to relive our childhood through our children. The notion that, “I had little, so my child will NEVER experience lack,” is not reality or a good lesson to teach our children. The experience of lack is part of life.

Toys are important for a child’s social and mental development. This is why our children still own toys. But I do believe fewer toys can benefit children. I turned out to be all right with less and I think my children will as well.

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

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The Subconscious Minimalist

by Kelvin Belfon

subconscious-minimalist-minimalism

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

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

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

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

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

The Subconscious Minimalist use terminologies such as:

“I’m downsizing”

“I’m decluttering”

“I’m getting rid of debt”

“I want to spend more time with family”

“I need to slow down and redefine my priorities”

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

The tide is changing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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6 Simple Things to Add to Your Life

by Kelvin Belfon

6 Simple Things to Add to Your Life

I recently took a trip to our local Goodwill store. It was after my wife de-cluttered our kid’s bedroom, again. This has become the most challenging room thus far. I tackled a much easier project, the basement. The back car seats and trunk were filled with boxes, all containing clothes, toys, books, backpacks, and electronics. The pay off is that we’ve now reclaimed a good amount of space in both locations.

Since the whole family has been on board from the beginning, downsizing our living space and being more particular about the things we accumulate has been a collective effort. Our trips to the store have been reduced significantly. We are constantly learning how to live without excess.

But I’ve been asking myself what is the essence of a simplicity lifestyle. We tend to associate this simple living movement with ideas like, less is more, reducing, emotional detachment from things and recycling? Yet, I believe the simple lifestyle requires a more comprehensive description.

It’s also about embracing habits that promote wholeness, health, and fulfillment. It’s about adding the things that enrich our lives and make us better individuals. So, instead of focusing exclusively on eliminating or removing things, consider adding a few things.

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6 Simple Things to Add to Your Life

1. Me Time – This sounds narcissistic but we need more time to ourselves. We need time to think, meditate, decompress, and dream. Extra time is needed for the body to rest, heal and rejuvenate from the busyness of life. In some cases, our bodies need to catch up on much needed sleep. I’m often refreshed, empowered, and creative after my times of solitude.

2. Relationships – People are our most prized possession. Spending more time with our loved ones: spouses, children, family members, and friends is important. This is never automatic; it’s something we prioritize. My wife recently told me about the death of an old high school friend’s husband. The whole thing was so sad. The husband lost the battle to cancer. Events like these remind me of the brevity of life on this earth.  Let’s value the time spent with loved ones.

3. Memorable Experiences – Let’s be honest. We remember the memorable experiences shared with people far more than we do most purchasing events. The “good feeling” we get from buying things is really a temporary high. And it doesn’t take that long for consumables to become annoying clutter in our homes. Experiences, on the other hand, build stronger and longer lasting relationships. Instead of things, give people the gift of experiences. Spend some quality time spent with your children this weekend. Go hiking with a good friend. These are very simple ways of showing the people in your life that you value them with little to no money involved.

4. Financial Freedom – We need money but obsessing over it can lead to enslavement, frustration and regrets. Financial freedom is living unencumbered by debt. It’s having options, the power to choose. Financial freedom is knowing what’s enough and avoiding our culture’s need to accumulate. It’s no wonder that some the benefits of financial freedom are restful sleep patterns, low stress, and all around healthy mindset.

5. Healthier Diet and Exercise – Eating healthy and maintaining a regular exercise regimen can add longevity to our lives. Increasing our consumption of fresh, green vegetables and fruits in our diet is a better choice than opting for the processed, refined foods. The American Heart Associate says an extra 30 minutes of exercise per day can boost mental wellness, build immunity, reduce risk factors and prolong optimal health.

6. Spontaneity – This was much easier earlier in my married life. My wife and I took numerous unplanned, last minute, and exploratory trips. We are now a family of 6 with routines and schedules to keep us sane. Yet adding spontaneity to our lives is freeing. It gives us a sense of adventure and provides an opportunity to relax, smile, laugh, and create the memorable experiences mentioned above. So we have to be creative in this area. For example, take an unplanned trip to the mountains or go on a date with that special someone.

