Editor’s Note: The following is an interview with Mike Burns of TheOtherSideOfComplexity.com
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.?
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.
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:
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:
- Accept the fact that you can’t do everything.
- Get clear on what’s most important to you.
- Determine what you have to do to live for those things.
- Say “no” to anything else that hinders you.
- 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 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.