SLR 063: Reclaim Downsizing as a Powerful Tool for Positive Life Change

Simple Life RebootIt’ s time to reclaim downsizing as an empowering  practice.  For far too long,  downsizing has been understood to be a process of decline whereby individuals were forced to make undesirable lifestyle changes due to the loss of  employment, relationship or health.

While the initial  impetus may be an involuntary loss,  “downsizing” itself,   if done mindfully,  is a positive.  In fact, if  done well, downsizing is one of the most powerful tools we have for making positive life changes.

Downsizing for New Life

The starting point is to recognize that downsizing is life-affirming.   The natural world is full of examples.  A mammal goes into a den to give birth.   A snake slithers through a small space to shed a dead skin.   A caterpillar forms a cocoon to transition into a butterfly.

In the human context,  positive  life changes often involve downsizing.    For example, many children start sharing a bedroom when a new brother or sister arrives.   A college student moves  into a dorm room to obtain an education.   A grandparent moves to a smaller home to be near the grandchildren.  Downsizing is not a punishment or a failing,  but rather an intentional accommodation for something or someone more important.

Downsizing to Focus on the Essentials

In a sports context,  an athlete wanting to advance to the next level will periodically limit his or her training to the sport’s fundamentals.  Focusing on the essentials permits the athlete to perfect skills.  Improvement from minor tweaks at the basic level are then multiplied in the more complex skills.

Strategic downsizing gives us a similar opportunity to revisit the most important elements of our lives.  It helps us sort the essential from the chaff.  It helps us to leverage that which provides the most benefit.

Downsizing for New Opportunities

For many,  the hurdle to downsizing is the reluctance to let go of possessions.  Perhaps the process is more palatable if we remember that we are editing items that detract from our new life.  Ancient Latin speakers had it right when they described such property as “impedimenta”,  which loosely translated,  means property which impedes one’s progress.

Opportunities abound for those willing to downsize.  Downsizing frees up time and resources. You can accept that dream urban  job if  you are willing to live in a smaller space.  You can dramatically improve your finances if you spend less on housing, utilities, repairs, and furnishings with the smaller space.  You can travel if you were not overwhelmed by a mortgage payment. You will have more time, resources and energy for family, fitness, entrepreneurial, creative and fun endeavors if  you decrease that spent on a larger space.

Instead of lamenting the sunk costs associated with letting go of the  “old”  in order to downsize,   we should focus on the incredible opportunities we will miss if we do not downsize.

The tool is as powerful and positive as we choose to make it.   Consider if downsizing makes sense for you.   Please share your thoughts in the Simple Life Reboot comments section.


Originally posted on

SLR 061: 6 Steps to a Simpler Life

Simple Life RebootMany of us come to a point in our lives when we sense that something is wrong.

We work harder and harder, and yet, never quite seem to achieve our desired lifestyle. Is the goalpost moving? Or, is some other dynamic at work?

For those of us seeking to edit the non-essentials from our lives so as to devote ourselves to the things that matter most, the journey to a simpler lifestyle can seem rather amorphous, if not foofoo, at times.  Such is tragic as there are few more worthy objectives in life.

1. Begin with the End in Mind

We often engage in activities without an end goal in mind. Such activities are fine and healthy, but will be, at best, recreational diversions or hobbies. In contrast, if we intend for our actions to facilitate lifestyle changes, we need intentionality.

The touchstone of intentionality is Stephen Covey’s principle, “begin with the end in mind“.  To employ this principle, we need to be able to describe the desired end state.

2. Carefully Define the Objective

The mistake most of us make is to launch into an endeavor without a clear picture of the goal. Such is much like trying to put together a complex jigsaw puzzle with only some of the pieces and no box top to guide us.

If the objective is a simpler, priority-driven life, one must carefully and comprehensively develop a personal definition of what such lifestyle entails. For example, for Dave and me, such a lifestyle includes:

  • Balanced work and family time;
  • Financial and physical resources to care for others;
  • Creative space; and
  • Adventure!

3. Consider Creative or Unconventional Approaches

When the objective is clearly defined, moving towards it becomes much easier. However, creativity and flexibility are still required. Achieving a simpler life is not simple, easy or quick.

Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner’s latest book, Think Like a Freak, encourages the exploration of unconventional approaches to achieve the desired objective. “To think like a freak”, Dubner says, “is to observe, define, deconstruct and re-contextualize the elements of a problem.”

In the context of a simpler life, creative approaches come in all flavors and include tiny house living, minimalism and entrepreneurship.

4. Deconstruct the Elements Needed

The ancient Zen adage “When the student is ready, the teacher appears“, provides guidance on the next step. One can and should commit to a worthy goal even before knowing exactly how he or she will accomplish it.

Obstacles such as existing debt and the perceived need to project social status may seem like insurmountable barriers to a simpler lifestyle. However, if one is truly committed, one can find a way.

Necessary elements will likely include financial planning, redefining social status, and patience.  Seeking community with others simplifying their lives by connecting online and at meet-ups may be helpful. Reducing living space and number of possessions may also be of assistance.

It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. – Confucius

5. Reduce Distractions and Impediments

In order to achieve anything of significance, most of us will need to reduce distractions so as to focus on the essential.  Steve Jobs wore a black turtleneck and jeans each day so that he did not spend time on clothing choice. Savvy dieters remove unhealthy food choices from their homes.  Authors write from a blank screen.

Be boring and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work.

Gustave Flaubert

Each person’s distractions are unique to the person.  However, in the simple living context, reduction of common distractions include  limiting digital use and new purchases, and creating a quiet space.  Elements that impede progress without providing a greater corresponding benefit also need to be examined and edited as appropriate.

6. Maintain Sense of Purpose

Perhaps the most important element of the process is to never lose sight of why we seek a simpler life.  Is it to be there for our loved ones?   Is it to develop and share our creative gifts?  Is it to live a healthier and more fulfilling life?

Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.

– Joshua Marine

Without meaning, the entire 6 step  framework for achieving the objective fails.  However, if we maintain our sense of purpose for seeking a simpler, priority-driven life, challenges can be overcome and lives can be changed.

Enjoy the journey!


Originally posted on

SLR 059: The Incredible Transformative Power of Becoming a Human Guinea Pig

Simple Life RebootWhat is the best way to tackle a daunting task or behavioral change?   Many authorities emphasize the traditional approach of goal, structure, and feedback.  While helpful,  such approach lacks  the transformational jet fuel of adventure and experimentation.

Rediscover Adventure

Ask a young person why she tried chocolate on her broccoli. She may well answer  “to see how it would taste”.   While the objective of improving the taste of broccoli may  be important to her,  discovering something new is what excites her.  For her, there is no “failure” if the chocolate on broccoli is not to her taste. She simply moves on to the next combination.  This is the mindset of our greatest explorers.

When discovery,  rather than modality, is our focus,  the entire process becomes an adventure. We not only have permission to “fail”,   we expect hits and misses along the way and look forward to the next challenge.

The Power of the Experiment

Ordinary folks accomplish extraordinary things when they  experiment.  Pat Flynn, the highly successful entrepreneur and founder of  Smart Passive Income describes himself as the “crash test dummy of online business”.  A. J. Jacobs, author of Drop Dead Healthy, spent two years chronicling his efforts to become what he described as “the healthiest person in the world”.  Tim Ferriss started a movement with his Experiments in Lifestyle Design and his 4 Hour series.

Leaving our comfort zone for a predetermined period of time to test a method for solving a problem or accomplishing a goal can be a life changing experience.  If we are willing to make ourselves human guinea pigs, we will not only learn what works best for us,  but what makes us tick as well.

Opportunities to Experiment

Imagine what you could accomplish if you were willing to undertake a worthy experiment?  The opportunities are endless. Would your life be different if you did not complain for 30 days?   What would happen if you went on a digital fast for 14 days?   Would anything change if you gave away one item every day for 30 days?  How many precious people could you call in  7 hours to tell them that you love them?

Experiment and Share With Others

Paradoxically, many of us benefit more from a regular Joe sharing his struggles than we do from the world’s most accomplished individual addressing the same topic.  Joe gives us hope.   If Joe can do it, we can too.


We would love to hear about your personal experiments in the comments below.  Please share!


