Simplicity in Action: Warren & Betsy

Editor’s Note: This is a post in the series, Simplicity in Action.

Warren & Betsy

People who meet us now think we’re brave. They say it’s courageous to quit our jobs and travel the world, especially after 40.

But these people are focusing on the end result, the outcome of our initial act of bravery. They see the finished product of everything we’ve learned and done these past few years, the happy ending to our initial act of courage.

They didn’t see the crisis that started it, or the very simple but powerful method we chose to rejuvenate our lives, careers, and marriage.

In 2007, we met at the Denver International Airport for a date. Considering that we lived in Massachusetts at the time, it was a long way to go to see each other. But our lives had become so stuffed with climbing the corporate ladder, maintaining and filling up a suburban house, and managing two busy work travel schedules that we did whatever we could to carve out time together.

Actually, that’s not true. We thought we were doing whatever we could to carve out time together.

That date in Denver was the final straw in our overstuffed, overcomplicated, and overworked lives.

A New Approach

When we arrived back home from our separate trips we took a different approach to our unhappiness than before, the one that eventually led to the life we live today. We asked ourselves what we wanted out of our lives and brainstormed how we could make it happen, line item by line item.

  • Live within walking distance to at least 9 different ethnic restaurants

  • Less than 20-minute commute to work

  • No more than 1 night away from home for business travel per week

  • A social life with regular events

  • A home with less maintenance

This list was so far away from the reality we were living we couldn’t believe it. We weren’t actually doing any of the things we called “important.”

Once we had our list, we determined how we could design a work and home situation to include those things. This was far different from our previous approach of trying to fit our lifestyle goals into our existing work/home situation. And it made a huge difference in the results.

 

Walking the Talk

We decided that since our jobs wouldn’t change, we’d have to change our jobs. And if we wanted a more urban type of lifestyle, we’d definitely have to leave the suburbs.

(It sounds so obvious in hindsight!)

We researched the places we could live that had our lifestyle preferences, an economy we could afford, and the industries where we could get jobs. We began applying for jobs in the 3 cities that fit our criteria, finally settling on Seattle, Washington.

We got rid of over half our belongings before we ever left Massachusetts because we knew moving from the suburbs to the city would mean a much smaller place. Once we arrived in Seattle, we found a townhouse 1/3 the size of our former home. When we moved in, we got rid of even more of our belongings because they simply wouldn’t fit our new lifestyle or home (like a snow shovel in Seattle!)

We made friends, enjoyed a social life, and regained some free time. We had more parties in our small townhouse than we ever did in our suburban home. We worked less, and we finally had the time to focus on our relationship. As you can imagine, it got better – remarkably so.

Evolving Opportunities

When you take away the overstuffed life, you’re simply left with…life.

Two years later when my brother had a heart attack and our good friend had a brain aneurysm (both in their 30s!), we were ready to answer the question, “If we knew we wouldn’t make it to our 40th birthdays, what would we change about our lives right now?”

The answer was travel the world, and because our possessions were so minimal we were able to seriously consider this option. After another two years of planning and action, we made it happen, and we’ve been traveling ever since. (Find out how we did it in our book, Dream Save Do: An Action Plan for Dreamers.)

 

Bravery is Taking the First Step

So yes, it was a brave leap to leave it all behind to travel the world. But we would have never been able to evaluate that opportunity seriously if we hadn’t left behind our overstuffed life in Boston back in 2006. It’s those small steps of recognizing what’s most important in your life and then making them a priority that allow those big leaps to happen later.

Your clutter (and by that we mean things as well as activities that don’t enhance your life) is more than just junk. It’s standing in the way of fully embracing your life and all it has to offer. It’s a wedge in your relationships and a roadblock to your personal growth.

You don’t have to get rid of everything and travel the world. But you’ll enjoy more of your own world when give yourself the space to appreciate it.

Betsy and Warren Talbot are freedom fighters, showing people all over the world how to have more of what they want and less of what they don’t. Their 4-week course, Declutter Clinic will turn your home into a Base of Operations for living an extraordinary life, which is no less than you deserve. Click here to see how it can work for you.

 

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Comments

  1. says

    Bravery, or rather courage, to take those first steps is indeed what beginning to live a meaningful life is all about. The acts that come afterwards are about trusting yourself and learning to live on terms defined by you. You guys express that so well and we love that you use “we” throughout!

