We’re about 90 days (give or take a few) into our simple living journey. Here’s what we’ve accomplished so far:

  • Reduced our boxes by more than half
  • Significantly reduced the clutter in our garage
  • Decluttered our kitchen and got rid of all of the “unnecessaries” (no more 4 cheese plates)
  • Pared down our wardrobe and donated close to 100 pounds of clothing
  • Paid off over 50 percent of our $10,000 credit card debt (thanks, in part, to a unexpected financial windfall)
  • Went from two car payments to one (side note: big thanks to Joel’s mom for letting us “borrow” the van 🙂 )

We still have a ton of work left to do, but I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished in the past 90 days. I’ve also learned a few things in the process:

http://breechalert.com/about/faq/ Three simple words—“just in case”—got us into trouble. For years, we’ve stockpiled so many extras and unnecessaries for the sake of “just in case” moments that we have yet to witness: “I’ll keep this shirt just in case it comes back in style” or “I’ll keep this toy just in case my kid asks for it”. We’ve used the phrase “just in case” time and time again to justify our reasons for holding on to things we simply don’t need (or want). Meanwhile, by holding on to all of these “just in case” items for future scenarios that may never happen, we’ve relinquished the opportunity to live peacefully and happily in the present moment by coexisting with the clutter and chaos that comes along with the accumulation of such items. Once I realized this, I decided holding on to things “just in case” was no longer worth it for me.

buy topamax online without prescription Organizing is much more effective when you unload. I’m a firm believer in the phrase “a place for everything and everything in its place.” But I’ve found that organizing is essentially ineffective if you have too much stuff. I’ve discovered in many cases, in order for an organization project to be successful, you have to do some “unloading”—in other words, get rid of stuff. For example, I used to constantly organize and reorganize my kids’ rooms. Yet after each organization project, they still had a hard time finding things. The sheer volume of toys, gadgets, and gizmos made it so overwhelming for them to find anything that they would eventually get frustrated and stop looking for whatever it was they were trying to find. However, once we “unloaded” a huge portion of their stuff and then organized it, they were able to find things much easier.

It’s not as hard as I thought it would be. While writing this post I realized we’ve accomplished much more than I had originally thought. And come to think of it, it was surprisingly easier than anticipated. I’m not saying it didn’t take time, commitment, and discipline to accomplish what we have up to this point—it took a lot of all three of those things, actually. But in all honesty, I thought it would have been much more difficult to let things go.

We didn’t need to set specific goals to get things done. Generally speaking, I like structure. I like to plan ahead, set goals, and know the direction in which I’m headed. But for the past 90 days, we haven’t really done any of those things. We didn’t set goals. We didn’t plan ahead. And it’s worked out pretty well for us. In a way, I feel we’ve actually accomplished more because of it. Don’t get me wrong, I think goals and plans are great. They can give you a sense of security and direction. They can inspire you to be better and motivate you to do more. But I also feel at times they can be limiting. They limit you to the notion that you must follow the plan or attain the goal otherwise you have failed in some way—which can be incredibly discouraging. So we’ve decided to continue to be a little more flexible in our approach. Instead of setting a specific plan or goal (I have to get all of these boxes done TODAY!”), we set a certain amount of time aside on any given day and do what we can within that time frame. For example, if I have three hours to kill on a particular day, I’ll work on whatever project I’m motivated to do at the time for those three hours. If it gets done, great, if it doesn’t, I’ll finish it another time. In my opinion, I think it’s much easier to say “I will commit ‘x’ amount of time on this and do what I can” because I feel it’s easier to follow through. And trust me, even if you don’t get it all done, you will recognize the progress you’ve made and be proud of what you’ve accomplished. (For those that prefer a more structured approach, there’s a great book by Joshua Becker called Simplify: 7 Guiding Principles to Help Anyone Declutter Their Home and Life. He provides some great pointers on decluttering and how/where to get started.)

