Tag Archives: simplicity

The More of Less by Joshua Becker

by Kelvin Belfon

joshua-becker-becomingminimalist

 

I just finished reading The More of Less. It’s by far Joshua Becker’s best book yet! The pages are filled with inspirational stories, biblical analogies, thought-provoking principles on consumerism and lots of practical decluttering tips.

The More of Less became a National Bestseller, with 15,000 copies in sales in the first two weeks on the market! This goes to show that the benefit of owning less continues to hit a deep chord in society.

The book goes beyond physical clutter and penetrates into visions of a life of purpose as the main payoff of minimalism. This idea may sound trite to some. Even so, as one with firsthand experience of the benefits of a minimalist mindset, having a sense of clarity in one’s life makes a profound difference in your day-to-day activities, not to mention your perspective on life challenges when they come.

Three and a half years ago, our family relocated to Colorado in order to pursue our dreams. We were excited about the possibilities that lie in our mountain Shangri-la. But after the initial walkthrough of our newly rented townhouse, we quickly realized the harsh reality of what it meant to move from an almost 2800 sq. ft. house in the suburbs to a 1600 sq. ft. townhouse in the city with no backyard.

I thought about renting a storage unit; but not wanting the extra monthly payments, dumped the excess in the basement. Over the next few days, I regularly cleaned and organized the boxes, bins, bags, toys, books, office supplies, furniture, and lawn equipment in our small home to keep the clutter at bay.

Then one night I discovered Becker’s Becoming Minimalist while perusing the Internet for ways to declutter. Becker’s articles helped me reduce excess possessions, which in turn had a positive effect on our family. With that, we became minimalists.

A year later, we discovered that by reducing, we in fact had made room in our lives for more. We learned that truth rather quickly when boy/girl surprise twins came along. We’ve also benefited in our relationships, home life and personal health. Minimalism isn’t a cool idea. It’s a game changer!

Below is my review of The More of Less by Joshua Becker.

 

The More of Less by Joshua Becker – Book Review

In The More of Less Becker makes a conscious decision to share the stories of other minimalists and not just his own. “To be clear, this book is not a memoir about my own journey in minimalism…the book isn’t about me. It’s about you,” he writes with a marked sense of humility in the first chapter. I love the diverse sampling of individuals and couples from various careers and cultures he gathers from all over the world.

The book offers a systematic approach to finding the life most people desire. The first section, chapters 1-5, deals with a philosophy of minimalism, to include definitions and popular misconceptions. Becker moreover outlines the impact of consumerism and how to curtail its negatives effects. This section is priceless (no pun intended).

For Becker, minimalism is all about living a life of purpose. “The ultimate benefit of minimalism is that it enables you to fulfill your greatest passion.” And the removal of obvious obstacles in our domestic, social and emotional atmosphere is one of the most time tested ways we can accomplish this.

One of the most challenging quotations in the book for me was, “Sometimes, parting with our possessions means giving up an image that we have created in our mind of the person we would like to become. Sometimes, minimizing possessions means a dream must die.”

I think we can all attest to the fact that at some point in our lives, how we’ve conceived of ourselves lacks direct correlation to the person that looks backs at us in the mirror. This myth of identity is better off confronted and smashed if we’re ever to end cycles of disillusionment and dissatisfaction about life.

The-More-of-Less

In the second section, chapters 6-9, Becker addresses the nuts and bolt of the decluttering process. If you are a beginner or feel overwhelmed, Becker has these comforting words, “You don’t have to start with the hard stuff. Start easy. Start small. Just start somewhere.” Those words, I hope will come to readers as a gentle encouragement that it’s okay to go easy and leave tough sentimental assets for the end.

Here the book deviates from KonMari method in some areas. What separates Marie Kondo from Becker is that he advocates decluttering room by room instead of by category. Within this thinking, the slogan “Keep only the best” cues the declutterer to perform a different set of mental analyses than what happens when Kondo followers hear her question, “Does it spark joy?”

In this regard, both Becker and Kondo’s methods are probing us to make decision based on the qualitative merits of our possession. Yet I found Becker’s approach to be slightly less cutthroat. Section two concludes with 6 helpful, yet fun decluttering activities.

The third section, chapters 9-13, is about preventative care. In other words, he answers the question, “How can I avoid relapsing into my old ways?” This section is so good! You won’t put the book down here. What especially became attractive to me was where Becker addresses the dilemma of practicing minimalism in a family or sharing space with someone who may not be onboard with minimalism.

The book is not just an instructional for seekers of a minimalist way. It is also a voyage along the watercourse of Becker’s own development. It opens with the remarkable story of Becker’s Memorial Day epiphany while cleaning his garage. But in chapter 13, the book concludes in Honduras and discusses Hope Effect, a non-profit organization founded by Becker to care for orphans.

One of the biggest lessons of the book for me is found in the diversity Becker brings. The truth I hear him illustrate is that although one may start the journey with just a simple need to declutter, minimalism is bigger than that and can have payoffs outside of our immediate reach.

Minimalism is about silencing the noise of excess in order to find your voice. It holds the possibility of opening up opportunities for generosity, displayed in our concern for others and the environment.

I certainly enjoyed my copy of The More of Less. Pick up a copy. It will be money well spent. If you have a copy of Becker’s new book and have worked your way through its pages, I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a line and let’s keep the conversation going.

 

Before you go

  • The More of Less GIVEAWAY! To enter to win a free copy of the book, leave a comment below. You can enter until midnight MST on Tuesday, June 21st.

 

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Simplicity Lessons from Kidtrepreneur Clara Isabel Logsdon

by Kelvin Belfon

Clara-Isabel-Logsdon

 

Meet Clara Isabel Logsdon. She’s a 9 year-old girl who resides in Franklin, TN. There’s no doubt, she’s the youngest businesswoman I have met.