Originally posted on

3 Surprising and Valuable Benefits of Digitizing Family Photo Albums

2014-05-21 11.10.03 The genesis of the project was practical and uninspired – but the outcome was akin to finding hidden treasure.

No Room For Albums

When we moved into our smaller space,  we simply did not have room for the family photo albums we had lovingly assembled over the years. We had no choice but to box them up and put them in an unfinished attic.

Concern About Loss

Although we had not looked at most of the albums for decades, it still felt wrong to put them in an inconvenient and somewhat unprotected space. Family photographs comprised the few sentimental items remaining after our mega-edit of over 80% of our possessions. Making the memory books inaccessible undercut the purpose for retaining them.

Resolve to Not  Get Used  to It

When I worked as a house cleaner, I was consistently surprised at how quickly people could tune-out glaring upkeep issues.  Needed work  became “invisible” if  it was left unattended for a certain period of time.

As we approached our first attic storage anniversary,  I knew we needed to take action or our albums and the need to protect them would be largely forgotten.

Process Easier Than Anticipated

Once started, the process of digitizing our family albums was much easier than anticipated.  While there are many wonderful tools and protocols,  we simply removed photos from albums and sorted them into batches such as “1980 Ranch”,  “2006 Graduation”,  “2009 Hawaii”, etc.   Placing the year in front of the batch description created an easy to follow chronology.  We then ran the batches through our ScanSnap scanner and uploaded the images to DropBox.  Such made the images accessible on all our devices and easy to share.  It was also a great comfort to have the images backed-up and significantly safer from loss.

Simple Life Reboot PostcardsFirst Surprise Benefit – Discovery of Hidden Love Letters
As I mentioned,  we had not opened most of the albums for decades. I had forgotten the numerous postcards we had included in the albums due to our family practice of purchasing extra postcards to supplement our rather deficient photographic skills.

As I began removing postcards from the magnetic pages, I discovered most were not blank.  Rather,  much to my delight, we had  a huge cache of  long forgotten messages sent by beloved family members who have since passed.  These beautiful  messages shared tales of adventure and love.

Second Surprise Benefit-  Easy “Then-and-Now” Photos

With family images easily accessible on my iPhone,  we could now take time-lapse pictures with family members re-creating a scene from a photograph taken years earlier.  What fun!!

Third Surprise Benefit – Opportunity to Reach Out

As we assembled our new digital database of  family images, we came across images we knew others would want to see.   With a few clicks,  we were able to forward images that opened new lines of communication and allowed us to reconnect with loved ones.  In so doing,  we rediscovered why the images were so precious to us in the first place.  They preserved memories and created new opportunities to connect with our loved ones.  It was a legacy worth preserving,  cherishing… and sharing.

* * *

We would love to hear how you save and share family images. Please let us know in the comments below.


Originally posted on


3 Pieces of Advice for My Younger Self

Simple Life RebootIf you are reading this and are over the age of 40, please stop.  Wait, on second thought, nix that. Whatever your age, please keep reading… but only for the purpose of ultimately sharing or implementing the simple lessons it has taken me nearly five decades to learn.

Now, as a disclaimer, this article is not about regrets or wistful “what-if’s”.  Rather, it is a candid sharing of some missteps made and opportunities missed. While I recognize these experiences have taught me precious lessons, they also made my journey, and that of those around me, a bit rougher than needed at times.  So, without further ado, 3 pieces of advice I would have liked to have shared with my younger self:

1.   Love People – Not Status or Things.  Spend more of your time and money on people than on entertainment, stuff and status.  For decades I considered myself too busy pursuing professional objectives to have appreciable time for family and friends. This resulted in casual acquaintances receiving more attention than friends, and networking trumping family time.  Growth in this area is ongoing.

2.   Admit It When You Don’t Know. Pride is crippling. Far too many times I pretended to understand, only to suffer the consequences later.  As an exchange student learning French, I pretended to understand directions.  As a result,  I ended up lost and afraid in a rural area.  I have also broken more things than I care to recall given my refusal to read the directions.

I have learned it is both humbling and liberating to confess lack of knowledge.  Now, however, instead of pretending, I  am happily learning new programs from 7 year olds on YouTube.  It’s amazing what we can learn if we simply admit we need help.