Now of course, everyone’s different. What works for me may not work for someone else. The key is to find what works for you—never limit yourself to the idea that you should do something a certain way just because someone else is doing it.

Also keep in mind that the journey toward living simply—or any lifestyle change for that matter—is a constant work in progress. There’s always going to be “maintenance”. But, as I’ve seen in the past 90 days, it will get easier. And it will be worth it.

“The most important thing is to enjoy your life—to be happy—it’s all that matters.” – Audrey Hepburn

Yesterday, I had a two inch chunk of skin removed from my left arm as a result of a melanoma diagnosis I received a few weeks ago.

I’m not going to lie and say that I wasn’t scared when I first received the diagnosis. I’ve had my fair share of health scares in the past, but this was different—people actually die from this shit.

Luckily, my diligence (and perhaps a minor bout of hypochondria) allowed it to be diagnosed in the early stages, and other than a gnarly battle wound I should be just fine.

I am lucky. I’m grateful that it was caught in time before doing too much harm. But I will say receiving a diagnosis like the “C” word gave me a bit of a wake up call. It made me reflect on what’s really important in life and what really mattered to me.

And the things that matter most to me are the same things that are important to many of us: family, relationships, leading a happy life, and of course, being (and staying) healthy.

But far too often, we tend to take the things we hold dear for granted. Many times, the important things take a back seat to the mundane, trivial affairs of daily life, with the false impression that there’s a guarantee that these things will still be around “when we get to them”.

But there is no guarantee. And then the next thing you know, you’re getting divorced because your spouse feels neglected, or your relationship with your child is strained because you didn’t spend enough time with them, or you get diagnosed with melanoma (or worse).

While my circumstance could’ve been much worse, my little “wake up call” was a blessing in disguise because it further solidified my decision to pursue a simpler life. It reminded me to focus on creating a life which allows me the freedom to invest my time on what’s important to me and what makes me happy. It motivated me to remain undeterred in my pursuit despite the pressures of society and its false measures of “success” and the “American Dream”.

And at the end of the day, it helped me to realize more than ever that a fancy schmancy house, shiny new car, and designer threads are not the equivalent of a happy life. Because in the millisecond that my future was uncertain to me, when reflecting on what makes me happy and what I would stand to lose if the unthinkable happens, I wasn’t thinking of my house, my car, or my clothes.

The things that came to mind were the people in my life, the time I spend with them, the memories we’ve made, and the experiences we’ve had together. And—at the risk of sounding trite—those are the things that money simply can’t buy.

“There is no failure except in no longer trying.” – Elbert Hubbard

I have three different blog posts that have been sitting in limbo for the past two weeks.

I’ve gone back to each of them, on several occasions, trying to make sense of the jumbles of garden-variety idioms and shitty rhetoric. All I’ve ended up with thus far are half empty pages and a deflated ego.

To put it bluntly: I suck at writing.

I’m not saying I haven’t written some halfway decent stuff. My first two posts, It Begins with the Boxes and Why We Gave Up a Six Figure Income—Twice were well received by my readers, and I’m proud of the fact that people found enjoyment in something I created.

But these last three posts, the ones in limbo—total shit. It’s as if the creative part of my brain said, “Peace out, bitches!” threw up some deuces and vacated the premises.

Were my first two posts just a fluke? Am I the writer’s equivalent of a one hit wonder? Is there a chance I might not be cut out for this gig?

While I don’t know the answer to these questions just yet, there’s one thing I do know: writing is really, really hard.

Seriously, this shit isn’t easy. It can be grueling and tedious, and downright soul-crushing at times. It can be frustrating to the point of lunacy and delirium.

But despite the moments when I’ve stared at the screen for 45 minutes and haven’t written a single sentence, or the brief interludes of insanity when I’m tempted to close my laptop, rip its plug from the socket and throw it against the wall, I keep writing.

Why? Because I love it. I love the idea of creating something worthy of readership, and providing that readership with something of value. I love hearing my readers tell me they found something relatable in what I’ve written. I love that maybe—just maybe—my words have helped someone in some way.

