In the beginning, before making any big changes, and before I simplified my life, I didn’t care about any of that. All I wanted to do was get my health back. I didn’t want to be scared anymore. I just wanted a little peace. Simplicity wasn’t my goal. My focus was on reducing stress, and because thinking about the future or goals or anything bigger than what was right in front of me was stressful, I could only focus on the tiny steps.
Here’s a quick breakdown of my big changes and the tiny steps that made them happen. It’s actually a short list of the tiny steps. There were many more! This isn’t a roadmap for you (although it could be the start of one). Maybe you don’t want to make these changes or do it like I did it. That’s ok. This is simply to demonstrate that big change takes lots of tiny steps and that it takes time. It’s a toast to the tiny steps.
photo credit: Heidi Larsen from foodiecrush.com
Big: Changed my diet
Timeline: 6 months to eliminate all the meat, and the rest of the changes continue to happen. I’ll never stop experimenting with my diet because my body is always changing.
- Read books about food and Multiple Sclerosis.
- Removed cows from my diet.
- Removed pigs from my diet.
- Removed chicken and other poultry.
- Removed fish and seafood.
- Read books about vegetarianism to keep me motivated.
- Visited pigs and cows at local farms so I wouldn’t want to eat them.
- Added more greens.
- Kept checking in with my body.
- Experimented with raw and vegan diets.
- Added more greens.
- Tried Whole 30.
- Added fish and seafood.
- Cut out a ton of processed food.
- Eliminated most bread and pasta.
- Will keep checking in with my body.
Big: Paid off thousands of dollars in debt (like tens of thousands)
Timeline: 3.5 years to eliminate the debt.
- Had gentle conversations with my husband.
- Started asking questions that started with “wouldn’t it be crazy if …”
- Canceled one credit card at a time resisting the amazing offers for lower interest rates and other bonuses.
- Listened to Dave Ramsey on the radio.
- Joined Financial Peace University (online).
- Saved $1000 for an emergency fund (not all at once).
- Created a budget and spent every dollar on paper.
- Put any extra money towards our smallest debt.
- Let go of the guilt. I already paid enough.
- Said no. A lot.
- Kept budgeting, having gentle conversations, and putting extra towards smallest debts.
- Celebrated when we paid off our first card, first car, next card, loan, second car, student loan.
Big: Created a meaningful morning routine
Timeline: 8 weeks.
- Traded one snooze button for 5 minutes of yoga.
- A week later, I traded another snooze alarm for 5 minutes of writing.
- The following week, I added 5 minutes of meditation.
- Every week for the next 5 weeks, I added one minute to each activity
- Once I had a 30 minute routine I practiced for 30 minutes whenever I could. On days when I didn’t have the time or energy, I practiced for 5 or 10 minutes.
- I keep coming back to the practice.
Big: Got rid of 90% of our stuff
Timeline: 3 years to eliminate the majority of our stuff.
- I put a few things in a box that I didn’t care about.
- Decluttered and removed the easy things (like duplicates, empty frames, shoes that hurt my feet).
- Noticed the space I created.
- Felt a little lighter.
- Decluttered and removed things that weren’t as easy to let go of (like clothes I spent a lot of money on, small appliances I never used, other decor, furniture).
- Noticed the space I created.
- Felt a little lighter.
- Decluttered the hidden clutter (the boxes in the garage and storage shed, things tucked on high shelves and under beds).
- Sold anything worth more than $50, anything less we gave away.
- Turned to the harder items like books and sentimental items and let them go too. Not all, but most.
- Noticed empty rooms in our house and was ready to let go of that too.
Big: Downsized from 2000 square feet to 750
Timeline: We had our first serious conversation about selling the house in October 2012, listed the house in March 2013 and moved into our apartment in May 2013.
- Asked my husband, “wouldn’t it be crazy if we sold our house and lived somewhere else?”
- Talked about the pros and cons.
- Met with a Realtor in December 2012.
- Hired someone to replace the carpeting.
- Painted the inside of the house ourselves (but should have hired someone).
- Removed the cats and dog anytime there was a showing (ugh, I almost forgot about those afternoons).
- Put piles of left over clutter and things that wouldn’t work in our new place in the driveway. Then, we’d take pictures of it and post it online with our address and this caption, “free stuff” – it would be gone in 15 minutes each time.
- Discussed what mattered most to us and ignored advice to wait until “the market bounces back” before selling. Money wasn’t driving our decision.
- Moved into our 750 square foot apartment with husband, daughter, big dog and two cats.
- Celebrated our daughters high school graduation a month later on the community rooftop deck overlooking the mountains.
- Knew we made the right decision when my husband woke up one Saturday morning and said, “guess what I’m not doing today?” I’m not raking leaves, mowing the lawn, replacing the roof, or negotiating with neighbors to replace the fence.” Instead, we went for a hike.
Big: Quit my job
Timeline: Started seriously considering quitting in early 2010. Started bemorewithless.com in May, 2010. Gave my notice in October, 2011.
- As we began to live with less, I started to wonder if I could leave my job and do something more fulfilling and way less stressful.
- Noticed how inspired I was by people blogging about specific topics like travel, simplicity, and health.
- I saw that as I eliminated stress in every area of my life, the common thread in each change was simplicity.
- Realized the power of blogging after blogging about my Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis. I started blogging to keep friends and family up to date. One day, I got a message from someone I didn’t know who had MS. She thanked me for one of my recommendations. I helped someone on the internet without even trying.
- Started a blog even though I didn’t know how it would become a business.
- Mapped out categories I could write about, things I could create and how long I thought it would take to grow.
- Even before I made a penny, I created an exit strategy listing the things that would have to happen before I quit my job. I included things like, be debt-free, save 2 months of income so that once I was on my own, I wouldn’t feel desperate to work with clients I didn’t enjoy, or take projects I wasn’t excited about. I also had to see the potential in growing a business online starting with a blog by earning $1.00.
- Set a quit date.
- Wrote every day, published 3 times a week on my blog and wrote guest articles for other sites.
- Started a Twitter account.
- Launched Project 333 which got international media attention.
- Connected with other bloggers writing about simplicity. Most of them became my friends.
- Wrote an ebook.
- Moved my quit date. Twice.
- Gave my notice and never looked back.
- Took my dog for a walk around the lake on the first Monday that was all mine and thought, “Now, this is how to have a weekly meeting.”
All of those big changes and transformations were the result of hundreds of tiny steps and they all count.
So let’s toast to the tiny steps, small progress,
and overnight success that
takes ten years.
Let’s toast to how each tiny step inspires the next.
Let’s toast to the sense of accomplishment
we feel after only 5 minutes of meditation,
adding a tablespoon of greens to breakfast,
and resisting email
in the morning.
Let’s toast to the tiny steps, especially the scary ones,
like pushing publish on your first blog post
or your 500th,
asking someone for help, for a testimonial
or a book review.
Let’s toast to the small daily practices and tiny steps we use
to lean into new habits like reading 1 page a day before committing
to the whole book,
walking 1 block before a mile,
going to sleep 10-minutes early,
or writing 1 thank you note a day.
Let’s toast to the tiny steps and
thank them for helping us to
change our lives.
Write your own toast and list your 100 tiny steps. Raise your glass, or a taco (yes, you can toast with a taco), or ice cream and celebrate these tiny steps that have helped you change your life.
If you haven’t started yet, may your first tiny step be to toast the tiny steps. Now you know that you can start small, move slowly and take all the time you need to figure out what’s best for you.
P.S. If slow, supported, tiny-step change sounds good to you, consider joining A Simple Year – 12 Months of Guided Simplicity. Registration is open until March 19.