3.   Celebrate Modest Beginnings.  I have gone through numerous periods of embarrassment when learning something new.   Whether it was running,  my first trial or becoming a step-mom to four children,  I was so anxious to get to the next “level”  that I missed being able to appreciate the joy of new beginnings,  the encouragement of progress,  and the opportunity to not take myself so seriously.  All good and worthy things start modestly and should be celebrated.

Well,  this is the advice I would have given to my younger self.   I wonder if I would have listened….


Originally posted on

The 7 Phases of Your Heroic Journey to Margin and Simplicity

Simple Life RebootWhat is the course of your life?  How we understand the unfolding of our lives not only impacts our ability to weather life’s storms, it also shapes the journey itself.

As Dave and I get to know people creating margin and focusing on priorities rather than stuff, we cannot help but draw parallels between the quest for simplicity and the heroic journey narrative described by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949).

Though from all walks of life, fellow travelers on the road to simplicity relate similar experiences.  As you consider the following phases, please reflect on whether you have had similar experiences.

1.   Starting Point

Each traveler starts at a point of compliance with cultural expectations.  The traveler, often perceived by others as “successful”, neither questions the norm nor the desirability of other options.

2.   Call to Adventure

The traveler receives information that questions the status quo and invites the traveler into the unknown.  In the simplicity realm, this might take the form of exposure to a simplicity podcast or article.

3.   Refusal of the Call

The traveler initially declines the call. Though he may perceive that something is amiss, the traveler believes he must maintain his current circumstances out of duty or fear.  In the simplicity context, such initial reluctance reflects the traveler’s prudence and consideration of  potential impact on others.

4.    A Helper Appears

After careful reflection, the traveler recognizes that a quest into the unknown is needed. A helper then appears providing needed tools and encouragement for the journey.  The Obi-Wan Kenobis of simplicity are numerous and include Henry David Theroux, Joshua BeckerLeo Babauta, Courtney Carver, Daniel and Vanessa Hayes, and Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus.

5.   Trials and Temptation

The traveler ventures into the unknown.  The traveler is tested and repeatedly tempted to abandon the quest and return to the familiar.  For those on the simplicity journey, such testing may take the form of  reluctance to let go of excess possessions and lesser priority activities, and the discomfort of sharing counter-cultural simplicity objectives with others.

6.   Confronting the Adversary

As the journey continues,  the traveler must ultimately confront and overcome the powerful force that previously limited or crippled him.  The Darth Vaders of the quest for simplicity include the traveler’s desire to signal success or significance, lack of intentionality and impulse control.

7.   Return to the People

The ultimate value of the journey is the extent to which it benefits others.  The transformed traveler returns to liberate his people from deception and bondage.  Though not as grandiose as the Campbell articulation,  the quest for simplicity achieves its greatest objective when the traveler’s experience benefits and encourages others.


Please share your heroic journey in the comments below.


Originally posted on



Simple Life Reboot: Survey Q & A

Simple Life Reboot Q and AFar too often we forget to tell people how much they mean to us.

Dave and I would both like to take this opportunity to thank you.  We recognize that by reading this,  you have taken precious time out of your day.  We treasure you as a reader and are committed to honoring your time.

As part of our commitment to serve you,  we reached out to our readers in a recent survey.  We were humbled by the extraordinary response. Again, thank you!

As promised,  our answers to your most frequently asked questions are as follows:

Do you find that the journey is getting easier or more difficult as you go?

It has become more difficult.  While we believe that this is just a challenging season, we have come to realize that lasting change does indeed take time. Last summer, caught up in the excitement of changing our lives to align with our priorities,  we edited 85% of our belongings and put our “dream house” on the market.  We naively believed that by the summer of 2014, we would have created significant margin and have things all figured out.  While we are confident that we are on the right path for us, we are learning that we need to be patient with the process.

How do you avoid old habits?

It is an ongoing struggle.  However, the first step for us is to recognize our weaknesses.  Then, we implement measures  to help us stay the course.  We realized that in order to make the type of change desired,  we needed to burn the metaphorical boat behind us by selling our house. We knew that moving into a significantly smaller space would help us   1)  limit the accumulation of possessions; and   2) be more active and engaged.

