Editor’s Note: This is a post in the series, Simplicity in Action.
In some ways my simplicity journey is more like a re-birth. I was born in the Caribbean island of Grenada and also lived in Venezuela. Life was simple in both contexts. Our family didn’t have much except for the basics; but I was happy for the most part.
In 1997, I migrated to the United States and suddenly I was exposed to more choices. Everything was bigger, better, modern, and easily accessible. I was in the land of opportunities and the American Dream was within my reach.
But soon, SallieMae found me and I had acquired thousands of dollars of student loans. Eventually, there were also credit cards, a mortgage, a car note or two, and monthly bills. It didn’t seem that long ago since I had come to America with only 2 suitcases filled with all my possessions.
My wife and I reflected on this reality after moving across country to Denver in a 27-feet moving truck full of stuff back in 2013. We knew life was going in the wrong direction for us, so we thought a relocation was the answer. The stress of life had also been affecting my health and took a toll on the unity of our family. I wanted a simple lifestyle but I didn’t know where to begin.
While unloading the moving truck, a black garbage bag of CDs busted and scattered all over the pavement. The guy helping us, after apologizing for the accident, commented, “Dude, have you guys ever thought about going digital and not carry all these CDs around?”
It was a well-meaning and innocent statement. But I felt embarrassed because we had so much junk. Over the next few days, my wife and I decided to take a hard look at our possessions. I went online and my research introduced me to ZenHabits, Becoming Minimalist and Be More With Less. This sparked my simplicity journey and my life progressively began to change in many ways.
What I changed about my life
I got rid of stuff. This was the most obvious place to begin. I was tired of the clutter and having to spend my Saturdays re-organizing the basement. We threw away, donated and sold as much as we could initially. Then we committed to getting rid of at least 2 boxes of anything, every week for the next 11 months.
When we relocated to Denver, we didn’t have plans for more children. But a few months later we found out that not only were we pregnant, but that we were having twins. In hindsight, I feel our commitment to de-cluttering helped create space for the 2 precious lives we’ve now welcomed in our space. Now a family of six, we are even more dedicated to keeping things simple in our home.
I disconnected from social media. I was always connected to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, especially for my previous jobs. I was addicted, constantly checking status updates.
So I deleted (not just deactivated) all my accounts for 8 months. It was weird not being able to communicate or “be in the know.” But as the voices were silenced and the distractions reduced something happened. I found my own voice and began to appreciate my physical relationships even more.
I let go of toxic relationships. I’m a pretty outgoing person. However, certain relationships were harmful in my life. They consumed my time, emotions, and were the cause of unnecessary drama and anxiety in our home.
I began the process by deleting contacts from my cell phone and email accounts. I threw away pictures and gifts that carried emotional baggage. I wrote letters that were never mailed and then dissolved those friendships as discretely and simply as I could. Letting go is never easy, but it was imperative for me.
I started caring for my health. I got outside and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. I walked to work when possible. I started jogging again. I even got into the habit of taking nature pictures. It was refreshing!
I also learned about the many health issues that can be prevented with proper diet and became more intentional about food consumption. Today, our family is all on board with mono-mealing and eating as many fresh fruits and veggies as possible.
We can all make life less complicated. It’s something I’m still working on. I’m learning to avoid the unnecessary comparisons we tend to make between others and ourselves. I’m well on my way to living debt free; and I’ve learned to be grateful for the simple things that life brings.
The most important lesson learned, however, is appreciating the people in my life. My marriage and relationship with my children are stronger. It is true – relationships are our most valuable possession, not things.