Clara was introduced to me in a recent Coaching With Excellence workshop I attended hosted by Dan Miller. During the orientation, she stood up to promote the muffins she had for sale. Although her mother was nearby, speaking before a group of over 40 adults seemed to be a usual practice for her.

This kidtrepreneur is sharp on her math skills. She’s creative and has a gregarious personality. She’s both an excellent baker and talented artist with the paintbrush; and with those two skills, she’s learned how to earn income for herself.

Clara is an unschooler. Ashley, her mother and I had a fascinating discussion on the subject. If you wish to learn more about unschooling, check out Ashley’s MamaSaysNamaste blog or ZenHabits Unschooling by Leo Babauta.

On the last day of our training, I bought Clara’s book and greeting cards. The cards were 1 for a $1.00 or 12 for $10.00. So I got the bundle deal. What happened next was totally unexpected.

Then the young author and businesswoman asked me, “Would you like me to sign your book?”

“Sure,” I replied. How could I object?

Later, I waited in line to get a picture with Clara. When the moment was right, I asked her following questions. I hope her responses will be as enlightening to you as they were to me:

 Clara-Isabel-Me

How did you start selling books?

Paraphrased: Well, actually, I started selling muffins. Then I did greeting cards because it makes more money. Then I wrote the book with my grandma Yia-Yia (Joanne Miller).

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Paraphrased: I want to be an actress. I like acting. I make my own movies on iMovies and edit them. I like painting with watercolors, illustrating pictures for books and creating stuff. I also like creating images on canva.com and putting stuff on my website.

Oh, you have your own website?!

Paraphrased: Yes, I do. My 6 year-old sister, Ellie Rose has one too but not Juliet because she’s too little…she’s only 3!

What-If-It-Were-Possible

After my quick interview with Clara, I walked away challenged and inspired all at the same time. Out of the handful of speakers and new friends I met at that two-day conference, it is quite possible that I learned the most from little Clara. She has forced me to take an honest look back on my journey.

You see, children are sages. They teach us truths that we have either become too busy or too complicated to see. If you have little ones or care for them, you know what I mean.

The biggest lesson I learned was to be child-like in your attitude towards life. Clara’s book title, “What If It Were Possible?” says it all. Dream big. Use your imagination. Set no limits to your creativity. Be bold, fearless and productive without worrying about perfection.

Helpful Notes 

  • Need a motivation with your decluttring projects or with simplifying your life? I’ll be launching a Simplicity Coaching Program. Stay tuned!
  • Lastly, would you like a FREE copy of Clara’s book, “What If It Were Possible?” or her original set of twelve greeting cards? Simply leave a comment below. The book will be the first drawing, then the greeting cards. Winners will be announced on May 24th and contacted via email. Only US shipping, please. Thanks.

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Let’s Declutter Without Being Wasteful

by Kelvin Belfon

decluttering-wastefulness-minimalism

 

In the United States we throw away 40% of the food we produce. That’s approximately $165 billion worth of food each year. That’s like the average American household tearing up $2,200 in cash each year. That’s mind blowing!

We are also wasteful in our consumption of non-essential goods. This is anything ranging from precious metals, like jewelry, to electronics, trendy gadgets and appliances. It’s a shocking 1.2 trillion a year on things that we could be happy living without.

Yet, economists argue that purchasing them is the key to our economy’s growth. I get it. We have to keep dumping fuel in the fire to keep it going. But, for what?!

Doesn’t that habit only put Americans on a cycle of wastefulness? We buy things we don’t need that give us a temporary sense of fulfillment. When we are tired of them or they quickly lose our interest, we just toss them without giving a second thought to the matter of where they will end up.

One recent article on money shows that about 10.5 million tons of clothing hit the landfills each year! And while clothes are essential, this study includes that Americans are now buying 5 times the amount of clothes than they actually need.

When I began to embrace minimalism, I did so partly because of my concern for how I was contributing to such a wasteful lifestyle. In minimalism, we are called to minimize our needs and haves, de-clutter, downsize, reduce and just simply, get rid of our stuff.

One blogger, after reading Marie Kondo’s, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up took 20 garbage bags of stuff straight to the trash. Some bags contained outdated and obsolete gadgets while others contained items like uncomfortable shoes, never-used handbags and scarves. They were all discarded, even the new clothing. “Out. Out. Out. Damned clutter,” wrote the author.

Such an all-out-war on clutter is a commendable decision. Our clutter mostly comes into our lives as amicable friends. But over time, this innocent relationship quickly turns into an unhealthy obsession, consuming our lives and physical space.

Yet, along with many of Jessica’s readers, I thought as I read, “why such waste?”

As I read, I reflected on my life as a boy. I was raised on little so I had to care for and cherish what I did have. I repurposed old things to make new uses for them… over and over again. I wore shoes till they had holes and then would take them to the shoemaker for repair. So as I read Jessica’s post, I cringed at the degree of wastefulness implicated by her throwing away perfectly good things.

A balance between decluttering and being wasteful was recently brought to my attention by our 8 year-old son. My wife and I had wanted to get rid of extra kiddie cups and dishes, some of which our son was still very fond of having.

As my wife insisted that he make a choice on just a few of his favorite cups that he wished to keep, tossing the rest, he reasoned to her, “Why should we throw away something that is in perfectly good condition just to add it to the landfills, where it will sit there for a long time without breaking down?”

This led me to ponder his question.

Can we become hoarders by sticking to the old waste not want not adage? Yes, yes, yes! But minimalism doesn’t have to be wasteful either. You can live with less without filling up landfills with your want-nots. What to do with unwanted stuff  provide some alternatives to throwing out clutter.

If you are like me and can de-clutter your possessions…good. Consider yourself blessed. Fortunate. Comfortable and better off than many people around the globe!

So let’s be grateful for what we’ve been given. Let’s think about others. It’s not always about us, even when pursuing a simple lifestyle. And let’s remember to care for and be responsible to our planet.