 Do you ever slip and want to replace items you let go of?

With the exception of a small corner hutch,  we have not missed nor felt any desire to replace edited items.  In fact,  we look forward to making further edits.  We continue to have several  larger furniture pieces that we would like to replace with pieces better suited to our needs.

Do you ever regret your decision? /Any remorse?

None.  Seriously, none.  At present,  we have had almost a year to change our minds and return to our former lifestyle.   I occasionally walk around our house on the market and ask myself,  “Do we really want to leave this behind?”   I can tell you,  without hesitation, the answer is “Yes”.    By letting go,  we can move forward into a beautiful future.




Originally posted on


Stop Information Overload Now! 3 Proven Steps to Staying Current, Connected and Sane

Simple Life Reboot - Mr. Darcy as SAM

Mr. Darcy as SAM

It washes over us like a tsunami – an unmanageable wall of information. The greater our desire to be current, competitive and connected, the more likely we are to be paddling ourselves to exhaustion.  We prefer to drown than miss out on something important…

We need a lifeguard!

Fortunately,  we have “SAM”.  SAM not only rescues us from information overload, SAM would have us dominating the giant waves of print, audio, video and social media to come. SAM is none other than Sort, Archive, and Manage, and this  is how SAM saves the day:


1. Junk Information – Block. Use filters, junk mail tools, and unsubscribe features liberally. Turn off unneeded notifications and alarms. Don’t waste time reviewing and managing junk. Dump it.  Decline unknown friend and network requests and place unwanted advertisements, emails, clips, etc. in trash/recycling upon receipt.

If you’re not comfortable hitting delete, try mute features to reduce the stream of  incoming information. An example for Twitter would be Tweetbot;  a tool that permits you to mute selected accounts for a period of time.

Think of “blocking” as a protective assistant serving as a gatekeeper so that the V.I.P (you) can focus on important matters.

2. Potentially Valuable Information – Filter and Set Aside.  Front end filters limiting streams to quality sources are critical.  Nonetheless, the value of  information, even from authorities,  may be questionable. Potentially valuable information should be gathered and set aside until it becomes pertinent as described below in Step 2.

3. Important Information – Take or Schedule Action. Any information important for family commitments and work obligations should be acted upon or entered as an action item on the appropriate calendar. For example, a flyer on an event at your child’s school should be read and the details and deadlines entered on the family calendar. A pdf of the flyer could also be saved and linked to the calendar entry.


Regardless of initial format, digital management is my preferred approach for the safekeeping of retained information.  Text is processed to permit character recognition so that it can be easily retrieved at a later date.

Though there are many excellent archiving processes, mine is as follows:

  • Capture.  Paper documents are batched, scanned and saved into Evernote once per week using a desktop ScanSnap. Incoming digital media is saved directly into the archive (Evernote) on the day received.
  • Title.  Each item is given a descriptive title.  Potentially valuable information is given a “to be deleted on x date”  tag, often 2-3 years into the future. Valuable information is kept permanently.
  • Tag.  Each item is given a topical tag such as “de-cluttering “, “taxes”, “health”, “Evernote”, etc.  I prefer to tag by topic, rather than by source, as a variety of authorities on a given topic is most helpful at the time of processing.


  • Just in Time. The best approach I have found to consuming information is the Just in Time method developed by Gregor Novak and his colleagues.  Rather than mindlessly reviewing information as it comes in,  I defer consumption until shortly before  I can put it to use.  This permits me to reduce the number of times I consider a piece of information. More importantly, it permits me to extract more value from it as I consume it in context.
  • Focus. For me, multitasking and scanning incoming  information not pertinent to the task at hand reduce my ability to assimilate in-depth information.  As referenced above,  I recommend employing tools to reduce interruptions and distractions for periods of focused work.
  • Avoid Digital Clutter. Digital clutter tends to bury important information and distract us from focused use.  I recommend regular review and deletion of unneeded information.  At a minimum,  annual review and deletion using the “to be deleted on x date”  tag described above will help identify stale information to be culled.
  • Consider Learning More.  There are superb resources available that address managing information in greater detail.  Brooks Duncan provides a wealth of information on going paperless at  For archiving and curating, read Joel Zaslofsky’s Experience Curating.   Learn more about Evernote with Daniel Gold’s Evernote; the Unofficial Guide… or Brett Kelly’s Evernote Essentials.   Also, please see our earlier post, A Simple Step You Must Take Now to Reduce Information Overload that addresses the value of identifying authorities in your areas of interest.