And I want to become better at it. And in order to become better, I have to keep going, even when the going gets tough—because the 100% foolproof method to not becoming better at something is to throw in the towel.

The same rule applies to everything in life. Whether it’s writing, learning to sew, even marriage, you have to put in the effort if you want to be successful. There are no shortcuts, there are no quick fixes.

Of course, there will be times when you will get frustrated, you will get discouraged, you will want to quit—don’t. The only way to ensure failure is by giving up altogether. As long as you keep at it, whatever it is, there’s always the chance that victory is waiting just around the corner.

So while I anxiously await my creativity’s return from its unwelcome sabbatical, I will continue to write. I may not be great now, in a week, a month, or even a year, but one thing’s for certain: I’m better than I was yesterday. And that’s because I kept on going.

“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.” – Mahatma Gandhi

 

Generally speaking, I’m a fan of social media. Social media has been—and still is—a tremendously helpful tool in connecting (and reconnecting) with people, sharing special moments with family and friends, even promoting and expanding a business.

Hell, without the help of social media, this blog would likely be buried under the bazillion other blogs in existence, in a folder labeled “there is absolutely no way anyone is ever going to see this”.

But, as great as social media is, it doesn’t come without some baggage.

I’m not referring to the incessant, unsolicited game requests, the constant revamping of privacy settings, or the “posing in the mirror” selfie.

I’m talking about the drama that ensues when people take too much stock into what they observe through social media.

I’m sure we’ve all experienced the drama at one time or another: With roughly 1.9 billion social media users worldwide and each of those users averaging 350 friends/followers, there’s bound to be some conflict.

I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve experienced a lot of drama through social media. Sometimes I was on the receiving end, other times I dished it out. The point is, in many of those instances, I allowed the drama to get to me. A lot.

Whether it was Catty Cathy getting under my skin, or me feeling guilty for being a little too snarky in a response, I felt the weight of the social media baggage, and it was heavy—too heavy to pass off as a carry on.

It was then that I realized that the baggage that comes along with the social media experience can vary in weight, depending on the person and how they choose to handle the experience.

Me? I was carrying a bag full of boulders.

I also realized that my current social media experience did not fall in line with my desire to live a simpler life. One of the things that drew me to the idea of living simply was the potential to be happier and more at peace, and my social media experience thus far just wasn’t fitting the bill.

So I took the next logical step—I lightened my social media load.

Here are a few things I’ve done so far to help lighten the load:

I’m spending less time on it– I hate to be Captain Obvious, but the less time you spend on social media, chances are the less you’ll be affected by it. I used to spend hours on social media every day. Whenever there was a moment of downtime—at a red light, the doctor’s waiting room, the bathroom (yes, the bathroom)—I’d reach for my phone. It was a sickness, really. But once I realized that, besides being an enormous distraction, all that screen time was screwing with my happiness, I made the decision to dramatically cut down my time on social media. This one change alone has made a significant difference.

I removed Facebook from my phone- One thing that has helped tremendously in reducing my time on social media is removing Facebook from my phone. In my opinion, Facebook is, by far, the biggest time eater and energy sucker of all social media sites. Twitter and Instagram remain on my phone—they seem to be relatively benign in comparison—but Facebook had to go.

I try to be more responsible in what I post- I must say, in the past, I’ve been guilty of not making the best choices in what I’ve posted. There were times when I’ve succumbed to the drama and allowed myself to participate in the cattiness, bitchiness and overall negativity. But in those times of weakness, it did nothing for me except make me look like an asshole. So, I decided to put more thought into what I post—if it’s not constructive, positive or something that can provide a good chuckle, I try my best not to post it. And honestly, it has made me feel better about myself and what I’m putting out there. So while a video of me using my cat as a prop to make it appear as though he is doing the hip roll while singing “Blue Suede Shoes” may not be as interesting as a catty remark or a snarky rebuttal, at least it’s not negative. Plus, I don’t care what anyone says, everybody loves a good cat video.