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My 30 Days No Meat Challenge – Review

by Kelvin Belfon

No-Meat-Challenge-Review

 

In January, I went for a full month without eating meat. It was an experiment I called My 30-Day No Meat Challenge.

I’ve been thinking about going vegetarian for quite some time; but the timing wasn’t always right. Well, last month I decided to take the plunge.

I committed to just a few personal ground rules:

  • No red meat or processed versions of pork, beef, lamb or mutton.
  • No poultry or processed versions of chicken or turkey.
  • Explore other non-meat, plant based protein sources, giving preference to those sources that are least processed. Produce will make up the bulk of my meals.
  • Yes to fish, but I won’t consume it to the degree that it’s just a replacement for the meat I’m cutting out.
  • I will evaluate the experiment after 30 days to see if it’s something I could continue over a much longer period.

Well, after a month without meat, I’ve made a few discoveries that I wish to share with you.

 

My 30-Day No Meat Challenge in Review

  • In the beginning, the challenge was more difficult than I thought. My appetite for meat appeared to be heightened. Savory meaty meals were everywhere!
  • On one occasion when I attended the Martin Luther King Jr. African American Heritage Rodeo with the family, as soon as we entered the coliseum, I was smacked with the smell of all kinds of barbecue. It was pretty tempting. The year before we ordered barbecue turkey legs and chicken kabobs. In spite of all that, we didn’t relapse because we had a plan. Instead, we snacked on foods we’d packed ahead of time that meet with our Challenge guidelines.
  • As the month went on, the Challenge became much easier. I think this was because my family participated. We also limited restaurant dining out to only one time that month. In the last week our children had chicken but that was ok since I felt that the experiment was really mine in the first place.
  • I consumed salmon three times. Two times at home and the other when our family dined at a Japanese restaurant.
  • An area of concern was my protein intake. I worried because there’s a perception that vegetarians don’t consume enough protein. So I consumed lots of cashews, almonds, pistachios, flax seeds, eggs, cheese, beans, spinach, almond milk, etc as recommended by my resourceful wife and my good friend Terri. I plan to read more on the subject to lift this cloud of doubt.
  • My social interaction with family and friends was also a concern. Again, not eating out helped alleviate this potential problem. But, overall, most people were not only understanding but also supportive and encouraging. I’m also grateful for the comments, links of meals and resources you supplied. Much appreciated!
  • Breakfast was the most difficult meal by far. In general, I’m not a breakfast person. As such, it seemed like there were less choices after eliminating meat from my diet. I did however, become pretty expert at making all kinds of smoothies. The kids seemed to enjoy this and made special requests for my smoothie concoctions.
  • This said, I was not as prepared for my no-meat challenge as I might have been. The meal preparation process in our home is typically on autopilot. However, when the children were hungry, I found myself throwing things together more often than I wanted. I kind of felt like a fish out of water, not exactly sure what to cook at times during the experiment. I’m grateful for my talented wife when this was the case. She saved the day each time.
  • I did branch out with a few original dishes on my own. But the bottom-line is that I need to learn to cook more vegetarian cuisine. I’ve been a carnivore all my life, cooking meaty meals with no need for a recipe. I cook on a natural instinct so vegetarian cookbooks are a bit intimidating. I’ll have to be aware of this and get courageous with vegetarian cookbooks or online recipes from here on.
  • On some days my energy was a bit lethargic. I believe this was due to me not eating a proper breakfast.
  • I wish my experiment had had a scientific element. A visit to my doctor and a nutritionist might have helped a lot or taking blood samples before and after my challenge to gauge any changes.
  • My no-meat challenge reminded me of how powerful our minds can be. It was hard saying no to some of my favorite dishes. I know 30 days is not a long time, but I was able to say no even when my desire was saying the opposite. I consider my challenge a success in this area.
  • In some cases, my no-meat challenge became deeply spiritual in nature. There are people who have no choice about their meat consumption. When I abstained from meat, I felt a connection with my brothers and sisters who lived in abject poverty.

What’s next?

I do miss and still crave a few of my favorite meaty meals. So much of my Caribbeanness is centered around food.

A few questions that come to mind at this point are these:

What about the cultural implications of my no-meat diet? Will I be drawing attention to myself when eating with my Caribbean family and friends?

What about my international, humanitarian trips? I’m big on socializing with the locals over meals, which in most countries centers around meat. What will I do when a vegetarian diet is not available?

I think that from here on, I’ll stick to the original no meat rules, but allow a little bit of fluidity when I travel. I need more time to continue learning and exploring before committing to this new diet. 30 days was not enough time.

What are your thoughts?

Last, I was featured on YolandaVAcree.com. I had fun doing this interview where I shared about minimalism, relationships, priorities and more. Check it out here.

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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.

Yolanda-Acree-Quote

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.

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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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My 30-Day No Meat Challenge

by Kelvin Belfon

No-Meat-Challenge

I’ve been thinking about my meat consumption. Over the years, a few casual conversations, documentaries and books have caused me to question my food choices.

Here is a little personal background.

I grew up an omnivore. In Grenada I consumed fish, chicken, beef, pork, mutton, and lamb. Meat was the main part of every meal. One of my favorite dishes is curry chicken, rice and peas, fried plantains, and a side salad. Yum!

When I migrated to the United States I piled on more meat. As I got exposed to American favorites, I added those to my menu of choices hamburgers, steaks, turkeys, BBQs, and traditional island cuisines such as jerk chicken.

Because I am naturally skinny, I’ve never felt the need to pay much attention to the health risks involved in consuming too much meat. But lately, I’ve been doing some soul searching.

You see, our meat is not what it used to be.

This is the case in America as much as it is in the islands, which have seen a significant increase of imported meats. The animals we eat are injected with an alarming amount of hormones to increase production. Then there are factors of inhumane animals practices that I’ve learned about over the recent years. The treatment of animals raised for food is deeply troubling me.