Information overload is a challenge for most of us.  We would love to hear about  the methods and tools you have found to be helpful in the comments below.


Originally posted on

Restore Margin to Care for Others (and Yourself)

Simple Life Reboot MarginTo what extent are we willing to go into debt, make unfair demands on family and co-workers,  or compromise healthy habits,  in order to achieve objectives?

Is our standard of living too reliant upon our willingness to push ourselves to the limit?

Long Term Impact

We may view our pedal-to-the-metal approach as proof of a strong work ethic and ambition, but are we deceiving ourselves as to either the sustainability or desirability of this approach?   We may also be dodging some hard questions  –  such as:

“After meeting our daily quota, do we have anything left to share with others?”

Wise Warnings

Throughout history, faith traditions have urged restraint in the use of resources, cautioning against the utilization of all that is available.

From a risk management perspective, keeping a buffer between resources used and available resources makes perfect sense,  but margin has infinitely greater value as a necessary resource for the care of others.

This value is made clear in the Vayikra, aka Leviticus 19:9-10, which instructs landowners to leave an unharvested margin around their fields. Further,  the harvested areas are not to be stripped bare.  This timeless practice preserves a resource to be shared with those in need.

Margin Needed Today

Restoration of margin is needed more than ever today.  In our overloaded and hectic world, it is only in the margin that we can feel safe to consider the needs of others.  It is in this space that we may be generous with our time, talents and treasures.  For instance, it is only when we have some degree of white space and flex in our schedule that we can welcome a spontaneous and unhurried conversation with a child.  It is when we have a reserve of physical strength that we can help a friend move furniture at the end of a long work day.  And, it is when we have limited our expenditures that we can consider giving generously without reservation.

By reminding ourselves of the reason for margin, we are better able to commit to its maintenance.  The beautiful thing is that by restoring margin,  we are restored and are better able to help restore and love others.


If you would like to read more on margin, please see ‘The Secret to Growing Margin“,  “5 Step Plan for Protecting New Margin“; and “Margin in Not Just for You“.


Originally posted on

What Does Your Chair Say About You?

IMG_1255This is my chair. When I reflect upon why I bought it,  I realize how much our  intentional living journey has changed me. You see when  I purchased it,  I thought I needed to fill a space.  While I didn’t really “need” another chair, I thought our  family room required something new … plus,  it was affordable.

Now, two years later,  I regret buying the chair.  It is big, lumpy, uncomfortable and less than attractive.  It doesn’t fit with my lifestyle, space or body.  But, have I gotten rid of it?  Well,  let’s just say I’m thinking it through.

Our Place in the World

As I pondered the matter,  I realized that a chair can reflect our relationship with the world.  Babies use highchairs and car seats. Kings sit on thrones.  Dental patients sit in dental chairs.  Did this chair reflect how I wanted to relate to the world after coming home from work?  Hmmmm.

Assumptions and Response

My concerns were compounded when I stumbled upon Sebastian Deterding’s TED talk on “What Your Designs Say About You“.  Mr. Deterding made the case that design reflects assumptions.  For instance, the design of  a traditional school chair assumes that a student learns by sitting and receiving instruction from a lecturer.  The design of the chair prompts a response.  The student will stay seated, face forward, and  will, most likely, only take notes with his or her right hand.

Did I assume that my free time was best spent  ensconced in front of the t.v.?   Was the chair moving me further in that direction?  Double hmmmm.

Reflection of “Good Life”

It got worse.  Mr. Deterding then described how our choices reflects our definition of the “good life”.  Did I really believe the “good life” was comprised of acquiring possessions which were big enough to fill empty space but cheap enough to be replaced on a whim?   Was I unwilling to put effort into items of true beauty, value and healthy functionality?  Enough!

I’m getting rid of the chair!


Originally posted on