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.
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.