The health reasons are also significant:

Like most American, I’ve maintained an arms length awareness about the risks of consuming too much meat. Giving up meat altogether is a difficult decision. There’s a certain emotional payoff that comes with meat eating especially when it’s a central part of celebrations and holidays. Also, in my mind, a dish without meat is incomplete. It’s a reminder to me of poor upbringings.

So My 30-Day No Meat Challenge is just as much a health challenge as much as it is a reshaping of how and what I think about meat. It’s a test of my personal boundaries. I want to push the limits of my thinking to see what my life would be without consuming meats for the next 30 days (I started January 1).

Here’s my personal ground rule:

  • I will not consume red meat or any processed version of pork, beef, lamb or mutton.
  • I will not consume any poultry or processed version of chicken or turkey.
  • I will explore other non-meat, plant based protein sources, giving preference to those sources that are least processed. Produce will make up the bulk of my meals.
  • I won’t exclude fish in this experiment, but I won’t consume it to the degree that it’s just a replacement for the meat I’m cutting out.
  • I will evaluate the experiment after 30 days to see if it’s something I could give up over a much longer period.

I’d love to hear from other about this subject. Have you given up meat before? If so, what were the challenges you faced?

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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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

Unneccessary-Possessions-Burdens

  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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Uganda On My Mind

by Kelvin Belfon

Uganda-10-Things-Learned-Heroic

 

Uganda is a beautiful country!

In 1908, Winston Churchill said, “The kingdom of Uganda is a fairy-tale…The scenery is different, the vegetation is different, the climate is different, and, most of all, the people are different from anything elsewhere to be seen in the whole range of Africa.”

Then Churchill concluded, “Uganda is truly the pear of Africa.”

Several features make Uganda a unique home:

Home to 11% of birds found in the world

Home to a significant segment of Africa’s largest lake – Lake Victoria

Home to the source of the Nile River – one of the 7 natural wonders of Africa

Home to the Tallest Mountain Range in Africa – The Rwenzori Mountains or Mountains of the Moon

Home to over half of all of Mountain Gorillas in the world

Home to more butterflies of varying colors than any other East African Country

Home to over 50 varieties of bananas, Ugandans consume more bananas than any other nation in the world outside of Brazil!

But as mentioned in Mama Africa: Highlights from my trip to Uganda, of all the things I enjoyed about Uganda, its people topped my list. They are a friendly people. And because their culture emphasizes hospitality, they are not only welcoming to travelers, significantly, they care for their own!

I had the opportunity to meet a young lady called Sherifah. She had been abandoned by her husband and forsaken by her family. She had little food and lived in a mud hut that was falling apart with no door, no furniture and not even a bed.

Sherifah is blind and has four children.

But a young man named William reached out and became her advocate and protector. Through the HFF Sherifah received a new home and now lives in safety with her children.

This family’s life changed because someone cared. Sherifah’s story, in my mind, fits into the category of special. In a world where people are often too preoccupied with their own problems, it would be easy to overlook a poor, blind mother of four.

To go the extra mile in committing oneself to looking out for Sherifah is a question of compassion, human consciousness and ethics. William shines in my mind as a hero.

 

Sherifah-I-Uganda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Heroic Habits I Observed in Uganda

1. Speak up for the voiceless. There are needs all around us. We can show charity to people even in our own “backyard.” Advocate for the unpopular, outcast, discriminated and persecuted.

2. We can do more when we collaborate. In Uganda, The Lone Rangers rarely succeed. There is strength in community. Instead of competing, consider networking with others. Build healthy friendships and teams. When possible, don’t burn bridges.

3. Show your appreciation. One of the families we saw started cooking for us around four in the morning. They rented a small tent and chairs for our comfort. They went the extra mile decorating the table with flowers and their children sang for us. Saying “thank you” would have been what we might have anticipated.

We had come to Uganda with a significant amount of gifts. But what will make this family stand out in my mind for years to come, is how they used their everyday resources to show how much our presence meant to them.

4. Give people a hand-up. Giving people money or gifts is a very basic way of showing compassion. But if unchecked, being someone’s financial benefactor can also harbor laziness, dependency, and can quickly lead to abuse.

A more sustainable approach may be to empower people to turn resources into financial gains so that they can achieve independence and self-sufficiency. Self-worth and a sense of competence increases when people learn to do things themselves.

5. Be content with what you have. We don’t always need the next best thing if we can’t afford the payments. Practice restraint and learn to enjoy certain possessions till they wear out. It’s not only good for your budget but also for the environment.

6. Never despise small beginnings. High School graduate Britney Forsteid met a friendly waiter named Jackson in Kirugu, Uganda. The two had several casual conversations and “exchanged hopes, dreams, smiles and laughter.” Several months later the Mount of Olives Nursery Primary School was birthed with over 400 children enrolled today! Your dreams are never too small.

7. Leave your mark on the planet. What will be your legacy? Will others miss you when you’re gone? Our time on earth is limited. So avoid trivial pursuits and do something significant using your talents and abilities for good.

8. Respect your elders. In Uganda, the government recognizes individuals over 60 years. Some of these individuals are active in the public affairs of their communities. The system is not a perfect one; but it was refreshing to see the younger generation honor and defer to their elders for wisdom.

9. A determined woman is a powerful force. The women’s entrepreneurial group I visited started because they wanted to help support their families and send their children to school.  The group turned a few hours of business coaching and a $1,000 U.S. gift into a tent and chair rental business.

In addition, the group doubled in sized from 35 to 70 members. From their revenue, they now extend small business microloans to their members. Oh, their account balance is now over  $4,000 U.S!

10. There is always a way. I heard the ice cream van sound effect while descending the hills of Mpigi. In the rearview mirror was a man on a motorcycle. He passed our vehicle and stopped ahead to sell his refreshing ice cream to passer-bys. Success is sometimes unorthodox. It involves vision, creativity and hard work.

What other habits would you add to the list?