I stopped taking things so personally- On social media, and in life in general, we sometimes tend to take things too personally. A person can make a generalized comment and if it applies to us even remotely, we immediately think that comment is referring to us. I’ve been guilty of this far too often. But I recently came across a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt that helped me put things in perspective: “You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do”. That quote helped me realize that there’s a 99.9 percent chance that whatever comment I’m taking personally has nothing to do with me whatsoever.

I will say in extreme cases, when all else fails, I’ve had to hide some people from my feed—some I’ve even had to remove altogether. Because while I can’t control what people post, nor would I try to (who am I to take away the right for someone to express themselves in the form that they see fit?), I can certainly control what I read. And I choose to read things that lift me up, not drag me down. I no longer expose myself to the catty, passive aggressive and overall negative bullshit.

And ever since I’ve made these choices, my bag has gotten much lighter.

Let’s face it, the baggage that comes with social media is unavoidable—there’s always going to be some negativity. But at the end of the day, you have control over how heavy your baggage is going to be. You can either carry a bag of feathers or a bag of rocks—it’s entirely up to you.

Today I received a nomination from my son for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  I accepted his challenge, but decided to tweak it a bit.

 

How and why did I tweak it? Well, you’ll have to watch the video for the answer, but let’s just say I took that water — or should I say the monetary equivalent of it — and put it to (what I hope to be) good use:

 

 

“My happiness is derived from my experiences, from my relationships, from my health—not from my income.” – Joshua Fields Millburn

 

We’ve all heard the old adage “Money can’t buy happiness”. I’m sure we’ve all seen truth to this adage, in one form or another, at some point in our lives.

I know I’ve seen the truth to it, at least twice, in my own life.

Within the last three years, my husband and I were earning a combined six figure income, on two separate occasions—once, in 2011, when my husband managed a resort and I was working for an online marketing firm, and again, in 2013, when I took over operations at my husband’s resort so he could take a better management position with another company.

In both instances, we liked our jobs, enjoyed the people we worked with, and well, let’s face it, the money was good.

And in both instances, we gave up those six figure incomes.

Now I know what you’re probably thinking: “Why give it up? And then go back to it? And then give it up a second time?” Trust me, I understand the confusion. We felt the same confusion in both cases. For days, even weeks, we kept going back and forth with our decision, wondering if we were making the right choice for our family.

But you know what? We don’t regret it for a second.

Because here’s the thing: money is a sneaky little bitch. It weasels its way into your life, knowing damn good and well you need it to survive.

Then once it has your attention, it lures you in with its seductive dance—batting its eyelashes and swaying its hips, it puts you into a hypnotic trance, convincing you that the more you have of it, the better off you’ll be.

Society isn’t much help either.

In fact, society is money’s disc jockey, playing the soundtrack for money’s seductive moves.

They conspire together, persuading us in the form of magazine ads, TV commercials, and billboards, drilling the idea into our heads that, in order to fit in, we need that new house, or that new car, or that new “as seen on TV” contraption that most certainly will sit in the back of your cupboard for all of eternity.

And guess what? We fell for that song and dance. Twice.

It turns out though, there was a trade off. The trade off was long hours, lots of business trips, and time spent away from the family.

And what, exactly, did we lose in the trade?

We lost Sunday fun days, family dinnertime and goodnight kisses.

We lost countless opportunities to cheer on our children for their accomplishments—things like making the honor roll, kicking the winning goal in their soccer game, and moving up to yellow belt in karate.

We lost little moments, moments we take for granted on a daily basis—a hug, a smile, an “I love you mom”.

We lost so much—too much—of our time, our freedom, our happiness.

And for what? For a few (ok, many) extra bucks?

I mean sure, the extra money was nice but we certainly don’t need it. And sure, we have to budget and plan ahead, but I’d take that any day of the week and twice on Sunday before I give up another second of my time—most importantly, my family time—unnecessarily.