    • says

      Hi, Cheryl and Roland. The “we” is so important…and once we decluttered and stopped living so separately it was a lot easier to add it to our vocabulary! Thanks so much for starting the conversation.

  2. says

    I love reading about people who take action to change less-than-desirable situations. It’s probably easier to complain about it, but it’s much harder to look back on later in life and think, I never tried. Warren and Betsy are an inspiration to all. Thank you for sharing their story, Courtney!

    • says

      Hi, Tammy. It is so much easier to complain about it, at least in the beginning. But I grew up with a grandmother who chose the “complainer” lifestyle and I saw first-hand what it did to her (as well as how limiting her life was due to her hoarder mentality). It was as valuable a lesson as I’ve ever learned in my life.

  3. says

    Hi Betsy,
    You have been an inspiration since I found your story. I have been on a path to simply for the last 3 yrs. I think it started with food allergies and then my passion for the environment. I am still looking at how we want to make it work. We want to travel but I dont think my husband is ready to sell the house. He is open to renting out the rest of the house since we have roommates. Right now it financial for us. I am working on a business but the industry that our service is geared to is responding yet. He has debt and trying to pay down a student loan that is overwhelming especially with our govt operating how it is right now. We are looking a trip to hawaii next year. we have one place to stay but want to go to at least one of the other islands there. I know there are many sites to use. I sometimes get scared but I just keep on working on making a difference in my area. We want to travel and work that is what we have been creating for 3 yrs. I have downsized alot of my stuff like pictures , etc. Thanks for the words.

    • says

      Hi, Connie. It sounds like you have a great plan to make your dream happen! Renting your house out is a great idea – one we probably would have chosen if the market hadn’t been so bad when we left.

      Just keep in mind there are many ways of making your dream come true…you can try house-sitting, volunteer travel, and other ways to help fund your way until your business gets off the ground. (We’re in the last week of a house sit in England, where we spent 6 weeks writing as well as having a good time for zero lodging costs…a great way to travel and still have time to work!)

      Best of luck to you, Connie.

  4. says

    So very inspiring! Thank you for sharing your story, Betsy and Warren. We can have the life we desire if we find the courage – and also not give into what society deems as a meaningful life. For each of us it is different. But no matter your definition if you can make the choices based on what you want, it can set you free.

    Loved your story!

    Barbara

    • says

      You said it, Barbara. It’s different for everyone, and the key is figuring out what is perfect for you. It’s easy to get distracted by everyone else’s dreams! But just because it sounds good doesn’t mean it’s good for you. (Hey, as an introvert I STILL have my occasional rock star dreams :)

  5. says

    B & W, It is fantastic how you illustrated the meetings and conversations that led to taking the first step. Those talks may even be considered the first steps. Someone has to point out and admit there is a problem to begin with. Great stuff, man. Have a marvy weekend!

    • says

      Hi, CJ. It’s not easy to be the one to say, “hey, this isn’t working.” Thankfully or not, it was so obvious neither one of us had to point it out in this instance. Have a great weekend yourself!

  6. Kathy Mader says

    I loved this, so beautifully written. I read something, was it on your site, Courtney?, about how finding our priorities is not “doing” but rather eliminating what stands in our way.

    • says

      Hi, Kathy. Warren and I have a running dispute about the first step to living your dream…he says identifying the things you want in your life, and I saw it’s eliminating all the things you don’t want. Either way, you have to do both to get where you want to go!

  7. says

    As my husband John and I embark on our next leg of living from three suitcases, risking, living, thrilling at the edge of the world of living we’ve chosen to walk on, I read your post here and marvel at the parallel. It is so profoundly real to live here~ Thank you for sharing. I look forward to the time in my life, our lives, where what we are doing, have done, are shared and touch the lives of others in similar ways.
    Trish

    • says

      That’s such a true statement, Rick. When I look back what we did was revolutionary because of what it brought, but there was no way at the time to realize that. So evolution is the revolution, because without those tiny steps you’ll never know the possibilities ahead.

  8. says

    I’m so excited to see Betsy and Warren’s story here! I just got to chat with them last week and was so impressed by their story – and totally charmed by their personalities. :-)

  9. says

    Thank you for helping me discover Betsy & Warren’s blog. Their story is so inspiring and has been making me think a lot about what I really want my life to look like. I’ve been sharing these thoughts with my husband and we’ve been having some great conversations about how we can achieve more freedom and have more adventures together. First step: becoming debt-free! We’re working on that.

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