 

Sherifah-Old-House-Side View-Uganda

 

Sherifah-Old-House-Bedroom-Uganda

 

Sherifah-New-House-Uganda

 

Sherifah-New-House-Bedroom-Uganda

 

Ice-Cream-Man-Uganda

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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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Calla’s Minimalist Story

by Kelvin Belfon

Callas-Minimalist-Story

Last month, I published 16 Decluttering Tips from The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The article was my review of Marie Kondo’s book. This book has been one of my most thought provoking reads on the subject of decluttering.

Calla, a reader, thanked me for the review. She then downloaded the book a day later and commented, “I have to admit I will be joining her [Marie Kondo] cult following!”

Much later, there was another comment, “Ok, so I am a full on follower!…I completely changed my [decluttering] belief…I can’t thank you enough Kelvin for your motivating review.”

I was encouraged and inspired. Calla shares her minimalist story with us. Enjoy!

My name is Calla and I’m from the Great Pacific Northwest state of Oregon.

I didn’t think I had clutter because my possessions were always organized and out of sight. When I moved 10 years ago from a 1300 sq ft condo to a house with 1500 sq ft, I was surprised at how much stuff I had accumulated. Carrying those boxes down three flights of stairs inspired the simplicity bug in me.

Immediately, I got rid of 5 boxes of stuff and got rid of at least one box every month for 10 years. My strategy was simple: declutter one item that I didn’t need each day.

But it was challenging to keep up with the clutter. As more room became available in closets and in the garage, people wanted to store their stuff in my house. In the beginning, I agreed to their request for a few months. But now, I just say NO.

After reading Kelvin’s review of Marie Kondo’s 16 Decluttering Tips from The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I still believed my daily decluttering method worked just fine for me. But then I checked out Marie’s YouTube video on the folding method and vertical storage and got hooked.

I decided right then and there to download the book.  After reading it, I stayed up and reorganized my wardrobe. I even got rid of 5 plastic storage bins!

marie-kondo-calla

What I liked about the KondoMari Method is her idea of keeping items that only spark joy. I bought a suit in London that I only wore once every couple of years; but it makes me happy and brings back memories of that trip every time I see it.  So I kept it. This concept for me was a shift from other methods that advocate tossing things that aren’t being used on a regular basis.

Another concept I like is decluttering by category not location. It was a wake-up call for me to see how much of a particular item I actually have. When items are stored and used in several locations, it’s easy to be unaware of your inventory.

calla-declutter-kondomethod
My advice for those who are thinking about taking the simplicity route, read this book, check out YouTube videos, and then take the plunge. If it doesn’t suit you, you can always stop.  To start, the order that is recommended in the book serves the KondoMari Method, so I would stick to it.  I’m only half way through her categories and plan to finish them all.  The categories I have done have proven to be worthwhile.

At the very least, check out the folding & vertical storage on YouTube video!

Calla, thank you for sharing your story with us!

If you have an inspiring discovery in your approach to decluttering, please share it with us. Also, do you have a simplicity story you’d like to share?

Send an email to goinguncomplicated@gmail.com

Finally, I would like to take this time to thank everyone for being a reader of GoingUncomplicated.com. I appreciate your comments, messages, Facebook and Twitter shares. You’ve encouraged me along the journey.

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The Art of Meaningful Conversation

by Kelvin Belfon

art-meaninful-conversation

“Clutter isn’t just the stuff in your closet. It’s anything that gets between you and the life that you want to be living.” – Peter Walsh

 

Mastering the art of meaningful conversations is a key to advancing your life goals.

Two weeks ago, I was offered an amazing opportunity. I shared the good news with my wife Camilla and a few close friends. Then I called my mother and did the same. She was excited and happy for me.

Five minutes into our conversation, I began to doubt. I started to explain to mom why the opportunity wouldn’t work. She listened then interjected in a stern motherly tone. She encouraged me to stop the negative thinking and, “clean up your vocabulary!”

I was offended at first but she was right…again!

It was also confirmation of a certain aspect of minimalism that I have been subconsciously brewing.

In my opinion, it’s a mistake to limit minimalism to just the physical.

Clutter comes in various forms. And oftentimes, if we don’t get mental clutter in check, everything else we try to accomplish in our physical space becomes burdensome and unsuccessful. In my case, it was through a conversation with my mother that I was reminded of excessive verbal clutter resident in my own speech.

Words are powerful. They can create doubt and fear or inspiration and greatness. We might even say that words shape reality. Yet, all too often the conversations we have with ourselves are that part of life we consider last on the list of things needing tidying up.

What we say to ourselves, I believe, is the most important conversation we’ll have.

Negative self-talk only leads to us spinning our wheels rather than soaring ahead in life. We limit our potential. We invoke hopelessness into an otherwise promising future. We also reduce the probability of accomplishing challenging goals when we engage in pessimistic self talk.

There is an art to meaningful conversation and the key lies in the dialog that goes on inside of us.

The conversations we have with others can either be meaningful or superficial. They can engage our challenges and provide new and stimulating directions for the future.  Or they can reinforce negative self talk that stunts growth. They can even digress into empty gossip or a judgmental spirit. This is superficial and a waste of time.

Less is more and this also applies to conversations we have with others.

Let your conversations count. Let them be meaningful.  Be truthful. Say what you mean. By doing so, you’ll reflect a more accurate picture of who you are; and, as such, relationships are less complicated. We avoid potential toxic conversations with this focus.

If we are to make progress in our minimalist journey, we must master meaningful conversations.

These few suggestion I’ve since found useful in keeping my conversations meaningful. Use brevity and get to the point. It’s okay to keep your conversations short. Avoid empty redundant dialogue and exclamations that only amount to over-exaggerating your reality.

 Respect the value of other people’s time. Listen and ask questions. Be positive, helpful and build others up, even when correcting others. Finally, let love be your motivation for sharing your thoughts with others.