And let’s face it, life isn’t run on a stopwatch. We can’t press stop, pause, or rewind. Our time is our most precious commodity—a non-renewable resource.  And unlike money, which can be made and remade at any point at any time, once your time is gone, you can never get it back.

Sometimes in life, an otherwise mundane and uneventful act can evolve into a life changing realization.

You see these boxes?

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These boxes are the result of my futile attempt to organize my children’s rooms. It happens every year, right after the holidays.

After a slew of toys, gadgets and gizmos make their way into the hands of my well-deserving (yet sometimes overindulged) kids every holiday season, Mom—that would be me—has to figure out a way to get it all to fit into their already jam-packed rooms.

The end result usually involves me shouting obscenities, assuming the fetal position in a corner for a while, then eventually throwing about 95% of their toys into a heap of boxes—much like the ones you see here—until I muster up the energy to sort through the stuff.

This year, that “mustering of energy” equates to about seven months time.

For seven months I’ve sat in disbelief, trying to wrap my head around how my kids have managed to accumulate so much stuff over the years.

For seven months I’ve stared at the boxes, contemplating the notion of just taking the whole damn pile out to the backyard and setting it ablaze.

For seven months I’ve been putzing around the house, frustrated and overwhelmed by the thought of even beginning the arduous task of organizing the boxes—only recently realizing that, for seven months, my kids haven’t asked for a single item in the boxes since I’ve packed them.

 

SEVEN MONTHS. And they haven’t missed a SINGLE THING.

 

And that’s when I asked myself—why, exactly, are we keeping all of this stuff?

While pondering this question, I pan over to the rest of the house and realize it’s pretty much the same story.

Take the kitchen for example. There’s got to be at least 20 or so gadgets in my kitchen that I’ve never laid a finger on. And 20 or so more that I’ve used maybe a handful of times. Let’s face it—do I really need four cheese plates? How about twelve wine stoppers? Do I really drink that much wine? What am I, a lush? Wait, don’t answer that.

Then there’s the living room/dining room. Why do I have 550 million tchotchkes on my end tables/coffee table/bookshelves/china cabinet? It drives me bananas to have to move the damn things every time I have to dust, never mind the fact that every other second of any given day I have a cat/dog/child knocking one of them over.

And then, there’s the garage. For the love of all that is good and holy, the garage. Walking into our garage is like walking into an abyss. Aside from the tools, sports equipment, bicycles, and various other effects, there are more boxes. As if there aren’t enough of those lying around. What’s worse is some of those boxes originated from our previous home when we packed them to move into our current home. That was two and a half years ago. Yet there they remain, unpacked, collecting dust.

Again, why exactly are we keeping all of this stuff? After pondering this question for a while longer and not coming up with a good answer, I decided enough is enough.

And now, “enough is enough” has brought me here.

It has brought me to a place where I’ve shifted my perspective. To a place where I’ve decided maybe the answer isn’t reorganizing the stuff, but rather unloading it. And while I’m at it, perhaps we need to “unload” in other areas of our lives as well. Maybe our family doesn’t need a 2300 sq ft house with a 2 car garage and a pool. Maybe our family doesn’t need two cars (which of course comes with 2 car payments and 2 gas tanks to fill). Maybe I don’t need 3 Coach purses, 2 Michael Kors watches, and 37 pairs of shoes.

You see, I‘m beginning to realize that maybe all of this stuff isn’t making me or my family any happier. In fact, it might be doing the opposite.   That’s what A Simple Life in Progress is all about.

It’s about my family and I and our progression toward living a simpler life. It’s about us exploring the idea that real happiness is achieved by having less and doing more. It’s about unloading some of the excess so we can focus on what’s most important in life—health, relationships, living life and being happy.

I’m not sure how far we’re going to take this, but I’m looking forward to the experience. Are we ready for the change? Absolutely. Will we have setbacks? I can pretty much guarantee it. But as the old saying goes, “Nothing worthwhile is ever easy”.