How about you, what would you add to your life?

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Twins And Minimalism

by Kelvin Belfon

Preparing for the Twins3

The twins are here!

Yes, we are excited to announce that our baby boy and girl were born March 8th. Words cannot convey our joy to finally see and hold our little ones.

When we moved to Denver last year our plans were simple: find stable employments, establish our home, and for my wife, begin PhD studies. We became even more focused on our priorities as we embraced the simplicity lifestyle.

We started de-cluttering all unnecessary possessions from our home. Among the things we discarded were maternity and baby items in storage for over 3 years. In our minds, we were done with having more children. Or, at least, so we thought.

Just one month after giving away all the maternity paraphernalia, we were both taken by surprise to find that Camilla was pregnant. Yet we continued with our minimalist commitment, resolving that one additional child would be easy to manage.

But my wife sensed something different about this particular pregnancy. She was much bigger than normal and had never experienced morning sickness with our previous children.

Then came the big news. During our monthly midwifery visit in January, we heard what sounded like 2 heartbeats. “How could this be?” I thought. An ultrasound was immediately requested and waiting for the appointment seemed like eternity. I reasoned even more, “We don’t have twins in our family!” But the doctor confirmed, “Yes, you are having twins and it looks like a boy and a girl…Congrats!”

I was speechless.

I waited a few days before going public. I was still in denial. When I finally did tell my family and a few friends, some replied in jest, “Thought you were a minimalist.” “Aren’t you guys going uncomplicated?” And, “You may need to change the name of your blog.”

Staying Focused

I’m told having twins can be a challenge with more sleepless nights, messy cleanups and overall expenses. It’s natural to justify more gadgets and gears around the house with this shift. We’re a family of 6 now! The game plan has to change now, right?

We do plan to purchase what’s necessary to accommodate our family growth; but even more so, we don’t want to go beyond and overextend ourselves. The concept of twins and minimalism will be challenging. But we’ve learned over the course of months to appreciate what we have and where we are in life.

Should we throw it all out now that we’re considered a big family? No, our plan is to embrace the challenge of discovering what it means to be a big family that remains faithful to a “less is more” ideal.

How this works for us is based on the following decisions we’ve come up with so far.

Housing – Remain in our 2 bedrooms, finished basement townhouse. We’ll need a larger space in the future but this will work in the interim.

Baby Room – Our first two children had specially decorated nurseries, but the twins will share space in the beginning with us in bassinets. Later on, all 4 children will bunk together.

Furniture – We purchased a couch to help my wife sleep during her pregnancy. Recently we’ve added 2 cribs and a comfortable chair for nursing.

Vehicle – This is not optional. We need a bigger vehicle, so we plan to sell or trade our 5-seat car for one that seats 7.

Minimalism Without Extreme

We had no idea that minimalism was preparation for our twins. We’ve been creating more space throughout our home for the last 12 months. What we didn’t know is that the space we created was so that we could accommodate more, not just more tangibles, but two more precious lives – our twins. It’s true. Sometimes our ability to receive more depends on our ability to reduce.

We understand the need to remain flexible and make necessary changes along the way. We are experiencing this already since our babies were born 2 months early. The daily visits to the neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU) for 6-8 weeks is an adjustment. We’ve placed a few de-cluttering projects on hold…even this blog. This is why knowing what really matters is important. And for us it’s our little ones and never our stuff.

Finally, I’m thankful for the loving support of our family and friends. The right relationships make all the difference in the world. They’ve helped in the middle of the night, cooking, giving, or just offering their love.

So, as it turns out, the going uncomplicated journey continues with more challenges, but even more wisdom and insight gained along the way.

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

 

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Not Every Space Needs to Be Filled

by Kelvin Belfon

Not Every Space Needs to Be Filled

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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The Journey Begins

by Kelvin Belfon

The Journey Begins

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

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

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

Then things started to change.

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

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

I believe we can make life easier.

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

My goals for this blog are to:

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

The journey begins!

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image by: Gillian Claudia Johnson-Baptiste

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