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16 Decluttering Tips from The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

by Kelvin Belfon

Kondo 16 Decluttering Tips

 

I recently read the highly popular The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by 30-year old, Japanese consultant and home-organizing guru Marie Kondo. It was an amazing read!

Kondo has attracted a cult like following on tidying up. She promises that, “When you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too.” As a result of her popularity among those who are looking for order in their lives, she has sold over 2 million copies of her book worldwide.

Once I picked up The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I couldn’t stop reading. The content was bold, provocative, unconventional, yet easy to implement. To say the least, everything I’ve learned about decluttering was challenged.

On a negative note, The KonMari Method might be a little unrealistic for large families. In my experience, decluttering is an ongoing process, not a one-time event when you have children. The book also didn’t address how to deal with children and their toys, a major source of clutter.

Overall, I highly recommend the book and would like to share 16 decluttering tips from it.

 

16 Tips from The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

  1. Declutter in one shot, not little by little. If you tidy a little each day, you’ll be doing it forever. When it’s done in one go, you’ll see how much stuff you really own. This can create an emotional shock value which can alter our behavior.
  1. Discard first, organize later. “Do not even think of putting your things away until you have finished the process of discarding,” says Kondo. Decide where things should go only after you’ve discarded what you don’t need.
  1. Sort by category, not by location. We are trained to tidy the bedroom, living room, kitchen and rest of the house. But Kondo says this is a fatal mistake. When we declutter by location, we repeat the vicious cycle in other locations. Purge by category such as: all your clothes, books, and so on.
  1. Begin with the end in mind. Ask yourself, “What do you hope to gain by decluttering?” Visualize your destination because tidying up is just a tool, not the final destination says Kondo!MarieKondo
  1. Choose to keep only what “sparks joy.” Most minimalists and decluttering experts emphasize elimination or discarding. A much better approach, argues Kondo, is to focus on keeping the things that “spark joy” or makes you happy. In essence, the true art of minimalism is removing the non-essential so we can enjoy those things that do matter.
  1. Handle each item then let go with gratitude. Pick up each item, feel it through our fingers and ask the question “Does this spark joy?” If it does, keep it. But then express your gratitude to the things that fulfilled their role or purpose in your life. “Thank you for giving me joy when I bought you” or “Thank you for teaching me what doesn’t suit me.” This anthropomorphic treatment of our possessions, argues Kondo, will make it easier to release our sentimental possessions.
  1. Start de-cluttering the easy stuff. People get stuck and self-sabotage their efforts by purging sentimental belongings first. But when you begin with the easier things, you are better prepared to tackle the mementos later on. Kondo recommends simplify in the following order:
  • Clothing
  • Books
  • Paper
  • Miscellaneous
  • Mementos such as photos, love letters, childhood stuff, etc
  1. Resist the urge to repurpose clothes into loungewear. Avoid keeping torn or worn-out clothing just because you may use them later to relax around the house or use them as pajamas.
  1. Don’t let your family see. Once you’ve decluttered, avoid getting your family involved because they’ll want to keep your stuff because of their sentimental value.
  1. Focus on your own clutter. Getting rid of other people’s things (i.e. family members or friends) without their permission won’t help them. Instead, it could risk jeopardizing the relationship. Lead by example, tidy up our own stuff!
  1. Remove your books off the shelf and put them all on the floor. Books you’ve read have been experienced argues Kondo, so let them go unless they “spark joy” when you touch them. Release unread books as well, since maybe their purpose was to teach you that you didn’t need it in the first place.
  1. Discard the majority of your paper clutter. To help decide what to keep, Kondo provides 3 categories: papers currently in use, paper that need to be kept for a limited period and those that need to be kept forever. This does not include love letters or journals. All legal documents should be kept, if unsure, seek the counsel of a professional.
  1. Storage experts are hoarders. Expensive, sophisticated commercial organizing storage methods don’t help us reduce clutter. They are only temporary solutions at best. Kondo write, “The secret to maintaining an uncluttered room is to pursue ultimate simplicity in storage so that you can tell at a glance how much you have.”
  1. Store things vertical, never pile. When items are stacked, storage possibilities become endless, things in the bottom get lost and squashed. Vertical storage encourages you to notice the clutter as it develops because it takes up space.
  1. Don’t scatter storage spaces throughout the house. Clutter accumulates when we fail to return items where they belong. Thus, store items of the same category in the same location vs. throughout your home because of convenience.
  1. Give every possession a home. Clutter will develop when items do not have a designated storage location. Decide where you are going to put things after they’ve been used.

Have you read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying? If so, what were your thoughts?

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What to do with your unwanted stuff

by Kelvin Belfon

Unwanted Stuff

Yesterday was a good day.

I was outside mowing the grass and raking the leaves from the lawn. It’s sweaty work but I enjoy the fresh air, the little exercise and the mental break from my normal routine.

Then my daughter and I started cleaning up the garage. In the process I noticed 2 boxes filled with stuff we had gathered throughout the house a few weeks ago. The intent was to take them to the donation store.

But I had some hesitation while loading the car trunk. You see, some of these items were valuable and in good condition. Should I sell, giveaway or just donate as originally planned?

It’s a question people have asked me in the past. So I’ll like to explore a few options below.

 

What to do with your unwanted stuff?

Sell your still-worth-something items

I was unemployed when I began minimizing my possessions. I donated my unwanted belongings, but then started selling them to help earn extra income.

One time I sold a dictionary set for $403.98! That aided in our rental payment. In addition, I sold clothing, household items, small appliances, furniture, movies, and old cell phones and more.

Turn your unwanted clutter into cash! Use websites such as Amazon, eBay, Craigslist, Etsy and Facebook’s Garage Sale Groups. You can also organize your own yard/garage sale, use a consignment store, pawn shop or antique store.

But selling is not for everyone! It’s hard work, like hosting a yard sale. Online can be time consuming as well, like taking pictures, uploading images, driving to the post office or connecting with buyers.

