Three years ago my wife and I cut the cord when it came to cable TV. We had signed a two year deal with our cable company when we moved and when that contract was up, as expected, the rates skyrocketed. It was hard to justify the money we would be spending when we were only watching roughly 7 channels out of the 100 or so we were offered. So we dumped cable.

As someone who was attempting to live a more simple life this just seemed to be the next logical step and matched the experiences of others whose blogs I followed. The experts indicated that ditching TV would lead to more family time and more overall happiness (and who doesn’t want that?). I wouldn’t be saddled with the expectations of a consumer driven world and could live my life without worrying about how marketers were attempting to drive me in specific directions to buy more. This is what a minimalist was supposed to do; this was the essence of simple living. I was being counter-cultural, I was being a rebel. Viva la resistance!!

It was great – until I realized that it ripped away a source of joy from my life. Sports.

As I indicated in my previous post watching TV was not the most satisfying activity for me to engage in. This was especially true when I found myself just channel surfing to find some background noise. But watching sports was something I enjoyed that brought myself, my wife, and our friends together (similar to playing board games). There is something special about gathering with a group of people to watch a game and to have everyone get caught up in the drama that is unfolding. It is reality TV at its best.

In an effort to ditch the expectations of the world I instead shackled myself with the expectations of others who I’ve never even met. I rid myself of something I enjoyed because I thought it was what I was supposed to be doing if I wanted a more simple lifestyle.  When I realized this, I started to look back at other decisions I had made regarding simple living that were not based on anything other than the expectations of others:

  • Attempting to convince my wife that we should live in a ‘tiny’ house
  • Eating only non-processed organic produce and whole foods
  • Working towards only having 100 possessions
  • Finding a job I was passionate about
  • Trying to limit myself to watching only 1 sport because this was more simple
  • Feeling guilty about all of the above when I would inevitably fail

The last part was the worst – guilt over not meeting expectations that were set by other people. Granted, I let this happen because I assumed that those who are the current crop of gurus already had the answers I was looking for. This created a situation in which I felt burdened in living a more simple life because I couldn’t re-create what others were doing. There was no way I was only going to have 100 items. It wasn’t possible for me to eat only organic foods. I enjoy sports far too much to only watch one. So, if this is the case, then I must be a failure. I couldn’t be like all of the other minimalists I followed.

Thankfully I don’t have to be like them.

I asked myself a question: What would equal success when it came to living simply, what were my expectations?

It was then I realized that my goals when it came to simple living were rudimentary. Less clutter in the house, more healthy meals than not (with allowances for pizza, ice cream, and chicken wings), time to travel with my wife, and enough room in our house to allow friends and family to stay as long as they would like. This simple change of perception has made all of the difference in how I interact with the minimalist lifestyle. My situation, while similar in some regards, is very different from the typical single person looking to travel non-stop. So why in the world would I attempt to live that kind of life when it would never work for me and would assuredly cause strife in my relationships?

So, what expectations are you burdened with when it comes to simple living that you could ditch today? Removing those expectations from your life is the best kind of de-cluttering; expectations that are not your own are far too heavy, and far too costly, to be kept around.



Simple Living – The Creep

One of the first things I noticed as I started down the path of living simply is that this  lifestyle really has little to do with material possessions.

Sure, like my previous post indicated, there are always things to remove and clutter that has to be tossed out. But that does not encompass the entire theme of simple living – it is just one small part. What I think most people discover after living this lifestyle for any length of time is that the same ideas can trickle down into numerous aspects of our lives.

I didn’t just wake up one day and find myself in my current environment. Like most people I had far too many things in my living space. Unlike most people, however, I also had a very keen desire to purge on a regular basis when things became too crowded. What I’ve found interesting is that over the last few years, while I haven’t had to be as concerned with extra physical stuff, there were other parts of my life that needed to be simplified.

Before I knew it simple living began to creep into these areas.

First it was how I used my time. In the past I would come home from work, get a workout in, scarf down a meal, and then settle down to watch TV until I was ready for bed. If I’m honest it wasn’t a very satisfying use of my time and I wasn’t mindful of my surroundings. I’ve since switched out watching TV on a regular basis for reading, drawing, taking a walk, training my dog, or just playing a board game (like Catan) with friends. I receive more enjoyment from these activities and find that when I put relationships first that I am a far happier person. I know, this is common sense, but some of us take longer to realize this truth.

Simple living also creeped into  how I exercised.  For years most of my workouts had been unnecessarily complicated and I was under the impression that a workout had to involve some kind of machine. If I couldn’t use the machine of my choice I would become easily frustrated. But thinking back during my times in high school, when I was most active and probably in the best shape of my life, it was because of very simple bodyweight exercises and cardio (such as running, jumping jacks, burpees, mountain climbers, etc.). The benefit of such exercises is that they do not require any special gear and can be done anywhere. Now I’m not going to be running a marathon anytime soon nor will I be climbing Mt. Everest – however I find my workouts much more invigorating. My goal was never to spead 2 hours every day in the gym. If you want to look like a fitness model it is a necessary step, but if you just want to be healthy then something like the above is a good start.