The biggest disadvantage though is the loss of momentum in the de-cluttering process. When you decide to sell, items may sit in transit – in a room, attic or garage for months before being sold. So an alternative plan is turning them over to a new home.

 

Give away your need-a-new-home items

If your unwanted clutter is still in decent shape, consider giving them away. Freecycle is a great place to trade, barter or give away things still in good working condition.

Let me clarify this point.

Contrary to popular belief, one man’s junk is not always another man’s treasure. If it’s broken, missing parts, worn out, and seen its last days… discard it. Do yourself a favor, don’t try to pawn it off on others just because you’re still stuck on the sentimental web of having it. Stop yourself from making a fatal mistake and skip to my last option below.

Now that I’ve clarified what I mean by good condition, let’s move on.

There are people all around whom for whatever reasons, struggle to purchase brand new things. Thrifty stores are not always cheaper either. So bless someone with what you have lying around and never plan on using again. Let them have it…for free! Believe me, you’ll still function just fine.

Most often, we are the answer to someone else’s prayer. Rather than pray or wish a person well; give what you’ve got. One of my friends was overjoyed when I gave him a few of my books he was planning to purchase. Yet, they were collecting dust on my bookshelf.

The experience of giving our need-a-new-home items has taught me and my wife something about gratitude. Giving your stuff away is a luxury that not everyone can enjoy. And giving without expecting anything in return is the essence of real giving.

 

Donate your good-for-a-cause items

The idea of hosting an 5 hours a yard sale for little return or meeting up with potential Craigslist buyers may not be your thing. You’ve gone through the trouble of de-cluttering, now you want the clutter gone sooner than later.

Then consider donating. It’s by far the easiest and most convenient method.

Simply collect your unwanted items, load them up in your car and then drop off at a charity store such as the Salvation Army or Arc Thrift Stores. These agencies will accept almost anything from a books, clothing, tools, VHS and even cars!

Your charity store will also give you a donation receipt. This is a nice benefit for expensive belonging. If you decide to itemize on your taxes, be sure to keep your receipts.

 

Unwanted Stuff_donationpic

 

Recycle/Throw away your seen-its-last-days items

When possible, recycle items like magazines, newspapers, cell phones, batteries, computers, and digital cameras. Look for neighborhood programs outfitted to recycle whatever you need to get rid of. Recycling may require a little effort but it does so much good environmentally.

Let’s get real. If it’s not the kind of thing that should be recycled, then toss it.

In my work as a food bank manager, I see people try to pass on stuff that’s at the end of its life all the time. People will donate a 7 year old expired can of soup, used jars of peanut butter, t-shirts with stains and multiple holes and broken electronics with missing parts. Seriously?

Be honest if it needs to go. And please, at all cost, let’s stop giving our crap to the poor!

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Living with Less in a Bigger Space

by Kelvin Belfon

Living with less

I’m a minimalist.

I love the idea of less –that is, less clutter, less cleaning, less organizing, and less storing.

I also enjoy smaller living spaces which is ideal in minimalism. Seldom do folks talk about upgrading in my minimalists circles. But a few months ago, a series of unexpected events lead to my family’s decision to go bigger.

Although our family experienced a 50% growth, I still resisted the idea of relocating. The thought of moving with 4 children was too stressful, especially when two of our children were as young as 6 month old. Plus, our 2-bedroom townhouse was cozy since embracing the newly discovered minimalist lifestyle.

Yet, in spite of our wishes, a move became inevitable when our landlord decided to sell the townhouse. My wife and I secured a similar minimalist space for rent. To our dismay, that deal ended up being a rental scam. Now frantic, we began looking, a process that would cost us about 4 months of uncertainty.

You can imagine our relief when we finally found a well-maintained house for sale. But the home was loaded: 3 bedrooms, a finished basement with half bath and utility room, garage, and backyard.

It was perfect!

We had way more than enough room to entertain; and the children had a good sized fenced yard to freely roam. Happy and grateful over these big pluses, I was at the same time nervous about all the potential maintenance responsibilities. Hadn’t I just spent almost 2 years de-cluttering every area of our home?

I gotta admit, the moment was pretty emotional for me. The return of more clutter, cleaning, and expense of furnishing rooms and updating spaces…“This house purchase was a step in the wrong directions,” I concluded.

It’s been 6 months and we’ve settled into a routine. I’m less anxious about the big house. Everyone is happy about the extra space, even our now one year old twins who love crawling up stairs. The best part…our family remains committed to a simple lifestyle. We are living with less in a bigger space!

With everything now unpacked, we continue to de-clutter our home and find new purposes for old things. It’s a never ending process. We still sell and donate unused furniture pieces, kitchen appliances, dishes, clothing, toys, and books, just like in the past.

Everything must have a home! That’s shoes, coats, clothing, bags, toys, mail and those little things that seem to collect all over the house. This is a struggle for me though not the case for my wife. We’ve also renewed our fight against the ever growing accumulation of children’s toys and junk mail.

Storage containers are good on the eye and keep us organized. But over time they can become clutter magnets, keeping stuff hidden for years and even decades. So we decided to empty a handful of containers, and use or giveaway the unused contents.

What’s more, we have in fact added some new things to our home. When you own a house, you want to customize and make it your own. It’s only natural, especially if you’ve been renting for a handful of years.

 

“Your minimalism isn’t dependent on square footage. It’s a lifestyle and mentality!”

 

But at the same time, we’ve built in strategies to keep over-accumulation far off. For example, limiting our trips to the home improvement, appliance and furniture stores. We’ve also focused more on quality vs. quantity and intentionally left some areas of our home unfurnished because not every space needs to be filled.

Not all minimalists live in tiny houses or apartments. That’s because your minimalism isn’t dependent on square footage. Some prefer a little more real estate, especially those with larger families. Minimalism is not about seeing how much misery you can tolerate. There is no right or wrong methodology. It’s a lifestyle and mentality; and this will work differently for everyone.

Minimalism is also more than subtracting the unnecessary. It’s about creating a safe, positive, meaningful and enjoyable space where lifelong memories are forged. Big or small, this sacred place, I like calling home!

 

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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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25 Thought Provoking Simplicity Quotes

by Kelvin Belfon

25 Simplicity Quotes

I love quotations! They oftentimes serve as a window into timeless insights that inspire our lives. Yet, we know that the truths and instructions they teach are not always easy to practice.

The following are 25 thought provoking simplicity quotes that have motivated my minimalist journey. I typically share these on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

Be inspired. Please share them, but more importantly, practice them too!

  1. “He who buys what he doesn’t need steals from himself” ~ Swedish proverb
  1. “If you need to buy stuff just to organize your existing stuff, maybe you own too much stuff.” ~ Courtney Carver
  1. “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” ~ William Morris
  1. “Minimalism is not a decision to live with nothing. It is a decision to live with the essential.” ~Joshua Becker
  1. “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” ~ Hans Hofmann
  1. “Eliminate physical clutter. More importantly, eliminate spiritual clutter.” ~ H. Mondfleur
  1. “Stuff is not passive. Stuff wants your time, attention, allegiance. But you know it as well as I do, life is more important than the things we accumulate.” ~ Dave Bruno
  1. “Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone.  The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.” ~ Lin Yutang
  1. “There are two ways to be rich: One is by acquiring much, and the other is by desiring little.” ~ Jackie French Koller
  1. “Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough.”~ Charles Warner
  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. “Simplicity involves unburdening your life, and living more lightly with fewer distractions that interfere with a high quality life, as defined uniquely by each individual.” ~ Linda Breen Pierce
  1. “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” ~ Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
  1. “The trouble with simple living is that, though it can be joyful, rich, and creative, it isn’t simple.” ~ Doris Janzen Longacre
  1. “Sell your possessions and give to the poor.” ~ Jesus Christ
  1. “Smile, breathe and go slowly.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
  1. “Reduce the complexity of life by eliminating the needless wants of life, and the labors of life reduce themselves.” ~ Edwin Way Teale
  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. “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. “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” ~ Socrates
  1. “Unnecessary possessions are unnecessary burdens. If you have them, you have to take care of them!” ~ Peace Pilgrim
  1. “The greatest step towards a life of simplicity is to learn to let go.” ~ Steve Maraboli
  1. “Clutter is the physical manifestation of unmade decisions fueled by procrastination.” ~ Christina Scalise
  1. “Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.” ~ John Maeda
  1. “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

 

How might your life be improved if you just took one of these quotes and applied it fiercely to the rest of your life?

 

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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.

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The Subconscious Minimalist

by Kelvin Belfon

subconscious-minimalist-minimalism

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

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

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

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

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

The Subconscious Minimalist use terminologies such as:

“I’m downsizing”

“I’m decluttering”

“I’m getting rid of debt”

“I want to spend more time with family”

“I need to slow down and redefine my priorities”

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

The tide is changing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Becoming A Conscious Consumer

by Kelvin Belfon

Becoming A Conscious Consumer2

As a child I didn’t have strong consumer opinions. This is partly due to my culture’s low view of a child’s ability to contribute to household decisions. Children were seen but not heard.

It was also due to tough economic conditions. I recall standing in long lines, excited about the powdered milk, oil and cheese distributed by our government. It was free and we took it, gratefully.

But the primary reason for my limited opinion in what I purchased or owned was this: I never really had “my own.” My mother was a young single parent desperately trying to make a living. To help I was moved around to live with others. Not living in a house that was truly my home made me naturally a passive consumer. I learned to be grateful for anything and accepted things as they were given to me.

A lot has changed since immigrating to the United States. I’m a well-educated, independent thinker who has been exposed to a great deal of information and resources on a variety of consumer topics. I remember when I first visited a shopping mall and supermarket in the US. I was astounded, and quite frankly, overwhelmed by the seemingly limitless options there were to any one thing you might want to buy.

Today, I chuckle at the fact that without thinking, I have over the years enjoyed purchasing all kinds of milks – Cow’s milk, Soy, Almond, Rice, Hazelnut, Coconut, Hemp, and so on…. Yes, I’ve even learned that there are 11 different types of milk and counting!

More options doesn’t always translate into better consumer habits. In fact, the opposite is true. We are bombarded by advertising messages that legitimize our obsession with accumulating unnecessary stuff. As such, the choices we make can quite often be unhealthy and not beneficial.

What’s worse, many of us are so caught up comparing ourselves with unrealistic images and misinformed notions of what others have or how they live their lives that we are on a constant treadmill toward an unreachable consumer destination.

Sadly, this unconscious lifestyle leaves us unfulfilled, wastes our time, squanders valuable resources, and leaves us in debt. We all need to break from this obsession with excessive consumerism.

Becoming A Conscious Consumer

Consciousness is defined as being “awake, perceiving, aware or understanding what is happening.”

Minimalism has forced my wife and me to become more mindful about what we consume, to be more conscious within each decision we make for our home. This includes where we choose to live, what and where we eat or clothes we buy, what household possessions we keep, and services we hire. Most importantly, this included how we educate our children and what we will and will not expose them to.

Conscious consumerism can be practiced in every area of life.

It’s about regaining control and taking responsibility for our actions.

It’s becoming active and wholly engaged in life.

It’s observing.

It’s being thoughtful.

It’s taking action instead of allowing things to just happen to you.

It’s asking the right questions.

“Why should I make this purchase?” “How would this food choice affect my health?” “Why do I need to follow this cultural trend?”

Like myself, sometimes we don’t always have the necessary information to make wise decisions. You may not even be independent or capable at the moment to make your own choices, as I once was. You may not be able to be a conscious consumer in every area at this moment. But you can start where you are, with what you have. As the late Dr. Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, you do better.”

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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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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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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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