The third area where simply living took hold was in my diet. Due to my years in wrestling I’ve tried just about every diet that has existed. Some lasted longer than others but in the end I knew two things without a doubt: for me they were not practical nor sustainable. Whether it was a vegetarian diet, the paleo diet, high carb, low fat, or everything in-between there were constant barriers. It might be lack of access to farm fresh vegetables and fruit, the price of quality animal protein, or my inability to consume the ‘healthy’ food I purchased quickly enough so that it did not spoil. What I found is that if a diet began to demonize a certain kind of food (such a grains, meat, fruit, or any animal products) then it was probably a fad diet that would be debunked in the near future. Today my menu is now simplified and I keep on hand many items that can be kept in the freezer or stored in bulk. I eat many of the same things over and over because I like them and they are easy to cook. Rice, broccoli, carrots, blueberries, nuts, quinoa, peas, spinach, raspberries, chicken breast, eggs, couscous, brussel sprouts, potatoes, and whole grain pasta make up a big chunk of what I eat on a regular basis.  Now this is a fairly new endeavor but it needed to happen because I didn’t want to spend all day grocery shopping and cooking.  I don’t mind doing either of those things but  just like with going to the gym I wasn’t thrilled about spending hours in the kitchen.

Hopefully you’re beginning to see how engaging in a more simple lifestyle can have benefits beyond just removing the clutter. Just choose one of the items above and start altering how you engage in your time management, exercise, or diet. You’ll be surprised that by doing so that simplicity will find even more ways to creep into your life.



The First Step


It may be that you’re just starting down the road to a more simple life. You know you want something more than what all of the media and ads tell you should pursue. With all of the experts, websites, and 10 steps plans where is one supposed to begin in order to simplify your life?

Start with your clothing.

For most us the 80/20 rule is in full effect – we wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time. We have specific shirts, pants, and accessories we wear most of the time due to the fact we feel most comfortable in them. It may be the color, the fit, or a combination of both. Whatever the reason those items in our closet are the go-to pieces when we want to look and feel our best.

It also means 80% of what you have in your closet is probably rubbish.

Sure, you could wait and see if you’ll lose those extra 10 lbs to fit into those jeans. And it’s possible that you’ll finally learn to love that button down shirt that doesn’t fit quite right. But reality always has a way of poking its nose into our lives. You’re never going to wear those pants or that shirt. A year from now they will still be in your closet staring back at you. Even if it still has the price tag on it you’re not likely to ever remove the tag and start wearing what your hard earned money bought. All that the clothing is doing now is taking up space and creating clutter. It’s time to remove it.

Starting is easier than you might think. Begin by taking out all of the items you love to wear already. I’m confident this won’t take you more than 5 minutes as you already know what you love. Put them in a safe place and then get to purging. You can use whatever system may seem best but I’ve always found it easiest to look at a piece of clothing and say: have I worn this in the last year? If the answer is no I automatically remove it. And for those items that I have worn in the last year I try to figure out how many times I’ve taken it out of the closet. Depending on what kind of climate you may live in you could have some clothing that only sees the light of day a few times a year. In such cases I ask two questions: Is it practical and do I enjoy wearing it? If the answer is no to both I remove it. As you come across things like your old letterman jacket or wedding dress my suggestion is to keep those items. Heck, take them out and wear them around the house if you can! Get some enjoyment out of them now and you may find that they no longer have the same kind of sentimental persuasion they once had. There will come a time when you can determine if you really want to keep these kinds of items but you don’t have to do it today.

Here is where I may differ a bit from others; don’t just throw the clothing away. Sure if the clothing has obvious rips or is so worn down that the next washing will cause the shirt to explode into a frazzled mess of yarn – toss it. But if it still has some use then donate it to your local Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc. Let someone else obtain a bit of joy from the clothing that never quite gave you any satisfaction. You’ll feel better, the landfill will thank you, and someone else will have a new item of clothing that they will use more than you ever would.

You’ve now taken one step toward a more simple life. Enjoy it!



To start anew…

One thing.

That is all it was that started me down the path of simplicity.

I doubt I could have known that words by a 16th century samurai could have had such an impact on my life. Having already obtained all that I felt I needed in life (a college degree, house, marriage, etc.) I felt as though I had missed out on something of great importance. Despite the noise, the messages, marketing, and the culture I lived in, I knew that I could not find contentment or purpose through things…especially things that held no real value. But like most people I merely went along with the crowds for most of my life as a willing participant in consumerism.

“From one thing, know ten thousand things.”

The words drilled into my subconscious in a way few other things have done outside of the Bible. While I always had minimalistic tendencies I was now on a journey to simplify my life in all areas, though it was slow and painful at times. From material possessions, to what I eat, to how I spent my time, I have been searching for ways to remove ‘stuff’ from my life that suffocates so that I could focus on what was really important.

This blog is really a re-telling of what has happened not only over the last 16 years but more specifically the last 2 years which have changed my life dramatically, and dare I say, for the better. I’m still learning and still adjusting…and still fighting some of the same battles (how I long for thee new iPhone).

Maybe you’ll be willing to come along with me as we search, discuss, and try to live a life that is different from the rest of the world. Perhaps together we will find the strength to show our family, friends, even the world, that there is something better to pursue than just what is shown to us in the thousand’s of marketing ads we see each day.

Perhaps we can start to focus on one thing instead of trying to pursue everything.